The Department of Labor's Enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act

HRD-85-77: Published: Sep 30, 1985. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reported on: (1) actions taken by Congress and the Department of Labor in response to recommendations in a previous GAO report on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); and (2) the cumulative effect of staff reductions and changes in resource utilization among Labor's FLSA compliance officers.

GAO found that: (1) Labor reasonably focuses on obtaining civil remedies in FLSA cases because the Department of Justice rarely seeks criminal penalties in such cases; (2) Labor has determined not to compute unpaid wages for third-year violations under FLSA because the statute of limitations mandates a 3-year recovery period for unpaid wages and Labor usually takes about a year to process FLSA cases; (3) Labor is seeking liquidated damages in FLSA cases more frequently than in the past; and (4) legislation that would amend FLSA to eliminate the liquidated damages provision and authorize Labor to assess more severe civil penalties has been introduced in Congress but never enacted. In addition, GAO found that: (1) Labor compliance officers spent 474 staff-years enforcing FLSA in 1984, compared to 558 staff-years in 1981, but the percentage of staff time spent on FLSA has not declined significantly; (2) Labor compliance officers spend less than 2 percent of their time working in unrelated program areas; and (3) the amount of back wages owed has decreased from $127 million to $107 million since 1981.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 1986, Labor's regional solicitors initiated greater use of liquidated damages, a provision of FLSA. The Deputy Solicitor is monitoring the regional solicitors' use of the provision.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct the Solicitor of Labor to monitor the regional solicitors to determine whether they are seeking liquidated damages in all appropriate cases.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

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