Continuing his "Year of Action," President Obama today signed a presidential memorandum directing the Department of Labor to develop a plan to extend overtime pay for millions of workers.
"Today I'm going to use my pen to give more Americans the chance to earn the overtime pay that they deserve," the president said at a White House ceremony. "If you have to work more, you should get paid more."
The move is the latest in the president's focus on middle-class economic issues, which includes a call for a higher minimum wage and equal pay for women.
Claiming the overtime rules have eroded over the years, the president is instructing the Secretary of Labor to devise new guidelines that would set a higher income threshold for employees to qualify for overtime pay.
Currently, workers who are paid hourly wages or who make $455 a week or less are protected by overtime regulations, while those above the threshold who perform "executive, professional or administrative duties" are not.
As a result, millions of salaried workers may work 50 to 60 hours of week, but barely make enough to keep their families out of poverty because they are left without overtime protections, the White House estimates.
"If you're working hard, you're barely making ends meet, you should be paid overtime, period, because working Americans have struggled through stagnant wages for too long. Every day I get letters from folks who just feel like they're treading water. No matter how hard they're working - they're putting in long hours, they're working harder and harder just to get by," Obama said. "They just want to get ahead. So today I'm taking action to help give more workers that chance. I'm directing Tom Perez, my secretary of labor, to restore the common sense principle behind overtime. If you go above and beyond to help your employer and your economy succeed, then you should share a little bit in that success. And this is going to make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans, from managers in fast food and retail to office workers, cargo inspectors."