Law changes could affect teacher pay if overtime required

Resource staffers at both city and parish schools are checking whether new Obama overtime rules apply to local teachers

New labor laws have changed the way school districts pay teachers, but local school districts may be unaware of the changes.

One of the last acts of the Obama Adminstration was to change Federal labor laws so that many employees who were called “salaried employees” were stripped of legal exemptions that allowed employers, including school districts, to avoid overtime pay for most employees.

The changes which went into effect on December 1, 2016, seemed foreign to Human Resource or Business leaders of Both the Parish and City School System.

The changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act redefined “Salaried employee” in a way that may be costly for school districts  across the USA when fully implemented.

Phedra Brantley, human resource director for Monroe City Schools said she was not aware of the changes. Todd Guice, accounting director for the Ouachita Parish Schools said he wasn’t familiar with the new rules but was sure that the parish system intended to comply.

Labor laws require employers to pay overtime to workers if they work beyond eight hours a day, or work at night or weekends. It also includes work done at home, even as small as answering emails at home. School districts have routinely classified teachers as “salaried employees” which meant they were exempt from the overtime laws of regular wage earners.

Teachers routinely stay after school on bus duty, parent conferences or attend field trips. However, because they are considered salaried employees they usually are not compensated for the extra time in long faculty meetings or other after school hour activities. Their “salaried employee” status exempted them from overtime consideration.

The new law makes it tougher for a teacher to become exempt by raising the weekly amount that an employee gets from $455 a week to $913 a week. In addition any school employee categorized as “salaried” must be a “Bonafied” executive, administrator or professional in a supervisory capacity.

Specifically the new law sets out the conditions to be exempt from overtime as:

1. The employee must be salaried. An employee who is paid at an hourly rate is automatically NOT exempt.

2. The employee must earn a salary of $913 a week (For teachers, that’s about $33,233.20 for 182 days per year).

3. The employee must have an exempt job duty (Supervisory) For schools, those exempt from overtime requirements would include: superintendents, assistant superintendents, program directors, district athletic directors, principals, assistant principals, building athletic directors, guidance counselors, nurses and certified athletic trainers, and teachers who supervise others.

Guice said the income levels would probably include most teachers in the parish system, but he planned to research whether the district would be required to reclassify its teachers to comply.

“Whatever is necessary, we will comply,” said Guice.

The ability to classify teachers as “salaried” saves school districts money because it eliminates the overtime requirements of the law.