DC Unexpectedly Ends “Zip-Code Project”

DC businesses argue that unannounced investigations of labor law postings without probable cause violates the 4th Amendment.

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What began as an effort to increase compliance and understanding among employers in the District of Columbia after the Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act took effect, the Department of Employment Services (DOES) “Zip Code Project” was unexpectedly halted.

The DOES announced earlier this year that it would be conducting reviews of businesses as part of a newly announced “Zip Code Project.” The DOES said the project would consist of a team of three investigators conducting unannounced visits to businesses throughout DC. The investigators would be inspecting for pay records and notice postings to ensure compliance with the Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act as well as other required postings.

The DOES said it would prioritize industries with a history of higher labor standard violations, including construction, food services, home health care, daycare and retail.

Violation of the 4th Amendment

Businesses affected by this Project have argued that these investigations were inappropriate. The 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by the Government of a private place. A search is only proper in those cases if there is probable cause of a law violation. The businesses argued that these investigations were considered “unreasonable searches” of their property without probable cause of a violation.

GovDocs Compliance Research Counsel, Anne Jakala, Esq., says

“While there is nothing official from the DOES as of today, it has been stated by law firms who have assisted businesses opposing the investigations, that the DOES has indicated it will cease investigations pursuant to the ‘Zip Code Project.’“

Impact on Employers

Employers with employees in DC should continue to review their labor law postings to ensure they have the proper postings and that they are posted in a conspicuous place.

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