It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. My coworker wants me to goof off so she doesn’t look bad
I just started a new job about a month ago. It’s a job that requires both speed and accuracy, and I came in with a lot of experience, so I’m doing well so far and my manager has told me that she is impressed.
My department only consists of me, my manager, and another coworker (who I’ll call Carol). Carol is friendly to me but keeps making comments about how I need to “goof off on the internet more” and how I should purposefully work more slowly because I’m making her look bad. We’re at a time of year that’s slow for our business, so I’ve already worked through my entire backlog of work and am now doing some other projects that had been stalled during busier times. Carol told me today that she’s deliberately working as slowly as possible because she doesn’t want to do any additional work like I’m doing. Some of our work is time-sensitive and our clients are getting annoyed with her slowness, but she doesn’t seem to notice/care.
This seems so strange to me, and I don’t know how to react. Carol is known for being slow and not the best at her job, but my manager lets a lot of things slide because she’s generally conflict-avoidant. I can live with that. But how do I respond to Carol’s repeated requests for me to goof off at work and do a crummy job just to make her feel better?
Ignore her. Or laugh and pretend you think she’s joking. Or say, “I’m actually happier when I’m keeping busy.”
Also, your manager is committing a pretty egregious act of negligence and incompetence in not dealing with Carol.
2. Asking an older intern applicant about age issues
I’m hoping you can give me some advice on the best way to ask a potentially touchy question in an upcoming interview. My office offers an internship program for undergraduate students. In total, there are about a dozen interns who work for our office during the academic year. While some of the work is done individually, there is a lot of opportunity for the interns to work together and interact with one another. We are currently recruiting one intern to complete this year’s cohort. The internship is open to any currently enrolled undergraduate, including non-traditional students, though all of our existing undergraduates are within the typical 18-22 age range.
One of the candidates we are bringing in for an interview is significantly older than the rest of the intern staff. I would never discount her application based on age (and I believe doing so would be illegal), but I want to make sure that she will be comfortable working alongside a group of traditionally-aged sophomores and juniors. Is there a way I could bring this up during the interview that both (a) lets her know about the make up of our existing intern body, and (b) assesses whether or not she might have a problem doing the same work and working alongside students who are 15 or 20 years her junior? I want to make sure it’s a good cultural fit for everyone.
She’s a non-traditional student going back to school 15 or 20 years after most people; she’s used to being in classes with 18-22-years-old, and I’m sure that it’s not lost on her that other interns are likely to be in that age range as well. You’re not going to be telling her anything that hasn’t already figured out on her own, by virtue of being a later-in-life student.
I also wouldn’t ask directly how she feels about working alongside younger interns; there’s a high probability of awkwardness from that question and a low probability of getting you anything useful. But you could certainly asking things like “what made you decide to return to school?” and “how are you finding the experience of being a non-traditional student?” Her answers to those might give you some insight into how comfortable she is being in a crowd of 19-year-olds.
3. Do I have to disclose a life-threatening peanut allergy when I’m interviewing?
I have a life-threatening allergy to peanuts. The last 7 ER trips have been caused by me touching something contaminated with peanut residue or being touched by someone eating something with peanuts. I am currently applying to teach in several private schools. Several of these schools have community lunch where teachers and students eat together. Sometimes family style, sometimes with each person bringing their lunch.
I can do this. My family never took the ban peanuts approach. I grew up with my little sister and cousins eating things with peanuts around me. I’ve taught in public schools for 12 years. I have found a simple explanation was all the students needed. They had no problem washing their hands and cleaning the area, and actually were quite protective.
My current plan is to not mention this unless I am given an offer, then explain the condition and easy solutions to kids having peanut products in their lunch. For example, using newspaper as a place mat, then wrapping the trash in the newspaper for disposal, the children washing their hands after finishing eating, and keeping vinyl* first aid gloves in the room for me to wear while cleaning up any messes (you guessed it; I’m also allergic to latex). Do you have any other ideas?
Yep, it’s perfectly appropriate to wait until you have an offer to mention this, just like with any other medical condition. That removes the chance of your allergy becoming a factor in their hiring decision, and raises it at the appropriate time: when they’ve decided they want to hire you and you’re working out the details. (And really, given how common peanut restrictions are in schools now, they’re probably well-equipped to deal with this.)
4. Can company make me pay for a required medical exam and take sick leave to get it?
I work for a company that requires a medical exam every year. I would like to know if the company can require an employee to take sick leave to deal with these exams and to pay for them out of pocket, without reimbursement. This may seem petty, but I really think that if the employee requires me to do this, I should not have to pay for it, neither should I lose personal time off work. I’ve never had to have an annual exam for work before. I have had pre-employment drug tests, but they were always paid for by the company I had applied with.
I have never received reimbursement for an exam from this company, not even the pre-employment exam, but other managers I’ve worked for here have allowed me to leave from work to get my physical and not use sick leave. My current manager does not want to allow this, and wants me to use my sick leave to fulfill the employer mandate. This means losing nearly a full day of sick leave because I have to go back three days after the exam to have my TB test evaluated. I believe the TB test is the only thing that costs me out of pocket now, other than travel to get there twice, because of the Wellness mandate (thanks ACA!), but the company does not reimburse for that, either.
Can companies legally require that we pay for any portion of a mandatory exam? And is completing this exam under an employer directive not considered time at work, to be paid as work time, not sick time?
it depends on what state you’re in. Some states forbid employers from pushing the cost of required medical exams on to employees; other states are silent on the issue. Google the name of your state and “employer required medical exam cost” and you’ll probably find the answer for your state.
The sick time question is more complicated. Because sick days aren’t required by law (except for in a small number of localities), employers can make all kinds of crazy rules about it. (If you happen to be in one of those small number of localities that do require it, I don’t know how this would play out and you’d be better off talking to a lawyer in your state.)
Do you have an HR department? This is the perfect sort of thing to take to them, as they (a) probably want all managers handling it the same way and (b) probably will agree you shouldn’t have to take a sick day to fulfill your job requirements.
5. When employees don’t have phones to call in late/sick with
I direct a customer service-oriented department of about 60 part-timers at a nonprofit cultural organization. These part-time employees make between $9-$10 per hour, but many only work about 20 hours per week, so they aren’t taking home much money especially for an East coast city. Recently, a few employees have been unable to follow procedures about calling out for a shift or calling to say that they’ll be running late because they don’t have a phone currently or their service has been cut. For instance, one employee was nearly an hour late because she missed a bus and wasn’t able to call to let us know because she doesn’t have a phone. Another employee needed to call out, but did so an hour late because she had to go use her neighbor’s phone and her neighbor wasn’t awake yet when she first tried to use her phone. I’m very aware that bills are tough to pay with a $9/hour job, and in low-income communities, it’s somewhat common for adults to have sporadic phone access, so I feel conflicted about holding these employees accountable for failure to follow procedure that is directly related to their tight financial circumstances.
I know that increasing our rate of pay significantly would minimize this problem, but unfortunately our company is just not in a position to do that right now. What is the best way of treating these employees fairly while still enforcing our attendance policies?
I’ve been racking my brain for an answer for you and don’t have one. All I can come up with is issuing people cheap cell phones with pre-paid calling cards, but for 60 people I’m betting it’s not realistic. But maybe a reader will have an idea?