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Letter: Everyone deserves to be paid for the hours they work

The Detroit News

Currently in Michigan, it’s legal to require salaried employees to work in excess of 40 hours without receiving overtime pay. But no business should be allowed to profit off the unpaid labor of their workers. That’s why I was pleased to learn of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s support for expanding overtime protections for salaried workers.

I’ve been working since I was 17, when I got my first job at a movie theater. A little-known fact about movie theaters in Michigan is they are exempt from overtime laws. So even if I worked 100 hours a week slinging popcorn, I did not receive one minute of overtime pay. This exception seemed arbitrary, unfair and abusive to me as a teen. Little did I know that over a decade later, as a salaried employee of a multimillion-dollar nationwide company, I would be exposed to that exact same arbitrary, unfair and abusive treatment.

Presently, I make just over $40,000 a year. If I were paid hourly for a 40-hour week, that’s $19.23 an hour. The problem is, I don’t work a 40-hour week. Ever. In the nearly three years I’ve spent as a salaried employee, I’ve never worked less than 45 hours. On multiple occasions, I’ve actively performed my job while sick or on vacation. Recently, I worked three consecutive weeks of 61, 60 and 64 hours.

My employer sees a tremendous benefit from this arrangement. They have a system wherein they can legally use me as unpaid labor once I complete my first 40 hours of work. If they were required to pay me overtime when I exceeded 40 hours, I would have brought home nearly $45,000 in additional pre-tax income over the past three years.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist plan to expand the right to overtime for more Michigan workers.

By forcing me to do the work of multiple people, but only paying me for 40 hours, my employer has effectively taken a job off the market.By doing the amount of work we do, employers are using salaried employees across Michigan to slow job creation.

People can and should be paid fairly for every minute of labor they perform. Businesses should not be sustained by unpaid labor, and salaried workers should not be excluded from overtime pay. I commend Whitmer for her commitment to protecting salaried workers across the state.

Brian Young, security professional, Clinton Township.