Lawsuit Challenges Biden’s Contractor Minimum Wage Regulation

The lawsuit was filed by river outfitters.

The lawsuit was filed by river outfitters. PeteHendleyPhotography / iStock.com

The rule is “an executive power grab to force a social agenda through federal contractors,” said the legal team.

Outdoor adventure guides are challenging in court the Biden administration’s new minimum wage regulation that impacts federal contractors and others. 

Arkansas Valley Adventures (and its owner)–– ​​a licensed river outfitter regulated by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife––and the Colorado River Outfitters Association, a nonprofit trade association that represents river rafting outfitters in Colorado, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. It names the Labor Department and its Wage and Hour Division, President Biden, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and acting Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division Jessica Looman as the defendants in the lawsuit centered on a final rule the Labor Department issued last month, which directs covered federal contractors to pay their workers a $15 per hour minimum wage starting next year as well as restores minimum wage protections for outfitters and guides who operate on federal lands. 

The rule “wraps in more than a half-million private firms, including 45,000 that provide concessions or recreational services—like rafting outfitters—whose only ties to the federal government are special land use permits or licenses,” said a press release from the Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing the groups. “Unlike a shift worker at a manufacturing facility or a grocery store with regular hours, the new wage mandate simply doesn’t make sense for a workplace structure in which back-to-back rafting trips can take days.” It also noted that these workers don’t qualify for other federal benefits and raised concerns about these employers having to cut the lengths of trips or drastically raise fees for them.

The rule is “an executive power grab to force a social agenda through federal contractors” and “is chilling,” the nonprofit legal organization said. The way in which the rule was promulgated is illegal, alleged the organization, whose mission it is to defend liberties against abuse and overreach from the government. 

“Congress holds the authority over the scope of wage laws, has set clear limits, and has pointedly declined to mandate wages for employers who merely use federal lands,” said the Pacific Legal Foundation. “The president sidestepped Congress, displaced at least five wage-related laws, and gave the [Labor Department] policy-making power over anyone with any kind of financial relationship with the federal government.”

The lawsuit alleges three counts of violations of the Administrative Procedures Act and U.S. Constitution. To the best of their knowledge, this is the first lawsuit over this regulation, said the Pacific Legal Foundation. 

Caleb Kruckenberg, the lead attorney on the case, told Government Executive they are seeking the rule to be vacated entirely; however, “it is possible that the judge might only invalidate it for our clients.”

The Labor Department deferred to the Justice Department for comment, which declined to comment. 

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