Wage and Hour Defense Blog

Wage and Hour Defense Blog

Category Archives: DOL Enforcement

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Minimum Wage for Employees of Federal Contractors and Subcontractors to Rise to $10.10 Per Hour

By Evan J. Spelfogel

On Feb. 12, 2014 President Obama signed Executive Order 13,658 to raise the minimum wage for workers on federal service and construction contracts from the current $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.  On June 12, 2014 the United States Department of Labor announced proposed implementation of the Executive Order with respect to all new and renegotiated federal contracts starting Jan. 1, 2015.

This increased minimum wage would apply to the approximately 200,000 employees working for government contractors and subcontractors, and is another salvo in the President’s push for an increase in the federal minimum wage in the … Continue Reading

Take 5 Views You Can Use: Wage and Hour Update

By: Kara M. Maciel

The following is a selection from the Firm’s October Take 5 Views You Can Use which discusses recent developments in wage hour law.

  1. IRS Will Begin Taxing a Restaurant’s Automatic Gratuities as Service Charges

Many restaurants include automatic gratuities on the checks of guests with large parties to ensure that servers get fair tips. This method allows the restaurant to calculate an amount into the total bill, but it takes away a customer’s discretion in choosing whether and/or how much to tip the server. As a result of this removal of a customer’s voluntary act, the … Continue Reading

Texas Health Care Provider’s Miscalculation of Overtime Pay Proves Costly

By: Kara Maciel and Jordan Schwartz

On September 16, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that Harris Health System (“Harris”), a Houston health care provider of emergency, outpatient and inpatient medical services, has agreed to pay more than $4 million in back wages and damages to approximately 4,500 current and former employees for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and recordkeeping provisions. The DOL made this announcement after its Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) completed a more than two-year investigation into the company’s payment system prompted by claims that employees were not being fully compensated.

Under … Continue Reading

Wage & Hour FAQ # 3: What to Expect During a DOL “Walk Around” Inspection.

By Elizabeth Bradley

This on-going series of blog posts flows from EBG’s publication of its Wage and Hour Division Investigation Checklist for employers. The Checklist, along with this series, is aimed at guiding employers through DOL Wage and Hour Division Investigations.

We have previously blogged our way through How to Prepare for a Wage and Hour Inspection, What to Do When a Wage and Hour Investigation Team Arrives to Start Auditing, and What Records Must be Provided to the DOL. In this post, we discuss what to expect during the “walk around” inspection portion of the on-site … Continue Reading

Wage & Hour FAQ #3: What Records Must Be Provided to the Department of Labor?

By Michael D. Thompson

From restaurants in New York to childcare providers in Arkansas to the garment industry in Southern California, Department of Labor investigators continue to uncover FLSA violations by conducting unannounced workplace inspections.

Accordingly, in January, we released our Wage and Hour Division Investigation Checklist for employers and have received terrific feedback with additional questions. Following up on your questions, we will be regularly posting FAQs as a regular feature of our Wage & Hour Defense Blog.

We previously blogged about how to prepare for an audit, and how to develop a general protocol for the investigation.  … Continue Reading

Wage & Hour FAQ #2: What to Do When a Wage Hour Investigation Team Arrives to Start Auditing

By Douglas Weiner

Last month, we released our Wage and Hour Division Investigation Checklist for employers and have received terrific feedback with additional questions. Following up on your questions, we will be regularly posting FAQs as a regular feature of our Wage & Hour Defense Blog.

In this post, we address an increasingly common issue that many employers are facing in light of aggressive government enforcement at the state and federal level from the Department of Labor.

QUESTION: If a DOL team of Wage Hour Investigators arrive unannounced demanding the immediate production of payroll and tax records and access to … Continue Reading

Wage & Hour FAQ #1: How to Prepare for a Wage Hour Inspection

By: Kara M. Maciel

Earlier this month, we released our Wage and Hour Division Investigation Checklist for employers and have received a lot of great feedback with additional questions. Following up on that feedback, we will be regularly posting FAQs as a regular feature of our Wage & Hour Defense Blog.

In this post, we address a common issue that many employers are facing in light of increased government enforcement at the state and federal level from the Department of Labor.

QUESTION: “I am aware that my industry is being targeted by the DOL for audits and several of my competitors … Continue Reading

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis Resigns: How Will the Enforcement Policy of the Wage and Hour Division Change?

By Douglas Weiner and Kara Maciel

“There’s a new sheriff in town.”  With those words in 2009, Secretary Hilda Solis initiated a policy at the Department of Labor that emphasized increased investigations and prosecutions of violators rather than the prior administration’s emphasis on providing compliance assistance.

Her departure – announced yesterday – is unlikely, however, to have much effect on the Department’s current aggressive enforcement policy, as the top enforcement officer of the Department remains Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith.  Solicitor Smith was previously the New York State Commissioner of Labor, where she introduced task force investigations and procedures … Continue Reading

Independent Contractor Misclassification Should Remain Key Area of Concern for Employers

By Frederick Dawkins and Douglas Weiner

Earlier this month, at the ABA Labor and Employment Law Conference, Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith reaffirmed that investigating independent contractors as misclassified remains a top priority of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) enforcement initiatives.  The DOL will continue to work with other federal and state agencies, including the IRS, to share information and jointly investigate claims of worker misclassification.  The joint enforcement effort is certainly driven by, among other things, an interest in collecting unpaid tax revenue, and could result in significant liability to employers.

In addition to potential liability resulting … Continue Reading

Landmark Fifth Circuit Ruling Allows Private FLSA Settlements Without DOL/Court Supervision

By: Greta Ravitsky and Jordan Schwartz

On July 24, 2012, the Fifth Circuit became the first federal appellate court in over thirty years to enforce a private settlement of a wage and hour dispute arising under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) in Martin v. Spring Break ’83 Productions LLC.

For decades, federal courts have consistently held that FLSA wage and hour disputes may not be settled privately without approval from either the Department of Labor (“DOL”) or a federal district court.  This apparently “settled” area of law was based exclusively on the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in Lynn’s Food Continue Reading

The Supreme Court Holds That Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives Are Exempt From Overtime Requirements Under The “Outside Sales” Exemption

By: Michael Thompson

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that pharmaceutical sales representatives (PSRs) are “outside salesmen” who are not entitled to overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The high court’s ruling was predicated on its finding that, in the pharmaceutical industry’s “unique regulatory environment,” the commitments obtained by PSRs equate to traditional sales. Furthermore, the Supreme Court rebuked the Department of Labor (DOL) for “unfairly surprising” the industry by filing amicus briefs arguing that PSRs were not exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements.

PSRs provide physicians with information about the efficacy and benefits of their company’s products, but … Continue Reading

Spring Tune-Up: Gas Stations Should Review Their Pay Policies and Recording Practices to Steer Clear of the DOL’s Recent Enforcement Initiative Targeting Them

By Douglas Weiner and Meg Thering

The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) has announced that it has been finding “patterns of violative pay practices” in gas stations throughout New York, Long Island, and New Jersey. Last year, in New Jersey alone, the Department of Labor, through its multi-year enforcement initiative, conducted 74 investigations of gas stations and ordered employers to pay over $1 million in back pay to employees.

As many commuters know, long daily and weekly hours are the norm for many employees in the gas station industry. Enhanced enforcement activity is now focused on this industry. Specifically, DOL wage and hour … Continue Reading

EBG Complimentary Webinar: Don’t Be a Target of the Wage and Hour Class Action Epidemic: Tips for Avoiding Exposure

Wage and hour investigations and class action lawsuits continue to be a potentially serious problem for many employers, resulting in an abundance of new cases filed and many large settlements procured.  In addition, in September 2011, under the guidance of the Obama Administration, the Department of Labor and IRS announced an effort to coordinate with each other to address misclassification of employees as independent contractors, which is resulting in additional investigations, fines, and/or legal liability levied on an employer.

Click here to register for this complimentary webinar.

Thursday, April 12, 2012
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. CDT – Program and
Continue Reading

An Overview of Wage Hour Laws and Litigation: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Back Wage Claims

Wage Hour laws and regulations are complex, non-intuitive, and constantly changing.  Mistakes in wage and salary administration have led to class actions resulting in six and seven figure recoveries against the most sophisticated employers – banks and major industrial giants as well as smaller employers without in-house legal and high level Human Resources officials.  Peter M. Panken, Lauri Rasnick and Douglas Weiner in our New York Office have recently authored an article in conjunction with a major national Continuing Legal Education program in Washington entitled: “ An Overview of Wage Hour Laws and Litigation: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Back Wage Continue Reading

The (Sort Of) Hired Help: Wage and Hour Implications of Hiring Unpaid Interns

By Amy Traub and Desiree Busching

On February 1, 2012, a former intern of the Hearst Corporations’ Harper’s Bazaar filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of herself and others similarly situated. The lawsuit alleges that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and applicable state laws by failing to pay minimum wage and overtime to interns. The use of unpaid interns is a widespread practice, especially in the retail, publication, and real estate industries, as well as in Hollywood. In fact, in September 2011, a similar lawsuit was filed against Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., claiming that the company used unpaid interns … Continue Reading

U.S. DOL And California Team Up To Crack Down On Misclassification Of Workers As Independent Contractors

By Michael Kun

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and the California Secretary of Labor announced that they were teaming up to crack down on employers who classify workers as independent contractors.  http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/whd/WHD20120257.htm

The announcement that the two groups would work together on such an initiative should not come as much of a surprise to employers.  Shortly after Hilda Solis took office as the U.S. Secretary of Labor, the Wage and Hour Division announced that it would be focusing on this issue.  And California has enacted a new statute that provides additional penalties in cases … Continue Reading

The Department of Labor Issues Proposed Rule Expanding FLSA Coverage to Companionship and Live-In Workers

By Dean Silverberg, Evan Spelfogel, Peter Panken, Douglas Weiner, and Donald Krueger

Reversing its prior stance, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) proposes to extend the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to domestic workers who provide in-home care services to the elderly and infirm. See Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Amend the Companionship and Live-In Worker Regulations. In 1974, when domestic service workers were first included in FLSA coverage, the DOL published regulations that provided an exemption for such “companions”, whether employed directly by the families of the elderly and … Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Grants Review of the “Outside Sales” Exemption Found Applicable to Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives

By David Garland and Douglas Weiner

In February 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit gave a resounding victory to employers in the pharmaceutical industry by finding that pharmaceutical sales representatives are covered by the outside sales exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham, No. 10-15257 (9th Cir. Feb. 14, 2011). Plaintiffs, and the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) in an amicus brief, had argued the exemption did not apply because sales reps are prohibited from making the final sale. Prescription medicine in the heavily regulated pharmaceutical industry can only be sold to the … Continue Reading

IRS Announces Voluntary Classification Settlement Program

by Dean L. Silverberg, Jeffrey M. Landes, Susan Gross Sholinsky, and Jennifer A. Goldman

On September 21, 2011, the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") announced a new program that will give businesses the opportunity to resolve prior worker classification issues by voluntarily reclassifying their non-employee workers (such as consultants, freelancers, and independent contractors) as employees for federal employment tax purposes. Officially called the "Voluntary Classification Settlement Program" ("VCSP"), this program is part of a larger "Fresh Start" initiative at the IRS to aid taxpayers and businesses in addressing their federal tax liabilities.

Read the full advisory Continue Reading

Wage & Hour Division Continues Enforcement Actions against Virginia Hotels

By:  Kara M. Maciel

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in Norfolk, Virginia has announced that it will be stepping up its compliance audits and enforcement efforts against area hotels. In the past few years, the DOL stated it found violations at about 60% of local hotels. According to the DOL, the agency recently made spot checks at 10 area hotels since April. This is just one part of the agency’s nationwide enforcement program and its “Plan/Prevent/Protect” initiative against the hospitality industry. Common violations assessed by the DOL include:

·         Payment of overtime. Under the FLSA, employees are entitled to overtime for … Continue Reading

DOL Adds Smartphone Technology To Its Enforcement Arsenal

By Michael Kun and Betsy Johnson

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has implemented a number of initiatives in support of its enforcement of federal wage and hour laws and its mission of making employers more accountable for compliance with these laws.  These include the “We Can Help” and “Bridge to Justice” initiatives.

The DOL has now announced that it is launching a free application for smartphones.  This new “app” provides non-exempt employees with an electronic “timesheet” that allows them to independently track the hours they work and determine the amount of wages owed. The new … Continue Reading

Department of Labor Seeks Bigger Budget to Increase Wage and Hour Enforcement Efforts

by Kara Maciel

Once again, the U.S. Department of Labor is requesting additional funding from Congress in its 2012 budget proposal to increase its efforts toward regulation and enforcement of wage and hour and employment laws.  While the DOL’s budget proposal would reduce its overall discretionary spending by 5%, the budget cuts will not affect the staff and resources that enforce wage and hour laws.  Instead, the Wage and Hour Division is asking for $241 million – an increase of $13.3 million from last year’s estimated budget. 

 

In particular, the Wage and Hour Division is seeking to add 107 … Continue Reading

U.S. Department of Labor to Refer Employees to Plaintiffs’ Lawyers

By Michael Kun and Doug Weiner

It is no secret that employers have been beseiged by wage-hour litigation, including wage-hour class actions and collective actions. It is also no secret that the persons who benefit most from these actions are often plaintiffs’ counsel, who frequently receive one-third or more of any recovery. Now, as a result of an unprecedented new program initiated by the the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”), the WHD will be practically delivering potential plaintiffs to the doors of plaintiffs’ counsel — and the WHD has invited plaintiffs’ counsel to let it know if … Continue Reading

The Department of Labor Makes It Easier for Employees to Sue for Donning/Doffing

 On June 16, the Department of Labor issued an “Administrator’s Interpretation” addressing the compensability of time spent by employees changing clothes and equipment before and after work (commonly referred to as “donning and doffing). The Interpretation reversed opinion letters on the subject  issued by the Bush administration in 2002 and 2007, and lowered the standard for employees to seek compensation for such activities.

The Interpretation addressed two issues. First, the advisory notes that Section 203(o) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which allows employers to negotiate with a Union to exclude from compensable time certain donning and doffing activities, … Continue Reading

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