Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Overtime Pay Changes Welcomed

WASHINGTON, DC (PR) — The American Federation of Teachers welcomes the Department of Labor’s long-overdue proposal to change the overtime rule to include millions more American workers. Overtime pay is a basic workplace right that should be afforded to all employees. By raising the threshold beyond the current cutoff of $455 a week, millions of Americans will once again have their time above and beyond their regular work hours recognized. At the same time, the new rule provides a disincentive to squeezing current employees to work more or to work inhospitable hours.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said the pathbreaking DOL proposal helps working families and union members better their quality of life.

"This new rule is an urgently needed change that will deliver justice to millions of workers who selflessly devote a huge part of their lives to their job and profession," Weingarten said. "It could mean increased compensation for thousands of AFT members, including public employees, nurses and school-based paraprofessionals, who work long hours for their patients and students.

"Also, by encouraging a 40-hour workweek, it will allow more families to have their nights and weekends free from the pressures of the hospital ward, the office and the schoolyard. Work-life balance—and the peace of mind it brings—should be a core value across the economy."

Americans spend more time at work than workers in any other industrialized nation, but median compensation has remained flat for decades, partly because of an expectation to stay late for no extra pay. The change means that all salaried workers earning under $50,440 will be compensated for work over 40 hours a week at 150 percent of their regular salary. The current overtime salary threshold of $455 per week ($23,660 per year) has failed to keep track with inflation and has been lifted only once since 1975. Back then, 65 percent of salaried workers fell under the threshold, but now, according to the Economic Policy Institute, just 11 percent of salaried workers benefit.

At the same time, the new rule will hedge against mandatory overtime by nudging management to revise expectations of onerous 50-, 60- and 70-hour workweeks. And millions of unemployed Americans also stand to benefit as employers digest the penalty and move to hire new workers.

Weingarten said that the overtime rule should be regularly reviewed to ensure fairness and keep pace with the economy.

"Having finally raised the threshold, we cannot afford to let the standards effectively decrease again," Weingarten said. "The new threshold should be pegged to inflation and continually revisited to ensure productivity gains are reflected in workers’ paychecks—which will in turn build an economy that works for everyone for years to come."

In Georgia the move is expected to benefit about 160,000 employees. 

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