By Jada Haynes

On December 1, President Barack Obama and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez’s Final Rule to update the current overtime standards will go into effect. What does this mean, and how will it mesh with the workplace pressures people are feeling now?

Wait, what Final Rule?

Back in May, Obama and Perez announced the specifics of the upcoming change:

  1. The standard salary for full-time workers who occupy the “lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South,” will be raised to $47,476 for a full-year worker.
  2. Highly compensated employees who are subject to a minimal duties test will have their salaries set to $134,004 per year.
  3. A system is established so salaries and compensation levels automatically update every three years. This keeps the earnings of those in the higher percentiles in check and makes sure “that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.”
  4. Finally, this rule provides an amendment to the salary basis test. This gives employers the option to utilize “nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions)” to satisfy up to 10 percent of their employees’ new salary levels.

Overall, the Obama Administration believes these updates will help make sure workers across the board get paid more fairly than before.

What does this mean to people and businesses specifically?

Miriam Jackson is the Director of Classification and Compensation at Georgia State University. When asked how she thought Obama’s Final Rule on overtime will affect workers, Jackson had this to say:

“That’s a hard question to answer because it’s not going to have the same impact on all workers. Some employees that we’ve dealt with were very happy about being changed from exempt to non-exempt and that they get paid overtime. Other employees were not happy because they wanted to stay exempt, because they felt exempt was a status thing. So there’s no one answer for that.”

Jackson went on to say that small business will need to abide by the Final Rule, too, even though it “might have probably hurt them more so than anyone else.”

What about those workplace pressures mentioned earlier?

While not familiar with the name, many Americans know the concept of workplace telepressure. The phenomenon of telepressure is widespread. It typically comes in the form of bosses expecting employees to immediately answer calls, emails and texts outside of work hours and sometimes even accept extra work over the weekend or while on break. It’s often conducted under the implicit threat of the individual being replaceable. This is the Information Age, and telepressure is one of its drawbacks.

A recent example of workplace telepressure moving into the legal realm comes from the Chicago Police Department. Last year, members of the Bureau of Organized Crime filed a class action lawsuit against the city after not receiving overtime pay for doing work after hours on their department-issued BlackBerrys. They claimed the office culture came with unwritten rules not to file for overtime in those cases. This ambiguity of having no official rules against claiming overtime, despite many feeling it was better not to, is what led the federal judge to rule against the officers.

Page Anderson, an associate professor of psychology at Georgia State University, commented on one of the effects of telepressure. “[The] [i]mplicit threat of losing one’s job creat[e]s uncertainty about the future, which is associated with anxiety,” she wrote.

The good news is that the Final Rule will account for telepressure.

According to Jackson, “That’s what the overtime rule is. If you work outside of your normal work hours, you should get paid for it…As the employer, we have been very clear that…if you send them an email, if you call them on the phone, that’s considered work time. So they have to be paid for it or get comp time depending on how your department or college determined what they wanted to do.”

How do I deal with telepressure?

There is a growing amount of studies both published and in the works on the subject. The current literature offers suggestions such as pulling back on response times. By answering emails, texts, and calls as soon as they come in, a person is setting up a “‘norm of responsiveness’ with friends, family, and coworkers.” A way to curb this would be to only respond during set times and making it clear what times it is best not to interrupt.

When asked about ways to mark a clear line between work and home life, Anderson advised physically distancing yourself from things that draw you into work while at home – such as putting the smartphone away during dinner and not bringing it into the bedroom. For professions where this is feasible, it is certainly an option.

Anderson went on to recommend two things to deal with bosses who demand too much: “Knowledge of your rights as a worker and clear communication,” she wrote.

While getting paid more doesn’t make the workload go away, these tips might help alleviate some of the pressures while waiting for that overtime rule to kick in.

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