- Through a new U.S. Department of Labor initiative, the agency plans "vigorous" enforcement of warehouse and logistics workers' wage and hour rights, according to an agency release published Feb. 8.
- The initiative will focus on ensuring workers in the aforementioned industries are paid their legally owed minimum and overtime wages, are safe from harassment and retaliation and are provided proper time off as enshrined in the Family and Medical Leave Act. It also will target misclassification of employees as independent contractors.
- "The increased demand and the constraints on the global supply chain have combined to place enormous strain on the nation's warehouse and logistics industries, and has prompted the U.S. Department of Labor to take heightened action to ensure that warehouse and logistics workers' wages and workplace rights are protected," the DOL stated in the release.
The Department of Labor has had an eye on the warehouse and logistics industries for some time. In September 2021, the agency announced that as a result of its investigation, a San Diego customs warehouse company would pay $235,000 in back wages and penalties. The company employed 16 Mexican nationals as merchandise checkers, paying them between $3.38 and $5.61 per hour in pesos, DOL alleged.
"This case is a wake-up call to the customs warehouse industry," Ruben Rosalez, DOL wage and hour regional administrator, said of the case. "Paying a workforce as little as $3 an hour will not be tolerated."
Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are especially vulnerable to wage and hour violations, according to a PBS investigation; the warehouse industry — like agriculture, restaurants and hotels — tends to have a high representation of immigrant workers.
DOL did not mention immigrant workers in its release. The agency focused on the constraint placed on the industry due to supply chain shortages and consumer demand.
"The pandemic highlighted the vital role warehouse workers, delivery drivers, truck drivers and others in the warehousing and logistics industries play in supporting our nation's homes, businesses and economy," Acting Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman said. "These essential workers ensure medical supplies, construction materials, food and clothing, and many other necessities of daily life arrive where they are needed, and the Wage and Hour Division will use all of its tools to ensure employers comply with federal labor laws and pay workers their hard-earned wages."
DOL has increased its attention to wage and hour cases. The agency announced Feb. 1 that it would hire 100 wage and hour investigators, stating in the same release that it anticipated "significantly more hiring activity" in the Wage and Hour Division later in 2022.
The agency's focus on the warehouse and logistics industries follows news in recent weeks of back wages and overtime collected on behalf of restaurant workers, workers with disabilities and more. DOL also has made an aggressive push to investigate and enforce misclassification.