Something I now feel comfortable venting about, now that my PhD is over a year behind me, is their timekeeping practices.
At some point in the middle of my PhD, they started requiring that we record hours. I (and other students) were pissed off about this, because we weren’t being paid by the hour, we were on fixed salaries. Being salaried has the disadvantage that your employer pressures you to work long hours, because they know they don’t have to pay you overtime. Being paid by the hour is better, but has the disadvantage that you have to record hours. By making us record hours, while keeping us on fixed salaries, we were getting the worst of both worlds.
Once we actually started recording hours, it was even more ridiculous than we initially thought. It was not possible to record accurate hours–the maximum number of hours I could record was about 20 hours per week. This was supposedly because I had a “50% appointment”, meaning that half of my time was devoted to my position as a research assistant, and the other half devoted to being a student. Which was not accurate by the way. I wasn’t taking any more classes at this point.
It gets even worse. When speaking with other grad students, we learned that the percentage appointment depended on arbitrary factors. For instance, a foreign student had a 75% appointment. We eventually determined that he was being paid more, but more of that money was going towards tuition, so in the end he was seeing the same amount of money. Rather than accounting for this by increasing his hourly wage, our employer was accounting for it by increasing how many hours he was supposedly working. And later, when I advanced to candidacy, I got a small pay raise, which was accounted for by increasing my 50% appointment to a ~53% appointment.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to record daily hours. I would just record the total number of hours per month, and then digitally sign to verify that the information was accurate. And if I forgot, then I’d have to fill out some paperwork and hand deliver it to another building.
One time I asked HR, what was the deal? I did not get a helpful response. We were required to report hours by some new governmental regulation (we were funded by the government). I… I just don’t know. One of my friends thought we were victims of wage theft, but I think it was just some ill-conceived governmental rule that nobody cared to follow outside of paperwork.