Former Wage, Hour Chiefs Offer Tips to New Congress

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By Jon Steingart

The 21st century economy will be on everybody’s mind when a House subcommittee weighs wage-and-hour policy Feb. 16.

Former administrators of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 14 what they’d like to see when Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) holds his first hearing as the new chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee.

Congress passed the primary federal wage-and-hour statute, the Fair Labor Standards Act, in 1938. “This law was crafted with an early 20th century brick and-mortar industrial model in mind,” said Paul DeCamp, a Wage and Hour Division administrator under President George W. Bush. “That’s a world and reality that’s very different than the economy we have now.”

“I think it would be beneficial for Congress to spend some time thinking about how to make our wage-and-hour rules clearer and easier for everybody involved to understand, said DeCamp, who now practices law representing employers as a principal in the Washington, D.C., region office of Jackson Lewis PC. “Where I think Congress and the Department of Labor could really do a lot of good in focusing their hearing is on ways to make the law clearer for everybody. Clear standards lead to compliance.”

Will Trump Platform Sway Panel?

One of DeCamp’s successors at the WHD, David Weil, challenged subcommittee members to recognize changes in workplace rules over the years. “The oversight of the Wage and Hour Division—of what we have done and what they will do—should be framed under the context of the erosion of standards,” Weil said. He was the WHD administrator at the end of President Barack Obama’s second term.

“Donald Trump ran on this issue in part about the people left behind, a concern about a set of people who have in perception and in reality seen their economic well-being and security erode over the years,” said Weil, who is now an economics professor at Boston University. “If they’re serious about that, they need to have this discussion about the standards and eroding workplace conditions.”

Byrne, in his third term in Congress, is a former labor lawyer and an outspoken critic of Obama administration moves to expand overtime eligibility and enhance disclosure requirements for businesses that hire union-busting advisers. He plans to use the hearing to lay out topics the subcommittee is likely to take up, such as minimum wage, overtime and joint employer liability for violations, an aide told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 14.

The subcommittee is scheduled to hear from four witnesses, including Andy Brantley, president and chief executive officer of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources in Knoxville, Tenn., and Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at the Century Foundation in Washington.

Rhea Lana Riner, president of Rhea Lana’s Franchise Systems Inc. in Conway, Ark., will speak on behalf of the International Franchise Association. Christine Walters, who operates FiveL Co., a human resources and employment law consulting service in Westminster, Md., will speak on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management.

—With assistance from Christopher Opfer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

For More Information

The hearing will take place Feb. 16 at 10 a.m., Eastern. A live broadcast will be available on YouTube.

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