by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Department of Labor is now attempting to rewrite a controversial Obama administration rule regulating the overtime threshold for white-collar workers.
The department announced on Monday it is revisiting the Obama administration proposal, which would have more than doubled the threshold at which employers must pay overtime. President Barack Obama’s regulators attempted to raise the minimum from $455 per week to $913 and establish automatic annual increases in the rate, spurring legal challenges from state governments and industry groups.
Federal Judge Amos Mazzant, an Obama appointee, blocked the amended regulation from going into effect in November 2016, citing the steep salary levels, as well as the legislative language of the Fair Labor Standards Act, to prevent the department from adopting the regulation.
“The Department has exceeded its authority and gone too far with the Final Rule. Nothing in [the law] allows the Department to make salary rather than an employee’s duties determinative,” Judge Amos Mazzant said in the ruling. “Nothing in the EAP [executive, administrative, or professional] exemption indicates that Congress intended the Department to define and delimit with respect to a minimum salary level.”
The Obama administration appealed the decision, but in September the Justice Department under President Trump announced it would no longer defend the proposal. Mazzant’s past rulings could be read to prevent the department from taking salary into consideration when setting overtime pay rules. The Labor Department has asked the court to grant an abeyance in the case to give it time to change the proposal in the hope that it will retain its power to regulate overtime rules by setting a more modest salary threshold.