Department of Labor Programs Small Businesses Should Know About

The DOL has developed tools and programs to help employers understand employment laws, and to encourage compliance.

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Check out these useful DOL tools to avoid non-compliance penalties

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) oversees a variety of federal employment laws —  including wages and hours, overtime pay, employee benefits, and occupational safety. Employers are expected to follow these regulations, and can face penalties for noncompliance. As a small employer, you want to comply — but the sheer volume and complexity of these laws can obstruct that intention. Apparently, the DOL knows this.

The DOL has developed tools and programs to help employers understand employment laws, and to encourage compliance. These resources include:

  • elaws Advisors: Wage and hour
  • elaws Advisors: Assistance for workers and small businesses
  • Employer.gov
  • Worker.gov
  • Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (DFVCP)
  • Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program
  • Excellence in Disability Inclusion (EDI) award
  • HIRE Vets Medallion program
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) On-site Consultation

elaws Advisors: Wage and hour

These are interactive online tools that help employers understand their federal wage and hour obligations, including under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

FLSA Advisors:

  • Coverage and Employment Status — reveals which employers and employees are covered by the FLSA
  • Hours Worked — explains which work hours are compensable under the FLSA
  • Overtime Security — determines which employees are exempt from FLSA minimum wage and overtime pay rules
  • Overtime Calculator — computes overtime pay based on information entered by the user
  • Child Labor Rules — describes youth employment laws, including the hours and types of jobs minors can work
  • Section 14(c) — outlines special minimum wage requirements for employees with disabilities

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Advisor. Employer and employee FMLA rights and obligations under the FMLA.

Poster Advisor. Workplace poster requirements for employers.

FirstStep Recordkeeping, Reporting and Notices Advisor. DOL recordkeeping, reporting, and notices rules for employers.

FirstStep Employment Law Advisor. Basic education on employment law, for all employers — including nonprofits.

elaws Advisors: Assistance for workers and small businesses

The DOL’s elaws Advisors website offers centralized employment law assistance for workers and small businesses.

Assistance categories:

  • Pay and benefits
  • Posters and recordkeeping
  • Safety and health
  • Youth employment
  • Veterans’ issues
  • Federal contractor
  • Mining industry

Additionally, the site provides a single link to all elaws Advisors. However, as the DOL states, elaws Advisors have not yet been built for every DOL law and regulation. Therefore, your issue may be covered under laws not addressed by this website.”

Employer.gov

The DOL created Employer.gov to help employers understand their role as an employer. The site answers common questions employers may have — such as regarding pay, benefits, and workplace inclusion. Moreover, it contains resources specifically for small businesses.

The DOL created Employer.gov to help employers understand their role as an employer. The site answers common questions employers may have — such as regarding pay, benefits, and workplace inclusion. Moreover, it contains resources specifically for small businesses.

Worker.gov

The DOL implemented Worker.gov to help workers comprehend their protections under federal labor laws, including their right to:

  • Receive payment properly
  • A safe and healthy workplace
  • Receive equal treatment
  • Join with coworkers to improve their wages and working conditions
  • Receive fair treatment as a veteran or service member

Both Employer.gov and Worker.gov are designed to make it easier for employers and employees to locate and understand employment-related information.

Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (DFVCP)

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) sets the minimum federal standards for private-sector employee benefit plans. This includes reporting and disclosure requirements for retirement plans (e.g., 401k) and welfare benefit plans (e.g., group health insurance).

Employers with ERISA-covered benefit plans must perform annual reporting by filing IRS Form 5500 with the DOL by the mandated deadline. Small employers with fewer than 100 plan participants can file via Form 5500-SF (short-form version). The DOL may assess civil penalties on employers who violate Form 5500 filing rules.

Under the DOL’s Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program, employers can voluntarily self-correct ERISA filing violations and reduce associated penalties. Specifically, those who failed to file a timely Form 5500 can use the DFVCP to bring themselves into compliance and pay a lower penalty amount.

The DOL has specific rules for who can participate in the DFVCP, and how plan administrators can file a delinquent Form 5500 or Form 5500-SF. The online filing process involves utilizing the DFVCP penalty calculator.

For details on the DFVCP, read the DOL’s:

PAID program

The DOL’s Payroll Audit Independent Determination program lets employers efficiently resolve FLSA minimum wage and overtime pay violations. According to the DOL, “The [PAID] program’s primary objectives are to resolve such claims quickly and without litigation, to improve employers’ compliance and to ensure that more employees receive the back wages they are owed faster.”

Violations may stem from allegations surrounding “off-the-clock” work, failure to pay regular or overtime wages, or misclassifying employees as exempt under the FLSA.

Employers in the PAID program must:

  • Thoroughly audit their pay practices
  • Self-report any overtime or minimum wage violations that they uncover, and
  • Fix the pay issues found

Although program participants are required to pay all back wages owed, they will not be subject to additional payments — such as liquidated damages and monetary penalties — so long as they cooperate with the DOL to correct the issue.

For more information on the PAID program, see the DOL’s Questions and Answers About Paid.

Excellence in Disability Inclusion award

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 forbids federal contractors from discriminating in employment against people with disabilities. These employers must take proactive measures to recruit, hire, promote, and retain qualified individuals with disabilities. The DOL created the Excellence in Disability Inclusion award to recognize federal contractors who excel in meeting this affirmative action obligation.

The EDI awards has 2 categories of recognition:

  1. The “Gold Award” for up to 4 federal contractors (2 large and 2 small)
  2. A 3-year moratorium on compliance evaluations by the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program (OFCCP)

Award recipients will also participate in a “Year of Engagement” program to help educate other federal contractors, and to promote best practices on disability inclusion. Moreover, up to 20 federal contractors will be recognized as “Pacesetters.”

Federal contractors must submit an application to the OFCCP in order to be considered for the EDI award.

HIRE Vets Medallion program

The DOL’s HIRE Vets Medallion program awards employers who demonstrate commitment to recruiting, hiring, and retaining U.S. veterans.

According to the HIRE Vets website, These employers set an example for other employers of the importance of prioritizing and encouraging successful veteran hiring and retention. The award signals to veterans that an employer is committed to and supports our nation’s heroes.”

HIRE Vets Medallion awards are distributed based on employer size. There are awards for:

  • Large employers with 500 or more employees
  • Medium employers with more than 50 but less than 500 employees
  • Small employers with 50 or fewer employees

Each of these categories has 2 levels of awards: platinum and gold. Interested employers can apply through the HIRE Vets website. Note: To apply, employers must pay a fee, which varies by employer size.

OSHA On-site Consultation Program

OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program provides free, confidential health and safety services to small and midsize businesses in all 50 states.

OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program provides free, confidential health and safety services to small and midsize businesses in all 50 states. The program enables smaller businesses to learn about potential hazards at their workplace, enhance existing programs, and possibly qualify for a 1-year exemption from routine inspections by OSHA.

As noted by OSHA, the no-cost consultation “is confidential and will not be reported routinely to the OSHA inspection staff.” Further, No citations or penalties will be issued and your only obligation is to correct serious job safety and health hazards.”

OSHA says that the On-site Consultation program conducts over 26,000 visits annually to small businesses looking to establish or improve their health and safety programs.

To request a free OSHA consultation for your small business, see OSHA’s Consultation Directory.

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