Like it or not, not every employer is going to get a gold star for how he treats his employees. Under the guise of a "bad economy," some employers will ask workers to take on more work, work more (or fewer) hours, take away benefits that once were a standard part of the employee package or be just plain nasty when dealing with employees. If you feel your employer is taking advantage of you, you have a difficult road ahead. Most states have a "right to work" policy that basically means that employers can let people go for any reason, but don't let that stop you from getting your boss to give you the respect you deserve.
Make a list of the things you're being asked to do that you believe are evidence of your employer taking advantage of you. Then ask a friend or trusted associate in your industry to go over the list with you and help you sort out what is concrete evidence versus what is imagined. In some cases, it could be a mixture of both. From that list, make a new list that details the extra things you're doing in your job.
Ask for a raise. If you're being asked to work more hours or do more work, a more effective way of drawing the line is to ask the employer to raise your salary to correspond with your increased workload. Show him the list of the tasks you've taken on to give him some concrete examples of the work you're doing. Even though receiving a raise isn't guaranteed, at least you have opened a line of communication with your employer.
Ask for other perks. Determine the kinds of perks people who share your position at different companies earn, in addition to their salaries. Present him a list of the perks you discovered. Some examples of perks are a company car, gym membership, an expense account or better health benefits.
Start looking for a new job. When and if you find one, ask your employer to agree to your requested salary and resposibilities. If he balks, inform him that you have an offer from another company that matches your request. He may match or even improve upon the offer the other company made.
Talk to union representatives, if you're a member of a union. You pay your dues to have them help you negotiate fair wages and benefits for a fair amount of work, and they may be able to help you sort out the realities from the fantasies of what you can expect from your employer. Union representatives may also be able to advocate better working conditions for you. Another option may be to form your own worker's rights group, and approach the boss as a group to advocate for better working conditions. If the entire staff threatens to quit, your boss may take more notice.
- If you're being taken advantage of in a way that could be considered harassment, such as your boss making sexual advances with the promise of better working conditions, start documenting the incidents and talk to a lawyer. No job or amount of money is worth compromising your safety or your well-being.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.