A former technical writer for Sun Microsystems has filed a class action lawsuit against Sun, claiming that writers are unfairly assigned exempt status.
Dani Hoenemier says she worked long days as a technical writer for Sun Microsystems, sometimes spending over 60 hours a week at her computer when the company was preparing a new product release.
Sun’s technical writers may earn salaries of $100,000 a year, but they don’t get overtime pay for the extra hours, according to Hoenemier’s attorney, who is challenging the company’s practice of treating Hoenemier and about 300 other writers as exempt from state labor laws governing overtime and breaks.
Wow – a single technical writer (that the company calls “disgruntled”) managed to create this firestorm of controversy. I don’t get it. Most technology workers, including writers, are exempt (I have exempt status). It’s a fairly standard way of doing things nowadays. Everyone knows this before they sign an employment contract.
I’ve heard (through private channels) of at least one Sun employee who expressed frustration at how the lawsuit might negate a long-term effort by the writers to get themselves recognized as professionals on their own merits. I’m sure it goes without saying that this is probably a common frustration among the writers — hence why the article goes on to say:
Many of the writers don’t want to be hourly workers and have declined to cooperate with the lawsuit, Sun said in a statement. In court, Sun argued the case should not be a class action because the writers don’t have uniform duties.
Superior Court Judge Jack Komar disagreed, although he ordered Hoenemier’s attorneys to find a second employee willing to be named as a plaintiff in the case.
If the lawsuit continues, Sun could be out well over $20 million in back pay, which might just be enough to kill the company outright. And then what kind of backlash against tech writers would ensue…?