Publishers have until December to determine the impact of a U.S. Department of Labor overtime rule and make necessary changes to personnel classifications.

The rule released May 18 doubles the salary threshold necessary for an employer to consider making an employee salaried rather than paid hourly.

On Dec. 1, the threshold will double from $23,660 to $47,476. Any employee earning less than the new yearly pay threshold must be paid overtime for work over 40 hours a week.

This complicates scheduling when editors try to avoid increased payroll costs due to overtime – particularly for a newsroom where breaking stories aren’t confined to an 8-to-5 schedule.

If a newspaper’s policy is no overtime and a major story breaks early in the week, you might have an empty newsroom by Friday.

If publishers have someone currently eligible to be salaried – there are other criteria necessary for eligibility beyond salary – who will be close but not quite reach the threshold, the new rule allows employers to count nondiscretionary bonuses, incentives and commissions up to 10 percent of the threshold amount.

That’s up to $4,547.60 that could be added to the base yearly wage. Caveat: This extra money must be paid out on at least a quarterly basis.

HSPA executive director and general counsel Steve Key urges publishers not to ignore the change in the overtime rule when December rolls around.

“You don’t want to create an opportunity for a disgruntled current or former employee to file a lawsuit against you for noncompliance with this federal requirement,” Key said.

The Newspaper Association of America reports that there are some efforts in Congress to overturn or stop the implementation of this rule, but NAA believes a legislative save is a long shot.

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