U.S. House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller, D-Calif.

Solis Promises Action on 'Wage Theft'

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced Wednesday that she is committed to preventing "wage theft" and already beefing up her department's enforcement ranks. She spoke on the day of a hearing on that issue by the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, incluiding an undercover investigation of DOL Wage and Hour Division enforcement by the Goverment Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

A GAO report last July to the committee criticized Wage and Hour's enforcement throughout the Bush administration, saying enforcement actions dropped by one-third from 1997 to 2007, WHD did not alter its targeting of employers despite information from its own studies of low-wage industries in which Fair Labor Standards Act violations are likely to occur, and WHD often changed how it measured its own performance, making it difficult to assess.

"I take the issues raised by the Government Accountability Office investigation regarding past Wage and Hour Division enforcement very seriously," Solis said in a statement posted Wednesday on the DOL Web site. "As secretary of labor, I am committed to ensuring that every worker is paid at least the minimum wage, that those who work overtime are properly compensated, that child labor laws are strictly enforced and that every worker is provided a safe and healthful environment. The department's Wage and Hour Division has already begun the process of adding 150 new investigators to its field offices to refocus the agency on these enforcement responsibilities. In addition, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the agency will hire 100 investigators to ensure that contractors on stimulus projects are in compliance with the applicable laws. The addition of these 250 new field investigators, a staff increase of more than a third, will reinvigorate the work of this important agency, which has suffered a loss of experienced personnel over the last several years," Solis said. "The U.S. Department of Labor is the voice for working families, and I am dedicated to ensuring compliance with federal labor laws to both strengthen our economy and protect workers in this country."

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