Weekly Columns

Susan North wanted to be her own boss, so she built a successful business that now employs nearly 500 Arkansans. While she has opportunities to make her own decisions, what has surprised her the most as a small business owner is the extent to which her hands are tied when it come to regulations with which she must comply. Now a new Department of Labor (DOL) rule is threatening to take away more flexibility for her business and employees.

DOL’s update of the federal overtime rule is the latest in a long line of overreaches by the administration that threatens jobs in Arkansas and across the country. This rule, approved without the input of stakeholders or Congress, increases the salary threshold under which employees qualify for overtime pay ­from $23,660 to $47,476.

Business owners, nonprofits, colleges and universities have shared with me their concerns with this rule that fails to take into account economic circumstances and had no input from those who will be affected. As one employer told me, many businesses won’t be able to absorb the higher employment costs imposed by this rule. This could result in fewer hours for employees, and according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, millions of salaried professionals will have to be reclassified as hourly employees.

Other burdensome regulations imposed by this administration have faced challenges in the court system. This is no exception. This summer, Quorum Courts in Baxter, Benton, Marion, Pope and White counties urged Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to take action against this overreach. In September, she announced that Arkansas is joining a coalition of 21 other states to file a lawsuit challenging DOL’s overtime rule. This is an important step to reining in the Obama administration’s continued abuse of the regulatory process.

As the fight goes to court, I’m working through the legislative process to stop this overreach before it takes effect in December. This summer, I helped introduce legislation under the Congressional Review Act to block implementation of this rule. 

I’m also a cosponsor of the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act, legislation that ensures DOL pursues a balanced and responsible approach to updating federal overtime rules by conducting an economic analysis on the impact of a mandatory overtime increase on employers including small businesses, nonprofits and public employers.

While we do need to modernize our overtime rules, DOL’s approach is irresponsible and has the potential to stifle job creation and innovation. Many Arkansans continue to be discouraged by the economic recovery and are uncertain if they will have a job in the near future. This rule threatens the already shaky economic confidence of hardworking Arkansans.

We need to create an economic environment that encourages small business owners like Susan to grow and expand their operation so they can employ more people and retain the people who do a good job. DOL’s reckless approach fails American workers and our economy.