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DOL's Strategic Plan - Live Q&A Session with WHD - Static Page

This chat about the DOL Strategic Plan was held on Thursday, April 8 at 1:45 p.m. EDT with WHD.

1:37 Moderator: Welcome! This chat will begin at 1:45, but you can submit your questions at any time and they will go into a queue. This is a text-only chat, so no audio or video is included.

1:46 Dep. Admin. Nancy Leppink: Good afternoon. This is Deputy Administrator Nancy Leppink. Welcome to this afternoon’s Web chat on the Wage and Hour Division’s strategic plan and priorities. In 1993, Congress passed the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), which requires agencies to develop strategic plans to guide their mission, outline their strategic goals, and describe some of the strategies that they will use to reach those goals. GPRA encourages agencies to solicit and consider the views and suggestions of their stakeholders who might be affected by or interested in the strategic plans. Today’s Web chat provides us with an opportunity to hear directly from you about the outcomes and performance goals that the agency will set for the over the next 6 years. I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say today.

1:49 Comment From Mandy Sokolowski: Has the CA Supreme Court reached a decision on whether employers need to "require" or simply make available to employees a lunch period at the 5-hour mark?

1:49 Nancy: Thanks Mandy, unfortunately this is a state issue within the state system regarding the law in California. Our Web chat today is about Federal Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division’s Strategic Plan.

1:49 Comment From dave: How will davis Bacon fit into the strategice plan?

1:50 Nancy: Dave, thank you for your question. One of Wage Hour's key priority goals is to increase compliance on behalf of vulnerable workers. That includes workers who have no private right of action, such as workers on Davis Bacon covered projects. This year we have been conducting directed Davis Bacon investigations on Recovery Act projects to ensure that workers on these projects are paid in compliance. This effort will continue.

1:57 Comment From Bill Williams: How important is the Davis-Bacon section in relation to the department's strategic plan?

1:57 Nancy: Bill, the mission of Wage and Hour Division is to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance the welfare of the nation's workforce this includes employees working on Government contacts. As part of the Wage Hour strategic outcome we have a goal to increase the number of workers in statutory programs such as Davis-Bacon Service Contract Act since these employees have no private right of action. In FY 10 and FY 11 we have committed resources to conducting investigations of Recovery Act projects.

1:57 Comment From Cass: I am not quite sure of what type of information that you are looking for, can you provide a little background and direction?

1:57 Nancy: Thanks Cass, please see our Power Point presentation posted on the Wage and Hour Web site (http://www.dol.gov/_sec/stratplan/2010/whd/WHD.ppt) which will explain our attempt to obtain your input on the direction of the agency for the future.

1:57 Comment From Frank: Are specific industries and/or geographic locations prioritized for monitoring and enforcement activity in 2010?

1:57 Nancy: Thanks for your question, Frank.

The types of industries that WHD offices will be targeting are those that employ some of the most vulnerable workers in the workforce.

Nationally, the WHD will be looking at industries such as, janitorial and construction, with a goal of increasing compliance on behalf of the workers in these industries. Regionally and locally, our district offices will be focusing on similar industries such as, eatting and drinking, guard services, and food processing.

1:58 Comment From Guest: Will federal agencies be held to a higher standard for their roles in assuring Davis Bacon will be enforced on their projects? Many assume cursory payroll spot-checks are enough.

1:58 Nancy: Thanks for your question, Guest. Davis-Bacon enforcement is a priority for this Agency, particularly with respect to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Wage and Hour Division is conducting an unprecedented number of investigations in 2010. Investigations will continue in the upcoming year. All employers will be held the same stringent standards.

1:59 Comment From Steve: There are an increasing number of companies that are misclassifying their workers as independent contractors. What is the status of the DOL's plan to reinvigorate investigations into such practices?

1:59 Nancy: Steve, this is an excellent question. The Department of Labor has requested funds in the FY2011 budget to tackle this issue. The Wage and Hour Division will play a key role in the proposed initiative. I recorded a video explaining the seriousness of this issue and the need for this initiative -- you can find the video: http://www.dol.gov/budget/videos.htm#leppink.

2:00 Comment From David: Will the DOL update Federal David Bacon wage rates from the survey's done during the previous administration?

2:00 Nancy: Thanks David, yes the W&H Division is in the process of updating all outdated wage rates.

2:00 Comment From Jerry A. Ienuso: Is the small claims court the correct avenue to take if a paycheck is shorted?

2:00 Nancy: Hello Jerry. Thank you for your question.

You may also contact the state labor commissioner in your area, however, if your check was shorted in such a way that you did not receive the federal minimum wage or overtime as required by law, you may contact one of our local wage and hour offices in your area.

2:00 Comment From Paula: Have you already established or drafted any WHD performance goals?

2:00 Nancy: Thanks for your comments, Paula. WHD has developed broad goals to increase compliance on behalf of vulnerable workers and decrease recidivism. We welcome your input on the details to our plan.

2:02 Comment From JB: Is DOL working on any revisions to the FLSA regualtions? If so, what sections?

2:02 Nancy: J.B., the Wage and Hour regulatory agenda including updates to the FLSA is posted on the DOL Web site http://www.dol.gov/asp/regs/unifiedagenda/fall_2009_Regulatory_Plan.pdf

2:02 Comment From Manny: Good afternoon. Why is it that the Federal Davis- Bacon wage rate are so difficult for your department to update? What is going to be done to get a quicker update of these wage rates?

2:02 Comment From Claire: Is the DOL planning on conducting affirmative investigations of industries with pervasive wage and hour violations rather than waiting for complaints from workers?

2:02 Nancy: Manny and Claire, you both have a very good questions. The Davis-Bacon surveys are universe surveys. We rely on the participation of contractors to submit payment data. All of this data has to be analyzed and verified. This takes time. However, we recognize the need to publish current and accurate prevailing wage rates. We have been working to streamline the process, and we hope you see improvements in the near future.

2:03 Comment From Cheryl James: How has the Davis-Bacon Survey process been improved.

2:03 Nancy: Cheryl, yes the survey process has been significantly improved. WHD has devoted many resources and much effort to improve the survey process to ensure timely and correct surveys.

2:05 Comment From Charlie: Because DOL Wage Hour or any other Ispectors or enforcement agents can not possibly cover hundreds of thousand or maybe millions of work sites the plan should be geared toward strengthing workers organizations

2:05 Nancy: Charlie, the Wage and Hour strategic plan includes a significant effort to work with worker advocacy groups and other community organizations. We continue to seek novel approaches to working with these groups to assure wage and hour compliance for our nation's most vulnerable workers. The recently lauched We Can Help campaign should help with these efforts. Please let us know if you have any thoughts on how we can work with worker organizations.

2:07 Comment From Frank: Similar to Dave's note, how will Arriaga fit into the strategic plan.

2:07 Nancy: Frank, we share your concern. Agriculture is an industry that is a focus for Wage and Hour Division. Agricultural enforcement and compliance actions are a significant part of our strategic plan. I would encourage you to take a look at our web page for H-2A and our newly published H-2A regulations: http://www.dol.gov/whd/ag/ag_h-2a.htm

2:07 Comment From Susan: Are there any efforts in the strategic plan to assist employers, and if so, what are they?

2:07 Nancy: Thanks Susan, yes our offices at the local level will be developing their plans for outreach for all stakeholders, including employers. We make continuous efforts to educate employers through industry associations and our current publications that are printed and on the Web. We Can Help http://www.dol.gov/wecanhelp/

2:08 Comment From Susan (via e-mail): There are several conflicting opinions regarding what constitutes exemption from the overtime provisions. Can you explain that in black and white terms?

2:08 Nancy: Susan, the applications of specific exemptions are sometimes complex and fact based. A good place to start would be to consult the Wage and Hour Web site at www.dol.gov/whd. Beyond that, you may want to contact the local district office near you for further guidance and specific information.

2:10 Comment From Sam Hope: Your strategic plan powerpoint mentions a goal of assuring a fair and high quality work life environment, specifically, providing workplace flexibility for family and personal care-giving. How do you plan to implement this goal? Any specifics you can share? There are a lot of workers out here who could benefit from more work/life balance--even if it is in the form of guidelines.

2:10 Nancy: Sam, Wage Hour's responsiblity under this departmental strategic plan relates to our enforcement under the Family and Medical Leave Act program. This is an area which we believe an effective enforcement program will promote workplace flexibility. Please take a look at our FMLA Web site for recent information on changes to this important law. http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/index.htm

2:12 Comment From Rivers: How many investigators have you hired recently and how many more are you looking to hire?

2:12 Nancy: Rivers, thanks for asking. Under Secretary Solis, we have hired over 250 new field investigators. In fact, we are hiring additional Wage and Hour investigators throughout the country right now! Many of these openings are currently posted on www.USAjobs.gov.

2:12 Comment From Cass: What types of resources will labor commit to small business owners as small businesses as a whole are for the most part the largest employer? Will WHD market access to available resources for these employers to help them to be compliant?

2:12 Nancy: Thanks Cass, your offices at the local level will be developing their plans for outreach for all stakeholders, including employers large and small. We make continuous efforts to educate employers through industry associations and our current publications that are printed and on the Web. We Can Help http://www.dol.gov/wecanhelp/

2:13 Comment From Judy: How does the issue of misclassified workers fit into the plan. I am referring to workers who are incorrectly identified as independent contractors.

2:13 Nancy: Hello Judy. Thank you for your question.

Wage Hour has a performance goal to increase the percentage of workers employed in compliance where the source of vulnerability is tied to industries with subcontracting, temporary employment, independent contracting and other contingent workforce characteristics. This would include such as construction, hotel/motel, janitorial and landscaping.





2:13 Nancy: Hello Ira. Thank you for your question.

Wage Hour has a performance goal to increase the percentage of workers employed in compliance where the source of vulnerability is tied to industries with subcontracting, temporary employment, independent contracting and other contingent workforce characteristics. This would include such as construction, hotel/motel, janitorial and landscaping.

2:14 Comment From Ira Cure: How will you be dealing with the classification of independent contractors

2:17 Nancy: Guest, Wage and Hour has begun an aggressive recruitment effort to hire more investigators with various language capabilities. Approximately two-thirds of our investigators speak at least one language in addition to English. We are using an interpreter service to enhance customer service to non-English speaking populations.

2:17 Comment From Guest: What concrete plans does WHD have to increase its LEP capabilities? Our experience in the South is that very few WHD investigators speak any foreign language, even Spanish. Accordingly, it is very difficult for non-English speakers to lodge an oral complaint with WHD. Furthermore, when it finalizes enforcement actions, our experience is that WHD often requires workers whom it knows do not speak English to sign English-language release forms and other documents without translating them to the workers.

2:17 Comment From Marlon: How W&H Division regulates employers that still keep paying their employees at regular pay all worked hours even the overtime.

2:17 Nancy: Marlon, employers that are covered by Federal law and do not pay proper overtime should be investigated and we encourage you to contact your local Federal Dept of Labor Wage and Hour Division. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/wecanhelp.

2:18 Comment From Manny: What actions will your department take against contractors on Federal jobs who MAKE their employees give them kick backs.

2:18 Nancy: Manny, the kickback of wages or back wages is a violation that we at Wage and Hour take very seriously. To the extent that you or anyone else is aware of these practices, they should contact their local Wage and Hour office and report these violations -- find that contact information here: http://www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm

2:18 Comment From Rivers: Explain more about the Baseline Investigation based compliance surveys you will be using this year.

2:18 Nancy: Thanks Rivers, an investigation based evaluation is a statistically valid method to determine compliance levels in various industries. In 2011 we will conduct several investigation based evaluations in industries that employ vulnerable workers including construction, hotel-motel, agricultural, and janitorial.

2:19 Comment From Monica: What committment will the DOL have with resources to conduct more Wage and hour audits?

2:19 Nancy: Hello Monica. Thank you for your question.

With the newly hired 250 investigators and additional resources, the WHD is committed to ensuring that workers are employed in compliance with wage hour laws. This includes conducting investigations in industries that employ vulnerable workers such as, construction, janitorial, landscaping and hotel/motel.



2:19 Comment From Chris: Is US DOL going to look at expanding its working relationship with state Depts of Labor in states that have superior wage and hour laws so that US DOL can focus its resources on states that do not have superior wage and hour laws or even state Depts of Labor?

2:19 Nancy: Chris, Wage and Hour has excellent working relationships with many state labor enforcement agencies, and looks to those agencies to assume enforcement responsibility where they have jurisdiction and more stringent requirements.

2:21 Moderator: Hi, everyone. Because of other scheduled chats, we'll need to stick to our scheduled 2:30 end time this afternoon.

2:22 Comment From Frank: Thank you Nancy.

2:23 Comment From Jamie: When will we begin to see the We Can Help PSAs on TV?

2:23 Nancy: Jamie, the We Can Help PSAs are currently available on DOL.gov/wecanhelp They will start showing on TV within the month.

2:23 Comment From Tina: Why are constuction industry people not getting the customer service at a high level in Washington State? Thank you

2:23 Nancy: Tina, thanks for sharing your concern. Customer service is important to us, and we encourage all of our offices to conduct regular outreach. All our district offices, including in Seattle, are committed to assisting employers in construction and all other industries. Please feel free to contact your Western regional office if you need further assistance beyond what your local office is providing. You can find contact information for that office here: http://www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm

2:24 Comment From Guest: Is there a way we can print off this chat?

2:24 Moderator: Once the chat ends, go to http://www.dol.gov/_sec/stratplan/chat/chat-whd-static.htm for the easiest page to print.

2:25 Comment From Timothy: Davis Bacon people work very hard good job keep it up!!!

2:25 Comment From Cass: Thank you Nancy, we will look forward to finding informatin on We Can Help and a Small Business Resouce. thanks for the Chat. Great Stuff

2:27 Comment From Tom: What about farmworkers?

2:27 Nancy: Tom, agriculture is a serious focus for us at the Wage and Hour Division, especially child labor in agriculture. It is a significant part of our strategic plan. You can also see my answer to Frank at 2:07 for more information.

2:28 Comment From Pam: When will the new requirements for employers to provide unpaid breastfeeding breaks to nursing mothers take effect? Do they have to first go through the regulatory process?

2:28 Nancy: Pam, we are currently reviewing the statute to determine how these new provisions will be implemented.

2:28 Comment From David: What influence does DOL have with regards to worker visa programs and the circumvention of local available workforce? How can we locally be more in tune with applications for foreign workers as they are being processed? The annual reconciliation data that is provided by DOL is after the workers visa's close. We want access to be in front of this process.

2:28 Nancy: Thank you for your question, David.

As you know, WHD has responsibility for enforcing worker protection standards in certain guest worker programs -- H1B, H2B, and H2A. However, your question related to the transparency of the application process is more appropriately addressed to DOL's Employment Traning Administration.

2:28 Comment From Kelly: In the context of an overtime audit, how does the WHD balance its desire for immediate lump sum payment of wages against the current financial condition (i.e., losses) of the employer and the potential of plant closure?

2:28 Nancy: Thanks Kelly, Wage and Hour balances the financial ability of an employer to immediately pay all back wages due against the fact that the underpaid employers are due their wages for the investigative period.

2:29 Comment From David: Have you cancelled any inactive apprenticeship programs?

2:29 Nancy: David, the oversight of apprenticeship programs are enforced by the Employment & Training Administration (ETA) and not Wage/Hour.

2:29 Comment From Marlon: Are employees that work at local swap-meat locations protected by the W&H D, since most of them get pay cash and instead of getting hourly they get pay a salary that range between $50 to $60 for a 10 or 12 hr working day

2:29 Nancy: Marlon, employees working at a swap-meet may not be covered under federal law. The law requires employers to gross $500,000 per year and handle goods in inter-state commerce in order to be suject to the law. However, I encourage you to contact your State Labor Dept. as they apply to all businesses in their subject state.

2:30 Comment From Cathleen: You are wanting to assure fair and high quality work/life environments...How are you going to measure this goal?

2:30 Nancy: Cathleen, that is a great question. I think you are specifically asking about Family Medical Leave Act concerns. We are considering options for measurement including getting feedback from customers via surveys.

2:30 Nancy: We weren't able to get to all of the questions you submitted today. As time allows, we'll publish responses to additional questions on our Web site. I’d like to thank all of you for participating in this web chat, for your excellent ideas and suggestions, which we will consider carefully as we move toward finalizing our goals and outcomes as part of DOL’s strategic planning process. We look forward to your continued participation in this process.

2:30 :