“I moved here from Virginia in September 2014 and got a job at Sizzler paying a $38,000 salary. The way it works is that you’re scheduled 50 hours a week as a base. You never work less than 50 hours, and it just goes up from there.
My general manager made the schedule and just treated people who are exempt from overtime as free extra workers.
I didn’t have any control over my schedule other than staying late when I needed to. What I would do is I would work until 1:00 or 2:00 am, and then have to be back at 8:00 am. I would get 3 or 4 hours of sleep those days.
You really can’t justify the pay for that amount of work. The only plus about being a manager is there’s more longevity in the job. And it looks better on a resume, it helps you get hired in your next job. Plus management is pretty easy.
But I was tired of missing things, missing holidays, missing my social life for work, and for what? So eventually I got out of the restaurant industry to make a change.
Now I work with people with developmental disabilities who are also prone to criminal behavior, and aren’t of sound mind. I adore all my clients. They’ve done terrible things, but typically it’s their upbringing, lack of guidance, or disabilities. Imagine dealing with that — you have nobody around to teach you or guide you and you have a mental disability.
The hospitality industry and this industry are a lot alike — it’s mostly just reading people. The same things you do with a customer you do with a client: empathy, validation. You don’t argue even if they are wrong. Reflective listening, repeating it back. Same thing, both jobs.
The pay structure is similar too. I make $40,000/year, which $2,000 more than my restaurant job. The job was advertised as a set schedule. In theory I’m Monday - Friday, 8-5, that’s what it says, but that’s not what it is. At a minimum I work 55 hours a week. That puts my hourly pay at less than $14.00, and I've been there for over two years.
I thought it would be a better schedule than the last job. It’s not.
This job is more fulfilling though.
But at the restaurant, when I was home, I was home. Now I get phone calls all times of day. I haven’t had a day without work since I’ve started. Literally every single day. I went to a wedding last year, and I was doing my timecards from the back of a vehicle. That was my vacation — I’m at a wedding texting staff. I’m sleeping with my phone under my pillow to avoid disturbing my significant other with phone calls, or sometimes I just sleep in another room. At movies, I’m holding my phone. At dinner, I’m checking it. Have to have my bluetooth charged. I have to avoid going places where I don’t have service. I can’t leave my phone. You’re never off.
And this is a for-profit company, owned by an investment company.
They try to make folks exempt so they don’t have to pay extra. The way everything works, there’s so much turnover in doing the job. So if I can’t fill a shift any other way, then I have to fill in the shift myself. The shift has to be filled. If one of my hourly staff does it, it’s overtime pay. If I do it, it’s free for the company. But it’s the same shift.
It’s not about the money for me, it’s about the time. If they’re going to take away more of my time, they need to pay me more.
I have no attachment to the term exempt, non-exempt, overtime. My attachment is getting the most out of my life, to live my life. I want to pay my bills so I can have my me time and actually enjoy it. That’s what I’m trying to get out of this. At the end of the day, your value is not where your job is or what your title is. It’s if you can spend time with your family, that’s what’s important.
Businesses can never pay you what your time is worth — your time is invaluable.
But they don’t even try.
I don’t want the money I want the time.
I think they should set the threshold so that anyone paid less than triple the minimum wage gets overtime, period. It needs to be indexed and automatic so we don’t have to deal with this in the future. The minimum wage goes up every year, this threshold should be the same. "
— Sidney Kenney, Social service worker & former restaurant worker, Tumwater