Voice of the Poor – Managerial Overtime Exemption

by | Aug 14, 2015 | Justice and Peace, News

Sheila GIlbert
Sheila Gilbert, National President of the St. Vincent de Paul Society,  speaks about Managerial Overtime Exemption and asks that Vincentians Take Action.

Dear Fellow Vincentians,

As we know all too well and far too sadly, the “working poor” who we frequently encounter in our home visits and at our food pantries, soup kitchens, and clothing stores are often victimized by the very economic system which should theoretically bring them relief. This is especially true for one phenomenon known as the “managerial overtime exemption.”

As concerned Vincentians, we now have a chance to change that element of systemic victimization.

Accordingly, I urge you to sign on to a petition to the U.S. Department of Labor asking it to approve a proposed regulation which would raise the unreasonably low managerial wage exemption level of $23,660 and blow away the smokescreen that these employees are truly managers. The end result will be a combination of higher wages for the working poor, more employee free time for family obligations, and more employment opportunities for others. Most importantly, a change will show that our economic system respects and understands the inherent dignity of workers and work itself in the Catholic Social Tradition.

The current situation is this: Federal labor regulations establish a $23,660 per year ($455 per week) threshold which allows duplicitous employers to classify employees earning that amount (or more) as managerial and thus exempt them from the normal requirement to pay overtime for time worked in excess of 40 hours per week. With enough extra hours, the “manager” can easily find his effective hourly rate below the Federal minimum wage. For a compelling real-life story of such a case, click on this 3 minute YouTube video to hear Dawn Hughey tell about her experience working at Dollar General. As Vincentians on the front-line, you probably know others with the same basic storyline.

Under the newly proposed regulations, the threshold will rise to $50,440, equal to the 40th percentile of estimated earnings for full-time salaried workers in 2016.

The increase would especially help women and minorities under the age of 35 and workers with lower levels of education – essentially, the working poor that we so often serve as Vincentians.

It is estimated that between 5 and 6 million workers would be favorably impacted by this change, and perhaps many more. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a well-respected research organization, has produced an excellent interactive map and table(click here) showing the number and percentage of individuals favorably impacted on a State-by-State basis.

One compelling historical comparison finds that in 1975 about 65% of the salaried workers were above the exempt threshold for overtime; in 2013, that percentage has fallen to 11.7% (and maybe as low as 8% in 2015). You can find much more information about this issue here atthe EPI Website and the Department of Labor Website.

The proposed new regulation is now pending before the Secretary of Labor with a public comment period extending to September 4th. You can easily sign on to an EPI sponsored petition to the Secretary of Labor in support of this regulatory amendment by clicking on the “Take Action” hyperlink here  or at the top of this letter. In addition, on behalf of the Society as a whole, I will be submitting a supporting letter directly to the Secretary for the official record.

Not only because the close of the public comment period is coming shortly do I urge you to act quickly, but also because it is important that there be a strong show of support to block a counter movement to postpone the effective date and the close of the comment period for two reasons: 1) to get past the busy holiday commercial season when certain employers can again take advantage of “managerial” employees, and 2) to influence a new Federal administration to pull the proposed regulatory change entirely from consideration.

In the spirit of our patrons, St. Vincent de Paul and Blessed Frederic Ozanam, who taught us we must seek systemic change as well as provide aid to those in need, I ask for your prayerful support of this matter.


Sheila Gilbert
National President
United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul