A Woman’s Work
Letter from Seeker
My wife works a salaried position in retail. She is only supposed to work 40 hours a week or less. This time of year it is completely understandable working more hours because she is understaffed and it is the holidays. This is not limited to this time of year though, so far she has consistently worked more than 40 hours a week every week since she started. She also gets calls from work on her days off.
I am trying to convince her this all has to stop. We did the calculations once and she has worked 4,300 dollars worth of hours for free, based on the conservative estimate of 20 minutes a day extra. I am positive that estimate is on the low side. I don’t know what to do to make this stop.
~ An answer ~
(or at least some questions that should be raised)
Let’s roll in first presuming it is work she’s staying at, and not home she is avoiding. If the latter, you may need to send us another question. If the former, we might be able to help. It sounds like you’ve talked to her about this. Ranted a little, railed some more; done the calculations. Also, presuming your wife is a hard worker and not a workaholic, has she expressed why she stays at work?
Even though Alaska Labor Code instructs “Payment on a salary basis does not eliminate overtime pay requirements” (8 AAC 15.100) she may be contractually obligated to put in a certain amount of overtime. You mention she is only supposed to work 40 hours or less – is that in her employee agreement? Employment contracts can dictate that a salaried an employee has to work X straight hours and Y overtime hours (and be paid accordingly). But, if not specified, labor code then presumes the salaried position is eight hours per day, 40 hours per week, straight time, and any time beyond that is overtime and should be paid above her salary. Truly, most of this responsibility falls on her employer. They can be held liable for underpaying her. An attentive (and/or educated) boss would put the kibosh on non-contractual, unpaid overtime.
So, for the moment, I’ll presume she is taking on the overtime of her own volition, and her boss either doesn’t care or doesn’t know.
Why is she doing this? Understanding her motive is the first step to the correct path of resolution.
If she is already a manager or in a supervisory position, unfortunately longer hours (and picking up others’ slack) comes with the title. But it should also come with proper compensation. She might feel her dedication speaks well of her to the powers that be, and that’s probably true. But her boss is legally responsible for ensuring that she isn’t working unpaid overtime, and if they find out she is, their first concern might be liability – she could sue the employer for uncompensated wages, and win. To her employer, this may become a strong reason to discipline or fire her; to limit their liability and establish a paper trail showing the overtime wasn’t authorized.
If she is just another peon, maybe she is putting in extra time to try and impress the higher-ups; ease her way into a better position. See above for liability. That said, climbing ladders can be difficult to begin with. Women, constantly reminded by studies, media and reality, are well aware that “her” hours are statistically worth less than “his.” Some ladies feel they need to work harder to have the same value as a male counterpart.
Is she genuinely passionate about her work and enjoys it so much she loses track of time? Ye olde adage “do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” comes to mind. If this is the case, maybe don’t begrudge her a little extra time doing something she loves. Odds are she’ll burn out on the extra time sooner or later and start working more normal hours. She works retail? C’mon, how long could she possibly torture herself?
Is she an obsessive type and thus feels compelled to complete ALL THE THINGS before coming home? See if you can help her find a way to be better organized or more efficient with her daytime so she can finish on time and be able to come home and enjoy her nighttime.
Or maybe, her most effective hours are when the doors of the shop close. Oh, that blissfully sweet quiet spot, when there are no more customers and no more ringing phones. When one can blast the music and get shit done! If that is the case, can she rework her schedule to come in later?
You must really dig your wife to pine for her while she is whiling away her extra time at work. Are you not content with the free me-time she offers you? A lot of gents might think of that as extra time to surf internet porn, watch shitty TV or have a pre-dinner dinner.
Unless you guys are parents.
Then it probably feels a little like you’re Betty Draper making sure homework is done, wounds are kissed, baths are had, and mouths are fed; dutifully waiting for your spouse to return. And this, likely after you’ve had a full day’s work as well. One person bearing the brunt of parent-time puts a strain on a relationship, and the kids… and the relationship with the kids. I don’t care what worked for the wives of Madmen – we’ve evolved past that noise. And, the range of reality-altering prescription drugs has reduced dramatically in the past sixty years. Nowadays, successful relationships require attention, communication and empathy (wine an weed are still good helpers).
We’ve also learned parenting requires all available hands on deck. Whether it’s a spouse, older siblings, aunts, elders, neighbors or villages – we have to be able to pass these little people off once in a while or go stir-crazy. If you are feeling overwhelmed, let her know. Tell her succinctly and not in a moment of frustration, you need her help.
If you’re hip to playing the guilt card, (which is okay in moderation) remind her there really is only so much day in a day. We keep scaling back our human interactions with loved ones. Especially working parents, who miss so much of their children’s lives. Remind her these kids are only kids for 157,680 hours. She’s already missing out on 37,440 of those… before overtime.
Advice, via Brahm is for entertainment purposes only. We are not lawyers and this information is not intended as legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.
Do you need some life advice? Submit your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and you may see your answer get published in a future column.