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Department of Labor Seeks Bigger Budget to Increase Wage and Hour Enforcement Efforts

by Kara Maciel

Once again, the U.S. Department of Labor is requesting additional funding from Congress in its 2012 budget proposal to increase its efforts toward regulation and enforcement of wage and hour and employment laws. While the DOL’s budget proposal would reduce its overall discretionary spending by 5%, the budget cuts will not affect the staff and resources that enforce wage and hour laws. Instead, the Wage and Hour Division is asking for $241 million – an increase of $13.3 million from last year’s estimated budget.

In particular, the Wage and Hour Division is seeking to add 107 full-time staff to support the DOL’s initiative against misclassification of independent contractors and other labor violations arising from misclassification. Along with the budget and staff increases, the DOL expects its investigations to increase as well in 2012. According the DOL’s budget summary, the DOL is planning on conducting an additional 3,250 investigations. These investigations will target industries with higher rates of violations, including:

· Construction

· Home health care

· Grocery stores

· Janitorial businesses

· Poultry and meat processing

· Child care

· Business services

· Landscaping

The Wage and Hour Division is also developing a proposed rule to update the FLSA’s recordkeeping requirements which would require employers to notify their workers of their rights under the FLSA. The proposed rule would essentially require employers to perform a written classification analysis for exempt employees and share that analysis with the worker.

Notably, the DOL is also seeking $23 million to help states establish paid leave programs to help workers who must take time off to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent or bond with a newborn or recently adopted child.

Despite the budget showdown that is currently taking place in Congress and the fact that Congress still has yet to approve the budget for Fiscal Year 2011, the DOL’s 2012 budget request is a strong indication that employers should continue to be vigilant and prepare for increased enforcement efforts from the DOL and the Wage Hour Division.