Walter Olson on the Labor Department's Asset Forfeiture Tool, 'Hot Good' Orders

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Darryl Kenyon/flickr

Under a provision of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Department of Labor can seek what is known as a "hot goods" order, freezing the physical output of an employer that it suspects of having violated wage and hour law, all without having to prove its case at a trial. In recent years — urged by such constituencies as labor unions, trial lawyers, and left-leaning academics — the Obama administration has greatly stepped up its enforcement of FLSA wage-hour law. Part of that enforcement has taken the form of a revitalized use of hot-goods orders, which even defenders of its approach concede had until recently been little-known. So far, writes the Cato Institute's Walter Olson, the most notable result has been a federal attack on blueberry growers in the Pacific Northwest.

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