Tag Archives: exempt employee

August 31, 2017

Court Invalidates Overtime Rule That Increased Exempt Salary Levels

By Mark Wiletsky 

The Department of Labor (DOL) exceeded its authority when it doubled the minimum salary levels for exempt executive, professional, and administrative employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), ruled federal judge Amos Mazzant of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas today. Granting summary judgment in favor of the states and business plaintiffs who challenged the new overtime rule last November, Judge Mazzant determined that the DOL’s new overtime rule “effectively eliminates a consideration of whether an employee performs ‘bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity’ duties.”

Exempt Duties Are Part Of The Analysis

Judge Mazzant wrote that although Congress delegated authority to the DOL to define and delimit the white-collar exemptions, Congress was clear when enacting the FLSA that the exemption determination needs to involve a consideration of an employee’s duties, rather than relying on salary alone. He stated that the Obama-era overtime rule that significantly increased the minimum salary levels would result in entire categories of previously exempt employees who perform “bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity” duties being denied exempt status simply because they didn’t meet the salary threshold. Consequently, the elimination of an analysis of duties for those who failed to meet the new high salary level was inconsistent with Congressional intent.

A Minimum Salary Level Still Acceptable

When issuing a preliminary injunction last November, Judge Mazzant’s ruling raised the question as to whether any salary threshold could be used as part of the white-collar exemption tests. In his summary judgment order, Judge Mazzant appears to leave the salary-level part of the test stand, writing “[t]he use of a minimum salary level in this manner is consistent with Congress’s intent because salary serves as a defining characteristic when determining who, in good faith, performs actual executive, administrative, or professional capacity duties.” He notes that even though the plain meaning of Section 213(a)(1) does not provide for a salary requirement, the DOL has used a permissible minimum salary level as a test for identifying categories of employees Congress intended to exempt. Citing to a report on the proposed regulations, Judge Mazzant seems to approve of setting that salary level at “somewhere near the lower end of the range of prevailing salaries for these employees.”

No Automatic Increase Mechanism

The ruling also strikes down the mechanism in the DOL’s overtime rule that provided for automatic updates to the exemption’s salary levels every three years. In a cursory paragraph, Judge Mazzant wrote that having found the rule unlawful, the automatic updating mechanism was similarly unlawful.

Back To Square One

Now that the existing, never-implemented rule has been invalidated, the DOL is starting over with revising and updating the overtime exemption rule. The DOL recently published a request for information seeking public input on what the new salary levels should be, how updates should be made, whether duties tests should be changed, and other issues affecting the white-collar exemptions. We will have to see what new proposals the DOL puts out in the months to come. But in the meantime, employers can abandon plans to address the doubled salary thresholds under the Final Rule.

On Another Note, No Pay Data To Be Collected With EEO-1 Reports

In another development, on August 29, 2017, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to immediately stay the requirement that certain employers provide pay data as part of a new EEO-1 report. The controversial pay-data rule would have required companies with 100 or more employees (and federal contractors with 50 or more employees), to submit the wage and hour information for employees according to race, gender, and ethnicity, with the information being used by the EEOC to analyze pay discrepancies and identify possible Equal Pay Act violations. Because of the stay, covered employers should use the previous EEO-1 form, which still collects data on employee race, ethnicity, and gender by occupational categories. Despite the reprieve for employers on the pay-data rule, EEOC Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic states that her agency remains committed to strongly enforcing federal equal pay laws.

If you have any questions about these new developments, be sure to reach out to the employment counsel with whom you typically work.

March 17, 2016

New Overtime Regulations May Be Finalized Sooner Than Expected

Biggs_JBy Jude Biggs

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) agenda specifies that its final overtime regulations are due to be published in July, but recent developments suggest they may be released a few months earlier.  With the salary threshold for the white collar exemptions going up from the current $23,660 to over $50,000 per year, employers need to prepare now for the changes.

DOL’s Overtime Rule Sent To OMB

On March 15, 2016, the DOL sent its proposed final overtime regulations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) which is the final step before the rule can be published. The OMB review process typically takes one to two months, but speculation suggests that the review of this rule may be sped up to allow for publication as early as April or May.

The political environment in Washington, D.C. and fact that this is an election year may be to blame for the expedited process. The Congressional Review Act (Act) provides Congress with 60 legislative days to review any final rule issued by a federal agency. If Congress disapproves of the regulation, which current Republicans in Congress are sure to do with the overtime rule, it may pass a resolution to nullify the rule. The President can veto that resolution, but then Congress has the opportunity to override the veto by a two-thirds vote.

Because of an unusual provision in the Act, any new rule that is not submitted to Congress within 60 session days of the adjournment of the Senate or House, may be subject to a renewed review by the new Congress in the next Congressional session (with potential veto by a newly elected President). Or, if Congress’s 60-day-review period extends after the presidential inauguration, the new President may let a resolution of disapproval stand, killing the rule. The Obama Administration will not want to take the chance that a new Congress and/or President gets to review the overtime rule in 2017 so it is expected that the White House will do everything possible to get the new overtime rule to Congress prior to the cutoff date.

Salary Threshold For Exemptions Will More Than Double

The DOL’s proposed rule raises the salary threshold for the white collar exemptions from the current $455 to an expected $970 per week, more than doubling the annual salary level to more than $50,000. The salary threshold for the highly compensated employee exemption will increase from the current $100,000 to more than $122,000 per year. The DOL estimates that almost five million U.S. workers who are currently exempt will be entitled to minimum wage and overtime compensation under the new salary level requirements. In addition, the final rule will include an automatic annual adjustment provision that will require that the salary thresholds be adjusted each year to keep up with inflation.

Next Steps

With a compressed timeline for the new rule to become effective, employers need to take steps now to decide how to handle employees who no longer qualify as exempt under the new rules. Some companies may choose to increase exempt employee salaries to meet the new threshold in order to retain the exemption. Others may choose instead to change the status of some workers’ status to non-exempt and pay them overtime. Either way, employers need to get a plan in place to prevent headaches and potential wage claims when the final rule goes into effect.

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February 23, 2015

Exempt Employee Salary Deductions for a Reduced Schedule

Brad CaveBy Brad Cave

Classifying an employee as exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) comes with a trade-off.  Most employers know that exempt employees are not entitled to overtime.  But, in exchange for that benefit, the FLSA limits employers’ ability to reduce the exempt employee’s salary, even when they are not coming to work.  However, exempt employees are not immune from needing time off of work to recover from a medical condition, to settle an aging parent into an assisting living arrangement or to handle a long-term behavioral issue with a child. If an employee seeks some time off each week to take care of such matters, you may agree to allow the employee to work a reduced work schedule for a period of time. But when payday rolls around, must you pay the employee his or her full weekly salary or can you deduct pay to reflect the reduced work schedule? Missing this answer can have significant ramifications for the employee’s exempt status.

FLSA Salary Basis

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, exempt employees’ pay must meet the salary basis test, which means that the employee must receive a predetermined amount of salary for each workweek, without reductions because of variations in the quality or quantity of work during the week. Thus, deductions from salary for reduced working hours is generally not permitted under the salary basis test. Deducting pay for the missed time could result in the loss of the employee’s exempt status. However, two exceptions may apply to your employee.

FMLA Leave Can Result in Pay Deduction

If the employee’s reduced schedule constitutes unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the FLSA regulations permit employers to “pay a proportionate part of the full salary for time actually worked” without risk to the exempt status. This means that if your employee is missing work for an FMLA-qualifying reason, you may deduct pay from their weekly salary to reflect the unpaid FMLA leave time.

PTO, Sick Leave or Other Paid Leaves

If the employee has accrued PTO, sick leave or another type of company-provided paid leave, you can require that the employee use such paid leave to cover the partial day absences, as long as the employee continues to receive the full amount of their weekly salary. And, once the employee uses up all of their accrued paid leave, you can make salary deductions for full-day, but not partial-day, absences.

Saved Wages Vs. Loss of Exempt Status

Deductions from an exempt employee’s salary should be made only after careful consideration of the potential consequences. After all, the salary you save now for missed time may seem trivial if you lose the exempt status of this and all similarly-situated employees and owe them overtime for the past two years.