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Moving Up to Management—Downhill for California Overtime

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Willows, CAScot rues that day when he moved up the United Rentals ladder from mechanic to service manager. As mechanic he got paid a lot of California overtime, and his new job as service manager required even more overtime. But Scot was now on salary, which meant more work and more hours with no overtime compensation.

"I worked at United Rentals for five years before I was offered a position as service manager," says Scot. "I thought the offer was generous because they took my last year's wages, including overtime, as my salary. And I was willing to work those same hours—a few hours overtime each day was fine with me. But that wasn't how it turned out.

"My typical day started at 6am and I finished at 5pm; I was averaging about 60 hour weeks and I was on call because I still acted as mechanic, which meant I sometimes got calls in the middle of the night. This went on for another five years."

Then Scot decided to build his own house and cut his time back to nine hours per day, 45 hours per week. Just before his house was finished, Scot got a phone call one evening from his manager.

"This guy screamed at the top of his lungs that I wasn't putting in enough time at work," says Scot. "He wanted me to open and close and I wasn't prepared to keep doing that. And I didn't think it was right that he was screaming, it was very offensive to me, so I decided to look for another job."

Scot says it didn't take him long to find work, and even though he had to take a $10,000 cut in salary, it was worth it—he didn't have to work overtime without getting time-and-a-half overtime pay. But he also lost his profit-sharing bonus of about $10,000.

"I had worked a full year before I handed them my letter of resignation," explains Scot. "When I asked about my profit-sharing bonus, which they gave to every employee, they flat-out refused. I know I was entitled to it so I lost out on that too.

"I would like to at least collect overtime and the profit-sharing bonus, but this happened seven years ago so I figure it's water under the bridge at this point. I know I should have hired a California labor law attorney back then, but it has been on my mind all these years: I was so insulted that he yelled at me, 'You are supposed to put in however many hours it takes to get the job done.' The job is never done. There is no set time limit. I could have been there 24/7, sleeping there if they had their way.

"Once they get you into a management position and give you that title—be it store manager, assistant manager or service manager—they own you. And they told us as much. You are better off not taking a management position and not working so much overtime. I would have been better off working as a mechanic, and having some semblance of a life. If I was working overtime I was getting compensated for it. And I didn't mind working some overtime as the service manager but screaming at me and expecting that many hours is too insulting."

Scot's former United Rentals boss offered his job back as a mechanic, but he never apologized for screaming. Scot never went back and he had time to finish the house.

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