Ding, Dong, the Fluctuating Work Week Overtime Method Is Dead … in Pennsylvania!

Jason E. Reisman

Just yesterday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a decision in a case involving the “fluctuating work week” (“FWW”) method of paying overtime that has been percolating in the Commonwealth courts for almost six years. The Pennsylvania high court held that, although the U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed the validity of the FWW method under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), Pennsylvania has not incorporated it into state law; and its use in Pennsylvania is therefore not permitted.

The case is Chevalier v. General Nutrition Centers Inc. In it, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a $1.7 million judgment against General Nutrition Centers (“GNC”) in favor of a class of former store managers who had alleged they were shorted on overtime pay. GNC had used the FLSA’s FWW method, which allows employers to pay employees whose hours fluctuate from week to week a salary that is intended to compensate them for all of the hours worked each week. If the employees work more than 40 hours in a week, then the designated salary is divided by the total number of hours worked that week to calculate the “regular rate,” which is then divided in half and multiplied by the number of overtime hours to compensate the employees for the additional overtime pay due.

Okay, enough math for this blog—basically, the FWW method allows employers to pay overtime at a “half-time” rate because the underlying salary pays for all straight time due for the hours worked. (Note for math geeks: the FWW method causes employees to see a lower effective hourly rate and overtime rate as they work more hours.) This “half-time” method of paying overtime pay conflicts with the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act’s requirement that overtime compensation be 1.5 times the regular rate of pay—at least that’s what the state supreme court found.

So, as a side note for Pennsylvania employers, there’s no need to concern yourselves with the brand-new proposed rule on the FWW method issued earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Our “simple” advice moving forward: Don’t use the FWW method for employees in Pennsylvania.

It’s Back!! New DOL Salary Threshold Rule Is on the Doorstep!

Jason E. Reisman

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) reappears to address an issue that has most American employers on edge: How far will it expand the scope of who is eligible for overtime pay? After taking what seems like forever, the Trump DOL—despite the government shutdown—has apparently now completed its long-awaited revised new rule to reset the minimum salary threshold for employees subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s white collar exemptions.

We all remember the Obama DOL’s effort to expand overtime eligibility to four million currently-exempt employees by increasing the salary minimum by more than double, to $47,476 (which was blocked by a federal judge in Texas). The real question for now is, what has the Trump DOL decided is the “correct” new salary level? All signs point to a figure in the low to mid-$30,000s. We should find out very soon.

For now, sources are reporting that the finalized proposed new rule is about to be submitted (maybe today) to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”) for review. This is the first step in the process before the proposed rule is released to the public for comment. Though the federal government is currently shut down, the White House is working. The last agenda issued by the DOL stated that this new rule would be released in March, so they seem to be on track for that.

So … stay tuned— “Same Bat time, same Bat channel!” More to come.

ALERT: New Jersey Raising Minimum Wage!

Thomas J. Szymanski

New Jersey’s minimum wage will increase by 25 cents, from $8.60 to $8.85 per hour, effective January 1, 2019. For non-exempt employees making the minimum wage, employers will be required to pay an overtime rate of $13.28 for every hour worked over 40 in a work week, to comply with the State’s minimum wage requirements.

Employers should be aware that one of Governor Phil Murphy’s top legislative priorities is to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Although the Legislature passed a $15-an-hour minimum wage bill in 2016, which was vetoed by then-Governor Chris Christie, neither Governor Murphy nor the Legislature has communicated a path forward to get another bill on the table.

As wage payment violations carry significant penalties in New Jersey, you should contact a member of Blank Rome’s labor & employment practice group if you have any questions about compliance with New Jersey’s minimum wage increase or any other wage and hour issues.