Building upon its prior efforts to leverage contemporary technology, the Department of Labor has announced an “app” competition, inviting the public to create an app to incorporate its data regarding labor investigations “with consumer ratings websites, geo-positioning Web tools, and other relevant data sets, such as those available from state health boards.” This is not the Department’s first attempt to put its data regarding purported violations on the Internet and in the public eye.
“It is difficult to envision how the sort of public shaming contemplated by this kind of app is going to improve employer compliance with wage/hour obligations.” observed former DOL Wage and Hour Administrator Paul DeCamp. “The Department should focus on employer education, not efforts to trap or to embarrass employers based on its enforcement of technical and in many places ambiguous FLSA regulations. Under such an approach, even the Department itself would have to appear as a violator in light of the Department’s own past wage violations.” DeCamp noted, “In light of the recent revelations regarding the Internal Revenue Service treating entities very differently depending on their political affiliation, the public should be mindful of the very real risk that the app the Department envisions will become a tool to pressure selectively certain types of employers, such as those who resist union organizing, while at the same time shielding unions or other politically favored employers who have similar wage violations.”
Employers must continue to strive for compliance with wage-and-hour laws, and regularly should monitor whether allegedly aggrieved individuals, attorneys or governmental entities – including the Department through this or other initiative – are publicizing any purported claims on the web.