Sometimes she even worked weekends, from 7am until noon Saturdays. “When Dr. Judd, an optometrist, hired me as an optician he told me that he never pays overtime and I would only have to work eight hours a day,” says Ana. “If I worked more than eight hours, I could make it up by taking an hour off another day. That never happened. In fact, there were times when I didn’t even get a lunch break.”
Ana says she wasn’t the only one. “Besides me, three full-time people and one part-time woman worked for Dr. Judd—he also ran a trucking company. And his kids came in during and after work hours to clean. To my knowledge nobody got paid overtime. Sometimes we complained. Michelle, one girl who still works there, said that, ‘There is nowhere else to work and we don’t get written up for emergencies so you shouldn’t complain’, but I figured the cons outweighed the pros.”
Overtime is just one of the cons. “Each two-week pay check reflected my overtime,” she explains. Ana says she averaged at least 110 hours and based on her last pay rate, estimates she is owed a lot of California overtime.
“Amy, a co-worker, was terminated when she took maternity leave,” Ana adds. “He didn’t fire her; instead he got his sister-in-law to do the dirty work. Because Blythe is a small town where everybody knows everybody else, I can understand why Amy didn’t make an issue out of it and file a lawsuit.”
But Ana isn’t Amy: she believes in standing up for her rights.
“I also had a child –my daughter was born in August 2009 and I went back to work two weeks after she was born, to help him out. Then, when I got mat leave he was upset that I was going to take time off!”
Ana’s other issue is wrongful termination, coupled with working in a hostile environment. “We all had keys to the office, including members of his family and one lady who worked part-time. Nobody ever had a background check, even though we worked at the prison on occasion, testing inmates’ eyes.
“I was terminated in January, 2011 for suspicion of embezzlement, along with another employee. He claims money was stolen—the problem was that everyone was collecting money from the customers. No charges were ever brought against us; I never spoke to a policeman. The part-time lady even told me that she had once before been accused of embezzlement. Instead we had an office meeting and during that meeting he already hired someone else—his reasoning was that we needed help.
“When I applied for unemployment, he lied to the tax board and the unemployment administrator. I started collecting unemployment in February and in June they stopped my payments. I called looking for my check and they said I hadn’t worked for him in over two years. Apparently he told them I was terminated from my job in March of 2010.
“Why wouldn’t unemployment simply ask for payroll stubs? The reason they weren’t pursuing the matter was because I was the one applying for unemployment. They twisted the facts around to make it seem that I was guilty and that my former employer was doing me a favor by letting me collect unemployment. But it is rightfully mine!
“He never gave us copies of our time cards or payroll stubs. I was separated in 2010 so I applied for welfare--I needed food stamps for my kids. The welfare office needed copies of my income but all I had was a letter that he wrote to H&R Block, telling them how much I made in 2011. He needed to provide them with proof of income. I did take the H&R Block letter to unemployment and I was reinstated.
READ MORE CALIFORNIA OVERTIME LEGAL NEWS
“I know there is a short statute of limitations for wrongful termination but it is three years for overtime. I have three children to support and I would be happy to settle at least for overtime compensation. Although Dr. Judd won’t give me my paycheck information, I know he must legally keep these documents for seven years. I’m sure he will give them to an attorney.
"I also know this man will try to go the cheapest route, which likely means settling out of court. I would be willing to settle to some extent—to what I think is fair.”