"I'm going to fight to the end, all the way to trial if need be," says Susan James (not her real name pending a lawsuit) of Salinas, Monterey County.
"I worked as business manager for two years at a private college and I worked a lot of overtime; it averaged out to two hours per day, five days a week. I was never paid for weekend work, attending conferences or travel time. I never questioned whether or not I should get paid because I was classified as a salaried manager and therefore exempt. But I wasn't doing management work.
A woman I worked with finally brought this to my attention; she asked if I was getting compensated for all my overtime. She was on salary but classified as non-exempt and got overtime pay. We were performing the same duties with one difference: I was handling in-school billings and she did out-of-school billings. I also did bank deposits, collected cash and performed general accounting duties. I also posted student loans that came in electronically, reconciled and returned loans when necessary.
According to the federal regulations that determine a management position, I didn't even come close. I wasn't making any major decisions, no hiring or firing, I wasn't even invited to management meetings. When my colleague found out that I was exempt, she made some inquiries and said I am owed a lot of money because I am not exempt. She told me that all the rules must apply to be in the exempt category, not just one or two.
Even then I didn't bring it up, I just let it go. But for the past year, I've been tracking my hours. When this woman quit the college, she had an exit interview with Human Resources and she mentioned to them that they should look into the way employees are being paid. At that time I didn't know about this discussion and I didn't find out about it until later.
About a month after she left I was given a new title under a non-exempt classification - same salary, same duties. Then I asked my director about all the overtime owing to me for the past two years. He just said that I was exempt. I considered this new title as an admission that I had been improperly classified for the past two years. And they owed me: my job description didn't qualify for a management position under the federal regulations. So I went to an attorney and he said the college has to pay me, so I filed a claim.
I still work here, but it's tense. I am not really part of the team anymore, just an outsider doing my job. Nobody talks to me in management. My direct boss and the boss of the entire campus haven't said two words to me, not even hello or goodbye, since the college was served the paperwork regarding my claim two months ago.
And here's another thing: We have bulletin boards that post every employee's title and photo, in every department. They updated the boards and left me out - no mention of me even working there.
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My boss doesn't even e-mail or talk to me anymore. Rather, she has someone from corporate office send me messages. Too bad she couldn't channel all this energy into positive work. What a waste of human resources.
I am not going to accept their offer and resign. It's not my fault that I was misclassified. HR is supposed to know who is exempt and who isn't; it is their job and their fault. They have to pay the penalties and pay for their mistakes. I'm going to fight to the end, all the way to trial if need be. It is wearing me down but I'm sticking to my beliefs and my work ethic."