my employer took my overtime pay away (with an update already included!)

I sometimes answer letters privately that I don’t publish here (just due to the volume of mail I receive), and I thought this exchange was worth sharing (with the writer’s permission). Last month I received this letter:

I just found out my position is switching from hourly to salary. My rate of pay isn’t changing. But I will no longer be eligible for overtime or to earn extra vacation time (we can earn around an extra week a year for not calling in sick). The others in my position have been with the company long enough to have at least 3-6 weeks of PTO a year but I’m still on the new side and only have two weeks.

While on the surface this sounds okay since I should have the flexibility to go to appointments or leave early when needed for family things, I’m not in a management role and I don’t have a guarantee that the time would be approved. I’m also just not the kind to call in sick.

Additionally, they said it gives them the opportunity to raise the pay ceiling for the position, but I’m nowhere close to the ceiling and don’t imagine I would be for years so this doesn’t really help me.

Basically, I feel like I’ve just had a week of vacation taken away and will be working overtime for free. I’m supposed to sign a new offer letter tomorrow and I just don’t know how to react. I’m not sure if I have any room to push back on this and negotiate a better situation for myself. Do I have to sign the offer letter or would it be appropriate to ask them to consider factoring in an additional amount for the overtime and vacation loss?

At the time, I wrote back and suggested, “You could say, ‘When we negotiated my salary, I agreed with the understanding that there would be opportunities for overtime pay and earning extra vacation time. If that’s changing, I’m hoping we can revisit my salary as well, to reflect the loss of those things.'”

Last week I got this update:

I wanted to send an update to let you know how things went. I met with my boss armed with numbers from the amount of overtime I had worked for the last two years and discussed the change in pay.

My company’s initial stance was that our HR department had taken this into account when factoring in my new salary but the numbers just didn’t align. I pushed back, asking if they could re-examine their figures and making sure to ask what the next step was.

While they figured out how to respond to me, I went back to my colleagues who were also affected by this change and we talked about our new pay and how we each felt it had been miscalculated. At first some of the team were ready to shrug it off, but the more points we made, the more on board we all were.

A few days later I was called to a meeting with HR, my manager, and her boss to discuss how they reached my compensation amount. I told them I appreciated that they wanted to explain it but since I was not the only person unhappy with the results, I wondered if we should bring the rest of the team in on this discussion. They were shocked to hear I was not the only unhappy member and heard me out on my concerns, promising to schedule a team meeting later. They did and as a group we addressed all of the same concerns I had brought forth. My manager did her own analysis of the numbers and asked HR to go back and re-run their figures.

The end result was that HR discovered their math was bad and the whole team received double their initial salary increase plus some additional concessions.

I wanted to let you know that if I had not been reading your blog these last several years, I never would have thought to push back on this. I know you advocate for group involvement too, which is why I made sure to get my colleagues on board. I am still not thrilled to be salary, but I am much happier with the change now and so glad I didn’t miss out my full compensation.

{ 240 comments… read them below }

  1. Clay on my apron

    Thanks for sharing your good news story! It’s always good to hear about successful and constructive negotiations.

  2. Andy

    ‘discovered our math was bad’
    eyeroll
    BIG EYEROLL
    that’s vy satisfying on one level and vy EYEROLL on several others

    1. RabbitRabbit

      It’s interesting how their bad math was not on the side of giving the employees too much money. Shocking! But glad to see the power of pushing back and discussing it with their colleagues.

      1. Fortitude Jones

        Yeah, well done, OP on getting your whole team in on this because it sounds like your company was trying to pull a fast one.

      2. Temp anon

        When I was offered a pension buyout I encountered something like this. The figure was based on 3 factors: Age (from date of birth), tenure (dates of hire and separation) and salary. So, 4 pieces of info total.

        They had 3 out of the 4 wrong! And every error was in their favor. The only thing they got right was my DOB. My hire date was wrong, and didn’t even correspond to a date where I changed positions or of a merger. It was a random date. My date of separation was off by only a few weeks but would have cost me an entire year of tenure because if you’re not an employee by year end you get no credit for the year. My salary was also lower by a seemingly random amount. I had been earning large bonuses but their figure wasn’t my base pay either.

        I pointed out the “errors” and they recalculated, it was around a 40% difference!

    2. Autumnheart

      Yeah. I mean, their math *was* bad, but I get the impression that the algorithm they were calculating was “See if we can get away with effectively cutting their pay in half without being challenged on it by the entire team”.

      1. Kathleen_A

        I am also suspicious about the “bad math,” but I just feel the need to point out that they didn’t “cut their pay” in half. What they did was cut in half “their initial salary increase.”

        So their math was bad, but not quite THAT bad. :-)

        That said, I have heard of people – even HR departments – innocently making some pretty bad errors in pay. And the time when it happens is when they’re making a big change, just as they did here. The case I know of was years ago, but the company I worked for simply had a very flawed understanding about how comp time vs. overtime was supposed to work. It didn’t affect me because I was salary, but it affected the people I supervised. I was and am pretty sure that it wasn’t on purpose. They did eventually make things right, thank goodness, but it took a lot of recalculating and, more importantly, rethinking.

        1. Ophelia

          Well, by cutting that salary increase, it sounds like they effectively lowered employees’ total compensation, so that’s pretty bad math. It wasn’t just a lowered raise, it was actively making people worse off…

          1. Kathleen_A

            Oh, absolutely – it was very bad math and thank goodness the employees were able to demonstrate how bad. It just wasn’t at the “cut their pay in half” level of badness.

        2. Grumpy-pants the Sanctimonious

          Yes, while I also suspect that it was more “math we hope no one looks at too carefully” there really are a lot of honest errors out there. I’m sure I make them.

          One of the ways I add value to my company is checking the math when we get a new contract. You would be floored at the number of times I find math errors that seem, to me, to be quite obvious. But it turns out that, say, DARPA* (very smart people to be sure) has a lot of priorities and “triple checking the math on this contract” is not always one of them.

          *Agency chosen for illustrative purposes. They are no more error-prone, IME, than any of the others with which we work.

    3. Roy G. Biv

      Isn’t it surprising when the masses also have calculators, and know how to use them correctly? Yay for you, OP!

    4. Zip Silver

      Exactly. I’m glad you caught this OP, they were trying to magic away some payroll dollars in the budget without anybody noticing

    5. A Poster Has No Name

      Right? Yeahno. The math wasn’t bad. It was exactly what they expected to be able to slide under the radar and got called on it.

      Good for you, LW & coworkers!

      My company tried something similar with my husband’s role many years ago. Moved them to salaried from hourly with OT expectations, but did bump their (already piteously low) salaries quite a bit. They didn’t change the job duties, however, which didn’t meet the definition of exempt, so a few years later they got busted for that and had to move everyone back to hourly and pay out any unpaid overtime.

      So, LW, definitely be on the lookout for that, if your job duties don’t meet the definition of exempt.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      Yeah I call BS on bad math. They just used that as an excuse because they got caught lying.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        You’d think they would have noticed that their overall salary estimate suddenly dropped a lot, even if they didn’t pick up how it was playing out for each individual. Seems like that could’ve been a feature, not a bug.

        1. Jennifer Thneed

          That would take Payroll and Accounting (or whoever deals with Budgets) actually talking to each other…

          1. Seifer

            Ahhhhhhhhhhahahahahaha look it’s not that I don’t talk to accounting, it’s that they’re all “but Seifer, payroll information is proprietary and you need approval to see it!” And then when I give them manhours and ask them to add payroll, suddenly no one has time. Wouldn’t it be easier… IF I COULD JUST SEE PAYROLL.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Yeah..

      The whole point was to save money by moving people who have massive amounts of OT into an exempt position, so they penciled out a number that felt good to them, didn’t take into consideration the outcry from the staff involved and then backpeddled with a soft excuse of “oh oops, maaaaaaaaaaaath is haaaaaard.”

      I have done math all day long for decades now and yeah, sometimes I mess it up. But when someone challenges me, I actually rework the numbers to SHOW the math. Then they can be all “You forgot to carry the 1, gurl.” and that’s when you show them that yeah it was bad math. Not just throw it out like “Oh we got caught. Bad math! Bad maaaaaaaaaaaaath.”

      1. Salymander

        I’m picturing someone scolding their dog for peeing on the rug

        Bad Math! Bad! BaaaadMaaaaaathhh!

    8. Antilles

      It’s a total bullcrap answer. You know why?
      Because when an employee pushed back with supporting data, the obvious response is to double-check your numbers. Even if you’re confident in your math, when someone shows numbers that conflicts yours, how do you not respond with “huh, I think you’re wrong, but let’s pull the numbers here…”?
      Instead, “a few days later”, there was a meeting with HR and the manager where they “were shocked to hear I was not the only unhappy member”. Only AFTER that meeting and strong group push-back did HR ‘discover’ their math was bad.
      I don’t see any reasonable conclusion except (a) they already knew their numbers were wrong or (b) they were too lazy/arrogant/whatever to recheck after the first pushback.

      1. Rectilinear Propagation

        Only AFTER that meeting and strong group push-back did HR ‘discover’ their math was bad.

        Also, if they’d almost underpaid everyone on accident, I’d hope that they were awfully contrite about it. LW doesn’t actually say either way but I’d think they’d mention it if HR actually issued an apology.

        1. Rectilinear Propagation

          Based on some comments below it’s possible the original bad math was actually from management, not HR, and it would explain the lack of an explicit apology in that case.

    9. Elbe

      Yeah, they were 100% intended to reduce the actual amount of pay and gave a bland excuse when so many people called them out.

      What “math” could have been done for anyone to think that having the same pay rate but no overtime/added vacation could ever work out to be equal?

    10. hbc

      I might have believed it was an error, but the fact that they came back prepared to explain their original after being shown the alternate math? Totally bogus. At minimum, they didn’t even try to figure out what the difference was.

    1. Justme, The OG

      I mean, her employer was initially being awful. But way to band together and stand up for yourselves.

  3. Moray

    I think a lot of managers don’t want to think about how much overtime their staff work, because it means acknowledging that they aren’t doing a good enough job keeping their employees from being overloaded.

    1. ToCultorNotToCult

      THIS IS A GOOD POINT. When I was still in management we had a change in upper management and they started pushing back on OT big time. They would say that if the staff is doing (collectively) over 40 hrs a week OT, then we need to staff up! But then when we direct managers would ask for more staff, upper mgmt would then question whether our staff were really productive during all this overtime and maybe they were just inefficient and that’s why they had so much OT.
      One of the many reasons I am NOT in management anymore.

      1. Nanani

        And I bet upper management loves to see people showing up early, staying late, and having lots of butt in seat/face to face time…

    2. Bilateralrope

      Oh, some of them know. They just dont care. I know a lot of stories about how bad things are in video game development have come out over the past year.

      Then there is my own situation, which I might post as a rant in the next open thread.

    3. Narvo Flieboppen

      Or they don’t care about how much overtime the staff works. Our VP directly stated it was fine by him if ‘we suffer the pain of working extra to make sure everything goes smooth for everyone else’ during a very busy time here.

      Which might be okay if ‘we’ was truly inclusive. But the salaried VP only works 3 days a week, for about 6 hours a day. My direct manager, between me & the VP in the hierarchy, specifically only worked 7 hours a day during the super busy time despite being on salary. The other person in our dept. who was on salary stayed at 40 hours a week. All of the extra work was dumped on the three of us who were hourly staff. Which, fine, we get overtime, but 60 hour weeks get old real fast. Especially when the rest of the company is only working 40 hours a week because we were picking up all of the slack to make their lives ‘easier’. And completely voluntold for this process.

      After that stretch ended, the same VP then reamed us out in a staff meeting as we were winding down because our overtime was clearly ‘unsustainable for the budget’ and and we really need to ‘rein it in’ because ‘padding payroll is unacceptable’. Sure, I totally spent all those 12 hour days here because I would hate to instead be home with my family & friends. That MUST be it.

      Yes, I’m in a super-cynical place about this, but the tool who decided it was fine for us to work super hard to give other people a nice easy time of it then turned it back on us as a problem when he had to answer for the payroll overages. Which he had to know were coming when he explicitly ordered them. If we had actually split the OT with the other departments, it would have been spread across about 20 staff rather than 3. I bet it would have been less overall OT since we were doing tasks normally outside of our purview during that period.

  4. Myrin

    Oooooh, this is a dream com true! Not only the letter itself, but the fact that you got an update, Alison, and actually decided to publish both together – this is really much appreciated!
    And yay OP! It’s so great that you persisted and your engagement actually managed to get many others on board and that you were ultimately more than successful – what a fantastic and I imagine fulfilling outcome! :D

  5. Pete

    Andy’s right. Was it a mistake or did HR have to take the blame for using the formula supplied by management? Occam’s says the former, but….

    1. Jadelyn

      Speaking as the person in HR who does these kinds of calculations, my money’s on the latter. Mistakes are simpler, and they do happen – despite what popular opinion would tell you, HR folks are still human – but there’ve been times when I’ve had it out with management because they wanted salary adjustments calculated one way (unfairly), and I knew it should be a different way in order to be fair to the employees. There have been times where I actually did both sets of calculations side-by-side to demonstrate why I knew we needed to be doing it my way…and sometimes that flies and I get it changed, and sometimes it doesn’t and they insist on doing it the wrong way anyway.

      And yeah, if staff came back and said “hey this isn’t fair” and they had to revert to doing it the right way, I’d be getting nice and cozy under that bus. So my money’s on that, for what really happened behind closed doors.

      1. OhNo

        Particularly given that they only went back and “checked the math” after the OP brought the whole team into the discussion. If there’s only one complainer, no need to make any adjustments. But if the whole team is upset, that sounds like management would have to get involved to walk back their mysteriously mistaken math.

      2. knitcrazybooknut

        THANK YOU. I have to reassure my team time and time again that they are not robots. We enter thousands of pieces of data into a complicated system from forms that make no sense to the people who fill them out. It’s not an easy job, or a well-paid one. Stuff happens. But for us, it’s nearly all manual, and anything that’s automated is audited manually. HR is not perfect, and not always malevolent, either.

        (I’m familiar with the view from under the bus, as well!)

  6. blackcat

    It boggles how HR/people deciding compensation don’t check their math. I was involved union negotiations where management put forth a “This is how we calculate salaries” description, along with a table of numbers. And… those two did not go together, at all! And they were Shocked! Shocked! to have their math checked on the spot.

    1. Engineer Girl

      I work in Silicon Valley. Our HR was telling us that we were overpaid as aero engineers. They compared our salaries to aero engineers in Wichita, Chicago, and St Louis. They did NOT compare our salaries against electrical and software engineers in San Jose (Apple etc.). They couldn’t understand that people were leaving with 50k pay raises.

      HR math.

      1. PollyQ

        Was the HR dept in SV too? If so, I can sort of see them being that incompetent, but for anyone who lives around here to not understand that the ridiculously high cost of housing means that those comparisons are completely useless is mind-boggling.

        1. Engineer Girl

          Yes. They lived there too.

          They later tried to tell the engineers that they didn’t understand the math. Because, you know, people who send satellites to the stars cant understand math.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            Wow. That’s some pretty astounding (and yet, entirely unsurprising) gall right there.

          2. OhNo

            I mean, you’d be surprised (actually, being an engineer, you probably wouldn’t) to know how many people I’ve heard say that engineers don’t do math, they just punch numbers into computers.

            It’s usually coming from mathematicians, and I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse. Either way, it’s nonsense coming from people you’d hope would know better.

          3. blackcat

            Wow.

            At least in this case, HR was *actually bad at math.* To management’s credit, once they got over their shock, they handled it well and said “Yes, something is very wrong with these numbers. We will get back to you.” But it did take someone offering up a spreadsheet being like “Okay, here’s the formula you described, right? And here are the input numbers we all agreed on. And…. this is what we get.”

            It think it was amicable because the workers agreed, on principle, that the approach was a reasonable one, and the numbers *they got* when running the numbers were within 10% of what they were asking for.

            But… yikes. Telling people who are PROFESSIONALLY GOOD AT MATH that they can’t possibly understand payroll math is… profoundly insulting.

            1. Kat in VA

              I could see if it was Sales, and their MBO included differing levels of compensation depending on product sold, customer sold to, accelerators, and things like that which can get very murky very fast.

              But this seems like basic math where someone whomped together numbers that sounded good and crossed their fingers it would just be accepted with a shrug and a sigh of acceptance.

              To add to the chorus: “Bad math”, my ass.

          4. Rainy

            I live in a fairly high-cost town and my experience with HR seemed to indicate that their ridiculous ideas about COL were predicated on HR mainly being married folks who weren’t the breadwinners in their household, so their idea of what kind of lifestyle the average salary supports came with a bunch of assumptions fueled by being married to a higher earner.

      2. texan in exile

        Most of the engineers in my company in the US are in the upper Midwest. HR thinks that means they calculate salaries based on not just upper Midwest, but Center of Upper Midwestern State where HQ city happens to be. Even though engineers who live in Center of Upper Midwestern State can move to California. Or Chicago. Or Minneapolis. Or any other place that hires engineers and pays them more than Center of Upper Midwestern State.

    2. Baru Cormorant

      This is exactly why unions and other ways of gathering employees as a group are important! That’s how we check HR and the company and push back for worker’s rights!

    1. ArtsNerd

      I could totally see myself messing up one cell in a spreadsheet throwing the whole formula off.

      And… I run important numbers multiple times from scratch, and also other people check my work, and also I don’t work in accounting or HR or any role where my occasional math affects any other department than mine.

      So yeah. If they WERE doing this in good faith, they’re very incompetent. Which is better than sketchy, but not much.

  7. Marissa

    Good job OP! I imagine there were a few uncomfortable conversations you had to push through to get to where your are, and you got it done! It makes me happy to see people talking to coworkers about salaries. I’m sure having everyone express issues with the new salaries made it undeniable for boss and HR.

    *Side note: maybe salary will allow you to be a person who calls out sick or schedules a doctor’s appointment during the day when you need to. I hope so!*

      1. OhNo

        If I was a betting man, I’d wager that management didn’t think that the rank and file could do simple math, and HR just took the fall. Most places I’ve worked, HR doesn’t set salary structures for whole departments, but it’s certainly possible that the OP’s company works that way.

  8. Fabulous

    Woo! This is awesome.

    Also, I first read the end as “double the initial salaries” instead of “double the salary increase” and I was like holy moly, Batman! LOL

    1. Jennifer Thneed

      Me too, since the first letter includes this line: “My rate of pay isn’t changing.” So, was the offered salary initially “regular pay + some overtime” but they didn’t count in enough overtime to match reality?

  9. SuperGG

    Yay on the salary win, but I’m giving major side-eye to two elements: people could earn extra vacation for not taking sick time, and “I’m just not the type of person to call in sick.” Both of those are major WTF for me. The former rewards people for coming to work sick, and the second is the reason illnesses travel through offices. Stay home to recover and don’t infect everyone else!

    1. LucyHoneychurch

      You’re jumping to conclusions. I don’t call in sick because I don’t GET sick. Literally the last time I had so much as a cold was December 2016. I remember because I had a new job and no paid leave accumulated. OP could be the same — no need to accuse them of infecting their co-workers. HOWEVER, I agree that many office paid leave policies create situations where people feel compelled to come in sick. In my case, vacation and sick leave are in the same pot, so taking a sick day means losing a vacation day. And we don’t have much to begin with.

        1. JimmyJab

          So common here unfortunately, and some would consider having either vacation or sick leave to be a privilege.

        2. littlelizard

          It’s unfortunately quite common, in the US at least. Often you accumulate PTO (paid time off) that isn’t separated into categories, and you use it for what you most want it for. Unfortunately this does encourage people to come to work sick rather than lose vacation time.

        3. Brett

          I think it stems from a historic problem with the public sector in the US. Sick pay was carried over year to year for your entire career and had to be paid out in full when you retired. Vacation pay was use it or lose it (with small carryovers). This created a big dragging liability on the books when you would have people like my former boss who did not take a single sick day in 40 years, and then retired. His sick day from 40 years ago at $4/hr was being paid out at his final rate of pay at $55+/hr. His payout was over $200k! And that counted towards his last 36 months average salary calculation for his pension, bumping his pension around $50k/year!
          To combat this, public sector employers switched employees off sick pay and vacation into a single PTO pool. This avoided the due process lawsuits that would result if they took accumulated sick pay away (because it is a property asset of the employee who earned it), while cutting any future accumulations of sick pay. When they do this, PTO is universally capped just like vacation.

          Once public sector started switching over in the 80s, private sector followed suit rapidly in the mid-90s and 2000s.

          1. doreen

            Plenty of public sector employers did not switch to single PTO pools- and plenty of public employers never had the sort of system you describe where you could both 1) accumulate an essentially unlimited amount of sick leave and 2) would be paid for it when you retired. I have never had a public sector job with a single pool and have never had one (not even in the 80s) that paid out accumulated sick leave under any circumstances that did not involve being sick.

            1. Shelly574

              Yeah, I’ve never had sick time paid out. Vacation yes, but never sick time. And I’ve never worked at a public sector job that had one pool. That’s in the four states I’ve worked as a public employee. So, I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate analysis. But I also have only been working in the public sector for 20 years, so I wasn’t around in the 1980s.

              1. ThursdaysGeek

                I left a city job in the 1990s and they paid out unused sick at half value: 10 days of sick is 5 days pay, and unused vacation at full value. But I’d only been there a couple of years, so there wasn’t much of a payout.

            2. not really a lurker anymore

              My public sector employer pays out 30 days of sick leave when you retire. We can carry up to 6 months over indefinitely though. But any days over 30 at retirement are not paid out. We get 10 days of SL a year.

              I was moved from hourly to salary about a year ago. I got a 7% raise and my comptime balance was paid out. Supposedly my manager didn’t realize she was moving me and a coworker to salary when she pushed the change in job description through. I’m not sure I believed her. But I probably had a total of 50-60 hours of OT a year. I think I regret my comptime balance loss more than anything – it was my ’emergency’ stash of time off that I hoarded for fear of sick/hospitalized kids.

            3. unionize

              I have two separate pots with accumulation limits to combat the excessive end of service payouts. Vacation pays out in full but you can only bank a certain amount (indexed to your service time, under 5 years people only bank up to 2 weeks, but after 25+ years service up to 15 weeks can be banked). Sick time has similar accrual limits and only pays out at 50%. Compensated time off, which is earned when you opt to earn time instead of cash for overtime, pays out at 100%. All of this pays out at your final pay rate, so CTO you got as a low level employee could pay out at your executive rate if you manage to hang onto it for that long.

              1. Brett

                I think the CTO payout is federally mandated. That’s why most places require you to use CTO before you use your sick time, vacation, or PTO.

                1. unionize

                  Yep! Fortunately, my department does not mandate this. I’ve been sitting on about 20 hours of CTO for years and am on use it or lose it for vacation. We work a ton of OT but we are lucky to get that in cash for the most part. We switch to CTO when the cash OT runs out at the end of the fiscal year.

            4. Brett

              The majority of public sector employers never switched to PTO (I cannot find any longitudinal studies that break out the number well, but it sounds like somewhere around 60% switched, way beyond the private sector), just like many never had unlimited bank systems. But unlimited bank systems were extremely popular for midwest municipalities in the 1950s and 1960s, and that created the need to switch.

              At least in the states near me in the midwest, the change specifically happened to get people off existing unlimited bank systems before they retired rather than switching only new hires (like munis normally do with pension changes). I have heard of cases where the unlimited bank was vacation instead of sick leave, but it was still functionally the same problem. Those people ended up with three pools: sick leave, vacation, and PTO, but were no longer accruing sick leave or vacation. (And after their first year transferred over, one of those two pools, whichever one was not bankable, would be empty.) Obviously for the rest of their career they would use PTO and not touch the unlimited bankable pool, carrying over as much of that as possible until retirement.

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen

            Thank you for this explanation. It doesn’t mean the policy doesn’t suck, but it does mean it makes sense.

          3. A. Lovelace

            Interesting. Public sector employees in my non-US country get to accumulate sick leave, but it stopped being paid out decades ago. So it is essentially an insurance system, which has more benefit the longer someone is at their job. Vacation has some carry-over, although it is capped for the exact reason mentioned (the difference in pay rates when someone starts and ends their working career). It seems that our systems started off the same way, but went in much different directions, and I am glad that we didn’t follow yours.

            As an interesting note, the employer is working to establish a system where no leave is accumulated, and instead everyone gets the sick leave that they require. So if someone starts a job and gets diagnosed with cancer the next week, they will be given the time needed to deal with that. What a concept…

            Relating this back to SuperGG’s comment: I have found that there is occasionally a moral superiority shown by people who have rarely been sick. As our workplace starts to discuss a transition away from accumulated leave, there are a lot of comments about “I was a good person, and was able to accumulate a lot of leave” and my response is always “You were lucky, not good”.

            1. Jadelyn

              Agreed re the way that healthy folks sometimes look down on those with health issues. Not needing your sick time isn’t a virtue. Some of us just lost the genetic lottery and are stuck dealing with the fallout. We’re not taking sick time AT you.

              1. I take sick time for dr appts

                Love this – “we’re not taking sick time AT you.” I am someone who takes sick time for a mental health issue and it is hard not to feel guilty – helpful to remind myself that it’s not *at* my coworkers or team. It is *for* my body/mind and colleagues can wait a day to hear back from me about something.

                1. Rainy

                  I took two days off recently because I had a wicked cold, and I felt a little guilt for it, but also my workplace is afflicted with presenteeism, in which the virtuous, hardworking Typhoid Mary comes in and infects a bunch of us, and I don’t want to be that person anymore.

            2. not really a lurker anymore

              I tend to respond with “i’ve been here forever, I’ve got a ton of time banked” because I have 26 years into the system.

          4. another scientist

            for the record, I don’t begrudge your boss a 200k retirement bonus after working for a public sector salary for 40 years. That pension sounds pretty sweet (making me a little envious for sure), but a lot of us deserve better compensation and less anxiety about old age, so good for him!

            1. Brett

              Yeah, he spent the majority of those years as a patrol officer on the street and worked through all sorts of injuries. He is one of the lucky ones in that he his lived long enough after retirement to enjoy his pension. It was crazy how many officers I knew died within two years of retiring (because they really retired because their bodies were too messed up to handle the job anymore).

          5. Bilateralrope

            Interesting. Down here in NZ, my sick leave is capped and only gets paid out if I use it. My vacation time will be paid out to me, either when I use it or stop working for this employer. The only tool my employer has to limit their liability is to force me to use it if I’ve got too much accumulated.

          6. That Girl From Quinn's House

            My dad was a public sector employee for 40 years. When he retired, his last day of reporting to the office was in June, his final retirement date was in March, and he spent the 9 months in between the two burning off his accrued leave time.

          7. Lily in NYC

            Every member of my immediate family (myself included) has been in the public sector for our entire careers and none of us has ever had pooled PTO. I think most places simply changed the policies and stopped paying out sick leave. But I think paying out sick leave is not all that common, even in public sector jobs.

      1. SuperGG

        I don’t get sick, either, but then I would say “I don’t get sick,” not “I’m not the type to call in sick.” The latter implies they have a negative view of people who take sick days and don’t want to be that kind of person. More than once I’ve heard “I’m not the type to call in sick” and then had someone come to the office with strep throat or pneumonia. They had to be sent home. We have separate pools of sick and vacation days, so it was not an issue of trying to save the time for vacation.

        1. HerGirlFriday

          I completely agree. Sick days are meant to be used for when you’re sick; so use them if you need them! But be careful of attitudes toward people who need and use them appropriately.

        2. pleaset

          I took her as meaning not the type to call in sick but are really on vacation. Which some people do and I have a negative view of.

        3. The New Wanderer

          We had someone in my group do that once with some variant of the flu. She was new and apparently thought she could tough it out and that her work was more important or something. The grandboss had to tell her directly to go home. It was pretty eye-rolly since even new people got 10 sick days/year in addition to vacation and I think she had only used one or two at that point.

          OP’s phrasing isn’t great because it indicates they might mean “I’ll come in at all costs” instead of hopefully meaning “I’m almost never sick.” But with the (ridiculous) incentive of extra vacation for showing up every day, it’s unclear what the threshold would even be for almost never sick.

          1. Anonomoose

            I’d vote strongly for forcing coworkers who come in sick to eat random things from the back of the office fridge until they feel they *are* sick enough to go home

        4. Jennifer Thneed

          I’m with you: I just don’t get sick that often, and when I do I usually recover pretty quickly. (My wife still teases me about the time I was REALLY unhappy because my cold had me sick and feeling like crap for TWO days instead of my usual one day.)

          And strep throat? I had strep throat once, and it was the sickest I could remember being. I slept for 18 hours, woke up, realized how sick I was, and took myself to urgent care. I can’t even imagine coming to work in that condition. And then about 10 years later I had it again. AGAIN!!! I was outraged. I thought I had immunity after the first time.

        5. Lily Rowan

          Yeah, that’s right — I am definitely the type to call in sick! But I don’t get sick that often, so I don’t call in that often.

        6. Dahlia

          Yeah, it’s a bit of an odd phrasing. Hopefully they mean the former, not the latter, but it does read oddly.

    2. Kathleen_A

      My husband actually just started a new job where he earns extra days off for not calling in sick. I think that’s a bad idea myself, but in many other respects, this job is a great improvement from his previous job, so…whatcha gonna do?

      1. anon24

        I get very bad migraines and don’t think I could work for a company that did this. Its emotionally devastating simply because I’m in pain so much and my migraines have dictated so many of my life choices in ways that I never would have wanted. And then you say that healthy people get more time off then me? It feels like being punished for something I never would have chosen. I try to call off as rarely as possible and I try to be a great employee and believe me I’d rather be healthy and at work than at home in bed unable to do so much as move an arm without projectile vomiting.

        1. Kathleen_A

          Oh, I agree. It’s as though “not ever calling in sick” is more highly valued than other qualities, and that’s just silly. But for some reason, this company didn’t ask us – or Alison! – what to do.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I’ve seen other incentive programs in place that try to get you to not take time off, period. Even vacation. So instead of rewarding you with more time off that can be scheduled, you are given some kind of bonus payment instead. I’m not impressed by it either.

      I’ve had zero people in all my years working that have caused any problems with their use of sick time and I’ve worked with some real characters. The ones who stick around long term and stay it out for years on end, do not upset the company by their use of sick time. They have X amount of it, take it and heal your body or your mind, whichever you need at the time.

      But I think it’s part of the culture around those Boss Hogs out there that drill into workers minds that “yay I’m not paying you while you’re sick! I’m really getting every ounce of your soul over here, even when it’s on 50% because the flu is destroying your insides right now! Yeaaaaaaah harder, drive haaaaaarder.” mentality. So I have sympathy in that sense. Sometimes you’re a product of your environment like that.

      I once hired someone who proudly declared “Oh I never get sick!” when I was telling them about our sick-pay accrual and health insurance. I smiled and said “But if you ever do, it’s here for you to use and don’t ever worry about needing to use it. It’s here for your benefit and we want you to use it like you see fit.”

      Guess who started taking sick leave after a few months of being on the job. They were shy at first, you could tell they weren’t really certain that it was okay but they were trying it out.

      I drill into everyone’s head that their PTO and sick time is theirs. This industry is notorious for ruining people and building them up to think that way. So I don’t hold it against them in that way. People have lost jobs for calling in sick one too many times, despite it not being that frequent or disruptive and having it in their sick leave bank. It’s pretty gross and one of those underbelly things still crawling around the industries that depend a lot on manual labor.

  10. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs

    OP: “your math is bad”
    HR: “Nah, it’s not.”
    Boss: “HR says their math is fine.”
    OP: “Several of us think the math is bad.”
    Boss: “Hm. *checks math* Hey, this math looks bad.”
    HR: “*checks math* Oh, our math is bad.”
    ….

    Uh huh. Side-eying that so hard.

    Glad you got it fixed OP! That’s awesome!

    1. Elenna

      suuuuure. Their math is bad. It was definitely not an attempt to screw OP and their colleagues over! Not at all!

      …yeah, lots of side-eye here too.

  11. The Man, Becky Lynch

    They were shocked, you say?!

    LOL, I hope this lesson sticks with them for the future, JFC.

    “Bad math” my butt, a load of backpedaling nonsense. I’m glad you all came forward with your issues and that they at least fixed themselves, despite their bad acting.

  12. Anonymeece

    Instant update? And it’s a good one? AWESOME!

    OP, I am so happy for you (and your coworkers)! This is a hard thing to do, but you handled it beautifully and I love that it worked out for you!

  13. Rich

    Great job with a great outcome. “My manager did her own analysis…” is something to keep an eye on, though. At best, it means your manager is trying to pass the blame to HR for a bad salary plan. At worst, it means she didn’t bother to pay attention to how her employees were compensated. Neither of those is a ringing endorsement of your manager’s ability to advocate for you without a push to do so from you.

    1. Engineer Girl

      I see it differently. It looks like the manager at first trusted HR but then did their own verification when OP pushed back. That means that the manager believed the OP and didn’t brush them off.

    2. Guacamole Bob

      So you’d expect every manager to take the memo they get from HR that has an old and new salary on it and double-check the arithmetic? If I got a notice that said someone’s old salary was X, there would be a series of adjustments for A, B, and C, and the new salary was Y, I wouldn’t automatically reach for my calculator. I would if someone raised a question about it, but I wouldn’t start out assuming it was wrong.

      This is reminding me that I got a raise recently and didn’t actually multiple the percentage by my old salary to make sure my payroll department did it right. The numbers are round enough that I know it’s ballpark right, though.

      1. Mr. Tyzik

        When HR revamped my role and lowered my bonus target, my manager checked all the arithmetic and determined that the salary was wrong; it should include the part of the bonus I was no longer getting. Then she checked for all of us and discovered we were all in the same boat. She went to bat for us before she gave us the numbers. She gave me the final total and told me how it broke, line item by line item. Personally, that’s the way it should be.

      2. Rich

        No, I’m not suggesting that. I am suggesting a manager should do that if an employee’s comp _model_ changes. This included a shift from hourly to salary, in an environment that had things like significant overtime run-rate. Frankly, I’d assume HR’s arithmetic was correct, but I wouldn’t assume that their basis for the calculation was — that’s where I have the issue.

        Here, overtime and comp time were working in a manner similar to incentive compensation — and that’s something the manager should have been aware of. Changing the pay model clearly changed the incentive structure, not just the dollars flowing into OP’s pocket. That’s the sort of thing I expect a manager to be in front of.

        1. NotAnotherManager!

          Yup. I don’t double-check HR on basic comp stuff, in large part because my HR is well above average and proactively monitors the market for changes we need to account for in comp — but if they’re changing the entire way my team is compensated, I’d like someone to review those numbers, calculations, and the underlying rationale with me like I haven’t taken a math class in 20 years (since I haven’t).

    3. Observer

      No, it means the the manager trusted her HR people. But also that when multiple people are having the same problem, it’s worth checking.

  14. Oh No She Di'int

    This brings up a question for me:

    If this is all happening in the US, there are specific labors laws regarding when an employee is and is not eligible for overtime pay. And the parameters for salaried, exempt employees are actually quite narrow. A business cannot just make these decisions for reasons of convenience to the company.

    Yet it’s also my experience that many MANY business do exactly that. That is that these regulations are routinely violated, often with the willing cooperation of the employees themselves, for whom the flexibility seems worth the tradeoff for overtime. I’m wondering how widespread this rule-skirting is, because I seem to see it EVERYWHERE.

    Not saying that OP’s company is skirting regulations, but I’m wondering if the change happened because the JOB changed or because it was misclassified to begin with?

    1. Tavie

      This is such a good point/question. How could they just flip a switch from hourly to salaried when there are specific parameters for what kind of work falls into each category?

      Shaaaaaaady.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        It’s possible that they were eligible to be treated as exempt all along. It’s also possible that this is shady. But we don’t have enough info to say for sure. (That said, their handling of the pay issue doesn’t inspire confidence.)

        1. Oh No She Di'int

          Yes, but the Department of Labor (in the US) has very specific ideas about what “admin” means. And it’s not what most people think it means. I am navigating these waters right now and finding it nearly impossible to stay totally on the right side of the law, to be honest.

      2. ACDC

        Can someone elaborate on this for me? A previous job refused to switch me from non-exempt hourly to exempt salary because they said they already legally capped out how many people they could have on salary. Is this a real thing?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          Anyone and everyone can be paid hourly, that’s the default.

          They can choose if they want to make you exempt and salaried but they don’t need to or have any reason to unless they find it beneficial to them.

          There’s no legal cap on how many can be exempt, which is strange for them to say it that way.

        2. Just a thought

          To my knowledge, there’s nothing that makes sense about that. Being exempt (from overtime) or non-exempt is based on the job role itself, not some arbitrary employment metric on the employer’s side. There’s definitely no “legally capped” unless you’re in a really weird, very specific industry – but even if that were the case, they simply wouldn’t have the roles; they wouldn’t just decide you couldn’t be exempt.

        3. Oh No She Di'int

          I’ve never heard of a cap on the number of salaried employees, at least not from a legal standpoint. Although I suppose it’s possible that a company for whatever reasons (insurance?) might decide internally that they only want X number of salaried employees. Also I can imagine that if you’re talking about a non-profit organization, a government agency, or academia, there might also be other rules at play.

          I’m interested though in your phrasing: “refused” to switch you. Did you want to be switched over but weren’t allowed?

        4. Jadelyn

          That’s…not a thing. At least not that I’ve ever heard of. If you have a company of nothing but executives, admin folks with decision-making discretion, and highly-paid IT folks, you could theoretically have an entire company of exempt employees.

          The only thing that determines whether or not a given person can be exempt is whether their role matches the criteria for exempt roles. There are a few different types of criteria. (My mom’s crappy HR tried to tell her they couldn’t make her exempt because she didn’t supervise staff directly. I sent her back to them with a fact sheet from CA DIR about the different exemption types. They finally made her exempt.)

          1. Oh No She Di'int

            Again, I am finding this fascinating. What is the rationale for people fighting to be made exempt, when all it means is that you can never be paid for overtime work? This is not a challenge, it’s an honest attempt to understand what is motivating people.

            1. Jadelyn

              In the real, practical sense, there’s a flexibility to it that I love (I recently made the jump from hourly to exempt earlier this year, so the differences are still very fresh in my mind). I don’t stress if I’m running a little late in the morning or hit bad traffic, because my check isn’t going to be short the difference. I’m not clock-watching while we’re out at a team lunch, and I don’t have to work late or ask my manager to adjust my timesheet to make up the difference when the team lunch inevitably runs longer than my allotted lunch hour. If I have an appointment, I can flex my hours around that. It’s just honestly a lot less stressful for me overall, not feeling like I’m chained to a clock all the time. I do miss the OT from travel days, though – whenever I had a work trip, I knew I’d get a couple hundred extra bucks from it, lol.

              On a more psychological/social level, exempt positions are usually higher-level positions, simply because the requirements for exemption include the sorts of things that only higher-level positions do (people-managing, independent decision-making discretion, etc.), so exempt roles have become a bit of a status marker. Going from hourly to exempt is seen as a career progression.

              For my mom, for example, she had been a financial auditor (exempt) for years, and then her company was sold and everyone got laid off. She limped along in temp accounting roles for a couple years (she’s older and disabled, with no degree since she came up in a time when you didn’t need a degree to get into finance, so it’s hard to find a new job even with decades of experience behind you), then got into a new company as an account rep (hourly), and started working her way up. For her, getting to be exempt again was a recognition of and return to the status she’d lost when she was laid off. (Plus that company was really stingy and shitty about OT anyway, so she rarely got any benefit from being hourly in the first place.)

              1. Oh No She Di'int

                That insight is GOLD! Thank you so much. As I mentioned elsewhere, I am working through similar issues in my own company.

                I’m transferring one of my employees from one role to a newly created role. Internally, both the old role and the new role are equally prestigious. However, some of the arcane details of the job mean that she would legally have to go from exempt status to non-exempt. I am certain that that is going to feel like a come-down to her. But I am trying to stay legal. Trying to work through what to do.

                1. Jadelyn

                  Happy to help! Yeah, that’s going to be a bit of a rough conversation most like. I’d really emphasize the arcane details of the role being the issue – exemption rules are notoriously fussy and there are a bunch of different tests a role has to pass in order to be legally exempt, so structuring a role differently even if 95% of the actual work is the same can knock it out of being exempt-eligible, and that’s not a reflection on her value to the organization.

                  It will probably also help if you can be as flexible as possible with her hours, in terms of appointments, clocking in/out for lunch, things like that so that it’s not such a stark change. I’ve only gone one direction through this change, not the other, but I imagine it would feel pretty restricting to suddenly have to worry about those things again when you’re not used to it.

            2. Hope

              Ability to flex your time over a paycheck, instead of just over a week. If you’re not doing a lot of overtime, or if your work varies a lot from week to week, being exempt can be better than non-exempt. I used to be exempt, we were paid monthly, and it was very, very handy to be able to work two weeks with 10 hour days and then leave early or just not have to come in for a couple of days on the third or fourth week.

            3. BlackBeltJones

              …not having to drive like a bat-out-of-hell to get to a time-clock before it changes, coming in when I want to/staying later, because I don’t feel like I’m in some prison yard, having to clock out to attend a company lunch (which I will never attend, for that reason), not being able to work from home (not to be paid – just to get caught up/get ahead), having to remember to clock in and out at lunch time, being FORCED to take a lunch…There’s more, but I just don’t have time. Gotta clock back in…

            4. Alex

              I fought to be exempt.

              This was because my job is nearly impossible to do between the hours of X and Y. Not because of work overload, but because I have customers all over the world who work at various times, and sometimes it is easiest to just have an email exchange for a couple of minutes one evening.

              I also do a lot of problem solving, and sometimes I just need to keep working until the problem is solved.

              Now, I NEVER am in the situation where I must work more than 40 hours a week. So, I wasn’t ever getting any overtime. Overtime was NOT ALLOWED except in extremely rare and pre-approved times. So I was being required to sit at my desk from 9-5, and then I’d go home and be absolutely forbidden from answering emails or working out a problem when I needed to do so. I broke those rules all the time and was constantly getting the side eye from my boss for doing so.

              I finally laid it out to her that my status was making it difficult to be effective at my job, and that the job had evolved from when I had first been hired, when an hourly rate made more sense. (I wrapped this into why I should be PROMOTED to a job level that was exempt). I was eventually successful and now feel much less stress overall about my schedule and work hours.

            5. The Man, Becky Lynch

              There as has been great insight but everyone who is chomping at the bit for salary, still wants to be cautious about it.

              The flexibility doesn’t always come with exemption. I was still held to a start time, if I wasn’t there, it was a lot of headaches and I had to let everyone know that I was behind. It meant that I was required to be there at least 40 hours a week, there was a ton of clock watching involved, even though I never had to clock in.

              I however am hourly again and I have true flex-time available. I start when I start, have core hours and if I need to work later on a project, I get OT along with my higher than ever before wages.

              The idea of exemption is great and when executed right, when done right by the properly run companies is fantastic when this is the true way things are done.

              My brother thrived on exemption because his employer did it for all the right reasons explained by so many others here and having a set paycheck was great so you can count on that money.

              Until you get the employer who nickles and dimes your PTO when you’re actually flexing your time because, well they can or still has a hard start time and no flexibility on it, even if your job doesn’t require you to be there right when the darn place opens, etc.

              Salary in the end takes a lot of trust and knowledge of your employer’s ways of doing things. I wouldn’t take salary again unless it was enough money that if I’m ever found to be forced into 60 hour weeks, regularly, my hourly figure doesn’t get me down to near minimum wage levels.

            6. Seeking Second Childhood

              Maybe salaried people get better pension benefits or 401K matching or a higher percentage of their health insurance paid for by the company?

    2. A Poster Has No Name

      My company got busted trying to do this a few years back. Changed my husband’s team from hourly to salaried, bumped their salary and set an OT “expectation” of 5 hours (which my husband ignored, as we carpooled and I didn’t want to stay late every day and he knew damn well they couldn’t enforce it).

      A few years later they got audited, found their positions don’t qualify for exempt status, so they had to switch everyone back to hourly and pay out any OT that the employees could document.

  15. agnes

    Congratulations! It is so good to hear about a collaborative resolution. I wish more people would take this approach, rather than just remain upset about something.

  16. Guacamole Bob

    I’m less inclined than others here to assume bad faith on HR’s part. They should have been more careful, and they should have been more willing to double-check more readily when the issue was raised, but errors in spreadsheets happen. A lot. And they can be subtle and hard to track down. Especially because the person doing this math may or may not be the kind of analyst who creates these kinds of spreadsheets regularly, since this sounds like a fairly unusual circumstance in the payroll world of this company.

    Either way, I’m really glad that OP pushed back and got a better outcome.

    1. Jedi Squirrel

      True. A lot of people who go into HR are not necessarily math types.

      Protip: run your formulas by a math type.

    2. Quinalla

      Agreed, I’ve seen a lot of folks make math errors in my time and stubbornly defend them too, its definitely a thing. And agreed also that they can be very difficult to spot, even if they are reviewed thoroughly by fresh eyes.

      So glad your push back worked after recruiting the group! It is so much harder for bosses/HR to ignore a group than it is to ignore one or two “complainers”.

      1. Antilles

        Initially, maybe, but not after OP brought “numbers from the amount of overtime I had worked for the last two years and discussed the change in pay.”
        Even if you would have trouble finding your own math errors (which, for the record, seems like a worrying problem for someone in charge of salaries and writing checks), it seems reasonable to expect you to figure it out after someone else directly shows you what the number is supposed to be.

    3. T. Boone Pickens

      Yup, came here to say this. All it takes is one math error or someone calculates salary differently and it will absolutely gum up the works.

    4. Just a thought

      I can appreciate that, but they were said to have re-checked the numbers before the final resolution. One mistake is understandable, but repeated ones do deserve a glance askance.

      1. Shelly574

        Rechecking the numbers may very well cause a repeat in the mistake, if it was done in the coding of the spreadsheet or by someone (like me) with dyslexia. I can read the same column of numbers wrong a dozen times. My brain literally doesn’t see the error. I think generally don’t assume malice where incompetence can be an explanation.

      2. Observer

        No, they just said “No, we’re right”, apparently without ever re-checking. It’s pretty clear that they just assumed that the OP was just “whining”. Also, note that when all of the staff backed the OP up, the manager was the one who did the math and said “Something is wrong” rather than HR offering to re-check. They probably would have continued to insist that the numbers were just fine, had the manager not pushed it.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch

      That’s why when someone challenges the numbers on a spreedsheet, you should do it in a new one to check it out. You break it out and show the math instead of relying on a computer that relies on proper input for the calculations since there’s a margin for error there.

      I’ve deal with so many HR nightmares, I give them the benefit of the doubt and judge how they react, they reacted poorly therefore I’m not going to act like they are justified in any way here. Mistakes are fine, defending them and digging your heels in until the very end when the mob starts closing in, is not.

      I wouldn’t say it’s malicious or that they all need to be fired but they are certainly being lazy and stubborn instead of taking someone seriously when they flag their math being incorrect.

    6. Construction Safety

      Off-hand, there are a few opportunities for errors: 1) just bad formulae; 2) accounting for OT in a week where there was PTO (don’t have to pay OT wages on “unworked” time); 3) OT in a week where there was a holiday (same as #2); etc.

    7. Jadelyn

      the person doing this math may or may not be the kind of analyst who creates these kinds of spreadsheets regularly

      This x1000. My HR team is lucky – we’ve got one person on each coast who actually, genuinely, is a data person (me on the west coast, one of the older guys on the east coast), so stuff like this runs through one or both of us and we can verify that everything is set up correctly before employees are told anything based on the data. Sometimes we just do the initial setup and formulas and then lock it down tighter than the Queen’s jewelry box so the others can’t break the formulas, only enter data in specific spots, and give them their shiny new toy to run off and play with.

      But not all HR teams have someone like that. And unless they bring in someone from Finance to help – which they might not be willing to do, since it’s employee salary data – you’ve got some poor generalist fumbling through as best they can, with probably no more skill in this area than any given non-HR manager if they’d done it themselves.

      Heck, even Real Data People(tm) can make mistakes, too. It’s happened once or twice where I’ve finished a big set of comp calculations, sent it off to whoever it was supposed to go to, come back in the next morning and opened it back up for one last check (because I am the type of person who compulsively triple-checks stuff like that) and suddenly realized I’d made a mistake that threw the totals way the hell off. I generally ask my manager to review stuff before I send it, but he doesn’t do much more than scan it most of the time, so it’s hit or miss whether he’d catch anything if I didn’t.

    8. Elbe

      Even if you’re genuinely horrible at math, it should be pretty clear that keeping someone’s rate the same while taking away their overtime and added vacation isn’t going to even out for anyone who puts in overtime.

      Even if it had initially been an Excel error, I would think that anyone who actually reviewed it could pretty easily see the issue. The fact that they were ready to defend it when they thought it was just the LW makes me think it was more or less intentional.

      1. Guacamole Bob

        The way I read the letter, it was more like OP’s original salary was $50k, under salary the original proposal was $54k, and with overtime OP had been making $58k. Or something along those lines – they offered her more than she had been, but not enough.

    9. Tuppence

      So much this! It might not even be a spreadsheet error either – I’ve been in a situation where I’ve been calculating accrued annual leave and felt very confident in my final figure… until I realised I hadn’t accounted for the person’s nonstandard working hours! (or the bonus day for length of service, or whatever). If those people had pushed back with a simple “that doesn’t seem right” I’d have remained confident in my figures; if they specifically queried “does this take [X thing] into account?” I’d go back and double check them.

      I can definitely imagine overtime being somewhat complex to fully account for in a salary calculation, plus of course presumably part of the driver for this change was to save the company money, so it would make sense for the calculations to make some kind of allowance for the OT payments, while not attempting to fully bring it up to the same level.

  17. Emily S.

    Wow, O.P.! I am really impressed with how you handled this.

    Great job to you, both advocating for yourself AND your colleagues! Well done!

  18. Robbenmel

    When your kids whine that they’ll never need math in “real” life…
    Congrats, OP! Kudos to you for pushing this and to your teammates for coming on board for a bumpy ride!

  19. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

    Even though this is a good outcome (sort of) for the OP, I’d also want to now double check that they haven’t misclassified the OP and their coworkers. Since HR doesn’t really seem to be all that competent in their math skills (or more likely that they were hoping the OP and others weren’t), perhaps they aren’t all that…aware…of the law either. It isn’t just up to the company to decide if a position is hourly vs. salary.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

        I’m salary exempt and I really like it for various reasons, but I’m rarely expected to do any overtime — maybe once a year — and I have very generous leave which is considered part of my earned compensation (California). If they tried to take away any of the paid holidays, vacation days, or sick days (3 separate buckets) without making up for it in my salary, you can bet there’d be a uprising by employees. The org has hinted the last few years at slashing our paid holidays and making us use our vacation time instead but so far has not. I don’t know if I’d actually quit over it, but I definitely would be making a lot of noise that they are literally reducing my compensation.

      2. Filosofickle

        I much preferred to be on salary! (And as a consultant, I prefer flat fees to hourly.) It surely depends on the work, boss & culture, though. I’ve seen tons of stories here about lousy salary arrangements — bosses that expect butts in seats for 40 hours no matter what, lots of uncompensated additional hours without comp time, inappropriate classifications etc.

        But in my experience being salaried has given me a lot more freedom — if they weren’t paying by the hour they didn’t feel the need to watch us like a hawk. On salary I’ve generally been able to: work fewer hours one week because I worked more the week before; go home early if there’s nothing more to do; flex my schedule to fit in daytime appointments without having to jump through hoops; get comp time for excessive O/T. My experiences may not be typical for everyone, but they’ve been pretty consistent across my jobs.

        Hourly always made me feel watched. Being salaried made me feel more trusted and gave me greater autonomy.

      3. Kat in VA

        I was hourly as a temp for my current job, then my contract ended, then they hired me back into the same position permanently when the woman I was filling in for quit.

        I much, much prefer salaried – even though I regularly work 60 hour weeks. I usually work from 0730 to around 1600 every day, but there are some days where I’m like WELP I AM DONE at 1400 or whatever and pack up and leave. I might login again at home but I can go home early, get in late or whatever and no one really cares.

        However, my company also trusts me to get my job done and expects that we’re all adults and won’t take advantage. I know that’s reasonable to expect when we’re just talking about it, but there will always be folks who try to wreck it for everyone else, i.e., the “I’m working from home but actually playing XBox while moving my mouse every 2 minutes or so to keep the laptop from going to sleep” types or the people who breeze in at 0900 and leave at 1300 citing a different litany of excuses and don’t login again until the next day.

  20. Jedi Squirrel

    So……if AAM were an RPG, two player characteristics would be “Math Skills” and “Badassery”. What would the others be?

    1. juliebulie

      We can keep Intelligence in case it’s the kind of job where they value that sort of thing.
      .
      You might need Constitution depending on the availability of sick days.

      Strength in case it is one of those offices where people punch one another, tickle, unwanted hugging, etc.

      I’d add Politics as well (in place of Charisma). Some places you can’t survive without a 13 or better in Politics.

      And there needs to be some provision for psionic ability because as we’ve seen all too often, it helps if you can read minds.

    2. Polaris

      “Institutional knowledge,” if I’m remembering the phrase correctly. All those little unspoken rules and methods you pick up over the years of working at the same place.

      1. Jedi Squirrel

        Yep. ISO calls it “organizational knowledge” but normal people call it institutional knowledge.

      1. OhNo

        Sounds like a flaw marker the DM (GM? AM?) could use against you, which is always fun. Oh, you think your character would do the sensible thing? Roll for gumption and let’s find out!

    3. Rainy

      Quoting from an amazing tweet I saw a while back:

      “CV? I think you mean the character and stats sheet for your worksona.”

    4. S-Mart

      I’m not sure how to capture it in a word. “Talkiness” maybe? Basically the ability _and willingness_ to use your words. So many letters boil down to ‘talk to the source of your problem’.

      Endurance. For dealing with all the little things that aren’t really problems but are ways one person can annoy another.

      Experience. Not as a measure of points for accumulating to level up or spend on other things, but a measure of how familiar with basic office norms you are. Also for rolling to recognize if your current situation is toxic/weird but acceptable/completely normal/awesome.

      Writing. For creating all these letters to Alison (and comments).

      That’s off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood

      I’d like high ranks in diplomacy, haggling, and (for my documentation) a lot of ranks in spot check.
      With a previous toxic boss, I needed extra ranks in Jump. And gained a few Nature ranks because of all the mushrooms* growing around us.
      (Button mushrooms and portobello grow best when kept in the dark and fed a lot of horse manure.)

      1. Jadelyn

        Mushrooms! I couldn’t believe I was the only one on my team familiar with the mushroom thing! I made a snarky comment at one point about us being treated like mushrooms, and my team all looked blankly at me. I said “You know, mushrooms – to grow them, you keep them in the dark and feed them horsesh*t.”

        You’d have thought I had just made the best joke of the year. I was just baffled, since I picked that saying up from my dad when I was a kid.

  21. !

    This is a perfect example of strength in numbers as I wonder if OP would have gotten the same result without everyone else pushing for the same. I hope your coworkers took you out to lunch for your efforts!

  22. MtnLaurel

    Alison, it’s so terrific to know that you answer even the letters that don’t appear. This makes me idolize you even more. <3

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I don’t want to take misplaced credit — I do answer some letters privately, but it’s still a small percentage of the whole. Lots of letters don’t get a response at all, just due to lack of time.

  23. Louise

    Collective action is so powerful! So amazing you took the extra step to advocate for your coworkers, this is seriously awesome.

  24. Quickbeam

    This a great letter and a wonderful outcome. Often people are sold on being salaried and point to the alleged flexibility. However once you get there the policies may be a rigid as they are for hourly workers. Excellent OP!

  25. Staja

    Congrats, OP! I love these stories

    I too, once got hit with the “bad math” line when my manager was very excited to tell me I was getting a 15% raise to move to salary. When I explained that her that it was less than 7% per my math, she said that she just assumed it was 15% and her math must have been bad.

    1. Rectilinear Propagation

      LW has a perfect opportunity to suggest this to their co-workers, now that they’ve demonstrated how well it works.

  26. Elbe

    YAY OP!!! Talking with the other coworkers was such a good move. I think it was the possibility of losing a large chunk of their work force that made them “check the math”. OP did herself and her coworkers a service by putting in the effort and taking on the risk of bringing this up.

    And YAY Alison for answering questions that won’t be published (or monetized)! It’s so nice and has – clearly – helped a lot of people in very real ways.

  27. OhBehave

    Bad math my a$&!

    How satisfying to have a problem presented AND updated in the same post!!

    Great job, OP.

  28. Goose Lavel

    No one needs to be a math wiz to figure this out.

    If you work an average of 10 hours OT a week (which is at 1.5X hourly rate) at $10 per hour, you make $150 per week in OT. Add this to your weekly base pay and you get $550 gross pay for the week.

    You will need at pay bump of 37.5 % to go from hourly to salary to get the same weekly pay.

    Look at your yearly average of overtime as a function of yearly base pay + overtime pay to come to a new salary wage. My son works construction and made $137K last year on a base pay of $43 per hour by working an average of 15 hours of OT a week.

    What am I missing?

    1. PollyQ

      Mathematically, nothing, but my guess is that the department was creating a new salary that would apply to a whole class of job, rather than doing an individual calculation for each worker.

      1. Goose Lavel

        Thank you! I knew the math was simple, but didn’t read it the same way as you that they were all getting the same pay.

        1. PollyQ

          Also, a horrifyingly large number of people are genuinely terrible at math, esp. anything having to do with percentages or, god help us, probability. Hell, there’s even an article today over on Lifehacker that tells weightlifters how to know how much weight they’re lifting. (Spoiler: you add up the weights of all the things.)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        That’s why you use averages and realize that you have to talk to people through the process, since wages are a horribly tricky subject but HR should be well versed in hard conversations.

        You look at the role over time and average out what the yearly OT has been for say the last 5 years and if your company projected growth is still in line. It’s so much more than just one person, or a team of current people in the end. Which is why it can be tricky math but it has to be done by someone and can’t just be brushed off!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      As a Math Wizard, who has had to learn a lot about “it’s not as easy for everyone as it is for you, sis.” over my stubborn years. It really can blow the minds of people who are used to just filling out paperwork or doing a job that doens’t require math to be a skillset.

      My brother barely got through remedial math and my parents are…my parents and I love them. I have had to break out simple math since I was a child for the most part.

      I have had to explain paychecks and payroll to many various people over the years and to varying degrees of people, I learned a few years, given the ratio of people who just get it verses the people who need me to talk them through the numbers, yeah math is a big old dagger in a lot of sides of very good, still smart people!

      That aside, I would buy “Math!” as the issue if they weren’t being so stubborn about having to be forced to actually check their numbers.

      1. Observer

        That doesn’t surprise me in the least. To me it reads

        How dare you non-HR peon complain about the compensation we are so graciously offering you!? Do you really think the WE on high have not provided all the thought anyone needs on the matter? Don’t bother your mind with this. WE have the answers.

        Consternation when OP pushes back, reluctant decision to “explain” themselves. Shock when OP makes it clear that it’s not just one “uppity” worker. Total denial (internally) that they MIGHT have made an error. Only when MANAGER finally pushes back are they forced to reconsider.

        If this had been deliberate they would have “discovered the error” between the first meeting with just OP and the team meeting, because they would have realized that the game was up. But they were simply so unwilling to accept the possibility that they actually MADE A MISTAKE that they simply didn’t seriously look at anything they had done.

        Not impressive – and a good reason to check other decisions if something doesn’t look right. They don’t sound like a group that takes correction easily.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          I completely, hands down agree with your assessment.

          After years of very wounded employees treating me like some kind of untouchable force that they must first kiss my ring before approaching with questions, concerns or heaven forbid to bring an error to my attention.

          My mother and her coworkers have to deal with awful HR that has that outlook. They all track their vacation time internally because they can’t trust the payroll people do it. Their check stubs are always wrong, egregiously wrong! So I’m extra angry about this kind of treatment of employees when it gets a spotlight on it. It happens. I’m tired of “retraining” good, decent, smart people to not fear me as the “HR” person because yeah, I’m here to protect the company first of all but the second job is to protect the employee and keep them happy/safe as much as frigging possible. Happy workers, make better products, make better profits in the end. It’s literally the easiest concept and I’ve known “Treat others well and like they’re valuable and they will in turn be kind and valuable and stick around long term” since I was a child, it’s how you retain good friends too, y’all!

    1. Goya de la Mancha

      Hit enter too quick in my disgust.

      You don’t get a double increase on several employees with bad math! That was intentional and I would be looking elsewhere as soon as possible.

  29. Friendly Comp Manager

    This is awesome, OP! I am in a position to regularly need to review OT and shift differentials when converting pay to an annual amount, from an hourly rate. I INSIST that we always consider the OT, and have been known to ask Payroll for my own reports to ensure it is accurate and the employee does not feel shorted and their pay was fairly calculated and considered. Our pay analysis template (that my team built) has annual OT on it, and we do a 2-3 year lookback in some cases. This is just a terrible situation for you, OP, so sorry and SO proud of you for pushing back! Good for you!

    I am disappointed that this HR department did not do their due diligence or even re-calculate their numbers before presenting it to an employee! Even if it was a mistake. They are impacting people’s livelihoods, and should not be so … blase … that they don’t double or even triple check their work. Sigh… I hate this kind of crap, mistake or not. That’s just nonsense.

    I also wonder if you were or are now correctly categorized as exempt, but that is a question for another time. It’s really unusual that a position would “just switch” from hourly to salaried without some explanation (e.g., “your job was evaluated and meets the criteria to be considered exempt from overtime”), but I’ll try not to be too hard on HR people that I don’t know. Being in HR, nothing makes me more angry than people not doing their jobs right.

  30. Fiddlesticks

    “HR discovered their math was bad”…..hahahaha….riiiiight!! Good for you, OP, and good for the power of coworkers banding together, and hurray for Alison’s advice! This is a great outcome.

  31. Woodsy

    Great work! I had a semi-similar situation years ago. I was part of a team working in a remote location. We were scheduled for an 8 hour/40 hour week but responsible for emergency response and more than occasional questions from the public essentially 24/7. We lived at our work site. Management started getting on us for, apparently, not necessarily starting at 8AM (our scheduled start time). Fair enough, so another employee and I started keeping track of every hour we worked outside our scheduled shift.

    It turned out to be a pretty significant number of, essentially, overtime hours. Now that they were told we were working overtime, they had no choice but to either pay us or tell us to not work with public at off hours or respond to minor emergencies (major ones were on the clock at OT rates). FLSA clearly says if management knows or should have known work was being performed, they have to pay or prohibit the work.

    Lots of pearl clutching and moaning by managers but our HR person was very by the book (her only redeeming quality) and said they had to act. Because of our public role, managers did not want us to turn away public, so we all agreed on a type of overtime compensation that gave us about 20% more and was equivalent to the off-shift times we were working. It also helped that we could also file grievances asking for 7 years of previous unpaid overtime (heh: knew or SHOULD have known). A similar case for others in our agency got them payouts of ~$50,000 each.

    Anyway, the point is collective action can work. A group approaching management politely (of course!), knowing the laws and regulations and, as here, having accurate time logs, and proposing reasonable solutions, can often be successful. (Or, sure, get you fired…).

    Incidentally, we were backcountry rangers for National Park Service and worked out of remote stations, marked by signs and on maps as ranger stations. They were also our quarters so couldn’t very well put up a “go away” sign… .

  32. Wrench Turner

    Hell yeah. That’s what I like to see! “Our math was bad” when it’s more than one of you, yeah okay sure.

  33. Blue Horizon

    “…since I was not the only person unhappy with the results, I wondered if we should bring the rest of the team in on this discussion. They were shocked…”

    Haha. I’ll bet. (Mind the barricades on your way out!)

  34. ShwaMan

    I sincerely hope that your coworkers view you as a Superstar Hero for the rest of your working life there. Well done!!

  35. cncx

    having gone through a salary adjustment myself, this letter simply warms my heart.

    Of course HR “miscalculated” *snort*

  36. Remote Worker and Dog Lover

    I’m so glad it all worked out! Good on the LW for continuing to push it and having the guts to speak to colleagues about their concerns.

  37. Cherries on top

    Question: I’m not in the US and don’t know how this works, but is being rewarded for not calling in sick common?
    Althoug I also find the notion of having limited sick time absurd (well, we do, in a way, here to, but it’s way longer.)
    OP: Good update and hope your uncompensated “overtime” is non-existent.

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