New Overtime Pay Law Would Help Millions of Women

Brenda, a working mother from Houston, Texas, is all too familiar with working hard without fair pay. It’s not unusual for her to work up to 11 hours a day, seven days a week as an assistant manager. As the sole provider for her family, she takes care of her sick husband and two special needs children. “I am grateful for my job,” she says, “but if we all could be paid for the overtime it would also make us feel better about ourselves and better about our jobs.”

Brenda’s story is not unique. Millions of employees are working overtime without receiving proper compensation. But in July, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a long-overdue change that could positively affect 5.9 million workers—more than half of them women—according to a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and

Currently, to earn overtime workers must earn a salary below the overtime threshold, $23,660 per year. Not since 1975 has the threshold been adjusted, which could account for the fact that it falls below the poverty line for a family of four.

The DOL’s proposed change would raise the threshold to $50,440 by 2016, benefitting 5.9 million workers. Women make up more than half of these workers, and nearly half of the women are single mothers and Black and Hispanic women.

On average, women who work overtime could earn up to an additional $227 per week under the new threshold.

“For those who currently work over 40 hours per week without premium pay, the proposed increase in the overtime salary threshold could make a significant impact on the economic security of these families,” says IWPR President Heidi Hartmann. She adds that the change should increase consumer spending and economic growth, “but most importantly, increasing coverage for these women is critical if they are to achieve economic security and increase prosperity for themselves and their families.”


Julia Robins is a Ms. editorial intern and a graduate of William & Mary. Follow Julia on Twitter @julia_robins.