By Sally A. Piefer
With less than 90 days before the Department of Labor’s new white collar overtime rules take effect, Wisconsin is among a group of 21 states challenging the Final Rule.
On May 18, 2016, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued Final Rules changing the eligibility for overtime for employees falling in the executive, administrative or professional exemptions. The Final Rule more than doubles the minimum salary necessary for an employer to consider a particular job exempt from overtime, increasing the salary threshold from $23,600 to $47,476 annually ($913 per week). In addition, the Final Rule provides for automatic indexing of the minimum salary threshold every three years. This new “salary” test is expected to affect approximately 4.2 million U.S. employees who are currently considered exempt. The Final Rule was set to take effect on December 1, 2016.
The lawsuit, filed yesterday in federal court in Texas, charges that the DOL failed to analyze the type of work that an employee is doing in these exempt classifications and simply determined that the amount of salary received by the employee was the best indicator of whether the employee fit within one of the exemptions. The DOL, the lawsuit claims, failed to consider any changes to the duties tests because those changes would have been “more difficult.” They charge that salary should not be used as a “proxy” for duties and that employees who satisfy the duties portion of the test should still be considered exempt. In addition, the States challenge the automatic indexing because the use of automatic indexing is “without specific Congressional authorization” and is therefore invalid. Instead, if the DOL wants to use automatic indexing, the Plaintiff States say this process should go through the normal administrative agency notice and comment rulemaking process.
In addition, the lawsuit states that the payment of overtime to employees who will no longer be eligible to be considered exempt would force not only state and local governments – but also private employers – to substantially increase labor costs. Unlike private businesses, the Plaintiff States allege that state and local governments have fewer discretionary funds available and therefore have less ability to reduce costs or increase revenue. The result of the Final Rule, they claim, will force state and local governments to reduce or eliminate essential government services and functions.
The Plaintiff States allege that the Final Rule violates the 10th Amendment. The Tenth Amendment, a section of the Bill of Rights, essentially says that any power that is not given to the federal government is given to the people or the states. The States say that compliance with the Final Rule will impair the States’ ability to run their governments because of the huge impact the Final Rule will have on their respective budgets. The States ask the Court to declare the Final Rule invalid. At this point, the Plaintiff States have not sought immediate injunctive relieve preventing the rule from taking effect on December 1, 2016, but perhaps that will come as the deadline draws closer.
Other states joining Wisconsin in the lawsuit are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
Shortly after this lawsuit was filed, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and fifty different business groups also filed suit in federal court in Texas challenging the Final Rule. The Chamber’s lawsuit also alleges that the Final Rule disqualifies millions of employees from the executive, administrative, and professional employee exemption and that “the new salary threshold is no longer a plausible proxy for the categories exempted from the overtime requirement.” The lawsuit also argues that the automatic update to the salary threshold every three years without rulemaking or seeking input from stakeholders is not authorized under the law.
Lindner & Marsack, S.C. will continue to keep you posted on further developments. However, in the interim, you should proceed as though the Final Rule will take effect on December 1, 2016, so that you are not scrambling or putting your business in jeopardy of running afoul of the Final Rule.
For more information about the DOL’s new overtime exemption rules or your general employment law needs, please contact Attorney Sally Piefer at (414) 226-4818 or firstname.lastname@example.org or any of the other attorneys you work with at Lindner & Marsack, S.C.