U.S. Labor Department cracking down on wage and hour violations

Every employee in the United States has the right to be paid fairly for the work they do. This means that employers must comply with state and federal laws regarding minimum wage and overtime pay.

In an effort to crack down on employers that break these laws, the U.S. Labor Department has announced that it will be devoting a significant amount of resources toward investigating companies that are suspected of violating wage and hour laws.

The Labor Department has also been implementing new strategies in pursuit of this goal. Previously, the federal government had focused most of its investigatory efforts toward responding to employee complaints. However, in 2012, it began directing more resources toward "directed investigations" in which the Labor Department focuses on specific industries or geographical areas. The Labor Department reports that these investigations uncover wage and hour violations 71 percent of the time.

In addition, the Labor Department has been expanding the scope of the investigations it conducts in the wake of an employee complaint. Instead of just looking at the facility where the complaint originated, the agency will conduct "enterprise wide" investigations to root out suspected violations throughout the entire organization.

In a recent investigation, the Labor Department examined garment industry employers in Southern California. In doing so, it investigated employment practices at approximately 1,500 clothing manufacturers and subcontractors. As part of that campaign, Reuters reports, the Labor Department ordered clothing chain Forever 21 to do more to ensure that its subcontractors comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act.

California wage and hour laws

With some exceptions, California law requires employees to be paid at least $8.00 for every hour worked. Disabled workers, trainees and family members may be paid less in some limited circumstances. In addition, salespeople and others who work on commission are exempted from some minimum wage requirements. Because California law does not allow tips to be used as "credit" toward the minimum wage, all restaurant workers must be paid a base wage of at least $8.00 per hour.

In addition, California law requires employers to pay at least 1.5 times the employee's base wage to all nonexempt employees who work more than 40 hours in any given workweek. A "workweek" is defined as a consecutive seven-day period, starting on the same day of the week each week.

Employers must also provide overtime pay to nonexempt employees who work more than eight hours in a day. Employees are entitled to receive 1.5 times their wage for anything more than eight hours but less than 12 hours, and double pay for anything longer than 12 hours. Employees are also entitled to double wages for working longer than eight hours on the seventh consecutive day of work in a given workweek.

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