Congress Considers New Overtime Laws for Computer Professionals

In response to concerns about the demand for high-tech computer workers shifting overseas, a newly proposed overtime law  would make fewer computer employees eligible to receive overtime pay.

Under the present overtime laws, computer employees are exempt from overtime if the following conditions are met:

  1. The employee is compensated either on a salary or fee basis at a rate not less than $455 per week or, if compensated on an hourly basis, at a rate not less than $27.63 an hour;
  2. The employee is employed as a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer or other similarly skilled worker in the computer field performing the duties described below;
  3. The employee’s primary duties consist of;

·        The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications;

·        The design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to user or system design specifications;

·        The design, documentation, testing, creation or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems; or

·        A combination of the aforementioned duties, the performance of which requires the same level of skills. 

The proposed new law seeks to expand the computer professional overtime exemption “to those whose job duties include securing, configuring, integrating and debugging computer systems[.]” The new law will also cover  those who direct the work performed by individuals in the industry as well as professionals involved with hardware who are not currently covered. These changes in the new proposed Computer Professionals Update Act, as well as its catch-all clause leaving the door open for further inclusion, make it more difficult to presume overtime eligibility for computer employees under the current standard which only exempts from overtime pay those who fit in the categories described, above.

The bill has received bipartisan support from lawmakers concerned with the overseas flow of high-tech employment opportunities.  At present, many multi-national employers are apt to outsource their high-tech work to countries with less restrictive or non-existant labor laws. By broadening the scope of who qualifies as an overtime exempt employee in computer fields, the hope is that American workers can remain competitive for these positions.  This bill is currently in committee.  

Employers in the high-tech industry should keep track of this bill’s progress as it has the potential to affect both their payroll commitments and the way they schedule and staff projects.

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