The Trump Administration Is Trying to Roll Back Overtime Protections for Millions of Working People

Yesterday the Department of Labor released a “request for information” (RFI) regarding an Obama Administration regulation expanding access to overtime to millions of hardworking Americans. This RFI, soliciting a new round of public comments, is the latest attempt by the Trump Administration to delay and ultimately weaken this regulation. Working women and the families who rely on them can’t afford to wait.
The Obama Administration’s update to the overtime rule raised the minimum salary threshold below which workers are entitled to receive overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. Previously, the rule stated that an employee could not receive overtime compensation if they were a salaried worker with “executive, administrative or professional” duties making more than $23,660 annually. To put that number into perspective, a 2014 study found that the overtime salary threshold covered 65 percent of salaried employees in 1975; as of 2013, it only covered 11 percent of salaried workers. Considering the threshold was last updated in 2004, before we even had iPhones, it needed a serious increase. The Obama Administration raised the salary threshold to $47,476 and provided for automatic increases every three years thereafter to reflect rising wages.
The new overtime rule was scheduled to take effect on December 1, 2016, but implementation has been delayed by a preliminary injunction issued by a district court in Texas. In that case, Nevada, along with several other states, sued the Department of Labor claiming compliance with the rule will have significant costs and cause “irreparable harm.” However, what these states conveniently ignore is that the current threshold already has significant costs and has caused irreparable harm for hardworking Americans. Today, if an employee is promoted to ‘shift supervisor’ at an annual salary of just $24,000, she can lose her overtime pay even if she is required to work over 40 hours per week. Millions of employees are being forced to work long hours for little pay, sacrificing time with their families and struggling to make ends meet.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to “improve working conditions” and “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners” of the United States. That’s exactly what the Obama-era overtime rule would do for the estimated 12.5 million working people it would benefit, most of whom are women: it would ensure that they get overtime pay if they work over 40 hours in a week, or more time with their families without a cut in pay if their employers do not want to compensate them for additional hours. And that’s why Labor Secretary Acosta should be working hard to defend this rule from baseless lawsuits and get on with enforcing it—not causing further delays by reopening a regulatory process that already lasted about two years and raising questions already answered by the nearly 300,000 public comments generated in that process.
The vast majority of those public comments were in favor of the Obama Administration’s proposed rule. Working people shouldn’t have to wait any longer for the overtime protections they want and need.