Defining Overtime and Discretionary or Supervisory Workers

Citizen Wealth Financial Justice

working_overtimeToronto   President Obama and his administration have announced an “always-on-the-shelf,” but long overdue move to revise the rules on definition and pay limits defining supervisory and discretionary workers and their eligibility for overtime.  In a sobering commentary noting the slow, grinding wheels of government, some have noted that a rule making procedure along these lines within the Department of Labor could take two-and-a-half years to complete, running virtually up to the end of the President’s term. 

Yikes!   Their solution was simply to strong-arm a benchmark wage number like $1000 per week as the bright line test for overtime.  In their view anyone making under $52000 per year would automatically make overtime.  Anyone over $52000 would not.  The attraction for these advocates is that 5 million workers would get a raise, and, yes, that’s good news indeed.

Unfortunately, what New York and Washington, D. C. commentators fail to reckon with in their 1% world is the fact that $52000 is huge, big time money in most of the country and for most workplaces.   The median income of Pennsylvania is $52000.  54,000,000 people in the US on the 2010 Census Bureau reckoning live on $50000 or less per household.  That’s 47%, almost half, of all US households!   In whole companies we are going to hear true stories about the fact that no one from the lowliest worker to the top boss and owner makes, $52000 per year.  Would that mean everyone would be entitled to overtime or that no one anywhere in the entire company is a supervisor or discretionary employer?

We had better be careful of making a needed proposal for an adjustment on overtime not seem so pie-in-the-sky and out of touch with workers and working America that it looks like nothing more than rhetoric, and certainly not a realistic policy proposition.  The current financial definition of $477 per week is woefully out dated and few would disagree, even among conservatives, that that number is a obviously a poor threshold for the exclusion, but trying to wave a magic wand and more than double the figure is going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

I’m not sure there’s an easy way to do the work.  Arguing, as some are, that we need to not worry about the definition of supervisory and discretionary work but just clamp a wage number on the problem is also fraught with difficulty and could tie any increase up in the courts for way more than a couple of years.  There’s justice to our cause, but it’s hard to see a shortcut that doesn’t involve heartache and mayhem. 

I’m afraid it’s roll up the sleeves time, if we’re going to change the definition of overtime, anytime soon.


            As the station manager of KABF/FM, 88.3, broadcasting 100,000 watts of power from Little Rock, Arkansas as the “voice of the people” in this our 30th year of operation, I’m sent mp3’s by groups, big and small every day, and never know what to do with this part of the job and the dreams of these hardworking musicians.  So, we’re going to start giving readers of the Chief Organizer Reports a bonus as well and include an MP3.  Let us know if you like any of them, and we’ll put them on the air.  Enjoy! 

            Today’s is from the Kings of Leon, called…..

Wait for Me