KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 25, 2016) -- Tim Adams isn’t happy about it, but he will soon have to track “every minute” of his employees’ work schedules at Wesley House Community Center.
That’s because on Dec. 1, a new federal rule goes into effect that says full-time employees making less than $47,476 annually are eligible for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a given week.
Adams, executive director at Wesley House in Knoxville, has four full-time employees, other than himself. None of the four have salaries above the mid-30s, and they frequently work long hours during weeks with special events.
“Our budgets are tight,” Adams says. “I would love to pay them above $47,000 – they’re all worth it – but that’s not an option. “
Paying employees the overtime amount of 1.5 times their hourly rate is also not an option with Wesley House’s $619,500 annual budget, stretched thin to fulfill the mission of serving low-income children and senior citizens.
So beginning Dec. 1, Adams will join other leaders of Holston agencies and churches in trying to follow the law by adding paperwork and monitoring their employees’ hours.
“They’re a little apprehensive until we get it figured out,” says Adams of his staff, “but they understand what kind of strain it could put on our budget.”
Ryan Parker, director of development, said the new rule will now force him to “turn it off” when he leaves the Wesley House campus at the end of the day.
“I won’t have the flexibility of doing things on the outside, if I’m not going to be able to work more than 40 hours a week,” Parker said.
In most cases, pastors are not affected by the new rule from the U.S. Department of Labor, which exempts clergy from minimum wage and overtime requirements.
However, the rule could impact 4.2 million U.S. workers who will either gain new overtime protections or get a raise to the new salary threshold, according to the government. The update to the Fair Labor Standards Act raises the salary threshold for overtime eligibility from $455 per week (established in 2004) to $913 per week.
In Holston Conference, agencies and churches with non-clergy staff working long hours are still figuring out how to meet the demands of their ministries while possibly sending employees home during the busiest times or else paying them more.
“This law will greatly impact our ministry as our time demands of work fluctuate so drastically with mission teams, youth and women's ministries,” said the Rev. Linda Stransky, executive director of Jubilee Project in Sneedville, Tenn. “During the summer, it’s all but impossible to stick to a 40-hour work week. “
In the past, Jubilee Project offered “comp time” to its two full-time, non-clergy employees working overtime during a given week. “Then our office staff can take those hours off during the periods of time when it's slower,” Stransky said.
The new rule will add more challenges to the already challenging job of providing food, clothing, clean water, home repair, and other ministries for the low-income neighbors of Hancock County. Jubilee Project’s annual budget is $145,035.
“We'll just have to work together to cover for one another and stay within the boundaries. It's going to be a rough task during the summer months,” Stransky said.
Employers will not face any criminal penalties for failing to pay overtime, but employees can file suit in federal court for back pay with interest and other financial penalties, according to the government.
TREATING EMPLOYEES FAIRLY
Rick Cherry, Holston Conference treasurer, said he has not received any questions from treasurers of Holston's 881 churches concerning the new overtime rule.
However, Cherry and other Holston leaders have received guidance from the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration in how the new rule could change employee pay and policies.
“The conference will continue to have nonexempt employees turn in timesheets, and we will continue to pay time and a half to those who work more than 40 hours per week,” Cherry said. “It is just a good business practice to treat an employee fairly and compensate them accordingly.”
About five of the conference’s 40 total employees fit the criteria to benefit from the new rule, especially during busy times such as Resurrection (youth retreat in January) and Annual Conference (church-wide meeting in June).
On Oct. 18, the conference’s Personnel Resources Team met and determined that with “proper planning and scheduling,” Cherry said, “there is very little potential for overtime for our nonexempt employees. Schedule adjustments will be made during event times, and employees will only be responsible during certain hours as pre-established with their supervisor."
The Rev. Randy Pasqua, director of Holston Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries, said that he and the directors of Holston’s four camps are still investigating how to respond to the new rule.
For more information, see:
"New overtime rule means church changes" (UMNS 10/5/16)
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.