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Working without California Overtime Doesn’t Spell Job Security

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Modesto, CAAll too often in at-will employment states such as California, people work overtime without compensation because they mistakenly believe that free labor will help secure their jobs. When employees are wrongfully terminated, however, they often retaliate by filing a California overtime lawsuit. Debra is one of those people - she regularly worked 10-hour days and never took a lunch break. “I loved my job, I was dedicated and never asked for overtime but I was terminated anyway,” she says.

Debra, age 48, worked as a club steward at a private sailing club. For the first two years she didn’t mind working extra hours without overtime - she wanted to “get ahead.” But she soon found out that her dedication and hard work didn’t pay off.

“I cared about my job and wasn’t expecting to be paid more than eight-hours a day, even though I never worked less than 10 hours, and never claimed for my half-hour lunch break,” says Debra. Rest breaks, as stipulated in the California labor code, weren’t even considered. Even though she hardly ever took a lunch break, 30 minutes was always deducted from her pay. “It was understood because the work had to be done,” she explains. “My immediate boss, the manager of the club, said they don’t pay overtime but she offered comp time. I agreed because there wasn’t much choice. However, I only collected a few days on comp time.” As well, Debra’s manager never kept track of her time worked, so comp time was at her boss’s discretion.

“My job description was over three pages long,” Debra says. “Only the manager (my boss) and I ran the club. I maintained the clubhouse, and ordered everything for events (sometimes 200 boats would have a party after a race, which meant catering for an additional 1,000 people); I did billing and wrote the monthly newsletter; I did just about everything except clean the toilets.”

Debra can’t pinpoint exactly when things started going sideways, but the last two years at the club were like working in a toxic environment. The manager hired her husband to do all the maintenance work and Debra says she had to pick up the slack - she didn’t want to stab anyone in the back.

“I started to feel like I was being taken advantage of,” Debra explains. “There was no avenue for me to complain or anyone to complain to, because every year the club had a new Board of Directors. I wrote a few letters to them but I was angry when I wrote them and didn’t want to make waves because I still loved my job. But around this time I started to ask my manager for overtime. She refused to pay the hours reflected on my time clock.

“For instance, I arrived at my scheduled time for a ladies luncheon and worked 14 hours. After the event, I cleaned up, folded tables, swept - everything my duties called for. But I was only paid for eight hours. I didn’t keep track of my hours, but if someone looked at my time cards it would be obvious because I punched into the time clock.

“The manager fired me last September - I have no doubt that I was wrongfully terminated. In the four years that I worked, I never got a review. She didn’t even let me see my personnel file when she terminated me. I think she was vindictive: because there were so many maintenance issues someone was going to get fired and I was the scapegoat.”

Debra did contact one board member after she was fired. The club’s bylaws state that you can contact a member of the board without fear of retaliation. Debra says the member went to bat for her and her overtime issues but the rest of the board turned a blind eye.

Not only did she not get overtime compensation, Debra didn’t get all her vacation pay. In those four years, she only took one vacation. Now she wants to be compensated and hopes it isn’t too late.

“It has taken me a long time to file an overtime complaint,” Debra explains. “I was hurt because I worked so hard, and I am still healing. They never gave me a chance to defend myself after I was fired. I don’t want to stay mad all the time but I want to go through the legal process now. Workers shouldn’t let this kind of abuse go for this long. Shame on my manager and shame on the board of directors. All my hard work didn’t seem to make a difference.”

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READER COMMENTS

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He wasn't paid overtime, the owner said anything after 40 hours in a week. Sometimes he worked surgeries 17 straight hours handling multiple jobs and no breaks or lunches. The pay sometimes was delayed until he choose to sign it. Also, verbal abuse and harassment and promised profit sharing but not given as well as medical benefits. One more thing, also he filed him as 120-99 last year when he was a full time employee and he doesn't think he paid his states or federal taxes.

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She is a Spanish caller. She is calling to let you know that her employers would not give her regular breaks of lunch breaks. She said that a co-worker was trying to have sex with her. She told her employer and he did not do anything. Please call her back.

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