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DOL increases penalties for many labor law violations

Every employer knows that failing to comply with federal laws is costly, but it’s getting even more so. The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 directs federal agencies to adjust civil penalties for inflation each year. As a result, the Department of Labor recently issued a final rule that revises civil penalties for many violations of federal labor laws for 2019. Here are some of the major areas to be aware of:

Minimum wage and overtime. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for employees in the private sector, as well as in federal, state, and local governments. The civil penalty for repeated or willful violation of the minimum wage and overtime provisions in the FLSA has increased from $1,964 to $2,014 per violation.

Child labor. Employers can run afoul of child labor laws for a variety of reasons other than hiring an underage employee. For example, legally hired 14- or 15-year-olds might work prohibited hours. Or legally hired 16- or 17-year-olds might drive vehicles unlawfully or operate disallowed power equipment. The civil penalty for any violation of the applicable federal statutes has increased from $12,529 to $12,845.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the FMLA, covered employers generally must allow employees to take up to 12 weeks per 12-month period of job-protected leave for qualified medical and family reasons. The FMLA also requires you to keep employees informed of these rights. The civil penalty for willful violation of the requirement that employers post and keep on their premises a notice about the FMLA and the procedures that employees may use to file complaints has increased from $169 to $173.

Other penalties. Certain other penalties have also increased regarding the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act, and the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act.

An employer’s cash flow can take a hit from any one of these penalties, to say nothing of multiple violations. What’s worse, the public relations fallout and negative impact on employee morale can be devastating. Work with your professional advisors, including an employment law attorney, to ensure you’re in compliance. Our firm can provide further information.

© 2019

Laura L. Stover, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, lstover@sek.com

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