The Department of Labor is a cabinet-level federal government body which is part of the Executive Branch. It was created in 1913 to foster and promote the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States. It aims to “improve working conditions, advance opportunities for profitable employment, and assure work-related benefits and rights.” The U.S. Secretary of Labor heads the department administering and enforcing thousands of federal labor laws and regulations. An example of such federal laws is the Fair Labor Standards Act which mandates minimum wages, overtime pay, and maximum working hours. Through the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the independent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was established to enforce non-discrimination in the nation's workplaces. The next year Executive Order 11246 created the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in the Department of Labor to eliminate discrimination by government contractors. In 1970 the movement for a job safety and health law led to Congress passing the Occupational Safety and Health Act which regulates safety and health conditions of employment. The Act created the administrative agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), within the Department of Labor to enforce rules or oversee state-run programs, to protect against hazards in most of the nation's workplaces.
Apart from its worker protection and income support related administration and enforcement activities, the Department of Labor administers and provides grants for workforce development and training programs. The Department of Labor also conducts research on the United States’ labor market, working conditions, and pricing in the economy.
Many states have their own departments of labor.
[Last updated in September of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]