TOPICS > Economy

Overtime Rules: Background

September 1, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


JEFFREY BROWN: New federal regulations proposed by the Department of Labor would require overtime be paid to some 1.3 million low-income salaried workers currently not eligible. The proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the most sweeping in 54 years, would raise the salary level under which workers automatically earn overtime pay from the current $8,060 a year to $22,100. But the new changes would also reclassify overtime eligibility for many administrative and professional workers at higher income levels, and therein lies the controversy.

Specifically, the new rules would allow employers to exempt from overtime pay those workers who earn more than $22,000 a year if they supervise other workers and can impact hiring, firing or promotion decisions or if they are considered to hold a “position of responsibility” in the workplace. Salaried workers earning more than $65,000 a year generally would not be eligible for overtime at all. The Labor Department estimates that 644,000 white collar workers could lose their overtime pay under the new rules. But some studies show as many as eight million workers would lose their overtime benefits.

REP. GEORGE MILLER: Overtime is not a luxury; it is a necessity for many American families because, tragically, millions of our American families cannot survive economically on working only 40 hours a week.

JEFFREY BROWN: In July, congressional democrats, led by California’s George Miller, pleaded with House republicans to block the new labor department regulations from taking effect. But Ohio Republican Ralph Regula argued in favor of them.

REP. RALPH REGULA: We think that the secretary’s rules that have been promulgated are fair because it does elevate the million people into an opportunity to make some extra money and get paid for time and a half if they have put it in. Whereas, the white-collar workers understand that that is part of the condition of the job, that they may understand they have to work some extra time and not necessarily get time and a half.

JEFFREY BROWN: However, New York Democrat Joe Crowley said not just white-collared workers, but thousands of police and firefighters would lose their overtime benefits as well.

REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY: This bill continues this administration’s and this Congress’ past record of shortchanging cops and firefighters while pretending to stand with them. But don’t listen to me or the Democrats or the Republicans or the White House. Ask your local first responders if they think they are overpaid and under worked.

JEFFREY BROWN: Georgia Republican Charlie Norwood dismissed that argument.

SPOKESMAN: I urge my colleagues to reject what I consider a distortion of misinformation, downright untruths, not, of course, by my distinguished colleagues who are bringing the amendment, but by others, that have been spread all over this town about these regulations. Friends, vote against this amendment.

JEFFREY BROWN: The proposed changes in overtime regulations survived in the house but by only three votes. Senate Democrats are expected to mount their own challenge to the new rule changes within the next few weeks.