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First Impressions and Unannounced Visitors

Sun September 1, 2013 Publications

Most of us are irritated by and skeptical of unknown and unannounced visitors who appear on our doorstep. We hear the doorbell, covertly look out the window, and refuse to open the door. If, however, an unknown and unannounced visitor arrives at work presenting official credentials from the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, appropriate business etiquette is required. The owner or manager should introduce herself, smile, make eye contact, and give a firm, full- handshake. First impressions, like DOL investigators, are mighty powerful.

In the past few years, the DOL has increased its investigations of employers. While most investigations are initiated by confidential complaints, the Division also targets lower-wage industries with a high-turnover, of which there are many in Gainesville.

A DOL investigator may call first or just appear at the business office or worksite presenting official credentials and announcing an immediate investigation. Initially, the investigator may ask questions about the business’ nature, size, gross revenues, payment methods, work week, and claimed exemptions. Documents including personnel files, time sheets, payroll records, and employment contracts may be requested and examined. The investigator may insist on interviewing employees in private, without the presence of the employer or the employer’s representative.

How should the employer respond? Amicably and cooperatively. The investigator’s discretion is significant. The investigator determines the scope of the investigation, nature of any violation, and calculation of back pay.

Basic business etiquette is consistent with the employer’s polite exercise of its right to representation. An employer has the right to be represented by its attorney or accountant at any point in the process. No employer should permit an upper-level manager to be interviewed without the employer or the employer’s representative present. An experienced representative can easily improve the quality and outcome of the investigation by identifying erroneous assumptions and ensuring consideration of all possible exceptions and exemptions. When the DOL investigator comes knocking, the best response is professional courtesy and strong advocacy.