I almost never read the letters to the editor in my local newspaper because, well . . . opinion are like . . . noses; everyone has one. However, last week I “stumbled” on a letter that was thought provoking in this period of high unemployment and borderline recession.

Jack Durham of Fort Worth, Texas proposes that the elimination of overtime would create job growth. He writes:

End overtime

I have a plan to help create jobs. The government should eliminate or drastically reduce the amount of overtime an employee could work. Employers would then seek other full-time employees to cover the gap. Smarter people than me would have to draft the provisions, but we have lawyers for that.

Instead of trying to create jobs over the next two to six years, these new employees could be hired by Labor Day. The job increase should be significant. This would discourage employers from paying 20 hours of overtime to avoid paying benefits to a full-time worker. Just a thought.

Maybe Jack is on to something; although, I think the French tried something similar with the 35-hour workweek.  A prohibition against overtime might create jobs.  It might add to some employee’s desire to have better work-life balance (i.e., less work time and more time to spend on the employee’s personal endeavors).  It would also negatively impact those employees who are willing to work longer hours for more money and could have a adverse effect on business productivity thereby hurting job growth.

Are there other reforms to the FLSA that might also create job growth?  How about elimination of the "white collar" exemptions?  Rather than paying an employee a salary for all hours worked, employers could be required to pay employees covered by the white collar exemption overtime for hours in excess of forty per week.  Would that lead employers to hire more "white collar" workers to spread the work around and reduce overtime payroll costs?  Employers that wanted to do more with fewer workers would see increased overtime expenses but those employers that wanted to avoid overtime would increase the number of workers to spread the work around so that it would be paid at straight time rates. 

Are there other reforms in the employment law context that create job growth without unduly hampering the operations of employers?  Let me know and I’ll post them in the comments section.

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