Employers, You Don’t Always Have to Call Your Attorney First… Take a Look at the US DOL’s elaws Advisors
By Fiona W. Ong - Shawe Rosenthal LLP
August 1, 2022
As attorneys, of course we are delighted to answer questions from our clients – even basic ones. But the U.S. Department of Labor has provided many free resources for employers to educate them about and help them comply with their obligations under a multitude of workplace laws. A particularly useful tool that many employers may not know about is the elaws Advisors. Although the elaws Advisors are directed at workers and small employers, they provide an excellent overview of numerous federal employment laws for employers of all sizes.
The elaws Advisors are a set of interactive, online tools on specific topics covered by particular laws. They are not simply an extended narrative of every aspect of these laws, much of which may not be relevant to an employer’s specific question or issue. Rather, they take a “Choose Your Adventure” approach (for those of us who remember these books, popular in the ‘80s) that provides more targeted information for a particular situation.
For example, the FMLA elaws Advisor:
• Starts with an overview of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
• The reader then clicks on a link that takes them to the “Coverage and Eligibility” page, which sets forth options to “Determine Employer Coverage” or “Determine Employee Eligibility.”
• If the reader clicks on the first link, they jump to a page that asks them to select a type of employer: “Private employer,” “School,” or “Government” (which are the three categories of employers covered under the FMLA).
• If the reader clicks on the “Private Employer” link, they jump to a page that asks whether the employer has employed 50 or more employees during 20 or more calendar workweeks in either the current or preceding calendar year, with options for responding “Yes,” “No” or “Unsure.” There is also explanation of what it means to be employed (with a link for further detail), and clarification that employment must be within the US or a US territory/possession.
• Further answers take the reader to other pages with relevant information beyond these basics.
The DOL has created many different elaws Advisors, which are sorted into seven different categories (and a master list). Those of general relevance include the following:
• Pay & Benefits (which includes Advisors on Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) coverage, overtime calculations, determining FLSA-exempt status, hours worked under the FLSA, ERISA fiduciaries, FMLA, health benefits, small business retirement savings, and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act)
• Posters & Recordkeeping (including Advisors on a legal overview of the applicable laws, recordkeeping/reporting/notices, and required posters under DOL-enforced laws)
• Veterans’ Issues (which includes Advisors on Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), and VETS-4212 reporting (required of federal contractors and subcontractors), among other things)
• Safety & Health (including hazard awareness and recordkeeping, in addition to various other OSHA standards. There is also an OSHA Software Expert Advisors link to a range of interactive off-line training tools explaining how OSHA regulations apply to unique work sites)
• Youth Employment (including a Child Labor Rules Advisor)
• Federal Contractor (including Advisors on federal contractor compliance and disability nondiscrimination)
So, employers, if you don’t want to pay your attorney to answer some basic (and perhaps even no-so-basic) questions about how these workplace laws apply to you, these elaws Advisors may be quite useful. The DOL is engaging in outreach to inform employers of these resources (including by contacting us to help them get the word out!). And if these resources don’t answer your questions – then call your attorney!