Millions of working people are working overtime but not getting paid for it because business interests have successfully challenged a 2016 rule that would have protected them. Federal law requires that people working more than 40 hours a week be paid 1.5 times their pay rate for the extra hours, but allows employers to exempt salaried workers who make above a certain threshold and are deemed to have executive, administrative, or professional duties. Basically, the threshold is supposed to help protect workers with little bargaining power—for example, modestly compensated front-line supervisors at fast food restaurants—from being forced to work unpaid overtime. But the overtime pay threshold has been so eroded by inflation that people earning as little as $455 per week (the equivalent of $23,660 per year) can be forced to work 60 or more hours a week for no more pay than if they worked 40 hours.
A district court judge blocked a 2016 Obama Labor Department rule that would have raised the overtime pay salary threshold to $47,476. While the Trump Labor Department plans to appeal the judge’s order, department officials have repeatedly indicated that they would prefer a salary threshold far below $47,476. Setting the salary threshold below the 2016 level would roll back a long overdue wage increase for American workers.