Tech Writers - salaried or hourly?

Subject: Tech Writers - salaried or hourly?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 2002 08:50:53 -0400

Barbara Yanez reports: <<My company is insisting that my assistant, a junior
tech writer - degreed but fresh out of college, is to be hourly and not
salaried. She does professional level work - albeit entry-level. This is
strange. I have never heard of this.>>

It's not a familiar situation to me for a long-term, non-contractor
arrangement, though "punching a time card" certainly has precedents in other
industries, particularly if the employer really does pay for all hours,
including overtime. You didn't provide enough details about whether this is
a permanent position and so on, and I'm not a lawyer, but this sounds an
awful lot like "do you think that if nobody complains, we can get away
without paying this person any benefits?" If so, it's very probably illegal;
Microsoft (among others) got dinged badly for trying this a few years back.

Though I'm not a lawyer, I read a recent summary of precisely this kind of
practice that contains considerable additional useful information for
freelancers: Clements, R. 2002. Definining the employee status of
independent contractors in the U.S.: a review and report on the legal issues
for technical communicators. Technical Communication 49(2):181-192.

You might want to mention the potential problem to your employer in a
nonconfrontational way (supported by the STC article), and point out that
the legal penalties can be heavy. Of course, there's a risk in bringing this
up: they might decide it's easier to get rid of the assistant and let you do
all the work. Tough call!

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

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