Photo: Associated Press

The Society for Human Resource Management, a vigorous opponent of changes to overtime regulations proposed by the Obama administration, told the Department of Labor in comments last week that the changes will not only burden management but be a detriment to the workers they intend to help. 

The change floated by the DOL would raise the threshold for exempting employees from overtime pay from $23,660 to $50,440. 

SHRM contends that many workers who currently earn below the proposed threshold would not all of a sudden begin making more money if the changes are implemented. Instead, the HR organization predicts that employers will impose stricter work hours in order to limit overtime. The result, argues SHRM, would be “reduced workplace flexibility and access to opportunities to gain experience” as well as a “loss of professional status.” 

The organization is basing its assertions on a survey of member employers, 70 percent of whom said that a change in overtime classifications would mean that their employees would have fewer opportunities to work overtime. 

In the past, SHRM has highlighted the effect the rule change could have on non-profit organizations. Charitable groups, whose employees often make less than their counterparts in the business world, would be forced to lay off employees or to cut into their services if they are forced to pay more of their employees overtime. 

Furthermore, 67 percent said the rule change would result in less autonomy and flexibility for employees, leading some workers to view the change as a demotion. 

And yet, SHRM insists it supports the idea of changing overtime rules to allow some higher-paid workers to qualify for overtime wages. But it says the new reclassification is too drastic a change. 

“While DOL’s proposal acknowledges that the proposed rule may have some adverse effect on employees, the consequences of reclassification are not considered in any depth,” Mike Aitken, SHRM’s vice president of government affairs, wrote in comments to the DOL. “Of course, the department could mitigate the impact of these negative consequences by more appropriately setting the salary threshold so that it serves as a reasonable proxy for those employees unlikely to pass the duties test.”