Travel agencies now qualify for an exemption to federal overtime rules for retail businesses after the Department of Labor eliminated a so-called “blacklist” that had included agencies.

ASTA has been lobbying for the change since 2016. 

“We commend the Department of Labor for recognizing that travel advisors frequently work irregular hours to help clients face travel disruptions, as seen most recently during the Covid crisis, and that travel agencies should have the same access to this exemption from the overtime rules as any other retail business,” ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby said in a statement.

Decades ago, the Department of Labor introduced a list of businesses it said “lack a retail concept” and were unable to take advantage of the exemption to overtime rules. The blacklist included travel agencies, but ASTA has long believed many agencies do qualify as retail establishments (a federal district court agreed in a 1997 court case brought by a travel agency).

The Department of Labor said it made the change “to provide greater simplicity and flexibility to retail industry employers.”

Now, so long as an agency meets the existing definition of a retail establishment and other criteria, it can claim the exemption. The change takes immediate effect.

The Labor Department’s action has the same effect as the Travel Advisor Retail Fairness Act, a bill introduced in 2019 directing the Secretary of Labor to revise the regulation and remove agencies from the blacklist, ASTA said. The Society championed for the bill’s introduction.

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