The U.S. Department of Labor is a cabinet-level department of the federal government that enforces more than 180 federal laws covering workplace activities, employee rights and worker safety. The department is headed by the U.S. Secretary of Labor.
The federal labor laws protect job seekers, public and private sector employees, and retirees. One of the major labor laws is the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires a federal minimum wage and 1.5-times pay for overtime work. This act is administered by the Wage and Hour Division. A major law regulating workplace safety is the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Department of Labor also enforces the workers' compensation program, which provides wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured on the job.
The Department of Labor had its beginnings in 1884 when Congress established the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect information about labor and employment. This bureau was part of the Department of the Interior. Later, the Bureau of Labor was formed and eventually become an independent Department of Labor, but lacked executive rank. In 1903, the department became a bureau again within the Department of Commerce and Labor. On March 4, 1913, on the last day of his presidency, William Howard Taft established the current cabinet-level department.