“I understand that being a salaried worker means you need to work extra hours from time to time, but I don’t think that means signing over your life. Yet, that’s what it feels like sometimes.
I’m a grocery store manager at a major retail grocery store in the Seattle area. The store requires all salaried managers to work 45 hours a week, but we are all scheduled 50 hours. I am often asked to stay later than my scheduled shift time. My bosses try to guilt-trip me into staying longer by telling me “you always leave on time,” as if leaving at the end of a shift lacks honor. There’s nothing wrong with leaving when your shift ends, especially when you have to work another shift in eight hours.
Regardless of my state of health or my scheduled shift, I am told that I need to stay until the job is done, even if that means sleeping at the store. When the hourly employees go home, I have to stay at work and finish everything. It doesn’t matter if the workload is far too much for one person to complete. I am expected to do it all without additional pay. If I can’t get it done, I am belittled by my superiors. I am told that I didn’t put in enough effort.
Ironically, my bosses always talk about work/life balance, but it’s clear that doesn’t apply to salaried workers. My work/life balance is not a consideration. There’s no regard for my health whatsoever. They don’t care how sick I am—I need to be at work. I’m not allowed to call-in unless I’m in the hospital.
There is no respect for personal time, either. My bosses call me on my days off to tell me to come in. I was once told that I needed to come in because my department “looked like crap,” and if I didn’t come in there would be a serious discussion. They try to emotionally manipulate me into feeling inadequate and at risk for disciplinary action. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve had to block work numbers, so I can actually have time away from work. My work/life balance should be considered, too.
When I first moved to the United States, I was surprised to see that a country more advanced than where I came from would allow employers to treat people so poorly. I was raised in Indonesia, and I expected that employees in the US would be treated better, but they are dehumanized, and it is completely normalized. This treatment of grocery store managers is standard in the industry. It’s how everyone is treated at this store and at the last store where I worked. And the managers just expect to be treated this way.
My bosses wonder why hourly workers don’t want to be promoted. The hourly workers see how salaried workers are treated, and they don’t want that. They are protected by the union and the laws—why would they give that up? They don’t see any benefit.
If I could choose between getting paid for overtime or not having to work overtime, it would be an easy choice for me: I would choose to work a forty-hour work week.
Right now, I live to work, and it shouldn’t be like that. If I only had to work forty hours a week, I would spend more time with my dog and my friends. I would bake cupcakes and make ice creams for my dog and my friends’ dogs — that’s something I really like to do, but I never have time for.
I would live my life the way I wanted to.“
— Annie, grocery manager at retail grocery store