Washington Report 052003

Date Published: 
Original Author: 
Robert M. Fells
Original Publication: 
ICCFA Magazine

ICFA Establishes Federal Political Action Committee

by Robert M. Fells, Esq., general counsel
Among the highlights at the 2003 ICFA Annual Convention & Exposition, President Bill Wright, CCE, announced establishment of an ICFA federal political action committee (PAC). The purpose of the ICFA PAC is to "promote effective political relationships with members of Congress," according to its mission statement. The PAC directly supports a specific goal of the ICFA mission statement, which calls for "pro-active leadership on legislative, regulatory and legal issues."
An initial contribution to the ICFA PAC has been given by the Service Corporation International PAC, which donated $5,000, the maximum amount allowed by law. A PAC Fundraising Committee has been established and is chaired by ICFA Past President Arlie T. Davenport Jr. and includes many prominent ICFA members. More details will be provided as the committee's work progresses.

Labor Department Proposes Revisions To Overtime Pay and Exemptions

For the first time in over 50 years, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 under which some workers must receive overtime pay while certain types of occupations, often referred to as "white collar" jobs, are exempt from overtime compensation.
Of particular interest to ICFA members are proposed changes in classifications that would affect licensed funeral directors. DOL states that "We invite comments on occupations the exempt status of which has been the subject of confusion and litigation including but not limited to pilots, athletic trainers, funeral directors, insurance salespersons. ... "
The category most likely to apply to funeral directors is the standard for "Learned Professional Employees." Under the proposed standard, the employee must earn at least $425 per week and have the "primary duty of performing office or non-manual work requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction, but which may also be acquired by alternative means such as an equivalent combination of intellectual instruction and work experience."
Since the proposed standards use several vague "terms of art," the DOL regulations provide definitions for clarification. For example, the phrase "knowledge of an advanced type" is defined as "knowledge that cannot be attained at the high school level." The phrase "field of science or learning" distinguishes the learned professions from the mechanical arts, "where in some instances the knowledge is of a fairly advanced type, but not in a field of science or learning."
The DOL regulations also provide examples of professions that the department has found to "generally meet the primary duty requirement for learned professionals." These include registered or certified medical technologists "who have successfully completed three academic years of pre-professional study in an accredited college or university plus a fourth year of professional course work in (an approved) school of medical technology." Other fields include registered nurses, dental hygienists, physician assistants, accountants and chefs. In general, all these fields require at least the equivalent of four years of college study.
However, the proposed regulations acknowledge that "the areas in which professional exemptions may be available are expanding. As knowledge is developed, academic training is broadened and specialized degrees are offered in new and diverse fields, thus creating new specialists in particular fields of science and learning. When a specialized degree has become a standard requirement for a particular occupation, that occupation may have acquired the characteristics of a learned profession."
For many years, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a number of industries have sought revisions to the antiquated job catergories that define workers who either must receive or are exempt from overtime compensation. A number of jobs have become extinct since the old regulations were written in 1949. These positions include key punch operators, straw bosses, leg men and gang leaders. In the meantime, many new jobs have been created that were unheard of a half century ago.
The DOL will be accepting written comments on the proposed standards through June 30. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Labor Web page at www.dol.gov.
At this time, no action on the bill has been announced.