My first brush with the injustice of unpaid hourly employment came during high school.
Along with a few others, I worked for a drugstore chain as a stock boy. The company was quite profitable. But for one reason or another, its massive profits never seemed to trickle down to us.
Technically, we stock boys were in a union. But you’d hardly know it. We were filling shelves, bagging groceries, baling cardboard, emptying mousetraps, cleaning bathrooms, unloading trucks and doing other menial tasks for a less-than-princely sum of about $3 an hour.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was an even worse indignity to deal with. The assistant managers running the store at night would regularly make us work beyond our scheduled hours. This was done so that the place would be “ready” for the next morning’s customers.
We were assured the additional time would be put into our meager paychecks. But somehow, that never seemed to happen.
Most of us quietly accepted this unfortunate injustice. A few of the braver victims decided to even things up a bit, either via sabotage or outright theft.
Even decades later, the petty cheapness of these assistant managers still chafes a bit. Then again, we entry-level plebes probably had it pretty good compared with what they were going through. Some of them never seemed to go home.
A story that broke this week took me back to those halcyon times. Turns out a Georgia senior living community will have repay six workers more than $15,000. That’s because the employees weren’t paid when they worked through their lunch breaks.
So this is the part where I give the facility a stern lecture, right?
Not quite. Actually, it’s more of a request.
Look, I get it. Sometimes there are simply not enough people around to do the work that has to be done. Sometimes funds are low and every penny needs to be saved. Those are grim realities most managers have had to deal at one time or another. Perhaps you are dealing with both right now?
That being noted, here is my advice: Don’t make hourly employees work for free.
First of all, it’s unfair. You are essentially stealing their time. Moreover, there’s a pretty good chance that you just might get caught.
Second, it’s a bad business practice. If you need more help, get more help.
Finally, here’s the most important reason: Pay hourly employees for time worked, because it’s the right thing to do.
Scrimping on pay is something you may or may not remember doing. But believe me, it’s something the person getting screwed over will never forget.