May 2004--The Senate voted 52 to 47 on Tuesday, May 4, to block the new overtime regulations recently proposed by the Department of Labor. Senator Tom Harkin, D-IA, and other opponents of the new the rules said the changes would cause millions of mostly middle-income workers to lose their rights to overtime pay. Some proponents of the bill say, however, the new rules make more workers eligible.

While the new rules do increase the amount of money employees can make and still collect overtime, they also clarify the requirements for exempting white-collar workers from overtime eligibility. New exemption tests suggest employees whose primary duties include office and non-manual work aren't guaranteed overtime, which has many employee groups, including registered nurses, some administrative workers, and certain computer employees, worried.

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said in recent testimony before the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee that the new rules will provide an additional 6.7 million workers with access to overtime pay while protecting overtime for blue-collar workers, licensed practical workers, police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. She also stated at an April media conference that about 106,000 workers could lose overtime pay due to the new rules, a stark contrast to the millions of workers that opponents suggest would lose eligibility.

The amendment to block the overtime changes was added to a corporate tax bill, which is now awaiting a vote in the Senate.