Wednesday, November 22, 2017

When Numbers are Misunderstood

The shop steward, Belle, requested to speak with me about my “job complaint” as she calls it.

I already explained my wage issue with her.

“I don’t want to go to administration and look stupid,” she explained.

You are stupid, I thought. I said, “Of course. Nobody wants to look stupid. So if you want to recuse yourself, I understand.”

She jumped right in, not processing anything I said. “Okay. So what makes you look bad is that you suddenly got a lot of money and didn’t say anything. You knew you should not have gotten this money.”

“I don’t know what windfall you are talking about,” I said.

“No, not windfall,” she explained. “How can I make you understand money?” She paused. “When did you claim you got the job as scheduler?”

“A few years back,” I answered, keeping my replies simple for her simple mind.

“Okay. Exactly.” She responded.

“Exactly what?” I asked.

“This is so hard explaining this to you,” she continued. “You were getting an extra thousand dollars a paycheck for a few years, but then it suddenly stopped after you became scheduler. That tells you that you were being paid wrong, so I’m not clear on what scam exactly you are trying to pull on the hospital, but I cannot be a part of that.”

I stared at her. This was my union representation? Really?

“I was never getting an extra thousand dollars per paycheck. Where would you even come up with this?” I said, letting my annoyance show.

Belle pulled out my salary history. She had misinterpreted the thousand dollar PER YEAR raise for a thousand dollar PER PAYCHECK raise. The raises stopped when I became a scheduler because that coincided with the time that I reached the contractual maximum as specified in the union contract.

She stared at the paper for a few minutes. “Well, I don’t think it’s fair that you should make more than me. You started after me.”

“Maybe you can file a grievance with the union,” I answered. “But you are well beyond the five day limit for filing.”

She stared at me.

I saw her paycheck sticking out of her purse several weeks ago. We make the same amount. So I challenged her. “Look at your paycheck. We make the same.”

She left the room with my salary history. When she returned, she said, “Okay, but I should make more because I was hired before you.”

“Nobody can make more than we do because we are at the maximum,” I explained.

She didn’t get it. “But I’ve been here longer” she pointed out, again.

“You were hired a few months before me, but in the same fiscal year. Those thousand dollar increases are given out July 1st until you reach the cap,” I explained.

“I don’t know anything about a fiscal year, but again, you are talking about stuff that is not in the contract and the administration will never agree to,” she responded.

“Good for you!” I chirped. “So go to administration and demand a salary increase beyond the maximum.”

“No,” she interjected, “Your salary should be lower than mine. The hospital will not go beyond the maximum. You should really read the contract.”

I looked at her and slowly asked, “So are you, as my union representative, not going to advocate on my behalf, not because I am wrong, but because you are personally jealous that I make the same money as you do?”

“How can you say that after all I have done for you?” she shot back.

“What did you do for me?” I asked, calm.

“I reviewed your file!” she snapped.

“Not well,” I responded. “You made a $25,000 error.”

“No I didn’t!” she yelled. “You just make stuff up and lie.”

“An extra thousand dollars per paycheck for a year is $26,000, minus the $1000 I did get, is $25,000 per year that you claimed I was earning in error,” I explained in vain.

“You see, this is why the union can’t help you,” she sneered. “You keep changing your story. First you want a new title, now you want $25,000. You make no sense.”

I said no more as I walked out of the room.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Reverse Payroll

Thank you everyone for your messages of concern.

Things are worse.

My own union is on the side of the hospital, just as in all prior problems.

The union said that I have only five business days to file a grievance, as per the contract. I did not do this, so I am barred from contesting anything the hospital is doing, even though they are doing it now.

So in addition to lowering my salary effective the paycheck I had not received yet, the hospital can collect the $2000 it claims they overpaid me for the past two years.

The union went further. The rep informed me that the hospital has decided that I have been overpaid from the start of my employment and so I owe the hospital anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000. Plus, to be fair, my position should be re-opened so that others can apply, and I may not get my position back because I am not the most senior nurse. “I warned you to just pay them the $2000, but you wouldn’t listen,” she chastised me.

I asked if I can have the raises I did not get because I was at “maximum salary” for years. “No,” was the union’s response, because that was more than five days ago.

Why do I have a five day limit while the hospital can go back over all of my years of employment and take money from me?

“Because you were not ENTITLED to that money and you KNOW it, so you have to give it back!” the union rep yelled at me.

This is ridiculous. I assure you that I was never overpaid. I am within the lowest salary bracket in the union contract. I have my first letter of employment stating my salary, which was from the union president who was also a supervisor. Payroll goes through several checkpoints before the check is generated. There is no mistake about my being overpaid. I am actually underpaid because I do not receive the salary as advertised in the position I hold. Again, barred by the Five Day Rule.

This sounds so embarrassing to write, but I live paycheck to paycheck. I cannot afford massive deductions for the next several years. I don’t owe my employer a dime. They owe me.

The union rep called me just after I left the building for lunch, telling me to come to a certain conference room for the meeting about my pay.

“I just left for lunch,” I said. “I didn’t know a meeting was scheduled.”

“Oh, I guess we forgot to tell you,” the union rep answered.

That shows me that they have zero interest in assisting me in good faith.

“When you come back, pick up a grievance form from Nurse Belle,” the union rep instructed. “But remember, you have no chance of getting what you want.”

It took a while to track down Nurse Belle. She wanders off the ward, which doesn’t matter because she does no work when she is on the ward. But this is okay. They aren’t reducing her salary. They go after me instead.

“We don’t want to waste our time,” Nurse Belle explained. “One day you are happy with your job, the next day you aren’t. What if we go to hospital administration, but that day you are happy, so we look like fools?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” I replied. “I have never told anyone that I am happy with this job.” That is the truth.

“Don’t you remember,” Belle continued, “That I saw you looking through charts, and I asked you what you were doing, and you said that you were auditing them in preparation for our next survey. I asked you if you were okay with that and you said yes.”

“Yes,” I replied. “Where is the part about happiness?”

“You were happy with your job then, but now you aren’t. I just want to make sure that you won’t change your mind after we do all this work,” Nurse Belle said.

“Belle, I am not asking my employer to make me happy. I am asking for the money I should have been paid and asking that I not owe my employer any money. It’s about money, not emotions. I am not asking for a different position,” I said.

She gave me the Official Grievance Form and told me to fill it out quickly and give it to her.

“I need some time for this,” I replied.

“Why?” she asked, puzzled.

“Because a lot of money is at stake. I have to carefully word what I want and the justifications in the contract,” I explained.

“But the hospital never sees that form,” she said. “It’s for the union to better understand what you want so we know what to say at our monthly meeting with the administration.”

I took the form and left.

I was more upset. The Official Grievance Form is never given to the hospital? So they would have no idea if I filled it out this morning or last month. The Five Day Limit was nonsense that the union made up so I would go away.

I mentioned my struggles to the woman who is kind of like my supervisor. She explained what I think the problem is: my position is actually high paying, but the administration would not approve, so they left my title as a ward nurse but promised me a slightly higher salary (which never happened). Recently, an auditor was brought in for payroll, and she noticed the inconsistencies and flagged me.

She was not sympathetic to my explanation of why I should not owe the hospital money.

So I wished her luck with my replacement and told her I was going to recommend Nurse Fortune because she originally wanted this job very badly.

“She’s a terror!” the woman gasped. “And she can’t use a computer. That’s a requirement of your position!”

“That won’t be my problem,” I calmly said with a smile.

I think the explanation is that they should have changed my title and position to another one as outlined in the union contract. That position paid about $10,000 more than what a ward nurse earns. To save money,they didn’t change my title, thereby cutting me off from the higher salary, all along claiming it was an error and telling me that they “invented this job”special for me. Special because they were screwing me over. When someone finally audited, the discrepancy was uncovered and the hospital wants me to pay the price.

I feel like a fool.

I have to leave. I know I’ve said this before, but now it’s urgent. They are going to start taking money from my checks, possibly the entire check. I can’t afford that.

If I leave, they might take my final check. I don’t know how to prevent this. Someone told me to open a new account at a new bank so the hospital can’t claim my money after I leave.

My next job will not be in nursing. I can’t do this anymore.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Paying my Employer

I'm still upset about my wage reduction.

My prior challenge failed and I was threatened to be transferred to a ward.

I took some time to gather my evidence: prior paychecks, correspondence, and the union contract.

I think I have a solid case that I was never given the salary advertised for my position and that the hospital owes me back pay of $15,000 for the past three years.

I visited payroll to clarify which rubric in the union contract was my payscale.  The lowest. The woman insisted that I should not get paid extra for doing my job.

"Why are other nurses paid extra for doing extra jobs?" I tried.

"Because it's not a part of their role as a nurse," she answered.

"Why is every office and task my job?" I asked.

She insisted that the original posting for my office job counts as a job description, clearly stating that I can be assigned "related tasks." She promised to review my rate of pay.

Shortly after leaving, she sent an email that she reviewed my pay and that I owe the hospital over $2000 for the pay overage. RETALIATION AGAIN?

I was devastated. They didn't notice that they "overpaid" me for two years? This is a worse blow to my morale than the reduction in pay.

I challenged them again. I wrote back that my salary was supposed to be increased to a nurse manager as per the job posting (which I have), so the hospital actually owes me in excess of $15,000.

I had to push this. They would not do this to other people. They expect me to merely accept this. Well, I have other uses for $2000 besides paying my employer. It's like working for free for two weeks.

Monday, October 23, 2017


Thank you for waiting patiently for my next little story.

I have not been feeling good. Pain everywhere. Fatigue.

I work in the medical field. These symptoms could be anything.

I'm using up my sick days, spreading them out to avoid a screening by the (not my ally) employee health department of this Hell Hole.

If anyone asks, I explain that I injured myself while aggressively working out so that people think I'm quite fit.

"Gymnastics? At your age?" they quip.

"Always wanted to try it," I laugh. "Never too late to start, right?"

The toxic atmosphere of this workplace probably contributes greatly to my physical and mental health.

But unless I win the lottery or create a lucrative invention, I'm stuck for now.

Take care of yourselves. You only get one body.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Refrigerator Woes

One of my tasks is to examine all of the refrigerators on the wards.

There are several because, in healthcare, you cannot combine certain items.

Most wards have one refrigerator for staff food, another for patient food, one for medications, and one for specimens awaiting pick up.

I check for comingling of items and that everything is labeled with a current expiration date.

You may have guessed by now that these rules are never followed.

At first, I was merely supposed to check each refrigerator, note the problems on a special form, and submit my findings to the Powers That Be. One day, the nursing director stopped me and said, "You know, I've been meaning to ask you. All these problems you find, you fix them, right?"

"No," I answered. "As explained to me, my role is to forward the completed form to supervisors, including you. I was told by you and others that I am not to confront anyone about any problems I find."

"Oh," she said and paused. "I thought you were supposed to be fixing all these problems. Well, I get the part about you not telling people what to do, but there are ways you could tell them without being bossy. Work on that. Try being nicer to people and they will do what you want. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Ever hear that?"

I didn't bother to try to explain to her why this will not work with this population. If they wanted me to go around and fix problems, that should have been the assignment. Not "inspecting" and completing a form.

At the next inspection, my strategy was to show the offending items to the nurse in charge and leave it up to her what to do. The reactions varied.

1- "Since when were you put in charge? I don't have to do a thing you say."
2- "Why bother? You write me up all the time and I have nothing to do with anything in any refrigerator."
3- "If you are so concerned, fix it yourself. Isn't that your job? To fix the stuff in the fridges?"

I told my immediate supervisor. She maintained, "You are not there to fix their mistakes." But she added, "You could educate them about the rules. Print out copies of the policy and give it to them."

No. There is an education department.  Those nurses get paid a lot more than I do. The rules are taped to the door of every fridge. They toss medications wherever is convenient and store their lunch in the fridge closest to their workstation.

I feel caught in the middle, as if I will be blamed if the hospital is cited for a refrigerator violation because I was supposed to clean up behind irresponsible people.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

That Didn't Go as Planned

I didn’t want my wage reduction to go unchallenged.  (Unlike other nurses, I was informed that I would no longer receive additional money to cover certain higher paying departments.)

Receiving less money interferes with my mantra I repeat to myself all day as one bad thing after another happens:
"I work here for the paycheck and health insurance.  Nothing else."

I decided against going to my union for three reasons.

1-      They might already know.  Management may have asked for and received their blessing.  The joke would be on me.

2-      The union would side with the hospital, not me.  They have never “won” a dispute for me.  The union acts more as a mediator who leans in the hospital's favor instead of being my advocate.

3-      When other nurses start getting their wages reduced and complain to the union, the hospital can cite me as a bonafide case of why this is acceptable.  If the union knows about (and approved) my wage reduction, it will make it difficult to advocate for their favorite children.  If the union does not know that my wages were reduced, they will get angry at me for not telling them and inform me that I put them in a position that makes it difficult to argue to restore salaries of other nurses.  Good.

I emailed the director of the hospital to have in writing why my salary was being reduced.

He answered me.  It was nonsense logic.  He wrote that my salary was actually raised a few years back when I moved from the floor into an office, so that negates any requirement for the hospital to pay me extra for covering other departments; that extra money is for ward nurses only when they are floated to cover an office.

I responded that my salary was not raised and that I am still classified as a ward nurse and that I work on the floor whenever told to do so.

He responded that I am “considered management,” so I cannot have anything other than my base salary, but since I consider myself a ward nurse, I will be assigned a ward and have to work holidays and swing shifts.

As if I were being punished for objecting to my salary being decreased.

I responded that I am not considered management by anyone.  I still report to the shift supervisor like the rest of the ward nurses.  And I am not paid according to the salary rubric for upper level nurses in the union contract.

He wrote back that he would look into it.

It would be funny if they tried to cheat me out of a few extra dollars and ended up having to pay me thousands for the years that I’ve been mainly an office nurse, but paid as a ward nurse.

This will not happen.

I’m glad that I objected to getting screwed over; however, it may have blown up in my face.  At first I was upset that I made matters worse.  But then I read a blog post by the Maverick Traveler:

So I failed in making my case for not reducing my salary.  Just keep going.  In the future I may get better at salary negotiations.

Monday, September 4, 2017

And Just Like That . . .

I feel like a helpless idiot.

For years I have covered a department within the hospital a few days per month on average.  Any nurse when covering this department gets a few dollars extra per hour.

The Director of Nursing called me into her office and told me that someone in payroll reviewed me and that I would no longer be receiving the extra money because "it's your job and you shouldn't get paid extra to do your job."

"Just me, or all the nurses who cover?" I asked.

"Just you," the Director said.

"Since when did it become my job, especially since I have had no raise to bring me anywhere near what that department pays its regular nurses?" I tried.

"Listen," she said, "I know you are mad.  But there were emails.  The director of the hospital agrees, as does your union."

Of course my union was consulted and agreed to screw me over.  "Take money away from Nurse Enid?  Wonderful!  Where do we sign?" was probably their reaction.

"I never got any emails about this," I said.

"Not you.  Other people emailed and made this decision," she explained.

"Could I have copies for my grievance?" I asked.

She didn't say anything.

"I'm grieving this.  You can't take money away from me, especially when you're not doing it to anyone else," I told her.

I am reminded of the clerk who got a bad annual review, which would result in no merit raise.  She ranted and complained and filed grievances until the review was amended so she would get a raise.  Years later, another nurse manager unknowingly gave her a bad annual review.  The supervisor reversed it immediately.

This is what makes me upset.  I do a good job.  This clerk did not.  I'm not asking for anything extra.  I'm asking to keep the money I'm already earning.  The hospital would not do this to that clerk because she would harass them until they reversed their decision.

I guess I have to do the same.

When others hear about this, which they always do, I will look like more of a pushover.  "They could never do that to me" will be said to me by people I barely know.