Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I believe the term for this is "indentured servitude"

I worked 12 hours today. This is the second time in 2 weeks I've put in a 12 hour day. Lately I'm generally doing 9 or 10 hour days, in a futile and failing attempt to stay on top of things.  My case load plus my court schedule since the start of the year have been untenable. No matter how much I try to keep up, I can't.  I spend almost my entire day in court Monday through Wednesday plus two Fridays each month. I'm allotted 6 office days a month-every Thursday and the second and forth Fridays of the month. 
In those 6 days, I somehow have to find the time to meet with clients at the office and at the jail (the jail is 25 minutes away from my office, in a separate city).  Sometimes, the jail gets over full and my clients end up in a different jail because of space issues. That jail is an hour and a half away from my office.  I also have to find time to return phone calls and emails, read new documents that come in, prepare for trials or contested hearings, fill out requests for the paralegal and investigator, do legal research, write morons and memos, and review countless hours of audio and video.
What do I most commonly end up spending my office time doing? Filing paperwork. Mountains of paper lands in my inbox every day. I average 5 new files each week. Paperwork that I need for some hearings doesn't get to me until the day before the hearing but I don't know that I have it because it's not a Thursday so I haven't gotten to my inbox.
In any other office, support staff would do my filing.  In our pitifully underfunded office, we don't have enough staff to do that. So, I spend countless hours just filing, making copies, mailing things, and doing other tasks that I should have assistance from support staff on.  Which means that I'm not able to do other things, things that only I can do because I'm the lawyer and can't delegate those things to someone else.  Thus, my lawyer-only things aren't able to be done because the other, secretarial stuff needs to be done by me.
The real bitch of it all is that I end up working without compensation.  As public defenders, we are allowed to "bank" overtime, rather than getting paid for it. The idea is that for every hour of overtime we work, we get 1.5 hours of "comp time", to cash in later on. So, if I want to take off early on a Friday, for example, I can clock 6 hours of regular work hours and take 2 hours out of my comp bank.  Since I already worked those two hours as october but didn't get paid for them, I get to use them in place of 2 hours of non-overtime work. Sounds like a good trade-off, right? I mean after taxes come out, actual overtime pay isn't ever really enough to justify actually working overtime.  Plus, when it's a nice summer day, I'd much rather leave work early and enjoy the sun.
The problem is that we are only allowed to store 40 hours in our comp bank.  After 40, we can't store anymore.  Which means that if you have 40 comp hours already and you end up working overtime, you don't get any kind of compensation for your overtime hours.
And, before you ask, no, we are not salaried.  We are hourly.
When I filled out my most recent time card, I had 36.5 hours of banked comp time. I had 8 hours of overtime. I got no compensation of any kind for 4.5 of those hours. Unless I take some time off soon and use some of my banked hours, I will continue to not receive compensation for any overtime I work. Given that I'm scheduled into April right now for court, it's unlikely that I'll be taking any time off soon and also unlikely that things will slow down enough that I won't need to keep working 9+ hour days just to try (but not succeed) in keeping up with things.
Maybe I should start wearing a button on the days I'm at the office and in court and I'm on unpaid overtime that says, "Be nice to me. I'm working for free  today."


  1. No idea how you do it, but keep it up! We appreciate all you do!

  2. Thank you. Sometimes, that's all I need to hear to remind me that I am not doing this for nothing! :)

  3. Get a notebook. Log all of the uncompensated time in it. If possible, get a reliable witness (minister, doctor etc) to sign it from time to time, such signature merely noting that the entries were all filled in, not created later.

    When this job ends you have a legitimate case to be paid for it all - but wait until your new job is secure!

    (Based on an old legal case).