This past year has brought major changes to the laws affecting wage and hour issues. The Department of Labor has been particularly active this year putting out its first Administrator’s Interpretation regarding independent contractors. The Department of Labor also made a big splash with its long anticipated proposed new regulations to update the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white collar” exemptions. Also, the Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue of what is work time with its ruling in Busk v Integrity Staffing Solutions that time spent in pre and post security checks is not compensable time. Finally, the Second Circuit rejected the Department of Labor’s test to determine who is properly classified as an unpaid intern. When looked at as a whole, the issues of who is an employee, who is exempt from minimum wage and overtime, and what is compensable time has changed dramatically. While these court decisions and administrative rules are specific, they will have a broad effect on the way some companies do business.
Now is the time for employers to make sure they are in compliance with the wage and hour laws. These changes to the law create a unique opportunity for employers to come into compliance where they may have not done so in the past. Knowing and understanding the law is the first step to implementing necessary changes for employers to prepare their businesses for the future and to avoid liability. This is especially true in Florida where the plaintiff’s bar is still very active and they are still filing an unprecedented number of wage and hour law suits.
The greatest change this year will be the implementation of the Department of Labor’s new regulations regarding the white collar exemptions. The proposed regulations increase the salary level necessary to qualify as exempt from $23,600 to $50,440 in 2016. The salary for the highly paid exemption will also be increased from $100,000 to $122,148. Importantly, there is a mechanism imbedded in the regulations which would automatically increase these salaries every year. This change will turn many who are currently treated as exempt to non-exempt employees. Perhaps more significant to businesses is how they will deal with this change and whether they will be able to do so without significantly increasing labor costs.