If You Work Extra, You Should Get Paid Extra

The nation has made a remarkable recovery since the Great Recession, but many Americans aren’t yet sharing in the prosperity being created. Stagnant wages have left many feeling as though they are working harder, but falling farther behind.

In recent decades, the erosion of overtime standards — a critical feature of the Fair Labor Standards Act — has undermined the economic stability of many white collar workers.

Because of the failure to update the overtime regulations, an exception to overtime protections originally meant for highly compensated executive, administrative and professional employees now applies to workers earning as little as $23,660 a year.

This includes workers like Elizabeth Paredes, a single mom and the assistant manager of a sandwich shop in Tucson, who is paid a flat salary of $24,000 per year. While she routinely puts in 50 or more hours each week, she doesn’t earn a single dime of overtime. That’s because, under outdated rules that govern the overtime eligibility of managers, her employer didn’t have to pay her for the extra hours she works.

So the Department of Labor took action to restore the promise of the Fair Labor Standards Act — the bedrock of worker protection laws — and more than doubled the salary threshold, lifting it from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, to ensure that it provides an effective test for determining white collar employees’ entitlement to overtime pay.

The updated rule extends overtime protections to more than 4 million white collar workers.

Our new rule, finalized in May 2016 and effective in December 2016, also clarifies overtime eligibility for another 8.9 million salaried workers whose job duties entitle them to overtime pay.

Now, millions of middle-class jobs are more likely to be rewarded with middle-class pay, and millions of Americans who sacrifice family time to work extra will earn extra.

If their employer chooses to send them home instead of paying for the extra hours, then it means extra time for family or other professional pursuits. Despite misconceptions about what the rule does and doesn’t do, employers have a wide range of options for responding to the changes to the salary level and can choose the one that works best for them.

If you work full-time in America, you should be able to get by; when you work extra, you should be able to get ahead. With this long-overdue update to the overtime rule, Elizabeth Paredes and others like her will be able to punch their ticket to the middle class.

For questions about overtime, or federal wage and hour laws, visit the Wage and Hour Division’s website or call toll-free at 1–866–4-US-WAGE (1–866–487–9243).

This post is part of our “Working for You” series, highlighting how the Department of Labor, and the efforts of the Obama administration, are helping hardworking Americans succeed. View them all at www.medium.com/workingforyou.