Thursday, May 20, 2010

Caveat Lectores on Overtime Pay Redrafted

This Rant is the most read of them all and has gotten the most comment. I could rewrite the same message but why? I did dress it up a little.

I have just been through another round of idiocy wherein an employer is squealing about how much the employees make in overtime. I am about sick of hearing about how much firefighters, police and other public employees make in overtime.

Maybe a short history lesson is needed here. A federal law (FLSA) requires a public employer to pay time and one half the regular hourly rate to non-exempt employees when they work more than a certain amount. For most employees the ceiling is 40 hours before O/T kicks in. For law enforcement the ceiling is 43 hours in a 7 day period. For firefighters the ceiling is 53 hours in a 7 day period. There are all kinds of ways the employer can manipulate the work period to reduce the financial impact of this law, and some employee take “comp time” off in place of the money.

The only reason for overtime at all is because the employer does not hire enough employees to provide the needed service.

Follow closely here, but this is not rocket science.

The lack of manpower forces the employer to require somebody to come to work on their regular day off. When public employers chronically under staff, the employees work a lot of overtime. Some employees volunteer to work and others do not. When there are not enough volunteers, the employer requires the employees to work. The work is not a gift or bonus.

The purpose of the law was and still is to penalize the employer who does not hire enough people to provide the service with employees working their regular hours. The FLSA went into effect during the Great Depression and was passed, among other reasons, to decrease unemployment by encouraging the employer to hire more employees by penalizing them if they did not. That may not be a bad idea today. We have over 10% unemployment and employers are whining because they are understaffed and have to pay overtime. Go figger.

In today’s news, we regularly read about the “greedy” public employees who make all this extra money in overtime. This is bullsh*t. In order to discredit the employee side of the resistance to taking pay cuts, the employer, with the media’s assistance, inflates the earning of employees to make it seem like they are overpaid.

Frequently, a firefighter’s work schedule is 24 hours on duty followed by 48 hours off duty. This benefits both the public and the employer as it allows for 24/7 coverage. Law enforcement frequently uses 10 or 12 hour shifts to provide this coverage. Many other employees work similar shifts in the public sector to provide the needed 24/7 service. Such concentrated work time allows for concentrated time off for the employee as well.

What this means is that regular work schedules require the employee to work more and the employer by law must pay overtime rates. It is a part of the job not a #@!%&(^%^ benefit.

Frequently when a union negotiates a wage rate, it finds that the employer is trying to maintain a lower hourly rate to make the yearly salary fit into the “market.” Hourly rates for firefighters are frequently relatively low. When the union wants to increase the rate, the employer reminds them of how many hours they are “allowed” to work which makes their yearly salary more competitive. The same applies to police and other workers.

Sure, some fire, police and other public employees work a lot of overtime, but they did not force the employer to decide to under staff which causes the overtime.

Here is an interesting video that actually addresses the excesses of public employees.

Then just when you thought you had heard enough nonsense

And Oh yes, have a nice day.


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