As we have previously reported, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued an update to the federal overtime regulations defining the overtime exemption for executive, administrative, and professional employees, known as “white-collar” exemptions. These changes focus primarily on updating the salary level for white-collar employees including increasing the minimum salary threshold from $455 per week to $913 per week, among other changes. The new rule is set to go into effect on December 1, 2016.
The new overtime regulations have been controversial and subject to various challenges. Specifically, twenty-one states and certain business groups have sued the DOL in Texas federal district court in an attempt to block the DOL from implementing the new overtime rules. Yesterday, November 16, 2016, the federal district court held a hearing on a motion to enjoin the DOL from implementing the new overtime rules. During the hearing, the federal district court judge stated that the Court would make a decision on the motion for a preliminary injunction by November 22, 2016. This is welcome news given that the new overtime rules’ effective date is just two weeks away.
During the motion hearing, the business groups and states made various arguments about why the rule should not be implemented, including that the drastic increase in the salary threshold was a “fundamental, radical social policy change.” It was also argued that implementation of the new overtime rules should be at least delayed until it could be reviewed by President-elect Trump’s administration. In response to that argument, the Court stated that what a new administration may do with the new overtime rules is not relevant and too speculative to affect as how the Court would rule. On the other hand, the DOL argued that the agency had reached these new salary levels in a reasonable way through the rulemaking process, and as a result, agency should be entitled to deference from the Court.
The Court seemed receptive to some, but not all, of the arguments to block implementation of the new rules. The judge questioned whether the new salary basis was a de facto salary-only test, why the change was so drastic, and how 4.2 million employees could go from being exempt one day to non-exempt the next, despite having the same job duties. However, he did state that his role was not to get involved in policy making and he would not base his decision on whether he thought the rule was good or bad.
It is premature to state for certain as to how the Court may rule; so, the wise course of action for employers, for now, is to continue to move forward with plans on how to implement the new overtime regulations for their workforces on December 1st. We will, of course, provide you with an update regarding the Court’s decision as soon as it is issued.