Benefits and Compensation

Hotlines—You Find Out Before the Attorneys or the Feds Do

In yesterday’s Advisor, we covered a variety of types of communications with employees; today, we’ll look at employee hotlines.

Your employee hotline is important for many reasons, but the primary one is that you want to hear employees’ concerns and complaints before their attorneys or a government agency does. It’s going to be easier—and less expensive—to resolve before outsiders get involved.

For example, wouldn’t you rather talk to one employee about a wage and hour issue than an attorney who’s gathering a class of employees?

Other key factors in planning a hotline:

  • Anonymous for real. Employees must trust that the hotline is truly anonymous and that there will be no retaliation for using it.
  • Connected to trustworthy people. Employees must trust the people to whom hotline messages are delivered—to maintain confidences—and process responsibly.
  • Approved by management. Employees must believe that management will act when a complaint, allegation, or suggestion is made.

What Hotline Issues Will Your Hotline Encounter?

Compliance Issues

  • Wage/Hour
  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Safety

HR/Compensation Issues

  • Underpaid—external or internal
  • Promotion and Assignments
  • Appraisals

Personal issues

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Gambling
  • Financial
  • Relationship

Ethics Issues

  • Irregularities in accounting
  • Dealings with vendors

General Issues

  • Complaints
  • Suggestions

Are class action lawyers peering at your comp practices? It’s likely, but you can keep them at bay by finding and eliminating any wage and hour violations yourself. Our editors recommend BLR’s easy-to-use FLSA Wage & Hour Self-Audit Guide. Click here for details.


Evaluating Your Hotline Service

NAVEX Global, the leading provider of employee hotlines, suggests that you take care to monitor and evaluate the calls that come in over the hotline.

  • Are calls distributed as you would expect?
  • Do they represent all levels in the company?
  • What types of calls are coming in—inquiries or allegations?
  • Are calls anonymous or from named individuals?
  • What is the substantiation rate; that is, how many allegations prove to be true or have a reasonable basis?
  • How are calls being handled?
  • Is it clear to employees that the organization is responding to employee hotline calls seriously and in a reasonable amount of time?
  • Are calls reasonably spread by geography, department, whatever makes sense for your organization?

A predominance of calls about one concern (compensation) or from one place (the plant) or one department (marketing) could indicate a problem, whereas a lack of calls from a location could be good news—no problems of any kind—or bad news—people don’t trust the system, they don’t know about the system, they fear retaliation, or they are encouraged not to call.

From answering the hotline questions to maintaining equity to paying employees correctly, comp management never sleeps. And violations, especially in wage and hour are all too easy to incur. In fact, the numbers suggest that it’s likely that there are wage/hour violations in your workplace. Are some of your employees working off the clock or not getting the overtime to which they are entitled? There’s only one way to find out—audit before “they” do.

“They” might be the feds, your employees’ lawyers, or even bankers deciding you don’t get that loan because improperly classified workers represent a huge potential liability.

Yes, there’s only one way to find out what sort of wage and hour shenanigans are going on—regular audits.

To accomplish a successful audit, BLR’s editors recommend a unique checklist-based program called the Wage & Hour Self-Audit Guide. Why are checklists so great? It is because they’re completely impersonal, and they force you to jump through all the necessary hoops, one by one. They also ensure consistency in how operations are conducted. And that’s vital in compensation, where it’s all too easy to land in court if you discriminate in how you treat one employee over another.

Experts say that it’s always better to do your own audit and fix what needs fixing before authorities do their audit. Most employers agree, but they get bogged down in how to start, and in the end, they do nothing. There are, however, aids to making Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) self-auditing relatively easy.

What our editors strongly recommend is BLR’s Wage & Hour Self-Audit Guide®. It is both effective and easy to use, and it even won an award for those features. Here are some reasons our customers like it:

  • Plain English. Drawing on 30 years of experience in creating plain-English compliance guides, our editors have translated FLSA’s endless legalese into understandable terms.
  • Step-by-step. The book begins with a clear narrative of what the FLSA is all about. That’s followed by a series of checklists that utilize a simple question-and-answer pattern about employee duties to find the appropriate classification.

All you need to avoid exempt/nonexempt classification and overtime errors, now in BLR’s award-winning FLSA Wage & Hour Self-Audit Guide. Find out more.


  • Complete. Many self-audit programs focus on determining exempt/nonexempt status. BLR’s also adds checklists on your policies and procedures and includes questioning such practices as whether your break time and travel time are properly accounted for. Nothing falls through the cracks because the cracks are covered.
  • Convenient. Our personal favorite feature—a list of common job titles marked “E” or “NE” for exempt/nonexempt status. It’s a huge work saver.
  • Up to date. If you are using an old self-auditing program, you could be in for trouble. Substantial revisions in the FLSA went into effect in 2004. Anything written before that date is hopelessly—and expensively—obsolete. BLR’s Wage & Hour Self-Audit Guide includes all the changes.

Learn More about BLR’s Wage & Hour Self-Audit Guide.