Much has been happening at the Department of Labor (“DOL”). The DOL under the Trump administration got off to a slow start, but it is now signaling that changes will be forthcoming.
In a June 27, 2017 press release, the DOL announced it would restart the practice of issuing opinion letters. In 2010, the DOL stopped issuing opinion letters in favor of what it referred to as Administrator Interpretations. Administrator Interpretations offered general interpretations of the law as they applied to an industry as a whole, while opinion letters offer employers guidance as to their individual questions. The DOL’s website is being redesigned to accommodate employers that are seeking assistance.
This announcement comes on the heels of an earlier announcement in June in which the DOL withdrew two Obama era Administrator Interpretations. The DOL withdrew a July 2015 Administrator Interpretation regarding worker classification. Under that interpretation, the vast majority of workers would have been deemed employees, despite being called independent contractors. The DOL also withdrew the February 2016 Administrator Interpretation aimed at expanding which employers would be deemed joint employers for liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Finally, the DOL sent a Request for Information (“RFI”) to the Office of Budget Management with regard to the Obama administration’s overtime rule. Among other things, the overtime rule would have increased the salary threshold to be considered exempt from federal overtime laws. A Texas judge blocked the law, which was scheduled to go into effect this past December. This ruling was appealed, but it remains on appeal in the Fifth Circuit.
It is not clear whether the DOL sent the RFI in order to totally dismantle the rule or to tweak it to still increase the minimum salary threshold for exempt employees but by a less drastic amount than in the current rule. Regardless, this sets the stage for a more employer-friendly DOL than under the previous administration.