By: Andrea Sears
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Gov. Tom Wolf wants to raise the income limit for salaried workers to get overtime pay.
Right now, Pennsylvania workers on salary who make $23,600 a year or more can be required to work well over 40 hours a week without getting any overtime pay. The governor wants to raise that in three stages, reaching a limit of almost $48,000 a year by 2022.
According to Paul Sonn, general counsel at the National Employment Law Project, the largest group of workers that would be affected are low level assistant managers at big box stores and fast food franchises.
“They may make $25,000, $30,000 a year, but they’re struggling,” he says. “And they can be forced to work 50, 60 hours a week, and they don’t get a dime more.”
Opponents of the governor’s plan say it would force business owners to make more salaried employees into hourly workers, and limit the hours they work, rather than increase their paychecks. But Sonn argues that poll after poll shows raising the level of overtime pay enjoys broad, bipartisan support.
“In fact, a Pennsylvania poll showed workers by more than 80 percent to 15 percent margin backed raising overtime pay to the approximately $48,000 level,” points out Sonn.
A year ago, a court in Texas struck down a similar rule at the federal level, and business groups may try to challenge the governor’s authority to impose the rule in Pennsylvania.
But Sonn maintains that, unlike the state’s minimum wage, this is an area where the governor can give workers a raise, using the state labor commissioner’s executive power.
“The governor’s action makes Pennsylvania one of the first states to lock in the Obama overtime raise at the state level,” he says. “It provides a road map for other states to protect their residents from the Trump rollback, and we expect more governors to follow his lead.”
The Legislature has blocked the governor’s attempts to raise the state’s minimum wage above the current, federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.