National overtime pay rule blocked days before implementation

Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design Editor

In October Syracuse Univeristy reviewed more than 1,000 job positions to see if they qualified for overtime pay. Two key changes were announced: Employees who move from exempt to non-exempt will remain as salaried employees and will be eligible for overtime pay and retain their benefits.

UPDATED: Dec. 7 at 8:01 p.m.

A Texas judge blocked President Barack Obama’s upcoming overtime pay threshold change, which is set to be implemented on Thursday.

United States District Judge Amos Mazzant of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ordered an injunction against the Fair Labor Standards Act last Tuesday. The rule would allow 4 million people nationwide to be qualified for extra compensation.

At Syracuse University, the Department of Human Resources has been holding individual meetings with employees and preparing the PeopleSoft system for classification changes throughout November, according to a timeline on its website.

Andy Gordon, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at SU, said in a letter to the SU community on Wednesday that while other universities have halted implementation because of the ruling, SU is proceeding with its plans.

“We believe this approach is the right thing to do for our employees who are critical to carrying out the mission of the University,” Gordon said in the email.

In the 20-page injunction, Mazzant said the injunction is in the public’s best interest because if the rule is found invalid it will protect the public, but if the rule is valid the injunction will only give the Court more time to make the rule as well as check the rule’s validity.

This is the fourth time in the last 21 months that a Texas federal judge has blocked one of Obama’s executive orders, according to Bloomberg. Twenty-one states and dozens of business groups have objected the rule, saying it would increase state government costs by $115 million next year alone and give private employers more leeway, according to Bloomberg.

The overtime pay rule was announced in May by the U.S. Department of Labor, which raises the maximum salary needed for employees to qualify for overtime pay. The original threshold, which hasn’t been changed since 2004, set the weekly salary at $455, or $23,660 annually. The new threshold sets the weekly salary at $913, or $47,476 annually.

The threshold is set to be updated every three years starting in January 2020, according to the Department of Labor website.

In October, Gordon said SU had reviewed more than 1,000 job positions to see if they were qualified for overtime pay. The university has announced two key changes for employee salaries: Employees who move from exempt to non-exempt will be able to remain as salaried employees while also being eligible for overtime pay, and retain their benefits associated with the exempt status, such as vacation time, salary continuation and parking privileges.

Gordon said in October there is no figure yet to how much the new rule will cost the university. This amount will likely be determined over the next year as each college plans its budget and unit officers monitor overtime, he had said.



In a December interview, Gordon said the individual meetings with employees were positively received.

“Once people kind of understood … that all employees were important regardless of what classification they might be in, having that opportunity to say it personally rather than just an email blast from me or the administration, I think made a lot of difference for the employees,” Gordon said.

Gordon said the classification changes span the whole campus and affect ever school, college and administration unit. Gordon did not say the exact number of employees who went through classification changes.

In terms of the PeopleSoft classification changes, Gordon said employees now have been reorganized to ensure they receive the extended benefits.

Gordon said the university is going to closely monitor the cost of the changes carefully, and will be making a decision in budgeting for the next fiscal year. All schools, colleges and units affected by the change will be looking at the impact on a monthly basis.

Gordon also said the university will be providing support for managers and supervisors to work with employees going forward.



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