Sunday, April 25, 2010

No longer exempt from extra pay

posted Mon, 11 Dec 2006

One of the wonderful things about being an hourly worker is the more hours you work, the more money you make! What a great idea! I haven’t worked under those conditions since I was in college. No, it’s been salary labor since I was 21.

But I got my second paycheck the other day and it was much higher than the $19 (after taxes) I got for my first three hours. I had worked 23 hours and the money was enough to cover last month’s heating bill. This is all right! Yeah, sure, the hourly rate is crummy, but that’s what the work is worth and I can just work more hours. It’s not like I’m doing anything else with the time anyhow. At least at The Store, I am further from my refrigerator. (Although on Saturday, I did discover the candy drawer to the left of the register.)

Last year, my brother, who has his own business, wanted to know how to estimate a job that would involve traveling. “I get to charge for my travel time, right?”

It is to laugh. Sure, in a dream world, professionals get to charge for their travel time. “Will you be working while you’re on the plane or sitting in the airport?” I asked.

“No, but I won’t be at home,” he answered.

“Good luck with that,” I replied.

I remembered the many long hours I had spent in airports, on airplanes and in hotels when I was a salaryman. I had spent weekends at trade shows – they conveniently held them over the weekend so we wouldn’t have to miss work – and more evenings than I cared to remember eating dinner with co-workers and customers when all I really wanted to do was go to the gym and then read a good (or even a bad) book all by myself.

And I never got a penny extra for it.

My boss worked even harder than I did. He was in the office by 6:30 a.m., didn’t leave until 6:00 p.m. or later, came in every weekend and played golf with co-workers. Not only did he not get paid extra, but he lost two jobs – at our former employer and at the place he went after that (a hellish VP at our employer, downsizing/restructuring at his subsequent company). Being good at your job and putting in the extra hours doesn’t guarantee employment, does it? I think about him when I feel like throwing a pity party about my unemployment (technically, I suppose I am now underemployed). He has done everything right and is still sans job. So I guess it’s not me. Now I’m really glad I didn’t work 12-hour days at Consolidated Buggy Whips. Wouldn’t have made a difference. Ten hours (without lunch) were enough. Especially when you don’t get overtime.

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