The Obama Overtime Rule Is Not Dead Yet

Category: @work, In the Courts, Department of Labor, Wage and Hour

The Obama Overtime Rule Is Not Dead Yet


Just when you thought the long and tortured history of the Obama administration’s changes to the overtime rules were dead, the Fifth Circuit may breathe new life into them.

How did we get here?

The Obama administration attempted to raise the minimum salary level for most employees who were classified as exempt under the white collar exemptions to roughly $47,000 per year. A federal judge in Texas, however, ruled that the Obama administration had exceeded its authority when it enacted those regulations. Waller@Work has followed these developments closely. On October 30th, however, the U.S. Department of Labor announced it will appeal the judge’s ruling.

 Why did the DOL appeal?

“I don’t understand,” you may say, “I didn’t think the Trump administration liked the Obama administration all that much.”  This appeal has nothing to do with the current administration’s feelings for the former administration.  Rather, it has to do with the DOL’s authority to enact regulations. As we explained here, the Department of Labor wants to enact their own new regulations.  They may even want to change the salary test to make it higher than it currently stands but lower than was set by the Obama administration.

As explained here and here, Judge Mazzant’s ruling  limits the extent to which the DOL can expand the minimum salary level.  The DOL likely wants to defend its turf.  They want the courts to say they have authority to set the minimum salary for exempt employees at any level they darn well please.

Could this backfire on the DOL?

Maybe.  The DOL announced that it intends to immediately ask the Fifth Circuit to stay the case. The Department clearly wants to buy time while it goes through its own rule making process. The Court of Appeals, of course, doesn’t have to oblige. The Fifth Circuit could go ahead and force the parties the litigate the appeal on its merits. This could lead the Fifth Circuit to reinstate the Obama-era regulations, which raised the minimum annual salary for most exempt employees from $23,660 to $47,000.00.  Stay tuned...


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