Female Workers Face Challenges From Over And Under Employment

A recent Op Ed piece in the New York Times raises an interesting point – although high earning women and low wage earning women seem to have different problems, the issues they face as the result of the way the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is currently written are very similar. A main issue is that women who are “overemployed” [forced to work long hours without overtime pay] and women who are “underemployed” [unable to work enough hours to support a family] have difficulty squaring their work lives with raising a family.

As stated in the article, professional women working at law firms, accounting firms and in the media – who are considered exempt and not entitled to overtime pay – complain about long hours, including never-ending streams of email requiring responses round the clock. Many women complain that these long hours keep them away from their families.

Women at the other end of the spectrum working in retail, restaurant workers and health care jobs complain of a lack of sufficient hours to support their families and the hours they do get may fluctuate and be unpredictable. The lack of stable hours creates significant difficulties for parents who may have difficulty arranging child care and performing basic parenting functions such as setting up doctors’ appointments and volunteering for school events.

Under the FLSA employers have an incentive to make salaried employees work as much as possible. Because these are fixed cost positions (no overtime is paid regardless of number of hours worked) it may seem like a good idea to make one person do the work of two.

On the other hand – employers may “under employ” employees who work at low-level hourly jobs in order to make sure none of these workers put in more than 40 hours in any work week and qualify for overtime pay. A recent essay calls for reforms to the FLSA to alter the “incentives” that foster over-employment at the top of the labor market and underemployment at the bottom. This could mean guaranteed minimum weekly hours for hourly employees and required overtime pay for many additional jobs.

As concluded by the author: “Such sweeping changes to labor laws might be politically impossible today, in an environment that is friendly to corporations and indifferent, if not hostile, to workers. But they are essential. They would press employers to hire one worker for one job, easing work-life challenges at both the top and the bottom of the labor market. That would create more entry-level professional positions for college graduates and better-paying jobs to lift low-income families into the middle class. It’s what women want and what our economy needs.”

For more information about the Fair Labor Standards Act of if you believe you have not received the pay you are entitled to, please contact the knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.