By Pamela Wolf, J.D. The Senate labor committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), along with 44 other Republican Senators, introduced a measure on June 7 aimed at blocking implementation of the Department of Labor’s controversial new overtime regulations. Brought under the Congressional Review Act, the legislation would nullify the DOL’s final rule and prohibit the administration from issuing a substantially similar rule absent congressional approval. The final rule, among other things, raises the weekly salary threshold below which overtime must be paid to $913 a week, or stated annually, to $47,476. The current threshold is set at $455 a week or $23,660 annually. The proposed rule would have set a higher threshold of $470 a week or $50,440 annually, but it was reduced in the final version. In addition, the proposed rule set this salary threshold at the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally, but the final rule sets it at the 40th percentile of full-time salaries in the lowest-wage Census Region, which is currently the South. This change was in response to concerns that the “one-size-fits-all” approach of the proposed rule did not take into account the lower salaries paid in some areas of the country, particularly in the South. According to the Republican lawmakers, if implemented the final overtime rule would have workers punching the clock when they come and go from work and make them unable to negotiate a flexible work arrangement. They also contend it will cost many colleges millions of dollars per year in additional operating costs, potentially raising tuition for college students. Announcing the measure, Alexander said: “If the president wants to go around talking about keeping college costs down, how can he justify a rule that, according to one Tennessee independent college, could cost their students nearly $850 per year in increased tuition? There is no question that this rule also hurts those American workers it’s intended to help, through reductions in their hours and diminished workplace flexibility. Workers who today are mid-management or professional employees are not going to like it one bit when their employer tells them that under this new rule they're going to be punching the time-clock when they go in and out of work. Senator Johnson and I have introduced this legislation to protect students, workers, and families from the harmful effects of this rule.”
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