The Biden administration’s labor division is targeting the warehousing and logistics industry with enhanced enforcement of lawful wages and hourly working requirements — which have come under scrutiny as America’s reliance on the industry has gone into overdrive since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division said that the agency is pledging “vigorous enforcement” as it ramps up efforts to verify that warehousing and logistics workers are paid required hourly wages and overtime pay, and can take time off without retaliation.
“We want to make sure that the outcome, as we’re continuing to move out of this pandemic, hasn’t been an opportunity for greater exploitation of workers, but instead that we have learned a lot of lessons and it can be an opportunity to empower more workers,” division acting administrator Jessica Looman said in a news release.
“The pandemic highlighted the vital role warehouse workers, delivery drivers, truck drivers and others in the warehousing and logistics industries play in supporting our nation’s homes, businesses and economy,” the division’s acting administrator Jessica Looman said in a Feb. 8 news release. “These essential workers ensure medical supplies, construction materials, food and clothing, and many other necessities of daily life arrive where they are needed, and the Wage and Hour Division will use all of its tools to ensure employers comply with federal labor laws and pay workers their hard-earned wages.”
Bloomberg reported that the agency has been conducting 70 investigations in the warehousing and logistics sector in recent months, and a spokesperson told the news outlet that three-quarters of resolved investigations revealed legal violations.
The stepped-up enforcement will reportedly have a big focus on misclassification of workers as independent contractors instead of employees. Looman told Bloomberg, “One of our biggest challenges is that there are business models that are designed specifically to call a worker an independent contractor in order to avoid the payment of minimum wage and overtime.”
The enforcement news follows news of Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama and New York have recently mounted campaigns to unionize, alongside port truckers in Los Angeles.