CWRU assessing impact of federal overtime announcement

Case Western Reserve officials are reviewing federal overtime rules announced Wednesday to determine which university employees will be affected—and how.

Under the policies Vice President Joe Biden detailed during an event in Columbus, the threshold under which employees are eligible for overtime will double, from $23,660 to $47,476, effective Dec. 1, 2016. The change is expected to affect more than 4 million workers nationwide, and more than 133,000 in Ohio. The university estimates several hundred Case Western Reserve employees will be affected as well.

“We recognize that these new rules will have significant effects on many areas of the university,” Vice President for Human Resources Carolyn Gregory said, “and we will work to provide the most current and clear guidance available to our entire campus community.”

University officials have been preparing for the potential rule change since the summer, when the U.S Department of Labor (USDOL) released draft provisions for public comment. Over the past several months all supervisors have been notified of the potential rule changes, and school and unit leaders were charged to identify who among their staff would be affected.

In addition to the salary threshold, the overtime requirements also include a “primary duties test” to determine eligibility; those whose responsibilities involved professional or administrative skills and/or managerial or supervisory functions would not qualify for overtime.

The proposed changes have drawn strong comments both for and against the provisions. Colleges and universities have been vocal about unique aspects of their mission; laboratory experiments, for example, sometimes can take far longer than expected. Some of those involved will be students participating for academic credit, while others will be paid research associates who may also be students in another setting. Such contexts can raise significant questions involving education, compensation and equity; the answers, in turn, can affect other similar laboratories or units.

“Our first, most critical task has been to make sure all deans, vice presidents, finance and human resources administrators fully understand the details of the new rules and how they apply within their units,” Gregory said. “From there, individual unit leaders and administrators have examined the duties of each position within their purview to determine how the new rules might affect its classification—and, in turn, how any changes applied directly to one employee could indirectly have additional consequences for the categorization of another.”

As part of the final rules announced Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Labor issued specific guidance—in both summary and extended form—regarding how the rules apply to higher education. University officials are analyzing the new information to determine its effects on individuals here. Watch the daily in coming months for additional broad updates regarding overall processes and sequencing of notifications.

President Barack Obama initiated the development of new rules in 2014, when he directed federal labor officials to update the overtime standards, first established in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The current salary threshold dates back to 2004.