ACE, CUPA-HR, Other Groups File Comments on Labor Department Plan to Update Overtime Salary Levels
November 13, 2023

Along with CUPA-HR and  a number of other higher education associations, ACE submitted comments Nov. 7 on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) plan to update the salary level to qualify for the so-called “white-collar” exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime pay requirements.

The proposal adheres closely to what the Obama administration instituted in 2016, which was overturned by a federal court in 2017. The Trump administration’s DOL then issued a new rule in 2019 that increased the threshold to $35,568 per year in 2020. This is the level it remains at today.

The DOL is now proposing to raise the standard salary threshold from its current level of $35,568 annually to $55,068—a nearly 55 percent increase. Based on the most recent wage data, the DOL projects that the threshold in the final rule will be $60,209, an increase of nearly 70 percent. It also would raise the salary level for the “Highly Compensated Exemption” to $143,988 from its current level of $107,432, a 34 percent increase. All thresholds would be updated automatically every three years.

Given that the most recent update to the minimum salary threshold took effect in January 2020, the groups said in their comments that they do not believe DOL should increase the salary threshold at this time. They also oppose the threshold level proposed in the rule. Finally, the groups expressed doubt about whether DOL has authority to implement its proposal for automatic updates and instead urged the agency to propose future increases through notice and comment rulemaking that complies with the Administrative Procedure Act.

College and university professors and adjunct instructors are not covered by the salary threshold under DOL’s current “teacher exemption,” provided they have a primary duty of teaching, tutoring, instructing, or lecturing. Based on current DOL policy, the threshold also likely does not apply to student workers, including teaching assistants and research assistants. Researchers do not qualify for the exemption unless they have significant teaching responsibilities.

According to Inside Higher Ed, more than 33,000 comments on the rule were filed before the deadline, many from colleges and universities. The institutions responding said the changes “could mean millions more in expenses and cuts in services to students, and many told the department they aren’t sure where they’ll get the money to pay for it without raising tuition or seeing an influx of money from state legislatures, which is unlikely,” Inside Higher Ed reported.

The final rule is expected in the spring of 2024.