Comments on: The steep cost of junior-manager overtime Chronicling the high cost of our legal system Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:49:48 +0000 hourly 1 By: Hugo S. Cunningham Sun, 13 Jul 2014 03:15:07 +0000 There seems to be a split in opinion between those who are confident they can easily get a new job if they quit, and those who are not– those who enjoy job hunting as an exhilarating challenge, and those who hate and fear it.

Some other random observations.

The time-and-a-half overtime requirement was designed not simply to enrich employees, but also to cancel out the savings in overhead (workmen’s comp, health insurance, etc) of making one employee cover two jobs rather than hiring a second employee.

It is a public good when a burnout-track 80-hour-a-week job paying $100K/year is broken up into two challenging professional 40-hour-a-week jobs paying $50K/year each.

@DD’s remark on “productivity”:
Back in the 1980s, a proposal to measure “productivity” per dollar of wages was quickly discarded when it was pointed out that a “productivity increase” could be achieved by simple wage cuts.
About the same time, someone noted that our supposed greater wealth than France disappeared if you measured it by hours worked; we worked longer, but the French worked smarter. (Since then, however, the French seem to have gone a bit too far, eg with the 35 hour week, and making it too expensive and risky to take on new employees)

By: Hugo S. Cunningham Sat, 12 Jul 2014 22:04:28 +0000 Ron writes like a former associate who uncomplainingly worked 70-80 hours a week in an era when associates who kept their noses clean had a good chance of making partner, and now has associates working similar hours for him. But most jobs no longer have that quid-pro-quo, if they ever did.

To put a more devious interpretation on his views:
to the extent employees are denied bright-line standards for enforcing promises made about reasonable work weeks, the more they will be tempted to underhanded methods, eg disability suits, expansive family leave claims, etc. The endless uncertainty, though poisonous to workplace morale, would substantially increase employment opportunities in Ron’s profession.

By: Richard Nieporent Fri, 11 Jul 2014 17:39:45 +0000 Bob is now working 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week, just to keep his head above water, and is doing 4 jobs for the pay of 1.

Just a little hyperbole, Ed? If Bob can do 4 jobs in 60-72 hours a week, I can see why the other people were let go. More seriously, if someone allows himself to be taken advantaged of this way, I have little sympathy for him. There is nothing keeping Ed from first telling his boss that he has been given too much work to do, and if they insist upon making him do this extra work, he should find a new job. If you find your working conditions unbearable, why would you stay with that company?

By: Ron Miller Thu, 10 Jul 2014 19:21:43 +0000 Ed, that is exactly how it happens. There is no doubt. The question is whether the law should stop it or whether it should defer to Bob’s free will. If there is value for his labor, he can find a job that has terms and conditions or employment more to his liking if he does not like his current situation. Conversely, his employer has to make Bob happy somehow so he does not quit. People are ever increasingly mobile to get out of situations don’t like. Not many of us are working in one town coal mine jobs anymore.

The flip side is this does not reflect the difficultly and risk involved in changing jobs and maybe the law ought to protect Bob from the abuses of his own employers.

I take the more progressive side on most issues. But on this, I took too many economics classes not to argue for the former approach. Bob can get another job and the less the government intervenes in the free market the better. But I am mindful of your point.

By: Ed Thu, 10 Jul 2014 18:29:32 +0000 I can give a real life example. A good friend of mine where I last worked (lets call him Bob) started off as an hourly employee. He migrated to a position that was made for him to continue doing the job that he had mutated into. (he was initially a worker that had slowly started doing more and more data management and procedure writing)

Bob’s new position was salaried, and was at a rate that allowed his annual pay to remain at what he was making on average with overtime. All was good in the world. Then our engineer quit. Well, that salary not being paid is adding to the bottom line, so the engineer was not replaced. Someone has to do the work that the engineer was doing…. so it was added to Bob’s workload.

Then we needed someone to cover the plant safety program. Here you go Bob…
Oops, chemist quit. Bob can handle that…
What about the training? Oh, Bob…

Bob is now working 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week, just to keep his head above water, and is doing 4 jobs for the pay of 1.

And to add insult to injury, he is required to submit timesheets for his hours. Oh, but he is only allowed to put down 40 hours on his timesheet.

I can see this law maybe helping in a situation like that.

By: Erik H. Thu, 10 Jul 2014 15:04:18 +0000 The picture you paint–an eager junior manager looking to work hard hours as a means of rapidly climbing the ladder, whose dreams are dashed by a paternalistic government–is about as rare as a blue zebra.

Most of the folks working at salaried jobs who would be eligible to climb a ladder are either people who are high enough up the ladder that they would retain their jobs; or people whose jobs are very amenable to being converted to alternate pay types (hourly, commission, bonuses, etc.) thus preserving most of the benefits of salary.

However, most of the people who are actually salaried are people like, say, yesterday’s client. Who was hired at salary basis to work about 45 hours/week. Which was all well and good until her assistant left (with notice) and never got replaced for a year, so she had to work 60 hour weeks. For a year. Surprise!

Now, you might say “why is this our problem? can’t she quit?” And of course she can… provided that she gives up unemployment. Since salary is paid without account to hours, a change to more hours doesn’t often qualify for a “material change” which would let her move on and collect the UE benefits which she should be able to get.

What functionally happened is that the employer hired her, got her to move here, made her an (unenforceable) promise, and then functionally stole 20 hours/week of her time, for a year.

By: worker_bee Thu, 10 Jul 2014 13:12:29 +0000 On one job I started as a “contractor.” Of course the firm charged double time for hours worked over 40. As pawns in a “urination contest” we did mandatory 50 hour weeks to see if “we could catch up” on deadlines that were years out. We got paid straight time, the owners pocketing the difference. As this was a small, closed market complaints would mean no more jobs anywhere in that city. The next step was a “conversion” to salary and even here the math was shaky. Where normally you would multiply the rate by 2080, the sterling firm said 1950 “because we give you days off for holidays.” Anytime a firm tells you that you are ‘making more money’, check your wallets. With the new arrangement, it was astounding that I was now the “designated” parent when our child was ill.

By: DensityDuck Wed, 09 Jul 2014 21:25:36 +0000 American productivity will see a sharp drop if this passes; not because people will work less, but because their work will no longer be calculated on an assumed eight-hours-per-day basis but instead be calculated on hours actually reported.

If I go from “assumed eight hours” to my actual 10 hours, then my reported productivity drops 20%…

By: DensityDuck Wed, 09 Jul 2014 21:23:56 +0000 “Most of the junior managers that have no chance of graduating to higher paying positions simply aren’t going to put in the extra hours”

Dilbert is not fiction, bro. It is quite common for salaried employees to put in those extra hours involuntarily.

By: Hugo S. Cunningham Wed, 09 Jul 2014 19:32:26 +0000 Hi, Matt–

I was aware of the WW2 wage freeze origin of employer-provided health insurance. I read somewhere that the real damage did not come until the 1950s, when Congress granted tax exemption to both employers and employees for employer-provided health insurance, while making no provision for those who got health insurance from other sources.

You raise an interesting point about unionization, but I don’t think they would get any more mileage here than with other private-sector employees.