National Newspaper Association Urges U.S. Department of Labor to Slow Down on Overtime Rule Hikes

Sep 11, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   September 4, 2015

Contact: Tonda Rush

(703) 237-9801 

The National Newspaper Association today called on the US Department of Labor (DOL) to scale back its aggressive push to raise salary thresholds for exempt workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. DOL has said it wants to more than double in a single year the salary basis by which professional, creative and administrative white collar workers are qualified as exempt.

NNA President John Edgecombe Jr., publisher of The Nebraska Signal, Geneva, NE, said NNA newspapers had expressed alarm at DOL’s surprisingly steep increase. Though many companies agreed that it was time to adjust the salary basis, he said, they thought the expectation for companies to increase the base from $23,660 to more than $50,440 a year—a 113 percent increase in one leap-- was a threat to many community newspapers’ viability.

“This proposal would be a particular problem for rural and small town newspapers, where local economies dictate different expectations for middle-class professional incomes than in large cities. And for newspapers, the newsrooms will suffer. Today editors can schedule their time to cover important stories as needed and have the flexibility to take time off when family and personal needs demand. Under this proposal, unless the company had the unusual ability to meet the new thresholds, this flexibility would be gone,” he said. “Members tell the effect on our industry would be huge.”

NNA told DOL:

“NNA supports an appropriate adjustment of the exempt worker salary threshold. But escalating the threshold salary beyond a small business’s capacity to pay salaried professional workers means our industry and others would experience a dramatic loss of professional staff. Whether a newspaper’s professionals wish to be on the hourly clock or not, the newspaper’s inability to achieve a high threshold salary for them means these workers will lose status, control over their time and the ability to cover the news in the manner their professional judgment compels them to do.”  

The Labor Department has not increased the threshold for exempt workers since 2004. It began its deliberation over a change when President Obama ordered the agency in 2014 to consider whether the salary basis was too low.

“It is remarkable for an agency to do nothing for a decade and then expect businesses to somehow catch up to an adjustment in a single year,” Edgecombe said. “The agency has approached the issue without considering the limited abilities of small businesses to absorb radical changes over a short period. For newspapers, NNA’s surveys indicate there would be job losses and unfortunate curtailment of some news coverage so businesses could comply with the new rule. We cannot imagine that is what the agency really wants. We are hoping reason will prevail.”

NNA has also joined with Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunities in its comments, which similarly urged DOL to take a more reasoned approach to the increases.

NNA's comments can be found here.