Managers should not be paid overtime

Congress recently introduced legislation that would allow most federal managers below the GS-15 level to begin to receive "time and a half" for each overtime hour they work. This legislation, the Federal Employees Overtime Pay Act of 1998 (H.R. 582), would amend existing legislation to increase the cap on overtime so that managers and supervisors up to a GS-15 Step One would be able to receive overtime. The current cap does not allow overtime for employees beyond GS-10 Step One.

The Federal Managers Association endorsed this legislation and is encouraging its members to write their congressional representatives urging support of this bill. The FMA has even prepared a model letter for its members to send. "Because of an outdated law, managers and supervisors find that they are making less for overtime work than the employees they supervise," the letter says.

Although I ordinarily support efforts by federal employees to obtain more pay, I do not believe this issue is really about pay; this is about what is expected of a manager. Managers are senior employees who supervise subordinate workers. As such, they are expected to get the job done, come what may.

Managers are paid without regard for the number of hours worked. That's how it works in the private sector, where managers also must contend with the possibility that they will be fired if they don't get the job done. How many federal managers really face that prospect? The number is very small.

I am disappointed with the FMA. They are saying federal managers are not as committed to their jobs as their private-sector counterparts. During a period when the federal payroll is shrinking without any visible degradation in service, Americans on Main Street are probably wondering why so many employees were on the federal payroll in the first place. Against this backdrop, the timing of the FMA clamoring for overtime pay for federal managers couldn't be worse.

The FMA argued that "managers and supervisors in some agencies are leaving the ranks of management and returning to the bargaining unit so that they can earn a higher paycheck." If that's true, I say good riddance! Someone who is more concerned with making more money than his subordinates than with doing a good job should not be a manager.

The FMA noted that Congress first placed a cap on overtime in 1954 when it enacted legislation that limited overtime pay for managers at the level of GS-9 Step One. The cap was increased to current levels 12 years later in 1966. "In the 33 years since that time, however, nothing has been done to keep pace with changing work force realities," the FMA letter states.

Their argument is laughable. The reason overtime pay was limited to GS-10 Step One is that workers above that level are considered to be professionals. Professionals are not paid overtime.

--Bureaucratus is a retired federal employee who contributes regularly to Federal Computer Week.

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