- May 2, 2019
- Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
- Jeremy Thompson
Everyone deserves fair pay for the hours they work, and the freedom to have a personal life away from the job. The more we work, the less time we have for ourselves, our families, and our communities. That’s why we have federal and state overtime laws, which require that most workers be paid time-and-a-half for every hour they work over 40 in a given week. It’s a straightforward bargain: when workers give up scarce personal time for their job, that time becomes more valuable. Employers then have to balance their demand for more hours from their employees with the increased costs of such a demand.
Unfortunately, this bargain has broken down when it comes to millions of modestly paid salaried workers across the country, including hundreds of thousands in Massachusetts. Almost all workers paid by the hour are automatically covered by overtime protection. For workers paid a salary, however, weak, outdated, and confusing overtime laws make it easy for employers to require them to work 50, 60, or more hours in a week without paying them anything more than if they had worked 40 hours. When this happens, salaried workers end up sacrificing their personal time—for free.