View Full Version : I have a friend who told me of her TERRIBLE/illegal(?) work conditions.

03-30-2010, 10:24 AM
I'm not going to say *too much* about this, so as not to provide specific details, but I will give Just Enough information as possible without naming the company, or the person involved.

So, here's the skinny...

she tells me, that in the TWO YEARS she's been working for this hotel chain; which boasts anywhere from 8 to 14 hotels across the nation; that she HAS NOT been allowed to take her full 30 minute lunch period, or her two ten minute breaks within her regular 8 hour shift(s)- yet the managers always get this privilege.

Also, when she takes bathroom breaks, she is told BY HER MANAGERS; that when she is making reservations for the hotel, that she has to take the phone INTO THE BATHROOM with her, with a pencil and pen... so that she continues to take reservations for the hotel. (health department violation?)

She is NOT ALLOWED (her managers have told her this), to take her regularly scheduled, full lunch period(s) nor is she allowed to go to the bathroom without taking the company phone into the bathroom stall.

She has told me how embarrassing she finds it to make reservations, while she is ON THE TOILET- while someone is RIGHT NEXT TO HER.

This has been going on for a full TWO YEARS now.

Likewise, she has told me that everyone who has complained about this in the past has been FIRED by the hotel for standing up for their rights.


So please advise me, who is she to contact...

a lawyer (so she can sue the company for denying her rights), The Health Department, And/Or, The Labour Department respectively?

Thank you.

03-30-2010, 10:53 AM
In this economy (or any economy really with employers like that) I don't know there is much she can do without losing her job over it.

It's just like the restaurant I worked at that would take till errors out of your paycheck if they caught a mistake where you had undercharged (like forgetting to charge for gravy for fries).

Or the one that would have you on the schedule and have you not clock in until you were needed on the floor so they could send you home without paying the mandatory three hours. Legally, if you are on the schedule and you show up and they send you home labour law says you are supposed to be paid for three hours. They would also charge the waitress if you had a dine and dash.

Just not sure there is much you can do about unscrupulous employers who treat employees like that if you want to actually keep the job.

03-30-2010, 11:18 AM
what you just described sounds both gangster-like, and illegal.

03-30-2010, 12:18 PM
what you just described sounds both gangster-like, and illegal.

Gangster...I do have my suspicions about the one restaurant, but my oh my the tips were sooo good there.

Illegal...absolutely. It was also illegal when I was told I would not be considered for the assistant manager position in the job I worked at when I was pregnant. I so wish I had taped that conversation. That would have been big bucks. Sigh.

There are two reasons I didn't pursue that one.

1. At the time I still was planning on returning to work with that company. Though I hated that particular manager, I LOVED the company. I loved the clothes, I loved the clientele, I loved merchandising and writing the training manual and creating a product knowledge newsletter - that was my very first copywriting job in a way though I had no idea what copywriting was at the time (I was paid a fraction of the hours I put into the project at my regular wage though they did reimburse me for the printing costs)

2. It was a she says/she says case, and I surmised from her previous behaviour that going against her would be a nasty experience. She did after all take credit for my merchandising and act as if the previously mentioned guide and newsletter were her idea...not to mention scheduling me for the nights the painters and floor washers came in...when I mentioned being uncomfortable around the paint fumes she mentioned that I could sit in the office if I was worried about it. Ugh.

03-30-2010, 08:33 PM
I've actually worked a few jobs that did things like this. Not the same things, but similar. For example the first job I held was working in the stockroom for an audio/video store. The store closed at 9:00 PM, but if there was a customer in the store we'd stay open for that customer to try to make a sale.

Most people might go home, but we or at least one of us would have to stay in the stockroom to pull what might be the order. The store manager would grab everyone's punch cards at 9:00 and start clocking people out, even though we weren't allowed to leave.

Maybe I'm wrong, but that seems somewhat illegal to me, forcing me to stay at work while not paying me for the time.

My solution. An hour before closing I grabbed my time card and kept it with me. The only time I could be clocked out was when I was walking out the door. There was never a problem from management for me doing that.

I suspect that in many cases you can refuse doing some of the things a manager tells you that you have to do. They get you to do it through fear of losing your job more than anything. With things like this that I felt were wrong or were taking advantage of me, I generally refused. Of course I was also always willing to walk away from the job, which some people may not be willing to do.

03-30-2010, 09:55 PM
Of course I was also always willing to walk away from the job, which some people may not be willing to do.

See, for me, at the time I was working those jobs, it was not so much as a willing as an able problem. You can't just walk out on a job when you need it to keep you fed...and most of those yucky jobs were when I was under 20. I started working at just before I was legal...13. It was only a few months off the legal age of 14 when I started. If I had ever dreamed at the time that the following Christmas wouldn't be in the home I grew up in, I never would have spent $800 on Christmas presents the first year I was employed. Sigh...

In any case, I've had brief periods of unemployment over the years...and a couple of those moments were really scary...edge of starvation type scary...

So sometimes you keep the job because you just can't handle the thought of ever being that hungry again.

Of course, you get to a point where you start believing in yourself enough that you stop taking that sort of treatment and you move up to a level where you can work on your own terms knowing there will be a better client or project around the corner if you do.

03-30-2010, 10:05 PM
It's been my experience that any employer who can get away with anything even remotely like this, will. Like Vangogh I've always been willing to stand up for myself and I've lost one job because of that - the rest of them, I gained the respect of my managers and co-workers and they didn't mess with me like that.

I agree - part of it is the whole - don't ever want to be hungry again scary thing - but I think another part of it would just be in personality, self-confidence and how much we are willing to put up with.

03-30-2010, 10:23 PM
It's been my experience that any employer who can get away with anything even remotely like this, will.

See I don't think it's any...just a few...most businesses aren't like that. Most are willing to treat their employees with respect and are willing to follow the rules...the best ones go beyond the rules and provide creative perks for their employees :-)

03-30-2010, 11:53 PM
I'd refer your friend here:

Department of labor is a broad term that describes all of the equivalent government agencies at the state and Federal levels. It comes from the proper name of the agency at the Federal level, which is the U.S. Department of Labor (see below).

But state equivalent agencies might go by different proper names. For example, the equivalent California agency is the Department of Industrial Relations, while the equivalent Texas agency is the Workforce Commission.

Regardless of their proper names, department of labor Web sites are excellent places to start for researching or asking questions about Federal and state employment and labor laws and other employment-related matters, for both employees and employers. Examples are listed below. EmployeeIssues.com (http://employeeissues.com/labor_departments.htm)

03-31-2010, 12:02 AM
You can't just walk out on a job when you need it to keep you fed

You might be surprised at how you can manage to feed yourself even without a job. It's one thing I learned to do leaving jobs suddenly. I don't recommend it for everyone, but being hungry has an interesting way of motivating you and putting lots of other things in perspective.

Not recommended, but actually more beneficial than some would imagine.

03-31-2010, 12:16 AM
Not recommended, but actually more beneficial than some would imagine.

And more dangerous for me than I would ever want to risk again. I think I might have shared this one before, but I went blind after a few days of not eating. It wasn't permanent (obviously) and it really didn't last that long in the scheme of things...but while it was happening I had no idea that it would end at all.

Oh well, no worries about that happening again. I am well fed and try to stay well stocked when it comes to food. We've gotten lean a few times, but not like that one summer...

03-31-2010, 12:17 AM
Yeah, that's not good. I wouldn't recommend going without food for you again.

03-31-2010, 01:01 AM
See I don't think it's any...just a few...most businesses aren't like that. Most are willing to treat their employees with respect and are willing to follow the rules...the best ones go beyond the rules and provide creative perks for their employees :-)

True - I'll stand corrected. I have friends who have had awesome jobs.

However - everywhere I've worked - this has been the case. I've worked in phone sales, media and printing - small companies, know-it-all owners, who didn't respect you unless you had the guts to stand up to them and draw a line in the sand so to speak... mind you, once you went through that orientation/hazing/confrontation process it could become a great place for you to work.

Steve B
03-31-2010, 05:41 AM
I know situations like this occur, but I think they are pretty rare these days (thankfully). I have a feeling there is more to this story than she is describing.

A hotel reservation clerk position is usually a very low paid entry level position. Even in this econony - there are tons of jobs that provide similar pay and benefits and will treat her much better. She just needs to find another job in my opinion.

The stuff she is describiing is a lot ot things (disrespectful, gross, demeaning etc.) but, hardly the kind of thing worth fighting in court unless it's easy to prove they only enforce these rules on females or some other proectected class. If they're not deducting for the breaks that she isn't allowed to take, then there may not be any violation of the law. I'd also be interested in knowing where this is happening (United States, a Union or non-Union facility etc.).

Van Gogh - that situation you described is a very common violation of the Wage and Hour laws in the U.S. Of course, they can madate that you stay late to service a customer, but they must pay you for it. I like the way you handled it.

03-31-2010, 10:53 AM
Steve, the funny thing is this was 25+ years ago. I think I was making the grand salary of $3.50/hour so the whole thing arose over a savings to me of under $2.00. I was less upset about the money itself than I was about the principle of the thing.

is usually a very low paid entry level position

That was my view with a lot of the jobs that treated me this way. When you're working for minimum wage or close to it, it's not all that hard to replace the salary.

03-31-2010, 12:04 PM
The going hungry thing isn't fun. I was there myself for a short while in my mid twenties.

Vangogh is right though, it can teach you a few things. One is how little you can live on, if you have to. Another is how resourceful you really are.

I don't recommend it, and don't plan personally to ever be in that situation again, but it did teach me that I could stick it out if I had to, and that some jobs are just not worth it.

03-31-2010, 02:17 PM
One other point on breaks - in some states employers are not required to give their employees breaks. Lunch yes, but breaks - not necessarily. Kansas was this way when I worked for employers in that state. My friends who worked for big companies got breaks, but I always ended up in the understaffed, overworked small business environment and we never got breaks and the employers were not required to give them to us.

Harold Mansfield
03-31-2010, 03:50 PM
Personally, I think suing by herself, would be more trouble than it's worth. If it were a group of employees, maybe, but a single person will not get a lot of attention from any of the Federal Agencies. They move slow.

Not only that, but, no sense in suing while you are still working there. even if legally they can't fire you, they will make life a living hell for you and probably cut you down to part time anyway.

I would just look for a new job

I have had a few jobs here in Vegas where I worked ungodly hours. Driving a Limo especially..it was nothing to work 12-15 hours or more on Fri, Sat or holiday weekend (totally against Federal Transportation Guidelines).

No, we weren't paid overtime. Our paychecks were for a straight 40 hrs a week. But we did make money and there were other perks to the job as well.

Technically, we didn't have to do it, but if your shift starts at 4 p.m., there was no way you were going home at Midnight on the weekend, working on the Las Vegas Strip...you don't start making any money until after midnight.

One company I actually worked a 24 hour shift ( by choice..it was the only way to make any money at that job) every Saturday going into Sunday Afternoon.

Different situation because for the most part, I worked the hours 'unpaid' because of opportunity to make gobs of cash money.

I can't see wasting time suing over lunches and breaks. I would just get another job. By the time the case gets to court (provided you can find an attorney that still does that kind of work), subtract the legal fees ( if anyone will even take that on contingency)..it will have been a complete waste of time and she'll be lucky to clear $2k 18 months or more later.

But it would depend on the state you are in. some states have tougher penalties than others. I suspect that the management knows exactly how lax or tough the labor laws are in the state...that's why they feel confident in getting away with it.

03-31-2010, 09:32 PM
I'm assuming that there is some reason she doesn't leave. I'd start a blog. Daily blog about how the work sucks and what happened today. If you want it to be anonymous, leave names and company names out of it. Odds are, the company or workers will never find the site. Could get a following of other people with lousy jobs though.

At some time in the future, add in names. If you do it right, you have an online chronicle of everything that happened to you or others and its accurate because you are writing about it daily.

If you do it right, people will find it once you update it using names in Google searches. Illegal, unethical, whatever; it could be a big embarrassment for people doing this to her down the road.

04-01-2010, 12:01 PM
The only issue with starting a blog is that companies do find the blogs and people can get fired over it. A prime example of that is the blogger Dooce, who was writing a blog and lost her job because of what she wrote.

By all means start a blog if you understand the risk and can deal with getting fired if that happens. I'm guessing, since this woman has been putting up with awful treatment for two years, she probably needs the job or feels she has no other options. If that's the case, starting a blog could be a risk.

04-01-2010, 12:52 PM
...Could get a following of other people with lousy jobs...What an uplifting, cheerful group that would be! Just what anyone would need for enouragement!

04-01-2010, 01:46 PM
Which is why I suggested keeping it anonymous enough that it probably wouldn't be found by somone in that company. Do a search and replace when you want to go public and replace Manager X with a name and add the company.

If at that time your blog jeopardizes other workers and they are fired, all the more reason for Legal action against the company.

Just a thought, anyway, if you want to get vendictive about it.

04-01-2010, 11:55 PM
...I'm guessing, since this woman has been putting up with awful treatment for two years, she probably needs the job or feels she has no other options...

I think the real issue here is in this statement. People don't put up with that kind of treatment if they feel like they have other options. The sad thing is that everyone (at least in developed countries) has other options. True, those other options could be difficult, could have tough to handle consequences, etc..., etc... but the reality is that there are other options. You just have to believe in yourself enough to pursue those other options. To be willing to pay whatever price there might be, take whatever risks you're going to encounter and just do it.

04-02-2010, 10:21 AM
What an uplifting, cheerful group that would be! Just what anyone would need for enouragement!

echo, that would be the most depressing website ever.

Harold Mansfield
04-02-2010, 11:14 AM
I have had some difficult jobs in the past and some difficult bosses. There's an old saying in the Bar business (Actually, I think I'm the only one who say's it):
"If a Bartender is making money, you can pound crap on him and he'll come back the next day." and it's true.

I've worked in some very arrogant places with terrible managers, but I was making $300 - $800 a night in tips + $10 hr and up and bene's, so I sucked it up. On the other hand, I've worked from some real A-holes for $50 a day in tips+min wage and I would walk on them in a heartbeat..most times without warning and almost inevitably mid shift.

It all comes down to how much is invested with the company. If you have financial perks and benefits, stock options, and good health insurance that your family depends on, it's hard to say "Just walk away and find something else"...in that case, maybe some legal action is necessary..but that is also the end of your time there and the process is still very long and you need a lot of proof, documentation, and witnesses willing to come forward.

Most times since that means currently employed people, who probably won't be dependable, or ex-employees who may not be credible.

If it's just a weekly paycheck, that is much easier to replace and I wouldn't waste the time trying to sue.

What is the greatest possible outcome of legal action ? What is the probable outcome ?

Any decent attorney could probably sum it up in under 20 minutes. If legal action is being considered, I'd do a consultation to see if it is worth the time, compared to possible compensation and what kind of case can I prove.

In court, it's not about who is right or wrong, it's about what you can prove.

04-20-2010, 12:45 PM
I think you're right Harold. Most of the time when it comes to bad treatment, it's probably best to just get out of the situation and move on. Much as I would like to be able to say that you can always rely on justice to be done, that isn't always the case.

I guess it comes down to each person making a decision for themselves. Sometimes it is worth a fight, other times it isn't.