Important Notice:
This site has moved to, please update your bookmarks. If you were looking for a specific post, you can use the site search option or archives at the new domain to find it. Thank you!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

About That Training Budget

The next time your management complains that your management training budget is too high, perhaps you can show them this New York Times article:
The Lockheed Martin Corporation, the military contractor, has agreed to pay a former employee $2.5 million, more than any person has received in the settlement of a racial discrimination case filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, lawyers for the agency said on Wednesday.

The employee, Charles Daniels, 45, said he was called derogatory names and threatened by four co-workers and a supervisor from 1999 to 2001, when he worked as an aviation electrician for the company in Florida, Hawaii and Washington.

Yeah, because that is so much cheaper than training managers not to do that. I don't know the details of the case, but I imagine it was botched on several levels. People don't generally sue for one comment. They sue when they feel like they have no other option.

When the affected employee took the issue to his manager, he was told:
“That’s just boys being boys, and that’s the way it is here at Lockheed.”

A nice session of Evil HR Lady's Diversity Training Program could have helped that manager realize that that was not the right answer.

I'm definitely cheaper than $2.5 million.

Not Quite Convicted

I was recently terminated from an employer because they had claimed that I had provided false and inaccurate information on my employment application which I dispute. In particular, there was a question asking if "I had ever been convicted for a crime in which a pardon has not been granted?". The answer to this question is no and that is what I answered. However, I do have an outstanding charge going back from about 6 years ago which still has not been resolved. Nevertheless I do not have any criminal record nor any sort of conviction on file. The employer claimed that I had lied on that application but I simply did not, it is completely the honest truth.

After I was terminated I applied for Employment Insurance and I was granted it. The folks at the Employment Insurance office agreed with me that I had not been fired for a just cause and recommended that I might want to pursue this issue with the Human Rights Commission. So I have recently filed a complaint about this issue to the Human Rights Commission and am awaiting their response.

I was just wondering, in your experience, is what the company did legal? I do not feel it is right at all because I was completely honest and I was a great worker with a good work record.

You didn't lie. The Unemployment Insurance people agreed with you. (Now, HR people will say that the unemployment insurance people grant unemployment to anyone who didn't actually commit murder while at work, except when you truly laid someone off through no fault of their own and suddenly they want extra information and a sacrificed chicken in order to approve the claim.)

So, in short, I don't know what you allegedly did, but if it was bad enough I can see why the company may be willing to face a fine rather than have you on board. Doesn't make it legal, just understandable.

Hopefully you'll be able to clear up this legal problem without getting a conviction. In the mean time, take your unemployment and go out and look for a new job. If you want to pursue this with the Human Rights Commission (are you Canadian?) go ahead. But, don't sit home moping. Go get a new job.

Foolish Youth

This is regarding my first job out of college (one of the top 10 engineering programs in the country) with a large automotive manufacturing company. I have had 15 months of internships (one 3 month term and one 12 month term) with the company and they have offered me full-time employment that is contingent on an acceptable background screening. The job is a manufacturing engineering position with no driving required.

The reason that this concerns me is that I have a list of charges (dismissed) and two convictions (not dismissed) on my record. These charges include:

1. 2003 Minor consuming alcohol ticket – fine paid, no conviction, home town

2. 2004 Minor consuming alcohol ticket – fine paid, no conviction, college town

3. 2005 DUI conviction, no accident, .12 BAC, no aggravating factors, college town

4. 2006 Alcohol intoxication - $100 ticket paid, work town

While the majority of these charges against me never amounted to a conviction they do tend to spell out a pattern (no arrest in 2007 , that was my resolution last New Year’s). Also, I did not think that charges with no conviction would show up on a background check (but they have with other companies recently). Another major company has revoked my offer in light of these charges specifically listing them as the reason. The company that I am accepting the offer from employed me with a background check in December 2005 so I assume that the charges before that were known. They would not be aware however of the DUI or the alcohol intoxication ticket afterwards.

My question:

How should I approach the situation with the HR department? Their HR department is far removed from any of the people I have worked with (different state actually) and I do not know if I should bring it up or if I should keep mum about it. Would it be to my credit to come forward with it ahead of time? If the job is not driving related will this affect their decision about whether to continue with the employment?

I really am an honest hardworking intelligent person, which people I have worked with know, but have had bad luck and a careless attitude regarding alcohol related law.

Any advice you can offer will be much appreciated.

Hmmm, you have what I call seriously bad judgment. In fact, I think you probably have a drinking problem and should seek professional help.

Now, as to what you should say to HR? Nothing. If you've been asked to fill out a new application or form for this background check, do so honestly. I doubt the juvenile convictions count. However, if this is a reason to disqualify you from the job, no matter your excuse you aren't going to get the job.

Your supervisor during your internship can vouch for your ability to do the job, but no company wants to make an exception to a rule for a recent college grad. They might make an exception for a highly regarded new executive, but not at the entry level.

That said, I don't know that there is a business reason to disqualify you since the job doesn't directly involve driving. However, it is for an automotive company and therefore, they may be more careful about it.

Don't be tempted to lie. Lies like this will get discovered. If they ask for an explanation you can give them one, but otherwise they are going to make their decision based on the conviction.

And for everyone else reading, please don't be stupid when you drink. If you are going to be stupid when you drink, stop drinking. It's not worth the cost you may have to pay later on.

Fired, Now What?

Hi Evil HR Lady,

In May I graduated college and found a full time job with a large firm in town. One month into the job, I came down with mono and an infected liver. On doctor's orders I was out of work for five weeks and my supervisors and HR at work were all very supportive and even suggested that I apply for short-term disability. Right before my illness, another person was hired in our department who can basically do all of the work that I did but more as he has a higher degree and more experience than me.

Also, the GIS (a computer program) person went part-time and I was given the majority of his work. When I was hired, I made it very clear that my GIS experience was very limited and they said that I would only be assisting this person with 10 hours per week. When I came back from sick leave, I found that I was spending 30 hours per week doing GIS work. I talked to the GIS person to make sure he knew that our supervisors were aware of my limited experience (he was the one who interviewed me on those skills in the first place). He said that they were and that he would talk to one of our supervisors about it. When he did, the supervisor had no idea that they were giving me work that I didn't know how to do and said she would get it resolved. Two weeks later, I was terminated due to an email I replied to. In this email, the administrative assistant revealed our boss's expense report information to me. I didn't get along well with this girl and usually tried to humor her in order for her to leave me alone and since I replied saying how surprised I was at one of the expenses (no foul language, no name calling, no negativity), the termination was justified because HR felt that "the e-mail showed how unhappy" I was at the company.

Up until this point, I had received plenty of "job well done" emails from my superiors and at no point did my supervisors talk to me about email use, my attitude, my interactions or my appearance while this other girl had repeated warnings that she was not doing her job correctly.

As soon as my coworkers found out (from an office-wide email) they all called me up and offered support and good recommendations. Three of them even emailed the office manager saying how pleasant I was to work with and what a good worker I was. Everyone was shocked that I was fired along with the admin girl, including myself.

My question is: What do I put on my resume and applications for new jobs? I know you repeatedly say not to lie on your blog and while I am usually the most truthful person you will find, you have said that you are very uncomfortable hiring someone who was fired with cause. Technically I was fired with cause, but the reason for termination was so ludicrous that one of my former coworkers is more than willing to give me a recommendation and he even suggested that he be my "supervisor reference". He technically did supervise me on projects and believes that I was not fired justly. He is a senior employee, although much lower on the pole than my real boss.

You are right, I will recommend that you not lie. However, unlike your parents, who didn't take "but you didn't ask if I was attending calculus every day, you just asked if I was showing up and I did, twice, last week," as an appropriate answer, companies don't require that you voluntarily reveal everything.

Yes, you can leave this job off your resume and explain that shortly after graduating you got mono and were very ill blah, blah, blah. However, you did gain some valuable experience in that job.

I'm not going to second guess why they terminated you. (Although saying that it was because of the e-mail and then saying that the e-mail showed how unhappy you were is a really lame reason. Darn HR types!) Instead, let's move forward.

Including the job on your resume says you gained experience in your field--and in a related field (which can only help you!)--will probably benefit you on your current job hunt. You don't have to list a reason for leaving on your resume. In fact, I would think it was strange.

On an application, you may have to list a reason for leaving. Most companies don't have you fill out an application until you show up for the interview. Which means, you get a chance to verbally explain rather than having to fit why you were terminated in a little box.

The interviewer (either staffing, hiring manager or another interviewer) will say, "Why did you leave your last job after such a short time?"

This is something you need to be prepared to answer. Your answer needs to be truthful, but you can certainly spin it your way. Whatever you do, don't say, "well, there was this admin that nobody liked and plus they dumped GIS work on me that I wasn't prepared for and blah, blah, blah."

Instead try, "I was hired to do X and unfortunately I caught mono and was out for 6 weeks. During that time, someone else took over the majority of my responsibilities, so when I came back I was assigned to GIS work. Unfortunately, that is not my forte, and things didn't work out very well. I'm eager to start a new job doing X again, although I wouldn't mind learning more about GIS."

You can list the project supervisor who volunteered to serve as a reference. List him as a "project supervisor," though, not just a generic supervisor. And let him know that you've listed him as a project supervisor. That way, he won't attempt to lie for you. Since this is your first job out of college, listing a college professor or previous boss and then two people you worked with at this company should allay fears that you are some sort of slacker.

Mismatches happen. Normal people understand that. Hopefully you'll be able to land a new job quickly!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Please, Please, Please, Find a New Job

I've got another one for you: (Go here for the first problem.)

Is it LEGAL for your supervisor (also your HR Manager) to forbid you from going to lunch with any employee at all? How about whole departments?

Might that vary from state to state? Or is there a federal law?

Oh, and it's not stated anywhere in our employee handbook.

Thanks for any advice. I've tried to do some research on this but can't find anything concrete.

Honestly, I have no idea. From what I know, I can't see where it would be illegal, but it might be. I'm certainly no expert on employment law, especially in all 50 states.

Here's the problem. Your manager and you don't see eye to eye. She doesn't like the way you dress. She doesn't want you interacting with the employees. She doesn't trust your judgment.

Now, I happen to think you have great judgment because you come to me for advice, but that aside, it's time to either change to be what she wants or move on.

There are many reasons why HR should not be chummy with the employees. Does your boss not socialize at lunch either? If she doesn't, then this is one of her policies and learn to love it or leave. If she does, it's your judgment she doesn't trust.

It takes a great deal of time to build up trust in someone who you already have negative feelings for. You'll have to work three times as hard to prove yourself to this person. You'll have to act in ways that are not natural to you.

You can certainly do this, but why? Polish your resume and start looking for a new job where you will have a better fit. And while you are polishing, take a good look at yourself. What is it that this woman doesn't like? While she may be completely irrational, there are probably some valid reasons for her concerns.

Figure out what they are and correct them or this will haunt you the rest of your career.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

Are you exempt or non-exempt? Judging by the questions I get, there is something psychologically satisfying about being declared a "professional." But there is something more than psychologically satisfying about getting a check with a large amount of overtime pay.

The Fair Labor Standards Act gives a bunch of criteria for evaluating a position to determine whether it is overtime eligible (non-exempt) or not (exempt). Unfortunately, even those of us with magical HR crystal balls can disagree over how a position should be categorized.

It's to the company's advantage to have as many exempt positions as possible. However, it's more to the company's advantage to be correct, or else they can get hit with lawsuits, fines, and then there's the issue of back overtime pay. (Most exempt employees don't punch a clock of any kind. So, there's no record of what hours actually were worked. So, the back overtime pay is nothing more than a guess--a very expensive guess.)

But, as I said, sometimes it's not exactly clear. Enter the lawyers--and the lawsuits.
IBM in recent months has been hit with lawsuits filed on behalf of thousands of U.S. employees who claim the company illegally classified them as exempt from federal and state overtime statutes in order to avoid paying them extra whenever they worked more than 40 hours per week.

Bad for IBM, but potentially good for the employees? Well, it depends. Read on:
The good news for those workers is that IBM now plans to grant them so-called "non-exempt" status so they can collect overtime pay. The bad news: IBM will cut their base salaries by 15% to make up the difference, InformationWeek has learned.

The plan has been greeted with howls of protest from affected workers.

So, if you have been someone who has been putting in a straight 40 hours a week, now that you are overtime eligible, you'll see your paycheck drop substantially. Even if you regularly work more than that, you may not benefit as much as you think you might.

If you were earning $50,000 a year before, that translates into an hourly wage of $24 an hour for a 40 hour work week, or $961 per week. Now, with your 15% pay cut, you are earning $20.43 per hour, or $817 a week. Sure, if you get overtime, you get $30 an hour. You've got to work nearly 5 extra hours every week to get your old base salary.

Now, if you were regularly putting in 50 hour work weeks anyway, this is a benefit to you. If you weren't--well, bummer. The hour you took off last week to go to a doctor appointment? As an exempt employee, it made no difference to your paycheck. As a non-exempt employee? You lose that hour of pay. Same thing goes for the occasional long lunch. Oh, and you need to clock out when you are eating lunch. Technically, you shouldn't even answer a work related question while on your lunch break.

There are benefits to being exempt and benefits to being nonexempt. Before you call a lawyer and start a class action suit, you want to think through all of these things. And if a lawyer calls you, ask yourself why he's doing it? Is it for your good or for his financial gain? You may not be pleased with the outcome.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Want a New Job?

The The Fortune Top 100 Companies to Work For list is now up.

Great places to work.

Personally, while I don't work for any of them, I'm just thrilled that I have a Wegmans to shop at. Technically, I think, their chocolate muffins should be classified as a controlled substance.

Check them out and check out why they made the list.

Managing Expectations

I am an Army veteran from my home country, India. I remodeled my resume to make it suitable for a career in HR and was granted a work visa as an HR Manager.

Since then I have been working for a small-to-medium family owned enterprise. They haven’t had a dedicated HR department all this while and looked upon me as someone to bring in the required changes in policies and procedures. They were even willing to accept the fact that I shall be learning mostly on the job. I put up a brave front and have been trying to cope ever since with myriad laws and regulations practiced in USA.

There is, however, a major point of irritation between us, bringing in discipline amongst the employees. I do not think that any of our 45 workers across four locations need any major overhaul. I fired all the trouble makers right in the beginning. But he keeps needling me on the fact that he had hired me because of my Army background and that I am not justifying his beliefs. Dealing with mostly disciplined combat soldiers from the other end of the gun is far different than dealing with corporate employees. I consider myself good at people to people communication and exercise this trait of my personality to the fullest extent but I can’t become an Army Colonel all over again, try as I might. I have led a disciplined life and I try to lead this bunch of young and talented people by personal example. That seems to be working, but somewhere there is a mismatch between my employers expectations and my way of working.

I shall appreciate any gems of wisdom on how not to become a menace/evil at work and have all my colleagues shun me. I don’t like eating my lunch alone. I would like to remain who I am and do the right thing.

My guess is this is a matter of mismatched expectations and visions of what successful looks like. To him, successful is military precision. I bet he’s not a big fan of telecommuting or an outcome based workforce, either.

So, while you see talented people creating results (and good job in firing all the troublemakers at the beginning), he sees chaos and rule violations.

Have you said to him, "Dealing with mostly disciplined combat soldiers from the other end of the gun is far different than dealing with corporate employees"? If so, how did he respond? Anybody that is remotely rational should realize that the environment in a military unit is different from an at will workforce.

So, you need to manage his expectations and work on developing him. Usually, we focus on developing people to become managers, but this time you've got to develop the manager. (This isn't uncommon in a family owned business, by the way. (Or any business, actually--parentheses inside of parentheses!))

Have a goal setting session with him--not where you talk about his personal development goals or your goals, but what his goals are for the company. Then help him (that is let him think he's doing it) figure out the best way to achieve those goals.

You are going to have to be able to show him results from these goals. So make sure they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and have a time frame). Also make sure they are not trivial (I want everyone in their desk by 8:00! If they come in at 8:05 that is a failure!).

This is not going to be easy. (Is any thing easy in HR? Well, yes, creating new forms! Paperwork is where it is at!) In fact, he may completely reject you and say, "I hired you because of your military background. Now, get everyone in order!" You'll have to counter with WHY, specifically using business language and data, this is a bad idea.

Not that some companies don't run tighter ships than others. That's fine. Company culture varies from company to company. But, if his people that are already on board don't fit his vision you either need to change his or change the workforce. The latter will cost him an awful lot more.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Recruiting Made Easy

Well, recruiting is rarely easy, but wouldn't it be easier if you could offer a $4.2 million condo along with the salary and benefits? Oh, and a mortgage buy down along with it.

Tax Prof Blog reports on how NYU did just that to lure a Columbia professor away.

Just increase your recruiting budget by a little bit and you too can do this!

How to Be a VP of HR

You've probably answered several like these, but I'm trying to figure out how to become a VP of HR. I have a bachelors degree in HR, and for the past two years I've been at a mid-market benefits consulting firm. I'm happy and appreciated where I'm at now, which makes me not want to leave, but I do have a career goal that I want to move towards. I had two HR internships while in college and thoroughly enjoyed all of the areas I touched, so I'm confident I will enjoy whatever I get into.

So, the question is, at what point do I move to the corporate side? What kind of position do I try to get? Just trying to figure out where to go from here and would love your input.

Well considering that I have no desire to be a VP of HR (of course, if someone wanted to pay me like one, that's a different story), I'm not sure I'm the best person to answer that.

First of all, VP of HR means a world of difference if you are VP of a 50 person company vs a 25,000 person. I'm assuming you're looking for the latter.

So, a degree in HR and two years of experience in a benefits firm. Great. I think you're on the right path. Things I think you need to do:

  • Get corporate experience. How do you do that? Start applying for corporate jobs.
  • Look for a job that has rotational possibilities
  • Actively seek out a line management job (read: non-HR Job). Why? Because you gain credibility by understanding the business.
  • When you've had at least 5 years of experience get an MBA. Get this MBA from the absolute best school you can get into. If you can get into a top 10 school, then go ahead and quit your job while you are in school. If you can't, an executive MBA is fine.
  • Don't be afraid to tackle the difficult jobs. You've already started by jumping into benefits, which is a complicated and increasingly important role.
  • Seek out a mentor.
  • Pay attention to how the people who are VPs act and dress and emulate them. (Note: not copy them. That's just creepy.)
  • Read the comments because my readers have fabulous suggestions
  • .

    Carnival of HR #25

    Remember that girl you went to school with? The one who sat on the front row and answered all the teacher's questions first. Well, in the HR world, it turns out it's Deb! The latest Carnival of HR is up over at 8 Hours & A Lunch. And, Deb had it up a day early.

    We'll have to give her an A+!

    Next up is the First Anniversary Carnival, hosted by Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership. I expect cake, Wally.

    Monday, January 21, 2008

    Career Counseling

    I need serious help connecting with someone who can help me plan a new career path. Where can I go for this?

    Go to the end of your street. Turn left. Go three blocks (where the McDonalds is) and make a right. Follow that for 3.2 miles (track it on your odometer--otherwise you'll miss it!) and look for a small house with purple curtains. Park on the street (not in the driveway, she's very particular about who parks in her driveway). Take a plate of chocolate chip cookies with your name and phone number up to the front porch. Ring the bell, put the plate of cookies down and leave. If you're lucky you'll get a call back!

    Oh wait, not helpful? Sorry.

    When I googled Career Counseling I got back over 2,000,000 hits. Only barely 320,000 for Career Coaches, though.

    It's not a lack of resources. It's a lack of clarity on your part. (I know, I know, that's the problem.)

    You want a new career path. Excellent. What's wrong with the old one? I'm not asking this because I'm trying to encourage you to stay in your current path. I'm asking because you really need to know this. If your problems are:

    1. I hate my boss
    2. Stupid company policies
    3. No raise in 3 years

    You may not need a new path, per se, but rather a different job in the same field. If your problems are:

    1. I'm an accountant and I can't add
    2. I'm a kindergarten teacher and I can't stand kids
    3. I'm HR person and I don't like people

    You probably need to start a new path, except for the last one. We'll just move you right into employee relations.

    I'm a big fan of free (or at least cheap), so I have to recommend books before counselors that charge you money. What Color is Your Parachute always gets rave reviews, although I have never read it.

    For only $8.76, is selling Career Coward's Guide to Changing Careers. Again, I haven't read it, but I thought the title was cool.

    What are your hobbies? Yes, it's unlikely you'll be able to get a new job that just requires building model trains, but if that's your hobby, maybe you should consider something that requires working with your hands.

    The key thing in a situation like this is that you not just sit around and mope. Read the books. Figure out where you want to go. Talk to people who are already there. Figure out how they got there. Start down that path. Do something EVERY DAY towards your new goal.

    If you do that, you'll get onto a new career path.

    Friday, January 18, 2008

    From Politics to HR

    I read on your blog that you got an MA in Political Science. I have just graduated with a BA in Political Science and HR is a career path I am mulling right now. I was wondering if you could advise me on how I might go about getting started. Are post-graduate qualifications necessary or advisable? I don't intend on getting an MA or MBA for the foreseeable future, but you never know. One option is a graduate diploma in HRM, since I know a year-long part-time course that would get me that. Would that be a good idea?

    Is it better to go the corporate HR route, or would consulting be more rewarding? How about staffing/executive search? Is there anything specific from Political Science that can be applicable to an HR career?

    Thank you for your patience. I hope you can impart some of your experience to a fresh graduate still trying to find some patch of firm ground to stand on.

    Ahh, political science. A delightful major. Yes, some of it applies to HR. On your cover letter just emphasize that you studied and understand the following:

  • Corruption
  • Bureaucracy
  • Political Wrangling
  • Entitlements
  • How to make people feel good about your proposed policies without actually explaining what those policies are.

  • Ha, ha, ha! Ahh, school. Loved it. I don't know if consulting would be more rewarding then corporate life, but I also would hate to hire the consulting firm that hired you. Why? Not because you aren't brilliant (all of us poli sci majors are brilliant), it's that you don't know anything yet.

    You say that HR is something you are "Mulling over." Great. Mull over a whole bunch of things, but when you are in a interview and when you are writing those cover letters and tweaking your resume, you better make me believe that HR is your one true calling. I want someone that wants this job, not a job.

    My honest and true recommendation? If you can't find an HR job waiting for you upon graduation, pick up the phone and call all the temporary agencies in the area. Tell them you'll do anything--typing, filing, alligator wrestling--as long a it's in an HR department. People will hire you as a temp when they would never think about hiring you in a permanent position. (Of course, my regular readers know that there is no such thing as a permanent position.)

    Working as a temp will allow you to learn the language and enough skills to be able to get a real job in an HR department 6 months down the road. When you've procured the job, work on getting your master's or your MBA. I don't recommend an MBA to anyone until they've worked. How can you expect to "master" business when you don't know anything about it?

    Good luck! And I hope you enjoyed the Federalist Papers as much as I did.

    Thursday, January 17, 2008

    If It Wasn't For Those Darn Kids

    I began my current job just under a year ago. When I received the job offer, I accepted my boss' initial salary offer without attempting to negotiate because 1) I was really interested in the job 2) My job search had gone on for much longer than I had expected, and 3) the offer was within the range I had anticipated, albeit on the low end.

    During my first week on the job my boss informed me that my colleague who heads up the project I work on would be going on maternity leave in a matter of weeks. After about a month on the job, I was responsible not just for my work, but for my colleague's. (She had been staffing the project by herself, but it had become so large that they hired me.) So for over 3 months I worked very hard to learn and manage the work of two people. My initial reaction was to step up and take one for team--it provided a good opportunity to show my capabilities and work ethic to my boss. Although it was stressful at times, I kept the project moving forward and was thanked personally by my boss when my colleague returned.

    A fews months passed, and then my colleague missed what was far and away the busiest week of the year because her baby got sick, and then she got sick from the baby. I had to take on her responsibilities again, only this time without any advance warning. I just found out today that she will be out another for another week next month. I get along very well personally with both my boss and my colleague. And in principle, I'm all for pro-family work policies, even though I do not really enjoy any benefits since I am single. However, I recently discovered that my colleague's salary is about $15,000 more than mine. This made me very angry because I had assumed that the difference was more like $5000-7000 (she only has a couple years more experience than me). I really resent the fact that I have spent almost a third of my time here covering for her, while she rakes in that much more in income. I like my job, but no one told me during the job interview that I would be taking on this many extra hours---that would have surely influenced my evaluation of the salary offer.

    I have a performance evaluation in a few months. Given my circumstances, I plan on asking for a substantial raise. I don't expect parity with my colleague, but I really think it is unfair that there was not full disclosure of what my responsibilities would be. When I ask for the raise should I say that much to my boss, or just highlight my willingness to step up?

    Well, one thing you've already learned is the value of countering salary offers. I have yet to hear of a case where a company offers X and the candidate says, "how about X+$5000" and the company says, "we're rescinding the original offer." The worst they'll say is no. (Now watch, I'll get an e-mail from someone who tries this advice and gets the original offer rescinded, plus their dog is hit by a truck and an ice storm hits the Midwest and they are forced to live without power eating cold beans and weenies, all because I told them to suggest a counter offer.)

    I think you handled the extra work perfectly--just dig in and do it. Which you did. No use complaining.

    But, now it's yearly evaluation time and it's time to get more money. Lots more money. (Incidentally, it's harder to get a big raise once you are hired then it is to raise your starting salary, in my humble opinion.) The first rule is that your co-worker's name must never come out of your mouth.

    Yes, she was off having a baby, so you had more work to do. Then the kid got sick. Then she got sick. Your trials are largely due to her trials. This is one of the most difficult things about working parents--usually mothers. You need time off after a baby is born. And someone has to stay home with the kid when it is sick. It's usually mom. No social commentary here, just sayin'.

    So, your goal is to not say, "When Karen was on maternity leave..." or "When Karen was out for two weeks..." Rather, you want to say, "I jumped in and took on extra work. I learned blah blah blah and successfully blah blah blah and I've contributed blah blah blah. When I was hired I didn't realize the amount of extra hours that I would have to put in in order to meet deadlines and goals. I'm happy to do it because I value this project and I value this company, but I'd like to have my compensation reflect the value I have added and will continue to add to this company."

    Now, when your boss says, "Good job for covering for Karen, but now that she's back..." Don't fall into the temptation to start badmouthing Karen, working mothers in general and annoying children who kick the back of your seat on the airplane. (Incidentally, you would think that if a two year old's feet can reach the back of the seat in front of him, that would be a good clue to the airline that the seats are too close together.)

    Say thank you and then talk about the project, and not about how you picked up Karen's slack.

    Good luck and I hope you get a huge raise.

    Wednesday, January 16, 2008

    Make Sure You Take All Your Problems to HR

    As you might have guessed, I read advice columns. Dear Abby, Ann Landers, Ask Amy, etc. Lately everything has been, "go to HR." Okay, I'm exaggerating. Just two days in a row in Ask Amy.

    Recently Amy dealt with a boss who took papers into the bathroom with him at work. Ick. I don't recall Amy's response, but she got this letter back:
    Your reply to "Grossed Out," whose boss took client documents into the bathroom with him, was off base. Making light of what he's doing will either annoy him or will be lost on him, as he is already unaware of proper office bathroom etiquette.

    Grossed Out should bring the situation to HR. They are trained to handle these types of matters.

    Today, the issue was a scantily clad co-worker, and Amy's advice:
    His next move should be to call in an HR professional to mediate this issue to everyone's satisfaction.

    I must have called in sick on the day we had the secret HR Seminar titled: "Bathrooms and Inappropriate Dress: What Every HR Person Must Know!" (Truth be told, that sounds kind of like an article title for one of those ghastly magazines you see in the checkout line at the grocery store.)

    Here's the problem in both of these situations--no one wants to be the adult. The bathroom thing is an oh, ick, situation. If your boss does this and then tries to hand you the papers say, "Steve, it really grosses me out when you take papers into the bathroom with you. Please don't do it any more."

    But, but, but, he's my boss and he'll fire me! See, that's the adult problem coming into play again because if Steve were an adult he'd say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I never thought about it." And he wouldn't do it again.

    With the scantily clad woman, the boss should have addressed her lack of judgment in clothing a long, long, time ago. Like when she was first hired. And bosses shouldn't force people to take other people to lunch with them. This is not second grade. (And co-workers should not exclude people from such gatherings either--this is not Junior High.)

    But no one wants to say anything to see-through dress lady. "Jennifer, your clothing is inappropriate for the office. Here's a copy of the dress code. Please stick to it. If you have questions, look at what the other women in the office are wearing."

    Now, I have no real objection to HR being brought into these problems. We're here to help. Really. Truly. But, can we please help grown ups?

    Judgment Lapse

    Dear Evil HR Lady,

    I am an IT professional at a very conservative Insurance Company. I got an upward transfer (not initiated by me) and have very strong performance reviews. Working with our webmaster, to test an e-mail insurance form, I put in some fake data to see if the form would submit. I was testing validation such as - phony phone number, address, zip code - that sort of thing. I was unaware that the form was routed to an insurance agency for handling in addition and not direct to the webmaster. My fake data consisted of the applicant being Lucifer Morning Star, the agency Hell Inc., the address 666 something or number all 6's...and was intended to fail and not even be submitted, but in case it did I put a comment on it to identify it was a joke to the webmaster. In the comments section is said "(webmasters name) if you don't process this I will possess you!", clearly obvious this was not a serious insurance application and was, however distasteful, a harmless joke.

    The agency who received it made a big deal about it that they thought it was threatening and they were considering calling the police and should they change the locks and all of this nonsense(obviously someone with too much time on their hands!). Since we webmaster the form, it came back to our company and when the helpdesk read it, their response was, this is obviously a joke and whomever sent it knows the webmaster (as his name was referenced in the comments).

    Then IT security got involved and did some scanning or whatever to determine what IP address it came from an so forth. The webmaster is approached by the helpdesk, but since he never got the email (because it was routed to the agent and not to him as I thought) he did not recognize it was from me, and just said its obviously a joke - don't worry about it. No one communicated about this to me and all this investigation is done over a period of 2 weeks(which I learn later).

    A week or so later I am called to a meeting with my boss and our HR rep/manager for our division. I am told there was a serious problem with one of the web sites, it affected operations and went all the way up to our legal department, made the company look bad etc., and shown the form....which I immediately recognize and tell them, I did this - it was a test I was working on with the webmaster. I meant no harm and had no idea it went to the agent! It was just meant as a joke and I am very sorry!

    Then my boss proceeds to bring up totally unrelated irrelevant things during the meeting...he says well legal and HR have a problem with this because of the language used in it and you have been warned numerous times about language (I have not!) then he proceeds to list other "faults" that have never been addressed before. Because of my previous positive reviews and promotion, I know they weren't big deals before.

    He then said well this is very serious and we will let you know the outcome and what actions we plan to take in the next few days. This lead me to believe they were considering drastic action.

    Here is the kicker, I am pregnant in my third trimester. The "devil" email form was submitted mid November, and the meeting was held the beginning of December after my boss returned from vacation. I had been due in Feb. I am high risk pregnancy (but have not missed work over it) and have gotten some grief from my boss in October when I told him I was planning to take the full 12 weeks FMLA...which he stated he "didnt think so", but he'd "ask HR", to which I sated, "I can and will because it is the LAW" (he's a new manager - clueless on manager stuff).

    Since then, my manager has been acting like he wants me to be gone. We've recently had a merger and layoffs are on the table and I'm afraid his lack of support for my planned leave is resulting in an ambush to get rid of me.


    Well, one thing is for sure--there will be no more devil forms from you. Let's start with what you've already learned from this adventure:

  • Work is always work and should be treated as such
  • Jokes among friends are fine.
  • Jokes that go through company systems (e-mail, electronic forms, etc) are not now, nor have they ever been, private
  • Some people are very sensitive
  • Some people have no sense of humor
  • You don't know how other people will react to jokes, so you shouldn't joke when it is possible for anyone else to hear/read it.

  • Don't you hate learning lessons the hard way? Wouldn't it be better if you could have learned all of this before you sent the form.

    For the record, I would have thought it was totally bizarre had such a form crossed my desk. But, I would have laughed about it and deleted it. But, what can you expect from someone named "Evil"?

    Now, your real problem. Planned FMLA for an adorable little screecher. Couple this with a manager who isn't thrilled and planned (or at least rumored) reductions in force.

    With a merger, redundant positions have to go. Unfortunately, a great deal of those positions are support roles--IT, Finance and HR. So, your position definitely is vulnerable.

    So is your manager's.

    Chances are, the word is going to come down from above, "we need to cut 10% of the IT headcount." The head of IT will evaluate positions (along with help from the brilliant and talented people of Human Resources) and position cuts will be decided. Then the people will be looked at. Some will go. Some will stay.

    Your manager's philosophy is "if I can make other people look bad, I'll look better and have a better chance of preserving my own hide." This may work and it may backfire on him, but that is neither here nor there.

    You are absolutely correct that you are entitled to 12 weeks of FMLA. However, because you are entitled to FMLA doesn't mean that your job is secure in the event of a Reduction in Force. Regardless of your manager's feelings, it is at times like these that you need to be prepared with a new resume. You need to start networking now (which you should have been doing continuously anyway) and you need to get new jobs lined up.

    This should be really easy during your ninth month of pregnancy and first months post-partum!

    You can file complaints. Document with HR that you believe that you are being discriminated against because of your pregnancy. If you should be terminated unfairly, the fact that you complained in advance can help your cause. It will also mean that there is a file open on you and if your legal department is at all competent, before they approve specific people for layoff, your situation will be discussed.

    This will not bode well for your manager.

    Of course, you do have the devil file to deal with as well. If they want to get rid of you, this is as good a justification as any, unfortunately.

    End result? Hopefully your job will be fine. But, you need to be prepared that it is not. Your job wouldn't be secure right now, even if you weren't pregnant and hadn't used poor judgment. Update your resume. Get an epidural in the parking lot of the hospital. (No use wasting time getting all the way upstairs to labor and delivery. If God had meant for you to experience natural childbirth, you would have been born 300 years ago. That's my philosophy anyway. Nobody talks about the wonders of natural appendectomies.)

    And no more funny things at work. Work=work.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2008


    In a post describing medical school interviews, William the Coroner writes:
    I am glad that there is a cadre of interviewers. Were I the only person doing the job, I'd be tempted to take all clones of myself. I don't think I like too many of myself all in one place.

    This is something that all of us need to be on the lookout for when we interview. Do I prefer this person over that person because we share personality traits, or is this person really more qualified?

    I'm a big fan of more than just the hiring manager conducting interviews. Sure, it makes for a long day for the candidate, but multiple opinions can give you good insight.

    Remember when you are hiring, you already work there. Therefore, how much need to you really have to hire another "you"? You may want to consider someone different in order to be able to accomplish more.

    Of course, people need to be able to fit into the department. Personality does matter--just make sure you know your own biases before you start interviewing.

    Monday, January 14, 2008


    We are hiring for a number of positions around the area (San Francisco Bay Area). We need truck drivers who can get to multiple locations easily. One week they may start at one site, the next at another.

    An applicant called in and I asked if he could come for an interview tomorrow. He said he had to check with his wife about getting a lift. I asked how he intended to get to work if he didn't have reliable transportation and he said "oh I'll make it one way or another".

    Now I think, based on not having reliable transportation to get to a job is a reason for not hiring someone. I understand that everyone needs to work, but why set them and us up for failure? Public transporation will not be easy to most of these job sites. Alsom some of the shifts are night shifts so no public transportation will be available. Is it legal to deny somebody employment based on them not having reliable transportation?

    And now time for the standard disclaimers. I am not a lawyer. I do not work in California, but I do know that California has some whacked out employment laws, so what I say may be completely irrelevant in California. (I, for one, have no desire to live there. Difficult HR world, fires, floods, mudslides, snow storms and Nancy Pelosi? Blech.)

    My understanding is that you can't discriminate against someone based on their method of getting to work. You can, however, make the ability to get to work on time, regardless of the location or shift, a requirement of the job.

    I wouldn't be thrilled about this person anyway, based on his response of "I'll have to check with my wife." Why? Because he should stand up and be a man and not check with her for anything! Just kidding. Just briefly channeling Dr. Laura again. No, because he shows bad judgment in telling you that. When you are job hunting, you need to know when you are available and when you are not. It's okay to say, "I'm sorry, but I'm unavailable on Tuesday, but I could come in on Wednesday or Thursday." You make arrangements with you spouse prior to sending out the resumes.

    (On a similar vein, all answering machine messages should be changed to be formal. "You've reached the Jones residence. Please leave a message." No, "Timmy, say hello. Timmy! Timmy, tell the nice people to leave a message." Aargh!)

    You need to ask clearly on your job application (for all jobs), "Do you have reliable transportation?" Then you have to accept a yes or no answer and not inquire further.

    For jobs such as this that require multiple sites and shifts, you should state: "This job requires the incumbent to be at a variety of sites and shifts that are not served by public transportation. Lack of attendence and tardiness are grounds for termination. Do you have reliable transportation?" Then have a check box for yes or no and accept that as gospel truth.

    They may have only one car and his wife will have to drive him if she wants a car during the day, but she may work from home, or be a homemaker (there's a term from the past), or have a flexible job that allows her to take time off to provide transportation for her husband and this won't be a problem. Or, one of their cars may be in the shop right then, but it will be out next Tuesday.

    Sounds like a hard position to fill. Good luck on that!

    Transferring out of Academia

    Dear HR-Lady:

    A professor of history at a small college with a Ph.D. from Columbia University, I'd like to take my skill-set and explore a broader world of employment options, but don't quite know where to begin.

    With good cheer,

    Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you read you...Sorry. Sometimes I burst into song without warning. (Which, by the way, is much better than bursting into flames, with or without warning.)

    Where to really begin. I don't know exactly what skills a history professor has. I do know that a Ph.D. from Columbia sounds impressive. My real question for you, is, what do you want to do?

    This isn't just my lame attempt to make you answer your own question. (Hey, that sounds like a really great blog idea--you send in your questions and your answer!) It's actually because what you want to do determines where you start.

    As long as you are just looking for a generic "change," it will be nearly impossible to branch out. If you have a defined change you want to make, you can find a path.

    Once you've determined what you want to do, start networking. There are several ways to go about this, but three things are very important. 1. Tell everyone what you want to do. "I'm currently a history professor, but I'm excited to transfer my skills to the business world. I'd really like to do qualitative market reasearch. I've analyzed a ton of documents in my day and interviewed a zillion people to draw conclusions. I'm really looking forward to using these skills in a business environment."

    You tell EVERYONE you know about your proposed change. Why? Because you don't know what they know. One of those people may have a brother-in-law who owns a small market research firm, who is struggling for prestige. Having a Columbia Ph.D. on his staff may just give him the credibility he needs. (Even if you really know nothing about the business, just your credentials can be helpful.)

    2. Start making appointments for informational interviews with people who already do what you want to do. Learn what skills you really need to be able to accomplish the job. If you are lacking something that can't be gained on the job, figure out a way to get this. (As a college professor, you can probably take a class or two for free to gain some skills.) Listen, listen, listen and listen some more to what these people tell you.

    3. Don't be afraid to start at the bottom. People with advanced degrees sometimes assume they can come in and start out as a director. You can't. Having a degree means you have survived a Ph.D. program. You need to earn your way up the ladder. With your fancy degree you start out with some automatic credibility. Make sure you keep it. Work hard and you'll be fine. But you'll have to pay your dues, just like everyone else does.

    Sunday, January 13, 2008


    The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that selling crack is a job.

    The end result? If you can sell crack, then you can work and are not eligible for disability.

    I cannot even begin to express how amusing this is to me.

    Friday, January 11, 2008

    And Now a Brief Political Break

    I don't do bumper stickers, but if I did, I would put this on my car. (From cafe press, of course.)

    Thursday, January 10, 2008

    Clean Up, Clean Up

    I'm behind on the whole question thing. Sorry. In fact, I'm so far behind I will never catch up and even if I did by the time I got to your question, the question would be resolved anyway, so it would all just be theoretical and so I wouldn't be helping anyone, although it would look like I was.

    Although, perhaps it would be better if I were strictly theoretical. That way no one could accuse me of ruining their lives. (With the exception of the offspring who has already begun to declare that she will "never be happy again" when something doesn't go her way. I don't know where she gets all that drama queen stuff from as I am the picture of rationality. Stop laughing, mom.)

    So, I'm cleaning up. I'm not going to answer any questions sent to me prior to December 18. Why December 18? Because I have 15 questions from December 18 onward, that's why, and 15 is a good number.

    If you sent me a question earlier than that and still want/need an answer, you can feel free to resend. Although, if you could boil your question down to 2-3 paragraphs, that would be swell.

    I do apologize, but hey, you get what you pay for.

    Tuition Reimbursement Programs

    I'm a new training manager at a small (<120) person healthcare company. I am setting up a tuition reimbursement program and wonder if you have any resourses I can model my program after.

    I have personally benefitted from previous employers programs and am using my last company's program as a model, but it was a much larger company and I'm not sure that it makes sense at my new company.

    Any info you can share would be much appreciated.

    First, I'm impressed that such a small company would have a dedicated training manager. That says good things about your organization to me. I'm a big fan of effective training and a huge hater of waste-your-time training. I assume you do the former.

    My experience with tuition reimbursement is limited, but I'll share what I know.

    Back when I worked for a retail company, we didn't offer "tuition reimbursement." We offered "scholarships." Same thing, really, but without all the strings attached. You had to have been there for a year (I think) and be a satisfactory employee. The amount of money was not huge (can't remember precisely, but it was under $2000 a year), and there as no repayment provision if you quit. In fact, as long as you worked for us during the summer, we'd renew the scholarship every year.

    This was fantastically effective as a recruiting tool for high school/college students. Parents pushed their kids to take jobs with us because of the extra money for college. I don't know what kind of health care company you are, but if you are someplace with high turnover, then this might work for you.

    Other companies I've worked for have had a more traditional approach--paying 50-100% of tuition, upon satisfactory course completion. Satisfactory, being a grade of C or higher. The restrictions placed around it include a yearly tuition limit and a requirement that the course be directed towards a degree or certification that is relevant to the company. No tuition reimbursement towards your real estate license (we don't do that) or art history, but engineering, HR, business, etc are all covered.

    The key thing with this type of program, where you are targeting a low turnover group, is repayment provisions. Make sure you have them, so people don't take your money for their degree and then disappear on you.

    Make sure you treat your newly degreed or certified employees as external candidates when it comes to promotions. Let's say Bob makes $65,000 a year as a finance guy. He's a high quality employee and has been working on his MBA from a reputable school for the past 3 years. He finally graduates. (Yeah Bob!) Bob is now qualified for a manager position that has a salary midpoint of $85,000. If he were an external candidate, you'd hire him at $85,000. However, your company guidelines state that no one be given more than a 10% increase ($71,500). MAKE SURE YOU HAVE AN EXCEPTION THAT ALLOWS YOU TO BRING BOB UP TO MIDPOINT REGARDLESS OF THE JUMP.

    Yes, I meant to put that in all caps. Your competitor doesn't have a problem paying a newly minted MBA from that school that much money. You wouldn't have a problem paying someone with Bob's credentials that much money if he were external. Don't hold Bob back. Bob will get resentful and he will leave, even being willing to pay back some of the cost of his tuition.

    Non HR Types stop reading right now. The rest of this is secret HR stuff.

    And while I do think it is a good idea to require repayment if the employee leaves within a set time (full repayment if less than one year, 2/3 repayment if less than 2 years, 1/3 repayment if less than 3, is my general guideline), keep in mind that it's next to impossible to get that money back if the person doesn't willingly cough up the check. Even if you could deduct what they owe from their last check (some states would allow this and some would not), it's doubtful that everyone's last check would be equal to or greater than the amount of tuition they owe. Do you really want to sue? No, you don't. But don't tell the employees that. Shhhh.

    Wednesday, January 09, 2008

    Carnival of HR #24

    Is now up over at Ask a Manager.

    Hop over and learn about Diverse transient Girl Scouts writing new year's resolutions so that they can be queens. Or something similar.

    (Note: The paragraph above is 100% false and is only filled with random key words from the carnival. I just wrote it to entice you to go over.)

    Tuesday, January 08, 2008

    I Quit

    Hello, I recently (a week and a half ago) started a job in a small dental office doing administrative work, although my experience is in the clinical side of dentistry.

    I got the job through a contact from my previous position, who said the nicest things about me. Unfortunately I find my new boss, although a nice woman, has been a bit unclear about my responsibilities, and her office needs a lot of help, in my opinion.

    An attempt at a meeting to discuss "what's working and what's not" veered off, and stayed off track. I am not the most disciplined person, and I know she is not, in the end, however, I can't work the way they work there-and although disorganized, she's the boss, and I am feeling uncomfortable expressing how I see her office. I am not use to such disorganization and mixed messages of what she's looking to accomplish, so I would like to quit. The last 2 days of work, there has not been a moment to give notice-her birthday, and then she went home sick- at this point I feel like the opportunities to slip out of there are escaping me!

    I would like to call her to give notice ( I am off today), or to quit. First, is it appropriate at this point to quit over the phone ( I am not finding her very small office conducive to private conversations)? and, Do I have to give 2 weeks notice after a week and a half, or can I just tell her it's not working out?
    Thank you for listening! Thank you for your help.

    First off, after a week and a half of work I don't think two week's notice is necessary. They survived without you two weeks ago. And quite frankly, no one is worth much after only being at a job for 1.5 weeks. So, go ahead and quit.

    However, here are the consequences:

    Remember that friend who referred you to this job? You've just ruined her reputation as well as your own. It will be extremely difficult to find another job in a dentist's office. You think those people don't talk? They do. And a story of, "Yeah, we hired this new admin. She lasted a whole week and a half!" will get told repeatedly. With your name attached.

    This dentist (and the other people who work there) will tell the story. Your friend who referred you will tell the story of what a nightmare it all is. Then everyone who hears the story will pass it along as a "worst new hire" story.

    Unless everyone you work with is exceedingly mature and realized it wasn't a good fit from the start. (Not likely.)

    Work is work. It's hard. That's why they give you money. If it were easy and fun, you would pay them.

    The dentist is disorganized. You are disorganized. Why did you accept a job as an admin if disorganization is one of your trials in life? I would hire an admin to get me organized.

    My true advice would be to buckle down and do the work necessary. You've been there 1.5 weeks. You can't possibly even know how the office really operates after that little time. Your new boss isn't interested in listening to your new ideas because you haven't proved yourself yet. Prove yourself. Make changes. Get things set up the "way they should be."

    Quitting now (with or without notice, it's all the same) will burn bridges. Bridges should never be burned unless you are actively being chased by a live troll. A disorganized dentist does not count, even if she has a drill in her hand.

    The transition period is always difficult. Stick it out for at least 6 months. Try your hardest to make things work. If that doesn't work, start looking for a new job. When you find one, give two weeks notice and leave.

    Monday, January 07, 2008

    Competitive Salaries

    I read this post about "Competitive Salaries" for OB-GYNs.
    2. "Competitive salary" is an evasive phrase used by employers that have not yet decided what they want to pay. They prefer to see what the candidates expect and then negotiate down from there.

    3. "Competitive salary" is used by employers who want to take advantage of you. They are hiding the fact that their salary is below average. Sure it competes, but on the loosing end. They will only tell you after long talks, and after they feel that they have you on the hook, how little they really want to pay.

    I have to say I agree--and not just for physicians. Okay, it's a bit on the cynical side, but that suits me.

    I know, I know, he who talks pay first loses, and companies don't want to talk pay in their ads because then they lose. Except that I will only apply for jobs in a certain salary range, so you are saving time and money in being honest up front. Seriously. You are.

    Usually when "competitive salary" is listed in the job description, the description also asks for you to submit your salary requirements. Bah! You show me yours and I'll show you mine.

    Just a little Monday morning recruiting pet peeve.

    Bad Managers

    I don't know how to handle a situation with my manager. HR is the last stop for advice in my organization so before I go down that slippery slope, can you help out with with some HR advice?

    It's end of year evaluation time. I schedule a time and room to meeting with my manager two weeks ahead of the meeting day at his working location which is a two hour drive for me. I sit in the meeting room and wait for 15 minutes. Finally I go back to a desk close to his and go back to work. He shows up in another 5 and asks if we can split the evaluation up in 1/2 hour sessions but offers no reason to his tardiness. I'm pretty ticked off by then and said splitting up a evaluation session didn't sound like a good idea. We decide to delay the meeting until after my next meeting. The delayed review went OK but I'm not exactly in a 'open' frame of mind to discuss performance gaps productively.

    Two days later I found out that he left a paper copy of my review in the meeting room. A co-worker found it and gave it back to him. It was left in the room for at least one full day. He has not said a word to me about leaving the paper copy in the meeting room nor any apology for being late to the session. I have asked for another time to re-discuss my evaluation with focus on the short comings which he scheduled almost immediately at my work location. But still no confession from him on leaving my evaluation in the meeting room. Now what - confront him, call HR or just forget it? Oh, by the way one of the points on my evaluation was 'difficult' conversions.

    Drop it. Just drop it. It was undoubtedly not done with malice. (I know, I'll leave John's hard copy review here in public view! That will show him, although I don't have a clue what it will show him! Insert maniacal laughter here.)

    He says you have "difficult" conversations, which probably means he has trouble talking to you. Either this is a flaw you need to work on, or a flaw he needs to work on, or you two just have personality conflicts. He's uncomfortable talking to you in general, so he's probably not going to say, "Hey, just wanted to apologize for leaving your review out on a table!" He probably assumes you don't even know it happened. Why bring it up?

    And since you and your boss have trouble communicating verbally, it can either be really good or really bad that you are two hours away. Make sure you are good at e-mail communications with him and keep him up to date. He still won't feel chatty around you, but he'll know what is going on.

    And just as an FYI, delayed reviews seem to be the norm in every company I've ever worked for. It's nothing personal. Managers dislike doing them. Employees dislike receiving them. End result is delayed reviews all around.

    Friday, January 04, 2008

    Pregnant and Laid Off

    Dear Evil HR Lady,

    I have been working at this company for the past year and a half. We had a layoff in October 2007. This layoff affected our campus but I was not let go. However, they let employees know on November 29 and 30 that layoffs would happen again mid-December. I was notified that I will be affected.

    My due date is January 6th and I was about to go on my disability leave. When I was informed of the layoff, I was told that it was merely to reduce headcount. I was
    the only person to be laid off in my group of 10 people. They even hired a student recently and paid her relocation charge to move her.

    I have always been a good employee and completed my work on time. My team mates can confirm this and I have emails and instant messages to prove this. I feel I have been wronged and want to know what my chances are of suing my employer for doing this to me just before I go on disability.


    Seeing how I wasn't involved in the layoff decision making process, I can't say how the decision was made and I can't say whether your pregnancy played a role, but I live to speculate so let's go at it.

    First, the rules. It's illegal to fire you because you are pregnant, but it's not illegal to fire a pregnant woman for another reason. A reduction in headcount is a perfectly legitimate reason to fire anyone, regardless of protected class status.

    So, how was that decision made? It could be "hey, she's pregnant and probably won't come back from leave anyway. Let's term her." This is illegal, but not saying it doesn't happen. It may never have even been spoken, but it could have been thought.

    The decision could have been made by someone who doesn't even know you are pregnant. Honestly. Some reductions I have been involved in are done by creating criteria, feeding those criteria into a computer and the computer spits out the list of terms. Without the high tech aspect, a list of "rules" could have been made to determine who should go.

    It could be based on your specific job. They feel that your tasks can be divided up between the remaining 9 employees.

    As for the newly hired student, frequently companies will have policies against laying off someone hired within the past year. Why? If I hire you, move you across the company, and then lay you off 6 months later, you can argue that you hired me in bad faith, knew that the position was to be eliminated and sue you for breech of contract. You may or may not win, but it sure makes me look bad, which we don't want.

    Not that laying off pregnant women makes companies look any better.

    So, could you prevail in a lawsuit? I have no idea. Here is what I would do if I were you.
    1. Call up the HR person that handled your termination and let her know you feel you were terminated because you were pregnant.
    2. If she responds with a, "let's talk about your severance," then you can definitely negotiate higher.
    3. If she responds with, "I'm sorry, but your pregnancy was not taken into consideration," call a lawyer.
    4. Beware, a lawyer may end up charging you more than you could get in increased severance. Sometimes you can get an attorney that will take your case on a contingency basis. If so, make sure the contingency portion is above and beyond whatever benefits you would receive if you didn't sue.
    5. Have your attorney contact the company.
    6. Hope for the best.

    Most likely, if you have any sort of potential case, they will negotiate with you immediately. This doesn't mean that you were terminated because of pregnancy, just that it would cost them more to defend against this charge than it would to pay you out.

    Good luck and may your labor be short and pain free.

    Tuesday, January 01, 2008

    Elected Bosses

    Dear Evil HR Lady.

    I'm a physician, a coroner's pathologist employed directly by the elected coroner. I've worked for him since 2002, and got rises every year. I've been having several problems. The first is, I'm paid for 20h/wk, 50 wk/yr. Supposedly, I got comp. time for weekends, holidays, and time I spent over 20h/wk. The problem is, I could never take the comp. time. I once had 60 hours accrued. When I went to take the time, Dr. R would flip out.

    The second problem, was that I was "taking advantage" of him if I used my sick time. I had two episodes where I was hospitalized in the past year, and Dr. R. was very concerned that I used my accrued sick time. In fact, as I was still employed, I accrued more, at the standard rate. He said this was cheating the county.

    Thirdly, Dr. R disagreed with my treating physicians as to my illness and course of treatment. I had an open surgical wound, and was advised to stay out of the morgue until it healed. He disagreed with that, and on more than one occasion demanded to give me a physical examination, called my treating physicians and told them to transfer care to him, and really harassed me about my heath.

    Finally, when I was confined in a wheelchair for a short period of time, [sexually grab me].

    I spoke to county human resources, who said there is nothing they could do, as he is the elected official he has no supervisor. I know the county has a sexual harassment policy, as I've seen it, but the elected officials are the only ones who are in charge. I have spoken to the Chief Deputy coroner, who says there is nothing he can do as Dr. R. is the elected official. After years of this, I went to an employment lawyer, drafted a letter, (you can see it if you want) and complained to Dr. R. He told me he no longer had any need for my services the day I gave him the letter.

    I'm suing him. My question is, will this make me look like a malcontent? Will other employers be loath to hire me having sued my employer? I lost over 50% of my income and I was within a year of being vested for health insurance for life in public employees. Any way I could have done this without suing him? My psychologist and I have been working on ways to walk softly around him for the past couple of years. The rest of the county's response, that he's the elected official and no-one can gainsay the will of the people is very frustrating. The response of my friends, that I carry a weapon as a part of my duties, and I could have used it--well, I don't want to shoot the man, either.

    I work for a university now. Not bad work, no one grabs me, but I'm disappointed. Any comments?

    I am glad you are suing. Not because I normally advocate suing, I don't. (I normally advocate getting on with your life as quickly as possible, and that doesn't generally involve dwelling on the past.) I am glad because not only is the coroner in need of a (figurative) slap across the face, so is the HR department.

    What a bunch of wimps. Yeah, the coroner is elected so they can't fire him. Blah, blah, blah. Sexual harassment and assault is illegal. They have a duty to protect the county from lawsuits just like yours. The fact that you brought this to their attention and they did nothing will help you win your lawsuit.

    Now, I'm certainly not an expert in county governments, but I can tell you that they can't exempt themselves from the laws set up to protect people. (Congress can and does, but you don't work for Congress--thankfully.) Therefore, if things are as they seem, they are liable.

    Now, as for the sick time headaches, that's annoying, but probably not illegal. Because you worked for the government, it may be illegal, but I wouldn't know for sure. It can definitely be an issue in your lawsuit, though.

    Because of the inappropriate sexual behavior of your boss, every punishment or variation from the rules can be used to support a charge of sexual harassment.

    You are not under any obligation to disclose that you sued a former employer for sexual harassment. Because this involves an elected official, it may hit the papers in a big way, in which case a google search would bring it up. However, the details would also come out and generally, journalists love a dirty politician story so you'll probably come out looking good.

    Make sure you cite wrongful discharge and ask that your lifetime health benefits be reinstated. They may claim that the letter you wrote was a resignation letter. If so (and it could be plausibly interpreted that way), the key phrase from you is "constructive discharge." That is, he made it so miserable the only rational action was to leave and that you were forced out.

    Would I label you a malcontent after one lawsuit? Well, no, but I would google you to see what else is available about you. If what I found indicated that you were a sue happy person who not only had bad experiences at three consecutive employers, but was also prone to slip and fall accidents at the local 7-11, I wouldn't hire you.

    Given that the facts are as you state them, you have a good case and I'd be horrified at the incompetence of the county government. (Well, actually, with my generally useless background in political science, I wouldn't be horrified, I'd expect it, but it still makes me angry.) Incidentally, I did google your name, since it was on your e-mail and in the first page of hits, it was all about your CV and other qualifications.

    We always have to be careful about our reputations. This is one of the reasons why a poor decision to post something on a myspace page (or a blog) can come back to bite you later on. A lawsuit affects your reputation. No doubt about it. But, the fact that you are currently employed in a respectable position means that even if the lawsuit goes badly for you, it's impact on your life and future earnings will probably be negligible. And, if it goes well, you'll probably have other employees of this creep coming forward.

    This brings me to an entirely irrelevant point. Why on earth is coroner an elected office? Shouldn't there be accepted scientific standards for a coroner? Why do I care about the political leanings of a coroner? Of course, I don't know much about coroners, except that I hope I don't need the services of one any time soon.