My co-worker doesn’t have to punch in

Question: In my company of approximately 125 people, all non-exempt personnel are required to punch a time clock. That was instituted by the boss’s wife, who is the director of operations.

There are two executive assistants in the company. One supports the director of operations, and the other (me) supports the president. I did not like punching a time clock after almost 20 years as an executive assistant, but I could not get my company to change my classification. The assistant to the director of operations, however, is not required to punch in.

When I began to make waves about our both having the same title and both being non-exempt, the director of operations changed her assistant’s title and made her exempt. That’s because her assistant refused to punch in and said she would quit if she had to.

My boss is the president and founder, but he doesn’t want to be involved in any of these issues, and I can’t count on him for any help. Our HR is overseen by the director of operations, so there is no help for me there, either.

The company pays well and has fabulous benefits, bonus and a paid holiday shutdown. Besides that, I like my boss, and my job is very interesting. But I know I’m much more qualified and experienced than the other assistant, and I’m having a hard time dealing with her being salaried and my being non-exempt and punching a time clock.


I wonder if anyone might have any thoughts on this, and thanks. — Anonymous


Don’t make a big deal out of it. Punching a time clock isn’t that bad. Be glad that you have a job that is interesting and challenging and a boss that you like. Also, if you are classified as exempt, you are not entitled to overtime pay.

Through the 30 years I have been in the workforce as an assistant and manager, I realize it’s the attitude you have and the quality of work you do, not the title you have is what gains you respect among your peers and supervisors.

The bottom line is you say, “The company pays well and has fabulous benefits, bonus and a paid holiday shutdown. Besides that, I like my boss, and my job is very interesting.”

I say ignore the other employees, rejoice in the fact that you have a job, and a job you like, and punch away! Sweat the big things not the little ones. I bet the other “exempt” person does not like the person she works for who instituted this in the first place and is probably job-hunting right now.

Let it go.

“The company pays well and has fabulous benefits, bonus and a paid holiday shutdown. Besides that, I like my boss, and my job is very interesting.”

Don’t the pros clearly outweigh the cons here?

You can adapt to punching in. There are far worse things to deal with. It’s not the end of the world. As MLK said, it’s all about attitude. Smile and carry on!

If the company pays well, has fabulous benefits, bonus and a paid holiday; you like your boss and your job is very interesting, then punching a time clock seems like an insignificant issue. Do you like your job more then you want to have your way. If so punch the clock; if not, polish up your resume.

I agree that if you like your job and the company as a whole, don’t talk yourself out of it over this issue. I don’t know what state you live in, but here in California changing someone’s job status from non-exempt to exempt to avoid paying overtime is illegal. Your coworker may realize someday that she’s making less than she should by being exempt. I don’t think the company will have much patience for her complaining about that on top of the threats to quit over the time clock. If you’ve been there longer, you are probably making more $$ anyway. So smile all the way to the bank and show the company you are a team player.

Maybe I am in the minority in this but, it seems like a slap in the face to me. Personally, I would feel it is demeaning if after 20 years I am told that I would have to punch a clock. Good pay, benefits and bonuses are not everything if your pride, dignity and feeling of worth is compromised.

One thing that was not mentioned is who is classified as exempt and non-exempt. Remember exempt employees are excluded from overtime, according to FLSA, and are not required to use a time clock, useless for the purpose of billing clients. In addition, exempt employees are general executives, administrative, professionals, etc. Administrative only deals with making and assisting the policies and procedures of the company. Not secretarial work. If your are doing secretarial work, then your are a non-exempt employee. Changing the other person to exempt may violate the law and could cost the company money.

I feel for you. I can see how it would cause feelings of inequality, favoritism, or paranoia that maybe management does not trust you as they do the other assistant. I feel since you love your job you should carry on doing your best and ignore this poor managerial action. Be comforted to know that at least you have absolute proof of when you are at work and ready for duty. Go a step further and always keep a good attitude and portray being a good team player no matter the inconsistencies. You will shine! Besides as time goes by, the other assistant will not have absolute proof of her attendance should she be questioned about that.

I guess I’m one of those in the minority as well. Not having to punch a clock is more than just being salaried instead of being paid by the hour; it suggests that you are a member of the “professional” class instead of being a member of the “support” (with its implied meaning of belonging in a “lesser”) class. I have never held a permanent job where I punched a clock (my choice) for that reason, as I am a professional-quality worker, regardless of my title and I am trustworthy enough to come to work every day and on time, not abuse lunch period, etc. Unfortunately, your situation is complicated by your working in a family-run business, and the boss is not going to want to confront his wife with the fact that she is showing favoritism and potentially illegal activity regarding the other employee. My suggestion would be to explore with your state’s Department of Labor and the US Department of Labor what their rules are regarding the duties of exempt & non-exempt employees because your company may be breaking the law. Some of this material is probably available at their websites. This info may help you decide what to do next. You may not be able to find a job as wonderful as you have now, but you are definitely being treated differently than the other assistant and unlike the other respondents who obviously have never had to punch the clock, it is a big deal because it is a reflection of your status within the workplace. So, explore whatever options may be available and if you can live with your situation, try to make the best of it by continuing to be the dedicated professional that you are.

Practice wisdom. Pick your battles. If you want to check into whether what the DO did in making her assistant exempt was legal, do it. If it’s legal, pursue having your status changed through the proper channels in the most respectful way possible. If that means a new job title, go for it. That’s not impossible. People pursue promotions all the time and after 20 years you should qualify for one. Don’t pick fights. Don’t burn bridges. Don’t alienate yourself from the Director of Operations. If you want to privately look elsewhere, do it while you’re punching in and out. Changes aren’t pleasant but they are inevitable and we just have to work through them. Sometimes a compromise is necessary to keep the good thing that you have going. I would argue against thinking that the grass is going to be greener on the other side of the fence. That is rarely the case. You’ve got decisions to make, but you’ve also got options. And now, may I take my own advice!

I can totally understand the rub. It is demeaning after all of these years. But believe me, liking what you do, liking your boss and being paid well for it is so much more valuable than whether or not you punch a time clock. Remember, you will get overtime and she won’t. That’s worth a lot too.

Take a good hard look at what you have instead of what you think you want. Punching a time clock may be “demeaning” to some, but think of the fact that you are also eligible for overtime pay. Be happy that you can enjoy going to work every day. There is nothing more miserable than having to go to work at a job that is “beneath” you in skill level and that you hate going to. You spend more of your life at your job than any where else. Believe me, being a salaried employee isn’t all it’s cracked up to be if you hate what you are doing.

I don’t think I would like to pumch it either, but I also wouldn’t put all my energy and focus on it. If it doesn’t change, then go with it. You have far too many positive elements in your present job to be stuck on the negative. It may even slow you down or hinder your performance. Let it go, but as an admin if you go to someone about changing a procedure, go with all your ducks in a row. That is, why it wouldn’t work, and an alternative and how that would work better.

Lots of good advice.


What YOU believe is true will be true for you.

If you believe that punching a time clock or not punching a time clock establishes your worth or value in your company…then it will.