In welcome news to employers – and their counsel – U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced in late June the department will return to its previous long-standing practice of issuing opinion letters.

In a development Barley Snyder attorneys have been tracking, the opinion letters replace administrator’s interpretations, the vehicle the department used during the Obama administration since 2010. The administrative interpretations were lengthy and peppered with case law citations, often reading like legal memos. Opinion letters, in contrast, typically provided helpful guidance to specific employer scenarios, particularly in the area of exemptions to minimum wage and overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

“Reinstating opinion letters will benefit employees and employers as they provide a means by which both can develop a clearer understanding of the FLSA and other statutes,” Acosta said in a news release. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to helping employers and employees clearly understand their labor responsibilities so employers can concentrate on doing what they do best: growing their businesses and creating jobs.”

The department created a webpage that explains how to request an opinion letter and review existing guidance.