Employers: Texas District Court Grants Nationwide Injunction Against DOL’s Final Rule
In May we reported the Federal Department of Labor issued its Final Rule regarding the minimum salary level required for the exemption of executive, administrative and professional (EAP) employees. The final rule was designed to raise the minimum salary required for the exemption from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $913 per week ($47,476 annually).
In an 11th hour ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Amos L. Mazzant granted a motion for preliminary injunction filed by 21 States that challenged the Minimum Salary Rule and imposed a nationwide injunction against the implementation of the Final Rule that was scheduled to take effect on December 1, 2016.
In a 20-page decision Judge Mazzant opined the DOL lacked authority to define and delimit a minimum salary threshold for exemption. Per Judge Mazzant, Congress intended for the EAP exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to depend on employee’s duties rather than on the employee’s salary. Accordingly, the DOL’s authority was limited to define and establish the types of duties that might qualify an employee for the exemption:
While this explicit delegation would give the [DOL] significant leeway to establish the types of duties that might qualify an employee for the exemption, nothing in the EAP exemption indicates that Congress intended the Department to define and delimit with respect to a minimum salary level.
Further, Judge Mazzant held that with the Final Rule, the DOL exceeded its delegated authority and ignored Congress’s intent by raising the minimum salary level “such that it supplants the duties test” and creates a “de facto salary-only test”.
Following the Court’s analysis regarding the DOL’s authority to promulgate the Final Rule and the likelihood of the irreparable harm and balance of hardship between the parties’ the Court decided that a nationwide injunction was proper in this case.
Implications for California Employers
As the Final Rule is currently on hold, California employers are required to comply with the California threshold for EAP exemption, which is at least two times the state’s minimum wage for full time employment (currently, $3,466.67 monthly; $41,600 annually). Note that with the gradual raise in the State’s minimum wage starting on January 1, 2017, the minimum threshold for exemption will go up as well.
Finally, employers should be advised that the salary threshold test is merely one component of a valid exempt status. To be properly classified as an exempt employee an employee must:
- Primarily engage in “exempt duties” and;
- Earn a minimum monthly salary of no less than two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment.
While some commentators speculate the DOL will appeal yesterday’s ruling, it still remains to be seen whether the feds will challenge Judge Mazzant’s decision.
Tal Burnovski Yeyni is an attorney in our Employment Practice Group.