Working Hard for the Money

Final Rule’s impact on Undocumented Immigrant Workers in Texas

thinkprogress.org

If you are a full-time employee, you know that sometimes you have to work longer hours than anticipated for one reason or another. For many Americans earning close to minimum wage in the U.S, the extra income coming from over-time hours’ can be the difference between paying for rent or food. Now, the eligibility for overtime pay has changed, making millions of Americans eligible. The United States Department of Labor defines overtime as “employees covered by the FLSA that must receive pay for hours worked more than 40 in a workweek at a rate not less than one and one-half their regular rates of pay.” If you are an American earning up to $47,476 the law now requires your employer to pay you time and a half for overtime hours. The Final Rule, issued by the Labor Department on May 17th of this year under the Obama administration has gone officially into effect since December 1st. Although the Final Rule Proposition is expected to help millions of Americans, I was curious to see how it would affect immigrant workers since their rights are not always acknowledged by their employers because of their illegal status. Undocumented workers will likely benefit from these modifications of the rules. This will be especially true in Texas, where there are an estimated 1.68 million undocumented workers

I’ve worked closely with The Equal Justice Center, a non-profit law firm that deals with employment justice cases in Texas– regardless of immigration status. During my research at the center, it was not uncommon to see undocumented immigrants that qualify for overtime struggling because their employees would refuse to pay them for overtime due to their illegal status. As I read cases from the previous 10 years I noticed that unfortunately, wage claim cases were among the most common in the organization’s private files. These workers have even dealt with threats of deportation from their employers to keep them from claiming their rightful time and a half. However, while comparing cases from the last 2 years I noticed that the cases of overtime abuse from employers had decreased substantially since The Final Proposition was announced on May 17th of this year.

The average amount of taxes and other withholding money from an immigrant worker’s overtime was around 7,000 dollars a year in 2010. This amount decreased in 2011 and 2012. By 2014 this number had gone up drastically up until 2015 when it started to decrease. So far in 2016, we’ve seen a continuing decrease in the amount of money withheld since the announcement (Refer to the graph below) proving that these numbers are adjusting to the new change in legislation. I also noticed a drastic difference, as the cases became harder to come across in 2016. The Final Rule intends to create more jobs and thus create more people in need of worker’s benefits. Employers might be taking more accommodating measures that will grant the workers more pay and flexibility at work, but others might not be willing to hire more workers or raise their employee’s income to meet the new cutoff.

It is interesting to see the outreach of legislations as they come into effect and although there are still cases of employers that refuse to pay their workers for overtime, these cases have decreased in quantity, and in the total amount of money withheld in the last year. I attribute these changes in Texas to the government’s increase in regulation as the date to make the legislation effective approaches since employers were given 6 months to either increase the employee’s salary to meet the new threshold or track and pay overtime hours or limit the employee 40 hours per week. According to the data analyzed, The Final Rule proposition has improved the overall quality of life of not only millions of Americans all over the country but also undocumented workers.

Sources

Scheiber, Noam. “White House Increases Overtime Eligibility by Millions.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 May 2016. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.

Region/Country, By. “The Overtime Rule.” United States Department of Labor. United States Department of Labor, 21 June 2016. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.

Cawyer, Russell. “DOL Announces Details of Final Rule Changing Regulations on the Overtime Exemptions | Texas Employment Law Update.” Texas Employment Law Update. N.p., 18 May 2016. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.

Case Reports (2009–2016). EJC Database. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Equal Justice Center. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <http://www.pikasoftware.com/ejc/>.

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