Effective January 16th, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) increased civil monetary fines and penalties for violating DOL-governed laws. Specifically, these DOL laws include those that control federal minimum wage, overtime, posting, polygraph usage, immigration status, and safety requirements. The higher amounts apply to penalties assessed after January 15 (but occurred after November 2nd, 2015) and include the following:

This release follows the DOL’s recent final rule on determining independent contractor status within the workplace.


The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 allowed federal agencies to make inflation adjustments to civil monetary penalties. Those adjustments, however, are only imposed under laws the agencies enforce. The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (Inflation Adjustment Act) made amendments to the law. The amendments required agencies to make an initial “catch-up” inflation adjustment for penalties by August 1st, 2016. Additionally, agencies are to make subsequent annual adjustments for inflation no later than January 15 of each year. The agencies use the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U) in determining these adjustments.

List of 2021 Penalty Increases

  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA). The EPPA generally prevents employers from using lie detector tests for pre-employment screening or during the course of employment. The maximum penalty has risen from $21,410 to $21,663.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA allows for monetary penalties against any person who repeatedly or willfully violates federal minimum wage or overtime requirements. The maximum penalty has risen from $2,050 to $2,074.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA requires employers to conspicuously post a notice explaining the statute’s provisions and providing information for filing complaints. The maximum penalty was previously $176 and is now $178.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). Under the OSH Act, employers must provide a place of employment that is free from hazards. The maximum penalty for serious, other-than-serious, and posting violations increases from $13,494 to $13,653 for each violation. Similarly, the same increase applies for any failures to abate violations. The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations rises from $134,937 to $136,532.

Employer Takeaways

As mentioned earlier, the DOL reviews their fines and penalties every January for possible inflation-related increases. To minimize potential liability, employers should review their pay practices, postings, and safety protocols on order to ensure compliance.