#Metoo's First Victory Over Senate-Confirmed Official and Overtime Coverage Expands
by Susan Lavington
More than one year ago the Federal Housing Finance Agency Special Adviser Simone Grimes testified before Congress describing a former North Carolina representative, and then FHFA Director, Mel Watt’s repeated sexual advances toward Ms. Grimes. As Grimes testified to, and the FHFA Office of Inspector General confirmed, each time Grimes expressed that she was being paid less than her male predecessor, Watt steered the conversation toward his attraction to her. In response, Centre Law & Consulting, with the Seltzer Law Firm, were proud to represent Grimes before the Court of Federal Claims and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in her suit against Watt and the Agency for the repeated violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Now three years after Watt’s actions, the FHFA has announced an agreement with Grimes. While Grimes reports she is happy with the resolution of her claims, Watt himself faces little accountability for the actions as he retired from office last year. Still, the resolution of Grimes’ claims marks the first time a Senate-confirmed nominee was successfully challenged, marking yet another milestone for the #Metoo movement. As stated by Grimes, “…while this is a small victory there is more work to be done.”
While the #Metoo movement continues to push for strict enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and sexual harassment provisions of Title VII; in general employment developments, the DoL released a final rule raising the minimum standard salary level. Currently, the Fair Labor Standards Act allows salaried employees making at least $455 a week ($23,600 a year) to be exempt from the FLSA if they perform certain job duties. The rule, implemented on January 1, 2020, raises that minimum salary to $684 per week ($35,568 a year). This rule is estimated to shift over a million American workers from the exempt status to non-exempt status, thereby requiring overtime pay for many more employees. However, some results of the new rule are employee-friendly. The test for “highly compensated employees,” another way some particularly well-paid employees would be exempt, has been raised by about 7%. This increase is far less than the previously anticipated 20% which would have again shifted many employees from exempt to non-exempt. Lastly, the rule will allow employers to count some bonuses toward these two new salary standards, a small win for the employers.