What is the Employment Standards Administration

This agency was created in 1971 to combine major components under management of one assistant secretary and office. In a move to restructure the Department of Labor this administration and its function was eliminated on November 8, 2009. In the restructuring the four sub-agencies are now independent and report directly to the United States Secretary of Labor. While it makes sense to some extent to have the sub-agencies be independent the impact of this change should basically have no impact. The four sub-agencies are noted below;

Wage and Hour Division - The Wage and Hour division is responsible for enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and a host of other employment standards and worker protection. The mission is to enforce Federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act

Office of Labor-Management Standards – enforces provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. The mission is to ensure basic standards of democracy and fiscal responsibility in labor organizations representing employees in private industry. The major provisions of the act are:

A “bill of rights” for union members

Requirements for reporting and disclosure of financial information and administrative practices by labor unions

Requirements for reporting and disclosure by employees, labor relations consultants, union officers and employees, and surety companies, when they engage in certain activities

Rules for establishing and maintaining trusteeships

Standards for conducting fair elections of union officers, and

Safeguards for protecting union funds and assets

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs – administers and enforces three legal authorities that require Federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to ensure that all individuals have an equal opportunity for employment, without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or status as a Vietnam era or special disabled veteran.

Office of Worker Compensation Programs – administers four major disability compensation programs which provide wage replacement benefits, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation and other benefits to certain workers or their dependents that experience work-related injury or occupational disease.

This agency was the largest within the Department of Labor and with these individuals organizations separated there is more focus on the responsibilities and authority with which they are entrusted to enforce.

Having standards and programs such as those identified above help to protect individual workers to assure they are treated fairly and that the applicable laws are enforced. As identified there are not only requirements for management of companies but also unions in how they operate and hold elections. The responsibilities and the programs identified are an integral part of the workforce. They not only apply to the way management and unions operate but how federal contractors operate to ensure all individuals have an equal opportunity for employment.

The economy we have today is much tougher than in the past. Many businesses today are hurting along with individuals. The responsibilities of the organizations identified above are important now more than ever. While many businesses operate with integrity and treat their employees well there are those who try to take advantage of situations.

It is great that more focus is now on the agencies identified above and that they report directly to the Secretary of Labor. The agency covering labor-management relations standards is a key element in making sure that companies and unions operate within the law. There is even a bill of rights for union members and this is great but there also needs to be a bill of rights for non-union members. While there may be some laws or agency that protects non-union workers such as the fair labor standards agency there needs to be a bill of rights such as the one in place with the office of labor-management standards. It may not fall under this specific agency but non-union members need the same kind of protection as union members. I want to clearly state that I have no problems with union organizations and their rights and responsibilities to protect their members.

There are many laws governing the workplace and there will undoubtedly be more as time and issues surface. Some laws will be revised and sometimes new ones will be created. It was a good idea to have these agencies report directly to the Secretary of Labor. The complexity of laws generated covering the workplace need to be simplified so individuals not only know what laws are in place but understand their rights under them. We as individuals work hard for our money to support ourselves and our families.

The Secretary of Labor has an important function which affects all individuals who work. The responsibilities and the decisions made either through the departments or agencies directly from the Secretary of Labor should not be taken lightly. The Department of Labor is one of the key departments within the government and it is important that it honor their responsibilities for union and non-union employees. This is not meant to imply that the department is not honoring their responsibilities but that decisions made by this department have a big impact not only on the workforce but business.

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