As of September 24, 2019, an estimated 1.2 million employees will be eligible for overtime in 2020. This came about with an increase in the “white collar” exemption by the U.S. Department of Labor. It supports the mandate for overtime pay included in the Fair Labor Standards Act. It becomes effective January 1, 2020.
Which employees are eligible for overtime in 2020?
The FLSA requires that most employees in the United States be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at not less than time and one-half the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek.
However, Section 13(a)(1) of the FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay for employees employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees. Section 13(a)(1) and Section 13(a)(17) also exempt certain computer employees. These exemptions are often called the “white-collar” or “EAP” exemptions. To qualify for exemption, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $684 per week. Job titles do not determine exempt status. In order for an exemption to apply, an employee’s specific job duties and salary must meet all the requirements of the Department’s regulations.
Once implemented, the minimum annual salary threshold for the “white-collar” exemption will be $35,568, increasing eligibility for an additional 1.2 million more workers. Currently the threshold for the exemption applied to white collar workers making at least $23,000 annually.
The result will be that employees making less than $35,568 (as opposed to only $23,000), even if salaried, will be entitled to overtime pay. The adjustment by the Department of Labor is aimed at increasing overall compensation in the work force by increasing the number of workers eligible for overtime pay and also increasing the minimum salary required for employers to take advantage of the “white collar” exception.
What employees are exempt from overtime pay?
Employers must reevaluate employees, currently exempt, who are earning an annual salary under or slightly over the new threshold. To be given a “white-collar” exemption, there are tests.
The employee’s primary duty must be managing the enterprise or a department or subdivision of the enterprise. The employee must customarily and regularly direct the work of at least two employees and have the authority to hire or fire workers (or the employee’s suggestions and recommendations as to hiring, firing or changing the status of other employees must be given particular weight).
The employee’s primary duty must be office or non-manual work that is directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers. The employee’s primary duty also must include the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.
The employee’s primary duty must be work requiring advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning that is customarily acquired by prolonged, specialized, intellectual instruction and study.
Training needed for employers and employees
Employees in the pay gap between the current pay threshold of $23,000 and the new limit of $35,538 may not be tracking their work time. Under the new plan, all work time and overtime must be tracked. For employers, this may mean training for affected employees on time-keeping procedures.
Both employers and employees need awareness training on other features of the plan. Employers may count up to 10% of annual non-discretionary bonuses, incentives, and commissions toward an employee’s salary – sometimes bumping them above the $35,538 threshold and disqualifying them from overtime.
Employers may restructure by increasing the salary of some and reclassifying others to nonexempt. They may also create ways to limit overtime hours – especially for the newly nonexempt employees who are not familiar with tracking hours.
This will take some time for both sides to adapt to the new rules, but awareness of the rules and how they apply to your particular situation, will go a long way toward a smoother transition and less frustration. The timing of the new rule gives everyone three months to adjust and be ready for the new year.
In 2016, the Department of Labor under the Obama Administration previously set an even higher minimum salary requirement to qualify for one of the white collar exemptions. The $47,476.00 minimum requirement established by the Obama Department of Labor would have protected even more workers (an estimated 4.2 million) by dramatically increasing the number of workers eligible for overtime pay and significantly increasing the minimum salary required for white collar exemptions from the overtime pay requirement.
However, a US District Court ruling stopped implementation of the 2016 rule before it became final. During the pendency of the appeal, the Department of Labor under the Trump administration decided to dismiss the appeal previously initiated by the Obama Department of Labor – thus ending final implementation of the even higher salary threshold.
Nevertheless, the current Department of Labor has made the current rule change to the $35,538 threshold which is an improvement under the previous number established in 2004. Overall, this is good news for both “white collar” exempt employees as well as employees who work over 40 hours as they can be assured they will be more fairly paid for time worked.