The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that its staff will seek to add new responsibilities for employers, requiring them to step up proactive compliance measures, especially in the areas of safety, health, and wage and hour laws. This is important because it reflects a new emphasis on preventing violations of laws that affect workers, as opposed to the more common tactic of trying to catch and punish employers who may have been violating labor laws for months or years.
Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris announced on April 29, 2010, that the Department of Labor‘s new strategy will place the burden of compliance with labor laws on the employer. With the “Plan, Prevent, Protect” strategy, employers may be required to (i) have written plans to comply with specific labor laws such as wage and hour statutes; (ii) prevent violations of the laws by executing the plan and performing an analysis on its effectiveness; and (iii) protect workers by disclosing the plan to both their workforce and the government.
The misclassification of employees as independent contractors was one area of compliance that Harris mentioned repeatedly when describing the new strategy. In one example of what the Department of Labor might pursue, Harris said companies that classify workers as independent contractors would have to prepare written explanations, given to the workers, explaining why the company is lawfully considering them contractors rather than employees.
It’s not clear how the Department of Labor will fully implement the “Plan, Prevent, Protect” strategy, so watch here to see what new requirements or regulations may be proposed in the coming months.