Department of Labor – Definition

Cite this article as:"Department of Labor – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated May 11, 2019, last accessed October 21, 2020,


Department Of Labor (DOL) Definition

The Department of Labor is a cabinet-level department of the United States Federal government overseeing the matters related to labor and promoting healthy working condition for the workers. It is responsible for administering and enforcing the federal labor standards and laws related to occupational safety, wage and hour standards, working condition, retirement benefits, workplace discrimination, unemployment, etc. The United States Secretary of labor heads the department.

A separate independent labor department was created in 1913. The department is headquartered in the Frances Perkins Building in Washington DC. The building is named after Frances Perkins, the Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945.

A Little More on What is the Department Of Labor

The US Department of Labor aims to foster, promote and develop the wellbeing of the workers, job seekers and retired persons living in the United States. They work for improving the working conditions for the wage earners, advancing the opportunities for profitable employment and protecting the rights of work-related benefit. They help employer recruit people and encourage collective bargaining. The Department of Labor is responsible for administering more 180 federal laws and thousands of federal regulations.  These laws and regulations are important for creating a healthy work atmosphere for the workers and ensure their benefits. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), responsible for collecting and publishing labor market and economic data, is administered by the US Department of Labor.

History and Background

In the post-civil war US, during 1860s labor leaders started lobbying for creating a labor department for protecting the rights of the wage earners. In 1984, the Bureau of Labor Statistics was established as part of the Department of the Interior. The bureau was responsible for collecting information related to employment and the workplace. In 1988, President Chester Arthur created a non-cabinet level Department of Labor.

On February 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt elevated the Department of Labor to cabinet-level and created the Department of Commerce and Labor. President Roosevelt was of the thought that business and labor should work together for the prosperity of both. However, the labor leader felt that business and labor was working towards opposite directions and under the pressure from various labor movements, a separate cabinet-level department was created in 1913.

Since the creation of the department, it has assumed control and responsibilities related to various aspects of the workplace and labor market.  In June 2018, the Trump administration proposed to merge the two cabinet-level departments of the United States federal government; Department of Labor and Department of Education. According to the proposal, the department will be known as the Department of Education and the Workforce. However, this proposal was met by criticisms from various quarters.

Bureaus, boards, offices, programs, and corporation

The Department of Labor administers several bureaus, boards, offices, programs, and corporation. Those are as follows:

  • Administrative Review Board (ARB)
  • Benefits Review Board (BRB)
  • Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB)
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
  • Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiative (CFOI)
  • Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)
  • Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB)
  • Ombudsman for the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOMBD)
  • Employment and Training Administration (ETA)
  • Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)
  • Office of Inspector General (OIG)
  • Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS)
  • Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP)
  • Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS)
  • Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
  • Women’s Bureau (WB)
  • Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
  • PBGC Office of the Inspector General
  • Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ)
  • Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs (OCIA)
  • Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management (OASAM)
  • Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO)
  • Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy (OASP)
  • Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO)
  • Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
  • Office of Public Affairs (OPA)
  • Office of Public Liaison (OPL)
  • Office of the Solicitor (SOL)
  • Office of the Secretary (OSEC)
  • Office of the Deputy Secretary

Laws and Regulations

The Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing over 180 federal laws and thousands of regulations related to labor and workforce. In 1916, the Adamson Act was passed that ensured eight hours work a day for the railway workers.

Fair Labor Standard Act is one of the most important laws that are enforced by the Department of Labor. This protects the interest of the workers against certain unfair pay practices and work regulations. This law ensures the minimum wage and overtime payment. According to this law, the overtime pay must be one and a half times the usual pay rate. The law also deals with the issue of child labor and limits the number of working hours for people under 16 years of age. This Act prevents people younger than the 18 years of age from working in certain hazardous industries.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is another Act enforceable by the Department of Labor. This Act establishes minimum standards for pension plans in private industry.

Occupational Safety and Health Act ensures the workers get a work environment that is free from recognized hazards, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, or unsanitary conditions.

References for Department of Labor

Academic Research on United States Department Of Labor (DOL)

An Overview of Whistleblower Protection Claims at the United States Department of Labor, Dorsey, W. (2006). J. Nat’l Ass’n Admin. L. Judiciary, 26, 43. This paper discusses the Whistleblower Protection program offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which is administered by the United States Department of Labor.

United States Department of Labor v. Triplett: Black Lung Claimants Will Continue to Suffer from a Lack of Legal Representation, Campbell, R. A. (1990). W. Va. L. Rev., 93, 713. This article discusses the Supreme court ruling in the case of the United States Department of Labor v. Triplett. It argues this decision creates an unfavorable condition for the claimants of the Black Lung Benefits Act. It says after this ruling, the coal miners seeking to recover benefits under this act will find it difficult to get attorneys willing to represent them in the court.

The Outsiders: Broadening the Scope of Standing in Whistleblower Actions in Light of Anderson v. United States Department of Labor, Franklin, D. R. (2005). J. Nat. Resources & Envtl. L., 20, 281. This article discusses the case of Anderson v. United States Department of Labor and argues that this case will help in broadening the scope of standing in whistleblower.

Experimental job vacancy survey program of the United States Department of Labor, Wingeard, I. F. (1966). In The Measurement and Interpretation of Job Vacancies (pp. 349-371). NBER. The Department of Labor launched an experimental program for the collection of data regarding job vacancies in 1965. Bureau of Employment Security and the Bureau of Labor Statistics shared the responsibility of collecting and analyzing the data and evaluating the results. This volume provides a details description of the background of the program, it’s problems and methodology.

United States Department of Labor, Ku, J., & Zimowski, E. (1989). Occupational Safety and, 479. This is a report of a study conducted from 1986 to 1988, by the OSHA Health Response Team (OSHA-HRT) and the OSHA Analytical Laboratory. A field and laboratory evaluation of the 3M model 3721 formaldehyde monitor was done in this study.

The origin of labor-management mediation: United States Conciliation Service in the US Department of Labor, Barrett, J. T. (2016). Labor Law Journal, 67(4), 549. This paper discusses the history of labor-management mediation and examines the institutional and practical evolution of this art. The paper develops that evolutionary context by describing the life of the United States Conciliation Service.

Review of Causal Factors in lnfant Mortality, by Robert Morse Woodbury, Ph.D. United States Department of Labor, Children’s Bureau, Publication No …, Thomas, D. S. (2015). International Journal of Epidemiology, 44(5), 1498-1499. This paper studies and evaluates the casual factor in infant mortality. The data used in the study was collected by investigators for the Children’s Bureau in eight US cities in selected years between 1911 and 1916. The data represents fairly typical urban conditions of US as people from these eight cities are engaged in a wide range of industrial activities.

Knox v. United States Department of Labor: The Potentially Risky Business of Interpreting Asbestos Statutes, Suh, J. J. (2007).Vill. Envtl. LJ, 18, 263. The Clean Air Act included the whistleblowers’ provision. An employee who reports the existence of asbestos in the workplace is protected under this provision. This paper discusses the potential risks of interpreting the Asbestos statute in light of the case of Knox v. United States Department of Labor.

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR• BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS, HANNA, H. S. (1939). Changes, 135. This volume of Monthly Labor Review compiles several articles related to the labor of the US. The articles are grouped into- a. Special articles, b. Wartime emergency controls, c. International labor relations, d. Employment and labor conditions, e. Unemployed youth, f. Women in industry, g. Social security, h. Cooperation, i. Labor laws and court decisions.

Organization and Functions of the United States Department of Labor, The, White, A. P. (1975). Chi. B. Rec., 57, 84. This article discusses the history, organizational structure, and functions of the United States Department of Labor.

Characteristics of adolescent work injuries reported to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry., Parker, D. L., Carl, W. R., French, L. R., & Martin, F. B. (1994). American Journal of Public Health, 84(4), 606-611. The main aim of this paper is to provide a narrative data as well as an incidence data on adolescent work-related injuries and also carry out research to determine whether such injuries are barely reported to the Minnesota Department of Labour and Industry. This paper as part of the aid of survey used in a year interval is 534 adolescent work-related injuries reported to the Department and another survey (cross-sectional) of 3312 public high school students throughout Minnesota. The statistical characteristics of the adolescents that have injuries reported to the Department of Labour and Industry were similar to those of the injured adolescent worker that have been identified from the high school survey. The result obtained from this research indicates that there is a tangible underreporting of adolescent injuries.

US Department of Labor, Handbook, O. O. (2006). Department of Labour. Their routines, characteristics and various implementations assigned to the department were also explained in this paper. The different ways in which the department has been termed useful and effective was also explained in this paper.

The rising incidence of overeducation in the US labour market, Rumberger, R. W. (1981 Economics of Education Review, 1(3), 293-314. According to this research paper, reports as regards the changes that occurred between 1960 and 1976 as regards the incidence of over-education and the definition of a discrepancy between the educational requirement of workers’ job and the educational attainment of the workers were studied in this paper. Estimates were gotten from the aggregate level of workers and separately for the sex and race group. The result observed from this test suggests that the total incidence of over-education has been on the high side in recent times as a result of the skill requirement of jobs that have only slightly changed while the educational attainment of the workers has drastically increased.

Construct validity of Holland’s occupational typology in terms of prestige, census, Department of Labor, and other classification systems., Gottfredson, L. S. (1980). Journal of Applied Psychology, 65(6), 697. According to this research thesis, the Construction of validity of Holland’s occupational typology in terms of the census, department of labour and prestige, as well as other classification system was explained in this paper. The sixth set of scores and the occupational reinforcer pattern gotten from the Minnesota Work Adjustment Project were also readily available for a hundred and twenty of the title. Result gotten from this study explains that Holland’s theory, as well as various future tests, should take more time to study the level of differences that exist among occupations.

Cognitive ability, cognitive aptitudes, job knowledge, and job performance, Hunter, J. E. (1986). Journal of vocational behaviour, 29(3), 340-362. This paper studied several studies that indicate that the general metal ability helps to suggest the rate at which workers will perform in any task given. The first section of this paper indicates that the general and widely known mental ability predicts the training success and the supervisor’s ratings while the second section explains how the general cognitive ability predicts the objectives and a valid work sample performance with a higher validity ratio. According to path analysis, much of this predictive ability comes from the fact that the general mental performance predicts the job knowledge (check body of abstract for formula). Hence, cognitive ability is an effective method that can be adopted in predicting the performance of workers.

Corporate social responsibility in the supply chain: an application in the food industry, Maloni, M. J., & Brown, M. E. (2006). Journal of business ethics, 68(1), 35-52. According to this paper, the food industry faces several significant risks as a result of public criticism of corporate social responsibility (CSR) problems in the supply chain. In this study, in comparison with previous research as regards the emerging industries trends to develop a standard scheme for the supply chain CSR in the industry was carried out. This framework, however, serves as a standard tool which supports the food industries, practitioners and researchers in the careful examination of operational and strategic supply chain CSR processes.

An international comparison of household expenditure patterns, commemorating the centenary of Engel’s law, Houthakker, H. S. (1957). Econometrica, Journal of the Econometric Society, 532-551. This paper studies the comparison of the various common elasticities of clothing, food, housing and other miscellaneous objects with respect to the total cost and family size based on the result obtained from the regression analysis carried out on approximately 40 surveys across 30 different countries. The results of the elasticities are found to be similar but unequal.

Executive pay and “independent” compensation consultants, Murphy, K. J., & Sandino, T. (2010). Journal of Accounting and Economics, 49(3), 247-262. This paper studies how the executive compensation consultant faced problems as a result of discrepancies in the interest that can lead to an increased recommended level of CEO pay which includes the willingness to cross-sell services and to secure the repetition of business. Evidence in both Canada and United States were found that the CEO pay is somewhat higher in industries where the consultant is the main supplier of services and that the pay is even higher in Canadian companies when the money received by consultants for miscellaneous services are larger compared to the fees for the executive compensation services. Hence, this paper studies executive pay as well as independent compensation consultants.

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