Looking ahead: Wage and hour laws in 2019
This could very well be a big year for employers, but it’s unlikely that federal regulations will be the cause of any changes in wage or hour legislation.
For her part, Brown says she wishes many states would slow down a little. “I’m not normally a proponent for saying, ‘Let the federal law get involved,’” she says, but Brown admits that allowing 50 different states to all pass their own rules is tough on employers.
“What’s happened in the interim is that the states have moved forward, and now we have this mishmash of different approaches and different locations, which just makes it harder for employers,” she says. “So in many ways, if we’re going to wind up there anyway and have these kinds of regulations, I do wish that we would go ahead and do it on the federal level.”
Brown also points out that some states, including California, also seem to forget there are areas where the federal law is surprisingly stringent. She reminds employers to not just focus on state and local issues but to keep an eye on the federal side as well if they want to stay out of trouble.
And speaking of federal legislation, if you’ve been following the epic saga of the new overtime law, you might be aware that for now, changes are still on hold. This new regulation, if passed, would impact millions of workers across the country. Essentially, it would bring up the overtime salary threshold from $23,000 to some higher number, giving salaried employees who previously didn’t qualify the chance to earn overtime pay.
When the law was first proposed in 2016, that bar was set at $47,476. Since then, there have been rumors of a cap at $33,000. The only similarity is that from the beginning, the idea of such a major change has left employers holding a ticking time bomb.
Some made changes on their own, back when the law was first passed but not yet put into action. When the law was suspended by another judge, those who’d already made the change were left with an ethical dilemma — could they take back what had already been done?
Since then, employers have, to a degree, been living on borrowed time. Like so many wage and hour laws changing the economic and professional landscape, a new overtime threshold isn’t really in the realm of “will it happen” but “when.” And judging by the responses from our experts, it’s likely that if the feds don’t act soon, many states won’t have a problem stepping in to pass their own versions — for better or worse.