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DOL Issues Final Rule on Overtime Pay: How to Determine Eligible Employees and Calculate the Regular Rate

by Tim AustinMarch 9, 2020 8:00 AM

After years of proposed changes to overtime laws, the Department of Labor (DOL)’s new updates finally went into effect at the beginning of 2020. The new salary levels make roughly 1.3 million more workers eligible for overtime pay. This news means business owners across the country may have some work to do to keep up with these changes.

While the new standard salary level is a notable difference, it’s not the only change the DOL made. The department also revised rules for highly-compensated employees, regulations on overtime pay calculations, and other crucial details. To help, we broke down exactly what the DOL changed to help you know where your business stands and what you should do next.

A clock tracking time for employees now eligible for overtime and papers documenting business numbers like regular rate calculations.

Which Employees are Now Eligible for Overtime?

Currently, the Fair Labor Standards Act sets the salary threshold for overtime at $35,568, which equates to $684 per week. Previously, the threshold was $23,660, or $455 per week. Those employees who meet the requirements set by the DOL are entitled to earn overtime pay for any hours worked past 40 in a given week. The pay for those extra hours is set at one-and-a-half times that employee’s standard rate of pay, which is the same as before. 

In addition, highly compensated employees must now earn at least $107,432 ($684 of which must be paid weekly as either a salary or fee) instead of the old rate of $100,000. The new rules also maintain that employers can count annual (or more frequent) nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments as up to 10 percent of the minimum salary threshold.

This salary threshold does not apply to all employees, however. The new rules still provide overtime protections to blue-collar workers, which means they are eligible for overtime even if they make more than $684 per week. Similarly, white-collar employees still do not receive these same overtime protections as long as they meet certain criteria for exemption. 

In addition to meeting the new salary threshold, white-collar employees are considered exempt based on the duties they perform and if they’re paid a predetermined, fixed salary that is not subject to reduction. There were no changes to the preexisting duties tests, so owners can use the same criteria for exemption as in the past. For a detailed breakdown of those exact duties, check out our post on navigating white-collar exemptions.

What Applies to Regular Rate Calculations for Overtime?

Once you identify which employees are eligible for overtime pay, there’s still the matter of having to pay them for their extra hours. However, it’s not always easy to identify what affects an employee’s regular rate of pay.

The FLSA identifies an employee’s “regular rate” as the rate that the employee is paid per hour. This doesn’t mean that the employee needs to be compensated on an hourly basis. Instead, it’s simply a calculation of how much the worker makes over the course of an hour compared to his or her salary, commission, and other compensation for all non-overtime hours worked in a workweek. As such, it’s relatively simple to calculate an employee whose compensation consists of only hourly pay – multiply that employee’s total hourly rate by the number of overtime hours worked.

However, these calculations are much more complicated once you factor in other forms of compensation. The FLSA identifies that the rate should cover compensation that “include(s) all remuneration for employment paid to, or on behalf of, the employee,” such as bonuses, commissions and other forms of compensation. The DOL’s final rule added a list of exclusions that do not apply to overtime pay to address the confusion over what is considered part of the regular rate of pay. Per the DOL, these exclusions include:

  • The cost of providing certain parking benefits, wellness programs, onsite specialist treatment, gym access/fitness classes, employee discounts on retail goods and services, certain tuition benefits (whether paid to an employee, an education provider, or a student-loan program), and adoption assistance
  • Payments for unused paid leave, including paid sick leave or paid time off
  • Payments of certain penalties required under state and local scheduling laws
  • Reimbursed expenses including cellphone plans, credentialing exam fees, organization membership dues, and travel, even if not incurred “solely” for the employer’s benefit; and clarifies that reimbursements that do not exceed the maximum travel reimbursement under the Federal Travel Regulation System or the optional IRS substantiation amounts for travel expenses are per se “reasonable payments”
  • Certain sign-on bonuses and longevity bonuses
  • The cost of office coffee and snacks to employees as gifts
  • Discretionary bonuses, by clarifying that the label given a bonus does not determine whether it is discretionary and providing additional examples 
  • Contributions to benefit plans for accidents, unemployment, legal services, or other events that could cause future financial hardship or expense

What Should an Owner Do About the New Overtime Rules?

While some of the exact details have changed since the initial plans to update the overtime rules were announced back in March of 2019, our advice remains largely the same as it was that spring. First, you’ll need to evaluate your employees and identify who is now eligible for overtime and how much overtime you expect them to work (if any). If you do have employees who will now earn overtime, you’ll need to decide how you want to handle these new costs:

  • Pay newly-eligible employees overtime pay for the extra hours they accrue
  • Limit employees to 40 hours per week to prevent them from earning overtime
  • Determine how much certain employees would make in expected overtime and bump their pay to above the salary threshold if that ends up being less costly
  • Adjust salaries for new employees to account for expected overtime costs

Each of these options has its own benefits and drawbacks, so deciding which route is best for your company largely depends on you and your workforce. Regardless of your decision, you’ll need to make sure that whatever you do ensures that your business is compliant with the new overtime rules so that you don’t open yourself up to thousands of dollars in fines and other potential penalties.

How Can I Stay Ahead of New Regulations?

The new overtime rules are just another major change that forces business owners to change how they manage their business. Unfortunately, you don’t always have the time or knowhow to keep up with new regulations. Fortunately, GMS can help you claim your time back and protect your business.

As a premier PEO, GMS has the HR experts necessary to help you plan for the future and stay compliant with current laws. Our integrated HR system helps us take care of the administrative burden of payroll management, benefits administration, and other crucial human resources tasks for you so you have the time you need to focus on growing your business.

Ready to stay ahead of new regulations and ease your administrative burden? Contact us today to talk to one of our experts about how we can strengthen your business.

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