by Gary Beach

How to Manage Hourly Paid Work

Sep 08, 2009
IT Leadership

Defining the hourly wage in today's tech-enabled environment.

There are two common ways to pay workers in America: give them a salary or hourly wages.

CIOs—and the majority of tech staff—are salaried workers. As The Great Recession winds down, businesses probably have added more hourly paid workers to their payroll in an effort to control costs. But that could pose a future headache for you.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 remains the de facto definition of “work” for hourly employees. It’s almost a laughable definition. Hourly work in America remains defined as beginning when a worker puts on a uniform and ends when the uniform comes off.

Seventy-one years later—in our highly mobile work environment where an hourly-paid employee’s uniform could easily be a pair of pajamas—the 1938 definition of “work” no longer works.

Why should this be a concern for you?

Two high-profile court cases focused on hourly work are getting a lot of attention: Agui v. T-Mobile USA; and Rulli v. CB Richard Ellis Inc. Each case addresses complaints of hourly paid workers who must continue to work after hours on company-issued cell phones fielding service calls and tech-support issues. And they’re not getting paid for their extra efforts.

When you peel away the visceral comments from Internet posters on the issue, two sensible themes resonate: First, hourly workers often don’t mind working the extra time because they like the freedom of being an hourly worker. Some days are slower than others.

Second, the smart way to navigate around this potentially dicey issue is to create a cogent human resource policy about after-hours use of company-issued cell phones by hourly paid employees. Having a policy on the books, most people claim, is the best defense from pesky lawyers.

Do you have hourly paid staff? How many have company-issued cell phones? Are they required to use that cell phone after hours? Does your company have a policy in place to handle compensation—or lack thereof—for hourly workers who put in more than eight hours a day?

Let’s work on this issue together. Send me your comments about and tell me about your company’s policy. I will take your thoughts and start a blog on airing your ideas later this fall.