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The Sophisticated Employer Blog

Labor and employment law updates and resources.

DOL Releases New Overtime Regulations

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New DOL regulations to dramatically change minimum compensation for exempt employees beginning Dec. 1.

The wait is over! Employers have until Dec. 1, 2016 to become compliant with new overtime regulations for salary employees.

The duties tests for each of the exemptions have remained unchanged under the new regulations. However, an employee must now earn $913/week (or $47,476 annually) to qualify as exempt under the new standard salary level test, up from $455/week.  

The Highly Compensated Employee (HCE) exemption (with the minimal duties test), must receive not less than $134,004 a year (or $1,397/week) up from $100,000 annually.

Don’t get too comfortable with these thresholds because, beginning Jan. 1, 2020, the regulations provide for automatic adjustments every three years to ensure that the minimum compensation remains at the “40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region” (currently the south) for the standard salary level test and the 90th percentile nationally for the HCE exemption. The new rates will be published at least 150 days in advance of each automatic adjustment.

One nice change is that non-discretionary bonuses and other incentive pay such as commissions can satisfy up to 10 percent of the required minimum compensation required for the standard salary level test. A non-discretionary bonus is one announced in advance to induce employees to work harder or to remain with the company.  However, such payments must be made on a quarterly or more frequent basis. An employer has one pay period following the close of a quarter to make a “catch up” payment. If the employer fails to pay a sufficient amount, the employee would be entitled to overtime compensation for that prior quarter.

For the HCE exemption, the employee may receive non-discretionary bonuses and other incentive pay to satisfy the $1,397/week, provided the base salary (excluding the non-discretionary incentive pay) is not less than $913/week.

Consider the following methods to implement the change:

• Adjust an employee’s salary upward to meet the new thresholds to maintain exempt status [this will result in the employee earning more per week];

• Continue to pay an employee on a “salaried” basis, but also compensate the employee for all hours actually worked over 40 in a work week at time and a half the regular rate of pay [this may result in the employee earning more each week, but perhaps less than the $47,476 a year year];

• Convert an employee’s wages to an hourly rate (not below the applicable minimum wage rate) that will result in the same total weekly compensation as the employee continues to work the same number of hours but now earns the overtime premium of time and a half [implemented correctly, this should result in the employee earning the same wages and working the same number of hours as before]; or

• Convert an employee’s current wage rate to the comparable hourly rate, but now limit the employee’s ability to work overtime [this may result in the employee earning more per hour while working fewer hours].

If there’s a silver lining in the new regulations, it is that employers have an opportunity to correct the status of misclassified workers perhaps without tipping them off that they should have been receiving overtime all along by simply blaming it on the change in the law. 

Implementing the new salary requirements should be fairly straight forward but the duties tests remain complicated and are often misapplied. If you need assistance in reviewing job classifications, you should always consult an experienced employment attorney.

Tags: Department of Labor (DOL), Employment Liability, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Labor Law, Wage & Hour

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