my phone number used to belong to a sex worker, how can I get access to my work email at night, and more

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

1. My phone number used to belong to a sex worker

I recently got a new phone number when I switched cell phone companies. My resume has been updated with the new phone number and sent out to a few different openings.

I googled my phone number tonight, and found that it used to belong to a prostitute. I found the original ad listed on a website commonly used for that purpose, as well as several reviews and ratings of her, uh, services on different sites. Apparently phone number is a common way for these ratings sites to identify different providers.

What do I do about this? Will it even be an issue? I know people search names when doing informal background checks, but do they google cell phone numbers?

I can’t promise that no one will ever think to google a phone number, but it would never occur to me to do that. If you want to be extra safe, you could set up a Google voice number and use that one on resumes from now on (and perhaps have the phone company switch your number to something else once enough time has gone by that you don’t need to retain the use of the current number in connection with the resumes it appeared on). But there’s a 99% chance that no one will search for your number and notice this — it would really be an odd thing to google.

Read an update to this letter here

2. How can I convince my employer to give me access to work email outside my regular hours?

You know how sometimes you get an email from someone complaining because his or her boss expects employees to be available 24/7 via phone, Skype or email? I have the opposite problem brewing… I am nonexempt, but I need access to my work email and my employer has issued a blanket statement to all staff (with an ambiguous threat of disciplinary action) forbidding nonexempt employees from receiving or responding to email or texts while off the clock.

My employer has clearly established that nonexempt employees are not expected or encouraged to work while off the clock. I understand and appreciate the sentiment and I don’t want to be protected from something that is hugely beneficial to me professionally and personally. (Personally because if I don’t deal with things efficiently I worry ceaselessly. Professionally because taking care of business is always beneficial.)

Is there anything I can do to convince my employer that I understand my access to work email while off the clock does not constitute working time and that they will never be liable to repay me for how I elect to spend my time off the clock? Should I draft a letter requesting permission to access my work email from home? Taking that a step further- what are the potential drawbacks for making such a request?

Nope, because that’s against the law. Non-exempt employee cannot waive their right to be paid for all time spent working, no matter how sincerely you want to. Your employer could face significant penalties (as well as have to pay you back pay) if this were found out. They’re absolutely right to forbid it; it’s too much of a legal liability for them. And “but I’d never report it” doesn’t really work here — another employee could report it, or you could have a huge falling-out with your company and end up reporting it. Plus, it’s reasonable that they don’t want to break the law, even if they somehow knew they’d never get caught. This is a good thing. You want to work for an employer who wants to follow the law, even when they don’t have to.

That said, if there’s a strong business case for you having access to your work email outside of normal work hours — a case strong enough to pay you for that time — you can certainly approach your manager with that. Just keep in mind that they do have to pay you for it.

3. Making time for job interviews when I’m temping

I have a question I am hoping you’d consider. I was recently laid off and was job searching pretty hard until I found my current temp gig, which I was told will last for at least the next couple of months. It’s only been a few days at the temp gig. Now that I’ve started working, I’m getting some responses to applications I submitted while unemployed. Since I’m just a temp at my current company, I hate to flat out reject these other companies that are calling me about possible full-time employment. On the other hand, I want to make a good impression at the company I’m temping at in case there is a chance of getting hired full-time. I don’t think ducking out for interviews would be a good idea. So should I tell these other companies I’m off the market?

No! Getting full-time employment should be a priority. Explain your situation and see if they’ll schedule an interview for early or late in the day or during lunch. And talk to your temp agency about the best way to handle this; they’re used to dealing with it.

4. Company is only considering applicants from a particular office

My company has offices in different states. The HR department recently posted and notified all company employees of an internal position that opened up at one of the locations. After submitting my application, the hiring manager reached out to me and told me that they were only considering employees from the office this position was based out of. Is that illegal? Are they allowed to turn me down just because I’m not located in the office they would like to hire from?

Yes, that’s legal. Sometimes there’s good reason for it too — such as when they want to hire someone who’s already familiar with the people and processes of that particular office.

5. How to respond to a hiring-related email from six months ago

I’m trying to change careers and I’ve been applying for jobs in my desired career for about a year now. Six months ago, I applied for a job that seemed like a great fit for my skills and experience (it was a bit of a unicorn actually – exactly the niche I want in the industry I want to work in and everything about the job posting/application process made me think that this person is one I’d like to work for – everything adhered to the AAM principles of How to Hire Well). My application made it through the first round of screening and I was sent a test to complete.

The notice was short and I was busy with my current job and other things in my life, but I also freaked out – I was immediately seized by panic about whether or not I would do well enough on the test (especially given the short time frame). I reluctantly decided to let the job go. I marked the email as unread (which is what I do for emails I want to go back later) with the intention of completing the test in my own time, just to refresh my skills in this particular area. Later, I kicked myself for not just completing the test.

Well, that unread email has been languishing unread in my inbox for 6 months and today I opened it up to see that the hiring manager had actually sent a pleasant follow up email a week later – apparently my application had really caught their attention, they had really hoped I’d answer the questions and they wanted to see if I was still interested! I hadn’t noticed that my unread email now had more responses to it.

I know that this job is gone, but everything about the process seemed to indicate the type of hiring manager that I’d like to work for (he either reads Ask A Manager, or he’s just really good at carrying out a hiring process with clear guidelines and respect for candidates). I’d like to reach out and say something, but I’m not sure what, especially because a response after 6 months will make me look like a flake. What should I say? “I’m sorry I missed your email, I was really interested in the job but I know it’s too late now, I hope the person you picked is great, but I’d love to be considered again if they’re not?” That’s how I feel, but it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue… Should I even bother getting back in contact?

“I’m so sorry! Somehow I missed this email the first time around and just discovered it filtered into a different spot in my inbox. I really regret missing out on this role and would love to be considered for open positions with you in the future. (And frankly, seeing the application process you use just makes me more interested — I’m really impressed by what I can see of your process.)”

{ 190 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    I google phone numbers on a regular basis. If I have a missed call from a number I don’t know, I’ll often google to try to figure out who it was. So I guess a suggestion in this case would be to always leave a voice mail when you call if they don’t answer, that way they will know who it was who called them.

    1. Nina*

      Same here. I do it all the time, and there are numerous websites devoted to finding out where those random calls are coming from. For me, it’s usually spam (“you just won a cruise!!!”) or something else weird.

    2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      I came to say exactly this. Ah, the joys and paranoia that come from having an ex-stalker…

      1. Jillociraptor*

        I do listen to my voicemail but I usually google the number first — especially if my personal phone rings while I’m on my work phone and I can’t stop my call to listen to the voicemail. But I’ve never just googled a phone number off a resume or something like that.

        If you ever need to call them, maybe consider using another number. And maybe consider asking your cell service to change your number once you’ve found a job and are settled.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        And that really annoys me. I call a wrong number so I hang up without leaving a message, and then the wrong number calls me back! I call a correct number and leave a message about what I want, and the person calls me back and asks why I called!

    3. Al Lo*

      Ditto. If I’m fast enough, I’ll even google it while it’s still ringing if the caller ID isn’t informative enough, so I can decide whether or not to answer it. But I definitely do it before calling back or even listening to my voicemail at times. My outgoing message clearly says that I don’t check voicemail frequently, so if you actually want to reach me, text or email instead, so I don’t feel bad about leaving messages languishing un-listened-to in my voicemail for several weeks before I get around to them. (And googling the number helps prioritize.)

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I do exactly this, except I take the extra step to make sure my voice mail box is full so that they can’t leave me voice mails anyway, despite my telling them not to leave me a VM, email. (I don’t have customers calling me directly so I can get away with this.)

        I usually throw a number in google to see who is calling me before I pick up (if caller ID isn’t enough) and to see who I want to call back from list of missed calls.

        I don’t think the OP’s problem is critical, but, if it was me, I’d get another number.

    4. jhhj*

      I also google phone numbers, though typically when I am receiving a call and not when I see one written down somewhere (in any context but a phone message). I don’t listen to my voice mails either, typically.

      1. Tenley*

        Even my family rarely leave VMs anymore because no one wants to listen them. It’s really only my office landline where I get any voice messages, and come to think of it, that’s dramatically less than a decade ago. I hadn’t even noticed the sea change (voice mail/answering machines used to be a cutting edge technology) until this thread.

    5. Zillah*

      I google phone numbers, too. But, it’s only when I get a call from a number I don’t recognize. Since it’s my private number, I should generally recognize all the numbers.

      However, I think I’d be less likely to do it if I was a hiring manager – presumably, I wouldn’t recognize a lot of the numbers that called me.

      1. Felicia*

        I google numbers too…especially when i was applying for jobs and applied hundreds of places, to see what business was calling me. Or so i can tell telemarketing apart from legit calls. But as a hiring manager i might not (or i might, it’s such a habit)

    6. JB*

      Like other commenters, I google numbers all the time. But I’ve never googled one off a resume, and I don’t google numbers calling me at work. I think most commenters are talking about googling numbers that call their personal numbers, or at least aren’t talking about googling numbers on resumes, which is what I assume Alison meant by saying nobody would google the OP’s number.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That is indeed what I mean. I’m talking about googling an applicant’s phone number in the process of googling them as part of your due diligence in hiring. Anyone here do that? I don’t and I’ve never seen it done. I suppose it’s possible some hiring manager does, but I don’t think it’s typical, and thus not something the OP needs to stress over for the few resumes that are there with this number.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          I have googled a number off a resume, if the name is common enough and I feel I want to look at an applicant’s history. I also google numbers that I do not recognize coming into my office phone and work cell; perhaps I am one of the 1% who checks these things? Like I said, I only do it in certain circumstances and for common names.

          I must note – if I were the OP, I would immediately setup Google Voice and use that number, so that any calls to her resume are forwarded to Google Voice. I also would be careful not to leave any ‘Net fingerprints connecting my name to that number if I could help it.

          1. The Strand*

            I cosign everything here. I Google numbers all the time. Google Voice is a great way to get away from that issue.

        2. LBK*

          Maybe not as part of the due diligence, but I could potentially see a candidate calling a HM back about an interview, the interviewer not knowing the number and Googling it. I still think that would be weird because at work it should be assumed you’ll be getting calls from numbers you don’t know, though.

          1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            I get a lot of unknown calls, usually robo-healthcare pitches or people trying to get me to buy software because I downloaded a white paper. Anyone I need to talk to is a contact I my phone, so if any phone number comes through, I google it. That’s how I figure out whether it’s worth checking my voicemail.

        3. AdAgencyChick*

          I google any number I don’t recognize that calls my *personal* cell phone and does not leave a voicemail. I think the only hiring situation in which I would be giving a candidate my cell is if I’m traveling and want to make interview arrangements. But in that case I’d already have the candidate’s phone number, so I most likely wouldn’t be googling it (and they’d likely leave a voicemail anyway).

          But it would never occur to me to google a phone number on an applicant’s resume. The only reason I google phone numbers is to try to figure out who’s calling me. If I’m going to google anything about a candidate, it’s her name.

        4. Abby*

          I have googled a number if someone didn’t leave a message and I am really curious but don’t want to call. However, I wouldn’t google an applicant’s number without a really, really good reason (and I can’t think what that would be). If I did and found a link to an old ad like the questioner mentioned, I wouldn’t automatically assume that the applicant was a prostitute. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

          However, before cell phones, I had a job where I distributed pagers to IT employees. One came to me and told me that his pager had apparently been used previously by a drug dealer. I returned a page and found out it was true. I did give him a new one and gave that one back to the phone company.

      2. Karowen*

        I’ll agree that the OP shouldn’t worry about it when they’re just submitting the resume, but I’d worry about it if I were calling someone. I Google phone numbers all the time at work – I get tons of unsolicited sales calls, so if a number pops up that I don’t recognize immediately, I Google it while the phone is ringing to see if I should deal with it or not. I’d be a little freaked if it looked like a prostitute was calling me.

    7. C Average*

      Same. I’d never proactively Google a number that hadn’t called me, though. I’d only do it if they’d called me and not left a voicemail. I do it to try to eliminate the possibility that it’s a legit outfit before I block the number for future calls.

      A few of my colleagues and I were just discussing the other day that we’ve seen a dramatic increase in unsolicited 800 number calls as of maybe about four months ago. It’s very strange. I used to never ever get calls like this, and now I’ll bet I average three of them a day. It’s dwindled now, because I block the numbers immediately, but it’s weird that the number of such calls I got went from none to many per day and that other people experienced the same thing around the same timeframe.

    8. HR Manager*

      I google phone numbers of whom I suspect to be annoying vendors or possible scam artists, but I have never googled the phone number of a candidate. I never even thought to google my own, but I’ve had this number for about 15 years now, so I suppose it will be pointless now.

    9. Allison*

      I’ll be honest, sometimes I Google the number before they’re even done calling. But that’s because the majority of calls I get from unknown numbers are either scams or annoying sales calls. Or CVS telling me to refill a prescription.

      But I don’t look up people’s phone numbers to get information about them. As long as OP’s not making a lot of cold calls or unsolicited/unexpected phone calls to hiring managers, it shouldn’t be an issue.

    1. LizNYC*

      +1 I feel like I need a wristband that says “HWAR?” (how would Alison respond?) the next time I launch into some long, complicated email.

      1. Lalaith*

        HWAR is making me giggle. Mostly because I’m just picturing someone confused, with their head tilted, saying “hwar?”

  2. Purple Dragon*

    I just googled my phone number and nothing came up (whew !). I never even knew that was a thing and it would never occur to me to do.

    1. hermit crab*

      Me too! Like many people, it sounds like, I reverse-search numbers that look like they might be telemarketers, but that’s it. I just searched for my cell phone number and the results say that it … is a mobile number from my metropolitan area. Yep, I can live with that.

      1. Lalaith*

        Heh, mine doesn’t even get that right. I mean, it correctly identifies the area that my area code comes from… but I inherited my first cell phone, and its number, from my dad a good 10 years ago – and my parents live across the country from me.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Holy crud! Never occurred to me either. The only time I thought to Google a phone number was a persistent one that kept calling me and not saying anything when I answered. (Turned out to be my mortgage provider, and I called them and told them they could either stop calling, or talk to me when I answered. I think it was probably their automated system, but how does my cheerful ‘hello!’ not sound like a person?)

      I’ve had my cell a long time now (since 2006), so I doubt there’s anything out there that isn’t me. But to my surprise (and really, why am I surprised?), with just my phone number, you can indeed get my name – in the first five results. So much for unlisted. (On the other hand, do I really care? And they have my zip code wildly wrong – apparently I’m living in a nearby big city where I almost never even go. Thank goodness I’m actually not, I would not care to live in that area!)

      My husband’s number is, interestingly, not able to retrieve his name. Wonder if it’s because I bought both phones and am primary on the account – but it doesn’t pull up my name either.

      Man, _now_ I want to Google numbers just for the amusement value.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I think there’s something weird about the automated calls where the person who is calling you doesn’t actually pick up the phone until several seconds after you pick up. I know I’ve said hello about 3 times before someone says hello. Terrible way to try to sell people things.

      1. Brigitte*

        Wow! I’m shocked by how many people Google missed numbers. I don’t answer calls from unknown phone numbers, and I don’t call back unless you leave a message or send a text. I honestly don’t give it a second thought.

        For those of you that Google, have you ever decided to call someone back based on what you found?

        1. Natalie*

          When I google numbers it’s just so I can find out if it’s a scam call and then block the number.

  3. voluptuousfire*

    OP #1, seconding Alison on the Google Voice number. It’s free and you can download the app to your smartphone. I have a GV number and put it on my resume. The calls go to your phone as any other calls would and it works the same as your regular number. I recommend getting one. I originally got my GV number for when I had an online dating profile and it was nice having that extra layer of security. I also search my contact info regularly and I’ve yet to find my GV number online.

    Also, speaking as someone whose beeper number (many, many moons ago) was apparently the same number as displayed for an advertisement for parking space in Brooklyn, I can relate. :)

    1. Judy*

      Yes, to your second point. The biggest issue is most likely that you’d be getting lots of phone calls you don’t want. I had enough trouble when the person that had my phone number before was having credit issues. I kept telling them that I didn’t know the person, but they called several times a week. I’d expect that you’d be getting a lot of nuisance calls.

    2. Jubilance*

      Ditto. I got a Google Voice number when they first came out, and it made job hunting so much easier. And the great thing is you can have multiple phone numbers set to ring when your GV number is called, like your home and cell phone.

    3. MK*

      You can get that when the numbers are different but similar. My land line used to be one digit removed from the number of a fery boat company. The joy of being woken up at 7a.m. on New Year’s Day to be asked when the next ferry to island X departs!

      1. CH*

        We had a similar problem–back in the days before everything was online and everyone had a land line our phone number was one digit different from the info line for a major international airport . We’d get calls once or twice a month–occasionally at 4 am, but it wasn’t so awful that we changed numbers.

        1. SJP*

          I used to work for a BMW dealership in the UK which if you got 2 digits in our number mixed up it called a sex line.. and you can imagine how funny that was being a receptionist there.
          Even answering the phone “Good afternoon *insert name of the car dealership* how can I help you? they’d still ask are you sure you were a car dealer and not a brothel/sex line..
          To which you reply “Sorry this is a car dealership” and they’d be like “are you sure?”
          Uh, yes mate, extremely sure.
          Didn’t happen that often but when it did it was bloody hilarious!

          1. Cautionary tail*

            I used to have the phone number of bakery that went out of business. After getting frustrated trying to convince people that this wasn’t a bakery I just faked taking an order from them. I wonder where they went to try to pick up their order…

      2. Elizabeth West*

        My landline is one digit different than Child Support Enforcement. >_< I had to change my outgoing message to include an alert –"Hey you dialed wrong) and their actual phone number to cut down on the messages people left.

        1. plain_jane*

          my landline is one digit off from a fax machine. I suppose the advantage is that I can hang up without guilt.

        2. cv*

          My old office main line was one digit off from the main number of the local university and one of the rarely used extensions was similar to the number of the psychiatric unit at a nearby hospital. Since I was often the one covering the phones, I made a little addendum to the office phone list tacked up in my cube so I could just tell people “you want 559, this is 554” because people would be upset and trying to find out what happened to someone who had just been admitted to the hospital. Some numbers are easier to mix up than others – it’s easy to understand how a handwritten 4 could look a lot like a 9.

        3. HR Manager*

          My former co-worker and friend has a work number one digit off from an elderly services organization (that just so happens to be located near where I work). So the poor thing gets called by confused seniors all the time, and as you can imagine, this isn’t often an easy “you got the wrong number” to end the call. :s

        4. louise*

          Mine is one digit off from an automated unemployment line that people call starting at 12:00 AM every Sunday…

          I keep my phone on silent overnight and it’s fine. During the day, if I have a minute, I answer the calls with “Please hang up and dial area code xxX instead.”

        5. EvilQueenRegina*

          When I was about 12, my mum did that after lots of calls for a local dental surgery (the last two digits of our number transposed got their number – ours ended in 73 and theirs in 37). There had been a bit of a spate of it at the time and when someone called at 6am demanding an emergency appointment, she’d lost her temper and changed the outgoing message to include “If you want the dentist, please ring XXXX37”. This worked for a while, until her hairdresser tried to call to cancel her appointment, found nobody in…and misunderstood the outgoing message and thought they could reach her at the dental surgery.

          Where I work now (UK local government), when people leave the organisation their phone numbers very often end up getting reallocated to new starters in different departments so people get lots of calls still for whoever had the number before. I used to get lots of calls for Highways (especially when it snowed and people were ranting that the gritters hadn’t turned up) and when I tried explaining they had the wrong number they’d say something like “Well, I’ve got your number on a letter they sent me in 2002!” I’ve since transferred internally again and in a twist of fate that phone number has now been allocated to the guy who sits behind me, and he told me he had an angry voicemail about the state of the roads in his first week.

      3. hermit crab*

        In elementary school, the phone at my friend’s house was one digit off from an all-night towing place. Her mom eventually got the number changed.

      4. Cath in Canada*

        Mine used to be one digit off a pizza place. The best caller was the stoned guy who, when he heard my accent, thought he’d accidentally called England, and freaked out about how much it was going to cost him.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          Oh and I have a couple of friends who keep getting emails for the wrong person. They both have someone out there with the same name as them who apparently can’t keep their own email address straight, so these name doppelgangers are giving out my friends’ addresses all the time. It’s apparently sometimes a really fascinating insight into someone else’s life – I’ve told them they should do a joint art installation or something

          1. Lalaith*

            Fascinating insight would be nice… all I get from Larry Mylastname’s email confusion is a bunch of newsletters from politicians and groups on the opposite end of the spectrum from me >_<

          2. EvilQueenRegina*

            My ex-coworker had that problem. He tried to explain to the sender that he had the wrong Apollo Warbucks, but the sender for whatever reason didn’t believe him and kept on sending them.

          3. Anne*

            Someone named Daniel keeps using one of my email addresses to sign up to air bnb and similar sites. I feel kind of bad occasionally when he gets replies from places he contacted that he will never see, but mostly I just wish I could tell him to knock it off. I have enough junk email of my own, kthx.

          4. Jen RO*

            I receive emails aimed at other Jen/Jennifers on fairly regular basis. It’s extra-funny to me because this is just a nickname and nothing like my real name! (At that point, I had little to no contact to American culture and had no idea Jennifer is a common name.)

            Recently, it’s been a Jen in Myanmar subscribing to the local Groupon. I would unsubscribe, she would resubscribe a few days later.. I wonder if she realized what she was doing wrong.

      5. Felicia*

        My number was one digit off a dental office, but the dental office actually had my number listed on their website, not their number. I figured it out when i looked them up iin the phone book and looked up their website. The dental office refused to change it on their website, and people would get so mad when we couldn’t book their appointments to the dentist

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          They refused to change it? Did they not want the business or something? They can’t seriously have wanted all their calls going through to a wrong number surely?

  4. Kate*

    As Eric does above I google unknown numbers on my cell if no message is left so always do that or maybe even hide your number from caller ID.

  5. Brett*

    #1 Get your phone number changed. Not because of professional reasons, but because those old ads and reviews are going to lead to unwanted and disturbing phone calls, possibly from people who will not believe the number no longer belongs to the woman in the ads. Avoiding those calls will be worth the effort of getting a new number from your cell phone company.

    1. jordanjay29*

      I came here to say this. I would be more worried about the personal danger to yourself, OP, than any danger to your potential employment. The last thing you want is some former business associate of the last phone number owner calling and harassing you by mistake.

    2. Formerly Bee*


      Ever “inherit” a phone number for someone who is being called by debt collectors, or someone whose kid has your number in their file at school?

      This will be like that, but even less fun.

      1. themmases*

        My old number used to be in someone’s medical record in a totally different state. Their front office person would say she understood that it was a wrong number, hang up, and instantly call me again.

        The calls stopped when I emailed them and told them that their repeated calls asking for this person by name when they should have known they weren’t there, from a clinic that treats a very specific condition, were probably a HIPAA violation.

      2. Helka*

        My work number is that. Three years I’ve had it now and I’m still getting automated “Dear [School Name] parents, an important message!” calls every other week or so. Fortunately, they usually call after work hours and leave a voicemail I can delete.

      3. catsAreCool*

        I had a phone number that apparently belonged to someone who was skipping out on work, which called the number at about 5 am. Frustrating.

    3. themmases*

      I was thinking the same thing. My partner gets constant calls for a previous owner who had credit problems (and is clearly still giving out the number) and I have no idea why he didn’t change his number long ago– they are incredibly persistent and unprofessional. People calling this number would be a whole different level.

      When I got my new cell phone number a few years ago, the rep at the store was able to generate a few choices for me and tell me that the one I chose (because it was silly) was a good choice because no one had owned it in a while. OP should get it changed now before they are even more attached to it. The longer you have a number, the more people have it and the bigger a hassle it is to change.

      1. Natalie*

        I dunno, I’ve never talked extensively to people who patronize sex workers (that I know of) but I have talked to debt collectors and I could easily imagine the former being more pleasant than the latter.

      2. dawnofthenerds*

        I had a number that used to belong to someone with credit problems too. They called every day, sometimes three times a day, for six weeks. But I never had my phoned off silent because I was in university, so I never did manage to answer it and tell them to go away. Eventually, I guess someone listened to my voicemail and realized I wasn’t who they wanted. The message they left was very deliberately staticky and hard to understand, and very deliberately sort of sounded like a call from the Canada Revenue Agency.

  6. Tuesday*

    I’ve got to wonder if LW #1 has been getting phone calls from people seeking those services. I mean, apparently the listings are still out there, so it seems like it’s only a matter of time. I’d probably be looking to change my number because of that.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Yeah, I had the old phone number of someone in the military, and kept getting 5am texts and calls. I’m SO glad right now it was just soldiers trying to let him know they were running late or stuff like that, and not people seeking sex services.

  7. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’m with everyone who says “change the number,” but I think she’s got to keep it functional for a few months at least — because she sent out resumes with that number on them. Meanwhile, though, she can start using Google Voice on resumes from this point forward.

    1. Melissa*

      I think she could port the phone number over to Google Voice so she can screen her messages without calls ringing through to her phone, and get a new number on her actual phone.

      1. Kat A.*


        The solution is to CHANGE her number to a GV number, not keep a number that is attached to a prostitute.

        The problem is not getting messages for the prostitute, it’s the potential loss of employment ops if someone googles the number.

        1. Kat A.*

          * I meant to write: The “main” problem — the issue she wrote in about.

          But even if OP gets calls for this other person, that is another reason to change the number and not port it anywhere.

        2. Zillah*

          I think Melissa’s point was not that the OP should be getting messages for the prostitute – there’s no indication that she even has been. I read Melissa’s point as a suggestion as a way for her to keep access while her resumes using that phone number are being reviewed.

          1. OhNo*

            I agree. It also seems like this would be an easier way to do things – otherwise you would end up keeping the current number active on the phone for a while, then after you changed it you would be forced to keep the Google Voice number active for a while to accommodate the resumes you sent out with that number, while still getting a new number for the actual phone.

            Much easier to port the dubious number to GV, then get a new number for the actual phone that you can keep for a while. Then you don’t end up with resumes with three different phone numbers to deal with.

            1. VintageLydia USA*

              The problem with porting the number is it automatically cancels her current contract (f she has one) with can lead to heavy termination fees.

              1. Natalie*

                I wonder if she may be able to negotiate that down, given the situation and the fact that she isn’t actually ending her service. It certainly won’t hurt to ask.

              2. Kyrielle*

                Talking to her carrier might be the solution, though:

                Here’s the problem.

                What I’d like to do is get a new number to the cell phone, but keep the rights to the number it has now and port it to Google Voice.

                Can we do that without termination fees?

                They switch the number to her cell phone (first, so they know she isn’t jumping ship), but keep the other number active and hanging so that she can pull it into GV.

                And then she can forward and screen the GV calls as needed, and has a new number. When she’s sure all the resumes that had the “bad” number on them are out of play, she can either cancel GV, or drop the number and get a new one if she wants to keep using it in addition to her phone.

                If she doesn’t mind giving _everyone_ the GV number, she can do it the other way (get a new GV number), but if she wants friends/family calling her phone directly, and would prefer to just use a cell phone, it’s probably better to transfer the current “bad” number to GV – if she can get her carrier to agree to the scheme, after explaining the reasoning.

  8. Variation*

    #2, I appreciate your dedication to your job. The reasons you’re listing for wanting to check your work email seem less like pressing job matters that salaried and exempt jobs focus on, and maybe more on anxiety. While having access to your work email while you’re off-duty can be a way to manage your stress levels, it’s also a great way to burn out. I’d urge you to figure out why you’re worrying about work tasks when you’re not on the clock, or in a position where you’re paid to monitor these things. I had a lot of anxiety about controlling my work communications until I identified that it was an expression of my internalized impostor syndrome: I didn’t believe in my ability to get work done, even though I was excelling at it.

    In this case, your employer is recognizing that you have a life outside of work, and believes that your tasks are manageable during the time you’re paid to be on the job. That’s phenomenal, and speaks to their management and belief in your skills.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I don’t see where reading emails at home is going to reduce stress in any way. Matter of fact it could make it worse. What if OP found she needed the inputs of a coworker who did not get email at home? Where does one draw the the line?”I will quit checking email at 10:30 so I can go to bed.” Then that moves to 11 and so on.
      Additionally, some customers do not thank you for being available after hours, matter of fact, sometimes they can demand more and more from you.
      I think the boss is helping her professionally, if an employee is rested and has had time to take care of their own things then they are most likely to be their best at work. Very few jobs are without stress, OP. Taking care of yourself-eating good meals, rest, exercise- will do more to keep you sharp and professional than being available to work 24/7.

      1. MandyBabs*


        Work/Life Balance! Perhaps you may be new to the professional world – but this is something you really need to step back and appreciate. A boss telling you to NOT work on the weekends or beyond hours in the work day. This is good! And not just because it would be illegal if you did.

        I recognize your anxiety, but I think I could way to take that stress would be to give 110% during the work day. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t need a lunch break – then do that. Really structure your work day so you’re getting the most out of it. I like to really push myself each day to get my tasks done – I schedule a new task about every hour (and even slot time to answer email). Then when I leave for the day I know I’ve done my best and gotten what I need to do done, so I feel nothing about not answering emails/checking messages after I leave. I truly switch off at the end of the day and my work productivity is better for it.

        I’m also with Alison though – if you’re actual work is inhibited by not having access in the evenings, talk to your boss, but if it’s really just about you combating anxiety – I suggest you find a way to cope and enjoy your life!

        1. themmases*

          I agree with you. I like to handle work anxiety by working, too, because I hate the feeling of having something hanging over me. But the OP should be trying to recognize what types of messages are preventing them from enjoying evenings and weekends, and find a way to head that off during work hours. It’s great that people OP reports to understand that they can’t and won’t work from home, but if OP does it anyway then they’re setting themselves up to disappoint others.

          I have a similar work setup to the OP– I would love to do some of my work from home if I could access more of it. I often go home feeling like I can’t put my finger on it, but I just didn’t quite get the most out of the day and I’d love to sit on my couch and make up for that by doing more. The solution is really to find a way to account for more of your day, and if a message you have to return gives you anxiety, respond to it first so it can’t hang over you. For example right now I’m taking the timed break I always take after finishing a moderate-sized discrete task. :)

    2. LBK*

      I’m exempt and I do find it less stressful to answer emails at night sometimes – for one thing, it’s nicer to answer them sitting on my couch in sweatpants with a glass of wine than at my desk. I also like the feeling of a clean slate in the morning, so I’d rather bang through 20 emails at night so I can come in with a relatively clear inbox than have them sit overnight and immediately be stressed out the second I boot up my computer in the morning.

      However, I do agree that intending to this regularly is a recipe for a burnout. I think the OP needs to re-set expectations. If these were client issues that needed to be urgently handled, it’s up to the company to put something in place to handle that. So if it’s 24/7 coverage in shifts or having an on-call manager checking their Blackberry at all hours, whatever, but it’s nothing the OP needs to be worrying about.

      Maybe check in with your manager on expectations for turnaround time? Is there a reason you’re stressing about having these emails answered ASAP even after business hours, when any normal client is going to assume you aren’t there anyway and not hold it against you? Is there something that’s set a precedent to make you think this way, or is it just part of your nature to be highly responsive? I’m a response time freak but once I realized I was the outlier, not the norm, I became more relaxed and allowed things to sit for a few hours or (gasp!) even until the next day rather than making myself insane trying to get everything done in under an hour.

      1. #2 OP*

        I only check my inbox occasionally from home- once or twice a week… sometimes I go weeks or months without checking it at all. If I am expecting something I’ve also been known to check my email from home several times within a given hour. I like to be prompt.

        I guess it is the ambiguous disciplinary action threat that really rubs me the wrong way. I’m not really a rule breaker… I’ve always felt that if I don’t like a rule there’s no cause to break it when I can simply change it or find a way to bend it or move around it. Initially, I assumed this would be an easy inconvenience to outmaneuver.

        As a side note they have also banned off the clock work-related texting from personal devices.

    3. Labratnomore*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. If your employer doesn’t think these tasks are important enough for you to worry about when not on the clock, then they are not important enough for you to worry about so stop worrying. Obviously that is easier said than done, but I would put your effort into working on your personal anxiety issues rather than on trying to do unnecessary work during non-working hours. It will be the most beneficial for you personally and professionally in the long run, I am sure of it.

  9. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    You have my sympathies. I get itchy just thinking about not having access to my work communications whenever I want or need to.

    Also, your employer has my sympathies. We’ve had to crack down on things like this in the last year and *nobody* who has been told you can’t do [this] has been happy with us. I have to focus on being very patient as I explain 6 ways from Sunday that “but I’m salaried! not hourly!”, “but I don’t want to get paid for it!”, “but, it’s not like I’m going to complain about it!”, none of it matters if the employee is non-exempt.

    Beyond being the right thing to do, the liability to the company is enormous if we don’t follow the law.

    That said, I’m going back to my sympathies. Can you ask, what does it take for me to advance into an exempt position so that I can be free to work as I think benefits us all the most?

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


      Can I say that we used to be awfully ignorant about this stuff. It’s only recently, the last two years, that we’ve hired good HR. Prior to that we had more paperwork filing type HR folks. We’ve never once asked anybody to work off the clock so it didn’t occur to us that dedicated employees’ independent decisions were also leaving us liable.

      Good HR said “woah, peoples, you can’t let this happen”. And we’re like, “Really?”

      Avoiding legal troubles, one at time.

    2. #2 OP*

      Thank you for your sympathies. I’m pretty sure it would require a master’s degree for me to advance to an exempt position and sadly I am a long way from achieving that goal.

  10. Cheesecake*

    OP #2: Forgetting about the legal grounds, this is just not a good idea for you personally and (you won’t agree here) professionally. My husband has corp. email on his private iphone (his idea), because “taking care of business”…stuff. I see him checking emails and getting angry/anxious on Saturday evening about something he can’t do before Monday. How and who does this help? You absolutely have to switch off after work. You are nonexempt for a reason.

    1. Zillah*

      The OP probably would have seen it – I’m generally alerted when people want a read receipt. And either way, the OP having read it doesn’t change the possibility that it fell through the cracks. We’ve all gotten emails that we meant to respond to and didn’t.

    2. OhNo*

      It sounds like the OP would be responding to the second email, not the first. Since they didn’t open the second email until very recently, it would be honest to respond with a “whoops, didn’t see that message until now!”, even if the hiring manager did get a read receipt on the first.

    3. themmases*

      Read receipts don’t necessarily work across email providers, and generally when they do work the person has to agree to send one (or make it their default to send/not send when asked). At my last job we had a project where someone very senior to us wanted read receipt requests to everyone we contacted externally, and got very upset when we tested it and found that our Outlook/Exchange read receipt requests did not work for (at a minimum) recipients using personal Gmail accounts. Some Googling just now suggests that’s still the case.

  11. MaryMary*

    OP2, at my last job employees working unauthorized overtime was a huge deal. It was considered a performance issue. It sounds like you were considering ways to be above board and request the ability to work outside of your core hours, but since that door is closed do not try to find some under the radar way to log in. You wouldn’t be seen as a dedicated and overachieving employee, but as someone who can’t follow directions and who violates company policy when it suits them.

    1. Sigrid*

      +1 You don’t want to be thought of as “the employee who breaks the law” — even if you think you’re breaking the law in the company’s favor.

    2. chump with a degree*

      My employer just settled a class action lawsuit regarding unpaid o/t. We are having to input every time we come to work, leave, go to lunch…everything but bathroom breaks.

    3. #2 OP*

      Obviously I don’t want to break the law or put my employer in a questionable legal position- that’s why I sought out ways to exempt myself from this particularly inconvenient rule. I’m clever and find all sorts of marvelous ways to get in trouble, but I’m not a hacker or a rebellious rule breaker. :)

    1. jennie*

      For what purpose? In recruiting I have googled schools I’ve never heard of, but not a phone number. I trust the number they put on their resume is their actual phone number.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Do you do it as part of vetting candidates in hiring? Or for some other purpose? I can see times when you’d do it for other purposes, but I’d be interested to know if you’re doing it for hiring too!

      1. Kat A.*

        We do it because you never know what could come up. We google their names, their email addresses and their phone numbers. As a result, we’ve found some surprising information.

        I’m just saying that, yes, it happens.

  12. Rebecca*

    #1 – I have a friend who moved to a new area, and in the process got a new phone#. She’s a real estate agent. She ordered signs, business cards, etc. using the new phone#. Unfortunately for her, the number had recently belonged to a deadbeat who didn’t pay her bills. She owed everyone under the sun something. My poor friend found this out within hours of the phone# being turned on. The calls started to flood in, and they weren’t people looking for real estate showings. At one point, she had to get an attorney involved because she was being harassed so much by one of the collectors who would not believe she was not the person who owed them money.

    I wish there was a way to vet phone numbers before accepting them from the carrier.

      1. Ludo*

        Thanks for throwing up the NSFW caution flag there. I am familiar with Dan Savage and his normal column but didn’t even put 2 + 2 together until I saw your comment. Whew. That is not the kind of stuff I need to be looking at on the company laptop :)

  13. tesyaa*

    In my workplace, managers and exempt co-workers of non-exempts are discouraged from even emailing non-exempt workers at night and on weekends, in case it’s construed as a request to work. We can do it, but it’s considered prudent to word specific work requests to be done “in the morning” or “on Monday”, etc.

    1. jag*

      I don’t understand this. If it’s understood that the non-exempt worker is not supposed to be logged into company email at night, how can it be considered a request to work? That person wouldn’t see it in off hours.

  14. GreenGirl*

    OP#1: you can also contact the website and request they take the phone number off the site. This happened to someone I know. He started getting a bunch of odd calls and texts, googled his own number and found the offending site, then requested them to remove his number. The calls stopped in a couple of weeks and his number was gone within a day or two.

  15. Angelfish*

    #3 – I disagree on discussing this with your temp agency because their interests are not aligned with you here. Unless I’m misunderstanding how you applied for the full-time jobs, they only get paid if you stay in the temp position, so it’s not in their interests to help you interview for full-time jobs. I would view telling them you’re interviewing as the same as telling any employer you’re interviewing–not a great idea.

    1. HR Manager*

      Many of the agencies who place temp workers also have FT placement divisions, so they are happy to help with both. It’s a reality most temp offices have to deal with. In my post graduation days, I temped because I planned a vacation and wanted some play money. I told agencies that my long-term goal a few months down the line was to find a job. The reps I dealt with were understanding, but of course they would place you at assignments where the occasional absence was ok with the company.

      You can definitely strike a balance with both and a good agency will work with you. If you are finding your agency isn’t doing you service, then walk away and find a better one. As long as you are reasonable in your requests, it shouldn’t be a huge barrier. From the employer perspective, I am clear with the agencies when I can and cannot accommodate time off on the assignment so they can find the best temp available.

    2. Kathy*

      I agree with AngelFish. The temp agency number one focus to to have people placed. If they know someone is looking for a permanent position; a smart agency will also look for someone to replace them. In some cases; they will tell the employer you are looking for a permanent job and by the way; we have a replacement if needed. It would be up to the employer to decide.

      If you leave the job, they may be out of the contract. Most of the employers looking for jobs have contacted with at least five agencies in finding one contractor. They lose a contractor it doesn’t necessarily mean that the same agency will be contracted to replace that position.

  16. Persephone Mulberry*

    #5, best of luck on reaching out! It’s pretty awesome that THEY followed up with YOU when you didn’t move forward with their process. Replying back also covers your butt if you do apply there again in the future, so that you’re not “the person who blew us off the last time.”

  17. Frances*

    Sorry, but I disagree with the AAM response to OP#5 because it sounds like you are suggesting that the OP lie. OP knew that the first email was there and freaked out and froze up. It didn’t go to an alternate folder or get hidden. He didn’t see the subsequent email because he deliberately ignored the first. All I can think of with this question is that an important and potentially life changing email was sitting in his inbox for 6 months! What if this was a super important client or project?

    I do think the OP should be honest and contact the manager using a mix of his own and AAM’s text especially “I really regret missing out on this role and would love to be considered for open positions with you in the future.” The company might have other positions now or later that would be a great fit so it’s worth going for. If nothing else it will build his network. OP probably should figure out how to honestly answer the question of why he didn’t take the test in case that comes up in conversation with that hiring manager. If work and personal life were very crazy busy at that time, it is a reasonable to point to that. Good luck!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s perfectly honest. It’s about the second email, which the OP genuinely did not see. And if she’s going to respond, she really needs to be able to explain why it’s so late. Not addressing that is going to seem odd.

    2. Zillah*

      What if this was a super important client or project?

      This strikes me as really unfair – there’s a difference between avoiding a personal email (and job-hunting qualifies as that to me) and avoiding an email at work, particularly one dealing with an important issue. It’s apples and oranges.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This. Even if the OP really wanted and needed a job, no one is obligated to do job-searching stuff in the same way we’re obligated to do the things that are part of our job once we have one. We can all let job leads go if we like, for whatever reason. (And it might mean the employer doesn’t consider us later–but it’s still not an obligation.)

        1. Frances*

          Hi Zillah and Kelly. I see what you are saying. It is particularly hard when work is busy and when you get home you just need to either deal with personal life issues and find a balance to keep yourself sane. If OP’s life was super busy I get that this would fall lower on the list of importance. And no, we all don’t have to do our job searches the same. I’m just offering my opinion based on what I’ve seen in my hiring experience.

          There are two things that lead me to what I had originally posted that I hope explain why I said what I did:
          1) OP said this position was a “unicorn” and exactly what he was looking for. This wasn’t just any old job. This might have been the perfect job and I think that is worth carving out time in your personal life to address it.
          2) I also looked at this from the hiring side of things. I want candidates who are going to follow through or at least tie up loose ends. I’ve rarely seen starkly different behaviors/personalities in employees’ personal lives and work lives. Folks tend to behave similar in both. That’s why I made the association with the important client or project.

          I would totally understand if the OP was scared to take the test especially if their current work and professional life was stressful. You want to give something like that your best and I think he could frame his indecision about taking the test in that light.

          I’m probably in the minority here and I get that folks might see what I said as harsh. That’s ok–I guess I’m due for some critism here, but I stand by what I think in this situation. If nothing else, it might provide another perspective as to how someone who doesn’t know what was going on in the OP’s life at the time might see his actions. Apologies if I upset folks with this. It wasn’t my intention.

          1. LBK*

            That’s all well and good, but I still don’t see how AAM’s response would be lying. Nothing you’re saying is necessarily wrong (although I disagree that how you treat personal and work communications is always going to be the same since the stakes are different) but it doesn’t really relate to how the OP should respond now. She should apologize, VERY briefly explain what happened and say she’s still interested if they’re ever willing to consider her again. That’s what AAM’s example does. I don’t see the issue here.

            1. Frances*

              Hi all. I need to apologize.
              I’ve reread what I’ve said and I was wrong. AAM and LBK are correct that it is not lying to say the OP didn’t see the hiring manager’s follow up email (and perhaps if he had he would have taked the test). I guess subconciously I was mixing things up and seeing AAM’s note as if the OP hadn’t seen any message which he had (the original email).
              Again, my apologies.

  18. Joey*

    #2. There is a way around this. You could ask for access for “just in case” type scenarios, but that you understand and will abide by the rule. As long as you don’t tell your employer or allow them to know you are checking email after work they are not liable for OT. They are only liable if you work OT with their knowledge. And a policy prohibiting OT is a pretty good defense to that as long as you don’t tell them.

    1. Elizabeth*

      Uh, no, the employer is still liable even if they don’t know that the unpaid OT is occurring. The healthcare industry is dealing with the fallout of that for several year, as the Department of Labor has been using us as test case for dealing with the issue. We have to actively prevent non-exempt employees from checking their email (such as from a smart phone) and monitor to make sure no one slips through. If there is a business reason for a non-exempt employee to have remote access, we have to make sure that they understand what the rules are and that they must be clocking the time somehow.

      1. Joey*

        nope. Employment is defined by the Department of Labor as work that is suffered or permitted by the employer. If it doesn’t meet that definition it’s not legally work.

        1. Ludo*

          By allowing access, it is permitted. That is the key. Your argument has failed in the courts many, many times.

          The DOL and courts see it this way: by allowing access to email outside of work, you are subtly permitting the work even if your policies say you don’t. The reason? It is CRAZY EASY to prevent : restrict access.

          My company does it by login credential. You can only login to the webmail or setup email on smartphones, etc, if your login credentials are on an approved list. If they aren’t on the list, the login will fail. There you go, problem solved.

          1. Joey*

            It’s not quite that simple. Plenty of non exempt employees have access to perform work at anytime. Merely having access doesn’t mean it’s suffered or permitted. It’s no different than if an hourly person has keys to the building. If they come in and do work with no ones knowledge that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s suffered or permitted. Same as the guy who does landscaping. If he comes in on the weekend with no ones knowledge and trims some bushes he’d have a hard time proving a violation.

            1. Anna*

              I don’t understand how you’re arguing that’s it’s not the case when the DoL has itself said that it is. As has been pointed out, employers have been held accountable for OT they didn’t know about when it occurred because giving access implied knowledge. The point being that even if it’s not “suffered or permitted” if it happened, the employer has to pay for it and that’s why companies have policies like “no email after work” or “all OT must be approved”.

              1. Jamie*

                Missed a lot this week. Anna is right and this is how labor attys come down on it. Giving access is approval to use it therefore they are owed payment.

                I have been on the other side of this argument before and I would recommend the OP not push back on this.

                If there were a business reason they needed access worth the effort of tracking the time they’d get access. Arguing they would t expect the law to be applied to them is naive and comes off as if they don’t understand the concerns of the business and limiting liability. And it’s hard to diplomatically tell someone who insists they need access why the business doesnt need them to have it.

                Asking an employer to violate labor laws for their emotional needs to lessen anxiety would definitely not be good for anyone’s career.

                I have no idea why it’s a thing for some (not saying the OP) to think its a status thing to be constantly connected but they should just be happy they have down time. Careful what you wish for.

    2. tesyaa*

      Checking work email is working, so the OP would indeed be working without the employer’s knowledge.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      And if they find out, the OP could be fired, because she was specifically told not to work off the clock and told that checking email constitutes this. It’s not worth it.

    4. Joey*

      In other words if you deliberately hid OT and your employer prohibited it and had no other way of knowing about it they likely wouldnt be in violation of the law.

      I’m not saying this is a great idea,because at some point you might change your mind about it, but it is an option.

      1. HR Manager*

        An employee deliberately doing what the company asked you to do and then being deceptive over this is not a stellar employee — that’s a problem employee. If the OP is willing to trade her credibility, trust and good-standing with the company for the ‘peace of mind’, then I suppose that’s the employee’s call.

      2. Interviewer*

        How does your employer find out? Well, she responds to emails after hours. Even if she schedules the email to deliver the next morning, maybe one time she forgets and it slips through at 7 pm instead of 8 am. Boom. That’s how I found out about a non-exempt who had email access on a cellphone after a year, and I had to round up her supervisor and HR to get it resolved. It was not good.

        And if you’re just checking email, there are logs on the servers that show activity. Doesn’t matter if no one ever looks at them – the DOL won’t listen to a company’s excuse that “we had no idea she was doing this.”

        OP #2 – If you are determined to have after-hours access to email, you should consider how to make your case for it to your boss. For example, are there issues arriving that you need to solve outside of the normal workday? Are they truly time-sensitive issues that need a response? The most common example of non-exempts that have after-hours access to email are Helpdesk staff. Others might be repair technicians, or on-call workers.

        If this is not the case with your specific role, you might want to consider dealing with the anxiety about your work, rather than figuring out how to work more. Good luck to you.

        1. Joey*

          most courts don’t automatically require any specific measures. They just expect that you don’t turn a blind eye to it. But whether email monitoring would be expected would likely depend on whether you have anyone with that responsibility in your org.

          Look, again I’m not saying this is a great idea I’m just saying that if you hide it from the company and they have no way of knowing its likely not illegal. Obviously it’s risky from the employers perspective, but I can absolutely understand why it might help you do a better job.

          1. Anna*

            Your argument is that if they don’t know about it, it’s not illegal? That makes absolutely no sense at all. Let’s apply that to other scenarios. If you don’t get caught stealing, is it not illegal?

            1. Joey*

              courts have said the employer has to have an opportunity to comply. If they don’t know it’s happening and have no reasonable way to know there’s no way to comply. It’s the same philosophy that applies to discrimination. If you don’t inform the company and they have no knowledge that a co worker is legally harassing you there’s typically no liability.

              1. Anna*

                Except in the specific case of working OT the courts have ruled in the exact opposite of your assertions pretty much every single time and the major organization tasked with investigating if an employer is breaking the law have made it very clear that not knowing is not going to fly.

                1. Joey*

                  In the cases I’ve seen the difference is when they’re turning a blind eye to it or some supervisor has knowledge of unauthorized OT.

                  I would be hugely interested if you can refer to a specific case where the court said it didn’t matter that the employee hid the work from the employer.

                2. Joey*


                  Keller v summit seating

                  Forrester v Roths iga food liner

                  Jong v kaiser foundation health plan

                  White v Starbucks

    5. Ludo*

      I can guarantee the DOL would see the situation differently if/when something went down and the company was audited. It wouldn’t matter that the company didn’t know or wasn’t told. They would be liable for allowing their employee to work unpaid hours (and likely unpaid OT hours!).

      I would not hesitate to fire someone who put the company in that position. When I was hourly I didn’t really understand why it was so bad that I checked my email at home. Now that I am responsible for ensuring this doesn’t happen on my team, I get it. DOL doesn’t kid around on this issue and they don’t care about a company’s excuses. You give them access to email at home, you set up the potential situation, therefore you as a company are liable. Done and done.

    6. Liz*

      In addition to the other commenters, the employer will likely know when she’s accessing email out of hours. Most non-small companies keep server logs and monitor logins for security reasons, so they’ll know when she logged in, where she logged in from, what emails she read/replied to, how long her session was active…

    7. Observer*

      Firstly, it’s never a really good idea to lie to your employer. (Anyone, really, but this is about employment.) And telling your employer that you are gong to abide by the rules when you have no intention of doing is absolutely lieing. Definitely a fireable offense, right there, even if it didn’t put the organization at risk. And, audit trails do exist, even if the employee is careful, so this could absolutely be found out.

      Also, it doesn’t really matter if your employer would win if they got hit by the DOL. The exposure is still huge, because defending a case like this, even if you are on their side, is a huge expense – not just money, but time, attention and other resources. And, no matter which way a case like this plays out, you will probably find yourself without a job, and a burned reputation. Not a good place to be.

      You need to either make your case that you should be paid for the extra time (maybe work only 37 hours in the work week, allowing another 3 hours for after hours work, before hitting OT pay issues.) And find a better way to deal with your anxieties.

      1. Joey*

        I’m sure you know lots of employers look the other way or just wag a finger when someone works unauthorized OT. You won’t find too many employers firing a good performer for doing it until it comes to their attention multiple times.

        1. Anna*

          I think you’re basing that entirely on supposition or only knowing crappy managers. My feeling is that most companies would not be too impressed with someone who ignores directives and exposes the company to legal action in the name of productivity.

          1. Joey*

            Nope. I’m basing it on employees who generally don’t know how big of a deal unauthorized OT can be. They generally are putting the company’s interest before their own and that’s really not the folks managers generally want to fire.

        2. Observer*

          Thre are all kinds of employers. But here the employer has made it EXTREMELY, ABUNDANTLY clear that OT is OFF THE TABLE. Most employers do care when an employee does something that they have been CLEARLY and EXPLICILTY been told not to do, even with the best of intentions. In this case, the intentions are not really about the employer, but the employee’s anxieties. Most employer are going to say that they don’t give a hoot about the employee’s anxieties.

    8. jag*

      “You could ask for access for “just in case” type scenarios, but that you understand and will abide by the rule.”

      This is silly. The problem is the OP wants to do something they’re not supposed to do. The solution is to stop wanting to do it.

      And more generally, looking at email to see if there is anything that needs action is actually working.

      1. Joey*

        Depends. I’m not sure looking at emails would be considered work- I haven’t seen any of cases of that that have played out in the courts. Of course answering emails likely could be if you do it frequently enough or it ends up taking more than an insignificant amount of time.

  19. C Average*

    #2, you have my sympathies as well.

    My first position at my current company was a straightforward hourly role that very quickly morphed into something a whole lot bigger. I was frequently on email chains that included mostly more senior, salaried people, and the chains would go on well into the evening when I no longer had access. Every morning became a massive game of catch-up. Also, things were happening on my off-hours that I would have liked to be able to know about and deal with, but I knew I couldn’t without potentially getting my employer in legal trouble for letting me work without pay.

    I asked to be made exempt and eventually was. It took a long time for the change to be made–HR had to retitle my role and create a new job description, which isn’t a quick turn at a company as big as mine. Here are some of the reasons I provided to my employer why I needed to be exempt:

    1. Most of the email chains I was part of included a lot of salaried people. They could continue the conversation without me once my hours were up for the day. I often had meaningful things to say that could have changed or advanced these conversations, but I had to wait until the next day to contribute. Sometimes this resulted in the conversations going on pointless tangents I could have easily ended, or taking wrong turns I could have prevented.

    2. My role involved social media, and there were times when things were happening in our social media channels that demanded an immediate response for legal reasons. Being non-exempt meant I had to think about things like “if I go onto our message board and delete that unbelievably offensive and inappropriate post and then alert legal, as I’d do on a weekday, my manager will know I was doing work in my off-hours. I know I’m not supposed to, but it kills me to know these channels aren’t being moderated unless I’m moderating them, and that I’m only supposed to look at them M – F.” (It was actually such an incident, I think, that offered the most powerful catalyst for my role being made a salaried one.)

    3. My role interfaced with global teams. Want to set up a conference call with Europe at 6 a.m.? Better get the overtime approved or plan to be out of the office by 3 p.m. That kind of bean-counting was SUCH a pain in the ass.

    4. Dealing with backlogged tasks from my off hours and days. I had certain action items that automatically generated, around the clock. My colleagues learned that I was essentially off limits for new tasks from 7 – noon every day, because I was playing catch-up, and that Monday was completely off limits for new tasks. I’m sure this was as frustrating to me as it was to them. Once I became exempt, I could do a brief check-in every day and in the evening, bring those queues current, and know Mondays and weekday mornings weren’t going to be a massive ordeal.

    If you have a good case, as I did, state it to your leadership. They might be open to making you exempt.

    1. Judy*

      Regarding your #4, how would you be able to do things that take 5 hours in the morning in a brief check in during the evening?

      Roles can’t be made exempt, roles either are or are not based on the criteria in the law. I guess if your work met the criteria, but the pay wasn’t above the line, that would be “easy” to fix, but otherwise, most of the criteria are about the job duties.

      1. C Average*

        My role was social media-focused. I needed to read and moderate the threads. If a provocative post was left up overnight with no moderation or response, a long and difficult-to-moderate thread could easily result. But once I could check in regularly on our social media channels, I could quickly nip these things in the bud, making mornings something other than a giant pile of last night’s flame wars to deal with. (These weren’t just challenging to moderate; I’d often have to reach out to legal and other entities for approval, resulting in delays. It was much easier to deal with them before they had the opportunity to escalate to that point.)

        It wasn’t exempt when I started because social media was quite new when I started, and was just beginning to gain momentum.

        1. HR Manager*

          Judy is right in that jobs can’t be made exempt just because the company doesn’t want to pay the overtime. Sounds like how your job description was written the first time may have been very task focused rather than using words that convey the amount of right amount of discretion and autonomy you have in your role.

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        C didn’t say she was doing brief check ins in the evening – she is doing substantive work in the evenings so that she only has to do a brief check in in the morning.

    2. Joey*

      Just to clarify, exempt status isn’t based on the need to work at odd hours. c averages exempt status likely would have been based on the amount of judgement, discretion, and level of advanced knowledge required.

    3. #2 OP*

      @C Average- This is exactly what I needed. Thank you so much! I might be able to make a case to my employer and this gives me a great place to start!!

  20. Louise*

    #1: Go ask for a new phone number from your provider. My old co-worker used to get calls from guys looking for Julia on his work phone. They would call all day long until the company finally caved in and changed his number. XD

    People do look up numbers (I know I do), so it wouldn’t hurt to get another one if it is worrying you a lot.

    1. louise*

      Oh! Hi. Louise. I’m not sure what we do if we see someone else with our name…but I’ve been louise (lower case l) for a long time here. Clearly I wasn’t creative enough in selecting mine since it’s duplicated. :) Louise with a capital L, are you a new commenter or have I just not previously noticed you? I’m not trying to scare you off, just trying to figure out if I need to change my name.

    1. Poe*

      If you can pay for it, you can find a place online to tell someone about its relative value. The internet is a weird and wonderful place.

  21. Ludo*

    I just had to have this discussion with my team. They are all hourly employees. We are in preparation to allow them to get setup to work from home on occasion. Each and every one of them wanted to do this at the end of the day, at home. Each and every one insisted it was “fine” and they didn’t need to be paid for this time, etc, etc. I had to explain a few dozen times that 1. No, it isn’t fine to do this setup at home, off the clock and 2. It really doesn’t matter if they are ok with not being paid and 3. Yes, it will result in disciplinary action if they do it anyway because 4. they cannot waive this right and have been explicitly told this.

    I admire the dedication but not so much the disregard for the law. I understand why employees can’t waive the right (because there are employers who would coerce their workers to waive this right, if it was permitted and we all know it), but it is frustrating to try to explain this to well meaning workers.

  22. Natalie*


    If you literally worry ceaselessly because of unread work email, it sounds like an issue that is not going to be solved by getting after hours access or moving into an exempt role.

    Abnormal anxiety often gets focused on some specific thing, and it can feel like if you could just solve X you’d feel better. Which is true, for a little bit, but the source of your anxiety isn’t and never has been X so it’ll come back. You need to deal with the real problem and ignore the red herring of undone work.

    1. Labratnomore*

      =1 Anxiety will always find you, unless you deal with the anxiety rather than the current issue that seems to exacerbate your anxiety.

    2. #2 OP*

      @Natalie- I’m occasionally facetious. This terrible trait is reflected in dramatic ways in my writing. I don’t worry ceaselessly. I worry an appropriate and reasonable amount. Although I do very much enjoy the emotional payoff of a efficiently completing assigned tasks. Who doesn’t?

  23. Not an IT Guy*

    #2 – If they don’t expect you to work off the clock, then take advantage of it! This is a very good thing and I wish more employers enforced this. My employer expects me to work off the clock, no questions asked.

  24. Preston*

    Regarding number one. I would see if I could get it changed. Still weird though to find that on the Internet.

  25. beachlover*

    re#1. in a not quite similar experience. One of my co-workers received a company phone and the number used to belong to a Roofer, so he was telling me about all the calls he was getting for roof repairs. I looked at him and said, my bf is a roofer! He started giving the callers my bf’s number and giving me any messages with call back #’s. It has worked out very well for my BF. I wonder if OP has gotten any calls from clients of the “call” girl. And no I am NOT suggesting any side business!! :)

  26. C Average*

    One thing I’ve gotta add about unauthorized and unclaimed OT: it can really distort workload expectations for certain roles, and that can definitely create problems and is a good reason not to do it, DOL and legality and integrity questions aside.

    If Jane and Apollo have the same non-exempt role and Jane does a bunch of off-the-books OT, Jane looks like a rock star and Apollo looks like a slacker. As a result of Jane’s unauthorized OT, expectations for the role become unrealistic, and new hires who actually work the hours they’ve agreed to work can’t meet Jane’s standard. If Jane quits, she leaves a hole that one replacement can’t fill. At that point, her team may actually need 1.5 headcount to replace Jane, but they can’t quantify it because they don’t have any official record of Jane having worked 60 hours per week to achieve the productivity she did.

    1. Labratnomore*

      Yes, this can be a major problem. We even have that problem with exempt people here. They work 60 hours a week because there is always something to do, so they just do it even though it could wait until the next day or the next person got to it. It can really skew the view of management about the workload of the group it they are not aware of it. It also makes it very hard to adjust when the person leaves and the one replacement you hired just doesn’t seem to be enough.

    2. Natalie*

      It can also skew it the other way, hiding a poor performer. If you appear to be producing an adequate amount but you need 70 hours a week to do so, you might not be a great fit for the job.

  27. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – had that exact situation once. You change your phone number. Another bad situation – inheriting a phone number from a celebrity – who changed the old number because it was publicly posted somewhere. Never had that one happen, but my sister did inherit a number from a company that went bankrupt. That was a nightmare, too.

    #4 – it is merely another form of hiring from within. If the management has determined that it’s best that they hire from someone they know — you would be coming in as an outsider, even though you work for the same company. It might not be a situation you’d want to be in.

    1. some1*

      For #4, unless it’s standard that candidates from other locations are never considered, I’m guessing they already have a candidate picked out but have to post the opening per some policy.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Some time ago, I called b******t on a poster who claimed that in several years of running a non-profit, he/she never found someone from the lower tiers qualified to promote, and they always had to “go outside”. Either they were hiring the wrong people *OR* not grooming or encouraging people to advance *OR* wanted to pigeonhole lower-level people and try to cement them into their current slots.

        Many years ago, I did work in a company, where some groups seemed to go out of their way to hire ambition-less, non-aggressive workers.

        My thinking is this – if an internal candidate has most of the qualifications needed to do the job – STAY INSIDE. You can always use an internal candidate as a benchmark to “find someone better”. And if you look long enough, you will. “I know, Betty, you’ve worked toward this promotion for five years. But you only had seven of the eight qualifications we listed. This new person has all eight on her resume.”

        Yeah, right.

        The internal candidate may “come up to speed” faster than an outsider, plus, you have a “good professional example” inhouse. When other employees see “the passover game” being played, they become suspicious of management and begin to look elsewhere for career advancement.

  28. Student*

    #1 – Who changes their phone number any more? You know you can ask for your old number to be transferred to the new company, right? There’s actually a law (in the US). You might’ve missed your chance by now, though, not sure on the details.

    1. Cath in Canada*

      In Canada, too, as long as don’t switch provider and move to a new area code simultaneously (although some providers will let you keep your number even then). I’m very happy about this – I’ll never need to remember another number again!

  29. some1*

    For #4, yes, of course that’s legal. Annoying and a waste of time for the outside applicants and the hiring manager who had to reach out to all of you? Absolutely.

    If I were you I’d reach out to someone in HR and ask if they can make it clear in internal postings candidates that from other locations won’t be considered.

  30. sparkwoodand21*

    Counter opinion to #1: I sometimes Google phone numbers when I know the person’s number but not much is coming up on Google for their name. Or when all I know is the number and I’m trying to figure out to whom it belongs (i.e. when I miss a phone call from an unfamiliar number). But maybe I’m just weird and creepy. (I’m also not a hiring manager, and can’t really see someone who is one doing that in a professional context.)

  31. Just Visiting*

    OP #2: In addition to what other people have already said (haven’t read all the comments), attempting to work outside of scheduled work hours screws over your coworkers. Think about what happens if they say yes. Now your coworkers, who may have specifically chosen a non-exempt job so they don’t have to work outside a set schedule (hi! I do this!), are under pressure. They’re not supposed to work off the clock, but the employer lets YOU do it. They may think that to keep up a good image, they should also work off the clock or stress about not doing such. If a position is non-exempt, that’s because you don’t and shouldn’t HAVE to work outside of the schedule. So don’t. Nobody’s going to die if you don’t check your work email at home. I would be very angry if a coworker’s overachieving somehow impacted on my free time.

  32. #2 OP*

    @Just Visiting- Haters gonna hate.

    I’m kidding.

    I work really hard to accomplish my personal and professional goals. Meanwhile I balance that by being extra nice to my co-workers and making sure I lend a helping hand whenever I can. For the most part it seems to work- although I’m sure there are people that are constantly annoyed with my level of productivity with and without checking email at home.

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