Bloomberg Law
Jan. 17, 2023, 10:36 AM

Punching In: Employers Skirting Overtime While DOL Preps Update

Rebecca Rainey
Rebecca Rainey
Diego Areas Munhoz
Diego Areas Munhoz
Hill Reporter

Monday morning musings for workplace watchers.

Creative Manager Titles|House Staffers’ Unions

Rebecca Rainey: Ahead of the Biden administration’s scheduled plans to publish a proposal to update its overtime regulations in May, a recent National Bureau of Economic Research report shed light on a common practice where companies strategically use creative job titles to exploit an exception to overtime pay requirements meant for managers.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers aren’t owed overtime pay if they are salaried, earn more than a certain amount per year, and work in an “executive” capacity. DOL says in order to satisfy the executive exemption “an employee’s primary duty must be managing the enterprise, or managing a customarily recognized department or subdivision of the enterprise.”

The white paper identified “widespread evidence” of an increase in listings for positions with “deceptive” manager titles that offered salaries right around the federal threshold above which workers are exempt from overtime protections.

By naming positions “guest experience leader,” “grooming manager,” or “carpet shampoo manager,” for example, that have the same or similar duties to non-manager roles, businesses have been able to classify those jobs as overtime-exempt and avoid paying for 151 million work hours, totaling roughly $4 billion a year, the paper found.

“Our results suggest broad usage of overtime avoidance using job titles across locations and over time, persisting through the present day,” said the researchers, professors at Harvard Business School and the University of Texas at Dallas.

The paper could add fuel to calls from Democrats and labor groups’ calls for stricter protections just ahead of the Biden administration’s plans to update its overtime regulations later this year.

But groups representing businesses have suggested that the DOL will face a legal fight if it tries to make broad changes to overtime rules, like those sought during the Obama administration.

“I don’t know where this DOL will go. We’ve always said we are open to a reasonable adjustment that reflects real world changes in pay and compensation,” Neil Bradley, executive vice president, chief policy officer, and head of Strategic Advocacy at the US Chamber of Commerce, said during a press conference last week. “If they go down that road, we may have a workable rule.”

In the interim, the administration has made small efforts to make it easier for workers and businesses to keep track of when they may owe or be owed overtime pay. DOL last week added a Spanish-language version of its free timekeeping app created to help businesses and workers log their work hours and calculate their appropriate rate of pay.


Former Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) speaks during a news conference on the Congressional Workers Union outside the US Capitol on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Photographer: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Diego Areas Munhoz: Republicans’ recent attempt to eliminate House staffers’ unions via a provision in their rules package may not have its intended outcome, and could even lead to litigation.

House Republicans included in their rules package for the 118th Congress a measure that would reverse a 2022 resolution granting some staffers under the Congressional Accountability Act the right to collectively bargain. But the Congressional Workers Union, the group that has led organizing in Congressional offices, is confident only a change in law, not a resolution, could take away those rights.

“We’ve spoken with some legal and labor experts, and we feel that this doesn’t present an impediment to our organizing,” said a CWU representative. “We have no plans to stop our unionization drive. Period.”

But the Republican provision leaves the future of staffers’ unions unknown as both sides could challenge each other’s actions in court.

Offices that choose to elect a union will have to file to hold those votes with the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights. If the OCWR goes forward with the process, House Republicans could sue, said Daniel Schuman, an attorney and policy director of Demand Progress, an organization that has pushed for unionization in Congress.

“They could try to get an injunction,” Schuman said. “They could argue that the OCWR lacks the authority” to grant those elections in light of the House rules package provision.”

But if the OCWR doesn’t allow for the union election process to take place, Schuman said, the CWU could sue, arguing that the House can’t change federal law by passing a resolution.

In either scenario, the decision over the staffers’ right to organize would be up to a federal court, he said.

The OCWR declined to comment on the GOP rules package and its implications.

We’re punching out. Daily Labor Report subscribers, please check in for updates during the week, and feel free to reach out to us.

To contact the reporters on this story: Rebecca Rainey in Washington at; Diego Areas Munhoz in Washington, D.C. at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Genevieve Douglas at; Martha Mueller Neff at