Posts Tagged ‘Department of Labor’

$20M in DOL Grants Available To Help Persons With Work-Related Disabilities Remain on Job

We’re a better country when everyone who is able can work–and that includes workers who’ve been injured or ill.

The U.S. Department of Labor last Thursday announced the availability of $20 million in grants to help Americans who are injured or ill remain in or return to the workforce. The grants are intended to identify new, replicable strategies to help individuals with a work-related disability stay on the job.

“America’s workforce is strengthened by the participation of all Americans. After an injury or illness, it is critical for workers to have the ability to return to the labor force as quickly as possible,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “These grants will help develop innovative strategies that enable injured or ill Americans to return to work so they can support themselves and provide for their families.”

The grants represent the first phase of funding for Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) Demonstration Projects, which will be administered by the Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), in partnership with the Department’s Employment and Training Administration  and the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Successful applicants will propose coordinated employment and health services through an integrated network of partners, including state and/or local workforce development agencies; health-care systems and/or provider networks; and other strategic partners, such as employers or insurers.

The Department anticipates awarding up to eight grants of approximately $2.5 million each to be spent over an 18-month period for planning and start-up activities, including the launch of a small pilot demonstration. Near the conclusion of this first phase, the Department anticipates competitively awarding up to four of the Phase One grantees with additional funding up to approximately $19.5 million each to implement their demonstration projects at full scale. The Department anticipates Phase Two will span 42 months, including 30 months for project implementation and 12 for closeout and final assessment activities. The SSA will administer an independent evaluation of the RETAIN projects.

Eligible applicants are state Departments of Labor, state Workforce Development Agencies, or an equivalent entity with responsibility for labor, employment, and/or workforce development; and entities described in section 166(c) of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act relating to Indian and Native American programs. Applicants are also required to partner with the State Workforce Development Board and State Health Department or equivalent entities; health-care systems practicing coordinated care and population health management. Applicants and may also partner with other equivalent entities generally responsible for regulating, managing or influencing the provision of health services.

The full announcement for this grant opportunity can be found at or Applications will be accepted until July 23, 2018. In addition, there will be a prospective applicant webinar held for this grant competition. The date and access information for the webinar will be posted on ODEP’s website in the near future at

Labor Dept. OT Rule Due for Makeover

It doesn’t come as any great shock that President Trump’s Department of Labor is recalling the overtime rule for second look.

The U.S. Department of Labor yesterday announced plans to undertake new rulemaking with regard to overtime.

On July 26, 2017, the Department of Labor published a Request for Information (RFI) regarding the Overtime Final Rule, which was published on May 23, 2016, asking for public input on what changes the Department should propose. That comment period has ended and the Department is reviewing those submissions.

On August 31, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant granted summary judgment against the Department of Labor in consolidated cases challenging the Overtime Final Rule. The court held that the Final Rule’s salary level exceeded the Department’s authority, and concluded that the Final Rule is invalid.

On October 30, 2017, the Department of Justice, on behalf of the Department of Labor, filed a notice to appeal this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Once this appeal is docketed, the Department of Justice will file a motion with the Fifth Circuit to hold the appeal in abeyance while the Department of Labor undertakes further rulemaking to determine what the salary level should be.

Here’s a post I did on the rule when it was proposed.

Overtime Rule on Standby Pending OMB Review

Looks like the U.S. Labor Department’s overtime rule is on thin ice.

The DOL yesterday sent a Request for Information related to the overtime rule to the Office of Management and Budget for its review. When published, the RFI offers the opportunity for the public to comment.

The rule, which increases the threshhold income for qualifying for overtime to $47,476, was to have gone into effect on December first of last year.

But there’s a new sheriff in town–President Trump, aided and abetted by his Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, neither of whom have expressed much sympathy for the rule.

The rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative and Professional workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:

  1. Sets the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South ($913 per week; $47,476 annually for a full-year worker);
  2. Sets the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally ($134,004); and
  3. Establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.

Additionally, the Final Rule amends the salary basis test to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level.

The initial increases to the standard salary level (from $455 to $913 per week) and HCE total annual compensation requirement (from $100,000 to $134,004 per year) were to be effective on December 1, 2016. Future automatic updates to those thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.

For my prior posts on the overtime rule, start here.

DOL: Enterpise Car Rental Subsidiary Barred Blacks From Management Trainee Jobs

An Enterprise car rental subsidiary isn’t playing fair when it comes to entree-level management trainee jobs, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The DOL alleges that  Enterprise RAC Company of Baltimore, LLC, a subsidiary of one of the world’s largest vehicle rental companies and a federal contractor, is discriminating against African-American applicants pursuing those jobs.

A review by DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs determined that African-American and white applicants were not treated equally, and that African-American applicants were substantially more likely to be rejected at the initial screening stage and after the first interview.

That discriminatory hiring continues to this day, the lawsuit charges.

As a federal contractor, Enterprise is prohibited from discriminating in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran.

Here’s the DOL’s announcement of the lawsuit.

$1 Million Grant to Study Paid Leave Programs

Is the spending of $1 million to study paid leave programs in the U.S. a wise expenditure?

The U.S. Department of Labor thinks so, announcing that $1 million will be available to research and analyze how paid-leave programs can be developed and implemented across the country.

The announcement coincided with a roundtable discussion at DOL’s Washington, D.C. headquartersThe event will include leaders from Nestlé, Spotify, Patagonia and other businesses to examine the growing momentum behind paid family and medical leave across the U.S.

Up to six competitive grants will be available under this program.

Here’s the DOL announcement of this funding opportunity.

Obama Takes Aim at Contractor Pay Practices

Federal contractors could be forgiven for thinking they’re being picked on by the U.S. government.  President Obama today signed two documents putting those contractors’ pay practices under further scrutiny.

One–an executive order–prohibits contractors from retaliating against their employees because they discuss their pay with each other.

The other, a presidential memorandum, requires the Department of Labor to adopt rules requiring contractors to submit pay data to the department, broken down by race and gender.

Both moves are designed to highlight the Obama administration’s push for equal pay for women, who continue to earn about 77 cents on the dollar for every dollar a man makes.

And since Obama doesn’t have the constitutional authority to command the private sector to close the pay gap, he instead pressures contractors to get with the program.

It’s the latest in a string of executive orders to call attention to labor issues. Previously, Obama hit contractors up by raising their minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and he’s also ordered DOL Secretary Thomas Perez to re-examine the regulations governing overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act, to limit the number of employees who are denied overtime for working more than a 40 hour workweek.

Obama Order Targets FLSA Exemption

Employers won’t be able to make as wide use of the “white collar” exemption to deny overtime pay to their employees, a process that President Obama intends to jump-start tomorrow with the issuance of an executive memorandum.

According to published reports, Obama will instruct the U.S. Department of Labor to issue stricter rules on overtime. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires most employees be paid time and a half for working more than 40 hours a week.

However, the FLSA has an exemption for workers employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees. There are a lot of hoops an employer has to jump through to show that the affected employees really are in one of these categories–but they all have in common either the performance of management duties or tasks involving specialized knowledge.

The White House is concerned that employers are abusing the exemption by folding in workers, such as convenience store managers, fast food shift supervisors and office workers, who may be expected to work 50 or 60 hours a week without overtime, and that their hourly pay rate may actually be less than the $7.25 an hour minimum wage.

The action is the latest example of Obama’s stated intention to use his executive authority to enact policies that Congress won’t consider.

But expect pushback from congressional Republicans.

The fact is, though, this exemption has been on the FLSA books for decades and is in need of revisiting–so maybe Obama’s unilateral move will finally spur Congress to take a serious look at the exemption.