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By Anne Holub / PayScale
November 18, 2016

A janitor in San Francisco pulled in over $271,000 in pay and benefits last year … and six-figure salaries the three years before that.

No, it wasn’t his starting salary, no matter how crazy San Francisco rents have gotten. He works for BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit organization, for a salary of $57,000 per year. But since he’s working so much overtime, Liang Zhao Zhang brings home far more than his base pay.

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Why Working So Much Is Bad for the Economy (and Your Health)

When one person is working so much (in this case, an average of 76.9 hours per week) it shows that there’s actually a problem with staffing. When the average week is made up of 40 hours, and you have another 35-plus hours that are always available for overtime, managers are just better off hiring a second employee to split up the workload. That’s one person employers are keeping from working and earning a living, and one person who’s working into an early grave.

Working so much, even if someone says they’re willing, just isn’t healthy. Sleep deprivation and exhaustion can lead to higher injury rates, whether the worker in question is toiling with a computer or a broom.

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Why Location Makes a Difference

It’s one thing to be a janitor in a small town, but in San Francisco, it seems like everyone needs to make six figures to make ends meet, thanks to the high cost of living. One recent study by SmartAsset shows you need an income of over $216,000 to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. Even if this janitor doesn’t live in the city proper, he’s still probably paying a lot to live in one of the suburbs, which are also pricey.

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PayScale’s Career Research Center shows that janitors in the U.S. make a median wage of only $10/hour (which is about $23,000 per year). That’s also just a little under what the average San Francisco janitor makes, according to one source.

In short, the real story here isn’t that one janitor earns so much, but that he works so much in order to be able to do it. When workers have to put in massive amounts of overtime in order to make it financially, everyone suffers.

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