Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

`Salaried' Workers Want Overtime Pay

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

`Salaried' Workers Want Overtime Pay

Article excerpt

HOUSTON -- When Ida Basha worked for MCI Telecommunications in Sugar Land, Texas, she arranged for the placement of new phone and Internet lines.

It was mostly clerical work, she said, describing how she'd print out orders and file the requests.

However, MCI called her an engineer even though she did no engineering work, didn't have an engineering degree or any experience as an engineer. Basha believes the company classified her and her colleagues as engineers solely to avoid paying overtime. She said she often worked 80 to 90 hours a week, seven days a week. Federal labor law requires employers to pay workers not exempt from the overtime law time and a half for every hour over 40 hours worked in a week. Workers not legally entitled to overtime include outside salespeople; computer analysts, programmers and software engineers who earn at least $27.63 an hour; professionals (with an advanced degree such as doctors, lawyers and some engineers); executives (such as first-line supervisors); and administrative workers (that's the murkiest category but typically requires the employee to make corporate policies and exercise discretion). But many employers misclassify their workers, telling them they're "salaried" and not eligible for overtime pay, said Gregg Rosenberg, a Houston employment lawyer who is representing Basha and another former MCI employee. Some common jobs that are typically misclassified, according to Shirley Gardner, district director of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor in Houston, include inside sales representatives, customer service representatives, computer- assisted designers, assistant managers who work alongside their subordinates in fast-food outlets and construction foremen who swing hammers. U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. recently gave Basha's lawsuit preliminary class-action status for the 20 or so order arrangers in the Houston-area city of Sugar Land, who work for a division of MCI WorldCom. Rosenberg hopes to expand that class to include employees who do similar work in other parts of the country. Basha, who earned $47,000 a year, figures she's got a chunk of change coming. …

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