Employers take note: New DOL Secretary Perez sets his agenda
By: Miriam L. Rosen
Speaking at the AFL-CIO convention on September 10, 2013, the new Secretary of the Department of Labor Thomas Perez
gave employers some insight on what they can expect from the DOL in the coming months. Among the insights for employers:
- The Obama Administration will strongly support an increase in the federal minimum wage.
- Perez highlighted his long-standing commitment to enforcing Davis-Bacon Act violations against federal contractors who fail to pay prevailing wages on covered construction contracts.
- The DOL will actively pursue what Perez called, “the unfair, illegal practice of misclassifying employers as independent contractors. Calling misclassification “workplace fraud,” Perez vowed to combat the practice.
- Noting that the DOL collected a record $280 million dollars in back wages for employees last year, Perez committed to expanding opportunities for workers in every industry through the “fair and aggressive enforcement of our wage and hour laws” and continued use of liquidated damages provisions in cases involving egregious offenders.
- Perez also noted that the DOL will not “hesitate to create opportunity by using [its] regulatory authority — to ensure that workers, including but not limited to home health workers, receive the full protection of our wage and hour laws.”
- With a fully supportive union audience, Perez called the right to form unions “essential to a thriving middle class” and
committed to defend that right.
What does this mean for employers?
Perez’s comments leave no doubt of the increased vigor that employers can expect to see at the DOL. In addition to Perez, top spots at the DOL have been filled in recent months with staffers known for pursuing an aggressive enforcement agenda. Employers can expect to see renewed efforts to increase employer obligations through DOL rulemaking. Employers can also expect to see a DOL that is more aggressive in pursuing enforcement actions and damages and less willing to work with employers.
This means that employers must continue to be vigilant in their compliance efforts by among other actions:
- Reviewing worker classifications for both independent contractor/employee status and for proper exempt/non-exempt classification, and
- Auditing payroll practices to ensure that non-exempt employees are properly paid for all regular and overtime hours worked.
Expect to see an increase in activity at the DOL in coming months. We will, of course, continue to keep you informed of developments.