Rights of workers/general job frustration/venting


#1

Dear Waypoint friends,

I just had a very offputting experience at work, and wanted to vent and ask some questions.

Background: I work at a major grocery retailer in southern california.

What happened: Today is thanksgiving day. Anyone working at my store on Thanksgiving day does so voluntarily. They asked me a few weeks back if I was available to work on Thanksgiving, and I said yes. I get double pay, so that’s great, and I was scheduled to work from , 6 AM to noon, so there’s plenty of time to hang out with the family/friends before dinner. Noon rolls around and I’m getting ready to go. My supervisor sees me doing this, asks where I’m going, I tell her I’m leaving. She is very frustrated that I’m leaving - I do a lot of hand-selling of product, and it’s very busy, so me leaving is going to hurt sales in my department. But I’ve made commitments. I’m leaving. I kinda put my foot down. She goes on to explain that the store leadership has “expectations” that when it is “needed” I am to work hours beyond what I am scheduled. There is no mention of this “expectation” anywhere in my job description or employment contract. My hunch was that this is because this sort of “expectation” isn’t legal.

I take my job seriously, I work hard to get as much sales as possible when i’m at work. But to me, after that scheduled departure time, they don’t own me anymore. I feel that I owe them nothing at that point. If my leaving is going to hurt sales, so be it. If they had scheduled me later I would’ve stayed later, but they didn’t, so I made plans, and I left, but not after being made to feel very guilty about it and having it suggested to me that what I did was somehow wrong or frowned upon and that I could potentially face repercussions for it.

Does anybody have any experience with this? I know that labor laws differ from state to state, and I’m relatively new to California, but my understanding has been that they have some of the more pro-worker laws in the country.

Anyway, it’s all very frustrating, thank you for letting me vent, happy Thanksgiving.


#2

I’m in the UK so don’t have any California related knowledge but I assume the basics of contract law are the same all over. Your assumptions are absolutely right. Your obligations to your employer are to fulfill your contracted work. If you were scheduled to work until noon then that is what you should do.

Your supervisor saying that the store leadership has expectations doesn’t come into it. Nor does how busy the store is. It sounds like it was her responsibility to make sure that staffing numbers were appropriate. None of that is your responsibility.

It is a common thing in so many sectors of the economy to suggest to employees that you’ll only get ahead by showing your dedication by working long, un-contracted and unpaid hours. It’s just a way of getting free work out of people and does not guarantee you anything. I wouldn’t seek to advise anyone on this but I’ll say that my approach is to work hard and show dedication in my work hours but anything after that is my time and you need to pay me for access to it.


#3

Unfortunately, worker rights are very weak in the US. I’m not familiar with California in particular, but most states are at-will, meaning that employees can be terminated without cause. It really is an awful situation. I’ve been offered work in the US several times and turned them down simply because I’d much rather work under Canada’s labour laws, which give workers much greater protection (although we still lag behind Europe).

So yeah, regardless of this situation being not OP’s problem, there’s still a chance that they can be dismissed for not being a “team player”.


#4

Thanks for the correction. It makes me appreciate the protections we have all the more. Hope it works out ok @ox_out_the_cage


#5

Please enjoy the last few years of these protections.

When billionaires (clearly not doing badly out of current EU-regulated business) like James Dyson are talking about making it easier to fire people after Brexit, these are the labour protections they’re working with the Tories & DUP to strip from UK law (as the requirement to follow the EU laws we all created together ends).

Pregnant? I hope you don’t expect to be paid to not work because only workers deserve to get food and shelter. If you’ve got the savings then you can take 12 weeks off and not be fired for not turning up (but see above caveat about your job may have been downsized while you’re gone so maybe you’d rather take less than 12 weeks, make sure they don’t have time to realise they can survive without you). Of course, if you’re working for a small business or you’ve not worked there for thousands of hours in the last year then all that’s gone and enjoy getting fired for having a baby. Thanks Capitalism!


#6

When I worked in a grocery store here in Michigan, they would sometimes try to do this to me, but we had a union, which despite some issues with it not sticking up for workers without seniority was reliable to fight tooth and nail against stuff like this. Even without a union, you mentioned you have an employment contract, which can be used to argue wrongful termination in an at-will state (which California is). If it says something along the lines of the employer being able to terminate you if they have good cause, that can hold up in court, because “they clocked out at their scheduled time and we never said anything to them ahead of time about staying later” will likely not be considered a good cause.

If this is a pattern, then I’d be concerned and start looking for a new job, but if this has been a one-off event they probably aren’t looking to fire you. Bosses in retail are just extra garbage during the holiday season.


#7

Most stores get budgets or create budgets that they are allowed to use in order to figure out how much staff they have on floor so they have the money to pay the labor at the end of the period. You staying beyond what you are scheduled is them trying to wring value out of you without paying you any extra. If management is not scheduling enough help per the budget they are given, then they are either not being given enough money (which is on upper management/corp) or they are not meeting the needs of obvious high volume sales periods and should be hiring more floor staff.

Not your problem.

To add to the thread - starting since last year, my job has suggested that corporate employees (of which I am one) work a “soft mandatory/hard volunteer” 4 hour shift in one of our brick and mortar stores. I got out of it last year because I asked my boss’ boss and didn’t have to do it but I am honestly just not signing up for it this year. My job is in corporate. They can hire seasonal floor staff if they want people on the floor at stores. No poor person working in our retail outlets needs some schlub in corporate office mucking up displays, and furthermore it’s not my job description. The implicit suggestion at my job that you do whatever it takes to save a failing business in a failing sector is one that I’ve grown more bitter about over the years.