On Thursday, a federal court in Texas issued summary judgment invalidating the Obama administration’s updated overtime regulations, which raised the minimum salary level for exempt employees from $455 to $913 per week. The Court determined that the “significant increase” was outside of the scope of Department of Labor’s (DOL) authority, as was the provision that the minimum salary threshold would automatically update every three years.
The Court looked to Congress’s intent under the Fair Labor Standards Act and found that the determining factor for whether an employee should be considered exempt is the duties the employee performs and whether those duties are executive, administrative, or professional in nature. By more than doubling the minimum salary level and excluding an estimated 4.2 million employees who were previously classified as exempt from exempt status, the Court found that the DOL had gone too far and essentially rendered the duties test meaningless. Because the emphasis should be on duties, not salary, the Court invalidated the updated overtime rules.
However, the Court did not go as far as to rule that the DOL has no authority to establish a minimum salary level. The Court found that the current minimum salary level is a permissible “floor” to screen out “obviously nonexempt” employees. Although the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is currently considering an appeal of the preliminary injunction the Texas federal court issued last November, the DOL under the Trump administration only continued the appeal for the purpose of establishing that it had the authority to establish a minimum salary level, which has now been done by the Texas court. The DOL is currently seeking public feedback on revisions to the overtime rule and may issue its own revised rule in the future. We will keep you updated on any further changes.