The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 04, 2017

Trump rolls back DOL's overtime rule

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON (PAI)--To no one’s great surprise, the GOP Trump administration Labor Department wants to get public comments – read “business opposition” – to a rule that would open millions of more workers to eligibility for overtime pay. The labor-backed Economic Policy Institute retorts that DOL is all wet and its demand is “wasteful” of time and effort.

In a July 27 Federal Register notice, the DOL formally put out a “request for information” from “stakeholders” on whether to raise the cap, which would effectively expand the number of workers who are eligible for overtime pay. The earnings cap has been just over $22,000 since 2005. 

The Obama Administration raised it to $47,476, which would extend overtime eligibility to some 4.2 million more workers. Businesses sued against it in federal court in rural Texas last November, and got a nationwide injunction against the higher cap nine days before the rule would become enforceable. 

In the meantime, Trump was inaugurated and told DOL to yank the Obama rule. He also dropped DOL’s defense of its own rule in court. Trump’s Labor Secretary, Andrew Acosta, suggested the cap should be around $32,000. The DOL’s notice contains no figure at all. 

And it even floats the possibility that overtime eligibility should be determined solely by what duties a worker has, rather than how much the worker earns.

Besides being wasteful, DOL’s query really is “an effort to weaken or kill the badly-needed update to the overtime pay rule,” said EPI’s chief employment analyst, Heidi Shierholz. The AFL-CIO has also protested the Trump Labor Department’s action. 

“The Trump administration is trying to take away the ability of millions of hard-working Americans to get overtime pay or more time with their families. The Labor Department does not need more information about overtime pay -- they need to support middle-class workers who badly need a raise,” Shierholz said.

Trump “sides with the CEOs and top executives who want to keep pay low and force workers to work unpaid overtime. An updated overtime rule is exactly what we need for workers to get a fair return on their hard work. It’s time to fully implement and enforce the updated overtime rule,” she concluded.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute's Trey Kovacs praised the DOL's putting the brakes on the overtime rule. "If implemented," he said, "the overtime rule would have forced employers to face tough decisions on how to cut labor costs in order to afford the rule’s huge costs and paperwork burden. Instead of getting a pay increase, most workers would have seen their hours cut, flexible work arrangements eliminated, benefits reduced, and diminished prospects for promotion.

“A president who campaigned on a promise to help regular Americans you would think would not be eager to take hard-earned overtime away from them, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the new Department of Labor will do with this rule,” Justin Swartz, a partner at plaintiffs’ firm Outten & Golden in New York, told Bloomberg BNA.