The United States Department of Labor is a Cabinet department of the United States government responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, re-employment services, and some economic statistics. Many U.S. states also have such departments. The department is headed by the United States Secretary of Labor. Hilda Solis is the current Secretary of Labor. Seth Harris is the current Deputy Secretary of Labor.
The purpose of the Department of Labor (DOL) is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights. In carrying out this mission, the Department of Labor administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws. These mandates and the regulations that implement them cover many workplace activities for about 10 million employers and 125 million workers.
The Department’s headquarters is housed in the Frances Perkins Building, named in honor of Frances Perkins, the Secretary of Labor from 1933–1945 and the first female cabinet secretary in U.S. history.
The U.S. Congress first established a Bureau of Labor in 1888 under the Department of the Interior. Later, the Bureau of Labor became an independent Department of Labor but lacked executive rank. It became a bureau again within the Department of Commerce and Labor, which was established February 15, 1903. President William Howard Taft signed the March 4, 1913 bill establishing the Department of Labor as a Cabinet-level Department.
President Lyndon Johnson asked Congress to consider the idea of reuniting Commerce and Labor. He argued that the two departments had similar goals and that they would have more efficient channels of communication in a single department. However, Congress never acted on it.
In the 1970s, following the Civil Rights Movement, the Labor Department under Secretary George P. Shultz was instrumental in promoting racial diversity in unions.
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