The U.S. Department of Labor's reduced enforcement amid the coronavirus pandemic has workers' attorneys concerned and employers' attorneys saying reductions were expected, after an internal watchdog reported a nearly $67 million drop in the recovery of back wages as the agency's own workforce went largely remote.
The DOL's Office of Inspector General said the department's Wage and Hour Division completed thousands fewer Fair Labor Standards Act cases and saw a 21% drop in back wages recovered in fiscal year 2020 compared to the previous year.
In its Sept. 30 report, the watchdog also said the WHD largely left it up to workers to ensure their employers complied after investigations, and that it failed to properly oversee complaints and payments related to paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. …
But Paul DeCamp of management-side firm Epstein Becker Green said, "Given the amount of disruption to the economy over the last year, it's not surprising to me at all that there would be a significant drop."
The DOL inspector general's office announced Monday that it will audit the WHD in fiscal year 2022 to see how it "has met its enforcement requirements and leveraged its resources." On Tuesday, a Senate committee voted in favor of advancing the nominee for the department's new inspector general.
Here, Law360 hears from attorneys about what the watchdog's findings mean and what the WHD should do about them.
Less Money for Workers
The WHD attributed the drop in recoveries to its conducting fewer investigations and having to do them remotely during the pandemic. But workers' attorneys found the decrease troubling. …
But DeCamp, who served as a WHD administrator under former President George W. Bush, attributed the decrease in WHD activity at least partly to the overall decrease in work performed across the economy.