my company won’t pay for bathroom breaks, nicknames when applying for jobs, and more

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

1. Another department is pushing me to do work that I don’t do

I am being “loaned” to another department for some design work for a month. During the month, I will report to another person, but I’ll still have duties and meetings in my own department and that person is in no way my boss. The person I will be working with has indicated that they will want me to do things outside my skill set – tasks like data entry. I’ve been trying to politely shut them down, saying things like “that’s not really my area of expertise,” but it’s obviously not working as I’m still getting emails indicating they expect me to do tasks outside my skill set. Both my bosses are in agreement I should not do things like this. This person has also been hinting they want more of my time outside the month, but that’s easier to handle, because my time is already booked for several months for other projects.

How do I politely shut this person down about some tasks without sounding like an uncooperative whiner? I’ve tried hard to eradicate “that’s not my job” from my vocabulary, but I also feel I need to stand up for myself or he will continue to walk all over me and others in my department. I’m meeting with him early next week to start work, and I want to make it clear from the beginning what I will and won’t do but am just lost on how to be firm without being a jerk. If needed, I can kick this up to my bosses to shut him down, but I would like to avoid that.

Since your boss agrees that you shouldn’t be doing that work, cite her: “Jane has been clear that while I’m helping you, I shouldn’t be spending time on things like XYZ. I’m here to work on ABC.” If the person continues to push, say, “I think there’s been a miscommunication about what I’m here to help with. Let me go back to Jane and figure out how to proceed.” Then go back to your boss and bring her into it. There’s no shame in doing that once you’ve tried to handle it on your own and are still running into problems; she probably wants to know about it at that point.

2. I was an hour late to an interview

I went to an interview earlier this week, and because of a road accident was one hour late. It was in a different city about a two-hour drive away and the interview was scheduled at 9.30 a.m. I gave myself three hours to get there, so I did plan ahead, but because of the accident, I also hit rush hour in the city, which made me doubly late. I called HR (the only contact number i had) to let them know.

On arrival, I apologized and explained the situation to them, and they gave me the interview. But I have a feeling that HR did not pass on my message to the interviewers. I am really worried that this has cost me big time. Any tips on what I should do?

Did you explain the situation to your interviewers yourself, on the spot when you met them? That would have made sense, and if you didn’t do that, they likely took note of it — even if HR had already explained it to them. When you mess up someone’s schedule, you’ve got to explain and apologize yourself rather than leaving it to someone else to do. In any case, you can certainly email them a thank-you for the interview and and apologize in that note.

3. My company won’t pay for bathroom breaks

The company I work for recently sent out a site-wide email explaining that due to too much off-phone time (this is a call center), any unscheduled bathroom breaks will involve filling out a form detailing to the minute how much time was spent off the phone for the bathroom break; anything over 4 minutes will not be paid. At a team meeting today, we were informed that they’re skipping the form and any bathroom breaks at all will now be unpaid. Our supervisor gave us a speech about how we “already get scheduled breaks and [we’re] not children so [we] should be capable of holding it until then.” I think the speech was mostly because in order for this policy to work, our supervisor has to manually remove the unapproved minutes from our timecards so that we won’t be paid for them (paying a supervisor to spend 10 minutes removing 5 minutes from a subordinate’s pay doesn’t work out for me in a cost/benefit sense but that is the sort of logic we’re dealing with at this place).

I’ve been through the archives of your site and everything I can find says breaks of less than 20 minutes have to be paid. Also my understanding of the Fair Labor Standards Act is that they shouldn’t be doing this. Anyone I’ve seen who pushes back/questions the policy is told some variation of “someone checked with a lawyer when they came up with this, so don’t even worry about it.” I don’t believe that. I think management (and specifically our site director) is exactly stupid enough to have skipped consulting with the corporate lawyer about the legalities of docking employees’ pay; this company has had compensation policies result in a class action lawsuit once before that I’m aware of. Any suggestions for how to approach this (keeping in mind that management is not interested in hearing any of it)? Other than RUN. Obviously. :)

Yes, it’s illegal. While no federal law requires paid breaks, the Department of Labor does say, “Breaks from 5 to 20 minutes must be counted as hours worked. Even though they are not required by the FLSA, if you permit your employees to take breaks, they must be counted as hours worked. This includes short periods the employees are allowed to spend away from the work site for any reason. For example: smoke breaks, restroom breaks, personal telephone calls or visits, or to get coffee or soft drinks, etc.”

It also says: “Note, however, that you need not count unauthorized extensions of authorized breaks as hours worked when you have expressly and unambiguously advised the employee that the break may only last for a specific length of time and that any extension of the break is contrary to your rules and will be punished.” My reading of that is that if they were sticking to their original policy of paying for bathroom breaks that don’t go over four minutes, that would be legal, because they’re clearly warning you of the time limit. But when they decided to throw out that policy and make all bathroom breaks unpaid, they ran afoul of the paragraph above.

I’d go back to them and say, “Federal labor law requires that short bathroom breaks be paid. I know we want to be careful to follow the law so I want to make sure we’re handling this correctly on our paychecks.” Do this by email so you have a record of it in case you’re later retaliated against, and include a link to the government factsheet on this. But yeah, your management sucks.

4. Is my boss taking credit for my work?

I have been on this job for many years, but there has been a re-org and now I report to a new person. My new manager has not been in this unit long, so there are times when she refers to me regarding questions on unit procedures and policies to respond to others in the company. She will then send out emails with the information I gave her, with some edits. I am always cc’d on the emails, but is that taking the credit for my work if I put together the initial document?

No, that’s pretty normal. It would be nice for her to acknowledge you and say something like, “Here’s some information that Jane put together on this,” but there are times when the work involved in pulling the info together wasn’t significant enough to make it a huge oversight that she isn’t doing it. And either way, it’s not really “taking credit for your work” if she’s just sending out info on policies and procedures — that’s more about passing along information than doing work that could be taken credit for, in the sense that people normally think about credit.

5. Asking for a job description before applying for a job

Is it appropriate before applying for a position in the nonprofit sector to request a job description? I have a disability and it is important to know that I am able to carry out the duties of the position before applying. In addition, I find it helpful to gear my cover letter to the skills and duties I have performed, which are often not stated in the job posting.

The job I am currently serious about applying for does not offer a job description to candidates applying for the position. Is it frowned upon to ask for one? If not, what is the best way to ask?

I wouldn’t. The info in the job posting is the info they’re comfortable giving candidates at this stage, and most employers don’t want to take the time to supply additional information until they’ve determined that you’re a candidate who they’re interested in talking further with. (Plus, the job posting may be identical to the formal job description; many are. And if that’s the case, your question will just cause confusion.) That doesn’t mean that you can never ask for more information — but you should wait until they’ve reached out to you after an initial screening to do that.

(And regarding wanting to be able to better tailor your cover letter, you definitely don’t want to ask them to give you special treatment just so you can write a better cover letter. Write the cover letter based on the info they have provided.)

6. Using a nickname when applying for jobs

Though my given name is Margaret, I have always gone by Maggie. So, everyone calls me Maggie but it says Margaret on all my official documentation and my email address. I am graduating from library school in May and I am in the process of building myself a personal website and getting ready to apply for jobs. Do you think I should “brand” myself as either one or the other to save on confusion? What is the simplest way to do that? I’m worried that future employers will call past employers and they won’t recognize my name, or my resume/website/etc. will look messy if I have tons of different names all over everything.

You should use the name that you go by and that you plan to go by at work — so it sounds like that would mean using Maggie on your website, cover letters, resume, etc.

Sometimes new grads think it’s unprofessional to use anything but their full first name, even if they go by a shortened version. But it’s disconcerting to go through a whole interview process with James, get to know him as James, and then discover on his second day of work that he’s really Jim (or even more disconcerting, that he uses his middle name, Paul). There’s nothing unprofessional about shortened names. Just tell people what you go by, and don’t worry about it at all.

7. Including a book club I run on my resume

For the past year, I have run a professional book club at my job via our women’s affinity group. We meet approximately once every two months over lunch to read and discuss a book related to our professional development — i.e books on leadership, business, creativity, productivity, etc. I select the books, promote the meetings, and facilitate the discussions. I’d like to include this experience on my resume and/or LinkedIn profile for two reasons: (1) My regular role at work offers few leadership opportunities, so founding and leading the professional book club is an opportunity to highlight a leadership role, and (2) I plan to use the knowledge I’ve gained to launch a professional book club website on the side as a personal project, and listing my leadership of the book club at work will help me establish a history in that field.

Would it be appropriate to include this experience on my resume and/or LinkedIn profile? If so, how would you list it?

Sure, either or both. You could include it as a bullet point under your current job, but it might make more sense to include it in a more miscellaneous section at the end.

{ 147 comments… read them below }

  1. Seal*

    #6 – Maggie is a common derivative of Margaret; no one’s going to question it on your resume. Depending on what part of the country you live in, going by your middle name or a nickname like “Skip” or “Chip” is not at all uncommon, either. I have the same name as my mother and grandmother, and have always gone by a nickname that is not a derivative of my given name (i.e. I’m not a Jennifer who goes by Jenny). My nickname what I put on my resume and is how most people, including those I work with, know me; in fact, many people are surprised to hear that it’s not my given name.

    If you’re still concerned, you could always list yourself as Margaret “Maggie” Lastname.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Yes, I always used to get confused with somebody called Katherine who was Katie in everyday life (a variation on the Wakeen issue).

      And there was something on here a while back (possibly an open thread?). Somebody had interviewed somebody, used the name on her CV, went to escort them from the building at the end of the interview, and at this point, the candidate said “Oh actually, I use “Another Name” instead”.

    2. Lanya*

      If you go by a name that is not a “normal” nickname or derivative of your formal first name, I think it is important to brand yourself with that name to avoid confusion.

      Otherwise, most people will not be confused if you want to be called “Kim” even if it reads “Kimberly” on your resume. (In my experience, most people have simply asked what my preference is, or they know that they can use my nickname when I introduce myself that way when shaking their hand.)

      1. Abby*

        I use Abigail on all my official work-bank account, business cards, signature on checks at work-but most people call me Abby. I don’t find it a conflict or a problem. But, I would agree that if your name is really different such as I went by my middle name or Sweet Pea or something, I would definitely use it. I think most companies are used to someone going by a middle name or something but the paycheck using the official name.

        But, I also agree if you are really adamant about using a different name or you DON”T WANT a nickname such as Mike for Michael than you need to speak up early.

        1. Anonymous*

          People get so offended if you don’t want them to nickname you. Don’t call me Jenny, we’re not friends!

        2. Lanya*

          I totally agree – if you don’t want to be called “Kimmie” you have to be up-front about it the very first time it happens, or it will stick. It’s very easy to say with a smile and a sympathetic look, “Oh! I’m sorry, I really don’t like being called Kimmie.” It might feel awkward for two seconds, but it’s over quickly and it puts a stop to unwanted nicknames.

    3. Liz*

      I wondered this myself when I entered the work force and I decided that I would use my legal name in the heading of my documents, but I sign my cover letters with my nickname. I recently got married, so now my heading reads
      “Elizabeth (Maidenname) Marriedname”
      and I sign it “Liz Marriedname”.
      My email address has my nickname as well. So far no one has had problems or called me Elizabeth. As for the rest of your branding stuff, nickname seems fine to me.

      1. Jamie*

        I can never hear of an Elizabeth going by Liz without recalling those hilarious letters from that political aid.

        Does anyone know what I’m talking about? The woman who was inadvertently called Liz by someone and took such offense she created an outrageously indignant email war over it? I don’t remember the last name so I can’t google it – but those were hysterical.

        1. Andrea*

          Oh my god yes, that was hilarious. She was sooooo over the top.

          …and I found it:

          I happen to agree with her that it is rude to automatically shorten someone’s name. I’ve run into that but it is always from people who are trying to be friendly, and I just nicely correct them, so it never happens twice. But this was obviously a different situation, and this person was … in need of help, let’s say.

          1. Jamie*

            I should have tried that – I thought it would be too generic so I gave up in defeat before the attempt. Thanks!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        That’s what I do…my first name begins with A, so I usually just go “A. Elizabeth” and then introduce myself / sign informal stuff as “Liz.”

        I keep hoping I’ll get married soon so I can change the whole damn thing and drop the first name altogether. I never use it, but at school and at the doctor’s office, etc., everyone reads it off the form and sometimes I don’t even hear them because I’m not listening for “A.”

    4. Sara*

      I agree with you. Recently we hired a David, and during the interview we asked if he had a preferred name (someone wanted to know if they should address him as a Dave or David) and he said David. So we referred to him as David. We hired him, and when we submitted all his paperwork including email address, we put it down as David. When he started he told us all he preferred Dave even though his name was David. So we, in his team called him Dave. But externally and to others they knew him as David, and he would get worked up that people were calling him David when really he preferred Dave, and he wished his email was Dave not David blah blah blah. I know these things can be fixed but it’s so much easier from the get go if you just tell us your name, as in the name you prefer to answer to, because you’re going to hear it a lot at work. So my point is when you are asked for your preferred name, even at an interview when you are trying to impress, just tell us your preferred name!!

  2. Amber*

    #4 Often times managers are supposed to be the ones distributing information, its part of their job. They know who the information should go to and who it shouldn’t. As a non-manager, you probably aren’t in the loop to know what information should or shouldn’t be widely distributed. Most companies would frown upon non-managers sending out mass emails since that’s not their job.

  3. EngineerGirl*

    #1 – Ick. The worst part about “on loan” to anther department is that they rarely honor the number of hours. So “part time” in both departments is 35 each! Definitely push back, especially if it is affecting your ability to perform with your normal manager. Its really important to go to the new person and say “You’ve given me 30 hours of work but I’m only scheduled to give you 10 hours of my time. I’m thinking we should work on A & C – what do you think?”

    I’m not sure why you are pushing back against doing work outside your skill set. This is a great opportunity for extra training, and you don’t have to pay for it. Having two departments vouch for you at performance review time strengthens your position. It also demonstrates your technical breadth, which is important in our new “do more with less” business models. That said, if the data entry is keeping you from design work then it becomes an issue. Design is a higher skill set and you don’t want to do work that a lower paid worker can perform. It’s bad use of company assets.

    1. Sunshine DC*

      Re: #1 – OP says that they are doing DESIGN work. Therefore, being asked to do data entry can in no way be interpreted as a “great opportunity.” The former can pay 5 to 7 times more than the latter and is a highly specialized creative and/or technical set of skills.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        It depends. Learning the data entry system can be a good thing – especially if it gains understanding about other parts of the business. We all have to chip in on occasions and do drudge work. That’s part of being a team player. Just as long as it doesn’t interfere too much with regular job.

        1. Chinook*

          I have to agree that balking at doing data entry because is is outside your skillset sounds a lot like you just don’t want to pitch in with the drudgery. Is it the best use of your time? That depends on whether or not you can do the other work without that data being entered. As well, if you don’t do it, who will? That type of position is often the first cut as low hanging fruit without consideration to the fact that someone has to do it.

        2. Mike C.*

          And sometimes it’s a giant waste of resources and a sign of another department being completely unwilling to properly staff their own ranks.

          I mean heck, should we have the designer cleaning toilets or taking the temporary boss’s dry cleaning out? Maybe a little babysitting on the side?

          1. Colette*

            It depends on the circumstances.

            If the OP’s department is reluctantly letting her go because the other department desperately needs design help, then she should talk with her manager if they ask her to do data entry.

            If, on the other hand, her regular department has no work for her to do until a big contract comes through, she should do whatever the other department needs.

    2. Jessa*

      Probably also because if you’re sent over to another department to do X, which the company has decided is valuable enough to send you over, doing Y, unless your boss says Y is also just as important, is a serious waste of company resources.

      1. Jessa*

        Sorry, it decided to enter before I was done.

        It also may come out that if they want you to do Y, they don’t really NEED you there. That they’ve asked for resources under false pretenses and it’s not a use of personnel the company would have approved in the first place.

    3. OP*

      The loan has been going for a couple of weeks now and is going better than expected in some ways and worse in others. I’ve offered to train others in his department on how to do more of the cut and paste type work, and he seems OK with it, though we have not actually gotten to that point yet. The design process has been frustrating, partly because the it has been completely different from what we usually use, which has thrown the timing off, and he prefers a design aesthetic from 2003 while my charge is to make the site more modern. So that’s something I am still battling out, but I don’t have a problem with this part as it is something most designers have to deal with all the time and I rarely do. :) I’ve also been struggling with the back end (I’m also a developer), as this project is in a language/framework I never use. At this point I feel like the project will never end.

      In another note, I’ve now had 3 people come up to me and advise me not to let this guy walk all over me, so he is apparently developing quite the reputation around the organization.

      1. LisaLyn*

        OP, thanks for the update/additional information. It could be that this guy doesn’t see the difference between design and development work and data entry — hey, it’s all done on the computer, right? I’ve run into those types many times over the years.

        OTOH, since three people have offered unsolicited advice about this guy, this sounds like his MO to push until he gets pushed back. Sad way to go through life, but that’s on him.

        Good luck!

  4. VintageLydia*

    Every time I think back to how horrible retail was, I just remind myself that at least it wasn’t a sketchy call center. OP3, I hope TPTB come up with a more empathetic (and legal!) solution.

      1. Chinook*

        It could be worsee – atleast they have scheduled bathroom breaks and it is only the unscheduled ones they are having issues with. When I taught, I had no scheduled bathroom break during the day because the 5 minutes between classes were meant for me to help/supervise the kids and setup for the next class. Teachers are #1 when it comes to bladder infections for this reason. (Andn after dealing with parents, this is the other thing I don’t miss about teaching).

        1. A Teacher*

          I definitely use the passing period to use the restroom during the 5 minute passing period…its all about having stuff set up and if I start class a minute or two in, so be it.

      2. Anonymous*

        Supervisors in call centers pretty much never have to play by the rules the call center staff do.

        1. A Bug!*

          Your comment makes me feel as if you don’t think it’s fair that supervisors don’t have to follow precisely the same rules that phone staff does. If that’s correct interpretation, I disagree.

          It’s necessary to schedule phone breaks for staff in inbound call centers, because the business needs to know that when they’ve scheduled 75 people on the phones, they have 75 people on the phones, for the entire quarter. It hurts the business when people go off the phones unscheduled.

          There’s no business need that’s met by restricting supervisors to scheduled bathroom breaks; it would simply be an arbitrary restriction put into place to placate petty phone staff.

          (assuming here we’re not talking about the type of supervisor who’s on and taking calls and just receives escalated calls interspersed between the regular ones)

          1. Jamie*

            I understand the need to keep people at their stations, as it were. As a manager I totally get that and would have no trouble applying this kind of policy to phone, smoke, food… your break.

            Except bathroom.

            I know, it can be abused. I know, it can totally be a productivity issue.

            But I can’t escape the fact that the part of me that just would never want to work a job where they monitored/limited my access to the restroom and where it would be equally horrible to have to monitor/limit other people’s access to same would totally win over the manager part of me that understands how it might be necessary to track it.

            The right to use the bathroom as needed just seems like it should be inalienable…right up there with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But even more because your job doesn’t have to allow you to pursue happiness on the clock, but sometimes you just gotta go!

            And is it me, but if on an 8 hour shift you get 2 breaks and a lunch that’s 3 opportunities to use the bathroom. 5 if you count right before and immediately after clocking in/out. There are times where through no fault of one’s own that wouldn’t be nearly enough – so you have to explain that to your manager?

            1. the gold digger*

              I would have to stop drinking any fluids – I suffer from TWB – and when I get dehydrated, I get a migraine, so then I have to pop a painkiller, which makes me feel like crap plus makes me bitter and resentful that I am having to use the Good Drugs when the headache could have been prevented. Bitter and resentful are not good attitudes for customer service.

              I would not be a good call center employee.

              1. Kelly L.*

                And you can’t talk all day on the phone without drinking fluids. I did a few months’ worth of call center work, and the first day I did it, I had multiple coughing fits and then lost my voice completely. The only thing that helped was making sure I drank a lot of fluids during a shift. Which in turn made me need to pee. And yes, our call center also tried to restrict bathroom breaks (they briefly tried to prohibit them altogether, but quickly rethought it).

                1. Anonymous*

                  I drank water and peed constantly when I worked in a call centre. My coworkers drank vodka and peed constantly.

          2. Mike C.*

            I’m sorry, but the immediate medical needs of employees are much more important than having the ability to have exactly 75 people on the phones at all times.

            1. Mike C.*

              Also, with that many people it’s trivial to have enough people on hand to cover normal bathroom breaks. Just as it’s trivial to plan around vacations and sick time and so on. Monitoring down to the minute the amount of time spent in the bathroom is disgusting, arbitrary and demeaning.

              1. Jamie*

                It’s all of those things. It also violates privacy standards (not legally – but ethically, imo).

                Maybe I have to go a lot more often because I’m pregnant, or it’s that time of the month, or I have medical issues affecting my bowels, or am on a diuretic….or any number of things one might not wish to discuss with one’s manager.

                I’m with Mike – if you can’t afford enough people so that your employees can attend to basic bodily functions you shouldn’t be in business.

              2. Kelly L.*

                This. It’s treating employees like kindergartners. Or worse than kindergartners, because at least kindergarten teachers generally say yes when the kids ask to go, if for no other reason than to prevent any unfortunate puddles.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  From my call center experience, I would guess the employee would be made to clean it up herself, then docked for the time it took to clean it, and then charged for any additional cleaning costs, but I’m a cynic about call centers.

            2. A Bug!*

              Sorry, I should have included a disclaimer. I wasn’t trying to comment specifically on the restroom thing, but rather the tone of the specific comment above mine that suggested to me that it was wrong or unfair that supervisors would be held to a different standard than phone staff.

              I do think it’s important to accommodate people’s needs to use the restroom (and other medical needs, naturally). But I do think it needs to be done with consideration to the needs of the business, and I don’t think it’s necessary to saddle supervisors with restrictions that have no practical purpose.

            3. A Dispatcher*

              I work at 911 – so we’re answering actual emergency calls – and if you need to leave the floor because you absolutely have to use the restroom – you unplug and go*. The fact that you are trying to argue that a regular call center’s numbers have to be perfect all the time at the risk of employee health is baffling and infuriating to me.

              *Of course if an individual employee is abusing this, it’s dealt with, but not by a ridiculous blanket policy that punishes all employees.

              1. A Dispatcher*

                A bug! – Oops, I missed your disclaimer when I replied. I am much more in agreement with you now – sorry about that!

              2. Eva R*

                *Of course if an individual employee is abusing this, it’s dealt with, but not by a ridiculous blanket policy that punishes all employees.

                I work in a much better call center than some of the nightmare ones listed here, but I’ve worked in others and extensively in entry level jobs. In my experience, this is the main problem with entry level job management in a nutshell- One or two people abuse the policies as they are laid out, so then instead of addressing those people’s behavior, newer, stricter rules are continually made.

                For some reason many entry level employers in my town don’t get that the unemployment rate in my county is crazy high, and that if there are two really nice people who just WILL NOT STOP slacking off and will find a way around any rule are sent in search of a job they might be better suited to, it won’t be difficult to find a replacement who has the potential to work out better. I’ve worked places where no bathroom breaks were allowed, places where we punched out for all breaks, places where we had our purses searched every day at the end of the shift, etc.

          3. KellyK*

            It’s not so much that the supervisors should have their bathroom breaks monitored. It’s that because they don’t have to live under those rules, they don’t really see their effect.

            Going to the bathroom is a basic physical need. Employers should realize that they’re not hiring robots, and account for it in planning and scheduling.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Oh man, I tried like hell to avoid not applying at any call center. I was afraid that since I had receptionist experience, they would hire me and I would have to take the job because of unemployment. The excuse I had ready in case someone asked (no one did) was that a lot of it was shift work, and I couldn’t work second shift or overnight because I was going back to school.

    2. HR Anon*

      Actually, OSHA regulations require bathroom breaks that are reasonable and your pay cannot be docked for breaks less than 20 minutes under FLSA, so unless a bathroom break is more than 20 minutes, you have to be paid for it. Bathroom break means only using the toilet and washing up; if people are using their phones, chitchatting, or smoking, that can be prohibited. I think Allison is wrong saying they can restrict your break to 4 minutes, or require you to use scheduled breaks for the bathroom. All they could really do is follow up with individual employees who are using the bathroom unreasonably often – including following them into the bathroom (but not the stall) to make sure they aren’t using their phone or something else.
      If you want to, if they dock your pay for this you can file a complaint with OSHA and your labor board. But look for a new job, someplace that doesn’t trust their employees to use the toilet isn’t a good place to work.

    3. LW #3*

      UPDATE! Another site-wide email went out today advising us that the previous memo contained “inaccuracies.” It set out the “real” new policy in convenient bullet-list form and said to disregard the previous memo.

      The new policy is that we do need to clock out for absolutely everything, including bathroom breaks (referred to as “personal emergencies” in the updated memo) but it says nothing about not paying us for the time. I’m not sure whether they’ve actually rethought that part or if they’re just trying to be more sneaky about it.

      Meanwhile, some people are claiming to keep pee-bottles at their desks as a way of avoiding the policy altogether and they suggest this method to anyone who doesn’t recoil in disgust (it’s probably Snapple in the bottles but I have no interest in investigating further).

  5. al fair*

    I’ve been wondering how to handle the nickname thing though my issue is a little different. I go by Al and my full name is Alison. but people think Al is a ‘man’s name’ and tend to assume I’m a man if I don’t point out that I’m not. I try to get around this by having my email address have Alison in it but I sign letters and such Al.

    is this weird? should I not think it matters if a potential employer knows I’m not a man? does it matter?

    a separate issue I have, for a job I do once in a while, is that when my boss emails the contacts (I sell things at events), she writes that I am “Al (short for Alison)”. even though she uses semi one pronouns for me. I’m not sure how or if I should address this, but I don’t really want strangers to know my full name if I don’t give it to them. the other problem is that these folks will sometimes call me Ali, which I hate, and while I can correct them, I always feel really awkward about it (I have an anxiety disorder) and I feel like maybe that wouldn’t happen if they had only been told my name is Al.

    1. en pointe*

      I can understand how that might be frustrating.

      I don’t think in most cases it will matter if an employer initially assumes you are a man. However, if it’s making you uncomfortable having to correct people, or otherwise causing you grief, you can always just sign emails as “Ms. Al Fair”.

      If that option is too formal for you, you could also just sign off as Al, followed by your full name and title expressed more formally. Something like;


      Ms. Al Fair

      Although that option only really works if the email is pertaining to a current position, rather than job searching.

      Re your boss for the events job, why not just tell her that the inclusion of “Alison” in her emails is resulting in some people becoming confused about your name (by calling you Ali) and politely ask if she will emit it in future?

      1. A Bug!*

        Can I just say I am super grateful when people with a unisex or traditionally-opposite-gendered name make it easy to identify the correct pronoun and title by doing things like this above?

        1. Jamie*

          I should be more of aware of that myself.

          Jamie tends to be used for females more often (IME) but as I’m in IT the presumption that I’m male overrides that.

          If it’s junk male they can Mr. Jamie me all they like – it doesn’t offend me because I get playing the odds. If it’s someone with whom I’m going to do business I tend to go against my own desire to do everything via email and I’ll pick up the phone once, just so they hear my voice.

          Once we speak it’s never an issue. Now if I had one of those voices that could be male or female I’d need a different plan.

    2. carlotta*

      Ah. I have this exact same issue. People assume all the time I’m a man until they speak to me on the phone or meet me. Fortunately at my new work HR were able to make me have the correct name for bank and payroll and the name I use for email etc with no trouble. If it doesn’t trigger your anxiety I’d do what I do, and never use your full name, and just be ‘surprised’ when they exclaim ‘you’re not a man’.
      I do admit I find it annoying and I used to use my very feminine middle name attached to it but it didn’t make any difference. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes like with Alex, or Chris or whatever… I guess I just roll with it because it’s better than being called my full name!

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think this one is kind of an either/or. If the name you go by doesn’t identify your gender, you either use the longer one that does identify your gender or you accept the occasional gender misidentification.

    3. Frances*

      When my now boss called me about an interview for my current job, it turned out she was expecting I was a man. (My real name, like Frances, is technically gender neutral but far more common for women these days.) It really didn’t affect anything other than her moment of surprise when I first answered the phone.

      1. TK*

        Frances isn’t technically gender-neutral; Frances is a woman’s name and Francis a man’s. But there are lots of names like yours that fall in the category you described.

        1. Katieinthemountains*

          Yes, but every last person to whom my poor mother has explained that it’s just like “hIs” and “hErs” has professed surprise at this handy rule, so I don’t think many people realize this.

          1. HR lady*

            OMG thank you Katieinthemountains for this handy rule! I don’t know a lot of people named Francis or Frances so I’ve never been able to keep them straight. Now I will!

    4. Jen in RO*

      I think your solution is the best. It would be obvious to me that your full name is Alison, but since you sign as Al I would address you as such. (Then again, my real name has 5 letters and so many people can’t bother to spell it right…)

      As an aside, I used to work with a woman whose full name was Cristina Gabriela Lastname. She went by Gabi, but since Cristina was listed first on all her paperwork, her e-mail address was Cristina Lastname… cue lots of confusion from people who didn’t understand if Cristina and Gabriela were two different people. My boyfriend also goes by his second first name (two first names are the norm here), but he never lists his full name on resumes.

      1. Ellie H.*

        Yeah, I think this is more common in Romance language countries where it may be customary to have two full names (like Maria X or Cristina X or Ana X) and go by the second name. A lot of people in America aren’t so used to that.

        And, my six-letter name is misspelled approximately 50% of the time, so I definitely can relate!

        1. Jamie*

          This. If you’re unfamiliar with it it might be weird, but so many people in my family go by their middle names it doesn’t phase me at all.

          I do recommend that if you go by your middle name just use that on all your stuff until you get to the new hire paperwork and explain it then – just makes it simpler.

        2. fposte*

          I think that might also be a Catholic tendency–get the nice saintly Mary/Maria up front and then get called something else to avoid everybody in class being Maria.

  6. en pointe*

    #3 – My guess is that they did actually check with a lawyer about the four minute policy but didn’t consider the differing ramifications when they scrapped the forms and changed it. So in their minds they might be pretty well convinced they’re still acting in accordance with the law.

    I would definitely heed Alison’s advice of providing a link to the government fact sheet in addition to just saying the policy is illegal.

  7. Lindrine*

    As a designer who also has many projects, I would think it odd if my department loaned me to a different group and it turned out they wanted standard office work done. If they originally said they needed something design related done, why were you loaned? Usually at most in house places I have worked at it is considered another project on my list. I don’t move to another part of the company for one day a week. It sounds like it could be a miscommunication between the department boss and the person you are working with.

    1. OP*

      What they needed was a complete design overhaul – which involves taking all the information from the other site, reformatting it, and getting it to the new site, as well as a redesign. I’m trying to work toward a situation where I can finish the design and hand it off.

      1. Lindrine*

        Ah yes, been there, done that. I’m guessing it wasn’t possible to port the database from one to the other. At first I thought they had just said “Hey you know how to fill things out in a spreadsheet, right?” At least it is somewhat related. But I think it is fair to evaluate what % of this project is actual design work they need you for, and what % is something you can train someone else to do. I find training often works, since they aren’t expecting you to maintain it as well, right? Hopefully not.

        1. OP*

          Luckily I’ll be passing on the maintenance, which I am really happy about, since the “compromises” I am making to this design to please this guy are leading to something I don’t really want to put my name on. And it’s in a CMS, so there’s a really easy separation – I just do the theme. In order to get to that point I had to move enough over to have something to design, though.

  8. Short Geologist*

    #6 – I don’t think it’s at all confusing to switch to your nickname later in the interview process. For me, I always start out with my long, easily shortened given name in written correspondence, and introduce the nickname at the initial handshake.

    If you have an online presence, you can do the same thing by having a formal (full name) intro/about me section and sign off with the nickname. In my e-mails, my full name is on the signature and I end the text with “regards, nickname” so there’s no confusion.

    I was very concerned with establishing myself as a professional when I was younger, so I never wanted to initiate contact with a diminutive name.

  9. FiveNine*

    I spent 18 long months at a call center, and I empathize. I’d point out that where I was, they did indeed already have scheduled breaks, as the OP writes — I forget exactly how long now, but there was the scheduled lunch break, which was to include restroom and whatever else, and at least one more break of 15-20 minutes. When I worked a 10-hour shift for about half a year, I think I actually had two scheduled breaks in addition to the scheduled lunch break.

    I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t advise one way or another — but I do think the call center management almost certainly is treating the OP’s scheduled breaks as being the breaks legally required, with notification that anything outside of those will be counted basically as time not worked.

    1. FiveNine*

      Wait, I just tried to not use legalese and then did, and probably wrongly when I said I think the call center management almost certainly is treating the OP’s scheduled breaks “as being the breaks legally required” —

      What I mean is the call center OP describes sounds typical, and that the scheduled breaks — including but also in addition to the lunch break — already are explicitly inclusive of bathroom breaks or smoking or whatever you want to do. So I don’t know how the law would look at that now that management is clearly alerting employees time off the clock outside of those scheduled breaks won’t be compensated.

      Call centers are not the only service jobs where literally every second of your time can be and is tracked in real time (this is because you’re logged into a call system) — it’s also true for people who work in, for example, the warehouses of online retail giants. It’s truly an awful, oppressive way to work (I once had someone insist it’s not possible for an employer to track every second of your work day, that that’s just Orwellian, but I assure it is reality). And already as it was, even if you did take an unscheduled bathroom break outside of your regular breaks, you still risked being reprimanded or worse. The system in real time records that you’re not on the phone.

      1. Daisy*

        When I worked in a call centre, toilet breaks was one of the automatic codes for going off the phone- i.e. ‘1- writing up previous call, 2- meeting with manager, 3- toilet, 4- emergency’. That way, when the supervisors looked at the numbers they could see if it looked like someone was taking the mick and talk to them individually. It doesn’t really make sense to assume low on-phone figures are because of people going to the bathroom all the time, or to make a blanket policy if it’s just a couple of people.
        (That said, my call centre job was a pretty nice, decent paying one for a big company, I don’t know whether a code system like that is common- I presume most places just record on/off the phone.)

        1. Chinook*

          I also think that, I you were someone who had to go to the bathroom a lot or on an unscheduled basis, a doctor’s note would be easy to get to show it is a medical necessity (unless they want to provide you with Depends).

          On the plus side, you don’t have to ask permission or call around for someon o cover your phone for your bathroom break like a receptioinst sometimes does.

        2. FiveNine*

          Oh, the call center I worked at had specific codes for almost every conceivable reason you might be off the phone — there was a code specifically for talking to a manager, for attending a required meeting, for going on a scheduled break, etc. (They also knew exactly how many minutes you spent on the phone with every single customer, and whether you made a sale or not on every one of those calls, and whether that person called back with the same issue within a one-month period, etc. — all numbers that went toward measuring your “productivity.”)

          You know, the thing is, it’s not that you didn’t have 20 minutes or more a day in which you’d be compensated if you went to the restroom. It’s that *they* pre-scheduled all of your breaks, and that’s when you had to take them, not before, not after. Sometimes I was scheduled to take my lunch at 9 a.m., etc.

      2. nyxalinth*

        I’ve been in call center Hell since 1998, and have been desperately trying to break out of it since 2009. I’ve been in them so long that I’m very typecast, despite a stint as an office assistant.

        I think that unless I pay someone to rework (honestly of course) my resume, which I cannot afford, I’ll be there until doomsday. I’ve been out of work now for over a year trying to get out of them. I’m about to go back out of desperation.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Have you tried looking for reception/front desk work? It’s phone-oriented, but not as hellish or regimented. Yes, you do need to be in your seat most of the day, but it’s typically less restrictive and if you have backup, they’ll usually cover for you while you go pee! There are tons of transferable skills there. Plus you’ll have other duties besides phone so you can build experience, and depending on how busy the office is, the phone will shut up once in a while.

          1. nyxalinth*

            Actually, yes. The lack of response is why I mentioned hiring some help, because I’m obviously still doing something wrong, even with all the good advice. I’ll figure it out eventually!

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          A resume writer isn’t really going to do anything that you can’t do yourself though … so if you think there’s room there for your resume to represent you differently, don’t not do it just because you can’t afford a professional!

          1. nyxalinth*

            I’ve actually tried doing it myself, even with advice from here, so I keep thinking “Maybe I’m still not doing it quite right somehow…” which is why I said what I did. I won’t give up of course!

  10. ReeseS*

    With either policy, the company in #3 might be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some people have physical disabilities requiring consistent access to a rest room (or requiring longer than 4 minutes), and people with these disabilities can perform a call center job with that accommodation. If employees have their pay docked for taking restroom breaks outside scheduled breaks, your workplace might potentially be discriminating against people with disabilities that don’t allow them to confine restroom breaks to pre-scheduled times.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think it’s that black and white, though–usually an ADA violation is about the experience of an actual employee rather than a policy as a theoretical barrier. And all kinds of jobs have conditions that might not work for disabled employees, which is why there’s a process to explore reasonable accommodation. It could even be considered that extra time away from the phones exceeds reasonable accommodation, too, given that it’s manifestly lessening the time the employee is performing the actual job.

  11. Employment lawyer*

    Re #3:
    AAM said

    I’d go back to them and say, “Federal labor law requires that short bathroom breaks be paid. I know we want to be careful to follow the law so I want to make sure we’re handling this correctly on our paychecks.” Do this by email so you have a record of it in case you’re later retaliated against, and include a link to the government factsheet on this. But yeah, your management sucks.

    I wouldn’t do this unless you have already established a relationship with a local employment attorney who is willing to take your case if you’re fired. It’s illegal… but the damages may not be huge and it is pretty difficult to be out of work looking for help on a retaliation case.

    1. LW #3*

      I’m not about to tempt a retaliation case.

      Note that telling them by email doesn’t give me a record of anything. The email we use at work is behind 2 firewalls (the call center’s and the client’s), it’s not accessible from anywhere other than at the computers at our desks and we’re not allowed to print out copies of any emails (it’s a security issue: they might contain proprietary and/or client information).

      The only leverage I have is at this place is 1) I’m very good at my job and 2) I’m willing to burn every bridge in existence out of sheer spite.

  12. Anonymous*

    I’m surprised call centres don’t just give everybody a cup to pee in at their desk, or better yet, a catheter.

    Being yelled at for half an hour about “work avoidance and wasting time” for a two minute pee break was my favourite part of my call centre job. :(

    1. B5SnowDog*

      Did your pregnant co-workers bring buckets to their desks so they wouldn’t have to step away from the phones if they got sick? They did at my call center. I do not miss that job one bit.

  13. anon*

    To me, it sounds like #1 is just being a snob. I didn’t know that data entry required any level of expertise.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not snobby to decline to do data entry work if you’re a designer or other professional who does work far afield from data entry. Particularly if you’re being loaned to a department to help them with a design project.

    2. OP*

      My main worry is not actually doing the data entry/copy pasting- it would actually be a nice break from what I normally do. But it is time consuming work, and is something others can do – while I have a list of 6 projects up next that require expertise no one else in my department has.

      Coming off as a snob is exactly my worry though, and why I care so much about the phrasing when I shut this kind of thing down. I am sometimes not the most tactful person, but am working on it.

    3. the gold digger*

      Why would you waste a designer on data entry? It would be like asking the chef to wash dishes or the marketing director to put stamps on the mail. Data entry does require great attention to detail, but it does not require the same level of skill as design work does.

      1. HR lady*

        I agree with AAM, OP, and the gold digger, but I also think OP should pay particular attention to the company culture around this. In some companies, people are expected to pitch in “whatever it takes to get the job done,” and so if that’s the case, OP needs to be very careful about how she pushes back on the data entry work. (And OP it does sound like you’re already thinking about the culture and personality issues here, so I don’t mean to imply that you’re not.)

        I’d be sure to be tactful and watch the nonverbal reactions of people around you. Also, it can be helpful to propose other solutions, rather than just “I shouldn’t be the one to do it.”

        While it’s not a great use of money to pay a skilled person to do something others could do, not all companies (and not all managers) are that logical in their thinking. (And sometimes there are other issues at play – such as urgent deadlines where OP is the only one free to do something, or the manager’s desire for OP to learn the big picture of the project.)

  14. Brett*

    Random call center story, but gives some idea of how much call centers can care about legality and ethics….
    I dropped out of college for a while, and worked at a call center for a financial services telemarketing company for about a year during that time. My apartment at the time was above a “massage parlor”. It was cheap and in good shape, but sometimes patrons mistook the backstairs to the apartments as part of the business after hours.

    So, one night I hear people coming up the backstairs and I go out to cut them off. Open the door to see… my supervisor from the call center! His buddy had just gotten out of prison. Both of them were very high on some hard drugs. I found out that nearly all the supervisors at work lived together at a half-way house. Most of them were on probation for identity theft or financial fraud!

    The following week, supervisor’s buddy showed up as a newly hired supervisor. I quit soon after that.

      1. nyxalinth*

        Depends which ones. One in particular–Convergys–has a very, VERY bad reputation. Also, I had just been hired by them back in 2003 when I lived in Florida (before I knew their bad reputation) and a hurricane hit the first day of training. Public transportation was shut down, and I was fired. for not being able to attend training during a hurricane. I called in properly, and yeah, they wouldn’t push back the training date because of a hurricane.

        I dodged a big bullet though, finding out later how awful they are to their employees and hiring very dodgy people (who would get in fistfights in the parking lot, etc.).

        Call centers run by the parent company, as opposed to a place companies outsource to, tend to be much better, and don’t hire sketchy people.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Ours were the oiliest used-car stereotypes you could imagine, spouting motivational jargon while tacitly rewarding some really underhanded tactics. And they all wore those bright cerulean dress shirts, so even now I have an knee-jerk negative reaction to those shirts despite it having been one of my favorite colors before.

  15. Sydney*

    This seems like the norm for call centers, and it makes sense, assuming the extra breaks they don’t want to pay you for are outside the normal lunch/15 minute breaks throughout a shift. If they’re not providing adequate breaks at all, that’s a different story.

    I’ve worked in two call centers, and everyone was given the normal set of paid breaks and unpaid lunch breaks, but any other time you weren’t on the phone was lumped together as “off-phone time”, whether it was to finish up call notes or go to the bathroom or smoke a cigarette or make a personal phone call. If your off-phone time was something like 4% of your shift or higher, you got in trouble. We worked on a points system, where you got points for clocking in late, leaving early, missing shifts, etc.

    When you can measure the productivity of your employees down to the second, it’s easy to get caught up in pushing efficiency for efficiency’s sake, even when it has other repercussions, such as demoralizing your staff. That said, call centers are in a bad predicament because a high level of your employees end up hating the work.

  16. EJ*

    #4 – yes, supporting your manager is part of your job. If she’s turning to you for support, that’s a good time to establish yourself with her by supporting her, as you’re doing, without worrying about what credit goes to you.

  17. Anonymous*

    #6. As a librarian, you might want to go with the name that sounds more youthful and vivacious and not shopworn and grave. I vote for Maggie; Margaret sounds more earnest than you may or may not wish convey/embrace, and this all stems from a visceral reaction, bias even, to your being a librarian.

    1. fposte*

      As somebody in the library field I don’t think we’d care about Margaret vs. Maggie. We’re fine with a little earnestness and gravity in our young cohort.

    2. Jamie*

      It is funny how that name seems so grown up.

      My daughter is Margaret Mary and that’s only used when she’s being especially troublesome or especially pious. Her everyday moniker is Mollie and she’s absolutely a Mollie. Bouncy, sunny, uber-social, adorable…the ultimate people person.

      When people meet her for the first time knowing her full name only she is invariably told she doesn’t seem like a Margaret. But as the person who gave her that name, I think Margaret Mary is an excellent name. :)

      1. Ellie H.*

        I love Mollie (or Molly) as a nickname for Margaret/Mary – I’m a big fan of the less-common nicknames for standard names. I do like the name Margaret very much too; it was my grandmother’s name and I’m thinking about it as a middle name for future kids. There’s something so great about these classic names.

  18. Audiophile*

    #6: I usually go by a shortened version of my first name, though all my official paperwork and my work email is in my full name. My website URL and my professional email are also the shortened version of my name, because my full name wasn’t available. So Maggie may be available but Margaret may not be. Not a big deal. It easier since people seem to have a difficult time pronouncing my first name, it’s not unusual at all. It’s one of those K names that people insist on pronouncing with a C.

      1. Audiophile*

        Really it’s just people calling me every C name in the book from Christine to Christian and everything in between. I’ve even had people write Christine in emails, even though my name appears at the top.

        1. A Bug!*

          So they’re not mispronouncing it so much as they’re misspelling it in writing? Or am I still lost. I think I’m still lost.

          I just can’t think of any K names that have an alternate pronunciation (hard K to soft C) as opposed to an alternate spelling. And if it wouldn’t spoil your anonymity here I’m dying to know what it is.

          1. Audiophile*

            Ok so my name is actually Kristen. And yes there’s one person at work, who recently wrote Christine in an email reply to me. And he regularly calls me that as well. There’s also a coworker who regularly calls me Christian. But I’ve also been called Christina, Christy.
            I’ve unfortunately, now fallen into the habit of just answering to whatever I’m called, rather than correcting.
            And there was that one time, where I hilariously said yes when someone asked if my name was Christine.

            1. Annette in Milwaukee*

              My college roommate was Anita. We were the same height. Both blonde. Some significant shape differences in her favor. We look nothing alike.

              Yet I would get called “Anita” all the time. I still answer to it, years later, and also to any variation of “Ann.”

              I have gotten emails from international customers who call me “Mr Ann.” Oh well.

            2. HR Lady*

              Audiophile, for what it’s worth, I find that some people have a particularly hard time remembering the name Christine and its variations (like Kristen). In my mind, they are vastly different names, but I’ve known enough Christinas/Kristens/Christines/Cristys/etc. to know that people can’t keep them straight.

              My best friend is Christina; I can’t tell you how many people call her Christine. Totally different names in my book – if you refer to her as Christine, I have to do a double take before I even know who you’re talking about. But no one seems to blink an eye when I or Christina points out to them that they’ve said the wrong name.

              1. Cath@VWXYNot?*

                There’s a guy at work, Martin, who always used to call my other colleague Diane, Diana. She trained him out of it by calling him Martina every time he used the wrong name. Seemed to work, and I’ve since successfully used the same technique with a Simon (or should I say “Simone”) who insists on calling me Cathy

  19. Ellie H.*

    Question #4 sounds like the perfect example of a “that’s what the money’s for” situation. It’s extremely normal. That happens to me all the time, and I also will send emails out with information I learned from other people without mentioning that, unless – and this is often (but not always) the case! – I want them to know where to get the info from in the first place instead of going through me.

    If it were like a complicated spreadsheet or other detailed data, I would probably credit it if I were distributing it and someone else either laterally or above me made it, but I wouldn’t be perturbed if my boss emailed out a complicated spreadsheet or any other data I created without crediting me, because she’s my boss, and that’s why there are people in assisting positions, to put together that stuff.

  20. A.Y. Siu*

    For #4, I think that’s normal and not a problem at all. In fact, in various jobs I’ve had, I’ll even volunteer to draft up a rough version of an email for my boss to send out that she or he can then make final edits on and send out.

    Especially if it’s something that’s external-facing (like an official letter to clients or other constituents), it makes sense for the letter to be signed by the director or chair, and not have a little P.S. that says “first draft of letter written by so-and-so’s assistant.”

    That said—and luckily, I’ve never encountered this at any job I’ve been in—it would get under my skin if my boss stole my idea or hard work on a project and then suddenly got praised for all her hard work and great ideas without then acknowledging that I’d done the bulk of the work, especially if she then gets compensation, awards, or some new title because of that sort of initiative.

  21. Ellie H.*

    One more comment re. question #2 – the way I read this question was that the LW did explain the situation to his interviewers and apologize profusely etc. but that he is worried that HR did not let the interviewers know that he had called in advance, so that they would have had advance warning that he would be late for the interview. That, you can’t do that much about. You can of course say when you get there “I called HR at 12:00pm to let them know that due to the accident, I would be quite delayed” but that doesn’t carry the effect of HR letting them know at the time that you called. But I think that it should have been clear whether or not HR had passed on the message from whether or not they were surprised he was late. If they did seem surprised, I would agree the best you can do after the fact is to mention that you had called in the thank-you note when you apologize again for being late and thank them for accommodating you.

  22. Kerr*

    #3: This is why I try to be very nice when talking to customer service people on the phone. I’m seriously astounded by how awful call center management can be.

    1. Anonymous*

      And remember if the call centre worker is mean to you, its probably because they’ve been holding in their pee for hours and are ready to explode!

  23. Anonymous*

    I am a Maggie/Margaret too and no one calls me Margaret except my mom. When I was starting out in my career I put Margaret on all my search-related correspondence as I thought it sounded more official or “adult”. Once I came in on my first day of work to a “Margaret” business card and I was a little disappointed, and that’s when I decided I would start being a Professional Maggie and use my nickname on my resume. I don’t think it’s hurt me (being older and having 10+ years of experience helps too I suppose). I still put Margaret on all my benefit forms and whatnot though.

    1. Jamie*

      Yep – you don’t want to mess around with benefit forms. I don’t even tell my doctor’s office what I go by – I let them call me my full legal name which only they and our accountant use.

      It’s way more important to me that the paperwork go through correctly than to worry about much I enjoy the term of address.

  24. Anonymous*

    Re #6, I’m concerned about the wording. “Breaks from 5 to 20 minutes must be counted as hours worked. Even though they are not required by the FLSA, if you permit your employees to take breaks, they must be counted as hours worked.”

    Since almost no states have laws about providing breaks at all, wouldn’t the response of this call center probably just be to stop offering breaks and saying any time off the phones will be unpaid? If they’re this pedantic about the toilet I doubt they’re going to care if people go hungry. And it’s easy to say the OP wouldn’t want to work for a company like that, but it might be all she can do right now for various reasons.

    1. nyxalinth*

      I worked in a call center once where the manager decided that no one could have lunch break because of calls in queue. I almost fainted from a blood sugar crash that day, yet to this day, no doctor has ever found anything wrong with me to cause that.

  25. Anonymous*

    I have a question related to no. 3 if anyone on here can answer it?

    On our shifts (which are normally 8 or 9 hours) we normally get a 30min break (which we clock out for, it’s unpaid).

    If we’re doing a night shift, or work longer than 9 hours, we get a second break we we call “5 minute break” and (obviously) it’s 5 minutes. It’s so we can use the toilet / have a smoke break if needed and have a drink.

    We also clock out for that so that 5 minute break is also unpaid. Does that mean that’s illegal? I always assumed all breaks were meant to be unpaid..

    We’re generally discouraged from using the toilet when on shift but if we have to, we’re told to ‘run’ (though we don’t need to clock out). We can also drink a cup of water or coke if it’s not busy, and don’t need to clock out then.

    This England and it’s fast food. Do we just have different laws or am I interpreting it wrong?

    1. Kelly L.*

      I think laws on that vary. I know in my home state an 8 hour shift required an unpaid lunch plus two 15-minute paid breaks. The state I moved to after that required much, much less. And I know pretty much nothing about England. :/

    2. fposte*

      Unfortunately, England’s laws are completely different from the US in the employment area, so us USAn types aren’t going to be able to answer you. (It also means that you shouldn’t assume anything Alison says about law applies to you, since she’s talking about the US.)

  26. Callcenterssuck*

    I worked at a call centre where they posted a list of peoples “pee times” on the wall everyday and would follow you to the bathroom to see if you were really peeing. I got written up for peeing. I just stopped showing up (very common there, I wonder why…)

  27. curadebt*

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