This year, the U.S. Department of Labor has taken great strides to modernize the office and better serve the public. The new website is only part of that.
This week, the DOL has begun a series of webchats with the public discuss the 2010 regulatory agenda and other issues facing the Department of Labor. They continue through Wednesday. You can find them all here.
You can also submit questions to the DOL via Twitter using the hashtag #dolregs to designate your post. (If you have no idea what a hashtag is, check out this article).
While the chats themselves are fairly ornery (after all, the DOL isn’t going to announce new policies in a webchat just yet), they do provide some nuggets of information to employers. For example, in Monday’s webchat, DOL Secretary Hilda Solis only briefly touched on the Employee Free Choice Act, saying that it was in Congress’s hands. Some have interpreted this as a less-than-ringing endorsement of the bill.
In the Wage & Hour chat, the DOL reiterated that it is in the midst of training up to 250 new investigators who will ramp up enforcement of various wage and hour laws. Industries that employ "vulnerable workers" will be targeted and will include include agriculture, restaurants, janitorial, construction and car washes, among others.
During the webchat, I had an opportunity to inquiry about the DOL’s efforts to update their FLSA recordkeeping regulations to address the storage of electronic records, particularly those that may be stored in the cloud. In response, the DOL indicated it is still identifying priorities for its agenda:
While we have not yet issued a proposed rule, we intend to propose regulations on FLSA recordkeeping to promote transparency and encourage greater compliance. We would encourage you to submit your comments through the formal comment process, so they can be properly considered, when the rule is proposed. You can find WHD’s proposed regulations at www.regulations.gov.
These webchats are hardly perfect. Because they are recorded, it’s obvious the DOL is taking a rigid approach to its responses. Nevertheless, more transparency is better than none and hopefully, it is another step in the DOL’s embrace of social media to provide more information to the public in an unfilted fashion.