Welcome to the New Year of 2012

Robin Noah

This New Year is bringing a bunch of new employee oriented legislation and in some cases changes in labor laws that can severely impact the business community.

Of great importance is the new program for processing complaints and claims from employees against their employers.

According to foxnews.com… in an unprecedented and controversial move, the White House has launched a new program at the Department of Labor which will refer workers who have complaints about their bosses to a toll free number at the American Bar Association, where they can get a lawyer to work on their case on a contingency fee basis.

The article states that more than 40,000 workers annually contact the Department of Labor with complaints about their bosses. But Labor can’t get to all of them, an estimated 10%, because of budget constraints, the White House says. So the White House has instead launched a program for “unresolved complainants” with the ABA.

Workers will now be provided a toll-free number that connects them with ABA lawyers nationwide who are experienced in things like alleged workplace abuses of minimum wage, overtime and family medical leave laws. 

The White House in a statement says this is “a new effort between the federal government and private bar to assist complainants” that may need help with “worker rights.” In a statement, the ABA calls this new alliance “unprecedented.” 

Vice President Joe Biden says the lawyers will be working on a contingency fee basis, and not pro bono.

This seems to be another job killing, anti-employer decision. Contingency fees mean that the lawyers don’t collect any fees until the employer pays. Does this give an attorney a thoughtful reason to only take on legitimate suits?  

How will the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division know if the ABA is actually accepting these referrals or if the cases are being resolved by the private bar? In a fact sheet, the ABA says it “will provide the Wage and Hour Division with aggregate information about the numbers of referrals accepted and the outcome of those cases.”

You really need to read the complete article to get a good perspective on this issue. It is a long article but worthwhile reading. Whether you’re a nonprofit organization or a for profit business, all employers need to read this article and maintain an interest in this program as it can significantly affect any business.

Author:  Robin Noah,  Executive Coaches of Orange County,  www.ECofOC.org