Federal agencies to bump up enforcement in 2010

Last year a number of federal agencies increased their compliance enforcement efforts, including the Department of Labor (DOL), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Recent actions by these agencies suggest that this trend will continue in 2010:

• Designed to raise employee awareness of their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the recently launched, DOL-sponsored We Can Help campaign will undoubtedly increase the number of employee wage and hour complaints to the agency. The campaign is actively targeting the country’s lowest-paid workers, regardless of citizenship status, and encourages them to submit information, including pay stubs and hours of work, via the agency’s website. In addition, the DOL received a significant uptick in funding for 2010, and is requesting more in its proposed 2011 budget.

• Immigration enforcement is a priority for the Obama administration, and the DHS is following through with plans to conduct 25,000 on-site inspections at companies who employ workers with H-1B visas – an increase of nearly 20,000 over the previous year.

• Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis has promised more OSHA inspections, and employers can expect to see a shift to a more aggressive, citation-based approach from OSHA. Last year, between July and September, OSHA performed nearly 700 inspections and issued over 1,000 violations that resulted in $1.6 million in fines.

Enforcement efforts like the We Can Help campaign and others underscore the importance of maintaining strict compliance with federal regulations, including those covering labor, safety, tax, immigration and employment law. Stay tuned for more updates as they come.

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