The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is a Cabinet-level federal agency with three overall functions that support the American labor force. It protects the rights of workers and retirees, provides job training, and provides statistics related to working, prices, and income. The DOL was created on March 4, 1913, by President William Howard Taft, and its creation gave workers a seat in the president's Cabinet for the first time.
What Does the Department of Labor Do?
The Department's goal is to provide a productive workforce for the U.S. economy. It works to create attractive work environments by enforcing labor and pension laws. This keeps the U.S. competitive by strengthening one of the most important components of supply. By protecting the rights of workers, it attempted to replace the role of labor unions.
One of the department's most visible agencies, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), measures the performance of the labor force by providing important statistics, including the monthly jobs report. The most important current statistics published by the BLS cover employment, labor force participation rate, unemployment, and inflation.
How the Department of Labor Affects the Economy
The DOL increases the productivity of businesses by enforcing laws designed to keep their employees relatively happy and prevent 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. Billions of dollars in the stock market are won or lost depending on how many jobs are added or lost.
How the Department of Labor Affects You
If you're working, the DOL 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 (VETS) will train you and help you find employers that are looking to hire vets. It also assists veterans with integrating themselves into the community by helping them find meaningful careers and obtain employment support.
If you think you're being cheated on overtime pay, the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL will protect your rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The 7 Primary Department of Labor Agencies
There are more than 25 offices and agencies within the DOL, all led by the Secretary of Labor. The seven most notable agencies are:
- The Employee Benefits Security Administration is responsible for the regulation and support of private retirement plans, health plans, and other welfare benefit plans.
- The Wage and Hour Division enforces and administers child labor laws, workers, compensation, and the U.S. minimum wage.
- The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs administers four major disability compensation programs and provides benefits to workers (or their dependents) who experience work-related injury or occupational disease.
- The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) provides job training programs through state and local agencies, including the Job Corps.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces workplace safety standards.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides statistics on the workforce.
- The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation pays private pensions if an employer can't.
Other Department of Labor Agencies
- The Administrative Review Board issues the final DOL verdict on appeals under worker protection laws, including whistleblower protection, H-1B immigration, child labor, employment discrimination, and federal contracts.
- The Benefits Review Board issues DOL decisions primarily on Black Lung Benefits and Longshoremen Compensation.
- 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.
- The Employees' Compensation Appeals Board rules on appeals to decisions made by the OWCP.
- The Mine Safety & Health Administration protects miners.
- The Office of Administrative Law Judges is the administrative trial court for the DOL.
- The Office of Congressional & Intergovernmental Affairs is DOL's liaison to Congress and other government entities.
- The Office of Disability Employment Policy works to increase employment opportunities for those with disabilities.
- The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs enforces anti-discrimination laws with government contractors.
- The Office of Inspector General audits all DOL agencies to ensure they comply with federal laws and regulations.
- The Office of Labor-Management Standards promotes standards for labor unions.
- The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration & Management manages administration functions for the DOL. These include procurement, information technology, and human resources.
- The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy provides policy advice to the Secretary of Labor, including the Civil Rights Center. It makes sure the DOL follows civil rights laws.
- The Office of the Chief Financial Officer oversees financial management services for the DOL.
- The Office of the Solicitor provides legal services for the DOL.
- The Ombudsman for the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program assists Department of Energy employees who become ill from exposure to radiation.
- The Veterans' Employment & Training Service helps veterans find good jobs.
- The Women's Bureau formulates policies to promote women in the workplace.