Labor Department to Change Several Labor Law Regulations

Changes to overtime calculations, job training program funding, and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are all in the works as the Bush Administration’s Labor Department (DOL) listens primarily to the concerns of businesses instead of workers and moves to change several decades-old employment regulations. (See AP story.) Most people are surprised to find out that there is no legal limit to the amount of overtime an employee can be asked to work in most circumstances (your state law or union contract may limit overtime, but overtime is not limited under federal law). The only disincentive that exists to prevent employers from requiring employees to work limitless amounts of overtime is the requirement that employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek be paid time-and-a-half. (See DOL Overtime Pay page.) Proposed changes, however, will make many more employees exempt from overtime pay requirements. While it is clear that the laws determining who is exempt from overtime have become outdated and overly complicated and confusing, the solution is not to make fewer employees eligible to earn overtime. One bright spot (and perhaps the only one) in the proposed regulations is that the lowest monetary threshhold for who is exempt from overtime pay will be increased, so that more lower-wage workers will potentially be eligible for overtime pay. Other changes appear to be in the works regarding the Family & Medical Leave Act. In the story cited above, it appears that employers want leave for the birth or adoption of a child to be eliminated from the FMLA, as well as some weakening of the intermittent leave provisions. (For more FMLA information, see the Workplace Fairness FMLA page.) It appears the so-called “family-friendly” policies of this Administration will only extend so far, if the rumored changes, expected to be made available for public comment in March, actually take place. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.