Co-worker Gets Overtime; I Don’t

Question: to Ask the Workplace Doctors 

For quite some time now (over a year) when we are scheduled to work on Saturday, a coworker and I are made to leave earlier another day in the week, so as not to get overtime. Another coworker (same position as us) is never made to leave early on the weeks she works Saturdays, so she gets to have overtime pay. How is this right? Do we have a labor law dispute?

Signed, Is This Right


Dear Is This Right:

Not everything is fair. You can find examples of unfairness in Aesop’s fables and the Bible–about some workers paid the same for less work than others. When something doesn’t seem fair, especially when it comes to your personal work and money, you want to make it right. So you have a voice and from time to time you can gripe about it with your coworker or you can choose one of several options. Your complaint is not a labor dispute unless you which to make it one. You can complain to your boss and/or Human Resources about this worker being paid overtime and you not. Then learn what is or isn’t done about that. If you belong to a union, you can take this matter up with it. Or you can confront the particular worker and tell her she doesn’t deserve overtime and make an enemy of her. Or you can contact your state or federal department of labor. Or you can enlist a labor attorney to get her/his opinion. However, I don’t think you want to cough up money to take this to court or pay an attorney to compose a letter to your company, not at the price they charge per hour. Please don’t consider what I’m providing as legal advice because we aren’t lawyers. The question you raise annoys you and might be easily resolved by your boss; however, it won’t be unless you approach it maturely. By that word, I mean that you should guard against repeatedly complaining about this to your coworker who also is not allowed overtime and your friends and family. Rather bring it to your boss with request that he/she do what can reasonably be done.

I assume you are a good worker and have earned the respect of your coworkers and boss, and therefore, your request will be considered. If nothing changes, you can bring it again, this time in writing. Equal pay for equal work and equal assignments is what you want. Now, bosses make some assignments differently in light of individual needs, employee skills, complexity of tasks, seniority and sometimes wrongly. If you were in management you too would consider varied criteria. Remember this is not a case to take to the Supreme Court, but is best approached in good humor and not something to about which to obsess. There are more important things to think and talk about with your coworkers and boss; such as delivering high quality goods and service to internal and external customers and also such matters as cutting wasted supplies, wasted time, and wasted money.

Most of all don’t allow this unfairness to fester and provoke you to see your boss and company as adversaries. I know I’ve said too much in response to your question. I could simply have advised that you talk about it with your boss, but I’ve given much thought/advice to it in hopes that it will prompt you to keep your feeling of “it ain’t right” in perspective. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and this is the spirit with which to approach minor injustice and it is the result you want for yourself and others; to speak up about important issues and to match complaints with enthusiasm in and about where you work.

William Gorden