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What Does the Department of Labor (DOL) Do?

Employers need to be mindful of the federal and state agencies that protect their employees’ rights. One of the most important agencies they should have a clear understanding of is the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). To ensure you are maintaining compliance, it is important to understand what the DOL does, what federal laws it enforces, and how it impacts your business.

What is the Department of Labor (DOL)?

The U.S. Department of Labor is a federal agency that monitors and enforces a variety of employment-related laws that protect workers and improve workplace conditions (e.g., occupational health and safety, wage and hour obligations, and federal unemployment insurance benefits).

Vanessa Matsis-McCready, associate general counsel and director of human resources at Engage PEO, said the DOL also sets standards for employing minors, and monitors and enforces rules under the Immigration and Nationality Act for foreign nationals authorized to work in the United States with employment-related visas.

What does the Department of Labor do?

The Department of Labor declares, monitors, and enforces federal employment laws and regulations. They can investigate employers for potential employment-law violations and impose penalties on those deemed in violation.

“The DOL has the power to investigate and audit employers and enforce labor and employment laws, it can assess fines and impose penalties against employers, and it can award back pay to employees,” Matsis-McCready told “In addition to setting policies, it creates and makes available a plethora of information and posters for employers and employees.”

Keep in mind that although the Department of Labor operates at a federal level, some states may have additional labor departments to manage employment law violations at a state level.

What does the Secretary of Labor do?

The U.S. Secretary of Labor is a member of the U.S. Cabinet and is the head of the Department of Labor. They control the DOL, suggest and enforce union and workplace laws, and manage business-person controversies. The current U.S. Secretary of Labor is Eugene Scalia.

Which agencies fall under the Department of Labor?

The DOL is a wide-reaching department of the federal government that includes nearly 30 different agencies. These offices and agencies work to protect employees, promote safe work environments, and enforce their respective labor laws.

Although you should familiarize yourself with as many of the bureaus, offices, and departments as possible, here are 10 that every business owner should be aware of.

  1. Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) – The Bureau of International Labor Affairs promotes a fair global workforce, enforces trade commitments, strengthens global labor standards, and combats international child labor, human trafficking and forced labor. 
  1. Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) – The Employee Benefits Security Administration enforces and administers laws that protect employee retirement, health, and other workplace-related benefits. Some laws include the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Comprehensive Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). 
  1. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces laws like the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act to ensure safe and healthy workplace conditions.
  1. Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) – The Office of Disability Employment Policy is a non-regulatory federal agency that develops and influences policies that increase the opportunity for workplace success for people with disabilities.
  1. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) – The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is responsible for protecting federal government workers and promoting diversity. It ensures that those working with the federal government (contractors and subcontractors) comply with the legal requirement to take affirmative action and avoid discrimination.
  1. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) – The Office of Inspector General audits every program and operation of the DOL to ensure each one is maintaining efficacy, efficiency, integrity and legal compliance.
  1. Office of Labor-Management and Standards (OLMS) – The Office of Labor-Management Standards is responsible for administering and enforcing the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (also LMRDA or the Landrum-Griffin Act), which promotes union democracy, financial integrity, and labor-management transparency in labor unions.
  1. Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) – The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs administers four major disability compensation programs…

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