How reliable are projections from the Department of Labor about the cost of the President’s ambitious new extension of overtime entitlements to salaried workers earning $23,660-$50,440? The “administration refuses to allow others to check its math. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the state agency that I lead, in August requested the specific data and methodology the Labor Department used to calculate its estimates. Our request was denied.” So the department went ahead with its own analysis. “The rule will supposedly cost $2 billion the first year. Our math shows $1.7 billion for Florida alone.” [Jesse Panuccio, WSJ, earlier here, here, here, here, and here]
Writing checks for overtime (or sending managers home before they reach the point of being entitled to it) is only the more visible cost to business of the Obama administration’s scheme to reclassify layers of junior management as hourly employees. Small businesses told the Wall Street Journal this spring (summarized) of the forbidding morale cost of discouraging ambitious employees from upwardly mobile, which usually means salary-oriented, thinking:
Emo Pentermann, owner of Bell ATM Service Inc., a distribution and repair shop for ATMs and other money machines in Centennial, Colo. …worries that making more people eligible for overtime pay could remove the inherent incentive for lower-level managers to hustle to earn a promotion.
“You work hard, develop the maturity for a salaried position, and then move up,” he says. “It takes away that whole level of maturity and freedom of choosing to get the job done in the time allotted. So for all practical purposes, they just might as well be on a time card.”
Jeffrey Harris has 70 salaried employees at his Chicago-based Inte Q, a marketing firm that specializes in customer-loyalty programs for brands such as Reebok and Office Depot. … He has tried to create a workplace environment that de-emphasizes keeping up with a time clock. For instance, employees can take time off work to attend a child’s performance in school….
…when he heard about the proposal, he said he immediately thought it would affect the type of work culture that has yielded results for him in both profits and employee retention. Only 2% of workers have voluntarily chosen to leave the company in the past three years, he says.
P.S. Proposed regulations anticipated by November 2014, final regulations “unlikely to arrive until Spring 2015” [Wage and Hour Insights]
In March and April, the U.S. Department of Labor issued notices of proposed rulemaking on two of the most hotly contested issues of its predecessor Obama department, overtime for junior managers and the joint-employer rule. Tammy McCutchen:
The DOL proposes to increase the minimum salary for exemption from $455 per week ($23,660 annualized) to $679 per week ($35,308 annualized)…. If adopted, the proposed rule would replace the final rule issued by the DOL on May 19, 2016, but enjoined by the Eastern District of Texas just weeks before its December 1, 2016 effective date. The 2016 final rule would have increased the minimum salary for exemption to $913 per week ($47,476 annualized)
Earlier here and here. In addition, DoL is proposing to clarify what times of compensation and benefits employers must include in the overtime calculations.
Separately, DoL’s proposed rule on joint employment
would replace the January 2016 Administrator’s Interpretation on joint employment, which did not go through the notice-and-comment rulemaking process and was withdrawn in June 2017.
Under the FLSA, companies found to be joint employers are jointly liable for all minimum wage and overtime violations. The statute does not include a definition of joint employment and has left this determination to the courts.
The joint employment issue has become increasingly important since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) dramatically expanded the definition during the Obama administration in the Browning Ferris decision, recently partially affirmed but remanded to the NLRB by the D.C. Circuit. The Trump NLRB has undertaken a rulemaking of its own, proposing to narrow the joint employer definition under the National Labor Relations Act, so as to restore the law, essentially, as it stood prior to Browning Ferris. The NLRB is currently poring over thousands of comments filed for and against its proposed rule. A final joint employer rule is expected from that agency by year end.
The joint employment concept is important because, among other matters, it determines when one employer (typically larger) can be held liable for the actions of another, such as a contractor or franchisee. The proposal would adopt a definition of joint employer originating in a 1983 Ninth Circuit decision in Bonnette v. California Health and Welfare Agency, which does not sweep as broadly as the later definition adopted by the NLRB in Browning-Ferris and by the Obama administration. More: McCutchen podcast on all three issues.
At Workforce.com, attorney/blogger Jon Hyman, often linked in this space, follows up on the Mercatus Center report on the high cost of the Obama administration edict ordering overtime for mid-level salaried workers. He writes:
I’d like to focus on one such unintended consequence — lack of workplace flexibility.
From the report:
If employers are forced to record and measure employee hours, they will shift away from allowing employees to telecommute because the cost of monitoring hours for telecommuting is significantly higher, although not impossible given new technologies. The proposed regulation would create a scenario whereby telecommuters have an incentive to work overtime because they would get paid 1.5 times the regular rate and, knowing this, employers have an incentive to make sure employees do not work overtime. A mechanism will be needed by which the employer is able to track the work hours of employees such that the employer knows when an employee is working overtime. Showing up at work and clocking in is the mechanism by which employers normally track employees’ hours. With telecommuting, it is difficult for an employer to track the number of hours worked. As a result, employers may require telecommuters to start physically showing up for work so that they to track and monitor the number of hours these employees work.
Employees like being exempt. They like the flexibility of not having to track their hours. They like the flexibility that comes with a salary that compensates an employee for all hours worked in week, whether it’s 30 hours this week, or 65 hours next week, or 47 hours the week after. The new regulations will strip 5 million employees of this flexibility and convert them to time trackers. Does this change benefit employees? I bet if you polled the 5 million, you’d find that most would prefer to keep their flexibility instead of trading it in for whatever minimal additional compensation (if any) they expect to recover from a switch to non-exempt.
Well, isn’t this a shame:
Brad Fitch, president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 16 that House “Democratic chiefs of staff are freaking out” about finding room in their budget for overtime wages.
It’s not clear whether the Obama administration’s forthcoming edict on overtime will apply to legislative staffers, but House Democratic leadership decided it would be prudent for their members to at least gesture toward the spirit of the controversial rule by preparing for compliance. [BNA Daily Labor Report] Now “the rule is creating administrative headaches” and more:
“We don’t have a set-hour kind of situation here; some kids work 12, 14, 16 hours a day, weekends, and I feel terrible that I cannot afford to give raises to the staff,” Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 11.
With $320,000 slashed from members’ representational allowances (MRAs) over the past four years, “I don’t see how we could pay overtime” for the “17 or 18 people that each of us is allowed to have—that’s problematic for me,” added Hastings, a senior member of the House Rules Committee.
Some members fear that an overtime mandate will result in having to send staffers home at 5 p.m., leaving phones unanswered and impairing constituent service. “Most members are of the sentiment that it’s impractical to be paying overtime,” said former Virginia Democratic Rep. Jim Moran, now a lobbyist, who suggests that members choose to close one of their district offices or reduce constituent correspondence to adjust to a smaller staff number.
In the bonbon box of schadenfreude, this is one of the ones I would save to eat last.
From Donald Boudreaux and Liya Palagashvili for Mercatus on a topic we’ve covered a lot. Abstract:
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must pay workers who work more than 40 hours in a week time-and-a-half for every hour worked over 40. Numerous exemptions to this requirement exist, including for salaried workers who have “executive, administrative, or professional” (EAP) duties and have a annual base salary of more than $23,660. The Department of Labor recently proposed removing the exemption for EAP workers earning an annual base salary of between $23,660 and $50,400, which would extend mandatory overtime pay to an additional 5 million workers. While the Department of Labor claims that this change will encourage additional hiring, improve the well-being of employees, and lead to higher paychecks, economic theory and empirical evidence suggest otherwise.
A new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University provides a thorough analysis of the Department of Labor’s proposed overtime rules, finding that the rules will fail to achieve their objectives and will reduce the diversity of labor contracts used across different industries in the United States. Research indicates that the rules will increase compliance costs for firms, and that employers will respond to the new requirements in unintended ways. In particular, employers will be forced to move some employees from salaries to hourly pay or find other ways to clock their work.
The damage from one of President Obama’s worst unilateral edicts, overtime for junior managers and other workers with middling salaries, is going to radiate through every sector of the productive economy. That includes academia: “The University of California school system, for instance, faces a $39 million-a-year tab for raises to avoid paying overtime to thousands of postdoctoral scholars, librarians and specialists. The University of Iowa says it would limit work hours of staff. And a state university in Missouri could cut some employee benefits.” [WSJ]
“Law firm Morgan & Morgan PLLC has agreed to pay a former employee the wages she alleged are owed because the firm misclassified case managers as exempt from overtime pay, resolving a proposed collective action, according to documents filed Thursday in Georgia federal court.” [Law360; earlier on overtime actions against this firm, which itself files overtime suits]
- Decision time coming up for administration on whether to reverse one of Obama’s worst initiatives, overtime for junior managers [Veronique de Rugy; Robin Shea]
- California observes different rule on overtime for offshore oil workers than does federal government, exposing employers to huge retroactive back pay liability [Washington Legal Foundation, Supreme Court granted certiorari last month in Newton v. Parker Drilling]
- Today in bad ideas: Philadelphia becomes latest jurisdiction to regulate shifts and scheduling in retail, hospitality [Juliana Feliciano Reyes, Philadelphia Inquirer/WHYY, Drinker Biddle/National Law Review, Max Marin/BillyPenn]
- “I’m a restaurant employee in a city with a $15 minimum wage; here’s how it’s hurt me” [Simone Barron, Washington Examiner] Virginia could wind up with a $15 minimum law before long, tough luck for rural parts of state [Hans Bader]
- “Nurses allege Corona, Calif. underpaid them, rounding down their time to the nearest quarter hour. Ninth Circuit: This can proceed as a class action. Five judges, dissenting from denial of en banc review: The only evidence in support of the nurses’ claim is a declaration from plaintiffs’ lawyers’ paralegal, which is plainly not admissible. ‘This doesn’t pass the straight-face test.'” [Short Circuit on Sali v. Corona Regional Medical Center, Ninth Circuit panel, denial of en banc rehearing]
- “The Impact of The New German Minimum Wage” [Ryan Bourne]
From “Walker” in the comments at the Slate Star Codex blog (“Scott Alexander”), which had been discussing the overemphasis on college degrees as a prerequisite for mid- to upper-level management jobs that some persons without degrees could perform very well:
I am a mid-level engineering manager for a very large aerospace company. Their rationale for requiring degrees is clear and I suspect it is shared by many companies. They prefer to hire all of the skilled employees as “exempt”, meaning not subject to fair labor standards laws and not eligible for overtime. The state and federal labor overseers require that the company have well-defined rules for distinguishing exempt from non-exempt and the company uses a degree as one of the primary criteria. The HR folks will absolutely not allow deviations from this policy because it would jeopardize the entire company job category structure. I can cite examples and details if anyone is interested but this is a really clear policy across every place I have worked.