terse answer Thursday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s terse answer Thursday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. What will my company share with a reference-checker?

I currently work for a company and am on really good terms with them. I am looking for a new job and am wondering what my current HR person will have to divulge to the new company. I would like them to of course verify employment, speak to my character and that they receive good feedback from my superiors, but keep other things like salary, performance reviews, and other things like that confidential. If I ask for this to be kept confidential, they are not legally obligated to give the information to the new company, correct?

No, they’re not legally obligated to provide anything, although most will. But the info they give out will depend on whether the reference-checker calls HR or your manager. Generally, if a reference-checker calls HR, they’re not looking for a reference; they’re looking for employment verification: dates of employment, title, and whether you’re eligible for re-hire, as well as sometimes salary and whether you left in good standing. HR doesn’t typically speak about the details of your performance; that’s something that a reference-checker would call your manager for, since your manager is the one who could speak to that with nuance. (And no one typically shares actual performance evaluations, as in the formal documents, although a manager will generally speak about your performance.)

As for salary, you can certainly ask your current employer not to divulge your salary. However, if it’s their normal policy to share that information (and many employers do, irritatingly), they may then say to the reference-checker that you asked them not to share it — which may or may not cause you hassles with the new employer.

By the way, this may be a non-issue, since it’s very typical to ask that your current employer not be contacted at all, since telling them that you’re job-searching often doesn’t go well, and most reference-checkers understand that.

2. Bolding key phrases on your resume

In grant writing, my thesis adviser recommends bold or underline formatting for key phrases or sentences that should “jump out at reviewers.” His thinking is that you don’t want a key point to get lost in a block of text, so you should draw the reader’s eye toward it. I was wondering if this would be a useful thing to do to my resume as a way to draw the hiring manager’s attention to accomplishments that specifically match those in the job posting. Obviously, I would use it sparingly or that would defeat the purpose. Would this be helpful for a hiring manager in the approximately 20 seconds (on average) that they spend looking at a resume? Or would it come across as gimmick-y and unprofessional?

It depends on how you do it. I’ve seen resumes that do this really well; the stuff they highlight is impressive and exactly what I want my eye to land on. But I’ve also seen resumes that highlight things that just aren’t that impressive, which actually harms the applicant more than if they hadn’t used bolding at all, because it signals that they don’t know what is and isn’t impressive. So it can work, but you want to make sure you’re using it appropriately.

(That said, I hope you don’t have blocks of text on your resume at all, and that you have bullet points instead.)

3. Troublesome ex-employee keeps eating lunch with current employee

I recently had to let go of a troublesome employee. She was let go because she always late for work or would not show up at all and was not following up with our customers. Ultimately, she cost our company a considerable account. When she applied for unemployment, she also lodged an informal complaint with us about another employee who she had worked with, claiming that he would not tell her the deadlines of projects and was vague about was expected from her in her position. We have documentation showing that this was not the case. We also have a three strike policy, so she was given warnings before we ultimately let her go.

That was about 2 or 3 months ago. It has recently come to my attention that she has been meeting one of our current employees for lunch almost every day. While I certainly do not want to tell my current employee (who is a good worker) who she can or can’t have lunch with, I am concerned. I want to make it clear to my current employee that she can not disclose information about our business, but I am not sure how to have that conversation or if I even should have that conversation.

Leave it alone. You’ll do more harm than good by appearing to try to tell your employee who she can and can’t socialize with. And if the former employee has badmouthed your company, you’ll give credence to her stories by making this type of unreasonable request.

It’s pretty unlikely that your current employee is disclosing anything that will be used to harm you, and without specific evidence that that’s happening, you really need to just ignore it.

4. Standing out after a second interview

Yesterday I had a second interview for a position. It’s down to three people, and I’m one of them. I’m looking to find a way to stand out. I’ve already sent thank you e-mails, which the first time I followed up with handwritten thank-you cards. too. Can I send those again? Should I just wait it out?

Send follow-up emails if you haven’t already done so this round. Make sure they say something different than you said before (especially since last time you did emails and cards, which was a bit of overkill!). And make sure that they’re not just thank-yous; they should add something to your candidacy, not just a thanks.

But beyond that, at this point you need to just wait for them to make a decision. The time to stand out has already passed (you hopefully did that with your resume, cover letter, and interviews). Use this time to figure out how much you want the job and what salary you’ll ask for. Good luck.

5. Did I blow this phone interview?

I had a phone interview for a position I was really excited about this morning. I feel that I am exceptionally qualified for the position, and it is the kind of job I have been looking for for a good while. Unfortunately, I think I psyched myself out because I am so excited about the position. When I received the call to start the interview, I found that I started getting really short of breath! I had prepared well and had some great answers to her questions, but I couldn’t even breathe and I didn’t get to answer them well. This lasted for the first two or three minutes, and I found that I wasn’t able to get out the answers I wanted to. At one point, I even had to pause and tell her that I was sorry and a bit nervous.

Fortunately, after taking a deep breath I calmed down and was able to give the answers I had wanted to give. The last 20 minutes of the interview went well, and I was able to go back and fill my interviewer in on some of things I had skimmed over because of my nervousness. She asked if I had any questions for her, and I asked if she would hold it against me that I was nervous and stumbled out of the gate. She said that I finished strong, and she wouldn’t.

Do you think I blew this phone interview because of my slight panic attack and nervousness at the beginning?? The goal is to get an in person interview if I did well enough on this interview, and I just am afraid I blew my chance because I stumbled out of the gate.

Nervousness in interviews is pretty normal; I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Interviewers are used to nervous candidates, and you eventually recovered, which is good. But I hope you didn’t really ask if she’d hold it against you (as opposed to just saying that you hoped she wouldn’t); phrasing that as a question puts her on the spot in a way that isn’t really appropriate. (I hope I’m not adding to your nervousness by saying that!)

6. Email font when applying for jobs

What style, size, and font do you suggest when placing a cover letter in an email? Sans Serif? Georgia? Garamond? Tahoma? Normal? Large?

Use the default text that comes with the mail program; don’t mess with it. Plain old normal default text is what you want.

7. Being required to care for patients 32 hours straight

I am an RN case manager in Pennsylvania for a hospice agency who travels to our patients’ homes to provide care and symptom management. My company is a nonprofit organization. The people I work with are very caring.

However, as case managers, we are salaried employees. When I was hired, there was no mention that the case managers were to take be on-call for all the after-hours staff when they want a day off or if one leaves (and until they rehire and orient another nurse, which can take up to three months); when that happens, we work to cover that spot and still have to cover our shifts. What this means is if my normal shift is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., we will work this shift, then we continue to stay and work 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. At 8 a.m., we continue to stay and work our normal 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift before we are free to go home, which is a total of 32 hours. When our weekend nurse is off, we will work from 8 a.m. on Friday until 4 p.m. Monday evening — a total of 80 hours. According to the company, they can do this because we are just on call after 4 p.m. and may not be called out, but my experience over the last two years is that I only had one night that I was not called out.

I do not feel it is a safe to be operating a motor vehicle on the road when I am so tired that I am falling asleep while I am driving. I have had to call home on many occasions to ask my family to talk to me and make sure that I am answering them so I don’t have an accident and hurt other people while trying to get home. I feel that I can do a 24-hour shift and go home tired, but to continue to do my shift beyond that makes me too tired to make good decisions on behalf of my patients. I have also been scheduled meetings with families by the social workers on my days off. I have been to those meetings and been told that I would be given comp time, but something always comes up during that time and so I have yet to be awarded that time and have not gotten paid for the two hours of the meeting on my day off. How would you advise me to proceed and not risk my employment?

What the hell? That’s absolutely ridiculous, and I can’t imagine that your patients or their families would be comfortable knowing about it. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania doesn’t appear to have any law requiring time off in between shifts, so your employer can do this if they want to… Although perhaps there might be regulations within your industry that you could point to? It certainly seems like there should be, although “should” is no guarantee that there is.

If not, perhaps you and your coworkers could band together and speak to whoever sets this policy, making the case for changing it. Point out that you’re risking compromising patient care and that the fall-out will be terrible if something happens because of an over-tired nurse.

{ 81 comments… read them below }

  1. Erik*

    For #3 – I wouldn’t worry about it. If the OP is really that worried about their employee disclosing information without evidence to the contrary, then you have bigger problems. If they were disclosing, then that’s a different issue.

    There’s nothing wrong with hanging out with a previous employee. People do it all the time.

    1. Jamie*

      I agree that it happens all the time – but people should be aware that if the former employee was particularly disgruntled the continuing relationship when known can hurt one’s reputation with tptb.

      Not always, and if you value the relationship then it’s certainly within your rights to continue, but it can hurt you professionally to be seen as being aligned with someone that upper management actively distrusts. If that’s the case at the OP’s workplace it’s something that they should factor into their decisions.

      1. KellyK*

        Yep, I agree. If the OP had been the current employee asking, “Will it hurt my reputation to keep having lunch with someone who was fired?” we’d all be going, “Yes, quite possibly it would.” But the OP is the manager, and I’m not sure there’s a way for her to point that out to the current employee without giving the impression that *she* would hold it against the employee and that the recommendation is really more of an order.

        1. Jamie*

          I agree – I was just responding to Erik saying that it’s okay to do it and it happens all the time. Which yes it is, and yes they do, but for others reading who may not know there can definitely be ramifications to that they should factor in.

          But no, the OP as the manager, I wouldn’t say anything either.

        2. some1*

          It sounds like the LW already holds it against the employee, even though she knows that she shouldn’t.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think most managers would have their opinion impacted by it, at least a little bit. Not like “I hate this employee because of who she eats lunches with,” but you’re not going to totally trust someone who’s regularly lunching with a problem employee. You shouldn’t say anything to the person about it, but it’s pretty normal for it to impact the way you see them.

            1. some1*

              Oh, I agree. It’s only human, just pointed out how real the fact that socializing with a former co-worker can impact how current co-workers and managers see you. It happened to me.

      2. BCW*

        I think that points to a manager not being able to separate personal feelings from work. You can hate an ex employee all you want, but to have negative opinion of someone else because they choose to socialize with them is beyond ridiculous. There are plenty of people that I have hated working with, but thought they were good people. And people that are great co-workers, but I would NEVER hang out with. I think its a sign of maturity to be able to separate those things. Its a definite problem if the manager cant

        1. A.*

          But the issue isn’t that the ex-coworker was a good person but a bad worker — the issue is that the ex-coworker actively tried to screw over a colleague with completely baseless accusations and that’s a major part of what causes the distrust. It was an attempt to manipulate the unemployment system and to make the company look bad. I think it would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) not to have hard feelings about that, as well as suspicion about why the ex-coworker is still lunching with current coworkers…even if you know you can’t say or do anything about it because it’s not your jurisdiction.

          1. BCW*

            Well in reality you are only hearing one side of what happened. Not saying that the OP is lying. However, again I’ve been friends with people who had issues with the company they left. Doesn’t mean I can’t be friends with them. Nor does it mean I’m going to do my job any differently. Regardless though, it doesn’t make them a bad person. For all you know this ex employee has helped the current employee through some tough times. It would be ridiculous to expect current employee to ostracize them because the ex boss has an issue with them.

            1. Colette*

              But … it’s not an occasional lunch, it’s almost every day. If my best friend was let go from my company and was bitter enough to lie about a former colleague, I might have lunch with her on occasion, but it wouldn’t be that frequent. I’d see her on evenings/weekends otherwise, but the frequent lunches would legitimately cause questions about whether she’d moved on or whether I was buying into her view of the situation.

              I agree that there’s no benefit to talking to the employee, but I do think it’s legitimate to question the circumstances.

              1. BCW*

                But now you are making assumptions about when its ok to hang out with them? Its ok for dinner/drinks after work, but not on lunch? Come on. I think thats absurd to say that one would cause questions while the other wouldn’t.

                1. Colette*

                  What I’m saying is that my employer is far more likely to be aware of who I eat lunch with than they are about who I see on an average Tuesday night – logistically, I would probably be eating lunch around the office – and even if I believed I could keep my friendship separate from work, I would be concerned about the perception.

                2. Jamie*

                  I think there is a distinction between what you feel to be right – that people can hang out with former employees without ramifications (and there is an argument to be made for that) and what is which is that the perception can hurt you.

                  And Colette is right – what you do on your own time is far less likely to be brought to the attention of the employer than with whom you eat lunch.

                  Even if people don’t agree with the fact that it can hurt your career – it’s important that they know about the reality that in some instances it can.

  2. Kerry*

    #7 – what the living hell is going on with your place of work! That is terrible! I really want to know how this works out…I can’t imagine how anyone thinks 32-hour shifts are practical.

    1. Jamie*

      I second this. We had hospice care for my mom at one point and I’d have been beyond furious at this. Nothing about this s safe.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      While I agree that the 32 hour shifts sound ridiculous, I’m also a bit confused. It sounds like the 8-4 shifts are caring for patients, and then the rest is all on-call; which, granted, is a lot of on-call time, especially if you’re getting called every time, but that’s the other thing I’m confused about; she seems to say that they have to be on-site during the on-call time, but then they still get “called out.” What happens if OP leaves the site, and gets called in? Can they sleep during the 0n-call part, or do they really call in every person for every shift they are on-call for?

      1. KellyK*

        I was reading it as their “on-call” time frequently ends up being spent covering other people’s shifts. That is, instead of going home at 4 and being on-call, they’re staying and working 2 shifts, then covering their next regular shift.

      2. A Nurse*

        Working shifts and being on call (at home) between them is not uncommon. Being on-call all weekend and still working the Friday before and Monday after is standard in MANY fields of nursing. It seems like the issue here is the amount of time this nurse is called out. If the nurses are routinely spending their entire call time seeing patients, that needs to be addressed. Some teams decide to let the call nurses off work the Monday after their weekend call. Others do hire a ‘night shift’ to cover after hour patient calls if their volume is that high.

        I agree that frequent call rotations for salaried nurses is unfair. Salaried co-workers should not be routinely assigned to call and even if they need to pitch in with it when staffing is low, it shouldn’t be as frequent as OP has described. Hourly co-workers get compensated fairly for this responsibility.

        OP, I would suggest you ask your manager about a bonus or premium pay to compensate for the frequent call responsibilities.

  3. ConstructionHR*

    #7 Near as I have even been able to tell, no (few) states or the feds have specific regulations regarding work hours/time off between shifts/max weekly hours for most of the workforce. One exception would be those covered by the DOT/FAA.

    One thing that OSHA addresses is the General Duty Clause, which states (paraphrasing) “that employers must furnish employment and a place of work free from recognized hazards”. As described, the OP’s work hours certainly constitute a hazard.

    1. Anon1*

      Some other thoughts over and above this policy being bonkers and very risky.
      1) What do the ethical rules governing RNs say? I’d think dealing with a patient at hour 30 likely has some ethical/regulator issues.
      2) If you are regularly performing the duties of an after hour nurse, are you still an exempt employee?
      3) Does your agency want to deal with the aftershock of an auto (or other) accident when an employee is heading home after an 80 hour shift?

      1. girlreading*

        Agreed. So many things about this situation are dangerous and maddening. I would hate for you to be caring for my loved one at the end of a long shift like this and I’d also hate for you to be on the road near a loved one after your ridiculously long shift. And I could imagine your employer facing lawsuits if an accident did happen. It seems to me they would be just as liable as a bar who overserved someone and let them drive home.

        Not sure of the situation where you live, but here hospitals are desperate for experienced RN’s, so I’d think you would have other options with a better work environment and you’re company should be aware of that.

      1. fposte*

        Generally, or for nurses? Michigan doesn’t seem to have have any general requirements about breaks between shifts; I’m not finding anything for specific professions there, but that info tends to hide deeper.

  4. Henning Makholm*

    #6: Standard emails do not specify a particular font. Attempting to override that will at best have no effect (because the recipient has configures his email client to display all incoming mail in the same style) and at worst make the recipient’s email client display the mail in a different typographical style than the one he prefers and has set up his software to use by default. That’s a lose-lose proposition.

    1. JT*

      Most people in the non-tech world w/o low vision do not have their email clients set up to show a particular font other than the default, so it’s a stretch to call it a “lose” if the font is common, clean and legible.

      The problem with changing fonts is not the difference but that most people doing the picking are clueless about what works well on screen for most people. That’s the reason to stick with the default, not that recipients have a preference. Most don’t.

  5. JT*

    #2 – more important/effective than bolding is writing well, with less text so what remains is stronger, and probably without blocks of text. And “writing for emphasis” includes structuring phrases so the key words are right up front in each one. A good part of that is that if you still want to try some bolding, the bolding will be at the front of each phrase/bullet point rather than in different places in each one.

    The problem with the latter is that it makes the eye want to jump around – it’s not clear to the reader if they should start in the middle of a phrase which is bold, or at the start which is normal. And that’s not good.

  6. Nurse B*

    #7, I think I might have an inkling of which hospice you work for. The hospice I used to work for did the exact same thing to me and the other case manager, and they have a sister hospice in PA run by the same people. When I was hired I was told that there would be four nurses rotating as the on-call nurse, but the other two nurses (who mainly worked in the office) found ways to wheedle their way out of it. It was a miserable existence, as I was an exhausted, nervous wreck all the time. However, I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until my employment there ended. You haven’t said anything about how you feel about this company in general, like if there’s something you really love about it that keeps you around, but I would seriously consider looking for another job if things don’t change. Not only is what you’re being made to do a safety hazard, but your health is almost certainly suffering as well. How can you be expected to care for others if you aren’t allowed to take care of yourself?

    1. Sharon - OP*

      Come on, can’t this be reported to the state Dept of Labor or something? It drives me bonkers that things like this never get fixed until someone dies!

      1. KellyK*

        I agree with you. This is the sort of thing that’s a tragedy (or several) waiting to happen.

        Medical facilities in PA are inspected by the state department of health, aren’t they? That would be where I would look to see if there are rules against this. It doesn’t look like the department of labor does prohibit it, at least not explicitly.

      2. KellyK*

        Sharon, you wouldn’t happen to be in northwest PA by any chance, would you? (My mom is an RN currently looking for work, and she recently turned down what sounds like a very similar position. She’s getting discouraged about the job search, so I’d love to be able to tell her she dodged a huge bullet if it is in fact the same place.)

      3. Runon*

        This is part of the endless yes it is perfectly legal thing. Your employer is legally allowed to be as weird, unusual, or dangerous as they want for the most part.

        The place to report this if you really wanted to would be your local news. But you’d likely be figured out as the source and would want to have another job lined up.

        I am fairly sure there are regulations for how many hours doctors can work in some states but I don’t know that these apply to nurses as well.

      4. Anonymous*

        It may not be against the law, but perhaps an ambitious journalist would like to report that the health of hospice patients is at risk? Contact your local news outlet.

      5. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Does your state have an ombudsman for elder affairs? That might be the place to report it & then when the ombudsman starts poking around, you could let the media know without it being obvious you were the source.

        Also, most local TV & newspapers are sensitive to “this person could lose their job for talking”.

  7. Joey*

    #7 although I’m typically not an advocate of unions (because I think most employers are reasonable) this might be one of the few times it might be a good option to organize. That is of course if you’ve already made your company aware of your concerns and they aren’t doing anything about it. But Id be shocked if they claim they don’t already know employees are having to work 32 hours straight. That’s just not something that goes unnoticed. It’s ridiculous that its happening and even more ridiculous that they haven’t done anything about it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t want to derail either, but you asked so I’ll answer–

          While I think unions did crucial work in the last century, I think they’ve devolved into something more unhelpful than helpful today. I’ve seen too many environments where union presence means that both employers and employees aren’t able to act in reasonable ways, where merit isn’t rewarded (because everything is done by seniority and pay grade and people are judged collectively rather than individually), and where it’s onerous to get rid of problem or low-performing employees (resulting in high performing employees getting frustrated and leaving, because great employees don’t want to work with bad employees).

          I’m not a fan of any of that. And yes, I understand that there are worker protections that come along with it — but I don’t believe the additional protections offered by some unions are worth the price both sides pay.

          1. Runon*

            I think there are some environments where unions can still have the broader power and impact they once did to make the greater changes to the working world as we know it. Mostly in sort of blue collar types of jobs and to some extent in retail jobs.

            But I have run into only trouble with white collar unions and large union shops (auto industry etc). It seems like unions would be great if they came in, got everyone on the same page and then left. They would have to make rounds every decade or so, but instead they stick around and make it so success isn’t rewardable, performance can’t be measured, and crummy employees get to make everyone else’s life excruciatingly difficult at the office with impunity.

          2. Hannah*

            There are definitely pros and cons to unionization.

            Recently, WalMart was in the news because their full-time employees still qualified for food stamps. This situation seems like one that organization could help, by demanding fair wages and hours.

            On the other hand, all the workers at Hostess just lost their jobs and the company was forced out of business because the union refused to back down on their wage demands.

            You win some, you lose some.

            1. K*

              Yeah, unions have problems; my issue is that – for certain industries and types of jobs – I’m not sure there’s a better system. White collar workers (generally) have some market power; they can demand better treatment because they have options. That’s not always true for blue collar jobs. And I work with utility companies – I see the way that utilities (which generally have a monopoly, albeit a regulated one) strip as much money as they can out of the system so that they can pay out-of-state shareholders. The unions that represent those workers may be representing their own interests, but they are some of the louder voices for not shredding staffing and infrastructure and we should all feel better that they’re there, in that instance; their interests align with ours, as consumers.

              Conversely, I have a friend who’s a unionized lawyer for a federal agency, which I have to say, strikes me as completely ridiculous.

            2. Heather*

              Just jumping in to say that it’s a massive exaggeration to say that the union brought down Hostess. It was already in terrible shape thanks to incompetent management and private equity ownership. The union’s refusal to accept harsh concessions was the last straw, but it in no way caused the original financial mess. Also, it was the smaller union that wouldn’t accept concession – the Teamsters did and tried to get the other union to do it as well. See: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/11/whos-to-blame-for-the-hostess-bankruptcy-wall-street-unions-or-carbs/265357/

              Not to say that unions don’t have problems because they do, but it was bad management that set the stage for Hostess’ bankruptcy.

              1. -X-*

                Thank you Heather.

                There is so much anti-union bias in the big media and in urban legends that get passed around.

            3. Jessa*

              Vis Hostess, that’s a little disingenuous, they had taken a prior cut, and mismanagement and huge top of the company bonuses led them to refuse another cut, one that would put most of their low level people below a reasonable rate.

              There’s a point where you stop taking cuts because you can’t afford for your members to feed their families on what’s being offered. There was a potential deal on the table to take a pay cut but Hostess deliberately broke the contract by stopping funding of the pension plan. And that was a deal breaker, the union end of the deal insisted on Hostess maintaining their prior obligations. It was at that point pretty obvious to the union that there was no way that ship was not going to sink. You really can’t blame that one on the union. Even the financial experts were saying that Hostess had no viable plan to progress past the bankruptcy because of their crazy debt load.

              1. I wish I could say*

                Well, I still have your “…consider her some sort of odd creature…” quote w/a big picture of the Cheshire Cat hanging on my wall here @ work . . .

          3. Lora*

            In my experience, unions are useful depending on how useful and participating the members are. I was in one union that was very good indeed and managed to get a crazy cowboy employer to provide safety equipment when they had previously refused, who provided training for us that the employer couldn’t (wouldn’t), and who got a laundry list of unfair labor practices settled for people who could not possibly have afforded their own labor lawyer on $9/hour wages. I was in another (ironically one intended for grad students, who had a lot more resources than the $9/hour technicians) that got us great health care benefits but left other important issues unaddressed. When the employee members weren’t very involved and expected to just pay their dues but not assist in contract drafting, negotiations, stewarding and helping with disciplinary boards and whatnot, yeah, the members were NOT happy with the results–boilerplate contracts will leave out important details unique to your situation, negotiating can be scary and confrontational when you have to be all Bartleby The Scrivener on someone who can fire you tomorrow, stewarding means telling about 100 people/day to wear their safety glasses, disciplinary hearings bring out the misanthrope in everyone, and if it’s only a few people who jump in and do all that stuff, it’s easy for them to become more like managers than like your union buddies.

            On the other hand when the bargaining unit stays very involved in all that stuff and puts effort into it, it can be rewarding in the end. And it is a LOT of effort, organizing is a full time job for several people on top of their regular work–it’s not something to undertake trivially, in fact I would prefer to never deal with it again. It can be heartbreaking, career-wrecking, but also gratifying and give you faith in humanity.

        2. Joey*

          The problem with unions is that they are required to represent crappy workers too. And they almost always indirectly advocate for their own interest as well.

    1. Jamie*

      I was thinking that I rarely advocate additional legislation but in this case I think it’s in the interest of public safety to have some laws behind medical care.

      IMO legislation would be much more effective than unions without the pitfalls.

      And I would think the hospice’s insurance agency would want to impose their own regulations on this – I can’t imagine they’d be happy at this increase of potential risk.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Totally agree — both on not generally advocating additional workplace regulations, and on thinking legislation would be the way to go on this.

      2. UK HR Bod*

        We have working time regs in the UK (European regs). They limit the working week to 48 hours, with specific limits between shifts (11 hour rest breaks, or compensatory rest if called out), plus a minimum of 2 days off in 14 – which I know will seem like hideous over-regulation to those of you in the US. However, it’s useful in this sort of instance. You can opt-out of the 48 hour limit if you want, although there are additional regs for people who drive for a living. Oddly though, when this came in, the UK had a specific opt-out for junior doctors so they could continue doing 60/70 hour weeks – not the ones I’d have picked to be automatically exempt! That has stopped now.

  8. Anonymous*

    #7 – it’s my understanding this is not all that uncommon in healthcare/nursing. My SO is a home health aide and at one agency they would routinely have her go in for a 12-hour overnight shift (which she wasn’t allowed to sleep on), then say “So, the next person on shift isn’t coming in” and require her to work an extra 12 hours without a break (she couldn’t even leave to get food, which she needed, since she wasn’t planning on being there the extra time, and wasn’t allowed to eat the client’s if they offered).

    I would check out regulations. For example, in Texas, nurses cannot be penalized for refusing to work mandatory overtime if they feel it would put the patient’s safety in jeopardy (and if you haven’t slept in 32 hours, you’re certainly not in good shape to care for anyone else!). Massachusetts does the same (and stipulates nurses can’t be required to work more than 12 hours in 24 hours). I looked up for PA and found the “Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Health Care Act” which says:

    “On call time may not be utilized as a substitute for mandatory overtime or as a means of circumventing this law. Vacancies resulting from chronic short staffing do not constitute an unforeseeable emergent circumstance allowing the use of mandatory overtime.

    Employees may also agree to work any overtime. However, an employer may not retaliate against an employee who refuses to work overtime. An employee required to work more than 12 consecutive hours under the Act’s exceptions or who volunteer to work more than 12 consecutive hours may receive 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time immediately following the worked overtime. An employee may waive this off-duty time, however.”

    To me that sounds like you should truly express concern to your employer about this because they’re not doing this right.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I just looked up that law. It says, “Act 102 prohibits a health care facility from requiring employees to work more than agreed to, predetermined and regularly scheduled work shifts.” So far, so good, right? But then…

      “Employees covered under Act 102 are individuals involved in direct patient care or clinical care services who receive an hourly wage or who are classified as nonsupervisory employees for collective bargaining purposes.”

      Here’s the problem: She and her coworker are salaried, not hourly. OP, maybe you can look into whether you’re improperly classified or other ways for this law to apply to you.

      1. Anonymous*

        Ack, I missed that part. Still, this and similar regulations support that This Is Not a Thing They Want to be Doing. Hopefully she can contact someone and get advice for this situation.

      1. Jeff*

        I agree, it does sound she’s exempt. But there are regulations for exempt employees to have time off for recovery (airline pilots, for example). I would hope similar measures would exist in the healthcare industry.

        1. Jeff*

          1. Should have been “…it does sound like she’s exempt.”
          2. I didn’t mean for that to come out like all exempt employees have regulations mandating time off, but rather exempt employees in industries like aviation.

      2. DownSide Up*

        Well, as mentioned above, that might be worth investigating. I was reclassified in a previous position from exempt to non-exempt because my role didn’t satisfy the criteria for exempt and an HR consultant cottoned on. It actually was very problematic because I also wasn’t approved for overtime and in my role I was regularly working 50+ hours to meet the needs of all the hats I wore…but I digress, as is my wont.

        My point is, it’s not uncommon for people to be improperly classified–sometimes intentionally so and sometimes because HR doesn’t understand how to classify/there is no proper HR. It might be worth checking out along with going the legislative route.

  9. Mike C.*

    OP#7, contact the SEIU. Your employer is actively endangering your health, the health of those you care for and the health of those on the road, and they have a great deal of experience with special conditions folks like you work in.

  10. Beth*

    #5 I’ve always had great respect for a candidate who has said “Wow, I’m really nervous.” Because then I know I have to break the ice and speak generally of the culture of the company or ask non-threatening questions so the candidate will feel more comfortable. I realize that if the candidate is really nervous they won’t be giving their best answers. I also realize that making them relax can give me more insight. If they feel comfortable speaking to me they will disclose more than they might if they are otherwise feeling tense. This has been good for some candidates and bad for others (like the one who in the middle of the interview told me she left her 5 year old in the car).

  11. Kate*

    #7, I think I would express my concern to a manager or HR as a liability issue.God forbid you had an accident and it was determined that you had been working a high-stress job for 24 hours straight!
    Document everything and make your case-to the press if need be!

  12. Joe*

    In reference to #5, here is something you can do next time if you’re tongue-tied. I had an unexpected/unplanned phone screen yesterday that went fairly well. I couldn’t think of any questions when the interviewer asked at the end, so I just said “I’m unable to think of anything at this moment, is there a phone number I can reach you at?” He gave me his number, though now I ‘m wondering if I should bother contacting him…

  13. Allison*

    #7) I believe some states do have laws that limit shifts for medical staff, or at least for nurses, because it’s not safe for the patients to have sleep deprived people taking care of them. I recall working in the State House when there was a push to enact this sort of regulation in MA, and I even wrote a letter of testimony in favor of it. If your state doesn’t have this in place, I would look into pushing for it.

  14. Adam V*

    Regarding #1:

    > keep other things like salary… confidential

    Did anyone else read this and say “uh oh, did someone inflate their current salary to their new company”? Or was that just me?

    1. Runon*

      I don’t think that is necessarily the case. It could be that the person is trying to avoid that unrelated fact being disclosed. What you pay should be based on the work, not what they got paid before. It isn’t really relevant. (Or shouldn’t be.)

  15. Christina*

    #7: Patient Safety is #1 and your company should know this. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. Tell your manager about your concerns and document that you spoke to them. You could also try addressing it with your medical director/CNO if that would be more applicable. If there is no action taken, I would be raising my concerns to the State Board of Nursing with no hesitation.

  16. Ann O'Nemity*


    There are no federal laws against this, but state laws may limit shifts for medical staff or require a certain number of hours between shifts. You may also want to look at state laws regarding mandatory overtime. It’s worth a check, but I have a feeling that what your company is doing is legal. Unethical, immoral, unsafe, and unfair – but legal.

  17. ADE*


    Just make sure your followup thank-you e-mails aren’t obsequious, because that’s uncomfortable for me when I’m a member of a hiring committee. Remember that hiring is often a group input process but the individuals on the hiring side may have strongly differing opinions about the candidates. If I play a minor role on a hiring committee and receive a thank-you e-mail that assumes I play a major role, I immediately feel insulted… it’s as if the final selection of the candidate were in my power, and it’s not, so don’t ask for it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree with you re: obsequiousness, but why do you feel insulted when someone assumes you have a bigger role than you do? (I could see feeling insulted if they assumed you had a smaller role than you do, but bigger?)

  18. ThursdaysGeek*

    Re: #7 “I do not feel it is a safe to be operating a motor vehicle on the road when I am so tired that I am falling asleep while I am driving. I have had to call home on many occasions to ask my family to talk to me and make sure that I am answering them so I don’t have an accident and hurt other people while trying to get home.”

    So, the OP is using a cell phone while driving to make the driving safer?! Most of the comments above made very good points about how working that long is simply wrong, but this sounds like someone so tired that they are endangering others on the road, if not actually breaking the law.

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