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Wage and Hour Division of DOL

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is a very small agency with a very big impact on employers. Because it’s small, the WHD targets certain industries where it believes it can have the biggest impact.

Mastering HR Report: Overtime

Low-wage industries
For at least the past 10 years, the WHD has concentrated on “low-wage” industries such as agriculture, construction, health care, and garment manufacturing as well as the fast-food industry, retail establishments, and service industries.

The 2006 report shows that the agency conducted more than 11,000 investigations in these industries, resulting in back wages of more than $50 million. More than 50 percent of the investigations were in the restaurant, security guard, and health care industries. Employers in these industries have a higher chance of being selected for an investigation.

HR Guide to Employment Law: A practical compliance reference manual covering 14 topics, including overtime and FLSA requirements

New overtime regulations stalled
The Department of Labor (DOL) attempted to update the overtime regulations in 2016 to increase the salary threshold for exemption. One week before the December 1, 2016 effective date of the DOL’s final regulations, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted an emergency motion enjoining the DOL from enforcing the new overtime rule on a nation-wide basis. Until further action, the salary threshold will remain as it has been since 2004.

Learn more about wage laws and correctly classifying workers in the Wage and Hour Compliance Manual

Child labor
Another high priority for the WHD is ensuring that minors are employed in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). During the past year, investigators determined that more than 3,700 minors were employed in violation of the FLSA, with more than 60 percent of them working outside the permitted hours.

Employing minors illegally can get very expensive. The WHD can assess a penalty of up to $11,000 per minor for violations; it assessed almost $3 million in penalties during the past year.

FMLA violations
Last year, the WHD received more than 2,100 complaints alleging violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and its investigations concluded that violations occurred in about half of those cases. The most common violations involved employers refusing to grant FMLA leave, illegally terminating employees who requested leave, and discriminating against employees who requested leave.