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Administrative and Enforcement Agencies: Ensuring Worker Rights Are Met

published April 09, 2013

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As labor law has developed over the years since the Federal Railroad Act of 1932 and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, many different federal agencies have been created to administer and enforce regulations and particular legislation. The Department of Labor (DOL) governs and administers upwards of 180 federal laws. These directives and the procedures that implement them cover many workplace goings-on for the country's 10 million employers and 125 million workers.

Some of the federal government agencies that involve a large number of labor law practitioners include the following:


Department of Labor:

The Department of Labor administers more than 130 federal laws relative to guaranteeing safe, healthful working conditions, minimum hourly wages, overtime pay, freedom from employment discrimination, unemployment insurance and workers' compensation laws; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the Department of Labor enforces regulations regarding safe working conditions and workers' compensation regulations.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The Fair Labor Standards recommends criterions for wages and overtime pay, which have an impact on most private and public employment. The act is administered by the Wage and Hour Division. It requires businesses and establishments to pay covered employees who are not otherwise exempt at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of one-and-one-half-times the regular rate of pay.

For non-agricultural jobs, it limits the hours that children under age 16 can work and prohibits the employment of children, less than eighteen years old, in jobs that are considered too unsafe and hazardous. For agricultural operations, it bans the employment of children less than sixteen years of age, during school hours and in certain jobs deemed too dangerous.

The Wage and Hour Division also enforces the labor standards provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that apply to aliens authorized to work in the U.S. under certain non-immigrant visa programs (H-1B, H-1B1, H-1C, H2A).

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB):

The NLRB guarantees fair elections of collective bargaining representatives and prevents unfair labor practices by both employers and organized labor with jurisdiction limited to private employers who meet NLRB specifications, (e.g., a retail business must do at least $500,000 total annual volume of business.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission administers Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1984, most employment discrimination cases are filed under the tenets of the Civil Rights Act in both public and private employment; investigates charges of discrimination in employment practices involving race, age, sex, religion, or ethnic background, then attempts to resolve the conflict through negotiation or, if negotiation fails, can file suit in federal court.

Federal Labor Relations Authority:

Federal Labor Relations Authority acts as an independent agency which protects the rights of federal employees to collective bargaining; serves as a parallel agency with responsibilities similar to that of the NLRB; supervises and conducts elections; investigates and prosecutes complaints of unfair labor practices; and conducts hearings before administrative law judges on behalf of federal employees.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service:

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service has jurisdiction over any employment that affects interstate commerce; can become involved in a labor dispute either by direct intervention or by invitation by one or all of the parties involved in a dispute that would substantially threaten commerce; promotes and encourages mediation and voluntary arbitration, thus providing an environment where disputes are settled through mutually beneficial discussions.

National Mediation Board

National Mediation Board is responsible for administration of Rail way Labor Act and provides mediators to the railway and airline industries to resolve disputes that could threaten or disrupt travel; facilitates collective bargaining through mediation services, investigates employee representation disputes, and becomes involved in interest arbitrations in emergency situations that could result in disruption of travel or threaten the economy.

Agencies in each individual state and municipality administer and en force state and city government legislation and regulations that are not covered under the jurisdiction of federal laws. Most states have a state labor commission that administers collective bargaining regulations for state government employees and private industries not covered through the amount-of-business stipulation of the NLRB.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

Overseen by the Wage and Hour Division, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires proprietors of companies and businesses having fifty or more workers to give up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to entitled employees for the birth or adoption of a child or for the serious illness of the employee or a spouse, child or parent.

Workers Compensation

Every state and the federal government have this law. It arranges for reimbursement for injuries and sicknesses that the worker suffers during his day-to-day work. In addition, a few workers' compensation programs require employers to make job modifications or substitute assignments, which also may be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. If an employee's occupational injury is covered under both Workers Compensation and the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, the employee may be entitled to a job modification or reassignment under both laws.

Title I of Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act:

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act addresses the use of genetic information in health insurance. The rules are enforced mainly by the Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration, with the Department of Health & Human Services' Office for Civil Rights enforcing Section 105 of Title I of GINA which corresponds to GINA's safeguards for genetic information in the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act privacy rule.

Labor laws not only sets the principles and criteria that oversee employee rights but provides them with job security and that employers cannot fire employees at will, or subject them to work in hazardous conditions or provided them with health benefits and pension cover following their retirement.

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