On February 1, 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced plans to add 100 investigators to support its Wage and Hour Division (WHD). Investigators will conduct investigations to ensure workers are receiving their full wages, promote compliance through outreach and public education programs, aid in efforts to fight against worker retaliation and the misclassification of workers as independent contractors. The addition of more investigators is likely to signal increased enforcement efforts.
In addition, as we previously reported, the DOL also announced increased audits of employer’s Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) practices in the warehouse and logistic industries due to increased pressures on the economic supply chain, which has resulted in a strain on the warehouse and logistics industry, including delivery drivers, truck drivers and others.
Furthermore, on March 10, the DOL created a website which published new resources for workers to help combat retaliation against employees who assert their workplace rights or cooperate with investigations. Most of the laws enforced by the WHD prohibit retaliation, harassment, intimidation or the taking of adverse action against employees for inquiring about their pay, hours of work, asserting their rights, filing a complaint about their rights and cooperating with a WHD investigation.
The resources provide examples of prohibited retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Executive Order (EO) 13706, “Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors,” among other federal laws and orders enforced by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD).
The resources include:
- Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2022-2: Protecting Workers from Retaliation
- An Essential Workers Essential Protections presentation on “Unlawful Retaliation Under the Laws Enforced by the Wage and Hour Division”
Employers may refer to the DOL’s Retaliation Website for additional information.
Next Steps for Employers
Coupling all of the DOL’s intended actions with their announcement late last year, to join with other federal agencies (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)) to increase enforcement of federal law to fight retaliation against employees who exercise their rights under federal labor laws, employers should take care to ensure that their employment practices are on solid footing. Because more investigators increase the DOL’s ability to investigate claims, employers should ensure that they are reviewing their wage and hour and other workplace practices to reduce wages claims or other claims, such as leave interference and retaliation. It is recommended that employers conduct an audit of their employment policies and procedures to identify any gaps and implement strategies to cure any deficiencies. It is also recommended that employers work with their legal counsel to assist with any investigative efforts and to understand how to approach remedies if major violations are uncovered.
Add to this, the DOL’s provision of resources for workers to assist with identifying and understanding what workplace retaliation is and how to file a claim, part of an employer’s strategy should incorporate training for human resources and managers/supervisors related to wage and hour compliance, FMLA, and non-harassment and discrimination. The training should also specifically include information on how to identify and address behaviors that may result in retaliation against workers.
Furthermore, it is critical that employers take seriously and investigate any claims of retaliation made by employees, and that this practice is incorporated into any of the employer’s applicable policies or procedures such as leave related policies, pay practices and EEO and harassment/discrimination policies.
How HR Works Can Help
HR Works offers a comprehensive Human Resource Assessment which helps employers to identify gaps between their current practices and their obligations under federal or state law and provides recommended actions and/or best practices to improve compliance.
HR Works also offers full scale customizable training to assist human resource professionals and managers/supervisors with understanding their role and responsibilities for compliance.
Let us know how we can help. Contact us or for immediate service, call 1-877-219-9062.