In landmark ruling, U.S. Supreme Court bars discrimination against LGBT workers

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday delivered a watershed victory for LGBT rights and a defeat for President Donald Trump’s administration by ruling that a longstanding federal law barring workplace discrimination protects gay and transgender employees.

The landmark 6-3 ruling represented the biggest moment for LGBT rights in the United States since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015. Two conservative justices joined the court’s four liberals in the decision: Neil Gorsuch, a 2017 Trump appointee who wrote the ruling, and Chief Justice John Roberts.

The justices decided that gay and transgender people are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as race, color, national origin and religion.

Workplace bias against gay and transgender employees had remained legal in much of the country, with 28 U.S. states lacking comprehensive measures against employment discrimination. The ruling – in two gay rights cases from Georgia and New York and a transgender rights case from Michigan – recognizes new worker protections in federal law.

“The Supreme Court’s historic decision affirms what shouldn’t have even been a debate: LGBTQ Americans should be able to work without fear of losing jobs because of who they are,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the gay rights group GLAAD.

The legal fight focused on the definition of “sex” in Title VII. The plaintiffs, along with civil rights groups and many large companies, had argued that discriminating against gay and transgender workers was inherently based on their sex and consequently was illegal.

Trump’s administration had backed the employers who were sued for discrimination. The administration and the employers argued that Congress did not intend for Title VII to protect gay and transgender people when it passed the law. Gorsuch conceded that point in his opinion but said what mattered was the text of the law.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Gorsuch wrote. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

Strongly supported by evangelical Christian voters, Trump has taken actions that have undermined gay and transgender rights since taking office in 2017.

Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh dissented from the ruling. Writing in dissent, Alito said the court had basically re-written the law.

“There is only one word for what the court has done today: legislation,” Alito wrote.

‘TREATED FAIRLY’

The court ruled in two consolidated cases about gay people who have said they were fired due to their sexual orientation. One involved a former county child welfare services coordinator from Georgia named Gerald Bostock. The other involved a New York skydiving instructor named Donald Zarda who died after the litigation began, with the matter then pursued by his estate.

The court also ruled in a case that involved a transgender funeral director named Aimee Stephens fired by a Detroit funeral home after revealing plans to transition from male to female. Stephens died in May. Stephens’ wife Donna is now representing the estate.

“I am grateful for this victory to honor the legacy of Aimee, and to ensure people are treated fairly regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Donna Stephens said in a statement.

Gorsuch wrote that “there is no way an employer can discriminate against those who check the homosexual or transgender box without discriminating in part because of an applicant’s sex.”

“By discriminating against homosexuals, the employer intentionally penalizes men for being attracted to men and women for being attracted to women. By discriminating against transgender persons, the employer unavoidably discriminates against persons with one sex identified at birth and another today,” Gorsuch wrote.

The Human Rights Campaign gay rights group called the decision “a landmark victory for LGBTQ equality.”

Alphonso David, the group’s president, said, “No one should be denied a job or fired simply because of who they are or whom they love.”

The White House had no immediate comment.

Trump’s Justice Department reversed the government’s position taken under Democratic former President Barack Obama that Title VII covered sexual orientation and gender identity.

Trump’s administration last week issued a rule that would lift anti-discrimination protections for transgender people in healthcare.

His administration also has backed the right of certain businesses to refuse to serve gay people on the basis of religious objections to gay marriage, banned most transgender service members from the military and rescinded protections on bathroom access for transgender students in public schools.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Additional reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

Sign here first: U.S. salons, gyms, offices require coronavirus waivers

By Suzanne Barlyn and John McCrank

(Reuters) – As U.S. businesses reopen after weeks of pandemic lockdowns, many have been posting coronavirus disclaimers or requiring employees and patrons to sign waivers before entering.

From hair salons and recreation centers to stock exchanges and wedding photographers, the notices have sprung up across the country, asking guests to acknowledge they might contract a disease that has so far killed over 100,000 Americans.

Companies are using signs, forms and website postings as a shield against lawsuits, but the measures do not prevent people from seeking damages due to negligence, the same way someone might sue after falling on a slippery floor or getting sick from walls covered in lead paint, experts said.

Lawyers said it would be tough to prove a business caused a customer’s illness, but concerns are so intense that a waiver may soon become the new normal.

Entities including the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, a real estate agency in Arizona, a racecar speedway in Seinsgrove, Pennsylvania, and the New York Stock Exchange have introduced waivers disavowing responsibility for anyone who might contract the disease onsite, Reuters has learned.

Missoula, Montana-based lawyer Paige Marie Griffith created a waiver for COVID-19, the respiratory illness related to the novel coronavirus, that business owners can buy and customize online. Events industry workers, including makeup artists and wedding photographers, are using them, she said.

“As essential as we feel, everyone getting their hair done is choosing to do so,” said Cody Brooke, who owns 10th Avenue Hair Designs in Pensacola, Florida. “We don’t want the salon or stylist to be held liable knowing that they chose to come in.”

Since reopening on May 11, the salon requires clients to sign a form stating they have no COVID-19 symptoms and have not visited a “hot spot” with high infection rates in the last 30 days. It releases the salon from liability for “unintentional exposure” to the virus.

Ryan Reiffert did not mind signing a waiver recently for the gym where he practices martial arts near San Antonio, Texas. He had symptoms in March and later learned from antibody testing that had likely contracted the virus.

“But even if I hadn’t had it,” he said, “I’d happily sign the waiver.”

A gym attendant sprayed disinfectant on Reiffer’s hands and feet before he could enter, he said.

Bigger companies are taking similar steps.

Walt Disney Co’s website cites “severe illness and death” risks for customers at its Orlando, Florida, amusement parks due to reopen on July 11th.

That warning did not deter the throngs who waited for hours to buy Mickey Mouse swag or apparel from familiar brands outside the Disney Springs shopping center that reopened on May 20.

A Disney spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

New York Stock Exchange owner Intercontinental Exchange Inc and commodities exchange CME Group Inc also require entrants to sign waivers. Floor traders at the exchanges have historically shouted in close proximity to one another, sans masks, but that has changed.

“I cannot stress enough that we will not be able to guarantee the safety of traders, clerks or other trading personnel that choose to access the trading floor,” said CME Chief Executive Terry Duffy. “It will have risk and will continue to have risk until there is a vaccine or some other cure for this disease.”

(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn and John McCrank; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Richard Chang)

Some State Department employees have tested positive for coronavirus – Pompeo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A handful of U.S. State Department employees across the globe have tested positive for the new coronavirus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday.

“We’ve had a couple of employees, you can count them on one hand, who have positive tests,” Pompeo said in a news briefing. “We’ve handled those exactly the way we’re asking every American to respond to those wherever they find themselves in the world.”

He gave no details on the precise number of State Department employees who have tested positive for the highly contagious virus, where they were based or whether they had returned to the United States. He noted that the State Department has already limited U.S. diplomats’ travel.

“We’ll continue to take care of our team, we will act in a way that’s consistent with the CDC’s (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines and the professional medical staff who work here with the State Department,” he said.

Pompeo added that he felt “great,” though he did not say whether he had been tested for the coronavirus.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Writing by Daphne Psaledakis and Jonathan Landay, Editing by Franklin Paul and Paul Simao)

U.S. consulate warns employees as gun battles rock Mexican border city

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The United States consulate in Mexico’s border city of Nuevo Laredo issued a security alert on Wednesday, warning against gun battles and urging government employees to take precautions.

Gun battles have killed at least three people this week in the northern city bordering the Texas city of Laredo, media have said. It one of the Mexican cities where the U.S. government has sent asylum seekers to wait as their cases are decided.

“The consulate has received reports of multiple gunfights throughout the city of Nuevo Laredo,” it said in a Twitter post. “U.S. government personnel are advised to shelter in place.”

On Twitter, users purportedly from Laredo reported hearing gunfire ringing out from the neighboring Mexican city.

In a Twitter post late on Wednesday, Francisco Cabeza de Vaca, the governor of Tamaulipas, the state home to Nuevo Laredo, blamed the attacks on its Cartel of the Northeast.

“After the cowardly attacks on the part of the Cartel of the Northeast in Nuevo Laredo, the (government of Tamaulipas) will not let down its guard and will continue acting with strength against criminals,” he wrote.

Tension over the cartels intensified in November when suspected cartel members massacred three women and six children of U.S.-Mexican origin in northern Mexico.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to designate the groups as terrorist organizations in response to a series of bloody security breaches triggered by cartel gunmen.

(Reporting by Julia Love; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Shady triangle: Southeast Asia’s illegal oil and fuel market

A bird's-eye view of ships along the coast in Singapore July 9, 2017.

By Henning Gloystein and John Geddie

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – An alleged oil heist in Singapore that has already led to 20 arrests, the seizure of at least one tanker and allegations that thieves siphoned thousands of tonnes (1 tonne is approx. 2, 204.6 pounds) of fuel from Shell’s biggest refinery is shining a spotlight on an illegal trade worth tens of billions of dollars worldwide.

Working routes in a triangle of sea anchored by Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore and encompassing the oil facilities of Malaysia, the smugglers take advantage of a difficult-to-patrol sea and enticing black market prices, experts say.

The suspects in the latest case are accused of stealing oil from Royal Dutch Shell’s Pulau Bukom refinery, often during business hours, and distributing it around the region.

Several of the men charged worked for Shell. Employees of a major Singaporean fuel trading company and a London-listed business that inspects and certifies cargos have also been charged.

“Siphoning off fuel is a common thing in Southeast Asia. There is a huge black market for it,” said Ben Stewart, commercial manager of the shipping security firm Maritime Asset Security and Training, which has helped authorities in the region fight fuel theft and smuggling.

Singapore is by far the world’s biggest ship refueling port, and Southeast Asia’s petroleum refining hub. Hundreds of vessels pass through the small city-state’s waters every day.

Security officers say the sheer amount of traffic makes checking every ship impossible, opening the door to illegal trade.

In most cases, oil is discreetly siphoned from legal storage tanks and sold into the black market. But there have also been thefts at sea and even hijackings of entire ships to steal their fuel.

Data from the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), based in Singapore, shows more than half of the serious shipping incidents reported in the past year have occurred off the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula.

Some officials put the value of the illegal trade in Southeast Asia at $2 billion to $3 billion per year. But Yousuf Malik, principal at security consultancy Defence IQ, estimated about 3 percent of Southeast Asia’s consumed fuel is sourced illegally, worth $10 billion a year.

“The scale of the illegal oil trade varies with oil prices – when oil prices are high, so is the level of smuggling,” said Praipol Koomsup, former Thai vice minister of energy and professor at Thammasat University.

Crude oil prices have risen by more than 50 percent since mid-2017 to about $70 per barrel, the highest level in over three years. That increases the black market demand in poorer Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam and Thailand.

“Smuggled oil has been known to be sold to factories for industrial use, or unnamed roadside oil stations. Regular citizens and fishermen are involved in the smuggling,” Koomsup said.

OPEN SEA FUEL STATIONS

Several fuel traders told Reuters that the illegal sale of fuel is common enough that companies plan for losses of 0.2-0.4 percent of ordered cargo volumes.

Stewart said one common method of theft involves a simple fudging of paperwork at sea: captains overstate how much fuel their ship is using, then sell the excess.

Sometimes entire ships are captured for their fuel cargo.

When fuel is stolen on such a large scale, it tends to be transferred to other ships at sea.

Legal ship-to-ship transfers frequently happen between oil tankers in registered zones. In the South China Sea, however, illegal traders use purpose-built ships – with some even disguised as fishing trawlers – to take in and distribute fuel.

According to ReCAAP, the waters around the remote Natuna Islands, which sit between peninsular Malaysia and Borneo but belong to Indonesia, are a hot spot for piracy and illegal fuel transfers.

The Atlantic Council, a policy research group, said many of the region’s illegal fuel operations had links to organized crime.

Police in Thailand and Vietnam said most illegal fuel comes into the country by sea, usually transported on mid-size trawlers in unmarked drums. Smaller vessels then bring the fuel ashore for sale on the street.

“The coasts of Thailand and Vietnam are vast, and its cities big. To catch or even trace the illegal fuel in this area is virtually impossible. That’s why it happens,” said one security source, speaking on the condition of anonymity as he was not cleared to talk to media about contraband operations.

THE BUKOM HEIST

Bukom, just south of Singapore, is an island serving just one purpose: 1.5 square kilometers (0.6 square miles) of tropical land devoted to the biggest petroleum refinery owned by Anglo-Dutch Shell. It can process 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

As global markets were gearing up for a new year in early January, Singapore authorities conducted coordinated raids across the city-state, arresting 20, charging 14 Singaporean and Vietnamese men, and seizing millions of dollars in cash. They even confiscated an oil tanker.

At the heart of the police operations is Bukom, where suspects, including current and former Shell employees, are accused of stealing oil worth millions of dollars in the past six months.

Singapore’s biggest marine fuel supplier, Sentek, last weekend saw its marketing and operations manager, as well as a cargo officer, charged in connection with the case.

Another person charged works for Intertek in Singapore, a British-listed company specializing in quality and quantity assurance, including for fuel products.

In a statement to Reuters, Shell said, “Fuel theft is an industry problem globally and not something that anyone can solve on their own.” The company added that it was working with governments and ReCAAP to address the issue.

A representative for Intertek was not immediately available for comment. Sentek declined to comment.

A lawyer representing one of the accused men said he had not yet had opportunity to obtain instructions from his client. Lawyers for some of the others charged were not immediately available for comment.

The Prime South, the small 12,000-tonne Vietnamese tanker police seized, frequently shipped fuel between Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City. The ship had also recently made stops at Rayong, Thailand.

Between ports, the tanker often switched off its transponder, which every merchant vessel is required to carry.

The scale of the theft was big enough that Shell did not think it could handle the case internally. Instead, in August the company contacted authorities, triggering one of the biggest police operations in Singapore in years.

Police investigations are ongoing. The charges in court documents allege the suspects in the Singapore case stole over $5 million worth of oil.

Globally, oil theft could be worth as much as $133 billion, said Malik of Defence IQ.

“Its sheer scale and the flows of illicit cash related to oil and fuel theft and smuggling exacts a toll on virtually every aspect of the economy,” Malik said.

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein and John Geddie in SINGAPORE; Additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panu Wongcha-Um in BANGKOK, Mai Nguyen and James Pearson in HANOI, and Fathin Ungku and Roslan Khasawneh in SINGAPORE; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Wisconsin company offers employees microchip implants

Tiny radio frequency identification (RFID) computer chips with the needles used to implant them under the skin are pictured in New York January 4, 2006. REUTERS/Chip East

By Taylor Harris

(Reuters) – A Wisconsin vending machine company is offering its employees a chance to have a microchip implanted in their hands that they could use to buy snacks, log in to computers or use the copy machine.

About 50 employees at Three Square Market have agreed to the optional implant of the chips, which are the approximate size and shape of a grain of rice, said Tony Danna, vice president of international sales at the River Falls-based company.

The company, which employs 85, said it was the first in the United States to offer staff the technology which is similar to that used by contactless credit cards and chips used to identify pets.

The implants made by Sweden’s BioHax International are part of a long-term test aimed to see if the radio-frequency identification chips could have broader commercial applications, Danna said.

“We’ve done the research and we’re pretty well educated about this,” Danna said in an interview.

The company is holding an Aug. 1 “chip party” where employees will have the device inserted between their forefinger and thumb using a syringe-like instrument.

The RFID chips use electromagnetic fields to communicate and can be read at a distance of no more than 6 inches (15 cm), Danna said.

Critics of using chips in humans include Nevada State Senator Becky Harris, who in February introduced legislation that would make forced installation of microchips illegal.

“It is possible to hack the information that is contained within the chips,” Harris told a state Senate Judiciary Committee meeting at the time.

The company’s CEO Todd Westby in a statement predicted the technology could become popular among companies.

“Eventually, this technology will become standardized allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc.,” he said.

(Reporting by Taylor Harris in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)

U.S households see spending up, job prospects improving: New York Fed survey

- A shopper walks down an aisle in a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Chicago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Consumers expect to boost spending in the months ahead and voiced confidence they are more likely to find a job and less likely to lose one in a strong labor market, the New York Federal Reserve reported Monday in its latest monthly survey of consumer expectations.

Nearly 35 percent of the 1,300 heads of household included in the June poll said they were better off economically than a year go, a record in the four years the survey has been conducted.

The results bolster the current Fed outlook of an economy that continues to generate jobs despite tepid overall growth and some concern about a recent dip in inflation, improving chances the central bank can follow through with plans for a further interest rate increase later this year.

Though household expectations of inflation for the year ahead did dip slightly from the May survey, to 2.5 percent from 2.6 percent, respondents expect strong price increases of 2.8 percent over the coming three years. That’s consistent with the Fed’s current outlook that the recent weakness in inflation will prove temporary.

The survey also bolstered the view of continued strong consumption growth. Half of those polled said they expected to spend at least 3.3 percent more in the coming year, compared to median expected spending growth of 2.6 percent in the May survey. One-year-ahead expected earnings growth increased to 2.5 percent in the June survey from 2.2 percent in May.

Respondents also showed broad faith in the strength of the labor market, with a slight dip to 13.5 percent from 13.6 percent in the perceived probability of losing a job in the next year, and a jump to 59.2 percent from 56.7 percent in the probability of finding employment.

More than a fifth of respondents said they might leave a job voluntarily in the next year, up from 19.4 percent in May. Voluntarily job exits are considered a sign of a strong labor market that offers employees choices.

The online poll is designed to be a representative sample of the U.S. population. The New York Fed did not provide the margin of error for the poll.

 

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

 

U.S. job growth slows sharply, unemployment rate falls to 4.5 percent

A fast food restaurant advertises for workers on its front window in Encinitas, California, U.S., September 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – U.S. employers added the fewest number of workers in 10 months in March, but a drop in the unemployment rate to a near 10-year low of 4.5 percent pointed to a labor market that continues to tighten.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 98,000 jobs last month as the retail sector shed employment for a second straight month, the Labor Department said on Friday, the fewest since last May.

The economy enjoyed job gains in excess of 200,000 in January and February as unusually warm temperatures pulled forward hiring in weather-sensitive sectors like construction, leisure and hospitality. In March, temperatures dropped and a storm lashed the Northeast.

The unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.5 percent, the lowest level since May 2007.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing 180,000 last month and the unemployment rate unchanged at 4.7 percent.

The economy needs to create 75,000 to 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population. The labor market is expected to hit full employment this year, which could

drive faster wage growth.

The weak payrolls gain could raise concerns about the economy’s health especially given signs that gross domestic product slowed to around a 1.0 percent annualized growth pace in the first quarter after rising at a 2.1 percent rate in the fourth quarter.

Average hourly earnings increased 5 cents or 0.2 percent in March, which lowered the year-on-year increase to 2.7 percent.

Given rising inflation, the moderate job gains and gradual wage increases could still keep the Federal Reserve on course to raise interest rates again in June.

The U.S. central bank lifted its overnight interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point in March and has forecast two more hikes this year. The Fed has said it would look at how to reduce its portfolio of bond holdings later this year.

The labor force participation rate, or the share of working-age Americans who are employed or at least looking for a job, held at an 11-month high of 63 percent in March.

Economists attribute some of the improvement in the participation rate to President Donald Trump’s electoral victory last November, which might have caused some unemployed Americans to believe their job prospects would improve. Trump has pledged to pursue pro-growth policies such as tax cuts and deregulation.

Construction jobs increased 6,000 after robust gains in January and February. Manufacturing employment gained 11,000 jobs as rising oil prices fuel demand for machinery.

Retail payrolls fell 29,700, declining for a second straight month. Retailers including J.C. Penney Co Inc and Macy’s Inc have announced thousands of layoffs as they shift toward online sales and scale back on brick-and-mortar operations.

Government payrolls increased 9,000 despite a freeze on the hiring of civilian workers.

((Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci))

Colorado school district votes to allow employees to carry guns

A selection of Glock pistols are seen for sale at the Pony Express Firearms shop in Parker, Colorado

By Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) – A tiny school district in central Colorado has voted to allow teachers or other employees at its two schools to carry concealed handguns on the job if they volunteer to serve double duty as security officers in case of an emergency.

The Board of Education for Hanover School District #28 voted 3-2 to approve the resolution on Wednesday night, said Mark McPherson, board president.

McPherson, who voted against the plan, said it was inspired less by the fear of a shooting rampage on campus than by the district’s remote location, some 30 miles from the nearest sheriff’s station.

“We had a board member who introduced the idea back in June who indicated he felt the need for this because of the distance and response time (from law enforcement) as well as all the (potential) trouble from marijuana grows,” McPherson said.

The written resolution, however, says in part that it was drafted “in light of recent events nationally,” apparently in reference to a string of shootings on school campuses.

McPherson said it was a coincidence that the measure was approved on the third anniversary of a Dec. 14, 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 students and six staff members were slain.

Hanover School District #28 is comprised of one elementary school and one combined junior and senior high school, serving a total of about 245 students. Each school has about 10 teachers.

According to the resolution, any teacher or staff member with a permit to carry a concealed weapon can volunteer for extra duty as a security officer.

The employee must then complete training before being allowed to bring the gun to campus.

McPherson said that it was not yet clear how many of the 20 or so teachers in the district would sign up to be volunteer security officers but that the resolution did not set a limit on how many could carry weapons.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Dan Grebler)

U.S. extends overtime pay to 4.2 million salaried workers

Employees work at the checkout counters of a Walmart store in Secaucus, New Jersey, November 11, 2015.

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) – The Obama administration on Tuesday unveiled the final version of a long-awaited and controversial rule to extend overtime pay to 4.2 million U.S. workers, which marks one of the administration’s most significant moves to address stagnant wages.

The rule, which has drawn intense criticism from business groups and Republicans, doubles the maximum annual income a salaried worker can earn and still be automatically eligible for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 and requires that threshold to be updated every three years. It takes effect Dec. 1.

Officials said many workers will earn more money, an estimated total of $12 billion over the next decade, while others will work fewer hours for the same pay.

“More than 4 million workers are either going to be paid more or get time back to raise their family, go to school … or retrain to get a better job,” Vice President Joe Biden said during a phone call with reporters on Tuesday.

The rule will likely touch nearly every sector of the U.S. economy but is expected to have the greatest impact on nonprofit groups, retail companies, hotels and restaurants, which have many management workers whose salaries are below the new threshold.

Business groups, which lobbied heavily against the changes, say companies will be forced to cut wages and hours and may slow hiring.

The Obama administration and supporters of the new rule say the $23,660 threshold allowed companies to hold down labor costs by requiring workers with relatively low incomes to work well over 40 hours per week without additional pay.

The rule will likely face legal challenges, including claims that the U.S. Labor Department flouted legal requirements for creating new regulations. Republicans in Congress have said they will move to block the rule, but they would need to overcome a veto from President Barack Obama.

The new threshold was lower than the $50,440 standard proposed by the Obama administration last year, but the last-minute change to lower it, which was widely expected, did little to appease critics.

Any federal standard above the $35,100 overtime threshold in New York, which has a high cost of living, will inhibit economic growth in more rural states in the South and Midwest, Tammy McCutchen, a Washington D.C. lawyer who works with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said on Tuesday before the final rule was announced.

The threshold also disappointed proponents of the new rule, including Ross Eisenbrey of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, who first pitched an overhaul to the White House in 2013.

“It means a million fewer employees will be helped,” he said before the rule was released.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Cynthia Osterman)