DOL Releases Busy Spring Agenda

600px-US-DeptOfLabor-Seal_svgThe U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has released its spring 2015 regulatory agenda, which provides a window into what we can expect from the agency over the coming months.  The agenda provides updates on 70 rulemaking measures and suggests that — with President Obama’s term approaching its end —  the DOL is putting its rule-making into high gear.

Here are some highlights from the agenda:

Overtime Pay

The DOL indicates that we should see the proposed rule redefining the white-collar exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in June. As we reported last year, President Obama has directed Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to “modernize and streamline” the regulations defining this exemption for executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, and computer employees. We expect that the proposed rule will narrow the white-collar exemptions, resulting in fewer employees qualifying as exempt from overtime requirements.

Use of Technology during Non-Working Hours

Also on the agenda is information seeking – in the pre-rule stage – on “the use of technology, including portable electronic devices, by employees away from the workplace and outside of scheduled work hours.” It appears that the DOL is seeking this information with an eye toward proposing a rule clarifying how this type of 21st Century off-the-clock work is compensated (likely to the benefit of employees).  The request for information is expected in August.

Reporting under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act

Lastly, the DOL agenda also indicates that we should expect a controversial final rule on the narrowing of the “advice” exception under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) in December. The LMRDA requires employers and labor relations consultants (or other similar individuals) to report any agreement or arrangement they have to engage in activities to persuade employees concerning the right to organize or bargain collectively.  The LMRDA contains an exception for “advice,” stating that no employer or consultant has to file a report concerning services of a consultant if that consultant just gives “advice” to the employer. The proposed rule would limit the definition of “advice” to “oral or written recommendations,” so that any other activity would need to be reported.  This proposed rule has been on the books for a number of years and continues to face serious opposition from many groups — including the American Bar Association — because it raises critical concerns about attorney-client privilege.  We expect lengthy legal challenges to this rule.

It should be a busy second-half of the year for the DOL. We will keep you updated on any new developments.

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