As I sit here writing this, it’s exactly 5:03 p.m. and my co-worker just told me to go home.

If I were paid hourly, I’d probably do just that. But I’m not. Well, for now, anyway.

In May, the U.S. Department of Labor threw a curveball across working-class America, the middle class, young professionals and all of their employers when they announced the new overtime regulations. The new ruling states that as of Dec. 1, employees who make less than $47,476 annually will now be eligible for overtime pay. Previously, the minimum was $23,660.

The ruling is meant to protect working-class employees who are given salaried “management” positions and then asked to work 60-hour weeks primarily doing manual labor atypical of a salaried professional. Picture a manager at a clothing retailer or fast-food restaurant who does pretty much the same job as everyone else, but also makes sure none of the other employees leave early and then locks up at night. Those are the pseudo-managers it’s designed to protect.

Yeah! Power to the people and all that — except, no. This is not good.

This rule is going to wreak havoc on those management positions that are essential for people just starting out in their careers, hoping to climb up the corporate ladder. Instead of serving as a stepping stone for ambitious young employees to prove their mettle as competent managers who put in extra time and effort, they will most likely be reclassified as hourly employees.  

Big change, bigger consequences

This is not a small change in the overtime salary minimum. It’s a seismic shift. They’re doubling it. Clearly they should have been revising the number gradually over the years, but they neglected it, and so to compensate for it, the Labor Department implemented an aggressively large number.

How will employers respond? Will they reclassify employees? Will they let people go? Will they reduce wages to compensate for increased overtime pay? If they reduce wages, will employees leave? Should we expect high rates of turnover?

How will that play out with the fact that the HVAC construction industry is already starved for talent?

Luckily, our government has a system of checks and gives us a voice. U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) has introduced a bill that deals with the overtime rules far more reasonably by spanning the increase incrementally over four years. The Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International, and the National Association of Electric Distributors have written a joint letter to Schrader openly supporting this bill.

What you can do to help is ask your representative to support that bill. You can find your representative at www.house.gov/representatives/find and send them an email or a letter. If you’re a HARDI member, get in touch with our government affairs guru, Jon Melchi, if you need more assistance. HARDI members can also contact Nancye Combs for a free human resources consultation to help plan for these changes.

As for me, I’m going to go home now. Otherwise I’ll face the unintended consequence of dealing with an angry wife.

Mike Coughlin is HARDI’s digital communications and public relations coordinator.