Today the Department of Labor announced that it will defend its authority to use a salary threshold to determine whether workers are eligible for overtime pay—asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to uphold the authority DOL has exercised for almost 80 years. DOL has used salary as well as duties to determine overtime eligibility since 1938, and it would have been an abandonment of the agency’s responsibility to U.S. workers to have abdicated this authority.
However, the department’s brief also states that the department “has decided not to advocate for the specific salary level ($913 per week) set in the final rule at this time and intends to undertake further rulemaking to determine what the salary level should be.” In other words, the Trump administration is defending the agency’s authority to establish an overtime threshold in order to issue a new rule that hurts working and weakens overtime protections.
Last year, after years of work, DOL issued a rule updating the salary threshold under which all workers are guaranteed the right to overtime pay—giving 12.5 million workers new or strengthened rights to get paid overtime or get time with their families. Far too many salaried workers were not covered by overtime protections because the threshold of $23,660 per year had not kept up with wage growth or inflation and was therefore far too low. Under the updated rule, salaried employees making less than $47,476 a year must be paid time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours in a week.
From the beginning, the Trump administration has made it clear that it intends to lower the salary threshold and weaken or perhaps kill the updated rule. DOL plans to issue a Request for Information that marks the beginning of this process. By issuing this RFI and not defending the updated threshold, the Trump administration is working to roll back the hard earned rights of working people. It is yet another example of President Trump’s siding with big businesses and corporate lobbyists over working people that the Trump DOL is working undo a rule that simply allows members of the middle class who work hard to be paid what they are worth.