Tallahassee expert discusses coming overtime law changes

By Brandy Hilboldt Allport, special to Innovation Coast

Tallahassee attorney William Krizner, an expert in employment law issues, recently led a discussion with Pensacola business owners, human resources specialists and supervisors about how coming changes in overtime law and more stringent employment law enforcement will affect their businesses.

Sponsored by the technology group Innovation Coast, the roundtable at the offices of Beggs & Lane in downtown Pensacola focused on proposals by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor that will allow an estimated 5 million more employees nationally to qualify for overtime. This increase of the threshold to $970 per week, or $50,440 annually, almost double the present level that was last updated in 1975, will affect nearly 50 percent of currently exempt employees. Other changes include increasing the highly compensated exemption to $122,148 annually (currently $100,000), instituting mechanisms to automatically update the levels on an annual basis, and modifying the definition of exempt status.

The final revision of the proposal was originally slated for publication in July, but sources indicate that the regulations may be issued later in the fall. Whatever the date, employers should be preparing for the changes and understanding the impact on their businesses, Krizner said.

He encouraged participants who attended the discussion to refer to the following checklist to determine whether they are abiding by today’s employment laws. The checklist, “Ten Questions to Reveal Whether You Are a Compliance Hero,” is as follows:

  • Have we provided an in-person and interactive training to each one of our supervisors on topics including harassment, discrimination, employee life-cycle mandates and protected classes in the past 12 months? Were acknowledgements executed and placed into each supervisor’s file?
  • Are all supervisors required to consult with human resources to review decisions and corresponding documentation before formally making a termination?
  • Do we consult with employment law counsel prior to terminating an employee, including the production of the involuntary separation memorandum for review?
  • Have we updated our employee handbook to address the most recent prohibitions announced by the National Labor Relations Board, updated our social media policy, incorporated a safe harbor provision, appropriately incorporated new protected classes and made other needed updates in the past 12 months?
  • Do we engage with external auditors to conduct a full review of our human resource and employment law compliance annually? Do we contemplate the recommendations made with the resulting report with senior leadership and then act upon such recommendations?
  • Have we successfully employed life cycle practices and documents verifying that decisions are unrelated to protected class status, including interview narratives, goal-based corrective plans, and involuntary separation memorandums?
  • Do we have well-established internal systems to address issues of leave in a manner that is permissible under existing workers compensation laws, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and all existing consistency laws?
  • Do we conduct and properly document background screens, including criminal, credit, Internet /social media and prior employment to mitigate against negligent hiring claims under 768.096 in the Florida Statutes.
  • Have we conducted a recent, in-depth review of the exempt status of each of our positions to confirm appropriate treatment under the Fair Labor Standards Act in light of the recent dramatic changes to such law and their impact on overtime payment?
  • Have we invested in creating exhaustive job descriptions that contain essential functions that are then translated into job-specific criteria that are utilized within our annual performance evaluation process ?

Those with questions about the upcoming overtime law changes can contact Krizner at 850.386.3747 or by email at bkrizner@thekriznergroup.com.

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