Last month the Department of Labor announced that the final rule changing the Executive, Administrative and Professional Exemptions under the FLSA, the so called white collar exemptions, is expected to be released in July 2016. After the final rule is released the changes will likely become law 60 to 90 days later. The proposed changes will increase the annual minimum salary for these exemptions from $23,660 to $50,440. And, while there has been no announcement yet, it is still possible that the final rule will change the duties test for these exemptions which could greatly impact what employees qualify as exempt.
Now is the time for employers to begin planning on how to deal with these changes. Certainly, if there is a change to the duties test the change will likely be to narrow the exemption. Employers should conduct an analysis to determine whether it is more economically beneficial to increase the salary of some exempt employees, or reclassify them as nonexempt and pay them overtime. If the decision is made to continue to treat the employees as exempt employers should analyze whether any of that increase in salary can be passed on to their customers and if so, how much.
The analysis should also focus on the duties of every employee that is currently classified as exempt. If there is doubt about whether a particular employee is properly qualified as exempt the employer should determine whether that employee can be given additional duties and responsibilities to remove doubt about the exemption. If that is not possible the employer should consider how to best go about reclassifying the employee.
Reclassification may be viewed as an insult to some employees, so this must be considered in determining how to approach and resolve the issue. Also, employers must determine whether they will increase the pay of reclassified employees, in an effort to soften the blow of reclassification.
Proactive employers who conduct these analyses now will save themselves headaches in the future and be well positioned to comply with the new law as soon as it takes effect.