Do Hourly Employees Even Make Sense Any More?

from the changing-times dept

We’ve had many discussions around here about the changing nature of the work-life balance — especially with laptops, wireless connections and (most importantly) mobile devices, the “work” part is creeping more and more into the “life” part. That’s partly why we think companies should be a lot more understanding about when the “life” part creeps into the “work” part (meaning no longer freaking out if someone happens to buy something online or visit a social network while they’re “working”). But, it’s also raising questions in the other direction as well. Specifically, employees who are “hourly” workers are pursuing a few lawsuits over the fact that they don’t get paid for responding to emails via their mobile devices during “off hours.” This again raises a question about whether “hourly” workers really make sense in many jobs these days. It would seem that a far more effective measure of work should be whether or not you get the work you need to get done, done — rather than how many hours you worked. There certainly may be some cases where hourly workers make sense, but in many situations where it’s commonly used today, it’s difficult to see why hourly wages are still the norm, over a full salary.

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Comments on “Do Hourly Employees Even Make Sense Any More?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

As a side note (addendum to my previous post) Mike, I have to wonder, are you that pushed for content this week? Today alone you have posted up 3 or 4 very weird stories, and you have drawn (or suggested) so particularly odd conclusions: Companies that contract work for hire to design a website not being responsible for the content, hourly workers a bad model, painter inspired by Google streetview somehow should teach AP a lesson, baseless lawsuits (attack the RIAA).

You seem to be flailing around right now. Perhaps too many people have pointed out holes in your theories that are not easy to answer?

Tek'a R (profile) says:

Re: tech industry assumptions.

funny enough, i tend to agree with this to a degree.

The growing irrelevance of hourly work, if its happening, is happening in a comparatively small section of the workforce. This is the domain of management or upper levels in most firms, where the rest of us poor schmoes, if i may use the term, are down here at the bottom. We work to a clock because its not like i can count inventory or handle checkouts from home(waiting on surrogates)

If i was somehow getting calls and emails that involved my job while off-clock but was expected to handle them Now, i think i would be right up there.. well, not making the lawsuits, but at least checking on the outcome. So i would expect anyone who is getting Paid for a number of hours but is expected to Work beyond that to feel somewhat the same way.

if you want to own my life, you are going to have to work out a better contract for that in advance. and toss in a new work-paid super-ultra-data-computer-phone.

BobinBaltimore (profile) says:

Re: Re: tech industry assumptions.

Completely agree. The vast majority of workers in the US and Europe are not deeply technology tied. In fairness, Mike did throw a bone to this by writing “This again raises a question about whether “hourly” workers really make sense in many jobs these days.” But limiting it to “many” jobs really dramatically overstates the relevance of this post to the vast majority of wage earners out there.

As to the main point intended – people should be compensated for the time they spend working all-in – I agree.

Big Al says:

Re: Re:

I’m paid by the hour. I’m in a ‘knowledge job’. I’m on an annual 6 figures.
I work as a sub-contract developer, going from place to place as required (i.e. whoever will pay me) in short-term contracts.
And when I walk out of the door at the end of the day, that’s it until tomorrow, unless the employer is willing to pay me double time plus the agency fees. Strangely enough, they generally give that kind of grief to the permanent employees…

Josh (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I am a contractor, Once I leave work, I do not answer calls, emails, texts etc until I return to work the next day. If they don’t like it, HIRE ME AND GIVE ME HEALTH INSURANCE. or SHUT UP, Which they do, Shut up that is.”

Exactly this. I’m also a contractor, and it seems far more prevalent in the last couple years than it previously had been. I actually work for IBM, but my paychecks come through a second company that is almost entirely contract workers. They have a small office somewhere, but most of their managers just have a desk in some IBM building where they manage a bunch of contract employees working for IBM. It is apparently cheaper to pay a company to do most of your hiring and firing instead of hiring people yourself and paying them well and providing benefits. Apparently paying for all the middle management and excess bureaucracy isn’t a problem, though.

One of my duties used to involve setting up ActiveDirectory accounts for yet another company who contracted out much of their IT stuff to IBM, and at least 75% of the accounts I set up also were contractors! Sometimes when I talked to some of the people who had some problem with their account, the level of disconnected contact was almost amusing if it was depressing. Me, employed by company 1, contracted to work for company 2; company 2 was contracted to do IT work for company 3; company 3 used another contract company 4 to hire much of their workforce; person who had trouble with their AD account employed by company 4, talking to me.

Yosi says:

Of cause it make sense

Even in hi-tech industry (and I work as ASIC developer) it make sense. It worth note, that clearly defined working hours benefit employees, and not the corporate.

Corporate prefer to think that employee time cost nothing; that it’s OK to call me any time day or night; expect me to fix problem on the moment they arise and so on.

That’s why managers of all sorts are promoting “work when you like” crap. While it should be “work any time we want” instead.

When some idiot in management chain made stupid decision which caused project off-schedule and I’m supposed to work 24/7 to fix it, I expect to get paid for it. This is only way corporate can be taught that stupid decisions cost money.

Blamer .. says:

they can make you attend work, but they can't make you work

I think Mike touches on a good point – employee/employer expectations.

A good contract should make it clear whether your pay is for your attendance, availablity, output, etc. But that only sets the initial expectations.

Hopefully (on balance) the employee will attempt to get through as much work as they can, rather than do as little as possible. If not, the employee and employer surely need get together to sync up their expectations and options.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: they can make you attend work, but they can't make you work


However, if an employee is “off balance”, and lets it be known that a weekend or 2nd job may make certain conversations seem in-communicato. But if it’s known to the employer that some days output will be accomplished between the hours of 8pm to 7am, who then is at fault?

Let’s say you know your body, Blamer and are able to accomplish more after 9pm in 1 hour than most people do in a week. However, India hasn’t started outsourcing to the US yet, what do you do?

Frosty840 says:

While think I can sort of see where you’re coming from, Mike, in terms of the idea that the concept of a 9-to-5, always-on-site working day is losing its validity in an environment when work can be done anywhere at any time, I don’t really see that as relevant to the story you associate it with; that of people contracted to do certain work at certain times, and then unfairly required to do further work for the benefit of the company, at an unrepaid cost to themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:


Um… Im an hourly employee, and .. even though my employer has webmail access to work. I might check my email on my day off to avoid a maxed out inbox when my workweek starts, but i sure as heck don’t “WORK” while im off. I just delete the emails that don’t pertain to me. but if i see something that does, i save it for when i clock in.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think a lot of it has to do with ethics and really seeking out those who took the ethics-positive MBA oath.

Those who don’t take the oath should see themselves as nothing more than a glorified accountant with an MBA. After all, creative accountants apply practices that may follow the letter of the rules of standard practices, but certainly deviate from the spirit of those rules.

BobinBaltimore (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hmmm…so regardless of how I comport myself professionally or whether I actually act ethically, if I mouth (or sign-up to) the words of the oath, I’m a-okay, but if I don’t I’m a glorified accountant. That’s a very thin place to be, intellectually.

I applaud the content and intent of the oath, but actions and applied ethics speak louder than any set of canned words.

I’m betting Madoff would have signed that oath in a heartbeat! 🙂

Chunky Vomit says:


I work at a hospital. I’m not expected to take work home with me.

My sister is a nurse at a hospital: nobody asks her to take patients home with her. She isn’t even on an on call schedule

My wife is salary, and she is a high level manager for the company she works for. She doesn’t take work home and they don’t ask her.

My friend builds tires for Good Year: he doesn’t get asked to take a few tires home with him to build.

Not everybody is expected to blend life with work. It would surprise me if most of the work force is required to blend life with work. When was the last time a trash man was asked to take his work home? Or a retail worker that isn’t a manager?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: welll....

I work for AT&T, they dont ask me to take work home, they just expect me to work 10-14 hours a day 6 days a week. when you have ajob that has you running up and down stairs, ladders crawling around in attics and crawlspaces, half way throught week you are shot… If i was salary I would be better off shooting myself

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: welll....

I had a job with AT&T where I worked at corporate. They expected me to work 40 hours a week, but I was actually working 50-60. When you have a job that has you setting up and prioritizing company issues over the root canal you need, you are shot… If I was salary (especially knowing the new health plan) I would be better off shooting myself

Fred McTaker (profile) says:

Factory Model in the Creative Digital Industries

I don’t want to talk about my current employment in any detail, but I have worked for over a decade in what would be considered “creative” industries. Let’s just say I’m not in Hollywood, but I’m uncomfortably near it. The thing I find really weird about my particular part of the industry is that it seems to be based on the old factory-widgets model, with things like punching the clock and in-person staff meetings, which actually don’t make any sense in any creative industry at all — especially now when our outputs are all digital, we all have constant Internet access, and often have better computers at home than at the office. We should all just be salaried, but some State laws require that many of us work on an hourly basis. I think it should be on a price-per-output basis, but State law would require that we work as contractors for that, and lose all employee benefits (like group-rate health care).

Everybody likes a little face time now and then, but nothing about our jobs requires it to be 5 days a week, every week. When we love our work, even ‘holidays’ and ‘weekends’ are strange abstract notions. Most of the positions here are considered “artists”, or at least “technical specialists” of various types. Anyone who has ever tried to create something “inspired” knows that art doesn’t happen on a clock, even in what are considered the more technical aspects. The projects tend to actually get structured correctly, in that they are based on key assets being created by reasonable deadlines, and not on a widget-per-day type model. Key dependencies can be figured out ahead of time well enough, and evolve with the projects’ progression appropriately. Time is also allocated for review and polish.

It’s just the use of clocks and office space that hasn’t caught up to the modern world yet. It’s like a building full of Michelangelo’s, daVinci’s, Magritte’s, Van Gogh’s, Dali’s, Duchamp’s, Pollock’s, and Ansel’s all expected to be on-site, punctual, and cohesive. It never made any sense for any of these “creative types” to work inside a factory-widget model, and makes even less sense now.

Paul says:

American Labour Laws aren't an exemplar to the world.

Amongst rich countries, Americans take fewer vacations days, have less/no job security, don’t have universal medicare, pay the highest cell phone rates, have THE highest rates of incarceration, and…have one of the lowest productivity rates in the industrialised world…

My employer is ‘migrating’ to this kind of policy (leave the cell phone on, in case we need you – or at least it appears to be moving to this). Why? ‘Cuz they do it in the ‘States?

Jeepers, the American ‘business model’ has given us the Banking Crisis, one out of six Americans with no medical insurance (and just about all of the rest under-insured, and on the brink of bankruptcy), the DMCA, and Harvard MBAs running the country…

Nope, I’ll pass..

You should too, Mike. Life really too short. Go see a movie that requires a discussion later with friends, drink some wine in a sidewalk cafe and watch the world go by, go fishing, find some place that’s not overlit and watch the meteor shower.

BobinBaltimore (profile) says:

Re: American Labour Laws aren't an exemplar to the world.

Paul, you’re way off and the stats are so easy to find.

Firstly, US Productivity is typically in the top five globally for all the measures I’ve seen.

Take a look here for a simple graph

or here for more detailed data

Note especially the GDP per capita report PDF in the latter one. Also, note on Page 11 it shows that the number of hours worked in the US is behind not only Korea and Japan (kinda predictable), but Austria and Italy! Of course, this doesn’t take into account what is really the point of Mike’s post, which is the amount of non-work time spent, well, working. On this topic, my experience is that Americans do suffer greatly…email at night, phone calls at dinner, etc.

But still, your impression on several key points is absolutely off the mark.

Somedude says:

It's never going to happen while accountants are around

Seriously, accountants find all sorts of ways to screw up business, especially big businesses. I understand that they want the companies finances to be in order and to be able to accurately report earnings, but at too many companies there’s too much business with funny-money and chargebacks that gets in the way of productivity. Anyone who’s worked in tech has probably seen it.

At other companies it’s not a matter of chargebacks but cases of whether dollars spent on a project are capital dollars versus expense dollars. I worked for one company where contractors were only allowed to work on capital projects, while employees had to handle all expense work. But then after a contractor designed and implemented a solution, they couldn’t support it afterwards because support is expense dollars. Then, when the accountants from above decreed that expense spending had to be cut by a substantial margin it was the employees doing expense work who got let go, rather than the contractors.

The problem is that the financial arms are really good at making sure the accounting is correct, but they don’t understand how their requirements impact productivity or the actual business, because they only see dollars and sense. It doesn’t matter if entire departments are barely able to function as long as it’s not a big hit to the bottom line.

barrenwaste (profile) says:

six of one, half dozen of the other...

I have worked salary jobs and hourly. When I worked salary the company expected me to work eighteen hours a day and be on call the rest. When I worked hourly, the company expected me to clock out for everything and it was the end of the world if I achieved overtime. Whatever model companies choose, it is the one best suited to the company. Workers, on the other hand, always fight for the method that best suits them. It is inevitable. The breakdown comes when the gap between the two is to great. For example, if an hourly company only allows twenty hours maximum, then it’s workers are going to corrupt the system as much as they possibly can. For them the job will be just that, a job they do while looking for something decent. And if your employee’s don’t care about the work or the company, you will fail. It may take time, but it is garaunteed to happen. Untill companies are force to recognize that, while profit is the destination, good products and happy workers are the way to get there.

Haywood says:

My 2 best paying jobs....

1 was piece work production, with a bonus at the end of the year more or less equal to the wages. It was an insane place to work, & the bonus was tied to a yearly report card prepared by a supervisor, a few points here could cost or yield thousands of $.
The other was hourly with a union. Again an insane environment, with management pulling all kinds of dirty tricks to get a little more work out of everyone, and the union trying to resist. That left the workers not only trying to get the work done, but also being pawns in a huge chess match. Again there was a report card, but daily with the bonus being not getting fired, and the punishment being getting a trial in a kangaroo court & threatened with termination.

AB says:

It’s an interesting point, but doesn’t even begin to cover the whole spectrum of reasons why someone is on an hourly wage.

Firstly, it’s cheaper to pay me an hourly rate (even though it equates to a higher annual income than colleagues) because there’s no sick pay, pension or annual leave.

Secondly, governments (where I work) want to lower headcount. Hourly (contracted) staff don’t count towards headcount.

Thirdly, productivity is often a lot higher among contracted staff. They know they’re on a week’s / month’s notice, so they have to deliver. I’ve never taken a sick day in four years of cotnracting. Permanet staff are there to stay. Improving their performance (or firing them) is like pulling teeth out… with your fingernails.

There are many, many more reasons. To frame the debate for hourly-rated contractors purely in terms or working hours vs overtime is too narrow.

Anonymous Coward says:

i usually don’t have a problem if it’s something quick, or a big project is due very soon and they need ME. but in the tmobile case, employees were allegedly forced to regularly take calls and handle support… on phones the company issued.

the majority of jobs (by number) are still going to be fine with hourly rates. if people have to call a cashier or burger flipper off the clock, it’s usually something like, “bob is sick, can you come in and help?” besides, many state laws require that you’re either paid on commission or you manage at least 2 people before your company can switch you from hourly.

and i do agree that mike is overdoing this article. some people have labeled mike the o’reilly/olbermann of the tech/law blogosphere, and it looks like they’re right. if you want someone who is paid to be right, go get a subscription to BNA. if you want someone who is entertaining, well… here’s mike for you.

AW says:

Another perspective

From my perspective, I always enjoyed the hourly model over the salary model. I don’t mind working a few hours over every now and then, but since my company has denied me benefits that others in the company enjoy such as work from home, my productivity has gone down, due to dissatisfaction. We have lost all bonuses and chances for advancement are nil. It feels like some people are getting more than others for equitable work. I prefer the hourly model when I have to work many hours and a salary when it doesn’t matter. Employers prefer the reverse.

Robert says:

Hourly jobs will still work for quite a while.

Reason being that they are still “at will”. They can be terminated at a moments notice.

Employees may not like having to respond to things off the clock… but there’s no reason why they can’t loose their job for not doing it.

It’s a major management win.

Until we get to the point where there are more jobs than people willing to do them… which doesn’t seem likely in the US for at least 20 years with the expected growth of the workforce and now a shrinking economy… I don’t see why this would change.

JackSombra (profile) says:

Do hourly Employee’s make sense? Really depends on the country and it’s labour laws, even more so than the particular industry/job

If you look at the US, a country with one of the least amount of employee protections in the western world (outside of unionized industries, which go completely the other way), where it is common for permanent employee’s to work overtime/weekends unpaid, where law mandated sick/holiday payments and benefits are minimal, then no I would say hourly does not make that much sense

But if you take rest of western world, with vastly greater employee protections/benefits in comparison to the US, lack of culture/expectation of the employee “working overtime for free” outside of most industries, then yes in many cases it makes sense for companies to hire hourly

Free Capitalist says:


This again raises a question about whether “hourly” workers really make sense in many jobs these days. It would seem that a far more effective measure of work should be whether or not you get the work you need to get done, done — rather than how many hours you worked.

While I agree with the general notion of pay for contribution, I would disagree that the amount of hours a person has to work equates to individual performance.

Particularly for team environments, such as large IT organizations, I’ve had to spend an extraordinary amount of after-hours time correcting other people’s catastrophes.

SME’s are a highly taxed, often troubled lot because of the demand placed on them at all hours. There has to be balance in compensation of some form, and it is frustrating that many SME’s are compensated along the same lines as other staffers who only work after hours to send pointless e-mails and ‘look good’.

The Cenobyte (profile) says:

hourly is the only way to keep corps honest

The vast majority of people in the US should be hourly employees and I suspect that they are currently. Anything outside of hourly work leaves the company with the ability to over work you. Most companies will do this, expecting they can call you and expect you to work, nights and weekends while still expecting you to show up for your ‘normal’ work week.

I understand the desire to having more freedom about when and how you work, but if you open people up for abuse by the powers that be, they will be abused by those with power.

Bradley Stewart (profile) says:

I Managed Several Small Company's In

in my life. I found in every company that if I gave the employees a project no matter how large or small they would fiddle around with it forever it seemed to me when it really could be accomplished in a rather short time. I believed the reason was was because they thought that if they finished quickly I would give them another project and another project into infinity. Lets face it that’s why they call it work and not fun. Here is how I solved this problem. I would get everyone involved together and say, Hey I’m not a make work kind of guy. Which I am not. Finish this and all you have to do is just take care of the place and the customers.It was amazing. They all moved liked a whirlwind and it was done even more quickly than I could have imagined. The only trick to this is I always kept my word.

Haywood says:

Re: I Managed Several Small Company's In

That is the trick, it is called bargaining in good faith. The opposite of that is what gave me a slightly bad attitude toward work.
My dad had a large property, and Saturdays were work days. He would lay out the days work, & state that after it was accomplished I could go play. At first I worked with gusto, to accomplish the work, so I could join my buddies who had less responsibility. He then developed the habit of adding chores to the list, since the first few were accomplished with relatively little time. I soon developed the habit of stretching the work to fill the available time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I Managed Several Small Company's In

@Bradley- I think you’ve got it backwards. Most project-based workers are more concerned with not having work to do than with being over-worked. Especially in the last few years people are deathly afraid of completing projects because that leaves them with nothing to do- and, as a result, are more likely (in their minds) to be let go.

The solution to this problem is for managers to be open about what is expected from employees between projects. This is what you’ve done, so kudos to you. Such success isn’t based on lazy employees, though, it is based on employees needing some sense of job security. After all- what’s the point of rushing to finish projects, leading to downtime, if the team thinks that quick progress shows management that there are more employees than necessary?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I Managed Several Small Company's In

@Bradley- I think you’ve got it backwards. Most project-based workers are more concerned with not having work to do than with being over-worked. Especially in the last few years people are deathly afraid of completing projects because that leaves them with nothing to do- and, as a result, are more likely (in their minds) to be let go.

The solution to this problem is for managers to be open about what is expected from employees between projects. This is what you’ve done, so kudos to you. Such success isn’t based on lazy employees, though, it is based on employees needing some sense of job security. After all- what’s the point of rushing to finish projects, leading to downtime, if the team thinks that quick progress shows management that there are more employees than necessary?

Anonymous Coward says:

Corps can go F-themselves

I worked at AT&T in the business voip section. Hourly through an agency. Wasnt too bad of a job, until management decided they needed bigger bonuses and had to cut costs. My workload went from a managable 30-odd orders (each order can take 30-40 days to see through to completion) to over 120 in the space of 6 weeks. First they added an ENTIRE full time job to our existing job, taken from another dept and dumped on us. That more than doubled the workload instantly.

Then about 3 weeks later, there was 1 guy who was quitting and had given notice. The DAY before he was to leave, they fired 3 other people over bullshit reasons (like one guy had stepped away to go to lunch, and when a manager came around and he “wasnt where he was supposed to be” he was fired on the spot. lunches were supposed to be taken whenever you want.) Each of them had 50-70 orders that now had to be spread around. They did hire a few more people, but the job is so complex it literally takes 3 months to learn it enough to be functional, so those people werent up to speed yet. The entire department was only about 25 people, with a few thousand orders to fill at any given time. And that side of the business was growing fast.

Then, ONE WEEK after those guys left/got fired, they shut down a call center in Serbia or somewhere, and dumped all that on us too. They KNEW that call center was being closed for weeks, but never told us until a few days before they dumped all this on us. I had 120+ orders and no way in hell, even working 55 hours a week, to keep up with it all.

So, they let me go saying *I* had poor work performance and wasnt keeping up. NO ONE was keeping up at that point. I talked to some friends later and it was well over 6 weeks before some of my orders even got LOOKED at, let alone worked on or completed. How many of those orders that I had canceled their service due to the delays?

Within 4 months I heard almost all the original people I worked with were let go or quit, and they moved the entire dept. to another state to save money. Worst management I have ever seen at a “professional” company. This is the sort of thing that people have to deal with with large corps that are poorly managed and dont give a shit about their employees worth or productivity, and only care about max dollar TODAY.

nonlinear (profile) says:


You’re assuming the scope of the work is set in stone, as in “do what needs to be done”. that’s rarely the case.

in fact, the scope and priorities are constantly shifting, and if you don’t set a metric, that means you’ll be forced to renegotiate at every turn.

When I charge per hour, I make clear my client pays for his indecision, not me.

Re: interruptions, turn it off and buckle down. It’s the correct thing to do, when you’re working on the clock.

Halfabubbleoff says:

It's about more than just the work

I have worked in IT support since the late 80’s. I can tell you that putting some positions, like mine, on an hourly scale makes perfect sense on many levels. Several of those have already been discussed, but there is one that I have not seen.

By looking at the tracked time for an hourly employee, it gives accounting and management a better grasp on the needs of the business. If they are paying a lot of overtime to the hourly staff in IT support, that could be indicative of an underlying infrastructure issue. The company can then budget for upgrades, employee training, etc, to eliminate the underlying cause.

I am hourly, almost always have been. As a result, my employer does not try to contact me after hours except in the cases of a real emergency. Having to pay overtime is a great deterrent of frivolous calls and emails.

It is far too easy to take advantage of a salaried employee by treating them as if they were on the clock 24/7. There is good reason that lawsuits were opened in many cases. Salary pay is an excellent idea when you deal with flexible work schedules. Hourly makes much more sense in the cases in which people have a set workday or in support roles to prevent abuse.

batch (profile) says:

This would work for IT, easily. Regular office work would probably be possible so long as they knew it was expected of them to answer phone calls and emails during a certain period of the day, regardless if you were focusing on work or not. They could have a smart phone capable of receiving email so they wouldn’t need to sit at a computer during this time. With the way flash storage cards are going, these workers could likely store a great deal of work data on their phone, so they’ve got most of what they need to work anywhere. They may not even need to bring a SD card reader.

So long as the work role permits it and the IT staff does some McGuyvering, this isn’t impossible to imagine.

Michelle Goodman (user link) says:

ABC News writer interested in interviewing hourly workers about this topic

I write a career management column for ( and have been asked to write about this topic for next week. I’ve spoken with some employment and labor attorneys but would love to get some quotes from hourly workers who check or answer email/phone messages after hours, or those who refuse to. Even better if you have a company phone or laptop, or if you work somewhere were the work culture is 24/7. Email michelleanngoodman (@) gmail if interested — by Monday 8/14, please. Anonymous is a-ok and I don’t need the company name. Many thanks!

Michael (profile) says:

Re: ABC News writer interested in interviewing hourly workers about this topic

I used to be an hourly worker, and am looking for a new job at the moment. The schedule was an odd one due to covering a 24/7 support contract with 4 people filling one position over a whole week.

I have never been a salaried worker, but I’ve seen what they put my bosses and indirect bosses through where I used to work.

A national reform on labor laws is really necessary, these are the following problems that should be fixed.

Salaried workers should be considered flex time. The salary should be for a fixed and previously specified quantity of work, or option for such, over a given period of time. This should be flexible, but it should be required that all those values are specified in the contract. Contracts should also specify the minimum rate for over-time/unit work that both employee and employer agree to in writing before it is allowed.

For hourly workers medical coverage should be pro-rated and should be applicable to -any- plan that the employee desires (thought the company need only pay based the rate of the plan they pick for the ’20’ hour workers). Examples; if a customer service location (store of any kind) schedules 5 hours of work a week for an hourly employee they are required to pay 5/20 (25%) of the cost for their default medical plan to be disbursed to a health insurance plan of some type. A worker is scheduled for 30 hours of work each week, they would then have 30/20 (150%) of the cost of the default 20 hour health care plan to disburse to coverage. There should be specific national and optionally local requirements for health care plans, A baseline of ‘full’ medical (general health and vision/etc benefits).

All workers should also have their schedule set at least six weeks in advance. Any last moment changes should be considered at least time and a half, and not -required- work by the employee.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head in about 15 min. Unfortunately this is one of those massively interlinked can of worms subjects.

Paul Renault says:

American Labour Laws aren't an exemplar to the world.

Yeah, I went overboard when I wrote that the USA has “”have one of the lowest productivity rates in the industrialised world”. Not quite. Point taken.

The US Productivity stats you linked to are for PPP, Productivity Per Person. If you work twice as many hours per week as I do, and your salary is only 50% higher than mine, I don’t call that “being more productive”. I call that reduced productivity.

Using your link to Nation Master and this chart, compare the annual figures for USA and France:

USA $74,624.70 / 1777 hrs = $41.99/hour
France $59,438.90 / 1346 hrs = $44.15/hour

With the extreme examples:
Japan $50,593.70 / 1828 hrs = $27.68/hour
Ireland $74,266.60 1541 hrs = $48.19/hour

All that work, and is the American population getting any benefit?
Well, some, but a number of others do better, and consistently do better year over year – and with a much lower ecological impact on the planet.
The American model is one of, if not THE least sustainable model.

(I can’t wait to see what the figures for 2009 will look like, after the economic crisis…)

duncan (profile) says:

Interesting article, but I’ll agree with the folx that say it makes sense in some cases.

For instance, I currently work tech support for a large computer company. I’m paid hourly and I can see how it makes sense — even in my small, specialized team there’s almost no reason to contact one of the techs outside of work. We’ve got an internal wiki to document stuff, minimizing specialized knowledge, and generally don’t need to be responding to customer questions outside of our normal working hours–we manage staffing levels to cover it.

That said, anyone who is a manager is an exempt employee and I see the benefits there, too. Primary point-of-contact, etc.

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