With the curtain falling on President Barack Obama’s administration and rising on President-elect Donald Trump’s, the U.S. Department of Labor could look very different at the end of next year. Trump’s pick for secretary of labor, Andrew Puzder, chief executive of CKE Restaurants, has a history of criticizing the sorts of labor and employment regulations, such as the expansion of overtime eligibility to more workers, that the department under current Secretary Thomas Perez has worked to promote. But the DOL has been busy in its last year under Obama and Perez. Here’s a look at the agency’s 2016 by the numbers:
$266 Million +
The amount of money in back wages that the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division secured for more than 280,000 workers in fiscal year 2016, according to recently released enforcement data. This is an 8.1 percent increase from more than $246 million last year. Back pay, the difference between what a worker was paid and what they should have been paid under an applicable law, is a frequent remedy obtained by Labor Department enforcers in lawsuits involving alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and other statutes.
The sum that two Massachusetts companies agreed under a consent judgment to pay in total back wages and damages to 478 employees to settle one of the biggest cases brought by the department this year for violations of the FLSA. The Wage and Hour Division charged that Force Corp., a construction company, and AB Construction Group Inc., a company created to provide much of the labor for Force Corp., misclassified many workers as independent contractors instead of full-time employees, depriving them of overtime and other benefits.
The number of workplace safety violations that the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and its inspectors found in workplaces across the U.S. in fiscal year 2016, a 7.9 percent drop from 65,044 in the previous year. Despite the reduction, the workplace safety regulator has imposed some big fines this year, most recently against an auto parts company in Alabama, Ajin USA, as well as two staffing agencies that worked with the company. OSHA announced on Dec. 14 that the three would pay more than $2.5 million in fines for 27 safety violations, including exposing workers to crushing and amputation hazards, an issue that allegedly led to the death of an employee in June.
The number of votes it will take in the Senate to confirm Puzder. Puzder, whose company owns and franchises Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants, has been an outspoken opponent of recent Labor Department regulations such as the new overtime rule, as well as the drive to raise the federal minimum wage. Due to a rule change pushed by Democratic senators back in November 2013 when they struggled to get Obama appointees past Republicans, it won’t take the previous standard number of 60 votes to get Trump appointees like Puzder approved.
The minimum wage for employees working on or in connection with federal contracts as of Jan. 1, 2016. In the absence of action in Congress on raising the federal minimum wage, Obama issued a February 2014 executive order that raised the minimum wage for contractors to $10.10 per hour as of January 2015, and allows the Labor Department to calculate future minimum wages based on indexing. The federal contractor minimum wage for 2017 is set to $10.20.
The number of days that remained before the scheduled Dec. 1, 2016, implementation date of the Labor Department’s overtime rules, when a judge in the Eastern District of Texas opted to temporarily enjoin the rules. Companies currently only have to pay nonexempt employees earning less than $23,660 a year time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours per week. But with the new rule, the salary threshold under which employees are eligible for overtime would rise to $47,476. The department has estimated that about 4 million additional workers would gain overtime eligibility from the rule, if it were allowed to go into effect.
The number of lawsuits filed challenging the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, which is intended to mitigate conflicts of interest in the retirement investment advisory industry. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected one challenge to the rule on Dec. 15, but three suits remain in Texas, one in Kansas and another in Minnesota. The rule could also be undone by the Trump administration outside of the courts, a goal that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is already pursuing, according to the National Law Journal.