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Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
Acting Administrator, Wage and Hour Division Employment Standards Administration, U. S. Department of Labor

August 25, 2004

Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.

Greetings, this is Al Robinson. Thank you for joining us today on Ask the White House. I look forward to answering your questions about the Department of Labor's New Overtime Security Rules.

Chuck, from New Orleans writes:
Hello Sir - thank you for taking time out of your day. I own a medium sized restaurant in New Orleans. How will these new rules affect me and my work staff - specifically my chefs. I am a bit confused about how these new rules affect a small business owner like myself.

Again, thank you for your time.


Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
I assume that your restaurant earns more than $500,000 per year and is otherwise covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Regarding your work staff, the final overtime security rule has made no change to the previous law as it applied to chefs and sous chefs who have obtained a four-year specialized academic degree from a culinary arts program. These individuals generally meet the requirements of a "learned professional" who would be exempt.

Cooks, on the other hand, are explicitly protected under the new rule, which states that "cooks who perform predominantly routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical work" are entitled to overtime.

Charles, from Baton Rouge, LA writes:
Why did you "need" to change the rule in the first place?

Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
That is a great question, Charles. There are a number of reasons why reforms to the regulations were needed.

First of all, the regulations were first written in the 1930s and many parts of them had not been updated for more than 50 years. They had become very difficult to understand and apply in the modern workplace. This meant that workers were not sure of their rights, employers were not sure of their obligations, and the Department of Labor did not have clear rules to enforce.

Second, because of the uncertainty spawned by the old rules, many workers were forced to resort to the courts to get the overtime they deserved. This could mean years of delays in getting their pay, not to mention subjecting their rights to the whim of the courts. Moreover, a rising tide of litigation was draining resources away from job creation.

Finally, the salary levels in the old regulation had not been updated for nearly thirty years. As a result, workers earning as little as $8,060 per year/$155 per week could be classified as an “executive” and denied overtime. The final overtime security rule nearly triples this level to $23,660 per year/$455 per week.

As a result of our reforms, we will have clear laws, we will reduce the need for litigation, and we will provide a new guarantee of overtime protection for 6.7 million workers.

Sue, from Inverness, MS writes:
I am confused as to who will be affected by the overtime law. My sister and I are in disagreement about it. I say the salaried employies will be affected and not the hourly wage employees . My sister says everbody in the work force will be affected. What do you say.

Would you please clear this up for us.

Thank you, Sue

Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
Hopefully I can clear up the confusion for you, Sue. The final rule applies only to salaried workers who meet the duties tests. There are a couple of additional points to remember about the final overtime security rule.

Hourly workers will continue to qualify for overtime, no matter how much they earn or what they do.

Manual workers or blue collar workers are automatically entitled to overtime regardless of how much they earn.

First Responders like police, firefighters, and EMT’s, as well as Licensed Practical Nurses have their overtime protection strengthened.

Workers who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement will continue to get overtime under the terms of that collective bargaining agreement.

Workers earning less than $23,660 will now have a guarantee to overtime protection — many of these for the first time — regardless of their title or responsibilities. This change will benefit 6.7 million workers.

Because of the updated duties tests, many workers earning more than $23,660 per year will also have strengthened overtime protection.

Glenn, from Redford, MI writes:
How does the Dept. of Labor define "White Collar"? Is this a supervisor, or just any degreed professional?

Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, “white collar” generally means workers who perform duties that can be considered executive, professional or administrative. Supervisors are not automatically considered “white collar” for determining overtime eligibility and the same goes for degreed professionals. It really depends on the job duties that a particular individual performs. To learn more about how the final rule affects your individual situation, I recommend going to the Department of Labor’s overtime security web site at

Christina, from Texarkana, Tx writes:
I am an RN and am very dedicated to my job. Under certain circumstances I very often have to stay over hours in order to finish very necessary paperwork. I would not be paid overtime with this new law. I do not feel this is right. Am I understanding the law right? My salary is on average $30,000

Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
Good question, Christina. There has been a great deal of misinformation spread about how the final overtime security rule would affect registered nurses. The most important thing to know is that the final rule makes no change to the previous law regarding overtime protection for RNs. Moreover, if you are paid on an hourly basis you are entitled to overtime pay under the final rules. If you receive overtime pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement you will continue to be protected under the final rules.

Gerri, from Casanova, Va writes:
I work in the information technology field. I make $50,000 a year. I depend on overtime to help me make ends meet. My rent is over 12 my take home pay. How is this new overtime law going to impact my overtime pay. I am particularly concerned about when I am on call and overtime is a requirement, not an option.

Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
Gerri, without knowing some more details about your job and how you are paid, it’s difficult to give you a precise answer. However, there are a couple of specific protections that apply to all workers. For example, if you are paid on an hourly basis, you will continue to get overtime no matter how much you earn. If you are paid overtime under a collective bargaining agreement you will continue to get overtime under that agreement.

There are a number of other protections that may or may not apply in your case. One thing to keep in mind is that several years ago, Congress passed overtime laws that specifically apply to computer workers. In the final rule, we have made the regulations conform with Congress’ intent. To determine how all of this may affect your individual situation, you should check our overtime security web site at

Dave, from Rockville, Maryland writes:
How can estimates on the number of people that will lose overtime benefits range from one hundred thousand, give or take a few thousand, to over eight million as was recently reported by the press? This is a huge discrepency which makes it appear, especially to me and probably many others, that the Administration didn't do their homework before implementing the changes. If you had, then there wouldn't be such varying accounts of exactly how many would be affected. Surely you must know the true numbers. I hope you set the record straight on Wednesday.

Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
Dave, I’m very glad you asked that question, because there has been a great deal of misinformation spread about the impact of the overtime security reforms and this is another chance to set the record straight.

The Department of Labor consulted with top economists and statisticians to carefully determine the most accurate estimates possible. By contrast, some other groups based their statements on flawed economic analysis and inaccurate interpretations of existing law, the old regulation, and the final overtime security rule itself.

As we indicated in the final rule, there are 6.7 million low-wage workers who will benefit from the new enhanced overtime protections, while about 107,000 workers earning six figures or more could potentially become exempt. Because the final rule clarifies the “duties tests,” many middle-income workers will also benefit from the reforms. For example, the final rule makes it more difficult to classify someone as an exempt “executive.”

Marc, from Annapolis writes:
Mr. Robinson--why did this rule just come out now? It sounds like many are not happy about it--and it is so close to an election. Has this been in the works for a long time?

Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
You know, Marc, this is a question I have heard a lot recently. In fact, reforms to the White Collar Exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act have been on the agenda of the Department of Labor since Jimmy Carter was president nearly than 30 years ago. This particular rule has been in the works for several years. Completing the final overtime security rule was a very public process. We held over 40 stakeholder meetings and held open a 90-day comment period. Nearly 80,000 public comments were received and these were all carefully considered in the process of updating and reforming the rules.

Dan, from Naples, FL writes:
Why would President Bush sign any legislation that would tell anyone who is eligible for overtime or not. That is something left to the States and actually more so between an employer and employee upon hire. The Federal Government has no business telling anyone how they can be compensated for the work they have performed.

Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
Thanks for your question, Dan. I assume you are referring to the new Overtime Security rule issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. This rule clarifies existing regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and is not actually legislation that would need to be signed by the President.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires the Secretary of Labor to update the White Collar exemptions to overtime. However, significant parts of these regulations had not been updated in more than 50 years.

Under the Department’s final rule, 6.7 million working Americans will see their overtime updated and strengthened. Workers earning $23,660/year or $455/week or less will be automatically entitled to overtime protection regardless of their title or responsibilities. Many workers earning more than $23,660, including police, firefighters, EMT's, and LPN's also have their overtime protection strengthened. Hourly workers, manual workers and blue collar workers are automatically guaranteed overtime regardless of how much they earn.

The FLSA allows states to enact more stringent overtime rules if they see fit, and a number already have their own overtime regulations in place. In addition, this new rule does not impact workers who get overtime under a collective bargaining agreements.

If you would like to know more about the new Overtime Security Rules, please visit

Joseph, from Cudahy, WI writes:
I heard on an AP News Brief, that starting Monday August 23rd that employers have to pay overtime for employees that make less then $23,660.00 a year. Where can I get more information on this? I need to reference something when I take this to my employer.

Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
Now that the Department of Labor’s overtime security reforms are in effect, workers making less than $23,660 per year/$455 per week are automatically entitled to overtime protection. Under the previous regulations, only workers earning less than $8,060 per year/$155 per week had this guarantee. To determine exactly how the new rule will protect your overtime, you can visit the Department of Labor’s overtime security web site at

Alfred B. Robinson, Jr.
Thanks everyone for your great questions. Hopefully, our answers have given you a better understanding of the new rules and how they apply. If you have more questions, please check our website at ( or call us at 1-866-4US WAGE.