short answer Saturday — six short answers to six short questions

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

1. How long can a reference take?

I am supposed to start a new job on the 13th, but they are still waiting for a reference from my old employer. It has been a week so I can’t start my job yet. How long can an employer take?

An employer can take as long as they like to respond to a reference request; in fact, they’re not obligated to respond at all. But you can often push things along by calling them yourself, explaining that your job offer is on hold pending this reference, and ask them to respond ASAP.

(By the way, do you know that the reference will be a good one? Some employers just don’t respond rather than give a negative reference, if they didn’t think well of your work. But it’s also possible that it just fell through the cracks or is sitting on the desk of someone who’s out, or something like that. So call and find out.)

2. Company banned my husband and I from speaking at work

My husband and I work for the same company. He is a supervisor. I was hired in as an agent and was told the other day (almost a year later) that we can’t talk to each other when we are in the work area because it might be looked at as favoritism from other agents, even though he is not allowed to do anything for me. When I was hired, I was never told anything about this, and it’s not in the employee handbook. I was wondering if it’s legal? We work in different departments and I see other supervisors talking to friends.

Yes, it’s legal. If it didn’t come up for a year, though, then I’d look at whether something led to it recently — were you spending too much time talking to each other? Was there a complaint? In any case, many companies won’t hire employees’ spouses at all, which is probably a better solution than banning you from speaking to each other, but either way, it’s legal.

3. Approaching my boss about staying on after my apprenticeship ends

I have been on an apprenticeship for almost a year now and it’s coming to an end. How do I ask my boss if I still have a job, once the apprenticeship is finished?

“The end of my apprenticeship is coming up in June. I’d love to stay on once it’s over. Is that something that might be a possibility?”

4. Forgot to include my cover letter

I recently submitted an online application and forgot to attach my cover letter! It’s a position that I’m qualified for and quite interested in, and I’m kicking myself now. Will my resume suffice? Would it be overkill/annoying to resubmit WITH the cover letter? Or did I just kill my chances? This is one of those positions that does not provide an individual’s email address, so I’m not even sure how to follow up. Any advice?

Send the cover letter now, with a note explaining it didn’t attach the first time. Include your resume again too, so that they don’t have to hunt it down to connect them. Assuming you wrote a good cover letter that didn’t just summarize your resume, it’s a crucial part of your application that you don’t want to skip.

5. Manager won’t give me the same raise that others got

I am currently working for a large chain business, I was recently given more responsibilities at work such as closing the store. Coworkers who have also been given the same responsibilities have been given a raise in hourly wage. However, my manager refuses to give me a raise but still expects me to close and assume the same responsibilities. I feel as if I’m being discriminated against. What should I do?

Do you suspect your manager’s decision was based on your race, religion, sex, national origin, or other protected class? If not, then this isn’t discrimination in the legal sense. Simply being unfair or treating you differently than someone else isn’t on its own illegal.

However, you can certainly ask your manager why you’re not receiving the same pay as others who have the same responsibilities. (Note: Doing this in professional jobs isn’t appropriate; in that context, you’re expected to negotiate your salary without regard to what your coworkers make. But doing it in a retail store where pay tends to be handled differently is generally fine.)

6. Titles when you don’t know a person’s gender

In my current position, I have to write a number of formal letters and emails to staff members in diplomatic positions. My question is regarding correspondance to staff who are not the Ambassador or Consul General, but various other staff. Occasionally, I have to write someone where I am not certain what the gender is and Google isn’t providing a conclusive answer. How is it best to address a letter in this case? Or are there other ideas on how to try and determine someone’s gender when the obvious internet searches aren’t providing concrete results?

Since you’re writing to lower level staff where a formal title isn’t necessary, I’d go with the full name instead of a gender-based salutation, i.e., “Dear Jesse Pinkman.”

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