DOL Opinion Letters Are Back After 7-year Hiatus

July 03, 2017

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is reinstating its former practice of issuing opinion letters—a move that will let the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) use them as a method for providing guidance to covered employers and employees. The WHD issued opinion letters for more than 70 years, until the practice was halted and replaced by general guidance in 2010, according to a DOL press release.

An opinion letter is an official, written opinion by the WHD of how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by an employer, employee, or other entity requesting the opinion. The WHD has established a new webpage for the public to check if any existing agency guidance already addresses their questions and to submit an opinion letter request if necessary. The webpage includes explanation of what the request should include, where it should be submitted, and where to review existing guidance. The division said that it will exercise discretion in determining which opinion letter requests it will respond to and the appropriate form of guidance to be issued.

"Reinstating opinion letters will benefit employees and employers as they provide a means by which both can develop a clearer understanding of the Fair Labor Standards Act and other statutes," Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said. "The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to helping employers and employees clearly understand their labor responsibilities so employers can concentrate on doing what they do best: growing their businesses and creating jobs."