Waiting Game: Future of Proposed "White Collar" Rules Remains Uncertain
There is still no decision on when—or if—the proposed “white collar” regulations will go into effect. On November 22, 2016, a federal court in Texas issued an order that blocked the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) proposed regulations that would have doubled the minimum salary for many “white collar” workers just before the regulations were to go into effect. As expected, on December 1, 2016, the Department of Justice (then under the President Obama administration), on behalf of the DOL, filed a notice with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to appeal the order. The DOL sought to fast-track the appeal, asking the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for an expedited schedule. The Fifth Circuit initially granted the request, and issued an order to expedite the legal arguments, with the DOL's reply brief to be filed by February 7, 2017.
However, on January 25, 2017, shortly after the inauguration of President Trump, the DOL asked the Fifth Circuit for an extension of time to file its legal arguments in order “to allow incoming leadership personnel adequate time to consider the issues.” The Fifth Circuit ultimately agreed to extend the deadline for the DOL to file its legal argument until May 1, 2017.
It will be interesting to see what position that the DOL will take under the President Trump administration. President Trump has endeavored to demonstrate that he is an advocate for American workers, while at the same time also espousing a pro-business agenda. This issue of increasing the minimum salary under the FLSA is one where advocates for workers and business groups have sharply disagreed. (For example, the AFL-CIO and the Center for American Progress previously argued the increased salary would allow adjustments for inflation, strengthen the middle class, and help Millennials attain financial stability. On the other hand, business organizations, like the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation, have argued that the proposed regulations would hinder industry and job growth.) In addition to the possible significant change in the law if the regulations are upheld, how the DOL navigates these differing viewpoints will likely provide important insight into the DOL’s approach to wage issues under the new administration.