a chronically late employee, former employer is threatening me with arrest for trespassing, and more

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

1. What are the next steps with an employee who’s chronically late to work?

My employee has had an attendance issue off and on for the past six months. I called her attention to it and it improved marginally, but then she told me that she gets a ride to work from her mom and her family is large and there is only one bathroom so she gets delayed. I changed her start time to 9:15 am from 9 am, although she already has the latest start time of anyone on the team. Our department is quite small (two people) so coverage is essential, and plus she is an hourly employee and gets paid to be here on time. She also stays late every evening (til 6 pm), but I found out from her that she does not work past 5 pm and only stays late to wait for her ride.

Is it time for disciplinary action, i.e., docking of pay or writing her up? What sort of conversation needs to happen now?

You can’t dock her pay for work she’s already performed (that’s illegal), but you can and should talk to her about what you expect of her going forward and what the consequences will be for not meeting it. For instance: “We’ve talked in the past about the need for you to be here no later than 9:15, but you’re continuing to arrive late, which leaves us short-staffed. Going forward, I need you to be here on time every day; I can’t continue to allow exceptions. Can you commit to doing that?”

If she says that she can’t commit to it because of her ride situation, then you need to decide whether that’s a deal-breaker or not. Depending on the role, it’s possible that it might not be — but if it is, then you should be up-front about it, by saying something like, “I’m sympathetic to your situation, but this role does require reliably arriving on time. Given that, would you like a few weeks to make other arrangements to get to work, with the understanding that I can’t be flexible after that, or should we face the fact that this won’t work with your schedule?”

2. A temporary change in my job responsibilities seems to be becoming permanent

Six months ago, I started what I believed to be a project management job at a big company. Two months in, a junior team member resigned and my boss gave that person’s laboratory tasks to me. My new assignment is most similar to what I did in graduate school 6+ years ago, and not a good match for my current skill set, professional experience, or career goals.

I brought on a new hire to replace the person who left, but my boss has not re-shifted the responsibilities. In fact, she specifically told me that that my role includes both the project management and lab work. I’m worried my early attempts to explain my lack of current lab skills have led my boss to think I feel “too good” for this type of work, and she’s now trying to teach me a lesson.

Should I just accept and do whatever needs to be done, or is there a professional way to negotiate back to the job I wanted? I’m not in a position to look for a different job so soon, and I also suspect my boss can’t afford to lose another person.

It’s reasonable to point out that you’re spending a lot of time doing work that you didn’t sign up for and that it’s not in line with what you want to be doing. I’d say something like this: “I’ve been happy to help by handling X and Y while Jane’s position has been open, but now that we’ve hired Fergus to replace her, I’m hoping that we can move those responsibilities back to that role. I was happy to help out when we were in a pinch, but long-term it’s important to me to be able to focus on the work I came here to do.”

If she is indeed trying to “teach you a lesson,” that’s a pretty big deal. That says that you’re on dramatically different pages about expectations for your role, and that she’s not willing to discuss it directly and openly.

3. Does this employer really mean it when they “strongly urged” me to apply again in the future?

I had two rounds of interviews and just got a rejection, which says they will add an additional position (exact same title) in six months and they “strongly urge” me to apply again, even though they went with another candidate this time. What does that even mean? This was a long process of multiple interviews, tests, etc. Am I really expected to do all that again in six months? It isn’t like my qualifications will change. They know who I am and what I can do. Or are they just being polite? I see the people I interviewed with occasionally through my current job, so maybe they are just being nice.

I doubt they’re just being nice; no sane employer “strongly urges” people to reapply for a job if they know the person isn’t a strong candidate — after all, that would just put them in the awkward position of having to reject you a second time. So I’d take them at their word that they do want you to reapply in the future.

That doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed the job at that point, of course, and it may or may not mean that you have to go through their process again — that just depends on the manager.

4. I was fired and my employer is threatening me with arrest for trespass if I return

I recently resigned “involuntarily” due to a hostile workplace that the manager would not acknowledge. I went to the director and HR and the director of HR, the CEO, and the legal department. I just found out today that my former coworker was threatened if she has anything to do with me, that I will be arrested if I come onto the hospital property and she will be fired! Is this legal?

Generally, yes. Your employer can prohibit you from returning to their premises, and they can require current employers not to associate with you.

Two caveats: If you happen to live in California, it’s possible that the state’s privacy laws would prevent the latter part of that. And because your former workplace is a hospital, it’s possible that the trespassing thing might be a little different in this context — after all, if it’s the only hospital in your area, I’m skeptical that they can prohibit you from using it as a patient, but that’s beyond my knowledge.

5. Company is closing between Christmas and New Year’s and won’t pay us for those days

If a company decides to close for the week around Christmas and New Year’s, how does this affect full-time employee… or should I ask, how should it affect us, legally? As a full-time employee, aren’t we guaranteed paid time off, even if the company decides to close for a week?

Basically, my company sent out a memo telling us that from Christmas to New Year’s, the company will be closed, but we will be paid for Christmas and New Year’s only; all other days will not be paid. We do have the option to come in to work, but only if our clients require us to. If not, then we can either take our vacation days for the remaining five days to be paid, or just not come in and not be paid. How legal is this?

Perfectly legal. Companies that do this risk causing a morale problem, but it’s legal.

{ 280 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*

    I’d also be questioning my emoloyee’s marurity. Using her mother’s schedule and bathroom situation as a reason to be late for work? I’m sure those are the real reasons but it’s not appropriate to present those things to your manager in a conversation like this.

    (By writing this comment I can’t help but feel I’ve betrayed a younger me who was frequently battling for time in my shared bathroom.)

    1. AnonyMouse*

      I also get the impression that the employee is young/inexperienced. I might be wrong but if I’m not, she may not be fully aware of the expectations around being on time. To some extent a lot of office workplaces are more flexible on start and stop times than, say, a school environment, so I feel like some people who are just starting out get carried away and think as long as you’re working the right number of hours each day, it doesn’t matter if it’s 9 to 5, 9:30 to 5:30, etc. If this might be part of the problem I definitely recommend following Alison’s advice to talk to her. It could be once she realises showing up on time is a firm requirement of the job she’s able to make alternative arrangements.

      1. Nashira*

        Hi this was me in my first job. Oh man. Sometimes I feel like I should apologize to my first boss and for my behavior.

    2. GrumpyBoss*

      I’m going to show my grumpy side here.

      Bathroom delays? Not OP’s issue.
      Relying on mom for ride? Not OP’s issue.
      Needing someone at work 9-6? This is OP’s issue.

      I’d begin disciplinary action in the form of a “final” warning and be prepared to terminate upon continued violations. This employee sounds like drama, and as you point out, incredibly immature. Either the discipline will shock her into growing up, or put OP in the position to replace her with someone who is doing the most basic of job functions – showing up and leaving when asked.

      1. aebhel*

        I’m with you. I have a small child that I have to get ready and take to daycare, a spouse who needs to get to work at the same time I do, and only one bathroom. And I still manage to make it in to work on time. You do what you have to to make it work, even if that means finding another ride or getting up half an hour earlier to get ready.

    3. Csarndt*

      Honestly, my money is on *mom* is not committed to employee getting to work on time. Sucks for the employee, but not the employer’s problem. Employee needs to take it up with mom or find other arrangements. When I was living at home and didn’t have a drivers lisence, my parents were frequently up early to take a kid to a job *on time* because it was a family value that we work and we do our jobs well…all of us…

      My money is also on mom has attendance issues at work, too.

      1. Annie*

        Also it might be a “Mom is trying to prove to daughter she needs to get her act together” thing.
        I didn’t drive until after college (I didn’t want/need to in high school- my after school jobs were babysitting and working at the Blockbuster in the neighborhood… and then it became a ‘you can’t make me’ thing after that) and about 2 weeks after I graduated my parents told me that they would not be driving me to interviews or my full time job. I was lucky enough that my parents provided a car for me (and my siblings) and they didn’t want my brothers to have it on campus at college so it was mine for the school year, but I had to save up to buy a car and pay car payments on it after that. This might be the mom’s way of trying to get the daughter’s act together, if she can’t say it to her maybe the boss will.

        1. Owl's That*

          The OP never said whether or not her employee can drive.
          That aside, remember that there are people who aren’t allowed to drive due to medical conditions (eg my cousin has suffered from seizures all his life and will never be allowed behind a wheel), or perhaps they genuinely can’t afford to run a car. It doesn’t matter as The employee should be making sure that she gets to work on time.

          1. ChiTown Paula*

            Hi Owl’s That: The employee can drive and lives within a 15-20 minute distance by car from the job. However, I believe her family depends on one car. Agree with you, she needs to make sure that she gets to work on time. FYI, her fellow employee also has no car and takes 2 buses and a train to get to work and she arrives to work on time every day. It’s a motivation issue, I suspect, and the attendance is a symptom.

      2. Tenley*

        Nah. It’s chronic, and probably has little to nothing to do with what transportation the employee takes or who is driving. OP pushed back the time to accommodate the employee, and instead of being on time the employee is taking it as the cue to start out for work that much later.

        1. Zillah*

          I’m not sure why it being chronic makes the employee’s explanation less likely. If her mother isn’t committed to getting her to work on time, it makes sense that it would be a chronic problem. (However, it’s also not the OP’s problem.)

          1. Anx*


            I’ve been dependent on other people for transportation for school and work, and it’s very difficult to arrive on time in those situations, because someone is doing you a favor and yet you need them to provide that transportation in a timely manner.

            Adolescence and early adulthood is a stream of each member in my family holding back another from getting to school on time. And, ugh, the fights when a parent insists on you not walking only to drag their feet to drive you….and frustration of knowing you should be grateful but also being anxious about getting there on time. It sucks.

        2. manybellsdown*

          This is my own daughter’s problem. She’s chronically late, and the late time starts to feel like ON time to her, so she gets more tardy. It drives me nuts because, like the OP’s employee, I still drive her, and I am pathologically early to the point that it upsets me not to arrive places 5-10 minutes early.

      3. Bea W*

        Yup, unfortunately. My mother was punctual (if you could get her to agree to drive you somewhere), but we had family friends and some of my friends’ parents who were perpetually late to everything.

        You’re comment about it being a family value hit home. Work was the one place I could count on my mother reliably giving me a ride. If my mother was unable to get me there on time, she would tell me to call my manager, either standing there while I made the call or following up 5 or 10 minutes later to grill me about the call. Did I call? Did I talk to the manager? What did I say? What did she say? If she thought I did it wrong, I got a lecture about how I should have said X instead of Y. It was overbearing, but it drove the message home.

        Getting a ride to everything else though…good luck with that. I lived in an area with no public transit and friends who were not within walking distance or practical (or safe) to bike to. The only way I could join my friends at mall or the movies or their own home and the usual places kids hung out was if one of my friends could convince their parents to go out of their way to pick me up and drive me home. That made my social life kind of crappy and frustrating.

      4. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I can see this. My parents never took my work seriously (unless it was for my stepfather’s office), and if I hadn’t had my own transportation, I can totally see being left to the mercy of my family’s whims. By the time I had a steady job, I had the use of one of the family cars, but woe betide the day I couldn’t stay home for the plumber or the AC guy at a moment’s notice because I had to work the next day. “Well, skip it!” “Well, I can’t!” “You need to come home early and do x, y, and z.” “I’m working until 7.” “So?” (Note: I always worked until the end of my shift.)

        However, this doesn’t mean it’s the OP’s problem. I sympathize if the employee is truly in a tough family situation (I don’t think sharing one bathroom is tough, I think getting your family to respect punctuality is tough), but that doesn’t mean the OP has to make concessions. Sitting down with the employee and going over bus schedules or offering other options, if they’re available, would be a kindness, but it’s not necessary. The only thing that’s necessary is reminding her that she has to arrive on time or she will be let go.

        1. the_scientist*

          Agree with all of this. I was late for every day of elementary school for three years because I had to walk my younger brother and he dawdled and farted around until we were late, and my parents couldn’t be bothered to discipline him or take action to resolve the situation. It’s not the OP’s problem, but there are definitely families where the children’s responsibilities are expected to take a back seat to the wants & needs of the adults in the family. The employee’s arrival time may be dependent on getting another, “more important” (or higher-earning) family member to work before her, or to the whims of a mother who doesn’t value commitment, responsibility, punctuality, etc. Still not the OP’s problem, but it’s a crappy situation for a young person to be in, especially when public transit options are severely limited or non-existent.

          1. fposte*

            Oooh, that’s the worst–the family version of having management responsibility without management authority.

          2. Mabel*

            I got detention in high school because my dad got me to school late five times in a semester. I was pretty annoyed that I had to pay for his inability to get anywhere on time.

            1. lowercase holly*

              i got a letter home about this in high school (carpooled with dad and friends’ parents). being late too much could fail a person. it was a wake-up call to the adults in our lives!

        2. Don Draper*

          Perhaps this person should not be fired right away, but given the choice of either adjusting her morning routine, and figuring out alternate forms of rides to work (buses cabs, uber or lyft) or leave to find other work that is more fitting to her schedule. Given this choice the monkey is put on HER back more so then yours. While assisting this person to help her figure out some things is certainly not a bad idea, remember you are busy, and this person needs to figure out some things out on her own. Giving her a couple of days off to sort things out might not be a bad idea. She will either fix the situation herself or quit.

          1. Melissa*

            Uber or Lyft to work every day would be very expensive. But yeah, I think giving her some time to find other arrangements with the expectation that if they are not found by X date, the OP will let her go is what Alison is suggesting.

      5. OhNo*

        This would definitely be my guess, too. Speaking from experience, here – my father couldn’t be on time if his life (or mine) depended on it. Relying on him for rides always meant that I would be late – whether it was five minutes, fifteen minutes, whatever, it happened EVERY SINGLE TIME.

        That said, if this is the mom’s issue, and not the employee’s, there are definitely ways for the employee to manage it so they still get there on time. Tell the mom the start time is fifteen minutes or half an hour earlier than it actually is, taking public transit (if available), getting their own car/ride… there are tons of possibilities. The original source may be the mom, but the employee is the one who needs to make it work regardless.

        I second Alison’s recommendation to give them two weeks or so to get some alternative transportation arranged, whatever it may be. If they still aren’t on time after that grace period is up, fire them. With some people, it’s the only way they will learn.

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          This really works! Used to have a friend who was always late. For everything. As in, one or two hours late. Infuriating. So one day we were driving to an event together (he was going to meet us at our place and ride with us). We do not like to be late and it was important to be on time for this event, so we told our friend we were leaving two hours earlier than we actually were. He showed up right on time, apologizing for keeping us waiting, blah, blah. Funny thing, when we then told him he was right on time, he was PISSED that we had lied to him about when we were leaving. Makes you wonder.

          1. manybellsdown*

            Man that never worked with my ex. If an event was at 3:00, and you told him to show up at 1:00, he’d still wander in about 4:15 – and think he was on time, too, because he left the house at 1. Never mind that he ran half a dozen errands along the 45 minute commute.

            1. Bea W*

              Was with a guy who was like this. His excuse was that everyone knows he shows up hours late if he shows up at all and at holidays his family would just set a plate aside. In other words, he knew he was late, didn’t care, and had no desire to change it or make any effort to occasionally be on time out of consideration to anyone, and everyone in his life enabled it. He didn’t care if I was late for work either.

          2. Cath in Canada*

            I have one brother-in-law who is always told a start time for family events that is one hour earlier than the time given to everyone else. That way he’s usually on time, and no, we haven’t told him yet! We’ve also stopped asking him to bring the appies – it’s always dessert now, so we can start without him if he somehow still manages to be late.

            1. lowercase holly*

              i have a cousin who is always late for holiday meals. then when he arrives, he’s like, “you guys already ate?” yeah, dude, we ate at the time we told you the meal would begin.

            2. Looby*

              I would never fudge the start time of an event because someone else has no time management skills. If I’m serving lunch at 1, it will be served within 5 minutes of that regardless of all the guests being there (baring emergencies). If there are no consequences, nothing will change and I will not go to the hassle of telling different people different times or having to do a separate invite for one person.

          3. Melissa*

            Two of my close friends sent out their wedding invitations with the ceremony time printed 30 minutes earlier than they actually intended to start, because most of the people in both of their families were chronically late. Sure enough, I would say that at least half of their guests trickled in about 15-20 minutes after the printed time in the invitation.

            1. Scloam*

              My ex-mother in law is (was?) this way, but I didn’t think to plan ahead in this manner…

              Sure enough, that woman (who I assure you is a kind and good person in general) waltzed into our wedding (HER ONLY SON) 25 minutes late.
              In the middle of our VOWS.

              Her son wasn’t nearly as bad as that but his inability to time manage or be punctual was a contributing factor toward that being a < 2 year marriage.

              1. Cath in Canada*

                We had one of my husband’s friends walk in during our vows, too. Wearing jeans. I was Not Impressed, but it was better than my first thought when the door crashed open – which was that there was going to be some kind of a Mrs Robinson moment!

                1. scloam*

                  I wish! (This was my first husband haha, I might have been saved.)

                  An addendum: I chose to not specify a “dress code” on invitations, but I assumed because the ceremony was held at a church, it was a saturday wedding held in the evening, etc…that people would dress accordingly.
                  I was wrong. My husband’s tux, my white gown, my officiant’s robes? Contrasted nicely with my uncle-in-law’s khaki cargo shorts and my cousin’s tube top.

                  Never, ever overestimate people. ;)

          4. Anx*

            I had friends do this to me once, and so I just assumed I always had extra time to really be somewhere after I sat around waiting for them a few times.

            Turns out they didn’t believe my rationale for being late initially (I had some major family drama I was trying to downplay). So I did take a little pleasure in being ‘late’ all of the time after that. I was pretty upset they lied. My tardiness wasn’t intentional, but lying was.

            1. QualityControlFreak*

              Yeah, well, he wasn’t kept waiting for us, but he was sure pissed that we weren’t kept waiting for HIM, so on intent … you figure it out. We lied so we could leave on time, that’s all. And that’s how it worked. We weren’t trying to teach him a lesson (that ship had sailed); we were trying to provide our friend a ride AND still be on time to keep our commitment.

      6. Karyn*

        Isn’t it also possible that Mom has a later start time than the instant employee and thus feels no real rush to get her there on time? That said, the employee really needs to get her act together. A great option is Lyft, honestly – it’s relatively cheap and you can carshare. In fact, the employee should really look into options for carpooling – lots of cities have ways to find shared rides!

        1. lowercase holly*

          or maybe try carpooling with a coworker who lives in the same area? that might be super awkward, but you never know. my workplace does this.

      7. Melissa*

        I would throw money on this too. I love my mother very much, but times are suggestions to her, not requirements. If I had had to rely on her to get to work as a teenager I probably would’ve been late all the time, and while my mom has been praised for her work at her job she has definitely been talked to about attendance issues more than once.

        Still not the employer’s problem, but I’m sympathetic.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      To me the bigger red flag is not the start time, but the fact that she’s not working past 5 even if she stays past 5. She’s basically stealing time from the employer at that point. That’s a much bigger ethical issue to me than the arrival time.

      I’m not clear why the manager has let this go for so long. Manage!

      1. Zillah*

        It’s not clear whether or not she’s actually clocked in for that time, though – my interpretation was that she isn’t clocked in, but the OP is annoyed because her employee isn’t even trying to make up the time she missed by being late in the morning.

        1. Laufey*

          Hey OP – would it help matters if she did work late until her ride arrived? Would probably be the simplest solution if it’s feasible, but if you need employees in the morning it wouldn’t really solve your underlying problem.

      2. KerryOwl*

        If the employee herself told the OP that she’s not working after 5, then I doubt she’s clocked in and “stealing” from the company.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Oh you’re right. I misread that as others told the OP that the employee wasn’t working. Weird.

    5. Josh S*

      Also, you cannot dock her pay. But you SHOULD be only paying her for the hours she is actually working.

      If she is scheduled from 9-6, but shows up at 9:15 and stops doing work at 5pm, leaves her desk and waits in the lobby until her ride shows at 6pm, you should only pay her for the time she is actually working.

      Since she is hourly, I assume you’re having her record her hours? If she is falsifying her time card, that is, IMO, grounds for immediate dismissal–it goes beyond tardiness and into the realm of gross dishonesty and fraud. If you are not tracking her actual hours, you really need to start.

      1. ChiTown Paula*

        Hi Josh, actually, she’s been with the company for almost 3 years and no one has docked her pay, although she’s had a recurring issue with tardiness. I have been on the job as her manager for 6 months, and I would dock her pay, but ever since I put her to work on a brand new project, she’s excelling, so it could be that she is unmotivated but the root cause is she’s maxed out on her current job duties and needs to do something new. Bear in mind this is a small company, and there are literally no open positions, so there is no where else for her to go unless she wants to leave the company.

  2. PEBCAK*

    #3 — I wouldn’t go through the online application system or whatever, in this case…if a position opens up, you email the hiring manager directly and say you’d like to be considered again. Attach your resume.

    1. Elsajeni*

      I would do both — I think just emailing the hiring manager, without also submitting an application through the expected/official channel, runs the risk that your materials won’t actually make it into the stack for consideration. (The hiring manager thinks “Oh, awesome, I’ll keep an eye out for her application” and then doesn’t think to reach out to you when it never arrives; the hiring process is highly regulated and doesn’t give the hiring manager the discretion to add an application that didn’t come in through official channels; etc.)

      1. PEBCAK*

        Ah, good point. But she definitely has to do *something* to remind them that she’s already been through this process once (beyond just checking a box on an application that says that).

  3. CoffeeLover*

    #1 I am this person. I really struggle to be on time no matter how much time I have to get ready. I think it might be a cultural thing (born in a country where being late is the norm, living in a country where being late is rude). Anyway… I have nothing to add really other than I am so happy I have chosen a career path that does not involve shift work :P.

    1. Zillah*

      Yeah, I have a lot of trouble with this, too. Thankfully, my current job is very flexible – they need me to do the work, and the exact hours aren’t that important to them – but I know that the next one may not be, so I’m working on it now and am going to aim for jobs that have a little more flexibility in general.

    2. brightstar*

      Work is the one thing in my life where I am punctual. Most days I end up getting to work 10 minutes early. Everything else? It can be a struggle for me to be on time.

      1. lowercase holly*

        opposite: work is the one thing i really suck at getting to at a consistent time. i’m early for everything else.

    3. Bea W*

      I struggle with this too, and my parents were super punctual and uptight about it. I just have a very bad sense of the passage of time. I use multiple alarms and alerts to try to keep me on track, but I still struggle.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Me too. I need extra time to wake up also. And in the morning, the rush hour on my side of town is infested with big trucks and if I leave early, I’m STILL late. It’s maddening.

        It’s much easier for me to be on time for something if it’s later in the day. Not sure why that is, except maybe because I’m less able to focus in the morning. I’m sort of between a lark and a night owl in terms of daily rhythms.

    4. Jessica*

      I have this problem too and I feel like it’s psychological. I’m very much a perfectionist, especially about my appearance. I never feel like I look good enough, so I always end up late to work and everywhere else. The only job I was ever consistently on time for was one that started at 6pm when I had done my “getting ready” routine hours before.

      I wonder if you can get therapy for perpetual lateness.

      1. Sadsack*

        Perhaps therapy for the issue of dwelling on your appearance? Fussing with hair and makeup when you know others are waiting on you is really, really rude, and the people waiting think exactly that, especially if you are habitually tardy. This isn’t a slam against you — just something to consider if you really are considering trying to change your habit and mindset regarding your appearance.

        1. Jessica*

          Oh believe me, I am totally aware of this. It’s not a problem for me at work currently (or at least no one’s ever mentioned it) because no one’s counting on me to be there at 8am, with occasional exceptions a few times a year in which case I do get there on time, basically by waking up two hours earlier than a normal person would need to and realizing I will lose my job if I’m not there on time.

          But I have lost at least one friend over the issue, so I realize it doesn’t endear me to people. The issue goes much deeper than shallow vanity. I do want to change but so far have only had marginal success on my own.

          I’m just saying I think a lot of chronically late people really really do not want to be the way they are but they can’t just snap out of it and that’s hard for people who don’t have the same issue to understand.

          It’s definitely not the responsibility of the employer to accommodate this, though, and it’s probably best for us late people to work jobs that are flexible time-wise and prove ourselves in other ways.

          1. Sadsack*

            Jessica, I didn’t mean to imply that I think it is due to vanity. I think vanity different than body issues and self esteem issues and whatever else you may have going on. I was referring to the deeper issues you referenced when I used the term “mindset regarding your appearance” and suggested therapy. I want you to know that I was not intending to sound judgmental.

            1. Jessica*

              Sorry, I misinterpreted a bit. And you are totally right – it’s definitely about self-esteem and perfectionism. The lateness is merely a symptom of a deeper issue and I think that’s how it is for a lot of people.

          2. Elsajeni*

            I’m a neurotically punctual person, and I found this letter and discussion on Captain Awkward really interesting — lots of discussion of the reasons beyond “they’re just rude, I guess” that people end up chronically late, lots of discussion about how social interaction between On-Time People and Late People works and how people on both sides of it feel, and lots of ideas for making that social interaction less tense. (Not that this is necessarily useful to OP#1; as you said, finding ways to accommodate the chronically late is not the employer’s problem, and work punctuality is a different animal than social punctuality. But folks in this thread might find it interesting.)

            1. fposte*

              Oh, I really liked that discussion. I’m big on punctuality but I’m also very, very not neat, so I’ve always tried to view the unpunctuality habit as being analogous to my untidiness.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        Jessica – I, too, struggle with this and one thing that seems to be working for me is that I started paying attention to how I look at, oh, say, 4:00 in the afternoon, when I’d done my hair and makeup at 7:00 am. I started telling myself that if it was OK for people to see me like that [less than perfect] at 4:00pm, then it was OK for them to see me less-than-perfect at 8:00am.

        1. Amy*

          See, that wouldn’t help me. I’d just spend the whole afternoon feeling self-conscious, because if I start off from less than perfect, all afternoon is just downhill. I can accept sliding from “perfect” at 8am to “fading” by 4pm. I cannot tolerate “average” at 8am and “god awful” at 4pm.

          I actually struggle with this myself, because I have really fine, limp hair that gets greasy and sweaty really quickly. I get about 12 hours out of it before it starts to look unprofessionally dirty. So if I wash it the night before (literally no earlier than 11pm), my hair will look alright until about mid-morning. But after that, I just spend all day paranoid because my hair looks disgusting.

          I’ve got my morning routine with shower down to a science, but one small hiccup throws my whole morning out of sync and either makes me really late or means I turn up looking unprofessional.

    5. TNTT*

      I just will not ever understand this! If I know I’m running late I start to feel so anxious about leaving people hanging, that I’ve started to be the person who’s 5-10 minutes early. I just can’t get my head around being late every day, to every thing, all the time, culture or not.

        1. TNTT*

          Sure, but what about on time to everything? What is it about your (a theoretical, late-you, not Heather) day that makes it 10 minutes behind everyone elses? Why doesn’t it make you anxious to know people are waiting on you? Why can’t you leave 10 minutes earlier to be sure that you aren’t late?

          I really don’t mean for this to sound accusatory, although I realize it does. I just wish I could live a day in the life of a late person to know the answers to these.

          1. fposte*

            Well, first have a look at the Captain Awkward column linked in Elsajeni’s post–it’ll really illuminate things for you.

            I’m an on-time person, so I get what you’re saying, but can you think of it in terms of something that doesn’t trip your trigger? Do you get anxious if you haven’t changed your car’s oil yourself, or encrypted your backups and created a storage redundancy, or set all your online accounts up with two-factor authentication? Because I know people who get the anxiety “you’re doing it wrong” buzz for all of those, and I’m betting at least one of those just doesn’t set off your brain alarm. Which is really hard to understand for the people who feel that these actions are all that stands between them and chaos.

            1. TNTT*

              I did read the CA post, and there is some great stuff in there. I think part of the problem is I have a specific friend in mind when I think of this issue and for me the rudeness of it really rings true. There is no rudeness factor associated with the oil change, or the hard drive. It doesn’t affect other people’s days or plans. To me, lateness has always seemed to be an explicit statement of “I have not considered the value of your time in making whatever choices I made to arrive 39 minutes late to dinner with you.” Definitely a mindset I need to work on.

              (Also if there was a way to embed pics here, I’d show you my multiple backup hard drives stored in various locations, as well as the impassioned email I wrote to my poor mother about why two-factor authentication was required for all devices in our family. Being an IP/IT attorney just lends itself to these neuroses, I suppose!)

              1. Elsajeni*

                Yeah, the rudeness of it is a big factor for me, too — one thing I really appreciated about CA’s response to that letter was that she was very clear about separating “The reasons behind this behavior are sympathetic” from “… therefore the behavior is not rude.” It IS rude.

                I also have a specific flaky friend, who… well, we are basically not friends anymore, although not entirely because of her flakiness. But from hanging out with her, what I learned was, basically, she has the same sort of trouble understanding why it bothers me when she’s late that you and I do with understanding why anyone would be chronically late — she so completely wouldn’t mind, or even notice, if I showed up half an hour late for something that it’s very hard for her to grasp that other people do notice and mind.

              2. Natalie*

                I have a friend like that, too, and unfortunately I don’t think there’s any other option than accepting their lateness as the price of admission to being their friend. It’s okay if the price is too high for you, but it’s not likely that you are going to be able to change it. Hoping and trying for change is rarely effective and just increases your frustration and resentment.

                It can also help to set your expectations at a realistic level, based on past behavior. We never assume Always Late will be on time for a party, so we don’t usually invite her to sitdown dinner parties or brunch where we need to be seated all at once. Always Late blew a surprise party once, so when we had another surprise party someone volunteered to shepherd Always Late so she wouldn’t arrive at the same time as the surprisee. Always Late was not a bridesmaid in a mutual friend’s wedding because we weren’t sure she could be relied on. (She was still included as an usher, and actually was on time which I imagine was really hard for her.) And so on.

                1. fposte*

                  And I think it’s important to differentiate “is rude” from “is consciously disrespectful.” The Always Lates generally aren’t flipping the bird to anybody, even though to us Always Timelies we feel like we’re getting flipped off. You’ve done a really good job of negotiating this difference in this friendship; there are also people that I just couldn’t be friends with because we can’t work out this issue, and that’s okay.

          2. abby*

            I am normally a very punctual person. But I almost always arrive to work 10-15 minutes “late” and here is why. I put “late” in quotes because I not in a position where being precisely punctual is important. Additionally, my boss is not a clock-watcher and doesn’t care, as long as I get my stuff done.

            Unless I have a definite need to arrive on time (a meeting or some other scheduled appointment), I arrive 10-15 minutes “late” because to arrive “on time” means I have to leave my house 30-45 minutes early. The traffic dies down just enough that if I leave my house at 8:35 or so, I get to work between 9:10 and 9:15. But if I want to arrive by 9:00, I need to leave by 8:00. Even then, I might still arrive a few minutes “late”.

            I mention this for no other reason than to explain it’s not always as simple as leaving 10 minutes early. However, if my employer required me to be at work by 9:00, I’d suck it up and spend the extra 30-45 minutes in traffic. I would hate it, but I would do it.

          3. Zillah*

            What is it about your (a theoretical, late-you, not Heather) day that makes it 10 minutes behind everyone elses? Why doesn’t it make you anxious to know people are waiting on you? Why can’t you leave 10 minutes earlier to be sure that you aren’t late?

            If you find the answers to these questions, please let me know. I’m a chronically late person and I’ve spent my entire life trying to understand why my day is behind everyone else’s and why I can’t leave 10 minutes earlier, and I have found no good answers… but I’m still chronically late.

            1. More anon for this*

              As someone who’s chronically late, I’ve found that I am overly optimistic about how much time things take. The first thing I had to learn was that my estimate of how quickly I could do things when I’m groggy in the morning was often half of the time they actually took.

              Second, I discounted things that were unimportant. Bringing in the paper is unimportant and takes “just a second.” Umm, no. It’s a couple of minutes to walk out to the curb and back. Going to the refrigerator for a bottle of water is a couple of minutes. Getting a coat out of the closet is a minute or so. If I have water at the office already, the newspaper is canceled, and the weather doesn’t call for a coat, I’m five minutes earlier.

              Third, I come from a task-oriented background, not a time-keeping background. I grew up in a farming community, and while we didn’t have a farm, the culture was more one of doing the task and doing it well than hitting certain timelines. If the morning milking took longer because a cow needed some extra care, it took longer; of course milking has to start about the same time every day, but five minutes one way or another did not make a huge difference. If you sat in the doctor’s waiting room longer because somebody had a longer visit, you just waited for the doc to finish. If you got to church late, you just quietly slid into the pew where your family always sat. If the weather was too bad to come into town, some kids didn’t make it to school. So I tend not to see lateness as rudeness but as a function of whether the previous task ended earlier or later.

              I have really struggled at a couple of jobs where being on time was important to my supervisors but not necessary for the work, and it was particularly galling when I was willing to stay late if necessary — and did — but I was called on the carpet because I was late. It didn’t matter that I always made up the time and was also the person who did the last-minute stuff other people abandoned in their rush to get out the door at the end of the day.

              Finally, when I’m running late, I’m almost always sure that if I just move quickly enough, I can make up the time and no one will mind. Two things are happening in those cases — I am, once again, overly optimistic about my ability to make up time. In addition, I am assuming other people share my attitudes about being on time and understand that delays happen, even if delays happen four days out of five. From my perspective, I have “reasons” for being late although from supervisor’s perspective I have excuses. Even though I know that those five minutes mean a lot to people, I still only have a what? — arm’s length appreciation? — that they get upset without actually being able to feel how upset they get. It’s odd, because generally I’m pretty empathetic. But it’s easier for me to understand why you’re furious that a task got left unfinished than it is for me to understand why you’re furious a task got a late start if starting the task five minutes late didn’t result in a cow getting sicker or a customer walking out.

              What has helped in the mornings was to, a few times on non-work days, to actually check the time on the digital watch my husband bought as soon as they came out, do a task, check the time again, do the next thing, and see where the tasks I wasn’t counting were adding time. The second thing that helped when I got the last job that required on-timeness just because, was to set an alarm on my cell phone for 10 minutes before I had to leave the house. This seemed to get me out the door about 12 minutes after the alarm went off on bad mornings because I learned to drop all tasks and just get out the door. I often made up those two minutes because I allowed about four minutes time for a very short commute, even if it drove me crazy to leave dishes on the counter.

              I do get to job interviews early and have found that driving over the ground sometime the day or week before makes that more possible for me, or at least getting a couple of online routes and then adding in time. In addition, I do try to find out about the job’s culture in relation to time-keeping, so I can avoid jobs where I don’t fit. Retail work is just something I hope I never have to do, for instance, because timeliness will matter and I will struggle with it. But getting home late and eating a half hour or hour later and having less time in the evening because work ran over — not an issue. I never threw a fit when my IT spouse had weird schedule changes or dealt with on-call issues and I don’t take anyone else’s lateness personally. At work I’m focused, task-oriented, and very tidy. At home, not so much.

          4. MJ*

            This is a super late reply to this, but as person who is often running late I still do *very* much get anxious about the fact that I’m keeping people waiting. Like a “more anon for this” below pointed out it’s not a sense of trying to be rude to anyone or even willfully being rude to them. I don’t think, “Oh I’m running late, oh well, guess they just have to deal with it.”

            It’s usually (at least for me) along the lines of underestimating my time. I have every intention of leaving the house at 7:45 but I wake up and think it’s only going to take me 5 minutes to do my hair and makeup… and 25 minutes later I find that’s not the case. I go to feed my cat in the morning and remember that I need to make myself lunch because I forgot last night. I forgot my glasses upstairs next to the bed. I walk out the door and realize I forgot to grab my coat. As I’m putting my coat on I think I might as well go grab some gloves out of the closet and grab a bottle of water, where I see I’ve left my lunch on the counter. I grab these things, get into my car start it and look at the clock and it’s now 8:15. Then I berate myself for always being late and how did this happen because I got up half an hour earlier this morning and why do I suck so much at this ONE thing when everything else is alright? And then half way to work the gas light on my car comes on and I want to sob.

            I should mention I personally am ADHD and time management like this is a huge behavioral symptom that is common with us and I try very hard to manage it, but stress seems to exacerbate it even more. Whether or not someone is knowingly dealing with a disorder or not though I do have to say it does NOTHING to pile on to this person and tell them how “rude” they’re being or make fun of them for being that person.

            If you (general you not the person this post is replying to) know you have to leave at a certain time by all means alter the time you tell that person so that you can be sure they will be there on time, but don’t turn around and tell them you played a joke on them about it. It serves no purpose than to make the person feel like crap for not living up to your social standards.

            For work, yes obviously that is a totally different situation. I have lucked out that time issues have not been huge for me in the jobs I’ve held and I know myself well enough to know if I’d be able to manage myself well enough. But then again, even if I’m 10 minutes late to work my time issues don’t stop there. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I intend to leave for my lunch at noon and end up getting into my car to leave as late as 12:15-12:30. Same goes for leaving at the end of the day. There are a lot of times (even if I’ve gotten in on time) that I don’t leave work until 5:10-5:15.

            But anyway, I thought I’d share my own side of things as well. I just want early/on-time people to realize it’s not an intent to be rude, lazy or nonchalant. On the flip side I sometimes get frustrated with people who arrive too early for things like a party, etc. It makes me feel pressured to move twice as fast. Hey I was going to take this pie out to let it cool and then go slip on my nice dress I didn’t want to get food on and maybe curl my hair real quick, but this person just showed up to the party 30 minutes early so I guess I’ll just put my hair in a bun and call it a day since I’m supposed to entertain them.

            Same thing at work, if I’ve scheduled someone to sign paperwork at 10am and they’re there at 9:30 and I’m still trying to get other stuff done it makes me feel disorganized and rushed to alter my schedule. Especially since I need to give myself a strict schedule to keep myself in check at work.

            Hope that makes sense and so sorry for the long winded/super late reply.

        2. Bea W*

          I have a friend who is so anxious over being late she arrives places more than 30 min early. When she was younger she would arrive at work HOURS early.

      1. Melissa*

        I feel the same way – I get so anxious about people waiting on me that I always try to be a little early. But I don’t know, I don’t really get bothered when other people are late to social obligations, unless it’s something you absolutely need to be on time for (like a play or a movie). I have some chronic latecomers in my social group and it’s kind of an in-joke now but we just always know that they’re not going to be on time. The funny thing is that one of my super-punctual friends married the chronic latecomer, and he’s always late because he’s primping in the mirror, and it drives her nuts.

  4. Lori C*

    LW 1 – The employee should be showering the night before. She should be checking into public transportation. I believe I remember having to answer a question during the interview process if I had reliable transportation. It it unfortunate that you will have to put the hammer down on her tardiness. And why is she on the clock from 5 to 6 pm when she is not working? She is waiting for a ride.

      1. Jamie*

        Right. If she was on the clock and getting paid for time she’s not working that’s a whole separate (serious) issue – but I doubt she’d have mentioned it to her boss had this been the case.

        A lot of shift work people clock out and wait for their rides.

    1. Karyn*

      Kind of OT, but I actually can’t shower at night because my hair is short and thick and I will look like a total whackadoo if I show up to work looking like Don King. That said, there have been times where I’ve been late and just dunked my head in the sink!

      1. manybellsdown*

        Yeah, I had the same thought. I have fine, fluffy, curly hair and it can only be styled if it’s wet. If I shower at night and not in the morning I’ll be stringy and unkempt.

      2. Natalie*

        My cousin and I have a similar problem (very curly hair) and she uses a satin pillowcase. Might be worth trying sometime.

      3. Looby*

        If the employee can’t be on time because of her hair, then she needs to find a different hair style. I have curly/frizzy hair that looks awesome the day it’s washed, not so much the next day. So you know what? I keep it tied back the next day. It’s still neat and presentable and I arrive at work on time.

        Having supermodel hair every day is only a job requirement for supermodels.

        1. Melissa*

          Yeah, I feel like the messy bun was invented at least in part to hide greasy second or third day hair.

          I have afro-textured hair that I usually style by twisting, braiding, or setting in rollers. This can look good for anywhere from 2-5 days depending on how much effort I put into it, but if I don’t have time to re-set my whole head…I have a lot of bobby pins and hair ties, lol. It just needs to look presentable, not amazing!

          1. RishaBree*

            I have very oily skin and hair. I wash my hair every day. Even second day unwashed hair is simply unacceptable in a professional environment for me, because I would start to noticeably smell by midday. Third day is unthinkable – I’d smell like I hadn’t showered at all in days! (Not that I’m excusing Ms Late – I suspect the number of people who both must shower and can only shower in the morning is vanishingly rare. Just throwing it out there that a shower, period, might not be optional.)

        2. Amy*

          It’s easy to say “find a better hairstyle” when you have easily solveable hair problems yourself. What do you do if your hair literally gets greasy within 12 hours? I cannot wash my hair the night before without it being unprofessionally dirty/greasy by midday the next day, and that’s if I wash it at midnight. It’s hard enough to find ways to lift my roots enough to limit the greasiness when I’m styling my hair first thing in the morning. Pray tell exactly what hairstyle exists that can be slept on and does that?!

          The poster below who mentions the messy bun clearly doesn’t know anyone with fine hair! I literally cannot make a bun out of my hair- the bun is about the size of of a pingpong ball and there isn’t enough of it for it to even stay in place!

  5. Sarah*

    Is the number 1 script missing the consequence to really drive it home? i.e “I’m sympathetic…or should we face the fact that this won’t work with your schedule?” …”and we therefore need to replace you with someone who can”? If OP has had conversations about this before and uncovered all the circumstances leading up to the late start/early finish with little change in behaviour (the fact that my manager had noticed would have been enough to put a stop to that behaviour for me personally) perhaps it’s time to lay cards (consequences) on the table?

    1. Meg Murry*

      Not only that, but it might be what the employee needs to give her family a kick toward getting her there on time. Saying “come on Mom, I’m going to be in trouble if I’m late” doesn’t seem to be working. Maybe being able to say “Come on Mom, I’m on strike #2 – if I’m late again I’m going to get fired” might work.
      Or maybe it won’t and the OP will need to fire the employee. Either way – OP, if you are going to impose consequences on the employee, follow through. Either decide that you don’t care if the employee is 5 minutes late as long as her pay reflects it appropriately, or set boundaries and if the employee crosses them, give a final warning and then terminate. The worst part of this seems to be that you’ve left it vague with no actual consequences – so explain the consequences and then follow through if needed.

  6. Brianne*

    #1 I have some sympathy for the young woman because I’m legally not allowed to hold a drivers licence due to being blind in one eye, so I am dependant on either my towns notoriously horrible public transit system (it’s a joke that the timetables are a suggested guideline only), getting a ride from my brother who lives nearby. Taxis are out of the question due to cost. It really does suck when you’re reliant on others for transit.

    1. Just Visiting*

      I agree. I can’t drive for medical reasons, was dependent on others for rides in a place with NO transit (and the distance could not be biked), and I was fired from a job because of it… they gave me a lot of slack, but I just couldn’t make it work. It’s easy to say “well, you shouldn’t lie and say you have reliable transit when you don’t” when you drive or have reliable transit. Non-drivers need money too. I wound up moving to the “big city” (actually the closest small city to me) almost solely for transit-related reasons and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If you live in a city with adequate public transit, non-driving is no longer a disability, it’s just a thing you don’t do.

      1. Bea W*

        I did the same as soon as I could. I was walking 4 miles to the nearest public transit living at home. It was not feasible. I eventually got my license some years later, but before that, I did not consider living in an area without public transit to be an option. It was either move or be unemployed and isolated. Learning to drive and getting a car was not an option until I could get some income. My parents would not help with that. They would drive me to look at apartments, and they would physically help me move. That was my way out.

        1. JM in England*

          I’ve been in a similar Catch-22 situation. Got my licence at 18 but could not get a car until I had work. But to get to some workplaces, a car was a must, but to get & run a car………….you get the picture!

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I’m sort of sympathetic, but none of that addresses why she’s not working past 5, even if she has to stay late to wait for her ride. She doesn’t seem to want to work her full shift.

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        It’s possible that there is no work after 5–like she’s a receptionist or something similar.

        1. Elsajeni*

          It sounds like the OP had thought she was working for part of that time, though, so that suggests that there’s work she could be getting done during the time she’s waiting around.

    3. OhNo*

      Tell me about it. I don’t drive because I’m disabled (paraplegic), and getting a car outfitted for me is waaaay more expensive than I will be able to afford any time soon. Thank the lord I’m lucky enough that I live in a city with reliable public transit and paratransit systems. And I also have awesome friends who are willing to give me a ride in an emergency, too!

    4. Mimmy*

      I too can’t drive due to my vision (not truly “legally blind” but my best-corrected acuities are below the legal driving limit), and I relied on paratransit services for most of my previous jobs plus one of my internships. There were times when I was really late. Luckily, it only happened occasionally and my employers have always been flexible. It really does suck though :(

      Just visiting – I think if I weren’t married, I’d consider moving to the city for the transportation, but living expenses are probably cost-prohibitive (at least in NYC).

      1. Just Visiting*

        In NYC, yeah. I’m not sure where you live and work, but a smaller city (Albany? Hartford?) would probably not be that expensive and would have adequate transit. But it would mean a major upheaval in terms of moving and you also have a spouse’s job to consider. I was young enough when I moved that I didn’t have any ties to my small town location other than my parents, who I’m not really close to anyway.

        1. Bea W*

          Minneapolis had a god bus system years ago when I was visiting a friend who also didn’t drive. We went everywhere on the bus.

    5. Amy*

      I agree- I can’t drive and am reliant on public transport/lifts from relatives. I don’t have a medical excuse, but my defence is that I moved away at 18 to somewhere no-one drives, and never planned to come back (unfortunately life happened). Learning to drive makes no sense for me because I won’t be here long enough for the expense to be worth it.

      But I can see how getting lifts from people could be really stressful for the girl OP describes. Lots of people think that because they’re doing you a favour, you should just be grateful for whatever they offer, even if it’s not that helpful. And they expect you to fit into their schedule with no consideration for yours- which is fair enough if you’ll just be 10 minutes early for work or whatever, but really unhelpful when you’ll be an hour early or it’s 10 minutes before your shift starts and you’re 8 minutes away.

      And if you turn down their help because it ends up being less convenient than the bus- ohhh boy. I’ve needed to be at work for 9am before, and had a friend offer me a lift- “But we won’t get there until 9.05”. When I (politely) turned them down, I had to listen to how ungrateful I was for not appreciating their offer, how I expected people doing me favours to follow my orders, and how I didn’t want to spend time with them/thought their car was grosser than the bus/god knows what other nonsense!

  7. Hiring Manager*

    #3 – We do this sometimes. When you have 2 top candidates for only one opening, you just have to pick one and hope the other will still be job hunting when another position opens up. “Strongly urge” is a signal – keep an eye out for the opening an email the hiring manager when you see it. Good luck!

    1. Sans*

      I agree. And I see a mindset here that expects simply being a great candidate for the job means you’ll get the job. When the OP said: “It isn’t like my qualifications will change. They know who I am and what I can do.” — it felt like he was saying, well they didn’t give me the job now, why would they give it to me in six months? Well, because they obviously had more than one person they would have liked to hire. This time, you weren’t the one they picked. But “strongly urge” really sounds like they wish they could have hired you as well, and would be happy to see you apply again when the job is available again.

  8. Wehaf*

    It’s not clear to me whether the employee in #1 has been collecting wages for working from 5-6 in the evening, while not actually working those hours. If she has been, that is a major problem. In some cases it is fraud to be intentionally clocked in when deliberately not working. I know in some cases employees who have committed time card fraud have been sued for the wages they took and/or prosecuted for defrauding their employers. Regardless of whether this employee is arriving on time, I would make it crystal clear to her that being clocked in while she doesn’t work is illegal and grounds for immediate firing and possibly additional consequences.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I wasn’t clear on that either. If that’s the case there’s a major issue needing addressing asap.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      I *think* the point the OP was making was “she’s not even making up the time that she’s late in the morning at the end of her shift, even though she’s on premises for a significant window, waiting for her ride.”

    3. Lily in NYC*

      Would a solution be to have the employee start working on the clock until 5:30 every day to make up for being late in the morning? If she’s already there until 6pm and just sitting around, it seems like a no-brainer.

      1. some1*

        In many positions I think this would work, but it sounds like the LW really needs a behind in the seat at 9:15 on the regular

  9. MK*

    OP4, has your employer told you that you are not allowed on the premises anymore? The language that your friend was warned in “if OP comes to the hospital she will be arrested” sounds way over the top to me, unless there are other factors in play.

    1. Jeanne*

      IANAL but the arrest part is what I question. Does the boss really know what law would be broken and what the police would do? The other difference is the hospital part. I know a private employer can say you’re trespassing. I don’t know if a hospital can have you arrested for coming to the cafeteria or gift shop or other public parts. Unless there’s a lot more to this story than we know.

      If it truly was all on them, you might want to consult a lawyer for help. He’s the only one who can explain your options. Either way, you might want to give it a break for a while. Do you really want to be around those who made you so miserable?

      1. Csarndt*

        You can absolutely be banned from the public areas of public buildings. I’m not sure if you were warned directly, but if they ask you to leave then you have to leave and if they tell you you’re not welcome back, they can call the cops. Likely the cops would give you a summons and escort you from the property instead of carting you off to jail, though.

        You can sue if you are being asked to leave for discriminatory reasons. There was a case where a fast food restraunt asked someone to leave with his dog and he used claiming the dog was a service animal. (The fast food restraunt won, however, by demonstrating that he was no longer a customer (he’d already finished eating his food) and that his behavior was also a factor (there had been previous confrontations between him and employees).)

      2. Bea W*

        It’s private property, even the “public” parts. They can call the police and have them ask her to leave the property, and they can choose to arrest her for trespassing if she refuses, but the police will attempt to just get her to leave. They won’t just up and arrest her, and unless they have nothing better to do it’s unlikely the police with come immediately. If this is a city of any size, there will be other calls that take priority over a call like this.

        For the OP, it’s not even worth it to even try to come on the property unless there is some reason to do so like a family member in the hospital. It just makes drama, and if your employer is really over the top as it sounds, they may very well take it out on your friend. I agree if you want to pursue any of this legally or even just want peace of mind, consult with a lawyer. Otherwise, run…run far far away from the toxic cloud and towards a better job. You might want to advice your friend to do the same.

      3. Ella*

        I work at a library, and we totally ban people and occasionally threaten them with writs of trespass. It has to go to the library director, who approves it (usually there’s a time frame, a couple of weeks or six months), then we send the person an official notification (hopefully they come into the library so we can put it directly in their hands), and once we can document that the patron has been notified, we can call the cops and tell them the patron is defying and banning if they show up again.

        I think the employee should avoid the area of the hospital where she worked, just to avoid drama. But if she hasn’t been officially notified that she’s banned-if she’s just hearing through her friend-she probably doesn’t face immediate arrest. Hopefully a cop would let her off with a warning and arrest her the next time. But obviously I’m not a lawyer.

        1. fposte*

          I’d go the other way and say the employee should stay away, period. It’s pretty weird to have an unhappy ex-employee hanging around the workplace at all, and the friend has clearly indicated that it’s not good for her if the OP is there. You don’t want to cap a bitter departure with a public and visible removal by security, and there’s no “they can’t tell us what to do” prize that you get to win even if you escape that, so there’s no gain proportionate to the risk.

          1. Judy*

            I’d think the employee should stay away unless there is a real reason to be there. Stopping by to talk is not a real reason. Mother in hospital is a real reason.

            1. Jamie*

              I agree with this. If it were me and someone I needed to visit was in the hospital I’d contact whichever department was appropriate and let them know asking them if the ban was in effect for that and if so my attorney would be contacting them.

              Because the last thing I’d want if I was visiting someone ill is a hassle with having to explain why I was trespassing.

              And if she were there for her own medical issues I cannot imagine a hospital considering that trespass as we’re often limited by insurance/proximity to the hospitals we can use.

    2. GrumpyBoss*

      We are missing a whole bunch of context from this letter to know what was really meant.

      From the few details we have, there does seem to be some accountability issues with the OP. You were fired. You may not agree with the firing, but you’ve talked to everyone at the hospital up to the CEO, and you are still fired. You need to stay away. Your friend has nothing to do with it. You aren’t employed there, they clearly have some issue with you being there, and do not want you on the premises. Your only reason for being at the hospital at this point is as a patient.

      1. very anonymous*

        I had an employee who resigned at her termination meeting. HR accepted her resignation. Perhaps she felt it was “forced.” I am positive that this employee perceived this as a “hostile” environment. She had made claims that my management style and behavior were toxic. She was on a PIP for almost a year at this time. She would have been terminated that day no matter what. Her behavior was erratic and of such concern to the managers and co-workers that plain clothes security was “standing by” She was told that she was not permitted on the property (this is a public institution) nor could she ever apply for future employment at the institution and this would be noted in her personnel file. Was this legal? You bet. House council vetted the procedures and wording prior to the meeting. OP needs to seek professional help to ascertain what behaviors of theirs provoked the mandate not to set foot in the hospital again.

  10. carlotta*

    Not to excuse the tardiness in #1, but I almost get the impression that OP wouldn’t mind her working late to men up the lost minutes at the beginning of the day. If that’s the case, then why does she (and possibly other members of staff) need to be in at 0915? I get that you want her to commit to a start time and that’s fine in itself, actually, and so is having ‘core hours’ in a slightly flexible schedule. But a lot of places which don’t require ‘being there’ are going for a set number of hours, rather than strict times, within reason and so long as the key hours are covered. But I do understand you might not be willing or able to make that happen, or any exception for an employee who may not be stellar. I think ideally it would be the norm with the exception of client facing staff. It does make life less stressful for people who are occasionally late, rely on public transport or awkward families, and for you, as you don’t have to clock watch so much.

    1. Wehaf*

      The OP does say “Our department is quite small (two people) so coverage is essential”. The worker may actually be needed for the specific times she is supposed to work.

      1. AnonyMouse*

        Yep, one of my first thoughts was that the OP’s employee could adjust her hours so she’s working 10 to 6 instead of 9 to 5, since she’s already waiting for her ride until 6 anyway…but then I read that and it seems like part of the issue is that they need her there for coverage in the morning.

      2. AggrAV8ed Tech*

        I can understand that too. My department is equally small (two people) and my previous coworker was perpetually late for his shift (anywhere from 15 minutes at the minimum to two hours in extreme cases), which left me in the lurch coverage-wise. Had to skip lunch many days because of it (a union no-no) and on some days, my workload increased at least three-fold because of the lack of coverage.

    2. NW Cat Lady*

      But the OP already said that she adjusted the hours from 0900 to 0915. Sounds to me like the employee was showing up around 0910 or so, and now that her start time is 0915, she’s still late.

    3. Icarus*

      The problem is that she is an hourly employee. As an hourly employee there is no such thing as flexible schedule. The OP could request for her to be salaried and provide a more flexible schedule if she is truly an exceptional employee when performing her work duties. But, she is not only arriving late, she is also working less hours than she’s supposed to.

      1. Zillah*

        As an hourly employee there is no such thing as flexible schedule. The OP could request for her to be salaried and provide a more flexible schedule if she is truly an exceptional employee when performing her work duties.

        Of course there’s such a thing as a flexible schedule for an hourly employee – why on earth wouldn’t there be? If you’re working shift work, obviously there isn’t, but not every non-exempt employee is a shift worker. I’m non-exempt, and my schedule is flexible. I’m not sure how a flexible schedule has anything to do with whether or not you’re exempt, tbh – exempt workers can also be required to keep regular hours.

        And the OP can’t request that the employee be made exempt in the first place, which I think is what you mean by salaried. Whether or not you’re exempt is about the law – the employer can’t legally change you from one to the other without your role changing.

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          Yes, exactly. The two things are frequently related but not necessarily. I am hourly, but my schedule has a fair amount of flex in it. The problem is the employee’s lateness, and even if the schedule were flexible the lateness problem probably wouldn’t be solved.

          1. Icarus*

            I assumed that if the OP mentions that “coverage is essential” meant that the employee is working a defined shift, possibly clocking in and out. But you are right, maybe this is not the case.

            1. Allison*

              No, that is the case here, what Zillah was arguing with was your statement that there’s no such thing as a flexible schedule when someone’s hourly. In THIS CASE, it’s both an hourly role AND one with very little room for flexibility.

              1. Zillah*

                Right, exactly. It doesn’t seem to be an option for the OP, but that’s not an inherent part of being non-exempt – it’s just the nature of this particular job.

        2. Allison*

          Yup, I’m hourly but for the past year and a half I’ve been working jobs that pay by the hour, but my boss wouldn’t care when I worked as long as I got stuff done. Right now I have a really sweet setup where I can come in early and leave early, so I have plenty of time in the evenings to do the things I enjoy.

          1. Zillah*

            Ha, mine is the opposite! I’m not a morning person, so being able to adjust so I’m working more like 10-6 has been amazing.

            1. Allison*

              I’m not really a morning person by nature either. I wouldn’t be super motivated to get to work early if our building’s parking lot didn’t fill up so darn quickly. Especially with all the construction we have going on, you could get here at 7:45AM and nab the last spot. That, and driving to work while morning traffic is still relatively light, is what gets me out of bed at 6. The fact that I get to leave by 4:30 in the afternoon isn’t really something I even think about until later in the day.

        3. Emily*

          Icarus was suggesting they make her salaried, not that they reclassify her as exempt. Although salaried employees are usually exempt, they don’t have to be.

          1. fposte*

            But you wouldn’t even need to make her salaried–it doesn’t get you anything that hourly doesn’t in this case. You just pay her for the hours she works even if they’re not 9-5.

      2. JoAnna*

        I’m non-exempt, salaried (as are the others on my team), and my schedule is very flexible. My manager doesn’t really care when we start as long as we work eight hours. He does ask for consistency, but he’s okay with occasional changes as long as we notify him in advance, if possible. I work 7am-4pm and I have another co-worker who prefers 9am-6pm.

  11. Neeta(RO)*

    Re: #4

    I just found out today that my former coworker was threatened if she has anything to do with me

    Not being from the US, I just don’t understand how someone can enforce such a thing.
    I understand not allowing the OP’s former coworker to invite the OP over for a chitchat at the hospital. But at all? One of my dearest friends is a former coworker of mine, and we still go out to the movies now and then.

    I love my job and all, but I’d be mightily pissed off to have my time off policed by my employer. Or am I misunderstanding something here? Does the prohibition only refer to the hospital premises only?

    1. Elkay*

      I believe it’s because the US has “at will” employment which means you can be fired for anything (as long as it’s not based on a protected class). It breeds a totally different attitude towards what’s expected from employees/employers. I think the closest I’ve seen to control outside of work is a non-compete agreement where you agree in your contract that you won’t work for competitors for x months after leaving employment.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I can imagine an circumstance where the demand isn’t wholly unreasonable. If the employer believed the ex-employee was a violent threat, asking current employees not to contact him/her doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

      Effective? No idea about that. Possibility of backfire? Seems likely.

      Rightly or wrongly, this hospital has taken the extra step to ban the OP from returning to the hospital. Maybe it’s just an abundance of caution or maybe there’s sufficient backstory to justify it.

      We have wayyyyy too many headlines about ex-employees and workplace violence nowadays. The employer may believe they are doing the right thing by all of their employees as a whole here.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        Exactly. I don’t want to read too much between the lines of the OP’s post, but he had to have given them a reason to do this. Contrary to what some would like to believe, employers don’t just arbitrarily fire people and threaten arrests. Every action has a reaction.

        What I can see here: a former employee who thinks he has been wronged (and he may very well have been, but that’s not the issue there). Former employee doesn’t seem to feel he had a role in his action, and blames it on a hostile environment (it may have been hostile, but how did OP react to the hostility? Obviously in a way that resulted in termination). Former employee then begins to talk with many executives at the company. Whatever he said or did, he left an impression that he was not someone who was welcome on the grounds.

        The hospital cannot prevent OP’s friend from talking to him, but they do not want him at the workplace, period. And if his friend is an avenue where the OP will come to the hospital to visit, they are going to take precautions to make sure that the person still employed knows that this is not acceptable.

        Finally, one other thought. “I can’t have you come visit me or else I’ll get fired” can very well be a brush off from the friend. We don’t know what the employer told his friend, and neither does OP.

        1. Neeta(RO)*

          The hospital cannot prevent OP’s friend from talking to him, but they do not want him at the workplace, period.

          I can understand not wanting a former employee on the premises, but form the OP’s wording I thought that the ban extended outside the hospital premises as well. For example, not even allowing OP to meet up for coffee with former colleagues outside work, without jeopardizing the coworker’s position. That seemed rather excessive to me.

          1. A. Nonny Mouse*

            It’s plausible that the hospital told the OP’s former coworker that they couldn’t associate with her outside of work. We only have one side of the story here – it could be that the OP was doing something illegal, or was violent or threatened violence towards the people who fired them, or the OP and hospital have a legal case pending. Either of those might be good reasons to ban someone from talking to a former employee.

            As another commenter pointed out, it’s also plausible that the former coworker is NOT banned from talking to the OP. She may have told the OP that because every conversation they have turns into “how can I get my job back” and the former coworker knows that will never happen, is sick and tired of discussing it, and hopes that this will push the OP to move on.

            1. aebhel*

              Actually, I think it’s insane to ban someone from talking to a former coworker outside of work even if that coworker is doing something illegal or threatened violence. That takes it beyond conduct in the workplace; I would not work for people who expected to have a say in who I talk to when I’m not at work. I’m an employee, not a parolee.

              That said, I think scenario 2 is actually a lot more plausible.

          2. Jamie*

            It’s not common, but I do know of a company that would flag former employees names in email so they could see who was still in contact with them. It was definitely big trouble for anyone getting emails at work from anyone who left (quit/fired – didn’t matter and didn’t need to be egregious circumstances.)

            And they were expected to kill Linkedin connections and if they had Facebook and work could see I’m sure they would have been an issue as well. It’s completely crazy and seven kinds of wrong, but it happens on occasion where an employer wants absolute control and makes former employers true persona non grata.

            But if you were personal friends outside of work it’s not like they could check your personal email or put a tail on you to see if you went to the movies with them or anything.

            Micromanaging run completely a muck.

            1. manybellsdown*

              My husband’s old boss once told him to tell me that I wasn’t allowed to have certain people over to our house – people who had worked for the company and since left, but were still our friends. She actually thought she could dictate who I had in my private residence for social events. Naturally I ignored that directive and it was mysteriously dropped.

        2. Decimus*

          It’s possible the hospital did commit a wrong – there was a recent case at a hospital near me where a manager was fired because the CEO decided, without any cause, the manager was a drug addict. But I do agree it sounds like the OP here did commit an infraction. It’s also possible if they argued about the firing enough, that is what led to the management deciding to ban them from the premises.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            Yeah, I also had the thought that if the hospital is concerned that OP’s presence is going to be disruptive that that might explain the ban.

            My other thought was that they’re concerned about/expecting a lawsuit from the OP and want to minimize additional interactions with the hospital without a lawyer present – this could explain the directive for current employees not to associate with OP outside of work since they might be called in for testimony should there be a lawsuit (not that that makes the rule a good or effective one, but I could see that being the line of thinking depending on what transpired during the end of the OP’s tenure at the hospital).

    3. Beezus*

      It’s really not enforceable on its face. However, the OP escalated her issue pretty highly up the chain and it sounds like there was a lot of turmoil. Forbidding further contact for the remaining coworker might simply be a signal to both of them that the coworker is not to be an avenue of further pursuit of whatever matter prompted the termination. They want the matter to be closed.

      1. MK*

        I wouldn’t say it’s not enforceable, talking into account that the employer means that the friend will be fired if they continue to have contact with the OP. It’s not immediately enforceable, in the sense that they might not get knowledge of it happening right away, or the friend might get away with it for a long time, or forever.

        1. Sans*

          There’s so much we might not know here. The friend may have been involved somehow in whatever issue got the OP fired. Or maybe they helped the OP make a lot of trouble after the firing. Whatever. But the friend may be on shaky grounds themselves at this point. And the hospital could be saying – one strike and you’re out. If we see you associating with the person connected to your misconduct, you’re out.

          All speculation, of course. But the point is, it’s hard to say who’s right and who’s wrong when we probably don’t know 90% of the story.

        2. Beezus*

          Yup, poor wording on my part. It’s enforceable in the sense that if the hospital finds out the coworker has contact with the OP, they can fire the coworker. However, if they have discreet contact outside of work that doesn’t bleed into the workplace in any way, it’s unlikely that they’ll find out.

  12. AnonyMouse*

    #3: They may be able to reuse some of the tests from your first application. I applied for a job once that required a skills assessment and they mentioned at the time that the results would still be good for a while if I ended up reapplying for another position.

  13. Megan*

    Regarding #3, I’ve been encouraged to reapply when it’s been a situation where I would have been an admin assistant for one C level, he ultimately chose someone else, but they had another identical position coming up very shortly. They reused my skills tests and skipped the first round of interviews, though they did ask me to submit an updated resume. I had to laugh about that part since it was only a month later.

  14. T*

    #5 I wonder if you would be able to apply for any kind of unemployment benefits for that week. I know that some states will allow for unemployment pay if your hours are reduced below their usual level. It wouldn’t be as much pay as you’re used to, but it seems worth looking into.

    1. Editor*

      My state has a two-week waiting period for unemployment benefits. I think if unemployment found out that using vacation time was an option, then unemployment would not pay, either. Whether there are different rules for what is essentially a furlough, I don’t know.

    2. HR Generalist*

      We have a department at my organization that is forced to do this from 25 Dec – 2 Jan every year, and it’s an issue every year. Seasoned employees will just save up vacation days (usually about 4) to cover the missed time. Newer employees will grumble that it’s unfair and we’re stealing their vacation time.
      More than welcome to take unpaid days, but you won’t be paid for days you don’t work, and there’s no work for you on those days. We’re from military community so often these employees’ spouses get 3-4 weeks paid leave during that time, so there is a sense of entitlement to factor in as well.
      No employment benefits in our province as you have 2-week waiting period, so they wouldn’t qualify, and it would be required that their vacation balance be paid out before they’re entitled to any benefits.
      It’s too bad but I don’t see another reasonable path to take for hourly employees unless there is work from home to be done or projects to catch up on.

  15. Oryx*

    1) I wonder how much of this is ride dependency and her RIDE is the one who runs late so by changing it to 9 to 9:15 that doesn’t solve the problem if her ride is someone who is consistently late anyway. We often run into this with some of our students starting jobs and we tell them to not tell their rides the time has changed. So, in this instance, if the employee has a 9:15 start time, she doesn’t tell her ride and her ride continues to think it’s 9:00 so even if she is late and the employee arrives at, say, 9:10 she’s actually 5 minutes early. I know that doesn’t help in this case as the ride has been told of the new start time but is there some way for her to maybe tell a little white lie and explain that the new 9:15 start time no longer works and she’s been pushed back to 9, all the while she actually *does* still have a 9:15 start?

    2) I would just ask your manager. I was given a temporary assignment when the one co-worker who originally did the work took another job and another person in her department went on maternity leave. Once we had hired someone to replace the person who usually did this task I kept expecting them to transfer the responsibilities but they never did and I kept getting frustrated. But then I went and asked about it and turns out they were just waiting for the person on maternity leave to return and she would be taking the duties over. That, apparently, had always been the plan, they just had failed to include me in the loop.

    1. Judy*

      You mean like always telling cousin Bob that a meal will be at 11:30, and telling everyone else it’s at 12? Never heard of that… LOL

      1. Kay*

        We do this with some family members on both sides. There are certain aunts/uncles/cousins that we tell it starts at 2, even though it doesn’t begin until 3.

        Then with my grandma, we tell her it begins at 3:30 because she’s always incredibly early to family gatherings. I think she found us out though, so now my dad just tells her if she gets there early that we’ll put her to work helping to cook/clean before the event!

        1. Jamie*

          I wish people would do that for me. I try to trick myself, but I’m on to me so I always know the real time and am usually late.

          Will your family adopt me – I need people who are okay lying to me for my own good. :)

    2. Allison*

      My dance teacher used to tell families that recitals were supposed to start at one time, and then actually plan to start them 15 minutes later, because she knew if she told the families the actual time people would still be trickling in 5 minutes later going “so we’re a little late, we’re here aren’t we? Sally doesn’t go on until Act 2 anyway!”

    3. Zillah*

      I do this to myself with appointments, actually! I often write them down as being 15 minutes earlier than they are.

      1. Heather*

        I do that too! Too bad it only works for 1-time things….can’t really tell myself I’ve got to be at work by 9 when I know I don’t ;)

  16. Sarah*

    #3. I’ve become slowly mad at the world. CEO pay obscenely out paces the average workers salary and most structure any company they run on a 3 to 5 year cycle in order for themselves to receive the most amount of money in their golden parachute while the American worker is stuck holding their debt from acquisitions. We have got to rise up and fight for ourselves and our severe lack of protection in the workplace.

    1. ???*

      How on earth do you jump from the OP being strongly urged to reapply to a position to…whatever this is?

        1. Ethyl*

          Maybe Sarah meant #4? It’s still not quite an appropriate reaction but I totally understand being outraged at a CEO, who never has to worry about money, telling an everyday worker that they will lose their job that they probably really need if they do things off the clock that the CEO disagrees with.

            1. Jamie*

              I just had to explain to someone why I was laughing sitting alone in my office – thank you very much for blindsiding me with humor which I couldn’t possibly explain!

    2. Joey*

      How in the heck are you suggesting she “rise up and fight for herself”?

      I get the frustration, I just don’t get how you think it’s productive to be so adversarial.

    3. Letter 3 author*

      I wrote letter 3. There is absolutely no reason for me to feel hostile to anyone involved. I enjoy my current job, but this interview is with a company that our company works with and I know they have better benefits.

      Every one involved is friendly and professional, and the general good relationship is why I wondered if they were sending me kind of a code – “we like you but not enough to hire you” vs “we want you to apply again” vs “you have 6 months to figure out why we didn’t hire you and change if you want to try again.”

      1. fposte*

        I’m picking the middle one. They really liked you, but they only had the one slot and somebody else ended up in it. I’ve had close candidates like that when I’m hiring, and sometimes nothing comes of it, sometimes I hire you the next time, and sometimes you’re the person I ping in a month when the first person elopes to Mongolia.

  17. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 My understanding from your letter is they are not paid for the time between 5 – 6 but you are frustrated they are not even trying to put in some effort to act responsibly and take their job seriously, I think your employee is taking the piss out of you, if they are going to show up late then at a minimum they can make the time up at the end of the day. I would sit down with them and tell them they need to be in on time and that it is not acceptable to be late when their desk needs to be covered.

    That said make sure its necessary for them to be in on time and there is a good business reason for them staring work at an exact time, which from your letter it sounds like there is. otherwise its a judgement call if the employees work product is worth accepting tardy timekeeping and balancing that against upsetting a good employee or causing bigger issues for the business.

    I used to be continually late in the mornings, my manager never cared mainly because I am not a clock watch I’ll stayed late, worked evening and weekends from home to deliver projects on time and kept a core business system running smoothly, it was a quid pro quo that I got some slack in the mornings.

    Then a new supervisor joined the team who always had some passive aggressive snide comment to make to me about my timekeeping, so I started coming in on time, but gave up staying late, the number of problems that caused for the business was massive, mopping up an incident at 6 or 7 in the evening was virtually invisible, leaving the problems to stack up over night brought so much attention to us and made us look really bad. The whole team had to go to a high level meeting with the most senior IT and finance directors at the firm to explain the cause of the problems and I can not tell you how stupid my supervisor looked when I explained that I wasn’t doing any over time because of the complete lack of respect shown to me. The IT director is well known to have a short fuse and laid in to my supervisor so badly I had to resist the urge to high five him on the way out of the door.

    1. Karowen*

      I’m really glad you pointed out your perception of the 5-6 issue – I thought the OP was saying that her employee was paid for 5-6 (or at least was giving the impression that she was going to be working to make up for the time lost in the morning). I was wondering why more people weren’t upset about that part of the story.

    2. Arjay*

      There are some workplaces where they will not allow a late employee to make up missed time as a sort of punishment. It never made any sense to me, but I believe the thought process is that if the employee wants to make their 40 hours to get the maximum pay, then they need to do it within the established time frames. If they’re late or absent without an acceptable excuse, then they have to take that as a hit to their paycheck. I do wish the OP had provided more detail about that last hour of the day.

      1. Jamie*

        It makes sense in cases where being late is detrimental to someone else.

        Let’s say you have a lot of trouble getting in by 9:00 and would much rather work 9:30 – 6:00 than 9:00 – 5:30. They won’t change your schedule officially because it’s not fair to me, who has to cover for you between 9:00 – 9:30 – so I’m dealing with your issues as well as my own job for the first half hour. If you can come in late and work late you aren’t missing pay and you get the schedule you want – but it puts me in a constant position of starting off every morning overloaded because you aren’t there.

        Now the manager has to deal with a very justifiably disgruntled me. So if you can’t make it up and are short pay and need the money maybe you’ll be on time.

        But in jobs where no one else has to cover and it doesn’t matter I’m with you. I don’t like the hard start times for anyone unless it makes sense for the position (phones, customer service, shift work, etc.)

        1. DArcy*

          My job is semi-shift work so it’s not quite the same, but the way we handle that sort of thing is you have to get supervisor approval to work past your assigned hours even if you’re making up for arriving late as opposed to going into overtime. And you will still be logged as tardy if you make up the hours, which can put you up for disciplinary action.

  18. Elsie*

    #5 It sounds like the company is closing from 12/25 – 1/1. If that’s true and the OP is salaried and exempt, wouldn’t the OP be entitled to their full pay for both weeks, as long as they work 12/22-12/24 and 1/2?

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I don’t think so. At least not in my experience -my old office used to close for a week in August and no one got paid.

      1. Elsie*

        I understand that if they close for a full work week – but I thought I read here once that salaried exempt workers must be paid in full if they work any part of the work week. Since the OP mentions only taking 5 days between Christmas and New Year’s, it sounds like she’s still working 3 days the first week and one day the second week.

    2. Artemesia*

      Both my kids have worked at places that shut down between Christmas and New Years and in both cases their salaries continued to be paid. It was among the things that made working attractive at both those places. It was a very down time for the businesses.

      I would think a layoff for Christmas would entitle one to unemployment.

    3. Joey*

      Correct. Exempt deductions can only be made in full day increments for personal reasons or for unpaid suspensions due to major rule violations. Otherwise your weekly pay should remain unchanged.

      Although it’s perfectly fine to require ee’s to use paid leave.

      It’s also important to note DOL looks for a practice of improper deductions to lose exempt status. Otherwise they just require reimbursement for one offs.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I agree with this.

        The OP isn’t 100% clear if the office will be closed for 2 full weeks (in which case the exempt employees don’t have to be paid), or if the office will be open for at least one day both weeks (in which case the exempt employees must be paid for both full weeks, but may be required to use their vacation days).

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          I should also add, as Alison does, that closing the office without pay is very likely to hurt morale. A lot of employees depend on their paychecks, especially around the holidays.

    4. Jamie*

      That how it looks to me – but it does depend on how their payroll week runs. For example if their regular payroll week runs Thursday to Wednesday they wouldn’t work any part of the payroll period. But yes, if they work any part of it they need to be paid – but that doesn’t mean they won’t be expected to use their vacation.

      This is common in my industry and you’re expected to keep enough PTO on the books to cover shutdowns. Non-exempt people either have the time on the books are take it unpaid except for holiday pay.

    5. Golden Yeti*

      Just wanted to chime in for #5 and say that this is how my workplace is, too. We’re closed between Christmas and New Year’s, and for any non-holiday days that fall between that time, you can either use your vacation days, or you can take them unpaid. However, you are forced to take them (only management has access to the building, so you couldn’t work even if you wanted to). One possible difference between the situations is that we don’t get paid sick days, either, so you end up saving all your days off for Christmas or a “what if I’m really sick” scenario instead of an actual vacation. Not gonna lie, it sucks. But, I checked with the Labour Board one year and it seems it is legal: “If an employer is requiring an employee to use vacation time they must send the employee for their entire allotted vacation – they can not require an employee to use a portion of their vacation time. That being said, an employer can choose to pay out vacation pay at any time, so the employer can give the employee the vacation pay at that time…An employer can however tell employees that they will be closed on certain days without pay, and if the employee wants to be paid for the time they would have to use vacation time.” The rules may be different there, but that’s what they are here.

      1. Viffer*

        It never ceases to amaze me how few rights US workers have. At will employment only benefits the companies.

        1. Jamie*

          The way she spelled labor, I think she’s in Canada and not the US (Correct me if I’m wrong, GY.)

          And I’ve never heard of a requirement where you have to allow them all vacation days and not partial – there is no requirement here that you have to allow blocks of vacation.

          1. Golden Yeti*

            You’re right, Jamie. :) I’m originally American, though (working on my dual), so I’m still trying to acclimate to British spellings. :)

      2. MaryL*

        Hi: I am a permatemp at a large biotech company and have been for 3.5 years. Our company closes from Christmas to New Years. They started it last year. the FTE employees get full pay that whole time. What a great perk. However, as a contractor, I don’t get paid. I can’t ask this company to still pay me, correct? I won’t get paid for this week, as had been the situation last year. Legally, I have no recourse here, I don’t think.

        1. Jamie*

          No – legally companies are not only allowed to have different roles/benefits for temps vs direct employees but they are required to make sure there is a clear distinction between the two.

          If you’ve been with your agency (who is your employer) for so long don’t you have vacation time? Temps who are working steadily and enough hours to meet criteria usually accrue vacation (at every agency with whom I’ve worked.)

  19. GigglyPuff*

    #5 I work in academics and this seems pretty common at universities. As mine put it, it’s a cost cutting measure. We get paid for the week of Christmas, and New Year’s day, but between that and Jan. 2, we can either elect to go unpaid, or use vacation time and borrow against Jan. vacation if needed.

    I can see how it would be a little shocking if recently enacted, but I don’t believe it’s that uncommon.

    1. TK*

      I just started working for a university, and we shut down 12/24 to 1/1, but there’s no option to take the time unpaid; everyone has to take 3 days of leave. (Christmas Eve/Day & New Year’s Eve/Day are all paid holidays.) This year because of how the calendar falls, we’re getting 1/2 off as a paid holiday as well, so we don’t have a 1-day workweek.

      I get enough leave and use it infrequently enough that this policy isn’t a major burden for me, but I don’t really get the point. The only practical effect is that you can’t really trust your leave balance, because it gets messed up in December. Why not just reduce the amount of leave everyone gets by 3 days and make the whole week a holiday? That would make it easier/more transparent for employees and have exactly the same outcome.

      1. GigglyPuff*

        Eh, for me, last year, I took my time unpaid, cause it was more important that I had those vacation days for things later, like doctor’s appointments, since I have a chronic illness and have to visit (what seems) frequently. But we also get the entire week off for Christmas, which is why they probably make the few days the next week that aren’t a holiday unpaid/forced vacation for us. But our payroll software does get changed right after Thanksgiving, deducting the forced vacation automatically, (and I think if you had looked at Dec. before then, the time would also be seen as “projected leave taking”) so people can plan ahead.

        But personally I kind of liked the option of choosing, cause at the time, vacation time was more important than 3 days of pay. But everyone has different priorities.

  20. Allison*

    #1: I’m a HUGE stickler for punctuality. I always aim to be early, so I’m definitely there on time, and I get anxious when late; when it comes to other people, I know patience and flexibility are important, but I can’t stand people being late! If you agree to be at a certain place at a certain time, you should make every reasonable effort to be there, even if it’s not 100% convenient. So I understand the OP’s frustration, I really do, and if I was ever a manager where flex hours weren’t an option for the nature of the work, I’d have very little patience for people who couldn’t get there on time.

    That said, I do sympathize with the employee in this case, because I suspect this is largely out of her control. Sure, her family should understand that she needs to be at work at a certain time, by giving her priority bathroom access and her mom making sure they leave on time, but not everyone’s fortunate to live in a household where people value punctuality. Besides, we don’t know what else is going on in the house, or who has to be at work/school when, or what else her mother has to do before she can leave, or who else she may have to drive on the way to drop off OP’s employee, and it’s possible that her getting to work on time just isn’t viewed as a priority. OR, maybe her mom is one of those people who always underestimates how long it’ll take her to do something, doesn’t see the need to rush, or doesn’t think it’s a big deal if someone’s only a few minutes late.

  21. soitgoes*


    I’m one of four siblings and we grew up in a small house so I fully understand some of the employees issues. However, I think she’s being a drama queen and isn’t trying to make any changes. If you’re going to go through the motions of being an adult in the workforce, you have to try to BE that adult. Sometimes it means waking up hours earlier than you need to, just so you can get some time in the bathroom. Maybe you need to brush your teeth over the kitchen sink. I think it’s odd that the mom isn’t more committed to helping her daughter keep her job. Perhaps the employee should tell her mom that her start time went back to 9. Then she’d be there by 9:15.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I can also see what other say that she may also have a problem with her driver (ie Mom) being on time, and I’d expect a child to have limited ability to control a chronically late parent.

      But I agree with you, the bathroom excuse screams that the employee is not taking responsibility for being on time by showering the night before, getting up extra early so she’s sure not to be late, putting what toiletries she can in her own bedroom to allow her to get ready outside the bathroom with hair and makeup.

      Promptness may not be a family value so the employee is not getting it, but that’s not to LW’s problem. Time for the tough meeting with consequences outlined explicitly. “If you are not regularly on time (define), you will be fired.”

    2. Windchime*

      I grew up in a small house with six people and one tiny bathroom that didn’t have a shower, only a bathtub. We all managed to make it to work and school on time. Most of us would bathe at night or get up super early to do it. I would wash my hair in the sink in the morning. We didn’t always have a blow dryer, but when we got one it was plugged in in the hallway. The bathroom was for getting in and getting out, not for primping. Makeup and hair was done either in the hallway or in your bedroom.

      It’s not easy, but it can be done. I don’t remember lack of bathroom access ever being an excuse for me being late someplace; if I couldn’t get into the bathroom, it meant I didn’t get up early enough.

      1. A different Emily*

        “if I couldn’t get into the bathroom, it meant I didn’t get up early enough.”

        This is key. I can see the challenges with transportation although I think an adult with a “real job” should take responsibility for finding a solution to that. But the one bathroom thing is just a ridiculous excuse. I’d be mortified to use it in a professional context and it’s somewhat telling that the employee apparently does not feel that way.

        A frank conversation needs to be had about work hours and expectations. If it’s feasible to adjust the work schedule by 30 minutes or an hour, that’s a good approach. But then the adjusted schedule should be followed.

        What bothers me about this is that the issue has been raised and it’s clear the employee does not take this seriously. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it insubordination but in my world if your boss tells you to do something, you do it, you don’t just ignore it.

      2. Judy*

        Yep, we only had one bathroom with 2 girls plus parents in the house. We each had a table and mirror in our rooms, and kept our blow dryers and curling irons in our rooms. The bathroom was for bathing and for toilet and sink, not for makeup and hair.

      3. soitgoes*

        Definitely. When I still lived at home, I fell into a habit of showering right after work. I got to sleep as late as possible in the mornings, and showering at 5:30 PM gave me a nice “restart” before I went about the rest of my daily business. Plus it’s sooooo nice to come home from a cold office and step into a hot shower.

        My point is that it’s really easy to make positive changes when you’re not clinging to pointless principles.

      4. Jamie*

        Tbf she didn’t say it was because she couldn’t get into the bathroom. If mom doesn’t leave until everyone is ready and there is only one bathroom she could be ready to go and waiting while her siblings/mom take turns with one bathroom which delays things.

        Not excusing the tardiness – she can either get there or she can’t and not the manager’s job to sort out how, but just pointing out the bathroom thing isn’t just about managing her own time and if there is one thing I’ve learned is that it’s impossible to manage the time of other people when it comes to the morning toilette.

        When the kid’s bathroom was being remodeled a couple of years ago we were down to 1.5 baths and it was a freaking nightmare having them all in and out of my bathroom every morning. 4 of us getting ready at roughly the same time was like one really long Three Stooges skit with even more anger and annoyance.

        1. Natalie*

          I used to live in a big house with 4-5 other adults and 1.5 baths. It was a freakin’ miracle that we all had very different work schedules and never needed to make up a serious bathroom schedule. Also, I blowdried my hair and did makeup and such in my bedroom.

        2. Facilities&more*

          I…uh…still live in my 1 bathroom house. Things are easier with my twins recently leaving the nest for college and the Navy, but when they come home for the holidays and breaks it’s back to 4 (now adults) sharing one bathroom. We get by like we always did (on time), and it makes me chuckle when I hear about families that are renovating one of their many bathrooms and really having a hard go of it :) I’d love to renovate my bath, but we don’t have anywhere else to go (literally)!

    3. Allison*

      I do agree that if the bathroom is the only issue, and her mom is actually ready to go on time and waiting for her, then her tardiness is something she can (in theory) control if she gets up early enough. Still, if I was in a house like that I’d do everything I could to minimize time in the bathroom, and I’d expect my family members to do the same. Hair and makeup done in bedrooms, not the bathroom, and perhaps that need to observe the “[defecate] or get off the pot” motto if they don’t already.

    4. Cassie*

      I stayed with some family friends when I went on vacation this year and there was just 1 bathroom in use for 6 adults – I had to wake up like at 5 am just so I could get some bathroom time without feeling like I was being a bathroom hog. Thankfully we all took showers at night when there wasn’t as much of a time crunch.

      I had a friend who was perennially late to everything, because her mom was late to everything. I don’t think the mom meant to be, it’s just she always tried to get “one last thing” done before leaving.

  22. AnotherAnon*

    #2 – Does your boss also come from a research background? Does she have an accurate idea of the amount of time/attention this labwork involves, and would she understand if you made the argument that the labwork is getting in the way of your management tasks? Do other project managers/those with similar positions at your company also work at the bench some of the time, and does your boss manage some of them as well? Are these experiments you’re carrying out, or more like jobs that a lab tech would do? Are there other project managers/more senior people that you look to as mentors (both in this company or those you might have met in grad school/postdoc), who you might be able to give you advice on how much or how little to push back on this?

    Another thought – maybe this situation isn’t 100% bad. If your direct reports are working in the same lab environment, working there alongside them part of the time might help you evaluate them and identify their skills and areas where they need improvement. Also it might give you insight into the projects you’re managing (assuming they’re related to the benchwork), and what approaches work and which don’t. One of my biggest gripes when I was in grad school was that my advisor was totally hands-off (and trained in a different discipline), and so she didn’t have a realistic grasp on what was experimentally feasible pursuant to the research problems I was working on. I would have to spend weeks or months doing experiments over and over again to prove they didn’t show XYZ because she kept insisting it should work.

    1. LabMonkey OP*

      Hi, thanks for the comment. My boss is an industry research veteran, but no longer does labwork herself and has not done the specific protocols she’s asking me to handle. It’s been an interesting challenge to simultaneously set the expectation that my lab skills are rusty and I will require training on some steps / equipment while also convincing her that she is underestimating the amount of hands-on time required to get the methods validation done (proof of principle, input titrations etc for an existing protocol, etc). I’ve also never had to schedule experiments around meetings, phone calls, and vendor management before, and my continued feeling is that these are fundamentally incompatible tasks (If I’m in the lab pipetting, I can’t be at my desk to answer the phone and vice versa.)

      I agree with you that there are some positives here – a chance to refresh my knowledge of the assays we outsource, a chance to build trust and relationships with other lab people in my department. I’m still concerned that this will negatively affect my career direction, however, and I do feel misled about the job I accepted. I’ve worked pretty hard since leaving grad school to build a professional resume away from the bench. It’s been disconcerting to find myself under a manager who believes anyone with a scientific background can be assigned to jump back into the lab again at any time.

      1. AW*

        ” I also suspect my boss can’t afford to lose another person.”

        It’s one thing if you can’t afford to change jobs right now but whether or not your boss can afford to lose another employee falls under the category of “Not My Problem”. If your manager isn’t responsive to the fact that you want to do the job you were hired for then do what you need to do to be able to get a job that will advance your career. Maybe your boss wouldn’t be losing employees if they weren’t pulling this bait and switch about job responsibilities. Whatever the issue is there is their issue, not yours.

  23. Bertie*

    Something no one seems to have picked up on yet is that if the OP is working a full time job, she is presumably no longer in high school and is most likely an adult.

    It’s great that her boss has been willing to factor in her home situation and make allowances to her schedule, but frankly, if the OP’s mom is not providing the OP with reliable transportation to work on time, the OP needs to figure out an alternative…be it walking, riding a bike, finding a friend or coworker willing to give her a ride, taking public transportation, buying her own car, whatever. If she is old enough to work a full time job she is old enough to figure out how to get herself there on time.

  24. HR Manager*

    #1 – I’m a punctuality nut, so this would bother me. I support flexible work schedules where possible, but if my flex schedule is 10-6pm, then I will be there by 10, barring an emergency. I have an employee with a similar tardiness problem, and despite warnings, she’s not improving. She’s now set for a conversation with the manager and HR to make it clear that one more time and she’s gone. I sympathize with having to depend on a ride, but she needs to look at alternatives, or look at jobs that don’t require punctuality. The challenge here will be that punctuality and attendance is often a basic requirement. If you can’t assure attendance and punctuality are solid, many employers aren’t likely to assume you can do other things brilliantly.

    #4 – An employer has every right to prohibit trespassing on their property – I think doubly so for a sensitive place such as a hospital (we regularly see armed security on site at area hospitals, but I live in a metropolitan area). Prohibiting an employee from dealing with the OP4 may be legal, but unenforceable. Is the manager going to monitor workers’ off-hours activity? It’s possibly meant more as warning for passing along any work-related info to OP4 (i.e., no gossipy updates on what’s going on in the hospital since departure). We once had an employee who was failing miserably, and she told her brutish BF who called to threaten workers for ‘making his GF feel bad’. Not only was she fired, but we had serious warnings to her and her BF about coming near our property.

    #5 – Think public school teachers who lose a whole summer (not necessarily a complaint for many teachers!) and don’t receive pay for the break. There is a great suggestion about unemployment, though it takes a few weeks to kick in in many states. It’s not an immediate solution if cash is tight. The best option might be to plan and save up, then see if you can collect UI, and be ready for start up in Jan.

    1. Allison*

      “The challenge here will be that punctuality and attendance is often a basic requirement. If you can’t assure attendance and punctuality are solid, many employers aren’t likely to assume you can do other things brilliantly.”

      Sad but true. A lot of entry-level roles involve shift work, or some sort of customer service or phone coverage where being there at a specific time is crucial to one’s success. Even when that’s not necessarily the case, people who employ recent grads worry that “kids these days” need strict hours to ensure they show up in the morning. Flex hours are still seen as something that’s earned, or can only be entrusted to middle aged workers who’ve learned responsibility.

    2. A.*

      But the OP in #5 isn’t going to be unemployed. His or her employer will just be closed for a week. Side note: Can teachers file for unemployment in the summer? Technically they aren’t unemployed. My mother is a teacher–she has the option to either have her check evenly distributed throughout the entire 12 months or she can choose to receive “bigger” checks during the 9 months she works but won’t get a check during the summer. Most teachers elect the 12-month pay schedule. And if they don’t, they’re still receiving a prorated full salary during those 9 months. I don’t think this situation is quite the same.

      1. HR Manager*

        It’s like being furloughed, which does qualify for unemployment here in MA at least. OP5 would need to check with local state UI process. I can’t say for all teachers, but I do know of some teachers who have filed for UI in the off-months. Many teachers I know also pick up temp summer jobs to make extra $$. Of course, many are just as happy as students not to see the other half and enjoy their summer!

      2. fposte*

        Yes, as HR manager notes, it’s possible for teachers to get unemployment in the summer–however, they do have to be actively looking for and available for work to be eligible.

        1. some1*

          My cousin is a teacher and she can elect to be paid just during the school year or get a smaller paycheck all year-round — I would imagine the latter arrangement would disqualify UI.

        2. Joey*

          Isn’t that sort of like applying for unemployment when you’ve chosen to take leave without pay instead of paid leave?

          1. fposte*

            I guess not, as far as these states are concerned. But they may be sticklers on the actively looking for work thing to avoid that effect.

          2. HR Manager*

            No, if you had the choice for employment. I read the OP that s/he doesn’t have a choice at all — company is closing and will be out XX amount of days of work and income. I could be mis-reading or making an assumption there.

        3. Judy*

          The only time my parents received unemployment was the summer after my mom started back up teaching. The school corporation put all the first year teachers on layoff notice on July 1 after her first year back. She did look for other work, but didn’t find anything before they reversed the decision in early August. She ended up getting 3 or 4 weeks unemployment.

    3. Joey*

      I wonder if you’re a punctuality nut as a result of being in HR? HR folks frequently get blinded by the rules even when there’s little or no business impact.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That’s unfair and even a little mean. I’m a punctuality nut too, and I have never worked in HR. Preferring to be on time does not mean one is “blinded by the rules”. Most rules are there for a very good reason, whether it’s business practices or practicality or just plain wanting everyone to be in the office at the same time. If everyone flouts the rules, then offices/businesses would be anarchy. If you prefer not to have rules, then your choice is to work in a super-flexible environment where there are no time constraints and no “rules”– the OP does not, nor do most people.

        1. Joey*

          Eh. What’s the point in enforcing that someone for example show up not one minute after 8am if there is no business impact.

          I say that because I find it highly hypocritical to have a problem with an exempt employe who gets there at say 15 minutes after 8am, yet gets their job done and doesn’t negatively impact anyone else.

          And non-exempts won’t get paid so if there’s no business impact all you’re doing is essentially being a stickler for a rule that serves no business purpose.

          enforcing rules that are counterproductive are dumb. And rules like punctuality just for the sake of punctuality are dumb. Unless you can tie it to performance what’s the point?

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            The OP said, though, that the office needs coverage. So being on time seems to have an impact on business. Some rules are arbitrary, I get that. But they are still rules. Rules are put in place to give a workplace structure. If you have a problem with a rule, then you have two options: ask for an exception/change, or choose another place to work. I used to work with a woman– my supervisor, actually– who would show up every day at 11am. We had a 9am start. Did her lateness truly impact the bottom line of our business? Probably not, but it impacted morale, it impacted my ability to get certain things done, and it made her look like she thought she was better than everyone else. You obviously work in an environment where your pace doesn’t impact anyone else’s, but I think many, many people do not work in such environments.

            For what it’s worth, I think flexibility in start times is a good thing, but I think this employee is taking advantage in a way that is Not Good. When it’s something as easy as, “Please get here on time” and that rule is broken, it shows a lack of respect for the office structure.

            1. Joey*

              I don’t buy the “it affects everyone’s morale”. The proper response to that is “show me that you can still get your job done and you can have that same type of flexibility”.

              1. HR Manager*

                So if you were able to squeeze in 20 hours of work in a 4o hour work week, you think it’s fair to just work the 20 hours and not show up for the rest?

                There is a reason there are set scheduled hours, with some flexibility. If you have completed your tasks, there is often plenty more to do, and managers should be able to assign new tasks or projects if you are exceptionally efficient. You can look for piece work or similar contract arrangements where it’s solely focused on the getting your task or project done and being paid for its completion, if you prefer that.

                1. Natalie*

                  Sure, it’s called a results-oriented work environment. If someone is more efficient and can complete all of the tasks they need to in less time, how is it fair to penalize them by requiring they do more?

                2. Joey*

                  Is it fair to require more productivity out of a faster worker simply because they are fast?

                  But to answer your question if they were okay being paid at a rate similar to the other slower workers, absolutely. But I suspect that wouldn’t happen. More likely a fast worker is going to want more pay for more productivy which Id absolutely be on board with.

                3. HR Manager*

                  Someone who is doing more than others are positioning themselves for a promotion and henceforth, more money, so it happens to work out. Why is being asked to do other things, which we are paying your time for, being seen as this terrible thing? Hence lies many of the dilemmas – employees resent being asked to take on new things, but resents that they are not being promoted or deemed ‘great performers’, who should demonstrate the willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty.

                  No one is being penalized. They accepted a job with a schedule. We just ask that workers try to respect that, and not create their own, just because they work slower or faster. Work happens, things blow up. What would happen in an office if people randomly were at work or off work, depending on what they thought they had to do. I would love to see an angry client call, with a meeting needed, but Sue left at 11am today because she finished her project.

                  By the way- results oriented environment and piecework are not the same. There are certain positions that do require a set schedule. Flex hours are great – many of us have them here, but some people do have required start times. We are not being tyrannical because someone needs to be here to answer phones if a client calls. Piecework as mentioned is task oriented – like a contractor for a renovation. If I pay you 10k to redo my kitchen, you earn no more or less if you do it in 2 weeks or 2 months. Rarely in an environment that allows flex time has the work been so predictable that no one ever deviates from what their days prescribe. Usually emergencies or ad hoc tasks come up. You cannot manage that if no one knows when a worker is going to be around.

                4. Joey*

                  If you’re talking about non exempt I agree. If you’re talking about exempt then there’s no way you’re ever going to convince me that DOL says they should be paid based on time. Exempt means you pay them to do a job regardless of the hours it takes to do it. yes the nature of the business might require them to be there specific hours, but that’s frequently not the case. And just because some exempts have to for example have to be there at specific times so the business can operate doesn’t mean you should apply that standard to all exempts. In the end it’s all based on whatever it takes to get the job done, not time.

          2. aebhel*

            You don’t know that there’s no impact, though.

            I work in a library, and if I’m scheduled to be on the desk at 9 and I don’t show up until 9:15, then someone else has to drop what they’re doing to cover for me. If you have an appointment at a certain time and don’t show up, it makes you look bad to the client. If someone has to be there at a particular time to unlock the doors and they don’t show up until twenty minutes later, then customers are sitting outside getting pissed off about it.

            If you have a bunch of employees in a private office working separately on their own projects, then it really doesn’t make much of a difference who comes in when. But that’s not the case for a lot of places, so I find it weird that you’re assuming it is.

  25. Ann without an e*


    What are the details behind the hostile workplace? Are you filing against the employer for legal action, wrongful termination, harassment, ect.? There is just so much we don’t know, making it difficult to give advice, or sympathy. We would be so much more capable of both if we had details. Besides what are they going to do if they read this? Fire you? You have resigned, forced yes, fired no. As long as you don’t name them or the city/state you are in they can’t sue you for a story either.

    1. fposte*

      Do we need to know more, though? The hospital gets to say the OP isn’t allowed back on the grounds regardless of the situation that led to the firing.

        1. fposte*

          That I understand. I always love to hear the full story. (What did lead you to punch your co-worker at a Christmas party, OP of 2011? I still wonder.)

  26. Amanda*

    Something about the situation of the employee in #1 is hitting quiet alarm bells for me. Is this a first generation employee in a professional job? Is she relatively young and maybe from a different background? What the other posters are saying about home and family values toward work might be playing a bigger role than you think.

    Obviously you need an employee for certain times, but is she otherwise reliable? Is she a good worker? Some kindness and flexibility might go a long way toward giving someone a helping hand up. Too often, I think, we set these arbitrary guidelines and don’t really think of the people behind them.

    If she’s a screw-up in other ways, disrespectful, doesn’t seem to want to work with you – absolutely, hold the line. I’m just worried that if the line is too hard without thinking through the humanity of it, you’ll cut off someone’s chance to really move up.

    1. fposte*

      I was thinking along those lines, but in such a small office this puts a lot of burden on the other person there, so this isn’t a workplace where such slack is necessarily easy to give.

    2. some1*

      “Is this a first generation employee in a professional job?”

      Actually, I would say the majority of my office jobs had much more flexibility with being 5-10 minutes late vs. when I was doing shift work in retail.

      1. Natalie*

        That’s true, but there could be an issue of either the employee or her mom not taking the start time seriously because there’s a little bit of flexibility. For example, perhaps it would seem more serious or crucial to them if there was a tangible result of being late (co-worker has to stay past their shift, store doesn’t get opened, etc).

    3. Heather*

      This is what came to my mind too. Wasn’t there a discussion a while back here about that kind of thing?

  27. Cupcake*

    I find the lack of additional bathroom space to be a bit of a red herring. If her ride is continuously late, the family could have a dozen bathrooms and the employee would still be late. Thus, it sounds as though the employee is a bit liberal with excuses. As a supervisor, I can be very accommodating to employees with family responsibilities, but they still have to take responsibility for making sure their hours and work are covered and if they appear to take advantage of the flexibility then it is retracted.

  28. Tagg*

    #4 – I work for a large healthcare organization, and when I was working downtown at the main hospital, we had a coworker who was fired. She was banned from coming on to hospital property – UNLESS it was for a medical reason. I suspect this is a similar case. I don’t believe hospitals can refuse care, they can only ban you from visiting for non-medical reasons.

      1. Tagg*

        This was a special case. The coworker in question was fired for several reasons, one of which was that she had given her significant other the code to access the employee lounge so that he could sleep there, and he was also found sleeping in the registration rooms overnight. There was a lot of other drama as well, but the main thing was that she was a security risk (when you have to change the locks after someone’s been fired, you know it’s serious…)

        1. some1*

          Ah, got you. That makes complete sense.

          As I mentioned below, I would not WANT to go back somewhere that fired me if I could help it, but I would imagine for places that serve the public wouldn’t want a blanket policy. I mean, it doesn’t really matter if you can’t go back to, say, a marketing company the same way as a hospital.

    1. De Minimis*

      I’m not sure. We can bar patients at least for a certain time period if they create a disturbance.

      Then again, we’re a clinic and I think hospitals [especially ERs] have much less flexibility on that.

  29. some1*

    Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird you would even want to go back in the building of a place that fired you? I’d feel like Buckner walking back into Shea.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      First, I’m really, really proud of myself that I got your reference. :)

      Second, I agree. But then, I worked with a guy who had been hired by a division in the company and walked out during lunch on his first day, then another division hired him. I couldn’t understand why he would even risk being seen by the people who hired him, but some people are oblivious.

      1. some1*

        “First, I’m really, really proud of myself that I got your reference. :)”

        I’m not so much a baseball fan as I am a Matt Damon fan :)

    2. Tagg*

      I think it’s more of a company covering themselves in the case of potentially hostile ex-employees. This way, if someone who’s fired comes on the premises, they can call security or the police without waiting for a situation to erupt.

      1. some1*

        No, I absolutely get why employers have policies like this in place. I just mean as far as the LW is concerened, is she asking the question because she is just curious if they have a right to do this, or does she actually want to goi back there to visit her friend? I just find the latter really hard for me to relate to personally.

        1. fposte*

          I think also she may be wondering whether it counts if she wasn’t told of the ban herself. Which is a legitimate question, but I’m with you in thinking that there’s no rewarding reason to go back to the place anyway so it’s best just to accept it.

    3. AW*

      I’m assuming the hospital still has some of the OP’s property and they’d like to get it back or have one of their co-workers get it back to them.

  30. Anonasaurus Rex*

    I say this as someone who works in a hospital, in HR.

    #4 – If it’s a hospital that provides emergency care, they cannot bar you from the premises if you are in need of emergency care, regardless of what you have done, if their facility is the closest place for you to go. Period. I believe this is universal in the US, since all hospitals are required to provide emergency care to anyone at anytime.

    If there is more than one hospital in your area, then they can bar you from all services at their hospital and make you go somewhere else for those. They can also just bar you from non-patient care areas, which is our policy if we have a situation where someone is not allowed on premise anymore. They also have to accompanied by staff at all times and may not be allowed to visit patients in their rooms depending on the situation. This is really rare though.

    1. De Minimis*

      This is absolutely true, there’s a specific law that covers it. Apparently if an emergency patient even comes within a certain radius of the hospital they cannot be turned away [though this has more to do with an ambulance bringing a patient in.]

  31. literateliz*

    #5: Huh… my company handles the holidays exactly this way, and it truly never even occurred to me that it could be a morale killer. Maybe a little bit of a drag at worst. (I think most people take vacation time, but we’re given the option of taking it unpaid.)

    But I came into this job after a stint in retail, where I worked something like 3 – 7 PM Thanksgiving 2012, and 4 AM – noon on Black Friday, and those were my only shifts that week. So my expectations around holidays might be a tiniest bit skewed.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Well, it is a morale killer if you only get one week of vacation for the entire year. I’ve been there and done that. I never took any of it because I needed to save it for shutdowns and sick days. At Exjob, many of our customers shut down then. We didn’t, though most of the office people took it off. I had to work (phones) and it was always blessedly quiet during that time. I actually began to look forward to it because I could organize stuff without getting interrupted ever five seconds.

  32. Rebecca*

    #1 – I hope we can get an update on the exact reasons for the employee’s lateness. I’ve read through the comments above, and I’m on the fence. It could be that this is a younger person who cannot drive, or cannot afford to drive, and legitimately must rely on family members to get her to her job. I have to wonder if the “large family/one bathroom” is just an excuse to try to cover for other problems. My thought is this could easily be one of two things: either it’s a young person who is just trying to deal with bad circumstances at home, or it’s someone who is just irresponsible and not motivated to be on time for work. If it’s the former, I think I’d try to work with her a little more before possibly letting her go.

    1. Joey*

      The reason for the lateness has no bearing on the impact of it at work. The manager still needs coverage whether she’s irresponsible or not. So the better question is how much of an impact it has, how long the problem might last, how long she can afford to deal it, and whether the pain of dealing with the attendance problem is worth it? Nothing else matters.

  33. Rebelina11*

    #5:I used to work for a company that did this as well. Sometimes the clients are very specific about not wanting any work done during the holiday. Most times, it’s even written into the agreement/contract. This happens a lot in construction – particularly when the client is a public department. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the OP, who should have been forewarned by either the manager or HR. All the more reason to always be transparent during the hiring process.

  34. JC*

    I came across this article below in Slate today, on how small problems sometimes become insurmountable for people who live in poverty. It starts out with a story of a woman whose car was towed. She couldn’t afford the fee to get it out of the impound lot, when she saved the money to get the car out the fee had been raised to an amount she couldn’t pay, and she ended up losing her job because she could not get to work:


    I thought that it had points that are relevant to our discussion of OP #1. Sometimes people are late to work regularly because of circumstances beyond their control, and it’s worth keeping that in mind. I don’t have any answers regarding what to do about it if one of your employees is habitually late because of those kinds of circumstances, though. I get that it comes down to needing someone in the office at a particularly time notwithstanding their circumstances. Just kinds of sucks to remember that while some people are late because they don’t have it together, other people might have sadder reasons.

    1. Rebecca*

      Thanks for pointing this out. I know business is business, and job duties must be covered, but sometimes a little humanity goes a long way. I could be wrong, but OP#1 might be in the position to give a hand up to someone who could really use it. Maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age. Or it’s the Holiday season. Not sure.

  35. Cassie*

    Regarding #4 – if I were the OP, I’d just stay away from the hospital, unless there was some medical reason why he/she had to go there. We recently had an employee resign (she was close to being terminated for unapproved absences) and we have yet to determine if we should box up her stuff and mail it to her or let her come in and pick it up. I’d recommend just shipping it to her – it would be simplest for everyone if she didn’t come back. It would save face for her so she wouldn’t have to encounter faculty/students who were friendly with her and will likely ask her why she resigned. It’s legal to box up her stuff and send it to her, right?

    However, we are a public university and she didn’t pose a serious security threat so I doubt we could suggest that she stay away, even if it was only for the time being.

    The other thing is that it is possible the coworker is giving the OP the brush-off – maybe the coworker doesn’t want the OP to visit him/her at work or doesn’t want to associate with the OP, but doesn’t want to come out and say so.

    1. AW*

      If you don’t want to be accused of breaking or stealing something you will let her come and box up her stuff herself. Frankly, I don’t know why she wouldn’t have done this before leaving if her resignation was fully voluntary (was she thrown/escorted out before she could get her things?) but you don’t want to be the last person to handle her things before something turns up missing or broken.

  36. ChiTown Paula*

    Hi – I am the person who wrote about the employee issue. As many of you correctly guessed, she’s young -22 yrs old, and this is her first job out of college. Over the past week, she’s arrived to work before her start time EACH AND EVERY DAY and I have followed through on checking her key card every morning. I also found out from her that she’s maxed out on her job and bored, but because the company is small (60 employees), there’s no where for her to go. I have since put her on a new project and she’s excelling. There are glowing reviews about her ideas and execution. So it might be both immaturity and a motivation issue. Thanks also for all your feedback, comments and suggestions. I was positively overwhelmed with everything you had to say ….. in a good way!!!!

      1. ChiTown Paula*

        How many times have I as a manager observed the right things and yet drawn the wrong conclusions about it? It wasn’t until I stepped back from the situation that I was able to objectively see this employee as being just bored and needing a new challenge. No matter how long I’ve been managing people, I am always learning something!

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