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February 16, 2005
Democrats Criticize Labor Dept. Deal with Wal-Mart

U.S. Representative George Miller, D-California, is urging the Department of Labor's Inspector General to review an agreement between Wal-Mart and the department that would give the company 15 days of notice before the department investigates certain complaints, the Hartford Courant reports.

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Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that the Department of Labor agreed to give the company 15 days of notice before investigating allegations of wage and hour violations. The Department of Labor contends the notice agreement applies only to allegations of child-labor violations. The provision was part of a settlement of allegations that the company allowed workers under the age of 18 to operate hazardous equipment in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Arkansas.

"I think it is ludicrous that the Department of Labor would give a possible violator 15 days' notice before instigating a full and thorough investigation," U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, tells the newspaper. "Just as the police wouldn't phone a thief to give him time to leave a crime scene, the federal government shouldn't slow-walk these types of investigations."

Department of Labor officials contend the Wal-Mart agreement is similar to settlements the department has reached with other companies.

"We always call employers to say we have a complaint, and that we're coming in to do an investigation," says Victoria Lipnic, the assistant labor secretary for employment standards. "That is a typical standard procedure. This is a stick over Wal-Mart to make sure they comply."


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