- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Obama administration is defending a regulation mandating overtime pay for millions of workers is legal, despite a federal judge’s decision that blocks the rule from taking effect and could help President-elect Donald Trump rescind it.

“We strongly disagree with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work for millions of hardworking Americans,” the Department of Labor said in a statement. “The department’s overtime 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 statement said the administration is “currently considering all of our legal options.”

The Labor Department can appeal the decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court that blocked President Obama’s executive action on immigration amnesty in 2015.

The overtime rule would have doubled, to $47,500, the maximum salary a worker can earn and still be eligible for mandatory overtime pay. It was expected to have the greatest impact on retail businesses, hotels, restaurants and nonprofit groups.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas, who was appointed by President Obama, issued a nationwide injunction against the rule late Tuesday at the request of 21 states, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. It would have made more than 4 million private-sector workers eligible for overtime or time off, beginning on Dec. 1.

The judge said he blocked the rule because the state plaintiffs were likely to win the case on the merits. He said the Labor Department regulation exceeded the authority granted by Congress by defining which workers are considered “salaried” based on their level of pay, rather than the duties performed.

Even supporters of the administration’s regulation predicted the court ruling will increase the likelihood that Mr. Trump will dump the overtime rule completely next year.

“By enjoining the rule, the Eastern District has made it easy for Republicans to wipe the rule away completely once President-elect Donald Trump takes office,” said Angela Kelley, senior vice president at the liberal Center for American Progress. “One judge has prevented millions of Americans, who are not currently guaranteed overtime protections, from getting a much needed raise.”

Mr. Trump has cited the overtime rule as a prime example of the sort of Obama regulations that he wants to roll back. He said in August he would at least seek an exemption for small businesses from the rule.

“We have to address the issues of overtaxation and overregulation and the lack of access to credit markets to get our small business owners thriving again,” Mr. Trump said at the time. “Rolling back the overtime regulation is just one example of the many regulations that need to be addressed to do that. We would love to see a delay or a carve-out of sorts for our small business owners.”

Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, said Wednesday that the ruling is “disastrous” to workers.

“Anyone who claims to be a champion of working families should be outraged by the misguided and irresponsible court decision,” Mr. Sanders said. “I urge the Obama administration and President-elect Trump to do everything they can to vigorously defend this rule. During this time of Thanksgiving we must fight to make sure that all Americans receive the pay they have earned and deserve.”

The National Women’s Law Center called on Mr. Trump’s team to “affirm that it will fight to raise the wages of working people by vigorously defending the overtime rule.”

“A single judge in Texas has ignored 78 years of legal precedent and taken money out of the pockets of millions of working people across the country by blocking the long overdue update of the overtime rule,” said NWLC Vice President Emily Martin. “These workers, the majority of whom are women, earn modest salaries, work long hours, and have just been told that they will still be denied fair pay.”

Republican lawmakers expressed satisfaction with the judge’s ruling. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, Minnesota Republican, said the administration took a “fundamentally flawed approach” to updating overtime rules.

“The administration should abandon this extreme and partisan rule, providing relief and certainty for both employers and workers,” he said in a joint statement with Rep. Tim Walberg, Michigan Republican. “We applaud the judge’s decision and will continue advancing the commonsense, pro-growth solutions the American people need.”

Industry hailed the decision as a needed check against the administration’s executive overreaching on costly regulations.

The ruling “will protect employers from being forced to speculate which of their employees may be considered nonexempt under a salary threshold that could change in the middle of a multiyear construction project,” said Kristen Swearingen, an executive at the Associated Builders and Contractors.

“The rule would have a significant impact on commercial and industrial construction projects in particular, since they often last longer than three years and are carefully planned to stay on time and under budget,” she said.

Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, called the judge’s ruling “an appalling overreach that must not stand.”

“By updating wage and hour protections that had been allowed to erode for decades, the new rule would help stop an egregious form of worker abuse and put fair wages in the hands of millions of workers who labor at their jobs for more than 40 hours per week,” she said.

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