I found an ad for my own job, my manager tells us to bill for hours we didn’t work, and more

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

1. I found an ad for my own job

I’m supposed to have a team of four, but one of my employees transferred to another team/office three months ago. I put in a job requisition request for his replacement right away but have had no movement on this front. My team is struggling to meet all of our deadlines and doing a decent amount of overtime, but we’re making it work. I’m getting frustrated that HR has not forwarded me any resumes or set up any interviews for me. I checked our online careers page to see if the job was listed and it is, and I also happened to see that my job is listed too! (At least I’m 95% sure it’s mine because there are particular terms that only relate to my department.)

We just had our annual reviews in July and I was given a great review and a small but better than average merit increase (average was 3% and I got 3.5%). My direct supervisor also told me that I received the largest bonus out of everyone in my practice area (which is about 80 people). I met all of my bonus metrics goals, plus I received a large discretionary bonus, for a total of almost 9.5% annual bonus based on my income.

If they are unhappy with my performance and looking to replace me, why would they give me such a large bonus and praise me during my recent annual review? Why else would they put my job online unless they are looking to replace me? What should I do now?

Ask your boss about this, right now. While employers do sometimes seek to replace someone who doesn’t know it yet (although it’s generally a pretty crappy thing to do), they generally don’t do it by openly advertising the role on the company jobs page. It’s much more likely that this is a different role, or that it was posted by mistake, or some other explanation.But rather than wonder and stress about it, go talk to your boss. Say something like this: “I was just looking on our jobs page to see if the X role is listed yet and I saw a position that looks like it could be mine.”

It’s highly likely that your boss’s response will set you at ease.

That said, I’m being given a tiny amount of pause by the fact that HR hasn’t sent you any resumes for the job you’re hiring for. If they were planning to replace you, they might cut you out of the loop on hiring for that role, or even put it on hold until your replacement is hired. But there are also lots of other explanations for this (including just having a kind of lame HR department, the same kind that would accidentally post a role that sounds so much like yours). But there’s no point in speculating when you can just go ask your boss what’s up.

2. My manager tells us to bill the company for hours we didn’t work

My manager has employees record extra hours, and I’d like to know what the possible repercussions to the employees could be.

I work part-time, as does every other member of our department, with the exception of management. To help out the employees, our manager has established the following pay scale:
Task A = 4 hours
Task B = 6 hours
Task C = 8 hours

If we work in excess of the hours assigned to each task, we record the full amount of hours we actually worked. But if we work less, we get a freebie, since we’re told to record the additional time. My manager says that this is to compensate for low hourly wages and vastly varying workloads, and to make everything stay under the radar–if everyone gets the benefit, no one will rat him out. What are the repercussions for the employees for doing this, if any should questions arise from upper management?

Well, you could all get fired. But it’s more likely that your manager would be the one who gets booted. He’s basically defrauding the company, unless he’s doing this with the knowledge and approval of the company’s management (which it sounds like he’s not, given your reference about him doing it for everyone so that no one will report it). And telling you to report extra hours “to compensate for low hourly wages” is pretty outrageous — the company sets the pay scale and if he takes issue with it, he should advocate for higher wages, not enlist you all in fraud.

At a minimum, I’d keep very careful documentation of his instructions to you on this, so that if/when it’s uncovered, you can show that you were following his instructions. But ideally you’d also speak up about it — either to him (if there’s a chance that the company does know, since he could clarify that for you) or to someone above him.

3. How can I ask for regular one-on-one meetings with my manager?

I work for small organization. I sometimes feel disconnected from the rest of the office. My boss and I usually exchange greetings when/if we see each other in the common areas, but some days I don’t see her at all. We rarely discuss what I’m doing unless I’m in her office to ask her a specific question, and she asks, “how are things?” I understand that she’s a busy person and she doesn’t have time to chase me down, and that I need to go to her if I need anything. So I think I want to set up some sort of weekly short one-on-one meetings with her where I could give her a lowdown of what’s going on, ask her questions, ask her if she needs me on any other projects, and also where she can give me a lowdown on things on her end that she feels I should know, but how do I politely bring this up? It was brought up as a good idea at one point a while ago, but it hasn’t been mentioned since. Could I approach her office and ask in person? Or should I send her an email to preface it?

This is a totally reasonable thing to ask for, and even more so since it’s actually been suggested in the past! Asking in person or via email is fine. I’d say something like this: “Would it be possible to start scheduling short weekly check-ins with you? I’m realizing that I don’t have a great mechanism for updating you on my work, getting your input on things, and making sure I’m in the loop on anything you need from me, and I’d love to get short weekly meetings on your calendar (or even every other week if that’s easier on your schedule).”

4. I’m going to start telecommuting, but my employer wants to change me to a contractor

My husband recently received a once-in-a-lifetime job offer that requires relocation. My employer – a nonprofit organization – is allowing me to work remotely, but they want to change my status from a full-time employee to a full-time contractor. The expectations communicated to me so far would be that I’m available during business hours and that my job would not change, except for my location. The only reason I received from my employer about why my status would change is a fuzzy answer about liability of some kind (something about insurance the employer would need to carry for having employees in another state). My organization is about 70 people, and I would be the only full-time remote employee.

As I think about this, and as I’ve learned more about the distinctions between contractors and employees, I feel pretty strongly that what I would expected to do would be in the realm of an employee. Obviously, the change has a lot of implications for me personally (taxes, benefits, etc.). I’d like to go back to my employer and discuss keeping me on as full-time remote employee, as I think their expectations of me are going to be more in line with that of an employee.

Do you have any advice on how I might handle this, or what the merits of being a contractor v. employee might be (particularly from an employer standpoint)? I know lots of people work remotely as employees (instead of contractors), so I’m trying to understand my footing of how I might approach my employer on this matter.

It’s true that having an employee based in another state will sometimes require your employer to get additional workers compensation insurance (even if you’re working from your own home), which they might not consider cheap. But it’s also true that your employer can’t just decide to treat you as an independent contractor because it will be more convenient to them; whether or not you qualify to be treated as a contractor is a matter of law, not of preference. It’s possible that your role could meet that test with a few minor changes, but they shouldn’t take it as a given.

And yes, there are disadvantages to you in that arrangement: You’ll presumably lose your paid time off, health insurance, retirement contributions, and other benefits, and you’ll be responsible for paying self-employment tax, which is about 12% of your income (although that can also be offset by your ability to deduct more business expenses). That said, if you’re the one pushing to work remotely, you might decide that those trade-offs are worth it to you. But go into it with your eyes open.

5. Following up on networking emails when you haven’t received a reply

My question is about networking. After you reach out to a new person you want to connect with professionally and they don’t respond, is it appropriate to follow up in two weeks to see if they would be interested in connecting or is that just pushy and annoying? And what’s the most appropriate way to frame that email?

I just moved to a new city and have been emailing a lot of professionals who work in the area I’m interested in (nonprofit and government work). Most of the emails I send are because another connection of mine recommended I get in touch with that person. Thus I start off all my emails with some sort of line like “X recently suggested I reach out to you,” and then give a brief explanation of who I am and why I want to connect with them. I have a very high response rate to these emails (maybe 1 out of every 10 or 15 people I reach out to do not reply) so I don’t think the problem is that I’m sending a lame networking request.

However, the people who haven’t replied are some of the people I am most interested in connecting with. I really want to send a follow-up email to those people, but I don’t want them to label me as that annoying person who keeps harassing them. I was thinking that maybe I should contact the person who originally recommended I reach out to the non-responders, but I also don’t want to harass that group of people since they are also new connections and I don’t want to appear like I can’t even email someone without help. Please advise on what the best way to handle this situation would be.

It might not be a coincidence that the people you’ most want to connect with are the ones who haven’t replied. The people who others are most interested in connecting with are often the people who are especially busy and who field a lot of these requests. That means that you might need to resign yourself to simply not getting a response from them. There’s nothing wrong with one polite follow-up after a few weeks have gone by (so a total of two emails to them) — but after that I’d move on.

And I wouldn’t try enlisting the original referrer for help — that’s too much like saying “can you please nag this person who has already had a clear opportunity to respond to me but who has chosen not to,” and that’s way too big of an ask for anyone who you don’t know extremely well and where the stakes aren’t more urgent than just wanting to make additional contacts.

{ 129 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie*

    #4 – Coincidentally enough, I was just talking to my friend about this. He works for a DC-based organization, but was working remotely in Nevada (where he’s from). His company just kept him as based in DC since he was the only employee in Nevada (and I guess Nevada has no state income tax) since it’d be a hassle to incorporate (or something) there for one employee. But they still kept him as a W-2 employee. It’s lazy on your company’s part that they want to switch you to contractor status.

    I don’t think it’s worth the hassle to become a contractor, honestly, if you can avoid it.

    #5 – Move on after one follow-up. It sucks, I know.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      My company had a bad habit for a long time of letting people be remote when they moved to another state without telling anyone in the Tax group about it. It creates sales tax issues. If you have even 1 employee located in certain states, it creates nexus, meaning that the company is required to collect and remit sales taxes in that state. Which means registering with the state, filing tax returns, submitting payments, and so on. It creates a lot of overhead, and serious audit consequences. If the state realizes the company is not filing returns, they can assess not only the back tax amount but penalties and interest as well.

      That’s what first popped into my head when I read the OP’s letter, but then realized the employer is a non-profit. But maybe they’d have to register in the state and do other types of filings?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Workers comp insurance. I once worked somewhere that got hit with a $10,000 fine from the state of NY for not setting up a NY-specific workers comp account for our lone employee there.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, friend works for a nonprofit. I wondered about workers comp and UI as well. But he’s since moved to another state where the org has multiple employees.

          1. Chinook*

            I don’t know about the US, but when I applied for personal WCB coverage in Alberta as an independent contractor, I was told I was ineligible and would be covered by my vendor’s policy due to the work I do even though I am not their employee. I had to submit this response to the vendor as my contract required me to have it (because it was a standard contract).

            If you do become their contractor, make sure you charge them double your current rate to cover your benefits, taxes, and insurance.

        2. Sarabeth*

          This exact thing happened to my husband’s company when we moved to NY and he began working remotely. They were able to negotiate the fine way down, but still, it was a nasty surprise!

      2. Catbertismyhero*

        Non-profits have the same issues, and may have additional filing requirements. There may also be income tax implications. Also, there are differing rules governing HR policies, pay and benefits which have to be taken into account (see California for example). We will no longer agree to remote arrangements for these reasons, and have been very careful with setting up independent contractor relationships.

      3. kd*

        I work for a non-profit that does collect and remit sales tax because of certain products we sell. This is exactly what happened. Employees worked remotely from several states. Nexus was established and the tax department is still digging out. This has been going on now for years.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      If an employee is working full-time, remotely, in another state, to my knowledge it isn’t legal to classify them as a DC employee. First, he was probably paying DC income tax, which means that he was paying out money he didn’t need to, living in Nevada. Which I presume would have impacted the taxes he filed. Second, the employer should have been paying UI to Nevada but was presumably paying to DC instead, which would create problems for that employee down the road if they filed for unemployment benefits. The organization would also owe business withholding to the state of Nevada. That, in addition to all the WC issues, and the sales tax issues Ann Furthermore mentions below (I once had to do 10 years of quarterly back-filing on California sales tax for this very reason). There might be something I’m missing, but it’s really hard for me to imagine a scenario where this arrangement is not in violation of state law. It is, in fact, the most lazy way to go about having a remote employee! :)

  2. Adam*

    #1 I can be prone to bouts of anxiety and paranoia, and this situation would have me hanging from the ceiling. I agree with Alison you should bring this up with your boss as soon as you can. I would definitely need it to set my own mind at ease, even though it probably really does not have anything to do with your position. Good luck!

    1. Artemesia*

      This. I would be going nuts over what is probably nothing — and if it is something, well better to know now. I’d talk to the boss tomorrow.

      1. Adam*

        I realize in retrospect that the phrase can have a number of different meanings and some of them are extremely grim. I promise I meant it in the cartooniest possible way but apologize if anyone found it disturbing. Insomnia’s a ****….

    2. seesawyer*

      OP #1: Is it possible they are considering a promotion/restructure, such that they would need to replace you but not in a bad way? For instance, putting you in charge of your department plus a couple others, leaving a need for somebody below you to run your current department directly. It would also be bad practice to start this without telling you, but since we are already positing bad practice… Just a thought to reduce the anxiety level Adam is talking about; I know it would be hard for me to go to my boss in an appropriately diplomatic way if the only explanation I can think of is they are secretly planning to fire me :P

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        That might even go some way towards explaining the delay in advertising the other role, they may have had to work out the new structure first before they could do that.

      2. teclatwig*

        That is what I was coming here to say. Given how much positive feedback and demonstration of your worth to them you received at the end of last year, it seems very possible they want to do even *more* and are considering a promotion via restructure. (This is a really stupid way of doing it, if so, but it’s definitely a potential scenario.)

  3. Dan*

    #1

    That actually happened to they he guy at my old job. One day a buddy of his called up and said, “hey, are you guys growing so fast that you are adding another senior he person?” Um, no. So the guy went to management and sure enough, they were replacing him without telling him.

    1. Stephanie*

      Awkward. What happened? Did he find another job before they got rid of him?

      This also seems like the exact type of scenario where you’d want to use a recruiter (or at least a blind ad) instead of posting it on Indeed.

      1. Dan*

        He rode it out and fell of the face of this map. This was two or three years ago by now, and his linked in profile hasn’t been updated. He’s got 200+ connections, so I doubt this is a throw-away profile and he started a new one. (I checked other names that match his, none seem to be duplicates.)

        I have no idea how they posted this job, I figured they tried to be somewhat subtle about it but forgot the world is small.

        The people who canned him were some VC guys who had aspirations of growing the company from about 75 people to 400 with this “huge” contract that they were expecting to win, and then selling out. They didn’t think he was up to the job of managing growth like that. As it was, we got to about 200 people, didn’t get the contract funded at nearly the value they were expecting, and went through a bunch of layoffs in attrition. I think they’re down to 150 right now, and sold out a couple of years ago.

        The CEO got sacked this summer. He joined up with the old VC guys and are off on their next venture. The company who bought out the VC guys ended up suing them for misrepresentation among other things. I feel sorry for the guy they’ve got in their cross hairs now.

        1. Janis*

          Well I know I’m getting old because to me VC means Viet Cong. Are there any Viet Cong left, I wondered, and are they running companies in the US now? That’s an interesting unintended consequence of the Vietnam war! Of course, I now realize you meant “venture capitalist.”

          C’mon, I know I’m not the only 50+-er who reads this blog!

          1. Cucumber*

            Thanks for the giggle, Janis. I know there are a few other boomers reading, based on past comments (and naturally, I should say that when I reread your name, I immediately thought of … Mesdames Ian and Joplin). I suspect most of us are Gen-Xers AND millenials but I love that we have such diversity of ages and experiences here. I’ve learned so much from the comments and Alison’s advice.

            1. MR*

              VC = Venture Capitalist(s). Basically, they invest money into companies in the hopes of flipping them for big profits in a short amount of time.

              There are many ways of doing this, oftentimes, leaving the company loaded with debt, but by that time, they’ve cashed out and moved on and don’t care about the carcass they left behind.

    2. Beth*

      Wow! That is awful, reminds me of a story my dad told me from his job. A colleague of my dad’s, peter smith, was leading a big meeting. There was a knock on the door announcing that they were movers looking for Mr.Smith to remove his things from his office. Peter said he hadn’t ordered movers and they told him they had heard he was fired and that would need help with his stuff. That was how he found out!

      1. Mimmy*

        Wait…it happened DURING his meeting??! It’s one thing to find out you’re being replaced, but in front of a bunch of people?! That’s pretty rotten :(

        1. Chuchundra*

          That happened to one of the engineers at my job. Security came into the meeting, took him out and drove him to the front gate.

          This guy had been a PITA for years and the new guy heading up his group had had enough of it.

        2. Oryx*

          That happened to a co-worker during a conference call. Corporate was talking about 3 people in a particular department, someone spoke up and said there are 4 of us. oooops.

    3. NYCRedhead*

      At a friend’s firm, they wanted to replace a staff person, but wanted to have someone hired before they fired her. So they put an ad in the paper with a different fax number. The support person saw the ad and applied- for their own job!

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        That’s like the Piña Colada Song for the business world! Only I assume the company and support person didn’t laugh and rekindle their romance over a shared love of getting caught in the rain.

  4. Dan*

    #2

    If you are working on behalf of the federal government, you could go to jail for fraud.

    I’m just curious, even if the op doesn’t work for the government, could the employer press criminal charges?

    1. Elysian*

      It depends on the state and the amount of money that was inappropriately given to the employee. But really, this would more likely be civil fraud than criminal fraud (ie., pay back money, not going to jail) either way. It might qualify as both but I don’t think this would be prosecuted unless it was some giant “scheme.”

    2. Taz*

      I don’t know about the employer pressing charges, but if these are hours being billed to a client, the client is likely to at least raise a stink about paying the full bill if it ever finds out.

    3. Vladimir*

      Well I am no lawyer and do not even live in the US, but wasnt this in the move the Firm? Book n which it was based was written bz the lawyer. And if I remember correctly overbilling was federal offence. Punishible by prison and fine. If thats true I would leave the company today.

      1. Judy*

        It was certainly presented to me that way when I was working for a defense contractor. I’m pretty sure that between two companies, though, it’s just a civil matter, not a criminal matter. It’s only a federal offense when you’re overcharging on a government contract.

        1. Dan*

          Not to nitpick, but a lot of this stuff is governed at the state level. So, there’s a huge step between a civil matter and a federal offense.

      2. Mike C.*

        The crime in the Firm that was brought up at the very end was actually mail fraud. It’s kind of like how Al Capone was finally convicted on tax evasion rather than murder or violating the Volstead Act.

    4. Ivy*

      It would also depend on what type of job it is – just routine tasks or something that requires initial time investment? In my type of job we invest time to develop certain materials, so when somebody asks for them it may take 1 minute to send the right information, but we need to compensate for the invested time. So certain requests and tasks have a “minimum” time charge.

      It doesn’t seem to be the case for a low wage job, but in general setting standard times make sense – otherwise you don’t reward efficiency in any way, exactly the opposite.

      1. Chinook*

        “It would also depend on what type of job it is – just routine tasks or something that requires initial time investment? In my type of job we invest time to develop certain materials, so when somebody asks for them it may take 1 minute to send the right information, but we need to compensate for the invested time. So certain requests and tasks have a “minimum” time charge.”

        This is what I am thinking – that the boss is asking them to charge “book time,” which is what mechanics do. They charge their hours according to how long the books says it should take them rather than how long it really took. I had a friend who was really good and efficient at his job which meant he could work at 150%. The flip side is that, if you have somethign go wrong (think a lug nut with a stripped bolt), you could spend more time on the job than what you are paid to do.

        I could see this happenning in the corporate world for tasks that are commomn (say personal income tax form by an accountant could cost $25/page (which works out to 20 minutes) regardless of how simpel or complicated it is). But, then the client should know that this is happenning.

        1. Dan*

          If people were charging book time, I would have to assume that everybody is on board with it. The OP makes it sound like it’s hush-hush, so I doubt that’s the case.

          As a consumer, I think lawyers go overboard with book time, but I think it’s ok with mechanics. It essentially means we pay for services on a flat-fee basis, which keeps costs manageable. I’d hate for a $1,000 to be $500 “if we’re lucky” but turn into a $3000 job because of “unforseen circumstances.”

        2. Anonsie*

          I wondered if this was the case as well. The way it’s presented makes it pretty ambiguous, but there are plenty of circumstances where billing for a set amount by task would be pretty normal.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          In these examples with the tax prep and the mechanic, I would think there would be a chart.
          Everyone whose tractor has the spark plugs changed gets charged X for the job.
          Everyone who wants a 1040a gets charged Y for that form.

          The common thread being the consistency. There is a chart and all employees follow the chart. I cannot see an instance of where a mechanic would just decide to charge X plus $10, like wise with the 1040a example.
          In OPs example, the billing is not formalized, it is more like “wink-wink” and people do what their conscious allows them to do. This is not at all like the mechanic or the tax preparer.

          I can see why OP is not comfortable here. Who knows if everyone else is following the secret program? And how much hot water will OP be in, if OP is “caught” doing this?

          My advice to OP is to press the boss on the matter of “What do we tell outsiders if asked?” I would use the Mark Twain quote that “Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead”. Some one is going to blow the secret, that is almost a certainty.

          If the going gets really tough on this one, OP, I have gone as far as telling bosses that I don’t want to see anyone going to jail. If they don’t get that the first time I say it then I say “I am not going to jail for any employer.” That sentence seems to get heard.

    5. Doreen*

      I could be reDing the OP wrong, but i didn’t get the impression that this was about billing clients but about a certain type of part-time job where you are paid by the hour but the work hours are determined by how long it takes to complete specific tasks. When I was in college, I had a job processing checks for a bank. We left when the work was done whether it took 5 hours (branches proved quickly,courier didn’t hit traffic,no discrepancies) 6 hours (typical) or 9 hours (lots of problems. Using my example, I think the OP’s manager is telling the employees to report (and get paid for) working 6 hours whether they worked 6 hours or 5 . It seems to be the managers policy, not the company’s and if it becomes an issue “my manager told me to lie” might not excuse it.

    6. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yeah, something like that is going on in our area right now. People being called into work were charging for the full shift, even if they only worked for an hour or two and then went home, and immediate managers knew and approved. But it was working for a federal contractor. Someone near the bottom was called on it, and became a whistleblower when he pointed out how everyone else was doing it too. It blew apart, and all sorts of people lost jobs and are facing charges. Even if your manager says it is ok, it may not be ok. And whistleblowers aren’t safe, if they’re engaging in the same wrong-doing.

    7. Al*

      Your only hope is to not train or help co workers. The only reason you are still there is because there is something you can do that your boss or coworkers do not yet know how to do. Refuse to show them anything, do not let them sit next to you if you are working, and stop working if they will not go away, or find another place to work. Ignore threats to train, you will only be fired when you show them anything

  5. periwinkle*

    #3 regarding one-on-ones with your manager:
    This is a totally reasonable request. Some of my co-workers have weekly or bi-weekly scheduled meetings with our manager. Others ask for a meeting as needed. It’s an opportunity to catch up, talk about projects (past, current, future, and potential), bounce ideas around, and set goals. I suggest asking for one hour for the first meeting; subsequent meetings can be a lot shorter.

    #4 telecommuting:
    Search the AAM archives for terms like “contractor.” Alison has offered suggestions on how to phrase concerns about the move from employee to contractor. Your organization HR needs to check employment law and tax laws to sort out any extra paperwork that needs to be done. I landed the awesome job far away and my husband’s employer allowed him to telecommute full-time, but like Stephanie’s friend, there was no change to his employee status. Maybe it helps to work for a DC-area organization, where you’re used to dealing with employees living in multiple states!

    I’ve been a 1099 contractor. Financially it sucks. If the org wants you to switch to that status (and you legally qualify to do so), do the math to figure out an hourly rate that compensates for the loss of all benefits, added expenses for your own office space/equipment/high-speed internet, higher tax burden, and hassle of administering your own paperwork. You never truly appreciate accountants until you have to sort out your own tax payments…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If the org wants you to switch to that status (and you legally qualify to do so), do the math to figure out an hourly rate that compensates for the loss of all benefits, added expenses for your own office space/equipment/high-speed internet, higher tax burden, and hassle of administering your own paperwork. You never truly appreciate accountants until you have to sort out your own tax payments…

      It’s potentially trickier if the OP wants to work remotely more than the employer cares about retaining her (since she’s the one requesting it). If it’s important to the OP to keep the job and telework and the organization is hesitant about agreeing, it might not help her case to push for all of that.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        This. Many of us have been in the situation where this option isn’t even offered. The employer doesn’t “need” to do anything. Allowing someone to stay on as an independent contractor is actually an indication to me that they’d like to keep the individual on. But ultimately, the move is by the choice of the employee, not the employer. It isn’t reasonable to expect them to jump through legal and financial hoops to accommodate one employee’s life changes.

        It doesn’t hurt to ask, but the employer is well within their right to make location a requirement of employment.

        1. Ted*

          The employer needs them ( to a lessor or greater degree) or they wouldn’t be agreeing to it.

          Despite what many think, employees often have bargaining ability.

          1. Colette*

            Anytime you try to bargain, you have to measure what you might gain versus what you are willing to lose.

            If the employee wants to keep the job more than she wants to make the same salary overall, she may have to take a pay cut.

            If the company wants to keep her more than they want to avoid having a physical presence in that state, they might have to keep her on as an employee.

            I suspect the employee has more to lose in this situation, unless her skills are rare or she is more marketable in the new location. It’s not that she has no power, but that the potential downside for her is that the company says no and she does not have a job. The potential downside to the employer is that they need to hire someone else, which is a normal part of running a business.

          2. Taz*

            Except remote employees already are pretty famously often the first to be cut by an employer. That the OP is the only employee the company has agreed can work remotely might suggest the OP might be more needed — but then again, that bargaining power might already be exhausted or severely limited, given that the OP has already convinced the company to agree to an arrangement it apparently doesn’t do.

          3. MK*

            Unless we are talking about the unlikely case of someone having very rare skills, no employer really needs any given employee. What is often the case is that the employer wants to retain a specific employee, but it’s highly improbable that they want them so badly they are willing to agree to any condition. In this case, obviously the company wants to retain the OP, or they wouldn’t have agreed to allow her to telecommutes (especially since it’s not a usual practice for them). But it doesn’t follow that they want her enough to go through the hassle of having a remote employee; on the contrary they have already indicated the opposite. That’s not to say the OP shouldn’t try to negotiate employee status, but she has to calculate her worth to the company. And she should be prepared to hear that it’s contractor or nothing, or even that on second thought they would prefer to hire someone else. Also, even if they need her enough to agree to anything right now (improbable), if the employer is not satisfied with the arrangement and agrees to it grudgingly, the OP runs the risk of being replaced as soon as another likely candidate comes along.

    1. Bea W*

      That seems like something her boss would have spoken to her about though. “We’d like to promote you, but we need to find someone to take your place before we can do that.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        One would hope, right? But it could be that Jane thought Sally told OP, and Sally thought Bob told OP (etc) and in reality no one told OP. I know there are plenty of horror stories out there but OP has not said anything to give us the idea that she is a bad worker OR that her company has a history of being sneaky.

        For your own sanity and well-being OP, hold it in the best light you can until you have hard facts.

  6. JCC*

    #2:

    Might this is a bit of office politics? Are employees ever loaned to other departments to help with particular tasks during the time they are supposedly working on (and being paid for) the normal officially sanctioned tasks?

  7. AnonyMouse*

    #1: Seconding and thirding the advice to ask about it. I can think of lots of innocuous possibilities for why they’d have a job like yours posted – they’re planning to expand, they’re interested in promoting you and aren’t confident that anyone on the team can do your current job, they never got around to taking it down after hiring you, etc. I even worked for a company once that just left almost all its roles listed all the time, for whatever reason. But there is also the obvious, not so benign reason…and I’d personally be worrying about (probably) nothing until I asked!

    #3: This is a totally normal thing to ask, and it’s actually a really good idea for a lot of reasons. In addition to the reasons that have been mentioned, if you work on a pretty independent team, it’s entirely possible that your manager just doesn’t really know what you’re doing at any given time. At a previous job, I had a role where I essentially generated my own work – I’d come up with a question/topic to research, spend X weeks doing it, and then pull together my findings. But while I was in process, my manager didn’t know what I was doing unless I made a point of telling him. Once I did, and he was really impressed with the idea I was working on! He got a bunch of other stuff moving for it that I never would have been able to do by myself. So I not only got major credit for the idea, but it made my project much better than it would have been if I’d delayed the update even another week or two.

    #4: I’d use the “we” language Alison has suggested in the past for asking about this – make it sound like you’re watching out for them, too. Say something like “George, I was looking over the legal requirements for contractors last night, and even when I’m working remotely from El Paso, I’m not sure I’ll meet them. I think we’ll want to be careful about this – I know we could get in trouble if we get it wrong. Can we take another look at my classification as a contractor vs. employee? “

  8. Cheesecake*

    #3 – not just a reasonable request, this is mandatory. Even if boss sits next to you and is always in contact and even when you think “i know everything about whats going on” – you need real 1-1 when noone is there talking but you 2. I also feel a lot of situations described on the blog e.g. “boss seems detached and i don’t know why” would not arise if a person had regular 1-on-1.

    1. Cheesecake*

      And on “how to do it”.If you sit in one office – don’t write emails. I used to have bosses initiating 1-1 with me and recently my new one was quiet about it (and extremely busy). So i just came to her desk and asked. I was surprised she was grateful that i actually brought it up (and didn’t clog her mailbox with one more of explanatory emails)

  9. GreatLakesGal*

    Re: 1

    This just happened to me!

    Our HR is widely known for its disorganization– they had posted an opening for the wrong position ( mine) by mistake.

    Not only did it cause me a long, sleepless night, but this screwed our worksite as well, since the real opening (a co-worker slated for transfer) went unposted.

    By all means, talk to your boss!

    1. Bella Luna*

      While job hunting the I discovered the posting on the company website was different than the job description I received a headhunter. I emailed HR and they had posted it correctly.

  10. Going anon for this one*

    #2 — are you working for a business in which hours are then billed to a client? If so, I realize this sounds like your boss is scamming, but if it’s anything like my industry, it may be the best way of dealing with a crappy situation. In my field it’s quite common for clients to hire a company to do X, Y, and Z and say they will pay a flat rate of $X per hour, no matter which employees are doing the work. So then if most employees can do a certain task in three hours, but it takes Superstar Wakeen only two hours to do the same thing, if Wakeen bills only two hours, then the client gets a bargain and starts to ask, “Why can’t I ALWAYS have this task done in two hours?”

    I’ve never been at a high enough level actually to be negotiating the contracts, so I don’t know whether clients would do it if asked, but I’ve never seen a client who’s signed up to pay different rates for different people. I can’t imagine they’d want to — it’s just too much bother to write a bunch of different rates into the contract (and change them as people come and go). I’ve also never been at a company that was willing to take a flat rate for a *project* (as against a rate per hour).

    I’m a pretty fast worker, and I was told by my boss early on, “Bill the number of hours it would take an average worker to do this.” It felt dishonest at first, but now I’m used to it and I don’t really see how else to keep the company evenly compensated for the same type of work within our contract constraints (and also, if we all billed perfectly accurately, the company could try to pay its most productive workers *less* because they’re billing less for the same projects!).

    1. Cat*

      Mmmm, depends on the industry. In law, you do bill different hourly rates for different people and it is outright fraud to bill hours you didn’t work (and could also get you disbarred or otherwise disciplined by the state bar). The contracts can get complicated but you usually just include a fee schedule showing the possible ranges for each position per hour.

    2. Judy*

      Many contracts I’ve seen in the engineering world have 3 different rates, something like “junior engineer”, “engineer” and “senior engineer”. A particular task would be billed based on who does it.

    3. summercamper*

      This is also standard practice in auto repair – many shops use a labor guide (the two most prominent are Motor and Chilton) when estimating jobs. The guide lists the amount of time it should take an average mechanic to complete a task. The shop multiplies this by their hourly rate to give an estimate to the customer.

      If the mechanic finishes in less time than the book says, that’s great! But the customer is still charged for the predetermined hours of labor. However, if the mechanic is slow or the bolts are stuck on or (fill in the blank) and the repair takes longer than originally determined, the customer is still charged for the predetermined hours of labor. In theory, this evens out over time.

      Now, this particular situation seems fishy since the company is being billed at the predetermined rate when work is done faster than usual, but is not benefiting from the predetermined rate when work is slower than usual. That’s a raw deal for the company.

      As a side note – while most every regular repair shop uses the labor guide, some independent or more specialized shops don’t. My dad owned an independent, specialized shop for years and REFUSED to use the labor guide, because he believed it caused his mechanics to rush through jobs and cut corners. Because he worked a very small niche market, he could get away with this – his customers came to him because of this attention to detail. However, if you are getting standard repairs done on a normal vehicle, you should be very suspicious of a shop that doesn’t use the labor guide to estimate.

    4. Bill*

      Could this be a situation where there is a minimum charge for the service? I’ve seen some contracts in IT related projects such as web design and SEO that would have a minimum number of hours for a task. For example, “add single page to site” might be at a rate of $50/hr, minimum 3 hour job. It might only take 15 minutes to actually complete the task, but under the contract the client is still billed for 3 hours. This was a way of saying, “we charge $150 for this, plus a bit more if it is complicated and takes longer than usual” while still presenting it in a way that hourly project management systems can understand.

      1. Chloe Silverado*

        This could definitely be the case – I work in marketing and we handle our billing like this as well. This often comes into play at my company with edits to existing, previously approved materials. The edits may only take 10 minutes, but we would bill for a minimum of 1 hour. The 1 hour minimum is discussed upfront with the client and it is outlined in their contract, so there’s no fraud or mishandling going on.

    5. Bend & Snap*

      Different rates for different people is a really common practice in PR agencies. You pay more for different levels of expertise, which is why a VP is there for high-level strategy and crisis, while the entry-level people get most of the really time-consuming, labor-intensive projects.

    6. Gobrightbrand*

      Yes in an Agency setting, there can be minimums for projects. Like anytime someone touches a project, it’s a minimum of a quarter hour, even if the work took 5 minutes.

      The way the boss is wording things is weird, but normalizing hours makes sense. Even on the same level of grade, some designers/writers/coders work faster and some work longer. Explaining to clients why sometimes a job take 30 minutes and sometimes a job takes 1hr is opening up a can of worms. So it’s better to figure out what the average reasonable time is and bill that. The flip-side is, if you can an employee that is messing around and going way over what should be reasonable to bill, you don’t bill the client for that, you deal with the employee and make sure they don’t take that long again. There’s a lot of discretion built in, but it should always be fair to both parties.

      The reason for billing hourly rather than a flat rate is that sometimes clients just refuse to stay inside of scope, or you end of up with a lot of client driven account management hours. So better to bill hourly but think flat rate internally. Otherwise you can actually make less money by being more competent. Even when you explain to clients, my hourly rate is higher than Sue’s Designs, it’s because I work faster, so the final bill is going to be less – all they focus on is the hourly rate.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        “The reason for billing hourly rather than a flat rate is that sometimes clients just refuse to stay inside of scope, or you end of up with a lot of client driven account management hours.”

        Oh, my goodness, yes. In my niche of advertising, a few clients have made noise about wanting to pay by the project instead of by the hour, but so far most agencies are not bending, and I hope they don’t in the future. That is just asking for every project to have seventeen rounds of revisions!

        1. AVP*

          And then just think about your poor production companies who are paid this way and then get the 17 rounds of revision anyway :)

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree that it can be normal when billing clients, but in this case it’s the time they’re recording for their own employer to pay them for. And the boss seems to have implied that they should be hush-hush about it (“to make everything stay under the radar–if everyone gets the benefit, no one will rat him out”) … which says to me that it’s about getting the workers paid more from the employer, and that the employer hasn’t actually sanctioned the arrangement.

      1. Anonsie*

        I wondered if this is a misinterpretation on the LW’s part, though. In the same way that many people equate being paid salary and being in an exempt role, for example, they might have heard “billing for x number of hours” and interpreted that as literally clocking those hours worked. Similarly, the “everyone gets the benefit so no one will rat him out” bit could have been what some were saying above about how the flat rate charges account for individual variances in completing the tasks, rather than something nefarious.

      2. Going anon for this one*

        Sorry, I wasn’t clear — in my industry the costs are passed through to the client based on what the employee enters into her time log. Most of us are salaried so it doesn’t result in people getting paid for more hours of work than we’re doing, so I guess the situation is a bit different.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        It could be that there is lost time similar to finding copier paper and filling the copier tray. Things that are not attributable to any particular client/work order, it’s maintenance work that just has to be done in the course of the work day.
        That time has to be accounted for somehow and very rarely do companies factor that time in anywhere.

        It would be nice to know who the hours are being billed to. I had a situation where I had to write down every. single. thing. I did all day long. So I included the time that I spent filling out the stupid form with everything I did all day long. The boss indicated what our final result should look like. I raised my eyebrow. Then he explained that it was for funding purposes and they already knew what the answer was and this is the answer they expected. I felt that the boss’ numbers were totally reasonable. It all made sense. I made my form look like what the boss said it should look like. (That sounds awful- I know- but I cannot go into detail. The boss’ numbers made sense to me so I was comfortable doing what the boss said to do. OP does not feel comfortable so that to me is a warning flag.)

  11. Liz*

    #1, it may just be an error.

    I found my boss’ position posted on our website, during a time when we were looking for another person for our team. (This was shortly after I received an automated rejection notice for the position I not only had but had been working in for 6 months.) I showed it to him, asking if there was something he needed to tell me (knowing it was a mistake), he laughed and got right on the phone to HR to find out who goofed.

    3 other people noticed it too – it was the joke of the office for a week!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      On a similar vein, I got fired once and my boss did not even know it. I found out when my checks bounced. My direct deposit got canceled do to my “firing”. I said “I have never had a job where I could get fired and keep reporting to work.”

      Yet another reason not to panic.

      1. JayDee*

        Is your real name Milton Waddams? Do you find that Swingline staplers are better because they don’t bind up as much as other staplers?

  12. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    #5, it sounds like you are doing a lot of things right in your job search. I agree with Alison, though….no more than two emails and don’t add outside pressure. in a lot of cases, these meetings don’t benefit the person you are meeting with, and can serve to make them busier than they already are. I, for one, do very few meetings like this because I want to get home in time to eat dinner with my family. Im not saying you shouldn’t ask, but be okay with no response (sometimes even responding to say no is too much because the person responds by trying to talk you into it or getting upset). You sound courteous, smart, and like you are working the right channels…and making great strides to get connected.

    1. Artemesia*

      It is harder for lots of people to say no than to ignore. So I agree not to push more than twice, maybe offer to take the person for lunch if it is very important to you.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Yes. It is harder to say no to being taken to lunch. BUT – don’t make the lunch stretch out for two hours!! go to a place that’s quick, be ready to order when your guest is ready, etc.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Even that will depend though. Personally, I’m way more likely to say yes to a 15-minute phone call than a lunch — lunch is much more of a hassle for me.

        (Plus, many people like to work through lunch or use it to recharge on their own.)

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Ha – yes. I agree. I don’t like to have too many lunch meetings because it takes too long in the middle of my day – but I do find them a bit harder to say no to :-), so if I were the one doing the networking, it might be worth trying that with the people you most want to meet with.

  13. HRC in NJ*

    #1 – 20 years ago, I worked as a Marketing Assistant, and it was not a good fit at all. I saw an ad for a job that looked like mine, and it turns out, it was. Stupid me applied for the job, and wrote (I cringe!!) that I wasn’t confident in the stability & direction of my current employer, and was looking for a new role. I was fired soon afterwards.

        1. JoJo*

          The moral of the story: Never apply to a blind ad if you’re employed.
          I once worked at a company that fired a salesman for being an incompetent who took naps in the office all day instead of working. Six months later, the company put out a blind ad and he applied. My boss got a good chuckle at seeing how he padded his resume.

  14. Mimmy*

    #5 – Is such a low response rate normal? I ran into this problem when I was heavily networking. It really does stink, but I get that these people are very busy.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I’m actually shocked he’s getting 90% when he’s contacting government and nonprofit folks. In my experience they (we) perceive and value networking differently than those in the for-profit sector.

      2. Mimmy*

        Ooops, just re-read her letter and you’re right. That’s what happens when you comment without having your full coffee quota. :(

  15. Colette*

    #2 – This sounds to me like your employer is paying you for hours you don’t work (as opposed to billing a customer for hours you don’t work). As an aside, I’m kind of confused about what’s in it for your boss.

    My concern about going along with this is … what happens if you do get fired for it? How are you going to explain that you were fired for falsifying the hours you worked?

    How is this going to impact your reputation with other people in the company who aren’t part of the scam?

    “My boss told me to do it” only goes so far. If it’s company policy, then I don’t think there’s an issue, but if your boss has something going on here that the company is not on board with, this could cause you problems in the future.

    1. Natalie*

      “As an aside, I’m kind of confused about what’s in it for your boss.”

      If they’ve noticed high turnover or low morale tied to the low pay, perhaps this was their solution to that.

  16. JC*

    Yep, #1 also happened at a government agency where I used to work. They were planning on demoting a senior guy and giving his position to another senior person, and planned on advertising the position internally (which they were required to do since it was the government) while he was on vacation. Job ad came out before his vacation, and definitely before they told him he was being replaced.

  17. JC*

    All of this is good to know. I work in Virginia and live in DC. At some point in the future, my office is going to move far away into the rural Virginia hinterlands and I want to try to see if I could propose working remotely full-time.

    Virginia and DC have income tax reciprocity, where if you work in one and live in another, you pay state income tax where you live. Does anyone here happen to know if issues like the workers comp one would apply to a business based in Virginia with employees also in working in DC?

    And does anyone know how these issues might work for people who occasionally telework in a different state than where they work, especially in the DC metro area? Right now I telework from my home in DC occasionally, as do employees at my company who live in Maryland (which also has income tax reciprocity). I wonder if there are issues there. I’d imagine not since teleworking and working/living in different states/federal districts are very common in this area, but who knows.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m just making a semi-educated guess here so don’t take my word as gospel on this, but on your last question: I think it’s about where the employee is based … so if most of the time you’re working from Maryland, you’re considered a Maryland employee. Occasionally working from home in D.C. shouldn’t affect that, just like taking a vacation to California and doing some work while you’re there wouldn’t affect it. (Of course, as you note, with the tri-state reciprocal arrangements, it might be moot anyway.)

      1. Andrea*

        In my company if you work in another state for more than 20 days out of a calendar year, you are required to pay taxes for that state, so our timecards include a column for zip code. I work from home 1 to 2 days a week and I live in a different state from my office. This is the first year that we’ve done this, so doing my taxes will be interesting.

    2. Student*

      Income tax reciprocity has nothing to do with full-time teleworkers. It is for people who physically commute across state borders.

      The place you physically work at matters for your own income tax purposes. The place that you physically live at matters for your income tax as well. If you work for people in New York, but it’s 100% remotely from your home in Florida, then you only need to worry about Florida income tax. If, however, you travel to New York a couple times a year, things become more complicated. Most states have some minimum amount of work hours you need to spend there to qualify for their income tax, but some will start going after your income as soon as you step foot in the state for work. Then the rules become very complicated on a state-by-state basis.

      If you are physically working via telecommuting from some place #3 other than your home #1 or your normal work location #2, then that gets into a gray area that I’m unfamiliar with. If you’re on business travel, it probably doesn’t count for anything special, income-tax-wise. If it’s for a very short period of time, like a personal vacation, I’d ignore it and hope no one cares; that is what everyone does, and most states wouldn’t regard 1-2 weeks of income tax from telework as worthwhile to go after. If you have a second home in Arizona that you spend half of the year at, then you can afford to consult with a tax professional, who will probably have you file something in both states. If you move partway through the year, you generally have to pay income tax in both states based on your income for the time period you lived there.

  18. MK*

    OP5, in addition to the explanation Alison offered, have you considered that maybe the people who haven’t responded are the ones to whom your own contacts don’t have a strong connection to? If your contacts are middle-level (as regards influence in the field), it would make sense that they would have stronger connections to those who are on their own level and lower than the more senior people. Maybe the names you are dropping are not ones that very sought-after (and very busy) people rush to respond to.

  19. Riva S.*

    Re: Number 2, I was surprised by AAM’s response. I find in my own an many other fields, clients understand (as spelled out in contracts, typically) that there are “minimum billable hours.” 4-hour minimums are typical. Even for temp/freelance agencies, the contractor typically requires a minimum of 4 hours pay from the contractee (to save a freelance professional from traveling an hour to a location, being given something that ends up taking only an hour, then driving home another hour and so wasting three hours of one’s day for an hours pay (which no one should do.) This scenario, at least as OP has presented, sounds just like the above, to me – normal, typical and completely legit. The boss isn’t saying “tack on random extra hours” but rather, these are our minimum-billable block tiers. IMHO.

  20. Jesse*

    #3 — once you have brought up the idea of 1-on-1s with your boss and she says it’s a good idea, please set them up yourself! Making the things you want easier on your boss is a key skill.

  21. Lamington*

    one of my coworkers found out she will be let go when we got an influx of faxes and calls for her position. Our boss let her go once they found a candidate and she train her.

  22. OP #1*

    I’m the OP for the first question. I was very nervous to ask my boss about this and I put it off for about a week but after this was posted today I just went for it. I’m glad I followed your advice because his response did set me at ease. He immediately made a joke about it and we laughed. It appears HR just made a mistake. I already contacted them about it. Thanks to everyone for your concern!

    1. diva*

      Yay! So glad it worked out in your favor, I would have been nervous as well but I am glad you said something :) Happy Friday!

  23. Al*

    Your only hope is to not train or help co workers. The only reason you are still there is because there is something you can do that your boss or coworkers do not yet know how to do. Refuse to show them anything, do not let them sit next to you if you are working, and stop working if they will not go away, or find another place to work. Ignore threats to train, you will only be fired when you show them anything

Comments are closed.