Working Washington submitted the following comments to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries as part of their official rulemaking process.
May 1, 2018
Re: Executive, Administrative, Professional (“EAP”) Overtime Rule Initial Feedback
Dear Director Sacks and Deputy Director Smith,
On behalf of Working Washington’s 100,000 members and supporters across the state, thank you for beginning the process of updating Washington State’s overtime rules.
Overtime pay is a fundamental labor standard, so exemptions should be few, narrow, clearly-defined, and well justified. When making rules to reset the erosion of basic overtime protections, we request that Washington State Labor and Industries (L&I) consider the following items:
Overtime should be the default, not the exception: The single most important way employers signal a worker’s special Executive, Administrative, or Professional status is through the amount of money they pay them. The state’s rules should reflect this common-sense workplace reality by establishing the highest possible threshold which includes the greatest number of workers. While the average weekly wage and past high marks in the 1970s are useful data points to consider, the rules should be crafted with the assumption that the default is that workers get overtime — so pay should have to be significantly above average for an exemption to be reasonable. The rules should ensure that substantially more people are covered by overtime pay than exempted from it.
The state should move quickly and make up for lost tim: Workers have been waiting for updated standards for decades, and the current Federal threshold of less than $24,000 is so low compared to our minimum wage that there is functionally no salary threshold in Washington right now. The cost of inaction on workers’ paychecks and on our economy will mount even during the rulemaking period, so any additional week of delay should require additional justification.
The duties test should be clear, simple, and easily understandable by workers and front-line managers: It should be self-evident which workers are in the small group exempted from overtime protections, and it should be based on the work they do, not easily-manipulated job titles. In addition to the simple clarity provided by a high salary threshold, L&I should craft a simple duties test that higher-paid workers and smaller employers can easily understand without need for excessive administrative enforcement resources or case-by-case adjudication.
- The state should model the positive impacts of strengthening overtime standards, not simply indulge the same-old Chicken Little scenario: Since Washington State first established a minimum wage more than a hundred years ago, business lobby groups have claimed the sky would fall every time there’s a discussion about raising labor standards. And yet we’ve substantially raised standards in our state in recent years and the sky remains aloft — in fact, our state’s economy is among the strongest in the nation. The state should take an approach to studying the economic impact of updated overtime standards which reflects the lived reality of the positive impact of other labor standards. More specifically, the state should:
Model the positive economic impact of higher pay for salaried workers who will see a raise when they receive the overtime pay they deserve. oney paid to workers will go right back into the economy, creating economic growth and new jobs. This is particularly true of money which is returned from distant corporate headquarters to Washington workers’ paychecks.
Account for the positive impacts of more balanced schedules and fewer work hours for salaried workers who will see a reduction in time demands. There is ample evidence that having a more balanced schedule is linked to positive outcomes in personal and family health; children’s school performance; and community involvement. All of these have a significant impact on the state economy and should be accounted for in your evaluation.
Consider impacts on productivity and injury rates. The state should consider evidence suggesting that productivity declines with extended work hours, and that injury rates increase as hours grow long. Both have significant economic impacts on workers, families, employers, and the state economy over time.
Explore the substantial current cost to the economy of the lost income to workers over the past several decade ue to the erosion of the overtime threshold. Since the overtime threshold was at its peak, income inequality has grown significantly in Washington State.
Thank you for considering these items as you begin the critical work of updating labor standards for workers in our state.