If you’ve never had the pleasure of working for corporate America, you might be blissfully unaware of the concept of PTO. PTO is “paid time off”, and its entire purpose is to nickel-and-dime cubicle-dwellers and wage-slaves of their days off over the course of a work year.

See, instead of having traditional sick days or holidays, employees who deal with PTO actually stash a bank of hours. You get a few hours tacked on every paycheck, and you cash them in to take paid days off. If your pinky toe explodes and you need to take the day off to see a doctor and get fitted for a robotic one, you’d accomplish this by cashing in eight PTO hours.

Years ago Peanut had this pretty sweet gig where she was paid an eight hour shift differential each week. In essence, she was working thirty-two hours but getting paid for forty. This was the company’s decision, not hers, since they didn’t need someone putting forty hours into that particular position but also didn’t want to lose a valuable full-time employee. Only having four eight-hour shifts a week was pretty nice, but of course our budget was balanced on both of us earning forty hours.

If, for some reason, she didn’t work her entire thirty-two hours, she lost her shift differential. Say, if she went in one hour late? She lost that one hour (in PTO) and then lost another eight off her paycheck. If she ever needed a day off she lost the equivalent of a full shift’s pay in addition to the eight hours of PTO she had to cash in. She ended up having to find somewhere to work an extra shift at some point in that pay period if she wanted to make her bills. To get a “day off” she had to cash in her PTO and then work the shift anyway so as not to lose her shift differential.

It was the functional equivalent of just switching shifts with a co-worker, but the company wouldn’t allow that. They were bleeding off their PTO for no reason.

An even more devilish scheme is taking place where I’m at now. Because we’re a 24/7 call center we are open on all those nice little holidays the rest of the country takes for granted. Labor Day, for example. They operate these holidays with a skeleton crew, so what happens is they put out a Holiday Sign-Up sheet. Now let me compose myself a moment and see if I can explain this properly.

If you’re scheduled to work on the same day as the holiday, you by default get it off. You’re forced to cash in eight hours of PTO. If you don’t want the day off, you can sign up to work a shortened shift that day. They pay time-and-a-half on holidays, so you’re working four hours and getting paid for six, but you still need to cash in two hours of PTO to make up the difference. So really your options are “cash in eight hours of PTO” or “cash in two hours of PTO”. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to make it to the Holiday Sign-Up sheet before all the four-hour shifts are taken.

But me? I’ve lucked my way into this scheme where I beat the PTO system and come out ahead. Because I work such a nontraditional shift, I’m not subject to the whims of the Holiday Sign-Up sheet. If I’m scheduled to work a holiday, like I am today, I’m just expected to show up. I don’t actually miss the holiday in my real life, if I had something planned, because nobody celebrates holidays in the middle of the night. And I’m not forced to cash in any of my PTO, because I’m not actually taking any hours off. I still get that time-and-a-half, though — twelve hours’ pay for working eight.

So my PTO is just sitting there, quietly stockpiling, never touched by shift differentials or sign-up sheets. It can be cashed in for time off or, with some extra paperwork, for cold hard cash. So one day I’ll have enough to take a month-long nap, or at least buy myself one of those awesome robotic toes I’ve been hearing so much about.

1 comment to Laboriously

  • Destil

    As right as you may be at times that my job sounds like hell, at least I’m salaried. Sucks when something huge breaks and I’m there 80 hours in a week, but my bosses honestly don’t want me to work more than 40 hours a week (upper management, on the other hand…) and thus don’t care if I only put in 30 total the following week or take an extra Friday off. And twice a month I get a check with the exact same number on it as the last one.

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