Trump administration to appeal overtime rule decision

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Alexander Acosta is secretary of the Department of Labor in the Trump administration. (Photo: Department of Labor Alyson Fligg)
Alexander Acosta is secretary of the Department of Labor in the Trump administration. (Photo: Department of Labor Alyson Fligg)

The Justice Department on Monday said it intends to appeal an Aug. 31 summary judgment by U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant III that a federal overtime rule finalized under President Obama was unlawful because it based overtime changes on a minimum salary level rather than job responsibilities.

The move, made on behalf of the Labor Department, is an attempt to preserve the Labor Department's authority under President Trump to reshape the rule.

“Once this appeal is docketed, the Department of Justice will file a motion with the Fifth Circuit to hold the appeal in abeyance while the Department of Labor undertakes further rulemaking to determine what the salary level should be,” the Labor Department said in a statement.

The Obama-era Labor Department rule would have made 4.2 million more workers eligible for overtime pay by raising the salary threshold for eligibility from $23,660 to $47,476. That threshold would have been updated automatically every three years. Several senior living trade associations had opposed the rule, calling for more incremental changes.

The rule was the subject of legal battles, including an injunction that prevented it from going into effect. June 30, the Labor Department under President Trump said it planned to develop its own rule rather than continue an effort to enact changes decided under the former administration. Aug. 31, Mazzant declared the rule unlawful.

The Trump administration in July asked for input from the public on what changes the Labor Department should propose. A senior living operator and Argentum were among those who submitted comments.

Argentum President and CEO James Balda recommended basing the minimum salary threshold increases used to determine overtime pay on the 20th percentile for salaried employees in the lowest paid geographic region of the country.

Cory Sanford, director of human resources for assisted living community Ashley Manor of Meridian, ID, wrote on behalf of the company that, “At a minimum, we suggest completely eliminating the proposed automatic annual increases to the minimum salary and increase minimum salary to a more manageable and reasonable amount, such as $30,000 per year.”

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said Monday's Justice Department action is “good news for the millions of workers who need better protections of their right to overtime pay.”

“The Labor Department is right to defend its authority to issue a robust salary threshold to set the baseline for this exemption,” Owens said in a statement. “NELP urges the Labor Department to zealously pursue this appeal to defend and ultimately implement the Obama administration's regulation, which would expand overtime rights for 4.2 million workers and restore real teeth to the legislative protection of the 40-hour workweek.”

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