Representative Francis Rooney (R-FL 19th) has introduced a bill that would remove travel agencies from a regulatory “blacklist” that prevents agents from being exempted from federal overtime rules.
The Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act directs the Secretary of Labor to revise Department of Labor (DoL) regulations and remove travel agencies from a “blacklist” of “retail establishments” that cannot be exempted from paying overtime.
The issue became a focus of travel agents’ attention last year after DoL attempted to raise the national annual salary threshold for all retail establishments at which a worker becomes eligible for overtime to $47,476 from $23,660.
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and other small business associations vigorously fought the implementation of the rule, which was temporarily suspended when in late November U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant, Eastern District of Texas, granted a preliminary injunction.
The Trump Administration has shown no interest in implementing the rule, so ASTA sought this lull in the legal battle to address the “blacklist” through legislation.
The Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act states that “a travel agency shall not be considered an establishment having no retail concept” for the purposes of the Retail Service Establishment exemption. It was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Zane Kerby, ASTA president and CEO, said, “Not only do their employees necessarily work irregular hours helping clients facing travel disruptions, but travel agencies are the very picture of retail businesses and we think it’s indefensible that agencies are denied use of this exemption from overtime rules. We are incredibly grateful to Congressman Rooney for taking up this fight on behalf of the 48 ASTA members in Florida’s 19th Congressional District and the broader industry, and will do everything in our power to see this bill through to enactment.”
“Eliminating harmful regulations on our small business community is a key component of economic growth and job creation,” said Congressman Rooney, a member of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which oversees labor issues. “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 will be at the top of the list of policy issues ASTA members will discuss with their Members of Congress during ASTA Legislative Day on June 7, 2017. ASTA members wishing to attend are encouraged to register for the event before the May 26 cutoff date.