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New overtime laws give help to middle class

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Update: Since this story was originally published, a federal judge in Texas has put the new overtime rules on hold by issuing a preliminary injunction, in response to a pair of cases brought by business groups and 21 states. The delay will stand until the judge renders a decision, or the federal government seeks an appeal.

There is good news for hard working Americans coming next month. Of course, now that Donald Trump has been elected president, the landscape has changed, and that good news may not last very long.

Welcome pay boost

On December 1, 2016, a new Labor Department regulation goes into effect requiring employers of most salaried workers earning up to $47,476 a year to receive time-and-a-half overtime pay when they work more than forty hours during a week.

Currently people making salaries of more than $23,660 are not eligible for overtime. Raising the cutoff means an additional four million workers will soon be entitled to overtime, in addition to the nine million who already are entitled to it.

The regulation was pushed through by the Obama Administration to help the middle class. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said this was an important issue for President Obama – fairness for working Americans. “The middle class is getting clobbered,” Mr. Biden said. “If you work overtime, you should actually get paid for working overtime.” He added that 60 percent of salaried workers qualified for overtime in 1975 based on their salaries, but only 7 percent qualified today.

Making it work

Some employers opposed this new regulation, saying that it could cost billions of dollars and would undermine the morale of salaried employees by requiring them to account for every hour of their workdays.

Certain categories of workers, like teachers, doctors and outside sales representatives, continue to be exempt from the regulation, though academics primarily engaged in research are not.

Americans work hard. We work more hours annually than our counterparts in other developed countries. Companies benefit from all that labor, and the employees should be compensated for it. This is a positive step forward, reflecting basic decency and fairness in the workplace.

Will a President Trump keep these hard-won benefits? The new regulations may become an early test for whether Trump remains true to his middle-class base, or embraces the standard pro-business (and thus, often anti-worker) policies of the Republican Party he now unquestionably leads.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Avvo.