Monday, November 10, 2014

Wage Theft & Labor Law Violations Hearing Scheduled for this Friday

I am pleased to announce that my wage theft and labor law violations hearing will be held this Friday. I look forward to sharing the results of what happens during this meeting.

Should my former employer be worried?  Hell YES!  A wage theft judgement ruled in my favor will be a fatal blow to the museum and to my former boss's professional reputation.  So boss, I hope you are considering what your next career move will be because you WILL be sanctioned by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.  Also, I will make sure ALL agencies that provide grant monies to the museum are aware of the museum's illegal actions.

It is my right to share this information and my former employer cannot expect me to cease and desist on this issue.

Please feel free to write a letter of complaint addressed to the board members.  Your opinion matters!

Send mail to:

Marie Strait, Board President
San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles
520 South 1st St.
San Jose, CA 95113

Or visit Marie's website and email her directly at:

For a full listing of board members please visit:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Wage Theft Wedding Dress
by Angela Greben

Louise, You Broke My Heart by not Being a Team Player

For those of you who don't know, while I was employed at the museum, Louise, my former coworker, and I shared overlapping job duties.  We were both fully capable of working at the admissions desk and fulfilling all of the duties that being the "face of the museum" required.

Louise, I want you to know that the director made it clear when I started working there that you and I could trade off days just as long as we both worked our regular hours.

In the entire 10 months of my employment I worked every weekend.  The weekends before and after the Christmas holidays, Mother's Day weekend, and Father's Day weekend.  During that whole time I only had Easter Sunday off and one Saturday during the summer when my mother-in-law was in town.

When I let our boss know that not having a weekend to spend with my family was making me depressed she claimed that she talked to you about working an occasional weekend.  The boss isn't known for sticking to the truth and so I confronted you about it.  All I asked was if the two of you had indeed had that conversation. I wasn't asking that you work every weekend (she may have indicated that, I don't know) I was only asking that you work an occasional weekend.  However, when I brought it up you got a look on your face like you had just smelled a bad fart.  You looked at me in disgust and said that you weren't available to work any weekends.  Some team player.  Really, is asking you to work 8-12 weekends a year too much when I'm already working 52?  That would have made the biggest difference in my family life.  Just to be able to spend quality time with my loved ones.

Louise, you broke my heart.  I knew at that point that you couldn't be depended upon.  I had to depend on myself.  That's not how a team works.  That's dysfunctional.  As part of a condition of work I had to be at the museum every weekend and the boss already made it clear in an earlier email addressed to me that I couldn't get a consecutive Saturday and Sunday off because that would mean she would have to work seven days in a row to cover my absence.

I had to sacrifice my family time to keep my job.  Louise, I want you to know that your reaction hurt me more than anything.

Monday, October 6, 2014

In Response to my Former Employer's Ignorance and Arrogance in Providing Ethical Leadership

I would like to address a few crucial elements regarding my former employer's ignorance of related employment laws and her arrogance at flaunting them.

First, she made a horrible mistake in thinking that it is okay to staff a museum with one person for the entire day.  Not only was this dangerous for me, the lonely staff person, but also posed a risk to the museum and its artifacts.  As for getting my lunch break, she instructed me to wait for the museum to empty out during the afternoon and hang a sign on the door indicating that we would be closed for half an hour.  I soon recognized that it was impossible for me to take a lunch break, or even use the restroom, because there would be visitors in the museum all throughout the day and I could not leave the admissions desk unattended and a lull in the day hardly ever occurred.  I was also instructed that I could not ask visitors to leave in order for me to get my break.

At the same time, my boss knew I was not getting my lunch breaks and this was made very evident to me at one point when she told me that she regularly checks the daily attendance logs just to make sure the cash I hand in adds up at the end of the day to the number of guests I had reported.  The logs showed how many visitors came in on an hourly basis, which also indicated that the museum stayed busy.  When I started there she made it clear that I would not be paid for any time worked over my regular 30 hours per week.  What she was saying is, "Don't work through your lunch, but I'm not going to actually provide one."

Secondly, she made the mistake of habitually sending emails to staff on their days off and it was clear in her email communication that she expected immediate responses.  I received a number of emails from which it was clear that she not only expected I would be checking my email on my days off, but also promptly replying to them.  That is a bad managerial habit to get in and she was quite comfortable with crossing that line without further thought.

Finally, it was clear by her actions that she doesn't understand when an employee is bringing up legal issues with her and she is more than likely to address it with an inappropriate retaliatory response.  Sometimes managers need to put aside their egos and listen to what the staff is trying to communicate.  Instead, she felt it necessary to discipline me over an email where I told her that I was tired of engaging in unpaid labor.  That whole email thread lasted an hour (again, on my day off and time I was not paid for) to address a printer issue she could have and should have resolved on her own.  Is she not able to put on big girl panties and fix a printer issue herself?  It was a small museum where everyone wore many styles of big girl panties, so find a pair and put them on!

This all just goes to show her absolute incompetence in providing ethical leadership and failure at following the basic principles regarding wage and labor laws, a responsibility that was clearly stated in her job description see director's job description here.

Please feel free to write a letter of complaint addressed to the board members.  Your opinion matters!

Send mail to:

Marie Strait, Board President
San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles
520 South 1st St.
San Jose, CA 95113

Or visit Marie's website and email her directly at:

For a full listing of board members please visit:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cease and Desist? I Think Not!

Here is a funny little Cease and Desist letter the museum director mailed me last month.  What's funny about it is she does not want me contacting investor, funders, grantors, donors, and (my favorite) board members.  Why is this so hilarious?  Because she does not want any of these people to be aware of the illegal labor practices she has perpetrated.  Furthermore, I have every right to notify those individuals that she has engaged in illegal labor activities, especially now that an officer with the CA Labor Commissioner has found merit to my claims.  I even have a responsibility to notify the board of illegal activities going on within the museum.  Somehow I don't think the director sees it that way and it just goes to show her absolute incompetence in providing ethical leadership.

When she fired me she said that she would be a reference, but that was before she knew about my complaints I filed.  Now I think she wishes she never hired me, which is different than her wishing that she never engaged in wage theft and retaliation in the first place.

I also have emails from previous employees stating that she engaged in the same illegal labor practices with them.  Glad I have witnesses to the Executive Director's illegal activity.

Feel free to write a letter of complaint addressed to the board members!

Send mail to:

Marie Strait, Board President
San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles
520 South 1st St.
San Jose, CA 95113

For a full listing of board members please visit:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Officer w/ CA Labor Commissioner Agrees I have Valid Wage Theft and Retaliation Claims

My claims will be moving on into the hearing stage in about two months.  I was sure this would be the outcome of today's conference, but it feels good to have my claims validated.

And just so you know boss, that amount of money the officer quoted will only increase over the two months we all wait for the hearing due to more lost wages and waiting time penalties.  Maybe your HR consultant should have been aware of that fact.

Friday, September 26, 2014

What it is Like to be a Victim of Wage Theft in the Arts

Let me just say that I didn't expect to have my wages stolen, but they were.  The director of the museum where I worked knew full well what she was doing.  I even received an email from a former employee who told me the director did the same thing to her.  That former employee didn't think to take further action like I did.  I can't blame her because this is a museum that people love.  Even I love the museum, but I know that it is time for a new director to take over, thus I had to act.

Sadly, the museum faces a real financial crisis.  The city and county will revoke the museum's eligibility to receive grant monies.  Yes, I do love the museum, however, I am not the one who broke the law.  I am the one who stepped up to the plate to make sure it got enforced.  In March of 2013 the museum was close to having to close its doors for good, but somehow the director, being a professional fundraiser, was able to secure enough funds to keep it going.  That's great!  That is how I was able to get a job there.  What I didn't know is that the director would take advantage of me and the fact that I needed a job.

Now that I've filed a wage claim, there is a VERY STRONG possibility that a wage theft judgement will be passed against the museum.  What big donor is going to want to give her money once that happens?  Plus, once the judgement gets passed I will file a complaint with her professional organization, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and she faces a very good possibility that her credentials will be revoked.  That is what I want because I believe that she does not deserve to be a member of an organization that prides itself on high ethical standards if she can not follow all applicable local, state, and federal labor laws.

I think her behavior speaks volumes about the current state of the arts.  Yes, with a poor economic outlook fundraising has gotten more difficult and maybe she is just very ignorant of wage and labor laws or maybe she felt like it was acceptable to take advantage of me in order to save the museum a few extra dollars.

What bothers me most is that even though the city and county will not be willing to award grant monies to a nonprofit that has had a wage theft judgement passed against them, guess what?  Private foundations don't care.  They operate under the assumption that all wage and labor laws are being followed by default.  All the private foundation cares about is that the nonprofit has a current 501c3 status with the IRS.  So, my former employer can continue taking advantage of new employees without worrying too much about lost grant funding.  Unfortunately for her, it is my goal to give her something much more to worry about, like her career.  That is why I'm glad I can file complaints with her professional organization.

Also, I have an artistic side and I can do things to bring more attention to labor violations in the arts.  That is why I've created a Wage Theft Wedding Dress.  It is a textile art piece that is symbolic of the fact that one should not have to commit themselves to being victims of wage theft in order to get or keep a job.  I can bring awareness to the issue that wage theft and other labor law violations have no place in the arts because it undermines the integrity of the institution by limiting potential funding sources.  And I'm sure we can all agree how important it is to continue funding the arts, but only to organizations willing and able to comply with all legal obligations.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

An Open Letter to All CFRE's and Members of the AFP International:

Dear Professional Fundraisers,

I worked for one of your fellow members at a popular downtown San Jose museum.  While employed there the director, a CFRE, refused to ensure that I got my lunch and rest breaks as required by law.  She also did not pay me for those lunch and rest breaks, even though I worked straight through them.

She showed negligent and unethical management practices.  Her behavior was detrimental to both me and the nonprofit organization she leads.  I know that her actions run counter to the high ethical standards that the AFP International holds all members accountable to. This is why I am asking you to share your outrage with the AFP International.  Please email the AFPI President, Andrew Watt, at to let him know that any AFP member who has a wage theft and/or labor law violation judgement passed against them should face expulsion from the organization.

Angela Greben

Saturday, September 20, 2014

My Wage Theft Wedding Dress Project

What is a Wage Theft Wedding Dress?  It is my current textile art project I'm working on.  It's ugly because wage theft is ugly and it represents the fact that one should not have to commit themselves to wage theft in order to get or keep a job.  Unfortunately, I have experienced this first hand at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles while employed there from 10/2013-8/2014.  I am disgusted at the fact that I am due the equivalent of one months wages for the ten months I worked there.

My employer took advantage of me and this is not something anyone should have to go through.

Thankfully the CA Labor Commissioner has a satellite office just a short walk away.  I filed a wage claim (i.e. wage theft), 3 retaliation complaints, and 2 labor law violations before I was wrongfully terminated.  Why was I fired?  Because I stood up for my labor rights and this angered the Executive Director.

I will post pictures of my Wage Theft Wedding Dress once I have it completed and I will also have a Foot Stomping on a date to be announced.  I will welcome all who want to stomp their foot on my wedding dress to protest the practice of wage theft and other labor law violations.

My Experience of Unethical and Illegal Employment Practices at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

While employed at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles I was the only employee to work weekends and there was no posted closing time for lunch at the Museum.  What that meant was there were numerous days in which I did not receive my lunch or rest breaks as required by law.  When I started working there the Executive Director gave me two very specific instructions, (1) she would not be paying me for any time worked over my regular 30 hours per week and (2) when I worked alone at the Museum I was to take my lunch break by simply hanging a sign on the door notifying visitors that the Museum would be closed for half an hour.  There were many days in which this was not realistically possible because of the number of visitors that came into the Museum throughout the day.  While I worked there I was never paid for my lunch or rest breaks I did not receive, as required by law.

When I inquired as to how I could reasonably expect to get my lunch and rest breaks on days I worked alone I was fired.

Thankfully, I had already submitted my wage claim, retaliation claims, and labor law violations by the time I was wrongfully terminated.