American Bankers Association reports that banks believe their overtime exempt employees do not want overtime pay. That’s not exactly what Christeena Naser, Vice President and Sr Counsel, said, but she might as well have in her comment letter. The Letter goes onto to state that the Primary Duty Test‘s objective was to identify obvious non-exempt employees, but the new interpretation would identify obvious exempt employees. The difference in nearly $27,000 per eligible employee, or about 6.3 Million employees.
“The term “primary duty” means the principal, main, major or most important duty that the employee performs. Determination of an employee’s primary duty must be based on all the facts in a particular case, with the major emphasis on the character of the employee’s job as a whole.” (DOL).
The change in Standard would reach approximately 30 Million employees across all industries, 6.3 Million of which are in financial services. The previous Standard deferred to states because many state standards were more inclusive than that of the DOL. The new DOL standard is much higher. being raised from $23,660 per year to $50,440. One should know that while these figures are yearly, the Standard applies to overtime pay on a weekly basis.
“The salary standard would reduce the number of individuals eligible for the exemptions by 6.3 million salaried employees, ” ABA’s comment letter states. The implication is that banks would reduce hours of 6.3 Million employees to the lowest end of full-time status as much as possible in order to avoid paying overtime. It also implies that DOL have reason to believe that the guarantee in employment due to the salaried nature of a role is worth very little. Considering how little guarantee there is, the DOL is onto something there.
Just because a bank employee makes more than $50,440 per year without overtime pay does not mean that that employee cannot be on an hourly wage. DOL has moved the cap on all hourly wage employees from $100,000 to $122,148. This means hourly employees can qualify for overtime pay as long as the non-overtime pay is less than $122,148 per year. ABA objects to this as well.
All of these Standard change-levels are based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But the rest of the complaints, and they are truly complaints, read as veiled threats. There are a lot of justifications based on what will happen if these Standards are applied. All of them are dire. All of them do not bode well for employees. For that strategy to work, the bank would have to assume that its employees do not know what is good for them. The direness of the predictions imply that banks will be forced to hurt their employees by complying with the new DOL mandate.
If enumerating all the ways the ABA’s Comment Letter fails to make its point to someone who might have helped craft this new Standard at the DOL, the failure can be summed up thusly: ABA’s Comment Letter fails to convince the Department to stop the pursuit of the new Standards because it fails to address the issues that are important to employees as seen by the Department. At no time does the Letter acknowledge the good that the Department is trying to accomplish. So, when the Letter provides alternative solutions, it carefully avoids stating what the such solutions provide. By avoiding such valuation, the ABA avoids having their alternative compared to the Department’s solutions. And by avoiding the value of their solutions, the ABA makes their members seem unconcerned with the wellbeing of bank employees, and does not avoid to address how the new Standards are not as beneficial as they can be.
Overall, the letter is a carefully crafted legal argument wrapped in economic concerns. The DOL, I assume, are seriously concerned with economics and less so with legal intricacies.
I have read ABA’s Comment Letter for you so that you don’t have to. If you don’t like how I interpreted ABA’s Comment Letter on the new overtime exemption and HCE standards, comment below.
Marcus Maltempo is a compliance professional with more than a decade of experience helping banks, law firms and clients manage investigations and regulatory responses. He is a member of ACAMS and ACFE.