John O'Connor illustration
McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor
John O'Connor
John O’Connor

It’s a bit exhausting to keep writing about ways good intentions from our regulatory agencies keep fueling disastrous outcomes.

The latest blow came earlier this week with an announcement from the Labor Department. It unveiled a final rule aimed at broadening overtime protections for salaried workers.

The new overtime rule will see the salary threshold climb from the current $35,568 to $43,888 by July 1 and subsequently to $58,656 Jan. 1. The initial raise follows the department’s existing methodology for determining the threshold, whereas the subsequent increase adopts its new approach, pegging the threshold to the 35th percentile of weekly earnings among full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage census region.

Not surprisingly, the Labor Department seems to feel pretty good about the adjustment and its possible legacy.

“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,” Acting Secretary Julie Su said in a release. “Too often, lower-paid salaried workers are doing the same jobs as their hourly counterparts but are spending more time away from their families for no additional pay. That is unacceptable,” she added.

No disagreement with such good intentions. Nonetheless, it appears this situation is turning into a scenario where the solution may prove more harmful than the problem it aims to address. Why? Because this alteration likely will trigger two very bad results for the lower-paid salaried workers Su is advocating for.

The first is that many of the intended beneficiaries — at least in this sector — are going to become unemployed. Senior living providers operate within finite budgets. If compelled to adhere to this mandate, more than a few likely will resort to job cuts.

Another certain consequence is that many frontline employees will find it harder to pursue pathways to success and career growth. Many operators surely will conclude they have no viable option but to eliminate the managerial jobs that historically have allowed workers to advance within their organizations.

So other than making sure many senior living workers get canned while others end up in dead-end jobs, this Labor Department “improvement” makes total sense.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.