On August 31, a federal judge hearing the case challenging the validity of the Obama Administration’s controversial new overtime regulation ruled that the key provisions were unlawful. The regulations, developed in 2016, had nearly doubled the salary level required to qualify a worker for an exemption from overtime (the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white collar” executive, administrative and professional (“EAP”) exemptions, changed from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $913 per week ($47,476 annually). The case was pending since November 2016, when the judge ihad blocked the enforcement of the regulations from taking effect on December 1, 2016.
The judge ruled that workers, who were clearly intended to meet the overtime exemption regulations, would have lost their exemption, and thereby making the “duties” portion of the salary test irrelevant. In addition, the judge found that automatically increasing the salary level every three (3) years was unlawful. Although the salary test in the Final Rule was invalidated (due to high level), his ruling did not prevent a rule going forward that adjusts the salary level higher than the current level. In fact, the judge noted that the Department of Labor could have adjusted the salary figure for inflation (the last salary adjustment was in 2004) without an issue because the salary figure would still be operating as it had in the past – more as a floor. The Trump Administration’s Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta has already stated that a more reasonable salary level would be around $33,000.
Bottom line – employers should continue to use the current “white collar” exemption test which is $455 per week, when determining if an employee is exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
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