Two House Democrats Join GOP to Contest Overtime Rule

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By Ben Penn

Feb. 10 — More than 100 members of the House, including two Democrats, asked Labor Secretary Thomas Perez in a letter Feb. 9 to reconsider a controversial proposed regulation to expand workers' access to overtime wages.

The final rule, which the Labor Department has estimated will be out in July, has been heavily criticized by Republican lawmakers from both chambers.

But with two Democrats—Reps. Brad Ashford (Neb.) and Collin Peterson (Minn.)—signing on to the congressional letter, opposition to the rule may be slightly expanding.

The letter opposing the rule originated from the offices of two members of the House Small Business Committee, Reps. Cresent Hardy (R-Nev.) and Steve Knight (R-Calif.). It included 108 signatures in total, including most Republican members of the Education and the Workforce Committee.

The Obama administration, worker advocates and a host of congressional Democrats have hailed the rule as providing a necessary boost to the middle class by modernizing an outdated statute.

In its July proposed rule, the DOL called for updating the Fair Labor Standards Act by more than doubling the minimum salary for overtime exemption to $50,440 per year from $23,660.

Ashford and Peterson are two of 15 members of the House Blue Dog Coalition, a conservative wing of the Democratic party.

Lawmakers said in the letter to Perez that the regulation would “adversely impact all affected employers, especially small businesses,” and wind up having negative consequences for workers. “We urgently ask you to reconsider moving forward with this rule as drafted,” the letter concluded.

Rule Is Top Priority

Any move to delay or block the regulation likely faces headwinds from President Barack Obama, who initiated the overtime changes by directing the DOL in 2014 to write the rule.

The president has been less vocal of late about the regulation, opting not to mention it in his State of the Union address in January. But it is still considered one of the top priorities of the administration's working families agenda.

Perez in a December interview indicated the agency is doing anything but slowing down on the rule. He told Bloomberg BNA that he's confident the overtime regulation will be finalized by the spring, which would be slightly ahead of the schedule projected in the DOL's regulatory agenda.

For More Information

For more information, see Compensation and Benefits Library’s Fair Labor Standards Act: General Principles chapter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com