Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry Cracking Down on Wage Payments

I attended a CLE this week in St. Paul on employment law and wage payment. One of the speakers was the current commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry ("DOLI")—Minnesota's primary regulator of employers and employment laws.

According to the speaker, DOLI is taking a new approach to wage law and payment enforcement. The commissioner characterized the approach as "interventions" -- I had to chuckle to myself because DOLI does not have any authority to conduct an intervention. DOLI conducts investigations! The difference is, from my perspective, a media-oriented one—make it sound nice, make it sound soft, make it sound beneficial.

The commissioner sounded convinced that every "intervention" should find a violation. If not, the investigator (she did slip up and use that label, as compared to, say, intervenor) simply hasn't used all the tools available. The investigator needs to dig deeper, use subpoena power, and talk with third-parties. An example she gave was a regulator's continued investigation and sanctioning of a gas station franchise. With the franchisees continually being sanctioned, the regulator went to banks and represented the franchisees were bad investments. The point—get the banks to stop making loans to those franchisees! To think this is the proper role of the government is astounding.

I've had a number of clients undergo audits or investigations by DOLI. The commissioner's characterization is misleading, to put it nicely. Do not believe the government wants to help you. I do think the government wants compliance with the law, that much is fair. But beware that DOLI is convinced you're breaking the law and this administration wants to make sure they find you.

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