As I live and breathe!
The USDOL, the agency charged with enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act has, evidently, not been paying its own employees proper overtime. The agency has just agreed to pay $7 million to settle claims that it did not pay proper overtime to thousands of its own employees. The matter was brought as a grievance by the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 12 (“AFGE”) and had been percolating through “the process” for almost ten years.
The Union lawyer aptly noted that “this is the agency that goes around fining all the private employers for doing the same thing that it just ended up paying $7 million to make go away.” The “collective action” grievance charged that the DOL failed to pay employees when the agency “suffered or permitted” overtime to be worked. Interestingly, during the pendency of this grievance, many workers who had been classified as exempt were re-classified to non-exempt, i.e. overtime-eligible.
It is estimated that thousands of employees will receive payments under the settlement. The theory of the grievance was that employees were performing work beyond their assigned shifts, work that the agency knew or should have known about, but nonetheless did not pay the employees for this work.
The Union sought to place the blame directly on the former Secretaries of Labor, Elaine Chao and Hilda Solis. The Union President stated that “it is deeply disappointing that both Secretary Chao and Secretary Solis were unwilling to abide by their own regulations when it came to paying their employees. It is sad that a decent and hard-working public servant like Secretary Perez has to clean up their mess.”
The Union lawyer stated that “this settlement will help ensure that the agency follows the same laws it enforces. I guess this should be taken as a cautionary tale by all employers, small or titanic.”
But, most especially, for the agency.