Labor Department Campaign Encourages Workers to Report Employers That Violate Worker Rights
On April 1, 2010, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis unveiled "We Can Help," a new campaign designed to educate workers on their workplace rights and encourage them to report employers that are violating those rights. This effort is being spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage & Hour Division (WHD), which is responsible for enforcing some of our nation's most comprehensive federal labor laws on topics including the minimum wage, overtime pay, and the payment of prevailing wages for government service and construction contracts, to name a few.
According to remarks made by the Secretary, DOL "will use public service announcements, worker rights videos, posters, publications, and billboard advertisements" to "inform workers of their rights, and encourage them - regardless of immigration status - to report violations of wage and hour laws that occur on the job." She also noted that she has increased the number of additional field investigators by 250 over the past year and is "not done yet!" A DOL-issued news release notes that the campaign will "place a special focus on reaching employees in such industries as construction, janitorial work, hotel/motel services, food services and home health care. It will also address such topics as rights in the workplace and how to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division to recover wages owed."
The videos, posters and other materials used to reach workers are available in several languages, including Spanish, Chinese, and Polish, and DOL has partnered with several well-known public figures and entertainers, such as Latino actor Jimmy Smits, to catch the attention of workers. DOL will also work with faith-based organizations, unions and other groups to distribute materials in the field. In an April 6 article, The Wall Street Journal reported that an AFL-CIO representative said that the labor federation's affiliates would not only distribute announcements and other materials to workers, but would arrange meetings between workers and WHD staff, and hold forums at union halls where workers can watch videos about minimum wage and learn how to track the number of hours they work. To view the videos and other materials, visit www.dol.gov/wecanhelp.
The Associated General Contractors of America encourages construction contractors to comply with the laws enforced by the WHD and the entire U.S. Department of Labor, including the payment of minimum and prevailing wages, and offers many compliance assistance tools. These tools are available in the compensation section of AGC's Labor & HR Topical Resources Web page. Employers may also consult WHD's Field Operations Handbook or contact DOL directly. Contractors faced with a sudden WHD audit or worker complaint, are advised to promptly contact an employment law attorney licensed to practice in the state for immediate guidance.
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