The Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 CFR Part 541, makes it possible for employers to impose a kind of slavery on poorly-paid salaried employees who are exempt from the protections of the act because they are classified as “white collar” workers.
However, the U.S. Department of Labor this week released proposed amendments to the FLSA “white collar” exemption provision that would, if adopted, eventually eliminate the exempt status of an estimated 21.4 million so-called “white collar” employees.
The FLSA exemption now applies to employees whose job duties primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties and who earn a salary of at least $455 per week or $23,660 a year. The DOL’s proposed regulations dramatically increase the minimum salary threshold for exempt status workers to $970 per week or $50,440 per year. This represents the 40th percentile of earnings for all full-time salaried workers throughout the United States.
Low-level white collar workers are ripe for exploitation, especially during difficult economic times when jobs are scarce. During the Great Recession, many employers forced poorly-paid white collar workers to work endless or erratic unpaid overtime hours to compensate for lay-offs or short staffing. This caused predictable stress and burnout, with all of the attendant problems for individuals and families. The “white collar” exemption is particularly brutal for single parents (mostly women) who must schedule and pay for child care.
The DOL has not updated the “white collar” salary level since 2004. To prevent the proposed new salary level from becoming outdated, the DOL’s proposes automatically updating the salary level each year to reflect the applicable 40th percentile of earnings. [Read more…]