Overtime proposal causes concern

MARIETTA – More workers could be eligible for overtime if a White House plan presented last week goes into effect.

President Barack Obama gave the Labor Department a directive to develop new rules governing overtime “to ensure that workers are paid fairly for a hard day’s work.” The updated rules are expected to impact millions of Americans by allowing more workers to receive time-and-a-half overtime pay.

The new regulations would target workers who make more than the federal minimum wage, but are not eligible for overtime pay because they’re considered management. Existging rules developed in 2004 say salaried workers making more than $455 a week, or $23,660 annually, do not qualify for overtime if a portion of their jobs involve supervisory duties.

“I’d rather see them increase the minimum wage, as that money would be spent to help boost the economy,” said Chuck Sulerzyski, president and CEO of Peoples Bank in Marietta.

Many salaried workers, including bank loan officers, are paid far more than $23,000 a year, he said.

“If the government is going to do something, my hope would be that they set a threshold to receive overtime compensation,” Sulerzyski added. “Salaried people who are making $30,000 and working a lot of overtime should be compensated for those additional hours, but providing overtime for highly-paid workers would just not make sense.”

Sylvi Caporale, an owner of American Flags and Poles on Front Street, said their business would not likely be affected by overtime rules as there are no middle-management employees.

“But we are aware of the situation and its intended effect,” she said. “Business owners have to pay attention to new rules that are being considered.”

Caporale said there are companies that tend to overwork their middle management people.

“We’ve owned other businesses that included salaried managers, but we never wanted them to work 60 hours a week. People need to spend time with their families,” she said. “You have to treat them fairly.”

The rules revised in 2004 are from the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. The administration believes those regulations are outdated and allow overtime pay to be held from too many workers.

It could take a couple of years for the Labor Department to develop new rules.

“The rules will probably impact us, but as far as how much it could cost or who would be affected, without more details we won’t be able to say,” said Matt Reed, treasurer for Marietta City Schools.

Jonathan Hupp, safety-service director for the city of Marietta, said city employees are already covered for overtime through time-and-a-half pay or they can choose to take compensatory time off. Some department heads, including supervisors in the streets and water departments, also can choose to receive overtime or comp time when they work extra hours.

Top-level administrators cannot be paid overtime, but they are able to take compensatory time off.

Darla Miller, Washington County director of human resources, said county employees are basically treated the same as the city workers.

“In the county we have a large number of employees who are not exempt from overtime, and they can take the time-and-a-half pay or comp time,” she said. “But without knowing what the Labor Department recommendations will be, we can’t say if those new overtime rules will impact the county.”