If you make less than $50,000 per year, you will soon be entitled to overtime pay. “Me?” you wonder, glancing around with uncertainty. Yes: You.
We are referring here to the Department of Labor’s overtime rule, which is widely expected to be updated some time later this summer. Though we won’t have an official number until the rule is final, it now appears that even if you are a salaried employee or some sort of “manager,” you will still be entitled to time-and-a-half pay for working more than 40 hours per week, as long as your total salary falls under the threshold. The DOL itself promotes this Wall Street Journal story which says that “ The threshold would be increased to $970, or $50,440 annually. That level is about the 40th percentile of weekly earnings for salaried workers.”
This rule has been a matter of political contention for years. But now that it is actually approaching, its import is becoming clear: overtime pay, which has long been isolated to a minority of workers, is about to be extended to almost the entire middle class. This is a very big fucking deal. Nick Hanauer, a billionaire activist who pushed for the rule change, told us last year that “The overtime threshold is to the middle class as the minimum wage is to low-wage workers.” The battle to raise the minimum wage has gotten more attention, but the battle to raise the overtime threshold could have a similar impact. One report estimates that nearly half of black or Hispanic workers or single mothers could see their pay newly increase thanks to the rule change.
If your employer doesn’t like it, they can either raise your pay over $50K, or stop asking you to work extremely long hours without overtime pay.
Naturally, places that are used to having employees work long hours without paying overtime are worried. Colleges and universities are worried. Restaurants are worried. And, we must point out as a site founded on media news, the media should be fucking concerned as well. Reporters, editors, and other editorial employees routinely work more than 40 hours a week. Outside of the relatively small portion of well-compensated media jobs in major cities, most members of the press across America are paid pretty poorly. (Gawker Media recently negotiated a union contract that ensures all of our editorial employees are paid above $50K, but the same will not necessarily be true for other newly unionized digital media outlets that are currently negotiating their contracts, and it certainly is not true for many non-union media outlets.) We are about to enter a new age in which the average reporter—the small-town newspaper reporter covering high school softball games, the content farm slave driven to get up ten posts a day, the new jack TV guy up late listening to police scanners—will be able to charge his employer overtime when he works more than 40 hours a week. In an industry full of seen-it-all cynics, that qualifies as something new.
If you are paid under $50K per year, prepare to start keeping track of your hours. A new day is about to dawn.