The Trump Department of Labor has begun issuing opinion letters to employers regarding the laws that govern wages and working conditions, which had been a common practice before it was suspended during the Obama administration.
From 2010 to July 2017, opinion letters were replaced by “Administrator Interpretations,” which set forth a more general interpretation of the law and regulations as they pertained to a particular industry or grouping of employees.
Although revival of the employer letter practice was announced in June 2017, the DOL Wage and Hour Division had yet to issue any until last month.
The Trump DOL’s initial action was to reinstate 17 opinion letters that had been published in January 2009 during the final weeks of the George W. Bush administration, which then were immediately withdrawn by Obama’s factotums soon after the new President took office.
The 17 re-released opinion letters address a wide variety of topics under federal wage law, including white collar exemption issues, the compensability of certain on-call time, some rate and overtime computations on certain bonus compensation, and certain deductions from salary under the salary basis requirements of the white-collar exemptions.
“Employers generally applaud the return of opinion letters because they provide greater clarity for businesses by publicly answering fact-specific questions,” observes attorney Stefan M. Canizares of the law firm of Foley & Lardner LLP.
The letters can be particularly useful for employers who find themselves dealing with factual scenarios similar to those covered by the letters, he notes.
One thing that may hinder the flow of these letters in the immediate future is that the DOL Wage and Hour Division currently lacks an administrator.
Although the President nominated Cheryl Stanton, who heads the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, she has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.