Restaurants, Other Low-Wage Industries Remain Target of DOL Enforcement Efforts
Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor
January 7, 2016
The US Department of Labor (DOL) is continuing to focus its enforcement efforts on low-wage industries, as new statistics show.
In fiscal year 2015, the DOL's Wage and Hour Division collected about $74 million in back wages owed to about 102,000 employees in the agriculture, day care, restaurants, garment manufacturing, guard services, health care, hotels and motels, janitorial services and temporary help sectors.
That represents about 30% of the $247 million in back wages the agency collected overall for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and other laws it is tasked with enforcing.
WHD Administrator David Weil has said "evidence shows labor law violations are greatest ... in industries where workers are most likely to be mistakenly or deliberately cheated out of their wages, and where they are least likely to speak up and report such violations."
Under the Bush administration (roughly defined as fiscal years 2001 and 2008), the amount of back wages collected for employees in low-wage industries each year averaged about $45 million, representing about 25% of the average of $183 million collected for all employees.
By contrast, during the past seven years of the Obama administration, the amount of back wages collected for employees in low-wage industries each year has averaged about $64 million, representing about 31% of the average of $203 million collected for all employees.
While inflation accounts for much of the increase in the dollar amounts, the six-percentage-point increase in the proportion of wages collected in low-wage industries likely reflects the Obama administration's strategy of targeting its enforcement efforts in those sectors.