how late can you call employees at home, dealing with abusive customers, and more

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

1. How late can I call employees at home?

Is there a cut-off time that I as an employer can call an employee’s home or cell phone?

There’s a general expectation — in life, not just in the context of work — that you don’t call people after 9 p.m. unless it’s an emergency (and the bar for a work emergency call late at night is very high) or they’ve given you permission in the past.

In addition to that, though, I’d be really, really careful about calling people outside of work hours. There are jobs where it’s necessary, yes, but even in those you should keep it to a minimum. People tend to respect and appreciate managers who make an effort to keep work from intruding into their off hours, and they tend to really resent managers who violate that boundary except when it’s truly necessary.

2. How to support employees when they have abusive customers

This is my first management position. I work in retail and I manage a great group of high school girls. For most of them, it’s their first job. I want to know how to stick up for my team when they have to deal with outrageously rude customers.

This weekend, we had an incredibly obnoxious and rude customer. There was a language barrier, and my employee was handling the situation great; she was patient, polite, and spending a lot of time with the customer. We were working together helping this customer. The customer was snatching shoes out of my hands while I was checking them to make sure they were a matching pair. After we had finished helping her, she threw shoe stuffing at my employee, than said something in another language and left.

This was the last straw. I wish I had told the customer to leave immediately and never return. I’d rather lose a terrible customer than a great employee. I told my employee that she did a great job and didn’t do anything wrong to cause the customer to be a world class jerk. I feel like that’s not enough. But since I’m a new manager, I don’t know what to do. How should’ve handled the situation?

You did the right thing — you clearly told your employee that you had her back, she didn’t do anything wrong, and the customer was in the wrong. You handled it well!

In the future, you can also intervene earlier if you think a customer is mistreating an employee. In this situation, though, I’m not sure that it had reached that point until the throwing of shoe stuffing, but it sounds like she left right after that, so you didn’t have the chance to intervene before she was already headed out the door. But in general, if a customer is being abusive, you could step in and say that you’ll handle that customer yourself (and ask the employee to go do task X, so it’s clear she doesn’t need to stay), or you could directly say, “I can’t allow you to talk to employees that way.” But the specifics will depend on the situation … and if you don’t think of the perfect response in the moment, doing what you did here — talking to the employee afterwards — is a great way to handle it.

3. Starting a new job while five months pregnant

I was recently hired for a great new position. I was almost four months pregnant during my interview but was able to hide it successfully. I hid it because I was discriminated against during my last pregnancy when I had an opportunity for a promotion with my current employer (as in, they told me that they wanted to promote me but my pregnancy was really poor timing). Plus, as you wrote in a previous Q&A, I didn’t want my pregnancy to influence the hiring committee’s decision, even subconsciously.

The interview was nearly a month ago. I received and accepted an oral offer on November 5, but I didn’t receive (and accept) the written offer until November 18. My first day is December 7. I am now obviously pregnant. The last thing I want to do is walk in on the first day and surprise my new boss and team with the news that I will be going out on leave in less than five months. However, I don’t know when or how to tell my new boss. I want to reassure her that I’m committed to the position, but with it being a new position for the organization, I have no way of laying out a specific plan to address my projects, my leave, and my return. How should I approach this? Also, what method of communication do you recommend? Email? Phone?

Multiple people during the interview process told me how family-friendly the organization is, but I’m still nervous about how to approach this.

Send your new boss an email now and let her know. I’d say that you know the timing isn’t ideal (that doesn’t mean you’re apologizing for being pregnant or anything, but you can still acknowledge that the timing isn’t super easy) but that you’re really excited to begin tackling the position and you’re committed to doing all you can to work out a smooth plan for your leave, and that you’d be glad to sit down and talk details with her when you start next week.

4. Do we have to be paid when we’re on-call?

My coworkers and I all participate in a six-week on call rotation: one week on, five weeks off. During that one week, should we be compensated for our on-call work during non-business hours?

We’re in Oregon, and we are all salaried employees.

Well, if you’re salaried and exempt, it’s a moot point — as an exempt worker, your salary is your salary, and no law requires you to get overtime or extra pay. (They also can’t dock your pay if you work fewer hours some weeks.)

However, if you were non-exempt, the answer would be different. An employer would need to pay for that on-call time if you were required to wait on their premises while you were on-call (such as a fire fighter waiting at the firehouse to be called to duty). But if you’re allowed to go about your personal business at your own house or out and about, but just to answer your phone or respond to emails, you wouldn’t need to be paid for that on-call time (although you’d need to be paid for any time spent doing actual work). The only exception is if the calls are so frequent or the restrictions on your availability so severe that you can’t really use the time for your own purposes; in that case, you’d be considered “engaged to wait” and that waiting time must be paid.

But again, if you’re exempt, none of this applies.

5. Can I request a one-week notice period instead of two weeks?

Let’s say you’ve just gotten a job offer and you need to give notice to your current employer. In any circumstance, would it ever be okay to give a one week notice but tell your boss that, if needed, you can stay two weeks? Does it make any difference if your job is causing a lot of stress and you feel the need to get out asap? This may be my situation soon, but I’m not sure how it should be handled.

You really should always give two weeks notice; it’s the professional expectation and not doing it risks impacting your reputation. I get the stress thing, but you’re leaving — those two weeks will usually be significantly less stressful because you know you’re getting out.

That said, you could try saying something like this, “I can give you a full two weeks notice if you need me to, but I wonder if it would cause any issues if we instead set my last day for one week from now, because (insert reasons). Would that work on your end, or would you really prefer I do the full two weeks?” I would only say this if you genuinely think there’s a reasonable chance your boss will be fine with it; if you say it during a crunch time or when you have lots of key projects to finish/transition, it’s going to come across as tone-deaf.

{ 333 comments… read them below }

  1. Little Teapot*

    OP1: why do you want to call employees after hours? Surely if you sat down and actually analysed the nature of these potential calls, you would realize you could make them during work hours?

    If my boss started harassing me at all hours during the night for stuff that wasn’t ‘the office is on fire’ or ‘I am in the hospital’ I would be job hunting quick smart…

    1. ImposterSyndrome*

      I don’t know that you can say “Surely if you sat down…” because we don’t know the nature of the OP’s industry and position. There are sometimes situations in some fields (medical, ect) where some situations cannot wait until the following morning.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are some jobs with legitimate business needs that necessitate calling people after hours. There are also jobs that don’t, but the manager calls anyway. But the first category does exist (think PR and I.T. to name two).

      1. Little Teapot*

        Yep, Imposter, I was referring to what Alison just described. All to often I see OPs write into AAM saying things like, ‘my boss constantly calls me at midnight about things can absolutely can wait until 9am’.

        I was just thinking if the OP can analyse why she wants to call her employees at midnight she might realize its not time sensitive and can wait until 9am.

        1. neverjaunty*

          But again, we don’t know that, and there is a big difference between ‘could those calls be made earlier?’ vs telling the OP she’d realize she was wrong if only she thought about it. The OP is trying to ask what’s reasonable, and a condescending tone based on the assumption that we know her job better than she does seems a bit… off, I guess.

          1. Little Teapot*

            Yep, very good point.

            I guess I am just concerned how she asked the question – what’s considered too late – when in most fields ‘any time after 5pm’ is too late.

            1. Lee Mcd*

              I just recently had an issue with my boss calling me at home about something that he could have left a note on my desk about. It was a reasonable hour. But my true feeling is he crossed the boundary. We are absolutely not allowed cell phones to be out at ours desks due to the nature of the job. If I took a call at work….emergency or not from my daughter. .. I would be fired on the spot! When I am not at work the place does not exist…..and I don’t need him to remind me it does.

          2. Artemesia*

            If it isn’t necessary at 9:30 or 11 then it is not necessary at 6:30. For any call where the question is relevant, any time is too late. Either it is an emergency or it isn’t. If it is then any time is acceptable; if not then no time is.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Hmmm, I don’t know. I can think of things worth calling someone at 9 p.m. for that I’d never call them at 1 a.m. for — in fact, I’m pretty sure there’s nothing I’d ever call an employee about at 1 a.m., no matter how dire. But I’d call the media person at 9 p.m. to say “There’s a hit piece coming out on us tomorrow — we need to be ready with a response.” (And every media person I’ve known have wanted to be called in that situation. If it’s 1 a.m., though, I’m just going to wait until they see my email when they wake up.)

              I’m sure there are jobs where you do have to place the 1 a.m. call, but they’re very rare, and they’re ones where people know going in that it’s a possibility.

              1. Stephanie*

                Oh oof. Bringing back bad memories of college newspaper. Yeah…we definitely made some late night phone calls about hack jobs.

                “This has to go to press in the morning and the writer got no quotes…”

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Ha, I originally wrote “hack job” but meant “hit piece” and so changed it, but yours is better.

                  And now I’ve thought about both phrases so much that my brain is doing that thing where it no longer knows what either means.

                2. Ad Astra*

                  Working for a college newspaper really sets people up for a serious misunderstanding of work/life balance and normal boundaries. Skipping class and forgoing sleep to do newspaper stuff were the expectations in almost all positions. That changes a little post-college, when most reporters and copy editors are non-exempt and have to be paid for all the hours they work.

                3. KarenD*

                  You bring back memories, Ad Astra. I remember the first time a professor chewed me out for skipping class to get the paper out, but not the 300th. Honestly, I got a better education working on the paper!

                  And yeah, I was thinking of my reporter days when I read the OP. If a mistake doesn’t get fixed before everything goes to plate, there’s no walking it back the next day. Still’n’all, I’d say that 9 p.m. is a reasonable cutoff time for work that was completed during regular business hours. I’ve known some very nervous editors who would call a reporter at 10:30 (on a story that had been turned in at 5 p.m. and read by two other editors) and say “Are you SURE the mayor said that thing that you said he said?” Those calls were more annoying.

                4. Green*

                  @AdAstra: “Working for a college newspaper really sets people up for a serious misunderstanding of work/life balance and normal boundaries.”

                  … Therefore perfectly preparing them for the lack of normal boundaries that is the norm in professional journalism. :)

              2. Alistair*

                Well, there was the 1am on a Saturday night / Sunday morning from my boss telling me our office had been on fire and now that it’s out maybe you should come by and see about getting any super important stuff out of the building. Good thing I had taken my laptop home that weekend.

                So, dire [i]enough[/i]. But yeah, rare to never should be the rule on 1am calls.

                1. Elizabeth West*


                  Or hit by a tornado…but you can’t do much at 1 a.m. because it’s pitch black. And the one time one of my workplaces got hit by a tornado, I was inside it at the time!

                2. Green*

                  I get 6 a.m. autocalls for inclement weather telling me there’s no need to come into the office. But that’s a call I’m usually happy to receive. :)

              3. AnotherAlison*

                I would agree & think this crosses other industries that we’re not all going to think of.

                My husband used to be in plant maintenance with multiple shifts. There’s only one guy on nights, but if something major broke down at 9 pm, totally worth having another guy come in and help. By 1:00, it’s a little ridiculous to call and the 6 am guys will be coming soon anyway.

              4. Kyrielle*

                Yep. When I was supported 911 dispatch systems, absolutely a 1 am call could (and did, ugh) happen. For good reason, alas. (Then again, our clients and the folks they dispatched were even _more_ subject to potential 1 am calls being reasonable, so…as you say, you know going in that it’s a possibility.)

                1. anon former 911 dispatcher*

                  Ugh, I’ve been away from 911 for more than 5 years and I still wake up in the middle of “OMG the CAD’s crashed! Get the paper dispatch slips! Which units were where?!?!” dreams.

                2. A Dispatcher*

                  Oh my god that’s the worst. We actually had a natural disaster that knocked out our whole center once. We were dispatching off officers’ portables who had to drive up to the center to let us use them as we scrambled to get people to a backup site. And all incoming calls were being routed through other counties until we got to the backup site’s phones, which must have been fun for them I’m sure.

                  Seriously thank god it was very late at night and not during a busy time of day and that the radio towers were okay. I can’t even imagine otherwise…

                3. Kyrielle*

                  I am so glad that so few of our calls were “everything’s down!” Those made _my_ stomach clench, and I wasn’t even in the center having to hear the mess, let alone direct it.

                  Most of ours were still-important but less-totally-disastrous things like “the state interface isn’t working” or “we have a workstation that won’t behave, unfortunately it’s the one with $KeyTechnology next to it” (because if it hadn’t been, they’d have left it for the morning, normally) or “the mobiles aren’t getting their dispatch messages”. None of which are fun or good, but…I’d take them over a CAD-down scenario, _any_ day.

              5. DEJ*

                I work in sports PR and if you are calling me at 1 a.m., someone better be in jail or have been shot. Everything else can wait till morning.

                1. Green*

                  I worked for a global law firm but lived on the West Coast. I was in New York so often for work that some people started to think I was actually an employee in the New York office. It is fun when NY people who start their work days at 6 a.m. forget that you’re on PST… (And, of course, I got all the “Green can stay up late and finish it and have it ready for when we start in the morning!” and then the “Where’s Green? Why isn’t she answering emails?” the next morning. You can have me work until 4 a.m. PST or you can have me up bright and early, but not both!)

              6. Ad Astra*

                I go to bed ridiculously early, so calling me at 9 p.m. and calling me at 1 a.m. would be waking me up either way, but I agree with your point.

                My previous field, journalism, is one where a manager might have good reason to call after hours — including in the middle of the night, if something really big was happening. If it’s worth dragging me out of bed to do some work then it doesn’t really matter what time you call. If it’s not worth dragging me out of bed, it’s probably also not worth interrupting my dinner or my workout or whatever I might be doing at 6 or 7 p.m. Just send me an email and I’ll get to it when I get to it. “Emergency” emails were always my pet peeve.

              7. Les Nesman*

                We have remote workers who work overnight. Occasionally, I’ll need to contact them at midnight/2am/whatever about issues we’re seeing. However, I don’t call them after 9pm, I text so I don’t wake up the rest of their households. I even very rarely have to contact one of our daytime people at night, but again that would be via text and only for emergencies. I’ve done it maybe twice in three years?

                On the other hand, the entire team knows they should call me if they have a nighttime emergency because I’ll never wake up just for a text. I’ve had quite a few of those calls and they always are emergencies (think actual life or death type things).

                1. Jamie*

                  I’m a big fan of texts even in the middle of the night (if I have to be bothered) because they can send a screenshot with it and I can gather my thoughts and try to become pleasant before I speak to someone. Alarm clock with a dock and volume on 11, texts set to go off every 5 minutes until I acknowledge them works for me.

                2. AVP*

                  I like texts for this and, like I said below, you can do a “straight to voicemail” thing on cellphones sometimes that allows you to leave a message without having to wake anyone up. Assuming people check their voicemail!

                3. Kyrielle*

                  Jamie!! Hi! (My phone would never wake me up for texts…which, to be fair, is how I like it since no one has cause to text me with emergencies.)

              8. AVP*

                oof. The worst 10pm call I’ve ever gotten was, a week before a commercial shoot in a different city, I got a call from our casting assistant there. “I know the casting director has been putting you off a little and telling you everything is fine, but she’s actually had pneumonia for the last week and hasn’t even started working on the project yet, you need to talk to her and make a new plan FAST.”

                I knew my boss would be asleep by them so I left him a straight-to-voicemail message, slept on it, and we had a plan in place by the time he woke up in the morning and enacted it right away.
                The situation was a lot of work but turned out okay. VERY GLAD I got that call when I did, though.

                1. Chinook*

                  ” I left him a straight-to-voicemail message,”

                  I have that option on my cellphone. If I set it to bedside mode, the only numbers that will ring through are the ones I designate (think immediate family). Since DH’s comes up as “unknown” (his is unlisted), he knows that texting me is the only way to contact me at night if expects me to respond. My phone also automatically switches to meeting mode (turning silent), if there is a meeting scheduled in my calendar, so those calls also go straight to voicemail.

                2. Kyrielle*

                  Honeybee – I can do this on my iPhone. I have it set so my “favorites” ring through when it’s in Do Not Disturb mode, but others don’t. I also set it – this is a separate option – so that if someone not in that list calls and then calls right back a second time (I think within three minutes), they’ll ring through. So someone who REALLY REALLY thinks thy need to talk to me can get through. (If I had people who abused that, I could turn it off, tho.)

            2. hbc*

              My company has one location on the East Coast of the US, with customers all over the US and Canada. It would be completely reasonable for tech support or sales to take a call at 8 or 9pm for a west coast customer, or for someone else in the company to reach out to something else about troubleshooting an issue. It’s not considered mandatory to answer the phone, but the good will we generate for taking that time every month or so is *huge.*

              It also helps that we’re not one of those “salaried means a minimum of 40 hours in the office” type places. The person picking up the kinda urgent call at 9pm knows no one will blink when they wander in two hours “late” next week.

            3. Bend & Snap*

              Not necessarily. I’m in PR and a lot of people I deal with are on the west coast. Something can be blowing up there during or just after normal business hours and I’ll get a call to wrangle it.

              I don’t enjoy it but that doesn’t mean it’s unreasonable for someone to make that call. Judiciously of course.

              For the record my internal response to the question was NOPE because if it’s
              Not an emergency or a previously set expectation for a very good reason it shouldn’t be happening.

            4. MashaKasha*

              You’re right. If she’s asking “when is it too late”, then it’s not a true emergency and anytime after hours is too late! Great point!

            5. Honeybee*

              Hmm, I don’t agree. I worked in university residential life when I was in graduate school as a paraprofessional, but that’s a legitimate full-time position for some universities (in fact, my old university has turned the position I held into a full-time position). Some nights you’re on call, when you can legitimately be called at any hour of the day or night. But some nights you’re not on-call…but you were on-call yesterday, so you have unique insight into an ongoing situation; or the call is about one of your residents that you’ve helped before; or one of your RAs really doesn’t feel comfortable talking to the currently on-call hall director about something specific; or something happens in your building that would really be easier if you dealt with it. And…I can think of a hundred other reasons why someone might call me after 5 pm rather than the person on-call.

              That’s the kind of job where after-hours calls, even if you aren’t the person on duty, are more or less expected. In fact, I gave my resident assistants specific guidelines about the hours for which they could call my personal cell, because I knew they would call me (and undergraduates often have no sense of time. 9 pm is early to them. When I told them I went to bed at 11 pm, they laughed at me before they realized I was serious). And there was no dire emergency exception because if it WAS a dire emergency…they should be calling whoever was on duty!

      2. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I work in a 24-hour operation setting and we try not to call the Big Boss…but sometimes work (and real) emergencies come up. But most of the higher-ups know that that’s the deal with those roles.

        Now when I worked in a 9-to-5 office job…hell no, I would have been annoyed (and on the job boards) if my boss called me after hours.

      3. NickelandDime*

        I’m in one of the industries listed as, “You might get a phone call after hours.” I went into this industry knowing this and that’s fine. What I have a problem with are phone calls about assignments, etc., that can be handled when we get into the office. I had a tone deaf manager that started making a habit of calling me every morning in the car as I was coming in the office. I’ll be there in 15 minutes – why can’t this wait? It wasn’t time sensitive stuff either – just regular assignments. She knew my mornings were hectic, making daycare drop offs and a long commute. I just stopped answering the phone. And she stopped calling.

        1. sam*

          I work in one of those industries too, where nights/weekends are an expected part of the equation, but I definitely feel differently about the bosses who were judicious about calling me in “unexpectedly” on a weekend because it was a true client emergency that came up out of the blue (or even just an “all hands on deck” situation where we needed more people), and the bosses who would call at random hours of the evening/weekend for stuff that could clearly have waited until the next morning but they just had no ability to calibrate what was and wasn’t an emergency/immediate need. (Or the ones who seemed to think that they needed to “beat” client deadlines – the client gave us a week, but we’ll pull all-nighters to turn this around in 48 hours? Why? Not only is it going to result in inferior work product because we’ll all be sleep deprived, but next time, the client will think we only need 48 hours when we might actually NEED a week!)

      4. Camellia*

        Typically, however, those industries where after hour calls are necessary, such as IT, are well known and I doubt the OP would be asking if that was the case. The fact that they are asking the question at all seems to indicate that it is not one of those industries. In which case, asking them to think hard on whether or not the calls are necessary is valid.

      5. IT_guy*

        I’m on call 24/7/365. I work for a company that has an international exposure. It’s an understood part of the job, and I’ve been called out of movies, while I’m sleeping etc. If something breaks and it doesn’t get fixed there are severe financial repercussions. Fortunately I also control the environment so that it mitigates it.

        But the 4 am calls when a drive on a server fill up can be kinda rough.

        1. Jamie*

          PSA to anyone thinking of going into IT in this type of environment (of which I too am a veteran) make damn sure you address this constant on call when negotiating compensation. If you don’t get enough coming in the door for required availablity no one else has you will never catch up without jumping.

          I am your cautionary tale!

          1. AnonAcademic*

            On call doesn’t mean working all those hours though, it means available to work if sh*t hits the fan. My husband works IT and we once had to trudge through a blizzard so he could babysit a server. They put us up at the Waldorf Astoria. I considered it a fair trade :).

    3. ginger ale for all*

      I was once called to cover a shift due to a death of a co-workers family member. Things happen and my boss can call me in unusual circumstances at unusual times.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I used to work for a food service company that ran cafeterias inside manufacturing facilities, and I had to cover midnight shifts several times when we had a third-shift worker who would just bail with no notice. Someone from the plant would call my boss. She was a single mum with three kids and she couldn’t get anyone to babysit in the middle of the night, so she would call me. I would get up, get on my bike, and go to the plant. And I had to run the entire shift, including cooking, setup, cashiering, and cleanup, on my own. Let me tell you, racing to set up a salad bar from scratch (including hauling ice) in the middle of the damn night while running back and forth to the oven SUCKED. They finally fired the third-shift jerk and hired someone who actually showed up.

        If I were on days, I would get my shift off the following day because my boss could cover me. But boy, those midnight things were just crazy. Once the cops pulled me over on the way there, because a person riding a bike in the dead of night wearing a hoodie and a backpack looked pretty weird. “What are you doing?” I’m going to work. “Oh okay…carry on.”

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes, I worked at a 3 shift a day factory where we only had 1 person per shift doing my job – so when the 3rd shift guy called off somewhere between 10 pm and midnight, I would get a call from the second shift person saying that she would stay an extra 4 hours and I needed to come in 4 hours early. Getting a call after you’ve been asleep for 2 hours saying that you have to be at work in 3 more hours and then work a 12-14 hour day is pretty much my definition of hell.

          I only lasted at that company for 1 year, because I learned pretty darn quickly that I am just not cut out for round-the-clock operations – either people would call me waking me up, or I would wake up in the middle of the night and think of something that needed to be done tonight so I would get up and call them at 2 am.

    4. BuildMeUp*

      I don’t think there’s enough information in the OP’s single-sentence letter to assume that she’s harassing her employees, calling people at midnight, or calling them about something that could definitely wait until the next morning. Sure, it’s possible that she is doing those things, but I think to assume that based on the letter is a little unfair to the OP.

        1. Marty Gentillon*

          The fact that there might be a cutoff time kind of implies that this isn’t one of those situations, and most of these things could easily wait until regular business hours.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Except wouldn’t that already be known to the employees? If there were a significant amount of West Coast business for an East Coast office, they should already know that and be expecting it. That’s just as much an assumption as the idea that she’s harassing her employees, based on that short letter.

              1. Cat*

                There are other situations too. I’m in a field where sometimes stuff comes up at the last minute (for external reasons – not because of poor planning) and has to be dealt with immediately. If I can provide a quick answer that will let someone move ahead without waiting for morning, I’m happy to do it at 9pm. I’m not happy to do it at 1am when I’d be waking up out of a sound sleep and in that case, virtually everything should wait till morning even if it slows stuff down.

                I’ve probably gotten half a dozen of those calls in the last year and don’t feel impinged upon. It really just depends.

                1. CheeryO*


                  My boyfriend is a plant engineer, and when his tiny department is coming up on a deadline, they sometimes need to work round-the-clock shifts to get the work done. His boss called him the other night at 10:00 when he (bf) had to be up at 5:00. It wasn’t a serious emergency, but he figured that he would still be awake (and he was). If he had had the same question at 1:00 or 2:00AM, I’m certain he would have just texted or emailed, but then they might have fallen behind schedule. Ideally they would have more employees so that that situation would never come up, but it is what it is.

              2. Observer*

                Not necessarily. Real life situations DO come up where things happen outside of normal business hours. Not urgent enough, or useful enough, to call someone at midnight, but enough that you could call them in the evening.

                1. Koko*

                  Agreed. The world keeps churning after 5 pm. Sometimes I would appreciate a heads-up at 6:00 that something happened at 5:30 that I’m going to have to deal with, so that I don’t casually stroll into the office unawares at 9:15 the next morning and immediately have to start running around like a chicken with my head cut off because we’ve already blown through 15 hours of time I could have been using to strategize our response if only I had known about it!

        2. Unprofessional OP*

          Also, it’s entirely possible that the OP is an employee, not a manager, and is asking because he/she has a boss that calls them really late and they want to know if it’s inappropriate or not.

      1. Blue Anne*

        It’s even possible that it’s actually an employee. Particularly in the workplace, I often phrase questions as if I were the person involved, for clarity.

        ex. “So I’m Fergus, your junior accountant, and as the junior accountant I will do X when Y paperwork comes in at Z time? Am I able to do T instead?” and so on.

    5. LQ*

      It is always odd to me that people call out “fire” or “bleeding” as things that they should be called for.

      If my office is on fire I expect someone to call the fire department, I will be of no use. If someone is bleeding I expect them to call an ambulance and get a medical team, I will be of no use.

      Now if the servers are down? I can actually help, that’s the time to call me.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        Well yes, please do call us (911) in the case of fire, bleeding, etc* but also I would think it makes sense to make sure someone higher up is notified of an incident taking place at work. Yeah, you’re not going to be able to provide medical treatment, but you will probably be needed for other various levels of support following the incident.

        *It does always amaze me though how many third party calls we get because someone decided to call mom/dad/bother/child/girlfriend etc instead of us first when: There is a fire in the house, the house is being broken into, they have a medical emergency, they are having a domestic disturbance issue, so on and so forth. In a small number of cases yes, it’s safer for you to call mom quick when you don’t have the time or a safe place to call from to give us your full address and details like in the case of a domestic, but mostly I think it’s just people’s first instinct to call someone else for help and/or think whatever problem they have isn’t worth bothering us over. And then there are the opposites of those people who will call us when they stubbed their tow. Yep, this (or a variant of it) happens almost nightly.

        1. LQ*

          I agree about notifying someone higher up. But the questions are rarely, “I’m a CEO and my employee called at 3 am to tell me the building was on fire, was that reasonable?” In that case, probably appropriate, if they called 911 first.

          My mom is an on call firefighter in a tiny town. They’ve had some old woman in town who calls often when she basically is lonely with some kind of emergency. My mom tried to just give the woman her number and say, hey you can just call and I’ll stop over for coffee that’s ok. But she still calls up, and they send out the truck every time.

          People are strange.

        2. Ankh-Morpork*

          Once, at crazy-old-job there was a gas leak on our block. The fire department came to evacuate the building – they didn’t even give us a chance to grab our purses, just a ‘you need to be out the door right this second ladies’. Once we were evacuated from the danger zone we called the boss and got in SO MUCH TROUBLE for not calling him first. We were apparently suppose to refuse to follow the firemen’s orders and call the boss first for permission to leave the office in order to save our lives.

          1. Observer*

            I hope someone was able to put him on the phone with someone from the fire department. Listening to that conversation wold have been interesting.

        3. Case of the Mondays*

          Guilty as charged. Called my husband when my carbon monoxide alarm was going off and I had signs that I could have been exposed. Husband’s response – call 911, get out, take the pets. Duh. In my defense, he was a cop in the town next door and my town didn’t have a police dept but did have a fire dept. They monitored a lot of our 911 calls to assist for police calls close to their town line. I didn’t want my husband to hear a 911 call for his house coming over the radio without hearing from me first.

          1. Formica Dinette*

            Also in your defense, since you were exposed to carbon monoxide, you might not have been thinking clearly. :) I’m glad you got out safely!

      2. Observer*

        Yes, some people will be totally useless, but some people won’t. Say there is a fire in my office. If I get called right after 911, then it’s possible that I can remote in and shut our servers down before they either get shorted out or crash when the power fails. (Of course, there are no guarantees, because if a fire is bad enough the server room is going to be hit anyway, but there is a good chance.

      3. Marty Gentillon*

        It is a metaphor. Usually when you page or call someone out of business hours it is because of a problem that gets worse over time, much like someone bleeding out or a building burning down. The point is that there will be more damage if we wait until morning to call. When the servers are down, your business is bleeding (money).

    6. Case of the Mondays*

      I’ve called my employees after hours when I’m working on something they helped with and I can’t find where they filed it or left it. Or if I see something they may have forgotten that looks urgent and I want to know what I should do with it. We have very time sensitive documents in my industry. Once I saw a piece of stamped mail on an assistant’s desk that wasn’t put in the post box. This could be deadline breaking. Or, the supervisor decided he wanted to make more revisions and had time and told her not to mail it. Throwing it in the mail for her could be just as bad. So I called and said “hey, saw this on your desk. Should I mail it or leave it?” And as far as the having to call employees when I can’t find things, that’s because they didn’t put them where they belong and left them in a ridiculous bizarre place without telling anyone. If I come in to work on a file on a Saturday, can’t find it, call you, and learn you put it in the kitchen cabinet because you ran out of space in the regular file cabinet you can’t get mad at me for calling.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          I think these are the kind of situations that are actually good for texting. I don’t usually check my work email outside of work hours (it’s rare to get work-related email at odd hours in my job anyway) so emailing me probably wouldn’t work – but a text feels a lot less urgent than a call. Maybe twice a year I’ll get a text along these lines from my boss. “Hey, sorry to contact you on a Saturday but I’m working on the paperwork for X and I need a single piece of information from you if you’re around.” Doesn’t interrupt me if I’m actually doing something, but if I am free then I’m able to help out.

          That said, my boss has previously established (in person) that texting works for me, and she’s always clear that if I’m not able to get back to her that’s fine.

          1. Ad Astra*

            I would be more comfortable with a text here too. It sounds like the answers to these questions would be fairly simple and not so time sensitive that seconds or minutes would make a difference. In most situations, I can respond to a text without really interrupting whatever I’m doing. Not so with a phone call.

          2. KellyK*

            That’s very much a matter of personal preference though. I have an irrational dislike for texting and would rather be called. (I also have little to no cell reception at home, so I’ll probably see the text when I’m back to work anyway.)

        2. hbc*

          I agree with Elizabeth that texting is better, but I’d much rather get a text or call on Saturday allowing me to fix my screwup in 2 minutes than have my mistake be the reason the boss couldn’t get anything done all weekend.

          Depends on the frequency, though–I wouldn’t expect more than one call a month, and I wouldn’t appreciate a paranoid call about a letter if I have a 100% good track record on getting important mail out the door.

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            I actually do text in those situations. I should have specified. And with the letter, the assistant was eternally grateful because I was able to get it to the post office before it closed at 8 pm and her boss met his deadline. She had forgotten to mail it.

        3. Cat*

          Maybe not in your job, but many of us are in roles where it’s expected we’ll deal with stuff like that after hours, where we would prefer to deal with stuff like that when it comes up, and where we’re compensated at a level where that feels appropriate.

        4. KellyK*

          They sound pretty reasonable to me, especially in an industry where things are time-sensitive and especially if it’s a quick call. I’d rather spend two minutes answering your question than an hour scrambling to fix it later, or mess someone else up when they needed to work on a weekend.

          1. A Bug!*

            I agree, but also I think this discussion just speaks to the fact that the issue is pretty context-sensitive and should be ultimately left to the discretion of the person making the call, with consideration to the comments AAM made in her answer.

    7. Anon this time*

      I volunteer with an organization & my contact is a woman who eats, breathes, and sleeps her job.
      I kept getting calls, texts, and e-mails outside of normal business hours – and her expectations were that I would respond then. And none of the things that she was contacting me about were emergencies. Instead it was a symptom of her time management skills.

      I let her know I didn’t want to be contacted outside of normal business hours & if I was, I wouldn’t respond. She stopped with the contact at all hours for couple of weeks. Then I got a text at 6:00 am – yes, at 6 in the morning with instructions to let her know as soon as I got the text. It wasn’t an emergency.

      If I was an employee, rather than an occasional volunteer, I would be looking for another job.

      My two cents – if the contact outside of normal business hours is because you didn’t get to it during the day – and you could have – you may end up driving your employees to look for other jobs or managers with better work/life balance.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        OMG, I have a volunteer position where people would contact me in the middle of the day (while I was working my actual paid job) and get upset if I didn’t take care of the issue right away.

        I am currently transitioning out of it.

        1. LENEL*

          Me to! Good luck managing the transition and disengaging, these things tend to creep in and become emotionally exhausting because there is always something else coming. Come on March!

      2. Afiendishthingy*

        I have a coworker with whom I get along great, but who is very type A, has major impostor syndrome, and perceives a lot of things as OMGEMERGENCY that really aren’t. She was recently promoted to my level and has lots! Of! Questions! She texted me a few weeks back at 10:30pm with a totally non urgent question; I told her to wait until morning, and refused to answer, eventually replying “if you give a mouse a cookie she will ask you 17 more questions about billing codes. I love you, but ask me tomorrow.” Luckily she thought it was hilarious, and I haven’t gotten any after-hours demands for non-urgent information since.

    8. Hotstreak*

      My old manager (retail) would call us hours after closing to say “Hey, lets all wear our jersey’s tomorrow, I talked with everybody else and they love the idea!”. Not so much because my phone rang, which was annoying, but because now I needed to find the appropriate clothing and make sure it was presentable, which led to several late night trips to the Laundromat. I wish she had sat down and analyzed her calls as you suggested!

      On the other hand I got occasional calls for “so-and-so has the flu can you cover tomorrow?” type situations, which I totally understand (and I think my cutoff for responding was around 9pm, or 12 hours before shift started).

    9. T*

      I’m in IT and it has been expected at every job I’ve had that we will get called at home. And often it’s not what I would consider a true emergency but it’s never frivolous (with the exception of the occasional office politics of someone throwing their weight around). We typically only have a first shift for IT support but employees working in all time zones. It’s expected and usually infrequent so it doesn’t bother me. And I can fix 90% of issues from my phone.

      It does make me chuckle when my friends in other fields make comments like “the nerve of my manager to call me at home” (though most of those calls tend to be “…because I want to know now and not tomorrow morning!” situations).

    10. DJ*

      In some fields, it’s pretty common to get calls outside work hours. My husband is responsible for all the scheduling for a production plant. If a production line goes down, he gets a call (and it’s happened on the middle of the night more than once).

  2. YaH*

    I’m not answering a call from anyone but close friends or family members after 7 pm. The workday ended 3 hours earlier and I’ll be back in the building by 7 am- an hour and a half before official start time.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      And that’s fine for many jobs. But there are also fields where it’s understood that after-hours emergencies may come up. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be available (you may be sleeping, at a movie, or just not answering your phone), but it wouldn’t fly to have a blanket “I will not answer after 7 p.m.” rule.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Agreed. We really try to not call people after hours, but I work at a social service agency where violence from and between clients is something we have to think about a lot. If an employee waited until the next day to tell me that a client hurt or threatened to hurt someone, I’d be furious. We are open late into the evening, and although I work 9 to 5ish, I sure as hell don’t start ignoring my phone when I get home. I had a client follow someone home from a bar at 3am, and she called me. Good. She called 911 on her own, but I needed to leverage the full law enforcement support of our agency to make sure she was safe. Otherwise, she’s could be perceived as just some lady dealing with unwanted advances. 16 cops responded, versus the normal 2, and took her very seriously. (To clarify, it was just happenstance that the client ran into her at the bar).

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          I do think there’s a difference between situations where it’s appropriate for an employee to call their boss and situations where it’s appropriate for the boss to call the employee. If I were at work at 10pm for some reason and a fire broke out, I’d call my boss after I called 911. But if she were at work late and a fire broke out, I wouldn’t expect her to call me.

          1. Observer*

            But sometimes the boss needs to call someone, because that’s the person who can do x (whatever x might be.) eg. If our phone service went down, I would be the person who needs to call the service people and make sure they get this fixed by the time we open in the morning.

      2. AnotherHRPro*

        Yes, I have spent most of my career in jobs that required after hours availability. Generally 9pm is a good cut off time. Just make sure you challenge yourself to ask if this is something that can wait until morning. Is the call just so you get the item off of your to-do list or is it information the employee needs to know ASAP.

  3. ImposterSyndrome*

    I let my boss go to voicemail after hours for a couple of reasons – it allows me to think through the situation before responding and to find a quiet place to call her back if needed.

    1. SevenSixOne*

      I don’t answer right away because there’s a pretty good chance I’ll get a “never mind, I took care of it myself/this can wait until tomorrow/whatever” call within the hour.

  4. BuildMeUp*

    OP 2, I think you handled the situation perfectly! Thank you for supporting your employees. Make sure your employees know you have their backs, step in if a customer becomes abusive in the future, and give them suggestions on how to handle difficult customers. I think it would also be great if you let them know what the line is for customer behavior that means your employees should involve you if you’re not there already, and what would result in you asking a customer to leave – swearing, throwing things, etc.

    For example, if a customer is swearing, you might expect them to give the customer a warning (I’ve found that saying “There’s no need to swear” or “There’s no need for that kind of language” in a neutral tone makes a lot of people cool it), and if the swearing continues you will ask the customer to leave. Especially with younger employees who don’t have a lot of job experience, it can be hard to know where that line is.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      Great advice. Particularly making sure they know when and how to escalate the complaint. Let them know it’s not their fault or a bad thing if a customer needs to end up talking to a manager. There are some things a non-management employee simply can’t resolve, and some customers who simply won’t be happy without speaking to someone “higher up” (or ever).

      When I first started working I was very scared to escalate things because I thought it meant I was doing something wrong if I couldn’t handle it myself and/or placate every single customer. I put up with a lot more abuse than I ever needed to before a great manager finally clued into this and talked to me about how to be more assertive and also when to ask for help.

      1. Tamsin*

        I’m thinking over the various retail and restaurant jobs I’ve had and I can’t recall any training — ever, not even a single sentence or acknowledgment — on how to deal with abusive customers (or heck, just even difficult customers, or for that matter neutral customers with difficult issues). Not that every job needs some kind of formal training, but honestly, just a few tips for defusing a hothead would be especially helpful for service-type workers (I don’t know why some not small measure of the public has seemingly no restraint in going off on service workers in a particularly unprofessional manner).

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Agreed. The closest thing to training I ever got was basically, “The customer is always right, but if they want a discount, go find your manager!”

        2. Nom d' Pixel*

          I agree. That would be so useful. At one job we received training about more ways to make our customers happier (learning the names of regulars, that sort of thing), and every job that involved a till told us to just hand over the money if we were robbed, but there wasn’t anything for just dealing with someone who was difficult or on some sort of power trip.
          Kudos to OP for standing up for her employee and letting her know that she wasn’t at fault. Very few managers would do that, which is the primary reason so many people hate to work with the public.

        3. catsAreCool*

          “I don’t know why some not small measure of the public has seemingly no restraint in going off on service workers in a particularly unprofessional manner” This!

      2. Xaqrcady*

        Once upon a time I trained and supervised student workers at a university library. What I told them was, “We don’t pay you enough to deal with abusive patrons. The moment they start pounding the counter, yelling, or swearing, just come and get me and I’ll deal with them.”

        It’s amazing how upset people will get over books. (And I love to read and have many books, but still . . . .) Two or three times a week, one of the kids was back, asking for help with a difficult patron.

        And I had trained them that whenever they had to say “no,” to a patron, they should always offer an alternative. It wouldn’t be exactly what the patron wanted, but it would show that they were trying their best to help. “No, I’m sorry, that book is checked out. You can either go over to the Reference Desk and they’ll help you find some similar books, or I can recall that book and get it back, but that will take up to 10 days.” So they were giving the best customer service they could. But patrons still got massively upset. (Mostly students who were starting the research for a 20 page paper that was due in 24 hours or less, and were astonished to find all the books on their subject were already checked out.)

        1. beachlover*

          Exactly, as both a Dept Mgr and Customer Service mgr, I always told my employees, you can only go so far, do your best to work with the customer, if you feel it is escalating or you cannot handle it, then call me. They knew the limits of their authority, and I always said – Mgrs get paid more to deal with these situations.

        2. Anon Lawyer*

          I received the best customer service training when I worked at a university library while I was a student. We were a public university and had some interesting patrons from time to time. I always appreciated the reference librarians’ help and solid advice. Kudos to you for doing the same when you worked with students. And yes, people get so weirdly upset about books!

      3. Elsajeni*

        The “how” part is important there! In my retail job, we all carried walkies, so I could call a manager anytime, but I could never figure out what to say that would a) get them there quickly, but b) not involve insulting the customer to their face.

        1. beachlover*

          whenever I had to call for a Manager, I would just explain to the customer, that since I could not resolve their issue, I am going to call my Manager for assistance. But you have to do this before the customer demands it, show the customer you are trying to be helpful and hopefully it does not come off as insulting or make the customer defensive or even more offensive.

          1. VintageLydia USA*

            Yes, exactly. The MOMENT I knew I couldn’t help the customer but before they started getting irate if possible (usually because I didn’t have the authority to make a certain decision) I would very very chipperly announce “I can’t do that, but my manager might be able to. Let me call her over!” The vast majority of customers were happy with 10% discount on their dog food or whatever regardless of whatever the original issue was but I didn’t have that ability to give it my first year there. Plus, most customers just want to be heard and are far more likely to rant more politely at the manager than the poor cashier. It’s like the closer they get to someone that can actually do what they want, the less abusive they get. Which sucks but there you go.

            1. catsAreCool*

              My theory is that some people are nicer or meaner to others depending on what they think the “others'” status is. It’s not nice, and it’s not right to be a jerk to the entry level person who didn’t do anything wrong and doesn’t have the authority to do anything about it, but some people do that.

    2. NickelandDime*

      I was very impressed with how OP2 handled the irate customer too. I’ve worked retail and too many times, I’ve seen managers let crazed customers abuse staff. Sometimes they would be standing there watching them go ape and wouldn’t say a word. Lately, I’ve seen stories in the media where these incidents escalated into physical confrontations. And I always think, if they had just kicked the customer out when they started to act up, it wouldn’t have gotten to this point. A shame.

    3. Lizzy May*

      I agree with everyone that you handled the situation very well especially considering how quickly it escalated from general rudeness (which sadly is just a part of dealing with the general public) to throwing things.

      I remember back to my retail days and the very worst feeling was being in a bad client situation and looking for your supervisor only to find her head down suddenly engrossed in anything but you. I used to get so angry about it but she probably got just as much conflict resolution training as I did, which is to say none, and was just as out of her depth.

      Just being a part of the transaction probably showed your employee that you have her back.

  5. Heather*

    OP1, Please respect your employees’ work/life boundaries and avoid calling them outside of work. I know some managers keep odd hours, but just because you’re ok with updating projects in the evening doesn’t mean your subordinates are too. Trust me, it creates resentment and can make you seem demanding, inconsiderate and not good at managing your time.

    For example, my former boss would call my cell phone and email my personal address (that I never gave her) during dinner to ask me things she claimed were an emergency, but really weren’t. And if I didn’t respond until the morning she would accuse me of “not being a team player.” No one wants to work for someone like that.

    1. FiveByFive*

      But as Alison and others have explained above, there’s nothing in the (admittedly very short) email from the OP that indicates there aren’t legitimate reasons for calling. After-hours work, especially in emergencies, is expected in a lot of jobs. It can also be useful to realize that fielding these types of calls can increase your value to your boss, and help with advancement opportunities. Sometimes a little inconvenience can be worth it.

      1. Navy Vet*

        You just have to be careful with the phone answering. At my last job (which was a nightmare to be perfectly honest) I would answer my phone and be available all the time. The only thing that accomplished was frustration and resentment on my end.

        My boss grew to expect me to answer him on all manners immediately and had almost zero appreciation for the extra effort was putting in.

        He actually was angry with me one morning when I came in for not answering (or reading) an e-mail he sent me the night before. I got to the office at 8:30 AM. He sent the e-mail at 11:30 PM. It was not an emergency or high priority item.

        Believe me I learned my lesson. From that point forward I decided I need to set and follow through on my after hours boundaries.

        1. Honeybee*

          Yeah, when I was working with undergrads I made a point not answer emails and phone calls after a certain hour (which I let them know in advance). I didn’t want to set a bad precedent.

      2. Chester*

        I recently quit a job where, on one memorable occasion, my boss’ manager emailed me at 5:30am. When she didn’t hear from me by 6:15, she texted me. When I didn’t answer that text, she called me, on my cell phone, a number which I had never given to her.

        What was the urgent issue?

        She wanted to be sure I was COMING TO THE OFFICE THAT DAY.

        I answered the phone rather rudely because it was a number I didn’t know, calling me at 6:45am. She asked why I didn’t answer her text message. I told her because I was driving.

        I complained to my boss, he waved it off. Then started compulsively texting me. He texted me on vacation to give me an “fyi” that I couldn’t do anything about from where I was. Or to tell me things he didn’t want me to take any action on. That was the moment I decided I was quitting the day I got back, whether I had something else finalized or not. Thankfully I did, but my exit interview with HR is on Monday, and you better believe this (and the working weekends/nights/being forced to drive to the office on a Sunday) will be a prime topic of conversation.

  6. Sandy*

    I have one of those jobs where a 1 am call isn’t unexpected, let alone a 9 pm. That said, ESPECIALLY in these fields, boundaries are key.

    I know that when my phone rings at 9 pm, I had better make a mad dash for it, because something is seriously wrong. My boss has been extremely good about establishing and maintaining that boundary, and I return that respect with respect.

    By contrast, a previous manager at the same job was terrible about this. I once got a panicked phone call from him at 1 am because I hadn’t answered an email from him 10 minutes prior. Yeah, because I was asleep. Not only did I resent it, but my response time was way slower.

    1. Not Karen*

      One time I came into work on Monday at noon (having taken the morning as PTO) to find three messages from a project leader:
      1) an e-mail sent Saturday evening asking for something by Sunday morning
      2) another e-mail sent Sunday morning asking for the thing by that evening
      3) a voicemail left Monday morning because I hadn’t responded to the e-mails

      Note that none of these things were time-sensitive, and we usually don’t work weekends in my job.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I get emails at odd hours because my team works at odd hours (at night while they’re traveling, for example, or on weekends). None of these things are urgent and since I’m hourly, I don’t bother to check my email at home. Once I’m off work, I’m off work. If they were freaking out about something, I couldn’t handle it from home anyway, since my computer is at the office and we have to use VPN outside of it.

        If we suddenly had a team member who did this, I would have to say something because I am not on call. Not even a little bit. It’s one advantage to being the low man on the totem pole.

  7. Enantiomeria*

    OP #2: I just wanted to let you know that you are the best. I wish I’d had more managers like you during my seven-year stint in retail. Sadly, most of my managers were all too willing to throw me under the bus and ignore our store’s policies for the sake of keeping rude, difficult people happy. It’s good for you to have a contingency plan for this – I get the feeling that a certain kind of customer sees young female employees like yours as easy targets for verbal abuse.

    1. _ism_*

      It’s true. I worked in retail for managers who did and did not have my back, to varying degrees. I may even have a little trauma from some of the verbally abusive customers. I worked at a gas station once and a man threw newspapers at me and called me names and continued yelling at me until I cried, while I tried to placate him and get the manager’s attention at the same time. The customer was upset about a vending machine on the property, not something I had even been involved in. My manager finally came out of the office, gave the customer some free stuff and said he’d been watching me on the camera and wondering why I got so flustered.

      1. Tamsin*

        Been there — so much so that now, when I witness something like this (in a restaurant, a store line, wherever) I start envisioning if this exact same scenario were instead taking place between this customer and the receptionist at a law firm, or in a doctor’s office, and it’s always crazy. Maybe someone has yelled and cussed and threw things at a receptionist in a top-flight law firm building before, but it really is hard to imagine a person doing so (or that all the people in the downtown office lobby wouldn’t be in shock) to see someone yelling like that until they’re beet red in the face.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      YES. Thank you so much, OP2, for refusing to let “customer service” mean “being a punching bag.” So many employers expect that it should, to the point of not valuing workers’ safety.

      Also, be aware (though I expect you already are) that young female employees are likely to be the target of unwanted sexual attention, and make sure they know they’re not expected to play along.

    3. Former Retail Manager*

      I second, third, or whatever this comment! Great job OP#2! Especially since you’re a new manager. Sounds like you have a level head and will be a great manager if you continue to do so. And yes, I do believe that females are often not taken as seriously as males. Experienced that myself in my 13 years of retail and it was infuriating every time! Keep up the great work!

  8. JeJe*

    While a company might not have to compensate a salaried employee for on-call, they should do something. On-call can mean getting called at all hours of the night, not being able to leave town for the weekend or even not being able to go out for drink in the evening. Even when your salaried, if there is no additional compensation it feels like the impact that has on your life is being ignored.

    1. JessaB*

      Yes and a lot of companies while they do not pay for just sitting around at home time do have a minimum pay for taking a call. IE no matter whether it’s 5 minutes or 50 you get paid 2 hours if you get called, 4 hours if you have to come into the building. If you work 5 hours then that’s all you get, but if they wake you up you do get compensated even if you only actually end up working less than that. It’s for the the convenience to them of having you sit around when most of the time nothing happens.

      They used to do that when I worked for the State of Florida. I would be on call because I was one of the team licenced to authorise restraints on acting out clients of the institution. You had to have someone specifically trained and licenced to go out and deal with the laws and regulations, of which there were pages to prevent abuse/injury of the residents. There were also people on call who were in maintenance in case something went wrong in one of the homes on site. Doctors and nurses were salaried exempt and they got call out pay when they were on call.

      Surprisingly in addition to my other jobs there was a point when I subbed over at payroll because they were short people and one of the things I was doing was processing the special line items (overtime, bonus pay, call out pay.)

      But even government jobs have rules about being compensated for on call.

      1. JeJe*

        I was always annoyed that discussions of the impact this has seen to go back to actually getting a call. I’m staying home and giving up my weekend whether I get called or not.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Being on-call is a different than what the OP is asking about though (I think). If you’re on-call, you’ve been specifically told you might need to take calls during a certain period, whereas I think the OP is asking about ad hoc, unplanned calls.

    3. Natalie*

      Agreed. In general, recognizing that on-call is a pain and making decisions accordingly goes a long way towards preserving morale:

      -have some kind of policy for addressing vacations and keeping holiday coverage fair. My fiance’s 4 week schedule has meant he was on call Labor Day, Halloween, Black Friday (not a holiday but made Thanksgiving travel difficult) and Christmas + NYE. He’s figured out some adjustments with his coworkers but it would have been better if management noticed this and addressed it proactively.

      – Have a system for sick/vacations that doesn’t require the employee to arrange coverage

      – if someone gets a late call let them come in late. No one performs well on 4 hours of disrupted sleep.

      1. Judy*

        I’ve always heard from medical people who have call that they have a separate call rotation for holidays than the normal call rotation.

        1. Honeybee*

          I was in an on-call rotation that did holidays separately and there were extra incentives for being on-call on the holidays. We were on a semester basis, and if you were on-call for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, you didn’t have to be on-call for the rest of the semester.

      2. OriginalEmma*

        That is awful. I am also in an on-call rotation and I worked really hard to create a schedule that allows everyone to enjoy some major holidays. I learned this after a few years ago where I was on-call for several major American summer holidays and couldn’t go down the shore or camping or do anything! But this year, for example, I was on vacation this Thanksgiving but am taking Christmas on call.

    4. AnotherHRPro*

      Generally, if a salaried job has regular on-call hours that is built into the employees base pay. As an employee you should take that into consideration when negotiating your salary.

      1. JeJe*

        The last job I took that required being on-call, this was not mentioned, until I started work. In my industry, some jobs require it and some don’t. This company definitely didn’t pay higher than average for the inconvenience. If I don’t think they were hiding it during the interview process, they just were so used to it, they didn’t think of it.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        I’m in the UK so don’t know if that makes a difference but, when I’m on call I get an allowance for the week even if with out being called and then get paid per hour for actually working.

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        Our on-call was set up in the last year, long after we all started at this job. So there was no negotiation, no additional compensation. However, we’ve actually gotten calls very rarely, and if we do get a call and spend time, we can come in later the next morning. The calls are likely only during sleeping hours, so it doesn’t affect the evening plans. I don’t know if that makes it better or not.

    5. Snarky McSnark*

      My wife, a nurse, got paid all of $2 an hour when she was put on call (whether that was being sent home, called off until more patients arrived, or voluntarily put herself on call for an extra shift). I never understood why it was such a piddly amount when she was expected to be into the hospital within an hour if called in. That is waiting around time that prevented her from doing many things that would take her away from her scrubs/work bag.

      1. Honeybee*

        My mom is a nurse and she also got paid $2/hour when she was on call, when she was still working in a hospital (she’s a school nurse now). But she wasn’t actually doing any work when she was on-call. She generally lived her life normally – she even went to the movies and shopping and stuff within a 5-10 minute radius of the house. But then again, she only lived 20 minutes from the hospital, so if she got a call during the movie she could run home, get dressed, and be at the hospital in under an hour.

    6. T*

      I like companies that give a small stipend for being on-call, like $150 a week (which could be nothing depending how bad on-call is at that company). A buddy of mine gets $500 a week and has a relatively easy on-call. The best thing about it is you can very easily give away your on-call weeks because there will always be someone who values that money more than their free time.

    7. Misgrunteled*

      My first job post-graduate required me to spend at least one week on-call each month for no compensation. Since we were a 24/7 program, I always received multiple calls (a few emergencies, but most were people being afraid to make a judgment call) during my weeks. It was awful and very demoralizing.

      Thankfully, I moved on to a better job and despite the significant increase in base pay, I am also paid the equivalent of 8 hours of work. Being called is rare and I find the arrangement to be very fair, but even when I don’t have any calls, I have to make sure I am always with my phone and respond within 5 minutes can’t make plans due to the possibility of needing to immediately travel.

  9. Hiding Pregnancy*

    I’m curious….. I know that an employer can not discriminate against a pregnant person but has anyone ever heard of case of an employer being able to rescind an offer because the person hid the pregnancy during an interview? It seems like an employer could make a case that they can’t afford to have someone take leave during the first 6 months of their employment and because they didn’t have all the information they couldn’t make the best choice for the company i.e., someone who was available to work the full year. When I hear someone hid a pregnancy because they were afraid they would not get the job, I understand the rationale behind it but I also think it is unfair to the employer to have find out the person they hired is going to take a 2-3 month leave during the first year of employment especially if it could negatively impact a project the company is working on.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Federal law prohibits employers from making job decisions based on pregnancy (as long as the employer has 15+ employees). It would be illegal for them to retaliate against someone for not disclosing it, since it’s illegal for them to consider it in their hiring decision at all.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        I assume this applies to promotions as well? I hope* LW’s previous company had less than 15 people, otherwise technically they opened themselves up to a lot of liability by flat out telling OP her pregnancy was the issue in why she was not promoted.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        I just want to clarify something here since it is a common issue. Please correct me if I’m wrong though. Federally, there is no mandated job protection for pregnancy leave unless you qualify for FMLA. Some states (including mine) do provide a bare minimum. Ours is either 4 or 6 weeks of job protection, unpaid. So, while OP’s employer could not legally refuse to hire her because she was pregnant, they could terminate her in five months when she needed time off that exceeded her accrued earned time. (Let’s say she earned one sick day and one vacation day per month and had been there five months so had 10 days of leave banked.) Unless OP is going to return from work 10 days after giving birth, her job is not guaranteed protected.

        Most employers are not jerks and most have a maternity leave policy so that OP’s job would be safe. However the huge gap in U.S. (federal) law is that while you can’t be fired just for being pregnant you can be fired for not being able to come to work and running out of leave – regardless if that reason is because you just gave birth.

        I’m also guessing that it would be legal for OP’s employer to chose not to hire her because they do not allow leave without pay status and have no maternity leave policy.

        The catch is the employer has to treat pregnancy the same as all other medical conditions. They can’t let Joe go into leave without pay for his heart attack but not allow Jane to do the same for her pregnancy. But, even that is limited to the time you are medically required to be out of work. Not the time most people want to actually bond with their new child.

        1. amanda2*

          I think you’re right. And, you don’t qualify for FMLA unless your organization is over a certain size and you’ve worked there for a year (or x number of hours).

        2. Kyrielle*

          There is that. Although as you noted it may vary by state – not that my state would help OP much, but here it’s 180 days for family leave to kick in, instead of 12 months. (Interestingly enough, if you join a company and are there 200 days before giving birth and taking family leave, that’s OFLA leave but not FMLA leave…and when you hit one year with the company, you have 12 weeks of FMLA leave. The company can run them concurrently *if they both apply*, but if only one applies, then only that one is used….)

    2. Mando Diao*

      It’s a tricky situation because it’s a brand new position; there hasn’t been cross-training on the duties, and it’s implied that OP is meant to have a hand in creating this role. It’s even trickier because she may have to take her maternity leave before any probation period ends (she’s five months along now, so the standard 90 days is cutting it close), which gives the company a bit of freedom to decide to not have her come back.

      I recall a case a few years back where a woman had been hired in at a company that had a very specific busy season. Think a tax accountant being swamped in March and April, or a school administrator in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year. The woman was told that a condition of her employment during that first year was her presence during those months, and she confirmed that she would be available. Lo and behold, she shows up pregnant and puts in for leave over those months. She was let go and she filed a lawsuit. I don’t remember how it was resolved, but her misrepresentation came into play. This isn’t a cut-and-dry situation of a woman simply being fired for being pregnant (this woman clearly acted in bad faith), but the commentary surrounding the case was very interesting.

    3. MT*

      is there a chance the the person could be fired for taking this leave? I thought the fmla coverage doesn’t start till after you are employed for a specific amount of time.

      1. Ashley*

        Yeah, I mentioned below as well. FMLA only covers you if you’re there for a full year, 50 employees within 75 miles radius, and some other requirements. So the company is not obligated to hold the OP’s job for her and would be well within their rights legally to hire someone new once she goes on leave. Not saying it’s ethically right (I’m actually torn on the ethics, because it’s also not fair to the company to put everything on hold so quickly), but they have the right to do that.

        1. fposte*

          Right. They can’t refuse to hire the OP, but they can, assuming this is how they would treat a non-pregnancy leave as well, refuse to keep her job for her when she goes out.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            And that’s the key — if they wouldn’t fire someone else for taking leave for a different medical need, then firing the OP for it would be considered pregnancy discrimination. So it would need to be an employer that had a practice of firing people for taking medical leave.

        2. CADMonkey007*

          I don’t believe it is unfair at all for an employer to deal with a maternity leave, even within the first year. It is just as likely to happen that the employee simply “doesn’t work out” within the first few months and employer is in a pinch anyways.

          The 1 year period for FMLA is way too long – I think it should be closer to 90 days (typical probationary period). The 1 year period means you can get pregnant AFTER starting a job and not be covered! Unreasonable.

          1. Judy*

            If you go by that logic, then the FMLA wait period should be nothing, because you could get in an accident on the way home from the first day and not be covered for your recovery.

          2. sam*

            This happened to a friend of mine – she had her baby 11 months into a new job and basically had to cobble together about six weeks of “maternity” leave out of some disability leave she was entitled to from having a c-section, her accrued PTO, and some mystery leave entitlement she found in the employee handbook, but she wasn’t entitled to either actual maternity leave or FMLA leave because neither of those things kicked in until 1 year of employment at that job. And then they were extremely inflexible about letting her adjust hours for things like doctors appointments and day care deadlines (it was an office that otherwise had floating hours on some days, and her co-workers were happy to trade with her, but her boss wouldn’t sign off).

            And this was the “family friendly” job that she had left a law firm for. She left shortly thereafter.

          3. Anxa*

            I do believe it can be unfair. And I worry that it leads to all sorts of subtle biases against women on the job.

            But what’s really troubling to me is that it should theoretically be easy to just plan on getting pregnant after you’ve held a job for a while. But what happens when you’re still trying to get a toe-hold on a career track as your fertility is waning? What happens when you are a military or academic spouse? Or if you were laid off at 2 months pregnant and have to get a new job? Of all of my friends who are having babies, I only know of one who was covered by FMLA.

            1. einahpets*

              And it is affects more than just the mom. My husband was not covered on FMLA when I got pregnant with our first; luckily his work did provide him some leave time to help out but they didn’t have to AND it wasn’t what they are providing him this time with our second (due in January).

      2. Jonno*

        The same situation happened where I work — a person came in as a team lead (I’m in academia, but for a for-profit school, so it’s a much more corporate/typical office norms situation.) She started in July and took maternity leave starting November. She did not disclose her pregnancy in the interviews and we only knew when she started showing, at which point she notified my then-manager. They are accommodating her but they tried to get me back to replace her while she was out (I have moved on to another position under someone else) but they couldn’t because it’s the end of fall term and that’s always a busy time for everyone involved. They can’t even really hire a temp because once they’d learn the ropes, she would return. So they are short a team lead which really sucks on everyone’s account and I guess it would have been nice to know in advance to plan for this but, I don’t blame her for not disclosing because even though it’s not legal, I’m sure subconsciously there could have been a negative decision in the hiring process.

        All in all though we’ll live and I’m happy she can take the two months leave and keep her job.

      3. Natalie*

        In general you have to treat pregnant workers just like any other workers who take leave or are temporarily disabled. So if they had historically *not* fired people for taking leave, firing a pregnant worker would run afoul of the law.

        1. Ashley*

          But since this is a new role, there wouldn’t really be a precedent, correct? The law also looks at the role (ie equal role, equal time of leave needed, equal business circumstances, to be treated the same).

          The OP could argue that this role is new and they did without it forever and can do it for a few months. Where the employer could argue it is vital to get the new role up and running by a certain deadline if this is a project based role.

          Lots of variables involved, I would just caution the OP to be prepared just in case.

          1. fposte*

            I’m not seeing anything about equal role in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act or in the EEOC guidelines on it, though. Maybe you’re thinking of FMLA? They’re required to give pregnant employees the same length of time they give other employees on leave; there’s no fudge factor for role identified.

            (It’s a bit of a red herring anyway, because most of the time these things don’t go to court so you don’t know for sure who would have been found in the right.)

            1. Snarky McSnark*

              The UPS vs. Pregnant worker case resolved back in March is an interesting read on this argument.

    4. CADMonkey007*

      I don’t think it’s unfair to the employer at all. Pregnancy is a fact of life and should be an expected occurrence from time to time. A good company will know that covering a few months leave is a small investment if the return is a great, long term employee. Poorly run companies are always looking for a scapegoat for their internal problems, and pregnant women are easy targets.

      1. Anxa*

        I really think this wouldn’t be so big of an issue if long-term employees were more normal. When companies want employees that are neither easily replaceable nor a long-term investment, I think those few months look like a much bigger issue.

      2. einahpets*

        But there *are* cases where it will cause inconveniences for the company, and I don’t think it is fair to not acknowledge them or just say it is a ‘poorly run company’.

        In my case: I am 7.5 months pregnant, and I totally acknowledge that there are definite lengths that my manager and team have had to make to provide coverage for the ~4.5 months of leave that I plan on taking. At the same time, there are two other women also in my particular team going out on maternity leave (I swear we didn’t coordinate) and other individuals taking medical / maternity leave within our department of ~100. Of course, they are trying to hire for new positions. But if someone was hired and then immediately knows going to be having to go out at the end of January? That would definitely make things tough for a department that is already dealing with tough resourcing issues.

    5. Mike C.*

      Why is this unfair to the employer at all? Employers have to live in society with the rest of us, and that means having to deal with the occasional kid. The harm caused to women by discrimination hurts society much more than the temporary inconvenience a business might have to endure.

      What is unfair is the idea that women should have to suffer from lower wages or less of a chance of getting a job simply because they were born with a uterus.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t know if I’d call it unfair, but it can be tough on a small employer to have somebody out for several months, whether it’s when they’re starting or not, and if it’s when they’re starting, they probably have less experience to be able to prep workflow for their absence. It would be different if we were in a culture where mat leave subs were a more regular thing.

        1. Natalie*

          I feel like that’s acknowledged, though, when we write these laws to only apply to employers above a certain # of employees or annual revenue.

          There was just a big kerfuffle in my city about a fair scheduling law, and that was one of the major oversights – it applied to all employers regardless of size. As far as I can see, that’s one the main reason’s it didn’t pass.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, that’s absolutely part of it. And I’m also not saying that these laws shouldn’t exist–I’m just saying that it really can be a hardship on people to deal when others are out for leave. I’m in a small unit, so a pregnancy outage basically means I get to do their work on top of mine, and while I love the babies, I don’t get excited about that part.

            This is one of those areas where the need to support people with families and the problem of requiring other people to do extra work as a result sometimes converge.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          It can be tough on an employer of any size — my employer is pretty big, but my team is less than 10 people, so when we hired someone who was pregnant, it had a significant impact — she was just getting up to speed in the months before her leave, and then was out, and then had to get back up to speed again (while sleep deprived!). I’m not saying we shouldn’t have hired her, but man, my life would have been easier if she hadn’t been pregnant.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        I think we do everyone a disservice by pretending maternity leaves are no hardship. You are going to be without your employee for somewhere between 1 and 2 months at the lowest end of the spectrum. I’m not saying women should apologize for getting pregnant. Far from it. But I think it goes a long way to acknowledge the burden it places on your employer and your coworkers and do your best to mitigate it.

        1. J.B.*

          The problem is that maternity leaves are perceived of very differently than taking time out for heart surgery. Because the woman on leave “chose to get pregnant”. Well, yes, sometimes. And yes, during prime working years. Because you can’t really wait until retirement to have kids. I’m looking forward to a world where men all take paternity leave and companies somehow figure out how to deal with it :)

          1. Ad Astra*

            EXACTLY. Sure, there is some hardship in covering for an employee who’s out on maternity leave, but the burden is more or less the same as having an employee out for heart surgery or a bad car accident or an emergency appendectomy or whatever.

            If you ask me, normalizing paternity leave is an important part of de-stigmatizing (for lack of a better word) maternity leave. It would be a lot harder to justify a reluctance to hire women of child-bearing age if youngish men were equally likely to take off several weeks to have a baby.

            1. fposte*

              The thing is, I’ve never had to cover for anybody for a three-month medical leave. Whereas I have had to cover somebody for that level of maternity leave nearly half of my last ten years. People just have babies more often than they need three months off for other health reasons.

                1. fposte*

                  I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, of course. But I don’t think my experience is unusual in finding the pregnancies to considerably outnumber other leaves.

            2. Case of the Mondays*

              I agree with you re: paternity leaves. Though, there was an interesting article about academics using paternity leave to research and write and further pushing forward their careers because they were basically working during it instead of taking care of their new baby. This issue wouldn’t be applicable to all fields obviously but is interesting none the less.

                1. VintageLydia USA*

                  I’m suddenly very thankful my husband used his to help me take care of the baby as I guess that’s rare. I also had an unexpected c-section so he was my nurse as well as new father for the two weeks he got.

            3. Lore*

              We’ve had several employees out for weeks to months with other illnesses. I think one genuine difference is that the transition back to work is more complicated for maternity leave–once you’ve recovered from another illness/injury, other than perhaps physical therapy the odds are good that you’ll go back to your previous schedule, availability to jump in on an emergency project, etc. Whereas, for obvious reasons, the person coming back from maternity leave now has to configure her day-to-day schedule around child-care/child illness/sleep deprivation/pumping, etc. in ways that may have effects in the workplace, and possibly on the same coworkers who were covering during the leave.

        2. Kat M2*

          Honestly, this is why I support parental leave as opposed to “maternity” leave. Unfortunately, if it only applies to pregnant women (and not to baby’s other parent), then people use it as a reason to resent pregnant women. Not to mention that families would benefit greatly from both parents being able to take the time to bond with their child.

        3. the_scientist*

          But in virtually all other developed countries, year-long maternity leaves aren’t treated as some terrible, awful hardship and burden for the employer to shoulder; they’re simply a cost of doing business. Are they inconvenient? Sure, but actually less inconvenient than having someone go out on leave for 3 months of short-term disability, because when you have a yearlong mat leave, it’s possible to hire someone on a 12-month contract to fill in for them (and often they’ll actually start before the person they’re replacing goes on leave, so there’s time for training). It’s all about societal attitudes, and countries that have made laws to allow for mat leave have created a culture and a society where there are ways to manage maternity leaves without just expecting that the woman’s co-workers pick up the slack, which is what I feel like happens when your leave is only 4-6 weeks. This isn’t something that can really be solved at an individual employer level, though, it’s really something that needs the weight of policy behind it.

          And a big yes to the fact that normalizing paternity leave is a really important part in ending the stigma surrounding hiring women of chilbearing age. Because if paternity leave is an expectation, then you can’t just avoid the problem by not hiring women on the off chance that they *might* have a kid; you have to then avoid hiring anyone, male or female, of child-having age (and men have a much larger kid-having window, biologically).

          1. Sarahnova*

            Also, paternity leave will be getting more and more common. (Or rather, all leave will become “shared parental leave” rather than maternity/paternity leave.) Out of my prenatal group of 6, three of our partners, including mine, took 2 months off work with the baby when we, the mothers, returned to work.

          2. CADMonkey007*

            This is a great comment and really caused me to think. A standard US maternity leave period is long enough to create workload problems but not long enough to make contract replacements feasible. Many would say it’s not long enough for proper parental bonding either.

            So as long as the societal opinion is to leave pregnant women to fend for themselves (she “chose” to get pregnant, not my problem), we’re left with employers unable to effectively run their businesses, coworkers shouldered with picking up the slack, and parents unable to effectively care for their children to boot.

            1. the_scientist*

              To me, the US approach takes individualism to a self-destructive level, almost, and this is most apparent in the way the US deals with parental leave, health care, and the social safety net. With 1-year federally mandated mat leave (paid by the government, in Canada, not by the individual employer), everybody benefits in some way: the pregnant employee gets a full year to 1) recover from the birth process 2) bond with an infant and 3) get past, in theory, the worst of the sleep deprivation as well as frequent feedings. The employer isn’t covering the cost of mat leave and is able to hire someone to replace the pregnant employee, often before the woman goes on mat leave (= time for training). The employee covering the mat leave contract has at least 12 months of work, training, and skill development, and an “in” at the company when their contract is up. Mat leave contracts are THE way into the public sector. So, everyone involved benefits in some way, and in a well-run company, other co-workers aren’t shouldering the burden of their colleagues’ work (which is the number 1 complaint I’ve seen about mat leaves on this blog). But this requires a more collectivist approach, where at a societal level, we’ve decided that this is something worth investing in.

              It’s not a perfect system, and we’re desperately in need of affordable childcare across the country (and a national pharmacare plan) but it does work, and it can work.

          3. Ad Astra*

            Even a 6-month standard maternity leave might be a more workable situation than the 6-10 weeks you see in the U.S. now. You can contract out a job for six months a lot easier than you can for three or four months.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              You can hire a temp, but for that amount of time, you basically just get a body in a chair. I temped at an old job once for a mat leave–however, I already knew the routine. If they had hired someone from the temp agency, they would have had to spend part of that time training them.

          4. Anxa*

            That’s a great point about the benefits of a longer leave. Still, I think it would require employers to think of their employees as long-term investments. And I’m not sure that’s so common. Although my direct boss would like many of us to keep sticking around and we’d be much better at our jobs if we could keep them for a few years, our salaries don’t hit 5 figures and that’s just hard to sustain so there’s going to be significant turnover.

            I know I’d be stressed to temp for someone on maternity leave. I’d love a one-year contract or a longer term temp position! I think having longer-term temp assignments would really help out people struggling to get into full-time, permanent employment

          5. De (Germany)*

            At least partially, the “paid” part of paid parental leave is also covered by health insurance in other countries. That relieves the employer a bit.

        4. PolarBear*

          In the UK, women are are entitled to 52 weeks off! Statutory Maternity Leave is 90% of your weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks then £139.58 for the next 33 weeks. The rest is unpaid but your job is protected until your return.

          Many employers pay more though. I get 8 weeks full pay, 18 weeks half pay, 13 weeks at £139.58 per week and then 13 weeks unpaid.

      3. seanchaigirl*

        There are positions where it would be a problem, though. My company has a division that is entirely grant funded and they are currently hiring for a project manager for a 14-month grant. If the person they hire turns out to be pregnant, they will be without a PM for a significant portion of the grant. If the person is five months pregnant when hired as in this case, they will go out right when the highest activity portion of the work begins. Factor in on-boarding and the time necessary to get someone back up to speed after an extended absence and it’s a big issue.

    6. JM*

      I understand the law that hiring decisions cannot be based on pregnancy, but also feel like the employer has been sort of deceived. I hate that OP feels she was discriminated against in the past with a previous pregnancy, and understand why she felt the need to protect herself during the interview process. But how yuck will the employer feel when he/she receives an email announcing that the employee is 5 months pregnant, and in 4 months or less, the employee will need a significant amount of time off? I can see this creating bad feelings about the employee before she even starts at the company. I hope, for OP’s sake, that everything works out. But if I was the employer, I would feel deceived.

      Other areas of discrimination — gender, race, sexual preference, religion, etc. — generally don’t require a lengthy amount of leave that will affect the operation of the company.

      1. fposte*

        But if you follow that logic, the reason it’s better for her to have disclosed in the job search is that it would have given the employer a choice. And the employer doesn’t have a choice–that info can’t have made a difference in the hiring, and they’d be facing the significant time off no matter when they were informed about it.

        It’s human for the new employer to headdesk for a moment when they first hear, but if they’re sane they’ll immediately realize the same thing.

      2. Queen Anne of Cleves*

        The employer should not feel any more deceived than if an employee with high cholesterol and high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease failed to disclose that information and two months into the job had a major heart attack requiring several weeks off.

        1. CADMonkey007*

          Or a phone interview process, only to discover after negotiations the employee is in a wheelchair and needs reasonable accommodation.

          1. JM*

            Again, making use of a wheelchair does not mean missing work frequently for doctor visits and then maternity leave.

        2. JM*

          IMHO, being in poor health and having a heart attack is far less of a certainty than being pregnant. Once you become pregnant, there is a 100% chance that in 9 months or less, the baby will come out, necessitating recovery time for mom and care time for baby.

          Maybe deceive was the wrong word to use. From the employer’s perspective, I just can’t help but feel that he/she will be somewhat blindsided. And it’s not just the actual maternity leave — when OP gets to the third trimester (6 months pregnant) she will start having doctor visits more often — every two weeks, then every week. To me, this is a pretty significant demand to be placing on a new employer. Not to mention the fact that the employee won’t qualify for FMLA, so what exactly will she do for maternity leave?

            1. JM*

              TheSockMonkey’s comment below is excellent.

              She says: “Telling an employer after being offered the job and before accepting it allows you to negotiate leave without having to worry about job stability, even if you aren’t eligible for FMLA, negotiate the flexibility to go to prenatal appointments (there are a lot of them), and demonstrate that you’re being transparent and thinking about ways the company can meet its needs/goals, and you can also meet yours.”

              I would love to hear back from OP to learn how the new employer responds, if she takes AAM’s advice to email the employer.

              I have a 4-year-old and a 20-month-old, so I certainly don’t advocate for discriminating against expectant mothers. I think OP was so fearful about being discriminated against (due to what happened in her prior pregnancy) that she missed an opportunity to inform the new employer (after the offer but before her acceptance), and now it feels like this will be a pretty major surprise to the new employer.

          1. Sarahnova*

            But humans reproduce. It’s a thing they do, and a thing that, as entities who employ humans, companies have to deal with. It’s just non-optional. It’s also not fully controllable. I mean, it would be better for companies if humans just didn’t need bathrooms; then companies could save money and pay less rent, plus have more space for desks, yay! But until the day robots get all of our jobs, employers have to build bathrooms and deal with parental leave, and they will not be able to control when they have to deal with it.

            (Related: do you really have to see a doctor every week in late pregnancy in the US? That seems awfully excessive. You don’t see a doctor except for scans at all for a healthy normal pregnancy here, and my midwife appointments were only every two weeks max; you only go to weekly if you go overdue.)

            1. Grapey*

              I can’t choose if I want to urinate, but I can choose to use my uterus.

              I am all for better parental leave but the analogies with standard bodily functions and other non-chosen biological events like heart attacks aren’t helping the argument.

              A better analogy might be “I want to get a Ph.D…let me look at the benefits for this job. Tuition reimbursement? Yes! Flexible hours for seminars? Yes! This job is compatible with my life choices.” Some humans want to educate themselves and some want to reproduce, some want both, but they are both optional activities.

              1. Sarahnova*

                I really can’t agree that they are on the same scale. And, as I have pointed out before, reproduction is *not* always a choice (contraception fails; rape happens; abortion access is spotty at best for many, many people.) It is also not something that people have more than partial control over the timing of, even in ideal circumstances.

                Reproduction is a basic human function. Not everyone will choose (or be able) to do it, but society depends on the majority of people doing it. If the burden were more equally spread across both genders, we would not treat it as the aberration or “lifestyle choice” it is often treated as in the world of work. As it is, the fact that the practical impact is disproportionately borne by woman has led it to be treated as though it’s a marginal issue, and not one of the fundamental aspects of our biology*. I will never not see referring to reproduction as a “lifestyle choice” as being at least partially rooted in sexism.

                *Someone is already gearing up to tell me that not everyone wants to have kids and people who don’t have kids are important too. I agree. My point is only that every one of us has to deal with the issue of reproduction in some way, and the majority of people will have children (whether by choice or not). It is basic to humanity. It is too fundamental to be a “lifestyle choice”. Even if you frame it as such, employers cannot afford to be incompatible with a “lifestyle choice” undertaken by such a large percentage of the population.

                1. TheSockMonkey*

                  I agree. And add to that the issue that if you want kids and are pursuing that goal on purpose and not by accident, you need to have them during a certain time of your life, when you’re fertile, have an available partner/money for IVF, etc, and for some people, that window is not that big. Employers, and coworkers, for that matter, don’t have a right to ask people not to reproduce because it might interfere with their ability to do business.

              2. A Dispatcher*

                A smoker who gets lung cancer… A tanning addict who gets skin cancer… Someone who suffers from illness from ruptured silicone implants… A body builder or runner who suffers a severe injury…

                There isn’t really one clear and cut standard as to which medical conditions are the result of “choices” you make and should therefore factor into hiring decisions.

                1. Chester*

                  Long term yes, but in the short term, if people stopped reproducing it would represent a serious reduction in environmental strain due to overpopulation of landmasses. Until people can live on the bottom of the ocean, controlling the population is actually important to long term survival. I’m looking at you, Michelle Duggar.

            2. Renee*

              Yes, most doctors require weekly visits at least for the last month. Pregnancy is treated as a medical condition here and having the pregnancy monitored by anyone but a doctor is not the norm. I did fire my doctor at 30 weeks and go to a birth center with midwives for the last bit, but I still had to see the midwives every week. In my state, if midwives are certified, they have rules they have to follow to meet a certain standard of care to stay certified (like transfer to a hospital if there hasn’t been enough progress 24 hours after water has broken). I ended up with a hospital birth because I didn’t progress fast enough, but seeing the midwives for the last part was far more pleasant than my visits with the doctor’s office, and I loved the doctor with hospital privileges that was associated with the birth center.

            1. Sarahnova*

              Very true, as the 25% of woman who have been pregnant and (knowingly) suffered a miscarriage will confirm. I would certainly never, ever inform a potential employer of a pregnancy before 12 weeks’ gestation, even if I had started in the new role before then.

      3. CADMonkey007*

        Nope. Being “deceived” implies the employer had a right to know the information and factor it into their decision. Which is illegal. It doesn’t matter if it’s inconvenient to deal with. The law has already decided that the “burden” of dealing with a pregnant employee cannot trump the employee’s consideration for a job.

      1. TheSockMonkey*

        I completely agree with the fact that the employer shouldn’t feel deceived, put out, etc. However—and I’m approaching this from the perspective of someone who is 39 weeks pregnant and started a new job in August, there are reasons for a pregnant woman to tell an employer before starting the job, as long as they are far enough along that they have already told others in their life. Before 12 weeks, I wouldn’t share. I would not advocate doing it in the interview because of discrimination. Telling an employer after being offered the job and before accepting it allows you to negotiate leave without having to worry about job stability, even if you aren’t eligible for FMLA, negotiate the flexibility to go to prenatal appointments (there are a lot of them), and demonstrate that you’re being transparent and thinking about ways the company can meet its needs/goals, and you can also meet yours. It gives you some credibility and makes it less likely that people will feel like you pulled a bait and switch. If you were planning on taking a long vacation 3 months into the job and your tickets are purchased, you would need to tell the employer ahead of time to make sure they can plan for it.

        Also, if you aren’t desperate for that particular job, telling the employer ahead of time and evaluating how that person reacts can give you a sense about how the company feels about kids in general. Because like it or not, you’re going to need to take time from work to deal with emergencies/sick kids. I would say the same thing for fathers who want to take parental leave. My husband started a new job on November 23rd and was still able to negotiate 2 weeks off once I go into labor.

        In summary: telling an employer before accepting a job may set you up to be discriminated against, but it may also allow you to dodge a few bullets.

        1. CADMonkey007*

          I also think negotiations is the best time to disclose. They can’t rescind the offer, but you can advocate for yourself and get a feel for if the company really is a good fit considering your personal needs.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I see your point, but even that doesn’t guarantee anything. For example, my office often hires women who are visibly pregnant and we talk up our work-life balance and tell these women they can go part-time for a few months after maternity leave. So they accept the job thinking we are family-friendly. And then they come back after maternity leave and realize that they were sold a bunch of fake goods and we treat people like crap if they go part-time after having a kid and have no respect for their schedule and make them come in on their off days for meetings. I can think of valid points for both sides of this argument and I guess it really depends on the specifics of each situation.

          1. TheSockMonkey*

            You make a good point. I think it also depends on whether the people at the company are jerks and whether they tell the truth/follow through on what they say. Having left a company that did not do that (tell the truth, follow through, etc.), I think I just got lucky with this job. Or, if I didn’t, I’ll find out in about 4 months….. here’s hoping they keep their promises.

            1. Lily in NYC*

              Holy moly, I just noticed that you wrote you are at 39 weeks – congrats and good luck with everything!

    7. KellyK*

      ” When I hear someone hid a pregnancy because they were afraid they would not get the job, I understand the rationale behind it but I also think it is unfair to the employer to have find out the person they hired is going to take a 2-3 month leave during the first year of employment especially if it could negatively impact a project the company is working on.”

      If they got pregnant right after starting the job, they’d still be taking a 2-3 month leave during the first year of employment.

      I don’t think it’s necessarily ethical to hide pregnancy (if you even could) if you’re further than six months along, but if it’s less than that, the company still has several months to plan for your absence. For that matter, anybody could need surgery, get in a car accident, etc. and suddenly be on leave for a couple months, so it’s something companies should already be planning for. How prepared they can be will vary from place to place, but the idea that someone might need a couple months off with only 4 months’ notice shouldn’t be shocking or unworkable.

  10. Sarahnova*

    OP#3, I second Alison’s advice. I dealt with this situation (in fact I got my offer the same day I had my 12 week scan) and I told my new boss by phone the first time we spoke after that. And in my case, I could have been taking maternity leave of a year! I did as Alison suggested – I did not apologise but acknowledged that the timing was no ideal. I also reiterated that I was excited to join and committed to the job. They took it very well – I know they weren’t thrilled but they were entirely professional and supportive. I worked for five months, by which time I’d proved myself, took eight months off and came back. I am classed as a high performer and am doing great.

  11. Bank Girl*

    Re #4 being on call. My BIL was a maintenance person for an apartment complex and usually worked M-F days. (And was non-exempt). But would frequently be on call on nights and weekends. Now he would almost never actually be called in as most things could wait until regular hours and they didn’t want to pay.

    But , for whatever reason, he felt he couldn’t even leave his home while on call. I remember one summer day inviting him over for swimming and steaks. He lives 10 minutes from us and we live 5 minutes from the apartment complex. I told him if he got a call, he could just go from our house. But he just kept saying he was on call and couldn’t leave. Now, he he survived on fast food and lived in a dinky, non air conditioned place, so it isn’t as if he didn’t WANT to come. I don’t know if his employer told him he couldn’t leave or he just felt that but I told him they had better be paying him for the time if if THEY told him that.

    1. Hlyssande*

      Sometimes on call means that you’re tied down and can’t actually go do something. I had a friend who was required to take a cell phone and computer and be able to access wifi within 10-15 minutes literally everywhere he went when he was on call. It was much easier and less stressful to just stay home and his quality of life suffered for it.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Same here. I still went to parties at friends’ houses when I was on call (just brought my laptop with me). But movies, plays, out-of-town trips, hikes etc were out. You had to be somewhere that you could log into work from within 15 minutes.

        Yeah this is pretty much equivalent to not having a life during your on-call week. Which is why I left that job, and don’t plan on ever taking one again where 24×7 on-call support is part of the job description.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, and I think that when you are that restricted, there are rules about pay. But, if on call means that you can pretty much do what you want between calls, that’s different.

        2. Hlyssande*

          My friend refused all other assignments for that sort of thing afterward (he was with Accenture and a very in-demand person for their clients) because it was so horribly exhausting in addition to the social life thing that the money just wasn’t worth it.

          1. MashaKasha*

            My wake-up call was when a coworker, 15 years older than me, ended up in the hospital with heart issues after an especially heavy on-call week. I asked myself if I wanted to be in that position in fifteen years.

            I knew her well enough to know that she didn’t have chronic heart issues or ongoing heart problems. Everyone agreed that it must’ve been the bad on-call week that had gotten her sick. She did share with me once that, if she got a call in the middle of the night, she couldn’t go back to sleep again; so if she went to bed at 11PM and got a call at 2AM, then that’s how much sleep she’d have gotten that night, from 11PM to 2AM.

  12. Ashley*

    For OP 3:
    If you’re in the US, you won’t be eligible for FMLA leave due to not being there a full year. So although they can’t fire you because you are pregnant, they are under no legal obligation to hold your job for you until you’re ready to go back. Just be prepared for that.

    1. TheSockMonkey*

      Also, they are under no obligation to pay for their part of your health insurance and other benefits. you may need to go on COBRA. I would ask about that now, if you plan to take any unpaid leave. (Under FMLA, they do need to pay for those things. If you are on a leave of absence, they do not.)

      1. fposte*

        That’s a really good point. (Also worth remembering that if you don’t come back after FMLA, they can claw back their health insurance payments while you were out.)

    2. Renee*

      It depends on the state. In California there are additional protections for pregnancy under the Pregnancy Disability Act. The employer needs to have at least five employees, but eligibility is not dependent on the length of employment as it is with FMLA. You have to be disabled due to pregnancy, but doctors routinely certify pregnant women as disabled four weeks before the due date and 6 weeks after (8 for c-section). You can take up to four months if the doctor certifies you as disabled for that period. You can also receive financial assistance under a couple of state programs.

  13. Daisy*

    Op #2 if there is anyway to give employees a quick break after something like that it might be helpful to them if they are upset. After being yelled at for no reason it can take you a few to calm down.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      Yes! This would be nice. I know working retail it can sometimes be hard to take someone off the floor (especially this time of year when it’s extra busy), but even just a few minutes in the bathroom to sort yourself out can really help. This was truly when I worked in retail, true when I worked in customer service and continues to be true into my job now. We are very much given the latitude to step out if needed after a tough call (emotionally tough, an abusive caller, etc). Most people don’t utilize this option, or if they do it’s rare, but it’s really nice that it’s offered.

      Not only will this help your employee to feel better about the situation, but it will likely work out better for your store. The employee will probably come back from this mini break in a much better state of mind and be better prepared to help customers. So win-win.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      I had this exact thought. I’d be really upset if someone yelled at me and threw stuff at me and I’d need a few minutes to myself.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I was thinking along the same lines. I might tell them that if they had their phone in their locker, they could put in their headphones and listen to one or two songs in the break room, or sit quietly for a few minutes. Music can change your mood pretty quickly.

      1. McAnonypants*

        This is a great idea! I worked phone jobs, not retail, but I know it can be hard to regain your equilibrium after an especially awful piece of work customer.

    4. OriginalEmma*

      Absolutely this. Let your employee take a walk, go grab a coffee, or just hide out in the stock room for a few minutes. It does wonders after an abusive employee experience.

    5. Erin*

      Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind. It’s hard to jump from an awful customer back to helping polite customers.

  14. blackcat*

    One of the worst rules of my old workplace (a private school) is that all teachers had to give a home/cell number to go in the directory. Meaning parents could (and did) call us at ridiculous hours. Our boss was totally reasonable about calling at home, but there were parents who called me at midnight to complain that I hadn’t answered their 10pm email requesting that I help their kid before school (which starts at 8! I woke up at 5:30! I was in bed at 10! My syllabus said appointments need to be requested before 4pm the previous day!).

    My phone got turned off at night and my family all had my partner’s number in case of an actual call in the night emergency. While I wasn’t ever thrilled to get 5-7pm phone calls from parents, they didn’t bother me in the same way (it tended to be that the parent could either call during a lunch break–while I was teaching–or after work. On the other hand, I was at school 7am-4pm, so by 5 I wanted to be decompressing at home. I did a second round of work 7-9pm). It tended to be that people who called at more reasonable hours also had more reasonable reasons for calling. I also had no problem when a parent emailed during the day and *asked* if they could call me in the evening. I’d generally tell them to call at 8pm (when I was likely to be working anyways).

    One of my co-workers was very proud he got away with listing a fake number for ~15 years before getting caught. The subsequent number he gave was a google voice number that forwarded to his work voicemail, which was a brilliant work around! I was more afraid of getting fired than he was…

    Boundaries matter, particularly for people who only have one phone and have reasons for not turning it off at night (eg sick family member). I also think it’s reasonable to ask various employees when they wouldn’t want evening phone calls. Some people are night owls and wouldn’t mind a 10 or 11pm call. But some people wake up at 5 to get in a morning workout, and 8pm could be pushing it. Noting that could help avoid any resentment.

    1. Ad Astra*

      Now that every teacher has email (and can access that email from home if necessary), I don’t see any reason for teachers to share their home/cell numbers. Teachers get to interview with potential bosses to determine whether they’re reasonable people for whom they’d want to work, but there’s no such luxury with parents. A student’s parents could be wonderful people, or they could be insufferable helicopter parents, or they could be sex offenders and murderers; there’s absolutely no filter for what kind of person would be able to call you at home. YUCK.

  15. ZSD*

    #4 On-call
    It’s worth noting that if these people were in San Francisco rather than Oregon and worked in certain industries, they would be required to be paid for 2-4 hours of work if they were on call but not called in. (Links to follow in another comment.)
    In general, there’s a fight going on nationwide for what are called fair scheduling practices – ending “clopening” (when someone is scheduled to close a store at night and then open it the next morning), ending on-call shifts, allowing flexibility for workers who are also enrolled in school or have caregiving responsibilities, providing predictable schedules so that workers can plan their lives and know about how much they’ll earn in a given week, etc.
    Fair scheduling bills have been introduced in several states and cities in 2015, but San Francisco is the only place where one has passed so far. A federal bill, the Schedules that Work Act, has also been introduced in Congress but of course hasn’t gone anywhere yet.

    1. Xaqrcady*

      Yeah, my lovely little retail job has me, during this joyful holiday season, working from 7:30 pm to 12:15 am, just 15 minutes short of the state requirement that I get a break during a shift, and coming back in to open at 7:45 am. This happens three times during this month. Oh, the joy!

      So I’ll get home at about 12:35, and will have to leave home at 7:15–there’s more traffic in the morning. Which gives me less than 7 hours at home to unwind, sleep, eat, shower and get dressed. And then show up bright and chipper for a 9 hour shift, where all the customers will be sweet little angels, all the sale stuff will be in stock and on the sales floor, and no little children will throw up on my feet. Oh, wait, that happened at 2 am on Black Friday.

      1. ZSD*

        I’m so sorry, Xaqrcady. You know, groups like the Center for Law and Social Policy (the job quality team), the National Partnership for Women and Families, and A Better Balance might be interested in at least getting your story to add to the arguments being put forward to enact fair scheduling laws. (I don’t think one can outlaw throwing up on people, unfortunately.)

      2. A Dispatcher*

        Crazy. I work in emergency services, so you know being there actually could be a matter or life and death, and we STILL don’t work that kind of schedule unless we sign ourselves up for it. There is just no reason why people in jobs like retail should have to put up with that.

        And I hate the whole “well you signed up to work in retail so you knew the deal going in” bit. For my job, sure. For people in jobs like retail, food service, etc, it may be the only job available and they certainly aren’t compensated for working nights, weekends, and holidays like I am. It’s also often one of the few jobs available to students, single parents, etc and I’ve seen so many times when places initially offer or say flexible scheduling and then turn it around to mean flexible only to our business needs and you better figure out how to get here or else.

        Sorry for the rant, but so glad I ended up reading this thread as I actually may look into some of the orgs ZSD posted or see if there is anything similar in my area I can help out with. So thanks!

        1. ZSD*

          I’m glad this info was helpful to you, Dispatcher! My links post is still tied up i moderation, so I’ll let you know that if you go to CLASP’s (horrible but soon to be improved) website and search for “scheduling,” you’ll find a repository of information about fair scheduling practices.

    2. Allison*

      “they would be required to be paid for 2-4 hours of work if they were on call but not called in”

      I like this. I get not wanting to pay someone their full, hourly wage for an on-call shift but when someone’s on call they are limited in what they can do and where they can be, so they can hear/answer the phone and get to work quickly, so while they’re not really working and there’s lots of stuff they can do, their time isn’t 100% their own during those shifts.

      1. ZSD*

        Exactly. And being on call at that job prevents them from taking a shift at their second job, if they have one, and they might have to arrange a day of childcare that they end up having to pay for even though they don’t get to go into work and make money.

    3. Brett*

      I remember when a really really awful McDonald’s manager tried to force me to quit…

      He scheduled me clopening plus lunch rush five days a week: Open to 7 am, 11:30 am to 2 pm, and 11pm to close. He then told the weekend managers to call me in on weekends if I was needed as long as I stayed below 40 hours. When that didn’t work, he switched me to 3 days clopening and the rest call-in only, so that my paycheck was all over the place from week to week. That did get me to quit.
      He wanted to fire me because I was subpoenaed as a witness against him in a sexual harassment lawsuit, but decided it was “better” to make me quit.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        Uh, what the what? Even if you no longer worked there they could still totally call you as a witness. And then it would look even worse for him when/if a lawyer asked you about why you were no longer employed there.

      2. Brett*

        Even though I was only subpoenaed (and never ended up testifying), I probably had a Title VII participation retaliation claim. But I was in no position at the time to get involved in a legal fight against a powerful family (the owners of the restaurant) in a town I had just moved to. I just found another job at a different fast food place and moved on.
        The manager was pretty much an idiot and continued to go after anyone connected to the woman suing him (but not the woman suing him). When I quit, the opening shift manager brought the scheduling manager’s retaliation to the attention of the store manager and the scheduling manager was later fired. The lawsuit was settled but I have no idea who paid what or how much.

  16. CADMonkey007*

    Op#3 I would also arrange with your new boss how to handle your prenatal appointments. If you’re exempt, it presumably won’t be a big deal to leave a little early for the doctor, but since you’re not eligible for FMLA you want to make sure everyone’s on the same page about your work expectations so nothing can be construed as “performance” issue later on. Congrats on the job and the baby!

  17. Workfromhome*

    #2-Good job supporting your employee after an abusive customer and letting them know you will support them.

    Next step is to be proactive to let your employees what to do if it happens again and so that all your employees know what the rules are and that they have your support if it is needed in the future. Knowing these things ahead of time really will make their job easier and give them confidence.

    Let them know (in a group setting) what to say and how to deal with it. I’ve always been of the mind that if someone customer or not starts cursing at me that I will immediately say “I am am not required to deal with you/serve you if you are going to use profanity or be abusive. ” If it continues inform them you are discontinuing the call or are walking away to get your manager. Abuse and profanity is grounds to break off the encounter immediately.

    Physical contact (pushing or in this case throwing things) is an absolute show stopper. They should remove themselves from the vicinity immediately. get to a safe place. The manager should have them leave the store, ban them from the store or contact the authorizes. Zero tolerance. Especially for your kids..if someone lays hands on you or throws anything get out of there immediately. They need to know that they will be protected from this person period. You don’t need those customers.

    1. dawbs*

      This is good.
      I always told my people that they were “not paid well enough to be screamed at/sworn at/verbally abused”

      I wasn’t paid well enough for it either, but I said that I was willing for that to be my job. Interestingly enough, the fact that I was willing to take on abusive people and had their back made them slightly *less* likely to send me the minor awful ones–because they knew they could send me the ones they couldn’t talk down.

      I had them practice (and yes, we literally practiced) some scripts with things like “I’m afraid I”m not able to help you if you’re using that kind of language. You will have to be civil or I will be forced to ask you to leave”–we came up with a list of good lines and the various employees adapted them to make them their own. (that long version was mine–but others just went with “that language is inappropriate”. Heck, on a bad day, I could tone down a lot of them with a raised eyebrow and the teacher voice saying ‘excuse me, that is uncalled for”)

      Employees who know you have their back are usually the ones who will do their darndest to handle the employees.

    2. Tara R.*

      I had two scary incidents at the bank. One guy threw his driver’s license at my face (what, you want me to just hand thousands of dollars to anyone who says he’s John Smith? Okay then) and I’m sad to say I didn’t do anything, just looked at it, checked it obviously against his face, and gave him his money. My manager was on break, I was 16, and I was too scared to say anything. The other was when a guy threatened to punch my coworker in her “smirking c*nt little face” when she asked him if he was a member with us. Our manager was on break, but one of the financial advisors overheard and told him to get the hell out or she would call the police. (When the manager came back, she actually did call the police to get a complaint on record, and he was banned from the premises.)

  18. MashaKasha*

    #1: Coming from an employee’s standpoint here, maybe home phone isn’t a great idea – you might wake their family members. When I was on call, we still had a landline and had five or six stations around the house. The policy was that Tier 1 helpdesk call our cell phone first, if we didn’t answer or call back within 15 minutes then they’d call the landline. Sometimes due to a phone glitch or whatever, I’d miss the 15 minute window and they’d call. My kids were in elementary/middle school and during my last year at that place, we also had a dog. None of them were happy to be woken up at night by five phones ringing throughout the house. Neither was my husband!

    Better yet, text them and ask them to call back? This is what my current job does when there’s an off-hours emergency. They will likely miss your call anyway.

    This is all assuming it’s a true emergency. We had a team lead at OldJob who liked to call other coworkers for completely non-emergency reasons in the evenings, on weekends, and when they were out of town on vacation(?!?!?) Please don’t be that person.

    #4 – no you will not get paid extra, because you’re salaried and because on-call is now probably part of your job description. But if you’ve had a particularly heavy on-call week, you may be able to negotiate comp time with your management – my on-call support job did that for us on occasion. But we were 1 week on/2 weeks off, or 2 weeks on/4 weeks off. Your schedule seems a but lighter, so I am not sure if comp time will be an option.

    1. Natalie*

      It doesn’t matter if they’re salaried, what matters is if they’re exempt or non-exempt. Salaried and exempt frequently go hand in hand, but not always, and you can’t avoid the FLSA just by making someone salaried. If they’re non-exempt they have to be paid for all hours worked by law.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Oh! I didn’t know that! Thanks! I stand corrected.

        They can still negotiate comp time if they’re exempt, though.

  19. Ruth (UK)*

    1. I once called my manager at 1am. For a small amount of context, it was a 24-hour store, his shift had ended less than an hour ago so I knew he’d only just have got phone, and the other manager in store with me agreed I should call. It wasn’t what many people would consider an emergency but was definitely urgent in the world of this fast food store. He came back to work to help me and though he was not exactly happy, he agreed it was ok to have called him. I have never called someone outside of social hours for work reasons before or since. Also, this store would regularly call employees at not quite social hours to ask us to come in and covet last minute etc.

    In my current job which is mostly normal office hours, it would be way out of line to make a late night call to a coworker, my boss or for them to call me.. So I guess my point is that context and job type etc make a huge difference

    1. AnonForThis*

      In one of my first jobs, I once called my boss at 7PM. I was the last one to leave the office and had to lock up and set the alarm; and of course, being new to this, I screwed something up. I then freaked out and called my boss, who also freaked out and called his boss.

      Well it just so happened that his boss was at a motel with my teammate at the time. They were both married and had kids. How do I know? he told me the next morning while he was reprimanding me for having my boss call him after hours.

      Fun times at a toxic job…

      In retrospect, I don’t regret calling. Better that he got a call from me, than from the cops who could’ve shown up because the alarm had gone off due to having been set incorrectly. I thought I at least owed him a heads-up. The whole motel situation never entered my mind, and frankly should not have IMO.

    2. Elsajeni*

      I was thinking the same thing. When I worked in retail, I wouldn’t have been surprised to get a phone call anytime during the hours our store was staffed, which would be something like 7am to 10pm. But if it was outside social hours, I’d expect it to be something urgent and potentially to my benefit, like offering me extra hours — it’s okay to call me at 7am and ask if I can cover a shift today, but please don’t call at the crack of dawn to ask if I can cover a shift next Thursday, or to tell me you’re cutting me from today’s schedule.

  20. Robin B*

    Question # 2– In high school I worked for Thom McAn, a family shoe store. A woman came in with 2 kids, who had no socks. She refused to buy a pair of socks for them to try on shoes (this was before the day of having boxes of disposable nylon footies at shoe stores) and insisted I fit her kids as they were. So after I strained to fit winter shoes on bare feet, she had the nerve to complain to my manager that I shoved and forced the shoes on! Arrrgh. Luckily he took my side and got rid of her.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Remember Buster Brown??? I had such a crush on the little boy they used in their logo. He reminded me of Oliver from the Brady Bunch.

    1. Erin*

      I’m the original poster for question #2. I’ve worked in children’s shoes before landing in my current position. Kids are gross. I’ve seen kids with mud caked feet come into the store and try shoes on without socks. Yuck!
      People get super strange and protective around their kids. I’ve had Mom’s get mad at me for refusing service because their kid is kicking and punching and throwing things. I usually worded the situation, “I’ll let him calm down and I’ll try again in a couple minutes.” Sometimes I’d get the impatient customer say “It’s your job deal with it” Sorry my job description doesn’t include punching bag. My old supervisor, is a great person, but wasn’t as supportive of us during those difficult situations as she could’ve been. I don’t think I have to mention turn over was high there. Sometimes in retail it’s better to loose and incredibly mean and aggressive customer and a $50 sale than a good employee.

  21. YourUnfriendlyPhlebotomist*

    The only time I’m called outside of work hours is if my boss needs me to work in a different office and in that case the sooner the better, doesn’t matter if its 3am I want to know before I get in the shower.

    as far as angry customers- In healthcare, maybe in phlebotomy more so then other fields I get a lot of angry, mean people. Just knowing that my manager has my back when the person accompanying the patient writes a formal letter upset because I told a blind man that no, he may not collect a urine sample in the draw station, at he must go to the bathroom 10 feet away is enough to make the situation less stressful. Support and good communication is key.

    1. Anxa*

      Maybe it’s because I have BII phobia, but I cannot imagine wanting to disrupt the workflow of a phlebotomist.

  22. Kyrielle*

    Re #4, I never worried about it because we were exempt, but I do wonder where my on-call at $PreviousJob would fall. We could get a call at any time outside of office hours that week, and we were expected to accept the call and be connected to the client site within 20 minutes. This meant we had to be within 15-20 minutes of some place with wifi (or, in the last few years, wifi OR sufficient reception for the hot spot), and that we always had to be in an area with enough reception to at least hear the cell phone ring.

    Some weeks there were almost no calls, some there were a ton, but you never really knew when they would come in. I hesitated to *grocery shop* while on call since getting checked out could take longer than the allowed time, let alone dashing back home.

    These days I don’t think it would, but I’m wondering whether before the hot spot, it would have meant all hours had to be paid if anyone had been non-exempt.

  23. amanda2*

    Wow 9 pm…. I’m usually in bed and often asleep by then, so that seems really late to me. I have a job where I start early and I also have a 9 month old that is exhausting, thus the earlier bedtime. But, if my job were one in which a boss where to call me after hours and it was as late as 9 pm, I would be really surprised and feel pretty imposed upon. To, me I think a call after hours would be acceptable up until dinner time, maybe. And then it would have to really be something that couldn’t wait, although I can’t think of anything appropriate off the top of my head (but I guess I’m not in a field in which at-home phone calls after hours would ever really happen).

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, I understand that 9 pm is often accepted, but I put my kids (4 and 6) to bed starting at 7 with lights-out at 7:30. I usually just go to sleep just after them and get up early in the morning. Phone calls after 7 start to be an issue. (Which is why I have my cell phone set to go on quiet mode at that time….)

      (I used to be a night owl. What happened to being a night owl?)

    2. Anxa*

      It’s just so variable.

      I would be far more annoyed at being woken up in the morning. I worked a semester with afternoon and evening shifts and let my sleep hygiene go because I valued restful sleep and mental health over early wake ups then. I would be interrupted so often! Sometimes as early as 9 am.

      I’m sometimes still working at 9pm or just sitting down to dinner. So ‘dinner time’ isn’t really helpful. Time of year makes a difference too! I eat earlier in the winter.

      1. Matt*

        When I’m sleeping, my mobile phone is on silent (during the week when I use it as alarm clock) or off (on weekend nights). During my night’s sleep, the only phone that can ring is my landline phone and the people who have this number are only a few of my closest family members, certainly not anyone from work.

  24. Tasha*

    #3 should not assume that it’s obvious that she’s pregnant. Polite people follow the Dave Barry rule: Do not ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless you can see the baby’s head emerging from the birth canal. Your new co-workers don’t know your “normal” body shape and some people look pregnant when they aren’t. Yes, address it explicitly.

  25. Macedon*

    #1. I think it’s more about how often, rather than how late. I’m in journalism – we will call you at 1, 2, 3 or even 4 a.m. We might even unexpectedly call you in at 1, 2, 3 or 4 a.m. It’s the job, everyone signed up for it. But if I’m calling you at wtf o’clock on the daily or even weekly, then we probably need to have a conversation about the expectations for your work role and its work hours. People are generally very willing to accommodate emergencies on the principle of “life happens, we all have to come together and pull through as a team.”

    If your employee’s role is the kind that regularly requires some after-work consultation (I know people have to regularly chip in on work handled on someone else’s shift: doctors, creative directors), maybe go through their preferences with them. There’s absolutely no shame in asking, ” Hey, if I need to get your input for two minutes on a presentation, up to what hour can I reasonably ring?” Because we can all of us here input on what our personal preferences would pencil in as the ‘acceptable’ hours, but, in reality, we don’t know your employee’s schedule, and it may well be that they’d hate to be called 17-19:00, when they’re helping the kids with homework or enjoying a night out, but would have no qualms about 21:00 to, you’ve guessed it, 01:00.

    #3. The timing isn’t ideal, but I’ve found that babies altogether pretty insensitive about average business cycles. Must be a generational thing.

    Don’t apologise, but do tell your boss asap. Slightly different from Alison: I’d say to try doing it by phone and only resort to e-mail if you can’t reach your boss on the line today. If you get your boss on the phone, follow up with an e-mail anyway.

        1. KellyK*

          wtf o’clock is a good one. I’ve heard oh-stupid-thirty or zero-stupid-thirty as the military equivalent.

  26. Graciosa*

    To OP5, I don’t think I would do this unless a) you already knew your manager wanted you out as soon as possible and b) you are absolutely certain that your work is in shape to be easily handed off and covered if you leave earlier than the basic standards of professional behavior require.

    This isn’t a terribly likely scenario.

    Remember that your reason for behaving like a professional – including giving the minimum professional notice – has nothing to do with your employer and everything to do with you. Your boss is not the only one involved who will observe your behavior, even if the boss is most likely to be asked about it.

    “Former Employee was all right, I suppose, although she didn’t want to give two weeks notice when she quit, which really put us in a bind,” is a damning reference from the boss which is factually true.

    “Former Employee had a really tough time of it here, and was under a lot of stress, so I suppose it was understandable that she left after only a week as soon as she got the opportunity,” from a co-worker would not be any better.

    The fundamental message in both cases was that you did not meet minimum professional standards of conduct. If that’s the case, I don’t want you on my team.

    I’m not saying there are no circumstances under which you could decide to leave early rather than working out the full notice period – but you need to have offered full notice and attempted to work through it until your boss made it impossible. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

    I’m not trying to be harsh because I want you to have to suffer an extra week. I’m trying to be clear that one single week will have very long term consequences for your reputation that you cannot ever go back and fix.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Agreed. But OP5, do bear the next-to-last paragraph in mind. It is TOTALLY reasonable to give two weeks’ notice, and if things get worse instead of better and the situation is becoming unreasonable or abusive, say something about it. Alison’s addressed this before with a script – I’ll find it and link.

  27. Steph the PM*

    OP#3 – I think that your advice on handling this was good, Allison. Bigger picture, while I 100% understand why the OP was compelled to react to the situation in that manner, I think that she could have handled the situation better from a relationship-building-standpoint with her manager. If I’m the manager, and she comes in day#1, 5 months pregnant, I’m going to question why she didn’t disclose it to me post-offer while negotiating salary and the specifics of how she begins to integrate onto the team. Basically at the same time as she’s letting me know that she needs X vacation days over the holidays, etc. I guess that I see it almost as a “we’re going to be working together, here’s my situation and let’s figure out how we’re going to handle it together.” I further believe that she could have/should come in with a plan for: I’m going to need some flexibility for doctor’s appointments that I plan to handle X way, taking Y maternity leave and this is how I’m thinking that I handle it, I’d like to work at home in weeks 39 and 40, etc.

    OTOH, if company personnel stressed family friendly throughout the interview process, her pregnancy may not be as covert as she thinks :)

  28. Fedhopeful*

    How does notice work during the holidays? My office gives December 24,25,31 and January 1 office. What if I give my notice on the 18th? Does it count as 2 weeks if my last day is January 1?

    1. fposte*

      You ideally want to give them 10 working days, because it’s about how much working time they have to prepare for your being gone, not the calendar time.

      1. Kyrielle*

        This. I set my start date with my new company three weeks after acceptance, because my modified schedule with my previous employer meant that I needed to give them a little over two weeks’ notice to get to the equivalent of 10 working days, and I knew it would be important. (And then I had a long weekend off between jobs, which was nice for me, although not the goal.)

  29. Erin*

    I had a very similar situation (actually it was answered here, just didn’t get around to writing an update with the new job, sorry) – I interviewed at the beginning of my 4th month, they let me know 10 days later I got the job. It was summer, I was out of town a lot, it took me a few days to see it (the usual deadline for the chosen candidate is up to three days with this employer, so I had actually given up on it), so I just sent a short mail to accept, then sent another later to let them know about the pregnancy. I kept it short, “Dear… I would like to notify you… Due date…”
    That was it!
    People told me they didn’t discriminate, but I was still surprised.
    Long recruitment process, my file passed around from service to service, I felt like I should remind them, and I did. Again the same reply, they just moved up my date (I offered it first, felt like it was the least I could do), so I didn’t start four weeks before my due date, but six.
    That was three weeks ago. They were a little surprised to see how far along I actually was, but no one even made a comment, they’re all very nice. I have less than four weeks to go and I plan to work as long as I can (actually until the office closes for the holidays, that’s when I’m due), I like it there and want to do what I can to be professional about the situation.

    I really hope you find a good way to tell them and sort everything out.

    PS And with the belly showing, I am treated really well at the cafeteria. ;)

  30. Megan*

    “But if you’re allowed to go about your personal business at your own house or out and about, but just to answer your phone or respond to emails, you wouldn’t need to be paid for that on-call time ”

    I wonder if there’s an exception to this if being on call came with stipulations that required you to be within a certain distance of the employer while on call, or if you were required to abstain from alcohol while on call. I work in a hospital and while on call, I’m expected to be ready to punch in and work within 45 minutes of getting a call.

    This really stunk for me since at the time I lived about an hour’s drive away, but I made it work. There was on-call pay, and I sure would have felt differently if there wasn’t.

    1. fposte*

      There’s no hard and fast rule–it’s case by case, and it can depend how many calls they get and where the case is being heard. There’s one decision where being expected to punch in at a hospital within 20 minutes and be sober was not considered a demand so onerous as to require on-call work to be paid. But another court decided that firefighters who were required to punch in within 20 minutes and received quite a few on-call summonses were engaged to wait rather than waiting to be engaged and should be compensated.

      1. Megan*

        I’d actually feel better about stipulations if the summons were frequently than if they were not. At least I was modifying my time with a reasonable assurance that I would be working, rather than just modifying my time and losing it.

  31. Ruffingit*

    #5 – I gave one week’s notice to my last job. I didn’t feel badly about it at all because the environment was so hostile, I had to get out. And I will admit that I felt like they didn’t deserve two weeks notice because they’d made things so horrid for me while I was there. Yes, I know that’s immature of me and what not. Still feel that way.

    Anyway, try to give two weeks. If you can’t, give what you can and move on. It is what it is.

  32. Marissa L*

    I think it’s terrible to conceal a pregnancy and expect a new employer to deal with an extended leave right off the bat. I’d also wonder since you so easily hid this, what you may not be truthful about in the future.

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