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April 22, 2004
Dems, Labor Groups Resolute in Fight Against New OT Rules

Democrats and labor groups say they will continue efforts to block new overtime regulations that the Bush administration issued this week, the Boston Globe reports.

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The Labor Department published final rules that were scaled back from its initial proposal of March 2003. The Bush administration contends fewer workers would lose overtime under the final rules than would have under the proposed rules. However, Democrats in Congress and labor groups remain opposed to the new rules, contending too many workers would lose the right to overtime.

"We hold open all of our options, one of which would be litigation," says Christine Owens, public policy director at the AFL-CIO. "If we determine after looking at the regulations that it makes sense, we will file a lawsuit."

Meanwhile, Senators Edward Kennedy and Tom Harkin say they will reintroduce an amendment to block new rules that take away overtime from workers, the newspaper reports. The rules become effective in 120 days from publication in the Federal Register, which has yet to occur.

The new rules increase the salary threshold below which workers are generally guaranteed overtime to $23,660, up from $8,060 under current rules and up from the $21,100 threshold proposed in the initial draft. The Bush administration contends 1.3 million workers would gain overtime eligibility.

Democrats argue that because of inflation and new exemption tests, fewer workers would be guaranteed overtime as time passes, the newspaper reports.

"If the White House genuinely wanted to protect low-wage workers, the overtime rule would simply increase the minimum salary threshold at least to inflation," Kennedy says.

Democrats tell the Associated Press that they also oppose rules that state that specific white-collar occupations--including pharmacists, financial services industry workers, insurance claims adjusters, and human resource managers--are generally exempt from the overtime rules.

The department says case law has determined that those occupations are exempt, but critics disagree, the AP notes.

Business groups have generally embraced the new rules, saying they will clarify who is eligible for overtime and will reduce the number of lawsuits over overtime.

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