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Employment Hours Standards Question

This is a question for you U.S.A. fellows.

I am from Canada and we have something called the Employment Standards Act which states that a full-time employee can't work more than X (don't remember how much, probably 50) hours per week without getting paid OT. But this Act doesn't apply to people in the Technology field (Engineers, Developers, and in general people consider Professionals). There are other groups as well that are exempt, but I don't remember them.

I was wondering if you have a similar problem in the US? And does it piss you off as much as it pisses me off? Because basically, you could get paid a salary and an employer can MAKE you work more than 40+ hrs per week and there is no law to stop them from basically taking your life away. Thank god I work on contract now.

Gp
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Yes, there are similar laws about mandatory overtime, and yes software engineers are exempt from these laws (meaning, they have no legal right to OT).

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I think it's insane that employers can expect people to work an unlimited # of hours without extra pay. They don't do it here where I work thank God.
If someone makes a good salary because they have a professional level education, why should they therefore lose all rights to a personal life? And those high salaries are misleading because at least a third goes to taxes, and because some locations have a very high cost of living.
This is an example of a law that needs changing.

The Real PC
Wednesday, November 12, 2003


I think california or Oregon had a state law against this.

Otherwise in the US ... don't try to force your employer to do the right thing.  Find an employer who does the right thing anyway.

JMHO ...

Matt H.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The reason why professionals are "exempt" was originally not to encourage slave-driving of programmers, but because professionals wanted to self-police their own professions. e.g. doctors didn't want government butting in and telling them how many hours they could or could not work. 

wormser
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

In my state, an employer can require an employee to work (paid) overtime.  They can't physically bar the door, of course, but they can make working overtime a condition of employment.

But then, I live in a backward state, where guys drive around with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks...

Grumpy Old-Timer
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

If people weren't such sheep & if they didn't live paycheck-to-paycheck then the law wouldn't really matter.


Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Real PC,

Where do you live? Quite frankly, I am ready to move and would not just be happy, but substantially prefer to devote my considerable development skills towards the success and improvement of a society in which my humanity is acknowledged.

Humanist
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

What I don't get is how people expect quality code to come out of sleep-deprived employees.  Anything more then 14 hours a day for more then a week, and your just causing as many bugs as your fixing. 

vince
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

>>
Because basically, you could get paid a salary and an employer can MAKE you work more than 40+ hrs per week and there is no law to stop them from basically taking your life away.
<<

I don't understand thinking like this.  Your employer can't "MAKE" you do anything.  It's a pretty simple concept.  You do what they want, they give you money.  If you don't do what they want, they don't give you money.  They aren't making you do anything.  You are doing it of your own freewill in order to obtain money.  Quit whining to mommy government every time you have a problem and go make money elsewhere if you don't like the terms of employment (and I see you've already done this so I don't know what the problem is). 

SomeBody
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

And I wonder how many of those who complain about working 10+ hour days actually do real work anywhere close to that many hours versus the web (Joel on Software forums for example?), FreeCell, coffee breaks, etc..

SomeBody
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

While the OP only says he's Candian, that means it's at least 35% that he's in Ontario, so...

Ontario Ministry of Labour - Employment Standards:
http://www.gov.on.ca/lab/english/es/index.html

Anonymous Coward
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Your right, I am from Ontario.  I went through the ESA many times whith a buddy of mine when he was having a dispute with Future Sh...err Best Buy about discrimination due to a disability. That is when I found out that my profession is not entitled to overtime.

Gp
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

What a tired cliche from 'somebody' there.

Basically, life is too short for everyone to bounce from job to job to job until they find a good one. The company that's overworking its staff is probably going to fail sooner rather than later as a result of the staff turnover - so there it is, a terrible waste of time, effort and investment money.

So what's wrong with agreeing '8 hours a day' and getting on with doing some work? Is the hubris of the managing classes such that they *refuse* to learn from the mistakes of the past, *especially* if the government is suggesting the solution?

bow lock
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I've worked pretty much in pure software companies, and mostly small ones.

The reality has been for most of my professional life, that we were not required to put in a certain number of hours, be that 4, 8, or 14. We self-assessed our work, and were expected to meet goals and milestones as we'd promised. There were plenty of days where I was in the office less than 8 hours, and some where it was more. There were times when I worked at home, sometimes as my primary mode of work (as I do now).

I've found the working hours -- both in specific arrival times and hour count -- to be extremely flexible.

So when I hear that people are being forced to work 9, 10, 12 hours a day, without overtime, on a regular basis, it makes me wonder about the type of company they work at. Is it a pure software company, or the IT department of a non-software company? Is it a small company, or a large one?

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

What a sad world we live in when freedom is described as a "tired cliche". 

I don't "bounce" into a job.  I select the jobs I wish to apply for and then select the offer I wish to accept.  You'll note here that at any time I'm free to not apply for work at any given employer and to also reject an offer from any given employer.  I realize these notions are almost as radical as quitting a bad job.

If an employer is bad enough to try to force ridiculous hours on employees, they're going to be bad in other areas as well.  Life is too short to work for an employer like this. 

SomeBody
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

So why do these 'long hours' companies even exist? Why are we even having this discussion? Perhaps capitalism is too forgiving of shitty companies?

bow lock
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Brad Wilson, for a while I worked at well-funded dot com where I was expected to work late, start early and work on the weekends, in order to meet very stupid deadlines set by stupid and greedy managers.

Those managers paid themselves $500,000 ( I found out later) and also got big stock options. On Saturdays they might drop in for 10 minutes on their way back from golf or the beach - the heroes.

Meantime I worked so much I suffered stress and wasn't seeing my children hardly at all. My pay was tiny. It was this experience that made me realise programmers are exploited and that unions aren't so irrelevant after all.

JM
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

So, we should unionize to protect the stupid?

RocketJeff
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Read the post again - I think he meant unionize to protect us from the "stupid and greedy managers".

Of course, you might think that handing millions of dollars of investor money straight to stupid people who are too stupid to run succesful companies is a good idea. But it sounds pretty stupid to me.

bow lock
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

From his discription, he was working insane hours, not seeing his family and under a lot of stress - he was also not making a lot of money.

His bosses, OTOH, were making plenty and didn't seem stresses or spend insane hors at the office.

Who was stupid???

RocketJeff
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

OH, I SEE! Doing very little work for lots of money is good because it's clever. Right, let's *all* do nothing from now on. Oh wait, that's called 'going on strike', and that's a bad thing.

So instead of trying to improve the conditions in our current place of work, we either shut up and let ourselves get shat on, or we leave and find another job. The end result? Companies fail, endless hours of hard work go to waste, tons of investor money goes on the fire, and the economy gets in such a state that it's only just showing a glimmer of recovery.

All because a few greedy assholes were so 'clever' that they didn't have to bother listening to their staff.

So much for the invisible hand.

bow lock
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Do the same laws of hourly versus exempt employment status exist in the outsourcing nations (i.e. India, Russia)?

m
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Of course not, that's why they're 'competitive'.

Outsourced
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

>> If people weren't such sheep & if they didn't live paycheck-to-paycheck then the law wouldn't really matter.

This pretty much says it all. I agree that employers can be bastards, but it's also the fault of the workforce for ratcheting their personal obligations to the level that they have absolutely no negotiating ability.

Most programmers I've worked around would eat a plate of steaming dog sh*t if they were browbeat sufficiently.

And the reality is that those few programmers who have the balls and the financial stability to hold out for reasonable working conditions wind up being categorized by the scum recruiters and the HR droids as being too  "high maintenance" to fool with.  IE, the occasional programmer with self esteem is outnumbered 20:1 by the desperate scab workforce.

Bored Bystander
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Outsourced - I would think this would make them less competitive. If I spend 80 hours on a project in one week, I am an idiot, but more importantly, I only get paid a flat rate. If an hourly work does 80 hours on a project in one week, they bill for 80 hours and not 40.

m
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Oops! You're right, I typed it wrong - I meant to say "Of course, that's why they're 'competitive'.", meaning that labor regulations are even more lax and anti-worker in those countries, which gives them an advantage.

I find it amazing that companies that bill out workers hours to clients *by the hour* get a huffy about the worker getting paid for those hours. A real double standard there.

Outsourced
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Bored Bystander - I think it can be generalized to most of the population of the U.S.A. and possibly most of the planet, not limited to the programming crowd.

I wonder though, if everybody had self-esteem, or financial stability as you call it, would much get done in the world, and hence would there be financial instability? Perhaps it is like many other things, sound advice which is at odds with human nature.

m
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I don't agree with Bored's comments about personal obligations, which I assume to mean debt. I don't have any debt at all - my house and cars are paid for. Likewise, most programmers I know don't have all that high debt, though some of them do have martgages for modest houses which are amazingly NEEDED to sleep in and payments on mid range cars which are actually NEEDED to drive to work. I don't see that either of these things are ostentatious and living high off the hog.

And yet working conditions are crap in most employment situations, with long hours and weekends required to meet arbitrary and unjustifiable deadlines.

Actually, I don't mind working overtime. And I might even be OK with being paid SINGLE TIME for the hours worked. But the fact is, I don't get jack shit for the 26 hours over 40 hours I work on average each week. And when I retire, I fully expect to see the social security system defaulted and the company pension plan to have gone bankrupt from underfunding due to playing games with the books, a practice both legal and endemic.

Outsourced
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

"If an hourly work does 80 hours on a project in one week, they bill for 80 hours and not 40."

Unless of course the project was really only a 40 hour project.  Or worse, a 20 hour project. 

There are lazy, stupid and greedy managers.  And there are lazy, stupid and greedy programmers.  etc etc

If you don't think you are lazy, stupid or greedy, that doesn't automatically mean that the person you work for (or the person working for you) is. 

Incidentally, last I checked Ontario has no legislation requiring you to work overtime either.  Perhaps it is time to reread "Getting to Yes" (definitive negotiating manual) to learn how to say No...

In any case, unions are not a magic answer.  In a good company, unions make human relations more difficult (things have to be done "by the book" instead of common sense and compassion).  Union rules often are specified down to an absurd levels.  Unions can mean that good workers get shafted when compared to slackers who know how to work the system.  In a very large union, the needs of the individuals are often not well met because of the sheer volume of people, especially when the union spans multiple companies. 

Life is not a zero sum game!

.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Outsourced – What is this “company pension plan” that you speak of? I thought those were just a legend.

m
Thursday, November 13, 2003

It's a mythical thing which is used in salary negotiations to justify the small salary you are getting. The idea is that this 'benefit', to be paid in 45 years or so if you live that long, overrides the fact that you are making less than your trucker friends. The trick is that you'll never see that 'benefit', even if you did manage to make it through the 45 years of low pay and long hours without being downsized.

Outsourced
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Sometimes I feel sorry for you poor sods.  Over here the European Working Time Directive specifies a maximum working week of 48 hours and few other things. 

The basic rights and protections that the Regulations provide are (by the miracle of cut & paste from http://www.dti.gov.uk/er/work_time_regs/ ) :

• a limit of an average of 48 hours a week which a worker can be required to work (though workers can choose to work more if they want to).
• a limit of an average of 8 hours work in 24 which nightworkers can be required to work.
• a right for night workers to receive free health assessments.
• a right to 11 hours rest a day.
• a right to a day off each week.
• a right to an in-work rest break if the working day is longer than six hours.
• a right to four weeks paid leave per year.

A cynic writes
Thursday, November 13, 2003

(engage smug mode)
Oh - and although company pension schemes are being replaced over here by group personal pensions I managed to start working at my current place before they closed the scheme to new staff. 

Therefore, my pension is based on how long I work here and what my final salary is and I don't have to contribute. 

A cynic writes
Thursday, November 13, 2003

[Where do you live? Quite frankly, I am ready to move and would not just be happy, but substantially prefer to devote my considerable development skills towards the success and improvement of a society in which my humanity is acknowledged.

Humanist]

It isn't because of the location (USA), but because this is a non-profit and salaries are lower. 
But the salaries are still ok, and my ego doesn't depend on having a giant salary.

The Real PC
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Cynic,

So how hard is it for nonolinguistic norteamericanos to emigrate to europe? Is it possible?

Humanist
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Real PC,

Oh OK, by "where" you meant the company 'where' you work and not the geopolitical region where you work.

Well, I have to problem sacrificing salary level for sanity. As it is, when you factor in how much I should be getting if I was hourly, the salary is not as impressive. People really need to calculate this out so they know how much they are really making. Someone working double time (80 hrs) would be getting paid for 40 + 20*1.5 + 20*2 = 110 hrs if they were on hourly instead of salary. Thus they may be making a lot less than they think they are.

Humanist
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Because 110/40 is almost 3 -- so paid about 1/3 of what they would be if on salary. They say they make 90 grand but they make the same 90k take home as a factory worker making 30k base with those sort of overtime hours. So, the tech worker pulling in 90k for 110 hrs work is only really making 30k base salary. That's not very high and as it is most tech workers pull in quite a bit less than 90 -- I think 50-60 is about average right now.

Humanist
Thursday, November 13, 2003

50 *40/110 = $18,180.

So if you work double time and are pulling in 50  grand total (this is not an uncommon situation) then you are really making a base salary of 18 grand or 9 bucks an hour. That's before the 50% you pay in all the different takes. After tax, you're making about $4.50 an hour.

Humanist
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Humanist

Being a Londoner by birth I've no idea.  However if you're aiming for Britain these may help:

http://www.americanexpats.co.uk/faq.htm
http://english2american.com/

A cynic writes
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Cynic,

Three of my great-grandparents were brits, but I need to have actual grandparents instead.

Looks like I may possibly qualify under the 'innovators' visa -- the company I work for now bought out a suite of programs I wrote which have brought in over $15M in sales in the last 4 years to date and I am sure I can work the magic once more.

http://www.workpermits.gov.uk/default.asp?pageID=101

I'm going to go for it. Thanks.

Humanist
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Good luck mate

A cynic writes
Thursday, November 13, 2003

If you don't want to work 12 hour days, then don't.  It really is that simple.  Find a new employer, find other sources of income, or find a new career.  It really is that simple. 

Bella
Thursday, November 13, 2003

>>
So, the tech worker pulling in 90k for 110 hrs work is only really making 30k base salary. That's not very high and as it is most tech workers pull in quite a bit less than 90 -- I think 50-60 is about average right now.
<<

Anyone who works 110 hours a week for $90k is an idiot.  You are quite deluded if you believe there are many people out there doing this.  Giving an absolutely ridiculous example does not help your argument. 

SomeBody
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Somebody/Bella,

Read the post. He is talking about people working 80 hours, which would mean 110 hrs of pay if they were on hourly. On salary, they get paid the same for 80 hours as for 40 and are thus shortchanging themselves out of 2/3 of their salary.

-
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Bella, you've ignored the problem with your 'get another job' rhetoric. If that actually worked, there would be no jobs which demand 80 hour weeks, because no-one would be prepared to work them.

bow lock
Friday, November 14, 2003

bow lock, 'get another job' is the way free markets work.  Accepting employment is just like any seller/buyer exchange: charge what the market will bear.  If you don't like the going rate, find something else to sell. 

And of course that system supports jobs with obscene hours, because people like investment bankers and the like will continue to accept 80+hr/week jobs in exchange for huge salaries and huge prestige.

Smith
Friday, November 14, 2003

-----" I meant to say "Of course, that's why they're 'competitive'.", meaning that labor regulations are even more lax and anti-worker in those countries, which gives them an advantage."-------

As you seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the labour laws of India and the Philipines to just give two examples, perhaps you could quite the relevant articles.

Of course, I rather suspect you'll have to lobby the governments to change the legislation first. Many third world countries have rigid employment laws (which only apply to the 40% or less of the workforce within the formal economy), and the IMF is regularly asking them to relax them to European standards or even US standards. In Sri Lanka where I am at the moment, you have no way of knowing how much compensation you will have to pay if you sack a worker - it can be as much as his whole salary for the rest of his working life.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, November 15, 2003

Smith, you didn't explain anything in that post. Sure, people can and probably should be prepared to work silly hours for lots of money and prestige. But the fact that there are still shitty jobs with silly hours and crap pay suggests something is wrong.

And that 'something' might be the fact that there is NO SUCH THING as a free market, anywhere on this earth. The idea is rather like Santa Claus - something small kids get told to get them excited and make them do as they are told. Most of them soon stop believing in after they've worked out how things really work. Obviously people like yourself haven't grown up yet.

bow lock
Saturday, November 15, 2003

> Bella, you've ignored the problem with your 'get another job' rhetoric. If that actually worked, there would be no jobs which demand 80 hour weeks, because no-one would be prepared to work them.

You miss my point.  If there is not another job, yet you dislike 80 hour weeks, quit anyway.  Don't work.  Period.  (And skip the part about wife/kids/bills/mortgage)  My point is:  Smart resourceful people (Like JOS readers) will ALWAYS land on their feet.  However, most people are afraid to jump, and have faith in their innate survial skills.  So, I miss no point.  If you don't like 12 hour days, then DON"T work them.  Things will fall into place if you let them. 

Bella
Saturday, November 15, 2003

Bella, I guess it comes down to the idea of whether you believe people should cooperate, or if people should fight. Until I read your last post, I was hoping you might be somewhere near the former.

But given what you have said (ie. smart people should prosper, the others should die) - well, I really hope you never get one of these 'dumb people' diseases like cancer. Not that I care, I just think it's probably not good enough for you.

bow lock
Saturday, November 15, 2003

They're asking you to work overtime because they're short-staffed, so they are hardly going to fire you if you refuse as that would make them even shorter staffed.

Now, you might be first for the chop when the product ships, but you would quite likely have got laid off anyway.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, November 16, 2003

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