The Obama administration is issuing new regulations that will provide overtime pay to workers who have been forced to work overtime but have not been paid for it. The new rule would restore fairness for nearly 5 million workers as soon as 2016. AFGE urges the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to adopt a similar rule for federal employees.
Under the current rule, the only workers who are guaranteed overtime based on their salary alone is limited to those making $23,660 a year ($455 a week) or less. The new rule will raise the salary threshold to $50,440 a year ($970 a week). Most salaried workers who earn below the new threshold and work more than 40 hours a week will be eligible for overtime pay.
This change is long overdue as it’s been 40 years since the salary threshold was last updated, and workers and their families have suffered for it.
Currently, those exempt from overtime pay also are supposed to be “white collar” employees – executive, administrative, and professional employees. But employers manipulate the system and avoid paying overtime to low-wage workers such as store managers and fast-food shift supervisors.
“It’s hard to believe that somebody making $30,000 is a supervisor,” Daniel Hamermesh, an economist at the University of Texas at Austin, who has done extensive research on overtime, told Politico. “At this point, I don’t think even our regulations are in line with the original intent of the law.” Raising the salary threshold was “an absolute no brainer,” Hamermesh said.
The new threshold, which would go up every year to keep up with inflation, would encompass many workers who are currently classified as “managers.” The Department of Labor (DOL) will publish the new rule in the Federal Register in coming days with a final rule expected to be issued next year.
AFGE supports the administration’s new rule as raising the threshold is a quick way to address wage stagnation and the income gap.
Federal employees won’t yet benefit from the new regulations since they are being issued by DOL which administers the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for the private sector. However, OPM, which administers the FLSA for the federal sector, is required to interpret the FLSA consistent with the interpretation of DOL.
AFGE urges OPM to enact a similar regulation for federal workers. Current OPM regulations, like the current DOL regulations, set the threshold for federal workers who are automatically entitled to overtime based on their salary alone at $23,660.
The AFL-CIO praised the new overtime protections, but vowed to continue its fight for fair wages. Wage theft is still a huge problem especially in the fast-food industry where 9 in 10 workers are either denied breaks or forced to work overtime without pay.
“We recognize that while the proposal will help millions of workers across the country, millions more will still be denied overtime pay by their employer, said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “We will continue fighting until every worker who deserves overtime protections is paid for all their time worked.