DOL to Revive Opinion Letters
By: Anne Baggott
In testimony before a Senate committee in late June, Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta revealed that the Wage & Hour Division of DOL (WHD) is bringing back the practice of providing opinion letters. Under the Obama administration, WHD had stopped providing opinion letters in 2010. Employers welcomed this news.
If an employer has a compliance question under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that is particularly tricky or not clearly addressed in the existing regulations or case law, the employer can ask WHD for guidance. WHD may, but is not required to, provide official written explanations of the intent of the FLSA or FMLA in fact-specific situations. The employer requesting the opinion letter can then use the opinion letter as a good-faith defense to future wage claims arising under the FLSA. WHD will also publish the opinion letter, with identifying information omitted, so other employers can use it as guidance in similar situations.