General Question

frankielaguna's avatar

What hours should I be working on Salary?

Asked by frankielaguna (256 points ) June 24th, 2009

So I recently started a job that pays salary.

In the contract I signed it says that I get paid for 40 hours a week with no over time.

My question is my boss wants me to work, a lot.

Weekend, night, early mornings.

I’ve never had a job that is salary before. Is this normal? Should I HAVE to work like that?

I mean it doesn’t matter if I work 100 hours a week I still only get paid for 40.

Thanks!

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31 Answers

dynamicduo's avatar

That amount of uncompensated overtime is not really normal, no. That said, at least with my salaried job it’s understood that at times there will be crunch periods where a lot of work needs to be done fast where uncompensated overtime is required. I have yet to experience it though, but if I did it would likely be only a few hours a week, no more than 10 hours (2 per day).

But realistically that’s the entire reason you are paid a salary versus paid hourly. Instead of being paid to do X hours of work, you are being paid to get your assigned tasks complete. Sometimes this requires more than the normal 40 hour workweek. But it should not ALWAYS require more than 40 hours a week, that’s a sign they are overloading you instead of hiring another person.

Should you HAVE to work like that? Not really, but now is not really the best time to be picking and choosing a job. There is more than likely a willing person to take your place. This should be considered when you are thinking about what to do to resolve your situation. That said, if you have an actual contract where it says you will work 40 hours, what does that contract say about overtime? If it has no clause regarding overtime then I would be firm on your job being limited to 40 hours as per the contract. But like I said, that runs the risk of your boss deciding to fire you and hire another person.

If that risk is acceptable to you, if you value your free time as much as I do, I would not let this continue to happen, and I would be willing to find another job as a result.

robmandu's avatar

Unpaid overtime is part and parcel of salaried work. Newly hired lawyers in large firms, for example, can tell you a lot about this.

Excessive overtime is something to be managed between you and your boss. In some cases, it’s considered that you’ve got a lot to learn and that once you’ve mastered the content, the workload is more manageable in 40 hours/week.

Overtime is often taken into consideration for promotions, bonuses, and salary increases. So it’s the corporate version of paying it forward.

If you cannot reconcile your availability to work long hours with the compensation plan, then that’s a legitimate reason to look for employment elsewhere.

MrItty's avatar

A salaried job means you get paid to do the job, not the number of hours worked. “40” is not a magical number of any kind. You work how and when your boss says you work.

Being salaried sucks. My company recently reevaluated our jobs (because of lawsuits) and reclassified us as hourly. That is the good life.

cwilbur's avatar

My take on it is that salary pays for 40 hours of work in a regular week, and a boss will assign work to you that is in line with that expectation. (You appear to even have a signed contract stating that.) Now, sometimes you’re going to have unusual weeks where you need to work 60 or 80 hours; other times, you’re going to have less work to do, and a decent boss will say “Just go home early today and call it good.”

In some other work cultures, though—commission-based sales is one, and large law firms are another—you’re expected to put in a lot of unpaid overtime to prove yourself. On the other hand, in both of those cultures, compensation tends to come with the overtime in the form of high pay (for starting legal associates) or bonuses (for successful sales agents).

And there are bad bosses and toxic companies where everyone officially works 40 hours but unofficially works 60–80 hours. Most people can’t sustain quality work at that level of focus, not without a break or a diversion, and so they work more hours to compensate for the lack of quality. In the end you have a bunch of burned-out people who don’t dare take time off because they won’t look as good as their coworkers—and the best thing you can do in that situation is to get the hell out.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I know that, for myself, I would never work 100 hours if I was only salaried to work 40 hours a week – I would demand a pay raise

EmpressPixie's avatar

Like others have said—salary means you get paid to do the work, not by the hour. Company culture is reallllly important when deciding to take a salaried job. There are company cultures where everyone stays 60 hours a week or more. At my sister’s job, she stays probably that long and loves it—it’s what she signed up for, she loves her work and so do most of the people there, and they joyously work their butts off. And get compensated for it. In other jobs, it’s miserable but the norm (think law firms).

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: You’re almost never salaried to work 40 hours. You’re salaried to do your job and if you assumed “full time” meant 40 hours a week, that’s kind of your mistake/problem. Even if you were told the general office hours are 9:30 – 5:30, you have to really ask about it. Companies are generally very honest about this stuff if you know to ask.

Now if you asked your interviewer and a future co-worker and they both told you to expect about 40 hours all the time, you have a right to feel grumpy.

So I guess my Q is about your contract. How exactly does it spell out that 40 hours? What is the wording? If it really clearly says, “Only have to work 40 hours a week” then tell your boss you can’t stay late if you really want to (but check the grounds for which you can be fired first). Or start looking for a job. If it says “Minimum of 40 hours” or at least 40 or expected 40, then you are shakier.

MrItty's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir “Salaried to work 40 hours a week” is a nonsensical phrase. If you are salaried, there is not an hour component of your job description. The magical “40 hours per week” thing applies to hourly jobs, not salaried. If you are salaried, you are paid to do the job, not to put in X number of hours of work.

“Refuse to do the job” and “demand a pay raise” are not realistic phrases in this job market. If you don’t want to do the job, you’re well within your rights to quit. The guy on unemployment that’s hired to take your job will thank you for it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@EmpressPixie I know that I don’t have a lot of professional full-time exprience and at my current job I get paid hourly and stick to that but I hope that in future, they wouldn’t expect me to work 60 hours a week, truly, as I have children and have better things to do; I just get grumpy about this whole ‘company culture’ because I really don’t want to have to work the hours everyone else does because they’re all trying to kiss ass especially since I can do my job and a lot quicker than the rest of them within the hours told to me during the interview – 9 to 5 is 9 to 5 and while I can do extra work at home or on the train, I will always leave at 5 unless something comes up because, god damn it, I have to have my life in balance and work can’t take that much out of me and my time with my family

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@MrItty Well, then it won’t be a problem for me because it seems that I always ‘do the job’ well within 40 hours a week and then some because at every job I’ve had I’ve asked for more responsibility and for more work since I’m apparently too efficient

robmandu's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, depends on your boss and his expectations. In general, if you can accomplish your workload between 8a and 5p Mon – Fri, then a good boss would not have a problem with it at all.

But if you’re new to the job, your gonna hafta demonstrate that you actually want to work there and that you’re fully capable. Sometimes the only way to do that is with long hours and by going above and beyond.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@robmandu I agree, I would like to work for a reasonable boss, especially one that understands how important one’s family is – my field is public health so I find that people are quite understanding and that it doesn’t take them long to see that I love what I do, that I do it well and that I will get things done but and it’s a big but that I will always attend to my parental responsibilities as well – I go above and beyond regardless, always have, but I do that with my kids, as well

robmandu's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, as an employee of a company that regularly shows up on this list, I can say that there are some companies out there that do indeed understand the importance of life outside of work. The compromise, sometimes, is that to get that kind of flexibility and low pressure, one might need to have a lower salary expectation.

In the end, it all just depends.

MrItty's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir You’re kinda mixing up cause and effect. An employer will generally label a job salaried (within the constraint of the laws, of course) if they expect it to semi-frequently require more than 40 hours per week. Since you’ve never had a salaried job, you’ve never had a job that the boss expects you to semi-frequently work more than 40 hours per week, so of course you’ve generally been able to finish the tasks within a 9–5 time frame. If it wasn’t possible and expected that you can finish the job between 9 and 5, the boss would have created a salaried position instead of an hourly one.

MrItty's avatar

I don’t think “salaried” and “family life is important” are necessarily contradictory. A good boss will realize that if you’re constantly working 50–60 hours/week, it’s time to hire a new employee to help out.

I generally work between 41 and 43 hours per week. During our peak processing periods, it’s not uncommon to work 55–60 hours per week. But I also got 3 weeks vacation when I started, 10 holidays, 10 sick days, 2 months paid paternity leave per child, etc. and like I said, the company recently reclassified us as hourly anyway

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@MrItty Semi-frequently is all right by me, sometimes you gotta stay late and finish work by deadlines that are outside your boss’s control, I understand – but I don’t want this to be the norm, and now that I am learning this is apparently the norm, I will be more careful in my job application and interviewing process

cwilbur's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: It’s not that it’s necessarily the norm—it’s that it’s one of the elements of that company’s culture that you need to pay attention to when you’re interviewing.

Also, in the example of the toxic company I gave earlier, where everyone was working 60–80 hour weeks—they consented to that. I was an hourly employee there, so I didn’t put up with any of that nonsense. One of the salaried people I worked with there believed in the 40-hour limit, and stuck to it. She did an amazing job in the 40 hours she worked, and occasionally worked longer; she was one of the few people there who was genuinely happy with her job, and she was almost universally resented—as much because of the other workers who didn’t have the nerve to stand up for themselves. At the same time, if she hadn’t been as good at her job as she was, and if she hadn’t managed to bring the company millions of dollars worth of business, she wouldn’t have lasted very long.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@cwilbur yes I want to be like her

Darwin's avatar

“Salaried to work 40 hours a week” generally means to work at least 40 hours a week, or however long it takes to get the job done. If you can get it all done in 40 hours, then good on you. However, the increased benefits that come along with being salaried are supposed to be compensation for the extra time and/or responsibility.

My last salaried position included the proviso that I be on-call 24/7 for emergencies. We were allowed compensatory time off, however, in any case where we routinely ended up at work at odd hours.

Certain professions (law, medicine, public service, and emergency work, for example) tend more towards going well over the 40-hour week, and certain companies have a culture that demands it. As you say, you need to check out the employer before accepting a position.

marinelife's avatar

Legally, if you fit the definition of a salaried employee, you get no overtime no matter how much you work.

Depending on the industry and the job, many salaried positions require more than 40 hours. Those include high tech, the legal profession (as robmandu mentioned) and others.

Often, companies that require regular OT for their salaried employees offer them comp time (on a straight time basis).

What you need to do is find out the industry norm for your type of business. If over 40 is a common expectation, in this economy you will be unlikely to get much sympathy from your boss if you don’t want to put those hours in. You may ant to start looking elsewhere.

If you like the job otherwise, ask your boss about the ongoing expectations for overtime work and about the comp time policy. Then, decide if the tradeoffs are worth it to you.

cwilbur's avatar

And some companies pay overtime to salaried employees despite them being salaried, and offer perks like on-call pay for being on call. Comp time is a reasonable compromise, too.

The important thing to find out is what expectations everyone is operating under. In particular, you’ll probably be told that 40 hours per week is the norm, no matter what; but what matters is the unwritten expectation—40 hours may be the norm, but if people who don’t routinely work 60 hours a week are the first in line for layoffs or contract non-renewals, that’s a very important thing to know about the company culture.

It is very much to the business’s advantage to get people working more hours without paying any overtime. Remember that, and push back.

robmandu's avatar

Was lucky to have a salaried job that, for a time, comp’d ½ day vacation for every three nights spent out of town traveling on business.

SirBailey's avatar

On the flip side, there ARE bosses who take advantage of the salaried worker. They CAN be making you do the work of more then one.

I was salaried and was ALWAYS on-call. Even on vacation.

The changes in your shifts, weekend work, etc. should have been brought up BY YOUR BOSS during your initial interview. Some bosses, sad to say, feel no one will take the job if they’re honest about the demands, so they “lie”. It happens. More then you think.

cookieman's avatar

I worked for one of those “toxic” companies.

It was expected that one worked 60 to 80 hours per week and any “push back” was met with a verbal reminder that you were “lucky to be employed”.

After four years of that, I resigned and landed a job that pays hourly (including time-and-a-half).

The benefits aren’t as good and I took a cut in pay – but there’s no way I’d go back to that craziness again.

robmandu's avatar

I too bristle when reminded that I’m “lucky to be employed”. I typically respond half-jokingly that they’re lucky to have me.

cwilbur's avatar

Precisely—I know how hard it would be for them to replace me. Not impossible, and not really even all that difficult, especially in this market—but it would be enough of a hassle, and probably six months’ loss of production while my replacement got up to speed, that they’d better think twice before telling me I’m lucky to be employed.

msright1981's avatar

In perfect world you will have to do only the 40 hours, but unfortunately our world is not any near perfect & you are expected to finish the job putting more hours into it, though I had managed it with my manager to get compensation as leave days for my excess hours in the days they need me to do over time, but it does not always work like that.

cookieman's avatar

@robmandu & @cwilbur: The “toxic company” I referred to is now going out of business (two years since I resigned). Can’t say I feel bad.

Dorkgirl's avatar

There are federal rules about what type of worker can be considered a salaried employee. The Fair Labor and Standards Act spells out who is exempt (e.g., salaried) and who is not. If you do not fall into one of these categories, you are a non-exempt employee and your employer must pay you overtime.
Also, being salaried does not necessarily mean that you are not eligible for OT. Check with your state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries. In Oregon the rule states—
Q. When is overtime required for salaried employees?
A. All salaried employees must be paid overtime unless they meet the test for exempt status as defined by federal and state laws.
And, yes, some industries (law firms and engineering especially) expect newbies to put in a lot of extra time. This does not make it right, fair or even legal. You need to be able to set some limits with your boss or your bosses boss about what’s practical. If they are working you like a dog to avoid hiring another person, then they are taking advantage of you and you should be compensated either monetarily or with equivalent time off.
Figure out if you are an exempt employee per FSLA, check with your state’s BOLI rules on OT, then go in prepared to your boss with a proposal for what’s reasonable and fair.
I wish you luck

msright1981's avatar

@Dorkgirl you are more than welcome :)

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