I was thinking about writing a blog on the Department of Labor’s overtime proposal
which would bump the salary of employees who were not eligible for overtime from $23,660 to $50,440. That, I thought, was a huge leap and probably a proposal that needed to be tempered. Then I read this article in Inc. calling the proposal a nightmare. Again, something needs to be tempered.
The writer talked about how crazy it was to demand that businesses who had employees working 50 or 60 hours a week at $23,660 would now have to pay them twice that in order to avoid paying overtime. And I thought to myself, “Who has employees working 60 hours a week at $23,000 a year?” Actually, anyone paying the federal minimum wage. God forbid those companies would have to pay overtime for someone working their tail off, earning a salary that might keep you alive in some rural, Midwestern community but sure wouldn’t in an urban center. I guess this idea of people working 60 hours a week for $23,000 and “whining” about overtime shoots a big hole in the argument that people are poor because they won’t work.
If we actually follow the exact current wording of the law, salaries versus hourly wages are given to employees who have the option of getting the job done in 4 hours or 40, as long as they get it done (which is why you need to ensure the job will take more than 4 hours by working with your HR consultant). They can take long lunches. If they need to return emails at night, well, that’s one of the downsides of getting what is supposed to be a higher rate of pay. But a lot of the employees covered by this policy don’t actually have those perks. Think of store managers who have to be there when the place opens and closes and working seven days a week to cover shifts when anyone is sick. They don’t have the freedom most salaried employees claim as part of the benefit of being salaried and yes, this is a common occurrence.
And the Inc. author worries about how companies will manage remote employees if they have to track their hours. Well, how are they managing them now? Are the remote employees getting their jobs done without someone looking over their shoulders? I would assume they are otherwise the managers would know. By the way, there are many software products that exist to track employees’ usage and time on their computers and phones and even tracking the IP addresses they visit. So the technology already exists and is being used by many companies with remote hourly employees.
Maybe the author should have done some research on that.
Now, I’ll be honest. I think $50,000 is too high, too. There are some jobs, like tax preparers or teachers where they might not earn $50,000 and they have periods of time when they work very little, followed by periods of time where they work tons of extra hours. That’s the nature of the job. That kind of thing has to be taken into consideration. And there are some jobs where the going rate is $35,000 or $40,000 for an entry-level person or someone with minimal responsibility. That’s fair in many cases. On the other hand, if that person’s working 60 hours a week on the regular…come on.
Business owners are smart people. They know whether they’re treating employees fairly or whether they’re Scrooge. The Department of Labor may be over reaching, but it’s pointing out a very serious problem. Right now it’s just a proposal. You can bet major corporations and industries are formulating their responses. It’s a good idea for small business owners to meet, now, with their industry groups and organizations and make their own suggestions based on what’s fair.
And God bless us, every one.
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267