Wage and Hour

USDOL Reissues 17 Opinion Letters That Were Withdrawn in 2009

January 23, 2018

By Subhash Viswanathan

On January 5, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division reissued 17 opinion letters that were withdrawn in 2009, shortly after President Obama began his first term in office.  The USDOL under the Obama administration withdrew the 17 opinion letters on March 2, 2009, stating that they were being withdrawn “for further consideration” and that it would “provide a further response in the near future.”  However, it does not appear that the USDOL actually revisited any of the opinion letters that had been withdrawn, so the USDOL under the Trump administration has now reissued those opinion letters and has renumbered them as FLSA2018-1 through FLSA2018-17.

Read More >> USDOL Reissues 17 Opinion Letters That Were Withdrawn in 2009

Reminder: New York Minimum Wage Rates and Salary Thresholds for the Executive and Administrative Exemptions Will Increase on December 31, 2017

December 21, 2017

By Subhash Viswanathan

Although the minimum wage rate under the Fair Labor Standards Act remains $7.25 per hour and the U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts to raise the minimum salary to qualify for a white-collar exemption under federal law have stalled, employers in New York should be aware that the state minimum wage rate and the state salary threshold to qualify for the executive and administrative exemptions will increase effective December 31, 2017.

The increases to the state minimum wage effective December 31, 2017, are as follows:

  • Employers outside of New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties:  $10.40 per hour
  • Employers in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties:  $11.00 per hour
  • Employers in New York City with 10 or fewer employees:  $12.00 per hour
  • Employers in New York City with 11 or more employees:  $13.00 per hour

Fast food employees will be entitled to an even higher wage rate effective December 31, 2017, as follows:

  • Fast food employees outside of New York City:  $11.75 per hour
  • Fast food employees in New York City:  $13.50 per hour

The salary threshold to qualify for the executive and administrative exemptions effective December 31, 2017, are as follows:

  • Employers outside of New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties:  $780.00 per week
  • Employers in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties:  $825.00 per week
  • Employers in New York City with 10 or fewer employees:  $900.00 per week
  • Employers in New York City with 11 or more employees:  $975.00 per week

New York does not set a salary threshold to qualify for the professional exemption, so employees must meet the current federal salary threshold of $455.00 per week to qualify for the professional exemption.  For all of the white-collar exemptions, employees must also meet the applicable duties requirements.

A chart summarizing the minimum wage rates, tip credits, uniform maintenance allowances, meal and lodging credits, and exempt salary thresholds under the Miscellaneous Industries Wage Order can be found here.  A chart summarizing this same information under the Hospitality Industry Wage Order can be found here.

New York Proposes New “Call-In” Pay and Scheduling Requirements

November 14, 2017

By Andrew D. Bobrek

Employers in New York will be subject to new “call-in” pay and scheduling requirements under recently-proposed state Regulations.  Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced these proposed Regulations, which the New York State Department of Labor (“DOL”) will reportedly publish in the State Register on November 22, 2017.

New York regulators have recently focused their enforcement sights on the so-called “just-in-time” or “on-demand” scheduling of workers.  According to Governor Cuomo, this practice entails the scheduling or cancelling of a worker’s shift with little or no advance notice.  At the Governor’s direction, the DOL recently held hearings across the state on this issue, which then led to issuance of the proposed Regulations.

If enacted, the proposed Regulations would amend New York’s catch-all “Miscellaneous Industries” minimum wage order, including those portions applicable to non-exempt “nonprofitmaking institutions” across the state.

Call-In Pay Under Current New York Law

Under the Miscellaneous Industries minimum wage order, non-exempt employees who report to work are currently entitled to call-in pay equal to the lesser of four hours of pay or pay for the number of hours in the regularly-scheduled shift, at the state minimum wage rate.  Notably, the DOL has interpreted this provision, such that it only effectively applies to non-exempt workers who earn at or very near the state minimum wage.  In this regard, the DOL previously stated in Opinion Letter No. RO-09-0133, dated December 2, 2009:  “[I]f the amount paid to an employee for the workweek exceeds the minimum and overtime rate for the number of hours worked and the minimum wage rate for any call-in pay owed, no additional payment for call-in pay is required during that workweek.” (emphasis added).

In other words, under DOL’s interpretation, New York employers could potentially apply an “offset” — for amounts paid to workers above the state minimum wage and overtime rates during the same workweek — against any “call-in” pay otherwise due to workers.

Additionally, under current law, employers are generally free to schedule, and, when necessary, cancel shifts before employees report for work, without incurring any additional payment obligation.

Call-In Pay Under the Newly-Proposed DOL Regulations

  • The recently-proposed Regulations would create a number of new circumstances when non-exempt employees will be eligible to receive “call-in” pay, including the following:
  • Employees who report to work for a shift that was not scheduled at least 14 days in advance will be entitled to an additional two hours of call-in pay;
  • Employees whose shifts are cancelled within 72 hours of the start of that shift will be entitled to at least four hours of call-in pay;
  • Employees who are required to be on-call and available to report to work for any shift will be entitled to at least four hours of call-in pay; and
  • Employees who are required to be in contact with their employer, within 72 hours of the start of a shift, to confirm whether or not to report to work for that shift will be entitled to four hours of call-in pay.

Under the Regulations, the above call-in pay must be calculated at the current state minimum wage rate (which now varies by location and workforce size) without any allowances, and employees must receive their “regular rate” for their actual time of attendance.  However, these new requirements will not apply to otherwise covered employees whose weekly wages exceed 40 times the applicable state minimum wage.

The proposed Regulations will also replace current “call-in” pay requirements with the following:

  • Employees who report to work for any shift will be entitled to at least four hours of call-in pay.

Notably, the proposed Regulations state:  “Call-in pay shall not be offset by the required use of leave time, or by payments in excess of those required under” the applicable minimum wage order.  Although this provision is not entirely clear on its face, conceivably, it was drafted with the intent of curtailing application of the above-referenced weekly “offset” provided under prior DOL interpretation.

Finally, the proposed Regulations state that the above requirements will not apply to certain employees “who are covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement that expressly provides for call-in pay.”  Further, the requirements may not apply in certain other circumstances, such as when a business cannot begin or continue operations due to a state of emergency or other “Act of God” beyond its control.

Employers should also be mindful that New York City recently passed a similar law that will become effective on November 26, 2017.  This other local law places somewhat similar requirements on retail employers, and also places additional requirements on certain fast food establishments.

According to DOL, the proposed Regulations will be subject to a 45-day comment period after official publishing.  We will update this article with any further developments, and will be announcing a free webinar on the proposed Regulations in the coming days.

If you have any questions about this issue in the meantime, please contact Andrew D. Bobrek, any of the attorneys in our Labor and Employment Law Practice, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Author’s Note:  A special thanks to Richard White, who assisted in drafting this article.

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Request for Information on White Collar Exemption Regulations

July 26, 2017

By Subhash Viswanathan

Today, July 26, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor (“USDOL”) published a Request for Information (“RFI”) in the Federal Register regarding the regulations defining the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) exemptions for executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, and computer employees.  Public comments can be submitted by any of the methods set forth in the RFI by September 25, 2017.

Before summarizing some of the subjects on which the USDOL is soliciting input from the public, here is a quick review of the history of the USDOL’s efforts to revise its FLSA white collar exemption regulations.  As you certainly recall (who can forget?), the USDOL issued final regulations last year increasing the salary threshold from $455.00 per week to $913.00 per week in order to qualify for the executive, administrative, professional, and computer employee exemptions.  Those regulations were supposed become effective December 1, 2016.  However, shortly before the effective date, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the USDOL from implementing its revised regulations based on its holding that Congress intended the white collar exemptions to be defined with regard to duties — not with regard to a minimum salary level.  The USDOL appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In its recent reply brief, the USDOL stated that it no longer wishes to argue in support of the $913.00 salary level, but instead only intends to argue that it has the authority to establish a salary level test for the white collar exemptions.  The USDOL informed the Fifth Circuit that it intends to undertake further rulemaking to determine what the appropriate salary level should be if the Court holds that it has the authority to establish a minimum salary level.

The USDOL’s publication of this RFI is a preliminary step toward its issuance of a notice of proposed rulemaking.  There are many questions posed by the USDOL in its RFI.  Some noteworthy questions are:

  • Would updating the 2004 salary level ($455.00 per week) for inflation be an appropriate basis for setting the standard salary level and, if so, what measure of inflation should be used?
  • Should the regulations contain multiple standard salary levels and, if so, how should these levels be set:  by size of employer, census region, census division, state, metropolitan statistical area, or some other method?
  • Should the regulations contain different salary levels for the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions?
  • To what extent did employers, in anticipation of the implementation of the $913.00 per week salary level, increase salaries of exempt employees to retain their exempt status?
  • To what extent did employers intend to convert exempt employees to non-exempt status in anticipation of the implementation of the $913.00 per week salary level, but change their implicit hourly rates so that the total amount paid would remain the same even with overtime?
  • Would a duties-only test for the white collar exemptions be preferable?
  • Should the salary levels be automatically updated on a periodic basis and, if so, what mechanism and what time period should be used for the automatic updates?

It is a positive development for employers that the USDOL no longer intends to defend the increase in the minimum salary level to $913.00 per week in order to qualify for the executive, administrative, professional, and computer employee exemptions.  However, the USDOL will likely propose some changes to its white collar exemption regulations upon receipt of input from the public with respect to its RFI and after the Fifth Circuit issues its decision.  Those proposed changes could include an increase in the minimum salary level, but such a proposed increase will almost certainly not be as drastic as the one that nearly went into effect last year.