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Six New DOL Opinion Letters Attempt to Clarify Federal Labor Laws


Six New DOL Opinion Letters Attempt to Clarify Federal Labor Laws

September 18, 2018

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it issued six new opinion letters. DOL opinion letters are designed to provide clarity to federal labor laws. The six new DOL opinion letters interpret issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). A brief description of the opinion letters follows.

  1. An employee in good health may decide to donate an organ solely to improve someone else’s health. This DOL letter explores whether an organ donor qualifies for FMLA leave as it relates to the medical procedure needed to make the organ donation. Read more.
  2. Some employers allow employees to participate voluntarily in health screenings and wellness activities. This DOL letter analyzes whether an employee must be compensated for their time spent participating and engaging in these activities. The analysis involves consideration of whether the time spent on the activities is truly “voluntary,” whether the employer or employee predominantly benefits, and whether the employee is released from performing any job-related duties. Read more.
  3. The FLSA enumerates an exemption to its overtime provisions to certain movie theater operators. This DOL opinion letter explains when the exemption may be invoked if the movie theater also offers dining services. Read more.
  4. The FLSA enumerates an exemption to certain employees at retail and service establishments. The exemption depends upon the following criteria: 1) The employee works at a retail or service establishment; 2) The employee’s regular rate of pay exceeds one and one-half times the applicable minimum wage in the workweek in which he or she works overtime; 3) More than half of the employee’s earnings in a representative period consist of commissions. This DOL letter applies the analysis of the overtime exemption to a company that sells an internet payment software platform. Read more.
  5. Under certain circumstances individuals may volunteer their time to nonprofit organizations and not be owed compensation under the FLSA. This DOL opinion letter examines the volunteer status of nonprofit members serving as credentialing examination graders where the nonprofit organization pays for their travel, lodging, meals, and other expenses incidental to volunteering, but does not pay them a wage for their services. Read more.
  6. Certain employers utilized “point systems” to monitor employee tardiness and absences. This letter analyzes the legality of a “no-fault” attendance policy and attendance points system as it relates to employee absences under the FMLA. The biggest considerations for employers that utilize point systems is to make sure employees are not penalized for absences related to legitimate medical leave and that employees on equivalent leaves to FMLA (e.g. workers’ compensation) are treated in the same manner. Read more.

To learn more about the meaning of the opinion letters issued by the DOL, please contact: