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Despite Improvement, Complaint Backlog at DOL Wage and Hour Division is Worse than Under Bush

The staff of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor are tasked with investigating worker complaints to make sure that workers aren’t being abused by employers who exploit labor laws — by withholding pay, by refusing to grant overtime, by employing child labor, and otherwise exploiting people who are desperate for work.

This is important work to protect the powerless against the powerful in America, but the Wage and Hour Division is suffering from a backlog of cases.  Measured by the average number of days taken to resolve complaints to the Wage and Hour Division, the backlog was cut back in fiscal year 2013 (the last year for which data is currently available), but is still worse than when George W. Bush was the sitting President of the United States:

Graph: Average number of days to resolve complaints with the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, Fiscal Year 2003-2013

Why does the backlog exist?  Adjusting for the cost of expenses by indexing for inflation, the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL has a lower budget than it did in 2003 — and at the same time the population of the United States grew by 9% during that time while the civilian labor force grew by 6.7%, increasing the volume of possible violations.

Is the backlog and funding stagnation liable to improve for the investigators of the Wage and Hour Division in the future?  Well, the Division suffered an 11% budget cut in FY 2013, the last year for which data is available.  What does that tell you?

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