Why is it so hard for today’s workers to achieve work-life balance? In part, it’s because work never stops. If you have a smartphone and email access, you can always check in with the office just one more time before you go to sleep … and before you get out of bed … and before (hopefully not during) your kid hits a homerun in Little League.
Each glance might take less than a minute, depending on how much of a response is required, but those minutes add up. Beyond that, the expectation of checking in after work is technically over weighs heavily on workers’ minds. A recent study, Exhausted But Unable to Disconnect, found that the new normal of being always available creates “anticipatory stress” that “influences employees’ ability to detach from work regardless of the time required for email.” But help might be on the way, thanks to a change to federal rules about overtime.
The New FLSA Rules and Your Work-Life Balance
If you earn less than $47,476 a year, you might soon get some encouragement to unplug from an unexpected source: your employer. That’s because the new Fair Labor Standards Act overtime rules, which raise the minimum salary threshold for exempt employees, take effect Dec. 1, 2016.
Prior to this change, the salary threshold was $455 a week or $23,660 a year, about half the new limit. Salary threshold isn’t the only factor that determines exemption status—PayScale’s Mykkah Herner noted in an earlier post that the exemption tests which compose the other part “are fairly complex and often require the services of an employment lawyer to fully define”—but for the most part, if you earn less than $913 a week, you will likely be classified as a non-exempt employee, and entitled to overtime.
How Checking Email Might Qualify You for Overtime
“Unlike exempt employees, non-exempt workers must be compensated for all time worked,” writes Jay Starkman at Denver Business Journal. “This includes the time they spend checking and responding to emails at home or during the weekend.”
Starkman posits the scenario of a store manager who makes $35,000 a year, and consistently checks email after hours: “…he or she may be owed significant amounts of overtime if the company is not careful. Or worse, an employer may not even be aware of the overtime until it is hit with a wage and hour lawsuit.”
So, don’t be surprised if your boss starts getting very solicitous about your work-life balance, after Dec. 1.
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