WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s move to make more workers eligible for time-and-a-half overtime pay is being hailed by Democrats who see it as a potent midterm election issue and condemned by Republicans and business leaders as presidential overreach. Supporters say it will help the still fragile economy; critics say it will damage it further.
It is likely to affect millions of American workers.
“From my perspective, they have to be pulling numbers out of the air right now,” said Washington labor lawyer Tammy McCutchen, referring to the conflicting claims by partisans that it would either help or hurt the economy. “We don’t even know what the policy is going to be.”
She’s closer to the process than most. As administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division during the George W. Bush administration, McCutchen oversaw the last rewrite of the program in 2004.
Currently, salaried workers making more than $455 a week, or $23,660 a year, aren’t eligible for time-and-a-half overtime if some of their work is considered supervisory, even though many spend most of their day doing manual, clerical or technical work with few management duties.
Obama signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday directing the Labor Department to devise new overtime rules “to ensure that workers are paid fairly for a hard day’s work.” He’s tossing out most of the rules McCutchen wrote in the process.
“Well, it’s going to be bad for business,” she said in an interview. “It’s going to be good for my bottom line. Lawyers all over the country are going to be making a lot of money.”