In a speech earlier this month, to New York University’s 68th Annual Wage Conference, Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil discussed how Wage and Hour is charged with monitoring 7.3 million workplaces and protecting 135 million workers. He said that he intends to continue with strategic enforcement in certain targeted industries. In recent years those industries included agriculture, day care, restaurants, garment manufacturing, guard services, health care, hotels and motels, janitorial and temporary help. He also stated that one-third of the $250 million in back wages collected in FY 2013 was in those industries. If you operate in one of the above industries the chances of you having a visit from Wage Hour are much greater than if you operate in a different industry.
In a June 15 speech to a Labor Research and Action Network Conference, Mr. Weil discussed Wage and Hour’s heightened efforts to facilitate better outreach to the public, both employers and employees. Earlier this year Wage and Hour began to hire Community Outreach planners to develop ways to better improve this effort. At this point they have in place 36 of these specialists located in District Offices throughout the country. He stated that his goal is to have a specialist located in each of the 52 District Offices before he leaves office. He also pointed out that presently there are 1,050 Wage and Hour Investigators across the country and the budget request for FY 2016 would increase the number of investigators to about 1,300. This would be the largest number of investigators the agency has ever employed. When I began working for the agency in 1962, they were hiring additional staff to bring the level up to 1,000 investigators to enforce the FLSA covering a workforce of approximately 60 million. Today the workforce is more than twice as large with only a small number of additional investigators.
As I am preparing this article we are still expecting the release of the proposed regulations that deal with the executive, administrative, professional and outside sales exemptions. In late May, DOL sent their proposal to the Office of Management and Budget for approval. It is expected the proposal will be released by the end of this month. Once the suggested regulations are released, I plan to review the projected changes and will distribute an outline of their suggested changes. When the new recommended regulations are released I anticipate there will be at least a 90 day comment period where the public can express their concerns and questions. When these regulations were last revised in 2004, the Department received some 75,000 comments on the suggested changes. I believe there will be an even greater number this time so it will take several months for DOL to review and consider all of the comments. Then the Department will publish the final rule which will most likely not become effective for at least 90 days. Consequently, I do not expect any changes to become effective until sometime in 2016.
Even though what the proposal will contain is not known, Congress has already begun hearings regarding the changes. On June 10 the House Education and the Workforce subcommittee held a hearing where an attorney representing the U. S. Chamber of Commerce testified regarding the enhanced enforcement tactics that are being used by DOL. These include the assessment of civil money penalties where there are repeat or willful violations of the FLSA as well as liquidated damages. The attorney believes that the current enforcement tactics are putting too much pressure on employers to agree to demands from Wage and Hour investigators without giving the employers a chance to consult with his/her representative.