Federal labor officials want to get the word out to employees and employers that they are watching, even in a rural areas such as the Golden Belt.
As part of the United States Department of Labor/Wage Hour Division’s ongoing “We Can Help” campaign, an investigative team will be in Great Bend come June. “We will be making a sweep of the area,” said Jeanette Aranda, a Topeka-based investigator for the department.
Aranda was in town Monday and visited the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, the Workforce Center and major employers to lay the groundwork for the upcoming effort. In those meetings, she said her office will look for violations of child labor, minimum wage and other labor laws.
“There are typically a lot of violations,” Aranda said. Probes will be based on employee complaints, competitor complaints or a business could be picked at random.
The feds may or may not give a warning of a pending audit. They will also not disclose why it is taking place.
The sweep will involve five investigators coming to Great Bend in the second or third week of June. They will look at businesses in Great Bend and within a half-hour radius.
“We are doing this because this area is considered under served,” Aranda said. The Wage and Hour Division targets under-served areas around the country and “this is Great Bend’s lucky year.”
Although the USDL has a regional office in Kansas City and satellite offices in Topeka and Wichita, Aranda is normally the only investigator serving the state. That’s what makes this push so different.
“We want to help employees and we want to help employers,” she said. If a worker feels they are being taken advantage of or if a business believes it could be out of compliance, now is the time to take action.
“I think they genuinely want to inform employers before they get caught,” said Delbert Randolph, workforce services supervisor for the Great Bend Workforce Office. This gives them a chance to avoid fines and other penalties.
Randolph said there are a lot of complex labor laws and some businesses may be violating them without knowing.
For more information, visit www.dol.gov/wecanhelp, or call 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or (in Kansas City) 913-551-5724.