Under former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the DOL drastically increased the enforcement of wage and hour laws. Now Thomas Perez is running the agency, and he seems poised to kick things up a notch.
Perez, a former Maryland labor secretary and Justice Department civil rights official, took over his new post atop the DOL in July. Since then he’s made comments that have clued businesses in on what his stance on wage and hour enforcement will be.
The verdict: Early indications are he may run the DOL with the same iron fist as Solis. Under her leadership, the DOL ratcheted up enforcement of FLSA laws and its efforts to uncover employers that misclassify independent contractors — two things Perez has also said will top his list of priorities.
What can employers expect?
In short, it looks like with Perez guiding the DOL, employers can expect more of the same rule-making and enforcement-inducing policies to come forward that were the hallmark of the Solis regime, which upset business leaders and pleased labor advocates.
Recently, Perez addressed the AFL-CIO’s quadrennial conference, and The Wall Street Journal captured the flavor of his agenda through what he said to organized labor.
Here’s what The Wall Street Journal reported:
… the Labor Department would help restore the middle class by defending collective-bargaining rights, aggressively enforcing wage laws and taking steps to improve workplace safety.
He also said he would crack down on employers who unlawfully misclassify workers as contractors instead of as employees—calling the practice “workplace fraud” …
(Perez) said he wouldn’t hesitate to use the department’s regulatory authority to fully extend wage protections—such as overtime pay—to groups like home health-care workers who have limited protections now.
And he reiterated his support for a boost in the federal minimum wage …
He added that workers’ right to form a union remains essential to a thriving middle class, and the right must be defended.
A more ‘hands-on’ approach
Prior to his speech to the AFL-CIO, in a report issued just after Perez took over office, the Associated Press foreshadowed that Perez would take many of the same stances he verbalized during the organized labor gathering.
The AP report said Perez was known for aggressively going after companies that misclassified workers as independent contractors during his stint as labor secretary in Maryland.
And a quote from Randel Johnson, vice president for labor issues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in the AP report described Perez as someone who would “probably be more hands-on than Solis was.”