For over a year I've been working for a marketing/staffing agency where I go to different retail stores to promote/demonstrate various products. I have had a very good relationship with this agency and it's important to me to maintain it.

The other day I received a call where they urgently needed someone to fill a shift. I agreed and said I could be there in about an hour. My prediction was wrong and I was there in about an hour and half, and I told them this. (This shift was scheduled at a very unusual time, there's a few set times that shifts normally start at but this one was different). The next day payroll informed me I would be paid for one hour less than I had actually worked. This confused me and when I asked why they said it's because I arrived late.

  • I showed up closer to 30 minutes late, not a full hour
  • With this work there is some flexibility in start/end times but 30 minutes is pushing it. However with urgent last minute bookings where they want someone asap it had been my understanding more flexibility is given
  • there was some confusion when I first arrived and the store employees didn't know they had a sampling going on (most of the staff were Indian and had difficulty with English). This caused a bit of a delay getting started.
  • for the company that employs me, normally I have one point of contact but for some reason this time I had 3 which, combined with the previous point, complicated things because at first thought I was at the wrong location

    • the work itself was not affected by the time of day I was doing it
    • no one ever told me to go home so I worked the full length of the shift and want to get paid

Usually the company is very good and this is the first time it's ever happened. What can I do about this and still remain on good terms so they continue to give me work?

I have proof of approximately what time I started and finished. I had called the agency when the store clerk told me (incorrectly) they weren't having a sampling so that's in my call history. When I finished I had to pay for the product used and the time was on the receipt. I replied to the payroll email asking if they wanted to see this and they didn't reply.

Somewhat related, over the phone I was told I would get paid for my travel time and from the payroll email it sounds like I won't. Should I resolve the not getting paid for an hour issue first and then bring this up or should I do both at the same time? At minimum I'd like in writing what exactly the expectations are in situations like this.

  • 6
    Depending on your hourly wages: for you, is this money worth the time you've already spent writing this question and needed to argue with them, plus the possibly negative consequences (in terms of image) when arguing for 1h salary (how legitimate you may be)?
    – ebosi
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 8:33
  • Is there anything in your contract about deducting an hour's pay if you're late at all?
    – berry120
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 9:22
  • 4
    @ebo this is true, however 1) the hourly rate was high because of the need to fill it urgently, and I did cancel other commitments do be there 2) it seems like an awfully slippery slope to allow an employer to get away without paying you. I'm not sure if it's the right way to handle it but given the circumstance I'd be up for meeting somewhere in the middle and getting a reduced rate.
    – Bertelem
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 10:46
  • 2
    Document the event, and save your records. Do nothing this time in the hopes that it won't be a pattern of behavior moving forward. Otherwise you risk losing face and appearing petty. If it happens again, complain. The next time it is a repeat offense everyone will see that you are justified.
    – Lumberjack
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 12:55
  • 1
    What country are you in? Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 7:25

2 Answers 2


If you want the softest touch approach I can think of (short of doing nothing):

Email payroll and/or HR from the perspective of clearing up a misunderstanding rather than demanding your money.

Explain the whole situation as succinctly as you can (including the fact that you were told you'd be compensated for travel time) and ask if you can have written confirmation of the policy for a) deducting additional pay for arriving late and b) compensating travel time.

This is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask in any circumstance, and there's the possibility that as a result of you questioning this, they realise that they're in the wrong and do give you the additional compensation.

  • @Bertelem When you said you got an urgent call from "they", Who are "they"? Is your Boss a Store Manager? That is the person you should do the initial talking because he was the one need someone solve the emergency in the first place. And they should handle with HR the payment discrepancy. Either he doesn't pass the necessary information to HR or he doesn't know the right process / policy. But as berry said isn't about demanding your money, is about clearing the misunderstanding. Like the promise he made of compensating for travel time. Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 14:49

Step 1: Ask them if the discrepancy in payment and timing is a simple misunderstanding. Maybe it is. Probably it isn't. It sounds like you're past this stage already though.

Step 2: Inform them of the issues raised above, emphasizing the fact that you were asked to come in last-minute and weren't given enough time to prepare/arrive at the site. Hopefully they don't expect you to always be on-call 24/7 in case they happen to need you for a shift, and they expect in these circumstances that you have to take some time to prepare.

Step 3: Step 1 was to determine whether the omission was malicious or accidental (we determined it was malicious). Step 2 was to determine whether the company is logical or illogical (they are illogical). Since they are malicious and also illogical, you basically have no recourse; they will do what they want to do and enforce arbitrary rules as they see fit. That being the case, I would continue working your regular job for them and not causing further fuss (unless other issues arise), and take your hour paycheque hit this time, but refrain from taking any additional shifts for them as best as possible as the company has shown they are not honest about paying you for your work.

The lesson is as follows: If the company needs "urgent-time work", then they can afford to pay someone "urgent-time pay". Your work is defined by your contracted hours; any work outside those hours are done solely at your discretion. The company should learn that lesson and learn it quickly if they want someone for "urgent-time work", or else they're not going to get their business objectives met.

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