On the Trump Labor Department’s Weak Overtime Proposal

This week, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a rule that revises the overtime rule, lowering the overtime salary threshold from the previously promulgated rule. Following is a statement from Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:

“The Labor Department’s decision to revisit and revise the overtime rule is a slap in the face to millions of workers all across America who waited years to be paid fairly for their overtime hours.

“In 2016, the Obama Labor Department finalized a regulation that would have provided automatic overtime coverage to any worker making less than $47,476 per year in 2016—a salary level that would have increased to $51,064 by 2019 and is projected to increase to $55,068 by 2022. That regulation was supported by rigorous economic analysis. It would have meant that about a third of the salaried workforce would receive the protections of our nation’s overtime laws—a far cry from the more than 65 percent who were covered in the 1970s, but far better than the less than 7 percent presently covered.

“Today, the Trump Labor Department marched back from that regulation, proposing to guarantee overtime coverage only to those who make less than $35,308. By the Department’s own analysis, that means that in year one, 2.8 million fewer workers will receive protection under the overtime laws, and that number grows to 4.3 million by year ten.

“The Trump Labor Department’s rule says that if you make more than $35,000 a year, you’re a highly paid executive, administrator, or professional who doesn’t need overtime pay. It will mean that millions more workers can be made to work 50, 60, or even 70 hours a week, missing time with their families and receiving no extra pay for their long hours and dedication.

“Notably, the Trump Labor Department’s threshold is exactly what business lobbyists, such as the Chamber of Commerce, said it should be. And in the face of a very pointed threat of litigation in an unfriendly jurisdiction, the Department has backed off, at least for now, from a provision that would update this threshold automatically to make sure overtime protections keep up in the future. Secretary Acosta is once again siding with well-connected interests over working people. It certainly begs the question: who does the Labor Department really work for?

“Working people should not have to wait another day for government to be on their side. NELP urges the Department of Labor to rescind this proposal and instead fight to implement stronger protections.

“And we urge state leaders to step in to protect workers in their states from the Trump overtime rollback. Already, California and New York are phasing in higher overtime salary thresholds under state law. Pennsylvania and Washington State are in the process of following them, and similar proposals have been introduced in more states. Governors and legislatures should follow their lead and lock in overtime protections at the state level.”

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