employers calling you at home, the role of HR, and more

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

1. What does this email about my job application mean?

Recently, I applied for an executive assistant position that I know I qualify for. The other night a little after 8:30 I received the following email: “We are currently viewing your resume and application and have placed you in a ‘hold’ status pending review of current candidates.”

I’ve already decided to move on. I wanted to know what this means. I’ve never been placed on “hold”; it’s always been a yes or no for me.

It’s a little awkwardly worded, but it sounds like they’re saying that they have a batch of candidates who they’re interviewing, but if they don’t hire from that group, they’ll consider your application further. It’s a bit more information than they needed to provide; they could have simply said they were considering candidates and would be in touch.

2. Can my employer call my home phone without my authorization?

My employer has assumed that they have the authority to call my home phone number when I am on call and do not answer my cell. They have also distributed my personal phone number to my department colleagues. I say that if they do not pay for or contribute to my home phone, they have no right to assume its use.

This is common, and it’s perfectly allowed, both by the law and by convention. (And you know, other people also reach you on your home phone without contributing to your phone bill.)

3. How can I tell a prospective employer I’d like to retain two freelance clients?

I have been self-employed for 8 years, 2 of those as a freelancer, then 5 as a co-director of a company I built up with my now ex-business partner. Learning how to be a manager was very much a trial-by-fire for me, and your blog has been a massive source of support and advice, particularly when I decided to leave my business partnership earlier this year and go solo again.

Which leads me to my question. A former boss of mine recently got in touch and asked if I’d like to apply for a job at the company he is now managing director of, a respected international firm. In fact, the firm is actually a client of mine and I’m in the middle of a project for them. While I’m not actively looking to go back to being an employee again, I am seriously considering it for this job, should it be offered to me. However, I have two clients that I would like to carry on working with; it is not unheard of in my industry for someone in my position to carry on working with a client or two alongside a full-time job, as long as the client is not a competitor. In my case, my links to the two clients I’d like to carry on working with would actually be extremely beneficial to my as-yet-theoretical new employer.

Assuming that I wind up being asked to interview, how do I broach this subject, and at what point would it be appropriate?

Just be straightforward, explain what you’d like to do, and ask if it would be possible. I’d raise it toward the later stages of the interview process — not the first interview, but if you continue to talk about the job after that. If for some reason there’s only one interview and you don’t get the chance to wait for later stages, then it’s fine to bring it up once you have an offer.

4. How can I leave the door open to return to this job after a law clerkship?

I will be starting as an associate at a law firm very soon. However, I was contacted for an interview with a federal judge (for a clerkship in his chambers). Federal judges hire their clerks a year in advance, so the position that I would be interviewing would not start until September 2014. If I was offered the position, I would absolutely accept.

If I did get the clerkship, I am certain that the firm that I will be working for would understand. However, I am unsure (because I haven’t started working there yet) whether I would want to return to the firm after the clerkship is over, but I want that to be an option. How do you suggest that I talk to the managing partner about this (assuming I have to talk to her, which would only be necessary if the judge hired me)? I do not want to promise that I will be returning after the clerkship, but I also don’t want to foreclose that possibility.

Yes, I know, I am jumping the gun a little, but I want to be prepared. I think that the judge will make his hiring decision quickly, and there is a good chance that my managing partner will hear about it from someone other than me, which is obviously something that I want to avoid.

I don’t think you can get a promise from them to hold a spot for you, particularly when you’re not willing to commit to returning. Rather, you should simply try to leave on good terms and to leave the door open for the possibility of working together in the future — for example, “I was so looking forward to working with you, and I’d love to stay in touch and perhaps talk about possibilities as my clerkship is coming to a close.”

5. What’s the role of HR vs. managers?

After 15 years of managing projects, not people, I was asked to supervise a single direct report. I received no management training or guidance on expectations regarding how to supervise. The person in question worked remotely in another state and it soon became clear that this person was not keeping regular hours, was not responsive to requests and assignments, and was not appropriately completing the work that did get done. I spoke to my manager about my concerns and was told to contact HR for guidance. HR provided very loose guidance around conversations to have, documentation to keep, and development of a Performance Improvement Plan but provided no hands-on support or coaching. In the end, this person was terminated for fraud that I documented, but it was a very stressful process during which I was the only person involved in direct communication with the employee. I even had to terminate the employee myself over the telephone, without support from HR.

Subsequently I had to interview and hire a new person for the role. HR provided resumes and candidates, but the rest of the process — including extending the offer and sending the offer letter — was delegated to me. Given that I have no practice in this area, I am sure I did not handle the offer process as well as I should have. HR indicates that its responsibilities extend only to creating policies and guidelines for the company and to completing the legal aspects of hiring and firing (W-2 forms, benefits administration, etc.). Managers are responsible for performance management from hiring to termination.

Recently, I have accepted a new position with a company where the hiring process has been routed entirely through HR, including the extension of the offer and routing of the offer letter. My interaction with the hiring manager was limited to the interview alone. Which is the more common model?

It varies, but at good organizations, hiring managers will lead the process, select their own candidates, and make their own offers. When I have someone I want to hire, I want to make that offer myself and sell the job to the person — not leave it to HR, who is likely to approach it from a much more process-y, bureaucratic angle.

In regard to the management and firing of your problem employee, HR’s involvement sounds about right — managers should generally lead that type of thing, using HR as a resource when needed. That said, good organizations don’t leave new managers to fend for themselves — they should have seen that you had no training or experience in managing and given you more support.

6. Employer wants me to use annual leave for a business trip

I have worked for a well known travel agent as a manager for several years now. The time has come again for them to send me abroad on a business trip for a required conference, but they are asking me to deduct the time from my allocation of annual leave. I have enough problems with child care as it is, and any time off I have is precious to me. Are they allowed to do this?

This is a trip that you’re required to go on for work and they’re asking you to use annual leave for it? You’d need to check the laws of the state that you live in to see if you have any legal recourse, but first try pushing back and pointing out that this makes no sense. Say, “My annual leave is part of my benefits package and is for time that I’m taking off of work. This is a required business trip where I will be working; it’s not vacation time.”

7. How to show appreciation for a coworker’s help

I work in a large library that will soon undergo big transitions, including major updates to the library building and services. A library administrator assigned a few employees from different departments to help oversee preparations for these changes. I was assigned to one piece of this process. I work closely with a coworker from another department who was assigned to supervise a similar process. This coworker has been most helpful to me. She has previous business and project management experience that I don’t have, and she’s provided guidance and support beyond her obligations to this project.

I would like to do something special to thank her. I considered giving her a small gift along with a card — nothing very expensive or fancy, but something more than just a verbal “thanks.” Does this sound appropriate? If so, how might I decide what kind of gift to buy? And if not, is there a better way to show my appreciation?

A card and gift is great, especially if the card goes into detail about what she did that you’re grateful for and why. In fact, that type of card alone would be sufficient, but there’s no reason not to throw in a small gift as well if you’d like. (Food is always good if she’s not on a restrictive diet.)

But no matter what you do, one element that you should absolutely include is sending an email to her manager, explaining how awesome she was, and giving specifics about how. Too few people bother to do that, and it can make a huge difference in how someone is perceived by their manager (which can pay off in performance evaluations, raises, and general appreciation).

{ 125 comments… read them below }

    1. Jaz*

      I don’t get the concept of why someone calling your phone number is so offensive! Of course they have the “authority” to call you when you’re on call. People do not have to pay your phone bill to call you.

      1. Jessa*

        Because my home phone may be unlisted due to problems and I do not want ANYONE to have it? I’m not sure why in this case tho the number would be PROVIDED to the office. I would not give them an alternate number in that case.

        Personally if you do not want someone calling a certain number DO NOT GIVE IT TO THEM.

        I think the MAIN issue though is giving out a number that may have only been provided to HR as an EMERGENCY contact number IE if the person had been ill at work or fell down and injured themselves to people they did not want to have it who may pass it around to other people. Just because you’re given someone’s number does not give you the right to tell anyone else what that number is. If I give you a number for the stated purpose of “In an emergency call x” you do not then get to use that number for ANY other reason. EVER. My being on call is not “in an emergency call x.” You especially do not get to give that number OUT to any other person for any reason. And if you do you’ll get to pay for getting me a new number and for any notices to tell the handful of people who DO have that unlisted number FOR EMERGENCY PURPOSES ONLY to be notified of the change. Because dammit EMERGENCY means just that. Not general business needs.

        Some people have no sense of urgency and they’d call at any time just because they’re entitled sorts. Even if what they want does not rise to a valid reason to call you when you’re ON CALL or even if you’re NOT on call at that time.

        Honestly the proper way to handle on call people is to give them a company phone.

        I do not want customers or other employees to know my private home number even if I do not have an unlisted number, they do not have the right to call me EVER unless I am specifically on call and they have an actual provable business need to call me. I have seen customers and fellow employees take advantage of having the number to get in touch with someone before. Even when they are not on call. They do not have the right to wake up my whole household.

        If they can’t get me on the given number that’s a disciplinary action issue it does not give them the right to do anything else but fire me if they don’t like it.

        1. Cat*

          But it sounds like the OP has a company phone and isn’t answering it when she’s on call. I don’t know all the details – maybe she’s supposed to have a 30 minute window or something and her office is jumping the gun. If not, though, having a company-provided phone is clearly not solving the problem.

          I get why people don’t want their office to have their phone number. However, home phone numbers are in that category of things that usually aren’t kept a secret. If there’s a serious security issue, that is one thing and that should be made very, very clear to HR. If not, though, yeah, sometimes people who can’t get a hold of you through your preferred method are going to try a different method. Such is life.

        2. KellyK*

          Jessa, since you’re getting a lot of negative reactions for this, I wanted to point out that I think it’s *absolutely* reasonable to want to control how your contact info is distributed. We don’t know that the phone number was for emergencies only, but we do know that it was distributed to coworkers without the OP’s permission. While it may be reasonable to try someone’s home phone if they don’t respond when they’re on call, it’s not necessarily reasonable to pass that number out to anyone and everyone they work with, who may then call them when they *aren’t* on call.

          And you’re right that people tend to go the shortest and easiest route to getting what they need. Have a question that Jane knows the answer to, but she’s not in today? Just call her at home! And it can definitely be an imposition.

          Unfortunately, it’s also really common. So while I don’t think that not wanting your contact info passed around makes anyone “high maintenance,” I do think that the onus is on the person who doesn’t want it shared to make that clear.

          1. Jessa*

            I also however think the onus is on the person given information to not just think “Oh because I have been given someone’s number that means I can ALSO give it to whoever I want to.” Which means that if Sue has someone’s number it doesn’t allow her to pass it on to the whole office or the clients or anything else. THAT’s where most of my objections (I am still not the OP) start. And that’s true whether or not the number was given out technically privately or not.

            Most clients for instance would not think to look up someone’s home number. Many companies don’t even give out the last names of their employees even at higher levels and even those who do, not all of them live in the very same city for instance. Just because someone has someone’s number or address does NOT mean they’re free to pass it around to other people who might not normally in the course of business life look that number up for themselves if not handed it.

            My main issue is that just because someone doesn’t say “my info is private,” doesn’t mean it’s free to be given around to just anyone. People seem to be starting to forget this in the last few years.

            It used to be common that if someone was on call there was a discussion had about “how do we get you if x happens (line goes dead, you don’t answer, whatever.)”

            There used to be an on-call list “If you can’t get Sam on her cell, call her on this number, then call Pat.” Then write it in the book so we can deal with it tomorrow. This stuff gets planned before you put Sam on call and with Sam’s advance agreement. You don’t just call numbers just because you have them. That’s not how on-call works

            Was overnight manager at an answering service for 7 years, had on-call procedures 10 levels deep. I’m not saying a regular company needs procedures that in depth, but you don’t just go “tag you’re on call” and that’s the end of the discussion.

            Nobody should wake up to a call on a number they are not expecting to be called on unless it’s “the building is burning down, the cops are here, we tried everything so we finally called information and got your home number,” cause nobody else was available. Kind of emergency.

            1. Loose Seal*

              I completely agree that the on-call procedures need to be defined and followed. Of course, they may be following procedure in OP’s case. We don’t really know.

              And I also agree that people shouldn’t share your info (phone number, address, email, etc.) without your permission. But that’s my personal opinion. I had a boss that got irritated with me when someone called the office looking for her when she wasn’t in. I took the message and they asked for her cell number. I said I would call her and give her the message (read between the lines, caller: I’m not giving her number to someone I don’t know for certain that she wants to give it to!). So when I called her cell to pass along the message, she very shortly said that I should have given out the number. The next day I clarified it with her and she said that since I didn’t know who to give her number to, I should give it to everyone to keep people from getting mad at her. And I did just that from then on. But it would never have been my first assumption.

              Most clients for instance would not think to look up someone’s home number.

              You’d think this would be true but my mother was an insurance agent for 30 years and almost every Saturday, someone would call her at home* and explain they were car shopping and wanted to know if she could give them an insurance quote for a car. She would very nicely explain that she didn’t have her computer access at home and they were welcome to call her first thing Monday morning.

              *number in the phone book and it was a small town but jeez, people!

            2. KellyK*

              I also however think the onus is on the person given information to not just think “Oh because I have been given someone’s number that means I can ALSO give it to whoever I want to.” Which means that if Sue has someone’s number it doesn’t allow her to pass it on to the whole office or the clients or anything else. THAT’s where most of my objections (I am still not the OP) start. And that’s true whether or not the number was given out technically privately or not.

              That’s true. Someone giving you their number doesn’t really entitle you to pass it along. (And if you want to give it out, you should mention that when they give it to you.)

      2. Colette*

        I don’t like my home phone being given out to coworkers without my knowledge – it feels like a boundary violation, and I would be upset about it.

        But in this case, the question is why is the OP not answering her cell when she’s on call? That would seem like it would stop people calling her home phone.

        1. Jessa*

          Except that why was this not discussed before the OP went on call- exactly what would happen if she did not answer – IE how do you want us to get you if you do not pick up. And then who the back up is if they just cannot get her under those circumstances, and what the consequences to HER would be the next day.

      3. Richard*

        I would say that them calling my home phone wouldn’t be offensive, but handing my personal phone number out to other employees is certainly crossing the line.

        In my organisation, the only number they have is my personal mobile, and even then that’s restricted to HR, and people I hand my business card to. The only people I might expect a call from would be those people, and possibly my manager – but he’d have to get that number from HR first.

        If HR started handing out my personal number to anybody else, especially my work colleagues, you’d bet I’d be kicking up a fuss – though that’s probably helped by the fact that they’d be breaking the Data Protection Act in my country by doing so. Even if it wasn’t illegal though, that’s crossing a personal boundary that I wouldn’t accept, whether I’m meant to be ‘on call’ or not.

        That said, in terms of being ‘on call’, if you’re expected to receive (and certainly if you’re expected to make) calls, the company should be providing you with a cellphone to do so – you didn’t specify whether the cell was company provided. If you’re expected to be on call, maybe you should stop ignoring your cellphone, considering that being reachable is part of your job description.

    2. Sourire*

      Just came to the comments to post the same… What, should they be sending out smoke signals when OP isn’t answering his/her cell?

      Insanity – especially because I am assuming OP is paid for being on call in the first place.

      1. Jessa*

        What they do is call someone else and then follow the disciplinary action procedures on the other on call person. It does not give them the right to pass out someone’s personal phone number to people without the express permission of the owner of the number PERIOD FULL STOP. I have an absolute right to determine who has access to my phone number. Just because I have a phone doesn’t mean everyone has the right to call it.

        If I do not answer the on call phone number (for whatever reason) and have not authorised a back up number, then I’m in trouble I’ve done something wrong. That does not give anyone the right to trample on my family at whatever the heck hour. All it does is give the company the right to fire me if they don’t like my not answering.

        Why do people think that just because I have a phone it gives them the right to pass around my number to people? I happen to let the whole world have my cel number but very very few (I can count them on my hands) have my house number. FOR A REASON

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But it’s very normal in workplaces, particularly smaller workplaces, to share employees’ contact info — think staff phone lists, etc. The OP could certainly speak to them about a particular reason for not sharing hers, but in general it’s nothing for outrage over.

          1. Anonymous*

            Isn’t it also normal to have an opt-out system (at least for the larger employers)? I work at a university, and know people who work at others in the area, and they all have a way to opt-out of getting your info published.

            1. Natalie*

              Our company has something similar, but I believe the on-call employees have to provide a second number. That number isn’t available to the whole office.

        2. Sourire*

          Holy cow. A deep breath may be needed here.

          None of us had the context of your number being given to your company as an emergency contact number only. Further, I still have no idea how clear you made that to you employer. It seems like your issue has much more to do with privacy than anything else, however that was absolutely not made clear in the original question.

          1. TheSnarkyB*

            I don’t think Jessa is the OP, just fyi-she’s not adding context to the actual question at hand, just added context to her particular situation.

        3. EM*

          I’m still not getting what the ire is. I’m assuming you’re the OP, due to the emotional nature of the response. (I’m inferring the emotion due to the repeated use of all caps.) It sounds like you are on call, don’t answer the call, and then are pissed when your employer finds an alternate means of contacting you. If privacy is so important to you on your home phone, get caller ID and screen the calls. Or don’t have a landline if being called on it angers you so much. That’s really the point of having a phone; so people can contact you. Yes, sometimes you get unwanted (telemarketers or wrong numbers) calls, but the point of having a telephone is to connect you with people, and that connection goes two ways.

          It really sounds like there is more background to the story that isn’t being provided. Maybe if you provided the whole story there may be extenuating circumstances that would enlighten us and make us more sympathetic to your situation.

          1. Loose Seal*

            I don’t think Jessa because it seems like she’s already protective of her number and her office wouldn’t have it anyway.

            I’m not sure why in this case tho the number would be PROVIDED to the office. I would not give them an alternate number in that case.

            I think it just touched a nerve for her. I admit that if an office was calling my “in case of emergency” number before I had a reasonable chance to return a call to my cell, I’d be miffed because they would be frightening my mother for no reason.

              1. Jessa*

                I am not the OP it does touch a nerve because I have seen places where HR asks for an emergency number IE if you fall down and get hurt at work or have an emergency and you give them a number for that purpose and then someone goes into those records and uses that number for NOT THAT PURPOSE. I find that to be a breach of trust and privacy because I will give a number for that purpose that I would NOT give for a public listing. That’s my main point. If you want a number that you have permission to pass around TELL the person that so they can give you a number you have permission to pass around.

                Because invariably someone will abuse the number. There’s always SOMEONE. fellow employee, annoying manager, entitled customer.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But that’s a different thing — there you’re giving the number of your partner/parent/other emergency contact. It would be odd if they called that person for anything other than an emergency.

                  This is just the employer calling the employe at home, which isn’t the same thing.

                2. KellyK*

                  An emergency contact number could also be your home number, though (so you can get a hold of their spouse, parent, adult child, or whoever). And if someone mostly uses their cell phone, having someone call the home number could needlessly worry whoever’s answering that phone.

                  Not knowing what numbers the OP gave to whom under what circumstances, we don’t know if the home number was for emergency use only or not, but we do know that it was passed around to other people with apparently no mention that it would be used for that purpose.

              1. Loose Seal*

                Yes. For the OP, I think you are right. But it sounded like in Jessa’s case that she has had someone from her office look up an “in case of” number and use it to try to get her. So I was responding to that. Although, I find it hard to read her post with all the capslocks popping up so I might not have completely got the gist of it.

        4. Anonymous*

          You have a phone number so that the world can reach you, yes? If you don’t like it, turn off the ringer at night, or cancel your landline and have everyone use cell phones.

          1. doreen*

            If you don’t want anyone to have your unlisted home phone number, then I’m not sure why you’re providing it to the office to begin with. In my experience most jobs want a number , any number ,whether it’s a cell or landline where they can contact you in addition to a separate emergency contact – perhaps if you don’t show up to work when expected or because of an unexpected closure ( for example, I called my staff at home each evening for a week to let them know whether they needed to report to work after Hurricane Sandy).

            1. Jessa*

              because sometimes you give a number for emergency use only on the understanding that it does NOT get passed around. When people break that trust you have an issue. There’s a difference between a contact card if someone falls down at work and gets hurt and something used to pass around to call someone for work related things. One should be kept confidential except in an emergency one is a publicly available list. And there is a difference.

              1. doreen*

                In my experience , emergency contact numbers don’t get passed around, given to coworkers, called for work related issues – with one very big exception. Most people give their home phone (rather than a cell) as the employee contact number and some give that same number as their emergency contact number because that’s also where their emergency contact can be reached. If you’re saying you gave two different numbers, and the employer called/passed around your emergency contact number for work related issues that would be bizarre. But I must say, emergency contact listings at all my jobs have included the name and relationship of the person being called. My supervisor would know that my (husband,mother,roommate) could be reached at that number and would have no reason to assume that I could be reached at that number if my contact info listed a different number . That could be my mother’s cell or my husband’s work number.

          2. Miss Betty*

            Not necessarily. Some numbers aren’t for the whole world, they’re just for a handful of people – spouse, parents, kids, siblings, maybe the best friend, and as a way to reach an employee’s spouse/significant other/housemate in the case of an emergency. It doesn’t matter if it’s a home phone number, a second cell phone, a satellite phone – the owner is the only person who has the right to determine how that number is to be used. If, as Jessica was saying, someone has decided to limit their landline for any reason (it doesn’t matter why, that’s no one’s business but hers) and one of those trusted people gives that number out to someone else, that person has betrayed that trust. If HR has that particular number with the understanding that it’s to be used only in the case of an emergency, by handing it over to someone else, no matter what the reason (and no matter how reasonable it may seem), they’ve shown themselves to be untrustworthy and it’s not unreasonable to get angry with them.

            For what it’s worth, I have a landline but it’s only used for Internet access. I don’t know my own number offhand and don’t have a phone hooked up to it. If I did decide to hook a phone up to it, I can think of about half a dozen people I’d give that number to. My workplace isn’t one of them. I’d also expect the people who I gave it to not to give it out to anyone else (because I asked them not to, not because I’d expect them to read my mind!).

            1. doreen*

              Yes, if she handed it over as an emergency contact and gave them a different contact phone number for herself and they gave the emergency contact out as a number to reach her at , that’s bizarre and wrong. But it’s not bizarre and wrong because she has some right to keep her employer from calling her at home- it’s bizarre and wrong because there’s no reason to think she could be reached at her emergency contact’s number. I’m not at all sure that Jessa gave them number A as her contact number , and different number B as her emergency contact and they called number B for a non-emergency. It sounds to me like she just doesn’t want anyone from her job to call her home number unless she left work in an ambulance , but also didn’t want to flat out refuse to give them a number where she can be reached.In one of her earlier posts , she mentions that she doesn’t care who has her cell number- but doesn’t mention whether she gave her cell number as the one where she herself could be reached.

          3. KellyK*

            Not always a possibility. Having to answer the phone in case it’s your kid’s school or your mom’s nursing home doesn’t mean that you’re fine with coworkers calling with random questions on your day off.

        5. MLHD*

          Are you in fact the OP?

          In any case you have to realize that YOU are the abnormal one in this situation. 99% of people do not care if their employer contacts their home phone. Since you are the one being atypical and high maintenance, the onus is on YOU to explain that to your employer, not for your employer to assume that people will be bothered by being contacted while they are on call (because that is truly a bizarre convention).

          In addition, what “rights” are you referring to? Legal right? Etiquette right? Your phone number is not covered legally by any type of privacy rights. Any random stranger on the street has the “right” to call your phone number.

          1. Green*

            Personally, I don’t want my employer to call my home phone number because I don’t want to do work at home.

            But if that’s really the issue then OP’s problem should be with the on-call system and job duties (which usually means getting a new job), not the calling-at-home system (which is just a symptom of her real problem).

        6. fposte*

          I also think most employees would rather their workplace call the second number they had provided instead of firing them. I similarly think it’s reasonable for a workplace to assume that’s an employee’s preference unless they’re explicitly told the contrary.

          1. Anonymous*

            Absolutely. But OP, there is an easy way to avoid this in the future. Just let your employer know that when you do not answer the cell, that you would prefer that they fire you instead of calling the other number.

            1. Pussyfooter*

              Jessa is posting quite a bit here, but says that she is not the OP.

              The actual OP seems to think that their employer is only allowed to contact them via a particular cell phone. That person doesn’t make clear the nature of the other # (unlisted per abusive ex?). How did OP’s job acquire it? Was it unethically given out to coworkers? And why isn’t OP responding to an on-call cell in the time her job expects (maybe her boss’ time frame is only a few seconds!)?

              Jessa’s comments read as though she knows the answers to the OP’s questions…but really, she seems to be upset about a slightly different set of issues. So the discussion is pretty confusing–as though there are 2 OPs. Jessa has some good points, but I’m having trouble not confusing her situation and needs for the OP’s.

        7. Expat in Germany*

          In Germany, telephone numbers are considered private data and you need Kate’s permission to tell someone else Kate’s phone number.

          1. Anon for Now*

            Expat, I’d like that approach very much. Those of us who have had personal contact info abused are understandably more sensitive to this issue. I’m surprised to see some posters making quite a leap from a desire to have policy followed to asking to be fired instead of having your employer follow a policy that presumably includes some disciplinary steps.

            Personally, my phone number is no longer publicly available because of inappropriate transgressions. Personally, I have had to go to HR & insist that they keep my personal contact info private from all coworkers after having both a peer and a superior in the organization tell me they had the authority to get that info. Bad enough dealing with inappropriate behavior at work, don’t harass me at home.

            And don’t give my personal contact info to clients or vendors. Those people can wait til the next business day/til I’m back in the office or someone else can help them. If there’s an emergency & you have my number then YOU call me, don’t hand out my number to someone else.

            It was over a year before one (by then former) coworker stopped pursuing me by phone at home. It was months before a superior stopped showing up in my neighborhood (& went into a recovery program). A vendor “had a question” for me; the question was whether I’d like to date him starting tonight or tomorrow night.

            Please assume that those of us concerned about such privacy have reasons for it, & generally prefer not to have to discuss those reasons with colleagues with no need for that information. Violating a promise of confidence is an excellent way to earn distrust & anger.

            Caller ID & things like google voice help, but the best help is individuals & organizations who maintain reasonable privacy for others.

  1. Loose Seal*

    #2 — If you really don’t want them calling your home phone, tell them you got rid of it in favor of cell phones.

    But, it seems like a more logical conversation to have with your boss is your on-call response. They are calling your home phone (or want to) because they can’t get you on your cell. So, perhaps there needs to be clarification in the office as to how long you have before calling back to return the call. I’ve had the on-call rota before — back in the days where we had a beeper — and the rule was that they would call the beeper every 15 minutes. If you hadn’t returned the call after 3 beeps (45 minutes), you would be written up. But our calls weren’t emergencies but someone had to be available to deal with them and the time limit was established so everyone would know how often to call and when you could return the calls. This rule really calmed everyone down on both the callers’ side and the responders’ side.

    You may have a job that requires a quicker response. But I think it’s reasonable to know if they can call your cell and leave a message and you call back in, say, five minutes before they call again. That gives you time to finish going to the bathroom, quietly leave a movie theater, get awake, or whatever you were doing when the phone rang.

    1. Green*

      Get a Google Voice number that goes to your cell phone and your home phone, and give them that number. You can turn various secondary phones on and off for Google Voice (turn it on for Grandma’s house if you’re spending a weekend there, turn it off for your primary residence during certain hours, etc.).

      And check your attitude. If you don’t want to be on call, get a job that doesn’t require you to be on call. You can’t be “on call”, ignore the calls, and get mad when they try another number.

  2. Catherine*

    I’m on call maybe one or two days a year, both holidays when we don’t have someone else working either at the office or at home. I give out my parents’ home phone number if I’m there (mostly because I tend to leave my cell phone on silent upstairs in a bedroom). If you’re on call, you need to be reachable within a reasonable use of time. And if you’re not OK with being on-call, it’s time to find a different job. It doesn’t get easier.

  3. Jennifer*

    #7: I give a small gift and card (roughly $10 worth) after each semester to a colleague from the school district who works with me at our public library. She does a lot of storytimes and other programming for us and while we have a mutually beneficial relationship (she’s paid through the school district but has no programming space, we provide space, she provides programs free of charge) I want her to feel appreciated and part of the library. We also invite her to staff breakfasts and continuing education opportunities that are relevant to her. I would say though, if you’re at a large system, make sure there isn’t some gift-giving policy – you might need to give her the thank you gift outside of work or something. We have patrons who give us gifts around the holidays – usually a fruit basket or something, but we also have a patron who picks out “favorites” each year and then tries to secretly give those people cash or jewelry. Which we can’t accept b/c of city policies (and cuz she’s cuckoo!). Anyways, it’s another employee so maybe not relevant, but I’d check to be sure.

  4. Gilbey*

    At a job I held my co-worker emailed me thanking me for a couple of things I was doing and CC’d my boss to make sure she knew the progress and how happy he was with my work.

    Also on his own he gave me a little thank you card with a gift card.

    To acknowledge me the way it was done meant a lot to me. It was simple straight and to the point.

    Please do something for this person. It will mean a lot to them. If you go with a gift card or gift it doesn’t not have to be a lot money. Believe me just the thought of thanking her this way will be enough.

  5. JFQ*


    Why is this answer different from the usual “You’re not even given vacation under the law, so once you have it, your employer can do whatever it wants with it” answer?

    1. Meg*

      Well the logic here is that it’s not vacation – the employee is being required to work. It would be like telling someone they ha to use a vacation day for a regular work day. It’s different than say, closing the office for a day and requiring the employee to use PTO, because at least then they’re not working.

      1. Kat*

        Yeah, telling the employee to use annual leave for this is basically telling them that aren’t getting paid for the work they’ll be doing.

        1. Meg*

          Or even if the OP has paid annual leave, the company is telling them that they won’t respect her time when she’s not working.

        2. JFQ*

          I get that, but again, the idea comes up over and over here that because vacation isn’t mandated, employers can do (almost) whatever they want with it.

          Effectively, saying you have to take vacation to do work is to say that your vacation is being revoked. So that’s really the question: can vacation be revoked?

          1. Felicia*

            Vacation can be revoked, but you need to be paid for the work you do. They can say you’re not allowed to take any vacation, and make you work all the time. But they can’t make you work and not pay you for it, which is what would happen in this case if she took vacation. Saying you have to take vacation to do work isn’t saying your vacation is being revoked, it’s saying you won’t be paid for doing work.

              1. JFQ*

                Isn’t vacation paid time off? No one mentioned not getting paid.

                The OP will be getting paid; his or her employer is just trying to the OP to take the hit in vacation time. It’s a lousy thing to do, but it doesn’t seem that different from the many other can-my-employer-do-that questions about vacation time. It’s not really different from the employer showing up and saying, “Oh, by the way, we cut your vacation by a week.”

                1. Cat*

                  The advice wasn’t to sue them because it’s illegal though; the advice was to push back because it’s a lousy thing for the business to do and also entirely outside business norms. If they want to keep good employees, they shouldn’t be doing this kind of thing; if they don’t care, then the employees should have that information.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Under federal law, they can do this. However, some states have laws that would make it illegal (and some states have laws that would make it illegal depending on the wording of their benefits plans), so that’s why I said she’d need to check the laws of her state. Either way, though, her first step should be just pushing back with them.

      1. JFQ*

        I agree on pushing back. It’s a weird request, and I’d be curious, if you’re reading, OP, to hear any other backstory about how the company has operated in the past or why this might be happening now.

        Thanks for the clarification.

      2. Sourire*

        I am curious why this would be the case when it comes to benefits, since it is not with pay, which per my understanding can be changed at any time (unless there is a contract) as long as it is not applied retroactively.

        I wonder if in this case how important it is to distinguish whether or not OP has already accrued the vacation time. If it is already accrued they probably would need to honor OP using it as vacation, as not doing so possibly could be seen as taking the benefit away retroactively. However, if OP were to earn vacation time on an anniversary date that occurs sometime after now, but before the business trip, I think there may not be much recourse.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Benefits can be changed at any time, just like pay, but generally not retroactively (would depend on the details and on the state). However, if she lives in a state that treats benefits like compensation, they’d need to actually change the benefits — as in tell her that they’re not giving her any vacation time going forward. If they’re not doing that, and are continuing to claim she gets vacation time, but that she needs to work during it, in some states that would be the issue.

      3. Sunshine DC*

        This is vary confusing to me. How does this happen though if vacation is part of your work agreement – i.e., when you are offered a job on the terms of “A salary of $XX,XXX, 3 weeks paid vacation, medical and dental coverage, etc. If it’s ALREADY a part of your employment agreement, how can that be revoked?

        I understand that and employer can choose not to offer, but once it’s part of your official, formal, documented work agreement, how is it legal for them to break that agreement?

        1. SC in SC*

          As I understand it, in some cases it’s legal and in some its not. In the US it all depends on the applicable state laws as well as whether or not you have a formal contract. Your work agreement is just that….an agreement. Its not the same thing as a legally binding contract. If you don’t have a legal contract and no state laws cover it then the company can change your pay and benefits at any time. Not a good practice but perfectly legal.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          They can change it at any time, unless you have a contract that says they can’t (which most people don’t). They can’t change it retroactively, but they can change it going forward. You can then decide if you’re willing to work under the new terms or not.

        3. TheSnarkyB*

          They can “break” it because it’s not a contract. Just like they could change your pay or benefits (just not retroactively) because it’s not a contract. They could say, “we paid you $16/hr yesterday, but from today on it’s $9. Take it or leave it.” And that’s perfectly legal, because we have at will employment.

    3. Chinook*

      I think the difference is that, in one, you are working knowing you are getting no vacation while, in the other, they have changed your terms of service by reducing your benefits by reducing the number of vacation days/increasing the number of work days without a change in pay.

  6. Steve*

    re #5 this is one of my pet peeves. “I received no management training or guidance on expectations regarding how to supervise. ”

    Organizations have meticulous training programs to teach people how to use a $5,000 piece of equipment because they don’t want them ruined. But they take a person, tell them they are a manager, and put them in charge of one or more people without any thought. When you consider salary and fringe benefits (not to mention sheer complexity) people are far more expensive and valuable than any machine.

    1. Anonymous*

      I agree re: #5 I’ve seen many situations where you have a superstar non-management employee who is great at his or her job, then is promoted to manager, and fails horribly because they don’t have the skills or training for a leadership role. Just because one is good chocolate teapot maker does not mean they could manage a team of chocolate teapot makers….yet it happens all the time.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This times 100. I am tired of hearing “oh what do you mean there should be training?”
      The first time I fired a person, I had to BEG for guidance on how to do it properly. This entailed following several bosses around until one of them answer my questions.

    3. Joey*

      Oh c’mon that’s a terrible analogy. New managers have dealt with people before and have experience being managed. So to claim they have no idea what they should do is really naive. If nothing else they should use the critical thinking skills they use for other work place problems to try to figure it out. HR should just be there to guide, coach, and reaffirm not to give managers an instruction manual on what to do.

      1. Tina*

        I think that’s assuming people have had any positive managers. I’ve had some awful managers in the past, I certainly couldn’t use them as role models. I’d be guessing as I go, trying to think “how would so-and-so NOT do it?” lol

        Also, people are not always promoted based on jobs that involve critical thing. My brother worked in food service for many years, and was promoted to a managerial role based on the fact that he kept his head down and did exactly what he was told, and did it pretty well. But his original job wasn’t based on any critical thinking, it was based on doing exactly what he was told. He’s perfectly capable, but it took some work and effort on his part, because his original position really did not provide him with the background thinking, planning, management etc that he could have used to get up to speed faster. Obviously this is just one particular industry, but I also think some people are not naturally or intuitively good at certain tasks, and providing some basic level of training for managerial tasks could never be a bad thing.

          1. Tina*

            It can be a place to start, but sometimes knowing what NOT to do, isn’t the same as knowing what TO do. It just tells me what not to do. Example, I know not to physically abuse my spouse, but that doesn’t automatically mean I actually know an effective way to communicate in a heated argument. (I know that’s not work-related, it’s just the first example that came to mind.)

            1. KellyK*

              Good point. To make it more work-related, knowing that you don’t berate someone in front of the whole team is a far cry from knowing how to effectively give them feedback.

              Plus, every awful boss is different, so that observation isn’t even the full range of “what not to do”—it’s just *one particular set* of pitfalls to avoid.

      2. lusucanna*

        Yeah, but it shouldn’t be assumed just because someone is good at their job that they will be good at managing. Management is a completely different skill than doing your job well; as I’m sure we have all seen from this blog.

      3. JFQ*

        But the machinery analogy can easily be extended in line with your point: Someone working with new equipment has likely worked with similar equipment in the past and has likely seen other people work with it. If the person new to the equipment can’t figure it out, he or she should just use the critical thinking skills accrued over time to sort it out. And yet few would say to someone new to using milling equipment, “Well, you’ve used a lathe, right? Milling is like that, but the tool spins, not the piece.”

        The real difference is the magnitude and immediacy of mistakes with machinery compared with mistakes involving management.

        And then the issue with any argument by analogy is that analogies are bound to fail at some point.

        1. Joey*

          Except exact procedures are critical when safety is involved. Management is more about doing the right thing for the business within the parameters of the law and company policy. Its much more flexible.

      4. fposte*

        To put it on the more pragmatic side, this kind of thing is governed largely by convention (I’ve never gone to an equipment-training workshop either).

        FWIW, OP, your experience at your prior workplace sounds pretty standard to me. I’m sure there are places where HR is more involved, and I know there are places where they’re even less so, but this is a common model; stressful as you may have found it, you weren’t hung out to dry.

        1. OP*

          I appreciate the feedback. In my case having never been terminated or witnessed a termination I did not have any experience to draw from. I had actually spent the previous years of my career having almost no interaction with HR beyond the occasions when I was involved in a new job search (twice). So my impression of the role of HR has been incorrect. I had thought that hiring and firing were things to be done well and according to certain best practices to ensure they went as smoothly as possible. I had thought HR filled this function (among others, of course) because the delicate nature of these transitions required expertise that the average person may not possess. I don’t think I did a terrible job, but I did feel like I was left to figure it out on my own. In many other aspects of the working world there is an effort made not to put people in the position of reinventing the wheel when there are best practices that others have already developed and shared. I am pursuing management training on my own (web based and books). Thanks for helping me understand that this is the norm in many cases and HR’s role is not analogous to the role played by George Clooney in Up In The Air.
          The new employee hired has been fantastic, so the situation did improve overall. Managing people takes a significant amount of time and energy, even when they are good employees. I am impressed that people who have 10 or 20 or 50 direct reports ever get anything non-management related done!

          1. Joey*

            Best practices aren’t really what a lot of people use, at least the ones taught from a single source. There’s a million ways to skin a cat when managing people. I’d guess that most managers subscribe to a hodgepodge of leadership skills developed from:

            1. Watching good and bad managers.
            2. Managing and leadership Books
            3. Blogs and articles
            4. Listening to their employees
            5. Their own business philosophy
            6. Past experiences with employee policies/practices
            7. Experiences from Raising kids (if they have any)
            8. Their interpretation of labor laws

            I know I’m missing some. Personally I’d say the training that companies give are really only good for the basics like knowing the cliff note version of employment laws, key situations to be aware of, and basic company procedures.

          2. Another Emily*

            It seems to me that despite not having a lot of experience as a manager, you’re doing great. You documented fraud which resulted in a terrible employee being let go. Then you made a good hire who is working out well. Hiring good employees and getting rid of bad ones are pretty important for a manager.

      5. QualityControlFreak*

        I agree that it isn’t the job of HR to tell managers how to manage their departments. But to be competitive, a company needs clear sight of their business objectives, and plans and policies designed to realize them, including procedures for all critical functions. Responsibilities for activities related to staffing, hiring, firing and management of human resources may be shared between managers and HR, but there absolutely should be some sort of “instruction manual” for managers as well as HR personnel (often the same people in smaller organizations).

        I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but if you fail to plan…

      6. Elizabeth West*

        I’ve had both positive and negative managers, and I’ve seen plenty of things NOT to do. But I’ve never managed, and I don’t think I would know what to do right out of the gate. (It’s not something I really want to do either.)

        Alison has a book on it, so if I had to, I’d go there first. But I wouldn’t be naive enough to think I could just manage because I’d been managed.

    4. EW*

      I’ve had the same experience with project management. I’m a good task manager, but I’ve recently begun managing some projects, and I’ve had next to no training. I learn things the hard way, and then when I’m asked why a project is a little over budget, I respond, “Because I didn’t account for x, y, and z when I put the proposal together because I don’t know what I’m doing.” Fun times.

      1. OP*

        I was fortunate to have received PM training prior to taking on the role. I also work in IT and regularly attend training for various applications or technologies that relate to my job. It sounds like I have been lucky in this respect. But it did create a situation where I was taken aback by lack of training (in people management). This blog has been a good source of information for me!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        PM training is coming up in my writing program at school. I am f*ing terrified about this. I have no management experience and I DON’T WANT ANY. I don’t want any of it! Give me what to do, tell me what you want and then leave me alone to do it. Grr.

  7. Jane*

    #4 I work in Biglaw. In my experience, returning to your old law firm after a clerkship depends on a variety of factors including the needs of the firm at the time you seek to return and your reputation/evaluations. When I left my firm I felt like I left on good terms but I did not really make too much of an effort to keep in touch. Neither side made any promises. When my clerkship was coming to a close, I reached out and simply asked if I could have my old job back and I got it. I don’t know if all firms operate that way but it worked out for me. I got a small clerkship bonus and kept the same level of seniority I would have if I had never left, which was nice. Hopefully that is still something most firms are doing.

    1. Cat*

      My sense is that for all that the legal job market has tanked, federal law clerks are still reasonably in demand. Which isn’t to say that OP’s firm will necessarily take her back, but if they like her, the prospects seem relatively good.

    2. Green*

      I work in BigLaw at a top-ranked Vault firm. It is very common to work for 2-3 years, take a clerkship (using partners as references and connections to help land the clerkship), and then return to the firm (or not). Generally people have approached it as though they have the full intention of returning, whether or not they actually return two years later.

      I think AAM is a little off here, and that OP should address it as though he wants to gain this experience and then return to the firm and make that very clear to the partner-in-charge of the office and the partners you work for. If things change in a year or two, they change in a year or two. But if you approach it as though you hope to come back and make plans to do so, you are much more likely to have a job there to come back to.

      This is also why federal clerks straight out of law school often accept (and act enthusiastic about) their offer to join a law firm in their 3L year, head off for the clerkship, and then reevaluate when they’re looking for jobs. (Which is fair because some firms have also been known to “reevaluate” their offers when the economy is down.)

      There’s also a “grass is greener” mentality among associates at large law firms. Some situations are objectively worse than others, but the grass is pretty brown everywhere and the only thing green is the money.

      1. Cat*

        I agree – and this is different than accepting an offer and then revoking your acceptance for other workplaces. Associates are basically fungible commodities for Big Law firms. The firm isn’t going to be hurt by an associate choosing not to come back; and they’re not going to be making nuanced business plans that depend on the associate being there.

        1. Green*

          Exactly. They’re used to hiring people in cycles 2-3 years out, and for most offices they’re just shooting for a general target range per class.

          OP may engender more ill will at a smaller law firm or smaller office by making general plans to return and not returning, but this is common and not unexpected at any of the large firms (and even the small offices of most large firms).

      2. DSL*

        I agree the AAM is a little off here but it is because the legal world is different than most. At many firms she will have more value and return with credit for the year she was gone as a clerk (she would return as a 3rd year even though she was at the firm for one and clerkship for one). Also, there are often bonuses for those who clerk.

  8. Rebecca*

    About question #2 – and “on call” specifically – I am an hourly worker. I was just asked by my manager if I would be willing to be reached on weekends, when our companies warehouses are working, in case someone needed something changed in the system or some other update was needed. I do have the ability to sign into our system remotely and into my email from home, so I wouldn’t have to go to the office (which is good, since it’s a 46 mile round trip).

    I was afraid to say no, since I need my job, so I reluctantly agreed to help out if it was a true emergency. I asked about compensation. I was told to “keep track of my time” if I was called and had to do anything.

    I have mixed feelings about this. Any constructive input would be very welcome, as this is uncharted territory for me.

    1. Meaghan*

      To me this seems pretty straightfoward – if you’re called, make a note of what time it occurs, and how long you work, and then submit a claim for overtime (or additional time worked, at least) to your manager.

      Of course, it would be best to clarify with your manager before this happens that this is, in fact, the process they will adhere to. If it turns out that they aren’t willing to compensate you, then I would push back.

      Depending on the size of your organization and the number of people who can do the same thing, you might also suggest developing an on-call rotation, so that you’re only on the hook for the occasional weekend. You could also look at clarifying boundaries about weekends when you let your manager know that you are not available for this kind of work – if you’re going camping and won’t have cell reception, or have guests in town and don’t want to have to ditch them to work, for example. But again, that’s a conversation that would be best to have *before* the issue comes up, instead of after. As long as your manager is a reasonable person, I’m sure she won’t mind if you aren’t tied to a blackberry 24/7.

    2. fposte*

      DOL says: if you can stay at home while you’re on call, you don’t have to get paid for waiting, so there’s no additional compensation required for the state of being on-call. They do have to pay you for any time actually worked, so keep track of it and submit it along with the rest of your hours; make sure you keep track of your total hours including any on-call help, too, since you should be eligible for overtime if those hours pushed you over the limit.

      Also check with the Department of Labor in your own state to see if there are any additional state laws, but this is a pretty usual state of affairs.

      1. Chinook*

        I would also check to see if they are required to pay for a minimum number of hours worked in a shift. I know in Alberta I would have to be paid for 3 hours even if I only worked 15 minutes (which should make some employers think twice about that quick phone call).

        1. fposte*

          It’s possible that there’s a law somewhere in the US like that, but I’ve never heard of it in any state (union rules are another matter, of course). The closest I know if is the state law in California (and maybe elsewhere, but for worker protection always start with California) that requires “reporting time pay”–they have to pay for the time you’re scheduled, so they can’t just decide to send you home mid-shift to save money. But even there there’s no minimum shift, and on-call stuff wouldn’t seem to fall under that.

          1. Cathy*

            Actually, a California employer can save money by sending non-exempt employees home early. If you are a non-exempt employee and you report to work on-site, then you must be paid for the greater of: 2 hours; half your scheduled shift; or the amount of time actually worked. I.e. if you are scheduled to work 8 hours and are sent home after 1 hour, then you are paid for 4 hours, saving the employer 4 hours of pay. If you are scheduled for 3 hours, sent home after 1 hour, then you are paid for 2 hours. If you are called in to work unexpectedly, then you must be paid for 2 hours or the amount of time worked, whichever is greater.

            However, this doesn’t apply to on call work you can do remotely and where you’re free to lead a normal life otherwise. If you get a phone call on a weekend while you’re out and about, and it’s something you’ll take care of when you get to a computer, then you record the amount of time spent on the phone and the amount of time you work after you get home and you put that time on your regular timecard.

            If your employer calls you on a weekend or evening, they may choose to send you home early on another day so they don’t have to pay you overtime for that week. If you are in California, then you are entitled to overtime for the 7th workday in the week or for any hours over 8 in a single day. So if you’ve already put in 8 hours and they call you that night and you work another hour, that’s overtime, even if your total work for the week is still under 40. Likewise, if your work week runs Sunday to Saturday and they call you on Sunday, you work Monday through Friday, then they call you again on Saturday — that Saturday work is overtime regardless of how many hours you worked during the previous six days.

            1. fposte*

              Ah, okay–I missed the details of the reporting time pay thing. So it’s not that you’re completely covered for your scheduled time, but it’s also a greater protection that most states afford as far as limiting an employee’s loss from being sent home early.

            2. Construction HR*

              “if you are scheduled to work 8 hours and are sent home after 1 hour, then you are paid for 4 hours, saving the employer 4 hours of pay.”

              Interesting math that forces the employer to pay for 4 hours, only receive 1 hour of actual work and claim they “saved” four hour pay. Must be a Cali thing.

              1. fposte*

                I think she’s using “save” because that’s what I used in my comment; she’s making the point that the employer isn’t completely without the ability to shorten the employee’s day on no notice, despite the limitations of the state.

              2. Cathy*

                Yes, I was responding to fposte’s assertion that the employer would have to pay the full 8 hours. In my example, they would only have to pay 4 hours, thus saving 4 hours of pay. The employee of course is still losing 10% of his expected income for that week, which is a very big deal for minimum wage employees who are the most likely to be affected by unplanned schedule changes.

              3. KellyK*

                But it was the employer’s choice to send the person home early. If they wanted those other 3 hours, they could have had them.

        2. Windchime*

          A previous employer had a similar rule, but only for the hourly workers. If an hourly worker was on-call and got called, they automatically were paid for 2 hours work, regardless of whether or not they worked at all. If they worked more than 2 hours for that call, they were of course paid for those additional hours.

          Salaried people got zip. So we had to participate in a call rotation, but didn’t get paid for anything (no matter how many calls we received or how long we worked).

          And we had an agreement with our users that we would respond to a call within 15 minutes and be logged in (if necessary) within 30 minutes. So that meant no going out to dinner or to a movie, no going to visit anyplace without wifi, etc, while on call. It was necessary part of the job; I didn’t really like it, but that’s life in IT for ya.

          1. Another Emily*

            I think people should get some extra compensation for being on call, even if it’s just a tiny bit. (I think paramedics in BC get something like $2/hour when they’re on call but not working.) Like you described, this is a work-related duty that directly affects your free time. I think it’s unethical not to compensate people for it properly.

            That said, for OP#2, like others I don’t understand why you’re angry about getting these calls. You only get a pittance if anything for being on call, but when they call you for a shift you’ll get your proper wage. So don’t you want that shift? Why wouldn’t you want them to get in touch with you? If it’s simply their calling your home phone that annoys you, I think your solution here is to answer your cell phone without fail.

            1. KellyK*

              I think people should get some extra compensation for being on call, even if it’s just a tiny bit. (I think paramedics in BC get something like $2/hour when they’re on call but not working.) Like you described, this is a work-related duty that directly affects your free time. I think it’s unethical not to compensate people for it properly.

              Yes, I totally agree. I think it could be reasonable to not pay for on-call time if you’re able to go about your normal routine and it’s only affected if you actually get a call (e.g., you need to get back to them within half an hour). But some companies’ response time is so tight that you can’t even go to the grocery store during that time.

              The DOL rules do state that if an employee can’t use the time effectively for their own purposes, they’re working while on call. So if someone is getting tons of calls, or has a really quick required response time, they may have to be paid for that time. However, that’s on a case-by-case basis. There’s no rule that clearly outlines how restrictive “on-call” has to be before it gets paid. (There’s a good summary here: http://www.barley.com/publications/article.cfm?article_ID=320)

          2. KellyK*

            That sounds like it might have been a situation where pay would be legally required for time spent on-call, based on the DOL’s language about being able to use your time effectively for your own purposes while not on call. Not that that would’ve helped the exempt employees any.

  9. long time lurker!*

    #3: I think the key here is that these two clients will be ‘extremely beneficial’ to your potential employer’s business. If that’s the case, I think he’d be much happier to allow the consulting. My employee does some freelance work for clients who reflect well on our business and I encourage her to do it!

    #6: I can’t think of anywhere that would be legal. If you’re working, they need to pay you. They don’t legally have to give you paid vacation, but they are not allowed to require that you work without being paid. If you’re hourly, they need to pay you for hours worked. If you’re exempt, they need to pay you for each day worked. They can’t just decide that you don’t need to be paid for time you’re working just because you’re doing it at a different location.

    1. fposte*

      You don’t have to be paid daily if you’re exempt, though, and it sounds like this wouldn’t affect her salary because it’s paid vacation. However, I’m trying to figure out if there might be a way, in states where vacation is included in your paid compensation, where this would be tantamount to docking her and therefore render her non-exempt for the week, which they really do *not* want to do.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      long time lurker, I think you’re thinking this is unpaid time, but I’m assuming it’s actually paid vacation (since generally that’s what people are referring to when they talk about annual leave).

  10. MLHD*

    Yeah, letter #2 is kinda hilarious. Where does that logic end? “You don’t pay for my internets, so don’t email me!”

    What exactly does that person think people did before cell phones? That companies paid all their employees’ phone bills in return for the privilege of contacting them?

    1. Rana*

      I was baffled by that part too. Especially since monthly landline rates are not generally affected by how many calls you receive.

  11. MLHD*

    And if you think about it, the money they PAY you, via your paycheck, IS used to pay your phone bill, correct? So indeed, they DO “contribute to” your home phone.

  12. Seal*

    #2 – Perhaps you need clarify with your employer what is expected of someone who is on call, including how quickly you need to respond to calls and how you are to be contacted. Being on call means that you are expected to be available during a certain timeframe. Have you told them specifically not to call or give out your home phone number? Better yet, if you were on call, why didn’t you answer your cell phone when they called? Then they wouldn’t have had to resort to calling your private line.

  13. MsNina*

    Thank you Alison, I really appreciate you posting my question. I figured that’s what they meant. I have a interview for another offer next week so I’m happy!

  14. HR Pufnstuff*

    No 5-
    I’ve been directly involved in most company terminations, the unfortunate truth is many managers are terrible at it.
    I have 3 basic rules to follow-
    1. Compassion, not with anger or malice, it’s a business decision, not personal.
    2. Concise, Best to have notes to follow. Get straight to the point, do not veer off topic, do not be open for debate.
    3. Complete, ex. “You will be paid through the end of today, there is 36 hours of PTO in the books that will be included in your final check. Your medical benefits will continue through the end of this month, you will be receiving a COBRA notice to continue your benefits. You can apply for unemployment insurance, I suggest doing that right away. I need your keys/pass/laptop/company credit card. I wish you the best, feel free to email if you need any clarification.”

    1. OP*

      Thank you! I did not cover anything in your 3rd point – complete. Very good to know in case I ever have to terminate anyone again.

  15. Editor*

    #2 (on call) — It is pretty standard to call the home phone if the work cell phone isn’t answered by an employee who is on call. If the problem is that you are swimming laps early in the morning and the calls home are waking family members, find out how to mute the ringers in the home phone system so they don’t hear the calls, and also discuss with your employer what to do about those times you aren’t available. For instance, if you can’t carry your phone into the pool or at some other time, can you call beforehand to say you will be unavailable because (reason) for the next (amount of time). That way your failure to answer doesn’t exactly arise because they’ve been warned you aren’t available.

    If the problem is that work calls that aren’t answered immediately trigger calls to the home line, so that if you’re in the bathroom or your hands are in dishwater and you can’t answer immediately, then talk about a reasonable window for call backs. This is a fair request, especially if you don’t appreciate having work call your home line only to have your five-year-old tell the caller you’re in the tub or on the toilet. (If this is the case, do teach your children how to answer the phone without giving out information like this. They can learn to say someone is unavailable right now, but they will take a message or tell the adult to call back.)

    If the problem is — for instance — that you’re leaving the phone out of reach or at the charger at night and the calls to the home phone are annoying you, find a way to carry and keep the phone with you whenever possible, and keep it charged. Managing a work cell phone requires planning in advance so the phone is charged up when needed and is at hand except in situations where the phone would be damaged, such as in the pool.

  16. M*

    #2 – Absebt violation of “trust” issues or unrealistic call back windows discussed above (neither of which were even hinted at in the wording of your question), you are the one out of line, not your employer. “When [you are] on call and don’t answer [your] cell” it is perfectly reasonable for your employer to try to contact you in other ways. I worked for a 911 call center years ago and when on call employees didn’t answer their their phones a sheriff’s deputy was sent to check on them/drag their butts to work (depending on the type of employee).
    As far as your number being given out to others, the tone of your question strongly implies that you are chronically difficult to reach on call and they’re trying to save time during business emergencies – that’s what 99% of calls to on-call employees are btw, business emergencies. Your employer has an on call system to answer urgent questions/fill in critical vacancies and any delay on your part reflects badly on you and negatively impacts the ability of the business to function. If your steamed that your the only person who has had their number circulated, take a step back and realize you may be on the fast track to being shown the door permanently. At least they’d stop ailing your home number then, eh?

  17. KellyK*

    For #2, I do think it’s unreasonable to distribute someone’s personal phone number without their permission, or in a way that isn’t in keeping with why they gave you the number. *However* a lot of people don’t think of phone numbers as private and give them out willy-nilly. Especially landlines, because you’re probably in the phone book anyway. So, it’s up to you to tell people that you don’t want your phone number shared. I wouldn’t make it about who pays the bill, because that sounds snotty (and irrelevant unless it’s a cell phone where you pay to receive calls), but just say you consider it private and don’t want it shared.

    I do think that if you’re on call and you’re not responsive, you need to talk with your boss and figure out what the expectations actually are. Then, you need to make sure you’re meeting them.

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