Here’s a brief update on things Wage and Hour:
Maryland Minimum Wage Rates
Continuing the step increase in Maryland’s minimum wage passed by the General Assembly a few years ago, on July 1, the state minimum wage increased to $9.25/hour. The final planned increase to $10.10/hour will occur on July 1, 2018..
July 1 also saw an increase in the minimum wage required to be paid in Montgomery County to $11.50/hour. Prince George’s County employers will have to pay at least $11.50/hour beginning on October 1, 2017. Information on Maryland’s Wage & Hour requirements is available on the DLLR website at https://www.dllr.state.md.us/labor/wages/wagehrfacts.shtml.
DOL and the Obama Legacy Overtime Rules
Meanwhile, the Obama DOL’s changes to the exempt salary requirement under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) remains stalled in the Fifth Circuit. You may recall that a federal judge in the Eastern District of Texas stayed implementation of the final DOL regulations just before they were to take effect in late 2016. The DOL immediately appealed. Since then the Trump administration has repeatedly asked the court for additional time address the issue.
Now, in a recently filed brief, Trump administration lawyers told the Fifth Circuit that the DOL intends to revise the overtime rule, and asked the court to affirm the DOL’s right to use salary levels to determine eligibility for overtime pay. DOL attorneys told the court that “[t]he Department requests that this Court not address the validity of the specific salary level set by the 2016 final rule ($913 per week), which the Department intends to revisit through new rulemaking.”
Moreover, DOL lawyers stated that the Department will not initiate a new rulemaking until the court affirms the right to set a salary level. It has been reported that the DOL also recently sent a request for information on the overtime rule to the Office of Management and Budget, although its contents remain a mystery.
There remain lots of moving parts here. It is unlikely that there will be any significant changes to the FLSA’s overtime requirements in the near future.
DOL Opinion Letters Return; Administrator Interpretations Tossed
They’re baaaaaaack. The DOL has also announced that it is bringing back Wage and Hour Division opinion letters, a long standing practice that had stopped with the Obama DOL. With opinion letters, employers and workers can ask the DOL to directly weigh in on the legal issues in a particular fact pattern. Employers are then permitted to rely on those opinions in court as a good-faith defense in federal wage and hour cases. https://www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/.
Labor Secretary Acosta said in the statement announcing the change that “[r]einstating 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. 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.”
This announcement follows on the heels of the DOL’s June 7, 2017 withdrawal of the Obama DOL’s Administrator Interpretations from 2015 and 2016 on joint employment and independent contractors. In that announcement, the DOL made clear that tossing the interpretations did not “change the legal responsibilities of employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act or Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Protection Act, as reflected in the Department’s long-standing regulations and case law.”