On Monday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced in a ruling on the Fair Labor Standards Act its intent to rescind an arbitrary regulatory “blacklist” that blocks travel agencies from utilizing an exemption from federal overtime rules designed for retail businesses. In Congress, at the White House and DOL, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) has been advocating for this action since 2016, including during multiple ASTA Legislative Days.
“We commend the Department of Labor for recognizing that travel advisors frequently work irregular hours to help clients facing travel disruptions, as seen most recently during the COVID crisis, and that travel agencies should have the same access to this exemption from the overtime rules as any other retail business,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA president and CEO, in a statement. “In addition, we are incredibly grateful to Congressman Rooney, Congresswoman Titus and other legislators who have taken up our cause over the past few years. Once the COVID crisis passes, our industry will be in a better position to serve clients thanks to this change.”
Though applicable to all industries on the blacklist, the DOL’s action would have the same effect as the bipartisan Travel Advisor Retail Fairness Act (H.R. 2506), introduced in May 2019, which directs the Secretary of Labor to revise its regulations to remove travel agencies from the partial list of establishments having no retail concept within 90 days. Sponsored by Rep. Francis Rooney, H.R. 2506 is currently cosponsored by Reps. Andy Biggs, Gus Bilirakis, Bradley Byrne, Ted Deutch, Matt Gaetz, Debbie Lesko, John Rutherford and Dina Titus.
ASTA has been pressing this issue in Congress and at the White House and DOL since 2016, meeting with senior department officials, filing a formal petition for rulemaking, garnering support for Congressman Rooney’s bill, coordinating a Congressional coalition letter on the topic and suggesting it to the White House as a pro-business regulatory action at the outset of the COVID crisis.