WATCH: Fox News Complains That Overtime Pay Kills Americans’ Work Ethic

Overtime pay kills the American work ethic, according to Fox News.

Fox News discussed Obama’s changes to overtime laws, and said that overtime pay keeps workers from working hard, and that it destroys America’s work ethic.

Overtime pay is killing the American work ethic, according to the talking heads on Fox News. They think that if people just work harder, they’ll get their due. To them, worker protections like overtime pay laws undermine people’s desire to work harder for extra pay.

This is in response to President Obama’s executive order to the Department of Labor to revise the overtime pay law in the Fair Labor Standards Act. The purpose, he said, is to expand overtime pay to millions more Americans, who currently aren’t getting paid fairly for the amount of work that they do.

Workers at the federal poverty line aren’t necessarily entitled to overtime pay, no matter how many hours they work.

Loopholes in the overtime pay law allow employers to have some employees work longer than 40 hours a week, without compensating them for it. These employees are typically white-collar employees in management or administrative positions. They must earn a minimum of $455 per week, on a salary basis, in order to qualify for that exemption. This means that someone earning as little as $24,000 per year can be legally exempt from overtime pay. For a family of four, that’s at the federal poverty line.

So, under current law, a company could designate someone a supervisor, give them just barely enough managerial discretion to qualify, work them for 60 hours a week, and get away with paying them only $24,000 per year.

According to NPR, Jeff Grabelsky, associate director at Cornell University’s Worker Institute, said there could be several million workers who are wrongly classified as “management” right now, and a change in the overtime rules could help them.

Worker compensation hasn’t kept up with productivity or consumer prices.

Furthermore, worker pay in general hasn’t grown as much as productivity has over the last 40 years. The Heritage Foundation put out a paper that says worker compensation has kept up with productivity, and the problem is fewer high-skilled workers. The Washington Post took that apart, saying that James Sherk, the author of Heritage’s paper, looked at costs and productivity differently than how experts traditionally look at them. In doing so, he used data to “prove” that compensation has kept up with productivity, so everything’s fine. Sherk argues that companies pay their workers based on what they can sell their products and services for, which is true. However, the Heritage paper doesn’t change the fact that worker pay has been more or less stagnant for decades.

There’s also the fact that executive pay has ballooned considerably faster than worker pay over the same period. If the average employee is paid based on what the company can sell its products for, then what of executives? There are actually three wedges between productivity gains and worker pay, according to Bloomberg-Businessweek. The first is that owners of capital (shareholders) are taking bigger shares of the gains in national income. The second is that high earners, like executives, are getting disproportionate shares of the pay gains. The third is that consumer prices are rising faster than worker pay.

Since 2000, the first two wedges have been the biggest. Increasing the number of workers who are legally eligible for overtime pay may help that.

Of course, economists are divided on new overtime rules just as they’re divided on the minimum wage. Both situations have the same disagreement, which is whether increasing worker pay will provide the stimulus the economy really needs, or if it will just kill jobs and hours.

There’s a major reason we have a law requiring overtime pay.

The Fox News talking heads also don’t understand the history of worker protections, and why they even exist. Prior to 1938, when the overtime pay law was instituted, work hours were often very long and difficult. Employers even took advantage of high rates of poverty at the time to keep their workers around the clock, because they knew those workers needed to feed their families. Business has a very, very long history of exploiting and abusing workers. If companies actually wanted to reward hard work, they would already, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The reason they don’t right now is because they don’t have to, and they know it.

The bottom line is that workers have less and less reason to work hard and be productive. Hoping your boss will recognize your hard work and pay you accordingly doesn’t drive work ethic, because workers see that’s not happening anymore. Overtime pay isn’t a disincentive; it’s a reward. To get overtime pay, you have to work overtime. Companies will have to decide whether to allow overtime or hire more workers, particularly if their demand goes up. This is something that Fox News clearly doesn’t even try to understand.

Here’s the video via Media Matters.