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So I started at my job two and a half years ago. Before I started working at a company in Tualatin Oregon, I was told the company had suffered through a hardship, and was in a salary freeze and would be for a while. But someone was needed to do maintenance on the machinery, along with their regular duties as shipping receiving/ package handler.

Well after 2 1/2 years of working at minimum wage, after I've repaired and kept all their machinery in top working order, they are not giving me a higher salary, and think all the maintenance and extra hours are free somehow. What can I do?

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    @GeoffreyBrent Indeed, OC should remove asap. I had an employer once snooping around my reddit account who got annoyed when I used it in my personal time to ask about a jobs fair. Quickest account suicide I ever did. – user25730 Nov 13 at 5:01
  • @Oct18isdayofsilenceonSE I missed it; how did it go? Was there a noticeable impact? – Mawg says reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 6:41
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    Find and get a new job now, someone else will be pleased to have you. Do NOT believe any promises of “we will give you a raise next time or next week” - there are too many questions on here showing they don’t... – Solar Mike Nov 13 at 6:59
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    IMO a Salary Freeze is not actually a real thing per se. It's a decision made by a management that they are willing to risk people leaving their company because they don't want to pay them the going rate. It's often talked about as being something that has been inflicted on the company, but really it's just them saying they don't value their employees. – TeddyTedTed Nov 13 at 8:00
  • A "salary freeze" is a decision by a higher level of a company, inflicted on a lower level. In a large, multi-level organization, it might mean "I can't give you a raise, because my bosses won't let me." In a smaller organization, it means "We're not going to give you a raise." Regardless, it's the company making the call. – Ben Barden Nov 20 at 15:42
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Wage theft?

So you're not exempt and they didn't pay you for overtime? That's wage theft.

Did you keep records? Do you have emails/call logs of them calling you or ordering work when you were off-duty?

The Labor Department of your State can usually recover that money, assuming you can prove you did those hours.

Negotiate

What kind of machinery is this? Can you look at historical records and try to quantify how much money you saved them on repairing/maintenance costs? Uptime? How much does it cost when one of these machines is down?

Even if they disregard that information, that kind of data would be great to include in your resume.

Because ultimately, you need to look for a better employer. Seriously, even if they give you a raise, you still need to look for a new employer. This one has been taking you for granted for far too long.

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You can stop working extra hours for free. Tell them you'll either do it during the time you're paid, or as paid overtime.

They'll have to pay someone, and you're probably still the cheapest and most experienced person they can find.

You're probably worried that they'll fire you, but that would leave them needing to find someone competent to do your regular duties for the minimum wage AND someone to do the maintenance.

They're asking you to make a sacrifice for the good of the company, but you don't own the company - they do, and they're paying themselves more than you. Once you realise that they're using a power-imbalance to lie and cheat, it's easy to see that you don't owe them anything.

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In the end of the day you accepted the job in the first place, so in terms of the salary you can either attempt to negotiate a higher salary or quit. The company doesn't own you.

It doesn't really matter if they lied about the reasons for the low salary in the first place, you accepted it, though its obviously a huge red flag on their ethical standings. It's understandable that you want that to change by now. There are various answers here on SO on salary negotiation and there even exist online guides by people such as Remit Sethi on how to negotiate.

Not paying overtime is unacceptable by them however, if its actual overtime and classified as such in your contract. Some contracts state that overtime is a part of your normal job, in that case there's not much to do, but there is even a legal limit to that. If you should be payed for your overtime and you're not, you need stand your ground with documented records on what you're owed and if they refuse then you should contact your union or a lawyer and start looking for a new job.

Ask for things to be changed. If it doesn't work then find a new job and learn from this experience. You now have a couple of years worth of experience that you can reflect on to help you get a new, better job (you should use the fact that you got this experience to ask for a raise at your current company, while you're at it).

Make sure you've signed a contract for a new job before quitting your current one (if you choose to do so).

  • There are actual minimum wage laws, and it looks like they apply in this case. It is highly likely that the things this company has been doing are outright illegal. – Ben Barden Nov 20 at 15:37
  • Indeed. OP says he's working minimum wage. – Jonast92 Nov 20 at 15:42
  • I'm just saying, it's more than just the contract here. It's highly likely that it doesn't matter what's on the contract because paying the OP this little is outright illegal. – Ben Barden Nov 20 at 15:44
  • Yes of course it's illegal to pay below minimal wage, even if a contract says so. That being said, you can still be forced to work above a fixed amount of hours if you agreed to it, but I'm sure that individual labor laws in each country have laws that make sure that even the extra hours do work do not result in less than a minimal wage per hour, OP should consult with a professional to check if his minimal wage rights are being violated or not. – Jonast92 Nov 20 at 16:51
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The other answers explained what you can do to mitigate your losses. I would just like to add that you, like many before you, need to adjust your mentality when on the market. The people you interact with on the market may seem friendly, now, some of them may even seem the friendliest on Earth because this is part of their job and they may even have dedicated resources and research behind this effect.

What you need is some pretend-egoism and healthy level of paranoia. In the market, you should never give anyone for free and undocumented anything that they ask for. If you come up with some kind of plan that warrants for whatever reason this kind of behavior on your side, it's your idea and risk, go with it and learn, it may even work out as intended. But many people are trying to put the pressure on you to take it from them. One thing market is, is a game. It may be not good to be completely devoid of empathy there, so I am not suggesting that you make use of people that let you use them, but you definitely need to be less trusting and assume others are making use of you.

It would be very hard to bring justice to everyone in your position without sacrificing other values that market economy provides, so the responsibility is mostly yours to protect your interest. And the way to do this is to actively look for what's best for you. Like in this case, you shouldn't be taking into consideration the prospects they have for you, that they never signed on paper. You should be regularly checking if you can change job for something that would be better according to your hierarchy of values (fe. better paid) and as soon as possible, change jobs or use occasion to renegotiate. And regarding renegotiating - again, healthy dose of paranoia - you don't consider anything that is not signed and on paper. If they for whatever reason cannot give you or even show you the chests filled with gold that they hide at the end of the rainbow for you, it's their loss, not yours. You don't have any obligation to avoid hurting their feelings with distrust. Do you know each other 30 years? Did you go fishing together when you were teenagers? No? Do they stand to gain from abusing your trust? Yes? See my point.

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