I’m In Trouble for Working too Hard

I am being reviewed and just got written up by my supervisor/manager for insubordination. I have been working off the clock for months now because my workload has doubled, and I’ve trying to do what I can to get the job done, and my boss has not been much help. My supervisor /manager have seen me doing this but are now denying it and saying that I have been doing it without their knowledge or permission. They have requested that HR reviews my comings and goings so that they can compensate me for my time now but only because HR had become aware of the situation.  They never approached me about the issue until I began complaining about my workload and that is when they started to review my job and are now saying that I am not meeting job expectations.  This is their way of finding reasons to fire me.

My supervisor was aware of me staying late and coming in early. I only logged in my normal work times and my supervisor approved my time sheet knowing that I was working more than just those hours. My schedule is for a 37.5 hr work week.

What do you recommend I should do before I get fired?  My boss is trying to wipe her hands of all this like she didn’t know and  even claiming that I never told her I was overloaded with work. But I have witnesses, other coworkers who were present when I advised her I had to stay late because I had too much work and needed to meet deadlines.  She never replied or offered to provide me with help until I kept complaining and she finally realized that I was going to go over her head to her boss which, by the way, is now also taking her side on all this as well claiming she was not aware of any of this when she had seen me when they would leave the office and knew I was still at my desk working.

Well, there’s a whole bunch of stuff going on here with people doing things that they shouldn’t. Because you asked, I’ll start with what you did wrong.

The employee:  You should never, ever, not in a million years, work off the clock when you’re non-exempt. While your motives were pure, it’s caused a heck of a lot of trouble. First of all, it’s illegal for a company not to pay you for all hours worked, including overtime where appropriate. Now, you can’t be punished by the Department of Labor for this, but the business surely can.

You can also be fired (or disciplined) for working off the clock, which you’re finding out.

Legal violations aren’t the only problem with working off the clock here, though. Here are a few more problems.

  • It keeps your boss from understanding the impact of your current workload. You keep getting it done, so why should she make any changes?
  • It prevents the company from understanding the true financial impact of their decisions.
  • It places stress on you and your co-workers. You’re working crazy hours, not getting compensated, and becoming stressed out. But your co-workers also face problems. They aren’t accomplishing as much as you are, and since officially, you’re still working only 37.5 hours a week, they look like slackers.
  • If your boss didn’t know (which she may not have known the extent), she can’t adjust workloads accordingly.

As for not meeting job expectations, it’s probably true–you’re expected to do your work withing 37.5 hours per week and come to your manager if you have problems doing so.

The manager: Your manager should have objected to the very first time card where you didn’t record your total hours worked. Why didn’t she?

  • She’s getting free work. It doesn’t hit her budget if you aren’t getting paid.
  • She looks good because her department is producing at a super high level.
  • She’d have to confess to her boss her poor management skills if her employees need regular overtime. Or she’d have to get permission to authorize the overtime. Ignoring you is much easier.

She shouldn’t be talking here about you not meeting expectations and trying to come up with a reason to fire you. She should be smacking herself for ignoring the overtime, thinking she could get away with it.

The boss’s boss: Also a weenie, although not as much as your manager. Depending on how the company operates, she may not have known you were working uncompensated overtime. For instance, when I had non-exempt employees reporting to me, my boss would never, ever see their time cards. Sure, she could run an audit if she wanted to (I guess!), but otherwise, she wouldn’t know if an employee was working uncompensated overtime. Sure, she sees you working late hours, but didn’t necessarily know that you weren’t getting paid for it.

She is lying if she said she didn’t know you were working late, but she may be telling the truth if she didn’t know you were uncompensated.

HR: They are the heroes here. They saw a problem and a legal violation and they are working to fix it. Yay, HR! Perfect as always! </snark>

Now, what will happen to you? Well, it’s obvious that your boss is going to try to save herself by lying. She screwed up, and she knows it. So, you should calmly present your side of the story, including that she frequently saw you leaving late. HR should be highly skeptical that your manager was completely unaware of your work hours.

Is there a chance you’ll face a severe punishment? Yes, but I’d say that was pretty small. Your manager never told you directly to knock off the uncompensated overtime, so if I was giving out punishments, I’d be less inclined to punish you. The deal is, if your manager switches her story to say she told you repeatedly not to work overtime, then she has to admit that she knew about it. She’s not likely to do that.

My prediction? A strong talking to and a “don’t do that again.”

In the future, keep your manager in the loop when your workload is too high.

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22 thoughts on “I’m In Trouble for Working too Hard

  1. She should also now document how many hours of overtime she worked, who witnessed it, etc. If she is fired, she can at least make a claim for that overtime.

  2. Great reply especially the bullet points for why a non exempt employee should not work overtime without approval and compensation. I especially appreciate that you highlight the impact to the employer regarding skewing numbers for that job function and the overall ability of the organization to make informed decisions. As an employee representative, I’ve shared these same impacts with fellow non exempt employees, often to no avail. Employees believe they are doing their employer a favor by not claiming overtime pay and refuse to accept they are causing potential harm to the employer, themselves, and their co-workers.

    1. Yep. The thing is, the employer is liable even if the employee is doing it voluntarily, so yeah, putting your company at risk.

  3. I don’t share the sanguine view of the potential outcome. I expect that the employee will get paid for the estimated overtime, but fired.

    1. I hope not too, but honestly, the only way to make a non-exempt employee stop this behavior is to fire them. Of course in this case, hopefully they can educate everyone involved and get on track, but I sure wouldn’t trust that employee’s time card in the future….

  4. It sure sounds to me like Boss needs a scapegoat and the letter writer will be it.

    In the future (whether it’s this or any other job), LW, go to your boss as often as needed and say, “I will not be able to meet this dead line for these reasons..” Then be prepared to explain where the roadblocks and snags are. It’s your manager’s job to navigate that, whether it be hiring more staff, authorizing overtime, having words with people who are slowing you down in some way – or possibly pointing out where you could be performing more efficiently. You sucking it up and working late without pay isn’t the answer. I agree that your boss has overlooked it until now because it’s the path of least resistance for her.

  5. You should also sit down with your boss and make a list of your responsibilities and determine how high of a priority they are. That way if you are in a time crunch you know what must get done and what can slide. If you get the response “everything is a priority” then you have more ammunition when talking to HR.

  6. It’s not completely clear; is there any documentation that she was told not to work those hours? Has her performance suffered even though she’s working the extra hours?

    The manager has to be culpable here. If this person is fired for failing to follow working hours, the manager should be definitely be disciplined, too. But, regardless, I would be VERY hesitant to fire her and it could be a thing where OP is fearing the worst. It may not come to termination, but I do agree with the others, document, document, document.

    Also, if they do not pay, a call to the DOL regarding labor violations will do the trick.

  7. Unfortunately, I see where the OP is coming from.

    I’ve been at too many companies that expect you to work unpaid overtime; will blame you if you speak up about not getting the work done within 40 hours; but, then deny it was ever their fault if you work for “free.” Washing their hands of any responsibility.

    And, this will only stop when the job market turns around (if it ever does) and companies learn that such abuse will cause good (and even bad) employees to walk and get a job elsewhere.

    Sorry for the rant!

  8. This happened in my office. The part about hurting your coworkers is so true. We had a group of people who would come in 1/2 to 1 hour early, not clock in until starting time, then clock out and in for lunch, all the while working, then clock out but not leave right away. On paper, it appeared that we were capable of much more work than was really possible. I hounded my manager to address it, and finally, she did, and now with the real OT numbers being reported, we were able to add several more staff members. This is after nearly 2 years of hell. I am still angry at them for breaking the law, putting the company at risk, and making my life miserable out of a misguided sense of loyalty.

    1. Yep, it’s a misguided sense of loyalty. The company has no loyalty to you and will fire you in a heartbeat.

      Of course, It’s also part of imposter syndrome and I need to write about that.

  9. Great response, as always. As the payroll person at a company with one or two non-exempt people working with exempt people all the time, I have to say that the non-exempt people in our company caused a lot of the trouble, along with management not dealing with the problem. I explained it them over and over that we pay for ANY and ALL time worked and that they had to have their OT approved, but we would have to pay them anyway (because of CA state law). Without watching over them constantly to verify time, which simply wasn’t possible in a company of ten, I expected them to be honest about their timecards no matter if OT was approved or not. Management was the really big problem here – they would never speak to these employees about doing it the “right way”, and I was the annoying payroll gal who was trying to keep them out of court, while they could care less. SO, my only option was to make the non-exempt employees sign their timecards every month verifying that they took their one hour break and two 15 minute breaks, and that the time was accurate. I never, never, never said it was ok to work without being paid, and always, always, always told them that we wanted to pay them for ALL time worked no matter what. The state of California kind of makes it difficult on employers here as well. I’m all for protecting people’s rights to pay, but when the ONLY way to stop this behavior is to fire people to protect the company legally, it is a bit ridiculous…. I guess the “system” makes it difficult on everyone, but my understanding is that the employee in California will ALWAYS win when they sue the employer for OT.

    1. You are putting the blame on the wrong people. Management was TOTALLY at fault here. There was, in fact, a VERY easy way to deal with the problem – stop giving people a hard time about OT approvals. If you look at the cases that win and lose, one pattern is clear – people are being expected to not work OT while being expected to finish tasks that simply cannot be finished in the allotted time. Stop doing that, and your problem will go away.

      1. I agree. This is a situation I am currently facing.
        In my job, we were asked to do two separate skill sets. One that we did most of the time, we have expectations of 2 files per hour. Another skill set was supposed to be quicker, and management determined they were to be processed at 22 files an hour. We did not track time specifically devoted to either, but the number of files we we completed were tracked every day.
        Here was the problem – the algorithm that tracks our production and determines if we are above or below appropriate daily production and by how much was flawed. Lets say you only had 1 file of the second skill set, did it within a manner of minutes, and then went back to your regular files. But the day was rough and you weren’t feeling well, and though you SHOULD have gotten 16 regular files done for the day, you only did 14. Because you did ANY of the second skill set files at all, instead of saying you were short 2 files, this algorithm decided the shortfall in files came from the second skill set, and it would say you were short 22 files. The next day, you’re feeling better and work extra hard to do your daily work and make up the 2 files you missed… but you are completely unaware that the system actually says you’re short 22 files.
        I tried and tried and tried to predict and compensate for this odd algorithm. One month, I was sure I hadn’t met production, but the algorithm worked in my favor and I finished at 88 files above production (when I thought I was surely -30 and hopelessly unable to catch up). Another month I had worked and tracked my files as much as I could and I was quite pleased with myself for making up for any shortfalls I had and wasn’t worried at all about my production… only to be told I had finished at 50 files short for the month, and I was then written up for not meeting.
        I think if I had been only required to do the one skill set for my 40 hour work week, production wouldn’t have been a problem. Sure, I might not have been over by a ton, but I’m sure I would have been breaking even.
        With the unpredictability factor in all that, I was terrified of losing my job. No matter how good or hard I did work, my mid month production checks were NEVER where I expected them to be, and I didn’t understand how I could be so off. It got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t trust it at all, and my managers were aware of the algorithm inconsistencies but ultimately shrugged at it and I was still in trouble for not meeting production. They offered me help to get me up to speed – they had me shadow other employees, expecting me to learn how they do it – but when they think and work files completely different than you… how does that help? If I were to stop my way and begin doing it their way… imagine deciding to write an essay with your non-dominant hand. Not easy, and it’s not going to make you work faster.
        I understand the fair labor standards, and I understand why they exist. I know there are companies that abuse employees and make them work off the clock and whatnot. I totally get it. But I was desperate to meet production until I got faster at my work. I started working after hours until I at least met the regular daily files. When I got last minute monthly production checks and I was told that, with one week left before the end of the month, I was still short 30 files, yeah, I stayed late and made sure they got done, because I didn’t know what else to do.
        What do you do when the system is flawed? You’re flawed, too, but you can’t even legit figure out how to fix your flaws because the system is flawed. And you tell management about the flaw, and they just shrug and expect you to fix your flaws anyway. Even though… realistically, there is very little you can do. You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, and you have a mortgage and you’re frightened.
        Finally my after hours work flagged the systems, and now I’m being audited. Managers are angry with me for not following the rules – I own up to it, I know I shouldn’t have. I totally understand why and I do see their point. I’ve gotten so many “talkings to” now, its just grinding the stripped out gears. They just can’t believe I would act so unethically. I can’t either. But when I try to explain how I was feeling beyond put between a rock and a hard place, they don’t understand at all. I can prove my numbers began tanking when the algorithm associated with production and the new secondary skill set was put into place. My efforts to try to fix things probably made things worse, but my only other option was to face termination for ‘not meeting’ a production that I couldn’t effectively track and that worked illogically. I have a meeting scheduled with my manager at the end of the month, but today I was called in my HR and the lady said I can expect to have a discussion with my manager early next week; my guess is that I’ll be facing termination. There’s irony for you.
        I don’t blame them for doing what they have to do – I have respect for my manager. However, I still point some blame for being cornered into that place where I felt like I had no other choice. It wasn’t illegal of them, it wasn’t unethical of them, but it also wasn’t fair. I own up to what I did wrong, but I guarantee that management will not see the flaw I was facing as legit. I won’t work a minute over my time anymore, never again, but I feel like at this point, that dedication won’t matter.
        Someone higher up in the comment thread stated the only way to stop an employee for this behavior would be to fire them – that is totally unfair, plain and simple. I’ve been humiliated, embarrassed in front of my peers, and treated like a pariah by management, who acts like I personally betrayed them – heck no, I won’t do this again. I’ve been with this company for 14 years – I would happily go for several more if given the chance.
        But it won’t matter what I was facing or why I struggled. The unfair issue I faced won’t even matter, in the end, and now I’ll be facing losing my car and my home because of it. I DO understand the law, but there is also blame on unfairness and unfair expectations – simply saying that if I was struggling, I should have let management know is not taking the whole thing into account. I HAVE voiced my concerns over the algorithm, and no one cares. The company won’t hire extra people or approve OT or change expectations just because I’m struggling – but they will happily fire me for “not getting the job done” regardless of what was preventing me from doing so.
        I’m just saying – I know the law, but there is also no heart. People like me who were just trying to keep their job are treated as liars and scum, given the same regard as those who rob banks and kick puppies. Don’t act like we’re criminals – we’re human too.

  10. I was just in this exact situation. I am 10000% positive that my supervisor was aware I was working off the clock for months. She never told me to stop. I was working as inventory dept manager in a setting that required a lot of product to be worked and moved from backroom to sales floor, items ranging from 1lb – 65/70lbs. It was impossible to do it on my own and the routine that the company had in place (which worked at the 2 other locations I worked at, same company, without a hitch) just simply wasn’t implemented, despite my many loud complaints and efforts to properly train the crappy employees she hired with no experience.. a lot of first time fresh out of high school kids that didn’t want to work much less work stock.. anyway I used to have my hubby come in and help me work the heavier stock that I couldn’t reach. I am short and petite and lifting down 50lb kennels was difficult. He offered one day to help and it went well and no one said a word about it. One day, a Sunday, my supervisor comes to me and says our district manager is asking each store for a picture of their stockroom by 10am the next morning to verify stocks are being worked because well, a long list of reasons occurring in the district and distribution center that I won’t get into here. Now normally I actually wouldn’t have had much issue with this, except with it being a Sunday and in Texas, we closed 2 hours early at 7pm. She told me this at 5pm. She knew this was a crunch. I couldn’t come in the following day because I was scheduled off and we didn’t have the hours to spare/cut later in the week. She also took into consideration I’m not a fan of morning shifts. So with that said, she tells me, “(insert dist mgr name here) wants a picture of the backroom by 10am tomorrow morning. It needs to be worked and organized. Do you think you could stay late tonight, stay clocked in, and work it? I know sometimes you stay late and have (insert hubby name here) come help you work stock, if hes up for coming in to help so you get it done and aren’t here alone, that’s fine with me.” Him being the sweet man he is, he came to help. We got it done. She sent the picture. All was well. ..except no matter how many times I tell her our truck receiving crew is not working and I need some new people, switch scheduling, switch or move something, someone.. ANYTHING at this point.. or that our “children” are literally sticks in the mud that have air between their ears instead of brain, they’re impossible to train, or that I have to do everything myself or risk having to go over anything and everything they touch a second time, or the simplest request I made – I need her help! She just kept telling me it will be ok, give them time, “they need to be nurtured.” Nothing was working. Except. ME… while she sat in the office all day every day not helping on the floor, I was working 16-20 hour days.. not an exaggeration. There were so many times that I would work scheduled 2-10pm, but would stay working stock after 10pm, and then all of the sudden I look at the clock and its 6am, and I’m scheduled to open at 8am. I would leave at 6am, get home 630, leave at 720 and open up the store at 8am. ALL. THE. TIME. And if I’m being honest, I really didnt mind it at the time because at this point I had been doing it for 5 months already at that location but had been in this inventory title for over 2 years. I was next in line for assistant manager and then on my way to my own store where I could hire my own talent. I just wanted the store to stay hitting metrics. I just wanted sales to keep going up. We were a brand new location only open for 7 months, and we were beating stores in the district open for 8-10 years in sales metrics, service metrics, everything. Our store became the model, the example. The golden pants wearers. We were the training store for new talent and recent promotions. So naturally my supervisor didn’t see an issue with me keeping everything worked and up to standards, right???
    Well not even a week after she asked me to bring hubby in, which was 12/16, she called Loss Prevention on 12/21 to tell them she had reviewed a tape for an, unrelated to me, issue and discovered I had came in at night on 12/20 after hours with hubby. They conducted an “investigation” which ultimately led to a phone call between me, supervisor, and Loss Prevention guy. At first I was under the impression I wouldn’t be fired. Mainly because the guy said we were just “going to talk,” “have a conversation,” and “not to worry, this isn’t anything life changing.” So, in preservation mode, for me and my manager – because I didnt know at this point she was the one that called on me to save her own ass or get rid of me or whatever her reasons were- I told them I had only worked off the clock maybe 5 times max and hours added up to maybe 20 hours max. They had me write a statement, where I stated she had no knowledge of my extra hours off the clock and that she never requested me to do so, again I was in preservation and minimize mode, and then LP got off the call and mgr said she needed to call dist mgr to see what the decision is.. this is where I asked if I’m getting fired and she said she wasn’t sure, but probably not. It was said multiple times on the call that it was clear that I was not stealing merch and was acting in interest of the store with good intentions. So I leave the room. Called back minutes later, I sit down and am told I’m being terminated. I’m heartbroken. And full of regret. And in tears. And I ask my manager how this all came about anyway, and here is where she tells me that she was the one that called. “She saw it on camera so she had to.” WELL, YOU SAW IT. WITH YOUR FREAKING EYEBALLS. FOR LITERAL MONTHS. And you called now??? Oh* did I mention on 12/1 she promoted me to assistant manager from inventory? Yep. Promoted me, and knew I was off the clock working and then fired me 2 weeks later.
    Well, if you’re still reading and following this mess of a story, first I applaud you. Second I thank you, graciously. This all leads up to a question..
    Should I contact the company and tell them of her knowledge? Get compensated for the time? I’ve been with this company for 7 years and had absolutely no intention of leaving.. at all, ever. I of course was marked non-rehireable. And honestly, all I want is the ability to work for them again. The non-rehire status may be able to get reversed if I talk to the right person/people.. but I feel like if I ask for the compensation and don’t leave things as is, I won’t ever be able to work there again and have the non-rehire status overturned. I’m so confused. I legitimately just wanted to help. I tried to go to my manager. I went to the assistant prior to my promotion, I tried to tell the partners why the processes that were supposed to be in place weren’t optional and how important to the business -and their paychecks, ultimately- these procedures were. Nothing helped. No one cared. I was maintaining all inventory stock on my own. And it was difficult, but God damn if I still didn’t love that job.. please, if anyone is reading this, kindly offer some advice or a wwyd in this situation.. i know probably no one would ever work off the clock to that extent, but.. idk.. I needed to get this out and vent.. sorry 🙁

  11. I work in healthcare. My job has a productivity quota that must be met. It is a remote position. I do clock in and out on time. If you do not, you are in trouble. If you do not meet productivity, you are in trouble. There are times it is very difficult to meet this productivity. And to make matters worse, the manager just increased it! When employees tried to voice their concerns, this new manager/director cut them off immediately. So, I worked off the clock at times so I wouldn’t be in trouble for productivity numbers not meeting the requirement. This has happened several times. I wasn’t being paid, I was just trying to do a good job. So, out of the blue last week, I get a phone call with 4 managers on a conference call asking me, how long have you been working off the clock and why? I was super upset and answered their questions. I was called back 4 times with all these managers on the conference call reading off my violation of policy. Then, they said you are now on Administrative Leave with pay while we do an investigation. Now, I have no idea what will happen! I started sending out resumes. I have some good job prospects. I haven’t heard back from my current job, but I feel like I will be fired. Very stressful!!!
    By the way, I’ve talked to friends that do the same type of work that I do. They all work off the clock!! They have to so they can meet the productivity required.

  12. I’d stop working after hours and the work for the next day. Self-care is important.

  13. I’d leave the work for the next day. If you drop dead, the company MIGHT send condolences to your family but would definitely place an ad for the position and keep it moving.

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