Labor Dept. Appeals Judge’s Ban on OT Expansion


Fighting to keep one of the Obama administration’s top pro-worker initiatives alive, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced late last week it would appeal a Texas federal judge’s ban on DOL’s expansion of worker eligibility for overtime pay.

But DOL’s appeal, to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, faces a race against the clock. Unless that appeals court hears the case before President Obama leaves office Jan. 20, the incoming DOL leadership may decide to drop it.

Doing so would strip upwards of 12.5 million workers nationwide of eligibility for a raise, via overtime pay, they otherwise would have been in line for. The rule had been scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1. The judge’s ban stalled the rule. DOL’s overtime pay rule more than doubled the salary above which a worker was ineligible for overtime, from the Bush-era $23,665 to $47,476.

 More importantly, DOL redefined the group of exempt executive, administrative and professional workers who couldn’t get overtime, regardless of their pay level. Bush had expanded it so much that even newspaper editorial assistants couldn’t get overtime pay.   

“The department strongly disagrees with the decision by the court,” DOL said in announcing the appeal. The department’s Overtime Final Rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rule-making process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule. 

Accepting the arguments of business lobbies, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant said, in so many words, that DOL overstepped its authority. DOL said it will particularly challenge that part of his ruling, which he extended nationwide. Texas, Nevada, other GOP-run states and the lobbies had sued in Mazzant’s court in Sherman, Texas, to stop the overtime rule. 

“The rule updated the standard salary level and provided a method to keep” it current to help better carry out “Congress’s intent to exempt bona fide white collar workers from overtime protections. The department always recognized the salary level test works in tandem with the duties tests to identify bona fide EAP employees” and ban them from overtime, DOL added.