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Driven by a high level of interest, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is extending the public comment period on its proposed changes to the state’s overtime rules.

Comments will now be accepted through Friday, Sept. 20. That’s two weeks later than the original Sept. 6 deadline.

In June, L&I proposed an incremental increase in the minimum salary threshold for employees to be considered exempt from overtime. Under current federal guidelines, to be overtime exempt, an employee must perform certain types of managerial duties and be paid a salary of at least $455 a week. That figure would climb under the proposed rule.

Along with the salary threshold, an overtime-exempt employee also must meet a job duties test. L&I’s proposed rules would more closely align the state’s test with federal standards. The proposal covers employees defined as executive, administrative, and professional, as well as outside salespeople, and computer professionals.

This would be the first update of the state rules since 1976.

“We’ve seen an outpouring of people interested in these changes, and we want to make sure they all have a chance to tell us what they think,” said Elizabeth Smith, L&I deputy director. “With so many people focused on vacations and family events through the late summer, we want to give people more time to comment as they return to their fall schedules.”

L&I has already received more than 1,450 comments on the proposal, and took testimony from more than 180 people at seven public hearings held around the state in July and August.

The proposed changes would significantly increase the minimum amount employees must earn before they can be exempt from receiving overtime pay and other protections under the state’s Minimum Wage Act. The proposal would restore overtime eligibility to more than 250,000 employees when fully implemented.

Under the proposed change, beginning July 1, 2020, the state would set the salary threshold at $675 a week for businesses with 1-50 employees, and $945 for businesses with 51 or more employees. By Jan. 1, 2026, the threshold would be set at 2.5 times the state minimum wage, an estimated $1,536 a week for all businesses. After that, the threshold would rise as the minimum wage is adjusted for inflation.

If workers meet the qualifications and are paid at the salary threshold level or higher, employers can classify them as overtime exempt. Employers also have the option to make a salaried worker non-exempt and pay them overtime for anything over 40 hours worked, or they can convert overtime exempt workers to hourly. In order to help reduce overtime costs, employers could limit the number of hours over 40 per week an employee works.

The final decision is expected in early December.

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