Last week Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) introduced a bill that would remove travel agents from the Department of Labor's list of workers that cannot qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA) overtime exemption for retail workers. Under the exemption at issue, an employee must work at an establishment “recognized as retail." In 1970, the DOL created a list of industries—including travel agents—that were expressly excluded from using this retail service establishment exemption. The Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act (H.R. 2515) would strike travel agencies from this regulatory list.
According to Rep. Rooney in a statement:
Eliminating harmful regulations on our small business community is a key component of economic growth and job creation. The idea that travel agencies "lack a retail concept" and therefore must be subject to federal overtime rules is arbitrary and overreaching. The exemption travel agencies are seeking is in line with similar industries and should be granted immediately.
The Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act's future is uncertain. Since the first of the year, more than 160 labor, employment, and benefits bills or resolutions have been introduced in Congress. Of these, only five measures have been enacted, all which were joint resolutions of disapproval rescinding agency rules issued during the remaining days of the Obama administration. A few bills have passed the House, including the American Health Care Act (AHCA) (H.R. 1628) and the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 (H.R. 1180). The AHCA, which would repeal and replace portions of the Affordable Care Act, is expected to be significantly revised in the Senate. Meanwhile, the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would give private-sector employees the option to take compensable time off ("comp time") in lieu of overtime pay, is not expected to advance.
What is holding these Republican-sponsored bills back when Republicans control both houses of Congress and the presidency? To simplify a complex answer: time. Congress has a limited calendar during which it must pass a budget, work on tax and healthcare reform, and confirm members to numerous vacant agency and judicial positions. Therefore, even measures that may garner bipartisan support will not necessarily move forward.
Nonetheless, we will continue to monitor the Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act and other bills affecting employers and report if any make significant headway.