DOL sponsors mobile app contest to reduce wage and hour violations

Illinois workers may soon have another tool at their disposal to help them assess the likelihood that they will be treated well by prospective employers. In an effort to increase compliance with the Fair Labor Standard Act, the United States Department of Labor recently announced a contest that challenges participants to develop a mobile app that can provide job applicants and consumers with information about a company's labor practices.

The app is intended to aid users in their decisions about whether to work for or make purchases from specific companies. In this way, the DOL hopes the app contest will help motivate businesses to comply with the FLSA, which sets standards in areas like minimum wage, overtime pay, employee breaks and recordkeeping.

Illinois wage law exceeds federal minimum

Minimum wage and other employment laws are generally passed at the state level, and the specifics of these laws can vary substantially from state to state. The FLSA, however, is a federal statute that establishes minimum standards for states to follow when passing their own laws. In Illinois, state law sets the minimum wage at $8.25 per hour, which exceeds the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as defined by the FLSA.

For employers that violate wage and hour laws by failing to adequately compensate employees for the work they do, the consequences can be costly. According to data compiled by National Economic Research Associates, Inc., U.S. employers spent a total of $467 million to settle wage and hour lawsuits in 2012.

App would make compliance data easily accessible

The recent smartphone app contest is the DOL's latest attempt to use modern technology in its efforts to increase FLSA compliance. In 2011, the DOL released a mobile app that allows employees to track their hours worked and calculate the wages they are owed. In the event of a wage-and-hour dispute, the app can provide documentation to support a worker's claim if his or her employer fails to provide accurate documentation.

In addition to providing workers and consumers with information about a company's FLSA compliance, the forthcoming app may also incorporate other publicly accessible data, such as the company's compliance with environmental laws, state licensing requirements and information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Know the law to prevent disputes

For help understanding their rights and legal options in the event of a wage and hour dispute or other employment-related conflict, Illinois workers are encouraged to contact an experienced employee rights lawyer to discuss the details of their situation.