The Department of Labor (DOL) and its Wage and Hour Division (WHD) recovered some $1.4 billion in unpaid overtime and other wages in the eight-year period ending in 2008, and that was under the Bush administration, which has been accused of lax enforcement by the incoming Obama administration and its DOL secretary, Hilda Solis.

Accordingly, Secretary Solis has beefed up the ranks of the WHD by 250 agents, who in turn will conduct audits and inspections at workplaces where employees have reported wage abuse.

A common WHD tactic is also to target low-wage industries like car washes, day care centers, garment industry, janitorial services and the like for random inspections and interviews with employees.

In 2008 the WHD recovered more than $185 million in back wages for 228,000 employees. In addition, the agency assessed $9.9 million in civil monetary penalties and concluded 28,242 compliance actions. Expect more in all categories as the DOL beefs up enforcement under Solis, and as employees challenge their pay stubs more frequently in these trying economic times.

One of the key areas to watch as an employer is your hourly workers and conversely your classification of exempt employees. Some of your exempt employees may actually be hourly employees subject to overtime pay.

A good way to determine if you’re properly classifying your employees is to get a copy of Personnel Concepts’ comprehensive but easy-to-follow FLSA Salary Basis Compliance Kit and a copy of our FLSA Overtime Rules Compliance Kit. Get your kits today and stay away from those civil monetary penalties and back-due wages.