The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Who Should Be Overtime-Eligible? Our Meeting With Tom Perez, Secretary of Labor

CUPA-HR President and CEO Andy Brantley with DOL Secretary Tom Perez

CUPA-HR President and CEO Andy Brantley with DOL Secretary Tom Perez

On May 20, we had the great opportunity to meet with Labor Secretary Tom Perez to talk about potential changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). We were invited to a special listening session along with several representatives from SHRM.

We arrived at the Department of Labor (DOL) for our 4 p.m. meeting with the secretary at around 3:20 p.m. It took a few minutes to get through the metal detector and have our special name badges printed (I’m sure this is a security measure to verify who is actually meeting with the secretary). We walked down a long wide hall with really, really tall ceilings to a bank of elevators. We exited the elevators on the second floor and walked into a conference room with a large, skinny rectangular table just outside the secretary’s office. Name cards had been set up at every chair.

My name was directly across the table from the secretary. To my right was Hank Jackson, president of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). My CUPA-HR colleagues, Peter Barnes from Emory University, Yohna Chambers from Virginia Tech, Brenda Malone from Georgetown, Rob Shomaker from CUPA-HR and Josh Ulman from CUPA-HR were seated at various locations around the table with SHRM colleagues representing various employment sectors.

After brief introductions and introductory remarks, we focused on three key areas of the FLSA: the salary threshold, the duties test and the secretary’s (and the president’s) interest in simplifying the regulations. In fact, the secretary said, “What changes, if any, should there be to the duties test?”

The secretary and his staff listened, and the secretary asked great questions. It was very clear that changes will be made. The salary threshold will go up, but I do believe they seek our guidance on the potential impact that a change could have on our organizations. I also believe that the secretary and his staff understand the significant compliance burden already faced by HR and that they wish to work with us to the degree that they are able to do so.

From left: Brenda Malone, Andy Brantley, Peter Barnes, Rob Shomaker, Yohna Chambers and Josh Ulman

From left: Brenda Malone, Andy Brantley, Peter Barnes, Rob Shomaker, Yohna Chambers and Josh Ulman

Our colleagues Peter Barnes, Yohna Chambers and Brenda Malone offered great insight into the unique challenges for higher education, and the secretary acknowledged his past higher ed work experience! They helped me emphasize the complexity of our higher ed institutions. I am also grateful for the help, guidance and support that we received from our VP and COO, Rob Shomaker, and our chief government relations officer, Josh Ulman. Josh did a phenomenal job of working with our SHRM colleagues to make this opportunity possible. He also did a great job of helping us prepare for our meeting with the secretary.

It will be many months before we see draft regulations, but I do think our dialog with the Secretary and his staff will have an impact on the regs. I also have every reason to believe that the dialog we began at this meeting will continue during the coming months.  Meetings like this underscore our responsibility to lead regarding public policy. Sitting back and reacting is too often the strategy that we, as HR professionals, take. Yes, we will always be busy, but we will be even busier with unnecessary administrata if we don’t make public policy leadership a critical part of our responsibility as HR leaders and as leaders of our colleges and universities.