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DOL Releases Its Final Rule Updating FLSA White-Collar Overtime Regulations

The wait is over! This morning, the Department of Labor announced its Final Rule, which is aimed at expanding overtime eligibility for millions of American workers. At its core, the final version of the rule doubled the minimum salary employers must pay “white collar” workers to maintain their exempt status. The final rule did not, however, make any change to the job duties test.

Over the course of this and next week, we will discuss the rule’s impact and address related workplace issues on which employers should focus in advance of the rule’s December 1st implementation date. For now, we’ll briefly summarize the key provisions from the rule.

Key Provisions of the Final Rule

  • More Than Doubles the Salary Threshold for White Collar Exemptions to $913 per week ($47,476 annually). The Final Rule establishes a salary threshold for the executive, administrative, professional, computer and outside sales exemptions at $913 per week or $47,476 annually.  This threshold doubles the current salary threshold ($455 per week or $23,660 annually), but is slightly lower than the threshold originally proposed by the DOL last July ($970 per week or $50,440 annually).

  • Increases the Salary Threshold for Highly Compensated Employees to $134,004 per year. The Final Rule establishes a salary threshold for highly compensated employees (HCE) at $134,004 annually.  The current threshold is $100,000 per year.  The Final Rule uses the same methodology from the proposed rule, but using updated Bureau of Labor figures, it increased the threshold from $122,148 per year.

  • Establishes a Mechanism for Automatic Updates to the Salary Thresholds. The Final Rule includes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary levels every three years to maintain the salary threshold at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region for white collar workers and the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally for HCEs. Future automatic updates to those thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.  The DOL will publish updated rates in the Federal Register at least 150 days before their effective date.  This is a significant change from the proposed rule, which would have updated the salary threshold annually.

  • Allows Employers to Use Nondiscretionary Incentive Compensation to Meet up to 10 Percent of the New Salary Threshold. Addressing a longstanding complaint from employers who pay employees on commissions or using other incentive compensation, the Final Rule amends the salary basis test for white collar workers to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses, commissions and other incentive payments tied to productivity and profitability to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level.  (This change does not extend to HCEs, however.) To receive credit for nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments toward the standard salary level test, Employers must make such payments on at least a quarterly basis.  This means that annual nondiscretionary bonuses will not count towards the threshold unless they are paid more frequently.  The Final Rule also permits the employer to make a “catch-up” payment to maintain the exemption if an employee does not receive enough in nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments in a given quarter to remain exempt.

  • No Changes to the Duties Test. In one win for employers, after seeking comment on the duties test in the proposed rule, the DOL did not make any changes to the actual tests in the Final Rule.

  • Effective Date of December 1, 2016.  In another win for employers, the effective date of the Final Rule is December 1, 2016, which provides employers additional time to evaluate the impact on their workforce and implement changes.

The DOL first announced these key provisions on its website, and then moments ago released the Final Rule in a document spanning more than 500 pages. We are still parsing through it and if there are any other important nuggets of information in there we will update you accordingly.  According to the DOL however, the Final Rule could extend the right to overtime pay to an estimated 4.2 million workers who are currently classified as exempt based on their job duties and salary level.

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About this Author

Michael S. Arnold, Mintz Levin Law Firm, Labor Law Attorney

Michael represents clients in connection with a variety of complex employment litigation matters, including pretrial, trial, and appellate work; administrative proceedings; and arbitrations and mediations relating to wage and hour, discrimination, noncompete, trade secret, general contract disputes, and other employee-related disputes. 

He regularly advises clients regarding employee performance, retention and separation issues, and compliance with discrimination, wage and hour, family and medical leave, workers’ compensation, disability, and other employment laws and regulations....

David Barmak, Employment Attorney, Executive Advisor, Mintz Levin Law FIrm

David is an experienced trial lawyer and advisor to businesses and their executives, with particular focus on helping clients resolve employment and complex business disputes and negotiate executive employment arrangements. He is Chair of the firm’s Employment, Labor & Benefits Practice, and represents clients nationally.

David’s trial experience includes numerous jury and nonjury trials in both federal and state courts, as well as arbitrations. On employment law issues, he has represented clients in complex litigation involving employment discrimination, noncompetition agreement and trade secret issues, wage and hour (FLSA) compliance, employment contract disputes, and other matters. His litigation and trial experience relating to other complex business issues has involved disputes relating to technology licensing, contract interpretation, tax issues, insurance coverage and other insurance-related issues, partnership, shareholder, joint venture and other agreements, among many other issues.

In his role as an advisor to employers, David has provided counsel on a broad range of employment law-related issues, including employee training, personnel and other policies, wage and hour laws, WARN Act issues, internal investigations, dispute resolution policies and practices, bonus arrangements, and other matters. He also has frequently been involved in the negotiation and drafting of executive employment, separation, and related agreements on behalf of both publicly and privately held companies and their compensation committees, and senior executives across a broad range of industries, including financial services, health care and life sciences, retail and manufacturing, government contracting, and professional services.

In addition to leading the firm's Employment, Labor & Benefits Practice, David is a member of the firm's Litigation, Corporate & Securities, and Health Care Enforcement Defense practices, and has served on the firm's Policy Committee. He is also Chair of the firm’s Lateral Member Recruiting Committee.