Former Software Giants, Pregnancy and Ridiculous Labor Laws

One of my jobs many years ago was working for a large software corporation in Utah. I was fortunate enough to work for them in their heyday and the benefits and perks were great. This was back when folks were really just starting to use home computers and there was no Internet. My job included daily entertainment such as working with customers who called in saying things like:

“The instructions say to press any key, but I can’t find the 'Any' key!”

There was much irony to be found in working for a company in Utah with highly conservative values and religious beliefs. One would tend to think of such a company as being quite supportive of families and families in the making. Back when I was pregnant with my first child I was working in a position I really enjoyed that allowed me freedom to frequently get up and walk around. One day I was called into my supervisor’s office and was told they were giving me a promotion. Great! More pay is always good, I thought. As it turns out, this “promotion” did not come with a higher salary. In fact, it came with a whole new set of job responsibilities that required sitting down at my desk the entire day. No more getting up to walk around; something pretty important for a pregnant woman. I was told I had no choice but to accept this new job. Naturally I was not thrilled with my new position but I hung in there. That is until the next bomb dropped. My supervisor (who happened to be the wife of one of the older brothers of a particular family singing group made popular in the 70’s) informed us all in a group meeting one afternoon that any time taken away from our desks and off the phone queue would be deducted from work time and we’d be required to “make it up”. I fearfully interpreted this to mean my restroom time. I was over six months pregnant at this point and took numerous potty trips; that couldn’t be helped. I might also note that the bathroom was not close as this was a huge building and just getting out of the maze of cubicles in my work area took some time. Then there was the trip down the long hall and around the corner and then back. So, essentially this meant working overtime without pay….in order to pee! Because I could hardly believe that they would be serious in penalizing me for my bathroom time I discussed this further with my supervisor. Surely there had been some misunderstanding… right? No. I had indeed interpreted the new “rule” correctly. This is when I learned the labor laws in the state of Utah (at least at that time) were different from California and other states in that there were no “breaks”. In an eight hour day the only time that was required of an employer to give their employee was a 30 minute lunch break but nothing beyond that. So after considering this new situation and all that it entailed I drafted a thoughtfully written letter to my supervisor. I informed her that a workday lasting more than eight hours, not to mention time without pay just to “make up for” trips to the Ladies room was not something I was up for in my last trimester of pregnancy and therefore I was quitting. Though I’d intended to work up until the baby was born even my doctor advised against it considering the circumstances and putting a porta-potty in my cubicle somehow seemed inappropriate.

I hadn’t thought about this company in years until recently when the founders were featured in the news for each having donated a hefty million in California’s Proposition 8 campaign, one for and one against. But that’s another story.

1 comment:

Sra said...

I hate companies that feel like they need to nickel and dime their employees. Don't they understand that employees are their biggest asset, and treating them poorly will ultimately lead to high turnovers and loss in productivity and morale? It's just bad business.

Buy your bathroom breaks? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.