New proposed overtime rules bring question to the fore

The U.S. Department of Labor has recently unveiled new rules on who qualifies for overtime. There is an ongoing question of whether or not after-hours emailing from nonexempt employees should be considered as overtime payment. If this were to pass, employees who respond to emails and phone calls after work hours could receive overtime payment.

Neil Boyd, associate professor of management at Bucknell University, explains that this new proposal of an increased pay threshold for nonexempt workers may cause employers to strategize differently with their pay rates. He believes there are concerns on both ends of the spectrum with compensating workers for after-hours emails, depending on their importance to the job.

"[Employers] might do the same with after-hours emails [as with other essential job functions], which would be an example of a work function within a position," says Boyd. "If the emails are part of the essential job functions of the position, then the employer would likely be responsible for paying wages for the work. However, they might also create policies to limit this work in order to avoid paying. In some ways the new rules will provide for some 'cat and mouse' tactics that will take some time to settle out."