- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A new federal rule that requires public and private employers to pay overtime to some salaried workers could affect more than 4,000 state employees in Arkansas.

The U.S. Department of Labor rule that goes into effect in December means that 4,032 of the 27,265 employees working for some state agencies would be eligible for overtime or compensatory time, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/29ozZJ7 ).

Jake Bleed, spokesman for the state Department of Finance and Administration, said the agency is reviewing job classifications and salary schedules to prepare for the rule’s effects. Bleed said he did not know how agencies will respond or what the cost could be to taxpayers.

Currently, salaried employees are ineligible to receive overtime pay if they earn $23,660 or more a year. Under the new labor rule, which has drawn criticism from the business community, the new threshold will be $47,476, with some exceptions for a few types of salaried workers.

Labor Department officials predict that nationwide, the new rule will affect 4.2 million employees, the majority of whom are women. The group includes about 460,000 public employees, only 2.4 percent of the roughly 18.55 million public employees in the nation.

Laura Fortman, a deputy administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, said the rule was crafted after officials received hundreds of thousands of public comments.

In the 1970s, about 62 percent of salaried employees were eligible to receive overtime. Right now, that figure is about 7 percent, Fortman said.

Fortman said “2.4 million children will have at least one parent who will be impacted by this regulation. This is a significant step toward making sure middle-class jobs pay appropriate middle-class wages so that people will either see an increase in their pay or more time with their family.”

Earlier this year, Gov. Asa Hutchinson wrote to the Labor Department to warn that the new rule would hurt the nonprofit and business sectors in the state. But the governor’s office is working with state finance officials on how Arkansas government will operate under the new labor requirements, spokesman J.R. Davis said.

“The federal government refused to pull the rule, thus, Arkansas has no choice but to implement it,” Davis said in a statement.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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