The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced a partnership that will strengthen the labor law enforcement efforts of both agencies. Jointly, the agencies solidified their partnership in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Within the MOU, the agencies agree to combine resources and efforts to enforce the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act), the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), and more. In August, the EEOC issued a proposed rule to implement the PWFA.
Overview of the Agencies
The WHD operates as a division of the DOL and is tasked with enforcing the federal minimum wage, overtime pay, and other requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the nation’s primary wage law and one of the major employment laws employers must follow. Overall, the WHD’s mission is to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance the welfare of the nation’s workforce.
Meanwhile, the EEOC is a federal agency responsible for enforcing federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and others. Specifically, these laws prohibit discrimination against employees and applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and related conditions, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.
Agency Partnership to Strengthen Labor Law Enforcement
The EEOC and the WHD announced on September 14th, 2023, that they will partner to enhance federal labor law enforcement and outreach efforts between the two agencies. According to the bi-agency MOU, the partnership will allow the agencies to respond more efficiently to the public through the following:
- Establishing a referral system;
- Coordinating investigations;
- Cross-training personnel; and
- Holding joint educational outreach events.
Currently, the WHD and EEOC enforce the PUMP Act and the PWFA. So far, the agencies’ combined efforts in labor law enforcement have fruited several events to raise public awareness of these new laws.
In May, the WHD released guidance on enforcing the PUMP Act. The guidance included key enforcement areas. In brief, these include break time requirements, paid and unpaid nursing breaks, privacy requirements, and functionality of a space to express breast milk at work. The WHD’s guidance also covered prohibitions against retaliation, as well as included exemptions for specific employers. According to Principal Deputy Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman, “Our partnership with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission helps us work across federal agencies to ensure workers are treated fairly, paid fairly and do not have to fear retaliation when demanding the workplace protections that federal labor laws such as the PUMP Act require.” Beyond these new laws, the MOU states that the agencies agree to combine enforcement efforts on future employment law areas.