Dems push back against Obama’s overtime regs

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Seems even some Democrats are starting to push back against President Barack Obama’s attempt to rewrite federal law to allow millions of more workers to qualify for overtime payments.

Last week Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced a bill designed to delay implementation of a new Department of Labor rule promoted by the president, citing concern that imposing the measure all at once will unduly burden business.

The Labor Department on May 18 released the final version of a rule that requires employers to pay overtime to salaried workers who make less than $47,500 per year.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), certain employees who work in excess of 40 hours are entitled to be paid at a rate of time-and-a-half for their additional labor. Currently, white collar workers (those working executive, administrative or professional jobs) who earn less than $23,660 a year (or $455 weekly) are eligible for overtime.

The new regulation, which is scheduled to take effect in December, more than doubles the threshold for eligibility. The White House estimates that an additional 4.2 million workers will be eligible for overtime compensation under the new regulation.

Rep. Schrader favors the increase, but objects to the automatic phase-in.

“Since the DOL’s immediate phase-in date was announced, we’ve heard from business owners and their employees who are worried about implementing this increase overnight,” Schrader said in a prepared statement.

Schrader seeks to spread increases out over three years, beginning with a 50 percent increase Dec. 1 to $35,984. Under his proposed Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act, the salary threshold would go up by $74 per week from 2017 until Dec. 1, 2019, when it would reach the Labor Department’s proposed $47,476 threshold.

Republicans want to block the new rule altogether, arguing that it will impose crippling costs on small businesses and hurt productivity. A report released earlier this year by the National Retail Federation estimates that that the new threshold could cost the retail and restaurant industry between $5 and 9.5 billion and that most employers will simply set up mechanisms to make sure that employees do not work more than 40 hours per week or will cut benefits and bonuses in order to absorb costs.

On June 7, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, and 43 other Senate Republicans introduced legislation to block the rule before it goes into effect. The Congressional Review Act of 1996 gives Congress the power to kill new federal regulations issued by government agencies within 60 legislative days.  The president can, however, veto any measure to block the rule.  At this time, congressional Republicans do not have enough support on their own (two-thirds of each chamber) to override a presidential veto of such action.