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DOL releases opinion letters dealing with wages

Some employees in Long Island might be affected by opinion letters issued by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division. The letters, released on April 12, deal with Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The letter dealing with the CCPA addresses the question of what constitutes "earnings" and therefore what can be garnished. The letter concluded that any payments exchanged for an employee's services are earnings. However, certain payments, including certain damages and reimbursement for medical expenses as part of workers' compensation, are not included.

The FLSA letter addressed the compensation due to an employee who has to travel for work outside of the normal local commute, such as an overnight business trip. This largely dealt with how to deal with determining whether travel time is compensable for employees who do not have regular hours. The letter concluded that regular work hours might be determined by looking at the time card, having the employer choose what constituted regular hours or having the employee and employer negotiate.

Finally, the DOL concluded that employees required to take frequent rest breaks as mandated by a medical provider do not have to be compensated for those breaks. However, they should receive the same compensation for breaks as other employees.

People who believe their employers are in violation of these or another wage and hour law might want to discuss the situation with an attorney. Other types of wage and hour violations could include failing to pay overtime or misclassification of an employee including classing one as a contractor who is actually an employee. An employee might also face retaliation at work for pointing out these issues. If many people are affected by the wage issue, it may be possible to file a class action suit.

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