company wants my past performance evaluations and tax forms, and 4 other “is it legal” questions

It’s five short answers to five short questions — and this the “is it legal?” edition. And you might be surprised by the mix of legal vs illegal. Here we go…

1. Company wants my past performance evaluations and tax forms

I am an HR professional currently interviewing with various companies. I am in the the interview process with a company, meaning I have had phone screens and this past week I went to the site for interviews with the team. My concern is this request they sent me: “In order for us to assess cultural fit and to achieve the best possible outcome, we evaluate numerous criteria that we believe are predictive of success at (company). One such criterion is the candidate’s history of career advancement and accomplishment over the course of their career as demonstrated by increasing responsibility and meaningful compensation rewards. To aid our hiring team in making this assessment, we ask candidates to provide the following information if they are selected as a finalist for the role: 1. Copies of past performance reviews which help us to see what kind and the level of performance feedback that the candidate is accustomed to. 2. Detailed compensation history including both base and variable/incentive compensation, which is to be disclosed in the employment application and should be supported by the most recent full year’s W-2 statement.”

Either they are brilliant and all recruiters should be asking for copies of performance reviews and W-2’s, or they are reckless , setting the tone of mistrust and legal risk. I don’t know an unemployment attorney so I am shopping around to find the answer. Before I work for a Company, I want to ensure they are being ethical in their HR practices.

No, they’re not brilliant; requiring salary history is actually the mark of a lazy company that doesn’t trust themselves to accurately understand what they should be paying people, and it’s also a huge, unjustifiable invasion of candidates’ privacy. And asking for performance evaluations isn’t outrageous, but it’s not practical to require it, since some companies consider them confidential documents and others don’t do them at all or don’t do them in writing.

And taken together, I’d say that this is a sign of a company that doesn’t know how to hire effectively — how to sufficiently evaluate past accomplishments, assess candidates’ skills and approach, probe beneath the surface in interviews, and get useful information out of references.

But legal risk? There’s no legal risk here. It’s perfectly legal to request or even require all of this. It’s stupid to, but it’s legal.

2. Employer is docking my wages by asking me to give them cash

My employer is attempting to dock my wages by asking for the money cash in hand at the end of the month. This means that my wage slip won’t be officially altered to show that I’ve been docked and I’m unsure as to whether this is legal or not. I would be grateful for any help that you could offer.

No, it’s not legal, because it means that you’ll be paying taxes on money that you weren’t actually paid, and the employer will be reporting payments to you that aren’t correct. Furthermore, if you’re exempt, docking your pay is illegal to begin with. Or, if you’re non-exempt, docking your pay could be legal, but not if it takes your wages below minimum wage for the pay period in question.

3. Not paying a new employee for days off

I work for a small company. The boss is giving us the Thursdays after the two holiday days off for both Christmas and New Year’s as a reward for this year. We are all exempt. However, there is a new employee who has just completed her 90 days, and she is not planning on paying her for those two extra days. Is this legal?

Nope. If she’s exempt and she does any work during that week, she must be paid for the full week. (If she were non-exempt, this wouldn’t be required.)

4. Am I entitled to be paid if I left a job after three days?

I accepted a position well below my pay in past jobs as I needed cash flow. The pressure, from the moment I stepped in during training, was unbearable. The position was in sales, but with no customers. My title was different than the one in the offer letter. This is a small company and my boss never even greeted me when I started. I spent two days doing nothing but clerical work, not selling, not calling customers (I had none assigned) and finally said enough was enough after three days. I quit on the third day after a long discussion with the “boss” when he showed me the “new” commission plan.

The question, finally, is am I entitled to salaried pay for the 2-1/2 days I worked? I’m in Illinois.

No matter what state you’re in, you’re required to be paid for work you do as an employee, even if you only worked three days (hell, even if you only worked one day). And each state has its own laws on how quickly you must receive that pay. In Illinois, you must receive that pay no later than the next scheduled payday (and those scheduled paydays cannot be less frequent than twice a month — or monthly for professional, executive, and administration positions).

5. Can our company lock us inside at night?

Is it against the law for a company to lock all the doors in the building and only let you out when they’re ready? Even 2-3 hours after people’s shifts have ended? It’s ridiculous.

Nope, that’s not legal. OSHA requires that employees must be able to open an exit door from the inside at all times — without keys, tools, or special knowledge. (And they do fine employers who violate this law.) You also have to be paid for any time that you spent waiting to be allowed to leave, even if your official shift has ended.

{ 255 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    #5 isn’t just ridiculous and illegal, it’s freaking lethal. This is a horrible practice that has proved tragic again and again. Do what you have to to make them stop.

    (Today’s post overall must set a record for the ratio of illegal to legal.)

    1. Katie*


      After having done a paper in high school on the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and having that tragedy burned in to my brain for the rest of my life after the research I did on it, that one both horrifies and enrages me!!

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Hamlet Chicken Processing plant fire, etc. etc. etc.

        I’m not sure if it is considered false imprisonment. I think it would be in certain states.

        1. Natalie*

          Could be. It also more than likely violates the local building code. I can’t imagine any jurisdictions in the US don’t mandate a certain number of fire exits.

      2. Jamie*

        That was exactly what came to mind for me. Just reading this I had a very unpleasant visceral reaction at the thought of being locked in.

        Please report this immediately.

      3. Z*

        Yup, I immediately thought of Triangle Shirtwaist as well. Honestly, this may be the single _scariest_ question I’ve read on AAM.
        Where does this person work?

        1. Jessa*

          I had the exact same thought. Fires and dead employees. NO NO do not pass go, do not collect $200 report this right the heck NOW. To OSHA, to your local fire investigator. NOW.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I agree, Z. This is the scariest question I have seen on AAM.
          OP, please keep us posted on your progress in handling this situation.

          Thanks, Alison for running this question. We have no way to know how many people were inspired to move forward on a similar issue in their work place because they read this blog. Just goes to show, we take for granted that people know big events in history and will, of course, take steps to make sure that does not happen, again.

          I bet the fire inspectors come during business hours so they never see that people are locked in at night.

      4. Catzie (formerly Kathryn)*

        This was my first thought too. Please report this immediately, this is absolutely dangerous.

      5. AdminAnon*

        I had to google that fire, but WOW. In my experience, locking all of the exits during closing is standard retail practice, but it’s definitely something I would be concerned about if I still worked any of those jobs! Thanks for the perspective!!

        1. Anonymous*

          In the retail places I’ve been at you can usually open it from the inside with no problem in those cases though.

          1. Anonymous*

            Ditto. If the doors open automatically with a sensor then there’s a switch that people inside can access to get out. And when I worked retail (3 store locations for two chains, over five years) everyone always knew where it was, so that nobody got stuck inside the store if they were on closing shift and something happened.

            1. AdminAnon*

              That would’ve been a good idea! At the last retail place I worked for, one of the employees actually did get stuck inside the store (went to the restroom when she was waiting around to leave and the manager didn’t check). She had to call all 4 of the managers to find someone to drive back and let her out. The only fire exit our store had was through the stockroom, which was locked with a keypad, which only keyholders/assistant managers/managers had access to. The only other exit was the front door.

              1. ConstructionHR*

                “The only fire exit our store had was through the stockroom, which was locked with a keypad, which only keyholders/assistant managers/managers had access to. ”

                Which pretty much eliminates it as an emergency exit.

            2. Mike C.*

              Ugh, that’s terrible. What if the switch doesn’t work in an emergency or a bunch of new employees haven’t been trained on how to use it? Is this something hidden and complicated? Is it ADA compliant?

              I know these sound like silly or extreme edge cases, but bad things happen when you don’t take those into consideration.

              1. Meg*

                In the past when I’ve worked at places that did this (never retail, but restaurants), they did it to prevent outsiders from just walking in. We used to get people trying to force their way in after the bar had closed, “just for one last drink.” It really does protect the employees from strangers that may not have good intentions.

                1. Natalie*

                  But it isn’t actually necessary to lock the employees in to achieve this – there are many types of door hardware that can be locked from one side only. They’re ubiquitous.

                2. Meg*

                  Sorry if my reply was unclear – that’s exactly what I was responding to Mike C. about. We were never locked in from the inside, but outsiders couldn’t get in unless we opened the door for them. I was under the impression that’s what Mike C. was talking about – sorry if I made things more confusing!

              2. Amber*

                At least in Ontario, Canada, all automatic store doors have a little sign that says, “In an emergency, push to open.” So you can still always push the door open, or do they actually lock both doors together or something?

          2. Sophia*

            Not where I worked retail. We would clock out then wait at the front door until everyone was ready to leave because the closing manager had to unlock the door (then re lock it from the outside)

        2. doreen*

          It was standard practice in the fast food places I worked in, too- but there was always one exit that opened from the inside with a panic bar. It was hooked up to an alarm, so you wouldn’t use it except in an emergency , but you could get out.

          1. Amber*

            Yeah, the grocery store where I work has a door like this too, completely separate from the standard entrances/exits.

      6. Melissa*

        I was just about to point out the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Don’t these employers learn any history in school?!

      1. Elysian*

        Not too far. The term I would use is “false imprisonment.” Depending on the state, etc, but… yes. Ugh. This is horrible,

    2. Penny*

      Yes, a horrible fire is the first thing that came to mind! Seriously, do something immediately not just because that’s crappy of them but for the safety of all employees. That’s ludicrous on so many levels! What if someone had a heart attack or their family member had an emergency and they needed to get out? They’re just supposed to wait until their shift is over, or hours afterwards? This employer should be fined. I would report this to OSHA and your local fire marshall.

    3. Steve*

      Did I miss something? I don’t see anywhere in the original post about emergency exits being blocked or non-existent. Being locked in is NOT the same as being imprisoned in a death trap.

      I have to agree that I would be very unhappy about having to wait for someone to come unlock the doors and/or release the alarm system, but I don’t see the issue if you’re being paid. And AAM says you have to be paid while you’re waiting to be let out.

      I have worked in a location before where the store was completely locked for the night; however, the key carrying manager was on premises with us. And regardless of where they were, knowing where the emergency exits were located, I had no discomfort at all about the locked doors.

      1. Anonymous*

        Actually being locked in is EXACTLY the same as being imprisoned. They might actually be synonyms. If you are locked in with no exits that you can use then you are imprisoned.
        And AAM says they have to be paid but they haven’t been for hours. This means that they were unable to leave, for hours.

        There is nothing in here about emergency exits and I am going to assume that a business like this wouldn’t have any.

        BTW what your employer did? Also illegal, even if you weren’t feeling unsafe that doesn’t mean others weren’t, and it doesn’t mean you weren’t actually unsafe.

      2. KellyK*

        By definition, if you have access to emergency exits, you’re not “locked in.” If the store is locked such that people can get out through emergency exits but not in, that’s a very different thing.

        It would be awesome if this were a matter of confusion and the OP isn’t really physically trapped in the building.

        1. Steve*

          Based on the way I read the letter, it appeared that the OP’s bone of contention was being unable to leave when their shift ended. Yeah, that sucks. People make plans for their after work hours. BUT I don’t necessarily see that the OP was concerned for their safety. That seemed to stem from the comments section.

          Their management team needs to be more conscious of how to treat employees well – and be made aware that they have to pay the people who are waiting to be released. If they suddenly start seeing an increase in their staffing budget and overtime hours I would bet they start reevaluating the way they manage that shift.

          1. Anonymous*

            It isn’t a matter of treating the employees well if you lock them in the building. It is a matter of you are committing an illegal action. If you lock someone in and don’t let them leave you have to, by law, pay them. This is not gee that sucks. This isn’t aww darn I had to stay and extra 5 minutes. This is hours of being trapped at work without pay.

      3. Zahra*

        Locked doors (to prevent clients coming in) but allowing people to unlock when they’re done so they can leave: totally OK. Not allowing employees to leave after shift by not providing a way to unlock the doors: Totally Not OK and a fire hazard.
        Not paying employees while they wait for you to unlock the doors: adding insult to injury.

      4. Colette*

        If you can exit via the emergency exits, you’re not really in danger. However, if you can’t get out via the emergency exits, you are – and it sounds like that’s what the OP is talking about.

      5. kj*

        I have to agree that I would be very unhappy about having to wait for someone to come unlock the doors and/or release the alarm system, but I don’t see the issue if you’re being paid.

        You don’t see the issue of being held “2-3 hours” after your shift has ended, as long as you are being paid?

        I’m sure on some days, for some people, that is fine, but what about if your shift ends at 8pm and you have to go pick up your kids? Or if you have a doctor’s appointment? Or if you are scheduled to leave at 12pm and come in again at 6am? Or if you have a bus to catch? I mean, would you truly be okay with a situation where you know that every day you are SUPPOSED to be done at 6pm and have planned your life accordingly, but on some days your employer just holds you there- not to finish up work, but just…. waiting?

        1. Steve*

          I worded that statement poorly. Yes, it’s a problem, and yes, it needs to be addressed. I intended to make the point that they need to raise the issue of making the company pay for their time. I apologize for making that sound glib.

          My comment was intended to be pointed at the other commenters who we’re acting as if the building were a death trap waiting to engulf the employees in a horrible painful death – locked doors does not always mean no emergency egress. If that IS the case, that should be addressed immediately to an authority outside the company such as the local fire marshall. But, again, the OP never mentioned fearing for their safety.

          1. fposte*

            If there’s emergency egress, then fine, they’re not in danger, and all we’ve done is wasted pixels. But the fact that the OP doesn’t seem to be nervous about her safety doesn’t mean she’s got an emergency exit, and absent any clear indication that she does have one, I think this is a point worth making and making hard.

          2. Pseudo Annie Nym*

            @Steve: I think we all took the “company locks all the doors in the building” to be literal…maybe there are emergency exits, but that’s not what the OP said.

            1. A Bug!*

              Could be that there’s an emergency door that sounds an alarm when it’s opened. I don’t generally consider those “doors” in the usual sense in the same way that I don’t think of the fire escape when I’m leaving my apartment in the morning.

              The writer may not have realized that the emergency doors were relevant to the question because the question was more focused on the being confined without being paid aspect.

              1. Collarbone High*

                I’ve worked places where opening the emergency doors triggered a call to the security company, which would bill the employer for false alarms. So employees were instructed never to open those doors unless there was an actual emergency. I agree, I wouldn’t think of those as “doors,” especially if I would be in trouble the next day if I used one.

        2. doreen*

          Well, yes, I see an issue if you’re being held there two or three hours after your six pm shift ended just standing around twiddling your thumbs- but I don’t see any reason from the letter to assume that the OP is standing around doing nothing after a shift that ended at 6 pm, rather than having a closing shift last two hours longer than usual because there was more work than usual or because someone was absent , or because the OP feels that when his work is done he should get to leave rather than assist others. It could be any of those things

          1. Kelly L.*

            If the official shift ends at 6pm and there’s enough work that everybody’s regularly there till 9, that’s a problem too. It’s one thing to have the store close at 6 and people scheduled till 7 to clean up, but if the shift is taking 3 hours longer than it’s supposed to, there’s a scheduling problem.

            1. doreen*

              My experience may differ from yours- but when I worked fast food and where my kids and husband have worked retail , the schedule hasn’t been “store closes at six and you are scheduled until seven ” . It’s actually been written on the schedule as 4- closing , meaning there is no actual scheduled ending time. I have a funny feeling that when my son works the closing shift Friday,he’ll be working more than the the 30 minutes after the doors lock that he works in February.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I have worked places that notated it “4-10” when the store really closed at 9, and if you got done before 10 everybody left early; and I’ve also worked at places where it was marked “4-close.” What I have never done is worked anywhere that “-close” went any longer than about an hour after the store or restaurant actually closed. Once in a blue moon, if the place had been slammed and people made huge messes or something, it might be an hour and a half after the store actually closed. I’ve never, ever seen the place close at 9 and people were still there working at midnight. That tells me something is wrong. Maybe not enough people are being scheduled, who knows, but something.

              2. Diet Coke Addict*

                I think this must vary by place, because in my retail experience the close/cleaning time was built into my schedule–store closes at 5 but be scheduled until 6, etc. I imagine it’s dependent on company policy.

              3. Kelly L.*

                And if you’re talking about working retail on Black Friday, I still think the same thing–the store should have more people there to deal with the bigger crowds, not just run the usual number of people into the ground. That’s what should happen, not necessarily what will.

              4. Amber*

                The store where I work at closes at 10, but we have cashiers there until 9:30, 10, 10:15, and/or 10:30. Also a supervisor with all of the keys. Cash register audits and whatnot are done as people leave, so there’s never a lengthy closing process for the cashiers. I’m not sure what the supervisors have to do at the end of the night, but I’ve never been there really late or anything.

      6. Observer*

        Unless the emergency exits at your former employer were completely accessible to all staff, what your employer did was illegal – and thoroughly stupid. Having someone with a key around is NOT enough, by a long shot.

        Whether you felt safe or not is utterly irrelevant. It doesn’t mean you ARE safe – and if people physocally can’t get out without a particular person being available, then you are NOT safe.

    4. Anonymous*

      I have worked in buildings where this was legal. There are exceptions to every rule.

      There are certain situations where this is allowed – any time the things inside the building are significantly more dangerous than the possibility of a fire outbreak killing everyone. Hopefully, the OP isn’t in one of those situations, but we really don’t know.

      1. fposte*

        You’re right, I was thinking retail/manufacturing. Though even the NRC has concerns about the safety of locked doors.

      2. doreen*

        And jails/prisons- which come to think of it are places I have been locked in for an extra hour or two with no work to do. Because no one goes in or out when an inmate can’t be accounted for.

        1. Meg*

          Laboratories, for example, when people need to be quarantined for any reason.

          However, in my experience, there are still fire exits from the building, just the rooms are on lock-down (and there’s no way to exit the room to GET to the fire exit). But these rooms are designed to be fireproof anyway.

          1. Lora*

            Huh? I’ve worked in BL-3s. There were emergency releases for the seals on the doors in the event of fire. Lots and lots of HVAC engineering to minimize exposures, and usually a “moat” of some sort (liquid disinfectant spray, UV lights), but you could definitely get out in event of fire. It sucked to clean up and every HAZWOPER licensee in the state had to come help out with containment, but nobody got locked in.

            If you’re in a BL-4 and there’s a fire, they have the halon extinguishers because you’ve got your SCBA, but you can still get out in emergency (Galveston had to re-learn that a couple years ago).

            In the ISO 5 rooms where I currently work, we abandon whatever is going on in there in case of emergency or even just a fire drill. We’ve dumped $5mil batches because a fire drill meant breaking the pressure differential on the doors for the emergency exit. Even if you don’t have much of a fire hazard, there’s often plenty of hazardous chemicals in the lab that you’d want to be able to evacuate in an uncontrolled release.

    5. Nusy*

      I used to work for a certain large retail chain in the US (not Walmart), and it was absolutely common for us to be locked into the building after the store closed. Normally, if the store closed at 10pm, we would be scheduled until 11 to clean up. What it ended up looking like? We got the last customer out the door around 10.15 or so, locked up everything, turned off most lights, and we all got to zoning (rearranging) the shelves. This was never done by 11. Those who had to clock out before 11, because they did not take a lunch, and worked a 6-hour shift left at 11 on the dot, and the manager let them out. The rest of us stayed there until everything was spotless, or the manager got tired. We were often told around 11.30 or so to call our rides if we needed to, as we would be getting out in 10-15 minutes… only to have our rides wait for us another 45 minutes to an hour, because the manager neglected to check one of the problem departments. And until everything is spotless, no one leaves – not even if your own work had been done hours ago. Team work is nice, but if you force it so hard (especially with employees not giving a hoot due to the revolving door in the staff), it will never lead to anything.

    6. Grace*

      Also a class-action wage and hour lawsuit against the employer for not paying employees while waiting, and on and on the violations go.

  2. Eric*

    #2, most states (or at least the ones I have worked in) require that pay statements be provided and that they be accurate. So that would probably be the specific law that they are violating.

    4-1, I’ll take those odds.

  3. MR*

    1: Legal, but terrible. Either accept these conditions or look for a new position.

    2. No and terrible. Get out and find a better employer.

    3. Nope. If they are willing to screw her over, what else are they willing to do?

    4. Yes. But why did you even go this route? Huge waste of time on not only their part but yours.

    5. Not at all. Fire hazard for one. Second, why are you working at Walmart? Go to an employer that will treat you better.

    1. Anon*

      Re: 4 & 5. Not everyone has options available to work in a safe, not-awful position, particularly in this market.

      1. The Clerk*

        Thank you. Like people who work in subpar environments are doing it for lulz or a sociology report or something. Like you just go pick a job off the job tree (it’s next to the tree money comes from) and tell them what to pay you and how you’re going to be treated.

        1. Felicia*

          “Oh, get a job? Just get a job? Why don’t I strap on my job helmet, and squeeze into a job cannon and fire off into job land, where jobs grow on jobbies!” – Charlie Day It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

          I’m sure everyone in a shitty job situation doesn’t want to be there. They’re probably even trying their hardest to get a better job. If you think it’s easy to find another employer you haven’t tried to look for a job in the past 5 years. Also just because someone can’t find another job for whatever reason, doesn’t give their employer the right to break the law.

          Also, I worked at Walmart and we were never locked in, and it was really not all that much better or worse than the other big retail employers

          1. Penny*

            I love Sunny! LOL

            And the WalMart joke didn’t really work because it’s a store so obviously doors are always open for customers so ya know.

              1. Jamie*

                Ours closes at 10:00 pm too. Come to think of it, a lot of stores that are open 24 hours elsewhere close in our town. I wonder if it’s an ordinance or something.

                1. tcookson*

                  Wal Marts that are not supercenters usually still close at 10pm. The one near my dad’s town is one of the kind that used to be the only kind (before they started building supercenters) and it still closes at night.

                2. Meg*

                  Our local non-Supercenter Walmart closed at midnight.

                  (I was usually the closing manager for said Walmart years ago)

          2. Amber*

            My dad thinks the exact same way! :$ Anyone who works at a retailer for minimum wage or just above it is a “loser” in his eyes, because they should get a better job and get skills somewhere. I’ve tried to tell him that that’s not always possible and that even people who work at Wal-Mart and whatnot deserve to be compensated and treated fairly, but he doesn’t listen. I think he thinks that those jobs are for teenagers, although I did get the run-down about becoming a mundane wage slave when I got my cashier job. >:/

            1. Collarbone High*

              Gah, my dad is a terrible tipper, and that’s always his justification: “If they want more money, they should get a better job.” (It should be noted that my dad doesn’t actually have a job.) I always take a sweater when I’m forced to eat out with him and then “forget” it at the table so I can go back and leave a proper tip.

              1. Amber*

                My parents tip AWESOMELY, strangely enough. My dad has held many positions in his life: courier, pizza delivery guy, house painter, landlord and now he works on the production line at the auto manufacturing plant in the next town over. So I don’t really understand his mindset. I don’t need my job so it doesn’t matter that I get paid minimum wage, but then I work 11 hours a week. For someone who’s working 40 hours a week and barely making ends meet, it’s a lot different.

                1. Joey*

                  You gain a whole new perspective on tipping after you’ve worked in jobs where you rely on them.

                  But, you also know much more clearly when someone deserves a good tip.

    2. Rose*

      Did I miss something? Where did #5 say he or she was working for Wal-Mart? Plus, why would Wal-Mart lock emplyees in? They are open 24-hours a day, 364 days a year. If they locked employees in, they would be locking customers out

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Walmart has been sued in the past for this exact practice at what were then, non-24 hour locations. Sued and lost and fined.

      2. saro*

        I know for a fact that Wal-Mart did it in the past (not sure about now). They closed it for the 3rd shift stockers and it wasn’t a 24 hour Wal-mart

        1. De Minimis*

          Some of the Wal-Mart stores still close at midnight, I know the ones where I used to live in California did.

          1. De Minimis*

            In my previous location they recently opened a store–they selected that city as opposed to a neighboring suburb because that suburb has made it clear they do not want any 24 hour stores [the one Wal-Mart there has to close around 12 or so.]

    3. Mike C.*

      You’re really speaking from a position of privilege here. Working for anyone usually beats being homeless or not being able to feed your kids.

      1. some1*

        Agreed. This is the same philosophy as agreeing to submit to a drug test as a condition of hire. I disagree with the practice, not because I wouldn’t pass (I would), but on the principle. Yet I have gone along with it because I like eating, sleeping inside and paying my bills.

      2. Heather*

        Oh come on! Why doesn’t their dad just give them some stock they can sell, like George Romney did for Mitt when he and Ann needed some extra cash?

  4. EngineerGirl*

    #1 – They can’t tell from your resume if you are advancing and taking on greater responsibility? Really? Great candidates wouldn’t put up with that kind of invasiveness.

      1. Catzie (formerly Kathryn)*

        +1 That and the fact that she is interviewing for an HR position. If she got the job, she would probably be the one asking for these things in the future. That right there would be the deal breaker for me. I wouldn’t want candidates to think I was the one behind that policy.

        1. evilintraining*

          Exactly. I was asked for these items, and a lot more, after just a phone screen with a company. When I got the email, I sent them a “thanks, but no thanks” email. I understood some of it because they work in nuclear technology and get government contracts, so they have to be very careful about whom they hire. But reviews and W-2s, really? I’d be concerned about any preconceptions that might arise from the reviews, and the W-2s are just none of their business, period.

          1. Anonymous*

            If it’s a job that requires a detailed background check and/or a security clearance, that’s also something they can do for the top candidate after they’ve made an offer, or after interviews but before an offer. You don’t just do it willy-nilly as part of the application process.

            1. voluptuousfire*

              Besides, you may be fantastic at your job but your performance reviews may not accurately reflect that. With some companies unless you’re the :ahem: “rock star, kick ass, ninja” type, you may not get anymore than average or above average.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                That, and companies use metrics where they have to assign so many top scores, etc., so the person in question might be doing top work but get an average rating. That can skew a review, as we’ve seen here before.

                1. Joey*

                  That sounds more like being worried about the evals being taken at face value.

                  I know when candidates have offered them up to me I don’t necessarily look so much at the actual scores. I look more at the verbiage the manager uses to describe the work performed, the areas the manager thinks he can improve, and whether or not those improvements were incorporated and done the following year.

    1. Anonymous_J*

      Not only that, but there are companies that give performance reviews that are not accurate or true. For instance, I work for a bully. I have never gotten a good performance review, even though I know I do a good job, and people with whom I have worked OUTSIDE of my group have had nothing but praise for my work.

      I can remember a few instances where someone posted here that their employer only gave out so many positive reviews, but others couldn’t be due to budgeting for raises or some other BS.

      I would run from this employer and not look back, personally.

  5. Jamie*

    #1 is just plain stupid on the part of the hiring company. Do they not get that even if this was a good idea (it’s not) not all companies do written performance reviews?

    I get a review each year…my boss takes me to lunch and we discuss how I’m doing, goals, what I want/need…long term vision and then he approves my operating budget for the year. Nothing is in writing.

    Way to needlessly limit their candidate pool.

    1. PEBCAK*

      It’s also worded in such a skeevy way. Not “we want to see how others have evaluated you,” but “we want to see if you are used to feedback”? Shady all around.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Yeah, that is weird wording. So what if someone isn’t “used to feedback?” If that is what you do at your company, they’ll either get used to it or not, but what some other company did doesn’t make a difference to what YOUR company should be doing.

      2. Anonie*

        What it the candidates current or previous boss is a wacko? Sometimes people get performance reviews that are totally wrong and unfair. Some people get good performance reviews every year and they are horrible employees.

        I sent my resume to a company once and they invited me for an interview. Prior to the interview they sent me a questionnaire that included questions like where I went to high school and how I paid for college. What business is it of their’s how I paid for college? I told them I was no longer interested in interviewing for the position.

        1. AB*

          That’s precisely what happened to me. At my last job, my performance reviews were ridiculously out of touch with reality, because my manager had no idea what I did, so she just wrote random things.

          It wouldn’t put me in a bad light if a new employer wanted to see my reviews (they actually showed me as a high performer employee), but it would be a terrible idea to use them as a reference for my skills / behaviors / domain knowledge, because my manager barely saw me, I worked independently, and she probably just copied and pasted a review from someone else on my file!

    2. Jen in RO*

      My ex-company did written performance reviews, but I didn’t save them and take them with me, because any company that wanted to see them wasn’t worth working for. OP, if you have other options, I’d pass on this “opportunity”.

      (Did anyone else hate the corporatespeak the email was written in? That alone would make me run.)

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I probably have some of them, and the w2s too…somewhere. My home filing system is haphazard, and the take-stuff-home-on-last-day boxes may or may not be findable and may or may not have reviews in them. I think I have tax forms for more than the required 7 years, but certainly not for the last 25!

    3. Mike C.*

      Not to mention the fact that not all companies hand out bonuses or pay raises. How many people have had their pay frozen for the past several years, despite their performance?

      1. Ruffingit*

        +1. This is another reason why no company should base THEIR plans for pay/bonuses/etc. on something another company has done. You just can’t know all the ins and outs of another company and why they may or may not have given raises or bonuses. There are a ton of possible reasons for not giving those things that may have nothing at all to do with performance on the part of their employees.

      2. The Clerk*

        Oh, but for a truly stellar employee, surely they would have found a way to give them a raise?


    4. Ruffingit*

      Sometimes I think companies who require the kind of stuff the OP discussed do it because they find stuff on the Internet about how to hire and they go with it. “Oh, this company requires a W2 for their candidates, we should do that too!!” They fail to realize that requiring such a thing may be pertinent to one company (perhaps if someone is working in high finance or needs a security clearance or whatever), but not to another at all. There is no template that applies to hiring for all companies, but there is a template for stupid and this definitely makes the cut on that.

  6. Jerznatural*

    #1 I once had a company ask for the last 10 years of W-2’s. Although it was a major company asking, I still didn’t tolerate the fact that they were asking. On top of it all the HR rep sounded extremely lazy. HR reps should remember, they make the first impression of their company regarding work ethic.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I couldn’t cough up the last 10 years of W-2s, because I only keep the last 7 for the IRS.

  7. Observer*

    #5 MUST be a troll! Please? With a cherry on top??

    Seriously, that’s HORRIFIC. And, yes, the first thought that came to my mind was “The triangle Shirtwaist fire was over 100 years ago. Has NOTHING changed?!”


      1. Observer*

        I meant that I would love to believe that no company does this and that therefore the letter was fake.

        1. FiveNine*

          It definitely happens, including among one big-name big box type store that is not open 24 hours where the lock-in is a way of incentivizing employees to make sure their coworkers finish stocking/cleaning etc. quicker at close.

        1. some1*

          You may have noticed the Wal-Mart commercials that have their employees talking about how much they love working there and how much room there is for advancement.

          I doubt this is a recruitment tool; my guess is the commercials are PR move in response to their notoriously bad labor policies.

        1. Lindsay the Temp*

          This is actually pretty common practice in retail for keeping customers out, and checking employees out at the end of the night. But several hours- HECK NO! …and anywhere I’ve worked we’ve had complete access to any fire doors.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yeah, I don’t think it’s unusual for the front, customer doors to be locked, but at a sane store, there are doors the employees can leave through easily, including crash bars, in the back.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Also, sometimes there’s an unwritten rule that they want all the closers to leave together, to prevent anyone getting mugged in the parking lot, but nobody would actually try to hinder you from leaving if there was an emergency.

          1. Windchime*

            That’s terrible. Apparently the fire doors are still accessible (they used to be chained shut!??), but the employees have either been lied to about how they work or have been terrorized with threats of being fired if they go out through the fire doors.

            What a horrible, horrible place to work. Just another reason why I haven’t shopped there in years and don’t plan to. I’m so sorry that people have to work there.

        2. Anonymous*

          They screen the people before hiring. Once you get in there you are clearly a thief, guilty until proven innocent. Here is the catch: you are never proven innocent.

          I don’t know the particulars of Walmart. But am speaking to retailing in general. One retailer around here fires hundreds and hundreds of people every year for stealing. So much so that, the retailer has lost credibility with the folks at the unemployment office.
          “Let me guess, you are here because they fired you for stealing, right?”
          “They either have to learn how to hire people AND/OR they have to change their internal controls. It is not possible to hire so many thieves.”
          Right. This is a company that sincerely believes that 80% of their people will steal at some point.

          My theory is that people that are treated decently are less inclined to steal and also more likely to help create a culture where stealing is less likely to happen. But if you have unreasonable deadlines, unbearable workloads, low pay, and an environment that encourages disrespect toward fellow workers you have a recipe for encouraging theft.

              1. Windchime*

                Yes, this. One of my sons used to work at Costco, and they treated him very well. Decent pay, 401k, good working conditions and CLOSED on holidays. So my son got to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter, etc with his family instead of working. A person could easily make a career out of working at Costco.

                1. Diet Coke Addict*

                  Costco is also notable for promoting from within whenever possible, and for all employees to start at the bottom (fetching carts) and working their way up, to promote cohesion and positive work environment. I truly wouldn’t mind working at Costco.

                2. tcookson*

                  My husband’s brother worked at Costco back in the 80’s, and it was a good place to work even back then: good wages, benefits, closed holidays, etc.

                  I wish there was a Costco around here. They’re only in the west, right? Not in the south?

                3. Natalie*

                  @tcookson, they’re also in the Midwest – we have them in the Twin Cities. I think they’ve expanded a bit in the past decade so it might be worth seeing if they’ve made it to your area.

                4. Felicia*

                  Costco is also in Canada! – and i’m in the Easter half of Canada:) Not at a practical location for me, but not terribly far

          1. Anon*

            I know I wanted to steal from my employer when they offered me a new position within the company and then changed their minds about the agreed-upon salary a few weeks later. Why don’t employers understand that if they treat employees fairly and with trust, they are likely to get the same treatment in return?

            1. anon-2*

              They don’t understand this.

              Well, some do, some don’t.

              If management treats their employees with respect, they also earn it in return. If they treat them with contempt, they also get it paid back to them.

              This is why the labor movement and unions rose up in the 20th century — and, I can tell you from experience – the mere THREAT of unionization changes management attitudes, very quickly.

          2. Nusy*

            We had the same culture at the above-mentioned (non-Walmart) store. In fact, we had big posters all over the breakrooms about how you can get a commendation and a few pats on your back for reporting a customer stealing – and $100+ cash bonuses (read it as “half a paycheck”) if you report another employee for stealing…

        3. De Minimis*

          I had heard the problem with Wal-Mart was a combination of locking them in and also expecting them to work off the clock during the final portion of their shift. It happened often enough all over the country to where it was obvious this was company policy.

          1. De Minimis*

            Wanted to reply to the Costco thread….

            They are located in most parts of the country now, the only exceptions are some of the more sparsely populated states, as well as Arkansas and Oklahoma. Arkansas of course is mostly due to Wal-Mart basically running that state. Oklahoma is largely due to archaic liquor laws.

            There’s a rumor that they are about to break ground on a Costco in my city, which would be the first in my state, I so hope that it’s true.

                1. Amber*

                  We have a bunch of Costco’s here in Ontario and alcohol can only be sold at licensed stores… Costco is not one of them. There’s no alcohol sold at the one here, or at any of the ones in Ontario for that matter, so I don’t know why it’s such a big deal otherwise…

              1. Payroll Lady*

                Costco sells liquor as well as bulk food items. Not knowing WHAT Oklahoma’s laws are, it may simply be because the stores in other states sell liquor so they can’t open in OK? (Just taking a stab in the dark on that one) :)

              2. De Minimis*

                US retailers such as Costo, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and World Market sell wine and often liquor. I imagine it’s a fairly big part of their business.

                Oklahoma doesn’t permit wine, liquor, or “strong beer” to be sold anywhere other than liquor stores. This puts a damper on a lot of these companies expanding to the state, despite a large consumer demand. Whole Foods has expanded to the state and has done really well despite not being able to sell wine, so Oklahomans are hopeful the others will follow suit.

                1. HR Comicsans*

                  WA State had similar laws which Costco led the initiative to allow retailers to sell. I recall they spent something like $20 mil to support. Last I heard they don’t want to do that battle again.

                2. PurpleChucks*

                  Colorado is like that, but all the Costcos here have a Costco Liquor attached to it. Boom, Costco and compliant with the silly state law :-)

                3. Al Lo*

                  Same in Alberta — alcohol is only sold in 18+ liquor stores, not in grocery or convenience stores, so many grocery chains, including Costco, just have a separate building (or in Costco’s case, a separate entrance to a separate part of the building) with their liquor store in it.

                4. De Minimis*

                  In response to the below….in addition, OK has a lot of restrictions even beyond that to where selling liquor is a major headache for anyone other than smaller individual liquor stores. For example, I don’t think having a separate liquor store next door would be permitted.

                  They just passed a law that allowed microbreweries to give tours and samples, and that literally took years.

  8. mel*

    Oh geez, I wish I knew about #5 when I was working in retail (not walmart :P). We were locked in after the store was closed and usually had to wait at least 15 minutes by the door with our coats on just dying to be set free!

    Well, actually I had to wait in the dark on the side of the road for 30 minutes to catch a bus so being locked inside was sometimes better.

    The fire escape was never unlocked though, day or night.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      And of course, fires never occur in front of fire escape doors…. sigh. Your job was pretty scary for more than one reason. I am glad you are out of there.

  9. The Clerk*

    Re #5, what about stores (or wherever) where you can physically unlock the door from the inside by turning the deadbolt, but it would cause the alarm to go off so you’re forbidden from opening it? I mean, obviously in case of a fire or whatever you’d just run out, but the same issue with waiting past your shift end to be let out still applies, and you can’t go out to escape cleaning fumes or God forbid get your purse (which can’t be carried inside) out of the car to get your medicine.

    And re #1, what is it with companies who set up ridiculous expectations for people and try to act like everyone should have this as a matter of course? Does it occur to them that if someone had a history of being recognized and rewarded (seriously, they said rewarded?) and given progressive responsibility and compensation to match…they probably wouldn’t be job hunting in the first place?

    Someone could have done their absolute best to learn new skills and take on extra projects, etc, but has no way to prove that. It’s not World of Warcraft where you level up every time you gather twenty bear asses and every task you’ve ever completed is accurately recorded for posterity.

    1. KellyK*

      Well, you have to be paid for the time you stand around waiting.

      As to what would happen if you physically needed to leave but the building wasn’t on fire, (e.g., asthma attack and your inhaler’s in your car because you aren’t allowed to have personal property at work) I don’t know. I would seriously hope any decent company wouldn’t discipline you for setting the alarm off in those circumstances (assuming you couldn’t get to someone who could disable that). But I have no idea if there would be legal repercussions if they did. I guess it could be an OSHA issue.

    2. Julie*

      You’re being facetious about this, right?

      Does it occur to them that if someone had a history of being recognized and rewarded (seriously, they said rewarded?) and given progressive responsibility and compensation to match…they probably wouldn’t be job hunting in the first place?

      1. Kelly L.*

        I think the idea is that they’d be happy where they were if they’d been treated that way, not that a good employee could never get laid off.

        1. The Clerk*

          This seems like exactly the type of employer who would see a layoff as a mark against the employee, even if a whole department or, heck, the whole business closed. I’ll bet their original ad said “No gaps in employment” also.

  10. Phyllis*

    #5: make a complaint to OSHA today. You can do it online or by phone. However, while you can make the complaint anonymously, it’s better not to. OSHA takes things like this very seriously, as they should, and they take a lot of care in not revealing where the complaint came from.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I have seen smaller companies (200 people or less) get hit with an OSHA complaint. It was not hard to figure out who filed it. So it’s true that OSHA does not reveal the source, but that is not the same as saying “People won’t figure out who filed the complaint.”
      Under the heading of eyes wide open, OP, realize that someone MAY figure it out that you filed a complaint. Prepare your response to that.

      In the story here, nothing happened to the person who complained. The problem got fixed. Additionally, people were more on their toes because they realized that someone in the group would move forward with a formal complaint. So that was a tense situation, that eventually landed us in a better place. The company was more careful from then on.

    1. Mike C.*

      Hell, call up the local fire marshall, tell them what’s going on and that you don’t want to be named and I’m sure it would trigger an “inspection”. They of all people know what can happen, and I’m sure they’d be willing to work with you to ensure that it doesn’t happen to you.

      1. Anonymous*

        This is another great idea. I’m also willing to bet a company like this if they do have fire doors, have fire doors that don’t work/are blocked/etc.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Even if the fire doors are functional, they probably have an alarm. How long would you stay employed if you set off the alarm each night, rather than waiting for the manager to let you out?

      2. anon-2*

        Depends where you are, Mike.

        I was in an environment where we had to do that and it worked.

        On the other hand, if the store manager’s brother is the fire chief in that town, or … accepts grease… well… your safety is a secondary concern.

  11. Anonymous*

    #2 – Regarding the answer, isn’t the deduction from wages generally after taxes? Unless this is a pay reduction being handled very illegally, most reasons for docking of pay I am familiar with (tax garnishment, support payments, restitution to the employer) I thought were applied to the wages earned, and in some cases could even reduce the payment below minimum wage?

    1. SB*

      You’re talking about a wage garnishment, which is very different. A wage garnishment is money you owe in one way or another (child support, tax payments, etc) that the government has deemed that you must pay. In LW2’s case, they were talking about the employer docking pay. Which means the employer is, for whatever reason, paying the employee less. For example, if the employee is hourly and was paid for 40 hours, but actually only worked 38, the employer could then dock a future check to reflect the correct total payment. But, the employer would have to reflect that on the actual wage slip because the employee shouldn’t pay taxes on wages not earned.

      1. Lillie Lane*

        Aside from accidental overpayment of wages, what is a legitimate reason for docking a non-exempt employee’s pay?

        1. HR lady*

          Lillie Lane – If they didn’t work the number of hours they normally work. So if they normally work 40 hours, but that week they worked 37 hours, you’d only pay them for 37 hours. Thus, it is considered to be “docked” (although I worked part time & hourly for so many years that I just think of it as “being paid for the number of hours they worked”).

          1. HR lady*

            Similarly, if they have run out of paid vacation leave (or they never had paid vacation leave), and they take a vacation day, you “dock” them for the day (8 hours) that they didn’t work. Again, this is for non-exempt employees. And again, I don’t think of it as “docking,” but rather “getting paid for the hours they did work.”

        1. Kerry*

          Mostly off-topic, but I am always thrown by the term “garnishment” in this context. In cooking, when you garnish a dish, it means you’re ADDING something, right? So why is it that when we’re talking about REMOVING money from someone’s paycheck, it’s called a garnishment? So weird.

          1. fposte*

            Different etymological paths. The root is military, to defend, warn (think “guarn”), furnish; the legal etymology involves a legal warning to people about a financial penalty. However, the food one picks up the “furnish” line and makes it about decorating, both food and people.

            1. Heather*

              You are awesome :)

              Although I’m with Kerry in that I still always picture a sprig of parsley when I hear about wage garnishment…

              1. De Minimis*

                Interesting about the etymology.

                My answer would have been that it’s similar to a lien–a lien takes away, but it’s something that is created.

  12. Amber*

    #5 – That’s horrific!!! :o My store locks the doors at close but you can just push them open from the Inside to get out; they just don’t open automatically so that customers can’t get in after 10:15. The overnight stockers kind of just walk in whenever they please, too.

  13. Anony1234*

    #5 – If you ever need to know whether or not it’s legal for your employer to lock you all inside your workplace, all you have to look at is the example of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in NYC. All of the employees (mainly women and children) were locked inside they’d be forced to stay the entire day and be constantly working. A fire started, and the employees could not get out because they were locked in.

    This began the transition towards laws regarding safety of employees.

  14. VintageLydia*

    Hopefully hopefully the “locking in” is with a door that has a deadbolt that can be operated by anyone inside. When we did this, the doors were locked so that customers couldn’t come in, but we were able to leave (plus the emergency exists.) The alarm wasn’t even set.

  15. Not So NewReader*

    For OP 1: Run. Companies usually try to show their best side in the beginning. If this is what you see them doing BEFORE you are hired, then what ELSE are they doing?
    Point number 2 is you are going to be working in HR. Will you be in a position where you have to explain to people that you need their W-2’s, etc? If you are having difficulty with this process now (which means you are a normal and thinking person) how will you fair if you have to put other people through this drill? Personally, I would find it exhausting to have to justify/explain this process to every. single. candidate. that applied.

  16. Lisa*

    #4 – Was OP hired for commission only pay? Then told to do clerical work? She didn’t sell anything, so how can she be paid at all?

    I am confused. There isn’t a set salary for her if she was hired on commission then didn’t sell. This is a bait and switch, being ‘hired’ for sales then never being allowed to sell means she was working for free and seems like this is a loophole to get out of paying for that clerical work.

    1. TL*

      Even if she was hired for commission only, she’d have to be paid minimum wage, I’m assuming. Just like waitressing – if you don’t make minimum wage w/tips, your employer is obligated to bring your paycheck up to minimum wage.

  17. E.R*

    These are all awful. The ones that are illegal make my blood boil, and the employer who demands insane documentation of performance reviews and salary history, well, I would have a lot of trouble providing all that information even if I wanted to (only one company I’ve been at ever did a performance view that was written and kept) and it would have to be an amazing position with unbelievable compensation before I would consider going and dragging up all the information, let alone choosing to share it.

  18. Yup*

    #1 – I didn’t read them as either brilliant or reckless. I read them as being very concerned about their own needs while not so concerned with yours, and also pretty risk averse.

    The paperwork they asked for is definitely weird, because what they’re asking for doesn’t demonstrate what they think it does. (How does someone else’s assessment of you at a different job with different goals help them figure out what you can do in this new job? Bizarre.) Anyway, if you decide to go ahead with the interview, you might want to ask them two particular questions: “What does your performance appraisal process look like?” and “How do you set goals and measure success for employees?” Because I’d very curious know if their process for those things is also very top-down and rule-bound, with forced rankings or “here’s a list of of your goals for the year” rather than a collaborative process that takes your perspective into account.

  19. Joey*

    #1. Stupid, lazy and ineffective at hiring? Those are pretty sweeping statements when:

    1. Most applications already ask for salary history.
    2. I’m sure they already know not all candidates have their past performance evals.

    Granted W2s are a bit much, but to me its indicative of a bureaucratic environment. Same as large companies that ask for say high school AND college transcripts. These are frequently policies that are sent down from on high. When you get right down to it thats more indicative of a decision maker who doesn’t fully understand hiring. It doesn’t say a whole lot about the actual Hiring Managers except that they’re probably working within the parameters that have been set for them.

    1. Yup*

      “Most applications already ask for salary history.”

      My recent experience was about 30/70 — the majority of places I applied/interviewed wanted salary requirements, not history. And I mentally held it against the ones who did for history, because it’s not the norm in my industry. (The ones who asked for it tended to be the same places that wanted my SSN on the application & a bunch of other front-loaded, convenient-for-them-but-unpleasant-for-me things.)

    2. Lora*

      Not all candidates have their past reviews? How about “hardly any”? And if you’re asking for something that hardly anyone actually has, you’re narrowing your hiring pool to like, two people in the whole world, and probably not the best ones in the field. That is STUPID.

      I’ll give you a nice recent example: I was asked to provide writing samples for a position that never, never asks for writing samples normally. I was annoyed but did them, the hiring manager was super-nice about it and said he was in a real time crunch as a result on his decision-making timeline.

      Now I know that not only is he under pressure to make a hire, but I probably don’t have a whole lot of competition if I actually complete this request. I asked for, and got, about 30% more money than his initial offer, because I knew his back was against the wall.

      It also tells me the hiring managers don’t push back on Stupid edicts. No. Clever middle managers will know when to do what they are told and when to become mysteriously forgetful, deaf, aristocratic, and occasionally fail to speak their first language. This is one of those, “Did you get the candidate’s performance reviews for the HR file?” Oh gosh…must have forgotten to mention it…well I’m sure they are fine, I talked to their previous managers. “We are supposed to collect that information.” Really? Who told you that? “The VP of HR.” Hmm, I think s/he was mistaken, that can’t be right. “Can you submit this for your candidate before we send out an offer?” Huh, guess I can try. “But you have to get that information!” Mmm. Hey, Sarah brought in chocolate croissants! Gotta run!

  20. Interviewer*

    #1 – OP, if a company asked me for this info, I would not be interested in further interviews. And it’s not because I would fudge on any of that info. It’s just not possible for me to provide any performance reviews at all. References, yes – but the documents – I wasn’t given any copies at *any* of my employers in 20 years of working. This January as a result of a merger 18 months ago, I should be getting my first written one to keep, ever. I can explain my previous employers’ approach to performance reviews to potential employers (it was a mix of “verbal” and “none”), and I have the experience and references to back up my work, but seriously? Copies of reviews? Can’t do it.

    While some of those review details may indeed point to past achievements, HR people should already recognize that managers completing performance reviews don’t always do a great job. They can sugarcoat or ignore the bad stuff for fear of employee conflict, they can forget to mention important things, they can rank everyone on their team the same, or they can make stuff up.

    In this economy I have seen candidates who have taken detours off the traditional career path through no fault of their own (company closures, relocations, layoffs, etc.). I even see people start over at entry-level after owning their own businesses or supervising a division. What use is a salary history on those people?

    While I get that there are candidates who are tempted to inflate their salary histories, W-2’s don’t reflect comp, bonuses, OT or benefit costs. Paystubs do a much better job of that. But with either document, a potential employer can learn info like marital status, or possibly if there are children. I think all of that info should be held confidential, and can save the hiring manager from using that information to make a decision.

        1. Anna*

          I was sort of making a joke, but in reality looking over old performance evaluations as an indicator of what someone will do in a new role is pointless. For one, the person might be doing a completely different job, and even if they aren’t, there are many other factors that play in to how a person might be reviewed in an old position compared to how they would do in a new one. For example, if people looked at my job reviews from my very first job when I was 14 and used that as an indication of how I would work when I was 20, they would have been sorely misled.

          1. Colette*

            Most people apply for new roles that use skills they’ve also used in their old roles, so I think previous performance reviews could be really relevant – that’s really what reference checks are about.

            If someone does analysis in one job, a performance review that talks about their results is useful when assessing their potential in another analysis position. Similarly, a performance review that talks about how they’ve been late 25% of the time is really relevant for a new job where it is critical that they be on time.

            I agree that there are better ways to get that info than asking for previous performance reviews, though.

            1. Anna*

              I’m not one of the most. When I started looking for a new position after I was laid off, I specifically went looking in an entirely different field. My point is that, much like sometimes great referencese from a former employer don’t always add up to a stellar new employee, seeing past performance evaluations doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a crappy or stellar new employee out of it based simply on what was written about them.

      1. Another Emily*

        “Past performance is not a guarantee of future returns” has been said by every Maple Leafs fan for the last forty years.

  21. Anna*

    Reading some of these questions brings home the fact that employees still need to be protected from stupid and negligent employers. If anyone says we are beyond the need for the protections offered by unions and employee rights advocates, I would invite them to read some of the crazy stuff in this thread.

    1. fyodorova*

      Sadly, this is true. Not all companies are evil, but the existence of negligent employers means that we still need these protections.

    2. Joey*

      There is no way enough protections can be provided to ever shield employees from stupid, negligent and unethical assholes. Not unions or employee rights advocates. The best way to do it is to leave.

      I know I know, somebody will say that’s not always an option, but I’ve never see it not be an option continually year after year.

      1. The Clerk*

        I’ve never see it not be an option continually year after year.

        How fortunate for you not to have a serious condition (or child or spouse with one) that until a month from now would have prevented you from getting health care if you tried to switch insurance providers.

        1. Joey*

          And I wonder how many people will still find it unreasonable to find another job that treats them better.

          1. Elsajeni*

            “Leaving is an option” and “leaving is a realistic, practical option” are two different things, though. If the retail job I have right now started treating me badly, sure, leaving would be an option in the sense that there’s nothing physically or legally preventing me from handing in my notice — but I have no idea how long it would take me to find any new job, let alone one that I’m confident will treat me better than the old one, and in the meantime I have bills to pay.

            1. De Minimis*

              Moving was mentioned below, and I’d like to chime in, having moved cross-country to get back into full-time employment. It is not simple and in most cases it’s really expensive to move beyond a short distance, no matter how few your possessions are, or even if you’re fortunate like me and have a job and rental situation lined up before you go. Someone who didn’t have savings, credit, or financial help coming from somewhere else would most likely not be able to do it, and I’d guess many of the people stuck in bad jobs, or at least bad low wage jobs, would fall into some of those categories.

              1. Jamie*

                This is so true. You need first and last months rent, deposits for utilities in some cases, renting a truck, travel expenses, and even the seemingly incidental stuff of major grocery shopping to restock everything in the new place – it really adds up.

                If you don’t have financial help or support, I don’t know how you’d do it for under 5k with the most minimum of stuff to haul and a modest new place.

                It’s just not always feasible to pack up and leave the region. Some people have elderly parents or other commitments to the area that aren’t trivial or portable.

                I can see how an untenable work situation can feel like a vicious cycle – you don’t have the money to quit and find something better…so you get stuck where low pay and no career growth is better than the alternative which is nothing.

                On the other hand, I think most of us know people who are in lousy situations and do absolutely nothing to try and find something better. If I was miserable I wouldn’t quit without anything lined up, but I would be making a concerted effort to get my resume out there and try to get out.

                It’s certainly not as simple as to say if you’re unhappy and your employer sucks to quit…that’s great in theory (and for those who can) but a lot of people don’t have that luxury without risking becoming destitute. On the other hand if you’re miserable and being mistreated by your employer it’s incumbent on you to try to find something better and keep trying…discouraging though that must get sometimes.

                But it’s important to remember that it’s not just up to the affected employees to make a change. It’s up to management who knows it’s wrong to stop hushing their conscience affect change from the inside. It’s up to the public to shop their conscience as well and not support businesses that abuse the most vulnerable of their employees.

                Lower level jobs tend to have a great deal of turnover (I’m generalizing) so many would have to leave and more refuse to take their places in order to make an impact. You need a lot of buy in from a lot of people who may not have the financial resources to take a stand. It would take far fewer managers and above to refuse to operate in violation of labor laws and OSHA regs to affect a change – because a huge turnover at the management level is disruptive with fewer people.

                I’m not saying it’s easy – just saying everyone has a role in stomping out illegal and dangerous practices – not just the people subjected to it.

                (And how glad am I that we shop at Costco? Nice to know it’s as well run as it is cost effective – and their gas prices can’t be beat by us.)

      2. Natalie*

        The fact that we can’t make the world perfect doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty of room for improvement.

                1. Joey*

                  I never said be homeless. I said crappy employers will suffer greatly if employees continue to leave for better treatment elsewhere. This inhibits their ability to expand, maximize profits, etc. until they learn.

                  Regulating them is a never ending chase. Crappy employers will always find a way to be crappy until they go out of business or learn their ways. The best way for them to see that they’re failing is not the govt telling them. It’s seeing that if they don’t change they’ll go out of business.

              1. Heather*

                a) Are you planning to do a Jedi mind trick on millions of people to make them all agree that being unemployed is preferable to working at Walmart? Because that’s the only way you’re ever going to convince people not to work there, especially when it’s the only game in town.

                b) What kind of financial support are you planning to provide to all these people while they hold out for a higher-quality employer? Or should it be enough to know that even though they couldn’t pay the rent and wound up homeless, they stuck to their principles, dammit!

                1. Joey*

                  C’mon, Wal mart is never the only option. Surely they need customers who aren’t their own employees.

                  And surely there are other cities and regional economies that have better jobs.

                  I know I know, there’s a reason why those aren’t options either, right?

                2. Cat*

                  Joey, there are not enough decent jobs for a reasonable proportion of the population to stay employed in them. You can give any individual a laundry list of all the things they can do to make their lives better and maybe those things would work for that individual (though you’re probably going to seriously underestimate the difficulty for a lot of people). On an aggregate level, that’s not the case – you have to go after the employers to ensure working conditions on the whole are decent. Otherwise, you’re just shifting the impacts to someone else. That WalMart employee who gets a better job as a receptionist will have displaced some other applicant who will then have no choice but to take a job at WalMart.

                3. Heather*

                  What Cat said. And, what Jamie said above about it not being easy to just pick up and move across the country.

                  You seem very determined to believe that each person’s success or failure is 100% due to their own actions, and that’s just not true. There are external factors working on everyone’s life. The difference is that those of us who start out with more advantages have freedom to make mistakes without those mistakes having a permanent negative effect on our lives. And by “advantages” I don’t just mean money. Intelligence, social skills, energy level…they all make a difference and they aren’t always something you can improve, no matter how hard you try.

  22. Anon*

    #4 Sort of related but… are people quitting jobs left and right after 3 days?

    I have a friend who just got a new job after being out of work for years. He’s 3 days in and says it’s so horrible he wants to quit.

    In my mind, when you get a job, you should be able to slog through almost anything (unless it’s illegal) for at least 6 months. Then I came across this yahoo answers post and the answers blew my mind:

    Am I crazy? Are people really just okay with quitting 3 days in?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, and you can wear that outfit once then return it to the retailer saying you don’t like it.

      Dogs, cats. Same deal. Not happy after a day or so, back it goes.

      How sad.
      I never thought of happiness was an add water and stir- instant- type of thing. I think happiness comes from a sense of achievement or accomplishments.

    2. QualityControlFreak*

      Wow. Well, from the “text speak” in the replies I read, I’m wondering if these are not younger people with limited experience in the working world? Also, the egocentric POV and assumption that personal enjoyment is much more important than making a living indicate to me that some of these commenters may still be living with parents. If being able to eat and sleep indoors is conditional on being employed, that sucky job can start looking a lot more attractive.

    3. Ruffingit*

      Yes, I’m OK with it depending on what is going on. Slogging through is fine if it’s low-level annoyances you’re dealing with, but when it’s abusive behavior for example, I’d say quitting three days in is fine. It’s called cutting your losses and it’s better to do that and just remove the job from your resume than slog through for six months and develop workplace PTSD because of the totally legal, but shitty things going on there.

    4. HR Comicsans*

      Those posts were 6 years ago, it would be entertaining to track down and ask those same posters that questions again.

      I especially loved Johnny M’s answer to OK to quit after 3 days. “tell him that you would like to request a leave of absent until further noticed that way if you don’t find another job you can come back anytime you want but if you don’t like the job just quit and give them two weeks noticed it helps in the long run.”

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Even when 4 out of 5 really are illegal!? This was one of the more interesting (and horrifying) posts.

  23. Jane*

    #5 Unless you’re in the military, then they can do whatever the hell they want. Its essentially glorified low pay slave labor.

  24. Brett*

    #1 We actually review tax records for our background process.
    It is technically illegal to ask an applicant for their W-2, because that is illegally compelling an applicant to disclose their social security number. Instead, the applicant can be asked to provide a 4506-T which allows the employer to seek a W-2 series transcripts from the IRS.
    When a company doesn’t understand that minor differences but pushes forward with the process anyway, that is an issue.

      1. Brett*

        The specific phrase is “Disclosing, using, or compelling the disclosure of the Social Security number of any person for unauthorized purposes”.
        Requiring an applicant to turn over W-2s is considered compelling the disclosure of SSN. You can make an argument on whether or not it is an unauthorized process (when your purpose is to obtain wage history, that will be a tough argument since wage history is specifically protected in the SSA statutes, even if you are not using false identity to access the wage history).
        You should go through the W-2 transcript process with the IRS if you want access to an applicant’s W-2s.

        1. Joey*

          It’s not unauthorized if the owner gives it over. You’re using a really loose definition of compel and the SS Act is related to fraud. No fraud here.

          Good luck with that argument when an employer asks you for it.

          1. De Minimis*

            I had heard it was a myth that it was illegal to ask for your SSN.

            I’m old enough to remember the days when professors would post test scores on their office door with your SSN used as an identifier.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Mid to late 1990s, at my school they’d post them with your student number. This wasn’t really “private”–your email address was also based on this number–but you had to really dig to identify someone if you weren’t already close friends who emailed all the time.

    1. HR Comicsans*

      I know it’s illegal to force a printed of SS card for purpose of the I9 form when other documents can suffice, but only for that purpose. I’ve never heard it’s illegal for anything else.

  25. Just a Thought*

    I would remove myself from the running. Maybe if they start to see their top choices bulk at these requests, they’ll rethink the approach.

        1. Just a Thought*

          You are right. I was thinking of a person that has options. In no way did I mean that everyone can/should do this. I like being able to feed my kid just like the next person.

  26. anon-2*

    #2 – that’s called a KICKBACK. Totally illegal. In our hometown, we had a guy who was running a construction business – who was doing that, although not under the guise of being punitive.

    #5 – Illegal all the way. Call OSHA, call the police. I once worked in a place where, if there were a power failure, we’d be locked in the building with no way out. Somebody called the local fire department. They inspected. They were not amused when the fire chief asked – “if the power went out, no one could get out? What if there was a fire in here?” and the response was “ha ha ya gotta die SOMETIME!”

    1. anon-2*

      By the way – the employer in #2 did 18 months in Lewisburg Penitentiary. His wife was the treasurer of the company and might have also gone to Graybar Inn, had he not worked out a plea bargain.

  27. EC*

    #3, If a small company, I’d be curious what the business is. It might be unlikely for ALL employees in a business to be truly exempt. unless this was a business where All are exempt professionals (ie. Lawyers, Accountants, computer software designers) but even at a business like that, there probably is at least one or two non-professional support staff.

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