Small Business Week and Government Agencies are Being a Grinch
It is Small Business Week and a time to celebrate all that small businesses bring to the country. But, I do not feel like celebrating right now. I am angry at how I have seen out governmental agencies treat small businesses lately. Agencies such as ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement, The EEOC – the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the W&HD – Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor and the plaintiff attorneys that advertise their services for overtime violations on television seem to take pride in ruining small businesses.
ICE is not Playing Nice
ICE is checking businesses with the supposed intent of finding employees who are not authorized to work in the country. Now, I do not have a problem if a company is fined or even shut down when they hire unauthorized people. But I do have a problem when a company hires people who are authorized to work in the United States get fined for not having their I-9's completed correctly. In many cases, the fines are so high that the company will have to shut down. What is the point? In an economic situation in which the unemployment is still over 9%, what good does it do?
The EEOC is in a Frenzy
The EEOC is supposed to be neutral. In the last 2 years, this neutrality seems to have disappeared. The EEOC investigators have been given marching orders to conduct a complete investigation before submitting their recommendations. This is causing the investigators to go beyond the scope of their authority by asking for documentation that has nothing to do with the investigation by requesting additional documentation that has nothing to do with the case. Other investigators are questioning the business practices of the company the charge was filed against. You can fight the requests and question the investigators' motives, but in reality you have little choice but to comply with the requests for additional information and wait for a decision.
The wait for an EEOC decision is getting longer and longer. With the record number of charges filed coupled with the mandate for a complete investigation, it will take more than two years to get a decision for what used to be a simple case.
Wage and Hour Laws – Easy Money for A Plaintiff Attorneys
First you have to know that the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor has the primary duty of investigation complaints of violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. They also state that 75% of the companies in the country are in violation of the law. There is also a provision in the law that states that a plaintiff can go straight to court and sue a company and if the company loses, it has to pay the reasonable and customary fees of the plaintiff's attorney PLUS back wages and other damages.
Think about it, if you had a 75% chance of winning and you would get paid extra for winning, what would you do? Exactly!! Thus the reason for so many attorney's advertising on TV for overtime violations. It's easy pickins and easy money.
News of the Bizarro from the Wage and Hour Division
The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor has announced that there is now an APP for a smart phone that employees can use to track their hours worked to make sure that the Big, Bad Employers pay them properly. So, if a complaint is filed, the employee has a record of the time worked outside the official records of the company.
In another interesting twist, if a complaint is filed with the W&HD and they are too backlogged to take the case quickly, the complainant is now referred to a lawyer referral website of plaintiff attorneys who will pick up the case for them. It used to be that the complainant had to wait his/her turn as the investigators worked through their case load and got to their case. Now, the complainant is given the web site of a lawyer referral service. It is the government equivalent of Ask Gary.
Small Businesses Just Don't Know the Rules
McKenzieHR has been in business for nearly 10 years. In that time, there was exactly 1 client that was in compliance with I-9 regulations prior to us coming in.
There was exactly 1 client who was in compliance with the Federal Wage and Hour regulations before we got there.
Rule Number One – STOP ASSUMING that you know what is required. Double check with someone who knows the rules.
Rule Number Two – Ask for Help from someone who knows the rules. We don't care who it is – just get a check-up to ensure you are in compliance.
Rule Number THREE – Take Preventative Action
Rule Number FOUR - Knowledge is Power. Ignorance is just plain stupid and not a defense. Do not get caught in the trap of not knowing the rules. The odds are against you. Protect yourself and soon.
Call an expert and don't wait until the Government Goons come knocking on your door. It will be too late.