ASTA Wins Fight Over ‘Blacklist’ Rule

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) announced that it has achieved a landmark win on the arbitrary blacklist rule that prevented travel agencies from getting an exemption from federal overtime rules designed for retail businesses.

ASTA has been advocating for this change since 2016.

“We commend the Department of Labor for recognizing that travel advisors frequently work irregular hours to help clients facing travel disruptions, as seen most recently during the COVID-19 crisis, and that travel agencies should have the same access to this exemption from the overtime rules as any other retail business,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA president and CEO. “In addition, we are incredibly grateful to Congressman Rooney, Congresswoman Titus, and other legislators who have taken up our cause over the past few years. Once the COVID crisis passes, our industry will be in a better position to serve clients thanks to this change.”

The Department of Labor’s action would have the same effect as the bipartisan Travel Advisor Retail Fairness Act (H.R. 2506), which was introduced in May 2019.

New overtime rules that went into effect in 2016 put an undue burden on travel agencies in terms of the cost and complexity of compliance, and travel agencies didn’t qualify for an exemption due to a 1970 rule that included travel agencies on a list of industries considered to “lack a retail concept” and so cannot qualify “under any circumstances” for the RSE exemption.

ASTA has been raising this issue in Congress, at the White House and at DOL since the new rules went into effect in 2016. Association members have met with senior officials, filed a formal petition for rulemaking, garnered support for Congressman Rooney’s bill, coordinated a Congressional coalition letter on the topic and suggested it to the White House as a pro-business regulatory action at the outset of the COVID crisis.

“While sustaining their businesses through the coronavirus crisis is our members’ primary focus right now, this welcome step will provide a measure of regulatory relief once business returns,” said Eben Peck, ASTA’s Executive Vice President, Advocacy. “ASTA has been actively engaging with policymakers on this issue for the better part of four years, but this kind of successful advocacy work is a team effort. If you attended ASTA Legislative Day, if you responded to our grassroots calls-to-action, if you contributed to ASTAPAC, or even if you supported ASTA with your membership dues, you share credit for this victory.”

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