Lassa Bill Would Expand Overtime Pay

Raising income threshold would help 80,000 Wisconsin employees

 Madison — A bill that would expand eligibility for overtime pay was unveiled yesterday by State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point). By raising the income threshold in Wisconsin for the first time in 38 years, the provision would make an estimated 80,000 more workers eligible for higher pay when they work more than 40 hours a week.

“Wisconsin’s current thresholds have not been updated since 1977, and are completely obsolete,” Lassa said. “One way to help middle class workers and their families is to update and increase these thresholds to more accurately reflect the incomes Wisconsin workers make today.”

The provision is similar to one proposed by President Obama, who will give an address on his proposed change to the federal rule in La Crosse Thursday.

Under Wisconsin’s current provisions, all hourly workers are eligible for overtime premium pay (time and a half), but administrative and executive employees don’t qualify for overtime pay unless they make less than $700 per month; professionals must make less than $750 per month.  If these levels were in effect, anyone making more than $9,000 a year would be considered “white collar” and virtually no administrative and professional employees would be eligible for overtime. 

Because Wisconsin’s thresholds are so low, federal standards supersede them, but they are also out of date, having last been adjusted over a decade ago.  According to the federal threshold, administrative workers who make more than $21,840 a year don’t qualify for overtime, a figure that’s below the poverty level for a family of four.

“These thresholds were intended to provide flexibility for managers and professionals with above-average salaries.  Instead, they are now preventing tens of thousands of workers from getting fair pay for working longer hours,” Lassa said.

Senator Lassa’s bill would set Wisconsin’s threshold at a realistic administrative salary of $970 a week, or $50,440 a year.  It’s estimated the change would make about 80,000 more Wisconsin workers eligible for overtime. “Making this change at the state level will ensure that, regardless of federal politics, working Wisconsinites will be paid fairly for the hours they work and regain the purchasing power they had 40 years ago,” she said.

“Like most Wisconsinites, I was raised to believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, you ought to be able to get ahead,” Lassa said. “That’s the cornerstone of the American Dream.  Today, however, for too many Wisconsin families, that dream is slipping away.  We need to recognize that state policies are contributing to the shrinking middle class, and make positive changes, like increasing the overtime threshold, that will make sure that hardworking people are paid fairly for their work.”