Walter Olson, who has been blogging at Overlawyered longer than just about anyone, has a very notable story about the Obama administration’s efforts to expand wage & hour law and intensify its enforcement.
In so doing, the U.S. Department of Labor has invoked a little known provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act called a “hot goods” order, “which freezes the physical output of an employer that it suspects of having violated wage & hour law.”
Walter tracks an Oregon case in which the Labor Department labeled an estimated $5 million worth of fresh blueberries as forbidden to enter the commerce stream. The growers were offered a deal: “fork over a demanded cash settlement [and] this is the kicker — agree not to appeal.” Given that blueberries are a perishable crop, the growers took the deal and agreed to pay $240,000.
But a federal court threw out that settlement ruling that the government had overstepped its power. And last month, the government dropped the case against the growers.
The Department of Labor has released its own fact sheet though on the subject, as of October 2014. In doing so, it has put employers on notice that this is still in play.
While this provision isn’t likely to be used often against employers, it’s worth reading Walter’s post about it.