Garcia Forest Service debarred from federal contracts for 3 years following US Labor Department investigation

MINNEAPOLIS — A U.S. Labor Department investigation has resulted in the debarment of Garcia Forest Service LLC, and its president, Samuel Garcia, from eligibility for further service contracts with any U.S. government agency for three years. The investigation found that the Rockingham, N.C.-based company violated the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act and the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act by failing to pay fringe benefits, minimum wage, overtime and holiday pay to workers hired for a reforestation project in the Superior National Forest in Minnesota. Administrative Law Judge Kenneth A. Krantz issued the debarment order in Newport News, Va. The consent findings were filed by the department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor in Chicago.

“Contractors that do business with the federal government have an obligation to abide by the law, pay their employees the required contractual rates and benefits, and keep accurate and complete required records,” said Laura A. Fortman, principal deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. “The Service Contract Act requires debarment when violations are found unless the high standard of ‘unusual circumstances’ is met. Debarring this employer illustrates the department’s commitment to vigorous enforcement of government contracting laws and helps level the playing field for law-abiding employers.”

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OSHA Head: Some Valid Whistleblower Claims Tossed

The head of the agency that runs the U.S. Department of Labor’s whistleblower program said strict time frames dictated by an older whistleblower law lead the agency to dismiss more than 200 cases a year, some of which have merit.

Assistant secretary for labor for occupational safety and health David Michaels asked lawmakers Tuesday to pass legislation giving some prospective whistleblowers more than 30 days to file complaints.

“The statute of limitations is a very serious problem,” said Mr. Michaels in a Tuesday hearing by a subcommittee of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“There are [more than] 200 cases a year which we dismiss simply because they’re untimely. Some of them involve what we think are very meritorious cases of workers who file 32, 34, 35 days after the event. That simply isn’t fair,” he said

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$150M available to states to implement or expand job-driven training programs for laid-off workers

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the availability of up to $150 million in funding through a new Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program to train workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own for jobs in high-demand industries.

These investments will help create or expand employer partnerships that provide opportunities for on-the-job training, Registered Apprenticeships or other occupational training that results in an industry-recognized credential. Funding will also be used to provide services, such as coaching, counseling and direct job placement, that help connect laid-off workers, including the long-term unemployed, with available jobs. Focusing funding on proven, job-driven training strategies is a key component of the Obama administration’s agenda to connect ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.

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Department of Labor Will Examine Pay Threshold, Management Exemption for Overtime

It will likely be months before the Obama administration details the specific changes it plans for overtime rules, but officials are looking at making two significant shifts.

In a hearing this week, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said the Department of Labor would study both raising the wage threshold and overturning the 2004 rule that made certain salaried employees exempt from overtime because they perform some managerial duties.

“There are two issues we are working on in the regulation,” Perez said. “Number one, what should the threshold be, and secondly, how does the test work.”

Perez also said the current structure of the managerial exemption keeps deserving workers frozen out of overtime. “You can work 1 percent of your time in a management function and 99 percent of your time stocking shelves and you will be an exempt employee under the current regulation,” he said

AG Announces Partnership to Combat Misclassification

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneider­­man has signed a memorandum of understanding that allows his office to cooperate with both the federal and New York Departments of Labor to battle worker misclassification.

The three offices will share information in an effort to catch employers that wrongly classify employees as independent contractors.

The move puts New York on board a federal initiative launched in 2010 as part of the Obama administration’s “Middle Class Task Force.” To date, California, Colo­­rado, Con­­nec­­ti­­cut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Lou­­isi­­ana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Min­­ne­­sota, Missouri, Montana, Utah and Wash­­ington have signed similar agreements. The initiative claims to have collected $18.2 million in back wages for over 19,000 employees.

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US Labor Department Recovers More Than $277,000 in Back Wages for 233 Janitorial Service Employees at New Orleans Convention Center

NEW ORLEANS — Empire Janitorial Sales and Services Inc. has paid $277,565 in overtime back wages to 233 current and former janitorial service workers employed by Acadian Payroll Services LLC after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and record-keeping provisions.

The investigation, conducted by the division’s New Orleans District Office, found that employees were wrongfully classified as independent contractors and paid an hourly wage with no overtime wages of time and one-half their regular rate of pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Additionally, Acadian Payroll Services did not establish a seven-day workweek and failed to maintain proper records of weekly hours worked by its employees.

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The Department of Labor Has Your Back

The federal Department of Labor (DOL) budget for fiscal year 2015 is official, and it includes new programs and additional protections for workers and employees. This is exciting news for millions of Americans, including the long-term unemployed, students who want to work when they graduate, and current employees whose employers may not be following the law as they should. Check out the changes that are being put in place to help you.