my boss is being investigated by HR, broken promises in an offer letter, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My offer letter promised me a six-month raise, but it never happened

I’m an electrical engineer with a four-year degree and 8 years experience making $40k. Horrible, I know. I took the current position because I was going to be laid off from my last job, where I was making $65k. I received an offer letter in writing that I would be making $75k after 6 months, so I accepted the offer. The 6-month mark came and went a month ago, still no raise. I am trying to decide if I should ask about it or just look for a new job. Since a written agreement was not followed, what else can I expect?

If I look for a new job, they will ask what I am making, which is rude anyway. They will also ask my reason for leaving. Should I tell them the real reason is salary? But that looks bad. Should I make something up?

Well, wait. You haven’t even brought this up with your employer yet? Yes, they should have been on top of it, but mistakes happen. And no one is going to advocate for you the way you should advocate for yourself. You need to speak up. Go to your manager and say, “We agreed that my salary would increase to $75,000 after six months. What do I need to do to put that in motion?”

I don’t know how much past the six-month mark you are now and ideally you would have said this right when it happened, but it’s not too late to go do it now. But the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes, so go do that now.

As for your actual question, if it does turn out that you decide to job search over this (which you should not decide before trying to resolve this first), you can explain that some conditions of the job turned out to be significantly different from what you’d negotiated. And if asked to be more specific, you can certainly say salary. As for getting into specific numbers, you should avoid that anyway, as it’s no one’s business but yours.

2. Can I ask for a slightly higher salary since I’m on my parents’ health care plan?

I’m graduating from college soon and am looking for jobs. Thanks to the ACA, I will be able to stay on my parents’ very excellent federal employee health insurance plan for the next 4 years, and as far as I know, very few employers are able to offer better plans than that.

So I was wondering: if/when I get a job offer somewhere, and if it turns out that staying on my parents’ plan makes most sense, then is there a polite way to negotiate that into a slightly higher salary? Something to the effect of “You won’t need to pay for my health insurance for a few years, so could you put that extra money into my salary instead?” (but obviously more polite than that).

Eh, I doubt it, and here’s why: While you can sometimes use being on a spouse’s health insurance plan to negotiate a higher salary because of the cost savings to your employer, employers are less likely to want to do it for someone in your situation — because when you age out of your parents’ plan, you’re going to need insurance through your employer. And are you going to be happy taking a pay cut at that point? Most people wouldn’t be, and employers don’t want to deal with the issues that arise around that.

And you might figure that that’s four years away and you might be working somewhere else by then so it won’t matter, but if they make this arrangement with you, it’ll be hard for them to refuse to do it for others on their parents’ insurance — and they’re really not going to want to do it for a 25-year-old, who will age out of their parents’ plan in just a year. They’re more likely not to want to mess with it at all.

(Plus, this might be a minor point, but I’d be wary of negotiating based on “I’m on my parents’ health care plan,” since it makes you sound like less of a self-sufficient adult.)

3. My boss is being investigated by HR

My immediate boss is being investigated (for publicly humiliating people, not getting projects completed, lying about it, etc.). Its been a long time coming and I am one of the people who have been confidentially interviewed about this boss. I have learned that one of my colleagues was also interviewed by HR about this boss – because he told everyone about it, including the boss in question!

Unfortunately, this boss is a Jekyll and Hyde type and is now being super nice now that he knows something is up. However, he is also on a not-so-subtle witch hunt to find out who has talked to HR and what they said. I found out that he looked into my email yesterday. He asked to leave something on my desk, and I said sure. When I got to my desk about an hour later, I noticed that my “deleted items” folder on my Outlook was open. I never open that folder.

Either he isn’t very bright (my first guess) or he was intentionally letting me know he was looking (which I wouldn’t put past him either). This would seem to me to qualify as interfering with the investigation. I appraised HR of this development and am otherwise a keeping low profile. Any suggestions?

Telling HR what you suspected was exactly the right thing to do. If you see any signs that your boss is messing with you further, or that he’s retaliating against you in any way for talking to HR, you should tell them that too. But otherwise, I’d just be patient and wait to see how this plays out.

4. Who to use as a reference when you’ve only had one manager since graduating

I am a relatively recent college graduate who has currently been working my first job for the past three years with the same manager. I am in the process of looking for a new position right now. So far, I haven’t made much progress in getting interviews but there is one issue that has been nagging at me for a while: whom does an applicant provide as references when looking for their second job?

When job hunting, it is accepted as standard practice to not use a current manager as a reference in order to avoid the risk of employer retaliation. But what does one do when they only have had one manager since graduating? I really don’t want to use professors as my only source of references because I would like to have someone speak on the behalf of my working abilities.

Past posts on AAM point out that it is a bad idea to use coworkers as references because they are seen as less legitimate and that managers are preferred. I feel that my manager might not take the news well that I am job hunting and do not want to do something that would most certainly tip him off. What should I do in this situation?

Yes, you shouldn’t use your current manager as a reference, because it can jeopardize your current job. Prospective employers will understand your situation; you just need to explain it to them. As for who to use instead: managers from internships, summer jobs, on-campus jobs, or even volunteer work are all acceptable this early in your career.

5. Is my company cheating me out of overtime pay?

I think my company is cheating me out of overtime pay. I get paid bi-weekly and am paid hourly. In some pay periods, I will sometimes work 45 hours the first week and 35 hours the second week. Technically I should get 5 hours of overtime for the first week, but what my employer is doing is adding the 5 hours to the second week so it’s 40 hours each week. So basically as long as I don’t go over 80 hours in a pay period, I don’t receive overtime. I feel like this is illegal and have no idea how to approach my boss about this. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Yes, this is illegal. Overtime must be calculated based on the hours you work within a single seven-day period (and in California, within the hours you work within a single day). Your employer doesn’t have the option to calculate it based on their pay period instead.

It’s always easier to address this stuff if you initially raise it in a non-adversarial manner — something like, “I noticed my overtime pay has been calculated incorrectly. It’s been based on my hours in a two-week period, but we’re required to calculate it based on a seven-day period. It looks like I’m owed about X hours of overtime for the past several months. How should I get this corrected?”

{ 239 comments… read them below }

  1. Jessa*

    OP3 is there a way you can lock your computer when you leave your desk (a sign off or something?) Because I would not want someone who may be out to get me to have the ability to change things in my system to potentially make me look bad. If they can view your mail, they can do other things. And those thing will have your log in all over them.

    1. Another Emily*

      On networked computers Ctrl+Alt+Del should take you to a screen that lets you lock the computer, which only you can unlock with your password.

      Also for #4 I think you mean “you’ve” instead of “you’re” in the title.

      1. TW*

        Quick shortcut to bypass Ctrl+Alt+Del
        The window key + L will automatically lock it without needing to click anything else.

        1. Audrey*

          Serious thanks for that! Much much easier to do one handed, such as while walking away to take a phone call.

        2. Alicia*

          awesome, thanks! I just tried it, and it worked so much better than Ctrl+Alt+Del, because sometimes it sits there and you can just hit “cancel” to go back in.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Seriously! Password protect your computer when you walk away. Everyone should be doing this. I know many people don’t but obviously you need to start immediately and do it every time you step away from your desk even for a minute.

      1. en pointe*

        Yeah, great advice.

        I guess it wouldn’t work for all the people from the other day’s ‘conundrums of the modern office’ thread though, with their passwords on post-it notes stuck to their monitor. Or for my office in which everybody is required to have the same password so that my eccentric boss can work from whichever desk she feels like after hours. (Yes, she has actually told us that’s the reason why and yes, it drives us nuts.)

        1. Anon*

          The weirdness of her wanting to use a random computer at any given moment aside, doesn’t she have her own login?

          That way she can log in as herself, using her own ID & password, even if you locked the computer.

          1. en pointe*

            I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure we only have one user log-in set up per computer, so her log-in would only work on her computer. Could be wrong though – I don’t really know much about how the network’s set up.

              1. en pointe*

                I don’t know – it’s the middle of the night here and I’m at uni the next couple of days, but I’ll check later in the week. If there is that option, I’m guessing that means other computer’s log-ins should be able to be used on my computer?

                1. Anon*

                  That’s the way it goes in my workplace. Anyone can log on from any computer using their own login. No need to log in as the person who normally sits at that desk.

                2. en pointe*

                  Ok, I’ll check it out thanks. If it’s the same for us, then this whole common password thing is really stupid. Maybe it’s her micromanager tendencies also. We do all have to have the same arrangement of icons on our desktops just so that she can find things easily…

                3. A Teacher*

                  That’s how it is where I teach. I can log onto any computer in the building with my own unique log on, theoretically, my students can log onto my computer as well with their own log in.

                4. Julie*

                  Be careful with this. It’s true that someone else can use her network ID to log onto another person’s computer, but if the person who was originally logged on has any applications open with unsaved data, that data will be lost when the next person logs on to her computer. So just be sure to save before you lock the computer.

        2. LBK*

          If someone ever tries to steal information from your company, they’re going to have a field day with this system. Geez.

      2. Anonymous*

        Even for a minute?


        I work in a place with excellent trust and good building security. We lock our computers if we’re away for a while, and overnight. But every time we step away? What a waste.

        1. Just a Reader*

          Really? It only takes a minute for a breach.

          My company requires us to lock no matter how long we’re away.

          Of course, it’s a security company. But it’s such minimal effort that I don’t understand bucking it.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          I work in a bank and we take information security very seriously. When you walk away to grab some coffee, it only takes a few seconds for someone to sit down at your desk and load a virus, key logger, whatever, and then our customers’ information is stolen or the whole network conpromised. Doesn’t matter whether I trust other employees or not. I wouldn’t gamble with confidential, sensitive informaton.

        3. Rat Racer*

          If you work in a company that deals with PHI (Protected Health Information) locking your computer is mandatory, even if you step away for a minute. Can’t remember now if that is part of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) or just something that ALL companies that host PHI follow. HIPAA violations have severe consequences (fines, firings – even jail time) so health plans and care delivery organizations take it very seriously.

          I can imagine that other companies who deal with sensitive financial data, classified information and even HR would have a similar policy.

          1. JLo*

            I work in health care too and must log off every time I leave the computer I’m using at that time, no doubts about it some of my coworkers don’t!

          2. Sigrid*

            Yup! And our computers log us out if they haven’t been used for… I think it’s three minutes. A very short amount of time.

          3. Anonymous*

            “The time to get back in is infinitesimal.” Ten seconds 20 times a day times 40 employees times 220 work days a year.

            “It only takes a minute for a breach.”

            Who is going to breach our system? Other employees? Apart from email, most of our stuff is in a shared environment anyway.

            There are certainly types of data and situations where it is important to avoid always lock a computer when in not in use.

            But as a blanket rule it’s silly. Mindless overkill.

            “I work in a bank and we take information security very seriously.”

            This is a good example of when that sort of thing is needed.

            “If you work in a company that deals with PHI (Protected Health Information)”

            This is another good example.

            But what annoys me about this site in general is someone gives some sort of advice that is useful in some situations but presenting it as a general advice. And then when it’s pointed out that that advice is over-the-top for many other situations.

            It’s like if someone said people should wear bullet proof vests when shopping and someone else points out that life is not that dangerous. And then I support the first person by saying I know someone who got shot…..

            1. Laufey*

              Yes, but responding with sarcasm and by belittling others’ procedures is not a good way to foster meaningful conversation (especially since, in at least two of the examples cited, you agree such security is necessary). People won’t mention how their offices work if they’re going to be mocked, and people won’t find new strategies or move towards the mean without knowing what “normal” is.

            2. A Teacher*

              Health care–you are required to log out even if you step away for a period of time HIPAA requires that.

            3. Just a Reader*

              So mocking legitimate points is your way of “correcting” what you see wrong with this site?

              “It only takes a minute” for a breach IS general advice. Depending on where you work, yes, a breach can happen by an employee. People in my function are privy to confidential, legal information and could be fined or fired if they spoke to another employee about it or otherwise disclosed it, including via an unlocked computer.

              You apparently don’t work somewhere that security among employees is important, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean that the points made by several other posters are invalid. I’m not sure what you’re getting out of your condescending and snarky posts.

              1. Anonymous*

                Here’s the general advice: information security practices should balance risk and resources. Not more is always better. Not ” do it every time you step away from your desk even for a minute.” That’s advice that’s valid in some contexts, but wasteful overkill in others.

                Nearly every discussion of information security here results in someone talking about working in a bank and someone else talking about confidential health information. As if we should base approaches to security in general to what is needed in the these heavily regulated industries with big privacy concerns.

                Those are useful examples of strong practices, but that doesn’t mean that their approaches are right in general.

                I took a class where the professor worked for a company that, among other things, managed nuclear power plants. That’s very serious business. The class was about records management, and she used her company as an example of extremely tight records management. But she also had the good sense to also say that it was an extreme example with security needs beyond what most of us would experience.

                And she added that while it was worth spending a lot of money to do things with no margin for error in that industry, in some other industries being that careful would be wasteful, and the money/time could be better spent in other ways.

                1. Just a Reader*

                  The people here seem smart enough to take the real-world examples shared and apply them to their own workplaces.

                  I don’t see the need for all kinds of disclaimers when people weigh in with their comments. It’s generally understood that nobody is giving advice expecting it to be applied across the board.

                  I’ll still argue that calling 5 seconds to lock your computer “a waste” is extreme and doesn’t map to your above example of costing a company time and money, unless you have some kind of intense security system.

            4. iseeshiny*

              “‘The time to get back in is infinitesimal.’ Ten seconds 20 times a day times 40 employees times 220 work days a year.”

              This is the kind of thinking that leads to tracking bathroom time. Juuuust saying.

              1. Can't Think of a Good Name*

                Word. It’s just a little over 3 minutes a day per person. That’s pouring an extra cup of coffee or hitting a tiny bit of traffic in the morning.

          4. Suz*

            I think you mean HITECH, not HIPAA. It’s the counterpart to HIPAA for electronic medical records, etc.

            1. Elizabeth*

              Actually, it is both HITECH & HIPAA. HITECH, which was part of ARRA, takes the rules laid out by the Privacy & Security Rules and expands them.

        4. Del*

          Add me in for the folks who are required to lock, even if we’re walking two cubes down to say hi to a neighbor. If we’re not in front of our computer, the computer should not be accessible.

          It’s really not that much of a burden.

        5. thenoiseinspace*

          No, it’s not a waste. I thought I could trust the people at my current company – then I found out one coworker was coming back into the office late at night and using MY computer, printing off hundreds of pages under my username. You bet your ass I’ve kept it locked ever since.

          1. Anonymous*

            Oh, so I said locking your computer when stepping away for a minute is a waste (and mention we lock our machines overnight) and you seem to dispute that by saying that keeping your computer unlocked for many hours caused you a problem.

            Crackerjack logic you’ve got there. Brilliant.

            1. Jean*

              Please be nice in the sandbox! Thenoiseinspace just described an example of a lesson learned in her _own_ work life. There’s no need to respond with claws out.
              (Double reprimand if you’re the same Anonymous that posted the long grouchy message at 10:35 am. Lots of us use pseudonyms here, but we consistently use the same unique alias.)

            2. thenoiseinspace*

              You COMPLETELY missed the point. Your point mentioned that you work in a company with “excellent trust.” My point was that that trust can often be a mistake, and you can’t rely on it.

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Hey, please be polite here. You’re welcome to disagree, but you do need to be constructive and civil while doing so.

              While I’m at it, please pick a user name. It’s very hard to keep track of multiple Anonymouses in conversation. Thank you!

              1. Mimi*

                Just curious: are you able to track who posts under their “usual” handle, as well as under an anonymous handle? I get the impression sometimes that regulars post some comments “anonymously” to avoid any reprisal…

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I can look up the IP address for a particular comment if I bother to look, and if I take an extra step I can then see what other comments have come from that IP address. I only do either of those things if there’s a problem, like someone is being disruptive.

            4. aebhel*

              You’re being remarkably hostile about this, and I really don’t understand why. In some situations, there’s no real need to lock one’s computer–I work in a library, and the only thing on my work computer is summer program attendance data, flyers, and my email. There’s no reason for me to lock my computer, so I don’t.

              But in some situations, it does make sense to lock your computer every time you step away, and a situation where you know somebody in your office might decide to sabotage you out of spite is one of those situations.

        6. Jubilance*

          Wow that would never fly at any company I’ve ever worked. The rule is always “lock your computer if you just step away for a drink of water or to use the restroom”. And if you work with confidential or secure information, its a requirement.

          At my current company, my team used to be full of pranksters that would screw with your computer if you left it unlocked for even a second. Everyone got hit at least once & learned to lock their computer.

          1. Lynn Whitehat*

            Where I work, if you leave your computer unlocked, someone will send out an email offering to bring in donuts for the whole office. It escalates from there.

            1. The Real Ash*

              Someone did something similar in my office (we work with law enforcement information), where we are required to lock our computers even if we’re gone for just a moment. That person almost had an internal affairs investigation done on them for using someone else’s computer. No joke.

              1. The IT Manager*

                Yeah. Doing that even to “teach a lesson” or play a prank is a violation of the government computer policy we agree to every morning when we log in. A prank like that might be punished in some places. Obviously not in Lynn’s office.

                Lesson learned in this thread: Some places take security practice A LOT more seriously than others.

              2. Dan*

                Yup, same here. I worked at a place where email pranks on unlocked comoputers started to catch on (i.e. everything from “I’m buying lunch on Friday” to “I lust after you”). Management quickly put a stop to it by reminding everyone that using someone else’s email was something for which we could be fired. :-O !!

          2. Lora*

            THIS. At Exjob, we had one guy who couldn’t get his computer to stop meowing for all of its sound effects. Another whose icons disappeared on a regular basis. All kinds of joke screensavers and backgrounds. It wasn’t that sensitive information would get leaked to an evildoer, it was more that you didn’t want the picture of your pet to be changed to something inappropriate.

            1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              The best one I ever saw was when someone left their computer unlocked (I was in HR at the time, so a big no-no) and another team member took a screenshot of their desktop, set it as the background picture, then deleted all their shortcuts.

              Just try and open a program from the screenshot of a shortcut. ;)

              1. Dan*

                OMG, that’s hillarious! I’ve got a couple of coworkers that are not very computer literate. It would probably end up in a call to the help desk :-)

          3. Del*

            When I started training for my job, our trainer used pranks (usually inverting the monitor display) to teach us to lock our computers reflexively whenever we stood up. It got to a point where I’d start locking my computer at home by sheer habit!

        7. KC*

          My company has to be PCI compliant, and that means locking our computers EVERY time we step away–even for a minute.

          As Just a Reader mentioned, it only takes a minute for a security breach.

      3. Scott M*

        You can also set the timer on your screen saver to lock the computer after a certain amount of inactivity. Mine is set to 3 mintues

        1. De Minimis*

          IT sets ours. Not sure how long it is, but I’d guess probably 3 minutes at the very most.

          I will say that a lot of the requirements are on paper and aren’t always followed to the letter on a daily basis. As I mentioned in another post a few days ago, almost everyone here writes down passwords and that’s not supposed to be allowed, but many find it necessary due to the many various systems with restrictive password requirements.

          1. The Real Ash*

            They could get around this by putting their passwords on their phone and having a passcode on the phone. That way there aren’t passwords lying around for anyone to use maliciously, and the person can still access their password with ease.

            1. The Other Alice*

              I work in a bank, and we all have our passwords in the notes section of outlook. Provided your computer is locked, nobody’s getting your password!

            2. Julie*

              Until the phone’s battery dies! Just kidding – I actually think putting pwds on one’s phone is a good solution.

      4. Rebecca*

        I always, always lock my computer, even if I’m just stepping away to go to the ladies’ room.

    3. JessB*

      I totally agree, this is what I first thought of when I read the post, too.

      I’ve worked in state government with confidential health information, so I got into the habit there, and continue to lock my screen now as soon as I stand up. I’d definitely recommend this as a solution to stop anyone from looking through your computer (in the most obvious way, there are others). I also agree with Alison that you did the right thing in telling HR.

    4. Elysian*

      I can see this, but if the OP’s workplace is like mine, people have the password to my computer. There are legitimate reasons that people need to use my computer when I’m not there, also, it’s the work computer anyway.

      I don’t think its worthwhile to spend a lot of time trying to keep the manager out – its better to expect very little privacy on your work-issued equipment and work from there.

      1. Colette*

        It’s not necessarily about expecting privacy on your work computer. Many people have access to sensitive information (sometimes employees or customer’s personal info, sometimes business information that should not be shared), and locking your screen helps someone from getting access (even inadvertently) to information they shouldn’t have.

        1. Elysian*

          That’s true, locking your computer is useful in some circumstances, but the original question was about the OP’s boss. The boss (presumably) has every right to access whatever information OP has, so locking the computer isn’t a great solution to the boss’s snooping.

          1. Puddin*

            I have to contradict here. In a well processed situation [larger, public companies], each person would have their own software access and the corresponding password(s). This includes layers of access within each software/data drive determined by the password. If your boss does not have access to it, s/he should not have access to it – even if you do. If a company is publicly traded, I believe this kind of security is not an option – has SOX implications, insider trading, who knows what else. Giving your password or using someone else’s will get your fired in many companies, even if it is to do legitimate work or retrieve data that is ‘ok’ for you to have (e.g. i am home sick and have my co-worker log in as me to email something from my computer – this could get me fired). From the rest of your posts it sounds like your company is on the smaller side and perhaps privately owned, so that could be very different for you.

            1. Elysian*

              I mean, maybe? I don’t know. We don’t know the OP’s situation. But the vast majority of companies aren’t publicly traded. I’m just saying that the OP should not spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not putting a password on the computer will keep the boss out. It probably won’t.

              1. Zillah*

                Agreed. I don’t think it’s so uncommon for one’s boss to have access to one’s computer, especially since depending on the situation there may be valid reasons for them to have access.

                It’s good advice to lock your computer in general, but I’m not sure that would really help the OP in this immediate issue.

          2. Colette*

            Sure, the boss can access it – but the boss would have to go through other channels (IT) to get the information, and there would probably be a record of the request and the justification.

      2. The IT Manager*

        Wow! I work for the government. Each person has their own network login that they are not allowed to share with anyone. Now as other have mentioned, admins can gain access to a computer and override my login and log me off when needed. And someone can use their own network login to gain access to the network through “my” computer, but they can’t see or edit my desktop and personal (stored on my desktop/documents/etc) files, email,

        I’m in IT. What I described is considered standard/basic security practice. What some of you are describing just horrifies me. If someone else knows your password they can inpersonate you via email or some other electronic work (ie blame you for changing/destroying the files). This is just bad, bad security. No one else should know your password ever. If something is done under your login, everyone should be able to to be assured that you did and no one else did.

        1. Elysian*

          I mean… yes? Sometimes my assistant “impersonates” me to send email, check my email, do other things on my computer at my direction. Our IT department requires that they have a copy of our passwords so that they can access our computers if they need to update software or suspect that we broke something. My boss, though he doesn’t generally have time for these games, could get on my computer to access documents I have, check my email, or whatnot. I mean, I don’t go shouting my password from the rooftops, but this doesn’t seem that unusual based on my experience.

          And besides, none of it really matters, because if the boss is going to snoop, the boss is going to snoop. It’s “his” computer (since he is management), so it’s his right. It’s up to his boss to police that, which is why the OP did the right thing by talking to HR.

          1. en pointe*

            Yeah, similarly, my boss travels a lot and I monitor her Outlook so having access is necessary. I really think it’s more of a YMMV vary thing, depending on the workplace.

          2. Xay*

            If you use Outlook, you can give your assistant access to your calendar and email – there is no need for your assistant to have access to your computer for that.

            I work in government too – I have no expectation of privacy from my supervisor or the public, for that matter, but considering I do handle sensitive and occasionally confidential material, the idea of sharing passwords is shocking to me.

            1. en pointe*

              Oh, how does that work? The Outlook access thing. If I can stop traipsing back and forth from my boss’s office, I’d be stoked. I am learning so much about computers from this thread!

              1. the gold digger*

                Can’t you just log into your boss’ outlook online using Microsoft portal? That’s how I check my email from my previous department while still having my current Outlook open under my new user name.

                1. en pointe*

                  Oh probably. Does that allow access to everything – like all the folders, calendar, etc?

              2. Tina*

                My office does it all the time, because we often have to set up meetings on behalf of other people, check someone’s schedule, etc. You can given different calendar permissions in Outlook. For example, the administrator who makes most of the appts gets “editor” access, so she can create and edit calendar entries as needed. Colleagues have “reviewer” access, so they can check our calendar for meeting availability, etc, but can’t actually edit anything.

              3. Emily K*

                In Outlook left pane, click Calendar. Along the toolstrip, the rightmost icon should say “Calendar Permissions.” Click “Add…” in the dialog box that pops up and you should get a second dialog box with your address book (the same one that comes up when you’re adding people using Scheduling Assistant). Add the person you want to share your calendar with and then use the lower half of the dialog box to set what they have permission to read (just see the appointment, see the appointment plus location and meeting title, or see everything) or write.

            2. Elysian*

              I don’t think my Outlook stuff is set up that way. I don’t know, I’m not IT. IT says “this is your password. Don’t change it. I’ve given it to your assistant.” I’m not in charge of that stuff.

              It doesn’t really matter though, because the point is that putting a password on your computer is unlikely to keep a snooping boss out. I really think the OP is best served not worrying too much about the password issue, and instead keeping in touch with HR about the shady things the boss seems to be doing.

          3. Cube Ninja*

            This is *extremely* unusual for anyone with a competent IT department. IT having a copy of your password on file “so that they can access our computers if they need to update software or suspect that we broke something” is *insane* – that’s what administrative rights are for. This practice completely and utterly defeats the purpose of having individual user logins to begin with.

            There’s also no reason at all that a boss or assistant needs access to your workstation to send e-mail on your behalf. This is easily accomplished through Outlook’s built-in functionality in an Exchange environment.

          4. Anonymous*

            “Our IT department requires that they have a copy of our passwords so that they can access our computers if they need to update software”

            This is weird – in most computing environments IT can have a different login with rights to administer the machine.

        2. the gold digger*

          Each person has their own network login

          This was a big issue a few years ago near here – the county clerk had only one password for her three employees.(She had also moved election data from the county network to her own computer.)

          Even I, who am not a big IT person, saw the problems in that. What is the point of a password if everyone has the same one?

          (To make matters worse, after she was told not to run for re-election – things got even worse after the shared passwords were exposed and there had to be a statewide re-count pretty much because she did things so badly, she has just been hired by the city to be their new clerk!)

          1. Jean*

            “…the county clerk had only one password for her three employees.(She had also moved election data from the county network to her own computer.)”

            Whoa Nelly! That reminds me of the Chicago election official who, one rainy election night some 3o+ years ago, took the ballots home to dry them in her oven. (To Jamie and any other Illinoisians: I’m not trying to slam Illinois. When this happened I was an Illinoisian myself.) So now this person is the city clerk? Fun times ahead. Maybe recounting her antics will earn prizes for some journalists.

        3. themmases*

          Yeah, I am horrified by some of the practices people are describing here as well. Even if you don’t work with particularly sensitive data, they are not normal.

          Unique logins with difficult to guess passwords don’t just protect employees’ personal privacy or confidential information. They also provide a record of who did what in the system and when (whether “the system” is just your local computer or your company’s entire network).

          In the OP’s case, someone did actually impersonate them to gain access to their email. What if someone had wanted to impersonate the OP to send a message in their name? What if an employee who knew they were being laid off decided to delete their files before they go, or install something they shouldn’t? What if someone just made a mistake and clicked a bad link in an email? Unique logins help protect people who use the system appropriately, identify people who try to damage the system, and figure out when and how problems were caused. There is really no excuse for sharing login information, and if you think your system requires you to then your IT department has no excuse– either for failing to upgrade to a secure computer system, or for making sure people understand how to use it properly.

          I can’t remember the last Windows computer I used that didn’t support multiple sessions unless something was wrong with it. Even in cases like calendar management where people need to “impersonate” each other, all modern email programs have legitimate ways to do this from separate user accounts. It sounds like serious upgrades are in order in some workplaces…

          1. tcookson*

            We had one assistant a few years ago who was mad at her boss, so she used his ID to log in and complete a survey about my boss. The dean got the survey results about my boss, and it looked as if this other department head had completely lambasted him and his competence in every category. When they figured out what in the heck had happened, that assistant was escorted out of her building by campus security and banned from the whole entire campus for I-don’t-know how long!

          2. Julie*

            And in cases where there was no malicious intent, it can help identify who needs training.

        4. LCL*

          For you IT people, when you talk to employees about computer security, maybe you should start with the basics of storing files to different drives.
          What jumps out at me in this thread is the idea that many users aren’t sure of the difference between their individual computer, and the company network.

          I am fortunate to work for a branch of govt with an excellent IT department. My computer is just a not very smart box; all of my working files are on my personal drive space on the network. Unless I choose to post them to our public drive space, as appropriate for technical material. The only files stored on my computer’s C drive are things I am editing. I am expected to log off and shut my machine down every night so the upgrades sent out by IT will be loaded.

          I was waiting for Jamie to post and explain this professionally but I think her head ‘sploded from the various scenarios described.

      3. Observer*

        AS others have noted, it’s not necessarily about privacy – which I don’t expect. It’s about making sure that someone who shouldn’t can’t access your computer. It’s also about providing an audit trail. And, in a case like the LW, it’s about making sure that someone who theoretically might be expected to have access, can’t sabotage someone.

    5. Brett*

      Those locks can be overridden with an administrator password. It will be obvious it was overridden, but it can be done.
      So, if you do lock your computer, and come back to find you have been logged out, then your lock was overridden by someone with admin access.

      1. Observer*

        But that protects someone like the LW. Firstly, if anything is done, it’s not under her log in. Also, in a situation where people are expected to lock their computers, an admin over-ride won’t get them into trouble.

      2. Non geordie beth*

        … Or in our office it quite often means ‘you didn’t log out when you left the building so we switched your computer off so someone else could log in’. People know they’re supposed to log off when leaving and lose work this way but still they don’t log out!

    6. Musereader*

      In my current office we have smart cards that go into a slot in the keyboard which we use to log into any computer in the office. We are supposed to remove the card to lock the computer everytime we step away, even for 30 seconds, and then you have to reinsert the card and retype your password to get back in again. The two prevoius officese you had to lock as well

    7. Russ*

      Sure you can lock your computer and do all sorts of other stuff, but…Here’s an idea, if there is something that you don’t want the boss or anyone else to know, don’t put it in an e-mail, especially an e-mail on the company’s server. The presumption of privacy has sunk many people. Additionally, if there is something in there that you wouldn’t tell the boss to their face, and be able to stand by and defend, then you are now the one that’s unprofessional. If it’s legitimate concerns, and the boss tries to retaliate, then that ‘s just one more piece of ammo for HR to get the boss’ other foot out the door.

    8. KrisL*

      Where I work, it’s company policy that we use ctrl-alt-delete to lock our PC’s if we’re going to be away from our desks for any length of time. Also, we tend to have our screen savers set up for the same reason.

  2. Dan*


    Some places will “pay” you to not accept their health insurance, see if yours is one of them. You shouldn’t have to go into why. So basically, every year at open enrollment, you’d either accept the insurance or the payout.

    This gets you what you want (extra cash) and saves the hassle of dealing with it later.

    1. BadPlanning*

      Yes, at my job, you can decline the health insurance and they’ll give you money. It’s meant to be for spouses where the other spouse has insurance that the couple likes better.

      Also OP#2, some companies have low cost for only covering the employee. Depending on how good your parent’s insurance is, taking the new company’s insurance as well might not be bad.

      1. Zillah*

        Ehhh, given that the OP said that their parents have very good insurance, I’m inclined to think that that would be a waste of money and time.

    2. Windchime*

      Same here. If I were married and on my spouse’s health insurance, I could decline it at my employer and would get a little extra money on my check each month. Not even close to the amount that they would be paying as my premium, but a small amount.

    3. JW (2)*

      I thought that people under 26 aren’t allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance once they get a job that offers it? Has that changed?

    4. OP#2*

      I didn’t know that was a thing. It also sounds like there will be a checkbox on a form somewhere for that if its an option, so it sounds pretty simple. Thanks!

        1. tcookson*

          At my first office job, my manager noticed that I was declining the company insurance (because of my husband’s insurance) and negotiated for me to receive a small amount extra hourly pay (like, 0.75/hour). She was a nice and thoughtful manager, though. She didn’t have to have that on her radar. I never would have thought of it myself, though, if she hadn’t brought it up.

  3. Jess*

    Uh, #2, you’re NOT eligible for continued coverage under your parents’ plan if you work at a job that offers you health insurance, even crappy health insurance. Even an 18 year old in high school working at Starbucks for at least 20 hours a week technically isn’t eligible to remain on their parents’ plan under the ACA because Starbucks offers insurance to part-timers. Seriously. You are eligible to remain on your parents’ plan until 26 only if you are unemployed or working a job that doesn’t offer insurance or freelancing or whatever.

      1. en pointe*

        Yeah, to clarify, I think this is more a misinterpretation of the ACA before this year, under which the eligibility of children up to age 26 to stay on their parent’s plan depended on whether it was an individual market plan or employer plan, and, for the latter, specifically what it offered.

        Prior to 2014, employer plans didn’t have to offer coverage if children were able to get it through their own employer (whereas plans in the individual market did). Now they both do.

        1. en pointe*

          Actually, one minor amendment to that; under the ACA, prior to 2014, employer plans did have to offer coverage to children up to the age of 26 who were also able to get it through their own employer, unless they were in existence before March 23 2010 (the plans not the children).

      2. Anonymint*

        I’m a recently-turned 26-year-old and I actually was able to use both my parents insurance AND my own employers insurance simultaneously. I had a lot of medical issues a few years ago, and when I went to appointments I’d present both insurance cards and they’d run my charges through both plans to see which had better coverage for that particular appointment.

        I speak from experience that it’s absolutely possible to stay on your parents insurance until 26, even if you have your own full-coverage plan through your employer.

        1. Calla*

          This happened to me without me realizing it! I got new insurance at a job (at 24) and used it for doctors, but apparently my parents weren’t able to remove me immediately and the pharmacy was still running my parents’ insurance for me — I didn’t even realize this until something that I knew was covered under my new insurance came up with a co-pay and I said “waitaminute!”

        2. themmases*

          I did the same thing, although mine was an accident.

          I signed up for my employer health insurance at a new job my first full year there. Since I was new to being an adult, I mistakenly believed that my parents could then stop covering me and save that money. Later I learned that because my mother pays a family rate to cover my dad and sister (i.e. the rate isn’t per-person), I was still covered either way and couldn’t opt out of being covered or save them any money really. Oops! But it was nice for that year.

        3. jmkenrick*

          I can also back this claim up! I stayed on my parent’s insurance and got a little extra on my paycheck from my work as it is an option they offer here.

  4. Stephanie*

    Jess above brings up a good point about ACA. I’d check that before you forfeited benefits.

    Also, I’d just you have other insurance and leave the parents part out. Alison is right that it might not reflect too well on you (despite how fiscally prudent it may be). I’m living with my folks while I job hunt. I once got the advice for a long-distance job interview to say I was living with my folks rent-free and because of that had no issues relocating. I winced thinking “Er…that doesn’t make me sound particularly self-sufficient and mature (even if it is more and more common) in case I do end up interviewing with someone who thinks I’m a case of arrested development.”

    1. Prickly Pear*

      I totally agree. I live with my parents for various reasons, but I do squirm a little at the thought of explaining why to an employer. (the place I work now doesn’t give me flack about it, but they know my reasons and we skew young enough that I’m not the only one.)

    2. Anonathon*

      (Others mentioned this above, but the ACA lets you stay on your parents’ plan until age 26 even if you don’t live with them and even if could get covered through your employer. It’s your call, essentially.)

      Agreed about keeping it vague though. I’m on my partner’s plan, rather than my employer’s, as hers is better. I just didn’t fill out the forms with HR, and no one seemed to care why.

  5. Lore*

    Re #2: unless you take a job with an employer who pays 100% of the health insurance premium (pretty rare these days) your take-home pay will be higher than a coworker’s who makes the same on-paper salary. It’s not quite the same as a bigger salary of course, but does leave more money in your pocket for the time being.

    1. Gjest*

      I would also hesitate to negotiate a raise based on not using your employers health insurance, because s*&t happens, and you could need to enroll in their plan (e.g. parents lose their jobs & own insurance, some terrible falling out with them and they retaliate by kicking you off their plan, etc. You may not think these terrible things could happen, but they can). Then your employer would likely take away your pay raise AND you’d have to start paying their premium, so it would seem like a huge pay cut.

      If anything, check to see if they offer a payout for not enrolling, like Dan suggests above, but if they don’t, don’t ask for more money.

      1. Calla*

        Agreed. My previous job gave me a higher salary based on not using their insurance without telling me. Then, when I approached them about switching (there was no dire change, but I realized my parents’ plan didn’t work that great across the country), I was told “oh… we based your salary on the fact that you didn’t need our plan.” I wouldn’t have had to take a pay cut, but I was told I wouldn’t get a raise or a bonus for a while.

        Lore makes a good point about not having to pay the premium equates to a small “bonus” in your paycheck.

  6. Elle D*

    OP #4 – I was just in your shoes a year and a half ago, and used my internship supervisor, a supervisor from a volunteer position I had in college, and a manager from my seasonal retail position. In the rare case that a job asked for more than 3 references (3 seems to be the magic number), I put down a co-worker from an on-campus job who was senior to me, simply because I was out of managers to use.

    I have a question about co-worker references though. My manager doesn’t actually oversee my work, as I have a specialized position in my department. Instead, I send all of my work to someone who is technically a co-worker in another department for approval. This co-worker also provided a lot of commentary to my manager for my performance review, as she has a better idea of my day-to-day workflow than my manager does. Would it be strange to list her as a reference down the road since I think she has a better understanding of the quality and efficiency of my work, even though she’s not technically above me on the org chart?

    1. Worker Bee*

      Hi Elle D!
      I think it would be strange. As discussed in other threads, your manager needs a basic understanding of your work and what you do. But to manage you he doesnt need to know how you do your work. So for Resume / application I’d go with the manager. When you to the interview stage could add your co-worker as reference explaining the situation. But only if it is really special / complicated etc work you do and they would get a value out of the conversation with your co worker.

    2. CAA*

      If she’s supervising your work, then you can use her as a reference. Just put that information somewhere the reference checker will see it. E.g.

      Jane Doe
      Lead Lid Maker
      Chocolate Teapots Inc.
      Phone #, email address
      Jane supervised my work shaping the rims of teapots.

      Also, if you run out of managers, you can use anyone who can speak to the quality of your work. Sometimes that’s a co-worker, sometimes it’s another manager to whom you didn’t report, a manager who left the company, or your manager’s manager.

      A great many people do not have 3 managers they can use as references because they’ve had the same manager for the last 7 years, the one before that is deceased, and the one before that would be their college internship manager who doesn’t remember them any more.

      Seriously, I’d prefer to get two managers and one co-worker as your references, and that’s what I’m going to ask you for; but I’m not going to refuse to hire a good candidate who only has one manager and two co-workers as references.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Since she actually approved your work, she had a somewhat supervisory relationship to you. I wouldn’t NOT list your manager, but it would be fine to include this coworker too, which an explanation that she approved your work.

  7. Vee*

    #5 (overtime pay)– I believe there are some exceptions for certain healthcare workers working a fluctuating workweek that allow for more than 40 hours a week as long as the employee doesn’t exceed 80 hours over two weeks. This is under the FLSA’s 8/80 rule, so state regs may be more stringent.

  8. FiveNine*

    I feel for No. 5 — and despite the advice, I have been in those shoes and it made no difference how I raised it. It was a big box store everyone already knows in the news f or already being sued in class actions — they have to know it’s illegal but keep insisting to individuals (there are no unions) that if you work 48 hours one week but 32 the next there’s no overtime. There’s never any overtime.

      1. Lora*

        If it’s the big box store that begins with a W and ends in t, I believe their answer was “HAHAHA good effin’ luck!” As it has been to nearly all class action suits filed against them, really.

        When companies get to a certain size/revenue level, lawsuits end up being a cost of doing business. I personally know of several companies whose fines alone have run to $0.5 billion and the regulatory requirements put in place to deal with the lawsuit ended up costing $1.5 billion in capital upgrades and contractor projects. And they STILL try to do the same shenanigans that got them in trouble in the first place, because they still made enough money on the product(s) to cover the losses.

  9. AnotherAlison*

    #1 – An EE making $40,000 in this market? There is something more going on here, I think. Even making $65,000 at the last job with 8 yrs experience is suspect. BLS shows $56,000 as the 10th percentile pay for EEs. Median in in the $80,000s. If you can’t get a raise to $75k, yes, you need to look.

    1. Recession Ed*

      It’s called a recession. In 2009 I made $160k as a manager and was laid off, making $0. I then got a job making $65k as a manager in charge of the whole USA, got a raise to $75k, then laid off and back to $0. I got another job and am making $100k as a non-manager. So here in 2014, I’m still not back to my inflation un-adjusted 2009 pay.

      1. H. Vane*

        The recession technically ended in 2009. Five years later, employers who use it as an excuse are really just screwing you or are so financially unhealthy you don’t want to work for them anyway. Just sayin’.

        1. Recession Ed*

          I don’t want to split hairs but technically a recession is a decline in the economy. When the economy has bottomed out and is not rising, technically the recession is over (circa 2009). That doesn’t meant the economy is in good shape, it just isn’t declining (let’s not split hairs any further).

          So employers have and continue to screw employees because they can. In my case, cr*p pay is better than being laid off with no pay. Since 2009, I was laid off for a total of a year so by comparison the cr*p smelled pretty sweet. I didn’t even mention in my initial post the psychological burden of being laid off for so long, exhausting all my contacts, applying for 10 jobs every day, some of which I had done the exact same job on the exact same systems in the exact same department and couldn’t even get any response. So after months of rejection I took a job making almost $100k less than my prior job with much more responsibility for a terrible employer paying only 2%ile of market…because it was something, anything.

          I have highly-educated, highly-skilled colleagues who continue to be laid off after 2 and 3 years so the cr*p smells very sweet now. I never stopped looking for new positions since 2009 and continue to do, but recession or no recession, there just aren’t many positions out there. As an example, my current employer is still in a years-long hiring freeze and I was brought in through a revival of my exhausted contacts.

          1. H. Vane*

            It’s true, growth has been slow and for many, many people, there is still a lot of pain. I’m really sorry you haven’t been able to find employment at the rate of pay you expect. If you don’t mind me asking, what is your field? I’m an economist by education, and this sort of thing is interesting to me.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            The issue with your comments is that the energy industry, a huge employer of EEs, has been growing.

            I know several people who are in your shoes. Most of them were very highly paid sales types in declining industries. A couple of them are over 50. It does completely suck for them, yes. I acknowledge the situation exists.

            Looking on my internal career website, there are 5 pages of EE and electrical-related (designers, field superintendents, etc.) jobs.

            I did 3 university exit interviews for MEs last spring, and the two who had jobs were going to earn in the $60s. For MEs, who typically earn less than EEs. The other guy was going to grad school. There’s no reason an experienced EE should earn $40k, unless there’s something going on like an unwillingness to leave an area with a depressed economy and no industry.

        2. Colette*

          Let’s say everyone in the US is employed at a salary of $100,000.

          There’s a recession, and 25% of people are laid off.
          Now 75% of the population is making $100,000, and 25% is making $0.

          The 25% keep job hunting, and eventually some of them (5% of the total) are offered jobs, but the employers don’t want to pay $100,000, they only want to pay $50,000, and they can do so, because 20% of the population is still out of work.

          Now you have:
          75% making $100,000
          5% making $50,000
          20% making $0

          Some of the 75% also want new jobs, and they take pay cuts, because the market rate has now changed.

          Eventually, you have fewer and fewer people making $100,000, and more people making lower amounts.

          Even when the economy recovers, as long as there’s a pool of good people willing to take jobs for $50,000, employers aren’t going to offer $100,000.

          1. Recession Ed*

            Thank you.

            An extension of this that a lot of people haven’t understood in real-life, is that when you’ve been at your $100k level and go to the $0 mark for a year and exhaust your savings, when you get a new position it doesn’t magically erase the prior time at $0 and all the depleted savings. That loss of income/depletion of savings lasts a lifetime of recovery. This means that you grab that $50k position with gusto and guard it against other potential candidates. You work your behind off so you don’t trade places with someone still at the $0 mark. The company loves this because they are getting more than a $100k person for only $50k.

            Of course you have no loyalty to the company, just to your family, which as long as there are more candidates than positions, are temporarily aligned.

          2. Emily K*

            “Big industry constantly requires a reserve army of unemployed workers for times of overproduction. The main purpose of the bourgeois in relation to the worker is, of course, to have the commodity labour as cheaply as possible, which is only possible when the supply of this commodity is as large as possible in relation to the demand for it, i.e., when the overpopulation is the greatest. Overpopulation is therefore in the interest of the bourgeoisie, and it gives the workers good advice which it knows to be impossible to carry out. Since capital only increases when it employs workers, the increase of capital involves an increase of the proletariat, and, as we have seen, according to the nature of the relation of capital and labour, the increase of the proletariat must proceed relatively even faster. The… theory… which is also expressed as a law of nature, that population grows faster than the means of subsistence, is the more welcome to the bourgeois as it silences his conscience, makes hard-heartedness into a moral duty and the consequences of society into the consequences of nature, and finally gives him the opportunity to watch the destruction of the proletariat by starvation as calmly as other natural event without bestirring himself, and, on the other hand, to regard the misery of the proletariat as its own fault and to punish it. To be sure, the proletarian can restrain his natural instinct by reason, and so, by moral supervision, halt the law of nature in its injurious course of development.” – Karl Marx, Wages, December 1847

          1. AnotherAlison*

            But you’re making $100k in a nonmanagement position now? The OP is making $40k in (presumably) a technical position. That’s $60k less than you. I’m not sure what we’re arguing about. Sure, $160k/yr manager jobs are harder to find.

            1. Recession Ed*

              The issue is that as an EE manager with 20 years in the energy industry I could only get, after many months, $65k/$75k). After stimulus funding for smart-grids ended there were no more utilities installing them and I was laid off again and can’t get back to a manager position, even after having the whole USA under me.

              The part I didn’t put in, which now seems appropriate, was that the EEs who worked for me, made between $35k and $45k. When I divided their pay by the hours they put in it was just above minimum wage and there was nothing I could do for them.

    2. Poohbear McGriddles*

      I’m also curious why they would hire the OP for half the salary for six months or more, then were going to magically double it.
      And yes, $40k is quite low for a new grad EE, much less one with 8 years experience.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, that seemed highly questionable to me as well. Maybe they expected a new client or income stream to come aboard? Interesting that it was actually in writing, as that makes it less likely that they just said it to mollify the OP with no intention of giving it.

        But seriously, OP, if your pay doesn’t add up, you need to chase that down immediately. Even if they do correct it going forward, retroactive stuff can be really complicated, so silence can cost you serious bucks.

      2. LBK*

        Maybe some kind of probationary measure? Like if they decided OP wasn’t working out within those first 6 months, the amount they lost in paying his salary then would be less than if they were paying the full thing for that time? That’s the only reason I can think of.

      3. Juni*

        Could be a budget or fiscal year thing. They may have had $45K to spend on the position for the rest of the FY, and $75K to spend in the next.

        1. Colette*

          If an engineer gets paid the same in rural Kansas as they do in Manhattan or San Jose, why are there any engineers in places with a high cost of living?

          1. CEMgr*

            Climate, job options, career growth path. But…I’m in engineering, there is definitely a geography effect. Engineers in Kansas do not make the same as those in San Jose. Engineers in Kansas also can’t walk down a street and pass 10 companies that will match or better their salary.

        2. Lora*

          Oh, I would say especially in engineering!

          In my field, the places to be are Boston and California. If you’re just about anywhere else, you’ll be lucky to get half what I make, sometimes less. For EEs, Texas is the place to be for both energy (Houston) and electronics (Austin). New Mexico also good for energy these days, if you don’t mind living in the middle of nowhere and everything smelling like sulfur. Then you’ve got GE in Connecticut, Honeywell in NJ, HP and Apple in California, and IBM in New York.

          Most engineers I know who are well-paid bigshots have traveled extensively to various projects and job sites. By which I mean, being sent for a couple of years to Saudi Arabia, a year on a Nigerian drilling platform, a few years building chemical manufacturing plants, six months on a special project. You don’t really settle down and have a family like that. And the projects come in phases, depending on who is funding what, where and when. There’s plenty of shale gas jobs in the middle of nowhere, North Dakota–want to relocate your family there for just two years, someplace where your kid’s bus ride is two hours each way and the school system is one of the worst in the nation?

          It really depends on where you end up living and what kind of a life you want.

  10. JC*

    #2, some other things to think about re: health insurance:

    Do you have to live with your parents to still qualify for their plan? If so, asking your employer will convey the “I’m not a self-sufficient adult” message even more strongly, because it implies that you plan to continue living with your parents for the next few years. (And if that’s not the case, they may still assume it.)

    Depending on the plans, it’s possible that your job would offer a better health insurance deal than your parents’ plan does. You would want to see the details of your employer’s plan before you turn it down. For example, this isn’t incredibly common, but my employer pays the entire cost of my health insurance premium. Your parents may or may not pay a higher premium because you are on their plan, but other things could differ between plans that may affect you depending on your situation (such as what’s covered, how the deductible works in your parents’ family plan vs. an individual plan, etc).

    1. MW*

      No – children do not have to live with their parents (or be claimed as a dependent on their tax return) to be covered under their parent’s insurance.

      The Kaiser Family Foundation has excellent information in a Q&A that covers these questions, as well as a whole lot more.

      1. JC*

        Thanks for clarifying that for me. Still could be the case that an employer would assume that if they didn’t know, though—which is necessarily bad, just means that it could add to the picture of the OP as young. Since ACA is still so new, people tend not to know the details of the provisions for people under 26 unless they personally are affected by them (by being 26 or under or having children in that age range).

        1. en pointe*

          Agreed. I think it could be a fairly common assumption that being on your parent’s plan means you’re still somewhat dependent or not entirely self-sufficient, regardless of accuracy.

        2. Zillah*

          I don’t disagree, but I think that if the OP keeps it to, “I have other health insurance,” it shouldn’t be a problem. The employer may assume that they’re still on their parents’ health care, but they may also assume that the OP is married. Either could be the case.

    2. De Minimis*

      It’s certainly reasonable to find out about the health plans or plans offered by the potential employer, and how much the premiums cost, and then decide what to do regarding your parents’ coverage.

      Not all federal coverage is created equal, it depends on the plan they’ve chosen and what is available where they live. In general though it seems like any coverage beyond “self only” for federal plans costs the same, so the OP’s parents will pay the same premium whether the OP is on the plan or not unless they both are federal employees and each have self only for their coverage.

      I find the federal coverage somewhat lacking, but my wife used to work for a university and that coverage was just amazing so that is what I compare it to. Federal coverage only seems good in comparison with some of the really awful coverage out there, with the exception of the coverage for postal employees who pay a greatly reduced premium compared to regular federal employees.

    3. Cat*

      I know people have different opinions about this, but I wouldn’t bat an eye at an entry-level, just-out-of-college employee living with their parents (and haven’t when this has happened). Things are tough now; and often it’s just a smart choice to pay off student loans. There are also a lot of cultures where living with your parents later is the norm.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Sometimes living with your parents while job hunting your butt off is the only option to keep a roof over your head and yet, there’s a good deal of judgment from people about things like this sometimes. It usually comes from people with good jobs and good support systems (two incomes with good health insurance). I’ve heard these people say things on this general topic like “Well, they just aren’t trying hard enough” or “They’re just lazy.” Meanwhile, the person has been doing everything and then some to try to make it. It’s tough out there, but for those who have been cushioned (that is, they’ve had the same job for years, their spouse makes bank and they don’t have to worry about health insurance, etc.) they can often be judgmental. Just saying that some people are understanding of why someone might live at home still and others aren’t at all.

    4. TL*

      Definitely double-check your employer’s plan versus your parents plan. Even if one plan seems overall better than the others, the individual parts that you actually use may be better in the employer’s plan than your parents – like if your parents pay has a really low deductible but doesn’t cover therapy visits and you’re really physically healthy but have a few mental issues you need to work on.

      And see how much your parents are paying per month! My parents are self-employed and though the ACA has helped a lot, they pay a lot more in premiums for health care than I do through my job.

  11. H. Vane*

    So, for #5, is that always true? I’m an hourly employee on a 9/80 schedule – should I be pulling overtime for all of my long weeks?

    1. The IT Manager*

      Unless you are a government employee. I found out through this blog that the US government (and possibly some state governments) is an exception to its own laws.

    2. Vee*

      I had put in a comment earlier, but included a link so it’s awaiting moderation. There are some exceptions in the FLSA for health care workers under the 8/80 rule, but state L&I rules may differ.

      1. H. Vane*

        I’m neither healthcare nor government, but this isn’t the only job I’ve had that’s offered 9/80 workweeks, and frankly, I’d be sad to lose them. I’ll still look into it, though, ’cause I’d rather know if something’s not quite right. Thanks for your responses, guys.

        1. fposte*

          I have a comment with a link in moderation–I googled “9/80 schedule non-exempt” and found some pages talking about how those schedules should be managed to avoid overtime. So it sounds like it’s possible to do.

    3. LBK*

      What is this system, exactly? It sounds like you’re working 9 days over the course of 2 weeks for a total of 80 hours. If that’s the case and you’re still only working 40 hours per week, you don’t get paid overtime whether it’s over the course of 4 days or 5. The one exception to this is (as Alison mentioned) California, where overtime is calculated by day.

      1. H. Vane*

        What we do is 8 9 hour days and 1 8 hour day in a two week period. It comes out to 44 hours one week and 36 the next.

        1. fposte*

          The site I cited (heh) suggests that there’s some leeway in what they call a “week”–that they can make it start mid-shift if they want.

    4. CAA*

      9/80 is legal depending on how your employer defines the work week. Assuming your workday starts at 8:00 AM and your long work week is M-F, then your work week would run from noon on Friday to noon on the next Friday in order to be legal.

      For example, in week 1 you work 9 hours on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday for a total of 36 hours. You work 4 hours on Friday morning, making 40 hours in that week. Then in week 2, you work 4 hours on Friday afternoon, and 9 hours on the following Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, making 40 hours for that week, with Friday off.

      However, this may not be legal in California unless under a union contract, of if you’re paid overtime for that 9th hour. I know there were some cases about this in the last few years, but I haven’t looked up the results.

      1. CaliCali*

        I used to work for a large government contractor (so we were private sector) on a 9/80 schedule in California — I asked, and it was perfectly legal. I was technically classified as non-exempt, but salaried. I was able to earn overtime, but only after a 5-hour gap period (certain organizations in the company were exempt from the gap, but I was not).

  12. Anonicorn*

    #4, I used college professors and managers from my part-time positions after I graduated.

  13. k*

    I am in the same situation as OP #4, although I do not have volunteer/internship experience and it has been almost 6 years (and a few states between) my time in college.

    I am looking to start applying shortly to find new employment but I have no real references other than other coworkers who have since moved on to other positions. Will this throw red flags? I have not done any internship and I have been working since middle school, but have lost contact/moved away from any other managers/etc.

  14. Harper*

    OP#3, I’m sure that’s a really stressful situation, because who knows how it will turn out. Keep documenting things, especially anything that seems like it is retaliation and keep HR in the loop. Hang in there!

  15. Bluefish*

    Why would your parents want to keep you on their health insurance plan if you can get your own? Doesn’t it save them money if they remove you? Is this not true? All my co-workers with kids pay the same for health insurance as I, a single person, does? Excuse my ignorance but this doesn’t make sense to me!

    1. LBK*

      To be nice? Or if the parents have notably better coverage? I stayed on my mom’s health insurance while insurable through my employer until I switched jobs to a company that had better benefits than her plan. She could afford it and it was a slight burden removed from my finances, so why not?

      1. De Minimis*

        I’m a federal employee, and our plans only have “Self only” and “Self and family.” This works for the OP since it won’t cost the parents any more to keep their child on their coverage than it otherwise would.

        I’ve seen other employers offer a “Self and spouse” category, but have never seen it as a federal employee.

    2. tesyaa*

      You only pay once for all your kids, so if there are younger kids, the parents are paying anyway. It might actually cost the parents zero.

      1. Bluefish*

        No way, really? So if I have 5 kids, I’m paying the same as someone with 1-2? Holy moly. That must get crazy expensive for an employer that’s self insured. Wow. I never knew this.

        1. aebhel*

          IIRC, most insurance companies have package deals–single, couple, or family. If you’re paying for the family plan, it’s the same rate no matter how many people are on it, as long as they meet the definition of ‘family’. I believe that’s for the employer, too–at least, that’s how it was for my husband’s employer, who is self-insured.

          1. Bluefish*

            But if you’re an employer that’s self insured, you’re paying all the medical bills. So if someone has two kids you’re paying for every medical bill (less copays) for two kids. With one kid you’re paying every medical bill for that one kid. And it sounds like, regardless of number of kids, the employee is still contributing the same amount. That sounds like a huge multiplier when you start comparing people with 1-2 vs 4-5 kids. Anyway, this just struck me as interesting that an employer wouldn’t want to charge more per dependent considering the cost.

            1. Colette*

              More families have 1 or 2 kids than have 4 or 5 kids – and a single child with serious health problems can easily cost more than 5 healthy children.

            2. LBK*

              I think the point aebhel is making is that the insurance companies who sell these plans don’t charge it that way. Employers who subsidize their employees’ health insurance aren’t actually footing the individual medical bills – the insurance company is doing that. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you’re asking here?

              1. Bluefish*

                If you’re a self insured employer you are paying the individual medical bills, not the insurance company. The insurance company just administers the plan.

                I was just commenting on the fact that the employer doesn’t charge different per # of dependents. I didn’t know that (never really thought about it previously). So I really don’t have a question. I was just commenting that this was interesting because I would assume it would be the opposite: the employees portion paid would increase per dependent. But again, I just never really thought about it before.

                1. fposte*

                  Wow, I hadn’t realized that self-insuring was so common–I just looked it up and it’s like 1/3 of employment health care.

                2. TL*

                  I haven’t paid attention to any of the plans I’ve been on, but I know my cousin’s and my parent’s plans were based on # of children.

            3. the gold digger*

              When I was in the business, we set the rates based on an employee census – age, sex, number of dependents. So if the pricing is presented as single, ee + spouse, and ee + children, the families with five kids have been factored in – everyone else is just paying a little more because of it.

              As far as being on your parents’ plan when you have access to your own work insurance, it isn’t really fair for your parents’ employer to have to subsidize your employer. Why should the city government where your mom works pay to cover you just so Apple, where you work, doesn’t have to?

              1. Zillah*

                You could just as easily argue that because of the health exchanges from the ACA, a parents’ employer shouldn’t have to pay to cover you… or that it’s not fair for a parents’ employer to have to cover adult children with serious health issues.

                Personally, I don’t see it that way at all. I think that people have the right to use whatever tools they have at their disposal to ensure their continued health, without worrying about the moral implications… especially if the parents would still be paying for a family plan, anyway.

                It’s hard enough to be a young adult starting out in this economy, especially with student loans – I think it’s kind of not on to guilt people for cutting costs where they can.

              2. vvondervvoman*

                Because people who are in need of medical care have the legal right to access them in the most affordable way possible.

                Mom’s city gov’t job only “subsidizes” my job at Apple when I choose to use that coverage because it costs me less. And increases the likelihood that I will be able to afford medical care when it’s needed.

                Along those lines, why should a husband be on his wife’s health plan if he has access to his own employer’s? Why should the wife’s company “subsidize” him but not their 24 year old child?

                In reality, it’s not a big cost-differential in the bigger scheme of things. As other’s have mentioned, there are three tiers: single, spouse, family. Mom at city gov’t is paying the majority of the family fee, maybe city gov’t is providing a percentage (but not likely). Just like exempt employees at Apple are keeping their kids covered until 26. It’s a wash, and it gives people more healthcare options in a country where few of them available.

                1. the gold digger*

                  why should a husband be on his wife’s health plan if he has access to his own employer’s

                  If I wanted to be on my husband’s plan instead of my employer’s, he would have to pay an extra $100 a month (in addition to the spouse premium). So I am not the only one who recognizes this issue.

                  (If I did not have access to insurance through my employer, there would be no additional fee to him.)

                2. aebhel*

                  This. I get great insurance through my job (civil service). My husband gets lousy, expensive insurance through his job (small private business). Therefore, he’s on my insurance–and he did actually use that as a negotiating point for a raise, although I’m not sure I’d recommend that as a general practice. Is my employer subsidizing his by providing much cheaper and better insurance? Sure, if you want to look at it that way. Do I feel that this is unfair? Not even slightly.

              3. Ellie H.*

                To my mind the idea that it’s “not fair for your parents’ employer to subsidize your employer” isn’t really a relevant concern. An employer offers health insurance options as part of the package that may be attractive to employees. If they offer it, it’s fair to take them up on that offer, regardless of whatever else may occur.

          2. Tina*

            I wish my employer had “couple” – they only have single or family. When I got married last year, we just kept our own insurance plans because it was noticeably cheaper than having to buy the “family” plan.

            1. tesyaa*

              My employer offers “employee + spouse” in addition to “family”. The “employee + spouse” rate is closer to the family than the employee alone.

              1. Tina*

                I had thought the +1 option would be closer in cost to 2 individual plans than it would family, but nope. When I asked our HR department about the +spouse or couple option, they said they don’t offer it because it would make the family plans for the other employees increase significantly, and they had too many people on family plans to deal with that cost.

            2. RJ*

              We have 4 options: employee, employee & spouse, employee & 1 child, and family. It’s nice to have the different options available.

            3. Tasha*

              Same here. I had insurance through Dad’s work during college, but switched to my own plan this year because the family rate on his plan was several times the employee/spouse rate.

              (I would’ve switched in college, but the ACA didn’t kick in until most of the way through and I have a preexisting condition.)

    3. Elsajeni*

      Also, on some plans, adding any number of dependents costs the same — so, if everyone in the family is on one parent’s plan, and especially if the OP has any siblings who are still on the plan, adding or subtracting the OP may not make any difference in the cost.

    4. aebhel*

      Um…my parents did it because they like me. And because at the time, I was broke and they were not and they didn’t want me dying from an abcessed tooth because I couldn’t afford the $400/month premium.

    5. OP#2*

      Because making sure I have health insurance is more important to my parents than saving money on it, especially since it’s not a financial hardship for them. Plus, I have a lifelong medical condition, and they want to make sure that that’s always covered (although my brother is perfectly healthy, and they would’ve done the same for him).

      1. Sophia*

        With the ACA, there’s no more limitations based on pre-existing conditions (from my understanding)

  16. aebhel*

    Re: 4, I’ve always wondered about this. I actually did use my managers at both my past jobs (2 part-time clerical jobs) as references for my current job (librarian), but they were very above-board and supportive about it. I do kind of wonder about people who’ve been working in the same place for a long time, though; if I worked at my current job for, say, ten years and then decided to move on, any managerial references that were not my direct manager would be very out of date and not in the same field. And this isn’t really the kind of job where I’m working closely with clients or other professionals who could verify my credentials.

    1. Anonymous*

      I have this same problem. In my case I used two coworkers who I had worked closely with and who had moved into management positions (just were not my manager). I also provided them with copies of my last two performance evaluations that had comments from my manager in it so they could see what he had to say about me. They did contact my manager once I had accepted there offer, which was partly contingent on the hiring manager being able to speak to my former boss.

      I’m not sure how else I could have handled it.

  17. NK*

    Agreed. I know hardly any just-out-of-college people who didn’t live with their parents at least briefly (assuming they moved to the same city), whether or not they had a job. I lived with my parents for a year out of college and saved a normal amount for my salary plus hypothetical rent and utilities on top of that. The amount I saved in that first year created an awesome financial foundation for the future.

    1. NK*

      Weird, I meant to reply to an earlier comment about not finding it unusual or negative that a recent grad would be living with their parents.

      1. meesh*

        I did the same. lived at home for 2 years with over a 4.5 hour commute a day… NEVER AGAIN!!!!

        no more saving, since I moved out- cant afford to!

    2. Stephanie*

      I think that was my comment. I don’t think any reasonable person would view it as a negative (I personally wouldn’t!). However, as this blog can attest to, there are plenty of unreasonable a*holes out there who would take that as “Oh, she just still wants free meals and laundry.” I was more saying I avoided bringing it up lest I did interview with some a*hole who’s convinced that people only live in that situation due to failure to launch.

      (I should point out that I’m in the US. From what I’m told, this is way more common in other countries?)

  18. Glorified Plumber*

    OP #5, can you provide a little more detail? Are you actually a non-exempt employee who gets 1.5x for time over 40? Or are you an exempt employee working at a place that magically pays straight time for time over 40 and consider yourself “hourly” because you have to do a timesheet and allocate your time hourly… similar to how many engineering firms may do?

    I ask, because, I work for a large design firm (30k + employees), and we do EXACTLY as you describe, but only with the exempt employees.

    Do you work at a place where you need to “bill” your time to a specific client/project? How is overhead work handled in the situation of “10 hours of overhead work” and “40 hours of billable client work” in the same week? Does the overhead work back out and not get paid?

    At my place, billable time will back out “overhead” time 1:1 on any time over 80 total hours per 2 week pay period. If I work 40 hours on an overhead code, and 40 hours for a billable client code in one week, I will get paid 40 hours. If I work 80 hours on a billable client code, I will get paid for 80 hours (but NOT at 1.5x for time over 40).

    1. Kerry*

      You’re saying you get paid overtime, even though you are an exempt employee? I don’t believe that’s actually legal.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s legal to pay exempt employees overtime if you want to, as long as you don’t deduct from their normal pay when they work less than a full week.

      2. Evan*

        I don’t see why it wouldn’t be legal – if the employer wants to be extra nice and offer a bonus for overtime, why would the government concern itself with that?

      3. Glorified Plumber*

        AAM’s response matches what I experience and my understanding of the law.

        If I work 35 hours this week, I will get a paycheck for 40 hours because I am an exempt employee.

        If I work 45 hours of BILLABLE work (which is not necessarily guaranteed), I will get paid for 45 hours straight time. This is not the “overtime” that many people think of (i.e. it is NOT 1.5x). So, I would not classify it as “overtime” in the same way that a non-exempt employee would see (i.e. it isn’t “overtime” in the law).

        The company makes money when I charge the client to do work, in some cases, its directly proportional to my rate and the quantity of hours (others we work lump sum and it has no bearing). As such, they want to encourage work above 40 when there is work. Hence, this is the arrangement the engineers find themselves in. It’s a great way to sneak 10% more money per year in this industry.

        What is odd, is the designers here (who represent easily 65%-75% of the total hours billed) are traditional non-exempt employees who get 1.5x for hours over 40.

        1. Glorified Plumber*

          Agreed. I count myself lucky beyond belief. It has enabled me to squeeze ~10% more money into a year for the last 7 years.

          If there was an industry change and there was a COMPLETE move to lump sum engineering contracting (highly unlikely, but not impossible), I would very much anticipate my whole “straight time over 40” being revoked.

          For smaller engineering firms in my area who work ONLY for the client in question, and ONLY have lump sum contracts (NO time and materials), their firms very much treat them and work them like exempt employees. No “straight time overtime” for them. I THINK (but don’t know), even the designers are treated that way.

  19. OP#2*

    Thanks AAM and readers for your advice. It sounds like the best thing is to not try to negotiate that sort of thing, so I won’t. Glad I asked here first. It does sound like it’s worth asking about the payout option that some have mentioned, but maybe not until we’re at the “filling out insurance paperwork” stage.

    Also, a few bits of clarification:

    -My parents have stated unequivocally that they are happy to keep me on their insurance until I’m 26. This is not a financial hardship for them, and both have extremely good job security.

    -I have a significant lifelong medical condition. My parents’ insurance has served me well, so I’m cautious about giving it up unless the replacement plan is as good or better. (I don’t plan on telling potential employers this; just wanted to give context)

    -I don’t live with my parents (though I understand how I could give employers that impression).

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