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Walberg Statement: Hearing on "Examining the Costs and Consequences of the Administration's Overtime Proposal"

Just over a month ago, this subcommittee convened to discuss the need to modernize the confusing and outdated regulations implementing federal wage and hour standards. At the time, the administration had not yet released its overtime proposal, but several of our witnesses were already worried about what the proposal would look like and the consequences for workers and job creators.

Recognizing this administration’s propensity for executive overreach, I shared many of those concerns. But I was still hopeful that somehow, this time might be different – that somehow the administration would listen to all of the concerns, consider all of the data, and put forward a proposal that would help do some good without doing any harm. As it turns out, that optimism was misguided, much like the rule the administration eventually proposed.

In the weeks since the administration unveiled its overtime proposal, even more concerns have been raised about the impact it would have on both employees and employers. Various studies and analyses have shown the administration’s plan would result in billions of new costs for employers annually – a reality that is tough for many employers in this economy, but even tougher on small businesses and nonprofits. Unfortunately, the proposal’s anticipated consequences extend far beyond added costs and could have much more serious implications for many Americans.

Of all the concerns we’ve heard about this proposal, the ones I find most alarming are those that it will limit flexibility and opportunity in the workplace. As employers struggle to cope with the added costs of these new overtime rules, many salaried employees will be demoted to hourly workers with lower pay and stricter schedules. With that shift comes fewer opportunities for on-the-job training, talent development, and managerial experience. All of which leads to fewer opportunities to advance up the economic ladder.

One of the most inspiring things about the American workforce is that a crew member at a fast-food restaurant can work hard, earn a spot in management, and eventually go on to become a leader at a major U.S. business. That’s the American Dream, one that all policymakers should work to encourage, not stifle. I’m sure Mr. Williams will have more to say on that topic. Unfortunately, if the administration’s proposal has the effect many anticipate it will, stories like that of Mr. Williams will become harder to come by.

In as much as the administration’s proposal is flawed for what it would do, it’s equally disappointing in what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t address the complexity of current regulations, and it doesn’t reduce unnecessary litigation. As Chairman Kline and I said when the proposal was first unveiled, it’s a missed opportunity. What we need instead – and what the American people deserve – is a balanced approach that will strengthen employee safeguards, eliminate employer confusion and uncertainty, and encourage growth and prosperity for those working hard to make a living. From what we’ve heard so far, the administration’s proposal is not that approach.

This committee has held numerous hearings and explored various efforts over the years to improve the rules and regulations guiding federal wage and hour standards. We’ve heard from employees and employers alike that the current system is too complex, burdensome, and outdated. And we’ve seen studies that show related litigation is on the rise. For all these reasons, we will continue to urge the administration to improve these rules and regulations responsibly and in a way that doesn’t destroy opportunities for hardworking Americans.

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