Report 2001-017 Summary - September 2002
Department of Industrial Relations:
Its Process for Verifying the Status of Licenses Issued to Farm Labor Contractors Is Operational but Needs Some Improvement
Our review of whether the Department of Industrial Relations (department) has established a process for verifying the status of state licenses issued to farm labor contractors reveals that:
- The department's process for verifying the status of farm labor contractors' licenses has been operational since July 1, 2002.
- Agricultural growers, farm labor contractors, and others can request license verifications through the department's Web site or by electronic mail, telephone, or facsimile.
- More oversight is needed of the department's license verification process, especially in these early stages of implementation.
As required by Section 1695.7(e) of the Labor Code, the Department of Industrial Relations (department) has established a process to verify the status of state licenses issued to farm labor contractors. Specifically, the department created a Web site that agricultural growers, farm labor contractors, and others can use to make online requests for verification of the status of a farm labor contractor's license. The department's Licensing and Registration unit (unit), with offices in Fresno and San Francisco, also accepts requests for verification via electronic mail (e-mail), telephone, and facsimile (fax), and responds to requests by accessing a database to determine whether the farm labor contractor's license is valid and current. The unit must assign a unique number to each license verification and send the result to the requestor within one business day by mail, fax, or e-mail. The confirmation, including the verification number, provides conclusive evidence that the requestor verified the license.
The unit had only been processing requests for verification of farm labor contractors' licenses for three weeks at the time we began our review. Although the department's license verification process is operational, we found that some improvements are needed. To test the verification process, we submitted 25 requests for license verification. The unit did not respond to one of our e-mail requests until we made a follow-up call two days later. In another instance, a unit employee verified the status of a farm labor contractor's license over the telephone but did not ask for the information needed to send the required written verification. During our visit to the unit's San Francisco office, we also observed a unit employee failing to request this information from another caller.
Although the problems we observed were relatively minor, we believe the unit's manager should exercise more oversight, especially in the early stages of process implementation. For example, the unit manager, who oversees the verification function, does not review all requests for verification to determine if employees are responding correctly within one business day. Nor does the unit manager compare the number of requests received to the number of unique verification numbers issued to ensure that each request receives a response.
Additionally, we found that the unit's office in Fresno does not accept incoming telephone requests on Thursdays, and the office in San Francisco does not accept telephone requests on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Further, the unit does not have a dedicated telephone line or fax machine to receive verification requests, thus increasing the likelihood that telephone calls requesting license verification will not be handled properly and faxed requests will get lost.
To ensure that the department is complying with the requirement that it respond to requests for verification of farm labor contractors' licenses within one business day, the unit manager should exercise more oversight. For example, the unit manager could develop a log for employees to record the date, time, and medium (online, fax, e-mail, or telephone) by which a request is received; the date and time that the employee transmits the verification; and the method by which he or she transmitted the verification (e-mail, fax, or mail). The unit manager could also compare the number of requests received to the number of unique verification numbers issued.
To reduce the possibility that a request for verification is lost or incorrectly handled, the department should consider obtaining dedicated telephone and fax lines and a fax machine for this function. Finally, to be more responsive to its customers, the department should consider taking telephone requests for verification on all state business days.
Although the department's response did not specifically address the findings contained in our report, it did generally address the recommendations. For example, the department considered our recommendation to obtain a dedicated fax machine for receiving verification requests, but determined that this is currently unnecessary because few requests are submitted using this method and the probability of misdirecting a request is minimal. The department also stated that it has implemented our recommendation that it accept telephone requests for license verifications on all state business days.