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Department of Labor Reinstates Bush Era Opinion Letters

WASHINGTON, DC — On June 27, 2017, the United States Department of Labor reinstated the practice of issuing opinion letters for Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applications. For about 50 years, opinion letters were issued by the department in fact-specific situations where uncertainty existed on how to apply the FLSA.  Opinion letters provided a mechanism for both employers and employees to ask officials of the department to provide an official written explanation of what the FLSA or FMLA requirements in a specific factual situation.  The department stopped issuing opinion letters during the Obama administration and replaced them with Administrator Interpretations (AIs), which only provided general guidance regarding the application of the law.

Can I file an FLSA lawsuit against my employer for unpaid overtime?

Yes, you may be able to file an FLSA lawsuit against your employer for unpaid overtime. FLSA lawsuits seek to hold employers accountable for failing to pay the required wages to their workers.  These claims seek payment of unpaid or underpaid wages, attorney’s fees, and litigation expenses.  Some cases may also force the payment of liquidated damages, which are money damages beyond just the receiving the back pay for unpaid wages.

If your employer owes you overtime wages for work performed, even dating several years back, our top-rated attorneys can file a claim for you to recover the unpaid wages that you are owed.  There are strict time deadlines for filing FLSA lawsuits, so it is essential that you contact an attorney immediately. If you wait, you may lose your ability to recover some or all of your back pay.

The department’s decision in 2010 to eliminate opinion letters benefitted employees because employers often relied upon opinion letters to assert a defense that their violation of the FLSA was not willful or that the violation was made in good-faith.  If successful in raising the good-faith defense, an employer could shield themselves from exposure to the liquidated (double) damages provision of the FLSA.  Now, employers are once again be permitted to argue that their violation of the FLSA was made in good-faith, due to their reliance on an opinion letter that may, or may not, apply to the case at hand.

Recently, the DOL reissued more than a dozen advisory opinion letters that were published during President George W. Bush’s presidency, but that was later rescinded.  These letters will likely give employers additional ammunition in FLSA lawsuits brought by employees. The reinstated opinion letters covered a number of topics, including whether certain employees qualify for recognized exemptions of the FLSA and whether certain job bonuses must be included in an individual’s regular pay rate (for purposes of calculating overtime).

After the release of the reissued opinion letters, it is expected that the DOL will not issue additional opinion letters until after a new Wage and Hour Division administrator is in place at the DOL.  President Trump recently nominated Cheryl Stanton, a defense attorney who most recently served as the head of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce.  Her nomination is currently pending in the Senate.

FLSA Overtime Lawsuits

Call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page if you believe that your wage rights are being violated under the FLSA. Our top-rated team of unpaid wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action to help you seek justice.

Our office will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. Because strict time limitations apply for filing these types of claims, we advise you contact our experienced unpaid overtime wage attorneys at your earliest convenience and preserve your legal rights.

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