The steps to take when the government shows up [unannounced] to investigate your business

It is the way no business owner wants to start the day:

“Hello, I am an investigator from the [insert name of applicable government agency] and I am here to conduct a compliance investigation for your business. See my badge!”

Any small business owner would be frightened, unnerved, frustrated and more. From my experience in this area, I will tell you: It is probably not as bad as you think. Take a deep breath and consider following the steps listed below which Bill Pokorny laid out in his article What To Do When the DOL Makes an Unannounced Visit: Wage & Hour Insights:

1. Be polite to the investigators. If you are not moved to do so out of common courtesy, remember that being disrespectful to a government agent with the power to make your life very difficult and assess large financial penalties is not a wise business decision.

2. Contact your lawyer immediately. Make sure he or she has experience handling investigations. If not, get a referral to someone who does.

3. Don’t turn over any records, arrange employee interviews, or answer any other substantive questions until you’ve talked to your lawyer.

4. Don’t talk to your employees about the visit until you talk to your lawyer. Even questions that seem innocent to you can give the impression that you are pressuring employees or possibly retaliating against them for cooperating with the investigators. Most importantly, make sure your time and payroll records are in good order BEFORE the government comes knocking.

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Posted by Shawn Roberts

On this blog, I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. My focus and most experience is in estate planning and business issues including Oklahoma non-compete law. I make a living as an attorney in the law firm I founded, Cazes Roberts, PLLC in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with wife Amy and my two children, Sam (17) and David (9). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."