• Labor Department Brings Back Opinion Letters and Yet Again Seeks Feedback on Federal Overtime Rules

    DOL Returns to the Use of Opinion Letters to Provide Regulatory Guidance opinion letters secretary acosta

    The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provides attorneys and human resources professionals with various resources for determining how to comply with the laws and regulations that WHD enforces. And for 70 years, the majority of those resources came in the form of opinion letters.  However, over the last seven years, the WHD issued Administrator Interpretations (AIs) in replace of opinion letters. As we covered last month in a blog post (here), the pendulum has swung again as U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced the withdrawal of the 2015 and 2016 Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division Administrator Interpretations (AIs) on independent contractors and joint employment.

    This move signaled another announcement by Secretary Acosta in that the DOL is reinstating the practice of issuing opinion letters over administrator interpretations. As noted by Acosta, “Reinstating opinion letters will benefit employees and employers as they provide a means by which both can develop a clearer understanding of the Fair Labor Standards Act and other statutes.” Acosta added, “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to helping employers and employees clearly understand their labor responsibilities so employers can concentrate on doing what they do best: growing their businesses and creating jobs.” Additional information on the Labor Department’s various guidance resources can be found on their Final Rulings and Opinions webpage.

    DOL Issues RFI for Feedback on Federal Overtime Rules

    In other DOL news, Secretary Acosta announced that the DOL would soon be issuing a Request for Information (RFI) regarding federal overtime rules. The DOL, and other federal and state agencies use RFIs to solicit feedback from the general public and regulated community regarding clarity and understanding of enforcement and compliance with a particular set of regulations. In some cases, the issuance of an RFI is the first step of the rule-making process whereby comments received would be used in the drafting of new or proposed regulations.

    New and highly controversial changes to the overtime regulations that were set to become effective in 2016 would have raised the minimum salary to qualify for exemption from overtime from $23,660 to $47,476. However, implementation of the new rule was stayed by a federal judge in Texas, who held that the change went beyond the authority of the U.S. Department of Labor. Because the agency did not appeal the decision by the deadline, it appears the DOL has decided to revise the regulations rather than defend the rules promoted by the Obama administration.

    The newly appointed Labor Secretary has indicated that the DOL’s stance on overtime will be more moderate under his leadership. Acosta stated at his confirmation hearing last spring, “The overtime rule hasn’t been updated since, I believe, 2004. And I think it’s unfortunate that rules that involve dollar values can sometimes go more than a decade and sometimes 15 years without updating … [but] I understand the extreme economic impact that a doubling has in certain parts of the economy.”

    The experienced California employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley will continue to follow these and other developments at the Labor Department and determine their impact on California’s labor laws.  In the meantime, to discuss these laws, or a related claim on your behalf, feel free to call us toll-free at (888) 500-8469 or click here to contact us via email.

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