Like other associations that represent retailers, the Tire Industry Association (TIA) is watching a proposed rule from the Labor Department that would greatly increase the salary threshold beyond which small businesses don't have to pay overtime to employees with supervisory duties.
More of a continuing sore point, however, is the exemption auto dealers have had since the 1970s under the Federal Wage and Hour Laws from paying overtime to the auto technicians they employ.
``We are not afforded the same sort of exemption,'' said Terry Westhafer, president of Central Tire Corp. in Verona, Va., and chairman of TIA's Government Affairs Committee. ``We think that's terribly unfair, even if the auto dealers find a way to pay the additional money to their technicians. It puts us in a situation where we have all these additional duties and headaches, and they don't.''
Under the Labor Department proposal issued March 31, the threshold below which ``white-collar'' personnel must get overtime would be raised to $425 a week, nearly triple the $155 threshold that has stood since 1975. The rule, if finalized, would immediately grant overtime pay to some 1.3 million workers, according to the department.
The overtime rules are in dire need of revision in any case, the department said in a press release. First introduced under the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, the basic regulations have not been rewritten since 1949, and they refer to jobs that no longer exist, such as straw bosses and keypunch operators.
June 30 is the deadline for comment on the proposed rule. TIA is studying the rule but hasn't taken a position on it, according to Becky MacDicken, TIA government affairs director.
The overtime exemption for auto dealers doesn't apply to them alone, according to Douglas Greenhaus, director of environment, health and safety for the National Automobile Dealers Association. Any company that sells or services trucks and farm implements have the same exemption, he said.
To Mr. Greenhaus, the exemption is not a big deal. ``There's nothing that prevents the aftermarket from attempting to get the same exemption under the law,'' he said. ``And if they pay their technicians flat-rate, rather than wages or salaries, they are considered exempt from overtime.''
But the aftermarket has already attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain the exemption, according to TIA Executive Vice President Roy E. Littlefield. As for flat-rate exemptions, Mr. Littlefield said: ``I think the auto dealers have the exemption if they don't pay flat-rate.''