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Law Firm Fighting For White Collar (IT) Overtime 573

Maximum Prophet writes "Programmers and System Administrators typically don't get overtime. A law firm based in Nevada is looking to stand up for white-collar workers around the country, trying to reverse decades-old (and incorrect) thinking about what it means to work in an office. 'Computer workers of various stripes, for example, have commonly not been paid for their extra hours ... But under California law, the exemption applies only for workers whose primary function involves "the exercise of discretion and independent judgment." In numerous lawsuits, Thierman and other plaintiffs' attorneys have alleged that legions of systems engineers, help desk staff, and customer service personnel do no such thing. Of programmers, Thierman says, "Yes, they get to pick whatever code they want to write, but they don't tell you what the program does ... All they do is implement someone else's desires.'"
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Law Firm Fighting For White Collar (IT) Overtime

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  • by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @09:33AM (#20742185)
    Ok, I'm a salaried network admin/systems technician. When I applied for my job as a systems tech, I was assured it would be an 8-5 job. Well, about 2 weeks in I am asked to handle a week of after hours calls. This is fine, except my company is in the Medical/PACS industry. If radiologists can't get their images, people could die. Some nights I will get 10+ calls. Do I get comped? No. Do I get anything for this? No. I applied to build servers and be a backup for fielding calls and was assured a certain set of hours. I did my time on helpdesk and would like to think I'd finally graduated past it. I would just like to see some sort of gratuity from the company for me having to literally go 2-3 days without sleep sometimes because of late night calls. Its bad enough when I work from 8 until 10 at night, but then to get calls most of the night after, I think I deserve something.
  • by cavehobbit ( 652751 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @09:37AM (#20742251)
    The problem is that IT are the only workers, non-professionals in the traditional sense, that are singled out as exempt from overtime, whether straight time or time and a half.

    State laws, like Californias, are all based off the Federal law.

    This exemption was written into the law way back in the 1970'or 80's at the behest of big corporate consulting firms based in NYC. Priot to that, IT folks were paid hourly just like most other office staff.

    This is a matter of basic fairness. Why should IT be singled out for different treatment from all other technical trades?

    I have been biatching about this for years. Equal treatment under the law is a Constitutional requirement in the US, and just plain ethical everywhere else.

    This is also the reason why most IT offices are 40 hour weeks on paper, but 50-60 hour weeks in actuality.

  • by texastexastexasdfw ( 1057110 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @09:37AM (#20742255)
    All they do is implement someone else's desires -- I love this. i am no longer a programmer, bit pusher, or code grunt! I am an implementer of someone else's desires.
  • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @09:40AM (#20742289)
    Thank you! Someone who gets it. TANSTAAFL. When the company hires you as salaried, that time you're 'giving' them is factored into the pay. If they had to pay hourly beyond it, you wouldn't get as much in the first place.

    The company I work for thinks I put in a lot more overtime than I do because I'm so productive. I do put in -some-, but not nearly as much as they think. The deal works out great for both sides. If this law goes through, I'll get a huge paycut (or fired, and someone else hired) and no overtime as well. I'll just lose money no matter how it goes.

    Of course, I'll have more free time... But not a lot more.
  • by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @09:48AM (#20742413)
    I think you're all missing the "kind of" qualifier. I do love my job, even if it is a pain in the ass. They don't care if I stroll in two hours late because they know I bust my ass. However, I think there should be something to protect IT workers because until there is, companies are going to be asking for more and more. I'm lucky I'm not one of the programmers here, one actually has a cot in an unused side room. Granted, he also makes about 3 times what I do. That said, the plumber example above is a good one. Yes, I'm a professional. That doesn't mean I should get taken advantage of.
  • by walt-sjc ( 145127 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @09:50AM (#20742453)
    Sysadmin type work is NEVER simply a 9-5 type job. Why? Because so much maint has to be done during off hours. That's the way it has always been. If you have an incompetent jerk boss that decides that you need to work 9-5 everyday PLUS do off hours maint with no comp. time or anything, then that's YOUR problem. My "night maint" guys start late the day of maint, get free dinner, and only work a half-day the next day (frequently resulting in a less-than 40 hour week.)

  • by GuyinVA ( 707456 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @09:52AM (#20742483)
    I don't know why people wait until it's too late to bitch. My former IT job I got comp time in lue of money. It was great because I ended up getting days off. I know I actually worked those days ahead of time, but getting a couple of 3 day weekends every month really boosted my moral. When they switched me and my co-workers to hourly, I still worked those hours, but instead got to bank the money. I didn't end up missing the 3 day weekends because i still had a fairly easy schedule, and the extra money went to buying another car. Now my first IT job, oh-boy was that a mess. I thought that working hard long hours would get me ahead. HA! But I figured I felt better when the company went under and I gave myself an additional severance package with the 'extra' hardware that they didn't need anymore.
  • by neverest ( 1154455 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @09:54AM (#20742513)
    In New York, HR came to IT and requested job descriptions of all the IT employees; which would ultimately decide who was and was not exempt from Overtime due to the Fairpay Act. IT Mgmt complied, and must not have been told the reasons for the request, because after which 85% of IT employees, HR deemed eligible for Overtime. Not only that, we were eligible for retroactive Overtime for time work since Jan. This was in April. I earned Overtime for a full year at Sys Admin hours, all the time knowing this was never going to last. At my next review, Mgmt gave me glowing reviews and "promoted" me. They gave me a new title, which then exempt me from Overtime pay - however my job duties and hours remained the same. My base salary increased by 3%, which is standard at my company. No matter what the law says and how it is written, Mgmt will always find ways around it. But you knew that going in. No one ever went into IT for the long lunches and 35 hour work weeks. Oh, and just to put this in perspective, my brother-in-law served in the US NAVY for 12 years, has held many jobs outside of the military, has multiple degrees in engineering, currently flies passenger jets for an international airline...and he makes less than I do. For what we do, it's not that bad pay.
  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @09:56AM (#20742533) Homepage Journal
    "Having government dictate the terms of my employment doesn't sound like a great plan to me. "

    Well, trouble is, it didn't use to always be this way. Back in the day (as my Dad was telling me), "professional" people like Engineers, and Programmers, used to get paid time and a half for OT. However, the Govt. didn't want to pay that anymore on their contracts, and came up with that little fun exempt situation for us.....and found a way out of paying.

    That being said...with contract now, you 'can' get straight time, but, not 1.5 time.

    So, some of this argument isn't so much about the govt. meddling...they always have, it could be viewed as just a push to get back what we used to have.

  • by foobsr ( 693224 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @09:58AM (#20742561) Homepage Journal
    I make twice as much as he did and I sit all day. ... I realize how good I have it.

    That is what I thought myself once upon a time. However, you may have a different opinion after you sat all day for decades (unless you compensate for this hidden torture properly — which I did not).

  • by CorporalKlinger ( 871715 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @09:59AM (#20742575)
    I'm a medical student who will be graduating soon and entering residency. I hope any progress from this affects us, too - currently the AAMC (which regulates the medical residency programs) limits interns and residents to an 80 hour work week. Yes, these are the people charged with learning to save lives WHILE saving lives. 80 hours per week. Most of us will sign some utterly unfair, incomprehensible, thick as a dictionary employment agreement with our hospital that basically signs our life over to them for the next 3 to 7 years. Choice tidbits of "policy" included in these contracts mention that we may be expected to be on call for anywhere from 18 to 36 hours - on hospital grounds - multiple times per week. The 80 hours limit, while "technically" weekly is only calculated on a monthly basis. Fun times.
    It's great that such important people as those who maintain our information technology infrastructure are about to get a financial boost... what about those of us earning $55,000 a year or less with 8 years+ of college and post-graduate education and charged with taking care of you and your family? Everyone envisions doctors as Corvette-driving, boat-owning, million-dollar mansion homestead people. I assure you that in today's marketplace, NOBODY goes into medicine for the money - unless they're making drugs for a big-pharm company or doing boob jobs.
  • by cavehobbit ( 652751 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:13AM (#20742757)
    You make twice as much as he made?

    Did you figure inflation on that?

    I'll bet you make the same or less than he did if you figure that out.

    50 grand now is probably worth about 30 grand 20 years ago.

  • Look... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:14AM (#20742771)
    ...if you take a job, and don't know what you're getting into, one of two things has happened.
    a.) You didn't do your homework
    b.) The company actively conned you.

    If you're taking a job in a role that involves support, or large projects, if you're not asking whether occasional overtime is required, you're an idiot. Ask about what's typical. But most importantly, ask if you can speak to one of your prospective peers--if you don't see them in the interview, that's a bad sign. If they won't let you talk to them on request, it's a worse one. These are things you SHOULD FIND OUT. If you didn't ask, and are suddenly surprised by overtime, you get no sympathy from me.

    Think about what you're willing to put up with, and how much it's worth to you. Use that in salary discussions. If the company says "Well, you're asking for $80,000, but I see your last job only paid $68,000. I'm not sure we're willing to fund such a significant jump in salary," then you have a counter of "Well, my last company had 'follow the sun' support in Australia, the UK, and US, so there was no overtime. Your company seems to average 5 hours of off-hours time per week, which includes an average of 2 weekend callouts per month." Hey, rational business discussion! Get your money. If they want you to do more work for the same salary, say "thanks for your time."

    Now, I'll admit some companies pull con jobs. They will lie to people "Oh, we call people out occasionally, but it's very rare--maybe once a month" when they're calling out three times a week. If that's the case, do you really want to be working for a boss that lied to your face? I don't. But if you want to stay (need the job or whatnot), well, pull your boss aside and say "Look. When I interviewed here and negotiated a salary, I took you at your word that callouts averaged one a month. In my three months here, that's clearly not been the case. I've been called 15 times, for an average length of 3 hours. So the work I'm doing is significantly more extensive than what you agreed to pay me for. I think it's appropriate for us to re-negotiate." If they won't offer more money, they might be convinced on a comp time policy as a reasonable fair solution. Don't be judgemental about "hey, you suck, you goddamn liar!" Present facts and reasonable arguments. A fair boss can be convinced. An unfair boss? one's chained you to your oar.

    People vote with their feet. If your company can't keep people, they'll pay the price for being cheap with employees. There actually are good people in the software industry who will be fair to you. The problem is that too many people are willing to put up with working for lying jerks. Or, alternatively, don't take advantage of the opportunity to find out what they're getting into and/or reasonably resolve disputes.
  • by Mongoose Disciple ( 722373 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:19AM (#20742851)
    Most companies tell you 40 hrs, but then expect more, and more and more.

    I've had a pretty similar experience. When I was interviewing for my last job, one of the company's managers explicitly told me that there would be about two weeks a year of 'crunch time' in which everyone would work longer hours, but otherwise it would be a 40 hour week. They offered me a salary that I considered fair for that amount of overtime, and I took it. Flash forward to actually being on the job and finding out that working a few hours of overtime every Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday was expected, and a full day+ every other Saturday and Sunday was mandatory.

    Of course, that being said, I didn't need lawyers to straighten that out for me; I just found a better job ASAP, as did nearly all of the more skilled people who were given a similar bait and switch by that company. Market forces can't fix everything, but in this case it worked out all right. (My exit interview included the same manager, who flat out denied his earlier fradulent claim, although he'd made it to many of us. Weaselly jackass.)

    Anyway, the point being, the 'You agreed to the contract!' sentiment I'm seeing in some of the posts on this article is something I can only agree with if overtime was presented accurately during the interviewing process. I've rarely seen a company that does.
  • Re:Be really good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:22AM (#20742901) Homepage
    Of course you were being taken for a ride, it's the companies job to squeeze as much out their employees as they can for as little as possible.

    It's your responsibility to realise that if you signed up for 40hours a week working hours then that's how many hours you should do. If you're not getting paid why on Earth would you work, this has always been a mystery to me.

    The best situation is where you can manage your time flexibly, do your 40 hours of work at a time which suits both you and the company best.

    I really am amazed that you all don't seem to expect overtime for working more hours, this is madness. I live in the UK and I can tell you I would never ever make a habit of working more hours than I was contracted for without expecting overtime and I think thats a fairly attitude here. If you're working for something then they need to pay you for the work, it's a simple as that. I'm not a charity !
  • by no_pets ( 881013 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:23AM (#20742907)
    I was in a nearly identical position as a sys admin at a hospital and I'll tell you why I stuck with it for a long time before quitting and probably why the original poster has stuck with it for so long. He is working two jobs. The after hours job is completely different from his daytime 8-5 job. He builds servers 8-5, gets paid well, likes the work, people, pay and he's happy. Then when it's his turn to be on call he becomes the fucking help desk. He's helping radiologists get their images, and other life-threatening bullshit that someone else should be doing. Say, a staffed, after-hours help desk employee that the company does not wish to hire. If the company had to pay the original poster for his overtime then they would instead hire a freakin' help desk person and then he would go back to his sweet 8-5 gig and be happy.

    He's probably sticking with it hoping that the eventually that position will be filled and he won't have to do it anymore.
  • by Tipa ( 881911 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:42AM (#20743213) Homepage
    My previous job -- in California -- was just like this. An hourly wage except it was salaried -- exempt. What that basically meant is if I was under 40 hours a week, I got paid for the actual time, but if I was OVER 40 hours a week, I got paid for 40 hours, even when my boss had to go away for business (we were a two-person department) and I had to cover his job as well. Everyone else in the company at my level (bottom level peon) were hourly and got overtime. I was expected to work as much as them -- that's not unfair -- but get paid less -- and that WAS unfair.

    I could see no reason why my job -- keep computers running, do server maintenance, backups and some sweeping/cleaning -- was considered professional and exempt. They did it, of course, because they could get away with it.
  • by GreatBunzinni ( 642500 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:45AM (#20743265)
    That's funny. You are actually complaining about other people defending their rights and best interests while you and your class does not have the slightest intention to mobilize and stand up for yourselves. Do you actually believe that the problem lies in the fact that others fought and, as a consequence, are earning more and having a better life than you? Didn't it ever crossed your brilliant mind that the real problem lied with you and your class never fighting for your own best interests and therefore being forced to earn less and having a crappy life?
  • by birdboy2000 ( 1053598 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:47AM (#20743301)
    Tariffs can be set. Labor laws can be enforced with handcuffs for violating employers. The private sector can be outlawed as speculation and replaced with state-run entities which don't need to worry about competition. Don't underestimate the power of socialist hand-wringing. The free market is powerful only because the law makes it so.
  • by asills ( 230118 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:51AM (#20743355)
    I agree, after 9 years in IT, a few car accidents and *a lot* of poor personal behavior and I do have the standard "I sit all day" ailments.

    I'd stress personal choice (I choose not to do back and neck exercise yet I know them all, as well as I choose to sit in a very poor manner for hours without getting up) and happenstance (a car accident seemed to set this all in motion) more than "it happens to everyone who sits all day".
  • by slughead ( 592713 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:53AM (#20743401) Homepage Journal
    IMHO, in this day in age, there is no such thing anymore as job loyalty (from either party), nor job security. If that is the case, then the two main things that would draw a person to a direct, salaried job are gone. That being the case, you might as well contract.

    But that would involve taking responsibility for my own welfare and treating my labor and their money like it's some sort of 'thing' to be 'traded'!

    No, I'm afraid a much simpler, 'fairer', and efficient solution is to get some fancy-pants lawyer to sue the crap out of the employer I hate so much and yet am unwilling to leave. In the process, the lawyer will make tons of money, the company will have to cut a few jobs to pay for the legal fees on both sides, but at least I'll get half of what I asked for and they'll get their comeupance!

    Seriously though, you point out that 'in this day and age' there is no loyalty on either side. I'd say that's partially a reflection of the unwillingness of workers to ask for (demand?) what they're worth. Labor is a business transaction, you shouldn't hate your business partners or let them treat you 'unfairly'. Get a good idea if what you should be paid, ask for it, and leave if you don't get it.

    I read an article a few years ago comparing jobs now as opposed to 20 years prior. It said that fewer employees are asking for raises but theft by employees is way up. It quantified the two and estimated that the employers are probably coming out ahead. People are less willing to play by the rules and just play hard; they have this impression that the only way to get ahead is to bend or break them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:59AM (#20743505)
    I hate to say this (actually no I don't), but when you have a skill that thousands upon thousands of others have ("general IT staff"), as well as anyone who's just "good with computers" you will never make any money.

    Also, you aren't really in IT. You are in "plug PC components together"-T. If you want to make money and be shielded from issues in any industry:
    1. Be naturally gifted in the area
    2. Learn as many general skills in the area you can
    3. Learn and be great at at least one high demand skill, that is difficult to learn (yes, being good at programming is difficult to learn; no, setting up simple networks at a 30 person company is not difficult to learn)
    4. Continue to learn and develop all skills

    Everyone who performs those 4 steps doesn't have to complain about pay, overtime or getting their job outsourced. It's all the rest, who really are just "resources" or "bodies in the workplace" who are going to ruin it for those of us performing the 4 steps above.
  • Simpler solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ducman ( 107063 ) <slashdot@re a l i t y - b a s e> on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:05AM (#20743613)
    Sorry, I think there's a simpler answer to the question, "Why shouldn't people get paid for the hours they work?" It's because the hours you work aren't valuable, it's only the result of that labor that's valuable. We [should] get paid because we're doing something valuable, NOT because we spent a certain amount of time doing it. Historically, time spent has been used as a way to measure value, because it's an easy way to measure the amount of work done. When the work being done is so standardized that there's no way for one person to do more than another in the same amount of time, hours provides a good measurement. However, it has only ever been an approximation.

    I'm totally against any govenment intervention in how I get paid because I know that I am more productive than almost anyone I work with. And while my greater productivity doesn't always result in my getting paid as much as I think I should get, the fact that my pay is more based on my getting the work done than on spending a certain amount of time doing means that there is a possible upside, and at least it means I have some flexibility. I can read slashdot during the day, for example, because I know I'll still be able to get my work done.
  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd DOT bandrowsky AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:31AM (#20744021) Homepage Journal
    There's not a spit of difference between guys selling the Union or the guys selling USA PATRIOT ACT. Both depend on this idea that we are completely powerless, so we need to get some goons to protect us, and furthermore, we should just give these jerks, in the form of dues or taxes, protection money. You know what a union is? It's a steward who just got a nice deck for his house, a president's kid's baseball team that got new uniforms, and any manner of theft.

    The simple matter of the truth is, unions don't work. Unions don't work because, every time you give them what they claim to get, they either drive the parent company bankrupt, like GM and a cast of thousands, or the work goes overseas. The promise is a lie, and all a union really does is just place a tax based on a fear. Unions don't work because the customer doesn't care what happens to the people that produce a product.

    How many of you, Americans, out there, lamenting the death of the Union, have bought an American car in the last decade? I bet a dang view... bunch of uber geeks saying how your Japanese or German car is better. Well, good for you, but don't be sitting their trying to square your social treason on the rest with your guilt trips about capitalism and unions. If you want American companies to succeed, then buy American products. It's that simple.

    Today, all of these "workers" advocates are just in the business of helping themselves. They work by frightening people into giving them money for promises that they can't keep, and have no intention of keeping. It's just like the "people's lawyer", the guy that sues some company for a billion dollars - he gets millions, while his plaintiffs get coupons. Workers rights is a slogan for an industry based on extortion, and fear.

    I am not afraid.
  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:42AM (#20744197) Homepage Journal
    "Contract worker or not, when one has been employed by a company for more than 3 months (maybe 4, I forget), they become eligible for all of the standard employee benefits including sick days, overtime pay, etc. see here []."

    I for one hope they NEVER pass something like that here in the US. Why contract if that is what will happen to you? I figure my bill rates to cover myself for insurance, investments/retirement, vacation and sick time. I'll do perfectly well doing it myself, and would hate to be forced to have a company become responsible for me. I like the freedom to work as I please, invest as I please...etc.

    IMHO, the 'nanny state' in the US is bad enough, I sincerely hope that we don't adopt this rather alarming trend in CA that you've mentioned. If you want someone to manage your benefits/ direct, but, don't fsck it up for those that want to and are capable of doing it (often times better) for themselves!!

  • by darrint ( 265374 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:56AM (#20744403) Homepage
    Contracting through your own corporation can be easy. I have two organizations that help me with it. A CPA firm obviously, and a PEO. PEO stands for Professional Employment Orgainization. I love my PEO, which is why people don't use them. Imagine that on a t-shirt.

    PEO's are a good deal. They take you, your corporation and your contracting money and make you legally into a W2 employee. You pay them a fee per pay cycle to do it. They administrate your health plan (sorry, no volume disounts, at least in my US state), retirement, withholdings, and if you do end up hiring another person later, they make sure you do everything just so, so you stay out of accidental legal trouble.

    Furthermore, you get to design your own pay cycle, I have a two week one (not bi-monthly mind you, two weeks). It's nice. You get to set up everything the way you want so it's favorable to you. I just have to tell the payroll guy how much to run every two weeks and the direct deposits happen. There's a little bit of bookkeeping you need to do once a year for the CPA, but that's really tiny.

    Between your PEO and your CPA you'll have a couple of meetings up front and then you're good to go.

    I'm a little surprised more contractors don't use a PEO now. Maybe because PEO is a horrendous acronym.
  • by mollog ( 841386 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @12:06PM (#20744547)
    Perhaps if you had actually driven a bus for a while, you might not say that. I worked my way through school as a bus drive in Seattle. I loved driving a bus. My quality of life was better driving a bus than working in IT/tech.

    I am considering leaving the IT/tech field and moving back to Seattle and getting another bus driving job with Metro.

    Again, quality of life.

    FYI, the city of Seattle has the highest educated bus driving workforce in the country. Many students work their way through a degree at the UW by driving a bus. When they graduate they often realize that finding work in their field doesn't pay as much as driving a bus. Top scale is $25 or so, and overtime is paid time and a half. Next time you work a 60 hour week, think about the fact that bus drives are getting paid the same if they work that much. With a degree, bus drivers can move into management, which pays more.

    And there's that quality of life thing again. If you don't want the overtime, if you want to do something with your free time, like flip houses, you have that choice. (I knew two bus drivers who owned apartment building together.) In IT/tech, you're forced to work 50-60 hour weeks.

    I blame my generation (baby boomers) for the expectation of 50-60 hour weeks in IT. Screw that.
  • by Aram Fingal ( 576822 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @04:05PM (#20747801)
    About a year ago, there was a finding that the institution I work for had misclassified about 300 positions, including mine, and we should be eligible for overtime pay. I'm a sysadmin, DBA and a few other things. We are also now eligible for membership in the union. I did, in fact, decide to join the union, mainly because of one particularly bad manager, who is going to become my direct supervisor starting in a few months. Most of the people who I work with are fine people but this manager is well known to have had problems with many employees.

    It is also interesting to note that salaries do seem to be being passively adjusted because of the change. June is the time that we typically get pay raises and every year, up until this one, there were both general pay raises (which essentially adjust for market conditions, inflation and cost of living) and merit pay raises. This year, after the overtime decision, there were only merit pay raises.
  • by rk ( 6314 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @04:43PM (#20748339) Journal

    "And woe be the guy who isn't back in the office again at 8 AM sharp after working on a project until 1:00 am the day before. I've been threatened with losing pay and even possible termination for just that very thing."

    If they fired you, it would probably be the best thing they could do for you. I had a job like that once, and because I dared to leave at 5pm one day for a doctor's appointment, they fired me the next day even though I came in to work at 4:30am. Yes. Twelve and a half hours wasn't enough.

    My next job had no overtime, better pay, tuition reimbursement, better health plan, and flex time so I could schedule college classes (I hadn't finished my degree at the time). Seeing how a company could be GOOD, I vowed to myself that I would never work in the bad conditions I came from again. Sure, I've had crunch overtime, and even had to work weird hours for a bit when I was doing a little work for the Mars Rover team, but I've only had one other shitty job since then when a reorganization made me (a Unix software engineer) into an NT sys admin andwebmaster (pronounced "glorified typist"). Even then, I worked damn little overtime (restart, reboot, reinstall wasn't an arduous job).

    It helps to be excellent (not merely good) at what you do, though. In the last 17 years, I've only spent about 16 weeks jobless, only 6 of which were without another job lined up at the end of them. Most of that in 2001, which was a lot of us.

  • by JazzLad ( 935151 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @06:46PM (#20749783) Homepage Journal
    When you are the rare person on /. with a wife & 2 small children, this is not *always* possible. I rent a crappy apartment, we have 1 car, haven't eaten out since at least February, no cell phone, only borrowed (read neighbour's unsecured) wifi, you name it & we are doing it. I'm the kinda guy that pokes fun at tree-huggers, but I'm probably greener than a lot of them - electricity/gas/whatever costs money!

    I currently make just under 30 in DFW, if not for side work, we wouldn't make it. Your advice would be well taken by many here, I am sure, just remember not everyone *can* live under their means if their means are small and their needs are great (I could live very comfortably as a bachelor on 30,000 but not with kids). Yes, a wife and kids were my choice, but I shouldn't have to chose between a family and the ability to have a decent job.
  • by macdaddy ( 38372 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @07:42PM (#20750257) Homepage Journal
    Another plus is what you can do with employee medical expenses. I forget whether it was a C-corp, S-corp or something else but I read an article a couple years ago about a father and son in a business together. The son had some debilitating illness that the family insurance wouldn't cover. The father got insurance for employees through his corp. He made his son an employee (I'm sure the son did something for the company) and paid the medical expenses. I believe I read about it on Motley Fool but I can't be for certain.

    Yes, doing contract work can be a major boon for your bottom line. I've done quite a bit of it in the past and always faired well come tax day. You can declare all kinds of expenses if you know what they are. I never depreciated any of it. I took it all lump sum that year. It worked well for me. I even did the home office thing the year that I worked from home. That worked out well too. Keep good records though. An audit will hurt no matter what but not being prepared with a basic amount of paperwork housekeeping will be a real bummer when the IRS comes knocking.

    It's also important for non-contract employees to know what they can deduct as non-reimbursed employer expenses. My employer creatively reinterpreted the company mileage policy to exclude my 52mi/day to my customer's site as non-reimbursable even though it still qualified under the IRS's rules. I ended up declaring almost $7000 in mileage last year. I also declared my professional journals, professional memberships, professional development items (books, lab gear, tests, etc) which amounted to another whopping sum. In total I declared almost $17,000 in expenses last year and I'm not a contract employee. Oh if only I was...

  • by Lukstr ( 1023965 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2007 @01:00AM (#20752205) Homepage
    Actually, at the engineering company I last worked at, there was an employee in software testing who DID stand all day. He had no chair in his cubicle, and you would often find him wandering around the office holding some random hardware, fiddling with it. I see the parent as far more informative than funny.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351