I’m a medical administrator of a nonprofit organization. I am married and have young children. When I was hired, my job description indicated that my work was split between 50% patient care and 50% administrative and I was told it was a 37.5 hour work week. I didn’t quite understand what exempt was at the time. I generally worked between 40 – 45 hours a week.
Two years ago, my new boss changed my job description despite my protests and indicated that it should be 80% patient care and 20% admin. However I continue to do the same admin time as before. In fact in the last two years, two other positions have been downsized or changed with “green” replacements at lower salaries, but some of their duties have fallen into my lap by default because they didn’t have the experience or credentials to do the job. I’ve done what needs to get done. I strive for excellence. Now I’m working 50-60 hours a week. I’ve tried whatever I could to streamline processes, addressed any inefficiencies as best as I can including delegating to others or giving back tasks to those “green” individuals, to bring those hours down. I’ve gotten some relief with (not even) a day’s time admin asst. (something I requested), but I’m getting burned out because my boss continues to give me more projects and when I complain, he says “You’re exempt”; unfortunately there really isn’t anyone else around that could do these projects. We are a small organization. He and the others executive administrators work long hours because their kids are grown. I probably would too if my kids were grown. MY family life is coming apart.
I know I could ask for monetary compensation and I would probably be granted it. However I don’t really want monetary compensation, I want to work less hours so I can spend more time with my family. I suspect that the only solution left is to leave the job I love. The only advantage I have at this point is that it will be hard to replace me. I hope you can help me.
So here are my questions:
How does one determine what is considered reasonable for one person to do and how does one negotiate this? What prevents an employer from collapsing two full time jobs into one and calling it exempt? Did I legally (I know you are not a lawyer) have a say when my job description changed? How do I say no to something without risking getting fired? What do you think I should do now? Thanks, I look forward to getting your answer!
There aren’t too many legal protections for the exempt employee–that’s why we call you exempt, because you are exempt from the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act. So, no, you can’t sue or prevent an employer from changing your job description. (And I answer this as a non-lawyer who does not give legal advice.)
What is reasonable? Well, I know a heck of a lot of people who regularly work 50-60 hour weeks. It’s part of what is expected in many jobs. They whine and complain about it, of course, but it’s what is expected and everybody does it.
I myself, am whiny about such things, but I do it when required. I wouldn’t, however, do it all the time. I would find a new job.
See, that’s the beauty of the situation–your boss doesn’t hold all the power. You can always leave. (Sometimes, I think people worry more about quitting an unpleasant job than they do about leaving an unpleasant marriage, but that’s another topic altogether.)
Your boss knows that you can always leave. Therefore, you need to use this to your advantage. Not by threatening or throwing a fit, but by being confident. Schedule a meeting and explain your concerns. When he says, “you’re exempt!” you can reply that, yes, you are aware of that, but your responsibilities have grown to the point that you can no longer accomplish all of them within a reasonable time frame.
Ask him how many hours a week he thinks is reasonable. “You’re exempt! You get the job done!” He’ll say. “Yes, but how many hours do you think I should be working? When I was hired, my expectations were at 40-45. I’m now working 50-60. Can you help me either prioritize or work more efficiently so that I can accomplish everything in 40-45 hours per week?”
If you’ve had these discussions, but no success, then it’s time to start looking for a new job. But, first, ask for a raise. You said you could probably get one. So, get one. It will help you in your job hunt if your salary is higher.
Keep in mind that a similar job in a different place may require similar hours. That’s the way it is.
You could also attempt to negotiate something different. Flextime, working from home for some of the stuff (obviously, patient care couldn’t be done from home), working 4 days a week instead of 5. All these things could help you improve your work-life balance without cutting the amount of work you do.
If your boss truly values you–and is not an idiot–he’ll be open to solutions. He knows you can quit and it’s harder to fill a lousy job than a good one.
And, if you want to climb in the bitter tree with me, after I quit one job, they replaced me–with 4 people. FOUR! And not only did they replace me with four people, all 4 of them made at least $25,000 more a year than I did. Can you say I was under appreciated and over-worked? Hmmm, just a little. It happens. It stinks.