Tuesday, November 30, 2010
An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, cleverly titled "1-800-Trial-Bar," described an announcement by Vice President Joe Biden of a government-funded toll-free number for employees to call with unresolved Fair Labor Standards Act or Family Medical Leave Act complaints to receive a referral to a private attorney.
It sounded like hype to me, but then I investigated a bit - and it's true! According to the ABA,
Some workers whose complaints aren’t resolved by the U.S. Labor Department will be told of another option: Find a private lawyer through an ABA-approved lawyer referral program.
....In a typical year, more than 35,000 workers contact the Wage and Hour Division with complaints, according to the Labor Department’s Office of Public Affairs. Most are resolved, but thousands can't be resolved because of limited capacity, Solis said at the press conference.
Now, beginning on Dec. 13, workers with unresolved complaints under the Fair Labor Standards Act or the Family Medical Leave Act will be told of another option. They will get a letter explaining their rights and offering a toll-free number that can link them to ABA-approved lawyer referral programs in their geographic area.
As the White House Press Release explains further, the rationale seems to be "Well, the Department of Labor can't handle all of these complaints so we'll outsource the work to private lawyers." I'm paraphrasing, but here's the official explanation from the press release: "[C]omplainants whose cases cannot be resolved by DOL because of limited capacity will be given a toll-free number to a newly created system where they are connected to an ABA-approved attorney referral provider if there are participating attorneys in their area." (emphasis added).
Here's an idea - Instead of outsourcing to private attorneys, the Department of Justice could hire more recent law grads through its Honors Program and thus create jobs as well as resolve these FLSA/FMLA complaints.