tiny answer Tuesday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

This post was set to automatically publish since I may or may not have power right now, due to the storm. (How’s that for preparation though?)

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

1. Do we have to let this employee return to the office to clean out her desk?

We’ve got an awkward situation and could sure use some guidance. One of our employees went out on a 4-month leave of absence to have a baby. One week before she was scheduled to come back to work, she called in and told us she decided not to return to work. With only one week’s “notice” (or lack thereof) she has put our firm in a very difficult position. And, of course, we’re all very upset that she did not provide more notice.

My question is, what are her “rights” as far as coming back and cleaning out her desk? Would it be customary for someone in this situation to return during normal business hours? I believe that it will be disruptive to our office and to our staff if she comes in when we’re trying to work and it could potentially become hostile. I’m hoping the boss could meet her after hours and take care of her remaining items but I don’t know what she is entitled to.

She’s not legally entitled to return during business hours if you don’t want her to. If you want, you can box up her things for her and mail them to her, deliver them to her, or have her come by at a mutually-agreed-upon time to pick them up. Any of those are perfectly reasonable, and not uncommon. However, I’m curious why you’re worried that it could become hostile if she returned during regular hours. After all, people leave jobs. Sometimes they leave them in irresponsible ways. It’s generally not personal, and you shouldn’t make this hostile. Get her stuff back to her however is most convenient, but leave any anger out of it.

2. My manager doesn’t ask me to cover for her when she’s away

I am an assistant to a manager. Lately my manager has not asked me to cover for her position when she is away. It is absolutely clear that my experience and qualifications are far ahead of the person she chose to cover for her. I feel that she has a personal issue with me because her decision is not a decision that shows good business practice. I have already asked for an explanation previously and I did not receive a response that was valid. Please advise if there is anything I can do.

No. Your boss can decide who covers for her without having to justify her decision to you, and it very well may be made for reasons other than experience. For instance, it might be that she trusts the other person’s judgment more, or feels she has a better rapport with other employees, or all kinds of other reasons. It’s your boss’s call.

It’s reasonable to ask her if there’s any reason you’re not asked to cover for her, but she doesn’t owe you an explanation. If you’re concerned that there are issues between the two of you aside from this, it would be smart to bring those to the surface and try to resolve them, but I wouldn’t keep focusing on this.

3. Time clock clocks us in and out incorrectly

I work for a periodontist in Massachusetts. They have us clock in, but if we clock in at 7:30, the timekeeper autos to 7:45. For lunch, it is put in 12-1 automatically even if we work into our lunch. If we stay past 5 due to patients, sometimes til 6 due to the doctor running late, we are still clocked out at 5. The periodontist’s manager is salaried so it doesn’t matter to her. I have mentioned to her that this is not correct, and she states that he has been fined before and won’t do anything about it. If we run a errand for work, do we need to clock out?

If you’re non-exempt, this is illegal. You must be paid for all time worked (including running errands for work). If you want to take action, you’d go to the Massachusetts Department of Labor.

4. Explaining long-term travel when applying for jobs

I was laid off at the end of February from my full-time nonprofit job. I chose to spend some time overseas visiting family and backpacking. It’s been about three months since I returned to the country and have actually started looking for a job again, but I still haven’t found anything full-time. Should I say anything about spending time out of the country in my resume or cover letter? I feel like I need to justify the long-term unemployment, but am not sure how to do it.

Yes, you should explain it at least in your cover letter, and possibly on your resume too. It shouldn’t be anything lengthy — just a sentence that lets employers know how you were spending that time.

5. Listing current but unrelated experience on a resume

I have recently decided to take on a part-time retail position to fill a gap on my resume. I want to list the position to show that I am doing something during my period of now underemployment, but I don’t want it to take up too much space on my resume. I worry that it will take away from my relevant experience to the full-time positions I am applying for. What is the best way to show that you are currently working, without making it stand out too much? Is it okay to just list the title and dates for this, or does it have to mirror the rest of my resume with duties and accomplishments?

No, it’s completely fine to just list the title and dates. You can also kick off your resume with a “relevant experience” section, and then list this in an “other experience” section after it.

6. Employer hasn’t been paying my commission

My employer offered me a position that I accepted that included salary plus commission. I have been with the company just over 1-1/2 years. I have received only two commission checks that are supposed to be paid quarterly. They are 1 year behind in paying out the commissions. Are employers required to make these payments timely?

It depends on what kind of agreement you have with them. If you have a written agreement that clearly spells out when they’ll pay the commission and under what circumstances, and those circumstances have been met, you probably have a wage claim. If it was left less formal than that, you probably don’t have much recourse, unfortunately.

7. I don’t want to carry my company cell phone to church

Can my boss write me up because I will not carry my company cell phone to church? I am an hourly employee in Florida, at a large company with 500-700 employees.

This probably falls under your employer’s legal obligation to provide you with reasonable religious accommodation, unless this would cause them “undue hardship,” which I doubt it would at their size.

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