What GAO Found
Over the past 10 years, the number of Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime cases has generally ranged between 23,000 and 30,000 each year. The compliance actions the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) used to address these cases primarily involved either on-site investigations or conciliations that seek a resolution between the employer and the worker by phone. Back wages due to workers for FLSA minimum wage and overtime violations increased from $129 million in fiscal year 2010 to $226 million in fiscal year 2019. Although the number of WHD investigators decreased by 25 percent from 2010 to 2019, WHD maintained its casework by using procedural flexibilities, such as not investigating low-priority complaints and by distributing work across offices to balance workloads.
From fiscal years 2014 through 2019, most of WHD’s FLSA compliance actions were targeted at priority industries—those WHD identified as low-wage, high violation industries that employ workers who are unlikely to file wage or overtime complaints, such as food services. In 2011, WHD developed a list of 20 priority industries, and encouraged its regional and district offices to focus on these industries by setting and monitoring performance goals as part of its annual enforcement planning process. The percentage of FLSA compliance actions involving the priority industries increased from 75 to 80 percent from fiscal years 2014 through 2019, according to DOL data.
WHD uses several strategies, including supervisory reviews, to address FLSA complaints consistently, but does not track uniform data needed to ensure that the reasons complaints are filed with no WHD compliance action are applied consistently. WHD may file complaints without completing a compliance action because they are not within WHD’s jurisdiction or for other reasons, such as that they are determined to be low-priority. GAO found that WHD filed about 20 percent of FLSA complaints with no compliance action from fiscal years 2014-2019 and the percent varied considerably (from 4 to 46 percent) among district offices (see figure). WHD lacks uniform data on the reasons complaints are filed with no compliance action at intake or the reasons cases are dropped after initial acceptance because there is no data field in WHD’s enforcement database that can be used to systematically aggregate that information. Absent this data, WHD is less able to ensure that a consistent process is applied to complaints.
Percentage of Fair Labor Standards Act Complaints Filed with No Compliance Action by WHD District Offices, Fiscal Years 2014-2019
Note: WHD filed about 20 percent of FLSA complaints with no compliance action from fiscal years 2014-2019, and the percent varied considerably among its district offices.
Why GAO Did This Study
The FLSA sets federal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for millions of U.S. workers. WHD may investigate worker complaints of FLSA violations or initiate investigations in industries it prioritizes for enforcement. GAO was asked to review WHD compliance actions.
This report examines (1) trends in WHD’s FLSA minimum wage and overtime cases, (2) the extent to which WHD’s FLSA compliance actions targeted priority industries, and (3) the extent to which WHD’s reported efforts and data indicate that WHD applied a consistent process to FLSA complaints.
GAO analyzed WHD data on FLSA cases for fiscal years 2010 through 2019, the last full fiscal year of data available when GAO conducted its analysis. GAO also conducted more in-depth reviews of recent efforts (fiscal years 2014-2019). GAO interviewed officials from WHD’s national office, five regional offices, and five of WHD’s 54 district offices with the largest share of FLSA cases in their regions. GAO also interviewed external stakeholders, including state agencies and organizations that represent workers and employers.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends DOL’s WHD develop a method for systematically aggregating and reviewing data on the reasons complaints are filed with no compliance action or cases are dropped. DOL agreed with GAO’s recommendation and stated it would take action to address it.
For more information, contact Cindy Brown Barnes at (202) 512-7215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Five Alleged MS-13 Members Charged Federally for Their Participation in a Violent Racketeering Conspiracy Including Eight Murders and Four Attempted MurdersBy Sam NewsOctober 20, 2020A federal grand jury returned an eleventh superseding indictment Monday, charging five men in connection with a conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. The eleventh superseding indictment adds a new defendant charged with a racketeering conspiracy related to his membership in MS-13, including a double homicide and drug trafficking.[Read More…]
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- K-12 Education: Observations on States’ School Improvement EffortsBy Sam NewsJanuary 11, 2021Many states use flexibilities in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended, in identifying low-performing schools and student subgroups (e.g., students from major racial and ethnic groups and low-income students) that need support and improvement. For example, states must identify all public high schools failing to graduate at least one-third of their students. According to GAO's state plan analysis, four states used ESEA's flexibilities to set higher graduation rates (i.e., 70-86 percent) for purposes of state accountability. Similarly, while ESEA requires states to identify schools in which students in certain subgroups are consistently underperforming, 12 states assess the performance of additional student subgroups. Although states are generally required to set aside a portion of their federal education funding for school improvement activities (see figure), states have some discretion in how they allocate these funds to school districts. According to GAO's survey, 27 states use a formula to allocate funds. GAO also found that in at least 34 states, all school districts that applied for federal funds received them in school year 2018-2019, but states had discretion regarding which schools within those districts to fund and at what level. Funding for School Improvement through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I, Part A Note: For more details, see figure 2 in GAO-21-199. A majority of the 50 states and the District of Columbia responding to our survey reported having at least moderate capacity to support school districts' school improvement activities. Education provides various types of technical assistance to build local and state capacity such as webinars, in-person training, guidance, and peer networks. About one-half of states responding to GAO's survey sought at least one type of technical assistance from Education's program office and various initiatives, and almost all of those found it helpful. For example, Education's Regional Educational Laboratories (REL) help states use data and evidence, access high-quality research to inform decisions, identify opportunities to conduct original research, and track progress over time using high-quality data and methods. Several states most commonly reported finding the following assistance by RELs to be helpful: in-person training (26), webinars (28), and reviews of existing research studies to help select interventions (24). The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires states to have statewide accountability systems to help provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps high-quality education. These systems must meet certain federal requirements, but states have some discretion in how they design them. For example, ESEA requires states to identify low-performing schools and student subgroups for support and improvement. Senate Report 115-289 accompanying the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2019, includes a provision for GAO to review states' school improvement activities. This report addresses (1) how states identify and allocate funds for schools identified for support and improvement; and (2) the extent to which states have capacity to support districts' school improvement activities and how helpful states find Education's technical assistance. GAO analyzed the most current approved state accountability plans from all 50 states and the District of Columbia as of September 2020. The information in these plans predates the COVID-19 pandemic and represents a baseline from which to compare school improvement activities going forward. GAO also surveyed and received responses from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. GAO also conducted follow-up interviews with officials in three states selected based on variation in reported capacity and geographic diversity. For more information, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- NASA Confirms New SIMPLEx Mission Small Satellite to Blaze Trails Studying Lunar SurfaceBy Sam NewsDecember 9, 2020Producing maps to locate [Read More…]
- Canadian Man Extradited from Spain to Face Charges for Massive Psychic Mail Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsDecember 22, 2020A Canadian citizen accused of operating a decades-long psychic mail fraud scheme was extradited to the United States and made his initial appearance today in federal court in Central Islip, New York, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced.[Read More…]
- Four Men Indicted for Hate Crimes and False Statements After Racially Motivated Assault in Lynnwood, WashingtonBy Sam NewsDecember 18, 2020The Justice Department announced today that four men from across the Pacific Northwest were indicted this week for federal hate crimes and making false statements in connection with a Dec. 8, 2018, racially-motivated assault.[Read More…]
- U.S. Marshals Operation Results in Recovery of 27 Missing Children in VirginiaBy Sam NewsOctober 30, 2020The Justice Department [Read More…]
- Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty for Back-Channel Lobbying Campaign to Drop 1MDB Investigation and Remove a Chinese Foreign NationalBy Sam NewsOctober 20, 2020Elliott Broidy, 63, of Beverly Hills, California, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks to the UN Security Council Briefing on COVID-19 and Vaccine AccessBy Sam NewsFebruary 17, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Assistant Attorney General Beth A. Williams Delivers Opening Remarks at the Federalist Society, Colorado Lawyers Chapter Panel Discussion: “Reviewing the Supreme Court’s 2019/20 Term”By Sam NewsAugust 12, 2020Thank you for that kind introduction, Will, and for the invitation to join you today. Though I wish I could join you in person, even at this distance, it is a great pleasure to be here with you all.[Read More…]
- How Engineers at NASA JPL Persevered to Develop a VentilatorBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020As coronavirus hit, JPL [Read More…]
- Justice Department Files Race Discrimination Lawsuit Against Housing Authority in OklahomaBy Sam NewsDecember 15, 2020The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit alleging that the Housing Authority of the Town of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, along with its former employees, David Haynes and Myrna Hess, violated the Fair Housing Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when they denied housing to an African-American applicant and her young child because of their race.[Read More…]
- Promoting and Protecting Human Rights: A Re-Dedication to the Universal Declaration of Human RightsBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]