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DOL attempts to clarify FLSA matters in opinion letters

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In January, the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division reinstated 17 opinion letters on the Fair Labor Standards Act. This is the first time the DOL has issued an opinion letter since the administration of President George W. Bush.

The opinion letters address several topics, including exempt status under the FLSA for a variety of occupations, on-call compensation and whether bonuses should be considered when calculating an employee's regular rate of pay. The same day it released the letters, the DOL also issued a new seven-part rule to be used in determining whether an intern must be paid.

More opinion letters likely

The Department of Labor stopped issuing opinion letters during President Obama's administration but indicated it would resume the practice last June. Opinion letters are formal responses to questions from employers on compliance matters regarding the FLSA and other federal laws.

The Obama administration halted the practice of issuing opinion letters, preferring to focus on enforcement efforts and broader statements of interpretation.

The acting head of the Wage and Hour Division reissued the letters. The U.S. Senate has yet to confirm the current nominee for the position. However, the Wage and Hour Division has not indicated that the lack of confirmation would halt the issuance of opinion letters, provided the letters would not result in a delay of the confirmation.

While not laws, opinion letters can provide reassurance for employers

Opinion letters are not laws, but they do provide guidance for employers concerned about complying with the FLSA. Because there are numerous gray areas regarding employee classification, exempt status, and other wage and hour law matters, employers should work with an experienced employment law attorney to ensure that they are doing as much as they can to comply with the FLSA and the latest guidance from the Department of Labor.

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