The Wage and Hour Division is a federal office and division of the Department of Labor. The main purpose of the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is to enforce the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Additionally, the Wage and Hour Division addresses wages, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor regulation. Most of the cases the WHD handles involve issues related to wage and hour disputes.
The WHD also 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.
The Wage and Hour Division handles a wide range of claims involving employment and labor. Some of the most common disputes are:
- Temporary Worker Protections: This includes migrant and immigrant worker issues. Each year, United States immigration law allows a certain number of qualified foreign nationals (temporary workers) to enter the U.S. for work purposes. Seasonal workers, such as agricultural workers, are categorized as such.
- The Wage and Hour Division enforces the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) which protects the labor rights of migrant and seasonal workers. They also enforce several employment standards and worker protections that are included in immigration-related statutes;
- Federal Minimum Wage Compliance: Federal minimum wage rate compliance is one of the most common disputes the Wage and Hour Division has a hand in resolving.
- The federal minimum wage, which is the absolute lowest rate of income, was established by the FLSA, which the Wage and Hour Division enforces. If an employer has been reported to the WHD as non-compliant, the Division will launch an investigation and take necessary actions;
- Overtime Pay: If an employee works overtime, or more than forty hours in one week, their employer is required under the FLSA to pay the employee 1.5 times their hourly wage for each hour over forty worked by the employee.
- Under the FLSA, it is prohibited for an employer to change the days an employee works in a week in order to avoid paying overtime to that employee. The Wage and Hour Division would launch an investigation into reported non-compliant employers;
- Recordkeeping: According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to maintain accurate and thorough records concerning hours, wages, and other wage items normally kept in a business practice, such as overtime and vacation or holiday pay.
- Additionally, an employer must keep records containing employee job application information such as their name, social security number, and address; birthdate, sex, and occupation; and basis on which an employee’s wages are paid (hourly, weekly, etc.) The Wage and Hour Division provides a comprehensive list of expect records and maintenance suggestions to employers;
- Child Labor: Child labor laws are requirements set by the WHD to ensure no young workers are exploited due to their age. These laws were enacted to provide protections that do not harm the health, wellbeing, or educational opportunities of young employees.
- Each area of employment, such as health care, has its own set of standards concerning child labor. Youth/child employment arrangements are included in this;
- Medical Leave: The WHD is responsible for enforcing the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. The FMLA dictates that the employees of covered employers take leave specifically for medical or family reasons.
- This leave is generally not paid, but it is job-protected, and the employee maintains their employer-given health insurance coverage. It provides twelve weeks of leave in a twelve month period under specific circumstances, or twenty six weeks of leave in a twelve month period in cases of serious injury or illness; and
- Wage Garnishment: Wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) limit the amount of an employee’s earnings that may be garnished. It also protects an employee from being fired simply because their pay is being garnished to pay for a debt. The CCPA also covers all employers and individuals who receive personal earnings, such as commissions and bonuses.
Typically, you will be required to first file a complaint with the WHD before pursuing legal action in court. Once the complaint has been filed, the WHD will conduct an investigation and determine if there are any appropriate legal remedies. If the employee is not satisfied with the WHD ruling, the employee may request a right-to-sue letter for the right to bring the claim to court.
You can begin the process by contacting the Wage and Hour Division, or by finding your nearest WHD office. They will tell you what information you need, describe the investigative process, and answer any questions you may have.
If the WHD cannot successfully complete an investigation, or if their suggested remedy does not fully address the worker’s losses, the worker may still choose to file a private lawsuit.
In order to support the worker’s claim, additional documentation and evidence might be required to present to the court. Some remedies may involve payment of back wages, punitive damages, and/or relief in the form of an injunction.
Wage and hours issues require knowledge of both state and federal laws, as well as your rights and what you’re entitled to. A knowledgeable and experienced employment attorney can assess your claim, and represent you in WHD hearings and court proceedings.