Big changes a foot: Attorneys shed light on negotiating new wage, overtime eligibility

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By Greg Markley
Opelika Observer

As a child in California, Jonathan Martin wanted to be a stuntman. Instead he became an attorney specializing in the management side of labor law. But last Friday, he was like a stunt man as he deftly explained a complicated new federal regulation. Attendees at the EAMC Health Resource Center, most who work in Opelika, learned about the U.S. Department of Labor changes from Martin and attorney Thomas Eden.
“Our focus is on the Fair Standards Labor Act (FSLA),” Martin reflected. “It’s like the tax code, they just make this stuff up. The devil is in the details.” This duo from the law firm of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete talked about common problems and issues with “this complex law, with its unique adaptations with minimum wage and overtime,” as Martin said.
Wanda Lewis, president of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County, said the seminar provided solid answers to questions on the impact of the new wage and hour regulations on her non-profit organization. She added, “Other Boys and Girls Club organizations could greatly profit from this type of session.”
On May 17, the Obama administration announced it was making over four million more employees eligible for overtime pay. There will be a review period and implementation is on Dec. 1. A lot of workers will receive more pay when they work overtime, but many others may be forced into working fewer hours as employers cut those workers’ work time.
“Communication is your number one activity to be engaged in,” said Eden. He noted that proving overtime work requires tracking the hours on SmartPhones and on emails for compensatory time.
Under these highly significant DOL changes, there are three categories for wage determination: Salaried Employee, or exempt but passes the “duty” test; Hourly Employee, or always paid overtime; and Salary-Not Exempt, or known as “White Collar Exemptions”.
Opelikans and everyone else affected by this new regulation should heed the advice of former President Reagan, according to Martin. “Great communicators are great simplifiers,” Reagan had said. Martin and Eden are guided by that philosophy as they deal with this major issue; they stress the importance of weeding out distractors and extraneous materials.

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