November Surprise, Obama Overtime Rules Won't Go Into Effect

Nov 23, 2016

At least 3,200 state workers, and thousands more public and private sector employees around Arkansas, will not see changes to the way they account for their work hours.

A federal judge in Texas Tuesday temporarily stopped changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act the Labor Department under President Obama sought to implement in order to change workplace accounting of employees' hours and grant more overtime pay.

This was to effect mostly white collar workers making about $47,500 ($913/week). The policy is simply an expansion of one already in place for those making $23,660 annually ($455/week).

Despite its intended affect, many workers around the state grumbled about the proposed changes, which would have meant stricter protocols for punching in and out of work, and hourly accounting for workers who previously simply approved their 40-hour work weeks.

"You know, you had 200 employees who weren't required to punch in and out. This new ruling because of their salaries, they say, yes, you're exempt, but you're gonna have to punch in and out, but you're eligible for overtimes. So, it was, it's not a demotion, but a lot of people don't like punching in and out," said University of Arkansas at Little Rock finance and administration chief Steve McClellan.

Steve McClellan
Credit UALR

More than 200 employees on McClellan's campus were going to be affected by the new rule.

Arkansas Depart of Finance and Administration spokesman Jake Bleed said, for many state departments, spending requires approval by the Legislature, so historically departments have offered employees discretionary leave time instead.

"The Legislature of course appropriates funds for state agencies, and in order for an agency to pay overtime as opposed to using leave balances, they have to have to have the appropriation in place and authorization from the General Assembly. So, it's been a longstanding  practice for the state to use leave as a benefit for working overtime."

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock had also counseled its newly overtime-eligible employees that the employer was going to grant time-and-a-half compensatory leave in lieu of payment. 

The federal ruling stems from a lawsuit by 21 states and dozens of business groups who said the changes presented “irreparable harm” to employers. It was to go into effect Dec. 1.

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