I think my boss is getting copies of all my email, wage theft, and more

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

1. I think my boss is getting copies of all my email

Yesterday on a Link’d meeting, my boss was showing something to us and during the call, I saw two emails pop up on his screen from two individuals that I work with — they are pretty low on the food chain, so he would not be emailing them. I looked at my email and had received two emails from the same individuals at same time, but he was not cc’d. I think he is automatically getting my emails. Is this typical? I have never received a bad review, no negative feedback, etc. Is this allowed?

It’s not typical, but it does happen, and yes, it’s allowed. In fact, it’s worth always assuming that your employer can see anything you do on your company email (and computer), although in practice, it’s pretty rare for someone to actually look. And setting email up so that your boss gets everything you gets would be really, really unusual — as well as pretty awful management, since if he has concerns about your work (the only thing I can think of that would lead to this), he should be talking to you about it directly and finding other ways to stay engaged with what you’re doing.

That said, I wouldn’t assume it’s happening here just because of what you saw. He could have been receiving different emails, or they could have bcc’d him (on request or otherwise).

2. I was denied a request to use a different computer because of a heavy smoker

I am having a vexing problem at work. I am training (on the job) for a new position in a small office room with 6 computer stations. Training involves sitting very close, inches apart, and using the same computer terminal for eight hours. One of my trainers is sick and the stand-in one day this past week is a heavy smoker. The work day started after a cigarette break, from which third hand smoke lingered. I awkwardly asked to use a different computer terminal to complete that days training, due to my asthma.

I was asked by a supervisor if I was physically incapable of sitting next to the trainer for the training, and my reply that “I don’t want to be sick from work” resulted in being sent to an office in another building to meet with our manager who I rarely see. The takeaway from this meeting is that
-no one will be asked to quit smoking (which I never requested)
-it is not possible for me to train on a different computer, as seeing the exact same screen is very important
-it is not possible to train with others, as many people are smokers
-I will never have training to advance to another position or learn more as all training is in close proximity in this small office and it is not possible to look for non-smokers on the schedule

In this short 10-minute max meeting, I tried to make it easy for my manager to say yes to another computer. I did not ask for a no-smoking policy, I asked for a “small accommodation” to be able to keep learning this new position. What should my next step be? So far I am resigned to just start looking for another job, even though I like this one enough.

Asthma is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means that your employer is likely required to make reasonable accommodations for you, and it’s hard to imagine that moving you to another computer wouldn’t qualify as reasonable. If you have an HR department, I’d take this up with them, as they’re probably more familiar with the ADA than your manager. I’d say something like this: “My understanding is that asthma is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and I’m hoping it would be a reasonable accommodation to simply use a different computer to finishing my training.” You should make sure HR knows everything your manager said to you, including the threat of never advancing you, because penalizing you for raising this is a separate violation in and of itself.

3. Should I avoid the word “some”?

I’m fairly new to the workforce (less than 5 years), and I was recently told in a review to stay away from using the word “some” in emails because it makes the context less formal. She used this example: “Let me check and find some examples and get back to you.” I suppose I can see how this changes the feeling of the sentence, but I didn’t know there were words to stay away from, and now I am self conscious about other words. Do you have any thoughts on words/phrases that make you cringe when you see them?

What?! I don’t see how “some” is problematic in that context (or really, any context). I’d chalk this up to being an odd pet peeve by your boss (which you can avoid now that you know about), but not a feeling shared by everyone else.

4. Wage theft

Is it stealing if my employee is working for someone else during the hours he’s working for me?

Stealing in the legal sense, like he could be charged with theft? No. But in the ethical sense, sure, if he should be doing something else with that time. But it’s not really the point. The point is that you’re his manager, you know this is happening, and you should put a stop to it if you’re unhappy with it. Why haven’t you?

5. Should I have to pay for a class I took for a job I ended up not accepting?

I am a RN and I interviewed with an outpatient cardiac cath lab, where I was completely honest about my limited experience. During the phone interview and in person, I repeatedly questioned the training schedule because of the potential harm to human life if I were to be asked to function independently, before being completely trained. I was told repeatedly that there was no rush, I could take my time until I felt comfortable.

I received an offer letter, which I did not sign and turn in because things were moving fast and it slipped my mind. The clinic happened to be providing an Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Class to current employees and I was invited to attend, unpaid, because this course is required within one year of hire. I took time off from my current position to attend the training. It was then that I learned one of the other RNs would be leaving on vacation a week and a half after my start date and I would be working independently. I was prepared to discuss this with the manager but I received an email from her when I got home after the training was completed and she wrote, “You should be able to access EPIC on the 19th and focus on that training/documenting, so that on the 20th and 21st you can function somewhat independently during procedures!” This was exactly what I was assured would not happen, so I sent the manager a letter explaining my concerns and told her I no longer felt this was a good fit for me. She tried to reword that statement, but ultimately, I would indeed be alone with post-op patients that I would not be trained to care for, risking human life and my license.

The manager is now insisting that I reimburse them for the class. Do you think I am responsible for the cost of the class?

Hell no. If they originally invited you to attend cost-free, you’re under no obligation to now pay for it just because you didn’t ultimately end up taking the job. (On the other hand, if the original agreement was that you would pay — which I don’t t think it was, but it’s not 100% clear here — then you should stick to that original agreement … although the gracious thing for them to do would be not to require it.)

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