Note: This post is a continuation of Minimum Wage Jobs (Part 2 of 3) that posted on March 21, 2011.
In the previous post, I mentioned that the minimum wage job (MWJ) work environment – or at least the one that I was exposed to – seems to be very by the book. The prevailing attitude was one of “this is your task” and anti-independent thinking, as opposed to valuing employees ideas about how to improve services and look out for the best interests of the company. Here are two brief examples:
Example #1: One day the manager came up to me and told me that I could take a break while the kids were at lunch because I’d be working hard all day. I responded that I wasn’t sure that I needed the break, but thank you and I’ll be sure to clock out if I take it. Lunch came around and the kids were totally crazy. The other coaches needed my help and asked me to stay, so I didn’t take my break even though I could have used it by then. When I received my paycheck the following week, I noticed that I wasn’t paid for this lunch that I worked and asked why. I was told that because I worked extra hours that day, I was federally required to take a break and that I didn’t have the authority to keep working when the manager said that I could take a break.
First, there was no training and never any explanation of federally-required work breaks. Second, was I supposed to turn to the kids and say “Sorry, I can’t help you with your food because my manager suggested that I take a break now”? Third, it should have been explained that the break was mandatory and not optional. Where I come from, if something needs to be done, you step up and do it. So there seemed to be too much of a focus on the minutiae and not on the big picture. Did I need the extra $8? No. But it was a principle of the matter thing and I was expecting either to be paid OR not to be paid, but to be thanked for my time. I was not expecting to be scolded for helping out when I was not formally scheduled.
Example #2: One Sunday, a friend was scheduled to work a birthday party and had to cancel last minute. I already had plans for the afternoon but she said that it was an emergency, so I agreed to re-arrange and cover for her. I spoke with the company’s HR lady who confirmed that I would receive $X for the afternoon. Running this party for fifty kids and more than fifty neurotic adults was probably one of the more stressful roles that I have recently taken on, but at least I made a nice amount from the afternoon. Or so I thought. When I received my paycheck the next month, I saw that I had been paid for the party at the close-to-minimum-wage hourly rate and not the flat-rate party amount that had been specified by both the other coaches and the HR staff.
When I inquired with HR, she sent me to the “director of birthday parties”, another staff member who had been away on vacation at the time. This girl told me that I was never authorized to work the birthday party because as director of birthday parties, I never obtained her specific permission and that she should have been called in the Bahamas to be asked if it was okay. She then continued that I shouldn’t have been paid at all since she never okayed it and that she was being nice by even allowing me to receive my hourly wage. She kept repeating her title as though it were a big deal and as though it gave her the authority to disregard what the head of HR, birthday party staff and California law otherwise dictated. She wouldn’t budge. I could see that this wasn’t going anywhere and it wasn’t worth the stress that it was causing me so I let it go, but I’m not used to being penny-pinched over minutes AND not having a senior employee’s word honored.
Overall, working at the gym was a worthwhile experience even if I hadn’t been paid a thing because it allowed me to take gymnastics classes for free and meet some great people. (The manager of the gym and my coach were both really fantastic.) Also, since we were allowed to overnight in the gym parking lot for much of the time, I had no commute and it was nice for Yair not to worry about finding a spot. Nevertheless, my bottom line is that while I am happy to wait tables and experience other hard-working, minimum wage jobs in the future, I am mighty glad that I have a college degree in a “professional-type” field and the seeming opportunity to use it if / when I choose.
Finally, I’ll end with another fun trick. Front tucks on the trampoline:
posted by ayo