Washington Watch: DOL begins its listening sessions on FLSA regs

Photo: AACC

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has started its series of regional listening sessions to gather feedback from employers on potential changes to the “white-collar” exemptions contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

DOL recently announced its intention to update the salary level threshold that executive, administrative and professional employees must meet in order to be exempt from the FLSA’s wage and overtime requirements. Though the department hasn’t indicated the exact annual salary at which it plans to set the threshold, it is expected to be at or above the $50,440 a year threshold proposed by the Obama administration in 2015.

During the regional listening sessions, DOL is seeking feedback from employers on:

  • The appropriate salary level above which the exemptions for bona fide executive, administrative or professional employees may apply.
  • The costs and benefits of increasing the salary level to employers and employees, including increasing wages and reducing litigation costs.
  • The best methodology for updating the salary level and the appropriate frequency of updates.
  • Whether other changes to the overtime regulations are warranted. 

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has been following this issue closely, given its potential to significantly impact institutions and quite possibly increase their expenditures. AACC encourages member colleges to attend the listening sessions, tailoring remarks to their particular circumstances and service delivery area. It will be important for DOL to hear feedback that reflects the economic conditions that every community college faces as both employers and providers of higher education.

Points to consider

In preparing comments, members may want to consider a few of the broad impacts that some members of the higher education community anticipate if the regulations ultimately put into place make substantial changes to the salary level:

  • A minimum salary threshold that is considerably higher than the current threshold of $35,568 would require colleges to reclassify employees that have traditionally been exempt and who have job responsibilities that are better suited for exempt status. This may also make the continuance of remote work and schedule flexibilities that began during the Covid pandemic more difficult to manage.
  • A required mass reclassification of employees would place a significant administrative burden on colleges and impose substantial costs, which would likely trigger tuition hikes, reduced workforces and fewer student services.
  • Rural institutions would be especially burdened by a minimum salary threshold that does not reflect the lower cost of living in certain areas of the country.
  • Annual, automatic updates to the salary threshold – as proposed under the Obama administration – would place an added and constant pressure on the fixed budgets of institutions of higher education.

Dates and times

The listening session for the Northeast Region was held Friday afternoon. Registration for the four remaining sessions is still open. Details about the dates and times of the virtual sessions are below, as well as links to register.

Southeast Employer Regional Overtime Listening Session  
May 17, 2-3 pm ET 
Southeast Region: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee 

Midwest Employer Regional Overtime Listening Session  
May 20, 2:30–3:30 pm CT 
Midwest Region: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin

Southwest Employer Regional Overtime Listening Session  
May 27, 2–3 pm CT 
Southwest Region: Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming

West Employer Regional Overtime Listening Session  
June 3, 12:30–1:30 pm PT 
West Region: Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington 

About the Author

Alexis Gravely
Alexis Gravely is a legislative analyst at the American Association of Community Colleges.
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