I’m In Trouble for Working too Hard

by Evil HR Lady on February 24, 2016

I am being reviewed and just got written up by my supervisor/manager for insubordination. I have been working off the clock for months now because my workload has doubled, and I’ve trying to do what I can to get the job done, and my boss has not been much help. My supervisor /manager have seen me doing this but are now denying it and saying that I have been doing it without their knowledge or permission. They have requested that HR reviews my comings and goings so that they can compensate me for my time now but only because HR had become aware of the situation.  They never approached me about the issue until I began complaining about my workload and that is when they started to review my job and are now saying that I am not meeting job expectations.  This is their way of finding reasons to fire me.

My supervisor was aware of me staying late and coming in early. I only logged in my normal work times and my supervisor approved my time sheet knowing that I was working more than just those hours. My schedule is for a 37.5 hr work week.

What do you recommend I should do before I get fired?  My boss is trying to wipe her hands of all this like she didn’t know and  even claiming that I never told her I was overloaded with work. But I have witnesses, other coworkers who were present when I advised her I had to stay late because I had too much work and needed to meet deadlines.  She never replied or offered to provide me with help until I kept complaining and she finally realized that I was going to go over her head to her boss which, by the way, is now also taking her side on all this as well claiming she was not aware of any of this when she had seen me when they would leave the office and knew I was still at my desk working.

Well, there’s a whole bunch of stuff going on here with people doing things that they shouldn’t. Because you asked, I’ll start with what you did wrong.

The employee:  You should never, ever, not in a million years, work off the clock when you’re non-exempt. While your motives were pure, it’s caused a heck of a lot of trouble. First of all, it’s illegal for a company not to pay you for all hours worked, including overtime where appropriate. Now, you can’t be punished by the Department of Labor for this, but the business surely can.

You can also be fired (or disciplined) for working off the clock, which you’re finding out.

Legal violations aren’t the only problem with working off the clock here, though. Here are a few more problems.

  • It keeps your boss from understanding the impact of your current workload. You keep getting it done, so why should she make any changes?
  • It prevents the company from understanding the true financial impact of their decisions.
  • It places stress on you and your co-workers. You’re working crazy hours, not getting compensated, and becoming stressed out. But your co-workers also face problems. They aren’t accomplishing as much as you are, and since officially, you’re still working only 37.5 hours a week, they look like slackers.
  • If your boss didn’t know (which she may not have known the extent), she can’t adjust workloads accordingly.

As for not meeting job expectations, it’s probably true–you’re expected to do your work withing 37.5 hours per week and come to your manager if you have problems doing so.

The manager: Your manager should have objected to the very first time card where you didn’t record your total hours worked. Why didn’t she?

  • She’s getting free work. It doesn’t hit her budget if you aren’t getting paid.
  • She looks good because her department is producing at a super high level.
  • She’d have to confess to her boss her poor management skills if her employees need regular overtime. Or she’d have to get permission to authorize the overtime. Ignoring you is much easier.

She shouldn’t be talking here about you not meeting expectations and trying to come up with a reason to fire you. She should be smacking herself for ignoring the overtime, thinking she could get away with it.

The boss’s boss: Also a weenie, although not as much as your manager. Depending on how the company operates, she may not have known you were working uncompensated overtime. For instance, when I had non-exempt employees reporting to me, my boss would never, ever see their time cards. Sure, she could run an audit if she wanted to (I guess!), but otherwise, she wouldn’t know if an employee was working uncompensated overtime. Sure, she sees you working late hours, but didn’t necessarily know that you weren’t getting paid for it.

She is lying if she said she didn’t know you were working late, but she may be telling the truth if she didn’t know you were uncompensated.

HR: They are the heroes here. They saw a problem and a legal violation and they are working to fix it. Yay, HR! Perfect as always! </snark>

Now, what will happen to you? Well, it’s obvious that your boss is going to try to save herself by lying. She screwed up, and she knows it. So, you should calmly present your side of the story, including that she frequently saw you leaving late. HR should be highly skeptical that your manager was completely unaware of your work hours.

Is there a chance you’ll face a severe punishment? Yes, but I’d say that was pretty small. Your manager never told you directly to knock off the uncompensated overtime, so if I was giving out punishments, I’d be less inclined to punish you. The deal is, if your manager switches her story to say she told you repeatedly not to work overtime, then she has to admit that she knew about it. She’s not likely to do that.

My prediction? A strong talking to and a “don’t do that again.”

In the future, keep your manager in the loop when your workload is too high.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Dilbert is my hero February 24, 2016 at 4:48 pm

She should also now document how many hours of overtime she worked, who witnessed it, etc. If she is fired, she can at least make a claim for that overtime.

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Evil HR Lady February 24, 2016 at 5:00 pm

Duh. I should have written that down. She’s entitled to the pay–overtime included.

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Judith February 24, 2016 at 5:43 pm

Great reply especially the bullet points for why a non exempt employee should not work overtime without approval and compensation. I especially appreciate that you highlight the impact to the employer regarding skewing numbers for that job function and the overall ability of the organization to make informed decisions. As an employee representative, I’ve shared these same impacts with fellow non exempt employees, often to no avail. Employees believe they are doing their employer a favor by not claiming overtime pay and refuse to accept they are causing potential harm to the employer, themselves, and their co-workers.

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Evil HR Lady February 25, 2016 at 8:16 am

Yep. The thing is, the employer is liable even if the employee is doing it voluntarily, so yeah, putting your company at risk.

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grannybunny February 24, 2016 at 6:08 pm

I don’t share the sanguine view of the potential outcome. I expect that the employee will get paid for the estimated overtime, but fired.

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Evil HR Lady February 25, 2016 at 8:16 am

I hope not! Possible. But, I hope not!

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Sara February 25, 2016 at 7:00 pm

I hope not too, but honestly, the only way to make a non-exempt employee stop this behavior is to fire them. Of course in this case, hopefully they can educate everyone involved and get on track, but I sure wouldn’t trust that employee’s time card in the future….

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Kicking Bird February 24, 2016 at 6:22 pm

Great response.

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Evil HR Lady February 25, 2016 at 8:16 am

Thank you!

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JIll February 24, 2016 at 6:22 pm

It sure sounds to me like Boss needs a scapegoat and the letter writer will be it.

In the future (whether it’s this or any other job), LW, go to your boss as often as needed and say, “I will not be able to meet this dead line for these reasons..” Then be prepared to explain where the roadblocks and snags are. It’s your manager’s job to navigate that, whether it be hiring more staff, authorizing overtime, having words with people who are slowing you down in some way – or possibly pointing out where you could be performing more efficiently. You sucking it up and working late without pay isn’t the answer. I agree that your boss has overlooked it until now because it’s the path of least resistance for her.

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Slippy February 24, 2016 at 7:02 pm

You should also sit down with your boss and make a list of your responsibilities and determine how high of a priority they are. That way if you are in a time crunch you know what must get done and what can slide. If you get the response “everything is a priority” then you have more ammunition when talking to HR.

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danprime47 February 24, 2016 at 8:23 pm

It’s not completely clear; is there any documentation that she was told not to work those hours? Has her performance suffered even though she’s working the extra hours?

The manager has to be culpable here. If this person is fired for failing to follow working hours, the manager should be definitely be disciplined, too. But, regardless, I would be VERY hesitant to fire her and it could be a thing where OP is fearing the worst. It may not come to termination, but I do agree with the others, document, document, document.

Also, if they do not pay, a call to the DOL regarding labor violations will do the trick.

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charles February 24, 2016 at 9:01 pm

Unfortunately, I see where the OP is coming from.

I’ve been at too many companies that expect you to work unpaid overtime; will blame you if you speak up about not getting the work done within 40 hours; but, then deny it was ever their fault if you work for “free.” Washing their hands of any responsibility.

And, this will only stop when the job market turns around (if it ever does) and companies learn that such abuse will cause good (and even bad) employees to walk and get a job elsewhere.

Sorry for the rant!

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Rebecca February 25, 2016 at 2:34 am

This happened in my office. The part about hurting your coworkers is so true. We had a group of people who would come in 1/2 to 1 hour early, not clock in until starting time, then clock out and in for lunch, all the while working, then clock out but not leave right away. On paper, it appeared that we were capable of much more work than was really possible. I hounded my manager to address it, and finally, she did, and now with the real OT numbers being reported, we were able to add several more staff members. This is after nearly 2 years of hell. I am still angry at them for breaking the law, putting the company at risk, and making my life miserable out of a misguided sense of loyalty.

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Evil HR Lady February 25, 2016 at 8:18 am

Yep, it’s a misguided sense of loyalty. The company has no loyalty to you and will fire you in a heartbeat.

Of course, It’s also part of imposter syndrome and I need to write about that.

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Sara February 25, 2016 at 6:58 pm

Great response, as always. As the payroll person at a company with one or two non-exempt people working with exempt people all the time, I have to say that the non-exempt people in our company caused a lot of the trouble, along with management not dealing with the problem. I explained it them over and over that we pay for ANY and ALL time worked and that they had to have their OT approved, but we would have to pay them anyway (because of CA state law). Without watching over them constantly to verify time, which simply wasn’t possible in a company of ten, I expected them to be honest about their timecards no matter if OT was approved or not. Management was the really big problem here – they would never speak to these employees about doing it the “right way”, and I was the annoying payroll gal who was trying to keep them out of court, while they could care less. SO, my only option was to make the non-exempt employees sign their timecards every month verifying that they took their one hour break and two 15 minute breaks, and that the time was accurate. I never, never, never said it was ok to work without being paid, and always, always, always told them that we wanted to pay them for ALL time worked no matter what. The state of California kind of makes it difficult on employers here as well. I’m all for protecting people’s rights to pay, but when the ONLY way to stop this behavior is to fire people to protect the company legally, it is a bit ridiculous…. I guess the “system” makes it difficult on everyone, but my understanding is that the employee in California will ALWAYS win when they sue the employer for OT.

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Observer February 28, 2016 at 7:40 pm

You are putting the blame on the wrong people. Management was TOTALLY at fault here. There was, in fact, a VERY easy way to deal with the problem – stop giving people a hard time about OT approvals. If you look at the cases that win and lose, one pattern is clear – people are being expected to not work OT while being expected to finish tasks that simply cannot be finished in the allotted time. Stop doing that, and your problem will go away.

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