Employees facing unfair treatment at work
As the economy continues to decline, more and more workers are finding out the true colors of their employers.
While some employers are taking steps to help their employees in the midst of the recession, others are taking advantage of what is for many a desperate situation.
The underemployment trend has held steady at around 20 percent all year long according to Gallup.com.
Rebecca Muniz, a branch manager from the SOS Staffing Agency in Prescott said that instead of hiring new workers, many employers are adding to the existing duties of their current employees.
“Employers are being more efficient because their dollars are tighter, and employees are more willing to do a little extra work.”
As many employers strive to become more efficient in today’s shifting economy, some are taking cutbacks and frugality to extensive levels; sometimes at their employees’ expense.
Anne-Marie Shipley from Prescott works in a small retail shop in the Prescott Gateway Mall. “They say in the employee handbook that if you work over 6 hours, you get two 15 minute breaks and an unpaid 30 minute break.”
While this is consistent with labor laws, Shipley says that in the day-to-day business practice, things are much different. “We cannot close the gate at the shop for more than ten minutes, or else the store will be fined by the mall.”
Since workers at the store are scheduled to work each shift alone, the practical reality is that the employees have no choice but to work through their lunch breaks and shorten their 15-minute breaks. Sometimes breaks don’t happen at all.
“I don’t really get lunch breaks and I’m not allowed to eat on the floor either. The only way I could eat is if I ate in the back, but they want us out front all the time.”
Originally things were much worse when Shipley started with the locally owned company.
“When I first started you weren’t allowed to close the gate at all. [There were] no restroom breaks “¦even on a 10-hour shift. I complained to management and said that what they were doing was illegal and they finally let us close the gate and use the bathroom.”
Such behavior isn’t limited to just breaks. Chantel McClymonds says that management often has a disregard for their employees’ schooling schedules.
While working as a waitress for a local wine bar and pizzeria, McClymonds felt like she had no rights in the work place.
“Our boss continually was cutting us checks for below minimum wage,” she said. “Not only did they pay us less then what is legally mandated, they also would cut our time cards early at night, so we were not being paid for the remaining hours we worked.”
As a Yavapai College student with limited options, McClymonds continued to endure the situation. “We were not allowed to request time off for anything, and forget ever calling in sick.” McClymonds says she was often coerced to attending work while sick and contagious and serve food to customers.
On other occasions she was told she could not miss work to attend school-sponsored events. “I had a field trip with my Geology class at Yavapai and I had to beg to be able to go. The week following my field trip [my manager] took me off the schedule as punishment for requesting time off.”
McClymonds was faced with a difficult decision. Staying with her job and enduring the harsh treatment ensured a paycheck, but if she were to terminate her employment she feared not being able to find another job.
“I was constantly threatened with my job, and told often that it would be all too easy for them to replace me. This shocked me because I worked very hard for them,” McClymonds said.
McClymonds finally found her way out with a fresh start at the Firehouse Restaurant. “I found a new job at [the Firehouse], and I actually like going to work!” She says that there is no comparison in the management style of her new and former employer. “My new situation is wonderful, I am being treated very well. I am so glad I finally got myself away from that awful place,” McClymonds says.
At her new job, she is allowed time off and offered generous breaks. “My favorite part of my new job is feeling like a part of a team, and not someone who is easily replaced. Also, my boss is very respectful of my school schedule, which makes life a lot easier for me.”
Luke Cilano, another Yavapai student, also feels fortunate not to have such scheduling issues. “I love my job, and they treat me really well. They’re great with my scheduling, [I have] no issues at all,” he said. Cilano works at a local television shop where he found a job after leaving the restaurant industry.
While unsympathetic managers may be becoming the norm, Lisa Pennington, a floor manager at Costco Wholesale, has different ideas.
“Our focus is on our employees quality of life,” she says. When an employee is having problems, be it personal or otherwise, Costco offers a variety of support programs and services for its employees. The result, Pennington says, is an even lower turnover rate and increased employee productivity. But it doesn’t end there. “We are giving [our employees] good benefits, good pay, and paid holidays off,” she said.
Pennington added that both full-time and part-time employees get benefits at every warehouse. “We are total jugglers [because] we are”¦attempting to make sure our needs and the needs of our employees are met.”
Pennington also says that the management does their best to work with students who work for Costco.
“We always try to work with students’ schedules,” she said. “If we need someone to come in, we’ll give the student the opportunity to work extra hours, but we never pressure a student, or any employee, to take a shift. We don’t guilt trip, or browbeat.”
While McClymonds’, and Luke Cilano’s work woes ended happily, and Pennington’s employees are well treated, others are not so lucky. As the economy continues to sluggishly improve, working people are not always seeing the results quickly enough.
Many still fear the loss of their job as employment is not always readily available.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports unemployment in Arizona at 9.7 percent, slightly higher than the national average.
Rebecca Muniz at SOS Staffing says that the office has been busy for the last six months with 20-25 phone calls a day, and ten appointments. “80 percent of [the people we see] are not employed at all,” she said.
Additionally, Rasmussen Reports says that only 29 percent of Americans feel like their next job will be better than their current job, a number that reflects the general sentiments of those under 40.
But 66 percent feel that leaving their job will be their own choice, and not their employers’. Even so, Rasmussen Reports says that 42 percent of all Americans feel that there are very few or no jobs to be had in the current economy.