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Overtime reform plans retooled, sources say

By Associated Press
Published April 20, 2004

WASHINGTON - Retreating under pressure, the Bush administration is revising overtime regulations to preserve eligibility for white-collar workers making up to $100,000 a year as well as police, firefighters and other first responders, the Associated Press said Monday, citing Republican officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The AP reported that the officials said revisions in the proposed regulations also would guarantee overtime for lower-wage workers making less than $23,660 a year, higher than the $22,100 initially proposed.

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao is expected to preview the new proposals today, the AP said. A spokeswoman for the department said she was unaware of any plans to issue a regulation.

Chao issued a proposed regulation in March 2003, but it drew sustained criticism from organized labor, Democrats in Congress and some Republicans.

The Senate voted last year to stop the administration from issuing the regulation, but that provision was later dropped under White House pressure. Even so, Democrats signaled a fresh attempt this year - in the runup to the November elections - at a time when jobs and pocketbook issues are a key issue in the campaign for the White House.

The AP quoted its Republican sources as saying that under the revisions, up to 107,000 workers could lose their overtime protection, but 6.7-million workers would be guaranteed overtime.

By contrast, under Chao's initial proposal, the Labor Department said 644,000 white-collar workers could have lost protection and 1.3-million gained it. Democrats challenged her initial estimates of who could potentially lose overtime eligibility, citing their own prediction of up to 8-million.

The proposed regulations do not apply to workers covered by labor contracts, although union officials said they feared their existence would strengthen the hand of companies in bargaining.

Apart from the controversy surrounding overtime eligibility, the regulations were designed to meet the concerns of employers who argued that the half-century-old rules failed to address the modern workplace and opened the door to a welter of lawsuits on behalf of workers.

Under current regulations, low-wage earners making less than $8,060 must receive overtime pay. Chao proposed raising that to $22,100 last, year. The revised regulation will place it at $23,660, the AP said.

[Last modified April 20, 2004, 01:20:37]

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