The new Fair Labor Standards Act rules enacted by the U.S. Department of Labor will change the way employees are classified in terms of overtime pay, and the new rules will go into effect Dec. 1.

What does this mean?

It’s going to be harder for employers to classify employees as “exempt” from overtime pay. Under the new rules, announced last spring, salaried employees making under $47,476 per year ($913 per week) will automatically qualify for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week. This is more than double the current salary threshold of $23,660 per year. And while there are others elements to a person’s job that may exempt them at a lower pay, this is a significant change.

Clearly, many operations will be not affected at all, or very little, as they already meet the new requirements in either salary or overtime for full-time, salaried field staff.

Schools and parks with fixed budgets may be challenged by the new rules, especially in regards to personnel. Depending on the facility, some head sports field managers may be affected, but the new rules will primarily impact some assistant sports field managers, full-time technicians and part-time positions, based on Sports Turf Managers Association salary surveys.

It’s no secret the many hours typically required in the management of sports fields, especially at heavily-scheduled venues.

Major stadium field managers may face new mandates to minimize overtime needed to accomplish the field management mission. Businesses will also be challenged by the new mandates, and the significance of the salary threshold increase. There will be additional costs associated with the compliance and auditing required. Hopefully employers already have plans in place on how to manage the change, so check your particular situation.

Smaller revenue venues might be more significantly impacted. It may be a tougher challenge than a few years ago, when mandated employee health coverage began affecting large businesses and employees working more than 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month, with certain exceptions. Many venues responded by holding part-time staff to under 30 hours per week to avoid paying health benefits. To match the hours to their tasks, a field manager’s only choice in some cases was to hire more part-time staff, if they could.

Many simply had to pick up the slack with the full-time staff that was, and still is, reeling from the middle management squeeze after the 2008 economic recession.

These new rules will also be a tougher work-around for sports facility owners/operators than the previous mandates. If some assistant sports turf managers or other salaried field staff are making an annual salary below $47,476 and don’t receive overtime pay, they might either have to get a raise or begin getting overtime (at least 1.5 times the rate below 40 hours per week).

Those opposed to the change would rather see a more gradual change, or no change at all. They argue the new changes will impose a significant burden on businesses.

Supporters would argue the new rules will more fairly compensate employees for their time, or give them more time off, citing the erosion of the salary threshold over the last 40 years. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 1975, 62 percent of full-time salaried workers were eligible for overtime protection based on their pay. Today, only 7 percent are eligible.

Mix in a new administration in a couple of months, and how all this shakes out for the sports field management industry is anyone’s guess. An unfortunate result would be to shift more time onto a field manager’s workload, or to change full-time positions into part-time. Let’s hope the intended results are realized for the good of all, and that sports field managers will get out ahead of this issue.