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New overtime rules may kill telecommuting

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in Human Resources,Overtime Labor Laws

The buzz in Washington suggests the new Department of Labor rules on white-collar overtime will be released within days. (Keep up with the latest developments at www.theHRSpecialist.com/overtime2016.) Overhauling the salary threshold that determines who is eligible for OT pay is sure to be fraught with unintended consequences.

Example: It could reverse the recent tide of workers who do their jobs remotely, out of sight of their bosses.

According to a recent Gallup poll, about 37% of employees telecommuted at least occasionally in 2015. Many of today’s telecommuters hold white-collar positions typically classified as exempt.

It’s easy to see why. Employers don’t have to worry about tracking every minute exempt employees work because they are not covered by overtime rules. They generally work as long and as hard as necessary to make sure their jobs get done.

That may change soon. Under the new DOL rules, many previously exempt telecommuters will suddenly be eligible for overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week.

The DOL will probably raise the salary threshold for exempt professional, administrative or executive employees to somewhere near $47,000 to $50,000. That means some employers will have to rethink exempt status for their telecommuters unless they want to raise salaries to meet the new minimum.

In fact, employers that convert some of those telecommuters into hourly employees may even have to reconsider the telecommuting altogether. Here’s why: Employees who may have logged into the computer system at odd hours, working a bit here and there, will have to be paid for that time. That email sent from Starbucks? It’s suddenly compensable time.

One solution is to set strict working hours.

Another is to revoke telecommuting arrangements and bring newly hourly workers back to the office, where their hours can be closely monitored and limited.

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