The Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently announced that its Wage & Hour Division (“WHD”) is once again issuing opinion letters. Employers will be able to obtain opinion letters from the DOL on their fact-specific questions regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Davis-Bacon Act, as well as many others. Employee classifications, overtime, and minimum wage analyses under the FLSA are the most common issues addressed by the DOL in its opinion letters.
Opinion letters are official guidance from the DOL in response to fact-specific questions. The intent of the opinions is to give employers an understanding of their statutory responsibilities. Reliance on opinion letters can also form the basis of an employer’s “good faith defense” under the FLSA, thereby, minimizing the potential risk of damages. The DOL also launched a new website to assist employers and employees requesting opinion letters.
There is risk in seeking an opinion letter from the DOL: the DOL may not agree with the employer’s practice. The decision on whether to seek an opinion letter and the structure of a request should be thoroughly evaluated.