My wife is a part-time Chinese teacher, in a private school. Only the hours spent teaching are paid.

Her boss often asks her and other teachers to do tasks unrelated to teaching, such as housework, administrative tasks, translating the school's website, and so on. She is not paid when doing these tasks.

She often complied in the past, but now she is starting to be reluctant, feeling her boss is taking advantage of her and her colleagues. How can she put her concerns nicely to said boss ?

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    If in the US, she should explore her options with the state's Department of Labor. The intervention of the State's Department of Labor might have an enhanced impact if the proprietor of the schoolis on a permant resident visa - They certainly don't want anything like an appearance in court to get in theway of their eventual application for citizenship. I am fairly sure that the proprietor of the school is well aware that what they are doing is not right, and your wife's telling them it's not right is not telling them anything they don't know, and exposes her to retaliation. Oct 9, 2014 at 21:30
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    If in New York City, there are a couple of non-profits that are dedicated to helping exploited workers. Oct 9, 2014 at 21:33
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    Where is this school located?
    – KatieK
    Oct 9, 2014 at 21:48

3 Answers 3


What can she do?


Second, she should explain to her boss that her job is to X, Y, and Z. She did A, B, and C in the past to be nice, but at this point she really doesn't want to do them without compensation. (if she is willing to do them if paid) otherwise you can just drop the "without compensation" part.

Now if the response is tough, if she wants to keep her job she needs to do it, or any sort of negative action against her then things get tricky

First, consultation is free with most attorneys. She should consult one and cover what she should and should not do to protect herself legal.

After that she should take her complaints and a copy of the documentation to HR and explain the situation. If things are on the up and up HR will intervene and the situation will improve, otherwise this will likely get nothing done.

If the problem persists she has a few options...

Accept this is the way this job is, and if she wants to keep it she just has to grin and bear it.

Accept this short term and pursue finding a job with better working conditions.

Attempt to piece together enough solid documentation to give the attorney sufficient evidence a legal case could be made and follow the attorney's guidance.


Sadly in most of these scenarios there are negative consequences.

The boss might just fire her the moment he feels she's a liability or no longer doing whatever he wants.

Her working situation with her boss will likely be negatively impacted by this creating tension that could make working there miserable.

Taking on a new job is probably the "safest" in regards to consequences...

Anything involving an attorney to mitigate will create mounds of stress, paperwork, and could land her on a "Do not hire" list.


I would recommend trying to resolve this with the boss then HR, if that doesn't get her anywhere she needs to decide if she'd rather put up with this, or work someplace else. It's just not worth all the effort and frustration to go through formal complaints, legal threats, etc in my opinion.


Speaking about this happening in the US, this is a tough one.

I know a person who deals with similar issues and she actually works as a clerk in a governmental position. Her bosses have asked her to type up box scores for their personal recreational softball leagues, to fill out paperwork related to leases they are drafting for apartments or homes they own and are preparing to rent to a new tenant, and even help do inventory for a private business selling ammunition for recreational firearms.

She detests it and has on some occasions stood up to them and refused, but it has always been held against her. She has been denied certain vacation time (after previously being approved for it) because things have "suddenly come up" after she refused to do a menial task that was not part of her job description.

I'm sure the same thing happens all over in countless ways.

While you ostensibly can try to speak with non-profits that advocate for workers rights, try to speak with the HR department (or whatever department was responsible for hiring), or even go as far as to file a formal complaint with a state or federal department of labor, in almost all of these cases it's going to be nearly impossible to prove that any wrongdoing took place. And especially since the inappropriate work requests were agreed to in previous cases, the boss will be able to play coy and say it was presumed to just be a favor and that you were being nice just like all the previous times you had so kindly agreed to perform the extra tasks before, always as favors.

You would really have to prove that the boss intended the tasks to be considered part of the job, and that performance evaluations, planned raises, or other job factors were actually based on performing these extra tasks -- and that would be quite difficult to prove and probably expensive as well, requiring you to hire some form of employment attorney to help represent your case.

Anyway, long story short is that the more likely option is that you have to be prepared to quit the job. If you are OK quitting the job if you need to, then you can confront the boss and lay out exactly the terms that are acceptable for you regarding the extra tasks (which, presumably should be zero extra tasks unless you are paid for them and choose to accept that payment arrangement). If the boss says too bad, that you will have to do the extra tasks or it will be held against you, then you should just quit.

If you are not in a position where you can afford to quit the job, and you believe that the boss will take it out on you negatively if you don't perform the extraneous tasks, then as a worker in America, you have virtually no option other than to comply with what the boss says.

If you are lucky enough to work for a company with a good HR department, then talking with them can be very helpful, and they may be able to speak with the boss behind the scenes and mitigate it from happening any more. But not always, and in some cases they will pay lip service to you, pretend to listen to you when you describe that it is frustrating, but ultimately tell you their hands are tied because the boss carries too much clout or something.


I see a few things going on here

1) Out of line tasks,

If the school is asking her to do House Work she should not have to do that. One of the problems here (and I have personally had this issue) is that some job descriptions are intentionally vague making it difficult to take these cases anywhere official. For example if here contract says "and related work" or something like that often employers can get away with things it would not seem they should be able to get away with. In this case as mentioned DOCUMENT DOCUMENT DOCUMENT like any battle the more ammo you have the better. Especially things in writing, nobody wants a he said she said situation and bosses will always deny things to protect them selves. To correct this I would speak to the boss first, simply state that the task is out of line and you do not feel it is your job to do it. If they are asking her to do house work there could be a very serious legal issue if anything ever happened to her. Chances are they are not insured for teachers to be doing building maintenance and so on. If talking to the boss does not work then take it to HR once they are involved they will also start to monitor the situation with may help out. From there if things are still a serious issue you can get legal help but that can be costly. If you have a friend that is a lawyer and would be willing to offer a quick point of view you may want to talk to them and see what they say.

2) Related tasks that you could be compensated for. As you mentioned your wife is a Chinese teacher and they asked her to translate the school website. A task like this is well with in her qualifications and I feel it would not be out of line to ask to be compensated for such a job. The same goes for doing school administrative work, if they are asking her to do such work she can come back and ask to paid as a part time administrator with appropriate compensation. If she does not wish to do the work than she can simply tell them her job description/contract etc. does not stipulate that she is responsible for it. This is a tricky situation of course as in some cases demanding money for a job is an awkward place to be especially if you already have a job for said organization.

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