my manager hacked my email, an odd PTO policy, and more

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

1. Did my manager change a rude email after I complained?

My old manager sent me a pretty nasty response through email while my current manager was away. I confronted the manager in question to say that I was upset by the tone in her email. Her response was that I was reading too much into it.

Today I looked at the email again to see if I was being over-sensitive, and the email had been changed or edited — as there is nothing offensive in it now! This manager has access to my computer. Could she edit an email on the master files and have it change the original and the cc? Is there a way you can somehow retrieve or prove the original has been edited?

I can’t definitively answer the technical piece of this question — I have no idea if that’s possible or not, although hopefully someone commenting can tell you. But since you saw one email and now it’s appearing differently, it’s safe to conclude that either (a) yes, she can and did change the email after the fact, or (b) you are hallucinating. Assuming you’re not hallucinating, it sounds like (a). Which would make her incredibly sneaky and lacking in integrity; she should have simply apologized and been done with it, not tried to rewrite the record.

2. What’s up with the way my company rejected me for an internal position?

About a month ago, one of my supervisors gave me a heads up that a new opening within the company at the same office was becoming available and this position was a strong match with my education and work experience. I applied and got selected for face to face interviews with HR and management. After the interviews which went fine, I got an email that stated they were going with someone else. I don’t mind being rejected for the position because someone was more qualified. This is a normal part of business.

What bothers me is the method for the rejection. It was just a generic email letter PDF attachment not even written in the body of the email! And this email was from a HR person that is literally down the hall from me. That person interviewed me and knows who I am. Our office is not very big so it seems odd that HR could not just let me know in-person at first or at least write something that doesn’t make me feel like a random person. From my point of view, I expressed interest in offering my skills toward a company need and in exchange I got a cold shoulder. Is there something I’m missing here?

Nope, aside from the fact that your employer has really crappy practices when it comes to handling internal candidates. Internal candidates deserve more communication than an email rejection when they’re passed over for a position … and ALL candidates, including external ones, deserve something more than a PDF with nothing in the body of the email. That type of thing reeks of someone who doesn’t know how to use technology or communicate appropriately, and who shouldn’t be having unsupervised contact with candidates.

3. Can my employer share everyone’s pay rate?

Are employers allowed to share our salary information to other employees? My employer emails the staff weekly schedule, which includes the schedules of each staff member in each department. They had also attached information about their weekly budget report on staff hourly pay, including everyone’s hourly pay. I will assume that was by accident. Is this legal?

Frankly, I am upset about this because I know that sort of information is confidential. How should I approach my employer about this?

Yes, it’s legal. There’s no law requiring that your pay be kept confidential. You can certainly express your concern that the information was shared without your permission, but there’s no law in play here.

4. Must my employee take a lunch break?

I have an employee in Tennessee who is hourly and turns in a timesheet every two weeks. Some days she takes a lunch and some days she does not. Is she required to take a lunch break? Can we get in trouble for not making her take a break?

If you google “Tennessee break laws,” you will find the answer.

Okay, fine, I’ll do it for you, but it’s good to know how to find this information yourself, and it’s not hard! In Tennessee, employers must provide a 30-minute break to employees who are scheduled to work six consecutive hours — except in workplace environments where the nature of the business provides for ample opportunity to rest or take an appropriate break. The break can be unpaid, but must be provided.

5. Interviewer offered feedback but then never got back to me

I had a second interview for this great organization I wanted to be a part of and did not get the job. The hiring manager left a nice and detailed voicemail, telling me it was great to meet me and thanked me for my time (for both interviews)—she also invited questions. I sent her an email, thanked her for the opportunity, and then asked her for feedback. I haven’t heard from her, and being that it is now 3 weeks later, I don’t think I’m going to.

Normally I would not care, but since I came so far in the interview process, really wanted this job, and she invited questions, I thought I would get feedback. This has never happened to me and now I’m not feeling very confident in this job search. We seemed to hit it off well; I expected a response back.

As a hiring manager, have you invited questions and when a candidate asks for feedback you never get back to them? Am I taking things too personal or is this common practice with hiring managers? Should I expect more of this in the future?

You’re taking it too personally. She probably meant it at the time when she offered to give you feedback, but later got too caught up in higher priorities. Yes, she should have gotten back to you, but she didn’t. It’s not personal, and you shouldn’t read anything into it other than people who hire usually have lots of other stuff they’re responsible for too, and non-critical hiring tasks can often fall off their radar. It’s not ideal, but it’s reality. Don’t give it further thought, and move on.

6. My previous employer is asking if I’ll talk to them about why I left

After being at my new job for 5 months, I received a letter from my previous employer saying that they have recently been informed that the reason I gave them for leaving may not have been true and that they would like to know if there were any incidents which caused me to leave the company.

Am I right to think that this is really strange? When I left, I just said I was leaving because I didn’t think it was a good fit. I hadn’t worked there very long and I didn’t really want to get into an argument about why I didn’t like working there.

What could be there possible reason for writing to me, and do you think I should respond and tell them what I thought of working there?

The most likely scenario is that they’re investigating something — a manager or other potential problems, and they’re hoping people who may have left because of it might be willing to give them feedback about it. You’re under no obligation to speak with them if you don’t want to — it’s entirely up to you. (For whatever it’s worth, I personally once reached out to some former employees when I began to have concerns about a particular manager, and their candor made it much easier for me to take action and address the situation, to many people’s benefit — and probably ultimately strengthened those employees’ relationship with the organization. So it does sometimes have a positive outcome.)

7. Does this PTO policy make sense?

The company I work for recently changed their PTO/sick time policy. Prior to April, employees accrued a certain number of vacation and sick days each month. The company scrapped the sick time and set us up on a PTO schedule. The seemingly ridiculous part? For those of us with hours in our sick time bank — policy rules we can’t tap into it until after using 2 PTO days. If I’m out for 4 days, I can use 2 PTO days and and 2 sick days with a doctor’s note. If I come back for a day, but have follow-up appointments, the game starts over. It has to be consecutive.

Is there a reasonable explanation to this policy? It seems to us that the company just wants us to use up all our PTO days. (They don’t pay you for stored sick time when you leave.) Unless it’s a serious health issue, 2 days is about the max a person will be out for their health. And if you have 300 hours of sick time, you probably aren’t an abuser of the benefit. Oh, and the company I work for? A hospice. The irony.

It sounds like they want you to save your sick time accrued under the old system for longer-term sick leave. But why, I don’t know. Why not ask them what the rationale is for this part of the new policy, and explain that you feel you’re being penalized for having been among the most responsible employees with your sick leave in the past?

{ 248 comments… read them below }

  1. Dude One*

    I read the article of yours posted on Yahoo. I wanted to make you aware that of 14 interviews I had in the month and a half I was unemployed, only the 1 who offered a position contacted me after the face to face interview. So, your “some of us care” comment should really read “very few of us care but there may be some out there somewhere”. So you are aware of common practice, at least in the tech industry. It may vary by industry, I would guess. Cheers.

    1. KM*

      I had two interviews in the same week a month ago. For each company I completed a 3 hour technical test, a phone interview, and a 3 hour in person interview on site. This represents obviously about a whole day of my time, not even counting the additional time spent studying for the interview. (I typically bill $50-75 an hour for my time on a freelance basis). In each case I both inquired about timeline at the end of the interview(each told me they would make a decision within a week), asked if they had any concerns and each said positive things unprompted, and sent a follow up thank you note the next day, and another follow up a week later. Neither company bothered to reject me at all or to respond to my communications. Each company told me that I was in their top 3 candidates, which means that at that stage it wouldn’t take all that much effort to send a “thanks for your time, we’ve hired someone else” to the two rejected candidates. I am so frustrated over this treatment that I’m considering freelancing on a more full time basis just so I don’t have to continue going through this, because it’s quite demeaning.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I am in agreement with you that the lack of communication from potential employers is difficult to handle. At this point, I just assume I won’t hear from them unless it’s to say “The job is yours.” Anything other than that and they won’t bother. It’s sad, but true.

        What’s even worse though is this – I applied for a job with a company in my field and they never got back to me. A year later, they started sending me marketing materials for their services! The only way they would have my name/postal address was from the application materials I sent them. So shady and sh&&ty in my opinion, but then some people just have no shame.

        1. Forrest*

          If they were just after your address, why wait a year?

          There’s other ways for people to get your information…

          1. Ruffingit*

            I suspect they waited a year because the service they were offering was new at the time they sent the marketing materials. Also, I knew other people who had applied there as well (this was a small firm) and they too received the same materials. Seemed odd that they would just happen to randomly gather the addresses of more than one person who applied with them. I suppose it could have happened…

            1. Anna*

              No, I think you got it right. They went through their applications and pulled addresses from there. That’s kind of gross and shows they have no clue how to market their material, whatever it is. Unless it was a job finding service. :)

      2. G*

        How much you bill as a freelancer has absolutely no barring on the time it takes to interview for jobs. I’m not sure who you think you are, but this is the real world.

      1. KM*

        Actually I’m not sure what his comment is in reference to either even though I replied – I actually assumed it was the person complaining about getting a PDF attachment as a rejection – but I slowed down and read it again and realized it was in reference to some other article.

      2. Anne*

        Possibly he was reading an old article of yours, took exception to it, found the link to your blog and commented on the first “comment” link he saw?

      3. Meganly*

        My guess is he’s talking about your article “21 Things Hiring Managers Wish You Knew.”

  2. TK*

    I work for a state government agency that has a similar vacation/sick time policy to #7– we accrue separate vacation and sick days, but you can only use a sick day if it’s your second consecutive day sick. If you’re out just one day, you have to use a vacation day, whether you’re sick or not. (There are exceptions for things like deaths in the family, I think.) Our leave system works basically the same way statewide– all state employees get the same number of vacation/sick days, increasing with seniority, etc.– but I think this policy is just for our agency. I’m not aware that we have a problem with people abusing sick leave, but I imagine it must have been an issue at some point in the past or this policy wouldn’t be in place.

    I have a co-worker who has frequent migraines and can’t make it in til the afternoon some days. I feel bad for him, because I know he has to use vacation time every time this happens, and that’s really unfair. I think the policy’s idiotic and doesn’t treat people like adults, but alas, not much I can do about it.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      We had a similar transition period where I work. Eventually they got rid of the sick bank completely. I lost over 600 hours of sick bank. There’s nothing you can do about it. Sick leave is not considered a benefit and is technically not a part of most contracts. And if you think about it, massively accrued sick leave can be a financial liability to the company.

  3. Angelina Retta*

    “If you google “Tennessee break laws,” you will find the answer.”


    1. Ct*

      Yeah….I read the question as the person asking if the company could get in trouble for not making employees take the breaks provided.

      1. Y*

        Yeah, for me that question wasn’t really answered: So, the employer has to provide it – but do they have to make the employee use it?

        1. Ruffingit*

          That was also my thought. I’m not going to say the answer was rude or not rude, but the sense I got was that the OP could Google herself, but even in doing so, the question isn’t really answered by Google. Yes, employers must provide a 30-minute break, that much can be found via Google. But must employees TAKE the break that is provided? I’ve Googled that question and it seems to be more complicated than just reading a rule.

          I’d say these types of questions are better left to employment law attorneys in the specific state in question.

          1. fposte*

            It sounds like you’re talking about issues that get decided by courtrooms rather than by statute, though.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Perhaps so. My point stands though that Googling for the answer as suggested isn’t that helpful necessarily for this particular question. It may be that the OP can Google and easily find the answers to other questions, but I can see how she might have thought to ask Alison this rather than Google it because the answer just isn’t that clear for this specific question.

              That’s what I say the OP needs to ask this of an employment lawyer in the state. That’s the advice I’d give her rather than “Google it.”

              1. fposte*

                If an issue would need to be decided by a court, an employment lawyer won’t know either.

                And I think that’s your question, not the OP’s. I think the OP wants to know if the business can get in trouble if the employee doesn’t take breaks. Google says “yes, there’s a fine.” Manager then requires breaks. The End.

                1. Ruffingit*

                  The issue may have already been decided by a court in which case a lawyer in the field of employment law should know that.

                  It may be that Google answers the OP’s question. Still, I tend to err on the side of asking someone with a legal background to be sure (when the issue involves something I may have to literally pay for) I’m understanding it correctly since, as a lawyer myself, I know the nuances and exceptions of the law aren’t always clear from a simple Google search.

                  In any case, if Google is enough for the OP, then all is well at least for her.

        2. Jazzy Red*

          The world’s largest retailer enforces that policy very strictly (result of lawsuits). Employees do not have the option of work through their breaks.

          I believe that the law doesn’t require people to actually take their breaks, but obviously a company can enact and enforce a policy that does require people to take breaks.

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            Actually, if it’s an unpaid break and the person is non-exempt (and breaks at the legal level only apply to the non-exempt), they obviously couldn’t work through the break, as it is illegal to not pay someone for work performed.

            Some states require short paid breaks, so I guess that might be a little iffier, but I don’t know of anywhere that requires paid lunch breaks. So, yeah, I’d say the issue is eminently google-able.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not rude. If you’re a manager in a position to have a question like this, you’re going to have more in the future, and it’s important to know how to find the answer to things like this. In fact, it’s arguably more important than getting the answer to one immediate question, given the number of state labor laws you’d need to be aware of.

      1. Jessa*

        Exactly, and it’s kind of a specific question, the sort of thing that a manager should be asking their lawyer, or their HR people or looking up themselves. It’s state specific, rule specific.

        This is really a generalist’s blog, and Alison’s time is better spent answering things that everyone would find useful. It’s not crazy for her to encourage self help in some things. Because really that is kind of a 30 second Google thing. And while answering it once is great, a slew of similar questions would probably not be…reasonable. So giving a lesson on how to get that info. Valuable.

        TL;DR – Alison answering your question, free. Alison teaching you something, priceless.

      2. Construction HR*

        It wasn’t rude for the above reasons. Also, the OP probably could have gotten an answer more quickly by researching it herself rather than posting a question to a blog.

      3. Lisa*

        I actually trust your answers more than archaic gov websites that haven’t updated those FAQs in years. Plus most gov sites reference law or case numbers and the language is cumbersome for people that are not lawyers to interpret.

      4. Waerloga*

        Aye, and to give a perspective on her answer, if both the manager and employee are aware of what is required, and the employee chooses not to take her lunch, you can’t make her.

        My supervisor gets a 1/2 hour lunch break, and she uses her computer as she nibbles away at her lunch. She won’t be paid while she does this, but…. Really it’s the persons choice what they wish to do.

        Take care


        1. Jessa*

          What Alison said, especially since all it takes is for another employee who is disgruntled to say “Amy never takes her lunch break,” to the labour board. There can be fines for this stuff. They’d have to back pay her for all that time. An employer can absolutely require it. What if later Amy gets ticked at something and decides she wants to use the “they never made me stop working, so they knew and wanted me to and pressured me to,” in a labour case.

          I’ve had companies I’ve worked for, require that you leave your desk for lunch.

      5. jennie*

        Yeah, when someone asks me a question and I have to google to find the answer, I can’t help wondering why they didn’t just google it themselves. (I’m not talking about questions that are my job to answer… a friend just asked me to send her a link to a shopping mall we’re going to so I googled it and sent her the link but that’s a pretty roundabout way of getting information.)

        1. Jamie*

          If I could institute one insane and totally unfair policy it would be to fine users $10 for every question in which the answer is in google’s top 3 explained in layman’s terms.

          I’d be retiring soon.

          1. fposte*

            Change “fine” to “charge” and you’d have a great “How reference librarians get rich” plan.

    3. pidgeonpenelope*

      I don’t think it was rude. I think Allison was providing a resource while also showing this OP that they should be aware of their own state’s labor laws. I’m really quite shocked this employer wasn’t aware. I’m also surprised they were resourceful enough to Ask A Manager but not resourceful enough to Google.

      1. Kathryn in Finance*

        Exactly. I wouldn’t even have acknowledged the question if I was Allison, because the OP could have found it so easily themselves. But she did, and that was nice of her, certainly not rude. Is it just me, or are commenters getting really critical on here lately?

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Seriously. If people don’t like the free advice, they’re welcome to go elsewhere.

          It was a pretty clear answer. The law says give the employee a break, so give her a break. If she doesn’t take it, you tell her that she needs to. It’s not an option.

          1. AMG*

            Also, it’s very rude to tell someone they are being rude. On their own blog. And it’s rude to ask someone a question that you are capable of getting in your own. I thought Alison’s response was perfectly appropriate and polite.

            1. Marmite*

              I don’t think it’s rude to ask someone a question you are capable of researching yourself. Lazy, yes, but not rude. Also, if all the questions people could answer with some research were taken off this blog (think all the “is it legal…? ones) there would be far less variety in the questions. Alison isn’t obligated to answer the question, if she felt the asker was rude to ask she could have just ignored it.
              I also question the statement that it’s rude to tell someone they’re being rude on their own blog (even though I don’t think Alison was rude in any case). Just because it’s Alison’s blog doesn’t mean she can write whatever she wants and have no one call her out on it if she’s rude, derogatory, etc. What if she replied to someone asking a weight related work question (what to wear to interviews for example) by telling the person they should lose weight. Many people would consider that rude and would call Alison out on it, just because it’s her own blog doesn’t mean that would be rude.

              PLEASE NOTE: I don’t think Alison would respond to a question in that manner, I’m just using it as an example to question your statement.

              1. AMG*

                Being lazy at someone else’s expense is rude. Telling someone that their behavior is rude, is also rude. Since it’s her blog, it is especially egregious because she did not solicit their presence; they came to her.

                This seems very obvious and cut-and-dry to me, but we can agree to disagree. I appreciate the tone of your response and the civil discussion.

                1. Marmite*

                  “Telling someone that their behavior is rude, is also rude.”

                  This I think is where we fundamentally disagree, I don’t view calling someone out for rude behaviour as rude. In this case I don’t think Alison actually was rude, but if she had been I don’t think calling her out on it would be rude. Otherwise people who are being rude see no consequence for such behaviour.

                  Anyhow, I agree that we can agree to disagree!

              2. EngineerGirl*

                I don’t think it’s rude to ask someone a question you are capable of researching yourself.

                How about disrespectful of a busy persons time? Isn’t that close to rude? And it is certainly self centered.

                1. Marmite*

                  I do see where you’re coming from with this, but I to me it’s only rude if the person you’re asking is in some way bound or obligated to answer you. In this case Alison is not in anyway obliged to answer questions submitted to her, so I think it is lazy, but not rude or disrespectful. Alison could simply have chosen to ignore the question if she thought it was a waste of her time to answer.

            2. Jazzy Red*

              It might not have been rude, but it was terse, and this is not “Terse-day”. However, since I’m not Sheldon Cooper, I can go with the flow.

        2. PuppyKat*

          Kathryn in Finance, I agree. It feels like some of the comments have been hyper-critical recently.

      2. The Snarky B*

        I agree with the resourcefulness thing. I also think that the way a lot of these questions from employERS are written makes me worry that they’re implementing policies based on the word of an advice column. Which is not to disparage what Alison does, just to say that it’s not even fair to her because she never purports to be a lawyer. What happens when she missed something and some silly lawyer subpoenas has to testify in Tenessee because this employer screwed up and employee is suing?
        Small businesses, private practices and the like need yo be set up by Business Professionals and financial and legal experts. I’m sick of seeing people think they can go out on their own (with others under them no less!) just because they have some marketable skill.

      3. Megan*

        “OP…should be aware of their own state’s labor laws.”

        Actually I understood the #4 situation as the employer has someone working for them in TN, implying that TN is a different state than wherever the employer is based. Maybe it’s a work-from-home situation, where the employees are spread out all across the country?

    4. Noah*

      I didn’t see it as rude. A bit straightforward, even blunt, but that’s Allison’s style. FWIW, I use all the time when coworkers email me questions that are easily Googled. Drives me nuts that adults cannot at least attempt to research the answer before they run for help.

    5. Ash*

      Yeah, Alison is so rude about answering someone’s question for free on a blog that’s free to read. She should be kissing up to everyone who sends in a question, because I’m sure she doesn’t get dozens of e-mails a day asking for help and needs all of the few questions she can get.

      In short, don’t let the door hit you where evolutionary forces decided to split you.

    6. The IT Manager*

      As a lont-time reader, I thought it was snarky and funny but I see how it could come across as rude by a newbie. I have recently realized that as someone who’s been regularly reading this blog for a year now, I am pretty bored with the common questions that get asked and answered over and over again and a letter writer could have found the answer if they looked in the archives. And I’m a reader; I can’t imagine how Alison feels about these either silly or misplaced questions.

      LW#4’s question was lazy and misplaced. As any regular reader knows, Alison is not labor law expert espeically for all 50 states. LW#4 should google any number of sites (her states labor web site) or ask any number of people (her own HR, her state labor board, other people live in her state) before asking Alison.

      I found question 3 very repetitive. I was particularly amused by her “Frankly, I am upset about this because I know that sort of information is confidential,” and in my head made a snarky comment (which Alison avoided) because as has been explained on AAM before salary information is not confidential. So what LW#3 knew was wrong.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        I know what you mean. I’m surprised by how many people refuse to work things out for themselves, and I think its important to remind these people that you’re using the same tools that are available to them to find the information. Teach a man to fish and all that.

        Sometimes I do feel like I’ve read all iterations of all questions, but then a VP who snogs his girlfriend in his office comes up…

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think the question of repetition is interesting, and it’s one I struggle with. We could definitely have no repetition (or close to no repetition, at least) if we had slightly fewer posts (and the number of posts is a separate question that I grapple with!) … but on the other hand, I know it’s not repetitious for everyone (newer readers or more casual readers who aren’t going to read through six years of archives). So I’ve ended up just trying to get the balance right, but I’m sure I don’t do it perfectly!

        1. Chriama*

          Just to throw in my 2 cents, I like when you answer a repeated short answer question by including a link to a previous post on the same subject. Doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and leaves you more time to spend on other questions

          1. Marina*

            +1. As a newer reader, I enjoy seeing slightly different takes on the same issue, or issues that seem different but are actually the same.

        2. LPBB*

          One of the things I appreciate most about this blog, besides Alison’s excellent advice, is the contributions of the commenters. I’ve gotten a lot of good info and helpful perspectives from the comments. So I don’t really mind repetition so much because I know the comments are always going to be different and might spark a new thought or send me in a new direction, especially if it’s something I’m continuing to wrestle with, like cover letters.

        3. Julie*

          I did read all of the archives, and it took me quite a while! I was disappointed when I was finished, so I really appreciate that you usually write more than one post per day.

        4. khilde*

          Also, hearing the same basic answer to the same basic question over and over again really helps ingrain the answer in a person’s mind. It has mine, anyway. Makes me more confident in having a discussion with someone or answering a question in class when I think, “dude, I know this! Alison’s talked about it SO many times.”

          Plus, if a long-time reader is skimming along and doesn’t want to read for the umpteenth time “tell me what this means from my interview,” then they just skip it. I do because that’s not an interest to me right now – but I certainly don’t begrudge anyone for asking or wanting to have an answer on it because it IS important to them. Not everyone has time to read through the archives to find the answer. Plus, as someone mentioned, the follow on comments are not always identical and spark some excellent discussion on their own.

          1. tcookson*

            Also, hearing the same basic answer to the same basic question over and over again really helps ingrain the answer in a person’s mind.

            This. The premise that the answer is the same every single time (with some nuance, of course) is what drills into our minds that this is how things are, not just a one-off answer. It’s why we keep reading Miss Manners, Dear Abby, Carolyn Hax, etc. for all these years . . . we hear every iteration of “How can I politely ask people for money in mWy wedding invitation,” etc. and we learn that there Is. No. Way.

      3. Marmite*

        I also found it funny rather than rude, but I did read the question differently and agree with those commenting above that Alison’s answer doesn’t actually answer the question the way I interpreted it. That was; do employers have to force employees to take breaks rather than do they have to offer them.

        I can see how some readers could interpret the question the way I did and then read Alison’s answer and think it was rude or abrupt. Particularly, as you said, new readers.

      4. Diane*

        I think it’s extremely rude to attack someone for asking a question in a space that’s set up for questions and thoughtful discussion.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          What attack? I explained how she can get the information herself, which is far more useful than just giving it to her (although I also did the latter).

          1. Diane*

            AAM, I think your answer was appropriate and helpful. But many commenters are attacking the OP for asking a question here. It’s not nice, and it’s not encouraging for other potential writers.

            I’m looking at these kinds of comments:
            LW#4′s question was lazy and misplaced.

    7. Mike C.*

      It’s not at all rude when:

      A. These are common sense basics that employers are required by law to know and follow.

      B. Most state labor boards make a great effort in putting this information out there in an easy to read and understand format.

      I’m surprised there wasn’t a “LMGTFY” link.

  4. question7*

    I emailed the 7th question. Various coworkers from various levels have asked the reasoning and politely asked damn to reconsider. They have all been shortly told, “it is what it is”

    I was hoping there was a secret HR reasoning you would let us in on!

    1. kf*

      I would say the policy is more of an accounting reason than HR. When you have banked PTO hours that would have to be paid if an employee leaves the company, it is accounted for as a payable debt and lowers the bottom line on the balance sheet.

      Not only am I am accountant, I had this happen at a previous company where they needed to improve their bottom line so they eliminated PTO banking and switched to a “use it or lose it” policy. AND they forced everyone to take 2 weeks vacation time during a slow month to accelerate the PTO withdrawal.

    2. Cathy*

      It’s probably not an HR reason but a Finance reason, so you may be asking the wrong department for the explanation. Assuming the policy is to pay out PTO when someone leaves, but not sick time, then this does make sense for the business. PTO and vacation are accounting liabilities, but sick time is not.

      Presumably, everyone is getting more time off as a result of this change. E.g. if you previously accrued 2 weeks vacation and 1 week sick time during a year, you’re now getting 3 weeks of PTO. Some number of employees (most?) would never have used the full 1 week of sick time and it would have just vanished when they eventually left the company. But now you’re all getting paid for that extra week (either when you use it or when you leave), and the company’s expenses have increased as a result.

      The company is letting you keep the previously accrued sick leave so you can use it in the case of a major illness or surgery that requires an extended absence, but they do need everyone to use the new system for minor illnesses in order to keep expenses under control. This is actually a kindness to employees who had accrued sick time under the previous plan, because they could certainly have wiped it all off the books at once when the converted to the new plan.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This makes complete sense, actually. Frustrating if you’re an employee who banked a bunch of sick leave under the old system, but not crazy.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I hate policies that require a doctor’s note after a certain number of days. Unless you suspect sick leave abuse, it shouldn’t be necessary. I had swine flu once and it was pretty clear I couldn’t work for a week, minimum (I had gone to a doctor though). You know when you’re too sick to work. You shouldn’t need a doctor’s note. That just makes people use medical services unnecessarily.

      3. Cat*

        That’s true if they’re getting more PTO than they used to vacation time, but from what I hear from people who’s companies switched over to all-PTO systems, that’s not always the case.

    3. Elizabeth*

      Also be sure to ask if you can dip into the extended illness benefit for an issue involving intermittent problems, such as migraine headaches.

      Our EIB (used to be sick leave) allows us to use it for anything for which we would be eligible to take FMLA, if it is our own illness and not that of a family member. So, if I have used the 5 days of PTO in January & February for migraines and know that I can expect to have more in the next 10 months, I can ask for FMLA & EIB coverage for that illness and have it draw off the EIB bucket, rather than draining my PTO.

      1. Anon*

        The scheme OP posted here for sick leave is actually rather decent considering the way many PTO conversions go. Recently our company followed the trend in our industry and converted to PTO and put our accrued sick leave in a “legacy” account that we can only touch after completely draining our PTO all the way to zero. They also gave a date for the PTO transition and then two weeks ahead of that, with no prior notice, locked down the sick leave and asked people to start preemptively charging to PTO (the initial PTO was accrued vacation hours carried over) due to “timecard conversion activities.” This was obviously intended to keep people with large amounts of sick leave from trying to burning it at the last minute. But even we are slightly lucky as it is not unheard of for companies to just wipe out all sick leave when converting to PTO.

        The reasoning for this, as was mentioned, is completely based on corporate greed. There is little benefit for the majority of employees in a PTO system. The general exception is extremely healthy people with no families who can avoid taking nearly any time off for health, so they can utilize all the PTO as vacation. I believe PTO is a statistical game played by financial depts that analyzes the average amount of sick leave people will actually use and banks on the act of giving people a little extra PTO up front is more than offset by eliminating sick leave benefits. People also tend to find a way to minimize time out of office for health reasons on a PTO system (such as making up hours, consolidating appointments, coming in sick, etc), so they end up actually working more hours vs taking paid leave.

        1. Bonnie*

          I have also talked to a number of company’s who felt that healthy people were calling in sick when they weren’t to use all of both vacation and sick leave. The didn’t want employees to have to lie to them to get all their time off so they switched to a PTO only plan. But most of those companies have a high percentage of unmarried, childless, healthy, 20 year old employees. The employers were more bothered by the fact that employees were lying about their health than not paying 3 more sick days. YMMV.

  5. Sonya*

    Question 1: How the manager changed the email was likely to recall it via Outlook, which replaces the email with an updated version and deletes the old one.

      1. Penguin*

        Yes, timing should be different.
        Plus, I have always gotten a recall notice when people yanked an email- though maybe that can be turned off.

    1. pidgeonpenelope*

      That makes sense except that doesn’t Outlook only recall email messages that haven’t been read?

      1. PEBCAK*

        I think it depends on the individual set-up…it’s possible to see something in the preview pane without marking it read.

      2. Kelly O*

        My understanding is that it will ask to recall it, but it sort of depends on your settings. I’ve gotten requests to recall after I’ve read it, and I usually just say okay, but the time changes (and the date if it was different.)

    2. Noah*

      Even so, wouldn’t IT be able to access the original message? I know in our environment, IT can pull any message from the archive, even if it has been deleted. Of course, our business also have government contracts and has to follow certain regulations and contract rules regarding email archiving.

      I’m also guilty of printing important emails for a paper file. CYA and all that.

      1. Jamie*

        As you noted it depends on the backup/archive set-up. If not regulated how much is saved for how long is a decision based on space and cost. I.e. if one of my users accidentally deletes an email from yesterday, no problem. Last September? Try prayer, because I can’t help you. :)

    3. Jamie*

      But the updated version still has a different time stamp, and it would have to have been unread.

      If this were a common feature email as a record would be useless.

      I have no personal experience with this so off to my favorite haunts on the internees to research…I’m intrigued…but my gut feeling is that one of two things happened:

      1. Boss logged into OP’s email, deleted the old, resent another and the OP didn’t notice the time stamp.

      2. Their emails are stored in a third party program (think CRM) and it was swapped out but because of the storage structure the time stamp wasn’t as immediately evident.

      1. Jamie*

        Okay – its possible IF the mail server is completely in house but needs access to email server and local machines as well as a complete and total break down of professional ethics. It would also affect the time stamps of every other email sent during this time from all users.

        If external no freaking way without getting into hardcore stmp spoofing, because the time stamp relies on packets from the server – external servers and you’re sh*t out of luck (technical term).

        So the short of it is, imo, armed with basic knowledge without full access to the server and both clients AND jacking up time stamps for every other mail sent during this little exercise in fraud the most likely event is that it was deleted and a new one resent without the OP noticing the time stamps or message ID.

        Or…it could be a matter of imprecise recall of the original email. I know if I’m pissy emails sound worse to me than they are intended sometimes and I have different take on them later.

        1. Kathryn in Finance*

          I’m almost wondering if she is recalling the original email correctly. When I read the original letter my first thought was “Oh, that’s happened to me before”. Things can sound a lot different once you have slept on it.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, I thought that was a possibility worth considering too. It happens a lot, and the alternative is a pretty high level of craftiness.

            OP, did you answer the manager via email (or forward it to anybody else)? Have you checked the quoted material in your sent mail as well?

        2. Julie K*

          The OP said the manager had access to her computer, so perhaps the manager also has her password. In that case the manager could have gone into the OP’s email program on the OP’s computer and changed the content of the email. In Outlook, anyway, an email that has been received from someone else can be modified by the recipient.

      2. Chinook*

        I don’t know if there is a time stamp as I never thought to check (and I always made my changes obviously different by adding the time made, using s adifferent font and a nd a different colour and, finally, by adding my name to the end), but there is a way to change a message sititng in an inbox if you have read/write permission. I used to do that for a boss I supported when I replied on her behalf to her email messages that I was monitoring (i.e. I would leave a note if I called the person back). It really weirded me out that I had the power to change things with minimal footsteps, so I was super obvious about it.

        I think I stumbled on how to do this when I googled “how to add notes to exisiting emails” (for my own purpose, like a sticky note) and did it by adding something to my quick access bar in Outlook 2007. The icon that showed up was a greenball. I haven’t been able to figure out how to do it on Outlook 2010 yet.

        1. Chinook*

          OK, since I have both Outlook 2007 and 2010 on my computer, I checked this out. It is called “edit message” command in Outlook 2007 on the “customize quick access toolbar” under all commands (in other words – I really did accidentally stumble on to this). This command is not available in 2010 in the same place, so I am guessing it was removed probably because of the unethical things you could do with it.

          Too bad – I liked writing notes on my emails about how I deal with an issue. Atleast I can still edit the subject line of the emails.

          1. Jamie*

            It’s there – under the move > actions section.

            Counter intuitive to not have it under edit.

          2. Leslie Yep*

            You can do it in 2010 – It’s just a little wonky. Open the message and then go to Actions > Edit message (for me it’s right next to the Move button).

    4. Dave*

      This would be proven if the OP looked in their “sent” messages at their reply back. If the thread is still intact, it wasn’t a recall/re-send. If the thread is broken (i.e., the reply doesn’t seem to be to any original message) then the recall scenario is the very likely method.

      An edit of the original email would take some pretty advanced skills I would think.

      1. Chinook*

        The looking at the “sent” messages would also show if the version in her inbox has been altered (see my previous comment on how it can be done). If this was what happened, I think the OP needs to talk to someone about having a manager willing to alter documents in an undocumented (i.e.) sneaky way.

        1. Jamie*

          Not if she altered that, too. I tested it this am and you can alter both received and sent.

          I know I’m obsessing and this is the part of me my husband wishes he could leave…but I can’t find a way to disable this. Yet.

          It seems so crazy to me that people do use email as a record and reference and they can be so easily altered without a freaking audit trail. And with that I’ve taken a deep breath and will try to remember I’m not actually drowning.

    5. The IT Manager*

      It is technically possible that the manger without much trace did this … if he or she had a lot of email admin knowledge, email server admin rights and was really, really devious.

      Yes, in Outlook you can recall email messages, but I’m fairly certain that once the original has been read the content of what that you read won’t vanish. That’s why recalls fail for certain recipients.

      Frankly LW#1, I lean towards you being overly sensitive when you first read it and misintepretting the original email as nasty.

      ** Although if by access to your computer means she can log into your email account as you (ie has your login and password) all bets are off. That would not overwrite server records which your mail admin could find, but you can edit the content of emails. (Again in Outlook.)

      1. blu*

        That’s what I was thinking, if they person has the ability to actually log into your email, then modifying it would be super easy. I do it all the time on my own emails if I want to change the subject line or add notes to something someone has sent me.

        1. fposte*

          Is this just in the Outlook computer-based app? We don’t have this in our Outlook webmail, from what I can see, and it seems really bizarre to me. Can you reload the original message from the server after that?

          1. blu*

            I’m not sure, because I only use the computer based one. As for what’s on the server, I don’t know, but I know that the changes are make stay in the email in box and if I were to forward it to someone they wouldn’t know that I made changes to it.

          2. Jamie*

            Yes – it syncs just like the phone. I tested this, this morning (because I was fascinated and ashamed I didn’t know about this edit thing.)

            I edited an email from my daughter sent yesterday to me and my reply to her on my work desktop. No trace. Checked my phone and OWA (web based outlook) and it’s the edited version because they both sync with the server.

            1. fposte*

              Wow. I had no idea. I tried the edit function with Thunderbird but I don’t even know where it saved the edited message–it definitely didn’t overwrite the original.

        2. CatB*

          Yes, but wouldn’t the system record the “extra” log-in activity at a time when OP was out of the office?

        1. blu*

          Yep, and sort of related to the other person’s question about the rejection email, it’s why when we sent out rescind and offer letters to candidates we send an email that says please review the attached correspondence and then attach the actual letter as a pdf.

          Bottom line is just because someone has an email copy of something doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily proof.

          PS We do have a phone conversation first so the person knows the letter is coming to them and the contents.

        2. btdubbs*

          This is blowing my mind too so I tested it out with a friend. You definitely can edit items within your own Outlook inbox as explained above (so if the manager could log into OP #1’s inbox, this is a possibility). BUT if another person was CC-ed on that email, it won’t change the original message in that person’s inbox (unless the manager has access to that too — which would be pretty crazy and everyone needs new passwords). It also should appear as original in the manager’s “Sent” folder. So I’d suggest changing your password and then following up with that person to see if they have the original email.

          1. businesslady*

            wow–I had no idea that was possible, but apparently it is. crazy. especially in the hands of an unscrupulous person with admin access.

              1. blu*

                It is handy for updating the subject line to something meaningful and easy to find. I’ve also used when my boss sent me an email and then later gave me additional info via an IM. I’ll add in the additional info to the original email. Generally I use it to make it easier to keep my emails organized and consolidated and add additional context/info if needed, and I don’t generally send modified emails to anyone else, but I have on occasion. It’s very handy and only nefarious if people choose to use it that way.

                1. Jamie*

                  You can do the same by forwarding it to yourself and still add/edit all your stuff without losing the integrity of the original communication.

                  I think the slight benefit (not having to hit forward) of using it for legitimate purposes is far outweighed by the risk.

                2. blu*

                  Yep I’m aware of that, but then I lose the ability to sort that email by who it came from and the original date I received it as well as needed to now go delete the extra sent email and the original email so that my mailbox does go above the system limit. It’s not a “slight” benefit for me.

                3. Chinook*

                  Blu, I too appreciated the ability to edit emails and I think MS made up for taking that away by letting us have them sorted by conversations, which does make it a bit easier.

                4. Chinook*

                  Outlook does allow you to tag with colour. I use the category feature all the time. You can also search for all items (email, assigned tasks, appoitnments) in your Outlook associated to a person in your contacts.

        3. LCL*

          1. ‘Forward’ the email message to yourself. This opens the message.
          2. Before you click send, make any changes.
          3. ‘Send’
          4. Go to sent items, highlight the message you don’t want, right click for the dropdown menu, ‘delete’

          I do steps 1-3 often with technical emails, when different recipients don’t need all of the other details such as staffing, shift changes, etc. I guess this process would work if you wanted to change someone else’s email, but that would be evil.

        4. Cassie*

          I used to be able to do this with Eudora (I think) – at least I remember being able to edit subject lines which helped me add notes to automated messages. I haven’t been able to figure out how to do this with Thunderbird though.

  6. A teacher*

    #1 That’s why in incidents like that, I print it out and save a copy…I know AAM isn’t big on documenting like that but in my school system and with a background in healthcare where everything is documented its better to be safe than sorry.

    1. Jessa*

      I agree with you. If I’m going to complain about the content of something that can potentially be changed on me, after the fact, I am absolutely going to print a copy before any discussion about it.

      1. Anon*

        I forward anything I think might come in handy one day to a personal email account as back up.

      2. Anonymous*

        But in this case, you could have changed it to something favorable to you before printing it. Or taking a screenshot or showing it directly to someone.

        This whole thing is just too bizarre. How can there be absolutely no record of the original? Christ, an employee could edit an email from the boss to one that promises them a raise or a promotion.

        1. Jamie*

          Or vacation time. I could email my boss to approve 3 days off and he writes back “Sorry – not next week please submit alternate days” and I can change that to “Approved! Have a fabulous time!”

        2. FiveNine*

          Or the nightmare person with a tiny bit of power could use it to edit an email so it now includes instructions that a person they want fired never saw/followed/responded to etc.

    2. Mary*

      What I do if I get an email that I may want to go back to, I forward it to my personal email and also include the headers from the original mail. In case someone says that is not what I sent, not what I said, etc. it is right there.

  7. NCarlson*

    Am I the only one who isn’t sure the break question is actually answering what was meant? Yes, the break has to be provided, but what does that mean? If the employee isn’t taking the break that IS being allowed by the employer is some sort of liability being created? Is there a duty on the part of the employer to ensure that the break is taken?

    1. Spreadsheet Monkey*

      I’m not sure about Tennessee, but in Oregon, breaks and/or lunches are mandatory (for non-exempt employees) and the employer is liable for employees not taking these breaks.

    2. Sourire*

      That is how I read it too. I’d love to hear the advice on how to “force” an employee to take their break/lunch. I suppose talk to them about it and continue up the discipline chain until they comply or are fired, but it would be way more fun to have answers like remotely shut off her computer, lock her out of her office when she’s not looking, etc.

      1. FiveNine*

        My sister has indeed worked on a computer/register that locks employees out of — their login key doesn’t work to get them back in — I believe something like within 15 minutes when they approach being on the clock for the state maximum 6 hours without punching out for the break.

        1. Anonymously Anonymous*

          Just yesterday the main office called and ask if I could find Jane, an instructional assistant, and tell her to come to the office because of her timecard. When i came back, my co-worker said they had called down for someone else. Then a few min later they called again for a different person. I’m sure they got ‘talked to’ because it create more of an issue when they go over 29.5 hours.

      2. Jamie*

        I’ve done this. The stuffy way of repeating that its a job requirement, no you don’t have the option to work through lunch even those others are (exempt vs non) and enforcing policy.

        Taking over their computer or installing an evil Clippy to go off during this time and yell at them.

        But yeah – if taking the break is the condition of the job you enforce violations the way you would any other.

        1. Chinook*

          Cool – do you have an evil Clippy program I could install on my student’s computer. I would love to have it pop up every time he switches from writing an essay to checking on his plot to rule the world in Risk.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        the same way you instruct people to not work overtime/extra hours if you haven’t authorized it.

        “Employee, you’ve been instructed to take a half hour break. You keep not taking a break. How you spend your break is your business, but there will be a half hour of uncompensated time noted on your timecards for your break, period.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Actually, that wording would be problematic because it says that even if they work during that time, you won’t be paying them for it — and that would be illegal (if they’re non-exempt, which they are if you’re deducting break time). You’ve got to actually ensure that they take the break — which you do in the same way that you ensure they don’t work unauthorized overtime: by insisting on it and having consequences if they disregard you.

          1. Natalie*

            Yep, my corporate office neglected to make sure our field office knew that non-exempt employees have to take a break in my state so I worked through lunch a couple of weeks in a row. Lo and behold, our timeclock system automatically deducts a half hour for lunch if the employee doesn’t punch out. They had to pay me regardless.

          2. Marmite*

            Yeah, and even though it sounds harsh to have consequences for not taking a break, in some jobs it’s a safety issue.

            One example; I used to do a lot of work with coach drivers and there are all sorts of laws on how long they can drive without a break plus how long they can work without a break (if part of the work is non-driving) and so on. For the driving times there are electronic discs in the vehicles that track how long the engine is on, speed of vehicle, etc. Drivers can get big fines if the disc records them not taking breaks at the required times.

            1. Marina*

              Even if it’s not a safety risk, it’s a liability for the employer. I had a coworker who kept coming in early and working for up to an hour before punching in, and after repeated warnings was actually fired for doing so… and was STILL able to sue our employer and get back wages for the times she was working without pay!

              1. Marmite*

                I was going to say something along the lines of “Oh, you Americans and your litigious culture!” But then I realised that a) sadly, we’re not far behind over here now, and b) I have no idea if you are actually American!

    3. Anonymously Anonymous*

      I read it that way too. Anyway here, we are docked our break whether we take it or not. We are always encouraged to take our full break–as if you have to tell me twice. Sometimes we have morning students who get picked up late or the district schedule a PPT right during our break (we have two classes and we take our breaks in between) so we fill out a form explaining why we worked through our break. we can either get paid for working through our break or we take a later break–since we having planning and prep time after the pm students leave. Usually in the above circumstances we apologize in advance to ouf co-worker and take the break during class time because the break is much needed.

    4. LisaLyn*

      Maybe, but this is state-specific law. I don’t think we can reasonably expect AAM to be an expert on all 50 states as regards to labor law.

      And I do think it varies between states and then, of course, how those laws are interpreted. In my state, yeah, the employee HAS to take the break but I know in a neighboring state, it’s ok as long as the employer reasonably provides the ability to take a break. I have NO idea what Tennessee thinks about such things.

    5. Ash*

      And like Alison said, the OP can easily look that information up themselves. She isn’t from Tennessee and isn’t familiar with this laws, and gave the OP a good resource (i.e. THE INTERNET) to look up those laws. They can also contact their state’s labor board for more information as well.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If that’s the question, I’d say the employer should insist on the break being taken, so that there’s no opportunity for questions later about whether the break was really made available. Some states require that breaks be mandatory, but if Tennessee’s law is unclear on that as it appears to be without further research, the safest course of action is to insist on it. Which is annoying if you’re an employee who prefers to work through lunch, as some people do, but the employer shouldn’t risk issues coming up around this later.

      As for how you’d enforce that, you’d do it the same way you (for instance) enforce a no-unapproved overtime rule: by making the policy very clear and having consequences if it’s not followed.

    7. Mike C.*

      I’ve never heard of a “voluntary” break, as this could easily be abused by the employer.

  8. Noah*

    #3 – I’ve always considered my pay rate to be confidential as well. Last year the company accidentally revealed everyone’s payrates to the entire management team in an email about profit sharing bonuses. We were only supposed to receive our own departments but everyone received the master spreadsheet. I assumed it would cause lots of drama, but there really was no major fallout. One person quit when they found out their compensation was below the others, but they were also a known low performer so no major loss.

    1. LisaLyn*

      I learned that my manager told a coworker who was complaining about their pay that mine was lower and I am upset about it, but yeah, it’s not a legal thing, so I’m trying to let it drop.

      I know when I worked for a public institution where everyone’s pay had to be public there was always drama around the time when the spreadsheet for that year came out. A lot of complaining and stuff, though — nothing more than that.

      1. Anonymously Anonymous*

        I was looking for a reason to agree with pay being public except for my need to be nosey. This would be a reason to make pay public information. Since you make less there is no need to give your co-worker a raise. I’d be pissed if I got that as a response for a raise…

        1. Anonymously Anonymous*

          To explain..
          I would rather want to know then to trust that an employer wouldn’t use any type of excuse to not give a its not in the budget yet they give another employee a raise or in this instance tell the co-worker they make more and don’t need a raise.

          1. LisaLyn*

            Yeah, it was a really sucky excuse and not a cool thing for our manager to do. At least if my coworker would have known that going in, he may have had a counter-argument.

        2. the gold digger*

          I think it should be public because I think employers should have to justify why they are paying someone less than everyone else (if that is the case).

          1. Anonymous*

            I’ve spent thirty years in the compensation field and I think that salary ranges for individual jobs should be public, but do not endorse revealing individual salaries.

            As a compensation professional, I can justify all the salary ranges with market pricing against the job description. Understanding individual salaries requires knowledge of performance appraisals, among other things, which should not be made public.

        3. LJL*

          All state workers’ pay rates (at least in my state; I imagine in others as well) are public. The rationale is that since it’s a state job, the taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent.

          1. some1*

            It’s like this in my state, too, and it’s all for all government jobs. (If you work for a City or County department). I used to work for the City, and in one department they even posted everyone’s accrued vacation time. (Not on a server or website, literally posted it in the office on the bulletin board.)

            1. Anonymous*

              Haha! My lil town does the same (bullentin board at city hall though) but the local newspaper which covers surrounding areas will publish the administrators salaries and the top teacher salaries–you know just cause a ruckus about why the art teacher makes 90,000…
              And even with the public knowledge of salary there are still blurred lines especially if you’re not part of the union. The classroom aide in my classroom is expected to do the same work as the instructional assistant yet she makes 1/2 what they make. And to matters worse she is an older woman 50++

          2. Chinook*

            In Ontario, Canada, they annually publish a (sunshine?) list of all government employees who make over $100,000 whether it is due to salary, bonus, OT or payouts. There are always lots of discussions on why certain cops and firefighters make so much money (it is OT) and how there are always a few teachers that make the list (usually due to a combination of factors hitting at once).

    2. Anonymous*

      Like it or not, when wage information is public, it’s easier to recognize if a class of people is being discriminated against. That is why companies can’t forbid co-workers from discussing their pay rate with each other.

      1. Julie K*

        My company has told us that if we talk about our salaries with other colleagues, we can be fired. If I remember correctly from a previous AAM post, that is not legal. Oh well… I negotiated the best I could when I was hired, and I do my best to get raises and cost of living increases.

        1. Natalie*

          If you’re covered under the National Labor Relations Act (most people are) then you’re correct – you cannot be disciplined for discussing pay or working conditions with your co-workers.

      2. Zahra*

        This is exactly why I’m in favor of letting employees discuss pay rates and disclosing it when asked for (or just putting it somewhere accessible). I understand some employers are leery of doing this for fear of people asking them why coworker X received a higher raise than them, but really, it is to everyone’s advantage to publish rates. Discrimination suits are expensive and there are time limitations on it (I think it is less severe now in the USA). Disclosing salaries permits everyone to see if the employer is fair or not.

        It could even be somewhat confidential: Employee A with X years of experience, white male (so you can say you don’t discriminate per race/gender) = Y$

        Of course, if there only one white man in the office, it doesn’t work so well. For bigger departments, it might be something to consider.

    3. fposte*

      My pay is public record. It doesn’t really cause drama. A revelation is more exciting than just keeping stuff open.

      I wouldn’t assume that pay rates were confidential unless the company explicitly said so, though. There’s no legal reason they would have to be, so it’s up to the company.

      1. LJ*

        Mine is also public record. You’re right that it shouldn’t cause drama and it mostly doesn’t.

        But a local newspaper three counties over (where I’ve never worked and is 100+ miles from my school district) lists a detailed break down of my salary on their website. It’s the 4th Google hit when searching my name. That is beyond irritating and mildly creepy.

    4. Marmite*

      I worked in Sweden for a while and there everyone’s income and tax information is published. I worked with an American woman who was extremely paranoid about that because her husband made a lot of money (I think he was listed in the top X earners in the country or something), but everyone else seemed perfectly happy with it.

    5. Jazzy Red*

      At my company, employees can (and have been) fired for sharing salary information. Personally, I don’t want to know anyone else’s salary. Too depressing…

  9. Y*

    For 1: In Outlook and other mail programs, if you have access to the mail account, you can edit e-mails just like you can change documents. I am not sure whether this leaves any traces in some database.

    1. Jamie*

      Huh? If I send Alison a scathing and hate filled email and then go to my sent file I can’t edit that sent email to look like I sent her 17 pics of kittens playing with ribbons. I can delete that one and send another one, but I can’t duplicate the header including message tracking and time stamps.

      1. Y*

        Um, that’s also not what I wrote?

        I’m talking about the inbox. Where I can just open a message, hit “edit” and then save an edited version of the message. Doesn’t even change the timestamp of the mail.

        1. Y*

          Whether that might have happened depends, of course, on whether “This manager has access to my computer” means “This manager has access to my e-mail account”.

          1. Jamie*

            Also doesn’t change the header, in case anyone is wondering.

            It doesn’t – but you can see where it was modified, unfortunately MS considers it modified when read or forwarded – so it’s of limited use:

            Highlight the email and ALT ENTER and it will pop up the properties dialogue box. It shows date and time stamps for Sent, Received, and Modified.

            1. RJ*

              It also counts as “modified” when you flag it for follow-up or assign it to an Outlook “category.” Yeah, not that useful after all…

        2. Leslie Yep*

          Yes, I do this regularly to add the notes from a meeting to the emailed agenda. In Outlook 2010, you do this by opening the message, and then going to Actions > Edit Message. You can then edit the message as though you were sending it yoursef, but it will save over the original.

          It doesn’t change how the message looks in the receiver’s inbox (including header, timestamps, etc) and to my knowledge no record is left of the previous message. If the manager had access to the employee’s computer and could get into her Outlook, this would be easy peasy.

          1. SerfinUSA*

            I can’t find any editing function for emails in my sent or inbox on our Outlook. I wonder if there are settings upstream that our IT people have tweaked to prevent this. We’re a state agency, so maybe that’s the case.

        3. Jamie*

          My apologies, you’re absolutely right. Glad I have a policy of users not sharing passwords or email accounts because thats pretty horrifying.

          Backups tend to run overnight so if this happened all on the same day they can’t even pull the original.

          If this is what the manager did I hope they get caught as this should be grounds for immediate dismissal. It’s not just lying its gas lighting.

          Thanks for the tip about Outlook – terrifying but valuable information.

          1. Y*

            I work in IT, anyone knowing my password is horrifying to me – I’d be much more comfortable with people having my apartment key than having access to my mail account. So I hope that with “access to my computer” the original poster actually only meant the computer and not the mail account, but I have been reading this site for some time now and know that this is actually normal in some companies. And thus my mind directly leaped to “could have edited the mail”.

            “Thanks for the tip about Outlook – terrifying but valuable information.”

            Yeah, unfortunately showing someone an e-mail is not really “evidence” someone else actually sent this e-mail.

            1. Jamie*

              I would also be more comfortable with people having my house keys and passwords – and that’s the analogy I’ve used so I totally agree.

              My policy is that passwords are not shared and if you violate this and share out your password it’s your electronic footprint so you’re the one responsible.

          2. Chinook*

            Not sharing passwords isn’t good enough. If someone has full read/write permission access for someone else’s email, they can do this too (and you can do it in 2010 as I just followed Leslie Yep’s directions). Of course, this is usually only given to someone’s assistant who should have a certain level of trust already or there may be other issues.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I love this feature because I can edit the subject line to actually be useful for me to find the information later. So many subject lines are uninformative to begin with or then the conversation wanders off course and you get good info under a misleading subject line.

      Edit subject line and archive the message for later use.

    3. Anonymous*

      I just found this feature on my Outlook and now I’m freaked out a little.. the only real way this could be used against someone would be to have access to their email system too, right? yikes.

  10. Sourire*

    #3 – It’s very ingrained in us not to talk about money and to keep pay confidential, but I do think there are actually benefits to knowing the salary of those around you. If you make less than your other peer coworkers, knowing this gives you a good bargaining chip. Granted, there may be good reasons you make less, but sometimes that reason is simply “X asked for a raise and Y didn’t”.

    I had a job once where I started around the same time as 3 other people. At 1 year, each of us was brought in and given a yearly raise along with the clause “This is confidential information that you should not be sharing with your peers… I argued for more, but this was the MOST the company would give anyone, yada yada yada” We were all pretty close, and so we did tell each other about our raises. All 4 of us got the same talk, all 4 got different compensation. I have no problem with giving the better workers better raises (which is what happened), but I dislike the dishonest and shady way they went about it. Maintaining strict confidentiality about salary can easily promote this type of practice, and assuming we hadn’t talk to each other, none of us would have been the wiser.

      1. LisaLyn*

        Yes, particularly women with the equal pay thing being a pipe dream for so many.

        Sorry, bitter this morning. :) But yeah, I do think it benefits workers. The more you know and all that.

    1. Anonymous*

      After our team appropriately voiced some concerns (not about raises) with our director in a meeting —which plummeted us down her ‘favorite’ list. She said ‘she wasn’t sure how much information we ( all teams) shared among each other. And stated she doesn’t try to play us against each other as the response to a ‘why’ question. Her words. She was clearly uncomfortable.

    2. Anonymous*

      In the US we require that all public employee salaries be public. But of course private companies can do whatever they want with it. But if you are going to demand to know what a public employee makes (and even though they handle your private data you want to pay them less and often end up with worse people because of it, since people who are quite good can get paid more at private institutions, but hey, it’s your private data you’re asking for a cut rate handler for) I don’t understand why there is an assumption that salaries are confidential data or private data somehow. Your company could put the number on your badge and make you show it to everyone, totally legal.

      1. Omne*

        Could be worse. My salary information isn’t only public, the local newspapers all have online searchable databases for the last 5 years worth. Takes all of 3 seconds for anyone to pop up what I’ve made since 2008.

        Public employment, gotta love it…..

        1. Cassie*

          I’m in the same boat as you – my salary history is on those newspaper databases too. It also lists my organization and dept. I wish it didn’t list my middle name too…

    3. Anonymous*

      This interested me for another reason – the company seems to be trying to tell you not to discuss compensation with your co-workers. This may be a labor issue – workers are allowed to discuss pay and working conditions, and the company is not supposed to be discouraging them from ever doing so (even when not “on the clock”).

      I can’t imagine making this type of statement to an employee, although I have said truthfully that someone received a raise (as an outstanding performer) even though there were no raises that year for regular performers. I can also understand stating that I would keep salary information confidential (if asked), but I would never tell an employee he was not free to disclose his salary with anyone he wanted to.

      1. Anonymous*

        Sorry – should have been discuss his salary with anyone or disclose his salary to anyone. Mea culpa.

      2. Sourire*

        I no longer work there (am actually a public sector employee whose pay is therefore widely available to anyone who cares to look), but yes, it’s definitely a problematic policy. I was young, it was my first full time job, and I had no idea about the legalities involved then. I just though it was unfair and shady.

        1. Sourire*

          Oh, and lest I forget, they also told people they could be fired for even saying the word “union”. Oh to have known then what I know now.

      3. Jamie*

        Per the National Labor Relations Act you are correct, but supervisors and management are excluded from this protection.

        Although they are protected from ramifications from failure to enforce it.

        I.e. if my company had a policy against discussing salary I could be fired for discussing mine, because I’m management. But I cannot be fired for refusing to discipline non supervisory/management workers who were discussing pay.

    4. Jamie*

      It’s very ingrained in us not to talk about money and to keep pay confidential, but I do think there are actually benefits to knowing the salary of those around you.

      For a long time I was in the confidential camp for this very reason – a knee jerk reaction based on it being ingrained in me that it was crass to discuss money.

      I really tried for a long time – and probably posted to the effect – to back this up logically but really all I have is that it makes me uncomfortable, which is my problem.

      I have come to see the benefit to being transparent about salaries – because in workplaces where it’s the norm people function just fine. My husband is a cop and government salaries are no secret. It’s not like his co-workers are wondering whether he makes 6 figures or 20K. In cultures where it’s always been confidential there will be a transitional period where people like me will feel weird at first – kind of like one of those dreams where you’re in high school taking a final and look down to find yourself naked and mortified.

      But it can show patterns, as people have said, if certain classes of people are being paid in a disparate fashion to others of their job level, performance, and seniority…and a good company will pay top performers more money regardless of time served, and under performing people are notorious for not seeing themselves that way. That’s where the issues will come in.

      1. Jessa*

        Exactly, I think a lot of the “don’t talk about your salary,” is because management KNOWS there will be huge issues if people do. Either they’ll have to actually tell poor performers why they are being paid less, or they will have to explain why equal performers are not being paid on parity with their experience and years of work. IE it’s one thing for the person there 6 years to make more than the person there 2, but not two people in the same job with the same experience (neither has a specialty degree or something, or bargained different compensation like leave or things.)

        If all salaries were public knowledge, a lot of the wage discrimination could not happen because they’d have to explain why that woman with the same experience or that person of colour of whatever ethnicity with the same degree, did not get paid the same amount of money.

  11. Nelly*

    6. I’m investigating a bullying allegation at the moment. One employee left last month, then made allegations on face book she had been bullied by other staff, so I’m doing things like contacting her previous workmates who have left to see if they can collaborate her story. At the moment, all I hear is that she is a horrible bully (which I already had seen in action) and when someone finally stood up to her she had a fit and left. But yes, I’m not necessarily telling our past employees exactly why they are being contacted, at least not at first.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      I wish someone would ask me about my former-psycho-boss-from-hell, and how long it took me to know I made a mistake accepting that job. I do know she had to explain to the executives why she had no secretary or receptionist the day after Christmas (the receptionist quit, too), and why the temp agency wouldn’t send any more employees over to work for her.

  12. badmovielover*

    #1: Assuming the email system is Exchange/Outlook, you can edit emails. I think that changes the timestamp too, however.

    If you need to save an email, Outlook lets you drag and drop emails to your file system. I do this all the time with emails that contain reference info that I need to build documentation, or things like sign-offs.

  13. LisaLyn*

    If I were #6, I would be all over that to find out what is going on because I am terribly nosy. :)

  14. Cruella DaBoss*

    #1 As a girl who dots all her i’s , crosses all her t’s, and documents everything ( you know that a girl named Cruella may be up for a little blackmail….JUST KIDDING) I have had a few situations that left me feeling the way that you do. You are certain that you’ve read something, only to find later that it’s slightly different.

    Now I print all questionable email exchanges and keep them in a file in my desk. I also send a copy to an outside email address I have set up through Gmail. That keeps others from tinkering with them.

    While one can edit an email in Outlook, one can not edit an email sent outside the system.

    Better safe than sorry I always say

  15. Runon*

    1. I do think that AAM missed a possibility. Memories are extremely fallible. I think it is quite likely that the way the OP read it and felt at that moment impacted what they thought it said. The next time they recalled it in their memory that tone was emphasized. It doesn’t need to be a hallucination and it doesn’t need to be an overreaction to be wrong. It could simply be miss-remembered. Someone going in and changing your email maliciously requires a lot of work. Your brain getting the tone and exact wording wrong by one or two words each time you recall it is the way your brain is designed.

    1. Cruella DaBoss*

      Agreed! If you are expecting an exchange to be ugly, then one will make words or phrases seem more unpleasant than they actually are. Sometimes a little cool down period makes all the difference.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Yes. I was going to come back and say that here (after a previous post above). I honestly think that such a devious and technically challenging cover up by the old manager is unlikely (not impossible you just need the right skills *and* access).

      Unless there’s the memory of the specific word such as a curse that disappeared, it is much more likely that the employee’s mood and lack of nuisance in written communication led to a misinterpretation of tone in a relatively innocuous email originally. That’s not a hallucination.

      1. badmovielover*

        The OP did say that the manager has access to the OP’s computer. Once you’re in, editing an Outlook message (assuming that’s the software) is pretty trivial.

    3. HR Pufnstuf*

      I have been guilty of this once. It was a very stressful time and I was PO’d and showed it. Upon later viewing it wasn’t nearly as bad as thought.

    4. HR lady*

      I totally agree that there’s a possibility OP read more negativity into the email the first time he/she read it. I have definitely been guilty of this in the past. I’m trying to learn to take a deep breath and read the email again, to see if it could have a more neutral tone than I originally interpreted.

      Whether or not this is what happened to OP, I just think it’s worth remembering that it’s very helpful to take the time to carefully read an email and not jump to conclusions about the tone.

  16. Pauline*

    Fun fact – Vermont recently passed a law that made it illegal to retaliate against employees who disclose their salary to other coworkers. It doesn’t require employers to disclose salary, but it does mean that employers can’t discipline employees for talking about their salaries.

    1. KJ*

      I believe discussing salaries is also protected under the NLRA, if I’m not mistaken.

    2. Natalie*

      That’s actually already protected behavior throughout the US, for any employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act (which is lots of them). Presumably Vermont’s law is stricter or covers more workers.

  17. Meghan*

    Threadjack, sorry! Starting next month, my department is being shifted to the only work-from-home department in our organization. I’m a little nervous (although the $650/mo savings in gas will be nice) because our department is small (5 people) and even though we’re going to be coming in for occasional meetings and our monthly team meeting, I’m worried we’re not going to be as cohesive as we are now. Any advice? Or any general advice for a first timer doing the work from home thing?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hey Meghan, I typically try to keep the comments here on-topic (although I know threadjacks are common on many other sites), in part because it can make an already-lengthy comment thread unwieldy and in part because it means that anyone who subscribes to the comments by email ends up getting emailed comments on topics they didn’t sign up for. However, you can try the LinkedIn group or email this to me to get it in my queue!

  18. some1*

    #2, seriously ouch. At a previous job, my co-worker interviewed to be a Division Head. This position was only for internal candidates. She got brought into the Head Honcho’s office on Friday at the end of the day & told she got the position. Monday morning, she comes in to work and opens an email saying announcing her co-worker as Division Head. This happened years before I started but it’s the kind of story that gets repeated for years.

  19. Jane Doe*

    #2 – I had a similar experience. I was interviewed for an internal position and just never heard back. It wasn’t like this was a huge office – I knew the people interviewing me because they had previously assigned me projects and we’d worked together; they were my supervisor’s bosses. I had no problem with them hiring someone more qualified, but the way they handled the whole situation was rude.

  20. Joey*

    #3. I’d like to know why specifically you think salaries should be confidential. Is it because that’s what you’re used to? Is it because you don’t want everyone knowing what you make? If so, why does it really matter? They already likely have a pretty good idea, don’t they? I really haven’t yet heard a good reason.

    1. The IT Manager*

      #3 doesn’t think salary information should be, she knows that sort of information is. Which is of course incorrect.

    2. StellaMaris*

      Let me tell you my personal experience with keeping salaries confidential: back in the dark ages I worked for a small, local cable tv provider in their call center. We wound up in a union organizing effort. At the last meeting before the vote, the organizers distributed a sheet of paper with everyone’s name and salary on it and the room went into shock. There were wild salary discrepencies between people doing the exact same job for the same length of time. The union effort failed, morale tanked, and the company wound up firing the big boss because of all the strife. It was a nightmare.

      1. Anonymous*

        Why did the union effort fail? I would think seeing the ridiculous discrepancies would convince everyone that a union was necessary.

        1. StellaMaris*

          As you can imagine, we talked about it a lot afterward, and general opinion was that people were so offended by the union making that infirmation so public that they really didn’t want anything to do with them.

    3. Mike C.*

      I’m completely with Joey here. If it were up to me I’d have that stuff available to anyone in the company that wanted to look. Throw in taxable benefits as well.

      An employer should be able to objectively say why someone is being paid the salary they are given. If not there’s a serious problem going on and if everything is on the up and up, there’s no reason for employees to complain about differences in pay.

      1. Chinook*

        I think throwing in the taxable benefits is a great idea when discussing salary. A lower salary with a great benefits package is often better than a higher salary with minimal benefits.

      2. Bonnie*

        I also think letting people know their entire compensation number not just their salary is a great idea. Helps them to better understand the larger amount that the company is paying them instead of just getting their salary stuck in their head.

        As an employee it give me a better idea of what my entire compensation package is worth if I were to decide to leave.

  21. Juni*

    #6, I’d probably write back (in letter form) that you’d be happy to address any specific questions they have if they can tell you more about what their line of questioning is in regard to. Note, if I were you, I’d just answer specific questions instead of giving a narrative. Let them come to you with the information they want to learn, instead of a fishing expedition.

  22. AM*

    This might get buried in the comments. #2 follow-up. Thanks Alison. Yeah, it was really disappointing in how this was handled. I almost wanted to ignore the email or reply back calling this person out but what good would that do for anyone especially when this person is at the senior level? Any complaints to HR would just be sent to this person anyway. Instead, I just replied back with a courtesy thanks and wished the best working with the candidate they chose.

  23. Annie*

    #2. My husband got even worse treatment when he recently interviewed for an internal position. He was not even notified *at all* that he didn’t get the position – he found out when the Organizational Announcement went out saying that X person was the new [position]. To this day I don’t think his manager(s) have even addressed this with him… it’s like they never even interviewed him.

    I was so angry on his behalf because that’s really, really crappy! And here I always thought his was a good company and they go and do something like that.

  24. EC*

    for #7, it sounds like they don’t want people taking time off sick that is really personal/short vacation. So they are forcing you to exhaust vacation quicker. Seems like it would be simpler just to require a Dr. Note for any sick time paid. But still, an administrative burden for the employer. I would wonder if they had a lot of abuse in past of Sick time usage maybe? i.e. people using sick time for personal so they still have their vacation time for extended planned vacation later on.

  25. #6*

    I posted #6, thanks for answering my question, when I got the letter I thought it was really odd that thry would care why I left after so long but I reached out to some former colleagues and found out that my old boss is under investigation for bullying, and as I left in part because she was a controlling and insincere boss I wrote back and gave them the real reason I left. I’ve not heard anything back from them, not even a thanks for getting back to us so I don’t know if I’ll ever find out what happens :-(

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