Missing out on paying back wages isn’t the only consequence of labor law violations. Many laws can trigger investigations, forcing companies to pay recovered wages and penalties. Once an investigation starts, it can snowball, uncovering additional mistakes that further complicate the issue.

Recently, the US Department of Labor (DOL) investigated the Central New Mexico Community College and found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime requirements. Learn what happened and see how you can prevent it from happening in your organization.

back wages for construction workers

A Case Study: How a College Missed Back Wages Due to a Common Mistake

Security guards at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque were required to arrive 15 minutes early for their shift. This time was used to brief the guards between shifts, and it was mandatory. The college was not, however, recording this time as a part of the total hours the guards worked each week. This means that the guard’s hours were not being recorded properly, and they were not being paid in full for their time on the job.

As a result of this failure, the college was cited for not paying the guards correctly. They were also cited for recordkeeping violations because they did not properly track the guard’s hours.

How This Mistake Could Happen to Your Business

According to Wage and Hour District Director Evelyn Sanchez, “Employers who require employees to show up early or stay at work after their shift has ended for briefings are legally required to pay them for that time.”

The investigation included the time and pay for 71 security guards and resulted in the college owing $70,707 in back pay.

Read more about the case in the DOL press release.

Compliance Tips to Avoid Back Wage Claims

This case shows how important it is to fully understand the labor laws, both federal and state. For instance, if the college understood that workers must be paid for all time on the job, including mandatory time before or after their official shift, this case might have been avoided.

Lady Construction Payroll Manager

Here are a few things you can do to make sure your organization stays out of trouble:

  1. Make understanding labor law a priority, starting by visiting your state’s Department of Labor. Visit this DOL page to find your state’s Department of Labor.

    Additionally, bookmark sites to help you stay informed and up to date, like the following:
    DOL Wages Information and Tips
    DOL Overtime Pay Information
    Small Business Administration Business Guide
  2. Laws change, so periodically review your policies and procedures to make sure they are up to date. This includes not only your official policies but how those policies are being carried out in your day-to-day business.
  3. Make it easy for workers to accurately record their time by switching from manual time tracking methods to user-friendly digital time tracking methods. If you already use a digital method, regularly remind your workers to follow best practices so your time records are more accurate.
  4. Make it easy for your payroll team to verify time and correct mistakes by moving away from manual time-tracking methods like hand-written time cards. A digital time and attendance system will allow errors to be found and fixed easily. This will also make payroll easier and more accurate.
  5. Understand recordkeeping requirements and make sure your company is using best practices. Construction companies that do prevailing wage work have some additional record-keeping considerations as well. This article offers some tips and insights for construction companies.

Staying on Top of Compliance

Staying out of trouble with compliance officials is not a one-time thing. You have to be on top of regulations, understand updates and changes to the law, and work to align your business practices to keep everything on track. Some industries face greater challenges when it comes to compliance, which includes construction and government contractors that work on prevailing wage projects.

Here are a few compliance tips for government contractors to help you get started.

The material presented here is educational in nature and is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon, as legal or financial advice. Please consult with an attorney or financial professional for advice.