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Contractors at Federal Parks Excluded From Wage Rule (1)

Sept. 25, 2018, 2:48 PMUpdated: Sept. 25, 2018, 9:51 PM

Some seasonal workers who lead guided tours through federal parks are excluded from minimum wage requirements instituted in 2014, under a new rule unveiled by the Labor Department Sept. 25.

The DOL’s rule, to be published in the Federal Register Sept. 26, covers employers who have permits to take tourists on excursions on federal lands. It implements an executive order President Donald Trump signed in May.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25. Former President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive order required federal contractors to pay a $10.10 hourly minimum wage as well as annual inflation-based increases. That hourly minimum has since been raised to $10.35 and still applies to most contractors.

The administration is also publishing a rule Sept. 26 getting rid of nondiscrimination requirements under a job training program that has been discontinued.

Rule Doesn’t Apply to Food, Lodging

The Bureau of Land Management issued commercial permits to more than 1,000 outfitters and guides in 2017. Outfitters provide equipment for recreational activities and serve as guides for tourists on outdoor excursions. The Bureau of Economic Analysis says that in 2016 the outdoor recreation industry accounted for 2.2 percent, or $412 billion, of the U.S. economy.

Trump’s May 25 executive order said higher minimum wages for seasonal outfitters and outdoor recreational businesses threaten “to raise significantly the cost of guided hikes and tours on Federal lands.”

Both the order and the DOL’s new rule apply to seasonal recreational activities, including hunting, fishing, horseback riding, camping, mountaineering activities, and youth camps.

David Brown, vice president of government affairs for the America Outdoors Association, is relieved that the rule is out as as it lessens any possible future financial burden for its members. The association represents about 550 outfitter employers.

Guides and outfitters sometimes take tourists on a weeklong excursion deep in remote areas. Coughing up more money to cover higher overtime rates would’ve been the nail in the coffin for smaller outfitter companies, he said.

The DOL’s rule, like Trump’s order, doesn’t apply to hotels and restaurants on federal lands. Those jobs involve more of a regular work schedule with manageable overtime needs, so the financial burdens aren’t the same, the executive order notes.

The rule could reduce paychecks for some seasonal recreational workers, but Brown said it’s likely not going to affect very many.

Operating recreational activities on federal lands requires a permit that can be valid for several years, Brown said. Obama’s pay mandate only applied to new permits and wasn’t retroactive. Several employers didn’t have to increase wages since Obama signed the order in 2014, he said.

DOL Cans ‘Outdated’ Program

In its attempt to rid the department of “outdated” and “unnecessary” regulations, the DOL’s other rule unveiled Sept. 25 removes nondiscrimination requirements for an old job training program that’s inactive.

The DOL’s new rule removes nondiscrimination and equal employment opportunity requirements from the Job Training Partnership Act of 1982. The JTPA was enacted to provide job training assistance for young workers and unskilled adults. It was repealed and altered over the years by other programs.

The DOL says this has no effect on existing nondiscrimination and equal employment opportunity rules covering other programs.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at jdiaz@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bloomberglaw.com