DOL enforcement continues to move in progressive direction

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued an agency rule that rescinds the approach adopted under the prior Federal administration. The previous Federal administration’s practice permitted Federal contractors to use religious faith as a defense to liability for civil rights violations. In other words, the DOL’s recent rescission returns the agency’s policy for interpreting and applying the religious exemption in Executive Order 11246 to being consistent with Title VII and related case law. Therefore, religious faith no longer offers a valid defense for employers when facing claims of discrimination, harassment, or other disparate treatment from past and/or present employees.

The DOL also recently announced that it is expanding enforcement efforts to identify and eliminate child labor, wage theft, and other workplace abuses. The DOL’s enhanced enforcement under the leadership of soon-to-be Secretary of Labor Julie Su continues to be reinforced by the enhanced enforcement at the State and Local levels. In Minnesota, for example, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry as well as the Wage Theft Unit led by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison are both having a significant and positive impact on employee rights and employer responsibilities. The robust enforcement efforts by public authorities also enhance the ability of private parties to address workplace violations through class actions and collective actions.