Two federal agencies, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”), have entered a non-binding memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) to strengthen efforts in enforcing federal laws. The MOU, which was signed on September 13, 2023, outlines several initiatives which will increase collaboration and coordination between the agencies. Specifically, the EEOC and WHD have agreed to facilitate their inter-agency cooperation through information sharing, joint investigations, trainings, and outreach efforts. Given the significant overlap of employment-related responsibilities shared between the two agencies, this partnership is expected to establish more consistency in federal data reporting, and increase each agency’s ability to identify federal law violations.
1. Information Sharing
Of the many initiatives agreed to in the MOU, the most notable coordination effort is the agencies’ plan to engage in information sharing. Each agency will now provide relevant information, including reports, records, summaries, and statistical analyses, that may assist in federal investigations. The agencies will specifically share information related to employment discrimination, disability and genetic information discrimination, wage and overtime issues, working and living conditions of employees, denial of required break times for nursing mothers, unlawful retention of employee tips, unlawful denial of family and medical leave, misclassification of employees and independent contractors, and unlawful retaliation.
The MOU clarifies that information sharing practices may be initiated by individuals at varying levels within the agencies. With respect to the WHD, the following individuals may request information from the EEOC: The Administrator, Deputy Administrators, Regional Administrators, The Associate Administrator for Regional Enforcement & Support, The Associate Administrator for Policy, The Associate Administrator for Enterprise Data & Analytics, The Regional Solicitors of Labor, and the Associate Solicitor for the Division of Fair Labor Standards.
For the EEOC, the MOU grants The Chair, The Commissioner, The General Counsel, The Deputy General Counsel, The Director of the Office of Field Programs, The Director of Field Management Programs, any EEOC District Director, The Director of the Washington Field Office or their designees, any EEOC Regional Attorney or their designees, and the EEOC MOU Coordinator permission to seek or request information from the WHD.
2. Joint Investigations
In addition to information sharing, the agencies have also agreed to unite in conducting investigations into potential federal law violations. Importantly, when one agency determines that a violation may have occurred under a law enforced by the other agency, the investigating agency will notify the charging party or complainant that a charge or complaint may be filed with the other agency. Each agency will also provide the complaining party with relevant materials prepared by the other agency to ensure the party is aware of their rights under the respective laws. In cases where the EEOC and the WHD find violations implicating both agencies, the agencies may conduct a coordinated investigation to determine the best course for resolution.
3. Training and Outreach
The WHD and EEOC have also agreed to conduct trainings and engage in joint outreach by educating the staff of each agency on the specific issues that may result in a violation of the law enforced by the other agency. For example, where appropriate, the EEOC will conduct training to WHD staff on how to identify employment discrimination, and similarly, the WHD will instruct EEOC staff on potential wage and hour violations. These training and outreach opportunities will not only enhance each agency’s awareness on potential employment issues, but will also facilitate compliance under federal laws.
Key Takeaways for Employers
As a result of this inter-agency alliance, employers may now be subject to more scrutiny when engaging in practices that allegedly infringe upon or violate federal law. Employers can now expect that reported data and other information will be shared between the agencies, resulting in the commencement of a joint investigation where necessary. Therefore, employers should consider conducting trainings on relevant employment laws for human resource personnel, payroll staff, and other leadership-level employees. As always, employers should review all policies and practices to ensure full compliance with the law.
Maynard Nexsen’s Employment Group stands ready to assist with policy development and all other needs pertaining to compliance with the laws discussed herein.
Memorandum of Understanding Between the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (eeoc.gov)