Proposed increases are a barrier to the sustainability of local news organizations

Dec 1, 2023

In November, the National Newspaper Association joined 244 other small business organizations urging the Biden administration to rethink its proposed 69% increase in the salary levels necessary for a manager to be considered an exempt employee. The administration’s proposal would remove newspaper executives from the professional ranks if their annual salaries were below $60,209. The current exempt level is $35,568. The groups argued that businesses in rural and lower–income communities would be hit the hardest and that employees would lose more than they gained. By stripping some workers of professional status, employers will require more accountability for time worked and might insist on reducing flexible work-from-home opportunities. Employers needing to fund higher salary levels to maintain exempt status will cut jobs. Part-time positions in particular will be cut because of their failure to achieve the exempt salary levels, which will not be adjusted to part-time tiers by the Department of Labor. Comments on the proposal were filed by the Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity.

Employer groups and the Labor Department have quarreled in the past over the raising of the exempt threshold. During the Obama administration, the levels would have been nearly doubled. But a federal judge put a hold on the new rule, and the proposal was abandoned by the Trump administration. President Biden’s department proposed the new rules last spring.

Any implementation is not likely until 2024. Many human resource organizations say they expect further litigation before a final rule goes into effect.

NNA Chair John Galer said the proposed increases were a barrier to the sustainability of local news organizations.

“Newspaper publishers are facing revenue headwinds from many directions right now,” Galer said. “While the governments are mandating higher salaries, they are not telling employers where to find the money to pay those bills. Since most income pictures are not looking particularly rosy for newspapers, the only recourse will be to hire fewer people and to strip the newsrooms of professional status, which then damages their career prospects. This is a proposal that means well but is way out of touch with reality.”