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Life Stories

“The Unpaid Overtime Dilemma: Working Beyond Hours”

This lesson is designed to build your critical-thinking skills in English as you read, listen, and answer different types of comprehension and discussion questions.

Pre-Listening Activities for Teachers

Although these questions are related to classroom instruction, independent learners can reflect on the ideas and topic to prepare for the listening portion of the lesson.

  1. Brainstorming Session: Start the class by engaging the students in a brainstorming session related to the topic of unpaid overtime work. Write the topic “Unpaid Overtime Work” on the board and encourage the students to share their thoughts, experiences, and opinions on the matter. Ask questions such as:
    • Have you or anyone you know ever experienced unpaid overtime work?
    • What do you think are the reasons behind unpaid overtime in workplaces?
    • How do you believe employees should be compensated for working overtime?
  1. Vocabulary Review: Provide the students with a list of relevant vocabulary words and phrases related to the topic of unpaid overtime work, such as “compensation,” “overtime pay,” “dedication,” “fair wages,” “employer,” and “labor laws.” Have the students discuss the meanings of these terms in pairs or small groups, and then review their understanding as a whole class.

  2. Debate Exercise: Divide the class into two groups, and assign each group to either support or oppose the idea of unpaid overtime work. Have them prepare arguments and counterarguments for their respective positions. Then, hold a debate session where each group presents their points, and students can engage in a structured discussion about the pros and cons of unpaid overtime work.

  3. Prediction Activity: Before playing the story or a related audio clip about unpaid overtime work, ask the students to predict the possible scenarios and outcomes of the situation based on the title and topic. In small groups, have them discuss what they think might happen in the story and why. Afterward, encourage the students to share their predictions with the class.


Listen and read the story and answer the questions. 


A language activity from Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab.

Once upon a time, in the bustling heart of the city, there stood a magnificent hotel known for its luxurious accommodations and exceptional service. However, behind the elegant facade, a group of five hardworking employees found themselves in a less-than-enchanting situation.

Emma, Jason, Lisa, Mike, and Sophie were the unsung heroes of the hotel, working tirelessly to ensure every guest experienced a magical stay. From dawn till dusk, they toiled away, often finding themselves tackling extra tasks and working overtime to maintain the hotel’s reputation. But, there was one thing that had been gnawing at them like a hidden hotel pest: their overtime work was going unpaid.

One sweltering afternoon, the clock struck five, and the employees decided they had endured enough. With determination in their hearts, they marched together to the manager’s office, ready to confront the enigmatic figure who held the keys to their elusive overtime pay.

Manager Fredrickson, a man known for his odd sense of humor, glanced up from his paperwork as the quintet barged in. He raised an eyebrow, pretending to be surprised, but his eyes gleamed with amusement.

“Ah, what brings my devoted team to my humble abode? Not here for a late-night ghost story?” he teased, a playful smile dancing on his lips.

Emma, the team’s unofficial spokesperson, stepped forward, her expression determined. “Fredrickson, we’ve come to talk about our overtime pay—or lack thereof.”

The manager leaned back in his chair, his poker face betraying a hint of mischief. “Overtime pay? Are you sure you haven’t mistaken this place for a charity?”

Jason smirked. “Well, if you’re offering free vacations, we’d gladly take those too.”

Lisa chimed in, her patience wearing thin. “Boss, it’s not a joke. We’ve been putting in extra hours, and we deserve to be compensated.”

The manager raised a hand as if pondering the thought. “Compensated, you say? How about I pay you in unforgettable memories of your time here?”

Sophie rolled her eyes, sarcasm dripping from her words. “Oh, great. Just what I need – memories to pay my rent.”

The team wasn’t going to back down easily, and they bombarded the manager with their grievances, leaving him with no choice but to take the matter seriously. Finally, the humor in his eyes softened, replaced by a glimmer of sincerity.

“Alright, alright, you’ve got me,” he admitted, his tone changing. “I promise I’ll look into it and make sure you get what you’re owed. Just give me a little time to sort it out.”

Mike, always the skeptic, replied, “How much time are we talking about? Are we talking the time it takes for room service to deliver our morning coffee?”

Fredrickson chuckled. “No, not that long. More like the time it takes for a guest to decide whether to take the stairs or the elevator.”

The team exchanged skeptical glances but decided to give their manager the benefit of the doubt. “Fine, but we want this resolved soon. We’re tired of waiting,” Emma said firmly.

The manager nodded, his amusement replaced by a sense of responsibility. “I understand. You have my word that I’ll take care of it. Your dedication to this hotel doesn’t go unnoticed, and I value your hard work.”

With a collective sigh of relief, the team retreated from the manager’s office, hoping their ordeal would soon be over. As the days passed, they continued to work diligently, fueled by the hope that justice would be served.

True to his word, Fredrickson kept his promise, and before the week was out, the employees received their rightful overtime pay. The news spread like wildfire through the hotel, and the staff’s spirits were lifted higher than the hotel’s flag on a windy day.

The five employees decided to celebrate their victory by leaving a heartfelt five-star review for the hotel—a testament to their unity and the power of standing up for what’s right. 

And so, with their grievances addressed, the quintet continued to bring magic to the guests of the hotel, cherishing both their unforgettable memories and their well-deserved compensation.- After all, in the end, every fairy tale needs a happy ending, even in the midst of an upscale city hotel.

Comprehension Questions: Self-Grading Quiz

Comprehension Questions in Text Format

1. What is the main issue the five employees are facing in the story?
A) A ghost haunting the hotel
B) A lack of vacation days
C) Unpaid overtime work
D) A broken elevator

2. What is the manager’s initial reaction when the employees complain about unpaid overtime?
A) He pretends not to understand the problem.
B) He immediately promises to fix the problem.
C) He offers to pay them in compliments and snacks.
D) He dismisses their concerns.

3. How does the manager humorously compare the time it will take to resolve the overtime pay issue?
A) “As quick as a lightning strike to a tree in the mountains.”
B) “Faster than a rocket to the moon on a sunny day.”
C) “In the blink of an eye any day of the week.”
D) “More like the time it takes for a guest to decide whether to take the stairs or the elevator.”

4. How do the employees react when the manager suggests paying them in unforgettable memories of their time at the hotel?
A) They decide to take him up on the offer.
B) They laugh but insist on fair compensation.
C) They threaten to quit if he doesn’t pay them.
D) They leave the office without saying anything.

5. What ultimately happens to the employees’ overtime pay situation?
A) The manager ignores their complaints, and they remain unpaid.
B) The manager pays them with vacation days instead of money.
C) The employees receive their rightful overtime pay.
D) The employees receive a pay cut instead.

Answers and Explanations

Question 1:
What is the main issue the five employees are facing in the story?
Answer: C) Unpaid overtime work
Explanation: The main problem the employees face is that they are not receiving payment for the extra hours they have worked beyond their regular shifts.

Question 2:
What is the manager’s initial reaction when the employees complain about unpaid overtime?
Answer: A) He pretends not to understand the problem.
Explanation: The manager’s initial response is humorous, as he pretends not to grasp the problem and acts clueless about the unpaid overtime, making playful remarks.

Question 3:
How does the manager humorously compare the time it will take to resolve the overtime pay issue?
Answer: D) “More like the time it takes for a guest to decide whether to take the stairs or the elevator.”
Explanation: The manager uses a clever analogy to compare the resolution time to the indecisiveness of a guest choosing between stairs and the elevator, indicating a humorous delay.

Question 4:
How do the employees react when the manager suggests paying them in unforgettable memories of their time at the hotel?
Answer: B) They laugh but insist on fair compensation.
Explanation: The employees find the suggestion amusing and laugh, but they assert their need for fair payment despite the manager’s jest.

Question 5:
What ultimately happens to the employees’ overtime pay situation?
Answer: C) The employees receive their rightful overtime pay.
Explanation: The story concludes on a positive note as the manager keeps his promise, and the employees finally receive proper compensation for their overtime work, resolving the issue satisfactorily.

Discussion Questions

Intermediate Level (Recall and Comprehension)

  1. What was the main issue the five employees faced at the hotel?
  2. How did the manager initially respond to the employees’ complaints about unpaid overtime?
  3. How did the employees react when the manager jokingly suggested paying them in unforgettable memories?
  4. Did the manager keep his promise to the employees in the end? If yes, how did he resolve the situation?

Advanced Level (Interpret and Analyze)

  1. What do you think the employees’ actions as a team say about their working relationship and their dedication to their jobs?
  2. Analyze the manager’s initial response to the employees’ complaints about unpaid overtime. What rhetorical strategies did he use to downplay the issue, and what does this reveal about his character?
  3. The story uses humor to address the serious issue of unpaid overtime. Discuss the role of humor in the narrative and how it contributes to conveying the message about fair compensation in the workplace.
  4. Evaluate the impact of the employees’ decision to confront the manager as a united group. How did their collective approach influence the resolution of the situation?
  5. Consider the potential legal and ethical implications of unpaid overtime in the hotel industry. What steps could be taken to prevent such issues from arising in the future?
  6. Reflect on the lessons that can be drawn from this story in a broader context of employee rights and labor practices. How can employers strike a balance between meeting business needs and ensuring fair treatment and compensation for their workforce?

    Class Activities

    These post-listening activities add visual (seeing), auditory (listening), kinesthetic (moving), and tactile (touching) elements to engage students in meaningful ways based on their learning styles.

    1. Role-Playing and Debate (Kinesthetic and Verbal Modalities):

    Divide the class into groups and assign each group a role to play, such as hotel employees, the manager, a legal advisor, and a representative from a labor union. Encourage students to reenact the pivotal moments from the story, including the confrontation with the manager and the negotiation for fair pay. After the role-playing, facilitate a debate where each group defends their perspective on the issue of unpaid overtime, labor rights, and fair compensation.

    2. Creative Writing (Visual and Linguistic Modalities):

    Ask students to imagine themselves as one of the characters in the story, such as Emma, Tom, Lisa, Mike, or Sophie. Have them write a journal entry or a letter expressing their thoughts and emotions about the experience of working overtime without pay. Encourage them to reflect on the challenges they faced, the impact it had on their lives, and their determination to seek fair compensation. Students can then share their written pieces with the class.

    3. Interactive Web Quest (Visual and Logical Modalities):

    Design an interactive web quest where students can explore online resources related to labor laws, employee rights, and the impact of unpaid overtime on workers’ well-being. Provide guiding questions and tasks for students to complete as they navigate through different websites and articles. The web quest will deepen their understanding of the topic and its relevance in today’s workforce.

    4. Crossword Puzzle (Visual and Linguistic Modalities):

    Create a crossword puzzle using key terms and concepts from the story, such as “overtime,” “compensation,” “manager,” “negotiation,” “teamwork,” and “labor laws.” Students can work individually or in pairs to solve the puzzle, reinforcing their understanding of the story’s vocabulary and themes.

    Different AI technologies, including ChatGPT and an AI voice generator, were used in a collaborative way to prepare the content for this lesson.
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