Employers and workers in Washington and throughout the country saw a number of sweeping changes in 2016 that will have continuing im- pact for years to come. As we enter 2017, we can expect at least five important developments and trends, as states, courts, employers, and
workers grapple with the changes in the law, increased enforcement by governmental agencies, and potentially game-changing legislation on the horizon.
#1: NEW DOL OVERTIME RULE WILL NOT TAKE EFFECT DEC. 1, 2016
In May, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced
sweeping revisions to federal overtime rules under the Fair
Labor Standards Act (FLSA). They included more than doubling the minimum salary threshold – from $23,660/year
to $47,476/year – for the “white collar” exemptions from
overtime pay and provided for triennial adjustments based
on national wage data. These changes would have expanded
overtime pay requirements to more than 4 million salaried
workers who currently earn less $47,476 per year (or $913
per week), even if they satisfy the duties test under the
FLSA and are currently considered exempt from overtime.
Federal Judge Blocks DOL’s New Overtime Rule
On November 22, in an unexpected ruling, U.S. District Judge
Amos Mazzant from the Eastern District of Texas issued a
nationwide preliminary injunction prohibiting the DOL from
implementing its new overtime rule. The court found that
the DOL had exceeded its delegated authority and ignored
Congress’s intent by increasing the minimum salary levels so
as to supplant the duties test under the FLSA.
What This Means for Employers and Workers
As long as employees continue to meet the duties test under
the FLSA, the minimum salary threshold for the executive,
administrative, and professional exemptions will remain at
$23,660 per year (or $455 per week) and employers will
not be required to satisfy the DOL’s proposed increase to
$47,476 per year. The injunction is only a temporary measure until Judge Mazzant can issue a ruling on the merits,
but the decision portends that a permanent injunction may
be forthcoming and, in the meantime, the new Congress
and President may intervene. Employers should remain apprised of updates in this area and continue to comply with
their obligations under state and local laws.
#2: SEATTLE’S NEW SECURE SCHEDULING LAW: CONTINUING
EFFORTS TO INCREASE PROTECTIONS FOR LOW-WAGE EMPLOYEES
In September, a little more than two years after passing its
landmark $15 minimum wage law, the Seattle City Council
unanimously passed, and Mayor Ed Murray signed into law,
the Secure Scheduling Ordinance, which will go into effect on
July 1, 2017. The stated intent of the law is to combat problems
associated with unpredictability in the workplace, including
last-minute schedule changes, inadequate work hours for part-
time workers, back-to-back shifts (“clopening”) that prevent a
good night’s sleep, and being on-call without pay. Seattle is the
second city in the country (after San Francisco) to pass secure
The new law only applies to large retail employers, including
fast food chains and coffee shops, with 500 or more employees
worldwide as well as full-service restaurants with at least 500
employees and 40 locations globally that have employees who
work within Seattle city limits at least 50% of the time. However, the business community has expressed concerns that the
law’s requirements could be broadened in the future to include
businesses of all sizes.
Under the new ordinance, covered employers are required to:
• Provide new hires a “good faith estimate” of work schedules, including the average number of hours employees
can expect to work each week.
• Inform employees of their schedules 14 days in advance
and pay half of an employee’s hourly rate for each hour cut
from the schedule or pay for one extra hour when hours are
added to the schedule (the extra pay does not apply when
changes are requested by the employee, employees find
replacement coverage, or the employer fills open shifts by
asking for volunteers through mass communication methods).
• Pay on-call employees for half of their hours if they are not
called in to work.
• Allow employees at least 10 hours off between shifts unless
they request or consent to work several, and pay time-and-a-half for hours worked that are fewer than 10 hours apart.
• Offer additional work hours to existing employees before
hiring new employees.
• Maintain records for three years.
The scheduling law allows employees to state preferences
for work shifts and locations based on major life events, such
5 EMPLOYMENT LAW
TRENDS FOR 2017
Developments in the Law
by Linda Fang