5 terrible workplace policies that good companies don’t have

Workplace policies are supposed to serve the needs of the business – which includes attracting and retaining great employees. And yet some truly terrible policies have stuck around for decades, despite fairly sweeping changes in work culture. These policies are often rooted in outdated work norms and a lack of trust from managers toward employees – which is one reason why good companies and good employees don’t want anything to do with them.

Here are five of the worst workplaces policies that good companies have jettisoned long ago but which lesser companies continue to cling to.

1. Requiring employees to bring in doctors’ notes in order to use sick leave. Colds and flus – some of the most common reasons for sick leave – don’t generally require a doctor’s care. Requiring sick workers to drag themselves out of bed and sit in a doctor’s office simply to get proof of illness is an unfair burden on people who really just need a few days of rest. It also drives up health care costs by forcing people to seek medical care when home care would suffice, incentives people to come to work sick, and signals to employees that you don’t trust them. Good employers hire competent, trustworthy professionals and treat them like adults. If someone is abusing their sick leave, good managers will deal with that head-on; it doesn’t require a company-wide policy that harms everyone else.

2. Insisting that you use vacation time to take a few hours off even if you routinely work long hours. It’s demoralizing to put in extra hours in the evenings or over the weekend and then be directed to use PTO in half-hour increments if you need to leave early or come in late for a doctor’s appointment or other personal reason. What incentive do good employees have to be flexible with employers or to put in extra hours if they get nickled and dimed? Good managers and good companies look for ways to be flexible with people who work long hours.

3. Insisting that job candidates divulge their salary history. Not only does insisting on knowing a candidate’s salary history violate their privacy and put them at a disadvantage in salary negotiations, but it also tends to perpetuate the gender wage gap. Since women are statistically likely to be paid less than their male counterparts for the same work, basing salary offers on past earnings means that that disparity will continue when those women move to their next jobs. (In fact, Massachusetts recently banned the practice for this reason.) Good employers determine a candidate’s value for themselves, rather then defaulting to what someone else paid, and they don’t force candidates to share information that should be between them and their accountant.

4. Limiting your salary increase if you take an internal promotion. Some companies cap the salary increases that come with internal promotions – saying that your salary can only increase by, say, 10% when making an internal move, even if they were prepared to pay an external candidate significantly more. These policies are incredibly short-sighted, because they push the best employees – the ones who are most likely to get promoted – to leave the company in order to be paid market rate for their work. There’s no reasonable defense for policies that prevent companies from paying an internal candidate as much as they would pay someone from outside the business.

5. Being rigid about arrival times when the work doesn’t require it. It’s certainly true that in some jobs, time of arrival truly matters. For example, if you’re a receptionist whose phones start ringing right at 9 a.m. or if you need to attend a morning meeting with clients, of course you need to show up at work right on time. But in many other jobs, being a few minutes late really doesn’t impact anything. In those cases, managers who are sticklers for precise arrival times and penalize employees who aren’t at their desks promptly at the stroke of 9 (or 8:30 or whatever their start time is) are focusing on the wrong thing. In many jobs, performance is and should be measured by quality of work and results – not by whether someone didn’t land in their desk chair until 9:15.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 243 comments… read them below }

  1. anon anon anon

    I honestly cannot wait for that MA law to go into effect. A lot of the companies I’ve been interview at have been asking about salary and getting snippy when I don’t divulge it. One company told me they needed it for me to continue on past the phone interview stage, and I lost out on the opportunity. I’m in Massachusetts so I really wonder how this is going to change things because I can see a lot of job candidates not knowing about the law and a lot of employers still trying to get around it regardless.

    I don’t give my salary because I’m in a field with low pay and am trying to move to industries with higher salaries. I’f I tell them my $50K salary for mid-level work and they list the job for $100K+, I’m worried they’re going to offer me less because of my previous salary (and I know $50K is a lot of money to some people, but in a high COL area with loans and medical bills, it’s paycheck to paycheck).

    1. Pwyll

      I always default to, “My current employer considers compensation plans to be private information, but I can tell you that I’m seeking a salary of x. Is that in line with your expectations?” Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. (My employer DOES consider them private, but they don’t and can’t prevent me from talking about it if I choose to.)

      One time someone gave me a lot of attitude about not sharing my current salary, but we moved on in the interview. I knew we’d never move forward from there, so at the end I asked, “What were you paying the person previously in this position?” The interviewer stammered something about not sharing individual employee salaries. Pretty sure I got a rejection letter 2 minute after hanging up, but it sure felt good.

      1. anon anon anon

        Oh, I always say, “I prefer not to provide private financial information, but I’m looking for a base salary between $X and $Y”. I’ve gotten a lot of push back asking why I won’t reveal it.

        I do like the idea of asking what they’re paying the current person, but I think I’d probably get rejected immediately if I did that too.

        1. BRR

          My last job hunt was about a year ago and I feel unusually lucky in that I was never asked for my current salary and while I had to state my expectations conversations happened early and were straight forward. I’d still prefer a posted range (the job I accepted had posted a range) but at least they didn’t pry into my current salary.

          1. Annonymouse

            Where I’m from (Australia) there’s normally a range posted in the job ad.

            Up to 40k plus super (401k for you Americans) for the right candidate.

            52 – 57 salary plus company car.

            (We have universal health care as well as legally mandated sick leave and holiday leave so that isn’t a factor in negotiations.)

            So we might get asked “What range are you looking for?” But never “what are you currently making?” Because:

            A) What does that have to do with the position they’re hiring for? Nothing.

            B) The range is normally posted so we are both on a similar understanding of where this can end up.

      2. Vicki

        >>The interviewer stammered something about not sharing individual employee salaries.

        And yet, you want me to share mine with you…

        1. Seattle Writer Gal

          I was recruited to interview (they cold-called me) with a very well-known website company whose entire purpose for being is to catalog and publicly salary information for every profession with the stated intention of “helping people negotiate better salaries”.

          At the end of my initial phone screen, the HR recruiter gave me her spiel about being “transparent with salary” and asked ME to GIVE HER my salary requirements. Their salary range for the position was never shared, only referenced as “competitive” based on what I told them.

    2. Koko

      Also, even without a high COL, if the job is listed at $100K, $50K is insulting even if it’s a lot of money. You are worth what you are worth regardless of whether you “need” that much money or not.

    3. Venus Supreme

      I’m really interested in this topic — my current job never listed a salary range with the job posting. We never discussed salary in my interviews. Then I received an e-mail from my (now) boss asking what my old job paid me, and they based that job offer off of that number. Luckily for my mentors, they told me to give NewJob a number a bit higher than what I was actually getting paid, and so I now currently make about $10k more than at OldJob (OldJob was also paying me peanuts…)

      Now, I’m left wondering: was this a less-than-ideal way of being handled? I’m a recent college grad and I’m still learning what the norms are for work and office culture.

      1. hayling

        Yes. Definitely less than ideal! There are a lot of AAM posts about salary.

        That said, for my first job there was no discussion of salary during the interview, and I didn’t even know I’d been offered the job until HR called to confirm details. I said that I hadn’t had a salary discussion with the hiring manager, and the HR rep said that they had me down for $X, and I just said OK because I was so excited to have a freakin job.

        1. Venus Supreme

          Yup! That same exact thing happened to my boyfriend. I personally feel that he could be making a lot more at his current job if he had negotiated salary!

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Your mentors gave you bad advice, because many companies that base salary offers off of your current salary will ask you for proof — as in a W2 or paycheck stub — and they will pull the offer if it turns out you lied.

        But yes, it wasn’t ideal of the company either, because salary should be based on your worth in the new role, not what a previous company paid you. More on that here:

        http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/articles/2016-08-05/massachusetts-makes-asking-about-salary-history-a-thing-of-the-past

        http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2014/01/29/how-to-respond-to-employer-requests-for-your-salary-history

        1. Venus Supreme

          Thanks so much for the links. Salary negotiations are always a necessary yet uncomfortable situation. I’m still trying to figure it all out. Now I feel a little silly for how I handled this one. Thanks for guiding us in the right direction!

        2. 42

          Now I’m wondering what would happen if someone just genuinely hit back with “I’m sorry – I don’t understand how what my current company is paying me has to do with what your company’s pay range is.”

          Not a snotty question, but mustering up as curious a tone as one can. I’d really want to hear what they’d come back with.

        3. Chaordic One

          Do you have any advice for when you apply through a website and their online application won’t submit unless you type in a salary figure?

          1. Candi

            I remember in another thread in the archives, someone advised putting in a bunch of zeroes. They can’t legally pay you nothing, so they have to talk about it.

            Another piece of advice is to figure out what the average range is for your area, industry, and level/title, and use that as a central point. (Going a little above may or may not hurt, depending on a lot of variables.)

    4. Shelby Drink the Juice

      I wish that would go nation wide. When I first started at this company I was an administrative assistant while going to school. I’ve now completed an MBA and went into a salary position. Since I was an admin I was offered the very bottom of the pay scale, which was an amazing 28% increase from what I was making and I’m a level 2. But I’ve found out that there are level 1s that make more than me and probably all the other level 2s in the group that came from outside the company.

      I feel I’m punished because I was working here while in school and because I was an admin. The only way I’ll be able to push up my salary is leave the company for a competitor in the field.

    5. Candi

      I can see a lot of job candidates not knowing about the law and a lot of employers still trying to get around it regardless.

      I am firmly convinced that bad employers and bosses across the board -office, retail, whatever depend on their workers not knowing what laws and regulations at the city, county/parish, state, and federal level speak to their rights and protections. What the workers don’t know, they can’t complain about.

  2. Bad Candidate

    My husband’s company limits how much of an increase you can get for a promotion. He recently got one and his boss and grandboss wanted to give him a very large raise, but HR wouldn’t let them. They went rounds, HR eventually agreed to slightly more than the usual cap. It’s real BS because he works in IT and this company already has a hard time keeping talented IT people. They are constantly leaving for more money. One guy was a director and he left and took a help desk job that paid better than his director level job.

    1. Vicki

      This is one of the reasons why talented people leave companies. They’ve earned that the best way to get a raise is to go elsewhere.

      Companies pay new people coming in from outside more than they pay people who’ve worked there for 5 years.

      1. Elizabeth West

        It’s the opposite, but it makes me think of that ridiculous thing cable companies do, where they give new customers a terrific price and the people who’ve been with them for years just get their rates jacked up and up.

        1. GH in SOCal

          BTW you can usually get the New Customer deal by calling them and talking to the Retention department. They count on people not bothering. I’ve gotten big discounts and lots of free equipment from DirecTV by calling every few years to say, “New Customer deal or I’m going elsewhere.”

          Too bad it’s not that easy in the workplace!

    2. Spare a Dollar Please

      I’ve been there too and it’s very frustrating. You work hard to get a promotion, only to find that it was hardly worth the trouble. I suppose that, from HR’s perspective, it’s only short-sighted to do this if employee retention is one of your department’s performance metrics. At least in my experience, it doesn’t seem to be.

      1. Christopher Tracy

        And it should be since it typically costs two to three times an employee’s salary to hire/onboard a new hire. That’s a lot of money.

    3. Mike C.

      What is the general, publicly acknowledged line explaining such policies? I know it’s nothing more than to keep wages down, but how does an HR drone explain the rationale for discounting internal employees?

      1. Tomato Frog

        Yes, I was wondering this when I read the original article. What can you even pretend this policy is for, apart from paying people less?

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Let’s stay away from stuff like “HR drone” here — it’s pretty unkind, particularly since the person stuck with explaining the policy probably isn’t the one who set it.

        1. Mike C.

          No problem.

          But let’s be clear here – there’s a huge difference between someone forced to explain a policy and someone going out their way to cheerfully expect that everyone should be thrilled by terrible policies.

          The last time this came up at work, I heard members of HR cheerfully explaining that paying out wages was “nothing more than an added expense for the company” and that “they felt their own compensation was perfectly fine, thus no one else has any reason to complain”.

          1. Christine

            At our university, it’s the Provost & Budget Office that sets the cap on salary increases. Do not blame HR.

      3. Sharon

        I think they frame it the other way around: instead of discounting internal candidates, they frame it as a premium to attract the very best and brightest candidates… of course leaving silent the implication that none of the internal candidates could possibly be the best or brightest.

        1. Bad Candidate

          It’s like if you switch cell phone providers, you get certain perks and discounts as a new customer that you don’t get as an existing one.

        2. Mike C.

          WTF?!

          It also leaves silent that they’ve never been successful in hiring the best and brightest even with that sort of policy in place.

        3. RVA Cat

          They’re also saying that institutional knowledge means nothing, despite the training time etc. you may be saving with the internal employee.

      4. Pwyll

        My guesstimate is that it’s based 100% on budgetary concerns and 0% on any concept of employee relations. From the Management side, the rationale is likely to be that by moving an internal employee to a new position, the employer absorbs costs related to that change, and still has to expend money to find a replacement for the internal transfer’s job, so by capping the increase in salary for internal hires the company can make the change as budget-neutral as possible. (We budget x dollars for salaries, but an internal transfer effectively requires us to pay the recruitment expenses for TWO jobs, so the savings of capping the salary goes directly to recruitment expenses and we magically still pay x dollars for salaries.)

        Terrible business practice, but it’d make sense in a board room.

      5. neverjaunty

        I once asked an HR director about this – HR wasn’t the problem, but the company underpaid, overworked and had huge turnover. She explained that she had pointed this out to them until they were blue in the face, but the costs of turnover and failure to retain were “numbers they just can’t see.” I’d correct that to “won’t see”, but she’s right; some companies don’t choose to understand that there is in fact a cost associated with brain drain, because it’s not as simple to quantify as saying labor costs are $X.

      6. Retail HR Guy

        HR drone here. Luckily we don’t have that policy at my workplace (I myself jumped over 15% for my last two promotions), but in HR circles such as blogs, forums, PHR study material, etc. I’ve never seen a defense of this practice. Not even a bad defense. Whenever it comes up it is only in a situation like this, as a word of warning for a “bad idea”.

        Keep in mind, too, that just because HR are the particular drones that get to enforce this policy it doesn’t mean that the policy originated within HR. It could just be a brilliant idea from one of the execs.

        1. Recruit-o-rama

          Haha, I’m another HR drone. I set no policy. I do know this though; I think a lot of people would be surprised how little thought some companies put into their salary ranges. They seem to pull numbers from mid air (or elsewhere) at times. At my company, our Director of Compensation uses job duties, market rates, competitor information and locational data to determine a range. Once we have a range, internal and external candidates fall into that range based on their experience and skill sets. There is some wiggle room, usually for internal candidates, because we place value on institutional knowledge, but without a focus on retention or any real, scientific process for setting ranges, I can see how this would happen.

          Although the information is studied and readily available, a lot of companies are unaware of the astronomical cost of turnover.

        2. PHR Drone

          “HR drone here. Luckily we don’t have that policy at my workplace (I myself jumped over 15% for my last two promotions), but in HR circles such as blogs, forums, PHR study material, etc. I’ve never seen a defense of this practice. Not even a bad defense. Whenever it comes up it is only in a situation like this, as a word of warning for a ‘bad idea’.”

          Yes.

    4. Anon 2

      Where I work they often limit a promotion to 10% + regular raise. But, the 10% is at supervisor’s discretion so if it’s a smaller promotion they can limit it to 5%, etc. It’s a pretty crappy system (although thankfully not set in stone). Because if you take on significant new responsibilities that result in a higher position then your salary should be market rate competitive for the higher position.

      1. Hotstreak

        I’ve noticed the same thing at my company for in-line promotions, and it makes a certain amount of sense. My duties didn’t change when I get promoted from Designer 2 to Designer 3 to Senior Designer, the promotion and raise was just a reflection of my increased work. The raise was from one salary band to the next, with those salary bands being based on market rates for someone of approximately my experience, skills, location, etc. They happen to split up the bands in approximately 10% increments, so that’s how much of a raise people usually get.

        OTOH raises for significant changes are evaluated individually. So going from Designer 2 to Department Manager could include a raise of 20-30% or more.

    5. Christopher Tracy

      @Bad Candidate – an IT guy at my company got promoted internally and received a 25% raise. I’m so glad he shared that information because the next promotion I get, I’m asking for that percent increase (and would actually need it to be in the 2nd quintile/20% range for the next job title up).

  3. Barney Barnaby

    I worked for a boss who did #2 and #5 all the time. I had to have a meeting with him if I arrived at 9:01 without texting that I would be late. I also routinely worked until 7 pm, but had to use PTO (and get permission!) to leave even a half hour early. Essentially, when it came to overtime, I was treated like a salaried employee (i.e. no compensation), but when it came to any flexibility or sanity around butts in chairs, I was treated like an hourly employee.

    Those issues were symptomatic of larger managerial problems (for which the individual was later sent to manager retraining).

  4. Construction Safety

    If we know an employee has been to the doctor, then we require them to bring in a note. We DO NOT want to know why they were there, just that they have a full return to work.

    1. Cordelia Naismith

      From your user name, I guess you work in construction. That is one field where I think this kind of policy makes perfect sense — because you want to make sure your employees are physically okay to be at work, so that they stay safe. For most office jobs, though, safety isn’t the same kind of issue.

      1. neverjaunty

        But it’s not quite the same policy. Requiring an employee to bring in a note if they saw a doctor is different than requiring a note if the employee is sick (which might not involve a doctor’s visit).

      2. Recruit-o-rama

        Agree, “fit for duty” exams are different than sick notes. My industry is highly regulated and fit for duty exams for our labor positions is a requirement in many circumstances. The fit for duty results look like this; “yes, this individual is physically capable of performing essential duties” or “no, this individual is not capable of performing essential duties” without further detail.

      3. Annonymouse

        Where I’m from (Australia) it’s pretty common to need a Drs certificate if:

        A) you take two or more consecutive days off work for illness
        B) you take a Monday or Friday off for illness – extending the weekend
        C) you take a Tuesday off after a long weekend or day off after a public holiday.

        These are to make sure people aren’t abusing sick leave. The occasional single day off here or there isn’t really a cause for concern unless it happens frequently (like once every week or second week).

        1. Candi

          An online friend of mine who lives in Oz also says that is someone at her work gets sent home as sick, they just need to be signed out. (Can’t remember if it was store manager or a step or two lower.)

          It sounds like she has some good walkin clinics in here area, as well, making it easier for residents to get that note.

        2. BeenThere

          Yeah however Australia also had federally mandated paid leave, four week vacation and two week sick. Plus your employer can’t force you to take it and your vacation days roll over each year. ( says an Aussie expat leaving in the States who bitterly misses the four weeks of paid leave )

    2. Rusty Shackelford

      And if they didn’t go to the doctor, if they just stayed home because they had a sore throat and a bad cough, are you okay with that?

    3. Not So NewReader

      I think the reason would be embedded on the doc’s letter head:

      Bob Jones, Oncologist.

      Keep in mind that who signed the note tells just as much about the situation. And employees are very much aware of that. If management pretends differently, they make themselves look silly.

      I am hoping that you are talking about work related injuries and not “other life” stuff.

      1. Ruffingit

        Yes, this is why when I worked at the psych hospital, the psychiatrist would usually sign a note with no letterhead and just put her name and MD behind it so it didn’t show what kind of doctor she was.

  5. Blue Anne

    I can’t believe the doctor’s note thing is widespread. Really? What is this, grade school?

    What do you even get from a doctor for this? Does she literally just write a note for you, like your mom when you were 10?

    1. Kyrielle

      I always got one that just said, “Kyrielle has/had an illness that requires rest, and will be able to return to work on DATE.”

      Once I got it for…I forget what, something annoying but that wouldn’t have needed a doctor otherwise, and the doctor just listened to my symptoms, agreed with my assessment, and wrote the note.

      Previous employer siad they required a note for any absence of more than three consecutive business days. So a quick stomach virus, or a cold where you were mostly-recovered within a couple days, you could go back in and no note – but anything more significant and you needed the note. To prove you weren’t just shirking, I think, more than the return-to-work factor, but I’m really not sure.

      I _did_ require a return-to-work okay after having my kids, but that was actually a significant medical event with a recovery time, and there their interest was in confirming I could come back to work. Still a little strange to me, but in that case at least there were existing doctor’s appointments for other reasons, to get it written out at.

      1. Arielle

        That’s the policy in our handbook – more than three consecutive days requires a doctor’s note. In practice, I strongly suspect that it’s not really enforced, but it’s on the books in case someone is actually suspected of shirking. We have unlimited sick leave so I think it makes sense to have something to point to in case there’s an issue with someone taking advantage of it.

    2. Faith

      I’ve had multiple doctors ask me if I needed a note for my employer. One time, my daughter’s pediatrician gave me a note saying that my daughter was too sick to return to daycare and required close care and supervision of her parents. I didn’t even ask for a note – she just assumed I would need one (I didn’t). So, I guess it’s pretty common.

    3. That Would Be a Good Band Name

      It’s a pretty standard form for my doctor’s office actually. I’ve never been and not had them ask if I needed one when leaving. I don’t work somewhere that I need one, but it just has the name of the doctor’s office at the top and then it’s preprinted. (Name) was seen at our office today (date) and is released to return to work on (date).

      Pretty much the same thing you get for a kid at school. And I don’t know how wide-spread this is, but a parent note no longer cuts it for our junior or senior high. The absence counts against them unless there is a doctor’s note and they don’t get very many unexcused before the parent gets referred to truancy court.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.

        Oh man, I think that’s harsh even for high school students. I mean, I get there are bad parents out there, but assuming that the kid isn’t missing overly much time and is keeping up with their work, what’s the big deal? Teenagers get colds that don’t require a doctor’s visit, too. Plus, my mom letting us take the occasional mental health day went a big way towards getting me though my teen years intact.

        1. SusanIvanova

          Some time after I graduated the schools went to a “5 days off in a semester for whatever reason means you fail” policy. And that included taking a day for academic competitions, which pretty much killed them. Yes, the kids who work extra hard in class and then do the same thing *for fun* get penalized. If that policy had been there when I was, it would’ve hit me.

          1. Chaordic One

            I would imagine that the policy was waived if the student was out of school to attend an athletic event, though. Have to support the football and basketball teams, you know. ;-)

      2. BananaPants

        It no longer cuts it for elementary school. We have to send a note AND a doctor’s note to get it to be excused – except excused AND unexcused absences combined are capped at 10 per year and after that you have to have a doctor’s/dentist’s/lawyer’s note or the parents are sent to the truant officer.
        I’ve asked the school twice now why they categorize excused and unexcused separately if the action is the same once a total of 10 days is reached, and apparently it helps the truant officer decide whether they have to do anything about it or not – 12 excused absences with doctor’s notes is probably a sign of a kid with a lot of medical needs who would be better-served with a 504 plan, while 12 totally unexcused absences with neither doctor’s nor parent’s notes is a big red flag for the truant officer.

        1. Bellatrix

          That’s absolutely insane. I was a pretty healthy kid, but I had many friends who’d be home for two weeks with a bout of tonsillitis, the flu or something like that. And I do remember a few illnesses that just take long at that age – I was bedridden for over a month from a sports injury, two weeks home with strep throat a few years later (though yeah, I’d have doctors notes for those, but not for the sniffles in between)… Not a parent, but my expectation was that an average elementary-aged child spends at least three weeks (that’s fifteen days) sick – is that wildly wrong, or do the schools just expect kids to come in and spread the germs?

          1. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)

            Yeah, seriously.

            I’m a little surprised that people so rarely connect stuff like this and like the relentless pressure and overscheduling of children to increased demands on adult workers for longer hours and constant availability, as well as the rise of unbenefited jobs without PTO and the inflation of job requirements (“entry-level” jobs that require unpaid internship experience, etc.) Policies like this, and the overscheduling, seem designed to train kids young to work constantly, sick or well, and grow up accepting this as the way of the world. Giving us contagiously ill cooks handling food, people whose chronic illnesses go untreated because they can never take time off to go to the doctor, people being on call 24/7, and a whole lot of burnout and resentment.

    4. KSM

      It’s standard enough that in my country, where most medical care is covered by socialized insurance, there’s general a list of ‘non-covered’ services (thinks like using liquid nitrogen on a wart) that you’ll have to pay for yourself. And up at the top of those lists is “Doctor’s Note for Work or School.” (Rate varies between 5$ and 30$.)

      1. Lucie in the Sky

        I previously lived in a country with a similar NHI system. The doctors I visited over several years there all charged the equivalent of 40-80 USD for the notes.

      2. Dynamic Beige

        Yeah. I love getting the list of things that are not covered.

        Also, in the case of requiring a doctor’s note, when SARS hit up here, there were a lot of people who ignored the self-quarantine requests and then caused more trouble. I could see how, in the event of some sort of bad outbreak getting a doctor’s note that you do not have TheBadThing, just a cold or that due to the outbreak and a compromised immune system your doctor suggests working from home until the danger has passed. But when stomach flu hits, the last place you or anyone wants you to be is around other people.

      3. Blue Anne

        Wait, it’s common and you have to PAY for one? Whaaat?

        I’m just… kind of boggling at this whole thing.

        I just moved back from the UK and employers there are only allowed to ask for one after you’ve been out for 7 days of missed work in a row.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Well, if you have to schedule an appointment to get one, you have to pay for that. I don’t know about just the note. I’ve never had to do that because except for following abdominal surgery, I always went back to work before the note was required, whether I was well or not!

        2. Hot Ice Hilda

          Yeah, but in the UK we also have the oh so wonderful self certification forms where you have to list your symptoms and your boss gets to decide if it’s a good enough reason to pay you. I’d rather just get a doctor’s note than tell my boss I needed to stay home because of diarrhea.

          1. anon for this

            Oh, so that’s not just my company. Have called in sick twice this year and each experience was humiliating, anxiety-inducing and boundary-crossing enough that I’m planning to drag myself in if not on the verge of death from now on.

          2. Elfie

            Hah – I delight in describing the symptoms in detail – diahorrea, menstrual cramps, fecal incontinence – the more disgusting the better! If they want me to say why I’m off, then I’m not going to spare their blushes (btw, these are all TRUE – although happily, the fecal incontinence was a side effect of going on anti-depressants, but thankfully, only a temporary one!). I know, TMI – but that’s my point – glorify in your symptoms!! Although I’ve acquired this attitude over the years – when I started work, it was mortifying to have to explain myself.

          3. SarahKay

            I work at a (UK) company that is about 90% men; mostly split as male techs, and female support staff. As one of the female support staff at the time, with a male manager, my manager was hilarious when they brought in the self-cert thing. Specifically we heard his horrified voice saying to the HR leader “You do know that I have nearly all women reporting to me?!? And they’ll *tell* me what was wrong with them! In detail!”
            And so we did *evil grin*

          4. UK Nerd

            My previous company had these forms. There was a section for ‘what are you going to do to prevent this from happening again?’ The responses could get a bit sarcastic.

      4. BananaPants

        We have to pay $10 to the pediatrician for every school, camp, or sports physical form they have to fill out. I get them to fill out the state-standard form for school aged children once a year and make copies for summer camp/daycare, sports, etc. because I’m cheap.

        They don’t charge for daycare forms, weirdly enough.

    5. Gaia

      The only time I need a note is if the illness is extended and then it isn’t a note to verify the illness but that the employee is safe to return to work and no longer contagious. This is more related to the nature of our work, however. But out for a day or two for the sniffles or a bug? Nah. You can make your own call as to whether or not to see a doctor.

      1. Angelina

        Is it really about safety, though? You’re not requiring someone who’s been out with a 24 hour stomach bug to prove that she’s no longer contagious (and in the case of a stomach bug, she probably is). This idea of “safety” is, I think, usually masked in some sort of disbelief that the person was actually out of the office.

        1. Gaia

          Yep, it really is about safety. It is hard to explain why without getting into too much detail regarding my specific work but suffice to say a 24 hour bug doesn’t pose the same risk as a severe, ongoing bug would if brought back into the office.

          I trust my workers. If they say they are sick I assume they are sick. They know that if they just need time away they can say that – no one has to fake sick to get time off. But if they are sick for over X days, they do need a fit for duty note. Luckily, we have great insurance so they’ll have no expense for that. And they have access to a same day clinic so they don’t need to take additional time.

    6. Retail HR Guy

      We DON’T require a note, but the practice is so widespread in retail and other low-skilled professions that many of our employees, especially the newer ones, automatically run out and get us a note.

    7. Unegen

      I’ve never worked somewhere that required one, but on the two occasions I’ve had to go to the ER they automatically handed me a note on the way out saying I was seen on [DATE] and fit to return to work on [DATE]. I guess they do that so they don’t have to deal with fielding patient requests after the fact.

      1. the gold digger

        Two weeks after I had started my job, I fell off my bike on my way to work and I guess banged myself up badly enough that a stranger picked me up and took me to the urgent care center. I ended up in the ER because urgent care wouldn’t treat me, but all I did with my job was text a photo of my face to my boss and tell him, “I’ll be late.”

        I had my CT scan (note to self: there are standalone MRI centers that charge half the price of the ER), got my stitches, went home (my husband had come to the ER), took a shower, got dressed, and was at work by 1:00. I almost never miss work, but when I do, I have never needed to prove that I was actually sick.

    8. Anonymous Educator

      I’m proud to say, no matter how toxic a work environment may have been in other ways, I’ve never worked in a place that’s required a doctor’s note for calling in sick.

      Really, if you get a certain number of sick days, you should be able to use them. If the organization is not set up to be able to support itself with employees taking sick days, it needs a better setup (and maybe more employees)

      1. KEM11088

        Me either….but I have worked somewhere where a FUNERAL CARD was required to prove I was attending a funeral.

    9. HRChick

      We have one manager at the university who insists on this for every day one of her employees is out. It’s horrible.

        1. HRChick

          Yeah we got her to back off when someone is on FMLA and when we do payroll, if we someone who has been out sick for 3 days, we call them and send them the FMLA paperwork and tell them to take it to their doctors.

          It’s worse for the one-off days, though. Those days when you wake up with a migraine or a sore throat or just feel “off”. Her department’s work is low paid and very physical. So, it’s a job that would be hard to do ill but they’d have to go to the expense and physical exertion of a doctor’s visit just to take the day off. I would hate to have to do that and it would drive me away quickly.

          Coincidentally, her department has the highest turnover.

            1. HRChick

              Because he’s a terrible manager too.

              We’re wearing them down, though! One of those cases where I wish we had more authority

    10. Lora

      I can see needing some sort of documentation if you had an injury at the workplace that required a write-up for Workman’s Comp or if you were out long enough to qualify for short-term disability, so HR can set up the paperwork for the disability insurance payout.

      Otherwise, what is the point? If someone is skiving off, they will skive off no matter what policies you put in place, because finding ways around annoying things is pretty much what employees everywhere do. If they are skiving off to the point that they don’t get their work done, then write them up for not getting a reasonable workload done. If they rush through it and make mistakes, write them up for making too many mistakes. If they can get all their work done properly in record time, ask them to share their methods.

    11. BananaPants

      We have extremely generous sick time (starting with 3 weeks and increasing by a week with each year of service). However, when you reach 3 consecutive sick days your manager and/or HR “may” require a doctor’s note – the assumption being that if you’re sick enough to miss 3 days of work, you’re sick enough to have gone to the doctor. At 5 consecutive days, they make you call and file a short term disability claim (which, if approved, still pays out as sick time until you run out of sick time).

      I’m assuming that a doctor’s note for work is like the doctor’s note I have to get for our older kid’s elementary school – “BP Jr. was seen by Dr. Doctor on 9/26. She may return to school on 9/27 without restrictions.” It doesn’t say anything about the reason for the visit or the ailment although of course the type of physician can easily be determined.

    12. Elizabeth West

      My doctor’s office HATES this. They don’t want your butt in the waiting room if you have something contagious like a nasty cold or flu, unless you absolutely need to be seen for some reason (like if being sick were dangerous for you because of another health condition).

      And if I’m sick, the last thing on earth I want to do is get up and go anywhere. I live alone and have had to schlep to Walgreen’s (I skip Walmart when I’m sick because the noise level makes me want to cry) for cold medicine, which sucks. When I had whatever was going around a few months ago, my head hurt so much I couldn’t even read. I ended up binge-watching Stranger Things* because I could do it in a dark room lying down. Driving to the doc’s office would have been out of the question.

      *Haha, having a fever made watching that show even more weird. :)

    13. Rebeck

      Absolutely standard in my experience in Australia if you’re out for two or more days. My most recent employer didn’t require a certificate until you’d been out three consecutive days, but all my others was two, or if you were out sick on either side of a long weekend.

  6. BRR

    These are 5 great examples of very common bad policies. I’m sure readers can sprout of a lot more that are specific (and not so specific). For the Dr. note for sick time, tt can be difficult to get a same-day appt and dumb to make someone get a note from a clinic where they might be there for hours instead of at home resting.

    1. Kyrielle

      And expensively annoying. I’m trying to imagine having to go get a doctor’s note for, say, a persistently bad cold…while on a high-deductible health plan, meaning you get to pay for the full appointment cost. To. Get. A. Note. I would be very unhappy.

      1. Critter

        At the job where I experienced this, we were hourly paid (low paid, too), and weren’t eligible for healthcare. So most of us had to get state-funded care, while the boss had coverage. He could get a same day appointment if he needed to. For us? Next to impossible. Good times.

        1. BRR

          I feel like a lot of readers have said they are required to get a note when their job doesn’t offer health insurance. There’s a huge flaw in logic with that.

      2. BRR

        I was thinking cost as well. On my current plan I would be paying $30 to take a sick day IF I could get an appointment. Going to urgent care would cost more (I’m not sure what it is). Now sometimes people are sick and need to see a dr. but it shouldn’t be mandatory to have to shell out money to take a sick day.

        1. Hotstreak

          Oh, you must be on a c0-pay plan? On a high deductible plan, the cost of a typical doctors appointment would be $90-$140 in my area, depending on whether I could get a same-day appointment with my PCP or if I was forced to go to Urgent Care.

          1. Kore

            Yeah, a basic doctor’s visit near me is near $150. Since I have the high deductible plan I’d be paying that out of pocket.

      3. K.

        Exactly. I’m not going to the doctor for a cold; it’s pointless. It’s a waste of her time, my time, and my money.

    2. hotel worker

      Last time I was sick, I sat in a walk in clinic for eight hours to get a note. I should’ve just gone to work and been miserable there, instead!

      1. Hotstreak

        Oh no! The walk in clinic’s around here let us make an appointment online or on the phone for later the same day, so luckily nobody is suffering in the waiting room all day.

    3. Candi

      I’ll tell you what’s even better: doing all that without a car.

      I can’t drive. When my senses get overloaded, they begin to shut down to deal with the overload. Driving and sight kinda go together.

      The Urgent Care Clinic for my current network is in the next city over. So that’s (maybe) get a ride from my dad, catch the first bus, switch to the second, wait, see the doc, then do that in reverse. That’s 1-1 1/2 hours just on the bus. Then another bus and a over half-mile walk to get home.

      Now try that with a sick kid. Nuthin’ doin’.

      My clinic is very close, but usually full up. There’s a hospital locally, part of a large chain, but while I deeply respect them, I’m not clogging up the ER for a cold or average flu.

      So the school can deal with it. District policy is parent phone/note is enough for up to three days, even though the high school administration -this one, not the other one- doesn’t like that. (I also learned they are really bad about checking messages left outside “business hours” -to the point a first-period gym class was left to its own devices* when the teacher called in very sick well before school started. No, they haven’t gotten better.)

      *My son and two others took command of the class and kept hijinks from happening while another teen headed for the office. Very proud mom -and that’s why I know of it.

    4. Emma

      Not work, but – I get the occasional cluster headache. They’re painful as hell, and mine at least are exacerbated by things like, oh, noise, or sunlight. There is also not a single painkiller I’ve tried that works on them – I just have to curl up and ride them out.

      My college gave us three sick days. We were initially told we could just take them, but after I took one for one of these headaches I got raked over the coals for not having a doctor’s note. Why couldn’t I have dragged myself all the way across campus to the nurse’s office, down a mountain in bright daylight? Whyyyy couldn’t I have at least called and spoken with someone there?

      I dunno, maybe because I had a friggin’ cluster headache.

  7. B

    Been there with the vacation time policy and the arriving a few minutes late. If I was not at my seat at exactly 9:00AM, no reason for me to do so, I would be dinged 15 minutes from my vacation time. However, I would never be credited if they wanted me to stay 15 minutes late. So I never did – penalization works both ways and can really bring down the morale of an office quickly.

    1. BRR

      I’m always prepared with this argument should but in seat time ever be brought up. I have to leave right at 5:00 to make my train. So if anybody ever comments on it I want to point out that nobody cares when I get in early, work through lunch, work after I get home from my long commute, or work longer hours on my WFH days.

    2. Lia

      I had a clock-watching boss (in a salaried job) and he would and did write people up for arriving at 9:01. It was a union job with no actual written requirement for start times, just that they had to be “agreed upon by employee and supervisor” and that the work day was 7.5 hours long (excluding a 1/2 hour lunch break). The writeups wound up being tossed out each and every time by HR but it was just a way for him to be snarky.

      Guess how many people there were willing to stay a millisecond beyond quitting time?

      1. zora.dee

        Twins! I worked at a place that not only was a union position, but the employer was a labor union. And the manager I worked for was ridiculous even to her salaried employees. They worked long hours, worked through weekends dozens of times a year with massive big events, including traveling all over the country. But if you wanted to come in 20 minutes late for a doctor’s appointment, or even take some time the morning after flying back from a week-long event, you would get a ‘talking to’ about how it looked for her staff to be coming in ‘late all the time.’

        She just lost 3 highly-skilled staff in less than 6 months, and I bet she doesn’t have any idea why…..

    3. Rafe

      Yeah, but amazingly, you’ll notice that it’s always an argument to be late. It’s not like people are coming in on time or (gasp) early. So I really don’t blame employers who don’t put up with it.

      1. Mike C.

        It’s not “late” if the job doesn’t require it, and most of these jobs have people who are already working long hours. This isn’t a case of someone trying to take advantage of a situation, this is a case of a manager being arbitrary for the sake of the power trip.

        1. Al Lo

          Precisely. At my job, I can be late for a meeting; I can’t be late for work. I can be in earlier than usual, or arrive early for a meeting, but I can’t be early for work.

          1. Al Lo

            And I just realized my phrasing is ambiguous, so by that I mean, I can’t actually be considered late for work. I can arrive later than I’d planned to, but no one is tracking my in and out hours, so I’m not actually late. Unless I’m late for a specified appointment or meeting, the concept of being “late for work” doesn’t exist.

      2. neverjaunty

        Which is fine, as long as those employers also do not expect employees to put in extra time and long hours. As someone said above, you can’t treat people like hourly workers for their start time but salaried exempt workers for their end time.

      3. Rusty Shackelford

        Because if people come in on time, or early, there’s no reason for an argument… I don’t really understand your logic here.

    4. Journal Entries

      My employees are running for the door at 10 or 5 to, same with lunch hour but were coming in 10-20 minutes late so now I have to keep a tracking sheet on all of them to show MY boss.
      I don’t like doing it, and don’t really care if your a few minutes off, just keep it reasonable people, and make up your time!

    5. Ann Furthermore

      This is so short-sighted. I’m currently quite unhappy in my job, but one of the benefits is that my boss is great about flexibility when we need it. We do ERP implementation work, and as we approach a project launch date, the hours go up (and up and up) and it’s heads-down with everyone charging for the finish line. Then after go-live, things settle down. So yeah, we work long hours sometimes, but on the other hand when things slow down no one is going to get bent out of shape if you duck out an hour or 2 early here and there. It all evens out in the end.

      I supervised someone once who came in a little later in the morning. Because of the traffic patterns, she told me if she left her house at 7AM, she would not get to the office until 8, but if she could leave her house at 7:45, traffic was lighter and she could get there by 8:15. Or something. I didn’t care. It was a way for her to spend a half an hour less in the car every day, plus someone else on my staff was an early bird anyway so there was no issue with coverage or availability. My boss at the time, who was really an ass, was *sure* that she was padding her hours, that she was slacking off, etc, etc, etc. I finally went into the timekeeping system and pulled up her last few timesheets, showing that not only was she getting her 40 hours in, she was often working overtime as well. That finally shut him up. It’s such a stupid, petty thing to get hung up on.

      My husband, on the other hand, is a stickler. He runs a machine shop, and they start the day at 7 on the nose. If he hires someone who gets into a habit of coming in at 7:02, 7:03, 7:01, it really rubs him the wrong way. His little brother works for him, and will advise the new guys that it’s in their best interests to plan to be there by 6:50 or 6:55 each day, so they have a buffer if something happens. Every now and then there will be a snowstorm or accident that will make someone late, and he doesn’t get bent out of shape about that (until there’s an “accident” or “snowstorm” 3 times a week) , but it’s the perpetual minute or 2 late that really gets under his skin.

      I think he goes overboard, and if I worked for him I probably wouldn’t last very long. But he does not hold anyone to standards that he doesn’t hold himself to. He is never, ever, ever late. Ever. Like never. In 13 years together, I am unable to think of one time that he was late. When we were dating, if he said he would pick me up at 7:30, the doorbell would ring at 7:29. It’s insane. But he’s the boss, so he makes the rules. Plus it’s a machine shop, so it’s more of a blue collar setting where starting at specific times is more common. Also, people where we live tend to have their own vehicles and aren’t subject to the whims of public transportation, where even the best planning can all be in vain.

    6. SusanIvanova

      Yeah, my first software job was full of examples of what not to do; originally they’d sold office supplies but discovered that you could sell a $10 floppy for $10K if it had software on it. So they treated us the same as the former employees who’d put 4c pencils in boxes to be sold for 5c. They wanted me there at 8:30 – fine. I left precisely at 5:30 and took the full hour of lunch. Sure, my productivity went down – I am so not a morning person – but they were happy, and I was job hunting.

  8. Critter

    The worst place I ever worked had a terribly micromanaging boss who made us get doctor’s notes. When one of my coworkers left, we emailed a couple of times and marveled at how she didn’t need to bring a doctor’s note at her new job. “I just gave him the date I needed to be out, and he told me I didn’t need a note!”

    1. RVA Cat

      Does this remind anyone else of the scene in The Shawshank Redemption where Red learns he doesn’t have to ask permission to use the bathroom once he’s out of prison?

    2. Beancounter in Texas

      At my first job ever, as a cashier, on my first day of work, I woke up with pink eye. Knowing that it’s contagious and I really didn’t want to scare customers at a restaurant handling their cash, I called in sick and explained that I had pink eye. The manager insisted that I bring a doctor’s note. I refused, because I knew how to treat it at home, and she stated I would then be required to come to work. I insisted that I would only come into work to show her that I have pink eye, and eventually our stalemate ended with her submission. I cleared up the infection within 24 hours and started my new job the next day. In retrospect, that was a horrible way to start a new job, but to me it was so obvious that I shouldn’t be working in a restaurant with pink eye, that I found it incredulous to argue about it.

  9. ZSD

    It’s worth noting that most (all?) jurisdictions that have laws requiring employers to provide paid sick days also forbid employers from requiring doctor’s notes until the employee is absent for more than three consecutive workdays. (Link to follow.)

    1. Kyrielle

      I don’t think that’s “most” jurisdictions…it’s 5 states, or 10% of the states. And yes, 29 cities and a county and Washington, DC – but still. And of those 29 cities, I spot 7 that are in California – one of the five states – so they’re extending greater protections than the state, I assume, but not adding additional geography with such a law. (Admittedly, the fact that those cities include Seattle, New York, Minneapolis, and Chicago DOES make them more significant population-wise, but still.)

      My computer isn’t letting me search the PDF for ‘notes’ but in general I believe they’re legal, although asking for medical details may not be if they’re ADA-protected or FMLA-related, I would think. But “needed to be out for health reasons for X days and can return to work on Y” type notes probably are in most jurisdictions.

      1. ZSD

        Sorry, I didn’t mean that most jurisdictions have such laws. I meant that of the jurisdictions that do have such laws, most or all have the stipulation about not requiring documentation for less than three days’ absence.

        1. Kyrielle

          My apologies! I misread that badly. That is good info. It’s a pity there aren’t more jurisdictions with those sorts of laws.

      2. Sophie Winston

        Side note – FMLA does allow employers to require disclosure of the employee’s health condition.

        1. Retail HR Guy

          The exact condition/diagnosis? I don’t think that’s accurate. There are certain details that the employee’s health care provider must provide if requested and if FMLA is going to apply(basically corresponding to all the questions on the Certification of Health Care Provider form) but I don’t believe that the employer would ever need to know the exact medical condition if the employee wanted to keep it private.

          1. Sophie Winston

            I went to do some research to confirm, and it’s…unclear to me. Perhaps an expert can chime in. I found this on the DOL website:
            “The medical certification must include some specific information, including:
            ■ contact information for the health care provider;
            ■ when the serious health condition began;
            ■ how long the condition is expected to last;
            ■ appropriate medical facts about the condition (which may include
            information on symptoms, hospitalization, doctors visits, and
            referrals for treatment);”
            and a few more things. There are also lots of hits about inappropriate disclosure of medical information provided in FMLA qualifications. So maybe you could get away with listing symptoms and treatment but not the actual diagnoses?

  10. HardwoodFloors

    I am disappointed that you didn’t address an outdated (but actually very popular with selfish companies) policy that drives employees out the doors. The policy that a company will plan to have up to 30% of the employees as contract workers. I feel a company that will keep people for YEARS with no health insurance, no holiday pay, no sick pay, etc are despicable.

    1. Sharon

      I think that’s actually a new-fangled (but still horrible) policy. I worked for a company like that once. They had an entire department set up to handle contract workers onboarding and exiting, managing vendor lists and all that. They tended to be nice to their W2 workers but at the same time treat the contractors (who were the majority of the workers) like crap. For example they’d set up department lunches and the announcement emails would always specifically say contractors not allowed to come. That was also the place who begrudged me the use of a pen! Guess I was supposed to supply my own but they didn’t tell me that. (The funny part of that is that they supplied me with a laptop but pens are somehow over the top!)

    2. BRR

      My husband’s company is like this. He just got promoted, after 14 months, from temp to regular employee. As a temp he was making a really good salary but no paid time off, had to take off company holidays where he didn’t get paid, and his only insurance option from the temp company was to pay full cost for an awful plan. It would cost more than if I had to pay COBRA and the plan itself was so bad it could barely be called insurance. They do this to tons of people and it has created a tiered system of employees. The temps usually work when the regular employees get out early. The temps don’t get bonuses. There’s no way this should be legal (in an ideal world).

      1. Christopher Tracy

        I worked at a law firm that did this (I got hired on after a year and a half of temping and another woman in my department got hired on after four years).

      2. Candi

        Depending on the (sometimes very complex) laws, it may not be.

        Alison and commentators have discussed multiple times before about how some employers claim X are contractors when they’re really employees under the law. Might want to run a site search or ask on Friday.

        1. BRR

          It was as a temp, not a contractor. While bad management, I don’t believe anything is illegal about hiring temps for an indefinite period of time (although I would love to see some legislation on this).

  11. Rika

    “Requiring employees to bring in doctors’ notes in order to use sick leave. ”
    This is actually standard practice in Germany. So glad I don’t work there.

    1. De

      To be fair, though

      A) we don’t pay extra for doctor’s visits

      B) GPs have to give you an appointment the same day (and you have until the third day to go. No need to present this note for a 1 to 3 days illness! )

      C) this is mostly because you need to go to the doctors after a few days anyway because your health insurance also needs the note. Because they start paying your wages if you have been sick for a longer time but need documentation on that

      It’s not ideal, but also really not as horrible or unnecessary as it sounds. I have to take a lot of medical leave (more than four weeks a year) and it’s a pain, sure, but it’s not all that bad.

    2. Cambridge Comma

      I live in a different country with the same rules. After the first three days, as De says, the state is paying you, not your employer, and it and will keep on doing so as long as you need it, years even. Also the salary of a relative so they can stay home and take care of you. So nobody minds getting a note. It isn’t at the whim of your boss and it isn’t about treating you like a child. The context isn’t comparable to what Alison is describing.

    3. Seianus

      In Lithuania it’s not a standard, but still very common practice. Only the best companies allow sick leaves with no doctors notice. On the other hand, when you visit the doctor, visit and the time doctor says you have to take off the work is registered in the central database employers have access to. Employee has no need to care about any paperwork, everything’s automatic.

  12. Vicki

    >>Insisting that you use vacation time to take a few hours off even if you routinely work long hours.

    I’m in California. At one Very Large Company You Have Heard Of, HR sent out a notice to all managers telling them they they were to stop “charging” employees for vacation time in anything less than half a day (and then only if they were actually out for at least half a day).

    1. the gold digger

      A friend is an engineering director at a large company in Austin. If her people try to take a half day of PTO, she won’t let them. That is, they can take the time, but she does not charge their PTO.

      She says, “I can’t compete with Silicon Valley on salary, but I can sure be reasonable about how PTO is charged. My people work long hours – I am not going to make them take vacation to see the doctor or watch their kid’s school play.”

    2. Just a thought

      At Video Game Company You Have Heard Of, they did a weird hybrid thing where they pretended they were being flexible but were really being pedantic assholes in a way that defies logic.

      There were no official start/stop times, just times dictated by your meeting load, and a general expectation to be at the office around 9 hours (including lunch). HOWEVER – if you were to come in late, they automatically deducted a 1/2 day vacation after 11am.

      Practically no one got in at 7am, regardless of meetings, so it was an especially douchey way to be “flexible” while still grubbing after vacation time.

      1. Jaydee

        But if you come it at 11:00 am, your 9 hour workday would end at 8:00 pm. I’m guessing this was their way of being flexible while still trying to ensure that most employees were in the office for at least a few overlapping hours every day. Seems like a proto-“core hours” policy.

        1. Just a thought

          Considering that we regularly worked with Japan, had developers in house that came in in the afternoon, and otherwise didn’t have normal starting hours, there were plenty of times where people were in past 9pm.

          That’s the thing: they cultivated a “free work” culture that only supplied the “as long as I get more work than I feel like paying for” corporate backing.

    3. J

      At my former employer, a Very Large Museum You Have Heard Of, it was policy that you didn’t have to take PTO if you came into the office for any length of time on a given day. (For employees of my same classification. I’m not sure any of the union folks shared that perk.)

      So, if I came to work and got a call from my child’s school at 9:20a that she was ill and needed to be picked up, I could do so without needing to take time out of my PTO allotment.

      There were many things I liked about that job, and this was one of the big ones.

  13. ArtK

    On the last one, I left a company, in part, because a VP told me that it was more important to have my butt in the chair than to actually get all of my work done. But that was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to bad management.

  14. Cat steals keyboard

    I once had a manager email me saying: “I noticed you were five minutes late this morning.” It was Monday and I’d worked unpaid overtime the day before. I quit soon after…

    My current employer has a flexi time policy. So long as you’re there during core hours and work your full hours you can come and go as you please within a certain time window.

    1. BRR

      I love flex-time with a core hour policy. Some people like getting done with work early and some people need a little longer in the morning. Also this allows for accounting for traffic. So many pluses.

      1. Cat steals keyboard

        Yep it’s brilliant. And means if I get up early and arrive early or caught up in something and leave late I can just even it out elsewhere.

    2. HRChick

      We just started this! I’m loving it already. I get so much more done early in the mornings and it keeps me out of rush hour traffic!

  15. You Know Who

    I have an issue with getting “permission” to leave. If you’re planning to be out for half the day or more, of course that should be approved/confirmed as not an issue. But if I (or a coworker) need to head out an hour or half an hour early (for an appointment, to pick up children, etc.) I HATE having to ask my boss if it’s acceptable a day in advance rather than just giving them a heads up that day. As an adult, of course I check my schedule to make sure there are no conflicts!

  16. periwinkle

    This might be the first “terrible workplace stuff” list for which I can say no to each item. My company does a lot of goofy things that would drive off a lot of employees but not these! Um, hurray?

  17. Ian Mac Eochagáin

    An even worse version of no. 4 is not giving employees any pay bump at all with their promotion. My former employee did this. Their line was they wanted to be sure the person would be “the right fit” for the new responsibilities before taking the risk of (gasp!) investing more money in them. Then, apparently, half a year later, they would give the promoted employee a pay rise. Unbelievable. I’m glad I didn’t stick around long enough to get a promotion. Is this common elsewhere?

    1. K.

      My old company did a version of this. We got a new VP who restructured us, but it was a formal process – we had to apply, interview for new positions, etc. A couple of people ended up in roles where they were managing people and they hadn’t been managing people before. These were promotions in title and responsibility but they didn’t get pay raises – and surprise, both of them left.

      1. Ian Mac Eochagáin

        Yes, what a shocker! If you people like this, they will vote with their feet. You write “we” – were you one of the hopefuls?

        1. K.

          The short version of a long story is no. I’m no longer at the company though. I wrote “we” because we all, to a one, had to apply for new positions under this new VP. There were positions for everyone, but a lot of people didn’t get any positions they applied for and were assigned to roles they hated, myself included. A bunch of people who had been doing Departmental Job 1 applied for positions that would have allowed them to keep doing it, but didn’t get them – and people who were assigned positions doing Departmental Job 1 had never done it before. It was a complete mess.

          About 60% of the people in that department have left the company, including the new VP (not sure if his leaving was voluntary or not, as I was gone before he was. He wasn’t there very long).

      2. Faith

        I used to work for a large company A that got acquired by another large company B. After the acquisition, Company B decided to adjust the salaries of all the former employees of company A to bring them in line with the rest of their work force. They cut VP salaries by 15%, directors’ salaries by 10%, and everyone else’s salaries by 5%. I knew a couple of people who were promoted to a director level right before the acquisition and did not get any raise as a part of that promotion (as was company A’s policy). So, after the acquisition they actually ended up seeing their salaries cut by 10% as opposed to just 5%. That was a major slap in the face.

    2. neverjaunty

      It happened to a friend of mine at a toxic company – and even better, they made it retroactive. She was asked to go and manage a remote office as a promotion with more pay. The first paycheck she got at the new office did not include a raise. Thinking it was a mistake, she asked about it and was told “Oh, well, we wanted to see how you did getting it up and running first.”

      She immediately told them she was coming back to the home office and leaving that position, and had a new job a few weeks later.

    3. rozin

      I didn’t get a raise when I was promoted. Though to be fair, it’s not like I was promoted to a manager position, it was just dropping the “assistant” from my title. The raises only take place at the beginning of the year and are a standard 2-5% increase in pay depending on performance.

    4. Christopher Tracy

      When I worked at Evil Law Firm, I was moved to a new department, given the title Paralegal (which was fine since I’d been doing paralegal work off and on for two years anyway), but was told my move was not a promotion (even though it was because the job grade was higher than the one I had just come from), but a lateral move – they just didn’t want to pay me more. I left seven months later for a job that gave me a 32% increase (and now make 60% more nearly three years later at the same company I left for).

    5. Chaordic One

      Unfortunately, it is common in the nonprofit world, too. I was appalled when I was promoted and assumed the position of my former supervisor. I phoned her at her home and asked her point blank if that was what she made, and she told me it was. No wonder she retired.

      It was a horrible situation as the promotion carried with it a lot more responsibility and stress, but no way to provide much in the way of extra self-care for yourself.

    6. Nonyme

      I once took a “promotion” that did not involve a pay raise, just a good chance for further advancement. The further advancement never materialized, and the job I was promoted into was a miserable position, with added duties and a lot of hassle and stress for no added pay.

      I finally got fed up, and asked for my old job back. There were hiring for my old position, and other people wanted the position I was currently in.

      They wouldn’t let me demote myself without a pay cut — even though I never got a pay raise in the first place when accepting promotion. Because demotions automatically come with pay cuts, and wasn’t I silly for expecting otherwise?

      Curiously, I don’t work there anymore.

  18. MsChanandlerBong

    My mom has worked for the same company for 20 years. About three years ago, she applied for an internal transfer because it paid $4 per hour more than the job she had at the time. Then she found out only an external candidate would get that rate. If she took the job, she would get no increase at all. She withdrew her application. It was a job with a lot more stress and responsibility, so why would she bother if her pay wouldn’t reflect that?

    1. Ian Mac Eochagáin

      I fail to understand the thinking here. It’s completely arse-about-face. You’d have thought the compamy getting all of your mother’s (or any other internal candidate’s) experience and insight – and a new person in that job whom they wouldn’t have to train as much as an outside recruit – would be well worth the extra $4/h. But to offer nothing at all – who makes these decisions?

    2. Sprechen Sie Talk?

      My old employer did this, and it was a huge multi-national. It was well known, and practiced, that to get paid what you were worth and actually get a promotion, you were better to find another job elsewhere for a year or two and reapply for a higher position and pay than you were likely to get trying internally. Of course preference was given to prior employees because they had connections and institutional knowledge. It was mindblowingly stupid, and everyone knew it,but that was how the game was played.

  19. Oryx

    My office requires a note only to indicate that I’m cleared to *return* to work. I’ve had to get two recently, one when I broke my ankle and the other when said injury led to a blood clot and hospital stay. I wasn’t allowed to work, even from home (or the hospital), without an okay from my doctor. But for normal appointments (of which I’ve had plenty over the past few months) they don’t care.

  20. thehighercommonsense

    Our workplace (government bureaucracy) lets you take up to 5 instances of “undocumented” sick leave, but after that you get written up and it goes in your permanent file. So, in practice, everyone just gets a note, to avoid the possibility of getting written up.

    I’ve worked/ am friends with folks in companies where being cleared to return to work is a big deal, or where there’s been fairly flagrant abuse of sick leave. Every single one of those companies addresses that abuse on a case-by-case basis.

    It drives me nuts. One nasty cold wipes that right out. We accumulate plenty of sick and annual leave, and there’s no reason not to trust folks to use like adults. On the other hand, I guess it’s just how bureaucracy is set up–it’s easier to manage policies than people.

  21. James

    A strict policy for arrival/departure times is frankly damaging to your business in today’s climate. I routinely work across three time zones, with meetings and deadlines and other job requirements based on those time zones. This means that I sometimes am required, to fulfill regulatory requirements, to be at work early or late. On days where I know I’m staying three hours past “closing time”, it makes sense for me to show up later, to be relatively fresh at those meetings–and if I have to be in the office at 5 am for a meeting, by 3 pm I’m mentally done. I’m hardly the only person in this situation, either; most of my coworkers work across time zones. In our cases, a strict policy of being at our desks at 9:00 am would destroy the company’s capacity to work outside the local time zone, or at minimum require acceptance of reduced standards (due to fatigue associated with working from 6 am to 8 pm on a regular basis) or redundancy (ie, hiring three people in the place of one). It’s moronic in the digital age to shoot yourself in the foot like this.

  22. Lemon Zinger

    I work at a large state university, and I was nervous about starting work here, since I assumed things would be quite rigid. In fact, they are the opposite.

    Since starting my job, I have gotten sick several times and had to take a few days off for minor surgery. My boss neither expects nor wants a doctor’s note. She is a mom and often has to take days off to care for her young children as they deal with the common unpleasant childhood illnesses. I have a dentist appointment this week, and although I like to give her a heads-up, she usually doesn’t acknowledge it unless she sees a direct conflict.

    Because she works remotely, my boss doesn’t know when I get in to the office (unless she monitors my log-ins, which I doubt). We work 8-5 and I usually roll in around 8:15. I feel okay to do this because nothing we do is time-sensitive, and I regularly work until 8 p.m. for events.

    Regarding salary, I was not asked about salary while applying for this job. The salary ranges are clearly listed in all job postings, so I knew where I stood. There is no room for negotiation at an institution like mine, and I was fine with that; I ended up getting the maximum amount because I had the relevant experience.

    Truthfully, I have no idea how raises work here, but I assume they’re regulated and I’ll get one if I ask at the one-year mark, and if my boss feels I deserve it. Not too worried.

  23. Jennifer M.

    All of my jobs have been pretty flexible on hours for salaried employees. What I like about my current job is that they are so explicit it about it. For example, the current pay period of Sep 16-Sep 30 has 88 standard hours in it. They don’t care when I work those 88 hours as long as I get my job done and meet my deadlines and this is explicitly discussed during HR orientation and when my manager taught me how to fill out my electronic time card (gov’t contracting so we have to log time against various billing codes even if we are salaried).

    Now, for my current project, one of my duties is to mentor one of the junior colleagues through her first big analysis report so I do have to be there M-F. However, in order to make the client happy, I worked 3.5 hours on Sunday to get him a draft analysis report that we could discuss on our Tuesday conference call. I had a doctor’s appointment this morning and didn’t get to the office until 11:45 because the doctor was running late, and then after sitting around for 20 minutes to get some lab work, they realized that I had to go to the other lab in the building because my insurance requires that I go to Quest Diagnostics and not LabCorp (at least they had both in the building!) so I had to find a phlebotomist with the right company name on her badge. Anyway, since that took up 3.75 hours once you factored in the Metro, if I just stay until 5:45 today, it’s all a wash (even if I skip lunch, I always count my 30 minute lunch break to offset time reading Ask A Manager!)

  24. EyesWideOpen

    I once had a job where the professionals who were salaried employees and would work long hours would have to leave a contact number for any time outside of the office regardless of whether it was personal time or not. So, if you went to the doctors, you would have to leave the doctor’s number so HR could check to see you actually went there. It got a little insane where people would leave the number of their cleaners or shoe repair person because they were running out on an errand.

    There was no job requirement or urgency that necessitated the need to for instant contact and oh yeah this was before cell phones were really a thing. LOL my age is showing.

    1. Lemon Zinger

      Would you have to tell your doctor that your employer would be calling to verify your appointment? I would think they couldn’t release that information otherwise due to HIPAA.

  25. Althea

    Ugh, the nickel and dime thing! My husband’s department was short of staff recently, and he had to fill in for his boss’s vacant position (in addition to his own). During one 3-day period he didn’t see our baby at all because she would be asleep before he came home. One of those days, he worked until 4:30am, got 1 hour of sleep, then got up to head in and give a presentation. This was after he begged his superiors to prep for him to fill in for his vacating boss, but they left it until the last moment, and did nothing to ensure orderliness in the wake of her departure.

    This place? No comp time. If he even leaves early, he’s supposed to take official time off. Which he doesn’t have PTO – he had to use it for paternity leave, because they also have zero paid leave for dads.

  26. Allison

    This list reminds me of the time a manager (long time ago) wouldn’t let me use PTO when I had to leave 20 minutes early, and insisted make up those 20 minutes later that week – either go in early, stay late, or work during lunch – to make up the time. Always thought that was odd . . . was that reasonable?

    1. Murphy

      I’d say that it’s your PTO and you should be able to use it like you want. I usually work around shorter absences like that, but if someone want to use PTO, I don’t see the issue.

    2. Journal Entries

      Maybe if the department was behind? But it doesn’t seem like 20 minutes would make that much difference.

      1. Allison

        Not sure if it was, he didn’t say it was against policy, seemed like he just didn’t like the idea of giving me 20 minutes off.

    3. Pwyll

      That’s actually not all that strange of a policy. I’ve worked with some companies who did not allow anyone to take PTO in increments less than 1 hour.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Agreed. It’s just too much book work to keep track of that 20 minutes. It’s easier to comp it. And that works in the employee’s favor really.

        1. zora.dee

          Right, but the other option is just not to track the 20 minutes. Let the person leave early and assume that they have already worked that extra time at some point, rather than insisting that they account for every second explicitly.

          1. Gaia

            If they are exempt, I agree. If they are hourly I really think it is different. But that may be a difference in the type of work that hourly vs exempt workers do at my company.

    4. Gaia

      Eh, we have the same policy at work. PTO has to be used in 1 hr increments. If it is less than an hour, we just ask you to make up the time. This is, of course, for our hourly employees not exempt. Exempt employees are given a lot of flexibility as it is assumed we will manage our own time and we are expected to be there long enough to “get the job done” whether that is 35 hours or 60.

  27. Murphy

    “Being rigid about arrival times when the work doesn’t require it.”

    YES! I am so grateful my current job does not care about this. I get in early and take a short lunch so I can leave at 4pm. Other people come in at 10. Who cares as long as we’re getting our work done?

    My old job had a VERY STRICT policy on come in/leave times. And it was bizarre. 7:30-5 M-Th, and then 7:30 – 3 (or whatever comes out to 40 hours) on Fridays. I didn’t know about this until after I accepted the job, and then I found out that they also did 7-6 M-Th and no Fridays during the summer. It was completely arbitrary and completely unnecessary

    1. Cassie

      We have staff work from 7am to 4pm, some from 7:30am to 4:30pm, and some from 8pm to 5pm – recently, some of the folks working later are not happy that people are leaving at 4pm (because how dare the hours not align with theirs). It’s ridiculous.

      Thankfully my bosses are fine with my flexible hours. I’m usually there for a good one or two hours before they show up, and they know I’ll respond to urgent/emergency emails/calls if necessary.

  28. Allison

    Yes, I’ve only worked in one office where arrival times were rigid. Even in internships they were lenient – like they wanted me there around 9 but if I got in at 9:15 it wasn’t the end of the world. The one place where they wanted butts in seats, ready to work at 8:30 it wasn’t a business necessity, but the place hired a lot of young people and between the large staff and low average age they thought they needed to provide a lot of structure.

  29. Bbqtoner

    I had a boss who took 0.1 hours, aka 5 minutes rounded up to 6 minutes since the system would not let do more than a tenths place.

    Did I mention it’s salaried working 55 hours a week with rotating night and weekend coverage?

    1. a.n.o.n.y.m.o.u.s.

      Where I work, if we are one minute late, they will take one minute out of our vacation time. Of course, that doesn’t apply to the managers, who regularly come in late and leave early.

      1. Gaia

        That is freaking insane.

        I do believe hourly workers should make up time when reasonable but a FREAKING MINUTE!? No. I usually start at 15 minutes. If you are off by 15 minutes, please just come in early one day or state late one day. I don’t need to know when or track it, I just expect that it is going to happen. I would never NEVER deduct a single minute from vacation time. If for no other reason than that is a lot of work for *me* to track that for the sake of being petty.

        1. a.n.o.n.y.m.o.u.s.

          Yeah, it is ridiculous. What makes it even worse is we’re exempt, salaried employees. So it doesn’t matter if you stay four hours late the day before; if you’re one minute late the next day, you’ll be penalized. If it happens more than twice, you’ll be put on a list to be watched, because you’re probably a bad employee. I’m trying desperately to find a way out of this place.

          1. Gaia

            That is some petty, petty crap and will result in them losing good employees.

            Good luck in your search – and don’t look back once you can leave.

  30. Brett

    I wish there was some ethical standards around researching an applicant’s (or potential applicant’s) salary history. When I was casually job seeking, I was amazed at how many recruiters already had my current salary before even contacting me. Once I realized that at least a few were looking me up in public records, I started asking if they knew my salary history and they did every time.
    I somewhat suspect that they saw my current salary (I was making 70%+ below the market charge rate) and had huge commissions in their eyes, prompting them to be more aggressive in contacting me.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      Funny you should mention commissions—I’m assuming these are internal and not external recruiting. I used to work in external recruiting, and we wanted the candidates to be hired for the highest salary possible, because it would mean a higher commission. I’m guessing, based on what you wrote, an internal recruiter would earn a higher commission for a candidate’s lower hiring salary…

      1. Brett

        It is a bit of both.
        The way IT is typically done here, is that a contracting vendor does the recruiting while the company does the hiring. The employee is then a W-2 employee of the contracting vendor and the company pays the contracting vendor the charge rate while the employee negotiates salary with the vendor.
        So, for example, the vendor might get $200k/yr for each employee hired by the company, but employee A gets $120k/yr, employee B gets $75k/yr, and employee C gets $90k/yr. The company gets the same revenue for all of its employees, but nets way more for employee B than employee A.

    2. LoFlo

      Many companies report earnings to Equifax, who in turns completes employment and income verifications on the employers’ behalf, rather than calling HR or Payroll. Any entity can access this data if they have an Equifax subscription.

  31. KR

    The required doctor’s note always struck a chord with me in high school – you got a small amount of days that you could be out without a doctors note, but if you didn’t want it to count against that a note was needed. However, this was partially before the ACA passed and during it’s implementation, so many people I went to school with didn’t have health insurance – meaning their families couldn’t afford to send them to a doctor if they had a minor (or major) illness (assuming their families could get them there, prioritized their child’s health and education, and didn’t have work or transportation issues preventing them from getting to the doctor) The result was that a lot of people got in trouble for absences or had to repeat classes because they got sick often enough to miss too much class but couldn’t afford to go to a doctor every single time they had an absence.

  32. Jules

    My husband was promoted recently with 0, yes you read it right ZERO salary increase because they have increased his salary too frequently for the last 12 months. Never mind that they hired him way below the market and his peers. Never mind that he outperforms his peers and regularly create process improvements to save everyone’s sanity.

    I work in HR and for the life of me can’t explain his company’s weird policy. I just can’t…

  33. LoFlo

    One thing that I have seen more than one employer do is require non-exempt people to use paid time off if late or leave early, and then pay for the same time them when they work past the scheduled hours on the same day or another day to make up the time. They basically let people incrementally cash out paid time off. It cost the company money, and drew down employees paid time off banks.

  34. bon-bons for all!

    Raises for promotions- in Virginia, you aren’t allowed to get more than a 15% pay increase if you are changing jobs within the state system. So if you’re working for a measly salary in a legislator’s office and decide enough’s enough, and take a totally different kind of job at a state university in northern VA, then technically, you aren’t supposed to get more than 15% raise- even if the university is budgeted more for that position.

    This is not regularly enforced, but when it is, you’re screwed.

  35. NicoleK

    I applied for an internal position (promotion) several years ago. When I asked about negotiating starting pay, I was told that as an internal candidate, I was not able to negotiate. It was never explained to me why an external candidate, someone untested and unproven, can negotiate and internal candidates were told to basically accept the low end of the pay range. That company was terrible at promoting from within and it was reflected by the turnovers.

  36. Girasol

    I worked for a company-that-you-know that had a pay grade policy for jobs. You usually got some sort of raise with a promotion in any case. But six months after a promotion they’d look at the score of your first evaluation in the new job, match it to a band in the pay grade for that position, and compare your pay to that pay band. If you weren’t getting paid enough, you had to be raised a certain percentage immediately (the farther below the band, the bigger the raise.) I always admired that company. They had the best people, too, because they knew where pinching pennies would be false economy.

    1. Candi

      That encourages hard and good work, too, since the higher the evaluation score, the better chance of a good raise (to a point).

  37. Miaw

    #1 Interesting. Doctor’s note when you take sick leave is mandatory in my country. If you cannot produce the doctor’s note you’ll get your PTO cut to make up for the days you are not able to come because you are sick.

  38. DragoCucina

    The former, gas lighting ED would have someone call an out sick employee. The purported reason was to ask how she was doing. It was actually to check that she was really sick. I naively objected to making such a call because when I’m home sick I don’t want to be bothered. I discovered the real reason when I was out sick and at the drug store. She was in a tizzy because I didn’t answer my home phone. I happened to run into a Board member who later commented in front of her that I had looked miserable. It is probably the only reason it didn’t become AN. ISSUE.

  39. learningToCode

    My company does 10% but it’s the only professional job I’ve had… so I’m sticking with it at least through my Master’s.

    It’s going to be interesting come the 1st of the year when I’m up for promotion, that my manager insists I’ll get, but 10% puts me too low for the next level of my job (salary ranges are posted on job openings).

  40. Matt

    The doctor’s note thing is very common here in Central Europe (German speaking area), but that’s not only because of the employers, but also because of the social security system – every employee is a mandatory member of health insurance which also would have to cover the sick person’s salary up to some amount if one is sick over a longer time. So not only the employer, but most of all health insurance wants to have “proof” that someone is really sick. Personally I hate it just as much as anyone else when I have to literally pull my guts together with a gastrointestinal condition and go to the doctor just to get that note …

  41. boop

    Luckily, no one has asked me for a doctor’s note yet, probably because I only get badly sick every couple of years and I only take the time off if I’m incapacitated by it (or insanely infectious).

    But going to the clinic , sucks, it’s a terrible place to be if your immune system is busy, AND doctor’s won’t write notes anymore unless you pay out of pocket because of how inconvenient it all is. If I get asked for a note I’m just going to refuse because I would consider an employer’s request to be a company expense, not mine. And if they fire me over it, it would inconvenience them far more than it would me. I mean… these are minimum wage jobs, here. It’s literally the least I could get.

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      AND doctor’s won’t write notes anymore unless you pay out of pocket because of how inconvenient it all is

      That stinks. Are you in the U.S.? I’ve never had a doctor charge to write a note. In fact, they often ask if I need one (I never do for myself, but I do ask for one when I take my daughter to the doctor, since her school is more strict than my work.)

      1. peachie

        I have a doctor who does charge for this! I couldn’t believe it. I haven’t had to ask her to yet, but when I did my intake paperwork, I had to sign a form listing all the costs for any letters she wrote, etc.

  42. Rich

    “Insisting that job candidates divulge their salary history.” – a completely inappropriate question that should you should politely decline to answer as it simply isn’t relevant at the interview stage. Give this information up at your peril and lose all leverage in salary negotiations if you’re offered the job.

  43. peachie

    I cannot STAND the doctor’s note thing. It’s so infantilizing! I can’t remember the last time I took a sick day that required a doctor’s note. Just because I’m too sick to come in to work doesn’t mean I need a doctor to tell me what’s wrong.

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