Update: The U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas granted the nationwide preliminary injunction against the new overtime rules on Nov. 22, casting doubt as to whether they will go into effect. The U.S. Department of Labor has vowed to fight the ruling.
In a typical December, friends and co-workers join together for a month’s worth of parties, gift giving and good cheer. This year’s mood, however, may prove less than merry for some in the hospitality and meetings community. In May, the U.S. Department of Labor announced it was raising the salary-exemption cutoff for paying employees overtime, the first such action since 2004, from $23,660 to $47,476 annually ($455 to $913 per week). The effective date: Dec. 1. The news is troubling given that working long days (and nights) during an event is considered a necessary, if sometimes unpaid, part of the job.
Most hospitality people would agree that the DOL sorely needed to revise its overtime regulations and the action is hardly a surprise. The agency made clear its intention to modernize the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime section back in mid-2015. And many involved in meetings-related work should feel little or no effect from the changes. Still, the announcement on updating employee eligibility, exemption levels and automatic threshold adjustments caught some people off guard, due in great part to the sharp jump in the OT exemption threshold. As a result, employers are scrambling to rethink and rework staffing and budgets in order to legally comply with the regulations come December.
TIME = MONEY
A major concern with the new regulations centers on timing. Besides the fast-approaching Dec. 1 deadline, there’s also a new provision in the rules that automatically updates salary and compensation levels every three years after the initial 2016 overtime adjustment. Of more immediate concern is the need to juggle time within a company’s work schedules, perhaps the most challenging aspect of achieving compliance.
“It’s going to affect everyone because there are peaks and valleys to having people work more than 40 hours a week,” says David DuBois, CMP, CAE, president and CEO of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events. Managing eight-hour days during nonevent periods should be simple enough, he says. But two weeks out from a show or convention, staffers can easily run up 50 to 60 hours per week, finalizing room lists, banquet orders and registration while dealing with other logistics across multiple time zones. “Once you get on-site, it’s a minimum of 12- to 14-hour days for some employees,” says DuBois. “You’re on call from 6 a.m. until the last event ends after 10 p.m. That’s where flexibility really comes into play.”