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Attorney says time for business to plan for overtime rule change

Author: Bill Poovery

Source: Charleston Regional Business Journal

August 13, 2015

Employers should look ahead at labor costs and prepare for potential employee grievances when the U.S. Department of Labor changes overtime pay regulations, a Greenville employment and labor attorney said. Charles McDonald ofOgletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart P.C. said the question is how much other change might be coming.

The Department of Labor is accepting comment until Sept. 4 on its proposed “white-collar” overtime regulation that will more than double the salary threshold for a worker to be exempt from extra-hour pay protections. The regulation will raise the salary level for exemption from $23,660 to $50,440 in 2016, and increase it each year, guaranteeing overtime pay to most salaried workers who earn less, a White House statement said.

McDonald said there is no reason to think the Labor Department will not approve the change.

The Department of Labor estimates that in the first year of implementation, 4.68 million white-collar workers who are exempt under current regulations would — without some intervening action by their employers — become newly entitled to minimum wage and overtime protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The department estimates that, of more than 144 million wage and salary employees in the United States, 21 million are exempt as executive, administrative or professional employees in the regulation that was most recently updated in 2004. The White House statement shows 70,000 affected workers in South Carolina.

Andrew Arnold, a Greenville attorney who frequently represents workers in Fair Labor Standards Act disputes, said the change is needed. He said there are people “working 50, 60, 70 hours a week for very little by way of salary.”

Arnold said “most of the income gains over the last decade or two are not going to the people who work for a living. It goes to the people who invest for a living,” Arnold said. “This is just one small attempt to remedy that.”

He said federal law includes an anti-retaliation provision for workers who complain, but many people remain silent “because of fear of losing their jobs.”

“We have people call us who have these types of concerns, working off the clock, not being paid what they were told,” Arnold said. “When they realize there are risks, sometimes they just can’t afford to expose their families to those risks.”

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