US Labor & Consumer Laws: Best of the major welfare Acts

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A brief summary of some of the laws administered by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) has been provided below. These laws apply to workers, job seekers, businesses, retirees, contractors and grantees.

The DOL is in charge of both administration and enforcement of more than 180 federal laws that govern workplace activities, covering almost 10 million employers and 125 million workers.

Wages & Hours

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lays down the standard for wages and overtime in most of the private as well as public sector employment. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) looks after its daily affairs.
  • Employers will have to pay non-exempt, covered employees, the "federal minimum wage" and overtime pay that is "one-and-one-half-times" the regular rate of pay (compensation).
  • In non-agricultural operations, children aged below 16 years can work for a limited number of hours and those below 18 years are prohibited to work in certain "too dangerous" sectors.
  • Children aged below 16 years can't work in agri-business during school hours & in "too dangerous" jobs.
  • Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)'s labor standards are enforced by the Wage and Hour Division. It applies to aliens having an authorized work permit in the U.S under selected non-immigrant visa programs such as H-1B, H-1B1, H-1C, and H2A.

Workplace Safety & Health

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) administers the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.
  • OSHA or OSHA-approved state programs regulate safety and health conditions in many private as well as public sector employers. It's mandatory for the OSH Act covered employers to comply with all the OSHA promulgated regulations, along with the safety and health standards.
  • Employers will have to ensure that their employees work in a free from "identified, serious workplace hazards".
  • OSHA enforces the law via regular workplace inspections and investigations.
  • Employers are provided with the necessary compliance assistance and various cooperative programs.

Workers Compensation

A worker can and should contact the workers' compensation program in his/her domicile state or the state in which he or she has worked, regardless of the employer being a privately-held organization or a state one. There is no role of both the DOL and the Office of Worker's Compensation Programs in the administration or inspection of state worker's compensation programs.

  • The Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP) administers the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). The law ensures compensation and medical care for certain maritime employees.
    • These employees are longshore workers/others employed in longshore operations, and harbor workers like shipbuilders, ship repairers, and shipbreakers.
    • The benefit is also provided to the qualified dependent survivors of these workers who have been disabled or died because of injuries occurring on the navigable waters of the United States as well as the adjacent areas usually used to load, unload, repair or build a vessel.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its affiliates provide worker's compensation through the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA)
    • Grants a lump-sum amount of $150,000 and various medical aids to energy employees.
    • Some selected cancer survivors are provided the same compensation package caused due to exposure to harmful radiation or beryllium or silica during active duty.
    • Under Section 5 of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), an additional payment of a lump-sum amount of $50,000 along with the medical care benefits are provided to the uranium workers or some of their survivors, as per the recommendations made by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as compensation.
  • The 5 U.S.C. 8101 et Esq. delivers a comprehensive compensation program exclusively for the federal workers who died or became disabled due to personal injury sustained during active duty known as the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA)
    • The FECA is administered by the OWCP.
    • Compensations include wage loss compensation for the totally or partially disabled worker, scheduled awards for permanent loss or loss of particular members of the body, associated medical expenses and also vocational rehabilitation.
  • The Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA) grants medical benefits and monthly cash payments for disability of the coal miners due to pneumoconiosis or black lung disease resulting from working in the country's coal mines. As per the statutes, if a miner dies because of black lung disease, then his/her survivor will receive additional monthly benefits too.

Health Care Benefits

To provide health care benefits to workers employed in the private industry, ERISA or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 stipulates minimum standards for many voluntarily-owned pension and health plans.

  • Other landmark amendments made to ERISA are the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act, the Mental Health Parity Act, and the Newborns' and Mothers' Health Protection Act.

ERISA doesn't provide any health care coverage to workers pursuing group health plans provided or administered by governmental bodies, churches, or workers paying for plans maintained entirely to comply with the respective compensation, unemployment, or disability laws. ERISA also doesn't provide health coverage or unfunded excess benefit plans to nonresident aliens, residing outside the US.

Consumer Credit Protection Act

The Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) guarantees consumers with fair and honest credit practices. It ensures lenders follow the same sets of regulations throughout the country.

Several acts within CCPA are as follows:

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

  1. FCRA regulates how a private business uses your personal information.
  2. It'll protect your credit by regulating how consumer reporting agencies use your data.
  3. You can sue the rogue credit reporting agency and seek compensation for violating the FCRA.
  4. FCRA provides a free credit report per annum, secure access to credit report and accuracy in reporting credit information.
  5. FCRA grants you the right to fix incorrect information in your credit report promptly.

There are three smaller acts in it viz. the Credit CARD Act, the Dodd-Frank Act, and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. These Acts deal with the accountability of credit card companies and your rights, if someone steals your identity.

Truth in Lending Act (TILA)

  1. TILA grants relief from unjust billing practices and false promises by the financial institutions.
  2. TILA direct lenders to hand out complete loan cost information to their consumers. It'll help them to compare offers when shopping for loans.
  3. As per TILA, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has banned mandatory arbitrations and waivers of consumer rights. It also implements ability-to-pay requirements for mortgage borrowers.
  4. TILA grants the right of rescission to the consumers that empower them to reconsider a loan within 3 days and bow out without losing money.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)

  1. ECOA bans creditors to discriminate depending on factors like religion, sex, race, color, marital status, national origin, age or public welfare schemes enjoyed by you while assessing a consumer's creditworthiness.
  2. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) executes ECOA to protect consumers from unfairness when seeking credit.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

  1. FDCPA regulates how debt collectors treat their consumers (loan defaulters) to secure payments.
  2. Collection agencies must follow the FDCPA that protects debtors from harassment, misleading information and unjust practices.
  3. Debt collectors can contact borrowers for payment only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  4. Debt collectors will have to identify themselves and explain why they called their borrowers.
  5. They can't contact borrowers at work without permission from their employers.
  6. Collection agencies will have to stop all forms of communication, if borrowers have send them a letter to asking to doing so.

Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA)

  1. EFTA protects consumers from identity theft and other fraudulent activities related to transactions that immediately withdraw funds from their accounts, or when transferring funds electronically. For example, EFTA applies to ATM use, debit card payment at a point-of-sale terminal or telephonic payments.
  2. The Act puts a cap on a consumer's liability to a lost or stolen credit/debit card.
  3. As per EFTA, companies must reveal information regarding fees and liabilities of the consumers while issuing bank cards.
  4. It provides the right to opt for a form of payment other than an electronic fund transfer.
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