Proposed Budgets May Portend

Federal Agencies’ Teeth


Freshmen Congressmen or Not,

Wider Enforcement Imminent?


             Although some federal government services may be in peril, administrative agencies that enforce employment laws aim to not merely to maintain enforcement strength, but to increase staffing of agency functions that assure employer compliance with worker protection laws.  A brief survey of FY 2012 budget requests from these agencies is informative.

            Of all the federal employment-related agencies the U.S. Department of Labor has the largest budget and payroll (well over 15,000 full-time equivalent).  Its enforcement bureaus include the Wage and Hour Division (WHD), the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).

            The Obama Administration successfully took steps in 2009 and 2010 to get the WHD staffing FTE back to its 2001 level (that had fallen under the Bush administrations).  The proposed budget of $241 million would increase the FTE payroll from 1,582 to 1,677.  In 2010 the WHD boosted its investigator population from 898 to 1,038, and under its proposal for 2012 the division would lay off 12 FTE for its Employer Assistance Call Division, but add 107 FTE to help go after misclassification by employers. The US DOL budget summary indicates that wage and hour investigations will focus on problem industries such as construction, landscaping, food processing, grocery stores, child care and home health care.

            Other divisions of the DOL also seek more enforcement money for more investigation.  OSHA wants to improve regulatory standards including those covering combustible dust, infectious disease, walking and working surfaces, and hazard communication.  OSHA is pushing the “I2P2” rule, i.e., the Injury and Illness Prevention Program for a one size fits all rule, and wants to boost its FTE to administer the twenty-one whistleblower protection programs it runs.

            The Employee Benefits Security Administration wants to add 179 FTE to its workforce; the OFFCP wants more staff but, despite its lofty description of its new horizons, seems to be doing nothing much new in enforcement.  The OFCCP, for example, considers this a priority: issuing proposed rules to reduce discrimination against women and minorities in construction.

            Meanwhile the EEOC seeks $19 million more than its 2010 level, declaring that its priority for agency resources “continues to be litigating systemic cases and maintaining a manageable inventory of cases.”  What “maintaining a manageable inventory of cases” means at the Commission, no man can say.