I wish I could say this story had a happy ending. Wish I could say that I marched into work with my head held high and used my twenty-something-year-old idealism and strong will to make the higher-ups back down. But I guess that's not what happens in the real world.
No, I didn't lose my job over twenty dollars and a long standing illegal practise. Not yet, anyway. I thought for two weeks that I was free and clear of this issue but instead that damn twenty dollar bill is haunting me.
It was the last hour of my shift and I (stupidly) decided to ask who fixed the back float. For the first time in two weeks, it was back to the regular sum again, not twenty bucks out.
He gives me this long stare when he realizes I wasn't the one who fixed it. The conversation goes back to insisting that I still have to pay. Only difference from the first time is that my boss now acknowledges that it's illegal but he can't do anything about it because "it's always been done that way."
Just because it's always been done that way does not make it right.
So we talked and talked, I held back my raging emotions and sick stomach. Then my boss tells me that our evaluations are coming up and if I don't pay the twenty bucks that he's going to have to tell the owner. He asked me how I thought the owner would react to this information.
From what I know about the owner, (who has earned an uncomplimentary nickname,) not well. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he fired me for even attempting to challenge "the way things are done." Then my boss says that if I don't pay up, I likely won't receive a wage increase that is usually given to front desk workers after their evaluation. He asked me if I thought it was worth it. My boss did the math for me, one dollar wage increase per hour over a month's worth of full time work comes to X amount, versus a one-time twenty dollar payment.
I can make it back, he says. I'll just be more careful counting cash next time.
I wish I had the backbone to say that I stood by my decision to not pay out of my own wallet, to stand up for the law. I wanted to slap that printout of the Workers Standards Act down on the owner's desk and make him read it. Either that or throw my money in his face and tell him how disappointed I am that money matters more than morals in this establishment. But where would that get me?
I feel squashed. Ultimately the reasons to pay up outweigh the reasons not to. I want a wage increase, I want a good reference when I leave. (Not if. WHEN.) But I will always carry this bitter pill of resentment in my stomach. I'm not angry at my boss. Not really. I'm angry at the establishment as a whole. Though my boss gave me the ultimatum, he really is just the messenger. And the way he talked to me, it felt as if he were trying to convince me to change his mind because he didn't want me to deal with the consequences. He told me that he didn't like seeing me upset, that I was a good worker, and honestly I don't think I can bring myself to think of him as a bad person. He's a nice guy. But the system is corrupt and he's caught in it like the rest of us are.
So yes, I failed and my pride hurts. I'm still upset. My brain is a mess and I still don't know if giving in the right thing to do. I'm ashamed but at the same time I can't bring myself to follow through and potentially have a hard time finding another job in hospitality because I made a fuss over twenty bucks. And will I even remember this in three months? Will it really matter that much?
My boss isn't in yet, but the owner is buzzing around today. I don't know if he's aware of all this yet, so every time I see him my gut twists with anxiety. I just want to get this overwith quickly and quietly. I think I'll always feel like a sellout, like I sold my morality for an extra dollar an hour. I always think of my dad and the strong morals he raised me with, what he would do in this situation. There's nothing anyone can say to me that I haven't already said to myself.
Hopefully this really will be the last of it. I'll update if anything changes.
End note: I tried to tone down the melodrama as much as possible. If I'd written this yesterday it would've been much more dramatic. I'm pretty passionate at times.