It seems that a lot is going on in DC these days. In what may have been lost in all the other activity, yesterday the Department of Labor issued a Request for Information seeking notice and comment before issuing revised proposed regulations regarding the minimum salary level required to meet the three most common exemptions under the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Who cares, right? Mind-numbing administrative procedures, right? Maybe.
A little background is probably necessary. Back before Russia, fake news, alternative facts, and leaks, the DOL under President Obama issued new regulations that raised the minimum salary level for the executive, professional, and administrative exemption to the FLSA’s overtime requirements from $455 per week to $913 per week. The rule was supposed to go into effect on December 1, 2016, and would have resulted in millions of more workers becoming eligible for overtime. Employers spent a lot of time in 2016 getting ready for the new rule by making changes to the workforce to make sure that workers were properly classified under the new rules.
Then there was a lawsuit. And from that lawsuit came an injunction against the new rule going into effect. And that injunction resulted in an appeal. And that appeal is still pending. But here is where things get interesting. Candidate Trump became President Trump, and Trump’s DOL took another look the new salary limit. Trump’s DOL told the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that the DOL was no longer pursuing the $913 salary level that was set by Obama’s DOL. To be sure, Trump’s DOL still wanted the authority to set a salary level, but it just was not interested in the salary level set by the previous administration.
Yesterday’s notice by DOL is the first step in the process to decide if there should be an increase in the salary limits for the overtime exemptions under the FLSA.
What does all of this mean? First, the DOL is not going to pursue the new rule that was to have gone into effect on December 1, 2016. With no one left to fight the appeal, any confusion regarding how the injunction would impact the workforce and the potential retroactive application of the Obama DOL rule if the appeals court overturned the injunction no longer seems in play. Second, it will be several months (or years) before the DOL decides whether to issue a new rule regarding the salary level for the executive, professional and administrative exemptions under the FLSA.