Near the turn of the century and into the 1930’s, in order to feed your family and put a roof over your head, workers had to endure six day workweeks, twelve hour work days and marginal time with their families. After decades of mistreatment, workers had enough. They formed unions and asserted their rights and dignity in the workplace. But the struggle for fairness and equality in the workplace did not end there and also continues to this day.

In 1938 labor unions were instrumental in getting Congress to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act which introduced the forty-hour work week, established a national minimum wage and guaranteed most workers time and one half pay (overtime). Workers who received overtime payment after forty hours of work are classified as non-exempt employees. Other workers such as executive or professional employees are classified as exempt and do not receive overtime after forty hours of work.

However, the Fair Labor Standards Act was desperately in need of reform. The current threshold for exempt employees was $455 per week or $23,660 per year. This amount was much too low and resulted in many exempt classified workers working much more than forty hours per week with no additional compensation.

On May 18, 2016, with an effective date of December 1, 2016, the US Department of Labor changed the threshold for exempt employees to $913 per week, or an annual salary of $47,476 thus expanding overtime protection to an estimated 4.2 million workers. There are many good reasons for expanding overtime protection for workers:

  • Restoring overtime is necessary to ensure that working people get paid for all the hours they work.
  • Restoring overtime will give millions of families a pay raise.
  • Restoring overtime will create jobs and increase the hours for people who work part-time. Many employers may choose to hire new employees or allocate more hours to their part-time workers rather than pay overtime.
  • Restoring overtime will help the economy grow as it puts more money into the pockets of worker who spend those dollars in our communities. Working people drive the economy.
  • Restoring overtime will give workers more time away from work and more time with their families. Fewer workers will be forced to work long hours for no extra pay.

These common sense reforms recently made to the Fair Labor Standards Act puts more money into the pockets of workers, creates new jobs and provides an economic boost to our communities. Finally…..a break for working people.