US House Reverses Course, Withdraws FLSA Amendment Support

October 3, 2003 ( - The US House of Representatives has voted to oppose President Bush's proposed Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) white-collar exemption amendments.

>The 221 to 203 nay vote represents an about-face for the House, which in July narrowly passed the measure in a roll-call vote.   Even though the most recent vote is non-binding, it essentially overturns earlier House approval and puts the chamber on record as supporting the US Senate, which opposes the new regulations (See  US Senate Blocks Bush’s FLSA Amendment ), according to a Washington Post report.   

This comes despite the Bush administration’s threatened veto of the Senate amendment that woulddeny any funding for the proposed changes that was attached to a broader $138-billion spending bill for US health, labor and education programs.   However, m ost of the seven Republicans who switched, thereby allowing the for the House’s reversal on the issue, are from economically struggling states such as Michigan and West Virginia and saw the issue as a vote for their districts.

FLSA Proposal

Bush’s proposed changes would have been the first comprehensive overhaul in more than 50 years of the white-collar exemption tests used to determine whether an employee must be paid overtime or is exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of FLSA. Currently, there are three tests for whether or not an employee is ineligible for overtime:

  • the employee’s level of pay
  • whether or not the employee is a salaried or hourly worker
  • whether or not the employee performs certain job duties.

As the rules stand, any employee making more than $155 a week (about $8,000/year) could be excluded from overtime, if they had a salary and a job description that fell into certain categories.

The proposed regulations would have lifted the cutoff to $425 a week (about $22,100/year), a step that could add about 1.3 million lower-wage workers to the ranks of people eligible for overtime and could go into effect as early as 2004, according to DoL (See   White House Proposes Overtime Rules Overhaul). 

The administration, along with the business community, argued the proposed changes are needed to update antiquated work rules.   However, nay-sayers, a group that includes labor unions, say the changes would unfairly strip workers of overtime protection and allow companies to make them work longer than a 40-hour week without additional compensation (See  Report Claims Eight Million May Lose OT Pay ).