How to take advantage of new 'regular rate of pay' definition.

PositionOvertime Pay

When calculating overtime, employers must pay nonexempt workers at 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for work beyond 40 hours a week. That's not 1.5 times their hourly rate.

But what is calculated into that "regular rate"? The U.S. Department of Labor issued final regulations recently that, for the first time in 50 years, refine that definition. The rule took effect on Jan. 15.

It's always been clear that the regular rate includes hourly wages, plus certain bonuses, commissions, shift differentials and more. It doesn't include things like employer contributions to 401(k)s.

The good news: The DOL has now said that employers don't have to factor in the value of many popular benefits when calculating overtime. That means you may be able to offer more perks without increasing your OT budget.

The ruling confirms these items can be excluded from regular rate calculations:

* The cost of providing wellness programs, on-site specialists, gym access, fitness classes and employee discounts on retail goods/services.

* Cash payments for unused paid leave, including paid sick leave.

* Discretionary bonuses. To be excluded, a bonus must not be paid according to a contract or agreement. Example of discretionary bonus: spot bonuses for extra effort, "employee of the month" bonuses and severance bonuses.

* Reimbursements for employees' educational expenses.

* The...

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