Companies never have a shortage of questions when it comes to their compliance with the federal wage and hour laws. Companies desire guidance that takes into account their specific situations so they can be assured that they are (or will be) doing the right thing(s) to comply. In order to aid companies with their compliance efforts, the Department of Labor ("DOL") announced that it will start issuing inquiry-specific Opinion Letters again. In 2010, the DOL ceased issuing Opinion Letters and instead began to issue more general explanations in Administrator Interpretations.
Opinion Letters are an official response from the DOL's Wage and Hour Division ("WHD") that contain detailed explanations regarding how certain laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") apply to the fact-specific scenarios presented by employers.
On June 27, 2017, the Secretary of Labor (Alexander Acosta) declared that the DOL will reinstate its Opinion Letter practice. According to Mr. Acosta, issuing Opinion Letters shows the DOL's commitment "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."
This development is important for employers because they now have an additional means to check their compliance with certain federal statutes. Even if an employer does not make a request on its own, examining the Opinion Letters issued to other employers can provide some insight into how the DOL may consider your specific wage and hour compliance concerns.