Dealing With Leadership Uncertainty


The political transition underway at the Labor Department is “the elephant in the room,” said Michael Kravitz, a director in the department’s Office of Program Operation’s communications division.

“We don’t even have a secretary on board yet,” Kravitz said March 27 at the American Payroll Association’s annual Capital Summit in Washington.  Alexander Acosta, the nominee for labor secretary, is awaiting Senate confirmation. His nomination was approved March 30 by a Senate panel, with a full vote in the Senate expected soon.

“A confirmation vote in committee is coming up soon, but he is not on board yet, and we certainly don’t have in the Wage and Hour Division our political leadership on board yet, but the agency’s work from a compliance assistance and enforcement standpoint continues,” Kravitz said.

The overtime rule “is in the court system, and we have sought a delay in the appeal of it for political leadership to consider the rule and the path forward,” Kravitz said at the American Payroll Association’s annual Capital Summit in Washington. “I suspect that in the near future, when we get a secretary on board, we may have some decisions along those lines.”

The rule, which was blocked in November by a federal court, would have made an additional 4 million workers eligible for time and one-half pay.

“Our mission is really quite critical in the agency, and through Democratic or Republican administrations our mission does not change and that is to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards and protect the welfare of the American worker,” Kravitz said. 

The agency does that through a multipronged strategy for achieving compliance, Kravitz said. To enforce the nation’s labor laws, which cover about 7.3 million employers and 135 million workers, the department has about 200 offices and is in every state, Kravitz said. “So, we cover a lot of territory.” 

In the last five years, he said, the department has recovered $1.2 billion in wage and hour cases, Kravtiz said.

The agency has historically targeted for investigation certain industries, such as the janitorial services, agriculture and garment manufacturing. The agency also signed memoranda of understanding regarding misclassification with 37 states and with a number of state agencies regarding tax or labor issues, Kravitz said.

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