Is my employer compensating coworkers and myself fairly? Need opinions.
June 11, 2012 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Is my employer compensating coworkers and myself fairly? Need opinions.

I work full-time for a lawn care/grounds maintenance company with, at the moment, four coworkers and my employer. At the moment our days go something like this:

7:15 - meet at shop
7:30 - trucks leave shop
7:45/8:00 - arrive at first job site

30 minute unpaid lunch break and one or two paid 15 minute breaks.

4:30- leave last job site
4:45 - arrive at shop, put away and wash equipment
5:00 - Leave shop, go home.

Employees clock in when they arrive at their first job site, and clock out when they leave their last job site. So 8:00 - 4:30, minus the lunch break, is an 8 hour day.

Now, I realize there are several things wrong with this. First of all, employees are not compensated for driving to the job site. I can see where this would make sense in some jobs, but in my company the employees are driving the company trucks and transporting the equipment to the job site, usually without the employer. Simply driving the company trucks and transporting the equipment should entitle the employee to clock in, no?

Secondly, my boss understands that we take time at the end of the day to unload and wash the equipment. In respect, he explained to me that he adds an hour onto our time at the end of the week to compensate for this.

Despite an hour probably not being proportionate to the amount of time we likely spend unloading and washing the equipment, this just feels wrong. Adding hours at the end of the week seems like it would escape any possible overtime (>8 hours) that we might have been entitled to had the time been added on properly to that day.

Recently one of our new employees quit over this. He basically told my boss that he was cheating us out of money, and that none of the
other coworkers had the balls to say anything about it.

Tomorrow morning we are having a meeting about this, and I want to get an idea of what is reasonable to expect, and how to go about telling my boss? Should I be asking to be entitled for driving to and from job sites? Is this very common among other companies? Obviously I already have a good idea if I am asking the question, I would just like some second opinions on this.

This is my first full-time job. Although I don't feel I am being taken advantage of, I would like the time I spend, away from home at work, reflected in the hours I worked.
posted by Snorlax to Work & Money (25 answers total)
I think it would help people to know what state this is in.

From my general knowledge: he ought to be paying you from when you arrive at the shop and prepare for work in the field to when you leave the shop after cleaning stuff up. An hour at the end of the week would seem to be about 1/5 of the time you spend during the week.

There is also the issue of overtime pay for the hours in which you are still hauling around company equipment in a company vehicle.

If your boss doesn't want to shell out for overtime pay... well, then he's going to have to figure out how to get you guys out the door after exactly 8 hours.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:43 PM on June 11, 2012

BC, Canada
posted by Snorlax at 8:45 PM on June 11, 2012

If you are required to check in at the shop at 7:15, help load the trucks and drive to the job, you should be paid starting at 7:15. If you have the option to show up at the job site at 8 but choose to stop at office first, then you should get paid starting at 8.

It seems you are required to show up at 7:15 so that is your starting time.

Paying you an extra hour a week for the 15 minutes to break down the equipment is probably fair.

What are the laws requiring paid breaks? Is a business required to provide that in Canada? If not I imagine you could complain about the 45 minutes you are being shorted but then lose the 30 minutes paid.

Perhaps make a deal. He provides lunch for you all. This would probably be less than the 45 minutes (+ overtime) he is not paying.
posted by 2manyusernames at 8:48 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

That sounds pretty typical of post-Reagan America, but I don't know anything about BC.

Driving equipment around should be clocked, AFAIK, unless you're commuting with it (since your employer can't really be responsible for how far you live).

You're getting screwed, but how you handle it depends on what leverage you have to bargain with. If you're indispensable, or you and your co-workers can collectively agree to present a united front, and even to walk if conditions don't improve, you're obviously in a better position.

Might also want to find out the average wage in your area and field, to get some perspective on what you would want.
posted by evil holiday magic at 8:52 PM on June 11, 2012

You should be getting paid for nine hours and fifteen minutes a day, cause that's how much work you're doing.

Your boss knows this. The meeting tomorrow sounds like a chance for him to tell you guys that the other guy is unreasonable, that his view was unreasonable, and maybe pay you for like, half an hour more of your time to come off as generous. but maybe i'm overly skeptical.

Are you going to realistically be able to get him to pay for 9:15 a day? I don't know. But I think in any conversation you have with him, even if you end up at the same place you are today, it might be nice to have someone mention out loud that you're actually working for 9 hrs and 15 mins.

you might get fired if you make too much noise however. bear this in mind as you decide your course of action. since you don't feel personally taken advantage of, maybe you can show some restraint. Someone who is really upset, and more willing to lose the job, may say something anyhow.
posted by saraindc at 9:15 PM on June 11, 2012

also consider your wage- this is more of an issue if you're getting paid minimum wage than if you're getting paid a wage that is higher and in theory might 'include' some of the extra time
posted by saraindc at 9:17 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wait, BC? Is this one of the (handful) of companies that was postering and taping flyers onto all of the bus stops?
posted by Slackermagee at 9:20 PM on June 11, 2012

Although I don't feel I am being taken advantage of

You are and your boss knows it.

Simply driving the company trucks and transporting the equipment should entitle the employee to clock in, no?


I hope you are not spending your own money for tools or material to use on job sites b/c that sounds like the kind of boss you are working for.
posted by mlis at 9:20 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


You are totally right.

He mentioned to the crew today that he would make lunches paid for. Which would be 30 minutes added onto each day, but would not add time at the end of the week. He threw in the word "Bonus" for the 15 minutes of not washing and putting away equipment.

Some of the guys muttered, obviously they feel the same way as I do. If it were up to us we would be paid from 7:30 - 5:00, it should be as simple as that, because that is how long we feel we are working for.

Anyways, I am not being paid great, but more than minimum wage.

I guess it's all a matter of not rocking the boat to much, and trying to find a good middle ground to agree on.
posted by Snorlax at 9:22 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Employment Standards Branch webpage is here.

I thought you would be entitled to paid breaks every four hours but apparently not. If you are required to report to work at 7:15 and you have an hour unpaid lunch break, your 8 hour day ends at 4:15. It looks like you should be getting paid 45 minutes per day at time-and-a-half. Alternatively, you could ask that your employer bank your overtime for paid time off.
posted by lunaazul at 9:22 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did some quick googling for BC labor laws, and came up with this resource, which is hardly definitive, but can perhaps point you to some better resources and let you know what kind of questions you should be asking. This resource, by the way, suggests the time spent riding to the jobsite together is compensable.

Speaking extremely generally, "commute" time is non-compensable, but "travel" time is. The difference is that you're under your employer's control when you're on "travel" time. I have no idea if this general principle is the rule in British Columbia, but that is basically the principle at work here. A BC employment lawyer or other BC employment law resource may have the answer for you. The way you've described your situation sounds more like travel time and less like commute time. This is what I'd look further into.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:23 PM on June 11, 2012

So let's say he's paying you ten bucks an hour for a forty hour week. What is happening is that he is actually paying you 8.89 an hour for a forty-five hour week. Just get it into your head that you're not being paid what you *supposed* to be getting paid. It's a shit job. Welcome to the world of shit jobs. Now you know why people want to get out of the world of shit jobs -- they are shit.

I had an employer once who continually underpaid us, IE if we turned in fifty hours he'd pay us for forty-six and a half, so what we -- the guys and I -- what we did was just turn in more hours, by a fairly considerable amount. It was a game, he was a dope, we learned the rules and played it. But you can't play that because you leave and come back to the shop at a certain time, so just understand that the job pays less than you've agreed to. It's adversarial, too bad; the job's for shit, the guy's a jerk. Move on when you can.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:23 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whoops, 30 minute unpaid lunch, missed that. That means you should be off the clock at 3:45 and are owed one and a quarter hours of overtime each day.
posted by lunaazul at 9:25 PM on June 11, 2012

Although I don't feel I am being taken advantage of

In light of this, definitely seconding saraindc. I had a boss who was technically "cheating" me - I was "strongly encouraged" to show up 2 hours early and stay 2 hours late - but my daily rate was unchanged with the increase in hours. Additionally, my paychecks would show up two, three, four weeks late.

I never said a word though because even going by the actual hours worked he was paying me a helluva lot. When a "typo" of his resulted in a nearly 50% raise for me going to the main office he didn't bother to fix it. A coworker who complained about her paycheck being one week late lost the job. Was it a valid complaint? Heck yeah.

So yeah, you definitely have a valid complaint, but bringing it up - especially when you don't feel you're being cheated - could cost you your job.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 9:25 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I do wonder, though....if he's not paying you for travel time in the company truck, how does that affect the insurance on the vehicle? You might get away with saying that you're worried about any possible insurance claims.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 9:29 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yup, legally in BC, Canada you should be paid for this travel time from the shop to the job sites and back:
If an employee is required to provide a service to the
employer on the way to or from a worksite by bringing employer-provided tools or equipment, picking up supplies or bringing material between home or another location and the worksite, that trip is paid travel time.
posted by JiBB at 9:34 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are an hourly worker, right, not on salary?

Transporting the equipment to the job site in the morning = work
Driving it back and washing down the equipment at the end of the day = work

Factoring this work into your hours, you're working more than 8 hours per day, and over 40 hours per week.

From the BC Employment Standards Act:
Overtime wages for employees not working under an averaging agreement

40 (1) An employer must pay an employee who works over 8 hours a day, and is not working under an averaging agreement under section 37,

(a) 1 1/2 times the employee's regular wage for the time over 8 hours, and

(b) double the employee's regular wage for any time over 12 hours.

(2) An employer must pay an employee who works over 40 hours a week, and is not working under an averaging agreement under section 37, 1 1/2 times the employee's regular wage for the time over 40 hours.

(3) For the purpose of calculating weekly overtime under subsection (2), only the first 8 hours worked by an employee in each day are counted, no matter how long the employee works on any day of the week.
Relevant fact sheet here [pdf].

Your boss is contravening the province's Employment Standards Act, which is not treated lightly. From the ESA website: "If the Branch issues a determination which finds that an employer has contravened the Employment Standards Act, the employer will have to pay any wages owed to the employee. The employer will also have to pay a mandatory penalty for each section of the Act or Regulation found to have been contravened." The mandatory penalties start at $500 for each section contravened, for a first offense.

On preview: what lunaazul and JiBB said.

Yes, your boss might get mad, but he is currently breaking the law, and legally, he can't fire you for requesting that he comply with the Employment Standards Act. BC doesn't do "at-will" employment like in some US states.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:36 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the feedback/input everyone.

Too bad I will probably bitch out and not say anything. This is a summer job between the school semesters, so luckily I only have a few more months. At least whatever job I find myself in next I will be aware of what to look out for.
posted by Snorlax at 9:53 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I googled around and came to a similar conclusion as Hurdy Gurdy. You can report companies (in the states too pple I don't know where the "just take it" stuff is coming from) and it can cost money not to comply. The penalties can be stiff.

As Hurdy mentions, it is $500 for the first penalty.The next violation is $2500.The third is $10,000.

The process involves first confirming that you are eligible (assuming that you are) and going through the Self-help kit (the additional steps are within those links). According to the self-help sheet, your colleague who left can file a complaint within six months of the last day of work. So as a unit ....*your group* has the power because a couple of those compaints can result in costing the company a lot of $ plus still paying you for overtime. Don't settle for a sandwich when this guy owes you not only additional hours but overtime.

Just read what you stated. Even if you don't want to do this...let your colleague who left know about this along with your current group members.

Many people don't know their rights at a job and this is how it perpetuates.
posted by Wolfster at 9:59 PM on June 11, 2012

Wait, hold on. This is a temporary student summer job that's going to be over soon anyway? I think this would be a great time for you to practice asserting yourself. This kind of situation will almost certainly come up again later on in your life, only with much higher stakes. Now would be a great time to push your comfort zone, take some chances, and learn things about yourself that can't be picked up in any college.
posted by jsturgill at 11:05 PM on June 11, 2012 [16 favorites]

My opinion is that what your employer is doing is wrong, and is called "wage theft."

Before you make your decision, let me tell you a quick story. A very long time ago, I worked at a roadside cafe for $2.13/hour plus tips -- that was the minimum wage for waitstaff, but the minimum wage for non-waitstaff was about $4.25. The law said that as long as I was working during times that I could make tips, I could be paid the $2.13 rate but working without making tips I should make $4.25. The restaurant owner routinely had us work several hours every night after closing to vacuum, dust, etc., at $2.13/hour.

I brought it up (lightly), and he said that anyone who didn't like it could quit and he'd hire someone else. We all stayed and fell in line. The truth is, I stayed because I needed the little money I was making at that job. Without it, I couldn't eat or pay the rent. Would I work for $2/hour? Yes. All of us would. We all knew our rights, but there's a wide gulf between knowing your rights and being in a position to demand that they are honored. I guess the guy that quit would say we "didn't have the balls" to say anything, but truthfully we couldn't afford to. We didn't lack courage, we lacked the luxury that money gives you.

Something to consider is that your coworkers might be in the situation that I was in at that time -- a small complaint, standing up for the minimum requirements, would mean not eating. It's hard to fill your stomach with righteousness instead of groceries, and it's just as simple as that.

(Which is why unions are such a good thing, but that's a different topic really. But even though you have the power of a small group, you don't have the power of a larger group representing all such workers and you don't have a way to subsidize lost wages while you fight for rights.)

Your boss knows this, knows the terrible bind his workers are in, which is why he's a real asshole. But please consider their situation before making big moves like reporting him. They may not be returning to school in the fall, may not have people who can help them with their bills, may not be able to afford even one week off between jobs, and may find that wage theft is just "the way things are done" in that line of work.

That experience colored the way I see things even today. If it were me, I would ask for small perks, or propose slight increases in what he charges customers, approaching him as trying to help him solve "our" problem, and come in with spreadsheets but no threats of reporting. But that's just me. When you are making your decision, please just consider your coworkers' situation beforehand.
posted by Houstonian at 2:58 AM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Take your co-workers aside and decide, as a team, how you will approach this. If you all quit -- or if he fires you all -- he's going to have some pissed customers. Losing only one of you might not be a big deal, but all of you?

This is why unions are a good thing. He's fucking all of his employees because he is sure that only one of them will squeal at a time. If all of them squeal, he can't fuck them anymore because no more employees means no more work gets done.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:27 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wonder if having employees driving company vehicles off the clock might put the employer in a bad place w/his insurance company if an employee ever had an accident. Regardless of the employment laws, it may be in the employer's best interest to have the employees on the clock when transporting equipment in company vehicles to or from a job site. Not exactly an answer to your question but might be an issue that would help convince the employer to act differently.
posted by Carbolic at 9:20 AM on June 12, 2012

If the young kid working a summer job and asking the hive mind on Metafilter for ideas isn't going to stand up against this kind of blatant theft by an employer, who is going to stand up? Please do what you can to help your coworkers improve their station in life. It could have lasting ramifications for them and their families, and for you, too.
posted by Scram at 10:24 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

In the US, you can keep track, and then file a complaint, and get retroactive compensation. Call your legislator, and find out who to call to learn what your rights are. This is rotten behavior.
posted by theora55 at 7:55 PM on June 12, 2012

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