October 23, 2021

Overtime changes taking effect

Photo illustration by Bob Ellis/staff photographer

The new federal Overtime Rule law allows salaried employees to earn overtime if they make up to $47,476 a year, more than double the current threshold of $23,660 a year. The Labor Department estimates that the rule would boost the pay of 4.2 million additional workers.

Under a new U.S. Department of Labor law that changes which employees are eligible for overtime pay, Sara Earl, program director of Bridges for Kids at the Cortland YWCA, may have to change the way she works starting Dec. 1.

On that date she will go from being a salaried employee to being paid on an hourly basis and therefore eligible to receive overtime pay if she works more than 40 hours a week, something she says she frequently does now. However, she is also unsure whether a nonprofit like the YWCA will be able to afford to pay overtime, forcing her to decide which committees to stop attending to save time.

Earl is one of many workers affected by the new law, called the Overtime Rule. The change came about after President Barack Obama called for updates to overtime regulations in 2014.

The Overtime Rule is a way for the Department of Labor to ensure that workers are fairly compensated for working long hours, according to the department. With the change, an employee who works more than 40 hours will be paid overtime and a worker who does not will have more free time available to them, states the department.

Earl said she faces the problem of how to make her job duties work within a 40-hour work week.

“I have to deal with families and I received phone calls all the time,” she said in a recent telephone interview. “Myself and the other directors here (at the YWCA) still believe in the mission statement, we can’t just turn that off.”

Earl is concerned the intent of the law is not realistic in the nonprofit business world.

“All of the directors here (including myself) are looking hard at their jobs,” Earl said. “I’ve begun looking at committees that I’m on and seeing which meetings do I need to go to.”

Earl said it will be a challenge to do her job within a 40-hour work week. During slower summer months like June, Earl said she puts in about 40 hours a week, but in the months of August through January she said she works anywhere from 55 to 60 hours a week.

The new threshold for workers to be exempt from overtime is $913 a week. Employers can increase their workers’ pay to this level and avoid paying overtime, or they can make workers hourly and therefore eligible for overtime.

Local employers weighed in on how their work places are conforming to the new mandates.

For city employees, no changes will occur because of the new law, said Mack Cook, the city’s director of administration and finance. City employees, who are members of unions, are all on traditional overtime pay and they are compensated for their overtime, Cook said. “To my knowledge there will be no impact,” Cook said.

Most of the full-time employees at SUNY Cortland will not be affected by the change because they are paid above the current cutoff, said Fred Pierce, communications director at SUNY Cortland. However, a handful of student workers on campus will be affected on a minor scale, Pierce said.

Six employees at Tompkins Cortland Community College could see a change in the way they are paid and receive compensation for overtime.

Peter Vorhees, public information officer at TC3, said that negotiations for six salaried union workers have begun at the college. “It is unclear yet whether those six will move from salary to hourly or if their salaries will rise,” Vorhees said.

At Cortland Regional Medical Center, Bonny Griffith, director of marketing and communications, said this law will not impact the hospital significantly and other than that, the hospital would not give further comment on the labor law change.

The new rule, announced May 18 and effective in about three weeks, will do a number of things, according to the Department of Labor, including:

• Simplify and update the regulations.

• Prevent a future decrease of overtime protections and establish greater predictability.

• Strengthen overtime protections for salaried workers.

An estimated 4.2 million employees will be directly impacted by the rule. More than half of those workers have a college degree and more than half are women, according to the Department of Labor.