A WOW, as defined by the Department of Labor (DOL), is a “worker owed wages.” If the DOL conducts an audit and finds an issue of underpayment of an employee, they work with the employer to make the pay current. If they cannot find the employee, the DOL retains the back wages while continuing to look for the employee for payment. If, after three years, they are unable to locate the employee, the money is turned over to the Department of Treasury.
The DOL has set up a page where employees can search employers by name to submit a claim to collect back wages that they think they are owed. http://webapps.dol.gov/wow/
This essentially sets the DOL up as an enforcer of the law and the central repository of back wages. A few things strike me with regard to the DOL’s actions:
- The DOL is being more aggressive and going after businesses who don’t pay their employees appropriately. They are being more punitive in their approach, which employers should take as a forewarning.
- If you are a small business, don’t think you are immune. The DOL is going after smaller claims, too.
- The DOL is strengthening their position as an advocate for employees. As employers, we may not like their methods, but as employees, we should feel protected.
Frequently, when we talk about contractors vs. employees or salaried vs. hourly employees, our advice falls on deaf ears. It is these “gray areas” that may cause the DOL to go after an employer for underpayment. We want you to know that the DOL is paying attention and will pursue employers, including small businesses, for underpayment or mispayment.
You don’t want to find your name in the DOL’s WOW database. If you need help sorting out payroll issues, call us at 678-208-2802.