my company wants to track employees’ volunteer time outside the office, responding to a job inquiry when my resume is out-of-date, and more

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

1. My company wants to track employees’ volunteer time outside the office

Is it common for a company to track employees’ volunteer time outside the office? My company (not a nonprofit) just had a big roll-out of new software to track employees’ volunteer time. We are encouraged to enter our volunteer hours, not only for company-sponsored activities, but for volunteering outside the office. An example would be if we volunteered to coach our child’s sports team.

I know my company wants to show that it cares about the community. And they do have many company-sponsored volunteer activities in all the communities where they are located. So I’m assuming somewhere that they will be reporting the hours that their employees spend in volunteering, perhaps in PR materials. But it seems a bit disingenuous to report personal volunteer time spent outside the office. I’m going to volunteer, regardless of my employer.

While this is by no means mandatory, it just seems odd. Is this a common practice?

It’s not uncommon. And just as you assumed, companies that do this will then report in PR materials that their employees contributed X hours of community service last year, or something along those lines — so yes, it’s to benefit their image. I think it’s a little disingenuous too, although I suppose another way to look at it is that they’re not claiming that the volunteering was spurred by them — just that they hire community-minded people, which could very well be true. But if they also take active measures to support employees’ volunteering — like allowing you to use work time to pursue volunteer work or giving you time off for volunteer activities — it would feel a lot more genuine.

2. Does my boss’s offer to buy tickets for a fundraiser extend to spouses too?

I’m a graduate student from Washington state, and I have an etiquette question for you. My department hosts an annual fundraiser for student scholarships, and the tickets are fairly expensive. My boss sent an email, asking, “Anyone want to go this year? I’ll buy tickets.” My married lab mates and I will be bringing our spouses, but it’s not clear whether my boss’s offer applies to them as well. This has us scratching our heads, since asking for clarification will almost definitely lead him to offer to pay for both tickets. Personally, I’m quite willing to pay for my spouse’s ticket myself.

Should I assume that the offer applies to just me? If not, what’s a tactful way to ask him?

I’d say, “Is it okay if we bring spouses? And if so, what’s the best way for them to buy tickets?” That leaves the door open for your boss to offer to cover the tickets for them, or to just tell you how they can buy their own. But if even that will lead to him offering to buy their tickets, well … at that point, I’d say to accept the offer, which he’s making of his own free will.

3. How to respond to a job inquiry when my resume is out-of-date

Yesterday afternoon, I received a LinkedIn message from an internal recruiter saying she had found my profile searching LinkedIn and thought my background is in line with what they’re looking for. I’ve looked at the job posting and done some preliminary research on the company and it does look like it might be a really good fit for me in terms of responsibilities and type of workplace. The thing is, I’m not currently looking for a new job and my resume is not up-to-date. I do want to respond and tell her I’m interested in the position, but I’m not sure how to go about that since my resume isn’t ready to send out. (This is the first time someone has reached out to me about a position that I’m actually interested in pursuing.)

Should I wait until I’ve had a chance to update my resume and write a cover letter, even though that’s likely to be a few days? Should I respond now and say that I’m interested and I’ll forward my resume and cover letter in a few days? Or is there some other correct course of action?

Respond now so that she knows that you’re interested. Explain that the position looks great, and that you need a few days to update your resume since you haven’t been actively job-searching, and that you’ll send it over in the next few days (and then do so, obviously). But do write back now, or you risk looking uninterested or unresponsive.

4. Dealing with incorrect W2 forms

My fiancé just recieved her W2 forms, and one has the correct total but the other one is way over what she made. The total would be almost three times the amount she made. She only works at one company, and I was just wondering if this is illegal and what we should do. Report to the IRS or what?

She should point out the problem to her employer and ask for a corected W2. That’s it. No need to go reporting anyone for wrongdoing (or even worrying about wrongdoing) unless they refuse to issue her a corrected one, which would be very unlikely.

5. I was written up for being late when I had a flat tire

I was on my way to work on Sunday, I go to my car and I have a flat tire, an hour before my shift starts. I called my coworker to see if he could cover my shift and he did. I finally got my tire taken care of and returned to work the next day. When I get in, my supervisor advises me that she is going to write me up because it was an hour before my shift started. I had no way to get there I live in New Jersey and the job is located in Philadelphia, about a 45-minute ride. Do they have the right to that? I am in a union, and I should have been given the employee handbook when I first started, which says that when my shift starts, if I run into any problems, I should notify the office in enough time. There was no handbook presented to me. Do I have the right to not sign the write-up?

Yes, they can do that (assuming that your union contract doesn’t say otherwise), but it’s an incredibly adversarial way to treat employees, unless this is the final straw in a long line of reliability issues.

It doesn’t make sense to refuse to sign the write-up (that won’t stop you from having disciplinary measures taken, but will generally make you look combative), but you can certainly note that you’re signing to indicate receipt only, not agreement, and you can ask to have your side of the story considered. You could also check with your union to see if this violates any agreement with them.

 

{ 197 comments… read them below }

  1. Annie

    With regards to #1, some companies will give monetary “matches” to volunteer hours employees perform at nonprofits. So if you register your volunteer hours, the nonprofit you supported could get extra money! Everyone wins :)

    1. Kay

      Yes! I was going to say this. Growing up, I was in Girl Scouts and some of the parents worked for companies that had this sort of matching program and when they volunteered with us for a set number of hours, our troop would get a donation of a few hundred dollars. It was really awesome and allowed us to do some cool things that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford.

  2. Jubilance

    #1 – I’ve worked at 3 large companies & each one has tracked employees volunteer hours, both for volunteer events that were company-led and also outside volunteer work as well. I’ve never worked at a company that required that we volunteer or track our hours, but I figured since I am volunteering, why not share that? I also know that my current employer uses volunteer tracking info to help identify organizations they partner with for company sponsored volunteer events and for grants.

    1. Coelura

      My company also looks at the hours our employees put into charities to identify what organizations to partner with that are already important to our employees. Also, our company has a dollar matching program for volunteer hours and a quarterly lotterly for a much larger check. One of the organizations I volunteer with has received hundreds of dollars over the last two years just for my volunteer time.

    2. Dan

      My company gives us one paid week every year for volunteer activities. I need to figure out how that works…

    3. Anna

      A very large health care company that I worked at for a period also encouraged employees to post personal volunteer events to see if other employees wanted to get involved. They tracked hours on a pretty neat in-house program and encouraged employees to volunteer at company held marketing events, company sponsored events, and out in the community events.

    4. Kirsten

      My company also tracks hours. They have an extensive volunteer website that has volunteer opportunities all over the country, and we can always do our own thing too. We also get a certain number of days we can take every year separate from PTO for volunteering. I think it’s great working for a place that encourages getting involved in the community.

    5. Sharon

      I’m a mondo volunteer; leadership (board and treasurer and bottle washer) position with a local animal rescue/adoption organization and joyfully perform what is just about an unpaid part time job with them. I’ve become so passionate about it that I consider it my avocation while my paid job is my vocation. I would absolutely LOVE for my company to have a record of all my hours and “take credit” for my volunteerism. The way I see it, it opens doors for discussion about why my group is so great, why others should volunteer for us also, or just volunteer with any place they like, and may give me an entree for fundraising pitches. Although if my company would implement some of the company matches or other donation programs, I wouldn’t feel the need to pitch and would just participate in those.

      Those of you who commented that your company uses software to track hours, can you say what software? I’d love to send a list to my HR team with a gentle suggestion that they should do this kind of thing.

    6. Geof

      If you’re volunteering in the US don’t forget about The President’s Volunteer Service Award. You can track volunteer hours on their web site and if you volunteer enough hours in a year you can receive an award pin, certificate and letter from the President. See -> http://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/ for more info and thank you for volunteering your time to serve your community.

  3. LCL

    #5, I think Alison’s advice was based on a misreading of the question. The OP said she had a flat, she asked a coworker to cover her shift, and she returned to work the next day. So she wasn’t late, she was absent. Shiftworkers being absent with less than 1 hour’s notice is kind of a problem.

    1. tesyaa

      Yes, she says the “finally” got the tire fixed and returned to work the next day. Presumably, it took her several hours or even the whole day to get it fixed. She could have taken mass transit, gotten a ride, or called a cab to get to work. Being late due to an unexpected car problem is acceptable; missing a day to get the car fixed, is, IMO, much grayer. (At least she got someone to cover her shift).

      1. tesyaa

        She does say she had no way to get to work, so I’m not sure how else she could have handled this on the spot. But she needs some kind of backup transportation plan. Car troubles can reasonably be expected to happen (usually at inconvenient times).

        1. TL

          I lived 45 minutes away from my last job and I never had a car problem that prevented me from getting to work. Honestly, if she had been waiting for normally reliable mass transit that broke down, I don’t think the response would be “find another way to get to work.”

          Now, if her car is constantly breaking down, that’s a whole ‘nother issue. But cars are generally reliable and I don’t think you need a backup plan if your car is in good shape and you do regular maintenance.

          1. tesyaa

            Many people change their own flat tires, as long as there’s a functioning spare. And if she’s not physically set up to do it, Triple A (as I mentioned below) will do it fairly quickly for a pretty low annual membership fee.

              1. Ethyl

                I’ve had to wait hours for help every time I’ve called them from AAA even on a weekday during the summer. I would REALLY not advise relying on AAA for timely assistance.

                1. tesyaa

                  I have not had that problem at all. I do live in a metro area, but I’ve never had to wait more than 2 hours (and it’s usually less than an hour).

                2. Ann O'Nemity

                  Seriously? I’ve had the opposite experience with AAA. My longest wait was about an hour, and that was when I on a rural highway at night on the eve of Thanksgiving. In the city, it’s usually 30 minutes or less.

                  Ethyl, I’d start complaining to AAA if that’s the kind of service you’re receiving. They should give you some sort of discount or reimbursement.

                3. NYC AAA member

                  Just weighing in here to say that I ALWAYS have to wait awhile when I call AAA. I’ve never had them come in less than an hour, and sometimes I’ve waited 3-4 hours. That’s just the reality of AAA when you live in a major urban area (in my case, NYC).

                4. annie

                  Me too. Chicago, where there’s a tow truck guy or auto shop on every corner it seems, and I’ve still had at least one hour waits every time I’ve needed AAA. Last time was 4 hours, on a Sunday night.

                5. Ruffingit

                  I live in a major urban area and have never had to wait more than an hour for AAA and it’s usually 30 minutes or less actually.

            1. TL

              Sure, many people can change their own flat tires – assuming they have a working jack, a 4-way, and a spare (and heaven forbid some idiot with a pneumatic tool tightened your lug nuts before you have to loosen them.)

              But you don’t always have all that – I had my jack break one time out in the middle of nowhere and was without a jack for a while.

              1. tesyaa

                Having a flat and then having your jack break is a confluence of circumstances that no one should have to plan for. I’m not talking about that kind of horrible luck. I’m talking about a normal flat. It seems like every poster is given the benefit of the doubt, that they’re getting paid too little to have an emergency carfare fund (and that they’re not spending on discretionary items instead of amassing that fund); that Triple A takes days to arrive; AND that they’ve never had any car trouble before so they had no reason to plan ahead. I don’t believe everyone is in that situation. Flats happen.

                And even if one is in dire straits, doesn’t it make sense to ask a supervisor, in advance, how to handle car emergencies? “Sue, I live 45 minutes away and I have no backup transportation. If by chance I have a breakdown, let me know the course of action you’d like me to take in terms of shift coverage and notification”.

                1. Rayner

                  The reason why people assume that is because many people are in that situation right now.

                  Flats happen and not every person knows how to change a tire, or has the money to purchase equipment to do so. People live in places with terrible or non-existent public transport, repair services are few and far between, and they experience issues right before they drive to work to a job that is low paid. is has a vast number of people who are poor or living pay check to pay check and cannot afford to splurge on a hundred dollar cab ride to and from work, or to spend hours on public transport to get to work and home and again on short notice.

                  Most people don’t experience this level of isses but then again, most people don’t write in to askamanager about problems they don’t experience. Every letter AAM receives is about a bizarre or unique circumstance, so of course, people tend to feel more sympathy/empathy.

                  People do live like that, and I think the point you are missing in all this is that the OP did solve her own problem. She phoned ahead, and got her own shift covered. While not ideal, and definitely not the perfect solution but adequate.

                  The manager still wrote her up. And that’s not good management.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  It would never occur to me to ask a manager in advance about how to handle car emergencies. They’re rare. If one kept me out of work for a day, I’d assume my manager would be a reasonable person and understand, assuming there wasn’t a larger track record of unreliability.

                3. Positivity Boy

                  Why would the shift coverage and notification be any different for that situation than for any other call-out? That is a weirdly specific question to expect the employee to ask.

                4. TL

                  No, my jack broke and I didn’t replace it until I had tire problems again (I don’t know why because I had more tire problems in my first 6 years of driving than most people have in their entire driving careers, but I digress…)

                  I agree with everyone else, though – if this is a rare occurrence, there’s no need to have a solid backup plan in place. You need to plan for traffic if you live in a congested area, but if you have a good car, you do regular maintenance, and you don’t have problems, it understandably would not occur to most people to have a backup plan in place for car troubles.

                5. tesyaa

                  If a person is really living paycheck to paycheck and cannot save for an emergency fund, what is the chance that they have a “good” car and are doing routine maintenance, though? More likely they have a beater (understandably) and may be skipping maintenance to save money (understandably).

                6. TL

                  Uh, I have a pretty reliable car and am pretty broke much of the time – like many recent graduates whose parents gifted them with a car during their high school/college years. And I budget for car maintenance even though I have a laughably small savings/emergency account, as it is much cheaper to keep my car maintained than it is to have it always breaking down or buy a new one.

            2. Jesse

              AAA contracts their roadside assistance work to local business. Response time depends on the business, not AAA.

              Recently I had an employee call me before his shift to say he’d been in an accident and would be late. Then call an hour later to say he couldn’t make it in; roadside assistance still hadn’t shown up and couldn’t give him a solid time frame when they’d be there.

              1. Gene

                “Flats happen and not every person knows how to change a tire, or has the money to purchase equipment to do so”

                Every car that doesn’t have runflats comes with the equipment to change a tire (or a can of fix-a-flat for those cars without spares). And everyone who drives should know how to use it (just like they should know how to parallel; park, but I digress). If your spare is flat, that’s your fault. If you don’t know how to do it, learn. If you are physically incapable of changing it, join a roadside service program.

                For a responsible person, a flat is zero reason to miss an entire shift’s work. An hour maybe, but after autocrossing for years, I know I can change all four tires in under 40 minutes without breaking a sweat. Missing an entire shift shows a lack of personal responsiility to me.

                1. fposte

                  Yeah, as bearing says, this is kind of like a mountain biker saying “You should have just ridden your bike.”

                2. Gene

                  I admit to not putting that well, I was on the way out to a meeting 45 minutes away (leaving an hour before the meeting in case of some unexpected traffic. :-) )

                  If I can change all four in under an hour, any reasonably able person should be able to change one in the same amount of time. An hour late because of a flat, sure. A day late, nope.

                3. Anonymous

                  Well isnt that great for you! I’ve had surgery on my elbow and did four rounds of PT for carpal tunnel before 28 and I’m in shape and lift. I can’t change a tire and I do have road side service. Sometimes it’s 30 minutes sometimes its 2 hours and I live in a metro area…

                4. Jen RO

                  I agree. Having a car means that you are responsible for fixing its problems – you only get to decide whether you change the flat tire yourself or call someone to do it for you. A jack is 20 bucks – if you have a car you should be able to afford to buy a jack! Won’t AAA be way more expensive than that anyway?

                  (I used to think changing a tire was really hard – nope! I just needed someone to explain how it’s done. And all the needed tools were right there in the trunk.)

                5. Anonymous

                  “just like they should know how to parallel; park, but I digress)”

                  Really? I should know how to do something that, in 30 years since learning to drive I’ve never had to do just the same as something I do many times week?

                  Nonsense. If I get a flat once (assuming my luck/tire quality doesn’t last) in my life and lose 2 or 3 hours waiting for help, so what?

              2. laura

                Once on a weekend trip the car axle broke as we were leaving the beach. AAA referred us to a mechanic that wasn’t open on weekends, so we hitchhiked the 2 hour drive back home and were back in time for work that evening. In a day or 2 my friend took a greyhound out to retrieve the car. That probably wouldn’t have been the plan if it was night or I was alone. Still, I got to work and kept my job.

          2. Jessa

            She lives in a different state. Cabs that will cross state lines can be hard to get (licencing in different states, etc.) Public transport does not always line up. Now with NY and NJ no problem, but NJ and Philly? not so sure. I dunno if the train lines up at all. Never made the trip. The OP should however look into it for future reference.

            1. Michele

              I live in NYC and I have taken the train from the city to Philly. It runs right through NJ. On Sunday’s train service is not as frequent but you can definitely make it to Philly with no problem at all. You would probably be just be a bit delayed.

              1. Lauren

                Actually that’s not true. I live in NJ, possibly close to the OP (I’m about 20 minutes from Philly). There is no train transportation in our area – the closest train station to me is 20 minutes by car in the opposite direction. Southern NJ has terrible public transportation.

              2. fposte

                I think if you know that already and your route would, even with transfers and the Sunday schedule, get you in pretty much on time , that’s what you do. But I can also see that you first try your jack, you then call AAA and find out about the delay, you know you can’t afford a cab, and you don’t know what train routing you’d even take, that you then call somebody to swap shifts with you.

                Assuming an ordinarily good and reliable employee, as a manager I’d prefer somebody get a sure shift replacement rather than going through all the options and finally coming in two hours late.

                1. TL

                  Yeah. I could see someone who sometimes drove and sometimes took public transit not having a problem with this – but I very rarely take public transit and figuring out how to take it is a huge hassle for me (+ wanting to make sure my car is okay, deciding if I need a new tire or just air, trying to change my tire to my donut – it would take a while.)

              3. Emma

                Sure, it’s easy for you. You just hop on the NE Corridor from Penn Station down to Trenton and transfer to the Septa or Amtrak. Because you’re traveling between 3 major cities, and mass transit is built to accommodate that.

                Try Doing that from Millville, NJ to Philadelphia (a 45-minute drive) – it would take over 2.5 hours by mass trans. Or take Hammonton, NJ, a mere 35 mile car drive. It’s on a direct line to Philadelphia, but still takes over an hour and runs at least only every 2 hours, often longer between routes.

                There are parts of NJ that are wild poor. NJ has massive income inequality, so it’s not so easy for not a small number of people to afford (or even find) a person to fix a flat at such short notice.

            2. Zed

              There are a LOTof public transit options in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area. 19 NJTransit bus lines connect points in Jersey to Philadelphia, and there is a NJTransit train line between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. Amtrak and the SEPTA regional rail line connect Trenton and Philly. The PATCO high-speed line runs between Philly and Lindenwold. The NJTransit River Line connects Trenton to Camden, with an easy transfer to Philadelphia in Camden.

              Of course there are still parts of South Jersey that are not well-served by public transportation… but there is no way to know if that is true in this case without knowing where the OP lives.

      2. TL

        A 45 minute cab ride is out of many people’s budget.

        I agree that it’s a problem that she didn’t go to work at all, but she found someone to cover for her and if she lives 45 minutes away it may be realistic that the only way to get to work is to drive. (And not everyone has someone willing to give them a ride.)

        1. tesyaa

          A 45 minute cab ride every day is massively out of budget. If it’s needed one day in order to keep one’s ongoing employment, it’s not out of budget. Just as budgeters talk about emergency funds, people should keep a “work emergency fund” for one-time items like this.

          And for flat tires and dead batteries, Triple A services almost all areas and the annual cost is reasonable. If the car has a spare (full size or compact), she could have been on the road in an hour or two.

          1. Observer

            Depending on the circumstances, it may not be possible for someone to have those “emergency funds”. Many, many people live paycheck to paycheck, and often enough it’s not due to being irresponsible, but because they are not making enough money to put emergency funds away. And sometimes those emergency funds got spent on something else, and need to be replenished.

          2. TL

            Uh, a 45 minute cab ride is probably over a hundred dollars. That’s a lot of money to a lot of people. Plus, she may or may not have had to buy a new tire or get it towed, which may have eaten up her emergency fund.

            And depending on the spare, the OP may not have wanted to do a 45 minute round trip on it – my car has a donut and you’re not really supposed to drive too much on it or go over 55 mph, which would add a considerable amount of time to a commute. She was probably looking at being three or four hours late to work even with Triple A. (And, yes, in some areas you would have to wait quite a while – either in a rural area or during rush hour in an urban area, I would imagine.)

            1. tesyaa

              No one has to have every solution in place – you don’t need Triple A if you know how to change a tire; you don’t need a backup ride if you can afford a cab, and so on. But having one backup plan (for rare emergencies only) is reasonable.

              I’d posit that not having a working spare is risky, whether you need the car for work or not.

              Three or four hours late on an 8-hour shift is not even half a day. Maybe that’s why the supervisor was unsympathetic. She could have still worked half a day. Yes, it’s inconvenient. No, it’s not impossible.

              1. Audiophile

                I have a 35 mile commute, about 40-42 minutes, I usually do it in less than time than that. I’ve had car trouble issues in the past, I would not rely on a cab ride to get to work. It would be well over $100. Considering that I may just over that in a day, it’s not worth it. Also considering that the way my company works, they will generally take the half hour to the hour from you for being 15+ minutes late, it’s again not worth it.
                Even if I took a cab to my nearest train station, I would not get to work in time to start my shift.

                1. Jessa

                  Exactly, and some people make less than $100 in that day. When you have a low paying job, you can’t afford to pay to work.

              2. TL

                I had a 45 minute commute in my last job and unless there was a lot to get done that day – I rarely took a half day. It just wasn’t worth it.

          3. College Career Counselor

            A 45 minute cab ride from Jersey to Philly (includes bridge tolls) might cost more than somone makes in a day, without considering the return trip.

          4. Broke Philosopher

            I think it’s fairly unreasonable for an employer to expect someone to pay for a 45-minute cab ride if they can find someone else to cover, though. My work is really inaccessible by public transit (I think I could get out there, but it would take 2+ hours) and a round-trip cab would probably cost more money than I earn in a day. If I had emergency car repair, I really hope that my employer wouldn’t be so rigid as to say that if I couldn’t come in for one day then I would be fired. I don’t really see how it’s different from waking up and being really sick or whatever–it’s a one-time thing, and an employer who is as inflexible as you’re suggesting will lose valuable employees over it.

          5. Zillah

            Sure – but unless the employee is already on thin ice, such a long and expensive cab ride shouldn’t be needed to keep one’s ongoing employment! If your job is going to be in danger just because you called in an hour before work one day with unexpected car troubles, your job is kind of terrible.

            1. fposte

              However, the OP should have called in. I don’t know whether that was really the issue with her workplace or not, but it was definitely an error just to send somebody in her place without calling in.

          6. A teacher

            That is unfair and judgmental. I teach in a school where an extra $30 a month is a lot for some of my student’s families and the parents work.

        2. Joey

          But getting someone to cover for you when you’re absent is missing the point. It’s that you were expected to be at work, not the coworker.

          1. TL

            A lot of shiftwork does work under the expectation that if you’re not there, you find someone to cover for you and then it’s alright. Not every place works that way, but it’s not an unreasonable assumption.

          2. fposte

            My employees swap shifts all the time, with my full permission to do so as they see fit. My expectation is that somebody covers the position and that the relevant staff do their job overall. Who’s there at any given moment is, as far as I’m concerned, their prerogative.

            Granted, the OP doesn’t work for me, and it sounds like your read is more the way her employer sees the situation. But assuming there’s no pattern or additional unstated problem, I think a write-up in this situation isn’t doing the employer any good, because the likeliest alternative would be to have nobody in the position for the first few hours, and I don’t see that as better.

        3. RJ

          And once the shift is covered, does it make sense to go in late anyway? Do they then send the co-worker who agreed to cover the shift home after working only an hour or two? Or do they just have double coverage for the rest of the day? In most cases in retail or hospitality, once the shift was covered (or swapped), that would be the end of the story for that day.

      3. Colette

        In my opinion, if someone was able to cover for her, I’m not really sure what the issue was (unless the person covering had different skills or was hitting a threshold for overtime by covering for her).

        1. Rachel - HR

          I’m wondering if the OP never called her supervisor and informed them that another staff member would be covering.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.

          It could be that, or it could be that if you’re not coming in and it’s not an emergency, you’re expected to call in with more notice, even if you’ve found coverage. Or a combination. I’ve never worked any kind of shift work that didn’t require 3 or 4 hours notice to call in, unless you were like puking or something and really could not come in.

          (In those jobs, if you had a car issue, the general expectation would be that you find another way in.)

          I suspect you’re right, that even though OP covered the shift, the coverage itself created some kind of other issue, and management was not convinced that the problem warranted missing an entire day of work (which, on an 8 hour shift, yeah, missing the entire thing because of car trouble is a lot).

          Can I just say that it is exactly this situation that makes employers not believe applicants who say that their commute from far away won’t be a problem? I’m not saying it’s OK to only employ people in walking distance, but this is exactly the sort of situation where, when you’re trying to get the job, you’re totally willing to say “I’d be the most dedicated employee ever, I’ll do what it takes to be there and be on time,” and then when you’ve been there a year and you miss an entire day because of a flat tire, you’ve clearly forgotten those promises.

          (not saying this is the case with OP, just that this comes up a lot on AAM and these are the situations that make employers not believe you when you make promises of being fine with a long commute).

          1. Jessa

            I once got written up and in trouble for failing to call in with enough notice. 20 minutes before my shift, I had an asthma attack that was so bad I was taken to hospital (AND admitted.) Exactly how could I have possibly called 2 hours in advance? That write up cost me some of my pay because the loon who owned that company had pay plus add ons and one of them was about attendance. I lost 50 cents an hour for getting ill.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.

              Oh goodness. Any employer worth their salt would call that “an emergency.” And honestly, MOST things that would prevent you from going into work you wouldn’t know about 3 or 4 hours in advance either.

              It’s a bit of a silly policy, but it’s goal is probably to provide a documentation trail to dismiss people who have those sorts of emergencies frequently, regardless of reason. Which could get them into discrimination/ADA trouble later, who knows.

          2. Zillah

            Am I just being super naive in thinking that missing one day in a year of work because of unforeseen transportation issues is not evidence on its own that one is undedicated or “forgetting promises”? Because… yeah, it’s definitely not ideal, but I’m not really seeing how it’s basically The Worst Thing Ever.

      4. Anonymous

        Mass transit usually works on a lighter schedule on weekends. So she could have been later than usual anyway.

      5. Gjest

        I think it depends on what was agreed with person who was covering. Maybe that person said it was only worth it to them if it was a whole shift (perhaps only working a few hours screwed up their day and they might as well get the money for a full shift).

      6. Emma

        Getting from anywhere in NJ (that’s not Trenton or the immediate surrounding area) to Philadelphia using mass transit takes ages, full stop. Regardless of whether she was coming from the mass-transit-rich but poorly connected North or the mass-transit-desert that is South Jersey. Not a viable solution. NJ is not an extension of NYC in this regard, unfortunately.

        I also am skeptical that she would have been able to both find a ride and drive the 45 minutes to work within the 1-hour window she had after noticing her flat tire.

    2. Elsajeni

      True, but it’s also something that can’t be 100% avoided, because none of us can see into the future and predict when we’ll have a sudden illness, injury, car trouble that prevents us from getting to work, etc. What would be the alternative — your supervisor mandates that you wake up every hour on the hour to check your health, your car’s condition, weather and traffic conditions, so that you can call in at 1 a.m. instead of waiting until you’d normally get up at 6? The OP took care of her responsibilities in this situation by calling in as soon as she was aware of a problem and finding coverage for her shift, and it’s punitive and petty for the supervisor to say, “Yes, the shift was covered by someone else and everything was fine, but you didn’t use your clairvoyant powers to predict the flat 24 hours in advance, so I’m writing you up.”

      1. tesyaa

        I think the issue is not that she wasn’t clairvoyant or that she’s being penalized for the flat tire. It may have appeared to the supervisor that she took the time to get the tire fixed, not just to get a short-term solution in place (swap flat tire for the compact spare, take a cab/beg a ride/borrow a car). Better to get to work late in that situation than not show up at all, IMO.

        1. Elsajeni

          That’s where we differ, I guess. In my shift-work days, “get someone to cover the whole shift, solve the problem fully so it will not be a problem again” would have been a preferable solution over “arrive late, possibly leaving shift uncovered for the first hour or two; problem is not fully solved so may present further problems over the next few days.”

          1. tesyaa

            The problem is not really solved; she can have a flat again at any time, even with good maintenance. She needs a real solution, not just a surprise when she has a flat a month from now (“but I never had one before!”)

            1. Colette

              I’ve owned a car for … 18.5 years now, and have never had a flat.

              Yes, it can happen at any time, but that doesn’t mean it will.

            2. Elsajeni

              Well… yes. Emergencies happen. She could wake up with the flu a month from now, too; I hope you wouldn’t scold her for not anticipating when that would happen or having adequate plans in place to prevent it. Yes, it’s the employee’s responsibility to deal with the emergency, but a policy or supervisor that punishes the employee, not for failing to deal with the emergency, but for the emergency happening at all, is being unreasonable. And in my opinion, that’s what’s happening here, because the write-up is described not as “I’m being written up for missing work,” but as “I’m being written up because I only gave an hour’s notice that I’d be missing work.”

              1. Joey

                That may not so terrible though. Frequently this is the complaint from employees with a pattern of attendance issues. And for some jobs, giving more than 1 hour notice is critical.

            3. Vicki

              She could trip walking to the car and sprain an ankle too. Accidents are a surprise; that’s why we call them “accidents”.

      2. Joey

        Except we don’t really know the whole story? If its a one time thing, yes. If it’s a pattern then the real issue is her dependability in general.

        1. Magda

          But LW states “[supervisor] is going to write me up because it was an hour before my shift started.” Not “supervisor is going to write me up because it’s a pattern” or even “supervisor is going to write me up because I missed an entire day.”

          It’s entirely possible LW is leaving out that it’s a pattern, or is oblivious to what the supervisor’s real problem is. But I think it’s equally possible that supervisor is poorly communicating what the true issue is, or has simply forgotten the “be a person” part of effective management.

          1. Jessa

            Or works for a company that has no leeway. No matter what the cause you must call in 1 hour in advance. Not 59 minutes, not anything. Seriously see above, I got written up for an asthma attack that got me admitted to hospital. Because my normally under control asthma hit me 20 mins before my shift. Never happened before. But people have flats, car accidents etc. And even if you have plans/money set up, it doesn’t mean anything if it’s inside the 1 hour. Because you can’t call an hour before if the problem happens 20 minutes before.

          2. Joey

            Few people with attendance issues see it that way. They usually think its acceptable to be absent as long as there’s a legitimate reason and how can a supervisor expect me to show up when my reason is legitimate. But what people forget and where managers fail is its not a managers job to solve an employees personal problems that are impacting work. They should sympathize but managers can’t always be as flexible as employees need.

            1. tesyaa

              I’d add that it’s not the employee’s job to decide that there’s no business impact. Just as an overly harsh supervisor can impact morale for the whole group, an overly lenient supervisor might cause the whole group to get the impression that attendance issues are no big deal.

    3. Positivity Boy

      I could see this being a big problem if the shift didn’t get covered, but it sounds like it did and the business didn’t suffer as a result. If there’s no existing policy about this that requires a minimum X hour notice regardless of circumstances, I don’t quite understand what merits a write up – a last minute problem occurred, the employee contacted their supervisor ASAP, the shift was covered and the employee came back as soon as they were able (the next day, which sounds perfectly reasonable to me by the time a tow truck showed up, the car got to the mechanic and then the actual replacement happened). The only way this makes sense to me is if the OP has a history of tardiness and associated excuses, so no matter how valid the excuse the business is suffering as a result of this person’s inability to consistently be at work as expected.

      1. Rachel - HR

        “The employee contacted their supervisor ASAP” no where in the letter does it the OP contacted their supervisor.

        1. Positivity Boy

          Sorry, I misread – she called the coworker who went in and covered for her. As long as the situation was handled and (presumably) the coworker said “I’m here to work for Jane because she got a flat tire,” who cares? It seems awfully petty to write up the OP because Bob told the supervisor about the problem as it was being handled rather than the OP telling the supervisor directly. Even if it’s the policy that call outs must be delivered directly to the supervisor, it’s pretty weird to enforce it so strictly just for the purpose of enforcing it when it was probably written to prevent people from never letting the supervisor know about the absence at all.

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      I get that she didn’t come in that day, but emergencies do come up. Writing someone up for one is an overreaction, unless this is part of a larger pattern.

      1. Joey

        Not necessarily. I could see it in a probationary period or any job where attendance is critical for operations.

        1. Chrissi

          Yes, but she got someone to cover her shift. I don’t see what else could reasonably be expected in these circumstances.

          1. Joey

            Some employers have strict policies out of business need. For example mfg jobs, especially production line type jobs frequently have really strict policies because if even one person is missing it may mean 20 other people can’t work. Getting coverage obviously mitigates the impact during that specific instance, but it doesn’t solve attendance problems long term if that’s what’s happening.

      2. doreen

        The issue might be the apparent failure to contact the supervisor rather than the absence. Pretty much every job I’ve had required coverage for absent staff (everything from fast-food to professional jobs) but every non-exempt job required trades made between employees to be approved by a supervisor. Because when John has a flat and asks Wakeen to take his shift , John isn’t going to know or care if it puts Wakeen into overtime and Wakeen might want the overtime. But the supervisor might know that Lisa is only scheduled for 30 hours and can pick up a shift without going into OT.

        1. Ann O'Nemity

          I, too, wondered if this was the real problem. In my experience with shift work positions, I was almost always required to (1) find my replacement, and (2) notify the manager.

          That said, I can’t imagine any of my previous managers formally writing me up if I failed to do #2 in a first-time occurrence. Unless there were other attendance or performance problems….

        2. fposte

          Yes, I missed that part until I saw it mentioned down below, and I agree that that’s an important omission that changes my thinking.

    5. KellyK

      How is it a problem when she got a coworker to cover? Should she also get written up if she’s in the hospital?

      The only way it’s reasonable to write her up for this is, like Allison said, it’s the last in a recurring string of reliability issues.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.

        Depending on how much the supervisors control scheduling, it could be that the coverage itself caused a problem. Perhaps the person covering was getting close to overtime, or that was their only day off for weeks, or they’re not as good as OP and they needed that experience that shift… plenty of reasons.

        There’s a reason why, at most shift-work, employees don’t just negotiate the schedule among themselves, and my fast food jobs all would have been pissed off at me if I got a shift covered and didn’t clear the coverage with management first.

  4. Joey

    5. I will never understand why people lean so heavily on “no one gave me a policy so I shouldn’t be held accountable.” For some things random weird stuff sure, but for basic things like showing up to work, c’mon.

    1. Meg

      It’s not just “some people,” but rather union workers because the terms of employment and specific roles and expectations must be clearly defined for the union to accept. It’s like a pre-employment contract of sorts. So if a union worker never receives an employee handbook and it wasn’t specifically listed in his or her contract with the union, then technically the union worker hasn’t violated anything with his or her terms of employment.

      Like Alison said, it’s a matter of what’s in the contract. If it says they are expected to abide by the employee handbook, then absence of handbook isn’t a defense because it’d be the responsibility of the worker to get one.

      1. Joey

        Ah, but few contracts capture absolutely everything. For instance I’ve never seen a contract that says you can’t stalk your boss. That doesn’t mean its acceptable or reasonable.

        1. Mike C.

          If you work for a large company, they cover common (or situations they have direct experience in) issues specifically and other issues more generally. You won’t see something about “don’t stalk the boss”, but you’re likely to see some policy statement about harassment, intimidation or the like.

          1. Joey

            It might be illegal, but that doesn’t mean it will get you fired. Lots of people do illegal things that don’t affect their employment.

            1. Adam V

              There’s usually some boilerplate about “conduct that reflects badly on the company” which would cover cases like breaking the law (and which, since the specific conduct isn’t enumerated, could probably be applied selectively, to everyone’s annoyance).

              1. Joey

                Companies are shying away from that type of language out of fear of discouraging concerted activity.

          2. Rachel - HR

            To protect the company is the simple answer.

            For example, we had an employee test positive for an illegal drug. We fight his unemployment. The state unemployment office calls me and tries to argue that the employee said it was only a one time event and wants to see the chain of custody report on the drug test and sign offs from the employee that he knew about the policy. The state didn’t care that had the person admitting to them that they took an illegal drug. It was on the company to prove the employee did wrong.

    2. Rachel - HR

      In my state, the state unemployment office also enforces that idea. When the company fights an unemployment claim, the first question we are asked is “How did the employee know they couldn’t do XYZ?” That can be a difficult question to answer when not everything is written black and white in a policy.

      1. Joey

        I agree, but if there’s no dress code that doesn’t make it okay to show up with nothing but a g string though. Some things are expected even when there is no policy or rule. Showing up is one of them.

        1. Rachel - HR

          I don’t think it’s right at all, but if you’re asking where people are getting the idea from -it’s an idea that is perpetuated by facts (your g-string employee would we eligible for unemployment in my state if there was no dress code and the employee hadn’t been warned).

        2. Anna

          Legally, ignorance of the law does not mean you’re not culpable for breaking it. However, employment isn’t like the law and if you aren’t reasonably informing your employees of your policies surrounding X, Y, and Z, you can’t really hold it against them. This case especially is tricky because the employee did what they thought was reasonable, they got someone to cover for them. Technically, they did show up. Their shift was covered.

          1. Joey

            Sure you can. Showing up is a pretty basic expectation. And technically he did not show, someone else did.

    3. KellyK

      I don’t think “figure out a magical way to show up for work with a flat tire, and no, getting your coworker to cover isn’t good enough” is a basic thing, though.

      1. Jen RO

        But it’s not a magical way. You have a flat tire, you change the tire, you get to work. Do people really own cars and not have a spare tire? What happens if they have a flat in the middle of nowhere? Wait for god knows how long until AAA gets there? This is the first thing drilled into me when I got a car – always have a spare tire. The one time I didn’t fix my broken tire asap… my spare got cut too, so now I had 2 flats and no spare. Not doing that again for sure!

        1. Editor

          American cars often have smaller spare tires, called donuts, that replace the flat but can’t go far and can’t handle interstate speeds. So at one job where I drove 40 miles from suburbia into rural farm company on the Interstate, it would have been dangerous to drive that distance using the spare. I don’t have a full-size spare tire in my garage, but I do have AAA membership and they usually arrive within an hour where I live. I would miss at least half a day of work if I had an unexpected flat.

  5. Positivity Boy

    RE: #5 – I get that refusing to even confirm receipt of a write up via signature is adversial, but what if it’s been issued in an adversarial manner in the first place? The only time I’ve ever refused to sign was when a manager from another department who already disliked me put a pointless procedure in place to target my department and then wrote me up for not following it, even though it was illogical and I told him I wouldn’t be doing it. Would other people have signed anyway?

    1. Joey

      If you both dig in your heels you will lose many more times than the boss. Just because you don’t agree with the bosses orders doesn’t mean you don’t have to follow them.

      If you want to win you can’t make yourself the focus of wrongdoing. That means continuing to do your job and follow instructions as long as they are reasonable.

      1. Positivity Boy

        They weren’t reasonable in my opinion, though. Basically, his department was having a problem with constant errors being made that resulted in financial losses. Rather than reprimanding his employees, he created a policy where my department would be double checking his department’s work and then if the errors continued, he would write up my department for not double checking adequately rather than his department for making the error in the first place. And because I know it will be brought up, I was the one entering write ups in employee files, so I know for a fact he wasn’t writing his people up for it.

        For the record, my manager was also there when he wrote me up and she agreed that it was BS, but she didn’t have the authority to override it since they were at the same level.

        1. Joey

          Might not seem reasonable to you, but from outside it just looks like you think he’s doing it the wrong way. It’s not reasonable to refuse instructions simply because of that.

    2. Observer

      Yes, because not to sign makes you look more than adversarial. Of course, as Alison notes, you can note that you are signing as to receipt, not agreement. The adversarial supervisor won’t like that anyway, of course, but anyone else looking at that will understand and look at it very differently.

    3. Rayner

      You sign to acknowledge reciept by putting “[Name], signing to ack. reciept.”

      By refusing to sign it, you put the thought into people’s minds that you were adversarial or didn’t understand how the process worked.

    4. fposte

      Yup, I’d have signed. It doesn’t commit me to anything but saying I read it, which I did, and then I’m not the one picking fights. The high ground, it is mine!

      1. Positivity Boy

        Fair enough – I honestly don’t know if I would handle the situation the same way if I were presented with it now, as I’ve certainly learned a lot and come a long way in terms of fighting battles since then. But in the moment it was really hard not to argue with this guy who I knew had it out for me to begin with.

        1. fposte

          Once you realize the tremendous power of just dropping the rope, it’s actually pretty enjoyable to do. If the answer to a subtextual “Ha ha, I’ve got you!” is , that’s often a very satisfying victory in its own right.

          1. fposte

            Ah, angle brackets fail. There was a “shrug” in there. But it kind of works the way it is, too.

  6. Katharine

    Was the person covering the shift late? If you got coverage it seems weird to write you up for being late. At my old job if you found your own coverage we didn’t care why/if you weren’t coming in.

        1. tesyaa

          We don’t know that there was no impact to the business, but “no impact to the business” is besides the point. If someone’s having a slow work day, why not just go home? There’s no impact to the business. If Bill doesn’t pull his weight and Ken works harder to cover for him, why should Bill change? As long as Ken’s covering, there’s no impact to the business.

          1. Colette

            I can tell you that if I went home one day because it was slow, there would be no impact to the business. (There would be an impact to my paycheck, and possibly my professional reputation, but the business would be unaffected.)

            Similarly, if Ken works harder for one day because Bill is sick/tired/just not working, that’s life. Presumably Bill will do the same for him one day.

            If either of these are recurring problems, that’s different, but the problem the OP described was one problem on one day.

        2. Dan

          Just for sake of conversation, if we’re talking about non-exempt employees, it’s likely that the covering employee is being paid over time. That means there is some impact to the business.

          I suppose one can further argue that the person who is out would at some point be using their PTO and someone else would have to cover, so the company should be budgeting for it. So there’s truly no impact to the company in that situation.

          1. Colette

            If they both work full time, I agree – and calling in someone who has to be paid overtime affects the business, absolutely.

            1. Zillah

              Unless they just traded shifts, in which case it’s entirely possible neither would get overtime.

        3. Joey

          Because wen you’re hired the expectation is that you will reliably show up to work, not that you will find people to cover for your unreliability.

          And there is usually a business impact even when you get someone to cover. Someone else having to pick up your slack for the day is a pretty big impact in and of itself.

          1. Colette

            If it’s an recurring problem, I agree – but it’s not reasonable to expect your employees to never have life get in the way.

            1. Joey

              No ones saying it is. I just suspect that there’s been other issues because most reasonable managers know that its nearly impossible to find an employee that won’t ever need to call in.

              1. Suzy Schmoe

                Not all managers are reasonable, though. In fact, many aren’t. It’s a bit of a leap to assume that a) the manager is reasonable; and b) the OP has had other attendance/reliability issues.

          2. Positivity Boy

            So a one-time occurrence for things out of her control make her unreliable!? That is a crazy standard…unreliability to me implies a pattern, not a one-off problem. Have you never called out of work?

            1. Joey

              I’d be shocked if there were no previous or other issues. I don’t think I’ve ever met a manager that expected employees to never call in.

              1. Positivity Boy

                Well that would be reasonable, but you’re adding context that’s not the in OP. It’s completely possible that she’s not giving the full picture, but if we’re giving the OP the benefit of the doubt (which I believe is usually the MO on this site) and assuming that this is the first major offense, then the supervisor’s actions would be unreasonable.

    1. fposte

      I’m wondering if the title is a little confusing and if she got written up for calling in her shift change too late rather than being late.

  7. Ann Furthermore

    #2: I like Alison’s suggestion about how to handle this. Asking if it’s OK to bring spouses/SO’s, and then asking about the best way to purchase tickets, makes it clear that you’re not being presumptuous and expecting your boss to pay, or taking advantage of your boss’s generosity.

    1. books

      Although I read it as an event that the boss is encouraging his employees to go to by purchasing their tickets, and OP #2 intends to attend with a spouse. Maybe something like “I’d love to go, and planned for SO to come too. I plan on purchasing his ticket is there anything I should be aware of for seating arrangements?” The boss may plan on purchasing a table for instance, and there could be some logistics to manage.

      1. Ethyl

        It sounds like EVERYONE is planning to bring a spouse, though, which means someone really needs to step up and Use Their Words, lol.

  8. BadPlanning

    On OP #1, my company does a similar thing and it’s always seemed a bit shady to me. Not shady as in illegal, just “Hey, we’re a great company with all this volunteer time” except the volunteering is the employees’ free time. It just rubs me the wrong way. It’s optional so I don’t put hours in.

    1. Gjest

      Yeah, I would only list hours that were done on work time that my employer was letting me volunteer. My volunteer work on my own time is me donating that time.

      It’s along the same lines of my old employer taking donations for the local high school from us (the employees) then giving the donation in the companies’ name. I would have been fine if they said that the donation was from “the employees of X org” but instead it was just “from X org”. That always bugged me.

  9. Kat

    It concerns me that the email jumps from past tense to current tense on verb useage. When you are repoting something from memory, you stay in past tense. She switched and there was nothing to justify it. I think that she has probably has a history of missing work and things are coming to a head. I bet in a month we will be reading about how unfair it was that she was fired.

    I study statement analysis and her story sends up quite a few red flags.

    1. fposte

      Interesting–that switch seems to me pretty common for an anecdotal narrative, since people often follow oral practice in such narratives and people find it hard to resist present tense in those. But I don’t know anything about statement analysis and how that works–can you explain more?

      1. Diet Coke Addict

        I was going to say–the letter to me reads like how I recount stories verbally–“I was going to work, and I get to my car and there’s a flat! So I go back upstairs and find the number for the tire place I got it from, and I called them and they were like…” and so on. It’s not consistent to me like it would be in a formal letter or anything.

      2. A Bug!

        I don’t have a lot of direct experience in this area but I do know that a shift into present tense is one of the signs that investigators are told to look out for when they’re taking or reviewing people’s statements. It’s not that a shift into present tense necessarily means deception, but it does invite further scrutiny, especially when it happens in the context of giving someone a statement as opposed to just recounting a story casually.

        I’ve seen a couple explanations for this but I don’t know if any of them are more than just suppositions. The one I can remember right now is an expansion on the idea that lying tends to involve more mental work than telling the truth. Basically, that the fabricated portions of a speaker’s narrative aren’t drawn from a real memory, so in the speaker’s effort to make those portions sound believable, she mentally experiences them while she’s recounting them. Because she’s not recounting something from her past, she inadvertently shifts into present tense for those portions.

        So it’s not just the shift into present tense that can be significant but also when it happens in the narrative. If the speaker shifts into present tense for key points in the narrative, then that can mean the speaker is fabricating those portions.

        1. Tinker

          That being said, it’s one thing to say “this bears further investigation”, where presumably actual evidence will be sought regarding what actually happened, another thing to conclude that the statement in question should be interpreted as untruthful, and yet another thing entirely to essentially write a new story for the OP with substantial details that can be at best called a cold reading.

          Even if we know they’re lying — and I’d say that the basis for concluding that they might be doesn’t line up well with what I’ve read and experienced regarding memory or for that matter language use — there’s nothing to say that it’s because a) they have a history of missing work b) “things are coming to a head” c) they will be fired d) in a month (o rly?) e) and will come back here to complain about it (which, actually, from what I’ve seen OPs who are “in the wrong” don’t tend to come back with further complaints). Who’s to say that they even work shifts or have a job, for instance? It’s not like people don’t write fake letters to advice columnists, after all.

          And then also, like I said, I just can’t find the proposed mechanism plausible. If nothing else, probably half the tickets that I write shift into present tense precisely because I tend to cast my perspective into the past when I’m trying to describe exactly my observations and actions of an event that surprised me at the time in order without missing anything and being certain (or as certain as one can be when one has a brain that has been proven to be unable to see dancing apes on a basketball court, for the love of the deity of your choice) that I didn’t overlook anything important and that I can back up my narrative if someone doubts it. Which sounds awfully like the circumstances under which one would describe the key points of any disputed event, particularly in cases where the stakes are higher than “Fine, come here and I’ll show it to you.”

          And then there’s the matter of Muphry’s Law.

          All in all, I think it’s not very fair to the OP to go to such uncharitable lengths based on such flimsy data.

    2. Tinker

      That seems like an awfully wild inference to make about someone’s grammar error. Does the same sort of thing apply to spelling?

  10. doreen

    #4 Take a closer look at those W2 forms- you should only get a single W2 per job, so one may already be a corrected copy

    1. Loose Seal

      That happened to me once and I didn’t notice one was the corrected one and, of course, filed the wrong one with my taxes. A few years later, the IRS asked for what they were originally owed.

      The words “Corrected Copy” were oddly not that obvious on the W-2. I guess I’d think it needs to be stamped across in bright red letters or something.

  11. RobM

    #1 Maybe this is a US thing as everyone here seems accepting of this but the normal response around here (UK) would be that the number of hours volunteered is non of the employer’s business.

    Now noting it down so that the organisations you volunteer for might get a donation from your employer is another thing of course, but if not then… nope.

    #5 – does seem like an over-reaction unless a procedure that was supposed to be followed was not followed or this is part of a pattern of behaviour.

    One other possibility: Depending on the job being done of course, it may be a case that Jane and Fred are both trained maintenance engineers and can cover 95% of one another’s jobs… but if Fred asks Jane to cover for him and an incident happens that is part of the 5% that Jane cannot cover (or the company requires 100% coverage as a precaution and checks shift rotas to ensure this happens) then I’d say the employer has a point.

    1. Jessa

      But then one would think that they’d have a coverage list – ie Jane can call in Sam or Lucie but not Jo.

      And some companies avoid overtime by making them switch shifts. If I called off and Elliott covered for me, I would be expected to pick up one of his shifts, I would get paid my full hours, but so would he. But there would be no OT.

      1. RobM

        Absolutely. Either way, there’s some context missing that would explain this _or_ the management at that company are crazy, in which case, as an employee you need to be managing this yourself by limiting their reasons to get on the crazy train about you.

      2. Elsajeni

        Well, it can get more complicated than “Jo can never cover for Jane.” My experience with this was in a retail environment where everybody was trained for Task A, most but not all were trained for Task B, and only a few were trained for Task C — so, if you were trying to trade shifts with Jane, you wouldn’t have to have the exact same training as her, but you would have to be aware of which tasks everyone on every shift affected by the trade was trained for, and what the coverage requirements were for those particular times of day, in order to judge whether you’d be shorting coverage anywhere. You can see why it’s often easier to just say, “Any shift-swapping has to be approved by a manager.”

    2. Chinook

      RobM I have to agree that asking about employee volunteer commitments seems odd (Canadian here). I would give up the info if there was something in it for me or the charity but I would feel weird just being asked. After all, who gets to decide what kind of volunteer work counts? I teach Sunday School, so are they willing to give me credit for 1:1 prep time? Are they going to judge me based on my organization? If the boss is pro-choice and I log time orgamizing a pro-life rally, will there be consequences? What if I am on a Greenpeace walk-a-thon and I work for an oil company (because I am trying to change things from the inside)?

      BTW – these are hypothetical questions. If the latter were true, I would have been walked out by security the day Greenpeace occupied one of our field sites. But that doesnb’t mean I am not keeping an eye out for badd practices and my bosses know it.

      1. KarenT

        My Canadian employer uses one of the volunteer tracking systems, and my previous one did as well.

  12. Elena

    #3 – I’ve both applied for positions and been a hiring manager through a recruiter, and I’ve never seen a cover letter in that context. Focus your time on updating your resume and making sure the recruiter knows why you’d be a great fit so she can sell you to her client.

    1. Letter Writer

      I’m the letter writer for #3. I realized after I sent in the question that I’d need to figure out what to do for this time on my own, since it was a pretty immediate question. I got the LinkedIn message Wednesday and spent a chunk of last night updating my resume and writing a cover letter and sent them both lateish last night (Thursday.) For next time now I know to send a message first. But it seems to have worked ok even with the delay. I got a response this morning asking to set up a time for a phone screen.

      I had also wondered if I needed to write a cover letter since they reached out to me, but decided that it definitely wouldn’t hurt to write one if it wasn’t needed and could hurt not to write one if they expected it, so I erred on the side of caution.

      Also, if it makes a difference, the recruiter who contacted me is an employee of the company that has the opening, not an outside recruiter.

  13. AB Normal

    #2: I’d also make sure you are interpreting the offer correctly.

    In the past, I was asked a similar question by a boss, who offered to buy the tickets, but *only as a convenience for everybody*, as he bought them but expected to be reimbursed.

    In my case, this detail wasn’t explicit in the original offer, but the boss did send everybody the final total for each one to pay for their own tickets after the purchase.

    I’m just mentioning it because it may not be the case for the OP, but it’s always a good idea to clarify what’s meant, as the extent of the offer may be misinterpreted because each person is using their own mental model of how this sort of thing works. (Similar to someone inviting people to their birthday party at a restaurant and then expecting the guests to pay for their own meals, which is not something I’d do, but have seen done.)

    1. Julie

      Wow, that must have been quite a shock for those people who thought the boss was paying (and didn’t make it clear that it was only for convenience), especially if they wouldn’t have chosen to/been able to spend their money on the tickets.

  14. Anonymous

    #1. This is a common place issue at law firms/public interest/legal services offices/law offices, etc. where pro bono hours are reported to the state bar. just fyi.

    1. Jessa

      But that’s not the same thing. It doesn’t equate to actually for instance, building a home for Habitat. Lawyers, I thought were supposed to do some work pro bono. Not all do, but I understand it’s kind of a thing in the profession. I wouldn’t think of that practise when asked about people “volunteering.”

    2. Cat

      That’s different for a number of reasons, though, and in that case the reporting is going to be mandatory rather than voluntary. One reason is conflicts of interest – I can’t take a pro bono case where there’s a conflict of interest with another case handled by my firm even if I only work on it on my own time. Another issue is the firm’s malpractice insurance, which, again, is likely to be implicated regardless of when the work takes place.

  15. Celeste

    #5 If you knew you were supposed to notify the office, then you should have done that. By arranging another person to cover, you took away their option to manage as THEY saw fit. Maybe they would have preferred to have you come in late, either for overtime or for your skills. Offering to find coverage is nice, especially while you’re waiting for service, but IMO you should apologize for not calling and accept the write up.

    You don’t mention if they have written you up for this before or not. But the fact that you want to find fault with them in this for not giving you a union manual when you started…that makes people think you are a problem.

    I think you should get crystal clear on how they want things done, and stick to that. Also, your long commute is your problem, not theirs.

    1. fposte

      You know, I totally missed that it looks like the OP never notified the workplace and just swapped shifts without notifying anybody. I wonder if that’s what the writeup is actually for–unless you’ve been given official leave to do just that, yes, you need to remain accountable to the workplace for the no-show.

  16. HR “Gumption”

    #4 W-2 form question. That strikes me as one of the most bizarre “is it legal” questions made. I fail to see how any ill intent could be suspected. Simple answer, contact payroll to clarify.

    #5 Write-Up. Since Union is mentioned any remedy available would be through the CBA, start with your Shop Steward.

    Having directly managed and provided HR support for shift work its common to have very stringent attendance rules. For whatever reasons missed shifts/late arrivals and the excuses that accompany are to frequent.

    Rachel! Is your state my state? WA State UI is very generous.

    1. Ethyl

      Hahah, I thought the same thing on #4! Slow your roll, OP4, and just ask for a corrected one.

  17. MR

    For #3, this is a good reason as to why you should keep your resume updated.

    Even if you open the file once a year, make a few brief changes and then close the file again, just keeping it up to date makes it easy to just send it off if you feel like sending it out.

    1. Letter Writer

      I do generally keep it up to date, but I just got an internal promotion at my current job about 9 months ago. I had updated my resume as a part of securing that promotion, but hadn’t yet updated it to add the new position. Honestly I was not even considering looking yet, but this position sounded too good to pass up.

  18. Burned

    Op #5, I’m going to disagree with most everyone above. In my Philadelphia PA area company, signing a write-up, even merely as an acknowledgement of receipt but not agreement, counts against you in a serious way. The company put the supervisor/manager/etc. in an official trusted position of authority so in any disagreement between you and they, the company defaults to the trusted person in authority. Having a write-up means you (if you are Exempt) are not entitled to get any year-end performance awards and are not eligible for an annual raise. This write-up then stays in your HR file forever. The compromise is to write and submit your own letter that describes the facts as clearly and succinctly as possible while never acknowledging the write-up. It’s not perfect but if you have a case then this gives you an opportunity to present it. The company can of course do whatever it is within their policy/handbook guidelines.

    As to transportation from NJ into Philadelphia, you know as well as I do that their are multiple trains from multiple NJ locations via NJ Transit and Amtrak multiple times an hour. Even if you don’t work in Center City, you can easily get to a NJ train station to get into to Center City and grab a bus/cab for the last mile(s) of your trip within a few minutes of exiting the train.

    I do agree with above posters that being at work is a basic expectation and does not need to be specifically presented to you in any form. I also agree that notifying your direct supervision is another basic expectation. The supervisor could then have either told you to come in or that your substitute was acceptable.

    So in summary, although write-ups are very slippery slopes, in my humble opinion, the basic expectations are the issue, not the write-up. Your absence & substitution of a coworker could have been addressed with your supervisor before this issue blew up…if you had only notified her/him.

    1. Poohbear McGriddles

      Couldn’t the write-up still be held against you even without your signature?

      1. Burned

        Absolutely. As I mentioned above “The company can of course do whatever it is within their policy/handbook guidelines.” If a case like this were to get escalated to a lawyer (and I’m not one) you could possibly have the potential for a stronger case this way. Never signing or acknowledging a written warning comes comes from an HR lawyer I worked with.

        HR lawyers here, please confirm or decry my statement.

        1. Joey

          Not a lawyer, but With a witness signing that employee received it it shouldn’t be an issue. I would suspect it might only be to your advantage if its a he said she said type thing.

        2. Joey

          Another thing, signature is just to document receipt so emailing it works just as well for legal purposes.

          1. Burned

            I think we all agree that it’s still valid, enforceable, and the company still will do what it wants.

            I hoped that bringing local perspective to the issue would show that there are all kinds of public transportation options into Philadelphia from New Jersey which makes the issue of not being able to get in a little less credible. In the Philly/Delaware/New Jersey/Maryland/Washington DC/Virginia/New York City area lots of people live and work in different states and I’m one of them and I have people working for me that do likewise. I’ve lived in both DE and Philly and worked in Philly/Delaware/MD/NYC and Washington DC. I go for work purposes to the other states all the time, sometimes by car and sometimes with public transportation. A broken down car (assuming it is off the travel lanes of the roadway) in this area is usually not an excuse for missing work. I still see the core issue as a basic expectations/communications issue, not a write-up one.

  19. Viv

    Re #1- I’ve been the lucky event planner who got the call from a volunteer’s employer confirming her 40 hours of service (she was actually closer to 50) and asking for my org’s ddress and charitable registration # so they could send the $500 donation she had earned for us. Talk about win-win!

  20. Ursula

    Re: #4
    W-2 forms are supposed to be postmarked by January 31st. That strikes me as being more odd than the error. Just request another (on one form) with the changes as soon as possible.

  21. Chris

    #5 — People, can we PLEASE stop make random inferences about the character and work history of the OPs, and just look at the information provided? She doesn’t mention a history, so stop making assumptions. If she didn’t call her supervisor, I can see it being a problem, even if she found coverage.

    If she is being written up for “not finding a way to work,” that’s complete crap. I live MAYBE 30 minutes from my workplace. If my car breaks down, there is absolutely no way for me to get there. There is no mass transit, and no local cab companies. I would have to hitchhike, pretty much. Or pay a cab company from the city I work to drive all the way out, pick me up, and drive me back (twice). Hardly a sound investment when I make 50 a day on my short days, and 100 on my long day each week. Any reasonable manager wouldn’t find it that unusual. Assuming the write up is for not finding a way to work, and not for not calling the supervisor, either the manager is a jerk, or we aren’t getting enough info. I won’t speculate on the latter (since I addressed that at the beginning…)

  22. Suzy Schmoe

    OP #5, not sure how your union works, but based on what I’ve seen with my family members that work in union positions, your best bet is to go to your union rep and explain the situation. He or she can best advise you on how to handle the situation (and, at least in my family members’ experiences, will want to be present at any meetings with management).

Comments are closed.