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NEA News

New Rule on Overtime Will Boost Pay for Thousands of School Support Staff

Labor Department rule ensures salaried workers making less than $58,656 receive fair pay for long hours.
ESP overtime rule
Published: May 15, 2024

Key Takeaways

  1. Biden-Harris final rule raises the minimum salary threshold to be exempt from receiving time-and-a-half pay after 40 hours of work in a week.
  2. Underpaid workers like education support professionals (ESPs) will be compensated for long hours.
  3. As schools struggle with staff shortages, some ESPs have had to work long days without overtime. The new rule will change that for many support staff.

As educator shortages persist across the country, many are left to pick up the slack and absorb additional duties, often without compensation. But a new rule from the Biden Administration will offer some relief to underpaid school staff – Education Support Professionals (ESPs).

The Biden-Harris administration announced a final rule that expands overtime protections for millions of the nation’s lower-paid salaried workers by increasing the salary level required to exempt an employee from federal overtime pay requirements. 

Effective July 1, 2024, the salary threshold will increase from $35,568 to $43,888. It will increase again to $58,656 on Jan. 1, 2025. The threshold will update every three years, with the first automatic update on July 2, 2027.

“This rule will restore the promise to workers that if you work more than 40 hours in a week, you should be paid more for that time,” said Acting Secretary of the US Department of Labor Julie Su in a statement. “Too often, lower-paid salaried workers are doing the same job as their hourly counterparts but are spending more time away from their families for no additional pay.” 

The new overtime rule will help approximately 245,000 ESPs in K-Higher Education public schools who engage in "white collar" jobs (such as clerical and administrative duties) and earn less than $58,656 annually by compensating them for work over 40 hours a week.

ESPs eligible for overtime pay

Earning More, Feeling More Valued

“ESPs are routinely asked to take on additional duties and work longer hours as part of their salaried jobs, which are the lowest paid salaries in the school,” says Jen Bramson, a preschool educator in Park City, Utah, and NEA’s 2024 Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year. “Money makes a difference. Respect makes a difference.”

Bramson says the new rule will help many ESPs not only earn more but feel more respected.

“ESPs work directly with students who are our country’s future. We deserve the same protections and salaries as other jobs to show our work is valued,” Bramson says.

Quote byJen Bramson , Preschool educator, Park City, Utah, and NEA’s 2024 ESP of the Year

“ESPs are routinely asked to take on additional duties and work longer hours as part of their salaried jobs, which are the lowest paid salaries in the school. Money makes a difference. Respect makes a difference.”
—Jen Bramson , Preschool educator, Park City, Utah, and NEA’s 2024 ESP of the Year
Jennifer Bramson

Jariza Rodriguez is an administrative assistant at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. 

Over the years, she says, her university has gutted positions as they look to save money. 

“In 2008 our bargaining unit had 400 members. Now we have about 215,” she says. “But as the workforce decreased, the workload increased.” 

She says the shortages in staff from K-12 through higher education campuses is making people feel like they have to do more. And, as the backbone of campuses and schools, they do it, stretching themselves to make sure everything continues running smoothly.

“What happens is that they eliminate positions and then increase our workload by redistributing the work of those eliminated to those of us who are still here,” Rodriguez says. 

Not everyone wants to work overtime, both Rodriguez and Bramson say. People can only do so much at work before they feel burned out. But if they do make the sacrifice, they should be compensated for it.

“A lot of us, even in higher education, have second jobs or live with roommates just to make ends meet,” Rodriguez says.  “We aren’t asking for much. None of us expect to get rich. But we deserve a living wage because we are essential.”

ESPs Struggle With Low Pay

Just how out-of-reach a livable wage is for many of the 3 million support professionals who work in public education (K-12 and higher education) is highlighted in the just-released 2024 NEA Education Support Professionals Earnings report.    

According to the report, 33 percent of all ESPs working full‐time earn less than $25,000 per year, and 11 percent earn less than $15,000. Among those working in K–12 schools, 38 percent earn less than $25,000, and 12.5 percent earn less than $15,000. Within higher education, 14.0 percent earn less than $25,000, and 6.4 percent earn less than $15,000. 

Among ESPs who work full-time in K-12 schools, the average salary in 2022-23 was $33,756. Overall, the average earning (including ESPS in higher education) was $35,995, an increase of almost $4,800 since 2014. But factoring in inflation, that amount drops to $28,149 in 2014 dollars.

The Department of Labor engaged with employers, workers, unions and other stakeholders before announcing the rule. It also considered more than 33,000 comments in developing its final rule – 17,000 of the comments from NEA's Action Center applauded the new rule but asked that DOL consider issuing another rule expanding the benefit to teachers, 46% of whom are paid below the new issued threshold. 

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, almost all U.S. hourly workers are entitled to overtime pay after 40 hours a week, at no less than time-and-a-half their regular rates. But salaried workers who perform “executive, administrative or professional” roles are exempt from that requirement unless they earn below a certain level. These kinds of roles are exactly what our ESPs do on campuses throughout the country but are historically paid low salaries for that work.

“The Department of Labor is ensuring that lower-paid salaried workers receive their hard-earned pay or get much-deserved time back with their families,” said Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman. “This rule establishes clear, predictable guidance for employers on how to pay employees for overtime hours and provides more economic security to the millions of people working long hours without overtime pay.”

Key provisions of the final rule include the following:

  • Expanding overtime protections to lower-paid salaried workers.
  • Giving more workers pay or valuable time back with their family: By better identifying which executive, administrative or professional employees should be overtime exempt, the final rule ensures that those employees who are not exempt receive time-and-a-half pay when working more than 40 hours in a week or gain more time with their families.
  • Providing regular updates to ensure predictability. The rule establishes regular updates to the salary thresholds every three years to reflect changes in earnings. This protects future erosion of overtime protections so that they do not become less effective over time.

NEA has long advocated for higher salaries for ESPs who are the foundation of public schools. NEA and its members are launching campaigns for an ESP Bill of Rights.

About one-third of ESPs earn less than $25,000 a year, and on average, they are making below a living wage in all 50 states.

One Job Should be Enough

NEA is building a movement of members and public education allies across the country, calling on education leaders and policymakers to invest in ESPs, respect their professional expertise, and recognize their vital contributions to student learning and well-being. 

An ESP Bill of Rights would ensure:

Fair Compensation One job should be enough! ESPs should not have to work multiple jobs to maintain financial independence.

Recognition and Respect ESPs play a vital role on the education team and in students' lives inside and outside the classroom. They keep our schools running and our students safe, healthy, and ready to learn every day. They deserve to be respected and recognized as accomplished professionals.

Safe and Healthy Work Environment ESPs deserve a safe and healthy workplace that is free of violence, including physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, and free of exposure to hazardous materials. ESPs deserve clear safety protocols, appropriate supplies, safely maintained equipment, training on workplace regulations, and whistleblower protections.

Affordable Healthcare ESPs should have access to affordable health insurance.

Paid Leave ESPs deserve paid leave, including personal days, sick days, parental/caregiver leave, and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits.

Professional Learning and Career Advancement ESPs deserve high-quality, job-related professional learning and accessible opportunities for career advancement. Seniority rights must be protected when ESPs pursue promotions and request transfers, and at times of layoffs or furlough.

Workload and Staffing ESPs have the right to a workload that allows them to excel in their assigned positions. ESPs deserve a voice in establishing fully staffed shifts, clear work protocols, and resources that support their careers.

Retirement ESPs have the right to a secure retirement. All their years of service should count toward a pension.

Protection from Privatization ESPs should be free of the threats of privatization that risk the stability of school communities, silence the voice of employees, and further undermine the value of the services they provide in their jobs.

Right to Bargain ESPs deserve a strong voice in their workplace that includes the right to join their union and advocate for the rights and protections they deserve. Bargaining and advocacy ensure they enhance student learning and improve educator working conditions–benefiting students, schools, and the community as a whole.

 

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National Education Association

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The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.