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California Worker Finds Comp Time for Overtime Never Materializes

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Santa Clara, CAWhen Terrence started working for Siemens at a Microsoft lab in California; he didn't realize that all his overtime would be unpaid. But that is exactly what happened. To make matters worse, when he complained he couldn't continue to work for free, he was fired.

Terrence worked as a lab manager, responsible for image servers and work stations. He started in December 2005 at the Microsoft technology Center in Mountain View. His regular paycheck was for a 40-hour work week, and he was paid by the hour.

"I had no control over the time they put in for me," he said. "The manager at Siemens put in the time for me and he always put in 40 hours."

Unpaid Overtime"In a typical week, Terrence could work overtime between four and eight hours, and usually worked overtime for at least half the year. He did a rough calculation of his hours and he believes he is owed at least 160 hours. The folks he worked with at Microsoft told him he could take comp time (paid leave) in exchange for his overtime, but his employees—Siemens—sent mixed messages. First, Siemens told him that he could not work overtime unless it was approved by them. But they also said that Terrence should do whatever it took to keep the client—Microsoft—happy.

"The Microsoft management on-site would say this: if you work overtime and get the work done, you'll get comp time. It's a secret between us."

But Terrence finally complained that he was getting no extra pay and no comp time off, so his employer fired him. To add insult to injury, they told him he was fired for cause; for failing to what he was supposed to do.

"Three months before, they were digging down trying to find any reason to let me go. What came up was complete BS and I said I am not going to sign that because it wasn't true. If there had been a problem, they would have approached me six months ago when it happened and taken care of it," he said.

The event that they claimed they fired him for was a complete fabrication, he said, and not his fault at all. He was supposed to put saved and tested images on workstations. After they were loaded there would always be a few Microsoft patches to bring up to date. A couple of Microsoft files in that update caused unforeseen problems with the software package that was loaded. He brought it to Microsoft's attention and they told him it wasn't a problem, that they could deal with it.

"I said I can easily re-do the image. It's a common occurrence not to work right. I came in at 6 a.m. and went through five workstations to load XP from scratch so it would all be ready at 8 a.m.," said Terrence.

The issue was never mentioned to him until the day he was fired. Some thank you.

It wasn't the only issue. He has also been paid less than his usual rate when he was hired, and he originally said he couldn't work for that amount. The manager said that the contract between Siemens and Microsoft was about to be re-negotiated and that within a short while, he would be making more. The job required skills and tasks to be done that were well above the job title. Ninety days went by, then six months until Terrence was finally told there would be no raise, not even an annual raise at his first anniversary.

"At one year and three months, they let me go," he said. "During that time, all computers were ready and I went way above and beyond the call of duty."

Terrence found himself working many weekends, and when he was fired and asked about the overtime pay owing to him, he was told no. He then asked that they check the security logs that proved when he arrived and left on weekends, as well as checking his emails, which were usually sent to his boss on Sundays when he finished his overtime work. An investigation was launched and Terrence was told that the employer owed him for maybe four hours.

"I asked the guy, did you research the entry logs and emails and he said no. What did he base his investigation on? They didn't even look at the information I provided."

Terrence is still looking for work, caught in a very tight job market right now. He feels totally used and abused by Siemens.

"I went in there and did my best," he said. "I worked really hard to try to please the customer and do everything I was supposed to do. They used me and just discarded me."

Giving your best to your job is an honorable thing. Being ripped off at the end of the day on your paycheck isn't honorable at all. When you do the work, you should be paid. It's only fair.

by C. Hebein

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