President Barack Obama on Thursday called for new overtime rules so more workers will be eligible for time-and-a-half pay after putting in a 40-hour workweek. Obama’s directive to the Labor Department eventually will help millions of low-wage workers. Now, a worker on salary of more than $455 a week with minimal management duties may be denied overtime.
Sen. Bernie Sanders applauded the president’s action. “It is absurd that millions of workers making as little as $455 a week are considered ‘supervisors’ and get no overtime pay. I hope the Department of Labor raises that threshold to at least $1,000, which would reflect inflation since 1975. That step alone would mean a raise for millions of workers. More money in the hands of working people would mean that those workers could then go out and make purchases that would help create more jobs.”
It will take a while before workers see any more money in their paychecks. Leaving the details to be worked out by the Labor Department, Obama did not specify what the new salary thresholds should be. The department isn’t likely to propose specific language until this fall.
Workers won the right to overtime pay back in 1938, when Congress passed a law requiring extra pay for extra hours of work. Under the law, the Labor Department was given the authority to change the salary thresholds to account for inflation. The department also was given leeway to spell out which workers are eligible for overtime. The last time the rules were updated, however, was 1975. That’s when the Ford administration raised the salary threshold significantly to account for inflation.