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California bosses soon subject to new rules and penalties

Companies that fall afoul of U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules should anticipate having to pay much more for their transgressions. Following presidential recommendations dating back to 2014 and ongoing approval from the Senate and House of Representatives, the U.S. Department of Labor released proposals for improving overtime regulations in summer 2015. Congress will raise OSHA noncompliance penalties by at least 80 percent by August 2016, and salary and overtime compensation amounts will become subject to novel rules governing future level updates.

The new rules mandate that OSHA increase its civil penalties to compensate for inflation, and OSHA leaders say this is a good move because it could heighten the effects of penalties. Experts say employers should reassess the way they operate to adjust to the possibility of higher financial penalties.

The overtime changes will mandate that more employees be allowed to draw overtime pay for working more than 40 hours per week. The new rules could set the exemption salary threshold at 40 percent of a full-time salaried worker's weekly pay, or $47,892 per year. Workers who make significantly more money would be subject to a threshold of $100,000 annually or 90 percent of their weekly earnings.

OSHA penalties and employment laws are made to protect workers, but even though lawmakers try to improve these mechanisms, they exhibit continuing flaws. Employee rights are constantly hindered by the fact that some penalties fail to have the desired effects on companies that simply absorb the costs or attempt to cover up their wrongdoings. Workers who believe their rights have been violated may decide to talk to a lawyer about filing claims for wages, unpaid overtime, wrongful termination and other misdeeds.

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