Thursday, July 16, 2009

I hate secretaries

When I grow up, my secretary is going to be a robot.

So, if you thought my HR trials and tribulations were over once I finally got my badge, you were wrong. At the Hospital for Unwell Muppets (HUMP: affectionate codename) the nightmare never ends.

But let's begin at the beginning. Back at the start of the school year, I attempted to sign up for a scholarship research program which ran from December to December - part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer (June - August). The scholarship would cover half of the student's pay, and the supervisor would cover the other half. It was a pretty sweet deal, but with 224 keen medical students vying for somewhere in the order of 20 positions, they filled up quickly. My supervisor (who may henceforth be referred to as Super), being the saint that she is, offered to cover the full cost of my employment. I would still be enrolled in the scholarship program (i.e. I would still be bound by the structure of the program - seminars, reports, abstract, poster, presentation, etc.) but would be paid out of my supervisor's pocket at HUMP.

Apparently, in order to be paid, I need to be employed. In order to be employed, I need to be trained. Trainings at HUMP only run on Mondays, and despite trying to book one for December and one for March, secretarial incompetence meant I wouldn't be trained (or paid) until June. According to my supervisor, this meant my pay would have to come in a greater sized lump sum during the summer. Fine by me.

Lump sum did not occur, and I was instead slapped with a summer student contract of approximately <$11/hr (about $1.50 more than minimum wage). But that's okay. The most important things are the references and publications this summer will bear fruit to. And I'm still getting paid, right?

This is where the real fiasco began. My pay stubs did not appear in the pay stub folder, and when I asked Secretary X (X as in eXsanguinate) about it, she asked me to check if I was actually being paid.

Of course, the best way to check this is via online banking. I've never used online banking, and I've gotten away for 23 years without doing so. Somehow, I've always felt like opening your bank account on a personal computer is like leaving a little child on the side of a road - that is, vulnerable. Still, waiting for my statement was just not going to give me the up-to-date or timely information that I needed. Online banking, here I come.

As it turns out, I was being paid. That's good. However, I was being paid half of what I should be paid. That's bad. I took the information about these two pay periods to Secretary X who said she was extremely busy and that she would look into it (meanwhile, she's been "looking into" my key card access to the lunch area for the last month even though all she needs to do is write up a little note to fix it). After badgering her for another two weeks (and by badger, I mean gently reminding her once or twice a week), I finally ended up at her desk today intent on a progress report. This is how things went:

A: Hi. Have you heard anything back from payroll?

X: Oh yeah, I did... but I forget. They sent me an e-mail... Yeah, you're being paid. See here? Paid. $43.50. What's the problem again?

A: Well, I gave you that information last time.

X: Yeah, I know you gave me some information. I don't really remember. I'm very busy. There's grants and blah blah blah. Super needs me. So what pay periods are you missing?

A: I'm not missing pay periods. I'm getting paid. I'm just getting paid the wrong amount. I should be getting the same as all the other students, but I'm getting half.

X: Oh, so you're getting paid, but you're complaining about how much? You need to talk to Super about that. That has nothing to do with me.

A: No, but that's not what my contract says.

X: Look I don't remember what your contract says. Who are you comparing your salary with?

A: The other summer students.

X: What the heck? You guys compare pay with each other? [eyes roll] Okay look, your contract says $11 an hour. That's what it says on payroll. You should be fine.

A: Except that it's not. How many hours are in a work week... 40?

X: 35?

A: Fine, whatever, 35. It's $11 and hour, 35 hours a week... so that should be what... at least $350 a week? I get paid every two weeks, so that should be $700-$800 every pay period, right?

X: I don't know?!

A: No, I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. [At this point I had to grab a calculator and compute it in front of her]

X: Fine, well I don't know what the problem is. Show me your pay stubs.

A: This is a problem. I don't get pay stubs, remember? They don't come here. I don't know where they are.

X: No pay stubs? Well, I don't know what the problem is, but it's a big problem and I don't have time for this right now. Sorry I'm being a little short but I'm busy and Super needs me.

A: Okay, that's fine. I know you're busy. I don't need it taken care of right now, I'm just reminding you that this problem exists.

I later heard from the research assistant that Secretary X had indeed been hard at work... planning a wedding for someone or other. It reminded me of another time one of the post-docs let loose in the hallway, holding an expletive-laden rant about how they couldn't get any work done due to Secretary X blasting Michael Jackson tunes and dancing around. I hate Secretary X.

As a sidenote, one of my non-HUMP-employed friends mentioned that I am probably too nice to Secretary X. However, Super actually seems quite fond of X (Super being the only one that X really pays attention to anyways), and since X has been at HUMP much longer than me (and will probably continue to be long after I am gone), I figure I shouldn't disparage X too much lest I get on Super's bad side and torpedo any potential future references.

The real kicker, however, is that the "$43.50" number that X dropped at the beginning of our conversation was not a fabrication. I checked my online balance again today, and while for my first two pay periods I received half the sum I was entitled to, for the third I received 1/20th. $43.50 for two weeks of work is about $0.62/hr. I feel like a slave in Uganda stitching together sneakers in a sweatshop.

Yes, sometimes working at HUMP feels like being taken for a ride.


tammy said...

Except you're being paid $0.62/hour to go on FB. Oh and i suppose organize the occasional folder.

a_ndy said...

Shh... that was a secret!

Jerry said...

Actually, it sounds like you are getting paid $0.62/hour to visit Secretary X and obtain hilarious reading material for your blog :D

Joyce said...

LOL! Ahhh, how i enjoy reading about other people's misfortune. :'D

a_ndy said...

@ Jerry - I hope you're not implying that I should be paying them!

@ Joyce - And that, my friend, is because you're a jerk. ;)