I’ve been accused of abusing sick leave when I have coronavirus symptoms, joking about age and weight, and more

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

1. I’ve been accused of abusing sick leave when I have coronavirus symptoms

I work as a lab tech for a hospital that employees tens of thousands of people and I’m essential and cannot work from home. I experienced shortness of breath a while back so I immediately called off work. Shortly after, I developed a fever. I managed to get a test, but it’s been 10 days and I haven’t gotten the results yet! So I have not left my house and I have not gone into work.

I’ve been texted by my boss’s boss telling me other people have gotten results back faster, accusing me of not actually having gotten tested (I’ve already provided a doctor’s note), and telling me I should just come back. I won’t, until I get the test results or it’s been 14 days. This situation, not seeing anyone, being sick, and being harassed by superiors at work in the midst of a global pandemic, has me incredibly stressed. I want to be at work, but I also want to make the best choices to keep everyone as safe as possible.

I do plan on screenshotting the texts she sent me and forwarding them to HR. Imagine if I came back in and then tested positive the next day. My whole team would have to be quarantined and we’d be putting lives at risk.

Am I protected under the new law because I’m seeking a diagnosis? If she were to fire me, could I collect unemployment? I don’t think that will happen but this is the person who is responsible for our team’s 80 percent turn over.

Infuriatingly, the new paid sick leave law only protects workers at companies with fewer than 500 employees. Otherwise, it would indeed have covered you. However, you’re covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (which pre-existed this crisis); it doesn’t require them to pay you for the time off (although you can use any accrued vacation or sick leave you have), but it does protect your job for up to three months. They cannot fire you for using FMLA.

Definitely contact HR immediately, report what’s been going on, say you’ve been pressured to return to work despite having COVID symptoms, ask for their help, and ask if you should formally file for FMLA.

Here’s hoping your boss’s boss gets a serious chewing out.

2. How to respond to “joking” age and weight comments

I’m a manager with several supervisors under me. A supervisor was “teased” by one subordinate for being overweight and by a different one for being “old.” Prior to these comments, the supervisor told me that she’s watching what she eats and is losing weight. Based on our conversations, she appears to be uncomfortable with how she looks. She’s about my age and although she laughed at the comments made by the two employees, I am not okay with this. Should I say something to them, or address the entire office to let them know that comments about size and age are inappropriate? I have no problem saying something, but I want to choose my words carefully so I don’t go off on anyone.

Do three things: (1) Talk to the two employees who made the comments and tell them that comments on people’s age or physical appearance aren’t okay, even in jest — they’re not only unkind, but in some cases they can create legal liability for the company. If they get it immediately, great. If they don’t, make it clear you won’t tolerate those comments again. (2) Coach the supervisor (and maybe all the supervisors) about how to handle these sorts of comments in the future, arming them with specific language they can use to shut it down. (For example, “Even if you’re joking around, we don’t comment on people’s ages or appearances here.”) Emphasize that they need to shut this stuff down even if they’re not personally offended, because other people might not be and it needs to be clear that the comments aren’t okay, period. (3) Consider whether there’s a wider issue on your team that needs to be addressed — were these comments flukes or do people need some training in what is and isn’t okay at work?

3. Can I even take time off now?

I’ve been employed at my current job for almost a year. It can be demanding at times, and my experience there has been generally unhappy; disorganization and confusion tend to run the show.

One way this manifests is through our vacation policy—we have unlimited paid time off, but I’ve run into the common pitfalls that come with unlimited PTO, in that because there are no rules, I’m never really comfortable asking for extended time off. As a result, in the past year I’ve only taken two consecutive days off twice (I’m aware that even this kind of time is a luxury for some people, so I don’t want to appear ungrateful!).

I am completely burnt out. The past year has been a difficult one both professionally and personally. I’ve been dealing with some scary health concerns that I haven’t yet felt comfortable to explain to my boss, and it’s taking a toll on my mental health, as is my anxiety over the pandemic. I’d intended to take a break in January, but due to some big deadlines, I decided to push that back to March. Just as I was about to plan a week away, I got put on a huge, time-consuming project with tight deadlines, and then COVID-19 hit.

Now that I’m working from home full-time and can’t travel anywhere, I’m feeling like I’d be letting my small team down if I asked for even a few days off, because my boss knows that all I’d be doing is sitting at home. Even if he was cool with it, I’m wondering if I’d be able to unwind under the current circumstances! I fear that I’ll be in my house trying to relax, with no way to escape thoughts of looming deadlines and work that I could be easily taking care of instead of doing nothing.

I live in a state that’s been very hard hit by the virus, so I imagine I’ll be working from home for at least the next couple months, if not longer. I can’t imagine just continuing to push through this for that long. Do you think it’s fair for me to request a vacation during this weird, busy time, and if so, how do I even allow myself to relax?

Yes, take a few days off! The exception to this would be if you’re in the middle of an unusually big push to finish something, in which case the request could sound tone-deaf. But if it’s more that things are always busy and there’s never been a good time to go (which is the case for a lot of jobs), you just have to carve out the time and do it.

Frame it this way: “I’d been planning to schedule a vacation right before this all hit. Obviously I can’t go anywhere now, but I could really use a short break to recharge. Is there a time that would be particularly good or particularly bad for me to schedule a few days off in the coming month?” Or instead of asking, figure out on your own when the lowest-impact time to take would be, and then say, “My plan is to take the 20th-22nd to try to recharge, once the bulk of the work on X is behind me. Do those days work on your end?”

Read an update to this letter here

4. My boss didn’t hire my intern full-time and she’ll be devastated

My boss is very busy, so she makes all the decisions but doesn’t do day-to-day supervision. This means that I’ve been supervising our department’s intern over the past year, but had no say at all when my boss chose to hire someone else for a full-time position.

I still have to supervise this intern for three months, and she’ll be sharing an office with the new hire. She’ll be devastated about not getting the job. How can I manage this situation?

She’ll be required to turn over her desk to the new hire, but the duties are pretty separate and she won’t be training them or doing any knowledge or task handover. Also, for what it’s worth, I think my boss made the right decision in not hiring her.

What are the reasons you and your boss both felt she wasn’t right for the job? That’s how you explain it to her. It definitely can be demoralizing not to get a promotion you wanted — but it’s so much worse when no one explains why. Talk to her and let her know what factors went into the decision and where she can focus on developing to better position herself for jobs in the future.

Sharing an office with the person who got the job you wanted can be awkward, but it’s the kind of thing that’s most awkward in the beginning and usually goes away pretty quickly once you get to know them as an actual person and not just The Person My Company Thought Was Better Than Me. (It can also sometimes be instructive, if she’s able to see for herself why the person was a stronger match for the job.)

5. Can my employer switch me from salaried to hourly during coronavirus?

I work for a nonprofit. During this corona crisis, many of our events are cancelled. Today they decided to move me from salaried to hourly so they can pay me half my regular salary. I will only be expected to work half the hours. When the crisis ends, they intend to move me back to being salaried. I currently work a lot of overtime, but because I’m exempt, don’t get paid for it. Is it legal for them to now switch me to hourly temporarily? I thought that in exchange for not getting paid overtime, I was supposed to get be guaranteed a stable income. If it matters, I make around $38,000 a year and manage two part-time employees.

They can indeed switch you to hourly, as long as it’s not just short-term (like for a few weeks, which would be seen as an attempt to circumvent the salary requirements for exempt workers). They need to ensure that your new hourly wage doesn’t take you below minimum wage, but they’re allowed to change the terms of your employment as long as it’s not retroactive.

However, if they’re paying you on an hourly basis and not a salaried basis (meaning that they will lower your pay in weeks where you work fewer hours), then you are no longer exempt; you are non-exempt and thus would need to receive overtime pay (time and a half) for any hours over 40 that you work in a week. It sounds like you might not be working 40+ hours a week right now, but make sure you’re tracking your hours carefully, getting paid for all of them, and getting overtime if that does happen.

(Also, know that the threshold for overtime pay stays at 40 hours even though you’re part-time. If you’re now scheduled for 20 hours a week and you work 22 hours, that won’t trigger overtime pay; you’ve still got to go above 40 for that to happen.)

{ 236 comments… read them below }

  1. AnonyNurse*

    #1: Quest said today that they are running 10-14 days behind, so your experience is not abnormal. Does your Occ Health unit have anything to say? Some of them are having people work with results pending, but generally not for symptomatic people. Depending on how angry you are about this, and especially if your test does come back positive, you may want to report to CLIA or CAP. And assuming your facility has known cases, I’d file for worker’s comp. Unless you have close contacts with a non-occupational exposure, your hospital is the most likely source and proving you weren’t exposed at work will be hard. Document everything. You’re doing the right thing. Thanks for the work you do and for behaving responsibly now.

    1. jk*

      Yep, this. There are news articles out there reporting on how long it’s taking to process these tests.

      We all want them. We are starting to get them… now we have to get them processed and people can only do that so quickly with what they have.

    2. LW1*

      My plan is to come back when I’ve been self quarantined for 14 days from symptom on-set just in case. I really don’t want my entire team to have to quarantine if it comes back positive. We do have a plan for when to return but it doesn’t cover pending results.

      I was vague about my specific job–I work in biomedical research actually so CLIA/CAP isn’t related, but I will be reaching out to the university’s provost etc.

      1. blackcat*

        You can reach out to your doctor, but it is possible they will recommend something slightly shorter than 14 days. I was told 10 days since symptom onset and three days symptom-free, but those could overlap. I was symptomatic for 6 days, so I went out and about on day 11 (so isolating for 10 days).
        I also had a negative test (done on day 3 of symptoms, returned on day 8), but was warned by my doctor about a high false-negative rate… since my symptoms were more consistent with COVID than the flu, I was told to assume that it was COVID and treat the household isolation time accordingly.

        1. LW1*

          I had symptoms 3/20. Left work. Was tested 3/21. Have not had symptoms since 3/28 but our policy has no guidance for pending test results.

          1. blackcat*

            The guidelines are in constant flux, so I think it is worth a quick note to your doctor saying that you’ve been symptom-free for three days and asking about returning to work after 14 days, even if you have not yet received your test result. I’d also reach out to HR, explain everything, and get their returning to work guidance.

            If *both* say you can return to work on the 14 day mark, do.

            While there’s data showing people shed the virus for longer, my doctor said they’re (the CDC? WHO? IDK who exactly) pretty sure people aren’t actually infectious (they’re shedding dead, not live, virus).

            1. LW1*

              Working on that now. We’ve been given guidance but none of it includes pending test results.

            2. LW1*

              Commenting here to update so it’s high up!

              I emailed HR and they replied within about 15 minutes. I emailed the HR person who has been specifically working with me to handle this supervisor for the last 6 months. She was incredibly helpful and said don’t return until I have test results and that I’m doing the right thing.

              1. DecorativeCacti*

                Thank goodness for quick, decisive decisions! I guess you get to try to relax as much as possible now.

              2. Zelda*

                LW1, you are a fucking HERO. Thank you SO MUCH for doing the right thing, especially in the face of pressure from stupid but powerful people to do the wrong thing. I know if it were me, I would have been sufficiently frightened of having The Thing that it would have been really easy to go into denial and go to work. Thank you for being strong.

                I’m glad you’re getting support from your HR person. May I request permission to say a prayer for your health?

                1. LW1*

                  Sure! Thanks so much for your support. Honestly, I get it. Same for me. It wasn’t an easy decision to stay home.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Definitely escalate this. Your boss’ boss is an ass. YOu don’t need this right now. Nor does your team need to worry about you coming back early and infecting them.

        Employers right now are showing their worst sides. Oh noes someone might abuse this thing during a time of crisis, we must do everything in our power to stop them. Instead of unclenching a little and giving people some space. You will quickly figure out the ones abusing the system from the ones just trying their best. Then deal with the situation as you would any other management situation.

        Although the last sentence of your letter shows your boss is a bad manager even before this hit. That is not going to change, sadly.

    3. MCL*

      Yeah, a friend in Florida got tested mid-March and just got his positive test result yesterday (April 1). He had a mild case, fortunately. He self-quarantined while he waited, that’s all you can do.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Also, check with where you got your test and make sure there were no transpositions when they noted your contact info. That happened to my co-workers brother. His results ended up being sent to the wrong person (they did re-send his results when the error was pointed out).

    5. CocoB*

      Yes, my employee’s husband was tested, which meant those living with him were quarantined as well, it took 15 days to get his results. You are definitely doing the right thing!

  2. Sally*

    Alison, could you explain a little more about #5? The OP said they are exempt and therefore don’t get paid for overtime. And the company wants to make them hourly…but still exempt? How does that work? I’m confused. Thanks.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I see the situation as the OP is currently salaried, and working more than 40 hours a week as a general rule. They’re making her hourly and setting her 20 hours a week. So she’ll be working less than half her usual number of hours. Under the old situation, the OP didn’t need to be paid for overtime, but under the new situation, she needs to be paid for every hour she works.

      I can see the employer expecting that a as a “standard” work week is 40 hours, and she’s now getting paid for 20, she’ll be doing half the work she normally does. In reality, she’ll be doing noticeably less than that if she sticks to 20 hours, but it would be illegal to put in extra time.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        If she was over the salaried threshold would she be exempt still? I thought you could be hourly and exempt.

      2. Cabin fever*

        But, my old company did this to our warehouse workers, and kept cutting hours until they each only had half hour total worked for the week for the last week. They kept up the part time hours and then laid them off and the unemployment denied then bene’s for 40 hours and told them no unemployment check for part timers. Depending on how shifty they want to be, I would get this plan in writing, co-signed by HR and management.

    2. snowglobe*

      My confusion is over the statement that an employer can’t change an employee to non-exempt temporarily. Does the law define temporarily? One month, two months?

      1. Construction Safety*

        Hmm, I don’t think so, but I’m guessing it is more prevalent the other way. A company has hourly employees, then sees a surge of needed work. They make everyone exempt, work the hell out of them 50-60-70-80 hours per week) for a month or two, then when business goes back to normal they make them hourly again.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, it sounds like they’ve been clear that that is exactly what they are planning!

      3. Original Question*

        It’s my question originally and this is exactly my question! I read online that you can’t change people back and forth exempt and non-exempt when it suits the employer and it seems like they’re planning to do that. As soon as Corona is over they will want me back full time and working overtime. I suppose given all the horrible situations people are in right now, mine is far from the worst case though.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          No, it’s not the worst. That doesn’t mean it isn’t bad, or that you have no business objecting.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You can change it when someone’s job changes in a fundamental way, which I do think is happening here. You just can’t do it for short-term changes. (I haven’t seen the law define that though.)

        1. Similar Situation*

          I have a sort of similar situation. My company just did across-the-board pay cuts because of the virus. My hours have not been cut (and the nature of my work isn’t changing), but because of the paycuts, I’m now below the salary threshold for exempt employees, so I’ll be hourly because of that. The paycuts are temporary, but we don’t know exactly how long temporary is. Might be 3 months, might be 6. Now that I’m hourly, I’ve been told not to do any overtime at all, so I will be paid for all my work. BUT we did just have a massive busy period due to new work related to the pandemic. So I feel kind of shitty because I worked a ton of extra hours the past two weeks as an exempt person, and now I’m hourly. So it feels like the spirit of abuse of that kind of switch, even though I guess realistically they are doing right by me, and the whole change was driven by expected cashflow issues since our clients will almost certainly not pay their outstanding invoices in a reasonable manner. But since I won’t be doing overtime moving forward I’ll be paid for all my time…albeit less than before.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I don’t know your exact numbers, but you might still be getting paid the same “hourly rate,” even if your effective total pay before was higher because you were working more hours. For example lets say before you were paid $800 (41,600/yr) a week but you were regularly working 50 hrs a week your “hourly rate” was $16 an hour, if they reduced your weekly pay to $640 (33,280) but now you can only work 40 hrs it means an “hourly rate” of $16 still.

            I get it, it sucks having your pay reduced. But if you regularly work a lot of overtime you might find that you are happier working less hours, even if it means less pay. Most people I have seen that are salaried their employers expect a minimum of 40 hrs each week (yes they can occasionally work less) but usually the exempt designation often works out to the benefit of the employer because they will often have people work more than 40 hrs. I am currently in an hourly non-exempt position, I work my 9-5 and I don’t have to think about work at night or on weekends (unless the company wants to pay overtime) for me I usually have a maximum work time of 40 hrs. While I don’t make as much as I could in another position I am pretty happy, but I will say it is not for everyone, to each their own.

        2. Dual Peppin Whiskey*

          Alison, can you explain how you see the employee’s job changing in a fundamental way? From how I’m reading things, the income of the business is being reduced, so they’re looking for ways to save money, but they’re the ones making the employee’s job change to compensate for that, it’s not happening on its own (does that make sense?).

          Also, if this is the case, I feel like this is something employers would be taking advantage of a lot more often. Given all you’ve written before about how companies aren’t allowed to determine if an employee is exempt or not, which it sounds to me like this company is trying to do, I’m confused about your answer to this question overall, I must be missing something.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            They have a bunch of canceled events, which means significantly less work for the OP. But they’re allowed to move people to part-time on their own, even if external events aren’t driving it. And in doing that, she’s now below the exempt threshold.

            Frankly, they’d probably prefer she stay exempt (since then they could pay her on a salaried basis and not worry about paying more when she works more), but the law won’t allow it because of her half-time salary.

    3. Rarely do I post*

      Also about #5, would the fact that she’s managing 2 employees affect whether she can be classified as non-exempt?

      1. Marketing Manager*

        Anyone can be classified as non-Exempt. The laws in place are for those who can legally be considered Exempt.

      2. Jedi Squirrel*

        Nah. In retail, it’s not uncommon for hourly managers to manage lots of people. Still non-exempt.

      3. Case of the Mondays*

        My understanding is you are not at risk for wrongly classifying someone as non-exempt because you are paying them overtime. The issue is if you classify someone as exempt who was supposed to be non-exempt and now you owe them overtime. I could also be wrong!

        1. (Former) HR Expat*

          That’s correct. The default assumption by the Department of Labor is that all positions are non-exempt. You have to be able to prove that the role is “exempt” from overtime laws, based on the guidelines from the DoL.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nope, that’s exactly right. Everyone can be non-exempt if their employer wants to do it that way. It’s only exempt that has specific requirements you have to meet.

  3. LMc*

    #3: I was feeling intense strain and stress a couple of weeks ago, as I am a teacher and felt keeping schools open was not encouraging people to take sensible steps in their own lives. I was anxious about every surface I touched, what the kids were touching and where they were sitting, and about the mixed messages from the authorities about what was and wasn’t safe to do.
    Since then, school holidays have begun AND stricter physical distancing measures have been taken where I live (outside the US). The stress and anxiety I was feeling are considerably less. I know when school goes back in two weeks we’ll be moving on to distance and online learning which will have its own challenges, and I can’t do anything interesting with my time off, but it has been immensely restorative to have the time.
    Please take some time off. You have been working too hard for too long and a few days switching off will do you good, even if you can’t leave the house.

    1. Avasarala*

      Yes. There is absolutely zero reason to avoid taking time off just because you’re not going on vacation. Time off isn’t just for vacations, it’s paid time away from work.

      OP, I recommend you take at least 3 days off.
      Day 1 is detox day. Encourage yourself not to think about work. Your mind will drift back frequently, and you’ll often catch yourself thinking about what to do next at work… whenever you catch yourself, remind yourself that’s a problem for another day, and today is your day off. Spend your time doing whatever feels most detoxifying for you. Take a leisurely bath, spend 15 min staring off into space, eat comfort food, watch movies from your childhood, drink some alcohol of your choice, stay in your PJs. Go to bed early and sleep for 14 hours. Do nothing productive and do so intentionally. Rest and care for yourself.

      Day 2 is you day. Do whatever feels fun and relaxing. Play video games in your PJs, watch movies you meant to see months ago, do a craft hobby or a puzzle, bake some bread or find a new recipe online. Doodle or start a new book or write a short story. Do not do anything “productive” or “ambitious” unless it truly excites you and brings you joy. Do things that cultivate you. Continue to remind yourself not to think about work if you catch yourself drifting back. This is a day to inspire yourself.

      Day 3 is catch-up day. Make a killer coffee and awesome breakfast, then tackle some chores you’ve been putting off. Put in a load of laundry, wash dishes, tidy up counters and so on. Buy some groceries to make healthy meals, do some food prep. Make sure your list is reasonable: only pick 2-3 chores or do the bare minimum you need to function for another week; this is not the time to Marie Kondo your house. In between chores/when you’re done, continue with day 1 or day 2 as your mood decides. On the night of your final day off, have an extra luxurious reward for yourself, like a fancy dessert, or a bath, or whatever makes you feel pampered.

      This is my personal recipe for recharging from weekly stress. In my experience you can combine days 1 and 2 or 2 and 3 to fit the average weekend, but if you’re really really stressed, you’re going to need a solid 24-48 hours for day 1. And if you don’t give yourself enough time to unplug and detox, you won’t be able to enjoy day 2 or be happily productive on day 3.

      Of course modify for what works for you, and have a great time off!

      1. Amanda*

        Interesting. I tend to use detox day as catch-up day, since doing chores are often the easiest way for me to stop thinking (altogether but specially on work stuff). Then I have any other days off for just fun and general rest.
        Either way, OP#3, please take your time off. Nobody works well burned out even in regular times, and on times like this, you’re setting yoursel for a nervous breakdown without some kind of pause.
        My company is actually doing great with corona measures, they’re currently flexing vacation time any way we want it. Those who’d scheduled a big chunk of time off to travel can cancel or postpone. Those who want time now to deal with stress, but hadn’t scheduled before, are getting approved outside what would be regular notice. Those who need to care for family are having their hours or schedules flexed so they don’t have to take vacation days. The higher ups tell us that time off is there so you can actually enjoy yourself and recharge, any way that works for you, and are truly backing that up with actions.

        1. Avasarala*

          That’s great that you can catch up on your detox day! Personally if I try to do anything I “have” to do, my brain just shuts down and I feel like a failure (picture when your Sims character doesn’t play enough and stamps their foot and wants to play basketball).

          Whatever works for you, the most important thing first of all is to get your brain to stop thinking about work, and to give yourself permission to relax and unwind. You won’t be able to enjoy your time off if you don’t do this first!

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        What Avaserala suggested + if possible, get outside for a walk several times all the days. If you can’t get outside, put trees / outdoor / animal videos on your biggest screens – several zoos and aquariums are livestreaming their animals.

        1. Avasarala*

          Glad it is helpful! Sometimes we need permission to turn our brains off and if you won’t grant it for yourself, I hereby grant it for you!

    2. Willis*

      Yes, definitely take time off #3. This should be totally understandable and, as a manager, I would still want folks to take time off when they need it. If you work a Mon-Fri schedule, I’d try to take the days off near a weekend so you can get more bang for your buck.

      When your time off starts, put all your work stuff (esp laptop, if that’s possible) in one part of your house where you won’t see it. Turn off email notifications on your phone and/or put up an out of office response if that’s something you typically do for a vacation. If you start to feel like you should be working on something, remind yourself that the reason you’re taking this time off is so you can work more effectively and happily once you’re back. If you dilute the days off with work, you’re defeating that purpose and are back to square one.

      1. Corinne*

        This is great advice. Don’t dilute the restorative effect of your time off by trying to keep up with work.

        You absolutely need time off. Perhaps now more than ever. If we wait for the “right” time to take vacation, some of us would never take time off again. :)

    3. Anne Kaffeekanne*

      My company has actually all but ordered people to not cancel pre-approved time off, even if your travel plans aren’t working out anymore, so yes, vacation days are not just for traveling, especially in this situation. You don’t have to have plans on those days, you can just use them to recharge.

      (I’m in a country with generous vacation days available, so people who had 2 or even 3 week vacations planned and now have to spend that time hopefully somewhat relaxing at home will still have PTO left to travel somewhere in fall, if we’re able to by then. It’s just so the company doesn’t end up with everyone taking their yearly big vacation at once)

      1. Ariaflame*

        My workplace is encouraging people when possible to book leave. Because it reduces their deficit if we take our owed leave. So if it is similar for OP’s workplace she should take leave for the good of the company.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        My job has also been encouraging people to take time off, which I really appreciate. I was scheduled to be on vacation our first week working from home, and I still took part of it, and it was great! It was enough time for me to get bored sitting around (I am great at sitting around), so I was really ready to start WFH.

    4. Fikly*

      Yes, please try to reframe this in your head. If you take a break, you will come back better able to get things done, and you will actually benefit your small team.

      Right now, burned out, you are probably not only not helping your team, but potentially unable to catch things that you normally would, which could cause problems.

      A vacation from work is not defined by where you go, it’s defined by not working.

    5. Rachel Greep*

      Take the time off! I was supposed to go on a Caribbean cruise on 3/19/20. We chose to cancel the trip, my employer had us start working from home, and our governor issued a statewide “stay at home” order. I still took my six vacation days. I had planned ahead for it, I had needed the mental break, and it was really nice to deal with the stress of all these legal and social changes with my family and not have to worry about how it affected my work (an essential state agency where I am still expected to enter private homes). Take the time off!

    6. Mad Harry Crewe*

      +1 to this. I was an absolute wreck after our first week remote – couldn’t focus, frightened, upset. I took three days off last week, let myself not think about anything until Sunday, and feel ENORMOUSLY better. If you can get your emotional feet under you, the work part gets a lot easier.

      1. Kiwi with laser beams*

        Same. New Zealand went from “few enough cases that it’s still OK to go to mass events” to “so many cases that we’re enforcing a lockdown” in about the same week and a half as the final and worst part of a particularly busy period in my job. I cleared the deadlines I couldn’t change and then cut way back, and the difference to my mental health has been huge. And as someone dealing with scary health stuff of my own, it’s beneficial to my physical health too.

  4. Gaia*

    OP 1, first and foremost I hope your results come back soon and I hope it turns out you don’t have the virus. If you do, I hope your symptoms are “mild” enough that you recover on your own soon.

    Second, your company (a HOSPITAL!?) is crap. They should be ashamed for even suggesting you return to work with two of the most common symptoms of this wildly contagious virus. Hopefully this is isolated to your crappy boss and grandboss and they’ll be smacked down by a competent HR.

    Good luck. I hope you’re better soon.

    1. Anonymous today*

      Hospital lab tech here, not the OP. We’re working sick in my lab. Not all of us, but every day there’s at least one person sneezing, coughing, complaining of a headaches. Our hospital bigwigs talk a good game about staying home, but we all know it’s bs. Health care workers are the worst at staying home when we’re sick. And when none of your coworkers stay home, you learn the difference between written policy and the real world.

      We’re the department that runs the covid 19 testing. We’re resigned to the fact that most of us are going to get it. Our state doesn’t have many cases yet but it’s starting to add up. There’s no social distancing really. We work next to each other while training, we hand each other specimens,etc.

      1. Avasarala*

        I’m so sorry for your situation, and thank you for the work you do. I wish we could do this without sacrificing the hard-working essential personnel keeping us all afloat right now.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        I bet they are some of the hospital administrators who are firing doctors and nurses for speaking up about their lack of personal protective equipment. This crisis has really highlighted the monstrosity of much of the managerial/executive class.

        1. Observer*

          No need to bet. We know it’s happening. But shaming helps some – I’ve read of at least 2 cases where people who had the audacity to actually wear masks where people could see them were fired but then unfired when the story hit the news.

          1. CupcakeCounter*

            In one of those cases, I heard the board fired the administrator and went scorched earth on them (think some of the members were former front line personnel and very much on the side of the staff). Couldn’t find a link to the article though so maybe I’m mistaken.

      3. KimberlyR*

        Former hospital worker here-yes, medical staff have tons of pressure to work while sick. There is usually not enough staff and definitely no extra. If someone stays home, you’re working short-staffed. Patients show up whether you’re short-staffed or not. So people tend to go to work while sick so their coworkers don’t have to do all that extra work without them. That was the most infuriating thing about working in a hospital-the pressure to work sick, work extra, work with no breaks (including food breaks), and barely any time to use the bathroom. And this wasn’t just internal pressure-managers usually also expected this from their staff members as well.

        1. AnonyNurse*

          I worked at a hospital where if you called in sick for 3% of shifts in a quarter you were written up. Working 12 hour shifts, this meant if you called out a third time in 4 months, you were in trouble. Officially the rule was also that you couldn’t come to work with “uncontrolled secretions” or fever. During respiratory season, when you’re constantly exposed to every crud out there, the two standards were impossible to meet. Let alone if you had other issues come up (a migraine, a kid sick). And that was before H1N1 and this pandemic. Hasn’t gotten better.

          1. Jenny*

            Our hospital policy is 3 separate occasions in a year gets you a meeting with a manager, and 4 occasions gets you a meeting with HR. It’s ridiculous.

            1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

              That’s absolutely absurd. So if you get a bad cold, the flu, and a stomach bug at various points in the year, you have to infect all your medically vulnerable patients or be in trouble? That’s horrific.

        2. Fikly*

          I used to be a non-clinical hospital worker, and even during completely normal non-crisis times there was a huge amount of pressure to not take sick days.

          I also wasn’t allowed to take more than one day of vacation in a row, and only certain days at that, because “no one wanted to cover my shift times.” This seemed like a management problem to me, but what did I know?

      4. James*

        I apologize if this has been asked before, but: How do you handle contamination prevention? Being sick in a lab where you’re looking for disease sounds like a great way to get false positives.

        I want to emphasize that I’m curious here, not accusing you of anything!! I know how easy it is to contaminate a sample in a lab. I’ve done it myself, and seen other folks do it, in geology and environmental lab samples.

        1. Anonymous today*

          We wear gloves and change them frequently, we wash our hands many many times a day, we work inside of a bsc (biological safety cabinet – a vented hood), and we wear masks when we’re setting some samples (even though the sample and everything past our elbows is in a bsc). In addition, we have a written procedure for determining if a result is possible contamination.

          There’s also an unofficial policy that if you are sneezing or coughing or have a runny nose – that you wear a mask all day. But that policy can’t be written down because we’re officially not supposed to be at work.

        2. Observer*

          The real answer is that hospitals don’t handle it, because they pretend that it’s not happening.

          It’s one of the reasons why people get sick so often in hospitals.

      5. Elsie*

        That’s concerning to hear. I’m not only concerned about you and your coworkers but I’m concerned that you may all end up spreading the virus to others. Please be careful during this time to try to prevent spreading this virus to others – avoid going to public places, practice social distancing, and self isolate from others in your household. And it would be a good idea for you and your coworkers to all wear masks at work all the time so if someone is sick they are less likely to spread to coworkers. But your lab should have better infection control procedures if you are handling Coronavirus. Are you sure it really is bs that you can stay home if you are sick? Maybe in this case, the hospital is more open to that then they normally would be. Or if not, it would be worth pushing back on this. Because this is not only a risk for you all but also for the community.

        1. LW1*

          LW1 here. My job is completely different, I work in biomedical research, I’m trying to be vague, but I do think many hospitals have policies in place preventing workers from properly taking time off when sick. We get in trouble if we call off more than 3 times in 90 days, but that also includes being late. They reward us with 8 hours PTO if we have perfect attendance for 90 days.

          As far as I know, I am literally the only person in my department to call off in the month of March. I hope me taking this very seriously would encourage others to do the same.

        2. Anonymous today*

          I started isolating myself prior to my state making it a requirement. It’s a weird feeling to know that I’m hazardous.

          1. Elsie*

            I didn’t mean to make you feel bad, was just concerned. It is great that you were protecting others by isolating even before it was required. You are doing important work in your lab and are making a difference in the fight against this virus. I’m grateful to you and others who are on the front lines. Sending positive thoughts and prayers your way.

    2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Here, people returning home from outside the country are told to quarantine for 14 days. Except for healthcare workers, they could return to work immediately.

      1. Myrin*

        Which is a very bitter (and outrageous!) kind of irony – it’s not like healthcare workers are in daily contact with especially vulnerable people or anything.

    3. Another lab tech*

      I just wanted to say that I have worked in the clinical laboratory of three prestigious large healthcare systems and have never experienced pressure to work sick or without adequate breaks. Sometimes it happens, especially the no breaks when the workload is super busy or working long shifts or more than five days in a row when we are short-staffed, but it is not encouraged. I absolutely believe that some workplaces are crappy, but just want to say “not all.” I am now a manager and both my upper leadership and I encourage a work/life balance as much as possible. My organization also has a very detailed plan of what to do when/if an employee is sick or exposed and a company COVID-19 hotline to help make sense of when to quarantine, isolate, and/or return to work.

      1. LW1*

        I contacted HR today and they are incredibly understanding. They thanked me for my choice to stay home. My hospital problem is definitely department specific and is related to our upper management.

        I’m glad you’re a decent manager. We need more of them.

        1. Another lab tech*

          Thank you, I try…it helps so much that my own leadership is really great and encourages it.

  5. Observer*

    #5 – I want to emphasize this line from Alison’s response:

    They can indeed switch you to hourly, as long as it’s not just short-term (like for a few weeks, which would be seen as an attempt to circumvent the salary requirements for exempt workers).

    You may want to point this out – in a collaborative way of course! Because we all know that they are most definitely trying to get around salary requirements for exempt workers.

    My experience with the sector is that ono-profits are going to come under intense scrutiny and something like this could absolutely destroy them. Also, if they have any government contracts, there is a really good chance that the costs of this pandemic are going to hit those government agencies hard, and that one of the ways they are going to try to balance their budget is to find ways in which the organizations they have contracts with are out of compliance with their contracts (and therefore do not have to be paid.) Any halfway competent auditor is going to see what they did with your pay….

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      They definitely are doing it to pay the OP less, but it’s because there is less work to do. This is the same as a company deciding the a position no longer needs to be full time, but it can be part time. In my area some events for summer June/July have already been canceled. So the pandemic is not going to be just a few weeks.

      I think the part Alison mentioned is that can’t make someone non exempt for one pay period, then exempt for the next one, and back to non exempt. If they are going to change a position from exempt to non exempt it has to be for a good chunk of time, and I think 3/4 months would qualify.

      1. Observer*

        3 /4 months MIGHT qualify. And I have no doubt that any auditor who sees this is going to jump on it so hard, you’ll see the dent in the floor where they land.

        Even if an organization comes out of the in the clear, it can be a brutal process. And if it “leaks” to the press…

        1. CL Cox*

          As long as they can justify it, they’ll be fine. And the fact that events are cancelled would justify it. They themselves say that they have less work to do.

        2. WellRed*

          Lots of people are seeing reduced workloads and reduced hours. Nonprofits are not magically exempted from being able to reduce hours but they, and other employers, need to do it right.

        3. AcademiaNut*

          Given the current economic situation and the uncertainty attached to it, I don’t think that a company whose work-load has significantly decreased moving their employees from salaried full time to hourly half time will attract any particular attention. If they alternate weeks or something blatant like that, or are demanding unpaid work, sure, it would be a red flag, but if it’s an emergency measure until things become more normal (or the business folds completely) they’ll have lots of company.

    2. JamieS*

      That’s what jumped out at me too. OP said they planned on eventually switching back so what exactly qualifies as “short term” and does the fact the company is planning from the start to go from salaried to hourly back to salaried, as opposed to planning a permanent shift to hourly that doesn’t work out, make any difference?

    3. The Engineer*

      Would not working every other week accomplish the goal with no wonky “temporary non-exempt” finagling? I understood that Exempt who don’t work a week don’t get paid that week. But work even a bit and they get paid for the whole week.

    4. Steveo*

      I know it was a typo but I think we should reserve the term “ono-profits” when non-profits attempt to do something underhanded like this.

    5. JerryLarryTerryGary*

      It reads like they are trying to keep the LW employed when there’s nothing going on, not get more work for less money.

      1. PurpleStar*

        Since the OP is being switched to hourly, and will be therein taking a pay cut due to Covid, wouldn’t they be eligible to file for unemployment to augment that loss of income under the Cares Act?

        In my state, that is happening.

  6. Dot Warner*

    OP1, send those screenshots to HR today! Don’t wait until you get back. My hospital has been taking coronavirus extremely seriously, even though we don’t have many cases yet, and this is definitely something your HR should know about. Your boss is an ass and deserves consequences for their terrible behavior.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      And if HR doesn’t take them seriously, maybe send those screenshots to the media. ProPublica is doing a lot of reporting on hospitals (among others) that handle the coronavirus horribly. There’s also that reporter Alison mentioned a few days ago, Polly Mozends. Bloomberg did a story on doctors and nurses being fired for talking to reporters or posting on social media about their lack of personal protective equipment. Employers like yours deserve to be named and shamed, especially when they are HOSPITALS.

    2. LW1*

      I’ve actually been in a year long campaign to get this person fired or demoted, so she’s already under investigation. She makes my life terrible and endangers lives and science regularly. I’ll compose an email to HR today.

      1. Myrin*

        You sound like a real badass, OP! I’m wishing you all the best, both personally regarding your health as well as professionally regarding your poopy grandboss.

        1. LW1*

          Thanks so much!! I really appreciate it. Luckily my direct boss texted me today to let me know she has my back as well.

          1. LW1*

            Wanna update that hr already replied and said that I’m making the right choices and were very supportive.

  7. Gazebo Slayer*

    Regarding #1 – before this pandemic, I don’t remember FMLA applying to infections, just to chronic illnesses like cancer or diabetes. Has this actually changed? Is coronavirus actually FMLA-eligible?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      FMLA isn’t just for chronic disabilities. It covers “serious health conditions.” That actually can include bad cases of the flu. The law says a serious health condition exists when the person is incapacitated for more than three full, consecutive days and receives continuing treatment by a healthcare provider.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Thank you for clarifying! I remember a government website specifically stating that the flu is *excluded*…

          1. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

            No, she’s correct. Almost all FMLA literature is going to mention that FMLA generally doesn’t cover the flu. It CAN if the flu is serious enough to warrant hospitalization. But someone having flu symptoms and seeing the doctor once and being told to stay home and drink fluids is not going to qualify. It’s been a really tricky situation for those of us who administer LAO to walk that line with COVID-19 because mild flu symptoms don’t qualify, but the leave law obviously wasn’t trying to take a highly infectious global pandemic into account when it was written.

      2. On a pale mouse*

        I wonder if this explains my employer’s idiotic sick leave policy, which I’ve never seen written down, so I don’t know exactly what it says. I do know that while I have 7 days of sick leave, you can’t take sick leave unless you are out for more than 3 days, and then you have to apply for some sort of leave to get it. Our payroll clerk who puts in vacation days can’t even put in sick time. So now I’m wondering if the actual rule is that you can only take sick leave for something that would qualify for FMLA? Fortunately they’ve made a special rule for the pandemic, but when I had the flu (or something flu-like) at the beginning of March and missed 3 days, I had to use vacation or go unpaid.

    2. doreen*

      I get the impression that FMLA is less-often used for short-term infectious diseases because many people don’t need go through the process for an illness that last one or two weeks. As Alison says , a health condition that incapacitates you for three days can qualify – but when I’ve been out for a week with bronchitis I’ve never bothered to apply for FMLA because I have no need to . I have generous sick leave and no fear that I will lose my job if I’m out sick for a week. Because of these factors , coworkers don’t typically request FMLA unless it’s a longer term or chronic condition.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah — with shorter illnesses like flu, usually an employer is going to be reasonable and give you sick leave and you don’t need to worry about protecting your job. The OP, unfortunately, is working for asses.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          For higher-level, permanent white-collar jobs, maybe. Not for all. Almost a third of private-sector workers had no sick leave at all until this Families First bill passed – and even now a huge number are still excluded because of the absolutely unforgivable exemption of companies over 500 employees.

  8. Springella*

    Removed because off-topic and definitely derailing. (And we know we have crappy employee protection laws here!)

  9. W&H Lady*

    #5- Bit of a clarification- You should probably check with your state’s wage and hour division, especially regarding overtime. Allison is correct in saying that anything over 40 hours in a work week for a non-exempt employee must be paid at overtime rates, however, at the state level, there may be additional laws employers must follow for overtime rates. For instance, in my state, anything worked over 12 hours in a workday should be paid at the overtime rate. That said, depending on the state, the overtime rules may only apply to certain industries and job types, so it may or may not apply to your job/industry. It’s best to check.

    A state wage and hour employee

  10. The Bimmer Guy*

    “(3) Consider whether there’s a wider issue on your team that needs to be addressed — were these comments flukes or do people need some training in what is and isn’t okay at work?”

    They know better; they’re not kindergarteners. I’d find a way to make them feel properly foolish for behaving as such. I don’t see how you could think that was appropriate territory for work.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      If the supervisor’s response was to say “that’s okay, it doesn’t bother me,” though, it sounds like their work currently has a culture that makes it seem like that sort of comment is okay. Some reminders from upper levels of management would go a long way to stamping out that kind of sprouting toxicity.

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      Hard disagree on this one.

      Yes, they are adults, but if they have never been instructed in these things, then they don’t know. Don’t rush to be punitive when it’s training that’s needed. A manager’s job is to manage poor behavior, not immediately rush to punish it. If they have been told, and then continue to do so, then some sort of penalty needs to happen (up to and including dismissal if they refuse to improve). But making someone feel foolish is not an effective management technique.

      I don’t see how you could think that was appropriate territory for work.

      LW clearly states that “I am not okay with this.”

      1. LW #2*

        OP here. They are young and I don’t think they’ve been instructed in appropriate behavior. I agree that training is needed.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      But the problem is that there *are* workplaces where this would be considered appropriate. There shouldn’t be, but there are. And if most of LW #2’s coworkers are encouraging the behavior, and even participating in it themselves, it’s unlikely any employees are going to say “oh, wait, this isn’t cool” of their own accord. Especially if supervisors are ignoring it, or even playing along themselves.

    4. Fikly*

      Never assume people know what is and is not allowed.

      First of all, they often don’t.

      Second of all, if people aren’t told something is wrong, they are extremely unlikely to stop doing it. If they know it is wrong, they may continue doing it, but at least there’s a chance they might stop.

  11. Tallulah in the Sky*

    #3 : Once this madness is over, and if you intend to continue to work there, I urge you to find a way to make your unlimited PTO work for you. A couple of days off here and there is not enough ! You also don’t need to go on a vacation or have another Very Important Reason to take days off. Staying at home to relax is perfectly ok, you don’t need to defend your use of PTO. A couple of times a year I take 3 or 4 fridays off consecutively (so I’m working 4/5 for a month) and it’s glorious ! I don’t go on vacation, I stay home and relax, I also have time for some extra projects I’ve been putting off… I’m feeling refreshed, which also has an impact on my productivity at work (a positive one). If you want to take a week off and just lounge at home, that’s fine !

    At the end of last year I ended up taking a bunch of unpaid time off because I had a bad year (like you) and recognized I needed the time to recuperate and get better. I did for myself, of course, but it was also a good thing for my company since my state of mind definitely impacted my work. So if you feel bad because you’d be letting down people, maybe thinking about how you can’t work at your best with how you’ve handled PTO thus far might help you ?

    To make your more comfortable about using more PTO, maybe look at how other people are using it, talk to colleagues or your boss about the struggle you’ve experienced and ask them how they make it work for them,… Hopefully your company is sincere about that and doesn’t punish people for taking that paid time off, and people do use it as intended, because then you have another problem. But first, you need to change your mindset about this or you’ll still be at the cusp of a burn out next year.

    1. Ali G*

      Yes, and I would also suggest to put a vacation for later in the year on your calendar NOW. Decide how much time you want to take off, block it out and let your supervisor know/get approval (whichever you need to do). That way you don’t get thrown onto projects when you were planning to take off. Even if you can’t go anywhere, or can’t plan what you will actually do, block it out now so it’s there for you later when you need it.

    2. C in the Hood*

      And don’t worry too much about how it impacts your team. It’s your boss’ job to manage that. You need to take care of YOU, because if you don’t, who will? I hope you take a nice long relaxing vacation as soon as you can!

    3. SomebodyElse*

      Agree with all of this.

      If it helps the OP, I would add to the suggestion is to pick a number of vacation days that sound reasonable to you and then make a plan to take them. So, let’s say a min of 10-15 days. (live a little and shoot for 15!)

      Now you have a ‘range’ that is reasonable to you and well within the ‘normal’ limits for the US so you don’t have to feel guilty about using them. Then actively plan them at the start of the year. Shoot for taking one day off a month to give you a 3 day weekend (I can’t tell you how much this little bit helps with burnout) and then one good block of time off, such as a week around the holidays or a week during the summer with warm weather.

      Drop them all in as requests and stick to them!

  12. ..Kat..*

    If #5 is getting her hours cut due to C19, is she eligible for unemployment for those lost hours?

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      She can be. In NY, if you earn less than $504 in the week AND work fewer than 4 days, you can claim partial benefits.

  13. Keymaster of Gozer*

    #2: people who think it’s funny and/or ‘helpful’ (see concern trolling) to negatively comment on other people’s weight or age absolutely need to be told to stop. There’s no positive outcome to those kind of comments and a lot of negative ones.

    I know that’s great in theory. I’ve had experiences of coworkers hassling me for my weight at least twice and I doubt anyone knew truly what it was doing to my mental state. A manager laughed it off, telling me to lose weight if it bothered me as yes, I have a high BMI. The uncaring nature of that boss was part of why I left that firm with no other job to go to.

    At the end of the day, there’s no business positive or personal positive outcome to coworkers bullying each other. None.

    1. charqui*

      Came here to basically say this. It’s not that this isn’t ok in the workplace, it’s that it’s not ok, period.

  14. Bluesboy*

    #5 Make sure that if you end up getting paid 20 hours a week that expectations are adjusted accordingly. You say you normally work overtime, say you are doing 50 hours a week and cutting them to 20, that means 60% less hours, which needs to mean 60% less work.

    I would suggest you speak to them in advance to clarify this. What are your priorities? What are the things you are not going to be able to get to? I understand there will be less work, but as an exempt worker they will be used to being able to drop things on you and expecting them to get done. If they do that now, there will need to be the ‘I’m sorry, I’ve already done 17 hours this week, I won’t be able to get this done until next week without working extra hours’ conversation.

    You might want to get it all done anyway out of professional pride, but remember, when this period is over you don’t want them to feel that you were able to get everything done even while working part time!

    Also, make sure that your timetable is clear and stick to it. If you are supposed to be working mornings, no checking emails in the afternoon. Something is urgent? How do you want me to manage my time, should I work less tomorrow or work extra hours?

    Hope you are ok financially of course, but unfortunately have no advice there…

    1. WellRed*

      It sounds like a lot of the extra work was related to events so there should naturally be a drop off in workload.

      1. WellRed*

        Oh, and I think you do offer some good advice here Bluesboy for anyone in this situation.

    2. Harper the Other One*

      Absolutely this. You’ll have to be really careful about communicating what is doable in those 20 hours.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      Right. If they are not PAYING you, then you should not be working those extra hours. Unless they want to PAY you for them. You worked for them in good faith, gave them a lot of extra because of the implicit promise that salaried = we will act in good faith with you.Well, now you’ve seen just how good their faith is.

      Spend your freed up 20 – 30 hours working on your resume, doing other things to make yourself attractive to other employers once hiring restarts, as well as things just for you.

  15. Less Bread More Taxes*

    #4 – my sense is that OP actually did want to hire the intern but her feedback was not taken into account. Alison, how should she handle that conversation in that case?

    I would also add that you can tell the intern that you’ll give them a glowing reference. That will be very useful for them and should soften the blow somewhat.

    1. Ferret*

      But OP4 explicitly said “Also, for what it’s worth, I think my boss made the right decision in not hiring her”

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        Ah you’re right, I didn’t read carefully enough! However, I’d still like to know what the advice would be if OP disagreed with the boss’ advice. Are you supposed to pretend to agree in order to present a united front or is it okay to say you didn’t agree?

        1. doreen*

          I don’t see why you would need to do either. If my manager passes on information from those above her without additional comment, it doesn’t mean she’s pretending to agree with it – she’s simply passing it on.

  16. londonedit*

    LW#3 – definitely take some time off. You deserve to take more than two days off in one go anyway, but I think it’s actually especially important at the moment. It’s tempting to think it’s pointless taking holiday, especially if you’re somewhere that’s in lockdown – where I live we’re meant to limit going outdoors as much as possible, and only go out when it’s absolutely necessary (for food, medicine, essential work or exercise), so a week’s holiday isn’t going to be particularly thrilling. But my employer is encouraging people to take holiday as normal during this time – partly because they don’t want to end up with everyone wanting to take 25 days off in the last half of the year, but also because during these weird times we all need a bit of space away from work. Even if it’s just to curl up at home for a week and read and clean the house and sleep in every day. We’re all in a state of anxiety at the moment, and we need a bit of a mental health break away from trying to fit work into all of that.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Except for those of us who want to keep our routine as normal as possible while the world is melting around us and would find taking time off to just sit at home super stressful and anxiety-inducing.

    2. Amey*

      My employer also has told us to take our booked leave as normal and I should have been on leave all of this week (to cover what would have been school holidays in the country I’m in). I cancelled my leave and am instead taking it in a day here or there. It would be one thing if I didn’t have children at home, but I’m not finding it restorative to be in full-on parenting mode all day. A whole week off work right now (with my husband still working – they’ve been told they can’t take leave at the moment) would have been much worse for my anxiety.

      1. Amey*

        Sorry, I wasn’t actually trying to be difficult. I’m very verysupportive of the OP taking their leave – please take more than 2 days together at a time when you want to!! My employer has just gone in very strongly with the ‘You must take your leave’ approach and I’m deeply jealous of the people who are able to take the time to read or rest because I am rather desperate for that. But I know I’m also very lucky to not have the free time to do that – I’m employed and I have my family to keep me company. I’m not sure this is a sandwiches thing though – my team seems split pretty much fifty fifty in terms of whether they’d prefer to be off or prefer to be at work. The whole Covid-19 situation has brought out interesting personality differences that weren’t obvious before.

        1. Fikly*

          I’m generally against an employer mandating anything like this. Make it very clear that it is ok to do something, and then let your employees make their own choices, because they generally know what would work best for them!

          Because 100%, some people cope best with stress by keeping busy, and some cope best with a break. And because of the all the isolating, many who who typically do well with a break are cut off from their usual break activities, so staying busy might work better for them right now.

      2. XxXxX*

        Lots of states pay you partial unemployment if you work part time (California, Ohio, Illinois,Texas, etc.). You have to fill out the paperwork properly and be looking for a new job. You have to report the hours you work. Your benefits check will be reduced, based on how much you earn part time each week.

        But one of the bonuses is that from now to July 31, due to the CARES bill, everyone gets an additional $600 in each unemployment check – so if you can get the unemployment benefit you’ll be assured of at least $600 in each check.

    3. Alan*

      Good advice. I cancelled some time off this week thinking it was pointless as I could go away as I had planned. I’m regretting cancelling it now

    4. Third or Nothing!*

      My husband and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary last month. We were supposed to go away on a week long trip to a place with lots of hiking and history, but of course that got canceled since 1) the forecast called for intense rain all week and 2) due to the virus all the indoor stuff would be closed. Instead of canceling our vacation altogether, we kept the vacation days scheduled and went hiking locally, deep cleaned the house, drove around looking at wildflowers, grilled steaks, etc. It wasn’t what we envisioned but it was still restorative. (P.S. we have a toddler so there was NO Netflix and Chill…or any chill…womp womp.)

      Just because you can’t go on a trip doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a break from work! I’m looking forward to next week when we’re off for Good Friday. It’ll be really nice to have an extra day where I’m not trying to juggle WFH with caring for Little Miss Feistypants.

  17. Tim C.*

    #1 – You can indeed be contagious for longer than 14 days. I have read that patients could shed virus for up to 21 days after resolution of symptoms. I would check with your county health department. Given your described symptoms, I would not return to work.

    BTW – No one is safe from COVID-19. I am in the Detroit area and am seeing the pandemic right now. The patient cases are spreading north to more remote and less populated areas of Michigan. DO not believe just because you have no cases it is not coming. If you follow strict quarantine recommendations, you may be spared. It is worth it.

    1. LW1*

      I appreciate that for sure. I have immunocompromised loved ones, so this is pretty disheartening. I could be negative–I don’t know, but I’m trying to do my best.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      I’m on the west side of Michigan and we are seeing a lot of cross-county spread since a lot of people in Kent, Ottawa, and Muskegon county live in one county and work in the other. I feel the Governor has been quite proactive but I also know of quite a few business that are deeming themselves essential when they aren’t and essential business doing the “well we are essential so you HAVE to come in” as opposed to letting them work from home. The Governor closing the schools was a godsend for many of my old coworkers since now they had to WFH.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        quite a few business that are deeming themselves essential when they aren’t

        Also in Michigan and can confirm. Quite a few of them around here have said “But doctors and nurses buy our product!” Yeah, but they don’t buy them for work purposes.

        It’s ridiculous, and helps to explain why Michigan is the #3 state for C19 cases right now.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Meanwhile there’s a lot of blaming us Chicagoans, sort of like how Florida is just blaming the “outsiders”/”northerners” but not acknowledging that yes, they should have taken actual steps to lock that problem down as well.

          1. incognita for this*

            “… sort of like how Florida is just blaming the ‘outsiders’/’northerners’ but not acknowledging that yes, they should have taken actual steps to lock that problem down as well.”


            “Floridians must be protected from New Yorkers and people from Louisiana!”

            No. Floridians must be protected from their governor, who waited until April 1 – when there were nearly 7,800 COVID infections and over 100 deaths in his state – to declare a statewide stay-at-home order.

            A resident of a state that weathered eight years of a tea party governor who frequently pointed to Florida as an example of a state with well-crafted and effective public policy. (Three guesses as to where this termed-out chief executive retired.)

            1. Avasarala*

              Every Florida subculture: “It’s not our fault our state is like this!”
              Also every Florida subculture: “I don’t have to act right!”

      2. (Former) HR Expat*

        I’m in the Detroit area as well, and I agree that the governor was proactive, but the stay at home order was overly broad. Every small auto manufacturing supplier is claiming they are essential because automotive industry was listed as essential. I can see auto repair shops for those who are still working, but not the company continuing ot manufacture truck bed covers.

        1. nonegiven*

          I think the Department of Homeland Security defines the critical industries and most of the governors go with that list.

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            Not just that, or marijuana shops wouldn’t be essential in California but not Massachusetts.

        2. CupcakeCounter*

          My company (manufacturing) was initially shut down but since we are the ones making the structural elements for the pop-up hospitals we were allowed to send back a small percentage of our workforce to work on ONLY orders for hospitals and it had a very limited scope. It took nearly a week for that to be approved and several of the hospitals/local governments who placed the orders had to provide proof of the order and need for the product ASAP to the Attorney General.

  18. Kiitemso*

    OP #3, please take some timeoff! Yes, you’ll be forced to do a staycation but just your mind off work will help. If you got a work phone, switch it for those days and if you have a work laptop, put it somewhere out of mind.

    I had a day off last Friday and I was kind of annoyed because I had dreamed of a city break to a place with some great restaurants when I asked for it in early February, but it ended up working out okay in the end. I woke up, did some exercise, went to shop for some groceries and ended up chilling in the evening, enjoying cooled white wine with the wildest documentary series on Netflix at the moment (I’m sure y’all know the one). I had a blast.

  19. Random Commenter*

    You’d mentioned that you’d intended to take breaks in January and March, but pushed them back because of deadlines and big projects.
    Had you told your employer in advance that you were planning to take these breaks? Would they plan around them if they knew about your plans?

    1. Amanda*

      This is a really big question!
      I’m not from the US, and am actually kind of baffled over how tough getting time off seems to be in America. It’s like companies are doing their employees a big favor to let them have a day or two away, and both employers and employees seem to have this mentality.
      Here we usually have unlimited sick days (doctor note required), plus 30 consecutive vacation days (most companies let you break this in 2 or 3 chunks of time off). And truly, no matter how vital your work is and how good an employee you are, the company can afford to go a couple weeks without you, because they know they’ll *have to*, since those days off are actually your right to take.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It’s not always, though – it varies by company, and sometimes by manager. When I worked in newspapers, getting time off was trickier because we needed coverage 7 days a week, but in the jobs I’ve had since then, I’ve never had a real problem taking time off. It’s also possible that the LW feels pressure internally when in fact their company/manager might be totally on board with PTO.

        1. Amanda*

          Maybe it’s bacause I mostly hear/read about the bad cases, but it seems pretty bleak for a lot of people. Honestly, even the possibility that OP may be holding off on even asking for days off, wether or not their manager would be ok with it, feels super sad, and like they were probably burned before by this crazy PTO-is-a-big-favor mentality.

      2. Entry-level Marcus*

        It varies by company and by industry in America, some are more sane. Also it can depend on how firm and employee is about boundaries.

        FWIW, as an American myself, I also find it baffling, and it kinda enrages me that the US doesn’t have mandate European-style PTO. I don’t understand why we don’t have a mass movement for it here.

      3. Fikly*

        Yeah, it’s a toxic attitude very prevalent in America, unfortunately.

        I am very fortunate to work for a company (in America) that not only has unlimited sick time and PTO, but our PTO policy is basically, for however many x days in a row you want, ask for it x weeks in advance, and if it’s a super busy time, please don’t take more than a week off at once, which I think is entirely reasonable.

        Also we have guidelines for how many days to aim for depending on how many hours you work per week, but no one gets in trouble for going over. I’ve actually had my manager talk to me because I came under last year, and she was encouraging me to take more.

      4. James*

        It depends on the industry. Often it’s not tough–I can usually get time off just by asking. But there’s a cultural push to be productive members of society, which means working. Our first motto was “Mind Your Business” and our national heroes include John Henry, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and the like.

        Another issue is that companies in the USA like to have just enough to do the job. Which means they don’t have enough to handle disruptions. We’re seeing this in the current pandemic: the “just in time” supply chain model doesn’t handle supply chain disruptions at all. This carries over into workers. Managers are encouraged to have just enough employees to get the job done–which means that if someone takes time off, they have subminimal staff for a week. They can usually scrape by, but there are times (and for some industries this is one) where subminimal simply isn’t an option.

        And remember, you’re generally only seeing the worst offenders, here and elsewhere. No one writes into an advice column to say “My manager has a wonderful PTO policy and encourages us to take time off to avoid burnout”. So any sample gleaned from the media is going to be very biased.

  20. XxXxX*

    #5 – Lots of states pay you partial unemployment if you work part time (California, Ohio, Illinois,Texas, etc.). You have to fill out the paperwork properly and be looking for a new job. You have to report the hours you work. Your benefits check will be reduced, based on how much you earn part time each week.

    But one of the bonuses is that from now to July 31, due to the CARES bill, everyone gets an additional $600 in each unemployment check – so if you can get the unemployment benefit you’ll be assured of at least $600 in each check.

    Sorry – this also got posted as a reply in the wrong spot :(

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      No worries on the last sentence – it happens to all of us eventually it seems.

  21. Delta Delta*

    #3 – This is a great example of a pitfall to unlimited PTO but with no guidance. I worked in a place like this and because there was no guidance I didn’t take a vacation for three years. It was mostly because I didn’t know how because there was no guidance. Ugh. OP3 – days off are part of your compensation. Take them!

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      That’s awful… As someone who’s a big advocate for unlimited PTO (since 2004) ,that’s a terrible failure of your management to not encourage/demand you take time off.

      The best unlimited PTO scenarios are when there’s a minimum time – say two or three weeks that you must take.

      1. TechWorker*

        Is there actually a benefit to unlimited PTO vs just generous benefits? I’m on 5 weeks, plus can ‘buy’ an extra through salary sacrifice if I want to – that seems better for both me and the company (those 5 weeks are use or lose, so basically everyone takes them, and the company has more control over staffing levels). I also don’t understand how companies with unlimited pto would actually react if someone say, wanted to take 3 months off – I’m assuming that would actually be frowned upon, so there probably is a ‘limit’ to what’s acceptable it’s just secret?

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          Yes, “unlimited” isn’t really the right word, it’s more just flexible. And of course nobody would just take three months off, just like you most likely don’t take all five weeks off at once.

          To me, the benefits are that I generally take 5-6 weeks off per year, plus there’s no “bank” of sick, personal, etc. days I have to think about. It’s just being given the freedom to use your best judgement.

          But to answer your question, I would just say that unlimited vacation IS an example of a generous benefit…..and I’m sure it’s not applicable in all circumstances of course.. If every company were giving generous benefits there’d be no need for unlimited in the first place.

          1. TechWorker*

            Yep that makes sense :) I guess I just think the flexibility benefits might not be enough to outweigh the disadvantages of employees (especially junior ones) not knowing how much pto is acceptable to take or is advisable for their career. If everyone takes the same amount that’s a bit easier imo.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              You’re right about that part – for it to be successful management has to really believe in it, encourage the employees to use it, lead by example, etc..

        2. Pilcrow*

          The benefit to the company is that it takes vacation time off the company books and it’s not tracked by HR/enterprise databases. Unlimited PTO gets around state requirements (like California) to pay out any accrued PTO upon resignation/termination.

          My California-based employer went to “unlimited” PTO a few years ago (explicitly stating that it was to get the PTO liability off the books). Our guidance was to work with one’s manager to decide what time was reasonable. We also referred back to the old PTO accrual chart for basic expectations, such as X years of service gets Y number of hours per year. Your example of someone asking for 3 months would be considered a leave of absence.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yes to the liability thing. My company has asked us, as a way of dealing with a reduction in business due to COVID, that we have a “vacation surge” and everyone take a week off by July in order to get all that vacation time off the books.

            So I’ll be taking time off by moving to the living room rather than my office/craft room. (I’m fine with it and I’m already maxed out on vacation.)

    2. Sharon*

      If I worked at a company with unlimited PTO, I would never take off. Ever. As it was, my last job let us roll over all the PTO we were entitled to (when I left, I was up to 6 weeks). I only took days off when I was at risk of no longer accruing PTO.

      1. Fikly*

        That seems like a you problem, not an unlimited PTO problem, given you didn’t take vacation days unless you were at risk of losing the ones you could bank.

        1. JustaTech*

          If you don’t have something to remind you to take vacation (like maxing out your accurals) sometimes you can just forget to take time off. I did that this year, between the race season and buying a house my husband and I just didn’t take a vacation.

        2. doreen*

          It also depends on specifics- where I work overtime eligible workers get the first 2.5 hours of overtime in comp time ( regular workweek is 37.5) plus 5 days personal leave plus 2 floating holidays. I won’t say there are a lot of people who never take vacation time – but there are a lot who end up losing vacation on April 1 because they have more than 8 weeks in the bank. It’s not that they can’t take time off- it’s just that the comp/personal/holiday covers almost all the time they want to take off ( usually 2-4 weeks a year) and they forget about the vacation time.

  22. Miss May*

    LW #1, don’t go in, please. I recently had a C-19 scare with my mother, who works in a hospital. The hospital staff allowed a nurse to go to work when one of her family members that she lives with tested positive for C-19.

    Of course, the nurse then tested positive. Five days later, my mom started to show symptoms after being in contact with said nurse. Fortunately, she was able to get tested, and she was negative, but it was a very stressful weekend.

    The kicker? This nurse WORKS WITH CANCER PATIENTS. (facepalm)

    For everyone involved and their family and close friends, PLEASE stay home. Possibly call the hospital and see if they can dig up your results? They’re busy, so you may have been dropped through the cracks.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      This seems on par with the new dad who lied about his symptoms in order to visit his wife and newborn. Finally confessed when she started to show symptoms.
      People like that dude and the nurse above (because she really should be smarter than that) need to have serious consequences.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        If the nurse above was being pressured from above to work sick, the consequences should fall on whoever pressured her, not the nurse herself.

        1. Miss May*

          Unsure if the nurse was pressured, or if it was her own ignorance. Given the stories I’ve heard out of this hospital before, it’s quite possibly both. But I do think the hospital should take the bulk of the blame because they KNEW, and said she could come to work, and “possibly” wear a mask.

    2. LW1*

      I called them two days ago and they did not have them and gave me an extended doctor’s note. I was tested on 3/21. I’m trying not to harass them. Our state ran out of the serum for testing.

    3. Mary*

      My office started sending swabs to Quest in mid March. First one took 10 days to come back. It really has been taking that long.

      1. Lord Gouldian Finch*

        My spouse works in a lab. They were discussing doing coronavirus testing – they have the equipment – but apparently they’ve been unable to get the reagents. Apparently there’s a huge demand for them right now (I know, who could have guessed) and they’re prioritizing extremely hard hit areas like New York first.

        So it’s really not a surprise that testing can have severe delays.

  23. doreen*

    I don’t see why you would need to do either. If my manager passes on information from those above her without additional comment, it doesn’t mean she’s pretending to agree with it – she’s simply passing it on.

  24. GDub*

    OP3 — My boss is kindly encouraging us to take days off now if we want to, because otherwise we’ll all be wanting our time off at the same time when we get back, especially if this drags on. If you think your boss might push back, you can point out that you’d like to take time off when others are probably not thinking about taking time off.


    I do not believe people are ‘joking’ about weight. It’s rarely a joke, it’s always mean spirited, and meant to make someone feel bad about the way they look, the space they take up. As someone who has been ‘teased’ about my weight at home, work and school my whole life, I wish people called out offenders more strongly.
    I developed a pretty mean way to deal with it back- I point out something I find repulsive about the ‘joker’. You wouldn’t believe how hurt they become. I mean, sorry Jack, but your halitosis and yellow ass teeth are something I just like to tease about…shrug.
    Unfortunately, that technique has gotten me in trouble a few times (because life isn’t fair) but I find it better than asking managers to deal with it.
    Why would a manager need help on what to say in this situation? JFC tell them to STFU!

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I’m sorry you have faced this, but I can’t disagree more.

      This is really a situation that needs to be managed from above. Not all managers will, but they need to. OP’s question was about how to manage that. They are asking for wording so they can avoid doing exactly what you are suggesting.

      Your technique is indeed cruel and is likely to just create a vicious cycle. This is not how we make things better.

      1. YIKES! AGAIN*

        I did not say that I think this is the right thing to do. I am saying most managers don’t know how to handle this, don’t handle it well and it sucks to be the person who is the target.
        I am asking why this is a hard issue for this manager.
        Please re read my comment and realize I am not saying ‘this is the way for managers to deal with it’ I am saying ‘this is how I’ve dealt with it as the target because so many managers ham hand this’.

        1. Fikly*

          Well, for the same reason that most managers find it challenging to confront issues in their employees that are around interpersonal soft skills, rather than things that are more traditional job tasks.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with such mean-spirited ‘teasing’, and I understand how lashing out in the moment can put a temporary stop to the behavior. But there’s a bigger issue that management needs to address. Don’t use the excuse ‘It’s better if I handle stuff like this,’ or ‘I don’t need to drive this up the chain of command.’ It’s their responsibility to you, and everyone else getting the same treatment.

      Also, considering that you’ve gotten in trouble for your own callous remarks, it seems like your management doesn’t have a problem having difficult conversations with misbehaving staff. It also seems like your solution isn’t ‘better’, if only because you handled your way into trouble of your own. Let your manager handle the ‘teasing’ instead of being fighting fire with fire.

    3. Avasarala*

      Well yeah if you could just punch your bullying coworkers in the face a lot of problems would be solved. But I think we’re looking for more morally-sound solutions here.

  26. James*

    LW #3: I get where you’re coming from. I’m one of those people who never considers himself fully off the job; I don’t have a smart phone specifically to make it inconvenient for me to check in, otherwise I’d do it constantly!

    Here’s the thing: You need rest. Not “want”, not “deserve”, not “can afford”–NEED. It is an absolute requirement for human life, much less productivity. Stress builds up specific chemicals in your body that, if left unchecked, can lead to serious health problems in the mid- to long-term. Plus, if you’re burned out you make mistakes. These can range from “Woops, I stapled the packet together wrong!” to wrapping your car around a bridge pylon. Burned-out employees get themselves and other people hurt. Don’t think that just because you’re not on a dangerous jobsite this can’t happen to you; I work in a Fortune 200 company that does everything from building experimental engines to building tunnels to cleaning up toxic waste, and the highest rates of injuries we have every year are from office workers walking across flat surfaces.

    As for your boss knowing you’re just sitting around the house: Unless your boss is a complete ass, they won’t care. What you do with your down time is YOUR business, not the company’s. If you want to binge-watch romantic comedies, have at it! If you want to repaint half your house, go for it! If you just want to sit and stare at a wall for four hours, have fun. My wife and I spent time these past few weeks remodeling and building play sets for the kids. I know people (in their 30s and 40s) who spent their days off playing World of Warcraft and chatting with friends. The point is, it’s YOUR time, not your company’s time. And a good boss knows that such downtime is absolutely necessary for workers to be productive. You come back more energized, more focused, and more productive.

    It’s harder to remember that now that “home” and “office” are the same, but the principle holds true none the less.

    1. Corinne*

      Yes, this. Also, it will probably help to have an answer ready, when you return and people say “What did you do on your time off” (as nice people often do, just to make conversation and show interest in you as a person). It can make those conversations go more smoothly to have a canned answer ready so that you don’t feel like you’re “justifying” your time off to recharge. Make something up if you like! Ancestry research, language study, practicing a musical instrument, watched Bollywood movies, went on bike rides, organized your crafting supplies. If you did it for 30 minutes, who cares – people just want to hear something pleasant so they can be happy for you.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Now I feel like no one cares if all you’re doing in your off hours is watching that tiger show, honestly.

      2. Princesa Zelda*

        Heck, you can even say “Nothing! It was glorious!” and ime people will react the exact same way.

      3. James*

        Yard work is good, too. Never mind that “work” consists of sitting out back with a cold drink!

  27. Tech Support Heathen*

    LW#1 would also not be covered under the new act even if their employer was less than 500 people. Medical workers, including lab workers, are exempt from the law.

  28. WantonSeedStitch*

    I’ve encouraged my team to take vacation days while working from home! After my first full week working from home, the weekend came as a blessed relief, and the idea of doing something other than sitting in front of my computer made being at home much more restful and bearable. I had a weird bit of anxiety about getting back to work the following Monday, but found that a change of pace in background music and a good plan of what I wanted to work on helped a bit. But it really did make me realize that people might need more than just a weekend to recharge, even if they’re at home all the time. We’re all in a situation right now that’s fraying nerves, and making anxiety a problem even for those who don’t deal with it in a chronic form. Anything we an do to preserve our mental and emotional health, as well as our physical health, is very important. I don’t want my team burning out or breaking down.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      I know I want to take a vacation day or three right now, even though I’m “just at home”. My family/roommates have all kinds of honeydo stuff planned, and I want to handle it, just not after a full workday.

  29. Phony Genius*

    On #2, it sounds like a supervisor is not able to address this themselves with their own subordinates. There may be a bigger problem here with this supervisor’s ability to supervise. When the subordinates feel they can talk to their supervisor this way (not just any other employee), there’s a serious breakdown in authority. There are probably more problems here than just the inappropriate comments.

    1. YIKES! AGAIN*

      As someone who has been the target of these things, all you want to do is shrink away. You do not want to call people into your office to scold them for saying offensive ‘jokes’ about you. I think this is the supervisor of the supervisor’s job.
      So many people hide behind ‘it’s a joke’ and it can be very hard to be the one to say ‘your jokes about ME aren’t jokes, they are cruel and demeaning’. Many people think it is acceptable, and that is not the supervisor’s fault her reports (likely men) think it is ok to say these things. It is the fault of our culture. But great victim blaming!

      1. Avasarala*

        Well yes they are the victim, but they are also the one with the power here. It’s like if a child calls their parent a mean name, people say “well punish your child.” Of course it still hurts, but you are in charge, you have the power to do something about how you are treated.

        If the supervisor doesn’t feel like they have the power to stop this, either within themselves/personally or as a manager/professionally, that’s something that needs addressing. What if the employee made those comments to another employee? Could the supervisor speak up then?

        And there is no reason to assume the report is a man. Women can be just as cruel about weight.

  30. Sharon*

    LW#3, sorry, I think Alison’s advice is bad. Now is not the time to be asking for time off, or for anything extra, or special accommodations. Companies are under extreme stress. No one is in the office. It’s mayhem. Don’t add one more thing to your boss’s and co-workers’ plates now. Not a good look.

    1. JustMyImagination*

      I just requested Monday off to make a long weekend. Even though I can’t go anywhere, the thought of not waking up Monday to sit in my home office all day is giving me all kinds of life right now. Companies are stressed, but so are people and a day or two off to recharge and not break down is better for the company in the long run.

    2. juliebulie*

      Hard disagree. It very much depends on what the company does. In addition, taking vacation time actually reduces the financial hit to the company. Some of us are actually being encouraged to do it.

    3. James*

      It depends on the industry. Some industries are experiencing a lot of downtime right now, and having folks take PTO actually takes a load off the managers’ plates–you’re getting paid, they don’t have to find work for you.

      And PTO isn’t a “special accommodation” or “anything extra”; it’s a normal part of work and is part of your compensation package. What you’re saying is akin to saying that expecting overtime pay is inappropriate right now.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      This situation is a good example of “know your employer.”

      At my job, this is the perfect time to take leave. Work has slowed down but we’re not planning any layoffs. At my husband’s job, they laid off a bunch of people to prepare for future slow downs, so there’s too work for the “survivors” to juggle, and everyone is still worried about more layoffs.

    5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Some companies are under extreme stress, but *so are a lot of people.* A corporation may be legally a “person” for some things, but it’s not a human being, and what humans need is more important.

      There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between how important the job actually is, or how the coronavirus is affecting that, and whether or how hard companies are pushing their employees right now.

      Overwork is bad for people’s health. Encouraging people to push themselves that way is saying that their well-being doesn’t matter. We’re talking about someone who has been working when they needed time off, because things were busy at work, even before this. It’s not “asking for something extra” to take a few days off, when their “unlimited” time off means that they haven’t taken a real break in months.

    6. Fikly*

      No. It’s entirely possible (and likely) that LW#3 is so burned out that continuing to work will actively cause problems for the rest of the team, and add to their plates. Taking a few days off will leave them able to work much more productively, catch errors, and take things off people’s plate in return.

      Your attitude is incredibly short-sighted, and ignorant of how humans work.

    7. Oh No She Di'int*

      Most companies are in a situation where strong yet kind leadership is called for. My business is under a moderate amount of strain right now. It’s not the best situation, but others have it worse. I still encourage my employees to take their time off. Not only is it restorative for them individually, it’s great for team morale. And when a team is functioning well, people WANT to see their coworkers relax occasionally.

    8. Observer*

      Right. Because if they collapse that is REALLY going to be helpful.

      People are human. The OP’s stress is as valid as that of the rest of the office. And they have already been pushing harder than they would normally have been doing because of all of this.

    9. Wendy*

      People need to be able to take a break or we won’t last until this is over. My company is an essential service and even though I’m in the office and not the front line, I’m still stressed and worried. Our 3-person admin team (including me) were all stress-crying before 9 this morning. Being able to switch off for even an afternoon is helpful!

    10. Kiwi with laser beams*

      Looking at your other comment about time off, I feel like you’re bringing something to the table that isn’t about the LW’s situation.

    11. DiscoCat*

      I disagree, LW is on her own when the pressure becomes too much and she does burn out. The employer on the other hand has more resources, therefore greater flexibility. A kind manager with foresight will be able to compensate for employers who take PTO. It’s unfair and unhelpful to exert pressure on employees by implying that they stand at the centre of any disadvantage to the employer when they take PTO, what if they got sick or indeed burn out? The employer would have to deal with the greater unpredictability of that on top of the missing human resource.

  31. Observer*

    #2- Two things to keep tell the supervisors.

    One, just because they are supervisors does not meant they have to accept rude and inappropriate behavior dressed up as a “joke’. Furthermore, even if they really do not mind, they have an OBLIGATION to put a stop to it – and to keep an eye on the behavior of the “jokers”. Because if they feel free to say that kind of thing to a supervisor, what will they feel free to say to someone who they don’t see as having power?

    1. LW #2*

      I totally agree. Others may overhear such comments and think that this behavior is acceptable.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      “Because if they feel free to say that kind of thing to a supervisor, what will they feel free to say to someone who they don’t see as having power?”

      Yes, it’s really surprising to me that these people feel it’s perfectly fine to say these things to their supervisor. It’s such a profound lack of judgment on their part and, to me, indicates a lack of respect. OP, please shut these people down and let the supervisor know she, too, has the power and the obligation to do this.

  32. EPLawyer*

    #2, you are being given a great opportunity to manage. Take it. Often Alison tells people who don’t find the “jokes” funny to talk to their manager. You ARE the manager. So nip this in the bud NOW. Shut it down and make it clear that jokes about people’s age, appearance, diet, etc. ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE. Empower your reports to do so with their subordinates. If the employees see you are taking it seriously and making sure your reports are taking it seriously, that will make employees feel safer about speaking up when the occassional slip up happens.

    You have the chance to change the culture at your office — take it.

  33. Ann O'Nemity*

    #5 – OP, when the dust settles from the pandemic, it may be worth looking for a different employer. It’s not great that yours routinely expected 40+ for barely living wage, switched you to hourly when the hours dropped (so they could pay you less), and plans to switch you back to exempt when they can ramp your hours back up. Although what they’re doing may be legal, it’s still shitty.

      1. valentine*

        it’s still shitty.
        Is it? In OP5’s place, I would do the math to see whether, including all hours worked, their hourly pay really is being halved. If restored, I’d consider where to cap my hours so I feel god about my hourly pay and stop thinking of hours over 40 as unpaid OT.

  34. Koala dreams*

    #1 Thanks for staying home when you have symptoms! Even if it turns out you don’t have the corona virus, this is still the wrong time to go to work with the flu or a cold, since vulnerable people can become quite sick from those illnesses too. Your employer is unreasonable.

    #3 Vacations is not just for travel and special occasions, they also exist so that you can rest and re-charge. You can use your vacation however you want. Right now it’s impossible to do many things, but even in a normal year, you can use vacation to stay at home and rest. There is even a word for it: staycation. Also, restful activities don’t have to be going away on a trip or sleeping, they can be watching tv, doing crafts, talking with family or friends or anything else you find restful. I quite like watching the birds and dogs from my balcony.

    If your burn out gets worse, or doesn’t get better, you might want to look into getting health accomodations and/or taking sick leave. Sometimes therapists or doctors can help with ideas for how to recover from burn out, seek medical help if you need it.

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