By Ben Whitley, a North Carolina attorney who represents clients in personal injury matters, workers compensation, medical device and drug claims, and pharmacy malpractice.
On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, 21 states filed a lawsuit against the federal government looking to halt new workplace regulations implemented by the Obama administration. These regulations would give millions of workers access to overtime pay beginning in December and is one of the president’s most important achievements for working class people.
The attorneys general from Texas and Nevada filed the lawsuit on behalf of their own states and the other nineteen joining them in this fight. They are arguing that the new Labor Department rule disregards the written law of the U.S. Constitution and goes beyond traditional congressional authority.
The new rule is seeking to help those in the lower-middle class by increasing the salary limit for individuals who are eligible for overtime pay. The salary limit will increase to $47,476 a year, which is a substantial increase from the previous limit of $23,660 set back in 2004. The ruling will also make sure that the salary limit is evaluated every three years by indexing it to salary growth in the lowest income region of the country.
The 21 states actively opposing this rule believe that employment costs will drastically increase for state and local governments, as well as private businesses. They even go as far as saying that some businesses will be forced to pare down their operations and may even have to make significant cuts to employment.
These states, 20 of which are led by Republican governors, also say that the mechanism used to evaluate the salary limit by indexing it to salary growth is illegal. They contend that something of this importance is supposed to go through a rule-making process that is required by the law. The plaintiffs are saying that participants in the unemployment increases will not have a chance to voice their concerns about the new rule before they become official in December.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also getting in on this fight. They have also filed a lawsuit against the Labor Department alleging that they overstepped their clearly defined boundaries when making these changes. The Chamber of Commerce is filing the lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of over 50 business groups who each claim that they would be negatively affected.
One of these business groups would be the National Retail Federation which asserts, based on research they have conducted, that the new regulations would force them to cut employee hours and cut the hourly pay for some of its workers. David French, the trade group’s senior vice president for government relations, was quoted as saying that “retailers are already struggling to implement this new government mandate before the swiftly approaching deadline.”
What many Republican governors and business groups don’t realize is that the Obama administration is not asking them to do something obscene. They are simply asking them to pay people who make equal to or less than $47,476 for any overtime that they work. The idea that paying someone for the hours they work will hurt anyone’s business is disappointing at best and nothing but unabashed greed at worst.