Department of Labor’s Overtime Rules

On January 1, 2020, the overtime salary threshold for workers increased for the first time since 2004. The increase is designed to make more U.S. workers eligible for overtime pay.

Adoption of regulations finalized during the Obama Administration would have meant greater cost increases for many employers – including colleges and universities. However, with the U.S. District Court in Texas striking down the rule on August 31, 2017, the Obama regulations never took effect - allowing the Trump Administration to move forward with a more moderate increase.       


In September of 2019, DOL announced a final rule that increases the threshold for overtime pay from $23,660 to $35,568, a slight adjustment over what was proposed.  This rule took effect on January 1, 2020, for all sectors of employers.  The change came after a protracted back and forth during both the Obama and Trump administrations. 


During the Obama Administration, the White House, for the first time in ten years, called for an expansion of the number of workers who qualify for overtime pay. That rule would have more than doubled the salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476. That rule, and all guidance on implementing it, was never implemented having been struck down by a U.S. District Court in Texas near the end of President Obama's term in office.

The DOL under the Trump Administration took the first step in a new rulemaking process by asking for public comment on the overtime threshold.  The request for information asked for specific recommendations on salary levels, duties test, and other methodologies.  The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) submitted comments, which NAICU signed on to, on behalf of the higher education community in 2017.  The new thresholds went into effect on January 1, 2020.

Compensatory "Comp" Time and Higher Education

For over three decades, public employers – including public colleges and universities - have had the option of offering comp time arrangements to their employees.  Employees may decide between comp time or overtime pay, under certain guidelines.  Unfortunately, private employers – including private colleges and universities – are not able to offer employees the same option.  Having the ability to offer comp time would have lessened the blow of the Obama overtime pay rule had it been implemented.

The House has passed legislation four different times, most recently in 2017, to allow private employers to offer comp time arrangements to employees.  Unfortunately, these bills were not taken up in the Senate.  

The DOL cannot allow private employers to offer comp time arrangements until both chambers of Congress pass legislation that is signed into law by the President. 


The business community, both small and large, as well as nonprofit employers, including colleges and universities, have been more supportive of the overtime threshold adjustment implemented by the Trump Administration.  However, additional significant adjustments are possible, although changes have not been proposed by the Biden Administration. Labor unions fully supported the proposed increase during the Obama Administration, and opposed the salary threshold set by the Trump Administration.  

What You Can Do

  • Assess how an overtime threshold closer to $50,000 would affect your institution if proposed by the Biden Administration. 


  • CUPA-HR resource page on the overtime rule specific to the concerns of colleges and universities. 
  • CUPA-HR has developed additional details on the new proposed rule.
  • NAICU's outside counsel, retained to assist members with implementing the Overtime Rule during the Obama Administration, developed guidance to help employers understand their options when the original rule looked imminent.
  • The Obama Administration's Overtime Rule.
  • Higher education community comments on the proposed Obama overtime rules.
  • Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity

NAICU Contact

Karin Johns: