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The Almighty Buck

The Overtime Buck Stops Here 152

Ant (and others) sent in a link to this Salon story that talks about grueling overtime hours in Silicon Valley and how the traditional tech-haus 80 hour work week may conflict with assorted labor laws, especially a new bill that made its way through the California Legislature late last week. A more recent Wired piece claims California Governor Grey Davis is expected to sign the legislation into law later this week, and has a link to the full text of the bill. Will this mean fewer high-tech start-ups in California and more in places like Virginia, where there are hardly any labor laws? Or will Silicon Valley people take life a little easier now, and take a few hours each week to spend some of the money they're making? Or will labor lawyers make all the money? Hard to tell.
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The Overtime Buck Stops Here

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  • While I know a lot of people who work that way, and I respect their feelings on the subject, I don't, and can't, work that way. I love my work, and if sticking around an extra few hours for no pay once in a while means that my job gets done right, and I can be happy with my work, so be it.

    I don't due what I do so I can pinch every dollar I can out of the company I work for. I don't due it because some nebulous "they" has me chained to my desk eight hours a day. I do it because I want to. Sure, the pay's nice (and don't get me wrong -- it's important), but doing half-assed work or leaving work unfinished just to keep from donating my time to the company just isn't my style.
  • [Why was this moderated down to 'flamebait'? I detect no malicious trolling here.] -- just got moderated back up. interesting...

    I live in the S.F. Bay Area and make a good salary (even for this area). I also see how hard it can be for someone (many who live here) who earns substantially less than I (mainly housing costs).

    I *also* see how I could have a higher standard of living elsewhere for less...

    Excellent living == adaptability + knowing thyself
  • As a point of order, merely requiring overtime pay for people who work more than 40 hours a week is no guarantee that employers will try not to force people to work excessive hours.

    Here in the UK, there's an anomalous overtime regulation which is exploited by various hospitals. Y'see, doctors are paid overtime for being "on call", i.e. present in the hospital and available to be called in event of an emergency.

    "On call" was originally intended to be just that -- an emergency capability. But you tend to get junior doctors working 70-110 hour weeks in British hospitals, of which 40 hours are salaried and the rest are paid the on-call overtime rate. Why?

    Because "on call" wages are paid at half the standard hourly rate. Not time-plus-half, but half. So it is in the hospital administration's financial interests to work their junior doctors until they drop (regardless of the likelihood of accidents occuring, due to the peculiar insurance situation in the UK). And there's a lot of inertia in the medical establishment (from older GPs and consultants, who should know better than to think that "on call" duty today is the same as it was thirty or forty years ago).

    I saw this at first hand some years ago, when working in a variety of NHS hospitals. (The NHS is the biggest culprit -- tight budgets and no insurance whatsoever because it's so huge it can settle up in cash for just about any legal action.) Junior doctors who are zombies, falling asleep over patients and making mistakes because they've had 4 hours sleep in the past 96 hours.

    Seems to me that the Californian legislation simply doesn't address the problem unless it explicitly mandates that overtime rates of pay must be higher than standard rates of pay, to give the employers a financial incentive to avoid this kind of slave-driving.

  • Microsoft's meaning for Flextime is "You can work any 16 hours a day you want."
  • Working on the East Coast of the US is, in the case of many of by friends, the same as Silicon Valley. One in particular, who happens to work for a consulting shop, regularly puts in 60 hour weeks - salaried. He's got good pay/hr. but at 60/wk it's exhausting. You have to take the time to rejuvinate, relax, cater to personal interests outside work, etc.

    My employer takes a pretty unconventional approach of actually discouraging OT. After 40 hours/week, you DO NOT GET PAID AT ALL for the first 5 hours. Then it's back to the standard hourly rate.

    We all make the best of our 40 hours, and then go home to our families.

  • Oops. My bad. Apparently (if the author is correct) it could be applied to anybody who doesn't have advanced degrees under various circumstances, whether in or out of California. Pretty interesting. The author is right though, the culture of start-ups tends to favor people not really being that worried about overtime.
  • So I'm whiney because I work 75 hours a week ,and most weekends. And make thousands less than you when you have to work the ocasional extra hours. No YOU take a look around and look at how easy YOU have it. I'm too worried about feeding my son and getting food on the table. And sometimes being able to spend time with him when I come home before 1am
  • if people change jobs, that's very expensive for employers

    This is undoubtedly true; however has anyone considered the following: for a new, startup company, this is actually a good environment: it's easy to lure away disgruntled workers from other companies. Then you overwork them for a few months while you produce enough of a product to keep the investors happy. By the time those workers go somewhere else, you've gotten what you want out of them.

  • Thankfully I get to eat luch and argue with people like you for 30 minutes a day
  • Stereotypically, I'll state that everyone likes to point the finger and then run back into their little caves. The quickest resolution is the simplest resolution, and all it takes is some self-respect and a touch of responsibility.

    Ever consider not taking a job unless the terms of overtime that you want are met? It's really simple to lay out an employment contract that states your criteria for overtime. Any expressed contract willingly supported by both sides will override these passive laws.

    If you want something done, do it.
    If you want something changed, change it.
    If you want to sit and gripe, don't let me hear you.
  • I am a college student and work in the summer in Washington, DC for an hourly wage. I routinely work 5+ hours a week overtime, and since I am not salaried, DC law requires that I be payed overtime. Last summer, my hourly wage was lower, but I did recieve overtime. This summer, with a new HR director in my office, I have not been recieving overtime pay (time and a half). However, I haven't complained, because I would rather work 45 hours and get payed at regular wage then not be able to work those extra hours at all. They could limit me to only being able to work 40 hours a week like most of my friends in similar situations. So, I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place, I *should* be payed extra for the hours I work overtime, but I don't want to ask for fear of losing the privalege to work extra time at all. What should I do?

  • I used to dream of having stubs. . . . .
  • There is a mandated 48 hour maximum week now in force in the EU (this is average out of a period of so many months). This includes overtime. There are a few exceptions, but IT workers are not one of them.

    A company in France just got fined very heavily for having its employees exceed the 48 hour time limit.
  • So *that's* why I ended up in Virginia, not in California as I was expecting. No wonder...
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • Yup. At my company in the UK, we all got a memo last week stating that the company intended to comply with the new EU Working Time Regulations, that we had to track our hours, and were not allowed to work more than 48 hours a week. But this is averaged over a 17 week period, including days off and vacations; so when there is a short-lived push to get the next release of the software out the coders work overtime, and then simply go home early next week or next month. There is an "opt out" clause, though, and I can see some companies pressuring employees to sign an "opt out" form, or making it a condition of employment...
  • Interestingly, at my company, you have to apply for overtime authorization. It's a high tech software firm, but spending ridiculous amounts of time on projects outside of normal hours is discouraged. Does anyone else have similar work environments?

  • Gee,
    If I was still working 80hr/week, I'd LOVE to be on the clock at $27.50/hr!

    Figure it out: 80hr/week = 40hrs straight time + (40hrs * 1.5) = 100hrs billable /week

    50 weeks a year (Figure 2 weeks vacation)
    + 2 weeks @ 40hrs/week

    Folks, that's $139,700/year.

    Not shabby right?

    Let's do some math:

    Rate: 27.50/hr - 2 weeks Vacation Paid at 40/week

    hrs/wk Annual Pay
    40 $57200
    45 $67512
    50 $77825
    55 $88137 (already above industry average pay)
    60 $98450
    65 $108762
    70 $119075
    75 $129387
    80 $139700

    Now, also remember, that NON-Exempt employees are entitled to one 24 hour period off (without interuption) after each 6 day period worked. In addition MOST companies pay 2x (Not 1.5x) for Sundays, and Holidays are usually paid at 1.5x for the hours worked + your holiday pay.

    Do yourself a favor, figure out how much you REALLY earn per hour! I know I left my last job, which was demanding more that 55 hours/week average (Including "vacation weeks"), for a job that paid $5000 less, but now I work about 45hrs/week. Not a bad deal

    The other big advantage to this is: If you WANT to work the OT, you do, and your Co-workers who DON'T, don't have to.

    I used to be a wage slave - Technically, it was one of the best jobs I ever had! I ran a lab that did electrical and mechanical testing. I got to design the electronics, the hardware test fixtures, BUILD the electronics, machine the fixtures, and then design and write the programs to run it all. Of course, then the cold war ended, and military contractors went bust everywhere.
  • For some strange reason I'm glad vital life-services don't depend on Internet services administered by anyone on this kind of regime! ;8/

    You also can quit moaning and get another job.

    ISTR I was first interviewed for a job doing a 6hr week for £9000/yr in a crappy internet-hosting sort of startup. I can't say I'm all that sorry to have not had a completely compatible skill-set, given that I'm now on of that :8)

  • The problem with overtime is if you get to depend on it. If it goes away, you are hosed! I lived through this a few years ago, loosing about 10 hrs per week of overtime. It was real hard to make ends meet for a while. Of course I seem to be doing the same thing again....savings? yeah, great idea! I will start right after i get that new smp box! oh yeah and a dvd and um hmmm wanna go to Bali next week???

  • [Disclaimer: My father was his union's president for 1 1/2 years and is still active. Both of my parents come from blue-collar labor families. I'm biased. *grin*]

    Good idea if done right, horrible idea if not.

    The principle behind unions was, and is, a good one. The execution sometimes sucks. And unfortunately, the fact that the execution sucks quite frequently in recent years gives people who really ought to know better an excuse to go screaming "Unions BAD!"

    My father's a professor at a community college. He's been there for 22 years. He has ALWAYS worked his ass off for them.

    Contract negotiations go beyond simple issues of "how much are we getting paid?" or "how can we make sure we don't get fired unless we do something illegal or are completely inept at our jobs?" While Dad was union president, aside from the issue of contracts that take so long to negotiate that they make the NYS budget look timely, there were several other things that needed consideration. The two specific big issues I remember were the question of domestic-partner benefits, and the issue of how to properly compensate a professor for a class that has regular and distance-learning attendees.

    Especially that second issue is something that management is utterly clueless about there. Which brings me to why I think some sort of union or professional association is a damn good idea: People IN the profession know the most about how it's supposed to work. People who aren't doing the work get really silly ideas on the subject. (Like the idea that an essentially doubled class isn't going to create ANY extra work at all and should not be compensated.)

    This is sort of similar to the industry-standards argument. And I know that getting programmers to agree on things and to organize is going to be like herding cats. But programmers need to remember that they're still building the cyber-infrastructure, just as surely as the people who built highways in the 1930s were building an infrastructure. Once things are in place, demand for that sort of work is likely to go down, and jobs won't be "there for the taking" anymore. They'll still be THERE, just like we still need construction workers, but the current situation's not going to last.

    Once the computing boom is over (which will happen -- it may be 5 months or 50 years form now, but it WILL happen), the industry is going to be screwed if it doesn't have some guidelines in place.
  • It's already more expensive to do business in the Silicon Valley than in any other place in the world, but there's a reason people still start up new businesses there. Sure, labor is expensive, as is rent. But the access to other Silicon Valley vendors has a dollar value too, as does the easy access to a huge labor pool of highly-trained workers and easy access to the venture capitalists.
  • For all of you out there who are thinking "what's the big deal? We're profeswsionals, like doctors and lawyers" and your thinking this kind of talk is only for some blue collar type, better cast a quick gander toward this:
    Looks like some other "professionals" weren't too happy either! []
  • Here in British Columbia the government actually passed a law extending the work day (number of hours required before the employer is obliged to pay overtime) for technology companies because of the culture of regular excessive hours.

    And the politicians wonder why we have brain drain...
  • Sorry for the bad spelling before. The important part to note here is the bit about doctors working for HMO's CAN unionize. Replace the work HMO with "start-up" or whoever you work for...
  • seems to be the real problem here. What's wrong with someone ditching work one day and making it up the next, especially if it's for the doctor or the kids? Even the feds use it -- that's how federal employees accrue time to take off religious holidays that aren't federal holidays (Jewish High Holy days, etc.). These people are nothing more than union puppets, and that's sad.
  • Group reply to everyone who said 'so go get a new job.'

    >I was wrong. Oh well. All I can do at this point is quietly hunt for new work.

    Which is what I'm doing. I am hunting for work, but due to age discrimination, I'm having a *very* hard time finding any. Just thought I'd clear that up for all of you.

    -RISCy Business | Rabid System Administrator and BOFH
  • Overtime pay won't help much: employees won't ask for it anyway, and employers will simply average it out in the salaries.

    I think it's actually in the employer's interest to help their employees be reasonably happy, and that might include protecting them from overwork: if people change jobs, that's very expensive for employers.

    Some Swiss companies seem to have found a good solution: after the cleaning crews have gone through, the lights go out and the doors get locked in the early evening.

  • I live in the S.F. Bay Area and make a good salary (even for this area). I also see how hard it can be for someone (many who live here) who
    earns substantially less than I (mainly housing costs).

    I *also* see how I could have a higher standard of living elsewhere for less...

    It sure cost a lot to live here. :-( That why peoples drive 50-120miles a day to work in Silicon Valley and live in a cheep place like Stockton or Livermore etc etc.
  • Hmmm, I work and live in Austin as well. I would have to agree with you, if you don't like your job, move on and get a new job. Hell, they practically throw money at CS people here. I guess I will be staying in Austin, doesn't sound like fun over in Silicon Valley.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I work in X state. I work for Y amount of money.
    That being said... I'm on salary. For each paycheck, I get 1/26th of my total salary. I can work 60 hours in a week and still get 1/26th. I'll get paid less if I work under 160 hours for the pay period. If I work more than 160 hours in a pay period, I can build up comp time. I have 253 hours of comp time coming to me this year alone, yet I'm not allowed to use it.
    However, I like my job. Despite the fact that if I work 60 hours, I'm only making $33.34, while if I work 40, I get $50/hr. The yearly bonuses are even substandard. Yet I stick around.
    Despite some of the working conditions here, they keep me happy. Yes, I'm making $50/hr ($104,000 yearly). Yes, I pull hellish hours. Yes, I go to the bar for a stiff drink after work. Yes, I pull my hair out... On the bad days. The good days totally outnumber the bad days, yet the bad days are more memorable.
    They treat me well. They'll buy me lunch or dinner out of the blue. They'll buy me a 12 pack after a long week. They'll do the extras that make everything worthwhile.
    I could be making more (at a different company) but I refuse. I'm happier working for lower money than being disgruntled making more money.
    ANy of this make sense?
  • I'm done posting but I wasn't spoon-fed life. I used to landscape and I used to do septic ...I used to get into the shit holes and pull crap filters out and build leech fields I've seen the other side at $4.25/hr no less. Kind of hard hearing how good I have it from someone like you.
  • Ever watched the wonderful claymation Gumby? Gumby often bent and flexed to get out of tough situations. This was the easiest solution.

    Of course, the easiest solution doesn't always come out as the most fulfilling. If you really feel that your situation needs to change, you'd need to stand your ground.

    "Either work me overtime and pay the expense of my overtime, or don't work me overtime. No other options are available."
  • Just keep track of your hours and when it's time to quit or move on go and file a complaint with the appropriate government office for back pay.
    Sure it's kind of a bastard thing to do, but hey
    the people you are working for are taking advantage of you.
  • I would easily say that most americans screw off 2-4 hours a day, and only have to work more because they do so.

    Heh heh. How many hours a day do each of us spend reading /.?
  • Hmm...

    Most companies are more willing to pay overtime because it's cheaper for them to do so than to pay another benefits-deservin' person their benefits... but then there's that Salary thing, too...

    So, what could happen? Company decides that it will only pay benefits to employees working 3/4 time or higher, and all the geeks get their hours cut back to under 30 hrs/wk. So they hire more geeks, but they pay much less in benefits, and no more overtime to boot.
  • Once upon a time I had no feet... :-)
  • Hello fellow Tar Heel! (or is it Blue Devil? Wolfpack maybe?)
    Another nice thing about NC: way way cheaper than Silly Valley for cost of living, and the Triangle area is still growing by leaps and bounds.
    And the hockey is better.

  • RTP has a totally different focus and image from Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley has leading-edge entrepeneurs, while RTP has leading-edge scientists. Why does that make a difference? Well, if you're a new computer company and you want the best case designers for your new computer, you want to be in the Silicon Valley. If, on the other hand, you want the best computer scientists to design a leading-edge mathematical encryption algorithm, you may be able to get away with being in RTP.

    The biggest difference is in the realm of venture capital. Note that VA Research got lots of venture capital from Silicon Valley based firms, while Red Hat's venture capital all had to come from outside the state of North Carolina. If your business plan calls for venture capital, Silicon Valley makes sense in those terms alone.

    As for why I'm not in RTP -- I'm in Phoenix, Arizona! Think of it as Sandberg's Chicago re-incarnated in the desert....

  • In a technical domain, the number of hours worked may not correlate to results as much as people like. Let's face it, if you take the economist view that as rational actors, individuals maximise their income utility then it makes sense to put in overtime in expectation of an increase in the ownership value (don't ask what happens to options in a falling share market though!) For those who don't wish to place a portion of their salary at risk, a steady income to support family activities is preferred. However, one should ask the careful question of exactly what is being produced? Is it accomplishing the desired goal at a reasonable rate of progress? Spending hours peddling around in redundant debugging cycles is a waste of energy. Also human nature indicates that there is a natural plateau of performance beyond which is difficult to penetrate. Working more than 18 hours a day in a burst mode cna lead to burnout (hence the return to simplicity that some managers are advocating).

    History has shown that great leaders inspire ordinary people to achieve the extraordinary. Natural people skills are just as rare (or even more so) as creative programming skills. One shortcut is the zealotry of religion or enforced groupthink (can we say mindless corporate culture here?). However, this is self-defeating as there is a limit to people suspectible to self-delusion (no flames on actual religion please, this is just a comment on the number of gullible idiots out there). In the long-term, only bottom-up grassroots activities have any chance of sustainability as successful thoughts/habits become engrained into mainstream.

    Unforunately we don't have good measures of soft factors such as human creativity and coding productivity. Absolute hours worked is not always useful as quantity != quality hours. All companies can really do is create a framework and culture that encourages the results that is desired and leave it up to individual talent and capabilities (while somehow eliminating obstructive PHBs).

  • Can you say "Professional Organization" instead of union? Like the one doctors have. We set the standards, we set the prices...

    (You use NT? That's 50% extra on the pay scale, Mr. CIO.)

  • The fact that I work for free once in a while bothers me far less than, for example, the fact that I made at least two really egregious spelling errors in my earlier post.

    It's not a big deal to me. I'd rather feel proud of my work and leave late than get some extra personal time by leaving early. I know I'm not alone in this, either, since most of the other techies I know and work with put in as much time as I do, and almost none of them are paid overtime.

    Don't get me wrong -- money's nice, and I'm definitely not a cheap hire. But when a company hires me, they're getting a guy who's not afraid to put in a lot of uncompensated time, if necessary, to make sure the job's done right.

    As long as they keep the fridge stocked. If they stop supplying me with Cokes (and God knows that's costing 'em -- got a really nasty caffeine habit to support), I might reconsider.
  • I used to work in an environment that was both. We all received hourly wages and the policy was that anyone who wanted overtime had to get it approved. However, I was allowed to work whatever overtime was necessary to get my work done, since I was the company's third employee and was grandfathered out of most HR policies. Most of the systems staff was able to work whenever they wanted on whatever needed fixing. The other staff had to follow the policy. The overtime is what kept us from opting for salaried positions.

    BTW, it was an ISP so I guess you could call it "High-Tech".
  • " as does the easy access to a huge labor pool of highly-trained workers... "

    I think this should be changed to read: "easy access to generally inept employees who will threaten to walk everytime you ask them to do anything involving 'thinking' or 'working'."
    I work and live in Portland, but have to work for and with companies in San Jose. I've never met a shittier bunch of engineers in my life. Everytime we go to a manager and ask why they seem to hire 1980's CS rejects and they all say that silicon valley engineers are "different."
    As far as I can see the only reason a good engineer would remain in silicon valley is:
    a) The gravy train atmosphere rewards anyone with a modicum of ability since most engineers are crappy and actually wanna be PHBs.

    b) They got lucky and found a tiny company that actually managed to hire decent engineers.

    c) They like paying outrageous sums of money to live within 3 feet of their unfriendly neighbors and drive 10 miles in 4 hours to their campus every morning. Where they are surrounded by "c-experts" asking what malloc does and "unix gurus" who have never heard of shared memory (exotic technology that it is). Or "telephony experts" who think that a single signalling link is fine for a switch (who needs redundancy)... AHHHH I hate this job!
  • It still amazes me that so many people in our industry will work OT for free. Don't they have a life?

    Oops, excuse me, bad question.

    Back to GLADEing...
  • Always bet on the lawyers.
  • hello people. this is not a computer issue. it is almost absurd that wired would encourage tech workers, a minority of the employment field in california, to be against such a rules change. this is meant to PROTECT REAL WORKERS with jobs they don't necessarily like. we're talking MOSTLY about employers who will force 10-12-13 hour shifts for employees who will only get 39hours a week. this is how it works in California, and if you don't live here you wouldn't realize how important this law is. most employees who work 80 hours are on salary anyway. i not, they should ask for a salary.

    i can't even believe the crap about "this creates a union-type environment". what the hell is wrong with that? what we NEED is stronger unions or else everyone isgoing to continue to be f*&cked over on a weekly basis.
  • It's a fact of life: an overstressed, tired programmer makes stupid glaring mistakes and then can't see them. Very quickly, the programmer is doing more harm than good- i.e. they're introducing more bugs than they're fixing. Working eighty hours a week is _less_ productive than working fourty, in terms of working debugged functionality.

    No, I don't have a study to back me up, only about 200 years of experience sitting around the thanksgiving table all agreeing on this.

    There are two problems, I think. One is the myth of the programmer as a teenager with no life who has nothing better to do with his (ever notice how the archtype programmer is always male?) time than sit and code. The other is that, as programming teams get larger, and ever increasing amount of time is spend communicating rather than programming (see Fred Brooks' "The Mythical Man Month"). I've known of programmers who had fifty hours of meetings per week- they were already ten hours into overtime and hadn't done anything yet.

    The solution is for us to not put up with that cr*p. It's easy for programmers to find new jobs (especially if you live in SanFran or Boston, where you can't hardly swing a cat without whacking three tech companies). Also, employeers need to recognize that overworking their employees is dumb.

    This is not to say that occasional periods of OT are not part of the job- they are. It is the pattern of regular massive OT that is destructive and stupid.
  • Maybe some people have missed the boat.

    In my case, the boat ran me over. I got keelhauled. I'm a system administrator for an internet startup run by complete and total morons. In my job description *LITERALLY* is 'maintainer of the entire internet.' And I make less than a McDonald's manager.

    I'm working 70 hours a week. And I'm salaried. No benefits. No 401k. And I was the 4th person within the company. Part of it is age discrimination; it always is. But that's not the point I'm here to make.

    You people whine about your 50 and 60 hour weeks. Quit whining. Now. And listen good.

    System Administrators typically work more hours than you could possibly hope to comprehend. Hell, I'm pulling 70 to 80 hours at the office, and another 20 hours working from home at least. That's roughly 90 to 100 hours working a week. I consider myself lucky if I get more than 4 hours of sleep.

    Now, that's not typical system administrator, no. But let's take into account being on call. You may as well not bother going to bed if you work for a startup. Things will break constantly as you work out the bugs. And they have a tendency to break at 2am.

    Example. The other week, the power went out. I get a page from our CEO at freaking 2:11a. Now, were this something big, I'd have no problems. But NO. I call him up, and he's all panicking because servers are down. Because they're freaking ATX PCs without the vital BIOS option 'restore to last known state' *OR* a UPS. And they're mission critical. So I ended up freaking driving an hour out to the office, turning on two freaking machines, and just crashing at my desk because I was too tired to drive home. My boss wakes me up at 9 when he gets in and starts bitching me out because his PC's UPS didn't last through the power outage, and I installed it.

    You don't want to know how many programmers I've heard whine about pressure and stress and long hours. And then they whine that they're only making $18/hr. Now, excuse me, but I'm not even making *HALF* that, and I'm pulling not only more hours, but putting up with constant abuse from everyone because they won't let me purchase necessary equipment.

    I don't get overtime. I'm salaried, like I said before. They act as though I should be grateful with what I'm getting, even though I turned down MANY offers that would gleefully pay me *DOUBLE* what I'm getting there, because I thought it would be a good job, with nice people.

    I was wrong. Oh well. All I can do at this point is quietly hunt for new work.

    Many of us, we're afraid to demand, much less ASK for overtime. It's the environment. You should take what you get and be happy with it. Nevermind the fact that you have bills the same as everyone else. Nevermind the fact that you spend more hours slaving over their silly little projects to find out how many people have clicked the 'partners' link on your webpage than they spend doing their own work.

    When I die, at this rate, it's going to be very soon and very unhappily.

    -RISCy Business | Rabid System Administrator and BOFH
  • Fine, you're entitled to bitch, but bitch at your employer instead of doing it in public. It's the McDonalds guys who have to cry to the government for minimum wages, labor laws, etc, because they can't negotiate with their employers. Why? Because they're expendable and replacable as workers. That isn't true with geeks. If you're as good as you're implying, then you're in the driver's seat, not your employer. So tell him to ease off. If he doesn't listen, then find one who will. Or go indy and laugh at him next year when he comes to you asking for a job. :-)

    Geeks have every right to play hardball with the suits. (e.g. "I'll work 40 hours unless I'm convinced you're having a temporary emergency.") But the power we have also makes us look like spoiled babies when we cry in public about not getting what we want, and ask for the government to pass laws so that we don't have to negotiate. It's sickening, and it's embarrassing for all of us when that happens. Do you want to be as disrespected and despised as the union workers? Gee, maybe we should just vote Communist...

  • For 3.5 years (94 - 98). I was lucky in that I found a nice 2 bedroom in Mountain View for $795, so split that was only $397.50 for me.

    I was lucky though; real estate in that area is ridiculously expensive. Also the traffic is just unbelievable. I got married in Palo Alto a few weeks ago and for the three weeks I was in the bay area I experienced more motor vehicle traffic than I have experienced in the 1.5 years I have been living here in Westchester County, NY. The number of cars, and of ugly cheaply constructed strip mall acreage, is just disgusting.

    Silicon Valley is nice in alot of ways - the computer culture there can't be beat. I would *kill* for a Fry's in NYC. But I really don't think that the computer culture and the mild weather is worth the sacrifices you have to make to live comfortably there. Also I found that all of the friends I had when I lived there seem to be getting more and more materialistic as time goes on - the valley seems to be all about showing money these days. I can do without that also.

    Just my humble opinions ...

    I'm still looking for the ideal place to live. I think I might try NC next ...
  • Uh... I'm a contract worker. I make $45,000 before taxes. I get time and a half for all hours over 8 in one day, or over 40 in one week...

    Either my employer (Intel) is very nice to contract workers (direct employees are salaried; no OT even if they never leave the office for a week,) or there is a law somewhere that helps me out.

    I guess it's an Oregon law. Oregon does have lots of very worker-friendly laws (such as a $7.00/hr minimum wage,) so it wouldn't surprise me.

  • Oh come off it with the altruistic "we just do it for the fun" melarchy.

    Tech workers are slaves to the myth that if you work real hard you'll be rich one day. It's for the money, not for the fun. If you think otherwise you're bullsh!tting yourself, too.

    In reality (you know, statistically speaking, using some of the math we learned in school), you'll have better luck with the lottery than you'll ever have of striking it big. And if you think working 80 hours a week and getting fat is fun, well, we don't even want to go there...

    *Average* executive compensation in the valley was up 26% last year alone. Average wages were NOT.

    Snap out of it.

  • Yup. Many of those complaining probably never have
    worked *really* hard jobs. I've worked shrimp boats, pulled oyster tongs, worked on oil platforms, played army, been a paramedic, worked
    on under ground teams putting in fiber optic cable, and a few other jobs. I have *no* complaints now, working in the IT industry and being able to telecommute. Its like heaven even if I do put in 80 hour weeks at times.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think that you have all missed the boat.

    Nobody works for money. Oh sure, we all need money to stay afloat, to pay the mortgage and bills, to fund that ski trip, etc.

    But once we hit the point where we have enough money to survive and to thrive, we pick and choose our jobs based upon other factors. I know that this is true in my case. The last time I switched jobs, I had several offers. And I deliberately chose to take a 40% pay cut.

    I am fully aware that I could be earning two to three times my salary. But those jobs tend to come with a lot of stress, insane hours, a number of managerial duties outside of writing code, and a large number of absolutely clueless coworkers.

    When I die, I know that I will not be the one with the most toys. But I will have enjoyed my life.
  • I have to agree with you there. I got overtime "bonuses" at my last place of employment in Dallas (basically straight time for everything after the 48th hour each week. Hours 41-48 were uncompensated). Now I'm out of that sweatshop and in Austin. If I have worked a minute over 40 hours it was because I wasn't paying attention!
  • Uh where the hell did you pay $1500 a month in rent for a one room place in SV. Yes rent is insane in SV but what you say is complete crap. I live in SF on Nob Hill and pay about that for a 2 bedroom... and studios in my building go for well under 1k.

    Openstep/NeXTSTEP/Solaris/FreeBSD/Linux/ultrix/OSF /...
  • All labor laws do is restrict the range of agreements that an employer and an employee can make. If employees start demanding overtime, do you think employers are just going to open their checkbooks and write out thousands of dollars in pay raises? They're going to either restrict you to 40 hours, or cut your pay rate to make up for it. Money doesn't grow on trees.

    If I want to work more than 40 hours and accept a flat rate, what business does the government have to stop me. If I want more money, I can ask for it. And if they turn me down, I can leave. Emplouees are not helpless children. The government needs to stop coddling them.
  • As a summer intern myself, I must say that I find this ridiculous. I worked in the DC area last year, and regularly worked 50-60 hour weeks. My employer was happy to have me work them, and happy to pay me for those hours at time + 1/2. Why?

    Because, even at OT wages, I was cheap.

    As an intern, you are slave labor compared to the regular full-time employees. There's no reason for them to be stingy with your overtime pay because it's not a big deal. They should be happy you work extra hours at very cheap (time + 1/2) rates.

    My suggestion is this: Go to your first-line manager, and talk with him about it, rather than HR. He probably understands what a deal you are, and would be more likely to be able to get what you want out of HR than by talking directly to Catbert.
  • And the "test" is if, among other things, the employee is engaged in work that is primarily
    intellectual, managerial, or creative, and which requires exercise of
    discretion and independent judgment and the employee receives
    compensation of not less than a specified amount per month.

    Hmm let's see. Is software development intellectual and creative? Is discretion required? Independent judgment? Do the vast majority of us make more than 2 time the state minimum?

    Nahhh. We're covered, I'm sure.

  • He willingly accepted the job, and is free to take another one. If he wants to demand overtime, fine. But it's incredibly sleazy to wait til you quit and then use the force of law to extort hundreds of dollars from one's employer. I don't care what the law says. If you agree to work 50 hours a week for a flat wage, who is the government to prohibit it?
  • A previous poster writes:

    "So if a plumber, trashman, electrician, or
    a autoworker works my hours, and get paid over time. He gets $11,650 more a year. Without a college degree, and probably a hell of a lot less stress."

    Right on- someone actually does the math!

    My buddy and I figured out (on my first job out of school) that working 90 hours/week on 40 hours salary (but the 50 hours over WAS billed to the government, via a cool trick known as "total-time-accounting"), we literally would make more money working those same hours at McDonalds, if we had been paid straight hours.

    The name of the company is BTG. Ed Bersoff, the President, said it did not stand for Bersoff Technical Group. He's right. It stood for Bilk the Government.

    NOW, the same companies are begging for an increase in H-1 Visa's because of the "Labor Shortage". Companies like the one I used to work for ( San Diego's biggest employer). That's funny. Didn't this company just lay off a couple of thousand employees? But now it's trying to tell the Feds that it's having a hard time _finding_ employees, and therefore wants Congress to increase the allowed Visa's so they can get more cheap labor.

    You do the math.

  • I like working 9 hours to get every other Friday off.

    Yup, I do too, especially when my boss is off during the Fridays I do it's almost like having *2* Fridays off. =)

  • Yeah, but all this is your fault.

    Quit your damn job, already!

    Your whining about everyone else whining does not give me any more sympathy for your situation. You make your own bed. Either lie in it, or get the hell up.

    (Honestly, people -- the folks who comment here that everyone needs to raise the bar for themselves... more compensation, fewer hours, better benefits, anything you can grab ... are dead right.)

  • Just wait until they all get used to working 6 hours a day. Then they will be bitching and moaning about hows horrible 6 hours a day is. Now 5.5 hours a day would be much better.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I work with payroll software and with the exception of a few states like CA, overtime is based on the weekly total. This was reversed a year or so ago in CA...more changes, yay.

    Now concerning salaried workers, I doubt programmers/engineers will be covered:

    This bill would authorize the Industrial Welfare Commission to establish exemptions, with specified limitations, from the requirement that premium pay be paid for overtime work for executive, administrative, and professional employees, provided that the employee is primarily engaged in the duties which meet the test of the exemption and the employee earns a monthly salary equivalent to no less than 2 times the state minimum wage for full-time employment.

  • by Ethelred Unraed ( 32954 ) on Tuesday July 13, 1999 @10:37AM (#1804676) Journal

    I have to admit to being slightly amused at the idea of laws changing the workplace much, 'specially in "new media" et. al. I work in Germany, where the labor laws make things in America look downright sweatshoppish...yet it's also quite normal for people in new media to work ungodly hours and get no overtime pay (the Voice of Experience(TM)).

    The point is that the law is very near totally ineffective until someone actually decides to complain, thus pretty much ensuring that the job will go bye-bye (or thus creating a rather hostile working atmosphere), regardless of the legal restrictions. So no one says anything, which in effect implies consent. In a small shop--which most new media places are, i.e. less than 30 people total--there is almost no chance of anyone sticking out their necks.

    This is why I got fed up and decided to go indie. At least I have a better chance of setting my own hours...and get PAID for the time I put in. Amazing how much more fun it is.



  • If you go follow the link and read the bill, this is expressly allowed. It just says that your employer can't "encourage" you to do it; you have to ask them.
  • Read section 515. The bill stipulates that:
    The Industrial Welfare Commission may establish exemptions from the requirement that an overtime rate of compensation be paid pursuant to Sections 510 and 511 for executive, administrative, and professional employees...

    I serious doubt anything will change for professionals.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    A quick look at the bill seems to say that this only effects people who get paid by the hour

    Existing wage orders of the commission provide that no person employed in an administrative, executive, or professional capacity is required by those wage orders to be compensated for overtime work. Those existing wage orders define an employee as employed in an administrative, executive, or professional capacity if, among other things, the employee is engaged in work that is primarily intellectual, managerial, or creative, and which requires exercise of discretion and independent judgment and the employee receives compensation of not less than a specified amount per month.

    This bill would authorize the Industrial Welfare Commission to establish exemptions, with specified limitations, from the requirement that premium pay be paid for overtime work for executive,administrative, and professional employees, provided that the employee is primarily engaged in the duties which meet the test of the exemption and the employee earns a monthly salary equivalent to no less than 2 times the state minimum wage for full-time employment.

  • Cool,
    what about 9/80 or 4/40 work weeks?

    I like working 9 hours to get every other Friday off.
  • Well most silicon valley employees are "Exempt" which means that the labor laws do not apply. The summary of the bill lays it out as follows:

    Existing wage orders of the commission provide that no person
    employed in an administrative, executive, or professional capacity is
    required by those wage orders to be compensated for overtime work.
    Those existing wage orders define an employee as employed in an
    administrative, executive, or professional capacity if, among other
    things, the employee is engaged in work that is primarily
    intellectual, managerial, or creative, and which requires exercise of
    discretion and independent judgment and the employee receives
    compensation of not less than a specified amount per month.
    This bill would authorize the Industrial Welfare Commission to
    establish exemptions, with specified limitations, from the
    requirement that premium pay be paid for overtime work for executive,
    administrative, and professional employees, provided that the
    employee is primarily engaged in the duties which meet the test of
    the exemption and the employee earns a monthly salary equivalent to
    no less than 2 times the state minimum wage for full-time employment.

    So basically, this law will not apply to most high tech workers since we're well over the 2X minimum wages, and we're definately doing "work that is primarily intellectual, managerial, or creative." I, however, sometimes question the "discretion and independent judgment" part.

  • by M-2 ( 41459 ) on Tuesday July 13, 1999 @10:50AM (#1804682) Homepage

    I work in New Jersey, just outside Manhattan. (In fact, I can see the Lincoln Tunnel from one of the windows in the building.) I'm a contractor. As the result of Federal law, I don't GET overtime pay.

    That's right. Instead of overtime, I get straight time. So, the fact I came in this weekend and worked for six hours on Saturday means I get 46 hours at straight time. No OT pay. No time-and-a-half. None of it.

    If you look at that article, it mentions the federal laws that deal with overtime. Those are the ones that gut you. I make $35,000 before taxes. That exceeds the cap for contract workers, and makes your employer exempt from having to pay you for overtime.

    We don't need to change the California laws, we need to change the FEDERAL laws.

  • Even if this law is signed into law the companies of silicon valley will still treat their workers
    like garbage,and even if you find a cool job.
    Do you want to pay 1500$ a month rent for a single room apartment .After 35 years of living in the valley it's time to move !
  • I don#'t get paid overtime.

    So I don't work it.

    There's a general lack of technically skilled workers, so they can't fire me. I do my job and then I go home.

    On the way past, I laugh at hte people working for free.
  • It doesn't matter if you are salaried or paid by the hour. There is a legal test which determines if may receive overtime. This legal test is complex and it usually takes an attorney to determine whether you apply or not. And as all legal tests it is certainly arguable in each individual case. My understanding is that titles don't matter; they consider only that actually work you do so even if your employer calls you 'VP of Technology', if you don't manage anyone and just do daily mindless system administration you are due for some overtime.
  • I hear tech companies can't find enough help in Austin, but I also hear that the pay scale is pretty low. Maybe the latter leads to the former?

    I did have someone call me once to interview for a position as senior system administrator in a Unix shop after they saw my Austin ISP address in a c.o.l.* post where I had answered a mere Newbie-II level Linux question. That company, at least, was pretty desperate.

    BTW, if you do interview for Austin, demand flex hours so you can stay off the roads during rush hour.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm paying $1400 for a 3000-square foot house with a yard. Great location. Minutes from what's now being called the "silicon prairie" here outside Chicago.

    Although I'm still working in the city, it is only a 30 minute train commute. Plus if I wanted to, I'm more accessible to Lucent, or Tellabs or one of the other tech places out here, in the event I want to change jobs.

    Ever since I've become a computer techie with a degree (Ct.D.), I've tried my darndest to stay away from California. I hear gas prices are also a bit on the high side just like everything else.

    I'm not going to say everyone in the SV is brainwashed, but there are great jobs with excellent pay elsewhere in the US and other countries. You don't even have to look hard for them, but most people have the mentality that if it's not SV it's garbage, which is just not true. There are more job openings in Chicago and the SP than there are people as well. It was not uncommon for me to get 10 phone calls a day for three months from HR departments wanting me to come for an interview. Actual companies, not consulting companies.

    Well, maybe SV has the weather going for it, but since you're working 200 hours a week, you're not outside anyway, so what's the difference. :->

  • Never heard of those. :) I'm -paid- for 40 hours, and "told" not to work overtime, but the job actually requires 80 hour weeks, for deadlines to be met.
  • I think SOME companies do, but not MOST.
    My company is a mix of entertainment 'biz' and high-tech. I work for a computer graphics studio. I used to work in LA for special effects studios and the overtime was a BIG BIG issue. Everyone got paid for it, (pending approval of your producer) including staff sys admins and software engineers.

    My current employer in Japan is fairly flexible about work hours, core time is 11am to 5pm and you have to be there at this time and anything more is up to you.

    However most Japanese companies still have crazy hours and commute times for Japanese are increasing as more people are making more money, they still can't afford housing 'in Tokyo' so they buy houses out in the outer suburbs or neighboring prefectures, its crazy here.I have some co-workers
    that takes them about 2 hours or MORE to get
    to work. My commute is about 50 minutes, but
    that's usually reading time on the train.

    Since my entire career has been in the entertainment industry I don't work ANY overtime
    without some sort of compensation, either days
    off or over time pay. I love my work and I
    do the absolute best job to my ability and I'm
    very dedicated to the projects that I work on.
    However I'm not a sucker and I make sure I'm
    properly compensated for my work.

    I think everyone should make sure they don't get
    screwed in the end, and are properly compensated
    either in bennies, overtime pay, stock options,
    , profit sharing or whatever, as long as your
    happy. The high-tech sector and other businesses
    rely so heavily on technology workers, that
    you don't have to put up with shit. Especially
    when your company is making cash hand over fist
    and a group of morons with 'executive' titles
    make obscene amounts of money and don't do
  • Of course, this varies by state.

    In some states, you can be salaried as a gas station attendant. Work 80 hours a week, and get no overtime.

    Other states have laws that say you must be paid overtime if you work over 40 hours in a week.

    Still others say if you work over 10 hours in a day or 40 hours a week you get overtime.

  • Amen to that! I spent one summer working 12 hour shifts in a plastics factory and alternating 3 and 4 days a week. Work now is much nicer.

    Also, this bill does nothing for the people who have to work multiple jobs to support their families. If a person works 35 hours a week at job A, 10 at job B and another 35 at job C, they are entitled to no overtime pay.

  • by ksheff ( 2406 ) on Tuesday July 13, 1999 @05:54PM (#1804701) Homepage

    For the reasons you mentioned, most engineers or software developers will not be subject to these overtime laws. These positions are are probably salaried and I would hope pay more than 2x minimum wage. This law is primarly aimed at hourly workers.

    Remember, this is something that is not new. CA had a similar law just a couple years ago that was replaced with a more standard overtime definition (ie. anything over 40 is 1.5x the pay rate). It wasn't just anything over 8 hours a day either. If you worked for 6 days or more straight, anything over 30 hours for the entire week was overtime as long as one didn't work more than a certain amount in any one given day. This was just for hourly workers. However, CA is beginning to put a 40 hour restriction on salaried workers in some industries such as retail operations.

    The other states that have similar but, not as strict laws are Nevada, Alaska, and Colorado. NV and AK start calculating OT after 8 hours and CO starts calculating it after 12 hrs for a single day. While I don't live in California, this irks me because I maintain the payroll software my company uses. Before we opened a CA location, I had to rework all the software to take advantage of this. Then the law as repealed, so my changes weren't needed. Now it looks like I'll have to fold those changes back in with the Y2K version. Thank you Dale R. Worley for the emerge functions in emacs!

    The other wierd things about CA: If a person quits or is fired, they have to be paid on the spot what they are owed for the current payroll period including any vacation time. Also, the paycheck has to be drawn from an account in CA bank. I guess payback to the CA bankers lobby.

  • Uh, but I think someone in the legal department of your company had better check the laws in your state. I'm pretty sure that is illegal. Overtime calculations aren't arbitrary formulas that an employer can just make up. Every state has a set of mininum requirements that must be followed. So unless they want to keep themselves open to a lawsuit and/or a fine, they better check up on it.

  • If this was an hourly position, I would like to know what loophole they found to get away with this. Every state has a set of minimum requirements for determining overtime pay. Off the top of my head, in TX, it's probably anything over 40hrs is 1.5x pay. I'm sure the Texas Dept of Labor would be interested in this formula too.

  • by fable2112 ( 46114 ) on Tuesday July 13, 1999 @10:53AM (#1804704) Homepage

    Yeah, they can be a pain. But it all comes down to money, in the end. Fortunately, some things that save the company money also save you hassles.

    Overtime pay is time and a half. If you ARE regularly working 80-hour weeks, it's probably likely to be more cost-effective to hire another person and let both of you work 40 hours. Either that or you're underpaid to begin with. ;)

    Besides the expense of paying for overtime, there's also the issue of increased time on the job = increased fatigue = increased likelihood of injuries. True, this was developed for hard-labor jobs, but does anyone here REALLY want carpal tunnel syndrome? :)

    Injuries mean workers' comp claims, health insurance costs going up, loss of time from employees -- and eventually, a company that nobody wants to work for.

    It is kind of sad that good business practice actually has to be regulated ....
  • part of the union thing, whenever I was required to work overtime or on a holiday I had to fill out a big yellow form that my supervisor had to sign. And this was for everyone. I used to check in the books and shelve and sort.
  • They're not required, but they will if you ask enough for it.

    The law as I know it, the cut-off is $27.50 an hour. $27.51 an hour and you're straight pay.

    I was making above the cut-off as a contractor (still am) and got paid overtime (1.5x) for the weeks I worked my magical 60,70,80,90 or even the ball-busting 130 hour week, out of town, travelling every week.

    Now I have a new position, a raise, and work 40 hours a week. It doesn't come close to what I was pulling in, but if you ask enough you can get it.
    For every hour you work, you put money in their pockets. If you don't work (or work for a company that will give you 1.5x OT) for them, they get zero. It's almost clearly in their best interest to give you what you want as long as their profit does not go down.
  • by Starr ( 30636 )
    if you don't like the ot they make you do at your job quit! ... get another job ...

    (i dont' know about any where else but no one works at a job they don't like in austin ... if you are in austin and can't get a job in a week then either you aren't trying or you specialize in something ridiculous like "senator" or something ... there's work to be had ... ("oh oh all these forigners are buying up our land marks" ... "stop selling!"))
  • To cut down on overtime costs, lobbyists for various industries have leaned on Congress during the six decades that the act has been in place. They have managed to create 20 pages of exemptions to the FSLA, including one -- added three years ago -- specifically aimed at tech workers. Section 13[a][17] denies overtime benefits to systems analysts, programmers, engineers or other "similarly skilled workers."
    Was anyone else surprised when they saw this quote? I was never even aware of anything like this - who has the right to say that I don't have the ability to do work that would be best remunerated by overtime pay?

    I remember a while back while we were all discussing the "To Union or Not To Union?" topic. Personally, I am against Unionization of any kind - it makes me look like I'm just a wage-slave (at least in my view). But in this case, I would have to say that a Union would have helped. A Union could have stayed abreast of something like this and possibly thwarted it.

    I don't want to start a flame war about Unions and such, but in this case, it's almost positive that, at the very least, a large group petitioning senators or other politicians could have stopped this from happening?

    - Shaheen Gandhi

  • You can stay as late as you want, so long as you're here by 8 in the morning. :-)

  • The new law specifically exempts anyone in a "professional" occupation who makes more than twice the minimum wage. Silicon Valley has nothing to worry about (and I haven't read the article on Wired, but if they think differently, someone needs to give 'em a hard whack with the clue stick).
  • Overtime rate depends on the number of overtime hours worked and the type of employee or work that you do - according to the "Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA - a federal law BTW) For most "regular" - real world hourly people OT is 1.5 times base pay for hours between 40 and 60 - above 60 it is double time.
  • >And then they whine that they're only making >$18/hr. Now, excuse me, but I'm not even making >*HALF* that

    I looked at your resume.. you mean you are getting $9 an hour for what you do? WHY? I mean the only black mark I could find was your education, but that really shouldn't be that big of a factor in this industry.

    If they won't pay you a realisitic wage, quit and get a real job that doesn't require 80 hour weeks.

  • If you look carefully, professional people and executives are still exempt; they just need to be making twice minimum wage. So it's really not all that meaningful; Silicon valley firms tend to be heavy on professional and executive and light on clerical anyway....

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard