RE: Tech Writers - salaried or hourly?

Subject: RE: Tech Writers - salaried or hourly?
From: Barbara Yanez <BarbaraYanez -at- cogentsystems -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 2002 09:01:04 -0700

Hey Geoff

Sorry for the lack of detail - and thanks much for the post.

She does get benefits, and is not a contractor. But for some reason they
want to call her hourly and not salaried. I felt like, frankly, they were
trying to pull a fast one, because, to my knowledge, no one else here is
hourly (except traditional non-exempt positions like secretary, etc.) . But
I could not see what fast one they were trying to pull. If they were trying
to get out of benefits, I could see, but she gets benefits.

Can you see any other reason they might be doing this?

Thanks for your post.

-----Original Message-----
From: Hart, Geoff [mailto:Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA]
Sent: Monday, June 24, 2002 5:51 AM
To: Techwr-L (E-mail); 'Barbara Yanez'
Subject: Tech Writers - salaried or hourly?

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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