A recent Op Ed piece in the
New York Times raises an interesting point – although high earning women and low
wage earning women seem to have different problems, the issues they face
as the result of the way the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is currently
written are very similar. A main issue is that women who are “overemployed”
[forced to work long hours without overtime pay] and women who are “underemployed”
[unable to work enough hours to support a family] have difficulty squaring
their work lives with raising a family.
As stated in the article, professional women working at law firms, accounting
firms and in the media – who are considered exempt and not entitled to
overtime pay – complain about long hours, including never-ending streams of email
requiring responses round the clock. Many women complain that these long
hours keep them away from their families.
Women at the other end of the spectrum working in retail, restaurant workers
and health care jobs complain of a lack of sufficient hours to support
their families and the hours they do get may fluctuate and be unpredictable.
The lack of stable hours creates significant difficulties for parents
who may have difficulty arranging child care and performing basic parenting
functions such as setting up doctors’ appointments and volunteering
for school events.
Under the FLSA employers have an incentive to make salaried employees work
as much as possible. Because these are fixed cost positions (no overtime
is paid regardless of number of hours worked) it may seem like a good
idea to make one person do the work of two.
On the other hand – employers may “under employ” employees
who work at low-level hourly jobs in order to make sure none of these
workers put in more than 40 hours in any work week and qualify for overtime
pay. A recent essay calls for reforms to the FLSA to alter the “incentives”
that foster over-employment at the top of the labor market and underemployment
at the bottom. This could mean guaranteed minimum weekly hours for hourly
employees and required overtime pay for many additional jobs.
As concluded by the author: “Such sweeping changes to labor laws
might be politically impossible today, in an environment that is friendly
to corporations and indifferent, if not hostile, to workers. But they
are essential. They would press employers to hire one worker for one job,
easing work-life challenges at both the top and the bottom of the labor
market. That would create more entry-level professional positions for
college graduates and better-paying jobs to lift low-income families into
the middle class. It’s what women want and what our economy needs.”
For more information about the Fair Labor Standards Act of if you believe
you have not received the pay you are entitled to, please contact the
Atlanta wage and hour attorneys at The Buckley Law Firm, LLC for an immediate consultation.