Important Changes at the Department of Labor Under the Trump Administration

Employers will certainly be happy with the new developments at the Department of Labor. President Trump’s appointment of a new Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, has brought about a few significant changes that will impact employees across the country. This post will discuss two of the most significant changes that took place in June.

DOL Guidance on Independent Contractors and Joint Employment Revoked

As of June 7, 2017, the DOL has announced the withdrawal of its 2015 and 2016 informal guidance regarding independent contractors and joint employment. The 2015 guidance established the DOL’s position that the majority of workers are considered employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, as opposed to independent contractors. The 2016 guidance related to the test to be used for determining joint employment. According to that guidance, the test should be the “the broadest definition that has ever been included in any one act,” as the Supreme Court observed. The goal of the DOL at that time was to “ensure that the scope of employment relationships and joint employment… is as broad as possible.”

The purpose of the prior guidance

The DOL, under the Obama administration, issued this guidance in response to the evolving nature of employment relationships. As the workplace relationships change to a more “fissured workplace,” the former DOL wanted to ensure that employment protections continue to apply to as many workers as intended.

Opponents of the prior guidance, on the other hand, believe those publications exceeded the DOL’s authority and created barriers to job growth. For that reason, many employers and business are looking forward to the changes, as they will greatly reduce their risk of liability.

Fifth Circuit brief indicates DOL’s intent to make changes to the overtime rule

A brief recently filed by the DOL in the Fifth Circuit shines some light on the agency’s intent to no longer defend the established salary limitations for the “white collar” exemptions. Currently, as established under the Obama Administration, in order to claim the white collar overtime exemption, employees must satisfy three criteria. One of those criteria is the minimum salary level of $923 per week, which is equivalent to $47,476 annually. That new salary level had already been enjoined by a federal district court.

In the brief, the DOL requests that the Fifth Circuit decide whether the DOL even has the statutory authority to set a salary level, “without addressing the specific salary level set by the 2016 final rule.” On June 27, 2017, the DOL announced its pending request for information on the overtime rule from the Office of Management and Budget which signals a probable upcoming revision of the rule.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding wage and hour issues or any other employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Wrady & Michel, LLC. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

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