California daily overtime back Jan. 1 |

California daily overtime back Jan. 1

Depending on who you talk to, the overtime bill signed into law today by Gov. Gray Davis either restores employees rights to overtime pay after eight hours of work, or it robs their ability to work flexible shifts.

Assembly Bill 60 requires employers to pay time-and-a-half to employees who work more than eight hours in one day. Scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2000, it will reverse a bill signed by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1997 that kicked in overtime pay for hours worked over 40 hours in a week.

The bill exempts salaried workers except those who make less than three-times minimum wage, currently $35,800 a year.

The new legislation does not completely lock-in eight-hour days. It does allow employees four hours of make-up time a week. It also allows alternative schedules of up to 10-hour days if two-thirds of the employees affected approve.

That seems to leave the individual worker out of that option, according to Duane Wallace, executive director of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce.

“It interferes with the ability of an employer and employee to work flexibility into a schedule on an individual basis,” Wallace said. “Some people like to have a third day off (each week).”

California will be among only three states to enforce an eight-hour workday instead of the federal limitation of a 40-hour week before overtime.

“There’s probably a reason why all the other states do it that way,” Wallace said.

The overtime legislation received support from a variety of labor organizations, including the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO and California Federation of Teachers. It was opposed by an assortment of business organizations, including the California Chamber of Commerce, and medical groups such as California Healthcare Association.

Proponents argued that the previous elimination of the eight-hour day severely cut the incomes of part-time and contingent workers.

Business owners say the bill will not increase overtime pay for employees, just make scheduling more difficult.

“Overtime is a last resort. We’ll let people go within eight hours,” said David Brandt, manager of Carrow’s Restaurant near Stateline. The 40-hour workweek “allowed more flexibility from shift to shift.”

However, according to Carrow’s food server Mike Hendon, the new overtime bill could increase employee’s paychecks.

“As a service worker I feel this is a benefit,” he said. “It will benefit all employees.”

Proponents also argue that the bill does not eliminate flexibility, but prevents employers from requiring alternative workweek schedules and family life suffers from extended workdays.

Liz Buchmiller doesn’t buy the arguments.

The bill “limits people’s scheduling opportunities. It’s lousy,” she said.

The 10 years that Buchmiller was a single mother, she said she appreciated flexibility in scheduling to spend time with her children.

Now Buchmiller is the marketing and community relations manager for NalCo, owner of the south shore McDonald’s restaurants, and involved with employee training.

“It doesn’t make a difference to (McDonald’s),” she said. “We’ll work around it. It makes a difference in what people want.

“The AFL-CIO may be jumping for joy, but I don’t see how they’re representing parents who want to spend another day with their kids.”

Most nurses at Barton Memorial Hospital, who work 12-hour shifts, three days a week, also like the flexibility, according to Kathy Cocking, the director of hospital operations for Barton Memorial Hospital. Eighty-five nurses signed a letter sent to Sacramento in opposition to AB60.

“The majority are doing that (schedule) because they want to,” Cocking said. “It works with their families and personal lives.”

Hospitals and ski resorts are among a list of business that have until July 1, 2000 to comply with the provisions of the bill.

What will hurt ski resorts, according to Greg Petterson, vice president of human resources for Heavenly Ski Resort, is the elimination of the exemption that allowed 56-hour workweeks without overtime during the ski season.

“We’ve always been under eight hours,” he said.

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