Labor Department to Recruit More Investigators

The move to hire 100 new employees signals tougher enforcement.

February 04, 2022

U.S. Department of Labor

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is looking to hire 100 new investigators, reports Bloomberg Law. The increase in staff comes after the agency said in January that it would help the National Labor Relations Board with investigations and share information on potential violations of law. The board is specifically looking to target contractor misclassification and retaliation against workers.

The WHD is also increasing its staff as it prepares for an influx of enforcement demands under the hundreds of federally funded infrastructure projects created as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The agency is responsible for enforcing prevailing wage requirements.

The Biden Administration nominated David Weil as head of the WHD, and he needs one more Senate vote to receive confirmation. If Weil takes the helm, the department is expected to take a tougher approach to joint employer and misclassification issues. Weil led the department during the Obama Administration, and critics of Weil say that the agency will become more focused on changing the law instead of enforcing it under Weil.

“Weil won’t focus on clear violations of the law and getting money owed to the most vulnerable,” Michael Layman, vice president of federal government relations for the International Franchise Association, said in a statement. “His focus will be on ideological efforts to take away small business livelihoods from franchisees and other independent contractors.”

The ranks of investigators at the WHD declined by nearly 16% from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2020, the last full fiscal year of the Trump Administration, according to DOL staffing data.

WHD recovered just $234.3 million in back wages in fiscal 2021, a decline of $23.5 million from 2020.

The enforcement numbers from last year are a “good indication that this labor market is such that employers can’t really take advantage of their workers if they want to be able to keep them and they want to be able to attract the workers they need,” Rachel Greszler, a labor research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said in an interview.

“I think a lot of what will happen going forward will depend on whether or not David Weil is confirmed, ”Greszler said. “We have an indication of what their agenda will be … I think enforcement is going to go up.”