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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - September 5, 2023

DOL Proposed Rule Expands Overtime Eligibility


Washington Update


Appropriations

On Tuesday, August 5, the Senate returned to Washington with just 17 legislative days left to finalize a deal to avert a potential government shutdown. The House doesn’t return until next week - leaving even fewer days for lawmakers in the lower chamber to reach a deal. Unfortunately, the prospect of a government shutdown is high since House Freedom Caucus members have said they will not support a stopgap funding bill unless their list of demands is met. In late July, both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (CA) agreed a continuing resolution (CR) would be necessary, but it seems negotiations for one have not started. Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) said he supports a CR until December, acknowledging that the upcoming funding effort is ‘a mess.’

McCarthy is trying to convince members of his own party not to cause a shutdown of the government but have their funding fight during the drafting and passage of the actual appropriations bills. If McCarthy can’t garner support of a stopgap bill from Freedom Caucus members, he will have to rely on Democratic votes to pass the bill. Further complicating things, the White House is requesting additional funding, which includes $24 billion for the war in Ukraine, $16 billion for disaster aid, $1.4 billion for the Women, Infants and Children food assistance program and more than $1 billion for refugee assistance. Additionally, Congress must temporarily extend authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration and farm programs by the end of the fiscal year.

Department of Labor Overtime Rule

On Wednesday, August 30, the U.S. Department of Labor released a proposed rule that would expand time-and-a-half pay protections to more workers by changing the exemptions to overtime eligibility under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the rule, otherwise exempt employees will be eligible for overtime pay if they do not receive an annual salary or total compensation that is significantly higher than the thresholds set by current FLSA rules. The rule would allow salaried workers in FLSA executive, administrative, professional and/or certain computer-related positions who make less than $55,000 a year, or $1,059 a week, to be eligible for overtime pay. It reflects a $19,432 increase in the minimum annual salary an employee must be paid to be exempt. Currently, an executive, administrative or professional employee, or an employee who performs certain computer-related duties, must make only $35,568 a year, or $684 a week, to be exempt from overtime. The proposed rule would also increase the total annual compensation an individual must be paid to qualify as a highly compensated employee under FLSA - an increase in the threshold from the current $107,432 annual amount to $143,988 annually.

Upon publication in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to submit input on potential changes. The Department of Labor estimates, if finalized, the rule will result in approximately 3.6 million additional workers being eligible for overtime pay. It is anticipated that business groups which would see increases to payroll costs under the rule changes will challenge the final version.

Click here to read the full Department of Labor press release.

AI Insight Forum

On Wednesday, September 13, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) will host the first of nine bipartisan AI Insight Forums — closed-door gatherings with top tech executives and labor and civil rights advocates to bring experts from the private sector together with U.S. lawmakers to help them understand the industry before they strive to regulate AI. The first forum will include Google CEO Sundar Pichai; former Google CEO Eric Schmidy; Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg; OpenAI CEO Sam Altman; Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella; Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang; X (formerly known as Twitter) CEO Elon Musk; AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler; Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President and CEO Maya Wiley; and AI accountability researcher Deb Raji. During the sessions, participants will discuss the difficult questions that regulations on AI seek to address, including how to protect workers, national security and copyright, and to defend against ‘doomsday scenarios.’

During a speech earlier this summer, Schumer called for a ‘new process’ of policymaking to allow the country to quickly regulate. He has also held senators-only briefings on AI, which included a first-ever classified briefing by U.S. national security officials on artificial intelligence.

Unemployment Rate

On Friday, September 1, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the August unemployment report, which showed nonfarm payrolls increased 187,000 last month with the unemployment rate increasing to 3.8% from 3.5% in July. The increase in the unemployment rate came as the labor force participation rose to 62.8%, the highest since February 2020. The total labor force size increased by 736,000. Partially accounting for the high unemployment rate are the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America (WGA) strikes as well as the Yellow trucking bankruptcy.

Click here to access the report.

Click here to read Acting Secretary of Labor Su’s statement on the August jobs report.

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