Labor Department to Reconsider Obama-Era Overtime Pay Rule

The Department of Labor on Tuesday got closer to dismantling an Obama-era overtime regulation that has been in limbo for months and would make millions of Americans eligible for additional pay, as the department sent a formal request for information on the rule to the Office of Management and Budget, NPR reports.

The rule was one of the Obama administration’s labor policy cornerstones, and it said anyone making less than $47,476 a year would be eligible for time-and-a-half pay for hours worked beyond a 40-hour work week, doubling the previous salary threshold.

“Our whole mission here is about strengthening and growing the middle class. In order to do that, we need to ensure that middle class jobs pay middle class wages”, Tom Perez, who was Labor Secretary then, told NPR’s Scott Horsley.

However, about 21 states as well as business groups sued, saying the move amounted to federal overreach and would burden the public and private sector. A federal judge ultimately agreed, blocking implementation of the policy about a week before it was supposed to go into effect on December 1, 2016.

The rule was one of the administration’s most far-reaching efforts to boost pay for workers at the lower end of the income ladder. It’s one of many administrative actions that was already facing the threat of reversal from the incoming Trump administration, NPR comments.

After President Donald Trump took office, his Labor Secretary signaled he would try to amend the rule, lowering the salary threshold. On Tuesday, the Labor Department moved toward that change by sending a Request for Information to the OMB.

“Once approved by OMB that request would ask the public to comment on a number of questions that would inform our thinking,” Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

Acosta was responding to Republican Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee who told him that “that was a bad rule”.

Alexander said the rapid increase in the salary threshold would be “just too high for many parts of the country”.

Commenting the Obama regulation, Acosta testified at his confirmation hearing in March that expanding the workforce receiving overtime may “create a stress on the system”, adding that it was “unfortunate” that the rule had not been updated in more than a decade because life has “become more expensive”.

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