Spa day! Let's do an FLSA white-collar exemption makeover!

Employers, when was the last time you had a real makeover? Let's do one now!

Makeover 1.flickrCC.CourtneyRhodes
"I'm not sure this will be an improvement . . ."

The new white-collar exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act will go into effect December 1, but it's a good idea for employers to prepare now because there are a lot of changes that will have to be made, communicated, and taught to employees before then.

The salary threshold for most white-collar exemptions is currently $455 a week, and the minimum for highly compensated employees is $100,000. (To qualify for the highly compensated employee exemption, the employee must also receive at least $455 a week on a salary basis.)

Starting December 1, the salary threshold for most white-collar exemptions will jump to $913 a week, or $47,476 annualized. (There is no salary threshold for teachers, lawyers, or doctors, or for hourly paid computer professionals.) The highly compensated employee minimum will increase to $134,004.

Both thresholds are indexed to census wage rates, which means that automatic increases could kick in every three years.

The U.S. Department of Labor says that more than 4 million U.S. workers will benefit from the new thresholds, either by becoming non-exempt and entitled to overtime or by getting salary increases to keep them in the "exempt" camp. It is unclear whether this is correct, as noted by my law partner and co-chair of our Wage-Hour Practice Group, Jim Coleman, because many employers will either reduce salaries to achieve a "cost-neutral" outcome even with overtime, or will prohibit overtime work altogether. (Both of these solutions are lawful.)

But there is no doubt that the new thresholds will result in a "made-over" world for employers and employees. With that in mind, here's some "before and after." If we don't laugh, we'll cry.


Before: "Sure you have a long commute, but isn't it nice that you can get a head start on your day by knocking out some business calls while you're on the way in? If you get stopped in traffic, you can even check your email."

After: "Don't you DARE make calls or read and send emails on the way to and from work! You should rent an apartment closer to the office."


Before: *crickets*

After: "Call IT stat! These computers are entirely too slow to boot up, and time is money!"

Makeover 2.flickrCC.CourtneyRhodes
"Is it me, or was 'before' better?"


Before: "Take 'em if you can get 'em. After all, there will be plenty of times you'll be too busy to even sit down, much less take a break. But, hey, that's why you earn the big bucks, am I right?"

After: "We'd really, really like for you to take all of your breaks. Every single one. If you're in the middle of something, then just stop working and take your break. And I'm afraid I will have to repossess your cell phone until you come back."


Before: "See ya! Don't forget to turn in your T&E by the end of the month! Have a great trip!"

After: "Do NOT make any work-related calls or send emails while you're traveling overnight. Unless you're traveling during your normal business hours, in which case we have to pay you anyway, so you might as well get some work done. Oh, and that includes travel during what would be your normal business hours except that it's on your day off, so you can work then, too. But if your trip extends past 6 p.m., no matter what day of the week, then stop working because we won't have to pay you as long as you don't work."

"I do hope I've made myself perfectly clear."

Makeover 3.flickrCC.CourtneyRhodes
"OK. This makeover is truly horrifying. Please stop now."


Before: "Mobile technology is awesome! We can stay in touch with you 24/7!"

After: "Lock your mobile devices in a safe when you get home from work. Better yet, do it as soon as you get in the car to go home. If you get an email in the evening from your boss, DON'T ANSWER IT! If she calls you in the evening, DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! You need to spend more time with your family."


Before: "What a go-getter! He's our rising star, our future CEO! Fantastic attitude and initiative!"

After: "That money-grubbing little cheater! He just wants the overtime pay - he probably isn't even working!"

Image Credits: From flickr, Creative Commons license. All "before and after" photos are of and by Courtney Rhodes.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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