Wages

Judge: Obama Administration's New Overtime Rules an Overreach

Want to change the rules? Go ask Congress.

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Obama
Polaris/Newscom

If you want to change federal overtime requirements, then go to Congress and change the law. That's what a federal judge said (give or take 20 pages of text) Tuesday evening when granting a temporary injunction to halt the implementation of the Obama administration and the Department of Labor's rule drastically increasing the number of people who would qualify for overtime pay under federal law.

The background: President Barack Obama's administration decided earlier in the year it would executively update the policies of employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act. This law sets thresholds for employees who work salaried jobs and are exempt from overtime laws. One of the thresholds is salary; the Department of Labor decided it would double the minimum salary in order to drastically increase the number of workers who qualified for overtime. They changed the minimum threshold from $23,360 a year to $47,476 a year, which would have affected more than 4 million workers.

Not so fast, said Judge Amos Mazzant, of the Eastern District of Texas. In response to a challenge and a request for an injunction from 21 states, he ruled against the administration, meaning the law will not take effect on Dec. 1 as planned.

As Mazzant explained in his ruling, while the Department of Labor does have leeway to make adjustments and updates to the rules, it can't do so in such a way that goes against the law's intent. The law doesn't use pay levels to determine who is exempt from overtime, though there are minimum pay levels written in the law. It actually uses job duties to determine who qualifies for overtime. The new rule completely ignores the emphasis on job duties and therefore conflicts with Congress' intent with the law. Mazzant notes:

[N]othing in the EAP exemption indicates that Congress intended the Department to define and delimit with respect to a minimum salary level. Thus, the Department's delegation is limited by the plain meaning of the statute and Congress's intent. Directly in conflict with Congress's intent, the Final Rule states that "[w]hite collar employees subject to the salary level test earning less than $913 per week will not qualify for the EAP exemption, and therefore will be eligible for overtime, irrespective of their job duties and responsibilities." With the Final Rule, the Department exceeds its delegated authority and ignores Congress's intent by raising the minimum salary level such that it supplants the duties test. Consequently, the Final Rule does not meet Chevron step one and is unlawful. The Department's role is to carry out Congress's intent. If Congress intended the salary requirement to supplant the duties test, then Congress, and not the Department, should make that change.

He noted that the rule essentially creates an exemption determination based on salary alone, thereby ignoring a chunk of the law.

Mazzant is not ruling that it is bad or wrong to want to alter the salary threshold required to qualify for overtime (though it will most certainly have very bad consequences for those many workers, who will see hours cut back and opportunities for advancement dry up as these types of positions are eliminated). Instead, the judge merely ruled that the administration overstepped its authority. It doesn't have the power to make this change on its own.

That the judge's decision is entirely about the administration not following proper procedures makes the upset responses like this one from Politico a bit puzzling:

Liberal groups were swift to denounce Mazzant's decision. "This is an extreme and unsupportable decision and is a clear overreach by the court," said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, who helped the Labor Department develop the regulation. Eisenbrey called it "a disappointment to millions of workers who are forced to work long hours with no extra compensation" and "a blow to those Americans who care deeply about raising wages and lessening inequality."

If the incoming Donald Trump administration decided it would change the rules to lower the salary level necessary to be exempt from overtime, I doubt Eisenbrey would think it would be "overreach" for the court to tell Trump he couldn't rewrite the law in such a fashion. That's perhaps something worth thinking about, because if Mazzant allowed Obama to executively change the rules this way, then there's no reason a President Trump couldn't change it in the other direction.

You can download and read the ruling for yourself here.

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  1. -1 pen and phone

      1. Blood coming out his eyes…

        1. or whatever.

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  2. I personally just liked how the Politico story ENB linked to this morning started by lamenting what a blow to his legacy it was. And spent more time quoting left wing policy groups than the judge and conservatives combined.

    1. What legacy? Mainly the continuation of Bush’s legacy in regards to warfare. Also having a disaster healthcare law forced on individuals that was nicknamed “Obamacare”. I never knew Obama was a surgeon. His so called legacy was propped up by a media that screamed bloody murder about Iraq, but made mary a whimper about the protracted conflict during Obama’s terms.

      1. Let’s not forget about Dodd-Frank, which makes banks that are too big to fail even larger and more empowered by regulatory capture.

      2. Affirmative Action Election?

      3. Not only continued but expanded on Bush policies. Even renewed the poorly named Patriot Act 100% as is when democrats controlled all 3 branches of government. Meanwhile the dems and repubs don’t understand why Liberatarians say there is no difference. The clueless masses.

  3. That the judge’s decision is entirely about the administration not following proper procedures makes the upset responses like this one from Politico a bit puzzling:

    Liberal groups were swift to denounce Mazzant’s decision.

    What exactly is puzzling about progressives lamenting a judge reining in the current president unilaterally exceeding his constitutional authority to do things progressives want done, while ignoring that soon a different president will have the power to do things they don’t want done if this precedent were to be upheld?

    Because that would involve looking ahead just slightly into the future, instead of just wanting shit done that you like right now without thinking through the almost certain consequences.

    1. “Me today, you tomorrow” is an Iron Law for a reason….

        1. No Thanksgiving nuts for you, squirrel!

    2. Completely foreseeable consequences, etc. etc.

      Something, something about ferrous rules.

    3. It would also require the consistent application of prinicple, which is anathema to progs.

    4. “Because that would involve looking ahead just slightly into the future, instead of just wanting shit done that you like right now without thinking through the almost certain consequences.”

      Notice that Jack hasn’t been around to remind us how the Paris Accords don’t need no skeenking Senators! Obo’s gonna swing his pen and the hag is gonna back him up!

    5. Yeah, come January 20 all the progs are going to be dusting off copies of the Constitution.

      (Frantically flipping pages) “Where is that ‘checks and balances’ stuff in here? I don’t remember where it is; I haven’t needed it since January 2009.”

      1. Come January 20, the rest of us need to look at moving towards a new Red Scare, and keep these totalitarian shits on the defensive.

    6. What exactly is puzzling about progressives lamenting a judge reining in the current president unilaterally exceeding his constitutional authority to do things progressives want done, while ignoring that soon a different president will have the power to do things they don’t want done if this precedent were to be upheld?

      Staying on that Guardian list is important.

    7. First, this case had nothing to do with anyone “exceeding constitutional powers.”
      Second, the “process” wasn’t even flawed. The salary test amount had been amended numerous times since the 1930s as average wages increased, all by the same rule-making process followed by the Department of Labor in this instance.
      The basis for the ruling is that the salary level was set too high, according to the judge, who felt that it effectively eliminated the “duties” test that formed the heart of the administrative, executive and professional exemptions. I’m not sure where the judge draws the line – why is the salary test okay where it is but not if it’s doubled?
      In any event, your comment and the article are both mistaken in your understanding of the decision.

      1. First, this case had nothing to do with anyone “exceeding constitutional powers.”

        Sometimes legitimate issues are not brought up in court cases, one of which being that the federal government can only legitimately do what the Constitution explicitly says it can do. It seems you’re too wrapped up in what was said in the court case to consider anything else.

  4. Everyone deserves a living wage.
    Even if your employer cannot afford to pay you, you deserve more money out of that employer’s pocket because he is an evil capitalist pig and you are just an exploited worker who is forced to work for that guy.

    So goes the entire thought process of Tony, Palin’s Butt and any other idiot who believes in leftist hogwash – better known as marxism.

    1. Yeah, everyone ahould just ignore how the FED and gov’t is screwing them by making the cost of living go up, and purchasing power continually go down as the fed debauches the currency.

      1. The FED is the root cause of most of our woes yes, but arbitrarily forcing employers to pay people any minimum wage certainly only contributes to a poorly functioning economy.

        In no way, whatsoever, is a minimum wage a good thing for anyone.

    2. Look, you supporters of a brutal economic regime (thanks, Guardian!) may deny it, but we know that every business owner is an evil capitalist sitting on fountains of money, greedily hoarding it from their hard working employees.

      1. Not only are they hoarding it, they somehow figured out a way to make poor people have money so they then could take it from them.

        1. They are only interested in filthy lucre, except when the don’t care about losing money so long as they can poison the customers!

          1. It costs a lot to have those orphans polish our monocles.

      2. Well that is what the word “profit” means.

  5. Eisenbrey called it “a disappointment to millions of workers who are forced to work long hours with no extra compensation”

    Forced? Federal Labor = Slave Labor?

    1. Well, technically they are contractors, not federal employees. Of course the reason that there are so many contractors is that they are fungible, and you can actually get work our of them; unlike actual federal employees.

      1. Oh, so they agreed to a contract? Where did the “forced” part happen?

        1. It was a semantic correction, not a refutation of your larger point.

  6. Oh, and quality alt-text too!

    1. Shackford rarely disappoints.

      1. He needs to mentor some of his colleagues.

    2. Gavel smashes pen.
      Pen writes over constitution.
      Constitution covers gavel.

  7. Who is covered under the FLSA?

    1. The job duty categories in order to be considered exempt are administrative, executive, and professional employees.

    2. Does it cover government employees? If those rules reached into state and local govs…ouch.

      1. My wife works at a state university and she (and hundreds of other employees) is affected by the changes. She was hired as an exempt professional, but is essentially being demoted to an hourly worker. She has to get 40 hours a week or her pay is docked, but she can’t get more than 40 because overtime will not be approved. Needless to say, morale is low.

        1. There are approximately 85 staff at my university who are being switched to hourly because of this. Number who are happy about it: zero.

          Here’s a cool side effect: staff who are qualified have been generally allowed to teach a course for overload pay, which is a fixed amount per credit hour. Under the new rules that would have to be paid on an hourly basis as overtime, which means they would be getting more than the current overload rate. Result: none of them are allowed to teach anymore. So those people who regularly taught a class each semester for extra pay just got a big pay cut. Thanks, Obama!

  8. I may be wrong, but I don’t remember so much legacy talk during past transitions. It’s like being a *War President* and crapping out a library of rules isn’t enough anymore.

    1. I also don’t remember people protecting and defending politicians like they are your blood brother. Why do people get so defensive about some criminal scumbag that they voted for?

      Why do people repeatedly fall for the notion that a person who is given someone else’s checkbook can somehow be your savior.

      1. For the same reason that people root for a sports franchise just because it’s located in their area, regardless of the performance of that franchise, the makeup of the team, or the fans’ lack of input into the operation of that franchise (except, perhaps, stealing money from their neighbors to build stadia for said franchises).

        1. Yay my team, boo your team!

      2. Ha! My father, who was not a violent man, almost got in a fist fight defending Nixon back in the day. People still worship FDR, Kennedy, Reagan. Still, even with historic elections, half the country doesn’t bother to vote.

  9. Congress didn’t ask the secretary to determine the wage level, or adjust it.

    Why is this even a discussion?

    Fuck them.

  10. To repeat a question I posed earlier Scott, how many of those you recently called out supposed new “allies” in the war against executive overreach are applauding this decision, which struck down a specific case of executive overreach?

    Not too many, I see.

    Which tells me all I need to know about our supposed new “allies.”

    1. I really wish a certain segment of libertarians would stop being useful idiots for their enemies.

  11. Bottom line? FedGov have NO authority to regulate any cmpany’s pay scale or structure on any basis. So ANY such regulation is unconstitutional. Given that, the judge still, ruling narrowly on the law as enacted, still did well by trimming back the kinyun’s nasty overreach and his attempt to make law from the White House, and bring about his progressive socialist state.

    Loser needed his wings clipped. Looks good on him. One more defeat. And I can hardly wait for that day, soon coming, when “de feet” will hit his sorry backside and boot him out of OUR house on Pennsylvania Ave.

    1. I believe Obama will have his entire legacy washed away, and will only be remembered as a weasel scumbag who engaged in blunder after blunder domestically and internationally.

      1. He’ll be remembered as the first black president, I imagine. How that affects the next black presidential candidate’s chances is still remains to be seen.

        1. Well, by virtue of comparison, it certainly lowers the bar for theat next individual to distinguish his/herself.

  12. Obama is not King of the USA?
    Must be some fake news?

  13. The problem being the time that some people, in these situations, are required to put in, for a salary that is not comparable. The salaried positions do have drawbacks. In the end, it is the corporate bosses that are in control. The peons just have to deal with it!

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  15. Damn those constitutional limits on power. Doesn’t that judge know Obama anointed himself KING.

    1. He may have but I got to shit in the anointing oil. So there’s that.

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  20. I have not found the actual text of the law. Have you got a link for that?

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