It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. I don’t want to work with my new coworker, who’s a registered sex offender
I currently work for a union-based company in the warehouse department. They transferred a guy who is on the sex offender registry for his crime. Because I was molested as a young girl, I am not comfortable working with him. I need to know if you know what my rights are. Today my boss had me working with him side by side and I refused. I asked to be moved to another part of the warehouse and took it upon myself to ask someone to switch with me, which they did. One of the other supervisors told my boss they if I refuse again, they were going to suspend me for three days. I am not okay with getting suspended nor losing my job, but I can’t work with the guy. Any suggestions?
Well, you can certainly talk with your manager about your concerns and ask if it’s possible to avoid working directly with the guy. But all you can really do is ask; your manager can say no (and might have good reason to say no — either because there’s no easy way to avoid having you work together, or because he doesn’t want to create a situation where people can refuse to work with others). If he does say no, then at that point you’d need to decide if you still want the job, knowing that this will be part of it.
For what it’s worth, if you haven’t already, you might try to get more information before making up your mind. Some people on the sex offender registry are truly alarming people, but others are there because they had consensual sex as a teenager (for example, a 16-year-old who had sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend), sexted as a minor, or even (in 13 states) peed in public. I realize you may already know the crime, but if you don’t, it could be worth finding out more before deciding how you feel.
2. We’re becoming weak from lack of food at work
I am a non-exempt employee who works for a high-end, privately-owned restaurant in a state where having breaks is not required (Missouri). We are often understaffed, and it can be very difficult to get food or drink on the run. We are not given breaks. Worse, the owner has forbidden any food or drink that is not the restaurant’s. Even with the employee discount, we are paid slightly over minimum wage and cannot afford the food. Just the cost of one beverage can keep us in bologna sandwiches for a week (lunch and dinner!).
I have already seen many employees (including myself) become dehydrated or weak from lack of food. I broke the rules in getting an employee a sport drink and a protein bar from the nearest convenience store when the employee almost collapsed. Fortunately, I wasn’t caught by the owner.
The employees are becoming frequently sick as a result, which is not good when you’re dealing with food. Can the restaurant owner legally employ such stringent restrictions?
Unfortunately, I can’t think of any law it would violate, although employers do need to supply drinking water. I think your best bet is to talk to the owner or manager — ideally as a group — and explain the problems the policy is causing, point out that most other restaurants give employees a free meal during their shift (although it may be restricted to certain items), and ask for a change. If your manager refuses to alter the policy after hearing that, you’re working for a jerk (and he’s pretty much begging for unionization … just saying).
3. I’m embarrassed to work in the same building as the company that fired me a few years ago
A couple of years ago, I was let go from a company under some embarrassing circumstances. The most embarrasing charge was that I went to YouTube a lot to listen to news talk shows during work hours, which I did because there wasn’t much to do.
I found another job that became unattractive for other reasons a month ago. I started looking and have been given an opportunity to interview with a new company that’s in the same building as the company that let me go a couple of years ago. It’s a good opportunity, but I’m unable to overcome the fear of facing my old colleagues like in elevators and other places in the building. Any advice on overcoming this fear?
Well, one way to look at it is that you’d be replacing your former coworkers’ memory of you as “the guy who was fired for listening to too many news shows” with “our old coworker who is now gainfully employed at a different company in our building.” Also, lots of your old coworkers have probably moved on in the last few years, and those who are still there (a) probably have vague memories, (b) don’t find it terribly scandalous that you listened to news shows at work (lots of people do that kind of thing), and/or (c) genuinely wish you well. It’s not like you got fired for running naked through the office Christmas party and cussed them all out on your way out the door.
4. How soon can I try to transfer to a different job in my company?
I’m fairly new to working in a large organization that has job openings pretty regularly. I’ve been here six months, and it’s also my first time working somewhere that has an HR department. I’m wondering if you have advice on how soon is too soon to apply for another job at the same company. I’ve excelled at my job in the first several months that I’ve been here, but another job opened that would be an even better fit for my interests and would offer a better work/life balance than my current position. I’m hesitant to apply because I don’t want to make things awkward with my current supervisor and coworkers, but I wondered about just posing the question to HR. Would they think I’m crazy if I asked about this other position? Does HR typically keep questions like that confidential?
I know if I applied for the position it would need to be made public, as the two departments are very close. I’m just wondering if you have any advice to help me navigate working at a large organization for the first time.
Don’t do it. There’s a decent chance that HR will mention it to your manager (who might even need to approve any transfer), and your manager is likely to be really annoyed that you’re already considering moving on after only six months — which is usually the amount of time it takes for the time and training that she invested in you to finally be paying off. Wait at least a year, and possible more (in many roles, two would be the minimum before you could respectably try to transfer).
5. Negotiating when moving from a non-exempt job to an exempt one
Is it normal (or a terrible idea) to factor an exemption status change in to a raise negotiation? For example, if I’m currently non-exempt and making overtime and get a promotion/raise that changes me to exempt, can I use the lost wages as part of a negotiation to ask for more money? Namely I’d want to highlight that my actual pay was higher (from consistent overtime) so the percentage bump is actually lower. I’m building a case based on other factors too, but I’m concerned that I my exemption status will in fact change, even though I’m not sure that that is correct.
It’s entirely reasonable to say something like, “In my current role, I’ve been earning an average of $X a year, including overtime, so I’d be looking for something in the range of $Y when taking on these new responsibilities.” People will understand that you don’t want to end up earning less money for something that’s supposed to be a promotion.
But do verify first that the new role is exempt. It’s reasonable to ask that during the hiring process, or definitely at the offer stage if it hasn’t come up yet.