April 15, 2015

Knock Knock Knockin' On Employers' Doors: DC's "Zip Code Project" to Search Your Office

2 min

As if the administrative burden of the new DC Wage Theft law notice requirement was not enough, we have learned that the Department of Employment Services (DOES), without much fanfare, has begun a program of knocking on employers' doors, unannounced, and asking to inspect non-public portions of their workplaces for compliance with the posting requirements of various DC employment laws. DOES indicated that initially investigators will focus on businesses in the construction, restaurant, home healthcare, daycare, and retail industries.

According to DOES, it has visited approximately 225 employers, and found one-third out of compliance. DOES describes these as "preliminary inspection" visits, but has been issuing noncompliant employers a Notice of Violation and placing them on a list for a more thorough follow-up inspection that may result in fines.

Employers have the right to refuse to admit inspectors, but DOES is putting those who refuse on the follow-up list. If DOES is not allowed to do the initial, unannounced inspection, it leaves a letter requiring the employer to call DOES within three days to schedule a follow-up visit. Employers who do not call likely will be put on the list for a follow-up investigation.

Employers must be prepared. You should alert your employees who may be on the "front line" that representatives of DOES may appear in your office. Inspectors are specifically looking for the following violations:

DC Wage Hour Violations:

  • Posters not placed in a conspicuous place
  • Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act Notice
  • Living Wage Poster
  • Minimum Wage Poster
  • No Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Poster

DC Occupation Safety & Health:

  • OSHA 3165
  • OSHA 3167
  • OSHA Fact Sheet

DC Worker's Compensation:

  • Proof of Coverage Form
  • Claim Forms – 7; 7A; 8
  • Notice of Compliance

The obvious question is: Should you let them inspect the non-public portions of your workplace? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Each employer must decide for itself. The purpose of this alert is to warn you that DOES may appear and to advise you that we believe there is a serious question as to whether DOES has the right to conduct these warrantless searches. We are working with the DC Chamber of Commerce in a dialogue with DOES about this issue.

For help ensuring your business is in compliance prior to a DOES visit, please contact the authors of this alert or any member of Venable's Labor and Employment Practice Group.