Department of Labor proposes new overtime rules

The Department of Labor (DOL) has issued proposed rules to update the current rules on which executive, administrative, and professional employees (white collar workers) are entitled to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime pay protections. The DOL last updated these regulations in 2004, and the current salary
threshold for exemption is $455 per week ($23,660 per year). With this proposed rule, the DOL seeks to update the salary level required for exemption to ensure that the FLSA’s intended overtime protections are fully implemented, and to simplify the identification of nonexempt employees, thus making the executive, administrative and professional employee exemption easier for employers and workers to understand and apply.

Key provisions

The rules focus primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for white collar workers to be exempt. Specifically, DOL proposes to: (1) set the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of weekly earnings for full-time salaried workers ($921 per week, or $47,892 annually); (2) increase the total annual compensation requirement needed to exempt highly compensated employees (HCEs) to the annualized value of the 90th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time salaried workers ($122,148 annually); and (3) establish a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels going forward to ensure that they will continue to provide a useful and effective test for exemption.

The DOL’s proposal to set the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of weekly earnings for full-time salaried workers represents the most appropriate line of demarcation between exempt and nonexempt employees. This salary level minimizes the risk that employees legally entitled to overtime will be subject to misclassification based solely on the salaries they receive, without excluding from exemption an unacceptably high number of employees who meet the duties test. As proposed, this would raise the salary threshold from $455 a week (the equivalent of $23,660 a year) to about $970 a week ($50,440 a year) in 2016.

The DOL is also proposing to automatically update the standard salary and HCE total annual compensation requirements to ensure that they remain meaningful tests for distinguishing between bona fide executive, administrative, and professional workers who are not entitled to overtime and overtime-protected white collar workers. Experience has shown that the salary level test is an effective measure of exempt status only if it is up to date.

In addition, the DOL discusses the current duties test and solicits suggestions for additional occupation examples and requests comments on the current requirements. The DOL seeks comment on the possibility of including nondiscretionary bonuses to satisfy a portion of the standard salary requirement. The DOL is not proposing specific regulatory changes on either of these issues.

Comments are invited

Identify comments by Regulatory Information Number (RIN) 1235-AA11, by either of the following methods: Electronic Comments: Submit comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. Mail: Address written submissions to Mary Ziegler, Director of the Division of Regulations, Legislation, and Interpretation, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor, Room S-3502, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210. Instructions: Submit only one copy of the comments by only one method. All submissions must include the agency name and RIN, identified above, for this rulemaking. Comments received will become a matter of public record and will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided. All comments must be received by 11:59 p.m. on the date indicated for consideration in this rulemaking.

Commenters should transmit comments early to ensure timely receipt prior to the close of the comment period as the DOL continues to experience delays in the receipt of mail in our area. For additional information on submitting comments and the rulemaking process, see the “Public Participation” section of this document. For questions concerning the interpretation and enforcement of labor standards related to the FLSA, individuals may contact the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) local district offices (see contact information below). Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or comments, go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. (NPRM RIN 1235-AA11, June 30, 2015.)

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