Clock is ticking for small businesses

The clock is ticking for millions of small business owners. On Dec. 1, they will have to be ready for wrenching changes in the rules for overtime pay. For workers at small businesses, these changes could result in fewer hours, lost benefits and demotions.Earlier this year, the Department of Labor changed the salary threshold below which workers must be paid overtime. The salary threshold will more than double from its current level of around $23,000 to more than $47,000. The adjustment will hurt 44 percent of small businesses, according to a recent NFIB survey of small employers.Small businesses often operate on razor-thin margins, and business earnings continue to be subpar in this so-called economic recovery. They don’t have room in their operating budgets to absorb higher labor costs, and most don’t have HR departments that can implement big changes to their workforce and payroll systems.Making matters worse is the looming deadline by which small businesses must make the big changes necessary to be in compliance. For retail businesses especially, that comes right in the midst of the make-or-break holiday season.It’s not just businesses who are concerned with the rule. Many charities and nonprofit organizations, universities and colleges, and local and state governments have also come out in opposition due to the dramatic increase on all employers. A alliance of business groups, including NFIB, and a coalition of 21 states have filed separate lawsuits challenging the legality and constitutionality of the DOL’s rule.Last week, we petitioned the DOL to extend the deadline to June 1, 2017. If Congress and the courts fail to act by Dec. 1, many thousands of small employers could potentially be under threat of fines and lawsuits.NFIB has asked all three branches of government to lend a hand. The question now is whether any of them will act to help millions of small businesses and tens of millions of workers.Gregg Thompson is the North Carolina state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.