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3 Overtime Pay Policy Repercussions

Analysis  |  By Lena J. Weiner  
   August 15, 2016

The Department of Labor's new overtime regulations don't go into effect until December, so there is time to prepare. But they come with a side of unintended consequences.

It's official: The long-awaited Department of Labor overtime regulations go into effect on December 1, 2016, leaving HR executives just over three months to prepare.

The changes needed to accommodate the new regulations may not be simple.

"This is too much, too soon," says Tim Garrett, an attorney specializing in employment law with the Bass, Berry and Sims law firm in Nashville. Garrett doesn't necessarily disagree with increasing overtime pay or workers' wages, but the abrupt implementation of these regulations will create hardships for many employers, he says.

Garrett gives the DOL credit for allowing some transition period—the agency "could have implemented this [in] as quickly as 60 days," he says—but even with the December deadline, Garrett predicts that many employers, including some hospitals and health systems, will have difficulty adjusting.

"I'm not saying overtime pay shouldn't be increased, but this should be done in more responsible manner… The regulations currently don't recognize some unintended consequences," he says, naming three:

1. Less Flexibility

Most healthcare leaders can remember putting in a day lasting longer than eight hours fairly early in their careers, whether to put some extra time in on a project, to help out a new coworker, or to organize a social activity at work.

Under the new rules, employers will have to tally time worked more rigorously and pay for any work performed outside regular business hours. Work-related activities include checking email or voicemail, doing work-related research, and making work-related travel arrangements.

If your instinct is to shrug this concern off as an overreaction, think about this: how many of the hospital's employees have access to work email on their smartphones?

"We have organizations realizing they can't let their employees synch their smartphones. Checking email might count as work off the clock… Stuff people used to do at home on their own time can't be done anymore," says Garrett.

Lena J. Weiner is an associate editor at HealthLeaders Media.


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