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July 30, 2003
Labor Dept. Gets 80,000 Letters on Overtime Proposal

The Labor Department has received over 80,000 comments responding its proposed changes to the rules on overtime. The Washington Post conducted a review of 23,000 of these comments and found that most of the mail expressed opposition to the proposed rules.

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While many of the comments are form letters created by business groups and labor groups, many comments are personal stories from individuals who fear they may lose their overtime pay, according to the newspaper. The letters come from people from a variety of backgrounds, including nurses, stay-at-home moms, prison guards, and executives.

"The 40-hour week was enshrined in American labor law during the Great Depression," wrote Ron A. Nerad, who works in the field of computer systems in St. Louis. "It's still a good idea. Workers who labor longer deserve premium pay. Why? Because it creates an incentive for the employer to treat the employee's time with respect!"

The Labor Department says the volume of letters did not come as surprise.

"It's not surprising when you propose a change to something that has been in place for 54 years," says Victoria A. Lipnic, assistant labor secretary for employment standards. "You can expect some vigorous debate about it. Overtime is important to people, and we know that. . . . We really welcome the suggestions."

Some letters from business groups in support of the changes asked for additional language that would specifically exempt certain jobs from overtime pay. The Newspaper Association of America, for example, requested language in the new rules specifying that editors, writers and photographers, are not eligible for overtime compensation, according to the newspaper.

The department tells the newspaper it will review all the comments and consider them before issuing its final regulations.

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