‘We’re going to have tough decisions to make’: Park Board learns of federal labor law affecting salaried employees

Park District book

Carlos Fernandez, left, presents Quincy Park Board President Mark Philpot with a book about the history of Quincy's park system from 1888 to 1970. | David Adam

QUINCY — Rome Frericks, executive director of the Quincy Park District, informed the Quincy Park Board of a U.S. Department of Labor rule that revises the regulations issued under the Fair Labor Standards Act that implement the exemptions from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.

The law was signed on April 23. Frericks said he learned about it for the first time during a recent Zoom meeting with the Illinois Association of Park Districts attorneys.

Effective July 1, the salary minimum of $35,568 ($684 per week) will increase to the equivalent of an annual salary of $43,888 ($844 per week). That figure will increase to $58,656 ($1,128 per week) on Jan. 1, 2025, when the rule’s new methodology takes effect, resulting in the additional increase.  The rule also will adjust the threshold for highly compensated employees. 

Starting July 1, 2027, salary thresholds will update every three years, by applying up-to-date wage data to determine new salary levels.

“This rule will restore the promise to workers that if you work more than 40 hours in a week, you should be paid more for that time,” Acting Labor Department Secretary Julie Su said in a press release. “Too often, lower-paid salaried workers are doing the same job as their hourly counterparts but are spending more time away from their families for no additional pay. That is unacceptable.”

Frericks said the July 1 increase will affect two of the Park District’s 14 salaried employees, which would cost $4,724. The Jan. 1, 2025 increase would affect six salaried Park District employees at a cost of $60,520.

“We’re going to have tough decisions to make, because this affects all employees in the Quincy Park District,” Frericks told the Park Board. “Giving an employee who’s been here two years a 33 percent raise over six months is going to create some animosity and friction amongst staff (members) who have been here for 25 years, making darn near the same salary.”

Frericks said the law requires the Park District to give a 60-day notice to its employees before July 1. 

“No one’s in compliance with this (notice) because I’m talking with people in the city and a lot of businesses, and they don’t know anything about this,” Frericks said. “Thank goodness the Association of Park Districts had attorneys from Chicago do a heck of a presentation. I’m sharing all the information we received to people in Quincy.”

Information provided to Park Board commissioners noted potential reclassification of employees may need to occur. If salaried employees are converted to hourly employees, training will be needed. Salaried employees also would: 

  • Need permission required before working overtime. 
  • Not be allowed to work off the clock. 
  • Adhere to compensatory time off rules. 
  • Have after-hours/substitute coverage. 
  • Have no after-hours work communications. 

“This is federal law, so it will affect every single business — Muddy River News, Blessing Hospital, John Wood Community College, the City of Quincy, Quincy Public Schools, the fire department, the police department,” Frericks said.

Dentons, the world’s largest global law firm based out of Washington, D.C., said last month that it is highly likely that once the final rule is formally published, it will face legal challenges

“In 2016, a very similar rule was announced that would have increased the salary thresholds and provided for automatic increases,” Dentons said in a story posted May 1 on its website. “This Obama Administration rule was held up in legal challenges prior to its implementation and did not survive the Trump Administration. With the timing of the final rule’s publication prior to the November 2024 election, it is difficult to know if the rule will withstand legal challenges or a potential new administration.”

Frericks said about 400 companies in Texas are fighting this law.

“We have to prepare for the worst, and hopefully this doesn’t come to fruition,” he said.

In other action, commissioners:

  • Learned from Michael Joyce and Whitney Mintert that the country music portion of the Gem City Summer Concert Series, held May 25-26 in Lincoln Park, sold 3,700 tickets. About half of them were sold on the day of the concerts. Joyce and Mintert said pre-sales for the rock portion of the series, scheduled for June 21-22, already have exceeded the total number of tickets sold for the country music portion.
  • Received a book about the history of the park system for Quincy from 1888 to 1970 from Carlos Fernandez. He told commissioners he received the book from Bob Mays when he became a member of the Quincy Parks Foundation in 2008. “Today I’d like to present it to you so that this rich history may be made available to our future residents,” Fernandez said. “I know you will take care of it, just as you do our park system.”
  • Were asked to clear their schedule for a summer planning session on either Aug. 9 or Aug. 16.
  • Learned the culvert repair at the Paul Dennis Soccer Complex is complete. Director of Parks Matt Higley said the company contracted to do asphalt work in the complex parking lot has been contacted and expected to begin work soon.
  • Learned the average daily attendance at Indian Mounds Pool, which opened May 31, has been 213 people — about 10 more than last year, according to Director of Program Services Mike Bruns. He said 11 lifeguards are being employed this summer, and four more are undergoing training. “That would get us to 15, and that’s the most I can remember since I’ve been here,” he said.
  • Learned 5,565 rounds of golf were played in May — an increase of 478 from May 2023 — at Westview Golf Course. The number of rounds played to date has increased from 11,645 last year to 14,264 this year. Director of Golf David Morgan said the irrigation project at Westview is “moving along pretty good right now. I haven’t had any real hiccups.”
  • Learned from Marketing Director Marcelo Beroiza that 193,000 people visited the city’s 25 parks in May. He explained the Park District has software that tracks people’s cell phones throughout the city. “Anybody who stays at a facility more than seven minutes is counted as one person,” he said.
  • Started the 50-day public comment period on a proposal from the Friends of the Lorenzo Bull House, which plans to place an outdoor sign at the corner of 1600 Maine. Quincy Park District staff will remove bushes and level the ground at the site of the sign. Friends of the Lorenzo Bull House will mount the sign and pay for all costs associated with the sign. Group president Dick Wellman said the sign will have representations of Lorenzo and Margaret Bull on the front, with a collage of all the things the Bull family did for the city and a story about what that was.

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