asking sick employees to stay home, I don’t want to do the intern hiring, and more

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

1. Can I ask employees to stay home if they’re sick?

I’m the head of a team of 15-20 part-time employees who are paid hourly and do not get benefits or paid leave. It’s flu season, and some of them have been coming to work clearly sick–some to the point that they look like they can barely stay awake. Is there any reason I would not be able to instate a “if you’re sick, you can’t come in” rule to keep the germs from spreading around? I understand these guys want their pay, but when someone brings a disease into the office it spreads like wildfire, and the overall effect is detrimental to both productivity and morale.

You can indeed implement such a rule, and in general it’s good guidance to give people, both so that people aren’t spreading germs to others and so that they’re staying at home resting and taking care of themselves. However, it’s pretty hard to do this in a situation where people don’t have paid sick leave. If people have to choose between coming to work sick or paying the rent or the electric bill, most people will choose coming to work sick. In that context, you risk just driving it underground (i.e., people will still come to work sick but will try to hide it from you) and/or creating resentment about the lack of paid sick leave.

I know these are part-time jobs without benefits, but I bet you’d get better results if you offered paid sick days even to your part-timers.

2. Asking to be absolved of intern hiring duties

I work in a small design firm of eight people. I am squarely in the middle of the hierarchy; there are three people with more seniority (the owner, the director, and a senior designer) and three people who are more junior than I am.

Recently, the task of hiring interns for the office has fallen on me. I have been asked to review resumes, conduct interviews, and advise the office manager about which candidates to send offers to. The owner actually came to my desk the other day and told me that it was unacceptable that we didn’t currently have more interns and that this couldn’t happen again. So it would appear that he believes that I am in charge of hiring interns.

This makes me very uncomfortable for a number of reasons: 1) This is not part of my job description; 2) I have absolutely ZERO training in HR matters; and 3) I am not compensated additionally for performing these duties.

Additionally, I have a feeling that some employment laws are being broken. The office is very informal and questions about candidates’ ethnicity and sexual orientation are made post-interview, and this strikes me as not being kosher. Furthermore, the position that I have been tasked with filling is — to my understanding — illegal. It is a freelance/contractor type position (1099) but the interns are required to be in the office during specified hours, use company-owned computers, do not set their own rates, etc. Do I have a case for asking to be absolved of these duties?

Most people who hire interns don’t get paid extra for it, even if it’s not part of their job description; in small offices, it tends to be a duty that falls to the person who has the time and can reasonably do it. And unfortunately, most small offices don’t have a ton of HR training, if any, so that part isn’t outrageous either, although you can certainly ask for specific training.

However, you’re absolutely right to be concerned about discriminatory remarks and whether the structure of the position itself violates the law. But rather than asking to jumping straight to asking to removed from the work (which will leave those problems unaddressed), why not point out what you’re concerned about? For instance, you could say, “I have some concerns about how we’ve structured the position and how we’re assessing candidates and think we’re running afoul of the law — both by treating it as a 1099 position when the law greatly restricts when we can do that, and by remarks that people are making about candidates’ ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other areas that can get us into legal trouble (and shouldn’t be coming up regardless).”

If your manager isn’t open to changing course or — ideally — consulting with an employment lawyer, at that point it would be reasonable to say something like, “I’m not comfortable breaking hiring-related laws. For me to do the hiring work, we’d need to comply with the law. Otherwise I’d like to move it to someone else.”

3. Explaining a career shift that’s due to autism

I was recently diagnosed with high-functioning autism as an adult, and so I’m looking to transition from an HR people-focused role that I’ve struggled with, into a more data analytical role where I wouldn’t need to interface with people as much.

I don’t want to just say in my cover letter that my recently discovered autism is the reason that I’m looking to make a career change, since it is a disability that’s protected under the ADA. I don’t want it to either 1) cause them to not want to work with me, thinking that I can’t do the job, or 2) cause them to give me a chance simply because I’m disabled, since I don’t want special treatment.

However, I’m not being considered for these data analytical type roles because I only have 3 years of similar experience and that’s in an HR systems role only.Is there some way that I can explain why I’m looking to make the career change, without specifically talking about my disability?

I’d explain your reasoning without tying it to autism. For example: “After working in both people-focused roles and data-focused roles, I’ve found that I particularly shine in the latter. (Fill in specifics and evidence that you’re good at the data stuff here.)”

4. Can I ask my old employer to disable my old email account?

I recently left a mortgage bank. They still have my email address active with my name at the company, which means they’re still representing me as working there. Can I request that they no longer use my email as an email account?

You can certainly ask it, but they’re not obligated to change it. It’s not uncommon for employers to keep former employees’ email addresses active, so that they don’t miss messages that are sent to that person. It’s unlikely that they’re actively representing you as working there; unless you’ve actually seen that happening, I’d let it go.

5. My wages are being withheld because my boyfriend owes money

I was employed with a franchise McDonald’s in California. I went to pick up my paycheck and the general manager said she was keeping my paycheck and my boyfriend’s paycheck to pay back money he owed to her. Is she legally allowed to do that? I had nothing to do with their verbal agreement on the money she was loaning him from the company safe, nor did I sign any paperwork saying I would be responsible for his debt. My boyfriend didn’t sign anything as well. Please let me know what I can do.

No, she absolutely cannot withhold your pay because your boyfriend owes money. Say this to her: “I haven’t authorized you to allocate my pay to someone else, and under California law my wages need to be paid to me on our regular payday. I’d like to pick up my paycheck today, please.”

If that doesn’t work, contact the California department of labor and report that your wages are being withheld. California is pretty aggressive about intervening when something like this happens.

{ 345 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon Accountant*

    When any of my clients run a payroll with an employee loan/cash advance, they have the employee sign a loan form. OP5 ex boss is breaking the law without a doubt and should be reported.

    The part about the loan documents being a good idea is just a heads up to any readers whose companies may be small and don’t do those. It helped in a DOL case coincidentally to prove it was a loan between the company and employee and there was mutual understanding it would be withheld in installments from paychecks.

    1. Chinook*

      Even if OP 5’s boss had a signed loan document from her boyfriend, she is not legally responsible for his debts since they are not married (if they were, it would be less black and white). I can’t think what is going through the employer’s head to even think she is or what makes them think they can get away with that, especially since she is in California.

      1. LBK*

        If it’s service industry, I’m going to guess that the manager is younger/may not have experience in a more formal environment. I can totally see some of my old retail managers thinking that would be acceptable since the relationships tend to be more personal and less clearly boss/employee delineated. They probably also don’t have in-house HR that would jump to put a stop to this – usually it’s just district/corporate HR and someone would have to call them to get them involved.

  2. Stephanie*

    #1: Yeah, I don’t think there’s much you can do without offering paid sick leave or some alternate arrangement that allows employees to avoid a financial hit. OldJob was salaried and exempt, but we only got two days of sick leave a year, so our office was a petri dish. And even if you did request unpaid sick leave, it had to get approved by your boss and HR (and you’d get a guilt trip about “You absolutely sure you can’t come in? We really need to get that teapot report out.” when you did call in). Not proud of this, but I totally was the Office Typhoid Mary a couple of times. I tried to touch as few things as possible and wash my hands regularly. I wasn’t the only one doing this! And we were white-collar workers making decent-to-good salaries, so I’d imagine this would be even worse for part-timers with no benefits.

    I’d see if sick leave is an option. If that’s not doable, could your employees work remotely? Or work in a separate space?

    #2: Whhhaaa?! Why do you guys need to know your interns’ sexual orientation or ethnicity. Definitely shut this down.

    #3: Yeah, I wouldn’t mention the autism. Even though you’re high-functioning, you’d struggle with negative perceptions. I think if you just mentioned you realized your strengths lie on the quant-y side of things with some concrete support (learning data packages, taking classes, whatever) that should be sufficient.

    1. Green*

      Unfortunately, it is often groups trying to hire diverse employees that wind up discussing ethnicity and sexual orientation. Good intentions, still no bueno.

      1. maggie*

        That’s an interesting point, and one that was discussed last week or the week before (how to diversify your workforce without crossing the line). Thanks for bringing this up!

    1. Sick Days*

      If they paid sick people, then most of those “sick people” would call in sick – only to be spotted within 24 hours at non-“sick people” places like amusement parks, bars, live shows, nightclubs, parties, sporting events, you name it. Then what??? Demanding that they pay back their “sick pay”??? Have fun with that!!!

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        Erm…not everyone who calls out sick fakes it.

        Also, not everyone who calls in sick would stay in the house – I have been known to go and do chores etc when I’ve been sick from work.

        1. Windchime*

          Yes, this. Just because I’m too sick to work doesn’t mean that I am not going to run to the grocery store to get a can of soup and some cough drops.

      2. UKAnon*

        That’s a completely different issue.

        Issue 1: People who aren’t paid sick leave will come into work sick with an overall negative effect on productivity compared to giving someone a couple of days off to recover and not spread the infection.

        Issue 2: People misusing sick leave is a managerial problem about setting expectations and behaviours, then following through where there are issues.

        It should also be relatively easy to guard against this. The most common set-up over here is no sick pay for the first 4 days (working or non-working) and then Statutory Sick Pay – which is a set amount typically much less than normal wages but means you still have money coming in. So taking one day off for “non-sick people activities” you still wouldn’t get paid, but someone who’s generally ill can still receive some money during an illness of more than a couple of days.*

        *This is the Statutory minimum and companies can and do offer something more generous, like full pay from day 1. YMMV.

          1. Natalie*

            From the name Statutory Sick Pay, I believe this is the minimum that UK companies are legally required to offer. There’s nothing preventing them from going beyond the requirements of the law.

            1. Cat*

              Yeah, I understand that; I just think in this situation, that’s not going to discourage people from coming into work sick since most incidences of contagious illness are less than 4 days anyway.

              1. Zillah*

                I agree – it’s really only to help employees who are super sick anyway. (Unless it’s four days overall, rather than in a row – still don’t love it, but that would make a little more sense.)

        1. The IT Manager*

          That set-up is unlikely to happen for part timers.

          It most definately doesn’t resolved the issue the LW has – people come in sick because they aren’t paid if they don’t work. Not getting paid for the first four days means these people would still come in while sick because they need the pay.

          1. UKAnon*

            Yeah, that isn’t to say that it isn’t miserable – although it can work well for part-timers, because it includes non-working days, so if you’re ill for three days before your shift, you’ll still get paid SSP even if you then take three working days off – and as I say, most good companies offer coverage from the off.

            The other thing with SSP is that it lasts for a long time. It’s currently available for up to 28 weeks, with some minor exceptions. So although you may not be covered for more minor illnesses like flu, there’s a very strong statutory system for longer illnesses where you really do take a huge pay hit otherwise. I think that’s probably the trade-off.

            This situation of course highlights where it’s advantageous to offer it for any illness period, but I suspect that even having something like this would help. If you’re coming down with something and you know you’ll need at least a week off, at least you can consider taking the time off work without losing all of that pay.

            tl;dr It has it’s problems, but it’s better than nothing!

      3. Juli G.*

        So put a limit on it – 2 or 3 days for part-timers who don’t work daily should be enough to decrease the amount of germs shared in the office. I don’t think anyone is advocating unlimited sick leave.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Some places have insanely high absentee rates. I did some freelance writing for one institution, and on any given day, 40% of their workforce was out on sick leave / FMLA. This was strictly because they were gaming the system — that number dropped to, like, 15% if it was rainy or too hot or cold to be outside.

          1. Observer*

            That sounds like seriously messed up management – if it’s really true. But, getting rid of sick pay is not going to resolve that. FMLA leave is unpaid. And if abseentism is so high, lots of people calling in sick must have exhausted their sick pay as well.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Yep, true — they had the numbers to back it up. (They were instituting some goals to get it below 30%.) It’s a bad combination of low-skilled labor and unions. Not a lot of interest in doing a good job or in career advancement, and a huge amount of protection for bad workers.

              1. sunny-dee*

                Oh, I wasn’t meaning it was all paid. These workers only partly cared about pay — they wanted to take time off without getting fired. They’d take a half-day for FMLA for “doctor’s visits” or “caregiving.” And, really, they just wanted to take off early on Friday.

                1. Arjay*

                  While I’m not disputing the specific situation you encountered at this job, I just need to add that doctor’s visits and caregiving can be perfectly legitimate needs for half-days off covered by FMLA. I’m going through this with my elderly mom right now. Even though she’s in a rehab hospital, she still needs me there sometimes to interact with the staff, participate in physical therapy, and just to support her. I’m exhausted from trying to juggle my full time job and her needs, and without the protection of FMLA, I don’t know how I’d manage at all. Most people aren’t taking FMLA time to go to an amusement park.

              2. Observer*

                And seriously bad management. Low skilled labor doesn’t necessarily mean low work ethic. It DOES usually mean fairly low pay. If you have that many people without a lot of money who hate being in the job so much that they are willing to effectively cut their pay significantly, then you need to ask what is going on that is that bad.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          I’ve posted about it before, but I get sick a lot. I have an autoimmune disease that means I already have a crappy immune system, plus I work with a lot of people with young children. I do everything I can to stay healthy but some people just get sick more than others.

          1. Zillah*

            Ditto, for the most part. IME, sometimes people who are genuinely sick the most are the best workers, because we know that we need to make up for some of that lost productivity.

      4. MyKee*

        Do you really think that? That hasn’t been my experience at all. Most people just want to put in an honest 40 hour week and be able to stay home when they’re sick without endangering their ability to pay their mortgages.

      5. Helen*

        I doubt that the employer in letter #1 is going to start offering a huge amount of sick days a year. As such, the employees aren’t going to waste them. I had 5 sick days at my last job, and I never faked sick–and I hated my job, so it wasn’t out of loyalty. It was to make sure I’d have sick days left when I actually got sick.

      6. VictoriaHR*

        Sometimes my husband or I have to call in sick because of a sick child (like today). So my husband is home with the child, and when I get home I’ll take over and he’s going to go do something with his friends. Should he have not used a sick day because he’ll be out doing something “non-sick” tonight? I think you’re overgeneralizing here.

      7. Allison*


        If you allocate a limited number of sick days per year, say 5, some people might abuse them and blow off work, but how often can they do that? No more than five, since they only have that many sick days. Five times a year may not be good but it may not be the worst thing. And then, if someone uses all their sick days to blow off work and they get sick, they have to take unpaid time off. They’ll learn their lesson, in theory anyway.

        Still, a system where everyone gets sick days and some jerkbutts abuse them is still better than a system where no one gets any sick days.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          I agree. Plus, I think most people are not going to abuse it, i.e I think the jerkbutts (I love that) are the minority. We get 5 paid sick days a year (after that it’s FMLA/short-term disability). Last year, most of my immediate coworkers didn’t use all their 5 days (one person unfortunately got a bad stomach bug and used all 5 days to recover, sparing the rest of us from infection). I don’t keep track, of course; just going off how often I remember them being out of the office. More importantly, no one came in sick that I remember. I wasn’t out sick at all last year, luckily. Most years I’ll need to take like 1-2 days, which is enough to get over minor illnesses (colds, minor stomach thing, etc.) and not infect my coworkers (or come in to work only to spend the whole day on the toilet, not that that happened to anyone or anything).

        2. Laura2*

          Yep. And if workers felt like they were appreciated by their employers, didn’t feel like they were automatically under suspicion, etc. they wouldn’t “abuse” sick days at all. Most people don’t want to leave someone, a boss or coworker, with extra work when they respect them and feel respected.

      8. Enjay*

        Really? I have very generous sick leave and a balance of well over a thousand hours. I use a day or two a year at most and never to go partying.

      9. Observer*

        You mean that all of those people who are coming looking like they can’t hold their heads up are just playing an elaborate charade? Or that once they get sick leave they will magically stop getting sick?

        1. Kelly L.*

          Hey, they might get sick less…because they’re not all at work giving their diseases to each other! :D But yeah, I don’t think they’re going to magically turn into policy-abusing jerks overnight if they get this perk.

      10. INTP*

        Most full-time workers in most “professional” industries receive sick leave and manage not to wind up at the amusement park every day.

        If you offer people a limited number of days per year, then most will use it judiciously. Not TOO limited or they’ll still have to come in sick to use their days for things that are truly unavoidable like Dr. appointments and taking care of sick kids, but not “Anytime you claim to be sick you can still get paid” either.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yup. I think there’s some subconscious classism in thinking lower-wage workers are going to abuse sick leave while white-collar workers won’t.

      11. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s absolutely not true that “most” people’s sick days are fakes. Of course it happens but it’s far from the majority. People get sick, you know.

        And really, what are you suggesting? That employers not offer any paid sick leave because someone might call in when not actually ill?

        1. sunny-dee*

          Actually, I’d be all for it, if it were replaced with PTO. That way, it totally doesn’t matter whether I am sick or want to take off for a baseball game or need to do home repairs or whatever. No reason to worry about anyone lying — it’s all in the same time bucket. For professional jobs, it also helps to have flex time or work from home arrangements (though that wouldn’t apply to the OP).

          1. Bwmn*

            There are always advocates for this system – but the only time I ever worked somewhere that did this was a hospital. And the result was people dragging themselves to work sick as dogs because they wanted to save as much PTO as possible for “fun” stuff.

            1. Emily C.*

              See, I feel like its the opposite. We have generic PTO and I am skipping vacations and “fun days” because I’m trying to save up as much as possible to recovery for a surgery I need this spring.

            2. Windchime*

              Yeah, we have one bucket of PTO and I love it. It’s there to use when I’m sick, and if I’m not sick, then it’s a few extra vacation days. Most people schedule their vacations, and I’m lucky that I’m on a team where my work will wait if I call in sick or need a day off with short notice.

              Very few people come to work really sick here; it’s strongly discouraged and people know that they have sick leave to use if they are sick. We are in health care, so I think that makes a difference.

            3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              Yes. This is why we have two separate buckets – so that people will actually stay home when they are sick. It also allows us to be more generous, since most people won’t actually need all their sick time (I’ve got 400+ hours banked). We couldn’t afford for everyone to be out for the total of sick + vacation, but know that odds are that only about 1/4 of sick time is used. Also, we don’t pay out sick time when people leave, which means that we can afford to allow them to accumulate a lot. That gives people reassurance that if they get really really sick, they’ve got the time they need. If we had to pay it out when they left, we could never allows them to accumulate months and month of time.

      12. Koko*

        Then it’ll be their own fault when they don’t have any sick days left when they’re actually sick. Nobody is saying to give people unlimited paid sick days.

      13. Xarcady*

        I was out sick for three days with a kidney infection once. Apparently a co-worker spotted me at the drugstore on the second day and reported me to my boss–I was out shopping when I’d called in sick!

        Even after I explained to my boss that yes, I had left my home to 1) go to the doctor’s office, 2) go to the supermarket for gingerale and some food (single people who live alone sometimes have to go out and buy food even though they are sick) and 3) go to the drugstore to pick up prescriptions, she didn’t quite believe me. Despite the fact that I had worked there for 6 years and only taken 3 total sick days previously, I was written up on my annual review for abusing sick days, and it was clear that her opinion of me had changed dramatically.

        Sometimes even when you have sick days, you aren’t supposed to actually use them.

        As for #1–is there any penalty for your workers who call out for a shift? I remember when I was unemployed and working a part-time retail job. If you called out when sick you both lost that day’s pay *and* you earned an attendance point, two attendance points if it was a weekend shift. Rack up 5 attendance points in a 6 month period and you were fired on the spot. There were strong incentives to show up for work no matter how sick you were.

        1. HR Manager*

          That sucks. I used a sick day once for vision correction. The procedure took all of 15 minutes or so, and I could easily have been out and about the rest of the day (except with an eyepatch and dark sunglasses), but doesn’t mean I would have wanted to stare at a bright computer screen for the rest of the afternoon. I wouldn’t have lasted long if I had to. This is why you don’t rush to judgment against folks without getting the whole story.

          1. The IT Manager*

            I went to the eye doctor a few days ago. I ended up having to delay my scheduled return to the office because I still couldn’t focus on a computer screen despite the fact that I seemed okay in every other way. Eye dialation was not nearly the problem it used to be for me as I had zero trouble safely driving home with my normal sun glasses. I didn’t notice the problem until trying to focus on a screen.

            1. NoPantsFridays*

              I went to the eye doctor in October and let me just say, boy am I glad I got a Saturday appointment (I work only M-F). I drove home just fine, then as soon as I got home developed a headache, got dizzy and nauseated, and almost vomited. I could barely stand up. I had to sleep it off with sunglasses on and the shades drawn. It was a morning appointment and I didn’t feel decent until about 6 PM. It took me 2 days to feel normal again! I’ve had a bad reaction every time I’ve had my pupils dilated, even when I was a kid/teen, so I think it’s just “a thing I have to deal with”. I definitely would not be able to work the rest of the day though!

              1. maggie*

                OMG, I was *just* talking about this exact reaction with my coworker! I faint every single time I get my eyes dilated which is why I refuse to go back and get my vision checked this year (my glasses aren’t doing the trick anymore, they’re from 2006). She said her husband does the same thing, so you’re not alone!

                1. NoPantsFridays*

                  Interesting! I’m glad to know I’m not alone but sorry to hear you and your coworker’s husband have similarly bad reactions! FWIW, I only get the dilation every few years. I tell the optometrist I have a bad reaction and they just do the rest of the eye exam and give me the script for glasses and contacts (I usually wear contacts, so I get both, but if you wear only glasses then you can get the script for glasses only). So you could probably get your vision checked and prescription updated without dilation. Now that I’ve found an optometrist I like, I think I’ll keep going back to her and hopefully she won’t ask me to have the dilation again this year!

                2. Connie-Lynne*

                  My doctor lets me skip dilation every other visit — it’s part of the cataract check, not required for a new Rx at all!

                  Maybe you can ask your doc to do the same?

                3. Allura*

                  OT, but there’s another test that some practices have that doesn’t use dilation and can actually see more of the eye. My practice charges me for it, the difference between what insurance pays for the dilation test and the cost of this one, which is worth it for me because eye drops give me panic attacks. Commercial name is Optomap, it looks like.

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            My spouse has to have a annual or biannual vision checkup in Portland, and it requires that someone else drive after the appointment. So once or twice a year I take one of my few sick days to drive the few hours to Portland with him. We’ll hit Powell’s before the appointment, and then I drive him home while he wears dark glasses. It’s kind of fun for me, and I do ask “are really you sure I’m allowed to take this as sick?” And the answer is yes. But even with that, I almost never take all 5 of my allowed days in the year.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Your coworker and manager both suck in this situation. Coworker needs to mind her own business, and boss shouldn’t have given that kind of rumor mongering an audience.

        3. Koko*

          “single people who live alone sometimes have to go out and buy food even though they are sick”

          And what fun it is. I never miss my mom more than when I’m sick. The worst is when you know you need to eat something and you actually even have food in the house, but you’re having trouble being on your feet long enough to actually make the food because you keep getting dizzy/light-headed/nauseated/headachey from the extra exertion. Feed a fever, starve a cold? If you’re a single person living alone, you end up starving everything.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Yes. The very worst was one day when I got sick mid-day. I had to drive myself half an hour home but had to stop along the way to throw up in someone’s bushes. Not my finest moment. Then I had to take myself to the grocery store to buy medicine and ginger ale even though all I wanted to do was crawl under my covers and never come out.

            Nearly as bad was waiting in an interminable line at the pharmacy for painkillers after getting my wisdom teeth out. I’m sure I sounded drunk because I couldn’t move my lips properly, but the pain was starting to get through the anesthesia. Too bad they won’t prescribe you the painkillers the day before the surgery…

            1. maggie*

              Instead of gingerale, try benedryl. It’s amazing on a sick tummy, and then you can sleep all day and feel better when you wake up. They even make liquid baby benedryl if you’re worried about the pill staying down (which I have never found to be a problem even during hard core nausea).

            2. Agile Phalanges*

              I’ve been prescribed antibiotics and painkillers in advance of the surgery. But not when I had my gallbladder out unexpectedly–got to go to the store with my then-boyfriend, hunched over and shuffling, to fill the prescription and buy some comfort food for the next few days. And drove myself home, too, since I’d driven myself to urgent care with a bellyache and didn’t want to leave my car at the hospital for the next however-many days.

              1. TrainerGirl*

                I had my gallbladder out years ago but still have bile duct blockage “attacks” and had to drive myself to the ER right before Christmas. They wouldn’t agree to give me anything for the pain until I called a friend to come pick me up, which meant we had to go back the next day to get my car. Being single and sick is no fun….nothing worse than having to take yourself to the grocery store/pharmacy/etc. to pick up prescriptions and food when you’re in pain or just feeling miserable.

          2. CreationEdge*

            Not just single people. An Enterovirus recently hit my household. I lost most of my week of work. My wife spent the night in the hospital for dehydration. I was left to take care of our young son. I zombie shuffled through Target for some Immodium, Gatorade, and foodstuffs for my son.

            If anyone would have had the gall to accuse me of not being sick I think I would have immediately started job searching. Thankfully, my work environment is very understanding of illness. Plus, knowing my illness, I don’t think anyone would have wanted me in.

        4. Margaret*

          This is just awful. When I was four (in the 1980s), I had a terrible case of the chicken pox. My mother took a few sick days to take care of me, and one of the evenings, my grandfather (who lived with us at the time) took care of me when he got home from work so my parents could go for a dinner out. Apparently, one of her coworkers saw her out to dinner, reported her to management and she was either written up or fired, I can’t remember. It was totally crappy, because she hadn’t lied – she told her boss that it was me that was sick, not her. But apparently, if she wasn’t slaving away at the side of a (probably sleeping, by that time of night) four-year-old, she was abusing her sick leave.

      14. HR Manager*

        This is a bizarre statement. I know plenty of people who actually use sick days for that – being sick.

        So to prevent the 1-2 fakers who might use a sick day inappropriately, you would rather force everyone to come in, sick or not, and potentially spread the diseases within your office and probably lose untold hours of productivity instead?

      15. Merion*

        You know, in Germany, you get paid if you are sick and you can be sick two days without bringing a doctor’s note, you just have to tell people that you are sick. If you are sick for longer, you bring a note from the doctor stating that you are sick and are expected to be fit for work on a day in the future. If you don’t feel fit, you can get a note extending that period.

        If it were the way you’re saying, nobody in Germany would work. Instead you still get people coming in with a cold because they are not sick enough to call it sick.

    2. Alma*

      I worked briefly for a small company; the owner was very proud of offering basic medical insurance, and a $200 employee loan (no questions asked). The problem was (as I talked to people in the shop) that no one could afford to use the medical insurance because there were not paid sick days/personal days. The shop was in the industrial district, on the edge of town. AND the employees were contracted for 35 hrs/wk with mandatory overtime. So the first hours they lost were overtime hours that made the job worth having. So everyone came in sick.

      I agree. A certain number of sick days – even if you don’t offer insurance – would be very valuable to workers.

  3. Dan*


    If your job description entails “other duties as assigned”… Guess what hiring the interns is considered?

    You have some valid concerns with the legalities of what the boss is proposing.

    1. BRR*

      And even if it doesn’t say other duties as assigned. Not knowing the OP’s position or work structure it may make the most sense for them to be the one who hires. I suggest looking at it as an opportunity to add to your resume.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        Being asked to hire the interns is definitely a great opportunity! The OP will learn a great deal, be able to have an impact on the success of your agency and build the capability of students in the industry. The OP should not pass this up.

        In addition, they can change the way things are being done now. It is not unusual for a small organization to not know or appreciate many employment law issues. The OP can put a process in place to make sure you are recruiting, selecting and hiring the best candidates (including ensuring that race, gender and sexual orientation are not discussed). Inexpensive external seminars are available if the OP needs/wants training. And the OP should definitely look into the independent contractor issue. Research the facts and present them with pros and cons for having them continue as an independent contractor or to be transitioned to a temporary employee.

        Good luck!

      2. Boo*

        New stuff to add to the resume is good, but I’d also suggest OP pull together a case for getting a foundation. HR qualification on company time/dime, too. Looks even better and will give both the OP and company confidence that the HR side of things is being done properly. This is what I’m doing at my current job :)

      3. themmases*

        Something isn’t necessarily a good opportunity though if you don’t want to do it. We see questions here all the time where people get trapped in a job duty they hate because they agreed to do it once, or their new boss found out they learned to do it at their old job– even if they left in part to escape that task. If OP2 doesn’t want to be involved in hiring, then why would they want to be hired in the future based on knowing how to do it? I could see adding something unpleasant to your resume if it’s a necessary evil of your job, but hiring isn’t necessary to the job of a designer. If anything, I’d guess that design is a field where many people want to be individual contributors and if they want more control over anything it would be creative, not administrative or hiring.

        1. INTP*

          Yes, exactly. Everything has an opportunity cost and burdensome, time-consuming projects can have very considerable opportunity costs. If OP’s peers are being put on new clients and new projects getting new types of hands-on experience in their actual jobs or visibility with higher levels in the company while the OP is busy trying to wrangle interns, then the OP is being put at a disadvantage. You can’t really say out loud that you don’t want to take on something needed by the company because it isn’t valuable for your future earning potential, but it can be worth trying to get out of those tasks tactfully.

          There’s also the fact that even if the OP is required to do this task with no training or support, the OP is also probably going to be the person held responsible for any massive failures, and HR tasks at a company using illegal employment practices is a landmine for high-visibility failures. It sounds like OP is doing their research and trying their best but if they miss something and the intern program gets sued, is OP’s boss going to step up and take all the blame? Probably not.

      4. AdAgencyChick*

        For #2 — yes, they can ask you to do something that isn’t part of your job description, and, as someone posted above, this is a great opportunity to add to your resume.

        That being said, you have an opportunity to “manage up” to try and delimit the duties in a way you’re comfortable with. If you’re not careful, unspoken expectations can turn your work-life balance upside down or turn your job into something totally different from what you signed up for. So if I were you, I’d take your instincts of “I want no part of this” and channel them into “I want to make sure this doesn’t take over my job.”

        I noticed that the owner said to you that the lack of interns was unacceptable — NOT “I need you to be in charge of the intern hiring.” So I think the first thing to do is go to your supervisor (I can’t tell whether that’s the owner, but I’m guessing not) and say, “Owner said this to me. Am I in charge of hiring interns?” Your supervisor may put the kibosh on this immediately — “No, no, no, that’s my job!” — or she may say, “Yes, I need you to do that.” Even just getting a verbal acknowledgment of that is a big step, because it now means your supervisor is aware that you have a new duty on your plate. You can then talk about how you should go about doing that and how much time your supervisor expects you to devote to hiring interns — because you can then point out that you have that much less time to devote to whatever it is your supervisor had you doing before.

        Part of that talk about how to go about hiring the interns, then, is talking about the legality of the hiring process — and yes, as Alison says, I think you can push back hard if the response is, “Oh, just hire them as 1099s.” If your manager and the owner are reasonable people, you should be able to say, “I think that might be illegal and has the potential to get us in a lot of trouble, and I don’t feel comfortable doing the intern hiring unless we pay for an employment lawyer to advise us.”

        After being all roundabout…my point is, it’s your job to point out the issues that you need management’s help to resolve, rather than pointing out things you don’t want to do. That should help you draw the lines around this new duty in a way that doesn’t eat your life.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          PS, this is a great example of a situation in which you will look like a rockstar if you can bring your boss a solution along with the problem. If the upshot of the first discussion is that it is, in fact, your job to hire the interns, the way you solve the problem doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to devise a recruiting plan and go through all the resumes yourself. You could also look into recruiters and HR consultants who could bring in resumes or read them for you and narrow them down based on a set of criteria you give them — and if the cost is manageable for your company, they may prefer to do that rather than have you spend a lot of your time on something you’re not an expert at.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      You can have employees do things that aren’t in their job description whether or not that phrase is present, it’s just a way to manage expectations and win arguments.

    3. Ann without an e*

      I am sorry that you are being taxed with something you don’t feel you are qualified for…. I think your management made the right decision in choosing you. Without any prior HR training you instinctively knew that the questions they are asking and the discrepancy between the job title and description are both illegal. You knowing this and pointing it out will protect the company legally. I think your managers realize that you have good instincts and a broad talent base. When working in a small business being able to wear a lot of hats is a good thing. I think this is an amazing opportunity for you to become indispensable.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      Hiring interns (or other staff) is actually one of my favorite collateral duties. I don’t know why – I just love it. I love looking at resumes, trying to figure out what a person is like, laughing at terrible resumes, interviewing, getting to know them, etc. I just love it – I always volunteer for those things when they want someone to do it.

  4. Libretta*

    At my office, people drag themselves in even when they are salaried and exempt. This happens on the teams where they are so understaffed that if one person misses a day, the whole team will fall behind (a laboratory that processes patient samples, so they have only a tiny, unpredictable window of time to do the work). The powers that be have the money to hire, and are advertising, but no one has time to interview anyone. This has been the case for over a year. People have come in with Pneumonia, H1N1, etc. One woman kept coming in until she landed in the hospital. It really makes me angry, for the rest of the office’s safety, and for the patients that could be affected by their illness. Our company policy is to stay home when sick, specifically to protect patients, but it is definitely not enforced.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I keep seeing it on these morning news shows that Americans are “scared” to take time off including sick, personal and vacation days. And even when we do, we do not completely “unplug” from work. I actually do believe this and I think (bad) managers and certain work environments create this feeling in workers. I am grateful to not work in an environment like that now but when I hear a friend who sounds a quarter past death still trying to decide if they will come in because “what it will look like” if they call out of work sick, I am shocked.

      I see it from both sides of the coin and I am assuming right now that many of those part time workers are not working part time for funsies and would be full time with benefits if the company could manage that for them. I know staying home would mean missing out on money which could lead to a downward spiral effect if it isn’t there; however, this is not fair to the folks in the office environment.

    2. Kelly White*

      I’m salaried and exempt and I don’t get sick days.
      I’m also the only person in the company who can do 1 particular thing. So, I work remotely on my vacation and any days off. And when I work from home, it doesn’t count. I still have to take a vacation day. Or take it unpaid.
      I come in when I’m sick. I’m not proud, or happy about it.

      1. Xarcady*

        And how is your company going to get that One Particular Thing that only you can do done, when you get so fed up with never having a real vacation that you find another job and quit?

        Or even just get sick enough that you can’t come in?

        This is very, very poor planning on the part of someone at your company. Not you, obviously, but someone.

    3. Anonsie*

      Oh yeah. There’s a big fat balance between needing to keep sick people out of a medical practice and still needing to keep the practice running as needed, and it always seems to come back to trying to hire enough people to keep a decently sized staff.

    4. INTP*

      At my old office, salaried exempt people with vacation time would do the same thing. The manager was not a very skilled or intuitive manager and was inexperienced yet very old-school at the same time. She wouldn’t let people work from home even though most could do so. When someone tried to call in sick, she would pressure them to come in, regardless of what they claimed to be sick with. As a result, people would come in sick, get everyone else sick, and then we’d all be sitting around not doing much work because we were sick and resentful about it. As I said, crappy manager. TBH, I also blame people caving to her pressure, because I know her thought processes and am sure she was thinking everyone must be faking sick if they can be talked into coming into the office so easily.

  5. Chocolate Teapot*

    4. How “recently” is recently? From experience, email addresses for former employees are left active for a period of time (3-6 months) with a transition and contact details for the replacement.

    1. hayling*

      At my company, email addresses are just indefinitely associated with the former employee’s manager.

  6. ZSD*

    What on earth is this McDonald’s manager thinking? If the couple were married rather than just dating, it would still be ridiculous, but at least then I could sort of understand the manager’s (wrong-headed) reasoning. But withholding pay from someone’s girlfriend, who could break up with the lendee tomorrow for all the manager knows? That’s just nuts.

    1. jordanjay29*

      They do it because either the McDonald’s manager is ignorant that this is actually illegal, or because the McDonald’s manager thinks that the employee is ignorant that this is actually illegal and can get away with it. Either way, it’s illegal and the gap in education needs to be corrected (preferably by a suit with a government ID badge).

      I fear all too many people don’t know their rights when it comes to things like employment, renting, contracts and so forth and get taken advantage of.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      It’s outrageous behaviour no way is the OP jointly liable for this debt. All I can think is the manager is worried about getting the money back, (the OP has left the restaurant maybe the boyfriend has too) and this is the managers hamfisted way of making sure there’s no bad debt or awkward questions about why the safe is short of money, which will make them look bad.

      1. UKAnon*

        This was my thought – the manager didn’t follow correct procedure/wasn’t supposed to do it and is now trying to cover themselves in any way they can. Which, unfortunately, would seem to just be leading to more trouble!

        This also illustrates – in a way I have never seen before! – the dangers of working with a romantic partner. I know I’d be most annoyed at the manager but also a bit annoyed at the boyfriend for getting me dragged into this in the first place by not paying it back.

        1. Natalie*

          Note, though, that we don’t know what’s going on with the loan. If the manager didn’t follow procedure and is now trying to cover their tracks, they may have called in the loan before the agreed upon due date.

            1. Natalie*

              An oral agreement is still an agreement. Presumably they had *some* discussion about when it would be paid back. So at this point, who knows if OP should be irritated with her boyfriend for not paying his debts or if his boss called the loan in early so they wouldn’t get busted.

        2. EEE*

          I imagine that’s exactly what the manager desired–that rather than thinking “wow this is illegal, and I’m going to quote the law at her and if that doesn’t work, I’ll file a complaint” she would think “ughh I’m so annoyed at BF for putting me in this situation, I’m going to bug him to pay her back so I can get her money.”

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yup. And for OP’s fear of getting in trouble with her immediate bosses to outweigh her faith in the law to have her back. It’s really common, I think.

      2. Beyonce Pad Thai*

        That’s my take as well. The manager should never used company money (!) to give a loan to an employee, now she can’t explain where it’s gone, so she’s resorting to this to cover her ass.

        1. Kelly L.*

          This. I’m pretty sure the manager wasn’t supposed to loan anybody money from the company safe at all, and now she’s panicking.

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            Oh, 100%. The manager gave the BF cash from the safe. Even if McD’s has a payday advance policy (which I strongly suspect they don’t), there’s no way cash from the safe would be the way to do it. If the manager didn’t make the employee sign anything about the loan, she knows she has absolutely no way to recover that money. And she’s screwed, because she’s going to get fired when that missing money is discovered (as well she should).

            1. Shell*

              How in the world did this person make manager if she doesn’t understand she can’t loan or advance anything out of the company safe? (At least not without a mile-long list of approvals and paperwork, and maybe not even then?)

              1. Lyssa*

                Oh, I’m sure that she understands it’s not allowed. Doesn’t mean that she thinks she’s bound by it.

              2. Anonsie*

                Manager of a restaurant or a store? I guess by working there a few years and not being completely unreliable (in my experience).

    3. Anon Accountant*

      I’m thinking the manager wasn’t authorized to loan out money from the company safe, panicked and is desperate to get the money back into the safe.

      1. JB*

        Doesn’t matter. That’s like if your neighbor voluntarily raked the leaves out of your yard and then demanded $50 for doing your yardwork. You can’t demand money from someone when they never agreed to give it to you. She has no legal grounds to stand on with this.

    4. sunny-dee*

      One thing springs to mind — if nothing is written down, the manager could turn around and accuse the boyfriend of stealing if it doesn’t get paid back.

    5. Nichole*

      Since the manager can’t cash their checks anyway, I wonder if the manager thought that withholding OP’s check would spur Boyfriend into action on paying back the loan- pay me back NOW or this person you care about is out of luck. He can take the loss and refuse to pay it back, but he wouldn’t leave her hanging by sacrificing her check to the manager, so now Manager has Boyfriend over a barrel. Manager obviously didn’t count on the fact that OP’s not stupid (and Boyfriend probably isn’t either). I agree with the rest of the peanut gallery, Manager probably broke protocol and is grasping at straws to fix it before getting caught.

    6. INTP*

      She’s probably thinking, “I can extort this money from my employees because I have the power to give them horrible shifts and take away their hours if they displease me.”

      Though I’m a bit confused by the “I was employed…” I guess this logic doesn’t hold if she’s still trying to steal money from former employees. In that case she still probably thinks that they lack either the knowledge that it’s illegal or the resources to do something about it (i.e. she thinks they’d have to hire lawyers and sue her). I have a hard time imagining someone not knowing that even taking the boyfriend’s pay is illegal. Unless you have a written agreement that something will be taken out of wages, you still have to give them their pay and then sue them for the money they owe you.

  7. Dyethshome*

    In re 2: This may well be one of those “need to hire a local attorney to get an answer” kinds of questions, but I wonder: what kind of responsibility does the OP have if these kinds of laws are broken? Is it something that could cost her company money in fines? Or is it something where the OP is singled out for penalty?

    On reflection, I think OP needs to be careful to take the correct tone in bringing these issues up to their management, who might have a “shoot the messenger” mindset: they may not appreciate being informed that they need to make major adjustments to comply with the law. I don’t mean to sow paranoia. But be careful. I’d personally be more concerned about the 1099 issues than the ethnicity and sexual orientation issues (especially at a design firm).

    1. Felicia*

      I have wondered this as well…a lot of my friends have been responsible for hiring interns, and the vast majority of internships in this province are illegal technically. We’ve all been unpaid interns, we all know it, but what are we to do about it? There’s a reason why illegal internships are super common and no one ever sues .

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I’m not a lawyer, but there are very few cases where the person hiring the interns is legally liable. The fines and penalties would be imposed on the company itself. If it’s an LLC, then the Board members might have some personal liability, if it’s an LLP/partnership/sole proprietorship, then the owners/partners probably have some personal liability as well. But it would be a rare case for an employee with no ownership stake in the company, or with no specific liability (such as being on the board of directors of a company or non-profit) to be held liable for breaking employment law. But, again, IANAL.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep. Board members might have some liability (although that’s rare, and the organization would have D&O insurance anyway to handle that if it happened), but basically any penalties would be for the company itself, not the staff member who was doing the hiring.

  8. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, think about how much your employees must need (not just ‘want’) their pay to drag themselves to work when they’re so sick that they can barely stay awake.

    1. Rebecca*

      When I was younger and had a small child, I worked at a company with no sick time, very stingy vacation time, and penalty points for calling in sick, missing any work at all, or being more than 3 minutes late. It was an office job, not manufacturing, but the rules for non-exempt personnel were pretty awful.

      1 day off work meant a 20% pay cut that week, and with already low wages, and more bills than paycheck, I simply couldn’t afford it. I worked with the flu, fevers, strep throat, etc. I’d go home and collapse, do the bare minimum at home, and get up the next day and just pray for the weekend. It was bad enough that I had no paid sick days, and I couldn’t use vacation days because they were mandated to be used in July and December during company shut downs, but on top of that, I got dinged attendance points for being sick. 12 attendance points in a rolling calendar year meant termination. When I had my wisdom teeth out, I was out of the office just long enough in the AM to go to the dentist, then it was right back to work for the rest of the day/week because I couldn’t take the pay cut.

      We are not machines, and we get sick. Paid sick days are such a kind thing to provide to employees.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        I ABSOLUTELY HATE any system that punishes people for being sick. Penalty points? Every time I hear about these systems my blood boils. I also hate companies that create so much damn disparity between exempt and non-exempt employees (and sometimes animosity!!)

    2. Suzanne*

      I worked as a contractor for about a year in a desk job, not project oriented! So it wasn’t as though anything was in dire straights if someone missed a day. We contractors were graciously (sarcasm drips) granted 7 days per year of any kind of leave-sicknesss, medical appointments, or just needing to be out for a day-all unpaid. After the 4th day, you were on probation, after the 7th, let go. People came in hacking, coughing, & feverish and sat in their cubicles in a poorly ventilated room with no windows. One woman was so sick she was told by the head manager to go home, but then was put on probation as it was her 4th incident (she had young children who, of course, got sick on occasion). Talk about a germ breeding ground. Another woman was put on probation for missing several days due to a miscarriage. I wish I was making this up.

      So, seriously, give your employees some sick time and I am sure your office will cease to be a breeding ground for disease & distrust & disillusionment.

      1. Zillah*

        Another woman was put on probation for missing several days due to a miscarriage.


        (Also – couldn’t this theoretically be legally problematic because it’s penalizing for something that only affects women, and for a condition – i.e., pregnancy – that you’re not supposed to discriminate over?)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It would depend on how they treated others who missed work. If they treated everyone the same way, then I think they could legally get away with it. It’s when they treat pregnancy differently than other medical conditions that it becomes a legal issue.

          1. Zillah*

            Ahh, that makes sense. But if that’s the case, what would stop employers from making policies that disproportionately affect women and claiming that it applies to everyone equally?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              If they’re doing that, it’s illegal. I just meant that in this particular case with the miscarriage, if they’re putting other people on probation after missing a certain # of days, it’s not illegal just because it involved pregnancy.

              1. Anonsie*

                Well there was that recent case of the woman who needed accommodations to breastfeed, was let go, filed a lawsuit, and the judge said in his ruling against her that breastfeeding was not related to pregnancy so it wasn’t medical and could not be considered a gender-specific issue. I’m really iffy about where the lines actually fall in practice.

                1. Jessilein*

                  Um…breastfeeding is not related to pregnancy? And not a gender-specific issue? Now I’ve heard it all…and that judge needs some edumacation!

                2. Anonsie*

                  Blisfully, the Fifth Circuit disagreed with his decision. But man oh man, you should read his original statement, it’s like putting your brain in some sort of opposite-day laundry ringer: And I was wrong, he didn’t rule against her, he dismissed the suit entirely.

                  The update:

                  Although that one employment attorney is incorrect, men can lactate just… It’s not gonna be the same type of issue.

    3. Not Here or There*

      Exactly! So many managers of part-time, low-wage employees discourage people from calling out. I’ve been in or witnessed countless situations where employees were bullied or punished by their managers for calling in. I’ve seen employees have their hours cut and/ or be moved to the least desirable schedules because they happened to be sick at an inopportune time.
      It’s difficult enough to be a part time worker with little to no job security, low wages and no benefits, but then to get sick on top of that is so frustrating (and not be able to afford a Dr. because no health insurance and you’ve lost a day’s wages)

      1. Anx*

        At several jobs I’ve had and my friends have had, calling out sick or to go a family members funeral/wedding/etc. or to have a doctor’s appointment meant giving up your job. The importance of social events were determined by whether or not they were worth getting fired over attending, and most of the time you’d just go into work sick, because if you did a poor job due to illness you may get in trouble, whereas calling out would be more likely to get you fired.

  9. beckythetechie*

    Regarding sick employees: can you set up a swap schedule in some way, or at least provide them a way to get shifts covered more easily if someone does fall ill? Even if it’s just an email list, letting Isadora tell people she’s got Influenza A and would like to switch tomorrow for next week’s Thursday shift would give Ronald a chance to make up the day he had to miss because his daughter was out of school with strep throat, etc. It might not solve the problem entirely, but it could lessen the germ load in your workplace significantly.

    1. BRR*

      I knew sick-time was going to be covered but I was also concerned about coverage. When I worked part-time (it was retail though, not sure about the OP) if you called out you had to find a replacement. So if you woke up sick everybody usually had plans already plus you had to do all the calling when you weren’t feeling well.

      1. INTP*

        Yeah, if someone has to wake up 3 hours before their shift and spend an hour making phone calls for no pay, they might as well just go into work and get paid. A system that 1) makes it easier to call in sick and 2) implements some sort of system where you will get to make those hours up (say, if you call in sick, your name goes to the top of the list for people to call when a shift needs to be covered), would probably help things.

      2. VintageLydia USA*

        Back at my store if someone was calling out sick, us (the managers) would call around to find a replacement. For swapping schedules ahead of time or for less urgent day-of call outs, we usually made the employees handle it. Not perfect, but even the cruddiest managers at that job were pretty good about not making people who were probably bedridden (retail, low pay, no paid sick time so if they were calling out it was usually serious) to find coverage.

    2. Koko*

      Nooo, don’t make part-time employees find their own coverage. That is a managers job. Not only is it awful to have to be making calls for coverage when you’re chained to the toilet, you’re making those calls to peers who find it a lot easier to say, “Nah, I planned on playing video games all day today and don’t feel like covering for you,” to a peer than to a manager. In the 2 jobs I’ve had where we had to find our own coverage I got turned down like 85% of the calls I made, which sometimes meant the 3rd or 4th person would say yes eventually, but often meant I called every employee who wasn’t already scheduled and they all said no to me. Sometimes I dragged myself in anyway and snotted and spittled all over the food, I’m sure, other times I pleaded with my managers that no one would agree to cover me but I absolutely couldn’t come in. Whereas in the jobs I’ve worked where managers find coverage for absent employees, they usually make just a couple of calls and quickly find someone, because the employees perceive the request as harder to turn down when it comes from someone with authority over them.

  10. M.*

    #1. I work in manufacturing currently, and am employed by a temp agency. The agency has an attendance policy where you can only get up to 17 points. Each call out is worth 2 points, no calls no shows 4, and leaving early is .5. The factory does not have this policy (you can get up to 16 pts in 4 call outs, the lady doesn’t always record the call out or notify the factory…. which then leads to a no call when you did call or email). Tons of people drag themselves in sick because they are afraid of losing their jobs for being sick, and the agency does not accept any kind of doctor’s note. They tell us to come in sick and ask to leave. Which doesn’t really work because while they can’t keep us on the production floor if we are really sick, it is impossible to get a replacement as they do not allow people to come to work after the shift starts so getting a replacement is not plausible. When you get $9 an hour, work 10 hr days, 5-6 days a week, and have no benefits… you drag yourself in sick and try to get through the day. They don’t want us to come in sick, but they make it extremely difficult to not come in. I’d be all for a “stay home” policy if it meant that I could call out when I am definitely sick without fear of losing my job or being guilted for doing so.

    1. Suzanne*

      If I hadn’t experienced something similar myself, I would think you are making it up, but I am sure you are not. Being a temp or contractor is pretty much being an indentured servant, except that you can leave although if you do that, no $$. And usually you hold out using any time in case you actually get a job interview which would mean another negative on your attendance, so you go in sick. What else can you do?

  11. Bunny*

    Yeah, no one but the most masochistically work-obsessed comes in to work when unwell if they have any other options. People on part-time contracts, temp contracts or other low-security work desperately need their income in order to get by. Mostly we’re living from pay-cheque to pay-cheque and loads of us struggle to pay our bills. A single missed day of work can mean the difference between paying your bills on time, or having to choose between eating or heating your home the following month. Consider that a bout of flu can result in someone needing possibly a whole week off, and it’s easy to see why people just force themselves in. Could you handle an unplanned 25% drop in your wage for the month? Or, if paid weekly, could you afford to commute to work next week if you didn’t get paid this week? those are the choices your staff are faced with.

    If you want your part-time hourly staff to stay home when sick, then you need to offer them sick pay. If not, and you can’t offer any other work-arounds such as letting people swap shifts and make up time, then you’ll have to accept it’s just the nature of the beast.

    1. VictoriaHR*

      Contract employee here – yeah it sucks. I’ve been contract since July and whenever one of our kids is sick, luckily my husband can stay home with them. But it’s hurting his reputation at work to take so many sick days (maybe one a month between sick kids and being sick himself). Hopefully I can go perm soon so that I can work from home if need be (they won’t give contractors laptops either).

      1. Europa*

        My husband and I did this for years. Since he was a salaried employee, he was always paid the same no matter what. So he was stuck covering sick days and child pickups and dropoffs. I was a “temporary employee” for years at my company, and while it was a fine job and paid well, I was paid by the hour, no benefits. If I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid.

        We were severely in debt back then, and it was vital I worked no less than 40 hours, no matter what was going on, while my husband frequently had to come in late, leave early and work into the night on his laptop. Fortunately he was still a rock star at work, but it was hard. It was also ridiculous when I was sitting at work doing something less than vital, while my husband had a major deadline but had to leave early to get our son.

        It was a relief when we got out of debt I could miss a few hours a week without endangering our finances. I’m still a “temporary employee,” but now I can enjoy the flexibility and set my own hours. And now my husband can work like a normal person and come in early or stay late as needed.

    2. Allison*

      Yup, I’m a contractor, and while I’m being payrolled through a 3rd party which gives me some nice benefits, sick days aren’t one of them. I usually work from home when I’m sick, but there are days where I’m so sick I can barely get out of bed and I have no choice but to take a day or two of unpaid leave.

    3. Another Ellie*

      People also may be worried about being fired for missing just one day of work. I highly doubt that the manager here has any control over whether the part time employees receive sick time or not, but it might make sense to tell the employees that if they miss one day because they’re sick, she won’t automatically fire them.

      The spread of germs, incidentally, is one of the major reasons that it makes sense for companies to offer sick time. Paying for one employee to miss a day or two of work is better than having three employees work while very sick, because of productivity and morale issues.

      1. Alma*

        Great point – in contagious seasons, we forget to sanitize things other than our own phone headsets, our keyboards, our desks, etc. Things *everyone* touches, but don’t think to sanitize are the microwave control panel and handle, the copier controls, the coffeepot handles, the handles to the fridge, even the handles to bathroom stalls and doorknobs. If you’re in retail, the cash register drawer and keyboard.

  12. Guy Incognito*

    #5 Go back and tell your manager that your boyfriend’s finances are nothing to do with you and you expect your wages to be paid immediately or you will be contacting the department of labour.

    When I was backpacking I left my passport with the guy that ran the hostel I was staying in as I’d just taken a trip and was short on rent, a casual acquaintance of mine skipped out owing a bit of cash and the owner said to me “I’m keeping your passport until Cyril pays what he owes me” I think he expected me to go debt collecting for him or something, which wasn’t going happen, he soon reconsidered when I told him I’d be discussing the matter with my embassy, the passport isn’t even mine it belongs to my Government and they get more than a bit pissy when they are illegal withheld from the person it’s issued to.

  13. Blue Anne*

    #4 – My old employer still has my email address active, six months later, because I was the contact for a LOT of clients, many of whom would only be emailing once or twice a year. it’s set up with an auto-responder that says something along the lines of “Blue Anne has moved on from Wakeen & Brothers Teapots Inc. Please contact Petunia for billing or Cornelia for licensing.” Any emails that go to that address also get forwarded to the company’s admin. So they’re certainly not representing me as still working there, but they’re keeping the address open while clients might still have it listed as a contact.

    Maybe that’s something you can suggest?

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      This is such a standard practice that I am curious why the OP thinks it’s NOT being done with his old email.

      1. BRR*

        I’m pretty sure the company doesn’t want to show the OP as working there either, they just might be a super contacted person.

      2. Natalie*

        I wonder if something was set up incorrectly with the auto-response that concerned OP. A former co-worker of mine had their auto-reply turned on but not edited, so it says they are out of the office for some dates in September 2012. It doesn’t indicate that they don’t work here anymore.

      3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        There are two things that I can think of:

        1. There’s still places on the website where OP’s contact info hasn’t been scrubbed, thus representing OP as working there (probably unintentionally), or

        2. There’s no auto-responder on the email address, it’s just automatically forwarded to someone else to deal with directly. I had a workplace that typically did this for admin emails; when I was the main admin, I got emails to my inbox for at least 5 admins before me, plus a few generic admin emails, because those emails were tied to various contact forms, logins, and other stuff all over the Internet and it was just way easier to keep them open and auto-forward than to bother taking them down or even setting up auto-responders.

  14. Sick Days*

    If they paid sick people, then most of those “sick people” would call in sick – only to be spotted within 24 hours at non-“sick people” places like amusement parks, bars, live shows, nightclubs, parties, sporting events, you name it. Then what??? Demanding that they pay back their “sick pay”??? Have fun with that!!!

    1. Cheesecake*

      It can come as a shock, but some people indeed get ill, call in sick and then stay in bed. Also, you don’t offer unlimited paid sick days, you only offer a couple of these.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This. And if there are only a few, most people can figure out, “Hey, I only have a few sick days. If I use one to go to Six Flags, I won’t have it if I get sick for real.”

        And if these are people who are dragging themselves into work and trying to work no matter what, they’re probably not the lazy sick-faking sort.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      Just because some people would take advantage isn’t a reason to deny the benefit to other, most people are not going to abuse sick leave. Everywhere I’ve worked has had very generous sick pay scheme and I’ve only taken 3 or days sick in the last 10 years. (Three days for the flu and one day for a broken tooth) and it was not very common for people in the offices I worked in to be out sick.

      If you’re worried about staff being dishonest then you shouldn’t be employing them, and if you find they have abused sick leave then discipline them or even fire them if the abuse is significant enough.

    3. Kathryn*

      Huh. This isn’t how it works in my job at all…

      Though my job has unlimited time off, so when I want to hit an amusement park, or one of my employees goes to a mid week concert or wants to dogsled in the Yukon, they fill out the time they want off and head out. Somehow, magically, work still gets done and at a very high level. When ill, you drop an email to the affected parties, your team, people you were meeting with, people who need to cover for you, etc, and then go back to bed or the doctor. It’s almost like if you treat your employees as honest, competent adults, they will have no reason to be anything but.

      Not allowing paid sick time creates unhealthy workplaces. People will not choose to not pay rent or eat in order to better public health.

    4. BRR*

      Since you feel so passionately about this issue you needed to post the same comment twice, do you have another solution to the problem?

      1. Observer*

        Why would he – according to this (double) post, the problem doesn’t exist. All of these people are just extremely skilled fakers.

        1. BRR*

          By the problem I mean employees coming in sick, not the abuse of sick time. Sorry, I should have been more clear in my response.

          1. Another Ellie*

            You missed Observer’s joke. In the alternate reality of the double poster, their is no problem of employees coming in sick — everybody is faking, so no need for sick time at all.

            1. BRR*

              I did miss it haha. Tone is so hard to convey on the internet. I couldn’t decided if it was joking or playing devil’s advocate.

    5. Mike C.*

      You’ll have to explain how the exact opposite happens when sick time is offered or even required by law.

      I mean seriously, how can you make this post when the entire body is evident points in the opposite direction?

    6. fposte*

      Setting aside the issues everybody else has pointed out, I’m seriously amused by the notion all these amenities are available to me in my town at all, let alone at 8 am.

      1. Natalie*

        Ah, fposte, you’re missing out on the 8 am nightclub experience. You can really tear up the dance floor when it’s empty.

        1. BRR*

          There were a couple times when I worked at bar in New Orleans during my undergrad where I had to work super late (early) and people would still be there at 6 am. Part of that crowd was other bartenders though going for an after work drink with their colleagues. Sunrise on Bourbon street is not pretty though.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Yup. Or one of those egomaniac owners of highly dysfunctional small businesses whose employees send so many letters to AAM about how their boss screams and throws things or rants about how people who quit are traitors or the like.

    7. Chocolate lover*

      Are you suggesting that people don’t deserve any sick days at all? I’m sorry you’ve had such a poor experience with people abusing the system somehow, but that is NOT how all offices work. My last couple of offices have been filled with people who genuinely cared about their work and doing a good job, and only called out sick when they really were not up for work. I have an extremely generous sick-time policy, and you know how many times I’ve been out this past year? One. Because I had a migraine, and if I had to get on the train to get to work, I’d be ill all over the train and other passengers.

    8. catsAreCool*

      Sick Days, that’s a serious over generalization. There are plenty of people who only take sick days when they’re actually sick.

  15. Carrie in Scotland*

    #1 – I’ll add my voice to the chorus and say, if you can, please compensate your employees in some way (sick leave, shift swapping etc) for being sick. They’re human. We all get sick from time to time.

    My department at work is part of a “pilot” scheme whereby if you call in sick (just noticed the difference between the US ‘calling out sick’ and the ‘calling in sick’ that the UK use) Occupational Health will call you in the afternoon regarding this. I assume it’s to make sure we’re not all stressed and/part of a pattern but I can’t say this pilot scheme made us very happy…

    1. Jennifer M.*

      I think the call in/call out might be a regional thing. I’m from the US and never heard call out until I started reading this blog. I’ve always called in sick – basically the same usage as calling in to a radio show. I see how calling out makes sense – you are calling the office to tell them you will be out, but it’s just never the way I’ve used the phrase.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Here in Boston people say “call in sick” or sometimes just “call out” (“we’re kind of understaffed today because Sarah called out”) but never “call out sick” (though the aforementioned Sarah may be described adjectivally as “she’s out sick”).

    2. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      I get the impression from #1 that OP does emphatise with her team, and that this policy is not something she came up with. In which case it would be awesome if she’d advocate a policy change to company management.

      1. Raine*

        I got sort of a different impression — the OP either can’t or isn’t willing to try to change the policy she came up with, but can or is willing to advocate a new policy that forces part-timers to stay home and lose even their part-time pay when they’re sick.

  16. Christy*

    LW #5: I suspect that the McDonald’s corporate office might care about this issue, too. Do y’all think so, or am I off base?

    1. Fucshia*

      I would start with the franchise owner (the GM’s boss), then go to corporate if needed, and the state after that.

      1. Colette*

        I don’t think I’d go to three levels within the company (the person withholding the paycheque, the franchise owner, and then corporate) before going to the state. I’m sure that’s what the company would prefer that I do, but … that’s not my problem. I’d certainly talk to the person who has the paycheque, and maybe the franchise owner (if I knew them) – if neither of those work, I’d go straight to the state.

        1. Raine*

          +1. Of course the company would prefer it be kept in-house. I might advocate at this point simultaneously pursuing the issue with both the state and a higher level in the corporate chain.

        2. Shell*

          Agreed with this. Keeping it within the place of employment benefits the employer, not the OP. And frankly, I wouldn’t have that kind of patience or time (there’s no way I’d wait for three rounds of “let me get back to you”).

    2. Shell*

      It is a franchise, when I called the corporate number it said to speak with the general manager since it is owned by project m worldwide lp.

      1. Josh S*

        McDonald’s has a pretty remarkable way of tracking stuff like this that pops up on the Internet. You can be pretty sure that the relevant department(s) will be aware of this situation (at the least from a Social Media standpoint) pretty darn quick.

        I imagine a response will be swift, and I hope we hear about it from the OP!

  17. Apollo Warbucks*

    #3 If you’ve been working with HR systems I bet you have some great transferable knowledge and skills if you are dealing with PTO accruals / reconciliation, payroll issues, reporting and data extracts. Make sure your cover letter really shows off these skills and demonstrates how they match the job requirements.

    I’ve done finance and HR systems support for a few years now in a mid size corporate and there’s a wide range of tasks some more data focused than others would it be worth looking for a system role with more data work as a stepping stone?

    1. OP3*

      Thank you :) I’ll make sure to highlight those skills. Right now there’s a Compliance Analyst position open that I’m applying for, which isn’t HR-related (my preference) but would be a nice data analysis role.

  18. OP1*

    Hello all, and thank you for your input. Alas I’m not the top of the chain, just the next step up from the part-timers I oversee, so implementing paid time off or authorizing work from home ability for them is not within the realm of my authority. I would LOVE, and have advocated for, paid sick days for them. Sadly the idea is shot down by upper management every time. I thank you all for your commentary, though, and I will not be instating a rule about coming in sick, having thought about it. They obviously need the pay if they’re coming in when ill.

    1. Rayner*

      Might be an idea to make it obvious to the employees that if they do call in sick, you’ll be flexible in helping them get additional shifts if that’s within your purview. SO they’re not absolutely terrified of being down money if they know they’re likely to pick up extra time later in the month if someone else calls in sick.

      1. OP1*

        Thanks for the suggestion. I do already allow make-up shifts if there are any available during the work week. The only snag is when someone works their max allowed hours and there aren’t make-up shifts left in the week for them to use.

        1. Rayner*

          Can they go on a list for first dibs next week? I’m not sure how shift additions work for you but it could be an option?

        2. GigglyPuff*

          It might just be too early in the morning for me, but not quite sure I get it “The only snag is when someone works their max allowed hours and there aren’t make-up shifts left in the week for them to use”. (are they trying to make-up for the week before…cause if they are part time, there should be shifts left to work make-up days…or would it be considered overtime cause it’s during a different pay period?)

          Are they paid weekly? Why couldn’t they just add some hours onto a shift to make up for the sick days? Or are there strict rules about set shift times? Would it be possible to let them work on the weekends (if you don’t already), to make up time?

          My last job, I was non-exempt but when I wanted to, or ran out of sick time for things like appts or actually being sick, my boss didn’t have a problem with me staying late some days or even coming in on Saturday, and it was informal (meaning I didn’t report it on my timecard, but everything still added up to 40 hrs).

          1. OP1*

            We’ve got block shifts. You can only work in 4-hour increments, either morning or afternoon. You can put them back to back to make an 8-hour shift, but you can’t work when the office is closed (after hours or weekends) and upper management restricts part timers to 36 hours a week (I don’t agree with this policy, just a note). If they’re maxed out at 36 hours there’s only one spare 4-hour shift in the week they can utilize to make up time, so if they miss a full day earlier in the week they can only get half that time back that week, and they can’t add the other half shift to the next week without going over their max hours. I know it’s unfair, and I dislike it, but I unfortunately don’t have the authority to change it.

            1. MT*

              What is really unfair is that you have employees who work 36 hours a week constantly, but they are not full time employees.

                1. Natalie*

                  Just for the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. There are no federal laws regarding other benefits.

              1. Zillah*

                Yeah – if we were talking about 20 hours, okay, but unless this is a quick stop-gap measure, that’s really crummy. I know you probably don’t have control over it, OP, but ugh.

            2. LBK*

              Is there any chance you could pitch the idea of offering a catch-up shift? I’m thinking one set 4-hour shift (either one late night or on Saturday) that’s specifically designated for people who had to call out sick that week. If no one calls out that week or no one opts to use it, the office stays closed (so a manager doesn’t have to be there just to sit and babysit an empty office). It wouldn’t be as expensive* as offering PTO or just letting people make up the time whenever they wanted, but would still be something to offer as compensation.

              *I argue that lacking benefits and making people work sick are more expensive in opportunity cost than the money you might lose out on by not doing that, but that’s another conversation.

            3. Meg Murry*

              Could you discuss with your management about limiting it to an AVERAGE of 36 hours every 2 weeks, not to exceed 40 hours a week? So if someone misses Tuesday of this week, they could work all 40 hours the next to make it up, and the paycheck would be 32 hours one week and 40 the next, still only 72 hours total? Or if you have 2 week pay periods, 72 hours per pay period, not to exceed 40 per week? That way, people could plan to work 5 days one week, then 4 the next and take off Friday – and if they have something go wrong during that 2 week period to make them take a day off they could use that Friday as a make-up day?

              At a minimum, if your employees set their own schedules, I would encourage them to plan to work M-Th full days and Friday as a half day, with the understanding that they could turn Friday into a full day if necessary to make up a little time.

              1. OP1*

                Trust me, I have tried and tried to advocate for changes to this system. I was promoted from the same part timer pool so I know acutely how unfair it is. Unfortunately upper management is all numbers and no empathy about it, so as much as I would love to implement suggested changes to the system that have been brought up here it isn’t in my power to do so.

                For the person who suggested tea/sanitizer/etc, I picked some up this morning to keep in our department’s break area.

                1. JoAnna*

                  I put the link a comment (now in moderation), but Google “Paid Sick Days: Low Cost, High Reward for Workers, Employers and Communities.” Maybe concrete numbers showing that offering paid sick leave does not impact profitability will sway them.

                2. mt*

                  The problem i see in most industries is that low skill grunt work it’s a race to the bottom on the value of the work completed and the pay reflects it. Customers have no issue choosing to swap business to save a few bucks. If i pay someone 10 an hour, and bill my customers 11, to turn a profit. There are plenty of workers willing to do the same Job for 9 an hour and bill the customers $10. It’s just a race to the bottom

                3. SR*

                  mt, in addition to the point JoAnna made about business benefits of sick leave, it’s actually my understanding that the “race to the bottom” theory as it pertains to price isn’t really supported by the evidence, at least not in every industry. Chains like Costco and The Container Store (IIRC, might be forgetting some other chains or misremembering which) pay their employees much, much higher than minimum wage and give great benefits, and have fantastic business success in part because of all the money they save on turnover (cost of hiring new people, training, etc), which actually outweighs the money they’d save by scrimping on wages and benefits.

                  OP1, I’m not sure if this is feasible but I’d try to approach your higher ups about a business case for treating people fairly in general, as well as about the sick leave issue – gaining a reputation for great service, saving money on turnover, etc. etc. (Especially the part about having people at 36 hours/week and calling them “part time” – that seems so unfair! It’s not like they can pick up a second part-time job with those hours like they could if it was 15 or 20 hours/week.)

        1. OP1*

          They don’t have to. We’re not structured in a way where only a limited number of employees can be in at a time. All 20 of them could work simultaneously if they wanted the hours.

          1. JMegan*

            So on the flip side, does that mean there is *not* a significant loss of productivity if some of them are absent for a day? I assume it wouldn’t work if they were all away at the same time, but is there a difference between having say 10 of them onsite versus 15?

            Maybe you could tease out the actual impact to the workplace for a couple of scenarios – X people on site versus Y people on site, people coming in sick versus offering a limited number of paid sick days – and use that to reopen the conversation with TPTB?

            1. OP1*

              Well, productivity is mapped out/projected based on the schedule so when scheduled shifts don’t happen fue to people calling out, it becomes a problem. Getting others in to cover missing folks gets hard, as our hiring pool is mostly students and people with second jobs. We don’t have a limit on how many people could theoretically be working at a time but the way work is planned out does require forethought and scheduling.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      If you’re concerned about illness-swapping at work, it might be a nice bonus to provide some office hand sanitizer/Lysol/tea/tissues, so that if workers do have to come to work sick, you can somewhat control the germs that come with them.

      1. Helka*

        Tea and tissues probably would also help the morale issue — if they know they can get even small items for their comfort provided by the company, it can help a lot.

      2. OhNo*

        That’s a great idea. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to also mention this to your staff – something like, “I know you guys sometimes come in when you’re sick in order to get your full pay, so if you do that, please make sure to use the hand sanitizer/lysol/cleaning products on your area before you leave. I also stocked a bottle of aspirin/some tea/tissues in the supply cabinet for those who need them.”

        It would definitely show the part-time worker that you understand their situation and you’re doing your best to make it easy on them, even if you don’t have the authority to give them sick time or other benefits.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          Great idea, but please check local laws / company policy before buying aspirin for employees to use. I’ve worked in several places where this wasn’t allowed because of the potential liability issues if the company gives you a drug that you have a reaction to. (I know, I know, highly unlikely, but still a remote possibility!)

          1. Judy*

            Pretty much everywhere I’ve worked has had med cabinets with the little packages of things on the wall in some central hallway. Usually tylenol, cold meds, bandages, etc.

      3. JMegan*

        This is a great idea. And on top of that, if it’s practical*, maybe you could set up a “sick room” or a “quiet room” of some sort, where people could go to take a break if they are in the office sick for some reason. You could put a time limit of half an hour on it, so people aren’t in there all day. But it’s another way of showing your part-timers that you’re doing what you can to help.

        *NB I have no idea if it’s practical for your office or not!

    3. The IT Manager*

      Don’t make it a rule, but I think you can encourage (highly encourage) people to stay home if they are sick. There may be people who can afford to call in sick (and lose pay), but don’t because they feel it would be frowned upon. It sounds like your office has a culture of people working through illness. Maybe all their hands are tied and they need the work, but maybe not.

      I’m all for sympathy for these people, but if the reason I am sick is because obviously ill co-worker spread it to me and now I have to drag myself in sick, I’m not going to be feeling very kind to the co-worker that started the contagion. Also as their boos, you must know that if they can barely hold their head up and are barely awake that they’re no actually working. Your essentially paying them to accomplish nothing. Too bad the higher ups don’t bow to that logic and offer some sick days.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, this is a great point. It’s possible they’re all coming to work sick so they don’t lose pay, but if there’s any chance that some of it is being driven by a fear that staying home is frowned upon, make sure that you’re creating an atmosphere where they know it’s okay to stay home if they need to.

  19. Not an IT Guy*

    #1 – I for one applaud you for wanting your employees to be able to rest without fear of punishment. I’ve worked at far too many jobs that don’t allow for calling in sick (even with sick pay), refused to allow treatment for on the job injuries, etc.

  20. Cheesecake*

    Even I, living in Europe, know that you don’t mess up with labor law in California.

    And back to our previous conversation on “don’t jump on lawsuit train”, this is the case where i’d say – go get a ticket now. By all means first talk to boss again, but she seems obnoxious to me, so go on inform upper mgmt and government.

    1. LBK*

      Just a point of clarification – calling the DOL isn’t the same as filing a lawsuit, and you don’t have to file a lawsuit in order to get the DOL to investigate a claim. I think it’s important to note that since people sometimes shy away from reporting violations to the relevant agency because they think they’ll have to get a lawyer, go through a trial, etc. Having been involved in a couple DOL investigations, mostly what they’re going to do is call the person accused of committing the violation, ask a lot of questions, ask for every available record (email, phone conversation, document, etc.) related to the issue and then handle-hold through the resolution.

      (I know you’re in Europe so even less likely to know this, just wanted to clarify.)

      1. Cheesecake*

        Thanks for explaining! There is something similar here (i am, however, massively generalizing). If there is a clear serious violation e.g. employer is overdue on salary, you can all authorities and they will contact employer, warn, investigate etc. But in case of unfair dismissal, because you want to get some sort of compensation from employer that labor law does not state or regulate, this is a court case. And yes, people are, more often than not, totally unaware of this.

        Anyway, what i meant by my comment. There were a couple of letters here where OPs were asking if they can involve authorities if employer e.g. forbids them from eating lunch at their desks. And it is frustration how fast they want to jump to any sort of serious interventions (be it layers or government authorities) for something like this. At the same time we have case of OP5, who has the ground to do “something serious”, but is not sure she can.

      2. HR Madness*

        Yep. I have been involved in these as well and at least in Texas it’s quite simple. The employee fills out basically one sheet of paper saying what they believe they are owed. It gets mailed to me, where I research it and either a) dispute the claim and provide supporting documents or b) realize we screwed up somewhere and pay the employee what they are owed. Sometimes the DOL calls, sometimes they don’t depending on the severity of the claim and how good my supporting documents are.

  21. Forrest*

    “California is pretty aggressive about intervening when something like this happens.”

    “They’re screwing with the wrong state.” – California

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      The HR person on my board always suggests we look to California law fot reference and ideas when designing policies, because they are so well thought out and fair to employees (we’re not in CA). We have fantastic benefits and fair practices, which is awesome. I wonder why more states don’t follow suit?

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Because it’s not “industry friendly” to treat employees fairly and make corporations pay their fair share. These anti-business, pro-peon policies are why California’s economy is so small.


        1. Kelly L.*

          And it’s politics. Acting like California is some crazy outlier weird place is political currency for some.

        2. I'm a Little Teapot*

          And it’s espeeecially bad for small/new businesses! That’s why there are sooo few startups in California, you can’t start a business there with all that gubmint bureaucrat red tape!


      2. Nashira*

        I kinda want to send that HR person a thank you card merely for existing. That’s a pretty cool practice.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Haha…yes. I am so grateful for her. Her basis for everything is “treat people well, treat them like adults, always be fair and consistent, and everything will be fine”. And she’s a volunteer board member who gives like a hundred hours a year of her time.

      3. HR Manager*

        Because there are even some CA laws that are a little over the top, and I’d like to think I’m fairly progressive.

  22. Karyn*

    OP 1, also keep in mind, there are some illnesses that aren’t contagious- I get sinus infections all the time along with bronchitis, neither of which are contagious but make me look and sound like death. Just something to keep in mind (sorry if someone has already said this, I’m typing from the Starbucks drive-thru!).

    1. Cheesecake*

      The issue with these is that you are not at your top performance, you feel tired and make mistakes. Now, if you screw up excel file – ok,happens, but in production it can lead to injury.

      1. Allison*

        When I work while sick, whether at work or at home, I feel guilty. I work slowly and lazily, it seems like my work isn’t worth the money they’re paying me.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Between the sickness itself and the OTC meds I take to manage the sickness, I always feel like my eyes never quite focus, let alone my brain…

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I feel like that today, and I’m not even sick. Must be Wednesday syndrome.

            But yeah, if you have to work sick, the cure can be almost as bad as the illness. I once skated a show with a fever and hyped up on cold medicine. I was so zonked I wasn’t even nervous. It’s beyond my comprehension how I got through that–if I had been at work, I probably would have been in a coma at my desk.

      2. Karyn*

        Well, sure, if you’re in production and on cold meds, I get that. But I guess with my chronic lung problems (thanks, collapsed lung as a kid that resulted in my only having one working lung), I’ve gotten so used to having multiple infections a year that it doesn’t affect my performance at all anymore. Plus, my asthma always makes me sound like I’m dying when I’m really not.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Haha! I am always trying to send employees home sick and absolve their guilt for calling in….I’ll walk by an office and hear a cough immediately followed by “I’m not contagious! It’s asthma/sinus infection/etc!”. Our sick leave is generous, so i have no guilt for being firm about Typhoid Marys (14 days/year) but I guess I’ve gotten a reputation. Apparently, paying the employees of a charity to stay home doesn’t always compel them to do so (downside of dedication?)

      1. INTP*

        If someone has asthma, allergies, chronic sinus problems, etc, then staying home every day they’re coughing and sneezing may very well put them over 14 days a year (especially when you add doctor’s appointments and other things people need to be out for). Before I had my sinus surgery, I was getting an infection every month, and when I lived in a greener climate, I basically spent all of spring and fall spewing snot due to allergies.

      2. C Average*

        Yeah, this would’ve been me this spring. I’ve never had seasonal allergies, but for some reason I developed them this year. I don’t know what was in the air, but I spent a solid two months looking and sounding like refried hell. I was neither contagious nor in any way impaired in doing my job, but I got so many concerned looks and inquiries about my well-being that I was starting to consider having a T-shirt made up with an explanation of my condition on it.

    3. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I get post-nasal drip after any respiratory infection and am always like “No, I’m fine!” *hacking cough*

      But really, it does resolve itself a lot quicker if you can stay home and sleep.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Me tooooo! I always sound way worse when I start feeling better. First few days of cold: feel like utter poopsticks, sound and look normal. Last few days of cold: feel terrific, pointlessly cough like a Victorian TB patient and cause everybody around me to fuss about whether I’m OK. Answer is yes, but I sure wasn’t two days ago! LOL.

          1. fposte*

            Coughs take for freaking ever to go away, and medical science really doesn’t have much to help; most cough medicines test as equal to or only a teensy bit better than placebo. There’s just something medieval about the whole experience.

            1. Stephanie*

              I’ve had *some* luck with steroid inhalers, but that was like the nuclear option for when the damn cough just wouldn’t go away since steroids can have nasty side effects. For me, most notably, I had insomnia and increased appetite. I was up at 4 am, just grazing out some pillow-sized bag of chips from Costco like, “Well, I have to be at work in less than 5 hours. But hey, I won’t be bugging anyone today with my hacking cough.”

    4. GigglyPuff*

      Ha! Second week of new job, had HR orientation, HR woman comes in, immediately says, “not contagious! Just sinuses!”, then she had to share my packet when we went over it cause forgot to make her own copy…. next evening, one second to the next, BAM! sore throat and now third week at new job, total cold and having to come to work cause lots of training sessions this week.

      Yeah, I know sometimes it’s just sinuses but probably not going to believe that anymore, lol

      1. TrainerGirl*

        My first winter at my last job, I had a coworker who claimed, “I’m not contagious!” because it was holiday season and she didn’t want to use any of her time being sick. She gave everyone in our office that horrible icky respiratory infection that year, and our boss made her stay home (or at least work from home) after that. We were trainers, so the last thing you want is a sick, coughing, sneezing trainer infecting a classroom of people.

    5. ella*

      I get asthma, and I am so. tired. of my coworkers asking if I’m sick when I’ve got my asthma-cough. I’m not sick, it’s not contagious, I’m not going to die, it’ll go away in an hour, please stop asking me about this three times a week.

      (I ride my bike everywhere, and the exercise plus winter cold tends to aggravate it, but I don’t like using my inhaler to make it go away unless it’s really bad.)

      1. Kelly L.*

        I also mildly choke on food a lot? Especially if I’m eating rice? I may just not know how to eat, lol. But anytime I eat rice, I’ll end up with one grain down the wrong pipe. And then there’s the coughing to dislodge it and then the coughing afterwards because my throat is all irritated now.

        1. Nashira*

          I get this, especially with long pastas, for known Reasons. Have you tried only looking down when you chew? Gravity will help keep it in your mouth til you’re rready to swallow.

      2. Karyn*

        Yup. I only have one working lung so I frequently sound like I’m going to die after walking in the cold for five minutes, but I swear, I’m not going to pass it on to you!

      3. fposte*

        I’m sure they’re lovely people, but I bet it’s not that they’re not worried you’re going to die; they’re worried they’re going to start coughing next.

    6. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I wouldn’t be so sure about bronchitis. I had to work through bronchitis once and several other people at my workplace ended up getting it too – possibly from me.

      1. Karyn*

        It can occasionally be contagious, yes, but most of the time I’ve found it’s a complication of an existing condition like asthma (which mine always is) and is almost never contagious. They throw antibiotics at me every time, and every time, they do almost nothing for me. Oy.

  23. nyxalinth*

    #1 then you have call centers, where the nature of the job demands being there every day, regardless. this only ever seems to backfire, because inevitably, everyone gets sick and productivity and such go down. But hey, I’m not in a position to dictate policy, and logic doesn’t apply. :P

    1. Helka*

      And then you have the issue of working in a call center and losing your voice. Awkward for everyone involved!

      Though at least my call center was good enough that when I called in to say “btw I have strep, might want to warn the folks on either side of me” my manager’s response was “oh my god PLEASE stay home!”

    1. Raine*

      Because it’s at the crux of the issue. Part-time (even full-time workers in certain industries) who don’t have paid sick leave or paid holidays or paid vacation rarely can afford to not be paid for the days they do have scheduled to work. It can be white-collar or service-industry work, but I’ve often said in the USA we have two distinct classes of workers treated so dramatically differently under labor practices that it’s just unreal.

      1. LBK*

        It’s related to the topic as a whole but not necessarily to the OP’s post – she doesn’t sound nearly high enough up to the chain to enact paid leave for part-timers (and she confirmed this in a comment above). So with that in mind, what’s the alternative solution?

      2. Joey*

        Agreed but telling the op he needs to offer paid time off is in no way helpful bc i doubt it’s even an option

      3. Colette*

        I see Joey’s point, though – the OP is not in a position to change whether the company offers sick leave or not, so whether part-time workers should get sick time is a philosophical question and not a practical solution to the OP’s issue.

      4. INTP*

        Yeah. It might not be helpful to the OP, but the fact is that the only way to fairly resolve that problem is to offer it. You can’t really discuss that situation without bringing up paid leave.

    2. MT*

      We are talking about paid leave, because they only other options suck. First option, which i would do is to send them home sick. I don’t need sick people working and getting other workers sick, let alone loss productivity. And the second option is to let them work sick.

    3. Heather*

      We didn’t know that until the OP came back and clarified.

      But I agree with Raine, it’s still something that we should be talking about even if it’s not a solution that’s available to the OP.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, I brought it up because the original letter didn’t make it clear whether the OP would have that type of authority (or influence) or not. And because I believe it’s truly at the crux of the issue regardless. And because she asked “can I have a no-coming-to-work-sick policy?”, to which I answered yes. But you can’t answer that question without pointing out this larger issue.

      1. Joey*

        Oh I get why you raised it, but a string of comments telling the op he needs to give them paid time off is sort of a pointless discussion.

  24. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    #3, I don’t think the relevant issue here is autism, it’s that you have figured out where you thrive and where you don’t. These same things were true before you were diagnosed, you just didn’t have an understanding of why that might be. Also, people with autism have huge variation in their preferences, abilities, and interests, so I wouldn’t pigeonhole myself in that diagnosis, just use the info you have to do what works for you.

    1. INTP*

      Agree with this. “I feel that my real strengths lie on the analytical side” is a perfectly complete and honest answer. So many people wind up in the wrong side of their field for their strengths – no detail about autism is needed to give context.

      The comment about pigeon holing is smart. I have severe inattentive ADHD and need basically the opposite work conditions as many associate with ADHD. I don’t disclose because I’m afraid of being tracked towards things I can’t even do by people who think they’re helping. Same thing could happen with autism.

  25. nona*

    On #2, this is tangential, but I would like to mention that LGBT people are not a protected class in many states. It can come as a shock to us, including people in my state who thought they were in a protected class until they were “outed” and fired! If you’re concerned about that discussion of candidates’ sexual orientation, LW, or if you’re somebody else reading this and you’re LGBT, please make sure to find out where you stand in your state.

    1. Observer*

      This is true. But, if the question is coming up, there is a good chance that there is a legal issue. These questions generally reflect an attitude towards behavior that does not reflect gender norms – which is something the eeoc says constitutes sex discrimination.

    2. LBK*

      Also note that LGB may be protected separately from T as well – some states protect sexual orientation but not gender identity (although it’s sometimes argued that it’s covered under the sexual orientation umbrella even if not explicitly protected by law).

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Hahaha yeah. If only because the general public only started understanding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as different concepts in the past couple years. I feel pretty confident that there are tons of laws written as “sexual orientation” that were INTENDED to cover gender identity, but the lawmakers (being, en masse, old straight white men) didn’t really have the vocabulary to add those words.

        1. Anonsie*

          Oh yeah, for sure. All people who are not fully into their expected gender box are still in the gay bin for your average American.

          To be fair though, the term transgender did come about when being gay or (for lack of a better term here) cross dressing were both considered mental illnesses, so there is a decent historical context for how the lines got blurred as people tried to not get labeled “insane.” Which is… I mean, still born from people being bigoted, but… In a slightly different way I guess. I’m bumming myself out now. Moving on.

          The language around this has also been changing really fast, and considering how slowly the wheels of legislation turn I’m not sure keeping pace is the best goal. Seems easier if we just agreed it wasn’t ok to fire or penalize people for any non business or mission related reasons rather than try to shoehorn in new discrete terms every 5-10 years, but boy that idea sure does agitate people around here.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think you do need to be specific about what protections you intend though, because if you just say “no non business or mission related reasons,” you’ll get people arguing that a firing was business-related because person A’s sexual orientation made clients uncomfortable, or person B’s disability was getting in the way of her ability to do the work.

            1. Anonsie*

              Sure, but we also already get that all the time with the protections we do have in place. I know this would be difficult to legislate well, but I also know there are places both inside and outside the US that have managed to do it.

              1. LBK*

                But if you didn’t have those categories explicitly protected, what would be preventing someone from firing people for their orientation/medical condition?

  26. C Average*

    I agree in principle with the sick-leave suggestion, but it sounds like the OP doesn’t have the authority to make that call. But there’s another potential factor here that the OP CAN address.

    Not everyone who comes to work sick does so completely for the money. A lot of people are motivated by a sense of responsibility. They want to make sure the work gets done, and they don’t want to let their colleagues down. They may also have a history of working in places where calling out sick simply Wasn’t Done. And if they look around and see other people coming in to work sick, they may come to believe that this workplace is also one where calling out sick isn’t an option.

    I’ll bet for some of these people, all it would take is a gentle, “You really don’t seem well, and I’ll bet you’d be more comfortable resting at home. We have plenty of coverage here. You’re free to go anytime.”

    If that doesn’t work, you can be more forceful, but I’ll bet that would work for at least some people some of the time.

    1. Kelly L.*

      This has happened to me too. Usually when I was in the middle of something that couldn’t really be stopped in its trajectory, but was also a PITA to explain to someone else. Or there wasn’t anybody else to explain it to–at times I’ve been the only person at my “level” and didn’t have anyone to hand things over to really.

    2. Not Here or There*

      I agree that it doesn’t sound like the OP has much say in the leave policy. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t much the OP can do. In almost every part time situation I’ve encountered, management will not do anything to assist an employee if they need to call out sick. You’re sick, you lose those hours and that money and that’s that. However, in required coverage type situation (retail, customer service or factory work), management can help by finding someone to switch schedules with them. That way the employee can take the day off to get better, and won’t lose wages. It may be a PITA for the manager to try and find someone to switch, but if the employees know that you’re willing to work with them, they’ll be less likely to come in to work sick. Likewise, if it’s not a coverage situation, can you help them find the time to make those hours up? If they can’t work on Tuesday because they’re sick, perhaps they can work an extra couple hours on each shift for the rest of the week to make up for the time they took off.

    3. Hlyssande*

      I wish my coworker would take sick time when he’s sick, but he has this thing about perfect attendance…even when he’s coughing and drippy and gross. We get 5 paid sick days yearly and he hasn’t taken a since one, ever.

  27. Helen*

    LW3 not wanting special treatment reminded me of something I’ve been wondering about, and I hope it’s not too off topic. Recently online applications, in addition to optional self-identifying for race, gender, and veteran status, have been asking about disability status. I have one of the conditions listed. What are the pros and cons of self-identifying? Do people who respond yes actually get some sort of advantage in the hiring process? I’m wary of answering yes because my condition (OCD) is something they’d never know of otherwise, and I feel that it’s private.

    1. Kelly L.*

      At least in theory, it’s supposed to allow the employer to track whether they’re giving enough of a shot to people with disabilities, rather than to affect your individual candidacy. Where I work, the self-identifying form and the application itself don’t even go to the same office. That doesn’t preclude someone abusing it somewhere, i’m sure, but I think the intent is more statistical than anything else.

      1. Frances*

        Yep – that’s why I’m always happy to answer those questions! I want companies to have the information they need to assess if something’s off with their hiring practices.

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      Federal contractors (i.e., companies that do business with the government) are required by regulation to ask for this information. It is not given to the hiring manager or maintained in the same file as the candidates application. This information is tracked and reported on (along with race, gender and protected vet status) as part of a companies Affirmative Action plan. Your self-identification should not have any impact on the hiring process and your decision to report is completely up to you. However federal contracts must ask during the application phase, again when they make a hiring decision (but prior to starting) and they must resurvey their entire population every 5 years.

    3. OP3*

      I *have* been identifying on that page as having autism as a disability, and have wondered this also. I wonder if hiring managers see it or whether it’s compiled by the system for federal reporting.

  28. Anpersonymous*


    I was really ticked a few weeks ago when my coworker disregarded our manager’s instructions to stay home when she initially called out with symptoms of a stomach bug. She came in anyway, still feeling queasy. My immunity is pretty good; many got sick around me a few weeks ago and knock on wood, I didn’t catch anything. However, while I’m not afraid of getting a cold, I do not have the money to go to the doctor. My insurance – since the whole new healthcare law – has added an astronomical deductible. If I go to the doctor for anything considered to be non-preventative, then I have to pay out of pocket, including prescriptions. If I get sick, that’s an expense. My coworker comes in sick that day and risks me getting sick and having to pay through the nose to get through it. Then we have the other side – the same side as the OP’s employees. We don’t get sick days. You call out or get told to stay home and you don’t get paid. So either my coworker stays home sick and doesn’t get paid for a day or two while recuperating. Or we both go to work, and I catch whatever she has and have to pay a day’s worth of wages to the doctor and take days off too. My coworker can be in the same boat, but I can only speak for myself as far as insurance goes; she’s still young enough to be on her parents’ insurance.

    Please do something that will make employees comfortable staying home because you are not just affecting the person who is sick. You don’t know the situations of others and how much a sick employee could put others in the red. This is making think about talking to my manager. Our schedule is very tight as many have second obligations so shift swapping might be difficult.

    1. Goldie*

      Exactly, and then the people that your coworker has infected might in turn give the bug to their family members and things will spiral out of control. It’s a terrible situation. I was always afraid of giving my kids or my elderly parents something I’d caught at work from a coworker.

      1. Callie*

        They give the bug to their kids, who give it to their teachers, and the cycle goes on and on. (God, calling out sick as a teacher was a special kind of hell. At one time we had to call our own substitute from a list of people approved by the district that we may not even know or might not even know how to teach our subject. Calling 15 people asking them to cover for you, (only to be told “oh no, I don’t want to” when they find out it’s a music class,) while throwing up, is SO much fun.

    2. Anonsie*

      she’s still young enough to be on her parents’ insurance.

      Assuming her parents have insurance that doesn’t have the same astronomical deductible yours does.

      1. Stephanie*

        Or that her parents have insurance she could be added to (they could be on Medicaid/Medicare or other plans you have to specifically qualify for), insurance where the premiums wouldn’t skyrocket for adding her (sometimes there’s a big difference in premiums between self, self + spouse, and self + family), or insurance at all (parents could be unemployed or in jobs that don’t offer insurance).

        1. Anonsie*

          Oh yeah, I wasn’t gonna go down that wormhole but yes indeedy. When they moved the age cap up people kept telling me I didn’t need to stress anymore because I could get on my parent’s insurance, and I kept having to awkwardly tell them that my dad is disabled and on Medicaid and my mom had been laid off and was covered by her husband’s employer’s plan. It was prohibitively expensive to add me to his plan as well, so while everyone was going “wheee young people have health care now!” I was still delightfully uninsured and underemployed. Nowadays I could get an exchange plan, but that brings us back to the previous high deductible issue.

  29. Goldie*

    #1 I don’t know the nature of those people’s jobs, but can they work from home when sick? The company would have to provide them with equipment that would allow them to do that, of course. Jobs where you have to come in when sick are the worst, not only for the people working those jobs, but for everyone around them (including their customers, I would imagine – if they work with customers). I knew someone closely who could not call in sick or WFH when sick – ironically, a college professor. You’d think they have it good, but come to find out, they do not have sick days. Anytime anyone in the college came down with anything at all, everyone in college got it within a couple of weeks. I got sick all the time just from interacting with that one person. And then *I* had to call in sick or work from home because I was clearly contagious and feeling terrible. At each of my jobs OTOH, there’s been a clear policy of “don’t come in when you’re contagious”, most of the time people worked from home in those cases. It’s sad that not everyone has that opportunity.

  30. Not Here or There*

    #1, I am so sympathetic to struggling part time workers when it comes to sick time. I have so many horror stories of working in low-wage jobs (retail, data entry, service-industry type jobs) with really difficult policies when it came to sick leave.It wasn’t just the lost wages, which was hard enough in and of itself, it was the policies, attitudes and punishments from management.

    One place I worked, in order to get full time and benefits, you had to jump through enormous hoops to be considered. One of the biggest hoops was that you couldn’t miss any work, be late, or go home early and you had to work at least 35 hours a week for 6 months. If you missed any time or worked a minute less than 35 hours, the 6-month clock started over again. I was three weeks from the 6-month mark when I got mono. I desperately needed the fulltime employment and benefits, and even though I was very ill, I still tried to go to work. When my manager insisted I go home, I cried because I knew it meant I wouldn’t make my hours for the week. I tried to explain the situation to management, but was told the rules were the rules. I had to go home and was now ineligible for benefits for another 6 months.
    I know you don’t want employees coming to work sick, but you really should cut them a great deal of slack. If they’re coming to work sick, it’s because they need the money and/ or fear the retribution of calling out. I know most supervisors don’t make the rules, but they do have more of a voice than the part time workers do (who are generally viewed as easily replaceable). Rather than just demand that your employees stay home when they’re sick, work with them to help make up those hours. See if you can find someone working later in the week who will switch times with them, giving the employee time to recover but without losing wages. And, whenever you have the chance, bring up the issue with the company and ask them to help you find a solution.

  31. Laura*

    #1 – For how long are they supposed to call in sick though? I mean, I have had a congested chest and a cough for a week now, and I have not called out sick at all. I have a cough which is irritating, but I am still able to work. And I’m sure people in the office do not like to hear me cough and worry about germs spreading, which I understand, but am I really expected to call out sick for 5 business days straight because I have a cold?

    Honestly, the only times I have called in sick were if I had a stomach bug and was throwing up and in the bathroom all day. If I just have a cold and have a cough and stuffy nose, I still come to work, otherwise, I would be out for an entire week for a cold. And I’m sure my boss and group members would be annoyed if I called out sick for so many days straight just because of a cold (and my boss would probably require a doctor’s note for it). Sure, having the flu is completely different and I have called out sick for 4 days straight when I got the flu a few years ago, but many people just get regular colds with coughing and stuffy noses. I understand that the thought of sick people spreading their germs around is awful, but I don’t think it’s necessarily reasonable that someone would call out sick every day when they have a cold.

    1. Nobody*

      I have the same philosophy — I would never go to work with a stomach bug (and I get really annoyed when people do), but I’m not going to miss a week of work for a cold. Also, symptomatic does not necessarily equal contagious. A cold is normally contagious for only the first 2-3 days, but the residual symptoms can last for weeks. I came down with a bad cold on Thanksgiving, so I probably wasn’t even contagious anymore when Monday morning rolled around, but I was completely hoarse and sounded awful for the next 2+ weeks. Coworkers were urging me to stay home, but that would have meant using up all of my sick leave and falling way behind on my work (working from home isn’t possible).

  32. Amber Rose*

    The discussion of sick leave in here is making me seriously sad.

    I don’t get sick pay. But I get a cumulative balance for every payday that is a percentage of my pay, works out to about $60 a paycheck as I’m full time. I can use that money for anything, vacation or sick days or whatever.

    We have also been allowed to bank time in the past. When you’re healthy, you work extra hours that you don’t get paid for, but are recorded so you can be paid for them during a sick day or vacation.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I didn’t know that. Seems like a pretty ridiculous rule. Banking time has been so helpful to me in the past. Assuming payroll was willing to track it anyway.

        Oh well. It was a thought.

        1. LBK*

          It’s meant as a protection, so that non-exempt employees who are entitled to overtime pay are guaranteed to receive it and the company can’t get out of paying the money by giving them comp time instead (which is more or less free for the company and ergo can be much cheaper if you’re forcing your employees to work a lot of overtime).

          1. doreen*

            Having been one of those government workers who could bank time, there’s a way around this if the objection is to straight comp time – FLSA requires comp time over 40 hours for government workers to be paid at time and a half so that if I worked 50 hours, I got 40 hours at straight time (some paid, some comp, because neither job had a 40 hour week) and either 15 hours pay or 15 hours comp time. It’s not actually cheaper to give 15 hours comp time than 15 hours pay. It’s less cash going out, but it’s not cheaper. It seems that way when people take a day of comp time here and another one there but it’s easier to see when someone takes the comp time in a big chunk- at my previous employer, I worked a lot of overtime and took the comp time in large chunks (maternity leave and when I left the job). Let’s say I worked 160 hours of overtime over the course of a year or two. At paid time and a half, I get paid for 240 hours and that’s the end of it. At comp time and a half, I got paid for nearly seven weeks- and the cost to my employer was 240 hours of pay plus 7 weeks of insurance premiums plus additional leave earned (I think for 7 weeks it was four additional days) plus any paid holidays that fell within those seven weeks and so on. There’s a limit of 240 hours that can be banked for most jobs- and I almost think it’s to protect the government, not the employee. Because there are plenty of people I know who would happily bank hundreds of hours and stay on the payroll for six months or a year after their last day of work.

      2. HR Manager*

        Forcing someone to take comp time rather than OT in a different pay week is indeed illegal. Sounds like this is a voluntary thing though, where employees are actively choosing to work extra hours to use the time as potential sick/vacation time in the future. This might not even register on any one’s radar unless a disgruntled employee wanted to cause problems with this.

        1. Amber Rose*

          So I was curious and looked it up for my area. It’s illegal to force an employee to bank time, but not illegal for an employee to choose to bank time with the employer’s go-ahead. Technically it’s supposed to be a written contract, though my experience is it usually isn’t.

          1. Joey*

            You must not be in the us. If you are Id be interested to see how they’re getting around federal law.

  33. Cautionary tail*

    OP #2,

    Disclaimer: I didn’t have the time to read all the other entries so I apologize if someone already stated something similar.

    Tread cautiously here! The short version is I diplomatically refused to do something illegal/unethical at OldJob and was laid off because if I wasn’t going to do the work then why did they need me.

    Gotta go. Hopefully I can catch up later.

  34. SerfinUSA*

    I recall having afterwork plans to pick up my new ipad from a retailer that had received it on a particular day. The night before I ended up with a migraine so ferocious that I was on narcotic pain meds. It was my partner’s day off, so I managed to get in the car and be led through the store to get the ipad, then stopped for comfort food for my poor upset tummy.

    A few days later I was talking about the ipad to a coworker, and a notoriously nasty (former) supervisor of that coworker’s department snarked: Oh, is that what you did with your sick day?
    Instead of the throat-punch I wanted to apply, I replied that I was so wacked out on pain meds from the migraine that I barely remembered what I did that day.

    Also, working for a unionized state university, yes we have leave policies that can be abused, but I have found most people who are at the point of doing so, and not caring about career advancement (as someone mentioned upthread) have been brutalized by the system. Bad managers and policies get put in place, and no amount of good conscientious work makes a difference. Sometimes all you are left with is a below private sector average paycheck, low risk of layoff, and generous leave accrual. So mistreated workers run with it.

  35. Nobody*

    I see a lot of people bemoaning strict sick leave policies, but I am willing to bet that a lot of these policies are in place due to abuse of sick leave. We probably all know people who call in “sick” to play golf, etc. I know people who, if they oversleep, call in sick to avoid getting penalized for tardiness!

    My employer recently started cracking down on sick leave, requiring a doctor’s note for absences greater than 3 days or for people who have had more than 3 absences in the past year. They also implemented “wait days,” which means the first X days of any sick leave absence are unpaid, where X is between 0 and 5, determined based on years of service and prior year absences. Management straight out told us that these policies were implemented because of suspected abuse of the generous sick leave benefits. This has certainly reduced the abuse of sick leave, but it really sucks for people who honestly are sick, and makes people more likely to come to work while sick because they can’t afford the unpaid wait days or a doctor visit for the flu.

    I guess my point is that, in a perfect world, people would stay home when they are sick and employers would pay them, but the selfish people who want to cheat the system ruin it for everyone. Most places with separate sick leave and vacation buckets don’t intend for people to use up all their sick leave, like extra vacation, every year. They assume that only a small number of people will use the maximum benefit in any given year, and it will average out with people who use less.

    1. esra*

      I worked at a place with unlimited sick days and people took them reasonably. I think you need to treat your employees like adults. If people are taking lots of sick days, the problem isn’t that you have sick days available, it’s that for whatever reason you have employees behaving irresponsibly. Are people burnt out? Ill-suited to their roles? Bad morale? Poor management? Find out what the issue is and address it.

    2. Zillah*

      I see a lot of people bemoaning strict sick leave policies, but I am willing to bet that a lot of these policies are in place due to abuse of sick leave.

      I really, really doubt that the policies are in place because “abuse of sick leave.” The policies are in place because the company feels it saves them money, just like not covering other benefits does. Giving the companies such benefit of the doubt is optimism to the point of foolishness, IMO.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        I think people who are optimistic about how companies are all just doing the right thing out of the goodness of their collective hearts need to read more AAM. (And, y’know, talk to some low-wage workers.)

  36. Rosalita*

    Letter Writer #3,
    It’s great that you are making a career shift that will make better use of your strengths and hopefully lessen the pieces of the job that you don’t enjoy as much. Can I ask how you went about getting the diagnosis for high-functioning autism? I ask because I have a relative that I suspect may be somewhere on the autism spectrum. I am not a medical professional, so this is speculation on my part, but I feel like this relative could benefit from a diagnosis and professional guidance, as he has had a lot of trouble holding a job.

    1. OP3*

      Happy to answer! I called my workplace’s EAP and asked for a referral list of psychologists in my area who specialized in diagnosing adult autism. They gave me a list of 3-4 places. I also called my local autism nonprofit group, and they gave me a similar list. One place was on both lists, so that’s the one I called.

      It took about a month to get diagnosed. First I met with a psychiatrist, who then referred me to a psychologist at the same practice, so I had a meeting with her. Then I took some neuropsych tests which was about a 4-hour appointment. Then one final meeting with the psychologist to go over my results. She wrote me a diagnosis letter, and voila, done. Cost me about $90 total in co-pays.

  37. OP #2*

    OP #2 here… Thank you to Alison and to everyone who gave very helpful advice!

    Just to clear up a few things that seem to be common threads in the Comments:

    1) The owner is actually very interested having a diverse workplace, and a candidate’s minority status would only encourage a hire. But it still seems icky to me and possibly in violation of discriminatory hiring laws.

    2) I understand that I can be asked to do tasks that aren’t necessarily in my job description and I’m happy to learn new skills. But being put in charge of hiring is something for which I have no training AND which could carry some very serious legal and financial consequences. I mean, larger firms have entire departments of trained professionals! I’m uncomfortable because I wouldn’t want to be responsible for (inadvertently) asking inappropriate questions in an interview (for example, I asked a candidate if he was Canadian, only because I wanted to make sure that he could work legally, but realized afterwards that I probably shouldn’t have phrased it that way), or hiring someone that steals from the company, or someone that needs to be let go and then sues the company, etc. I’m feeling squeamish because I don’t feel like I have all the tools I need to succeed, not because I don’t want to learn new things.

    But overall, your comments have made me realize that I need to be proactive and assertive about what I need from my employer to feel confident carrying out these tasks. Again, thanks to everyone that commented!

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