I’m trying to get fired, I’m supposed to bid against another job candidate on salary, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I’m trying to get fired

When you resign from the company I work for, you get 20-25% of your commissions backlog (outstanding commissions from on-site sales). However, five people have recently been fired and all received 90% or all of their backlog, and some worked hard to get fired. It is definitely not in my nature, ethically or professionally, to get fired but in this instance doing the “right” thing gets you less money and I don’t need the reference.

I have taken more than 10 days off for a fake injury. I sent them an x-ray off a website and they called me out on it, saying my picture was similar to stuff on the web and they wanted a letter from my doctor saying that I was under medical care. I made an appointment that day with my doctor. He faxed a letter saying that I was under his care and could return in four more days.

How should I address the x-ray or should I just give it up and don’t show up for another week, resign, and take a HUGE loss. Trying to get fired is exhausting!

Well, if they find out you sent them a fake x-ray, that’s going to get you fired really quickly.

Look, I get that this is a ridiculous policy — it doesn’t make sense that you’d get more commissions paid out if you’re fired than if you resign. But what you’re doing is terrible for your integrity — faxing fake x-rays? You really don’t want to be that person, or at least I hope you don’t. Plus, you never know who you’re going to run into in the future, and if you run into someone from this job, you don’t want this to be a thing they know about you.

If you’re really determined to get fired, you’d be better off just doing it through no-showing rather than going through this sort of rigmarole.

2. Company wants me and another finalist to bid against each other on salary

I just received a verbal offer. Well, maybe. They’ve narrowed it down to me and another candidate and are making the final decision based on salary requirements. It feels like if I do get an offer, it will be because I was the lowest bidder and not because they decided I was the best candidate.

I realize that hiring managers often make decisions based on salary, but it seems off to make that explicit. The recruiter did specifically say that salary requirements were going to be the tiebreaker between us. Is this weird or am I being oversensitive about this?

No, it’s messed up. They’re intentionally making you feel like you need to outbid the other candidate, which is likely to lower the number you each ask for. If that weren’t their intent, they wouldn’t have needed to tell you that this would be the tiebreaker.

Good employers don’t auction off jobs to the lowest bidder. They determine what they want to pay, and they offer it. They don’t rely on candidates driving each other’s prices down.

I urge you to name a salary you’d truly be happy to take and not worry about trying to play their game.

3. Are these normal working practices in the U.S.?

I live in the UK, and recently saw an interesting job with an American company here that I wanted to apply for. However, once I got to to the part of the info where it stated they ran criminal record checks and reserved the right to run regular drug and alcohol checks on all their staff, and reserved the right to run a credit check, I was massively put off and decided not to apply. This isn’t because of my heroin habit and long run of murders, but because it seemed creepily invasive.

Here is how it normally stands in the UK:

Criminal record – if your job requires solo contact with children/vulnerable adults, a central agency will check your records and issue a certificate that you are clear of any crimes that would make you a danger. I already have one of these certificates, but only because I worked in schools. For other jobs it’s just standard to be asked if you have certain convictions on an application form, and that’s it.

Drug and credit tests – unusual and only if specifically required by your job for safety/legal reasons — i.e., pilots, financial advisors. I have never had one.

The job was design for a company that produces items for children, so it wasn’t anything high security or that could put people in danger, so this all seemed very paranoid, and I’m actually not sure if it’s legal over here. It just seems massive overkill for an office job. Is this normal in the U.S., or is this company just very paranoid? Either way, I don’t think I want to work with them.

Regular alcohol checks? No, not normal. Really, really unusual.

Drug tests aren’t uncommon in some fields here, but you can also easily go your whole career without ever encountering one, depending on what type of work you do and who you do it for.

Criminal records checks aren’t unusual in the U.S., particularly with larger companies. Employers are allowed to consider criminal convictions in hiring decisions, but they can’t have a blanket ban on hiring anyone with a criminal conviction unless they can show the policy is truly job-related and rooted in business necessity. More commonly they’re required to individual assessments that consider the nature of the crime, how long ago it was, and how it relates (or doesn’t relate) to the job.

Credit checks are generally only done for positions that handle money, although some employers use them more broadly. (And at least seven states prohibit employers from running credit reports or limit how they can use them in hiring decisions.) But often a credit check will be included in all the other standard language you sign off on when you okay a background check, even if they’re not actually going to run one for your position.

Overall, I’d say that this doesn’t sound terribly unusual except for the alcohol part. For a design job, the alcohol part is quite odd.

4. Having to receive packages for a coworker

I am an office manager in an office of about 40. One of my duties is reception, although there is no official reception location — I walk away from my desk to receive packages and visitors. One of my colleagues, who is senior to me but to whom I do not report, receives about one personal package per week, which I then bring to her office. When she first started working here, she had recently moved and received five packages a day for a week and a half (really). She doesn’t want to have items delivered to her home because she is afraid of theft.

Is this reasonable? Should I ask her to make other arrangements?

One package a week is no big deal. And many people consider it a benefit to be able to receive packages at work. If she starts getting five packages a day again for a sustained period of time, it might be reasonable to speak up at that point, but not when it’s just one a week.

5. Giving no notice when company policy says you’ll be made to leave the day you resign

A friend of mine (Mary) quit her job recently and gave no notice. I know normally that would be less than ideal, but her boss (Lucinda) had previously told her that it was company policy to immediately fire someone without severance if they gave notice. When Mary quit, Lucinda was very angry and told her that she should have given notice. Am I right in thinking that this is unreasonable?

Yes. If an employer makes it known that their policy is to fire you on the spot without severance when you resign, why on earth would anyone give notice?

I’m wondering if it’s not actually the company policy and is just something Lucinda said once to Mary and that’s why she’s pissed off now, but who knows.

{ 439 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. MK

    OP1, are you sure you will receive your commissions if you are fired for being dishonest with your employer and not for incompetence or something more neutral like that? Are you sure the people who got fired “worked hard” for it? It sounds odd to me that several people would be willing to lose their jobs without having another lined up (which you can’t really do if you are playing chicken with your employer) and ruin their reputation with this company to get more commissions when you leave.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Agreed—it seems like it wouldn’t be in the company’s interest to pay your backlog if you lied to them by committing low-level leave fraud, whereas a no-show is also bad, but at least not fraudulent.

      Honestly, this sounds like a really terrible idea, but I’m also much concerned about maintaining a strong professional reputation than might be the case in other industries. OP, are you really in an industry/sector where burning bridges this way won’t backfire?

      Reply
      1. Czhorat

        yes, THIS.

        Anecdote: in my current firm are two co-workers from two jobs ago and someone else who’d worked with me on one of my first jobs in the industry. I wouldn’t want to be known – at the very best – as the guy who tried to game the system with a sitcomesque strategy of printing fake X-rays from the internet.

        Take this as life advice: if you can imagine George Costanza doing it, you probably shouldn’t.

        Reply
        1. Rusty Shackelford

          Take this as life advice: if you can imagine George Costanza doing it, you probably shouldn’t.

          But then I couldn’t be swathed in velvet!

          Reply
        2. Anonymoose

          Wasn’t this the Real Housewives of Orange County’s last season’s drama? Fake cancer chemo receipts off the internet? Please tell me that I didn’t make this up and it’s A Thing.

          Reply
          1. k

            I don’t know about that, but a girl I went to high school with faked a miscarried pregnancy with ultrasounds from the internet…

            Reply
      2. TheBeetsMotel

        So much this. Unless the increased commission monies are going to be enough to cover you for a substantial length of time, and beyond, while you job hunt with a reputation that’s now in the toilet, I’d say it’s not worthwhile.

        Reply
    2. Gabriel Conroy

      That’d my concern , too. Even if one leaves aside Alison’s excellent comments about it not being worth it to be that kind of person, it wouldn’t surprise me if the company has some sort of (formal or informal) policy that you don’t get your commissions if you’re fired for “extreme cause” or whatever.

      Reply
      1. eplawyer

        I have to wonder if there is some other reason those people who got fired got 90% of their commissions that #1 doesn’t know about. Were they really fired or did he hear they were trying to get fired through the grapevine? Did they really get 90% of their commissions or did they tell their friends that?

        I wonder if this is really the policy or something else is going on here. Because it makes no sense to encourage people to get fired by giving them more money. Yes, companies do wacky things. But employees also make up wacky things when they don’t have all the facts too.

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        1. MT

          I would have to assume it has to do with either state law or threat of a law suit. The state that I am in has different pay rules if someone is fire or quits. If we fire someone we have to have their last paycheck ready with any bonus/commission due. If someone quits their last paycheck is due on the next normal payday.

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Oh! This is brilliant. Yes, in many states if you’re fired you must be paid all money due within 24 hours or some other time period that’s shorter than “your next scheduled payroll day.” It could be that the fired people are getting the commissions right away, whereas for the other people, they’re trickling in on the normal schedule (which could be over many months, depending on how their commissions come due).

            Reply
            1. Uzumaki Naruto

              Yeah, I really have to wonder if the OP is working on incomplete information and drawing some incorrect conclusions.

              Reply
            2. cobweb collector

              I really can’t believe all the responses this is getting. You’re all missing the forest for the trees here. LW#1 is doing something completely unethical and fraudulent. Is the policy stupid? Yes, the policy is stupid. So what? The policy is not forcing LW#1 to do something unethical. LW#1 has written in asking for help to commit fraud. Why is no one calling him/her on it and instead talking about the stupid policy?

              If someone wrote in saying “my neighbor forgets to lock his back door sometimes, what would be the best way to break in and steal his stuff without him noticing?” would you all start analyzing whether or not the neighbor had a security alarm?

              Reply
              1. JHunz

                The original response from AAM told him to stop committing fraud. Trying to get fired in and of itself is not unethical, only the way he was doing it.

                Reply
              2. Honeybee

                Let’s be realistic, though. A lot of people, when faced with the difference between getting 25% of their pay and 90% of their pay, would at least think about doing something beyond the pale (especially if they get commissions fairly regularly and rely on them to pay their bills). I mean, if their commission was $10,000, that’s the difference between $2,500 and $9,000.

                The policy being stupid is the central tenet of this letter – the OP wouldn’t be trying to get fired if there wasn’t a huge discrepancy (or perceived one) there. It’s not that the policy doesn’t matter; it absolutely does matter. The LW’s actions matter too, of course, but so does the policy. Breaking into a neighbor’s home is not a comparable situation at all.

                Alison already mentioned that the LW shouldn’t commit fraud in her original post. But additionally, what Alison and other commenters are trying to do is give them a concrete reason why they shouldn’t do so, aside from a simple “It’s unethical and you shouldn’t consider it at all.”

                Reply
              3. Zombii

                That analogy is terrible and misleading. A company withholding 75% of someone’s commissions as punishment* for quitting is more unethical than trying to leave a job in the way that makes sure you get the majority of the money you’ve has already earned—and neither of these things is illegal, unlike robbing your neighbor’s house. Commissions that you’ve already earned isn’t money you’re stealing from your company, this scenario is actually closer to the other way around, except that commissions are a bonus, and bonus pay is largely unregulated in most states.

                (Regardless: it doesn’t seem like LW #1 has a clear understanding on how the commission payout works, and I would strongly recommend they confirm their information before continuing this scheme.)
                ——————-
                *It can only be read as punishment because the commissions were earned and the company would have presumably paid the funds out if the employee had continued their employment.**
                **I’ve had two different jobs where commissions were completely forfeit upon resignation. I’m not bitter (yes I am).

                Reply
          2. Zombii

            How does that last paycheck thing work out with charged back commissions? The two sales jobs I’ve had both withheld commissions for 2 weeks because the stores had a 14-day return policy, and it’s easier to not pay the money out in the first place than it is to try to claw it back later.

            Reply
      2. Sas

        Not sure about the last part of the comment. But, OP #1, It is worth it to be that kind of person 1) for yourself. Things like this can find their way back to you (even if mentally), which is not worth it. 2) Be the person that shows your company their mistakes, even if subtly, and encourages others to change things in a way that will really stick by being “worth” it. It kind of is the ONLY way really.

        Reply
        1. MK

          “Not sure about the last part of the comment.”

          Rumor mills can turn out some pretty odd stuff. And people who leave jobs don’t always behave rationally; I have seen some grossly exggerate how badly they were treated and others who try to pass it off as no big deal. It’s certainly possible that this might have started with a fired employee who reacted to expressions of sympathy or pity with “Ha! They think they gave me the boot, but I totally played them!”

          Reply
          1. Worker anonymous

            Yes! once we had someone who was on a term-limited contract tell everyone he was fired because he felt the boss should have renewed his contract or tried to find him another position or something. He really felt victimized by the boss (another part of the story is that the guy never approached said boss because he felt the boss should come to him). Since most of us are not on a limited contract, a lot of people not privy to the details believed it when he said he was fired.

            Reply
    3. Christina

      This was my thought, too. From the wording of the question it seems like this isn’t an actual policy, but maybe something those other fired people negotiated themselves. Just because they managed that doesn’t mean everyone will, unless there is an explicit policy that says “If you get fired, you get 90% of your commission.”

      OP could very well be in a position where he or she is fired, has a ruined reputation, and gets no commissions.

      Reply
    4. TootsNYC

      And even if those things were true about the people who were fired before you, do NOT count on that remaining true for you.

      At some point they’re going to realize that they’re stupid to pay out in the case of firing, and they’ll stop paying out like that. It might be you they stop with.

      Reply
  2. LydiaWolf

    OP 1 – man that is a ridiculous policy. Does the company even know what damage they are causing to the whole work field through it? My question to OP is whether or not they gotten another job yet, because things you are doing sounds really detrimental to your general professional reputation, and when your future work place calls your old one for references, you might lose a job interview because of it.

    Reply
    1. Reba

      OP 1’s question about strategizing their firing/leaving is reminding me of the Alphabet/Google story from a few days ago, in which they paid some autonomous car engineers a LOT of money based on complicated compensation policies–and then the employees promptly left. If you make your compensation a complicated math problem, and hire people who are probably very good at math problems…

      https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-13/one-reason-staffers-quit-google-s-car-project-the-company-paid-them-so-much

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        I have a relative who was CEO of a major company and when it was acquired they negotiated with him such a complicated contract. He left the day it meant the golden parachute kicked in. Well duh. What else would you expect someone to do?

        Reply
  3. B

    OP1 depending on what start you’re in, your employer may be legally required to pay out all commissions on completed sales but that haven’t yet been paid by the client. Where I work, in CA, we’ve had a few ex-employees we continue to pay out as vendor payments come in as it is the state labor law.

    Reply
    1. Jessie the First (or second)

      Yes, in Massachusetts it’s similar. Once commissions are earned they are considered wages just like any other kind of wage and must be paid regardless when and how and why you leave employment. (So, you have to see how the pay agreement at your company defines when they’re earned.)

      Reply
    2. Kittymommy

      This us what confused me as well. I would think they would be treated as part of your salary you already earned. How can they get away with that?

      Reply
      1. Jessie the First (or second)

        I could see scenarios where it would be legal to not pay commissions in these states – for example, if the OP knows the sales are going through, but there are still some products to ship, for example, and the commissions are not earned under the pay plan until the product is shipped (the company generally gets to define when a commission is considered earned). So it isn’t that the company would definitely be violating the law by any means, it’s just something to consider – to look at when commissions are earned and thus have to be paid.

        Reply
      1. krysb

        Which is ridiculous, because that could make having a beer to unwind after work a fireable offense, even though it’s legal and no one’s business.

        Reply
        1. rudster

          Unless you were drinking shortly before going to work, any alcohol would be long gone by the time you report for work. Alcohol testing would only be done as part of a routine or random drug test, if you are suspected of being drunk at work, or after routinely after any workplace accident. They don’t call in you from home to test you – it happens during work hours.

          Reply
          1. Sadsack

            True, although I did know someone who drank a lot of beer at a super bowl party and was random tested the next day. He failed and was fired. Guess he drank a whole lot of beer. That was the story anyway.

            Reply
            1. caryatis

              Yes, it’s not that hard to drink enough at night that you would still have measurable levels of alcohol the next day–especially if, say, you stop drinking at 2 and are at work at 8. Something to avoid if your work does random alcohol checks.

              Reply
              1. Auxins

                Not really? I went out and partied the night before and had at least 10 standard units of liquor and still passed the drug test next morning at 8am.

                If you are so hung over that you have DUI levels of alcohol on your blood or urine the next day you shouldn’t be driving to work the next morning anyway.

                Reply
                1. Anna

                  Most drug tests aren’t testing for alcohol, though. They’re testing for standard illegal drugs that shouldn’t be in your system.

                2. Auxins

                  I had to blow too though and it was 0.0

                  We are allowed to have alcohol on the job so I stand by if you blow at DUI levels the next day you shouldn’t be working and def not as a truck driver!

            2. Ypsiguy

              Even with random alcohol testing, what sort of US company would test on the Monday morning after a Super Bowl? It would be like testing on the morning of March 18th–if you are tested on either of those days, I’m guessing it’s not “random” at all.

              Reply
                1. Ypsiguy

                  Ah, gotcha. That’s a little different than what I was picturing (I was still imagining the LW’s situation). Any alcohol testing of a driver or other heavy equipment operator at any time seems fair to me, and a “zero tolerance” policy isn’t out of line, either.

                2. Mpls

                  It’s fair, and it’s also a federal (DOT) requirement to randomly drug/alcohol test Class A/B (semi-truck and school bus) drivers, as well as send for testing if there’s a suspicion of being under the influence

                3. paul

                  yeah that’s pretty relevant. And if he did still have that much booze in his blood (I forget what the limit is for CDL’s) then yeah, he screwed up

                4. Lab Monkey

                  Any commercial driver is included, too, under DOT. I’m a mobile phlebotomist for a blood bank currently, and because I sometimes drive our equipment and blood, even on a standard C license, I’m subject to the random testing.

          2. Susan

            Exactly… Where I work, there are strict policies on drugs and alcohol, but it is totally fine to drink after work (unless we’re on call). Our rules are that we are not allowed to drink within 5 hours prior to reporting to work, and we are not allowed to report to work with a blood alcohol level >0.04. They also back-calculate it, so, for example, if you have been at work for 2 hours and blow a 0.03, they will say that you were above 0.04 when you arrived and therefore violated the alcohol policy.

            Reply
              1. Anna

                Even if you personally don’t work with heavy machinery, but your company is in manufacturing or other folk work with heavy machinery, it could just be standard to throw everyone in for randomized testing. That’s how it was done for a manufacturing company I worked for. Everyone, including CEOs, CFOs, everyone had their SSN thrown into the randomizer because the people on the floor had to have it.

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            1. Epsilon Delta

              Ok, the mathematician in me needs to know: how do they calculate what your alcohol level would have been when you showed up at work? Body weight, fat-muscle ratio, gender, and individual variation means that people metabolize alcohol at different rates, so I’m curious if there is actually a widely-accepted formula for this. Or are they just assuming that everyone metabolizes at a set rate and using that?

              Reply
              1. Honeybee

                The statistician in me was wondering the exact thing. There is an average amount that your body metabolizes alcohol – about one drink per hour after you stop drinking, which is about .016% of your BAC. But “drink” is a precisely defined thing on the scientific end – 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine or 1.5 oz of 80-proof liquor. If you had two “drinks” but your “drinks” were two 40s or 2 giant glasses of wine or two mixed drinks with Bacardi 151, that’s actually more than two drinks and it’ll take longer to metabolize.

                And of course all of the things you mentioned will affect alcohol metabolization (and in different and not-well-understood ways). So does body chemistry, hormones, and even level of water in the body (as in the stable level of water in the body, not how much water you drink).

                Trying to extrapolate what your BAC would have been 2+ hours ago would be a difficult proposition even if you were using a complex statistical model for it. You definitely can’t just guess. If I got fired over that I would totally contest/sue.

                Reply
          3. Jessesgirl72

            I had a friend who was sent to company-paid rehab, and one of the conditions of keeping her job afterward was random tests for both drugs and alcohol, and they would call her at home and tell her she had an hour to report for testing. I don’t remember what got her drug tested to start with- usually it was only if there was an on-site accident or something. And this was union-approved policy. They would send you to rehab 3 times- after the 1st, the testing kicked in, and a failure sent your choice was back to rehab or unemployment. After the 3rd time, the failure got you terminated.

            Reply
            1. OhNo

              That’s a surprisingly generous policy for positive drug tests. I know a few people whose jobs require occasional tests, and for all them them it’s a one strike policy – a single positive gets you fired immediately, no exceptions.

              How did your friend feel about that policy? The tests-in-an-hour seem kind of invasive, but I wonder if it was worth it overall.

              Reply
              1. Jessesgirl72

                She complained bitterly, but I always figured she could quit at any time- and yeah, she wouldn’t have found other companies to be nearly that generous!

                Reply
          1. Ann Furthermore

            Not necessarily, in some cases. Years ago I prevailed upon my mother to make my brother have a breathalyzer installed in his car. (Very long story; he struggled with alcoholism for most of his life and had a bad habit of getting behind the wheel after he’d been drinking.) I went with him to get it put into his car, and met him at the place at about 10 in the morning. We had to watch a safety video and do some other stuff, and then I left to go back to work. They called me at 3 in the afternoon to tell me he was still there, because he was not able to get his car to start, because the breathalyzer was showing he was over the legal limit. I did not understand, because he hadn’t been drinking when I’d seen him, and the woman who’d called told me that they see that happen pretty frequently. People know they’re getting one of those things installed in their car, so go out for one last mega-bender on their last night of “freedom,” and the alcohol stays in their system long after they’ve stopped drinking. I had to get my nephew to give him a ride home.

            Reply
    1. Goreygal

      I administer them; for alcohol it’s usually a breathalyser and for substances the cheek swab is becoming gold standard although some places still use urine.

      In general it is for safety related reasons (and can be at the pre-employment stage, “for cause” or “unannounced”) however it can also be for business critical reasons . Legally any employer can do it so long as they have a clear written policy on it however it is disencouraged unless there is a clear identified need and employers who don’t have that risk being taken to court by the employee.

      Blood samples are never used as there are alternative less invasive and less risky (blood borne virus exposure being the main risk) methods available so trying to take a blood sample could be seen as assault.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        That’s fascinating—thanks for the details! (I’m also surprised folks are using a Breathalyzer given its relative lack of accuracy, but hey.)

        Reply
        1. Matt

          Is it that inaccurate? I wonder because I don’t know how it is in the US, but here in Europe the breathalyzer is extensively used by police to check drivers – if there is a result that would warrant legal consequences, they pull the driver in for a blood test because the breathalyzer result doesn’t hold up in court, but in general it seems to be quite accurate …

          Reply
          1. caryatis

            Why does the accuracy matter? I would think at work you ought to be at .00, so if doesn’t matter if the Breathalyzer can’t distinguish between .08 and .1 or something.

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            1. Dweali

              mouthwash, mints, asthma, diabetes, Anbesol, some cold/flu medicines, certain diets can all give false positives. Inaccurate calibration, false positives, and a margin of error of 20-40% shouldn’t be held against you.

              https://aacriminallaw.com/breathalyzer-101-fail-test-sober/
              http://www.columbusdefensefirm.com/causes-false-positive-breathalyzer-test/
              https://www.duiblog.com/2006/06/20/breathalyzers-40-margin-of-error-is-acceptable-accuracy/
              https://www.duiblog.com/2004/10/17/breathalyzers-and-why-they-dont-work/

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            2. Chinook

              ” I would think at work you ought to be at .00, so if doesn’t matter if the Breathalyzer can’t distinguish between .08 and .1 or something”

              But the law is not 0.00, so that little bit off can make a difference. Otherwise, an anti-Catholic cop could set up a checkstop outside the local Catholic church on a Sunday morning and catch a whole lot of people.

              In Canada, I think they get around the inaccuracy of the breathalyzer by having a blood test available if you blow over a certain amount. And DH says they have to call in someone specially trained to redo the test within a certain amount of time if they are only relying only on the machine’s results (vs. witnessing dangerous driving)

              Reply
          2. Jessesgirl72

            It’s used extensively in the US too, and lots of studies has shown that it’s really inaccurate- especially if you are larger or smaller than “average”

            If the results don’t hold up in court, that is why!

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          3. JB (not in Houston)

            The accuracy of breathalyzer machines depends heavily on its maintenance/calibration and its operator, but they are nevertheless used quite a lot in many US jurisdictions and are routinely admitted in court.

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          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            What Jessesgirl72 and Dweali said. It’s in wide use but is also wildly inaccurate (compared to other testing mechanisms). I think it matters if you’re impaired or not, and if swishing Listerine before work throws off your result, it seems like a less useful test than just doing a standard impairment test (in general I think employers often pick the wrong tests for the thing they’re trying to determine, and Breathalyzers fall into that category).

            Can you tell I’ve seen folks beat alcohol-related charges by challenging the accuracy of a Breathalyzer? ;)

            Reply
            1. Candi

              That would explain one reason why ThisCity DUI cases hold up in court better than NextDoorCity’s do ; our guys have a much better reputation for caring for their equipment (and being reasonable people with brains). St. _____’s is also a good hospital and happy to help out.

              There’s a county ordinance that says the driver can ask for a blood test, or the officer can ask if the breathalyzer is refused or the driver can’t take it. Who pays usually depends on who’s right.

              There’s a story from several years ago of an officer in another (not the others) city who hauled a suspected DUI. Guy tested out for hypoglycemia. One bill the police were happy to pay.

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      2. MadGrad

        I’m glad to hear this. I’m in the states, but I haven’t been in a job that requires drug testing yet/ been pulled for one and I’m pretty much phobic of needles, so it’s good to know that that shouldn’t be a thing!

        Reply
        1. Judy

          Every place I’ve worked has language about drug testing in the handbook. But I’ve only been tested pre-employment. The only people I know who have been tested on the job had incidents. Things like a wreck in a company car (or rental car during a business trip), or a mishap in the factory that requires a certain amount of care (like stitches).

          Most pre-employment drug tests I’ve had were urine, except one that was hair. I’m an engineer who did once work in defense, but now in consumer goods.

          Reply
          1. Rebecca in Dallas

            Yes, I think most places I’ve worked had some kind of verbiage about the company reserves the right to drug/alcohol test. I have only had one employer require a pre-employment drug test. In Texas, you are required to take a drug test if you get treated for an injury under worker’s comp.

            Reply
      3. Sydney Bristow

        The chances of me being drug tested again in my career is extremely slim, but I’m glad that if places continue to test that they are at least moving to cheek swabs. I’ve had to go in twice for a pre-employment drug screen because I’m basically incapable of giving a urine sample on command and timed out the first time.

        Reply
      4. Kittymommy

        Yep. Where I used to work we did them. Except for the mandated ones (dot, safety sensitive), all alcohol testing was done either due to reasonable suspicion, traffic accident, or because you signed up for eap and agreed to them in order to keep your job. And it was a breathalyzer. Blood was cost prohibitive, although we did have a hospital do one once when an employee got on an accident. That bill was crazy!

        Reply
      5. MissDisplaced

        I was reading the “random alcohol checks” as meaning if you’ve had some type of work accident (cut yourself, fall, etc.), wrecked a company vehicle, or are acting very strangely (fights, acting out) they can decide to randomly test you to see if you were under the influence of alcohol.

        I don’t know of too many companies that would just “randomly” test for alcohol beyond those situations.

        And by-the-by it does happen. We had a person come into work and act very strangely, becoming loud, aggressive, acting belligerently, etc. They were pulled aside and drug tested, and yes they were drunk while at work. I’ve also worked somewhere, where a forklift driver ran the forklift off a platform. Again, yes, he was under the influence of alcohol (lunched at the bar apparently).

        Reply
        1. Trout 'Waver

          Yeah, my company does this. If there’s an accident and they suspect that drugs or alcohol were involved, they’ll test. To OP#3, that’s what’s likely happening with the job posting you saw.

          Reply
        2. BananaPants

          My company does this. All employees in the US have a pre-employment drug test and then we’re subject to random drug/alcohol testing in the event of a lost-time accident or suspicion that someone’s impaired in the workplace. They don’t randomly test without cause.

          A colleague injured himself badly enough to have to be taken to the ER for sutures, and they did test him. I’m not sure how the logistics worked re: ordering the test, given that he was transported by ambulance, but the ER drew blood for it. He tested clean, it truly was an accident, and we re-designed the equipment to prevent it from happening again.

          Reply
      6. SKA

        Yep, I had to do a cheek swab drug test during an internship about 10 years ago. I was in the design office, but drug tests were a company-wide policy, and most of the company’s employees were in the manufacturing arm. So it really did make sense for them (safety while operating heavy/dangerous equipment). So the place OP was looking at could likely be something like that – if the company also does manufacturing.

        Reply
      7. OhNo

        Why cheek swabs? Is it just because they’re faster to collect and less time-consuming?

        Honestly, cheek swabs would make me hesitate more than a urine test (which is the only kind I’ve had to take). I know they also use cheek swabs for DNA testing sometimes, and that makes me nervous that they might also be getting some genetic data out of the sample. But then, I’m slightly paranoid about my employer having access to my medical information in general.

        Reply
          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            Yes, there are always some epithelial cells present in urine, so they could probably do a DNA test on urine, although it might be more difficult/expensive. (I’m not sure about that last part, but I have worked in a testing lab before, so I’m not just making wild guesses.)

            Reply
        1. TL -

          It would be ridiculously expensive, illegal, and uninformative (for the most part) for them to do it.
          Generally, the quicker, less invasive and easier the test (and harder to cheat), the better.

          Reply
        2. JustaTech

          I’m pretty sure that there’s a law in the US that prohibits your employer from collecting your genetic information. It came up in a lawsuit in New York where a company had an issue of people pooping in the warehouse (yes, really) and decided that the best way to catch the pooper was to get DNA from the poop and then demand cheek-swabs from two employees they thought were the most likely suspects. Neither of the men matched the poop and they sued the company and won.
          (Yup, it’s the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, or GINA, went into affect November 21, 2009.)

          Reply
      1. AITF

        We us cheek swabs for alcohol and drugs. The alcohol tests yields an immediate result, but we send the drug test to a lab.

        Reply
    2. Alexandrina Victoria

      I worked for company that had intermittant drug and alcohol checks. Yes, it was a breathalyzer. And this was for a call center.

      Reply
      1. Jean who seeks to be Ingenious

        Maybe once upon a time alcohol disinhibited an employee from speaking inappropriately to a caller?

        Reply
        1. One of the Sarahs

          It would be crazy to have to go to the cost of breathalysing all employees because of the action of one person, though…

          Reply
        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          When I was in food service, one of our regulars was a chronic drunk. He got fired after we caught him offering to spike customers’ drinks from his stash for an extra $10 in “tips.” I’m surprised he had any of his stash left, given how much of it was inside of him at the time.

          Reply
          1. Al-anon

            Hahahaha, thats hilarious. When i was in food service we had a few delivery drivers that were known dealers and probably sold to their customers on the side. Never booze though.

            Actually, when i was underage i would ask some of the drivers to stop by a liquor store and pick up wine for meto take home.

            Reply
        3. Zombii

          > Maybe once upon a time alcohol disinhibited an employee from speaking inappropriately to a caller?

          Storytime. At Toxic ExJob there was an employee who was, let’s say “overly candid” with callers. He would also ask the stupidest “first day questions”—three months in. Multiple people told his supervisor he was drunk. He couldn’t stay on-topic, he couldn’t speak clearly, he stumbled and swayed when he went to breaks, etc, etc. I’ve seen this movie, lots of us had, we called it out. His supervisor would go to his desk “to ask a question” and try to sniff for alcohol like we were in middle school, but this didn’t work out because dude ate breath mints by the handful, constantly.

          Empty alcohol bottles were found in the bathrooms at a more frequent rate than usual. Eventually he did get fired, supposedly for being drunk at work (I heard he was given the choice of being fired or checking into rehab to sort his life out), but the more likely version is he was convinced to quit because he as failing all the call metrics.

          I would have effing killed for an alcohol testing policy at that job. Many, many people there legitimately need a lot of help.

          Reply
    3. Lora

      Noooo, here’s where I will disagree with Alison: In a job that involves potential injury (or perhaps even just ergonomic whatever, people get paranoid as soon as there is a workman’s comp claim sometimes), including fairly common things like driving a forklift on a loading dock or using lifting equipment, as well as the obviously hazardous working with chemicals type of thing, it is VERY normal for employers to test for not only drug but ask for on the spot alcohol testing (breathalyzer) in the event of a safety incident happening, i.e. if you drive a forklift into the wall, they may very well demand a breathalyzer to make sure you didn’t come to work drunk. If you came to work drunk, it affects their insurance a LOT and it is a thing you can be fired on the spot for doing: came to work under the influence and were a danger to yourself and your colleagues. And sometimes they make this a blanket policy applying to everyone, not just the warehouse guys and folks who work with hazards.

      In real life, it rarely happens unless the person really, really REALLY has a problem and they do something like driving a front end loader into the boss’ car in the parking lot. Most of the time it’s in reaction to a massive workman’s comp claim or someone actually dying.

      Now I don’t agree that drug and alcohol testing is an appropriate way of detecting impairment and whether or not people are fit to work – you can be just as impaired from lack of sleep or jet lag or coming to work sick or whatever, and that’s a tremendous danger that employers almost never consider (am dealing with trying to limit the workaholic heroics in my own office right now, because we HAVE had incidents where someone was too tired to be working and made a serious mistake, but the “you’re not working hard enough” attitude of managers before me is hard to undo). But, that is generally how employers in the US handle that sort of thing.

      Reply
        1. WC person

          The worker is still on the premise and could be injured somewhere in the building, parking lot, etc. I’m not saying I agree or disagree, I’m just letting you know what kind of claims actually wind up being adjudicated.

          Reply
            1. strike

              it really depends on the company and the facility, if the office has access to a loading dock area, it may just be mandatory for all employees.

              For example I interviewed with a regional beer distributor their offices (including design and IT) were in the same building as one of their warehouses, I guarantee random alcohol testing was in the documents. It’s not a standard but it’s not completely unusual.

              Reply
          1. JB (not in Houston)

            I think Alison is well aware of “what kind of claims actually wind up being adjudicated,” if you mean that sometimes employees sue employers after on-the-job injuries. But the question was about whether this kind of testing is common.

            Reply
        2. the gold digger

          I have always worked in the office but the unions in the factories have said that if they have to have drug testing, so do those of us in corporate. OP might be applying to a company that does have manufacturing and the company applies the same rules to everyone.

          Reply
          1. Meg

            Right-this is how my company works. I work in the office but had to submit to drug and alcohol testing when I started because they treat us the same as the laborers in the plant.

            Reply
        3. BananaPants

          We have a policy that anyone is tested after a workplace accident – whether it’s a machinist who runs a finger through a band saw or an executive who crashes a company vehicle. If everyone is subject to it, the unions have a harder time arguing against it.

          Reply
        4. DVSA lawyer

          My parents work in graphic design and printing and there are definitely machines that could cut off fingers if you aren’t careful….

          Either way, as an attorney, the language about drug/alcohol testing doesn’t surprise me. Most places I’ve worked have something like that in there – they just typically don’t test that often because tests are expensive! They’ll use the random test thing as a cover for testing problem employees or problem departments.

          Reply
      1. Retail HR Guy

        The rules on that have changed quite recently. OSHA no longer allows automatic drug/alcohol testing after an injury; you have to have reasonable suspicion that drugs or alcohol may have played a role before you test. Because otherwise you are encouraging employees to not report injuries (or so the argument goes).

        Reply
        1. BananaPants

          Not really. I asked our EH&S person and in most cases an employer can still require drug/alcohol testing after an injury. The OSHA ruling was intended to make it so that employees aren’t afraid to report an accident.

          So if there’s a blanket requirement to test after any workplace injury, an employee who gets stung by a bee on company property and suffers anaphylaxis might avoid reporting the injury for fear that they’d lose their job if they popped a positive for weed even though they weren’t high at work when they were stung by the bee. OSHA says that it’s not reasonable that the bee sting occurred due to impairment in the workplace, so the employer can’t compel drug testing. (I don’t know of an employer that would require drug testing for a bee sting, but you get the idea).

          But the forklift driver that plowed into a crowd of coworkers can certainly still be tested, because there’s a reasonable suspicion that the only reason one would drive a forklift through the front lobby of the workplace was because they were drunk or high. They can also do post-accident testing if part of a state drug free workplace statute or a worker’s comp program.

          Basically, most employers can still test an employee whose actions cause acute injury to themselves or others and not run afoul of OSHA regs.

          Reply
          1. Retail HR Guy

            I don’t know why you’re framing this as though we are in disagreement. You started out with “Not really” but then nothing you went on to say contradicted me.

            Reply
      2. Lynxa

        Eh, I’m a comp attorney and I still think *random* alcohol testing is weird. Testing after an accident is perfectly normal (and should be mandatory) but random testing is invasive.

        Reply
        1. Dorothy Lawyer

          Agree – but FedEx Freight engages in random testing. (Source: boyfriend works there and has done it, no accidents involved).

          Reply
    4. Anonymous Poster

      I had a former employer with this policy, and it was triggered when people were suspected to be drinking before reporting for work. There were… incidents that triggered daily or weekly tests for some individuals responsible for said incidents.

      From what I understand it was generally a breathalyzer for these individuals. The policy was in place, but I was never subject to it, and same with the drug tests. The intent was that the company reserved the right to conduct said tests if necessary and on an as needed basis, though they could have pulled me aside anytime they wanted. They just never did.

      It was an operations and engineering outfit.

      Reply
    5. Adlib

      I used to work in a division of my current company where our clients had requirements of their subs to administer random drug/alcohol tests for safety reasons. I was office staff, and I still got called one time. Yep, breathalyzer & urine test mid-morning.

      Reply
    6. Triceratops

      Yes, actually.

      I had to take a drug test (urine) and brethalyzer before my first day with my company, and the policy is that either of those can be administered again at any time. It’s ridiculous, but my company has federal contracts (including defense) so I’m chalking it up to that.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous Poster

        Yeah, federal contracts can trigger these sorts of policies in some industries too. Especially if it’s a cleared position from what I’ve seen.

        Not that they aren’t necessarily nonsensical, for sure. But at least in my engineering past, I’ve only known 2 people that were tested. One was because an individual liked drunk calling from work and waking up upper management at midnight (This person was in operations, and so was working an overnight shift). The other was a South American individual that was passingly familiar with how the drug trade worked and was overheard to be explaining to others how it worked, and was pulled aside later that day (This individual tested negative, they simply knew how things worked in South America years and years ago since they grew up there).

        The second pull aside I think is still a bit… off, but that individual thought it was absolutely hilarious. It became a long-running joke for them.

        Reply
    7. 2 Cents

      I’m thinking this is because someone was coming to work drunk or having one too many liquid lunches during the week. I’d be surprised if they had an issue with someone enjoying a drink (or more) after work and well before the next time you’re in the office. (No office happy hours then?)

      Reply
  4. Mags

    #3 – I wonder if the company does any sort of shipping or distance work that requires driving, and that’s where the alcohol testing is coming from. Or possibly the owners are member of a religion that prohibit drinking. In parts of the US it’s not unheard of to be held to the standards of a particular religion if the owner is a follower.

    Reply
    1. Lord of the Ringbinders

      You can only drug test people here if it’s necessary.

      I don’t think you can impose your religious practices on your employees. Not possible. You can make rules about what happens on their watch, e.g. not having alcohol on the premises or serving it at work events, but they can’t police your entire life. I’m pretty sure that’s a breach of the European convention on human rights. If you want to insist employees share your religion you need a proven organisational need.

      Reply
    2. Anne (with an "e")

      @ Mags, Are you sure? I mean if you work for a religious organization I can understand. However, otherwise I have never heard of this in the U.S. In fact, I was under the impression that it was specifically against the law to hold employees to the same religious standards as the owner. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) prohibit many employers from engaging in religious discrimination in the workplace
      I do admit that I could be mistaken and/or have misinterpreted the law. Personally, I have never heard of a U.S. employer requiring their employees to follow the tenants of the owner’s religion, unless, as noted earlier, it is a religious affiliated organization.

      Reply
      1. Foxtrot

        I think there was a letter a while back about a boss who wanted to keep the office kosher, even though not everyone was Jewish or that strict. I can’t remember what the final answer was, though. Employers can’t police your life outside of work for the most part, but it gets murky when you’re on company property.

        Reply
        1. Anon for this

          IIRC that one wanted to keep certain food out of the office fridge during Passover. Non-Kosher food was allowed the rest of the time.

          Reply
        2. Jean who seeks to be Ingenious

          Hmm….Allison, feel free to delete if this is too far off-topic…
          I remember that letter (or, er, parts of it). I think the issue was that the owner didn’t want any non-kosher food brought into the office during the week of Passover. The owner was strict about not eating certain foods at that time. According to his interpretation of Jewish law, his religious obligation would be undone if somebody walked in with a sandwich or a pizza.

          It can be a sticky situation trying to figure out how to practice religion without imposing it on other people. Can people be expected to dress according to someone else’s standards of modesty or is the modest person meant to look away, or find another workplace? (I’m talking about mainstream, business casual office choices such as sleeveless blouses, legs without stockings, or sockless feet in sandals–not tube tops, micro-miniskirts, or carefully positioned pieces of fringe.)

          FWIW I’m Jewish myself, just not as strictly kosher. Most of us less-strict Jews believe that there’s more than one way to express being Jewish. Some of my more-strict fellow/sister Jews believe there’s only one correct way.

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          1. Anna Pigeon

            IIRC, we was only asking non-kosher food be kept out of the kitchen – you could still eat whatever you wanted at your desk.

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          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            It was that the owner of the business actually owned the building as well, and was observing the rule of “no non-KfP food on your property” during that time. That was what made it complicated — it wasn’t about the employees keeping kosher, it was about the owner doing so in a way that impinged on others.

            Reply
        3. fposte

          Employers absolutely can police your life outside of work. There is no law broadly forbidding it, and people get fired for stuff that happens out of work all the time.

          Reply
          1. Observer

            That’s true. But religious practice is specifically protected. You cannot require someone to practice your religion as a condition for employment.

            The case that was written about was different because the boss was not telling people what they could eat, but what they could eat IN THE OFFICE.

            Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              You can’t require them to practice your religion, but you can require them to conform to your religious “honor code” if you’re a religious employer (i.e., not HobbyLobby, but something like a Catholic Church-run charity). That’s where we end up with all these insane (but sometimes legally defensible) requirements like “don’t promote contraception” or “no sexual relationships outside of marriage.”

              Reply
            2. Mags

              No, but this isn’t about practicing religion. They aren’t making anyone attend religious services or hold particular religious beliefs. They can absolutely require certain standards be upheld by their employees.

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            3. paul

              There’s (legally) a difference between compelling practice and forbidding certain things. I agree it’s craptacular but it isn’t illegal; plenty of companies ban people from smoking for instance. And lots of jobs have “moral turpitude” clauses.

              Reply
      2. OhNo

        As far as I know (and IANAL, so grain of salt here), it’s only illegal to use religion to make hiring/firing decisions, discriminate against particular people, and there are certain types of employment that can’t place restrictions on religious behavior (government jobs and government contractors, I think).

        So I think it’s possible that a small business owner could require a certain standard of behavior of all employees, whether officially or unofficially, without running afoul of the law. As long as they weren’t only requiring it of Christians or Muslims, I don’t think it’s illegal.

        But I really hope someone is going to tell me I’m wrong about that.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          That’s basically right. You can’t use religion to make employment decisions or to treat people differently. But you can require things like “this is a kosher office” or “no drinking” or so forth. (California has a higher degree of privacy protection than other states, so it’s possible “no drinking outside of work” wouldn’t fly there.)

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            That’s mostly right, Alison, but California does allow an employer to limit your outside drinking activity if off-duty activity is “adverse to the employer’s interest.” (I’ve linked the EDD guidance to my name). The same provisions apply to drug use.

            For example, I worked at a nonprofit that did not allow you to drink if clients were present because our client population were farmworkers and there had been really intense, local issues with alcoholism. The organization saw off-duty drinking in the presence of clients as insensitive to the risks facing our service population, and they felt it eroded trust between the service population and employees. Of course, the attorneys at the nonprofit did not react well and did a massive outside research project on whether it was a legal restriction. Turns out it was—because drinking could reflect poorly on the employer’s “brand” and on its ability to effectively achieve its mission, the organization was allowed to impose limits on employee’s outside drinking activities.

            So even worker-friendly California lets employers impose limits on employees’ outside-of-work life.

            Reply
    3. Amy

      My company has a similar blanket policy because we are a manufacturer. They only ever check people who work at our plants and warehouses because they’re dealing with dangerous chemicals and heavy machinery. If the company the OP was applying at designed and manufactured products it might be related to that, especially the alcohol thing. You don’t want someone driving a forklift with hundreds of pounds on it drunk.

      Reply
    4. Observer

      It’s highly unlikely that anyone is going to go through the cost of testing to make sure everyone sticks to the owner’s religious strictures. Even for companies that do officially require people to follow those strictures.

      Workplace safety is a real issue even when you are in a business that is not essentially safety critical. Lots of others have given some good examples of the issues involved.

      Reply
      1. Mags

        Unlikely, sure. But there are plenty of workplace guidelines that companies never enforce, but simply reserve the right to do so.

        Reply
    5. Marketer

      I work for a leading Fortune5 company in the US. It is the same whether you are coming on as a C-level executive or a package handler in the warehouse. HR explained it to me as they would really only test alcohol/drugs if there were a significant safety incident but they are legally required to write and apply the same rules to everyone.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Ha, they are not legally required to do that. You can treat differently situated classes of employees differently. HR likes to say things are required by law that are just company policy.

        Reply
          1. Zombii

            Yes, it avoids pushback from everyone that doesn’t know when HR is lying for convenience, or doesn’t want to call them on it. Although in my experience, they get really mad when you call them on it, so it’s usually not worth the trouble.

            Reply
  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, having you “underbid” each other is really abhorrent, and it’s telling you something important about the employer. Alison’s absolutely right that you should give them a number that’s right for you (i.e., don’t try to underbid), but do you really want to work for an employer that values pitting potential employees against one another for its financial benefit instead of paying the fair value of a person’s contributions based on experience? It’s like they’re running a weird reality TV show that’s a cross between The Hunger Games and “The Apprentice.”

    Usually for a negotiation to be successful, both sides have to feel like they got something out of the deal. Who wins in this scenario? Because from what you’re describing, it sounds like the only winner is the employer, who gets someone excellent at a below-value rate by making that person feel insecure or undesirable. Do they treat their employees this way in other aspects of their work-life, too? You’ve probably already done your due diligence, but if you haven’t, I’d urge you to vet them a bit more before continuing to play their game.

    Reply
      1. Antilles

        The real red flag here is that the ONLY possible motive for the company is to try to get you a lower-than-normal salary. You know why? Because they have an actual budget and salary range for the position! If both Andy and Bob came back and asked for a number which was well out of range, they wouldn’t hire Andy at double the normal salary just because Bob happened to ask for triple the normal salary. They’d just say “nope, we can’t afford to pay either Andy or Bob”, then contact Charlie and David to see if either of them suggested an acceptable number.
        The absolute worst case for them is paying someone exactly what they’re already planning on. More likely, somebody underbids and they get a big discount.

        Reply
        1. Zombii

          As a thought experiment, what do you think the odds are of a company like this coming back to the… let’s say “winner”… and saying “Hey, good news! You bid lower than our other candidate, but you’re actually about $5k over what we budgeted for this, can you come down a little?” (Regardless of what was budgeted or bid of course.)

          Reply
    1. Liane

      “Do they treat their employees this way in other aspects of their work-life, too?”
      Just from reading here, I’d say that’s a safe bet. Alison has mentioned before that if a company does bad/crazy thing when trying to hire you–when both sides usually try to be on their best behavior–what are they going to do to you once you are hired and it’s not so easy to walk away?

      Reply
    2. S.I. Newhouse

      I couldn’t agree more. Having you bid against another finalist is beyond a red flag – think a crimson flag that’s being set on fire. OP 2, unless this position is going to be your only shot at a job for the next year and you’re in imminent financial danger, don’t bid…RUN.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        This. The whole premise is ‘we don’t want to pay what you are worth; we want to play chicken about it to make it even more demeaning.’

        Reply
    3. lunch meat

      If you somehow managed to learn who the other candidate was, I’d be sorely tempted to contact them saying you’re withdrawing from consideration so name whatever number they want. Or, do that and then give a number three times market rate.

      Reply
      1. anon this time

        I…Kind of had a situation like this and the “name a really high pay” was how I responded. I and 4 other people, 2 of whom happened to be standing around at the time (yes really) and hadn’t expressed prior interest in the job, got taken out to dinner and basically told to name a salary and “we’ll make the decision based on that.” I think everyone else was so disgusted they didn’t name a number, but I said “screw it” and said a number I thought was very very high. (This was an internship and I was new to a high paying industry so it wasn’t that high compared to what others in similar jobs make, but it was high for an intern and I had certainly never made that much.) They got back to me several weeks later, apologized for being unable to offer me as much as I wanted, and offered me a still-very-high number.

        That place got me into the industry I’m in today but it also was a weird company with lots of inappropriate stuff going on. It was one of those “I see the red flags but have decided in this case it’s worth it” scenarios.

        Reply
    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Is anyone else remembering the AaM post from a while ago where the employer wanted two employees to duke it out over who got to take time off?

      Reply
    5. Susan

      Maybe this is crazy, but I’m kind of wondering if there really is another candidate, or if the company is just bluffing as a negotiating tactic (or negotiating deterrent). It reminds me of a realtor telling you that another buyer is interested, so you better hurry up and make an offer.

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        FYI, a Realtor (as opposed to real estate agent) has ethics rules preventing them from doing that, and if caught, would eventually lose their membership to the Realtors Association. And it does happen- one of the local Realtors lost his membership. They take trustworthiness really seriously, since it’s what their profession hinges on.

        Reply
        1. Hiring Mgr

          Out of curiosity, what’s the difference b/t a Realtor and a Real estate agent? I always thought they were interchanageable terms..

          Reply
          1. Anony

            Realtors are members of the Realtors Association. It’s just a ubiquitous enough association that they tend to set the standard for their industry.

            Reply
          2. HisGirlFriday

            A REALTOR(R) is a real estate agent who is a member of the local, state, and national associations of REALTORS(R). Membership in those associations requires adherence to the National Association of REALTORS(R)’ Code of Ethics. It also gives you greater recourse, as a consumer, to mediation and arbitration should you have a dispute with an agent during a transaction.

            They are not interchangeable terms, although they are used as such. REALTORS(R) are fiercely protective of their trademark.

            Reply
      2. Relly

        This was my thought, too! Attempting to get a candidate to lowball him- or herself with the threat of a phantom rival who might accept less.

        Reply
    6. Newby

      I can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t just make an offer to whichever candidate they like better. I can see them being inflexible on salary since they have another candidate they like, but why make them try to underbid each other? You either agree on salary or you don’t. It seems like the company is setting themselves up for a very unhappy employee.

      Reply
      1. Anon for unpopular opinion

        I mean, it could be that they came out of the process with 2 candidates they think are very good. It’s not that unusual. At that point, you’re really digging for info to find a tiebreaker; if, ultimately, your tiebreaker is salary, why not be explicit about it?

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Hey, can I ask you to pick a user name that doesn’t imply that you’ll be savaged here for an unpopular opinion? I see you’ve used it below too, and I think it creates kind a weird dynamic, especially with people unfamiliar with the site. Thanks.

          Reply
        2. Relly

          Because hiring isn’t the end of the process. You want a candidate to become a successful, happy, productive employee — not someone with her foot out the door because she accepted a salary well under market.

          Reply
    7. Anon for unpopular opinion

      I’m actually not sure I agree. We’re always talking about how hiring is a business transaction; it’s two parties coming together because one has labor and wants to get paid and the other needs labor and is willing to pay. If you were bidding for contracts with an employer, you wouldn’t blink at the idea that they have found 2 companies they think can do the job, and they’ll take the one that costs less.

      I get that it feels squickier because it’s distinctly ~unusual~, but only because we’re used to having this part of jobseeking occur under an opaque fog. As OP said, managers do this all the time, this company is just making it explicit. I can understand if a person looked at the situation and decided it wasn’t for them, but I kind of don’t understand why we’re comparing this to an ideal where everyone is offered exactly what they’re worth, instead of the reality where you’re also still wondering what salary requirement to submit because you don’t want to either lowball or over-shoot yourself. It sucks, and companies should post salary ranges on job descriptions whenever possible, but it’s the reality at a huge proportion of jobs anyone is applying to.

      If both parties submit their “bids” reflecting what they actually need in order to do the job, then it makes sense for the company to take the lower bid, and it’s not personal or an indication that they’ll treat you badly in every way possible. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you, but they’re hardly selling the job off to the lowest bidder; they’ve done the work to narrow it to two people they think can do the job.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        But that’s not exactly how bids work – you get a bid and make a decision based on a number of factors, you don’t automatically go with the lowest bid. Timeline, style, source of materials, reputation – a whole bunch of things can factor in. You don’t call three companies and say, “lowest bid gets the job” because any established company that’s doing well will probably refuse to bid. And any company that comes in significantly lower than the rest is probably a risk to hire.

        Reply
        1. Anony

          All those things are true! And there’s also no reason to believe they are *not* true for this company. They’re not automatically going with the lowest bid, they’re clearly evaluating a lot of factors. But isn’t it true that, everything else being equal in a bid process, if you have 2 really good companies that bid and one comes in a percent or two lower than the other, you’d take the lower? Like, the fact that you’re considering the bid $ doesn’t automatically mean you’re throwing all other criteria out the window.

          Reply
        2. Anna

          Yeah. Any org that automatically chooses the contract based solely on bid will inevitably be disappointed by the product.

          Reply
        3. Candi

          If someone does deliberately announce that they’re going with the lowest bidder and follows through, well, they’re likely setting themselves up for trouble.

          The local story goes that about five-six years ago Neighboring City needed a job done, and the council announced they would go with the lowest bidder in an open bid. Anyone who could do the math could make a rough estimate of what the job would cost.

          Welllll… one company had had a bad time recently, losing a couple contracts and getting rid of some employees.* Even a low bid would bring in desperately needed funds.

          So, they deliberately underbid everyone else by quite a bit. Way under what things would actually cost. And got the job.

          And hit massive cost overruns. Three times. Not just because of how much the job actually cost to do, but because they turned out not to have some of the equipment or skilled employees they needed to do the job, so had to pay out for the gear and personnel. Wound up costing more then if the council** had gone with one of the other companies’ bids in the first place.

          And that’s why sensible people don’t just go with the lowest bidder.

          *No idea if one or more of the employees caused the problems/contracts to be lost.
          ** Yes, Neighboring City’s council has a reputation because of this and other things. And not a good one.

          Reply
      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I hear what you’re saying, but I think you’re reading the situation very differently than I am.

        It’s true that hiring is a business negotiation, but usually that negotiation is between the potential employee and the employer, not between two potential employees and an employer. If salary were the deciding issue, you wouldn’t encourage folks to underbid—you’d give them your salary range and ask them to meet it. And if transparency were the issue, then introducing the idea that “we’re deciding between you two, and we’ll take whichever one is cheaper” doesn’t achieve that goal. If anything, it’s even less transparent than a direct conversation about compensation. So whether this is a shady negotiating tactic or a well-intentioned but bungled effort to be transparent, it doesn’t really achieve any non-nefarious goal and it reflects poorly on the employer.

        It’s entirely possible that the company isn’t shady at all and treats their employees well, which is why I encouraged OP to be really thorough with due diligence. But this isn’t how bidding works, and it’s not how employment works, and I don’t think we should encourage employers to adopt tactics that leverage the power inequality to drive down people’s wages.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          That last part is especially key, about employers driving down wages. I’d add that this tactic has bad implications for pay equity as well, since it’s setting salaries based on how little people are willing to take rather than on actual value. And when you have people who may have already been making below-average wages due to the wage gap among women and some minorities, this is likely to perpetuate that.

          Reply
        2. Anony

          I didn’t necessarily read it as anyone encouraging them to underbid; they just said that they had it narrowed to two people and would make the decision based on salary requirements. Your solution of giving a salary range and asking the candidates to meet it doesn’t actually accomplish the goals they want… if both candidates agree to meet the range, they’re in the same spot they were before. I don’t think this is that different than being at the end of a process and asked to give your salary requirements. You’re going to be nervous about lowballing yourself anyway (and, again, I’d rather employers just posted salary ranges in job descriptions to begin with); in this case you at least have the additional information of knowing, for sure, that your salary ask will impact your offer, instead of just *knowing but not knowing* like you usually do. I don’t see this having any impact on driving down wages, since the major problem (employers not being upfront about how much they’re willing to spend) exists in both/most scenarios.

          Reply
          1. Newby

            I would think a good employer would want to know what salary would make a potential employee happy, not what the the least amount that they could pay to get the candidate to take the job. The way they set it up will give them the second number, not the one the candidates would actually be happy with. There doesn’t seem to be a reason other than driving down wages for making it an explicit competition.

            Reply
            1. MillersSpring

              Yes, but “happy” could vary among candidates who are desperately unemployed, employed but in a terrible job, or underpaid because they’re a woman or a minority.

              If the competitive local salary for a job is $80,000, what if an out-of-work woman or minority comes back with a salary request of $60,000? Does the hiring manager consider himself lucky to get such low expectations, even though the position was budgeted at $80K? This is how women and minorities end up earning lower over their lifetimes.

              Instead, at some point in speaking to candidates, the company should simply state that their range is $75K to $85K based on experience. Then the female or minority candidate who previously would have been thrilled with $60K is actually compensated at a market rate that doesn’t penalize them for having low expectations or desperate circumstances.

              Reply
              1. Newby

                I agree. I was thinking more that if the range was $75K to $85K and they like both candidates equally but candidate A asked for $60K but candidate B said $85K that hiring candidate A at $75K would make sense for both the company and employee.

                Reply
                1. Snowglobe

                  But, if the candidate who is offered $75 is actually worth $80, then they are still being underpaid, even if they don’t realize it. This is why I am opposed to any system which rewards people based on negotiation skills rather than actual job skills. Just offer what that candidate is worth to the company for that job.

                2. Candi

                  If you’re a decent person, you pay them the $75 thousand. (Adjusted for area and skills.)

                  If you’re not a decent a person, you check to see who else you have in similar roles and adjust pay based on that. (And still pretend to be a decent person.) Fastest way to tick off an employee is for them to realize they were deliberately low-balled. (And word always gets out about the things you want to keep secret.)

                  If you’re not a decent person and it’s a one of a kind position, you should still pretend to be one. Or find something that doesn’t require exploiting people who need jobs.

                  It’s not even about legal/illegal. It’s about basic manners and treating people respectfully.

          2. Artemesia

            The only purpose of telling them that the hiring choice depends on salary requirements is to suppress wages. If that were not their goal, they would simply have asked that question earlier and not mentioned it as a deciding factor at the end. And yes, it is likely to particularly damage women and minorities.

            Reply
    8. Mina

      I agree with Alison and the previous commenters on this. It’s just weird for a company to put you in a position like this. I’ll bet this would be just the beginning of an odd experience with this company down the line. I would walk away from this opportunity unless you really need the job. If you do take this job, it might be a good idea to keep looking.

      Reply
      1. Stranger than fiction

        I wonder if this is some sort of test and they actually hire the person who bids higher because they value themselves more.

        Reply
    9. paul

      Yep. If someone shows you what they’re like, BELIEVE THEM. They’re showing you what they’re like here and it isn’t pretty

      Reply
  6. Lord of the Ringbinders

    #3 They shouldn’t be drug testing employees if it’s not necessary. See here: https://www.gov.uk/monitoring-work-workers-rights/drug-testing

    #4 I think this is really just part and parcel (sorry…) of reception work but do you have to hand deliver them? Our receptionist emails to let you know you have a parcel and then you go and get it yourself.

    Being able to have parcels delivered to work is really essential if you’re at home during office hours. Over here it’s not theft that’s the issue, it’s that your parcel ends up being delivered to a neighbour or you get a card saying you missed it and have to arrange redelivery.

    #5 Well, you reap what you sow.

    Reply
    1. SusanIvanova

      My company was big enough to have delivery people. Personal stuff just went on the cart with business stuff, except at Christmas where you had to go pick it up.

      Reply
    2. One of the Sarahs

      Yeah, where I live, most people are out during the day, and I don’t drive, so it can be an absolute pain if deliveries are attempted, then sent back to a depot for collection. I live near the Post Office sorting office, where the Royal Mail stuff goes back, but I’m lucky – the private firms’ depots are on the edges of town.

      Reply
    3. ceiswyn

      #4 Agreed that emailing is the way to go. That’s how it works here; reception are quite happy to take parcels for me, but if I want them, I have to go get them :)

      Reply
    4. Whats In A Name

      I think that email is the way to go here, too. I can see how it could be annoying but I don’t think its that uncommon; you just have to figure out a way to manage it. An email requiring her to come pick it up isn’t unreasonable and my guess would be she won’t think so either. Mail theft is really something to be concerned about, especially if she doesn’t have a good hiding place for packages.

      FWIW I lived in a condo for awhile with those mini mailboxes and I was afraid of theft. I got a PO Box at the post office closest to work so I could go on lunch if I had to pick up a bigger package – it was super inexpensive. ONE TIME in 3 years I had to have something delivered via UPS to my condo and it got stolen.

      Reply
      1. BBG

        OT: Our post office let us sign a form saying they are authorized to accept packages on our behalf. When we have something shipped by UPS, we have it sent to the street address of the post office. So instead of sending packages to PO Box 123, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, we have them sent to 456 Main Street Unit #123, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. It’s worked well so far.

        Reply
        1. Tanya

          Someone here once was renovating a bathroom and had the toilet delivered to our office. The receptionist paged him – “John Doe your toilet has arrived!” He drove a big GMC SUV at the time. We still laugh about it.

          Reply
          1. textbookaquarian

            I work in mail/shipping/receiving for a large company. We had an employee ship a home appliance (it was either a washing machine or dish washer) to one of our receiving docks too. However they made arrangements with the dock attendant beforehand and had a truck to pick it up with. :)

            Reply
      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Wow, where would the delivery guys even put it? Where I work, large items like that have to be scheduled in advance for delivery to the loading dock, and then we have to schedule facilities management to deliver it to the department, and the department is charged for their time.

        Reply
      2. Ama

        Wow. Back when I was in charge of our mailroom I saw some inconveniently sized personal deliveries (we had a large box that turned out to contain a giant wide-brimmed sunhat sit around for three weeks once because the recipient was already on the vacation she’d ordered it for), but nothing *that* egregious.

        Reply
      3. OP4

        Nothing so large as a washing machine (!) but I have had to go get a dolly for a few of her items because I couldn’t move them myself.

        Reply
      4. Artemesia

        A classic example of some yutz ruining it for everyone and a management that can’t differentiate between some yutz and all the normal dedicated people who work there and need some slack.

        Reply
      5. BananaPants

        They used to let us ship things out via FedEx or UPS and then pay the company later by check. It was SO much more convenient than having to run out to the UPS Store 10 minutes away and our mailroom clerks are great at packaging things. They stopped it when people were taking forever to pay their bills. As usual, a few people ruined a nice perk for everyone.

        Reply
        1. Candi

          That’s bad management.

          The way to handle it is the mailroom keeps a list of everyone who owes them. Behind people’s privileges are suspended until they pay up. If the same person is in arrears too often (X times in Y time period usually works), their privileges are permanently revoked.

          With a table or spreadsheet, it’s easy. Especially if you only list the people who are behind or need to be kept on record.

          Reply
    5. Karen K

      I work for a fairly large organization (hospital) with an entire department dedicated to receiving and distributing mail and packages. We are expressly forbidden to have personal packages delivered here. Our staff has too much to do as it is, and adding everyone’s personal packages to that would be extremely onerous.

      I think the smaller the organization, the more likely it is to allow personal deliveries. Given the rates of theft when packages are just left on doorsteps, it would be a great perk. Even if it was my job to deliver packages, I would however draw the line at the personal ones. The recipients can pick them up at reception.

      Reply
      1. Karen K

        For what it’s worth, having people pick up their own packages would still not work for us. All incoming mail and packages are received at an outside location a few miles from the main hospital and are organized for distribution there (we have several locations in the area).

        Reply
      2. miss_chevious

        Yep, mine too. We have a corporate policy against it. Much of the time, management is willing to look the other way (no one’s getting fired for a personal package from time to time), but around the holidays there’s always an email that goes out reminding people not to do this.

        Reply
      3. Aurion

        Yeah, I think the smaller organization part is key. I work for a small business and personal packages are allowed. The warehouse staff will cheerfully deliver them to our desks for us (I offered to go back and pick mine up, but I guess it’s no trouble for them). But I can’t imagine this working at a bigger place with a lot more employees, each with their own personal packages.

        Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        It says an American company, but my impression is that it was a local branch of one from the phrasing.

        That will obviously make a difference in which laws apply, depending on which one it is.

        But it’s still a bit onerous for the actual job.

        (And I say this as someone who was subject to criminal background checks, fingerprinting, and potentially random drug testing. Not credit report checks though. But I was supporting 911 Dispatching software at the time and able to remotely connect into police systems that had access to criminal data. In *that* context, yes, it makes sense. In a lot of others where it seems to happen, not as much.)

        Reply
    6. OP4

      Well, there isn’t an official reception area, so I don’t really have a choice but to clear the packages away immediately. I could carry them to my desk but that’s just as much work.

      I would probably be less annoyed about it if I hadn’t been hit with the 5-a-day week and a half package bonanza right off the bat, with no warning.

      Also, no one else has packages delivered here, and a few of my colleagues live in her neighborhood.

      Reply
      1. lcsa99

        What do you do with the regular mail (the checks and bills and magazines and junk) that arrives every day? If you have a table you sort it at, you can leave the packages there. If they have a wall of “in boxes” you should be able to just leave it on the floor in that area, sort of out of the way but still with the regular mail. You might even be able to ask your manager to put a small table somewhere reasonable specifically for this kind of stuff.

        If you hand deliver that stuff as well, then I am sorry to say it’s just part of the job. As others have said its not unreasonable to have stuff delivered at work.

        Reply
      2. Observer

        Well, 5 a day IS way too much. But that’s a different thing. And, if that happens, then, yes, you should say something.

        The fact that others don’t do this doesn’t mean that her concerns are not valid.

        Reply
        1. Chinook

          Not only is 5 a day way too much, at the very least the receiver should have been apologetic or in some way acknowledge that she was making more work for the OP for reasons that are not work related. When I worked reception and this happened due to an accountant’s impending wedding (think numerous bridesmaid dresses delivered), she at least offered and bought me a fancy cup of coffee (doubly nice because I couldn’t leave my desk for any reason) to recognize my increased workload due to her.

          Reply
      3. EW

        Some people aren’t as worried about packages being stolen. It seems like something that wouldn’t happen to you until it does. I’ve had it happen to me before, and I often use UPS choice to pick them up from a UPS store instead. But I don’t like getting personal packages at work (and my Amazon prime habit is not a small one!!).

        Reply
      4. Elizabeth H.

        I get it – a lot of the time you basically just have to take the packages from the deliverers. It’s annoying. I think with once a week, it’s a normal rate, but that if it seems to pick up in frequency, it wouldn’t be out of line to ask her to let you know if she is expecting many packages at once so that you can call her to come get them immediately? Only thing I can think of.

        Reply
    7. lcsa99

      I agree regarding #4. I work as a receptionist currently and receive packages for people every day. Multiple times a day sometimes. There are two people here that always have something coming, just about every day, and I either call or email them to let them know its up at the reception desk (depending on what works for them).

      The craziest was when a woman received about 20 packages while she was on vacation. We had to have one of those plastic box things that the post office uses for large amounts of mail. She was shocked. Apparently her daughter went a little overboard on ebay.

      For myself, it’s just easier. I live in an apartment building and either the mail carrier will take it back to the post office only leaving a card half the time (so you don’t know it’s waiting) or they will leave it in the hall where anyone can steal it. It doesn’t cost the company anything to receive packages.

      Reply
    8. AnInternSupervisor

      My company allows personal deliveries here and they all go to a central location. However I am the one who does the daily “mail run” to get our center’s mail, which will then include any personal mail or packages people have sent here. The reason that I do the “mail run” is that I often have to deliver or make copies of sensitive HR or Accounting items (plus it’s a good excuse to get away from my desk). I do get frustrated, and so understand the OP, when people have several or large or bulky personal packages sent and I am expected to bring them back. It’s one thing if it’s for the center’s director or even the assistant director, but when it’s for people who work below me or in an entirely different apartment I get frustrated. I also get frustrated when they pester me about where their package is if they received a notification it was delivered but it takes a few days to make it over to our mail pick-up location. I’m not their personal courier, and yes I may be going over there anyways, but they could also easily walk over and look for themselves. The coworkers I appreciate are the ones who let me know they have packages coming so I can bring over a cart to bring them back, or will offer to do the mail run for me on days I am busy or the weather is not great.

      So not much to this post other than to say, OP, I get you. It’s annoying to be the personal delivery person for someone when it’s not for things related to their job.

      Reply
    9. paul

      We don’t have receptionist but we all sign for each other’s packages at work all the time. If I’m getting a new GPU (or in a few cases I’ve had live animals or rare ammunition shipped) I’d rather not leave it on my porch you know?

      Reply
      1. textbookaquarian

        I work in mail/shipping/receiving for a large company. Just to give an idea, the corporate office receives 65-100 packages daily that must be logged in and then separated for delivery to various mail stops including different buildings. So while we cannot stop employees from sending personal packages here, our department discourages the practice. The reason being too often we’re held liable for damaged or missing packages. Employees expect us to help them resolve such issues which takes our time and resources away from actual business-related matters. By discouraging the practice it places the responsibility back on the employees.

        Unfortunately we lost the privilege of using the company’s Fedex account to send out personal packages several years ago. The same liability issues occurred when employees started using it for E-bay sales (using company resources for personal business is a big no-no here). We also have to abide by hazmat and customs regulations. Thus our legal department put a stop to it. Employees can drop off packages to go out with USPS, Fedex and UPS. However they have to provide their own postage or pre-paid label now.

        Reply
  7. Lord of the Ringbinders

    #1 What will you do if the policy changes tomorrow, or next week, or any time before you are fired and after you have ensured you probably will be?

    What will you do if someone there remembers you in the future?

    You say you don’t need the reference, but do you need to have not been fired?

    What about unemployment?

    What about if your financial circumstances change tomorrow or next week?

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I don’t know much about how commissions work, so I’m not saying this with 100% confidence … but having just done some quick research, it looks like in some states it’s legal for an employer to have a policy that you must be employed at the time of the payout. In other states, it isn’t. So it looks like it would depend on the OP’s state and whether her company has that policy.

      Reply
      1. B

        In many states, even some with fairly employer friendly labor laws (think GA), if the sale/commission is finalized and just awaiting vendor/client payment, the employee is still owed once paid but yes def search for your state b/c it can vary!

        Honestly I don’t get employers who act like OP1’s. It is setting themselves up for a liability that surely would’ve been cheaper to just pay out at some point in the future when they hire someone with good legal vs just dribbling money out as payment comes in.

        Reply
      2. B

        To clarify, usually one must be employed for any new dealings or agreements but often if it is a done deal and the vendor just hasn’t paid yet, the employee is still entitled to the commission on the payment once it comes in if that makes sense.

        Reply
      3. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

        The “standard” in our industry, which is heavily commissioned throughout the chain (distributors/vendors), is that you pay all the damn commissions you owe or have a black eye. It’s always been enforced by social shaming if nothing else.

        Reply
  8. OP #5

    Follow-up to my question: Mary did check the employee handbook, and regarding notice it encouraged the employees to give notice but strongly encouraged the manager to just terminate them when they do. It doesn’t seem that they are required to fire them, but when your manager says that’s what is going to happen… I couldn’t blame her for just leaving. She did feel bad about it but didn’t want to be stuck without pay.

    Reply
    1. hbc

      Wait a minute…the handbook includes the part about managers being encouraged to fire them? That is profoundly stupid. If you actually want the employees to do something, don’t lay out how you’re going to punish them for it on the same page!

      But I don’t get the whole point anyway. By firing immediately, you’re changing the two week’s notice to about one minute’s notice. Either way, you’re scrambling to fill a position while a person down. The only thing you “gain” is the right to say, “Hah, you can’t dump me, I’m dumping you!,” which everyone else sees as pathetic.

      Reply
      1. SophieChotek

        I agree. What an odd policy.

        I really was wondering if OP1 had the opportunity to check the policy handbook — so you answered my question–thanks for that additional information.

        How bizarre, yep definitely encourages a quit-on-the-spot-culture.

        Reply
      2. k

        Very stupid policy, or I guess strong suggestion? I imagine many employees there give there “two week” notice the day they were planning to leave anyways. You can’t expect anyone to follow a rule if you flat out tell them they’ll get screwed over for doing so.

        Reply
    2. Czhorat

      That’s a profoundly weird policy.

      I have a hard time thinking of a rational reason for it. The employee presumably knows they’re leaving before the last day, so anything about learnign more “company secrets” to send to the competition is a horse which has long since left the barn.

      Why would a manager be discouraged from having a transition period?

      Reply
      1. always in email jail

        In my region of the states this is fairly common in certain sectors. I most often hear of it playing out in scenarios where individuals who are defense or intelligence contractors resign. They’re always immediately escorted out. There’s just certain fields where it’s fairly standard for security reasons.

        Reply
        1. Judy

          At the companies I’ve worked for, this is common if you are going to a competitor. In fact at a former company, one manager got upset when he heard a person was interviewing with a competitor, he wanted to fire that person. I think that cooler heads on the management team prevailed on that.

          Reply
          1. Czhorat

            That’s silly. If I left for a competitor, *I* would know about it for weeks beforehand. The only difference is once I’ve given notice, my employer now knows. Any damage I could have done, advertently or not, could just as easily have been done before I formally gave notice.

            Reply
        2. Clewgarnet

          It’s fairly common for those above a certain level in my field, here in the UK.

          The difference is that you’re on ‘gardening leave’ at that point, so still officially employed and working out your notice. And, most importantly, getting paid!

          Reply
        3. ThatGirl

          It was common when I worked in newspapers for people to be escorted out upon giving notice if, say, they were going to work in PR somewhere. We had a reporter who went to work for the health department in community relations, and that was seen as a conflict of interest. The same didn’t apply if they were going to another newspaper.

          Reply
        4. Ask a Manager Post author

          The issue is with paying out the notice period though. If you want people to leave as soon as they give notice, you have to pay them for the notice period if you want to have any good will left among your staff (and if you ever want notice from anyone else).

          Reply
            1. Annonymouse

              and cheap and stupid.

              You can bet that whoever leaves won’t have set up transition material, been wrapping up projects or making sure their clients where spread out amongst the team and informed of the transition.

              The amount of hassle all of that is and scrambling that happens isn’t worth 2 weeks wage saving.

              Reply
      1. Uzumaki Naruto

        Right! That’s so, so stupid. If you’re going to say “okay you’re fired” when someone offers notice, obviously, it doesn’t benefit them to offer notice — but it also takes away any business advantage to the business. That’s literally the only thing the employer gets is to say “great, you’re fired” — they don’t get the employee working the notice period to transition things over etc.

        Reply
  9. Serendipity

    OP1 – what a truly awful policy. If you actively disincentivise people from behaving honestly you end up with people behaving dishonestly. Duh.

    I understand why you’re behaving this way, but how cheaply do you value your integrity? If it’s not too late to back out I would really try to salvage this situation.

    Reply
    1. Liane

      Remember, while this OP is in the UK, she is asking about norms/laws in the USA. Over here, companies seem to have a lot more leeway in what they can do (credit/background/drug checks, etc.) or if they can ask for certain types of information (if you’ve been convicted of XYZ crimes, etc.) and how/when they can use the information obtained.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        In the US students have to have background checks to volunteer in schools or do student teaching or whatever. Anyone who will be working with vulnerable populations may be required to undergo background checks.

        Reply
  10. caledonia

    # 3 – The Scottish version of the criminal check (PVG) is usually updated for every job you need it for. This means that if company Z checked it for you and you go on to work for company L, you get another one as if you comitted a crime, inlt the issuing company would be informed.
    Never heard of drug and alcohol testing except for that req’d it though. It has been a thing here for oil workers going offshore.

    Reply
    1. Ange

      So is the English version. Also it’s redone every 3 years if you stay at the same employer.
      The only other check I’ve ever had for employment has been a blood test to check my immunizations and another to check for HIV and Hep B and C as I do what they call exposure-prone procedures where I could potentially expose a patient (I work in healthcare in the UK).

      Reply
      1. GingerHR

        Companies shouldn’t really be rechecking every 3 years unles there’s a specific reason – frankly, yo’ve been at the employer, they should know if there’s an issue. The DBS don’t like unnecessary testing, although if you have two jobs requiring a check, they may both need to get one. However, individuals can now register online when they’ve had a DBS check done (this may only be for enhanced) and essentially make it portable – this is especially useful for roles such as peripatetic teachers.

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        1. Oryx

          When I worked at a prison — so, special circumstance — we were checked every year. We also were supposed to report all run ins with law enforcement, even for things like speeding tickets, so there wouldn’t be surprises when they ran the annual check.

          Reply
  11. APW

    #3 – I also worked for a US company in the UK, my contract specified regular drug and alcohol checks, but no-one I worked with or dealt with had every been subject to one, I got the sense it was more a “we reserve the right to…” than an active policy, although the contract itself did seem to suggest that regular checks were carried out.

    It was a back-office job for a multinational financial services company, and I worked there for 3 1/2 years or so. I only ever saw one person fired for alcohol/drug-related reasons, and that was entirely to do with their activity outside of work. The Christmas parties were as boozy as anywhere else I’ve worked, if not more so.

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    1. Former Retail Manager

      Yes…I was going to say exactly this. It may be easier for the company to include blanket wording since testing may be required for some positions but not others. I have also known folks that were told that they could be subject to such testing, but it was never performed. I have found that most professional jobs in the US don’t actually drug test unless the nature of the work requires it (jobs where safety is an issue). However, the credit check seems to be becoming more and more common, even for what I’d consider entry level type positions which I find to be ridiculous unless you’re handling large amounts of cash, but I’d expect the credit check either way.

      Reply
      1. NYC Weez

        Yup, worked at more than one employer in kids industries, and the wording was standard on all listings but other than a standard drug screen at the start, I’ve never seen anyone tested for anything, and alcohol is always regularly served at after hours social events.

        From my understanding, the wording originated because there were factories on site. They had issues with employees showing up drunk so they wanted to reserve the right to test if there were safety concerns. The office culture was perfectly normal however–neither excessive drinking or complete restrictions, but a glass or two was fine. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only danger from having a few too many at my office would simply be the stories that would be told for the next 20 years. HR drinks right along with the rest of us, lol.

        Reply
      2. caryatis

        Agreed. Drug and alcohol tests cost money, so a company is probably not going to do them unless there’s a reason (which might be, our lawyers recommend it, or it’s mandated by law, or we want to fire you if you start showing up drunk). But they still might reserve the right—if this is a dealbreaker for OP, they should figure out whether the tests really happen.

        I would definitely expect a credit check in any job. Credit is a reflection of your basic trustworthiness, honesty, and responsibility, and I would always take an employee with good credit over one with mediocre. I feel like this is going to trigger a lot of comments along the lines of “I have bad credit and I just can’t help it because *sob story*”–but come on, why would you expect an employer to take that chance?

        Reply
        1. Recruit-o-Rama

          Yeah, you’re right, the millions of people with bad credit because of a major medical crisis they or a family member suffered through no fault of their own are totally irresponsible, dishonest and untrustworthy. Can’t trust those cancer survivors!!

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        2. Anna Pigeon

          I expect them to at least look at more than the bottom line credit score, that’s for sure.

          Because in the US, health insurance is a disaster and many people are forced to choose between bankruptcy and death.

          And because being poor is not a crime, and should not be punished by keeping you from getting a job that could pull you out of poverty.

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        3. Jessie the First (or second)

          I disagree that the credit check reveals what you think it reveals about character, and so I also disagree that, for most jobs, there is a risk to the employer in hiring an applicant with mediocre credit. (Also, you really got my back up with the snarky *sob story* sentence. It’s needlessly adversarial. I volunteer with victims of domestic violence, and yeah, it’s an “I just can’t help it *sob story*” because their ex deliberately trashed their credit to make life difficult for them, so the snark just really, really bothers me.)

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          1. orchidsandtea

            Thank you for this. I think you’re right about a credit check not equalling character, and about there being so many exceptions (medical bills, domestic violence, parental abuse…) that are valid and true.

            Reply
          2. Artemesia

            And in the US one of the easiest ways to have trashed credit is to have had a sick or injured family member. Bankruptcy is the default health insurance for many poor people. If your child breaks an arm and the bill ends up being $44,000 then chances are your credit is going to hill. (that was what the bill was for the son of a friend of mine — nothing terribly complicated although he did have a pin put in) Your character is not ‘poor’ because you had your appendix out and it cost $15000 and you didn’t have adequate insurance and you couldn’t pay it on your low wage job.

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        4. F Manley

          “I feel like this is going to trigger a lot of comments along the lines of “I have bad credit and I just can’t help it because *sob story*”–but come on, why would you expect an employer to take that chance?”

          That’s a particularly unhelpful way of responding to your fellow commenters. You’re preemptively calling people’s quite real and sincere explanations “sob stories”, as if we’re all being disingenuous slackers. You might as well say that you would never give sick days to employees, because, sure, someone might come in with a sob story about having cancer, but it just means they’re not reliable. And what company would take a chance on that?

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        5. Alton

          There are so many ways that people’s credit can be ruined through no fault of their own. It’s not a reliable measure of character.

          And even when a person’s own bad decisions are a factor, it can be hard to draw accurate conclusions. I’ve known people who made really unwise choices, but I’ve also known people who racked up some credit card debt as college students who were still learning to manage their finances, but who were otherwise responsible and mature.

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          1. Heather

            Seriously.

            When I met my husband his credit was crap because his parents never taught him how to manage his money, but at work he is the most hard-working, diligent, loyal and thorough person I’ve ever met in my life. He puts me and my blemish-free credit report to shame.

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          2. Simonthegreywarden

            My husband didn’t have great credit when we met because he only used a debit card or paid cash for everything. I had awesome credit because my parents got me a credit card for gas when I was 17 and taught me to use it responsibly. My husband is the kind of honest and trustworthy that people get frustrated by because he will do what is right even if it isn’t socially convenient. Lawful good Paladin 100%.

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            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

              I bought a car for my daughter when she graduated from college – for $6600. I paid $3600, plus the registration, plus the sales tax – but made her take a $3000 loan on it – to be paid back over four years.

              I didn’t do it because I’m a cheapskate. I did it so she’d establish a line of credit – and she had the pay deducted from her check. It worked – two ways a) she built a great credit line and b) she learned how to use the credit system responsibly – for that, I’m proud of her.

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        6. Tobias Funke

          That’s spectacularly unhelpful, dismissive, and unempathetic. I encourage you to examine the disdain you have for individuals whose lives have not gone as planned.

          Reply
          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

            Sometimes people are given bad advice – and also face tragedy – an example –

            Back in the early 1970s – I had a co-worker – and we had a LOUSY insurance plan. He had a child that suffered a terminal illness. Medical bills were $36,000. Our plan had a $20k max. $16,000 was two years’ pay for us, and he had two other kids. Instead of covering all of his other bills with the insurance check , he signed it over to the hospital. So he was stuck with $16K out-of-pocket PLUS other living expenses. He SHOULD have cleared all his other debts with the money he received, then worked things out with the hospital. His ONLY out was a bankruptcy – which haunted him for over a decade.

            He might have not been able to avoid it eventually but – bad advice drove him onto the path of certain bankruptcy.

            Reply
        7. Former Retail Manager

          As others have responded, I can’t say that I agree with you on the credit issue. Even if someone were irresponsible, racked up a bunch of debt, and then just let it all go to collections, they may have done that 4-5 years ago, or longer, and it still remains on their credit. People can change their habits and improve their behavior going forward and I think it would be unfair to hold that against someone. We all make mistakes of varying sorts. Unfortunately, we now live in a society where it is damn near impossible to conceal those mistakes since everything has a paper trail. Damn technology! :)

          And I believe that much of the research has shown that most of the people who commit egregious financial misdeeds aren’t the ones that have/had bad credit. Many a CFO with great credit have embezzled millions of dollars over years/decades and they didn’t have credit problems. They had greed problems.

          Reply
        8. Parenthetically

          You want a sob story? How about the one where my sister-in-law, the most financially responsible person I have ever met, had her credit completely destroyed by her first husband who put a new truck and several thousands of dollars worth of porn/strippers/escorts on his multiple credit cards (which he applied for in both their names), and the resulting debacle took her YEARS to dig out from under, even long after the divorce? Or the one where my best friend’s husband, a landscaper and their family’s breadwinner, had to have back surgery and was out of work for almost a year and they nearly lost their house? Or the one where I bought a house just as the GFC happened and was suddenly upside-down on a mortgage, with soaring gas prices, a broken-down car, no health insurance, and a salary cut?

          “Credit is a reflection of your basic trustworthiness, honesty, and responsibility”? Nah. But seeing financial struggles as a character flaw is a reflection of your basic decency, humanity, and compassion.

          Reply
          1. Anons-y

            Yeah, as someone who has to do credit evaluations as part of the screening process, I have so much sympathy for the candidates who don’t meet our guidelines. Unfortunately, we are a financial institution, so we have to check credit before hiring ANYBODY. We have to protect our clients’ assets, and we just can’t take the risk of hiring people in dire straits when they will have access to large sums of money. We have what I believe are pretty understanding guidelines – we don’t evaluate anything more than 3 years in the past, and we look at medical debt differently than any other sort of collections or charge-off. But sometimes people just find themselves in a pickle, and I can’t help but feel bad when it excludes them from being considered at my workplace.

            Reply
            1. Parenthetically

              I feel like in that situation it’s far more understandable — and even then, it seems like the way you evaluate things is as fair as possible. But yeah. Ten years ago when I was much more broke and foolish than I am now? I shudder to think what my credit score would supposedly have said about me.

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        9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          In what world does a credit check reflect your character? I’m really disturbed that anyone would think a credit check (1) should be required for positions in which your bribe-ability or blackmailing is not an issue; or (2) reflects in any way on your integrity as a person.

          Your credit score is informed, in part, by your parents’ credit score, your socioeconomic opportunities in life, your access to financial training/literacy (which is also correlated with your family’s socioeconomic status when you were a child) and all sorts of other life situations that are unpredictable (see: abuse, medical debt, catastrophic life accidents, loss of an income-earning partner). It’s dangerous and disingenuous to advance the idea that it provides any general information about a person’s worth, quality, or potential success in a job.

          Reply
          1. Parenthetically

            I’m particularly bristling at the use of the word “honesty,” as though people with poor credit scores are more likely to be swindlers and thieves.

            Reply
        10. Natalie

          I don’t have a sob story, just an interesting illustration:

          My FICO score is typically in the high 700s-low 800s, almost as high as it can go, and my credit history is spotless. My husband’s FICO is somewhere in the 500s, I think, and his credit history is sufficiently checkered that his only credit card is a secured one.

          The difference between us that led to those very different credit histories isn’t our trustworthiness, honesty, or responsibility. It’s simply that he grew up poorer than me. If I’m really honest about it, he’s way more responsible at work than I am.

          Reply
        11. Retail HR Guy

          In caryatis’s defense, very few things employers check are going to be that great of indicators as to how well the employee will perform. It’s all about using what little info you have to make the best bet.

          Some stoners are going to perform better than the drug-free. Some high school dropouts will be smarter and, yes, even more educated than those holding a college degree. Some people with no experience will perform better than those with decades of experience. Some people who interview poorly will perform better than the charmers. Some felons will be amazing employees and that person with no criminal record may be plotting to steal from you as we speak. Some with “job hopping” resumes are going to stick around until retirement.

          Nothing we use to make hiring decisions is foolproof and nothing is going to be fair. The question is, how much value should we place on each indicator? There is a lot of research showing hiring managers tend to place value on the wrong things (interviews are way over-valued, for example, which I have to constantly remind myself). We’ve all worked with someone who believed that a solid handshake told you something deep and meaningful about a person. How fair is that? So at the end of the day is a credit score really that shabby of an indicator compared to a lot of the other things we consider?

          I think caryatis goes way too far in saying that he/she would always take an employee with good credit over mediocre credit. It’s not that valuable of an indicator and others here are right to point that out and have given good reasons why it isn’t. But it is an indicator. After all, aren’t responsible people more likely to have better credit? Even if it is only slightly more likely? So if you’re deadlocked between two candidates that you just can’t decide between, and then you get the credit scores back… wouldn’t you take the one with the better credit?

          Reply
          1. Anonynon

            What is that an indicator of, exactly? It’s not a “not great but hey, we have to use something” indicator of character, at all. It’s often completely worthless as an indicator actually.

            My son’s medical bills were about $90,000 last year, after insurance paid its part (yup, that’s the post-insurance payment portion of the bill for us). We also have good credit still, because in my state there is a special program to help with certain catastrophic medical expenses but many people do not have access to that program. They’d be out of luck. Without that program, we’d have gone bankrupt or at the very least, lost our home. So that’s an indicator, however slight, of honesty? No. I don’t buy that even a little bit.

            Reply
          2. smthing

            Well, since it’s not a good predictor of future competence or integrity as an employee, I wouldn’t use it.

            John Oliver has a good segment on why using credit scores in employment is a problem. Aside from the things that people have already mentioned like illness affecting the score, he highlights that 25% of credit reports contain errors.

            Reply
        12. BananaPants

          So I guess you won’t hire someone who lost a house to foreclosure after a real estate crash, or who had $30K in medical bills after their car was hit by a drunk driver, right? Or even someone who lives debt-free and HAS no credit score? Or someone who’s been a recent victim of identity theft?

          All that aside, people make mistakes and credit reporting isn’t perfect. A lot of folks have negative items on a credit report that actually aren’t theirs, but are being reported erroneously. Something like 1 in 10 of U.S. residents have at least one mistake on their credit report.

          Reply
        13. Stranger than fiction

          Um because during the recession thousands of people had their homes foreclosed on, were laid off and got behind in bills, etc. etc. That’s why this practice has stopped in a lot of places unless you’re dealing with money/in the financial sector.

          Reply
        14. Candi

          Let me tell you a story:

          My first stepmother, “Regina”, had a rough life. Mental issues, abuse from her grandfather, and when she was 16, she was hit by a drunk driver and another car. The insurance companies set up a trust to pay her $XXXX for life, and when she was 18, she got full control of it.

          Fast forward about twenty years. She’d been married and divorced once. She meets my divorced and lonely dad. They stay together for about eight years.

          During that time, she talks him into taking out several loans, including one just because they were offering a new computer if you took out above a certain amount. She also talks him into letting her manage all the household money. This winds up backfiring spectacularly, especially after she convinces the state to let her home school.

          Regina gets more and more obsessed with cults and conspiracies. She finally packs up and leaves dad when he refuses to accept that Congress worships an owl god. (The Bohemian Club frat-type partying. There is an owl statue.) She also takes a lot of dad’s identifying information.

          Before she files for divorce from New York (through a lawyer that practices on the other end of the state from where dad lives), she racks up a few hundred thousands loans in dad’s name. Later research indicated she was already seeing other men, and the theory is she got one of them to pose as him. THEN she filed for divorce.

          So the existing debts were split between via community property law, but dad got a bunch of bills in his mailbox that were legally his responsibility. As a nice bonus, when my mother divorced my dad, he’d had to declare bankruptcy. (Side note: Teenagers aren’t stupid and can see what’s in front of their eyes, and staying together ‘for the children’ is a sucky idea.) So Dad wasn’t eligible to declare again (and didn’t want to take the credit hit again).

          A friend of a friend introduced dad to a lawyer who worked with the state’s DA office, but dad chose not to go after Regina, even though the lawyer was willing to, state lines and 3,000 miles be damned.

          He spend years paying those bills, often having to shift from one credit card to another to make a payment. His credit took a hit, of course. HSBC’s combination of interest rate and annual fee was by far the worst.

          Two things finally eased the burden: Dad married again, to a lovely woman of caring and generous heart and mind. She had to retire due to health problems shortly before the wedding, but she’d racked up a lot of pension and retirement savings through her career as a nurse.

          Second, Grandma, dad’s stepmother, died. Grandpa had died twenty years before, and had left everything to her. Turned out he’d made some wise investments, and they’d just been sitting; Grandma’s care at the nursing home was paid for by her retirement and the selling of the house. Grandma left half to the daughter who’d been caring for her (the only one still residing in the state, and all three brothers agreed it was completely fair), and what didn’t go to taxes and fees was divided among the brothers. (The other daughter was dead by then.)

          What was Dad’s fault? Probably being too trusting, not seeing the manipulation, and not realizing yes, guys can be abused, and abuse doesn’t have to be only physical. But it was Regina’s choice to start everything.

          My ex also forged documents and racked up debt in my name, but it didn’t hurt quite so badly. I was younger, with less credit to get in the first place, and held tight to my documents. (Part of the reason he was forging was because I refused to sign.) I was also aware of my rights under federal and state law with regard to both the divorce, and when the debt collectors came calling.

          I massively lucked out with an apartment manager who was willing to accept I had all cash in hand to pay (from tax return), and to help out a single mother on welfare. That and my paying on my phone contracts have gotten me a mediocore credit score at least. Still, it’s hard.

          Reply
      3. Jessesgirl72

        Yep. This is pretty common, about a lot of things in the employment agreement and in a lot of industries and large companies. They put everything in as “we retain the right”, even if it only applies to one position.

        It’s like TOS agreements that we all agree to every day, that gives an app a right to do anything a lawyer can foreseeably imagine, no matter how crazy and unlikely necessary!

        Reply
      4. Another Lawyer

        re: blanket wording, agreed. Almost every job I’ve ever had or applied to said I may be subject to one or all of these checks, but I have never been drug tested/credit checked/CORIed, etc.

        Reply
    2. SarahKay

      I’d agree with APW. I work in the UK, but for a US company, and we have a whole policy about drugs and alcohol testing and how the company reserves the right to do it. On a site of approx 120 people, I’ve not known it happen to anyone since the policy was formalised about three years ago. And I’m on the management team, so I think I would have heard.

      Reply
    3. Spoonie

      I’ve applied for jobs that had the same blanket wording where I could be testing. I’ve only been tested once (preemployment for CrazyTown). However, I also just went through the volunteer application process for a hospice organization, and they have a “preemployment” drug test. That actually makes more sense since I’ll be interfacing directly with patients on a one-on-one capacity and theoretically have access to their medicine. CrazyTown was illogical since it was an office job where I stared at a monitor and tried to ascertain what CrazyManager meant from the cryptic four word emails I would receive. Actually, maybe drugs and/or alcohol would have helped with that…

      Reply
  12. Jules the First

    “No design shall be undertaken while under the influence of drugs or alcohol” was a very standard clause in many of our US (or MidEast) contracts. That meant we had to have a clause in staff contracts about testing, although we never actually did it. It was a nightmare though, keeping track of who was not allowed to go back to work after Friday night drinks…

    Reply
  13. cncx

    OP4, that is considered a perk where i work and there would be mutiny if our ability to receive mail were cancelled. i live about an hour from work and getting my packages here means i don’t have to take off of work to sign for them or go pick them up before the post office closes, which is why it is allowed by my employer. we all do it.

    Our receptionist too has other responsibilities. When she is on a deadline for the main part of her job she passes off the reception tasks, like answering the doorbell or picking up mail, to the rest of us in a rota. none of us mind signing for the dhl guy or something because we see it as a tradeoff for getting our mail, and a lot of times the person waiting for a package will volunteer to be lookout.

    If one package a week is really messing with your ability to prioritize our other tasks, maybe you could see if people are willing to do stuff like grab the door or sign for a couple of hours a week? Also, our receptionist doesn’t deliver our packages to our desk unless she is on our floors for something else, so maybe you could sign for the packages, then let the colleagues know where they are to save time for you?

    Reply
    1. Lily in NYC

      Yes, it’s necessary here in NYC because it’s pretty much impossible to leave packages outside of people’s homes because they will get stolen. However, we get an email from the mailroom and are required to pick them up ourselves. But I don’t think it’s a big deal for OP to have to do so – it’s par for the course with that type of job.

      Reply
      1. all aboard the anon train

        Same with Boston. The trend right now is for people to open the packages, steal the contents, but leave behind all the trash. A friend had a bunch of baby stuff shipped to her house and everything was taken out of the box, but the packaging was left in the box. That’s almost more of a nuisance than the entire package being stolen outright.

        I’ve even had packages stolen when they were dropped off inside my apartment building. I get big packages shipped to my apartment, but I have to make sure I can work from home the day they’re due to arrive and that’s a pain. If I miss a package, they’re always sent to a pick-up facility off public transit and I have to find someone with a car to take me. That’s also a pain. I’d be pretty annoyed if I suddenly couldn’t get things shipped to work anymore.

        Reply
  14. GJ

    My company actually has a dedicated mailroom and post clerk. While it’s primarily meant for work-related parcels, everyone can have as much personal post delivered as needed. We then get a notification email and go collect it. It’s a 5000+ company though. Love that perk.

    Reply
  15. MW

    OP1, a bit late now, but did you ever try talking to your manager about this in the first place? Considering your paths seem to be “quit or get fired”, I think you could probably have had a conversation with your manager like “I want to leave this job but if I resign I’ll only get 30% of my commissions. I understand that if I’m fired I’ll get 90%. That seems ridiculous. Is there any way we can work this out so that I can get more than 30% and you don’t have to fire me?” I guess worst case scenario is that they try to call your bluff by refusing to fire you, but at that point I’d just stop showing up and look for work elsewhere- which is pretty much where you are now, except with a really dodgy claim behind you.

    Reply
    1. EleanoraUK

      Not showing up could be classed as quitting though, it’s effectively job abandonment, depending on where you live.

      Reply
  16. MacAilbert

    OP5: A lot of US companies say they can or will drug test, but never actually do it. My retail job does. Specifies drug testing for all new hires, but nobody I know at the store has ever been drug tested. Pretty sure Corporate doesn’t actually want to know who’s using, because then they have to fire people when we’re already short staffed. Plus, drug testing is expensive. They’d probably do that if they actually suspected a specific person was high at work and needed evidence for a firing (we’re union, so they just just show you the door), but I haven’t seen any of my coworkers try that.

    Reply
    1. Former Retail Manager

      So true…retail virtually never does it anymore. When I was a manager at my former job, we used to do it, but with retail being the revolving door that it typically is, it got expensive and the company said forget it. The new hire paperwork still contained some consent form authorizing it at any time, but the company had cancelled their contract with the testing company so who would do it even if we’d wanted to. I had many a productive pothead that worked for me over the years (and some not so productive) and it was never an issue. Whatever you do on your own time is your business as long as you don’t come in smelling like it.

      Reply
      1. Justme

        The last retail job I worked did it as a condition of employment. Cheek swab, not urine test. And I know of a few people who were tested because of workplace accidents.

        Reply
        1. Former Retail Manager

          Shows how much I know about drug testing, but I had no idea you could test for drugs using a cheek swab. That’s interesting. Are you sure they weren’t storing your DNA so they could clone you if you turned out to be a good employee? :)

          Reply
      2. Parenthetically

        There’s been a sizeable uptick in drug testing in lots of industries in CO, apparently, since pot was legalized. So many people are genuinely shocked to find out that Walmart or JC Penney won’t hire them if they smoke weed even though it’s legal.

        Reply
    2. On Fire

      OP #3 – this. Policies about alcohol testing aren’t *as common* as drug testing, but they are out there. Doesn’t necessarily mean it will ever happen, though. Every job I’ve had, had a drug testing policy. I don’t know of it ever happening. On one job, I wish they had exercised the drug policy – one coworker routinely came in high and/or still drunk, and it definitely affected that person’s ability to do the work (sleeping at the desk, etc.). But when your parents are good friends with the top person at the company…

      Reply
  17. Fresh Faced

    Op #2 I’d immediately distrust an employer who wanted me to blind underbid the other candidate. If you discussed salary prior to this both of you could e asking for the same number, and this is just a way to get a qualified candidate for less. My suspicions aside it does speak to disorganization in their hiring process. If salary was such a deal breaker they should have put the salary range in the job posting/ stated it in initial communication and stuck with it.

    Reply
  18. NJ Anon

    Op1 I would be careful about “no showing” in order to get fired. It may vary state by state but if we have someone doing rhat, we call it job abandonment which is akin to quitting. YMMV.

    Reply
    1. PlanetAlly

      Yeah, everywhere I worked, if you no-showed/no-called three days in a row, they just assumed you’d quit, unless they found out after the fact that you’d fallen down a ravine or something.

      Strolling in an hour late every morning might work, though.

      Reply
  19. EleanoraUK

    For LW#1, the thing to bear in mind is that he may not need a reference from this particular manager, but he could end up wanting to work for people who are currently colleagues in different departments or at his level, later in his career. They’ll never be in a position to be LW#1’s reference explicitly, but people share experiences about candidates informally too, so this could really end up biting him in the future.

    Imagine your colleague works for a new company. You apply to this company. The hiring manager sees you worked at ABC before, and asks his employee who used to work at ABC whether you two ever worked together. “Ah yes, he’s the guy who got caught out faking X-rays to get fired, it was a really strange story…” You are not getting this job.

    Reply
    1. Roscoe

      Well, if I’m being honest though, if I knew that the sales department had a policy where they kept most of your commissions, I can’t say I’d hold that against the person down the line.

      Reply
      1. DoDah

        Right. I used to work for an ISV who was famous for not paying out commissions (as in zero) for departing/departed employees. The CEO’s rationale was, “Let them sue me.” The ISV was known in our subsector for this behavior, so other companies gave it a pass when ex-sales folks left in an interesting manner.

        Reply
    2. Grey

      I’d think any former employee is going to be aware of that commissions policy and the fact that most departing employees try to get themselves fired.

      Reply
    1. Recruit-o-Rama

      Eh, don’t think she deserves it. Her company has a stupid policy that punishes people for doing the right thing. I agree that her actions will likely come back and bite her. What she deserves is to be able to give notice and get her commissions that she earned without a whole scheme.

      Reply
      1. MommyMD

        Faking x-rays is a high level of fraud and speaks to character. LW could have sued for commissions. This person shows they will go to great lengths with deceit to get a desired outcome.

        Reply
        1. Rat in the Sugar

          That’s pretty hostile towards the LW, and Alison has asked us to refrain from speaking that way as it discourages people from writing in.

          Reply
        2. Recruit-o-Rama

          What she did was wrong, the reason she did it is because her company has an underhanded policy in place which is designed to hold their employees hostage in order to keep the money they earned. What she deserves is her money.

          Reply
        3. Brett

          The problem is that suing for your commissions will probably be just as big a black mark as faking x-rays. And the lawsuit is the one that leaves a public record trail.

          Reply
        4. JB (not in Houston)

          Eh, I can’t really agree. First of all, you don’t know that she would legally be able to sue for the commissions, and a lawsuit may well cost more than the she’d get from the commissions.
          Second, I would agree with you if she were faking x-rays to trick her employers into granting her leave. But she *wants* to get caught so that she’ll get fired. She’s trying to get a benefit believes in good faith that she’s earned. No, it’s not a good idea. But I wouldn’t call it “high level fraud.”

          Reply
          1. Retail HR Guy

            In my experience most frauds believe in good faith that they have somehow earned the benefit. It’s amazing what people can rationalize.

            Reply
            1. JB (not in Houston)

              No, they may well believe it, but they don’t believe it in good faith, at least not as I’m using that term. The OP made the sales from which she would be paid the commissions if she stayed at the company. It is entirely possible that in the state she lives in, she is legally entitled to the commissions. But she has certainly already done the work for which, per the terms of her employment, she will be paid the commissions if she stays. If she stays, the company _agrees with her_ that she gets the commissions. That’s different from someone rationalizing that, say, they didn’t get the raise they decided they are entitled to, and therefore they are morally entitled to embezzle company funds.

              I’m not saying what she’s doing is ok. I’m saying that I think MommyMD went a little too far in her characterization.

              Reply
              1. Retail HR Guy

                You have a point with the “good faith” distinction, if that phrase is taken to mean more that the belief is justified instead of simply sincerely believed.

                But I would argue that companies often have delayed benefits that you only get if you stick around. If you leave a month before the Christmas bonus, are you really entitled to eleven-twelfths of it because, after all, you did eleven-twelfths of the work to earn it? What if you leave just before being vested in your 401k contributions? I think as long as the terms are clear up front I don’t see how OP has been wronged. (In fact, I think it makes a lot of sense for a company to consider a sale to be finalized when a payment has actually been made and not just when the agreement was made. But I’m not in sales so what do I know.)

                Reply
                1. JB (not in Houston)

                  Well, yes, I’m not arguing that the OP is legally entitled to the commission. I’m arguing that she has a good faith belief that she is. And I was using “good faith belief” as shorthand for meaning that the OP’s belief is both sincere and reasonable. Please of people who commit fraud sincerely believe that they are entitled to what they take, but their beliefs are not reasonable. Again, what I was saying (and we’re getting close to derailing at this point), is that the OP appears to believe that she’s entitled to the commissions, based on the circumstances (and without knowing more) that belief is not unreasonable, and therefore what OP is doing is not “high level fraud.” It’s not ok. But I really wouldn’t put it in the same category of, say, engaging in a scheme to swindle elderly people out of their retirement savings because you think you deserve to live a better lifestyle.

    2. Lily in NYC

      I don’t think you guarantee this without a crystal ball. Sometimes people get away with stuff like this. My coworker had an evil boss here and when he had a new job lined up, he managed to get himself fired (on purpose) by being insubordinate to the evil boss. My coworker had cancer, and ended up threatening to sue and said he was only fired because of his illness. He had a super-scary lawyer and my office immediately caved and gave him triple severance with health benefits.

      Reply
    1. Brett

      Backlog commissions are (I think) sales that have been completed, but the customer has not paid yet.
      Some states consider that earned pay, many do not. And some states let the employment contract defining whether or not it is earned pay.

      Reply
  20. The Cosmic Avenger

    OP#2, stay faaaar away from this company. Even if you get the job, since they apparently love to underpay as much as possible all of the skilled, competent people will be job searching immediately, and the long-term employees are probably still there because they’re unemployable anywhere else.

    Reply
    1. BRR

      That was my thought as well. How many employees had to bid for their salaries? If you can afford to do so, I would love for you to push back on this.

      Reply
  21. Roscoe

    I’m not going to be as hard as OP #1 as some of you. As someone who works in a comission based job, I completely get it. Integrity is important, yet so is paying your bills and being able to live. Depending on his base (if he has one) it could essentially mean he has worked x number of months basically for free if he only gets 30% of the comission owed to him. That just isn’t reasonable at all. I understand the whole logic of “you never know who you’ll run into again”, but at the same time, if its a known, crappy policy, I can see most people not caring. Like, sure, maybe your manager will. But will your co-workers care if they know the policy? Probably not. I say just start doing stuff like in the movie Office Space. Take extra long lunches, come in when you like, leave when you like, blatantly ignore directives from your boss. I will say though, I wouldn’t do this stuff unless you know for sure you have another job lined up.

    Reply
  22. Recruit-o-Rama

    For what it’s worth, our background check disclosure reads similarly. Here’s why.

    1. I work in a very heavily regulated industry where the vast majority of our team works with or near very very dangerous equipment and/or hazardous materials that can not only cause grave injury or death, but can also cause a public safety crisis if not treated properly.

    2. Federal regulations require any employees who work on site (85% of our staff in some capacity or another) to be drug tested pre-employment and for the company to have a random drug and alcohol testing policy.

    3. We ask for disclosure prior to running the background check and we hire many people with a criminal background but each case is reviewed individually; we typically do not hire very violent felons because of the nature of the work.

    4. The disclosure covers a credit check so we don’t have to have a bunch of different disclosures but we only check credit for people working in finance or accounting.

    5. The alcohol portion is there so we can send people for randoms, post accident or suspicious employees during work hours, it is not to “catch” people who have a few beers after work, it’s to catch people who have a few beers before work.

    6. The disclosure you describe sounds like a sort of standard, blanket disclosure that covers all their bases.

    7. Finally, while the background and drug testing makes sense (and is federally required) at my company, A LOT of US companies test without any real reason. Since you come from a different employment environment/culture, I totally understand that it sounds weird and creepy, but it’s pretty normal legalese overstatement.

    Reply
  23. Imaginary Number

    I suffered through routine drug screenings in the U.S. military (and if you’ve ever experienced that you know it literally involves peeing into a cup while someone has to watch to see where it comes from and where it goes which is crazy uncomfortable for a female.)

    I’ve never done drugs, but I personally think forcing someone to fork over their bodily fluids when there isn’t any probable cause is invasive and wrong. It makes sense in very limited settings (elite athletics, for example, where the drug-abuse becomes outrageous with drug testing.)

    Reply
    1. Recruit-o-Rama

      It makes sense in industries where the work is very dangerous and/or where public safety is at stake too. Believe me, as a member of the world, you want to people working on the stuff they work on at my company to not be under the influence of anything.

      Reply
      1. MuseumChick

        I agree with this. There are just some professions where it makes sense. Operating heavy machinery, medical work, child care etc.

        Other professions, no, it doesn’t make sense.

        Reply
      2. Natalie

        Standard drug testing doesn’t give you any information about whether someone is under the influence, though. It’s a totally scattershot approach – some drugs can be detected for weeks, others (heroin, amphetamines, etc) can’t be detected within a day or two.

        Reply
        1. Recruit-o-Rama

          Well I certainly am not going to debate whether it’s a perfect system, it’s not, but regardless, drug testing makes sense in my industry, you’re just going to have to trust me on that. It’s true for a lot of industries. People who hire on here know going in that they cannot use illegal drugs because they are subject to random testing at anytime. It’s not just our company policy, it’s federally mandated.

          Reply
            1. Recruit-o-Rama

              The products and works of my industry can (and have) in very recent and extremely newsworthy ways created massive accidents with severe human and environmental costs. The idea that we should wait and see if the people working on this equipment are using drugs is not responsible. Further, it’s federally mandated. I understand and agree that your average office worker does not need to be tested, but that’s not what my comment was about. I voted “yes” to make marijuana legal in my state, I have no ethical problem with recreational drug use, I don’t care what people do on their own time. But, some jobs require drug testing because the results of employees under the influence can (and have) killed people. I’m not talking about driving a forklift into a wall, I’m talking about transporting tens of thousands of tons of hazardous materials through cities and towns across the country at high rates of speed. There is no room for error.

              Reply
              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Absolutely, and that’s why we should use performance tests, which will tell with a higher degree of accuracy whether someone is impaired for any reason, not just drugs.

                Reply
              2. Uzumaki Naruto

                You can’t test for whether someone is currently on marijuana. And smoking up over the weekend doesn’t make me impaired on Wednesday, even though I would fail the drug test.

                Plus, hire responsible people. Supervise them. It’s hard to sneak being impaired at work without anyone noticing, and it’s not that hard to hire people who are responsible.

                Reply
            2. Recruit-o-Rama

              Look, I get that you have a blanket opppsition to pre-employment drug testing. I have no ethical or personal issue with recreational drug use and I understand the limitations of drug testing and why it doesn’t make sense to test most workers where their screw ups won’t kill people. But, there are some jobs where there is not much room for error. In the last five or so years, my industry (thankfully not my company) has been responsible for several major disasters which resulted in loss of life, property damage and environmental impact. When investigations are completed, it’s almost always caused by human error at some point down the line. Considering the impact an accident can have, it makes sense to be as cautious as possible. The federal agencies regulating us (and there are many) agree, which is why they mandate pre-employment drug testing.

              Reply
              1. Recruit-o-Rama

                Oops, I thought my post above didn’t post! Hahah, this was supposed to be a less emotional post than the one above. I’m going to go for a walk now!

                Reply
            3. paul

              I *want* people in Pantex (nuclear weapons disassembly plant in my area) to be clean as a whistle. We just flat don’t have good, reliable performance test for every drug yet so cheek swabs and UA’s it is.

              It’s dumb for a receptionist, but not for a person handling uranium.

              Reply
              1. Natalie

                “Does illegal drugs ever” != “Comes to work impaired”
                “Never does illegal drugs” != “Never comes to work somehow impaired”

                And I’m not sure why you would need a performance test designed for every drug? The entire purpose is to not be specific to the reason for impairment, but to test for impairment generally.

                Reply
              2. JHunz

                There’s no way drug test test for being impaired from lack of sleep due to chronic insomnia, or because you’re grieving over the recent death of a friend, or from dealing with a personal trauma, or because of a side effect of stopping a prescription of a psychoactive mediation. All of these things can be as much or debilitating to focus and performance as most recreational drug use. The important thing is whether you are impaired, not whether you are impaired by drug use.

                Reply
        2. AMPG

          But won’t it tell you if they’re under the influence right then, though? If someone has an incident on the clock, I don’t actually care if they used heroin over the weekend – I want to know if they used it today.

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Nope, it won’t. It will tell you if they’ve used it in the past X days (which can be weeks for marijuana). What you want are performance tests, which will tell you if someone’s impaired for any reason — heroin, fatigue, cold medicine, whatever.

            Reply
  24. Bee

    LW#3-Both myself and husband hold jobs where we can be randomly tested for drugs and alcohol at any given time, but they’re not normal jobs. I think some sort of background check is normal in the U.S., and it really depends on what sector for which you’re applying. We both had to go through extreme background checks that went through our credit history, living arrangements, etc but I did not find this odd due to the nature of the business. For some companies it can an insurance issue, since they see someone with bad credit or a DUI as an at-risk employee.

    Reply
  25. always in email jail

    Just confirming that bundling credit check language into the background check language/consent form is fairly common in the US. I don’t know if my job has ever actually checked my credit, but I’ve signed consent for them to.

    Some companies, and jobs that require security clearances, look at credit as an indicator of character. (not agreeing or disagreeing, just stating.) Also, in some fields I’ve heard the thinking is that if you have poor credit/excessive amounts of debt, you’re more prone to being blackmailed or convinced to sell knowledge/secrets. Since it sounds like an office job, this probably isn’t the case for you? But it may be the case for other positions in the company and they just use standard language for everyone.

    Reply
  26. MuseumChick

    OP 3,

    Is this company by any chance connected with a particular religion? The alcohol screening makes me think that.

    I also have to wonder if they have gotten burned in the past and started running credit checks on applicants. I’ve seen this happen, they hire someone, that person messes with the money, the company finds out and decides going forward EVERYONE needs a credit check .

    Reply
    1. Not Karen

      According to some recent reading, companies are using credit checks to judge character, e.g. if you flake on paying your bills, you might flake on showing up for work.

      Reply
        1. Jessie the First (or second)

          I have strong feelings against using it that way. I think companies who substitute “struggling financially” with “flaky and untrustworthy” are wrong: someone gets laid off and has no income for a year or has a huge catastrophic medical expense, it’s no surprise they are going to start being late on bills. Suddenly they are untrustworthy? If a company thinks being poor = character flaw, then they are jerks. And I think it is frankly just wrong, as in morally wrong, to hold someone’s poverty against them.

          Reply
        2. Parenthetically

          Like Jessie, I am STRONGLY opposed to using it that way. We struggled to pay bills when I was a kid. I’ve struggled to pay bills as an adult. It has nothing to do with flakiness, it is 100% about not having enough money to pay bills, and anyone who sees poverty as an indication of a person’s character needs to climb back in their time machine and go back to ancient Greece.

          Reply
          1. JB (not in Houston)

            Seriously. In every state, there are cities where it’s basically impossible to work full time at the minimum wage and earn enough to live on. If you are someone working at or near minimum wage, even working more than full time, or working more than one job, it can be hard to make ends meet. If such a person has trouble paying their bills, that doesn’t say one damn thing about their character. Many people have had to choose between paying their electric bill and feeding their kids or buying medicine, and you have to live in a bubble to truly believe not paying the electric bill in that case casts doubt on your character.

            Reply
            1. Parenthetically

              I recently read that there is NO state in which the paycheck from a full-time minimum wage job can pay the average rent. So yeah, I’m calling all the shenanigans on a correlation between character and credit score.

              Reply
              1. Alex "Barney" Barnaby

                There are definitely areas of the country wherein you can (with a housemate) rent a place for about $300 to $400 a month, safe area of town, reasonably well-maintained apartment. The thing is “average rent,” and if you’re working a minimum wage job (and only one job, not two), maybe it means that you have to share living space or live in a smaller-than-average or older-than-average place.

                The problem isn’t the day-to-day expenses; people get into trouble when their car breaks and needs $1,500 worth of work, they need an MRI, or, if they are hourly, if they get sick for two weeks with a particularly vicious flu.

                Reply
            2. paul

              Heh. We’re working on a poverty prevention inititive at work, and while I’m not personally involved in it I’ve seen the research and numbers.

              For a single parent household with two kids the wage earner would have to make north of 21/hour to pay all the bills and manage regular expenses (childcare, etc) without getting government assistance.

              Know how what percentage of jobs pay that in our area?

              About 15% of jobs in our area pay that or higher. That’s it.

              Reply
        3. Alex "Barney" Barnaby

          It also leads to a rather vicious cycle: if you get behind on bills, then it’s harder to get a job, and the lack of a job (or a good job) makes it harder to pay bills. Then you get a situation in which a person is completely unable to pull himself out of debt for years, over what should have been something that could be worked through.

          While that’s not the company’s problem or responsibility, it’s a logical consequence of its actions.

          Reply
      1. Anonygoose

        Or, you could really need a job and want to show up so that you *could* pay your unpaid bills!

        Using a credit check to determine if a person has good character doesn’t really work because it ignores the fact that some people just fall on hard times…

        Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Credit checks offer you little to no information on whether someone will mess with money. These sorts of things drive me up the wall—companies are unwilling to engage in active management and review at the hiring stage, and so they pick these invasive and completely unhelpful measures to try to figure a candidate out. Unless you’ve got money out with a loan shark (which, btw, doesn’t show up on your credit report) or have been successfully prosecuted for a money-related fraud (also not on your credit report), it’s unlikely that a person will be more/less fraudulent simply because their financial circumstances are more/less “clean” than someone else’s.

      Reply
          1. paul

            I tihnk Sas is making a dig at at middle class and up people pretending that money doesn’t buy happiness.

            I’ve lived broke as hell; my wife and I made about 12k a year combined the first year we were married.

            We’re middle class now, and while there’s still stress, OMG it is so much better.

            Reply
  27. Allypopx

    Rigmarole is such a good word.

    OP #1- Where is your information coming from? You know these individuals better than me, but in general recently fired employees aren’t always the best resource to get information on a company’s practices, and aren’t always reliable regarding the circumstances of their firings. I’d hate to see you get fleeced by disgruntled folks.

    Reply
  28. Bad Candidate

    #1 Is this payout of commissions a company policy or just how you’ve heard how things worked. If it’s the latter, I’d be skeptical.

    Reply
  29. I GOTS TO KNOW!

    OP1: I am afraid this is going to go badly for you. Please check the laws in your state because you may be owed your commissions whether the client has paid or not. (And really this should be the law everywhere and it is ridiculous it isn’t)

    OP2: I would not underbid unless truly desperate – and even then, I am not sure I would. This company is telling you something important about themselves – listen.

    OP3: While this is fairly common in the US, you would think the company would know it isn’t legal in the UK since they are operating there. I am at a point in my career now where I don’t consent to things unrelated. I don’t operate machinery, I don’t handle finances, I don’t work with vulnerable subgroups (I also don’t do drugs, I have fine credit, and I have no criminal convictions ever and not even a traffic ticket in the last few years) – I am not consenting to a drug test, credit check, or criminal background check for no reason – on principal. I find it invasive and discriminatory.

    OP4: Can you just call or email the person and let her know she has a package waiting? Or only deliver it when you are going that direction for another reason?

    OP5: I think Mary 100% did the right thing and I am shocked the handbook lays out that managers should fire on the spot right after telling employees to give notice.

    Reply
    1. Sas

      To # 2,3, 4, and 5 ++

      # 3, has been discussed in lengths before. (the general thought behind it.) The testing(s) has benefits for the company, blah blah. But, it really shows how out of touch the path to corporate financial gain can be from well, the people that make it happen.

      Reply
  30. Just Jess

    I have to say that if one were in the absurd situation of trying to get fired, don’t do it by using fake medical excuses. Any HR Manager worth their pay will handle terminations meticulously and delicately (meaning slowly) if a medical issue might be involved.

    Reply
    1. Retail HR Guy

      Absolutely. This is only going to drag the firing out, waste everyone’s time and money, and make everyone hate you more when it is discovered.

      Just email porn to everyone in the office. Boom, done. You’re fired, no one is hurt, and people will have a story to talk about for years to come.

      Reply
      1. Just Jess

        Hahaha! Yes; but could a recipient bring charges of sexual assault or something against you?

        Never mind. I don’t want to keep speculating on what someone should do to get fired and receive company standard severance without making themselves unattractive to future employers… what the hell did I even just type?

        Reply
  31. E

    Not sure if it’s true of all drug test companies, but the one my employer uses provides a combo drug/alcohol urine test for all new hires and also randomly to current employees as well. While I’m sure the lab offers a drug test only option, it’s just standard to run the combination test, probably because it’s offered as the best deal from the testing company. There’d be no reason to fire an employee who tested positive for alcohol unless they were in violation of company policy for on the job drinking, so I’ve never really thought it wrong that they test for this.

    Reply
  32. Allison

    #3, AAM’s answer was pretty spot-on, but I suspect a lot of application forms have boilerplate language about drug, credit, and background checks that aren’t actually acted upon. Maybe they do only do credit checks for some departments, but not others. Maybe they used to do drug tests, but not anymore. The background checks are pretty standard though. Many companies have it in the handbook they can conduct random drug testing, but in reality managers don’t think it’s necessary so it never happens.

    Also, background checks are usually run to protect the company and its employees, not necessarily clients or children.
    It’s a company’s prerogative to avoid hires who might steal, or deal drugs at the office, or assault their coworkers.

    Reply
  33. Anon for this - my sister will know it's me

    The only time I’ve ever been fingerprinted was to get my employee access card for our US offices (that I visit every two months or so in the normal course of my job). I said that to my US colleagues and they were stunned, and our HR team refuses to take the requirement for fingerprinting of employees out of the handbook as a requirement for new hires even though it’s not a practice in my country, and if you did take my fingerprints there’s no law enforcement database that would allow you to run mine against it to see if I was a “bad guy” and shouldn’t be hired.

    The US is seriously behind the ball on personal privacy rights imho, which is ironic considering how many people think that the US is the “free-est” country in the world!

    Reply
  34. Jessesgirl72

    OP!: If you really don’t care about your reputation and insist on being fired, you’re doing it the really inefficient way. Everyone’s employee handbook has spelled out the one or two things that are cause for immediate termination. You might be escorted to the police station, but you’d be fired….

    Seriously, just quit and keep your self respect.

    Reply
  35. WC person

    LW#3, not sure if someone has mentioned this in the comments already, but the drug and alcohol testing may be a result of an insurance requirement to have a premium credit on their workers compensation policy or other type of policy. If the company does have a D&A safety credit, there probably is a testing policy incorporated, which would include notification to job candidates and employees. Rarely are they used, but it is normal to test for both if there is a workplace injury. Depending on the state, it may be required or conversely, not permitted by law. Workers compensation laws vary by state. How that translates internationally, I don’t know. However, they may just find that for this type of policy, they have the notification corporation-wide, and make to differentiation based on location.

    Reply
  36. ilikeaskamanager

    the only alcohol tests that detect current levels of alcohol in a person are breath or blood tests. Urine tests do not test for current levels of alcohol. They test for a metabolic byproduct that can stay in the urine for up to 24 hours after ingesting alcohol. Anyone who loses a job or gets in trouble due to urine test should challenge it.

    Reply
  37. MashaKasha

    #5 – I did this once, in my home country though, not in the US; and there was no handbook, just a tiny company where the owner did as he wished and cut corners financially whenever possible. (I saw him screw a paying client out of extra money once.) I had a hunch that, if I were to give a two-week notice, that he’d work me to death during those two weeks and never pay. So I gave a one-minute notice. I waited to get paid (no direct deposit back in those days, they just handed you the cash on payday), then as soon as the cash was in my hands, I told him I was leaving, effective immediately. He was not happy. Told me that I had no integrity and that my sin would come back to me (what?) It did come back, in the form of a job offer from a more stable company two weeks later, for work that was much closer to my skillset and at three times the pay. Would do it again if I were in the same situation.

    Reply
    1. Isben Takes Tea

      The only companies that I’ve heard require fingerprinting are for when you work with minors. However, it doesn’t go into some master database, as you have to get re-fingerprinted for each company you work for.

      Reply
  38. Software Engineer

    For #3, you mention the company makes children’s stuff–do they do their own manufacturing? These overkill policies for office workers you find a lot in companies where it makes sense for a large core of their employees. If they have a factory then those employees make sense to drug test more (and possibly alcohol test). Same thing with logistics companies which have fleets of delivery drivers, etc

    When I worked as a software engineer for a hardware manufacturer, they did an initial drug test but weren’t particularly invasive once I was employed. They may just have the same policy or paperwork for all employees to simplify things

    Reply
  39. Kara

    #5

    In my state, you would be better suited to give the two-weeks notice regardless of whether you knew they were going to terminate you immediately. If you give the two-weeks notice and they terminate you immediately, it would be considered a “termination” by the state and you’d be eligible for unemployment benefits. If you quit without giving notice, it would be deemed a “quit” by the state, and you’d likely be ineligible for benefits (in a non-hostile situation, or if there wasn’t discrimination present, etc.). So if you planned on applying for unemployment benefits any time in the next 15 months, you’d be better off giving the notice, even if you knew they’d let you go immediately (and keep a record of that).

    Reply
  40. yarnowl

    Re: OP# 3, I know in my office our handbook and a form I signed when I started said that if they suspected I was using drugs or drinking at work, they could require a test and/or search my stuff to see if I had any with me. Maybe that’s what the policy was more referring to: if you are acting drunk at work they can require a test, and not necessarily doing tests to see if you’re drinking a glass of wine at night after work.

    Reply
    1. yarnowl

      And for reference, I work in the marketing department of a corporation, not with manufacturing or kids or vulnerable adults, etc.

      Reply
    2. Parenthetically

      That makes more sense to me. IANAD or even a phlebotomist or drug tester, but I’m curious if it would even show up on a test. You could be pretty wasted and still have a measurable blood alcohol content at noon the next day, but casual, moderate drinking surely wouldn’t register, would it?

      Reply
  41. Barney Stinson

    #2: do you really want to work for someone who would do this to you right at the start? It doesn’t sound like they’re very respectful of their employees.

    Reply
  42. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    Never heard of alcohol testing unless there was a specific reason – operating dangerous machinery, etc., or you show up to work gassed.

    Sexual offenders? Oh yeah, they check here, and many states have their full offender registries online. Here in Massachusetts, only level 3 offenders – the most dangerous, likely to offend – are online. Level 1 and 2 checks can be conducted by a local police department if there’s a need.

    Companies will often have a pre-employment screening for drugs – but – unless there is a safety reason, or “probable cause” (employee shows up not functionally able to work) – they generally don’t do random drug testing.

    The possibility of a false positive and placing a clean employee under counseling and discipline is frightening to HR attorneys and a godsend to wrongful discharge lawyers working on contingency.

    Reply
  43. (Another) B

    As I’ve said on here before, I gave more than 2 weeks notice at my last and my boss got mad and told me to leave. I felt like I was fired. Really ruined everything and actually left my coworkers in the lurch. I think it’s a TERRIBLE policy. (He only did this to some people and not others, which was even worse. I was a high performer and he was pissed I was leaving so he wanted to one-up me)

    Reply
  44. OP Numero Trois

    Question No 3 was mine.

    It’s actually blowing my mind a little how blithely how many Americans are going “oh of course that’s totally normal. You have to check they aren’t a bad person who has dodgy credit”. From my perspective it seems incredibly dystopian and invasive, like everyone has got used to companies acting like they own them.

    I guess I’m used to a working culture here where it’s just assumed that you will be an adult and behave in a professional manner at work, and measures are only taken if there turns out to be a problem, not pre-emptively. American culture can seem very authoritarian and prescriptive in many ways from the outside.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      It’s difficult, OP#3, because I don’t think there’s widespread acceptance that employers ought to run drug tests and credit checks. But in my experience, employers that do this cluster into three groups—folks that provide “low-wage” service jobs (retail, home healthcare, certain service industries); finance groups, tax and auditing services, and financial institutions; and employers that require a certain level of security clearance (e.g., governments, government institutions like public universities, and government contractors).

      The most widespread abuse seems to be in the first category of employers, but those are also employers who have a great deal of power relative to their employees (and often a lot of money). It’s more expensive and more difficult for someone working in group 1 to push back against invasive testing, especially when a blanket authorization appears on that person’s application. Some states have pulled back on allowing this level of invasiveness, but for the most part, employers have a lot of flexibility in this arena.

      Reply
    2. Not Rebee

      I work in Mortgage, which does fall under finance, and while my /employer/ doesn’t run credit checks or drug tests (though they likely reserve the right to require it – I wasn’t paying attention because I don’t use drugs and I’ve never heard of anyone getting tested), they do run background checks. This is, in part, because we are in a highly regulated industry. Since we are required to hold a license in every state we do business in, we are subject to a variety of laws (because states are often similar, but not the same, to each other) regarding who can work for us and in what capacity, so we do a criminal background check because we aren’t able to convict individuals who have certain things on their record. For most states, the requirement is that we can’t hire anyone who has been convicted of a felony involving financial crime or fraud within the last 10 years, and that’s how far back our background check goes. However, as an example, Georgia doesn’t allow us to hire anyone who has been convicted of a felony ever in their entire life – not often, but on occasion we have to let someone go because of this issue. Also, any individual who holds a state licensed is background checked by the state that regulates their license, and the state also runs a credit report check looking for evidence of financial responsibility. Our executive officers go through the same treatment… intensity of the searching varies by state (but we are licensed almost nationwide).

      So yes, while we would like to assume you’re being an adult, it’s possible the industry is regulated and they are required to go through certain steps due to those regulations.

      Reply
    3. Anony

      I’m American and I think those policies are invasive as hell. I don’t blame you for being turned off by the place that you applied to. I don’t do drugs and I rarely have alcohol so I’d pass whatever test they gave me but I don’t want to be tested in the first place.

      Reply
  45. Retail HR Guy

    Can we all just file away question #1 in our minds for future reference? So often commenters on this site act like employees would never lie about anything medical and their doctors would never go along with such shenanigans and employers should trust everything employees say because, hey, we’re all grown-ups here.

    Just this week I got dragged over the coals for claiming that FMLA abuse is an actual problem. Well… what about this guy? Certainly people like OP #1 are not the norm but let’s not pretend they aren’t out there.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I don’t think that really applies here though. The issue earlier this week was about claiming FMLA abuse was widespread. This is one person.

      No one has said there aren’t isolated cases of it.

      Reply
      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Yep, nobody here has said that. And re-reading the letter, I don’t think you can say the doctor was going along with “shenanigans.” The OP said they got a letter from the doctor saying they were under the doctor’s care. The OP didn’t specify for what, so we have to fill in the gap to conclude that the doctor agreed to pretend that the care was for whatever the fake x-ray was for (plus, that would sort of counter what the OP wants–the OP wants to be fired, and if the doctor backs her up, that defeats the purpose). Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but I don’t think you can say the doctor is in on the OP’s plans.

        Reply
        1. Retail HR Guy

          OP#1 said that the injury was fake. So why is the doctor keeping him off work another four days if there’s nothing wrong with him? I don’t think the doctor is in on the full plans, but things aren’t fully on the up and up either.

          I think a lot of doctors (not all) tend to more or less give patients whatever they want so long as it isn’t dangerous or crazy. Patients are the customers. (If that weren’t true, advertising to the general public for prescription medication would be a waste of money.)

          Reply
          1. Jessie the First (or second)

            OP didn’t specify whether s/he told the doctor s/he was injured, and the note just said “yup, doctor visit, will come back in a few days.” Enough employers have that silly requirement of a doctor’s note for sick days that OP could have presented it that way. When the stakes are that low – just a brief absence from work – I don’t see doctors spending the time really investigating. I could go to my doctor and say “I’m miserable with a cold and have to be out of work, can I get a note” and I’m sure my doctor would. If I were asking for ADA accommodations or FMLA or disability benefits, there’s much more that goes into it. I’ve seen the doctor’s note process for my kids’ school absences, for example, and that’s a whole different, easier, no-brainer thing to get as opposed to the FMLA certification paperwork.

            Though all that said – I’m not getting why OP tried to get a note anyway. S/he is trying to get fired, so why the effort to legitimize the absence from work? It doesn’t make sense.

            Reply
            1. JB (not in Houston)

              Yeah, I didn’t get that either. Maybe instead of getting fired for faking an injury entirely, she think it won’t look as bad to get fired for faking documentation about how extensive it is? That part didn’t make sense to me.

              Reply
  46. Penelope Pitstop

    #1–Um…apologies if this has been addressed up-chain, but:

    I’m not an attorney, but given that a company has challenged an employee for ‘proof of injury’ and a medical professional has provided something that seems to validate, I’d love to know any legalities that could come into play if it comes out that:
    – the doctor providing that note did so because s/he was deceived into supporting a false injury claim OR
    – the doctor knowingly supported a false injury claim

    Beyond the ethical line(s) crossed here, curious whether it crosses over into potential fraudulence as well? Any attorneys? (BTW…#1’s situation triggered the questions, but I’m more general insight into situations where there a company challenges a medical condition and a medical professional is involved)

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      There’s not enough information here to say definitively whether it’s fraud as a legal matter, but it’s certainly fraudulent (i.e., something false put forward as the truth with the intent to deceive).

      Reply
    2. Natalie

      I don’t think LW #1 is making any kind of financial claim – they used the fake xray to support taking a bunch of days of work, not for a workers comp claim or something.

      Reply
    3. Jessie the First (or second)

      The OP was a little vague, but there is nothing in the letter to indicate the doctor is aware of the fake x-ray (the doctor did not send it, and the OP does not say s/he told doctor about it).

      But what legalities are you concerned about – I mean, I get you’re saying fraud, but are you wondering if the employer would sue someone? Because that’d be weird. The employer could just fire the employee – they would have approximately zero incentive to sue the (unemployed and so probably judgment-proof) employee. Likewise, suing the doctor would be a big old money pit and I can’t imagine worth it to the employer. Just fire the employee.

      Reply
      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Yep, I just said this in another comment. The OP’s didn’t say that the doctor was going along with the fake x-ray.

        Reply
    4. Retail HR Guy

      Also not an attorney, so can’t speak to what laws might technically be broken in a case like this, but I can speak to what generally happens when an employee gets caught red-handed deceiving an employer like this (and the employer can prove it).

      The answer is there would be no criminal charges made against the employee. The employee gets fired and will likely lose any protections they would have had under the law (FMLA, ADA, etc.) had the medical issue been real or honestly represented. A denial of the employee’s unemployment claim will likely be upheld, but that depends on the state and the whim of the ALJ.

      Reply
  47. Margaret

    #1 – while it’s very possible that people who were fired got 90% payout, that doesn’t mean they got the 90% payout *because* they were fired. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. I’d suggest you figure out the actual events that took place before trying to replicate them.

    My guess is that it has to do with timing – maybe something like firings tend to be at the end of the month, and so sales have shipped out, thus cementing the commission, whereas you might quit anytime of the month, a larger chunk hasn’t shipped, so you only get the 20% that policy says you get and the rest you haven’t officially earned yet because the product hasn’t shipped yet.

    Reply
  48. FormerLW

    I’m a US Federal employee – permanent, civil service, big agency, been here almost a decade – and I’ve never been drug tested. Many find this hard to believe – lots of Feds get tested regularly.

    Reply
    1. Former Retail Manager

      I am the same as you….6 years of service and never a drug test either. Considering the type of information I have access to, many people are also surprised when I tell them.

      Reply
  49. Hobby Farmer

    OP3:
    I worked for a very large, very well known Aeronautical company here in the United States. When I was first hired for a low-level office job they required a background check, a credit check and a full drug/ alcohol screen. There’s something indignant of having to pee in a cup in a seedy “testing” facility in order to get your shiny new job. It really kills the initial euphoria of starting a new career.

    While there is more emphasis on the manufacturer workers, they still hold their office folks to the same standard and you can be “tested” for drugs and alcohol anytime. Example – if you are driving a company car or operating a machine and have an accident, you’re very likely to undergo a drug/ alcohol test immediately (unless of course you are in a dire, urgent medical state).

    This policy is one reason why I no longer work for said big company. It seems invasive. And is invasive.

    Reply
  50. RP

    #1 – It is important to note you do not know under what circumstances the other people were fired/let go. Perhaps different reasons may indicate a larger commission backlog – almost like a severance of sorts. Unless there is a written policy you can not expect to get the same amount.

    #3 – Alcohol is the weird one. I have worked at companies whose insurance policy requires certain language around drug checks. These were not medical, financial, or safety based. It was because the companies had access to expensive client computers with confidential or sensitive material. These companies usually required a drug check on employment – with a focus mostly on drugs like opioids and methemphedamenes (sp?) that these insurance companies had associated with higher rates of theft. Any drug check beyond that were at the discretion fo the company if material went missing.

    Reply
  51. Looey

    Is anyone else questioning the dodgy doctor who gave out the sick note to someone who was clearly faking an injury? Surely that’s professional misconduct or something like that?

    Reply
  52. cobweb collector

    LW#1 – Stop being an ass and just quit. Is your dignity worth a few thousand dollars? Your integrity? Honestly I can’t believe Allison didn’t call you out on the ethical issue here but you’re really crossing a line. You want to quit because you have a better job lined up, fine, no big deal. The policy is stupid? Fine, the policy is stupid. But you’re a free thinking self aware human being. It is your choice to try and defraud your employer. Don’t blame bad policy for your actions. Do the responsible thing and just quit.

    Reply
      1. Gilmore67

        I am not quite getting this…. OP #1 …….( It’s Friday and I am a little slow….) you are wanting to get fired solely on the policy you told us about? Do you not like your job? Your boss? Is the overall salary/commission structure messed up?

        So you get yourself fired to get the higher commission payout and then…. you will have no income?…. because you have no job. What are you gaining?

        I am not trying to be snarky I just am trying understand your logic.

        Reply
  53. BTW

    #4 – If it was 5 packages a day for company related things it wouldn’t be an issue right? I guess I’m only saying that because I recently started getting all my packages delivered to my work. Mind you I’m the only one here most of the time so it falls on me in the end but I have made the team aware (including my boss) and they are all totally okay with it. I do it because I commute and since the drivers won’t leave the stuff at my door (which I appreciate) I simply can’t make it to the post office in time to pick up my parcels before they close. I guess that makes my situation a bit different but surprisingly, theft of parcels in broad daylight *is* an issue so I understand where she’s coming from.

    If it’s that much of an issue I’d say to talk to your manager and see where they stand on it but I’m not sure that they’ll care. Personally this isn’t even something that would bother me especially not in your kind of role.

    Reply
  54. OP#2

    I ended up receiving an offer for the amount I had initially requested, so I don’t know what the lowest bid thing was about. This is an amount I am happy with, not something I’m settling for, and actually a nice increase for me. (I’m not exactly underpaid at the moment, either.) Their benefits package is excellent, too. I realize it’s possible that I was the lowest bidder, or that there never was another candidate, and that I left money on the table. But the company’s reputation is excellent otherwise, so I’m going to consider this a yellow flag, accept the offer, and proceed with caution.

    Reply
  55. nnn

    My first thought for #2 was to collude with the other candidate and both submits bids that are double the going rate for this kind of job.

    Reply
  56. Oscar Madisoy

    In response to 4. Having to receive packages for a coworker:

    I live alone in an apartment building that does not have a doorman or concierge. Actually, I live in a housing project.

    If I were not able to receive packages at work it would make life very difficult for me.

    Reply
  57. Candi

    #1: I love to read true crime and the history of crime and fighting crime. And there’s one place where someone trying to pull shenanigans -even technically legal ones- always screws up: They make it too freaking complicated. Google Images x-rays!?

    Take the advice of the gentlemen and -women here. Knock it off and find out what’s actually going on with these things.

    #2 -That’s just so wrong of the company.

    #3 -What the actual…? I worked in a daycare and didn’t have to do alcohol testing. Even Sears only wanted the standard drug test.

    #4 -Is there a company policy? If not, you’re a little stuck. BUT… you could ask her to share package accepting duties if your company permits. It might help.

    #5 -Well, what did they think was going to happen? All the same, double-check the handbook. It might be a case of Manager Policy. (Don’t worry, it’s not usually contagious.)

    Reply
  58. Chelsea

    Alison, just wanted to say that I love this blog. I’ve really learned a lot from it (don’t show up too early for interviews, answering the phone with ‘Hello, Chelsea speaking’, etc.) and it’s really great.

    Reply
  59. Milton Waddams

    #3: People in the U.S. have a very symbolic attachment to anything related to children; people want to protect kids from the world that adults have created for themselves, and so they tend to place rather unreasonable standards on anyone working even indirectly with children, including manufacturing products that children will handle.

    The credit check issue is a way of tip-toeing around social class, as most working class people in the U.S. also have poor credit; it’s a way to say “no poors” while not making it explicitly about race or class. (That is also why some States have banned the practice.)

    The drug and alcohol checks are standard in manufacturing jobs, as many of them have workplace environments that drive people to drink. :-) Even though as a design-worker you likely wouldn’t be on the factory floor, the test has to apply to everybody to avoid implying that it is only the shiftless factory workers that they are concerned about (even if it is true).

    Reply
    1. Linden

      While I do think the whole credit score system is messed up, the jobs that emphasize this the most by far in the U.S. are those that require security clearance, with the thinking that if you have a lot of debt you can be more easily bribed. My SO works for the Navy and they’re more likely to lose their jobs over debt than some crimes.

      Reply
  60. Liz

    For #4 – I live in a building where I absolutely can’t have packages delivered at home – my front door opens directly onto a sidewalk on a busy commercial street. The delivery guy would have to leave a box just sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, and I would almost definitely never see it again. So it may not be just paranoia leading her to do this.

    Reply

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