Human Rights: The Scoop on State and Federal Monitoring
Every state has a human rights commission that is tasked with investigating charges made by employees against their employers in issues of fairness. The federal government has its own human rights commission that is called the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). All of these organizations are set up by the government to provide the opportunity for individual employees to seek redress from transgressions made against them by their employers.
These bodies have the legal authority to investigate, to arbitrate and to fine the employer if they find the employer to be guilty of violating the employee’s rights or DOL regulations. The fines are usually set at three times the actual damages.
Businesses face a lot of exposure here. For example, an employee reports that he or she has not received overtime compensation for hours worked. Let’s say that the employee asserts that his or her employer has failed to pay them $2,000 in overtime compensation. The EEOC or the state human rights commission will take the report, and if they think it’s credible, they will conduct an investigation.
Worse for the business, they will not limit their investigation to look just at that particular employee, but will look at all employees’ timecards. Their assumption is that if the employer would do this with one person, they could do it with other employees. Let’s say they identify 20 employees that did not receive their overtime. The investigating agency will now require the employer to pay the $2,000 in overtime compensation to the first person, the whistleblower, but also the full compensation to the other 20 employees also identified.
For the sake of this example, let’s say each of the other 20 were also owed $2,000 in overtime compensation. The employer now has an obligation to pay $2,000 to each of the 21 employees, which adds up to $42,000.
The fine is usually set at three times actual damage, so the fine traditionally will be $126,000 paid to the investigating agency. The investigating agency will also issue a “right to sue letter.” This document can then be taken to any lawyer who will file a civil lawsuit against the employer. Now the employer has hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and court costs with which to contend.
The message that state and federal agencies wish to convey is “Don’t mess with your employees!” It’s a powerful message that employers should not ignore.
Category: Talent Management