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DOL 2003 Enforcement Efforts Net $212 Million in Back Wages for 340,000 Workers

  • November 18, 2003

On November 18, the U. S. Department of Labor released the fiscal year 2003 statistics on enforcement of the various federal laws under its broad domain. These include the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and Executive Order 11246 administered by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The robustness of the numbers reflects the stepped-up efforts that DOL has made with an increased budget and staff to enforce the laws through compliance audits, targeted investigations, and prosecution of complaints against employers allegedly violating the laws.

In a statement accompanying the "record-breaking results" of the Department's "innovative and effective approach to protecting workers," Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said American workers are safer and are receiving more back wages -- including overtime pay -- than in the past. Ms. Chao emphasized that the department was able to better protect workers by targeting enforcement at bad actors and providing tools to employers that help them better comply with the law. Summing up the results, Ms. Chao commented, "We never forget that behind every enforcement statistic and legal action is a person who needs our help. That's why I'm pleased to make these announcements today. They are an indication of how seriously this Administration takes its commitment to protect the safety and security of America's workers."

Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration

The amount of back pay awards collected in FY 2003 by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration rose 21 percent, to more than $212 million, and was the largest in 11 years. Civil money penalties assessed against employers also increased to nearly $10 million. In the 87% of cases involving the Fair Labor Standards Act, the agency collected more than $182 million, and the number of workers recovering back wages increased by more than 30 percent over the previous year.

The vigorous increase in FLSA enforcement activity contrasts with that under another of the Wage and Hour Division's charges, the Family and Medical Leave Act. As compared to FY 2002, the number of FMLA complaints filed with the Division in 2003 increased by only 1.8 percent. In FY 2003, there were 3,565 complaints filed, just 64 more than the previous year. Moreover, the 1.654 cases in which violations were found represented a 4.7 percent decrease over FY 2002. Fewer employees (1,867) were affected by those violations, and there was a decrease in the monetary damages recovered, from more than $3.7 million in FY 2002 to close to $2.4 million in FY 2003. Allegations of employment terminations related to FMLA leave continued to be the primary reason for the complaints.

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs

At the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, 52 "Corporate Management Reviews" were completed during FY 2003, a record number and an increase of 24 percent over FY 2002. According to the DOL, Corporate Management Reviews ensure that workers have an equal opportunity to rise to management and executive positions. The number of compliance evaluations also rose by 19 percent to a 12-year high, with OFCCP completing 7,709 reviews covering over 2.5 million workers.

OFCCP focused on systemic discrimination cases in FY 2003, obtaining settlements which provided $ 26,220,356 in financial remedies to 14,361 minority and female workers, a 60 percent increase in the number of affected workers but only an 8 percent increase in the amount of the remedies over FY 2002.

In FY 2003, OFCCP referred 12 systemic discrimination cases to the Office of the Solicitor for enforcement litigation, involving $27.3 million in estimated liability and over 1,500 workers. The Solicitor's Office filed enforcement litigation in five OFCCP cases in 2003, with estimated liability of more than $6.2 million and involving more than 2,400 workers.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

In announcing the OSHA statistics, Secretary Chao commented that workers are safer at their work sites, thanks to the administration's strong enforcement and compliance assistance activities. In the last few years, OSHA has placed increased enforcement priority on repeat offenders and invested in compliance assistance tools, programs and partnerships that enable well-intentioned employers to better protect workers, and Ms. Chao said the numbers show the clear positive results of the Department's new approach.

In FY 2003, OSHA conducted 39,817 workplace inspections-a nearly 6% increase over FY 2002. It cited employers for 83,760 violations in FY 2003, a nearly 8 percent increase; nearly 60,000 of the violations were considered serious, an 11 percent increase over FY 2002. The most recent data available show the rates of workplace injuries and fatalities at their lowest levels since recordkeeping began.

For more detailed information on the DOL's enforcement statistics, visit the U. S. Department of Labor website.

©2003 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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