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I'm currently working my first part time job that is paid by the hour where I teach young children. I really love being able to interact with the students and seeing them grow as I teach them. Lately, the owner of the company has decided to take a more direct interest in the direct management of employees (which is his right), but has implemented certain policy changes.

I'm very concerned about how my employer is defining work place events and whether they qualify as paid work time. I'm adding a slightly edited version of our correspondence (for privacy reasons). The edits are bolded.

I feel like he is indicating that I could be fired if I don't attend a non-mandatory event. Am I overreacting? What would be an appropriate course of action? (If it helps, this is in California.)

Events are not working events. They are for the students. This is the fruit of what we do. Events are not a paid event. If it were we would staff more discriminately. I can not make attendance mandatory; however, I will look to replace instructors that don't show up for the events without a valid reason with instructors that are more passionate about the development of our students.

Edit:
I attended the most recent event because it's sort of a big deal for the students. The drive is a bit difficult and as we help with set up, clean up, and running the event, it makes me feel that it is improper to indicate attendance is a sign of being uncommitted. In the future, I may not attend for reasons such as having too much homework or a prior engagement.

Edit: I feel like it wasn't quite clear in my original post. I'm essentially a minimum wage employee. We're being paid to teach the kids a skill set at our studio. This is also my first, first job and I fear that my boss may be using my inexperience and my coworkers inexperience to take advantage.

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    Keep that e-mail around. If you get the axe it could be useful in showing why you were fired. – Loren Pechtel Nov 1 '17 at 2:24
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    As a teacher, do you earn less than "$3,466 per month or $41,600 per year"? If so, you're probably not exempt and your boss made a mistake to write that to you. calpublicagencylaboremploymentblog.com/wage-and-hour-2/… Filing a complaint with the State Department of Labor could protect you from retaliation. Or so the theory goes. dir.ca.gov That being said, do not take my word for it. Ask that agency, not me. IANAL. – Stephan Branczyk Nov 1 '17 at 11:08
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    By the way, please do not ask me to post my previous comment as an answer. If one of you finds my answer potentially useful, feel free to post it yourself under your own username. Since I usually link my StackOverflow profile to my resume through the career site of StackOverflow, I do not need a potential employer going through my posting history thinking that I would ever contact the California Department of Labor on them. – Stephan Branczyk Nov 1 '17 at 11:19
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    I'd forward that email to the state labor board and talk to them. I would bet that your boss will sing a new song after a discussion with them over threatening employees who don't do work for free at these events. I'd also look for another job, because the boss is a jerk. – DLS3141 Nov 1 '17 at 18:56
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    Keep track of all your unpaid time (including missed breaks and lunches). When you do find a new job, ask for the back pay and file a complaint with the Labor Board when he doesn't pay it. – Hannover Fist Nov 1 '17 at 20:02
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Let's take a look at the details.

Events are not working events.

You state in your comments that :

I attended the most recent event because it's sort of a big deal for the students. The drive is a bit difficult and as we help with set up, clean up, and running the event, it makes me feel that it is improper to indicate attendance is a sign of being uncommitted. In the future, I may not attend for reasons such as having too much homework or a prior engagement

That sound like work to me.

Also :

I'm currently working my first part time job that is paid by the hour

Part time. Paid by the hour.

And you're expected to do extra work out of hours (homework is already extra unpaid I'm sure - it typically is for teachers).

They are for the students.

The company got paid money and they should be budgeting for these events.

This is the fruit of what we do.

But not what they're willing to pay for.

Events are not a paid event. If it were we would staff more discriminately.

Translations : they would not send as many staff if they had to pay staff to go. It would eat into profits. And to blazes with the students, is also implied.

I can not make attendance mandatory;

An interesting statement as it implies it's outside the terms of your contract.

If it was in your terms of employment, then they could make it mandatory.

So your contract is your friend here.

however, I will look to replace instructors that don't show up for the events without a valid reason with instructors that are more passionate about the development of our students.

Really silly thing to say.

You've now got direct evidence that they are threatening to fire you if you don't do unpaid work.

I don't know employment law in your area, but to see if this helps you you need to speak to someone more expert -union, lawyer, that kind of group.

And what is "a valid reason" ? I bet it's "nothing".

So what to do ?

If you want to fight this you need to get legal advice. There may be agencies that give cheap or even free legal advice to part time works. If you have a union (teaching ?) you may get advice there - even if the union is not recognized by your employer, as long as you're a member.

If fighting sounds like a pain the other solution is to get a new job.

Honestly, I'd strongly suggest looking for a new job.

The fact the owner is now taking such a direct role instead of normal management may be a sign they're in financial difficulty. Owners usually don't get involved at this level unless there's a problem. They'll talk to management and management will work out the details. I'd call this intervention as a "sign of distress". Certainly it's clumsy and I'd bail if possible simply because this is probably going to get worse (how the company is operated).

Note : I have a cousin who was a teacher (recently retired) and there certainly is a lot of homework and prep done after hours - lots of hours. However your employer seems to be pushing that envelop a lot more and as you're also part time ( not regular full time staff ) the events as well seem pretty rough.

  • I'd favor "find a new job" over "fix a broken job". Once you start down that path the bridge is burned with that manager at least to some extent. If it's something you care about personally then by all means go down swinging, but if you aren't invested I say the #1 option is to get a new job. – Ethan The Brave Nov 1 '17 at 13:32
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    Plus, most teachers are salaried employees (not to dismiss all the extra work they put in that is technically outside of their "regular" job). A part-time hourly worker being asked to contribute more hours, without compensation, and which could, if tracked, push them into a more "full-time" status with required benefits, is where the similarities diverge. – PoloHoleSet Nov 1 '17 at 14:33
  • Thank you for your advice. Since it's a part time job and my first job I really don't know how much I should push this. It made me feel uncomfortable. I'll probably start looking for a new job. – Cosmos Nov 1 '17 at 14:46
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    Really bad call to put this in writing. I would open a confidential case with your local employment office. EEOC in the US. You cannot under any circumstances be penalized for not attending an unpaid event. And if you do attend you most certainly should not be 'working' off the clock by setting up, cleaning etc. You should be sitting the audience enjoying the 'fruits' of your work and nothing more. – Bill Leeper Nov 1 '17 at 17:53
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I'm not recommending you do this, but it is an option. (I would just call his bluff a if I get fired so be it.)

  1. Document the policy
  2. Attend all events Unpaid - But document your attendance\time.
  3. Once you are ready to move on, find a new job and quit.
  4. Once you start your new Job, file a complaint with the department of labor and demand back pay for those hours.

See: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/wages/backpay

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So...

Let's start here. You can't force boss to excuse you from these events and be just as happy with you as if you'd gone. Now California labor law may say one thing, but you've gotten it straight from the horse's mouth that these are effectively mandatory events. "This is the fruit of what we do" indicates that at least to the honcho, these events are critical.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing.

That is to say, you need to do the mental math about keeping your job vs finding another, but factor in these now-mandatory events. Find out how many there are and how often. You should certainly understand the schedule. Then decide if you still like the job enough to stay.

You might even come to enjoy them!

Note that there may, technically, be some way under CA law to force boss to pay you or excuse you. Yep. But if you go that route, you've made an office enemy you don't really want to have. I don't recommend this.

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If I were you I would ignore the monetary side of it and attend the events in good spirits. Think of it as an investment in the kids wellbeing and your own contribution to their lives.

You take out of life what you put in, it's not all about money (just mostly). Go in with the attitude you're going to have fun, and you'll have fun.

In other words don't let your bosses insinuation worry you.

Events can also be a great opportunity to network with people in the community in a role that creates respect. Free food. Getting to wear facepaint and outrageous costumes can be a pleasant bonus.

Teaching is almost a lifestyle choice as much as it is a profession. If you're not committed to it you may well be in the wrong industry.

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    Sorry KilisiI also love kids, but the boss is bullying the OP and you are suggesting he should roll over and be a door mat. He is only a part time employee and event require long hours drive. – Juan Carlos Oropeza Nov 1 '17 at 14:51
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    @JuanCarlosOropeza it's just my take on the matter, op can do what they want, they're, as you say 'just a part time employee' very easy to replace, in which case the OP is unemployed quite possibly without a good reference. Some things are worth battling over, others aren't. – Kilisi Nov 1 '17 at 21:27
  • The job described is not teaching, it's tutoring, which is much more a job than a profession; it is unlikely the asker will keep such a position for more time than necessary to gain full-time employment. The asker is also part-time and paid close-to-minimum wage, so suggesting they ignore the loss of both time and income is to ignore the point of having the job at all. All up, this response is not helpful advice for the situation. – user53718 Nov 4 '17 at 0:31

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