fast answer Friday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. My comments in an interview might have lost my company a contract

I made a huge mistake in an interview a month ago. I have been working part-time in a restaurant while getting my degree. The restaurant is an awesome place to work, and I have a really good relationship with the owners, who are family friends. They have been really supportive and know that I am looking to transition into my chosen profession.

I interviewed at a really big company three weeks ago. During the interview, they asked what I liked best about my current position, and I talked about how I love that the management at the restaurant want to give people second chances so they work with a nonprofit and employ people who have criminal histories and really try to be an active part of the community. Through the partnership between the restaurant and the nonprofit, the people recently released are reconnected to society and have an outlet that is not part of the patterns that got them into trouble in the first place, and the program they are in really reduces the likelihood they will become a repeat offender by about two-thirds. I thought the company i was interviewing with knew this information and supported it because there was a branch of the restaurant on-site and that is how I developed the connection to get the interview.

Fast forward two weeks… the company is now requiring that any person who works at the location not have a criminal history within the past 7 years, and the restaurant is close to losing their contract as a food vendor. The company that I interviewed with has a great reputation and was known to do a lot of outside work within the community, so I am really confused why they are taking these actions. Should I tell the restaurant what I think happened? I feel horrible and am not sure what I should do.

Tell the restaurant. This isn’t your fault — this surely isn’t a program that they keep hidden; it’s one that they’re rightfully proud of, and the company you interviewed with almost surely could have found out all sorts of other ways if you hadn’t mentioned it. You mentioned it because you were proud of the work and had no reason to think it would cause problems. So tell your restaurant — to clear your conscience because you’re feeling at fault when you’re shouldn’t be, and also so they have a fuller picture of what might have happened.

2. Is this a work assignment or vacation?

I work in a hospital in a specialty position. The good is, I have really good job security and hours. The bad is, I have a difficult time getting time off because there are few who can cover my job. Asking for time off becomes a big deal.

There is an educational seminar I could use to improve my productivity. When I asked 3 months in advance, I was told I would have to use vacation time to attend. I was OK with this. However, now my manager wants me to take notes and give a condensed version for the rest of the staff in my department. Should I at least ask for mileage or ask to not use vacation time since this is now becoming a work assignment?

Either this is vacation time — when you shouldn’t have to do work — or it isn’t, in which case you shouldn’t have to use vacation time. Say something like this to your manager: “I wasn’t clear if you were asking me to do that as a work assignment, since I’m planning to use vacation time while I’m gone. Should I not be using PTO for it and instead treating it as work time?” (However, make sure that your manager was truly assigning you this work, not just casually mentioning that it would be something nice to do if you happen to think of it. Will it be held against you if you don’t? If so, they shouldn’t be making you take time off for it.)

3. Boss keeps calling me by the wrong title

I was hired at my place of employment as an Office Manager. Because of the amount of input I provide to the organization, I asked for a title change to Executive Assistant, which was granted. I feel that my input has been very significant to the organization and I have even contributed to other areas without any additional stipend or bonus. (Also, I might add, I am being paid below what I feel I should be considering my experience and successes. But I take responsibility for accepting the position under the salary condition….)

Recently, at the organization’s annual meeting, my boss, the Executive Director, announced me as the Administrative Assistant, and today at our staff meeting, he announced that it was Administrative Assistant appreciation day to thank me for the good work I do. He took me out to lunch and bought me a lei (I live in Honolulu, and they do that here).

Somehow, it strikes me less as being a compliment, and more of an insult. Am I wrong to feel this way? Why would he decide to change the way I am addressed and not discuss it with me first? So far, no one has discussed this point yet. I was thinking to address it to him directly myself. So, there are two points which seem contradictory, on the one hand, my work is being appreciated, on the other, he has verbally “demoted” me, or is there a more positive way to see this?

Lots of people see office manager, administrative assistant, and executive assistant as being similar or even the same thing — and at many organizations (especially smaller ones), they are. So I think you’re reading far, far more into this than what it really means.

If it really bothers you, you can say to him, “I noticed you’ve been referring to me as an administrative assistant. I know it might not seem like a big deal, but I’d really prefer it if you’d use executive assistant as my title.” But really, many people see very little difference between the titles and I’m sure it’s not meant as an insult. I’d pay far more attention to how he actually treats you, not what titles he uses.

4. Told to use vacation time for the day our office was closed after the Boston marathon bombing

I was told to stay home on the day of the Boston bombing because all businesses had to be closed for safety. Should I be paid for this day and not be forced to use vacation time?

It’s up to your employer. They can require you to use vacation time for closures (same thing for closures due to weather), although it would certainly be a nice gesture if they didn’t in this case.

5. Applying for a job where I don’t know a required computer program

I have a question about job fit. I usually apply for jobs where I fit at least 80% of the job description. Today I came across a job I think would be very interesting and that I am a good fit for. I match all of the requirements except one, which is a computer program I am familiar with but have no experience with. Is it worth addressing in my cover letter (i.e., I am familiar with program x, I do not have any experience but am willing to take my own time in order to get caught up or I am quick learner, etc). If your hiring someone, would you even consider someone who had never used the program before?

I wouldn’t even necessarily address it up-front. Apply and see what they say if it comes up. If you get all the way to an offer without being asked about, you can certainly ask at that stage if it’s an issue. But employers are often flexible on the job requirements they list, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it until/unless they tell you it’s a problem.

6. What is this style of management called?

There is a style of management where a company will purposefully assign a manager/supervisor to a group of workers, knowing the workers despise the manager in order to make them “grow” and mature. What is this called?


If that’s really the whole story. If, rather, the workers dislike the manager because she holds them to a high bar when they’ve been held to a low one in the past, sometimes it’s called good management. So the details matter.

7. Asking for accrued vacation time to be paid out when leaving a job

Tomorrow is my last day at my current job, as on Monday I start a sparkly new one. My mother has suggested I ask my company to pay me the vacation time I have earned while working there as, at this moment, I have 40 hours of accrued vacation time.

I personally feel this is a bit strange to ask as it makes me slightly uncomfortable. However, as this is the first time I’ve had accrued days at my disposal, is asking to be reimbursed for your unused vacation days when you leave a position a common practice? Is it even legal?

It’s very, very common. Not every company does it, but many do. (And in some states, like California, states are required by state law to pay out accrued vacation time when you leave.) Check your employee handbook; there’s a good chance that this is addressed in there. If it’s not, you can certainly ask. Usually your company will have a policy that they either do or don’t, and it’s completely normal to ask how they handle it.

{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK*

    #1: The EEOC might have something to say about this. The company is asking the restaurant to not hire anyone with a criminal history, which can get the restaurant itself in trouble. Obviously, there is a “disparate impact” issue if they stop hiring anyone with a conviction, and if they have, up until this point, been hiring people with criminal backgrounds, there is no way they could argue that there is a business-related reason for this. I’m very far from being an expert on all this, but it seems that the company asking the restaurant to violate the EEOC could have legal implications for both, at the worst, and become a PR nightmare, at best.

    1. OP #3*

      I was wondering the same thing. Alison has posted many times before about limitations on refusal to hire based on criminal status, so I was surprised not to see that mentioned in her answer.

      1. Not OP #3!!!*

        Oops! Replied from my phone which saved my name from an old Aam thread. I am not OP 3, sorry for any confusion

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I didn’t go in that direction with my answer because her question was about whether to tell her employer what happened; what you’re raising is a separate aspect of this.

    2. Another Evil HR Director*

      It might depend on what that company actually does. If that company is regulated by some governmental body, those regulations may require only those without certain criminal backgrounds be allowed to work at that site. In my world we are prohibited to hire anyone who has a criminal background that “may have a detrimental effect” on those we serve. That’s actually how the regulations reads.

      1. -X-*

        If it was regulated in that manner, it screwed up big-time by not making that requirement clear earlier.

        “we are prohibited to hire anyone who has a criminal background that “may have a detrimental effect” on those we serve.”

        Sadly this is often misinterpreted to mean no one with a criminal background can do the work, or company’s not hiring people with criminal background “just to be safe.”

          1. PEBCAK*

            And it would be really hard to argue that there is a “detrimental effect” if they have been operating in that manner for years with no issue.

    3. Julie*

      It sounds like the company is asking the restaurant not to allow certain employees to work at that location. Perhaps the restaurant can shift people around from different locations so they can meet the request of the company and also maintain their current staff (I don’t know anything about EEOC rules, so I can’t say whether this possibility would violate any of them).

      1. Natalie*

        My understanding is that under EEO you cannot make any decisions about working conditions – pay, duties, location, hiring, firing, etc – on the basis of a protected class. Assuming the criminal background rule did end up having a disparate impact on one class or another, moving their work locations would probably be considered illegal discrimination.

        1. OP#1*

          I don’t know what the exact rules are according to the business nor do I know (or want to know) what crimes my co-workers have been convicted of so I cannot speak to these questions. I do know that half the staff have been deemed ineligible. I am not sure how this background check process is working. I do know that the staff is awesome and that they really appreicate working here.

        2. Another Evil HR Director*

          In the recently released EEOC guidelines on criminal background histories, part of the focus is on blanket policies. Blanket policies may have disparate impact.The guidelines (they are not regulations at this time) call for individual, case by case decisions. “People with criminal backgrounds” in and of itself is not a protected class.

        3. Jessa*

          Not necessarily true. for instance banking regulations have requirements about past criminal history. In fact when the new regs were put in place people who had worked for banks for 20 or more years and had records from when they were very very young, had to be either certified or fired. A lot of them got fired. There IS a procedure to certify people but it takes awhile and not every company wanted to do it.

          You can discriminate against criminal record, it’s not a protected class at all. Now at some point that may change if they finally admit how disparate it is against POCs and the disabled (particularly persons with psychiatric disabilities,) but as of now, in the US it’s totally not protected. There are even federal laws where people cannot hire persons with certain convictions in their past in federal jobs.

          1. Mary*

            Agree with Jessa – I was at a bank and once you were hired, you were fingerprinted. In some cases it took months for the results to come back. As a result, one co-worker who had a shoplifting conviction 10 years before was immediately fired when her fingerprints were finally processed.

      2. Hmm*

        Does it make a difference that the workers employed by the restaurant are not employees of the company not wanting to have them on their property?

        1. PEBCAK*

          Again, I’m not an expert, so grain of salt and all that, but…

          If not hiring those with a criminal past breaks a law, then another company cannot ask for that in a contract. You cannot contract on something that is illegal. I’m not totally sure how this actually plays out, and I suspect in the real world, the restaurant is actually at the mercy of the big company, but the big company is walking a pretty dangerous line.

          1. Steve*

            I would hope that isn’t the case. If you were having carpet installed in your house, I’m sure you would reserve the right to refuse to hire a company that intended to send over a bunch of ex-cons to do the work.

  2. Jane*

    #5 Yes apply. At my current job, working in Adobe Flash is a huge part of what I do but before I was hired, I barely knew the program and had only used it a few times. They hired me anyway because I was familiar enough with it to learn the program and all the other requirements were met.

    If you are hired, ensure that you go out of your way to learn the program. Ask lots of questions, what tutorials, write how-tos, whatever it takes to learn it. If asked about it during the interview, mention things about it that you are familiar with and what your plan is to continue learning program.

    1. Kristi*

      “If asked about it during the interview, mention things about it that you are familiar with and what your plan is to continue learning program.”

      How did you reference this in your resume/cover letter? I ask because I’m familiar with the types of software programs often used in my field but have no actual exp. I’ve tried finding free tutorials online but no luck. I have no idea I could learn it, and fairly quickly.

  3. Jessa*

    On the vacation time, the worst they can do is say no. It never hurts to ask, because it could be a decent amount of money for you. And nobody is going to be nasty to you if you just ask them. If they are, well you’re leaving for a reason.

    1. PEBCAK*

      Illinois requires payouts, too. I don’t know what other states besides that and CA, which AAM mentioned.

        1. Anonymous*

          Maryland actually doesn’t require payouts in all situations. In Maryland if an employer has a written “use-it or lose-it” policy, they don’t legally have to pay it out. If they don’t have a written policy, then they have to pay out the accrued vacation time.

          1. Anon right now*

            MN is similar – employers have to pay out if their policy says they have to pay out, but otherwise they can keep it.

          2. LJL*

            West Virginia does, but then again employees have a lot of rights in WV. It never hurts to ask.

    2. Construction HR*

      OP should check with the HR/Policy manual, if any. It is usually addressed there. No guarantees even if it is in there, my last employer refused to pay even though I follow the guidelines.

  4. Chris80*

    I think I’d be OK with my boss calling me just about anything if she’d do the nice things mentioned in your post! So few people have a boss that will thank them publicly for their work or take them out to lunch like yours did. Nonetheless, since it does bother you, I think AAM’s advice is good. The executive director might not even realize he’s been calling you by the wrong title.

    1. -X-*

      My boss has no idea of my title. I’m the “communications person.” Which is true.

      In #3, the OP is the office manager. Not “The Office Manager” as a title, but office manager in practice.

      1. Jamie*

        This – I don’t think anyone at work knows my title with the exception of HR – maybe my boss? I’m fine with just being Jamie the IT. A lot of people aren’t title conscious and as long as it’s correct with HR for future reference for lots of us that’s all that matters.

        And to be fair, I also didn’t know there was a difference in status between being an AA, EA, or an Office Manager. I just assumed an EA was an AA for one specific exec and Office Manager can be anything from a receptionist with some extra duties to someone with a staff and high level accounting responsibilities – depending on the office.

        I’m sure no offense was meant – I’m not sure the distinctions are as clear for everyone as they are for you.

        1. Runon*

          I agree completely here. A lot of people don’t worry about title. I would say if there is a very high level of focus on title from everyone else at your organization then it might be worth an eyebrow raise, but at a previous job I would occasionally get my own title wrong cause it was used so rarely. No one cared as long as they knew how to reach me when I was needed.

        2. -X-*

          Usually executive assistant is a little higher in status than administrative assistant. I’m not sure where office manager falls relative to those – I don’t think it’s clear or consistent, since the tasks are often a little different.

            1. Jamie*

              I always thought personal assistants were like those people who work for celebrities who take care of their day to day stuff. Dinner parties, buying gifts, scheduling appointments, shopping.

              I do recall from the IT Crowd that Jen was offered a shot to be the big bosses personal assistant (or PA as they called it) and it was treated as if it was quite a promotion from head of IT. Could be tongue in cheek since the whole show was based on IT getting no respect, but I wondered if it wasn’t something different in the UK.

              Then we’ve had people post here who said they are EA’s but have the same status and authorities as VPs – so maybe it’s different in really large companies where they have these? I don’t know – we run lean – everyone does their own admin work here no matter how many C’s or O’s you have in your title.

              1. -X-*

                Yes, though PA’s aren’t just for celebrities – they’re for very busy and often wealthy people.

                Also, in large companies especially, an EA is often much more pro-active and involved in the content of the work than an AA. That’s part of reason EA often has higher status than AA.

                1. Jamie*

                  Ahhh…so wealthy people send their PAs to take their sons to pick up their tuxes/corsages for prom but middle class people like me have to take 4 hours of PTO and do it ourselves. Gotcha. :)

            2. Chinook*

              An EA draws the line at not assisting with anything to do with home life whereas a personal assistant helps with both home and work. True, an EA may go to get drycleaning but only if the person they are assisting is working such crazy hours that they couldn’t do it without interferring with the job.

              The difference between an EA and an AA is that an EA deals with only one or 2 individuals and dealing with calendars, emails, and travel details as well as whatever the supportee assigns. An AA doesn’t usually deal with details of someone’s day or other people’s emails unless they have been assigned to do so to make sure their department runs smoothly.

              An office manager oversees all those little details that allow the “real workers” do their job (ie. supplies, renovations, managing AAs, dealing with HVAC).

              I have done all of these, sometimes alone and sometimes combined into one position. Sure, there is some snobbery between the positions, but they all boil down to ensuring that other people can do their jobs and taking care of details (think of a stay-at-home mom, a good butler or a stage manager). We are successful at our jobs, really, if people can’t figure out what you do but they know they couldn’t do their job without you.

              1. fposte*

                I’ve definitely known EAs who do more personal support than that, though. It really isn’t a firm terminological difference.

        3. Jamie*

          Reading this it occurs to me that “Jamie the IT” would be an excellent character in a children’s book. Assisted by loyal pals Poptart the Penguin (networking expert – his action figure can come with itty bitty patch cables and a netgear switch, server cabinet sold separately) and Honey Bunny the Rabbit (web designer. Action figure comes with tiny copy of Adobe CS5, laptop with all available browsers installed, and Hex Color Chart – extra bandwidth sold separately.)

          Cartoon me would be so much sweeter, funnier, and cuter than real life me…this could be my next project.

          1. Zahra*

            Hey, I like it! Since we’re bemoaning the lack of new IT people and lack of IT interested by students, a cartoon like that should totally exist. Bonus points if genders are randomly assigned (as in, when you design the cartoon, flip a coin to know if penguin is male or female, same for Jamie, etc.).

            1. Jamie*

              I will go along with randomly assigning genders to sidekicks…but I’m kind of inclined to stay female. :)

              Although in the interest of fairness I would be happy to work with IT Jimmy – Jamie’s male IT pal – which is still the IT default (but times they are a’ changin’.)

            2. Emma*

              I’m actually teaching myself a bit of coding as we speak! I know that’s not IT exactly (I do get a bit confused about the difference between IT and CS). And I’m typically the one getting her hands dirty trying to fix some of the equipment that loves to misbehave. I recently showed my office that their videoconferencing technology can indeed push out presentations from their computers to other offices…something they assumed they couldn’t do because no one had bothered to try! It made me feel pretty good, heh.

          2. Kristi*

            ” tiny copy of Adobe CS5″

            American Girl dolls used to make tiny copies of classics, including Nancy Drew which I had to have. And love.

          3. Jessa*

            I would totally read this book to every little I know especially girls. This would be freaking awesome to get girls into tech.

        4. Cat*

          Yeah, if anything I would have assumed that an Office Manager was a promotion from an Executive Assistant (except really an entirely different job).

          1. LMW*

            It really depends on the office I think. My aunt’s an office manager, and she manages all the executive and administrative assistant.

          2. twentymilehike*

            I would have assumed that an Office Manager was a promotion from an Executive Assistant

            This is one of those things that I think will never be clear. As an office manager, I’ve found that my job is most closely correlated to either the college dorm RA, or the guy who picks up the elephant poop at the circus.

            However, since I’ve been looking at jobs ads, I’ve found that I’m qualified to be either an office manager, an AA or an EA depending on how I spin it. The EA jobs seem to be more focused on assisting executive level persons, where AA tend to be more general admin tasks. I have, however, seen either term used for executive level admin positions. Office manager seems to be the catchall for all anything in the adminstrative realm … or just all the office crap that no one else wants to do …

        5. Long Time Admin*

          “…I just assumed an EA was an AA for one specific exec”

          At my company, everyone who is not a licensed professional architect or engineer, or a designer, is called “Administrative Assistant”. It doesn’t matter what their job duties are, or their skill sets. It doesn’t describe most of the admin jobs here at all.

          1. Chinook*

            I agree with Long Time Admin that AA does seem to be a catch all term in professional companies for those who don’t do the final product. The AA’s at the accounting firm where I was did everything from compiling final documents to physically filing returns with the government to typing up financial statements. The accountants signed off on what we did (and were legally responsible for it) but we did the keyboarding. We also did meeting set ups, answered phones and anything else that freed up the accountants to do the more complicated work.

      2. AmyNYC*

        I run into problems with my title all the time – I was never told a specific title, so I asked my direct supervisor “I’ve been calling my position ‘Junior Architect,’ does that sound right to you?” and have been using that ever since.

        Sidenote: The term “architect” should technically be reserved for registered/licensed architects, but in practice people use “Junior Architect” for someone who is in the process of becoming licensed while doing the work of an architect, rather than “intern” (which NCARB would say is correct) because intern leads to confusion between a full-time professional with a student working a few hours a week.
        Any other architects want to weigh in?

        1. EM*

          What about Architect in Training? Kind of like Engineer in Training (which is only reserved for folks who have taken the FE; I don’t know if there is a similar exam one takes before the big one to be a Registered Architect).

    2. Anne*

      A couple of senior people at my work aren’t actually even sure what my job description is, they just know that I’m always very busy and very helpful across a bunch of functions. The development manager was very confused the other day when I said I would come back to him later because I had my head in numbers just then. “Numbers? What numbers?” “…I’m the finance person here.” “Oh, really?”

      This stuff just happens!

    3. Nichole*

      My last boss was an office manager- she was literally the manager of the people and operations of the office. I had always thought of an office manager as someone who runs the desk and does the filing. I don’t think having the “wrong” title will do too much professional damage. However, as Chris said, if it matters to you (and there are good reasons why it may matter to some people in some situations), asking about it without taking it too personally is probably the most productive approach.

    4. Cassie*

      I agree – my bosses do compliment me in front of their visitors, saying stuff like “oh, she runs the dept” or “she’s MY boss!”, but then they call me their secretary. Being their assistant is part of my job, but my role also includes a lot of financial analysis and my job title is an analyst title.

      My bosses are nice and like I said, do compliment me, but they don’t take me out to lunch. I can’t even imagine telling them “can you use my official title?” or even “can you call me your assistant and not secretary?”. If I could choose my own title, I want to be Chief of Staff (like Leo McGarry), but considering my boss doesn’t have a lot of other staff (other than students), it would be a bit of an empty title.

      1. Emily K*

        I know of a very small nonprofit which for the last decade has the following staff roster:

        Executive Director
        Chief of Staff

        They get a new intern about every semester. When there’s no intern, it’s just the ED and his “Chief of Staff.” I always thought it was very lucky for the folks who worked that position that they get to put “Chief of Staff” on their resume going forward.

  5. Chocolate Teapot*

    From experience, most companies wouldn’t function properly if it wasn’t for the assistants.

    1. Jane*

      This. At my company, it’s best to be very nice and friendly with people’s assistants. Besides just being good manners, it’s saved me many times in a pinch when I needed certain information but couldn’t get through to their boss (or didn’t want to bother their boss with it).

      1. Long Time Admin*

        Yep. Be nice to the assistants, receptionists, and janitors. We often have the ability to save your butt, or not.

        1. Rana*

          This. I’ve never understood people who get snooty with support staff. Even if you don’t care about being a kind, decent, and polite human, you’d think that your sense of self-interest would suggest these are not people to piss off.

      2. Chinook*

        I recognized the value of Admins back in junior high when I saw how the school secretary (who was there through 3 principals) really seemed to be either the gate keeper or the one in control. We were also in awe that she could type 90+ words a minute and remember every single one of us and who are parents were.

  6. anon*

    I didn’t know that the title Executive Assistant held that much weight. I always thought it was better to be a manager than an assistant.

    1. Chinook*

      “I always thought it better to be a manager than assistant.”

      I have worked enough as an assistant to realize that I would never want to be a manager because, as an assistant, I get to to leave work at work yet I still can influence what is going on if I work for a good company that realizes the assistants look at issues from a different perspective.

  7. Sarah*

    #5 – I agree with AAM, but I would say that if the position was dedicated to using a certain program (graphic designer working in InDesign, fundraiser working in Raiser’s Edge), then employers may see that as a deal breaker. It was for us when we recently hired a Communications Coordinator. Those that didn’t know InDesign weren’t considered because we didn’t want to train someone new.

    1. Runon*

      This may be the case but I think that it is best to still apply, especially if you have related experience (you don’t know program X but you know program Y which does the same thing) and let the company make that decision if it is a deal breaker for them.

      Some companies only use program X because the person who had the job before knew program X and they are willing to use program Y as long as the product is the same.

      1. Sharon*

        I agree. Sometimes you can’t tell if the place is willing to let you pick up the tool on the job. I did a short term contract a few years ago where we used DOORS (documentation software) on a daily basis I. I hadn’t even heard of it before, but it wasn’t mentioned in the interview. I not only learned it in a few weeks, but I found a way to use red colored text! (Those who know DOORS can tell you, you can make your text any color as long as its black!).

    2. Mike C.*

      Yeah, it’s one thing if you’re having to learn Delmia, but the vast majority of the time folks just want to know if you’re smart enough to hit F1 in MS Office.

  8. Beth*

    #1 –

    A couple things are unclear here. The poster says the owners of the restaurants are family friends. She says that there is a “branch” of the restaurant on-site at the large company with whom she interviewed.

    Are the owners/family friends owners of a franchise? Is this a chain of restaurants and the restaurant located in the company has nothing to do with the owners of the restaurant for which the poster works? Will the closure of the in-house restaurant have any impact on the poster’s friends?

    How does the poster know what this other company is now requiring (and that it is a new requirement) and that the restaurant is close to losing its contract?

    It may very well be that the company with whom she interviewed already had this policy in place, were unaware of the restaurant’s work with released criminals, and are now reiterating it and applying it to the restaurant. That wouldn’t be so unusual. Not every company wants to employ convicted criminals or have them on-site, especially if security is important for any reason (healthcare, education, finance, etc..) They can be very community-oriented without wanting to take that approach.

    1. OP#1*

      They own the enttire chain and have 3 restaurants. Losing this contract would be a big deal.

      The owners are now doing background checks on everyone in the restaurant and have to more the people who are working at that location. The owner explained why they were doing it and is askign for everyone’s cooperation as they try to address the issue.

      The business that is requiring this is a call center. The location is secured and all of the employees have to use their cards to get into the building. I have worked a few times at that location and we have no access to the building whatsoever.

      One issue that the owners are facing is that the few people on staff that qualify do not want to work in that location because few people tip well at the call center location.

    2. Good_Intentions*


      You bring up some valid concerns, but I take issue with a bit of the language you use.

      The people leaving prison after serving their sentences are typically referred to as “ex-offenders.” They have served their time, and most are eager to secure jobs and begin happy and productive lives that feature only legal activities. To make this possible, restaurants and other businesses must be willing to give them a chance to earn money and begin life as tax-paying citizens at some point.

      You and I most likely have different views on this issue, and I don’t wish to have a political exchange on the Ask a Manager blog, particularly as Alison has made a point of stopping such interactions in the past.

      Let’s just leave it at “we’ll agree to disagree.”

  9. Yup*

    #7 Definitely check the employee handbook or ask HR before you leave. It’s very, very common to have unused PTO paid out to you when leaving a job. (But not universal, so you never know.) Just ask, “I have 40 hours of accrued vacation time that I haven’t used. How is that usually handled when someone leaves?” They won’t be shocked that you asked — it’s a totally normal departing question, just like asking on what date your health benefits end.

    1. Jamie*

      Yes – very common. You don’t want to leave money on the table as an oversight for something that is such common practice.

      1. OP #7*

        OP here! So, after I emailed Alison, I rediscovered our Employee Handbook and found that yes, they do pay out the remaining vacation days and that was verified by our HR director. I’m pretty excited about it- my partner is studying for the bar this summer so having a little extra to help pay bills while he’s unemployed is such a relief.

        As far as medical benefits, my company only offered a “Health debit card.” Sadly, the card will apparently deactivate tonight and I’m slightly bummed I won’t have access to use those funds to try to pay some medical bills. The problem is that I have to pay those bills out of pocket, and then I’ll be reimbursed on my next paycheck. However, as I don’t have extra cash to pay for those bills, I haven’t been able to use the card.

        Oh well. C’est la vie, and onto my next work adventure that I’m very, VERY excited about!

  10. SW*

    #3: I agree with Alison’s advice — the titles usually mean the same thing. Look on the bright side, at least he doesn’t call you a secretary! I still get called that by some of our (much) older employees.

    1. Chinook*

      I have never understood what was so bad about being called a secretary. I am in my 30’s and have called myself a secretary when people were unclear about what I actually do. Maybe because it connotates someone who only answers phones, does typing and other work as assigned (which sometimes has been my role ad an AA)?

    2. LondonI*

      In the UK an ‘Administrative Assistant’ is the lowest on the totem pole. (I say this as someone who has spent many hours as an administrative assistant.) You file and photocopy and do general low-level work. A ‘Secretary’ is higher up, usually refers to a team secretary and, historically, takes on a bit more typing. Some secretaries take qualifications to become specialists, such as Legal Secretary or Medical Secretary. A ‘PA’ stands for Personal Assistant and this usually a senior secretary who works for just one boss rather than for the team. PAs manage diaries, organise conferences, book travel and sort out expenses.
      An ‘Office Manager’, usually, refers to someone who manages the office support team and I have rarely seen the term ‘Executive Assistant’ used over here.

      I always find it strange to correspond with colleagues in the States who are ‘Administrative Assistants’ when I would consider them to do the work of a PA. I am aware that the connotations are quite different in the States, however – I’m certainly not trying to offend anyone!

      Two countries divided by a common language and all that.

  11. Kay*

    Re #7: Every job I’ve ever had (in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, and Virginia) paid out accrued vacation time when an employee left the company. That was part of the reason why they all did vacation time in kind of tight-fisted accruals that reset on January 1 — so that the only way they’d ever owe you 10 (15, 20) days of extra pay would be if you resigned in December and hadn’t taken a single day off all year.

    That said, it’s pretty much always amounted to a “free” week’s pay for me, which has allowed me to take 3-4 days off between jobs, which is quite nice! So yes, definitely ask about the policy, or check the employee handbook. It should say.

    1. Jamie*

      Absolutely this is why companies don’t allow vacation to roll over. Otherwise the accrued liabilities would be astronomical if you had people banking vacation time for years at a stretch.

      1. Malissa*

        Be jealous, I’m about to cash out 200 hours of annual leave. ;)
        But that is all we are allowed to carry on the books.

        1. Kate*

          We can accrue up to 40 days (320 hours). How many vacation days you get is dependent on tenure. You start at 1 day/month, and up it goes. People who have worked here 20+ years get 2 vacation days/month (maybe 2.5; can’t remember). I have a few older coworkers who are constantly taking off and still manage to keep 40 days to cash out. They definitely think of it as part of their retirement savings.

      2. AP*

        At my mom’s [major big-pharma] company, they used to let vacation days roll over. Someone she worked closely with saved all of his up for years and then took a giant 4-month odyssey! They had to pull in temps to replace him…and alas the next calendar year there was no more roll-over policy. Bam.

        1. Jamie*

          I seem to remember reading here that a university was putting a cap on the roll over for the same reason. Some people who had been there decades had amassed so much time off it would bankrupt departments if all cashed in…and people were using it as a savings cushion for they left.

      3. Anon*

        I have also found that the past few years, accruing days that can be rolled over has actually been a pretty solid investment strategy. The days go in at one pay rate, but after a few annual raises, they get cashed out at a much higher value. Indeed, this has been especially beneficial the past few years with the wildly low interest rates that have been around.

    2. OP #7*

      I felt like such a moron checking the Employee Handbook AFTER I had emailed AAM (I feel like I abused Alison’s wealth of knowledge :) ). But yes, I rediscovered our Employee Handbook and found that they do pay out the remaining vacation days. I double checked with the HR director and I’ll be getting my days. YAY!

      1. LJL*

        Think of it this way….your asking the question will likely help someone else who has the same question down the road.

  12. "Skooter" Dawson*

    Thanks for the reply to my style of management question. Yes, I think it IS stupid to assign a manager to a group of employees who already know the forthcoming manager and hate this person. Alas, that is where we are. The manager’s record speaks for itself and the record is bad. Seriously, I thought this management style had a specific “important” title but Stupidity…well, it fits.

    1. VintageLydia*

      Back in my retail days, we dealt with this. We always had great staff and department managers, so the district managers thought we could easily cope with a terrible general manager. Our store was the unofficial proving ground. If a general manager wasn’t doing well at another store, they’d be transferred to ours. If they didn’t improve, they were fired.
      It sucked for the rest of us, though. In my 5 years (and 5 general managers) only one was really great, and he was only temporary from the beginning.

    2. Jane Doe*

      Is your company having financial problems at all (or maybe they’re just not good at firing people)? This might be a tactic to encourage people to quit rather than have to fire them or lay them off.

      1. "Skooter" Dawson*

        Hi Jane,
        That is weird that you would ask this. YES, our place is facing financial problems. *Sigh* I have a 2-year degree in a business area. If I can see what a bad move this is, why can’t the MBAs?

        1. Suzy Schmoe*

          Because having an MBA doesn’t automatically mean you can make smart business decisions…

    1. Kate*

      Thanks for sharing. This unexpectedly hit close to home for me. Not all of them, thankfully, but more than I’d like.

  13. Girasol*

    #2 My company does this occasionally also. I wasn’t aware, moving from a company with a different approach, that training at my new company was a perk and only supported for those who earn it, so I was more presumptious than I realized when I asked in my first year for training to improve my skill at my new job. My manager said the same thing: he’d pay the training fee but not the travel, and not on company time. I found that awkward too – vacation or work? – but I treated it like company time, worked hard and turned in the typical pass-down training report afterward for others to use. I wouldn’t argue with AAM on her advice to clarify up front. I don’t think my attempt to go the extra mile did me any good. The information wasn’t shared or used. Teammates were jealous that I’d wheedled a perk I didn’t deserve since they didn’t know it wasn’t fully company-sponsored. I felt put out that I’d spent money and time for a week’s vacation trip to end up rather worse off with my team and manager than before, although the training was excellent and I’ve put what I learned to good use since.

    1. OP for #2*

      Oh it is not a “perk” when you use vacation time. I could have asked for the same day off and not said what I was doing. For all they would know I just wanted to sleep in on May 22 nd. The person who makes scheduling and would arrange coverage, is not who I report to. Sso there is a disconnect. It is possible my manager believes I am going on company time when he gave me the assignment. Currently he is out of town so I will have to follow up on Monday.

  14. The Other Dawn*


    It depends on why the manager is despised. If the manager is simply someone who cracks the whip and expects her employees to do their best, minimize mistakes, and be professional adults, then it’s good management to have her head up a team that may not be doing their best work or have a bad attitude or needs some guidance. Oftentimes, employees have a hard time dealing with someone who sets a really high bar. They’re used to skating by or doing average work, and when someone comes in and expects them to work harder and smarter, there’s usually pushback or the manager is labeled as a bad manager. If the manager is hated because she’s a brown-noser, or constantly throws people under the bus, that’s different.

  15. Anonymous*

    #7 – Your company sucks, big time. If you/your co-workers can anonymously tip off media about being forced to use vacation time to comply with a government order because of a TERRORIST ATTACK, I think your employer might be shamed into paying you. I’d look at the Globe or Herald, find someone who wrote a story about how businesses are being affected by this and email them from a burner email account to tell your story.

    What your employer is doing is legal but I doubt it’s something that they would want the community to know about.

    1. LMW*

      I think it really depends on the company, and how the loss of productivity impacts the bottom line. I mean, I completely feel for OP #7 because vacation days are precious and losing one for something outside your control sucks. But in some circumstances, a day’s worth of lost productivity can mean a huge hit in income and paying everyone for a day where they made no money could have big financial ramifications. Most businesses have the money to cover this type of thing, but some just don’t. Think of small businesses like restaurants, flower shops, etc. Shutting down the city for a day could have huge financial ramifications for some people. Think of people who work hourly and don’t have benefits like vacation time. They aren’t getting paid at all for that day. For the low-income workers who are usually in those circumstances, that can be devastating.

      1. Anonymous*

        There isn’t any argument that could convince me that complying with a government order not to leave your house should mean you need to use a vacation day. Because hourly workers didn’t get paid, people who have vacation time should also be penalized? If hourly workers get screwed, everyone should? That’s not a compelling rationale for me.

        1. Jane Doe*

          I agree. I can see in a small business where it might just be a day off without pay, but making people use a vacation day because there was a terrorist hunt going down isn’t cool. These people weren’t on vacation, they were confined to their houses watching CNN and listening to the police scanner.

        2. LMW*

          That’s not what I’m saying at all. As I said above, it’s terrible if you have to use a vacation day for something that’s involuntary. My point is merely that some business can’t afford to pay all their employees for the lost business day AND a vacation day, so if you want to be paid for the day you didn’t work, they may make you use the vacation time. It’s not ideal and it’s hard on the OP, but it might be the case for some businesses.
          (And the point about the hourly workers was merely an additional thought I had — nothing to do with the OP’s situation at all. That would be a really illogical argument! I just feel rotten for people taking a financial hit over what happened.)

          1. Lora*

            Um, except the small businesses you mention didn’t lose a darn thing other than a day that everyone else missed too, because the WHOLE CITY was locked down and nobody was allowed in or out of Boston. The only business that was allowed to stay open AT ALL in lockdown was Dunkin Donuts, because they offered free donuts to the police/military.

            I am not kidding about this. They let Dunkie’s stay open, and of course the hospitals. Everyone else was shut. Unless OP#7 works at Dunkin, the business was shut down by order of the government and nobody should have been going in or out.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right, but it’s a lost business day for the company — a day they didn’t make any money but still need to meet their financial obligations (rent, paying bills, etc.). If they run lean, it really could be a hardship for some small businesses.

              In general, I think businesses shouldn’t require employees to use PTO in situations like that, but there are some businesses where it would truly be a hardship. (Not the OP’s, it sounds like; since she updated that she works for a multinational.)

              1. mas*

                I wonder though, if the company’s insurance policy would cover losses because of the forced shutdown of the city. Most policies have various clauses related to “terrorism” so I’d think they would be able to try to make a claim. Just speculating, but it would be interesting to know if anyone does this.

                Either way, I cannot imagine that the damage from doing this to employees who will inevitably remember this for the rest of their lives will outweigh whatever money they save from paying them for that day.

                1. LMW*

                  Those are both good points. I never thought about the insurance angle. I think for a lot of companies, they have an “act of God” clause…but even so, I believe research has shown that our economy took a huge hit from Hurricane Sandy, and not just from the damage but in lost productivity, lost wages, etc.
                  I think your second point is exactly why most companies would (and should, if they can) pay their employees for the day. In most cases, it’s just good business. I was just hoping to point out that there might be circumstances where they can’t, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they “suck” or that they don’t appreciate the hardship that might inflict on their employees. They may have had to make a hard decision. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to the OP’s situation though. That’s just weird from a large business.

                2. Another Evil HR Director*

                  I was just reading on another site that if this is deemed “terrorism” most insurance policies will not pay, because most insurance policies exclude acts of terrorism. After 9-11, laws were passed to require insurance companies to sell specific policies to cover damages as a result of acts of terrorism. But if a company didn’t buy such a plan, their normal insurance will not cover it. Rock and a hard place.

      2. OP #4*

        Just to clarify, I work for a mulit-national corporation, not a small local business.

        I actually haven’t been asked to use the day as a vacation day. I was paid yesterday and realized I’m missing an entire day of pay (I’m a full-time employee, but am required to clock in and out via computer with my manager verifying my hours at the end of the pay period). I wasn’t told when the office was closed that I was taking an unpaid day off or was going to need to use a vacation day, just that the office was closed. I had assumed it’d be treated the same as a paid holiday (ie Memorial Day, etc).

        I emailed my manager yesterday, but haven’t received a response and was hoping to breach the topic again today.

    2. Corporate Drone*

      This is great advice. I know a lot of employers took a good deal of heat after requiring workers to use PTO during Hurricane Sandy–you know, when the entire east coast was without electricity for a week!

  16. Corporate Drone*

    #1. You should definitely come forward to your current employer. However, the only blame that should be assigned here is on the other company for not properly conducting its due diligence when it engages vendors. As others have said, I’m sure that your employer does not keep this practice a secret, and they probably use it as a competitive advantage when marketing their business to the community.

  17. danr*

    #6…. It’s called getting a department going. So what if you dislike the person, you might find that as a manager he is completely different. Some advice from someone who was in a similar situation. … Find out from your new manager what his expectations are and follow them. Work to your new managers expectations and you might find yourself pleasantly surprised. I know I had that experience.

  18. luten*

    Regarding number 6, it may not be anything sinister.

    Part of working, and frankly part of life, is getting on with people you don’t like. It’s likely that the placement of this manager could be a test for the employees. And frankly, there is little wrong in that and cannot IMO be seen as bad management per se.

    Also, it depends on the nature of the dislike. Is it due to his or her personality or competence? If the new manager is abusive, then yes I can understand why dislike exists. If it’s because s/he is competent yet rude or otherwise abrasive, IMO this is something to live with, provided his or her decisions and management practice in general are sound. It’s probably best to wait and see, before bemoaning top management for the new placement.

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