Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., agree on one aspect of the new overtime provisions: More of their own aides will be eligible for extra pay when the new criteria issued by the Department of Labor are finalized, likely in early 2016.
Pelosi's office already paid overtime at the annual salary threshold of $50,000, and will use the new $50,440 annual salary threshold in 2016. A spokeswoman for Boehner said his office "will work to adopt the new criteria when finalized by the Department of Labor." The office of House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., will comply with the new threshold, according to his spokesman. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., did not respond to several requests for comment.
It's worth noting that while both top leaders are opting for more generous overtime thresholds for their own staff, it’s within their rights to do nothing at all, as some Capitol Hill offices inevitably may.
On Capitol Hill, workplace rules and regulations are largely left up to individual offices, with some bedrock protections, such as 12 weeks of unpaid Family and Medical Leave , that are included as part of the Congressional Accountability Act. Overarching changes that affect the entire congressional workforce would require congressional approval.
The Office of Compliance, the agency that oversees the Congressional Accountability Act, has said it is reviewing the proposed overtime changes and will submit a proposal to Congress. However, the last proposed change to the Fair Labor Standards Act in 2004 is still pending approval — 11 years later.
The fact that both the speaker and the minority leader have agreed to make the overtime changes bodes well for congressional staff, particularly the 5,617 staffers who make an annual salary under the new $50,440 threshold. "I expect every other office will follow the speaker’s lead," said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute and a former Hill staffer. "Eventually, I anticipate that Congress will vote to impose DOL’s rules changes on themselves as an enforceable legal obligation."
Mark Hanna, a partner at Murphy Anderson LLC, said most members will follow Boehner’s lead. "I think it will be eventually be mandated by the Office of Compliance " he said.
Recently, nearly 150 Democrats across both chambers of Congress — led by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Robert C. Scott of Virginia — sent a letter to President Barack Obama to voice strong support for the rule. The letter does not indicate whether the signers intend for the rule to apply to their own staff.
Kelly A. Magnuson, a labor and employment attorney with Tully Rinckey PLLC, believes employers — including Capitol Hill offices — may be upset initially by the change in the overtime salary threshold, but that the public will not be as upset as people may think.
“It’s not a windfall,” she said in an interview with CQ Roll Call. “[The overtime threshold] was so low and so far behind that the change is dramatic.”
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