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National Restaurant Association - Lawmakers speak out on industry's key legislative issues

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Lawmakers speak out on industry's key legislative issues

Restaurateurs struggling to understand proposed changes to the government’s overtime rule and the joint-employer standard recently heard four federal lawmakers say they’re committed to protecting business growth in America.

At a free-spirited discussion on those key legislative issues at the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affairs Conference, Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.), House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), House Means & Ways Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (Texas) and Rep. Bradley Byrne (Ala.) agreed the proposed changes signal tension between federal labor agencies and the business community.

Cicely Simpson, the NRA’s executive vice president of policy and government affairs, led the April 12 conversation, which focused on what the lawmakers said were overarching attempts by the Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board and OSHA to redefine labor laws.

If the DOL’s proposed changes to the overtime rule are finalized, the salary level dictating which employees must be paid overtime would dramatically increase. Currently, overtime pay is required under federal law for anyone earning below $23,660 a year. Under the DOL’s proposal, that threshold would rise to $50,440 in 2016 and increase annually after that.

“I’ve never seen a more hostile environment to employers,” said Byrne, who serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “Not only have we seen this with the Department of Labor, but with OSHA, the NLRB, etc. They’ve taken the discretion Congress gave them to enact the statutes that were passed and stretched it way past what anybody ever thought it would be.“

Brady said the overtime issue already is complicated and that the labor department’s changes would only hurt hourly employees’ chances of advancing to salaried managerial positions.

“If we want Americans to move up the economic ladder, we have to have an economic ladder. This is going to hurt workers because there will be less flexibility, less opportunity to work up and more complex government rules that small businesses and restaurateurs will have to adjust to.”

In addressing changes in the joint-employer standard, Byrne criticized the NLRB’s recent decisions to increase a business’s possible liability for the labor practices of its business partners. “This has the potential to absolutely destroy the franchisor/franchisee model. That would be a great shame for the employees of the franchisees and a great shame for the American way.”

Regarding tax reform, Brady indicated the tax situation seems worse every year. “It gets more complex, more costly and unfair.”

He said passage last year of the PATH Act provided some relief, but that Congress must create “a tax code that’s fair, flatter and simpler, and close loopholes and deductions to lower rates for everyone. We want a tax code that is built for growth of your business, paycheck and the American economy.”

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