Department of Labor

Department of Labor in the United States

Introduction to Department of Labor

Department of Labor, executive department of the United States government, created by an act of Congress in 1913 “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States, to improve their working conditions and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment.” The department is administered by a secretary, who is appointed by the president with the approval of the Senate. Predecessor agencies were the Bureau of Labor in the Department of the Interior (1884) and the Department of Commerce and Labor (1903).

The secretary of labor is a member of the president’s cabinet and is the chief adviser on labor matters. The secretary is assisted by a deputy secretary, various assistant secretaries, the commissioner of labor statistics, and the solicitor of labor, who is responsible for legal activities.

The Department of Labor is made up of offices, bureaus, and administrations. The following are among the major operating units.

Under the office of the deputy secretary are included the Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board, Office of Small Business and Minority Affairs, Office of Administrative Law Judges, and Wage Appeals Board.

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) oversees programs to furnish job training and placement services; supervises payment of unemployment compensation under federal and state laws; and conducts national employment and training programs for Native Americans, migrant workers, and other disadvantaged citizens. The ETA includes the U.S. Employment Service, Unemployment Insurance Service, Office of Job Training Programs, Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, and Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Development.

The Employment Standards Administration enforces laws regulating wages and hours and prohibiting sex and age discrimination in employment; administers workers’ compensation for work-connected disabilities among federal and certain private employees; and supervises equal opportunity requirements for federal contractors. It includes the Wage and Hour Division, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, and Office of Labor-Management Standards.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. It issues regulations, conducts inspections, and issues citations for noncompliance with safety and health standards established by the act. The Mine Safety and Health Administration develops mandatory standards of health and safety, issues penalties for violations, investigates accidents, and provides training programs in cooperation with the mining industry. It works with the states to reduce mine accidents and occupational diseases.

The Office of Labor-Management Standards protects the rights of union members and regulates union handling of funds and election of officers. The Bureau of Labor-Management Relations and Cooperative Programs administers federal labor-management relations and strengthens free collective bargaining procedures. The Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration regulates private pension and health and welfare plans, as required under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the government’s main fact-gathering agency in the field of economics. It publishes statistics on employment, wages, hours of work, work stoppages, prices, and occupational health and safety.

The Veteran’s Employment and Training Service protects reemployment rights of veterans and provides them with maximum employment opportunities. The Women’s Bureau formulates policies to promote the welfare of wage-earning women by improving their working conditions and their opportunities for professional employment. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs helps to formulate international economic policies that affect American workers, represents the U.S. in international trade negotiations, and carries out technical assistance projects abroad.” (1)

Purpose of the Department of Labor

The Department of Labor oversees federal programs for ensuring a strong American workforce. These programs address job training, safe working conditions, minimum hourly wage and overtime pay, employment discrimination, and unemployment insurance.

The Department of Labor’s mission is to foster and promote the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, strengthening free collective bargaining, and tracking changes in employment, prices, and other national economic measurements.

Offices within the Department of Labor include the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal government’s principal statistics agency for labor economics, and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, which promotes the safety and health of America’s working men and women.

The Secretary of Labor oversees 15,000 employees on a budget of approximately $50 billion.

Legal Materials

Most Department of Labor materials are posted on the DOL Web site including the statutes, regs, executive orders & notices administered or issued by the Department. The DOL’s Office of Public Affairs (202-219-8211) will fax press releases and other public information. For other questions and hard-to find materials, call the the DOL’s Wirtz Labor Library (202-693-6600) or the DOL’s Law Library (202-219-4169).

Administrative Law Judge Decisions: The DOL posts a database of ALJ decisions. They can also be pulled or searched on Lexis.

DOLE ALJ decisions are cited as a year, a 3-digit abbreviation and the chronological number of the opinion issued with that abbreviation (e.g., 2009 FRS 14), sometimes with dashes rather than spaces (2009-FRS-14). The year is the year the case was filed. The abbreviations stand for the underlying statue (e.g. FRS for the Federal Rail Safety Act or SOX for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act); there are about 80 of them. Note: the decision number must be five digits to pull a cite from the DOL database 2009 frs 00014). For more, see the Guidelines for Citation of Decisions .

The abbreviations in use as of 2013 are: ACA; ACM; AIR; ARN; BCA; BCP; BLA; BLB; BLO; BMO; BTD; CAA; CBV; CCP; CER; CET; CETA; CLA; CPS; CRA; CTA; DBA; DCA; DCW; EPP; ERA; ESA; FLS; FRS; HAV; INA; JSA; JSW; JTP; LCA; LCA; LDA; LHC; MBO; MIS; MSA; MSP; NHA; NTS; NQW; OAA; OFC; OSH; PCA; PED; PER; PSI; PWD; RIS; SCA; SDW; SOC; SOX; SPA; STA; SWD; TAE; TLC; TLN; TNE; TRA; TSC; TSE; UIA; VET; WIA; WIN; WPA; WPC; WTW. An incomplete list of the related statutes is posted on the DMS Search Help Page.

Administrative Review Board: All ARB decisions are posted on the DOJ Web site by date and by party name.

ARB decisions are searchable on Westlaw (FLB-ARB). Created in 1996, the Administrative Review Board has jurisdiction to issue decisions formerly issued by the department of Wage Appeals Board (FLB-WAB), the Labor Board of Service Contract Appeals (FGC-LBSCA), and the Office of Administrative Appeals (FLB-OAA). The FLB-ARB database also contains all documents in the FLB-WAB, FGC-LBSCA, and FLB-OAA databases.

Documents filed in pending ARB cases are generally considered confidential. Briefs are posted on the ARB website for a very few cases, solely at the discretion of the Board.

Benefits Review Board: The BRB “hears appeals of ALJ decisions under the Black Lung Benefits Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.” The DOL Office of Administrative Law Judges posts BRB decisions.

Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA): The EBSA (formerly the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration or PWBA) administers a series of laws regulating pensions and other retirement benefits, notably the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The EBSA section of the DOL web site provides information about the Agency. The Compliance Assistance page links to relevant regulations, exemption determinations, advisory opinions, information letters, technical releases and field assistance bulletins, amicus briefs and the EBSA Enforcement Manual.

ERISA Advisory Opinion Letters: Are posted free on the Advisory Opinions page of the DOJ Web site back to 1992. For older opinions, an attorney from Niedweske Barber posts a collection covering 1974 to 2002, arranged by subject and opinion number. Advisory Opinions are searchable on Lexis (LABOR;ERISA) Westlaw, the subscription-based BNA Benefits Practice Center and the subscription-based BNA ERISA Compliance & Enforcement Library. They are also published in the CCH Pension Plan Guide, under the heading “PWBA/ESBA Opinion Letters” in the print edition, and online through Intelliconnect. Alternatively, you can call call a document retrieval service and ask them to pick up what you need from the DOL in D.C. They will probably want a case name and cite (if necessary, get the cite from an index).

If needed, you can file a FOIA request with the Department of Labor to get the background materials that went into the issuance of an Advisory Opinion. Generally, you request all the documents available, including the request letter and any other correspondence.

Field Operations Handbook and Field Assistance Bulletins: The DOL posts much of its Field Operations Handbook, as well as Field Assistance Bulletins back to 2002. There is a version of the Field Operations Handbook on Lexis with more information than the DOL’s version.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration: See the separate entry for “Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).”

Opinion Letters: See “ERISA Advisory Opinion Letters,” above and/or “Wages and Hours,” below.

Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (PWBA): See “Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)”, above.

Wage and Hour Division: The Wage and Hour Division of the DOL’s Employment Standards Administration administers the minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor and record keeping requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and several other employment-protection laws. The Division’s web site provides information about the division, the relevant Federal statutes and regulations, forms and lots of layman-oriented explanations of employment laws for both employers and employees.

Wage and Hour opinion letters are are published in roughly chronological order back to 1961 in the “Wage-Hours Administrative Rulings” pamphlets at the end of the CCH Labor Law Reporter. Selected letters are published in the “Wages and Hours Manual” included in the BNA Labor Relations Reporter (in the general index under “Opinion Letters”). Letters are available electronically from the following sources:

  • The Division posts its own Opinion Letters free back to 2001 (scroll down to see the links);
  • CCH has the most comprehensive online collection of wage-hour letters to my knowledge – going back to 1938 – in the CCH Labor Law Reporter transfer binders (indexed in the Wages-Hours binder volume 1), the CCH Wages-Hours Reporter and the CCH/Aspen Labor and Employment e-Library, both available by subscription through Intelliconnect.
  • The comprehensive CCH opinion letter collection (1935-present; selective before 1996) is also available on Lexis, in a file combining wage & hour opinion letters, cases and administrative rulings (CCHEMP;WHFCAS);
  • BNA’s subscription-based Labor and Employment Law Library includes selected letters;
  • Westlaw has selected letters starting in 1970 (FLB-WHOL).

To get very recent opinion letters, call the Wage and Hour Division


The Department of Labor fosters and promotes the welfare of the job seekers, wage
earners, and retirees, by improving working conditions, advancing opportunities
for pro?table employment, protecting retirement and health care bene?ts, matching
workers to employers, strengthening free collective bargaining, and tracking changes
in employment, prices, and other national economic measurements. The Department
administers a variety of Federal labor laws to guarantee workers’ rights to fair, safe,
and healthy working conditions, including minimum hourly wage and overtime
pay, freedom from employment discrimination, unemployment insurance, and other
income support.

The Department of Labor (DOL) was created by act of March 4, 1913 (29
U.S.C. 551). A Bureau of Labor was first created by Congress by act of June
24, 1884, in the Interior Department.

The Bureau of Labor later became independent as a Department of Labor
without executive rank by act of June 13, 1888. It again returned to bureau status in
the Department of Commerce and Labor, which was created by act of February 14,
1903 (15 U.S.C. 1501; 29 U.S.C. 1 note).

Concept of Department of Labor

In relation to immigration and citizenship, Department of Labor is defined as: Department of the executive branch of the U.S. government that fosters and promotes the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the U.S. by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, strengthening free collective bargaining, and tracking changes in employment, prices, and other national economic measurements. In carrying out this mission, the department administers a variety of federal labor laws including those that guarantee workers’ rights to safe and healthful working conditions; a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay; freedom from employment discrimination; unemployment insurance; and other income support.

Department of Labor Background

Most Popular Entries related to Department of Labor

Department of Labor

In Legislation

Department of Labor in the U.S. Code: Title 29, Chapter 12

The current, permanent, in-force federal laws regulating department of labor are compiled in the United States Code under Title 29, Chapter 12. It constitutes “prima facie” evidence of statutes relating to Labor (including department of labor) of the United States. The readers can further narrow their legal research on the topic by chapter and subchapter.


Notes and References

  1. Information about Department of Labor in the Encarta Online Encyclopedia

See Also

Arbitration, Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Consumer Price Index (CPI)
Disabilities Law
Labor Law
Labor Statistics
Minimum Wage
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Producer Price Index
Retirement Plans
Document Retrieval

Department of Labor: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Department of Labor. This part provides references, in relation to Department of Labor, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Department of Labor by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Department of Labor and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Department of Labor or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Department of Labor and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Department of Labor. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Department of Labor should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Department of Labor when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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