As the COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly across the country in March 2020, an employee of one of the world’s largest truck manufacturers, Peterbilt Motor Co., complained that the company was continuing to operate a crowded assembly facility without taking adequate virus precautions. The company fired the employee in response.
After a U.S. Department of Labor investigation found that the company’s retaliatory action violated Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, my office, the department’s Office of the Solicitor, filed a lawsuit in federal court. Ultimately the company agreed to pay the terminated employee $150,000 in back wages and compensatory damages.
This case is just one example of the work we do every day to advance the mission of the Labor Department to promote the welfare of wage earners, job seekers, and retirees; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and protect work-related benefits and rights.
Our 2022 Enforcement Report outlines our six main priority areas and some examples of what we’ve accomplished in the past year. Here are a few highlights:
- We provided critical legal support and advice in thousands of investigations, and helped make sure investigators were able to do their jobs by obtaining 52 warrants and enforcing 34 administrative subpoenas.
- We took numerous employers across the country to court when they failed to properly classify their employees, and won major cases correcting illegal employer practices and restoring wages and rights to employees.
- By pursuing remedies that are tailored to the violations we find – like compliance agreements that require remedial steps designed to promote future compliance, debarment of federal contractors or select criminal referrals – we have been able to maximize the impact of each case.
The Labor Department enforces more than 180 laws – and they're only as effective as our ability to enforce them. Our work in fiscal year 2022 focused on protecting the most vulnerable workers while leveling the playing field for the majority of employers who comply with the law. These kinds of strategic decisions are critical to protecting workers and promoting compliance with the law.
Learn more about what we do and opportunities to join our team at dol.gov/sol.
Seema Nanda is the Solicitor of Labor.