In Brief-Why State DOL Websites Stink

This folks, is a rant based from recent experiences I’ve had. Part of my job is to make sure our work sites are compliant with all relevant state, federal, and local statutes. The summertime is a good season to review and update these things. For one, a lot of states update their minimum wage rates. Another reason is that very little gets done on the federal level, as we’ve recently witnessed in regards to healthcare reform and EFCA.

If your organization outsources this function, I tip my hat to you. Personally, I actually like to do this job. Most updates are pretty straightforward and the knowledge gained helps to craft quality internal processes at my organization. Sometimes though, things aren’t as clear as I would like them to be so I go to the appropriate DOL site to find clear information. 9 out of 10 times I want to yell at the computer. It’s really frustrating and in my opinion needlessly so.

Here’s why I think state DOL websites stink:

  1. TMI-Too Much Information. Most websites have a lot of information on the screen competing for your attention. The best ones are laid out in such a way as to make it fairly simple and intuitive to find what you want. Whether it be tabs, icons, or other visual imagery, you need a system that helps your customers reach the product or services they need without a lot of headaches. Not so most state DOL websites. They have way to much going on-they’re the online equivalent of a labor poster, which conceivably has a lot of useful information but nobody really reads. They make my eyes hurt.
  2. Difficult to search. Tying into bullet point #1, these websites are not designed for easy search queries. So unless you know exactly where the relevant information is stored, expect to go around in circles for a while. For example, most minimum wage statutes are usually under the title of “Wage and Hour Requirements.” But what if you need to find out about holiday overtime rules (Hooray Victory Day!)? Then it could get tricky.
  3. Poor customer service. Ok, so you’ve gone through the website and finally found what you’re looking for. But it’s written in legalese, or you wind up with more questions than answers. Why not contact customer support? Good luck. I’ve had cases where I’ve called the listed phone number only to be told that the number’s been disconnected. Other times I’ve left e-mails and never heard back from anyone. When I have gotten a live person, the range of service has been from good to god-awful. Not cool. On a side note, live customer service from the federal Department of Labor has been excellent. The reps are pleasant, helpful, and, before transfer your call, provide you with the number in case you get disconnected. They provide excellent customer service. The one drawback is that they will not answer questions regarding state specific regulations; they transfer you to the local office where the madness starts all over again.

There, I feel much better now. Do yourself a favor and avoid these sites whenever possible. It’ll save you a lot of wear and tear.

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