Saturday, November 01, 2008

Are salaried employees ever entitled to overtime?

Toni Bowers of Tech Republic has a short blog entry warning employers that sometimes exempt employees may be entitled to overtime pay. The entry is called “Are salaried employees entitled to overtime pay?” with the link here.

I remember when I started working in 1970 that the colloquial definition of exempt from the boss was, “you don’t have to punch a time clock.” That kind of turns the spin around, doesn’t it!

She provides the California labor code as a reference, with some notations below of the possible “benefits” that exemption can deprive an employee of.

The relevant federal law is the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which starts on the Cornell law database here with section 201. If you press “Next” to get to section 213 you get the federal definition of exempt status.

The blog post’s point is that it is possible that an employer might set up a job as “salaried” and not meet the letter of federal and state laws; in which case overtime must be paid (sometimes it is straight time).

Since programmers are “individualistic” and tend (like their employers” to believe in “the right to work” and resist unionization, and since the job demands “perfection” once a system is in a production environment, there is a tendency for some employees to get caught in spirals of uncontrollable overtime. Experienced IT professionals learn work habits and strategies (such as using test protocols and source management or elevation packages properly) that reduce the risk of problems. That becomes part of one’s “universe.” Employees often have to be on-call and be able to respond to production problems, which increasingly may be done from home, subject to security concerns. But well run shops try to offer employees compensatory time for overtime done in emergencies.

W-2 contracts, where employees are sent to clients by personnel firms, often pay hourly, although corp-to-corp arrangements where employees get full salary and benefits from the staffing firms are becoming more common again. That makes sense in an environment where the staffing companies want to deploy consultants with good “reputations” for work and specific expertise.

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