The U.S. Department of Labor announced the creation of an Office of Compliance Initiatives to assist companies in efforts to comply with regulations before a determination that they have violated labor laws. The duties of the OCI will include proactively communicating with companies to prevent violations and working with enforcement agencies to improve their effectiveness. The OCI’s work will also be “facilitating and encouraging a culture that promotes compliance assistance within the department,” according to a DOL statement.
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta made a statement indicating that the creation of the OCI does not mean that violators will get a pass from the DOL. “Vigorous enforcement and compliance assistance go hand in hand,” Mr. Acosta said. “The Office of Compliance Initiatives expands our efforts to promote full compliance with federal labor law.”
The DOL has created a website to help companies understand their responsibilities and has revamped the portion of its website regarding workers’ rights. It launched a program in March allowing employers that have violated minimum-wage and overtime laws to self- report those infractions to the federal government and avoid civil penalties. This will not allow companies to escape liability to compensate the underpaid workers, but could allow them to avoid many times the damages in penalties which otherwise could be assessed for the violations.
Companies should discuss with experienced legal counsel the possibility of self-reporting violations, should the need arise. Penalties may be extremely high in cases wherein the DOL determines that the wage law violations were willful.
Questions about this or any other labor and employment issue? Contact Katherine at
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Ms. Witherspoon has 22 years of litigation experience in every Delaware court, the U.S. Court for the District of Delaware, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She has also represented clients in proceedings before the Delaware Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Merit Employee Relations Board, and the Delaware State Board of Education. Her employment practice focuses on discrimination; employment termination; unemployment compensation appeals; Fair Labor Standards Act issues; creation and review of employee handbooks and policies; severance agreements; and labor relations.
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