Trump administration official says decision soon on DOL’s federal overtime rules

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 496 views 

A U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) official said Tuesday (June 13) that the Trump Administration plans to decide soon on a U.S. District Court’s move late last year to halt the Obama administration’s new overtime rules that determine how much employees working more than 40 hours a week must be paid.

On Nov. 22, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant of the U.S. District for the Eastern District of Texas, granted plaintiffs an emergency preliminary motion to prevent the DOL officials from implementing new overtime rules that were to go into effect Dec. 1. The injunction will remain in place until the courts reach a final decision on their legality.

DOL spokeswoman Chauntra Rideaux told Talk Business & Politics that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on April 19 granted a request by the Department of Justice for an extension of time of 60 days, or until June 30, in which to file a reply brief concerning the overtime rules. The additional time was requested on behalf of DOL officials “to allow incoming leadership personnel adequate time to consider the issues,” Rideaux said in response to a Talk Business & Politics query.

The original federal case, led by attorneys general in Texas and Nevada, asked the court to declare the “new overtime rules and regulations are unlawful” because they exceed statutory rights, were enacted “without observance of procedure required by law,” are arbitrary and capricious, and are unlawful as applied to the States and their employees.

The AGs also asked the federal court for declaratory relief, and a “permanent injunction” preventing the Labor Department from implementing, applying, or enforcing the new overtime rules and association regulations. On Sept. 20, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge joined the coalition of 21 states in challenging the DOL’s new rules.

The DOL issued the final rule that would raise the salary threshold in May from $23,660 to $47,476 a year, under which most salaried workers are guaranteed overtime. DOL officials said the rule would extend overtime protections to 4.2 million additional Americans who are not eligible for overtime under federal law, boosting workers’ wages by $12 billion over the next decade.

All employees would have been entitled to overtime if they earn less than $913 a week – including government employees. The rule also would have automatically updated the salary threshold every three years, to ensure it does not erode under rising wage levels and to make it harder for employers to misclassify workers to avoid paying the overtime pay they have earned.

DOL officials have said the final rule reflects input from hundreds of thousands of public comments and extensive stakeholder meetings with employers, business associations, small businesses, workers, advocates, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and state and local governments.

However, since President Donald Trump took office in January, his administration has issued several executive orders rolling back a host of federal regulations and mandates by the former president. After former fast food chain owner Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination to fill the DOL’s top post in February, President Trump then nominated former U.S. Attorney and National Labor Relations Board member Alexander Acosta for the position.

Acosta, son of Cuban immigrants, was confirmed by the Senate on April 27 by a 60-38 vote. During his confirmation hearing, Acosta signaled that the Trump administration would likely review President Obama’s overtime rule changes because it would hurt businesses by forcing employers to limit overtime hours or cut pay in order to meet the DOL mandate.

“The world has gotten more expensive, and salaries have changed since 2004,” Acosta said during his Senate confirmation hearing. “If you were to apply a straight inflation adjustment, I believe the figure if it were to be updated would be somewhere around $33,000, give or take.”

Rideaux did not respond to specific questions on whether Acosta and the Trump administration planned to make major changes to the Obama era overtime rules or roll them back altogether.