Changes to Overtime Pay Regulations

On Wednesday, May 18, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced new changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations that will likely make approximately 4.2 million workers eligible for overtime pay.

As a reminder to clients, the changes will go into effect on December 1st of this year.

Under the FLSA, employers must pay workers time-and-a-half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a work week. The FLSA includes some exemptions to the overtime rules, intended to exclude certain “white-collar” workers from the overtime requirements. Companies do not have to pay an employee overtime wages as long as the worker passes both the salary test and the duties test to meet the FLSA exemptions from overtime pay.

Here are the five most important things to know about the changes:

1. New salary threshold is $47,476
Under the current standard, which has been in place since 2004, workers are exempt from the overtime pay requirement if they are paid a minimum salary of $455 per week or $23,660 per year and their job duties fit the FLSA’s definitions of executive, administrative and professional categories. The new regulations, effective December 1, more than double the salary threshold to $913 per week or $47,476 per year.

2. Up to 10 percent of the salary threshold may be bonuses or commissions
For some employees, their weekly pay may fall below the $913 threshold, but non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay or commissions may put their total pay over the annual minimum. Under the new rules, such an employee qualifies as exempt from overtime pay as long as the employee makes at least 90 percent of the threshold amount in salary and the remaining 10 percent is paid in non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay or commissions distributed at least on a quarterly basis.

3. No changes to the “duties test”
Even if a worker is paid more than the minimum salary, the worker is still entitled to overtime wages unless their work passes the “duties test.” To meet the duties test, the worker’s job responsibilities must meet all of the FLSA’s criteria established under the various exemption categories. Initially, the DOL considered changing the duties test to further restrict the types of jobs that are exempt from overtime pay, but ultimately decided against making any changes.

4. New minimum salary to qualify as a “highly compensated employee” is $134,004
The FLSA exempts “highly-compensated” workers from overtime pay as long as they regularly perform at least one job duty from the executive, administrative or professional exemption category and are paid a high salary. Previously, the DOL defined the salary of a highly compensated employee as $100,000 per year, but the new regulations raise it to $134,004.

5. The DOL will update the rules every three years
The DOL will update the minimum salary levels every three years, with the next update scheduled to take effect January 1, 2020. The DOL will calculate the new minimum salary threshold based on the pay of full-time workers in the 40th percentile in the lowest-wage census region. For highly-compensated workers, the DOL will calculate the threshold based on the wages of workers in the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationwide. By 2020, the DOL expects the minimum salary level to rise to $51,168, and the salary for highly compensated workers will be roughly $147,524. The DOL will announce the new salary levels on August 1, 2019.

Employers should carefully review their current exempt employees’ compensation structure to determine which workers may be eligible for overtime wages under the new regulations.  Although the changes don’t take effect until December 1, companies should monitor those employees’ work hours now to determine the most cost-effective way to comply with the new rules. In some cases, it may be easier to simply raise the workers’ salaries to the threshold, assuming their job functions meet the FLSA duties test.  In other cases, employers may want to convert the employee to an hourly rate and pay overtime for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week and implement rules to limit excessive overtime.

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