Amicus Brief: Mayfield v. Department of Labor
The Fifth Circuit is considering the Labor secretary’s claimed power to set and modify salary level rules for executive, administrative, and professional employees (also known as employees “exempt” from the law requiring overtime pay). In 2020, the Labor Department raised the minimum salary level for exempt employees by more than 50%, from a minimum of $23,660 to $35,568. Confronted by the increased minimum salary (and a proposed further increase to $55,068), Robert Mayfield, who owns Dairy Queen franchises, says he will have to cut his incentive pay program and demote some managers. The district court, referencing Chevron deference—the idea that judges should defer to reasonable agency interpretations of statutory language—rejected Mayfield’s arguments about the limits of secretarial discretion and violation of the nondelegation doctrine, which is the idea that Congress cannot delegate its legislative authority. Now on appeal, we filed a brief alongside the National Federation of Independent Business explaining how the Labor Department has wrongly construed a vague statutory phrase to claim broad authority to regulate. Our brief focuses on the separation of powers and the importance of political accountability for sweeping regulation. Congress must expressly legislate key policy decisions like minimum exempt employment salaries rather than providing vague language under which agencies can run amok.
Tim Rosenberger is a legal fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Photo: Kiyoshi Tanno/iStock