Labor Department Sets Wage and Hour Enforcement Record

March 22, 2019

U.S. Labor Department enforcement hasn’t declined under the Trump administration despite efforts to roll back Obama-era regulatory initiatives, but inconsistent regional enforcement styles continue to plague multi-state employers.

Record $304 million in penalties:  In 2018, the Wage and Hour Division penalties were 21 percent higher than the average of President Obama’s last four years, while the number of investigations (28,397) remained about the same.  OSHA inspection data are also on par with the last two years of the Obama administration.

Regulatory roll-back frustrated by inconsistent enforcement:  Since 2017, DOL has rescinded the Obama era enforcement guidance on independent contractors and joint employment, but some regional offices are operating as they did during the Obama administration, according to some management-side attorneys.

Takeaway:  Republican administrations’ focus on compliance assistance and reducing regulations are typically coupled with an emphasis on enforcing the law, so the strong enforcement data are no surprise.  However, the inability to get key DOL nominees confirmed has hampered the ability of the current administration to push a consistent style out to all of the local offices.