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Don Burleson Blog 







Overtime pay for salaried computer professionals?

Oracle Database Tips by Donald BurlesonMay 10, 2015

 I have a salaried exempt position as a computer support professional (Oracle DBA), and I am now being asked to work for free on evenings and weekends.  When I complain I'm told "that why you make the bug bucks", and they note that as a salaried professional I get stock options and other perks. 

What are the customs regarding overtime pay for computer professionals?

I'm not an attorney, and this is not legal advice, but I do know that pay customs for computer professionals vary widely by country and jurisdiction.  Historically, "professionals" comprised only three groups, physicians, attorneys and soldiers, but this expanded in the 20th century.

Regarding abuse of a salaried pay structure, I was at one shop where I would work all night, and then get yelled at for coming-in at 11:00 AM, after only 3 hours of sleep. They could not hire DBA's fast enough, as they were quitting rapidly.  On my next job, I negotiated a "comp time" deal where I got 1.5x time off for evening and weekend work.

The traditional salaried professional is supposed to do whatever it takes to get the job done, and working evenings and weekends is part-and-parcel of DBA's job.

Types of computer professionals and salaries

As I stress, payment customs for computer professionals vary widely by country and jurisdiction.  I've noticed two tiers of DBA's, the traditional "professional DBA" (with a professional degree and qualifications), and lower-skilled "contractor DBA", without a professional background.  See my notes on Oracle professionals salaries and compensation.

In some places, Oracle is considered a "trade" (wage), while in other areas a professional background is required (salary).

In some circles, a professional background is not even desirable for a computer professional, and in some countries, Oracle is a "craft", not a profession:

"I have a very basic high school education but left pretty quickly to play around with computers and taught myself.   I've lost count of the number of degree-educated colleagues who I wouldn't allow near a database. This is a craft"

Over the years, I've worked for many Fortune 500 Corporations, and there is a wide variance in DBA work policies.  In general, there are two-tiers of computer professionals:

  • Hourly Technician (non exempt) - These are computer technicians without any formal education or university training in computer science or information systems, usually "database babysitters", who earn anywhere from $25 - $40 per hour in the USA. Like all wage earners, they get overtime pay, etc, but they do not enjoy the "exempt" goodies (stock options, private office, secretary).
  • Salaried Professional (Exempt) - If the computer professional has an advanced degree and high responsibility.  If the pay is more than a low-level manager, the HR departments usually make them salaried professionals.

An Oracle ACE notes that extra hours are part of any computer professionals job:

"Any computer professional worth his salt is going to have to put in the extra hours.

In every place I have ever worked, it was written into the job description. And if the employee can't figure out what the line about 'carrying a pager and working on call means', he has no business being a DBA.

Most places reasonable about granting comp time when the hours added up, mostly because they like to keep their good computer staff.

There are times when the hours are just going to add up working weekend after weekend, and there are going to be a couple of months every year where you go home at 5 every day. The trick is to manage your database well enough that those late hours are most often for managed downtimes, upgrades, new hardware and such, and not major crises.

But, when it gets right down to it, a DBA is like any other Information Systems professional; they are going to have to work the excess hours, it goes with the job.

And by the way, don't whine about working the long hours. An Oracle DBA is expected to be a responsible professional, and nothing can hurt morale at a company more than someone continually griping, whether it be long hours or unreasonable bosses.

If you want a full time DBA job at a single company, the drawback will be the on call hours.

Very few companies will hire a full time Information Technology support person at an hourly wage, at least in the US. They will expect the person to work the necessary hours without additional monetary compensation.

Typically the compensation is reasonable for the job and additional hours. As I said, most companies are reasonable about comp time for the extra hours, but if you aren't willing to work the occasional 'white night' without extra pay, you might as well find another line of work. Its just part of the DBA's job.

Of course, hiring an outside consultant is a different issue, and companies will pay a flat hourly rate for that. Consultants however are often hired for a single job/project, not as full time staff.

However, in other countries no doubt the expectation is different, I am talking only about the US in this case. "

Reference on salaries for computer professionals:

The U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration Wage and Hour Division has published Fact Sheet #17E: Exemption for Employees in Computer-Related Occupations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  It notes:

"Computer Employee Exemption
To qualify for the computer employee exemption, the following tests must be met:

? The employee must be compensated either on a salary or fee basis at a rate not less than $455 per week or, if compensated on an hourly basis, at a rate not less than $27.63 an hour;

? The employee must be employed as a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer or other similarly skilled worker in the computer field performing the duties described below;

? The employee's primary duty must consist of:

1) The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to
determine hardware, software or system functional specifications;

2) The design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to user or system design specifications;

3) The design, documentation, testing, creation or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems; or

4) A combination of the aforementioned duties, the performance of which requires the same level of skills.

The computer employee exemption does not include employees engaged in the manufacture or repair of computer hardware and related equipment.

Employees whose work is highly dependent upon, or facilitated by, the use of computers and computer software programs (e.g., engineers, drafters and others skilled in computer-aided design software), but who are not primarily engaged in computer systems analysis and programming or other similarly skilled computer-related occupations identified in the primary duties test described above, are also not exempt under the computer employee exemption."




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