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Well, this is going to be interesting... 
14th-May-2009 10:51 am
katarina, doom
Just got back from a department meeting where the head of our department announced that, thanks to recent changes in California law, all the writers and editors are going to be reclassified as non-exempt employees effective July 1st. (For those not up on employment jargon, this means that instead of being an employee who gets a fixed salary regardless of how many hours I work, I will be paid hourly and be eligible for overtime if I work more than 8 hours a day. With the caveat that overtime has to be approved by a manager.)

Apparently California law had a clause written into it recently saying that all the usual criteria that determine whether an employee is exempt (generally, an employee who has a great deal of discretion over how they do their work) don't apply to people who write documentation for customers. There's a complex history behind this, involving lawsuits and such, which I'm not fully up on.

My feelings on this are mixed. I worked as an hourly employee when I first got started in tech writing, and it wasn't all bad. It kept me very focused on work when I was clocked in, and when my 8 hours a day were up (they never allowed me overtime at that job), I clocked out and left my work at the office without the slightest guilt or hesitation. And honestly, there are some writers here who are chronically overworked because the powers that be insist on giving one person a two-person job. If they start having to shell out buckets of overtime, maybe that will get fixed.

On the flip side, the way I work now doesn't fit neatly on a time clock. If I need to leave work early one day, I figure I'll make up the time the next. That's looking like it's not going to be doable in the future. Plus, I'm not really looking forward to the extra paperwork involved in logging my hours. Many of my coworkers seem to quite keenly feel the perceived reduction in status in going from a salaried to an hourly employee - I honestly doubt that the rest of our organization will notice or care. I am a bit miffed at not getting a performance bonus anymore. I'll probably still make the same amount of money (quite possibly more), but it will be solely based on how many hours I log, not on how awesome I am during those hours.

And looked at from yet another angle, I can't help but appreciate the hilarity of my manager now being legally obligated to ensure that I take a lunch break. Oh, California employment law, how I love thee.
14th-May-2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
Wow. I would have mixed feelings too.

I wonder what this will mean for my startup; I'd always imagined that when we brought somebody in it would be on salary (+ stock options) but now we would have to have a manager tracking hours.

Might be a strong argument to outsource to a different state or to go all the way and hire a consultant instead.
14th-May-2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's very confusing. Apparently in September 2008, the exemption for Computer Professionals in the California labor law was specifically modified to exclude technical writers and various other categories of employees. (Text of law here.) If I read the law correctly, then this should be triggering a mass shift of all tech writers in Silicon Valley to non-exempt status, but except for Oracle, which has treated all its tech writers as non-exempt employees for a few years now, and Sun, which is currently the target of a class action lawsuit brought by a tech writer for unpaid overtime, I haven't heard much about this. Maybe California is very slow to enforce changes in the law?
14th-May-2009 07:58 pm (UTC)
ewww. don't like that it's forced. seems unduly big-brother-ish of the state... :-S

warm fuzzies!
14th-May-2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'm trying to keep an open mind and a positive outlook about this, but morale in this department has taken a big hit today, and it's hard not to be affected by that.
15th-May-2009 03:04 am (UTC)
Welcome to my world. :) It's not such a bad gig.
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