terse answer Thanksgiving — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

I hope you’re eating enormous amounts of mashed potatoes and stuffing today. Meanwhile, though, it’s terse answer Thanksgiving — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Explaining frequent doctor’s appointments

Recently I have been seeing a couple of doctors on a regular basis (two doctors, seeing each 2-3 times a month), which will continue for at least a few more months. I occasionally have to take a half-day off from work to go to an appointment (once or twice a month). I always work to schedule my appointments around what’s happening at work, so that I don’t miss anything. When I can, I squeeze one in on my lunch break or before work. My boss has been totally accommodating and hasn’t asked any questions thus far, but I feel like she’s starting to wonder why I, someone who appears to be (and is) healthy, am going to the doctor so much. Frankly, the appointments are for an issue that’s not life-threatening or serious, but they are for something personal that I don’t want to discuss with my boss.

If she does ask what’s up, do I just tell her that I’m fine, but I’d rather not discuss the reason for my frequent appointments? In our office, we’re not required to submit any sort of a doctor’s note or receipt to prove that we really had an appointment, but if I was asked to do so, the types of doctors I am seeing would reveal more information than I’d like to share at work.

If she asks what’s up, it’s fine to say, “It’s a medical issue that I’m hoping to have finished in the next few months.” You don’t need to provide further details than that. If she asks for more, simply say, “I’ll be fine, but it’s something I need to take care of.” (What’s most likely is that she’d simply be expressing concern, not that she’d be prying for details, although of course the pryers are out there too.)

Aside from that though, it might make sense to let her know roughly how long you expect the appointments to continue, simply so that she has that information and isn’t wondering if it’ll be happening forever. (Although she may not care, if you’re getting all your work done and she’s focused on results.) The next time you tell you’ll be out of the office for an appointment, why not add a note saying something like, “By the way, I expect these appointments to come to an end in February.”

2. Can I be sued for quitting without notice and taking clients with me?

I am a sales service rep. I don’t sell, but after 10 years I do have a client following. Because I am going to a competitor in the same exact business, I believe it was professionally right and ethical to resign without notice; I knowingly left my accrued vacation time on the table.

Can the company sue me for not giving notice? The company is concerned that some clients may follow me to my new employer that is their competitor. They asked me to reconsider; but I did not. Can they sue me if indeed some clients “follow” me to my new employer?

You resigned without notice because you thought it would be best for your company, but they disagree and want the notice?  Usually if a company doesn’t want you to work out a notice period because you’re going to a competitor, that’s a decision they make — not one you make for them against their will. The fact that you’re now worried they”ll sue you over something you ostensibly did for their benefit should be a signal to you that your thinking here is … off.

In any case, unless you have a contract that requires notice, they can’t sue you for leaving without notice. Similarly, unless you have an agreement about clients, they probably can’t sue you for that either, unless you were telling clients to come along with you while you were still employed there.

3. Letting a prospective out-of-town employer know that you’ll be in their area

Last week, I applied to a job in my hometown, but haven’t heard anything yet other than a standard “thanks for sending your resume” email (they are supposed to start reviewing applications today). I’ll be traveling there for the Thanksgiving holiday and can be flexible with a return schedule, as I’m driving and self-employed. Would it be too forward to reach out and let them know I’ll be in town and available for an interview? It’s an administrative position at a local community college, and they are notorious for moving slowly through the hiring process. However, the job posting states a preferred start date of Jan. 3, so it seems like they’ll be trying to make a decision between now and their Christmas break. It’s a great position and I’d love a chance to interview, just don’t want to seem too pushy.

It’s fine to let them know that you’ll be in the area during such-and-such dates and available to interview if they’re interested in meeting. Don’t be pushy about it, but do give them a heads-up.

4. Can I refuse work well outside my job description?

My advertised job description was for a webmaster (basically monitoring the companies websites and cataloguing inventory, etc.). I’ve been made to do sales calls and some light warehouse work for the company because they are short staffed. Which is fine during working hours because the job description specified that other duties may need to be performed. However, I have been asked to do overtime sales calls without pay (for days off in lieu of pay) . I just want to know whether I can refuse this on account of it not being in my job description?

While nearly every job includes work not specifically listed in the job description, what you’re being asked to do is so far outside what you were hired to do that it’s completely reasonable to raise it. However, a flat refusal generally doesn’t go over well. Instead, talk to your boss and express concern that the job you were hired for is significantly different than the job you’re doing, and say that while you’re glad to help out when it’s an emergency, you’re really not comfortable doing overtime sales calls (or whatever else you don’t want to do). If you’re told to suck it up and do it, then you know that this is now part of the job and you can decide whether you want to stick it out there under those terms or not.

5. Being asked to attend a week-long training before giving notice

My boyfriend’s (hopefully) new employer is asking him to take a week off his current job to go to a week-long orientation on the other side of the country. Then to come home, give his current employer his two-week notice, then start with them in two weeks. That just doesn’t sound right to me. Can they really ask him to start for a week, then wait to weeks to actually begin working? We can’t afford to miss two weeks of pay, and to top it all off… he works retail and during the holidays he is not allowed to take any time off.

Sure, they can ask him to do that, as long as they plan to pay him for the training week. However, it’s completely reasonable for him to reply that he’s not permitted to take time off during this time of year and so can’t attend the training until he’s actually started the new job. If they’re reasonable, they’ll understand that. If they don’t, that’s a big red flag.

6. Salary negotiations when you’ll have a long commute

I’m in the process of interviewing for my dream job. I love the company and culture, the position is a huge step up for me career-wise, and it would be a challenging and interesting position. The downside: it would take me two hours each way to commute via public transit. Four hours a day! I love my house too much to move and can’t afford a car based on the salary expectation I (stupidly) gave before doing the math.

If they offered me the job, I would take it. Not only would I love it, I was laid off this past summer and work in publishing—it’s not a pick-and-choose industry right now! Can you think of any ways that I could make the commute a bit easier for myself? Could I negotiate to work from home a few days a week? Could I renegotiate the salary I discussed with them, factoring in the costs of owning a car—or is it too late for that?

If they make you an offer, you can certainly say that you had mistakenly talked about salary without factoring in the costs of the commute and try to negotiate for a higher salary or some telecommuting. Keep in mind, though, that unless they really, really want you (and they might), they may feel that your commute isn’t their problem … but it’s entirely reasonable to ask, as long as you don’t imply otherwise.

7. Starting a career development blog

I’m about five years into my career and have had amazing mentors who have shared a lot of wisdom with me regarding career development and being successful in the corporate environment. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with varying levels of leadership, from executive down, which has given me a unique understanding of how organizations function. I’ve been thinking it might be helpful for others and rewarding for myself to start a blog to share some of this insight (and maybe stimulate discussion) with others early in their career.

The blog would be very approachable and positive. I don’t plan to write anything negative about coworkers or my company, but I would obviously prefer not to be fired over it. My question is this: as a blogger, what advice would you have for maintaining professionalism online?

It’s less about maintaining professionalism online, which I’m assuming you know how to do if you’ve been successful in your career so far, and more about making sure your employer is okay with what you’re doing. So start by talking to your manager and making sure you have her blessing. Some companies are perfectly fine with this type of thing and others aren’t, and you’re far better off finding out which you’re working for before you’ve started than after. (Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you’re asking though. If so, chime in in the comments and let me know what you’re looking for.)

One piece of unsolicited advice: Don’t pitch your blog as coming from someone with a “unique understanding of how organizations function.” Few people’s understanding of that is truly unique, and it’s especially unlikely five years into your career. (Hell, it’s unlikely 30 years into your career.) Recognizing that will make your blog stronger, not weaker.

{ 80 comments… read them below }

  1. Diane*

    #2 sounds fishy. OP, are you justifying your no-notice resignation after the fact, now that your previous employer is objecting? My impression is that sales professionals are usually quite aware of their contracts regarding notice, competitors, and clients, so my take is that either you really don’t understand the purpose of notice, or you willfully ignored convention. If I’m wrong, can you give us a little more background about your thinking and your contract?

  2. Diane*

    #2, also, even if you can’t be sued, or if your company won’t bother, you will probably get a crappy reference from them.

  3. Threeohfive*

    OP #4: “However, I have been asked to do overtime sales calls without pay (for days off in lieu of pay).”

    The larger issue is that your employer is legally required to pay you overtime and cannot substitute your wages with extra time off.

    1. fposte*

      Presuming the OP is non-exempt, but that’s what I was thinking too. (And it sounds like it isn’t even time and a half, which might be fudgeable in some circumstances, but straight time.)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That would come down to whether the OP is exempt or not. If they’re exempt, there’s no overtime issue.

      Also, if even the OP is non-exempt, they can substitute comp time in lieu of wages if it’s taken in the same work week (meaning the OP isn’t working more than 40 hours in a week, even if she’s working overtime in a particular day).

      So basically, there’s not enough information here to know if there’s an issue with that aspect. Maybe the OP can clarify.

      1. ARS*

        I would guess that people who are exempt would know there really isn’t “OT” in their position. And if the OP’s employer is attempting to substitute days off in lieu of pay, it sounds to me the OP is non-exempt, otherwise he’d just say calls need to be made to this group of people during this time, guess who gets to do it.

  4. Threeohfive*

    OP #2: The greater professional courtesy would have been to give your 2 weeks notice and left it up to your employer if they wanted you to vacate the position immediately. Most places that I have worked at with Sales departments have had employees leave the moment they resigned due to the sensitive information the employees had access to.

    I’d be surprised if your ex-employer did not have some form of non-compete clause in your offer letter / contract, but if they did not you are in the clear. Just don’t expect a good job reference from them. Best of luck!

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Although, apparently, many non-competes are not legally enforceable. Especially in California. Ahh, the things you learn from Donna Ballman. :)

  5. Tina*

    #2: It isn’t clear whether or not the company wanted him to work the notice period, but isn’t the larger issue that they want him to work overtime for no pay?

  6. Penguin*

    #1- if you feel a doctor’s note may alleviate your employer’s concern, ask your doc what they can do. When I had regular RE (fertility doc) appointments, I got doctors notes which stated the RE’s name and address, but not their specialty, and stated just “diagnostic work-up” or “abdominal complaints” or some such.

    1. Anonymous*

      To add to this point, when I had an embarrassing medical issue, I was able to get a note from my family physician. No mention of the specialty at all.

  7. Anonymous*

    I feel like I applied to OP4’s job. When I went to the interview the person I would be replacing started telling me how the job required me to do all sorts of mundane tasks like boxing up orders to ship to customers on top of the higher level web marketing. Like OP4, it wouldn’t have bothered me if those tasks were added to fill out a 40 hour week, but a minute later the woman I’d be replacing started telling me how she never could get her work done and was constantly coming in on weekends. There was no way in heck I was going to give up most of my weekends to try to catch up on my primary job because they were filling up my normal day with tasks they could get a low priced PTer to cover, so I removed myself from consideration.

  8. perrik*

    #4: +1000 to Threeohfive’s observation. The FLSA states that an employer must pay overtime to an eligible employee, and that neither the employer nor employee can waive that requirement (with the exception of public sector employees who can get comp time in lieu of OT pay). So you can refuse to do the overtime unpaid sales calls because golly, you would not want your employee to accidentally violate federal law.

    I’ll be generous and assume that your employer has simply forgotten that yes, employees whose job is *primarily* outside sales is exempt from overtime laws – but you’re a webmaster, not an outside sales rep. If you’re eligible for OT (and I don’t think web development falls within the computer professional exceptions for OT), they cannot require you to work unpaid time even if their regular sales people can.

    #6 – Ask if the company offers a public transportation subsidy, either as a benefit ($X per month towards transit fares) or a pre-tax deduction. That won’t make the 4-hour daily commute shorter, but would help you save money towards a car. In the meantime, audiobooks are your friend…

    1. The gold digger*

      a public transportation subsidy

      My company does this. I buy my monthly bus pass through them and I get it pre-tax.

      Not that I approve of that – I don’t think it’s the taxpayers’ responsibility to subsidize my travel to work – but if it’s there and legal, I’ll take it.

      I spend only 1.5 hours a day commuting, which still stinks, but I get to read the whole time without guilt (as in, I am not thinking, “I should be cleaning the bathroom!I should be making supper!”). So there are some advantages.

      When I took the train to work for another job (80 minutes each way), I took my computer with me and worked on the train. I didn’t get to work until after 9 a.m. and left at 4:45 p.m. because of the train schedule. My boss didn’t care how many hours I was in the office as long as I got my work done.

        1. danr*

          OP6.. do all of the math. I went from driving and a 1.5 to 2.5 hour commute one way (accidents are a big time-killer when you’re driving) to a mostly steady 2.5 hour commute on public transit. Figuring in tolls and gas for driving (the company had its own parking lots) and parking at the train station, monthly ticket, and subway/bus fares… I started out saving $5 a day by taking the train. When the tolls went up, then gas, the savings were even better. Transit fare hikes brought the numbers down a bit, but the $5 a day difference was pretty steady as a minimum savings. (and this was without the subsidy mentioned above)
          Plus, on a long commute, it’s nice to read or nap. You can’t do that when driving. Yes, it’s a long day, but as I used to joke with my colleagues… at the end of my commute in the evening, I was in the country. They could be on the subway and buses for an hour and a half to two hours and never get out of the city.

          1. OP6*

            Yeah, I’ve definitely been trying to weigh my options. If I were to buy a car, the drive is significantly shorter—30 minutes each way. Transit would cost me $3,000 a year and four hours a day. Thanks for your input!

            1. Vicki*

              First off, a _lot_ of companies have rebate deals for employees to use commute alternatives such as transit (because the federal or state government gives them tax incentives to do so) Ask!

              Second, there may be vanpools in your area.

              Third – is this bus to bus to train to bus? Or mostly one kind of transit for most of the trip? That can make a lot of difference for whether you can get any work done. And some forms of transit have WiFi. If the (train or whatever) doesn’t have WiFi, ask your manager if the company would be willing to cover all or part of the cost of a WiFi hotspot that can be plugged into a laptop. Then you cn make the case for being able to work during your commute. You may be able to cut your “in-office” hours by an hour or so if you can show you can get a lot of work done on the train.

              If you let us know which Urban area you’re in, some of us may have more specific suggestions (e.g. I’m in the SF Bay Area).

              1. OP6*

                Unfortunately, it’s a streetcar to train to bus to bus situation. And I live in Toronto, commuting to Mississauga (but I grew up in the bay area, holla!).

                1. Esra*

                  Oof, I used to do that commute. I was lucky though as I was within walking distance of the Mississauga bus stops in the west end.

                  I think most employers in the GTA would be open to questions about transit subsidies or if they have any carpooling currently going on in the office. Does your home have parking? You should take those costs into consideration too.

                2. Chinook*

                  Don’t forget that you get a a tax credit for monthly passes in Canada that work out to getting 1 month rebated back to your taxes. All you have to do is remember to keep your passes for the tax man. And I don’t if the TTC is up to it yet, but Gatineau QC even had electronic passes that allowed you to print out your annual receipt for taxes. It really is worth it.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s great if you have trains. It would suck if you have to drive. Although a lot of people like doing books on tape for long commutes like that, I would hate it. That would be a dealbreaker for me.

      2. Vicki*

        Why do you suggest it’s “the taxpayers” subsidizing for your commute? The pre-tax dollars mean you are getting a tax break. The subsidy comes from your company. The company is also getting tax incentives to keep employees from driving.

        1. Laura L*

          If anything, the taxpayers (that don’t get this benefit) are subsidizing you because you are paying less in taxes. :-)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve seen legitimately exempt webmaster jobs — I think there’s a good chance the position is exempt, although it would depend on details we don’t have.

      1. Anonymous*

        So how would that work if your job was exempt and they force you to do nonexempt tasks? Does adding the warehouse work to your job make you nonexempt? OP didn’t mention having to do warehouse work after hours, but a dirty company could do that — nonexempt people stay home, but allyou exempt people come in and do physical inventory SSaturday.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Lots of exempt jobs involve some tasks that would be non-exempt if they made up the whole job. Here’s more on this:

          “Employees who spend more than 50 percent of their time performing exempt work will generally satisfy the primary duty requirement under the FLSA. However, the regulations state expressly that nothing in the rules requires that exempt employees spend more than 50 percent of their time performing exempt work. Employees who do not spend more than 50 percent of their time performing exempt duties may nonetheless meet the primary duty requirement of an exemption if other factors support such a conclusion. For example, assistant managers in retail establishments who perform exempt executive work such as supervising and directing the work of other employees, ordering merchandise, managing the budget and authorizing payment of bills may have management as their primary duty even if they spend more than 50 percent of their time performing nonexempt work such as running the cash register.”

          One of the frustrating/confusing things about this topic is that there aren’t black and white rules; it’s not at all straightforward. Employers have to figure it out for each individual job, and they could easily be wrong (in either direction).

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            Although either the employer or employee can submit the job description to the IRS for ruling, and they will rule for you if you ask whether that particular job is legally exempt or not. Which I kinda like… there’s a level of flexibility, but still the ability for either party to get a black and white answer if they need it.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Do you have a link with more info on that? My understanding has always been you’re only likely to get a definitive ruling if there’s an actual investigation. Also, why would it be the IRS rather than the Dept of Labor?

        2. perrik*

          If the OP is salaried, AFAIK there’s no barrier to the employer giving comp time in this situation. Technically the employer wouldn’t have to give the OP any extra compensation for the sales calls if s/he is salaried (in which case giving a comp day is a positive thing). I don’t think the type of extra work matters, as long as the employee’s primary job duties remain firmly in the exempt category. If the OP is a salaried webmaster but spends months hauling boxes around the warehouse for most of the workday, then we’re getting into FLSA compliance issues.

          Hmm. If the OP is salaried, then the “against the law” reason for refusal dissipates and we’re back to the “this is far outside my agreed-upon responsibilities”.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Assuming you mean exempt rather than salaried, this is right. (You can be non-exempt but still salaried.)

            Either way, though, the biggest issue for the OP to address here is that he’s doing work way outside his job description.

  9. Katie*

    #2: You need to review your contract. If you signed a non-compete clause, and virtually everyone in sales does, then YES, you can be sued for violating your contract.

  10. Kristy*

    #7 – I’d be very careful as to what you say in your blog so that you don’t breach any sort of non-solicit and/or non-disclosure agreement you currently have with your employer.

    I have a blog related to my industry that I started a few months ago where I am unemployed, which also links to my linkedin and twitter. I’ve been on interviews where some employers like it, and like the fact that I’m doing something while unemployed, and I’ve had some potential employers tell me I’d need to take the blog down if i were to be hired. (which is no problem, the job is the main objective for me).

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I had a bit of a scary time with my own blog… I’d never mentioned by name any place that I’d worked, but I had referenced them. Then I wrote an article for a kinda small website that got picked up all over the place (Huffington Post being the biggest), and even through I hadn’t put it in the original drafts, they put the name of my employer right in the article, and didn’t tell me until it was out there! I had to re-read every article of my blog to ensure that references were neutral at worst… I knew I’d never bad-mouthed my employer, but I wanted to be familiar with the exact things I’d said, as it is now true that anyone who knows my real name can now easily know where I work. It was still worth it, and there wasn’t anything bad, but I was in a bit of a panic!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Mine is a generic blog that I have never now, nor intend to, use any identifying reference to an employer. I make no secret of the fact that I have it, and it’s not linked to my writer blog (that one is a bit irreverent at times, and does contain the odd cuss word). It’s on my LinkedIn page so people can see it if they like, and is linked to my name here. The posts are always very sanitary.

      I would not take it down if an employer asked me to. It has nothing to do with them. However, I would agree not to post about my actual work if they didn’t want me to (i.e. if I did something specific for them that wasn’t general office duties).

  11. littlemoose*

    OP #2, I think you should probably consult a lawyer, just to be on the safe side. Not only might you be violating a non-compete clause, as some of the other commenters mentioned, but there could also be a cause of action for something called “tortious interference” with a contract or business relationship. Sometimes having insider knowledge of a client list or terms of the client’s contract with the competitor, and acting on that information, could get you sued. The issue is very fact-dependent, and I don’t want to give legal advice online, except to say: see a lawyer.

  12. Chriama*

    For # 4 — I know it’s been talked about before, but I’m a little curious about the exempt/non exempt vs salaried/hourly distinction. The way I understand it, the government decides which positions are exempt or non-exempt, based on what duties the job entails. When it comes to salaried/hourly, companies decide this themselves. Does that mean that you can have a salaried non-exempt worker or an hourly exempt worker? If that’s the case, if an hourly worker is asked to work overtime, do they get their normal hourly rate instead of 1.5 times that? Or are you only allowed to have salaried non-exempt workers, but no hourly exempt workers?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You could indeed have a salaried non-exempt worker, but they’d still need to get overtime paid at time and a half, calculated based on whatever their normal hourly wage would work out to.

      You couldn’t have an hourly exempt worker, because exempt workers need to receive their regular pay for each pay period, with some limited exceptions. (You can still have them track their hours, though, for other purposes — tracking vacation time or whatever. You just can’t deduct from their check because they worked lower hours one week.)

      1. Chriama*

        Ok, this makes sense. So companies can choose whether their non-exempt workers are salaried or hourly, but all their exempt workers must be salaried? When/why would a company choose to make a non-exempt worker salaried instead of hourly?

          1. Chriama*

            Thanks for the clarification! I live in Canada and we don’t have the same kind of regulations. I’m working as an HR assistant at my school and even just within the university there are like 3 different standards of pay (of course, this is also Quebec and their standard work day is 6.75 hours because everyone gets an unpaid 1.25 hour lunch break, so yeah…)

            1. Marie*

              The work day hours and lunch hours are not because you are in Quebec, it’s your place of work’s rules…

            2. Esra*

              Quebec has similar standards to most other provinces/territories, 40~ hr work weeks with at least a half hour for unpaid lunch.

        1. Agile Phalanges*

          I’m replying late, but hopefully Chriama subscribed to the thread, because my employer has salaried non-exempt employees. What it really means, at its root, is that employees wages are quoted (in offer letters, increase letters, in the actual payroll system, etc.) in terms of yearly pay instead of hourly pay, and it doesn’t have to mean anything more than that. In our payroll system, you indicate whether the person is hourly or salary, and input the appropriate figure (hourly wage or annual salary, respectively) in the appropriate blank. The opposite space is greyed out so you can’t touch it, but calculates based on the value in the one you can control.

          At our company, non-exempt employees were also given the option to sign up for even pay across all paychecks. We are paid semi-monthly, which means some pay periods have 10 work days, and some have 12, but typically they have 11. Instead of sometimes getting your hourly pay times 80 hours, and sometimes times getting your hourly pay times 96 hours, if a person signs a form requesting it, they can get paid 86.67 hours of pay each pay period by default, adding on OT as appropriate, and subtracting PTO or holiday or whatever from that base as necessary as well.

          Exempt people have the same calculation on their paychecks of their hourly rate (calculated by the system from their annual wage, of course) times 86.67–they just don’t have to choose between even paychecks or variable paychecks, and also, of course, aren’t eligible for OT.

          So for us, anyway, you can’t necessarily tell from looking at the paystub whether someone is exempt or non-exempt, as either one may have an hourly rate x 86.67.

      2. Kathryn T.*

        Hm. If my husband was a W-2 contractor who received no holiday or sick pay, but his overtime was paid as straight time rather than time and a half, how does that fit in?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If they’re treating him as non-exempt (deducting from his check for sick days and holidays) but not paying overtime at time and a half, that’s illegal. He’s either non-exempt and needs to be paid overtime at that rate, or he’s exempt and can’t have (most) days off deducted from his check.

          1. Kathryn T.*

            huh. That’s. . . real interesting. Is pursuing something like that the sort of thing that could have negative career repercussions down the road? This was two years ago.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes — unfortunately filing action against an employer, no matter how warranted, can always spook off future prospective employers who learn about it and worry that you’ll be litigious with them.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              And doing it two years after the fact can add an extra layer to that, in that it’ll raise questions about why he waited so long and didn’t deal with it at the time.

              1. Kathryn T.*

                Dang. It’s probably not worth it then, particularly since it’s not a lot of money (<$1000). But still, how infuriating. He even questioned whether it was legal at the time and was told explicitly that it was.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      My understanding is also that an employer classifying you as exempt is a privilege they can take, but not like required, so a business could elect to just have everyone be hourly non-exempt, even if their job description is exempt, but you cannot do the reverse and classify non-exempt people as exempt.

      (I’ve been thinking about this stuff a lot lately, in terms of how I’d structure future business payroll. And cause I’m a nerd.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm. But you can’t pay your exempt people hourly (unless you want to pay them EXTRA hourly — but you can’t deduct on an hourly basis).

        Overtime pay = required for non-exempts, optional for exempts
        Deducting hours not worked from your pay = not allowed for exempts, allowed (but not required) for non-exempts

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          But you can just classify everyone as non-exempt, pay overtime, pay on an hourly basis and all that, even if their job description would typically be exempt. Right? My basis for thinking this is that the punishment for an employer for doing things like deducting improperly on an exempt employee is that that position becomes non-exempt and the employer has to start paying hourly, pay OT, etc.

          I could be wrong, but I was thinking it could be a lot easier to administer everyone as hourly non-exempt, even if you had people on staff that would be typically exempt, if you had a mix of exempt and non-exempt anyway.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Interesting. I’m actually not sure about if the law would be okay with that — it would be an interesting question for Donna Ballman! However, employers typically find it’s not in their best interest to pay everyone overtime if they don’t have to, so I think you’d need to be in an unusual situation to want to do that. (And that’s not just about avoiding non-mandatory overtime pay — it’s about the fact that you don’t necessarily want to tell your senior-level staff that they have to track all their hours and can’t work overtime without permission. A lot of senior level folks aren’t used to working that way and won’t like it; there’s an accompanying loss of autonomy.)

            1. fposte*

              Exempt employees sort of have to track hours at my university–it was some state ethics initiative, so it’s not for payroll, but I can assure you that it is not a boost to morale to have to send in timesheets *and* work exempt hours.

            2. Lily*

              Yes! Demotivate people who feel responsible for getting a task done so they become people who feel responsible for working from 9 to 5.

          2. Vicki*

            > it could be a lot easier to administer everyone as hourly non-exempt,

            Oh that would be lovely!
            However, the reason that computer programmers tend to be explicitly exempt (in California at least) regardless of how they are paid is because they tend to work weird hours and managers Do Not Want to pay them for the hours they actually work.

          3. fposte*

            That’s my impression too–that if a company is willing to do it this way the law doesn’t care. I don’t know how the partial-week thing is handled, though (and if we’re just talking theory since few workplaces would actually want to do it).

            1. fposte*

              Actually, now that I think about it, when we were doing furlough days we became non-exempt employees for the partial week , so that might be what happens.

  13. A Bug!*


    The answer to “Can I be sued?” is always “Yes, you can.” But I know what you meant was “If I were sued for this, would they have a case against me?” And the answer to that (as stated by others) is “Read your contract and see a lawyer who specializes in employment law.” And if you have a time machine, do these things before you signed on with your new employer.

    Everything in your question depends on where you are, what’s in your contract, and your specific circumstances. Spending $500 on a couple hours with a lawyer now could save you an awful lot of money later.

    Good luck, and I hope things work out for you! I’ve seen it go either way.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Oh my! Let’s get that cat some turkey PRONTO!
      Poor animal. (NOT!)

      My crew have similar looks on their faces…. You’d think they never ate.

  14. Sabrina*

    #1 – I generally feel like my medical issues aren’t my employer’s business, but I was in a similar position last fall. I did share with my manager what the issue was but mine wasn’t embarrassing or something I felt I needed to keep super private. I wanted her to know that I may have a lot of appointments coming up, and I would take PTO or flex out the time. She thanked me for the heads up, but still, I didn’t have to tell her since it wasn’t otherwise affecting my work. HOWEVER shortly after telling her this I developed a pinched nerve in my neck and that did affect my work. That ended up causing more pain, grief, and missed work than the original medical problem. That one I felt like I had to share with them because it was making it very difficult to do my job and I still have no idea how I managed to do it, given how much pain I was in at the time.

    1. Anon.*

      Had a pinched nerve last year and oh boy are those a pain in the you know what. Mine wasn’t causing pain, just lots of numbness. Not fun when you don’t know it’s a pinched nerve and you have to go to neurologists to rule things out. Hope you’re all healed!

      1. kristinyc*

        When I had a shoulder injury last year, and had to go to physical therapy twice a week (which meant leaving work 45 minutes early) for about 4 months, I explained it to my boss and it was fine.

        When I had a (mildly embarrassing) 2 AM ER visit that resulted in missing two days of work – I didn’t say what it was, but that it was something I’d recover from in a few days, and couldn’t come in, that was also fine. They didn’t ask what it was, and I appreciated that, because it wasn’t something I really wanted to talk about with my co-workers.

        I think as long as you’re clear about expected time off and make sure your work is getting done (either by you or someone who can cover for you), it shouldn’t matter.

  15. Steve G*

    Happy Thanksgiving! Was an awesome day.

    As per #7 – I would very much hesitate to start this blog for 3 reasons:
    1) Too many awesome blogs like this already exist – Evil HR lady, AAM, and Jeff Hayden at Inc-com come to mind. Jeff Hayden’s post are more broad, Harvard-Business-School-Magazine style articles that cover both specific situations and very broad themes and interrelationships. These 3 blogs alone cover such a breadth of material it is hard to imagine a glut of topics not being discussed that need to be addressed via a new blog.
    2) Alot of printed material are the same old ideas reworded. I was conversing for example with a kid who wanted to come across as very eloquent about helping out with the hurricane recovery. He got stuck trying to find grandiose words while trying to explain the “unity, utter sense of oneness” that came from being part of the relief effort. I had to cut him off and say “the joy of giving?” He looked disappointed that I had apparently deflated his grand idea by using a cliche. However, what he was describing was simply the joy of giving. He thought he had had a new feeling and a new experience and needed to discuss it (like many blogs do) but in fact was having a feeling millions of people have every day.
    3) Expertise in management and organizational theories is not easy to quantify. There are sooooo many bad HR and management blogs out there that regurgitate old information. I think that some areas such as management/organization theory blogs are an area where people think you can fake it ’til you’ve truly made it. But readers will see through any lack of expertise.

  16. Not So NewReader*

    OP #1– I have seen bosses become concerned about numerous doctors’ appointments simply on the human level, having nothing to do with the workplace at all. Alison’s advice about letting the boss know you are okay and giving a time frame should answer that question very well. And extra points for volunteering that info with out being asked.

    OP#2 I am confused. You are a sales service rep. But you do not sell. So you do service work after the sale? Perhaps you are a manager of sales people that sell a service? (This would explain why you do not sell.)
    I have a few friends who are service folks. I have never seen a problem with leaving a company and taking some customers with you…. because what happens is that the customer is more interested in the service than the product. The after-sale care is more important to them than anything else. Some companies will just stay with a service rep that they can depend on.

    However, I can see a company having an issue if you solicited their customers, on THEIR time, for the new employer– not cool. For example “Friday will be my last day with company X, I am going to company Y. I recommend that you switch your business to company Y, too.” Yikes.
    I have also seen service people go to work for company Y (new job) and on their first day write (from memory) long lists of customers that the previous company had. That list gets handed to the sales department. This is more of a grey area, to me. Personally, I would be uncomfortable, but I have never been asked anything like this.

    I could be missing something here, OP. Am not sure why the raised level of concern. Something in this job transition is bothering you.

    In answer to your question can you be sued- anyone can be sued at any time. We see odd lawsuits in the news regularly. The real question is “Will they win?” If you are doing service work AND you did not encourage companies to follow you to the next place- I see no need to worry about being sued. That is just business.

    1. Agile Phalanges*

      It seems like there’s no way #2 DIDN’T do something at least unethical here, if not actually against an agreement they might have with their employer. If they literally gave no notice, that means they walked into the boss’ office, said “I quit” and walked out of the building. If their clients know that OP2 left the company AND know where the person now works, he/she HAD to have informed the clients before informing the boss, which is bad enough, but unless they took their address book home and called them on evenings and weekends, they likely also did it on company time.

      If there was no written requirement to either give a specific notice period OR to not compete, then I suppose it’s merely unethical and OP2 isn’t likely to end up on the wrong side of a law suit judgement (doesn’t mean he or she won’t actually be SUED, though, as others have pointed out), but if there is an agreement specifying one or both of those things, OP2 is likely in for a world of hurt.

  17. Sara*

    #2–I assumed that it’s ethical and professional to give at least 2 weeks notice… or does that differ from each and every field/industry?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are some industries where it’s typical to have employees leave immediately when they resign because they’re in positions where they have access to sensitive information (but generally in these cases the employer pays out their notice period). However, in these cases, the employee generally offers notice and the employer declines it; it’s not for the employee to say “here, I’m giving you no notice to protect your trade secrets.”

      1. Agile Phalanges*

        I always wonder why employers bother asking the resigning person to leave right away–the person in question already knew they were leaving, so if they were going to steal company information or do anything else unethical, they could simply have done it prior to giving their notice. Why bother closing the barn door now?

        1. Jamie*

          One reason is that people usually keep their leaving quiet until they give notice. If someone is disgruntled once the cat is out of the bag the fear is that they will talk freely about their reasons for leaving and perhaps encourage others to go.

          It’s not a good reason – but it’s one I’ve heard given.

  18. Sara*

    Yeah, but in that case it’s the employer making the decision of letting them go before the end of their resignation period…

    I have never heard an employee say “it’s right and ethical to resign without notice.” so that’s why I wondered if it maybe differs from industry to industry.

  19. JEM*

    OP#1 – Depending on what the condition/ reason is for all these doctor appts, it may behoove you to apply for FMLA. It can be used intermittently and it will protect you from any disciplinary action due to absenteeism. From what you’ve described, you’ll qualify. I know your manager seems fine with it now, but it’s never a bad idea to protect yourself!

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