Working 9 to 5 and...

(Intended to post this on Labour Day but the weather was so sublime, I played blog hookey.)

A young bank teller,
Dara Fresco was the first person in an historic $660M class action suit against her employer, a major Canadian bank, for unpaid overtime. She was joined by over 10,000 of her colleagues.

Unpaid overtime is the dirty secre
t that drives countless front-line jobs. I'm not talking about 15 to 20 minutes cleaning up or finishing that last order; I mean the hour or more most days- hours that don't end up on the time sheet, and therefore, pay cheque. Since Dara and her colleagues filed, employees from two major global accounting firms initiated similar suits.

Workers of another large corporation have joined this trend, saying that they are given the title "supervisor" by the company, though they supervise no one, to subvert overtime rules.

The decisions
, expected toward the end of this year, will determine how employers will act.

I learned, in my student days, that if time was either my own or my employer's. There was no grey zone that did not quickly devolve to exploitation. At the same time, I believe that companies do not universally intend to exploit. In one large corporation where I was a manager, a Vice President- a woman of courage and conviction- quickly assessed the situation and immediately shut down unpaid overtime.

If you're an employee, ask yourself, If it's not my time, whose time is it? If it's my employer's, am I being paid?

If you are an employer, ask, Am I paying overtime as defined by the labour legislation? Free-lancers also need to consider they contract and bill for hours worked.

I've seen abuses from the employee side. Some people work slowly, then say they require overtime, so that they'll make more money. Sandbagging is as odious as unpaid overtime.

Managers are not eligible for overtime; some companies have life-work balance policies and encourage managers to take compensatory time off, but few do so, either because of their own or others' censure, or the belief that mega-hours are a badge of commitment. I'll never forget the doorman I met when I worked for a hotel. He said in a thick Bronx accent, "They rent me, but they don't own me."

Since we've just celebrated Labour Day, let's renew our commitment to a fair exchange. "A day's work for a day's pay", my Dad always said, and I agree.

10 comments

Julianne said...

I love your blog! I just found it via La Belette Rouge, and it is just what I needed. I can't wait to read more.

Deja Pseu said...

My company is one of the good ones. They are careful about how exempt (from overtime) and non-exempt positions are determined, and we remind our people that they should not working once they've clocked out (we've only had one or two insanely dedicated souls who have done this; usually people try to "pad" their timecard by clocking in a few minutes early and out a few minutes late). As someone who has a life outside the office, I've never understood the bradaggio of those who claim to work 80-hour weeks. To me, it smacks of bad time management.

La Belette Rouge said...

My job requires that I work for about three hours for every hour paid--it is just part of the job and how we justify it is that you divide the one hour by three and that is what you are really making. Most people who do what I do claim to work 20 hours a week--but it is in fact more like 40-60 hours a week.

Duchesse said...

Belette: My work involves that kind of ratio too. I've gradually moved away from invisible hours, pricing my work to reflect actual time. I'm leery of work cultures with unacknowledged overtime. Hope you feel your divided-by-three pay is fair.

Julianne: Thank you. I read Belette's blog every day!

Pseu: I always suspected some 80 hr/week people had a more appealing office life than home life.

cybill said...

In the design industy where I work, its hard to say whats work and whats life. We get so caught up in the design we have been known to stay all night working on it (creative types you know). That being said, we don't charge the employer or client because the long hours just don't make economic sense. So like La Belette, I just assume I only earn about $3.00 per hour and just really like my job.

Anjela said...

It seems so unfair when I read it. Corporations not paying for time worked and employees not working for time paid.
I work about 10 hours a day in my own business and yet, if I don't work those hours I don't make the money to afford me to restock the store- replenish the goods- it is a sort of cycle that pays off twice a year. I should sue myself :)

kmkat said...

As an accountant employed by one of the targeted firms in the US, I found this very interesting. It seems the firm talks the talk ("work-ife balance") but doesn't necessarily walk the walk. And now I know why I, as a CPA employed seasonally, am no longer paid hourly, as I had been 1993 - 2006. Huh.

Duchesse said...

kmkat: This is of huge interest to your industry; the cases will be precedent-setting.

Anonymous said...

Having worked in a major Canadian bank for years I am all too aware of the lack of overtime pay and the culture of expected overtime. We used to describe it as "virtual employees". You were the real employee, and you were also a virtual employee...in other words, you were doing the work of say, 3, employees, only one of which was paid fairly. Also, if you get sick as the real employee, two other virtual employees fell as well.

As an entry level management employee, I was expected to work 80to 100 hours a week. I think I changed jobs when I realized I was making about .22 an hour. I finally decided I'd rather do something more meaningful. However, I know the situation is no better than when I left.

Duchesse said...

anonymous: Thanks for adding your testimony. Still find people don't believe the extent of this issue. I'm following this case closely.