how to use a foot in the door, quitting a job you like, and more

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Do I have to be paid for attending meetings outside my regular hours?

I’m working at a restaurant part-time while I do a bunch of contract work. It’s an hourly + tips job with no benefits in Washington, DC. (We’re lucky enough that they at least pay us $8.50/hour + tips and are really good employers in almost every sense, which makes the job worth it.)

Every month they close early to have a mandatory meeting from 9-11 pm. I’ve worked a lot of part-time jobs like this and never not gotten paid for meetings–but when I went in today and asked if it was time to clock in, they said “we don’t clock in for meetings here.” Is it legal to require hourly employees come into a meeting at work for two hours a month without paying them?

When I mentioned that this might be violating labor laws to another employee, she said that pointing something out was likely to make the owner angry and was likely to result in “scheduling consequences.” Personally, I think that the management has been pretty reasonable about most things up to this point and just might not know that this is an issue–but then, I’m also pretty new around here.

Nope, it’s not legal. If it’s a required meeting, it’s work and they need to pay you for it. I’d say something like this to the manager you have the best rapport with: “Since it’s a required meeting, I think it counts as work time according to the laws on this stuff, and we should clock in, right?” Start with the assumption that it’s just ignorance of the law (as more often than not, it is), and proceed from there.

2. How to quit a job you like

I have only quit jobs when I was unhappy, and in those cases you suggested resigning by saying something like: “I want to let you know that after four years with Chocolate Teapots Inc., I’ve made the difficult decision to move on to a new role outside the company.” But how do you quit when you like your job? I have been invited to apply for a new job that I’m pretty excited about (my closest friend recommended me for a job with her company, and it’s a great fit). Of course, I have studied your interview guide, and I wouldn’t dream of quitting until I have an offer in writing. And I need to give two weeks’ notice.

I plan to talk to my manager directly in a formal meeting. I’ve been with the company for more than 12 years, and she has been very supportive of me. I am one of the senior team members, and she relies on me a lot. The timing is kind of crappy for her — the offer could come right after our biggest annual client event, and my boss has a planned vacation after that that would happen during my notice period.

What do you recommend I say during the meeting? How do I break the news to her? I will offer to help with the transition as much as possible; in fact, I’m already training our newest hire. Should I also mention that I wouldn’t entertain a counter-offer, or is that presumptuous?

Just be straightforward: “This was a hard decision for me, but an amazing role was offered to me, and I accepted it. I’m ready to do whatever I can to help with the transition during the next X weeks.” More here. And don’t mention preemptively that you wouldn’t accept a counteroffer though; that’s premature. If she makes noises in that direction, you can certainly let her know it’s not something you’re open to before she goes through the work of getting one approved, but there’s no need to mention it before that.

Also, remember that there’s never a good time to leave most jobs. The timing always sucks in one way or another. That’s okay; most managers understand that, and they’ll make do.

3. Employer asked me to interview but hasn’t gotten back to me

I sent a cover letter and resume to an employer (a winery) for an assistant manager position on Thursday afternoon. On Friday, the general manager replied, provided me a more detailed job description, and asked if I was available to come interview at the winery on Tuesday or Thursday this week. I thanked him for his quick response and let him know I was available any time Tuesday. Since then, I’ve heard nothing. I followed up Monday afternoon and included the three people he CC’ed with his original email (I didn’t reply-all in my first response) to let them know I was still available this week and still nothing.

From searching your site, I think this is the point where I stop following up. Others have told me it couldn’t hurt to call today if I don’t hear anything by late afternoon (around 4:30 pm). I’m really lost as to what I should do. The quick reply and interview offer, followed by silence, has me completely confused as to how I handle this. I really hate the idea of giving up, because it seems like a great position for where I want to go in my career.

I’d wait until later this week — probably Friday — to follow up, and I’d do it by email for all the usual reasons (less intrusive, etc.). Hiring often takes longer than employers think it will, and we had a holiday at the start of this week. You’ve made your interest clear, and the ball is in his court. One more follow-up would be fine, but doing it now would be too soon — you’ll look pushy. Do it at the end of the week.

4. How should I use this foot in the door?

I’ve been a small business owner for over two years now and it has become a self-sufficent business that only requires a few hours a week of my time. I’m trying to get back into the corporate world and am having trouble.

I am focused on one particular large corporation in my area. I’ve recently started a temporary position at this corporation. It’s great because it’s steady income, everyone is nice, and it’s “a foot in the door.” It looks like the job could turn into a permanent position. The problem is it’s not in my department of interest and it’s not a very challenging job. It’s a step or two down from my previous work experience and where I want to be.

My question is, what do I do with this “foot in the door”? How do I leverage being inside the corporation to get a job in the department and at the pay-grade I want? Also when I apply for jobs at the company is it smart to list this job on my resume or just mention it in a cover letter?

Talk to people at the new company and tell them what you’re interested in. Working there as a temp means that you now have in-person access to people you couldn’t have had access to otherwise — lots of employees of the company, including possibly people involved in hiring for the roles you’re interested in. Talk to them face-to-face, tell them what you want to do, and ask for their advice.

And yes, include this job on your resume. They’ll be interested in knowing you’re at least something of a known quantity to some of their employees.

5. Should I leave my job because of my boss’s favoritism toward others?

I’d really appreciate your thoughts on how to respond to potential favoritism on the part of one’s boss. I don’t believe my manager is treating me unfairly in any explicit way; it’s more the sense that if she favored me, I would be more in the loop on things that relate to my job and would have more opportunities that interest or develop me. My manager puts more value on the business-related opinions of those on her team who are good personal friends (and those are the people she reaches out to for their thoughts). I believe that she will advocate more strongly for those people during promotion discussions as well. We don’t have a bad professional relationship, but I don’t believe we will ever be “friends.”

I’m a good performer. I have a good track record of bringing large and complex projects to successful completion, I think more so than the majority of my peers. Do you think this is a time to start looking for another job? I otherwise enjoy what I’m doing.

If you’ve been there less than two years, I wouldn’t leave so early just because of this. But if you’ve been there longer than two years, I’d weigh how much you feel you’re getting from this job (despite your manager’s problems) versus what you think you’re likely to find by leaving. That’s of course hard to predict; the next boss could be worse, after all, or there could be some greater problem with the next employer. But the idea is to get really clear in your own head on how much this bothers you — and how you weigh it relative to the advantages you see in staying.

6. I can’t start my new job until I move or start driving

Recently I got a job offer, and over the past few weeks I have been screened for my background, drug use, and physical condition. I expect the company to call me back very soon to discuss my starting date. The job is not far from where I am living (30 minutes of driving), but I have neither a car nor a driver license at this point (I’m working on it though and will get my license in a month). Therefore, I would have to move closer to the company in order to work in the short run. I found apartments that allow me to move in after 3 weeks — a month but none allows me to move in right away. I’m afraid the company would ask me to go to work right away, which I wouldn’t be able to. How should I address my problem to them on the phone so that they won’t be turned off?

Well, it’s pretty normal to set your start date at least 2-3 weeks out, so unless you’ve told them that you can start immediately or they’ve said that they’ll need you to, I would assume they’re expecting you to take a few weeks before starting.

It seems silly to move just because you won’t have your license for 1-2 weeks after starting, if the problem will be solved once you do. I’d look into either getting your license sooner or finding alternate transportation for those 1-2 weeks, rather than planning to move for such a short-term problem. (Of course, that assumes you’ll buy a car at that point — but buying a cheap used car is probably cheaper than or at least equal to the cost of a move anyway.)

7. Can my employer fine me for arriving late?

Yesterday, I arrived about ten minutes late to my shift at my serving job (at a non-chain restaurant in a big city), due to some train trouble. Normally this isn’t seen as a big deal by the managers (and I still made it in before the rest of the servers on schedule), but yesterday the owner happened to be there checking in and demanded that I pay him $100 at the end of my shift in retribution. I was shocked, but thought it would blow over and got to work. At the end of the shift, the manager on duty reluctantly tried to collect a bargained down $50 from each of the servers, and everyone but me caved in and paid it. I have only been at this job for two months, but my coworkers tell me that this is not the first time this has happened.

Of course I’m wondering about the legality of what he did (although after reading your blog nothing would surprise me), but also if there is anything I can do if this happens in the future. (Part of me is worried that when I come in for my next shift I might be told to pay up or get out.) I’d sure appreciate any advice!

What the hell? No, employers can’t make deductions from your pay for any reason other than deducting time that you’re weren’t there — i.e., they don’t need to pay you for the 10 minutes you were late, but they can’t make an additional deduction on top of that. The only exception to this is if this was written into your employment agreement; otherwise, it’s retroactively changing the pay rate you and they agreed to, which isn’t allowed.

You might say to your manager, “I understand that you want me to take our arrival times seriously, and I’ll be more vigilant about that. But the law is pretty clear that we can’t fine employees, and I don’t want us to get into trouble over that.”

{ 130 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*

    I’m speechless! That’s appalling! $100 for being 10 minutes late!
    Probably would have been cheaper to call in sick…

    1. Anonymous*

      How is $10 a minute fair? I bet OP barely makes minimum wage. If the OP was being paid for this 10 min, and they couldn’t take it out of their pay easily, then at $8 an hour that is $1.30 for those 10 min, not $100. What an a– that owner is. Report him. Now. You will prob be fired but sounds like since you are new it won’t go on your resume anyway. Whomever the agency you report this idiot to, can advice you on your unemployment options if you are found to be the complainer. Owner will prob have access to your complaint and will see your name unless you are able to give specifics (dates, times, who paid, etc.) without giving any details like your info that could lead the complaint back to you.

    2. RaeLyn*

      I have a friend working at a restaurant and if she’s late they reduce her rate of pay by 50 cents for the entire two-week period! With three kids getting on different school buses it is hard to make it to the breakfast shift on time, so basically she makes 50 cents less than she was hired to. It takes all types!

  2. Anon*

    #7 Wow.. that’s just wow. If this is common can it be reported somewhere? $100 is a BIG deal to most people – especially those in minimum wage jobs.

    This is so wrong – I can’t believe it.

    I’d be mad over a $1 potty mouth jar let alone a 10 minute – $100 deduction.

    Seems like a one percenter be insensitive and pretty awful to the people working for him. And I bet if the OP gets fired and wants to claim un-employment – the employer would probably say the OP was fired for being late – not for refusing to pay this ridiculous fee.

    1. Anonymous*

      The snarky “one percenter” comment is really unnecessary.

      And it is unlikley that the owner of a non-chain restaurant is truly in the top 1% of adjusted gross income nationwide.

      1. Anon*

        According to the internal revenue service, it took a little less than $370,000 in adjusted gross income in 2010 to be in the top 1%.

        For the owner of a very nice restaurant, this wouldn’t be unheard of. So my comment wasn’t entirely off base.

        In general, it’s also pretty normal to call anyone who makes more than the “average joe” a one percenter – whether or not they actually are. That’s how a figure of speech works.

        As for the comment being snarky… until you and your family combined have lived on $900 a month and experienced the insensitivity of people who “sneeze” out $100 bills – I don’t really care if you consider my comment snarky or not.


        1. -X-*

          “In general, it’s also pretty normal to call anyone who makes more than the “average joe” a one percenter – whether or not they actually are. ”

          No it’s not normal. It’s a sign of not understanding what “one-percenter” means and/or of grossly misusing the term. And by misusing it you’re diluting the term’s power.

          Depending on how you define “average joe” it’s likely that anywhere from 10 percent to almost half of Americans make more than that. A reasonable definition of average would be the middle 20%of Americans, in which case 40% make more. The top 40% are not all the 1%. Not at all.

          1. Jamie*

            Agree. It’s not a neutral term, its a derisive term used regarding the wealthy and I don’t understand the hostility.

            A lot of us work for companies owned by very wealthy people. Just having money doesn’t automatically make you a bad person, outside of a Dicken’s story.

            1. Cat*

              Sure, but being super wealthy does mean you’re extraordinarily privileged. And if you then act in a way that demonstrates a lack of understanding of that privilege (e.g., trying to dock your near-minimum wage workers $100 for being 7 minutes late), you deserve some derision and that derision can and should be connected to your cluelessness about your wealth and what it means for you.

              I don’t know if this particular person is in the 1% and wouldn’t have used the term there for that reason. And maybe that particular malevolent action wasn’t related to the person’s lack of understanding of what it means to be really struggling to make it. But on the other hand, it does seem rather likely.

              1. Jamie*

                I missed the part where it was the owner that fined them and not just a manager…so I can totally see hostility in that case. It’s just dickish and inexcusable.

                I wasn’t clear that my response was regarding the knee jerk reaction to assuming all wealthy people, even those in the top 1% are inherently worthy of derision. But as no one was saying that I was responding to my own misreading…no more posting for me before the coffee kicks in. Sorry.

              2. T*

                But whether or not he’s in the one percent has nothing to do with the fact that’s he’s obviously an unethical jerk.

                1. TheSnarkyB*

                  Well, actually yes it does because it speaks to unchecked privilege and ignorance by way of privilege.
                  (But I also came on here to say that I am not Anon.)

            2. -X-*

              I wasn’t commenting on it being derisive or not – only its meaning: the top 1% in terms of income and/or wealth.

              But if you want to understand the hostility, at least in the US, here’s an example of why, “In 2010, the first year of economic recovery after the 2009-2010 recession, 93 percent of all pre-tax income gains went to the top 1 percent” (Google it to find the source).

              PS – part of my work relates to extremely wealthy people, such as last week co-organizing an event centered around a multi-billionaire that had at least 3 other people worth $100 million+ in the room and dozens of multi-millionaires. But I understand where the hostility comes from. It’s not hard to understand. Some of the people at that event understand the hostility.

            3. Mike C.*

              Without taking a stand on the comment at hand, the complaint isn’t about people who are wealthy, but rather people who are wealthy and are ignorant of the concerns of those who are not.

            4. Cimorene*

              Except the OP’s boss deserves to have derisive terms used about him, and deserves hostility.

              1. fposte*

                That are on the mark, sure. But it’s unlikely he’s a one percenter, and I’m with X in thinking that if you use “one percenter” really to mean “the fifty percent that make more money than I do” it doesn’t really mean anything elite. (The figure floating around the net is $75k for an average franchise owner’s income. Simply Hired says that overall it’s $39k. Either way, we haven’t even hit the average, let alone the elite. The guy sucks, but not because he’s probably living high off the hog.)

                1. RaeLyn*

                  Lot of assumptions we’re all making. Who knows how many restaurants he owns? He could own 20 and be filthy rich, and he could own the one and be almost destitute. His economic status shouldn’t be the subject of our debate, but his attitude and how he treats others.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think the point is that not all 1%’ers are jerks, not all jerks are 1%’ers, and the vast majority of business owner aren’t 1%ers, so it was an odd comment to make.

          1. Sarah*

            I am also of the opinion that the owner of the restaurant probably isn’t incredibly wealthy (he could be), but if he’s scamming money off his employees for being a little late he’s obviously got poor business ethic and is money hungry, to me that means he’s trying to pay the bills.

        3. Anon*

          I do apologize for my original super snarky retort to being called snarky. I get worse as the night gets later and I wa half asleep when I let the snarkiness poor out.

        4. A Bug!*

          I consider your comment snarky and I assure you that my family has experienced both poverty and the insensitivity of better-off people. But something tells me you still don’t care what I think.

          It is true that many wealthy people lack perspective, but that’s still no reason to make the comments you’ve made; you made a blanket statement unsupported by the evidence at hand, a statement which, even if the owner is a “one-percenter”, was really no more helpful to the discourse (here, or in general) than derisive comments about so-called welfare queens.

          1. Anon*

            Why do you think I wouldn’t care?

            I just don’t understand why people think it’s a blanket statement. I don’t see any owner struggling to make ends meat treating his employees this way… so I think it’s safe to assume he is well off and as a result just doesn’t get it. I know employers who are well off and generous and I know ones who are struggling (and amazingly even more generous.)

            Do people have an issue with the term “one percent?” Because I get the feeling some people are automatically assuming “one percent” means “bad.” I don’t see it that way. I see one percent as what it is – one percent.

            Again – all I intended by the statement was:

            “Seems like an extremely well off person be insensitive and pretty awful to the people working for him.”

            I just don’t see anything snarky about that – can you please explain instead of dismissing me as “snarky” or not willing to listen?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t see any owner struggling to make ends meat treating his employees this way.

              Really? I have. It’s not uncommon. Struggling yourself doesn’t automatically make you compassionate and sensitive to other people’s struggles. It would be nice if it did.

              Do people have an issue with the term “one percent?” Because I get the feeling some people are automatically assuming “one percent” means “bad.” I don’t see it that way.

              I think what people are objecting to is that (a) it’s a weird assumption about the business owner, since most business owners aren’t in the 1% — so it seems like a weird leap, (b) the implication was that being wealthy would make him more likely to be a jerk to employees, which isn’t true.

              Perhaps it was just worded poorly.

              1. Anon*

                The business owners I know – at least big enough businesses to have many employees are most likely in the 1%. From the letter – it sounded to me like he was that type of owner so I didn’t feel like it was that big of a leap. A case of me comparing too closely to what I see daily and not thinking outside of that. I understand if some people think that’s odd now that I’ve seen some comments.

                I feel that being wealthy makes him less likely to be empathetic in this particular situation because he can’t relate as closely to his employee’s struggles. The guy is already a jerk – regardless of his wealth. Perhaps that was worded poorly. No I do not think a wealthy person is more likely to be a “jerk.” But, I have a hard time imagining anybody who isn’t pretty well off demanding $100. It’s sort of like in high schools – when someone demanded $20 for a uniform or $10 for some random thing – not realizing that for some families – $5 is a hardship! It’s harder to be compassionate about a situation you havn’t been in!

                I’m well aware of how giving people like Bill Gates are – so in that sense, a wealthy person can be compassionate and empathetic… but there are MANY who arn’t. Just like I had a hard time understanding the struggles of someone who’s living a life I’ve never had to live.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Most restaurant owners are not terribly wealthy; many struggle quite a bit. Restaurants are a notoriously tough field to make money in.

                2. fposte*

                  Many small business owners have no clue about employment law, as noted elsewhere in this discussion, and since they operate on such thin margins will try to preserve profit however they can. I suspect small businesses are underrepresented in legal statistics because so many of them fall below legal thresholds for discrimination laws to apply, but they’re well represented in labor claims such as this one.

                  They’re not better people or worse people, but they’re more likely to have nobody in the place that actually knows what the law is.

              2. RaeLyn*

                Ignorance is no excuse. If you’re not prepared to learn the laws or hire somebody that does, then you are at fault just as if you willfully violate the laws. Many of us small business owners DO stay on top of the laws, and all the others that don’t make it that much harder for those of us that do to compete on equal footing.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Eh. I’ve heard employment lawyers say often that they could find employment law violations in any business they looked at, even the most diligent (and I believe it; I could probably do it myself, and I’m not a lawyer). It’s close to impossible to stay on top of it all; it’s far more complicated than most people realize.

                2. RaeLyn*

                  I agree with you, a good lawyer can always find violations, but I was thinking more along the lines of what we are discussing here, something fairly cut and dried, or one that is printed on the labor posters they require us to post in our businesses. It is very easy to find out if it’s legal to not pay for meetings or not pay for overtime, but some employers make no attempt to find out if what they are doing is legal or not, they really don’t care (personal experience).
                  My point in all of this, if a competitor willingly refuses to pay overtime that is giving him a competitive edge that my company does not have because we willingly follow the law. And again, not an obscure law, but the two points brought up in your post.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah, that’s true. I think it’s a problem of “you don’t know what you don’t know” — and they often don’t even know that they should be checking into that stuff.

                4. JFQ*

                  Let’s remember the two scenarios here: paying someone for mandatory work events and fining employees well beyond their actual rate of pay for being late (assuming that the poster who was 10 minutes late doesn’t get paid anywhere near $600/hour). In essence, both employers are engaging in a type of theft, even if not the kind that would be defined as such by law.

                  These are not deep cuts in the employment law corpus, so anyone talking about the byzantine nature of employment law is here, to mix metaphors, throwing around red herrings.

        5. Anonymous*

          Hi Anon,

          I am the first responder to your comment who called you out for being snarky.

          I have actually been in the situation of working for a bona fide one percenter who took illegal deductions from my pay, I was living on far less than $900/month at the time and I still think your comment was uncalled for.

          By the way, I filed a wage claim and an unemployment claim against that employer and won. But that was my experience with one particular person. I would never use it as a basis to make generalizations about all wealthy people.

        1. Anon*

          “Seems like a one percenter be insensitive and pretty awful to the people working for him. ”

          I too work with many one percenters who are kind and good hearted and I don’t see where this comment says that all one percenters are bad.

          The comment could have easily been changed to:

          Seems like an extremely well off person be insensitive and pretty awful to the people working for him.

          However – where I live, when you use the term “One percenter” you tend to mean anyone who’s really well off – whether they are in the top 10% or 1%. And I’d be willing to bet that an owner who doesn’t realize how big of a deal $100 is – is at least in the top 10%.

          I think they both have the same meaning and I felt pretty attacked for being called snarky over what I felt was simply a criticism of this owner (and anyone else who disregards those under them) – not other well off people.

          1. -X-*

            “However – where I live, when you use the term “One percenter” you tend to mean anyone who’s really well off – whether they are in the top 10% or 1%.”

            This is wrong. The power of the “99% vs 1%” concept is that it’s pointing out the huge huge huge concentration of wealth in a tiny percentage of people in the US (I’m trying to not comment on the ethics of that, just the messaging around the terms). When you expand the term 1% you dilute its message.

            If you want to critique the “10%” or some other group of wealthy or wealthier people that’s your business, but it’s not the same message as “We are the 99%.”

          2. Anonymous*

            No, I think it’s more likely that someone poor would be more willing to steal $100 from their employees whenever they get the chance. You know, because poor people are most likely to be criminals.

            Quit it with the class warfare. People of all races, classes and genders are all capable of being greedy schmucks.

  3. jesicka309*

    Wow, two questions in one post where a service/restaurant business is actively breaking the law with their employees.

    I don’t get why restaurant employers are so keen to rip off employees. Is it because their younger and more vunerable? :( It makes me sad.

    1. quix*

      More vulnerable yes, but not necessarily because they’re younger.

      It’s more likely because relatively few people really care about what they do to their employees, and a large proportion of the population are on board with the concept that it’s your business, you can do whatever you want, and the workers should be grateful to have a job at all.

      1. CatB*

        and the workers should be grateful to have a job at all

        Yes, I’ve been told that by the company owner (I was a Sales Director at the time) after a lenghthy meeting that ended sometime around 2 am (thus, after a 16-hours work day – for me). The guy couldn’t understand why the employee turnover was so high.

      2. Sourire*

        It’s so frustrating because in an economy like this, that argument can actually go a long way, despite being unfair and at times unethical and even illegal.

        #1 and #7 are clearly illegal, but complaining about the policy puts an employee in a bit of a martyr position and they may not have the financial freedom to bear that burden. Their jobs/hours would be in jeopardy, and pretty much the only recourse is a long legal battle, while likely jobless and competing with a ton of others for jobs that may be just as bad as the one they have to leave. Gah, I’m making myself depressed just thinking about it.

        1. SerfinUSA*

          Too true.

          Even in a higher paid union job, there is only so much one can realistically do, no matter what the laws and contracts say. If often seems that owners/management have no problem using those rules against employees if there is a benefit to be derived, yet will easily ignore any that have some sort of detriment.

          Invoking ‘the rules’ almost always results in unemployment, one way or another. Depressing and frustrating.

      3. Sarah*

        This is very true. You won’t see this kind of behavior in corporate restaurants – Olive Garden, Long Horn etc, since there is some transparency and managers are held responsible. However with privately owned businesses and franchises you will see some CRAZY stuff happen. For example, in my town there is a Ru Sans Sushi restaurant. I’m 100% sure if there server makes an error or the customer changes their mind about their food the server is required to pay the difference out of their earnings that night. This has been going on since they opened, so over a decade.. which is just crazy.

        1. Amy*

          If you’re 100% sure that the owners of a restaurant you go to are breaking the law (and yes, docking pay for those sorts of things is very, very likely against the law if you’re anywhere in the US), you should report them to your state’s Department of Labor and other relevant agencies. Likely, the employees are too afraid to complain, or don’t know their rights, and I think that you should try to help them.

          Also, I think you should call or visit the restaurant and tell the manager or the owner that what they’re doing is deeply unethical and that you won’t be patronizing the restaurant for as long as it continues. And tell anyone you can to boycott them as well.

          It’s absolutely true that employees often get taken advantage of because they can’t afford to stand up for their rights. But you’re not in that bind, and I think you should stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves. It’s the right thing to do.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            YES YES YES.

            Can you say [insert infamous recent Kitchen Nightmares episode tip-stealing crazypants restaurant], anyone?

            1. Jessa*

              If you want an absolute riot of a read about insane bosses, Google Amy’s and look at what she continues to do in response to this thing.

        2. Lindsay J*

          I’ve worked in plenty of corporate chains (retail and amusements, not restaurants) where there were illegal employment behaviors going on.

          It either comes down to lack of knowledge on the part of individual managers, or arrogance of individual managers thinking that they will not be reported for their illegal behaviors, that allows it to happen even though corporate has rules against it and even though the corporate lawyers may know it is illegal. For example, I’ve had places I work do everything from having one hour long weekly mandatory meetings that are unpaid, to blatantly violating laws about work times for underaged workers and working off the clock.

    2. VintageLydia*

      I have never heard of a single restaurant that my friends and I worked at where there WASN’T something shady going on. I’m sure they’re out there, but it’s an industry that pretty much depends on exploitations of employees.

      1. AP*

        Chain retail in general seems to be like that. I had one retail job, ever, with a great manager and absolutely nothing below-board going on, and I will always remember them and try to shop at that store when I can!

    3. Jessa*

      It’s mostly because of the economy, right now people are less able to stand up for their rights, because doing so leaves them unemployed and blacklisted (restaurant people TALK to each other, a LOT.) It stinks a whole lot. But that’s the way things are going right now. And government isn’t on the side of the workers.

      1. JFQ*

        Just to pick up a thread from yesterday: if only those put-upon restaurant employees had a union to protect them.

        That’s what they’re for, everyone, and for everyone anecdote you know about some lazy bum who just “can’t” be fired, you have cases such as this where employers are BREAKING THE LAW.

        They’re not being unfair or jerks narrowly within the rules here, and they’re using a decided power advantage to illegal ends against people with little recourse.

        Unions, though hardly perfect, are the antidote to this kind of garbage, and their also the antidote to the oft-told advice around to change jobs in the face of maltreatment.

        1. Cat*

          Yeah, this is the kind of situations unions are really important for. It’s not for white collar jobs where employees are working for bonuses and promotions. It’s for jobs where the employees on their own are seen as little more than cannon fodder but, as a group, can negotiate decent working conditions and check the worst abuses.

          1. LisaLyn*

            Yes and glad to see some pro-union voices around. Because without unions and other protections, we’re all vulnerable.

          2. Heather*

            Yep, exactly. I think badly-run unions have given the entire concept a bad name. The real point of a union isn’t to prevent workers from having to do a good job…it’s to give them more negotiating power with their employeer than they would have as individuals.

          3. No OT and no comp time but several weekend work trips*

            I am white collar salaried, but it’s not all rainbows and roses in this world, either. My salary is quite low, I don’t get OT or comp time, and I have had to take several international trips that require being away from home over the weekend. I dare not complain because I am replaceable, just as almost everyone is.

            My husband is also white collar. He works far more hours and weekends than I do. But if he complains, he will probably be pointed to the door and informed that there are plenty of engineers in India who would do his job for a lot less than he is making.

            I am not a big fan of some of what I have seen of unions, but these days, I sure wouldn’t mind a union at my job!

            PS A three percent bonus hardly deserves the name.

    4. Rob Aught*

      Even when there is no real malice involved, never underestimate how blissfully ignorant restaurant owners and management can be of the law sometimes.

    5. Natalie*

      One big issue with restaurants is that the profit margin isn’t all that high and they have no meaningful control over their other primary costs – food, rent, and utilities. They don’t generally try things with the food distributor, utility co, or landlord because they know who has the power in that relationship.

      In my experience, that sort of penny pinching also leads to other skimping behavior that is less obvious and has less of an impact on their bottom line, but is similarly detrimental to the staff and customers. We had to start cleaning ventilation systems ourselves because our restaurant tenants simply wouldn’t do it despite the significant fire hazard. And that’s after a vent system fire destroyed 5 buildings in my city, rather spectacularly if I recall.

    6. Meg*

      Restaurant employees DO tend to be younger (although not always), but I think it has to do more with the high turnover you find in the food service industry, as well as the lack of anything even remotely related to an HR department. I work part-time at a restaurant and I see the behavior from the managers/owners all the time – it sucks.

  4. Jo*

    Wow, no wonder they rely on the tips! Sorry, I’m just a little shocked at the minimum wage where OP #1 lives. By law, Australian minimum wage for the Hospitality industry is $16.50 an hour (To my knowledge.) To those soldiering on with $8 an hour, I take my hat off to you because I couldn’t imagine how I’d make it.
    To OP #7 – What the hell are they thinking? $10 per minute of lateness!? Not to mention that this wasn’t because you were lax or lazy but were delayed by circumstances beyond your control – of course that can’t always be an excuse for excessive tardiness but it’s going to happen from time to time; that’s life, you know? I better stop there before this becomes a soapbox…

    1. Sourire*

      Want a bigger shock – when OP #1 said he/she was lucky to make $8.50/hr + tips, it was no joke. In the US, minimum wage for service jobs that receive tips in addition to wages is $2.13!!! And regular minimum wage is $7.25. Caveats: individual states, cities, etc may make it higher if they choose, and if your wage + tips don’t equal regular minimum wage, the employer must at least pay the difference so you are at minimum.

      1. Brandy*

        Perhaps, but my younger brother earns about $5.50/hr as base pay for his job as a server. I was actually surprised when I learned that his gross income after tips is about $40k. He is now bartending, so he’s going to make more like $55k.

        He works in a local midpriced restaurant (eg. $8 burgers/ $13-15 entrees) in a very high cost-of-living area in the northeast. The restaurant reminds me of “Joes American Bar & Grill,” but with a bigger bar and locally owned.

        That said, there is STILL shady stuff where he works– and the management is, generally speaking, decent and above the books. I wonder if it has to do with the age/inexperience of the managers? Or the owners that don’t spend a lot of time on operational issues? Or the type of personality for which restaurant ownership is attractive?

        1. Brandy*

          Should add that my brother doesn’t get PTO, but does have benefits in that he is eligible for the restaurant’s 401(k) [no match or anything] and can buy health/dental/life insurance [unsubsidized] through the restaurant’s group plan.

        2. LisaLyn*

          That’s great for you brother, but my sister worked her way through school in restaurants and was not making anywhere close to that kind of money, and it was at a pretty fancy restaurant, too. So, I’d say your brother’s experience isn’t typical — you can’t look at every person on a wait staff and think, hey, they’re making great money. Just wanted to point that out.

          1. Brandy*

            oh agree– and it’s not really that great of a deal, since the area in which he works is a super high cost of living area. Nobody could support a family on $40k where he is.

            He also works 40 full hours/week, which I know is also a big problem with service jobs– even if the tips are good, you can’t make a lot of money if you have too few/bad hours.

      2. OP#1*

        Yep, I say that I’m lucky because minimum wage for tipped jobs here is $2.19/hour. They pay us regular minimum for the District + Tips, which is pretty generous.

        It sucks, but it’s regular, fast money with a flexible schedule that allows me to contract during the day–and if/when my full-time job search pays off, I’ll be able to leave easily.

    2. Ruffingit*


      Sadly, $8 an hour is actually a huge amount for servers in America. Depending on where you live, it can be half that plus tips. Working in the restaurant industry as a server is rough here sometimes.

    3. VintageLydia*

      If it makes you feel any better, COL in the States is much much lower than in Australia. I’m always shocked when I hear how expensive things are there, even compared to big cities like New York, and our dollars are officially not THAT far apart in value to account for it.

      But yes, our servers make a pittance. Granted, with tips, my best friend makes equivalent of $20 a hour or more, so if you work in a mid-high end restaurant it’s not bad. Certainly better than entry level work in most professional fields.

      1. dejavu2*

        Indeed. Even with only making $3 an hour base pay, my bff makes over $40k a year working as a server at a run-of-the-mill sushi restaurant. She works (hard) 50+ hours a week, doesn’t get PTO or benefits, and has seen multi-year employees fired for calling in sick… but the money isn’t terrible.

      2. mel*

        Yes! COL makes a huge difference. Minimum wage in BC right now is about $10.75 or something like that. It sounds great until you open the paper and it’s saying the poverty line is now sitting at around $19/hour. Ugh.

    4. Jamie*

      Indexes Difference
      Consumer Prices in Australia are 54.81% higher than in United States
      Consumer Prices Including Rent in Australia are 62.25% higher than in United States
      Rent Prices in Australia are 79.60% higher than in United States
      Restaurant Prices in Australia are 58.32% higher than in United States
      Groceries Prices in Australia are 42.47% higher than in United States
      Local Purchasing Power in Australia is 25.30% lower than in United States

      The above is from an online cost of living calculator. Not a perfect measure but your cost of living is substantially higher than ours so you can’t compare minimum wage in a vacuum.

      1. jesicka309*

        For us minimum wage is all you get. No tips. Though for a full time worker at McDonald’s, for example, you still get a superannuation contribution every week and 4 weeks annual leave a year…so I think I know which system I prefer. :)

        What I don’t get is why Australians get charged more for American things. Why does music and TV cost 3 times as much on iTunes? It’s not like there’s shipping or retailing involved… uggghhhh.

        1. anon o*

          One reason is that it’s priced relative to the cost of the hard goods price, so if the CD is (for example) $20 because of shipping, royalties, etc then the music distributors are undercutting themselves (and hurting the brick and mortar stores) if they price the album at $5.00 on iTunes. This is obviously a complicated issue and there are a lot of factors involved but that’s one big factor.

    5. LouG*

      But tipping is not common in Australia, correct? In the US, I think the low base pay assumes you will receive tips on top of that, correctly or incorrectly.

      1. Natalie*

        The trade off is that literally all of the nature in Australia is trying to kill you.

        1. Jamie*

          I laughed out loud at this at the exact moment the other person picked up the call as I was on hold.

          Glad it was a vendor and I was making a purchase so they don’t care that I just randomly laugh to myself while on the phone.

          1. Heather*

            Now I have to go find the graphic that divides Australia into sections according to what’s trying to kill you in each one.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Ha ha!

              I want to go to New Zealand. All the poison things moved to Australia and left peaceful (but ugly) wetas behind.

  5. Michael*


    In the past 2 years I’ve switched jobs 3 times. The first time to the 2nd was very painful as it was with a great team of people doing work I could genuinely feel good about. I was a programmer for an online K-12 school geared toward getting kids an education that could not otherwise be in normal school settings. It was very personally fulfilling. However, as a new father what they could pay me simply was not enough for a family so I had to quit purely for economic reasons. I explained this to my then boss, his boss and also to the team once it was announced. Everyone understood and there were no hurt feelings. It was very painful decision because that perfect mix is really quite rare. This is one of those situations where honesty will get you everywhere. You don’t need delicate phrasings. Just be straightforward.

    1. anon-2*

      #2 – Twice in my career, I had to quit jobs that I loved. The first one – major league salary dispute, which could have easily been resolved, but wasn’t. After several months of “negotiations” — BAD FAITH negotiations, as it turned out, I had to leave.

      Reasons = Family, career, mortgage, future college tuition, car payments, groceries, etc. I was willing to listen to counter-offers but they never came.

      The second one – the company was folding. Monthly layoffs. Job elimination was imminent. I bailed out for the same reasons – and it was a sad day, but a necessary one.

      #2 OP – the expression used = “Take care of number one” … do not feel badly – just do what you have to do.

  6. Erik*

    Quitting a job is never easy, even when you don’t like the job.

    I left my last job, and went above the beyond the call of duty for my boss so that they could get as much knowledge transfer as possible in two weeks. I was there for 6 1/2 years, so there’s no way you can tell them everything.

    We set up a plan of the most important items he needed, and then prioritized them. He was happy with my work, even though I was leaving.

    1. OP #2*

      These stories are reassuring to me. Thank you all for sharing.

      Alison, I appreciate the straight-forward advice on what to say: I couldn’t get past feeling guilty and apologizing too much, “I’m very sorry to tell you this, but…” when in fact, if I get the offer, I’ll be glad. I will miss my coworkers, but this is a great opportunity.

  7. ABC*

    #2: maybe be unnecessary, but just wanted to say that the quitting happens post you accepting a written job offer. Not before.

    1. OP #2*

      Definitely! I don’t change jobs lightly. It’s a big decision to leave a job after 12 years.
      I would only quit after receiving an offer in writing with any contingencies met.

  8. I wish I could say*

    #5 – I’m right there with you. In general I like to keep my work and personal life separate, so I try not to let it bother me that the other handful of people in my unit, my boss included, go out to lunch, dinner, happy hours, travel together and act like a special club rather than coworkers. I do my job and I do it well. The part that ticks me off though, is when there are changes in rules/regs/the way things are going to be done and I’m left out of the loop. I hold down the fort while they’re off on their 5 hr off site “meetings” to celebrate one of their accomplishments or their 4 day trips to “conferences”, but am not given the information I need to do my job accurately. Really off-putting.

    1. SerfinUSA*

      My workplace is similar. We call it the A team and the B team, and it’s pretty evident who is on which team. Seniority, skills, aptitude aside, the interesting assignments, after-meeting meetings, extra training, etc. are doled out amongst the A team. The B team is left begging for scraps and enduring derision, even though most B teamers are willing and eager to step up. Toxic workplace, but great benefits and unionized.

  9. fposte*

    On #6–In addition to the possibilities Alison notes, could you find a couch to surf on for the intervening couple of weeks that gets you within public transit/carpooling distance of the job?

  10. LisaLyn*

    #5 – I feel your pain. Seriously, I am realizing that I’m in the same position and I’ve figured out that actually what bothers me the most is that the manager will advocate for his “friends” way more than anyone else. He’ll really go to bat for them, stand up for them, etc. And that’s great, except that he neglects the rest of us.

    In my situation, it really could affect my career so I’m seriously considering moving, but for only that reason. I am being given less opportunities and my position isn’t being fought for as much (as far as being upgraded, pay increases, etc) as others, so I feel that is a legitimate reason to leave. If it were just the social aspects or even probably just the “being out of the loop”, I’d deal with it. Just my opinion.

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks, it definitely helps to hear that others are in similar situations (and thank you, Alison, for your answer)! I think this helps to push me in the direction of looking for something new, but I can try to take my time with it and think about what I want to do next.

  11. Anonymous*

    Alison – I’ve noticed for the past week or two, whenever I visit your main page there’s a big ad on the left hand corner that covers up the first part of the most recent post.. Is there any way I can make that go away that you know of?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Please take a screenshot the next time you see it and email it to me — that’s the only way my ad network can track it down and get rid of it!

      Or, if you can at least tell me what’s being advertised and what the ad looks like, that could help!

      1. Anonymous*

        It’s a BlogHer ad for Ulta. Says something like “Blog readers love having great hair.”

        I’ll screenshot it when I can. :)

  12. Jess*

    #1 “We don’t clock in for meetings here.” does not mean the same thing as “we don’t get paid for meetings here.”

    Enter the way-back machine to the days where I worked retail management during college (a decade ago). We used to have mandatory meetings every month as well. We knew how long the meeting took and we would automatically add the time (rounded up to the next quarter hour) to the employees’ hours. This was a policy that I have seen in other non-office hourly jobs that had meetings outside normal operations time and the reason for it is simple: Its fair. By doing it this way we ensured everyone was paid exactly the same for a meeting that took X time rather than potentially having one employee make more than another because they clocked in first and out last. That and it saved time for the employees as well, no need to wait in line to clock in and out.

    Now its sounds like the OP is new enough that this was their first meeting and that they asked immediately after the event with no waiting to see the next paycheck (understandable fear, no criticism from me there), so is it possible that this is what that restaurant is doing? That is automatically adding 2 hours of pay to all time sheets and its just understood that this happens by the others and asking constantly is seen as a nuisance?

    <> Perhaps this could be because of immediately jumping to “violating labor laws” and would make OP seem very litigious. When you bring up labor laws over things it can be scary for a small business, reports must be dealt with and it can cause headaches and perhaps it has happened to the owner in the past. (I’m not saying the Owner would be right to get Angry) Perhaps simply asking “Do we get paid for these meetings?” would have been a better approach as it does not carry any “hidden meaning” that could be misinterpreted as “I will run to the labor board and give you a potential headache of paperwork.” That would get a simple Yes/No answer and then the OP would know if a law were being violated.

    1. Rob Aught*

      Eh, possible.

      However, for a vast majority of businesses, if you’re not clocked in you don’t get paid.

      I have both salaried and hourly staff. The hourly staff doesn’t have a time clock, though some facilities do, but they do have to enter all of their time worked. That includes “non-productive” time such as team meetings, training, or even group get togethers during working hours. If they don’t record it, they don’t get paid for the time.

      That’s usually the understanding at most places I’ve worked. Whenever we did group meetings when I worked retail, usually the dreaded “morning meeting” we had to clock in first.

      I’m sure there are exceptions, but they’d be in the minority. I don’t think it is litigious to inquire about making sure you get paid for mandatory work functions.

      1. Jess*

        Systems where you Manually Record your time on say a spread sheet are different than electronic systems, most retail shops will have some type of electronic system, even if its built into a cash register even 15 years ago when I worked for a small chain (4 stores) of mall food court smoothie shops). With a manual system you would just add the extra hours on when you are filling out your time sheet. Which an electronic system you would need to wait in line to clock in unless you had your own terminal (which retail shops and restaurants do not) so it is Pure logistics.

        Also “Morning meetings” are normally a different bird altogether as they are the precursor to your shift or part of your shift so it makes sense to clock in for those as you will typically have to go right to work after. Those we always had employees clock in for.

        What I was talking about applies to meetings where the employees have to come in regardless of if they are working that day. And I am not even saying it applies to all shops. If you are dealing with a store with 5 employees having them all clock in and out is not so bad and would take less than a minute on many systems. Now try a shop with 60 hourly employees (which a restaurant can easily have with all the part timers, if the system allows for about 10 people to login in a minute (a restaurant would not likely have a simple card swipe rut rather a login system) then it would take 6 minutes to get everyone in and another to get people out, so you could easily have people getting paid to sit around and wait. Assuming a minimum wage of 7.50 (which you would have to pay them while not waiting tables by laws in most areas) it can add up.

        Now in our system I was able to add X time to everyones time sheet in about 3 or 4 clicks. Total time: less than a minute and we were not keeping everyone longer than we needed to.

    2. Jamie*

      Good point about not knowing – maybe they are planning to pay. We have a clocking system, but on the day of the holiday party people clock out and 2 hours are added to everyone’s time just so they don’t have to go the long way back to the data collection stations – and they are paid for the full time even if they leave the party early. So it’s possible they are just kicking an extra 2 hour to everyone’s check for the meeting.

      However, that should be made very clear to the employees and it wasn’t (if it’s the case). No one should have to wonder about whether or not they are getting paid. A simple announcement of don’t bother clocking in as we’re adding 2 hours for everyone here would be simple and sufficient.

      1. Jess*

        Yes, I agree. If they were getting paid a general announcement or reminder would be appropriate. However, depending on the turnover, it could be that many of them just know so its understood and/or assumed.

    3. OP#1*

      Thanks for the insight; I hadn’t thought of that! I’ll ask the manager.

      The funny thing is, I’m the least litigious person in the world, but do tend to get kind of literal about some things–I do research on the outside, so the best way I know to say something is wrong is to back it up with evidence, not just say that it’s not fair!

      I would never, ever sue or run to the labor board over it (and have a good enough relationship with the managers that I hope they would know it), but it’s just frustrating. It’s time out of my schedule that I could be doing work for companies that pay me more–unfortunately they don’t pay me as regularly as the restaurant, hence the two jobs!

      Thanks again for the insight.

      1. Jess*

        You’re very welcome. And I hope that I am correct, however there are many small businesses out that that will bend or break rules simply because of ignorance due to their size and not having legal departments or counsel. Business laws and regulations can be tricky, especially for those with no prior major business background. My current company used to use comp time for all employees, exempt or not, until we realized that it was illegal for the non-exempt employees.

        1. Ruffingit*

          +1 million. I have seen so many businesses who didn’t have a clue about business law. It’s disheartening for many reasons, but it’s not uncommon that they don’t understand the following things:

          1. Differences between employee and independent contractors.

          2. When you can allow comp time and when you can’t.

          3. The contractual obligations an employee handbook may incite.

          4. Exempt vs. non-exempt.

          5. Paying for meeting time.

          I could go on, but those are a few of the basics. It may be my legal background talking here, but if I was going to start a business, you better believe the first thing I would do is get some legal counsel on employment issues. There are just too many possibilities for things going wrong. Being audited by the IRS and discovering my contractors were actually employees and then having to pay for that comes to mind. I just wouldn’t want to take the chance. But so many people seem blind to the fact that HR (for example) is a profession for a reason.

          1. Lynn*

            How does this happen? I believe you and agree with you that it’s common, but… how? It seems like you’d notice a lot of these things just having a job, or at least notice that there IS an issue. And then when you started your business, you’d remember “wait a minute, there’s something tricky about comp time.” Nowadays, you can Google this stuff (maybe not the esoterica, but certainly “comp time laws”). So, I don’t quite get how there are all these small business owners swearing they had no idea they couldn’t call anyone they wanted a contractor until someone sued over it.

            1. Ruffingit*

              It’s been my experience that a lot of people are ignorant about HR and business laws. This is generally because they’ve never had to deal with it. Either their previous companies offered comp time or they didn’t. The people never question why they do or don’t, they just know they did or didn’t so they never think about the fact that there are laws associated with it. Therefore, when the person starts a business of their own, rather than pay for the appropriate legal counsel to iron out these issues and understand them, they just think “I loved the comp time thing, I’ll offer that here!”

              Same for independent contracting vs. employees. That is a huge issue I’ve seen and I give less latitude to people on not understanding that because it’s a tax issue and you should realize just by virtue of common sense that there is a difference between them and that is why they are different titles (contractor/employee). However, what people often think here is “I only have to give a 1099 to a contractor and I don’t have to pay taxes for them. But I can control them the same as my employees.” I have seen that so often. What’s even more amazing is how many people will take a contract job and not realize themselves that by virtue of being hired as a contractor, the game changes completely in terms of the control and tax consequences. I had to explain the contractor/employee difference to someone who had been hired as a contractor, but was actually an employee.

              And, last but not least, many employers do these things with full knowledge that they are completely illegal or problematic in the very least. They get away with it because workers either don’t want to make a stink and risk losing their jobs or because, as I mentioned, the workers themselves often don’t realize what it means to be exempt/non-exempt, etc. That is clear just from the questions AAM receives. There’s a lot of misunderstanding or no understanding of worker classifications, etc.

              Obviously, business owners should be more aware of these things than general employees, but for reasons mentioned above, they are not or they don’t care.

  13. some1*

    #2, You are putting the cart way before the horse. It’s admirable that you want the transition to be as smooth as possible, but remember that is IF you get and accept the new offer at this point, not WHEN.

    If you accept an offer, you have no idea when that might happen. Hiring can sometimes take weeks or months longer than both sides expect, so you have no way to know at this time if you would be giving notice during your boss’s vacation.

    Even though you would be giving two weeks notice at your current job, that doesn’t mean your new employer will be ready for you to start exactly two weeks from the date that they accept your offer. It might be a busy time for your new dept, your boss might have a business trip that week, etc.

    1. OP #2*

      It’s looking very likely that it will be a WHEN offer, but you are right. No offer can be counted on until it’s made in writing. This was the fast-track scenario for an offer.

      I am doing my best to stay calm and keep achieving at my current job. After all, if there is no offer, I need to remain a good employee at the current job.

  14. Sarah*

    #7 – I would just start applying to other restaurants in the area. I have previously worked for Darden restaurants (Olive Garden) and, while its difficult to work in the service industry, I was treated fairly and made really good money. It depends on where you’re at, and what you do (I worked To go, got paid $10.50 plus tips) I started off at 8.50 and received a $1 raise each year. Once you’ve been there 2 plus years full time you also get a weeks vacation pay, there is a 401K, health, dental etc. It was also a pretty fair company. If you didn’t agree with something there was an HR company you could contact, or the District Manager’s cell phone number was available as well. My advice is go corporate if you want rules and regulation. If you like being able to drink on the job or have after hours parties in the restaurant or something then non corporate would be for you.

    1. Cimorene*

      Wow, I didn’t know that about Olive Garden (or the group that owns it). I have to say that hearing that makes me feel way more inclined to go to those restaurants–the fact that there’s a 401K and benefits, AND a week’s vacation, is impressive.

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, same here. I think I know what the hubby and I are doing for dinner at least one night this week. (You know, like I needed an excuse for pasta.)

  15. Employment lawyer*

    Even as a plaintiff’s attorney, I would temper AAM’s advice re #1:
    “Do I have to be paid for attending meetings outside my regular hours?”

    Yes, you have to be paid. Yes, that is illegal. But as a practical matter, you should consider whether $17/month (one meeting, two hours, base rate of $8.50) is enough to piss off your boss. This sounds like one of the rare situations where it may be prudent to let it go.

    It’s especially true since you’re a waiter. There is a lot of discretion in scheduling and table assignments and it would be almost impossible to prove retaliation unless it was really overt. Changes are that you’ll lose more than you save.

    It’s not your job to cure your employer’s habits. I’d leave it alone.

    regarding #7: “7. Can my employer fine me for arriving late?”
    Different scenario, different answer. Most notably, this is a lot of money, the OP doesn’t mention that they otherwise adore the employer, and the OP mentions that this (a) has happened before; (b) will happen again; and (c) happens to more than one person.

    This one is worthy of a report to the state attorney general or wage division. This is the type of thing that they really, really, hate.

    I would stick to anonymity if you can. If they insist that it can’t be anonymous, then you should keep a record of every time it happens (in writing, detailed) and sue when you leave. You can report in person but as always, you risk practical repercussions.

    1. OP#1*

      You’re right about the scheduling and the amount of money per month. But I do contracting on the side–so I have to take off two hours where I’d be making $40/hr from another company to listen to the same message over and over again for free.

      Since I’m trying to build up a contracting business from scratch while looking for full-time employment while juggling a part-time restaurant job, it comes down to a lot more than that $17.50/month in my eyes–it’s a sign of respect for my time and schedule.

      I’m of course reading a lot more into this than they are seeing (and as I said above, I’m not a litigious person and would never go to a labor board or anything over this), but it is a lot for people to ask of you on your off-time.

    2. OP #7*

      Thanks for this. I contacted the attorney general’s office and they encouraged me to report it to the Department of Labor. I’m going to wait until my next shift (tomorrow morning) to see if I still have a job before I decide whether to report it anonymously.

  16. Esra*

    Does #7 happen to work for Amy’s Baking Co?

    Seriously though, the request for deductions alone is ridiculous, the amount the owner asked for was absolutely shameful.

  17. Elizabeth West*

    #6- fine


    Can you say extortion, boys and girls? I knew that you could.

  18. Kerr*

    #1: If the other employee mentioned “scheduling consequences,” they’ve probably seen this before, and management probably IS aware that what they are doing is illegal. I’d address it the way AAM suggested. Particularly since you said you were taking time off from better-paying work to attend these meetings, there’s no reason to let them off the hook. Being aware, of course, that there could be “scheduling consequences”, but it sounds like this isn’t your only source of income.

    #7: What?!? Jerks. An anonymous report, if possible, sounds like an excellent idea.

  19. Coffeeless*

    I’ve seen a lot of posters saying that many managers and owners don’t know the labor laws, but I don’t think that’s usually the case. While they may be ignorant of some of the finer points, I think paying people for hours they work is pretty common sense.

    At my first job out of high school, the owner of a video store required me to come in a half hour before my shift, and stay to close a half hour after. I was not paid for this time. After a register was short $20, he tried to collect $20 from every member of the staff who’d worked that night. In fact, he refused to install cameras or regularly count down drawers at the end of a shift, but regularly required any variance from the register to be paid by each person working that day. So, from that missing $20 he made $100. I told him he could have it if he paid me for all the unpaid time I came in before and after my shift, and left a highlighted copy of state labor laws for him. Of course, I would never have been able to do this if I wasn’t giving notice already.

    My coworker said he saw the highlighted copy, laughed and threw it in the trash. I’ve had similar experiences with most of my part time jobs, actually.

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