Do the new overtime rules affect homeschool groups?

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The US Department of Labor (DOL) proposed new rules about paying workers overtime. Several people have asked me if homeschool organizations have to follow these new rules.

My answer is that yes, in general, homeschool organization whether nonprofit organizations or for-profit businesses have to follow the rules in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regarding minimum wage and overtime.

But occasionally, there are exceptions, so read on!

New Overtime Rules

The new overtime rules were supposed to take effect December 1, 2016. (They been held up by an injunction by a federal judge). The new proposed rules raise the threshold for when an employee is exempt from getting paid overtime. If your employee makes less than $47,476/year, you must pay them overtime at time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours a week. The threshold used to be only $23,660/year, so this was a big jump. Under the new proposed rule many more workers are eligible for overtime.

The impact on nonprofits and churches of paying overtime could be huge since many of their employees put in more than 40 hours a week. They work long hours because they are passionate about their mission. Fortunately, the Department of Labor has an exception to the FLSA for nonprofit organizations.

Exceptions to New OT Rule for Nonprofit Organizations

Here’s an except from”Overtime Final Rule and the Non-Profit Sector” a paper from the US Department of Labor available at https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/overtime-nonprofit.pdf

the FLSA applies to businesses with annual sales or business of at least $500,000. For a non-profit, enterprise coverage applies only to the activities performed for a business purpose (such as operating a gift shop or providing veterinary services for a fee); it does not apply to the organization’s charitable activities that are not in substantial competition with other businesses. Income from contributions, membership fees, many dues, and donations (cash or non-cash) used for charitable activities are not counted toward the $500,000 threshold.

Let me unpack that for you.

If your nonprofit has less than $500,000 in “business” income (that does not count your contributions, membership fees or dues), then your organization is not covered under FLSA and you do not need to comply with the overtime rules.

Here’s an example from a longer DOL document, “Guidance for Non-Profit Organizations on Paying Overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.” available at https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/final2016/nonprofit-guidance.pdf

A non-profit animal shelter provides free veterinary care, animal adoption services, and shelter for homeless animals. Even if the shelter takes in over $500,000 in donations in a given year, because the shelter engages only in charitable activities that do not have a business purpose, employees of the animal shelter are not covered on an enterprise basis.

By “not covered on an enterprise basis,” the DoL means the FLSA does not cover the workers and they are not entitled to overtime.

A lot of homeschool nonprofit organizations just breathed a sigh of relief. They rarely have business income and it almost never exceeds $500,000, so they do not have to pay their employees overtime.

Warning: It’s not as simple as it seems!

This issue is not as simple as saying, “My nonprofit doesn’t have $500,000 income, let alone “business” income, so we don’t have to pay any employee overtime.”

I urge you to read the DoL documents I mentioned above and consult with an experienced professional familiar with employee laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act in particular.

The Kentucky Nonprofit Network offers a helpful 9-page report on steps to take if your nonprofit is affected by the new overtime rules (when and if they go into effect).

Carol Topp, CPA

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