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DOL rule raising exemption for salaried workers blocked by judge

May also apply to Am. Samoa — set to take effect Dec. 1

A federal judge in Texas has blocked a US Department of Labor rule set to go into effect Dec. 1 that raises the exemption for salaried workers throughout the United States and the judge’s ruling may also apply to American Samoa.

Companies in the U.S have praised the court’s decision following a lawsuit, which was led by Nevada.

While the 20-page decision, released Tuesday, by US District Court Judge Amos L. Mazzant didn’t specifically name American Samoa — the regulation, however, cited in the court ruling has been published by the federal registry [81.Fed. Reg. 32,391], which includes American Samoa in the exemption.

The Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exempts from both minimum wage and overtime requirements “any employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity.” This exemption is commonly referred to as the “white collar” or “EAP” exemption.

Samoa News reported in May this year that the “special salary level” for salaried workers —who are considered exempt ‘white collar’ employees in American Samoa will get a hike of nearly $400 a week under the USDOL final rule published May 23, 2016.

“The minimum guaranteed salary level for ‘exempt’ staff [in American Samoa] will increase from $380 per week — the current standard — to $767 per week on Dec. 1, 2016,” USDOL’s San Francisco based spokesman Jose Carnevali confirmed to Samoa News on May 23.

Two senior USDOL officials arrived late in May to meet with local employers and employees, to discuss among other things, the new hike for exempted employees.

Samoa News has previously reported on the rule, when it was first proposed last year in summer, and comments were accepted until last September. The increase would be lower than the federal level due to low minimum wage levels in American Samoa.

The federal court’s decision blocking USDOL’s rule was carried by several US news organizations across the country and Samoa News received inquiries Wednesday afternoon seeking clarification if Mazzant’s ruling also includes American Samoa.

Because of the Thanksgiving break, Carnevali didn’t immediately respond to Samoa News email questions sent Wednesday afternoon. (There is a three-hour difference between California and American Samoa.)

Several states and governors have sought an emergency preliminary injunction to the USDOL rule and Mazzant agreed by issuing the injunction blocking the rule from being implemented.

Mazzant said the plaintiffs “have established a prima facie case that the Department’s (USDOL) salary level under the Final Rule and the automatic updating mechanism are without statutory authority.” (Prima facie means accept as correct until proven otherwise, according to wikipedia.)

Mazzant found that the court has “authority to enjoin the Final Rule on a nationwide basis and decides that it is appropriate in this case, and therefore grants” the plaintiffs injunction. The judge also outlined specific provisions (including 29 CFR 541.600 that covers American Samoa) of the FLSA that USDOL is prohibited from been implemented under the Final Rule, pending further order from the court.

At this point, USDOL can appeal the injunction, according The Associated Press.

As previously reported by Samoa News the new USDOL final rule does not apply to federal employees in American Samoa.