my new job wants me available full-time but only pays me for part-time

A reader writes:

Several months ago, I was hired as an administrative assistant by a very small nonprofit. When they offered me the position, I was told they could only afford to have me work seven hours per week (they stressed this was a strict limit). While the hours (and pay) were much less than I anticipated, I took the job because I figured it would be a good way to network and ease back into the workforce after a few years home with my kids.

The more I am with this organization, however, the more I feel it might not be worth it. There is no office, no organizational email, and a bare-bones budget. In order to do my job, I have to rely heavily on personal resources. They use Google Drive but do not have a business account, so the documents I create eat into my own storage allotment (I am a heavy Google user). I was given a new email address, but I had to link it to my personal Gmail account in order to access it. I am expected to do odd jobs and although they reimburse expenses, the supplies that officially belong to the organization are accumulating in my small home and there’s nowhere else to put them (cleaning products, office supplies, etc.). They have a business phone number but it’s through a messaging service website and the only way I could start taking calls was to download an app on my personal phone.

Speaking of calls and email, I am expected to answer calls during normal business hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm) but I am only supposed to actually work seven hours per week. Same goes with email. Sure each interruption only takes 2-3 minutes, but when I get that $75 check each week, I begin to resent that I drop everything four to five times a day to deal with work stuff (for the same amount of money my boys make selling candy bars for school in two hours).

How can I communicate to my employers that I am having these problems without sounding too negative? I have already refused to do a couple major tasks that were not included in my job description — because if they had been I would not have taken the job (making cold calls and going door-to-door). Also they really overestimate exactly what can be accomplished in seven hours. How can I manage their expectations? Any advice?

You wrote, “The more I am with this organization, however, the more I feel it might not be worth it.” Listen to that feeling.

You didn’t sign up to volunteer, yet they are treating you like a volunteer 33 hours of the week.

This organization … sounds like it’s barely an organization. That’s fine; there are lots of small nonprofits on shoestring budgets that don’t have the normal trappings of professional organizations because they can’t afford to. But the problem here is that this one is pretending that they’re in a position to hire employees when they’re not.

I want to be super clear: They are breaking the law and taking advantage of you by pretending you’re only working seven hours a week while simultaneously expecting you to answer calls and emails 40 hours a week. Legally, ethically, and practically, they cannot have it both ways. They can either accept that they need to pay someone for full-time work, or they can accept that they can only afford to pay someone for seven hours a week, which will mean that they need a different arrangement for calls and emails the rest of the time (whether it’s having calls handled by a volunteer — which legally cannot be the same person they’re paying to do that work at other times — or simply letting them wait until someone is on the clock and able to deal with them).

The other stuff like using up your own Google storage for work things and storing office supplies in your home can be part of working for a tiny organization, but it’s also something they should have disclosed to you up-front before you accepted the job. It’s in their interest to do that, since they should want to screen for people who are okay with the scrappy-on-steroids way that they’re operating. Otherwise they’ll end up with one of the many people who would not be okay with that, and then they’ll have constant turnover when those people get annoyed and leave.

Similarly, it’s not okay to spring cold-calling or door-to-door canvassing on people; those are tasks that are widely understood to be something that the majority of people have no interest in doing, and thus it falls in the “disclose before hiring” category.

I’m skeptical that you should stay at this job. Given the way it’s operating, I’m doubtful that it really will help you with networking or easing back into the workforce. (I’m also pretty doubtful that they’re really getting results toward whatever their mission is, because operating this way doesn’t tend to go hand in hand with “highly effective.”)

There’s nothing wrong with small and scrappy. But there’s plenty wrong with taking advantage of people and hoping they won’t push back.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 136 comments… read them below }

  1. Lemon Zinger*

    Great advice from Alison per usual! There are so many red flags here. OP, I hope you listen to your gut and get out.

  2. BadPlanning*

    This sounds like one of those micro task jobs where you get paid to pick up tasks throughout the day. Except if you were actually doing that sort of job, you’d probably get paid better.

  3. Leatherwings*

    Yep, these people want a full time assistant but can’t afford one, so they just treat you like one anyways. As Alison said, that’s illegal and ridiculous. If you can’t quit without something else lined up, start looking for something else ASAP, and refuse to do any work outside of those seven hours.

    In the meantime, can you set up a different google account on your own just for work so you don’t have to pay for google storage on your real account?

    1. Joseph*

      The email thing seems like an easy one to solve – You just create a fully separate work account for it (“Joseph.ChocolateTeapots at gmail” or whatever). The Gmail app on your phone makes it really easy to have multiple accounts listed and swap between them appropriately. I’ve actually done this for organizations which I volunteer with before – because I don’t want to give out 500 attendees my personal email. Also makes it much easier to have someone else check it for you – since it’s a pure work account, you can give the password to your boss and let him deal with it during the time you’re off the clock.

      The rest of it is a clear no. In particular, if you’re expected to be on the clock ready to answer emails/phone calls, you’re legally required to be getting paid for your time.

      1. Joseph*

        Just to clarify with the pay, you need to be paid for the time you’re on the phone, not necessarily the time you spend waiting…but any time you’re on the phone or answering an email *does* count. And I’ll bet if you track your time this week, you’ll find that you’re way over 7 hours when you add up all the “15 minutes here, 30 minutes there” and they’re legally required to pay you for that time.

        1. Leatherwings*

          Yep, this is an important nuance. Even if it only adds up to an extra hour each week (and it sounds like it’s more, realistically) you need to be paid for that time.

        2. Elysian*

          Not entirely true! There are certain circumstances where you need to be paid for being on-call, though they’re few and far between. Whether the OP would qualify is a question for a lawyer, though. Either way, this schedule sounds like a sham, so that’s not going to help matters for the employer.

          1. Noah*

            Waiting to be engaged vs engaged to wait. Generally the employee is not required to be paid if they can effectively utilize the time for personal activities. It gets tricky in some circumstances because the laws and regulations are vauge.

            1. nofelix*

              Seems arguable that being required to pick up the phone any time it calls would get in the way of a significant proportion of personal activities. Like you couldn’t take a shower or make another call. An office receptionist isn’t allowed to leave her desk and leave the phones unanswered for personal activities, and that’s basically what this role is.

              The simplest way to make it very clear that she’s waiting to be engaged would be to make callers always leave a voicemail, and she can then return their call within a reasonable time-frame. The voicemail notification will wait until she’s free, meaning she doesn’t have to be engaged to wait for calls.

  4. Jubilance*

    Run far away OP. They are using you and it’s not going to get better. If they can’t afford to hire someone full-time, they need to get volunteers or have the leaders of the non-profit do the work. They can’t expect you to do 40 hours of work yet only be compensated for 7.

    1. stevenz*

      They’re making a fool of you and that can’t be worth $75 a week. Even panhandlers can make $100 a day, so keep your self-respect and get out of there. It’s no loss.

      And one more thing. This org isn’t going to last very long anyway, so it’s best that the decision to leave is yours, not theirs. As for other jobs, this shouldn’t reflect badly on you; it’s pretty easy to explain this situation to a prospective employer – if you want to put it on your resume at all.

  5. Panda Bandit*

    OP, please get out of there. There are too many problems embedded in the way they operate and they need a massive overhaul to fix them. Don’t count on that overhaul ever happening.

  6. Aurion*

    I could’ve sworn the US has some sort of “ready to engage” clause in their labour law that means that employees who are ready and waiting for business-related calls is considered on the clock? So there is no way this employer isn’t breaking labour law?

    (Maybe Canada has some sort of similar clause, but I only learned the above from this site, which is US-centric)

    Alison is 100% right, OP. Politely tell your employer that if they want you to drop everything for 8 hours a day and pick up the calls, they better pay you for that time.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In the U.S., it depends on whether they are “waiting to be engaged” or are “engaged to wait.”

      If you’re required to remain on call on the employer’s premises or so close to it that you can’t use the time for your own purposes, you’re “engaged to wait” and the full amount of that time must be paid.

      If you’re able to use your time freely but are on-call if needed, you’re “waiting to be engaged.” You only need to be paid for the time you spend actually doing work (for example, the 15-minute work call you take during that time).

      In this case, the employer is probably hoping they can just treat the employee as “waiting to be engaged.” But asking that of someone for a 40-hour week, every week, while paying them only for seven hours, is really sketchy.

      1. Aurion*

        Thanks for the clarification. Does “engaged to wait” require extra pay under US law? My cousin (we’re in Canada) once mentioned that when he was on-call, he could do whatever he wanted until he gets called in, but he was being paid extra to carry the pager around whether or not he actually gets called in. (At least I think that’s what he said, it’s been about eight years.) He’s a sonographer at the hospital.

        I assume he was paid some extra for the (Canadian equivalent of) “engaged to wait” period (carrying the pager whether or not he gets called) and then paid his regular pay or overtime pay on top of that for the time at work when he actually got called in.

          1. SL*

            In Aurion’s example above, are there any rules about how much you must be paid for the “pager time”? My company has something similar for many of its hourly positions. The employee is expected to be available to work at any time during the week when he’s on-call. This means that the employee must be within close proximity of the jobsite and is taking a risk if he has too much to drink.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              If you’re engaged to wait, you have to be paid your normal wage for the whole time. If you’re waiting to be engaged, you only have to be paid (your normal wage) for the amount of time spent actually doing work. But that’s just the law — companies can and do choose to do more than what’s required.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Has the law changed in the past few decades? I remember my mom being “on call” (as a nurse) many years ago and, since this was before cell phones, she basically had to sit at home to see if she was called in to work. Since she couldn’t go anywhere, she was paid for that time. But it was less than her normal wage since she wasn’t actually working.

                1. Noah*

                  Lots of places have “on call” rates that are less than normal wages, but in that instance employees are waiting to be engaged not engaged to wait. The on call rate is just there so they have backup staff easily available.

                2. Anna*

                  My friend is the a nurse and on-call is usually waiting to be engaged, but they’re still paid for that time even though they can do most of the normal stuff they would do during the day. They are unionized and I’m sure that’s part of their bargaining agreement. It’s a way to entice nurses to be willing to be on-call whether by assignment or voluntarily.

                3. Rusty Shackelford*

                  @Noah – But according to Alison’s definition:

                  If you’re able to use your time freely but are on-call if needed, you’re “waiting to be engaged.” You only need to be paid for the time you spend actually doing work (for example, the 15-minute work call you take during that time).

                  … it sounds more like she was engaged to wait, since she wasn’t free to use her time as she wanted. She couldn’t leave the house.

                4. Dweali*

                  I’m in Oklahoma and the psych hospital I work at pays $2 an hour when I’m on call and then if I’m called in I get time and a half for the hours worked…but I’m sure this isn’t a law on our books just the hospital’s policy

                5. TootsNYC*

                  It may be that the law wouldn’t require full pay, but that the employer thinks it’s smart, or necessary, to pay SOMEthing, or no one would be willing to do it.

              2. SL*

                I guess I’m just a little fuzzy on the difference between “engaged to wait” vs. “waiting to engage”. The distinction between the two doesn’t seem very clear to me. We have on-call people who are mostly free to use their time as they see fit, but they can’t do some of the things that I would do as part of my normal life (like going to an out of town football game or having a few beers on a Friday night).

          2. Aurion*

            Oops, I got my terms backwards. What I meant was, do you need to be paid extra for the “waiting to be engaged” (carrying around pager but can do your own thing) time under US law?

              1. nofelix*

                So are employers allowed to place restrictions on what you do while waiting to be engaged? Say I want to get drunk, get a temporary tattoo and undertake an escapology course this weekend.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Presumably, you can’t do anything that would make it impossible for you to get to work within a prescribed amount of time, or make you unable to work once you got there.

      2. Alton*

        This situation sounds more like engaged to wait to me. If she’s expected to be around to answer routine calls/e-mails, and not just be reasonably reachable if she’s needed, that sounds like being on the clock. It’s not like she can really run errands, for example, if she has to keep taking calls.

        1. MillersSpring*

          Exactly. Can she run errands, take a class, have a doctors appointment, go hiking? No, she has to be available to answer the phone and do emails.

      3. Marisol*

        I cannot thank you enough for this useful distinction. I have been wondering how much time to claim for an email I sent to my boss while technically off the clock. Nothing sketchy is going on by anyone, I just want to be fair to both me and my company and this waiting to be engaged/engaged to wait really informs my decision. Thanks again!

        1. Emily*

          Yes, that was really helpful. But still, if you send a 2 minute email, should you really only be paid for 2 minutes? Or is there some type of minimum? Like lawyers charge you 15 minutes minimum for a call?

          If you make $200 an hour, it’s worth it to spend extra time on emails and calls. But if you make $10-$15/hr it might not be worth the interruption.

          1. Marisol*

            Well this is the big question. Normally, I wouldn’t include a quick email to my boss that I sent from my personal computer at home, just like I don’t dock my hours if I take a personal call or pay a bill online while at work. In this case however, my computer recently died and I haven’t replaced it yet, so a quick email meant I had to drive to my gym’s business center and use their computer (and unlike the rest of humanity, I don’t have a smart phone). I anticipated taking a half hour or so on that task, including parking, trudging up to the third floor where the computers are, etc., but then these two people who were already using the computer hogged it for two hours. I waited and waited, cancelled my dinner plans and ate dinner in the gym dining room, and finally got access to the computer and emailed my boss.

            Initially, I was going to add a half hour of overtime and nothing else, because why would I charge my company for the time I was eating dinner? but then when I learned of the “engaged to be waiting” concept, I realized that I was indeed engaged to be waiting during all that time. I didn’t *want* to be there waiting; the sole reason for my being there was to get my boss info he needed over the weekend. I decided I would claim the two hours on my timesheet, and since my boss signs my timesheets, he could push back if he disagreed, which he didn’t.

            Ultimately, for me, it’s a question of company culture. The info my boss needed was for a business trip on which we were already spending over twenty thousand dollars. My boss earns a 7 figure salary, and routinely expenses dinners for just him which cost the same as my two hours of overtime. He is an asset manager in charge of a few billions dollars of assets. So, given all that, I didn’t think it was a problem for me to claim that measly overtime, and it wasn’t!

            But if I were in a different situation, such as a non-profit with a small budget, I might not ask for the overtime even if I were technically allowed it, and instead take a few hours while at work to focus on personal tasks. Basically, I always see myself as a private contractor, and make decisions on how I will “bill” my company from a business perspective–if not claiming time would be somehow advantageous, for example, it gets me goodwill which I can later parlay into greater gain such as a promotion or other favors, then I would not claim the time. I would never want to look like a paycheck player who was nickel and diming my company. I occasionally will work through lunch or not take breaks and it really doesn’t bother me because I like to send the message that I am a team player (which I am). But, if I ruin my Friday evening plans just to send an email, then hell yes, I feel entitled to be paid for it.

            So that’s how I handle my situation. Regarding the 15-minute minimum, I would actually just ask my boss how to handle that, and I would probably decide first what I want from the situation, and then ask if it’s okay; in other words, I wouldn’t ask, “what should I do in this circumstance” because they’re going to default to the choice that serves the company’s interest and not yours, which means paying you less, but I would instead say, “I’d like to charge a 15 minute minimum for sending an email outside of work, is that alright with you?” and let them push back if need be. These things can be negotiated.

            The thing about whether or not something is worth an interruption is, there is usually an opportunity to *gain* something by making an extra effort. If it’s clear that there really is nothing to be gained, then obviously, it’s not worth doing.

            1. Marisol*

              Oh, you’re the OP I think. I forgot your name. Ok, for you, obviously you’re more interested in making sure you are treated fairly than you are garnering favor with this company. I would just decide what works for you and then propose it. I like the suggestions that Brigitha makes below for documenting and managing your workload. Do that, and decide what is at stake for you personally, what would make this job worth your while, and negotiate for it. If it’s charging 15 minutes per email, then ask for it. Someone else might be cool with not charging at all, and that’s fine for them. It’s not like there is some absolute rule about this, labor laws notwithstanding. If you think you’re worth more, then ask for more…

              1. Emily*

                Yeah, I’m the OP. In the beginning I wasn’t really thinking about fair and not fair just trying to get the job done to the best of my ability. I’ll take some of the blame for that but when you are new to a job, you are just trying to make a good impression. Every request seems reasonable in the moment and doesn’t turn into a disaster until the details start coming out. “Hey, we have this app you can download that will let you make and take calls on the company’s dime” — turns into “Now that you have that app wouldn’t it be great if people could talk to real person instead of going to VM?” Ummmm okay, sure, I’ll try it. But as calls come in while I am standing over the stove or outside supervising a pile of neighborhood kids swimming, it turns out to be not so great.

                Take the cold calls. I didn’t think of it as cold-calling at first and I don’t think my bosses honestly did either. A businessman who supports our mission gave us a list of his associates to contact to offer our services. I was told to call them all, let them know what we had in the pipeline, and update their contact info. so we could make sure our information was going to the right person in the company. I was given the impression that they would be glad to hear from us and I agreed to do it. Then I started making the calls and got a reality check. I got stone-walled and/or treated like a vacuum salesman. One guy actually chewed me out — that’s when I told them I refused to do it anymore. And the board members were truly surprised I was getting treated that way. They really thought I would come back with a nice updated list and a pile of people wanting follow-up.

                So many of the jobs they give me turn into debacles like this because they are just ignorant of the realities of what they are asking. I just deleted a 300 word story about trying to get a flyer printed up. Let’s just say something that should have taken a couple hours took a whole week because my bosses didn’t have their acts together. And after it was all said and done, I look back and see that I only clocked 9.5 hours for the week… or about $100 in my pocket. But I wasted every single day of a gorgeous week hovering over the computer waiting on some detail that would allow me to proceed. I will take some of the blame for not putting my foot down sooner, but in the moment I just want to finish what I started. That is what makes me think I need to walk away because it’s just not a good fit for me. I just have never had a job where my expectations and my employers’ were such a mismatch.

                I am really glad that I wrote in to get perspective though. I think I would have hung in there much longer out of a sense of obligation wondering if I was being too sensitive.

            2. an anon*

              I might not ask for the overtime even if I were technically allowed it, and instead take a few hours while at work to focus on personal tasks

              That’s really not legal, though. You can’t volunteer to work unpaid, and you can’t volunteer to take comp time in lieu of overtime pay. Your company could get into legal trouble if you regularly failed to report hours worked, especially if it’s easy to prove (from email trails, etc.) that you did work during that time.

    2. Liana*

      I don’t believe there’s any federal law surrounding on-call shift workers, but it’s certainly something that’s been in the spotlight lately, especially for retail workers. Victoria’s Secret recently faced a lawsuit where the plaintiff argued that employees who were considered on-call for a certain shift should be paid regardless of whether they work the shift. I think that particular case was thrown out, but VS changed their practices anyway.

  7. Bend & Snap*

    Ugh quit. That sounds terrible. Use the time you get back to find something better.

  8. animaniactoo*

    Yup. If you’re “on duty” to answer calls and e-mail 40 hours a week, then you’re actually working 40 hours a week, no matter how much effort you’re putting in to it or how long it takes you to do it.

    I’d be curious to see what happens when you say “I saw something that made me question our arrangement and I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but if I am “on duty” to answer calls and e-mails during a 40 hour week, then by labor laws I am considered to be working for 40 hours a week, not just the amount of time I spend actually answering the calls and e-mails”.

    At the level they’re operating at, I’m actually surprised you’re getting a check rather than cash under the table.

  9. Clever Name*

    So are you expected to sit at home (to be available) for 40 hours to be paid for only 7 hours of work, or are you supposed to go about your day and deal with emails and calls as they come in from your mobile phone? Frankly, both options sound terrible. I can’t imagine being out and about with my kids (and possibly their friends too) and have to constantly step away to take calls, and it would be equally awful to tell your kids you can’t go to the pool or the playground because you might have to work.

    This organization wants to have their cake and eat it too. They need to either pony up for a full time salary for full time availability, or drastically reduce their business hours to fit the budget they have. Or they need to acknowledge to themselves that they can’t afford to pay someone for this role and have a volunteer do it. It sounds to me that you’re getting nothing but a headache for almost no pay for this job. Find a place that will pay you honest money for an honest day’s work.

    1. Joseph*

      ” Or they need to acknowledge to themselves that they can’t afford to pay someone for this role and have a volunteer do it.”
      I’m fairly certain they can’t afford to pay someone for the role, so they’re hoping they can get someone who will accept being underpaid because they’re either (a) firm believers in the non-profit’s mission, (b) only working to combat boredom and don’t really need money, and/or (c) too timid to speak up.

      Or (and this is possible too), they legitimately don’t understand how much time it takes – they think “oh, I’ve answered the phone before, it’s only like a 5 minutes to answer the phone or check and reply to an email” and don’t think through the fact that if you do that 30 times a week, suddenly you’re looking at 3 hours.

      1. KR*

        Something I notice too is that employees who have been exempt for a while sometimes forget about how being an hourly worker actually is – that you need to track your time and anything work required must be paid time. They’re so used to always being ready to jump on work business and their time being so flexible and being *paid* for increased availability over the phone/web that they forget how much it bites when you pull in much less but have similar responsibilities. I don’t think a lot of them mean it maliciously. It’s just been so long since they’ve been non-exempt they forget what it’s like. My boss is exempt, full time ( I work part time at this job), and makes twice what I make – sometimes I have to remind him that I have to guard my time off the clock because it’s the only time to myself I get. He’s always understanding – he’s just been salaried for so long he’s not used to it. Maybe OP’s supervisors/people in charge of the non profit are all exempt.

        1. Emily*

          Yes! This. Good observation! Not only are my bosses not-hourly but it’s what I am used to as well. The last time I worked was the military. They were pretty good about keeping us to a 40-50 hour work week but if we had a huge project or we deployed or something we didn’t think about hours, we just got the job done! I am used to that mindset. Having to stop at 7 hours and put my projects aside until the next week is difficult for me. There are times when I put the laptop away but I can’t turn my brain off! I find myself going down rabbit trails researching an idea online or conferring with other people on my own time. Answering phones is on top of the projects I am working on when on the clock. This job is just eating up a lot of my mental energy.

      2. Emily*

        OP here… I do think it’s the last one. I work directly for the board of directors who are all volunteers taking time out of their regular jobs to run this non-profit. It’s no big deal for one of them to stop and check an email or make a quick call from their offices. But it’s a big deal to me when I am on the go all day and not always in front of a computer.

    2. Emily*

      “So are you expected to sit at home (to be available) for 40 hours to be paid for only 7 hours of work, or are you supposed to go about your day and deal with emails and calls as they come in from your mobile phone?”

      To be fair, it is the second one. Deal with calls as they come in but feel free to go about my business. When I took the job, I was a full time student and on my computer about 3-5 hours a day doing schoolwork, so that wasn’t so bad. But now that it’s summer I am finding calls are coming in when I am hiking with the kids or at the pool and it has led to some awkward moments (“Kids hurry up and get out of the pool!” so I can run into the locker room where I can hear my phone and see the screen to send a file or whatever — type of stuff). And calls generally just take a minute or two so even though I’ve had to run to the car or pack up the kids I only technically worked for a few minutes. So all these interruptions take a lot longer than what I end up getting paid for them.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Ah. Question – do you have any directives about whether you are actually supposed to answer the call or the e-mail right that moment, or whether you can answer back within a window of time?

        Because if they’re fine with you getting back to someone in 20 minutes or a half hour, you should do that instead of running around to make it work right at that moment.

        1. MaggiePi*

          This is an important distinction. If they expect you to always answer by the second ring or whatever, that’s unreasonable. If they expect to you respond to calls or email within 24/48 hours or whatever, then just ignore them all until you are next working.

          1. RVA Cat*

            Exactly. I would say let the calls go to voicemail and then have set blocks of time where you return messages.

        2. Noah*

          Agree with this. My mom currently has a job as an event scheduler for a small museum. If you want to have a kids birthday party there, she is the one you book with. She is only paid for the time she is actually working, and has no office or anything. However, she has her extension setup to go to a Google Voice number. It takes a message and sends an email and text notifying my mom. She has made it clear she will reply by the end of the next business day the latest, but it is normally within a few hours.

          However, this was all cleared with management beforehand. They cannot afford to pay a full-time person to do this and my mom is semi-retired and enjoys doing this for the 10 or so hours a week it takes up but was not willing to be taking calls in the grocery store or running back to the car when she is on a hike.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          And if they’re not fine with it right now, perhaps the answer is to convince them that they need to be fine with it. It would save a lot of your time to handle all of a day’s calls at once, and if you can demonstrate how much time you actually spending working, (i.e., a lot more than 7 hours a week), that might be enough incentive to make them agree to this change.

      2. Joshua E*

        Even if the actual call only takes a minute, you really could consider that to be more like 10 or 15 minutes of work. The whole work process you go through involves stopping your regular routine, getting into the work mindset, actual taking and responding to the call/email, getting out of the work mindset and then going back to your regular routine. All of that together takes way longer than just the call itself.

        1. Overeducated*

          This. I had a job like this (20 hours a week but needed to respond for 40) and after a while I decided that I was going to charge every separate instance as 15 minutes. (I wouldn’t sit down at a computer, reply to 5 emails in 30 minutes, and charge for 75, but I would charge for 15 if I had to stop on the playground and answer for 5.) Otherwise I was dealing with constant interruptions on my “off” time, yet often not having enough active work in my scheduled times to fill my 20 hours.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I used to hire people who edit in Spanish to review material we were creating that had Spanish words here and there. I’m sure it took only about 3 minutes to download and open the page, and about 2 minutes to find the 2 Spanish words and check that they were the right gender, etc.

          They were supposed to track their time, and then bill me. The minimum time period was 15 minutes. That’s what (I think) lawyers bill.

          1. Shark Lady*

            Lawyers actually bill in 6-minute (0.1 hour) increments–or at least all the ones I’ve worked for have.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I’ve done both, and it’s based on the terms of the client engagement. Some clients require tenths (and some of those require you to break down each project you did into tasks with the amount of time you spent on each task in tenth of an hour).

      3. BRR*

        First, you need to get paid for all of those calls.

        Second, if you have scheduled times you work can you leave them for your next scheduled shift? If you make your own schedule can you handle them in one big block?

  10. neverjaunty*

    Yes, everything AAM said. And OP, let’s be very very clear that this employer is stealing from you. This is wage theft. They are thieves. You are entitled to be paid for your time. This is not an area where a well-meaning employer might be understandably confused about whether or not you are working. They are ‘strict’ about seven hours because that’s all they have budgeted for – and they expect you to pay their expenses by donating your labor. No.

    You might also want to check with your state’s department of labor and/or an employment attorney about the wages you are owed.

    1. KR*

      Yes to this – I would approach it as cluelessness and if are anything but mortified that they’ve been stealing from you, try to get back wages.

    2. Mike C.*

      Yes, this is no different than if they were to take money out of your wallet. Theft is theft.

  11. grasshopper*

    You’re working full time for them.

    I’m not sure what the rules are where you are, but I would check to see if there is any legislation that covers volunteering (and also on-call time). If they are a small org without HR, they might not realize that what they are doing isn’t allowed. Or perhaps they believe that everyone should be so devoted to the cause that they want to work full time for part time money.

    You can’t ask someone to volunteer full time to do the exact same job that you are paying them to do part time.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Can someone point me to an authoritative source on the (il)legality of asking paid employees to volunteer their time in their own job?

      I need to send it to a board member who will take “so and so employment lawyer” more seriously than “THE BEST MANAGEMENT BLOG IN THE WORLD” for some reason I can’t fathom.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          Also, I’m not sure if you’re a member of the Nonprofit Happy Hour group on FB, but there is a very spirited comment thread in their on whether to donate to your employer. A few members are holding up “working more hours than I’m compensated for” as a valuable contribution to the mission, and I’m kind of appalled. I’ll see if I can track one of them down and share this resource.

          1. Paige*

            Thanks for reminding me (via your SN) to point my brother to this blog. He works in the arts, and frequently describes appalling practices that are somehow ok because “it’s the arts.” It’s infuriating!!

            1. ArtsNerd*

              Yep! Every field is dysfunctional, but arts & entertainment orgs have extra spicy flavors of it for sure.

            2. Emily*

              My sister is a graphic designer and I too am appalled by what people ask of her. Like doing free work for “exposure.” Or to make something for free as part of the interview process (that the company then owns). How about you look at their portfolio?! Do you ever hear someone say, “Hey, build me a bookcase so I can see if you are a good enough woodworker to hire.” But then some artists do it and then lower the bar for everyone else. I really feel for them!

              1. Alix*

                This is, I realize, somewhat unfair of me, but the ones who cave infuriate me. Half the reason we even have this problem of people being unwilling to pay fair value for art is that there’s always someone who is willing to work for nothing! If no one was willing to undermine everyone else, the market wouldn’t dry up – people would pay up. (Hell, decent people still pay fair value now, even with undercutters. It’s just that undercutters end up giving people a warped idea of what fair value actually is.)

  12. Liana*

    I’m with everyone else on this – this is really, really shady, and no reputable employer should be asking this of you. It is obviously your prerogative if you want to stay at this job and attempt to address the problems with your employer, but Alison makes some excellent points – I just don’t see how this is going to help you network and ease your way back into the workforce.

    I am also HIGHLY suspicious of any organization that springs surprise cold-calling job duties on people. Most people hate cold-calling and door-knocking, and for good reason (because it’s the worst). I think they purposely refused to disclose it prior to hiring, because they know people will balk at it. I worked at a job fresh out of college once where I didn’t find out until after I started that I would be expected to knock on people’s doors, and it was awful. And I was young and naive and didn’t know how to push back at all.

    You should leave. There are tons of other part time jobs out there that will suit your needs better. This organization is trying to take advantage of you.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Yes. I used to hire for a door-to-door place and I was taught how to “disclose” this particular duty in the shadiest way possible to get people in the door while emphasizing things people would spend much less time doing.

      Only terrible terrible organizations hide stuff like that, and it’s almost always on purpose.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I applied for a “customer service” job that turned out to be cold-calling. If I remember right, the ad said you’d be “responding to customers,” so I have no idea how they twisted the definition of cold-calling to include that.

      1. OfficePrincess*

        When the customer says “Hello” you respond with your unsolicited sales pitch!

      2. Hlyssande*

        I applied for what was supposed to be an admin job for a nonprofit but was really one of those really shady door to door donation solicitation jobs.

        And another that was supposed to be admin but was a door to door HVAC sales job.

        1. Liana*

          That’s pretty similar to what happened to me! I think these types of jobs prey on young/naive/desperate people. Mine wasn’t a nonprofit though, it was an insurance company.

      3. Joanna*

        When I was bored while job hunting, I used to read job ads for charity door knockers/street donation collectors for amusement. They use such ridiculous twisting of words to disguise what the job actually involved. For example, in their ads “Working in the great outdoors” doesn’t mean a job out in a beautiful part of nature like you’d usually assume, it means standing on a cold, dirty streetcorner of a big city trying to harass people into donating.

    3. Bend & Snap*

      Goodness yes.

      I was hired as a “marketing assistant” and it ended up being a full on receptionist job.

      There’s changing duties and then there’s completely misleading people. The latter is super shady.

      1. MillersSpring*

        Yes, that happened to me. I accepted a marketing assistant position then asked where I’d be sitting, the new boss pointed to a desk, revealing that I’d be the receptionist, too. And that was my reply: “So I’m the receptionist, too? You didn’t share that.” Ugh. She’s on my worst Bosses Ever list. For myriad other reasons, natch.

    4. BRR*

      Very true.

      I’m also curious if the 7 hours was disclosed in the ad or the interview. My husband applied for a job that appeared to be a full-time position at this company where they hire tons of people in this position and it pays very well. At the end of the interview they threw in that it was temp to perm with no timeline or goals to hit for being converted to full time. He was in retail so there wasn’t really a choice but that’s not a great way to attract and retain good employees. A year later and he is now just getting interviewed for a full-time position.

      1. Emily*

        The ad just said part-time. I was told it would only be 7 hours when they called me in to offer the job (after 2 interviews). But they knew it all along….

        1. Paige*

          Ugh, I’m sorry. What they really need, and only have the budget for, is someone on call to come in and do odd jobs one day a week. A volunteer could probably do it, but $$ keeps someone committed. All of the other work you’re doing is unreasonable.

          Frankly, a non-profit that has so little cash, even a small scrappy one, isn’t long for this world. :-/ Why not 8 hours and have someone commit a full work day? Oy. Good luck!

    5. Allison*

      Any time an employer tells me I’ll be doing “some fundraising,” or says “yeah you’ll be doing a little cold calling, but you’ll mostly be doing X, Y, and Z” I’m done. Most companies lie about how much you’ll be doing because they know people don’t like that. Or they go in the opposite direction and talk about how much fun you’ll have being “the face of the company” and “on the front lines of client engagement!” hoping to get the few people out there who actually like doing that stuff, or could possibly be sold on it.

    6. Ralph S. Mouse*

      I’ve fallen for that a time or two and became very suspicious of “customer service” job listings as a result. I always wondered how it could possibly work out for them, because people who didn’t want to do that quit or washed out, and their product got more bad press, so what was accomplished? But I *think* I may have figured it out–it’s like when spammers send out pidgin English solicitations. Who would fall for that? Well…some people do. And you *want* those people, because they’re the ones who can’t recognize a scam and will be exactly the type to be in denial and say “Well, I can’t quit now, not after all this effort/money.”

    7. the gold digger*

      At the horrible old job, with NotSergio from NotArgentina, it was not disclosed to me until I had started that I would be expected to cold call.

      My boss gave me a spreadsheet with 6,000 names at federal agencies (because the US government responds so well to cold calls!) and told me to start dialing.

      This, along with the lies about my salary and the lack of even cubicle walls, is what made me start looking for a new job within days of starting at this one. (And the drama with the radio. Oy.)

    8. Kalli*

      I once applied for an ‘entry-level marketing’ position which was actually ‘sell raffle tickets at a shopping centre’. We had a ‘group interview’ which involved splitting up into pairs, being driven to shopping centres (over an hour away from the interview location), “watching” how they “sold” to people. Then we were told, because we didn’t join in, we weren’t “the kind of person” suited to the job, and left to make our own way home.

      And now I never engage with those people selling things from pop up tables in the middle of shopping centres.

  13. Observer*

    I would say quit. But, if you really don’t want to, then take the advice to set up a separate (free) google account for work, and then go ahead and tell them that you will be available to answer calls and email during two specified 45 minute chunk Mon – Thurs and one 1 hour stretch on Friday. Choose the time frame before you say anything and just present it as a fait accompli. If they try to push back, point out to them that if you are really required to be so available, then you can’t do other things, which means that you are actually legally required to be on the clock.

    1. Gene*

      And when you set up the work account, turn off all notifications and only open it during the hours you told them you’d work. That will avoid the “the phone dinged, I must look at it” Pavlovian response.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I agree with setting up work hours, OP.
      One of my jobs pays me for x hours per week. Unfortunately, business runs all week. I have my hours on the voice mail message. I have set up several other ways that people can contact me or leave something for me. And I only work those hours. There is very little happening that cannot wait. When I work, I know where the rush things are and I make sure they are done.

      I can’t see where this is helping you that much, OP. No one really knows how much you are doing and no one can speak to the quality of your work. Given that you are in email or on the phone for a few minutes at a time, you are not really building contacts. It will take a while for you to build a relationship with people at this rate.

      I understand wanting to wade in to returning to the workforce, but this is so random and sporadic that it really does not give you a feel for a workplace. Your lack of contact with coworkers is not good, also, for similar reasons.

      In short, if anything this job could be preventing you from getting something better. Try to take control over your available time for working and see where that puts you.

  14. Pearl*

    I would get out as soon as you can. I work at a non-profit that treats certain volunteer positions this way and it does not get better – and they’re not getting even a small paycheck. This position is not valued, and it would take a major change to their way of thinking to begin valuing it that way. They are just going to pile more and more onto you while justifying all of it with “but that’s what we need!”

    Also, if you can, have a plan for what to do with all the things they are storing at your house. As in, “Here is my resignation, and I will be bringing the boxes of office supplies to XYZ at this date/time. If no one is there, I will leave them in (location).” Because otherwise I imagine they will be in your house for three months until someone shows up during a kid’s birthday party and wants to do inventory with you RIGHT THEN.

  15. Rusty Shackelford*

    Sure each interruption only takes 2-3 minutes, but when I get that $75 check each week, I begin to resent that I drop everything four to five times a day to deal with work stuff (for the same amount of money my boys make selling candy bars for school in two hours).

    Assuming my math is correct (which isn’t always a safe assumption), if you get five calls a day that last three minutes each, that’s up to 1.25 hours a week on phone calls alone. If you’re not ready to give up this job, perhaps you could keep track of exactly how much time you do spend on all of your tasks, and present it to the organization for further negotiation. A little bit of “hey, turns out what we’re doing here is illegal, and I’m actually working up to 15 hours a week, so let’s rework this agreement” might actually work.

    1. Joshua E*

      Even if the calls only take 3 minutes, that call will disrupt your day and take you a while to get back to what you were doing. If I were you I would record each call as more like 10 or 15 minutes (assuming you stopped your day for it and weren’t already working). Because really answering the call means realizing the call is incoming, preparing to answer, answering and then getting back to the regular routine.

      In my old job when we hired consultants to do work for us they would charge us 15 minutes minimum on our invoice every time we would call or email a quick question since they would drop everything to help us. And they were charging $100 an hour!

  16. Stephanie*

    I’m with everyone else in saying that you need to GTHO. That being said, I get that it might be a little difficult to hop back into the workforce if you’ve been a SAHM for several years. I agree that you need to set up a separate Google account and be strict about your time. In the meantime, keep job hunting. I’m sure if you were straightforward and said this job wanted you to work unpaid hours (after an explicit agreement that you’d be capped at certain hours), it wouldn’t be that much of an issue with future employers.

    I work somewhere that hires people part-time and has them routinely work over the paid amount of hours. But in our case, it’s nowhere near as egregious as this (like 5-10 hours over) and it is still a huge source of contention and an oft cited reason why people resign. The more you work, the more bitter you’ll get for sure.

    1. BRR*

      The SAHP thing is possibly the one reason the LW might need to at least attempt to fix the current situation. It’s easier to find a job when you have a job and you can get away to some extent not being there that long when you’re part time and applying for full-time work. And as you say you can bring up how the job was only scheduled for seven-hours a week but that they expected you to work 40 hours a week (or something like that). There are a lot of reasons you can give for wanting other work (like having an office space and a business cloud account).

    2. irritable vowel*

      Yeah, I think I’m also of the opinion that the OP should hang onto the job for now but start looking for something else. It’s easier to get a job when you already have a job, unfortunately. This job is bad but it’s manageable in the short term, especially if you start keeping track of your time and either let the org know they need to pay you more or refuse to do more than 7 hours of work per week. (This job is kind of like when you’re looking at apartments and figure out what your dealbreakers are when you see them. You’ll have a much better sense going forward what to look for in terms of red flags, questions to ask during the interview process, etc.)

    3. Artemesia*

      I might continue the job with new boundaries. Phone calls go to voice mail and are answered during X and Y time frames each weeks during the 7 hours you have scheduled. And then redouble efforts to find a real job.

  17. Paloma Pigeon*

    You would get better contacts volunteering at a larger organization, that has staff who manage volunteers and can set expectations, etc Also, a great way to step back in is through Taproot – it allows volunteers to work on pro-bono professional projects and they vet the organizations who sign up to receive the services carefully.

    As someone who works at a scrappy nonprofit, the ‘mission whatever it takes’ mentality is great at the beginning, but too many nonprofits don’t recognize that in order to really achieve their desired impact over the long haul they need to morph into sustainable organizations. And surprise! that includes hiring and maintaining professional staff, and treating them accordingly. Also unfortunately, many people don’t want to donate to an organization that has high ‘overhead’, trapping nonprofits in this cycle and forcing them to cobble together administrative coverage on a wing and a prayer.

  18. Emily*

    OP here… I am actually really relieved to get this feedback. Thanks everyone for taking the time! Before coming here to ask Alison this question I was reading Admin Assistant boards — where they were mostly debating whether it’s okay to run personal errands for their bosses. A lot of admins seem to think as long as they are getting paid, then they should just suck it up and be glad for the work. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t being unrealistic about my expectations having been out of the job market for awhile. (I’ll admit, the last time I worked for pay nobody carried smart phones!)

    And thank you Alison for answering my question. I think it’s time to put in my two-week and try again!

    1. SL*

      “I’ll admit, the last time I worked for pay nobody carried smart phones!”

      Those were the days. Wish I could go back to not having a smartphone for work.

    2. hayling*

      Sometimes it is so helpful to have Alison (and all the readers here) give you a sanity check.

      I agree that this job is not worth the hassle – for only $75/week! You could probably make more than that selling junk around your house on Craigslist! Seriously, though, if you want to pick up some part-time admin work, look into “virtual assistant” jobs. There are a lot of those that are remote, part-time jobs that are not sketchy like this.

    3. Liana*

      As an admin assistant who has occasionally run personal errands for her bosses, it’s not really the same thing (I’m honestly not sure whether you were comparing the two issues or not, so if I’m misreading this, please let me know). My thinking with running personal errands is that a) it always falls within work hours, so I am getting paid to do this, and b) my job as an admin is to help my doctors do what they are good at – i.e. see patients and perform surgery. If mailing the occasional personal letter or picking up the dry cleaning is what helps them get through the day smoothly, I very much consider it part of my job.

      I definitely don’t think you are unrealistic in your expectations. Smartphones have certainly changed the way we look at work, and have made people more accessible, as you’re seeing now. But you still absolutely have the right to set boundaries, and you deserve a job that will respect those boundaries. This place isn’t going to do that.

      1. Marisol*

        I’m an executive assistant and I agree with you completely Liana. I don’t see anything wrong with the “suck it up as long as you’re getting paid mentality” but in the OP’s case, she’s *not* getting paid. So yeah, it’s different. (Or perhaps we are both misunderstanding in the same way??)

        In my experience, once an executive has reached a level that they have an assistant who runs errands for them, they are paying waaaaay more than $75 a week. So it’s a “suck it up” attitude in the same way that an executive who earns a seven-figure salary has to suck up taking phone meetings during vacations, etc. That’s why they make the big bucks!!

        OP, I bet if you actually posted your specific issue on those admin boards and got their feedback, you’d hear something different than suck it up. (Unless you did post to them, in which case I’d be curious to hear back from you…)

      2. Emily*

        Not so much making the comparison as noting that the majority of the advice on those boards seems to be… suck it up, do what you’re told, and be happy for the paycheck. I was excited to see that Alison gave advice from the other end of the spectrum.

        I actually think that for me to do personal errands would be unethical since we are funded by the government. I don’t taxpayers’ money should be spent that way! But thankfully that is actually NOT one of my issues.

  19. BRR*

    All good advice by Alison. Either you leave or you stay and figure out if they’re oblivious to employment law or they’re not oblivious to employment law. If you stay you can have a conversation about what your hours are and if you’re expected to answer calls and email 40 hours a week then you need to be paid for 40 hours work because you’re being prevented from doing other things besides work.

    Also with small nonprofits the personal use thing is pretty common so you’ll have to decide if that’s a deal breaker or not. You can still draw lines though like saying you’ll need more cloud storage and throw in a solution.

  20. Yuck*

    Gmail accts are free. Create a new one specifically for use with them. It wont eat into your personal email/drive storage.

    That’s a super easy fix.

    Good luck with the rest.

  21. Cookie*

    Regarding answering phone calls/emails, could you schedule yourself for about 1.5 hours of work per day and each day use part of that time to return voice messages and emails? That way, you’re not on call every day, you’re only responding during the time scheduled to work and ignoring those calls during non-work hours.

  22. Brigitha*

    So, I hear everyone saying “quit”, and that might be the best option, but I have a couple ideas if you want to try and make this job more workable.

    First, I think someone already mentioned making a separate gmail account to connect the business address too. This will also help with organizing that side of communication. Make that account, and then only check it once per day. Build that into your schedule and tell your bosses that this is what will happen from now on. It will keep you from being “on call” so much, and a 24 hour reply time is fine for most things.

    Do something similar with the phone: let it go to voicemail. Then, check your messages once per day. Again, build it into your schedule and tell your bosses that this is the only way you’re able to handle this. It isn’t reasonable to expect you to answer every business call at any time in this situation.

    If you do this for one hour every day, that might be all you can do for them, and that’s fine. They need to know that what they’re asking for takes more than 7 hours per week. If they can’t pay you for all the time you work, then you cannot do more work. Surely a board member or volunteer will step in if it’s something that needs done.

    I worked for a non-profit in a similar capacity for a couple years. They also kept adding to my work load and didn’t understand why I pushed back when and how I did. It wasn’t until I sent them a spreadsheet of how I was spending my time that they really started to understand that I was essentially doing a full time job. Luckily for me, they paid me for all my hours.

    An organization like this probably expects an employee like you to have the same high level of commitment the board members and volunteers do. They might not understand why you aren’t as committed to the cause as they are. If they continue to expect such a high level of commitment from you for such low compensation, then I think quitting is your only real option.

    1. Marisol*

      I love all these practical suggestions. I think you may have gotten to the heart of the issue with this: “An organization like this probably expects an employee like you to have the same high level of commitment the board members and volunteers do. They might not understand why you aren’t as committed to the cause as they are.”

      Adding to that idea, I wouldn’t assume bad faith on the part of the organization. I personally would approach it like, is this something I want to opt into or not? There may be someone who would benefit by being involved in an organization that works this way, perhaps someone who is new to the work force and has an interest in building non-profits from the ground up (I dunno, it’s the first example I could think of). But if that’s not you, then skiddaddle out of there! You’re not wrong; they’re not wrong; it’s just not a good fit.

      But it seems to me it might be worth it to try Brigitha’s suggestions before bailing.

  23. I'm Not Phyllis*

    OP are you tracking your time spent working? I would suggest leaving if that’s an option, and if not you should set some very clear boundaries with your employer. A seven-hour work week is basically one day per week – they can split that into two afternoons, or two hours per day, or however they want it, but the way they’ve got you set up isn’t reasonable. If you like it there (and I’m not sure from your letter that you do) it would still be reasonable for you to raise your concerns and tell them that you’re willing to work hard for the seven hours a week that they’re paying you for, but that they’ll have to make other arrangements for the other 33 hours of the week.

  24. Chriama*

    I have to agree with Alison that this likely isn’t adding anything to your resume. They have almost no budget and seem to have no understanding of the law or are disregarding it. If you can afford to work for $75 a week you can afford to get a retail job and volunteer at a non-profit. Same networking opportunities and if your schedule is that open then there’s likely a better volunteer position for you out there somewhere.

  25. Christine*

    Please write down the time you have taken calls & e-mails what you haven’t been paid and submit it to the Labor Board & resign. You have no obligation to inform them that you are going to the labor board. You may not be the first employee they have done this way. The labor board will investigate, you’ll get paid and they’ll have a crash course in proper payroll procedures. It may be the only way they’ll learn.

  26. Student*

    Are you sure this isn’t a scam organization? The bit about there being no office, but they order office supplies and cleaning supplies that they expect you to store, was what set me off. Such scams often target work-from-home people and have them hold onto equipment for re-shipping for no reason obvious to the employee. The scam tends to be along the lines of shipping things illegally (sending some chemicals without proper process/protections) or reselling things on the down-low (without proper taxes, off-books, sending stuff out of country without proper fees pretending it is personal mail, etc.). When the authorities catch up, the person with possession of stuff in his or her house gets hit by the crack-down, and the parent organization that hired and directed them moves on with a name-change and phone-change.

    1. Emily*

      I actually have never heard of that one… thanks for the warning! But no, I am sure this situation is not like that. Our board meetings are attended by well-known local business owners and even some elected officials, so while they are not handling my situation particularly well, the organization overall is legit.

    1. Seven of Nine*

      Microsoft does something very similar with Office 365 business class email and storage for nonprofits, and it also comes with the option of getting their Office applications for only $2/user/month. (Granted, OneDrive is pretty sucky when you compare it to GoogleDrive, but it’s included.)

      1. Observer*

        For an organization with zero dollars, google apps is a better bet – they can get it completely free, whereas you run into charges with MS much sooner.

    2. Audiophile*

      I second Google for Nonprofits, it’s a great system for small nonprofits that might not have the means for MS Office Suite.

  27. Betty Sapphire*

    This reminds me of a nonprofit I used to work for. I was the only person in my department and when I left the owner had my 19-year-old intern take on all my responsibilities, including training new interns, in the interim before hiring my replacement. No pay, although she was promised. I’m happy to be out of there, and I’m happy my former intern has a new internship that is treating her with respect.

  28. knitchic79*

    Ick OP, been there. I agree with what people have said so far. Divide up that time over the course of the week and turn all your notifications off so you aren’t tempted to check in. Give them a heads up and be firm that for the hours you have availible it’s all you can do.
    The first job I got after I had my oldest was similar to this (way more work than could be crammed into teeny tiny hours) and I finally had to just walk away. It was more stressful than it was worth. I feel for you!

  29. AcademiaNut*

    When it comes down to it, they’re paying $75 a week for full time coverage of their phone and email, plus extra tasks, without having to provide the phone or computer. That’s an incredibly good deal on their part!

    I’m curious – even if the actual phone call takes 2 minutes, I would think that the time it takes to get your kids out of the pool, or pull over to the side of the road, should also be counted, because that’s time that you’re spending on your work tasks that you wouldn’t be doing otherwise. If not, then you should be able to wait until a convenient moment to check messages.

    For 7 hours a week, I could see it working if you worked one day, or devoted a dedicated hour and a bit each day to listening to phone messages, reading emails, and sending replies. 7 hours a week in five minute intervals is ridiculous.

  30. Elizabeth West*

    This isn’t worth it, OP. They’re taking advantage. Plus the whole pushing illegal hours thing. Ditch ’em.

    Off topic, but I wish I could find a job that only had me work part-time but paid me for full! :D

  31. OhBehave*

    Nothing will change if they can only afford to pay you 7 hours per week. They either do not have any idea how much time it sucks up to answers phone calls and email or they misled you as to the expectations. Keep track of everything you do and the time it took. Do this for a week. Submit it with your resignation explaining the workload. If you are not totally bought in to this non-profit, then you need to go. They are expecting you to feel the same about the org as they do. I am sure there is someone out there who is ‘passionate’ about this organization enough to ignore the tons of extra work expected.
    If they don’t get their act together, then they will get a bad reputation in the community. I work for a non-profit and have for 20 years. At the beginning, I was putting in 30 hours a week FREE! I was having a blast with my fellow volunteers. My then manager told me that I needed to accept the stipend that came with the job. I refused because 1. I believed in the cause. And 2. We didn’t need the money. After a year, I accepted the stipend because she would not relent. I am still there and still as gung-ho as ever.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      No, they don’t care how much time it takes. They’re in it for all the work they can get out of the LW for as little as they can pay.

  32. Cranky Mom*

    Oh, this sounds very familiar. My daughter is a 10 hour a week unpaid intern doing a job that should absolutely be a staff job, and they expect her to be available to answer e-mails and phone calls 24/7. Here is a tip, if your unpaid intern is supervising over 30 people and is responsible for managing their issues 24/7, they’re not an intern!

    1. Belle*

      If your daughter is supervising employees, this most likely wouldn’t qualify as an unpaid internship in the US (there are specific requirements). Is she getting school credit instead? If not, I would probably recommend she look into if it is classified correctly.

  33. Bob*

    I have the same view towards unpaid on-call in hourly jobs. They always stress that I can bill them for any time I work outside of my normal 9-to-5 but that’s not the point. Can I go camping in the middle of nowhere this weekend? No, because I need to be 15 minutes away from a computer at all times. Heck, if I go to the movies or out to dinner, I need to take my laptop with me. It’s almost worse when I don’t get any calls because then I adjusted my schedule for nothing. That’s fine for salaried jobs where you’re always on the clock but you chose to pay me hourly. When I pushed back they responded that they can find somebody else to do my job if I have a problem with it (this was during the recession so I sucked it up).

    I don’t work in this situation anymore but I can feel my blood boil just typing this response. Out of the dozens of people I know who have on-call in their jobs, only a few are compensated in any way.

  34. CM*

    I am involved with a small nonprofit that is not quite as bare-bones as this, but we’re also staffed with mostly volunteers and a very small number of paid employees. In an organization like this, things can easily get pushed on to the paid employees without anybody realizing the full scope of what they are being asked to do. I would be very straightforward with the organization and be clear about your boundaries. Tell them, “I’m being paid for seven hours a week. In seven hours, I can accomplish X, Y, and Z. I can’t be available to answer the phones, but people can leave messages and I will get back to them during my working hours. Also, I’m using too many of my personal resources to do this job. I need the supplies to be stored elsewhere.”

    1. CM*

      Also, one thing that has worked for us in the past is for the employee to keep a time log for a week or two. If you document (roughly) what you’ve been asked to do and the amount of time you spent, it helps get the message across that they’re asking for too much.

  35. Dust Bunny*

    Get out. This “organization” doesn’t have it’s act together and likely won’t survive, anyway, so find another position while you can and get out of there.

    I have to wonder if this is the place for which a college classmate of mine forwarded a job posting (as a novelty, not a suggestion that I apply): Full-time, minimal benefits, $18k/year. In New York city. For an organization that “fought poverty”.

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