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Obama issues order to 'modernize' overtime pay

President Obama ordered the Labor Department on Thursday to “modernize” regulations to allow millions more workers to be paid overtime.

The regulations being changed govern which types of employees qualify for the “white collar” exemption that allows employers to avoid paying overtime at a time-and-a-half rate.

White House officials say the administration will look to narrow the classification of which jobs qualify for that exemption, so that fast food and retail managers, for example, would no longer be prevented from earning the additional wages.

The president also hinted that the administration would change rules that forced employers to pay overtime to any employee making less than $455 per week, raising that limit.

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Business groups oppose the change and say they were blindsided by the administration’s decision, while Republicans have claimed it is another example of executive overreach.

Obama implicitly tied the fight for overtime pay to a separate battle over the minimum wage, arguing people at the bottom of the economic scale deserved to be paid more for their work.

“If you're working hard, barely making ends meet, you should be paid overtime. Period,” Obama said.

Obama promised the administration would consult with both workers and employers before deciding how to update federal regulations.

“With any kind of change like this, not everybody is going to be happy,” he conceded. “But Americans have spent too long working more and getting less in return.”

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