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California Overtime: Two testamonials, one problem

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"I saw an article on your Website about IT people not getting paid overtime. I was just browsing the news so I was surprised."

Information technology (IT) people: wrongly classified as exempt

Chris Mathers of Northridge, California (not his real name pending a lawsuit; his lawyer recommends anonymity), works at IT for the state university:

About four years ago I had been receiving compensation time - if I worked overtime I was given the equivalent number of hours off. If I worked at night or on a weekend, I was OK with this arrangement. Then we got a new manager and when I put in for my compensation time he approved it but said it was no longer permitted.

Human Resources (HR) wrote me a memo that said as an exempt employee I am not eligible for overtime. That brings me to the present day. I continue to put in overtime but I stopped keeping a log after I got the letter. As a natural course of my job, I put in a few hours each day and weekends. My boss agreed with HR.

But then I talked to an attorney and found this out: As of 1997 people earning above $90,000 were not allowed to receive overtime but anything less than that, you were entitled to overtime. That means about 6,000 people here are owed overtime. We have 24 campuses all over the state of California, so this is huge.

Of course we have a union but it isn't doing much to help us. I am not a union member so I am reluctant to find out what is going on there. All of us IT people are looking for help elsewhere...

Employee's choice: work overtime or get fired

"I found out later that I wasn't the only one treated this way. Other employees didn't know it at the time but they had a choice: work overtime or get fired."

Harry Broom of Canoga Park, CA: The company I worked for, Pacesetter Safety Inc., deceived me into believing that if I stayed for five years, they would buy me a new car. I was constantly asked to do 'favors', always doing things that I was never compensated for. I used my car for company errands, pick-ups and deliveries and I always brought work home. I also worked a lot of Saturdays. Not once was I paid overtime.

After five years, my boss told me to pick a car, buy it and the company would pay up to $325 per month in payments. I bought a 2004 PT Cruiser, worth $25,000, and they said fine. When it came time for them to make the fourth payment, I was fired.

The reason? They said my quality of work had dropped and I had refused a reasonable request. I am a CNC (computerized numerical control) machinist. My boss wanted me to work on inventory parts but I was working on customer parts. The rule was always that the customer comes first and I didn't have time right then and there to do more work. They had increased my work load about 50 percent and then complained that I wasn't doing quality work.

I was fired one year ago. I figure they owe me at least $25,000 in overtime, not even including the work I did at home or the use of my car. My new car payments are hurting. I think that my boss knew I wouldn't be able to afford an attorney when he fired me, especially with these car payments. I think that was his intention all along.

Do you have any recourse?
I haven't found any yet. It looks like I am going to have to sell my hot rod (a 1969 Chevy El Camino that I have been restoring for 15 years) to get legal action. The consolation I have, if I do sell my car, is that I will be able to afford to take these guys to the cleaners.

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California Overtime Legal Help

If you work in California and you feel that you are owed overtime pay, please contact a lawyer involved in a possible [California Overtime Lawsuit] to review your case at no cost or obligation.

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