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U.S. Labor Dept. shouldn’t discourage overtime pay

The fate of many workers’ overtime suffered a blow in December when the House approved a change to overtime laws making many workers who receive overtime ineligible. Even in light of new regulations proposed by the Democratic Party to guarantee workers these wages, the U.S. Labor Department is highlighting loopholes that would enable employers to bypass the Democratic proposals. The exclusion of a section of the working population from receiving overtime was not welcome in the first place, but for the Labor Department to encourage employers to “dance around” the new legislation is discouraging for all hard-working employees.

Among the changes in the bill, originated by the Labor Department, would be the exclusion of cash overtime to employees if they perform some supervisory tasks and hire and fire employees. Currently, an employee must perform supervisory tasks at least 80 percent of the time to be ineligible for overtime.

In efforts to counteract this bill, reforms to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act will be brought to the table by the Democrats in March, potentially allotting $895 million for overtime pay.

The Labor Department is offering suggestions to the employers of low-income workers on ways to legally avoid having to pay their employees these wages. These options range from adhering to a strict 40-hour work week to raising workers’ yearly income to $22,100, essentially making them ineligible for overtime pay. An additional suggestion encourages making an adjustment to the payroll by converting annual pay incomes into cut down hourly rates with the overtime added in as compensation.

According to The Associated Press this action would lead to employees working longer hours but making the same as before.

Ed Frank, spokesman for the Labor Department, told AP, “We’re not saying anybody should do any of this,” rather the department insists that it is only pointing out well-known options for employers.

Tammy McCutchen, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division administrator, claims that one-time changes in pay are perfectly legal.

These rules are sending Democrats and a few Republican supporters scrambling for methods to protect workers’ wages.

While these suggestions from the Labor Department may be legal, they appear in poor taste and are hardly in the interest of those that the department should represent.

The department claims that the overtime cuts would only affect 664,000 workers. However, the proposal itself discredits this fact by stating that closer to 2.7 million workers would be “more readily identified as exempt.” Labor unions disagree even more, claiming the figure is closer to 8 million.

Regardless of the exact figure, AP reports that 83 percent of the work force is made up of low-income workers providing services — a large figure of people working very hard for very little. The Labor Department, though they insist they are simply stating facts that are common knowledge anyway, is wrongfully suggesting ways to take money away from these workers.