Tuesday, August 16, 2016

When the Department of Labor can’t even figure out the FLSA…

According to Employment Law 360, the U.S. Department of Labor has agreed to pay $7 million to settle claims that it failed to pay overtime to thousands of its employees:
“This is the agency that goes around fining all the private employers for doing the same thing that it just ended up paying $7 million to make go away,” said the union’s attorney.…
AFGE’s collective action-type grievance had accused the DOL of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to compensate employees eligible under the statute for suffer or permit overtime. Amid the 10-year legal fight, workers who were classified as FLSA exempt were moved back to FLSA-eligible, the union said.
Can we agree that if the DOL can’t even figure out how to pay its employees under the FLSA, it’s time to tune-up the statute? In fact, I’ve been calling for this overhaul for years:
The law that governs the payment of minimum wage and overtime in the country, the Fair Labor Standards Act, is 70 years old. It shows every bit of its age. Over time it’s been amended again and again, with regulation upon regulation piled on. What we are left with is an anachronistic maze of rules and regulations in which one would need a Ph.D. in FLSA (if such a thing existed) just to make sense of it all. Since most employers are experts in running their businesses, but not necessarily experts in the ins and outs of the intricacies of the Fair Labor Standards Act, they are fighting a compliance battle they cannot hope to win. 
Congress enacted the FLSA during the great depression to combat the sweatshops that had taken over our manufacturing sector. In the 70 plus years that have passed, it has evolved via a complex web of regulations and interpretations into an anachronistic maze of rules with which even the best-intentioned employer cannot hope to comply. I would bet any employer in this country a free wage-and-hour audit that i could find an FLSA violation in its pay practices. A regulatory scheme that is impossible to meet does not make sense to keep alive. 
I am all in favor of employees receiving a full day’s pay for a full day’s work. What employers and employees need, though, is a streamlined and modernized system to ensure that workers are paid a fair wage.
If the DOL can’t get its own statute right, I can’t be that far off the mark in calling for reform.