As an employment lawyer who represents workers, the changing dynamics in the workplace, especially corporate America, are simply fascinating to me. You’ve probably heard about the “Great Resignation” and perhaps about the growth of unionization campaigns at places like Starbucks, Amazon, and Apple. Now there is a new trend, “quiet quitting.” And although I take some issue with the term as it seems to have somewhat of a negative connotation to it, the concept may be the next wave in the movement to bring about substantive change to workplace culture.
So, first off, quiet quitting does not involve actually quitting your job. Quiet quitting is not the employment equivalent of the Irish goodbye. Workers who are quiet quitting are continuing to work. In fact, they are at least theoretically continuing to do a good job at their jobs. Quiet quitting isn’t about being lazy or unmotivated, it is about setting appropriate boundaries in employment relationships—relationships that for far too long have had an unfair imbalance of power in favor of employers.
Now, workers are looking to take back some of that power back and prioritizing their personal lives, mental health, and overall well-being. Workers who are quiet quitting are doing so by working reasonable hours, not reading or responding to emails or calls after they’ve logged off for the day or left the office, refusing to take on tasks that they will not be able to complete without sacrificing their evenings or weekends to do so, taking vacations, etc. They are standing up against the hustle culture mentality.
The question that remains is how employers will respond to workers who are setting reasonable boundaries. We all know the key to a happy relationship is setting and respecting boundaries. But will employers respect the boundaries workers are setting? Also, are they required to by law?
The law that certainly comes into play when thinking about the concept of quiet quitting is the Fair Labor Standards Act, the FLSA. The FLSA requires employers to pay minimum wage and overtime for most non-exempt employees. But these protections only apply to non-exempt employees. This can lead to employers attempting to get around the requirements of the FLSA by classifying employees as exempt. However, such a classification is not always proper (i.e. not all employees can be exempt).
To be properly classified as exempt, an employee must fall under a specific FLSA exemption based on their job duties and be paid on a salary basis. If your job doesn’t meet the duties under one of the specific exemptions from the FLSA, then you cannot be properly classified as exempt regardless of whether your employer pays you on a salary basis. Similarly, even if your job duties would qualify you to be exempt, you’re entitled to overtime pay if your employer fails to pay you a guaranteed salary.
Unfortunately, if you are properly classified as exempt under the FLSA, there may not be as many protections for quiet quitting as you would have hoped . . . at least not in Texas. However, every case is unique.
If you feel like your employer has violated the FLSA by misclassifying you or failing to pay you overtime, contact an employment attorney right away to make sure you understand your rights and have the best chance of recovering what money you may be entitled to. Or, if you simply feel you are overworked and would like to talk with an employment lawyer about the facts of your case, call our office to schedule a consultation. If you want to attempt to make change in your workplace, there may be ways to go about it that will help protect you.