No Excuses Accepted – The Heavy Hand of Government


A Cautionary Tale

When I was in elementary school, my brother and I attended a very boring lecture in the main auditorium. The subject was too tedious to remember and we both soon became distracted. Neither of us heard the announcement to not use the center aisle that had just been refinished.  As the assembly ended, we both shot out into the unoccupied center aisle to get out of there as fast as possible. At the end of the aisle, a stereotypical, toe-tapping nun with her arms akimbo awaited us.

She inquired as to whether we had not paid attention to the announcements or whether we had purposely ignored them. Of course, there was no acceptable answer and she waited for none. Instead, my brother and I spent the next two hours putting away chairs, collecting trash and fulfilling other assorted duties while never using the center aisle.

The Government Takes the Same Attitude

The U.S. government takes much the same attitude. They propose and pass laws seemingly without much thought for the ramifications to those who are being legislated. There are never any strictures or responsibilities for disseminating the newly enacted laws laid on the legislators. Instead, businesses and entrepreneurs must continually check and recheck to be sure that they are in compliance with all the past and present regulations. The process is time consuming, expensive and vastly inefficient.

The government does not care if you missed the “announcement” or purposely disregarded it. It does not even care if the law is vague, difficult to understand or subject to varying interpretations. The government still expects compliance and it has the ability to levy penalties and other recourses to ensure your “cooperation.”

A Particularly Difficult Situation

"Employers have a fundamental obligation to pay workers all the wages they have earned."
                                                                                                                                 - Labor Secretary Elaine Chow

No reputable company disagrees with the above statement and many go through significant accounting contortions to accommodate this goal. Still mistakes can and do happen. However, Secretary Chow does not qualify the above statement in any way. Good faith, a sterling past record or honest mistakes need not apply for forgiveness. The government insists on compliance despite the extenuating circumstances and will levy substantial fines on any company that is not compliant. This last fact becomes ever plainer as the government sues everyone from small, S- corporations to Microsoft.

Unfortunately, HR functions and paperwork are incredibly time-consuming and expensive, especially if they must be redone every time there is a change in the law or a clarification because of a court decision. In many cases, small businesses are simply overwhelmed by the volume of fact checking and paperwork that must be documented and submitted.

Another Solution

The issue of properly paying employees has become, to say the least, a complicated situation. The categorization of employees is even less clear as it is still being legislated and somewhat decided in the courts. Both of these facts can lead companies to incorrectly categorize and therefore underpay their employees. The situation seems unresolvable.

Employers may seem to face a dilemma. Willfully ignoring the situation will obviously not help but also inadvertently neglecting it can result in substantial fines. Fortunately, a third choice does exist, the use of a Professional Employer Organization.

It is the business of PEOs to understand and keep current with the latest changes and developments in employee payment law. It is their core business. They have the tools and expertise to properly track and document a company’s payroll. More importantly; they can help when new government regulations require a reconsideration of the status of employees. In short, a PEO can handle the details of HR management while you focus on the bigger picture.

About the Author
Carolyn Sokol is a founder of which helps match small businesses with the best PEO company for their particular needs. Her background is in marketing and communications, employee education and training, development of policies and procedures and the ongoing delivery of outstanding customer service.  As a frequent contributor to’s library, she writes about PEOs and HR Outsourcing as well as other small business interest topics.