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.
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
Now that the revised regulations governing the executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales exemptions from overtime have been in effect since August 2004, investigators are focusing some of their efforts on ensuring that employers are properly applying the tests.
In 2006, the WHD’s efforts resulted in 12,000 employees sharing more than $13 million in back wages. Most violations occurred because an employee didn’t have a “primary duty of the performance of office or nonmanual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers.”
Learn more about wage laws and correctly classifying workers in the Wage and Hour Compliance Manual
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.
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.