For decades, millions of American wage earners have counted on the 40-hour workweek, with time and a half for overtime, but the Bush administration decided to revamp the rules, insisting that the old ones were too complicated and shortchanged wage earners.
Under the new regulations, workers who will gain the most are those earning less than $23,000 a year, even if they have supervisory jobs.
Workers most likely to lose are those earning more than $100,000 a year and those with administrative, executive or professional positions. Also affected are salaried nurses earning more than $455 a week.
Critics charge as many as to six million American workers could be hit hard by the new rules, a figure disputed by an economist who supports the White House effort.
Economist, Tim Kane from the Heritage Foundation said, "That is a scare tactic. By our study at the Heritage Foundation, a million people will actually gain. Now, we do estimate 300,000 workers will loose over time."
Even though the rules take effect this week, most businesses are not expected to wipe out overtime right away.
"As a general rule, that's not going to make your work force happy and as a management lawyer, I always tell my clients you have to look down the road beyond the small amount of money you may be saving and see how productive your workforce is going to be,” said management attorney, Eve Rachel Markewich.
Another reason for the new rules was to reduce legal action. Overtime disputes are a leading cause of class action lawsuits by workers who claim they were cheated of overtime. Starbucks, Radio Shack, Rite Aid and Bank of America have already made multi-million dollar payouts and Wal-Mart still faces dozens of cases.
With the economy a major campaign issue, Democrats are all over the overtime controversy. Vice presidential candidate John Edwards charges the new rules mean a pay cut for millions of Americans.