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Attorney Blasts DOL’s “Gotcha Approach” to Workplace Enforcement

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections on November 3, the editor of Federal Employment Law Insider (David Fortney) opined that the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division’s (WHD) recent enforcement efforts represent a flawed approach that assumes incorrectly that employers are deliberately violating the law. In addition to the “gotcha” approach Fortney sees the division taking, he said in written comments submitted to the panel that the division’s Bridge to Justice program “effectively outsources to private attorneys one of the Wage and Hour Division’s most important functions — to investigate and respond to complaints of employees who have had the courage to come to DOL.”

Bridge to Justice, announced in December 2010, connects workers to an American Bar Association-approved attorney referral system when the Wage and Hour Division, because of limited capacity, declines to pursue a worker’s claim. Fortney said Bridge to Justice could be called the “Reward to Lawyers” program because he said it primarily benefits complainants’ attorneys.
Fortney also criticized the division’s decision to stop issuing opinion letters. “Previously, the Wage and Hour Division issued Opinion Letters by the Administrator that provided guidance on compliance matters, but the current administration has refused to issue Opinion Letters,” he said in his written comments.

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