Fighting to keep one of the Obama administration’s top pro-worker initiatives alive, the Labor Department announced it will appeal a rural Texas federal judge’s ban on the department's expansion of worker eligibility for overtime pay.
But the appeal faces tough odds. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is an appellate panel stacked, like the Texas federal courts, with Republican-appointed judges. And advocates face a race against the clock. Unless that appeals court hears the case before the Republican Trump administration takes office, that administration’s Labor Department may decide to drop it.
Doing so would strip between 4.2 million and 12.5 million workers nationwide of eligibility for a raise, via overtime pay. The rule had been scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1. The judge’s ban stalled the rule.
The overtime pay rule more than doubled the salary above which a worker was ineligible for overtime, from the Bush-era $23,665 to $47,476.
More importantly, the rule redefined the group of exempt “executive, administrative and professional” workers who couldn’t get overtime, regardless of their pay level. Bush had expanded it so much that even newspaper editorial assistants couldn’t get overtime pay.
Accepting the arguments of business lobbies, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant said, in so many words, that the department overstepped its authority. The Department of Labor said it will particularly challenge that part of his ruling, which he extended nationwide. Texas, Nevada, other GOP-run states and the lobbies had sued in Mazzant’s court in Sherman, Texas, to stop the overtime rule.
“The department strongly disagrees with the decision by the court,” the department said in announcing the appeal. "The department’s Overtime Final Rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rule-making process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule.
“The rule updated the standard salary level and provided a method to keep” it current to help better carry out “Congress's intent to exempt bona fide white collar workers from overtime protections. The department always recognized the salary level test works in tandem with the duties tests to identify bona fide [exempt] employees” and ban them from overtime.