Can the Wage and Hour Division Really Help?

Mike Staebell, Compliance, Labor Laws, Des Moines IA

Posted on 12/10/2018 at 10:00 AM by Mike Staebell

Back in 1982 when I began my career with the Wage and Hour Division (WHD), I attended an intense four-week classroom training program for new WHD investigators.   On the first day, the trainees were instructed to tell employers during the investigative visit, “I’m with the government and I’m here to help”.  I cannot speak for my fellow trainees, but I did not care to argue that dubious point with employers, or defend how I was helping after telling them that they owed tens of thousands of dollars in back pay or penalties, so I never used that phrase when conducting an investigation.

Fast-forward to 2018 and the phrase is back, on WHD’s website, as the agency has introduced two new webpages with “We Can Help” as the theme.  Perhaps this time the phrase is appropriate: the new sites contain loads of helpful information for employers on how to comply with the various statues enforced by WHD.  The first web page, “New and Small Businesses”, states, “We’re here to help you stay informed because following the law is good for business!”   There is truth in that statement: avoiding large back wage and liquidated damage assessments by DOL or the courts is no doubt good for any business.

The New and Small Business page provides general information about laws administered by WHD and DOL, and other federal resources applicable to new and small businesses.  The information on this site is organized into six categories:

  • Laws Enforced by WHD
  • WHD Compliance Resources - lists and links readers to educational materials issued by WHD.  This includes Fact Sheets, videos, frequently asked questions, industry-specific information, and required workplace posters.  The materials are available in various languages.
  • WHD eTools - help employers comply with federal employment laws and help workers understand their rights.  By asking a series of questions, each advisor section simulates a conversation with a Labor Department expert and provides the reader with information on the law's requirements.
  • Other DOL Resources - links to other DOL sub-agency websites:
    • Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
    • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
    • Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)
    • Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)
    • Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS)
    • Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP)
    • Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
  • Other Governmental Resources - links to other government agencies that provide resources for small and new businesses:
    • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
    • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
    • Small Business Administration (SBA)
    • Social Security Administration (SSA)
    • National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
  • State Laws and Resources - links to information about laws and labor law contacts in all states.

The second new web page is titled “Compliance Assistance Toolkits”.  The DOL says that the

materials on this page “help employers understand their rights and responsibilities” and include:

  • A series of interactive step-by-step tools that walk employers through  various scenarios;
  • In-depth guides to help employers navigate the requirements of the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA);
  • Fact sheets that detail how the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies to specific types of employment;
  • Guidance from knowledgeable professionals;
  • Informational materials employers can share with their workers;
  • Frequently asked questions about federal labor standards;
  • Posters and forms that meet federal labor law notice requirements.

The Compliance Assistance Toolkit page is arranged in these categories:

  • Basic Compliance Action Toolkit - an introduction to commonly applicable labor laws administered by WHD;
  • Fair Labor Standards (FLSA) Toolkit;
  • Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) Toolkit;
  • Agriculture Toolkit - a comprehensive guide to labor law compliance for employers of agricultural workers including guidance on:
    • FLSA;
    • Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act;
    • H-2A (guestworker program for ag workers);
    • Employment of minors under age 16 in agriculture.
  • Government Contracts Toolkit - links to guidance about the Davis-Bacon Act, Service Contract Act, and the executive order requiring federal contractors to provide paid sick leave to employees working on federal contracts;
  • Youth Employment Toolkit - information on the FLSA rules for employment of minors under age 18 in non-agricultural occupations.

These two new websites contain a huge amount of valuable information.  Kudos to the DOL for making it easily accessible to employers.  For employers and others who are looking for answers about compliance with labor laws enforced by WHD and other agencies, the new sites are definitely worth checking out.

That said, the large amount of information on these websites might feel overwhelming and be difficult to sort through to find answers to questions.  Moreover, the new websites do not have everything an employer might need to know for its particular circumstances.  Employers should consider contacting a law firm like Dickinson Mackaman Tyler & Hagen, which has specialists in federal and state wage and hour laws to hone in and provide the specific answers and legal advice their organization needs.


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