should I have to take vacation time for this day when I regularly work extra hours?

A reader writes:

I got a new job about two months ago, thanks in large part to the excellent advice and resources on your blog. The company is a small start-up, so they don’t have a lot of procedures established. I was hired as the first middle manager between executive and administrative staff already on board. I have been working hard to establish myself as a top performer – staying late or arriving early to finish projects, establishing a rapport with my coworkers, and focusing on learning the job thoroughly as quickly as possible. My efforts are recognized and appreciated by those above and below me.

I am classified correctly as an exempt employee. This week I had a personal appointment come up which should have taken 2 hours but ended up taking most of the day (cable guy was a no-show). I know it’s legal for the company to make me use my vacation time to make up for the time I missed, and I’m fine with that.

Here’s the issue: my boss thinks I should use vacation time for all 6.5 hours I was out that day. My position is that since I had already worked an extra 5 hours that week I should only have to take the difference of 1.5 hours. Who’s right here?

You are, at least in terms of what’s sensible and fair, as well as good management.

Legally, yes, your company can make you take vacation day for all the time you missed that day, despite the hours you worked the rest of the week. But they shouldn’t.

On many other days, you put in extra hours instead of thinking, “Well, I’m done with my 8 hours so I’m out of here,” but where’s the incentive for you to continue that if the company is going to have a strict hours-per-day view on their own side of it? Their policy will nudge you and other employees to take the same strict policy toward hours yourself — and not be generous with your side of things if they’re not going to be generous with theirs.

If I were in your shoes, I’d go talk to your boss and say, “Look, I understand it’s your prerogative to do this. But I regularly stay late or come in early, and it’s disheartening to be told that the company doesn’t recognize that and is going to dock my vacation time for a few hours, when I’m working extra hours beyond what’s required all the time. If I’m going to continue working the hours I often do, cutting into the rest of my life, I’d like there be some recognition of that on the rare occasions that my life cuts a few hours into work.”

If they won’t agree, they won’t agree … but you’ll have learned something key about how they operate.

{ 120 comments… read them below }

  1. Andie*

    Sounds like the company does not offer comp time for situations like this but it would be fair to allow you to use comp time since you are working more than your regular hours.

  2. Cat*

    I had been mentally debating a similar situation I had this month (we don’t submit time until the end of the month, so I hadn’t come to a conclusion yet). I took the Friday after July 4 off but then, due to business travel, worked more than a full day on Sunday, July 7. It’s understood where I work that if you take a couple of hours off for a doctor’s appointment as an exempt employee, that doesn’t need to come out of vacation time. We don’t have a policy regarding full days like that though; part of me would like to ask for credit for that Sunday on the ground that I did put in a full week. The other part of me thinks that had I not taken off July 5, I would have worked the Sunday anyway with no expectation of comp time, so why ask for it now? I’m leaning towards the latter position but still waffling.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Tricky. For me I would get comp time for travel on a weekend so I think I should even out, but that’s not the norm in your company.

  3. COT*

    Great response, Alison. I’m so glad that you can make a great common-sense case for flexibility in a situation that is all too common.

    I absolutely love working for employers that offer flex scheduling when possible; I’m glad I don’t need to use PTO when a dentist appointment makes me 30 minutes later than usual or when I need to leave work an hour early to volunteer. My bosses know and trust that I’ll make up the time elsewhere, letting me save my PTO for actual rejuvenation. That acknowledgement of work/life balance really enhances my loyalty to my employer; it’s one of the benefits I personally hold most dear. I know it’s not feasible for all jobs or all workplaces, but employers should really try to allow it when they can.

    1. EM*

      Yes my work is also great about this– if I have an appointment that means I have to leave work an hour early but I make up that time elsewhere then they don’t mind. If I have a scheduling issue that cuts an hour or two into my day, as long as I bring it up and point out where I have or am planning to make up the time, they’re fine with it; their perspective, which I really appreciate, is that I am an adult who they trust to be accountable and get her work done.

    2. Julie*

      My manager is the same. Every time I need to take time off for an appointment, and I say I’ll make up the time, she says not to worry about it because she knows I already work more than 40 hours per week. It’s great to be trusted!

      1. Julie*

        A few years ago I managed a small team, and one of my team members suggested a similar idea. Sometimes she needed to come in a little late in order to take her son to school, but most of the time, she arrived a few minutes early. She asked me if I would trust her to keep track of her time and not take more time off than she had “accumulated.” Because I was a new manager, I had to think about it first, but eventually I couldn’t think of a reason not to agree with her plan, so that’s what we did, and it worked out fine.

  4. POF*

    For the OP – I would require you to take a vacation day. Our policy is that you have to have worked at least 4.5 hours in order to be paid for the entire day. You did not. It was essentially an entire day our of the office. I do not nickel and dime staff for 2 or 3 hour appointments, but to be fair – you do have to be here at least half a day.

    For the other posters – with the Sunday. I would put in for it – since i would consider that essentially a sschedule swap.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But then where’s the incentive for her to even come in at all on that day, which it sounds like she did? That policy is going to lead to employees not be as generous with their time as they otherwise would.

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        Agreeing. Why can’t employers understand this simple concept.

        I’m non-exempt so it’s a bit different but kind of the same for me. My employer doesn’t allow me to make up time even though I have almost 2 hours of prep time built into my day “where I could make up work if I needed to come in late for an appointment or so”. Those two hours I’m not dealing with clients at all.

        Instead my supervisor says that switching like that “isn’t needed or I’m not needed at that time of the day”. But what she fells to see, I just lost prep time that I could move to the end of the day or earlier the next day…

        And you’re right, since I’m not needed when there is a need to switch, I do not make myself available for days I’m asked to stay later to cover someone. I use to happily stay later, my first two years, now I will not cover anyone past my shift. Since I’m hourly,the extra money would be nice but for me it’s the principle.

      2. My 2 Cents*

        You are 100% correct! I had a horrible job that when I interviewed said there was an occasional night or weekend shift. Turns out, they knowingly lied and you were expected to work a night or weekend EVERY week. But, you were also expected to be in the office M-F 9-5, regardless of how much extra you worked during the weekend or at night. It got to the point that I worked only my 9-5 and went home. If my employer wasn’t going to be flexible with its time then I wasn’t going to be with my time either. I am a VERY hard worker and always put in my time and then some, but start nickel and dimeing me and you are only going to get nickel and dimes out of me.

    2. OP*

      OP here. If I were to get charged for a full vacation day, then why would I come in at all that day? Why would I work late that week? If you’re going to make me use the full day, then I sure as hell will make sure I get my money’s worth.

      1. Calla*

        At my last job, our policy with PTO was either you take a half day or a full day. No breaking it down into hours (the only exception being if you’re gone less than an hour, in which case you can use your lunch to make it up). If the office opens at 9:00 and you have a morning appointment and get in at 10:30, that’s a half day of PTO for you! A lot of folks regularly worked through lunch or a little late to get stuff done, too. So you can bet that everyone I knew there used the full half day and came in later than they needed to, because if you’re going to be docked for it anyway, why wouldn’t you?

      2. FiveNine*

        In fairness, what the poster is describing sounds more like what happens to employees in call centers, for example, as opposed to salaried employees. I wouldn’t think twice about the comment.

      3. Elsie*

        To be fair, it sounds like you wouldn’t. You’re being told you will need to take a vacation day for your absence, which is basically your employer considering you unavailable to work at that time and conversely, doesn’t expect you to be available to work the whole day. You should, therefore, be able to “get your money’s worth” for the day. It does seem like if you worked at all that day your employer should account for it.

        1. KellyK*

          It’s not an absence if you worked an hour and a half of that day, though. I think that’s the real sticking point. It would definitely stick in my craw to work for part of a day but have it treated as if I’d had the whole day off.

    3. EngineerGirl*

      Excuse me, but OP is not hourly.

      We had a boss like that. Wouldn’t even allow birthday cakes because it cut into work time. No going away lunches (only dinners) for the same reason.

      When crunch time came and he needed people to work O/T people worked their 8 hours and went home.

      You nickle and dime, you get it back

      1. Kerry*

        You nickle and dime, you get it back

        Love this way of putting it.

        I feel like this is a good illustration of what we were talking about the other day on the genius “an employee is putting curses on her coworkers” post. This is exactly what “reap what you sow” means – you get back what you put in.

        1. Jessa*

          Yep. Especially with exempt employees. I thought the whole POINT of salaried exempt was the idea that you often needed them to work weird hours. This is not the way to handle that.

      2. Waiting Patiently*

        Well, since I’m hourly, I kind or nickle and dime myself. But still its the principle. However, it does make for an unhappy supervisor when they have to stay later to cover a shift or can’t find anyone to cover that shift.
        Me: “I would more than happily help out after 4:30 (my normal quitting time), I’m all yours til 4:30 whatever you need, but I have that standing 5:00 pm appt across town..”

      3. chikorita*

        +100

        For me this links into the whole “employment is a two-way street”. You can’t just take and take, you’ve got to give back sometimes, or your employees are soon going to feel unappreciated and unvalued- and they’ll start to consider whether working for you is worth it…

  5. AdAgencyChick*

    On the one hand, I think OP is assuming that the baseline is a 40-hour workweek, which may not be the culture at that company, especially if it’s a small startup. So from that perspective, OP was gone for more than half of a workday and it should come out of PTO.

    On the other hand, sheesh, we’re all grownups. I’ve never worked anywhere but at companies where “till the job is done, even if that means you miss dinner or even bedtime” is the culture, but my supervisors have always recognized that people burn out if that’s ALWAYS the case. So we work like dogs when we have to, and then during slow periods, the boss will turn a blind eye when you leave early to catch a matinee.

    The problem is if your boss is one of the ones who believes “we’re a ’till-the-work-gets-done’ shop, not a 40-hour-a-week shop!” but doesn’t correspondingly understand that lots of work means greater allowances for time off sometimes. If your boss is such a person, your asking could give your boss a poor impression. Which…well, you may not care (I know if I had a boss who were that rigid about vacation policies, I’d be interested in looking elsewhere), but since you’ve been there only two months, you might.

    There’s probably a diplomatic way of phrasing this in case your boss is that kind of person, but I’m blanking on what that is right now.

    1. Brett*

      In my experience with the local tech incubators, most people working for startups have another job to pay the bills (since startups generally pay much more in equity than they do in salary).

      A startup that takes a “till-the-work-gets-done” stance is either going to have to up their salaries (which cuts into their customer acquisition capital) or simply accept that they are going to end up limiting their talent recruitment as a result of that stance.

      This is especially troublesome for a company in a strong startup ecosystem, as talented employees will have a relatively easy time finding opportunities with other emerging startups.

    2. Christine*

      My husband is salaried and currently employed at a “work till the job gets done” place. M-F he works from 4:30 am to 6 am at home (has telework duties that are mandated to be completed by 7 am), then goes into the office from 7:30 am to 5:15 pm. Often he works an extra hour after I’m in bed. On Sunday he teleworks for 2-4 hours as well.

      And yet when my daughter had a specialist appointment at Duke, he had to beg to be able to take 2 hours off. When he was sick with a stomach bug he was expected to work from home, because there is “time off blackout” from October through March. He was hired being told there is a ton of flexiblity and that during the slow season he could “make-up” all the extra hours worked during the busy season, only to be told that no, actually he’s expected to be in the office M-F from 8 to 5, no matter what (in addition to the 1.5 hours he puts in at 4:30 am).

      He’s been there less a year and is looking for another job. And (not being sarcastic), I’m sure his bosses will be shocked as to why he’s quitting.

  6. shannon313*

    O, logic, how I love thee. Alison’s response here is spot-on. Once, the president of our entire company flipped out because I had taken an extra ten MINUTES at lunch. Yep. President. And minutes. Of course, the fact that I regularly worked 1 extra hour daily and roughly a Saturday every six weeks was totally irrelevant! My morale suffered immensely, and the fact that I still feel heated three years later when I think about it speaks volumes. That one incident caused me to never work another Saturday, and while I’ll still work extra during the week, it’s solely because doing a good job is important to me and not because of any incentive. In regard to the almost whole day, my company wouldn’t allow that without the use of PTO or short notice time, which is a main reason I’m job hunting.

    1. Ms Enthusiasm*

      This!! I’ve worked at a company like this before and it does truly hurt morale and loyalty.

    2. dejavu2*

      Oh, man! I got screamed at by a supervisor once for being fifteen minutes late back from my lunch break… but the kicker was that she had become confused while timing me, and I had actually come back *30 minutes early.* I had to show her the receipt from the errand I had run for her immediately before leaving for my break to prove with the time stamp that I had, in fact, been in a different town on company business at the time she was insisting I had left the office for lunch. Of course, she didn’t apologize, and it just made her angrier that I had “talked back.” That was like ten years ago, and it still gets my blood pressure up to remember her screaming in my face. I hope I never have to work for anyone like that ever again.

      1. shannon313*

        I love that she was “timing” you like five year olds do when the hold their breath underwater. If your work is good and someone is timing you, presumably to “get you in trouble” it sounds like it is time to go. Especially when they’re wrong to boot!!

      2. My 2 Cents*

        Similar thing happened to me on most horrible job ever. Not timing, but was yelled at for not emailing info to my boss that he requested. I informed him that I had, in fact, emailed it to him, and done so THREE times because he never responded. He then yelled at me for emailing it to him instead of walking it over to his desk.

        Later I followed up by printing the THREE emails I had sent him and walked them over to his desk. Silly me, I expected an apology for his obvious error, but instead was yelled at further.

        This is also why I push back at the “hate is a strong word, you don’t hate anyone” crowd. Yes, I do hate some people, because they deserve it.

  7. Joey*

    Both of you are wrong. As an exempt employee you shouldn’t expect that your “extra” 5 hours are counted as “extra.” You stay as long as needed. And your boss shouldn’t be nickel and diming you either.

    When I have a situation like this I think about the totality of what the employee contributes. If he’s someone I “appreciated and have recognized”(aka an all star): “don’t worry about using any time for that day. You work hard enough.”

    1. shannon313*

      I quasi disagree. If a salary is based on 40 hours weekly, even if the culture is to work more, extra is still extra and should be treated as such. If someone regularly works 45-50 hours on a 40 hour paycheck, it should at least warrant vague appreciation and ideally warrant some flexibility when “life happens”!

      1. Joey*

        I’ve never seen that in a normal exempt job offer- that your salary is based on working 40 hours per week.

        1. shannon313*

          Aren’t all salaries based on a 40 hour week? Serious question here — I certainly understand the culture can dictate otherwise, but a standard work week is 40 hours. Or is it?

          1. Joey*

            It varies. I’ve offered plenty of jobs that come with an expectation of more than 40hours/ week. I don’t directly adjust salaries when its going to be a long work week. But, obviously if it impacts my ability to retain I’ll adjust something. But even then it has more to do with how my hours compare to other companies than a 40hr workweek.

            1. Erica B*

              ok. so if you offer jobs that are expected to be more than 40 hrs/week. do you tell them that in the interview? I would hope so because I would be seriously upset if I had expected a 40 hr week when the reality is 5o and I was never told! Also if you have a position that is over the 40 hr/week rate do you compensate for that with a higher salary?

              1. shannon313*

                I have these same questions. It could be that every job I’ve ever had, even though I’ve been salaried most of my career, there are always set hours for the workday. Those set hours vary, but no one at my company has a set schedule above 40 hours. I’ve never been offered a job that has me scheduled for more than 40 hours although it has at least been hinted at that salary employees at my job level should work extra.

              2. AnonForThis*

                This actually just happened to me. Last year I started a new job and upon being hired learned that the standard work week, as written in the employee handbook, is 50 hours a week.

                It hadn’t even occurred to me to ask. My field is all about flexible hours with plenty of evening and weekend work, and I’m at a level where I would never expect to watch the clock. But 50 hours as the written standard? So when I submit my timesheets and work less than a 10 hour day I get a little automated note from the system telling me I’m under hours? Yuck.

            2. Jamie*

              Every job I’ve had, with the exemption of entry level and temp jobs back in the day, had an expectation of more than 40 hours. Maybe it’s industry specific, but I don’t know anyone who expects to put in a straight 40 in manufacturing.

          2. fposte*

            At least in the U.S., no, it’s not, not for exempt employees. If a 40-hour workweek is important to you, it’s something to investigate during a hiring process.

        2. Meg*

          Mine is. My handbook from my contractor specifically states that I am paid for 40-hour work week, and I am salaried and exempt. We also have flex and comp time too, because as a contractor, I’m expected to make up any hours I’ve missed for any reason OR use PTO. In the same breath, if I work 10 hours for two days, then that’s 4 hours I can shave off another day that week, as it’s already been “made up.”

      2. Joey*

        Shannon,
        I’d be much more willing to give a day off to my top producer who worked 45-50 hours per week than the poor slug who was barely getting by and was putting in 12 hour days.

            1. Adam V*

              If he’s taking 12 hours to get by, then he needs to go. What happens when the office has to close outside of work hours for a couple of weeks (construction in the building, rolling blackouts, etc)? He’s going to be 20 hours behind after Friday is done.

              1. Joey*

                I don’t fire people who are meeting my expectations. Especially when they’re showing me that they’re doing whatever it takes to get it done.

                1. Anonymous*

                  If poor slug takes 12 hours to get work done, and this same poor slug will not get a day off. It sounds like your poor slug probably isn’t the poor slug after all. It sounds like they are making you think it takes longer than it really does in order to not pick up any new assignments. Doesn’t sound efficient. Efficient for poor slug not so much for the business…

    2. AB*

      Hmm… I’m not sure this is the right way of looking at it:
      “You stay as long as needed.”

      How do you define “as long as needed”? Here’s a scenario that often happens in my job (I’m exempt, and have the expectation of 40h/week as my regular hours, confirmed during the offer stage).

      “It’s 5 pm, I’ve worked my normal hours, and realize that if I stay for one more hour, I can finish this report, that is only due in 2 days. If I just stop and go home, it will probably take 2-3 hours to finish it the next day, because right now I have all the spreadsheets open in two different screens, and am already in “the zone”, working faster than I would if I stopped and resumed the next day.”

      In this case, it’s not “needed” that I stay, because the report (and all my other work) can still be finished on time if I continue the work the next morning. It is, though, in the interest of my employer that I stay so the next day I can start working on another task, saving my company 1-2 extra hours of work on this report.

      If my employer would not consider any time I stay over my regular 8 hours a day for the purpose of providing comp time when I need to go to the dentist, well, I’m not going to stay and finish the report.

      In the end, it is in my employer’s interest to allow me to use the time I work over 8 hours per day as comp time without eating into my vacation time. Fortunately both my current and prior employers understand the benefit, and are perfectly fine with this type of quid pro quo.

      1. Joey*

        Think about it though. Does your employer know you’ve saved them an extra hour or two- almost definitely no. All they know is the general ebbs and flows of your performance- that you’re either great, good, ok, not very good or sucky. The few extra hours here and there aren’t typically noticed very much. Its the totality of you work that’s noticed.

        So if you want to finish that report 2 days early at 8pm it won’t matter a whole lot at that minute. Its only going to matter if it contributes to a work product that over time consistently outperforms expectations. The focus is going to be on what you produce, not how much time it took you to do it.

        1. AB*

          Right, of course the focus is on what I produce, but that doesn’t eliminate the need to have a rule for how to treat the time when I need a half a day or a day off to run some errands. Do I need to take a vacation day, or can I use the 8 hours I’ve accumulated staying late to finish work that would benefit the company?

          If the answer is “you need to take a vacation day”, well, you just told me that I should be leaving at 5pm precisely, as long as I’m meeting my deadlines, even when staying longer would be of benefit to the business.

          Fortunately that’s not the case in the companies that I’ve been working for over the past 10 years. Because they focus on results, not hours worked, even if I don’t have “comp hours” to use, if I need to take some time off I’m welcome to, with no impact to my vacation time.

        2. dejavu2*

          “Think about it though. Does your employer know you’ve saved them an extra hour or two- almost definitely no.”

          Since it’s common sense, they should know.

          1. Joey*

            Few good managers I know keep track of exactly how many hours exempt employees work from week to week. They don’t usually know (unless they sit right near you or you’re in a time sensitive position) exactly how early you came in, when you didn’t take a lunch or when/how long you worked late. They may know generally that you do those things, but not enough to say exactly how many hours you worked from week to week.

            1. AB*

              Joey,

              The good managers I know would believe if a subordinate said:

              “Boss, I worked for 4 hours the last Saturday helping QA troubleshoot some defects. I’d like to work half day this Thursday as compensation, if it’s OK with you.”

              (And it would also be easy to prove, using the logged instant messages / updated tickets in the defect system with Saturday’s timestamp.)

              Typically these managers need to know when their subordinates are taking time off in case their micromanaging bosses ask why Bob didn’t answer his phone when he called at 3:00pm. By providing the details, the subordinate allows the manager to say, “yes, I’ve approved the time off as compensation for the work Bob did on Saturday helping QA troubleshoot tickets”.

              1. Joey*

                That’s not the intent or purpose of exempt- to give comp time hour for hour. Because when you do that it creates an expectation that’s more aligned with a non exempt classification.

                1. Joey*

                  Its a less efficient business model as well. Its paying by the hour regardless of output.

                2. Judy*

                  But it might not happen every time you work for the 4 hours on Saturday. I put in 45-50 hours a week. But there are some weeks when I’m right at 40, because I (or the kids) have doctor’s appointments, or the exterminator is coming, etc. The last time my mom was in the hospital, I had 2-3 weeks of getting pretty much 40 hours only, because I ran over for the important tests, etc.

                  Even though I am exempt, I charge my time to projects, and I pretty much guarantee over a year that I have more hours that could be called comp time than even my PTO time.

                  When life happens, flexibility helps.

              2. Chinook*

                It isn’t micromanaging to want to know if a subordinate is taking a half day off. If Wakeen is normally in the office from 9-5, Mon – Fri, and takes Wed. morning off because he worked on Sat. is important for his supervisor to know in case someone needs Wakeen for a task or if there is an emergency. Wakeen is not necessarily asking for permission to take the time off because it is comp time and he knows the boss will give it to him, but the boss still needs to know when he is not there.

                Think of it like when you are an adult visiting your parents. If you are going to spend the night at a buddy’s house, it is polite to let your parents know you won’t be home but you are not going to ask permission to do it.

                1. AB*

                  Chinook,

                  I see what I saying but it doesn’t apply to my example.

                  In the type work the team I used as an example, there is no emergency to be taken care of, only reports to be produced by their deadlines. That’s why the direct boss wouldn’t even care to be informed, if the reports are being produced on time — the only reason he cares is because *his* boss is a micromanager and wants to know why someone isn’t there to answer the phone (when he shouldn’t even be calling that person, as the type of question the boss’ boss has should be going to the project manager anyway).

      2. KellyK*

        I think that’s totally reasonable. If that hour or two that you saved isn’t worth letting you duck out to go to the doctor’s office when you need to, then I wouldn’t work the extra hour. (In the case you described. If it’s critical and you’re up against a deadline, that’s very different.)

        I also think “Stay as long as needed,” is too vague for a lot of workplaces. (Pretty much any place that doesn’t have very clear, measurable expectations, and priorities to go with them.) That could be anything from “You’re on track to meet all your deadlines and nothing is actively on fire, so go home,” to “Don’t leave until you’ve actually run out of work, even if that routinely results in 12-15 hour days.”

    3. AnonAdmin*

      +1 At my company (smallish nonprofit) the mantra for exempt workers is “We don’t count hours”. You work until your work is done (or you reach a logical stopping point for that day, more likely).

      However, that needs to go both ways and if Employee X has a shorter day here and a longer day there, that should be ok, IMHO. I tell my employees that I expect them to be grownups about it and that if I see their work isn’t getting done, that’s when I’ll have a problem.

    4. Anonymous*

      I think part of the problem is recognition for that ‘all star’ hard work. So employers do and some don’t. In your example, you recognized the employee contribution therefore granting them the day off. Great balance. In the op case there was no recognition.
      Now as far as expectations there are expectations on both sides.
      Should we assume she isn’t an all-star player then because there was no recognition? And should she expect her efforts to go unnoticed when she needs a little accommodations. I’m confused. I’m just saying I think her expectation is reasonable. You can’t expect people to give you there all each week, then reward them every blue moon, and expect to have solid performers and low turn over.

      Although, I think you are agreeing with everyone else rather than disagreeing.

  8. OP*

    As an update, here is what we settled on: we called this one a wash (new company = still establishing policies), but agreed to set policy that if we (anyone) miss about 4 hours, you must take a half day. If you miss about 8 hours, you must take a full day, regardless of how much other time you work that week. An hour here or there for a doctor’s appointment or something will really wash out about even with staying late as needed. And the company is really good about trying to support a 40-hour, family-oriented work week, especially at the lower staff levels.

        1. Anonymous*

          then take the whole day! This policy makes people quit jobs. Don’t answer your phone or email at all!

          1. Anonymous*

            Now she knows enough to take the whole day since she’ll be docked for it anyway. And will be less inclined to give 150% in the future.

            1. Layla*

              It’s like this for me and I don’t have a problem with it.
              It’s totally expected ( not from the US ), and I probably have more vacation days than you do ?
              Currently at 22 days

        2. Joey*

          What you might consider is this:

          Work at least 1 hour: take half a day of leave.
          Out the whole day: take a whole day of leave.

          1. Chinook*

            “Work at least 1 hour: take half a day of leave.
            Out the whole day: take a whole day of leave.”

            If you know this is the policy (which was part of OP’s frustration), what is so wrong with this? If I have a doctor’s appointment and it means I am going to have to take a half day, then of course I would plan to use (or not use) that half day accordingly. In fact, this seems quite normal to me. Is it nice to only have to take 2 hours instead of 4? Of course, but that doesn’t mean those extra 2 hours are a waste – they are just yours to do with as you wish.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      If anything, this policy is even worse.

      I’m guessing 2 hours will now round to a half-day, and 6 hours will be a full-day. The end result is that the employees choose between getting screwed on hours, or end up missing more work than necessary.

      1. Jessa*

        exactly. So you’re going to end up taking more time than you need no matter how it comes out and it’s going to effect morale.

  9. Elle*

    I’m somewhat torn on this – my company starting this year gave us all 6 extra PTO days to cover this sort of thing plus any sick time. I generally follow Allison’s advice and if my employee is already working the time on a different day I don’t have them take PTO. Or if the employee is non-exempt I would let them make up the time. However, now all my employees have extra time for which they want to use as vacation, but I was not allocated extra headcount to cover those extra 6 days. I’m not saying your employer is right, but they may be dealing with something similar….

  10. Laura*

    My current employer is great about things like this. As exempt employees, we’re allowed to take off an hour or 2 here and there and the expectation is that during crunch times, we’ll put in extra hours as they’re needed.

    My manager goes above and beyond this. When I’ve had personal stuff take longer than I anticipated, and offered to use my PTO, she usually tells me not to worry about it as she knows that I’ve made up for the time already – or will very soon in the future. She’s also great about letting us work remotely regularly one day a week, and also on the occasions where you need to be able to do things during the work day, like drop your car off to be serviced, be home for the furnace guy, or whatever.

    The informal rule is what the OP stated – something that takes about half a day = 4 hours of PTO. Something that takes about a full day = 8 hours of PTO.

    I do get the argument of using your full 4 or 8 hours of PTO if it’s coming out of your bank anyway. But I look at it as a pretty fair trade-off if I need to scoot out half an hour early to pick up dinner, take my daughter to swimming lessons, go to the post office, etc and not have to worry about logging it as PTO. It usually evens out over time.

    To me it’s a tremendous benefit to be able to flex my schedule when I need to, plus I appreciate an environment where I’m treated like an adult and it is assumed that I know how to manage my own workload. And if the payoff is that I sometimes have to use 4 hours of PTO when I really only needed 3, or 8 hours when I only needed 6, that’s OK with me.

  11. E.R*

    The main reason I left my last job was exactly this, though they may have been even more extreme. If you worked a whole weekend (there were all sorts of events and conferences on weekends that it was good for the company for you to be there), and then needed to leave an hour early for an appointment on the Monday, they took an hour out of your PTO. No exceptions. As soon as I learned how they dealt with this, I realized I couldn’t stay there long term. They had other bad policies, but this pushed me over the edge – the idea that 2 days of my time was not worth 1 hour of “their” time. I also stopped volunteering for weekend events and, like Alison said, stopped working any extra hours unless it was my in my immediate, direct benefit to do so. At my current job, where my boss doesn’t dock me for not coming in for a whole day, I definitely work more hours overall and value my job much more.

  12. Brett*

    In our department, exempt and non-exempt employees both have PTO available to them.
    For non-exempt employees (because we are government entity), employees get the option of obtaining comp time for overtime or being paid normal overtime whenever working more than 40 hours in a week. In most cases, they take overtime. Comp time is time card tracked and a balance is officially maintained. This balance can be compensated.

    For exempt employees, comp time does not exist. Instead, we have administrative time or a-time. A-time is purely handled and tracked between the employee and their immediate supervisor. A-time is earned one to one for hours worked over 8 hours in a day (there is no time and a half a-time) or on a non-duty day, including working on scheduled PTO days. A-time is expected to be used within two pay periods (4 weeks) as a one to one exchange for hours worked. A-time is not paid time off, but rather equates to a form of flex time. We do also have day to day flex time as well; so, for example, if you come into work 2 hours early, you can leave 2 hours early with supervisor approval.

    The supervisor approves or disapproves any uses of flex time or a-time, with an organizational expectation that reasonable requests will be approved within those two pay periods. Since a-time is only tracked between the employee and the supervisor, the two-time period rule is not a hard rule and the supervisor has the discretion to allow a longer carry over (but, again, organizational expectation is to avoid those carry overs).

  13. rw*

    My department has “core hours” where all employees are there (or online, in the case of teleworkers) for the same 4 hours. The other 4 hours of the work day, I couldn’t care less when you show up, be it today or made up on another day, as long you put in at least 80 hours a pay period and as long as your team’s not hurt by your schedule. It’s been great for everyone. (We also do quarterly reviews of when those “core hours” should be, so sleeping in during the winter and leaving early during the summer is nice)

  14. POF*

    I think the half day policy is fair, the reason it was started at my company was that people were really taking advantage of coming in , working 2 or 3 hours and then being out the rest of the day and wanting to be paid for it. to the OP I didn’t realize that you had come in that day ( need to read slower ) – so therefore in my opinion it would have been a half day. I had a staff person needed to take most of a day for her husband medical procedure. She wanted to come in work 2 1/2 hours and be paid for the entire. Iencouraged her to take the entire day – but she argued that she did not want ti use up her earned time. ( She was over the limits anyway and needed to take time ). I frankly appreciate the flexibilit to be gone for a few hours when I need to and if I want to ake a half day to play in a golf tournament – I can – I schedule it as a 1/2 day off – no sweat. Also our culture is a 40+ hour work week, but in the sumnmer – on slow days – I give half days or early leaving on Fridays and other flexiobility.

  15. doreen*

    I’m a government employee, so of course a lot of the rules regarding exempt employees don’t apply to me. I can adjust my schedule in advance if I want to work an extra hour on Thursday and leave early Friday. It’s another story if I unexpectedly end up working an extra four hours on Thursday. I can probably come in little later than usual Friday, but I am specifically not permitted to make an hour- for-hour adjustment as the non-exempt employees can. There are many things that the non-exempt employees can do regarding their work schedules that I cannot.In part it’s because my job is different, but I think it’s also to avoid blurring the line between exempts and non-exempts

  16. FreeThinkerTX*

    I’m working for a startup right now, in addition to owning my own company. For the startup, we decided to go with a “commission-only” pay structure plus $100/week for car & minor expenses, with an expectation that I’d work for them in between the stuff I do for my own company.

    They have actually come back and tried to calculate how much they owe me when I was sick for a day or two. As in, they suddenly decided they were paying me $20/day, and – by golly – wanted their money’s worth! (A full day’s work for a full day’s pay). WTF? I have gently pushed back and pointed out that they’re 1099-ing me, which means I’m a consultant who gets to make her own schedule, and the “commission-only” part is where they get to pay me for results, not hourly effort. They agreed, but I can tell they did it “just to please me”, not because they actually agree.

  17. Anonymous*

    This is another post entirely, but “yelling at” people at work should never happen. We have a couple of executives who get mad, fist pound, get red in the face and yell loud enough for other departments to overhear. While that type of behavior may instill fear in some, it just makes me feel sorry for the person who is so angry, because it’s their blood pressure that will end up high, not mine! It’s just a job!

  18. jesicka309*

    I know that the cable guy thing wasn’t planned, but is anyone else annoyed that the OP pretty much screwed around her colleagues/boss?
    There is a MASSIVE difference between 2 hours and 6.5. Who cares if they work more hours every other day? The OP wasn’t at work during standard operating hours, which are usually set by what the business needs. Great, the OP was there at 8 pm the night before when everyone else was at home, but clients/colleagues/boss may have actually needed them at 1 pm and they weren’t there. And they hadn’t organised cover, because the OP was FIVE HOURS later than anticipated…then didn’t want to use leave? If I was the OP’s colleague, I’d be pissed – you don’t have to come into work during the work day, as long as you stay back or come in early when it suits you? Why have a standard working day at all then? Can I work for 18 hours three days a week then take a four day weekend?

    Unless the OP was working from home while waiting for the cable guy, I’d say the OP should have taken leave in the first place. There’s a massive difference between a dentist appointment at 8.30 am that will go for 30 minutes, and waiting around for a cable guy to show up (who could show up at any point all day). The OP showed poor judgement here…and if the OP had anticipated that the cable guy would take two hours, there’s still 4 hours between her deciding he’s a no-show and dragging themselves into work.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      Eh, this seems totally normal to me. I work in a highly flexible environment, and I assure you that the work my colleagues and I do would not be hindered by one of us not being in the office for four hours one day (otherwise, how would we survive: vacations? sick days? regular off-site meetings that we spend 10-20 hours a week on? meetings that run long? team conferences, where half of us are off site for days at a time? etc.). Besides, that’s just life. Cable companies suck. We all know it. Cars break down, dogs have to go to the vet, babysitters don’t show up. We roll with it. It’s nice when companies can too.

      1. jesicka309*

        I was more concerned that the OP said it was going to be a few hours, but it turned into a whole day. Most businesses can arrange coverage given notice, but the OP didn’t. They were 4 hours later than planned – for me, that goes from minor inconvenience (oh well, that’s life), to WOW major misjudgement by the OP. Aren’t cable guys (along with meter readers) notorious for booking ridiculously open ended appointments?
        The OP even acknowledges that they know they should use vacation time to make up the time missed, but wants her ‘extra’ hours to soften the blow – you can’t magically accrue extra vacation time by working extra hours off the clock.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It really depends on the job. For instance, when I look bad at my last few jobs, this wouldn’t have been disruptive or very inconvenient to others at all.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit*

            Exactly. Lots of roles (including every one I’ve been in, since grad school at least) aren’t dependent on butts-in-seats-at-the-same-time. The only circumstance I can imagine this mattering in is if I missed a scheduled meeting (which also sometimes happens, and isn’t the end of the world; today, my flight was delayed so without warning I missed a team call).

        2. OP*

          OP here. I was actually on the phone to the cable company every 1-2 hours, who kept telling me there was someone in the neighborhood who’d be there soon, and I checked in at least every 2 hours to the office by phone or email. I was answering client and internal emails as needed. Does that change your opinion?

          1. Brett*

            “I checked in at least every 2 hours to the office by phone or email. I was answering client and internal emails as needed.”

            That sounds like you were actually working….

          2. jesicka309*

            I’d say that counts as working – though if your boss isn’t okay with people working from home, they may not see it that way.
            It sounds like there’s a discrepency between what your boss counts as working and your own expectations. That sucks.

          3. Layla*

            i’d be annoyed to have to take PTO if i was answering emails. mostly at myself – as no one is forcing me to answer the emails….(but for me, the rules are clear)

        3. EngineerGirl*

          “Coverage” work such as manning phones or working in retail is usually done by non-except employees.

          1. jesicka309*

            Not necessarily. Some jobs are salaried but time critical. I put commercials on TV – as long as one particular function is covered every day, they don’t mind how/when we structure our work days. If I was running late, my daily task could be put off until I came in. If I then didn’t come to work (or came too late in the day) someone else would have to cover it.
            It’s not an issue for jobs with long term projects, but in any time critical role, short-term coverage is important.

          2. doreen*

            Depends on the job- although I’m exempt, I need to arrange coverage when I take time off. There are too many situations that require a same-day or immediate response by someone at my level to do otherwise.

            (Which is probably the reason I was reminded yesterday that I can’t work late one day and leave early the next to make up for it. One of my peers did just that, didn’t arrange for coverage since he or she wasn’t actually taking leave and couldn’t be reached when something blew up.)

        4. Jamie*

          Totally depends on the job. Receptionist, yes, there needs to be coverage. Someone in development compiling data due end of week, co-workers could care less when it’s done.

          Not every job requires coverage.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      You have absolutely no idea if OP hurt others by being out. Many times exempt jobs are project based (individual contributor) so being out would have little effect. Now if OP missed a bunch of meetings then its a different story. But I’m not seeing that here.

      If they really needed her then her boss would have phoned.

      That’s one of the big differences between exempt and non-exempt.

      1. jesicka309*

        But isn’t the other difference that they’re getting paid for the work they do, not the exact hours they put in? So really, the OP putting in a few hours extra here and there doesn’t really add up to time off.
        My employer is flexible. I once had a problem with a flight I booked to come home from a holiday – it landed at 6 am the day I supposed to start back. My boss said to come in as soon as I could, and it didn’t matter if I was an hour or two late.
        My flight was cancelled due to poor weather, and I couldn’t get to work until about 3 pm. Boss said don’t bother coming in…but I did have to use annual leave for that day.
        But the other point is: what actual work could the OP have accomplished in the, what, 2 hours she was there that day?

        1. OP*

          Since it’s a start-up, I bust butt on a regular basis. Two hours is a chance to get a dent in the workload. There is a ton of work to be done, and more new business rolling in, which is great.

          If I’m working a 10 hour day, you can trust there’s about 9.5 hours of work and 30 minutes of bathroom/heat up lunch/grab a coffee time in that day. Then again, about 95% of our work can be done remotely. My supervisor is just a real stickler about physically being in the office, whether or not it affects your work product. I still have yet to prove to him that physically being in the office doesn’t necessarily mean getting work done, and being out of the office doesn’t necessarily mean slacking off. I try to judge my team on (my high standards for their) work product, and feel I should be judged on the same scale.

    3. KellyK*

      I think that depends entirely on your job. Some positions are very independent and you’re mostly working away at your own tasks. Other jobs involve lots of interaction with clients and coworkers. For that matter, response times vary a lot too. If everyone who needed something from her could email her and she resolved it the next day, no harm done. If people needed things from her within the hour and had to do extra work or get information from someone else, that’s an issue.

      *If* someone had to cover for her during the 6.5 hours she was out or her being gone was detrimental to the business because things didn’t get done or didn’t get done as well as they would have, it’s reasonable to expect her to use vacation time for that. If not, it’s reasonable to allow her to make up the hours.

  19. glennis*

    When I worked as an exempt employee (until just a month ago) the policy was as long as I put in 5 hours a day, I could get paid for an 8 hour day. Now, that rarely happened – mostly I worked 8 hours or a little more, but what it did for me was when I had the rare situation like the one the OP describes, I didn’t have to take an 8 hour vacation day. BTW – it was really not possible for me to take 6.5 vacation hours – for exempt employees our system only allowed a full 8 hour day or a half day 4 hours.

  20. EC*

    this may be a situation where, even though truly exempt, it is important that during set times (ie. 8-5) the employee be in office, regardless of whether extra hours were worked on other days. OR it may be an effort by employer to spread the love/policy since some other employees (ie. non-exempt) may not have opportunity to work additional hours to prevent use of vacation days when out for partial days.
    Sometimes fairness cuts both ways.

  21. Melanie*

    I am a manager in the company where I work. I recently had the “take vacation time” even though at the end of the week I had worked 39 hours, after not working one day in the office (I was out one day because I was ill.). This illness happened after a crazy month: week 1 – off site and out of state intense training class with long hours, week 2 vacation, week 3 a couple of days PTO and 2 days working from home, week 4 – company event with customers at out of state location with looong days.

    Compounding my frustration with this stand is that my director always “works from home” the day after she returns from vacation and enjoys generous flex time (her boss is located in another state).

    Anyhow she has earned no loyalty from me.

    In fact after another episode I haven’t mentioned, she became verbally abusive. As a result, I have applied for another job in the company. The timing for her will sting because we just lost another seasoned employee on my team because she would not let her work part time after having a baby. Guess what, another team in the company will let her so she is taking that position. My director is out of control….but only some days……some days you think she is your best friend. I swear if she isn’t on meds she needs to be.

    Anyhow my message to fellow managers…treat your staff the way you want to be treated …. You get back more than what you give.

  22. Elsie*

    I get the argument that vacation time should be restorative, but it also seems to me that being exempt and being paid to “get the job done” also means that if your boss seems to think there’s some detriment to your being gone for a huge chunk of the business day that it should count as “time off.” I would also view a 6-hour absence, particularly if it wasn’t known in advance, as a significant chunk and could have created problems. I once had a friend whose boss had a problem with the fact that she routinely arrived late to the office (9:15 or so), and my friend took issue with the criticism as she often stayed a few hours late. She then proceeded to arrive at 9:00 and leave at 5:00 on the dot every day to prove a point, and as a result was accomplishing less. Which to me begs the question of establishing “core hours” or why and when it’s important to have butts in seats, and when it isn’t, and employers need to do this.

    I’m someone who’s fortunate to have a boss that doesn’t care if I roll in at 9:30 or later, but also knows I frequently stay late and am available to work weekends when needed. I put in for time off if I feel my absence will be felt (i.e., a doctor’s appt that means I’ll miss a meeting in the middle of the day), but don’t if it means I’m simply leaving early or arriving late by an hour or so. Hearing no feedback from my boss, I can only assume she’s happy that I’m getting my work done, meeting deadlines and am not routinely conspicuously absent.

    This is also a problem of not characterizing PTO and alloting it accordingly. We have vacation days, sick days and personal days. For something like this I would use a personal day if I had them, saving vacation time for when it’s truly restorative and sick days for when they’re medically needed.

    Furthermore, employers should really think about if and how they want to allot flex time for things like travel and weekend trips. The example a commenter shared of working a whole weekend and then being dinged for wanting to leave an hour early on a Monday smacks of not only bad management but failure to set good policies for how employees should be spending the time for which they are paid.

  23. Jorge Gomez*

    Hi…I’m an exempt employee working for a small firm in California. I’m entitled to 3 weeks vacation so I take it whenever it’s convenient for myself and doesn’t negatively impact the company. My question to you is this, when an exempt employee is on vacation and responds to an email or answers a business related phone call, should that employee be paid for that time?

  24. Tara*

    If a married couple works at the same company, the wife uses up all of her paid time off, and the boss allows her then to use her husband’s paid time off so she gets a full check. Is that legal or does it depend on the employee manual statement, if there is one?

  25. thabo*

    am a field technician,then I took a day off,attend my girlffiend
    court hearing,and my cell phone was off,i want to know if was supposed to be on

  26. Eddie*

    My manager made me take 18 minutes of vacation. I was salaried, and worked 50 hour weeks normally. She had me track my time in 6 minute increments and I couldn’t remember what I was doing for 18 min the day before, so she handed me a vacation request, and told me to fill it out and hand it in, even though I probably worked 10 hours the day before. I can laugh about it now, it was a long time ago, but at the time I was dumbstruck. I was so upset that after she signed it and put it into the interoffice mail to the HR department, I took it out and shredded it. They didn’t know they had a hole in their vacation system and no one ever found out. That was 15 years ago now.

    I just read this on another website, so I think what she did was illegal, what do you think?

    According to the FLSA, employers cannot dock salaried workers’ pay for less than a full day’s absence. Employers may make deductions from salaried workers’ pay only for absences that last one day or longer. For example, assume a salaried employee works five hours in the office yet after lunch doesn’t feel well enough to stay at work the rest of the day.

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