Trump’s Labor Dep’t Rolls Back Previous Obama Rule, Issues Wholly Inadequate Overtime Regulation

Washington, D.C.—Today, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a rule that revises the overtime rule, lowering the overtime salary threshold from the 2016 final rule. Following is a statement from Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:

“No one should be fooled by the Labor Department’s new overtime regulation. It is not a pro-worker regulation, but rather, another gift to corporate America—one that will allow it to continue to require far too many workers in this country to work in excess of 40 hours per week without any additional compensation for doing so.

“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 2020 and is projected to increase to $55,068 by 2023. Supported by rigorous economic analysis, this long-overdue updated regulation would have restored overtime pay protections to about one-third of the salaried workforce—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, with a rule that will guarantee overtime coverage only to those salaried employees who make less than $35,568. By the Department’s own analysis, that means that 3.2 million fewer workers will receive new rights to overtime and 5.0 million fewer workers will receive strengthened protections to their overtime rights.  And because DOL did not index the threshold to automatically increase over time, this number will only continue to grow each year.

“The Trump Labor Department’s rule says that if you make more than $35,568 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 at all for their long hours and dedication.

“As ever, the Trump Labor Department’s threshold is exactly what business lobbyists, such as the Chamber of Commerce, said it should be, and because of business opposition, the Department also declined to update this threshold automatically to make sure overtime protections keep up in the future.

The workers who will not get overtime protection because of this rule are precisely the workers who most need the protection: those without the requisite power to protect themselves in their job hours, and including a disproportionate number of women and people of color. Workers left behind by this rule work in retail, education, restaurants, hotels, services, manufacturing and oil and gas inspection and services. Leading categories of jobs left behind by this rule include retail, health, education, restaurants, hotels, oil and gas inspection, and repair, services, and manufacturing.

“NELP has continually posed the question: who does the Labor Department really work for? Well, there’s really no doubt any longer. DOL doesn’t endeavor to serve the workers in this country; these days, it exists to do the bidding of corporate America.

“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.

“We are confident that legal action will be pursued to challenge this regulation, which was rushed through the usually lengthy regulatory process without any real consideration of the in-depth economic analysis presented by many organizations during the notice and comment period. We will not sit by while DOL refuses to be an ally of this nation’s workforce.”



The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit Follow NELP on Twitter at @NelpNews.

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