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A Deeper Look at the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division’s FY2015 Enforcement Statistics

Yesterday, we looked at statistics for FLSA lawsuits in federal courts during calendar year 2015.  The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) recently released its enforcement statistics for FY2015, which ended on September 30.  The data shows a few trends:

  • The WHD collected $247 million in back wages in total, up by $6 million from FY2014.
  • The WHD collected just over $1,027 per worker, with the $247 million being spread over 240,340 workers, up from approximately $890 per worker last year.
  • The 240,340 employees who received back wages was down almost 11% from FY 2014.  240,000 workers is on the lower end of long term WHD statistics dating back to the 1990s and well off the recent peaks of 341,624 in FY2007 and 308,846 in FY2012.
  • WHD recorded only 21,902 complaints, the fewest complaints since it began collecting these statistics in FY1997.
  • Congress’s freeze in funding the DOL may be limiting WHD’s ability to process the complaints it receives, too.  WHD took 125 days to resolve complaints on average, the highest since FY2012, when WHD had far more complaints and employees.
  • WHD investigators spent 52.71 hours on average resolving each complaint, almost equal to last year’s total of 52.69.  Both totals are higher than in FY2013, but lower than FY2012.  WHD does not release any advanced statistics that would shed light on the variations.
  • WHD concluded just 27,914 cases in FY2015, reflecting the slowdown in registered complaints year-over-year.  The difference between registered complaints and concluded complaints of just 6012 cases was the lowest since FY2010.
  • Nearly 80 of FLSA back wages that WHD recovered were for unpaid overtime, consistent with recent years.
  • With the exception of guard services (24 more cases), janitorial services (40), and temporary help (23), WHD’s case load in low-wage industries decreased.  Day care and restaurants showed more significant decreases.  With fewer cases, back wages recovered were down substantially in general.
  • WHD brought fewer restaurant cases this year (4,787 versus 5,118), but they were bigger: WHD recovered over $3.6 million more for nearly 2,800 more employees in FY2015.
  • WHD conducted 154 targeted child labor cases, down from 1,285 in FY2007, and the fewest number of directed child labor cases recorded since FY1997.  Including complaint cases, WHD concluded 542 child labor cases, which is also the lowest number of such cases reported.
  • FMLA complaints were down in FY2015, but the percentage of cases where WHD found violations was the highest since FY2009, continuing a 5-year trend of WHD finding more FMLA violations while bringing fewer overall cases.
  • While WHD did bring fewer agriculture industry cases in FY2015 and recovered fewer wages for fewer employees, it did increase the civil money penalties it recovered by nearly $2 million, to $5 million.  Much of these increased assessments came from increased civil penalties assessed under the H-2B program.
  • In industries with a high prevalence of H-2B workers (forestry, amusement, construction, food service, hotel/motel, janitorial services, landscaping services), WHD brought fewer cases with violations (just 24, versus 39 in FY2014), but those investigations covered 983 employees versus 180, bringing in over $1 million in back wages and civil money penalties.  The highly variable totals (due to small sample sizes) were largely due to a handful of major cases in food services and landscaping services.

While WHD has not dramatically increased the amount of time it spends investigating cases, the statistics show that it has focused its efforts on more substantial violations.  In FY2015, WHD brought far fewer cases, but collected more per case than in FY2014.  Particularly in low wage industries, employees need to remain vigilant in actively auditing FLSA and other wage and hour practices.  Ending up in the crosshairs of the DOL, or other federal or state agencies that report their findings to the DOL, increasingly appears to lead to more serious consequences, according to these new statistics.

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