House Hearing Offers Preview of Legal Fight on Overtime Rule
Lawmakers continued making their arguments for and against a Department of Labor proposal to expand overtime pay protections at a Congressional hearing June 12.
The proposal from President Donald Trump’s administration would make about a million employees newly eligible for time-and-a-half overtime rates for each hour beyond the standard 40 a week. An earlier proposal by the Obama labor department—which was blocked by a federal judge in 2016 and remains tied up in court—would have covered about 4 million workers.
The labor department is still in the earliest stages of reviewing public comments and formulating the details of eventual rule. Nonetheless, Democrats have already signaled their opposition and an intent to delay implementation via laws like the Congressional Review Act—which allows for a simple majority of both the House and Senate to pass a disapproval resolution.
A coalition of Democratic state attorneys general also appear to be preparing a lawsuit that would argue that the Trump DOL hasn’t adequately justified the policy reasons for abandoning the Obama-era proposal.
The agency’s overtime proposal could also face challenge from some business groups wary about any rise in their payroll costs.
The division on the issue among both stakeholders and lawmakers means that both labor and business will likely be dealing with uncertainty for a while with regards to employee classification and which workers are legally eligible for overtime.
“The overtime rule hasn’t been adequately updated in more than four decades—and America’s workers are being overworked and underpaid,” subcommittee member Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa) said in an e-mail shortly after the hearing. “Raising the salary threshold for overtime exemption is just one more way to help workers get the overtime pay they deserve and keep up with a dramatically increased cost of living.”
Raising the threshold to include more workers is common sense, Wild said.
Representatives in Rep. Bradley Byrne’s (R-Ala.) office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Byrne is the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, which held hearing.
“The Department of Labor should make sure those entitled to overtime receive it, and the proposed overtime rule from the Department of Labor will help ensure that,” Byrne said during the hearing. “But my colleagues on the other side of the gavel aren’t hearing it.”
He called the current proposal “sensible.” The Obama administration’s proposal was “excessive, misguided and unworkable,” Byrne said, suggesting that employers are likely to respond by reducing hiring and hours if labor advocates and Democrats are successful in raising the threshold to include more workers.
The hearing was titled “Restoring the Value of Work: Evaluating DOL’s Efforts to Undermine Strong Overtime Protections.”