The Daily Gamecock

Column: Work hour caps bad for laborers

I come from a family raised with strong work ethic. My father, a senior wealth manager at BB&T, taught our family the value of hard work from day one.

I have personally experienced what I could call the consequences of being a hard worker. The better you work, the more your company desires you to work, the more tasks they delegate to you and the more hours and overtime you're forced to put in to complete these tasks.

When you work hard, companies hold you to a standard above other workers because they know what you are capable of and expect you to perform at that level every day.

The amount of hours employees are allowed to work is topping out. To me, this is a negative because workers may still be required to do the same amount of work, but employers are just giving them less paid office time to do so.

The expectations of employers stay the same, but the workload is just as intense. I have witnessed the ridiculous overtime my father has to work in order to keep up with the endless emails, phone calls, coordination and planning demanded of his position.

The opposition, voiced by Tim Wu of The New Yorker, argues for a cap to work hours, saying, "In white-collar jobs, the amount of work can expand infinitely through the generation of false necessities.”

But what if those necessities aren't false? Overtime pay is at least one-and-a-half times regular wage for a reason. The workers who will go the extra mile to provide for themselves or their family deserve compensation for the excess work they put in, in particular if their job requires them to work those extra hours just to keep up with the job.

Studies have shown overworking leads to work accidents. An article for the Occupation and Environmental Medicine journal said, "Working in jobs with overtime schedules was associated with a 61% higher injury hazard rate compared to jobs without overtime.”

So I propose that workers on rotating shifts supervise overtime workers, or at a minimum, check-ins by management be implemented. The overseeing managers would have the ability to send home overworked employees.

Especially with the layoffs in the economic downturn of 2007-2008, which caused a compression of responsibilities onto those who weren't fired, I believe a cap on work hours is just an extension of office downsizing.

Instead of decreasing pay or dismissing workers, businesses now decide to limit the hours they will let employees work. In some cases, they may give workers so few hours that the employee no longer receives healthcare.

Unless less is required of employees because of decreased work hours, stress will only increase because of the intensive out-of-office work they have to put in to keep up.

When there's a cap to the amount of hours allowed to work, some are desperate to get whatever hours possible to make enough money. Not being able to readjust your schedule for important events, taking care of family and other events creates a feeling of helplessness and enslavement to the company.

As a wife, summer employee and full-time student, I believe this is the principal workplace stressor.

When you have the option of being paid overtime for work that is not required but is still necessary for the nature of your position, you have the ability to realize whether you're willing to work extensively for your job, or if it's not worth it to you.

But when, because of the work hour cap, you no longer have a choice to work overtime and catch up when you need to, the reward and satisfaction that should come from work is extinguished.