Poll: Does the FLSA need reforming so salaried no longer means free overtime?


February 5, 2004, 09:01 PM
Poll: Does the FLSA need reforming so salaried no longer means free overtime?

I've been out of college for about 3 years now, and worked at a couple of fairly large corporations. I have a science degree, and in every instance my work directly contributed to the companies bottom line. I've never seen a work week less than 40 hours. Most of mine have averaged 48 or so, and that was only because I was brave enough to get up and walk out. Coworkers were typically putting in 60-70 per.

so my question is, can someone explain to me how this is right? Professional hourly workers get paid at a flat rate until they surpass 40 hours; enjoy similiar benifits and in some cases enjoy more protection from lay-offs than I have. Then they get paid more, for doing what is considered obligatory for me.

To me, its not about doing a job. I was hired under a certain job title and knew nothing about the actual job details. I was reorganized at whim, and job duties added until overtime was manditory to complete even a fraction of what was assigned. If I was hired to do a job, or certain task and it was spelled out I could understand.. but thats not how it works. I am required to sit in a room, in a box, performing any and all tasks until completion.

If the task was specificly spelled out and I could recover any time not spent on it.. it'd make sense. But as it is, it seems quite insane.

Anyone care to chime in and enlighten me? Or at least vote your opinion?

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February 5, 2004, 09:47 PM
After twenty years of a naval officer my big question was, "What's overtime?" I never heard of the concept. I was never able in the Navy to call it quits because it was five o'clock.

When I left the Navy and went to work for the Sheriff, overtime was a novel concept. I tended to accept compensatory time off in lieu of overtime, accumulated at the time and a half rate. I only took overtime pay when the Sheriff made me do things I didn't particularly care to do, like run firearms training on my "weekends."

Being a salaried employee is kind of like a loyalty test applied to people who want to move up in management. In the Sheriff's department that decision was made in the jump from sergeant to commander. If you took that promotion, you were no longer one of the "boys". You were expected to back the Sheriff even if his policies would have made you grind your teeth as a slick sleeved deputy.

I am an adjunct instructor at the local community college. I get paid a good hourly wage for the hours I actually spend in the classroom. I do not get paid for class preparation work and for grading exams. So when figuring all the work I put in, I could probably make more as an electrician or plumber. However, I like teaching in a classroom. So, I take what they give me and enjoy life.

In essence, if you don't like being a leased body, don't accept the position. They will find an Indian immigrant who is willing to work the same hours for one-third the pay.


February 5, 2004, 10:30 PM
Maybe I'm a bit backwards in my outlook.

But working within a corporation, is a wee bit different than military service.

Corporate work is a bit different than civil service, too. They are ways to make a living, but you go in knowing its for the benifit of society and it could cost you your life.

In short pilgrim, why is it ok to expect loyality to a company that equals that you'd give to your nation?

I'm not management, and never will be. I'm a production worker with a college degree. My direct efforts are what the company markets, and sells. My work is as much mental, as physical, but its still the companies end product. How am I different from some union guy making tires?

My question is simple. Why is it ok for some americans to be paid for overtime, and others told to have a stiff upper lip? I'm still waiting for someone to logically answer that one for me. Don't tell me to not take the job if I don't like it. Don't tell me to work in a lesser job. Explain logically how it is equitable to work an arbirtary number of hours and be paid for them; then not be paid for anything past it that is required; depite others having that exact situation.

Theft isn't equitable.
Murder isn't equitable.
Restricting vote based on gender or race isn't equitable.
If this isn't equitable, why is it legal?

To clarify my experiences. I didn't get comp time. I didn't get overtime. I didn't get raises or bonuses. I did get after hours oncall duties, which eventually got so bad I went a full month without more than 3 hours consecutive sleep.. ontop of 50 hours in office.

Someone, show me how its equitable!

Jeff Thomas
February 5, 2004, 11:12 PM
Value for value, friend ... that is how it is equitable. You work, and they pay you. As noted, if you don't like the bargain, then make another.

Do you think Donald Trump ought to be paid overtime? General Managers? Department managers? Doctors? When you're a professional, in management or a highly technical position, this goes with the territory. If you don't think you're exempt according to the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), then by all means raise the point.

Otherwise, I respectfully suggest you get a blue collar job and join a union if you prefer. Your choice.

Yeah, the hours can suck, no question about it. I feel, and share your pain. But the choice is always there to get a lower paying job, with less responsibility and upside.

And, loyalty? My perspective on loyalty these days is that I treat my company with integrity and honesty. I send customers to my employer, not the competition. I even invest in my employer to some extent.

But ... I keep my resume updated, and when the time is right, I'll leave for better action elsewhere. With courtesy, and gratitude for the opportunity ... with reasonable notice, so we can have a smooth transition. Few, if any American employers have "loyalty" to their employees anymore, and frankly ... that is fine with me. The old-fashioned view of loyalty was a paternalistic organization, rooted in seniority. Ugh.

Give me a meritocracy any day. The best prosper, and those who don't want to work, or can't work efficiently or effectively go elsewhere. I tired of working with slugs who couldn't carry their own weight long, long ago.

Perhaps someday you'll decide the upside of a professional / technical / managerial life is worth it. And, if not, you can certainly do what I've seen others do ... select a less stressful, wage paying job, with overtime. No harm or shame in that.

And, that is the beauty of our country. You have the freedom to choose. Suits me just fine. The last thing we need is more government BS telling us how to run our lives.

Regards from TX

February 5, 2004, 11:24 PM

To make a salary, you have to work in a capacity that uses creativity and or independent judgement (in a nutshell, there are other aspects).

I think the idea was - if I hire an engineer to develop something, some hours he is going to be super productive, some hours he is going to be spinning his wheels - but I shoud be able to expect a certain result from him for a certain price - kind of like getting a quote to landscape your yard for x dollars.

The problem is - management gives people too much to do. Its pretty ridiculous that people are working 60 hour weeks and I can't find a job. I do not think the idea behind overtime was to allow management to set unrealistic levels of productivity and slave people to hit the goals.

The problem I have is this - if you manage to get all your setuff done in 40 hours, you do not get to go home, you just get more stuff to do.

If there was a way to "book" time to do certain tasks - and they had to give you 40 hours of stuff to do and you can do it in 30 or 60 and make X money, then that would be very cool - of course, this is unworkable.

When I worked at the phone company in IT, I just refused to work overtime. Our boss said we all needed to show 10-15% overtime to "prove" that we were "needed" and "busy".

Well, I got my stuff done and usually had plenty of time to spare - and I did not see a reason to stay so I did not. I got "talked to" a lot, but nothing else really.

But then again, I was the most experienced Desktop Analyst and he gave me all the hard stuff and difficult people.

Realize that this is the free market and essentially, you have agreed to the terms you are working under. If you did not agree upon being hired, the fact that you show up every day is "agreement".

The problem is - there are lots of guys ready to take your job if you don't want to play ball.

Realize that being hourly has its own challenges - I lost a lot of time during the holidays because I was a contractor on hourly. Lost more time taking my kid to the dentist and doc.

Go into sales or some other incentivized field. You do not have to work crazy hours in sales to make it - if you are good - although it depends on the field.

I am actually moving out of IT because even though the money is good (when I have work), I am frustrated that I can make only a fixed amount determined by my rate X hours.

I think I am sharp enough to be good in sales so I am going to go for it. Sales is one of the few fields where you can make over $100k without a college degree. IT used to be that way but not any more.

Ultimately, you are the final arbiter of what is acceptable - but you do not have the power to control what is offered to you - you only have the power to accept, reject or maybe negotiate and this is an employers market - so be glad you have a job and are not staying up late wondering how you are going to feed your babies or if you are going to get kicked out of your apartment because you can't support a family of 4 on unemployment. Not that I'm worried about that - I only got about 2 months left that I can collect it... ;)

February 5, 2004, 11:30 PM
And, that is the beauty of our country. You have the freedom to choose. Suits me just fine. The last thing we need is more government BS telling us how to run our lives.

Well said. I was trying to put the words together to say this and you did Mr. Thomas. Thanks.


February 6, 2004, 12:41 AM
JT, Readyontheright: I answered the phone, wrote software, and monitored its useage. Creativity wasn't at issue, only that I knew what to do when, just like an automechanic. I had no freedom of movement or scheduling. The same is easily argueable for any job that is not creating intelectual property. Thats the cornerstone of your arguement of why its equitable.. that creation of invention is variable in its rate. Too bad thats not what IT is.. or most of the jobs under professional. I have a different level of knowledge, but no more creativity or freedom of action than anyone else working in a system of modular components.

Manufactoring / hourly labor is only protected from these abuses because of government intervention. They didn't just decide to behave. Salaried isn't going to either. Its been a central management doctrine for the last 20 years to reduce costs.. including labor. Making people do more, while paying them less is a nearly universal occurance.

I'm glad that your in an industry that its easy to change jobs, that its not flooded by people who are only barely competent and absolutely desperate. Or that require years of education and experience.

I don't see how this is a question of freedom. I'm not asking to be given a job; I'm not demanding 60k a year. I'm asking that because I'm not engaged in creative work, that I enjoy the same protections as 'non-professional' jobs, and that protection be enforced. I don't claim to have right to choose a dead-end profession, or be paid more than it is worth. I'm asking to be able to work a set, reasonable number of hours for a set wage. If I'm too incompetent to do enough work, fire me. If two idiots can do more work than I for less pay, fire me. I'm just asking that the hours of my exploitation be limited so it is a question of competance, rather than who is willing to sacrafice the most to have a job.

Oddly enough, DOL claims I was non-exempt under the FLSA. After consulting with them I was told it would be a minimum of 8 months before they would even review my situation. Satute of limitations on ACTION for DOL violations is 2 years. I was told I had the 'freedom' to work illegal hours, be unemployed, or try and find something else but my case would probably never see the light of day.

February 6, 2004, 02:29 AM
I am curious as to what state you are in.

In 1995, I got my start in IT by working for a training center. It was $1200 a month and it was over 70 hours per week.

They promised me that after 90 days, I could take tech classes for free and get certified - no prob, I could scrimp and sacrifice for a big payoff down the road.

Well, I help up my end but after 90 days, the excuses started.

After 180 days, I had taken 1 day of training - with frequent interruptions.

I had not missed a single day of work and the nature of the school and its schedule required me to work very easily confirmable hours. The school did not keep timesheets - a big no-no in PRK.

After they fired me for refusing to continue to work under those conditions, I went to the labor board.

I did some research and found that I had been improperly classified as exempt/salary and the gist of it was - I was entitled to minimum wage for every hour I worked plus overtime (minus the $1200 per month I had been paid).

I had to fill out 6 months of time reporting to document what I was entitled to - they told me that everyone has to redo it several times with the help of their people but I submitted an excel spreadsheet on Thursday and that Saturday, I recieved a schedule notice for my hearing. (my sheet was perfect).

Anyway - they were unhappy to say the least - but they tried to stick it and they were squealing when I stuck it right back.

My claim was for just over $10k and I settled for about 7K because I had just got a high paying job that did not want me to take the time off.

So - thats my experience. You absolutly have to know the laws - often even large employers are not in full compliance. I see violations every where I go, but I only do something if I feel they are "stickin in".

At my teleco IT job, I made a VERY good salary and 10% bonus every year - and I never worked overtime. Well, one of our guys decided he was unhappy about something - I think he didnt get his bonus because he did not work in the right time window (he was new) or something and he ended up working a lot of overtime.

He called the FEDERAL dept of labor or whatever its called and complained - they had an agent talking to us (she was very nice) and asking us about how much "independent judgement" and whatnot was required to do our job.

I saw the writing on the wall - if they knocked us down to wage people, they would lower our pay (if we were lucky, it would equalize after overtime - yuck) and we would lose our 10% bonus.

I was pulling pretty hard to get her to keep us as exempt, but the guy ended up getting his OT - not sure what happened after that, I got laid off and I personally did NOT get an OT check although others did - go figure...

Like I said - its tricky and labor is serious political football.

Anyway - if you work in IT, you should SERIOUSLY be glad you are working right now and I would recomend you work the OT and smile about it.

The thing is, unemployment is VERY high in IT and there are a LOT of guys who will take your job with 20% less pay and 20% more hours and feel very lucky. Do what you will, but this is a very bad time to be looking for a tech job in most places.

February 6, 2004, 11:01 AM
I view it as being a member of a team, working to accomplish the mission. When long hours are required, you cheerfully contribute whatever you're able. In reciprocity, management cuts us some slack when things are slow. If both sides hold up their end of the bargain, everybody's happy. If someone isn't, they are free to make a different choice. It's only when one party fails to contribute equitably that there's a legitimate gripe. Could be so in your case, mrming: I just don't have enough info to judge.

TFL Survivor

February 6, 2004, 11:15 AM
Pendragon, i'm in texas's older brother... tennessee.

Job started fine, just doing some minor program corrections. within 3 months I knew the systems as well as the others and was handed a large project. 3 months past that when the project was wrapping up I was reorganized into a different group.... 'production control'.

I got bored very quickly with it.. long hours, plenty of stress, coworkers I was having to train because they could just barely code. Manager was on meds for both manic depression AND schizo..

and then my mother had to have reconstructive surgery for damage from colon cancer that happened a decade ago. Her job was flexible.. reduced her hours and made sure she didn't have to lift anything. That meant I had to be around to take care of everything at home.. and make sure she didn't violate doctors orders. 50 hours per week + oncall duties doesn't mix too well with that.

Company HR department told me that since i could work the 40, I didnt qualify for family leave act.. so I'd better put in as many hours as my manager told me. Ignored them, and got put on 'probation'. Identified the sections of the FLSA I was non-exempt under.. and confronted the HR person regarding it. Was very quickly told I was wrong, that since I was salaried... I was exempt. She didn't even bother to look, just whipped out that I had to be wrong.

Called the federal DOL.. told me I was non-exempt. I already had been keeping time logs for about 3 months so it would have been 5-6k worth. They told me to drop it off at my leasure, but it'd be at least 8 months before they'd have time to even review it.

I've seen the people who do the job for 20% less, and work 20% longer. They are people who can barely code, and never even knew what a BST was. Von Neumen? Who's that? Functions? Nah, they are too hard to debug.. Recursive? Huh? We aren't doing calagraphy here!

Eskimo Jim
February 6, 2004, 11:19 AM
I agree with you. The FLSA should be revised.

I see the same thing in my industry. The hourly workers are compensated for their labor after 40 hours of work.

My overtime is not compensated for. When I work after 40 hours, that's a free ride for the company. I get compensated for working 40 hours per week.

Typically the hourly employee has better benefits, better layoff protection, better health care coverage etc.

If overtime isn't worked for free, I see that most companies see that as a black mark against a worker. Loyalty between an employee and an employer is a two way street. Don't let anyone persuade you otherwise. People who work had and put in good years with a company aren't safer than a lay about at most larger companies.

I figure that the companies that I have worked for don't provide their product for free so why should I provide labor for free? Also, my leisure time is very valuble to me. It is worth more to me than time and a half pay. I certainly won't be on my deathbed saying "I should have spent more time at the office".

The difference with doctors, dentists, lawyers and other 'professionals' is that they can keep their practice open longer, see more paitients or clients and get paid more. That's not true with every profession.

You're absolutely right.

Just my random thoughts on the matter.

I have seen where repetative work (accounts payable/receivable etc) was assigned a certain time value. The workers and managers kept track of how much of each type of work a pool of people were given. The time was reasonable. For instance, processing a bill was worth 30 minutes of time. The person kept track of the number of bills they processed during their 40 hours of work. If they had done 50 hours worth of bills within the 40 hours of work, then they got a bonus or flex time off or some other type of compensation. If you only did 30 hours worth of work inthe 40 hour week, then you got a pay cut that week. The system worked for the company because the employees didn't want a light paycheck so they did what it took to work more efficiently in the 40 hour work week. Too bad such a system couldn't be put into place for all professions.


February 6, 2004, 11:36 AM
Leatherneck: As I've said before. I'm very good at what I do. I was told in the first week I was hired that there would be no comp time, that if you worked fewer than 40 hours a week you would be let go.

I sat with my thumb up my ??? for 3-4 hours per day the first 3 months.. begging for more work so I'd have something to do. I liked the large project they gave me, and worked hard on it. Identified some major system flaws in the process, and reported them. Even got the project done ahead of schedule, despite being pulled off it once or twice at the end for 'other priorities'.

The group I was reorganized into was too afraid to even use all of their vacation days. One of the people in the group I saw drop to 40 hours in a week only once... when his first child was born. His wife had to come to work and loudly threaten him with divorce if he pulled another 60-70 hour work week while she was in labor.

In an ideal world IT would form a certification board, and their blessing would be needed for an individual to work in the industry. Just like doctors, lawyers, and every other form of engineer has. Too bad that can't happen.

I've already voiced my beef, as clearly as I can.

Art Eatman
February 6, 2004, 11:44 AM
Good thread, but unfortunately not THR stuff...


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