Oppose Regulations to Take Away Overtime Rights

Categories: Advocacy Letter

Recipient: Senators

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil rights coalition, we strongly urge you to support an amendment to the Labor/HHS bill, to be offered by Senator Harkin, which will prevent the Department of Labor (DOL) from implementing any regulation that will take away the overtime rights of workers.

On March 31, 2003, the DOL proposed regulations that would make it easier for employers to reclassify workers as executive, administrative, or professional employees who are not entitled to overtime protection. All of the DOL’s proposed changes to the “duties” tests, which determine whether workers fall into these categories, will make it easier for employers to avoid paying their workers overtime.

The impact of such a change on American workers will be harsh and widespread. The Economic Policy Institute concludes that more than 8 million workers would lose overtime protection. Even the conservative Employment Policy Foundation estimates that 1.16 million workers would lose their overtime pay, and the DOL’s own analysis predicts that many workers will lose their protection as well. Regardless of the various losses estimated, there is no dispute that the proposed regulation would disqualify more workers from overtime protection, and there is simply no justification for stripping any workers of their overtime rights.

The DOL’s proposed regulation does include a long-overdue adjustment to the minimum salary threshold, the level below which workers are guaranteed overtime eligibility, and this aspect of the regulation is worth preserving, even though most of the workers below this threshold already benefit from the current “duties” test. However, the need to adjust this salary threshold for inflation does not justify efforts to weaken the “duties” test for workers above that threshold.

The Harkin amendment will stop the DOL from issuing any regulation that takes away workers’ overtime rights. The DOL would still be able to promulgate its proposed adjustment to the minimum salary threshold, which it estimates will guarantee overtime protection for 1.3 million workers, and it could even update this threshold to a higher level. The DOL will also still be able to clarify the “duties” tests in ways that do not take away workers’ overtime rights. It would not, however, be able to use the need for “clarity” as an excuse to take away the overtime pay of as many as 8 million workers or more.

Just last month, a bipartisan majority of House members prevented passage of “comp time” legislation (H.R. 1119) that would have undermined the protections of the 40-hour work week for workers entitled to overtime protection. The DOL’s proposal would accomplish a similar objective, in an even more unfair fashion, by simply making millions of workers ineligible for overtime protection in the first place.

We strongly urge you to protect the 40-hour work week, and protect workers’ right to overtime pay, by voting for the Harkin amendment to the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill. If you have any additional questions, please contact Rob Randhava, LCCR Policy Analyst, at (202) 466-6058, or Nancy Zirkin, LCCR Deputy Director, at (202) 263-2880. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Wade Henderson, Executive Director
Nancy Zirkin, Deputy Director