President Obama’s proposal to restore overtime benefits to millions of hardworking Americans cleared another hurdle last night when after months of considering public comments, the Department of Labor (DOL) transmitted the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget.
We don’t know exactly what’s in the final rule, but there’s been no indication from the administration that the details have substantially changed. If approved as proposed, the income threshold above which salaried employees are exempt from time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours a week would more than double, from $23,660 a year to $50,440.
According to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute, 13.5 million Americans would directly benefit from the new rule.
Overtime pay is like a minimum wage for the middle class. And just like the minimum wage, the overtime threshold has been allowed to erode away for decades: Back in 1975, 65 percent of salaried workers qualified for overtime; today only 11 percent do.
But unlike the minimum wage, the Obama administration has the power to raise the overtime threshold without congressional approval through the DOL’s rule-making authority. It’s a long and drawn out process, but it looks like it’s on track to be completed by the end of summer.
No doubt a Republican president would reverse this rule — something middle class voters might be thinking about when they cast their ballots in the fall.