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Too Many Managers: The Strategic Use of Titles to Avoid Overtime Payments


  • Lauren Cohen
  • Umit Gurun
  • N. Bugra Ozel


We find widespread evidence of firms appearing to engage in overtime payment avoidance by exploiting a federal law that allows them to side-step doing so for “managers” who are paid above a pre-defined salary threshold. We show that listings for managerial positions just above the federal regulatory threshold exhibit an almost five-fold increase, including listings of managerial positions such as “Directors of First Impression,” whose jobs are otherwise equivalent to non-managerial employees (in this case, a front desk clerk). Overtime avoidance is more pronounced when firms have stronger bargaining power and employees have weaker rights. Moreover, it is more pronounced for firms with financial constraints, as well as when there are weaker external local labor options. Lastly, the results are stronger in occupations with more volatility in labor demand, when there is more uncertainty in labor scheduling, and for occupations in low-wage industries that are penalized more often for overtime violations. Our results suggest a broad usage of overtime avoidance using job titles across industries, locations and over time - if anything becoming stronger through the present day. Moreover, the wages avoided are substantial - we estimate that firms avoid roughly 13.5% in overtime expenses for each strategic “manager” hired during our sample period.

Suggested Citation

  • Lauren Cohen & Umit Gurun & N. Bugra Ozel, 2023. "Too Many Managers: The Strategic Use of Titles to Avoid Overtime Payments," NBER Working Papers 30826, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:30826
    Note: AP CF LE LS PE POL

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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Bayer & Moritz Kuhn, 2023. "Job Levels and Wages," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 1190, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G30 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - General
    • G38 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • M51 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Firm Employment Decisions; Promotions
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management

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