A congressman has introduced a bill, the Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act, that, if passed, would enable agencies to utilize an exemption from the U.S. Department of Labor's overtime rules.

ASTA has been working for some time to have agencies removed from a so-called "blacklist" that makes them ineligible for a Retail Service Establishment exemption from overtime rules. The list has existed since 1970, and agencies have been on it because the Department of Labor contends they "lack a retail concept."

The Society has contended that some agencies, based on their business model and how they compensate employees, are eligible for the exemption.

The Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act, introduced by Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), would remove agencies from the blacklist. ASTA lauded its introduction.

"Not only do their employees necessarily work irregular hours helping clients facing travel disruptions, but travel agencies are the very picture of retail businesses and we think it's indefensible that agencies are denied use of this exemption from overtime rules," Zane Kerby, ASTA president and CEO, said in a statement. "We are incredibly grateful to congressman Rooney for taking up this fight on behalf of the 48 ASTA members in Florida's 19th Congressional District and the broader industry, and will do everything in our power to see this bill through to enactment."

According to ASTA, the bill asks the secretary of labor to remove agencies from the list of establishments barred from using the exemption.

"Eliminating harmful regulations on our small business community is a key component of economic growth and job creation," Rep. Rooney said in a statement. "The idea that travel agencies 'lack a retail concept' and therefore must be subject to federal overtime rules is arbitrary and overreaching. The exception travel agencies are seeking is in line with similar industries and should be granted immediately."

ASTA said the bill, which was introduced Thursday, was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, on which Rep. Rooney sits. The committee oversees labor issues.

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