back to article IBM accused of cheating its own executive assistants out of overtime pay

IBM has been accused of cheating its executive assistants by denying them overtime pay and meal breaks and retaliating against them for accurately reporting their working hours. A lawsuit [PDF] filed Tuesday in New York City alleges IBM broke the federal-level Fair Labor Standards Act and local labor laws by denying non-exempt …

  1. xyz123 Silver badge

    IBM or ANY employer should be automatically fined 100x the amount stolen.

    That way, employees would deliberately screw over the bad companies, biding their time.......

    Just work for a year or two, have them take 20,000 off you and suddenly you have $2,000,000

    Employers would live in fear of this retaliation and would be WAY more hesitant to steal wages.

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      IBM would have to be stupid to not steal wages from their employees. As we all know there won't be any real punishment, and if they decide to make an example of this woman they'll tie her up in court until she runs out of money or dies.

      It's the system working as designed.

    2. aerogems Silver badge

      It should come out of the boss' pay. Then fines should be levied against the immediate supervisor, their boss (for failing to properly supervise them), all the way up to the CEO. Also, no matter what, the head of the beancounting department should be fined because if they aren't spotting shit like this, they aren't doing their job.

    3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Wage theft should be a criminal offence like so many other forms of theft.

  2. Diogenes

    Forgot one of the golden rules of business

    Never, ever, ever annoy the PA/EA

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "retaliating against them for accurately reporting their working hours"

    So, I see that IBM has finally gotten rid of the dinosaurs and is now grinding down the rest of its employees.

    I wonder how long this will last before nobody but college freshmen applies for a job at IBM anymore ?

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: "retaliating against them for accurately reporting their working hours"

      Do they have a mole? It seems like an effort eerily similar to what a hostile actor would make to destroy a company from within, make it lose value, then buy its assets for cheap.

      1. I like fruits

        Re: "retaliating against them for accurately reporting their working hours"

        We are talking about Big Blue here. These are peanuts. It would take much more to destroy them or even noticeably dent their share price.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: "retaliating against them for accurately reporting their working hours"

          Some hostile states don't plan in election cycles (they don't have to bother with these), but long term.

    2. GruntyMcPugh

      Re: "retaliating against them for accurately reporting their working hours"

      IBM have always kind of done this. Annually, we had an assessment, the 'PBC Process' and one of the boxes that needed ticking was cost saving. So we were under pressure to not claim overtime so we could achieve this goal. PBC grade 1 got full bonus, 2 half, three a PIP and four the sack, so this game had to be played.

      Then if you didn't book any overtime to customers for a few months, we got a nag for having 'flat' timesheet. So we were nagged to work overtime, and encouraged to not claim it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "retaliating against them for accurately reporting their working hours"

        Yep, been there done that. Promoted to a band 8, and a new pay scale, and that was the end of overtime, but encouraged (directed by my boss) to maximise time-recording charging on customer contracts and hoovering up of internal funding from one area of IBM to another, very uncomfortable practices and extremely glad I'm no longer there.

        The PBC process was/is diabolical - managers are only allowed a certain proportion of PBC1's, PBC2's and PBC3's - so if you're in a high performing / in-demand team you can still get a PBC3 despite blowing all your targets. Similarly, if you're in a low-performing team and merely meeting targets, you can get a PBC1 and a 100% performance bonus.

        Add that IBM only counted revenue not profit for the sellers, and you get situations where sellers are virtually giving stuff away to get the cash-flow revenue target, getting their sales bonuses, but actually making a loss. Also measuring all transactions in USD -but- at an ancient GBP:USD exchange rate that was ~30% out.

  4. MrGreen

    All By Design

    All of the big IT companies do this.

    Imagine how much their profitability goes up by ‘accidentally’ not paying employees correctly.

    If you complain you’ll be labelled as a troublemaker and they know no one will go legal on them because they have huge resources.

    1. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: All By Design

      A prime example of why the US needs stronger unions and labor tribunals. We're like a third world country when it comes to worker's rights. The sad thing is how many people have been brainwashed into thinking that it's a choice between being treated with some basic dignity and respect, and having a job.

      1. Jadith

        Re: All By Design

        The sad thing is how many people have been brainwashed into thinking that it's a choice between being treated with some basic dignity and respect, and having a job.

        Thing is, in the US anyway, the brainwashing is a function of overwhelming evidence. Walmart is one example of a company notorious for using the 'slash and burn' strategy of closing stores to avoid unions.

        Manufacturures here can always find someone cheaper, in cash and dignity, just a bit to the south. Go across the western pond and they can go even cheaper and find people even more willing to sacrifice dignity just to get the basics.

    2. Martin Gregorie

      Re: All By Design

      In my experience not all companies behave like IBM, or other big American companies for that matter. Banks and thre Civil Service are rather too hide-bound for my taste, but ICL didn't didn't treat its employees like that and nor did Logica.

      I'm just retrospectively grateful that when, in the late 1968, I found myself among that year's oversupplied class of chemistry graduates, that::

      1) I'd learnt to program the university's Elliott 503 in Algol 60 during the summer break

      2) One of my friends knew that the IT industry was short of suitable recruits and suggested that this would make a decent career

      3) ICL was recruiting at the time.

      From what I've heard from fellow IT professionals I've met since then, I can count myself lucky that I avoided working for Big Blue.

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: All By Design

        Martin, I think you will enjoy these olden-day recollections even more than non-ICLers do:

        * An ICL Anthology

        * Another ICL Anthology

        Hundreds of great vignettes. Like digging a dirty great hole in the Congo bush and filling it with wrecked cars all joined by welded-on cables then soaking the ground, in a desperate attempt to get a Ground voltage for the new installation. The parent site there ( also has newsletters from/to the old staff, usually with some additional stories. Like the chap measuring high-voltages by hand. Literally his hand across the busbars.

        But this is my all-time favourite story from the Anthologies. Yes, that IS the great-grandson of Charles Dickens.

        >Managerial judgment -- Graham Morris

        >Cedric Dickens was my manager, and I think it would be fair to say that I was in considerable

        awe of him. So in view of all the department's commitments it took some courage before I could

        go into his office to ask if I could possibly take the following Friday off. He looked at me with

        admirable mildness and simply said : "Well, you're a much better judge of that than I am."

    3. Orv Silver badge

      Re: All By Design

      IT people in particular are often mis-classified as "exempt" even when they don't manage anyone.

      Unfortunately labor unions see us as white collar so they aren't interested in organizing us. Basically the unions think we're management and management thinks we're janitors.

  5. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    I'm confused. Executive Assistant in IBM terms doesn't (or didn't used to) mean anything secretarial; the EA is typically an up-and-coming exec in their own right, 'shadowing' a senior exec in order to gain experience for their own future role. They're also very much not an 'exempt' employee - they're on salary, and a substantial one at that.

    An administrative assistant, on the other hand, is a member of the secretarial pool who covers general administrative duties. Often for multiple managers, but the more senior execs get their own administrative assistant (or several).

    1. Orv Silver badge

      You can be on salary and still not be overtime exempt. It depends on the details of your job responsibilities.

    2. egrep

      Executive assistant and administrative assistant are both roughly synonymous with secretary. See:

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        "Executive assistant and administrative assistant are both roughly synonymous with secretary. See:"

        I don't care about the dictionary definition. I'm talking about IBM's definition. And IBM Executive Assistants were not secretaries.

  6. Rol

    Land of the Free... do as you like, without fear of consequences from those less powerful than yourself.

    What a hideous way to exist.

    And America has the audacity to insist the rest of the world runs likewise. Or else!!

    Please, if some benign space travelling aliens are in the vicinity of our hugely troubled planet, would you please come and take America's toys (weapons) away for good. Then the rest of the world can start putting things right without fear of punishment.

    1. I like fruits

      Re: Land of the Free...

      Right. Dealing with the scum like Russia would be so much fun without USA.

      1. Rol

        Re: Land of the Free...

        Bullies create bullies.

        Most of the world's terrorists and mega maligned despots would never have come into being if America hadn't been actively engaged in overthrowing their democratically elected governments.

    2. aerogems Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Land of the Free...

      America has the best justice money can buy! You can buy judges, expensive lawyers, politicians, even get your employees named the head of regulatory agencies!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I recall a head of IT giving us a talk about what he called "the professional day". By which he meant work more than the hours you are paid for. When I pointed out that doing things you aren't paid for actually makes you an amateur - rather than a professional - it was not received well.

    1. Joe Drunk

      That's part of the brainwashing. The major reason why I have no friends at work, only acquaintances. Plenty of friends outside of work to care. It's a business relationship and that's how I treat it. Zero loyalty to my employers. Zero. I am a consultant and always will be and have the same contempt for my employers as they have for me. I'm here for the paycheck. I give 100%. They want more. I lie to them about why this or that can't happen (BOFH in real life). It's a game I've been playing for a long time with plenty of battle scars to prove it.

      If you have good work ethic in corporate IT in the USA you will be chewed up and spat out.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        This same head of IT, his golden boy was someone he lured over from his previous job. GB's specialty was creating Rube-Goldberg machines of staggering complexity which he would then have to work evenings and weekends to make work. True example:

        1. SQL Server DB trigger to run .NET code

        2. .NET code calls broker

        3. Broker calls more .NET code

        4. More .NET code puts a message on an MSMQ queue

        5. Biztalk receives message

        6. Biztalk then calls another .NET web service to push the data into Oracle DB

        I mean, it loses points for not including an ESB and RMI/IIOP, but still

    2. Dave@Home

      I recall a PM here on a contract basis who pulled that crap when I said I wasn't pulling overtime when asked at 4:50pm to stay on for some hours.

      My then manager also tried that a couple of days later when the PM had complained - I merely pointed at my contract and said "I have to agree to it and I have to be recompensed for it"

      Went quite after that.

  8. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Overtime and breaks...

    I worked at one place that was very informal, people just took breaks as needed and nobody was watching the clock. They had no provision for overtime, but like if I was in the middle of something at the end of the day I'd stay in 5 or 10 minutes to finish it.

    I worked at another place (as a temp, for about a week..), they considered the 30 minute overtime and two 15 minute breaks to be concurrent (i.e. no breaks). You should have seen how both the temps and permanent employees rushed the door, At 4:59:50 people started rushing the door so they could get there first and get out at exactly 5, there was some pushing and jostling for position. Then they'd like run out to the parking lot and jocky for position in their cars to get to the exit first. I'd wait until 5:01 just because I didn't need any of that business. Then, ironically, after all that racing, the road outside their place has a 45MPH speed limit and these people who just raced for the exit would be going like 25, so I'd end up passing like a dozen cars that had just raced for the exit a minute ago.

    But yeah, reclassifying employees so they cut their pay with available overtime pay as compensation, then not allowing the overtime to be logged? That's straight up wage theft, hopefully IBM gets taken to the cleaners for this.

  9. Former Exec Asst - Hudson Valley, NY

    Former Executive Assistant - Hudson Valley, NY

    It wasn't just the Executive Assistants in Armonk that experienced the total lack of respect for the jobs we did, it was Administrative Office Managers edict to E/As all throughout the US. We were told to do what was necessary to get the job done in 40 hours, end of discussion. We needed to accomplish all our tasks within that period and it took longer, they would not approve our timecards for any hours in excess of the 40 hours. So basically, if you wanted to receive the 1 or 2 ratings on your performance review that they would dangle in front of you, you needed to be in the office as long as necessary whether you were compensated or not.

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