interviewer asked about my religion, I get hassled for work favors when I’m off-duty, and more

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

1. Interviewer asked about my religion, then sent me a defensive email when I complained

I have been a nonprofit executive for many years. After the pandemic, I stepped back for a little while to focus on my family while we grieved some significant losses that occurred in 2020. Recently, I have been wanting to jump back into the nonprofit leadership world, but have opted for jobs with smaller organizations. I was recently a finalist for an executive director position at a very small organization that does wonderful work in the community. I had already been through five interviews and was having my last discussion with the committee. During this discussion, an integral member of the organization asked me to clarify whether I was a certain religion that many people often associate with my ethnicity. I was nervous and after saying, “I don’t think you’re allowed to ask me that,” I answered the question and told them my religion. Their follow-up was to inquire whether I was comfortable working with a certain other religious community that many folks (wrongly) assume would be an issue due to historic trauma between the two.

After the interview, I felt terrible. The questions seemed biased and made me feel othered by them in a way that didn’t sit well. I decided that it would be difficult for me to work for them so withdrew my candidacy. When the recruiter learned of this and what happened, she asked if she could share my reason with the committee. I gave her my permission, hoping that it would result in dialogue and growth for them around DEI.

What I got in return, however, was an email from the person who asked the question apologizing that I was offended but claiming that the question was never asked. There was a lot in there about how I misunderstood what they were saying, they would never ask such a question, and they may not know all the PC terms, but they meant well. I’m at a loss regarding how to respond. The nonprofit community is a small one and I purposely don’t make a lot of waves around identity issues because I know firsthand how it can prevent me from getting work. I do, however, feel like I need to say something.

Forward the response to the recruiter and ask that they share it with the rest of the hiring committee (who presumably will know full well that the question was asked, and should see what this person is sending out). You might point out that you’d given your permission to share your concerns in the hopes it would result in changes in their practices, but this response — which you hadn’t invited — only deepens the concerns you left the interview with. You might need to include something like, “Your dialogue on this needs to be an internal one so I’d like to leave my involvement here, but I hope seeing this will be useful to you.” (You could also send this to the hiring committee yourself, cc’ing the recruiter, if you want to make sure they definitely see it.)

2. People I meet socially hassle me for work-related favors when I’m off-duty

I’ve worked in media for over 30 years. I enjoy my job and most of my colleagues are great. The problem is that an unfortunate number of people I meet socially or through volunteering don’t realize that when I’m off the clock, I don’t want to hear complaints about my organization’s product or be asked to perform work-related duties, especially when the stuff they’re haranguing me about (free publicity, ticket giveaways, ads, etc.) is literally someone else’s job! Even if I politely say, “I can do that, but please reach out via my work address,” “here’s the work email of the person you need to contact,” “management decides what’s appropriate for air, not me,” or even “I will get in a lot of trouble if I do that as it’s against our policies,” some people seem to think they can wear me down if they send enough emails or PMs.

Back in the day, folks could only do this in person as we’ve always had very good work-life balance (no giving out colleagues’ contact info without their consent, for example) but these days, with everyone wanting to connect on social media and using personal emails for volunteer work, I get messages asking me to work for free on weekends, in the evenings, and even on holidays or vacations — and I’m a big pic-poster, so it’s pretty obvious when I’m out of the office. When I politely remind them that we have a website and social media at work, give them my work email, or try to direct them to the person who might be able to solve their issue, most get offended. Some double down and lecture me. I’ve had to block people over this, which is something I hate to do, but yeesh, we all need personal time. Some of my colleagues are frustrated by this sort of behavior as well, and surprise, surprise, men deal with it much less than women. Is there a better way to handle this?

This is super rude! It’s one thing for people to make the request initially (not realizing how many you get in your off hours) but pushing even after you set a clear boundary or redirect them to the right place is beyond obnoxious.

Given that the problem is so widespread, you might be better off not responding to these messages during non-work hours at all, not even to explain that you can’t help.

You also don’t need to respond to all of them even once you’re back at work. People you barely know writing to complain about your organization aren’t entitled to a response, and anyone who’s particularly demanding is asking for any response they do get to be slow-tracked (which might mean you write back a week later saying, “Sorry I didn’t reply in time, I don’t look at work stuff on my personal accounts at all”).

3. I don’t want my staff to use their cell phones at work

How do you handle personal phones in the workplace? Especially food service (coffee shop). It is something I could get written up for by the health department, phones are dirty, and I don’t want to pay them to chat with their boyfriend. But when I enforce it by having a shelf for their phones, there is pushback — “you can’t take away my personal property” and “what if it’s an emergency and I miss a text?”

If it’s a health code violation, then that’s the only reason you need: “It’s against health code regulations and the business can get in trouble.” The rest of the reasons are secondary and will just distract from the main point if you get into them.

But you should make the rule clear when you’re hiring people so no one is blindsided by it after they start — “because of health code regulations, we’re not permitted to have personal phones behind the counter. You’re welcome to keep one in your car or a locker in the break room, but they can’t be in the area where we serve customers” — and then enforce that like you would any other policy.

This isn’t about taking away anyone’s personal property; you’d be explaining a rule based on legal requirements, giving them an option that lets them have a phone accessible to check on breaks if they want to (that’s why something like lockers would be a good idea), and letting people decide if they want the job under those conditions or not.

4. Asking for a raise when we had recent cost-of-living adjustments

For the past two years, I’ve been working as a data analyst attached to a research project at a large government agency. I’m responsible for organizing and archiving all project data, maintaining multiple databases, and managing all of the project’s online presence, which includes multiple websites. The workload is intense — my boss has openly admitted that this is a job for several people, but they only had funding for one — but I’ve successfully kept up with it, and my performance reviews have been stellar.

In the past couple of months, I’ve had to deal with a major crisis that occurred through no fault of mine, and multiple coworkers, including my boss, have complimented me on how well I handled it. Overall, I feel like I’m in a good position to ask for a raise when my next performance review comes up in April. The only reason I’m hesitating is that last summer, the agency gave a cost of living raise to everyone on the staff, including me. Would it look bad to ask for another raise less than a year after I got one? I’ve never asked for a raise before, and am not sure how to proceed without looking entitled or greedy.

Nope. A cost-of-living raise is different than a merit raise. A cost-of-living raise is typically awarded to everyone and is meant to keep your salary on pace with inflation. What you’d be asking for is a merit raise because you’ve earned a higher salary through your work, and you can do that independently of last summer’s cost-of-living adjustment.

Also, let’s get rid of this idea that it’s ever entitled or greedy to ask for a raise when your work merits it. It’s not entitled or greedy to ask to be paid fairly for your work or to expect your compensation to reflect that you’re contributing at a higher level than when your salary was last set.

5. Is it too late for an informational interview once a job is posted?

I am job searching and came upon an internal posting that interests me and seems like a good match for my skills and experience. It’s a newly created role in a different department where I have some contacts at the same level as this role and who report to the same manager this job will. I reached out to one of them to get some additional insight and his perspective on whether I’d be considered a good candidate. He responded positively and suggested setting up an informational interview with the hiring manager (who is his boss) to get additional insight into her expectations. It’s a nice idea in theory, but I worry that it could take weeks to get time on her calendar and by then she’ll have already gotten plenty of other applications and maybe even started interviewing.

I’m inclined to just submit my application with a tailored cover letter … but I’d be forgoing the potential opportunity he has in mind for a “pre-chat” that could in itself help my application stand out. I’m anxious about making the wrong decision and not giving myself the best shot at getting an interview. If it matters, I have been in a few large meetings where I have presented in the past and she has been among the senior leadership attendees, so she would probably at least recognize my name when she sees it, but we’ve never spoken one on one. What do you advise?

Go ahead and apply now. You’re right that otherwise you risk missing the window to be included as she’s selecting people to interview.

However, you could also email to say that Joe Warbleworth suggested you contact her about an informational interview and then say, “Because the position is already open and you’re reviewing applications, I realize it might not make sense to talk outside of that process at this stage, so I’ve submitted my application meanwhile. Either way, I hope to hear from you.”

Because you’re an internal candidate and you’re being sort of referred by one of her direct reports, this wouldn’t be overstepping to do.

{ 425 comments… read them below }

  1. LolWhat*

    #3 – Personal locker for my phone would be okay, but there’s no way I’m putting my phone on a random shelf. Sounds incredibly easy for someone (coworker or customer) to steal or damage. Please treat your employees like adults and value their property as much as they do.

    1. Observer*

      Good point. I’d be willing to bet that a lot of your staff don’t have a car, so you need to give them a safe place to leave their phone.

      1. talos*

        Personally I would feel way less safe about my car than about a shelf! Depending on the parking situation I’m probably likely to see my car fewer times per workday than a shelf located somewhere in my workplace, and I live in an area where thefts from cars are pretty common, and I’ve had people break into my car before *just to see if there was anything to steal*.

        Lockers are far better.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah there’s no way I’d leave my phone in my car. I suppose I could put it in the glove box, but still, as you say cars get broken into all the time just so the thieves can have a rifle through to see whether there’s anything worth nicking. My preferred option would be to keep my phone with me, in a pocket, and just not look at it while I’m working, but if that’s not possible then a locker would be the way to go.

    2. Alice*

      Maybe I’m getting old but I’ve never been allowed to keep my phone on my person in customer facing service roles, whether coffee shop, restaurant or retail- always been provided a locker. Also it’s a huge bug bear of mine to see people on their phones enough to make me feel like an inconvenience as a customer. It’s fine to have as an emergency but I shouldn’t have to wait around or call attention to get service because someones busy texting. It looks unprofessional as well as the health issues raised

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yup. I don’t think it’s terribly controversial to ask people to put them away. Even if it’s not mentioned at hiring, it’s pretty much a given. I don’t work on a public facing reception, so I get /some leeway/, but it’s still important to look busy or engaged with the person in front of you, and I’d very much assume that in a coffee shop or other retail outlet that the person needs to be ready to handle my order or cash me out. I’m the sort of person who will zone out reading something if given half a chance, so yeah, I know it’s boring, but it has to be done.

        And honestly, even on a business reception, the ten seconds it takes to check a message is always the ten seconds in which someone does come to the door, so you need to be ready to serve them. It’s a constant temptation, but I have a drawer beside me and the phone needs to go into it and I’m OK with that not needing to have been stated before I was hired because it should really be a no-brainer assumption of the job.

      2. ceiswyn*

        I assume you didn’t mean to nest that response under a comment pointing out how easily a phone could be stolen from a random shelf?

        1. Snell*

          Don’t see what’s wrong with it—their expectation isn’t “a random shelf,” it’s a locker provided by the employer.

      3. Well...*

        To me, this does seem like an outdated view of customer service. Customer service workers are people who are sacrificing some of their limited time on this Earth to help you. Of course that’s inconvenient, and it’s impossible to say whether that is a “fair” trade for the money they make. Best case scenario, they get a sense of purpose from their work, but even in that case, they have other lives outside of helping you. They are thinking about other things, sometimes wishing they were somewhere else, and their existence does not revolve around helping some random customer.

        Taking away their phones may give you the illusion that they don’t have any obligations outside of assisting you, but it’s just an illusion. And it’s definitely more inconvenient, globally, to force them not to glance at their phones during work hours.

        1. Good grief*

          Actually, they are being paid to do a job and are not sacrificing anything. If there is an emergency their family can call the job or 911. Phones are covered in germs, health department says no phones, then no phones. There are phone lockers specifically for this.

          1. Well...*

            I mean, I wasn’t commenting on the germs, I was commenting on the attitude that you expect customer service workers to never look at their phones because it gives you “they don’t care enough about me” vibes. I don’t think that’s a fair standard for professionalism, just like I don’t find “the customer is always right” attitude professional.

            If you treat people in the service industry like servants who are supposed to have the attitude you want them to have and then redefine the word “professional” to mean “grovel to my every whim,” I’m not not going to take your definition of professional very seriously.

            1. CS Rep for Life*

              And if you are the sort of person who thinks that using your cellphone while providing customer service is professional or acceptable, you are not someone I am going to take seriously. You clearly do not understand the field, the expectations, the optics nor the management of this role. Please educate yourself before you pontificate on things you are clearly ill-equipped to judge.

              1. Unkempt Flatware*

                What in the world? Could you really have not offered your thoughts without the unnecessary editorial? How absolutely rude your response was.

              2. Danish*

                Last week a customer service worker pulled out their personal cellphone to help me order a product from their website that they were out of stock in the store. It made him better at his job. I don’t care what he does with the cellphone while I’m not in the store because he helped me just fine when I was.

                Take a breath CS rep for life.

              3. exbookseller*

                When I worked at an indie bookstore, we only had two computers in the store, and one was also the cash register. If someone asked me to look up a certain title, or wanted to know when their favorite author’s next book was coming out, or when a particular event was happening, I used my phone. I also *gasp* glanced at Instagram or my email when it was slow! No one ever complained (or if they did, my boss didn’t care enough to call me on it).

                Retail and other customer-facing workers are full-grown adults capable of exercising judgment when it comes to their phones. I don’t see anyone asking office workers to put their phones in lockers. If it’s actually a law per the health department, that’s one thing. But this condescending attitude about customer service people is uncalled for and irrational.

            2. Massmatt*

              If I take the trouble to go to a store and the staff is looking at their phones instead of working I’m unlikely to stay, buy anything, or return. I’ll shop online instead.

              If shopping in a store is less convenient, more expensive, AND a less pleasant experience due to staff making you feel like you’re intruding on their personal phone time, why shop in stores at all? This is another reason retail is dying.

              And big eye roll at the posts talking about needing to be reachable for emergencies. LOL texts and Candy Crush are not emergencies.

              1. Chirpy*

                I was able to contact my mother to tell her that my grandfather was dying because I had my cell phone in my pocket at a retail job and the hospital called me when they couldn’t reach her. They didn’t have her work number. I’d say that’s a real emergency.

                1. Ladycrim*

                  When my mother was in the hospital, my cell phone didn’t leave my side even though I had a job with a direct desk number. I was taking no chances on missing an urgent call.

              2. Well...*

                I’m really doubtful that the existence of cell phones and disrespectful youth is killing retail. What a claim.

                1. Danish*


                  definitely not amazon, or a growing sentiment from customers that they must have everything immediately available at their fingertips at all time (I’m part of the problem to)

              3. Rainy*

                Retail workers are real people and they have real emergencies. Some of those emergencies happen on their shift.

                (Also, I really hate being approached in stores, so I don’t want people coming up to me. I don’t want to see people roaming the aisles trying to proactively interact with me. I want to be ignored until I want something, and then I’ll go ask for help.)

            3. sundae funday*

              This is kind of a weird take because there are all kinds of professional roles in which getting your phone out would be inappropriate, so I don’t think it’s a matter of treating “people in the service industry like servants.”

              If I meet with my financial adviser and he gets his phone out and starts texting, I’m going to be annoyed. If my therapist takes a non-emergency phone call in the middle of our session, that’s not okay.

              Personally, I think the LW should allow them to keep their phones on them but in their pockets, and if they take them out during non-break times for non-emergency reasons, then they have to put them in a locker.

              1. Bread Baby*

                Agree! This also makes me wonder how often the LW has already had the discussion not to take out phones while they’re working. Maybe one final, official warning to the full group that if they don’t stop they’ll need to use the locker system would be enough to get the point across.

          2. Nina*

            I am more than ever thrilled that I live in New Zealand where service workers don’t rely on tips and can and do expect to be treated as equals. The US, bluntly, sucks in that regard.

            Here having your phone on you is not a health code violation, but touching it and then touching food without washing your hands is. Most cafe workers I’ve seen keep their phone in their pocket, on silent, so they can know when someone’s trying to contact them.

        2. I edit everything*

          Wow. People in customer service are not doing it out of the kindness of their hearts. It’s a business transaction, with certain expectations and requirements. One of those is to be fully present at work, not planning your weekend, gossiping with the fam, etc. Most people never have emergencies, and anyone for whom that’s a likelihood could be allowed to keep their phone in a pocket or close enough to hear it. But standing around a customer service job scrolling on your phone? No.

          1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            “Most people never have emergencies”

            I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered an adult who *hasn’t* had an emergency? I see why the health board doesn’t want phones in food prep areas, but folks need to have a way they can be reached during working hours. For most people – including retail employees – the obvious choice is having a phone on them. A good compromise is having the phone on vibrate in your pocket, and having an emergency signal like “call twice” so you know that you do need to check.

            1. Seashell*

              I’d be surprised if a food service location doesn’t have a landline. They can tell their family members/childcare person/child’s school to call them on that in case of emergency, if they’re not responding to calls to their cell phone.

              1. Beth*

                Workers on the bottom rung are very likely to be penalized if they get personal calls on the work landline, no matter how important. I wish this weren’t true, but it usually is.

              2. GovtStooge*

                Unfortunately, I’ve seen more than one story about managers/employees ignoring these calls for selfish reasons. One was even on here about a worker who neglected to tell someone his wife was in the hospital for emergency surgery for four and a half hours. These are the exception, not the norm, but I honestly feel better knowing that people have cell phones on hand for times like this.

                For those curious:

              3. Chirpy*

                There’s a letter on here about someone whose horse died because their manager (at an animal related business!) didn’t pass along the message.

              4. Rainy*

                …how many food service jobs have you had where they wanted you to have *any* personal calls at work???

              5. Nina*

                I’m not as sure on the norms in the US, but where I live, more and more workplaces don’t have a landline (and if they do, most of the floor staff don’t know where it is and can’t access it if they did) and it would almost never be okay for someone to call that landline with a personal call for a staff member.

                If someone’s circumstances are such that they need to be contactable, the solution is ‘keep your phone in your pocket, don’t take it out where customers can see’, not making them lock it away like a primary school kid. Also, some designs of locker function as faraday cages and it’s not at all obvious that you have one of those until you miss a call.

            2. Helen J*

              My son works in a place that doesn’t allow phones to be used during work hours. The compromise is exactly as you suggested- a phone number for emergencies that is not published, it’s only for employees and emergency use.

            3. Yorick*

              Cell phones haven’t been around as long as people have been working. Customer facing employees can find a way to deal with things that come up without having their phones out at work.

              1. redflagday701*

                Right. As long as an employer gives employees plenty of warning that they can’t have their phones on them and a number for someone to contact the employer in an emergency, this should not even be a question.

          2. Totally Minnie*

            When I worked in libraries, probably half of my day was dedicated to sitting at the customer service desk waiting for people to come over and ask a question. On busy days, it was fine. There wasn’t any down time to worry about.

            But slow days? Slow days could be painful. We weren’t allowed to do other work while we were at the service desk, so I was literally just sitting in a chair, waiting. We had computers at the desk so sometimes we could read things online, but if we hadn’t? I absolutely understand why some service people use their phones in that situation.

            1. redflagday701*

              I mean…some jobs are boring. It’s annoying and when you have such a job, it’s worth talking to your management about not-boring ways to use your time during slow periods. But sometimes customer service jobs are just like that, and it’s pretty reasonable for an employer to still expect employees to stay off of their phones. Boredom isn’t really a hardship; it’s part of what you’re getting paid to deal with.

          3. My Cabbages!*

            I don’t see why retail workers can’t have the same expectations as other workers – that is, when they need to be working (such as when there is a customer that may need help, or a task that needs to be done) they aren’t using their phones, but when there’s a down moment they absolutely can spend it to “plan their weekend, gossiping with the fam, etc” just like an office worker would do.

            1. Saddy Hour*

              Seriously. Yes, it is absolutely rude and unprofessional to ignore customers or treat them like an inconvenient sidebar because you’re on your phone…so make a policy about *that*. If hygiene is an issue, make a policy about that. It feels like the height of manager laziness to ban ever having a phone in your pocket because some of your staff break policy — your job overseeing employees is to address performance issues exactly like that! The person who is willing to screw around all day on their phone and not do their job is not going to become a good employee when you lock their phone away. The person who was already a good employee is not going to feel trusted or valued if you punish them for someone else’s poor performance.

              We expect such a different level of deference and work ethic from the folks in service industries. Customer service is a big part of their jobs, for sure, but that can be successfully accomplished without treating your entire staff like misbehaving children.

              1. redflagday701*

                I think it’s fine for employers to experiment with “let’s see how it goes” and not worry about phones unless they become an issue. But a big part of the reason you set policies is to avoid spending time deliberating over, for instance, whether someone should have been on their phone and whether the customer who felt ignored had a point. Nobody needs to find themselves reviewing security footage to see if the customer had a point that Steve was on his phone for too long or if Steve really did put it in his pocket before she even got to the counter.

                Every parent of multiple children knows that as soon as you start determining things on a case-by-case basis, you hear “That’s not fair!” from one kid and get sucked into mediation. And everyone who’s managed customer service workers knows that they are astonishingly prone to the same behavior, no matter how old they are. Some teams are certainly not like that and it can be great when you have one, but it’s actually pretty reasonable for employees to expect to be treated the same way, and establishing clear-cut policies about stuff like phone use is a very simple way to do that.

              2. Anon For This One*

                In addition to all of the above, corporate retail customer service is not exactly known for paying “100% of your attention” wages and perhaps if workers need to be or appear more engaged the company could (1) manage performance problems or (2) provide a more motivating rate.

        3. fgcommenter*

          Right. I don’t know where the “downtime to think about other things is a privilege reserved for ‘higher-level’ work” mentality came from, but it didn’t come from logic.

        4. Falling Diphthong*

          Okay, a store that gave out this vibe in response to my desire to purchase a head of broccoli from them is one I wouldn’t shop in.

          At my local farmstand, I once saw the older, long-time employees modeling for the young summer employees how you have a conversation at the register when times are slow, without conveying to customers that attempting to purchase some broccoli would be a rude interruption. Like so many human interaction things, it’s a skill you can learn.

          It stood out to me because “oh my god, a customer, trying to buy stuff” is an unpleasant retail experience many of us have had, one that is most easily dealt with by blanket bans on cell phones in hand or friends hanging out by your register. That this spot could address it with “how to divide your attention so you notice someone wants to buy broccoli, and how to arrange your body language so you look easy to interrupt” was a testament to their having a number of long-time employees.

        5. Twix*

          This seems like a really bizarre take to me. Helping random customers doesn’t have to be central to your existence for it to be central to your job Of course people working in customer service have other obligations in life, and of course they’re going to think about them while at work. But in almost any job, there’s a line for how much you can actively engage with those things during work hours (barring actual emergencies). Expecting employees to be focused on performing the service they’ve agreed to provide in return for money while on the clock, including in customer service roles being present and creating a positive experience for customers, is not the same thing as ignoring that employees have lives and obligations outside of work. It’s perfectly reasonable to discuss whether blanket bans on using phones at work makes sense in today’s world, but that’s a very different discussion than whether it’s reasonable for employees to be using their phones while customers are waiting for help.

        6. RussianInTexas*

          I am sorry what. They are paid to do the job which is to help you. That is literally their job. Not some kind of sacrifice.
          Signed, a person in customer service.

        7. isitfridayyet*

          Also super turned off by “not paying them to talk to their boyfriend.” It feels gendered (playing into some “boy crazy” stereotype) and doesn’t address an actual practical issue – just your tummy feels about how people you’re not paying a living wage should be spending their time. I’ve had plenty of customer service jobs. There were appropriate times to glance at my phone, confirm dinner plans, let someone know I’d be late etc.. I’ve also had family members in serious mental health situations where having my phone on me AT MY RETIAL JOB meant I was able to receive relevant messages about their hospitalization quickly. It also just kills me, that now that I’m working in a senior level position and being paid very well no one ever says to me “I’m not paying you $$$K a year to text your boyfriend – but that some how a standard of professionalism we expect for people doing way more physically taxing work for significantly less money.

        8. Single Noun*

          My existence doesn’t revolve around wrangling spreadsheets, but I’ve agreed to wrangle spreadsheets for 7.5 hours a day in exchange for enough money to live on. If my phone use was preventing me from wrangling spreadsheets in a timely manner, my employer would be within their rights to say “that’s not the deal we agreed to, cut it out.”

          Now, do retail workers have a much worse deal than white-collar workers? Absolutely. Is it fair? No. Should they be allowed to do things other than clean when there aren’t any customers? Of course. (In high school I spent a miserable summer pretending to count and recount comment cards, because the tiny museum I worked at had one visitor complain that someone was reading when she walked in, so reading the local-history books we sold in the gift shop was banned from there out and there was nothing else to do.) But I don’t think “when a customer is waiting to check out, scan their items instead of texting” means “grovel to my every whim”.

          1. Panhandlerann*

            Absolutely. Years ago, I worked in a convenience store where I was expected to be busy with the work every single second, and the owner had “spies” come in to see if I (and other employees) was indeed “busy.” I spent SO. MUCH. TIME. moving all the little boxes and cans of products forward a half inch and then back a half inch on the shelves to appear busy, because sometimes, there was literally nothing to do. How much saner it would have been to have realized that some down-time was to be expected with such a job. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for customer-service folks to get caught up in their down-time and ignore what they have been hired for: to provide good service to customers.

        9. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree. I did like two craft shows for my hobby last year so I joined a bunch of vendor groups and I see people in there complaining all the time about how they’d never buy from someone who had their phone out which seems so wildly entitled to me. Like I should spend 8 hours bored out of my mind to look worthy of them even considering entering my booth for 3 minutes and potentially paying me $10 for a pair of earrings. I’m okay missing out on that sale I guess lol

          (I can see how it makes sense in a kitchen area like in the letter though, but I think OP should just stick to the health code as their reason. They’re going to get more pushback if they are actually saying stuff like “I don’t pay you to text your boyfriend.”)

      4. MicroManagered*

        You are conflating having your phone OUT with having your phone on your person. If someone has their phone in a pocket/put away, you should actually have no idea it’s there. There’s nothing to police.

        If they’re abiding by the rules, nobody should even be able to tell if your phone is on your, in your locker, in your car, etc.

      5. lilsheba*

        We need to turn this around on customers who insist on being on the phone texting or talking when you’re trying to get their order. Put the phone down or you don’t get helped.

        As for health issues, really? One could stick the phone in a plastic bag and that solves the health issues. I’d be far more worried about the counter having germs than my phone.

      6. Pierrot*

        When I worked at a retail small business, I would at times use my phone on the sales floor because I was in charge with social media and the online store. I never did this when the store was busy or a customer needed help finding something specific, but one time a customer walked into the store (which was empty), I put down my phone and greeted her, she complained about the mask requirement and left, and then wrote a negative review about how I was on my phone when she arrived.

        My point is that sometimes customer service workers are on their phone because they have additional responsibilities beyond talking to customers face to face. When I worked at a restaurant, the manager would use her phone to text the owner. In my experience, everyone knows that if they have to use their phone at work, they wash their hands afterwards.

      7. Jack Russell Terrier*

        This is why

        a. You have procedures – locker, allowed a five minute pee/phone break every X amount of time etc
        b. Let the prospective employee know this is health code situation and here’s the procedure so they can self select out if necessary

        My husband works for the National Archives solely with classified documents. Because of this, he has to keep his phone in a locker when working – the camera is the issue.

        He has a work phone number, so anyone who knows him can call him.
        He also has breaks every 2-3 hours where he goes out and checks his phone.
        He also puts his work number on his cell phone voicemail greeting so a hospital could get in touch with him in an emergency. That works well if you are confident random people aren’t going to be disturbing a business.

    3. JSPA*

      Their pockets are also not “phone in use.” If they have vulnerable family members / a reasonable expectation of a true emergency, chances are good that they can set their phone on vibrate, allow only specfic calls to vibrate, and take a break to check when the phone vibrates.

      Defaulting from one person chatting to, “that’s the only reason they need their phones” is a dangerous leap. The LW maybe needs to sit for a bit with their assumption that (younger?) (female?) (lower-paycheck?) (upbeat and chatty?) people can’t be a crucial emergency contact in one way or another.

      There are 8-year-olds who are the only person in their family who speaks the local language well enough to translate for doctors. They don’t live in a permanent state of crisis; they do grow up and get jobs.

      LW, you have no legitimate way of knowing why your employees might need to know, in close-to-real-time, that they’re wanted for something more life-saving than pulling a shot or bagging a pastry. Tell them the rules, and work with them on individualized solutions.

      If someone isn’t pulling their weight after they asked for a 30 second-per-half-hour “check SMS” break because they’re taking 5 minutes every half hour and laughing so hard it distracts the people who are working, manage the problem behavior and the problem person.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        LW3 specifically mention s “them not chatting to their boyfriends”, which suggests a certain disdain for the staff who are probably young and female. LW3 might also like to reflect that phones are much more than simple devices with which to chat to boyfriends. There are many health related apps such as blood glucose monitoring and insulin dosage calculations. Not to mention digital wallets within the phone holding ID and credit documents. You definitely need to provide a safe storage place as you would for employees’ valuable property.

        1. Seashell*

          Males can have boyfriends too.

          If the person in question actually has a medical need for a phone, they can asked to be accommodated accordingly.

          1. Moryera*

            Of course they can. I sincerely doubt, however, that this fact crossed LW’s mind when making a flip comment about a behavior our society strongly associates with teenage girls.

        2. Wingwing*

          LW3 specifically mention s “them not chatting to their boyfriends”, which suggests a certain disdain for the staff who are probably young and female.

          Yeah, I definitely gave LW some serious side-eye after that remark.

          Also, employees aren’t property. Sometimes (more often than we’d all like) you’re going to need to keep vigilant about things outside of your job. That doesn’t automatically mean you’re not properly doing your job. And if you *aren’t* properly doing your job, the phone is likely a symptom, not the actual main issue that needs to be rectified.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        I agree with this. The phone isn’t the problem, behaviour with the phone is, so manage the actual problem.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I think the eye-rolling for the “what if there’s an emergency” is that so often this is cited by people who have no expectation of an emergency (e.g. no family member undergoing surgery) and in fact do not appear to be responding to an emergency when they drop out of the conversation with you so they can gaze at their phone. People who actually expect an emergency follow the steps in your first paragraph, if they’re in a situation where they are expected to appear engaged in meatspace events.

        I’m old enough to remember setting my flip phone on the table during a meeting “just in case daycare calls” and that being reasonable because the only reason my phone would ring in the next half hour was a sudden emergency at daycare. That’s no longer true.

        “What if it’s an emergency?!!”
        “It’s a new TikTok alert.”
        “What if it’s an emergency?!!”
        “It’s a text reply saying ‘lol’.”
        “What if it’s an emergency?!!”
        “It’s an email offering to increase the size of certain body parts.”

        1. Smithy*

          The ‘what if there’s an emergency’ – I think often hits two faults.

          The first is that for adults who are regular caregivers, regardless of if their job does or does not allow them regular access to their cell phone – they will coordinate plans on how to be accessed in an emergency. Whether it’s a job that demands a total ban of the cell phone or just less frequent access, there are always methods of alerting them to varying levels of emergency. Maybe not instantly, but promptly.

          The second is that for adults who aren’t regular caregivers and therefore emergencies are ad hoc – the most common expectation is that someone can be reached on their cellphone. The idea of calling someone’s place of employment is far far less common than it used to be. Growing up, two of the first numbers I had memorized were my house phone and my mom’s office. And even then, what information she’d get that she could respond to promptly vs immediately was very different than when you have a cell phone.

          I have a job where I can have my phone on me almost all of the time and am available to usually text regularly to sporadically based on the day. I have other friends where it’s like “I was at work, couldn’t text.” Sometimes it’s largely the job, sometimes it’s a combination of the job and the person (where they could check their phone during breaks but don’t). But I do think that this goes to the point of why its so important to say upfront “this job only allows you to check your phone on break, if you have caregiving duties – here are the options we offer” when hiring.

        2. Saddy Hour*

          Sure, so address those performance concerns accordingly. If the employee is getting a million alerts an hour and checking every one: “Our expectation is that you will focus on your work. We’ve observed you frequently becoming distracted by your phone. Can you tell me what’s going on?” If the answer is that they have to check every alert in case it’s an emergency, you can still express that the frequency is too much and they need to limit the checks to 1-2x/hr (or whatever). If they need to respond to the alerts (or spend more time than just checking their lock screen), they need to step away for a break. If they’re continuing to focus on their phone or they are taking too many breaks, you can address that as a pattern of poor performance. Because their poor performance is really the issue here! The phone isn’t a brainslug that is covertly making them terrible at their job; they are just not performing their job to standard and that’s an individual problem, not a staff-wide problem.

          For what it’s worth, your example about not having an expectation of an emergency (no one close is undergoing surgery) seems to fly in the face of how you used to stay connected. You don’t have an expectation of an emergency when your kid goes to daycare, that would be absurd. But you still need to be accessible because emergencies are often unexpected, and people don’t stop relying on us in our personal lives just because we work in customer-facing jobs.

          1. Observer*

            “Our expectation is that you will focus on your work. We’ve observed you frequently becoming distracted by your phone. Can you tell me what’s going on?” If the answer is that they have to check every alert in case it’s an emergency, you can still express that the frequency is too much and they need to limit the checks to 1-2x/hr (or whatever)

            Yeah. Because if they say that either they have no idea of what they are doing or they are not honest. No one needs to be checking all tik-tok alerts “in case of emergency”, for instance. And most people don’t need to respond to every random number “just in case”, etc

        3. Observer*

          is that so often this is cited by people who have no expectation of an emergency (e.g. no family member undergoing surgery)

          That’s the only expectation of emergency? Not in my world! Not in the world many of us inhabit, for that matter.

          I know that if I get a call from my sisters during the day, it’s probably an emergency, because they don’t do calls during the day – they are in school. If the emergency response folks for my mother call, IT’S AN EMERGENCY. When my kids were young, if the school called during the day, it was probably an emergency. etc.

          In none of these cases (and the dozens of others I could come up with) was anything “scheduled”. It’s just that there are a lot emergencies that can happen without warning. (If I had someone close to me scheduled for surgery, there is a good chance I would not be at work at all, to be honest.)

        4. Nina*

          Yeah, even if it’s not obvious that someone would have ‘reason for emergency’… they might. My partner’s grandma’s fall alert button would call me if she pressed it during the day, because my workplace is close to her house and unlike any of her actual grandkids, my job is of a kind where vanishing suddenly for an hour in the middle of the day (less than once a month) isn’t really a problem.

          Adults with the kinds of phones where tik-tok and email exist are also adults with the kinds of phones that can be verrrrrry selective about what notifications are allowed through during working hours. Heck, I can tell mine ‘let Partner’s Grandma’s calls through immediately, but only let Mom’s calls through if she calls twice in five minutes, and don’t let Sister’s calls through at all’.

          We need more leeway to support each other in society, not less!

          1. Observer*

            Adults with the kinds of phones where tik-tok and email exist are also adults with the kinds of phones that can be verrrrrry selective about what notifications are allowed through during working hours.

            Indeed. And it’s reasonable to expect people to use those features.

            But give people that chance.

      4. Moira the Cat*

        My mom and aunt all grew up before cell phones, and they only became common when I was a teenager. If there was an emergency (luckily nothing too major), we called the landline or went to a neighbor. We dealt with it. My aunt gets frustrated that at her grocery job so many employees say “I need to be available for my kids!” You don’t need to be available at a moment’s notice constantly.

        They can leave it in the car or a locker. I’m generally more sympathetic to workers than bosses, but people are way too attached to their cell phones these days.

        1. Observer*

          If there was an emergency (luckily nothing too major), we called the landline or went to a neighbor. We dealt with it

          Yes, let’s be all “kids these days”. Except that you have a few major holes here.

          1. “Nothing too major” makes a HUGE difference. When stuff is major, not having a solid way to contact someone can be literally life threatening.

          2. Calling the land line is great if you have a landline to call, and the person at the other end of the landline will pass on the message. That was always a potential problem, and it’s gotten worse. I made my husband get a beeper (this was pre cell phone days) after two incidents where there was a genuine emergency and I couldn’t get through to my husband.

          3. I’m sure you dealt with it. Not everyone can. Besides the issue of how major things are, sometimes a kid (or other person) CANNOT deal with it. It’s not a matter of competence but of circumstances. eg A 15yo can look out for their younger sibling. But if the younger sibling falls and cuts themselves and needs emergency care, the 15 YO CANNOT “deal with it”. Because most doctors, urgent care center and / or ER’s won’t provide medical to a kid without a parent or guardian. Same for older adult family members in many cases. So, if someone gets a call from their parent’s aid that Parent needs some emergency care, then they need to go. Life happens. And sometimes kids are NOT able to deal with it, not because “kids these days” but because either things have changed or it’s never been in their capacity, but we just accepted the danger and fall out. (Like we used to accept the preventable deaths of children in car accidents, till we decided as a society that enough is enough and now we mandate car seats.)

        2. Dahlia*

          But you knew your neighbours. I don’t know my neighbours. They don’t know me. They don’t have family here because they immigrated from another country. They have two small kids. If one of them got hurt at school, they need to be available.

          If my neighbour’s 5 year old ends up in the hospital with a broken leg, that kid should not have to wait 4 hours until her retail working parent can check their phone because unless it’s life-threatening, the hospital cannot treat them, including pain relief, without parental consent.

        3. M. from P.*

          Yeah but also, since nobody else had a phone either, the whole system of communication in society was structured differently and they were systems and expectations we no longer have.

    4. MicroManagered*

      Food service employees get mistreated and abused in all kind of weird ways that wouldn’t fly in any other industry. When I worked in food service (these were the blackberry days), managers would try to “take” cell phones and I was always the ONLY one who refused.

      This was usually a unilateral response to one or two people having their phones out. One time I said I’d turn in my phone only if you give me $500 cash as a deposit in case my personal property was lost, damaged, or stolen while in your care. Somehow I never got asked after that.

      1. Some words*

        So the regulation about no cell phones in food prep areas (because they’re not clean)? Okay to ignore that?

        1. Nina*

          Keep it in your pocket on vibrate. It’s no cleaner or dirtier than anything else you have in your pants pockets under your whites. If it does ring, you can remove yourself from the food prep area. ‘Take the phones away’ is treating employees like children and it is wrong.

        2. Emelius*

          having a cell phone in a food prep area does not automatically mean there is a sanitary issue. if my phone stays in my pocket and does not get touched, there is no way that it’s going to contaminate anything. in the event that I did have to take my phone out and use it for some reason, I would simply wash my hands before returning to work, just as I do after using the restroom or taking a bag of trash out to the dumpster.

          1. MicroManagered*

            Not to mention most jobs that involve food prep also involve disposable gloves. If you’re using/changing gloves appropriately (i.e. take gloves off if your phone goes off and you need to check it, put new ones on when you’re done) — it’s a non-issue.

        3. MicroManagered*

          You got it. If your phone is in your pocket and not being used like you were asked, it should be a complete non-issue.

          If there’s a problem, address the behavior with the individual(s) who have a behavior problem. The solution is not to hold EVERYONE’S personal property hostage like they’re in prison.

    5. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      This was my thought as well. It’s not reasonable for someone to expect people to leave valuable personal items on a shelf.

    6. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      yes! I worked at several places where all we had were hooks in the back. Anyone could have stolen something.

      I’m not doubting the OP but I’ve worked in food service and it was not a health code issue to have our phone with you. Just that if you used it you would have to wash your hands, just like if you had used the cash register or bathroom.

      If you don’t want phones that is fine but OP Please find a way for your employees to safely keep their phones and their personal belongings (purses and wallets, etc) locked up. It will actually help you because if something happens to a phone or another employee steals something from someone’s bag I think you could be help partially responsible because you do not allow your employees to have their belongings with them but you do not have any place safe for them to store it either.

      1. Chirpy*

        I worked somewhere that had gotten lockers in response to someone going through everyone’s coat pockets and stealing dozens of paychecks. And that coat room was directly across from the manager’s office and on a floor where customers were not allowed, it “seemed” safe.

    7. It Might Be Me*

      At old, old job we provided lockers for everyone who didn’t have an office or designated cube with locking drawers. We still had a problem. People would disappear for 30 minutes on a restroom break. Other staff could hear their conversations. Plans for the weekend. Shoes. The important stuff.

      My Millennial son was a manager at one job and people being on their phones rather than tending to customers was his number one complaint. They too had lockers.

  2. youngin*

    Re:Answer to 4, does anyone have a sense on when this is appropriate in academia? I’m a grad student and based on my experience, currently low wage, and potential upcoming broadening job responsibilities, I’m considering asking for a raise. But I’m not sure how that would affect things like a small group/lab’s budget, or if my boss has to get high-up decisions to increase funding, or whatever else.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Long-term, yes, but it’s unlikely to help within the timeframe that youngin needs now.

    1. Well...*

      I know firsthand people who have asked individually for COL adjustments from professors and gotten raises this way, but it doesn’t work everywhere. It really depends on the funding source and the university. Asking improves your odds to >0% though, so there’s no harm in it! And if the answer is no, you can use that as an opportunity find out more about why that’s the case and what the next steps are to advocate for change.

      You may already have access to a union and not be aware. You could reach out to them (maybe the grad student or postdoc union, or even staff/faculty unions) because they are typically tapped in to how pay structures work at your local university and might be able to give you useful information/tools for how to best advocate for yourself.

      Good luck!

      1. Well...*

        Also, if you raise the issue, your prof might be able to point you towards higher paid fellowships to apply for etc. If your pay is on her radar, she may notice opportunities she otherwise might have missed to help increase your pay. Profs really should do this as a baseline, but if the answer is “apply for these nicely paid fellowships,” sometimes profs don’t want to overwork/pressure you or throw too much at you at once. If she knows you’re interested, then she has less reason to hold back.

      2. Well...*

        One last thing! I got a pay bump when I passed my qualifying exams (aka, advanced to candidacy). There maybe something like that coming up for you, and if pay is very critical, your advisor/committee may be flexible and allow you to take your exams earlier. If you don’t know it will increase your pay, you may be tempted to wait/prepare more, etc (I know I was), so it’s good to inquire about these things now.

    2. JSPA*

      if you’re paid off a grant, the pay is specified in the grant, thus planned 1 to 5 years in advance of when you’re getting paid; furthermore, the pay (or pay band) may be specified at the federal level. You can ask if there’s leeway in the grant (sometimes there is, if for example there was funding from day 1, for a post-doc who didn’t come until months later than expected); you can ask when the next grant is going in, and whether there’s room to ask for more. But in general, educational level, years experience and salary listed are going to determine the paycheck in ways that your PI doesn’t control in real time.

      1. Well...*

        I know people who were paid off of grants who asked for COL raises and got them. It depends on how flexible the money is for the grant, but sometimes you can move money around from travel into salary, etc. I’ve also seen it done for people paid out of startup package money if the funds are fungible (like, the PI just dips a bit into their consumables budget, for example).

      2. BethDH*

        Some of these do allow COL adjustments even if they’re set ahead of time, especially if there is existing money in the budget. I was on one of those federal grants as a post-doc and they had extra money from a staffing thing that fell through. I seem to recall that the PI had to write a letter getting permission so it took a while.

        Our grants manager for the institution walked the PI through the process because the PI had never done it before and didn’t know it could be done, so it might be worth framing the question as “could we check in with Grants Contact to see whether there would be a way to do this.” Most institutions getting significant funding from grants have someone in this role, if not multiple people.

    3. Anonymous Koala*

      This is truly a ‘know your audience’ sort of thing; in the labs where I did my grad work and post doc, a grad student asking for a raise was unheard of and asking would have made one look seriously out of touch – student stipends were set by the university and generally followed NIH guidelines, and there was a definite air of “if it’s good enough for person A, it should be good enough for you.” We tried pushing back as a group once, but didn’t get very far.
      However, the suggestion to apply for other grants and fellowships with higher stipends is a good one. My advice would be to be careful about which fellowships you apply for and how you communicate your intent to apply for those with your PIs – some fellowships are intended to replace PI funding, not supplement it. My school also had an emergency fund where students could apply for grants to cover unexpected expenses – a car that broke down, a death in the family, etc.

    4. Anne of Green Gables*

      I’m in academia but am not faculty, so keep that in mind.

      We have firm pay bands that you cannot go beyond. Our raises are not merit based at all. When we get raises, it’s essentially everyone. The majority of these come because the state legislature has given state employees at academic institutions a raise. It is pretty clearly laid out who is eligible: full time/part time, faculty only or all employees, and what date you had to be employed by to qualify.

      The previous college president would frequently go to the board and get across-the-board raises for employees at our institution each year. The current college president believes it is solely the job of the legislature to provide raises, so she has not done this. We have gotten occasional “all employees get a one-time bonus of X” which comes no where near matching prices of inflation or making our pay competitive.

    5. Coyote Tango*

      If you’re comfortable with your manager, you could ask what the procedure would be for seeking a raise. I’m in academia and it’s my constant frustration that I can’t request merit based raises for my employees. Either I’ve got to show that they’ve taken on significantly different work than what they already did, or we have to fiddle with the position to reclassify it, etc.

      Knowing more about your fiscal cycle would help as well — our budgets just went in so if I wanted to try to get you a raise, it would be more difficult because I don’t have cushion already there.

    6. Philly Philly*

      The grad students at Temple University (Philadelphia) recent went on strike for an increase in wages. I’m not familiar with all the details, but a google search could help provide you and your fellow grad students with a template on what you could possibly do.

      The president of Temple University also recently resigned, though new sources attribute that to crime in the area. But the timing is shortly after the university reached a deal with the striking grad students for an increase in wages.

    7. Anon Admin*

      I work in budgeting and grants in academia. The quick and unfortunate answer is no, usually grad students can’t individually receive raises – hence the larger push for unions.

      The more complicated answer depends on your particular position, though. Is your current boss also your graduate advisor? Are you being paid a stipend as a grad student (typical for science grad students)? Are you working a job that doesn’t have as much to do with your graduate studies (more typical for social sciences/humanities)? What is your official paid title through the university? (Is it grad student, TA, lab manager, etc?)

      If you’re receiving a grad student stipend, there is (almost) absolutely no way to negotiate a raise on an individual level. Your institution decides how much of a stipend they will pay to all grad students, and that’s that. If this is your situation, you will have to work with your peers to broadly push for raises for all.

      If you’re working a side job like a TA and being paid for that, it is possible that you might be able to negotiate for a raise… but again, this depends on how you obtained this job. If it was assigned to you as part of your grad school duties, then it might be a pre-determined rate with your stipend.

    8. Samwise*

      Ask. The answer will probably be no, but there’s nothing wrong with asking. It’s not your job to worry about the budget, funding, decision making, whatever. If your boss needs to ask someone above her, she can do that.

      And joining or helping to start a union: yes. But not in lieu of asking directly.

      Academia, the bastion of high-mindedness and and exploitation of labor.

    9. Candy*

      Ask for a raise if you feel you deserve a raise. It’s not up to you to balance your department’s budget or source its funding

  3. Sexism is real*

    LW1 – I feel your pain, to an extent. Last month, in an interview for a private school, I was asked about my reproductive/childcare plans. I came up with something like “my spouse and I have discussed it and we’re not worried.” I got the job but didn’t take it, citing that and the skirt/dress only dress code for women. I made sure to link to the EEOC because I didn’t know want other people to go through that. The principal was like “best of luck!” without addressing my concerns.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      Skirts and dresses only? That was regressive and primitive when I was young in a fundamentalist area 40 years ago! This school might as well come out and say it’s trying to take us back to the 1800s.

      1. TomatoSoup*

        There are conservative groups within a variety of religions who think that the current world is just so horrible that need to be extra restrictive.

        I have spent much of my adult life in a fair amount of contact with different Chassidic/Haredi Jewish communities. People like to romanticize their practices as more traditional/original Judaism, when there are a lot of reasons that’s not true. Not least of which, many of those restrictions weren’t even a part of their own communities 40 years ago. I’ve seen this in some US Evangelical communities too and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were others.

    2. lilsheba*

      yeah that’s a big no for me. You don’t tell me I can only wear skirts and dresses, I dress how I like and that is going to be what’s comfortable.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I skirts and dresses almost all the time- and I would be furious if anyone told me I *have* to wear them.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Same here. I prefer skirts to pants, but I’d still object to being told I wasn’t allowed to wear pants.

  4. Zanshin*

    LW 1: why can’t cellphones just be left in their pockets or fanny packs, and the rule be to not take them out except on breaks?

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Oh, it wouldn’t be followed. One person “just has to check this real quick,” and if they do it the other employees think it’s fine, and boom.

      1. Well...*

        This argument feels like lazy management to me. If you handle people breaking the policy on an individual basis, then other employees won’t think it’s fine. If you ignore them most of the time then I guess you would be worried about this…

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          It’s not lazy management. Apparently you’ve never managed people in retail or food service. This is the kind of thing that is very difficult to police and, given the health code implications, makes sense to not have phones in pockets.

          Besides, most people in retail/food service are not going to be wearing a fanny pack or purse while on duty.

          1. Kaiko*

            The “health code violation” is a hilarious distraction/non-reason. Like, if you think phones are dirty, wait until you find out about money…but presumably there would be no health concerns in handling that, right?

            1. BethDH*

              In the food service places I worked (admittedly, n=2) this is why they had one person at the register and people preparing food didn’t touch it.

              1. Peanut Hamper*

                That always been my experience, as well.

                A lot of people are speaking from ignorance here.

              2. lilsheba*

                In casual restaurants that is NOT true. Waitresses always take payment at the register. So they handle dirty ass money and then food. YUCK.

                1. Butterfly Counter*

                  When do waitresses handle food? They handle the plates and platters the food is ON, but never the food. That job belongs to the cooks and expediters.

            2. Someone Online*

              This is something the local health department has decided, so it doesn’t matter what the owner believes or doesn’t believe. It just is. And handling money is a requirement of doing business; handling a cell phone is not a requirement for this particular position. It’s not a direct comparison.

              1. lilsheba*

                Yet a phone is handled by ONE person and money is handled by god knows how many people, and it’s supposed to be safer? I don’t think so.

          2. Well...*

            Maybe overall attitudes and therefore professional norms surrounding those who work in retail and food service devalue the humanity of their workers? Just a thought…

          3. Pierrot*

            I worked extensively in food and retail. The manager tried to confiscate our phones before our shifts and it lasted about a week. The policy changed back to: If you need to use your phone occasionally, you can step off the restaurant floor and wash your hands after or wear gloves. If you are using it too frequently or take it out on the floor, you will be written up.

            This policy worked and didn’t lower morale in the same way that locking our phones in a safe did. If you have adult employees and treat them like children, it will lead to resentment in other ways. The attitude that service industry staff don’t have discipline and aren’t capable of following rules is pretty backwards. There are ways to address rule breaking without penalizing the entire group.

      2. JSPA*

        To me, that translates as, “I hire people I can’t trust, to not put the business at risk, and proceed on that assumption.”

        “If there is a phone out behind the counter for any reason short of a mass shooting in the store, you will, at my discretion, be going home without pay starting immediately, for a period of 1 day to 1 week for a first offense” puts a serious spin on the situation, without assuming that people are incapable of retaining and acting on information.

        I mean, they don’t spit on the pastries, right? They do wear whatever gloves or haircovering are required? They’re not incapable of following the health code in other ways.

        1. High Score!*

          You’d think so, but food service is, well, it’s tough to find anyone to do it, managers often can’t raise pay high enough to change this, so they take whoever applies with no background checks. You wouldn’t eat out if you knew what went on behind the counter.

          1. Observer*

            One of the reasons it’s so hard to retain food service people, though is because of this kind of mistreatment. No one with any options will stick around for this kind of treatment. It’s not just a matter of low pay.

            1. Esmeralda Fitzmonster*

              Observer, I worked in hospitality for 25 years and you are exactly right.

        2. DanniellaBee*

          “If there is a phone out behind the counter for any reason short of a mass shooting in the store, you will, at my discretion, be going home without pay starting immediately, for a period of 1 day to 1 week for a first offense.”

          This is a great way to get employees to quit en mass during a labor shortage for service jobs. Horrible, horrible management advice.

        3. Samwise*

          I hire people who will look at their phones when it’s not busy and then they’re distracted when a customer needs help.

          Also: the health code says no phones and don’t want the fines and bad press (our newspaper prints a weekly roundup of health dept scores, with details, and we’re a good sized city not a tiny town) that go with health code violations.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I think you can set up a group that uses phones that way as a social norm. But policing and maintaining it is difficult if it’s the case that you have a bunch of new people cycling in.

        You need to either change your society’s norms, or have an established little subculture where people quickly recognize and adapt to the norms. (In the early days of cell phones, a relative remarked on how in Asia people were very quiet talking on the cell phone, in contrast to the US where “The thing with Pat and the one-ply toilet paper” was a saga that the entire bus deserved to hear at volume.

      4. Nina*

        Then do your job as a manager and manage it. ‘Hey, Employee, remember you can’t have your phone out when you’re in the customer-facing area, please don’t make me tell you again’. Don’t penalize everyone for what one person’s doing. They’re not schoolkids and you’re not their teacher (and that would be bad pedagogy too, but it’s inexcusable when it’s adult employees rather than minor students).

      1. GythaOgden*

        There’s no edit button! We all know what you mean, though :).

        And as someone who has been guilty as charged with the phone on reception, there’s always that moment when you think you’re safe but the person happens to come in at that exact moment, and there’s zero plausible deniability because yeah, he saw the Sudoku puzzle. You COULD have been typing an email to someone, yeah, but you WEREN’T.

        It’s actually less hassle just to keep it away from my hands entirely.

      1. Pierrot*

        They definitely are a health code issue but if an employee needs to step out to use their phone, as long aa they wash their hands carefully + wear gloves when directly handling food if necessary, that will prevent most germs from spreading. It’s like going to the bathroom—basic hygiene can reduce the risk of problems. I am not saying it’s good for restaurant workers to be on their phones, but if someone has to make a phone call, it’s not the end of the world so long as they wash their hands.

  5. Observer*

    #3- Cell phones.

    If it’s a health code violation, then there is nothing to talk about. Tell people that this is the rule and give them a SAFE place to leave their phones.

    If it’s not actually a health code regulation, but you think it’s a health code problem because you think that phones are dirty, you need to take a step back. Also the assumption that “have a cell phone means that they are going to spend all their time with their boyfriends” is not something that makes you look good. If someone spends too much time goofing off address it. But you are supposedly dealing with adults here, not little children.

    By the way, the issue of people being worried about missing an emergency is not necessarily made up. You simply have no way to know who is an emergency contact, nor for what kinds of situations.

    1. LikesToSwear*

      Something people don’t really think about, but more and more people are using their phones as auxilliary medical devices as well. I recently started using a continuous glucose monitor and use an app on my phone to check my blood sugar. I don’t always need the phone next to me, but if I’m not feeling well, that’s the first thing I’m checking. Pulling it out of a pocket is a heck of a lot easier than going to a locker.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yep, at my second retail job they were just introducing phone apps for medical purposes and one of our staff had an insulin pump that connected to her phone to warn her if its readings were changing. They had to get special permission for her to keep her phone in her pocket and I remember my managing specifically arguing that this was going to become more common, not less, and they needed to start revising corporate policy accordingly.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Kudos to your manager for realizing that and advocating for an appropriate change in policy rather than “but we’ve always done it XYZ way!”

          Even my high school’s outright ban on pagers in the 1990s held exceptions for certain reasons (medical, mostly). I did know one person who had a medical situation related pager, and the administration was very much “of course you are permitted, obviously we will not give you any grief over it!”.

      2. Rosemary*

        If someone is using it as a medical device, they can get an accommodation for that. Along with agreeing it will be used while on duty ONLY for that purpose. Similarly, if someone has an issue like a sick family member where it is reasonable that they may need to be contacted urgently, they can get special permission to have their phone. But this idea that all people need to have their phone on them at ALL TIMES is ridiculous. They need a safe, secure place to keep it, they need reasonable breaks (to check phone, go to the bathroom, rest their feet), but they do not need access to every text and notification in real time, all the time.

        1. Lizzo*

          And if a family member is sick/there is an emergency, the family can be directed to call the business phone number to reach the employee. I mean, that’s what we did before cell phones, right?

          1. Observer*

            Yes. And it often did NOT work. People not being reachable at work is one of the key reasons that people got cell phones.

            And it’s gotten worse. It’s gotten a lot harder to get someone on the phone at work.

        2. Milfred*

          So let’s let working moms go on their lunch break only to find their daycare called 4 HOURS earlier that their child was sent to the hospital.

          No, it won’t happen every day (or even to most people) but it will happen.

          1. Johanna*

            We managed before cellphones, you know?

            Landlines exist. People who don’t have cellphones exist. There are ways to deal with this. Your addiction to your device is not a winning argument here.

              1. Butterfly Counter*

                What food service or retail does not have a line that can be called? Daycares and babysitters can call the company.

                1. Distracted Librarian*

                  My experience trying to reach restaurants by phone is… not good. Automated call handling and voicemail, no way to reach a human in real time. So no, I don’t think we can be confident that a land line is a viable option anymore.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              Yes, and in the days before cellphones, sometimes one DID indeed only find out one’s child is in the hospital hours later (ask me how I know).

              And in the days before phones were invented at all, sometimes people only found out weeks later what had happened to a loved one.

              Just because people made do with what was the situation doesn’t mean it was good, or that we can’t do better now that we have the means to.

            2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              We managed before cell phones, but sometimes that’s “we managed without knowing when the bus would get to our stop” and sometimes it’s “we managed without being able to call for emergency help half an hour’s walk from the nearest building.” Sometimes it was fine, sometimes it was a nuisance, and sometimes the ambulance didn’t get there in time.

              Cell phone games can be addictive; that isn’t inherent to having a pocket computer and communicator.

            3. C'mon*

              I grew up when they were no cell phones, and yes, we dealt with it. But we don’t live in that world anymore. Unless you expect to be at your job indefinitely, it makes much more sense to list your cell phone number as an emergency contact for your children at school or your parent in assisted living so they know there is a number that they can always reach you at. I have a big family, if there is an emergency, the fastest way to get the word out is to send a group text. I did this when my grandmother fell and broke her hip, so I could keep my focus on her as the EMTs came and got her to the ambulance, and my family met us at the hospital. Yes, emergencies don’t happen every day, but the person dealing with the emergency just won’t have the time to be making calls to everyone’s work place, waiting for them to come to the phone, etc.

            4. Observer*

              We managed before cellphones, you know?

              Your insistence on how “we used to do it” is an even LESS winning argument.

              By that token we should never use antibiotics, seat belts, vaccinations, car seats (for infants). We should get rid of food safety regulations – ALL of them. etc. After all “we managed before” all of these things.

              If you are one of those people passing around memes about how “car seat and seat belt regulations are garbage because we were all just fine without them” then I guess there is nothing for me to say. But if you recognize that these changes actually have saved lives, perhaps you should recognize that better access to communications might also save lives.

              And that’s before you get to the changes that have happened in the last few decades.

            5. JelloStapler*

              So wanting to be sure you are reachable for a emergency with your kid, and not being able to assume that there is a landline (because that IS a thing) available and being answered or accessible means we’re addicted?

              Get with the times.

            6. Nina*

              When landlines existed and cellphones didn’t, bosses who were happy for employees to give out the business number as an emergency contact number for them were also way more common. Not common, but more common. I don’t think I or anyone else I know has a job where calling the business landline to get them in an emergency would fly. I don’t even know where the business landline at my workplace is.

            7. Meghan*

              I will fully admit to an addiction to my phone and I am lucky enough to now work in a place where I can have it out, answering texts/calls as I need to. But even non-emergency situations can become urgent and I’m not sure if I had been working in retail/food service if a manager would have come to get me for a situation that happened last week.

              Nurse calls, my son is in her office sobbing, saying his hips hurt. Weird, but fine, I will call his grandpa who is at most 15 minutes away to see if he can come get my son. Confirm yes, he will go pick up the boy. Wellll, something came up with his work so the nurse called me back about an hour and a half later saying my son had an accident and grandpa hadn’t gotten there yet. Luckily I was able to leave work and head to get my son and while doing that, the nurse called back saying my son had been picked up by grandpa.

              But with just the bare facts- nurse calls, kid’s hips hurt. Would a manager at a busy restaurant or store have come to get me or taken a message and been like “oh this can wait.” And even with the 2nd call of “he’s had an accident” would I get the message then? It was an emergent situation and some may even think it wasn’t urgent, but my kid needed to be taken care of. It did turn into a week of stomach bug/dehydration issues and a zillion doctor’s visits but nothing severe.

        3. Observer*

          similarly, if someone has an issue like a sick family member where it is reasonable that they may need to be contacted urgently, they can get special permission to have their phone.

          The thing here is that you don’t need to have an officially sick family member to be someone’s emergency contact.

          they do not need access to every text and notification in real time, all the time.

          That’s not what anyone is arguing. And putting it that way says to me that either you don’t understand the reality of people’s liver or you are not arguing in good faith.

        4. NancyDrew*

          Rosemary, what do you do for a living? Does your manager require you to be fully separated from your phone while on the clock?

          Just curious.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      I don’t actually think it’s a health code violation, in and of itself. Food service workers handle all kinds of things that are ‘dirty’–such as cash. That’s why they wash their hands frequently, wear gloves, and/or use tongs. Handling a set of keys is common, and those can get dirty too.

      If employees being on their phones inappropriately while on the floor is the problem, have a policy around that. If they must be kept off the floor, provide lockers. If an employee comes to you with a genuine issue–say, a sick family member–try to be flexible.

      1. Tangy Tam*

        Sorry, it most definitely is a violation of health code to have personal items in a food service or food preparation area. It is because they are dirty and can contribute to cross contamination of food. Think about how everyone takes their phones into the bathrooms with them. Who washes their phones?

            1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

              Legitimate question: do health codes not allow for other personal items in your pockets in food prep areas? What do folks normally do with their wallets/keys/etc?

              I don’t usually see food service folks wearing scrubs. Sometimes it’s a uniform, but more commonly folks seem to be wearing street clothes – I’m not sure why phones in pockets would be more problematic from a health code perspective than the jeans you wore on the bus?

              1. amari*

                It’s because you touch your dirty phone with your hands, then use your hands to prepare food. And that’s how some germs are transferred. No one’s using their ass to prepare food. This is why the advice during covid (and always…) is “wash your hands” and not “wash your ass”.

                1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                  Right, but if the phone’s in your pocket you’re not touching it with your hands. And if the objection is that the phone is dirty and can’t be in a food prep areas *even if it’s in a pocket*, then I’m wondering how it’s more of a risk than street clothes that have been who-knows-where.

                2. Just Another Techie*

                  I think it’s because there’s a much higher risk someone will break the rules and take a phone out of their pocket than that they will break the rules and take their housekeys out of their pocket or randomly touch their backside or whatever.

              2. Need More Sunshine*

                There’s usually an area for employees to keep their personal belongings – purse, jacket, wallet, keys, phone, a book to read on break, whatever else. I’m not brushed up on the health codes anymore since I now work in the office for our restaurant/grocery, but also don’t allow phones to be carried around. Both for cleanliness reasons and because, like it or not, they are a huge distraction. That being said, we’re a rare instance of food service employees actually getting dedicated breaks throughout the day when they can check their phones, and if someone had a reason to keep theirs on them, we’d be flexible with it.

              3. Hlao-roo*

                I don’t have food service experience and Need More Sunshine has answered you very well. I just wanted to chime in that as an office worker who keeps my phone, wallet, and keys in my pockets: I never take out my wallet or keys when I’m at work, but I take my phone out of my pocket multiple times a day to check it. I wouldn’t find it unreasonable to say that people could keep their wallets and keys in their pockets (because most people will have no trouble keeping those items in their pockets) but not phones (because most people will check their phones if they are easily checkable).

            2. Pierrot*

              When I worked at a restaurant, keeping a phone in a pocket or apron was not a health code violation so long as it wasn’t used around the food. If the person NEEDED to use their phone, they’d step away from the restaurant floor/anywhere they’d come into contact with food and then wash their hands carefully after. Similar to people using the bathroom, handling cash, and bussing tables. I washed my hands constantly when I worked in food service in addition to wearing gloves when I handled food or using utensils to handle the food.

        1. Grim*

          I would hope anyone working in food service is wearing gloves or washing their hands before touching people’s food, after they’ve touched their phone or anything else! The hygiene concern honestly seems like a bit of a red herring to me, because as people have pointed out, food service employees are constantly handling dirty things like cash, keys, register, possibly even the restaurant’s own phone, and hopefully washing their hands afterwards. If the concern is about distraction and how it looks to customers, then say that.

          I used to work in fast food and currently work in nursing, and we’re absolutely allowed to keep our phones on us, with the expectation that they stay in our pockets and general principles of hygiene are followed.

          I feel like ideally phone use should be treated like any other problem behaviour— make it clear to employees that they’re not to use their phones in front of customers or while handling food, and if anyone is caught excessively texting on the clock, bring it up with them. Obviously this is a pretty optimistic view of regulating phone use and might not work out so smoothly in reality, but bored and uncommitted employees are gonna find some other way to slack off regardless of if their phone is in their pocket or in their car.

          1. WS*

            I worked in a medicine preparation area where the rules were quite strict, so I would think that a food preparation area might be similar – hair covering, face covering, gloves. But if they’re in a food serving area, interacting with customers, taking money, cleaning things, that’s quite different and I can’t see how a phone would be dirtier than money!

            1. I am Emily's failing memory*

              Yeah, it can really vary. A kitchen or a dedicated food prep area in the back may be more likely to insist on no personal items and rely on that and hand washing before beginning work and after breaks.

              A Subway/Chipotle type place where they make the food in front of you at the counter, I’ve never seen gloves not required, and it’s not uncommon for one person to be on register and others on food prep, nor for everyone to ring up the orders they made themselves and simply remove their gloves after the food is bagged in order to ring up and then putting a fresh pair of gloves on before going back to the start of the line to help the next customer.

              Then you have a place like Starbucks where the counter employees are barely handling food, mainly just drink cups and maybe using tongs to remove premade food from a display cabinet, and I don’t think I usually see gloves on those folks – although they seem to more commonly keep one person on register who isn’t making drinks, but that person is usually the one who wields the pastry tongs even though they’re also handling money, so presumably the use of tongs instead of hands is what makes that meet the health code standard.

              1. Chirpy*

                Former Subway worker here. We were required to wash hands and change gloves after touching money. It was before cellphones were common, but we had a dedicated area in back where we were allowed to keep personal drinks and it’s likely where phones would be allowed today. I could see that manager just saying to be sure phones went in pockets, not on the counter, and we had to wash our hands after drinking anything anyway so it wouldn’t have been a big deal.

            2. Nina*

              I’ve worked in food (big factory rather than direct-to-customer, but believe me the rules are still intense), and I’ve worked in aviation cleanrooms, and I’ve worked in microbiology labs where having your bare breathing face within 30 cm of a sample would invalidate a week’s worth of testing, and in none of those places was ‘your phone must be off your person’ a thing. Keep it in your pocket, sure. Step out of the room if you need to touch it, sure. Regown and rescrub before coming back, absolutely. ‘Phone cannot enter the room’ I’ve only encountered in an NMR facility where nothing ferromagnetic and no digital information storage devices were allowed either – for the safety of the devices.

          2. Lilo*

            You actually can’t wear gloves in a lot of food service jobs. There’s evidence it’s much less safe anyway because people wash their hands more than they change gloves. But any job that involves high heat you don’t want to wear gloves because getting a burn with gloves on can make the burn far worse (like if the plastic melts on your skin).

            1. Pierrot*

              I worked at a baker/restaurant and I wore gloves sometimes but I’d always throw them out after coming into contact with another surface or especially bussing a table. But yeah, we wash our hands constantly and that’s the most important thing.

          3. Chirpy*

            This. I worked at two different fast food places. The first made it very clear that we had to wash our hands and change gloves before touching food, and if we touched money or our clothes or hair. The second…did not…and handled raw meat…

            It’s just a training/ management thing. If you make it clear that cell phones must be in a pocket, only used in dedicated areas and with proper handwashing, that’s a far better solution. When the employees feel respected and have clear, logical instructions, they’re more likely to follow them. My current job requires phones to be put away on the sales floor, but management doesn’t mind if you check them quickly in non-customer areas (quickly being the operative word though).

            The first fast food place is somewhere I’ll still eat at decades later because I know how willing the employees were to keep everything clean (we also were treated like humans, and got free food). The second – well, we were treated like scum who were on the verge of stealing everything- burgers that were made wrong were thrown in a bucket and counted hours later to double check- so naturally some people started eating fries dunked in the mayo container, or using bare hands to touch raw meat and then bread, or one time I even saw a manager re-fry a fish patty that got dropped on the floor. If you treat people badly, they have no incentive to follow the rules.

        2. JSPA*

          Their face is also in the bathroom, as are the rest of their clothes. Even if you have them take off a layer or put on a layer, there’s still plenty that’s exposed to the toilet flush plume.

          Sanitary rules vary from place to place, and the focus is always one of risk reduction, not absolutes.

          (For that matter, so long as you don’t get it in the microphone or charging port, you can use hand sanitizer on the screen and case of a phone, if you have it out in a place that’s somehow unsanitary.)

          1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

            A little bit of rubbing alcohol on a microfiber cloth will do the same thing. and it’s less sticky than hand sanitizer

        3. Grith*

          People also go to the bathroom wearing clothes and without removing items that need to be used for their jobs – think keys, till swipe cards/fobs, pen and paper if they take orders etc. Cash is one of the dirtiest things we all handle regularly.

          If employees are neglecting customers because they’re on their phones, that’s a direct problem that should be managed by setting clearer expectations, not hiding behind external rules.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Yeah, but part of those expectations are necessarily going to involve telling people not to use their phones.

            People complain here about managers not managing, but telling people not to use their phones is part of managing. Just like I have a clear rule as part of my job on Reception I have to be there at 11am to start my shift, so it is a clear rule in many places that people need to stay off their phones. If I regularly got to work at 11.15, my manager has a right not just to set an expectation that I’ll be on time, but would have the right to make it clear that the rule she needed me to stick to was that I was in at 11.

            You’re not going to get anyone here trying to manage by expectations. This is a clear place where a rule has been made and it’s up to the employee to adhere to it.

        4. doreen*

          I’m not going to say it’s never a violation- but I am going to say way back when I was working in places that served food , it was not at all uncommon to have personal items such as purses/backpacks under the counter or on a shelf in the food preparation area. Because the whole place was either a food preparation area or a food service area – there wasn’t any breakroom or separate storeroom.

      2. Edge Witch*

        Yes, thank you for this.

        I want to add that the “chatting with their boyfriend” comment and the idea of having a designated shelf where employees must keep their cellphones reads to me like a grade school teacher confiscating something from their students until the end of class. This is an employer/employee relationship here; if the employee can’t be trusted not to have their phone out in front of customers (or not to wash their hands after handling their phone) then that’s a performance issue that needs to be addressed.

        If I’m understanding #3 correctly and they are requiring their employees to turn in their phones at the start of their shift, that’s a pretty infantilizing and punitive move. Treating your staff like that is going to lead to a pretty miserable work environment for everybody.

      3. Anonymous 75*

        wait, i thought we were supposed to “believe the LW at face value” here so if they say it’s a health code violation, it’s a health code violation.

        1. Julia*

          People are so touchy about phones. I understand what some of the other commenters are saying about emergencies and some people using them as medical devices *but* a good number of businesses have a landline that can be used for emergencies and if a employee needs to check their glucose with their phone, they can step in the back, take the reading, wash their hands & return to their station (as long as all is well).

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, I can’t understand the handwringing here at all – I’ve worked in both an inn’s kitchen and a drugstore as a shelf stocker and it was completely standard to not have your phone on your person at either of those jobs.

            If you had some legitimate reason for needing your phone, you could talk to your boss and it would be okayed but in the seven and five years I worked those jobs respectively, that happened literally never in the kitchen and maybe a handful of times at the store; nevermind that both of these places could be called via landline which was what people usually did when there was a need.

            But I’m also seriously wondering where they even got the time – I never would’ve been able to check my phone at either of those jobs simply because there was always something to do, so this concept is very foreign to be all by itself.

          2. Observer*

            *but* a good number of businesses have a landline that can be used for emergencies

            It’s far from universal.

            and if a employee needs to check their glucose with their phone, they can step in the back, take the reading, wash their hands & return to their station (as long as all is well).

            That’s actually not how this works in many cases.

            Step number one to dealing with this issue is to actually get your facts right.

            1. should decide on a name*

              That’s actually not how this works in many cases.

              Step number one to dealing with this issue is to actually get your facts right

              As someone who needs to keep their phone on them so they can access certain apps for medical reasons, I approve of this message wholeheartedly.

        2. Proofreader*

          Thank you for bringing this up. It must be frustrating for LW to be told they don’t know what they are talking about.

      4. Myrin*

        OP says “I could get written up for [it] by the health department” – in the spirit of this site’s commenting rules, I don’t see why we should doubt this very definitive statement.

        1. Milfred*

          I think it’s because virtually everyone here has walked into a coffee shop or restaurant and been greeted by someone who was on their cell phone.

          If it was such a serious health code violation, it wouldn’t be so common.

          1. Loulou*

            That last sentence is SUCH funny logic, sorry! I have some terrible news for you about restaurants and the world in general…

      5. Emelius*

        I work as a cook in a cafe. It is not a health code violation for me to have my phone on my person. It is in my pocket turned to silent while I’m working. using it while I am making food or having it sit on the table where I am making the food could result in a violation of health codes. if I do need to do something on my phone for whatever reason, I simply wash my hands before returning to my work, just as I would do if I stopped to use the restroom or take a bag of trash out to the dumpster.

        I don’t think the issue with this letter writer is violating health codes, I think it’s an issue with employees playing with their phones when they should be doing their job. That’s why I said on another thread that I would resign immediately if my manager ever told me that I could not keep my phone in my pocket. I am an adult and I know how to behave professionally at work. I get very tired of managers that don’t want to do their job and discipline employees who violate policies. I’m not going to be told that I can’t have my phone on me because the manager doesn’t want to address it when other people are using their phone instead of working.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        I’ll give the LW half a point here, because some of the employees might be children! Coffee shop is a pretty common first job for teenagers.

        I cringed a little reading the letter because I knew what the response in the comments would be. “I don’t want to pay them to talk to their boyfriends” is in the vein of “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean” which everyone who’s ever worked a retail or food service job loathes.

        My practical advice for phones and food service jobs: don’t have phones where customers can see them, and wash your hands after using one.

    3. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      For the most part, you are NOT working with adults. A lot of restaurant positions are staffed by the youngest of our “adults” and this may be their first actual job. I agree that the adults should be able to staff off their phones, but some of those adult/kid people need to be told. So, the manager needs to manage! I agree that I would not confiscate the phone, but I might take the advice that said “if I catch you on the phone, you’ll be sent home” for a second offense.
      Something a little further to think about:
      What if we, the customers, are going to that restaurant and our wait time is increased by double because someone got sent home for being on their phone. Are we going to care why the restaurant is short-staffed? That’s why the question was worded this way. It’s easier to just take the phone away. Restaurant management is HARD.

      1. BethDH*

        I think you’re probably right that there are likely to be a lot of people in their first jobs so this is probably a place for a lot of the advice Alison had given elsewhere about things like dress code:
        -spell out the rules
        -give examples & benchmarks for parts that are judgment calls
        -expect to do some coaching along the way

    4. I am Emily's failing memory*

      And if the LW is reading and is thinking this advice doesn’t apply because they’re dealing with teenagers, not true adults yet, I would stress that because teenagers are in that in-between stage, the way you treat them can make a big difference. By and large, if you treat them like children, they’ll behave like children; if you treat them like adults, they’ll behave like adults.

      Setting up an environment that’s all rules and authority figures encourages them to think of their job like school – a place they have to go be bossed around by an adult, where they can goof off when an adult isn’t around. You want to set up an environment where they’re asked to contribute to the business’s operations, trusted with some discretion, even a small amount, and it’s emphasized that their decisions matter and that making the right choices (genuine choices where there’s more than one valid decision, not “should I follow this rule or not?”) makes the business more successful.

      It won’t turn all your employees into superstars who never make mistakes or slack off, but it will increase the average level of commitment and motivation, even among teenagers, compared to a job where the employees are treated like little more than flesh and blood robots who carry out preprogrammed tasks without ever being given any leeway to deviate from their programming. And more committed, motivated employees are generally better performers than disengaged ones.

      Even small decisions like letting them choose when to take their own 15 minute break, where you explain guidelines around things like not taking it during a rush, or coming back to their station to help their coworkers if a big group comes in during their break and finishing their break afterwards, and then trust them to apply those principals but still make the choice for themselves when to go on break instead of prescheduling them, is an example of how you can still find ways to give discretion to inexperienced or teenaged workers without introducing any significant risk to the business.

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        You can’t choose when to take your break! Your break needs are contingent on what’s happening on the floor. I’m in retail now and I certainly can’t just say “well! Time for break, customers don’t steal stuff be back soon”

        1. Jackalope*

          That was addressed in the post you’re responding to, though. I am Emily’s failing memory said that you could teach your employees not to take breaks during rushes, come back out of their coworkers were swamped, etc. This was clearly not saying, “Go off the floor and leave the store completely unattended!” I personally haven’t worked in food service but I’ve worked in retail, and we had regular ebbs and flows to our customer visits so you could often tell that, say, after the lunch rush when everyone stopped by on their break you’d get a quiet period and people could go on break. It doesn’t work everywhere but it’s totally a thing at many places.

          1. Valancy Snaith*

            The job of supervisors and management is to schedule breaks for precisely this reason. Employees are not usually expected to manage their own breaks in food service, and they’re scheduled for things like slower periods. Some of these suggestions are wildly out of touch with how food service works!

            1. Myrin*

              Yeah, I’m astounded by how incredibly unrealistic many of the comments on this topic are. This is one of the occasions where you can tell incredibly well who all has had actual experience in the sectors being discussed and who’s coming at it from a completely different angle.

              1. Loulou*

                +10000. I think a lot of people come off as very condescending on these topics while trying to seem understanding. “How can we expect the lowly service workers to possibly control themselves enough to do x?????” where x is a pretty basic function of the job.

              2. I am Emily's failing memory*

                I mean, I worked at more than one fast food place that trusted us hourly workers to use our best judgment for when we would go on break. People recognized they were being trusted to be intelligent enough to assess whether it was a good time or not, and they responded to that trust being placed in them and the privilege that came with it by not choosing to go on break when the place was slammed or when someone else was still on break. I can’t remember a time it ever caused a problem on any shift I worked at either of them. People live up or down to your expectations. If you can explain how they should decide whether or not to take a break, you can let them make the decision and trust they’ll make the right one.

      2. Need More Sunshine*

        Exactly what Retail Not Retail said – rules like not having your phone or scheduled breaks are for specific reasons, not to police employees. Like it or not, customers have a bad perception of seeing an employee on their phone, no matter if it’s to check tiktok or check glucose levels. It’s a part of the job to be approachable and attentive. It’s a part of the job to be on the floor when needed and only go on break when there’s a lull. The way to treat employees like adults about this is to explain the reasons and get their buy-in. And yes, managers are expected to follow these rules too! In our store, the only person allowed to have a phone on them is the social media manager who uses it as a function of their work.

        And that’s not to say there’s no autonomy here! We would roughly schedule breaks and then the team would decide together – “It’s almost time for Lucinda’s break. Do we feel as a team that now’s good or do we need to finish up this task first?” The same can apply to going to check a phone if you’re expecting news – “Hey, I need to go check my phone real quick – are you good to cover the floor for me for a moment?”

        I feel like so many people in this thread are treating this as if there’s no middle ground – requesting no phones on the floor must be awful and manager who do this must be infantilizing. Yes, LW’s other comments are not cool, but that doesn’t mean that phone policy is evil incarnate.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          I’m not saying it’s done with the intent to police or that the rule isn’t sensible. Just that, “Here’s the business reasons why your phone should be stowed, and here’s what you should do if you need to check your phone every so often for an emergency, so you can do it in a way that doesn’t cause problems,” works surprisingly well with employees who feel respected and trusted, compared to, “Your phone goes in the back, no exceptions, because I say so, and if you have time to lean you have time to clean.” People often imagine that if you give employees any leeway they’ll run a mile with it, but in my experience while there is the occasional individual like that, people in general aren’t that way.

      3. Chirpy*

        My first job as a teenager allowed me to do bank drops. Knowing I was trusted that much absolutely made me work harder and better. The second job treated me like dirt so while I didn’t slack off much (having already learned that work ethic) many of my coworkers definitely did.

    5. Milfred*

      Maybe I’m dense, but I don’t see how someone having a cell phone–in their pocket–is a health code violation.

      If you aren’t taking it out of your pocket, how is it anymore a health hazard than having your keys in your pocket?

      What about a wrist watch, earrings, or a hat (which get cleaned way less often than phones and are much dirtier)? Is it a health code violation for someone to poor a cup of coffee while wearing any of these?

      Instead of trying to backdoor this with a “health code violation” excuse, you should just be up front. You don’t want your employees on their cell phones while at work–even during down time. It’s a perfectly reasonable standard.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I don’t see how someone having a cell phone–in their pocket–is a health code violation.

        I don’t think a cell phone in a pocket is a health code violation in and of itself. The discussion about whether employees can/should have cell phones on their person is because a cell phone in a pocket is not likely to stay in the employee’s pocket for their entire shift. Many people (most people?) will check their phone if they can, even if they know they shouldn’t.

        I worked at a summer camp where we had to turn in our cell phones at the beginning of each shift and collect them at the end. We used walkie-talkies to communicate with other staff, and there was a phone number for people (mostly family members, but could be doctor’s offices or daycares) to call to reach an employee in case of emergency. In the case of the summer camp, cell phones weren’t allowed because they could distract staff from caring for the children, not for a health code violation, but it’s the same principle. Sure, if staff members never took their phones out of their pockets, the phones would never be distracting. But realistically, it’s much more of a sure thing to remove the cell phone from the place (pocket) where it can easily become a distraction (summer camp) or germ source (food service).

      2. Lucky Meas*

        Because people ARE taking it out of their pockets. And touching the screen that they touched while they were in the bathroom. And then touching your coffee mug.

        Didn’t we all just come through a pandemic (that is still ongoing)???

    6. Lizcase*

      I think it is really important to outline how one can reach the employee in an emergency and have this information available for new and existing employees and most importantly, make sure employees know if there is a change.

      Earlier this month, I had to contact my sister to let her know our Dad was dying (he passed before I was able to reach her, too quickly for either of us to have driven there). She’s not allowed phones on the factory floor (reasonable) but the company phone menu and options had recently been changed so there was no way to reach reception and no way to contact anyone on the floor without knowing their Supervisor’s name. I tried several menu options and ended up in a loop each time.

      Waiting the 2 hours till I knew she had a break was agonizing for me.

      I now know how to get a hold of her, and hopefully will not need to use this information for many years.

      It is a rare occurence for sure but emergencies do happen and just like an employee has an emergency contact, employees should also know what their emergency contact is (even if it is as simple as call the store/office/etc.)

      1. Kaiko*

        This is such an important point – like, if LW wants his team to stay off their phones, are there alternative and accessible ways for people to get in touch with them? Are they allowed to take personal calls on the work line without getting in trouble? Is there a truly viable alternative system in place rather than cell phones?

        LW, I hate that I’m suggesting this because I fundamentally disagree with your concerns here, but: you may want to consider something like a Yondr bag for your team. It’s a lockable pouch that people keep with them, that prevents people from using their phones. It solves the security/storage question, because folks still have their phones with them.

    7. should decide on a name*

      If it’s not actually a health code regulation, but you think it’s a health code problem because you think that phones are dirty, you need to take a step back. Also the assumption that “have a cell phone means that they are going to spend all their time with their boyfriends” is not something that makes you look good. If someone spends too much time goofing off address it. But you are supposedly dealing with adults here, not little children.

      By the way, the issue of people being worried about missing an emergency is not necessarily made up. You simply have no way to know who is an emergency contact, nor for what kinds of situations.

      ALL OF THIS.

  6. Juniper*

    LW1 #1

    I had a similar issue with being asked about my intentions to get pregnant at a nonprofit where I thought they’d know better due to the population that they serve. The friends I’ve discussed this with have often questioned why I didn’t report it and I said it was their word against mine (there was also no one I could mention it to internally just to be like “you might want to think about this…”).

    It’s different, I know but it’s still shitty. It’s awful to constantly deal with ableism and sexism and other bigotry. I hope that you’re able to put this behind you. I wish this didn’t seem normal or whatever.

    1. TomatoSoup*

      For the future, having your word against someone else’s should not stop you from making a report if you want to do so. Many of the complaints these agencies work on are based at least in part on one person’s word. People feel like they need to have a case that would hold up in a criminal trial but people working at enforcement agencies (Dept of Labor, EEOC, etc) know what these incidents are like.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I agree; but even if one person’s word probably won’t result in changes or fines, a pattern of complaints will get attention. They wouldn’t believe that 7 random women over the span of a year (as an example) have somehow conspired together to lie about discriminatory experiences. Make a complaint with the understanding that you may not make an immediate difference, but not making a complaint will ensure that it continues unchecked.

      2. Excel jockey*

        Adding to this, criminal trials routinely use witness testimony that isn’t objectively backed up with evidence such as recordings.

    2. Sexism is real*

      I posted this up thread but I recently went through something similar during an interview process! I was asked about my pregnancy and childcare plans. I got the job but declined because I felt like it wasn’t a good place for me. I cited two reasons: the dress/skirt only policy as well as the pregnancy question (I made sure to mention the EEOC guidance on not asking it). The person was like “best of luck” and didn’t address my concerns.

  7. Kaye*

    LW1 – just wanted to say that I thought you handled an awkward situation beautifully there, and I like Alison’s advice on taking it forward.

  8. Ellis Bell*

    OP1, oh dear, so “they may not know all the PC terms”…I guess if you know the exact right word you can come out and ask in an interview if their cultural background makes them a religious bigot.

    1. AGD*

      This. The way they handled it was so, so twisted! And if you’d gone to work for them, they would have absolutely kept it up.

    2. DJ Abbott*

      The person who asked the question and sent the email was defending their ignorance, instead of taking an opportunity to learn.
      If LW forwards the email as Allison suggests, they’ll see whether the rest of the nonprofit is like that too, or not. It will be interesting.

      1. OP #1*

        Hi- I’m the original letter writer for question 1. The recruiter did talk to the entire hiring committee and their stance was that if it made me uncomfortable, I should have said so during the interview. Oh, and also, it never happened.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I think you dodged a bullet. The committee sounds like gas lighters. Sorry you had to deal with that.

    3. Ray Gillette*

      I hardly consider myself a hiring expert, but “This role includes working closely with the [group] community. Are you comfortable with that?” is a question that you can legitimately ask every candidate.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        What I recall from when I was hiring for such a role is that our lawyer told us we had to ask the exact same question to every candidate, regardless of what we might have assumed their identity to be. In this case the hiring committee first asked LW’s religion then specifically called that out as the reason they asked if LW felt comfortable working with [specific group]. It’s pretty gross, and not at all the same as the example you gave.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          Yeah, exactly – just saying, one doesn’t need to be an expert to think of a better question than to ask someone their religion based on their appearance (!!!!!!)

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Yes, your version is a vastly superior, since it leaves it open for concerns/barriers the hiring committee may not have considered.

        And that’s even setting aside the (hugely problematic) discriminatory possibilities the org created with how they asked it.

        Bullet dodged, OP1.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        I’m in Ireland, so definitely not familiar with US laws here but when I was interviewing for a job in a Church of Ireland (Anglican) school, they asked if I would be willing to do things like accompanying students to religious services if required. They made it clear they didn’t care what religion I was, so long as I was willing to support their ethos when necessary (which would probably mean attending one or two religious services in the course of a year to supervise the students attending).

        That seemed like a reasonable thing to ask whereas “I’m assuming you are part of x religion and therefore are likely to be prejudiced against y religion” is definitely not reasonable.

    4. Markova*

      Well and the other big problem is that the assumption that one’s religious or ethnic background would make them adversarial to another religion IS discriminatory. So the question was the problem but so we’re the underlying beliefs.

  9. Green great dragon*

    Last LW, in my company it would be absolutely right to reach out now. All our job ads have a closing date, they won’t be moved forward until after the closing date, so see whether she offers you a chat in time. if she does, it can only help your application (or put you off applying I guess). If she doesn’t, then go ahead without it.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      As a former retail worker, I hate that saying. There were absolutely slow days in my department where there was NOTHING left to do. I’d cleaned, I’d dusted, I’d done spot inventory count, I’d checked through items waiting for pickup to make sure everyone had been called within a reasonable time frame…. Yes, in some fast-paced retail and service environments there is always something to do but a LOT of it is just to make you look busy.

      Plus, retail and service workers deserve to have moments of downtime too. How many office workers go get a cup of coffee, chat with a coworker, stand up to stretch, etc? Nobody tells them “if you have time for coffee, you have time for another report.” Retail and service workers deserve moments of ease too and if they literally cannot complete all their work while getting those moments, I suspect you’re understaffed.

      1. Seahorse*

        Yes, this! Working in food service was far more mentally and physically exhausting than any office work I’ve done, and as an exciting bonus, those jobs were also seen as “unskilled” and slightly shameful.

        It’s reasonable to ban general, personal cell phone use on the clock. Low-wage, customer-facing workers aren’t robots though, nor are they inherently lazy slackers. Effective management and clear policies are a better approach here than heavy handed disdain.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I’m grateful that the only place I heard that was online and when I first read it, I assumed it was mocking the type of managers that stand over their staff and object to them taking even a second’s break. It’s both infantalising (both in the rhyming and in the assumption that if a retail worker is taking a break, they are just lounging around)) and pretty demanding (the expectation that you shouldn’t take so much as a second’s break).

        And I worked for a retail store that it noted for its low prices and does this by having the bare minimum of staff and therefore expecting them to work extremely hard (it wasn’t unusual to have three members of staff, in total, staffing a busy supermarket and I remember once a customer dropped a bottle of wine when a member of staff was on break, so the manager had to come down from the office and clean it up, while I served the long line of customers), but even there, nobody would have spoken to us like that.

        We were expected to leave our phones in the staff area, which I had no problem doing. I agree with Alison. The LW should be clear about the reason for the rule and avoid mentioning stuff like “I’m not paying you to chat to your boyfriend,” which sounds like she doesn’t trust them. Just something like “the health code rules state we are not allowed to have phones while working with food” or whatever the truth is.

      3. ThatGirl*

        I am literally sitting at my office job right now between tasks, waiting for replies with plenty of downtime to go get a coffee or chat with someone should I want to.

        15 years ago I spent time working at a Target Starbucks between “real” jobs, and there were definitely times where everything was clean, stocked, straightened, prepped… and sometimes we’d even entertain ourselves by making and handing out samples … so yeah that statement is both BS and generally obnoxious.

      4. Voracious Virago*

        For some reason, the idea that service jobs are real jobs and service workers also deserve such basic modern dignities as being able to take two minutes to check their email or text a significant other about dinner plans during a moment of downtime (rather than finding a way to make an adequate performance of their abject servitude for observers’ benefit every second they’re on the clock) REALLY pisses off certain white collar workers, despite said white collar workers taking it entirely granted that they themselves get to spend a portion of every workday idly scrolling social media.

        It honestly seems like some people think service workers should be treated as appropriately lowly in comparison to themselves and are genuinely insulted when that gets challenged.

    2. Sylvan*

      I used to tell myself that when I worked in a restaurant and, you know, I kept things really clean. I eventually ran out of things to clean. I prepped food. I ran out of things to prepare.

      Also, people have phones for a reason — they need to stay in touch with their family, they might get a call about an emergency, they might use the phone for a medical purpose (some people with diabetes do).

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Cleaning is often in the job description for retail and food workers because, you know, public appearance.

        But technically, it’s in every job whose description includes “other duties as assigned”.

      2. metadata minion*

        And even if cleaning *is* in the job description, unless your workplace is packed from open to close, there are going to be times when there are no customers needing attention and everything is clean.

    3. Justme, The OG*

      This is so gross. I have so much down time as a salaried office worker. Assuming someone who is lower paid than I am must be working at all times is ludicrous.

    4. Well...*

      If you have time to comment here, you too have time to clean (or work longer hours, or do someone else’s work without credit, or take a pay cut, or take a side hustle and use that for retirement rather than your company’s benefits, or take care of other people’s kids while they’re working, or do the dishes in the office, or restock the office kitchen, or do some landscaping outside, or or or)

      1. Julia*

        I suspect they were being sarcastic. It’s something aggravating managers in retail & food service say.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          Yeah, I thought the presence of quotation marks made it pretty clear they’re comparing LW3’s “I don’t want to pay them to talk to their boyfriends” remark to this infamous phrase.

          1. Snell*

            If you’re referring to the first comment in this thread, the OP didn’t use quotation marks. It’s no surprise people are taking it at face value, instead of as sarcasm.

        2. Well...*

          the issue is you can’t parody that statement clearly because it’s already so absurd lol

    5. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      We’re not in the navy, bucko…

      People in the armed forces are literally required to follow orders, by law. People working in coffee shops are not.

    6. Observer*

      If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.

      And the relevance of this is what?

      The OP is on very firm ground in wanting their staff to be busy with their jobs not other things. No one is arguing that. But what does that have to do with the (toxic) idea that if someone is taking a moment to take a breath they MUST be wasting time and they business would definitely be better off doing some task that may not even be related to what they do?

  10. MonkeyPrincess*

    LW1. : They know they did something illegal and wrong. The whole group knows. They told the guy who did it to send the email saying he never did it because they’re covering their butts. This is a poisonous organization. You dodged a bullet.

    1. reg*

      i think it’s equally likely that the interviewer sent the email out of spite because the organization gave him a talking-to

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That was my take. “People have somehow gotten the ludicrous impression that I made an error. With enough words I will prove, using LOGIC, that I made no errors at any point.”

    2. Snow Globe*

      If the organization was trying to cover their butts, I’d think that they’d have reviewed that email and removed language like “I don’t know all the PC words…” That sounds like the guy is just trying to cover his own butt.

    3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      You know, there are people who take DEI seriously. In terms of “covering their butts,” the best way to do that is to actually censure the person, require additional training, take them off of interviews or not let them interview solo, not send an email that could be used as a textbook model of white fragility. I guarantee you no competent lawyer looked at that email.

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


      And you know, there are legal ways to get at what they are asking, without making the assumption that because OP might be a Teapotian, they automatically won’t get along with Llamaites. Basic questions that any service nonprofit might ask:
      Do you ever realize that an implicit bias has affected your behavior; if so, how have you addressed that retrospectively and prospectively?
      How do you approach new people and new situations?
      What is important or meaningful to you about (service) we provide?
      Are you familiar with the populations we serve and what their challenges are?

  11. LolaBugg*

    Letter #1- why do people not understand that assuming someone will be biased based on their religion, last name, ethnicity etc IS A FORM OF BIAS ITSELF?!

    “I’m asking your (insert characteristic here) to make sure you won’t be biased like people of your (characteristic) usually are” is such a problematic way of thinking.

  12. I should really pick a name*

    I don’t want to pay them to chat with their boyfriend

    Not really related to the question, but I think you might want to examine some biases you may have.
    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you aren’t talking about male employees talking to their boyfriends, but you’re playing into the stereotype of women always being on their phones.
    Please take a step back and see if you’re making any other gender-based assumptions in your management.

    1. Onward*

      Yeah, the statement about paying them to chat with their boyfriends really rubbed me the wrong way. Reeked of distain.

  13. Bosslady*

    I was a board member for a very well known organization and once I “retired” from volunteering I am still well known in my profession. I still get so many messages on social media requesting for me to present or mentor, or even give the person a job! I set an automatic response that this was my personal account and all queries should be sent to info at dot dot dot at the organization. And I just stopped responding to messages from people I didn’t know. It was so freeing! I was spending so much time before sending info or explaining what OP#1 describes above.
    You will still see the messages and your friends will know you will respond. But once they get the automatics response you can just LET IT GO! They now have correct email/number to reach out!

  14. TechWorker*

    LW3 – definitely try to provide lockers.

    On the emergency call thing – do you have any business phone? Maybe not if you’re a small coffee shop, but I guess you might if there’s any sort of reservations or backend office. Is there a way to provide a number that could be passed to relatives or whatever to be used in an emergency? Obviously you would have to be clear it’s only for true emergency use but that seems easier to manage.

  15. Dr.A*

    I have a small healthcare practice. my rule with cell phones for employees is this: Cell phones and all devices that can receive calls and text messages (for example smart watches) must be kept away during work unless there are extenuating circumstances that need to be communicated to me. For emergencies, please have your family call the office phone.
    I not only had this policy for my employee, but required it of myself. And some of the exceptions that were made over the 4 years I’ve been in office were around a sick dog, and when their family was expecting a grandchild. It worked well for us because I set the same standard for myself as well as staff.

    1. Doc is In*

      I used to have this rule, till our EMR started requiring 2 factor authentication to log in, using cell phones! Ugh.

      1. Area Woman*

        They should use badges instead of phones, good lord that is a pain in the butt. I can’t imagine my nurses needing to use their phone to look at my chart. My husband works for a giant EMR.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        Yeah, I am required to have my phone with me at work because some of the programs we use require two factor authentication through an app on my phone.

      3. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        I was going to say, it has been pretty standard for most of the systems I’ve worked in to use mobile apps for two factor authentication instead of giving out tokens. I’ve had days where I forgot my work phone at home, and it is such a pain in the ass to have to make a list of all the pended controlled substance scripts I couldn’t send in until I got back home!

        Add in tiger text or mychart messages and the assumption that I’ll be able to get back to everyone immediately… and I’m either glued to my computer monitor or glued to my phones all day.

      4. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        Yeah, I haven’t worked anywhere where a “no phones” rule would be realistic due to the two factor authentication issue! On days when I have forgotten my work phone at home, I can’t place any controlled substance scripts or log into computers that aren’t my own, and it is a MASSIVE hassle.

        I know that you can get standalone devices that give out tokens for 2 factor, but I have to use several different 2 factor authentication apps (some for logging in to different accounts, some for scripts, etc), I shudder to imagine how many I’d have to carry!

    2. fgcommenter*

      It worked well for us because I set the same standard for myself as well as staff.

      That is the rare practice that constitutes one of the pillars of whether a policy can work well. Hypocrisy breeds resentment. It’s always gladdening to read comments from fellow business owners who avoid common nonsense.

    3. Observer*

      For emergencies, please have your family call the office phone.

      unless there are extenuating circumstances that need to be communicated to me


      I not only had this policy for my employee, but required it of myself

      It’s the fact that all three pieces were in place that made it work. And I give you a TON of credit for this.

  16. Danikm151*

    At an old place of work we weren’t allowed our phones due to data protection. With cameras and recording on phones it can be easy to commit fraud by recording card details/pin transactions etc so no phone was a compliance thing.
    For emergencies give your contact your workplace number and you can be contacted there.

    I think for your staff though it’s a matter of they need to be disciplined and not have their phones out constantly- they are being paid to work not to scroll online.

  17. LilPinkSock*

    LW #3, I would not be comfortable leaving my phone on an unattended shelf—that’s just asking to have my personal property stolen. Then again, I would also not be comfortable working for an employer who assumes my phone is in my pocket just so I can text my boyfriend all day, so mileage may vary here.

    1. GreenDoor*

      “so I can text my boyfriend all day”….You might also need to make it clearer to employees that when they are on duty, part of what they’re being paid for is to be fully engaged with customers and communicating with co-workers. Depending on your industry, you might also need to spell out that when guests see staff texting or talking on a cell phone, THEY will assume the employee is just just fun-texting or chit-chatting and that it’s important that customers not be left with the impression that they are being ignored in favor of the phone.
      Some people just really need the “why” spelled out when it comes to using phones on the work floor.

  18. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

    LW2: When someone is rude and entitled, not to mention making all kinds of assumptions about you and your work, why do you give them the time of day?

    You owe them at best a standard, pre-written and very short response, and in some cases no response at all. The worst ones will grumble and think bad things about you, but so what? Their opinions on such things aren’t worth a moment of thought.

    1. Media*

      OP here – I can easily write off a lot of these people, but some of them are in positions of power in our local arts community, which my organization is closely tied to. It’s a bit of a tightrope walk. That said, the worst offenders do get ignored or blocked.

  19. Magnolia*

    I manage teenagers in a similar setting & I never have had a problem with phones. We have four 15-minute rotations a hour. There are 2 rotations where they absolutely can’t have their phone. I’ve told them I fire them on the spot if they even have it with them. One rotation where they can have it but they need to put it down when customers walk up which is frequently (front desk). The last rotation is less public facing (back) and I let them have it. I’ve never had a problem in 5 years. Show teens respect & trust and they will give it back. We have lockers my boss would rather us use but it’s not realistic for anyone to go a whole shift without their phone. Also if you can find a way to do rotations it helps a lot with attention.

    1. K*

      This. Teens are absolutely capable of following rules and IME they generally will if the rule isn’t arbitrary and is respectfully communicated…the same as adults.

    2. Pierrot*

      100%. When my old restaurant implemeted a policy of locking our phones in a safe for the entire shift, it led to a lower morale and made the employees (who were adults) feel like children. That policy lasted a week, and it worked better when the manager just laid out the policy and said “you will be written up and fired of you used your phone anywhere near restaurant floor.

  20. Long Time Fed*

    I think it’s funny how younger people push back on phone restrictions with concerns about being contacted in an emergency. Businesses have telephones and the answer should be that you can be contacted in an emergency at that number.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      GRIN, some customers might dispute the idea that businesses have phones (and answer them). I’ve read some interesting tales about how hard it is to contact live people at businesses.

      I agree that there should be reasonable guidelines about when and where personal cell phones are available.

      1. Seahorse*

        Before cell phones, my mom’s job had an unlisted phone line that employees could give to their families. Then if someone called in on Line 4, the receptionist knew it was likely an emergency call for one of the workers. That doesn’t help the letter writer much now, but it was a pretty good system for getting ahold of people without getting put on hold or sent to the answering machine.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        Yeah, calling the business line might work if there is someone available to answer the phone promptly. But if the business line leads to a phone tree that takes several minutes to get to an actual human, it’s less realistic to ask people to rely on that in emergency situations.

      3. Johanna*

        And I’ve read some interesting tales about how government officials are actually secretly reptiles in human disguises! Doesn’t make it true.

        Do you have any actual evidence to support your point, or are you just spouting this nonsense for the sake of it?

      4. SnappinTerrapin*

        Very few landlines in this warehouse. Internal communications are by radio or internet. One of the few landlines is at security, but we can’t transfer a call, because the other offices don’t have phones.

    2. Seashell*

      Yes, we managed to have contact with the outside world in Ye Olden Days before everyone had a phone on them.

      1. doreen*

        There are still people today who can’t have their cell phones at work , for reasons much better than the boss thinking they will be chatting with their boyfriend. And when I say “can’t have their cell phones at work”, I do not mean on a shelf near the work area. I mean they leave it in their car or in a locker near the front entrance. From the time when cell phones became common until I retired last year, I always spent some time at work locations where cell phones were not allowed. And I wasn’t at the same location everyday, so I couldn’t always be reached by a landline. As far as emergency contacts, I just continued to do what I did pre-cell phone – which is I gave my kids’ school multiple emergency contacts.

        I’m not saying the OP should prohibit cell phones – I suspect that will result in hiring difficulties. But there are jobs where people truly cannot have cell phones and people who work in them have figured something out for emergencies.

        1. ugh*

          I mean, those jobs usually have very specific set-ups that aren’t really the norm, specifically because the no-phones rule is so integral to the job itself.

          1. doreen*

            I’m not really sure what you mean by “very specific set-ups”. As far as phones went, the only difference between the locations that prohibited cell phones and the others was that cell phones were prohibited. They all had landlines – I couldn’t always be reached at one because you can’t really give people a list of eight phone numbers that you might at on any given day.

            1. ugh*

              Lizcase’s comment below is kind of my point–when their father worked in a factory, they actually got paged and got messages. But the factory their siblings work at now doesn’t have anything for that set up. Maybe the places you worked all had landlines, and they always went to an actual person, but heck, even you admit you couldn’t always be reached by one.

              I guess what I should’ve said is that places that insist on no phones for security/safety reasons SHOULD have alternative reliable methods of contacting someone on the clock. But since most businesses DON’T have that setup, it’s not exactly unreasonable for folks to want to have their phone on them in case someone needs to get in touch with them.

        2. Observer*


          There are jobs with all sorts of restrictions. When those restrictions are necessary, you do what you need to do. It doesn’t make those restriction a necessarily good thing. Nor is it reasonable to say that “Job X has this rule, so it’s obviously reasonable to make that a universal rule.”

      2. ItBetterNotBeACactus*

        Yes, but there were also more phones and/or more lines. And more people answering them. Now, a business might have 1 VOIP line that’s more variable than a landline — on local businesses that I follow, I see them post that their phone line is down.

        I mean, we also used to have phone booths all over, but now we don’t.

        Yes, did we get by? Sure, but we had different infrastructure.

        1. GythaOgden*

          I work Reception for public healthcare business administration. We switched to a ‘softphone’ just before Christmas (I am still getting used to not picking up a physical receiver), but our external phone number still points to the phone services. I also assume a person who works for a certain place has a number that differs from the general public customer service lines that someone would google.

          To be frank, most people who actually are in positions where this is a sensitive thing are the ones pointing out the actual logistics. The ones trying to excuse it don’t actually work anywhere where it actually matters.

      3. Lizcase*

        yes we did. If my mother had an emergency, she could call the factory phone number and my dad would get paged.

        My sibling works in a factory where phones are not allowed.
        there is no factory number.
        there is no paging system used.
        the company phone number goes to phone menu hell and offers no way to reach someone who doesn’t have a company phone

        there is no way to reach them until their break.

        Yes, this has been an ongoing complaint.

        normally this is not a problem for us. however trying to get a hold of them to say our dad is dying (like now instead of slowly as he had been for years) was impossible. and heart wrenching. He passed quickly enough that we couldn’t have driven there fast enough, but there was a good while where that was unknown and I couldn’t reach them.

        I now feel very strongly about having a way to reach all employees in an emergency (if possible, obviously some jobs like surgeon can’t do that)

      4. NancyDrew*

        It’s incredibly silly to pretend the world functions the same as it did 30 years ago. Come on, now.

      5. Observer*

        Yes, we managed to have contact with the outside world in Ye Olden Days before everyone had a phone on them.

        And many of us also know of some pretty difficult experiences because of the lack of this kind of communications tech.

        My mother used to talk about a time when not every home and business had a landline phone. And some people would say the exact same thing “We managed just fine before everyone had a phone in their home! Kids these days!” Some of those people were decision makers for a Senior Residence. The nearest phone was down the block at a store. And there was a fire, and people died in part because of the extra time it took to get fire fighters in place.

        1. ugh*

          Yeah, I’m really not a fan of the “We managed to do without in the Olden Days” mindset, because, well. It’s just survivorship bias.

          Some folks really didn’t manage just fine.

          And even for non-crisis-situations…still would’ve been better.

    3. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      I haven’t given out my employers’ numbers as emergency contacts in at least twenty years – calling the central line just hasn’t been a realistic way to actually reach me urgently. At most of them, you’d most likely go to voicemail and be checked in a few hours.

      And we’ve seen here just how badly leaving a message with management can go in an actual emergency, like it did with that poor horse.

      1. Observer*

        Even worse is the story of the guy who didn’t pass on a message that a coworker’s wife was going into emergency surgery!

    4. HannahS*

      Yeah, it’s so weird how, if my daughter had a medical emergency, I’d rather the daycare call me directly rather than try my cell phone, then call the business number, then get a receptionist, then wait for the receptionist to find me, then give me the message, then get the phone from my locker, then call them back.

      It’s almost like the systems we have now are better. I have to confess, I also don’t want to be contacted by post when email is faster and easier.

        1. HannahS*

          You’re right, young people are unreasonable. You should definitely dismiss them, and see how that goes for you long-term.

        2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          Having recently filled out one such form – my options for phone number were “home”, “work”, “cell”. I could set one number for each. There’s no options for explaining a shift schedule or anything like that (and it’s online, so it’s not like you can write in the margins). My place of work explicitly won’t say if you’re in or not, or what your schedule is, when taking a message – this is a standard employee safety policy. It’s fine for me, because I work 9-5ish M-F, and because I just put my cellphone number for everything. But if I worked different jobs on different days of the week or nonstandard hours, and I couldn’t have a personal phone on me, what would I do?

          1. Michelle Smith*

            I would hope that you would work for an employer with even a shred of human decency, because then the answer to that question would be “get the message from the employer at worst a couple minutes slower than you would if you were staring at your phone.” If I were the one getting that message for you, I know what I would do. I would tell you immediately if you were working. If you weren’t at work yet, I would look up your phone number in the paperwork I should have and contact any numbers you listed to try and send you that information. This would not require me letting the school or whoever was trying to reach you know anything about where you were and would not violate the policy that is in place to protect victims of domestic violence and stalking. We managed to get emergency information to each other without cell phones in the 80s and 90s. I’m sure we can figure it out in 2023.

            As a real example of how these things go sometimes, I started a new job in 2018 and was reassigned a landline number from an employee who had resigned. I got a lot of calls from him at first and I always reached out to people, let them know that John Doe no longer worked there, and directed them to the appropriate person (usually John Doe’s former supervisor). When his school called me to let me know he needed to pick up his kid because of an early dismissal, that was a bit harder because those messages are automated and I didn’t have any of John Doe’s personal information. But it’s 2023, so I looked up where he worked now (not to hard to find on LinkedIn), messaged him, contacted the school, explained that the number was no longer valid for him, and let them know where he worked so they could try and contact him through his new agency. I assume they had his cell number and called that too, but I didn’t just ignore the messages and hope his kid was okay. It took maybe 5 or 10 minutes total out of my day to do that. It’s really not that hard to be decent to other people and I do not think I’m somehow exceptional for reaching out when I got the message. I think most people would at least notify the school that they had the wrong number.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              I got a lot of calls FOR him not from him. My caffeine hasn’t hit yet this morning, sorry.

            2. MsM*

              I love your optimistic view of human nature, but I confess I’m a bit unsure exactly what your John Doe scenario is meant to illustrate when if everyone in the LW’s work environment could simply step away from their tasks for 5-10 minutes to go look things up on a computer, there probably wouldn’t be any need to write in.

            3. Colette*

              I assume you didn’t have a growing line of customers getting more and more unhappy and a supervisor telling you to get back to work while you did that.

            4. ugh*

              “I would hope that you would work for an employer with even a shred of human decency”

              gonna be honest, this isn’t something to bank on

            5. Observer*

              We managed to get emergency information to each other without cell phones in the 80s and 90s. I’m sure we can figure it out in 2023.

              Sometimes. But many times we didn’t. BTDT.

              And in some ways it’s harder today. Things are different. Like the school (or doctor’s office, or whoever) might not be *allowed* to share enough information with you to judge what your next steps need to be. Or, and this is common, someone like is not even getting the call. Or, or, or. The reality is that things are different enough today that the assumptions based on what may (or may not) have been the case 30-40 years ago simply can’t be accepted as factual.

              But it’s 2023, so I looked up where he worked now (not to hard to find on LinkedIn), messaged him, contacted the school, explained that the number was no longer valid for him, and let them know where he worked so they could try and contact him through his new agency.

              This is EXTREMELY unusual. I don’t know of too many people who would take the time. And in many cases, it would not even be possible. If your company makes sure that any employee can and WILL be reached immediately in any emergency, then they have the standing to tell staff that they don’t need their cell phones for emergency use “Just call the office number and we’ll get to you immediately.” For anyone else?


            6. SnappinTerrapin*

              Social engineering is a real thing. People call with plausible stories about an emergency. We aren’t allowed to confirm the party they seek works here, because it could be a stalker trying to hurt them.

              In a real emergency, would I make an effort to reach the person? Yes, but I don’t even have a roster of employees, much less of those on duty. I’d have to reach out to several different departments in hope of reaching the person who may or may not be here.

              We tell people to contact their person directly by cell phone. It’s the most reliable way to reach them.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          My experience of medical practices has been that I write down:
          Primary home landline
          Back up cell phone
          And they think to themselves “You know what, I bet everyone would rather we just call them on their cell phone, and they put that first number down out of some misguided sense of mischievousness.”

          1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            Maybe they think to themselves, “Most people don’t have a landline.”

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              And so I provided one as my primary number, with the cell as a backup, because I am just a mischievous minx.

          2. doreen*

            I get the opposite – I gave them my home number umpteen years ago and tried to change the primary number to my cell phone but it apparently hasn’t worked . They still call my home phone to confirm appointments – but somehow find my cell number when they call me on the day of the appointment.

          3. Chirpy*

            I had a doctor’s office that refused to call my cell phone- my only actual personal phone number- because they still had my parents landline on file. It caused problems.

        4. NotRealAnonForThis*

          And getting the school to properly update the information (which may or may not be the fault of the system selected by the local school board) is so much fun too when you switch employment.

        5. Colette*

          I once tried to close a bank account. There was an issue with it, so they referred to the paperwork I’d filled out when I opened it and repeatedly called my work number.

          I didn’t work there anymore. My contact information was correct online, but they would only call the number on the paper, which was no longer valid.

          And for anyone who doesn’t work a regular 9-5, adding a business number where you may not be adds confusion/delays when there is a real issue.

        6. ugh*

          Also, can’t help but notice this still doesn’t actually address what she said. You fill out the business number, and then all the above happens, which is more stressful and takes more time in an emergency.

      1. MsM*

        And that’s assuming whoever’s answering the phone can be trusted to pass along the message. Remember the person who wrote in because they couldn’t sign off on care for their dying horse because their manager decided they didn’t need to know right away?

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Also – I have worked for a company that ran all calls through a third party receptionist.

          It went as well as you’re thinking and it did not last long, but there was a span of time where an emergency phone call to me placed to my employer would not be a guarantee of EVER getting to me.

      2. Observer*

        It’s almost like the systems we have now are better. I have to confess, I also don’t want to be contacted by post when email is faster and easier.

        Well, aren’t you the spoiled one. In the Ye Olde Days, we managed just FINE with postal mail. And if Mom worked out of the house, the whole family deserved that fall out from that decision.


    5. Wingwing*

      I run the front desk switchboard at a company that is so busy, all lines are frequently engaged at once (only the one six-line switchboard, so I am the only person out of 430 employees who processes incoming calls, and of course, I can only be on one call at a time). If there’s an emergency, there’s a very good chance you will not get through to me in time if you contact the business number.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I have in my lifetime encountered plenty of older people willing to toss out “there could be an emergency” as a reason they needed to gaze at their phone every time it made an alert.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yeah. It seems way overstated here, and I’ve been through the process myself a number of times (including one where my husband’s silence after a cancer screen was deafening and I was doing the frantic calling…he turned up at the office at 5pm to tell me he’d been diagnosed).

        The frequency of emergencies is such that in 9 years of working a job where phones shouldn’t really be on reception, I’ve had this issue fewer than the number of fingers on my hand. And that’s including the various cancer treatments hubby went through.

        So I get it, I really do, but there’s really no need to over-emphasise it.

    7. Seahorse*

      If the manager is genuinely looking for a practical solution though, there’s a lot of middle ground between “everyone needs their phones all the time” and “damn kids these days.”

    8. Sylvan*

      Do you think someone’s parents, in an emergency, will call them directly or remember to use the business’s phone number? Also, will someone at the business pick up the phone, get the message, and relay it to the employee? The answer isn’t what you’d hope it is.

      1. Hex Code*

        Yes, it’s simply not how many places are set up these days. As an elder millennial, I’ve experienced both ways. And while I actually prefer not having the distraction of my phone on me while I’m working, the reality is that if there were an emergency at either of my daughters’ two different schools, or an active shooter in the area, or a natural disaster, those notifications would go out by text alerts or in the communication app the school used.

      2. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I mean, yes? If I gave my parents a phone number and told them to call that while I was at work, they would remember to call that number…. This isn’t unreasonable.

        Also, I still sometimes call local businesses, and I’ve rarely had issues speaking with a person. AND, if I were working at that place, I would know how reliable the phone system was and rely accordingly.

    9. ugh*

      Hey, remember that recent letter about the person whose horse died because the manager who got the emergency phone call decided to wait to tell them until the end of the shift?

      Also, how young is “younger people?” Because I’m close to 40, and I would be anxious if I wasn’t allowed to have my phone because emergencies happen. If anything, I’d be MORE anxious now than when I was younger, because of emergencies I’ve been through.

    10. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      What happens when the coffee shop’s phone is busy because they are taking orders for customers and someone who has an emergency can’t get through? Or there is a long line of customers and no one can answer the phone? That has happened a few times at previous jobs. OR someone asks for someone and the person answering has no clue who they are asking. Someone once asked for DAWN and I thought they said Dan and I said there was no Dan here. It was Dawn’s teenager calling. I felt terrible.

    11. Pierrot*

      When the mass shooting happened at a FedEx warehouse a couple of years back, none of the workers had their phones on then because they were in lockers. While people were trying to hide from the shooter, they didn’t have a way to notify anyone that there was a shooting and 911 needed to be called.

      This might sound far fetched but with the prevalence of shootings in this country, it needs to be considered. What happens if a mass shooting occurs and the landline is not accessible? Is there a protocol in place that can address that issue? What about armed robberies? When I worked at a restaurant/bakery, the landline was right at the counter near the entrance to the store. If people have their phones in a pocket, they shouldn’t be taking them out but there are legitimate emergencies where they’re necessary.

      1. Observer*

        Not just shootings.

        Amazon got into trouble because they didn’t pay attention to tornado warnings. The only reason people knew what was up and were able to try to protect themselves was because Amazon had allowed phones in the warehouses (Covid related) and people got alerts on their phones.

        Medical emergencies happen. Even if there is a process in place to contact someone who can then call 911/ emergency services, the kind of time waste that can (and does) happen when you can’t call 911 / emergency services directly literally can be life and death.

    12. Observer*

      Businesses have telephones and the answer should be that you can be contacted in an emergency at that number.

      Do they? It’s far from universal. And it’s highly common that if someone tries to reach someone in an emergency at the company’s number they are not getting through. This is true for many reasons.

      The bigger problem here is that the OP makes it clear that they don’t believe that their staff actually has a legitimate issue. If they do get it, they could make sure that there is a number that GETS ANSWERED, and a solid policy that people WILL be called to the phone is someone calls with an emergency.

      Unless and until the OP does that, all the talk about “use the landline” is meaningless.

    13. Lentils*

      I’m sorry to pile on, but I do have a related story.

      At an old job, my team (admin-related, all office work) was not allowed to have our phones out except on breaks, apparently because of a former problem employee who no longer worked there. The only landline that worked was our manager’s, and she didn’t give it out. When I went for my afternoon break, I checked my phone and saw a series of frantic texts from my autistic younger brother, who lives with our parents and had managed to lock himself out of the house. Dad was out of town, Mom had taken the car on a day trip, my brother doesn’t have a driver’s license, and my work was at least 30 minutes’ drive away. I was finally able to call him and he explained that a neighbor/friend had seen him freaking out and offered to let him hang out until our mom got home, but I’ll never forget the panic those texts sent me into.

      My manager expressed sympathy when I relayed this story to her, but she didn’t change the rules or give out her desk phone number.

  21. The Original K.*

    #4: Last year I got a raise and a COL increase within about two months of each other. Ask!

  22. Boopnash*

    Re #2: set up an auto response on your FB messages, then ignore them. I work for a politician and our auto response politely redirects people to contact the office number and email, and advises expected response times for different types of requests. It explicitly says that the FB messages are rarely monitored.

    1. Introvert Teacher*

      That’s a great idea! Yeah, I would auto reply like this or don’t respond at all. These people are being pushy trying to contact you outside your work hours over something that isn’t even your work responsibility. You don’t owe them anything and maybe responding at all gives them hope they can strong arm you into forwarding the message. Perhaps not responding teaches them if they want something, they have to go through the proper channels?

  23. Cynthia Virtue*

    I could text my boyfriend all day from my smartwatch with the phone in another room entirely.
    I think the manager is looking for a shortcut to actually managing and meaningfully communicating with employees, for whatever reason. Several reasonable hypotheses are proposed by previous comments.

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I bought my first Apple Watch six years ago because I couldn’t carry my phone with me at work and I wanted to know if my kid was trying to reach me.

  24. Big Ba Da Boom*

    LW3: I imagine it’s hard to keep policies consistent with tech changes. As others have mentioned phones aren’t just phones anymore and can also be medical device managers, wallets, authentication devices, etc.

    I’d also wonder what policy would need to be made for smart watches? I could have my phone in my locker and still text and use various apps with my watch. That could be just as distracting…but if you make someone put the watch away then you’re messing with health monitoring and timekeeping, etc.

    I think it’s best to police the behavior than police the tech. Put in rules about when you can and cannot do what….locations and durations of when they can quickly check messages or something outside of customer facing areas or sanitary locations, etc. It certainly takes more work to manage this than just putting a ban in place but people really work better I think when you treat them with respect and understand they contain multitudes.

    1. HonorBox*

      You perfectly hit on a key phrase… outside of customer facing areas or sanitary locations. As I noted below, the appearance that the employee is doing something “more important” than serving customers is problematic. Having a phone at work is not a problem. Not appearing to be focused on customers is the problem.

    2. Pierrot*

      I had a coworker in retail who would speak into her apple watch on the sales floor and it was even more distracting than just going to the breakroom to send a text.

  25. Spencer Hastings*

    “Also, let’s get rid of this idea that it’s ever entitled or greedy to ask for a raise when your work merits it.”

    Sure, but the question is always whether your work does merit it. That’s difficult to know from the inside. And it can be hard to tell just from the feedback you get whether something is raiseworthy or not.

    1. MsM*

      I kinda feel like when your boss outright admits they’re saving on having to pay multiple people because you’ve got it covered somehow, it’s gonna be tough for them to justify not passing some of those savings along to you on merit grounds.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I’m not responding to the letter, I’m responding to the sentence Alison wrote — she took it to a more general place, so I am too.

        1. MsM*

          I’m not sure I agree: it’s advice that reflects the assumption LW shouldn’t be questioning their experience. And given that in general, people who have an unrealistically inflated sense of their value are a lot less likely to stop to ask whether they actually deserve advancement before going for it, I’m not sure that “well, but what if you’re not worthy?” is a particularly helpful consideration to raise. Especially when you have in fact been told that people value what you do.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Okay, but even if your boss decides your work doesn’t merit it and says no–it’s not greedy or entitled to ask.

  26. doreen*

    # 4 – have any of your co-workers asked for a raise? At the government agencies I worked at , you were hired to be a Teapot Painter at a starting salary of X, and each year you got a “step” until you reached the top of the paygrade. After that, it was just cost of living raises and longevity payments. No such thing as merit raises and anybody asking for one would have been seen as out-of-touch.

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Federal government has “quality step increases” for outstanding employees. They are limited in a bunch of ways, but it is possible to give someone a raise for good work that way.

  27. Anne of Green Gables*

    #3 Phones: I agree with Alison in that I would mention it during your hiring practice. I’ve worked a job where I was not supposed to have my phone on my person. My husband and my parents had my work number–both my direct line and the public line that was always answered. IIRC, I was called twice in my four years there: my husband when our infant son had a dangerously high fever and the pediatrician was sending them to the ER, and my mom when my grandfather died. Everything else could either be an email or wait until I was on a break. I did ask for, and get, permission to have my phone on me when my mom had surgery so I could get updates throughout the day. Not having my phone constantly was not a problem for me.

    Other commenters have covered the problems with assuming that a worker on their phone is wasting their employer’s time, so I don’t feel the need to add anything there.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        Oh, I agree. And I suppose there is the reality that more and more smaller business might not have a landlines, and therefore employees might not have another number to give out. But as many others pointed out upthread, giving those most likely to need you in an emergency the landline number for the business is a viable option if you are concerned about being contacted in an emergency.

  28. Michelle Smith*

    LW3: “I don’t want to pay them to chat with their boyfriend.”

    That felt a little bit judgmental to me. People do have personal lives and if you come across as not caring at all about that and just expecting them to be fully focused on work 100% of the time, you’re being unrealistic and people will resent you for it. To be clear, I’m not saying you don’t have a valid point. I’m just saying that maybe it’s important for you to consider things from their perspective instead of just being annoyed that their job isn’t their number 1 priority all of the time. If the job has too much down time, perhaps remind and encourage them to take on other projects like cleaning X or organizing Y. If there aren’t other projects, maybe give them a bonus 5 or 10 minute break during the day specifically to check phones. Regardless of what you do, just think about how you word it when you talk to them because you really do not want to come across as if you think people’s families and partners don’t or shouldn’t matter to them.

    Also something else to just make sure of – if your business does not have a landline or if it has one but it’s always busy with customers, consider getting a line with a number that employees can give out to their family and friends for emergencies. Your employees are correct that if their kid gets sick at school or their mom falls down the stairs and is being taken to the emergency room, they shouldn’t have to wait for the end of their several hour shift to find out about it.

  29. HonorBox*

    LW3 – I would definitely agree with others who have said that policing the behavior is best. And while saying that, I would also say that I strongly disagree with the idea that we’re entitled to have our phones with us. I’m diabetic and my phone serves as a medical device, and I keep it in my pocket, so I understand that need completely. But if you’re a customer-facing employee, your focus needs to be on the customer. There’s very little that is more off-putting as a customer than feeling like you’re interrupting an employee when you go to a restaurant or coffee shop and the employee is on their phone. I’ve gone to the grocery store and the person working the checkout is on their phone, texting, while I’m trying to get my groceries. That’s a problem. Hard stop.

    Our phones have become a huge distraction, and I think the LW would be within their rights to remind employees that their focus needs to be on the customer. That’s their job! When someone walks in to the place of business, they are the top priority. While there are exceptions to every rule, they’re exceptions, and should be treated as such. An employee who is distracted because their phone is out and in use gives off an unwelcoming vibe and there are customers who will choose to get coffee or groceries or whatever elsewhere.

    I don’t even think you need to provide lockers or anything, though a locker would be great. You can let the staff know that phones should stay in pockets and if there’s downtime, they’re welcome to step away if need be to look at the phone. But phones should never be out in view of the customers. Deal with any violations as they come up.

    Also, we are to take letter writers at their word, so if this LW is saying it is a clear health code violation, let’s not question it. If that is the case, that is a reason to make a blanket statement that phones are not to be out in food prep or service areas.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      We are asked to take LWs at their word, so if the LW says it is a health-code violation, it is.

      Keep in mind that in the US at least, health codes are not national, but local and so rules and regulations will vary based on location.

    2. Proofreader*

      We are asked to talk LWs at their word. Please don’t challenge them whether or not the facts they’ve presented are accurate.

    3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      If you consult google, you will quickly see that it is indeed a health code violation.

  30. HonorBox*

    LW1 – I think you dodged a bullet, but I’m really sorry you’re having to go through this. What they did was clearly wrong and they’re doing their best to cover their tracks. I’d strongly agree with Alison that pushing back and sending a message to the recruiter would be good, especially if the recruiter is outside of the organization itself. If they weren’t involved with the interview, but just screening, it makes sense to let them know that the message you received was unnecessary and untrue. They’re calling into question your honesty and trying to dance around and disguise what they actually asked you is unfair and potentially leads them to legal troubles. Someone needs to point out that the line of questioning, even if they didn’t intend it to be, is not legal.

  31. Technically a Director*

    LW#2: Being told “no” is embarrassing for many people, and even more so when they are going beyond the norms of when and where to ask. (In many cases, they should be embarrassed, so don’t think that I’m telling you not to say “no”.)

    Just bear in mind that often, people’s first reaction to that embarrassment is to justify why they thought it was OK to ask in the first place. It’s easy to see someone giving reasons why they asked _after_ you already said “no” as trying to push past your boundaries. However, if you assume this more charitable possibility — that this is a poorly articulated apology rather than an attempt to change your mind — you may find yourself feeling less pressured, and more able to let go of their imposition.

    I’m sorry they are being thoughtless!

  32. Delta Delta*

    #3 – I used to work with a woman who simply could not ignore a text. We would be talking about some work thing, she’d get a text, and she’d completely zone out and answer the text. I’d be in the middle of a sentence or something and she’d just start ignoring me. It was absolutely never anything serious. She’d rejoin the conversation in a minute and say, “oh, ha ha, Diane’s dog ate a sock” or whatever the text was about (who’s Diane? I don’t know or care) and then we’d have to start over. I suspect it’s this kind of thing OP wants to avoid.

    1. Observer*

      You don’t manage your workplace based on rude outliers.

      The OP would be 100% within their rights to fire someone who acts this way on the job. If they are dealing with young people / people new to the workforce, they should provide a warning such as “While you’re at work, you need to be working. If you interrupt work, your coworkers / supervisors / the boss, or a customer, for a text you will be fired.” And then follow through.

      But the idea that if you don’t ban phones that’s going to be the norm? Even in fields where it’s hard to hire, that’s just not likely.

  33. ugh*

    “A cost-of-living raise is different than a merit raise. A cost-of-living raise is typically awarded to everyone and is meant to keep your salary on pace with inflation”

    man, someone please let the gov’t agency I work for know, because the only raises we get are called “cost of living adjustments” but they’re dependent on merit (successful annual review), and I’ve missed out for years. (Once they even accidentally gave it to me, then realized I hadn’t “earned” it, so they docked my pay for the next few months to get it back)

  34. Lab Boss*

    Regarding #4:

    My company tries to get around this by calling our annual cost-of-living raises “Merit raises.” They’re pretty clearly not- they are usually 2-3% per person, all happen at the same time, and don’t reflect any real movement within the (loose) salary ranges for positions. There’s a small bit of merit tied to them, as department managers are expected to adjust the amounts up and down slightly based on the relative value of their team members- but it’s a finite pool, and giving one person a higher raise for being valuable means you have to give someone else a lower one.

    Has anyone else dealt with this? And did you have any advice for breaking through the convenient fiction that these are “merit raises?” Right now they’re using it as a bludgeon: Complain about not keeping up with inflation? They’re not supposed to, they’re for MERIT not cost of living. Someone asks for a raise? No, you just got a merit raise, you haven’t shown more merit in the last 3 months (note that the annual “merit” raises are not negotiable and the employees don’t know what they’ll be until they are already in place).

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      My company uses a similar approach (there’s a set pool for raises, they’re all called merit raises not COL, there’s a recommended baseline and then managers can adjust up or down from there), but it works because our performance evaluation system lines up with it and people have the whole year to work with their manager to identify stretch goals, complete them, etc. Basically, the case for the larger raise is being made throughout the year and managers and employees know about it. Have you considered asking your boss for a meeting to find out more about the process and whether there’s an opportunity to get in front of the annual process?

    2. Somehow_I_Manage*

      It’s true that they get to set their own rules. At the end of the day, if they can’t keep up with market rates, they will have problems with attrition. And if they’re not paying your market rate, you should feel free to bring that to their attention, ideally with some backup data.

      If you’re seeking a raise from these folks on the basis of additional responsibilities, you should focus your discussion on a path to promotion, or on redefining your role. In organizations like this, major adjustments to pay outside of the annual increase are driven by changes in title/promotion.

      1. Lab Boss*

        That’s kind of what I figured, I was just hoping someone smarter than me had figured out a magic way around it, ha. Promotion used to be a more reliable path to more money as you suggested, but we had an “expert” tell us that we had too many high-level people so we should promote less to maintain the correct low-to-high-level ratio in the company.

        I’ve personally done what you said, and I’m now in the position of trying to keep a department happy- we aren’t paying market rate (although we’ve come closer to it than we used to be), but leadership and HR would rather stick their heads in the sand and keep doing things that lower morale and then wonder why we have turnover problems. Ah well, so it goes.

      2. Lynn*

        The company my husband works for does it like this. He’s gotten promoted multiple times so it hasn’t had as much of an impact on him as on those staying in the same jobs.

        And yes, over time people are paid below market. Yes, they leave over it. No, he’s not high enough up in the food chain to do anything about it yet.

  35. Somehow_I_Manage*

    LW1: Contrary to the advice, I’d move on and not engage any further. Bullet dodged. The whole committee observed the behavior in the interview. Your complaint was purportedly shared with to the whole committee. At a minimum, the offender themselves was given your feedback (whether they have intent to change or not).

    Putting them on blast with another email has low odds of promoting the dialogue you seek, and prolongs your involvement with these bozos. Not your circus, not your clowns!

  36. Seahorse*

    #2 – A close relative is a veterinarian, and by necessity, she keeps very strict boundaries on her personal time and personal social media accounts. When she’s not at work, she’s not a doctor, full stop.

    Sure, the entitled friends-of-friends or cousins who only contact her when they want free medical care get grumpy about this, but she’s much happier and keeps from burning out. If people want to treat her like a free service instead of a person, that’s their decision, but it’s not a decision she needs to honor or even acknowledge.

  37. Not A Manager*

    “Last week I was a national security expert; this week I’m a food safety inspector.” The number of people who are using “common sense” to contradict the LW is really astonishing.

    1. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Eh. You’re right. But, LW invited feedback with the unnecessary third argument: “I don’t want to pay them to chat with their boyfriend.” The way it’s written undermines the legitimacy of their other arguments. Constructing it as item 3, in a three part list holds powerful meaning, and suggests to the reader that it’s the most true and important. As written, there’s subtext that the boss doesn’t think very highly of their staff and resents their attitude. That’s why the staff (and the commenters) aren’t inclined to trust OP.

      As Alison points out, it’s an unnecessary distraction- and the commenter response is supreme validation of that fact!

      /Alison’s feedback covers this very nicely.

      1. Not A Manager*

        Either phones in the service area are a heath code violation, or they’re not. LW says they are. She might have all kinds of other bad attitudes or misperceptions, but it’s silly to counter those by telling her that she’s wrong about her local health codes.

        And the thing that I just find especially hilarious is not the commenters who are coming in with some actual specialized knowledge of food service, but the arm-chair infectious disease specialists who are like “but I just can’t IMAGINE why phones would be a problem. You must be wrong.” We see this form of reasoning a lot, in much more insidious contexts. Maybe believe people when they tell you their actual circumstances?

      2. Myrin*

        I was quite taken aback by that argument as well but then I assumed she used it because it’s something she’s observed keeps happening; I would be exasperated by that, too, although I wouldn’t mention it (at least not in that way) if I wrote in about it to an advice columnist.

  38. AnonInCanada*

    And the business doesn’t have a phone number? If the family of an employee truly had an emergency and needed to reach that employee, they could call the business’s main line and ask to speak to said employee. There is no need for a retail/foodservice employee to have their personal mobile phone with them while on shift. Period. Leave the phone in a locker while on shift, and retrieve it when not on shift.

    1. Chirpy*

      Do you feel office workers should also leave their cell phones in a locker? They are far more likely to have a desk phone they can be reached at in case of emergency than a retail or service worker.

      1. Samwise*

        Nobody cares if my grubby fingers are touching my phone and then my computer.

        It’s food service. Different animal.

    2. Observer*

      . There is no need for a retail/foodservice employee to have their personal mobile phone with them while on shift. Period

      Thus spake the oracle.

      It’s easy to make pronouncements when you ignore facts. But the facts are that many businesses do not have phones where employees can be reached. And given what the OP says, I’d be willing to bet that the OP’s place is one of those businesses. Because they clearly don’t believe that any of their employees might actually have legitimate worry about being reached in an emergency.

  39. not a hippo*

    Wouldn’t it be nice if COL raises were universal. I’ve never had a job that even gave a single fig about examining a salary based on COL (except for maybe the CEO’s)

  40. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    Letter Writer #3 — A better recourse is to issue consequences for use of personal devices behind the counter. That way you’re treating your employee’s like capable adults, but you still have a recourse if they don’t follow the rules. Taking their phones away is pretty infantilizing and reeks of middle-school treatment.

    I speak from experience as someone who worked a lot of food service jobs in my 20s, and only ever had my phone taken away at one: back when I was a cater waiter, our company was contracted at a venue that had trouble retaining waitstaff. Catering companies are generally sort of independent mercenaries that carry contracts with multiple venues, and waitstaff are employees of the company but subject to the rules of the venue — however, waitstaff can always decline a job at a particular venue for any reason. In this case, we arrived to Venue to staff a formal dinner, and the representative of the venue came around with a basket to collect our phones, (which she REQUIRED us to hand over) which she would lock in her office. I cannot stress enough how out of the ordinary this was — literally no other venue had ever asked this of most of us. None of us were comfortable being separated from our phones, since they were the most expensive things a lot of us owned and we wanted to have them in the event of a fire or an emergency. Predictably, we all simply pretended we hadn’t brought our phones with us and left them in our pockets: no one brought a phone out on the floor, no one was reprimanded for use of the phone, and none of us accepted a job there ever again.

  41. Emelius*

    #3 I work in a restaurant and if they told me that I was not allowed to keep my phone in my pocket I would immediately resign from my position. I am a grown adult and I am not going to put my very expensive cell phone on a shelf or in a basket somewhere where I can’t keep an eye on it. Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree that phones should not be out while people are working and I would never use it unless I was on a break or had permission to step away to use it.

    I totally agree with rules saying that phone must be in your pocket and silenced and that you are not allowed to use it while you are working. but the reality of modern day is that people have cell phones and they are used for much more than just talking. telling me I can’t have my phone on me is no different than telling me that I can’t have my wallet on me. instead of expecting everybody to not have their phones, I would suggest taking disciplinary action against people who violate the policy against using it while working.

    1. Coin_Operated*

      and the health code part is that staff just need to wash their hands after using (any) phone, but it doesn’t say anything about banning phones while working. The rules are actually the same for a cell phone or a land line. How many restaurants have a land line in their kitchens and where do food service employees work? pretty much all of them.

  42. Might Be Spam*

    LW3 – Regarding emergency calls, Emergency Services and police departments won’t have your work number.
    On New Year’s Eve several years ago, I was the only member of our large family that was able to be contacted when my father’s aorta burst because the hospital had no way of finding anyone’s work information and I was the only one by my home phone. He didn’t survive.
    When my daughter had an accident at school and was in the actual school office, they couldn’t find my work number and used my cell number. There was an ambulance and police cars involved so maybe staff freaked out. She’s ok now, but it didn’t look good for awhile.

    1. She of Many Hats*

      Been in a similar situation while working as a barista. There was a gas main explosion a couple blocks from kiddo’s school and the school used their text/email system to keep parents updated on their students’ safety and location. School relocated kids due to toxic smoke on the wind and without my phone on me, I would not have known until too late if my kid was in serious danger or not. (BTW, kiddo’s recap of the day– Worst Day Ever cuz I couldn’t do my Show & Tell)

  43. Because of course I’m anon for this*

    I wish I didn’t relate to LE 1. My husband is Palestinian. I still remember a job over a decade ago where a new lawyer decided on his very first day, without ever speaking a word to me, that I must be a raging anti-Semite. He started a campaign to get me fired. Because my husband is Palestinian.

    These types of assumptions are harmful and affect livelihoods. And it’s wild to be accused of hate when I literally hadn’t done anything but breathe in his general vicinity.

    Anyway I use my maiden name now.

  44. Observer*

    #3- Cell phones at work

    I’m curious about something – how do you handle sick leave? Do your staff have access to a decent number of paid days? Are they required to find their own coverage before they are allowed to take *sick* time?

    The thing is that unless you have really good policies around sick time, nothing you say about health code rules is going to penetrated your staff’s mind. Because they will know that it’s an excuse. On the other hand, if you really do make sure that people don’t have to come in sick, you have a lot of credibility on the issue.

  45. Skytext*

    I’m surprised by the number of people commenting on the cell phone issue, who defend a ban and basically say “how dare these lowly retail/food service workers spend 90 seconds of downtime on their phones! They are being paid to work and need to find something to do every moment.”

    Meanwhile, how many of them are reading AAM and commenting WHILE AT WORK? Wasting far more time here while they are supposed to be working? Getting quite a whiff of hypocrisy here.

    1. Snell*

      LW made it weird though, by mixing in hard reasons (health code) with less-solid reasons (what if employees goof off). If it’s a matter of “the business will face penalties from the health department,” then I don’t know why the LW is willing to put the business at risk. I would tell LW to tell the employees that that’s the requirements of the job, but for some reason, LW seems to think it’s not a rock solid requirement. But also that not abiding by this “non-requirement” will get them in trouble with the health department.

      1. Skytext*

        I wasn’t so much commenting on this particular Letter Writer—I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole. I was talking about the absurdity of some of the comments: (paraphrasing) “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean”, “if you have downtime you should find something productive to do”, “you’re being paid to work, not be on your phone”, “if I walked into a store or restaurant and the worker was on their phone I would turn around and leave” (even if the worker immediately put down the phone and greeted them), etc. Absurd because I have a pretty strong gut feeling the people writing these comments are doing it while AT WORK. But that’s different because they are lofty office workers who deserve some downtime and aren’t expected to fill every moment with being productive.

      2. Coin_Operated*

        It’s not a health code. The requirements from most health departments (in the U.S) are that employees need to wash their hands after handling (any) phone, including a landline phone, but nothing about whether employees can keep their phones on them while they work. That’s up to each employer to decide.

    2. Yesterday’s Bingo*

      My thoughts exactly. If they’re doing their job and attending customers when they come in, who cares if they check their email for a few minutes when nothing needs doing?

  46. JelloStapler*

    #4- “Not the same”

    Well, tell that to my company, they are one and the same, and even if you are really good, your “merit raise” doesn’t even come close to COLA. It’s ridiculous.

  47. Coin_Operated*

    This varies from State to State (in the US anyways) but it’s not a health code violation for food workers to have their cell phones on them. They are, however, trained to wash their hands before handling food if they’ve been handling their phone, or advised to keep their phones in the break room or a locker. Essentially your staff shouldn’t be on their phone while working but it’s technically not a health code violation. Similarly, these same rules apply to desk phones (which the health department considers just as dirty as cell phones), which I know nobody washes their hands after answering the phone either, so don’t pretend this is about a health code violation. You don’t want your staff on their cell phones while actively working in front of customers, and that’s good enough of a reason to make the rule, no need to make up health code vioaltions.

  48. Todd*

    Don’t try to pull some “health department violation”, because it’s BS. The health department isn’t going to say squat about cell phones.
    If you don’t want them using their cellphones in a forwarding facing roll, just make that your policy.

  49. Hexiv*

    Surprised that so many of the comments are digging into the Phone Discourse – I expected everyone to be focused on being horrified by #1. Antisemitism/Islamophobia is also a pretty significant problem in people with Christian or areligious backgrounds, so the idea of someone feeling like they ONLY need to be worried about it when they’re hiring a Muslim/Jew really pisses me off. Like, do they think everyone screaming about Muslims at Fox News is Jewish or what.

  50. Random Academic Cog*

    LW5 – While my experience may have more to do with being in a niche field, I’ve had multiple people reach out for a private conversation before or after they submitted an application for an open position. It typically takes the place of a preliminary interview. If they’re a strong candidate, I can just pass them along to the interview panel stage. If they’re a weak candidate, I can often dissuade them from wanting to continue. I’m lucky to get 5 actually qualified candidates out of 15 or 20 applicants, however, so I’m not dealing with huge numbers and have more flexibility in handling things than someone in a more competitive environment.

  51. Rach*

    #2 It’s weird that you care when emails are sent. Your overall gripe is completely legitimate, but people send emails all the time and it’s not rude to send someone an email on a weekend or in the evening.

  52. First Time Poster*

    Tuesday, Weds & Thurs this week my 3 children had 3 separate lockdowns at 3 separate schools in different states. Possible active shooter with police response. At least 2 made the news.
    Nashville was Monday.
    Those are the emergencies that all the “call on the work phone” posters do not seem to understand.
    A shift job like my own varies in hours & days. The work phone system is convoluted & often not answered. Relying on the land line at work is not a great option.
    Since the invention of a non commonplace item, the cell phone is available, being reachable should not be an issue.
    Phones are here to stay. Developing thoughtful respectful policies are needed. Balance is key. I have noticed that the No Phone Use crowd usually has full access to their own phone.
    Appropriate phone use on the job is a workplace behavior that needs development. It’s a challenge to find balance but we can get there.

    1. Nespresso Addict*

      Fully agree with this take. The world being what it is today, having ready access to my personal cell phone is not a luxury, it’s a necessity for safety. I say that as an adult but I feel the same applies 100% to teenagers. As a parent of two teens, the reason I gave them phones is first and foremost to enable direct communication between us so that I know where they are and that they are safe, and so that they can reach me discretely if ever a situation arises in which they are not safe, whether they’re at school, out with friends or at their part-time job. My teenage daughter works in a fast food restaurant where the workers are not allowed to use their phones unless they are on break, but they are allowed to keep their phones on their person. She keeps hers in her pocket and that gives me comfort, knowing she could text if ever there’s an active shooter or other dangerous situation. We’re in a day and age where I think of this not so much as a very unlikely “if” scenario, unfortunately, but a “when”. My kids have both experienced numerous school lockdowns due to credible threats, and I don’t think their experience is an anomaly – that is what life is today.

  53. First Time Poster Again*

    P.S. Under lockdown you TEXT — calling workplace landlines or any voice calling isn’t an option.
    Unfortunately these events are now very common. Cutting people off from communication when it’s available, is cruel.

  54. Don't Call Me Shirley*

    So regarding the emergency use of cell phones, I don’t know how you can get a police or school call and pick up without picking up the multiple daily spam calls. If you’re actually busy, you will have a moderate delay in getting a message, or at will be picking up all the time. I almost missed a recruiter calling about an application because it came after multiple spam calls.

    Either you are dropping work to answer, or there may be a delay. There’s no perfect solution.

    Not saying yes or no to cell phones, but if you can reliably tell the difference between a spoofed number spam call, a government employee working from home who has blocked their number, and a bystander who loaned your child their phone after a school fire, you have magic powers. Yes, I have the spam detection apps. Sadly, they don’t block the aggressively friendly people selling me investment courses and asking for me by name.

  55. First Time Poster Again*

    It’s not about picking up every call. It’s about feeling the back to back vibrations of their frantic text notifications. I have the phone out of sight, on vibrate & I don’t allow notifications for most things.

    Alerts me to check my phone because it’s unusual behavior.

    Call override is a feature I use for my kids, their school emergency notification systems, my elderly parents & my town emergency notifications . When my phone is on silent, I hear these calls. Only. At a low volume that I can decline but am aware of.

    Real emergencies occur & no job is more important than my children or my parents in crisis.

    I understand not wanting people on their phones endlessly when they should be working but that is a specific issue that can be addressed with particular employees. Same as any other activity that is taking the place of getting your job done.

    As pointed out in several places above, the world is now designed around cell phone reachability. Some of this was to cut business costs & some is because literally everyone has a phone now. Same number portability has cemented the idea you are reachable on your cell. In my state you can add your cell to your RMV acct for emergencies, for example.

    Locking away or collecting cell phones is elementary school level stuff. If you are entrusted to work at a business operation, you should be trusted to behave accordingly. If you don’t there can be consequences. Simple.

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