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New Jersey Wage and Hour Class Action Trial Attorney Discusses Overtime-Exempt "Executives" and the Federal Salary Minimum

Or... How can an "Executive," "Administrative," or "Professional" make


The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act - our Federal "Wage and Hour" law - generally requires that employees who work over 40 hours in a given week receive extra overtime pay calculated at 150% of their regular pay rate. But as with all good ideas, there are exceptions (called "exemptions" under the law). Three of the most popular such exemptions are bona-fide "executive," "administrative," or "professional" employees. These exemptions are commonly referred to as the "white collar" exemptions.

Under the current law, a salaried worker making as little as $23,660.00 per year can be classified as one of these. Someone making that salary in the State of Pennsylvania, for example, trying to raise a family, would be illegible for many social relief and "safety net" programs such as free meals, Medicaid, food stamps and Section 8 housing vouchers. On the other hand, you can bet your ass that none of the lawmakers who have ignored this economic reality are living such marginal lives. 

Recently, the US Department of Labor updated the overtime regulations so that salaried workers classified under one of the "white collar" exemptions must make $47,476.00 per year. Even more refreshingly, this new salary requirement would now have to be updated every three years to make sure it stays current with inflation.

Good news, right? Not so fast.

First of all, as it always does, the business lobby incessantly whines over anything designed to make workers' lives better, or the wage equation in the country more fair. Business claims to be "shocked" that this amount would be the threshold. The National Retail Federation, for example, called this higher salary limit a "career killer" and says that the regulation is "a false promise." Republican Congressman and House speaker Paul Ryan called the new salary requirement an "absolute disaster."


If you're going to legitimately require people to work more than 40 hours per week, is it so much to ask that you pay them a salary which, after all, really isn't much at 47k and change? This was supposed to start happening on December 1, 2016, but of course, in September, a coalition of Chamber of Commerce groups and "red-state" lawyers and law makers filed federal court law suits in Texas seeking to overturn these regulations. Texas has become the "go-to" jurisdiction for big business challenges to any regulations to protect workers.

In November, a Texas judge "preliminarily enjoined" (stopped) the new salary from going into effect, reasoning that the Department of Labor lacked the authority to establish a salary threshold.

Obviously, given Trump's presidency, we can expect no support either from the White House or from any "re-conservatized" Supreme Court.

Which means that we'll have plenty of "professionals," "executives," and "administrators" making about the same as a Denny's waitress.

Ridiculous and unfair. Un-American. But it's about to become very American for the next 4 years, because millions of voters made sure it's going to be that way. Hopefully, the only people affected by this unfairness will be the very voters that elected the Congress and the President that will fail to protect them. One can hope. But it's likely that their dagger in the heart of the country's workers will affect millions of people who don't deserve to suffer. 

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