interviewer missed two phone interviews, exposing tattoos to coworkers, and more

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

1. Interviewer missed our phone interview twice

I’m currently employed but am really miserable at my job, so I’ve been applying for several different types of positions, trying to make a change. I submitted a resume for an office manager position at a small nonprofit, and was contacted a couple of days later by the administration director to set up a phone interview for the next day (Friday) or Monday. Unfortunately I was working late that evening and didn’t see her email until about 9 p.m. I immediately responded to say that Monday, my day off, would be perfect and suggested three times that worked well for me. I received no response on Friday or over the weekend, but made sure I was awake and prepared before the first suggested time on Monday just in case she called. After all of the suggested times had passed, she sent an email to say she realized she hadn’t gotten back to me and to ask if I was available at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. I immediately wrote back to say yes, and to make sure she had my phone number. I woke up early this morning to prepare, and waited an hour for her to call. At 10:15, I sent her an email to say that I was sorry we weren’t able to connect and to ask if she wanted to reschedule. When sending this email, I noticed that her email address is a personal one and not one associated with the nonprofit, so who knows when she will get it. I know that I should have called her at 9:20 or so, but I’m phone phobic (I’m working on it).

Frankly, I’m annoyed. I woke up early on my day off and sat at home for half the day just in case, and I woke up early before work today just to sit here anxiously awaiting her call again. This person would be my boss if I got the job, and I don’t think this speaks highly of her or the organization. Is this as big of a red flag as I feel like it is? Am I overreacting? If she emails me about rescheduling, what should I say? I really do need to find a new job, so am I shooting myself in the foot if I choose to not proceed with any opportunities?

You’re justified in being annoyed. Maybe not as much with the first phone call because she hadn’t actually confirmed that one, but the second one, certainly. If she emails you about rescheduling, I’d pay attention to whether she sounds apologetic and a bit mortified or whether she’s cavalier about it; if she’s cavalier, it’s par for the course in how she operates.

If you really need a job and don’t have many options, there’s no harm in continuing in their process; nothing says you have to accept an offer if you get one, after all. And as the process plays out, you can a pay a lot of attention to whether the organization seems organized or chaotic and unprofessional, and can get a better idea of what you’d be signing up for.

2. Exposing my tattoos to coworkers outside of work hours

I have tattoos, and I never expose them in the workplace regardless of whether it’s “allowed,” since I don’t want to affect my professional image and like to keep that part of me to my personal life. But I’m in a new job and several of my new coworkers are cool and we have done some light socializing outside of work. I have just kept my tattoos covered for socializing to this point, but tomorrow I’m going to a strenuous workout class with one of my new coworkers. I’m suddenly getting nervous about revealing my tattoos (which wouldn’t be totally covered in a short sleeved shirt). They aren’t anything offensive and this is away from work and outside of work hours, but I am concerned that she’ll casually mention it to my manager, who she is close with, and then I could be put in an uncomfortable position of having to address good-natured curiosity while still wanting to keep my boundaries at work by not revealing them, especially to my (male) manager in the office.

Is there a way I can casually ask for her discretion/confidence or would that be making too big a deal of it? Should I try to build a collection of 3/4-length workout shirts somehow?

I think you’re making too big of a deal about it. It’s unlikely that your coworker will care and even less likely that she’ll mention it to your manager. But if your manager does happen to ask you about them, it’s fine to just say, “Oh, at work I pretend I don’t have them” or “Forget you heard that; I don’t like to expose them at work” or something like that.

3. Following up months after hearing nothing post-interview

I recently did a month-long interview process with a company. It included several phone interviews and a day-long interview with the team I’d be working on. I spoke with the HR manager a week after the interview and the manager said they’d get back to me “soon” with a yes/no. I followed up a few weeks later with an email and a phone call, but never heard back. It’s been two months and it’s pretty clear they’ve passed on me. The problem is this company fulfills a very specific role in the industry I work in and there are no companies like it in my region, so there’s a good chance we’ll cross paths or I’ll want to reapply for a position in the future.

Is there a way I can email without sounding desperate and saying something to the extent of, I hope we can work together in the future? I want to make sure no bridges are burned and that in spite of the HR person not doing their job, I don’t get passed up in the future because they remember they never called me back. I also accepted another job, so maybe I can say something to the extent of I’m withdrawing my application, so it doesn’t look poorly on them?

It’s actually possible that they still haven’t made a hiring decision and you’re still in the running, although it’s at least as likely that they have and just didn’t bother to get back to you, which is weirdly common. In any case, though, since you’ve accepted another job, you have perfect context for emailing. I’d say something like this: “Hi Jane, I’m not sure if the X position is still being filled or not, but I wanted to let you know that I’ve accepted another job and so should withdraw from consideration. I also want to let you know how much I enjoyed our conversations, and I’d love to talk with you in the future if another position opens up that you think might be a good fit.”

Even without that, though, I don’t think you’d need to worry that they’d be too ashamed to reach out to you in the future because they went AWOL on you this time. Companies that operate this way don’t think it’s a big deal and don’t feel much shame about it.

4. Can my references overlap with my letters of recommendation?

I’m applying for a position that asks for three references on the online application form and two letters of recommendation to be uploaded to their system afterwards. Should two of the three application form references be the same people as those I have gathered letters of recommendation from?

The parameters of the situation are as follows:
• I have enough good references to fill all five slots, reference letters and application references, independently.
• I was contacted directly by the hiring manager who asked me if I was interested in this position.
• I met the hiring manager after going to on an information interview with them which was arranged by one of my references for this job who was a colleague of the hiring manager.
• The hiring manger and my mutual connection cannot write a letter of recommendation because she was not my direct supervisor, but is willing to give me a good reference.
• Our mutual connection is on good terms with the hiring manager.

I think it’s fine for some of your references to be the same people who wrote letters of recommendation. If the employer wants different references, they’ll tell you.

Also, I hope this is law or academia, because otherwise asking for letters of recommendation is silly and not generally done.

5. Are our new break rules legal?

I am a non-exempt assistant manager at a large retail store in Pennsylvania. For years, the managers (there are 7 of us, of varying titles and responsibilities) were allowed to combine our 30-minute unpaid lunch breaks with our two paid 15-minute breaks to get an hour-long break, which was really nice. Being away from the store for an hour allowed me to accomplish a lot, including the ability to run errands, take a nice long head-clearing walk, or just relax and catch my breath.

Anyway, about 4 months ago, there was a change in upper management, and we were told (via email) to “discontinue this practice immediately.” In addition, we were told that the 30-minute unpaid break “must be taken,” but that the paid 15-minute breaks were at the store manager’s discretion, and easier to overlook when business demands it. In other words, if it’s busy (and it always is! we are tragically understaffed in a company-wide effort to save payroll), you’re not getting your 15-minute breaks. We are also not allowed to leave early to make up for that time.

As a management team, we’ve all done what we’ve been asked to do regarding this policy change, but I wonder if it’s legal. We are required to give our employees all of the breaks that they are due throughout the day, and if they miss one because it’s busy, we let them leave early. If our employees are non-exempt, and the managers are also non-exempt, what’s the difference? I couldn’t find anything specific to this on our HR website, nor was I able to ascertain any information from the Pennsylvania labor laws.

Yep, it’s legal, assuming you’re all 18 or older. Pennsylvania actually doesn’t require employers to provide any breaks to adult employees, so your employer can come up with whatever rules they want, as long as they’re paying you for all the time you do work. (In general, to find this kind of information for your state, google the state name plus “break laws.”)

{ 140 comments… read them below }

  1. Apollo Warbucks*

    #3 Its been months I wouldn’t even bother contacting the comapny, if the process was stil on going I would have expected you to told.

    I’d put it down to them be rude and inconsiderate and move on.

  2. LawBee*

    #2: I’ve found a good response to people who ask about my tattoos is to be kind of flip about it. “I heard you have tattoos?” “Sure do! So, about those Teapot Production Schematic Reports. . . ” If they press, and ask to see them, a 100% valid response is simply “No, I’d rather not.” Anyone who pushes beyond that is churlish. And while I totally respect your desire to keep that part of your life separate from work, I do agree that you’re overthinking this some. Ink isn’t that rare anymore, and I doubt your coworker would even mention it to your boss, if she even notices.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I can’t imagine a situation where I would see a coworker’s tattoos outside work and then feel the need to tell manager/coworkers that they had tattoos. That just seems like an odd thing to do and I wonder why the LW is worried about this. Is there some reason she thinks someone at work might disapprove of tatoos or the subjects of hers?

      1. TootsNYC*

        Tattoos used to have the reputation of being most common in the lower socio-economic strata. Or to be a sign of a rebellious attitude.
        I’m old enough that I still have lingering traces of that stereotype in my brain. But tattoos are on everybody now–all over the place.

        So I agree, I think that no one will care in the least–not the coworker (who probably won’t mention it, unless the OP presents SUCH a buttoned-up, straight-laced persona at work that the tattoos seem a real departure) and not the manager. It would really surprise me.

        1. Artemesia*

          I think that those of us who immediately think ‘trashy’ when we see a tatoo are dying out. I still just have a super negative reaction to ink especially what appears to be sloppy thoughtless or extensive ink; it was just a really negative thing when I grew up.

          It is so common now that I think particularly if they are covered at work and are not in themselves inept looking or obscene that people are unlikely to care much. I can imagine a boss not wanting them showing in client facing work but not many who would care that the employee had them.

        2. Chinook*

          As someone with a tattoo that is visible but not noticeable and who also comes off as conservative at work and in social settings (think Sunday School teacher and president of a religious Woman’s group), I have never had any negative comments from anyone when they have noticed it (and Eyore shows up whenever I go up to read at the Catholic Church as he is on my calf muscle, so this includes situations with literal pearl clutches with fans).

          I think the fact that you aren’t shoving it in someone’s face and you have established your personality before they see the tat goes a long way in not being a big deal.

          Best reveal of the tattoo: my brother’s wedding where my youngest nephew was asked by my mom to ask his auntie why she wrote on her leg.

        3. Mabel*

          I’m over 40, and I got my first tattoo on the outside of my wrist last year. People (mostly people with tattoos) keep saying how brave it is that I got my first one where everyone can see it. I truly don’t understand why it’s so brave. I guess if I was younger, I would have been more nervous about it, but I wanted people to see it – that’s why I put it there. :) I did buy a lace “bracelet” on Etsy that covers the tattoo if necessary, but I really can’t think of when I might need it. I’m thinking about getting another one, but I think this one will be in a more covered location. Not to contradict what I just said, but I do think that if someone has a lot of tattoos, it still can produce a negative reaction in some people – the thought that you aren’t as smart, serious, accomplished, etc. as people without tattoos (or with fewer tattoos). Not fair or accurate, but I think some people still think that way.

      2. oP 2*

        It’s not disapproval I was worried about from the coworker as much as harmless but significant surprise and curiosity that could push my boundaries if it carried into the office. I think my newness just made me a little more nervous than I needed to be about this since there’s really nothing to worry about content wise. Also, I answered this more in detail below but I’m used to a much more rigid and impersonal office dynamic so I’m still getting used to the idea that we all know each other as people too even though I think it’s great.

    2. OP 2*

      Thanks, I like this suggestion for a flippant response. To answer a couple of questions,
      -my tattoos are quite prominent when exposed (but since they are above the elbow my professional wardrobe conceals them)- they’re large and colorful and you’d pretty much have to be blind not to notice them .
      -they’re high quality
      -not worried about the subjects at all
      -the reason I was worried about it is that it’s really early on. I would have beEn less worried about it if I had time to get to know them more first so i would have a better idea of their feelings and personalities but I really just started a few weeks ago.
      -I’m about 30 and this is my third workplace and this is the first time I’ve ever had coworkers actively express interest in my personal life and seem to really know each other in a personal level. Seems like a tight knit group. I really like this but it’s a huge contrast from my last place of work.
      -I probably do seem to have somewhat of a straight laced persona at work, just due to where I am coming from professionally – an environment where most people never seemed to speak about personal lives at all other than their kids of course.

      Anyway this already happened, so here’s the update: I wore a tank for the workout like I normally would. Before I took off my hoodie I said “so, by the way, I’m tattooed,,,, but you’ll never ever see them at work. And since I’m so new at work im a little self conscious even showing you.” Or something like that. I think I was a little awkward about it. Her reaction was fine. I think she wasn’t sure what to expect but liked them when she saw them. she told me about one that she wants (in a slightly more prominent area) but is waiting until she goes into private practice in a different field. I said yeah, I found I always keep these areas covered anyway due to scars and other insecurities.
      She may have actually been pleasantly surprised that I have them or that I showed her since she’s shared some personal things with me already.
      I haven’t heard anything about it at work yet but I think this is a great response you’ve suggested if I do.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        OP – All I can say is that you must not live in my city. Not having a tattoo at your age would be more cause for comment than having one. :)

        I totally get tattoos being a personal thing. I’ve had relatives that had tattoos (very traditional in the Navy), and due to military requirements, they had to be in places that are covered when in uniform, but they have a very personal meaning for military personnel.

      2. Ruthan*

        Glad it went okay. Seriously, if your manager is asking you to remove clothing (which it sounds like you’d have to do for anyone to see them at the office), there are bigger problems here.

      3. SailorJerry*

        If you have a working-class accent, also having tattoos will probably reinforce the impression with some people that you are a rough customer. However, as long as they aren’t gang or prison affiliated, you will be fine with anyone under 40. (Over 40, they might react negatively due to old stereotypes.)

        If they are military tattoos, you’ll find that even in very conservative environments they are likely be tolerated, provided you dress professionally otherwise; if you’re wearing pressed khakis, polished dress shoes, and a short-sleeve button-down that allows part of your tattoo to peek out, (or the female equivalent) it is unlikely to raise eyebrows.

    3. fluffy*

      I’ve also been told by someone I trust that we shouldn’t ask about anyone’s tattoos. Let the inked initiate the conversation, no matter how curious you are about the images.

      1. Mabel*

        I appreciate that. One woman in my chorus asked about it and then said, “…if you don’t mind telling me,” which I appreciated (and I didn’t mind telling her). Tattoos are often very personal, and people might not want to discuss them with just anyone. But on the other hand, if they’re in a location on your body where people can see them, there’s a chance that people will ask. I haven’t decided whether I will make up a story if asked about it or just say it’s personal. I don’t know if I have a “right” to expect privacy about my tattoo when I’ve put it in a place where people can see it.

        1. Rana*

          I think you do – just like it’s a bit rude to comment on people’s bodies in general – but people invade other people’s privacy all the time, so you will probably end up fielding comments about it anyway. :/

  3. Bee Eye LL*

    #5 – Break time is always a point of contention between smokers and non-smokers where I work. People will go out and smoke for 10 minutes every friggin’ hour if you let them. I have joked that I ought to take up the habit just for the paid time off work.

    1. Amber*

      At one job I had I would go outside with the smokers and just chat with them if I wanted because it did feel unfair that they constantly got long breaks throughout the day but if I just stood around for a break I’d probably get in trouble.

    2. UKAnon*

      They tried to ban eating at desks where my friend worked, so I pointed out that smokers get breaks to go and smoke and he should ask for the same number of breaks to go and eat.

    3. Rebecca*

      This is an issue at my workplace, also in PA. I think smokers should be limited to the same breaks we get, 2 paid 15 minute breaks per day, plus 1 unpaid 30 minute lunch break. Many of them are outside smoking at least once per hour, and take their breaks on top of that. Personally, I think the entire office should go and stand outside with the smokers, every time they go out, just to make a point.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        My husband’s employer just changed to being a tobacco-free campus, so no one can smoke on the property, but the company doesn’t have any say over the public road leading to the building. As a result, when I drop my husband off at work at 5:20 a.m., there are cars lined up on the side of the road, filled with employees taking one last drag before they have to clock in. It’s kind of a perfect example of the addictive properties of tobacco products.

    4. Merry and Bright*

      Where I worked until 10 years ago, one coworker in my team got so fed up with what she saw as smokers getting extra breaks that she started standing outside holding an unlit cigarette and saying she was damn well getting her breaks too.

        1. BeenThere*

          I did this when I was a bank teller, it was highly effective form of protest.

          All the smokers would take their smoke breaks together, which in our small branch amounted to half the staff standing outside for 5- 10 minutes. While they were doing this the queues would build up. After they returned all the non smokers started meeting in the lunch room for our “non smoking break” leaving them to deal with the queue of customers they had created.

          Needless to say the smokers starting only smoking on our designated breaks.

      1. KH*

        Where I work, it’s trips to go get coffee. Not the nearby coffee shop, the one that’s 3 blocks away. I’m not a coffee drinker. When they all go get coffee, I stop working until they get back!

    5. hermit crab*

      I know several people (mostly of my grandma’s generation, so this would have been during the 1940s or so) who took up smoking specifically so they could have more breaks at their jobs.

    6. Q*

      This was a big point of contention at my work and I solved it by one day standing up, announcing I was taking a smoke break and leaving for 10 minutes. I don’t smoke but everyone else on my team did and I was tired of sitting at my desk for fours hours at a time while they took regular breaks. Now its a common thing for non-smokers to take smoke breaks.

    7. INTP*

      I work from home and find that spending 10 minutes every hour, or 5 every 30 min, away from my desk and screens helps me maintain productivity and mental stamina – I’ve never thought of it as excessive (I don’t smoke on the breaks, of course). I get that what’s reasonable could be very different in retail though where an employee’s main job is just to be physically present, though.

    8. neverjaunty*

      I know a lot of people in service industries (like food service) who became smokers precisely because if you weren’t a smoker, you didn’t get breaks and you got stuck covering for the people who took them.

    9. Cheddar2.0*

      In the military, it’s pretty common to smoke just to have breaks. My husband smoked on every deployment and training mission but would quit each time he was home on normal hours. He’s very lucky that he never really got truly addicted.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      My guess would be that these are paid breaks, or at least the 15 minute breaks are with perhaps an unpaid 30 minute lunch break.

    2. UKAnon*

      I read it as they take a 30 min break and don’t get paid – so if they are working a 7 hour shift, they get paid 6.5 hours with the half hour break. They can also take 2 15 minute breaks without this affecting their pay.

      I have to be honest that while it sucks for the policy to change, unless you are working longer than usual shifts I think that’s generous break time for jobs like retail and I can see why management want you around when it’s busy. If you *are* working uber-long hours then I think it would be good practice by the company to make all efforts to give you your breaks, but otherwise I think that the 15 mins are more of a perk when it’s quiet.

      1. Anyonymous*

        I worked retail for five years. Those 15 minute breaks were life-savers. Being on your feet for eight hours is tough, especially when you’re running around trying to find things the whole time.

  4. CreationEdge*

    Almost no states have laws regarding convenience breaks. The only federal law on the matter is that if you’re being given a bona-fide unpaid meal break you’re not allowed to do any work during that time, at all, or you must be paid for the entire meal break.

    Then there are OSHA regulations that require you that you have reasonable access to restrooms.

    Otherwise, paid or unpaid breaks are a perk you’re, unfortunately, not guaranteed unless you’re in one of the lucky states.

    On a side note… Leaving early because you didn’t get a paid break seems off, to me. You’d be cutting your own hours by 15-30 minutes a shift. I’d dislike it, but I can imagine younger workers wouldn’t be that concerned.

    1. UKAnon*

      Why younger workers? I’m not trying to be snarky just genuinely curious. When I worked a similar environment (restaurant) we were allowed a 15 min break in the afternoon if it was quiet but not otherwise, and it was always the older workers who took it no matter how busy we were and also always tried to leave early even if it was an inconvenience (not all the older workers did this, but it was only older workers who did it) I’ve always thought that us younger ones are more likely not to stand up for our rights or needs and to keep working through because of that.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        In the UK break rules are stricter for under 18s. I worked at McDonalds for a few years, and left about 2 years ago so my experience is still quite recent. My store was pretty good at giving young workers their correct breaks. I might have this wrong as I didn’t double check this just now but I think over 18s need a break every 6 hours and under 18s need one every 4 hours. For over 18s they often ignored break rules altogether or had us clock out and keep working etc. They were more worried about getting in trouble for breaking rules to protect the under 18s. That said, they did often treat young workers pretty bad in other ways…

        1. Merry and Bright*

          I’ve come across employers like this too. Even over 18s are protected under 1974 Health and Safety At Work Act though some places act like they’ve never heard of it. There is a legal requirement for proper breaks.

    2. Dorth Vader*

      (Not the OP) For the leaving early piece, when I worked retail if we had to miss our paid 15 because the store was busy then the manager would go into the clock program and manually clock us out at our regular time. Didn’t happen often, usually around Christmas and Valentine’s Day due to the nature of our store. They were especially sensitive to break policies since a big chunk of us were under 18 at the time.

    3. doreen*

      About the leaving early and cutting your own hours- I suspect they weren’t cutting their hours. Those 15 minute breaks are paid breaks and they would no doubt leave early and make whatever adjustments were necessary to the timekeeping system.

      My employer ( a state agency, not a retailer) has a similar, very detailed written policy- mandatory unpaid lunch of at least 30 minutes if you worked 6 hours and two discretionary paid breaks of up to 15 minutes. Breaks could not be scheduled to leave early, come in late or extend lunch. A person can take an unpaid meal break of up to an hour, but they can’t combine a 30 minute unpaid with 2 15 minute paid breaks and take a hour long break half-paid and half-unpaid or leave early or come in late without either using PTO or adjusting their schedule for the day. Some supervisors allowed people to do so anyway – so their timesheets said they came in at 8:30 when they really came in a 9:00 or took lunch from 12:30- 1 when it was really 12-1 etc. And of course, when those units/bureaus got a new supervisor who followed the policy , there were people upset about changing a policy that really hadn’t changed- I kind of suspect that this is what happened with the OP’s workplace.

      The rationale for my agency’s policy is as follows
      1) Any break of over 20 minutes can be legally be unpaid. A 60 minute lunch break is a single break of over 20 minutes, it’s not three separate breaks.
      2) Paid break time is discretionary and not a form of PTO. The reason it exists at all is for the jobs where a person can’t leave and use the restroom or get a cup of coffee without scheduling coverage. Most positions allow a person to use the restroom or get a cup of coffee whenever they want to. They don’t need scheduled breaks in the way other positions, such as receptionists, do.
      3) A break is a period of non-working time bracketed between two periods of work. Coming in late or leaving early or extending a lunch is not a break. And of course, if that receptionist comes in half an hour late because he “used” his breaks at the beginning of the day, he’s probably still going to need coverage to use the restroom at some point.

    4. Anyonymous*

      I read that as someone not getting a break gets to leave early and not clock out early. So they’re off at 8 pm, didn’t get their 15-minute break, leave at 7:45, manager clocks them out at 8. They’re still getting paid for the whole time.

  5. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    For OP#5 :

    Wait a minute. You’re telling me that in the US there are states where you don’t even get breaks o_o ? So I could be working my a** off in retail, for 8 hours, with nothing but a measly 30 minutes break that I might not even get the most out of if I have to queue for food and stuff ?


    1. LadyTL*

      Yeah, that’s pretty standard most retail and food service in US and even in a bunch of places in Canada

      1. Chinook*

        The lack of breaks would be illegal in Canada. Every province has rules requiring a min. 15min break for every __ hours worked plus a 30 minute lunch break after _ hours (numbers vary by province). On retailer pulled that on means an under 18 cashier on a 4 hour shift. She wouldn’t even let us break or washroom until I threatened a wet spot. Afterwards, I complained to her manager about the illegality and not only got paid for the extra time but we got an apology! The under 18 cashier didn’t want to make a big deal but I reminded her that, if it happens once, it will happen again.

        1. Snork Maiden*

          Not in the province where I work – coffee breaks are at employer’s discretion. Half hour unpaid meal break is mandatory within every five hours of work, although if employee must be available during it they must be paid.

          It was difficult getting used to this at first, but fortunately my current employer is lax and I can take a five minute breather here or there without any hassle.

          1. Snork Maiden*

            Also I should add, the laws here state “An employer isn’t required to give a meal break where there is an unexpected, unusual, or emergency circumstance or it is not reasonable for an employee to take a meal break. If the employer does not have to give a meal break, employees must be able to eat while working only after they have worked for five hours.” There is a clause for medical exemption, but I’m giving the province a big side-eye here. It seems pretty easy for an employer to say “No breaks, it’s not reasonable today” and be justified.

    2. HR Caligula*

      No federal laws address break or meal time for 18 years or older beyond if you are given a break of 20 minutes or less than it must be paid. Approx have the states do have laws addressing meal and break times but they do differ.

      That said, even in states that don’t require meals or breaks, most companies do provide.

      1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

        Wow ^^;; . Well, if I ever manage to come to the US to work (even retail would be “fun” at this point… Oh the horror stories!) I think I’ll just try to win the lottery beforehand just to make sure I can quit whenever I want.

        (Yeah, I still have this silly fantasy of working for Walmart or Target and see if I last more than a week. Go figure)

        1. Liane*

          If you want to try it, remember that it is amazingly easy to smile pleasantly and speak in a friendly tone, while thinking, “You are the rudest, stupiest person I have seen in the last 30 minutes!”
          I am a talented snark – any of my friends and family will confirm – & I could do it.

        2. And we danced from the ocean*

          Heh I wonder about that, too. I mean, I even *like* my job, but there is always crap to deal with in any job. Something I don’t have to deal with at work anymore is disrespect – basically because of my age and my title.

          But if I quit or got laid off or retired – the title goes away and I’m just another old guy. The first time a Wal-Mart shopper got in my face over something stupid – I’m not sure how that would end.

        3. Anonymous for this*

          I worked at Walmart for over six years, including a couple years as the second-in-command of two stores, and it’s company policy that hourly employees get a 60 minute unpaid lunch hour and two paid 15 minute breaks, depending on how long the shift is. If you don’t take those breaks, you can actually get written up, and there is absolutely NO wiggle room about the lunch period. Breaks and lunches aren’t optional or taken away at the whim of customer traffic. Walmart does a lot of crappy things, but they don’t fool around with breaks and lunches.

      2. Artemesia*

        And look at people howl about raising the minimum wage. The CEO of Crispycream is currently whining about the terrible terrible 15$ minimum wage that is phased in by 2018. I bet it is lower than the minimum wage was when I started to work in the 50s — certainly it is lower than it was (inflation adjusted) in the 70s.

        The 1% really want a feudal society (but without the obligation to the serfs that the lord had over his manor) where the bottom 99% are emiserated.

        1. Honeybee*

          I was curious about this, so I checked. The current minimum wage, $7.50/hour, has about the same buying power as the minimum wage in 1950 ($0.75) did then.

          However, the minimum wage in 1970 was $2.00, which has the same buying power as $12.30 in today’s economy. By 1976 the minimum wage was $2.30, which has the buying power of $14.15 in today’s economy. So yes, minimum wage workers have less buying power today than they did in the 1970s. A quick look at minimum wage history (using the Bureau of Labor Statistics and an inflation calculator) shows that the buying power of the minimum wage started to fall in the early 1980s, since by then the minimum wage of $3.30 (1981) only had a buying power of $8.79. This is unsurprising given the conservative resurgence and trickle-down economics in the early 1980s.

        2. sunny-dee*

          Um, they did a $15/hour minimum wage in San Francisco and Seattle, and 25% of restaurants have gone out of business in the first 4 months of the year, as well as independent retailers like Borderlands (a famous sci-fi bookstore in San Francisco). A minimum wage hike like that is terrible for small businesses or for anyone who hires unskilled labor. Among other things, it’s responsible for destroying teenage employment. And a lot of places like MacDonald’s actually try to pay a certain amount above minimum wage — a minimum wage hike really hurts their ability to staff restaurants.

          1. Meadowsweet*

            Borderlands was actually able to remain open (yay!), but only because of a sponsorship program (that was just about foisted on them by customers and is really not a sustainable model for most businesses!)

            But ya…small businesses are generally huge employers with tight margins, and somehow that gets lost in these discussions. I’m all for raising minimum wage (I spent years working for min., and it sucks), but the money has to come from somewhere.

          2. Artemesia*

            If it applies to all restaurants then no restaurant has a competitive edge by offering starvation wages. There are many recent studies of minimum wage impact on employment; it doesn’t reduce employment generally and tends to actually improve the economy as more money circulating generally does. When no one makes a living wage, they have no money to buy things at those small businesses.

            And today most people working in fast food places are not teens, they are young and sometimes older adults trying to support themselves in an economy that has shipped most of its low skilled labor to countries with slave labor or subsistence labor.

            1. KH*

              +1 This is agreed by most economists. It’s more of a case of less money in the owners pockets and more money in employees’ pockets. A financially comfortable owner will spend only a fraction of income, while a minimum wage earner will spend nearly 100% of what they earn (or more, even). This increases the velocity of money. The faster money moves through the economy, the more healthy the economy becomes.

          3. Windchime*

            Whoa, do you have a citation for the 25% statistic in Seattle? I live near Seattle and have heard just the opposite; Seattle’s economy seems to be doing just fine and the $15/hour doesn’t even take full effect until 2017 (or 2018 if the employer also offers health insurance).

          4. Panda Bandit*

            San Francisco and Seattle still hold first and second place for most restaurants in the country, even ahead of NYC. Restaurants are notoriously fragile and you can expect at least 25% of new ones to fail in the first year anyway. This looks much more like correlation than causation.

          5. Student*

            Restaurants have a very high failure rate industry-wide. With no special external factors at all, about 25% fail in their first year, and 60% close within 3 years of opening (Bloomberg article). It really wouldn’t surprise me to hear that 25% of restaurants had shut down in the immediate aftermath of the the wage hike – those restaurants were very likely on a bad financial footing beforehand; this was merely a good excuse to look hard at the books and throw in the towel a bit early on businesses that were going to fail anyway without the wage hike.

            It’s temporary and things will get back to normal very soon; only now those restaurants will have more potential customers who can afford to eat out.

    3. I'm a Little Teapot*

      US employment laws are notoriously awful. Very little is illegal, especially on a national level. Some states are better, but it really depends on the state, and even at the state level we don’t have most of the protections people in a lot of other countries are accustomed to.

    4. BRR*

      While there are no laws a lot of employers have (terrible) rules. They’re pretty awful and the managers try to work around them. My husband was in retail and company policy was you couldn’t work more than X number of days in a row but they counted number of days you worked by week so in each week you wouldn’t work more than X number of days but he’d be scheduled continuously over two weeks so he worked like 11 days in a row but technically wasn’t violating company policy.

    5. SevenSixOne*

      Most US states don’t require any kind of break at all. My first several jobs were retail/foodservice, and employees were expected to eat during down time. If you worked on a day with NO downtime, you didn’t get to eat.

      I’ve been in jobs with regular breaks for almost 3 years now, but I’m still not used to it.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I guess I was lucky. I worked in fast food in the late 80’s, and I remember getting breaks as well as a meal time. This was on the west coast, maybe the laws are tougher there.

    6. Eliz87*

      It’s terrible. When I waited tables I had the occasional double shift (13 hours!!) with absolutely no break. Just grabbing a bite here or there beteen serving tables.

        1. KH*

          Seriously. I was laid off from a good full time job last year. I’m a contractor now, with no health care, no paid time off (no personal holiday and no sick leave). I get sick, I don’t get paid. Take the car to the shop, don’t get paid. Too tired from work and need a day off, don’t get paid.
          This would be illegal in most countries.

    7. A*

      This is news to me too, and I’m an American. I was reading #5 and thinking “yes, of course that’s illegal.” Turns out I’ve just lived and worked in one of the few states where paid breaks actually are required every four hours, and foolishly assumed it was a federal standard. I feel a bit worse about my country now. (But a bit more pleased with my state.)

      1. Honeybee*

        I thought my former state (Georgia) did have a break law because my manager for my summer job in college was always crowing about it. Turns out there is no break law in GA. (We used to have hour-long breaks, and then he split them into a 30-minute break and two 15-minute breaks. I hated it because I felt like it wasn’t really a good break).

        WA does have break period law (a 30-minute meal + 10 minutes for each 4 hours you work). NY only requires a meal break of 30 minutes sometime between 11 am and 2 pm, but no other breaks.

        Ah, the disorganized States of America.

      2. Windchime*

        Same here. I guess Washington is doing a few things right. It’s required here (at least for non-exempt workers).

    8. Anonyby*

      California might be a pain in the rear sometimes, but this is one of the reasons I love it–mandatory breaks. Anything over 3.5 hours requires a paid 10min break. Anything over 5 hours requires an unpaid 30min lunch break.

      Now this is different than what I heard years ago, when it was 3 hours 15 min break, and 6.25 hours for a 30 min lunch. My company’s policy is 15 minute breaks, and then lunches depend on the hours and what’s agreed upon… usually 1 hr on weekdays and 30 min on weekends (if the day is long enough to warrant a lunch break, usually it isn’t).

    9. Katriona*

      I left retail for exactly that reason. I have a chronic illness (which I disclosed during the hiring process) and could not be on my feet that whole time–but as soon as the Christmas shopping season ended, payroll was cut and there’d be only three of us scheduled for the entire dayshift (with our exact hours staggered, as I came in before the store opened and the cashier came in later). If the cashier called out, I’d be standing up there for 10 hours straight, and it was completely legal. More than once I was in so much pain that a customer caught me crying and I had to pretend it was allergies.

    10. Me*

      Actually you could be working 12 hours in a factory and get, at most, 1/2 hr for lunch and a couple 10-min bathroom breaks. Our labor laws suck.

      1. KH*

        I worked in a factory once. They were very strict about break durations. The break clock started as soon as you left your work area. It would take 3-4 minutes just to reach the break area.

    11. Callie*

      Yes. I once worked in a restaurant (the type where your food is cooked at the table) where we opened the doors at 5 pm and closed at midnight (though some guests might linger longer) and you did not get a break. At all.

  6. Rebecca*

    #5 – I work in PA too, and discovered that workers 18 and over here have almost no protection. My employer reduced sick time and took away 3 paid holidays, and no one was happy and everyone said “can they do that, is it legal?” Yup.

    Take a look at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry site, Labor Law Compliance, General Wage and Hour Questions. I was surprised to learn that comp time is illegal here, yet I know people who work for both private business and government entities that do this. There are no rules stating that workers over 18 get breaks, your company can fire you if you refuse to work overtime, and there are no rules stating employees must receive holiday pay, sick leave, vacation pay, or severance pay. Not surprisingly, the On Call section refers to people with beepers, so apparently this hasn’t been updated in a while. And since PA is an “at will” state, you can be fired at any time and your employer doesn’t have to give a reason. If you think you’ve been fired for one of the protected situations, you can call the PA Human Relations commission.

    I’m grateful our company has paid breaks, but worry that eventually this will be taken away as well, just like our sick days and paid holidays have been reduced.

    1. fposte*

      And that is pretty U.S. standard. Most states don’t require rest breaks; most states don’t require meal breaks. Most states don’t prohibit mandatory overtime. Most states don’t require holiday pay; very few states require sick leave; I’m not finding any states that require vacation days (though some control their use if they exist). Severance pay doesn’t seem to be required anywhere across the board by state law (there are hints that some states require it in a WARN act situation). 49 states are at will, and the 50th is at will in a substantial portion of employment situations. Even the usual outlier state, California, seems to be in step on the on-call time–it’s not automatically paid, and whether it is depends on how much the employer is still controlling the employee’s time.

      If you’re looking for best protections of employee rights, California and Massachusetts are probably your best states overall, but also look to individual big cities, since they often confer additional protections.

      1. BRR*

        It’s horrifying to think we had to fight to get to this far and people actually oppose sick leave, meal breaks, mandatory overtime, parental leave (no way I’m counting fmla as parental leave). It’s so weird to me that people who decide these laws/company policies make these decisions as they should be able to recognize human needs.

        1. Renn*

          But — that is exactly how people in the U.S. service economy work. No paid sick leave, no paid holidays, etc. We have two distinct classes of workers in the United States and have for years.

          1. KH*

            It’s not just the service economy. I’m in a management-level IT job and I don’t get sick leave or paid holiday because probably a third of the workforce for this large, publicly traded company is considered to be ‘contingent workers’. We do the same work as the full time employees, but with none of the benefits.
            I hate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holiday periods because I don’t get paid!

            The crazy thing is I’m actually a W-2 employee – not for the company, but for a contract agency the company goes to for its contingent workforce. Yes, it is legal for a full time W-2 employee to have unpaid holiday, personal or sick leave.

            (I said 100K job – it’s actually a lot less than that when you consider the value of the missing benefits)

      2. Kyrielle*

        Oregon, and even moreso Portland, is not too bad. We *do* have required meal and break times. Portland requires sick accrual. There are additional leave requirements (OFLA) that are more extensive than FMLA requirements. Etc.

  7. Juli G.*

    #2: I don’t know about Allison’s answer. It’s hard for me to put myself in this one because I can’t imagine asking an employee about their tattoos but if someone said “Forget you heard that. I don’t expose them at work”, I would become concerned that the tattoos were offensive and reflected on the employee’s character (i.e. racist, etc).

    I think if the manager asked (which seems unlikely), I would say “Oh yes, I got one on my birthday/with my best friend/etc”. It’s not anyone’s business but it takes more of the mystery out.

    1. OP 2*

      Thanks, I think you make a good point. I probably wouldn’t want to sound that serious about it and raise more mystery. I can probably come up with something nice and vague yet Enough info to be reassuring that they’re innocuous. The only difference is that there are more than one though. What would you think about “yeah, I got one as a memorial, and I have a nature scene. I’ve always kept them covered in the workplace though.” Too specific?

      1. Mints*

        I can be too short sometimes, but I go with “I have a dove on my back” (in response to “Do you have tattoos?”). I say it cheerfully and move on. For you, I’d say “I have a nature scene on my arm (: ”
        I don’t think you have to specify that you keep it covered at work, because they know that already. I don’t see them pressing to see it (it’s rare in my experience, but maybe that’s because it requires me to take off my shirt usually)

      2. catsAreCool*

        I think a memorial and a nature scene sound nice. If you don’t mind talking about them, that might be a good thing to say. I agree that being too mysterious about them may make people think that there’s something offensive about them.

    2. Ruffingit*

      I agree, that phrasing is odd. I would go with yours, it seems less like someone is trying to cover something up (so to speak).

  8. Xarcady*

    #5. I think your company has joined the ranks of most retailers. You had it nice with the hour-long lunches, but now they are gone.

    I’m working a part-time retail job now, at a large national chain of department stores. If we work 4.5 hours or more, we get an unpaid .5 hour meal break, plus a 20 minute paid break. Over 6.5 hours, and the unpaid meal break can be extended to 1 hour (although the managers encourage you to clock back in after 30 minutes–you have to have that 30 minute break due to state laws), and you still get the 20 minute paid break. Over nine hours in a shift and you get a second 20 minute paid break.

    This is due to state laws. You must get a meal break in the first five hours of your shift. Which leads to things like arriving at 9:45 am to open the store, and having your scheduled meal break at 10:30, your 20 minute break at 12:30, and then working without a break until 7 pm. Fortunately, the managers are reasonable and never make you take your breaks at the scheduled times. Everyone ignores the break schedule, because it is ridiculous.

    But the times you get to take your paid 20 minute break are rare. If the manager isn’t around, we can just tell each other, “Hey, I’m going on my 20 minute break,” and the available staff just move around to cover. But if the manager is in the area, they will keep finding things for you to do, unless you get very assertive and announce, “I’m taking my 20 minute break now.” Then they will tell you that you can’t, So-and-So is at lunch. Then you have to press them to tell you when they will be back from lunch, and ask if it is okay if you go on break then. Most days, you just never get to go, not if there are customers in the store.

    They care a lot about the unpaid meal break, because in the past, they gotten into trouble with the state about late breaks or too short breaks, etc. The paid 20 minute break? They’d rather you miss it; they get more work out of you.

    1. BRR*

      Ugh my husband had the weirdest meal times some days because they had to stagger when people were off the floor. He’d get home at 6:30 and sometimes he ate lunch at 3:30 despite starting at 9:30. Complicated that so many people would call off or just not show up.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I often think how lucky I am–my job is not physically hard (it’s not even all that mentally hard), I have an hour for lunch, flexibility in time off, weekends off, holidays off, and I get paid a crap-ton more than the people who work in retail.

      I’ve taken to thanking all the retail workers I ever encounter–especially if they’re working a weekend, or early morning (it makes my life SO much easier to go to the drug store in the a.m.; I’m grateful they got up so early), or evening. Basically, any time I’m off.

      Oh, and my managers are more sane, and they can’t do as much damage to my life. What is it with retail, that allows such horrendous treatment of subordinates? I know there are great store managers, but there are SO many stories of managers (and policies) that just chew up people’s lives. Almost as if they do it because they can!

      1. mel*

        Yeah, my husband also has a sane arrangement that involves lots of flexible vacation time, weekends/holidays, medical/dental, better wage, etc etc

        While I work all weekends/holidays for minimum, have zero benefits of any kind and come home smelly, bruised and creaking from walking on hard tile all day. It’s hard not to feel a LITTLE bitter about it.

        But of course he’s so used to this accommodation that he’s convinced that every hilarious hijinks story I come home with has got to have broken some kind of labour law or at least a violation of health and safety. Well, nope! Welcome to retail/hospitality! Whips are to the right, extra-tall bridge is to the left.

      2. Xarcady*

        It’s not the managers. It’s corporate policy. The managers just do their best to keep up with the constant policy changes.

        The managers at my store are mostly very good, with one or two average ones. But the mandates from on high, from the corporate people are just insane.

        The people in the corporate offices who make policy are so far removed from the sales floor that they have no idea just how much they mess things up with their “improvements.” They are focused on making money, not on making the sales jobs pleasant to work. And they wonder why they have such high turnover and high call-out rates.

        1. Me*

          And they have the gall to whine about the ‘ridiculous’ $15/hr minimum law, when they themselves make $thousands/hr.


  9. Sara*

    #4 – In my experience, Allison’s advice is spot on. I’m also in a field where it’s the norm to use letters of recommendation, but I also make contact information for those recommenders available (with their permission, of course) to prospective employers in case the employer has questions about my performance that aren’t covered in the letter. But I definitely think that if you have additional references who can speak on your behalf, it’s smart to have their contact information available, just in case.

    (I did once have a prospective employer decline to contact one of my references and ask me to substitute someone else, although it was weirdly because the employer knew the reference personally – in her words, “too well” – and thought that their relationship meant the reference would be biased? I never figured that one out. Fortunately, I had contact information for someone else who was willing to speak on my behalf.)

  10. Franny*

    #2: I think I understand how you feel. I have a couple of sizable tattoos that are usually covered up just in the general course of things, and sometimes when people see them for the first time they are really vocally surprised. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that I “don’t seem like the kind of person to have tattoos”, which I might understand if the tattoos in question were a flaming skull or a Sideshow Bob “Die Bart Die,” but we’re talking a woodcut style bird and a compass rose. What I think they’re trying to say is that I come across as very buttoned up and professional, and tattoos don’t seem to go with that. Which is silly– I am exactly the same uptight spreadsheet-wrangler whether my tattoos are exposed or not– but they do affect how people react to me.

    That being said, your coworkers have the benefit of having gotten to know you at this point. If you act cagey or secretive about your tattoos, I think they will take their cues from you and feel cagey and weird about it. I think your best bet is to act like your tattoos aren’t a big deal and not bring them up unless you’re asked about them directly. If someone does ask you about them, either at the gym or later in the office, just acknowledge that you have them and prefer to keep them covered at work. Preemptively asking your coworker to keep your tattoos a secret or telling someone to forget that they know you have them gives your ink a weird power, which I think is the very thing you’re trying to avoid.

    Sometimes even people who don’t have a moral or professional issue with tattoos make ink a Big Deal. This is totally not universal, and it doesn’t always come out as a prejudice against people with tattoos. A coworker once told me, nearly a year after I was hired, that someone on my interview panel had caught a glimpse of part of a tattoo during my first interview, and that it contributed to her wanting to bring me in for a second round because it made her think I must be an interesting, multi-layered person. Which is baffling– it’s ink, not an achievement. But I think any kind of The Tattoos That Must Not Be Named attempts at deflection on your part will only make them seem mysterious and worthy of interest. Acknowledge if asked about them, then change the subject. Boom, done.

    1. Today's anon*

      I agree that trying to hide it makes it seem a bigger deal than it is. I swim at a local pool near work and some colleagues have seen my tattoo (I don’t show it at work) and at most they’ll say something like “oh, you have a tattoo!” and I’ll answer “yes!” and that ends the conversation (I’m also one of those people no one expects to have a tattoo). Every so often, I might go into why I got the tattoo but that is rare and it really feels like my choice. No one has ever said anything to my manager that I know of, or even to another colleague.

    2. OP 2*

      Yes, it sounds like you DO know how I feel!!! Mine are both pretty much american traditional (and one includes a bird). Thanks for the input. I think you are spot on. And LOL @ sideshow bob

  11. LookyLou*

    #5 reminds me of my own workplace… We get our 1 hour unpaid lunch and 2 paid 15 minute breaks in the day.

    Out of nowhere our 15 minute breaks became a problem for management. They said that we had to stop taking regular advantage of paid breaks if there is work to do.

    Months ago my own manager practically ordered me to take these paid breaks – without them I was becoming burnt out and my chronic pain condition was worsening.

    But now I have been told that my paid breaks are to stop since there is always work that can be done!

    I can appreciate employees skipping the odd break when there is an overflow of work, but I find it disgusting to suddenly change policy because there is no legal entitlement… To me it just shows how little employees are appreciated.

    1. catsAreCool*

      What is ironic to me is that this type of employer doesn’t seem to realize that turnover is expensive. Even at entry level jobs, there is some learning curve, and when you get good people, you want them to stay, or at least to recommend good people to work there. If you don’t treat them well, they’ll leave more quickly. The worse a place is to work at, the harder it is to retain good employees. In the long run, that’s going to be very expensive for most companies.

      1. LookyLou*

        I agree with you. It is the small things that end of keeping your good employees in the long run. I would stay with this employer forever if they simply gave me enough down time to keep me from aggravating my condition.

        I almost find it comical that they think by taking away our 30 minutes of paid breaks will make us work just as hard & efficiently for 30 minutes. If anything I think everyone is going to start slacking off!

  12. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Out of curiosity, how many of y’all complaining about U.S. labor laws have actually written to your members of Congress and state legislators asking them to change things?

    Totally not targeted toward anyone here in particular, but my experience in general is that the answer will be few or none, and I never understand that.

    Does it bother you enough to write them? If so:

    (This does work, if enough of you do it. Legislators have staff members devoted to tallying up what they’re hearing on each side of issues, and they pay attention to it. The problem is that few people bother, on most issues.)

    1. doreen*

      One explanation is that people tend to write about issues that affect them personally – and there are large groups of people who aren’t affected personally by the lack of Federal labor laws . Some of them because they work in a city or state that provides more protection , others because they work under contracts that provide more protection and probably even more who work for companies which provide benefits that aren’t legally required. For example, no law requires paid vacation in NYC – but most full-time and even some part-time jobs provide it, and those people are not really affected by the lack of a legal requirement.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep — but in the amount of time it takes to post here about how awful it is, people could be writing a letter that could do something about it.

        1. Artemesia*

          I have grown cynical. Legislators often won’t even meet with a group of citizens unless thousands of dollars in contributions are forthcoming. They don’t work for us, they work for the Koch brothers and other billionaires whose steady agenda is the impoverishment of America.

          1. Windchime*

            Sadly, this is the way I look at it, too. I just see the government as some big, corrupt bureaucracy filled with people at the top who don’t care about anything but retaining their position.

          2. LawBee*

            oooooh, that’s not true at all. I was in DC recently and had meetings with several reps offices with no problem at all.

        2. Anon in PA*

          I contacted my state representative about a work-related issue, which was particularly suitable because she was on the committee that dealt with that issue. She agreed with me, was very sympathetic, and, despite one reminder note from me, nothing…

          My state legislature is notoriously overpaid and underachieving, and basically until a lawmaker has seniority, their legislation goes nowhere. As do my votes opposing all these lawmakers — thank you, gerrymandering.

    2. Elizabeth*

      I have. The response I got from my “representative” was “I’m here to represent the people who agree with me.” If it isn’t obvious, I was writing in support of a position he doesn’t agree with.

      1. catsAreCool*

        Sounds like a good time to take pictures of your letter and his reply, post them to Facebook, etc. so that people who disagree with him will know to vote against him next time.

    3. A K Climpson*

      If people are writing to their members of Congress, it’s really helpful to have specific asks. In many offices, it’s more likely that someone higher up will at least take a look at a bill you ask them to sign onto or a specific question you have about their stance than it is that they’ll act in response to a broad issue, where you might just get a broad intern-written* form letter in reply.

      Congress-dot-gov lets people search by issue area, if you’re looking for things to ask for. In this case, for instance, HR 3071 and S 1772 were just introduced as the “Schedules That Work Act” to give more rights to workers at jobs with changing schedules. S 1564 would require 10 days of paid vacation for many workers. I can’t speak to the particulars of those bills, as I just glanced at them, but there’s a lot of information pretty readily available.

      *My perspective here is as a former hill intern, so I wrote many of those letters before getting out

    4. Elysian*

      I wish I had a member of Congress to write to… :'( But I live in DC. I wish I had written more when I lived in a real state.

      1. Talvi*

        What do people do in DC when this sort of thing arises? Who are they meant to contact?

        1. Cat*

          We have a non-voting delegate in the House, but otherwise we just don’t have representation.

        2. Elysian*

          Yup, we just have no one to cast a vote on our behalf, so while I can write to my delegate in theory, its basically the same as airing my grievances to my cat because she can’t do anything about it.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I don’t write that often because I live in one of the most progressive counties in a blue state, and my reps all support raising the minimum wage and such. I so write them a few times about some issues occasionally, but most of the time I know that I am happy with their positions. But I think I will write them all about abolishing the tipped minimum wage, because that shit really needs to GO!

  13. arkangel*

    #5 I wonder if it’s a problem because the OP is leaving the building during an unpaid break? I know where I work we can’t do that because of liability issues.

    1. Artemesia*

      Oh for pete’s sake. If I go across the street to the Burger King for lunch there are ‘liability issues’? That is the most bogus excuse ever. What a nation of weenies we are.

      1. Former Cable Rep*

        It may seem crazy, but it was exactly what I was told at every retail job. Paid breaks required me to stay on the premises because if I got hurt the company was liable while I was still on the clock. I don’t actually think it was the real reason, it was so they could get on the loudspeaker and call me back from break whenever they felt like it. Unpaid lunches were 30 minutes and I could leave the store then, but that really isn’t enough time to go get food, so almost nobody did. I only worked one retail job where I got an unpaid hour off for lunch and no paid breaks, and I think the fact that it was a small, low-traffic store was the only reason the company allowed that to happen.

        1. LookyLou*

          At the grocery store I worked at it was never explained to me as a liability issue. We were flat out told that if we were being paid to take a break that we had to be on the premises in case we were needed. If we were called to help out when it was busy and weren’t there to help – then there was no point in paying us!

          To beat their system of calling us back I would constantly ignore my pages and just tell the supervisor that I was “indisposed in the washroom” during my break – even though all I was doing was texting on my phone in a stall. No one can fault you for taking a poop!

          1. Soharaz*

            I used to just call them on the internal line when they paged me and say something like ‘I’m still on my break, is there someone else you can call?’ Most of the time it worked, I don’t remember ever having to come back from a paid break early. The worst was when you would leave the register to head to the break room and get stopped by Every. Single. Customer. on the way to the back of the store. Sorry Past Company, that doesn’t count in my break!

      2. UH*

        Maybe bogus in your mind but not uncommon. I have always been told cannot leave the site.

  14. Cat*

    I have a large tattoo on my lower forearm and am in a similar position to OP#2, with the added difficulty of the fact that it is covering multiple self-injury scars which are still quite prominent even with the tattoo. Since my entire arm is covered with them I don’t think anyone would believe me if I lied about them, so normally I just wear long sleeves at work and it’s fine.

    But then I have become friends with a few coworkers and discovered that quite a few of them live near me, so now I’m afraid to even go outside in shorter sleeves because if I run into someone from work who sees I have a tattoo and wants to look at it closely then I’d feel like I have to explain… So far I’ve just been wearing long sleeves everywhere, but I get the stress of being worried all the time about scenarios where something accidentally happens and I have no option other than to show them a side of myself that would put my job in danger.

  15. OP #1*

    Just an update on my question! What I really wanted to know was, should I even consider working for someone who does this? It turns out I didn’t need to give it much thought, since she never emailed me again to reschedule or apologize. I’m still annoyed, since there were other applications I could have been working on during those times, but I guess it’s just one of the many annoying things about looking for a job.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I would not consider working for someone who does that unless I had absolutely no other choice. Also, you should always be working on other applications until you receive an offer with a start date. Sorry this happened to you, sometimes people are just jerks.

    2. bob*

      It is one of those annoying things about looking for a job but it shouldn’t be. I was out of work for 2 1/2 years during the big meltdown a few years ago and had a few companies pull crap like that I guess because they think they have leverage in a tight job market.

      The problem is they are making a lousy reputation for themselves treating people that way so they will lose out on the best people who have other options.

    3. Erik*

      I wouldn’t want to work for someone who does that. I give people one chance and that’s it. I understand that things come up and what not, but if they pull that a second time, I just move on.

      Their loss.

  16. OP #2 update*

    Thank you for answering my question!!! In case this got lost above, here’s my update/clarifications

    I wore a tank for the workout like I normally would. Before I took off my hoodie I said “so, by the way, I’m tattooed… but you’ll never ever see them at work. And since I’m so new at work im a little self conscious even showing you.” I think I was a little awkward about it but I’m really glad I didn’t outright request secrecy. Her reaction was fine. I think she wasn’t sure what to expect but liked them when she saw them. She told me about one that she wants (in a slightly more prominent area) but is waiting until she goes into private practice in a different field. I said yeah, I found I always keep these areas covered anyway due to scars and other insecurities.

    I haven’t heard anything about it at work yet but I tot a lot of great ideas from you and the readers. Thanks everyone!

    And to answer some questions that came up..
    -they are quite prominent when exposed (but since they are above the elbow my professional wardrobe conceals them)- large and colorful
    -they’re high quality, nothing to be embarrassed about. Also they’re innocuous, common subjects like a bird and flower.
    -the reason I was worried about it was mainly exaggerated nervousness about the fact that I’ve only worked there a few weeks and may still be making my first impression and I don’t want “tattooed” high on the list of defining qualities as a colleague. I would have beEn less worried about it if I had more time both to get to know them and to establish myself. So I could have delayed it with this in mind but I think it went fine.
    -I’m about 30 and this is my third workplace and this is the first time I’ve ever had coworkers actively express interest in my personal life and seem to really know each other in a personal level. Seems like a tight knit group. I really like this but it’s a huge contrast from my last place of work. Also I don’t have an SO and don’t date which I think has inadvertently come off as a little mysterious.
    -I probably do seem to have a very straight laced persona at work, due to where I am coming from professionally – an environment where most people never seemed to share or even acknowledge personal lives (even weekend plans or hobbies) other than kids. There was no socializing and even casual convo was rare.

    1. baseballfan*

      I think it is understandable to be cautious since you are fairly new at this workplace – I can see how you would not want your ink to necessarily be someone’s first or early impression of you, because you never know what people may think.

      That being said, I am a CPA and have always worked in fairly conservative offices. I have a couple of tattoos and know plenty of others who do as well. We don’t show them at the office – but they’re there. I’ve never been worried about someone finding out I have them. Some know, some don’t – but it’s hardly been noticed.

  17. Audiophile*

    #1: This exact same thing happened to me several times. I had been connected with an HR person, for an informational interview. She left a message stating to call her, I did. She than said she’d call back within 15 minutes. That call never happened. I called the next day, she said she was busy and would call back. I actually tried connecting with her four times, before giving up. Each time, she either didn’t answer or claimed she would call back. In my case, this was a large media agency, so the likelihood I would see this person beyond interviews was slim, but still.

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