Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.

DEAR CARRIE: I am an exempt employee at a major company. The work recently assigned to the six of us was previously handled by 90 other people. We are scheduled to work 7.75 hours a day, but the daily workload takes much longer to complete. And because we are exempt, we are not paid overtime. Do we have any recourse? -- Weary at Work

DEAR WEARY: If you are truly exempt, you don't have any recourse under labor laws. That's because employers, with only a few exceptions, can require employees to work any number of hours. And they don't have to pay exempt workers for the extra time.

That's the legal spiel.

Here's the moral (and morale) side of your issue. It's difficult to feel a sense of accomplishment with such an unrealistic workload.

But what you will feel eventually is burnout and a loss of productivity.

So you and your colleagues need to have a sit-down en masse with your managers. If your group has already tried that, try again.

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The managers need to know or be reminded about how frustrating it is to try to stretch oneself to do work once handled by more than 10 times your number.

Many employees who have written to me about difficult working conditions were afraid to speak up because they feared becoming unemployed in what is still a challenging job market.

But if you don't speak up, your employer may not have a clue what you and your co-workers are battling each day.

After all, asking six people to do the work of 90 shows a pretty high level of cluelessness.

DEAR CARRIE: I worked at a company that hired an individual as a contractor. He worked 40 hours a week at an agreed-upon rate. He received no benefits.

Because of financial difficulties, the company delayed his paychecks on a regular basis. He was later laid off, with the company owing him several thousand dollars.

The company ultimately ceased operations, and despite his many requests for payment, the company has stonewalled him with various excuses.

What legal recourse does he have?

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He has copies of all his hours worked and all emails exchanged with company headquarters concerning the money owed him. -- Lost Wages?

DEAR LOST: Your friend sounds more like an employee than an independent contractor, especially since the company determined his hours. Independent contractors generally control their own hours.

"Based on the question, he is almost certainly an employee," said Mark B. Portnoy of Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates, a Syosset human-resource and labor-relations consulting firm.

Assuming he was an employee, he could opt to contact the state Department of Labor for help or file a private lawsuit, Portnoy said.