Overtime rules to get up­date

Obama plans to raise a salary thresh­old to en­able more work­ers to re­ceive ex­tra pay.

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION - By Michael A. Me­moli michael.me­moli@latimes.com Twit­ter: @ mike­mem­oli

WASHINGTON — Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans could see a boost in wages or re­duced work­load as a re­sult of new fed­eral reg­u­la­tions on overtime pay the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is un­veil­ing this week.

Un­der the reg­u­la­tions, pri­vate- sec­tor work­ers who make up to $ 50,400 a year will be guar­an­teed the right to earn overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week. Cur­rently, only work­ers who make less than $ 23,660 a year, or $ 455 a week, have those pro­tec­tions.

The salary thresh­old had not been raised for a decade when Pres­i­dent Obama or­dered the La­bor Depart­ment to con­duct a re­view last year, call­ing the f ig­ure out­dated. The pres­i­dent plans to dis­cuss the change Thurs­day in a trip to Wis­con­sin and pre­viewed it in a Huff­in­g­ton Post op- ed posted Mon­day night.

“We’ve got to keep mak­ing sure hard work is re­warded. Right now, too many Amer­i­cans are work­ing long days for less pay than they de­serve,” he said.

The change is likely to please la­bor ad­vo­cates who had called on the ad­min­is­tra­tion to con­sider rais­ing the thresh­old to at least $ 42,000 a year. They say an in­creased thresh­old could help stim­u­late the econ­omy by boost­ing mid­dle- class work­ers’ wages or trig­ger­ing new hir­ing to pre­vent the need for pay­ing the higher overtime rate.

Salaried em­ploy­ees who earn more than the thresh­old can be de­nied overtime pay if they fall un­der broad ex­cep­tions for ad­min­is­tra­tive, ex­ec­u­tive or pro­fes­sional work. It’s un­clear whether those ex­emp­tions will be clar­i­fied, as the pres­i­dent had re­quested.

The pres­i­dent said the change would af­fect nearly 5 mil­lion work­ers in 2016, and cast the change as part of the eco­nomic vi­sion he out­lined in his State of the Union ad­dress this year.

“In this coun­try, a hard day’s work de­serves a fair day’s pay. That’s at the heart of what it means to be mid­dle class in Amer­ica,” Obama wrote.

The pres­i­dent has touted pos­i­tive eco­nomic trends since he took of­fice at the height of the Great Re­ces­sion. But mid­dle- class wage growth has lagged even as the stock mar­ket has reached record highs, and a vo­cal wing of the pres­i­dent’s party has pressed him to do more to ad­dress in­come in­equal­ity.

The overtime rules change is one of the most sig­nif­i­cant steps the ad­min­is­tra­tion can take with­out con­gres­sional ac­tion. The Fair La­bor Stan­dards Act of 1938 gives the ad­min­is­tra­tion broad au­thor­ity to set the rules with­out seek­ing law­mak­ers’ ap­proval. Repub­li­cans are nonethe­less likely to op­pose any changes, which they say could harm the eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

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