It’s that time of the year again when teachers, students, and administrators return to school. Students eagerly await standardized tests, teachers look forward to discussing with parents why their child got a B instead of an A, and administrators debate how to spend their bountiful budgets on high-tech learning equipment. I really hope the sarcasm was caught there.
Today, more and more teachers are putting in extra hours to ensure that their students are learning. Many are also putting some of their own money towards school supplies because the school simply cannot afford them. With so much hard work and their own money put in, it makes you wonder if teachers are eligible for overtime pay.
Are Teachers Eligible?
Unfortunately, teachers are not eligible for overtime pay. Despite the experience a teacher has, the level at which they teach at, or how many hours they put in, teachers cannot earn overtime pay. Now this can obviously have mixed reactions. On one hand, if you put in an inordinate amount of working hours, you should be compensated for your time. However, many people will argue that teachers get summer breaks which helps to even out the hours. In the end your stance is somewhat irrelevant due to the Fair Labor Standards Act ruling on overtime eligibility.
Why Aren’t Teachers Eligible?
So why aren’t teachers eligible for overtime? The FLSA has strict rulings on what workers are eligible and not eligible to earn overtime pay. To start off, earning overtime requires an employee to work in excess of forty hours in one work week. This has nothing to do with the amount of hours worked in one day or if the hours worked were during nights or weekends. You simply have to exceed forty hours worked in the workweek. The hours worked in excess are paid out at one and a half times your normal pay rate. So if you have worked 45 hours this week and your normal pay rate is $10 per hour, you will earn $15 for five of those hours.
So in that sense, a teacher can still qualify for overtime. The law doesn’t state that you have to average over forty hours per week in the year or exceed 2,080 hours worked in the year. So the next qualifying factor is the overall salary earned.
One misconception is that only workers paid on an hourly basis are eligible for overtime. Likewise, another misconception is that if you work on an hourly basis you are guaranteed eligibility for overtime. Both of these statements are actually false. While the vast majority of overtime eligible employees work on an hourly basis, that does not determine eligibility versus exemption.
Even some salaried workers can be eligible for overtime. One requirement of a salaried worker being eligible for overtime is how much they earn. The current threshold for salaried workers is at $466 per week or $23,660 annually. It is a well known fact that this is not much, especially if it is going towards supporting a family. In fact, for a family of four, this income is below the poverty line. So as it currently stands, we would not provide overtime to an impoverished family despite how many hours they work as long as their salary is a dollar over that threshold.
This threshold has been intact for long time and hasn’t been raised to account for inflation in decades. Luckily, that is all changing according to recent statements by President Obama. The threshold will increase to $50,440 which is a healthy jump. This would cover about 40% of salaried works, greatly helping out those who are currently earning a salary that exempts them from overtime.
Unfortunately for teachers, this still won’t make them eligible for overtime. The main reason is that they are automatically exempt based on their job function. The FLSA’s ruling on overtime creates exemptions for a handful of professions and job duties. The jury is still out on a number of white collar exemptions which are classified as executive, administrative, and professional. However, the automatic exemptions for lawyers, doctors, judges, and teachers remain. They are considered “traditional learned professions” which makes them ineligible from overtime. This professional exempt work is categorized as work that prominently requires intellectual, specialized education and involves the exercise of discretion and judgement.
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