Home / Opinion / Snap Poll: Most favor higher overtime threshold

Snap Poll: Most favor higher overtime threshold

In a move that will affect most businesses and millions of American workers, the U.S. Labor Department last week roughly doubled the threshold for overtime pay to salaried employees. When the rule takes effect Dec. 1, most salaried workers earning less than $47,476 a year must receive time-and-a-half overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. The current threshold, set in 2004, is $23,660.

Sixty percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll think the overtime threshold should be increased. One-third say it should be increased to $47,476 a year, as planned, while 27 percent say it should be higher than the current $23,660 threshold, but not as high as $47,476 a year.

A slight plurality of respondents—34 percent—think the federal government should not mandate time-and-a-half overtime pay at any salary level.

Just 6 percent say it should stay at $23,660 a year.

The overtime rule dates to enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Although the threshold has been raised several times, those who support the increase say the current level fails to protect many workers who put in more than 40 hours a week.

The White House says 62 percent of full-time workers were eligible for overtime pay in 1975; today, only 7 percent are eligible. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the 1975 threshold would be roughly $51,000 today.

The rule change will extend overtime protections to 4.2 million additional workers, the Labor Department estimates, and it will raise Americans’ wages by some $12 billion over the next 10 years.

Small-business groups and others who oppose the new salary threshold argue that many employers cannot afford the additional cost and likely will respond by reducing workers’ base pay, limiting hours or moving workers from salaried to hourly status. They also say closely tracking employees’ hours will hurt morale, as will the elimination of flexible practices such as comp time.

Nearly 680 respondents participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted May 23 and 24.
Which of the following statements most closely reflects your views on the federal overtime salary threshold?
It should be increased to $47,476 a year.    33%
It should be higher than the current $23,660 threshold, but not as high as $47,476 a year.    27%
It should stay at $23,660 a year.    6%
The federal government should not mandate time-and-a-half overtime pay at any salary level.    34%

For information on how the Snap Polls are conducted, click here.

COMMENTS:

People should get paid for the work they perform, and I celebrate the commitment to life-work balance inherent in this progressive labor regulation.
—Stuart J. Mitchell, president and CEO, PathStone Corp.

There’s no reason there should be a threshold at all. If you work overtime, you should get paid for it.
—Matthew D. Wilson

Why is it so hard to believe that people—employee or employer—can come to rational decisions on their own without the intrusion of government? This measure, like all other government interferences, will have plenty of repercussions … but most likely they will be unintended consequences and not the intended result of benevolent leaders.
—Kenya Burn-Moore, Rochester

Who does this benefit? Where does the money come from? The government, aka the taxpayer? How about from the company profits? So when the company goes out of business or ships the jobs overseas, does anyone benefit?
—Mark Williams

The increase to the threshold has been long overdue and is fair to employees.
—Thomas Schnorr, president, RE/MAX Realty Group

Most things are indexed for inflation and cost of living. Except this one. So this change is about 30 years overdue. The exempt pay category is for professionals and management. People who trade time for money should get paid for all of their time, not just the first 40 hours. Will this increase costs? Yes. Will this increase employee happiness, which will lead to higher productivity and lower attrition? Yes. And that’s the other reason why we need to do it.
—Fred Dewey, owner, Alive! 9 to 5

Wage and price manipulation by the government has never worked. What is wrong with pay based on performance?
—Gary Wood

To double the figure in one move is just another setback for business. The government should be more focused on fostering an economic environment that gets our economy in a strong position that business is able to compete and pay higher wages without government dictating every single step of the way.
—Nigel Heaton

Social Security is underfunded. There has been lots of news that it will run out of money by such date. So let’s raise minimum wage. Now let’s raise overtime pay. For the employer, expenses related to payroll just went up significantly. Social Security match, state and federal unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation insurance. I’m supposed to have good health insurance for my employees. I just received a notice that they are asking for a 12.5 percent increase! I’m supposed to provide my employees with some type of retirement plan and provide a match. Prices have gone up since the minimum wage increase to pay for that. Prices will go up to pay for the overtime law. No one will get ahead. These increases are just fueling inflation. Why doesn’t the government do something for small businesses? How about cutting our expenses? No one is getting ahead except for the large corporations that can absorb these costs by laying off people while they pay their CEOs millions!
—Jennifer Apetz

We’re told it will increase our wages, but they forget to mention it will be you and me paying for it with higher prices for everything we buy. Why won’t the federal (and state) governments just admit they are trying to rekindle inflation! Why do they want inflation, you ask? So they can pay back the trillions they’ve been borrowing with devalued dollars! And with every wage increase comes increased tax collections, federal, state, local and FICA! They just pretend to care about working Americans. And it works every time!
—George Thomas, Ogden

When young people are having trouble finding jobs with their new degrees, the government puts obstacles in their way. This imposition will undoubtedly curtail manager trainee and similar programs. A willing buyer will never pay more than the true value of any commodity, and this is no different. The “Big G” again has presumed it can outsmart us when actually they have outsmarted themselves.
—Jim Cronin

Being “salaried” is just a loophole for some businesses to get free labor. The current $23,660 level is about $12 an hour; pretty cheap labor already. People get burned out from these 60- to 80-hour workweeks required by some employers. They are more prone to illnesses, have no life and are simply being taken advantage of. I’ve seen the stats on how CEO pay has increased tremendously in the past couple of decades, yet the pay of the average worker has not. There has to be a limit set on this greed.
—Marjorie Campaigne, editor, Abundance Coop newsletter

Where in the Constitution does it authorize the federal government to regulate what workers are paid?
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield

I support the initiative and recognize it is only an issue in those situations where employers insist on substantially more than 40 hours weekly work from employees. While I’d prefer the OT apply only to hours over 45, it is important to give workers “protection” from employers whose demands exceed “reasonable” by current standards.
—Dorver Kendig, Webster

After 12 years, it is reasonable for the minimum salary to be increased. However, setting the minimum salary at $913 per week ($47,474 annually) is overwhelming for most businesses. While this rule change accomplishes exactly what the president and administration intended—to make millions of American workers eligible for overtime—eligible does not mean that will actually be allowed to work more than 40 hours in order to receive any overtime pay. The unintended consequences are going to be significant for both employers and employees.
—Frank Cania, president, Driven HR

One morning our society will wake up to learn that the cost of technology has decreased to the point that many of the jobs that pay at the lower end of the spectrum can be replaced by robots, which are cheaper and equally as efficient and don’t need health care or increasing wages or government protection.
—Jay Birnbaum

When young people are having trouble finding jobs with their new degrees, the government puts obstacles in their way. This imposition will undoubtedly curtail manager trainee and similar programs. A willing buyer will never pay more than the true value of any commodity, and this is no different. The “Big G” again has presumed it can outsmart us when actually they have outsmarted themselves.
—Jim Cronin

The overtime issue for salaried employees is really similar to the minimum wage controversy. It will result in fewer opportunities for young people especially to get management experience, etc. I have found that employers who abused a salaried worker with too many hours will eventually lose that employee to the vast majority of companies that pay fair salaries and benefits. That’s supposed to be how the free market works. But political leaders such as President Obama and to a certain extent Gov. Cuomo are rooted in some Marxist beliefs that government should control much of society. The result is less economic vitality and fewer jobs similar to the old Soviet Union. The reason the United States had one of the slowest, weakest recoveries from a major recession despite doubling our national debt over an eight-year period are actions such as the latest overtime and minimum wage changes. These are additional straws that are slowly breaking the economic back of the United States.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.

Another case of needing to let the markets take (care) of it. Too bad when the Founding Fathers decided on a separation of church and state, they didn’t include business and state, as well. If the state allowed business to charge whatever they want for products and services, people would pay what the market will bear, as in many cases already. Why can’t it be the same with pay, based on performance? If you’re doing a great job and putting in extra hours, but don’t feel compensated for your efforts, move on to where someone appreciates you and will pay you more. Work hard and keep your nose clean if you want to prosper. Don’t let the government enable you some more.
—B. Moser

We enjoy eight-hour workdays, and 40-hour work weeks as a baseline definition of a “job.” Yet ambition to get ahead drives many junior employees to work “off the clock,” so to speak, in order to produce more, in order to curry favor with management, and in order to satisfy their own self-imposed work ethic. For these people, the overtime pay is secondary to success. However, there are also a larger number of people who are required to put in extra hours each day/week because of management policies or chronic understaffing. Chronic understaffing can be caused by a lack of qualified candidates, management’s own policies, and high turnover for various reasons. It is my opinion that the victims of chronic understaffing should be compensated for their efforts beyond “8X40” work week. Certain industries are famous for fostering this condition—fast food and health care are two primary examples. In these industries where management policy promotes understaffing, I believe that the overtime mandate is overdue.
—Wayne Donner, Rush

5/27/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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