LaDawn Stegman – Auditor for Colorado Dept. of Labor and Employment (Colorado Springs)
My job as an auditor is to keep people honest and to detect employment fraud. This includes checking compliance for unemployment insurance law, and making sure that employers are following the law on their employees and not treating them as independent contractors. There’s about 35 auditors state wide, I work almost exclusively in the Colorado Springs area.
Most people don’t understand how much being an employee protects them. So, if an employee loses their job through no fault of their own they have that umbrella of unemployment insurance benefits to help sustain them until they can find another job. But you only get unemployment if you are properly classified as an employee in the first place – not improperly classified as an independent contractor.
And employees get much more protections than just unemployment: the law includes worker’s compensation, wage and hour guidelines, minimum wage, overtime, and OSHA protections. There are a lot of protections that go with being under covered employment, as opposed to being an independent contractor, and that’s what I go out and verify.
Our audits are almost all done at the employer’s place of business. We go out there because we also look for the type of operation they are to try to detect fraud. We want to make sure the business really exists, so we verify that, we look at their operations. For example, if you’re going into a very large building and they say they have 2 employees, something is going to seem not right to you as an auditor.
I try to be a fair auditor. I listen to the employers as they tell me how their business operation is handled, however I do apply the law and I do think I apply it consistently.
One thing that I really see in the audit section is the brain drain, because the pay has not kept pace with the private sector. There are very few auditors that have a lot of experience. To be an auditor is a very long learning curve, seven or eight years, and then to have that experience and knowledge of the law stolen away from the state by the private sector, you’re losing good workers. I’ve been here for six and a half years and I’m already one of the more senior auditors.
We definitely deserve a raise. Some auditors do have second jobs, they have student loans and they need that second job to pay their student loans. The kind of student loans you come out with for an accounting degree or a finance degree, it’s hard to make those payments and live, also.
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