Oysters and Overtime: Advocacy Visits Mobile, Alabama, to Hear About the New Labor Department Proposal
By Daniel Brown, Regulatory Economist
Parked outside the Mobile Chamber of Commerce where the Office of Advocacy hosted a roundtable on the DOL’s Overtime Rule, there was a van for the local Fox 10 News. At first glance, it may have looked like Fox 10 TV was interested in hearing about the Fair Labor Standards Act, regulatory compliance estimates, or other technical jargon that is typically discussed and debated in Washington, DC.
While the roundtable made for an informative discussion, the main attraction that day was at Wintzell’s Oyster House in downtown Mobile, Alabama. The restaurant was packed, servers were running around, and that local Fox 10 TV crew was present to capture Kristen Amy McElhaney’s attempt to beat the 22-year-old record for oysters eaten in an hour at the restaurant. (You can read the record-setting story here, where there is also video.) Despite all the commotion in the restaurant, Bob Omainsky, who owns three Wintzell’s locations, was kind enough to talk with Advocacy about how federal regulations impact his small business.
“We’re a family here,” said Omainsky. “I started as a busboy, and I rose through the ranks. One day, they asked me if I wanted to be in management, and I haven’t looked back since. In fact, most of our management were internal hires.”
When asked about how the Department of Labor’s proposal to increase the overtime exemption threshold for salaried workers from $23,600 to $35,308, Omainsky said, “The 2016 rule would’ve been a tough one to swallow.” That rule would have increased the overtime exemption threshold to $47,476. He continued, “This new one is much more manageable. We may have to make a few changes here and there, but we run on tight margins. It’s expensive to run a seafood restaurant, and federal regulations have a big impact on us.”
Omainsky went on to say that there are other federal regulations that impact his business. “We were hit with an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit because our toilet paper dispensers weren’t the right height,” said Omainsky. “We want to serve everyone who comes through our doors, but there needs to be a resolution period where businesses can make an effort to comply.”
Despite struggles with navigating through federal red tape, Omainsky spoke the praises of his industry. He said, “I’m doing what I want to do. I love serving people. It’s a great industry. You don’t need to rack up student debt to get started, there’s ample promotion opportunities, and you can provide a great life for your family.”
While it may not always grab headlines, Wintzell’s Oyster House is yet another example of why Advocacy pushes to reduce regulatory burdens on small businesses. Besides, preparing 223 oysters for just one customer is tough enough.
Advocacy was in Mobile, Alabama, for a roundtable on the Department of Labor’s Proposed Rule to Amend the Fair Labor Standards Act on April 30.
The Department of Labor is seeking public comments on this rule by May 21, 2019. Read the Federal Register notice and submit written comments here. The Office of Advocacy is also seeking public feedback from small businesses on the impact of this rule. To provide feedback to Advocacy, contact Janis.Reyes@sba.gov or Daniel.Brown@sba.gov.
Daniel Brown is a Regulatory Economist for Advocacy. Brown can be reached at Daniel.Brown@sba.gov.