• Students from Job Corps in Texas Honor Public Service: Meet the San Marcos, Texas, Job Corps students who designed and manufactured the bronze, oak, apple and pecan wood medallions that were awarded to department employees during the 2014 Secretary's Honor Awards, a part of Public Service Recognition Week.
• What a Higher Minimum Wage Would Mean for Me: A commentary by Aisha Thurman, a Detroit restaurant server and member of the Raise Michigan Coalition, reveals the struggles of a tipped worker and mother of three who needs and deserves a raise.
• Fostering a Culture of Inclusion: Flexible work environments and fostering a culture of inclusion can help employers take advantage of the skills and talents people with disabilities have to offer, writes Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez.
This week's phrase is LM Form. Required by the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 and administered by the Office of Labor-Management Standards, LM Forms provide transparency for workers and the public on the financial transactions and labor relations activities of unions, employers and consultants.
Dr. David Weil was sworn in as the administrator of the Wage and Hour Division on May 5. Prior to his appointment, Weil was professor of markets, public policy and law, and the Peter and Deborah Wexler Professor of Management at the Boston University School of Management. He also served as co-director of the Transparency Policy Project at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Weil has authored five books and numerous articles, and is no stranger to government, having advised the Wage and Hour Division, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other federal agencies. He is the 17th person to serve as Wage and Hour administrator.
Raising the minimum wage and addressing immigration reform are vital to the nation's continued economic growth. This was Secretary Perez's message to more than 200 United Food and Commercial Workers International Union leaders and staff during the UFCW Legislative and Political Action Conference May 6, in Chicago. Amidst remarks that also touched on the department's safety and overtime pay initiatives, Perez praised the union's efforts on behalf of workers. "You guys aren't quitters. This president isn't a quitter. I'm not a quitter. We are coming together to patch the quilt of opportunity."
Three years ago, 11 companies joined together in a commitment to hire 100,000 veterans before the end of the decade. Today, the 100,000 Jobs Mission has grown into a coalition of more than 150 companies that have hired more than 147,000 veterans. They have now doubled their goal to 200,000. On May, 7, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Patricia A. Shiu met with 90 coalition members in Washington, D.C. She discussed two new OFCCP rules that establish, for the first time ever, specific metrics for the employment of workers with disabilities and protected veterans. "Goals work. Leadership matters," Shiu said. "When private sector initiatives intersect with public policy, we can achieve remarkable progress."
National Council on Disability appointees and about 100 service providers, policymakers and disability advocates gathered in Berkeley, Calif., on May 4, for NCD's spring quarterly meeting. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez provided an overview of the department's disability employment efforts, including new rules for federal contractors and initiatives related to integrated employment, transitioning youth, aging workers and accessible technology. The meeting was held at the Ed Roberts Campus, a model of universal access and design named in honor of an early leader in the independent living movement and the first student with significant disabilities to attend the University of California, Berkeley.
Continuing the theme of the White House's upcoming Summit on Working Families, the Women's Bureau in Philadelphia hosted a forum on women and workplace negotiations on May 5. Through discussions on paid leave, equal pay and how to effectively negotiate in the workplace, more than 50 participants learned the importance of workplace education and the need for a 21st century workplace. Presenters included representatives from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Pathways PA, and the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Expect. Employ. Empower. is the theme of this year's National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The nationwide initiative raises awareness of disability employment issues and honors the many contributions of America's workers with disabilities. "We all have a role to play in and benefit to gain from increasing opportunities for meaningful employment for people with disabilities," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez. "This year's theme encapsulates this in three powerful words. It conveys that advancing disability employment is about much more than just hiring. It's about creating a continuum of inclusion. And the first step on this continuum is expectation."
The retirement investment universe has changed dramatically during the forty years since the Employee Retirement Income Security Act became law. But the protections it created are needed now more than ever. This was Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis C. Borzi's message to a group of more than 100 retirement plan sponsors, academics and policymakers attending the Pension Research Council's "Reimagining Pensions: The Next 40 Years" symposium at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School on May 2. Borzi told the group that ERISA laid the groundwork to protect employee benefits in any setting, but regulations need to be updated to reflect the shift from traditional pensions to 401(k) type plans.
More than 160 safety and health professionals attended the 39th Annual On-site Consultation Training Conference May 6 in Denver. Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels kicked off the three-day training by praising the work of the 52 On-site consultation projects across the country. The conference offered 24 workshops and six general sessions led by experts from OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and industry representatives on a broad range of topics. It also gave consultants an opportunity to gather and discuss the issues most relevant to their work, including emerging hazards and hot topics in safety and health. OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential safety and health advice to small and medium-sized businesses nationwide, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. In 2013the program conducted approximately 30,000 visits to small business worksites covering more than 1.5 million workers across the nation.
A three-day prevailing wage seminar was held by the Wage and Hour Division at Houston's Minute Maid Park. Nearly 300 attended the conference that began on May 7, including contracting officers and subcontractors, representatives from labor groups, and state and federal regulatory agencies. "We are pleased to provide the contracting community with this seminar," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. "Increased awareness of, and enhanced compliance with, federal prevailing wage requirements are key components of the Wage and Hour Division's ongoing efforts to foster good jobs."
The first of six stakeholder meetings on implementation of the final rule to lower miners' exposure to respirable coal mine dust was held by the Mine Safety and Health Administration on May 8. During the meeting, in Beckley, W.Va., MSHA representatives highlighted the major provisions and effective dates of the rule and described best practices for controlling dust and reducing exposures. This final rule continues the department's efforts to end black lung disease, a debilitating, progressive yet preventable illness that affects coal miners and their families.
The hottest topics at the recent Southwest and Rocky Mountain Industry Liaison Group Conference were the updates to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act that took effect in March. On May 1, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez addressed this annual gathering of federal contractors and shared a variety of best practices for complying with the new regulations. "These rules are game-changers," said Martinez, who pointed to a range of department tools and resources that can assist employers in complying with the new rules. She encouraged attendees to consider how their work "contributes to a larger goal, that of a better, more inclusive American workforce and society."
Officials from the Office of Workers' Compensation Program's Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation participated in town hall meetings in Las Vegas and Pahrump, Nev., on May 6 and 7. More than 150 attended the events that served as forums for providing current and former nuclear weapons workers, including those who worked at the Nevada Test Site, with information about the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. The Joint Outreach Task Group, which includes the Department of Labor, the Department of Energy and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, hosted the town halls. To date, $330 million in EEOICPA compensation and medical benefits has been paid to Nevada claimants.
The department reported that the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial Unemployment Insurance claims was 319,000 for the week ending May 3, a decrease of 26,000 from the previous week's revised level. The four-week moving average was 324,750, up 4,500 from the previous week's revised average.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez joined workers, business owners, advocates, faith leaders and local officials on May 5, as Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed legislation raising Maryland's minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2017. Secretary Perez noted that Maryland is leading the way on this issue. "This will be good for Maryland workers, good for Maryland businesses and a good example for America," said Perez. Maryland joins 21 states and the District of Columbia in having a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum wage. Minnesota, Delaware, West Virginia and Hawaii also recently passed minimum wage increases.
Maintaining Focus on Long-term Unemployment
National leaders from government, academia, and industry gathered in Cambridge, Mass. on May 6, for a conference on long-term unemployment hosted by the MIT Sloan School of Management. Keynote speaker Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Eric Seleznow highlighted the administration's recent efforts to address long-term unemployment, including the department's Ready to Work Partnership grants and Job-Driven National Emergency Grants. Rutgers University's Carl Van Horn, Northeastern University's Rand Ghayad, and MIT's own Ofer Sharone shared recent research on the long-term unemployed. In addition, Massachusetts Secretary of Labor Rachel Kaprielian discussed state-wide challenges and responses to long-term unemployment. Presenters from local workforce programs shared successful strategies for helping those experiencing long-term unemployment return to work. Strategies includeed subsidized employment, on-the-job training, enhanced networking and counseling to address psychological barriers associated with extended spells of joblessness.
A recent increase in mining deaths has prompted the Mine Safety and Health Administration to take action. On May 5, MSHA convened a meeting of mine industry stakeholders at agency headquarters in Arlington, Va. Assistant Secretary Joseph Main and his staff discussed in detail the 19 metal and nonmetal mining fatalities that have occurred since October 2013. "Mine operators need to reevaluate the quality of the training miners are receiving and their examinations of miners' work places because they appear to be lacking," said Main. "MSHA will be paying close attention to these deficiencies, as well as the types of hazards and conditions that have led to these deaths, during mine inspections."
Thank you. That was the message from Secretary Perez to the nearly 17,000 Department of Labor employees around the country during the annual Public Service Recognition Week. Deputy Secretary Chris Lu and other Labor Department employees kicked off the week May 4 by participating in the Public Service 5k to benefit the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund. Both Lu and Perez shook hands with employees and thanked them as they entered the Frances Perkins Building the morning of May 7. On May 8, Perez participated in a public service town hall organized by the non-profit Partnership for Public Service. He was joined by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta. Perez remarked how his time as a civil service attorney helped him appreciate the input and feedback he gets from the talented career staff at the department. Perez cut his time short at the town hall to make it back to the Frances Perkins Building in time for the 101st Secretary's Honor Awards, which recognize the exceptional contributions of department employees. They include Geraldine Green who is celebrating 50 years of service to the American people this year. In an email to employees Secretary Perez said: "Thank you for helping people get the skills they need to succeed in good jobs that pay a fair wage. Thank you for ensuring that our workplaces are safe and free from discrimination. Thank you for giving people the chance to retire with dignity. And thank you for making sure that opportunity remains within reach and that our economy rewards the hard work of every American. "Our work matters. So thank you for your commitment to doing it so well."
Updates to COBRA Notices Add Affordable Care Act Info
The Employee Benefits Security Administration has updated its model notices that inform workers of their eligibility to continue healthcare coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The updates, announced May 2, make it clear to workers that if they are eligible for COBRA continuation coverage when leaving a job, they may choose to instead purchase coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also announced a special enrollment period for people who are already purchasing COBRA coverage and may not have known about the option to instead get coverage through the Marketplace.
Dr. David Weil was sworn-in on May 5 as the 17th administrator for the Wage and Hour Division. We asked him about his work ahead.
What is your vision for ensuring compliance with wage and hour laws?It begins with a strategy of changing the incentives for compliance through strategic enforcement and outreach to stakeholders. We plan to continue our focus on behalf of at-risk workers in a changing 21st century economy. These vulnerable workers are most often employed in low-wage industries where labor violations are most prevalent. We also will be engaged in a robust outreach effort to ensure employers and other stakeholders have access to the information they need to be in compliance with the law. A fair workplace and a fair and level playing field for those law-abiding employers that play by the rules are good for workers, businesses and the economy.
How will you measure success?At the end of the day, what we do here is for America's workers. Our work has always been about and for those whose rights are denied and whose labor isn't appreciated and duly compensated, whose voices aren't heard. We do our work for them. And we do our work as well for those responsible employers who are playing by the rules and who shouldn't have to compete against those who don't play fair and fully pay their labor costs. Make no mistake, we will use every enforcement tool at our disposal to ensure full compliance with the wage and hour laws that we are charged with implementing. However, our measure of success won't be enforcement statistics showing the amount of back wages we have collected. Rather, our measure of success will be improving compliance levels, so that when we enter workplaces in the days, weeks, months and years ahead, we find fewer and fewer violations. We will be successful when reality matches our fundamental goal of achieving a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.
How can more workers benefit from the activities of the Wage and Hour Division and the department?Under my direction the agency will be engaging in more outreach to workers to better inform them of their workplace rights and strengthen them to be advocates for themselves. We will reach out to employers to make sure that they understand their obligations under the law. But I'll also be working on the bigger picture of including more Americans in the opportunity agenda of this administration. As President Obama has said, if you work hard and take responsibility, you should have the opportunity to succeed. I'm excited to be a part of building real, lasting economic security for the middle class and those working hard to become a part of the middle class.
Texas Job Corps Students Create DOL Honor Medals
The craftsmanship of machining and carpentry students from the Gary Job Corps in San Marcos, Texas was on full display May 8 as medallions they created were awarded to exceptional public servants at the department's annual Honor Awards ceremony. As part of their training, 16 machining and carpentry students from Gary designed, produced polished and plated more than 100 bronze medallions. The face of each 3.5-inch medallion is engraved with the department's seal and inscribed with "Secretary's Honor Award 2014." The awards represent the highest level of recognition for exceptional public service presented to department employees. "The skill and craftsmanship that went into making these medals epitomizes the array of Job Corps opportunities offered to young people across the country who are eager for training that leads to careers," Secretary Perez said. This year, Job Corps celebrates its 50th anniversary as the only residential education and training program in the nation, noted Grace Kilbane, national director of the Office of Job Corps. "Since 1964, Job Corps has helped 2.7 million young people obtain the skills and credentials needed for rewarding careers."
New Bakery Hires in California Rise to the Occasion
When ABM Industries' Bakery Division needed staff for bread and bun production in Northern California, it received help from the local Workforce Investment Board. Staff from the department-funded American Job Center in Modesto recruited, screened and referred qualified applicants to ABM, which hired 50 new workers. Then a career fair held by ABM and the Stanislaus Workforce Alliance staff attracted more than 400 job seekers. An additional 50 workers from the fair were hired for baking, mixing and maintenance openings,
according to William Earley, ABM's Senior Corporate Recruiter. "It was a very cost-effective way of screening applicants," he said. One new ABM hire was Paul Betancourt, who had management experience but had been out of work for about a year. The help he received at the career fair "gave me the resources I needed to get back on my feet," said Betancourt.
Connecticut Contractor Faulted for Wall Collapse, Fall Hazards
A Stamford, Conn.-based contractor faces $196,000 in fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for wall collapse and fall hazards at a Bridgeport construction site. Cesar Mendoza, d.b.a. KI Management LLC, was cited following a November 2013 inspection at a site where workers were demolishing and rehabbing a building. Employees were exposed to potentially fatal crushing and fall injuries due to their employer's failure to brace the building's walls and guard wall openings. "This employer's disregard of basic demolition safety fundamentals is unacceptable. The seriousness of this hazard can be seen in the June 5, 2013, building collapse in Philadelphia that killed six people and injured 14," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "While no collapse occurred in Bridgeport, the hazard was real, present and entirely avoidable."
New York Federal Contractor Settles Discrimination Allegation
Federal contractor Parsons Brinckerhoff has agreed to settle allegations of hiring discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity involving 247 Hispanic, Asian-American, African-American, Native American and mixed race job applicants who were rejected for assistant engineer positions at the company's New York City headquarters. The department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs determined that Parsons Brinckerhoff violated Executive Order 11246 between 2010 and 2012 by using a hiring process that resulted in systemic discrimination. The agency found that Parsons Brinckerhoff did not follow its own written hiring policies and failed to use a consistent selection process for screening, interviewing and selecting assistant engineers. As a result, zero minorities were hired as assistant engineers during the review period. Under the terms of the conciliation agreement, the contractor will pay $188,043 in back wages and interest to the affected job seekers and will offer assistant engineer positions and retroactive seniority to at least four class members as positions become available. Additionally, the company will revise its selection policies and procedures to ensure equal employment opportunities for all future applicants.
Dollar Tree Fined $143,000 for Serious Safety Hazards
National discount chain Dollar Tree Stores has been cited for exposing employees to safety hazards at a Wilmington, Del., store. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company for three safety violations including two willful following an October 2013 inspection prompted by a complaint alleging that emergency exits were blocked and boxes were stacked dangerously high. Willful violations were cited for the company's failure to keep exit routes unobstructed and ensure material stored in tiers was stacked in a way that was stable to prevent sliding and collapse. Penalties of $143,000 have been proposed.
Ohio Foundry Repeatedly Exposes Workers to Amputation Hazards
A follow-up inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at San Cast Inc. found workers still exposed to amputation and fall hazards at the Coshocton, Ohio, casting and foundry facility. The facility previously was cited after a worker suffered a leg amputation in June 2013. OSHA has issued 17 additional violations, carrying proposed penalties of $155,900, as a result of an inspection last November. The agency cited repeat violations for the company's failure to protect employees from the ingoing nip points of belts, pulleys, chains and sprockets. San Cast also was cited for failing to protect employees from fall hazards associated with an unguarded platform in both March and September 2013.
Workers at the Hibachi Buffet Inc.in Minneapolis will be paid a total of $117,152 in back wages following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division. The investigation revealed violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions. Kitchen workers typically worked 60 hours per week for a fixed monthly salary, often earning far less than the legally required minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Hibachi Buffet signed a settlement agreement with the department in which it agreed to install and use a digital time clock and contract with a public accounting firm to perform biannual audits of the company's employment and pay practices.
Fertilizer Plant Fined for Lack of Energy Control Procedures
After a worker's leg was entangled in an auger last November, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the safety and health practices of American Plant Food Corp.'s facility in Bartlett, Texas. OSHA issued citations for 12 violations and proposed a penalty of $181,000 for exposing employees to workplace hazards by failing to implement proper energy control procedures that protect workers who service or maintain machines. OSHA's Austin Area Office found that the company did not provide adequate training for workers entering confined spaces and encountering industrial machinery that could unexpectedly start up. Willful violations were cited for failing to ensure adequate safeguards were in place to prevent workers from coming into contact with the auger during servicing and maintenance. Two of the workers exposed at the Bartlett plant had been hired as temporary workers through Magnum Staffing in 2011.
Residential builder and remodeler Custom Valley Builders LLC, located in Lykens, Pa., was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for exposing workers to safety hazards at a work site in Hegins, Pa. Workers were exposed to fall hazards while replacing the roof, siding and windows on a two-story residence. Citations were issued for one willful violation and two serious violations following an inspection initiated under the agency's Fall Protection Regional Emphasis Program, including a lack of fall protection for employees working on a roof 19 to 24 feet off the ground. Proposed penalties total $33,200.
American Samoa Phone Provider to Pay Overtime Back Wages
An investigation by the Wage and Hour Division found that the American Samoa Telecommunication Authority failed to pay $26,836 in overtime to 36 workers employed in Tafuna and other remote offices for a period of two years beginning in Feb. 7, 2012. ASTCA also failed to pay 62 workers for an additional 10,031 overtime hours. These hours will be added to the employees' comp-time leave accounts for their future use. "We will continue to work with representatives from the American Samoa government to improve their understanding of federal labor laws while addressing any deficiencies in the manner in which overtime is accrued and paid," said Terence Trotter, the division's district director in Hawaii.
New Jersey Nutritional Supplement Manufacturer Cited
After a follow-up inspection that began in October 2013, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited New Jersey-based Rasi Laboratories Inc. for failing to correct previously cited serious violations. OSHA conducted the previous inspection at the company's Somerset, N.J., facility in August 2012 after a complaint, and issued seven serious violations with fines totaling $23,100. The new violations involve the company's failure-to-abate hazards related to implementing a continual and effective hearing conservation program for workers being exposed to noise above 85 decibels. It also failed to develop, implement and train employees on a lockout/tagout program to protect workers from dangerous machinery during servicing or maintenance. The nutritional supplement manufacturer faces a penalty of $210,000.
NY Construction Company Cited for Preventable Fatal Fall
Following the death of 23-year-old construction worker Kyle Brown, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that his employer, Watertown-based general construction contractor MTL Design Inc., failed to provide and ensure the use of fall protection safeguards that would have prevented his death. OSHA cited the company for a willful and a serious violation. On Nov. 18, 2013 Brown was part of a crew installing a metal roof on a commercial building in Pulaski when a wind gust sent him 24-feet to his death. OSHA's investigation found that while Brown was wearing a fall protection harness, it was useless since he and fellow workers were not provided with a means to connect to an independent anchorage point to stop a fall. The company failed to train employees to recognize fall hazards, ensure adequate anchorage for lifelines and secure the decking against displacement by the wind.
Homebuilder Cited for Exposing Workers to Fall Hazards
A fall-related injury at an Idaho construction site has resulted in citations for a Twin Falls-based employer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited TKO Inc., doing business as TKO Custom Homes, with three serious and one willful violation related to fall hazards. OSHA began its inspection of the company last November. The employer faces $27,600 in proposed fines for the violations. "Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry"," said Dave Kearns, area director of OSHA's Boise office. "No reputable contractor would admit to taking shortcuts in quality, but many do take shortcuts with regard to worker safety. Gambling with a worker's life is never an option."
Criminal Referral of Los Angeles Car Wash for Violations
A second Wage and Hour investigation of labor practices at car washes owned by the Pirian brothers in the Los Angeles area has disclosed new overtime and recordkeeping violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The employer was on probation for wage theft after being ordered to pay almost $1 million in restitution as a result of a criminal wage theft case that began nearly five years ago. The current investigation disclosed $24,627 in back wages due to 96 employees. The department has referred the case to the Los Angeles City Attorney for criminal prosecution.
Georgia Building Manufacturer Cited for Exposing Workers to Falls
Augusta-based Bennett Building Systems LLC, which builds metal and wooden structures, such as barns, carports and garages, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for one willful, six serious and one other-than-serious safety violation. The company was cited for failing to: provide fall protection for employees working on roofs; protect workers from unguarded equipment; and for not providing hearing protection for workers. OSHA initiated the inspection that led to the citations in response to a complaint. Proposed penalties total $89,000.
Strategic Partnership Renewed with AGC El Paso Chapter
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has renewed its strategic partnership with the El Paso, Texas Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America. The partnership is part of the agency's ongoing efforts to keep construction workers safe and healthy by improving working conditions. The goals of the partnership include reducing the number of annual injuries, illnesses, and fatalities among participating employers, with an emphasis on the four most common construction hazards falls, struck-by, caught-in-between and electrocution.