Bill Would Suspend FLSA Statute of Limitations During Wage and Hour Investigations

Legislation introduced by Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) would freeze the statute of limitations for the recovery of backpay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) from the date an employer is notified of an investigation by the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Divisions (WHD) until the date the Agency informs the employer that the investigation is complete. The Wage Theft Prevention Act (H.R. 3303) was drafted in response to the newly-released Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report (pdf) to the House Committee on Education and Labor on ways to reduce wage theft.  The Report recommended, among other things, that the Department of Labor (DOL) needed to improve its investigative process and suspend the statute of limitations to protect workers against the loss of pay while wage and hour investigations are ongoing. This GAO Report was released as a follow-up to an undercover investigation into the WHD’s handling of employee complaints from July 2008 to March 2009. According to a press release, the GAO report found that many wage and hour investigations were inadequately handled and eventually dropped because the statute of limitations was deemed too short and investigations too long. Currently, the statute of limitations for recovery of back wages under the FLSA is 2 years from the date of the violation, or 3 years in the event of a willful violation. According to Miller, “[t]his bill will hold those responsible for stealing workers’ wages by helping to ensure that legitimate complaints can be properly investigated.”

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