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New Overtime Threshold Taking Effect Soon: Why HR Must Act Now

    In a critical development, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced its final rule to increase the minimum pay requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for various exempt “white-collar” employee categories. This rule, effective July 1, 2024, requires immediate attention and action from HR professionals to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal and financial repercussions.

    Overview of the New Rule

    The “white-collar” exemptions apply to executive, administrative, or professional (EAP) employees who receive a fixed salary, meet a specified salary threshold, and perform qualifying duties. The FLSA also includes a highly compensated employee (HCE) exemption for those who perform office work, earn a six-figure annual salary, and perform at least one EAP duty. The new rule raises the salary thresholds for both EAP and HCE categories.

    Impact Assessment

    Variance by State

    The impact of the DOL’s new overtime threshold will differ significantly depending on the existing state laws governing employee classification and minimum salary requirements. Employers operating in states with stringent exemption laws, such as California and New York, may experience minimal impact due to already higher state-mandated salary thresholds.


    In California, the minimum salary for exempt employees is pegged to the state’s minimum wage, which is set to rise incrementally. As of January 2024, the annual salary threshold for exempt employees in California is $64,480 for employers with 26 or more employees. This exceeds the new federal threshold, meaning that employers in California already comply and will not need to make significant changes to meet the new federal standards.

    New York

    Similarly, New York has different thresholds based on location within the state. For example, in New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, the minimum salary threshold is already $58,500 annually. This surpasses the federal requirement, insulating employers in these areas from immediate changes required by the new DOL rule.

    Other States

    In contrast, employers in states with no or lower state-mandated thresholds will need to adjust salaries to meet the new federal standards. For instance, states like Texas and Florida, which adhere closely to federal guidelines without additional state-specific enhancements, will see a direct impact. Employers in these states must prepare for substantial adjustments to employee salaries or risk non-compliance.

    Implications of Salary Threshold Changes

    Implications for Remote Work

    The rise of remote work has expanded the geographic distribution of many companies’ workforces. This shift complicates compliance efforts, as employers must now consider the laws of multiple states where their remote employees reside.

    Multi-State Compliance

    Employers with a remote workforce spread across various states must conduct a detailed analysis to determine which state laws apply to each employee. This analysis is crucial as it will reveal whether the new federal salary thresholds are more or less stringent than the applicable state laws. For example, an employee working remotely from California for a company based in Texas must be paid according to California’s higher threshold if classified as exempt.

    Increased Administrative Burden

    Managing compliance across multiple states increases the administrative burden on HR departments. They must stay updated on both federal and state-specific laws, track changes in regulations, and ensure that salary adjustments are made accordingly. Employers must implement robust systems to manage these complexities, ensuring compliance in every jurisdiction where their employees operate.

    Financial and Legal Implications

    Financial Implications

    The financial impact of the new thresholds will vary by employer. Companies must decide whether to raise salaries to meet the new thresholds or reclassify employees as non-exempt and pay overtime. This decision requires a thorough cost-benefit analysis.

    • Salary Increases: Raising salaries to meet new thresholds may be less costly than paying overtime if employees regularly work more than 40 hours per week.
    • Overtime Payments: Reclassifying employees as non-exempt could lead to significant overtime payments, increasing payroll costs. Employers must evaluate their workforce’s work patterns to determine the most cost-effective approach.

    Legal Implications

    Non-compliance with the new DOL rule can result in severe legal repercussions. Employers could face misclassification lawsuits, which are costly and damaging to the company’s reputation.

    • Misclassification Lawsuits: Misclassifying employees by not adhering to the new salary thresholds can lead to lawsuits. These lawsuits often focus on unpaid overtime and other benefits that non-exempt employees are entitled to.
    • Liability Exposure: Even a few misclassified employees can result in significant liability exposure. Companies may be required to pay back wages, overtime, and penalties, which could amount to millions of dollars.
    impact of salary changes

    Salary Threshold Changes

    The DOL’s new rule significantly raises the salary thresholds for both the executive, administrative, or professional (EAP) exemptions and the highly compensated employee (HCE) exemptions. Understanding these changes is crucial for employers to ensure compliance and to make informed decisions regarding salary adjustments and employee classification.

    EAP Salary Increase

    The EAP exemptions apply to employees who primarily perform executive, administrative, or professional duties. These employees must meet specific salary and duty criteria to qualify as exempt from overtime pay. The new rule introduces a phased increase in the salary threshold for EAP employees:

    Current Threshold

    • Weekly Salary: $684
    • Annual Salary: $35,568

    New Threshold Effective July 1, 2024

    • Weekly Salary: $844
    • Annual Salary: $43,888

    New Threshold Effective January 1, 2025

    • Weekly Salary: $1,128
    • Annual Salary: $58,656

    These increases represent a substantial hike from the current standards, requiring many employers to adjust their salary structures accordingly.

    HCE Salary Increase

    The HCE exemption applies to employees who perform office or non-manual work and earn a higher total annual compensation, including at least one of the standard EAP duties. The new rule also raises the salary threshold for HCE employees in two phases:

    Current Threshold

    • Annual Salary: $107,432

    New Threshold Effective July 1, 2024

    • Annual Salary: $132,964

    New Threshold Effective January 1, 2024

    • Annual Salary: $151,164

    This significant increase aims to ensure that the exemption for highly compensated employees is in line with current compensation trends.

    Automatic Updating of Salary Minimums

    A critical component of the new rule is the implementation of automatic updates to the salary thresholds every three years. This mechanism is designed to keep the thresholds aligned with changes in the economy and wage growth, providing predictability for employers planning their long-term compensation strategies.

    First Automatic Update

    • Effective Date: July 1, 2027

    The automatic update provision ensures that salary thresholds will be regularly adjusted, reducing the need for frequent regulatory changes and helping employers maintain compliance with evolving standards.

    Implications of Salary Threshold Changes

    Compliance Costs

    Employers must evaluate the financial impact of raising salaries to meet the new thresholds versus the cost of paying overtime. For many organizations, especially those with large numbers of employees near the threshold, this will involve significant adjustments to payroll budgets.

    Payroll Adjustments

    Employers may need to increase the salaries of employees currently classified as exempt to meet the new thresholds. This could involve significant changes to compensation structures and budgeting for increased payroll expenses.

    Reclassification of Employees

    For some employers, reclassifying employees as non-exempt and paying overtime may be more cost-effective than raising salaries. This decision will depend on the typical work hours of employees and the potential overtime costs involved.

    Strategies for Mitigation

    In response to the upcoming changes in the DOL’s overtime threshold, employers need to adopt comprehensive strategies to mitigate risks and ensure compliance. The following strategies are crucial for managing the transition effectively:

    Conducting Thorough Audits

    Classification Audits

    Regular classification audits are essential to verify that employees are correctly classified based on their job duties and salaries. Misclassification can lead to costly lawsuits and liability exposure, making these audits a critical preventive measure.

    1. Evaluate Job Duties:
      • Assess each employee’s job description and actual duties against the criteria set forth by the DOL for exempt classifications.
      • Ensure that employees meet the “primary duties” test for the executive, administrative, or professional (EAP) exemptions or the highly compensated employee (HCE) exemption.
    2. State and Federal Compliance:
      • Confirm compliance with both federal and state laws. States like California and New York have more stringent exemption requirements and higher salary thresholds than the federal standards.
      • If an employee works in a state with more restrictive exemption criteria, ensure they meet those specific standards.
    3. Quantitative Tests:
      • For states with quantitative tests (e.g., requiring that exempt duties constitute more than 50% of an employee’s work time), verify that employees meet these standards consistently.
    4. Regular Review Schedule:
      • Establish a regular review schedule for classification audits to keep up with changes in job roles and legal standards.
    Strategies for Mitigation

    Implementing Robust Time-Tracking Systems

    Accurate Time Tracking

    Accurate time tracking is critical for defending against misclassification claims and ensuring compliance with overtime regulations. Implementing robust time-tracking systems for all employees, including those classified as exempt, can help maintain precise records of work hours.

    1. Time Entry Systems:
      • Introduce efficient and user-friendly time entry systems that allow employees to log their hours accurately and easily.
      • Ensure that the system captures start and end times, as well as breaks and overtime hours.
    2. Regular Monitoring:
      • Monitor time tracking data regularly to identify patterns of overtime work and potential misclassification issues.
      • Use this data to adjust work schedules and prevent excessive overtime.
    3. Training and Compliance:
      • Train employees and managers on the importance of accurate time tracking and the correct use of the time entry system.
      • Ensure compliance with company policies and legal requirements related to timekeeping.
    4. Record Retention:
      • Maintain detailed and accurate records of employee hours, which can be used to defend against any future misclassification lawsuits or regulatory inquiries.

    Engaging in Proactive Communication

    Clear and Transparent Communication

    Proactive and transparent communication with employees about classification changes is essential to mitigate confusion and potential disputes. Effective communication can help employees understand the reasons behind changes and their implications.

    1. Inform Employees Early:
      • Communicate any changes to employee classification or salary adjustments well in advance of the implementation date.
      • Provide clear explanations of the new DOL rules and how they affect employee status and compensation.
    2. Employee Meetings:
      • Hold meetings or town halls to discuss the changes, answer questions, and address concerns.
      • Ensure that managers are equipped with the necessary information to explain the changes to their teams.
    3. Written Communication:
      • Follow up verbal communications with written documentation outlining the changes, reasons, and new policies.
      • Include FAQs and contact information for HR representatives who can provide additional support.
    4. Feedback Mechanisms:
      • Establish feedback mechanisms, such as surveys or suggestion boxes, to allow employees to voice their concerns and provide input on the changes.
      • Use this feedback to make adjustments and improve the transition process.
    5. Ongoing Support:
      • Provide ongoing support and resources to help employees adapt to the changes.
      • Offer training sessions on new time-tracking systems or other relevant tools and processes.

    Implementing these strategies will help employers navigate the complexities of the new DOL overtime threshold rules. By conducting thorough audits, implementing robust time-tracking systems, and engaging in proactive communication, employers can ensure compliance, reduce liability risks, and maintain a positive and transparent workplace environment.