SEATTLE — Washington state is adopting some of the nation’s most aggressive overtime rules, restoring protections for hundreds of thousands of salaried workers and taking what supporters say is a crucial step toward rebuilding the middle class.
The Department of Labor and Industries finalized the rules Wednesday and will phase them in by 2028. By that time, salaried workers making up to about $83,400 a year will be entitled to time-and-a-half pay if they work more than 40 hours per week.
Workers making more than that could also get overtime unless they are certain types of professionals — such as those with higher degrees — or unless they are truly managers or executives, as demonstrated by their ability to and fire, direct other people’s work or make significant business decisions.
Many job categories will be affected, including shift managers at restaurants and retail establishments, office managers, some medical workers and other white-collar staff, officials said.
“We need to make sure the middle class shares in our state’s prosperity,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news release. “Overtime protections ensure workers are fairly compensated when they work more than 40 hours in a given week — time that would otherwise be spent with their families and in their communities.”
Employees who are paid hourly have long been entitled to overtime. But salaried workers have generally been entitled to it only if they make less than a certain amount: about $23,660 under federal law, or more where state laws are more generous.
Those thresholds may have worked decades ago, when they meant that nearly two-thirds of salaried workers nationally were covered by overtime protections. But after a recession in the 1970s, lawmakers largely stopped updating them. Washington’s has been stuck at $13,000 since 1976.
As people’s salaries rose with inflation, they found themselves no longer eligible for overtime. Businesses have also been able to convert hourly workers into salaried ones who make just more than the threshold as a way to avoid additional staff or paying overtime.
In other cases, workers have been classified as managers when their actual duties more closely resemble those of hourly workers, officials said.
By some estimates, as few as 7% of salaried workers across the country are now entitled to overtime.
The federal government and several states, including California, New York, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan and Massachusetts, have recently updated or started to update their overtime rules, but none have adopted a target threshold as high as Washington’s, said Paul Sonn, state policy program director with the National Employment Law Project.
The rules adopted by the Trump administration will raise the threshold to cover workers making up to $35,308 a year — a significant cut from the $47,000 limit proposed by the Obama administration.
“The overtime threshold is to the middle class as the minimum wage is to low-wage work,” said Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist whose think-tank , Civic Ventures, advocates for progressive economic policies. “It is the indispensable labour protection for middle class people.”
Business groups in Washington have agreed that the state’s rules needed to be updated, but they criticized the plans as drastic. The Association of Washington Business, warned when the proposed rules came out in June that they would be a shock to many businesses and that they could particularly hurt nonprofits.
The organization warned that many businesses might convert salaried workers to hourly ones, reducing scheduling flexibility.
After hearing extensive public comment, the department added two years to the phase-in period. The threshold will increase incrementally until it reaches 2.5 times the minimum wage — about $83,400 — by 2028. The rules will phase in more slowly for businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
The department estimates that by the time they are fully implemented, the new rules will give overtime protections to about 260,000 workers who don’t have them and strengthen overtime protections for about 235,000 others. Affected workers will also become eligible for sick leave and retaliation protections.
At a news conference Wednesday, Labor and Industries Director Joel Sacks gave an example of one type of worker who will be protected : a shift manager who makes $40,000 a year but is expected to work 60 hours a week.
Under the new rules, that worker will be paid overtime for the additional hours, or the business will need to additional staff.
“It’s fair, it’s right and it’s long overdue,” Sacks said.
Among those who might be helped is Victor Duran, a co-manager of a sports apparel store south of Seattle. He said he makes about $52,000 a year and doesn’t get overtime, but is required to work at least 45 hours per week — and up to 60 during the holidays.
“We say bye to the family at the beginning of the season and say we’ll see them after Christmas,” Duran said.
Federal CARES Act Provides Relief to Businesses Hurt by COVID-19
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed by both Congress and signed into law by President Trump, also known as the CARES Act, offers major financial support for companies impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The most vital policy provisions for businesses affected by the coronavirus, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are:
- Slowing the payment of payroll taxes to allow businesses to have more cash to keep employees on their payrolls.
- Loans and grants for small businesses.
- Creating a bridge loan facility to allow businesses with significantly less or no available revenue to continue to pay employees.
The chamber has published an interactive map for businesses to learn how available aid under the Small Business Paycheck Protection Program can help small businesses in each state. The website lists the amount aid available in each state, the number of small businesses and small business employees. To access the interactive map, click here.
The National Retail Federation, meanwhile, has published a summary of the CARES Act’s key provisions.
- The “Paycheck Protection Program” provides $S250 billion to support loans for employers with less than 500 employees.
- The “Loan Program and Credit Facility” provides $500 billion in both direct and indirect lending in Federal Reserve credit.
- The “Unemployment Insurance Provision” provides assistance for unemployed workers, including those who have exhausted regular state and feral unemployment compensation in addition to short-term compensation programs.
- The “Business Tax Provisions” includes tax provisions for retailers to offset the cost of retaining employees during the economic downturn.
For the full National Retail Federation summary, click here.
“Securing these funds could make the difference between keeping a business up and running over the coming weeks or being forced to reduce salaries, lay off employees, or shutter businesses entirely,” Thomas Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO, said in a press release.
For the latest updates on how the coronavirus is affecting the kiosk industry, click here.
IRS, Treasury Department and Department of Labor Give Guidance on Small Business Leave and Tax Credit
The U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Department of Labor (Labor) have announced that small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees.
This relief to employees and small and midsize businesses is provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Act), signed by President Trump on March 18, 2020.
The Act will help the United States combat and defeat COVID-19 by giving all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members.
The legislation will enable employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.
* Paid Sick Leave for Workers
* For COVID-19 related reasons, employees receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and expanded paid child care leave when employees’ children’s schools are closed or child care providers are unavailable.
* Complete Coverage
* Employers receive 100% reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the Act.
* Health insurance costs are also included in the credit.
* Employers face no payroll tax liability.
* Self-employed individuals receive an equivalent credit.
* Fast Funds
* Reimbursement will be quick and easy to obtain.
* An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax offset against payroll taxes will be provided
* Where a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as quickly as possible.
* Small Business Protection
* Employers with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for an exemption from the requirements to provide leave to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care is unavailable in cases where the viability of the business is threatened.
* Easing Compliance
* Requirements subject to 30-day non-enforcement period for good faith compliance efforts.
To take immediate advantage of the paid leave credits, businesses can retain and access funds that they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If those amounts are not sufficient to cover the cost of paid leave, employers can seek an expedited advance from the IRS by submitting a streamlined claim form that will be released next week.
The Act provided paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for COVID-19 related reasons and created the refundable paid sick leave credit and the paid child care leave credit for eligible employers. Eligible employers are businesses and tax-exempt organizations with fewer than 500 employees that are required to provide emergency paid sick leave and emergency paid family and medical leave under the Act. Eligible employers will be able to claim these credits based on qualifying leave they provide between the effective date and December 31, 2020. Equivalent credits are available to self-employed individuals based on similar circumstances.
The Act provides that employees of eligible employers can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 100% of the employee’s pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and seeking a medical diagnosis. An employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, to care for a child whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing substantially similar conditions as specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay. An employee who is unable to work due to a need to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, may in some instances receive up to an additional ten weeks of expanded paid family and medical leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay.
Paid Sick Leave Credit
For an employee who is unable to work because of Coronavirus quarantine or self-quarantine or has Coronavirus symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis, eligible employers may receive a refundable sick leave credit for sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, for a total of 10 days. For an employee who is caring for someone with Coronavirus, or is caring for a child because the child’s school or child care facility is closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may claim a credit for two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate, for up to 10 days. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.
Child Care Leave Credit
In addition to the sick leave credit, for an employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for a child whose school or child care facility is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may receive a refundable child care leave credit. This credit is equal to two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate. Up to 10 weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the child care leave credit. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.
Prompt Payment for the Cost of Providing Leave
When employers pay their employees, they are required to withhold from their employees’ paychecks federal income taxes and the employees’ share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. The employers then are required to deposit these federal taxes, along with their share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, with the IRS and file quarterly payroll tax returns (Form 941 series) with the IRS.
Under guidance that will be released next week, eligible employers who pay qualifying sick or child care leave will be able to retain an amount of the payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying sick and child care leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS.
The payroll taxes that are available for retention include withheld federal income taxes, the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees.
If there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of qualified sick and child care leave paid, employers will be able file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS. The IRS expects to process these requests in two weeks or less. The details of this new, expedited procedure will be announced next week.
If an eligible employer paid $5,000 in sick leave and is otherwise required to deposit $8,000 in payroll taxes, including taxes withheld from all its employees, the employer could use up to $5,000 of the $8,000 of taxes it was going to deposit for making qualified leave payments. The employer would only be required under the law to deposit the remaining $3,000 on its next regular deposit date.
If an eligible employer paid $10,000 in sick leave and was required to deposit $8,000 in taxes, the employer could use the entire $8,000 of taxes in order to make qualified leave payments and file a request for an accelerated credit for the remaining $2,000.
Equivalent child care leave and sick leave credit amounts are available to self-employed individuals under similar circumstances. These credits will be claimed on their income tax return and will reduce estimated tax payments.
Small Business Exemption
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be eligible for an exemption from the leave requirements relating to school closings or child care unavailability where the requirements would jeopardize the ability of the business to continue. The exemption will be available on the basis of simple and clear criteria that make it available in circumstances involving jeopardy to the viability of an employer’s business as a going concern. Labor will provide emergency guidance and rulemaking to clearly articulate this standard.
Labor will be issuing a temporary non-enforcement policy that provides a period of time for employers to come into compliance with the Act. Under this policy, Labor will not bring an enforcement action against any employer for violations of the Act so long as the employer has acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act. Labor will instead focus on compliance assistance during the 30-day period.
For More Information
For more information about these credits and other relief, visit Coronavirus Tax Relief on IRS.gov. Information regarding the process to receive an advance payment of the credit will be posted next week.
Stocks Soar During Historic Day For The Dow
Stocks soared yesterday on news that the $2 trillion stimulus bill was “on the five yard line” and close to be finalized by both the Democrats and Republicans.
The stimulus package will provide relief for companies that have been caught up in the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
Delays in the bill’s passage were due to the Democrat’s concerns that the bill favored Wall Street over Main Street.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared on CNBC and told Jim Cramer that there is “real optimism” of a stimulus deal being reached. “We think the bill has moved sufficiently to the side of workers,” she said.
After news broke of the deal nearing completion, stocks went on to stage a historic rally that lifted all three major indexes.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 11.37%, or 2,112 points, for its biggest one-day percentage gain since 1933 and its largest point gain ever. The S&P 500 rallied 9.38% for its best day since October 2008 and the Nasdaq climbed 8.12%.
With the stimulus bill close to passing and the markets staging a historic rally, some were willing to look ahead and predict the end of the bear market.
Michael Novogratz, CEO of Galaxy Digital, was on CNBC’s Squawk Box and said “From a market perspective… it feels like we’re coming to the end of it,” and said he started buying again on Monday.
Far more investors, however, view yesterday’s rally as nothing more than a one-day rebound.
“This was a one-day bull market,” CNBC’s Jim Cramer said on “Closing Bell” on Tuesday. “You had stocks that moved so much they basically moved as if the second half of the year is going to be good. I struggle to find out why the second half of the year should be good …I hate this kind of rally. This was a machine driven rally, just like the sell-offs … I want to wait to see.”
Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, a managing director at JPMorgan, said the rally could be partly due to short sellers covering their positions to grab profits. He said there could be “considerable short covering from here,” which would temporarily lift equity prices.
Others believe it may be nothing more than a simple bounce due to so many stocks being oversold.
Sam Stovall, chief investment officer at CFRA Research said “Even in bear markets, you can end up being oversold, and I think that this market was stretched like a rubber band that, at least in the near term, was ready to snap back.”
That “snap back” rally is adding to the market volatility. Last week, the index climbed to 82.69, beating the highest reading during the 2008 financial crisis. The volatility index (VIX) did drop yesterday 1.2%, to 60.85.
What remains to be seen is if the rally can last for more than a single day, and if buyers will continue showing up before the coronavirus is contained. Many believe that the rally is nothing more than optimism surrounding the stimulus plan, and that a lasting rebound in the markets won’t happen until there’s clear evidence that the coronavirus has slowed.
Fed Bank Predicts 53 Million Americans Out of Work, 32% Unemployment Rate
Stocks Continue to Rally on Mixed News, Hopes For A Coronavirus Vaccine
Federal CARES Act Provides Relief to Businesses Hurt by COVID-19
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