NELP on DOL Decision on Overtime Regulations

Washington, DC – Following is a statement from Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:

According to media reports, the Department of Labor has rightly decided to defend the use of salary thresholds as a basis for deciding whether employers can exempt certain salaried employees from overtime pay.  Salary thresholds are practical bright-line tests that employers and employees alike have relied on for decades to determine who’s in and who’s out when it comes to overtime pay protection.  Thresholds meet the purpose of the FLSA’s overtime exemption when they are set high enough to distinguish those salaried employees whose work legitimately warrants exemption from those who should remain covered, and when they provide adequate protection against long hours and low pay for employees who are managers in name only.  The Department of Labor struck the right balance last year when, in responding to decades of erratic and inadequate attention to the exemptions’ salary thresholds, it set the threshold at slightly above $47,000 per year. Anyone making less than that would have to get paid overtime after 40 hours in a week.

However, Secretary Acosta has made little secret of his desire to lower the salary threshold, a clear capitulation to the businesses and their lobbies who complained so loudly about having to fully pay workers for the labor they perform. And DOL is preparing to issue a Request for Information to the public that seems to be the beginning of its process to revisit the regulations finalized by the Obama Administration.  Not only would such an action be a clear slap-in-the-face to the 13 million workers the Obama regulation protects, but it’s also a colossal waste of time and resources.  The DOL spent more than 2 years working on the last regulation, soliciting extensive comment from stakeholders prior to regulation, engaging in a full notice and comment period, and then further considering the nearly 300,000 comments submitted, the overwhelming majority of which were favorable to the proposed rule.

If, as the President promised in his Inaugural speech, every decision of his administration will be made to benefit our nation’s workers, then DOL should vigorously defend not just its authority to set a salary threshold, but should defend the threshold itself, and its indexing mechanism, that was finalized last year.

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