If an employer could pay Jim, a frontline manager at a retail store, for a 50-hour workweek — 40 hours at his regular hourly rate and 10 hours at time-and-a-half — or, instead, pay Jim and Jane 25 hours each at straight rates, what would the employer do?

Unless the business is a philanthropy, or unless Jim exhibits pure brilliance in directing rank-and-file employees to stock shelves, the employer is going to choose lower labor costs over higher ones.

This is precisely the question raised by, and the likely effect caused by, new overtime rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act .

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