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Government Affairs: The federal overtime rule is not dead yet

April 4, 2017 -  By

 

Like that macabre but disturbingly funny scene in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the federal overtime rule is “not dead yet.”

The new federal overtime rule, that would have doubled the mandatory salary at which employees must be paid overtime, was grievously wounded when a Texas Federal judge issued a temporary injunction halting implementation of the rule nine days before it was due to go into effect Dec. 1.

While the Obama Administration appealed the judge’s ruling, the smart money was on the regulation being killed once the Trump Administration took office.

Trump’s first nominee to run the Department of Labor, Andy Pudzer, withdrew after allegations of domestic abuse and hiring undocumented domestic help. Pudzer, a fast food magnate (Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.), was opposed to increasing the minimum wage and other measures that would increase labor costs for his restaurant chains.

Many thought Pudzer’s nomination and confirmation as labor secretary would bring a swift end to the overtime rule raising the salary threshold for mandatory overtime.

But with Pudzer’s withdrawal, there are signs that a higher salary threshold for mandatory overtime is still breathing and may yet spring back to life, unlike the poor gentleman in the Holy Grail.

Enter Trump’s new nominee for labor secretary: Alexander Acosta. Acosta is the son of Cuban immigrants, and has been dean of the law school at Florida International University in Miami since 2009. If confirmed, he will be the only Latino in the Trump cabinet.

Acosta is viewed by many as more moderate than Pudzer. For example, he has spoken favorably about immigrant communities, especially the Muslim community.

In Acosta’s confirmation hearing before the Senate, the topic of the Obama overtime rule came up. While he did not come out and explicitly support or condemn the rule, at one point he said:

“The overtime rule hasn’t been updated since, I believe, 2004. And I think it’s unfortunate that rules that involve dollar values can sometimes go more than a decade and sometimes 15 years without updating, because life does become more expensive over time.”

There is speculation that Acosta may modify the existing rule, or withdraw the current rule and propose a completely new rule. The new or modified rule may increase the mandatory overtime threshold gradually or increase it at a more modest level of $35,000 rather than doubling it to $47,476, as the Obama rule would have done.

Last week, Acosta was approved by a narrow 12-11 party-line vote by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. His nomination now moves to the full Senate where a confirmation vote has not yet been scheduled. Barring unforeseen circumstances, he is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate.

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About the Author:

Gregg Robertson, Landscape Management's government relations blogger, is a government relations consultant for the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PLNA) and president of Conewago Ventures. From 2002 until May 2013 he served as president of PLNA. Reach him at gregg.robertson@conewagoventures.com.

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