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Overtime salary threshold change can benefit workers

Some Massachusetts workers may be pleased to hear about a new federal regulation requiring that more workers receive overtime pay if they work over 40 hours a week. The National Labor Relations Act defines exempt workers, those not covered by the law's wage and hour provisions, as those who make at least a certain salary and also have a high level of independent judgment or management responsibilities in their roles. Originally intended to classify professional workers and management staff, the exempt classification has been used by many companies to avoid overtime pay for relatively low-wage workers who are often highly directed by others.

On Sept. 24, the federal Department of Labor announced that it intended to raise the salary threshold to $35,568 from its earlier amount of $23,660, an amount that sits below the poverty line for a family of four. Earlier, under the Obama administration, the Labor Department sought to raise that minimum salary to around $47,000, which would have expanded the provisions to 3 million more workers than this proposal. However, those efforts were blocked by a federal court decision prior to the change in administrations. This new proposal will benefit around 1.3 million workers across the country.

Some salaried workers are required to work so many hours that they would actually make more money as hourly, non-exempt workers making the federal minimum wage with overtime. Fast-food restaurants, retail stores and other establishments have frequently named managers or even shift leads as exempt, salaried jobs despite their low wages and minimal independence.

Some workers may be improperly classified as exempt even when their jobs do not meet the proper classification under existing law. Workers who are facing unpaid overtime or wage theft may consult with Boston, Massachusetts, attorneys for incorrect pay disputes for employees about their options to pursue compensation.

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