A decision from the U.S. Department of Labor has made it possible for 1.3 million more salaried workers to collect overtime pay. The federal government has lifted the salary threshold for mandatory overtime pay to $35,568. In 2016, the Obama administration had set the threshold at roughly $47,000, but a federal court judge in Texas had deemed the threshold too high and therefore likely to include too many salaried managers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has agreed to settle a wage and hour dispute with employees for a total of $11 million. Texas and federal laws require employers to make certain minimum payments to employees, including obeying minimum wage requirements and paying overtime to qualified employees. The settlement agreement in the CDC case came after claims were made by employees that they were not being paid overtime by the agency. The union that represents the employees made a grievance filing in May 2016.
Many Texans rely on overtime pay as a significant portion of their income. If an employee works beyond 40 hours in a workweek and gets paid hourly, they should receive overtime. Unfortunately, there are employers who will deprive workers of these wages by using various illegal tactics. If you are confronted by this violation, there are legal remedies to pursue.
The Border Patrol Pay Security Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar from the 28th Congressional district of Texas, would improve pay for agents working for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If approved, H.R. 2335 would allow border agents to regain access to overtime compensation as was previously called for within the Fair Labor Standards Act. By reinstating overtime pay for specific duties, the act would align pay for border agents with the compensation earned by other federal law enforcement agents.
Texas workers can face serious problems on the job, including violation of wage and hour laws. The Texas Workforce Commission has identified thousands of businesses that are engaged in wage theft each year. In some cases, workers are falsely classified as independent contractors when they are actually employees; in other cases, companies refuse to pay out overtime wages or any pay at all. Each year, companies are ordered to pay around $10 million in back wages to workers who file complaints. Even then, around half of the judgments are never paid, and there are few consequences for the recalcitrant companies.
The Department of Labor has proposed a rule that would make a large number of people in the Houston area and across Texas available for overtime pay. The rule is still subject to a comment period of 60 days, but it would change the salary cap for non-management overtime eligibility nationwide beginning in 2020. The salary cap would be raised to $35,308 from $23,660. On a weekly basis, the cap would be raised to $679 from $455.
Workers in the Houston area may be under new guidelines regarding overtime in the future, but it is unclear how long the process will take. In May 2016, an overtime rule issued by the Department of Labor raised the minimum salary allowing so-called "white-collar" exemptions to overtime to $47,476 from $23,660. The "highly compensated" exemption level went to $134,004 from $100,000. Furthermore, every three years, there were supposed to be automatic increases.
Most employers in Texas make a good faith attempt to pay their workers correctly, but abuses do occur. Sometimes, employers fail to pay people what they are owed by ignoring overtime laws, miscalculating wages or applying the wrong wages. When these issues happen, employees might need to seek a court order to force employers to comply.
Some employees in the Houston area who work on-call hours may be entitled to overtime pay they are not getting. A nurse in Ohio filed a claim against her workplace where she was required to be on call on alternating weekends. The hospital paid her regular rate.
The United States Department of Labor is contemplating a change that could affect overtime laws for workers in Texas. The Fair Labor Standards Act has set a threshold salary below which workers must be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours in a week. The DOL intends to raise the threshold amount but has pushed back the change until March 2019.