Department of Labor Now In the Attorney Referral Business

December 7, 2010

As most of you know, overtime wage claims and FMLA claims have sky-rocketed. The Department of Labor (DOL), which is responsible for handling these types of matters, has now announced that if they are too busy to handle one of these claims, a new federal program will help make sure the employee is referred to a lawyer who is qualified to pursue the complaint on behalf of the employee. The referral program is part of the Obama administration’s Access to Justice Initiative. The following is a description of the program from the White House press release:

“The Department of Labor and the American Bar Association (ABA) (have) announced a collaboration to help workers resolve complaints received by DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (for) not getting paid the minimum wage or not being paid overtime, or being denied family medical leave.

Beginning on December 13, 2010, complainants whose cases cannot be resolved by DOL because of limited capacity will be given a toll-free number to a newly created system where they are connected to an ABA-approved attorney referral provider if there are participating attorneys in their area.

In addition, if DOL has conducted an investigation, the complainant will be given information about the findings to provide to an attorney who may take the case, including the violations at issue and any back wages owed.

DOL has also developed a special process for complainants and representing attorneys to obtain relevant case information and documents when available.”

The bottom line is this: the current administration is making a clear statement that laws protecting employees will be strongly enforced. The best thing for employers to do is to make sure that their employees are properly classified and being paid overtime and to review their leave policies to make certain they are compliant.