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Opinion Columns

Opinion: Driving salaried employees to the burnout point doesn’t benefit anyone

In November, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) released a draft proposal guaranteeing overtime protections to more salaried workers in our state.

This is a great step forward for more than 200,000 workers like me who do not receive compensation for working over 40 hours a week because they are salaried.

In 58 years, I have had several jobs. Some were hourly, some were salaried. I’ve had employers who valued me, my time, and my work/life balance.

Jeff Noble

Today, I do not have that, so the expansion of overtime protections is very welcome. Guaranteed overtime will benefit many workers immediately. 

However, the proposed phase-in period means that workers like me, who make over the $42,500 starting salary, likely won’t see the benefit.

READ: Colorado’s minimum wage rules don’t apply to farm, construction and other jobs. But that might be changing.

Before the salary for guaranteed overtime reaches $50,000 – my current salary – I will be out of the workforce. Because of this, I encourage CDLE to reach the $57,500 level faster than in the proposed Colorado Overtime & Minimum Pay Standards (COMPS) order.

Currently, in my position in the construction field, I work more than 10 hours a day. If I stop for a meal or rest break, it only adds time to the end of my already long days that require driving between 200 and 300 miles. I signed the job offer, and I accept the responsibilities that come with it.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

But these hours have led to me not having time to rest at my job because I am worried about not having time outside of work to spend with my family. In some ways, it has become a never-ending cycle.

I have been noticing myself and many of my fellow employees feel like they are being squeezed to the breaking point, which is bad for productivity and morale.

Some of my co-workers have left their jobs with no warning or are so drained after being at their desks for 11 or 12 hours every day that they throw fits of anger.

Because of how low Colorado’s overtime salary threshold is, workers don’t have any way to set limits on the number of hours they are being asked to work without risking termination and losing your livelihood.

It’s hard on my family when I come home and am unable to participate in daily life activities. I have a strong work ethic, and I am a firm believer in working hard for a living. But driving salaried employees to the burnout point doesn’t benefit anyone.

Even my weekends are disrupted by the fact that I just need more sleep and cannot complete basic daily chores like grocery shopping during the week.

I don’t want to financially hurt my employer. In fact, I like my job, just not so much of it every single day. I think this new rule creates a real opportunity for both employees and employers to benefit.

Employers will become more efficient on a daily basis if they know they will have to pay overtime to salaried employees. Employees in turn will feel more engaged in the work.

My family and I cannot wait six years for these changes to take effect. People like me need these protections now. I urge CDLE to reach the $57,500 level faster than in the proposed COMPS order and continue to phase in higher protections, so people like me are not left to work excessive hours for free for years to come.

Jeff Noble is a construction worker. He lives in Denver.