The Department of Labor formally announced a substantial change to federal overtime regulations. Specifically, the overtime threshold for employees in professional, administrative and management roles will increase from $23,660 to $47,476. This news was formally announced by Vice President Joe Biden, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Senator Sherrod Brown (D.-Ohio). The increase is expected to go into effect on December 1, 2016, barring Congressional action.
Many company handbooks state that work may not be taken home and performed or overtime authorized absent written permission from management and they use these rules to decline payment of overtime where no written authorization was obtained. However, these policies may be trumped where the employer knows -- or had reason to know -- that work from home or overtime work was being performed -- and took no steps to stop it. This may especially be the case where the employer imposes unreasonable deadlines on employees.
Many employers require their employees to carry a smart phone or other device so they can be accessible at all times and check and respond to emails outside of the office. Anyone who looks at their cell phone and checks emails on weekends or after hours is performing work for their employer and should be compensated for that time.
Society has changed by leaps and bounds over the last few decades. Television sets now require the use of remote controls, many meals can be cooked using only a microwave and work can be completed at any time of day using a tiny, handheld device called a smartphone.
The U.S. Labor Department recently ordered Wal-Mart to pay nearly $4.8 million in back wages to approximately 4,500 workers who failed to receive overtime from 2004 to 2007. For the three years in question, Wal-Mart failed to pay its vision center managers and asset protection coordinators overtime because it considered them exempt from federal regulations requiring overtime pay.
According to the New York Times, the Office of Management and Budget recently agreed to look over a proposal made by the Department of Labor to change companionship exemption. Companionship exemption is a term referring to a provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act which specifies that employees in the home health care industry providing "companionship services" need not be paid minimum wage or overtime for their work.
A recent agreement between the Labor Department, the Internal Revenue Service, and around a dozen states will assist federal authorities in targeting businesses that improperly classify workers as independent contractors or non-employees in order to avoid paying workers minimum wage and overtime pay. The practice of misclassification of employees often leads to what has been called "wage theft."