Economics

Fair Labor Standards Act overtime rule:

Tom Spiggle likes to fight for the underdog. So much so that in 2009 he left his job as a federal prosecutor to open The Spiggle Law Firm so he could focus on employment law. He thought that legal protection for employees in the U.S. was sparse, and that the laws that were in place needed to be enforced. So he swooped in, figuratively donned in a superhero cape, to fight the good fight.

"Employment law can be extraordinarily complicated and I felt there was a need to focus on this area to be able to help people who face these kinds of situations. A lot of people are one paycheck away from losing their home or car and facing really serious issues,” said Spiggle.

“The Suit” asked Spiggle to weigh in on the May 18, 2016 announcement from President Obama and the U.S. Department of Labor that told the country about the final rule of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which extends overtime pay eligibility to over 4 million workers. From his Arlington, Virginia office, he explained how the rule impacts employees and employers.

“The Obama administration has now set the pay threshold at $913 per week, which is just under $48,000 a year. That means if a worker makes anything less than that, the employer has to pay time-and-a-half for any hours over 40 hours per week that the employee works. So it affects a lot of people who were in white collar positions who were well above the $450 per week threshold who worked around the clock and were not paid overtime,” Spiggle explained, adding that the rule applies to both salaried and hourly employees.

“The reason that the focus is on the white collar angle is because it almost doubles the threshold at which a company has to pay overtime if you work 40 hours a week. Previously, if you were paid $455 a week or over, you were most often considered exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act. That means a company was not required to pay you overtime,” he said.

The final rule provides employment lawyers like Spiggle with an effective tool to fight wage abuse, particularly for low wage workers. “There are numerous cases where employers will try to pay workers less than they are entitled to, or not comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act in order to save money,” he said.

In general, the FLSA is helpful particularly for attorneys who represent an individual, because it is not necessary to prove intent. All that needs to be proved in a court of law is that the Act was violated. The proof is on worker's pay stub along with the evidence of the number of hours worked. “For conduct that is intentional or appears to be, you can get liquidated damages which are double. It's a fairly significant hammer to use against employers who violate the law,” Spiggle said.

There are a number of exemptions under the FLSA that have been implemented  as a result of  lobbying by various interests groups over the years including special categories of workers in transportation, agriculture, and outside sales positions.

Employees who feel they are being treated unlawfully can file a complaint with the Department of Labor, or can opt to consult with a private attorney.

“It will be interesting to see what effect the final rule has. This is going to cover millions of American workers, so hopefully it will be of benefit to all of us,” said Spiggle, who wrote a book released in 2014 called, “You're Pregnant? You're Fired!”

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