I recently attended a seminar conducted by the law firm Fisher & Phillips. During the presentations attorney Matt Simpson told us about some changes that the US Department of Labor has instituted that appear to be very anti-employer. This was reiterated in an article written by attorney John E. Thompson that appeared in TLNT. How are these anti-employer?
“We Won’t Help”
On the USDOL website there is a banner that says “We can help.” I wrote about this banner when it first went up in US Department of Labor: It’s War! And Employers Are The Enemy. Despite the inviting title of the campaign, “We can help” is not a place where employers can go to make sure they are abiding by the law. “We can help” is a way for employees to report their employers to the USDOL prompting an investigation. Since many employers are small and often make mistakes just due to lack of knowledge it would be helpful if they could seek some guidance and get questions answered. That will not occur through “We can help.”
No guidance offered
At one point in the past an employer could actually write a letter to the USDOL and seek some guidance or clarification on some aspect of the Fair Labor Standards Act. They no longer offer this as an option to employers. That is what Thompson’s article Labor Dept. Says Again: No More Opinions For Employers on the FLSA is about. He tells us that the USDOL has said that offering guidance to individual employers is a waste of their time. They have opted to just offer and occasional administrative interpretation that are supposed to offer general guidance to employers. Thompson points out that they appear to be falling short of this “general guidance” goal by offering “guidance” to the pine straw industry, the home health care industry and a definition of the word “clothes” under a collective bargaining agreements. Not exactly the guidance most employers need in trying to understand the FLSA.
In addition to not responding to requests for help from employers the USDOL has also developed some applications that appear to have employers as a target. The first of these is a timekeeping application, that I first wrote about in The USDOL Arms Employees With a New Timekeeping App. It is a smart phone application that allows an employee to track their work time and then report it to the USDOL if they feel that their employer is not paying them for all the time they have worked. Given that most companies have problems with employees tracking time properly within the official company systems the accuracy of them doing so on their phone is also problematic. Regardless an employee can still report their employer prompting an investigation.
Another application is geared toward the consumer. Available on the Apple store EAT/SHOP/SLEEP allows consumers to view the record of a restaurant, store or place of lodging in regards to any potential wage and hour violations or safety violations. The thought process is that consumers can help right wrongs by avoiding businesses that have violations. Of course the other possibility is that they can reduce employment by putting these establishments out of business, but they may not have thought about that.
Goal of the USDOL
According to attorney Matt Simpson the number one goal of the USDOL is let people make more money. Sound noble doesn’t it. Well the noble part gets diminished when you realize that lower income means smaller payrolls, which in turn means fewer taxes collected and less money going to programs like Social Security and unemployment. Do I sound cynical?
Oh by the way, the USDOL has increased the number of Wage & Hour investigators and they regularly post press releases bragging about the money they recovered. Wouldn’t it be better to help train employers, correct behavior and avoid unintentional problems in the first place? That way enforcement could be directed toward the real bad employers who do intentionally cheat employees. But that doesn’t make headlines.