Wage and Hour’s New Guidance System: Administrator Interpretations
In March 2010, in order to "provide meaningful and comprehensive guidance and compliance assistance to the broadest number of employers and employees," the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced that it would now issue "Administrator Interpretations" instead of the more fact-specific opinion letters that the agency has issued for many years.
Instead of being driven by specific inquiries from employers, WHD announced that it would issue Administrator Interpretations “when determined, in the administrator’s discretion, that further clarity regarding the proper interpretation of a statutory or regulatory issue is appropriate.”
Impact for Employers
WHD’s announcement of this new guidance system clarified that:
- Administrator Interpretations will set forth a general interpretation of the law and regulations, applicable across-the-board to all those affected by the provision in issue.
- Guidance in this form will be useful in clarifying the law as it relates to an entire industry, a category of employees, or to all employees.
- The Administrator believes that this will be a much more efficient and productive use of resources than attempting to provide definitive opinion letters in response to fact-specific requests submitted by individuals and organizations, where a slight difference in the assumed facts may result in a different outcome.
- Requests for opinion letters generally will be responded to by providing references to statutes, regulations, interpretations and cases that are relevant to the specific request but without an analysis of the specific facts presented.
WHD further advised employers that requests for opinion letters will be retained for purposes of the Administrator’s ongoing assessment of what issues might need further interpretive guidance.
As a result, employers will no longer be able to pose fact- and organization-specific questions to WHD. Instead, employers may be better positioned to rely on an interpretation geared toward a specific industry or category of employee to answer their own questions regarding FMLA. Currently, only one Administrator’s Interpretation has been issued by WHD; it interpreted the Fair Labor Standards Act’s exemption for mortgage loan offices.
WHD still does encourage individuals with questions about the application of wage and hour laws to contact the WHD’s regional and local offices listed at or call the Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243), Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time.