President Donald Trump and his cabinet "are again siding with corporate interests over those of working people," critics charged, after the administration proposed a new federal rule for overtime pay on Thursday.
"No one should mistake this as a pro-worker policy."
—Judy Conti, NELP
Workers who are typically exempt from overtime pay would qualify for it if they work more than 40 hours per week and make less than $35,308 a year, under the Trump proposal (pdf). While the rule features an increase from the current salary threshold of $23,660, it comes as a replacement for delayed Obama era guidelines that would have raised it to $47,476. The implementation of those guidelines has been held up in court.
Economist Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the progressive Economic Policy Institute (EPI), said in a statement that Trump Department of Labor should defend the Obama administration's rule rather than replace it with a weaker one.
"A preliminary calculation suggests that well over half of the workers who would have gotten new or strengthened overtime protections under the 2016 rule would be left behind by this rule," Shierholz explained. "That means this administration is effectively turning its back on millions of workers."
The Labor Department estimates that about 4.2 million people would have been affected by the Obama rule, compared with 1.1 million who will be covered by the Trump proposal.
BREAKING: Trump's overtime threshold rule lowers the cutoff from the proposed $47,000 under Obama to $35,000. The change leaves 3 million workers behind. #FightFor15 https://t.co/1zxxDR1Fkm pic.twitter.com/UexFLtoHfm
— Fight For 15 (@fightfor15) March 8, 2019
"I think there's no way that this will not face legal challenge," Shierholz, who was a Labor Department official under the Obama administration, told Bloomberg Law.
Journalist Josh Eidelson, responding to the Bloomberg report, tweeted that AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka vowed two years ago that his organization would file a lawsuit if the Trump administration tried to water down the Obama rule.
.@AFLCIO head @RichardTrumka told me in 2017 that the federation would sue if the Trump overtime proposal watered down what Obama's would have done: https://t.co/ndYdIX7SkK If even one less worker qualified, he said, "think about the effect that it'd have on that person's family" https://t.co/upS8MfcIYk
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— Josh Eidelson (@josheidelson) March 7, 2019
The Trump proposal is also under fire because it doesn't address the existing and widely criticized "duties test" that is used to determine whether an hourly worker is serving a supervisor role, which would make them ineligible for overtime pay.
Currently, the Washington Post noted, "a number of workers in retail, fast food, and other industries have been categorized as having supervisory responsibilities, thus depriving them of overtime pay even if they make as little as $23,000."
"The Trump Department of Labor is pretending to be a champion of workers," Judy Conti, government affairs director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), told the Post, "but all they are doing is perpetuating a system that allows people to get phony titles and marginal extra responsibilities so they can be made to work as many hours as an employer wants without any extra pay at all."
"No one should mistake this as a pro-worker policy," Conti concluded.
The new proposed rule now heads to the Federal Register for a 60-day public comment period.
This post has been updated to clarify in the second paragraph which workers would be impacted by the proposed salary threshold change.