The U.S. Department of Labor is in place to ensure the fair treatment and wellbeing of employees and retirees. They do this by improving working conditions, and ensuring work related rights and benefits. The DOL also assists in the job search for those seeking jobs, and helps employers find prospective employees. They are a department of the federal government, and each state has their own departments of labor.

Further, given that they are a regulatory department, they have the power to create federal regulations that have been deemed necessary in creating and enforcing the labor related laws and policies that have been enacted by Congress.

The Department of Labor operates through several offices and agencies. These are then further categorized into major program areas. The Administrative Review Board, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (VETS), are just a few such programs that the Department of Labor is responsible for.

The Department of Labor was founded by William Howard Taft, and is headed by the U.S. Secretary of Labor. The Civil Rights movement of the sixties prompted the Department to promote racial diversity in the workplace. Special efforts are made on the part of the Department to assist those who have unique challenges finding employment, such as the disabled, women, older workers, and minority group members.

What Does the Department of Labor Regulate?

The Department of Labor regulations are extensive with over 180 federal laws. These laws affect roughly 125 million workers. DOL has extensive authority to regulate diverse areas of the law. Some of these are:

  • Wage and Hour: The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is in place to ensure labor standards compliance in order to protect and improve the welfare of America’s workforce. The Division enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), which addresses wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor regulation.
    • The WHD enforces the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires employers of a specific size to provide twelve weeks of job leave in instances of birth, adoption, or serious illness in a family.
      • A few other enforcements are the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, and provisions concerning wage garnishment of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. Since 1984, the Wage and Hour Division has recovered 2.8 billion from employers who have violated the Family and Medical Leave Act;
  • Workplace Safety and Health: The Occupational Safety and Health Act regulates the safety and health of employees in the workplace. OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is a division of the DOL and enforces the Act.
    • OSHA also handles whistleblower protections, and provides employers with resources such as compliance assistance specialists to ensure every employer is well informed about what OSHA expects of them;
  • Worker’s Compensation: The Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs, or the OWCP, is responsible for administering several federal compensation programs that cover certain employees and their qualified survivors, in cases that involve work related injury or death. Worker’s Compensation is state-mandated and guarantees benefits to the employee no matter who was at fault;
  • Employee Benefit Security: The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) assures the security of employee benefits such as retirement benefits, health benefits, and others.
    • The EBSA is responsible for regulations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which covers pensions, welfare benefits, and certain insurance plans. The EBSA develops effective regulations, educates and assists employees, and enforces all applicable laws; and
  • Unions and Labor Relations: The Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) developed preventative measures to halt improper collusion between employers and union officials; it also serves to prevent embezzlement of union dues, and provides standards for union official elections.
    • The LMRDA is administered by the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS), which promotes union democracy, financial integrity, and transparency.

Can I Sue the U.S. Department of Labor?

Yes, it is possible to sue the Department of Labor. In fact, a federal district court in Texas awarded over half of a million dollars in attorneys’ fees and costs to an employer when the Department of Labor was found to not be substantially justified in its legal position.

If you are a company who is being investigated by the Department of Labor, under the Equal Access to Justice Act, you are able to recover attorneys’ fees if you prevail in your suit against the Department of Labor. Under this Act, the government bears the burden of proof that its position, at every stage, is substantially justified; this means that the Department of Labor must have a reasonable and factual basis for moving forward in their case against your company.

Do I Need an Attorney for Help in Dealing with the United States Department of Labor?

The Department of Labor exists to ensure the rights and wellbeing of the American worker. It maintains broad authority to administer diverse federal statutes. If you believe that your rights or benefits have been violated, a knowledgeable and experienced employment attorney will help you understand your options.

Additionally, they can inform you of any applicable laws that may have been violated, such as state and local laws. If you are an employer who is under investigation by the Department, an attorney will be beneficial in understanding your infraction, or in pursuing a lawsuit against the Department if necessary.