On July 14, 2011, the United States House Subcommittee on Workforce Protection held a hearing the Fair Labor Standards and queried whether the Act meets the needs of a 21st Century workplace. Republican lawmakers at the hearing certainly seemed interested in reform. The Committee Chairperson Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Michigan) the Act was an expansion of government authority during the Great Depression but that worked in the era of Henry Ford might not be meeting the needs in the era of Bill Gates.
Appearing before the Committee, were J. Randall McDonald, senior vice president for IBM, Nobumichi Hara, Senior Vice President, Human Capital for Goodwill Industries of Central Arizona (who also appeared on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management), and Judy Conti, National Employmetn Law Project. These witnesses, other Ms. Conti, spoke of need to consider how the global economy and changes in technology have impacted how and when employees work. They further repeatedly stated the need for clarification about the exemption rules.
Democrats on the Committee believed that the witnesses were stacked in favor of employers and wanted to eliminate overtime entitlements to large groups of employees. At least one Democratic Representative spoke of the need to further clarify who is an employee versus an independent contractor.
The hearing lasted little more than 90 minutes. No decisions were made other than the agreement that further discussion was needed. Employers can take heart that at least their concerns were heard on Capital Hill.