my employer fined me $90 for being late

A reader writes

My company has a ridiculous late fine policy: you will be fined $2 for every minute, starting from 9:01 a.m. So if you come in at 9:05 a.m., that’s $10 you gotta pay up in cash. (This is not somewhere where down-to-the-minute coverage would be essential. It’s just typical deskbound, back-end work. I can see why the receptionist who gets the calls will need to be there smack on the dot, but the rest of us — not really.)

I’ve been here for over a year, and have been fined maybe three times. They were for 9:01 a.m., 9:02 a.m. and 9:08 a.m. I was intensely annoyed and embarrassed, but okay, I can still absorb the $2-$16 financial pinch.

I hate this policy because it nickel and dimes employees down to the first minute, and at a very high rate. I hate this policy because coming in at 9:01 a.m. does not makes you any less productive than the dude who came in at 9:00 a.m., whose bloody computer is still starting up.

A few days ago, I overslept for the first time. I somehow slept through my usual TWO alarms and woke up with a start at 8:30 a.m. — an hour late. I immediately texted my manager that I had overslept and asked if it was possible to get an emergency, UNPAID, half-day leave. I had calculated that coming in an hour late would result in a $120 fine, which is painfully difficult for me to absorb. I’m a junior employee.

My manager said no. She wanted me to come in anyway because “it’s the right thing to do.” I cried some tears of frustration, but told her okay and rushed like hell down, but not before racking up 45 minutes worth of late fine — $90.

Alison, I understand that she wants me to be punished accordingly. I accept that sleeping through two alarms was all on me.

At the same time — and I don’t know if this matters — I’m a relatively high performer at work. I truly enjoy what I do and do a decent job at it. I just received a glowing annual appraisal and got publicly commended by the director, in spite of my young age (this is my first job out of college) and junior position. Furthermore, I work overtime every day because my workload is high, even though we don’t get any overtime pay. And I’m not chronically late — this was my first time oversleeping.

And yet, my manager rejected my request for an UNPAID, half-day leave. Technically, she is right and I deserved it. But I don’t think being rigidly strict here was warranted. Am I just entitled for feeling this way? If you divide my monthly salary by 30 days, $90 is what I earn in one day. I will have to cough up an entire day’s salary (worth three weeks of lunch expenses!) for this, and my manager was cool with that? I’m fuming, yet I don’t know if I have the right to be.

Part of me wants to talk about this with my manager to see if it could’ve been handled differently — if I could’ve been given the unpaid, half-day leave. Is this worth revisiting with her about, and if so, how should I approach it?

This is utter bullshit.

I am IRATE over this.

If you’re not in a job where coverage matters (like one where you need to answer phones or meet with clients starting at a precise time), then it really, really doesn’t matter if you’re two minutes late. I would think it was ridiculous for a manager even just to have a stern talk with someone for being two minutes late in a job where it doesn’t have any practical impact — but fining you?


You are a professional adult holding down a professional job. The entire concept of fining you is offensive and ridiculous.

If your manager has a problem with your time of arrival, she can do what a decent manager would do and talk to you about it. If it continues after that, she can decide what the consequences are. But they need to be normal work consequences (up to and including firing you if it’s that big of a deal, although I’m skeptical that it should be) — it can’t be digging through your wallet and taking whatever cash she finds there, or insisting you cut off two inches of your hair, or that you change your name to Xavier Sebastian Pumpernickel. And it can’t be making you turn over your own money for the privilege of working there.

Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Legally, though, in a lot of cases it would be allowed. I talked with employment lawyer Donna Ballman, author of the excellent book Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired, who agreed that federal law does allow this, as long the fine doesn’t take your pay for that period below minimum wage. But she noted that you might live in a state that prohibits it, and it’s worth checking into that. Also, if you’re non-exempt, they can dock your pay for the actual time you were late … although if you’re exempt, that docking could negate your exempt status, make you effectively non-exempt, and mean that you’d be entitled to overtime pay when you work over 40 hours in a week. (There’s an explanation about exempt and non-exempt here, but the gist is that “exempt” is a government classification meaning that the nature of the work you do makes you exempt from receiving overtime pay. If you’re exempt, they can’t dock your pay when you work fewer hours. If they do that anyway, they can end up owing you overtime pay, including retroactively.)

Donna also pointed out: “The other thing I’d say you’d have to look at is the reason the employee was late. If it was to care for a sick child, spouse or parent, then punishing them might violate FMLA. If it related to a disability, then they might be violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. If it’s applied unevenly, then other discrimination laws could kick in. I’d say an employer doing this is, number one, a terrible employer, and, number two, taking a huge risk that they are violating some law.”

As for what you can do here …

First, it’s worth looking into the potential legal issues Donna raises. If there’s a legal violation here, your employers deserves to have someone pursue it.

Second, look into whether you’re correctly classified as exempt. You said you don’t get overtime pay even when you work overtime, which means they’re treating you as exempt. I would bet good money that they’ve misclassified you (which many employers do), especially considering that this is your first job out of school and first jobs often don’t meet the bar to be exempt. And if that’s the case, they owe you a ton of overtime back pay. Even if you ultimately choose not to pursue that, it would be really handy leverage to have in any discussions about the fining.

Third, recalibrate your expectations. Because this is your first job after college, you might be thinking this is more acceptable than it actually is. But it’s not normal to treated salaried professionals this way. It’s not something you should expect to find at future jobs. It’s not something you should be okay with now.

And you have every right to be fuming about that $90 fine. You are not being entitled. You are being absolutely, entirely reasonable.

So fourth, go back and talk to your manager. Say something like this: “I’m asking you to waive this $90 fine. $90 is what I earn in a day. I can’t afford to pay back an entire day’s salary. I work overtime every day, and it makes no sense for me to work long hours when I’m not given even a minute of leeway on the other end. I’m not chronically late, and I do excellent work. I don’t think I should be subject to a financial hardship for a one-time occurrence.”

Fifth, consider pushing back on this entire abhorrent policy with a group of your coworkers. People have unionized over less.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 1,045 comments… read them below }

          1. Doug Judy*

            True, but you think this next level bullshit would get out eventually. Their retention rate has to be terrible.

            1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              OP should be Job Searching! I know she probably wants to build a good reputation, but if she is a high performer they deserve to loose her over this. Even a decent employee should be lost over this. Go find a healthy workplace that will treat you well!
              I can’t think of a good way to describe why you are job searching other than ‘The place I work for is nuts” but that’s because i’m furious and not thinking clearly. Maybe “They classified me as exempt but treated me as non-exempt?” maybe “I’m looking for more independence in my time management approach which isn’t a good fit for my current company?”.

              1. The Original K.*

                A BAD employee should walk over this. Punishment should never be part of the employer/employee relationship.

                I would probably just lay out the policy in interviews as the reason I was searching, to be honest.

                1. Lance*

                  I can only imagine how high eyebrows would raise at an explanation of being fined for every minute late, in a job that doesn’t require coverage, as a reason for leaving a job. Holy hell.

                2. Hills to Die on*

                  Spend your time at work updating your resume and job searching if at all possible. I”m sorry (no, I am not), but I would be wasting 3 times as much money in my salary deliberately to passive aggressively punish them back.

                  Get a new job because this is a place of complete fuckery and asshats. Hell. No.

                3. Indigo a la mode*

                  Even though this policy is completely crazy, I do worry that she’ll be judged negatively if that’s the reason she uses in interviews. Of course I think leaving over this is completely warranted, but complaining about her workplace’s late policy might accidentally give the impression that she tends to stroll in late and thinks that should be a-okay.

                4. pope suburban*

                  I think “My previous employer was extorting us” is a good reason to leave that doesn’t make her sound like a habitually-tardy person. Though I think any employer worth working for would be horrified by this, since they understand how things like traffic and trains work.

                5. Wintermute*

                  “questionably legal payroll deductions” is a perfect reason to leave… no need to specify what for, most interviewers would be horrified enough they’re not about to dig except out of morbid curiosity, and if they do you can say “well one example is…”

              2. JulieCanCan*

                OMG Are you freaking kidding me?

                OP please- PLEASE – research your laws and find out if this is even legal, because it sounds batshit crazy and as I read through your letter it made me want to call whoever created this absurd, childish rule at your place of employment and tell them to eat a bag of monkey balls.

                It just got more and more insane as the letter went on.

                Has anyone tried refusing to pay, while explaining how ridiculous it is to treat adults with such immature tactics? It’s such BS!

                Where do the funds go? Into the owner’s pockets?


                1. Kitrona*

                  I was wondering that too. It’s super sketchy to begin with, and then you come to the question of what happens to the money….

                2. EPLawyer*

                  If it’s taken from the check is that pre-tax or post tax? How do they explain it in accounting terms? What line is it listed as on statement? Would the IRS like to know about their creative paychecks?

                3. MatKnifeNinja*

                  It funds the manager/owner’s latte account. If people are forking over cash, with no paper trail, it’s all free money.

                  My friend worked for a family owned restaurant who would pull petty stuff like this, and dock people. (Think not enough flare). All fines wete cash. All went into the owner’s pocket.

                4. Michaela Westen*

                  MatKnifeNinja: Flare? like a road flare? Or style? We can’t all be Freddie Mercury!
                  That attitude is awful too!

                5. SavannahMiranda*

                  “Has anyone tried refusing to pay”

                  This is my question too! I’m afraid I’d be the person who said, “No.”

                  “No, Wakeen, I’m not paying you $90 (or $60 or $12 or whatever amount) out of my pocket this morning. What’s that? No, I’m not writing you a check. Oh? No, I’m not authorizing a debit. I think we’re having a miscommunication. What I’m saying is that I’m simply not paying this. ” Calmly, pleasantly, matter of factly.

                  And I’d be sure that it took place in front of my peers. And if possible Wakeen’s superiors.

                  Someone has to be the public face of saying “no” to this, and see what happens. Fired on the spot? Okay, gather my items and pleasantly drive away. Speak to my attorney that afternoon with research already done. Disciplined? Make efforts to keep all discipline public, try not to let them yell at me in private, retain records and ask for copies of discipline documentation. Submit to my attorney that evening. Take it out of my check? Chat with attorney.

                  Have a plan for each eventuality they make take, good local legal advice, and then say “no.”

                  I’m afraid I’d be all too likely to rush headlong into my annihilation on this one, perhaps pointlessly so. But I’d be damned if I’d give them one red cent even one time.

                  That said, someone taking such a stance would be taking it from a position of luxury. The luxury of knowing the mortgage might get paid some other way. The luxury of having other access to quality healthcare than the company program. The luxury of having a decent work history and options if fired on the spot. It would be a function of privilege.

                  Employers who use the basic facts of their employees lives against them to extort them are horrible people.

                6. Anita Brayke*

                  “…as I read through your letter it made me want to call whoever created this absurd, childish rule at your place of employment and tell them to eat a bag of monkey balls.”

                  +1,000,000,000!!! Hear, hear! I’d live to know what company this is so I could boycott them (but I understand why you can’t say, at least until you find something else(

              3. EPLawyer*

                Hell, tell the truth — they fine you $2 every minute you are late but do not pay overtime despite requiring people to work long hours.

                I cannot get HOW taking your pay is legal. And for 2 minutes. Seriously that could traffic was bad that day or your clock wasn’t exactly calibrated to the office. Most decent places would not notice a minute or two. Of course if someone is always strolling in late — address the lateness WITH THAT PERSON. Do not fine everyone else who is not the problem.

              4. MCMonkeyBean*

                It makes me so sad that she says “I deserved it.” No, no, no. This job has already warped your view of what is normal, OP! No one deserves to lose and entire day’s pay because they are 45 minutes late!!!!!

                1. Clay on My Apron*

                  My thoughts exactly. Not to start a flame war here but it made me think of someone who’s been abused and brainwashed into believing they are at fault / deserve it / it’s for their own good. No, no, no.

                  OP this is beyond dysfunctional. The fines themselves are outrageous. Your boss’s refusal to let you take unpaid leave because “it’s the right thing to do” – wtf? Is she saying that by taking unpaid leave you are trying to dodge the punishment you deserve? That is nothing more than gaslighting and sadistic bullying. I don’t think I’m putting that too harshly.

                  Please report your manager to HR or find another job where you can be managed by a normal, non-psychotic person.

              1. JulieCanCan*

                I wish I knew the company name- I would be so tempted to give this a mention on Glassdoor! I mean, I don’t endorse fake reviews but this is a special case. A worthy exception.

                And OP, I agree wholeheartedly with Hills to Die On: start job searching immediately, while at work, and feel ZERO guilt about the hours you dedicate to sending out resumes/cover letters while sitting at your organization’s computer.

                The more I think about this the more pissed off I get. I wish those being told to pay their “per minute lateness penalty” would simply laugh in the faces of whoever is demanding the funds.

                THIS IS NUCKING FUTS!!

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  I would not use the employer’s computer for the job search. Most employers use spyware to check up on their employees. A good employer only checks it if a reasonable question is raised.
                  The more draconian and unreasonable an employer is, the more likely they are to be checking spyware. OP could lose their job if employer discovers they’re doing a job search with company equipment.
                  Now making follow-up calls on OP’s cell phone, or using their own phone or device for the search – absolutely go for it and don’t feel guilty about using work time. Absolutely!

                2. Ego Chamber*

                  “And OP, I agree wholeheartedly with Hills to Die On: start job searching immediately, while at work, and feel ZERO guilt about the hours you dedicate to sending out resumes/cover letters while sitting at your organization’s computer.”

                  This is a bad take, for purely mercenary reasons.

                  Job search on your own laptop on breaks while on company wifi? That’s fine, if you want to chance them finding out you’re looking.

                  Job search on company computers while you’re supposed to be working? I wouldn’t trust an employer this petty to not overreact in a way that wouldn’t be ideal, like deciding since you didn’t start working right away, you were “late” and owed fines—or maybe just clocking you out for all the time you weren’t working (that’s probably legal btw, if you really were demonstrably doing no work, since I know a dude who refused to take phone calls at a call center for 3 hours when that was his only job and he was retroactively clocked out since he was outside smoking for most of it).

                3. JulieCanCan*

                  I personally have my PDF version resume in my “Notes” section of my iPhone and all cover letter in my Gmail (also on phone) – I can shoot everything out from my phone.

                  But a company as crappy and bizarre as one that charges salaried employees $2 per minute for being late probably won’t have the wherewithal to investigate whether their employees are job searching. They probably assume all employees feel so lucky to work there, who’d want to leave? (Being sarcastic about that last part obviously)

                4. Crabby PM*

                  While it’s never good to use an employers wifi or network or computer to job hunt, “most employers use spyware” is just not true. It’s expensive and it’s time consuming and someone has to manage it. Even at Microsoft, they only monitor certain words and then they have rules about how far they can expand their search, and there is a dedicated team of people doing this (and it’s for things like equipment theft generally). Most employers want you to THINK they’re using spyware and you should just not do anything on a work computer that you wouldn’t want your employer to find out.

          2. But you don't have an accent...*

            Or they prey upon young college graduates/seniors in college who they know don’t know that “THIS IS A RED FLAG”.

            My first job did that – if you left in the first 2 years you owed them a $7,500 training “loan”. This was a job in a very expensive city that paid $40,000/year starting. This wasn’t a training that they paid you to go to by an outside company – this was their internal training; they just felt like they shouldn’t be paying you your full salary for being trained…to use their product and be able to actual support their clients. I guess they felt that after two years, you had “paid it off” through the work you did. I also ended up working 60-70 hours a week at this job, and the “standard” work hours for the week were 45 for all employees.

              1. But you don't have an accent...*

                Yes, because I was a moron. I quit 2 years and 1 month after I started to make sure I didn’t get hit with the fee.

            1. where's my mind*

              Oh man, that’s predatory as hell. My first out of college job was slightly predatory, they were absolutely going with “you don’t know what you’re worth since you’ve been told your entire life you have to volunteer for everything, that you get paid peanuts because you’re a teenager, etc, you don’t know the value of your labor”, but that’s above and BEYOND.

            2. glitter writer*

              I had the same in a trash job in NYC, but it paid $29,500 (in NYC! Ten years ago, not forty!) and you owed $750 if you quit. I was so happy when they let me go, had a better job in three weeks, was out of that abusive, toxic trash fire, and didn’t owe them the money since they fired me.

            3. Pennalynn Lott*

              I had a job like that once. They didn’t say a word during the interview process about their policy of requiring employees to reimburse them $1500 (back in the early 90’s) for “hiring and onboarding expenses” if the employee quit or was fired within the first year.

              They stuck that sheet of paper in the big stack of “new employee things to sign” they gave me on the first day. I set it aside and when I turned my paperwork in I said to the HR woman, “I’m going to need to have a lawyer look at this one before I sign it.” Magically, they never said anything to me again about it. F*ckin’ shysters.

              Oh, and I quit within six months because that place was as toxic and dysfunctional as you’d imagine it would be.

            4. JulieCanCan*


              Can this happen? Is it legal?

              That’s so wrong. Jesus some of these places….. I understand young, green kids wanting to work after graduating and being excited about their first job. But these companies preying on inexperienced employees who aren’t aware of what they’re getting into should be sued to smithereens.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          That was the question I had as well! Fining people for being ONE MINUTE LATE and having no flexibility for people who are not chronically late is a sign your system is FUBAR (and that whoever came up with it, frankly, is an asshole).

          I just cannot with this. I am SO incensed on OP’s behalf. What an abhorrent way to treat your employees!

        2. GreenDoor*

          If I read right, this is the OP’s first job out of school so maybe they bank on hiring inexperienced people who don’t realize that this is not how a normal office handles tardiness.

    1. animaniactoo*


      I’d like to know the company’s sick day policy. Because at this point, if I woke up late again, I’d be taking a sick day instead of getting fined $90. Unless, of course, there is something funky with the sick day policy – and everything I’ve read about this setup says a company that would do this has something funky about sick days too.

      1. Squeeble*

        Right! If ANYTHING, OP should have just not been paid for the time they overslept. Paying a monetary fine (in cash???) is nuts and not something I’ve ever heard of.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            She’d be paying double if the fine was equal to her rate of pay. $90/day is $11.25/hr is $0.1875/minute, assuming the numbers she gave are pre-tax because people don’t usually quote their net income when talking about what they get paid in a day. (Even if she’s getting paid salary instead of hourly, which it seems like, the most they should be doing out of sheer ignorance of the law is docking her pay for the 45 minutes she didn’t work.)

            So she’s paying the $90 fine for being late and not being paid for 45 minutes of work, which is … $8.55.

            Wow. That really puts things in a hellish perspective, right? (I mean it’s not just me?)

            1. Kat in VA*

              It’s not just you. This is predatory insanity at its worst.

              Some days I’m in at 07:40, some days I’m in at 08:15 despite leaving the house at roughly the same time every day. The vagaries of traffic (particularly in the DMV) just do not work with a hard 0800-1700 schedule. Everyone understands and accepts this here.

              If companies did that garbage in this area, they’d be making money hand-over-fist.

            2. Flash Bristow*

              Right! So $9 would be more reasonable (I did say *more*, not that it is ever *reasonable*…)

              OK, for every minute you’re late we will fine you 20c.

              Not OK, but you get the idea.

        1. doreen*

          I have- but it’s nothing like this , paying $2 a minute in cash for lateness of even 1 minute. It’s for much more serious problems- serious enough that my employer is taking formal disciplinary action and the union doesn’t believe they can negotiate a better settlement. And even then, it’s typically deducted in increments over a series of paychecks rather than a $300 fine being deducted all at once.

      2. irene adler*

        Exactly. If I have to give back a day’s wages for being 45 min late. Then hey, I’ll not be working for the remainder of the day.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I feel like that would take the LW under the minimum wage laws and thus put this into illegal territory, but IANAL.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I would bet money ($90 for OP’s fine-fund?) that OP is misclassified and being paid at less than minimum wage (or the exempt equivalent) because of this policy. And in some states, it’s not lawful to fine someone, or the amount of the fine has specific limitations.

            If I were OP, I would do everything in my power to leave. This employer and this manager are behaving like terrible people with terrible HR policies.

              1. animaniactoo*

                Actually, my first thought is that she’s not listed as exempt – but she’s working for a company that has some theoretical justification about why they don’t pay overtime, and she and other employees don’t know enough to know that’s illegal as hell (I did not, myself, at her age and by the time I figured it out the company was bankrupt and out of business and there was no possibility of suing for my 10k+ worth of time & half).

                1. Lance*

                  Given the nickel and diming they’re doing to their employees… yeah, I wouldn’t disbelieve this thought for a second.

                2. Former Producer*

                  I’ve always been a non-exempt employee, but at one point during one of my jobs, the company said they couldn’t afford to pay us overtime anymore, so we either had to adjust our schedules to avoid working more than 40 hours (I was a TV news producer, so it’s kind of hard to avoid overtime when there’s breaking news, etc.) or just lie on our time cards that we didn’t work overtime. It was bad.

            1. Close Bracket*

              > minimum wage (or the exempt equivalent)

              The minimum wage is not higher for exempt employees. Employees in exempt positions tend to be paid better, but that’s due to the increased responsibility and expectations, not due to any exempt equivalent of a minimum wage.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Exempt employees have to earn a salary at least 1.5x higher than the minimum wage. So although they do not receive an hourly minimum wage, these fines are unlawful if they bring OP’s weekly compensation to below $455/week.

              2. Jake*

                I thought employees couldn’t be classified as exempt if their annual salary was less than a certain minimum?

              3. Ego Chamber*

                There is definitely a minimum.

                Do you remember a couple years ago when there was the clusterfuck going on because federal law was finally going to raise the minimum pay for exempt status above whatever it’s at (pretty sure it’s sub-$50k, I know it’s dire), so all the shit jobs that relied on working their “managers” 60+ hours a week instead of hiring enough hourly employees (food service, retail, etc) reclassified them all to hourly to avoid having to give raises—except now the managers also had to do 60+ hours work during a 40 hour workweek or they’d be penalized for going into overtime?

                A lot of employers would not pay more than minimum wage if they could avoid it, especially to exempt employees, because that weekly salary looks like a big number compared to what their hourly employees are taking home.

          2. SignalLost*

            I agree. $90 is easily a day’s pay on an entry-level job, and may drop below minimum wage once the taxes (which don’t change even if your employer decides to fine you! (!!!!!!!!) come out.

            The fact this is cash rather than payroll deduction says they know it’s sketchy.

            Also, OP, find a new job and then put these idiots on blast anywhere you can. This is NOT NORMAL.

            1. Falling Diphthong*


              This so much OP.

              1. babblemouth*

                OMG, I had missed the bit about paying in cash. In whose pocket is the cash ending up? Is there any paper trail that it’s actually going to the company, or could it just be lining this manager’s pockets?

                1. The Local JOAT*

                  That was my first thought. OP – is this just your manager’s policy or is this a company policy? Cash payment stinks to high heaven of extortion. If it’s your manager’s policy, I wonder what their boss or HR would say about it.

                2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

                  I missed that too. Dear God. OP, if you didn’t already hand over the cash, then do not do it. Tell your manager to go piss up a rope. If they need that $90, make them take it out of your pay. Then take your docked paycheck and your documentation of unpaid overtime to a good employment attorney. Watch said attorney do the dance of joy as she realizes the potential for a class action lawsuit.

                  Burn that place to the ground, is what I’m saying here.

                  To. The. Ground.

                3. Parenthetically*

                  Yes!! I had the same thought! Is this really a company policy or is it a manager bilking her employees and lining her own pockets?

                4. boo bot*

                  Yeah, I was thinking this, too – OP, can you innocently ask to “clarify” the policy with someone above your manager?

                  Also, I am NOT professionally qualified on this, but if you haven’t done the math: if you make $90/day and $450/week, and you’re docked $90, your hourly pay for that week would come out to $9. For a biweekly pay period, it would come out to $10.13.

                  Both are above the federal minimum of $7.25, but under some state minimums – if you’re in Iowa or Florida, it’s still legal, but if you’re in Washington (state or DC, in fact) or the Virgin Islands, I think it’s not.

                  Someone with more or better information might weigh in, though!

                5. JulieCanCan*

                  @HarvestKaleSlaw I love your style! “Piss up a rope” “dance of joy” I am laughing so hard right now!

              2. EPLawyer*

                What happens if you don’t have $90 in cash on you when you walk in the door? I certainly don’t carry that much cash around? Say you will pay it later … then forget?

            2. Emily K*

              Unfortunately it’s probably not below minimum because it would be calculated over a weekly or biweekly pay period, not a single day.

              $90 x 5 days = $450 for 40 hours of work = $11.25/hour
              $450 – $90 = $360 for 40 hours of work = $9/hour


              $90 x 10 days = $900 for 80 hours of work = $11.25/hour
              $900 – $90 = $810 for 80 hours of work = $10.125/hour

              So minimum wage only comes into play if there’s a local minimum that’s below $11.25 but above $9 or $10.12.

              1. uranus wars*

                Well, and she says that it’s $90 a day if you divide it by 30. Salary is based on a 21.666 day work month (hourly x 2080 = annual salary), so there’s that complexity in there to.

                For the record the fact we are having this discussion as a result of this post is beyond ludicrous.

              2. boo bot*

                Aha, you beat me to the math! I should have kept reading before I leapt for the calculator.

                That said, there are a number of states/territories where the local minimum is below $11.25 but above $9 or $10.12, so it’s at least worth mentioning.

                Linking to a list of 2018-2019 state minimum wages in signature.

            3. Life is good*

              And when you are safely in a new, better job, OP….visit a lawyer or at the very least, labor dept of your state. Keep copious records and notes until then, though.

        2. AKchic*

          If $90 is her daily wage, she’s making $11.25/hr (at an 8 hour day). That’s not much. For someone who works hard, works overtime a lot, and is a high performer – OP can do so much better, and I encourage OP to look for better.

          1. Positive Reframer*

            Yeah Amazon instituted a $15 minimum, and most retail is at $11-12 starting in my midwest-federal minimum only area. Granted there are other considerations at play there but it does give you a feel things.

            I’m willing to bet this insane level of crazy isn’t the only way they are crazy.

              1. Works in IT*

                I earn 22/hr and make do because the landlord dropped the price of rent right before I signed the lease, and I take no time off.

            1. LadyCop*

              Amazon already had a $13 minimum…and they’re not retail, they’re warehouse jobs, where people are treated worse than animals…Amazon is pure evil.

          2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            Yeah- this is what I earn as a graduate assistant in a low COL area. This is ridiculous.

      3. Mockingdragon*

        Yeah I was wondering the same – I can totally see myself panicking in the moment and not thinking of it, but it sounds like calling out for the day could have both saved her wallet and given the management a tangible consequence of their terrible policy – they’ve absolutely incentivized people to take off entire days rather than half hours.

        1. OP*

          I tried. As mentioned in my letter, I tried asking my manager for a half day leave, but was rejected. Also I wouldn’t have been able to take a medical leave as that would require a doctor’s note.

          1. animaniactoo*

            Bingo. I KNEW that a company with this screwed up kind of lateness policy had to have something borked about the sick day policy.

            OP – get out get out get out. As fast as you can. This is an abusive employment structure that requires you to *pay* for being a human being.

            Also, please do follow up on the legal aspect. I suspect that somebody has worked very hard with them so that all of these policies are just this side of legal – but combined they may not be, and laws may have changed since these policies went into place, OR their original counsel may have been wrong about the legality.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              Yeah, just to be clear, OP — requiring a doctor’s note for a single sick day is also incredibly effed up and not at all common!

            1. an infinite number of monkeys*

              Yeah, add me to the chorus of incredulous question marks. This deal just keeps getting worse!

            2. Not a Unicorn*

              Sadly, thus is fairly common in jobs like call centers. Where I currently am, you have to have a note if sick, and we have to get permission to take our lunch and breaks (which are set at different times each day and you don’t get a say when they are).

              1. Lance*

                Sure, but that’s call centers, that require frequent coverage. Per the letter, this job doesn’t require coverage, so there’s no decent reason for this.

              2. Kitrona*

                This makes me so thankful for my job. It’s technically retail, but at a craft store, and we can tell them when we’re taking our breaks after we discuss amongst ourselves to figure out when is the best time for each of us. And while corporate *might* want a doctor’s note, I’d actually be surprised if they did.

                And this is why, even though it’s very physical work and the usual bs of dealing with customers, many people have been there for years and I’m hoping I get to stay after the holidays. Because they treat us like competent adults who don’t need to be looked after or punished. Hell, as long as you get there reasonably close to your start time, they don’t care if it’s a couple minutes difference. You get there, you do the work as best you can, you ask for help when you need it…. and it’s all cool.

              3. Nonsensical*

                The lunch and breaks is totally normal in shift work like a call center so that is not egregious. They have to have people around to answer the phones. I work in an office but in some areas of IT security, we have shift work and while you are paid a salary. Call center work is usually high turn over and similar to retail, so it is not really the standard to go by. And having someone not show up to work at a job like the call center could result in no coverage. It is different if you have stablished PTO days. The helpdesk at my work is shift work but would have PTO days but if you had too many absences, you would end up being let go because in work where the tasks are daily, you need your workers to be there daily.

            3. Wired Wolf*

              My job recently reinstated the policy where if you don’t call out (no text or team app messaging, it has to be a phone call) 3 hours prior to your shift you need a doctor’s note. For me this would mean calling out at 4AM in order to stick to policy…if I’m sick enough to be up at that hour, calling in is not even crossing my mind.

              The store space is combined retail/restaurant, so even those of us who aren’t cooks are around raw food at some point. Any contagious illness means you can’t be working (that doesn’t stop people from showing up with a cold/flu anyway). Most minor stomach bugs etc doesn’t require a doctor’s note and I’d be surprised if one would even be issued.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Fun fact: Doctors will always give you a note. The note says you went to the doctor that day. That’s as specific as they like to get, unless you request otherwise, so I’ve never quite understood the point (except for the employer to inconvenience their workers as punishment for the lies they’re assuming with no evidence).

          2. Oranges*

            Holy…. Yeah no. This is when you look into forging doctor’s notes (at least I personally would because that’s just… wow).

            Normal companies will not treat you with suspicion about every little thing.

            1. RegBarclay*

              Indeed. I’ve never heard of anyone at my employer actually being asked for one for less than three days off sick (and I’m in the lower ranks, talking to my peers, so this isn’t just a courtesy extended to managers/execs). People shouldn’t have to go to the doc for a really bad cold, or a 24-hour bug, or food poisoning.

              Not to mention the docs don’t want to take up time for mild stuff (though I’m sure they understand in these scenarios), you don’t want to drag yourself out of bed when ill, and then there’s the copay!

              1. Just Employed Here*

                Yup, I worked somewhere once where you had to get a doctors’ note the first day, and I can tell you that sitting in a waiting room when you have a migraine is just great! /s

              2. MeriwaThorn*

                I work for a county government, and they contracted with one of the local prompt-care/walk-in clinics for us to receive free visits on or off the clock and set up a clinic in one of the buildings. Getting a note isn’t anything but an expense of time.

                We’re still not expected to bring in doctor’s notes for anything short of a week out.

            2. Kat in VA*

              Head to Urgent Care website, pull their logo .jpg & address, a few minutes in Word with a doctor’s name signed to the bottom (also pulled from site) and boom, done.

              Not that I would ever advocate doing something like this, but if a company is going to be THAT draconian…one does what one must.

          3. Decima Dewey*

            Wow. Even in my civil service job, we’re told that we cannot deny a subordinate use of their sick time. Yes, a note may be required after three days out, and eight instances in a year without a sick note will put you on the sick leave abuse list, but Mr. Lastname and I cannot tell a circulation assistant they can’t use sick time.

          4. Headshrinker Extraordinaire*

            You need a doctor’s note for a single day absence?!?

            OP, this is not normal. Good companies who value their employees don’t treat them like disobedient children.

            1. MatKnifeNinja*

              My friend works at a non union private school.

              Calling out sick with no doctor’s note means she pays for her sub. That is even for “I have a migraine and should be better tomorrow. ”

              So your sick pay goes to the sub with no note.

              1. Susie*

                That is so messed up.

                I’m with a big HMO and they have one of those nurse advice lines, so you can call up and tell the nurse how terrible you feel without having to actually drag your carcass to the clinic. The nurse is very sympathetic, gives you good advice, and if you need some meds they can often have the doc call in a prescription. Best of all, if you need a note that says you’re too sick to go to work, they can email you one. The cynic in me sees how keeping me out of the office keeps their costs down, but the introvert in me loves being able to stay in bed.

                Anyway, it might be worthwhile for your friend to see if his or her doctor is cool enough to provide notes without an actual in-office visit. Some of them are!

                1. EPLawyer*

                  NOw I have imaging this conversation:

                  OP: Hey doc, I accidently overslept so I am going to be fined more than I would make today. If I call out sick, I need a note, can you say I have ebola?

                  Doc: It’s not ebola.

                  OP: Okay something that sounds good.

                  Doc: Narcolepsy since you overslept?**

                  OP: Whatever, just need the note. Thanks.

                  ** not making fun of those who truly suffer from narcolepsy or any very real ailment.

                2. Anonny*

                  It also means that if you got someone with something short and contagious, they’re not bringing it with them into a waiting room full of people who could be vulnerable to illness. (Like immunocompromised people, people who have disabilities that clash horribly with illness, small children, the elderly…)

                3. Mongrel*

                  “The cynic in me sees how keeping me out of the office keeps their costs down, but the introvert in me loves being able to stay in bed. ”

                  The cynic in me says that it unclogs the doctors offices for people who need to see the Doctor as opposed to the “Stay in bed, take your meds, stay hydrated. If it persists or gets worse make an appointment” crowd, which is what most of us are going to be calling out for (on a day-to-day basis).

          5. Mockingdragon*

            Oh absolute bullshit. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Get out, get out, as soon as you can.

            The first thing that finally pinged my radar and got me out of an unhealthy spiral of deference was the day my manager tried to have a Talk with me after calling in late with a migraine. She said that her boss apparently didn’t think a headache was a good enough reason. I told her point-blank, as nicely as I could, that it is not the company’s decision whether I’m well enough to come in. I hadn’t felt safe to drive that morning, so I texted that I’d be late and went back to bed until I was. No company in the world should be making that choice for an employee. Companies that try to are BAD.

            1. Canadian Public Servant*

              Mockingdragon, I love the wording you used (“it is not the company’s decision whether I’m well enough to come in.”) I am saving that in my memory hole.

            2. Matilda Jefferies*

              I once had a boss give me crap when I went to the ER with my then-boyfriend. I called in before my shift, explained the situation, and said I’d be in when I could. Then I checked in again a couple more times over the course of the day – yep, we’re still here, I’ll keep you posted – and finally got out of there and made it to work with about two hours left in my shift.

              When I got there, my boss said “This can’t happen, Matilda.” And I replied, “Which? Boyfriend can’t get sick, or I can’t go to the emergency room with him when he does?”

              Possibly not the most professional response, but I’m actually pretty proud of myself for saying it! Like, I’ve done my best to keep you informed and to minimize the inconvenience for everyone, and I came in for the last two hours when I could have just skipped the whole thing, and you’re telling me I did it wrong? Yeah, nope.

          6. Jules the 3rd*

            The house is full of Evil Bees, and they are flying in a pattern that says, ‘Time for a new job!’

            Seriously, this is extremely sketchy overall. You can check whether this is just your specific manager vs the whole company: is this in the employee handbook?

            If it’s in the handb0ok, time to leave. This company is horrible and not normal.
            If it’s not in the handbook, ask people in other depts if they face the same fine. There’s a small chance your manager is doing this without company knowledge and pocketing the money, which would be why she didn’t want to do a half day leave.

            Proceed carefully so that you are leaving on your schedule not theirs / hers, and document all your overtime on tech that’s NOT company owned.
            Ongoing: you could send two emails (first and last of the day) from your work account to a personal one, for example.
            Backdated: Go back through a few weeks and send a screenshot of the last email, or of a file you worked on (including its last saved time) to a personal account. Many files, especially those on remote machines, have ‘version histories’ that you can see and capture.

            good luck – someone in that company *sucks*

          7. Normally a Lurker*

            Side note, Doc in Boxes and free standing urgant care centers will give docs notes for less than $90.

            Also, this is Pants On Head On Fire While Covered In Gasoline levels of crazy. Holy moly.

            I agree with literally everyone here who has said – get out.

            1. Normally a Lurker*


              And I know this isn’t the best piece of advice. In fact, it’s crappy.

              And also, if it’s your choice between losing 90 and losing 75….

              See also, GET OUT so you never have to make the call.

              1. JulieCanCan*

                Lolol! Make like the 2017 comedy/horror/no one is quite sure exactly what genre to label it but my sister told me I should definitely see it and I really want to movie GET OUT.

            2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

              Live Health Online is a doctor app for your smartphone that will see you for $50, if you don’t have insurance. If you have insurance, check to see if they or one of their competitors will take it. My insurance lets me see Doctor on Demand for $10.

              Sure, you weren’t actually sick, but it would be really, really easy to fake a migraine over video chat.

              Plus you don’t have to leave the house if you are sick.

              1. Normally a Lurker*

                I mean, also, faking food poisoning is SUPER easy. No doc in the world isn’t going to believe you were up throwing up half the night and just needed to sleep and please give me this note so I don’t get fired.

          8. General Ginger*

            Requiring a doctor’s note for one sick day is also pretty crappy, btw. Fits right in with the “fine you in cash” territory.

          9. Parenthetically*

            Your job SUCKS SO MUCH, OP! If there’s ANY way for you to get out of there, please do it — NONE of this is normal.

          10. GreenDoor*

            This is another bad sign….normal offices don’t require a doctor’s note for a one-day or a half-day sick day!

          11. Anna*

            If you have insurance, I bet a visit to your doctor costs less than $90. And most doctors I know are nice people who would be happy to make you an appointment to talk about the medical issue of job-related stress if you explain why you need it.

            1. Meredith*

              I’d bet, however, that the employer-based insurance at this company is either non-existant or really bad. High deductible plans can mean a doctor’s visit costs more than $90 if the deductible hasn’t been satisfied. Requiring a doctor’s note, period, is pretty classist, especially when you know the person makes the equivalent of $11.25/hour.

        2. Jaybeetee*

          This reminds me of another letter from awhile ago where employees were docked “points” for every increment late or something similarly draconian, and could be fired if they ever hit 10 points. Even a couple of people that were late due to personal emergencies were docked, and IIRC, the LW said that’s what people eventually wound up doing. If they realized they were even going to be 10 minutes late, they’d just call off instead. (Like this LW, that LW did not have a coverage job that required butt-in-chair at a certain time).

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I interviewed recently for a job where they said up front in the interview that the company had something like this. I was like, *blink blink* and literally said, “Wow, I’ve never worked anywhere that did that.” And this place is in an industrial area, out in the boonies, on a two-lane road that would be a nightmare commute in the winter.

            I didn’t get it but I wasn’t upset because DAMN.

            1. Just Another Techie*

              I walked out of an interview once when they said they had a strict not-one-minute-late policy (for an exempt analysis job with zero customer interaction), and told me very proudly that the CEO would walk the parking lots at 8:31 and scold anyone who pulled in late. I blinked several times, and said “Oh, hmmm. Well, to be honest, everywhere else I’ve worked has had generous flex time policies, and that’s an important benefit to me. I don’t think we’d be a good fit for each other. Knowing that, does it make sense on your end to continue this interview?” The interview also sat stunned for a few minutes blinking and then said “oh uh, yeah, I mean no, I guess not.” and then we sat and stared at each other for a while until I realized he wasn’t going to walk me out so I thanked him for his time and left.

              1. General Ginger*

                Wow, I’m glad you were in a position to say that, given that clearly, nobody had before. I really wish more people could call companies like this out on their bullshit, but sometimes you just need a job.

              2. Moo*

                I’m just absolutely gobsmacked that someone would sit there and “proudly” proclaim how the CEO stalks their employees and scolds them like little children. That’s not something to be proud of!!!!

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            My mom used to work at a casino and they had a similar set up. Which, I can kind of understand in a 24/7/365 business.

            They were, however, at least moderately reasonable because the day that there was a sudden unexpected ice storm and my mom sat in traffic for three hours less than ten minutes away, no one was given points.

          3. AJK*

            I had a job that did that. 7 points per year, anything over 10 min late was 1/2 point and a sick call of any kind (anything other than a pre-planned day off, which was a whole other deal) was 1 point. You got three days of sick time before you needed a doctor’s note and it would still only count as one point, so a lot of people would take all three days even if they only needed one. And since being late was a 1/2 point anyway, there were times when it made more sense to call off and take the whole point. I once was running late the day after a sick day and ended up calling off for the whole day, because I’d get one point docked for the two days instead of 1 1/2 for being sick one day and late the next.
            If you went below 7, you would be terminated, although exceptions were made on occasion.

            1. Armchair Analyst*

              It’s amazing how de-motivating this set up is, rather than motivating.
              If the only reason to get to work is to avoid getting close to fired, then why go to work?

            2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

              waiiiit. So you call in because, say, you’re unexpectedly vomiting up your internal organs (that being something not typically preplanned)…and they punish you for that???

            3. miss_chevious*

              Systems like this just end up with employees gaming the system, and taking the maximum offtime allowed for the minimum number of points.

              1. Clewgarnet*

                My previous employer used to have a scheme that, if you went a full year without taking a sick day, you’d get an extra day of leave the next year. With the result that, when people phoned in sick for the first time each year, they’d take two days to make up for the day of leave they were losing.

                (NB. England, so sick leave is generally around six weeks per year, and is considered a right, not a perk. It’s extremely unusual to take all your sick leave and it would be for a catastrophic health change.)

          4. Donttouchmypoints*

            I worked for a retail store that did something similar to that. You got points when you were on time/ not called out any days for two weeks but lost points if you called out/ were late, also medical notes/ family emergencies/ funerals etc. didn’t count as excused. Their reasoning was that you had points so those absences wouldn’t be excused. But then they would schedule people on days that didn’t have open to work and dock them. They only stopped docking if you went on FMLA, true story. This is a large retail business who isn’t doing so hot now, I am secretly happy to hear it.

            1. Moo*

              At my old toxic job, during the year before I managed to find another job and quit, they instituted the policy that if we called out or were a minute or more late three times within three months we were fired. They couldn’t fathom that someone might have a recurring health issue that, at any *normal* employer, wouldn’t be an issue (they were incredibly dysfunctional in many other ways, not just this). Like my migraines, that happened like clockwork every single month. I ended up having to take FMLA when I got written up for the second time. I admit that I did a very spiteful happy dance when they closed their local branch several years ago. It’s been almost 9 years since I left, and I *still* have nightmares about the place.

          5. Clearly not my real name*

            We have “occurrences” for sick days at my current job. We get three occurrences at full pay, then starting at the fourth one, we don’t get paid for the first day of any occurrence. So basically anyone with any kind of chronic condition that might require multiple one-day absences in a year, is pretty much screwed under this policy.

            And of course, what actually happens is that most people just take two days off if they’re sick late in the year, whether they need them or not. That migraine that was a one-day absence in February, is suddenly a two-day absence in October. Because if you’re going to be dinged for an occurrence either way, you may as well get a paid sick day while you’re at it, right?

          6. Effective Immediately*

            Like an occurrence system (I must have missed that letter)? Because every union environment I have worked in had an occurrence based system to ensure issues like attendances were handled equally.

            Granted, equally not equitably; if you walked 20 miles in a blizzard with your two young children to work and were late, it was exactly same as your coworker who was late and came in strung out from last night’s coke binge. Both examples are real things that happened. The person from example one lost their job, while the person from example two never made it past a warning. There’s little room for human-ness in some industries, even with a union.

          7. TooTiredToThink*

            My job is slightly similar but it *does* require coverage. And you basically get 3 points a month before a verbal warning (so its a whole lot more reasonable). But because they treat 2 minutes late the same as calling out for the whole day I’ve known a couple of coworkers who have actually gotten into the parking lot, saw they were late and just called out.

          8. Jaydee*

            Those point systems are very common in lots of retail, manufacturing, warehouse, etc. jobs. I dealt with them all the time representing folks in unemployment cases.

          9. Red 5*

            I worked at a job that tried to do that. In a very high traffic area, as in makes the lists of worst worst commutes in America every time.

            I sat down with my boss to clarify the policy (that came from corporate) and pointed out that just the week before I’d been on my way in when a wreck ahead of my closed two lanes of traffic on the only road I could take, after I was already in it. I had called from my car, updated my supervisor, and got to work the second I could. I had done absolutely nothing wrong and had no control in the situation, so would I get points the next time?

            Yup. Any time you were late. No exceptions. The only way to have an absence or arrive late was to pre-approve it. IIRC even sick days earned you points if you hadn’t gotten then pre approved, but the level of points that initiated a review was basically one late day above the number of paid sick days you got each year. So you were getting punished for taking your sick days too.

            This is where pushing back as a group helps. We all said we weren’t going to stand for it if they enforced it the way it was written, and they had a staffing shortage, so it just quietly went away.

      4. Zennish*

        It’s probably something totally reasonable like the place a friend works, where taking sick leave without 24 hours advance notice is considered an unexcused absence… “I’m considering a case of the flu later this week, and just wanted to let you know…”

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I KNOW! LW, this fining you for being late or as any punishment at work is not normal. Absolutely NOT NORMAL. So completely unusual that we are all shocked by fines being used as a punishment for employees. Outrageous.

      The other part – being strict about being on time even for positions that don’t need a butt in seat is fairly common, but not ideal management especially since you regularly work late and you’re a high performer.

      I say this because you don’t seem to realize this. That’s what you should fight against – that the fine for employees exists as all – not the details of this particular fine.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        They’ve said they’re happy with you and they treat you like this. Does not compute.
        This specific setup is unheard of, but usually when management starts treating someone badly it’s because they’re trying to make the person quit.
        If they want to keep you (or anyone) they wouldn’t be doing this.

        1. Labradoodle Daddy*

          Not necessarily. Sometimes management is so rigid and rules-lawyery that they lose all capacity for reason.

            1. Sapphire*

              That story still makes my blood boil, especially since the only situation where the manager was okay with bending the rules was when concert tickets were involved. And they wanted to ask if they should scold the quitting employee for not giving notice.

              Life happens, and to be an effective manager, you need to understand that and not hide behind “the rules” when someone is asking you for flexibility.

        2. SeluciaMD*

          Yeah, but this sounds more like bad policy (or just bad management if this is department specific) rather than something that is aimed at the OP. If it were just the OP getting this treatment your argument would make sense. But in a set up like this? This is an employer (or manager) that doesn’t recognize that employees are not slaves and treats them accordingly. These are the kinds of employers that act like people are robots and then get absolutely incensed when their employees quit or speak up against shitty policies because they feel 100% entitled to treat people like crap.

          OP I am so sorry you work here and for even one moment thought you deserved this bullshit. I realize you may not have the ability to bail right this second, but I absolutely add my voice to the chorus of “GET OUT AS SOON AS YOU CAN.”

          To quote a completely different advice site, “TRUST THAT THEY SUCK.”

          Good luck OP!!!

        3. Ego Chamber*

          What are you talking about? Why would you want to encourage paranoia like this in someone who already has warped views of what a normal workplace looks like?

          There is a 0% chance LW’s manager set up a ridiculous $2/minute fining system just to eventually snare LW (who is usually on time) in this net with the express goal of making her miserable enough to quit. Wtf.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            No, I was trying to make the point that a good employer doesn’t routinely treat employees badly. This one does. Sorry I didn’t make that clear.

    3. Future Homesteader*

      This. OP, call a local law school with an employment law clinic. If this is the kind of thing they handle, they would LOVE to help you (and nail your employer for being terrible, if this is indeed illegal in your state).

      1. SignalLost*

        Your city or county may also run a service where you can consult for free for a half hour with a lawyer who specializes in employment law (or another type of lawyer if you had a different problem.)

        1. Thornus67*

          As a former (but trying to get back into it) L&E attorney, it would be worth at least the free consultation. A good office would even work around your schedule since I’m going to assume leaving early is also penalized.

      2. LD'S Mom*

        Yes, this! Try to find some free legal advice about the legalities of this situation. Not only the fines, but the overtime situation, as well.

    4. kittymommy*

      No kidding! I’m at work so I can’t curse, at least not loudly, but WTH??? This is so far from normal work procedures I’m having trouble forming a sentence.

    5. a1*

      Really not the point, but I want to know where this money is going. Is there really an accounting entry for it? what does it look like on P&Ls? etc. Or is it just lining someone’s pocket?

      1. Nita*

        Yes. It’s cash. I’m really interested in knowing whether the higher-ups even know about this policy, of if the boss is just quietly putting the “small change” in her pocket.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          I was just going to say that. OP, has anyone else at the company mentioned this policy, or just your boss? I have a sneaking suspicion that the boss is pocketing these “fines.”

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Check the employee handbook. If it’s not in there, quietly ask people in other departments. If they don’t face the fine, ask your boss’s boss, ‘I don’t understand the reason for this fine for being late – can you tell me more about it?’

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              +1 “And why do I have to pay in cash, rather than having it docked from my paycheque?”

          2. Chinookwind*

            Count me in as another person who suspects that this isn’t a company policy but a managerial one. If it turns out that even one other department doesn’t do this and/or it is not written in an employee manual, go straight to HR to tell them what happened and sit back while watching their head explode.

            1. Lexi Lynn*

              OP I would also keep a record of all of your fines, submit it to your manager at the end of the year as an FYI so that their “records” match theirs when you submit your unreimbursed business expenses on your taxes.

              1. Anna*

                Ask for receipts. For your accountant to submit to the IRS. Ask immediately by email so you have a written record of how much cash you gave her, the stated purpose, and which pay period it was taken in. Ask her to write back to confirm.

              2. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

                Unfortunately, unreimbursed business expenses can no longer be deducted starting with tax year 2018 – and even for prior years, you have to itemize your deductions to be able to include them.

                Now, the manager may not be *aware* of this change, so such a notice might alarm them, but it won’t actually help the OP at all.

        2. syseng*

          The “it’s the right thing to do” comment really brought this idea to the front of my mind. Seems like an odd thing to say if you don’t personally benefit from the late policy (and I’m not sure why the manager would if the owner runs this racket).

      2. Is It Performance Art*

        I would be so tempted to try to write a check so I could ask who to put on the pay to the order of. And if they try to push back mention something about not being comfortable with carrying that much cash around.

    6. MatKnifeNinja*

      Seriously, my brain melted reading this stupidity.

      Even in my 20s, no way would I just hand over cash for being late. And who gets the cash?

      OP, if you are truly a high performer, you can get abused anywhere.

      I’d be pumping out resumes and getting the f*ck out of there.

      Talk about lunancy, and people just eating it.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I’m sorry but “you can get abused anywhere” had me cracking up.

        But it’s true. There are jobs out there where this does not happen. Where you are treated like an adult — but still work insane hours. Take your industry award and go forth.

        1. boo bot*

          I laughed too. It’s funny because it’s true! Heck, if you’re just looking for a tiny step up, there are even places where you’re treated like a child and and punished for being late, but where they STILL won’t dock you $2/minute!

          Choose your poison, as it were…

      2. Michaela Westen*

        I wouldn’t have either, but I had a bad attitude. Good girls and boys conform to expectations…

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      Is OP a professional athlete? That is literally the only instance I can think of where I’ve heard of employees (athletes in this case) can be fined for being late. Absolute absurd policy.

          1. Thornus67*

            Well, they are paid. They’re just often (mis)classified as ICs and are paid less than minimum wages.

              1. Marie*

                Similar case with strippers, actually. They’re usually classified as IC, but penalized for every minute late to work, every minute late to standby (when they’re next on stage), every minute late to stage, every minute past some management-determined time when they are supposed to be disrobing during a dance, if their hair or makeup isn’t done to management’s subjective standards (which predictably often comes with a hefty dose of racism). All that in addition to having to rent your time on the stage, and pay out your tips to bartenders, bouncers, and DJs. It’s very possible to leave a full shift at a club in debt.

                There have been a few (so far, unfortunately, unsuccessful) lawsuits from former dancers asking to have their fines returned, if they’re truly ICs, or to be given minimum wage backpay and have their employment taxes paid, if the clubs want to keep ordering them around like employees.

                (Hopefully this isn’t too off-topic, just an interesting area of employment law/shenanigans I wanted to share!)

      1. Boo Hoo*

        Right? But they get paid insane amounts so at least they aren’t going broke.

        I worked for a doctors office where if you weren’t at your desk, computer up and ready and able to pick up the phone at exactly 8 on the dot you would be in trouble. They turned phones on to schedule same day appointments at this time so the lines flooded.

        HOWEVER, if you clocked in more than 1 minute early you were in trouble. So they essentially required you to come in early and “work” for free. Then 100 people trying to clock into one time machine at once, and if you were past 8 to clock in you also got in trouble. There was no pleasing them. I was very young and should’ve contacted the labor board for the unpaid work, if only I knew then what I know now.

        1. Sandman*

          I had an early-career job a lot like that, except that I wasn’t even customer-facing. I ended up getting fired, ostensibly for tardiness – but had kept all my timesheets and was always there almost five minutes before I started getting paid. So I was basically fired for twenty unpaid seconds. It was a riot. I wish I would have thought to contact the labor board then.

        2. Red 5*

          I once had a job where they calculated pay in 15 minute increments but then consistently told us that we had to be in ten minutes before the start of our shift so we were ready when the shift started. And not get up from our desks until the shift was over, but always clock out before 15 extra minutes. The other employees all said it made perfect sense until I added up how much money each week they would be getting out of us in unpaid work under that plan.

          After that, everybody made sure that if they were going to be so strict with us, we’d be strict about when we were actually working and it was only if we were getting paid.

        3. JD*

          I had a job that was a bit like that (you were supposed to be on the floor at the exact start of your shift, as if you could teleport instantly from where you clocked in) but there was at least a 7 minute window (as in, if you clocked in 7 minutes ahead of shift start, it counted as clocking in at the start of your shift.) And it wasn’t well enforced. And there weren’t 100 employees trying to clock in all at once. Breaks were done the same way: officially you had a 15 minute break from when you left the floor to when you got back, no matter how long it took to get to the break room and back. But in practice as long as your break wasn’t longer than 20 minutes you were fine.

      2. Loose Seal*

        I worked Wardrobe for a musical theatre one summer and the actors were fined $5.00 if their hat fell off during a musical number. I do understand the safety issue; a dancer might trip over a hat and seriously hurt themselves or (worse from the POV of the artistic director) halt the performance. But most of the chorus dancers only made $300 for the entire three-month summer. Housing was provided but not food and travel expenses so they didn’t have any extra money to pay their regular bills.

        I pinned hats to head so hard that summer that scalps bled. It was awful but it was the only way to make sure the dancers didn’t end up owing the theatre by the end of the summer.

        Hateful place. I didn’t go back the next year even when they offered me head of the department.

    2. Sleepytime Tea*

      The insanity is that $90 is more than she makes in a day. If this were me, I would’ve said “you know what, I overslept because I’m not feeling well, I think I won’t be able to make it in at all.” Because I would much rather take a day off, and be forced to use PTO or take a whole unpaid day, than pay my employer MORE than I make for the whole day AND have to work. Uh, no thank you. I’ll keep my cash and enjoy my day off.

      OP, is this a company wide thing or a department thing? Because if it’s a department thing, I would be RUNNING to HR to discuss how penalizing employees in this way is fraught with potential legal issues in addition to just being insane. Not to mention that the cash is going somewhere, and if someone is lining their pockets with it then that is wildly inappropriate.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Yeah – in combination, I would totally question the legality of this because she LITERALLY cannot take unexpected time off without having to incur some sort of financial penalty.

        2. Arjay*

          Which raises the question of what happens if she returns without a doctor’s note. “I couldn’t get in to see my doctor yesterday and I’m feeling better today. So what do you want to happen next?”

          1. Parenthetically*

            Yeah seriously. What fantasy world does this business exist in where you can just… get in to see your doctor whenever you feel like it?

            Also, this seems like a case for that letter that went around in the last couple years from a group of doctors saying “Hey businesses, don’t freaking require doctors’ notes for minor illnesses, you’re driving up the cost of healthcare, contributing to over-prescription of antibiotics, costing your employees money unnecessarily, and most importantly for us clogging up our waiting rooms and urgent cares with people who shouldn’t be there.”

            1. JKP*

              Back when I had a job that needed a doctor’s notes for any absence, my dr just gave me a bunch of notes all at once so I didn’t have to go back the next time I was sick enough to stay home but not so sick that I needed to go in to the doctor.

      1. General Ginger*

        Unfortunately, OP did try to take time off, AND needs a Dr. note for a one-day absence. Just. Yuck.

  1. CTT*

    Oh gosh, I am all about timeliness but this is awful and absurd. OP, you are not in the wrong here. Like Alison said, this is so not normal. Good luck pushing back and I hope things improve soon.

  2. Rusty Shackelford*

    How does this fine even work? Do they deduct it from your check – and if so, you’d have to give permission for that to be legal, right? Or do they demand you pay them actual money?

    This is so messed up.

    1. where's my mind*

      How does this fine even work? Do they deduct it from your check – and if so, you’d have to give permission for that to be legal, right? Or do they demand you pay them actual money?

      Also, wait, where is this money GOING? If you’re handing them cash, is she just taking it? Is she supplementing her income from yours?

      Not okay.

      1. Amber T*

        This. I’m not an accountant, but I’ve seen our balance sheets and things like “fines” or “penalties” would raise more than a few eyebrows from our auditors.

        1. Lexi Kate*

          Fines and penalties are what the company pays out. If they make the employee pay then this is income for them and should be subjected to taxes.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        This! *100.

        I was charged a keycard replacement fee early this year. It was taken out of my paycheck. It is still showing on my year-end benefit summary. It is being accounted for. Is OP’s $90 being handled in the same way?

        1. SarahKay*

          We warn our employees that if they are careless with their keycards (losing/damaging two within a year; this excludes theft of your wallet/handbag etc since that’s not your fault) then they will be required to pay for one. Thankfully no-one has done so yet, because honestly, the paperwork we will be doing to properly deduct the £5 cost of a keycard from someone’s pay makes my heart sink.

          The $90 fine that is to be handed over in cash – OH HELL NO! This sounds spectacularly dodgy, even before you get to the appallingness of a grown person (or, frankly, anyone at all) being fined for being late. And such a disproportionate fine, compared to pay levels! And there’s not even a good reason why OP has to be in on time!

          1. pandop*

            As I work at a uni, you pay the people in the printing/copying/card-making department directly if you lose your card, they are set up for that as it covers students and staff. But, you get a receipt, so it goes through the accounts properly. No room for this sort of dodgy behaviour

          2. Someone Else*

            We tried to implement a fine for losing/destroying key fobs (via negligence and/or malice, we didn’t intend to charge people for accidents) and were told by legal we couldn’t. That it’s a cost of doing business and we couldn’t make employees pay for destruction of company property, even if we knew they did it maliciously (and that wasn’t even really what we were trying to cover). They basically said if it were that big a deal, we should fire the person, not try to make them pay to replace it (they also extrapolated this to more expensive items). Don’t know if that advice were local-regulation-specific or not, but we got a pretty solid No from a team of lawyers.

        2. J3*

          ugh, the complete insanity of the OP makes this seem almost normal, but like…can I acquaint your employer with the phrase “cost of doing business”??

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Yeah, I agree, my employer is a story for a whole separate thread. Not nearly as insane as OP’s is, but there’s definitely an undercurrent of insanity running through the place.

      3. It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's SuperAnon*

        In college, we had fines within my sorority for missing meetings. All of the money from those fines went towards snacks and treats for our end of semester “fun” chapter meeting. It sucked to be fined, but it was a well laid-out policy and you knew what would happen.

        I doubt management is putting that money aside for a similar “fun” experience.

            1. Pennalynn Lott*

              Wait. Why?

              I was once the executive assistant to the president of a software company and part of my job was “hiding” his trips to strip clubs and his use of prostitutes in his expense report.

              I agree it’s inappropriate for an employee to abuse a company’s T&E system like that, but it’s not inappropriate to discuss it or speculate about it here, because crap like that absolutely happens.

            2. Courageous cat*

              What… talking about sex? We’re not at work here, and these things do happen with people in positions of power.

        1. Working Mom Having It All*

          Yeah, this sounds like a sort of lighthearted “swear jar” situation gone very, very wrong. I think $2 here and there in a situation where there’s an epidemic of the whole office coming in at 9:15 every morning, and then the money goes to Friday donuts or something, kind of childish, but sure. Holding people to that math when something going awry leads them to be 45 minutes late when otherwise their attendance record is good? Hell no. Even if it can be argued that the “late fine” jar should stand, the correct reaction from the manager should have been, “Oh, honey! Nooo, the late fine thing is just to keep people from straggling in at five after every morning! Get here as soon as you can and just don’t make a habit of oversleeping, ok?”

          My hunch is that the manager thinks she can bully OP into giving her $90 for no reason.

      4. Elbe*


        This was my first thought when she refused to let the LW take a half day. If she’s not directly benefiting from the fines, why not spare a good employee from such a harsh fee? What’s her motivation to punish the LW for a one-time, completely understandable mishap?

        The “it’s the right thing to do” line made me so suspicious that this manager is not “doing the right thing” here.

      5. Armchair Analyst*


    2. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

      Right? And if it’s cash, where does the money go? What’s it funding?

      Also, do they take debit, because I never have cash :)

      1. The Original K.*

        I bet $5 she’s keeping that money for herself. You have to pay in cash and she wouldn’t grant the unpaid half day? She was thinking “Sweet, this is my grocery money for the week.”

          1. Mama Bear*

            Agreed. That whole cash business seems very sketchy. I’d be asking for a receipt/documentation. I also wondered about the sick leave policy. In a panic, I’d probably not think to call in sick, but for the future I definitely would if it would cost me a day’s wages (and is that pre or post-taxes?). I hope LW takes this up the food chain because they’re about to lose an employee they otherwise seem to value. Is this corporate policy or just this department? Might want to verify that….

            1. Tuxedo Cat*

              A receipt/documentation is smart- there’s nothing stopping the LW’s boss from claiming she didn’t pay.

            2. JD*

              If they charge $2 per minute for being late, what would they do for a no-call/no-show? Drawing and quartering?

    3. Hallowflame*

      My guess is it shows up as a time card adjustment and goes through payroll. And yeah, LW could refuse to sign the time card, but then they wouldn’t get paid at all, so…

      1. Natalie*

        IIRC you actually can’t withhold someone’s paycheck because they haven’t sent in a time card, especially if they’re salaried and thus their pay doesn’t fluctuate week to week. Keeping track of what you owe your employees is ultimately the employer’s responsibility.

        (Not that I would expect these nutter butters to follow that, necessarily)

      2. Brett*

        OP is exempt. They cannot do a timecard adjustment like that.
        Even if OP was non-exempt, since the fine is a set $120/hr and employees are paid a lot less than $120/hr, they would have to be docking more than a day of time for an employee who was an hour late. In other words, definitely not paying employees for hours they actually worked.

        1. Fergus*

          ot paying employees for hours they actually worked. is illegal in all 50 states including alaska and hawaii if they are an hourly employee

    4. Anon From Here*

      OP says “you gotta pay up in cash.” This is a scammy scammy scam scam and the money is going directly into someone’s pocket.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Also, OP, I’d check the clocks to make sure they’re not being set in such a way to make it seem like you’re late, even when you’re not. Yes, I’m being serious.

        1. Fergus*

          yea to get your pay docked there has to be a time clock, if no time clock can’t dock, not a lawyer but pretty sure on this one

      2. wendelenn*

        I am now singing this to the tune of the Monty Python Spam song. Scammity scam, terrible scam, scammity scam, oh horrible scam scam scam scam. . .

    5. Boredatwork*

      I came here to say this – unless this is a legit, payroll deduction, I’d bet manager is pocketing the cash.

    6. DaniCalifornia*

      If they demand you pay in cash (which it kind of sounds like what is happening based on how OP said it) I would laugh in someone’s face when they asked me for $90.

      Also makes me wonder if the manager is just pocketing the cash and this isn’t a corporate thing.

      I really hope we get a good news update on this situation in the future.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        Next time you’re late, write a check to the company, and if your manager refuses it, go to the next person up the chain and hand them the check! (And explain why.)

          1. Karyn*

            I’d be super spiteful and do what I say I’d do if I ever won the lottery and could pay off my student loans: pay it all in pennies.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        I really want an update too.

        But there’s one fast way to check: Is this in the company handbook?

    7. ThankYouRoman*

      It’s a cash demand. These scumbags aren’t tracking it. They’re shaking down employees. I can’t believe these jerkwads have a business still let alone any high performers.

  3. where's my mind*

    Alison, I understand that she wants me to be punished accordingly. I accept that sleeping through two alarms was all on me.

    Hey, LW, I just want to highlight this and then maybe jump up and down on it again. This is very punitive. This is not a normal thing. Your employer shouldn’t be in the business of punishing you. You aren’t a 5 year old being sent to time out.

    This is one of the ways that bad workplaces can warp your thinking and I just want to highlight it for you. This is not normal. This is not a thing.

    btw, I’m also wondering if this came out of sports culture, since I know that hockey teams will impose fines on their fellow players for a myriad of “offenses”. So if you have someone in the culture there who was in a sports team, they might think this is normal? But this is not normal.

    1. Amber T*

      Yes – jobs should not “punish” you. If tardiness is actually an issue, a manager should go through the steps of addressing it, and at most develop a PIP and/or fire said employee. But punishment is ridiculous.

    2. Justme, The OG*

      I understand why I pay my kid’s after school care $1 for every minute I’m late picking her up. Because they have to pay people. But this? NOPE.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Yes. I was racking my brain for situations where people are fined for being late, and they all tended to be associated with situations where you’re already paying for a service and the fine is just extra because you are late.

      2. Mary*

        I think this is a case in Freakonomics, too – it’s a perverse incentive, and actually increases lateness. When people think, “If I’m late my kid’s carers will have to stay late”, they feel guilty and prioritise getting there on time. When they think, “If I’m late I have to pay more”, they’re more likely to rationalise that they are paying extra for a service. It’s definitely more legal/logical in this situation than in the LW’s, but it psychologically it’s still not necessarily encouraging the behaviour you want to see!

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Off-topic, but when I worked in day care and the parents paid cash for being late, they also showed up to their kid sitting on the stairs waiting for them (with the staff person), so the guilt was there along with the money. Parents were hardly ever late.

          1. where's my mind*

            I wonder if the guilt issue for parents was on the staff member being there, or on the kid sitting on the stoop waiting.

            (Note: I have no problem with a kid waiting on the stoop for a parent. My mental image has just filled in this forlorn child wondering when the carpool will return from the war. But if it were my 3 year old nibling on the stairs, there would just be a lot of chatter about Daniel Tiger.)

            1. Lily Rowan*

              Oh yeah, I definitely meant guilt about the forlorn child, not the held-up staffer, so I guess I was even more off-topic than I meant to be. (Possibly because I was always happy to get the money and was not in a rush to leave.)

      3. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

        You are paying for additional service from the after-school caregiver (ie, additional time worked), so they have a time-based billing rate. Seems normal to me.

    3. BronzeFire*

      Exactly! If you aren’t exempt, the natural consequence (not punishment) of arriving 45 minutes late is losing pay for 45 minutes of work.

    4. animaniactoo*

      Yeah. I would like to emphasize that sleeping through 2 alarms one time in a year is something that happens to HUMANS. Human beings.

      It’s not “your fault” that you weren’t a robot. Please do not take that and internalize that. Yes, responsibility for dealing with it is on you. But usually that means making an adjustment somewhere else to give back that time IF it is actually necessary for your workload. It means that you take a look at what you did the night before that might have led to you sleeping that heavily/late, and being proactive about not doing that again. NOT that you get punished for being a human being with biological functions and responses that are capable of the odd misfire.

      1. Catleesi*

        This. I just cannot understand why so many workplaces operate under the assumption that employees are essentially robots without lives outside of work.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I think it’s a way of dehumanizing employees so they can justify paying low wages and other draconian policies that usually IME are about money.

      2. Tara2*

        I’ve worked in food service where this happened to me. If you’ve worked there a while, aren’t normally late ever, and are a good employee, I’ve found even then when it actually matters that you’re there on time, they at least mostly understand that you are human and sometimes this happens with humans. The correct “punishment” is for you to apologize sincerely and them to tell you to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

        AND, as Alison often points out in other letters, even that shouldn’t really be happening for 45 min late if there isn’t really a reason you need to be in the office at a specific time. They’re being too rigid, and not treating you like adults that can manage their own time and workloads.

      3. Decima Dewey*

        Could the reason OP overslept have to do with work? For example, did OP have to stay late to meet a deadline, or was a last minute project sprung on OP?

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Or simple stress from working for a bunch of lunatics. Even if OP’s sleeping in wasn’t directly related to a project or recent overtime or whatever, I’d lay money that it’s a miserable place to work, and that being exposed to a constant state of misery is affecting her sleep.

      4. Aurion*


        OP, I’ve slept through alarms and frantically called my boss as I was on my way out the door because I slept through my alarm. My job is not customer facing/requires coverage from others, but I do have a hard start time and my boss values punctuality.

        All told, I was about 30-40 minutes late. Do you know what my boss said? “Oh good, I’m so glad you called in. I was worried you were in a ditch or something. Just make up the time later this week.”

        Your boss is not your overlord doling out punishment from on high.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          This reminds me, I did spend a few hours in a ditch once. We had heavy snow and my car wiped out on the way to work, went across all four lanes of the freeway in a perfect circle (thankfully it was empty!), and landed in a pile of snow in a ditch. That was back when everyone had AAA for road assistance and you couldn’t even get through, because there were a lot of snow-related accidents and everyone was calling. My phone died while I was on hold. A policeman finally stopped by and helped me get in touch with a private tow company and they got me out.

          I would have been pretty damn livid if I came into work two hours late after they finally pulled my car out, only to be charged a $240 late fee in cash. Of course, nothing like that happened. One of my managers had seen me in a ditch on his way to work, so they all knew where I was. Everyone was just relieved that I was fine.

          1. Aurion*

            Yeah, exactly. In fact, when I finally walked in the door after my slept-through-the-alarm fiasco, my boss chuckled and said “we all get one” (and I wasn’t even the record-holder for “how late you are because you slept through the alarm).

            In fact! I was *gasp* five minutes late to work this morning because I had a brain fart and couldn’t find my car keys! I quite literally walked past my boss as I walked in the door. Five minutes late. She said “morning”.

            Do I make a habit of being five minutes late to work? Hell no. Is my boss going to fine me for being occasionally late? Nope.

          2. Dragoning*

            My car tire blew out on the way to work (when I was already running a bit late because I overslept–hah!) the other month, and if I’d had to pay a fine on top of the tow and the new tire, I would have been livid.

      5. Bees in my Socks*

        God. I have fibro and did this once (because the manager had me doing remote driving constantly and it was doing a number on my system [despite the fact he knew I had fibro and he had promised it would not be remote when I took it]) and got wrote up for it.

        Its so refreshing to read that it just. happens. it happens and my manager throwing a pissed off hissy fit (because of politics and he had apparently rebounded into alcoholism and had lost out on a major teapot because he pissed off the client and they gave it to someone else) and writing me up was not freaking fair or normal. (I was an extremely high performer)

        1. SeluciaMD*

          For a one-time lateness? That is stupid and horrible. We have general schedules in our office to ensure phone coverage but some folks are early birds that start more like 7 and some are night owls that come in at 9:30 or 10 and others (like me) who have virtually no set schedule because it fluctuates daily based on what meetings or projects I’ve got on my calendar. As long as your work gets done and phones are covered, my boss does. not. care. There is no clockwatching. We are all adults and she’s got far better things to do with her time (and knows her managers have far better things to do with their time) than babysit employees or hatch a clock.

          Trust that what you experienced is not normal and there are plenty of places you could work that wouldn’t insist on treating you like anything other than a responsible, fully-functioning adult.

          1. Bees in my Socks*

            Yea. It was a customer-facing role but not in the traditional sense. Only via pre-set meetings and such. Which I had none of that day. Other fun things this manager did include demanding that I answer the phone or reply to texts 24/7 (despite being on-call not ever being discussed). Due to the fibro and hand issues I was uncomfortable doing that. (because sometimes I lose grip on objects and driving and etc.) they said that I had to pull over and answer immediately then.

            keep it mind they’d always calls me 10 mins before my start time when I was 3 mins from the office. and expect me to pull over. to reply.

            Unfortunately I was so desperate to get out when they lost their marbles (they were good up until aforementioned politics and teapot-losing) that I ran face first into another toxic environment. hoo-ray.

            1. SeluciaMD*

              That really sucks. That place sounds like it was absolutely another workplace full of Evil Bees! Jesus. I think one of the worst things that bad workplaces do to us is skew our sense of what is OK and normal so we become more and more likely to end up in seriously dysfunctional places.

              If you are still in the second toxic Evil Hive I hope you are working on your exit strategy!!! Hang in there!

        1. Ms. Alex*

          I was going to say she slept through the alarm because she was working copious amounts of (unpaid) OT and was probably exhausted!

    5. Hallowflame*

      Yes. At most, this should have gotten you a stern “don’t let it happen again”. Or possibly docking you the 45 minutes of pay, if the manager were feeling especially persnickety. This policy is outrageous, your boss is insane, this workplace is toxic, and you should do everything you can to avoid letting it warp your perception of professional norms.

      1. Arjay*

        Yes, based on the pay reported by the employee, they’re making slightly less than 19 cents a minute. Being fined more than 10 times their rate is insane.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Absolutely. Sleeping in like this is on OP, but it also happens to people sometimes. It does not justify “punishing” people, which is a bizarre framework from which to manage adult people at grown-ass jobs.

      1. Lance*

        Even more bizarre when OP is being ‘punished’ for something that… I assume isn’t interfering in any severe way with their workflow? By their words, they’re a high performer (though let’s be frank, even if they were a low performer, any so-called ‘punishment’ should be looking at their work, not whether they were a single, solitary minute late).

    7. Alton*

      Yes. Good workplaces won’t just punish you like this.

      Also, it can be counterproductive. The OP already sounds conscientious, but these fines have taught them that it would be better to take a half day off (unpaid), which could mean they’d come in later than they otherwise would.

    8. OhGee*

      Your workplace is not a place to be “punished.” Employers who take that attitude (and who dock pay in creepy ways for things like being even one minute late) have existed since forever, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal or something anybody deserves. OP, I hope you get out, because this is monstrous.

    9. TootsNYC*

      Absolutely, “she wants me to be punished” is some sick, sick thinking for grown-ups.

      She is not your mommy, and you are not a child.

      This is work.

      (I’d argue it’s some sick thinking for kids too. Of course parents have to impose some sort of negative consequences to de-incentivize the bad behavior, but it’s much more important to figure out how to keep from oversleeping, etc.)

      I once had a subordinate who simply didn’t show up to work. At first I didn’t realize because I was busy; then I thought she was at the library, which she often did. At noon I finally called and asked if she was coming in to work that day. She was totally puzzled why I was calling her so early, since I’d woken her up from a deep sleep, and shocked to find out it was noon already. She had an interior bedroom and had slept through all alarms.
      I told her, “We’ll just call it a sick day, because obviously your body needed that rest.”

      1. Jan*

        What a great boss you are, TootsNYC.

        OP, to echo everyone else, don’t think you deserve this or that your employers are in the right to do this. You sound like a reliable employee who is rarely late, and that should be taken into account. Even if you weren’t, you’re not there to be punished. Adult workplaces aren’t supposed to be school. I think you should get jobhunting sharpish.

    10. Shinobi42*

      Yes this! I expect to get this call from any employee 1-3 times a year depending on them. Shit happens. If it happens too often it is a problem, but especially with the time change we all need sleep.

    11. Observer*

      Nth-ing this!

      Your boss should not be “punishing” you. In addition, in terms of learning your lesson, you would have learned it just as well taking that half day off. So, either your boss is pocketing the money or she’s just trying to hurt you – or both.

    12. Works in IT*

      This is so abnormal I REALLY want to know what company this is. If it’s a call center I want to tell everyone I associate with that uses call centers, if it’s retail I want to tell people to boycott. This place does not deserve anyone’s business, and if I succeed in my attempt to get into politics it will be a nice addition to the “companies I will happily vindictively torpedo and dance on their grave” list.

  4. Labradoodle Daddy*

    Honestly, even if this WERE a job where coverage matters (like a receptionist), 2 minutes is worth maybe a short talking to. *maybe* A fine???? Your manager is a jerk, you deserve a better job, and I hope you’re in a position where you can look for one. You deserve much better than this.

      1. Labradoodle Daddy*

        “Hey, we really need you here right at 9:00 on the dot. Please don’t let it happen again!”

      2. EddieSherbert*

        +100. Even if you are answering phones or something… being 2 minutes is not a big deal as long is it isn’t a habit.

    1. Yay commenting on AAM!*

      I have supervised jobs where coverage very much matters and we were not able to fine people for being late. We were seldom allowed to write them up for being late, only when their lateness caused a problem for the company.

    2. Goya de la Mancha*

      Side note – it always baffles me when someone says the receptionist is one of the few that needs to be on time. I get that they are the greeter and need to welcome people or answer phones, but those people coming in/calling are not calling to talk to the receptionist. Generally they are going to be transferred (via call or physically) to another staff member to help with their needs. I was a receptionist at a local company and my hours were staggered 30 minutes from everyone else. So when people called at 4:30 and needed accounts payable help, they were SOL because it was just me (the receptionist) there. Utterly pointless and useless if you ask me!

      1. Labradoodle Daddy*

        I’m a receptionist and… yeah. I feel you. I’m not saving lives, I’m answering phones. You thinking this is a mandatory butt-in-seat job doesn’t mean your reasoning is good. OY.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yup. And voice mail is a thing. If a customer called and all the lines were in use, it would go to voice mail. It’s indistinguishable on the customer’s end from calling when the receptionist is a few minutes late. She can check the messages right when she gets in.

          1. Lulu*

            Though it does make a difference if there are several people sharing phone answering responsibility, and some of them are chronically late. I was in that situation for several years, and it really sucked. Our supervisor never really did anything effective about it. Typical scene in the morning was phones ringing off the hook the second we turned them on at start time, and half the people in our position sauntering in 5-20 minutes late. It was also a problem when the people we passed calls to were chronically late, but there were a lot of things the phone answerers could take care of without passing on a call.

            That said, the solution isn’t fining people. The solution is effective management.

            1. Labradoodle Daddy*

              I’m on a team like that, but we’re big enough that unless the stock market blew up or something we’d be able to handle it. My manager threatened an coworker’s job for perpetually being 3~ minutes late (thanks, NY subway!) without showing lenience or acknowledging the fact that she’s been doing two months worth of 7:30-6:00 shifts. Some people are just overly rigid and stupid, and there’s not much you can do to change it.

            2. Goya de la Mancha*

              “That said, the solution isn’t fining people. The solution is effective management.”

              Definitely this. I get that some jobs are butt-in-seat important, I get that some just require it (doesn’t make sense to me, but that’s the rules), and chronically late is chronically late, whether it’s 3 min or 20. Being flexible for life situations is important and lends toward an atmosphere where people feel valued and respected. Just always nagged at me that the receptionist is the only one who ever seems to be held to the promptness standards ;)

              1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

                As a former receptionist, I can confirm that receptionist is often the only person held to other standards as well (dress code being the one I was most upset by- being the only person held to the “must wear hosiery in good repair” rule when my legs were not visible under the front desk and cheap nylons are prone to runs was not cool).

      2. Antilles*

        The theory is this: If our posted hours are 9:00 to 5:00, a potential customer should be able to walk in the door and talk to someone or call the main office and get a human being on the phone. Even if the specific person happens to be on vacation or the specific department is closed, you can still reach a receptionist with the power to either (a) track someone down if it’s a time-critical emergency or (b) take a message so it’s dealt with first thing in the morning.
        It’s pretty flawed logic but that’s the theory anyways.

        1. Labradoodle Daddy*

          I understand that, I just think it’s wayyyy too much unless it has something to do with like, saving lives or keeping kids safe. Yknow?

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            I worked in an insurance call center years ago, and there was always a long queue of people on hold the instant the phone system came online. Most people were trying to get things taken care of before they left for work (this was before mobile phones were common). It wasn’t really critical in the grand scheme of things but it was critical to the customers that they speak to someone asap.

            Of course, the solution to late employees was to warn them then fire them, not fine them…

      3. Works in IT*

        I am not a receptionist but I am the one person in my department not authorized to work from home. Sometimes part of my job is “stall people for ten minutes because the person they came to see is stuck in traffic while driving in for the meeting”.

      4. Working Mom Having It All*

        I kind of get it because, for example, what if someone is early for a meeting? Also some receptionists also have “opening up” tasks like restocking k-cups in the break room or turning on TVs in the reception area, etc. that are best done before start of business. But even so, 8:30 vs. 8:32 isn’t going to jeopardize that.

      5. Red 5*

        When I was a receptionist at one point I actually started tracking how long it took every day before the phone rang or somebody came in.

        The bosses didn’t even show up for an hour after they expected me to be there. They just randomly came in early one time and I was a couple minutes late, so they started randomly calling at 8 am to see if I was there yet.

        Because some day, one day, somebody might show up at 8. And I guess be told to wait an hour.

    3. Bilateralrope*

      I work as a security guard. This is a job where coverage matters. If the guard replacing me at the end of my shift is late, I have to stay past the end of my shift until the next guard arrives.

      The closest we have to a fine is that we get paid for the time we worked. If I’m an hour late, that’s an hour I’m not getting paid for (unless sick leave is used). Instead the guard covering for me gets paid for it.

      If it’s a constant problem, then we are talking disciplinary action.

      1. ThankYouRoman*

        This is how it works in healthcare and childcare as well. There’s mandatory coverage until the next person shows up.

      2. Calpurrnia*

        Same deal in air traffic control, for what it’s worth. That’s like the ultimate pinnacle of “100% butt-in-seat coverage is a matter of life and death” jobs, and it still works exactly like this. If you don’t work those hours, you don’t get paid, plus the guy who has to cover you probably gets overtime for it.

    4. Mama Bear*

      Agreed. You’ve been there a year, you have a glowing review in hand – sounds like you are in a good position to find a less punitive company that treats you like a professional adult.

    5. TootsNYC*

      When you apply for a new job, and they ask you why you’re leaving, say, “I’m a top performer, I put in a lot of extra hours, and I’ve realized that I’m not valued there. I want to work somewhere that I can invest that sort of energy and commitment and have it returned.”

      1. Labradoodle Daddy*

        I’m a woman, I’d be worried about being (wrongly) perceived as arrogant if I phrased it like that :/

          1. Helena*

            If I heard that from an interviewee I’d be thinking “OMG what kind of recognition do they want, a fucking ticker tape parade?” I’d also worry that their perception of their own performance might be out of step with the reality, and that’s why their employer wasn’t giving them the praise they thought they were due.

            It would never occur to me that they meant “my employer is making illegal deductions from my pay”.

    6. LQ*

      I work in a call center. We 100% need coverage, people at their desk and on the phone. You know what happens if you’re late for a job where it is the primary requirement? You don’t get paid for that time. That’s it. If you do it enough you’ll get a warning and if you’re a poor performer maybe fired, but if you’re a great performer? Even at a freaking call center they work with you!!

  5. Amber T*

    Oh no. No no no no OP is this so very not normal. This is horrendous and ridiculous and, like Alison said, utter bullshit.

    My first job was toxic and weird and awful, and I chalked it up to “well, it’s my first job out of college, what even is normal?” Nope! I didn’t listen to my coworkers, who had both been with the company longer AND had a longer work experience than I did, tell me “this is not normal.” OP – this is not normal, this is not how good, decent jobs and companies behave. Even if it’s “legal,” it’s absurd.

  6. McWhadden*

    I understand it may not be feasible to find a new job right now for many reasons. But get out as soon as possible.

    1. Naomi*

      And if making the point about how much overtime you work doesn’t get you anywhere, see if you can stop working overtime.

      Also, “it’s the right thing to do”? Almost more than the fine itself, it boggles the mind that your manager is trying to claim the moral high ground here! If the company wants people NOT to take leave to avoid coming in late, they had damn well better design a system where half a day’s leave doesn’t lose an employee less pay than a one-time lateness. Any later and you’d have been paying to work that day.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          When I was young I actually said things like this. That’s why I had a “bad attitude” *eyeroll*

      1. Kitrona*

        Yeah, they couldn’t see “the right thing to do” on a clear day with a high-powered telescope, so I don’t know where she gets off telling OP that working for free is “the right thing to do”, especially in a system it sounds like she set up and is benefiting from (because I really, REALLY want to know where that cash is going….). Especially since OP’s work doesn’t seem to suffer because of it.

  7. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

    This is whacked and not normal. If you’re non-exempt I can see not paying you for the time you were late, but fining you? That’s crazy. Where is the fine money going? What are they using it for? $2 a minute is more than what most people make, so they are effectively punishing you for coming at all.

    Your employer is nuts.

    1. FabTag*

      I strongly suspect the money is going right into her supervisor’s pocket and the company doesn’t even know about this. It really sounds like something a sociopath would do.

  8. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Holy Shit.

    No, LW. This is not even remotely normal. Get out. ASAP. This place is full of bees.

    Healthy workplaces do not *punish* employees for being a couple of minutes late once in a while. Certainly not with a MONETARY FINE.

      1. Tara2*

        Yes! This guy slept through the ENTIRE day of work. Here’s some excerpts from how the manager in this normal company handled it:

        “My boss called me and left a concerned voicemail, then followed up with a concerned email a few hours later.”

        “He gave me an encouraging pep talk about ‘being human’.”

        This is a good manager. Your manager is NOT.

    1. SignalLost*

      ESPECIALLY NOT employees they just gave a glowing review and promised a raise to! This place is made entirely of bees! Your boss is a giant bee!

      (And if you don’t know what we’re talking about, Google “house of bees” and look for the Captain Awkward link.)

      1. The Original K.*

        “This place is made entirely of bees! Your boss is a giant bee!”

        Literal laugh out loud over here. Thank you for that!

    2. teclatrans*

      Bees! Bees! So many Bees! Flee!

      OP, being “punished accordingly” is not a thing that any workplace should be involved in. This is not a thing. I am very concerned that you are internalizing the warped norms of this workplace. Which is understandable! But also really damaging. Alison has written about the importance of getting out of toxic workplaces not only for your mental health but also because they warp your sense of what’s normal and make it hard to flourish in sane workplaces. I strongly encourage you to find a new job, then lodge a complaint with the Department of Labor for all the overtime pay they owe you.

  9. Foreign Octopus*

    I once overslept as well and I was well over an hour late to work. All my manager did was ask me if everything was alright and then have a little chuckle about it – he said it happens to everyone at least once and not to worry about it.

    This though? This is forking weird.

    1. Dragoning*

      When I overslept, my coworkers flew into a panic thinking I was dead and tracked down my dad so they could have him call me to make sure I wasn’t, and when I got in, finally, all they did was check that I was okay and make sure they had my phone number just in case.

      Fining me???

      1. Anonysand*

        The last time I overslept (about ten years ago now- wow!), it was the same thing. My co-workers were worried that something bad had happened and managed to track down my parent’s number. Who then called my roommate, who woke me up to find that my cell phone had turned itself off in the middle of the night and I was an hour and a half late to my morning shift. I was immediately mortified and apologized profusely…. My manager was totally understanding and was just happy that I hadn’t crashed my car into a ditch somewhere.

        1. Beaded Librarian*

          Had a similar thing happen to me too. I used my cell phone as an alarm and managed to approve an update while I was asleep but then the phone needed my code before it would finish coming back online.

          So no alarm, and no phone ringing to wake me up either. I think I was 2 hours late for work but my manager was simply worried because it wasn’t like me to be late, I hadn’t called AND the phone was going to voicemail.

        2. Workaholic*

          My cell phone switched my alarm time from am to pm when daylight savings time switched over. Thus no alarm, and I woke up late. Emailed a co-worker, didn’t rush and got to work 1.5 hours late. Turned out the co-worker I emailed had the day off work. My boss just told everyone I must have requested the day off and he forgot to put it on the calendar somehow. When I showed up everyone was happy, and I made the hours up later in the week.

    2. Boo Hoo*

      I did this once. I called my boss and said I was so sorry, i had overslept due to not being able to sleep most of the night. He had zero issues with it and actually said “take your time, get in when you can”. Then when I got there he took me to lunch saying, “I figure you haven’t eaten yet since you rushed, sorry you didn’t sleep well last night, I hate that.”

      1. Cindy Featherbottom*

        Same! I did this once when I was sssuuuppppeeerrrr sick and took everything I could think of just so I could breath…and I knocked myself out. Never even heard my alarm. My boss called and asked if I was ok. I got to work as quick as I could and got caught up on my work. He ended up getting someone to cover the last half of my shift so I could get some (obviously much needed) rest. I never got in trouble for it in any way. OP, your scenario is very much NOT normal.

        1. Boo Hoo*

          He was pretty great. We are still friends. I only left because I moved out of state. He would not even make up work the whole week of xmas, short of maybe something urgent we could handle from home. Just because he was nice. Also it was health care sales and in health care NADA happens between the holidays. They are just handling the influx in patients due to doctors being closed so no one is buying anything unless it is urgent. We really barely worked the month of December so it was a lot of lunches, drinks, laughing in the office and that sort. He was a very cool guy.

    3. Cedarthea*

      All of camp slept through their alarm one morning (well more that the person on wakeup, me, slept through their alarm and didn’t wake everyone up) and we were awoken by parents dropping their children for day camp. The parents were surprisingly cool about it considering. They understood we were human and it was clear it wasn’t happening again!

      Yesterday I slept through two alarms and was 15 minutes late, the only talking to I got was that everyone was impressed that I was only 15 minutes late considering I have a 30 minute drive commute, it had snowed and I woke up 1 hr before I was supposed to be at work. And that I managed to eat breakfast and make coffee before I headed out.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Can you teach me how to do that? It takes me 2 hours to get out the door. And I’m often a few minutes late. But my boss treats us like grown-ups so it’s not an issue.

        1. Cedarthea*

          I also like 2 hrs in the morning, but I don’t do makeup or hair (and I had showered the night before) so all I really needed to do was get dressed, brush my teeth and make my lunch & coffee. I ate breakfast as I drove.

          Its mostly about not caring what you look like when you get to work and when you’ve set a low standard like me its just normal.

  10. Meredith Brooks*

    Curious where is the money going? Is the boss lady bringing it over to accounting?

    Any cash in hand transactions with employers makes my spidey sense tingle. (Excepting petty cash with receipts.)

    1. Murphy*

      Yeah, I’m curious about this as well. I don’t typically carry $90 around with me, so would I have to be more late to hit up the ATM?

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      OP, do you get a receipt for the fine you pay? I’d want one. To compare to your pay check.

    3. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

      I’d be tempted to tell them that I didn’t have cash and needed to write a personal check, just to see who the money is going to.

      1. AKchic*

        “The family accountant has always advised me not to carry that much cash, and to always write checks for anything larger than $50 and to get receipts for everything. I will need a receipt for this. Who do I make this check out to? What do you mean ‘never mind’? I thought I needed to be punished for my humanity…”

        Malicious compliance combined with spiteful innocence can be both hilarious and beneficial.

    4. RG2*

      I’d push this if I were the OP. Say you want to be sure you’re doing your taxes correctly and so it needs to be reflected on your paystubs or you need a receipt. If your boss dodges you, go to accounting and treat it as an innocuous question. That’ll at least tell you if your boss is following a company policy or freelancing here.

  11. AnaEatsEverything*

    OP, it sounds like you may be new to the working world, so please know: this is NOT normal and it is not okay. If you talk to your boss (which you should) and she doesn’t see how insane this is, please consider looking for another job, even if it means keeping your head down and staying there while you interview.

    This is so beyond the realm of Normal and Acceptable Office Practices that I can’t even. There’s a good reason why we’re all reacting with shock and horror.

  12. Loopy*

    I’d very much be looking for a new job over this. I understand that may not be possible for the OP but for perspective I think I’d have plenty of company who would not accept this treatment at a job.

    And I’m early every day to work. Every day. But things like this happen and I’d be so insulted and enraged being fined after months and years of punctuality!

    1. Anna Canuck*

      Can you imagine an interviewer asking “so, why are you looking for a new job?” OMG, this is nuts.

      1. Ali G*

        If I interviewed someone and this was the reason they gave for leaving, I’d want to hire them on the spot just to get them out of there!

  13. Shark Whisperer*

    Am I the only one the suspicious that they have to pay in cash? Is this an actually company policy or just a way for your manger to scam you out of money? Do you know that the money is going to the company not into your manager’s pocket?

    1. Shark Whisperer*

      Also, the petty part of me would want to demand that I get paid $2/ per minute for every minute that I’m there before 9 am

      1. I'm Not Phyllis*

        Asking someone to pay an entire day’s salary for being 45 minutes late is insane. Insane. I could understand docking pay if it was an ongoing issue (not something I’d personally want to do but hey – I at least get it). But $2 is many times what OP is making a minute. I don’t even have words for how unfair and ridiculous this is.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          Just the fact that the company/manager expects to make $120 an hour off late employees is insane.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Or after 5pm. Seriously, even without the sketchiness of a cash fine, nickel-and-diming your employees like this is the way to guarantee that they will never go the extra mile, or even an extra inch, for their employer.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I didn’t have the wherewithal to even consider this part because I was so blinded by rage at the mere concept of fining someone for being late, but this is a great question.

    3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      It’s definitely a way for the company to keep what is actually docking a worker’s pay off the books.
      If this is company policy and not shady supervisor, then the company is hiding the fact that they dock pay and possibly put what they call exempt workers below minimum wage.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Even outside of the work world, “we only take cash” raises red flags with me 100% of the time. When my dad passed away and left his old beat-up car to my son, first time the car needed service, we took it to the mechanic in our ethnic community that Dad had always taken it to. He did the work, and then informed me that he only accepted payments in cash. We never went back to him again. That’s shady crap that I do not want to be a part of.

      1. Nancy*

        A lot of smaller businesses do not take credit cards. And since most banks hold the amount of any check cashed/deposited against the funds in the account it is being deposited to/cashed against for a time, if the amount is large enough it could have an impact on their ability to pay out of that account when they need to. It is not necessarily a sign of something untoward. It could be, but not necessarily

        1. Elizabeth West*

          There are a couple of restaurants here that only take cash, probably for this reason. One of them is my favorite Chinese place. The owners are from Cambodia and are very nice. Cash doesn’t always mean shady. (Food’s good, too.)

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            OK, I’ll adjust my “100% of the time” to 90%, and still keep my opinion about the car repair shop.

            1. Yikes*

              A car repair shop only taking cash, especially in an ethnic enclave, is probably more a sign that you’re not being ripped off, because it indicates the mechanic is self-employed and operates on a razor-thin profit margin.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                I had other experiences with the guy when my dad was still alive and was his customer. The cash-only policy was the last straw.

                Based on my family members’ past experiences, I have always been of the opinion that a business (NOT an ethnic restaurant, but a place like a dental office, a car shop etc) that markets to an ethnic enclave, especially to its older members who cannot speak English, is doing it because older non-English speaking customers are easier to rip off. But I imagine it would depend on the location, the ethnicity and so on.

                FWIW, the best mechanic I’ve ever taken my car to is a Middle Eastern guy who runs a small shop out in the far suburbs. But he takes English-speaking customers, accepts all forms of payment, and came highly recommended.

        2. SarahKay*

          Cash-only may not be shady in and of itself; not saying that it’s cash-only until after the work is done is definitely shady.

          1. where's my mind*

            Yeah, especially since the last time I needed work done on my car by a mechanic, I think it came out to $300 or around there. I don’t carry that much cash around. And I once, several years ago, ran into a daily limit of the ATM being $200. So getting that much cash to pay a car bill on no notice is not a small thing.

            (The mechanic actually gave me an estimated cost when we arranged for repairs, and when I came to pick the car up, it came in below the estimate, I was given a detailed invoice, I paid with a credit card.)

          2. Winifred*

            I used to go to the garage in Cambridge, Mass. run by the guys from “Car Talk” on NPR — expensive garage, and it was cash only.

          3. AML-Guy*

            I think this is a funny example of how cultures differ. In the US, as I understand the conversation here, a cash-only business will raise an eyebrow but not much more. In Germany, my understanding is that cash-only is even more common, although my own experience with shopping there is limited to the border shops that caters to Scandinavians and thus take cards.

            In Denmark and Sweden, a cash-only business will be scrutinised very thoroughly by the bank and quite likely reported to the authorities for possible money laundering.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Credit cards charge the business a percent of sales for processing the transaction. Around 2010 I did an analysis for my employer at the time and they were charging us 7 – 8% of sales. It was a consulting company.
        I wouldn’t blame a small business for not wanting to pay these fees, they may not be able to afford it. And of course checks can bounce.
        Also I knew an illegal immigrant who wanted to start his own business, but couldn’t get accounts with the card companies because of his status.
        Of course the card companies are pushing for everyone to use cards and not cash, it’s making them even richer! I use cash as much as possible because of this.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          “… they were charging us 7 – 8% of sales.”

          No, that’s not right. Visa and Mastercard charge 2%, Amex charges 3% (I don’t know what Discover and the rest charge but it’s not more than either of those).

          Merchant services—the company that processes the credit card transactions for the business, which is not the bank but should be the same company that got you the credit card reading terminals/software—is probably taking a cut on top of that, and I’d be shocked if there weren’t more middlemen in there, but credit cards don’t charge fees like that.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            It may have been a combination of fees. I remember there was a middleman company that processed the transactions to the credit card companies.
            The small business has to pay both fees and may not be able to afford it.
            My hairdresser and some vintage dealers have the “square” – I wonder if that’s less expensive – but I’m sure there are still the card fees!

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I’m seeing everyone using the “square” nowadays. There’s an out-of-state road trip I’ve gone on for the last two years, and on my way back each year I’ve stopped at a farmers market in the middle of nowhere, rural Virginia, with a hand-painted sign that says “farmer John’s stand” or something… and even farmer John was using square. (Which I used, because, even though I came prepared with some cash, farmer John was selling a lot more delicious produce and canned goods than I had the cash for.) Hopefully that means it costs him less than 7-8%, I’d hate to have him (or anyone) pay that kind of fees.

  14. The Original K.*

    I read the title of this post and said out loud, “I wish the fuck I would.” This is insane. I would quit over this, sincerely. You have to come out of your pocket to work there? When you get there at 9:01? I’m one of those “on time is 10 minutes early” people and I don’t consider 9:01 late. Even if you are in a mission-critical butt-in-seat role, it’s ONE MINUTE. And even if one minute does make a difference, the way you handle it is not, is not, is not, fining grown-ass adults.

    Ugh, I’m so mad.

    1. Queen of the File*

      I would be very tempted to just refuse to pay the fine (CASH to my BOSS!?) and make them fire me over it if that’s what they really want to do. Then they can explain how I got fired to my next prospective employer because nobody would believe me if I tried to.

      (mostly joking)

    2. Kat in VA*

      One minute to me is getting out of my car, locking it, walking halfway to the door, remembering I left my phone in the car, retrieving it, and then heading into the building. Seriously. 30 seconds to get to car, 30 seconds to get back to car. One minute increments is so incredibly persnickety that I am just so incredibly cliched I CAN’T EVEN WITH THIS.

  15. Myrin*

    Practical question to the OP: How does this fine money get transferred? Do you pay up in cash as soon as you rush in the door? Do you transfer it electronically to your employer? Or is the money deducted directly from your pay?

    Because if it’s anything but the latter, I’m honestly wondering… what happens if you refuse to pay? I can imagine people willingly-but-grumbly handing over 2 dollars but I can even better imagine people not wanting to go down without a fight, so to speak, when there’s bigger sums at play, especially if they’re late for reasons which are very serious (like, IDK, taking your violently ill child to the doctor) or out of their control (like a significant delay in public transport).

    Have you ever witnessed someone refusing to pay up, OP? If so, how did the company react? And if not, do you have any guideline or even just an idea how they might/will react? Are they going to fire people for this?

    1. voluptuousfire*

      +1. Agreed. I was thinking the same thing. To call this absurd is a massive understatement.

      OP, look for another job yesterday!

    2. Myrin*

      Oh dang, I just saw that you actually answered my first question by saying that you gotta pay up in cash. Disregard that part of comment, then. And really, do you have any way to trace where that money is actually going?

    3. Genny*

      I was wondering the same thing. What happens if you don’t pay? I imagine they fire you at some point, but I have a hard time believing a company would fire someone over a $2 fine. What happens if everyone doesn’t pay? Do they fire everyone en masse?

      1. Genny*

        Also, what happens if you don’t work overtime? If they’re going to nickel and dime me for being late, I’m not putting in an extra minute of OT unless I want to for some reason. What would happen if you started leaving on time? What would happen if everyone started doing that?

        1. Psyche*

          Nickel and diming would be not paying for the time the OP was late when they are regularly doing unpaid overtime. Having the employee pay $2 for every minute late is outright exploitation.

    4. Matilda Jefferies*

      This would be my solution as well, along with talking to a lawyer and getting the hell out of Dodge. Just – don’t pay. You don’t even have to refuse, just tell her that you don’t have the money on you and you’ll get it to her next week. When next week comes – oh dang, sorry, forgot to go to the bank machine again. And so on.

      Chances are the boss will throw a hissy fit, and likely try to increase the fine in some way. Let her. She can’t force you to pay, especially since she’s insisting on cash. So it doesn’t matter if your “tab” is $2 or $200 or $2000 – you’re not going to pay regardless. Just smile and nod, pretend you’re going to pay any day now, and do what you can to get out of there.

      Good luck, and I’d love to get an update when you have one!

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        I think this is a great idea! “Tee hee so sorry I don’t have the money!’ “Oopsie daisee forgot my bank card!” DO NOT PAY THESE PEOPLE. NOT ONE DIME.

      2. Kat in VA*

        I’m one of those people who *never ever* has cash. I think I might have…two ? dollars in my wallet right now? Even on the spectacularly rare occasions when I do have folding money, the husband or one of the kids ends up poaching it for this, that, or the other. I’m fine with not having cash.

        I damned sure wouldn’t be keeping a cash reserve in my wallet to pay some shady fine to a company who thinks nothing of charging a fee to me for the privilege of working there. Just…screw that, six ways from Sunday.

  16. Archie Goodwin*

    This is total, utter, and complete garbage.

    Full stop. End of discussion. ‘Nuff said.

    Hell, I’ve overslept maybe TWICE in the past two years, and been mortified when it happened. And my boss’s response was, basically, “Eh, it happens. Long as you don’t make a habit of it, it’s OK.”

    I would suggest looking for another position. And when you leave, I might consider telling them this business is a large part of the reason why. They want to retain good personnel, they need to think about getting rid of this kind of crap.

    1. Hobbert*

      Yep, this exactly. I overslept once when I was new and woke up to my fellow cops knocking at my door, worried about me. I freaked out, called my sergeant, and he said, “don’t worry about it. It happens and you’re a conscientious employee. Can you be on duty in 45 minutes?” *That’s* how you handle stuff like this- what you don’t do is treat your employees like naughty children who need to learn a lesson. OP, please start job hunting. This isn’t normal or ok at all and you deserve better.

    2. Catleesi*

      Seriously. Find a job that treats you like a human being. This place doesn’t care, at all, about you. It is not normal.

  17. Murphy*

    This is absolutely ridiculous! I worked in a needlessly rigid office once before, but this is beyond. Wow.

  18. Jubilance*

    So many red flags here OP! First, concept of “punishment” doesn’t belong in a workplace – you’re not a child, you’re an employee. Yes disciplinary actions have to be taken sometimes, but punishments should not be given. And then to fine someone $2 for every minute they are late??? These people really think they are your parents!

    I don’t know how you made it a year – at first mention of a $2 fine for every minute late I would have walked away. Not because I’m a late person, but because of the principle – you aren’t a child and they should not treat you as one!

    You’ve been there over a year so I think it’s time to make sure you’re resume is updated and start applying, STAT. There’s no reason to stay here and take this!

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      That jumped out at me too. “I understand I have to be punished.” No, you have to do your job, you have to follow the rules and you have to understand and accept consequences for not doing either. You do not get punished at work. Just no.

    2. MsChanandlerBong*

      Yes, thank you. When I took over HR functions at my job, the first thing I did was get rid of the “discipline chart.” It listed penalties for certain infractions, which is reasonable, but the title “discipline chart” was just so juvenile and ridiculous. Unless you run a kindergarten classroom, the words “discipline chart” should not go together in the workplace.

    3. TootsNYC*

      ” disciplinary actions ”

      Interestingly, “discipline” can mean “field of learning” and “orderliness” and “organization.”

  19. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    “they can dock your pay for the actual time you were late … although if you’re exempt, that docking could negate your exempt status, make you effectively non-exempt, and mean that you’d be entitled to overtime pay when you work over 40 hours in a week.”

    Which is why you pay cash instead of them docking your pay. There’s no record. Oh, this is shady as hell.

    1. Ali G*

      YES. I did the math. At $90/day * 251 working days per year is $22,590 per year which is oh-so-conveniently just about $1k less than the min threshold for exempt status. If the $90 is after taxes, then they are paying just the min to make them exempt, but if not then this person should be paid hourly and get overtime – not docked for minutes late!!!

      1. A-nony-nony*

        Based on the math she gave, her monthly salary would be $2700 ($90 * 30) which would be $32,400 per year. Conveniently barely over the minimum needed for exempt, allowing them to pay the bare minimum to their employees to avoid paying them overtime, while docking them pay in cash, to keep from losing exempt status.

        If I were her, I’d just not pay it, as they can’t enforce it without risking blowing the whole thing wide open. She may be fired, she may not, but if they try to enforce it, any paper trail would be useful for DOL investigators.

        1. Ophelia*

          Typically there are about 22 working days in a month, so her monthly salary would be $90*22=$1,980 (varying a bit by month), and her annual salary would probably be about $450*52=$23,400.
          That said, I agree she’s probably misclassified, and this is shady as hell.

        2. HermioneMe*

          This is so much in the realm of WTF-ness. If OP is making $90 per day, that’s $450 per week. The threshold for exempt is $455 per week. So the company is not even paying the correct amount for “salary-exempt.” My bet is that they have OP misclassified as exempt so they don’t have to pay overtime. Even if OP qualifies as exempt, the company loses that exemption for her because they are not paying her the correct amount of $455 per week – making her eligible for overtime pay! I also believe manager is pocketing the money. My advice to OP – keep track of your hours worked (but not on a work device). Keep track of your fines. Take a photo of the cash you are handing your manager. Whatever documentation you can put together legally – do it. Then see an employment law attorney! Or see the attorney first, then do what they suggest. (But document what you can before your appointment with the attorney!)

          1. HermioneMe*

            And – if the fines put her below state/federal minimum wage, that’s ding-ding-ding against the employer as well. But that would be hard to prove if it’s the fines are not deducted from paychecks!

          2. Emelle*

            I haven’t thought this through, but I am sure tempted to find a new job, be late one day, pay the fine and email manager/hr/accounting for a receipt, because my accountant needs all business expenses (oh, and receipts from previous fines from all the glorious documentation I am doing.

    2. Mm*

      Not to mention that her boss told her “it’s the right thing to do” to come in and get the fine vs the lower cost of an unpaid day. That’s some crazy talk.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        It’s manipulative talk – think Mother Gothel and Rapunzel. This is a guilt trip worth enough air miles to get you to Pluto and back.

        This is such high levels of BULLPOO – this is levels beyond normal and makes me SOOOO ANGRY.


        OP – get a serious savings account sorted (if you say can afford the occasional fine, start with that money) so you can afford to tell your GREEDY MANIPULATIVE F***ING S***BAG T*** Manager to stick her thieving policy up her @***
        (Sorry for the language, but I feel very strongly about this – this is wrong on so many levels my heart breaks that a) you have to put up with this and b) she’s made you feel GUILTY enough to go in and be FINED)

  20. JSQ*

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a letter that has filled me with so much blind rage. OP, follow Allison’s advice, but then please get the hell out of that job.

    1. Me (I think)*

      Yeah, this. I started reading it, went “WTF” to myself, and then it just kept getting worse and worse.

  21. Lizzy May*

    On top of the anger I’m feeling for the OP, I really want to know where all this fine money is going? Who is keeping that cash? This is so fucking wrong on so many levels, but I bet the bosses are just pocketing the money, which is why they’re all for this bullshirt system.

  22. Falling Diphthong*

    OP, I think you should look for another job. This is just really disrespectful and demeaning. (And I wouldn’t say that about, say, a daycare center that charges by the minute for late pickup–that’s a condition you know when you sign the contract, and it’s rude to expect the employees to just endlessly work late for no pay.) If you’re fined for being 1 minute late, but they think nothing of asking you to work 1 minute past five, things are seriously screwy.

    If you think you really need to, say, put in the full year for your resume and you love everything except the low pay and ridiculous fees… then certainly, push back. Point out that you are asked to put in unpaid overtime every week, but they are charging you 1 day’s wages.

  23. Plain Jane*

    Um, even for butt in the seat at a specific time jobs like a receptionist or help desk rep, you shouldn’t be fined for being late. It’s just overly punitive. Warnings, write-ups or even termination is the professional way of doing things.

    This company is begging people to just call in sick when they know they are going to be late.

    1. Blue*

      OP commented and implied that taking a sick day requires a doctor’s note. Which…yeah. They’ve really gone all-in on screwing over their employees.

      1. ThankYouRoman*

        I want to just swoop in and pick up everyone in these garbage regions and bring them to Sick Leave Law Land. Unless it’s 3 days, eat a turd sammich, no doctors note requirements allowed.

  24. sweet potatoes*


    I mean, yes, check if it’s legal, but my peep, you gotta go. I understand you may not be able to quit right away, but please try to find something else. This is just so morally wrong.
    Holy crap this is so beyond bad I can’t even. I have literally lost my capacity to even. This is so bad and I’m so incensed in your name I’m going to get in my car and go get some hot cocoa (with marshmallows) so I can calm down. Holy mother of everything holy.

  25. Akcipitrokulo*

    Echoing that you may not be aware of just how not OK this is…

    This is COMPLETELY unacceptable.

    No. Just no. This is further from standard work norms than the guy who sent the calendar pose of himself with his application. It’s that level of oh hell no.

    I hope this gets resovled for you… but this is not normal in any sense of the word, and please don’t let your boss make you think it is.

    Also… yeah, sleeping through alarm isn’t great. It’s also not the end of the world. There is no need to beat yourself up about it.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Actually… photo guy was small potatoes. This is a horrific way to run a workplace. Run away if you can.

      And mentioning this to any and all regulatory bodies you may know would be more than reasonable.

    2. HannaSpanna*

      I slightly disagree with the sleeping through the alarm statement. It’s not something anyone chooses to do, or has any control over. Its like saying its not great emergency roadworks or a flat tire made you late. People apologise because it’s polite and they feel embarrassed, not because they’ve actually screwed up.

  26. Autumnheart*

    I feel like a call to the DOL is in order here.

    OP, this seems like a good time to tell you, or remind you, that you don’t need to ASK to take unpaid time off. You can TELL your boss that you’re not feeling well and will be taking an unpaid sick day. If being 45 minutes late means you’re basically losing your pay for the entire day, then don’t. go. to. work. And don’t listen to your boss’s bullshit about “the right thing to do,” fuck that. The right thing to do wouldn’t be to force your employees to jump through hoops and figure out ways to claw back their paycheck, while still expecting them to give you hours and hours of unpaid labor.

    Take the day off, let your boss figure out what to do about it, stop working overtime, and find a new job ASAP. This company is highly unethical and exploiting you.

      1. Autumnheart*

        True, but I was trying to say that OP can call up and say, “I’m sorry, I won’t make it in today,” as opposed to the dynamic where OP feels “forced” to come in because her manager “said so”. Especially if the outcome is that OP puts in a full day of work that is canceled out by this “fine”. I wasn’t trying to focus on the unpaid/paid aspect.

        1. Jaybeetee*

          OP has commented above that she needs to provide a doctor’s note for even a day’s sick leave. As it happens, a company that would fine employees for being 1 minute late is also terrible about sick days.

  27. Cody's Dad*

    Sadly, the boss won’t win bit deserves to be at least be nominated for worse boss of the year.

    Check you status as Alison suggested. If you work late and aren’t paying you, they can’t have it both ways by fining you for being late. Even so, I’d start to push back subtly by not always being available to stay late of this is how they work. If 8 a.m. regardless means start time, then 5 p.m. regardless if work is done or not means end time.

  28. Beancounter Eric*

    OP, find a new job – immediately.

    Start leaving at 5 sharp, take every nanosecond of break/lunch your company policy manual references, come in no earlier than 9am – simply put, if they are going to hold you to that degree of rule compliance, demand the same from them.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      I had a supervisor once who would micromanage our comings and goings at the beginning and end of shifts, and I got a talking to for leaving 2 minutes early even after having worked only half of my lunch. So from then on I took every single second of my lunch in full view of said supervisor and left at exactly the end of my shift.

    2. Michael Lewis*


      I had a similar discussion with HR at my last company. I’m an salaried engineer with 8-5 M-F official hours, but I regularly worked through my lunch, came in at 6, worked late, sent emails at night or weekends, etc.

      I left on a gorgeous Friday at 3:30, and on Monday I got called into HR about my “official” hours. I basically listed out all the reasons above, and asked the HR manager if this was really going to be something that is watched this closely, I would be there no earlier than 8, leave no later than 5, not work through my lunch, etc. no matter what the customer or company need was.

      She basically said, “nevermind…”. I left that company 6 months later after they acknowledged I was paid 25% below market value (without any raise in 2.5 years) but refused to give me a raise. 18 months later, I’ve doubled that salary.

  29. LadyPhoenix*

    I would refuse to pay them. Plain and simple.

    I am sure glassdoor and the press would LOVE to hear of a place that fines people for being 1 minute late, or fine $90 for being late (when factors like traffic, accidents, child care, and disabilities can make punctuality a real hassle).

    1. Doug Judy*

      Yes. A scathing review on Glassdoor is 100% necessary. Also given how absolute outrageous this story is, I’m betting this is one of the AAM that goes viral.

        1. LadyPhoenix*

          It has happened before. Last year was the Ghosting letter with a sequel, where the writer still acted like a jerk.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Given that there’s already over 800 comments and it’s only 1pm in California, yup, I’d say this one is on its way.

    2. Elbe*

      One of the main reasons that I think that this is a scam is because EVERY employee is going to be late at some point. There are just so many things that are beyond a person’s control. They know that they’re going to be collecting money from all of their employees one day or another.

      Incentivizing someone to be on time (or penalizing them for being late) only works if being on time is within their control. This policy makes it seem like collecting money is the goal, not having punctual workers. If having people arrive on time is the only goal, there’s no reason to penalize people who are already doing their best.

    3. Nea*

      Seriously, so would I. I’d treat the very notion of being shaken down for a cash payment for a minuscule amount of time as a tasteless joke and say so to the boss.

      On the other hand, I have a solid work record and savings – it’s different when you’re starting out, and the boss, if not the entire company, is taking rampant advantage of OP and OP’s coworkers.

  30. Jake Not-from-State-Farm*

    Honestly my first suggestion would be to calculate how much overtime you are owed. Since they will owe you that PLUS penalties it would likely be a nice severance once you are able to find another job (I get the feeling that leaving with nothing lined up is not a possibility in the OP’s case). Unless its only a handful of times, it is FAR more useful in your bank account than as leverage to get this policy changed.

    Echoing others, this is NOT normal workplace policy. Any place that would EVER put something like this in place is run by people who clearly fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.

  31. Less Bread More Taxes*

    Alternative suggestion: Create an invoice asking for $2 for every minute of overtime you’ve worked since starting. Deduct that $90 they’re asking for. Request a cash payment asap.

    In all seriousness, refuse to pay that fine. I’d take it as far as it could possibly go. Maybe this company even needs some publicity.

    1. Yay commenting on AAM!*

      You should be tracking the hours you work separately, on your own, in a notebook or Google Sheets spreadsheet on your phone, etc. As an hourly employee, the number of times I’ve caught bosses slicing time off timecards to “make the shift even,” even if I had to start working early or leave late because of an emergency going on in the workplace, was appalling. (One job I had, I did 3 shifts a week. They stole $300 from me in one year doing this.)

      When I transitioned to salaried, I continued doing this. I track when I arrive at work, how long of a break I get if I get one, what my travel time is if I’m traveling offsite for meetings, what time I leave, and about how much time I’ve spent doing work at home. That way if it ever comes up- in a situation like this, in a situation where you’ve been misclassified, if your boss is being a jerk about the amount of work you’re putting in or accusing you of not putting in the right hours- you have that information on hand to protect yourself.

      It also forces you to acknowledge how much work you’re putting in vs. how many hours you are salaried for. I had one boss who was salaried at $X for 40 hours a week, but her job duties required her to put in 60. This put her hourly rate well below half of her subordinates in lower titles.

    2. LKW*

      This is what I was thinking. If you arrive at 9.05 take your full lunch and leave at 5:30 – then they owe you 25 min or $50 based on their logic.

      This is so not normal, it’s not even close to normal.

      You need to get out. This is shady as hell.

    3. Delta Delta*

      Right? Don’t pay it. Then what happens? OP gets fired? OK, so then OP applies for unemployment benefits and gets to explain to the department of labor that they got fired for failing to pay a cash-only “fine” for coming in late. Lemme tell you who wins in this situation, and it isn’t the employer.

      1. Jake*

        But it isn’t OP either, who presumably has to pay rent somehow while that works its way through the courts.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          It’s actually pretty quick, and it isn’t “the courts”, it’s the unemployment appeals court. I’ve been there twice now (in California) and hoo-boy are they ever not happy about squirrelly employers who try to screw over working people.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Any unemployment I’ve been eligible for would not have covered my share of the rent, not to mention utilities and groceries. It’s a percentage of your pay, which doesn’t count for a lot if you’re paycheck to paycheck (and in most places, an hourly rate of $11.25 means you’re paycheck to paycheck).

      2. UI is not your friend*

        Unfortunately not in this State. Even by UI’s supposed standard of “Would any reasonable person be driven to quit in this circumstance?” the Claims Examiners I’ve dealt with in the past would reply: “Any reasonable person would expect to face the consequences for being late.” Also “Your eligibility amount is less than your salary minus the fine. A reasonable person would just pay it to keep their job, you just don’t want to work.”

        They would not pay attention to the fine (“We don’t handle that, you need to go down the hall please), and would focus solely on you being late as cause for the employer to discipline you or let you go.

        Unfortunately after having to appeal my last case with them, I don’t have much faith in the appeals process either. I was completely shocked to see my denials were based on egregiously erroneous information, (incorrect dates, things that I did not say in the interviews, nor included in the documentation etc.) They had the recordings and the documents, there was no excuse for including incorrect information, yet there it was, all in writing from both the Claims Examiner and the Appeals.

        I used to have faith. Now I doubt there is a low they will not stoop to.

  32. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    What happens if you don’t have the cash in hand? Do they send you to an ATM and further fine you for being late? Do they take checks or carry a portable card swipe machine? Please find another job, this is beyond belief.

    1. McWhadden*

      I didn’t notice the cash bit. Yeah this is a scam. It’s one of the few cases where she should go to HR. If it’s a scam it’s exposed. If it’s not it’s just confirmation that this place is nuts.

  33. Antilles*

    My manager said no. She wanted me to come in anyway because “it’s the right thing to do.”
    The lesson here is clear: Next time, you’re not “running late”, you’re vomiting all over the floor and taking unpaid sick leave.

        1. Antilles*

          I meant it as a “just say that you’re sick”, but that’s certainly a viable option too. Ideally in that short window between “he asked for the lateness bribe” and “actually reaching into your wallet”. Whoa, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize some had gotten on my hands. Enjoy your (literally!) dirty bribe money.

    1. OP*

      That won’t be possible as we’re not allowed to take sick leave unless we provide a doctor’s note. I learned the hard way for that too.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        You know, they really sound like they’re under the impression you all are slaves, not employees.
        Call your doctor and say you have a headache and stayed home from work, and have them email you a note.

  34. caryatis*

    There have been a lot of questions recently from people who claim that an unexpected expense of $100-200 is something they “can’t afford” or “don’t have.” And these are people with full-time jobs! I get it, not everyone makes six figures, but–

    People. Seriously. If there’s not enough leeway in your budget to absorb a $100-200 expense, you need to take a serious look at your budget, stop eating out, reduce fixed expenses, get a roommate. Because that is a sign of a serious financial problem, and although your employer may well be doing shady stuff, living above your means is YOUR problem, and one that only you can fix.

    1. Anon From Here*

      Nope, failure on my part to carry $90 in my wallet to pay off my manager when I’m late does not constitute a failure to live within my means.

      1. Antilles*

        Especially since they’re insisting on *cash*. Between direct deposit, credit cards, online banking, Venmo/Paypal, auto-pay bills, pay-by-app-parking, and so on, I go 6+ months between trips to the ATM, if not more.

      2. Doug Judy*

        This. Not wanting to pay next level bullshit fines has nothing to do with my budgeting capabilities. I could have a million dollars in the bank and still not want to pay it. Because its forking bullshirt.

      3. Jenn*

        I am a white collar employee and certainly could absorb a $90 loss or more but a) I do not carry that in cash around and b) I would still be upset about an unfair loss of $90. The commenter above is being ridiculous. That is a lot of money for a lot of people.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          +1000. I am in the same situation, and can float quite a bit more than $90. But I would still be incredibly irritated by needing to pay *in cash* a completely arbitrary *fine* that my employer decided it needed from me for what really is a very, very minor blip on the radar.

          It is very, very much not okay to tell people that this situation would just be totally fine if you just lived within your means and could just float that $90. That is complete and utter unhelpful, misdirecting bullshit.

    2. Justme, The OG*

      This bullshit is not an unexpected expense. This is a supervisor taking advantage of her subordinates. Putting that they obviously need to budget better to absorb a cost like this is insulting.

    3. anonymous 5*

      oh HELL NO. No. We don’t do the victim-blaming thing here. It wouldn’t be okay even if this were a legitimate expense, but it’s not a legitimate expense.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No. Plenty of people don’t earn enough money for that to be true across the board, and it’s a really ungenerous or uninformed stance to take.

      I’m asking that we not derail on this and instead leave it here.

    5. Shark Whisperer*

      I get where you are coming from, I really do, but financial problems aren’t always due to people living above their means. Lots of shit, especially in the US, and especially when you are new in your career and haven’t built up a lot of savings yet, can take you from financially good to not being about to spend $100-200 that have nothing to do with your personal budgeting.

      1. (another) b*

        Or how about a medical issue that makes you practically bankrupt? Not being able to afford a sudden $100 cost does not mean you’re irresponsible.

    6. The Original K.*

      That’s not the point.

      First of all, it is entirely possible to work full-time and still be stretched so thin that you absolutely cannot absorb an unexpected $100-$200. Something like 75% of full-time workers live paycheck to paycheck. I heard someone say once that most Americans are two missed paychecks away from disaster, and I believe it. Being “working poor” is a thing. It shouldn’t be but it is, and it’s a societal failing, not an individual one.

      Second and more importantly, this “expense” is bull and should not exist. You should not have to worry about losing a day’s wages because you overslept, because functional workplaces do not punish their employees by making them actually, literally give them cash out of their own pockets. The OP’s budget is not the problem. The company’s policy is the problem.

    7. Less Bread More Taxes*

      I have an emergency fund, some savings, and an account I withdraw my student loan payments from. There is no room in any of them for $90 payment to my boss.

    8. Lizzy May*

      This is absolutely unfair. Not being able to absorb a $200 expense without going into debt is not a personal failing. You do not know other people’s financial situations and there are many, many, many reasons that someone can’t take a $200 hit to their budget beyond living beyond their means or a serious financial problem.

    9. Ella*

      Come back to me when all people have access to universal health care, affordable childcare and paid maternity leave, affordable housing, and a mandatory living wage for every full time job. Until then it’s crass and offensive to suggest all people living paycheck to paycheck are personally at fault for it.

    10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      As someone who is a middle-aged, white-collar professional in a highly-paid industry, and who had a moment several years ago when I paid all the bills, the mortgage payment, the car loan payment, my son’s college bill for the semester, my annual term life insurance premium that had both my sons as beneficiaries in case I suddenly got hit by a truck, my son’s and mine auto insurance premium for six months, paid for the test and the meds for our terminally ill dog, and discovered that I had $70 in my checking and $110 in my wallet… Yeah, no. You do you, but I am not going to judge anyone, much less give unsolicited advice like “stop ordering avocado toast, errr eating out”, because these things happen to most of us at some point in our lives.

    11. Snarky Librarian*

      Um, no, that’s now how life works. People have student loans, live in high high cost areas, etc. That doesn’t make them bad with money.

      You sounds incredibly privileged.

    12. Ana*

      Seriously… This is where you decide to go. Lecturing someone about their budget when their employer is shady as Hades. The point is someone should not have to rearrange their budget for their employer. At this rate she isn’t being paid for a full day’s work. “If you divide my monthly salary by 30 days, $90 is what I earn in one day. “

    13. where's my mind*

      Obviously not the LW here, but I have zero ideas how you expect me to stop eating out, when I currently don’t eat out at all, and pray tell how am I supposed to tell my utility company that I need to reduce my fixed expenses so, sorry, not paying them this month?

      If the employer doesn’t pay well enough that someone doesn’t have a hundred bucks to drop on pointless bullshit at the drop of the time… that’s at least 60% of the United States population. My rent has increased $500/month in 5 years. My salary is not tracked to rental prices in my area.

      Don’t blame people, blame the system, man.

      1. Jenn*

        I have had a couple transitions between school and jobs where I expended my savings on an apartment/move and then had to wait for a paycheck, which meant living off of far less than $100 for a month or a couple weeks. I was not living it up, I literally ate beans. If something really bad had happened or I had been fined like OP, I would have not been able to eat. This was when In was a college student and beyond. I was living in cheap places with roommates for most of these. Moving/downpayments ate everything I had, even being super frugal (I literally worked 4 jobs in college).

    14. London Calling*

      *although your employer may well be doing shady stuff*

      How interesting that you minimise what the employer may be doing – which sure sounds as shady as hell to me – and instead give a finger wagging lecture on managing one’s money responsibly; and a pretty much irrelevant lecture at that.

      I earn decent money and I save a fair bit, but fines like that would eat into anyone’s funds, whether the OP is financially savvy or not.

    15. Jubilance*

      Oh this is terrible advice. Lots of people ARE doing all those things you mentioned, and still have trouble making ends meet. Why? Cause wages have been stagnant yet cost of living continues to go up. You think people can just go to the grocery store and say “please stop raising prices, cause I haven’t received a raise in 3 years”?

    16. Phoenix Programmer*

      I hope you realize that in the US being to absorb $200 in unexpected expenses is an utter privelage.

      Not being in a position of privelage to absorb this is not a personal failing.

      Signed – someone privelaged enough to be able to absorb this expense but aware enough to realize it’s not a sign of my character.

    17. FTCLTL*

      I know you shouldn’t feed the trolls but I just can’t let this judgemental attitude stand without some push back . First of all, there’s nothing in OPs question to support your assumptions. Second, why in the world do you assume that all tight budgets are a result of overspending instead of low pay being insufficient to maintain the basics of daily life (which happens to be a pretty widely known nation-wide issue), or unforeseen medical emergency, etc?

    18. Iain Roberts*

      Not everyone in financial hardship is there by their own fault.

      What if their savings were eaten by medical bills (particularly in the USA)? Or car repairs, when a car is a necessity to get to work? Or a previous period of unemployment? What if they *already* have a roommate and cut other expenses to the bone? What if a spouse lost a job, and they have children to support? What if it’s a single parent who has to pay top dollar for childcare?

      In any of these cases and more, your lecture is both useless and insulting. Yes, some people are idiots with their money. Others aren’t and end up broke through no fault of their own.

    19. Four lights*

      On the one hand, I could absorb $90. On the other hand, my net worth is in the red, so I really couldn’t, unless it’s for something important. Paying the $90 means I can’t use it for something else that I may need.

    20. Lyka*

      Your comment is shameful.

      Millions of full-time, low-wage workers in the US live in poverty. OP noted they make about $90 a day, so a fine of $100-200 would literally mean working for FREE or paying to work on a given day.

      Non-discretionary expenses like child care, health care, transportation (to and from WORK), and utility bills eat away at the income of even single adults living with roommates in tiny apartments and never eating out. Your line of thinking is an obfuscation of a massive problem in our workforce and economy and a condescending assumption of wanton, frivolous behavior on behalf of people who clearly care enough about work/professionalism to read and write to this blog.

    21. Amber T*

      If what you’re saying is, “have an emergency/slush fund in case an emergency expense doesn’t put you in (or deeper in) the red,” then that’s good advice and a good goal. But that’s reeeeally not what you’re saying here. I’m all for personal finance, but this is not the time and place.

      If something unexpected happened to my car (my primary means of transportation) that cost $200. Yeah, I’m fortunate enough to have that saved and budgeted. If my work decided to fine me $2 for something ludicrous like this? Absolutely not in the budget, and it never will be.

      Never mock someone who says it’s not in their budget. You have no idea what their expenses are, you don’t know the reasoning behind it, you don’t know if they’ve taken a blow recently. Maybe it’s a more polite way of saying “I don’t want to,” (which I’ve done plenty of times, even if I’ve gone out to spend the same amount/more later in the week), or maybe they actually can’t. Either way, not your circus, not your monkeys.

      1. The Original K.*

        ” If my work decided to fine me $2 for something ludicrous like this? Absolutely not in the budget, and it never will be.”
        Spot-on. It’s like the letters we’ve read here about employees being asked to donate to buy gifts or vacations for the CEO. Sure, I have some cash to spare. I’m not about to spend it on that, though.

    22. voluptuousfire*

      Easier said than done for many people, caryatis. This would not be an “unexpected expense.”

      Car repair or last minute need for a babysitter due to a work shift? Definitely unexpected expense. Fined because you’re late? Bullshit expense.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        I’m sorry about your child. I hope s/he is on the road to recovery. We pay about $6,000 per year in premiums, and I now have about $8,000 in hospital bills to pay out of pocket. If you count the $1,700 for my husband’s echocardiogram, we’ll have paid about $15,700 just in health-related expenses this year.

      2. Kitrona*

        I hope your child is better soon and that your family doesn’t have too much stress over this. And I hope you can recover from this soon and easily.

    23. Asenath*

      There have been times in my life when I could not absorb an unexpected $100 expense. There were times – even while I was working – that even $10 extra was a lot of money. I’m not unique. Many, many people at some point in their lives struggle to get the absolute basics paid, and have little or no cash left over once they’ve done so. Moreover, if you are in this position you are not going to get out of it very easily if you are in the habit of paying out comparatively large sums of money on questionable demands. You get in the habit of knowing to the penny what your costs are.

    24. media monkey*

      in my first job out of university, i earned just enough money to live on (at this point looking back, i have no idea how i was doing it). an unexpected fine of that amount would have meant not eating for the rest of the month. I could budget for what i knew was coming, but not for something like that. The OP makes it clear that this is in the region of 5% of their monthly pay (since it is a day’s pay). i reckon most people would notice that, particularly those near entry level.

    25. DreamingInPurple*

      So why is it that you assume these people haven’t already done those things? I know plenty of folks with strict budgets, pared-down expenses, and roommates, who don’t eat out in the first place, and still would have difficulty coming up with $100-200 or even the $90 from the letter on short notice because rent hikes in their areas have far outpaced wage growth. You can’t always fix that even with a full time job. Please don’t assume these difficulties come from living beyond your means, it is a classist and pretty crappy assumption.

    26. BookishMiss*

      So what suggestion do you have for a dual earner four job household that has no “unnecessary” expenses like leisure time, and still has no leeway, nevermind a spare $100 to give back to my employer for funsies?

      Asking for a friend.

    27. LD'S Mom*

      We don’t know her financial situation and shouldn’t be speculating on it. This is her first job so there may be student loans. Maybe medical bills, maybe helping care for a parent or relative…..maybe none of that, we just don’t know. The point is, this is a terrible and unfair “policy” at best, shady and possibly illegal at worst no matter her financial situation. (Which is her business, not anyone else’s.)

    28. Esve*

      I’d struggle to absorb an unexpected loss, because I’m low paid. But you know what, I do eat out ocassionally and spend money frivolously sometimes and I’m not going to apologise either! I may as well be dead if all I’m allowed to do is work and sleep. Why on earth are poor people expected to reduce their lives to mere existence while the rich continue to profit?

    29. The Other Geyn*

      Sure, wage has been stagnating while the cost of living and medical expenses have gone up but let’s blame the worket for eating out too much (which btw, not in the letter). This is an incredibly privileged position to take.

    30. Jay*

      Ordinarily you would be 100% right. In fact, I would have posted much the same thing myself. However, the O.P. has noted that this is a first job out of college. In modern America, right or wrong, that first job is very often treated as just another internship, with a salary at the rock bottom range. It is actually not difficult to find yourself in a situation where, after rent (on a rat-hole) and car payments (on a rusted out jalopy), you barely have grocery or utility money. Especially if you have serious student loan debt. I know my student loans were more than my rent and car combined and I needed my parents help for a short while after school to afford even the most basic lifestyle (as in no cable, internet, or cellphone, not going out to eat, no trips to the bar, etc.). This was a good 25 years ago, mind you, and things have only gotten worse since. It’s a ‘good’ thing, then, that most of my earliest jobs didn’t offer any sick or vacation time at all.

    31. Smarty Boots*

      Or you have shitty shitty pay, large school loans, horrifying out of pocket healthcare expenses, deadbeat ex spouse not paying child support — I can think of all sorts of other reasons where someone is thisclose to the bone already with their budget, not because they’re eating out or whatever. BTDT and I have to tell you, I know you mean well and lots of people really do not know how to budget, but if someone had told me that when I was in that position many years ago …

    32. nonegiven*

      I don’t care how much I have in savings. Giving $150 to a manager who doesn’t want to wait for the reimbursement to come through is not in my budget. Neither is paying $2/minute in cash for being late.

    33. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      May you be bankrupted by medical bills after being run over by a truck delivering avocado toasts to a WeWorked .

    34. boo bot*

      Ya know what really eats into your budget? Being fined by your employer for being late, at a rate of over 10x your hourly wage.

      This is nonsense.

    35. Jan*

      I don’t think “can’t afford” literally means “can’t spare it”. The point is, why should someone have to spare it? What this employer is doing is theft, plain and simple. I don’t think it’s very helpful to be telling people how to manage their financial situation when you don’t know anything about their personal circumstances, and it’s got nothing to do with the question at hand.

    36. I Work on a Hellmouth*

      I’m a grown adult who is fiscally responsible and makes a good wage at a terrible job. My boyfriend also makes a decent wage. Because living expenses have gone up where we live but wages really have not, we are just above paycheck to paycheck right now. And we can’t move because his mother is frail, unwell, and has no one else locally.

      Your statements are beyond arrogant and out of touch. I really hope you get some perspective and maybe some empathy some day.

    37. Michaela Westen*

      caryatis, don’t assume people are always being fair when they ask you for money. It’s not about whether you have it. It’s about whether it’s a fair and reasonable amount for whatever you’re buying.
      In this case, I could be a billionaire and I would still call these monsters out and escalate as far as it will go.

  35. AJ*

    I’m also calling bullsh*t on this one. I’m a manager and I see how hard my employees work–and that any time they might miss is often made up 10x over when they’re working on special projects or need to meet a deadline. What a toxic manager this is. I’m also very curious to know how the fine works–is it docked from the employee’s paycheck, which means this toxic culture comes from the company itself, or is it supposed to be paid in cash to the manager? Where is that money going?

    I’d also point out that in addition to working overtime at the end of the day, such a punitive policy probably means employees are arriving comfortably early to start their workday, to make sure they don’t run afoul of this policy, so the company is also getting free labor at the beginning of the day.

    1. Trek*

      I wouldn’t have any employees if I charged people for being late. Questions- What happens if employees refuse to pay? What is the company doing with this money?- I would directly ask everyone in the company for this information. I would post on website, glass door, about this policy. Their employee pool will dry up in no time.

      If OP had called off work instead of being charged $90 and then employer fired her I think she would win any unemployment case. OP does the company charge you for calling off as well?

  36. AdAgencyChick*

    “you gotta pay up in cash”

    Or else what? Maybe it’s time to find out what happens if you say, “I’m not willing to pay this fine.” It sounds like they’re NOT actually docking OP’s paycheck (because that’d create a paper trail!), they’re asking for the money on the spot.

    Unfortunately, the answer might be that the boss is willing to fire OP over the lateness. But I strongly suspect she won’t be, and if OP and colleagues simply stop paying the fine, their managers will be forced to decide how much lateness actually matters to their organization and if there are individuals who truly need to be in on time, to establish consequences (not including fines) up to and including firing. You know, managing.

    (But OP, I hope you can find another job.)

    1. Syfygeek*

      “Or else, what”? Does the manager call the “collectors” in?
      It starts small, knocking the paper clips over, then when the OP still doesn’t pay, her pictures go missing. Then her mouse…If you want to see your mouse again, pay up!

    2. Copier Admin Girl*

      This was my first question too (well, after WTF). What happens if you refuse to pay? Is employment contingent on paying the fines? If so, that’s ridiculous, and as one commenter above said, “a scammy scam scam.” I’m agape at how juvenile this is. I agree with you and Allison that OP should definitely push back with colleagues.
      OP, I hope you are able to either resolve this well or find a new job. At this point the bar is set so low it’s in the basement… a workplace that fines you for being human! Terrible. Keep us updated if you can- we’re rooting for you!

  37. Kara*

    Hmm… so your company seems to think your time is worth $2/hr. Maybe you should use that perceived value when you raise the topic of a salary increase…

  38. Daniela*

    Wow. After my first calculation of how much it would cost me to be late that day, and the realization that I would be working for free, I would have just called out sick that day. No pay = no work from me.

    1. Katie McG*

      You could always get a doctors note from a MedExpress type place… if you have health insurance the co-pay is probably cheaper than $90. Just go in and say you feel tired and wonder if you have the flu. They will say no. Say thanks and get a note. Go see a movie.

      1. TootsNYC*

        “They will say no.”

        Then the company will fine you for the whole day, since you weren’t actually sick.

        Though some doctors will find something they can diagnose you with, since we all have some medical condition almost all the time.

        1. Kate*

          I noticed that my daughter’s note from the doctor yesterday simply noted “was seen in our clinic” – for HIPAA reasons, perhaps? no medical details at all. I’ve never gotten a note from a doc-in-a-box because I don’t work for monsters, but I wonder if a “seen in our clinic” note would be sufficient.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            None of my doctor’s notes have ever listed the reason I visited them. They all say, “Pennalynn was evaluated at XYZ practice on [date] and may return to school/work on [later date].” And that includes the doc-in-the-box places.

        2. Courageous cat*

          I mean, I don’t think you have to be genuinely sick. They just give you a note that says you were there.

  39. Erin*

    Oh my gosh. I rarely comment anymore but felt compelled to. Please show this post to your coworkers to motivate them to push back with you as group. Absolutely unacceptable. And then come back and update us. Good luck!!

    1. Lance*

      Yes, this is high on the list of letters I’d love to see an update on (ideally positive) at some point in the future.

  40. FTCLTL*

    Wait, So if I’m understanding this correctly, in the end you worked something like 7-8 hours and didn’t make a dime because it was a wash due to the fines incurred for being 45 mins late? And had you been more than 45 mins late, say a full hour like you originally estimated, you would have actually been PAYING to work that day?!?! I hope you have a VERY robust job hunt going on. This is truly, truly horrible.

    1. beckysuz*

      Yes!!! That’s what jumped out to me too! If she had been 2 hours late she would have been PAYING to work!! What the ever loving f**k is going on in that place?!? Is there a cap on how much you can be fined? This makes me so mad I can barely see straight !

  41. Cathy*

    I think you need to QUIT THIS JOB after finding a new one first. And, if asked why you are leaving show them this letter. ANY REASONABLE PERSON IS ON YOUR SIDE ON THIS ONE. Sometimes, people are late. It happens. As long as it is rare, it is fine. I work at a front desk and am not always here exactly on the minute. Nobody has ever said a thing, because I am overall extremely reliable and valued.

  42. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

    This is why I love this blog. Even when Alison’s advice is superb on its own, she goes above and beyond by including Donna’s expertise for an even broader picture. OP, you’re not gonna get better advice than this. Please, please do what she says. Best of luck to you, I hope this horrendous policy gets revoked entirely.

  43. CaliCali*

    Next time, say you don’t have any cash on you, but that you’d be willing to have it docked from your pay. And then see what the reaction is. Because I would bet about 10 minutes in late fines that this is not any actual “policy” but a way of scamming money from junior employees.

    1. mf*

      Yeah, this is what I would do. I bet they won’t want to deduct if from your pay because that would create a paper trail.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      I like this as a tactic that is less likely to get you immediately fired. OP will need to do a little finessing to leave on OP’s schedule not the boss’s.

  44. SusanDC*

    I’d love to know what the manager does with the money-does it go into a fund? Does she keep it? What happens to it?

  45. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    OP wanna know what happened when I overslept (because everyone has!). I called my boss while I was dressing and brushing my teeth at the same time and freaking out. She told me to stop, relax, get ready and come in. “You have a 25 mile drive ahead of you. Calm down and get here when you can.”
    because she’s not insane.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Yeah seriously. I called in to work once in a panic because three buses passed by without picking me up and I was going to be like half an hour late, and this was a job where someone being late really screwed up work flow for everyone.

      My boss told me to breathe and thanked me for the heads up so she could get coverage for my station. Because like, what can you do. Sometimes shit happens.

      1. Ali G*

        Seriously! there are times that like half the office can be late because the dang METRO caught on fire/train ran off the tracks, or there’s and accident on the highway, or sometimes, it’s just raining. Life happens. Heck, a woman I used to supervise overslept when we were off site for an audit! I left her the keys to my rental and told her where to meet up with us when she was ready.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          I had an offsite training last Wednesday. I was at my bus stop at 8:20, and in my seat in the training room at 8:50.

          I also had an offsite training at the same place today. I was at my bus stop at 8:20 again, but didn’t make it to the training room until 9:10. Same route, same time of day, same everything except for the indefinable magic of public transit. There’s absolutely no way to plan for that, other than to assume that some days you’re going to be ten minutes early, and some days you’re going to be ten minutes late. Life is unpredictable sometimes, and lots of it is out of our control!

          1. Pandop*

            I was waiting at the bus stop yesterday with someone who I guessed didn’t get the bus often. She seemed to take it as a personal affront that the bus wasn’t there at 12 minutes past exactly. I pointed out the message on the display about delays due to congestion, but she didn’t want to know.

        2. Kat in VA*

          Or like today, with a combo of sleet/snow/rain and no one knowing how to drive. The ones that were unlucky enough to not WFH had to drive in, and they were most assuredly late. It’s understood around here that Traffic Is King.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      On my second day of a new job, the trains were really messed up and I was over 30 minutes late to work. I had no capital built up with any of these people, I was super entry-level, yet when I called to say I was on my way, the response was, “Oh good! We figured it was the trains. Just take your time and we’ll see you soon.”

      Yesterday I got all the way to my office before I realized I left my laptop at home, so I had to make the whole trip again. My boss laughed and said, “Oh, that’s happened to me before.” Because things do happen. And even if– EVEN IF– we’re on the clock and expected to have butt-in-seat at a certain time, sometimes things happen.

    3. mcm*

      I have one person who reports to me who always, always, always calls if it looks like she’s going to get to her desk after 9am. And I always, always, always respond, “I wouldn’t have noticed that you weren’t in by 9, and I know you’re going to get your work done, so please don’t feel you need to call me!” (4 years in, though, and she’s still doing it!)

      1. Oranges*

        I worked retail so long that I can’t not call/text/whatever when I’m late. It makes me uncomfortable if I don’t. It was just drilled into me for so long that if you’re late, even by a few minutes, you let the higher ups know (because they wanted to know if they needed to scramble for coverage).

        It took me a while to get used to office life. I’m now only texting in if I’m super late (30+ min) or am going to miss a meeting.

    4. KR*

      Yes! I was late this morning. But I’m getting most of my work done and putting in overtime when nessecary and being flexible as needed. So I almost guarantee my boss does not care.

    5. Mrs. Fenris*

      I used to work at a place that WAS client-facing and time sensitive…an emergency animal hospital. Being a couple of minutes late still wasn’t the end of the world! At most, the person on shift before you would get held up a minute or two (I had one coworker who was epically, chronically late, but he was so charmingly apologetic…). Even in that setting, a fine would have been beyond ludicrous.

    6. ThankYouRoman*

      We live in The Worst commute land. Literally all we want is a heads up when someone is late.

      And you’re not late if it’s less than 30 minutes.

      The only time it’s an issue is if you’re chronically waltzing in 45 minutes behind schedule. Then you’ll be spoken with about reliability and schedules not being a suggestion. Then you’re fired after not fixing your tardiness. But that’s like after months of being unreliable and being spoken to a dozen times etc.

  46. ThatGirl*


    I work in a customer-facing dept (though not a traditional call center) where we do need phone coverage.

    Guess what, we’re still allowed to be a little late. Because traffic, weather, and LIFE happens and we are adults. If calls go to voicemail, so be it, we’ll get back to them. I could never work anywhere that fined me for being late, and I’m someone who’s perpetually early everywhere.

  47. AnotherAlison*

    Maybe the boss used to run a daycare. That’s the only other thing I can think of with this structure. If you’re late, it’s $7 a minute or something.

    My first job assigned points if you were late. It was like a half point for a tardy clock-in and a full point for a missed day. After 6 points you got fired. On one hand, at least you don’t lose your job with the fine arrangement, but on the other hand, this can go on forever with you just shelling out money.

    1. LKW*

      Doctor’s office too. You miss your appointment, there’s a fee. If the doc is out or gets pulled into an emergency – that’s on you.

      1. Ms Cappuccino*

        I ‘d refuse paying.
        In my Dr’ office, if we miss appointments too often we are simply unregistered from their office.

  48. Rebecca*

    I am outraged that in 2018 this is still happening. I travel 20 miles to get to work. I leave in plenty of time, but – I have been held up due to traffic accidents, with fatalities, having to back up, go around if possible (when they reroute us on the 4 lane). If my employer did this, I’d get the local Action News On Your Side on this so fast their heads would spin.

    And again, I wish I knew who this company was. I’d boycott them. This is outrageous and ridiculous. I can’t even.

  49. Natalie*

    If this isn’t going through payroll, does that mean you’re paying payroll and income taxes on your total pay, not your pay less fines? That seems questionable as well.

    1. t.i.a.s.p.*

      Even if I didn’t want to pursue anything else, I’d be calling the tax department and asking how to claim this work expense against my income and hopefully getting them in trouble.

      1. LD'S Mom*

        Great idea. I’d be interested to know if there are other departments in this company and if they have the same “policy”. Also, is there an employee handbook where this is specifically in writing? Somehow, I doubt it.

  50. nnn*

    “federal law does allow this, as long the fine doesn’t take your pay for that period below minimum wage.”

    Wouldn’t this mean that, if LW makes less than $120 an hour, this is illegal? Because it would make her pay negative?

      1. Natalie*

        I think it may be work week, not pay period. Every other part of the FLSA is based on work week, since pay periods can vary so much by employer.

          1. Brett*

            Well ignore my post below then. :)
            If the OP worked 73.5 hrs that week, she went under minimum wage from the fine.
            (And it still applies that being just a total of 3 hours late in a week would put her under minimum wage with just a normal 40 hour week minus the 3 hours.)

      2. Brett*

        For a quick reference, this would be the threshold hours that would have put OP under minimum wage for the pay period with the $90 fine.
        Weekly: 73.5 hrs
        Bi-Weekly: 159.5 hrs
        Semi-Monthly: 173.8 hrs
        Monthly: 360 hrs

        It’s a lot of hours, but plausible for the weekly or bi-weekly pay periods.
        (If the OP were to be a total of 3 hours late in a week, it only requires 36.2 hrs worked to be under minimum wage for the week.)

    1. ANon..*

      “federal law does allow this, as long the fine doesn’t take your pay for that period below minimum wage.”

      Wowowow what now?! My understanding was that as an exempt employee (which is how company classifies OP), your company cannot dock your pay for any reason so long as you performed work in that week. Is that not the case???

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        You’re totally correct. The FLSA does not allow employers to dock exempt employees’ pay for any reason.

        1. ANon..*

          Right, so how is this legal? OP isn’t in her first/last week, and isn’t using time off. So wouldn’t docking OP’s pay by $2/minute be illegal? What am I missing?

      2. Elysian*

        Yeah, something here violates the law. Fining employees for being late is entirely inconsistent with them being exempt. They can have the fine if it doesn’t go below min wage, OR they can be exempt and not get OT, but not both at the same time. One way or the other this is illegal.

          1. Elysian*

            To BE at work, yes. But you can’t affect their pay (whether as part of their paycheck or otherwise) because of their attendance. You can fire them, or otherwise discipline them. You can reduce their leave balance. But you can’t effectively reduce their pay based on their attendance. That violates the salary basis test and would destroy the exemption.

  51. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I specifically like it how the manager had the (… looks for a word that’s AMA-appropriate) gall to say that it is “the right thing to do”. Oh honey, you would not know the right thing to do if it punched you in the face!

  52. Cousin Itt*


    I was once over an hour late for work because I spent that hour locked in an un-moving train carriage (thank u South Western Railway). I was annoyed as hell that I had to make up the time out of my lunch break because it wasn’t my fault or at all avoidable really. If I’d been *fined* I would have probably just turned around and gone back home.

      1. Cousin Itt*

        Thankfully I passed my driving licence so I don’t have to use them anymore! (though driving to work has it’s own downsides)

        That particular incident was so bad because we were stuck at a station for 20mins not moving first, then they decide to start moving again, then stop again 5mins later for an hour but between stations where we can’t get off! On a packed commuter train! In July! If they’d just stayed at the station I wouldn’t have been nearly as late cause I just would have got off and found a bus.

    1. VeryAnon, Yes*

      Same, but Southern, not South Western. Luckily my boss lives on the same train route as me so we’re usually late together. Or don’t get there at all if it’s a strike day. And she’s really understanding about train problems. She’d never fine us for being late! I hate to think how much I’d owe if she fined us.

    2. londonedit*

      I didn’t think a train company could get any worse than South West Trains, but then South Western Railway took over…

      Thankfully I use the tube to commute, but when I visit family I have the ‘pleasure’ of travelling with Great Western Railway (formerly Worst Late Western). Such fun.

      1. London Calling*

        South Western take awfulness to a whole new level. Everyone moaned about SWT then SWR came along and we realised how lucky we were…

    1. Kitrona*

      As the kids say, BIG MOOD.

      I want an update where OP told them she wouldn’t pay it, then went out and got a job that paid 1.5x or more what she’s making at a company that treats their employees like people. And that the original company got busted by the IRS. But mostly, I want an update.

    2. LD'S Mom*

      Exactly what I was thinking. The sooner the better. And so many questions–where does the money (cash!) go? If there are other departments, do they have the same “policy”? Is this “policy” in writing in an employee handbook that employees are required to sign? Just so many questions!

    3. pope suburban*

      Oh gosh, me too. This is just far too much and I really want OP to get out of there- and for her monstrous thieving employer to get nailed to the wall.

    1. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Or, you know … $120 an hour, period. If companies really feel like they need to punish people for being late (which I’m calling bullshit on in general) then the very most they should be able to do is dock their pay. Not dock 10x their pay (or whatever, I can’t math).

  53. Akcipitrokulo*

    By the way… where DOES this money go?

    I woyldn’t ruling out asking the police to investigate fraud.

  54. LadyPhoenix*

    Hey wait, is it REALLY company policy… or is this just your manager saying so?

    Cause there could be a chance it is just your manager taking advantage of her team for a quick buck.

    Perhaps take this up to the bigger bosses and mention this will have legal consequences? Like say… a pregnant woman with a bad case of morning sickness? A disabled coworker with a particularly bad day? A parent with a sick child?

    1. Bilateralrope*

      We are talking about a fine that equates to what someone earns in a single day. One fifth of their weekly income.

      So we have two possibilities here:
      – The letter writer is earning at least 125% of minimum wage in their first job.
      – A violation of minimum wage law.

      1. Natalie*

        The OP says they make $2700 a month (90*30). It’s not clear if that is before or after taxes, but either way they are well over federal minimum wage unless they work 80 hours a week. The federal minimum is still only $7.25/hr.

        Even in the states/municipalities that have passed $15 minimum, it’s being phased in so not actually in effect yet anywhere as far as I know.

          1. Elizabeth Proctor*

            No, its $2700.

            “If you divide my monthly salary by 30 days, $90 is what I earn in one day.”

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Nope. Threshold for exempt is $23,600. (The proposed increase under the Obama administration didn’t go through; it was halted literally the day before it was supposed to take effect.)

          2. Natalie*

            For whatever reason the OP used 30 days when calculating daily pay (“If you divide my monthly salary by 30 days, $90 is what I earn in one day”) Hopefully they aren’t working 7 days a week!

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I wonder this too! Like, is it in the handbook, or is it your manager’s, “This is company policy”? Because I believe you, OP, but I struggle with believing that a company would have this as an actual, written policy.

      But then, the OP mentioned in another comment that the company requires doctor’s notes for a day of sick leave, so who knows.

    3. OP*

      It’s company policy. We all have to pay up in cash by the end of the month of offence.

      And I must say I don’t know if special considerations will be/are given for the situations you mentioned.

      1. LadyPhoenix*

        In THAT case…

        Check your county/city and state laws, look for a lawyer, and Push the eff back on this with a team.

        And also, eff your ocmpany… with a chainsaw.

        1. Non-prophet*

          I sense that OP may not be based on the US, given how she spelled “offense.” Still an interesting question though!

      2. anonymous 5*

        Hm. So what will they do if you *don’t* pay up? I’m with everyone who says that you should insist on a receipt if you do pay, but I’m even more with everyone who says to lawyer up. And push back hard as a group. Lots of good wishes to you to find a new job soon!

      3. where's my mind*

        OP, what would happen if you shot them an e-mail saying “hey, for tax reasons this year, I’m going to need this to come out of my paycheck, I can’t just do cash. Let me know if I need to come down to payroll to arrange it.”

        Because, if ABSOLUTELY nothing else, you need to have a paper trail on the money you are paying them, and how that interacts with your payroll/income taxes.

        I totally understand that you might need to stick it out in a toxic job until you can find a new one, but the very least you need here is documentation. Don’t give them cash. Make them do the work themselves.

        1. Old Admin*

          I agree, this is a pay cut by your employer, and you should not be paying taxes on your fine! Even if you decide to give in.
          I don’t know any country whose tax office will recognize a “fine” (or parking ticket in the line of work etc.) as a tax deduction, so you MUST get that pay cut to reflect on your payroll!!

      4. Observer*

        This is nuts on so many fronts. But one issue that stands out is that you are paying in cash – which means that you are paying taxes on this fine! That’s just an added layer of insult.

      5. Random Obsessions*

        It still might not be legal even if it’s company policy. If they’re small enough, or not well prepared, they may not have hired someone versed in law to look over the company policies for potential problems

      6. Chatterby*

        If possible, try to get a list of the people who have to pay this fine and how many.

        The rules for fining exempt employees are different than the ones for hourly.
        Hourly: they can do anything short of refusing to pay overtime or if the fine takes you under the minimum hourly wage (though state laws may provide additional protections).
        Exempt: the federal FLSA rules are much narrower. For instance, they are not allowed to dock your pay for “quantity or quality” of work done, so long as at least some work is done that week.
        Disciplinary fines are allowed, but only if it’s for a full day suspension or more, or for “significant” health and safety violations. In general, deducting “part-days” is not allowed at all. Even for personal-reason absences (like sleeping in), it must go by full days.
        If you chose to press this legally, or by filing complaints through the state and federal Departments of Labor (and maybe tax divisions, if you suspect they aren’t properly filing the returned wages), either 1) the company will be required to reverse the policy, return the fine money, and make a statement of good faith not to have a similar policy in the future, 2) you and your coworkers will lose your exempt salary status, and the company has to pay all of you back overtime pay, or 3) nothing, and you’ll probably wind up fired.
        The frequency of the fines is a big part in determining whether the company is allowed to keep the salary status of their employees and get away with just returning the fines, or if everyone goes to hourly and they owe backpay, which is why noting down who and how many is important. Other factors, such as if they treated you like an hourly by also deducting the 45 minutes you were late, whether your job fits the legal definition of exempt (which would be weird, considering your entry-level status), and whether you qualify for FLSA protections, will also factor into whether you’re classified as exempt, and owed your fine money back, or hourly and owed overtime.
        Now, all of that will only matter if you choose to file a lawsuit, and/or lodge claims against your company with various government departments, which could be a messy, drawn out process. You can try to calculate the likelihood that you’ve been misclassified and how much overtime you’d be owed to determine if that’s even worth pursuing, because otherwise, it’s a lot of work for under $200 (the $90, plus previous fines). Though, if you get a bunch of employees together, it may be worth it.
        Or, if you otherwise want to keep your job (not sure why, they sound awful) and get results with less fuss, you could print off the FLSA page for docking exempt workers’ pay, take it to your HR or boss, and say you’re very concerned, because you’re worried the tardy policy fines could get the company in serious legal trouble and rack up significant fines.

  55. Phoenix Programmer*

    Worst boss of 2018 nomination.

    Also this would probably be illegal in Missouri. Here they are required to give 30 days written notice of pay changes and I imagine this fine could be seen as a pay change.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Based on OP comment about being required to pay in cash, I imagine the pay stays the same and no notice would be required. While I agree this is essentially a pay deduction, when it comes to the law hair splitting is very important.

  56. Amber Rose*

    A manager does not punish you.
    A manager does not punish you.

    You can either do the job to expectations or you can’t, and if you can’t you don’t get to keep the job. That is how employment works. You are not a naughty child, you are not in the military, you DO NOT RECEIVE PUNISHMENT FROM YOUR MANAGER. I have screwed up in some phenomenal ways at work over the years, like really cost the company money types of errors, and the result was either more training or not having a job anymore. The only time I have ever paid money for a screw up was when I had to replace my own stuff, like name tags or parts of my uniform (I lost a tie once.)

    Excuse me, I’m a little overwhelmed by rage. Don’t put up with this! It’s wrong. It’s so very, very wrong.

    1. mf*

      And this manager seems to think they CAN punish their employees. They even said coming in and paying the fine was “the right thing to do”!!! Dear god, this is a toxic work environment. I hope OP gets out soon.

  57. MsMaryMary*

    A fine for being late is absolutely ridiculous, of course, but I wonder if employers realize how much rigid, punative attendance policies backfire on them.

    My brother works in retail, and the amount of “points” he accumulates (points are bad) for coming in late or taking an unplanned full day off are the same. So if he gets stuck in a traffic jam or gets a flat tire on the way to work, he calls his manager to say he’s not coming in at all. And then his store is down a person all day, instead of being short staffed for half an hour or an hour. Similarly, it sounds like OP might have been better off calling in sick instead of trying to come to work.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      I was just coming here to say this.

      OP, getting out is a reasonable decision here. Really reasonable.

      But if you truly like the job and company despite the fact that they’re taking egregious advantage of you and being shady with your paycheck, and you want to see if you can get them to change? Then it’s time to start talking to your coworkers.
      You can see if pushing back as a group works, but my bet is a company with a policy this damn stupid also has other policies this stupid.
      This is what unions are MADE for.

  58. Could be Anyone*

    I’m not saying it’s not legal (I have no idea) but how can it possibly be legal to fine an employee at a rate presumably much higher than what they would be paid if they worked those two minutes?!

    It’s extra weird that this appears to be a cash payment and not a payroll deduction. What happens if you don’t have the money?

    OP, please leave as soon as you can and then post glassdoor reviews so the rest of the world knows to avoid this place.

  59. Templeton*

    I’d like to nominate this for Worst Boss. I’d also love to see an update because that is some messed up stuff right there.

  60. Mrs. D*

    My jaw just hit my desk. I just…WTF?!

    Run. Run far. Run fast. And if there is even a minimal legal infraction, blow the whistle on that shit so hard that management will get whiplash. This is egregious, and this needs to stop–for your sake and for the other employees dealing with this too.

    LW, I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this. As others have already said, this is not normal. Under no circumstances is this normal. I hope things improve for you. Good luck!

  61. CRM*

    1) OP should know that for a normal desk job where coverage is not critical, accidentally sleeping in and showing up 45 minutes late is NOT a big deal in most places. It would be a problem if it happened consistently, but if it happened once to an otherwise punctual and high-performing employee, it wouldn’t even hit the radar.

    2) Who is pocketing this money from your fine? If it’s your boss, that is completely unfair and makes this even more outrageous.

    3) The competition for worst boss (maybe worst employer in this case?) will be stacked this year!

  62. animaniactoo*

    BTW OP – from your entire description here, you are very far from entitled. So far, that I would actually say that fear of being labelled entitled has led you to accept behavior that is just shy of outright abusive in order to avoid it.

    I think it’s awesome that you wrote in to Alison and can get that gut check – but going forward, please take a look around about behavior that might be labeled entitled *in your opinion* and see whether it meets the definition comparative to other behaviors that are being widely accepted as entitled, or whether it might be a manipulative coercion to label it as such. If you need help navigating that, it might be worth (like your peace of mind and better life choices for yourself going forward worth) working with a therapist for awhile to re-calibrate your thinking about what’s normal and what’s entitled (in a bad way – let’s be real, you actually ARE entitled, for real in the original sense of the word, to working conditions that do not treat you like a failure for not being a robot or penalize you for that).

    1. Kitrona*

      Good point, although I’d say this is abusive. But a therapist can help you see, OP, that this is not right or normal or in any way acceptable, and (I’m just guessing) maybe some other areas of your life might need a bit of recalibrating. I know mine did, and probably still do a bit. (As evidenced by the fact that I’m thrilled and amazed that my job treats the employees like competent adults.)

  63. Audrey Puffins*

    OP, how official is this policy? Like, is it your manager who always collects the cash (THE CASH)? Do other people above your manager know about this? Does HR know about this? Do you at least get a receipt when they take the cash (THE CASH) off you? Where does the cash go? WHERE DOES THE CASH GO?

    All I’m seeing here is red flags, but there are so many of them that I can’t see if it’s the manager or the company who’s at fault, but either way I’m as suspicious as hell. If you feel you can, you should definitely have a conversation where you ask where the money goes, for clarity, but using a curious tone of voice like you’re assuming it goes to charity and you’d just like to know which one. If they’re taking your money, they owe you a clear explanation as to where it’s going if nothing else.

  64. Ella*

    The fact that this practice isn’t explicitly illegal in all states/countries is deeply upsetting. OP, this isn’t normal or right. I hope for your sake you can get away with just refusing to pay, but if not please start looking for a new job. (And if you can, blow up this company’s spot after you’ve found one. They deserve to be publicly shamed for such a despicable practice.)

    1. Ella*

      Also if you are ever late again, you have full moral authority to lie your ass off about being sick. Forcing you to pay your company to work for them is in no way “the right thing to do” like your boss claimed.

    2. McWhadden*

      The idea that someone has to work almost a full day but essentially doesn’t get paid for it being legal is unfathomable. I know “everything is legal unless it isn’t” but this defies such a basic concept. You can’t be forced to work for free.

      1. CM*

        I’m also confused about this. Unless the OP signed a contract where s/he specifically agreed to this, I don’t see how the employer would have any leverage to enforce this rule? They say “give me $90” you say “no” and then you go to court and they say… what, “We just decided that they owe us $90?”

    3. Gumby*

      “The fact that this practice isn’t explicitly illegal in all states/countries is deeply upsetting”

      It would never have even occurred to me to make it illegal (if I were the supreme rule-maker of the world, as I should be) because it is so completely bananas.

  65. Drew*

    I’m trying to remember if I have ever seen Alison open a response with “This is utter bullshit” before. OP, that’s really all you need to know about your situation — this is not normal, this is not appropriate, this is exploitative, and you absolutely deserve to work for a place that understands that life happens and doesn’t take gross advantage of their employees’ naivete (not an insult; you’re new to the workforce).


  66. Adele*

    I want the update to this to be
    ‘Raised it with hr, boss was sacked for stealing from staff, i got a raise.’

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      OP says it’s truly a company policy, they have to pony up to the company by the end of the work month.


  67. Calculator*

    I don’t know if I’m just having a bad day, but this gave me extreme anxiety and it didn’t even happen to me! I would go to a lawyer asap to see what can be done.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Same. I keep closing it and going to do other things and then coming back and reading it and the comments again. It’s like flight or fight. I can’t stop raging about this.

  68. Johan*

    OP, I am so sorry you are going through this. This is a ridiculously rigid policy where it appears managers do have discretion and some flexibility — perhaps you could circle back to your supervisor and ask for reconsideration of retroactively granting you a half day off?

    Separately, I get that AAM is irate, her position is well known and perfectly reasonable. But the reality is — and this is often NOT reflected on this board or in the comments, which heavily favor apparently being able to come in late (it’s never early for some reason) — is than in a vast swath of the working world, including in white collar jobs — a BASELINE, FUNDAMENTAL aspect of what is expected regarding job performance is being on time. It is a disservice to so many readers to suggest that an attitude of there being a free-for-all come-in-whenever is professional, because it really isn’t.

    1. McWhadden*

      Literally nobody on here has said it’s a free for all but that in most non-insane white collar jobs 5-15 minutes late isn’t a big deal.

      I know of few such jobs that don’t require some
      working past 5. The expectation is you do your work. That’s it.

    2. Drew*

      No one is saying that a cavalier, “Come in whenever you feel like it” policy should be the baseline. What we’re saying is that in most jobs, coming in late occasionally is just something that happens: there’s a wreck on the way in, you rip your shirt on your way out the door, the kid pukes and you have to clean it up, you forgot to gas up the car the night before, or, hell, Starbucks is training a new barista and it takes him ten minutes to foam a latte. And yes, sometimes, people oversleep, because we’re flawed creatures.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I don’t think most people are saying that.

      What they are saying is that being two minutes late on occasion or having a rare “missed my alarm” morning is not a life or death situation and there is no need for employers to be implement such draconian policies surrounding being on time.

    4. London Calling*

      *a BASELINE, FUNDAMENTAL aspect of what is expected regarding job performance is being on time. It is a disservice to so many readers to suggest that an attitude of there being a free-for-all come-in-whenever is professional, because it really isn’t.*

      Dear Johan – I have a 90 minute commute (and that’s on a good day) involving three trains and travelling across London. I leave at 6.30 am, at the very latest 6.45 to get in for 8.30 and you know what? stuff happens with those trains (altogether too regularly for my liking but that’s another issue). Congestion and points failures and sick passengers. With the best will in the world, I can plan to get in on time, I can leave in time to be on time, but in the immortal phrase, shit happens, and it’s shit that is out of my control. Any reasonable, professional, mature employer knows that and gives some slack. And FWIW I don’t think, in two years of reading AAM, anyone has ever suggested that ‘an attitude of there being a free-for-all come-in-whenever is professional.’

      Happy to be proved wrong, of course.

    5. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I don’t believe that AAM is irate that the OP’s company expects people to be on time, or that there a consequences for employees who are late. Typically, Alison responds that management should address the person and give clear guidelines of what is expected and what will happen, up to and including firing if the the requirements are not met.

      I believe that irate is the reaction to forcing the tardy employee to pay punitive damages in cash for being late to work. Because the rule is draconian and shady as hell.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          Outrage is OP’s sketchy manager is funding her scratch off tickets and lattes with fines she’s grifted from younger employees.

          To pull this scam off your employees are younger, don’t have a ton of experience, or for whatever reason don’t have many job options.

          If the employees suck, fire them. Don’t do this feudal landlord nonsense

    6. Ella*

      Fining a person is deeply unacceptable response to any workplace behavior, no matter how egregious. Even if it were absolutely 100% no questions asked important for workers to arrive exactly on time for their shift, the proper way to handle lateness is a warning, discussion about how the employee will fix the issue in the future, and ultimately dismissal if the issue isn’t fixed. If it’s a life or death situation then firing can be moved up the timeline. But there’s no such thing as “$90 worth of late” in a professional workplace.

      1. Lance*

        The only situation that comes to mind where a company could be rightfully fining an employee is if that employee were caught stealing from that company…

        …by which point they probably wouldn’t be an employee any more anyway, so maybe the point is a bit moot.

        1. Ella*

          Right! Any situation I can think of that rises to the level of fine worthy involves the employee in question doing something illegal that causes monetary damages. In which case they shouldn’t be fined, they should be fired and sued…

    7. where's my mind*

      There’s a difference between “it’s fine if you’re late” and “if something happens, we understand that you’re human”. I once had a doctor’s appointment that ran very late late. I’d put the time into the system in advance, gotten it all approved, but the doctor’s office didn’t have cell reception. I got back to work to find that my boss and a coworker had been really worried. Because I was always there on time, and they’d forgotten about the sick time, and so suddenly I was 4 hours late and that was out of character for me and so they were worried, as human beings, about me as a human being.

    8. The Original K.*

      Nobody is saying that the OP should come in whenever she feels like it. The OP isn’t saying that – she’s come in late a total of four times in a year, and three of those times were less than ten minutes. Two of them were literally one and two minutes late, which just isn’t a big deal. People are saying that a minute or two isn’t a big deal, and it isn’t – and even if it IS, fining people isn’t the way to handle it. Alison has laid out pretty clearly that there are ways to deal with lateness when it’s a genuine issue, and none of those ways involve or should involve cash fines.

      I prefer to start early rather than stay late (if I know I’m going to have a long day, I prefer to start it earlier rather than ending later), and I am ruthlessly prompt to the point where, if my loved ones were asked to describe me, “prompt” would be one of the top five words they’d use. I still wouldn’t notice or care if someone got to work at 9:02 (!).

    9. Phoenix Wright*

      If someone is underperforming, there are tools that managers can use to sort it out. Fining them isn’t one of these tools, it’s a disgusting practice. That’s not even considering that this fine is higher than what the employee would have made had they arrived on time. Treating this case as anything else than a company taking massive advantage of its employees would be doing a disservice to the readers.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      It really depends on the job, though. At Exjob, the call center and front desk had to be butt-in-seat, but the rest of us, depending on our managers and what we had going that day, could be more flexible with our time. It was not unusual to see exempt folks coming in pretty much whenever. If they had to stay late for upgrades, etc., they came in later the next day.

      My job was hourly, but my manager was not concerned about me coming in a few minutes late since 1) I was available during the main portion of working hours; 2) I was very responsive and stayed on top of my work. My state doesn’t mandate a lunch hour, so I was even allowed to adjust my schedule to work 8:30-4:30 and not clock out at lunch, to avoid rush hour traffic. The point here is, they treated us like adults who could manage our own time, and for the most part, we did.

      I’ve had other jobs in offices where punctuality was very much emphasized, but NOBODY pulled the kind of shit the OP’s manager is doing.

    11. Jules the 3rd*

      I’ve worked in 6 different companies over the last 20 years, ranging from 10-people startups to 100K people tech cos. In every job except the call center ones, 5 minutes after ‘company opens’ wouldn’t have made anyone think twice. The employees generally responded by being there 10 – 90 minutes before ‘company opens’ and 10 – 120 minutes after ‘company closes’. In *many* companies, the target is ‘work done’ not ‘butts in seats’.

    12. Gumby*

      In my current company – we really truly can work whatever hours work best for us. Traffic is horrible here and people do weird stuff to avoid it. I work either 7:30ish – 4:30ish if I have something local-to-work planned in the evening OR I work 10:30 – 7:30. I have a co-worker who only comes before 11 if we have a client meeting scheduled. I have another co-worker who is reliably here by 6 a.m. We do have to report our hours (some of our work is on government contracts) but they only care that we worked 3 hours on project X not which 3 hours during the day those were.

      Previous company: no set start time as long as you were there before 9 (and frankly no one really seemed to notice/care if you were later)

      Company before that: no one cares, most people worked a later shift (starting around 10 and it wasn’t unusual for people to still be in the office at 8 p.m. Or 9…)

      Company before that: core hours of 11 – 4 so you could plan meetings and be reasonably sure people were available, otherwise on your own and again, if you were late it was shrugs all around assuming anyone noticed.

      It’s not that rare. It’s not un-professional. It’s not even industry-specific since those jobs were in 3 different industries. (Also, in 3 of the 4 jobs I was at work at midnight at least once to cover some sort of business need and the good will the company garnered by being flexible on hours made me happy to stay super-late on the rare occasions when it was needed.)

    13. Observer*

      It would really be helpful if you didn’t actually completely mis-state what people are saying, nor exaggerate the “misbehavior” of the OP.

      Let’s start with the OP – they are CLEARLY quite aware of the need to be on time. According to the letter, they have been late THREE TIMES in the last year. Once by one minute, once by 2 minutes and once by 8 minutes. In total 11 minutes in an entire year. So, please don’t lecture them as though they are misunderstanding professional norms.

      As for what people are saying – No one claims that employers don’t care about people being on time, or about promptness and timeliness. What they ARE saying is that in a situation like the OP’s there is such a thing as being EXCESSIVELY hung up on the matter. And that the way the employer is dealing with it is utterly out of line, even for positions where full coverage IS necessary.

      This is true. The policy is not just overly rigid. It’s actively disgusting, and verges on illegal territory. The first issue is that they are demanding the money in cash. That’s a sign that they know they are in shady territory. Another thing is that if the employee needs to be micromanaged to this extent, then they probably do not qualify as “exempt” even if the salary is high enough. Part of the definition of “exempt” includes the assumption that the person largely directs their own work. So, if they can’t even have a couple of minutes of flexibility, then that’s a problem. Which means that the employer owes the OP LOTS of money for the overtime they have worked. And if not, the law requires paying people their ENTIRE salary each day they work, which is effectively not happening here.

    14. ThankYouRoman*

      I’m the first to arrive every day, usually by 15-20 minutes and side eye that it’s rare to see anyone else until 8-ish when office hours are 8-5.

      Still. Nobody should be fined for it. Ever. They get paid for all the work they do when they finally show up. End of story.

    15. Family Business*

      For the record, of COURSE no one in an exempt job ASKS if they can come in early. If their badge works, they can come in early. It’s the EXPECTATION that they are usually early. No one ASKS about the status quo.

      But please, let me indulge you. Our ‘expected’ office hours are 8 to 5. I normally work 6:30 to 5. Is that ok?

      Tomorrow I have to drop my car off at 7am. I probably can’t physically be in the office until 7:30. Is that ok? Do I need to make up the time? Or is that too “anything goes?” I will have my mobile, so you can call me.

      I also plan to be on a call tomorrow at 4am with a different time zone. Is that ok? Can I take the call from home?

      Can I physically leave at 4:30 to pick up my car? As long as I make up the half hour I didn’t miss?

      I’m not really trying to be snarky here, but do you see why people don’t ask this? If a reasonable adult is working 50 or 60 hours/week, they have already figured out they can come in early. And stay late. And work weekends and holidays.

  69. Rachel*

    What?????????? This is THE craziest thing I think I’ve ever heard happening in the workplace. No. Way. Fight back! Good luck!

  70. the elephant in the room*

    The fact that this is even REMOTELY legal ANYWHERE is absolutely insane to me. AN ENTIRE DAY’S PAY for missing 45 minutes??? Are you KIDDING ME??? Even if we say that this is a reasonable policy, they should not be fining you more than what you would make during that time (just like if this were an hourly position).

    I would start applying for another job immediately, but I guess I’m just entitled. *shrug*

  71. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

    OP, your boss is an asshole. Your company is an asshole.

    I’m always annoyed when commenters are like ‘You must quit!’ because that’s really not realistic for most people.

    However, please quit. I can’t even think of a retail job where they fine you for being 2 minutes late – this is a garbage policy and I feel like you could work almost ANYWHERE else, and not be subjected to it.

    If you haven’t already, start looking for a new position.

    1. the elephant in the room*

      Seriously! I am SO LIVID right now.

      I also despise it when people respond with, “You should quit!” because of your exact reasoning. But wow! When it is cheaper for you to take a half day WITHOUT PAY than it is for you to be 45 minute late for work, it’s time to job hunt.

      I’m just so flabbergasted right now.

      1. Phoenix Wright*

        It would have been cheaper for OP to skip work entirely that day than arrive late, because in the former scenario they would have saved the commute cost. This is absolutely crazy indeed.

        1. Lance*

          Yes, the fact that they’re actively losing money for having the utter gall to be late skews this very, very heavily into the ‘find a new job ASAP before you lose more than you can afford’ territory. It’d be one thing if the boss was an asshole; adding these fines to it is a whole ‘nother beast.

        2. Jay*

          If they skipped the day without a Dr.’s Note, they would have been fined $960.00. That’s $2.00/minute*60min*8hrs.

  72. Laura H.*

    This is banana crackers, bat guano crazy, and WTAF…

    Also I feel bad for the hourly employees subject to this asinine policy- it’s a potential double-whammy.

    If you can’t NOT pay, can you see about arranging it in increments that are a little more manageable?

    But politely refusing to pay would be my first choice.

    Ugh. What an utterly bat guano crazy BS “policy”!

    1. CM*

      Yes. Don’t pay!

      It’s not clear from the letter whether the OP has paid already. If not, just say, “No, I don’t have it.” If they pressure you, say that this policy is wage theft and is illegal, and if they ask you how you know, say an employment lawyer told you. And look for a new job.

  73. Accounting is fun*

    I worked at a company that used the fine idea as a joke to enforce corporate culture. If you were more than 5 minutes late to a meeting, you contributed $50 to the after work adult beverage fund. Same thing if your phone made noise during a meeting. It was a joke and not actually enforced in any way. It’s purpose was to enforce not wasting others time in meetings. This was only for middle and senior managers as well. If you had an emergency that caused you to be late or something that could be an emergency requiring you to have your phone on, you were excused. But we all knew any money was for a later social hour and that you could skip paying if you wanted to. This policy is bananas. I would talk to HR and/or accounting about this. If the manager is pocketing the cash, that’s shady and accounting needs to know about shady managers in order to better assess risks. If the manager is stealing from employees, then they possibly also stealing from the company.

    1. ThankYouRoman*

      Yes! That’s like a swear jar if it’s structured like that. You buy into it as a way to give you a stinger if you mess up. Totally self inflicted.

  74. Jenn*

    Adding to the voices that this is sketchy and weird. The fact that the fine is in cash is suspicious as hell as well.

    I know this has been said, but I feel like this needs a tsunami response to let OP know that none of this is okay.

  75. RVA Cat*

    Fining a worker a whole day’s pay for minor infactions is something that would happen in Gilded Age factories – along with people routinely being killed by machinery or being paid in company scip only good at the “owe my soul to” company store.
    Seriously this is so out of line you may want to make sure they’re not locking the fire exits like Triangle Shirtwaist did in 1911.

    In other news, seconding everybody that your manager made up this “rule” and is pocketing the money. Is everyone else there either new to the work force or desperate? Yeah they’re taking advantage of you.

  76. Pete*

    “my manager said no”

    You have this power too, OP!

    – Next time you’re going to be late enough to negate a single day’s pay – you tell him you’re not coming in because you won’t be paid for the day.
    – Next time he tells you to pay up, say NO. Calmly, professionally, refuse to hand him cash. CALL HIS BLUFF. I imagine HR will not like being brought into this discussion.
    – Next time you are asked to work overtime, say NO. Flexibility in working schedule is a two-way street. If every minute costs $2 at 9:00 AM, then every minute costs $2 at 5:00 PM.
    – Remember – this is not your parent, this is your boss. Your relationship is contractual and based upon mutual consent. He can’t MAKE you do anything, he can only CONVINCE you too. Don’t let that become bullying.

    ALSO – Contact your department of labor, they exist to help you in this situation. Stop reading and call them right now.

  77. CommanderBanana*

    This is INSANE. OP, I’d start looking for another job. This policy is just completely bananacrackers.

  78. Lehigh*

    OP, I have to be frank, I would not pay this fine. It is egregious. You’re a high performer; I am doubtful that they would fire you over this, and if they do I feel you could find a job working for someone at least slightly less dysfunctional.

    If you just can’t bear the idea of refusing, stop working one iota of overtime and start job hunting stat. This policy is beyond ridiculous. They are effectively paying you nothing for a day that you worked. That is soooooo not okay.

  79. Caliope*

    I’ve worked in employment law for many years (although I’m not a lawyer) and I’d be surprised if this were legal given the circumstances described. At the very least you are most likely non-exempt (even if they are classifying your job as exempt there is a good chance it doesn’t meet the standard based on the minimal information you’ve provided. Misclassification is still pretty rampant) and not being compensated for overtime. That alone is likely wage theft. I am certain in my state, which is pretty worker friendly mind you, I know not all are, that the state employment development department would be interested in this information and enough complaints could result in an audit, and that if the wage theft were significant enough, like it’s a decent sized company with this affecting a whole class of employee, that an attorney might be interested too. Please know this is not normal. Good luck,OP!

  80. Blue Bird*

    My blood is boiling, oh my good. OP, this is NOT normal! This is not a thing any halfway decent employer does!

    You’re treated inhumanely by a draconian boss who clearly does not value you. If an employer values you, they allow you flexible time managment (if that works with the role). If an employer values you, they understand that sometimes things happen . If an employer values you, they know that being 45 minutes late is nothing compared to working overtime most days.

    Your employer SUCKS.

  81. The Ginger Ginger*

    I have 2 questions – is this a COMPANY policy? Like in the hand book policy? Because if so, SAVE THAT HANDBOOK for when you try to figure out if your non-exempt and go after owed over time. Or is this just your manager’s policy and you could go to HR/over her head? Leading to my second question – Where does this fine money go? Straight into your manager’s pockets? Department pizza parties? Business coffers? Who’s getting this cash? Because this is so ungodly shady I can’t even stand it.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      OH good point.

      If you have a copy of this policy in writing somewhere, make sure you have it OFF SITE. If not, you need to ask for a copy in writing ASAP.

    2. HR grump*

      Additionally, OP if you don’t have a copy of your glowing review make sure you get a copy of that to keep off site as well. Should the manager somehow turn around and fire you for being 45 minutes late in an attempt to discredit you, you’ll want that documentation of your stellar performance.

  82. Boredatwork*

    OP – since you are handing a manager **cash** which, I still can’t fathom. Can you just not carry cash, and refuse to pay? who would your manager “report” you to? what’s her recourse for getting you to pay up?

    I think in adding to Alison’s advice, maybe thrown in some “not in my budget”, can’t fork over $90 right now, can we set up a “payment” plan/payroll deduction, if this is indeed a legitimate “fine”. Force your manager to get payroll/HR/someone else involved.

    If it’s a scam, she’ll back down really fast, if not maybe her boss doesn’t realize she’s doing this and will be as horrified as everyone here.

    Good luck!!

  83. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    So I have seen this in action before. Oddly I was witness to a fine and got a chance to ask about it. It was at a tattoo shop and one of the artists came in late and handed the owner (who was currently doing my tattoo) $50. The owner growled and said “Next time it doubles”.

    I must have had a look because the owner explained to me that the nature of tattoo artists make them not so dependable as a general rule and he had a policy of fining artists that were late in an effort to keep them from not being flakey. He did say that if it happened more than 3 times in a (can’t remember the specifics) time frame the artists were kicked out of the shop. I think they were mostly contractors and/or apprentices.

    I’ve also heard of this in other realms such as plow crews and causal labor for contractors. I’ve never heard of it happening in any other profession.

    OP, the only real advice I can give is to get out… there’s no reason to stay at job that treats their employees like this.

    1. where's my mind*

      Honestly, if I were not in the process of actually being tattooed at the moment, I would have walked out. I certainly would never have gone back.

    2. ThankYouRoman*

      Contract crews also screw over workers by changing payrates on whims.

      This shady stuff is the foundation for why labor laws are created.

      Your tattoo artist is a scumbag, that’s not normal. They tend to work insane hours. You just toss them out if they miss appointments, end of the road at that shop.

  84. Xavier Sebastian Pumpernickel*

    I just did a quick google, and in my state, this is illegal. It’s worth looking into whether or not it’s legal in your state. Wouldn’t it be fun if it weren’t?

  85. ArtK*

    OP, if you do end up paying in cash, only do it if you get a receipt. I’m more than a tad suspicious that this is the supervisor making some extra money. Have you actually read this policy in your employee handbook or is this something that you were told — by your supervisor?

  86. margaret*

    Does the OP have to clock in? How on earth is the company even tracking this anyway? This sounds shady as hell, and it is NOT NORMAL. OP said “If you divide my monthly salary by 30 days, $90 is what I earn in one day.” So that’s $2700 a month, and assuming 40-hour weeks, that’s about $15/hour, or $0.25/minute. So the company imposes a 400% fine, which seems overly punitive, especially since in this case having coverage for specific hours isn’t a factor. I grant there are some instances where using fines and such make sense (someone mentioned day care – my friend uses a day care that fines by the minute because you’re making their employees have to stay late), but in a lot of desk jobs? Probably not necessary, and not something that should be happening. Please push back on this and I hope you are able to get it resolved, or find a better job that treats employees like adults!

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Another good point – OP is exempt – how on earth do they even know if someone was 2 or 4 or whatever number of minutes late if that person does not clock in? Where are they getting those numbers from?

      1. Jaybeetee*

        Either manager is literally watching people walk in at 9am, Springfield Power Plant style, or they’re using computer log-in times (which one particularly draconian OldJob of mine did – but we weren’t fined for being late).

      2. Hellola*

        I’m exempt but everyone in my company clocks in/out as a method of tracking our hours (yes, it’s ridiculous, but it’s not even top 10 on the list of nonsense that goes on here, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).

  87. Hiring Mgr*

    This is ridiculous for so many reasons… Two things I wonder about: 1) What is done with the money? 2) If you haven’t yet, i’ m sure you will see more insanity from this mgr, or at least high turnover/low morale. I cant’ imagine the other employees are ok with this? This might be one of those “approach mgmnt as a group” things. Good luck!

  88. the elephant in the room*

    I am so dying for the future follow-up to this. I have never been so invested in an AMA post.

  89. mf*

    Wait a sec… If they are fining you over $90 for being late, and you only make about $90 a day, aren’t you making below minimum wage for the day? Isn’t that illegal?

    OP, I’d call around to employment lawyers to see if you can get a free consultation.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Nope. That kind of thing is counted per work week. So you can be below minimum for a day, just not the whole week.

  90. seller of teapots*

    This is bananas insane and incredibly cruel.

    After fuming and considering quitting on the spot, I’d likely tell my boss I could pay him his $90 fine but that I’d be unable to work even a minute past 5pm without a similar payment from your company—$2 every minute. I’d put this in writing and copy HR and that director who publically applauded you recently. I’d be really matter of fact about it because that’s the only thing CLOSE to a reasonable response to this absurdity.

    1. Lynn*

      I’d go super petty, and find out what a doctor’s note cost- if a kind doctor was willing to write a bland, non-lie note that you couldn’t work that day (because it would cost you money, ffs) for $20, it would be cheaper. Not that it’s a good use of anyone’s time or money, or that you should be paying the fine in the first place, though.

      But seriously, I’d refuse to start even a second before 9 am, and be out of my seat at 5pm on the dot until you find a new job, and I would absolutely refuse to pay this “fine”.

      This is… anything but fine. Pun intended.

  91. Jen*

    Wow… just wow… what kind of employer does this? It makes me wonder what other nonsense they are inflicting on their employees… this is just so “out there” that I can’t imagine this is the only thing they are totally unreasonable about. Op, I really hope you are in a state where this is now allowed… but in any case, I would suggest looking for a new employer because this is just so not normal and it is just plain mean!

  92. Llellayena*

    I see a public safety issue here as well. If employees are fined(!!!!) for being a minute late, they may rush in traffic to make sure to get there on time. This puts the likelihood of an accident considerably higher (also making them more late and piling medical expenses on top of the late fine) therefore endangering themselves and others on the road. This is an issue I would push back on HARD even if it meant losing the job. I’d also look into the exempt/non-exempt thing. At a minimum, getting paid time and a half for your actual overtime hours could offset the fine…

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      This has definitely happened. I’ll always remember a post from someone who said their coworker was rushing to get to work because their employer punished them for being late. Coworker died in an accident in the morning, employer had cleared out the desk by lunch.

      Don’t rush. These companies don’t care about you and are willing to let you die to satisfy some twisted need to punish you for being human.

      Hope this works out for you, OP. This is horrific and infuriating.

    2. CheeryO*

      I was thinking that OP hopefully doesn’t live in a place with bad winters! I live in a very snowy place, and there are typically several days per winter where the entire office is significantly late to work because it took everyone 45 minutes to de-ice their car, or a bunch of snow fell during the morning commute and the roadways couldn’t physically get cleared in time. Shit happens, and if someone is rushing to work to avoid being fined, that just seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    3. Brock*

      Many many years ago this happened to a co-worker of mine. Apparently she was running late and tried to make it through a railway crossing as the gates were coming down, didn’t quite make it and the train winged her car into a tree…. :(

      I was very young, didn’t know her well, and hadn’t know that she had been spoken to about chronic lateness issues until other co-workers told me…and our manager wasn’t particularly harsh in my experience…but I do remember the company meeting where we were told not to talk to the press.

  93. Ragazzoverde*

    Why do you do overtime for a company that fines you for being a minute late?

    If people put up with this bullshit employers will think it’s ok

  94. Shannon*

    If you have an HR department go immediately. Right now. I am hoping to God they don’t know about this – because if they do, that’s even more egregious. They should be outraged for you and your entire team and then work to get people repaid and this action immediately stopped. Do all departments operate this way? Is it just your department? What does the manager do with the money? Who is your boss’ boss – and do they know? If one of my employees was doing this to the team they managed I’d want to know and I’d be OUTRAGED. I’m not necessarily always a fan of skipping the chain of command, but I think an argument could be made here because it is so outside the norm for how to treat employees. And, considering you’re a high performer, you carry more weight in these conversations. And you should definitely look into the exempt classification. Allison is right, you’re likely misclassified and owed back money. And if that’s the case, you should definitely pursue it…while job searching. Please know this isn’t normal and I hope you’re able to find a solution to the problem.

  95. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    For the first time in years, I overslept last week and was a half hour late to work. I was horribly embarrassed, but my boss and the rest of my team seemed to just think it was funny and a coworker with young kids was jealous that I got to sleep in. No one has brought it up since then and no one said anything about “punishment”.

    I know we give a lot of grief here to fresh-out-of-college coworkers who don’t take responsibility when they can’t comply with basic expectations like “show up for work on time” but OP, you’re not that person. You’re an otherwise great employee who made a small, normal human mistake that frankly had no impact on your job getting done.

  96. Dr. Doll*

    I see it’s Wednesday, to go back to an older AAM non-tradition (was enjoying the archives last night).

    My flabber is gasted.

  97. logicbutton*

    This is the kind of story you should be telling into a megaphone on the sidewalk outside the building with a crowd of coworkers cheering you on. It is so messed up.

  98. Archaeopteryx*

    This is really really very extremely supercalifragilisticexpialidociously not normal and not ok. Keep your money and find another job pronto.

  99. Nita*

    May I point out that $2 per minute comes up to $120 per hour? The company might be making a mint off its employees. And I seriously doubt this is legal. I really hope a lawyer gets involved. (OK, that’s about all I can say without getting incoherent and unprintable about this.)

  100. Elizabeth West*


    Even fining the receptionist is bullshit. Life happens–kids spit up on your clothes, alarms don’t go off, traffic jams occur. People are going to be a few minutes late and no one will die if they are. This is an office, not a firehouse.

    I really hope the OP can find another job because companies who would do this kind of outrageous crap are not likely to change. If it were me, I’d probably get fired very quickly because I’d be all, “Are you serious? Hell no,” the very first time they brought it up.

  101. Amber Rose*

    And now for the jokey un-advice: My coworker has a Bullshit button. Every time you hit it, it sounds an alarm and says some variation of “this is bullshit.” LW, I will send you one. Hit it every time your boss mentions the fine. (I asked it about this and it said ‘that’s not even bullshit, it’s horse shit.’ So there you go.)

    Alternatively, organize everyone in your office to do the GFY cheer.

      1. Amber Rose*

        It gets a large amount of use around here. xD
        She’s got it stuck to the side of her desk so anyone passing by can smack it if they’re frustrated.

  102. Tessa Ryan*

    Wow, OP. Just…. wow. I have no words except start job hunting NOW. And please send an update, because there’s gotta be like a 99% chance that they are pocketing the money and this will blow up in the bosses face.

  103. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

    I like the name Xavier Sebastian Pumpernickel. (JK, but I needed some levity because, as many others have said, dafuq is up with this employer?)

    OP, what happens if you refuse to pay or do not have the $$$ on you???

  104. Rainbow Roses*

    This appears to be an older post?

    But anyway….. What The What?! Like others said, this is not normal. It may or may not be legal, but it’s not normal. Normal is not paying you for the time missed, have you make up the hours, or even firing.

    And to rub salt in the wound, they don’t pay you for working overtime while they pull this crap?! Talk about having their cake and eating it.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I’m getting serious deja vu from the comments, tho, like we’ve seen something like this before.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, I can’t think of anything exactly like this, although there’s been stuff about “points” being docked for absence for any reason, even legit ones.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      While OP could be wrongly classified, they did mention a salary. So I imagine that they are exempt and thus are not required to be paid overtime. I often hear many rightly classified exempt professionals talk about overtime as in hours worked over 40 hours a week.

      But if OP is non-exempt they should be paid overtime. The whole fine policy in general is very bad.

  105. Stuff*

    Question: is this really company policy? Or your manager’s policy. The cash thing is sketchy AF and makes me wonder if you should do some checking.

  106. Quinley*

    It’s been said to death already but I REALLY want to emphasize to OP how NOT NORMAL this is. It’d be one thing if it was charged directly from your account or something, because then at the very least you’d have a concrete way to keep track of it since it would show up on your bank statements.

    But cash????? CASH???????

    This has more red flags than a Soviet Russian military parade. Where does this cash go? Who keeps track of it? What is it used for? Part of me wants to give benefit of the doubt and wonder if it’s contributed to something like a swear jar to buy something for the office–but even THEN I can’t wrap my head around what they’d be buying, or why they’d think it was a ethical idea to utilize the Tardiness Policy this way.

    Consult an employment attorney as soon as you’re able, start looking for new job yesterday, and if you can, I’d read up on your HR Employment Policy to see if this is actually written in there. I would not be surprised at all to find that there’s no such policy at all, and have a sneaking suspicion that even if this is an official policy, that it is not being enforced correctly.

    IANAL, but I cannot fathom from a legal standpoint how an employer can get away with *cash-only* fines as punishment for violating a company policy.

    1. mf*

      I suspect that either someone is pocketing the cash or the company is treating it like income and not reporting the earnings to the IRS.

    2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Your Soviet parade metaphor is brilliant and I will be stealing it.

      But yeah, there is no auditor on the planet who is going to be chill with an account for “cash shakedowns from employees.” There are a zillion reasons this is just. not. done. The OP is employed by extraordinarily sketchy people. Like, low-rent-mobster sketchy. And if they are willing to do this kind of malarkey over just a few bucks, they are dumb and ineffective as well as sketchy. Ay CYA they’ve attempted is going to be a sad joke. Politely direct the IRS their way. And your state department of labor.

        1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

          “More red flags than a Soviet Russia military parade” may have bumped “so much gaslighting that we thought we worked in Victorian London” as my top bad-workplace analogy.

  107. It’s all good*

    Just horrible. I once worked for a software developer where you had to use your key card to enter the building. If it was found you were late three times of ONE MINUTE or more you were suspended for a day without pay. My friend had 3 one minute lates and was suspended. This was salsa the place where we could not go to other departments and if we ran into an employee from another Dept in the elevator we could not talk to them! And a manager had to hide her pregnancy until 7 months so she wouldn’t get fired. The stories I can tell. The day we all got called in for an emergency meeting where we told the BOD fired the President we all cried.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I worked for a place where we clocked in with a card, and if you were late by more than three minutes it wouldn’t let you clock in, you needed a manager to come and clock you in. This was apparently so nobody could come in late without a manager yelling at them. Over three minutes! And I was working as a janitor, more or less. I had no interaction with anyone, I just put everything in order, wiped down tables and vacuumed the floors.

    2. t.i.a.s.p.*

      I would totally use that to get days off. Want a three day weekend? Clock in two minutes late on Tues, Wed, Thurs.

  108. Oranges*

    Even if you end up not paying the fine. Please get out. Any company that does this should lose good workers. Heck it should lose ALL the workers.

  109. Cat Fan*

    “Punished accordingly” and “it’s the right thing to do” are concepts you should get right out of your head. This is ridiculous. What does your manager even do with the money? Does the company have a late employee income account? Does she keep it for herself?

    1. teclatrans*

      Emphasizing and boosting this: “Punished accordingly” and “it’s the right thing to do” are concepts you should get right out of your head.”

      OP, you are being garlic. You are being taken advantage of, and abused. Going in wasn’t “the right thing to do” (WTF?). This mindset makes me wonder if there is some family or cultural context that is playing a part? (I am thinking, in particular, of fundamentalist Christian sects which emphasize obedience and subservience.) But maybe it’s just a terribly abusive workplace capitalizing on the insecurities beaten into “millenials” about their supposed “sense of entitlement.” Ugh.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        What does “being garlic” mean? Also, I was thinking the OP may have grown up in some kind of authoritarian environment, but not necessarily religious. Some types of schooling have compliance training heavily baked in.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            I’m thinking it was “being gaslit” which is close enough to “garlic” for autocorrect. (And in this comment, spellcheck doesn’t recognize “gaslit” or “autocorrect.”)

  110. Combinatorialist*

    Also, $90 is more than a day’s pay since you don’t work 30 days a month. So if your monthly salary 90*30 = $2700, then daily salary is more like 2700/22 = $123 so $90 is 1.36 days of salary. Which makes it even more ridiculous

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      I was thinking this, too. Unless the LW aka OP works weekends…. in which case I hope there is overtime pay or “comp days” available!

  111. Peaches*

    This is utterly the worst.

    I have a friend who recently got pulled into her manager’s office for arriving at 8:01 (1 minute late) after never being last in 2 years (and I mean, is 8:01 really LATE?) I was fuming just hearing her story, but this…this is on a different level. This is so, so not okay. I also wonder if your manager has ever had HER pay docked. I mean, chances are she’s been at least one minute late at one time or another, right?

      1. Peaches*

        Haha, that was my thought (and my friend’s). She did say later that day another employee got fired for being chronically late. So, maybe they were just trying to make sure the t0-be-fired employee wouldn’t push back that she wasn’t the only late person? Still, a horrible way to go about it.

    1. GRA*

      But then, would the manager just be paying herself? Because we all seem to assume that the cash is going into the manager’s pocket. This whole thing is shady af.

      1. teclatrans*

        Well, there’s two possibilities: 1) it’s a con, and 2) the company is doing the fining but they want it kept off the books. Both of which are shady.

  112. Beancounter in Texas*

    OP, if you do find out that you’re incorrectly classed as an exempt employee when your duties and pay don’t meet the requirements, you may find better results reporting to the Department of Labor with colleagues who are also incorrectly classed. I pursued this once for myself and I suspect because I was a single case complaining, there wasn’t much incentive for the over-worked government office to investigate my case. Good luck.

  113. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I often gasp out loud when I read the letters Alison posts. This letter made me yell, ‘What the hell?!’ And maybe some other words best left unpublished.

    OP, I’m repeating what everyone else has said – this is NOT normal, you deserve MUCH better treatment, and I hope you can find a new role quickly.

    Seriously, what the hell?!

  114. Miss V*

    This is ABSURD!!!!

    I was forty minutes late for work yesterday because of a traffic accident that brought traffic to a standstill. What happened? I called my manager and told her I had been sitting in the same spot for 20 minutes and had no idea when I’d be in. She said ok and told me to drive safe, don’t try to rush when traffic starts moving again.

    If she had told me I would have to pay $80 for the privilege to come in I would’ve quit over the phone.

  115. CupcakeCounter*

    Excuse me?!?!?!?!?
    Hell to the fucking NO! I will happily get fired over this and file a wrongful termination suit just so people know what a dumb-ass company this is.
    OP – this is NOT normal AT ALL!!!!!! In no way should you be “punished” for this. A talking to for being chronically late is one thing but under no circumstances should you be fined especially after contacting your manager and giving her a heads up.

  116. Oaktree*

    Wow. My immediate thought on reading just the subject line? “This is theft.” I would bet you anything that your manager is pocketing that money (it has to be paid in cash? To her? Can’t be docked from a paycheque?). But even if that isn’t the case, this is ridiculously punitive.

    I’ve worked in jobs where being on time is critical- I was a keyholder for a fast-food restaurant, and if I was late, the others there for opening were waiting out in the cold. In another job, I worked in an inbound call centre, so if one of the five employees was late or absent, it meant additional work when the phone lines opened.

    But none of those jobs penalized me unduly for the few times I was late- I explained why (usually it was the subway) and my bosses got it and let it go. In cases where I saw a fellow employee be chronically late, they had a meeting with our supervisor and manager. But no one was ever, EVER fined. This is absolutely absurd.

  117. Nicelutherangirl*

    My, this employer must have had a great-grandparent who ran a company store in a company town back in the day, taking exploitation of employees to horrible new (?) level in a contemporary setting.

    This is one to add to the follow-up list. I’d like to know the OP pushed back on this.

  118. Oranges*

    I work in a place that does fine employees. A couple of differences:
    The fine (it is large) is for using technology in a certain room.
    Only that room is tech free.
    Everyone is told about it during interviews AND on their first day.
    Everyone is told the reasoning behind it (it’s a memorial style thing).
    It’s discretionary (aka HR will take into account things like being human.)

      1. where's my mind*

        Same. If you can’t use technology in a room, that room better be locked and have a giant sign on the door saying “no, you can’t come in here to call your sick parent who just came out of surgery”. And even then, I’d side-eye the entire thing.

        Unless you’re in a funeral home and a funeral is actually going on, what’s even happening here?

      1. McWhadden*

        Pretty clear CEO is a vampire born in 1552 who hates modern technology.

        A coffin room is sort of like a memorial.

      2. Tinker*

        Okay yeah I’m completely curious as to what this is and, like, whether people are allowed to wear clothes in it or if it’s only free of some technologies.

    1. Sal*

      This feels like maybe it’s referring to a Holocaust museum’s reflection room or similar. I can see a hard no on employees using their cell phones in it. (Although I would massively prefer treating it as any other performance issue–once is a warning, twice is you’re fired, perhaps?–rather than a fine, gross.)

      Hope this doesn’t blow up your spot, Oranges, but I wanted to throw out one potential sense-making explanation. :)

  119. Elbe*

    I am completely outraged on the LW’s behalf.

    The thought of someone talking about “doing the right thing” while denying a dedicated young employee a half day and fining her $90 for a simple mistake makes me want to rage at this manager.

    As others have mentioned, this is very likely a scam of some sort. There’s no valid reason that they should be charging you for being late (aside from not paying for that time) and there’s ABSOLUTELY no reason why the fee charged for lateness should be HIGHER than what they would pay the employee for that time. Adding the fact that the LW frequently works late, and this is even more outrageous.

    I hope that the LW can find a better, more professional company to work for because this policy is ridiculous. I don’t usually advocate for employees “pulling the slide” so to speak, but I would love to see an organized, mass walk-out for this place. It would serve them right.

    1. mf*

      Yeah, the worst part is that this boss and employer has made this young employee feel like she deserves to be treated this way. :(

  120. SigneL*

    OP, I want to add my voice to others that say punishment really has no place at work. If you make a mistake, there may be consequences, but the idea that your supervisor has the right to punish you seems very wrong to me.

    Another thought: you are clearly a good employee (good reviews, etc). Good employees are usually valued, unless there is something very wrong. I hope you find a job that is worthy of you.

  121. Yvette*

    I just feel so bad that at this point LW has probably already paid, as the letter states it happened a few days ago. LW like everyone else has said, this is not OK this is not normal. And you should not be treated this way.

    I could see maybe something like this if the group decided/agreed (for a few minutes late not real problems) to use this as some sort of voluntary fund raiser, like a swear jar, where the money ultimately goes to a lunch out or a charitable (agreed upon cause). But not as punishment.

  122. Ruthie*

    I just can’t get over that you have to pay if you’re late but they don’t have to pay if you stay late. I am livid on your behalf.

  123. Jennifleurs*

    At my shit old job you were only paid for the time you were in the building… In 15 minute increments, so 16 minutes was docked as 30. We weren’t paid hourly. I never thought I’d see something so much WORSE. :O OP there are bees, get out!

  124. Jaybeetee*

    I’m in the same boat of… asking around other departments maybe, to see if this fine business is actually a “company” policy, or if it’s a “manager gone rogue” policy.

    You may not be in a position to just walk out of there. But keep it very front of mind that this is very much not normal professional practice. This is not normal *non*-professional practice. This is the sort of thing you hear about in developing-world sweatshops or remote mining towns where The Company owns literally everything. Do not internalize what these guys are doing as normal business. Lateness happens to everybody. Everybody misses an alarm and oversleeps every now and then. Someone above mentioned a previous letter here where the dude *slept an entire workday away*. You did not do anything egregious.

  125. Indie*

    This is shamefully abusive of new professionals in a way I hope is very illegal; but lets not forget to mention it’s also a fairly bonkers way to run a business?

    If LW or one of her colleagues gets a rich partner or becomes short-term eccentrically wealthy, can they just bail on the workday for cash? “I’d like to get an unplanned day off for $100 dollars boss, so Marco and I can fly to Rome spontaneously.”

    Of course you can’t do that because giving cash has nothing to do with making amends for not being reliable (and one offs don’t even count). For repeat behaviour, cash doesnt compare to an apology/staying late/learning from it.

    Taking cash won’t make people more productive (I’d be sleeping badly every night under this whip) and giving cash serves no purpose than lining the pocket of a tyrant.

    Either your boss is conning their graduates of cash because they are too conscientous/keen to complain after being late or she’s so painfully aware that she’s so terrible at her job that she is using a hammer to crack a nut. Shame in the hearts of leaders causes some oddly punitive behaviour.

    Either way, I’d be job hunting and talking to labour law specialists for a refund to go with my resignation.

  126. Just commenting to say...*

    OP, I am commenting for the first time just to tell you this:

    I had a no good, very bad, super terrible boss a few years ago. So bad that I still flinch when I hear her first name – a fairly common first name that plenty of people have and that I hear fairly regularly. So bad that the team still talks about how bad a boss she was. I’m not giving details because any one who worked with us would know who I was talking about (and agree with me), so you’ll have to trust me, but she was a VERY BAD BOSS.

    Anyway, one night, after I worked a major event, I failed to notice that my cell phone had already died before I plugged it in for the night. My alarms didn’t go off the next morning, because my phone wasn’t on to make them go off. I didn’t realize any of this until I woke up – already two and a half hours late for work, with an hour and a half commute ahead of me! I sent her an email and a text, and literally cried on the way to work (you don’t know me, but I’m not a crier at all). I got to work around lunch time and flew into her office to apologize – and she smiled, laughed, and said if I hadn’t told her what was happening she wouldn’t even have noticed, and there was nothing to apologize for.

    It’s not just that a GOOD boss wouldn’t do what your boss is doing here. A very, very, very BAD boss wouldn’t either.

  127. CatCat*

    Honestly, I’d just refuse to pay it. It would be bananas for them to fire you over this. And if they did, then file for unemployment benefits and spend your time looking for an employer who values high performers instead of charging them for the privilege of working for the employer.

    This is totally one of the nuttiest things I have read on this blog.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I said this same thing upthread. Even better, depending on the state, is that if unemployment benefits are denied and there’s an appeal, there may be a publicly-available published decision about it. Does the employer want that? I suspect they do not. (But I do.)

  128. Geologyst*

    I had to read this twice because I was in actual, literal disbelief. I am going to echo what I am sure is scads of comments but tighten up that CV and GET OUT as soon as you can.