Overtime

Overtime pay rules are designed to ensure that most workers who put in more than 40 hours a week get paid 1.5 times their regular pay for the extra hours they work. Almost all hourly workers are automatically eligible for overtime pay, but workers who are paid on a salary basis are only automatically eligible for overtime pay if they make below a certain salary. Above that level, employers can claim that workers are “exempt” from overtime if their primary job duties are considered “executive,” “administrative,” or “professional.”

The pay threshold that determines which salaried workers are automatically eligible for overtime pay has been so eroded by inflation that workers earning as little as $455 per week (the equivalent of $23,660 per year) can be forced to work 60 or more hours a week for no more pay than if they worked 40 hours. The extra 20-plus hours are completely free to the employer, allowing employers to exploit workers with no consequences.

In 1975, more than 60 percent of full-time salaried workers were under the salary threshold and hence automatically eligible for overtime. By 2016, because of this erosion, the share had dropped to less than 7 percent. The new overtime rule would have partially restored that share, bringing it up to 33 percent.

A 2016 federal rule would have raised the salary threshold below which workers are automatically eligible for overtime pay—from $23,660 to $47,476 per year—restoring some of the coverage lost as inflation increasingly eroded this crucial worker protection. At $913 per week (or $47,476 for a full-year worker), the threshold that the 2016 rule set is equivalent to the 40th percentile of weekly earnings for full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage U.S. Census Region (currently the South). It is a significant but still conservative boost, approaching a level of pay that a modestly compensated manager might have.

However, a district court in Texas blocked DOL from implementing and enforcing the rule in 2016 and then, in August 2017, held that the rule was invalid.  As it becomes clear whether this ruling will, in effect, kill the overtime rule, some states are considering implementing their own revised overtime eligibility threshold to restore overtime protections to workers.

Publications

Hour Crisis: Unstable Schedules in the Los Angeles Retail Sector

The retail sector is an integral part of the Los Angeles landscape with almost half a million
workers in the county, and 147,157 workers in the city. Retail makes up one-tenth of
the private sector workforce in the county and is its second largest employer. Yet more
than half of the county’s workforce earn low wages. In the past few years, local and
statewide policies have focused on transforming low-wage work, including a raise in the
minimum wage, increased worker protections, and required paid time off. Despite the
statewide strengthening of workers’ rights protections, the unreliable hours and unpredictable
schedules endemic in the retail industry mean these benefits become inaccessible
to many workers. In part, the retail industry relies on scheduling practices that are
not good for workers, such as forcing them to wait for their weekly schedules with only
a few days notice. These practices not only undercut workers’ hours and their expectations
thereof, but also their incomes, and can make it nearly impossible for workers to
realize full and healthy lives.

Hour Crisis: Unstable Schedules in the Los Angeles Retail Sector explores worker hours
and scheduling practices for “frontline floor” staff that include salespersons, cashiers,
stockers, and food workers in large and chain stores. We used a participatory and research
justice approach and worked with students, workers, and community partners to
collect and analyze the data. Using mixed-sampling methodology, we collected a total
of 818 surveys. In addition, we analyzed government data and conducted an extensive
review of existing policy and academic literature on the topic.

Low wages, high turnover in Ohio’s home-care industry

Home-care aides — providers of hands-on care to older adults and people with disabilities — are one of Ohio’s fastest growing occupations, growing at more than five times the rate of overall jobs in the economy. Home-health and personal-care jobs continued to grow during the last two recessions, and the numbers of workers employed in the industry has nearly tripled since 2001. According to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), Ohio now has approximately 86,000 home-care aides, including 66,000 home-health aides, and 20,000 personal-care aides.

Rapid growth of the home-care industry is largely good news. Given most people’s preference for in-home care and the fact that home-based services are less expensive than institutional care, growth of the home-care industry is largely a win-win.

However, the home care industry is riddled with high turnover rates, workforce vacancies and related quality-of-care issues. This is largely the result of low job satisfaction due to low wages, part-time and unpredictable hours, and a lack of benefits that come with the job. In order to serve the growing public demand for these services, while ensuring continuity and quality of care, policymakers must address the need for better wages and benefits in the industry.

The Big Rig Overhaul: Restoring Middle-Class Jobs at America’s Ports Though Labor Law Enforcement

Our research found the dire working conditions of port truck drivers to have flowed from the practice of treating employees as if they were ‘independent contractors,’ an illegal practice called misclassification. At the time of our first report, there were practically no official government investigations to verify our findings despite a host of enforcement agencies being responsible for preventing misclassification.

That has now changed. Our findings match those coming from recent investigations of employment practices common in the industry by the United States Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, the National Labor Relations Board, and various state agencies. More importantly, these investigations signal a new dynamic, one with practical ramifications for the organization of work in the industry as well as for broader discussions of inequality in this country.