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Labor Department Starts To Roll Back Obama Overtime Rule


The Labor Department today started to dial back an Obama administration policy that would have expanded who was eligible for overtime pay. That policy was a priority for the previous administration and would have increased the number of workers eligible for overtime by an estimated 4.2 million. But business groups have argued that the change would have been too drastic and too costly. Here's NPR's Yuki Noguchi.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: The Obama administration's rule raised the salary most workers would have to make in order to be exempt from overtime pay. It would have more than doubled the threshold from $23,660 a year, meaning many employers would have had to pay them more or limit their working hours to 40 a week. That rule never took effect. Late last year, business groups won a temporary injunction from a U.S. district court in Texas.

The Trump administration recently said it would not challenge that injunction. Today's move by the Labor Department is separate and essentially starts rewriting the rule from the beginning, making good on a promise by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. Some employer trade groups, including the National Retail Federation, applauded the agency's move. The Society for Human Resource Management is also happy to see the process start from scratch.

Nancy Hammer is its senior government affairs counsel.

NANCY HAMMER: The salary threshold definitely needed to be updated. But we felt that the 2016 rule just went too far too fast.

NOGUCHI: But workers advocates vehemently disagree. Christine Owens is executive director for the National Employment Law Project.

CHRISTINE OWENS: It just creates tremendous uncertainty, mostly for workers but also for employers. And it means that workers can continue to be required to put in excessive hours of overtime.

NOGUCHI: The public will have 60 days to comment. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Science Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. She started covering consumer health in the midst of the pandemic, reporting on everything from vaccination and racial inequities in access to health, to cancer care, obesity and mental health.