Fall 2014 Statement of Regulatory Priorities


For over 100 years, the U.S. Department of Labor has been central to safeguarding and expanding the American Dream for America's working families. The Department's Fall 2014 Regulatory Agenda is driven by a commitment to the basic bargain of America - if you work hard and play by the rules and take responsibility for yourself and your family, you can succeed in and climb the rungs of the middle class. There are many components to Secretary Thomas E. Perez's opportunity agenda that are reflected in the Department's regulatory agenda:

  • training more people, including veterans and people with disabilities, to have the skills they need for the in-demand jobs of the 21st century;

  • ensuring that people have the peace of mind that comes with access to health care, retirement, and Federal workers' compensation benefits when they need them;

  • safeguarding a fair day's pay for a fair day's work for all hardworking Americans, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity;

  • giving workers a voice in their workplaces; and

  • protecting the safety and health of workers so they do not have to risk their lives for a paycheck.

    The values embodied in the Department's regulatory agenda are America's values. In developing the Department's regulatory agenda, with a focus on strengthening our economy, the Department has sought input and expertise from a broad cross section of American society, including business leaders, workers, labor organizations, academics and state and local officials. Expanding opportunity benefits all of us. When the middle class is strong, our nation is strong.

    The Fall 2014 Regulatory Agenda reflects the Department's commitment to rebuilding this strength through expanding opportunity.

    The Department's Regulatory Priorities

    The Department of Labor 2014 Regulatory Plan highlights the most noteworthy and significant regulatory projects that will be undertaken by its regulatory agencies: the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), Employment and Training Administration (ETA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP), Veterans' Employment Service (VETS), and Wage and Hour Division (WHD). The initiatives and priorities listed in the regulatory plan exemplify the five components of the Secretary's opportunity agenda.

    Training More People for Twenty-First Century Jobs

    The Department's regulatory priorities reflect the Secretary's vision for a demand-driven workforce investment system that serves the needs of businesses and workers alike. For example:

  • ETA seeks to develop and issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that implements the important changes made to the public workforce system by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) (Pub. L. 113-128), which was signed by the President on July 22, 2014, replacing the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). This NPRM will help the Department implement WIOA, empowering the public workforce system and its partners to increase employment, retention, and earnings of participants, meet the skill requirements of employers, and enhance the productivity and competitiveness of the nation.[1]

  • ETA also proposes to update the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937's equal opportunity regulations, which prohibit discrimination in registered apprenticeship on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, and sex, and which require that program sponsors take affirmative action to provide equal opportunity. Most notably, the proposed rule would update equal opportunity standards to include age (40 and older) and disability among the list of protected bases. It would also strengthen the affirmative action provisions by detailing mandatory actions that sponsors must take, and by requiring affirmative action for individuals with disabilities.[2]

    Ensuring Access to Health Care, Retirement, and Workers' Compensation Benefits

    The Department is pursuing a regulatory program that is designed to safeguard the retirement security of participants and beneficiaries by protecting their rights and benefits under pension plans and by encouraging, fostering, and promoting openness, transparency, and communication with respect to the management and operations of such plans. Examples include:

  • EBSA's rulemaking to help assure workers' retirement security by reducing harmful conflicts of interest in the retirement savings marketplace so that the millions of plan sponsors, workers, and retirees get the impartial advice they have a right to expect when they rely on an adviser to help them invest their retirement savings. The regulation would clarify the circumstances under which a person will be considered a "fiduciary" when providing investment advice related to retirement plans, individual retirement accounts, and other employee benefit plans, and to participants, beneficiaries, and owners of such plans and accounts.[3]

  • EBSA continues to pursue initiatives to encourage the offering of lifetime annuities or similar lifetime benefit distribution options for participants and beneficiaries of defined contribution plans. EBSA is developing a proposal relating to the presentation of a participant's accrued benefits (account balance) as a lifetime income stream of payments.[4] EBSA is also developing proposed amendments to a safe harbor regulation that will provide plan fiduciaries with more certainty that they have discharged their obligations under section 404(a)(1)(B) of ERISA in selecting an annuity plan provider and contract for benefit distributions from an individual account retirement plan.[5]

    EBSA's regulatory program also includes initiatives involving Annual Funding Notices[6] and Standards for Brokerage Windows.[7]

    In addition, EBSA will continue to issue guidance implementing the health reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act to help provide better quality health care for America's workers and their families. EBSA's regulations reduce discrimination in health coverage, promote better access to quality coverage, and protect the ability of individuals and businesses to keep their current health coverage. Many regulations are joint rulemakings with the Departments of Health and Human Services and the Treasury.

    The Department also pursues regulations to ensure that Federal workers' compensation benefits programs are fairly administered:

  • OWCP plans to propose several modifications and clarifications to the regulations implementing the Black Lung Benefits Act, including a rule that addresses claimants' and coal mine operators' responsibility to disclose medical evidence developed in connection with a claim for benefits. In addition, the proposed regulation would make several clarifications regarding reimbursement rates for medical treatment, the modification procedure, evidence-submission limits, and compensation payments.[8]

    Safeguarding Fair Pay for All Americans

    The Department's regulatory agenda prioritizes ensuring that all Americans receive a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, and are not discriminated against with respect to hiring, employment, or benefits on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. For example, WHD recently published a Final Rule to implement Executive Order 13658, which the President signed in February 2014 to ensure that certain Federal contractors pay a minimum wage of at least $10.10 per hour beginning on January 1, 2015. Other notable proposals include:

  • WHD plans to publish an NPRM proposing revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA's) overtime exemptions as directed by a March 2014 Presidential Memorandum. The FLSA generally requires covered employers to pay their employees at least the Federal minimum wage for all hours worked, and one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek ("overtime"). However, there are a number of exemptions from the FLSA's minimum wage and overtime requirements, including an exemption for bona fide executive, administrative, or professional employees. The President's Memorandum directed the Secretary to modernize and streamline the existing overtime regulations for these "white collar" employees to ensure that hardworking middle-class workers are not denied overtime protections that Congress intended.[9]

  • WHD also plans to publish a Final Rule revising the definition of "spouse" in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor. This Department previously issued an NPRM proposing that eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages may take unpaid, job-protected leave to care for their spouse or family member, regardless of whether their state of residence recognizes their same-sex marriage.[10]

  • OFCCP's rulemaking implementing Executive Order 13672, signed by the President in July 2014 to amend Executive Order 11246, ensures that Federal contractors do not engage in hiring or employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Executive Order required the Department to prepare regulations within 90 days of the date of the Order to insert "sexual orientation, gender identity" into identified paragraphs of section 2 of Executive Order 11246.[11]

  • OFCCP plans to issue a Final Rule pursuant to a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department to require Federal contractors and subcontractors to submit summary data on the compensation paid to their employees. The use of this sort of "Equal Pay Report" is one component of a larger strategy to address the reality that, despite five decades of extraordinary legal and social progress, working women still earn only 78 cents for every dollar that working men earn, and the amount is even less for African American women and Latinas. The new rule will enable OFCCP to direct its enforcement resources toward Federal contractors whose summary data indicate potential pay disparities, while reducing the likelihood of reviewing companies that are in compliance with anti-discrimination laws.[12]

    OFCCP also continues to pursue an initiative on Construction Contractor Affirmative Action Requirements.[13]

    Giving Workers a Voice in Their Workplaces

    The Department's regulatory program also promotes policies that give workers a voice in their workplaces, including by ensuring that workers have information that is critical to their effective participation in the workplace. Two key examples include:

  • OFCCP plans to issue a Final Rule implementing Executive Order 13665, which the President signed on April 8, 2014, prohibiting discrimination by Federal contractors and subcontractors against certain of their employees for disclosing compensation information. This Executive Order was intended to address policies inhibiting workers' ability to advocate for themselves about their pay and prohibiting employee conversations about compensation. Such policies can serve as a significant barrier to Federal enforcement of the laws against compensation discrimination.[14]

  • OLMS plans to publish a Final Rule following an NPRM that proposed regulations to better implement the public disclosure objectives of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) in situations where an employer engages a consultant in order to persuade employees concerning their rights to organize and bargain collectively. Workers are better able to make an informed choice about representation when they have the necessary information about arrangements that have been made by their employer to persuade them whether or not to form, join, or assist a union. While the LMRDA requires employers to file reports of any agreement or arrangement with a consultant to persuade employees concerning their rights to organize and collectively bargain, the statute provides an exception for consultants giving or agreeing to give "advice" to the employer. The Department's NPRM reconsidered the current policy concerning the scope of the "advice" exception.[15]

    Protecting the Safety and Health of Workers

    The Department's regulatory agenda prioritizes efforts to protect the safety and health of workers so they do not have to risk their lives for a paycheck. These efforts encompass protecting workers in all workplaces, including above- and below-ground coal and metal/nonmetal mines, in addition to efforts to ensure that benefits programs are available to workers and their families when they are injured on the job. Notable examples of these efforts include:

  • OSHA continues to pursue regulations aimed at curbing lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America's workers by lowering worker exposure to crystalline silica, which kills hundreds and sickens thousands more each year. OSHA estimates that the proposed rule would ultimately save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis annually. After publishing a proposed rule in September 2013, OSHA received over 1,700 comments from the public on the proposed rule, and over 200 stakeholders provided testimony during public hearings on the proposal. In the coming months, the agency will review and consider the evidence in the rulemaking record. Based upon this review, OSHA will determine an appropriate course of action with regard to workplace exposure to respirable crystalline silica.[16] As a part of the Secretary's strategy for securing safe and healthy work environments, MSHA will utilize information provided by OSHA to undertake regulatory action related to silica exposure in mines.[17]

  • OSHA is considering the need for regulatory action to address the risk to workers exposed to infectious diseases in healthcare and other related high-risk environments. Especially given recent events necessitating the careful treatment of individuals with life-threatening infectious diseases, OSHA is concerned about the risk posed to healthcare workers with the movement of healthcare delivery from the traditional hospital setting into more diverse and smaller workplace settings. The Agency initiated the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) Panel process in the spring of 2014.[18]

  • OSHA is developing a Final Rule exploring a requirement for employers to electronically submit data required by agency regulations governing the Recording and Reporting of Occupational Injuries. An updated and modernized reporting system would enable a more efficient and timely collection of data and would improve the accuracy and availability of relevant records and statistics, in addition to leveraging data already maintained electronically by many large employers.[19]

  • MSHA plans to issue a Final Rule that would build upon a proposed rule to address the danger that miners face when working near continuous mining machines in underground coal mines. From 1984 through 2014, there have been 35 fatalities resulting from pinning, crushing or striking accidents involving continuous mining machines - the types of accidents that proximity detection technology can prevent. The proposed rule would reduce the potential for such hazards.[20] MSHA also plans to publish a proposed rule that would require underground mine operators to equip certain mobile machines with proximity detection systems.[21]

    OSHA's regulatory program also includes initiatives involving Injury and Illness Prevention Programs,[22] Occupational Exposure to Beryllium,[23] Preventing Backover Injuries and Fatalities,[24] and various Whistleblower regulations.

    Regulatory Review and Burden Reduction

    On January 18, 2011, the President issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13563 entitled "Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review." The E.O. aims to strike the right balance between protecting the health, welfare, safety, and the environment for all Americans - a goal at the core of the Labor Department's mission - while fostering economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness. The Department's Fall 2014 Regulatory Agenda also aims to achieve more efficient and less burdensome regulations through a retrospective review of the Labor Department regulations.

    In August 2011, as part of a governmentwide response to E.O. 13563, the Department published its "Plan for Retrospective Analysis of Existing Rules." This plan, and each subsequent update, can be found at www.dol.gov/regulations/. The Department's Fall 2014 Agenda includes 12 retrospective review projects, which are listed below pursuant to section 6 of E.O. 13563. More information about completed rulemakings no longer included in the plan can be found on Reginfo.gov.


    Regulatory Identifier Number

    Title of Rulemaking

    Whether it is Expected to Significantly Reduce Burdens on Small Businesses



    Amendment of Abandoned Plan Program




    21st Century Initiative to Modernize the Form 5500 Series and Implementing and Related Regulations




    Equal Employment Opportunity in Apprenticeship and Training, Amendment of Regulations

    To Be Determined



    Implementation of Total Unemployment Rate Extended Benefits Trigger and Rounding Rule




    Criteria and Procedures for Proposed Assessment of Civil Penalties (Part 100)

    To Be Determined



    Sex Discrimination Guidelines

    To Be Determined



    Bloodborne Pathogens




    Standard Improvement Project - Phase IV (SIP IV)




    Review/Lookback of OSHA Chemical Standards

    To Be Determined



    Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Amendments

    To Be Determined



    Process Safety Management and Flammable Liquids

    To Be Determined



    Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

    To Be Determined

    [1] Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (RIN: 1205-AB73)

    [2] Equal Employment Opportunity in Apprenticeship Amendment of Regulations (RIN: 1205-AB59)

    [3] Conflict of Interest Rule: Investment Advice (RIN: 1210-AB32)

    [4] Pension Benefit Statement (RIN 1210-AB20)

    [5] Selection of Annuity Providers - Safe Harbor for Individual Account Plans (RIN: 1201-AB58)

    [6] (RIN: 1210-AB18)

    [7] (RIN: 1210-AB59)

    [8] Black Lung Benefits Act: Medical Evidence and Benefit Payments (RIN: 1240-AA10)

    [9] Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales, and Computer Employees (RIN: 1235-AA11)

    [10] Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, as amended (RIN: 1235-AA09)

    [11] Implementation of Executive Order 13672 Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity by Contractors and Subcontractors (RIN: 1250-AA07)

    [12] Requirement to Report Summary Data on Employee Compensation (RIN: 1250-AA03)

    [13] (RIN: 1250-AA01)

    [14] Prohibitions Against Pay Secrecy Policies and Actions (RIN: 1250-AA06)

    [15] Persuader Agreements: Employer and Labor Relations Consultant Reporting Under the LMRDA (RIN: 1245-AA03)

    [16] Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica (RIN: 1218-AB70)

    [17] Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard (RIN: 1219-AB36)

    [18] Infectious Diseases (RIN: 1218-AC46)

    [19] Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses (RIN: 1218-AC49)

    [20] Proximity Detection Systems for Continuous Mining Machines in Underground Coal Mines (RIN: 1219-AB65)

    [21] Proximity Detection Systems for Mobile Machines in Underground Mines (RIN: 1219-AB78)

    [22] (RIN: 1218-AC48)

    [23] (RIN: 1218-AB76)

    [24] (RIN: 1218-AC51)