Bear with me, as this is rather involved. I was the manager of a technical group and was by all accounts a "rockstar employee". I averaged about 100 hours a week, was oncall 24x7x365, was promoted regularly, and received rave reviews from lateral peers, direct reports, and upper management. Everything was going swimmingly until a new director came aboard early in the year. He decided to have my team start working 15 hours of "mandatory overtime
" each week, which is legal as our office is in VA.
I called a meeting, explained the expectation and smoothed things over with my team. During that meeting, the need for an on-call came up and we drafted a plan where everyone participated, but the oncall was only used when someone called out sick or there was an emergency. Several team members asked me if "it was legal" to make employees work mandatory OT AND work oncall. I checked and explained that it was legal, provided there was no requirement to remain in the vicinity of the office (these guys all live an hour or more away) and the call volume was not overly onerous.
That was taken in stride, but exactly one week later our new Director suddenly decided to revamp our oncall policy to mandate every employee work a period of 24x7 coverage for 1 week, starting IMMEDIATELY. The change from the previous policy was that the oncall would AUTOMATICALLY take queue calls like a regular employee on shift during the busy hours in the evening and afternoon. He wanted me to engage the oncall currently on duty, when we had more than ample coverage on the shift, *just* to send the message that oncall was now "another tech on the phones". I asked for the details of the new expectation in an email, and he answered with the following list:
While oncall, you must:
1. Be within 15 minutes of the office
2. Use your own phone and laptop, we do not provide them
3. Be available IMMEDIATELY 24 hours a day, for the seven day period, to dive in and troubleshoot via laptop.
4. You must still work your regular shift, as well as extra 15 hours of mandatory OT
5. While oncall, even though you are engaged to wait for the benefit of the company, you will only be paid for actual time spent on the phone.
...I wrote him back "I strongly believe this is a violation of the FLSA
law, as you are attempting to skirt the law and force people to work unpaid overtime. To my knowledge, what you are asking me to do is not legal and I must respectfully XXXXX XXXXX order to avoid breaking the law. I hope you understand, I am not being insubordinate, merely invoking my rights and the rights of the team, and trying to save the company from exposure to a lawsuit". I also sent copies of the Supreme Court case law where it was decided that firemen required to stay near the firehouse and respond within 15 minutes had to be compensated for "waiting time".
He went on to call me and scream into the phone about how he would "get rid of anyone who had a problem with it" and emailed another employee that he was to be ready to work for his oncall shift starting that weekend, to which that employee replied by invoking his FLSA right to not work unpaid overtime. Two days later (Friday), I was backhandedly demoted via a humiliating public email sent to the whole company by another Director. The following Monday, I was demoted again in a face to face with MY Director. I was wise enough to record the conversation with my cellphone, which was in plain view. I also checked and discovered that VA is a "one party consent" state and our employee manual states no rule against it and also says "No employee shall have any expectation of ANY privacy
anywhere on company property, other than the restrooms". I figured I was within my rights, and I knew I was about to get an underhanded blow that would be denied later.
It is obvious that the demotion was related to my stance on the law and that we would be breaking it in order to score some free overtime. The conversation was civil, but ended with him telling me "You are not in ADP's (the provider of our payroll
services) system as a manager or team lead, so I am putting you back out on the floor as a tech. It isn't a demotion, as technically we have no record of you being a manager."
I was aghast. "So, you have introduced me as the manager, let me manage the team (which I did for 10 months before you even came aboard!), told customers I was the manager, and now you are going to pretend I never was? It was a paperwork error?"
He said "I'm new, so I never knew what your position was...."
I said "Sir, I am one of the only TWO direct reports you have. You can seriously sit there with a straight face and imply you didn't know what my function was for two months?!?"
To his credit, he couldn't do it with a straight face...he was laughing. Meeting adjourned.