Privatizing Wage and Hour Enforcement: The New DOL-ABA Collaboration

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Over the past year, the Department of Labor has increased its emphasis on enforcement measures as part of its new strategy called “Plan/Prevent/Protect”: The Beginning of a Broader Regulatory and Enforcement Strategy. In keeping with those efforts, the White House recently announced an unprecedented collaboration between a federal agency and a private bar association. Starting Monday, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division will work with the Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Service of the American Bar Association. Workers who contact the Division may now be referred to “qualified private-sector attorneys” to handle their cases as private actions.

The Wage and Hour Division is responsible for enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, among other laws.

According to the DOL, this new joint effort was precipitated by the Division’s inability to handle all the complaints it receives. Even though the Division has hired 350 new investigators during the past two years, it has been unable to assist all of the more than 35,000 workers who seek its assistance each year. Moreover, it could not ensure that the workers it could not assist were able to exercise their private rights of action under the FLSA and the FMLA.

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