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I'm a little flustered...

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What is the name of your state? New York

Hello. I'm new to this forum. I've seen several similar issues/complaints to what I am about to detail.

I currently work for a very large, internationally known Insurance firm. The department I work in is relatively new (within the last three years) as an Administrative Assistant.

When I joined, I didn't realize the financial strain that this department was under. The first year was basically calm. Last year, we had a small restructuring with a manager joining us from out of another office. I was placed with him as his Admin-which I had no real issues with as I didn't particularly get along well with my (then) supervisor. Several new people were brought in (and dismissed for various reasons) for the position I was moved from-all at a higher salary rate and job title. The reason I know this is because I was responsible for creating the job requisition.

We now have someone in that slot who makes 12K more than I do for supporting less people and with a pretty significant difference in responsibilities (she has much less). This bothers me, but as this is Corporate America, I chalk it up to the usual nonsense. Unfortunately, I'm stuck supporting 7 people in office, one consultant from our LA office and 4 people in our UK office. I perfom the "usual" Admin duties-i.e. reports, expenses, travel, dealing with brokers, databases, spreadsheets etc., etc. I have to do this for 12 people on a daily basis in a 7 hour day. My co-worker supports 3 people and is constantly "swamped" which causes her work to land on my desk on a regualr basis.

Because I don't want my work (and her work) to back up on me, I would come into the office at 7am and work straight through until approximately 6-7pm at night which I don't put as overtime because it's my choice to be in that early/late. When my current manager joined the team, he asked that I work from 8am - 5pm daily which is outside normal business hours. My only concern was that this would cause daily overtime-his response "Don't worry about it. We'll work that out. I need you accessible". Now, as I stated earlier, I'm in the office at 7am anyway. Because he made this request, I put down my hours daily from 8am - 5pm. My co-worker (with her whopping 3 managers-sorry I had to say it) uses an average of 1.5-2.0 hours of overtime daily.

I was recently taken to task regarding my overtime as it was "exceptional and extraordinary" by the VP of the department (whom I no longer support) but nothing was said to my co-worker about her overtime.

There have been several instances of unfair treatment (other than the above). A glaring example would be: I had to have dental surgery. I'd spoken in advance with my supervisor about this and it was agreed that since I had a medical excuse (with doctor's note as per company policy) that this would be marked as medically excused and no personal time would be taken. The VP decided that this was not ok after the surgery was done and I'd returned to the office. Three days were deducted from my personal time. Not a week later, my co-worker got hit in the eye with a basketball and was out of the office for a week, which the VP marked as medically excused.

Incidences like these have marked my employment with this company and have made me very unhappy. Because of this, I have been looking externally and internally for another position. The VP heard of this and is making my life miserable. Just this morning, I was brought into her office and reprimanded for leaving the office for personal shopping-ON MY MORNING BREAK!! Nowhere is it stated that we are not allowed to exit the building on our breaktimes-most of which I don't even used. I was told that I was taking advantage of the company and that I should consider this a verbal warning. "I will not tolerate unprofessional behaviour." All I could do was sit there and stare. My co-worker comes and goes as she feels and I walk out and pick up some items on my break and I'm being penalized.

I'm just so angry that I don't know whether to scream or what! The term "Hostile Work Envirnoment" has been bandied about amongst some of the administrative staff (for various other things that go on in this department). I was wondering if this constitutes HWE.

Now that I've bored you all to tears, I'll sign off. I am eager to hear your thoughts on this though.

Thanks for your time.


Senior Member
This isn't remotely a hostile work environment in the legal sense. Nobody is being discriminated against or harassed BECAUSE of a protected characteristic (i.e.due to their age, race, gender, national origin, etc.) which is what has to be taking place to fall into the legal definition.

It most certainly sounds like an unpleasant work environment and you and perhaps others aren't being treated fairly or equitably but that is not against the law. Favoritism is not illegal.

What IS going on that is unlawful however is all the OT you are working that you are not being paid for. Nothing in the description of duties you shared suggests to me that your job meets exempt status. Consequently, you MUST be paid OT for all hours you work over 40 in each 7-day pay period. That includes hours the employer asks you to work and hours the employer "suffers" you to work. In other words, even if you're coming early and staying late voluntarily to get the job done, they are allowing you to do that and they MUST pay you. No excuses and no exceptions. The applicable law is the Fair Labor Standards Act which you can read in it's entirety at www.dol.gov.

I suggest you make an appointment to talk to the appropriate person at work about all the back OT you are owed and give them a chance to make things right. If they refuse, then your recourse is to file a complaint with your State's Department of Labor/wage and hour division. It doesn't appear your employer has a leg to stand on legally-speaking on the OT issue, so if they're smart, they'll rectify this with you and pay you what you are owed asap before the DOL comes a knockin'.

Good luck with the job search.


I'm a Northern Girl
No, this does not come even remotely close to meeting the legal definition of a hostile work environment, based on your description. The LEGAL definition and the DICTIONARY definition are very different.

The only thing I see in here that's bordering on illegal is the OT. Under the law, a non-exempt employee (which I assume you are) CANNOT waive overtime. If it is worked, it must be paid, period. They can discipline you for working unauthorized overtime, but it has to be paid no matter what. Even if you say no, don't pay it, they still have to.

The other items you have mentioned fall under the unfair but not illegal category.


Thank you all for your replies. I appreciate the clarification.

I also wanted to give you an update. Since my post, it has been decided that I am no longer entitled to breaks (never mind that Corporate policy states that we as full time employees are allowed two 15 minute breaks) as I have "abused my privelages". (sarcasm to follow) Now I see why there tends to be so much violence in the workplace-if people have to deal with issues like this..:p

As for the overtime issue, she feels that since I worked without permission that I'm SOL. She's basically right because we don't use time-cards or other forms of timekeeping. All I have on my side are some of my managers who are in the office when I get in. There really is no way for me to fight that battle as the managers in question all report directly to her and at this point in time we're hanging on by a thread. No one will put their livelihoods in jeopardy for me.

Just one of the times it sucks to be the low-man on the totem pole.

I will keep you abreast of the developments-if for no other reason than this forum helps me to relieve some of the anger and frustration I deal with on a daily basis.

Thanks for listening. Take care.


Senior Member
Gratsch, employers are required by law to keep an accurate record of hours worked by all non-exempt employees. The fact that your employer is not doing that in any manner is a violation of the law in and of itself.

Secondly, if you file a complaint with the DOL and they investigate (as they will), the BURDEN OF PROOF IS ON THE EMPLOYER (not you) to prove they paid you accurately. If the employer has no records, they're screwed, to put it bluntly.

I really seriously urge you to consider contacting your State's DOL on this. You can at least discuss the situation with them and then decide whether you want to file a formal complaint.

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