By Brenda Flanagan
Visiting nurse Barbara Puglis routinely worked more than 60 hours a week.
“I’d see my patients all day, come home, eat dinner then work on the computer til 10 at night, and we got paid salary. We were not compensated for the amount of time we worked,” Puglis said. “I just hated it.”
Federal laws don’t mandate overtime for workers like Puglis — who are classified as “management.” In fact, workers earning more than $455 a week aren’t entitled to overtime, either. President Obama wants that to change.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re working 50, 60, 70 hours a week. Your employer doesn’t have to pay you a single extra dime. And I think that’s wrong,” Obama said.
The president signed an executive order directing the Labor Department to recommend new rules for overtime pay.
In Trenton, Senate Labor Committee members reacted along party lines.
“While it’s nice to be able to get a promotion or a title, that title doesn’t come with the appropriate compensation, it doesn’t work for the employee. And it shouldn’t, so I think the president’s right on this,” said Sen. Joseph Vitale.
“If government — both federal and state — would stay out of our pockets and leave us businesspeople to run our own businesses, it’d be a heck of a lot better for this country and this state,” said Sen. Anthony Bucco.
Bucco says workers who get promoted to management earn more than hourly employees. Business groups claim because salaried positions demand higher pay, they simply can’t afford more overtime — that it’d force them to cut jobs. Labor advocates disagree.
“They can afford it, for one. Businesses are making more money now than they’ve made for the past five years, and workers took it on the chin for the past five years during the recession and now that’s over. And now we need to move forward and people need to be able to catch up,” said Kevin Brown, State Director at 32BJ SEIU.
The feds do crack down on businesses that don’t comply, like a gas station tycoon in New Jersey who agreed to pay $3 million in back overtime to more than 400 employees — some of whom worked more than 80 hours a week. Last year, in 2008, an associate manager at Walmart filed suit — claiming the company forced him to work overtime.
We asked a couple of Walmart employees about overtime, but they said they couldn’t comment. A Walmart manager asked us to leave.
Walmart says it settled the manager’s case and had no further comment.
As for Puglis, “It got to a point the money wasn’t worth it. I really retired early just because I couldn’t keep up that pace any more. It was just too exhausting.”
She says her former employer certainly got its money’s worth.