A week ago yesterday, on July 10, I wrote a letter to the Executive Director of the skilled nursing facility where I work asking that he look into the matter of unpaid overtime I believe is owed me. I cc.'d the letter to my supervisor and the manager of the Human Resources Department. On the following Monday, upon my arrival at work, I was ushered into the director's office for a little chit-chat with my boss, the HRM and the Director of Nursing. Apparently, the ED was no longer in the building (that is another story altogether), so the DON sat in for him. What transpired was like a bad movie starring Nurse Ratchet on crack, Cruela DeVille and Joe Pesci's flat faced body double. Here is a copy of the letter, followed by a chronology of events, including and since that little beat down of Mike's ignorant ass.
To: James Gann, Executive Director-Evergreen Mountainview Healthcare
On the morning of July 10, 2008, after receiving my check, I went to the human resources office to inquire as to why I had not been paid the overtime I was due. Since this was not the first time the hours I had worked had exceeded eighty hours in the pay period and I had not been paid the overtime, I felt an explanation was in order. Upon my request, the Human Resource Manager, Barbara LaSur, asked me if she had not explained that to me before. I told her yes, but not to my satisfaction since most of the other employees in Dietary had received overtime pay for all hours over eighty in the same pay period, not to mention many previous pay periods. She then said that I was hired as a cook at a cook’s wage and that I was not a cook. I responded that I was hired at that job description and at that rate. At this point, I described the situation as “bull shit”. She then handed me a slip of paper and told me to call corporate and they would explain it to me. I responded that I would just call the Labor Board instead and have them explain it to me, and she told me to go right ahead. At that point I left her office. On my way out the door Ms. LaSur asked me why I didn’t just quit my job. I asked her in turn why she didn’t quit her job and she responded that she had been there too long. I told her everyone has a problem.
I have expressed my dissatisfaction with this ongoing situation to my supervisor, Joe Bill, on several occasions. His response has always been that he would take care of the situation. That has yet to occur. Almost two months ago, I agreed to cut back the number of days I worked from five to four because of a decline in the census. Since that time, I have been asked to work an extra day almost every week. If that has resulted in some overtime hours, it is not my fault. I have always complied with my supervisor’s requests to work any required shift and have been diligent in the exercise of my job duties. I do not feel I deserve to be treated in this manner.
I ask that you look into this matter and if necessary, review my payroll records to insure that I receive all back overtime payment that is due me. I appreciate your prompt consideration in this matter.
Michael I. Swall
Dietary Department-Evergreen Mountainview Healthcare
Cc: Joe Bill
Cc: Barbara LaSur
Now, back to the beat down. Cruela showed me some time sheets dating back to April that I had never seen before broken down by weeks from Friday through Thursday and tried to tell me I got copies of them in my pay envelope every payday. When I argued that I had never seen these before and asked her to make me copies back to the day I started she said she didn't have time for that. After twenty minutes of being told I was too fucking stupid to understand their explanation of the difference between a "work week" and a "pay period", I asked my betters if they had read my letter and that I understood their b.s. but didn't buy the legitimacy or legality of their explanation. At this point, exasperated and fresh out of spew, they told me I'd better just go to the Labor Board and let them explain it. Hey, now we were getting somewhere. It turned out to be a productive meeting after all. An invitation to go to the state was more than I could have hoped for. This meant they couldn't really get pissy with me for doing something I was planning to do anyway. At this point, the pow-wow ended abruptly. They gave me the distinct impression I had wasted enough of their precious time.
Well, it took me all week but I finally got around to going to the Labor Board yesterday. I learned quite a lot in a short time while talking to the nice people at the State. I learned that there is a difference between a "right to work" state and an "at will" state. Right to work means employees reserve the right to choose to be union or non union and cannot be forced to be one or the other. "At will" means both the employee and the employer may terminate the working relationship at any time without notice or reason. Two entirely different things.
Another thing I learned is that employers in Nevada have the right to differentiate between "work weeks" and pay periods. This is a loophole that allows employers to avoid paying overtime in many instances and is a dicey issue that should be addressed by the state legislature, in my opinion. It means I will probably not be remunerated for the hours I thought were overtime.
An issue that I raised with the Labor people that I did not bring up with management was the company practice of deducting thirty minutes a day for breaks that are not taken or are worked through. Many of us at the facility regularly work through our lunch breaks or do not punch out on the time clock at all because we are constantly short handed and have too much to do. This is a practice that management has looked the other way at and, in fact, quietly condoned. Why not? They get the best of both worlds-the work gets done and they steal thirty minutes a day out of everyone's paycheck. The folks at Labor, on the other hand, furrowed their brows and wrinkled their noses and said this was not good. When I told them I did not clock out for lunch, with the complete knowledge of management, for the better part of seven months dating back to September of 2007, they asked to see my complete time records for that period. We may have something here. And something else. One of the cooks filed and anonymous complaint a few weeks ago about working through his breaks. The nice lady at the Labor Board told me that if she got a total of five complaints, even anonymous ones, it would generate an audit of all the company's facilities, state wide. That I could provide for her, standing on my head. She gave five complaint forms and I assured her I would be back.
Oh boy! Now I've got to go back and ask Cruela for copies she didn't have time to make for me. She and Nurse Crackhead and Flatface are not going to be happy with me when this all plays out. I may just want to start getting serious about finding another job, (see definition of "at will").