Yesterday, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill, H.R. 6094 (the “bill” referred to as the Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools and Nonprofits Act), that would delay the effective date of the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule by 6 months, from December 1, 2016 to June 1, 2017. The Vote passed the House 246-177, with 5 Democrats voting in favor of it. This is just the latest challenge to the DOL’s doubling of the minimum salary threshold for the white collar exemptions (executive, administrative, and professional) under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Business groups, congressional Republicans and State Officials have all criticized the drastic economic impact such a measure would have on businesses.
Yesterday, a group of 21 states filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas challenging the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule, which is set to take effect on December 1, 2016. The group challenging the rule is led by Texas and Nevada, and includes the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin. The lawsuit names as Defendants the DOL and its Wage and Hour Division, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, and Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil, and Assistant Administrator for Policy Mary Ziegler.
As most know by now, in May 2016, the DOL issued its final rule establishing a new minimum salary threshold for the white collar exemptions (executive, administrative, and professional) under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This new threshold of $913 per week ($47,476 annualized) more than doubles the current minimum weekly salary threshold of $455 per week ($23,660 annualized), and is scheduled to increase every three years.
Over the summer, the U.S. Supreme Court punted on the question of whether “Service Advisers” or “Service Writers” at auto dealerships fall within the Fair Labor Standards Act’s exemption for “any salesman, partsman, or mechanic primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles.” For those outside of the auto industry, these are the people who greet you when you pull into the service department and communicate with you about what work your car might need. Since the question of whether service advisers count as “salesmen” may not be definitively resolved for some time yet, many auto dealers find themselves looking for other overtime exemptions that may apply to these positions.
The Section 7(i) Exemption
The “white collar” exemptions for executive, administrative, and professional employees don’t fit because service advisers don’t perform the sorts of job duties that fall under those exemptions, and many of them are paid mostly on commission rather than on a salary basis. There is, however, another exemption that may apply to at least some service advisers. Section 7(i) of the FLSA creates an exemption that applies when all three of the following conditions are met:
- The employee must be employed by a retail or service establishment.
- The employee’s regular rate of pay must exceed one and one half times the minimum wage for every hour worked in a workweek in which any overtime hours are worked.
- More than half of the employee’s total earnings in a “representative period” must consist of “commissions.”
Regular readers may have noticed that this blog took a bit of a hiatus over the summer while the authors spent some time away from work, and then working to catch up from the time away. Now that summer is winding down, the kids are heading back to school and life is starting to return to a more normal routine, it’s time to catch up on some wage and hour developments over the last month or so.
One of those developments is the release of a new FLSA minimum wage poster by the U.S. Department of Labor. The poster can be downloaded in .pdf format from the DOL website. Print copies will, according to the DOL, “be available for order soon.”
The DOL has also issued an updated poster under the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA), also available for download from the DOL website in .pdf form.
If you haven’t done so already, you should immediately print or obtain a copy of the new posters and post them in a “conspicuous place” in your establishment so that employees can readily read them.
Hospitality industry employers take note: If you claim a “tip credit” toward the minimum wage for any of your employees, you need to make sure that all tips are properly distributed to employees. A recent case from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals involving a Texas restaurant chain illustrates the hazards of making a mistake with the tip credit rules. Steele v. Leasing Enterprises, Ltd. (.pdf)
Here’s a summary of this cautionary tale:
Tip Credit Background
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are require to pay most employees at least $7.25 per hour. The FLSA allows tips received by employees to count for up to $5.12 of this total, meaning that an employer can pay tipped employees as little as $2.13 per hour so long as their tips are sufficient to make up the difference between their hourly wage and the federal minimum wage. But there are some restrictions. Employers can take advantage of this “tip credit” only if three conditions are met: Continue Reading
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in the Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro case, that many hoped would resolve the issue as to whether Service Advisors at auto dealerships are exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). As we reported back in January 2016, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition filed by an auto dealership, Encino Motorcars, challenging a Ninth Circuit decision holding that Service Advisors were not exempt from overtime pay requirements. Encino asked that the Court “restore uniformity” in legal precedent and hold that Service Advisors are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime pay requirements. Auto dealers were hoping that the Supreme Court would bring certainty to this issue and follow prior decisions from the Fourth and Fifth Circuits holding that Service Advisors are salespeople exempt from overtime, instead of following the Ninth Circuit’s contrary decision. Although the Supreme Court ultimately vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision, the Court’s opinion leaves the issue open to further consideration. Continue Reading
Since the U.S. DOL published its new overtime exemption rules, several people have asked me how one goes about converting a salary to an hourly rate that will give employees about the same amount of pay once overtime is factored in. There are really two parts to this calculation – one quite simple, the other a bit harder. Continue Reading
Every economist knows that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. That’s as true in the labor market as in any other area of the economy, but you’d hardly know that by reading the DOL’s publications promoting its new overtime exemption rules. For example, in a recent blog post, Dr. David Weil, Administrator of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, set out to debunk some purported “myths” about the new rules. Reading this post, one is left with the impression that the new rules will benefit pretty much every affected employee with no real burden on employers. Here are some thoughts on these “myths” and the “truths” that Dr. Weil offers in response to each: Continue Reading
One of the issues that colleges and universities are struggling with under the new FLSA overtime exemption rules is how to compensate residence hall directors. While responsibilities vary from institution to institution, residence hall directors generally are responsible for overseeing students living in a college or university residence hall. Their duties may include counseling students, applying and enforcing rules of conduct, coordinating and scheduling other workers, supervising student RAs, and similar responsibilities relating to the residence hall and its student residents. These positions can meet the “duties” test for exempt status under the administrative exemption, provided that they exercise the required level of discretion and independent judgment in the course of their duties. In some cases they might also qualify for an executive exemption if they supervise at least 2 or more other full-time employees (or more part-time employees whose hours are equivalent to two full-time workers). Residence hall director salaries usually are not large, in part because part of their compensation is typically provided in the form of free room and board. Residence hall directors are often required to live in their assigned residence hall. They often have extensive “on call” hours during which they are expected to be in or near their assigned residence hall, available to respond to any issues that may arise.
This combination of low salary and long “on call” hours is what makes these positions so difficult for colleges and universities under the new rules. Often the salaries for these positions fall far enough below the new minimum salary of $47,479 that a salary increase to the new minimum is not an option. Paying overtime may be equally cost-prohibitive if an employee is required to be “on call” in the residence hall and therefore potentially entitled to overtime pay for extended periods of each week, well beyond a typical 8-hour work day. So what can colleges and universities do with their residence hall directors under the new rules? Continue Reading
One of the more surprising changes in the new FLSA overtime exemption rules is a provision allowing certain bonuses, commissions, and incentive pay to count for up to 10% of the new increased minimum salary level. However, the rule provides that only “nondiscretionary” bonuses, incentives, and commissions can be counted. So what exactly does “nondiscretionary” mean?
The new rules don’t actually define “nondiscretionary,” but another part of the FLSA regulations (specifically 29 C.F.R. § 778.211), provides some guidance here. That section discusses which bonuses can be excluded from the “regular rate” used to calculate overtime for non-exempt employees because they are discretionary: Continue Reading