Obama set to use pen to control worker salaries

When President Obama started talking about getting around Congress with his phone and his pen, we all knew it was not going to end well. Increasing the minimum wage for government contractors hasn’t really had a chance to show any ill effects, so it makes sense that the president is already leaping into fair labor regulations, to start causing havoc in private industry.

The current cause is to force employers to pay overtime to salaried workers. There are already exemptions based on income that would possibly come into play, but they haven’t been adjusted for inflation on the Federal level since 2004. That said, there might be a valid argument to revisit those caps, but to force employers to pay overtime to salaried workers in general is not something any competent leader should consider in a soft job market.

Government increasing liabilities on businesses on a per employee basis is never a good idea when the economy needs private industry to be creating jobs. That is something that keeps getting lost in the shuffle for many reasons, but the two most obvious are the fact that the administration has changed the equations for determining the unemployment rate, and has reduced expectations for reasonable growth. What does that mean? It means that we don’t count people that have dropped out of the unemployment system into the welfare system, and the “new normal” is not really growth — it’s barely treading water.

While it’s not likely that we’ll see an immediate drop in the number of salaried employees out there, the impetus of this latest idea from Obama is disingenuous at best. Salaried workers do not tend to be hanging near the poverty level, and the reason why many jobs end up being salaried positions in the first place is due to the fluid nature of the workloads those workers complete.

While a salaried worker might very well work longer hours during certain periods of time throughout the year, there are other times when they do not. The most obvious example is teachers, that work nine months of the year, have three months off, but are paid 12 months a year. And it’s true that many teachers work more than 40 hours a week during the school year. Does that mean that they should be given overtime pay for those hours? Because of the three months off each year, it’s reasonable to assume the answer from the public would be a resounding “no.”

That is the extreme example, but the whole point of having salaried workers in many businesses and organizations is to pay people to get a specific list of tasks done in a given time period. This is not unlike short-term contract work. In general, salaried employees can end up determining their own work hours through negotiation with their employers. But, insert governmental interference in the form of forcing overtime to be paid, and that flexibility will disappear.

Workers will not be able to negotiate having shorter work weeks during “slow times” to compensate for “busy times” that require longer work hours. Employers will also reconsider their staffing needs — again, this is another Obama agenda that will undoubtedly lead to job losses.

Sadly, the adverse reactions to this probably will not hit before the elections. One can hope that employers act quickly, though. Democrats are already finding out that being in the same party as a president can be hazardous to one’s political career. Forcing employers to pay salaried workers overtime will only make that situation worse.


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