Exempt employees work too many hours

How many hours can a company actually require its salaried management (exempt) employees work?

Our regular work schedule is 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with one hour off for lunch. We are required to attend a sales meeting once each month on a Saturday, and it usually runs about 8 a.m. to 12 noon or so. Of course we are also expected to stay late to complete our work, and come in after hours for occasional special events, and stay late when meetings do not finish by 5:30 p.m.

(The company owner/president comes in around 9 a.m. each morning, and frequently takes extra long lunches, as well as leaving when he needs to take care of personal business. - This is not an issue given the fact that he owns the company, but he is not usually in a hurry to leave at 5:30 p.m. so sometimes meetings run long)

Of the 30+ managment employees on staff, there is not a single person who abuses the exempt status. In fact I rarely see everyone leave when the clock hits 5:30 p.m. They stay because they are truly dedicated, not because they don't have a life.

I have been hearing some pretty serious grumblings from the staff recently. For the summer months, our Saturday sales meeting has been changed to Friday, to begin late afternoon, which means we won't leave until around 9 p.m. or so. While the staff is thankful to have those Saturdays free, the idea of working 13-14 hours in a day is not too appealing.

Are there any laws that state that an employer cannot require its exempt employees to work more than a set number of hours each day/ week/ etc.?


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  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 03-26-04 AT 10:42AM (CST)[/font][br][br]Nope. Unless there is some state requirement, which I doubt, there are no limits.
  • According to the handbook I have, exempt personnel are paid to "get the job done no matter how many hours it takes" and receive the same salary regardless how few or how many hours are worked to complete the job.

    That being said, I would suggest that someone talk to the boss about the situation. You may begin to have a real morale problem. You're right that people have lives outside of work...and they shouldn't have to feel guilty about that.

    Some jobs do require more hours...and are generally paid accordingly. Can you say that about your ee's?

  • Correct - there are no limits. The employer gets to work the employee (if they are willing ) to the bone until they wither away and die at their desk.
  • By the way, there is also no limit to the number of hours that you can require of NON-exempt employees. You just have to pay them time and a half for anything over 40 in a work week. Salaried folks are paid by the job, not by the hour. That being said, I would talk to the CEO about the issue, but only from a morale standpoint.
  • Unless the nonexempt ee's are under 18, at least in WA and OR. x:)
  • You probably knew you were going to get the answer you got. Exempts are 24/7 jobs if necessary. The reality is that the boss/owner probably knows he is squeezing hard. He may not stop until he starts recognizing some symptoms that are costing him money. Unfortunately, that often means losing some productive people to burn-out.

    Even fabulous bonuses and paychecks will not offset the complete lack of time to enjoy the fruits of ones labors and spend time with the life outside of work. It is sometimes hard to remember that we work to live, not live to work.

    Are you the number two person at the company? If not, others may share some responsibility here.

    If you see signs of burnout, you might approach him from the standpoint that people may be leaving soon absent some relief. He might help them out the door or he might find other ways to get the jobs done, like hire more people. You will have to make the judgement about the amount of personal risk you should take.
  • You are right. I got exactly the response I expected. When employees come into my office and say surely there is a law against this, and I tell them there is not, I figure I better at least put out a query in case there is something I am not familiar with.

    The subject has been brought up several times over the years, and we have certainly seen some great talent walk out the door. I will continue to bring the issue before the company owner. I believe it is part of my job to let him know the morale of the employees, and to make suggestions for improvement when necessary.

    On the other end, I try to be understanding when an employee tells me they want to look for another job. I let them know that we all realize they have to do what is right for them and their families, and I certainly respect that decision. I also remind them that no place is perfect, and to be careful of believing that the grass is always greener somewhere else. Most every employer has its good and its bad, and each employee has to decide for him/herself which bad they can live with, and which good is most important.

    Thank you all for your responses.
  • Lorrie,
    I don't know if it will help, or if you have already tried this...but perhaps you could pull together some information on workplace stress, workplace violence even, burnout, work/life balance and have it at the ready when you speak to the owner. Also, you may consider doing a mini-benchmark type activity with other companies in your industry or geographical area. Perhaps you could even do a "satisfaction survey" at your company on different facets (not just the hours but benefits, rewards, etc). Information is ammo. I'm not saying take a lot of time, compile a report, and throw it in the face of the owner...just get some info on your side that supports "best practices" and "being an employer of choice" and "retention". Then, you will have it to refer to when you have this conversation.

    A book I have has a lot of great info on recruiting/retention and gives a ton of examples of "what workers really want" and how various companies are attempting to meet their needs (the examples are from A LOT of different companies, not just the big ones with all the dough). It's called, "The Employee Recruitment and Retention Handbook" and it's by Diane Arthur. It's a little spendy at $75, but you could always try to get it used from Powells.com or somewhere like eBay or Half.com. Another good book is "Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay" by Beverly Kaye. That one is much more affordable, about $15 or so. I have not read this one myself, but have heard rave reviews on it.

    Good luck to you and keep us posted.
  • Have you tried exit interviews of those personnel leaving the company, which get routed to all managers for comment and review to the owner? Obviously, your company and the owner must pay well to be continuously abusing the EXEMPT EMPLOYEES! I make the statement that I'm here for 25/8 (25 hours a day and an 8 day week), whatever is required to ensure I'm carying my share of the ball! The boss/owner may not realize, what he is doing to his company, maybe he just has a real ego or home problem or both. If he does realize and people stay for the duration, maybe the issue is you. Only you and the other EXEMPTS can make their own assessment of how bad it is. Some of us have our own ax to grind and stay late/come early an very much enjoy being around and "hob-knobbing" with the owner. So don't speak for me!

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