“C’mon! I was on a roll!”
My first job out of college was as a non-exempt clerical, and I wasn’t a very “good fit.” The work aside, I chafed at the rigid rules about start times-stop times-breaks-lunch hours-quitting times. If there was some work that I wanted to finish up and it was “lunch time,” I couldn’t take the extra 15 minutes needed to get it done. I had to stop right then and there, and go to lunch, or at least stop working. I couldn’t start early or stay late, even if I was on a roll.
Well, come December 1, you can take my experience and multiply it by 4.2 million, the number of currently exempt workers in the United States who, according to the Obama Administration, will now become non-exempt under the Final Rule on white-collar exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
But isn’t becoming non-exempt a good thing? Because now these workers will get overtime whenever they work more than 40 hours in a week?
Yes, they will be eligible for overtime, but that won’t not necessarily be viewed as a net “positive.” Studies have shown that many exempt employees who are reclassified to non-exempt view it as a negative change in status equivalent to a demotion. Some may have cuts in their rates of pay to allow the employer to pay overtime without paying more in real dollars. Some may be prohibited from working overtime — in other words, getting all the “penalty” (loss of status) and no reward (overtime pay). Some may lose their flexibility in hours, or their ability to work from home. In addition, the obligation to track their time will be viewed by them (as well as their employers) as a new administrative headache.
In short, the mass reclassification that will have to take effect by December 1 has the makings for an employee morale nightmare.
Here are a few tips for employers to make the transition to “new non-exempt” less painful for the affected employees: