Dodging Double Time – Is It Right?

overworked employeeOur blog attracts both employers and employees who are searching for answers to their employment related questions. Last week, one of our posts, When is an Employee Paid Double Time, attracted the attention of a Californian employee who felt he was being abused by his employer, or at least, so I gathered from the tone in his comment.

This commenter ultimately raised a moral question: If you are a clever employer, you can effectively overwork your employees without paying them any double time at all. While the Californian government hasn’t created any laws against this sort of “loophole”, is it right?

This is definitely not going to be a common situation because the employee would still be owed a lot of regular overtime, and that overtime would be expensive, but someone left the comment so it must be happening to at least one person!

Here’s how it can happen:

What California Labor Laws Do and Don’t Account For:

In California, employees get time and a half for hours worked over 8 in a day or 40 in a week. They get double time for any time worked over 12 hours in one day and any time worked in excess of 8 hours on the 7th day.

So, in California, an employee could work 80 hours in a week and not get double time: by working exactly 12 hours a day for 6 days, and then only 8 on the 7th day. This employee would, however, be getting 40 hours of time and a half (regular overtime) with this schedule.

It would be pretty expensive to overwork an employee to this degree. Even though the company would not be paying double time, that’s still a lot of overtime!

Is It Right?

If a company could afford this much overtime, It seems they could probably afford a little double time too. But if employers are deliberately finessing schedules so as to avoid paying double time while at the same time overworking employees, then they should reconsider their practices. At this level, working employees this hard but making sure they get home before they tip into double time is just penny pinching and that’s just not fair. Overworking employees is unhealthy for the employee and without proper compensation could be seriously depressing and harmful in the long term.

Some might say “Well, hey, the employee can just walk away, right?” Well, no. Not all the time. Employees have bills and obligations, families, debt, and dependents just like the rest of us do. Joblessness could be worse than working long hours.

Others might say, “They should be thankful they have a job at all then!” Sure they should be thankful they have a job; we all should be. But just because a person has a job doesn’t mean he’s not being mistreated.

And finally, one might argue that nothing in life is fair. That’s certainly the truth but wouldn’t the world be a better place if we didn’t go around deliberately spreading unfairness?

If this situation happens only rarely and employees are recognized for their hard work, it is probably no big deal. Ultimately, this scenario is unlikely to happen but if it were to happen, I sure hope that the employee would receive adequate compensation for putting in so many hours!

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