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Federal rules governing overtime eligibility expanded today

US labor officials estimate that 4.2 million additional employees across the country who earn middle-class salaries will become eligible for overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a given week under updated federal regulations that became final today and will take effect on December 1, 2016. While hourly workers have the right to overtime, most salaried employees are only eligible for overtime under federal law if they make less than $23,660, a level established in 2004. Today's amendments raise that limit to $47,476 for most workers.

Using a weekly salary, the cap rose from $455 to $913.

The US Department of Labor estimates that of the 4.2 million who will become overtime eligible under federal law with these changes, 392,084 are in California. The Golden State already provides a more protective standard than the federal rule does with a salary cap for overtime eligibility of $41,600.

The new federal salary cap will automatically be recalculated every three years, rather than requiring new regulatory action to do so.

In 2014, President Obama asked the Labor Department to do a comprehensive review of these overtime regulations, resulting in today's changes after the official rulemaking process generated 270,000 public comments. The administration wanted to target managers at these salary levels such as those in retail or restaurant work who may have been working many hours of overtime with no additional pay. With the new overtime cap, many of them will either get overtime for the extra work, not be required to work so many hours or possibly get a raise to a level higher than the cap.

Salaried workers above the cap will not be eligible for overtime (called exempt) if they primarily perform professional, administrative or executive duties, or if they work in certain excluded occupations or fall under special laws. Finally, so-called "highly compensated" employees, almost all of whom are exempt, previously encompassed those earning over $100,000, a level raised to $134,004 with the new regulations.

Many in the media are speculating about what the results of these changes will be over time. Anyone who believes he or she is eligible for overtime either now or after the changes take effect who is not properly receiving what is due or with questions about these laws should speak with an experienced employment attorney.

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