A bad ending

On our last day of work, as we were driving away, Mark and I had an impulse to stop at the beet pile where we almost got smished by the boom and toss our helmets as high as we could.  It was like tossing your graduation cap after spending several years of hard study.  It was like saying, “We were here!”

Last night we got a phone call from the representative for Express Employment Professionals.  He was madder than hops.  He said that tossing our helmets on the beet pile cost us our bonus and that we would not be invited back.  (Darn!)

He also said that someone had reported that we’d been “making out” on the job.  I guess they were referring to the occasional quick kiss we gave each other, or the time when I was having a bad day and Mark gave me a hug.  Or it could be because we were once holding hands while waiting for something to happen.

We suspect that the person who said we were “making out” was the old geezer that I reported for using a racial slur.  We had been told in orientation that the company had “zero tolerance” for offensive language.  When I told Todd about the racial slur, he made excuses for the man and said that he’d tried talking to him about watching his language when he’d done it several times before in the fourteen years he’s been working with the company.  So “zero tolerance” consists of a talking to?

At any rate, I didn’t sleep well last night.  At first I was depressed about the lost bonus after everything we’ve done and gone through in the last three weeks.  Then I got mad.  Our contract said we’d get a 5% bonus if we stayed 15 days or until the harvest was complete; met the attendance requirements; had a good attitude, a willingness to do different jobs, and complied with safety standards.  We had as good an attitude as anyone else working there.  Our helmets on the pile didn’t hurt anyone or anything and since it was the pile that was no longer being worked on they didn’t stand in the way of work.  They were easy enough to fetch down.  What had we done to deserve a loss of wages?  What we did may have been foolish, but it didn’t break any rules that I was aware of.

I got up early this morning after stewing in bed for a couple hours.  I decided to fight.  I looked up the Better Business Bureau, but they don’t handle employment disputes.  So I googled “Employment Disputes” and came up with a link to the Federal Bureau of Labor and Industry.  I called them, but since this is a private company it didn’t fall under their jurisdiction.  They advised me to contact the Montana Bureau of Labor and Industry.  I tried the phone number they gave me, but it didn’t work.  Then I tried the URL.  I found where I could download a form to print out, but they also mentioned that you could get wage claim forms from your local state employment office.

So today Mark and I drove to the Glendive employment office and picked up the form.  We had lunch at a fast food restaurant while I filled out the form, but the form needed to be notarized before we could send it.  At the employment office they said we could get it notarized in the basement of the courthouse.  We got it notarized.  Then I put together a copy of the contract we received regarding the bonus, and a list I had made from memory of all the hours we’d worked.  I had to do some complicated math to try to figure out what our bonus should be because some of our hours were paid at regular time and some were overtime.  I included all that in the package too and took it to the post office and mailed it.

When I feel powerless I get depressed.  If I can think of an action to take, I feel hopeful.  Maybe nothing will come of this, but at least it was something to try.  We are so ready to shake the dust of this town off our feet!

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