Chao, testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee's labor subcommittee, refused a request by the panel's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to delay until September a business-backed plan to overhaul overtime rules.
"Enough time has been spent on delays and studies of all sorts," Chao told Specter at the Tuesday hearing, adding the department intends to put the new regulations into effect by March 31.
Chao said employers are spending $2 billion a year on "needless litigation" by workers seeking overtime pay. The lawsuits diverted money from "job creation and better pay and benefits," she said.
Specter, facing a re-election fight against conservative Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., scheduled the hearing so the topic could get a "full airing."
Besides asking Chao for the delay, Specter also asked her to remain in the hearing room for subsequent discussions. She refused, leaving after her scheduled testimony, the Washington Post reported.