The DOL Will, Once Again, Tell You What it Thinks

For years, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (WHD) provided official guidance, in the form of opinion letters, to employers and employees. The opinion letters issued by the WHD addressed the application of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Davis-Bacon Act (DBA), and the Walsh-Healy Public Contracts Act (PCA) to specific fact patterns. Employers who relied on an opinion letter were provided with a good-faith reliance defense to certain claims under the FLSA, DBA, and PCA. In 2010, the WHD announced that it would no longer issue opinion letters, opting instead to issue Administrator Interpretations. The Administrator Interpretations were described by the WHD as general interpretations of the law not applicable to particular fact patterns.

On June 27, 2017, U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced that the WHD will reinstate the issuance of opinion letters. In connection with the announcement, Secretary Acosta stated, “Reinstating opinion letters will benefit employees and employers as they provide a means by which both can develop a clearer understanding of the Fair Labor Standards Act and other statutes. The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to helping employers and employees clearly understand their labor responsibilities so employers can concentrate on doing what they do best: growing their businesses and creating jobs.” It’s clear that this action is part of the new Secretary’s philosophy of helping employers understand and comply with the laws enforced by the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL has set up a website through which employees and employers may learn how to request an opinion letter.

This blog was written by Marc Sloane at Miles & Stockbridge.

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