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. Interviewer asked me to send him all my contacts

I just interviewed at a start-up where 3 people liked me and the CEO said he would like to give me a shot for 90 days and see where things go. I then interviewed with a sales director, on a different day. He had a different interviewing style — grilled me and asked me to send him ALL my contacts on Monday. He wasn’t even sure why they were interviewing me! (They were not ready to open that division.) I thought this was strange and emailed a friend who has been in healthcare sales for 20+ years. She thought it was strange.

Sunday night, I sent an email stating I was very interested, but those contacts were my clients and I didn’t feel comfortable handing them over without an offer (some were big time names, of big time hospitals). 30 minutes later, I got a “thank you but we are looking for someone with a different skill set” email.

I’m not sure if it’s the contacts they were really after or if I offended them? The email was not harsh. Is it appropriate and expected to hand this over? I worked on these for years and they span 15 states (where this company would eventually expand to).

No, no employer should expect you to hand over your contacts before you’re working there. This may or may not be the reason you didn’t get the job, but I doubt they put you through all those interviews just as a ploy to access your contacts. In any case, don’t second-guess your decision — you were in the right, and the interviewer who asked was in the wrong.

2. Is it too late to negotiate salary when I’ve already accepted the offer?

I accepted an offer for an insurance position and I lowballed my salary requirement in an effort not to price myself out of the position. They of course offered me the position at my requested amount. I had a sinking feeling I could have asked for more, but accepted the position. Now that I’ve been there a week, I know i deserve more! Is it too late to negotiate salary?

Yes. The time to negotiate salary is before you accepted the offer. At this point, you’ve already agreed to their offer and are working there. Imagine, after all, if they came back to you now and said they’d decided they want to pay you less than you earlier agreed to — you’d be rightfully irked. Same thing here. You made an agreement, and you’re expected to honor it, at least until you’ve been there long enough to credibly ask for a raise (which for most people is about a year). This is the problem with lowballing yourself in order “not to price yourself out of the position.” You commit to taking the salary you’ve asked for, lowball or not.

3. My new cubicle is right by the bathroom, and I can hear everything

Our department just moved to a newly remodeled floor with the restrooms located within the area. I sit outside the handicapped restroom, and the men are using it instead of going around to their larger restroom. Unfortunately, I can hear them urinating and other bodily functions. Then they leave the door open after they use the restroom. There is no exhaust fan in the bathroom to ventilate it and/or mask the sounds. It makes me sick to listen to this everyday, all day. What do I do about this situation? The cube I am in is probably only 5 ft from the bathroom door. What should I do? Wear noise-cancelling headphone and place air fresheners on the upper edge of my cube?

Explain the problem to your manager and ask if you can move. If you can’t, then yes, noise-canceling headphones are going to be your friends. (If you’re wondering whether you can ask people not to use that bathroom, no, you probably cannot. I mean, you could — but in most offices people are going to think it’s a bit of a prima donna request, unfortunately.)

4. I cried in a job interview

I had a job interview today and one of the questions asked was “Pick a stressful time in your life and explain how you coped with it.” I was doing great in the interview, until this. It reminded me of recent issues and I began to cry. I felt so dumb! The interviewer gave me a Kleenex and apologized for bringing up memories, and after a minute of crying, I picked myself up and answered the question. After that, I was fine and answered all remaining questions with no problems. When I apologized again, the interviewer said that she knows exactly how it feels and shouldn’t be embarrassed. Even though she told me that, do you think that I am not going to get the job because of this?

There’s no way to know. She might have genuinely not cared, or she might be worried that you’re more thin-skinned than would be ideal for their office. All you can really do is be patient and wait and see what happens — and remind yourself that people don’t get job offers for all kinds of reasons, you might have not gotten it even without the crying, and some mistakes are unavoidable, and don’t beat yourself up about it too much.

5. Can I reapply if I applied too early?

I’m trying to get an internship at the company of my dreams this summer, and after reading some of your blog archives I sent them a really personalized cover letter that was much more true to my own voice and passions than what I had been sending out before that. The thing is that I got a little overzealous, and I was so eager to get on their radar that I sent them my info in early January while they were probably looking for spring semester interns. They usually take applications for summer interns in March and April, and on somewhat of a rolling basis. They’re pretty low-key on the timeframe for this kind of stuff (when they announce they’re looking for new interns, they do it via tweet!). I assume my resume is lost somewhere in their email cyberspace now because I sent it at the wrong time and it wasn’t useful to them at that point. Maybe they set it aside for summer but I doubt it.

Should I send my information again when they ask for summer intern applicants? Or will that just look like an annoying repeat if by some chance they DO still have my info from January? There’s a new addition to my resume since then that might make them see me as a stronger candidate. If I do reapply should I acknowledge that I already applied earlier so they at least know I respect their time and am not trying to spam them into hiring me?

Yes, that’s basically a whole new hiring round, like a company advertising again for a regular, non-intern position. It’s fine to reapply when they announce their summer internships — and for that matter, it’s fine to reapply when they finally announce their spring internships too. For the latter, just include a note saying that you had applied in January but later realized they weren’t hiring for spring yet at that point.

6. Can you be treated as both exempt and non-exempt?

My husband is an attorney, and he’s been working a long-term temporary job. He has never been told if he is classified as exempt or non-exempt. His contract with his employer indicates that he is to be paid on a salaried basis of $X per year. However, his manager docks his pay if he is not in the office during the times the office is open. For example, on a day that he had to leave an hour before the office closed, he came in an hour early and skipped his lunch. She still docked him an hour’s pay, even though he’d worked two hours extra. Because of the nature of his work, she has also suggested that he come in on weekends to get things done. He does this. On average, he works 10+ hours a week outside of the hours his office is actually open. But not only does he not get paid any extra, his manager docks his pay if he needs to leave the office an hour early, or if he needs to come in a little late (between treacherous winter roads, a death in the family, and a major illness, he’s needed to be out a handful of hours in the past year).

I feel that his manager is trying to have it both ways — she expects him to work extra hours to get the job done, as if he’s exempt, but she docks his pay if he isn’t in the office during certain hours, as if he’s non-exempt. He’s put his heart and soul into this job, bringing work home, going in on the weekends, waking up insanely early to make it into the office before anyone else gets there, and staying later than anyone else. I feel like, if he’s non-exempt, his manager needs to manage his workload so he doesn’t need to work more than the hours he’s paid for, and if he’s exempt, she shouldn’t dock his pay when he needs a little flexibility in his schedule. Any thoughts on how to handle this?

You’re right that she’s trying to have it both ways, and the law doesn’t allow it. By docking his pay for hours he misses, she’s treating him as non-exempt, which means that they law requires her to meet the other requirements for non-exempt workers, meaning that he must be paid overtime in weeks where he works over 40 hours, and that she probably owes him back wages for the times when she didn’t do that.

Here’s advice on how he can raise this with her … although he’ll almost certainly sour the relationship if he demands back wages, legally entitled or not, so he might want to settle on just getting it straightened out going forward.

7. Employer won’t tell me much about the job they’ve hired me for

I got hired on the spot at a childcare center as a lead teacher. I told the manager that I’ve only been a assistant teacher, and most of my experience is assisting the teacher in the room! The manager said that’s okay, but that I will be by myself with 7-10 2-year-olds and I will be their lead teacher. She didn’t tell me what my job duties are exactly just I’ll be in the room by myself with the kids. She said that if I had questions, to speak up and call her. I did call her, and when she answered, she told me not to call her because she is too busy, but that she will let me know the job duties right before I enter the room. I feel I may have to quit because I’m not sure if I can handle it. Please help!

Um, yeah, that’s ridiculous. You’re not under any obligation to accept a job you don’t want or feel prepared for, or one where the hiring manager won’t answer questions or even tell you what your responsibilities will be. You can certainly tell her that you need to know more before you can accept the job. If you have any doubts, it’s probably better to do this now rather than waiting for your first day, since being left alone in charge of children when you’re not sure you’re equipped for it isn’t a good situation for you or the kids to be in.

{ 247 comments… read them below }

  1. OP*

    Interviewer asked me to send him all my contacts

    I forgot to mention, I found this CEO on LinkedIn and mentioned my connections. I just find it strange that I e-mail them at 11pm on Sunday and all of a sudden no job (if that’s not the reason that’s fine but they would have had my contacts 8 hours later- why not tell me Friday evening/Saturday not to send them in?)

    Any comments appreciated :)

    1. CoffeeLover*

      You shouldn’t worry about it because 1) you were absolutely in the right not to send in your contacts, and 2) there’s no way of knowing.

      Now, if we’re just talking possibilities and what my gut tells me… well, here are the scenarios my money’s on:
      1) They already knew they weren’t going to hire you, and you’re email prompted them to respond immediately
      2) They originally wanted to hire you, they then realized they wouldn’t actually need you and the sales director wanted to see if he could get some free contacts out of it

      Honestly, I think most people will say it’s 1, but I’m thinking 2. Mostly because he had the nerve to even ask you for the contacts. He sounds like a bit of a sleazeball and you should be happy you don’t have to work with him.

      This is me totally guessing though, since I didn’t see any of the interaction in person.


      1. CoffeeLover*

        Also, there was a disconnect between the CEO and the sales director. For a small start-up that’s pretty alarming. You’re having such a major disconnect and there’s how many people? That’s not good and again, you should be happy you didn’t get it.

    2. Lora*

      OK, I am not in sales, I’m an engineer, and it is still expected that I have contacts and that they are My Contacts as opposed to anyone else’s. I may use my contacts for professional purposes, and often do, but if my boss were to demand, tomorrow, that I hand over a list of contacts for him to use…NO. I do not do this even for nice bosses whom I am confident would be professional and polite. I may put them in touch with someone I’ve worked with out of the goodness of my heart, if the request is framed as, “we have been having trouble with Supplier X, do you happen to know anyone there we could talk to?” In which case I will give them one name and email address for Supplier X, assuming the asker has previously been nice to me and I’m confident s/he won’t be a jerk to my contact.

      If they would like to get a notion of what contacts you are bringing, can they not just find you on LinkedIn and peruse your 2nd and 3rd degree network? That won’t necessarily get them contact information they could use for sales purposes of their own, but it would give them a notion of what kind of clientele you could bring to the organization.

      How do ham-fisted dingbats like that get to be sales directors? What is he selling, used Yugos, Chevettes and Pintos? Crikeys.

      1. FiveNine*

        I’m a reporter, and it’s really iffy when someone even within my own organization asks for contact information for a good source! I recently emailed the email address of one contact to a new reporter, for example — but hesitated and decided against sending the personal cell phone number. Because it took literally years before the source gave me that personal cell phone number, and just handing it out on my own might get us one quote in one story but destroy the entire relationship and all and any scoops going forward.

    3. Josh S*

      That employer is stupid in about 27 different ways.

      First, your contact list is yours. No reputable employer should want you to give it up, at least not without a solid contract giving you set compensation for relinquishing ownership of it. That means your contacts should stay yours, even if you leave that company.

      Second, demanding your contact list prior to employment is offensive. Once you actually have a job that you’ve started (not just an offer or an accepted offer, but you’re actually there on day 1, working for them and making calls), you can share that list with them, typically with the understanding that those are ‘your’ clients. Not to be poached by the sales manager, the sales guy that’s been there for 27 years, or anyone else.

      Third, it’s not the list of clients that matters — it’s the relationships you’ve developed with them over days and months and years. That’s the valuable part – where YOU bring value. If they want to poach your contact list, they might as well go to Hoovers or Salesforce.com and buy a list to cold call. The only advantage is that they know your list is 100% legit contact info, and that they’d be calling the ‘right’ person to make the sale.

      Now, is it possible that they weren’t actually after your contact list, but wanted to verify that you had legit contacts at these places? Like, rather than saying, “I know Wakeen Smith, COO at XYZ Corp in VA, phone number 555-1234” they just wanted to know that you have a relationship with “XYZ Corp in VA”??

      Cuz that information I’d be somewhat willing to share — just export the contacts to Excel, strip out the name, phone number, and email, and send it along.

      But in the end I think you did the right thing — something triggered alarms in your head and you questioned instead of blindly going along with their request. That’s always reasonable. Always.

    4. Brant*

      You were right not to send the contacts. In a different situation (ie one where you felt like you were being considered, not one where they told you the department wouldn’t be opening), I might have suggested offering (verbally or just sending) a blinded contact list with just roles/companies: eg. CxO at United Health, SVP Client Services, Aetna, COO Pfizer.

      Then they get a sense for who you know without stealing your contact list. And you’re not giving up any names, just titles/orgs.

  2. girlreading*

    #1- that is so shady. I can’t imagine why they would reasonably expect you to share your contacts before, not only a job offer, but starting the job. You were in the right and if they passed you over for that reason, they don’t sound like they’d be a great employer anyway.

    #3- Be very honest with your manager, let her know it’s very distracting, awkward and unpleasant. Don’t try to make it sound nicer than what it is, say you can hear and smell co-workers farting and pooping in there. I would def. try to remedy this for an employee, that’s just gross and makes for an icky work environment! If that doesn’t work, find ways to let people know you can hear and smell what went on in there…. when you see someone walk out, say in a pleasant manner “Bob, can you be sure to close that door behind you?” and find a way to imply you always hear and smell the goings on in there. Maybe they’ll get the hint or feel awkward and use another bathroom. Or you could take the Curb Your Enthusiasm approach- when someone comes out of the bathroom, say “Wow Bob, you were in there for 8 minutes…that’s your 3rd time in there today… it sure was loud in there, how is your diet” and so on, lol. They won’t want to pass you and have to answer about their bathroom habits.

    1. Jennifer*

      ” If that doesn’t work, find ways to let people know you can hear and smell what went on in there…. when you see someone walk out, say in a pleasant manner “Bob, can you be sure to close that door behind you?” and find a way to imply you always hear and smell the goings on in there. Maybe they’ll get the hint or feel awkward and use another bathroom.”

      I totally disagree. While the situation stinks (no pun intended ) for the poor letter writer, it’s extremely inappropriate to make her coworkers feel awkward or ashamed about normal body functions being performed in an appropriate place. I guess it may solve the immediate problem, but at the risk of creating many more.

    2. Elizabeth*

      I really strongly disagree with the idea of monitoring coworkers’ bathroom habits and then shaming them for them. These are bodily functions; they may not always be pleasant but they also aren’t something people do on purpose to bother others. Embarrassing her coworkers would only make the OP sound like a middle schooler… or perhaps get a letter written to Alison titled, “my coworker makes inappropriate comments on my bathroom breaks”!

      1. Aussiegirl*

        Hang on, didn’t the OP say they are using the disabled toilet instead of the larger bathroom? Maybe these lazy workers should be a bit more considerate and use the regular loo, unless they are actually disabled. Otherwise, I think she should definitely try and move to a better location, regardless of headphones or spray! How anyone can be expected to work under those conditions is ridiculous, seriously. Let us know if you get a result, OP. good luck.

        1. BW*

          My guess is that people are using it for privacy because it sounds like it’s a single bathroom and not stalls. It doesn’t surprise me that there would be stink in a single bathroom. People go there specifically for the privacy they want when they need to do more than urinate. In some cases, these co-workers may be walking further to that bathroom. It does not follow that they are “lazy” because they are using a bathroom that is handicap accessible.

          A bathroom with a sign designating it is handicap accessible is not like a handicap space. Accessible signs on bathrooms are posted so that someone who needs those accommodations can know this is a bathroom that may accommodate them. It’s not that they are there for exclusive use for people with disabilities. They are also not generally placed closer to anything. Handicap access bathrooms are accessible due to size and positioning and use of special fixtures, not necessarily on location.

          A bathroom is what it is. People can’t be expected to not use it for its intended purpose. The issue not with people using it, it’s that the space is apparently not properly vented. That is something the OP can mention to the employer. I don’t know about the OPs location, but there are regs in my state that all bathrooms in homes and businesses must be properly vented. This is mostly to prevent the growth of mold and mildew, but it also has other important implications.

          1. BW*

            Missing word – I meant to say A bathroom with a sign designating it is handicap accessible is not like a handicap *parking* space.”

            1. Anonymous*

              While it’s not illegal to use a handicap stall if you are not handicapped, like it would be to use a parking spot, I disagree that these stalls are not for the exclusive use of people with disabilities.

              I once read an essay on this topic, written by a woman in a wheelchair. It was more about using the handicap stalls in public places, not work, but she pointed out that when she had to go, she often couldn’t wait in line or it could have negative medical consequences (related to not being able to relieve herself immediately).

              It’s tempting to think that there’s no one in your office in a wheelchair, so why not make use of that bathroom, but personally, I don’t think you should. It’s not a bathroom for #2, it’s a bathroom for people who need physical accommodations. If you don’t need the accommodations, don’t use it.

              1. Anonymous*

                “It’s not a bathroom for #2, it’s a bathroom for people who need physical accommodations. If you don’t need the accommodations, don’t use it.”

                I agree. Well said.

              2. KellyK*

                If another bathroom stall is available, people who don’t need the accessible bathroom or stall should use the non-accessible one.

                However, there’s a limit to that. If you sit right across from the accessible bathroom, I don’t think you’re obligated to walk across the building just in case someone might need the accessible one right at that moment. Likewise, if you walk into the bathroom and the only stall open is the accessible one, it’s generally expected that you’ll use it, not wait for the other or go find another bathroom.

                But then, I also think that if anyone has a medical issue with waiting in line for a restroom (whether it’s related to a disability or not), anyone reasonable will let them cut in line rather than make them wait.

                So, basically, I don’t think monopolizing the only accessible bathroom for #2 is appropriate, but I also don’t think it’s a reasonable expectation that an accessible bathroom will only ever be used by someone who needs the accommodation.

                1. K*

                  I think this is right. Especially if you work in an office where nobody who works there regularly needs the accessible bathroom and there’s not a steady stream of strangers coming through.

                2. Anonymous*

                  “If you sit right across from the accessible bathroom, I don’t think you’re obligated to walk across the building just in case someone might need the accessible one right at that moment.”

                  First, we ask people to park further away rather than use the most convenient spot every day in every parking lot in the US, just so these might be available for a hypothetical person who needed it. Why shouldn’t someone walk a little further to the bathroom to leave this one accessible. (Usually, all bathrooms are reasonably close to each other because that’s how they run the plumbing in a building, but obviously I don’t know the layout of this building.)

                  Second, as Anon at 8:52 said below, when someone needs the accessible one at that moment, they often need it at that moment.

                  I realize if you work in a small office, you might be able to figure out that none of your coworkers need this restroom for ADA reasons, but keep in mind you can’t always tell by looking at people. People with colostomy bags would need the accessibility AND prefer the privacy of this toilet.

                3. Anonymous*

                  “I don’t think you’re obligated to walk across the building just in case someone might need the accessible one right at that moment.”

                  Then again, you might end up holding up and causing a distress to a handicap person as it happened to my disabled co-worker. She would had loved to “walk” across the building to the other bathrooms, but you know, she is disabled and cannot use the regular bathroom stalls . So she was in pain waiting. Sorry, but our convenience doesn´t trumps somebody´s need. And that is precisely why we should walk across the building to the bathroom instead just using the handicap one because it is closer to our desk.

                  “But then, I also think that if anyone has a medical issue with waiting in line for a restroom (whether it’s related to a disability or not), anyone reasonable will let them cut in line rather than make them wait. ”

                  But then again, people who have this issue, such as my co-worker, might not be able to use bathroom other than the handicap one. So if that one is used, she is out of luck. Now , if it is used by another disabled person, then it is what it is. But if you wait because using it was just easier for someone… Anyways, I think people should be happy that their bodies “work” and just make those extra steps.

                4. -X-*

                  “Why shouldn’t someone walk a little further to the bathroom to leave this one accessible. ”

                  In the case of my organization, it’s because there is no one who needs the accessible bathroom the vast majority of the time. We put it in in case someone needs it. Most of the time, no one does. But considering we have a limited number of “regular” toilets, it makes sense to not stand around waiting for them to free up, while another toilet is idle.

                5. KellyK*

                  If someone needs a bathroom urgently, and someone else is monopolizing it, the person waiting should let them know and the person in there should, if physically possible, hurry. I’m not saying that it’s okay to treat a handicapped bathroom as your personal bathroom and go in with a book when your coffee kicks in.

                  The situation in my office is that there are exactly 2 bathroom stalls for women on my side of the building. If the non-accessible stall is occupied, leaving the accessible stall vacant requires going out past the receptionist to the other wing of the building and in past another receptionist, where there are two restrooms (both accessible single bathrooms).

                  So, should everyone in the old wing come over to this side to use the non-accessible bathrooms, so that the closest possible handicapped bathroom is accessible at all times to anyone who may need it?

                  There’s also the issue that “needs an accessible bathroom” and “isn’t able to wait for a bathroom” aren’t necessarily the same category (though they do overlap). If everyone who isn’t handicapped *is* supposed to use the one non-accessible bathroom, there’s every possibility that someone with IBS or bladder issues is going to have problems when the only stall they’re allowed to use is occupied, with a line.

                6. fposte*

                  You don’t have to be placard/accessibility-needing disabled to need a bathroom *at that moment,* either.

                7. Elizabeth West*

                  No, if there is another stall open, I will use that one. If the handicap stall is the only one and I have to go, tough.

                  Think about it: if two disabled people came into the bathroom and there was only ONE handicap stall, one of them would still have to wait. Disabled doesn’t mean entitled. If one was having an emergency, it would be up to them to negotiate that themselves.

                  Now if I and a disabled person came into the bathroom at the same time, or they came in after me but before I went into the stall, I would let them go first. Because that’s the only stall they can use. In that case, I would wait.

                  *Disclaimer–we use the one at the rink to change clothes; it’s in the public restroom, not the locker rooms. I researched these rules so that in the event this situation happened, I could do the polite thing. It’s informed by discussions on the old Etiquette Hell forum.

              3. -X-*

                “I disagree that these stalls are not for the exclusive use of people with disabilities.”


                It depends on the context and demand for the facilities. In some places, what you said might be true, but in others it’s silly.

                My organization currently has no one physically handicapped in it. We have a handicapped bathroom – put it in just in case we have a handicapped visitor who needs it. That is extremely rare so we all use it. It’s one of only three bathrooms in the space. The regular men’s room as one toilet and one urinal. The women’s has two or three toilets.

                It would be silly for us to not use the handicapped bathroom – the space would be idle hundreds of days a year. In fact, since we moved to this space a little more than a year ago, I’m not aware of a single person using it because they physically needed it, and I sit moderately close to it. It’s possible, but I haven’t seen it.

          2. Anonymous*

            “A bathroom is what it is. People can’t be expected to not use it for its intended purpose.”

            And a handicap bathroom´s main purpose is to be used by the handicap. One of my disabled co-workers almost soiled herself waiting for her turn in the handicap bathroom – at the moment occupied by the able bodied co-worker needing his privacy. She was in tears by the time he finished. See, the thing is, unlike him, she cannot use the regular bathroom stall at all. “

            1. fposte*

              That’s not considered to be their main purpose here. They’re handicapped *accessible*, just like the building is, but that doesn’t mean the building has priority for the handicapped. There are several accessible bathrooms, and at least one floor where that’s the only kind of bathroom; there are also various struggles people have that don’t rise to the level of needing accessibility (the ostomy bag is a good one). I think it’s more nuanced than just “always right!” or “always wrong!” here.

              1. Anonymous*

                Yes, but it’s not just an accessibility issue, it really is health issue. Sometimes it can really be life threatening to people with various handicaps not to be able to use the bathroom immediately. Having people who don’t need it (and some may for privacy or other issues) ALL the time means they could be impacting handicap people who really do need to use it. People don’t need to be shamed, but maybe reminded what it’s purpose if for?

                1. K*

                  I’m not disagreeing with you, but isn’t this the kind of thing that it makes sense to explicitly state to your employees? “We have an employee who for medical reasons needs to be able to access the handicapped bathroom; it should be considered off-limits to other employees.” Especially in a small office, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to leave that bathroom empty all the time if there isn’t actually anyone who needs to use it on a regular basis.

                2. fposte*

                  But even if it’s handicapped-only that doesn’t mean “no waiting,” because there are other handicapped people using the bathroom too. If instant bathroom access is genuinely life-threatening, mere existence of a handicapped-accessible bathroom is not sufficient accommodation.

                3. KellyK*

                  What fposte said. If someone has a health issue that means bathroom access is a life-threatening emergency (or even one that will “only” put them in the hospital) and also needs a handicapped-accessible bathroom, then they really need a bathroom for their exclusive use at work, not just a handicapped accessible one generally available.

                  For that matter, someone who *doesn’t* need a handicapped-accessible bathroom but *does* have a condition where bathroom access is a medical emergency might need exclusive access to a bathroom unless their workplace has plenty of bathrooms.

              2. Anonymous*

                “They’re handicapped *accessible*, just like the building is, but that doesn’t mean the building has priority for the handicapped.”

                No, but the “means” of accessibility” have the priority for the handicap. The difference is that I can walk up the ramp and the handicap person can go right behind me so I won´t be holding anyone. Than again, my legs are OK so I take the stairs. As I said, some handicap people cannot use a regular bathroom, they do need to use the handicap one. Sorry, I call that a priority use.

              3. Jamie*

                This. And in buildings like mine there isn’t a separate handicapped accessible bathroom (although there are handicapped stalls in the factory bathrooms) because the office bathrooms meet the requirements for accessibility. If we had an employee with a relevant handicap they would share the bathroom with everyone else. If that was an issue due to the disability it would be addressed.

                1. fposte*

                  Right. The accessible bathrooms are included in the number of required bathrooms for occupancy–they’re not additional special-purpose facilities.

            2. Forrest*

              The able bodied co-worker could have a disablity you don’t know about. Not every disablity is visuable.

              1. Anonymous*

                “If someone has a health issue that means bathroom access is a life-threatening emergency (or even one that will “only” put them in the hospital) and also needs a handicapped-accessible bathroom, then they really need a bathroom for their exclusive use at work, not just a handicapped accessible one generally available.”

                That´s actually an excellent point. In fact, all of you guys brought some stuff for me to think about. I admit I am bit inflexible about the whole handicap bathroom think – probably because of my co-worker´s incident – but some very reasonable arguments were presented.

                1. KellyK*

                  Thanks! I really sympathize with your coworker. It’s horrible that that happened, and I definitely see where it would color your opinion.

        2. Elizabeth*

          If the people using the bathroom don’t sit near it or otherwise hang out by it, they may have no idea that what they do in there can be heard by the OP. I don’t think it’s fair to characterize people who use a bathroom for its normal purpose as “lazy” or “inconsiderate.”

          1. Sandrine*

            What Elizabeth said.

            And also… I’m sorry but, while I am ready to park further away to go shopping for new shoes, just because one might be handicapped doesn’t mean I don’t need to pee as well. If I don’t have access to a nearby bathroom it might not have the same consequences as someone who is disabled, that’s for sure, but we’re talking bathrooms here.

            As long as one is considerate and does not “hog” a bathroom, number 2 or not, I don’t care: just make sure to look around and be quick.

            Unless one is very, very sick one does not need more than 5 minutes in there anyway… and if you *know* you are going to take a lot of time, just take precautions and yeah, use another bathroom.

            Regular bathroom usage, though… use the nearest one, be done with it and get back to work and everyone is happy!

            1. the gold digger*

              I was at a concert. It was about to start, and, as usual, there was a long line for the ladies’ room. No line for the men. (We will achieve full equality when everyone waits the same amount of time to pee.)

              Anyhow, there was a separate handicapped bathroom. I made a move toward it. A guard stopped me. Told me it was for handicapped only. I looked at the line and looked back at the guard. “There’s nobody here in a wheelchair,” I said.

              She shook her head. “Handicapped only.”

              “How about if we ask if there is anyone handicapped in line?” I suggested. “If there is, she can go first. And then I’ll go after her.”

              The guard refused. It was 7:58 p.m. Tom Jones was taking the stage in two minutes. There were 20 women in line for five stalls.

              And she would not let anyone use that bathroom.

              1. Jessa*

                It’s stupid to make the handicapped wait on line and not have a separate line for the hc bathroom.

                If someone at the end of the line has no idea there is a separate bathroom for them, what’s the use of having it? They’re still waiting more than they should for the regular line. Probably thinking that there is a stall in the main bathroom instead of a separate one.

                It’s a bad policy all around. Although I do admit that not letting the able bodied us it in a public venue where there ARE likely to be significant amounts of handicapped people (visible or not) that need it, is a good idea.

                Not leaving enough time before the show does not equal “needs handrails, or more space or has a disorder that makes them physically unable to wait for the facilities.”

                If there are not enough facilities that’s a separate issue to the one about handicapped access. But the answer to not enough loos is not in that case to use the one you don’t need to use. It’s to take up with management or zoning or the appropriate authority that there is not enough space.

                The guard however was an idiot. First in the US at least you can’t actually ask if someone is disabled or what the disability is. You CAN say there’s a separate line, but if people lie you can’t move them OUT of it because you THINK they’re not disabled.

                If the OP had been dishonest and said, “I need it. “The guard could NOT have barred them. A visible disability is not a requirement.

              2. Anonymous*

                Many weekend mornings I’m at sporting events in a local park. Usually there’s a big line for the men’s room and no line for the women’s room. So at that event, men wait longer.

                1. Sandrine*

                  Well, on occasion, I actually HAVE gone to the men’s room!

                  I just make sure there are no men using the “let’s compare equipment size” part :P … but darn, if I need to go I won’t hesitate. I mean a toilet is a toilet after all.

      2. BW*

        Plus, they are occurring in a bathroom – which is where they should be occurring, and folks generally have no control over how things come out the other end. It’s not like the co-worker who was intentionally trying to fart his office mate out the door.

        1. Angela*

          Maybe the OP can ask her manager for one of those white noise machines and turn it on each morning when she arrives at the office. That would probably take care of the sound issues. For the smell, her best option is probably a good air freshener or two.

          1. Cruella DaBoss*

            The OP should ask that an airfreshener be placed in that bathroom, not in her cubicle space.

            1. Jamie*

              A loud fan. What on earth is the purpose of a silent ceiling fan in a public bathroom? Sorry, pet peeve.

            2. Natalie*

              If venting is an option, it is definitely the preferable option. It works worlds better than any sort of masking odor.

            3. AnonEngineer*

              There are different types of doors as well; most interior doors are “hollow-core” (they have an airspace between the outer veneers that can amplify sound). If this is the case, replacing the door with a “solid-core” door (just what it sounds like) could cut down on sounds.

              Not sure where the OP is, but building code should require an exhaust fan in a bathroom. If it’s not doing it’s job – a bigger fan may be required. If it’s not being turned on, there are automatic switches that can tell a fan “run whenever the lights are on + 5 minutes afterwards.”

      3. Jamie*

        ITA with Elizabeth – monitoring or commenting on what happens in the bathroom is worse than the original problem because it’s deliberately rude.

        I would definitely take it either to the manager or facilities people directly – because this is definitively a facilities problem. They need to do something about the soundproofing and ventilation (really loud ceiling fan – two birds/one stone) and not just for the OP but for the privacy of everyone using that bathroom.

        People have a reasonable expectation of privacy when using the bathroom and part of that is specific sounds shouldn’t be heard outside the room through a shut door.

        So yep – the manager should move the OP to a less toilety area AND maintenance should address the problem so it can be a properly private bathroom.

    3. I wish I could say*

      Just chiming in that when I started at an office job that I had a few years back, my space was right next to restrooms, 2 stalls each for men/women. I was told on my first day that NOT to use those bathrooms, as out of out respect for my proximity to them, NO ONE was allowed to use them. (Three story building w/restrooms on each floor.) I was there 6 months and never saw anyone use them. Thankfully.

  3. CoffeeLover*

    #7 Alison’s saying you’re under no obligation to accept the job, but I think you already have. 20/20 hindsight you shouldn’t accept a job when you don’t know what it is, but I know how it feels in the moment. Anyways, I don’t think that really makes a difference for the situation.

    I agree that it’s ridiculous your manager won’t give you details of the job. There’s no way she’s too busy to take 5 minutes to at least tell you the major things. Maybe she thinks you’re looking for a more in depth step-by-step and large question period, which would make more sense to do in-person.

    I’d call her again and say, “I know you said you’re busy, but I need to know more about this position before I can confidently accept. We can save the nitty-gritty details for my first day, but can you take a few minutes now to give me a general overview of my duties? I don’t want to show up for the first day only to find out there are some major concerns.”

    1. CoffeeLover*

      I’d also like to add that if she still says she’s busy (which to be fair, dealing with children it’s completely possible), then just reply with, “I totally understand. When do you think you’ll have a moment to talk today?” Try to get a time out of her so you know when you should follow up again.

      It might seem like you’re being a little annoying, but really it’s your right to know and it’s way better than showing up and not being able to handle the situation. Mostly, it’s better for your piece of mind. Starting a new job is hard enough when you know what you’ll be doing.

    2. Ashley*

      I would also add that the teacher-to-student ratio seems sketchy here. I know that is not your question, but in my state there is a limit of 6 children of that age for each teacher. If you had 7-10 two year olds you would need two teachers. I mention this because it combined with the director not offering direction or help would make me VERY concerned about how this school is running.

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s incredibly odd–“I’ll tell you your job duties right before you start for the day.” Uhm…yeah. I mean, you don’t even know your kids names and any details that they would need to know: food allergies, who’s fully potty trained vs. who isn’t, which kids don’t like each other, so on. It’s irresponsible on the new boss’s part.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        If I was the mother of one of those 2 year old kids and found out there was only 1 teacher for 10 kids, I’d be upset! And I’d be raising holy hell about it.

    3. Jill*

      Re: #7 – Didn’t you ask any questions about job duties during the interview? Maybe she feels like she’s already told you all there is to know. Or there may be a training/orientation period.

  4. PEBCAK*

    #1: Not only is this SUPER SHADY, but depending on how you built up those contacts (are they related to your current job?), you could find yourself in trouble with your current employer. Be happy you dodged a bullet.

  5. TheSnarkyB*

    #6 – Since AAM is saying that this is definitely illegal, you might want to consider your options before you decide to just speak to your manager. You may want to consult a lawyer, so you at least know what you’re giving up by just fixing it going forward. Are there implications here with the firm in general? Being aware of illegal activity and not reporting it?
    If I were you I would also take the culture of the firm (if it is a firm) into consideration. In some firms, it can be damaging to bring about internal litigation, but in others if there’s something like this going on that personally disadvantages you, you’re seen as weak and ineffective if you let it slide – suing is almost a required response to wage fraud.
    I’m not trying to promote a more litigious society – I’m just warning you that more than lost wages is on the line.
    Good luck!

  6. Razwana*

    * Is it too late to negotiate salary when I’ve already accepted the offer?

    I would add that you can always ask your manager to set some objectives for you to meet in x months, after which you receive a raise/bonus. All is not lost

    – Razwana

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, I wouldn’t do that. The person has already accepted the job at this salary. She can certainly ask for a raise in a year after proving herself, but going back a few weeks into the job and saying, “hey, can I get more money if I do ABC in six months?” isn’t likely to go well with most managers.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Agreed. If an employee came to me shortly after starting and said, “I’d like more money in six months if I show you I can do X, Y, and Z,” I’d be very annoyed and wonder why he hadn’t negotiated this before starting.

        Your hiring manager may not have anything to do with setting your salary at the start — I don’t, the recruiters handle all that stuff with candidates, and they present me only with candidates they think we can afford (and they do all the salary negotiations after an offer has been made). So by the time someone shows up for his first day with me, I expect that he’s already asked for and gotten a salary he’s comfortable with. But if that turns out not to be the case, I *am* the one who has to go to bat for that person with upper management to get more money. I’m not going to want to do that for someone who just started, and I’m going to be very annoyed that he asked when he should have had that conversation before accepting the offer in the first place.

        I want the people who work for me to be paid as much as they’re worth, but it’s hard enough to get good raises for my team at the normal time period, let alone for someone who just started!

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          PS, by “negotiated this” I mean either “negotiated a higher base salary” or “negotiated that at 6 months there will be a salary review.” I’m totally okay with a shorter review period IF it has been negotiated in advance. Then I know it’s coming, and more importantly, finance knows it’s coming, and having that discussion is nowhere near as difficult.

          1. Jamie*

            I agree with this – and it’s what I did. When I took this job it wasn’t totally fleshed out since they wanted to go in a different direction from the person I was replacing (that’s me – a different direction) but it was definitely a work in progress when it came to what the job would eventually be.

            So my offer letter had my hire salary, but also noted that there was to be a review and a re-evaluation of compensation at 6 months.

  7. Jessa*

    On the sitting near the bathroom thing. There’s another issue here, which seems to be that employees who do not NEED the handicapped bathroom are using it. Now you can’t call anyone on that, because they may legitimately have hidden disabilities that you cannot see.

    However, this gives you another way to go at management – “I realise when you put my desk (or A desk) here, it was thought that the handicapped bathroom would not see a constant amount of use and it would be okay to put someone here. However, that’s not proven to be the case. Everyone uses it regularly and it’s extremely distracting to be sitting near it.” etc.

    You can sort of parse it up as “hey when this desk was stuck here it wasn’t thought that a metric tonne of people were going to be passing by all the time.” issue x, issue y, either way it’s totally distracting you.

    1. Anonymous*

      “I realise when you put my desk (or A desk) here, it was thought that the handicapped bathroom would not see a constant amount of use and it would be okay to put someone here. However, that’s not proven to be the case. Everyone uses it regularly and it’s extremely distracting to be sitting near it.” etc.

      I think this is a great way to phrase it.

  8. Lucy*

    Q7 sounds a bit shady to me. Here in Oregon there are regulations regarding adult:child ratios in childcare centers, and with 2 year olds 7-10 would be too many for the OP to be in a room alone with. Of course, the rules may be different in the OP’s state, but if they’re the same/similar that would be a red flag for me. I’d be wondering what other regulations this childcare center might be violating, and whether they are putting their staff in situations where they cannot realistically provide safe care for the children entrusted to them. Especially if the manager is refusing to give details about what the job requires, and if they hired OP on the spot without any reference/background checks. Doesn’t sound like a place I’d want to leave my child!

    1. AnonEngineer*

      Same here in Massachusetts! For 2-year olds in a center (which this sounds like) the ratio is 1:4 or 2:9 (where 1 = fully certified teacher, 2 = teacher + aide). 10 kids would require 3 teachers.

      This sounds all sorts of shady to me, but – for example – Texas does allow ratios of 1:11 at 2 years! (If I recall correctly, there was also a horrific incident a few years back where the teacher couldn’t get all of her charges out during a fire … but the ratio was legal)

      1. Lucy*

        Yes, it may well be that the OP is in a state, or perhaps foreign country, where the laws are different.

        Still, worth the OP considering, particularly as there seem to be some other red flags here too. Plus, even if the ratio is legal where the OP is, there’s a reason it’s not in many states – that’s a lot of toddlers to ask one person to supervise, so that’s worth thinking about when deciding whether to take the job. Feeling like you’re unprepared for the job may lead to a different decision than realizing there are some genuinely unrealistic (and possibly unsafe) expectations to the job.

      2. Anonymous*

        Michigan ratios are 1:4, 2:8, etc. and Canada’s are similar. I can’t imagine what she is proposing is legal in many places.

        1. Anonymous*

          “Michigan ratios are 1:4, 2:8, etc. and Canada’s are similar. I can’t imagine what she is proposing is legal in many places.”

          And if it is legal, it doesn´t mean – as Lucy pointed out – that it´s right. Or smart. Or safe. I agree, being left alone with 7-10 toddlers- after OP said she wasn´t a lead teacher before- is a very poor judgement on a director´s part. Not just that, but then she even didn´t provide specific instruction of any sort, just “call me if anything comes up.” OP calls and is told not to call.

          OP, I would not stay in this daycare center. You are taking care of way too many toddlers by yourself and think about it – what if something goes wrong ? And boy, this set up is just begging for things to go wrong.

          1. Original Dan*

            ITA. Get out of there ASAP!

            It’s just a matter of time before something goes terribly wrong at this place.

      3. Kou*

        Haha, I was right about to jump in and say “Not all states, Texas allows TONS of kids per teacher!” I wouldn’t assume it’s shady unless you know it’s directly against the laws in that area.

        1. Anonymously Anonymous*

          Ratios vary depending on the age group. I cant possibly imagine Texas allowing anything far worse. Nursery student to teacher ratios are way smaller than preschool teacher student ratio which are smaller compared to k-12 student to teacher ratio. I cant see Texas straying that far away from the norm of most states. Plus state as well as other bodies (in some cases) regulate them.

      4. Anonymous*

        The “teacher” left the house full of children to run errands. It was an awful, horrible event.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I picked up on that, too. I am not sure I would want to leave my kid with a teacher that was walking in cold turkey with no prep time. A group of 2 to 7 year olds? REALLY? ONE person watching them? Wow.

      So what do you do if a 2 year old is choking and a pair of six year olds are fighting at the same time? You are alone in the room with them. How do you manage that one?

      OP, most people are on their best behavior with a new hire. If this is the manager’s best behavior, what does her every day behavior look like?

      You got that feeling like “uh-oh” for a reason, OP. Pay attention to your gut. Remember the thing about working with people is that you can face abuse charges personally. Neglect is considered abuse. You can face jail time. If you do not have the support you need to do your job, is this job worth all that risk?

      1. Anonymously Anonymous*

        No it was a group of 7-10 two year olds in op scenario. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in public childcare centers/schools to have 2 year olds and 7 year old in the same classroom. Private home daycare may operate differently.

    3. Anonymously Anonymous*

      My state has a 1:10 ratio the children age range of 2.9-5. My classroom is inclusive so there are 3 of us working with upto 15 kids at a time–Sped certified,lead and assistant plus there are 2 instructional assistants(1:1) in the classroom. We have to have background check, Tb test,first aid and cpr, and various other training and not to forget curriculum requirements (all of which is discussed upon hire). In rare instances, some people have just shown up without fully understanding that you’re not here to babysit and be a warm body to satisfy ratios.
      Unless op classroom has this much support–(which is highly unlikely) and still wrong for any supervisor to assume just throwing you in it is a good idea— I would run for the hills. To hire on the spot and not discuss duties and needs of the classroom is a huge red flag!

      1. Anonymous*

        “To hire on the spot and not discuss duties and needs of the classroom is a huge red flag!”

        Absolutely !!!

    4. Ashley*

      I commented on another post above about the same thing. The ratios in combination with the way the director is acting make the whole thing seem very sketchy.

      1. Jessa*

        I’m with all of you. Run away and run away fast. Oh and take a quick Google on the specific place you are being hired for and see what their reviews are like. I kind of wonder if they’re a bit shady with regulations and would let the newbie take the fall if they get cited.

        1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

          I agree (GOOGLE) the business. Look on more than one page. I have found buried reviews (good and bad) 6 pages deep before. With children, you have to be specific and have a game plan, and that’s with one kid. For a classroom, you need to be thoroughly prepped. I have a 2 year old and as smart as she seems to be, she is still vulnerable and reliant on the competency of the adults around her. I may be overreacting but I would be that person to decline the job and call the state. I may get red arrows for this but as a mother; I understand how other parents may feel about this, if they knew. IJS

  9. Cali7*

    I agree that the child care situation is probably a “run away” situation, due to the decision to have him/her alone in the room. That’s putting yourself in liability concerns for the child certainly, but also for you- remember you don’t have to actually do anything wrong to have someone accuse you of doing something wrong. If there’s no one there to help you contradict the accusation, your professional record/ability to work around children could be tarnished for years- perhaps irrevocably.

    On the other hand, in other situations in the future if there is a second person remember that sometimes your title and job description can be different, which would explain a lack of duty detailing. During my eight (torturous) months in day care (God bless day care workers, you guys impress me to no end!) I was originally hired as the “lead” in the classroom because I was a certified educator. However, that was really only a title and a pay grade- I came into a room where the “assistant” had everything in hand and in reality I was really the assistant to her.

    1. Anonymously Anonymous*

      Agreeing, if there is more support (other teachers or assistants) in the classroom that could be why explaination of responsibility are being pushed aside for now. But that gives them a bad look because they might need a warm body for now and then get upset with op if in a few months if she isn’t pulling her weight. When in fact they didn’t give her full disclosure of job duties.
      Sidenote: I know our subs are pleasantly surprised when they realize how much support we have. Some get a little too comfy–they go on the do not call again list.

  10. Kelly L.*

    #1 sounds like this skeevy pyramid scheme a friend almost got drawn into last year. Bullet dodged.

  11. Joey*

    #1. So why in the hell did the sales manager interview you if he wasn’t ready to open that division. To me it sounds like he had no intention of hiring you, eventhough the CEO did, and saw an opportunity to milk you of your contacts. Whatta d-bag. Good for you for not letting him bend you over.

  12. Joey*

    #7. An on the spot job offer is the worst warning sign of all. It means they’re looking for a warm body. Be prepared for continued disorganization and chaos.

    1. Runon*

      I wouldn’t say this is always the case, but I would say that you would need extenuating circumstances for it to be something other than looking for a warm body. (This is not a first interview and the job offer was basically hanging on a personal connection, you are exactly what they are looking for and they’ve been having a hard time finding it, they have multiple positions open and do very frequent hiring-though this would still be unlikely to be good.)

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Try one where they only pay in cash. I accepted, then thought about it and ended up declining.

      Legit? Maaaaaybe…. Hassle potetial for me? Could have been enormous.

  13. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. The cynic in me wonders if the 90 day trial period was to allow sufficient time for acquisition of contacts.

    It does sound though as if it was a lucky escape.

    1. FiveNine*

      The 90-day trial period also set off warning bells in my mind — everyone has been focusing on the second guy who aggressively went after the contacts, and suggesting that perhaps there isn’t coordinated communications in this small group. But I’m thinking just the opposite.

      1. Anonymous*

        “The 90-day trial period also set off warning bells in my mind ”

        I am originally from the Czech Republic and 90 day trial period is a standart there. (It goes both ways, during this period the employer has the right to fire on a spot and the employee has the right to quit on a spot) But in all these years (15) living in the US, I have never came across this here.

        On a side note, I never liked the 90 day trial period. The idea itself is fine but 90 days is a bit too much IMHO. I would cut it to 30 days or maybe even fourteen. But the whole hiring process is different there anyways :)

        1. Jane Doe*

          I’m suspicious of any US employer who talks about a trial period because most states have at-will employment, so specifying a trial period is not necessary, and seems like a way to make new employees be excessively deferential.

          1. Runon*

            I think a lot of employers who do that have things in their employee handbooks that make it much less at will and so that trial period is more to keep with that handbook than a legal distinction. So from day 1 they don’t have to file official problems on your employee file to fire you if you don’t show up kind of thing. You don’t want to have to do an employee improvement plan for someone who started last week because they didn’t come in on time when the crux of the job is being at the desk on time.

        2. Brant*

          I worked for a company that had a 30-60-90- day new hire review process. I wouldn’t call it a “trial period,” as the expectation was you were hired. But new hires had reviews every 30 days, and a few didn’t get good reviews at 30 or 60 and were gone by 90.

          I found the process to be very valuable; as a new hire, I got to make sure I was meeting expectations during the first 3 months and set hard goals. Later, as a manager, I got to have an easy forum to work out any kinks/expectations I didn’t feel were being met before the new hires got into bad habits.

  14. Mike C.*

    I’m a little annoyed at the answer given for OP#6:

    although he’ll almost certainly sour the relationship if he demands back wages, legally entitled or not, so he might want to settle on just getting it straightened out going forward.

    The relationship is already soured because the employer broke the law. The employee didn’t do anything wrong, and rather than just granting the employer a bunch of free labor, the OP should instead report the employer to their state labor board for an audit.

    I mean come on, the OP works at a law office as an attorney! They of all people should not be allowed to claim that “they didn’t know” the most basic of labor laws. They know what they are doing.

    As an aside, does it violate an attorney’s ethical requirements to allow this to continue, especially when it could easily be happening to others at this firm?

    1. Jess*

      Thank you. I know that employers hold all the cards in our current economy but really? Do we need to let them get away with everything – up to and including breaking the law?

    2. Anonymous*

      “The relationship is already soured because the employer broke the law. The employee didn’t do anything wrong, and rather than just granting the employer a bunch of free labor, the OP should instead report the employer to their state labor board for an audit.

      I could not agree more. I know it is hard “out there” right now but to advocate letting empolyer get away with breaking the law by stealing employee´s wages (because that is excatly what they are doing) so the relationship won´t go sour is just wrong.

    3. KellyK*

      I have mixed feelings here. I think it’s totally appropriate to make sure he knows the risks of demanding anything or pursuing legal action, even if it’s crappy that those risks exist. But you’re also right that it’s not *him* souring the relationship.

    4. K*

      Yeah, I kind of agree. I mean, I understand that sometimes you need the work and just can’t take the risk. But if you can – this isn’t a case of a non-exempt employee answering the odd work-related phone call after hours and not getting compensated. This is clear malfeasance that is either deliberate or so negligent that it might as well be deliberate, and it’s being conducted by people who have sworn oaths to uphold the law. After burning my bridges with them, I’d also be inclined to report it to the state bar.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But it’s the reality, and the OP needs to understand that so that he can decide how best to move forward to get the outcome that he wants. The reality is that some people care more about continuing in their job than about pursuing all legal remedies available to them. It’s his call, not ours.

      1. Mike C.*

        But you presented “letting those past hours go” as a reasonable option when not only are wages going unpaid but so are taxes. I don’t believe you intend to say, “hey, it’s just tax avoidance, no big deal”, but it is, especially for a lawyer. Who is working for a firm of lawyers.

        I can’t think of any bar association that is going to be cool with a legal firm dodging taxes or their members standing by while this continues to go on.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit*

            I think he’s just saying that by not paying the appropriate wages, the employer is also avoiding paying the various taxes on those wages.

            1. Jessa*

              Yes, but the fact remains that Alison is right. Some people in this economy are more concerned with having a job than doing the right thing, as the right thing could see them totally blacklisted forever in their field.

              Is it better to go get what’s yours yes. A responsible giver-of-advice also tells you the consequences of doing that which are that a lawsuit, even if you won (and they should as the firm is doing something patently illegal,) could sink your ability to work ANYWHERE.

              Alison did everything right. “Here’s your rights. Now, realise “this” if you actually decide to use em. Your choice.

      2. TheSnarkyB*

        I agree, but I think that there are some things here that might be specific to the legal profession – ethical requirements and all, that people are pointing out here. (and the firm’s culture, which I pointed out earlier)

        1. TheSnarkyB*

          (And as is mentioned below, oftentimes ethical requirements include things you must do when you’re aware of laws being broken, not just when you’re doing something wrong yourself.)

      3. Ariancita*

        I understand your reasoning for adding that caveat and the LW should know what might happen if her/his husband were to report pursue the back pay. But the way you worded it made it sound like he would be souring the relationship by demanding back wages. Those are some loaded words with an implicit bias, whether intentional or not (and I think not). I think you could have worded it more neutrally or thoughtfully. Instead of saying he would sour the relationship, you could have written something along the lines of, “Just keep in mind pursuing back wages, while certainly your legal right, could put your job/standing at the company in jeopardy.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, I stand by the original wording (“he’ll almost certainly sour the relationship if he demands back wages, legally entitled or not”).

          1. Ariancita*

            Of course you can stand by it, but I’m betting it’s the wording that’s garnering all the reactions. Wording that sounds implicitly like you’re condoning it (even though I know you’re not) means more work for you responding to each and every reaction with the same response. I imagine it would get tiresome. And for new readers, who don’t know your stance better, it may be a turn off.

    6. Jamie*

      As someone who, at a previous job, got someone else back wages because HR didn’t clearly understand this concept I agree in theory – but I wonder how much responsibility the employee had for letting it go on as long as it has.

      As you point out – these are lawyers – they aren’t entry level or uneducated workers without access to the DOL website. The shady docking practice doesn’t pass the sniff test and it’s spelled out clearly by the DOL in a couple of clicks of the mouse this info is readily available.

      The firm was completely in the wrong, but I don’t know what the law is on damages (if they wanted to pursue) which could have been mitigated if the employee addressed them earlier.

      1. Mike C.*

        The other thing about lawyers is that their industry requires them to abide by certain ethical rules, and I’m pretty sure that breaking federal laws would violate those rules.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think you’re talking about some world other than this one! I’ve never heard of a lawyer being disciplined for being the victim of something like this, and would be shocked if it happened.

              1. K*

                Agreed. There would be ways to build a legal case (see below) but I just can’t imagine it happening. That’s not the purpose of those rules.

                1. Jessa*

                  True. On the other hand, I’d be hesitant, if I read about a wages lawsuit in the paper, to ever use the firm in question. I mean it’s one thing if it takes months or years for someone in general business who really had no clue to go to court.

                  But if the culture of that firm was to A: break the law, B: break the law on the backs of their employees, and C: not one of those employed-in-a-law-office-and-should-know-better filed even an anonymous whistle-blower complaint to the bar in the appropriate locale…

                  Well I would for sure not want any part of using them for my business. Who knows what other crazy corners they’d cut with the law.

                2. K*

                  Oh, no, that’s not what I was saying – there could be repercussions for the firm. It’s for the employee who’s a victim of this that I don’t think there are likely to be repercussions.

        1. K*

          Breaking federal laws, yes, but I don’t know that this qualifies since the employer is breaking the law. Technically, lawyers might be obligated to report rule-breaking by others to the Bar. In practice, given how little power contract attorneys have these days (and just how common the knowledge of that is), I have a hard time imagining that being enforced; generally the Bar isn’t in the practice of throwing the book at people with no real options.

          1. K*

            Okay, because I’m avoiding the actual practice of law today, and because it seemed like something I should know, I pulled up the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Responsibility. Your actual obligations will vary by state but Rule 8.3 states that ” A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority.”

            Rule 8.4 states that it is professional misconduct (and thus a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that would trigger Rule 8.3) for a lawyer to, among other things, “commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects” or to “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” I suspect this falls under one or the other of those and so, technically, lawyers in jurisdictions that have adopted a similar rule would have an obligation to report.

            In practice, I still think this is something that it is very, very, very unlikely anyone would be disciplined for not reporting. So it comes down to your own comfort regarding being within the letter of the rules. (Personally, I’m willing to follow the spirit but not the letter of all sorts of rules, but when it comes to ethics rules, I feel differently and try to always abide by the letter because I think it’s a matter of integrity. But I’m not going to judge someone who has food to put on the table for not reporting an employer that has that kind of coercive power over them.)

            1. Portia DeBelmont*

              K, you are totally right. Ethics rules are never to be even bent, much less broken. Not ever. The first class in my paralegal school was Ethics and Professional Responsibility; we were told repeatedly that we were bound by the sames rules as our employer-lawyers, and that we had no choice but to report any ethics violation. Even my worst supervising attorney was utterly ethical.

      2. HR Guy*

        Jaime: “As someone who, at a previous job, got someone else back wages because HR didn’t clearly understand this concept…”

        Unbelievable. Just like Alison is irked by idiot managers, I am irked by idiot HR people. Kudos to you for helping out a coworker.

    7. Lora*

      I knew this reminded me of something I had recently read:
      Some states/localities have completely stopped enforcing wage theft. So he may not even have any recourse in court, either.

      Apparently Virginia is so bad about this that employees stiffed on their paychecks have resorted to vigilantism to get paid.

      Draw your own conclusions about civilization, the rule of law and social contracts…

        1. Lora*

          You know, my ex-husband got audited a couple years ago (I was too as we were still married then)–I have worked in a couple of very highly regulated industries and was prepared for an inspection of FDA- and DoE-level wrath, but the IRS audit was surprisingly gentle. Even his ex-boss, whom the agent said was the real culprit in under-reporting revenues (to the tune of $500,000/year from what we heard), didn’t get whacked with the heaviest stick they could find, just an income garnishment instead of seizure, frozen assets or liens.

          I am not at all confident that very many people in the US understand that the reason we have laws is because vigilantism can be a bit unfair sometimes (/ironic understatement).

          1. Natalie*

            My understanding from family and friends who have been audited or otherwise run into trouble with the IRS is that they are fairly reasonable if they don’t think you are deliberately, criminally attempting to evade taxes. I imagine they deal with so many ignorant/overwhelmed/confused/mistaken taxpayers every year and they can’t treat all of those people like criminals.

            I may be biased, though, as I messed up the first year I ever filed taxes and the IRS sent me a letter. Cue scary music… and the letter just said they owed me a larger refund than I had calculated.

            1. Jamie*

              Yes – our accountant made an error on the estate tax the year both my parents died – we owed a little more than was thought and the IRS had a couple of suggested repayment plans ready to go. They couldn’t have been nicer about it.

            2. RJ*

              Before we were married, my husband reported a 401k distribution as straight wages. After getting a scary letter from the IRS saying he owed an additional $12,000, I figured out that the IRS didn’t think he had reported that money at all, instead of just reporting it in the “wrong box”. We called, and the gentleman we spoke with was so helpful once he understood the situation. We ended up having to put the explanation in writing, and shortly thereafter received a letter confirming that he now owed $0. (I’m not even sure if he paid the legitimate penalty for an early withdrawal, but he did pay regular taxes on it as taxable income.)

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Lora brings up a good point. And I always laugh bitterly when I hear people talking about trying to go after unpaid wages.

        My husband found himself in this situation when his previous employer stiffed him on the last paycheck. We found out that while the employer was definitely breaking the law, there is ZERO government enforcement. Zip, nada, nothing. So we thought we’d turn to a private lawyer, but no one wanted to take the case. Apparently the court process was too time consuming for such a small sum of money ($1200). What do you do then?

        1. Mike C.*

          All I’m saying is that it should be reported to the state board and that the employee should be allowed to sue if they feel it’s in their best interest to without being seen as being “overly litigious”.

          The reporting to the state is important because this employee might not be the only one, and it’s not fair to the rest of us in society to have to deal with these sorts of bad actors.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think we all probably agree that that should be allowed to happen without consequences to the employee. The problem is that in practice, there often ARE consequences, and so anyone contemplating legal action is best served by knowing that so they can proceed with fuller information.

          2. Lora*

            But since there IS no government enforcement of wage theft from the people who are supposed to enforce it, what are you as an individual supposed to do?

            This might be a dumb Is It Legal question, but can you treat it as an unpaid bill from a client and go after it the same way a creditor would go after a debtor–by sending it to a collection agency and creating a black mark on the business’ or business owner’s credit rating?

            Otherwise, I lean towards the Name Em And Shame Em method: set up a website.

  15. B*

    #3 – If you are unable to move I would suggest a white noise machine, just make sure it is white noise and not birds chirping, waterfalls, rain, etc. As for the smell maybe you could put those incense sticks in the bathroom, have them install an automatic air freshner, or even buy the kind that when someone walks past or every 20 minutes it goes off. Yes, it would be an expense on your part but it may help you also breathe better.

    1. Anonymous*

      “As for the smell maybe you could put those incense sticks in the bathroom, have them install an automatic air freshner, or even buy the kind that when someone walks past or every 20 minutes it goes off.”

      I would vote for air “neutralizer”. A good one. Fresheners might work, but in my experience, more often than not, smells just “mix together” to create even worse “scent”. Incense and some fresheners also tend to cause problems for many people.

      1. B*

        Yes, love that idea. Sorry when I think of freshners I automatically assume the non-scented ones (neutralizer, air, very light cotton) because I cannot stand the scented ones. I want to know who decided lilies, gardenias, cinnamon, and such actually smell good coming out of a can.

        1. Lisa*

          The same people who think that “2×4” and “brown paper packaging” are appropriate scents for candles.

    2. Jamie*

      buy the kind that when someone walks past or every 20 minutes it goes off.

      If you get one of these for goodness sake make sure you keep it filled and charged with decent batteries.

      My true cautionary tale: I was working over shutdown and I was the only employee in the building for several days in a row. We had one of these in the ladies room but it had been out of scent for a while so I didn’t think about it. Except that whenever I’d pass the door it would let out a sad chirp like a wounded duckling. Old batteries valiantly trying to do their duty to the end. No smell and I had NO idea where the noise was coming from. I spent a LONG time looking for the wounded bird I was convinced was in the building with me. Picturing the little one scared, alone, and hurt I made a box lined with an old sweater for when I found him/her.

      I called the maintenance engineer on vacation to see if there was a way I could see into the vents in case it s/he was stuck up there.

      I spent over an hour trying to find a way to provide comfort and medical care to what turned out to be a automatic air freshener with dying batteries. I still hear about that from time to time from the guys in maintenance.

      Learn from my embarrassing past…lots of fresh Duracells if you go that route.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        This reminds me of a time when my dad took down one of their home smoke alarms & beat it to death to stop the chirping, after replacing the battery didn’t fix it. When the chirping still continued, he realized the noise was coming from my sister’s friend’s pager. (It was the 90s).

      2. Lora*

        This is priceless and has made my day.

        If it’s any consolation, I once wandered around a manufacturing facility asking about the weird chirping alarm I kept hearing out in the piping rack, and when one of the automation engineers finally could be convinced to look with me (hours after I had complained), we found a small kitten hiding in the plumbing. He was christened Flow Control and got a new forever home with a supervisor.

            1. Lora*

              The best part was when we had a conference call with the Senior VPs and there was a quiet moment where nobody talked for a few seconds, pierced by a sudden “mew?” in the conference room.

              SVPs on other end of the line: Was that…umm…did one of you meow?
              Lab techs all promptly started meowing, barking, making bird noises at the SVPs. After a few hysterical minutes, the supervisor explained that we had a new mascot.

              Startup culture can be fun.

          1. Jamie*

            Nope – although finding a grown up cat is just as good. We had a gorgeous ginger cat wandering the factory last summer jumping up on press brakes and scaring the hell out of people…so my husband came and got her intending to take her to the vet and find her a home…but we became her forever home in minutes.

            It’s funny – she loves it at home but she’s always kind of distant to me when I get home from work until I change clothes and settle in. She’s not like that with my husband or kids – she’s cuddly right away with them. I swear she smells the factory on me – I mean, the place I call work to her is the place she was abandoned, hungry, and homeless.

    3. AG*

      No actually “air fresheners” just mask odor, and in some people’s cases they actually make it harder to breathe. Remember the poster (who I sympathize with) who wanted to ask about making the office scent-free?

  16. Not So NewReader*

    OP #4. I probably would have flunked with that question. She should have said pick a stressful time *at work* as opposed to saying *in your life*. That question got way too personal very fast.

    Any normal person on an interview is bound to be a bit tense to begin with. It’s not a cool move to remind the interviewee of a painful time in their life.

    I would be wondering what kind of a work place I was walking into. Do people throw verbal daggers at each other all day long?

    OP#3. I would be more concerned about airborne bacteria. Scents can be an indicator of the presence of bacteria. Just recently it was in the news not to keep our toothbrushes too close to the toilet- because airborne bacteria can travel over…. Add some chemically loaded fragrance to cover the stench and now there are two problems not one. I have worked a couple places where I was able to advocate for one of those automatic air fresheners for the bathroom. Some of the air fresheners allow the timed release settings to be adjusted. I would try to approach the topic as a health and safety issue. You don’t know what you are breathing in all day long. In an extreme example, I would never set up my desk in the middle of my dog’s run and think that was a good idea. There is a huge difference between walking past the bathroom and sitting next to it all day long.

    OP#1. It could be that the person who wanted the contacts was very naive because he was new to the job. But people who have been in business for any length of time realize you just don’t do this. I think what you are seeing is lack of experience on the part of the interviewers.

    1. TheSnarkyB*

      I disagree about #4 – I think the interviewer meant for the OP to talk about a work situation and it was misinterpreted. I don’t think the interviewer is at fault at all for asking such a standard question. “Verbal daggers” seems quite off to me, considering.
      I’m just saying this b/c I would hate for you to miss out on a good job because they asked you this and you took it as a red flag.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Agreed. You’ve got to assume any questions that could be read either way in an interview are asking about work life. Just like when an interviewer asks “tell me about yourself” — they generally mean your work self, not your personal life.

        1. the gold digger*

          They sure don’t want to hear how you lost 20 pounds. I can tell you that.

          I mean, I’ve heard that. Not that I blew my interview with P&G by telling that story when asked to give an example of a time that I had faced and conquered a big challenge.

  17. Anonymous*

    #6 – I always forget this is “Ask A Manager.” I should not have been surprised that a Manager recommended allowing management to get away with wage fraud. Find another job. Sue them for every instance you’ve documented. Do not settle for a fraction of what they owe. That rewards her fraud.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, please. I’m not recommending wage fraud. I’m pointing out the possible consequences of one particular option, so that the OP can decide what he wants to do, fully aware of the possible consequences. Which aren’t consequences decided on by me; they’re reality.

      1. businesslady*

        I used to be in a similar exempt/non-exempt grey area, & my attempts to get it rectified never panned out. I did eventually leave that job (for that reason among others) but there was no suing involved. & now I still have a good rapport with my former boss & can use him as a reference. sometimes you have to pick your battles.

      2. fposte*

        And the OP isn’t even the person it’s happening to, so the husband’s level of interest in pursuing it may not be the same as the letter writer’s.

    2. Josh S*

      The trouble is, if you sue the current employer for every documented instance, you’re labeling yourself as “litigious” (regardless of whether or not that’s fair, or whether or not you were justified), and that will make it harder –perhaps much harder — to find a job. Not to mention that there’s no guarantee of a win at court, or that the damages recovered would be even sufficient to cover the cost of going to court.

      I don’t for an instant think that the current boss should be allowed to slide on this — it IS illegal. But if the job is otherwise good and the OP wants to keep it/stay there, it might be worth it to simply correct the illegal behavior going forward rather than taking the “sue the pants off ’em” approach.

      1. Jamie*

        Besides – if I’m right you need to be able to prove real damages in order to sue…which means an accurate tally and accounting of the exact hours worked and due OT but unpaid. For those of us used to just working extra hours an exact tally will be hard to come by. Easier will be the time docked from pay, which I expect is the real issue since the OP’s husband is most likely exempt.

        1. businesslady*

          also, back when I was in a similar situation, the fact that I was staying late was always spun as my choice due to a poor management of my workflow. whether or not that was actually the case is debatable, but factor in the ambiguity of being “forced” to stay late, the near-impossibility of providing an accurate tally of hours, the costs of hiring a lawyer, & the damage to your relationship with the company…I’m sure that there are some cases where legal recourse makes sense, but in a lot of circumstances it seems like it would be far easier to focus that same energy into just finding a new job.

      2. Mike C.*

        Actually, the real trouble is folks who look at someone who sues their employer for back wages and thinks this is a problem. It’s not. Receiving that regular paycheck for regular work is the reason we all show up to work.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But we deal here in how things really are, not how they should be. And yes, one consequence of suing your employer is often that other employers will worry you’re litigious and shy away from hiring you.

          1. AG*

            I agree. The sucky reality is that sometimes proving yourself right is not actually advantageous.

          2. Mike C.*

            But if people actually argue against this view, it will change. You know this best out of anyone given your experience in issue advocacy.

            It doesn’t happen overnight, but it starts to happen when people start arguing that it’s ok to received the wages you’ve earned, it’s ok to use whatever legal tools at hand to receive them and people who do have their legal rights enforced by the court aren’t unreasonable people for want to sue everyone they see. Simply repeating that stereotype makes it stronger in the minds of your readers and makes it that much more difficult for others (especially those of lesser means) to advocate for their rights under the law.

            Wage theft hurts everyone. It means lower industry wages for the rest of us, it means higher taxes to make up for reduced revenues and it means greater strains are put on our safety nets when the underpaid face emergencies. Even if the individual is afraid many states allow for anonymous reporting of wage theft. But for bystanders to throw up our hands and saying, “oh well, gotta pick your battles” is not a responsible or ethical course of action.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But my job here isn’t advocacy, for the most part. It’s to give people good, responsible advice that will help them make decisions that will get them the best outcome for themselves.

              I do throw in advocacy now and then, but that’s a supplement to the main point :)

            2. HR Guy*

              Mike C: “Wage theft hurts everyone.”

              So do violent dictators. The issue isn’t so much about whether this is right or wrong (because it is wrong) or if the OP’s husband has an obligation to stand up for himself (he does not). The issue is for the OP’s husband to decide how he wants to handle this. AAM presented the OP with options. Ideally, all employers would pay heavily for wage theft. In employment law and in everyday life, the one who is right is not necessarily the one who wins. You have to way all the options and decide how this can impact you from every angle and then decide how to proceed; this is smart decision making 101. Your only obligation is to yourself (and/or family).

              1. fposte*

                Right. When this ethical question has previously been raised, Jamie made the excellent point that you don’t call in every traffic law-breaker you see either. “You have to pick your battles” is a legitimate ethical stance, even if it means the person chooses not to battle in a case when somebody else thinks they should. It’s not for us to know what losing the job would mean to this person, and it’s not for us to say that he’s obligated to risk it.

            3. Ariancita*

              Agree with about talking about it differently. I think the way it gets talked about and even the wording in the response normalizes the phenomenon so it becomes harder and harder for employees to exercise their rights, generally speaking (because I do believe the employee needs to make the right decision for themselves given the very real consequences–and I don’t think anyone is arguing against that–but changing the consequences is what we’re looking at). These beliefs about employees being trouble makers, litigious, etc get reproduced and strengthened as they continue to circulate in our everyday language…this is how power inequalities are sustained and normalized.

              Yes, LW’s husband should make the right decision for himself and be fully cognizant of the highly possible negative consequences should he pursue getting his back wages as opposed to setting it straight moving forward.

              But meanwhile we can begin to talk about in in a different way, begin to circulate different ideas about what it means to access your legal rights, and hope to normalize new beliefs about it.

              1. Jamie*

                I think conversations like this do that – and raise awareness that it’s a big issue.

                I both agree that Alison’s advice was correct in that people need to take very real risk to their well being into account – and I also agree with Mike’s sentiment and would march on this myself. Payroll is a sacred thing, imo, and if someone like me who was just interim HR filling in knows how this works then people who are actually in charge of payroll should damn well better know how to navigate the DOL website.

                I think it’s also important for people to speak up when they see it happening to others, because people are often so reticent to bring it up themselves. Especially in lower level positions – there can be a huge reluctance to call management out on an error. When I saw it in the past the person who was owed back pay didn’t want to say anything, because she didn’t want to make any waves. I, however, knew it was an oversight they would want to correct – and I am very much the squeaky wheel about this kind of thing – so I had it corrected on her behalf.

                Those in the position to make sure this stuff is done correctly and to make amends when mistakes are made need to make an extra effort to make sure it’s done correctly and that people know they can come with questions and concerns with no repercussions. Transparency is always important, but never more so than when it comes to money owed employees.

    3. Runon*

      I think the recommendation here was very responsible to the employee. Not everyone can afford to burn all those bridges, waste time in what will likely be a suit that even if you win-which isn’t a gaurentee-will be a huge cost financially and economically, and can if it is something that becomes broadly public in anyway will have an ongoing black mark when someone does a google search for this employee as a future job candidate.

      Would it be nice to sue them and have them shape up and act in an ethical, legal, and responsible way? Yes, of course. But sometimes do you need to pay your bills? Yes, and you should be aware of the things that will make that difficult.

      This response didn’t say that the employer here was in the right, it didn’t say that they were acting legally, or that the employee should sit down and reward fraud. It said, beware that actions have consequences. And they do.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly this. If someone wants to sue, go for it — but do so with a full understanding of the possible consequences.

        There’s no moral obligation to sue every time someone breaks the law. You decide whether it’s the option most likely to get you the outcome you want.

    4. Victoria Nonprofit*


      Sometimes I disagree with Allison’s advice, too, or the philosophy that guides it.

      But what she excels at, and why I (and most of us, I think) come here for her advice, is helping solve what’s solvable and answering the actual question at hand. The question is not “What should happen to this employer?” The question is “What should this employee do, given his actual circumstances (which probably include a desire to keep working in his field)?”

    5. TheSnarkyB*

      Oh, piss off Anonymous @ 9:47. I disagreed with the response to #6 but I did so reasonably and respectfully. Would you rather have a blog that’s Ask An Employee? How wonderfully uninformed would that be? Sounds fckin stupid to me.

  18. Kat M*

    #7, I get the feeling that this is a smaller, possibly church-run daycare. I’ve worked in places like this before as well.

    Let’s talk daycare facts:

    You’re not ever going to get the support you need. They don’t have time to talk on the phone now, which means they won’t have time to help you when Johnny is projectile vomiting either. Or when you need a bathroom break. Or when Suzy’s mom refuses to fill out the medication form for her sunscreen. You’re probably going to be at state maximum student/teacher ratios all day.

    If you’ve got a few years of experience as an assistant and have helped develop lesson plans and wrangle parents before, you probably will do fine as a lead teacher. It’s scary your first time, but totally possible! But not at this place.

    I’ve worked at amazing childcare facilities with supportive staff and ample resources. I’ve worked at crappy ones where I had to shout down the hallway begging someone to please come help me with the children so that I could clean up a floor covered in diarrhea because there were no phones or intercoms in the rooms and cell phones were prohibited. I stayed at the latter for seven months until I found something else, and I don’t regret leaving one bit. You deserve better than a job like this.

    1. fposte*

      If I recall correctly, that’s also one where you were in what was pretty clearly a non-exempt position, despite being called a teacher, and were required to work unpaid overtime, too.

  19. Bess*

    Completely off topic, but I turned down a job offer today. It felt weird. Aren’t I supposed to be grateful to get the offer at all? But it really wasn’t a good fit for me. I know I made the right decision, it just feels weird.

    1. fposte*

      No, you’re not supposed to be grateful to get the job offer at all. Another way in which job hunting is like dating :-). Sounds like you did the right thing.

      1. Bess*

        Thanks. I know it was the right decision, it was just hard to say no.

        I should say that I’m pretty confident that I came to their attention in the first place because I rewrote my resume and cover letter based on Alison’s advice! Now I just need to keep applying to jobs that are a better fit for me.

        1. BeenThere*

          *fistbump* I rejected an offer a few weeks ago and thought it was the end of the world, two week later a much better position cam along… I start on Monday :)

    2. Josh S*

      Be proud you got the offer, but don’t feel like you need to exude gratitude. You’re not grovelling on the floor begging for help from the gods of employment — you’re a worker providing them with value and filling a need that they have. Turning their offer down isn’t a bad thing, but just a sign that their offer doesn’t meet your needs — whether because of compensation, a lack of valuing what you bring to the table, or simply because it doesn’t fit your personality.

      Be proud that they recognized you as a stellar candidate for that position. Getting recognition is always a boost.

      Then use that boost of pride to get yourself psyched to find the place that is RIGHT for you to work at!

      Good luck. Go get ’em!

    3. Liz in the City*

      Not saying this is your situation at all, but when I was in the final rounds for a new job at the beginning of last year, I knew that I’d turn down an offer. It just wasn’t the right fit for me. And 11 months later, the business closed, so I would have been out of a job.

      You’ll find something that’s right, and you’ll know it. Just like fposte said, you wouldn’t say yes to every potential date that came along (or keep seeing them even if it wasn’t a good fit).

      1. Dan*

        I know the feeling. I’m 85%-90% happy at my current job, but I’m going to interview at my “dream job” next week. And you know what? I expect to turn it down.

        Why? My current job has an *amazing* office culture. I mean, I wear jeans and sneakers every day, can work from home when I feel like it, and as long as I get in before lunch, nobody cares when and how I put my hours in. Really. New job: “Flexible hours” means “as long as you’re in by 9, we’re happy.” Dress code? “Oh, if you pay the charity vig, sometimes you can wear jeans on Friday.”

        Current job: Hourly exempt. I increased my earnings by 25% last year because of that. New job: They tell me it’s a straight 40 most of the time. Great. Well, $ wise, I want what I’m making with my OT, only I want to do it in 40 hours instead of 50. Otherwise, have I really gotten a pay raise?

        Current job: 5 weeks vacation. New job? Donno, but I’m not expecting 5 weeks.

        So, the work at my potential new job is hopefully going to be *exactly* what I want in terms of work, but in terms of everything else, it won’t be. They’ll have to pay my asking price or really close to it, otherwise I’m giving all of this up for what, exactly? While I’m theoretically quitting for “better” work, I’m about 80% satisfied with the work I’m doing.

        Yup, I’m interviewing for a job that I have every expectation of turning down. So why bother? It might actually be perfect, it might pay me what I want, and it will be in a lower COL area.

    4. Dan*

      There were some recruiters posting on a thread not too long ago who said that we should be honored that they so much have even called us. Yeah, right. I mean it’s touching that you think highly enough of my skills, but they aren’t doing us favors. This is a business transaction.

      So no. You’re not supposed to be grateful. And if the fit is bad, you made a good decision.

  20. Christine*

    Hmm…in reading #6, something dawned on me. In a past job, I was always told what my yearly salary would be; yet, I always had to use a swipe key upon entering and leaving the building plus fill out a weekly time sheet. I did not know about exempt vs. non-exempt laws during my years there. In fact, I’m only recently beginning to understand them. Luckily, I don’t recall my manager ever withholding any overtime pay, but I’m wondering if the company overall was listing me as an exempt employee, but paying me as a non-exempt employee.

    FTR, it’s a moot point now since it’s been so long and was never denied any overtime pay, but I most certainly would’ve asked more questions had I understood the laws back then.

    1. Jamie*

      Being paid salary as opposed to hourly really has nothing to do with exempt/non-exempt. People tend to associate hourly with non-exempt and salaried with exempt because that’s how most people fall in most companies…but you can absolutely be salaried and non-exempt and hourly and exempt.

      And they can certainly pay you OT even if you are correctly classified as exempt. They can do more than the law allows – just not less. If I was offered OT pay I would do cartwheels my entire 33 mile commute home from work.

      Whether exempt or non-exempt depends on the duties (there are different categories) and the autonomy of the position (in many cases) and the correlation between how each are paid is not causative.

      1. Jamie*

        Oh – and we have everyone swipe in and out regardless of payroll status for security reasons as well as being in the system means that reception can pull up a screen to see who is in and who isn’t for routing calls/customers.

        1. Jessa*

          Also another reason to swipe in and out is that if there’s an emergency/disaster they know who to tick off has left the building or may still be inside.

          Plus even exempt employees have to be given comp time. So you do need to know how many work hours they’ve put in.

          1. Jamie*

            Not always. I only get comp time in very specific circumstances (server maintenance/system upgrades which can only be done on weekends w/no users in system, emergencies off hours where I have to come in, and time worked over company shutdown. Maybe 1% of all the time over 40 I work.) All the other time I put in over 40 is on me – and a lot of people work without comp time at all if they are exempt.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit*

        I log my time (in 15 minute increments). It’s not because I’m non-exempt (sigh), but because my time gets billed to various grants.

      3. Jessa*

        Except that they have to state at least a general hourly wage (usually salary divided by average hours worked, I’d think,) because if you are non-exempt, salaried or NOT the person has to be paid overtime. Salary is not an excuse to not pay OT for over-40-hours work.

        That’s the issue. Places that think someone being salaried means “they work as many hours as we want them to for that rate.” That is ONLY true of exempt employees.

        1. Jamie*

          Sure – and even exempt people technically have an hourly wage (which is usually = ((salary/52)/40) as you mentioned) for things like cashing out vacation.

          At the end of the year I get to cash out any unused vacation time and you need hourly increments for that.

    2. Josh S*

      Yeah, my first two jobs had annual salaries in the offer, but they were very much non-exempt positions, and I got paid overtime. (MAN did I get paid overtime…to the point where if I had taken a promotion, it would have involved a pay cut.)

      Basically, since they were full-time 9-5 jobs, they knew the hours I’d be working for the year, and the salary was based on that. There really was an hourly rate behind the whole thing, from which the OT got calculated, but they just translated that to an annual salary for the sake of making the position/offer professional.

      I mean, most people signing up for desk jobs aren’t looking for $15/hour — they’re looking for $30k/year (or whatever). It’s more likely that retail/foodservice jobs where the hours from week-to-week are different that an hourly rate makes more sense to name.

      1. Jamie*

        (MAN did I get paid overtime…to the point where if I had taken a promotion, it would have involved a pay cut.)

        Without exception everyone I know who went from hourly to salary (where I knew the specifics) took a pay cut once they lost the OT. It evens out eventually, but it’s a rude awakening that the “raise” you just got means less in your check.

        1. Dan*

          Oh, and here I thought it was just my industry. My background is in aviation, and I’ve long said that the worst job in aviation is the first one that isn’t paid by the hour.

          Glad to hear this is a universal problem :)

      2. Brandy*

        My husband was an engineer. He was salaried at $80k for 40 hours/week. All his work was billable, and he billed 50-60 hours/week. He was not paid “overtime” per se (ie time and a half or double time) but he did get paid for hours worked– so he made ~$40/hr for every hour over 40 hrs.

        The only downside here was that on things like 401k matching, life insurance, etc. they only used the salary rate to determine what the company would pay. So while he was bringing home over $110k, the life insurance policy was at $80k, and they matched on x% of 80k to his 401k.

    3. fposte*

      You can be non-exempt and salaried and exempt and paid hourly, just to confuse things. It’s about the nature of your job, not the pay structure. There are definitely exempt jobs that require people to fill out time sheets (stupid, IMHO, but there are), and the swipe key could be justified for a lot of reasons other than hourly pay.

      As long as you don’t ask your non-exempt workers to work overtime or otherwise breach the Fair Labor Standards Act, it’s fine to pay them salaried. I can’t tell from your statement whether they paid you overtime (which doesn’t necessarily prove you were non-exempt either, as some places will pay exempt employees overtime) or you never worked overtime hours, but it’s possible that you were being lawfully treated as non-exempt but salaried.

      1. Christine*

        Yes, I was paid overtime, although I vaguely remember my manager sometimes not being too happy when a lot of OT was put in. Other times, he’d occasionally ask the data entry clerks (I was one of them) to come in on a Saturday to handle extra work. I’m pretty sure the OT was calculated properly for those instances.

        Thanks everyone for clarifying all of this – it sure can get confusing! It sounds like everything my employer did was fine.

      2. Dan*

        I’m totally confused at how you “salary” non exempt employees. If you work them 40 hours per week and no more, you’re paying them for 2080 hours per year (assuming no vacation and holidays.) Granted, if they work less, you pay them less, but then that isn’t really a salary, is it?

        That said, I’m an hourly exempt employee. For my position, that means I get paid for every hour I log, but it’s all straight time, not 1.5x.

        1. Jamie*

          You can totally pay someone a set salary up to 40 hours per week (regardless if they work the full 40) and then just OT then for anything over 40.

          An employer can be more generous than the law requires, not less. Although, I have never seen this. I’ve seen a couple of exempt people who are hourly but never the reverse…but for the most part I’ve seen exempt employees as salaried and non-exempt hourly. This is so common I think that’s why so many people conflate the pay designation with job designation.

          1. Jill*

            At my previous job, all office “support” personnel were non-exempt salary. We were paid for 40 hours even if we worked less, and time-and-a-half for anything over 40. No sick days or personal days per se; if you were sick you stayed home. If you had an appointment you went. It was great, except for the 60+ hours I had to work a week.

        2. fposte*

          I guess it has to be at places with generous sick and personal time so that you don’t have to keep adjusting the salary, as you say. I suspect it’s a situation where the payroll infrastructure is so entrenched in salary that it’s easier to make adjustments within that structure than create an hourly approach. I still think it’s a bad plan, but it’s mostly bad for the employer and not the employee (assuming they’re not requiring illegal unpaid overtime).

    4. Mike C.*

      Most of my jobs have been salaried non-exempt.

      That being said, swiping a key card is a useful way to know how many people are in the building if there’s an evacuation.

      1. Jamie*

        Absolutely. When we evacuate for drills I pull up an employee list of who should be in the building from my phone.

        It’s a valid security measure.

  21. anon*

    #7 – I quit my daycare job six weeks ago. I had been there a year. They pulled the same crap that you’re describing; they also flagrantly ignored ratios (in Texas, where the ratios are unethical anyway), ignored teachers in distress, ignored unsafe conditions on the playground, kept teachers around who had broken kids’ bones, and tried to cover up other incidences of abuse. (Which is when I finally gave up and quit.)

    You should not take this job. It will not get better. You’ll just be stuck with 10+ toddlers all the time, with zero training or support, and then probably be written up when the kids aren’t learning fast enough. And you’ll feel awful when one gets hurt.

    1. Jamie*

      If you are talking about instances of physical abuse against children I certainly hope you did more than quit – I hope you reported this to the proper authorities along with whatever evidence you have. Names, dates, etc.

      Adults can deal with their own issues, but if you know for a fact that children are being harmed there is a moral obligation to shed light on that.

      1. Andrew*

        But adults can’t always deal with their own issues, which is why the pragmatic, fearful, “it is what it is” culture that we have been sinking into over the past few decades is so troubling.

        1. Jamie*

          Adults can certainly deal with their own issues a hell of a lot better than children can self advocate against their abusers.

          It may not be easy – but no adult is as helpless as a child.

          1. Anonymous*

            “Aren’t daycare workers and teachers required reporters in Texas?”

            I was goign to ask the same thing.

    2. Waiting Patiently*

      I hope you reported the abuse because reasonable suspicion MANDATES you to report to local authorities. Or you could find yourself in big trouble!

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        wanted to add… there are several professions where by law you are a mandated reporter during your working hours. Of course anyone can report suspected abuse to the local authorities but certain professions (teachers, doctors, social workers and the like) failure to report within 24 or 48 hours depending on the state could land you and the facility in trouble.

        A few years ago, in my home state in the south, a former teacher and principal were all arrested for failure to report.

        1. Your Mileage May Vary*

          If you are a mandated reporter, it is a 24/7 thing, not just during your working hours. And in some states, every citizen is a mandated reporter.

          I worked a case (foster care social worker) where the principal and teacher were charged with failure to report. They attended the same church as the family and failed to report abuse they witnessed (not suspected) over the Christmas break. The DA dropped the charges in exchange for them testifying in our family court case against the parents.

          1. Waiting Patiently*

            “If you are a mandated reporter, it is a 24/7 thing, not just during your working hours. And in some states, every citizen is a mandated reporter.”

            I’m assuming it varies by state, as you mentioned that in some states citizens are mandated reporters. I specifically mentioned the ‘during working hours’ part because some people don’t even know that they are. And the poster who said they witnessed all the cover up and abuse maybe didn’t realize he/she is mandated to report–even if it’s against your own co-worker(s).

            I do know for a fact in my state I’m only mandated during my working hours. I have had training on this every year for the past 5-6 years. Citizens are not considered mandated reporters here. But reporting suspected abuse (ie. my neighbor’s kid) outside my working hours is up to me as a citizen. However, since I don’t take the situation lightly, I do inform people ( esp parents who might get a little too chatty about their parenting style) that I’m a mandated reporter. And if there is enough reasonable suspicion, I would report even though I’m not required too.

  22. twentymilehike*

    On number 3 … we have a similar problem. There are fans in our bathrooms, but if anyone uses the one closest to the offices, my boss and I can hear everything that goes on in there. Once my coworker was using his cell phone while on the pot and I could hear the phone noises. The toilet paper holders are so loud that we just keep the TP on the back of the toilet instead of putting it in there. We just sort of make it known that you can hear whatever goes on in there, and people opt to use a different bathroom because they realy don’t want to be heard.

    I bet if you tell them you can hear everything that goes on in there, they’d probably stop using it just because it’s so awkward. They probably have no idea you can hear them. How you word it will depend on your environment. I’ve said to coworkers about to walk into the bathroom, “we can hear you pee in there and it’s kinda awkward … so you may want to use the other one.”

    1. Jamie*

      YMMV – but if it wasn’t a work friend and someone (especially a man) told me he’d heard me urinate…I would have a tough time even making eye contact with him for a long time. I wouldn’t quit over it, but it would be hard not to.

      I know I’m weirder about that than most people – but I can’t imagine any of the women with whom I work not being mortified.

      Personally just like if a bathroom was missing a wall or a ceiling you’d label it out of order until it’s fixed…if people can hear that clearly it’s just as much not a functional bathroom as if it didn’t have water – imo – and someone should slap and out of order sign until it’s fixed.

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, I agree. If you’re going to say something, warn people before they go in, and generally, not *afterwards.*

        1. KellyK*

          That is, “I can hear you pee,” is pretty embarrassing. “Hey, before you go in there, you should know that sound *really* carries from that bathroom to desks near it. You might want to use the other one,” is a much less awkward heads-up.

          1. twentymilehike*

            a much less awkward heads-up.

            Yes .. true! We’ll sometimes do this for guests, or sometimes just pretend we can’t hear. haha.

            How you say it really does depend on your relationship with your coworkers: My coworkers and I are like family so we have no problems purposely grossing each other out and making off hand comments and the like. I don’t really care if they have heard me pee, even though it’s still weird and awkward when you’re trying to take a dump … but it’s not like my coworkers can’t tell I’m taking a dump just based on my length of bathroom occupancy–you just don’t talk about it.

            Hearing people in the bathroom though, I’d call it an annoyance more than anything else. Smelling it though? I’ve smelled my boss’s visits to the restroom and he is well aware that it is fuel for mockery. He knows ahead of time that he’s going to get a load of crap for not using the back bathroom (pardon the pun).

            1. twentymilehike*

              Oh, and just to clarify, I’m not promoting mocking your coworkers for their foul smells! I do find it odd that they would choose to use a bathroom so close to people working. Like, how come they don’t know you’re close enough to smell it?!?!

      2. Jessa*

        Yep and you don’t have to say you heard them using the facilities, you can say you can hear the water running when they wash their hands…and if they don’t that’s a bigger, different issue, I’d say I heard the water running anyway.

  23. Amanda*

    In response to #4 – I cried during my job interview as well. I was extremely prepared for all questions except for the most obvious, which was “how do you know the person that referred you for this position?” My 2 best friends passed away in a tragic accident years before, and my referral came from one of their mothers who is employed there. I was so embarrased. The interviewing manager handed me a tissue while I quickly pulled it together an explained the connection. The tears came from a bad combination of nerves mixed with a sensitive topic. I’ve now happily worked here for going on 8 years, with no tears shed at work, as I rarely cry (the irony). I’ve even had the fortunate opportunity of moving up in the company several times. So please don’t let that interview get you down. If they are a good company/interviewing manager, they will look past the nerves! Good luck!

  24. Been There*

    #3 made me laugh. My desk is directly within earshot of a men’s restroom, and we have some specialists in extremely loud “lugee-hocking” that use that restroom. My boss’s boss was at my desk once when the major “lugee-hocker” was in the restroom, and she kept looking at me like I was supposed to do something about it. Ah, the memories!

  25. Malissa*

    #6–This one confuses me. You’ve got an attorney, who gets paid to tell people that what they are doing is wrong, but isn’t speaking up for himself. He should know the legality of the situation and also the most common remedy for it as well. I would think that he could almost be seen an inept for not bringing the issue up. I would think that the attorney’s credibility is more at stake than some money.

  26. OP #6*

    Hello and thank you all for the thoughtful comments on the wage issue. One bit of information that might clear up some confusion is that we had been under the impression that my husband was working as a temp/independent contractor rather than an employee. He never got anything in writing from this employer when he took the job beyond a letter that said “You get paid $X per year and aren’t eligible for any benefits.” This is his first job out of law school, and he trusted his supervisor to record his time and pay him properly. When we got a W-2 in the mail in January, we realized he must be an employee and had to be either exempt or non-exempt. He’s still trying to find out how his position has been classified, and will go from there once he has more information.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wait, this is confusing me! Wouldn’t he have seen that taxes were being deducted from his paycheck when he got his first check, and thus have realized at that point that he wasn’t being treated as an independent contractor? (To say nothing of the rules of who does and doesn’t qualify as a contractor — it sounds like he’s treated as an employee under those rules, which I know most normal people aren’t familiar with.)

    2. Joey*

      Temp and independent contractor aren’t the same thing. Most employers refer to a temp as an employee (in the legal sense, either of the company or of a 3rd party). An independent contractor is exactly that.

  27. Sam*

    #3 – I feel for you, but would suggest that you be careful if you choose to go the gently (or not so gently) shaming people route suggested by several commenters. Some people may be genuinely embarrassed/uncomfortable knowing you can hear them, but still need to use that bathroom. Disabilities can be hidden so some of people may be legitimately using the handicap bathroom (to change a colostomy bag, for example) and you wouldn’t be able to tell.

    I used to do a job that involved a couple days a week working in a church, the only toilet was inside the (very small) verger’s office. My colleague and I hated having to go in there where the verger and his assistant could clearly hear everything. It was that or not use the bathroom for 6 hours though, so it had to be done! It would have been even worse if they’d made comments about it, especially as they were two much older men.

    Anyway, I hope you get moved to a better located cubicle!

  28. TL*

    What IS it with bathrooms that are so poorly constructed/designed? There are so many of them, and I’m always surprised that managers don’t immediately try to deal with the issue. If I were a manager, I know I would! I mean, is it so difficult to consider adding a fan or a white noise machine? This issue makes me feel stabby, since it’s such an awkward situation for everyone involved, and could be completely avoided by intelligent bathroom construction.

    If the OP wants to address the issue, I agree with AAM’s advice to talk to his/her boss. The shaming commentary would be juvenile and completely unnecessary. The problem is a failure on the part of the building designer, not a fault of the coworkers.

  29. Elizabeth West*

    #4- cried in interview

    I wouldn’t write someone off because of this; I’d be more embarrassed that I made them cry. I might rethink asking that question after that. Alison is right, though; they might offer you the job anyway despite it, or you might not get it because someone’s thong was too tight another day. There’s no way to know.

  30. RecentGrad*

    I too just took a job at a church daycare because I had to. I love helping the children learn, but I do see major problems with the management of the daycare. Luckily we don’t have a lot of children to care for and all of the teachers seem to have their best interest at heart. I didn’t have a choice I needed the job, but if you can don’t take it. You are better off working in fast food. I have had no official training with children and it scared the crap out of me when a 5 year old had a fit and I was alone with 4 other children under 5 to care for. One time a parent had to help me with the child. I too was not educated on the background of the students. Luckily the students I worked with did not have any allergies. I know now that I prefer to work with children ages 5 and older(what I was hired for, but you will frequently be asked to work other positions). Will there be another teacher working nearby? That was my saving grace. the 3-4yr old classroom is near the 0-2yr old room and that teacher made me feel supported and it made me feel better that there was another set of eyes there. Usually those classrooms are near each other. I can’t imagine 7-10. Please really think about it. I can tell you that one toddler having a fit who throws punches, hits, kicks, and tries to bite you is terrible when all you can do is barely restrain them(in my state time out is not allowed you can only separate them). Try having two or three doing it at the same time because you told them to share toys or that it is not their turn on the tricycle. Sometimes it is not the facility, but the parents who allow their children to misbehave at home and then bring their children to daycare and want you to create a miracle. I am not trying to bash daycare centers or parents, but it seems like you may be faced with this situation. Certainly not all facilities are like this. Working at a poorly run daycare facility is worst than working in fast food because you could possibly put a child’s life in danger.

  31. Claire*

    I’m the OP on question #5, thanks for answering! I’d been stressing over it like crazy! I LOVE this blog.

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