Judge Strikes Down Obama-Era Federal Overtime Rules

A federal judge in Texas last week struck down an Obama-era federal rule on overtime pay that would have added to the regulatory burden and increased the salary threshold for overtime-eligible workers – thus increasing employers’ labor costs.

The rule would have made about 4 million people eligible for overtime that were not previously eligible and would have impacted the “white collar exemption” of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Mike Ripley, Indiana Chamber vice president of health care and employment law policy, pointed to the overreach of the previous administration’s Department of Labor (DOL) rule and that the judge’s decision makes way for more reasonable agreement and discussion between employers and the DOL.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue released this statement about the judge’s decision:

“(The) decision is another victory for the effort to free our economy from the regulatory stranglehold of the last eight years. We have consistently said that the last administration went too far in its 2016 ­overtime rule, and we are pleased that Judge Mazzant granted a final judgment that makes permanent his previous ruling against the overtime rule.

“This means that small businesses, nonprofits, and other employers throughout the economy can be certain that the 2016 salary threshold will not result in significant new labor costs and cause many disruptions in how work gets done. The Obama administration’s rule would have resulted in salaried professional employees being converted to hourly wages, reduced workplace flexibility and remote electronic access to work, and halted opportunities for career advancement. 

“We look forward to working with the Department of Labor on a new rule to develop a more appropriate update to the salary threshold.”

A coalition of national and local business groups challenged the rule in 2016 and the Indiana Attorney General’s office filed on behalf of the state of Indiana.

The Department of Justice this week dropped an appeal to save the rule after the judge’s decision.

How Will the 2016 Elections Impact Labor and Employment Policy?

UWe’re all still recalibrating after last Tuesday’s election results. While the citizenry ponders what this means for the country and the issues dear to us, the impact on labor and employment policy is a top consideration for business-focused organizations like ours.

Harold P. Coxson of the law firm Ogletree Deakins articulated some thoughts in a blog post just after election night:

What do last night’s election results mean for labor and employment policy? In the first place, it means that Republicans will control the White House and both the House and Senate.

For another, it means that President-elect Trump will select the candidate for the current vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as seats on the 12 federal circuit courts, only four of which remain under the control of judges appointed by Republican presidents.

It also means that President-elect Trump will fill the two vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board with two Republicans, thus switching majority control of the agency on his first days in office. The NLRB’s record of historic reversals of long-established labor law precedent in areas such as joint-employment, independent contractors, waivers of class and collective actions in arbitration agreements, “ambush” union elections and micro bargaining units will, over time, be reversed.

It means the appointment of other key policy positions throughout the federal labor agencies, including the Secretary of Labor, Solicitor of the U.S. Department of Labor, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, and Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. They, in turn, will be expected to roll back or recall many of the controversial labor and employment regulations, such as the recently issued Part 541 overtime regulation, the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces (government contractor “blacklisting”) executive order and implementing regulations, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act’s revised “persuader activity” regulations.

The election results also represent an opportunity for Congress to promulgate regulations and pass legislation that would represent responsible immigration policy on a path to earned legalization of undocumented workers and that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

As a result of last night’s elections, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will likely remain with Sen. Alexander (R-TN) rather than Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The House Education and the Workforce Committee will be chaired by Rep. Virginia Fox (R- NC) with Rep. Bobby Scott (D- VA) likely to remain as Ranking Democrat.

Whether the election results will bring about greater bipartisanship and less political acrimony and gridlock remains to be seen. However, with Republicans controlling the White House and Congress, those angry voters who complained that “nothing ever gets done in Washington” will expect better.

What’s New in Unemployment Compensation?

Much has changed in Unemployment Compensation legislation since our last edition of the Unemployment Compensation Handbook was released in 2007. In just this past year alone, both state and federal lawmakers have impacted Indiana’s Unemployment Compensation system with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, as well as Indiana House Bill 1379, which addressed the depleted UI Trust Fund and launched both increased tax rates and stricter eligibility rules for unemployed workers applying for UI benefits; and in 2010, Senate Bill 23, which delayed the tax increases on Indiana employers for one year.

Our new book, authored once again by the law firm Ziemer, Stayman, Weitzel & Shoulders, can be your go-to reference on this complicated subject.

We do, however, have different options for you to receive the book this year. In addition to our standard hard copy for $95 , we’ll offer this book as one of our new ePubs. By ordering the ePub, not only will you get access to the book the minute it’s officially released (which should be by the end of next week), but you can buy a year of access for just $69. That means if a new edition of the guide is released during that year, you’ll automatically have access to the new guide online. And better yet, this book is part of our NEW Human Resources ePubs package, which includes a total of 15 of our popular HR-related titles for just $499 for the year (over $450 less than if you bought these books individually).

Chamber Now Offering Publications in PDF Form

Customers spoke — and we listened.

While many devoted purchasers of our human resource and other issue-specific compliance books enjoy the tangible copies, some just wanted searchable information right on their computer. For those folks, we now offer most of our compliance publications in downloadable PDF form.

To purchase, just visit our web site and search through the book categories; you will see a related page offering an "online guide" if we have that book in PDF form. The cost is the same as the hard copy, and they are for credit card purchase only.

Happy reading, and happy compliance…ing!

The Intern Chronicles: Rockin’ Out for Compliance

I got an e-mail Monday afternoon about an event starting the next day that would continue throughout the rest of the week. It was referred to as a “massive poster shipping party.”  These four words didn’t really seem to go together, but I was pleased to be invited nonetheless.

 The e-mail explained that people could help as they were able — purely on a volunteer basis — and that free pizza would be provided to show appreciation. There were also a few more paragraphs, but I didn’t really read much after the "free pizza" part.

 I was in our conference center for most of the next couple days, helping to prepare a shipment of the latest labor law compliance posters (you know, the laminated ones you’ve pretended to be interested in during awkward breakroom encounters). The process involved rolling the posters up and stuffing them into tubes, which were then sealed and slapped with a shipping sticker. Since the work didn’t require a great deal of concentration, the atmosphere was pretty relaxed and we got to watch DVDs on the conference center screens. The women took the helm for media selection, which meant that we rolled and stuffed to the likes of "Footloose" and "Jon Bon Jovi Live."

 Sometimes when you’re blocking out sensory information, you tend to focus on material you’d normally overlook. I became quite familiar with the content of the labor law posters, and if you haven’t updated yours in a while, you may want to do the same. Recent updates to the posters include:

• Military Leave Notice added due to Family Medical Leave Act amendment
• Federal Minimum Wage increase; 2007, 2008 and 2009 wages given
• Child Labor Law phone numbers updated and layout changed
• Indiana Minimum Wage updated on state posters to reflect new federal wage

So as I head into July 4th weekend, I just hope my festivities aren’t interrupted by Bon Jovi tunes running through my brain.

And as for your compliance needs: You might be thinking, “I don’t have to get new posters. It’s My Life.” However, not having updated posters is against the law. You’re Livin’ on a Prayer if you don’t have them displayed, and getting nabbed for it can be a shot through the heart. Bah!

Chamber Offers Tools for Small Businesses

Membership with the Indiana Chamber offers a number of great resources for small businesses. Two of our most popular benefits, the HR Helpline and the Business Research Center, are offered at no cost to members. We encourage our members to use these cost-saving tools. The HR Helpline will answer your employment law and human resources-related questions at no charge. The Business Research Center offers customized business lists and welcomes even the most difficult business research questions. These benefits are perfect for the business owner wearing multiple hats, office/HR managers with HR questions and sales managers/representatives working to generate business.

Three Mistakes to Avoid in a Sluggish Economy


1. Hiring too quickly. Poorly chosen new hires cost your company both time and money. Consider trying out new people as contractors before hiring them as regular employees. See Chapter 7: Independent Contractors and Temporary/Part-Time Employees

2. Just paying everyone a salary. Who wants to deal with timecards and calculating overtime pay? Under law, certain employees who don’t qualify for an exemption are entitled to overtime pay, and can’t agree to forego overtime pay in exchange for receiving a salary. Additionally, hourly rates of skilled workers are often comparable with those of full-time staff in the same position. See Chapter 14: Wage and Hour Requirements

3. Thinking you don’t need to spend the time and money on harassment training for all staff. A study estimated that it is 34 times more expensive for employers to ignore workplace harassment than it is for them to establish effective programs and policies to minimize harassment in the workplace. See Chapter 24: Workplace Harassment

The Indiana Chamber’s newly released Employment Law Handbook (Sixth Edition) contains guidance on nearly every issue an Indiana employer needs to know about. From discrimination to post-hire employment policies to benefits to worker’s compensation, you’ll find guidance in this publication.