This editorial was originally published on Dec 5, 2011. It is being re-run as Steve is out of town.
It’s been a long time since I received overtime at any job. Most of my IT work has been with a salary, and the expectation that I would work as needed to accomplish my assignments. Early in my career I worked as a contract for an hourly rate, and while it didn’t necessarily lower the hours I worked, I did receive a little more pay on long weeks. From there I worked for a company that provided “comp time” when the hours exceeded 20 hours in a month. That seemed to help reduce hours more than anything.
There’s a bill that’s in the US Congress that adds some new job classifications to the exemptions for overtime pay. In addition to the system administrative jobs, it now includes database and network professionals. I’m not sure how many people this affects as the overtime requirements disappear once you make more than $27.63 an hour. That equates to about an annual salary of 57,491, without the benefits. If you make less than this, you should be getting overtime.
Does overtime pay matter to most IT workers? I don’t know. There are lots of workers who make more than US$60,000 a year, and are exempt, but I suspect there are many others who make less than this amount and work long hours without any extra compensation. This bill is aimed squarely at reducing pay for those people in the industry that make the least amount of money.
I struggle with whether the benefits and abuses of a salary. On one hand salaries provide a level of security to workers, along with a guarantee of payment for work that cannot easily be measured in terms of output per unit of time. On the other hand, employers sometimes see a salary as a way to push workers to their limits, burn them out, and impose strict requirements on the work needed for deadlines, themselves often arbitrary.
I like the idea of allowing businesses to pay salaries, and stabilize their cost structures, but I do think we ought to implement a few bumpers that prevent abuses. Limiting hours across a month or quarter and ensuring that employees can take their vacations would be limits that I’d like to see implemented. This bill doesn’t affect those and I’m not sure we’ll see any limits implemented, but I do think it’s up to each person to stand up to their employer and ensure they are not overworking themselves.