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California Overtime Violations Rampant in Retail

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El Cajon, CAAfter working 15 years in the retail business, Kathleen has had enough abuse. She's fed up with working overtime without compensation. "Assistant managers were expected to get the cash done within our eight-hour shift," says Kathleen. "If not, we were told they would find someone else who could get it done."

"We had to get the job done by any means possible, which often meant working off the clock. If not, we were held accountable and written up. Before this job, I worked 13 years for another retailer and was also expected to work overtime. It's rampant in the retail biz. If you complain, you are looked down upon as 'a problem child.' They say there are no repercussions but I guarantee there are. You are looked down upon for standing up for your rights.

"Before this job, I worked 13 years for another retailer and was also expected to work overtime. It's rampant in the retail biz"
"I worked off the clock many times, especially if we had visitors coming such as the district manager. My job was on the line and other assistant managers were in the same situation. There were times when I got paid overtime (I was getting paid an hourly wage) but typically I was asked to do an extra 15 minutes after I had clocked out. 'Oh, can you just get that call, it will only take you five minutes,' was the usual request. It may seem petty but after you do that for a few months, it adds up. Over a few years I think I worked about 40 hours overtime. I didn't keep track because I wanted to get promoted.

"The managers claimed they had statistics to prove that our job, including cashing out, could be done in that period of time—it was a company-wide policy. They had previously outsourced the job but now it was up to us to get it done. We were told that the program has been tested for many months and it works, so it is our fault if we are too slow.

"But it was pretty much impossible, given the tools we had. When they test these things there are never any customers around—nobody is demanding your attention—they don't live in a real world.

"Anyway, I was fired. Our store manager got bonuses based on a number of things, including his profit and overtime. Here in the state of California, you have to take lunch before five hours. If not, the employer has to pay an extra hour if we take a lunch after five hours. But this is what my manager made us do: if my staff went into the fifth hour we had to change the time on the computer so they wouldn't get paid the extra hour—like a meal penalty—and my manager would get his bonus. I didn't benefit from this at all.

"We were doing our job—cheating for him—and I was audited. An employee expected to get paid that one hour and he complained to HQ. They looked back at the payroll, saw that I made the adjustment and terminated me. This manager has done a number of unethical things and nothing was done about him. He has been with the company 15 years and makes money for them by cutting corners. I'm the newbie and of course I would be the fall guy.

"I was a little pissed off. I was let go in November but the other assistant managers who were cheating on the computer kept their jobs. Finally in February I phoned the regional manager and told her what happened. She said I should have complained to her right from the get-go. Lesson learned. Complain to the appropriate chain of command until you get the action that is honest and within your rights—the manager was fired.

"I've been working management in the retail business for 15 years and I have seen how people push for their rights and suffer repercussions if they complain about not getting paid overtime, either by getting less hours or being treated poorly. It's a sad situation, seeing California labor law violations over and over.

"And it is so hard to get a job. Right now I am working census for the federal government and I am through with retail."

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