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Proposed state overtime rules would create burden: Guest view

By ,
Greg Rothman, Republican state representative and partner and chairman of RSR Realtors in Lemoyne
Greg Rothman, Republican state representative and partner and chairman of RSR Realtors in Lemoyne - (Photo / )

Imagine you are a machinist in Harrisburg. You have worked your entire professional career at a small machine shop that employs less than 10 people.

It is not unusual for you and the entire shop to work overtime on Fridays so that an order may be completed by early the next week. You know that the shop needs to finish the product on time to please the customer who refers your work to other larger companies.

However, due to a new regulation that makes it costlier for your employer to allow you to stay longer, you are forced to go home, leaving the part unfinished and the customer unhappy that it is taking longer than usual. Your boss soon informs you and your coworkers that the new regulation may force him to switch you from a salary to an hourly wage and to not hire a younger machinist who would have helped increase output.

This is what machinists in Pennsylvania face, thanks to Gov. Tom Wolf’s unilateral decision to force employers to raise the overtime pay threshold.

Not just machinists, but nurses and other professionals who work late to satisfy customers will be affected by the Department of Labor and Industry rule that limits the hours they can work per week.

A recent study from the non-partisan Mercatus Center explains how overtime pay regulations increase compliance costs for businesses, and that higher thresholds will force employees from salaries to hourly pay. This regulation is a solution in search of problem.

There is no evidence that “underpayment” or “overwork” problems exist in the United States. Rather, the regulation would create problems for employers who would need to track employees’ work times and have a more difficult time evaluating a worker’s ability. Benefits for workers would also be affected as many employers would cut fringe benefits to afford the pay increases and compliance costs.

Mercatus found that technology startups would see the brunt of the unintended consequences. The study found that the proposed rule may cost them at least $3.7 million.

As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I’ve talked to experts in the field working on highly automatic vehicles and driverless car technology. They believe this technology will lead to greater safety, mobility, innovation and economic development. This level of ingenuity will not be accomplished with burdensome regulations on how workers in their industry are paid.

Moreover, making serious changes to labor policies through executive actions without the input of citizens through their elected representatives is a glaring example of government regulatory abuse. Citizens and businesses deserve an open debate and a vote on any proposed regulation that affects their hours, wages and benefits.

I want to protect the employee’s and employer’s right to decide what arrangements work best, without the government over-regulating it.

This is why I wrote a letter to Gov. Wolf urging him to reconsider the Department of Labor and Industry rule change. As a former family business owner, the governor should understand what Pennsylvania workers face and I cautioned him against any further complicated regulations.

As our economy continues to grow, businesses may start to face an uncertain and confusing regulatory environment because of this rule change. Letting the governor unilaterally make such an impactful policy change threatens this future prosperity.

It is time for the government to recognize that if something isn’t broken, it doesn’t need fixing.

Greg Rothman is a Republican state representative representing a portion of Cumberland County. He also is partner and chairman of RSR Realtors in Lemoyne.

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