No overtime for IT? Occupy the data center!

Lawmakers want to take away overtime pay for thousands of IT workers. What's wrong with these people?

Working until the job is done is the ethos of most IT hands that I know or have collaborated with. If a server needs to be rebooted or a virus uprooted, people stick around to solve the problem. When they do, they deserve to be paid overtime. But a U.S. senator from the high-tech-rich state of North Carolina has a different idea. She wants to make thousands of IT workers ineligible for overtime pay, a move that would result in a substantial decrease in overall income for many employees and their families.

In case you assumed that the Republicans have a monopoly on antilabor legislation, think again. The Computer Professionals Update Act was proposed by a Democrat, Sen. Kay Hagan, whose state is home to a heavy concentration of technology-related companies, as well as financial services outfits, including Bank of America, that are huge employers of IT workers. (In what's likely inadvertent humor, the bill is also referred to as the CPU Act.)

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Hagan's bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), which mandates that workers be paid time-and-half for work beyond 40 hours in a week -- in some cases, beyond 8 hours in a day. There are already numerous exemptions to that requirement, including salaried executives, professionals, and any IT worker "who is a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer, or other similarly skilled worker." The current version of the FSLA goes on to specify that exempt-from-overtime jobs include "systems analysis techniques and procedures design, documentation, testing, creation, or modification of computer programs."

Meet the CPU Act

But the CPU Act broadens that exemption so much it appears that any IT worker who is paid more than $27.63 an hour (and who isn't?) would lose the right to overtime. Here's what it says:

Any employee working in a computer or information technology occupation (including, but not limited to, work related to computers, information systems, components, networks, software, hardware, databases, security, Internet, intranet, or websites) as an analyst, programmer, engineer, designer, developer, administrator, or other similarly skilled worker, whose primary duty is

(A) the application of systems, network, or database analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine or modify hardware, software, network, database, or system functional specifications; or

(B) the design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing, securing, configuration, integration, debugging, modification of computer or information technology, or enabling continuity of systems and applications; ...

Hagan, by the way, isn't a senator likely to be worthy of a profile in courage. Although smoking kills thousands of Americans every year, she opposed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA the power to regulate smoking. (It was sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama.) North Carolina, of course, has a huge tobacco industry, and Hagan's hometown of Greensboro is the headquarters of Lorillard Tobacco. Hagan's priorities are so obvious that I won't bother to spell them out.

A second Democrat, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, is the co-sponsor along with two Republicans, Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

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