A Texas judge has issued a nationwide injunction against the Department of Labor’s new Fair Labor and Standards Act rule that was expected to make millions of Americans eligible for overtime pay. Announced in May, the overtime rule would have raised the minimum salary for receiving overtime pay from $23, 660 to $47,476. The rule was intended to either raise wages or allow employees to spend more time with their families by working fewer hours. The overtime rule was of particular interest to postdocs, who anticipated a salary increase, and was supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) director, Dr. Francis Collins. AADR reported on the rule when it was finalized in an earlier blog post.
Over 20 states and 50 business organizations opposed the rule and filed for a preliminary injunction. On Tuesday, district court Judge Amos Mazzant ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Judge Mazzant ruled that the overtime rule was illegal because the original intent of Congress in making exemptions to the overtime rule was based upon the duties of the employee – the so-called executive, administrative, and professional, or EAP, exemption for “white collar” work – and not upon the employee’s salary. The court ruled that by raising the salary threshold, the Department of Labor made salary the primary criteria for exemption rather than the employee’s duties, violated the original intent of Congress, and thus overstepped its authority. The plaintiffs were able to sufficiently demonstrate that they would incur significant costs that they would be unable to recoup if the rule was implemented on December 1. Therefore, Judge Mazzant issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the rule from going into force until the validity of the rule can be decided in a future court case.
The Department of Labor released the following statement expressing its disagreement with the ruling:
“We strongly disagree with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work for millions of hardworking Americans. The department’s overtime rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rulemaking process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule. We are currently considering all of our legal options.” (Source: NPR.org)
Dr. Gary McDowell, executive director of advocacy group Future of Research, is tracking how universities are responding to the new overtime rule. Some universities are choosing to delay plans to increase postdoc salaries while others are forging ahead.
The NIH, which previously released a notice of adjustment to postdoc salaries in compliance with the overtime rule, will push forward with raising salaries in spite of the injunction.
Please continue to follow AADR as this story continues to develop.