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Should You Play Ball With Unreasonable Job Requirements?

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Our local minor league baseball team had an exciting opportunity for a bright, hardworking individual. The internship offered an entry into the world of sports PR and the explicit promise of 100 hours per week.

I had to call the Indianapolis Indians to make sure that was really the case. In speaking with a representative, the posting is accurate.  Here is the relevant text as posted on the Hoosier PRSA Job Bank with some highlighting:

Full Time Communications Internship
 
Job Type Internship
 
Job ID 499
 
Date Posted 03/17/2010
 
Company Information Indianapolis Indians
 
Job Description 2010 Indianapolis Indians Internship ProgramBACKGROUND: The Indianapolis Indians are a professional Triple-A baseball club affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Indians play their home games at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis, a 14,500-seat ballpark that has received numerous local and national accolades. Since its opening in July of 1996, the ballpark has hosted over 8 million fans for Indians games, an average of over 8,200 fans per game. Victory Field features 28 luxury suites, five suite-level party areas, and two large picnic areas.POSITIONS: Communications (1)

SKILLS: Strong written and verbal communication skills.

Ability to multi-task in a fast-pace and stressful environment.

Comfortable providing excellent customer service skills.

Proficient with Microsoft Office and Adobe Create Suite software.

Ability to work up to 14 hours per day and up to 100 hours per week.

TIME FRAME: Resumes are accepted through March 26, 2010. Interviews will be scheduled no later then March 31, 2010.

DATES: April 1, 2010 – September 15, 2010

HOURS: Full Time Internship; 40+ hours per week in addition to all home games

SALARY: $700/month plus housing

If we ignore the rest of the details and focus just on the highlighted text, the opportunity seems incredulous. The phrase “up to fourteen hours a day” sounds like something out of the last century. In fact, much of the history of the industrial revolution consisted of a struggle to determine reasonable working conditions. We now generally think of work as eight hours a day, five days a week, thanks to all the efforts that culminated in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

worker productivity

© Flickr user daily sunny

The notion of “up to 100 hour per week” may also seem unbelievable. That would be twenty hours a day in a five day week.  Throw in Saturday, and you’re working an average of sixteen hours and 40 minutes. As the next portion explains, this time includes “all home games.” In April of 2010, the Indianapolis Indians will host nine games in a row, from Friday the 16th to Saturday the 24th. All but two of these games run until 10:00PM at night.

Finally, the job posting lists the salary: $700 a month plus housing. Although prices vary, one reliable source puts a generous apartment allowance in downtown Indianapolis at $1,000. The effective rate, therefore, is $1,700 a month. At 40 hours a week, that works out to a salary of $10.63 an hour. At 100 hours a week, it’s closer to $4.25/hour. The federally-mandated minimum wage, by the way, is $7.25/hour.

That doesn’t mean the Indianapolis Indians are planning to violate the law. In fact,  there is no legal limit on the number of hours an employee can be asked to work. However, it’s not clear if overtime is due is in this case. The Department of Labor explains on their website (emphasis added):

Section 13(a)(1) of the FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay for employees employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees. Section 13(a)(1) and Section 13(a)(17) also exempt certain computer employees. To qualify for exemption, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week. Job titles do not determine exempt status. In order for an exemption to apply, an employee’s specific job duties and salary must meet all the requirements of the Department’s regulations.

My estimation of $1,700 a month would work out to $425 a week, so I would say that the internship is not exempt from overtime pay laws. Therefore, according to the Department of Labor:

For covered, nonexempt employees, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires overtime pay at a rate of not less than one and one-half times an employee’s regular rate of pay after 40 hours of work in a workweek.

So how is it possible that a company can offer a job for a measly $1,700 a month and expect employees to work 14-hour days and 100-hour weeks? That would be inconceivable almost anywhere for the past hundred years. There is one reason why the Indianapolis Indians can post these details without a second thought: It’s baseball! What could be more exciting for a fresh young intern? Everybody knows that sports fans know no limits when it comes to sleep, obsession or team loyalty. Why should employees of sports franchises be any different? Aren’t they living the dream of spending all their time with the team and getting paid at the same time?

The sobering reality is that although baseball may be exciting, it is still a business.  Employees are human beings that need balance, personal lives, and sleep. Worker productivity will suffer from 14-hour days, whether they are logged in a bank, a non-profit or a stadium. No matter how tremendous or valuable the experience, we should never expect people to work 100 hours a week.

One blog post is not going to inspire the Indianapolis Indians or the entire sports world to reassess their attitude toward internships. The essential message for the rest of us, however, is to recognize the distinction between passion for an employer and passion for doing good work. We might be able to legally ask people to spend all their waking hours at the office, but that won’t produce results or satisfaction. The only reliable way to increase productivity is to increase trust and freedom, not working hours.

This is an old topic for us at AccelaWork. In fact, we covered the topic of employee satisfaction and loyalty over a year ago here on our blog. We’d love to chat about it more. Reach out to us. Contact our business improvement consulting firm. Talk to us about how you characterize work.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter

@robbyslaughter

Troublemaker and productivity/workflow expert. https://t.co/lJk8tIwe9q. Slightly more complex than 140 characters will permit.
Exhibit C: It was an option. It was even on the receipt. https://t.co/jgCabMuZdr - 1 week ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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