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This week, SCI’s litigation team submitted an amicus brief in an unusual case that potentially impacts outfitters, guides, and public access to federal lands.

In 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order which raises the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 per hour and requires time-and-a-half for overtime hours (above 40 hours).  The Order applies to “contract like instruments” related to federal lands.  The Department of Labor (DOL) interpreted the Order to cover permits for recreational activities on federal lands—which means the Order imposes a $15 minimum wage on hunting outfitters, as well as rafting companies, horseback riding excursions, and other seasonal recreational activities.

Two river rafting companies challenged the Order and the DOL’s regulations in federal court in Colorado.  The court denied a preliminary injunction of the minimum wage and overtime requirements.  However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit granted the plaintiffs an injunction pending the outcome of an appeal.

SCI has filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of the plaintiffs’ arguments.  We worked with our outfitter and guide partners to obtain declarations explaining how the Order will harm the guided hunting industry.  These declarations explain that most employees within the industry do not consider themselves to be working overtime when they are on multi-day hunts, and that these employees are more likely to quit than thank the government if forced to clock in and out, track their hours, and account for their tips and other benefits.

SCI’s amicus brief also described the damage that a $15 minimum wage and $22.50 overtime rate would do to the guided hunting industry.  Outfitters would no longer be willing to train potential guides, and would be forced to pass the increased costs onto their clients.  In turn, many families would be priced out of guided hunts.  Given the difficulty of hunting without a guide in some remote locations, and State laws requiring that non-residents use guides for some hunts, implementation of the Order would effectively shut down access to public lands for many people.

The appellate court must decide whether to grant SCI’s motion, and how much weight to give the brief.  The Court should accept the brief, as it covers some themes that the plaintiffs did not address in any detail.

SCI’s advocacy team is working with outfitters and guides associations to more permanently resolve this issue, and protect hunting outfitters against additional minimum wage increases.

SCI’s brief is available in the case Bradford v. U.S. Department of Labor, No. 22-1023, in the Tenth Circuit.

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