The US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division on Feb. 8 announced a Warehouse and Logistics Worker initiative designed to help safeguard the rights and ensure protection of workers in these industries, including delivery drivers and truck drivers. The initiative will also target misclassification of employees as independent contractors, which the department said is a “common occurrence” in both industries.
The initiative aims to make sure those in the two industries are paid all their legally earned wages, including minimum and overtime; are safe from workplace harassment and retaliation when they claim their rights; and are not prevented from taking time off from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
According to the Labor Department, problems and misconceptions which Wage and Hour investigations commonly disclose in the wholesale and warehouse industry include:
- The misapplication of the executive or administrative exemptions to non-exempt persons, such as clerical workers, working foremen, dispatchers and inside salespersons.
- Employment of underage minors, especially in the operation of forklifts and paper balers.
- The misconception that salaried employees need not be paid overtime.
- Failure to pay employees for all hours suffered or permitted to work, including time spent taking inventory, completing paperwork, etc., beyond the normal schedule.
- Failure to maintain time records on salaried or piece-rate employees.
- Giving compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay.
- Considering certain employees to be “contract labor” and thus, not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act’s provisions.
- Deductions made for reasons other than board, lodging, etc., in overtime work weeks.
“The pandemic highlighted the vital role warehouse workers, delivery drivers, truck drivers and others in the warehousing and logistics industries play in supporting our nation’s homes, businesses and economy,” said Acting Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman. “These essential workers ensure medical supplies, construction materials, food and clothing, and many other necessities of daily life arrive where they are needed, and the Wage and Hour Division will use all of its tools to ensure employers comply with federal labor laws and pay workers their hard-earned wages.”
The initiative will use education, outreach and “vigorous enforcement” to increase compliance and reduce industry violations. It will also identify key stakeholders — such as worker advocacy groups, employers and employer organizations — to aid in the initiative, according to the department.