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Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2004-Conference Report-Continued

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED
AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2004-CONFERENCE REPORT-CONTINUED

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I ask to be notified when 4½ minutes are up. I am entitled to 5 minutes.

This bill shows the widening gulf between this administration's words and its deeds.

No doubt tonight, the President will talk about healthy families. But this bill weakens our clean air laws. And it postpones steps we need right now to protect our food supply from mad cow disease.

The President will talk about education. But this bill fails the test when it comes to funding for schools. And it diverts scarce public education dollars to private schools.

The President will talk about the safety of our communities. But this bill weakens our gun laws.

The President will talk about fairness. But there is nothing fair about giving away good jobs of dedicated government workers to the cheapest bidder that may even send those jobs abroad.

So it is a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde Presidency, where what you see is not what you get.

But the greatest outrage in this bill is that it denies the right to overtime pay to 8 million hard-working Americans.

We may be fighting a war in Iraq, but this President and this administration are also waging a war on workers here at home.
Majorities in both the Senate and the House agreed that the Bush administration was wrong to deny overtime protections to workers. By a vote in the U.S. Senate of 54 to 45 and the U.S. House of Representatives of 221 to 203, we said to the President, "You are wrong."

But here it is, in this bill.

I know who I am fighting for.

I am fighting for the nurse who burns the midnight oil day in and day out caring for our sick and elderly with no extra pay.

I am fighting for the firefighter and first responder, the heroes of homeland security, standing watch and working nights and weekends to protect our liberty. They are our generations Paul Reveres-prepared to act when called to arms. They deserve fair compensation.

I am fighting for our veterans and our men and women serving so bravely now in Iraq and across the world, who return to civilian life only to find that the training they earned in the military is cruelly used to deny them their right to overtime pay.

Under current regulations, workers can be denied overtime protection if they fall within the category of what they call professional employees, workers with a 4-year degree in a professional field. It is changed this year under the Bush administration. The plan would do away with the standard and allow equivalent training in the Armed Forces. You go and serve in Iraq and get the training to serve in Iraq, and come back here and you are ineligible, under these regulations, for overtime pay.

I ask unanimous consent that the relevant statute be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

SUBPART D, PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEES, § § 541.300-.304

The current regulations pertaining to the professional exemption contain four separate categories of exempt employees: learned professionals, artistic professionals, teachers, and computer professionals. As with the executive and administrative exemptions, the regulations contain both "short" and "long" duties tests, depending upon the salary level of the employee. The long test contains a separate primary duty requirement for each of the four categories of employees. The long test for learned professionals requires that the primary duty consist of work requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction and study, as distinguished from a general academic education and from an apprenticeship, and from training in the performance of routine mental, manual, or physical processes. For creative professionals, the primary duty must consist of work that is original and creative in character in a recognized field of artistic endeavor (as opposed to work which can be produced by a person endowed with general manual or intellectual ability and training), and the result of which depends primarily on the invention, imagination, or talent of the employee. For teachers, the primary duty must consist of teaching, tutoring, instructing, or lecturing in the activity of imparting knowledge by an employee who is employed and engaged in this activity as a teacher in the school system or educational establishment or institution by which the person is employed. The duties tests for computer employees are discussed in subpart E. The long test also requires that an exempt employee: Perform work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment; do work that is predominantly intellectual and varied in character, such that the output produced or the result accomplished cannot be standardized in relation to a given period of time; and devote no more than 20 percent of work hours in a week to activities that are not an essential part of and necessarily incident to exempt work. The short test in the current regulations for both learned professionals and teachers contains the specific primary duty requirement discussed above, and requires that the employee perform work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment. For artistic professionals, the work must require invention, imagination or talent in a recognized field of artistic endeavor.

The proposed regulations pertaining to the professional employee exemption would make changes similar to those we propose for the executive and administrative exemptions. The goal is to clarify and simplify the regulations defining the professional employee exemption, while remaining consistent with the purposes of the FLSA. For ease of reference, and making no substantive changes, we propose to move the provisions pertaining to computer professionals to new subpart E, which will contain all information pertinent to such employees. We also propose to simplify the regulations by eliminating the separate short and long tests for each of the remaining three categories and substituting a single standard duties test for each. This restructuring and simplification would eliminate the percentage limitation on nonexempt work and the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment requirement. As discussed above in connection with similar proposed changes to the executive and administrative exemptions, we are proposing to eliminate these subsections because they have proven difficult standards to apply uniformly.

For learned professionals, the proposed new standard test in § 541.301 would provide that employees qualify for exemption as a learned professional if they have a primary duty of performing office or non-manual work requiring advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction, but which also may be acquired by an equivalent combination of intellectual instruction and work experience. This proposed standard test for learned professionals would focus on the knowledge of the employee and how that knowledge is used in everyday work, not on the educational path followed to obtain that knowledge. Although some flexibility to focus on the worker's knowledge exists in the current regulation, it is very limited and rarely used. The clarified test reflects changes in the 21st century workplace in how some "knowledge workers" acquire specialized learning and skills: in the modern workplace, some employees acquire advanced knowledge through a combination of formal college-level education, training and work experience, even where other employees in that field customarily acquire advanced knowledge by obtaining a baccalaureate or advanced degree. The proposed changes would clarify that, so long as such an employee's level of advanced knowledge is equivalent to the knowledge possessed by an employee with the typical academic degree generally required by the profession, the employee may qualify as an exempt professional. Thus, for example, an employee who obtained advanced knowledge by completing college courses in a field such as engineering, and who worked in that field for a number of years, could qualify for exemption if the knowledge acquired was equivalent to that of an employee with a baccalaureate degree in engineering. We have not proposed any specific formula in the regulations for determining the equivalencies of intellectual instruction and qualifying work experience, although some examples from the current rule have been included and expanded. Public comments are invited on whether the regulations should specify such equivalencies.

The view that several years of specialized training plus intensive on-the-job training for a number of additional years may be equated with a college degree in certain fields has found support in reported judicial decisions. For example, the professional exemption has been applied to employees with a combination of training and academics in Leslie v. Ingalls Shipbuilding, Inc., 899 F. Supp. 1578 (D. Miss. 1995). In Leslie, the court concluded that an employee who had completed three years of engineering study at a university and had many years of experience in the field of engineering was properly classified as a professional employee, even though the employee did not satisfy one of the usual minimum qualifications for an engineering position of having a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline. The court considered the employee's combination of education and experience as satisfying the requirement for a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction and study.

For creative professionals, we propose to adopt the current short test, slightly modified, as the new standard test in proposed § 541.302. This new standard test would apply the creative professional exemption to any employee with the primary duty of "performing work requiring invention, imagination, originality or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor." This language, although simplified, is not intended to make any material changes from the existing regulations. This standard was applied in the case of Freeman v. National Broadcasting Company, Inc., 80 F.3d 78 (2nd Cir. 1996), in which employees who researched facts, developed story elements, interviewed subjects, wrote scripts, and supervised the editing of videotape were deemed to have been correctly classified as artistic professional employees. On the other hand, employees of small news organizations who spent their time gathering facts about routine community events such as municipal, school board, and city council meetings, and gathering information from the police blotter and real estate transaction reports, and then reporting those facts in a standard format were deemed not to be artistic professional employees in Reich v. Newspapers of New England, 44 F.3d 1060 (1st Cir. 1995) and Reich v. Gateway Press, Inc., 13 F.3d 685 (3d Cir. 1994).

The standard test for teachers in proposed section 541.303 would be unchanged from the current short test, with the exception of the deletion of the requirement that the employee's work require the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment, a requirement that, as discussed above, has engendered significant confusion. Provisions on teachers from current § § 541.3, 541.301(g), and 541.314 have been consolidated into proposed new § 541.303. The minor editorial changes are not intended to cause any substantive changes.

In addition, the proposed regulations utilize objective, plain language that can be easily understood by employees, small business owners and human resource professionals, and eliminate outdated and uninformative examples. The proposed regulations also would address a number of specific occupations that have been the subject of ambiguity and litigation. For example, we propose to update and clarify the circumstances under which employees working as newspaper journalists or as radio or television commentators are exempt, because the case law regarding such employees has been evolving over the years, and the existing regulations discussing such employees are outdated.

Provisions of the current regulations in § § 541.3 and 541.314 that provide an exception to the salary or fee requirements for physicians and lawyers have been consolidated and moved to proposed § 541.304. Current § 541.307 entitled "Essential part of and necessarily incident to" has been combined with current § 541.108 ("Work directly and closely related"), 541.202 ("Categories of work"), and § 541.208 ("Directly and closely related"), and moved to proposed new § 541.702 ("Directly and closely related"), for a streamlined discussion of the principles for distinguishing exempt and nonexempt work. Although these sections have been consolidated and simplified, we do not intend any substantive changes.

Finally, we propose to move sections that pertain to salary issues (§ § 541.311, 541.312 and 541.313) to subpart G, where all such issues will be consolidated. Other sections relevant to several or all of the exemption categories (such as the definition of primary duty, a section regarding application of the exemption to trainees, and a section discussing nonexempt work generally) would move to the proposed subpart H (Definitions and Miscellaneous Provisions) to eliminate unnecessary repetition. Current § 541.305 entitled "Discretion and judgment" and current § 541.309 entitled "20-percent nonexempt work limitation" have been deleted from the proposed regulations for the same reasons similar changes are being proposed in the executive and administrative exemptions as discussed above.

Mr. KENNEDY. The Senate should reject this bill and demand that the right to overtime pay be restored; we should demand that our schools be properly funded and that private school vouchers be rejected; we should demand that illegal guns be removed from our streets; and we should demand a food supply safe from mad cow disease.

Finally, Americans work more than workers in any other industrial society in the world. This chart shows that. We are working about 500 hours more than any other society in the world. American workers are working harder, and now this administration is trying to deny them at least the fairness of being compensated for it.

This chart shows what happens if you have overtime protection or if you don't have overtime protection. For all the overtime that is used in this country today, only 19 percent of it is applicable to those who get paid for the overtime while 44 percent for those who don't get the overtime. That is 3 to 1 with regard to individuals who work 50 hours a week. We know what this is all about because the administration has given a guide to employers about how they can avoid paying overtime. I ask that those regulations be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

METHODOLOGY FOR ESTIMATING COSTS

The principal database used in the PRIA is the 2001 Current Population Survey (CPS). A complete description of the methodology used for determining the employees who are potentially exempt and nonexempt from the overtime requirements of the current and proposed rule is contained in the PRIA available by contacting the Wage and Hour Division at the address and telephone number provided above.

The economic impact of the proposed rule includes two components: One-time implementation costs; and recurring incremental payroll costs incurred by employers for those employees presently treated as exempt from overtime under the current rule, who become nonexempt.

The implementation costs contain two parts. The first part includes the amount of time employers would take to: (1) Read and understand the proposed rule; (2) update and formulate their overtime policies; (3) notify employees of any changes; and (4) all other time taken to implement the proposed rule. The second part of the implementation costs is the amount of time employers would take to review their job categories to determine (1) whether or not a particular job category is exempt or nonexempt under the proposed rule, and (2) how to adjust to the new salary levels and duties tests. To estimate the implementation costs of the proposed rule, the department contacted six human resource specialists from around the country to obtain information on the amount of time small and large businesses would take for each of these activities. High and low estimates of the implementation costs were estimated by varying the amount of time taken to review job categories and other time taken to implement the proposed rule.

The second component of the economic impact of the proposed rule is the recurring incremental payroll costs incurred by employers for those employees presently treated as exempt from overtime under the current rule, who become nonexempt as a result of raising the salary levels and revising the duties tests.

Affected employers would have four choices concerning potential payroll costs: (1) Adhering to a 40-hour work week; (2) paying statutory overtime premiums for affected workers' hours worked beyond 40 per week; (3) raising employees' salaries to levels required for exempt status by the proposed rule; or (4) converting salaried employees' basis of pay to an hourly rate (no less than the federal minimum wage) that results in virtually no (or only a minimal) changes to the total compensation paid to those workers. Employers could also change the duties of currently exempt and nonexempt workers to comply with the proposed rule.

For the second choice above, paying overtime premium pay, employers typically have two options, with differing cost implications, for meeting their statutory overtime obligations. For example, assume an employer paid an employee a fixed salary of $400 per week with no overtime premium pay, for which the employee worked 45 hours per week, and the employer must now begin to pay this employee overtime pay. As one option, the employer could assume that the former weekly salary of $400 represents compensation for a standard 40-hour workweek, and pay this employee in the future time-and-one-half the $10 hourly rate for any overtime hours worked beyond 40 per week. For a 45-hour workweek, total compensation due, including overtime, would equal $475 ((40 hours x $10/hour) + (5 hours x $15/hour) = $475), compared to $400 formerly. As a second option, the employer could pay the fixed salary of $400 per week as total straight time pay for all hours worked in the week (provided it equals or exceeds the federal minimum wage), and pay additional "half-time" for each hour worked beyond 40 in the week. This method of payment is known as a "fixed salary for fluctuating hours" (see 29 CFR 778.114). For a 45-hour workweek, total compensation due under this method, including overtime, would equal $422.22 ($400 + (($400 ' 45) x ½ x 5) = $422.22).

The third choice above is straightforward-an employer could simply raise the salary level for currently exempt salaried
workers earning less than $22,100 to at least the new proposed salary level or more and have them remain exempt salaried workers.

Nothing in the FLSA would prohibit an employer affected by the proposed rule, or under the current rule, from implementing the fourth choice above that results in virtually no (or only a minimal) increase in labor costs. For example, to pay an hourly rate and time and one-half that rate for 5 hours of overtime in a 45-hour workweek and incur approximately the same total costs as the former $400 weekly salary, the regular hourly rate would compute to $8.421 ((40 hours x $8.421) + (5 hours x (1.5 x $8.421)) = $399.99).

Most employers affected by the proposed rule would be expected to choose the most cost-effective compensation adjustment method that maintains the stability of their work force, pay structure, and output levels. Given the range of options available to an employer confronted with paying overtime to employees previously treated as exempt, the actual payroll cost impact for individual employers could range from near zero to up to the maximum cost impacts estimated in the Department's PRIA. However, for the PRIA it is was assumed that, for any nonexempt employee who satisfies the pertinent duties test, the employer will choose to pay the smaller of either the additional weekly salary required to qualify the employee exemption or the usual weekly overtime payment for the employee.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has used 4½ minutes.

Mr. KENNEDY. Finally, this is the list of the individuals who will be affected. Who are those individuals? Police officers, nurses, firefighters; those are the home guard personnel. You talk about safety and security in our communities and in our neighborhoods; these are the individuals who stand watch for all Americans. Why is this administration fighting decent fair pay for these hard-working Americans who represent the best of our country and are involved in homeland security? This legislation should be defeated.

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