Investigation and enforcement is the Department of Labor’s focus in 2010. Despite an overall reduction of $300 million in discretionary spending, the Department of Labor will ask Congress for an increase in workplace enforcement funding of $67 million, or 4 percent, according to the budget it released on Monday, February 1.
In an online video statement and Q&A, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis emphasized department funding for investigation and enforcement along with training programs. The agency request for fiscal year 2011, which begins October 1, 2010, totals $117 billion. Secretary Solis indicated that the $1.7 billion allocated in the DOL budget for worker protection programs would allow the agency to restore staffing to 2001 levels. Of the 350 employees that the department expects to add over the next fiscal year, 177 are investigators and other enforcement staff.
For instance, the Wage and Hour Division would receive $244 million in funding, a $20 million increase, and hire 90 new investigators. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration would get $573 million, an increase of about $14 million. OSHA will add 25 new inspectors in 2011 and reallocate 35 to enforcement from a program that helps businesses comply with safety laws.
“We need to decide whether we will spend our limited resources on supporting those companies who really ‘get it,’ who are doing a great job at protecting their employees,” Solis said. “Or do we spend our scarce resources on companies that disregard workplace safety and allow workers to die in situations that could easily have been prevented?”
The department also indicated that it is going to crack down on employers that define workers as independent contractors rather than employees. Critics say the move allows companies to pay lower wages and benefits. As part of a joint initiative with the Department of Treasury, the DOL budget includes $25 million to target “misclassification” and hire 100 additional enforcement personnel.
Are your HR and OHSA programs in compliance? If not you might want to think about improvements before one of the new investigators comes knocking at your door.
Join the conversation- do you agree with the emphasis on investigation and enforcement?