Many people employed in the California tech industry are used to unpaid overtime; if they don’t comply, they are afraid of losing their jobs. Harold is no exception. He worked as a vendor for an IT company. “Let’s say that I work for Company A,” he says. “Company A helps staff Company B, which in turn contracts out positions for Company A to fill. All hiring and HR is done through Company A.”
Got that? Harold is paid hourly and clocks in and out through an online, third-party website. Of course his manager has access to this website and, according to Harold, changed his time worked to reduce any overtime pay.
“Often I had to start work at 7:30am and leave at 6pm because Company B stayed open until 6pm,” Harold explains. “It was my job to give IT support to Company B’s staff so it was unavoidable; I had to stay with them until they clocked out. But my manager didn’t see it that way. She went online and changed my time to reflect that I only worked an eight-hour day, from 8am-5pm with an hour break for lunch. She even did this without my knowledge!”
It wasn’t until Harold got his first paycheck that he realized what was going on and he confronted his manager. “I asked her what was happening with my hours and right away, she became defensive and hostile,” says Harold. “She told me that nobody should be working that early or that late, and that nobody should be in the office after 5pm. But in the same breath she also told me that when people are at Company B, I should be working off the clock--go figure.”
Harold says that when Company B employees are working on a project it isn’t up to him to tell them to stop or kick them out of the office. He is paid hourly and nowhere in his job description does it state that he has any supervisory role, which means that he is non-exempt. And California overtime laws require non-exempt employees be paid one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked over eight in a day or 40 in a week.
“I was only in charge of a test lab, not people, and these people were helping me out as much as I was helping them,” says Harold. “We were all working overtime and as far as I know, some of the people who had been there longer were getting overtime. One of my co-workers said he was paid overtime after confronting our manager, but not before she was changing his time cards as well.
“I think I was made an example of because I was the new guy. She was stricter and harder on me, and she eventually fired me. I knew, and she knew, that she couldn’t fire me because I asked for overtime pay. Instead, she made up all kinds of excuses.
“For example, I placed an order for a video camera to make training videos. Originally it was approved; the company bought the camera and I was making videos. But about a month later, when my manager wanted to get rid of me, she said I never got authorization for it. What really happened is this: When I first got the camera, everyone said it was a good idea to upload to an internal website and they were all giving advice on what topics to cover. Everyone was excited, including my direct supervisor.
“Another time she went through my desk and found several SD cards—a small memory card you put into cameras and computers. She accused me of stealing and hoarding the cards. I have no idea why she was rifling through my desk in the first place. The cards were part of a project I was working on but it was cancelled before completion. There were literally hundreds of cards throughout the office and the five she mentioned were the five I was working on when the project got cancelled.”
As if that wasn’t enough, just to nail the coffin Harold says his manager accused him of stealing an old laptop. Apparently she asked him to look for a particular laptop, which he found and then put in his desk for safekeeping. Coincidentally, she rifled through his desk when he found it.
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“I was shocked and insulted and outraged. It took me a few days to put together what happened: I think she planned and calculated all these moves ahead of time. She could have held off from terminating me especially with the holidays coming up. I applied for unemployment insurance yesterday online with the California Labor Department but I am hopeful that I will find a job before that kicks in.
“I guess she wanted to make an example of me. Her style is fear and intimidation so I believe she did it to strike fear into the other employees so they wouldn’t work overtime—period.”