Overtime pay for mid-level workers becoming key issue in governor’s race

In May 2016, Vice President Joe Biden dropped into Columbus to tout a federal new rule: overtime pay would be required for salaried workers who make up to $47,476 a year.

The change was expected to boost the paychecks of 4.2 million Americans who work as mid-level managers in places such as big box stores, restaurants and the like.

Related: Biden announces plan to make more workers eligible for overtime

In September 2016, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined a lawsuit with 21 state attorneys general to block the regulation, which business groups loathed. The suit was successful.

The overtime regulation is now a central issue in the Ohio governor’s race.

Related: Bringing more jobs to the region: Here's how the Ohio governor candidates plan to do it

Democrat Richard Cordray is citing analysis from a liberal think tank, Innovation Ohio, that says 327,000 Ohio workers are missing out on $42 million in overtime and raises. The Columbus Dispatch rated a Cordray attack ad on the issue as accurate.

Cordray said the challenge was an “ideological” effort that hurt 327,000 Ohio workers.

“Even though they work overtime, they don’t get paid for it, which I think is fundamentally wrong and kind of lays bare, strips back the curtain on who is anti-worker and who is for big business,” Cordray said. “People lost overtime because of Mike DeWine.”

Related: Here's what the governor candidates say about raising the minimum wage

Conservatives and business owners, however, viewed the rule as a federal overreach that would sink some companies. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, which later endorsed DeWine for governor, called it the “dreaded overtime rule,” which it estimated would impact 134,000 Ohio workers.

“A judge ruled that it was illegal the way the Obama administration tried to implement these changes,” DeWine said in a written statement, noting that rule never took effect. “Richard Cordray continues to mislead Ohioans about this issue. No one who was previously eligible for overtime lost those privileges and many of the workers portrayed in Cordray’s misleading ads were already eligible for overtime under current rules. The fact is that this illegal, executive action would have hurt small businesses in Ohio and it would have cost jobs.”

Meanwhile, the Trump administration just concluded “listening sessions” to gather public comment on what the earnings threshold should be for salaried workers to be eligible for time-and-a-half for hours worked over 40 in a week. So far, more than 214,000 comments have been received, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. A new version of the rule is expected in January.

Related: Trump plans to change OT rule: How will it impact you?

The overtime threshold for salaried workers has been frozen at $23,660 since 2004 – if you’re a salaried employee making more than that, you’re not eligible for overtime pay, under federal regulations.

Some states, including Ohio, are considering adopting their own thresholds for overtime to benefit salaried workers. In April, two Democrats in the Ohio House introduced House Bill 605 to require overtime pay for salaried workers who make up to $47,476 a year. It has yet to advance beyond its first sponsor hearing in committee.


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