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The Department of Labor Has Your Back

The federal Department of Labor (DOL) budget for fiscal year 2015 is official, and it includes new programs and additional protections for workers and employees. This is exciting news for millions of Americans, including the long-term unemployed, students who want to work when they graduate, and current employees whose employers may not be following the law as they should. Check out the changes that are being put in place to help you.

DoL

(Photo Credit: NCinDC/Flickr)

Creating New Programs

New efforts to help those who have been unemployed for a long time include the Long-Term Unemployed Initiative, which consists of programs allowing individuals to continue receiving unemployment insurance benefits while participating in short-term work placements. The budget has been created to support new reforms that will offer training and skill building to get the unemployed back to work more quickly. And the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative will forge partnerships between community colleges and employers, while creating additional jobs.

Increasing Worker Protection

The DOL's 2015 budget reflects the agency's priorities, including emphasis on enforcement of rules and regulations that protect workers. Monies to be allocated toward the protection of workers includes:

  • Close to $14 million toward protecting employees from being misclassified as independent contractors. Sometimes employers attempt to get out of paying taxes and benefits by hiring "independent contractors." The jobs, however, fit the definition of employee positions in the company, not independent contractor gigs.
  • A $41 million increase to ensure that workers are not denied appropriate wages and overtime pay. If you have ever been asked to take "comp time" instead of overtime pay, your employer broke the law. If you have ever been asked to clock out and keep working (or start working and clock in later,) your employer broke the law. There are also changes afoot regarding who is exempt from overtime pay, and more employees will be protected from working over 40 hours per week without any extra pay.
  • $565 million toward OSHA's efforts to enforce employer compliance with health and safety requirements in workplaces, and fund additional efforts at inspecting workplaces to ensure compliance. This fund will also go toward protecting workers who complain to the DOL about violations in the workplace, or "whistleblowers," from retaliation.

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