The DOL and EEOC Enter a Partnership to Strengthen Federal Employment Law EnforcementClient Alert
On September 13, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreeing to work together in enforcing federal employment laws. The MOU forms a partnership between the two agencies to encourage coordination through information sharing, joint investigations, training, and outreach.
Most notably, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division enforces the federal minimum wage, overtime pay, tip retention, record keeping, nursing mother provisions, and child labor requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Alternatively, the EEOC enforces federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination, including (but not limited to) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
In all, the MOU addresses three main topics: (1) Information Sharing, (2) Coordinated Investigations and Enforcement, and (3) Training and Outreach.
- Information Sharing
In short, the MOU provides that the DOL and EEOC may share any information or data that supports the other agency’s own initiative or enforcement activities. The shared information may include complaint referrals, information in complaints or investigative files relating to violations, or statistical analyses or summaries.
The MOU states that information sharing will fully comply with the Privacy Act of 1974, the Freedom of Information Act, the Federal Records Act, and any other applicable federal laws.
- Coordinated Investigations and Enforcement
The MOU states that when agency personnel have reason to believe that conduct may have occurred that the other agency could find unlawful, the personnel will advise the complainant that they may be able to file a complaint with the other agency. Further, personnel will provide the complainant with materials prepared by the other agency, including information on rights and remedies under laws enforced by the other agency. The personnel will also provide the other agency’s contact information.
Additionally, in appropriate cases, the agencies will determine whether to conduct coordinated investigations of matters arising within both agencies’ jurisdictions. If a coordinated investigation is done, the two shall explore whether it is appropriate for one agency to settle its matter while the other holds its matter in abeyance.
- Training and Outreach
Under the MOU, where appropriate, the agencies shall provide training to each agency’s staff in identifying cases and issues that could arise under the other’s jurisdiction. Specifically, the two may engage in joint outreach or training programs. Joint training will facilitate a better understanding of the employment laws each agency enforces.
In describing the MOU’s goals, Principal Deputy Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman stated that “[o]ur partnership with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission helps us work across federal agencies to ensure workers are treated fairly, paid fairly and do not have to fear retaliation when demanding the workplace protections that federal labor laws such as the PUMP Act require.”
Further, EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows stated that “[t]his collaboration will further effective outreach and enforcement with respect to the federal laws that advance equal employment opportunity and fair pay, including the recently enacted PUMP Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which took effect in December 2022.”
In response to the agencies’ collaboration, employers should expect increased enforcement and be aware that both agencies can bring action for violations. Consequently, it is crucial for employers to ensure their compliance with federal employment laws to avoid DOL and/or EEOC action against them.