Authored by Alex Passantino

As the calendar year draws to a close, many federal agencies release their statistics for the preceding fiscal year, which ended on September 30. As part of this year-ending wave of information, the Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division released its enforcement statistics for FY2015.

Here are the highlights:

  • Back wage collections under all acts enforced by WHD were $247 million, up $6 million from the preceding year, but down from the high of $280 million in FY2012.
  • The number of employees receiving back wages was 240,000, the lowest since FY2010.
  • With 21,902 complaints, WHD had its fewest complaints in nearly 20 years, since FY1997. Those complaints are taking longer to resolve—125 days, up from 116 days last year.
  • Surprisingly for an agency that has been touting its enforcement efforts, the number of hours spent by investigators in enforcement were down to their lowest levels since FY2010. Whether the decrease is due to increased turnover of investigative staff, additional time spent on training efforts, or something else entirely is something not demonstrated in the data released by WHD.
  • WHD’s concluded cases—27,914—also continued their four-year downward trend with the third fewest number of concluded cases since FY1998’s high of 50,344.
  • Continuing a theme, WHD’s efforts in the low-wage industries (agriculture, day care, restaurants, garment manufacturing, guard services, health care, hotels/motels, janitorial services, and temporary help) were down again from the high of FY2012, with decreases in cases, back wages recovered, and employees who received back wages.
  • WHD conducted 154 targeted child labor cases, down from 1,285 in FY2007, and the fewest number of directed child labor cases recorded since FY1997. Including complaint cases, WHD concluded 542 child labor cases, which is also the lowest number of such cases reported.
  • FMLA complaints were also down, and 53% of FMLA cases result in findings of “no violation.”
  • Enforcement in agriculture was down in number of investigations, employees receiving back wages, and back wages recovered. Civil money penalties (CMP) assessed, however, were up nearly $2 million, to $5 million, as WHD increased its CMP assessments by a similar amount in the H-2A program alone.
  • Similarly, while cases, employees in violation, employees receiving back wages, and back wages recovered were down in the industries with a high prevalence of H-2B workers (forestry, amusement, construction, food service, hotel/motel, janitorial services, landscaping services), CMPs in those industries were up more than $1 million.

Ultimately, the snapshot of data provided indicates that WHD is spending more time on targeted cases in specific industries. Those cases are taking longer to complete, likely due in part to WHD’s efforts to assess CMPs.

Employers, particularly those in the low-wage industries flagged above, should take the time now—before WHD announces it plans to investigate—to review their payroll practices. For example, we have reason to believe that WHD is already focusing its attention on the hotel/motel industry and will only step that attention up in 2016.