The U.S. Labor Department has announced it will no longer individually answer employers' specific questions about complex wage-and-hour issues.
Instead of issuing opinion letters to respond to employers' questions, DOL will now offer "administrator interpretations" designed to offer general guidance on how to comply with federal pay laws.
What's the difference?
Opinion letters were highly fact-specific and based on particular issues and questions raised by particular employers. In contrast, administrator interpretations will offer references to statutes, regulations and court cases.
Does it feel like the feds are leaving you in the lurch? Navigating labor laws in the dark? We can help with this handy reference ... Exempt or Nonexempt? How to Make the Call and Avoid FLSA Overtime Lawsuits
From now on, when employers seek wage-and-hour guidance from the DOL, they’ll probably receive administrator interpretations instead of opinion letters. A statement from the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division did not rule out ever issuing more opinion letters, but strongly suggested that they would be rare.
According to the statement, “this will be a much more efficient and productive use of resources than attempting to provide definitive opinion letters in response to fact-specific requests submitted by individuals and organizations, where a slight difference in the assumed facts may result in a different outcome.”
Attorneys who represent employers blasted the change, saying it signals that the Obama administration’s DOL fundamentally favors employees over employers.
What's worse: managers and supervisors can be held personally liable for misclassification. Protect your organization AND yourself with this informative guide: Exempt or Nonexempt? How to Make the Call and Avoid FLSA Overtime LawsuitsNoting that the Labor Department recently announced a major media campaign to tell workers how to complain about alleged Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations, attorney James Coleman of Constagny, Brooks & Smith said, “When it comes to employees, the DOL is bending over backwards to educate them as to their rights under the FLSA, but when it comes to employers, the DOL is no longer willing to even respond to their specific inquiries where they are attempting to seek additional guidance.”
The Morgan Lewis law firm issued a statement calling the change to administrator interpretations “a stunning departure from accepted practice.” The firm predicted that the DOL will use administrator interpretations to “reclassify as nonexempt employees who were previously thought to be exempt based on prior DOL regulation and guidance.”
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