• Embers in the Ashes
  • November 19, 2004
  • Law Firm: McGlinchey Stafford, PLLC - New Orleans Office
  • The Labor Department's controversial rule on overtime pay still has congressmen smoldering. In early September, Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) -- who had planned to offer an amendment which would stop implementation of changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act -- yielded to threats that Republicans would stop work on the appropriations bill if his amendment was brought to the floor. Democrats and organized labor support the portion of the new rule that increases the minimum salary threshold, but seek to prevent funding the Labor Department's changes to the white collar exemptions. Obey pledged the amendment would be brought up at another time, and it was. The amendment passed in the House by a vote of 223-193.

    The Senate Appropriations Committee then approved a similar amendment, offered by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), to deny funding for most of the Labor Department's enforcement of the final rule. In response to statements from the Labor Department that the House amendment would not effectively rescind the new rule or reinstate the old rule, Harkin's amendment adds language not included in the House version that would explicitly reinstate the old FLSA regulation except for the new minimum salary threshold.

    According to the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) Human Resources Report, the Senate Appropriations Committee vote on the overtime rule sets up a rerun of last year's appropriations process when the Senate version of the FY 2004 Labor-HHS spending bill included an amendment to bar the Labor Department from moving forward with its then proposed rule governing overtime pay. The amendment was eventually stripped from the omnibus bill in the wake of a veto threat from the White House. The White House has once again vowed to veto any spending bill that contains a provision to block the overtime rule.

    C.W. "Bill" Young (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Appropriations Commit-tee, told BNA that he hopes House-Senate Conferees on an omnibus appropriations bill will pass a conference report that would be on the president's desk before the November election, and, according to BNA, as much as admitted that conferees will strip the overtime amendment. Young said, "[w]e will try not to send the president a bill that he won't sign."

    As the backdraft continues, the Department of Labor has proceeded with the implementation of the Fairpay initiative, and has established an interactive Web site at www/dol.gov/fairpay to provide employees and businesses "accurate and comprehensive" information about the new regulations.