How to Avoid Common Mistakes with Apprenticeship Compliance

By building your Apprenticeship Program on a foundation of compliance, you can avoid violations and maintain a successful program for years to come.

How to Avoid Common Mistakes with Apprenticeship Compliance
Alex Mahoney

Alex Mahoney

Sr. Account Executive

No one sets out to make mistakes that cost them their Registered Apprenticeship Programs. But mistakes can happen without a solid foundation.

The pillars of compliance help your Apprenticeship stand the test of time. Though far from a comprehensive list, the stalwarts to a successful Apprenticeship Program include:

  • Following the approved program outline and curriculum
  • Providing the correct number of on-the-job hours
  • Paying appropriate wages
  • Adhering to all State and Federal labor laws

Knowing how the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) enforces compliance, the most common violations they find, and what to do if you make a mistake during an audit can help you assemble an Apprenticeship that steers clear of common blunders and labor compliance violations.


How Does the U.S. DOL Enforce Labor Compliance?

Apprenticeship Programs can fail when they do not understand and follow U.S. DOL labor laws.

The U.S. DOL protects the rights of workers by ensuring employers follow Federal labor laws. This includes paying minimum hourly wages and overtime pay, protecting against employment discrimination, and providing unemployment insurance. Employers and employees in the private sector, Federal agencies, contractors, and Registered Apprenticeship Programs must adhere to these laws to comply with Federal labor laws. 

The U.S. DOL’s enforcement and compliance efforts are a system of checks and balances that protect the rights of workers and make sure employers meet their legal obligations. The U.S. DOL takes this effort seriously by:

  • Setting rules and regulations designed to implement and enforce labor laws.
  • Investigating complaints of wage and hours violations through the U.S. DOL Wage and Hour Division (WHD). The WHD also inspects businesses to make sure they are complying with labor laws.
  • Conducting periodic audits to evaluate how well employers adhere to labor laws. If their review exposes a lack of compliance, programs can lose their eligibility for incentives, such as reimbursements and tax credits, and even approval for the program itself.
  • Providing education and outreach through educational materials and training to help employers, employees, and the public understand and comply with labor laws. 
  • Offering voluntary compliance programs to help employers comply with labor laws before they face enforcement action. 
  • Taking civil and criminal enforcement action against employers who violate labor laws. Criminal enforcement can lead to imprisonment, while civil enforcement can include fines and penalties. 

The U.S. DOL’s efforts to protect compliance with labor laws ensure workers are paid fairly, treated with dignity and respect, and work in a safe and healthy work environment.


Need help building your Apprenticeship Program? Check out our guide that covers  the basics. 


Apprenticeship Programs and Labor Compliance Violations

Violating labor laws can cost you money and even lead to the suspension of your Apprenticeship Program. Knowing the most common violations and staying compliant with U.S. DOL regulations is foundational to your success. 

The most common compliance violations with Registered Apprenticeship Programs include failure to:

  • Follow the Standards of Apprenticeship or Apprenticeship Agreements
  • Provide the agreed-upon Registered Technical Instruction (RTI)
  • Give equal opportunities to all apprentices regardless of race, gender, or national origin
  • Correctly classify apprentices as employees rather than trainees
  • Follow the Wage Progression Schedule and pay appropriate wages
  • Provide workers’ compensation coverage to apprentices
  • Maintain accurate records of Apprenticeship training and progress
  • Adhere to equal opportunity and affirmative action requirements
  • Offer a safe and healthy work environment
  • Avoid discrimination and harassment of apprentices

Your Registered Apprenticeship Program must comply with all applicable laws and regulations to maintain its validity and integrity.


What Can You Do if You Make a Mistake During a U.S. DOL Audit?

Not all is lost if you make a mistake with labor compliance. The U.S. DOL will often allow you to remedy the situation to make sure your Apprenticeship Program complies in the future.

Should an audit reveal a mistake, you can take the following steps to remedy the problem.

  1. Cooperate with the U.S. DOL. Being agreeable, providing all requested information and documentation, and answering all questions shows a willingness to remedy the situation.
  2. Address non-compliance. If an audit reveals compliance concerns, act promptly to correct mistakes and bring the program into compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
  3. Develop a plan to correct problems. Design a Corrective Action Plan that addresses non-compliance and protects against similar mistakes in the future.
  4. Implement the plan. Plans are meaningless if they are not followed. Implement the Corrective Action Plan immediately. To prove you have corrected the concerns, document and show the steps you took to regain compliance to the U.S. DOL.
  5. Get legal counsel. Penalties can be significant when an audit reveals serious violations. An attorney can help you resolve problems in those cases.
  6. Educate yourself. Follow all changes in labor laws and best practices pertaining to Apprenticeships and change your program as needed to ensure ongoing compliance.
  7. Add tools to help you. Invest in Apprenticeship Management Software to ensure you meet Apprenticeship Standards and adhere to Federal and State labor laws. These tools streamline program management and help you keep accurate Apprenticeship and apprentice records to protect program compliance. During an audit, this software lets you retrieve requested records quickly.

Related Content: DOL Compliance Assistance: Working with ApprentiScope


Takeaway: Learn How to Prevent and Address Mistakes with U.S. DOL Labor Compliance

Every employer and Sponsor intends for their Apprenticeship Program to succeed. But mistakes can happen when you don’t fully understand and implement labor and Apprenticeship compliance set forth by the U.S. DOL.

Build a framework for program success:

  • Know what the U.S. DOL requires of you to avoid mistakes
  • Understand the labor laws and regulations that apply to your Apprenticeship program and take steps to meet them
  • Know what to do if the U.S. DOL uncovers mistakes during an audit 
  • Invest in a tool that helps you keep accurate records

By building your Apprenticeship Program on a foundation of compliance, you can avoid common blunders and labor compliance violations, maintaining a successful Apprenticeship Program for years to come.


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