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October 8, 2008    DOL Home > ESA > About ESA   

Employment Standards Administration (ESA)

Employment Standards Administration - The mission of the Employment Standards Administration is enhand the welfare and protect the rights of America's workers

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All About the Employment Standards Administration

The Employment Standards Administration (ESA), the largest agency within the U.S. Department of Labor, enforces and administers laws governing legally-mandated wages and working conditions.

  • Such laws include: child labor, minimum wages, overtime and family and medical leave;
  • equal employment opportunity in businesses with federal contracts and subcontracts;
  • workers' compensation for certain employees injured on their jobs;
  • internal union democracy and financial integrity, and union elections, which protect the rights of union members;
  • other laws and regulations governing employment standards and practices.

ESA and its four component programs - - the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Office of Labor-Management Standards, the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs and the Wage and Hour Division - - have closely monitored and enforced laws protecting the wage, hours, equal employment opportunity, working conditions and injury compensation of workers. While each program has an established identity of its own, all work together to support, protect and defend the rights of American workers under these labor laws.

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Wage And Hour Division

The Wage and Hour Division was established in 1938 to administer the landmark Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which includes minimum wage, overtime pay and child labor provisions. In 1938, about 12 million workers were covered by the then-minimum wage of 25 cents an hour. Today, about 110 million full and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state and local governments are protected by the law. However, since 1938 the Wage and Hour Division's responsibilities have grown to include other laws and regulations which protect workers against unfair employment practices.

In addition to the FLSA, Wage and Hour has responsibility for the enforcement and administration of a number of other labor laws. These programs include government contract labor standards statutes, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, and immigration laws which provide certain employment standards and worker protections.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), which became effective August 5, 1993, requires private sector employers of 50 or more employees and public agencies to provide eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for the birth of a child, placement of an adopted or foster child; to care for a child, spouse or parent with a serious health condition; and, for the employee's own serious health condition. The FMLA also requires covered employers to continue health benefits coverage during the leave, and restoration of the employee upon completion of leave, to the same or an equivalent job.

The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act (MSPA) sets standards for migrant and seasonal farmworkers regarding wages, housing, and transportation. MSPA requires that contractors of migrant farmworkers register with the federal government, and notify prospective workers of the wages and working conditions before they are hired. MSPA also requires that housing provided for the workers meet certain minimum standards for health and safety, and that workers be transported in vehicles that meet certain safety standards.

The Wage and Hour Division is also responsible for laws setting wage and hour standards for federal contractors. The Davis-Bacon and Related Acts cover workers on Federal construction contracts, and on construction contracts that are federally-financed in whole or in part. The McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act applies to workers on federal service contracts, and the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act applies to workers on federal supply contracts.

Wage and Hour also has certain responsibilities under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Immigration Reform and Control Act responsibilities include: (1) enforcement of the labor standards protections for temporary nonimmigrant agricultural workers admitted to the U.S. under various programs; and (2) inspection for compliance with the recordkeeping requirements of the employer sanctions provisions.

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act prohibits most private employers (federal, state and local government employers are exempted from the Act) from using any lie detector tests either for pre-employment screening or during the course of employment. Polygraph tests, but no other types of lie detector tests, are permitted under limited circumstances subject to certain restrictions.

The wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act protect employees from discharge by their employers because their wages have been garnished for any one debt, and it limits the amount of an employee's earnings that may be garnished in any one week. CCPA also applies to all employers and individuals who receive earnings for personal services (including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses and income from a pension or retirement program, but ordinarily not including tips).

The Wage and Hour Division's enforcement activities are carried out by Investigators in district and regional offices across the nation.

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Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs

Since 1965, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has had the responsibility of assuring that employers doing business with the federal government comply with the equal employment opportunity (EEO) and the affirmative action provisions of their contracts. OFCCP administers and enforces three equal employment opportunity programs that apply to federal contractors and subcontractors: Executive Order 11246, as amended, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the affirmative action provisions of the Vietnam Era Veteran's Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974.

Executive Order 11246, as amended, prohibits covered federal contractors and subcontractors, and federally-assisted construction contractors and subcontractors, from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The order also requires federal contractors take affirmative action to ensure that equal opportunity is provided in all aspects of their employment.

Section 503 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, as amended, prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Section 503 also imposes an affirmative duty upon contractors to accommodate the limitations of their employees with disabilities and to take steps to recruit, hire and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities.

The affirmative action provisions of the Vietnam-Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended (38 USC 4212) prohibit discrimination and require federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment veterans of Vietnam and special disabled veterans of all wars.

Federal contractors or subcontractors subject to the laws administered by OFCCP employ more than 23 percent of the U.S. labor force (29 million workers).

OFCCP enforces these equal employment opportunity and affirmative action requirements primarily through compliance reviews and complaint investigations. OFCCP's enforcement activities are carried out by compliance officers in district and regional offices across the nation, who conduct more than 4,000 compliance reviews and investigate more than 800 complaints each year.

OFCCP also shares enforcement authority for the regulations requiring equal employment opportunity and affirmative actions in apprenticeship programs; Title I of the American With Disabilities Act; the Immigration Reform and Control Act; and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

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Office of Labor-Management Standards

Administers and enforces provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, as amended (LMRDA), and sections of various other acts (Postal Reorganization Act, Civil Service Reform Act and Foreign Service Act) within the responsibility of the Secretary of Labor. OLMS seeks to promote internal union democracy and financial integrity and to protect the rights of union members. OLMS also administers the Secretary of Labor's statutory responsibilities for the Transit Employee Protection Program and for other employee protection programs.

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Office of Workers' Compensation Programs

The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) had its origins in an organization established in 1916 to administer claims under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act. The program has existed since then under various names. Benefits are available under this Act and through its amendments to more than three million federal white and blue collar employees, members of the Peace Corps and Vista volunteers.

OWCP also administers the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act of 1927. This Act covers all maritime workers injured or killed upon the navigable waters of the U.S., as well as employees working on adjoining piers, docks and terminals, plus a number of other groups included through an extension of the Act. Compensation under this Act is paid by employers who are self-insured, or through insurance policies provided by private insurers to employers.

The Black Lung Benefits Reform Act of 1977 is the third major program administered by OWCP. It provides monthly payments and medical treatment to coal miners totally disabled from pneumoconiosis (black lung) arising from their employment in the nation's coal mines, and monthly payments to their surviving dependents.

The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program provides benefits authorized by the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. The Program went into effect on July 31, 2001. The Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs is responsible for adjudicating and administering claims filed by employees or former employees or certain qualified survivors under the Act.

OWCP's compensation assistance is carried out by claims examiners in district offices across the nation.

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Revised: February 11, 2004



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