Enforcing labor laws

ENFORCING LABOR LAWS…. Change I can believe in. (via Mark Kleiman)

In a move that will affect most American corporations, the Labor Department plans to require companies to prepare and adopt compliance plans aimed at ensuring they do not violate wage, job safety and equal employment laws.

The effort, aimed in part at reducing the incidence of employers not paying overtime and improperly classifying workers as independent contractors, will require them to document many of their decisions and share that information with their workers and the government.

In announcing the department’s intentions on Thursday, Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris said his department wanted to foster a culture of compliance among employers to replace what he described as a “catch me if you can” system in which too many companies violated employment laws.

The amusing part of this is that the Chamber of Commerce is outraged. How dare U.S. officials responsible for protecting workers’ interests actually enforce existing labor laws.

The differences between the major parties are great (and getting greater), but one of the most glaring changes from a Republican presidential administration to a Democratic one is the decision to start taking labor laws seriously.

Department officials say they hope the plan will greatly reduce problems in industries with widespread wage violations, like restaurants and discount retailing, and those with widespread safety violations, like coal mining and construction.

“Employers will have to put together a plan that is designed to avoid violations of workplace laws,” [Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris] said. “In safety and health, they will have to prepare a plan that will avoid safety hazard in the workplace. They will have to implement the plan, and they will have to make sure the plan, as implemented, is effective in avoiding violations for risks and hazards to workers.”

What a concept.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.