Judge Strikes Down Obama-Era Federal Overtime Rules

A federal judge in Texas last week struck down an Obama-era federal rule on overtime pay that would have added to the regulatory burden and increased the salary threshold for overtime-eligible workers – thus increasing employers’ labor costs.

The rule would have made about 4 million people eligible for overtime that were not previously eligible and would have impacted the “white collar exemption” of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Mike Ripley, Indiana Chamber vice president of health care and employment law policy, pointed to the overreach of the previous administration’s Department of Labor (DOL) rule and that the judge’s decision makes way for more reasonable agreement and discussion between employers and the DOL.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue released this statement about the judge’s decision:

“(The) decision is another victory for the effort to free our economy from the regulatory stranglehold of the last eight years. We have consistently said that the last administration went too far in its 2016 ­overtime rule, and we are pleased that Judge Mazzant granted a final judgment that makes permanent his previous ruling against the overtime rule.

“This means that small businesses, nonprofits, and other employers throughout the economy can be certain that the 2016 salary threshold will not result in significant new labor costs and cause many disruptions in how work gets done. The Obama administration’s rule would have resulted in salaried professional employees being converted to hourly wages, reduced workplace flexibility and remote electronic access to work, and halted opportunities for career advancement. 

“We look forward to working with the Department of Labor on a new rule to develop a more appropriate update to the salary threshold.”

A coalition of national and local business groups challenged the rule in 2016 and the Indiana Attorney General’s office filed on behalf of the state of Indiana.

The Department of Justice this week dropped an appeal to save the rule after the judge’s decision.

Long-Awaited Overtime Rule is Issued; Opponents Weigh In

If you’re in or around the world of HR, you’ve been awaiting the details of the new overtime rule within the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) — effective Dec. 1. This was done at the behest of President Obama, and executed by the Secretary of Labor. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the new rule will:

  • Raise the salary threshold indicating eligibility from $455/week to $913 ($47,476 per year), ensuring protections to 4.2 million workers
  • Automatically update the salary threshold every three years, based on wage growth over time, increasing predictability
  • Strengthen overtime protections for salaried workers already entitled to overtime
  • Provide greater clarity for workers and employers

Here’s a video of Secretary Tom Perez explaining and advocating for the new rule:

Let it be known that not all are so enthusiastic, however. Opponents – a list that includes us at the Indiana Chamber, the U.S. Chamber, Society for Human Resource Management, many legislators and policy institutes  assert the new rule is unreasonable for several reasons, including the fact that some employees will lose their coveted professional exempt status.

UPDATE: Here’s more information from the U.S. Chamber on why this measure is so onerous. 

Work-Life Balance Lessons From ’90s Holiday Movies

I had an epiphany while watching “Jingle All the Way” recently.

It’s odd to have any kind of revelation when watching Arnold Schwarzenegger chase Sinbad throughout Minneapolis looking for holiday’s hottest toy, Turbo Man. But I realized that several early ’90s family movies revolve around the same issue: work-life balance.

“Jingle All the Way” (1996) saw Schwarzenegger’s character late to his son’s school events, missing out on important moments with his family, and tension with his wife. All these things led up to a Christmas Eve shopping excursion to make up for a year of being absent at home (and once again missing time with the family).

“The Santa Clause” (1994) had Tim Allen’s character (spoiler: he eventually turns into Santa Claus) working so much that he didn’t have time to play with his son, make any kind of Christmas dinner or even comfort the child about his parents’ recent divorce.

And in “Hook” (1991), Robin Williams’ grown up Peter Pan didn’t have time to get to his son’s baseball game and his constant cell phone usage was a major family disruption.

In these depictions, the fathers worked hard to provide for their families but ended up neglecting them because they couldn’t set boundaries and separate their work and home lives — usually with a harassing boss in the background demanding devotion.

I did a little digging on the origins of the “work-life balance” term and found a 2007 study from the Boston College Center for Work & Family. Interestingly, the study pins much of the realization of the need for flexibility in the workplace on a surge of working mothers, not the fathers (despite Hollywood’s depiction).

The study notes that as the workforce began to include more professional women in the 1970s and ’80s and – as they began to have children and families – there was a struggle to achieve both career and family aspirations. The actual term “work-life balance” first appeared in the mid-’80s.

Companies began to understand that being “family friendly” could be used in recruiting efforts. Employee assistance programs (EAP) and health and wellness programs made it into the workplace as employers realized burn-out and low productivity were problematic.

Another factor in the changing face of the workplace was advances in technology, which allow people to unchain from the office. Now, people are more likely to work at home in the evenings or on weekends. (Of course, that lends to its own set of balance problems, due to the ability to be constantly plugged-in.)

Here’s a piece of anecdotal evidence about employers providing a healthy balance: Each year we sort through the Best Places to Work in Indiana entries to highlight some of the things the best Hoosier companies provide (as voted by the employees themselves). “Healthy work-life balance” (zero or little overtime, paid vacation, etc.) is typically one of the first things each of these winning companies list.

Legally Speaking, This Stinks!

There are many, many things right in our country. While freedom is one near the very top of the list, something is not right when the "whocanisue.com" web site helps proliferate lawsuit abuse. Read for yourself in an installment from the Heartland Institute’s Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly.

A lawyer referral Web site is causing controversy in Florida over rules governing legal advertising. It’s called “whocanisue.com” and features a drop-down menu suggesting possible causes of action to wannabe litigants.

Under nursing home abuse, for instance, there are numerous subcategories, such as bed sores, dehydration, and falls and fractures. Lawyers are matched with clients by zip codes. Listed under “Hot Topics” are car accidents, bankruptcy, divorce, DUIs, foreclosure, overtime, mortgage loan modifications, and wrongful termination.

Strict rules apply to lawyer advertising, but the service isn’t, legally speaking, lawyering, so they may be exempt from those rules, though the matter hasn’t been finally resolved.

Business seems to be booming, with 250 law firms signed up and about 25,000 visits to the Web site every month. The service operates in California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and other states. Lawyers using the service rave about it.

“I’m getting probably twice as many phone calls,” one said. Another said his phone hasn’t stopped ringing. “The name was catchy,” he added. “I was upset I didn’t think of it.”

Others called the advertising “egregious” and a “disgrace.”