Confusion Reigns for OT Rules New Regulations Take Effect Monday, but Impact on Illinois Could Be Limited
Kukec, Anna Marie, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Anna Marie Kukec Daily Herald Business Writer
While much of the country will go under new federal overtime regulations this week, Illinois workers and their employers likely will be confused.
Do they fall under Illinois law, which Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed in April, or under the U.S. Department of Labor regulations that go into effect starting Monday?
Depending on who you talk to, it could be both. Lawyers, government officials and company executives have been grappling with hundreds of pages of both federal and state regulations that detail when and if an employee is eligible for overtime pay.
"It's been total confusion," said Jeffrey A. Risch, a lawyer with St. Charles-based Wessels & Pautsch, a law firm serving small and mid-sized businesses, with many calling for advice.
The U.S. Department of Labor believes its new regulations will strengthen overtime rights for 6.7 million American workers, including 1.3 million low-wage workers who were denied overtime under the old rules.
The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington think tank, says 6 million will lose, and only a few will get new rights to premium pay for working more than 40 hours a week.
However, Illinois officials believe if companies were in compliance with state overtime laws before, they will continue to be so this week, said Connie Knutti, manager of field enforcement for the Illinois Department of Labor.
"We believe Illinois' law is stricter, but it keeps the status quo," said Knutti. "If an Illinois company was in compliance before, there's no change, except for the salary threshold."
Illinois Senate Bill 1645 was signed into law in April to ensure that much of the state's long-standing overtime regulations - in effect before the new federal changes - will remain in tact. Besides Illinois, about a dozen other states have opted for their own overtime regulations, Knutti said.
The federal government overhauled the Fair Labor Standards Act for the first time since 1938. Under the new FairPay rules, workers earning less than $23,660 per year (or $455 per week) are guaranteed overtime pay. Coupled with salary, more job descriptions and specific duties will help employers define positions in three main categories of executive, administrative and professional.
The federal government also includes new positions, such as computer programmer and software technician that evolved with the technology boom.
"Back in 1938, the federal law defined engineers as those who ran locomotives," said Gary Hansen, legislative action director of the Society for Human Resources Management. "Today, you have software engineers, electrical engineers, civil engineers. The list goes on."
Hansen also is vice president of human resources at Aurora-based Westell Technologies Inc., which has about 800 employees. After facing new regulations, Hansen's department had to review all Westell job descriptions, duties, pay scales and related issues. …