WASHINGTON -- Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) announced Monday that his offices will adopt the Obama administration's proposed overtime pay rules, regardless of whether Congress overall agrees to expand overtime pay eligibility for its staffers.
"Like every Member of Congress, I am basically a small employer," Gutiérrez said in a statement Monday. "If these regulations are good enough for American workers in the private and public sectors, they ought to be good enough for me and my colleagues in the House and Senate."
Gutiérrez employs 18 full-time staffers in his two offices in Washington and Chicago, and more than half of them would be affected by the expanded overtime rules, he said.
The proposed change in Labor Department rules that President Barack Obama announced in late June would raise the cap under which employees are automatically eligible for overtime pay from $23,660 per year to $50,440 per year. The administration estimates that the change could affect as many as 5 million workers nationwide.
The legislative branch of government, however, makes its own rules about its employees' pay and benefits, and there are currently no indications that Congress plans to expand overtime pay for those staffers. More than 5,600 Capitol Hill workers currently make less than $50,440 a year. But according to Roll Call, the overtime cut-off for congressional staffers sits at $8,060 a year. While some individual lawmaker employers provide their staffers with the extra pay, Many do not, Roll Call reports.
Since the Obama overtime plan was announced, Republicans leaders in both the House and Senate have condemned the proposed rule change, calling it a blatant example of government interference in the free market. With GOP majorities in both chambers, chances are slim that Congress will take any bold steps in the near future to raise pay for its own staff.
But Gutiérrez said he will institute the change in his offices later this summer, by Labor Day. “Congressional staffers are not paid a lot, they work incredibly hard, and they do it under pressure," he said, adding that the decision "is about fairness and investing in the good work people do."