The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) serves as the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Ombudsman for small businesses under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA). OSDBU is a resource for small businesses seeking information regarding the rules and regulations the Department administers. Additionally, a summary of the major laws of the Department of Labor can be found on OSDBU’s Small Business Resource Center page.
Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA) — Key Points for Small Business
Finding Out What DOL Laws Require
Helpful Materials: What Is Available and Who Do I Call?
Central Contact Point:
- SBREFA requires federal agencies to make currently existing pamphlets, handbooks, and other compliance materials available to small businesses through a central source. At DOL, your central contact point is the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU).
Local DOL Offices:
- These materials are also available from your local or Regional DOL office.
Compliance Guides for New Regulations:
- For many regulations issued after June 28, 1996, SBREFA requires agencies to write compliance guides that explain in plain language what the new regulations require. The guides are available through OSDBU, the Regional Offices, and the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Small Business Development Centers (for the one nearest you, call SBA at 1-800-827-5722).
Compliance Advice: Answering Your Questions
- You may call DOL enforcement agencies to find out how a law applies to your specific facts; SBREFA requires DOL to interpret and apply the law to those facts. Reliance on erroneous DOL advice may be considered in determining whether the amount of a penalty in an enforcement action is appropriate.
- Who to Call: Compliance questions should be directed to the DOL toll-free call center (1-866-4-USA-DOL) or your local or Regional DOL Office.
Registering Complaints About DOL Enforcement
SBA Ombudsman and Regional Small Business Regulatory Fairness Boards
- Under SBREFA, the SBA has established an SBA Ombudsman and SBA Regional Fairness Boards; written, signed complaints about DOL enforcement actions may be sent to the Ombudsman at 409 3rd Street SW, MC 2120, Washington, DC, 20416. You also may call the Ombudsman at 1-888-REG-FAIR, your local DOL Regional Office, or OSDBU. Please note that any obligation you might have to comply with the enforcement or compliance actions is not affected by the filing of your comments with the Ombudsman; and the filing of your comments with the Ombudsman is not a substitute for any legal options you believe are in your best interest.
- SBA Ombudsman requires enforcement agencies to establish a non-retaliation policy. To view the non-retaliation policies of DOL agencies, select the agency of your choice: OSHA, MSHA, WHD, EBSA.
- SBA Ombudsman prepares an Annual Report to Congress that evaluates federal agencies.
Recovering Legal Fees and Expenses
- SBREFA expands the ability of small businesses to recover legal costs under the Equal Access To Justice Act (EAJA) by allowing small businesses to recoup legal expenses when the government seeks unreasonably high penalties in certain types of cases.
Obtaining Reductions/Waivers of Penalties
- SBREFA requires enforcement agencies to have a program for reductions and waivers of penalties for small businesses under certain circumstances.
Influencing New Regulations
- DOL is required to obtain and consider small business input and interests when writing a new regulation that will have a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small businesses. Alternatives that would reduce the economic burden on small businesses must be considered.
- OSHA must convene a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel to collect advice from small business representatives and consult with the SBA when it is developing such a rule.
- Once a new rule is completed, SBREFA requires that it be submitted to Congress; Congress then has the opportunity to vote to disapprove of the new rule.
How Do I Find Out What New DOL Regulations Are Being Considered?
- DOL publishes a Semiannual Regulatory Agenda of regulations that will significantly affect a substantial number of small businesses that are scheduled for review or development. For a copy, call the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office on 202-512-1800. The Agenda is also available online.
How Do I Submit My Comments?
- An agency contact person and telephone number is listed at the end of each item in the Regulatory Agenda. Call the contact person to find out how to submit comments on a particular regulation that is being reviewed or developed.
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