News that Urban Outfitters asked salaried employees to volunteer for weekend work performing warehouse tasks highlights one of the more insidious consequences of today's overtime pay rules. Because the earnings floor for exempting salaried employees from minimum wage and overtime pay is a poverty-level $23,600, companies can and do expect these employees to spend evening and weekend hours doing the work of hourly employees — and they pay them nothing at all for it.
It's a big bonus for big businesses like Urban Outfitters, which reported "record sales" (that's a direct quote from their press release) in the second quarter of 2015 and whose CEO's net worth exceeds $1 billion, according to the Forbes billionaires list. But for modestly-paid salaried employees and low-wage hourly workers, the losses of time and income are significant and substantial.
Some of Urban Outfitters' salaried employees report average annual pay less than $35,000, translating into less than $17 an hour if you're assuming a 40-hour workweek. The last thing employees like these need is additional unpaid hours, eating into time with their families or on their own, including for some, school or second jobs. Meanwhile, warehouse workers typically get less than $15 an hour for the kind of work Urban Outfitters wants its salaried employees to do for free. These workers want and need more income, which they can achieve only through higher wages or more hours. But as is true for millions of other low-wage workers across America, real hourly wages for line workers in warehouses are falling rather than rising. And their work week averages less than 40 hours, the tipping point at which time-and-a-half premium pay kicks in.