Before I begin this article, let me clarify something. I am a pretty outspoken conservative. I dislike government interference into the daily lives of Americans, and, specifically, me. I believe wholeheartedly in Capitalism, and all that it has created, and the opportunities provided. I believe that if you are unhappy somewhere, you have the right to find somewhere else. Be it work, or any other aspect of life. However, I feel that the last 8 years diminished this possibility, especially with available jobs being less than lackluster, due in large part because of policies instituted in the last eight years. When there simply is no job market, then sometimes there does become a necessity for checks and balances. Thus, I begin.
As all Floridian’s know, there are no state specific labor laws. The only labor laws that Florida acknowledges are Federal labor laws. These laws are, at best, limited. They cover for the most part, minimum wage requirements and overtime (for hourly (non-exempt)) employees. They prohibit firing employees due to FMLA usage, racial discrimination and sexual discrimination. That is about all that they cover. As a conservative, and as a champion of limited Federal government and State’s Rights, I think that is sufficient from a Federal standpoint.
With that, I think it falls on states to further specify labor laws. For instance, in Florida, or under Federal law, there is no law that requires breaks, even a lunch break, during working hours. (see, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/workhours/breaks and https://www.floridalaborlawyer.com/do-i-have-to-give-employees-working-in-florida-meal-breaks-or-rest-breaks-under-florida-law/)
Granted, in Florida, and the rest of the country, most jobs do provide at least lunch breaks. Most. But certainly not all. For instance, in my current job, at least 50% of the time, I do not take a lunch, or any other, break. I readily admit, that is of my own volition, but never, either, am I told to take a break. It is not held against me if I do, but it certainly is not a problem if I don’t. This view is not limited to my job. This is essentially a standard, or so I am told.
With that, this argument is not restricted to meal periods and breaks. Actually, it has more to do with compensation for your time. Again, Florida has no laws outside of Federal law on wages and compensation. Federal regulations specify that hourly (non-exempt) employees must be paid for every hour worked, and if the total hours are more than 40 hours in a work week, they must be paid time and a half for work performed over 40 hours. Pretty much all workers are aware of this. (see, US. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, https://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/.) But, for the most part, with the exception of a narrow interpretation of rights for “exempt” (salary based) employees, that is where FLSA stops. This narrow exemption is basically dependent on occupation (computers/Technology) and wage amount (less than a certain total salary amount per year.) If these exceptions are met, then the employee is, indeed, entitled to overtime, or at least compensation for actual time worked. But, to be fair, that is a very small and limited number of employees that are paid on an exempt status.
The vast majority of employees that are paid as an exempt employee relies on the employer to dictate the amount of time that they must spend doing work for that employer. It is not a secret that a lot of employers expect sixty or seventy hours of work on a weekly basis for these employees. Another caveat to exempt employees are industries that require on-call hours. There are currently no laws that specify regulations for exempt employees around on-call time. Time that you are expected to stop anything that you are doing and respond within 15 minutes of a call. Time that you no longer have for yourself. You cannot plan anything, or rely on being able to spend time with your family. One is not compensated for the inconvenience of the possibility of getting called, and therefore doing nothing but staying by your phone. Or being woken up at all hours of the night, sometimes numerous times, and then being expected to put in eight ours actually at the job during normal “working” hours.
In reality, exempt employees are rarely compensated at the “hourly” rate that is added to their pay stub. Case in point, averaging 47.5 hours a week, every week, which by all standards is probably low for an exempt employee, I currently get 85% of what my “hourly” rate shows on my actual paystub, as that “hourly” number is based off of a 40 hour week. And to add to that, that is gross income, before taxes, medical, et al comes out. After all withholdings, I average, 58% of what my pay stub says I should be making per hour. However, when an exempt employee (my case included), agrees to the position, they agree only to a yearly amount, or in some cases a per pay period amount, not an hourly amount. That does not make it right, but, it makes it what it is.
There is also a need for Florida law to address the expectations of employees. I mean this as in, if employee A does the identical work of employee B, they should be required to make, or at least be in the same pay range, regardless of Title of their current position, as employee B. I am living proof that indeed does not happen. At least not with all employers. It should be only right that if an employee is requested, or required, to do the same job as another employee, regardless of title, they should be compensated at the same rate or at least in the same range as the other employee.
In closing, I reiterate my belief in Capitalism, and the good it can do. But, there are times that circumstances require a level of the playing field if you will. When one resides in a city that there is no, or very little, alternative work, there must be some form of fairness for people that want to work, but also want to balance a personal and family life. We must remember, America is based off of the premise, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Where is happiness when one becomes a slave to a job because they want to better themselves and their family, and are
expected required to spend their life tied to a chair or phone, or both?