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July 20, 2004
Former DOL Officials Criticize New OT Rules

Three former Department of Labor officials have issued a report criticizing the Bush administration's changes to the white-collar exemptions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

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The AFL-CIO, which opposes the changes, requested the report.

The report concludes that the department has in effect weakened the criteria for exemption, meaning fewer workers will qualify for overtime.

"The department has moved the line of demarcation between those employees protected by the FLSA and those who are exempt substantially in the direction of exemption, so that more classes of workers, and a greater proportion of the workforce overall, will be exempt than we believe the Congress could have originally intended," according to the report.

The Labor Department disputes the authors' findings.

"These latest studies are a rehash of misinformation that the AFL-CIO put out about the department's final overtime security rule in April, assertions that were completely discredited in congressional hearings," Labor Department spokesperson Ed Frank tells the Associated Press.

In the report, the authors commend the department for taking on the project of overhauling the overtime rules and noted the increase to the salary threshold below which worker are generally guaranteed overtime, but dispute the department's contention that the new rules will offer greater overtime protection to more workers.

The former Labor Department officials say that changes to the duties tests for exemption will weaken workers' overtime protections.

"The murkier and less stringent rule can only have the countervailing effect of encouraging employers to push the boundaries of the new standards," according to the report. "That is because it is--and always will be--in their fundamental economic interests to do so in order to reduce labor costs by avoiding overtime pay. The department's new rules give them great license and latitude to do so?"

The authors of the report are John Fraser, who served as deputy assistant secretary for employment standards; Monica Gallagher, who served as associate solicitor for fair labor standards; and Gail Coleman, who served as counsel for trial litigation for fair labor standards, and as deputy associate solicitor for fair labor standards.


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