The Federal government has entered its 12th day of partial shutdown, making it the fourth longest in American history to date. But, not all government departments are affected, and the Department of Labor is one that is not. The DOL is already fully funded for 2019, so the current stalemate between Congress and the President does not affect its resources.
The Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently published an Opinion Letter (FLSA-2018-27) reissuing its January 16, 2009 guidance (Opinion Letter FLSA-2009-23) and reversing its Obama-era position on the 20% tip credit rule. This opinion letter marks another major shift in DOL’s policy and presents a welcome change for employers in the restaurant industry.
On July 18, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Labor-Management Standards issued a final rule rescinding the so-called “persuader rule,” a controversial Obama-era regulation requiring employers to disclose advice received regarding opposition to union efforts.
Under a new DOL pilot program, employers can self-report wage violations and potentially avoid costly litigation.
Last week, the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) launched a six-month pilot program to resolve FLSA violations. Under the Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program, employers may self-report potential overtime or minimum wage violations to the WHD, which will then resolve the matter by supervising payments to employees if the employees accept the settlement. Importantly, the WHD will not impose penalties or liquidated damages on employers that participate in the program and proactively work with the WHD to resolve the compensation errors. Further, if an employee accepts a supervised settlement through PAID, s/he waives his or her right to file an action to recover damages and fees for the violations and time period identified by the employer. To participate in the PAID program, an employer must identify: (1) the wage violation(s); (2) the impacted employee(s); (3) the time period(s) in which the violation(s) occurred; and (4) the amount of back wages owed to the impacted employee(s). However, employers may not participate if they are in litigation or under investigation by the WHD for the practices at issue, or to repeatedly resolve the same potential violations.
On Friday, January 5, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) posted a brief statement and updated its Fact Sheet on Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act to clarify that going forward, it will use the “primary beneficiary” seven factor test for distinguishing bona fide interns from employees under the FLSA. The DOL’s approach is consistent with the test adopted by appellate courts such as the Second and Ninth Circuits.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) seeking to repeal a 2011 rule that significantly impacted the compensation of hospitality workers. Specifically, the NPRM proposes to allow hospitality employers to control the distribution of the tips they pool assuming their employees are paid the full minimum wage. By way of background, the FLSA requires employers to pay employees a minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour) plus overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a single workweek. Employees who “customarily and regularly receive tips” must still receive the minimum wage, but employers may elect to take a “tip credit” by counting up to $5.12 per hour of those employees’ tips toward the minimum wage, meaning employers may pay a reduced wage of $2.13 to tipped employees. Historically, employers that take the tip credit have been prohibited from sharing money from a tip-pooling system to employees who do not traditionally receive direct tips (cooks, dish washers, etc.). In 2011, the DOL extended the tip-pooling prohibition to apply to employers even if they do not take the tip credit and pay their employees the full federal minimum wage.
On August 31, 2017, a federal district court judge in Texas struck down the Department of Labor’s Obama-era controversial 2016 rule that raised the minimum salary threshold required to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white collar” exemption. Under the proposed regulations, the minimum salary threshold was raised to just over $47,000 per year, and increased the overtime eligibility threshold for highly compensated workers from $100,000 to about $134,000.
The U.S. Department of Labor continues to work towards dismantling the Obama administration’s overtime rule, saying that it intends to revise the controversial rule to lower the salary threshold under the Fair Labor Standards Act’s white-collar exemptions. The Obama administration’s rule sought to more than double the current salary requirement of $23,660 a year for white-collar exemptions. Though the rule was estimated to make 4 million additional workers eligible for overtime pay, it was also expected to cause employers significant financial and regulatory burdens.
On June 12, 2017, the Office of Labor Management Standards of the Department of Labor (DOL) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes to rescind the controversial “persuader rule” implemented by the DOL under the Obama administration. This rule sought to require disclosure of advice to employers from consultants and attorneys who engage in activities designed to persuade employees not to unionize. This announcement is on the heels of the DOL’s June 7, 2017, press release withdrawing two administrative interpretations issued by the DOL under the Obama administration concerning misclassification of independent contractors and joint employment, as discussed in a previous post. The recent flurry of activity by the DOL indicates that the Trump administration is following through with its promise to loosen many of the onerous restrictions placed on employers by the DOL in the Obama-era.
With an eye towards “increasingly unaffordable” higher education, President Trump signed an Executive Order on June 15, 2017, seeking to “provide more affordable pathways to secure, high paying jobs by promoting apprenticeships and effective workforce development programs, while easing the regulatory burden on such programs and reducing or eliminating taxpayer support for ineffective workforce development programs.” The Executive Order directs the Department of Labor (“DOL”) to propose regulations that “promote the development of apprenticeship programs by third parties,” including trade and industry groups, companies, non-profit organizations, unions, and joint labor-management organizations. The term “apprenticeship” means “an arrangement that includes a paid-work component and an educational or instructional component, wherein an individual obtains workplace-relevant knowledge and skills.” The Executive Order, in effect, seeks to expand the authority of employers and other third parties to design their own apprenticeship programs and tasks the DOL with implementing or rejecting and assessing such programs on an expedited basis.