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Thursday, March 27, 2008


I am with a very large engineering company. They have classified me as non-exempt; however, they only pay straight time when I work overtime. They claim that because I have over 15-years experience, this is the reason. CAN THEY DO THAT and be within the labor law.

Ummm, no. Non-exempt, by definition means that you are not exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. Over 40 hours a week (or 8 hours a day if you live in certain states), requires overtime pay.

They are totally lame.

There are some IT jobs that allow you to be paid by the hour, but not be eligible for overtime. But, there are NO jobs that say, "because you have lots of experience, you are now exempt." But, if you were exempt, they would be paying you straight salary regardless of the hours you work.

Go and ask again and ask them to show you the statute that allows them to refrain from paying you overtime. They won't be able to produce it (unless you are one of those special IT people...) Ask for back pay. If they say no, file a complaint with the Department of Labor.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Manager Troubles

What is the best way to deal with a team leader who is constantly putting others down verbally, cussing me and other employees, and milking the time clock for overtime? I have been to the HR dept. here and all they have done is get my team leader to sign a paper saying he will not use inappropriate language. Of course he never quit being a jerk. It's getting very frustrating for me.

I am a maintenance clerk at a company that makes car parts. I am responsible for ordering whatever maintenance needs and doing inventory on a monthly basis on the parts we have. Other people who have had my job in the past have been to seminars to learn about maintenance duties and the programs that I use, but when I ask if there is anything I can do to further my knowledge they tell me I can't go. I feel really ignored and looked over.

Please help if you have any suggestions on how to deal with this or at least how I can make my days go a little smoother. My motivation for my job is just about disappearing.

Unfortunately, being a jerk isn't illegal, as long as he's an equal opportunity jerk, which I'll assume that he is.

I'm going to caution you right now, that my advice may result in you being fired for insubordination, depending on how much power your team lead has and how wimpy your HR department is. I'm sure my brilliant readers will have better advice that will magically turn your team lead into the nicest person on the planet, but I don't know what that is.

First, I'm going to ask you to read something that you'll think is totally bizarre in relationship to your question. This is an account of a woman who thought she was going to be attacked and how she handled it. For those of you too lazy to click, a brief summary is that she was in a parking garage, alone, and there was a man there not acting how one would expect. As she's walking in, she knows he's behind her. This is what happened next:
Then I abruptly turn around and ask “Can I help you with something?” while making sure to stare straight in his face. When I did this, I discovered he was not more than a couple steps behind me. He had gotten way too close. My abrupt turn and question caught the Character off guard. The look on his face was priceless. He managed to mumble a ‘no’ and walked past me as I stood there watching him

The security camera later shows him running away--not what a normal person would have done in the parking lot.

Why do I share this? Because jerks are jerks because they can be and no one objects. This potential criminal changed his action when someone objected. I think you can apply the same concept to your team lead.

The next time he's a jerk, say calmly, "That behavior is not appropriate and I won't be treated like that." This is especially effective if there are other people in the room. If he continues to yell or undermine or whatever, just repeat, "You are still acting inappropriately. I am happy to do whatever work is necessary, but I will be treated with respect."

The first time you do this he will probably be so shocked he won't know what to say. Or, he may fire you. As I said, there is definitely danger in this, but I've found that bullies really are so not used to being confronted that it stops them in their tracks.

As for training, stop asking if there is anything you can do to improve your skills. Start asking directly. "There is a training class for X on June 5th and 6th at Y location. This would directly benefit my position because it would teach me Z. I've filled out the registration form and I just need your signature."

I'd be shocked if he said no, but if he does, then be prepared. "Is there a specific reason I can't go? The three previous people in this job attended this class." or "If there is a scheduling conflict, it will be taught again in September. I'll go then. Here's the form for that."

Force him to give you a reason why you can't go.

As I said, this may fail miserably and you may get fired (and never come here for advice again! Although, think of the free time you'll have to surf the net!), but you don't have a great desire to stay there anyway. Polish up your resume before you start your jerk training. Document EVERYTHING. This will be needed proof when you apply for unemployment.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Not Hired

Right now I'm so busy I haven't even been regularly checking my e-mail (and for those of you in the know, you know I'm an e-mail addict, so that is something). I haven't been writing posts lately either. I swear my life will calm down in the near future (ha!), and I'll get back to regular posting.

However, I got an e-mail about a site called Not Hired and I decided to click. (This is unusual behavior for me, I must say. Usually, those e-mails get deleted. Just a warning for those of you who are thinking, "hey, I'll increase my hit count by spamming everyone I know!")

Anyway, I do love it. They've collected ads from people wanting jobs. Here are some favorites.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Time off for Exempt Employees

As an exempt employee with an administrative definition, is sick leave deducted on 1/2 day basis, e.g., going home sick mid-day. It seems it would be standard policy to charge that time against sick leave. Is that standard?

Also as an exempt, what allowances are in place for things such as doctor's appts or other personal appts, if you have used your personal leave days and come in late due to an appt, can that time legally be deducted from any remaining vacation benefit? If there's isn;t any benefit days left, what then?

There are two issues going on here. The first is legal and the second is policy. We'll deal with the legal first, although I am not a lawyer and none of this should be taken as legal advice. Go get your own brother to go to law school if you want free legal advice.

Exempt employees are paid to do the job, not by the hour. Therefore, they cannot deduct money from your paycheck if you are late, take a long lunch, go to a doctor's appointment or what have you. If you work at all, you get paid.

Now, the policy point. If you come in late, take a long lunch, go to a doctor's appointment or what have you, they still have to pay you, but they can fire you, demote you, discipline you or make your life miserable. (Or all of the above!)

In my experience, most companies allow (or require) exempt employees to take off blocks of time in half or full days. The can say, "If you have a doctor's appointment, you need to take it as sick time/vacation time/PTO," and you take that in half day increments. Fine. Be gone for four hours.

What you really need to do is either ask your manager what the policies are or ask HR. The HR person will probably be right, but your manager will be the one enforcing it and making your blissful existence miserable if you screw up.

I realize that many companies administer their exempt employees incorrectly. They don't want to pay you overtime, but they also want to deduct the time you spent discussing new shoes with Jane over lunch from your paycheck. For some reason this is a difficult concept for many companies (especially small ones) to grasp. As I said, they can't do that. They can, however, fire you for that. (Or for nothing, really. The beauties of an at-will workforce.)

However, the real answer to your question is to ask at work. "Hey, boss, if I have a doctor's appointment on Tuesday, do I have to take time off, or can I just go and come back. I'll be gone about an hour." If he says, "I'll dock your pay for the hour you are gone," you respond, "I'm an exempt employee and legally you can't do that. You can, however, require I use vacation and I'll take a half day, or you can just say no."

Carnival of HR #27

Is now up over at Three Star Leadership. (0r should that be ***leadership? Sorry I haven't had a lot of sleep and I'm a little punchy.)

Happy Carnival Reading

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Paid Time Off

I work for a company that provides two weeks of vacation and one week of paid sick leave (after 3 years and 11 months you go up to 3 weeks of vacation). I hate that I can't use my sick pay for vacation, I never get sick and I have accumulated my 40 hours of sick (so I can't accumulate anymore). I have two trips I want to take this year, but I am not going to have enough hours and I am too scared to use sick days when I am not sick.

I have emailed my HR department twice asking them if the idea of PTO had been discussed and they haven't emailed me back. As a test I had a co-worker email them, she didn't get a response either. So my question is: Why are companies resistant to PTO? Also, what should I do about my HR department not emailing me? I don't want to whine, but I am pretty sure HR is supposed to be there for employees.

I know some people are big fans of Paid Time Off (PTO), where you have a set number of days you can take off, and it doesn't matter if you have the flu or are going to Bermuda. You choose.

I hate it.

Why? Because vacation is supposed to be used for vacation. And, if I do get the flu (which thankfully, I haven't this winter, though just about everyone I know has been hit by it), I don't want to give up my vacation.

I realize that sick time is a very difficult thing to manage. If you say to people, "you have x number of sick days," then by golly they manage to get sick precisely x times! Wow! Freaky coincidence, right?

If you switch to a PTO model, then suddenly no one gets sick any more. They come into work hacking and coughing and puking, but no one dares take a day off for illness because they've already planned their Mexican Cruise. (I'm still jealous, HR Wench.) The end result is that the only people who use PTO for sick time are the parents of small children, whose daycare/school won't allow their child in the building if said child has a fever or is vomiting. (Smart.)

I'm actually a fan of personal responsibility and unlimited sick time. (Wheee, everybody gets sick all the time!) In my experience, people only take sick time when they actually need it. Those that abuse the privilege are usually the problem employees anyway, and you should be managing them right out the door for other reasons. Remember, unless an illness is approved for intermittent FMLA you can fire people who abuse sick time. (Evil HR Lady, firing those you love since 1999.)

I want people to be able to go on their cruises, or to their family reunions. (Even if they, themselves don't want to drag themselves clear across the country to spend time with great aunts who leave slobbery lipstick kisses. If I must suffer, so must all of you.) I also want them to stay home when they are sick. Because I don't want to get sick.

And, getting an extra week of vacation at only 4 years of service is pretty darn good.

So, I'm sorry, this isn't the answer you wanted. And there are numerous people who disagree with me. That is fine, but just don't cough on me during meetings and please don't step into my office if you have the plague.

The Wisdom of Dave

In my post about slow hiring, everybody made tons of brilliant comments. Really. They did. And made me see that many companies suffer from these problems.

However, my favorite comment was from Dave Ferguson. He wrote:
I'm developing a Decision Duration Factor, in which the speed (and possibly wisdom) of a decision varies inversely with the number of levels involved in the decision.

Dave, I would like to say that you are correct and I will support your theory about wisdom. (I'm also so glad you posted a few comments, because I love your blog. Now, go update it.)

Man, I hate it when suddenly all these layers of leadership begin to assert themselves. The result is never good. Shut up and let those who know what they are doing do their jobs.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wal-Mart and Guest Blogging

I have a post up over at Connecticut Employment Law Blog and it's all about Wal-Mart and blogging.

Go read it, and browse the rest of Daniel Schwartz's site. You'll like it.

Deductions and Unsolicited Advice


I normally would just hit delete on an e-mail that came in in all caps, as I figure I don't need to be yelled at by people I don't know. But, this question offered me a chance to use a whole new disclaimer: I am not in payroll. I have never been in payroll. I am not an accountant. My brother-in-law is an accountant, though, and he looks like an accountant. Seriously, if you were going to put up a poster of a typical accountant, you would put up my brother-in-law's picture. (And I think, grammatically, that should be "brother's-in-law picture," but that sounds so wrong.)

All that stuff comes out when I take vacation. (Except for child support, of course, as I don't owe anyone child support. My child just takes money directly from my wallet.)

But, why are you asking me? Pick up the phone and call your corporate payroll department. Phrase your question like this:

"Hey, I noticed that child support, health care, etc, comes out of vacation checks. I just wanted to to double check that that was correct, because I'm getting complaints."

They will answer you. Then you'll know the answer. (My guess is they are doing everything correctly, but I've been known to be wrong in the past. Like for instance, when I selected a paint color for my bedroom. "Golden" on a two inch piece of paper is very different than "golden" on all 4 bedroom walls. With a red bedspread, one can't help but walk into our bedroom and say, "would you like fries with that?")

Here's a little golden rule about policies and practices that you don't understand: If you ask the right person politely, you'll find out the answer. So, call payroll and ask them.

Urgent Messages

I normally do not rant about my day to day work life. In fact, I take great pains to leave details about what I do out of this blog. (All the better to remain anonymous...) But, I can't take it any more.

Our e-mail allows you to mark messages as "urgent," which colors the message. Our voice mail system also allows you to mark messages as urgent, which brings them to the front of the queue when someone picks up their messages.

Because I have the maturity level of a 13 year old, if you mark your message as urgent and it's not urgent, I will respond to you last. Yes, you heard me correctly. You get bumped to the bottom of the list.

Here is a handy guide to help you determine if the e-mail/voice mail you are sending me is urgent or not urgent.

There's a board meeting in 30 minutes and I just found out they need the latest turnover figures! Can you help?

Not Urgent:
There's a board meeting in two weeks and I just found out they need the latest turnover figures. Can you help?

Urgent but exceedingly annoying.
There's a board meeting in 30 minutes and even though they asked me for turnover 2 weeks ago, I'm just now getting to you.

I have an employee that I just caught stealing computer equipment. Help!

Not Urgent:
I have an employee that I'm thinking about terminating at some time. Can we meet to discuss it?

Not Urgent:
How much vacation do I have left?

Not Urgent:
How come Bob gets more vacation than I do?

Not Urgent:
I heard a rumor that there might be layoffs sometime this year. Am I on the list?

Not Urgent:
Am I vested?

See, there are lot more things that are not urgent than are urgent. I have yet to get a vacation question that is urgent. Yet, the people asking tend to believe that all such questions are.

Stop it. You are annoying me.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Crooked Bosses

I found out that I was pregnant just a week ago. Very early in the pregnancy and anything can happen. I was going to wait to tell my boss about it( who is an attorney), but I could not hide it because I get very sick in the mornings.

I told him two nights ago. He was super nice, he took glasses out to toast and etc. and told me I can go whenever I need to and just let him know when I am not feeling well etc.

He told me that he and his wife decided(who was my best friend) that 2 weeks before my due date they will lay me off. He said not to tell anyone. And he will hire someone part time while I will be home with the baby. He said it will give me 6 month unemployment and then my job will be here again.

Sounds like a really nice boss doesn't it! Well, story to it, he did this with the secretary who was "laid off" just like this last year. He laid her off while she was pregnant saying he had money issues. Two weeks later he sent her a letter to offer her position back. Of course she could not take it right then, so her unemployment got terminated and she had no insurance and was out there and trying to figure out what to do. I know he is planning on doing the same thing with me. I can see that clearly! What can I possibly do? Specially against an attorney?

Once again, it's time for the Evil HR Lady's disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I have never been a lawyer. I am not a legal expert, I am simply an evil hr lady.

That said, this guy is pond scum and I'd like to see him busted.

From your letter, it sounds like this is a very small law firm, and therefore FMLA wouldn't apply to him. (Unless your state has different regulations.) Therefore, he's under no obligation to keep you as an employee during a maternity leave. But, he cannot fire you because you are pregnant, which is precisely what he is planning to do. (He would have to treat you the same as anybody else who had a disability. Although, given his track record, he'd probably just fire everyone, so this may not apply to him.)

Businesses are charged for unemployment, so that would be why he wanted his former secretary off it.

First of all, you need to document everything he says about this. Second, you need to start looking for a new job immediately. Even if things work out with him, you don't want to work for him. If he's unethical with his staff, he's unethical with his clients and you want no part of it.

Third, contact your local EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and speak with them. They can give you guidance and they may even wish to take up your cause. If you'd like, you can contact the former secretary and ask that she do the same.

Since the lawyer's wife is (was) your best friend, did you not have an idea of what this guy was before you started? Frequently, in jobs (and other relationships) we ignore all the flashing warning symbols because we're convinced that we have the special power to make everything all right. You don't. I don't. People that are sleazy can't be trusted with anybody, even you.

So, start looking for a new job. Talk with the EEOC. And good luck with the pregnancy.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Carnival of HR #28

Is now up over at Gautam Ghosh's place. Sorry I didn't post it earlier.

Hop over and read away.

Slow Hiring

I am applying for an internship. I understand that the job is low priority to them, as it is indeed an internship, not full-time. But the hiring process is very slow. I believe I had a successful phone interview with a member of their HR, then was told that HR was awaiting a response from upper management regarding the position. The wait has now been a month long. I have been in contact with my interviewer and she welcomes me to call back and check on my status, but the status is unchanging. Each call is the same, "I'm so sorry to keep you waiting. I will let you know as soon as .. . "

If they weren't interested in hiring me, surely I would get a verbal rejection when I speak with them, or the cold shoulder. But instead, I get the response that the hiring process has been halted, due to the need of feedback from upper management. Are they trying to turn me away?

If they are trying to turn you away, they've got the wimpiest recruiter this side of the Mississippi! (Please note, I don't actually know what side of the Mississippi you are on. For all I know this job is actually on an island in the middle of the Mississippi. You're going to be acting out Tom Sawyer for tourists! I knew it!)

Here's how the hiring process should go:

1. Manager decides there is a vacancy
2. Recruiter does what it takes to bring in several qualified candidates
3. Manager and friends interview candidates
4. Decision is made
5. New person accepts fabulous offer
6. Person starts job--total time, start to finish 4-6 weeks.

Here's how it ends up going many times.

1. Manager decides that there is a vacancy.
2. Recruiter starts looking for qualified candidates.
3. Boss disagrees. "Even though Jane left, you can do the work without another headcount. I'm transferring your headcount over to Heidi's department.
4. Recruiter sets up several appointments with qualified candidates
5. Manager says, "Ummm, I may be losing the headcount, but let's interview anyway."
6. Recruiter cringes, but goes forward.
7. First interviews happen
8. Boss finds out and is livid. Massive political nightmare ensues.
9. Recruiter puts all candidates on hold
10. Department misses important deadline due to lack of staff.
11. Boss agrees that headcount is needed.
12. Recruiter calls back all the candidates
13. It's been so long that 3 of the candidates have dropped out. She starts over again.
14. Round 2 of interviews. Candidate from first round is wondering "why is this taking so long?"
15. Heidi throws a hissy fit. "You said I could have the headcount! I've started recruiting!"
16. Heidi's recruiter comes in and yells at the other recruiter. Big political nightmare ensues.
17. Candidate calls back, "How are things going? Has a decision been made?"
18. Recruiter says nicely, "We're still in a holding pattern. I'll let you know."
19. Then a hiring freeze comes from the top. "No hiring without VP approval."
20. Manager and Heidi rush to fill out paperwork to get VP approval.
21. VP is a wimp and signs both approvals, not knowing there is only one headcount.
22. It keeps going until Evil HR Lady gets a headache.

So, in short (too late), they probably aren't trying to get rid of you. They are probably trying to make up their minds and there's all sorts of stuff going on behind the scenes. Just keep looking for another job. Never place all your eggs in one basket. You may get the job and you may not. Keep looking elsewhere.

Monday, March 03, 2008

I Disagree

Today's Dear Abby column includes a question about disclosing a planned vacation during a job interview. Abby says to tell the hiring manager, who will respect you for your honesty.

She may be right. But, I would give the opposite advice and tell the person to disclose the planned vacation after an offer has been made. Why? Because while a good manager knows that vacations happen and won't let that influence her hiring decision, a less than perfect manager would let that information cloud her judgment. Instead of realizing that whoever she hires will take time off for vacation, this one vacation could cause a job to be lost.

My advice would be, after you get the job offer, to say, "I will need to take August 2-10 off for vacation. Are those dates going to be okay with you?" If the answer is no, then you graciously decline the offer.

Those are my thoughts, anyway. What do you all think?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

If You Hate Work That Much...

Maybe you should just get a new job:
Sheriff's detectives in Franklin County, Washington, say a man had his friend shoot him in the shoulder so he wouldn't have to go to work.

Okay, okay, it was mainly to avoid a drug test, but still.

At least it was a unique idea!

(via Blue Crab Boulevard.)