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Federal Judge Blocks Obama’s Overtime-Pay Rule

A federal judge in Texas on Tuesday blocked the Obama administration’s effort to extend overtime pay to millions more workers, after 21 states and dozens of business groups asserted that the rule was unlawful and would cause them irreparable harm.

Judge Amos L. Mazzant III of the U.S. District Court in Sherman, Tex., concluded that the U.S. Department of Labor had exceeded its authority and ignored the intent of Congress in issuing the rule, which had been scheduled to take effect on December 1. The regulation sought to raise the salary cutoff below which workers would be eligible for overtime pay, to about $47,000 from about $23,000.

Generally, employees whose primary role can be defined as teaching are exempt from earning overtime pay. But many categories of campus employees — such as early career financial-aid officers and athletics staffers — would have benefited from the rule. This collection of Chronicle articles has more details on how colleges were anticipating the changes.

Since the rule was issued, many colleges have been scrambling to identify which employees would be newly eligible for overtime pay, and to plan institutional budgets around those changes. It’s not yet clear how colleges that had already changed their practices in anticipation of the rule will respond to the judge’s ruling, or whether they will roll back the adjustments they have made. In any case, the rule itself was already among many Obama-administration policies that had been cast into doubt by this month’s election of Donald J. Trump as president.

Judge Mazzant issued a nationwide injunction against rolling out the rule, saying that such an action best served the public interest. The court’s “ability to render a meaningful decision” on the merits of the case was in jeopardy because of the rule’s imminent effective date, he wrote.

The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources said it was expected that the Labor Department would appeal the ruling quickly, though it wasn’t clear how long such an appeal might take. If the judge’s action pushes the rule’s rollout past the date of the presidential inauguration, the association continued, “then there will be room for the Trump administration to reopen the rule making and revise the final rule.”

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