Should Overtime Laws Apply to All the Time Spent at Work or Just Some?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — President Obama wants to overhaul overtime laws which currently exclude many salaried workers. You know how that works: you get "promoted" to manager and end up working more hours and effectively making less money.

"For more than 75 years, the 40-hour workweek and the overtime protections that come with it have helped countless workers climb the ladder of success," the President said during his weekly address of March 15. "But today, an overtime exception originally meant for highly-paid employees now applies to workers who earn as little as $23,660 a year. It doesn't matter if you do mostly physical labor, or if you work 50, 60, even 70 hours a week. Your employer may not have to pay you a single extra dime."

While most (62%) of the nearly 1,000 workers responding to a recent YouGov.com survey said they "somewhat" or "strongly" support overtime laws that would pay salaried employees who work more than 40 hours per week, more than half (51%) admitted they would rather be paid as an hourly employee anyway.

But, salaried or not, is there a difference between time spent at work – and time spent actually working? It depends on who you ask. More than half of the respondents (53%) agreed with the statement "Hourly workers should be paid for every minute they are at work." By political party, the results were 58% Democrat, 52% Independent and 44% Republican.

On the other hand, only 38% of those surveyed agreed with the statement "Hourly workers should only be paid while they are doing work for their employer." Those agreeing with that statement by political party were 53% Republican, 35% Independent and 33% Democrat.

Younger workers particularly agreed with the "paid for time" rather than "paid for time working" scenario, with 61% of adults 18 to 29 and 60% of those 30 to 44 saying they should be compensated for face time. The majority (57%) of the most-senior respondents, those over 65, believed workers should only be paid for time actually working.