U.S. Department of Labor

What It Does for You

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The U.S. Department of Labor is a Cabinet-level federal agency that supports the American labor force. It has three overall functions. First, it protects the rights of workers and retirees. Second, it provides job training. Third, it provides statistics related to working, prices, and income.

DOL Agencies

The DOL has 28 agencies within it. The seven most important ones to you are:

  1. The Employee Benefits Security Administration is the largest agency. It enforces and administers child labor laws, workers, and compensation.
  2. The Wage and Hour Division enforces the U.S. minimum wage.
  3. The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs administers four major disability compensation programs. They provide benefits to workers or their dependents who experience work-related injury or occupational disease.
  4. The Employment and Training Administration provides job training programs through state and local agencies. The ETA includes the Job Corps.
  5. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces workplace safety standards.
  6. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides statistics on the work force.
  7. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation pays private pensions if an employer can't.

The other 21 are:

  1. The Office of the Secretary leads the department.
  2. The Administrative Review Board issues the final DOL verdict on appeals under worker protection laws. These include whistleblower protection, H-1B immigration, child labor, employment discrimination, and federal contracts.
  3. The Benefits Review Board issues DOL decisions primarily on Black Lung Benefits and Longshoremen Compensation.
  4. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs fights child and forced labor and human trafficking. These practices lower prices, giving those foreign companies an unfair competitive advantage over U.S. firms.
  5. The Centers for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives helps faith-based organizations compete for DOL grants. It also rules on religious liberty protection for organizations that receive federal funding. President Trump established the initiative on May 3, 2018.
  6. The Employees' Compensation Appeals Board rules on appeals to decisions made by the OWCP.
  7. The Mine Safety & Health Administration protects miners.
  8. The Office of Administrative Law Judges is the administrative trial court for the DOL.
  9. The Office of Congressional & Intergovernmental Affairs is DOL's liaison to Congress and other government entities.
  10. The Office of Disability Employment Policy works to increase employment opportunities for those with disabilities.
  11. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs enforces antidiscrimination laws with government contractors.
  12. The Office of Inspector General audits all DOL agencies to insure they comply with federal laws and regulations.
  13. The Office of Labor-Management Standards promotes standards for labor unions.
  14. Office of Public Liaison.
  15. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration & Management manages administration functions for the DOL. These include procurement, information technology, and human resources.
  16. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy provide policy advice to the Secretary of Labor. This includes the Civil Rights Center. It makes sure the DOL follows civils rights laws.
  17. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer oversees financial management services for the DOL.
  18. The Office of the Solicitor provides legal services for the DOL.
  19. The Ombudsman for the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program provides assistance for Department of Energy employees who become ill from exposure to radiation.
  20. The Veterans' Employment & Training Service helps veterans find good jobs.
  21. The Women's Bureau formulates policies to promote women in the workplace.

The DOL was created on March 4, 1913, by President William Howard Taft. Its creation gave workers a seat in the president's Cabinet for the first time.

What It Does

The Department's goal is to provide a productive workforce for the U.S. economy. It creates an attractive work environment by enforcing labor and pension laws. This keeps the U.S. competitive by keeping one of the most important components of supply available and functioning. By protecting the rights of workers, it attempted to replace the role of labor unions.

The BLS measures the performance of the labor force by providing important statistics. These include the jobs report. It includes the current number of unemployed and the unemployment rate as well as wages. It also provides data on prices, a closely-watched measure of inflation. 

DOL Statistics

Here are the most important current statistics published by the BLS:

How It Affects the Economy

The DOL increases the productivity of businesses by keeping their employees relatively happy and preventing strikes. It thereby increases U.S. competitiveness, economic growth, and job creation.

One of the most impactful things the DOL does is provide the monthly Jobs Report. You wouldn't think boring statistics could be so exciting. But just watch CNBC or other financial news channels on the first Friday of the month. Billions in the stock market are won or lost depending on how many jobs are added. 

How It Affects You

If you're working: It protects your rights as a worker.

If you're looking for a new job: The American Job Center Network connects you to employers, helps you see what you're good at, and helps veterans find jobs. These One-Stop Centers offer a broad range of service assistance for job seekers.

If you're a veteran: The Veterans Employment and Training Service will train you and help you find employers that are looking to hire vets. VETS helps you, as a veteran, to integrate yourself into the community by helping you find meaningful careers and obtain employment support.

If you think you're being cheated on overtime pay: You should receive time and a half if you work more than 40 hours a week. The Wage and Hour Division of the DOL will protect your rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

If you want to know whether the job situation is improving: The BLS provides quick links to the following data: