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How will new federal overtime rules affect college and university employees?

You may have heard that the Department of Labor has issued new rules for overtime pay.

How will those rules affect people who work in higher education?

In this post, we will address that question.

Background of the new rules

Currently, if you are classified as a salaried worker and make more than $23,660 per year, you aren't eligible for overtime. Beginning in December 2016, that threshold increases to 47,476 per year.

The Obama administration estimates that this change could make more than 4 million workers eligible for overtime.

The last time there was an adjustment in overtime pay rules was 12 years ago, despite an ongoing rise in the cost-of-living.

Labor advocates believe that the raise will help keep employers from deliberately misclassifying them as managers to avoid paying overtime.

How employers are responding

It is entirely possible that the Obama administration has been too rosy in its projections of how many workers will actually get overtime under the new rule.

Many employers may change salaried employees to hourly employees. If that happens, your morale could take a hit without really increasing pay. If you are salaried and your position gets reclassified as hourly, it may seem like a demotion.

The higher education context

Universities and colleges expect to be very much effected when the rule is implemented.

Kate Andrias, a labor law professor at the University of Michigan, was associate counsel to President Barack Obama when the administration was considering the new overtime rules. She believes that the new rules could have a significant impact on postdoctoral fellowship recipients.

Indeed, such an impact on postdocs is likely, given the increase in the threshold level for overtime pay.

What is already clear is that there is considerable concern in academia about the impact of the new rule. It remains to be seen, however, whether that concern will translate into any concrete proposal in Congress to change it.

Know where you stand

If you work in higher education and about how overtime laws apply to you, it makes to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about employment law.

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