rude internships, unrealized raffle prizes, and more

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

1. My manager told me to cover for an absent coworker without asking if I can

My core hours are 8-5, and another coworker’s hours are 9-6, which is the closing shift for our office. I close for her occasionally when one of us needs to shift our hours. However, our manager, who has only been on staff for a couple of months, sent me an email that my coworker was on PTO for 3 days and that I need to plan on working her hours. First off, I was annoyed that she didn’t ask, as these are not my “core” hours. As well as the time is in one week and I already had plans for 2 of the days. I feel that as she took on the role of manager, this falls on her to cover if she approves the time off before making sure it was covered. I am more than willing to switch hours when I can, but I don’t feel it can be assumed that I will be able to drop everything in my off hours to accommodate. What are your thoughts?

Well, it’s not terribly unusual for her to handle it the way she did, particularly since it’s only a difference of staying until 6 instead of until 5. But if you’re not able to do it some of those days, then you respond back with, “I can do it the first three days, but not the last two because I have plans that I can’t break on those days.” (To be clear, it would still be her prerogative to require you to cover the additional days, but you won’t know whether that will be the case or not unless you speak up about your conflicts.)

2. When your raffle prize isn’t what was promised

If a company raffles a specific type of TV, and the employee who wins it gets a letter stating that he would get some money for the TV but the amount is no way near the specific TV they posted, as the winner do you suck it up and get what they give you or are you entitled to the value of that specific TV or TV itself?

I don’t know, but I do know that raffles are regulated by state laws, so you might start with a check of those. They’re listed here.

3. Can benefits be cut if your hours are cut?

My wife started working full-time with a retail company. She just started getting benefits so I dropped my health plan and we got on hers because it was cheaper. Everything seemed fine until just a couple days ago, when her job started having problems with her scheduling. We have 2 kids and I work a lot of hours. So there are some scheduling conflicts. To make a long story short, her job just hired more people and told everyone that their hours would be cut unless they can be more flexible. My wife is under the impression that if they cut her hours below 30 a week, she will lose her health benefits. I know about COBRA but I’m more concern with the benefit side of it, not the insurance side. Can her job cut her benefits because they cut her hours? We live in Virginia if that matters.

Yes. Most companies (and insurance companies) have policies that say that you must work X hours to be eligible for benefits. That number is usually 30 hours/week, but I’ve also seen it by 20 or other numbers.

4. Should I speak up about my lazy colleague who’s applying for a job that will impact me?

I work in the UK public sector, and my organisation is rigorous in applying equality and diversity law and good practice, which is excellent. There is a vacancy that has arisen that significantly impacts on my work; I am not the line manager for the post but there is an expectation that we cover some of each other’s tasks. A colleague has applied and been shortlisted for interview, who I know will have come across very well in her application and will do so at interview. Very articulate, bright and intelligent. However, she is also craftily lazy. She spends a lot of time during the day surfing social media forums; when “working from home,” I know she is not, comes to work using the flexi system to its maximum, and not paying it back, which means she is actually being paid for full time work but actually only available for work for a maximum of 30 hours (minus the hour’s lunch she takes most days).

I realise this person is being poorly managed, and if she gets the post will continue with the same manager. I also know how our interview panels work. The Head of Department and Personnel representatives will apply a rigorous marking system based on the application form and interview, and will not take into account what this person is like. It is therefore highly likely that we will be working closely together, and I really do not want to. I have no respect for someone who exhibits this kind of behaviour. I do however like her; she is very sociable, and fun.

It seems to me that dogmatically following a procedure is going to result in someone getting a post who has a poor attitude to work and, somewhere in all of this, little respect for colleagues. That will impact on my work and work load. Is there anything I can do to avert what I regard as an unsuitable appointment without looking like a snitch?

I’d speak up and share your impressions. If you keep it objective and make it clear that your focus is on ensuring the best person is hired for the position and not on any personal issues with her, you’re not going to look like a “snitch” (a concept that really doesn’t apply in the workplace anyway). That said, if they’re rigid about only assessing candidates on their interviews and they won’t take into account other feedback, then they have a terrible, misguided hiring process, and there may be nothing you can do about that. That’s one of the problems with such systems.

5. When should I provide additional info to strengthen my candidacy?

I just finished the second of two rounds of interviews for a position that would be my first management position in my current company. During the second interview, my current supervisor asked me to explain certain experiences, and while trying to provide brief and to the point answers (she’s been my boss for two years, so she knows me well), I believe I breezed too quickly through some of my past experiences. When I expressed in my closing that should I not get the position, I would very much want to know what I could do to improve next time, she indicated that I am one of seven final candidates and all six of the other candidates have more experience than I do.

Now, I’ve already sent an initial thank-you note reiterating I have the right experiences, but since our interview, I realized that I could create a one-page cut sheet that explains each of the experiences she’s requested (I’ve been at this organization for 3 years, but I’ve been in this field for over a decade so most of my experience is at other locations). I’m wondering if I should hold off on providing this additional information until I know I receive one of the final interviews or if I should go ahead and send it now? My boss is the one who encouraged me to apply for the position, and I know this information could be critical to her next decision, but I also don’t want to seem too pushy.

Send it now. Otherwise you risk already being cut from the finalist group and never getting the chance to send it. If the goal is to impact her assessment of your candidacy, the time to send it is right now.

6. Company is trying not to pay me overtime

I work at a high-end automobile dealership as a driver. I recently have been promoted to become a service adviser. However, the managers have been a little sketchy on the details of my pay. They just told me that I won’t have any pay increase for 90 days (I currently am on an hourly wage). Ok, that’s fine. They also now want me to work every other Saturday and a few hours later each night as well — sure, no problem. But they don’t want to pay me overtime. They want me to clock out at my regular hour so on the record I’m only working 40 hours/week. They just said they’ll give me $125 for each Saturday I work. I would have made $132 on OT pay for the Saturday shift alone, not to mention the other extra hours during the week I’d be staying late. This sounds like a big rip off and sort of illegal? I live in Texas, and I am not super familiar with all the employment laws but this still doesn’t sound right. Is there anything illegal about what they want to do? How can I approach my boss to discuss this? I definitely do not want to lose the job by doing so, but I feel like I am getting robbed.

It’s not sort of illegal — it’s very illegal. Federal law requires all non-exempt workers to be paid for all time they work, with overtime pay for any hours over 40 worked in a given week. It’s illegal to direct you not to record your hours, and it’s illegal not to pay you for all hours worked plus overtime.

I would say, “We could get in trouble for doing that because of the laws on tracking hours and overtime.” Note the “we” in that sentence — that puts you on their side and makes the statement less adversarial than it might otherwise sound.

7. My own employer didn’t bother to tell me they’d hired someone the day after I applied for an internal position

For the past 10 months, I’ve been interning at a nonprofit. Recently, a staff position opened up and I applied right away. Last week, a month after the job had been posted, I sent a brief email to the HR rep asking if he knew what the timeline for the search was. Never heard back. Today I found out from my supervisor they hired another internal candidate the day the job was posted. Obviously they already had chosen this person and were not planning to do a real search. As frustrating as I find that, I understand it happens frequently. But what really bugs me is that it seems they have no intention of notifying me that the search is over, even after I emailed the HR rep directly about an update. As an internal candidate who has given them almost a year of free labor, is that courtesy too much to ask?

No. That’s outrageous. Doing that to any internal candidate is incredibly rude and inconsiderate (and short-sighted; it’s a good way to destroy people’s loyalty to the organization), but doing it to someone who’s interning for free has a whole extra layer of rudeness to it. You might consider telling them how disappointed you are in the way they handled it … and frankly, I’d seriously consider leaving over it, given that you’re not being paid … unless you think the benefits you’re receiving from continuing to intern there are strongly enough to continue working somewhere that treated you with such disrespect.

{ 99 comments… read them below }

  1. Riki*

    #6 – Asking you to not clock in at all when you work Saturdays is a big NO. You should also review FLSA and OT laws for for your state, then review your current contract. Are you exempt? Nonexempt? There are job types that can be both hourly and exempt. You need to know if this applies to you. However, even if you are exempt, you still need to be paid for your time.

    When you speak with your boss or HR about this, I agree that you should frame it as “we.” A practice like this is something that can get a company into a lot of trouble, and over what? A few hundred dollars of OT? Not worth it.

  2. LisaLyn*

    #4 – Yes, do speak up. I’ve been there myself but if you keep it on a professional level, you are doing the right thing. I hope the hiring committee listens!

  3. Sabrina*

    #3 Loss of coverage is a qualifying event, so you’d be then able to go back on your insurance through your employer. As for cutting benefits, like Alison said, I’ve also seen it as low as 20 hours, but it’s up to every company and policy. Your wife would have to ask her HR, but they may not cut her benefits unless the change in hours is permanent and long term. YMMV

    1. AG*

      Unfortunately a lot of retailers play this game so that they don’t have to pay for benefits.

      1. Rana*

        Yup. Universities and colleges too. Traditionally, a lot of them allot teaching assignments to adjunct instructors in such fashion that they fall just below the hourly requirement needed to qualify for benefits.

        Recently the IRS has been pushing for standardized definitions of what adjunct teaching work entails, since there’s a lot of unrecognized labor going unpaid. This brings the likelihood that the hours per class thus re-tallied will push many adjuncts over the line into territory where they qualify for benefits.

        To avoid this, many administrations are now reducing the number of classes they’re willing to assign to any given adjunct, meaning that adjuncts are not only still being shut out of benefits, but their pay – already scandalously low – is being slashed as well. It’s a bad scene.

    2. Josh S*

      Came to say exactly this. You beat me to it! :)

      And even though the coverage through the OP’s employer is more expensive than through the wife’s employer, it’s almost guaranteed to be a TON cheaper than paying for COBRA.

  4. Anonymous*

    7. I agree. You should let them know how disappointed you are with the organization and their hiring practices then leave because they’re not paying you anyway.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I remember hearing about that lawsuit. Must say I was on the side of the woman who sued. In her shoes, I wouldn’t have bothered suing myself, but I can see why she did it.

    2. RedStateBlues*

      Apparently this was settled out of court, but for you lawyers out there, don’t you generally have to suffer some sort of loss to sue? Granted I don’t know the facts of the case, but I’m trying to figure out what the waitress lost besides a little bit of pride for being the butt of a joke.

      1. Esra*

        Reading a few articles on it, the manager mentioned that it would be a vehicle (a car or a truck) and that the winner would have to pay the taxes on it. So he led them to believe that it was indeed a vehicle that they had the opportunity to win.

      2. Ruffingit*

        No, it’s not as simple as suffering a loss that you can then collect on. What happened with the Toyota case has to do with contract law. The woman in question sued claiming breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation. She wanted specific performance, which basically means the defendant must provide exactly what they said they would provide. In this case, that was a new Toyota car. Apparently, during the contest that was at the heart of this matter, when asked what kind of Toyota the prize was the manager said he didn’t know if it was a car, truck, or van. This would lead a person to believe it was indeed an automobile.

        So basically this was a contract case with the remedy being that they had to provide exactly what they said they would provide which was a new Toyota car.

        There are several cases out there similar to this. You can read about those here:

    3. ChristineSW*

      Okay, that’s just rotten. In the article, the employer claimed it was an April Fools Day joke–a cruel one if you ask me.

  5. Cathy*

    #3 — the Affordable Care Act requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance to full-time employees. Full-time is defined as “works an average of at least 30 hours per week”. So yes, your wife’s employer can decide that she no longer qualifies for benefits if she works less than 30 hours per week.

    The law also requires stability though, so she can’t be covered one week and not the next week and then back on again. Your wife needs to consult with her HR or benefits specialist to find out what measurement periods they use when determining benefits eligibility. For example, they may say that if she worked more than 30 hours/week for the past 3 months then she’s considered a full time employee for the next 6 months. At the end of 6 months, they’ll look again at the previous 3 months to decide if she’s still full time, and she would get at least 30 days notification before being dropped from the company plan. Obviously she needs to ask in order to get the real numbers that her company is using.

    You also need to consult with your HR or benefits specialist. Ask if your wife’s losing benefits at her job due to being reclassified as part time would be considered a qualifying event for enrollment in your benefits plan and how many days you’d have to complete the process.

    1. Natalie*

      I believe HIPPA mandates that loss of other coverage be considered a qualifying event.

      1. Melissa Renee*


        Health insurance portability accountability act

        Not HIPPA.

        Pet peeve of mine.

    2. Loose Seal*

      My understanding is that, under the Affordable Health Care Act, companies are required to provide health insurance to employees who work 30 hours or more a week but they can choose to provide healthcare to anyone who works fewer hours. So, if OP’s wife works for a company that’s generous to their employees, they could be covered regardless of how many hours she gets.

      Both spouses should be checking with HR/benefits: OP should ask if it’s a qualifying event and OP’s wife should be checking to see how many hours she needs to remain on the benefits plan.

      And I feel dumb for suggesting this next bit because I’m sure they’ve already thought about it. But if it’s a random childcare issue that’s causing wife to have irregular hours, is it worth it to pay someone to watch the kids instead?

    3. RG*

      And those 30 hr/wk requirements don’t go into affect until Jan 1, 2014 or after (depending when the plan’s start date is). So that 30 hr week issue isn’t pertinent in the here and now, unless its part of the employer’s current plan.

  6. FiveNine*

    #7, I hope you leave as soon as possible, as much for yourself as anything. I honestly don’t see how someone who has given them 10 months without pay wouldn’t get more bitter by the minute staying there after such treatment.

  7. Marmite*

    #4 If you’re talking about a civil service job I know that they do tend to make hiring decisions based on specific competencies displayed in applications, assessments, and interviews. However, if they are sensible in your department they will also take your concerns into account if you speak up. The problem is they may then ask her line manager about her performance, and it seems like that person may not have any issues with her work.

    Still, I would suggest speaking up, the worst that is likely to happen is they ignore you and hire her anyway.

  8. mooseknuckle*

    #6–this reminds me of my experience at my last position. I was working on contract through a staffing agency. The client had set up a schedule that would put me at a 6-day workweek and then 4-day workweek. The first time i submit my timesheet to my staffing agency, my boss at the client office sent me a text with her outrage that I had put down so many hours and that I hadn’t even been that busy. I tried to explain to her that a 6 day workweek would automatically put me at over 40 hours. She said my timesheet showed 5 days; I took a printout of what was showing up on my screen and showed it to her the next day and she kind of apologized for it. She spent the rest of the week talking to my staffing agency and decided that she would have me put down that I didn’t work on a certain day, and make it up on the next week, so that it would even out to a 5/day week each pay period. In short–lie about my hours on my timesheet.

    I wasn’t comfortable with that but I didn’t speak up. However, a few days later I was let go, so I never got to the point where I had to “lie”……although once it was over, I did inform my recruiter of what the client had wanted me to do.

    When I was let go, I was told it was an issue with the hours and other things. I spent days/weeks obssessing over where I went wrong. Wrt the other issues, I did evaluate them and see what I could have done differently, but with this one…..I was stumped.

    At my current job (which is temp/part time now), there was a time when I worked over 40 hours in a week. When I asked about overtime, my boss told me that there’s no overtime, no benefits, insurance etc, and she said “forget it I don’t need you to come in.” Only because I apologized profusely, I’m still working there now.

    At that time, I was desperate for work and willing to do whatever (short of anything illegal of course) to keep a job. I’m no longer as desperate since I’ve progressed from that time and I work only part time so I can search and do other productive things in my free time, but the sting of knowing that there were so many times I felt like I lost my self respect and dignity to keep an ultimately dead end job…….hasn’t gone away yet.

    Apologies if this is rambling or off topic in any way, but I wanted to talk about my experience here in the comments, which I rarely do.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I totally get it MooseKnuckle. It’s really rough. Although OT is required to be paid by law in many situations, speaking up about it can get you fired and when you need the job…well, it does feel like you’re sacrificing your dignity, self-respect, etc. But you’re not! You’re doing what you have to do to keep your head above water.

      These are not easy issues to contend with. You have my sympathy and my support.

    2. RedStateBlues*

      Note to employers, if your business plan involves cheating employees out of their wages, you need a new one.

  9. Felicia*

    #7 Does your internship not have a defined end date? I’ve never heard of one that didn’t, but if it’s supposed to end in a month or two I’d probably stay, just because that’s not terribly long, and you’re probably there to get experience and a good reference, and it usually looks better if you finish the term. Though i’ve never done an internship longer than 4 months. If you don’t have an end date soon i’d probably leave though. That was a very jerky thing they did, and a similar thing had happened in my most recent internship, except it was a month after the end of my internship term.

    1. OP #7*

      The day I found out the job had been filled also happened to be my last day. So leaving because of this incident is not an issue. And I’ve been there so long because it was going really well. Initially the internship was only supposed to be one semester but my immediate supervisor was great and I was getting good work experience, so I asked to extended it to a second semester.

      1. Felicia*

        At least it was your last day so you don’t need to stay longer, and they’re probably still going to give you a good reference. In my case, the job went to the girl who did the same internship the semester before me, who i’d met because my first week was her last week. I was mostly upset because they had interviewed me, and after my interview i’d never heard from them again, which is typical, but really frustrating when the people interviewing you were your former supervisors.

        1. Ali_R*

          I just can’t wrap my brain around that level of disrespect. Towards you or the LW. These are people that you see, have had a relationship with you, that you’ve likely placed a certain amount of trust in. How can a human being treat another so poorly?

          Wait, don’t answer.

          I’ll just go off in my own Eeyore world here for a bit. I don’t need it any worse.

          Know that it is wrong and is a terrible reflection of them and not you. Yes, you were treated wrongly.

  10. Another English Major*

    I’ve applied to 3 internal positions, interviewed for 2 of them, and never heard back on any of them. The one I didn’t interview for, I had to message HR to make sure they had my application and it was only then that they told me I didn’t have enough experience for it. These a people I see practically every day and not a word. . . so frustrating

      1. Chris*

        Atleast you have made it to the interview stage. I have applied to three internal positions over the last year and a half for our companies main office, and I’ve never been offered an interview. I get a rejection email about three weeks after applying -not even a personalized one, just the company generic. I agree, extremely frustrating for internal applicants.

        1. fposte*

          It’s tough for internal applicants, because they have to keep working with the people who rejected them. Chris, what do you think about courtesy interviews? Would you rather get an interview even if they didn’t think you were viable, just so you could make your case? (I think in either case you deserve more than the company generic for a rejection!)

          1. Anonymous*

            I’m not Chris, but if I were a plausible-enough candidate to be recommended internally, I’d appreciate the interview practice. There are always cases when more qualified candidates than interview slots are available, but in my particular field, that is atypical. I still wouldn’t feel entitled to an interview, though.

          2. Chris*

            No, I wouldn’t want an interview as a courtesy. I’m just grumbling on my end on that part of the comment from Another English Major. That portion aside, I responded because I too am peeved by how employers treat internal applicants- lack of communication about job openings/follow ups and how they handle rejections. I know that being a current employee doesn’t magically entitle me to anything, but I can wish for better treatment. I know how the OP and others feel in this situation.

            As far as being tough- it definitely stings more than rejections elsewhere because you have something already invested in the company. I know that with me personally it has made me question my worth to the company, and as a result I have been searching externally for the last several months.

        2. Rana*

          What’s also bad is when they don’t tell you that they’re planning on making your temporary position permanent, and you don’t find out until the new hire shows up early one day for a tour and they show him “his” new office… that you’re still sitting in.

          Awkward for all concerned.

  11. Steve G*

    If I were the intern, I’d quit. You’ve already got your use out of it, and they apparently don’t like your work enough to give you a full time job, or just don’t respect interns.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The issue isn’t that she didn’t get the job; there can always be someone better. It’s that they didn’t bother to let her know!

  12. Gilbey*

    This might be a good time to ask your manager how she wants to handle time off in the future.

    Maybe make some suggestions like a PTO sheet and people have to mark their time off ( with her approval of course) so everyone knows what time is blocked off already and then know they need to help out. Maybe even a time frame like you need to give 2 weeks in advance for time off. This way the team can plan their lives and be able to stay as needed.

    Or make sure if someone wants time off in a shorter time frame, it becomes their responsibility to find someone to cover no matter if its an hour or a day.

    Whatever it may be but something that shows all of you working together to make sure the hours are covered. I think the manager would appreciate you all taking care of it. And this way no one is caught off guard with needing to cover.

    1. MarieK*

      I would definitely ask your manager what the expectation is with regard to covering shifts. Plenty of places expect unscheduled overtime or for you to switch shifts at the last minute, but it is fair to address that with the employees up front as that can be a deal-breaker for some people.

    2. Librarian*

      I agree. I work at a public library, and we have an Outlook calendar where the supervisor keeps up with who has approved leave. Then you can see what days are still available to ask for. Also, if you need to take an evening shift off, the onus is on you to find a replacement. Like the OP, we are all happy to cover each other, but this way no one is asked to work an extra evening shift without notice.

      1. AG*

        Come to think of it, when I worked at a restaurant if I wanted time off it was on me to make sure someone could cover.

    3. MarieK*

      One other thought, just to look at it from the side of someone requesting time off: I really appreciate when the onus is NOT on me to find someone to cover so I can take a day off, particularly in a more corporate environment where I have a set number of days I’m entitled to and will lose if I don’t take. That said, last-minute schedule changes are certainly more challenging to deal with. I don’t know what type of environment the OP works in so this may be less relevant.

      1. QualityControlFreak*

        I think this can work very well in some work groups, but it does assume everyone conducting themselves like adults. Unfortunately, that’s not always real life. In a small work group, a single person abusing the system can create massive headaches for his coworkers. If management isn’t dialed in to this type of problem, employees can find themselves being expected to cover for someone on a continuing basis, with the added frustration of no one being available to cover for them when needed.

      2. Gilbey*

        The onus should not be on someone to find someone to cover if they schedule their time off in advance, whatever that time frame might be.

        It just needs to be communicated timely to others so that they know they will need to stay late or cover that week/day and can’t have that time off.

  13. OP#5*

    Thanks so much for answering my question Alison – I was very nervous about coming off as too pushy, so I really appreciate your feedback!

    I’m just finishing up the one-pager now and sending it off!

    1. Ali_R*

      Good luck to you!!! Often we take those around us for granted a little too much, expect people to see us as we see ourselves. I frankly see it as a plus that you’re much too dignified in your daily life to brag up past accomplishments.

      I sincerely hope your cut sheet wows your supervisor and at the very least, she looks at you with fresh eyes. I am looking forward to reading a “Where are they now” update from you after all is said and done.

      Pulling for you!

  14. Mason*

    #4 – The OP doesn’t clearly indicate whether or not this person actually gets the job done. It seems like if the lazy person will keep the same manager, that the manager should already know whether or not they get the job done. If they get results, why would it matter how many hours they work?

    1. Anonymous*

      How many hours they work does matter. In the public sector with the current recession it is a precious tool for the work/life balance and if I were the OP I would be annoyed that someone is misusing it. In the UK flexi-time means you work a set number of hours per week but you have flexibility in when you start and finish and allow for days when you have to change your work routine to either work shorter or longer hours. If you have to work additional hours to complete an urgent task then you record them and ‘take them back’ at an appropriate time. (Not sure if it is the same in the US) The person’s manager should be checking the completed hours on a regular basis as part of managing that person.

  15. KarenT*

    I don’t think the OP #2 was asking if the raffle had legal recourse but rather if she should bother pursuing it.

    I’d probably email the correct person once (whoever is in charge of the people who organized the raffle) and say you bought a raffle ticket thinking the prize would be X, and are now told it is money towards X but not enough to cover the full cost of X. Ask them to rectify. After that I’d probably drop it.

    1. KarenT*

      Actually, how aggressively I’d pursue it would depend on what they were doing with the raffle money.

      Donating it to charity? If play along. Using it buy the CEO new floor mats for his Rolls Royce? Hell no!

      1. William Eldridge*

        Personally, I’d also ask if this was a raffle that the op had to pay to enter, or if all of the employees were automatically entered, or if it was performance based?

        In any case, I’m not sure that raffle laws would necessarily apply. Typically they only apply to raffles that are open to the public, and exclude employees from entering. This sounds more like a private contest which as far as I know would legally fall under contract law.

  16. Karl Sakas*

    #3 (benefits cuts):

    Yes, you can lose coverage based on an hours reduction. From my experience doing HR/benefits administration for a couple companies, the specifics will depend on your employer’s contracts with the various benefits providers.

    For instance, a client’s health insurance coverage cutoff was 35 hours, whereas the life insurance and short-term disability is 30 hours. Health insurance has a state continuation option (the company is too small to qualify for COBRA guidelines), but there’s no continuation option available on the dental insurance if hours go below full-time.

    I encourage you to ask the benefits administrator about the cutoffs, and what the continuation options are, since the exact particulars vary by employer and by insurer. Sorry!

  17. mortorph*

    #6 – I don’t know if this has been said – but check out the “Working Families Flexibility Act” that Congress tried to get through recently. If we aren’t paying attention to congress and labor laws, I think we should be paying attention more closely. Our lawmakers are trying to make work more “flexible” by allowing companies to offer PTO taken at the company’s discretion instead of overtime pay. Even though it didn’t get all the way through congress this time, I am sure it will keep popping up. So although your situation is illegal now, it may not be in the future.

    1. mortorph*

      And in the spirit of full disclosure – I didn’t write the blog entry my name is linked to, but I found it interesting and wanted to pass it along.

    2. Jamie*

      We have a large percentage of non-exempt employees each year asking if they can have additional PTO to extend vacation instead of OT.

      I understand there is fear of abuse, but the option itself is just that – an option and its one many people in my sector have asked for.

      1. VintageLydia*

        I think of it were a choice the employee can make, and not the employer, than it could work. My fear would be employers forcing people to take the PTO but never letting the employee use it.

        1. Rachel*

          That is EXACTLY the problem with that law- employer choice rather than employee. Overtime pay exists as a protection to employees, in order to maintain the forty hour work week as much as possible, because when organized labor fought for the forty hour work week it was out of the recognition that we need time off. When employers have to pay overtime, they are less likely to abuse their non-exempt staff with over-long work weeks. It means that in order to expand production, they will hire more staff rather than increase the hours of current staff. It’s good for workers, it’s good for the economy, etc.

          If the working families flexibility act had allowed an employee to choose whether to take PTO instead of overtime, I would have been in full support of it- more flexibility for employees is great. But putting it in employers hands is taking a protection away from employees.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Ummm… it IS the employee’s choice in the law as written. The abuse worry is that employers could still compel employees to make one or the other choice… but that is specifically forbidden in the writing of the law. It’s employee choice, and I have a really hard time understanding the hand-wringing over it.

          1. Anonymous*

            The law on overtime as it is written now is already ignored far too often–why would those employers follow this one as it is written?

            1. Jamie*

              I agree with Kimberlee. The only thing in the law, as I understand it, in the hands of the employer is when it’s taken but hats no different than PTO of any kind. And if you don’t take it they have to pay it out.

              Because some employers disregard some laws doesn’t mean any given law is bad in and of itself – that’s a matter of compliance and regulation. If the law would be a benefit to non-exempt people is it fair to deny them the option because some employers may be unscrupulous? That’s analogous to not allowing work from home or flex time to any employees because some may abuse it. In both cases it’s not right to deny everyone because some people may t,are advantage…crack down on those who abuse.

              1. Mike C.*

                It’s not an issue of “some employers will break the law therefore don’t increase the flexibility” but rather “there is no way for any labor laws to be enforced in such a way that makes up for the huge risk the employee must take to begin with”.

                Your example isn’t analogous, as the employer/employee power imbalance favors the party who is taking on the risk.

                1. Jamie*

                  It’s analogous in that denying a benefit to everyone because some might abuse it is the same reasoning employers often give for not allowing flex time or working remotely even when it makes sense.

                  If the argument is that some employers won’t follow the law then I don’t understand how it’s different than any other labor law.

                2. Jamie*

                  There is always a power imbalance between the employer and employee whether its following labor laws or setting rules for flex work, I don’t understand the confusion. The imbalance is inherent because typically an employee needs their job more than the employer needs any given employee.

                  That applies to every labor law – so I fail to understand why this is different.

                1. Chinook*

                  Does this new law include whether or not an employer has to payout the accumulated OT if it is still banked at a certain point (whether it be at the end of the fiscal year or when the employee leaves the company? I would think that would be one of the better ways to enforce it as it will require the employer to have to pay for it one way or the other.

                2. Jamie*


                  Sorry posted the wrong link earlier…not trying to spam good guys in monitors.

                  This link is to the text.

                  But yes, the comp time accrues at 1.5 hours for every OT hour worked and paid at same rate. That which isn’t used has to be paid at this OT rate. A written or otherwise verifiable agreement must be agreed pin between employer and employee prior to the OT. The employee can cash out by asking n writing and must be paid within 30 days. Upon separation all needs to be paid out and all unused time must be paid out yearly. Also no employee can accrue more tan. 160 hours.

                  In my experience people have asked to bank the time because they wanted to supplement vacation time as many go out of the country over shut down. Also, many parents have asked so they could have a bank of time for school holidays, times day care is closed, etc.

                  The law as written gives the option to the employee as to whether s/he wants to be paid the OT or bank the comp time. And it’s not an either or – you can bank some and pay the rest…but absolutely I work with people who would be thrilled to bank an extra 160 hours to use for time I lieu of OT pay. And those who don’t want that would still get the time and a half.

            2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              Yeah, I agree with Jamie’s sentiment… of course the fact that laws are sometimes disobeyed is not sufficient reason to never again pass a law.

      2. Mike C.*

        The choice isn’t made by the employee, it’s made by the employer. There’s no increased flexibility and basically turns overtime into an interest free loan to the employer.

        1. Mike C.*

          And by that, I mean it’s all too easy to coerce someone into making a particular choice.

  18. Sarah*

    THANK you! I’m in the exact same situation as question 7 (only it’s been 8 1/2 months of free labor instead of 10). When I finally got my boss to talk to me about it, she said they hadn’t told me about it because they weren’t even going to consider me due to my lack of experience…for what should be an entry level position. I’m furious and hurt – more hurt than angry, really – as they’ve spent months telling me they wished they could offer me a job. In fact, they even gave me the title and responsibilities (though not the salary – still working for free) of an entry-level, full-time employee, stating that they’d pay me if only they could. And now that there’s an opening, they expect me to continue doing an employee’s work for no pay. I really wish I could just leave but I have no other offers and I desperately need the reference and a full year of experience. :(

    1. Felicia*

      I totally understand where you’re coming from, and am often told i don’t have enough experience for what is labeled as an entry level position even though i’ve done 3 barely paid internships, which were months each (though they did pay something, it was less than minimum wage), and I’ve been volunteering part time for 6 months. No advice or help but you’re definitely lot alone. A lot of my friends who were in the same program as me are also in the same boat.

    2. Mike C.*

      In fact, they even gave me the title and responsibilities (though not the salary – still working for free) of an entry-level, full-time employee, stating that they’d pay me if only they could.

      If this is a for-profit enterprise, they’ve just admitted to breaking state and federal labor laws. Go report these thieving jerks to your state labor board.

      Look at the “Black Swan” case if you don’t believe me, people are starting to really care about this issue.

      1. KarenT*

        Interesting case. I hadn’t heard about the Black Swan case, but its great news for unpaid interns.

        1. Felicia*

          I’d heard about that case, and I do think it’s great news, although the vast majority of unpaid internships where I live (Ontario), are technically illegal, and very few interns will do anything about it , since suing anyone can be intimidating as a college student (and expensive), and for a lot of industries you have to do 2-3 internships to get an entry level job, so you take what you can get and hope that it gets you a really good reference so someone will pay you one day. I think part of the problem is jobs that you can do with just a degree and no experience don’t exist anymore, and there won’t be a shortage of people willing to work for free so employers take advantage of that. A lot of people say I should never have worked for free, but of course I’d much rather someone pay me. My first internship I’m sure was legal, the other two I’m not entirely sure about. But pretty much everyone who graduated in the past 5 or so years, trying to get into certain fields especially, has a similar story.

          1. Mike C.*

            Those entry level jobs were simply turned into unpaid internships. Hopefully a few cases like these will discourage employers from this practice, or encourage legislatures to make the damages for this much more severe.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              On the other hand, without unpaid internships, many recent grads would have no experience at all on their resumes (because the internships either wouldn’t have existed at all, or would have been paid work that more experienced candidates were hired to do, leaving them with no work experience at all). It’s not as black and white as people often like to argue it.

              Ask a recent grad if they’d rather have some experience on their resume, even if unpaid, or none at all. Because that really is often the choice.

              1. Mike C.*

                That’s a terrible argument and I really expected better from you.

                Unpaid interns are most often doing the work that entry level employees did in the past, only now there’s a poorly enforced loophole allowing employers to hire workers for free to “give them experience”.

                You know as well as I that unpaid internships cannot legally give the employers anything of value, and if that’s the case, how is their experience of any value to you as a hiring manager? Do you really value an employee’s ability to keep a coffee order straight and not forget where the dry cleaning place is?

                And why would any rationally acting company have unpaid interns at all, if they’re legally required to not derive any value from their work what so ever?

                Without unpaid internships, those recent grads would have actual entry level jobs that gave them a paycheck and real on the job experience rather than having to perform free work under the table.

                I’ll bet that you could put out a call from your blog asking for stories regarding unpaid internships at for-profit enterprises and find that the majority were at the very least of a questionable legality and more likely were outright illegal.

                The idea that people should have to work for free, to literally subsidize the businesses of others just to gain enough experience is simply immoral.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I don’t agree with the law and have no problem with unpaid internships, and that’s my point. Plenty of people are glad to have had the chance to do unpaid internships and credit them with allowing them to get the jobs they had after that. I’m not a fan of taking that option away from the people who want it.

                  And it’s not a question of morality of working for free. If you remove the option of unpaid internships, businesses will just hire people with more experience to do that work; there’s no incentive to hire a kid right out of school with no experience versus the person with 3 years of experience when they’re both competing for the same job. So you’ll be making it harder for the people who currently do internships by removing options from them, not easier. Businesses aren’t going to start magically hiring them for paid work; they’ll hire more experienced candidates to do that work instead.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Not unlimited, no, but there are certainly more workers than jobs in this particular market. When that changes, I imagine you’ll see the internship situation change a bit too.

                3. Ali_R*

                  Alison’s correct. Therein lies the rub, huh? Our Labor Participation Rate is at a terrible low, not seen since 1979. Not good news for those without jobs. It is an employer’s market like we’ve not seen in a long, long time and the end isn’t anywhere in sight (IMHO). I might disagree with Alison on the unlimited supply, to me it certainly seems unlimited! But I know, it is finite, but for all intents and purposes I bet it feels unlimited to new grads.

                  We have been adding an avg of ~170K jobs a month pretty consistently lately (Our great months are stymied by months such as March 2013 with only 88K jobs created).

                  Yes, while we are technically adding jobs and the unemployment rate is ‘declining’, that is not an accurate indication of the true unemployment rate because people are under employed and/or have exhausted their UE benefits and are no longer being counted. Plus the numbers are skewed, one person getting two part time jobs = 2 new jobs.

                  We need to be adding ~180,000 jobs a month alone *just to keep up* with population growth, more people join the working age population than retire or die. This is’t even taking into account all those jobs lost or the Baby Boomers working well past retirement age due to financial necessity.

                  I believe the vast majority of AAM readers are the ones that are the exception to the rule. They’re able to stand heads and shoulders above the rest of the crowd to snag those un(derpaid) internships, those jobs previously reserved for those brand new to the job market.


              2. EM*

                Just because recent grads are willing to work for free because it’s the only way to get experience doesn’t make it any less illegal*.

                *as mentioned upthread, this applies at FOR-profit companies.

  19. Anonymous*

    #4 – just curious how the OP knows that this co-worker is slacking off, or screwing the pooch, if you will?

  20. Min*

    #4 – What does equality and diversity have to do with this situation? Why bring that up?

  21. cncx*

    For OP #1, I think covering one hour is fine from time to time, although your manager could have handled it with more finesse. The real problem is when this coworker starts making a habit of being out. I had a coworker whose kids strangely got sick every single week, and I wound up working 7 to 7 at a desk job for several months to cover for this person. Which then in turn caused me transportation problems as after 7 I had less trains to my house, and lengthened my commute by 90 minutes. So while I agree it is “just an hour”, sometimes that “just an hour” can add several more hours to someone’s day depending on the commute. I regret not speaking up when the covering for my coworker started because I almost burnt out at the end. I would say suck it up now but if this becomes a habit, talk to your manager about how this impacts your life.

  22. Lindsay J*

    For #1, I agree she should have given you more notice than 1 week if she could. However, she is doing her job of getting coverage by assigning you the duty of covering the hours. Unless you have a contract stating that your hours are 8-5 and only 8-5, she is perfectly within her rights to assign you to cover that extra hour.

    If you can’t do it, just tell her like Alison said. If she is reasonable and if it is possible she will likely make other coverage arrangements.

    However, I would try to keep the attitude that she has only been there a short amount of time or that she should be the one covering the shift out of your conversation. It sounds like you resent the manager a little bit, and you may have good reason to, but making it known is not likely to help you get your way here.

  23. Jessa*

    The issue with the compensation thing is that even if they change it going forward, they still owe every penny prior to the dates of change. So if contract A owes $300 then it changed to B: which owes $250 and then C which owes nothing, the OP still needs to get that 550. The problem though is having taken this long to really push for that money, it’s going to be very hard to get. Probably as in labour case hard. They need to understand that even if the contracts allow them to change the rules of pay they cannot do it retroactively for work already performed.

    They are likely however to react badly to being told this in any case.

  24. Mary*

    #1 ~ I did approach it very diplomatic and said I for sure could work one of the days and would check on if I could adjust my plans the other days and would definanently let her know. In our company, for the years I’ve been here, if an employee couldn’t cover someones PTO when it happens at last minute, the “Manager” needs to cover it. It is like that in every other department. I think in her case she does not want to work any more or any later than she wants. I have no problem covering when I can and previously had been working 9-10 hours days when we were short staffed. Whe I responded to her, I got a response back saying it was my responsibility and she expected me to be here. Again, rude and no tack. I think its unreasonable to expect anybody to not have plans in off hours a week in advance. I have spoken to HR and am meeting with the CFO today to ask about what the expectations are.

    1. Betty Jane*

      If you’re a “team” you should be willing to help out the team. What if that was your shift and you needed PTO? You work for your manager, not the other way around. Resentment for not getting the manager position will really not have a good outcome for you.

  25. Elle-em-en-oh-pee*

    “…you’re not going to look like a “snitch” (a concept that really doesn’t apply in the workplace anyway). ”

    In THEORY it should not apply… In practice?

    Maybe I am nitpicking here, but…

    Though I agree snitching should not be a concept that operates at work, it’s still something that companies should acknowledge as a legitimate concern amongst employees. Some people and places, no matter how often you tell them “this isn’t Jr High this is work and we are adults here” never seem to get the message.

    Management can say retialiation is illegal until they are blue in the face, but in some places and to some people it means nothing… in some work place cultures (and not just the usual suspects) bringing ANYTHING to management’s attention is considered “snitching”…

    In the perfect world people shouldn’t have to worry about being called a snitch for holding a tête-à-tête with management over anything… but it happens, sometimes with unintended consequences for all parties.

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