The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, November 01, 2019

Whitmer seeks expansion of overtime pay in Michigan

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Oct. 24 directed the state's Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to submit a request for rulemaking to expand the right to overtime pay to more Michigan workers. 

Whitmer's directive would go beyond a pending Trump Administration recommendation, which will increase overtime eligibility to workers who earn less than $35,308 per year, compared to $23,600 in the past. Trump's Labor Department is watering down an Obama-era directive which would have provided OT to workers who earn up to $47,476 per year.

“President Obama took the first step towards restoring this right for millions of Americans five years ago, and if his proposed rule had taken effect, workers earning up to $51,000 today would be eligible for overtime pay," Whitmer said. "Instead, President Trump took a big step backwards when he implemented a rule that leaves 200,000 Michigan workers behind. That’s why today I’m directing the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to take action that will extend the right to overtime pay for thousands of Michigan workers. Strengthening paychecks is good for families, good for business, and good for our economy. It’s time to get it done.” 

Michigan will be one of several states that have taken it upon themselves to raise the OT level above federal level. Whitmer plans to create a rule that starts with $51,000 as the new level for the payment of overtime. 

“This morning Gov. Whitmer announced a proposal to update Michigan’s overtime regulations," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute. "The governor is stepping up for the hard-working people of Michigan and I applaud this move, particularly given that the Trump administration recently published a weak overtime rule that would leave almost 200,000 Michigan workers behind. The governor’s proposal embodies the idea of a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work is the right move for Michigan families and the Michigan economy.” 

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce hates the idea. "It's unfortunate that Gov. Whitmer has decided to supersize the federal overtime changes, potentially taking Michigan’s salary threshold to $51,000 or higher," said spokeswoman Wendy Block. "We believe this unilateral action by the governor is reckless because it would take the salary threshold too high, too fast."

Other states similarly expanding or proposing to expand the right to overtime pay are California, New York, Washington State, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

Once the request for rulemaking is submitted, the process to finalize an overtime rule could take between 6 to 12 months.