In 1913, Congress passed a law establishing the Department of Labor (DOL). The purpose of the DOL is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of wage earners in the United States. It is also tasked with improving the working conditions of American employees and with advancing their opportunities for profitable employment.
The Secretary of Labor, who is a cabinet-level official appointed by the United States President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, leads the DOL. Under the Secretary’s leadership, the DOL is responsible for administering and enforcing a number of American labor laws. This article is an overview of several of the main laws for which the Department of Labor has oversight authority:
The Fair Labor Standards Act
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) seeks to eliminate labor conditions that are detrimental to the health and welfare of workers. The FLSA has four main parts: a minimum wage requirement, overtime pay requirements, child labor restrictions, and record keeping directives. The Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration, a Division of the DOL, administers the FLSA.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act
The Employee Benefits Security Administration, within the DOL, is responsible for administering Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Title I protects workers by imposing a number of requirements on fiduciaries of employer-created pension and welfare benefit plans.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act
The Occupational Safety and Health Act regulates safety and health conditions in most private places of employment. The Act, which is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the DOL, calls for workplace inspections and investigations to ensure that employers are complying with the Act’s requirements.
Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959
The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 requires labor unions and employers to file a number of public reports. It also establishes standards for the election of union officers. The Office of Labor-Management Standards, within the DOL’s Employment Standards Administration, administers the Act.
Federal Workers’ Compensation Laws
The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs within the DOL is responsible for administering several important workers’ compensation laws. The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act establishes a comprehensive workers’ compensation program for federal employees, while the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides workers’ compensation coverage to maritime employees. Individual states, not the DOL, regulate general workers’ compensation for private employees.
Family and Medical Leave Act
The Wage and Hour Division of the DOL administers the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave to most employees for the birth or adoption of a child, for a serious illness, or to allow employees to care for a sick family member.
Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977
The DOL’s Mine Safety and Health Administration is responsible for administering the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. This Act requires mine operators to abide by a number of safety and health standards and mandates training for mining workers.