short answer Saturday: 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday!  Here we go…

1. Can my company fire me if I can’t move?

I recently went through a long, strenuous training for my piloting job. They never said anything about living in the actual city of the airport I fly out of, they only asked if I lived in the metroplex, which I do. But now I’ve been on one week and they are asking me to move to the actual city the airport is in, since it takes me about 45 minutes to get there and I’m always on call and have to be taking off in the plane within that one hour they give me notice, which they also did not specify.

I’m in a one-year lease with my house I’m renting and they said they will look into helping me break the lease (which is 3 months worth rent, and I don’t have that money obviously). But if the company doesn’t have the money, then they will have to let me go. Is this legal? We have a one year contract, can they let me go simply if I don’t have the money to move an hour away?

Since you have a contract, your answers are probably in there. Always go to the contract for this kind of thing, if you’re lucky enough to have one. What does it say about reasons the company can dismiss you?

It does seem odd that they wouldn’t have mentioned during the hiring process that you’d be expected to be at the airport within an hour of being called.

2. Using an Americanized name on your resume

I’ve read in an article that people with Americanized names tend to get hired over people with harder-to-pronounce foreign names. I think the article said that resumes with hard-to-pronounce names tend to get passed over. I’m not sure if this is at all true but I was wondering, if you have a foreign, hard-to-pronounce, legal name you do not go by, should you include your nickname in your resume?

Even if you have an Americanized and easy to pronounce name, if you don’t go by it, you shouldn’t put it on your resume. Your resume isn’t a legal document that requires your full legal name. It requires the name you’re known by. You don’t want an employer calling references and asking about Joe Smith when you go by Miles Smith; your references aren’t going to know who they’re talking about. Similarly, it’s really weird to get to know someone as Joe all through the hiring process and then discover on their first day of work that they’re actually called Miles. Use the name you go by.

Now, as to the larger issue here of name-based discrimination, there are indeed tons of studies showing that applicants with names that sound ethnic or foreign get contacted less than applicants with traditionally American names. Crappy but true.

3. Using a counter-offer against a job I already accepted

I was offered $11/hr from my former employer to come back. I then went on an interview somewhere else and was offered $12/hr to work for them. I told my former employer that I would have to decline and he countered with $15/hr. Do I call and ask if the other position will match that even though I just accepted the position?

No. You already accepted $12/hour. It would be bad faith to try for more after you already accepted. Once you accept a job, negotiation stops.

4. Under-the-table nannying

I was hired as a nanny and worked for a little over a month. My employer did not have me sign a contract, and never mentioned anything regarding taxes being deducted from my wages. Unfortunately the relationship ended poorly. My employer never mentioned taxes and then included a W9 form in with my last paycheck. I’d like to know if I need to provide her with my information and fill out the form? And if so, is it possible for me to apply for unemployment? Is there any possibility she could sue me, or retaliate in any way?

I don’t know the intricacies of this area of law, but I don’t see any grounds for her to sue you on. Retaliation, sure — she can badmouth you, refuse to give you a good reference, etc.  But she stands to get in much more trouble than you for not paying taxes on your wages; theoretically, she could be hit with back tax payments, as well as penalties and interest. (The exception to this is if you earned less than $1,700 during your work with her; that’s the threshold for all this to kick in.)

It’s in your interest to get these taxes straightened out though, and you can’t get unemployment if you weren’t paying into the system through payroll taxes. (That said, depending on your state, you might not be eligible anyway, depending on what other work you’ve done this year; most states require that you have worked a certain portion of the last several quarters.)

Update: A commenter just pointed out that the form was a W9, not a W2. I’d answered this as if it were a W2, which is the tax form for employees (where employers pay payroll taxes for them). The form she gave you, the W9, is for independent contractors (who are responsible for their own taxes). The law is very clear that nannies cannot be independent contractors, so what she’s proposing would be illegal. She should have had you fill out a W2 and should have paid payroll taxes on your wages … again, assuming that you earned at least $1,700 from her.

5. Telling my boss I want to change departments

After being out of work for 1.5 years, I found a job through a temp service working in a collections center for an auto loan company. I performed well and was hired on more quickly than usual and now work for the company in a permanent position, still as a collector. I’ve been there around 8 months, and the business of collecting is hard and stressful. The company, people and pay are great. However, I just don’t think I can collect for much longer. I am thinking of going to my boss and letting him know how I feel. The company occasionally opens up other positions within the company in other departments, and I’d like to let him know that I’d be very interested in a different position and that I really dislike collecting. But I don’t want him to think I’m going to just jump ship, as I have no intention to do so. We do have a relatively high turnover and I don’t want to lose my job for expressing my feelings. What’s the best way to approach him about it? Or should I just not have that conversation and continue to look for work elsewhere?

Don’t tell him you hate collecting; that’s like saying, “I’m going to be actively working to leave my job.” Instead, tell him how interested you’d be in moving into X area or Y area. In other words, frame it positively rather than negatively.

6. Employers using credit checks on job applicants

Did you happen to hear about this tidbit regarding credit scores:  “Researchers found no connection between poor credit scores and the likelihood that an employee would steal or call in sick. But they did find a correlation between lower credit scores and a more agreeable personality, according to the study which was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.”  Would you like to weigh in on the topic? I saw you addressed it once 2 years ago, but I was wondering if you still had the same opinion. 

I do! I continue to think that they’re unnecessary and an invasion of privacy, unless the position handles money.

By the way, four states now restrict the use of credit checks in hiring, with bills to do so pending in 16 more plus D.C. There’s also a bill in Congress (the Equal Employment for All Act, H.R. 3149) that would restrict their use in hiring, and the EEOC recently filed a class action discrimination lawsuit against one large company, alleging that the company’s use of credit reports in hiring decisions disproportionately excludes men, African-American, and Latino candidates, which violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (unless the company can show that the practice is justified by a business necessity).

{ 40 comments… read them below }

  1. Kim Stiens*

    To the hired nanny: I’m not a lawyer or anything, and this is definitely something you’ll want to get right in a legal sense, but it sounds like you were hired (unknowingly, which is a problem in itself) as a contractor, not as an employee. It’s true that you could contend that you were an employee, and thus make her owe taxes, but people working as nannies on a contract basis is pretty common and doesn’t sound like a cut-and-dry case to me. But if you were a contractor, you’re basically functioning as a business that was hired to do this work, and thus you’re responsible for paying your own payroll taxes.

    So it’s in your best interest to fill out those forms, so that your former employer can send you a 1099 in January and you can properly pay and file your taxes. There is also a penalty (though it’s pretty small) if you refuse to provide the info the W-9 is asking for.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nannies can’t be independent contractors, according to how the law classifies employees, because the employer controls when, where, and how they perform the work. (See ) I think it’s more likely that the nanny and employer intended her to be under-the-table and then the employer changed her mind … or the employer always intended to do it legally but didn’t get around to dealing with the forms until the nanny left (since it was only about a month).

      Agree, though, that it’s in her best interest to fill out the form.

      1. Kim Stiens*

        While I think it’s theoretically possible that a nanny could work on a contractor basis, I think you’re right, my bad. But if that’s the case, then, do you think it’s worth it to claim back wages and taxes? I mean, if the person was supposed to be an employee in the first place, OP could say “If you want to do the paperwork to make this legal, you’ll need to make that a W-2 and pay my back payroll taxes. If that’s not the plan then we need to just keep this between us and go our separate ways.” I mean, if the OP was cool with that (since if she does return the W-9 and gets a 1099, then she has to pay her own back taxes like she was a contractor anyway. Keeping it illegal might help everyone out. :)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ack! I’d read the OP’s question as being about a W2, not a W9. I’ve updated my response to it!

          Realizing that, I very much agree with what you wrote here.

  2. just another hiring manager...*

    RE: 2. Using an Americanized name on your resume
    With names, both “Americanized” and otherwise, I see “First “Preferred” Last,” “First (Preferred) Last,” or “F. Preferred Last” on resumes all the time, like Joe “Miles” Smith or J. Miles Smith.

    For me, just be consistent about it. Your email address signature, voicemail message, etc. and any correspondence should be consistent across the board.

  3. Elizabeth*

    Re #2, what about nicknames in general, especially if they’re common? For example, if your colleagues and friends usually call you “Bill” but you’ll answer to “William,” should you put “William Jones” or “Bill Jones” on your resume? Does a resume headed “Bill Jones” or “Katie Clemens” seem less formal or professional? I’m only talking about nicknames that would get used in a professional context, not the kind your dormmates give you in college. (We had a kid we called “Cuddles” in my dorm. I assume he didn’t put that on his business cards after graduation.)

    I am in what I think is a minority of Elizabeths who actually go by the full name, so this is hypothetical to me, but I’m curious what you think!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In a case like William or Katherine (where everyone knows common nicknames include Bill and Katie), I think either is fine, but you might as well put what you actually go by. I find that sometimes people feel like they have to put their Katherine even if they go by Katie — that putting Katie would somehow not be formal or professional enough. But it’s really fine…. and it’s actually kind of weird to go through a whole interview process knowing someone as Katherine and then have to readjust to calling them Katie once they start working with you.

      But it’s especially weird when it’s a totally unrelated name — I’ve had candidates who go by their middle names, for instance, but put their first names on their resume. This is confusing as hell if you hire them.

  4. Kim Stiens*

    I think the nickname thing is more or less a wash, so I agree with Alison just for the sake of being called what you want to be called. While it’s true that a reference check might be a problem because everyone knew you by your nickname, it could also be a problem if the HR person on the end of the line never knew you personally, and would be verifying employment based on forms in your file, like your W-2 or I-9, which would have your legal name on it rather than a better known nickname. Since there could be issues either way, go for the one that you prefer!

    1. Katie*

      As a “Katie” that is short for “Katherine,” I have to say that I think there is a big difference between someone who goes by a completely different name versus a nickname. I use Katherine on my resume, but introduce myself as Katie, sign emails, etc., as Katie. And I’m not worried that if someone calls to check a reference that people won’t know that a potential employer means me when someone asks about “Katherine.” I guess it just feels more professional and appropriate for the tone of a resume. But that’s completely different than the person named James who goes by Ted, or whatever, especially if they aren’t very open about it.

      1. Katie 2*

        I do the exact same thing. It’s such a common real name/nickname combination that no one ever questions it…and if someone sees “Katherine” written (say on a resume) before meeting me, I often get asked if I go by Kate or Katie or Kathy…

  5. bob*

    #3: Your former employer should stay your former employer because they’re obviously complete aholes to low ball you 25+% on your offer. Maybe they thought you would come crawling back but the fact they low balled you that much tells me they don’t value you that much or probably anyone else.

    1. Kim Stiens*

      Plus, I mean, there are tons of employers who think it’s their job to lowball and try to get an employee for less than they’re “worth.” I think the scenario provided proves that the employee is valued highly… you simply don’t offer someone you don’t value $15/hr to do what you apparently normally pay people $11/hr to do. It’s a shame things worked out the way they did, and I suppose the OP COULD take the new salary or try to re-negotiate, but that would be kind of a dick move.

      1. just another hiring manager...*

        “there are tons of employers who think it’s their job to lowball and try to get an employee for less than they’re “worth.””

        Actually, I think employers want to get the most qualified employee they can for a fair wage based on the employee’s worth to the company. It’s not as evil as potential employees/job seekers make it out to be… and your worth to the company has nothing to do with your personal finances or how great a person you are, it’s about what you bring to the company and current market value of that work.

        1. Anonymous*

          I have to say I have experienced both, but there are managers who don’t grasp the concept of paying what’s fair and instead think the goal it to get at low as possible. In those cases we usually end up backfilling that spot in 6 months as the candidate realizes how much they are actually worth and leaves. I have one manager that we this same conversation with every time we have to hire for him.

  6. Anon*

    Regarding the first question – I’ve worked for a major commercial airline. While we did have a “one hour response time” for on-call work, we COULD NOT specify that our pilots, say, must live within 1 hour of the airport. We can only ask that, if they’re on-call, they BE at that airport within 1 hour. And certainly, we couldn’t dictate what town/city you live in.

    That said, our pilots were unionized, so if this is the case with the OP, he/she should absolutely check the contract, as it will be in there; and/or the union rep, if they threaten to let you go. Airline or not, no employer can dictate where you live. This employer sounds stupid.

    1. arm2008*

      Employers can dictate where you live if it’s in your contract. Some cities require teachers, police, and/or firefighters to live in the city limits where they work.

  7. Liz T*

    Yeah, I used to put Elizabeth on my résumés and it created this weird double life. I finally determined that my professional name (a big deal in theater) be Liz.

    It’s funny how the “Americanized” thing can have exceptions. My good friend has a very Hebrew name, but his whole life has gone by an Americanized nickname (kind of like Barack/Barry). Now that he’s a lawyer, he’s using the longer Hebrew version. Partially, I think, because it sounds cool, and partially because law firms aren’t exactly weeding out us Jews.


  8. Anonymous*

    Regarding the counter offer question…Where did it say she had accepted the $12/hr job, from what I read she was offered $12/hr. I think she has to at least try to get the $15/hr job, that is too significant a difference in salary to not try.

  9. Anonymous*

    Regarding the counter offer question…Where did it say she had accepted the $12/hr job, from what I read she was offered $12/hr. I think she has to at least try to get the $15/hr job, that is too significant a difference in salary to not try.

      1. Bitza*

        I’m sorry, but I would be the jerk who went back on my job acceptance and went around and took the $15/hr job. There’s a big difference between making $12/hr and $15/hr, sometimes the difference between making a living wage or not. I couldn’t survive on $12/hr. I would have to skip things like going to the doctor and dentist, if anything happened to my car I’d be screwed…this is not the difference between making $40/hr and $43/hr. OP’s $3 is very significant.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, she can definitely do that. She just can’t do what she was asking about, which is to ask the job she already accepted to raise the salary to match the other one.

        2. Anon.*

          I’m with you Bitza. At this salary level a $3 difference is significant – on a 40 hour week it amounts to $6,240! At this level of pay that makes a HUGE difference. Plus, that’s $6,240 more that gets counted towards your social security.

          Unless there is some horrible reason not to work for the original company again, I wouldn’t hesitate to say ‘sorry, but I’ve been made another offer (that is better/more money etc). If the other company wants to meet the offer fine, if not, the chocie (if based strictly on money) should be easy.

          Keep in mind at this salary level it is likely this is not a make or break job for the OP’s career and his/her career will not be sabotaged by choosing to do what is more likely to help in the short – and long (social security, higher salary on the NEXT job etc). Go with the money.

          Good luck and please do let us know the outcome.

  10. Jaime*

    At #2, I would definitely include your nickname if that is what you go by. Not because of the risk of getting passed over based on your hard to pronounce name (though that’s important too), but also because it’s just awkward to correct everyone later.

    It’s similar to whether you should correct someone’s pronunciation of your name (mine is pretty easy but I respond to english or spanish pronunciations all the time) or correct them if they leave off your title (ie, Doctor). Will you see them again or regularly, and how long will you be interacting with them corrently? If you’re spending time with the other person, then correct them or give them the name you go by. If not, then don’t sweat it. Example: why correct the cashier who is trying to be personable by using the name on your credit card, but if you don’t correct a potential coworker then THEY might be embarrassed later when they realize they’ve mispronounced your name about a hundred times before you corrected them.

    1. Jamie*

      This! I have an ethnic last name that some people have trouble pronouncing (which replaced my ethnic maiden name that more people had trouble pronouncing). I don’t correct the person at the grocery store who is choking over it as they hand me my receipt. I will clarify the pronunciation for my kid’s teachers as those are on-going relationships.

      Some people are very touchy about the name thing – I’m not. I work with someone who always spells my name Jaime – which while much cuter – isn’t my spelling. This despite seeing it on multiple emails a day. It’s not intentional and it’s correct in payroll so I don’t care.

      At a former job I did have a customer correct the way I pronounced my last name. He seemed put out that I used the Americanized pronunciation and spent way too much time trying to teach me to say it properly. You have to be nice to customers, but I pronounce it the way my husband does, and since it was his name first he’s the expert.

      Customer gave up when they realized I am physically incapable of pronouncing Bz in a way any native Pole would find acceptable.

      The flip side of this is people who are reticent to tell you their preferred pronunciation. I’ve worked with lovely people who have introduced themselves to me as Luis (pronounced Louis) or Martin (pronounced Martin) – and finding out years later that they preferred the Spanish pronunciations which are just as easy to say. People shouldn’t have to modify their own names unless it’s their own preference.

      1. Vicki*

        I worked with a very nice man named Ho Hsiu who I was originally introduced to as “Hank”. It turned out he actually went by (and preferred) the Chinese name, but was being polite to people who couldn’t be bothered. I made sure to learn his preferred pronunciation.

  11. Joanna Reichert*

    Whoooooo boy. Don’t even get me started on credit scores. It’s an IMAGINARY NUMBER that dictates such things as my job prospects and housing, but I can’t look at it too often or it gets worse? Give me a break!

    I’ve been working since I was 16 and together with my husband have done everything in our power to never be in debt – a good thing, right?

    Then in May 2009 I fall off my bicycle, bust up my mouth, and suddenly I’m swimming in $20,000 of debt due to medical bills. And I STILL don’t have teeth. Try getting ahead professionally as a 27-year old woman who can’t smile.

    That accident and subsequent medical debt has prevented me from obtaining telephone services – unable to get housing without a co-signer – and most gut-wrenching, prevented me from landing my dream job with an animal welfare non-profit because their ‘policy’ was to only hire people with ‘Good’ and ‘Excellent’ credit scores, case closed. I’m still pretty bitter over that one.

    The fact is, my accident and inability to pay medical bills have NOTHING to do with my workplace responsibility. Medical bills are NOT the same as some airhead who racks up debt due to shopping too much. I’ve made great decisions concerning my finances up to this point – all for naught.

    I can’t pay my bills because I’m broke and barely making ends meet – but I can’t get a better-paying job because my credit scores says I’m unsuitable. What in the world am I supposed to do??

    If there is any kind of bill that would prevent this kind of discrimination, I will be first in line to support it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s horrible! I’m so sorry you’re dealing with that. I definitely encourage you to contact your members of Congress about HR 3149 and ask them to support it. (For anyone not sure how to email your members of Congress, just go to and use the box on the top right to search for your reps using your zip code. Then follow the links to contact them.)

        1. Jamie*

          I am so sorry you had to go through that – seriously, that’s just awful.

          Sometimes people get hit with financially crippling circumstances and when that’s a factor in limiting employment opportunities…that just seems like the most horrific catch-22 ever.

          I love a good credit score as much as the next person, but in this economy where many people have been un or under employed for reasons beyond their control it’s ridiculous to take that one number as a snapshot of their character – without context.

          Personally, I think everyone who sees how unfair this is should write their congress person about this. Not just people like Joanna who have been personally affected. What happened to her could have happened to any of us.

    2. Anonymous*

      That’s awful, I’m so sorry to hear about that. I’m in a similar but different position–I never took on any debt and I therefore have no credit history. I’m a recession graduate, so once I graduated and decided to start building credit, I couldn’t get approved for anything! (Prior to the credit tightening due to the recession, this wouldn’t have been a problem; I just have really bad timing). I thought I was doing everything right by paying cash for everything, but apparently not!

      Alison, is there a way to write to a Congressional representative if we live in the “taxation without representation” district?

    3. Anonymous*

      I agree. I have quite a bit of debt. I joke that I owe all this money and I didn’t get anything out of it! There was no wild shopping sprees for me – just a partner who was out of work for several years. Car repairs, groceries – those things added up.

      Sometimes I think I wouldn’t mind the credit problems if I at least had a cool video game or maybe even a nice stereo. Or nicer furniture.. solid wood bookshelves… But you know, even if I did have all those things – how does that affect my ability to do my job?

  12. Tami*

    “you can’t get unemployment if you weren’t paying into the system through payroll taxes”

    Although each State is different, it is a commonly-held, false notion that employees pay into the unemployment system, and therefore should be entitled to unemployment benefits. In almost all States, the employer pays 100% of the unemployment taxes. There are a few states in which the employee contributes as well, such as PA, but this is rare. In almost all States this tax is 100% paid by employers. So, next time you hear someone say “I’ve paid into unemployment my whole life, so I am entitled to it,” that is untrue. There are a number of factors that contribute to whether someone is or is not entitled to unemployment benefits, none of which is dependent upon whether an individual “paid into” the system (except in PA).

    With that being said, depending on the state laws, the nanny may very well be entitled to unemployment if she can prove employment for that time period via check stubs, and if she worked the required number of weeks and earned the required amount of wages for that time period. I was involved in an unemployment case in which a woman worked for an attorney, and the attorney never paid taxes on any of her wages, including unemployment taxes. She was found to be entitled to benefits because she was able to prove employment, and the lawyer (aka employer) should have paid unemployment taxes on her wages. It was then up to the State to pursue the attorney for failure to pay unemployment taxes.

    However, since it appears as though the “employer” did not deduct payroll taxes from the nanny’s pay, bringing this to the government’s attention may be a double-edged sword. As I often say, “do you really want to tug on that thread?” While she definitely has options available to her, some of them may also bring unwanted attention to her own situation. She can threaten to bring attention to the illegality of what the employer did, but she risks also putting herself in legal jeopardy. It may be best to leave well enough alone.

Comments are closed.