November 30, 2016
Just days before it was scheduled to be implemented on December 1, a federal judge in Texas has blocked the implementation of the new Department of Labor (DOL) federal overtime rule, which would have doubled the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA’s) salary threshold for exemption from overtime pay. According to an NPR report, this extension of overtime eligibility would have affected 4 million Americans and required employers to pay time-and-a-half to their employees who worked more than 40 hours in a given week and earned less than $47,476 a year.
Lawsuits objecting to the overtime rule were filed by 21 states, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other business groups concerned about the negative impacts of the legislation on businesses—including higher payroll costs and reduced staffing flexibility. The DOL plans to challenge the decision and argues that the new rule would have helped to offset income erosion due to inflation and that the rule would deliver fairer pay to lower-wage employees who are currently exempt from overtime pay. The DOL also stated that the salary level was set purposefully low to screen out obviously nonexempt employees such as executives and higher-level professionals.
Although the overtime extension rule will not take effect in December, it could still be implemented in the future. Employers should continue to follow the existing overtime regulations until a final decision is reached. For those employers who have already raised exempt employees’ salaries to meet the new threshold or who have reclassified employees who are still earning less to nonexempt status, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) recommends leaving such decisions in place because they would be difficult to reverse. However, employers may want to postpone making any further moves until a final ruling is made.