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Overtime pay could be limited for high-tech New Jersey workers

In New Jersey, workers are afforded overtime wages pursuant to both federal and state employment law. In general, under the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law, workers must be paid time-and-one-half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours, with some exceptions.

Under New Jersey law, those employed in executive, administrative, professional or outside sales capacities are exempt from overtime protections. Under federal law, certain highly skilled professionals also do not qualify for overtime--such as doctors, lawyers and some computer workers. A bill introduced in U.S. congress last fall may expand the number of computer workers who are not entitled to overtime pay.

High-tech computer professionals were added to the federal list of workers excluded from overtime in 1990. Currently, computer professionals who do work such as systems analysis and programming (and earn at least $455 per week or $27.63 per hour) do not have a legal right to overtime pay under federal law.

The new bill would expand this list to include workers who complete tasks such as securing, configuring, integrating and debugging computer systems.

It is not yet clear how many workers this would affect in the New Jersey area, but more than 3 million people work in computer-related jobs in the U.S.

Technology companies who support the legislation are arguing that reforms are needed to keep computer jobs in the U.S. Technology workers overseas are paid much less than U.S. workers.

The common reason for excluding professions from overtime rights is that very highly skilled employees are better positioned to negotiate suitable wages, hours and conditions. Additionally, such employees tend to keep flexible schedules, including evening and weekend hours, which are difficult to track.

Opponents of the law, including many professionals in this industry, have argued that they deserve to be paid for the long hours they must keep.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Source: McClatchy Newspapers, "Overtime bill pits needs of high-tech employers vs. workers," Franco Ordonez, Feb. 7, 2012

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