First Up: DOL Expands Overtime Exemption for Commission-based Retail and Service Workers

We all know that retail has been hit hard by the pandemic. When retail employees paid on a commission basis do go back to work, fewer of them will qualify for overtime, thanks to a Department of Labor (DOL) rule promulgated on Monday, May 18, 2020. While this sounds like a bad deal for employees, there’s a silver lining: the DOL issued another rule just today that will make compensating employees for staggered shifts and fluctuating workweeks easier—practices that are likely going to be critical components of a safe COVID-19 return-to-work plan in retail.

Monday’s final rule withdraws 60-year-old interpretive rules that limited employers’ ability to invoke Section 7(i) of the FLSA, which exempts certain commission-based employees in “retail or service establishments” from overtime eligibility. To qualify for the exemption, a business needs to show: (i) it is a retail or service establishment, as defined by the regulations; (ii) the employee’s regular rate of pay exceeds one and one-half times the applicable minimum wage for every hour worked in a workweek in which overtime hours are worked; and (iii) more than half the employee’s total earnings in a representative period must consist of commissions.


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Although the U.S. is still in the thick of the COVID-19 crisis, this is exactly when employers who are deemed “non-essential” should be developing a careful, considered plan to bring their workforces back. Employers face a multitude of challenges in the planning process, including: (1) determining when and who comes back; (2) parting ways with employees with whom the business can no longer support or need; (3) sidestepping lawsuits that could otherwise arise after employee terminations; and (4) balancing employees’ legitimate concerns for themselves and their families’ with an increasingly imperative need to get your business up and running again.

This post briefly addresses issues employers should consider when bringing employees back. For a deeper dive of the issues covered in this post and more, check out a recording of Kelley Drye’s Part 1: Getting Back To Work: Preparations and Considerations for Employers webinar, and register for Part 2: Getting Back To Work: When the Rubber Hits the Road. Part 2 is scheduled for April 30, 2020 at 12:30 PM ET, click here to register.


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