"When I was given an offer to come out to Berkeley as executive chef for this hotel, my wife and I relocated," says Williams. It was their 'golden opportunity' to move west, to the land of ....well, to the land of 30 percent higher living cost, for one thing! When Williams got to Berkeley, he found out that he was the lowest paid executive chef in this position compared to any other hotel of the same caliber. And he was the third exec chef in less than one year that had been placed in this position—the other two had been fired.
"We had no assistance for moving from Atlanta to California—we paid all our moving expenses but I was given a room at the hotel—which meant that I was accessible 24/7," says Williams. "I was hired on salary and was told that my hours would total no more than 86.67 hours every two weeks. But in reality, during the hotel stay, I was working over 100 hours per week. (As well, I later learned that a sales person who was hired shortly after me received full financial assistance with her relocation. I'd like to get legal counsel on what possibilities I might have to recover some possible financial compensation.)
"The hours of my staff were cut back to the point that I had to perform many of their duties. This schedule caused an enormous amount of stress: I've lost weight, I've alienated my family; my step son and I have become arch enemies and my wife is at her wits end with me and my attitude.
The GM had been failing--every aspect of the hotel had become a revolving door: the sales department was totally replaced, accounting replaced, front desk continually turned over and housekeeping had the same issues. Management in every department was fired.
They were trying to control numbers: they used the previous year's numbers and set goals for what they wanted to achieve the following year. So this is how we ended up working so much overtime.
Finally, I lost both my sous-chefs after just two months in. I didn't know the system, I didn't know what they are ordering so I was putting extra hours in just to figure out the purveyors and perform the extra work—I was banquet sous and restaurant sous and exec chef. On the only day I had off, I still had to go into work and make sure the orders were in place.
But I'm 51 years old and responsible-- I had a job to do. I was getting the kitchen back to a functional position almost within a year - I had come a long way.
In January we finally got the kitchen in order but the Food & Beverage manager started a rumor that I was going to be terminated. The numbers weren't up to his expectations but they were covering other departments. I never got a review, never got a bonus (I was hired with the promise of a 15 percent bonus at the end of the year) or raise increase.
I was terminated on February 14th -- Happy Valentine's Day darling, I just got fired.
I was told that I was not bringing the restaurant and food service to the level the General Manager was expecting. However for the past nine months all I ever heard was praise for the improvement of where the restaurant and food service had shown.
I believe I am owed at the very least overtime and I'd expect time and a half. I was contacted by the General Manager because he and I worked together at another property and he knew first hand of my work ethic. I wound up having to spread myself so thin it didn't look like I was doing enough but I took the brunt of the department.
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Today I am going to the Labor Board to file a complaint. I am tired of exec and upper management chefs not having the safety net of the union-- we can be terminated any time for numerous reasons. Here, in upper management hotels like the Hilton, most of the executive committees are non-union and therefore can be terminated at any time. If the numbers don't jive in one department, it's only too common to put the finger on another department and those hard-working people are the ones who suffer - without getting compensated for overtime.
I would like to get compensated for the hours I invested in this property. If I do a good day's job for you, I expect you to give me an honest day's wage. That's it!"