my boss is being investigated by HR, broken promises in an offer letter, and more

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

1. My offer letter promised me a six-month raise, but it never happened

I’m an electrical engineer with a four-year degree and 8 years experience making $40k. Horrible, I know. I took the current position because I was going to be laid off from my last job, where I was making $65k. I received an offer letter in writing that I would be making $75k after 6 months, so I accepted the offer. The 6-month mark came and went a month ago, still no raise. I am trying to decide if I should ask about it or just look for a new job. Since a written agreement was not followed, what else can I expect?

If I look for a new job, they will ask what I am making, which is rude anyway. They will also ask my reason for leaving. Should I tell them the real reason is salary? But that looks bad. Should I make something up?

Well, wait. You haven’t even brought this up with your employer yet? Yes, they should have been on top of it, but mistakes happen. And no one is going to advocate for you the way you should advocate for yourself. You need to speak up. Go to your manager and say, “We agreed that my salary would increase to $75,000 after six months. What do I need to do to put that in motion?”

I don’t know how much past the six-month mark you are now and ideally you would have said this right when it happened, but it’s not too late to go do it now. But the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes, so go do that now.

As for your actual question, if it does turn out that you decide to job search over this (which you should not decide before trying to resolve this first), you can explain that some conditions of the job turned out to be significantly different from what you’d negotiated. And if asked to be more specific, you can certainly say salary. As for getting into specific numbers, you should avoid that anyway, as it’s no one’s business but yours.

2. Can I ask for a slightly higher salary since I’m on my parents’ health care plan?

I’m graduating from college soon and am looking for jobs. Thanks to the ACA, I will be able to stay on my parents’ very excellent federal employee health insurance plan for the next 4 years, and as far as I know, very few employers are able to offer better plans than that.

So I was wondering: if/when I get a job offer somewhere, and if it turns out that staying on my parents’ plan makes most sense, then is there a polite way to negotiate that into a slightly higher salary? Something to the effect of “You won’t need to pay for my health insurance for a few years, so could you put that extra money into my salary instead?” (but obviously more polite than that).

Eh, I doubt it, and here’s why: While you can sometimes use being on a spouse’s health insurance plan to negotiate a higher salary because of the cost savings to your employer, employers are less likely to want to do it for someone in your situation — because when you age out of your parents’ plan, you’re going to need insurance through your employer. And are you going to be happy taking a pay cut at that point? Most people wouldn’t be, and employers don’t want to deal with the issues that arise around that.

And you might figure that that’s four years away and you might be working somewhere else by then so it won’t matter, but if they make this arrangement with you, it’ll be hard for them to refuse to do it for others on their parents’ insurance — and they’re really not going to want to do it for a 25-year-old, who will age out of their parents’ plan in just a year. They’re more likely not to want to mess with it at all.

(Plus, this might be a minor point, but I’d be wary of negotiating based on “I’m on my parents’ health care plan,” since it makes you sound like less of a self-sufficient adult.)

3. My boss is being investigated by HR

My immediate boss is being investigated (for publicly humiliating people, not getting projects completed, lying about it, etc.). Its been a long time coming and I am one of the people who have been confidentially interviewed about this boss. I have learned that one of my colleagues was also interviewed by HR about this boss – because he told everyone about it, including the boss in question!

Unfortunately, this boss is a Jekyll and Hyde type and is now being super nice now that he knows something is up. However, he is also on a not-so-subtle witch hunt to find out who has talked to HR and what they said. I found out that he looked into my email yesterday. He asked to leave something on my desk, and I said sure. When I got to my desk about an hour later, I noticed that my “deleted items” folder on my Outlook was open. I never open that folder.

Either he isn’t very bright (my first guess) or he was intentionally letting me know he was looking (which I wouldn’t put past him either). This would seem to me to qualify as interfering with the investigation. I appraised HR of this development and am otherwise a keeping low profile. Any suggestions?

Telling HR what you suspected was exactly the right thing to do. If you see any signs that your boss is messing with you further, or that he’s retaliating against you in any way for talking to HR, you should tell them that too. But otherwise, I’d just be patient and wait to see how this plays out.

4. Who to use as a reference when you’ve only had one manager since graduating

I am a relatively recent college graduate who has currently been working my first job for the past three years with the same manager. I am in the process of looking for a new position right now. So far, I haven’t made much progress in getting interviews but there is one issue that has been nagging at me for a while: whom does an applicant provide as references when looking for their second job?

When job hunting, it is accepted as standard practice to not use a current manager as a reference in order to avoid the risk of employer retaliation. But what does one do when they only have had one manager since graduating? I really don’t want to use professors as my only source of references because I would like to have someone speak on the behalf of my working abilities.

Past posts on AAM point out that it is a bad idea to use coworkers as references because they are seen as less legitimate and that managers are preferred. I feel that my manager might not take the news well that I am job hunting and do not want to do something that would most certainly tip him off. What should I do in this situation?

Yes, you shouldn’t use your current manager as a reference, because it can jeopardize your current job. Prospective employers will understand your situation; you just need to explain it to them. As for who to use instead: managers from internships, summer jobs, on-campus jobs, or even volunteer work are all acceptable this early in your career.

5. Is my company cheating me out of overtime pay?

I think my company is cheating me out of overtime pay. I get paid bi-weekly and am paid hourly. In some pay periods, I will sometimes work 45 hours the first week and 35 hours the second week. Technically I should get 5 hours of overtime for the first week, but what my employer is doing is adding the 5 hours to the second week so it’s 40 hours each week. So basically as long as I don’t go over 80 hours in a pay period, I don’t receive overtime. I feel like this is illegal and have no idea how to approach my boss about this. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Yes, this is illegal. Overtime must be calculated based on the hours you work within a single seven-day period (and in California, within the hours you work within a single day). Your employer doesn’t have the option to calculate it based on their pay period instead.

It’s always easier to address this stuff if you initially raise it in a non-adversarial manner — something like, “I noticed my overtime pay has been calculated incorrectly. It’s been based on my hours in a two-week period, but we’re required to calculate it based on a seven-day period. It looks like I’m owed about X hours of overtime for the past several months. How should I get this corrected?”

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