Learn From This, Readers

, , , , , , | Working | April 3, 2020

A few years ago, I was working two part-time jobs in different companies: one as a receptionist in an office and one in a CD/DVD store. One day, our area manager came into the store with forms for us all to sign. She explained that it was not a big deal, just some “dumb government thing,” and we needed to sign it, and once we did, we’d get a $50 bonus in our next pay “for our trouble.” This sounded pretty good to us; all of us were struggling with low wages and an extra $50 would make life a little easier.

It was extremely long, with pages and pages of complicated jargon I couldn’t make heads or tails of. Then, in bold at the bottom, written in plain English, was a line about the extra $50 in our next pay if we signed. My area manager hovered over me the whole time I was reading, literally standing in my personal space, arms folded, huffing and sighing and checking her watch.

Something didn’t feel right, so I told her I was going to take it home and read it properly. She didn’t like that one bit. She complained that I was making her life difficult, that everyone else had already done it, why did I have to cause such a fuss, the company was being so generous, and it would be rude for me not to get it back ASAP, etc. I dug my heels in and took it home. 

I showed it to my parents and friends, and none of them could make any sense of it, either. I took it to my office job and asked if the HR manager could look over it for me.

She did, and she was furious. She boiled it down for me: the company had been caught underpaying its employees and was now supposed to pay back the wages we were owed. The form we were asked to sign was basically us forfeiting our rights to claim that money, in exchange for a $50 “bonus”.

I called my area manager and told her that I wasn’t signing and I wanted my backpay.

Even though I had only worked for the company for a few months, I was entitled to over $800 in wages. My coworkers were devastated when I told them; they had signed without reading, took the managers at their word, and had probably missed out on a few thousand dollars.

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