Recently, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis unveiled the Administration’s fiscal year 2010 budget for the Department of Labor (“DOL”). The budget requests $104.5 billion, with the majority of the money to be used for unemployment benefits for displaced workers and federal workers’ compensation. Based on the budget, the DOL expects to hire nearly 1,000 new employees, including about 670 investigators. The budget asks for $564 million for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (”OSHA”), which is $51 million more than the fiscal year 2009 budget allocated to OSHA. Using the additional funding, OSHA expects to hire about 160 new enforcement officers, many of whom will be bilingual to communicate with the employees in the changing workplace. As part of the budget, the Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) is expected to receive $228 million, including funding to hire 200 new investigators. According to the DOL, with the increased budget allocation, WHD and OSHA will be able to vigorously protect wages and the working conditions of employees.
According to Frank Del Barto, the increase in new DOL investigators should act as a warning for employers to review their employee classifications. Frank reminds employers that they must classify all employees as either exempt or non-exempt from overtime pay. An exempt employee is one who is paid based on the function and responsibilities of his/her position and is not eligible for overtime pay because he/she performs certain executive, professional or administrative duties that meet the exemptions defined in the Fair Labor Standards Act and is paid on a salaried basis. A non-exempt employee is one who is paid by the hour and must be paid at an overtime rate of at least 1.5 times his/her regular rate of pay for all work performed after forty (40) hours in a given workweek. Frank states that the new investigators will certainly be enforcing proper employee classifications and the overtime pay requirements.