short answer Saturday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Can I require an employee to work on Christmas Eve?

I just hired a dental assistant, and after the hire she informed me that she will not work Good Friday or Christmas Eve. Our business is such that those happen to be busy days for surgery. I went to the employee with a compromise of only working a half day and she refused, stating it was part of her Catholic religion not to work at all. I grew up Catholic and I don’t recall any such privilege. If I let this employee off on those days, I believe my other employees will ask also. Should I fire her and, more important, can I fire her? We only have nine employees.

The federal law against religious discrimination requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious practices, as long as doing so won’t cause “undue hardship” to the business. “Undue hardship” is anything more than minimal costs to the employer, which can include unfairness to other employees (such as the others who would like Christmas Eve off as well).

However, this is all irrelevant to you because the law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees, and you’re below that minimum. You’re legally able to tell her that working those holidays is a requirement of the job, and to let her go if she refuses (although it would be kinder to explain to her that you can’t let her take those days off and ask if she’d like to resign as a result).

2. Interviewer asked me to cover my own travel expenses but hadn’t given me a chance to ask questions about the job

I recently had my first Skype interview. The interview seemed to go well and they requested that we move to the next level of the process, with me visiting them for a follow-up interview, tour, and presentation. Their organization is halfway across the country from where I currently reside, and I would be expected to cover my own travel expenses. This did not surprise me, as it is (unfortunately) common in this particular field. However, what did surprise me is that I was not given time to ask any questions during the Skype interview; they stated that I would have an opportunity to ask questions during my visit. Is this normal? I decided to stop pursuing this position (over this and some other reasons), but I’m hoping that this isn’t to be expected from all Skype/phone interviews.

Well, they’re going to assume that you’ll speak up if you want something, like the chance to ask questions before flying out at your own expense. You’ve got to speak up for yourself. Ideally, you would have said something like, “I’m very interested in the job so far, but didn’t have a chance to ask questions of my own on our Skype call. Before flying myself out there, I’d appreciate that chance to find out a bit more about the job. Could we set up a quick phone call?”

3. How often is too often to reapply?

A company I would love to work for has had a position I’d be good for held open for several months now. While they haven’t been continually re-posting the position, they do have a bot that will occasionally refresh the position and several others on their Facebook and Twitter pages. I applied a while back, and I’m considering applying again, but my question is, how often is too often? I feel like jumping in every time the tweet or Facebook post shows up might look a little too desperate, but I do want to keep myself in their minds. For reference, this position has been open on what seems like a rolling basis for over a year and I had one awkward interview several months ago. How often should I reapply, if at all?

If you had an awkward interview for the job, it’s unlikely that they’re going to reconsider you … but there’s no harm in reapplying once. No more than that, though. They’ve already interviewed you and rejected you; it’s fine to re-suggest yourself, but doing it more than once would be overkill.

4. Applications that ask for every job you’ve ever held

A few jobs I’ve applied for have Internet applications that must be filled out that say things such as, “Starting with current or most recent, list all employers past and present. Include self-employment and summer and part-time jobs.”

This is for a professional mid-level job that requires a college degree. I am 7 years out of college and I’ve had two professional and relevant jobs in this time. For about six months post-college, I worked a variety of part-time jobs until I found full-time work on my career path. I worked part-time through college and had a variety of internships that would be irrelevant. I assume they are only looking at the relevant recent work, but if so why would they word it this way? I doubt they would care about my assistant manager shoe store job, but perhaps I am wrong.

Because they’re idiots and haven’t thought through what they’re asking for or why. Personally, I’d include only what I felt like including, but that’s an individual call.

5. Including a union steward job on a resume

This year I have been the union steward at my workplace. Should I include this on my resume? While it’s something I am proud of — it’s an unpaid position which I work hard at, which I devote a lot of time to, which I’ve received a lot of excellent feedback on, and which has given me a chance to develop significantly in many areas relevant to my social work career — I am concerned that some potential employers will read “union steward” as “rabble-rouser and malcontent.”

Some might. Others won’t. One way to look at it is that you don’t want to work for employers who do … but that’s an individual call.

6. Should I start looking for a new job?

At what point does someone my age and with my level of experience (27 and over a year of full-time under my belt after 3 years of part-time) start to consider a job search for better opportunities?

We’ve recently hired a part-time employee with the same job title as me — account executive. She’s 5 years older and has more experience overall, but has been a stay-at-home mom for 4 years. After deciding to reenter the workforce, she’s joined our small company. I immediately recognize her value to our company and know that I’ll learn a lot from her. However, she’s recently gotten several opportunities that my bosses have never presented to me. For example, she accompanied the owner on a feasibility interview for a fundraising client, and I was tasked with transcribing the one hour long recorded interview. Now, I’ll be attending a series of focus groups, not as a moderator, but as a silent note-taker and coffee-server. My new coworker will assist the owner in conducting them. Lately, we’ve also outsourced projects to contractors instead of assigning them to me. I feel like I’m consistently being demoted.

Well, your coworker has more experience than you. It makes sense that she’s being treated as the senior person between the two of you, because she is. And it sounds like you were happy with your job until someone more experienced started and was given higher-level work, which is a pretty normal thing for a more experienced person to be given.

That said, talk to your boss. Say that you’re interested in doing X, Y, and Z and ask how you can earn those opportunities. It might be as simple as asking, or you might find out that your boss wants to see you develop greater skills in A and B first. You won’t know until you ask.

I’d do that before you start thinking of moving on — primarily because it’s the logical thing to do, but also because one year isn’t a long time to spend at a job.

7. My employer controls where I park, even when I’m not working

I work for a not-for-profit gym in Indiana. My employer provides membership as an employment benefit. We pay the difference to add our families to the membership.

We have a policy that requires us, under threat of termination, to park in a staff designated parking lot whether we are working or using the facility to work out. My company does not own either parking lot. I usually acquiesce when I am alone or obviously or if I’m working, but can they dictate where I park when I have my children and we are coming to use the facility?

Yes. It’s a dumb policy, but there’s no law that prevents it. Actually, maybe it’s not even dumb, if this is part of the deal with your subsidized gym membership. If you turned down the subsidy and bought a full-price membership and they were still controlling where you parked, that would be dumb. But still legal.

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