U.S. Supreme Court Allows DOL Interpretation on Overtime for Mortgage Loan Officers
By: Thomas H. Petrides, John L. Longstreth
On March 9, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the U. S. Department of Labor (DOL) could issue a controversial “Administrator’s Interpretation,” which had concluded in 2010 that loan officers in the mortgage banking industry generally do not qualify as exempt from overtime under the administrative exemption of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Supreme Court reversed a ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that had struck down the DOL administrative ruling. The Mortgage Bankers Association had challenged the 2010 Interpretation in court, arguing that because the DOL had previously issued an Opinion Letter in 2006 determining that loan officers could generally qualify as exempt from overtime under the administrative exemption, the DOL could not change its prior position without first issuing a written notice and allowing a comment period pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act. However, the Supreme Court in a 9-0 decision ruled that because the 2006 DOL Opinion Letter was itself merely an interpretation of an existing rule and not a new rule with the force and effect of law, DOL could reverse its prior position and issue a new interpretation without a prior notice and comment rulemaking.