tiny answer Tuesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s tiny answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Being required to take vacation days

A friend of mine asked me a question about companies that require employees to take mandatory vacation. His company is making everyone take five days of vacation. If someone doesn’t have five days in their vacation bucket, they have to take these days unpaid. I asked why and the response was that the company is trying to recapture lost profit. If they make employees take vacation, they can write down how much vacation time they need to account for, which flows through to profit. Have you heard of this approach before? Do you see any red flags?

Yeah, this isn’t unheard of. Some companies require a certain amount of vacation to be taken each year and even at particular times. For instance, some close for a week in the summer or between Christmas and New Year’s and require employees to use vacation time for that (or to take it unpaid if they don’t have the accrued time). And in some industries, it’s common to require a certain number of days to be taken consecutively — one week or two weeks at a time — in order to guard against fraud (so that another person steps in and takes over their work while they’re away, thus presenting an opportunity to spot fraudulent activities). And last, some employers do what your friend’s employer is doing: requiring the time off because they carry that vacation liability on their books until it’s taken (owed vacation time shows up on a company’s balance sheet as a debt or a loss).

2. Can I mail my resume instead of dealing with a frustrating online application system?

I’m in the process of applying for internships as an undergraduate student. However, many search engines for these internships/jobs are requiring me to sign up in order to send my information. When I transfer over my resume, it becomes mangled in what they try to substitute as a non-biased profile with your actual resume attached. I don’t feel comfortable with limiting and chopping up my resume to fit into the profiles. The mailing address is provided but no specific name. Is it acceptable to mail my cover letter and resume when the internship is linked through to a website?

No. If a company asks you to apply online and you ignore that direction and mail your materials in, you’ll look like you don’t follow directions. Plus, very few people mail applications these days, and most companies are no longer set up to easily process hard copy resumes. They want to receive them electronically, because it’s easier to get them into their electronic systems that way.

3. Job searching during a surrogate pregnancy

I am in the process of searching for a new position, though I am pregnant. There are some special circumstances involved, as I am a surrogate and this is not my child; hence, I will not be taking a maternity leave, just a few days for delivery. I have an interview coming up with a staff placement firm, I’m pretty far into my pregnancy where it is obvious. Do I bring it up and state my plan?

You’re certainly under no obligation to bring it up, and legally they can’t factor the pregnancy into their decision-making. But the reality is that people often do, and so it might be to your advantage to address the question of leave, which is surely going to be on their minds. You could say something like, “I’m sure it’s obvious that I’m pregnant, so I’d like to address my plans for leave. This is a surrogate pregnancy, and I’ll only be taking a few days off for delivery.” (You could leave out the surrogate part if you feel it will only invite personal questions, but not including it may invite skepticism about your plans for such a short leave.)

4. Can you be required to work when you’re sick?

Can my sister’s employer force her to work when she is ill? She doesn’t get sick often, but when she does, it hits her hard. The last time she was ill, she was constantly throwing up and could barely keep her eyes open or speak. She works at a day care center and her employer still made her come in despite her symptoms. So she was throwing up all day at work and they didn’t send her home. She stayed till her shift was over, and she got all the kids sick too. Any time my sister is ill, and tries to call in sick they make her work. But if other employees call in, they get the day off. I would like any advice you have to offer.

First, yes, they can require her to work even when she’s sick. This is really poor management — and has the potential to be horrible PR for the day care center if word gets out to their clients — but legally they can do it. (Unless she’s in one of the small number of U.S. jurisdictions that require paid sick leave.) However, it’s odd that they’re letting other people call in sick, just not her. If they’re singling her out because of her race, religion, or other protected class, that would be illegal.

5. Are diversity initiatives legal?

I work for an organization that has recently become very into its diversity initiative. For all open positions, these hiring mangers now want to hire diverse candidates to feel like they are contributing to the program. Is it legal for a hiring manager to respond to a batch of resumes and ask what the racial/ethnic background is of a specific candidate or candidates?

Federal law prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on a person’s race, including granting preferential treatment on account of race. It sounds like your organization has the wrong idea about what diversity initiatives are supposed to be about: They can make special efforts to build a diverse candidate pool, but they can’t take race into account in their actual hiring decisions, certainly not in the way it sounds like they’re doing.

6. Hiding your planned career shift from your employer

Do you have advice about being appropriate with your current employer while making yourself available for new opportunities, when it comes to making a career shift? For example, is it bad if your employer sees that you are publicly acknowledging that you are in grad school for an unrelated field of study? I hate the idea of being sneaky, but I also realize I work for a paranoid employer. Plus, I also feel that (within reason) I need to make sure I am doing what I need to do to get to a better place even if it makes my boss suspicious.

Yeah, if your boss sees that you’re in grad school for an unrelated field, she’s pretty likely to wonder if you’re planning on leaving when you’re done. That might be a big concern for her, or she might not care — it depends on the job and on the manager. (It also depends on your timing. Lots of managers won’t care that you’re leaving in two years, but many more will care that you’re leaving in six months.)

7. Resumes when you’re looking for part-time retail work

Do you have any suggestions for a resume and/or cover letter when I already have a full-time job and am looking for a part-time retail position to help pay down some debt a bit faster? I have some relevant experience, but it’s a little older, and I’m not sure how to represent my parallel full-time career path. Do I keep everything in separate sections? Only include my older relevant retail work and explain in my cover letter? Just do it chronologically with everything shuffled together? Help!

If you’re looking for retail work, they’re probably going to focus more on your application form than your resume, so I wouldn’t stress about the resume too much. Just use your typical resume and explain your situation on the application and in the interview.

{ 115 comments… read them below }

  1. jesicka309

    OP #1 – my office did a similar thing. I have accrued too much leave this financial year, and HR wanted me to decrease it by taking a holiday before July 1. However, I am studying, and need to take days for exams every 14 weeks, and have no plans for a holiday in the near future. My manager knows this, and is sympathetic – why would I want to waste my leave sitting at home, if I know I could be short in 8 months when I actually want a holiday, or have exams? He’s let me put in a request for June to take 9 days off my leave, but we both know that I probably won’t actually take those specific days. He’s only asked that I leave the request in the system (reducing the accrued leave) and when I actually do decide to use those days, to cancel the request and put in a new one. Obviously I have until June to do that, but between exams and a couple of long weekends I can definitely see myself reducing that number.
    Perhaps your friend could neogiate something like that? I know of a few people who save up their leave for big events (a few people saved for 2 years to get 5 weeks for their wedding/honeymoon, others took 6 weeks for Contiki tours of Europe etc.) and so would look like they’re a huge liability, when really, they have definite plans for the leave, the calendar is just too far ahead to book it in properly.

    1. pidgeonpenelope

      6. Thankfully, my boss is supportive of my long term goals. I’m a fraud analyst going to college for communications with the intent of going into marketing. She’s all for it and gets a kick out of sending her former analysts out into the other departments within the same corp.

  2. Anonymous

    I’d caution #3 about telling an employer she’d be taking “just a few days off for delivery” because you just never know what can happen.

    1. -X-

      We never know what may happen, with certainty, in many aspects of life.

      “I’m planning on taking just a few days off” is true and the most likely scenario.

      1. Anonymous

        That’s true.
        I have just lieterally never known a woman to give birth on a Friday and feel fit to return to work on a Monday (even without having to care for an infant). This isobviously and totally the OP’s call as it is a decision between her and her doctor, but I’d just caution her from telling a new employer it would be “just a few days” because it very well may not end up that way.

        1. Anonymous

          A few days off I assume would be 2-4 days, maybe 5, plus maybe a weekend. Different than birthing Friday and in to work on Monday and also different than real maternity leave.

          1. Evan the College Student

            +1 on “a few days” being different from a week. Being a guy and knowing absolutely nothing about childbirth, I assumed “a few days” would mean two or three. If it’s more like a week, you might want to say so for the benefit of other clueless males.

    2. Cathy

      I was also curious about the “few days off”. The two U.S. states with which I am familiar both allow 6 weeks short-term disability leave for recovery from childbirth or 8 weeks for recovery from a c-section. It doesn’t matter if you keep the baby or not, you’re still disabled and needing time to recover.

      1. Anonymous

        In my state you get disability pay for 6 weeks (and holy lord jesus if he is in heaven— if you get it before the kid has gone to preschool you are lucky. I filed for it but they canceled my claim several times due to lack of response from my doctor (at the time I was on state medical and went to a free clinic so there you go) so I eventually went back to work and gave up on my claim), but in some other states pregnancy and childbirth is not a disability.

      2. Julie

        Having had several babies already I would not consider childbirth recovery to be a disability, at least in my previous situations. I will be cautions about saying “just a few days”, but I definitely will not be taking 6 weeks, even if it ends in a c-section, and I feel I want them to know that. I appreciate everyone’s feedback!

        1. the gold digger

          I used to work for a health insurance company (that also sold long and short-term disability). The reason, if I remember, that childbirth recovery is considered disability is so the mother can get STD pay for that time, as opposed to perhaps no pay at all.

          Pregnancy used to be defined as “covered as any other illness” because at least in the 80s, when I was in the business, there were those who didn’t want to pay maternity expenses from health insurance because pregnancy is not a disease that needs to be cured.

      3. fposte

        Leave is one thing; pay is another. You’re entitled federally to twelve weeks off for leave if your employer is covered by FMLA and you’re eligible. That has nothing to do with your getting paid or getting short-term disability, though–it just guarantees that your job will be there when you come back (most employers will require that you use your sick and vacation days concurrently with FMLA for pay purposes). Short-term disability pay is essentially an insurance policy, offered by either the state in some states or by the employer, if you’re at an employer that has it. It’s not a federal requirement.

        Additionally, some states have a longer pregnancy leave requirement; the ever-notorious California has its own extensive separate leave category called Pregnancy Disability Leave, which applies only to the time you’re actually unable to work due to pregnancy (as opposed to the California family leave, which includes baby bonding time).

        Check your own state and your own employer to be sure what you’re eligible for.

        1. fposte

          Sorry, misleading statement there–PDL covers time you’re unable to work due to pregnancy *or childbirth*.

  3. PEBCAK

    #1) I’ve also seen this done at a company where managers were stingy about approving vacation, so then people never got to take more than a few days off at a time, etc. Finally, a policy came down from above saying that everyone had to take one week, but it could almost have been interpreted as “managers have to approve a full week”. Kinda backwards, but I tend to think a think a solid week off per year is not a bad idea for employee mental health.

    #5) This is a hot mess. I can’t stop laughing over the fact that someone would actually put that in an email.

  4. Anonymous

    On #5, are you sure you’re interpreting things correctly? Are you maybe speculating on management motives based on an email requesting racial and other info from job candidates?

    There are many jobs where the federal government requires that companies track the race , gender, disability, and similar info of every single serious applicant. It is normal to send the job applicant a form and ask them to fill it out, sometimes via email. Offering up the info is voluntary on the candidate’s part, but if you don’t answer the company will make a guess about everything anyway.

    I believe the relevant buzzwords are Equal Employment Opportunity, and it’s very common in the government contractor jobs that I’ve looked at. If you work closely with the U.S. Government, it’s very likely that this reporting requirement is why they’re asking.

    1. Xay

      I was wondering the same thing. I’ve worked in government and government contracting for a while and I haven’t had a job where I didn’t have to fill out an optional demographic form.

    2. Rana

      Those are common in academia, too. They’re generally anonymous and optional; the idea is to ensure that the candidate pool is adequately diverse, not to identify the minority status of individual candidates.

    3. Mints

      I also thought it may have been a situation where they’re attempting to have a broader pool of candidates, but then all the resumes come in with white american names, or all men, etc, and they’re checking to see if the pool is actually as broad as expected.

      1. Jamie

        The vast majority of African Americans I know have names that could just as easily belong to a Caucasian. And there are those of us (the Jamie, Kelly, Lee, and Chris’ of the world) who could be either gender. Which would be solved if I was allowed to use pink font on my cover letter to indicate my girliness but Alison said we shouldn’t do that (also, I believe, no icons of unicorns or cartoon kitties). j/k.

        But if they were trying to determine the demographics of the applicant pool it would be less weird to do it in the application itself, as I’ve seen that in tons of applications where it’s spelled out that the info is stored separate from the individual app but it’s being collected for this purpose.

        It would certainly be preferable to getting an email asking me if I was XY or XX.

        1. Mints

          Yeah I agree that it sounds like a bad way to collect the info, it was just the first thought that came to mind. What’s that saying about stupidity being most likely explanation?

          Anyway, I actually wanted to post that your girly covet letter idea made me laugh. And I WISH we could have little profile icons haha (mine would be either Thor, Turanga Leela, or Wonder Woman)

  5. Jamie

    #1 – shutdowns as Alison described are common in manufacturing. We have two weeks a year where we’re on shutdown (July and between Christmas-New Years) and people either use their accrued time or take it unpaid. I work along with a skeleton crew doing inventory/maintenance things you can’t do with users in the system.

    Doing it to cut costs isn’t unheard of, either, and the large accruals do create a liability – especially if the company has a policy of paying out unused vacation time if you leave. That’s why a lot of companies have a use it or lose it policy – use it by the end of the fiscal year or you’ve lost the time – nothing rolls over. Otherwise you could have people banking for years and the liabilities for the potential cash payouts can be staggering.

    #4 – were I a parent of one of those kids I’d have had some serious questions for tptb about why a sick employee was allowed to work. That’s ridiculous.

    1. Sharon

      Agree with both of your points. I once worked in a manufacturing company and they hired a new supervisor for my department in late November. He was not amused when told we shut down for two weeks in December, even when HR “generously” let him borrow from vacation time he hadn’t earned yet. So he started a new job effectively OWING the company vacation hours!

      And yes, I don’t have kids, but my first thought about #4 was that if I was a parent with a kid in that school, and found out about that, I’d be getting someone’s head on a platter. Kids are germ vectors as it is, you don’t need someone coming near them sick making it into an epidemic situation. Sheesh!

      1. Lynn

        I was in the same situation with my current job. Would I like a week unpaid, or would I like to start the new year with -5 vacation days? Normally they let people come in and work during that week, and I actually prefer to do some of that, but I was so new, I couldn’t do much unsupervised yet.

    2. Jubilance

      At my first job, we had shutdown between Christmas and New Years, yet it was considered holiday & not vacation. I loved it because I could be gone to see my family during the Christmas holiday & not take many vacation days.

      1. AG

        Yeah I have heard of this as well – it’s the standard for non-critical staff at the university where my friend works. Even though they have to pay employees during the winter vacation, they’re saving on overheard.

      2. Jennifer

        Yeah, my job does this. We get four holidays off (Xmas eve and day, NY eve and day) and the other 3-4 days in between have to be used as vacation time. It is nice to have that week off.

  6. Anonymous

    #3– Just an FYI, even if you don’t need maternity leave to care for the baby, if you have a vaginal birth you are disabled for 6 weeks, and if you have a C-section you are disabled for 8…. most doctors will NOT clear you to return to work before 6 weeks.

    1. Jamie

      I don’t think this is the case everywhere. Yes, a C-section is major surgery and there will be restrictions for that – but a vaginal birth?

      I seem to remember sex and vacuuming were restricted for the first 6 weeks – but I was cleared to do anything else as soon as I was up to it. I’ve known people back to training for 5Ks before 6 weeks was up.

      And when I had my 2nd and 3rd kids I was caring for my infants and toddlers immediately and that’s MUCH harder on your body physically than sitting in a chair typing for 8 hours – assuming the OP has a sedentary office job.

      I wouldn’t recommend heavy lifting in the early days after birth – but if it was uneventful I can’t see where she couldn’t go back to work as soon as sitting is comfortable.

      1. Anonymous

        We will not let people to return to work after birth until they are cleared to by a doctor, and we almost always see 6 weeks for a vaginal birth and 8 weeks for a C-section. I can’t see a doctor clearing someone to return “a few days after” if 6 weeks is the norm for medically clearing someone (6 weeks is also the norm for short term disability), even in a sedentary job I would think it would at least be 1-2 weeks after at minimum… just figured she might want to speak with her doctor to determine the minimum amount of time she might be out so she is accurate in what she tells prospective employers.

        And believe me, I know chasing children around is much harder on your body than office work, haha ;)

        1. Jamie

          Wow – that is really interesting. It’s been a while for me, but thinking back I think I would want a week or two just to deal with the after effects of fatigue, hormone fluctuations, and lord knows I wouldn’t want to be at work when my milk came in.

          Episiotomy? Yeah, a couple of weeks so you don’t have to take the donut to work. Nothing like carrying a inflatable inner tube with Donald Duck on it around with you.

          Yeah – I can see a week or two being more likely than a couple of days – but every woman is so different. It is a good idea to take into account the best and worst case scenarios for returning to work.

        2. Rana

          I wonder if the six weeks is not just about the woman’s body recovering from labor and delivery, but also about ensuring that breastfeeding (if she’s doing that) is established properly. Also, trying to recover while suffering from sleep deprivation due to an infant’s needs may also be an issue.

          Since the OP’s not going to be dealing with an infant, she may very well need less time.

      2. Henning Makholm

        Sex and vacuuming? As in operating a portable floor-cleaner? Is there a reason to restrict that in particular, rather than cleaning windows or washing clothes or stocking shelves or bicycling, or, you know, caring for an infant?

        1. Jamie

          Something about the way it uses abdominal muscles in a way most people don’t expect. I don’t know why it’s singled out – but for abdominal surgery and labor vacuuming was always specifically forbidden.

          1. Elizabeth West

            I have never ever heard that before. They didn’t tell me not to vacuum after I had a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, but then of course I wasn’t cut open. But they did mess around with my insides. Not fun.

        2. Your Mileage May Vary

          Because there is something about the pushing/pulling motion you do with a vacuum that really pulls at your insides.

        3. Nancypie

          I don’t recall being told not to vacuum after giving birth, but during one pregnancy I was put on pelvic rest, which included being told not to vacuum.

        4. Rana

          I wonder too if it’s also a subtle or old-fashioned way of suggesting that while the mother recovers, she shouldn’t be expected to fulfill her “duties” as a wife (sex and housework).

          1. Jamie

            In both cases damage and reinjury can occur if these kinds of activities are resumed before healing is complete. All women are different but 6 weeks is a benchmark when most women can safely resume and hence the 6 week check up.

            I doubt very much there is any ulterior motives for this advice.

            1. Rana

              No, what I meant was that it was a way of making clear to husbands (of a traditional bent) that their wives shouldn’t be expected to resume their usual “wifely duties” during that recovery period.

              1. Jamie

                Oh – apologies for the misunderstanding – I see what you’re saying.

                That would just make me sad that validation or back-up for this would ever be necessary for anyone.

    2. Anon2

      Just because its painful to have sex for 6-8 weeks doesn’t mean she can’t work? Most jobs don’t involve needing to use that area of the body.

      1. Anonymous

        What does pain after sex after to do with anything? Try bleeding profusely for 4-6 weeks, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th degree tears and stitches, severe hemmorhoids, just to name fairly common parts of recovery… And I am simply quoting doctor recommendations that I very frequently see when doctors complete paperwork for our employees, and as someone who has gone through this before.

        1. Anon2

          I’m sorry that you or your employees have had it rough. The poster should check with her doctor on their recommendations. After my pregnancy I was back at work in just one week, but everyone’s recovery is different.

    3. AnotherAlison

      It’s not like the OP has to present a note to the school nurse to return to playing field hockey. Someone looking for a job with a staffing placement agency is likely doing so because they need an income, and such a job may not offer paid disability or if they do, she may not be there long enough to be eligible before giving birth. The doctor may not clear her, but nothing is really stopping her from going back to work as soon as she feels able.

      (I do think it’s best to take time off to let your body recover, as I’ve had 2 kids & know it’s tough, but sometimes we need money to eat & pay bills, too.)

      1. FormerManager

        Agreed. Among my friends who’ve been pregnant it seemed like doctors could be more conservative than others. One might recommend staying off the whole six weeks while another might be okay with just a week or two.

        (Although, I think there was a case where a pregnant woman refused her doc’s recommended bedrest and he had her practically arrested. Scary.)

        1. Laura L

          “Although, I think there was a case where a pregnant woman refused her doc’s recommended bedrest and he had her practically arrested. Scary.”

          What?? Do you have a link for that? I’m curious about what exactly happened.

          1. FormerManager

            I’ll try and dig up a link–it was a few years back and there was quite a bit of news coverage. I think it happened in Florida…(where else, of course)

            1. kbeers0su

              you have got to be kidding me! as someone who literally just gave birth this horrifies me…and makes me so happy that i have no inclination to ever live in florida!

      2. Jamie

        It depends on the company policies. Many companies require a doctor’s note and clearance if you’ve been out 3 consecutive days.

        1. AnotherAlison

          I always thought a policy like that was more to make sure you aren’t taking vacation and calling in sick, although I agree if you have a manual labor job companies do require clearance from a doctor. My dad drives a semi and had to have clearance to drive after his hernia surgery, which would be similar to a C-section recovery (not really, I know. . .).

          1. Jamie

            I was curious so I asked our HR – because some of our positions are manual we require clearance after delivery. They don’t differentiate from the manual floor positions from office.

            This may be more of an issue in industries like manufacturing when often the policies are written to be all encompassing and there are more manual positions.

            The note can be due to not abusing sick time, but also due to liability so they know someone won’t re-injure in the course of their job.

      3. Judy

        I think she should have a talk with her doctor, because here someone called in to a conference call 2 weeks after a hernia operation, and before we know it, HR trained everyone on “people working without doctor’s clearance” and how it affects the companies liability. And both of my pregnancies, they didn’t schedule the followup appointment to get the clearance until 6 weeks, even though I was taking the 12 week FMLA. She needs to know what the doctor is willing for her to do, and if the company requires paperwork from the doctor. After I was cleared, and on unpaid FMLA leave, I did call in and even stop by to do some 5 minute tasks it was easier to handle than train someone, maybe a total of 8 hrs of the rest of the leave.

    4. Rachel in Minneapolis

      Wow this seems really odd. My doctor did not do any “clearing for work” or anything of that sort. The only things restricted for 6 weeks were lifting heavy objects and sex.

      I went back to work at 3 weeks with both of mine. I eased into it, with starting off part-time, wearing baby in sling to work and working at home some.

      Every mom and every birth are different, but for many people, I can easily see only being off a few days if you are a surrogate mother.

    5. Ask a Manager Post author

      Plenty of people return to work well before six weeks. While certainly there’s a range of experiences out there, I think we as strangers should avoid telling the OP what to expect or asserting that we know better than she does. (And she says she’s given birth before; she has some experience here.)

      1. AG

        I agree. The issue here is not how long it will take her to recover after giving birth, but whether or not she should disclose the nature of the pregnancy during the interview. I agree that she should casually mention it during the interview. It’s going to come up later, and it might cause some weirdness/awkwardness if not brought out in the open early. Also some people have moral/ethical/personal issues with surrogacy, so better to clear the air and have them get over that *before* the OP starts working.

        1. Judy

          I also think an issue is if the company requires doctor’s clearance to return to work, and if her doctor will give clearance earlier than 6 weeks. Some doctors will work with you, some won’t. Some companies require doctor’s clearance, some don’t.

  7. Coelura

    #6 – I’m also in grad school for a degree that is totally and completely unrelated to my current field. Since I leave early 2 days a week, its not possible to hide it. However, I’m not planning on leaving anytime soon. First – the program will take 7 years to complete (degree + license) and Second – I’ll probably volunteer first for awhile to build a clientele base before going full-time in the field. I’ve been open about it with my manager and addressed all her concerns. Its not a problem because its so far out.

  8. Your Mileage May Vary

    #4 — Is it possibly that, while valid illnesses, they always seem to fall on a Monday or Friday or right before or after a holiday? Of course people actually do get sick on those days but I can see a suspicious employer making an employee show up on one of those days when they wouldn’t necessarily if someone was calling in sick on a Tuesday. If her boss isn’t singling her out for a protected class reason, chances are boss is a jerk. Either way, your friend might want to put feelers out for a different job.

    1. Jamie

      That was my first thought as well – that perhaps she had a history of coming down with the “3 Day Weekend Flu” but that wouldn’t explain why they’d keep her there after she was vomiting and visibly sick.

      I don’t even work with kids and I don’t want anyone who is even thinking of vomiting within earshot of me – ever.

      1. Your Mileage May Vary

        Perhaps they didn’t believe she was vomiting. Anyone can go into the bathroom and run water to mask noises and then come out and say they had been sick.

        I’m not saying this is what the sister did. But if her employer routinely thinks she’s faking and is willing to put the clients (kids, in this case) at peril, then perhaps sister should move on as soon as possible.

      2. Heather

        Seriously! I was so annoyed the other day when one of the directors I work with told me that he had been puking all night and feeling queasy all day, but he was at work anyway. Thanks for coming in to spread that around, buddy.

        And putting aside my own personal vomit-phobia, if I were a parent and found out my kid’s daycare was forcing an employee to come to work with a stomach bug and my kid got it…hooooo boy. That would not end well for the daycare.

        1. Andrew

          If it’s any consolation, low-grade food poisoning is the cause of most illnesses that involve vomiting; no danger of person-to-person transmission exists. Of course, that brings up a whole different list 0f things to worry about…

    2. Jennifer

      Hah, most of the student employees at my job have somehow all come down sick today. Does make you wonder there.

      But in this case, if the sister is the ONLY one who isn’t allowed to call in sick? Someone at work hates her enough to make her come to work and vomit and infect the children? There is something desperately wrong and sister needs to get out ASAP if her boss hates her this much.

  9. Laura L

    #4 – Is there something else going on here? If the day care is even remotely good, it would never let sick employees be around the children. Especially if they are that sick.

    1. Vicki

      > She stayed till her shift was over, and she got all the kids sick too.

      Do the parents know about this?
      It does seem to say a lot about the reputation of the center.

  10. Jubilance

    1 – At my first company, they had a cap on how much vacation time you could accrue; once you hit the limit, you weren’t forced to take vacation time but you didn’t accrue any additional time until you took some so that you were below the cap. I liked that system but I’d be annoyed if my employer forced me to take vacation time. And if it was for financial reasons, I’d be worried abt the financial health of my company & whether or not I should stay.

    4- I wonder if the parents at this daycare center know that an employee is exposing their kids to an illness because the owners won’t allow them to take sick leave. I’m not a parent, but I’d be upset to know that a person was very ill & still taking care of my child, especially if my child was an infant or toddler without a strong immune system.

    5- I’m amazed that any company would try to institute a diversity program in this manner. Is this a small company without any HR dept? I can’t imagine HR or Legal counsel would ever sign off on that. And I’d be upset if I got a call from a company asking about my race or ethnic background. I want to be interviewed & get the job because I’m the best candidate, not because they are trying to fill some quota. It’s insulting to everyone involved.

    7-I had a full-time position & got a part-time retail job at a store in the mall. I didn’t submit a resume at all, just an application, and I noted on the application & in the interview that I had a full-time position & was just looking for something to supplement. That should be more than enough.

  11. Allison

    I know it’s legal to force someone to report to work, but it shouldn’t be. And it’s a symptom of poor management. I’ve definitely had jobs where, due to budget issues, they had minimal staff at all times, so if someone called out and didn’t get someone to cover for them, they’d be short one person which could be a problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if the day care had a similar issue, not having enough staff to cover for sick employees.

    1. Nichole

      Most daycares have a state mandated staff to child ratio, so this theory makes a lot of sense, especially if she works a shift that’s traditionally short staffed (which could explain why she has to come in but other employees don’t). If this has happened multiple times, their staffing is inadequate, and this needs to be addressed. I do NOT want someone who is vomiting touching my kid.

      1. Laura L

        I agree about the mandated staff to student ratio (I just came here to post that!).

        Yeah, they need to figure something out if this is an ongoing problem.

  12. Christine

    #6 – I went through this when I was completing my Masters degree (I did it over 4 years instead of the normal 2). I’d say I was pretty open about it, because I had to adjust my work schedule a few times to account for having to leave early for a class or reducing my hours to part-time when I was doing my first internship. When it came time to go through the advanced portion of the program, I decided that would be when I would resign from my job. I gave pretty generous notice, and my manager, coworkers and other colleagues were supportive and wished me well on my last day.

    The OP knows his/her employer better than I do and I don’t know how long they’ve been at their current job. If you’ve only been there a couple of months, that might raise an eyebrow. But if you’ve been there awhile, it might be worth considering at least meeting with your supervisor and letting him know what’s going on, particularly when new opportunities begin popping up or if you hit a point where you just cannot handle both work and school, such as I described above in my case.

    1. Miss Displaced

      Yes, I don’t understand why the OP feels she needs to be “sneaky,” although I do understand very well what it can be like working for a paranoid boss.

      My opinion is that what you do on your OWN time is not your employers business. If her grad school does not require leaving early or otherwise interfere with her current job, there should be no reason that this even becomes an issue.

    2. #6

      #6 I’m the one who submitted this question. My situation is that I have been at this company for 4 years (and before that was working for its former partner company for an additional 4 years). During this 8 years I have been promoted a few times and am currently in a senior management role. Granted, our company now has only 3 full-time staffmembers (myself and my boss included). It’s a company that is at the level of a start-up but is trying to act as if it is a much larger company. It is horribly mismanaged, etc. (company is in tons of debt, we can’t pay our bills, our salaries/hours/benefits have been on a rocky ride) and because the owners show such poor judgment, the company is still around, even though most people would have closed up shop by now. So, I don’t know how realistic it is that I would be layed off (which would be a relief in a lot of ways, although I am so lucky and grateful to have a steady salary and insurance).

      In any case, I have been in the grad program for 3 years now, and have had to leave about half an hour early twice a week every semester. They have always let me do this, but with raised eyebrows. I have maintained that I am just in grad school for fun, that I am a curious intellectual who likes to have her hand in a lot of different areas, but that I have no plans to go to a different job. Of course, this is not true, and I am sure nothing I can say will convince them that it is true. I am also careful not to make any big promises that I may not keep, while at the same time making it sound like I am committed to what I am doing at work right now.

      I am graduating in December, and am starting to realize that I am at a large disadvantage because I did not do any internships during the last 3 years. I have been working full-time, and it has been a struggle just to balance that with school. I have done as much volunteering and networking as I possibly can, but ultimately it is not the same as actual work experience in the field I am pursuing. I am now panicking!

      Besides being unhappy at my job, I am considering changing my situation for my last semester so I can do at least 1 internship. I am doubtful my current boss will allow me to go part-time, so I am working on a back-up plan where I try to get another part-time job and supplement the rest with student loans. Not ideal, but I would rather take out extra loans for 1 semester than have to worry about making up for lack of work experience after I graduate.

      Thoughts?

  13. Cathy

    #2 – if you’re an undergrad student applying for internships, just how much is on your resume to get chopped up?

    Do you have a graphic resume because your a designer? If so, you also need a straightforward resume that lists your experience and relevant coursework. You use that one when you’re importing into an online system and attach the graphic file separately. If you’re not a designer, you don’t need a graphic resume.

    If you have some other unusual formatting or grouping, get rid of that too, and stick with a standard layout. If your resume can’t easily fit in normal online application systems, then it’s almost certainly too time consuming and hard for the hiring managers to locate relevant information on the document as well.

    1. danr

      Your goal here is information, not design. So, have a plain text version for uploading to this systems. Use asterisks and hard spaces instead of the bullet formatting. If you can upload a separate resume have one ready as a PDF unless a specific format is requested.

  14. Anonymous

    I think the lack of information and the “few days” thing got everyone up in arms. Maybe you can add it as an update to the original question?

    1. -X-

      Didn’t get me up in arms. From what I know, many surrogates have given birth before so I assumed she knew what she was talking about better than a random person here would (including me).

  15. girlreading

    #3- I would mention that it is a surrogate pregnancy. If you only mention you’re going to take a few days leave, without further explanation, employers will be skeptical that you’ll change your mind later. And I agree you might want to take a week. I’ve never given birth, my sister did about a year ago and seemed ok, but I just can’t imagine going back to work in a few days. Plus, consider there are things you’ll be dealing with with your body-possibly stitches, bleeding, leaking breasts and pain from stopping the milk. Not to mention, it’s probably exhausting.

    #4- I would be pissed if my (imaginary) kid’s daycare was forcing employees to work sick. Most daycares have strict policies about sick children coming in because they don’t want to get other kids sick. Her employer is endangering children by making her come in when she’s sick like this. If she had the flu and spread that to a child, it could be deadly for them. She needs to find a way to let parents know because they will surely say something to management. Usually they’ll talk to parents at the end of the day, so she could mention “I don’t want to get too close to you, I’m really sick but my manager wouldn’t let me take the day off, so I’ve been trying not to get the kids sick.” If it were me, I’d insist teachers not come in sick.

    1. Your Mileage May Vary

      For #4, I think that’s not such a good idea. Would you complain to the clients about your boss’s behavior in any other job? I understand that when you throw kids into the mix, people start getting protective but how long do you think she’s going to have a job if she says that to a parent? She might as well just quit immediately.

      And it doesn’t sound like the employee has even sat down with the boss to ask what the deal is. Sure, if they are so short-staffed that someone can’t take a sick day when they need it, that may be a reason to make an anonymous phone call to the licensing board. But she may well lose her job after the boss gets wind of the investigation; it wouldn’t be hard to guess who made the call.

      1. sis

        At the day care there are two employees per class and there is a bathroom in each class. So there was a witness to see my sister run to the bathroom to puke, but the thing that sucked really bad was that another teacher went into the class to let my sisters co-worker leave for the day so she could pick-up her boyfriend at the airport. Insted of sending my SIS go home and making the other employee stay.

        1. Your Mileage May Vary

          Has she talked to her boss about why she has to come in when she’s so obviously unwell? I mean, at a time when she’s not actually puking, that is.

          1. A Bug!

            I could make an argument that it would in fact be preferable to talk to the boss while actually puking.

            1. Your Mileage May Vary

              I thought of that and it might get her sent home that particular time. But what about in the future, when it’s a migraine that isn’t quite to the puking stage? Or a sinus infection? She needs to bring this concern to her boss in a reasonable way and see if she can get it straightened out. At the very least, that conversation will give her some idea about how things will go in the future and if she wants to stay there.

  16. Kimberley

    #4 – I would be livid if this was my daycare. Kids at my day home must be kept home if they have had diarrhea, or vomit, or a fever in the previous 24 hours. As parents we come to expect a certain amount of illness that gets passed around at the sitter’s, but it should never come from the adults.

  17. A Bug!

    #4 – In addition to all the thoughts others have expressed, I am also wondering if perhaps the employer has a habit of pressuring all call-outs to come in, and the OP’s sister is just the only one it works on.

    When your supervisor or boss is a person who doesn’t care if you bring germs into work, then you have to rely more on your own discretion as to what is best for you. Assuming that the employee and the coworkers are more or less equal in terms of performance and the like, then if the coworkers aren’t getting repercussions for calling out, I’d tell the employee to just hold firm when she calls in. OP’s sister has a lot of good, strong arguments on her side (assuming that there’s nothing missing from the whole story).

    This is especially if the boss has a habit of exaggerating or making threats she doesn’t intend to follow through on.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      This is a really good point! Your sister could try holding firm, “I’m sorry, but I’m throwing up and cannot possibly get to work, and I’m sure I am contagious.”

    2. fposte

      The OP said that if the other employees call in, they get the day off. However, that would seem a surprising thing for another employee to know; it’s possible she’s not aware of the fact that some of her co-workers are in because they were told that they couldn’t call off.

      I think it’s complicated when we’re seeing a situation through what a sympathetic relative has been told. But if this is a licensed day care and the kids really did all get sick with vomiting after this, I’d call the public health department and get a new job.

      1. A Bug!

        I agree with the concerns for the kids, absolutely. It’s kind of gross that a daycare manager would even allow a visibly ill person to stay at work, let alone specifically request they come in.

        But here, it feels like reading a five-minute mystery with a page torn out.

        First, the OP’s sister may not know what the boss tells employees when they call in; she may not know how often her coworkers do come in even when sick; she may not know if or how her coworkers see consequences of their taking sick time when they do take it.

        So we’re already starting at an incomplete set of information. Run that through the filter of the sister telling the OP, and then again through the filter of the OP telling AAM, and the result is a whole lot of “ifs, ands, and buts.” On top of all the things the OP’s sister doesn’t know to begin with, we don’t know a whole lot more!

        So the sister needs to examine the situation. If she’s getting different treatment than her coworkers are, and not simply responding differently to the same treatment, then she needs to find out why she’s getting different treatment and then figure out how to address that.

        1. fposte

          Yeah, I’m with you on the scarcity of significant information and the problem of things coming through several filters. But ultimately, as you say, it’s up to the employee herself to deal with this, whether dealing means talking to the boss, shaping up a habit of excessive absenteeism, or looking for another position.

          1. Meg Murry

            Or going back to her boss once she was at work. “Look boss, I’m really sick, I’m throwing up – I can’t take care of the kids this way and I’m afraid I’ll get them sick. How soon can we get someone else in here to cover the rest of my shift so we maintain staffing minimums and the kids’ health and safety?”

    3. Not So NewReader

      Good points, A Bug. I have had bosses like this- I think the bosses spoke sternly because of having so many call outs. Unfortunately, when you feel at your worst is when you have to be able to put your foot down.
      (Am trying to picture- how does one drive a car while vomiting? “Gee, officer my boss said I had to show up for work.”)
      All I have been able to decipher is that the boss figured if the employee argued back then the employee must indeed be sick.
      One suggestion, maybe Sis can talk to one or two of her coworkers and ask if they are seeing the same thing from the boss.
      I have always figured that if I had to work while being that sick that the job was over for me, anyway, for any number of reasons. I could have an accident while driving, I could encounter a problem at work etc.

  18. AG

    OP #2 – just suck it up and fill out the online forms! Yes they are annoying, and fortunately a lot of companies are moving towards more simple online systems like Jobvite and Resumator, but they’re a fact of life for applicants so it’s better you get used to them now! Also they’re great training for the corporate HR BS that you’ll encounter for the rest of your working days!

  19. Anonymous

    #3. The time off is complicated enough, as the actual birth is likely to dictate how much timeoff you will need. But what about the toll the intra-office political and social gossip and backlash from disclosing that you’re a surrogate will have on you? I’ve seen far less intriguing office events stir unbelievable interest and rancor.

    Are you in the east, west, south, mid-west? Are your colleagues religious? You’re likely to feel compelled to disclose a lot more information than you’re aware. For instance, is it for a relative, a friend or a stranger? Are the intended ‘parents’ gay or straight? Are you being paid? Did you contribute the egg? How can you ‘give away your child’? Etc, etc.

    Or is this just me?

    1. Rana

      Those are valid points, but the OP says she’s done this before. I’m sure she has strategies for dealing with such nosiness, and has a sense of what to expect from people in her area.

    2. -X-

      #3 What I find most interesting in this whole discussion is the sort of “butting in” on the part of readers hear who don’t have much information. My wife recently had an “interesting” pregnancy, as did a couple we are friends with, and I’ve noticed how much people seem to be very free with “advice” toward pregnant women and women who have recently given birth.

      The OP asked for advice, so clearly has to be open to some of it. But there’s a heckuvalot of speculation on other things that we really don’t have much basis for.

      1. fposte

        To be fair, X, that’s pretty much SOP for all the questions here. But pregnancy and childbirth do tend to bring it out more in people generally, as you note.

        Anon, I’m sorry you had to work in such a horrible place; speaking as somebody in the Midwest, I can’t imagine my workplace reacting like that, so I think it’s more a question of localized dysfunction than regional tendencies.

  20. Jesicka309

    I just had a thought OP #4 – does your sister have a history of partying, showing up hungover, or bragging about how tired she is at work from partying?
    This could explain the apathetic response to your sisters illness. Even if *this* time she’s actually ill, if her employer even thinks for a second your sister is just hungover, they’re going to come down harder on them. I’ve seen it in casual jobs where there are a lot of young/casual/inexperienced workers. Any illness from a known party animal that involves vomiting is treated as “party girl is hungover again!” And they are expected to come to work and suck it up.
    Considering your sister seems to be the only one having the trouble, it could be that she suffers from a similar image problem.

    1. -X-

      Yes, there is more going on here than her illness. There is a clear lack of trust by her management. Whether that is justified or not, and what to do about it, are the key questions.

  21. KEM

    #1)- I am not sure if this was mentioned already, but in my state (and I know the neighboring state) you may collect unemployment during a forced vacation shutdown- after your vacation/sick time is used up. My state is one of the less “employee friendly” states out there so I cannot believe that this does not apply to a lot of other states

    1. Editor

      In my state you can collect unemployment for a shutdown or furlough, too, but there’s a one or two week waiting period. I don’t know if the waiting period is cumulative for the calendar year or not. There’s also a requirement that you apply for jobs each week you get unemployment; I don’t know if it is waived for furloughs.

      If the company is requiring people who don’t have vacation to take time off, they’re also temporarily reducing payroll, not just reducing accrued vacation liability on the balance sheet.

  22. Kimberly

    For Letter Writer 4 – Your sister is a mandated reporter – she needs to report her employer. By making your sister work, they are exposing the children to a person with a contagious illness that can be serious in young children. She should also call the health department because they are probably violating health laws also.

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