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The US Department of Labor's New Overtime Rule and What It Means for Employers

Submitted by Firm:
Cline Williams Wright Johnson & Oldfather, LLP
Firm Contacts:
Tara Stingley
Article Type:
Legal Article

After a long wait and a great deal of speculation, on April 23, 2024, we received the highly anticipated final rule from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) salary-level threshold for the “white-collar” exemptions to overtime requirements. The DOL’s final rule expands overtime pay protections to over 4 million workers by changing the FLSA’s exemptions to overtime eligibility. Listen in as we discuss what this means for employers, how they can comply and more. Subscribe to our podcast today to stay up to date on employment issues from law experts worldwide.

Host: Tara Stingley (email) (Cline Williams Wright Johnson & Oldfather, LLP / Nebraska)

Guest Speaker: Beth Liner (email) (Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC / Louisiana)

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In a landmark decision, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule on April 23, 2024, significantly altering the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) salary-level threshold for white-collar exemptions from overtime requirements. This long-awaited update is poised to extend overtime pay protections to over 4 million workers, fundamentally changing the landscape of overtime eligibility. Join us on the Employment Matters podcast as Beth Liner, shareholder at Baker Donaldson in Louisiana, helps us unpack what this means for employers.

Overview of the DOL's Final Rule

The DOL’s final rule adjusts the salary threshold for executive, administrative, and professional employees, making it higher than ever before. This adjustment means that employees earning below this new threshold are eligible for overtime pay, even if they meet the job duties test for white-collar exemptions. The goal of this rule is to modernize and simplify the identification of nonexempt employees, making wage protections more reflective of today's economic realities.

Impact on Employers

This change is set to dramatically increase the number of employees eligible for overtime pay across various industries. Employers will need to reassess their payroll strategies and may face higher operational costs as a result. It's crucial for businesses to understand the specifics of the rule to implement necessary changes effectively and maintain compliance.

Key Changes and Compliance Strategies

  • Understanding the New Salary Threshold: Employers must first understand the new salary threshold set by the DOL. This threshold determines which of their employees are entitled to overtime pay.
  • Reviewing Employee Classifications: With the new rule in place, many employees previously classified as exempt might now qualify for overtime. Employers should review the classifications of their employees to ensure they align with the new standards.
  • Adjusting Payroll Systems: It’s essential for employers to adjust their payroll systems to accommodate the changes. This might include updating employee statuses from exempt to nonexempt and ensuring accurate tracking of hours worked.
  • Employee Communication: Transparent communication with employees about how these changes will affect their pay and work hours is crucial. Employers should prepare to handle questions and concerns to ease the transition.
  • Training for Managers: Managers should be trained on the implications of the new rule. They'll need to understand how to monitor and manage overtime effectively to avoid unplanned payroll expenses.

Legal Implications

Failure to comply with the new rule can lead to significant legal and financial repercussions. Employers should consult with employment law experts to navigate the complexities of the FLSA changes and ensure full compliance.

Implementation Timeline and Adjusted Salary Thresholds

The new overtime rule issued by the U.S. Department of Labor is set to phase in significant changes starting July 1, 2024, with a key milestone to follow on January 1, 2025. This phased approach allows employers to gradually adapt to the new salary thresholds, which are designed to expand overtime eligibility to a broader group of employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Phased Implementation Details:

  • July 1, 2024: The initial increase sets the salary threshold for exempt white-collar employees at $844 per week.
  • January 1, 2025: A more substantial increase takes effect, raising the threshold to $1,128 per week.

For highly compensated employees, the thresholds will also see significant increases:

  • July 1, 2024: The threshold rises to $132,964 annually.
  • January 1, 2025: It further escalates to $151,164 annually.

These adjustments are aimed at ensuring that employees earning less than these amounts are compensated for overtime work, reflecting changes in wage standards and cost of living.

Strategic Compliance for Employers

With the new rule's implementation, employers must reassess their payroll strategies and consider several options to maintain compliance while managing budgetary constraints:

  • Reevaluate Employee Classifications: Employers should review which employees are currently classified as exempt and determine if they still qualify under the new thresholds.
  • Adjust Salaries: To retain exemption status for eligible employees, employers may need to increase salaries to meet or exceed the new thresholds.
  • Consider Reclassification: For positions that may not economically justify a salary increase, reclassifying employees as non-exempt and thus eligible for overtime could be a more viable option.
  • Use of Bonuses and Incentives: Employers can still use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10% of the salary threshold, providing some flexibility in how total compensation is structured.
  • Training and Policy Updates: Ensure that HR teams and managers are well-informed about the new rules. Update company policies and employee handbooks accordingly, and communicate changes clearly to all staff.
  • Monitor and Adjust Workloads: To manage increased labor costs due to higher overtime payments, employers might need to adjust workloads, redistribute tasks, or even hire additional staff.

Legal and Practical Considerations

Employers should also consider the legal implications of misclassification errors, which can result in significant penalties and back pay awards. It's advisable to conduct an audit of employee roles and salaries in consultation with legal experts specializing in labor law to ensure full compliance.

Opportunity for Strategic HR Management

The introduction of new salary thresholds also presents an opportunity for businesses to reassess job descriptions and align them more closely with actual duties and expectations. This can help in clarifying roles and ensuring fair compensation across the organization.

Potential for Litigation and Strategic Employer Considerations

The new overtime rule by the U.S. Department of Labor, significantly altering salary thresholds for white-collar exemptions, may prompt litigation similar to past attempts to modify these thresholds. The legal landscape from the 2016 attempt, where a federal judge deemed the proposed increases as overreach, suggests that the new adjustments might also face judicial challenges. These challenges could argue that the 35% salary calculation for lower-income areas—though less than the 40% previously contested—is still excessive.

What This Means for Employers:

Even with potential legal hurdles, it's likely that some form of increase will persist, as evidenced by the eventual compromise seen in the 2019 rule. Employers should proactively assess their workforce to determine which employees might be affected by the increased salary thresholds. It is advisable for businesses to prepare for both the initial threshold increase in July 2024 and the subsequent change in 2025, irrespective of potential legal challenges.

Practical Steps for Compliance:

  • Immediate Review and Planning: Employers should immediately start reviewing employee classifications to ensure compliance by the first deadline in July 2024. This includes adjusting payroll systems and communicating upcoming changes to affected employees.
  • Gradual Implementation: Given the stepped implementation, employers have the opportunity to make incremental adjustments, which can help in budgeting and operational planning.
  • Legal Consultation: Regular consultations with employment law experts are crucial. These professionals can provide updates on litigation progress and guide compliance efforts according to the latest legal standards.

Addressing Workplace Culture and Morale:

Changes in exemption status can affect workplace dynamics and employee morale. Reclassification from exempt to non-exempt might be perceived negatively by employees, potentially impacting their sense of autonomy and job satisfaction.

Considerations for Employers:

  • Transparent Communication: Clearly explain the reasons for changes in employment classification and how they will benefit the company and its employees.

  • Employee Involvement: Involve employees in the transition process where possible, perhaps through Q&A sessions or workshops, to address concerns and gather feedback.

  • Reaffirming Value: Reinforce the value of employee contributions to the organization, regardless of exemption status, to help mitigate feelings of demotion.


While there is a potential for legal challenges, prudent employers will begin compliance preparations early, taking into account both the legal and cultural impacts of these changes. This proactive approach will not only ensure legal compliance but also help maintain employee morale and organizational harmony.

For ongoing updates on this topic and other employment law matters, subscribe to the ELA podcast, Employment Matters, and connect with employment law experts through the Employment Law Alliance network. Stay informed and prepared with resources like our upcoming webinars, whitepapers, and the exclusive Global Employer Handbook.