Workers who aspire to climb the management ladder strive for the opportunity to move from hourly-wage, crew-level positions to salaried management positions with performance-based incentives. What they lose in overtime pay they gain in the stature and sense of accomplishment that comes from being a salaried manager.As is well known, grocery stores and car dealerships accept stature and a sense of accomplishment as payment.
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The motivation for Puzder's op-ed in (of course) the Wall Street Journal is President Barack Obama's plan to expand overtime eligibility. Currently, a worker making less than $24,000 can be called a "manager" and stripped of overtime protections, and the fast food industry makes heavy use of that fact. Obama's proposal to raise the threshold significantly higher would change the calculation that many fast food and retail companies make in using low-salaried "managers" to do the work of hourly employees the businesses aren't willing to pay for. For instance, Dave Jamieson reported last year on a Dollar General manager in this position:
Pressured to keep payroll down, Hughey spent most of her time unloading trucks, stocking shelves and manning the cash register, often logging 12-hour days, six days a week, to keep the store operating. She said she felt less like a manager than a manual laborer.Maybe Puzder's fast food chains pay their salaried managers better and require less ridiculous hours of them. But his freakout over the possibility that he'd have to pay some of those managers overtime suggests that Carl's Jr. and Hardee's are in fact relying heavily enough on salaries below the threshold Obama might set as the new overtime exemption level and forcing those managers to work what would be substantial overtime.
Dollar General saved a bundle by having Hughey do much of the grunt work. As a salaried manager, she was exempt from overtime protections and didn't get paid for extra work. Given that she often worked 70 hours a week, at an annual salary of $34,700, her pay sometimes broke down to less than $10 per hour—hardly a managerial haul.
But hey, at least they have all that salaried-manager stature while they're doing non-managerial work for far more than 40 hours a week.