[Article first published as Computer Professionals Update Act Targets Overtime for American Nerds on Blogcritics.]
Somehow tech and politics mix together about as well as oil and water. Look at the current state of technology politics – the FCC took forever to finally quash the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, links are being drawn between finances and congressional support for SOPA and Protect IP, and arguments are being made about the state and future of net neutrality.
See? Whether you knew it or not, there’s a lot of tech stuff happening in the hallowed halls of our nation’s leaders. All of these deal with statutes and laws about fair business practices and anti-trust issues – ultimately things that affect the American technology consumer. But a bill that was introduced in late October to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions that went to the other side, and set its sights on the American technology worker instead.
The bill would expand the list of workers exempted from the Fair Labor Standards Act, to include many in the tech sector. For those of you unfamiliar with FLSA, that means that they’re adding to the list of people who are exempt from the standard “you get a time and a half for overtime hours” rule. The bill, called the Computer Professionals Update Act (yes, ironically labeled the CPU), adds jobs that pretty much include IT and development from top to bottom. From the text of the bill: “any employee working in a computer or information technology occupation (including, but not limited to, work related to computers, information systems, components, networks, software, hardware, databases, security, internet, intranet, or websites) as an analyst, programmer, engineer, designer, developer, administrator, or other similarly skilled worker,” whose primary duty is the following:
(A) the application of systems, network or database analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine or modify hardware, software, network, database, or system functional specifications;
(B) the design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing, securing, configuration, integration, debugging, modification of computer or information technology, or enabling continuity of systems and applications;
(C) directing the work of individuals performing duties described in subparagraph (A) or (B), including training such individuals or leading teams performing such duties; or
(D) a combination of duties described in subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C), the performance of which requires the same level of skill.
The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), keeps the existing language that applies this only to employees that earn at least $26.73 an hour. And also let me be clear – this doesn’t outright ban these workers from making overtime for hours past 40. It just means that companies that employ them are exempted from the overtime payment requirement. But all said and done that doesn’t make it any better. Given the current cost cutting measures that are in effect across industries in the United States, do you have trust that a company will still pay overtime if they’re not legally obliged to?
Thankfully it doesn’t harm me personally; I’ve been in technology management for some time now and work on salary, so I was already sans overtime in the old rules. But what about other folks in the industry? There are a lot of nerds out there that serve as system admins and fill other necessary roles in the IT field that operate on hourly pay beyond the $26.73 pay threshold. And some of them depend on overtime as part of their yearly income.
I’ve heard arguments ranging from outrage to “about time” to nothing more than “meh.” It certainly would reduce costs for technology companies as well as most American companies with regard to their IT shops while stripping workers of their due funds. As part of the tech world I of course don’t support this, as I feel that it passing it greatly devalues the skills tech workers have put in either a considerable amount of education or a considerable amount of work experience to accumulate. With the increasing amount humanity relies on technology, specifically computer technology for their day to day lives, it seems like technical work is being not only devalued, but commoditized over time.
I’m not sure what the motivation behind this bill is, but Sen. Kagan mentioned that “the majority of bills and resolutions never make it out of committee.” What exactly is going on in North Carolina?
Technology has affected society and its surroundings in a number of ways. In many societies, technology has helped develop more advanced economies (including today's global economy) and has allowed the rise of a leisure class. Many technological processes produce unwanted by-products, known as pollution, and deplete natural resources, to the detriment of the Earth and its environment.
These in demand skills are also being affected by the increasing saturation of the available workforce with those skills. Are the skills being devalued because of a bill passing, or is a bill passing because the skills have been devalued?