There is an on-going trend by the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) to leverage popular technology to increase public and consumer awareness of the laws and regulations it enforces. Indeed, the DOL is continually exploring creative ways to share information with the public using the fastest and most-wide reaching means available. Through technology, the DOL is intentionally providing employees and consumers with enforcement data about companies, particularly hotels and restaurants, so that they can make informed employment and patronage decisions.
In July 2011 the DOL launched an “informAction” Smartphone application (“app”) challenge. Third-party developers were asked to develop an innovative iPhone/iPad app using compliance and inspection data on hotels, motels, restaurants and retail stores from the Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). The DOL sought an app that would empower workers and consumers to make educated decisions about what hotels, motels, restaurants, and retail stores to seek employment from and to frequent.
The DOL announced the winning app, titled “Eat Shop Sleep,” on October 27, 2011. This app cleverly combines OSHA and WHD enforcement data with consumer rating sites like Yelp and other tools like Google maps. As advertised on iTunes, the app allows users to “search for places to eat, shop & sleep and then read customer reviews as well as health, safety & labor highlights as a consumer in the know.” Once downloaded, users can view their current location, or any location in the United States, on Google maps; nearby hotels, restaurants or retail stores being investigated by the DOL are “flagged.” When users click on a “flag,” they learn, for example, the number of wage and hour or safety and health violations the establishment committed, as well as any back wage or penalties owed. This information is neatly packaged with reviews of the establishment.
Smartphone mobile apps like “Eat Shop Sleep” allow the DOL to influence public opinion with its enforcement data at minimal cost. With the DOL placing its enforcement data in the hands of the public (literally), hotel operators cannot afford to have a WHD or OSHA record. In today’s digital age, hotel operators cannot believe that wage and hour or health and safety violations disappear after they sign a check to the DOL. The public’s widespread access to the Internet keeps WHD and OSHA records alive and readily accessible. The “Eat Shop Sleep” app also evidences the DOL’s aggressive efforts to shame publically hotels, motels, restaurants, and retail stores that are not compliant with its laws and regulations. Undoubtedly, the hospitality industry can expect the DOL to continue to adopt popular technology for its advantage.