The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. WHD enforces the federal minimum wage law. Its supposed to, anyway. Turns out, as we pretty much knew anyway, they do not. A study by the General Accounting Office finds that 9 times out of 10, WHD misses the boat. The GAO used undercover agents to pose as employers and employees to test the efficiencies of the system. They found numerous omissions, oversights and plain lack of caring.
In one case, WHD failed to investigate a complaint that under-age children in Modesto, California ere working during school hours at a meatpacking plant with dangerous machinery. Some WHD investigators even freely admitted that they dropped cases when the employer failed to return phone calls. In many instances, when the employee would complain, the WHD investigator would simply remind the employee that they can file suit.
The terrible thing about that is minimum wage workers are just that, minimum wage workers. They do not have money to go and hire a lawyer when WHD fails their duty. And, truthfully, low wage workers often do not have enough money at state to justify a lawyer taking their case on contingency. $500 can mean everything to an average worker, but that is not nearly enough to justify many lawyers taking the case on contingency.
The study addressed another issue I have heard from many clients over the years: reaching WHD over the phone requires a heck of a lot of patience. In the study, some 76% of phone calls went to voice mail. As I have heard many times, WHD is not good at returning phone calls.