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New year, new show season, new overtime rules

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The opening tomorrow of the Houston International Boat, Sport and Travel Show kicks off the 2020 winter boat show season, while new overtime rules that may impact dealerships, marinas and boatyards went into effect yesterday.

It has become a tradition that the Houston show, which runs Jan. 3-12 and is produced by the Boating Trades Association of Metropolitan Houston, leads a jam-packed schedule of shows around the country. (The Houston show is closed Jan. 4 due to a Houston Texans vs. Bills wild card NFL playoff game.)

Meanwhile, before Houston ends, major shows in Chicago and Nashville will run, followed by events in Cleveland, Atlanta, Kansas City, Hartford and Detroit. Accordingly, by the time we get to mid-January, we should have a solid picture of winter-show attendance and sales.

New Overtime Rules

On another front, yesterday brought in new overtime rules for employers, including small businesses, and a pay raise for at least 1.3 million workers.

According to the Labor Department, new rules raise to $684 per week, or $35,568 a year, the threshold at which employees are exempt from being paid overtime. That’s a 50.3 percent increase from the previous threshold of $455 per week or $23,660 annually.

Employees at businesses of all sizes will be affected, but the rules will likely have a greater impact on small companies that don’t have the revenue stream of larger businesses to use as a cushion against the higher labor costs. Among those affected could be positions that are designated supervisors or assistant managers in retail businesses.

As a result, businesses may have to pay overtime to more employees, but some steps can be taken to limit the impact on budgets. One strategy is to give employees who are near the threshold a raise that puts them at the exempt level. Another could be changing work schedules and/or job descriptions to make it less likely that employees will have to put in more than eight hours in a day. (Actually, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employees be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a work week.)

The increase shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s been known for some time that a change in overtime rules was coming. You’ll recall the Obama administration proposed a much larger increase in the exemption threshold, nearly doubling it to $47,476. Those regulations were slated to go into effect in 2016 but were put on hold by a federal lawsuit.

The Trump administration revised the proposed rules last March. Those rules will allow contractual bonuses and commission payments to as much as 10 percent of the exempt threshold. That effectively lowers the amount of pay needed to reach the threshold.

Questions would best be referred to your accountant or legal counsel. More information about the overtime rules is available on the Labor Department website. Keep in mind that the new rules are now in effect.

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