In first opinion letters, Trump's DOL answers FMLA, FLSA questions
- The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on April 12 issued its first new opinion letters since 2009.
- In FLSA2018-19, the agency discussed whether 15-minute, doctor-requested breaks can be unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. While noting that employees covered by the FMLA must receive the same number of paid breaks as their peers, DOL concluded that the rest breaks described in the letter need not be paid.
- In a second letter, FLSA2018-18, WHD addressed the compensability of travel time for non-exempt employees who sometimes travel on weekends or to various job sites. And in a non-administrator letter, CCPA2018-1NA, the agency addressed a question about lump-sum payments wage garnishment under Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act.
When President Barack Obama took office, DOL ended its long-standing practice of responding to wage and hour compliance questions via opinion letters. Instead, it adopted Administrator Interpretations, saying it hoped to offer guidance to a wider range of stakeholders.
Employers weren't happy, as opinion letters previously served as an affirmative defense in litigation. The Trump administration announced last year that it planned to switch back to opinion letters, and began by issuing a handful of letters that didn't make it into the mail during the final days of President George W. Bush's administration.
Employee advocates have decried the return to the letters, arguing that there are ways for employers to game the system. Those in the business community have acknowledged those flaws, but maintain the opinion letters are the best option available.
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