Friday, March 6, 2009

Open Letter: Vacation and Overtime Laws

Dear Senators and Represenatives,

I am writing today about some important changes to the country's labor laws I think should made. Compared to other industrialized countries, American workers receive much less paid time off, and much less protection from excessive working hours. I would like to see the situation improved. Here are the issues:

  1. Vacation accrual – America is the only industrialized country where workers are not guaranteed paid vacation time. The next lowest is Canada, which requires 10 days per year, and the highest are Finland and France, where 30 days are required. American employers should be required to give a minimum of 4 minutes of vacation per hour worked, phased in at a minute every 3 years. When fully implemented the rule would provide 15 days off for 1800 hours worked. Employers should not be able to force employees to use the vacation for holidays or furloughs, nor force employees to “use it or lose it.”
  2. Require overtime pay on federal holidays – National holidays don't really exist for many workers in America, especially those employed in the retail sector. This disparity from the typical office worker is quite unfair. Requiring overtime on those days would close the gap.
  3. Extend overtime protection – There are many non-supervisory employees who are overworked, especially in the software industry, because the minimum exempt pay level is far too low. It should be fixed at 6 times the minimum wage (currently equivalent to about $78,000 per year at 1800 hours of work)
  4. Set higher overtime rates at extreme hours – All workers regardless of their exempt status should receive double overtime after 56 hours of work and triple overtime after 64 hours of work. The time should be calculated using a rolling 7 day window without regard to pay periods, so that employees are compensated for any block of extreme work. An exception should be made for workers addressing declared state or federal emergencies, where normal overtime rules would apply.
  5. Crack down on contractor status abuse – Many companies have been successfully sued for classifying workers as independent contractors in order to evade various taxes and other obligations, but the practice continues. Federal regulation to curb this abuse was proposed in the last Congress, but did not go far. It should be revived and passed.

Obviously the current economic conditions will cause employers to oppose these changes even more vociferously than would be the case during an expansion. Nonetheless, I hope you make an effort to protect American workers from abuse and to give every worker time to rest and recuperate. They all deserve it, not just the people in charge.

Thank you for your time.

No comments: