Compliance & Legal

How Long Does a Department of Labor Investigation Take?

Labor board investigations usually last 3-6 months, but can go on for years. Learn how labor relations software can help employers manage this process.

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Labor board investigations typically last at least a few months, but there’s no set timeline and each case is unique. In more complex cases, the process could potentially play out across several years. Read on for a closer look at how it all works.

When Does an Investigation Happen?

Employees who believe their employer has violated certain legal rights can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). This starts an investigation process. A labor investigator will conduct interviews and collect evidence. The case may go before an administrative law judge (ALJ), possibly followed by appeals and court proceedings. The entire process can take anywhere from a few months to several years. Each case presents a unique set of facts and legal issues, so it is difficult to predict how long a specific investigation might take. Read on to learn more about the DOL’s investigation procedures and the value of labor case management software to employers who are the subject of a complaint.

What Does the Department of Labor Investigate?

The DOL investigates alleged violations of certain federal employment statutes. The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is responsible for several common types of claims:

  • Minimum wage and overtime claims under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA);
  • Child labor claims under the FLSA; and
  • Alleged violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is part of the DOL, investigates alleged workplace safety violations. The DOL has the direct authority to investigate employers accused of fiduciary violations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Not all federal employment laws are within the DOL’s purview. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), for example, investigates alleged unlawful employment discrimination and harassment. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) handles claims that involve alleged interference with labor organizing activities. Both the EEOC and the NLRB are independent federal agencies.

How Long Does a Department of Labor Investigation Take?

Most DOL investigations take in the range of three to six months. This is the amount of time needed to get from the initial complaint to a settlement or adjudication. If the scope of the claim is limited in time, place, or number of people involved, the investigation may move toward resolution more quickly. A large investigation can potentially take much longer, though. It’s not unusual for complicated cases to continue to progress for two years or longer as additional evidence is gathered, involved parties and experts are interviewed, and a complete vision of the case is constructed.

What Factors Can Affect the Length of an Investigation?

Factors that could cause a DOL investigation to go on for longer than three to six months might include:

  • Complex factual issues that require additional time to investigate;
  • A need for expert witnesses to assist the investigator;
  • Complicated legal questions that are difficult to adjudicate;
  • An unusually large number of employees who have allegedly been affected;
  • Difficulty obtaining evidence;
  • Lack of cooperation from a witness or other person; or
  • Extensive administrative proceedings or court hearings.

What Is the Labor Board Investigation Process?

Once an employee or other person has filed a complaint with the DOL, the agency will assign an investigator, usually from the nearest office. The investigator typically visits the employer’s location to interview witnesses and request evidence. Laws like the FLSA give investigators broad authority to request payroll records and other documents. They will speak to the complainant and any other witnesses who have relevant information.

Most DOL complaints are confidential, meaning that the investigator may not disclose the identity of the complainant or details about the complaint. That information may become available to the employer at a later stage in the process.

Once the investigator has completed their investigation, they will prepare a report with their conclusions. This may include remedies for the complainant if the investigator finds in their favor.

Either the complainant or the employer may be able to request a hearing before an ALJ to review the investigator’s findings. Further appeals may be possible to a review board or the federal court system.

What Can Employers Do to Stay on Top of Ongoing Investigations?

DOL investigators may demand large volumes of records from employers, depending on the type of complaint. A hearing before an ALJ, review board, or court will require witnesses and evidence. Employers need a comprehensive system for managing files, timelines, and deadlines. Labor case management software is a must when it comes to expediting an investigation.

Learn How a Labor Case Management System Can Help Your Business

A Department of Labor investigation can be a lengthy process that can tie up an employer’s resources for months or longer. A unified, cloud-based labor case management system can help businesses deal with ongoing investigations with the utmost efficiency. With LaborSoft’s tools, you can:

  • Collaborate with a case management team through a single online portal;
  • Share and maintain evidence and other documents;
  • Assign tasks and keep track of upcoming deadlines; and
  • Communicate with union representatives, labor investigators, and other parties.

These advantages can help to streamline the process and keep it organized, accelerating steps that would have otherwise taken longer and extending the overall length of time that the investigation is disrupting your business. Contact us today to set up a customized demonstration and learn about how LaborSoft can meet your HR management needs.

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