The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for maintaining safe and fair working conditions for all employees working in the United States. One of the main responsibilities that the DOL has is educating both employers and workers of the rights provided to employees under laws such as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If a worker believes that her rights as an employee are being violated, she can choose to report her employer to the DOL, rather than filing a lawsuit herself. The DOL is not required to investigate every report of labor violations that it receives. In the event that the DOL chooses not to pursue a case, the employee then has the option of filing a lawsuit.
After investigating a case of alleged labor law violations, the DOL is capable of filing a lawsuit against an employer on behalf of a worker or group of workers, but a more desirable solution is for the department to reach a compliance agreement with the employer. In a compliance agreement, the employer pays damages and back wages (depending on the violations) to the wronged employees, but does not have to pay legal fees. In a court case, the defendant would end up paying for its own legal fees, as well as the legal fees of the plaintiff, if the plaintiff prevailed in the case or if the parties settled outside of court.
A recent example of a compliance agreement that the DOL reached involved the social media company, LinkedIn, which allegedly failed to properly pay its employees when they worked overtime. Under the FLSA, any time an hourly, nonexempt employee works more than eight hours a day or forty hours a week, that employee is entitled to one and one-half times her normal hourly rate for all overtime worked. Continue reading ›