Yesterday, the Department of Labor announced the new salary threshold for certain employees to qualify as exempt from minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act’s White Collar Exemptions.
Effective December 1, 2016, the new minimum salary level will be $47,476 per year ($913 per week). Up to 10% of this income may come in the form of non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay, or commissions, as long as that portion of the compensation is paid at least quarterly. In the event that an employee does not earn enough in bonuses and commissions to meet the full minimum salary requirement, a catch-up payment can be made by the employer once a quarter.
The minimum salary requirement applies to all white collar workers who are classified as exempt executive or administrative employees, and to many who are classified as exempt professional employees. As anticipated, the duties tests for the White Collar Exemptions have not changed.
Under the new rules, this salary threshold will increase every three years. It will be set at the 40th percentile of weekly earnings among full-time salaried (not necessarily exempt) employees in the country’s lowest income region – currently the South. It is expected that the next change, which will be effective January 1, 2020, will increase the minimum salary to approximately $51,168.
The new rule also increases the minimum salary threshold for the Highly Compensated Employee (HCE) exemption from $100,000 per year to $134,004 per year. This exemption can be used when an employee carries out a limited number of executive, administrative, or professional duties, but is very well-compensated. The new rule sets the HCE threshold at the 90th percentile of all full-time salaried workers nationally. This number will also increase every three years, and is expected to rise to approximately $147,524 on January 1, 2020.
Some state laws create different minimum salary levels. When state laws differ from the FLSA, an employer must comply with the standard most beneficial to employees. Presently, the federal minimum salary level is higher than any state-mandated minimum, and therefore must be followed.