What supporters of the overtime regulation are really telling us
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While the Washington policy industry was trying to squeeze the last dose of fun out of the summer, many of the supporters of the Department of Labor’s new overtime regulation were busy trying to sell it.  Democrats in Congress, the Department of Labor itself, and outside advocacy groups were all busy trying to pretend that the new regulation will increase income and spur economic growth without employers and employees encountering problems. 

Politico reported on Sept. 1 that one of the key advocates supporting the regulation released poll results purporting to show strong support for the new overtime regulation in several of the presidential election battleground states.  In some of the key presidential toss-up states (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Ohio) support for the new overtime regulation ranged from 81 percent to 76 percent.  In those same states, between 52 percent and 57 percent claimed they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who wanted to block the rule.

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The real story here is not that a majority of those asked say they support this regulation, but that so many said they do not—as many as a quarter of respondents in key states like Missouri and New Hampshire.  And even in those states where there seems to be strong support for the regulation, that support is not translating into a potent voting issue.

In fact, the more accurate reading of these polls is that the new regulation is being seen as a mixed-bag, at best.  The real impact of it has not yet been felt since it takes effect Dec. 1. At that time, all employers (no carve outs for small businesses, nonprofits, municipal governments, school systems, educational institutions, etc.) will have to make sure their “white collar” employees are either paid above the new $47,476 salary threshold (and are performing the proper “primary duties”), or are tracking their hours and are paid overtime for any worked beyond 40 per week.

Simply put, this regulation will have a profound impact on both employers and employees by undoing many workplace flexibility policies—policies that are favorable to employees—and forcing millions of employees to be reclassified from salaried professionals to hourly wage earners, completely opposite of how career trajectories are supposed to go from hourly to salaried. Can you imagine informing your highly trained and successful managers that they have to punch a time clock, or mid-level professional workers that they cannot answer emails after hours? Or telling your young employees that they can no longer access their work emails out of the office through their ubiquitous smart phones because that time must be compensated since they will now be on the clock?

The activity that has taken place since the regulation was released in mid-May shows how on-edge defenders of the regulation have become—they are demonstrating that this new regulation is not being welcomed as they anticipated.  The DOL’s blog posts attempting to sell the new regulation have been met with a strong chorus of comments showing how little the DOL understands the real world of employers and making payroll, or the contemporary workplace.  Just before the Congressional recess in mid-July,  House Democrats sent out a dear colleague blasting a bill introduced by a fellow Democrat, Kurt Schrader from Oregon, that would phase-in the implementation of the salary threshold over three years and knock out the automatic update provision.

Why should something that is supposed to be so easy to implement, be so beneficial to so many employees, and provide clarity to employers need such an all-out blitz to sell it?

Marc Freedman is executive director of Labor Policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.