Overtime Pay for E-mails? Debate Grows

Tabitha (also an alias), who works for a record label in Los Angeles and uses a company-provided BlackBerry, is a bit more stringent with her after-hours e-mail checking. She's enacted what she calls her "15-minute rule."

"I do an extra 15 minutes or so a couple times a week, max," she said. "It's usually when I'm working on a big project. They're time-sensitive, so I end up checking my e-mail after hours to see if somebody responded. At the record label, a lot happens between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m., and I like knowing what everyone is going to be talking about the next day."

Thirty unpaid minutes a week may not seem like a lot -- until you multiply that by 50 weeks and realize you're giving away 25 hours of work a year. For the full-time, $20/hour employee, that's $500 in gross pay sacrificed.

My advice to those giving their employer 30, 60 or 90 free minutes a week so they can keep up with the workload? Track your off-the-clock efforts, and make sure you leave the office early once in a while to make up for it. Don't settle for the short end of the digital stick.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist, author and former cubicle dweller. Her books — "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube" -- offer an irreverent take on the traditional career guide. More tips on career change, flex work and the freelance life can be found on her blog, Anti9to5Guide.com.

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