I’m exempt but my boss tracks me every minute

by Evil HR Lady on November 23, 2011

Dear Evil HR Lady,

My colleagues and I are all salaried exempt employees. We are not people managers; we are project managers, even though that is not what we are called. Recently, there has been what I like to call “Much Ado About Hours” throughout our office, and especially in our department. Our manager has always kept track of days we are out of the office (vacation days, sick days, etc.). Now she is keeping track of what time we arrive, what time we leave, how long we take for lunch, etc., and she frequently brings the issue of “people not working their hours” up in meetings. We aren’t talking about major absences — maybe just someone arriving 15-30 minutes late or someone else leaving 15-30 minutes early. 

During our busy months, I would guess that we average 45-50 hours per week, usually work through lunch and occasionally spend our weekends (with no comp time) for company travel. We are all good workers who manage our projects effectively with very little slacking.The office just moved 20 miles away, which makes for a longer commute for everyone.

As exempt employees, haven’t we earned a little flexibility in our schedules? By tracking our hours in this manner, isn’t our boss treating us like non-exempt employees? And if so, is there anything we can do about it? Certainly I can speak with her about this and I am happy to do so, but I would like to be able to back up my feelings with facts and figures; feelings alone will get me nowhere.

I appreciate any insight you can provide.

To read the answer, click here:  I’m exempt, but my boss tracks me every minute

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

class factotum November 23, 2011 at 9:24 pm

A 45-hour week is seriously normal for many, many, many exempt level jobs.

Preach it, sister. A 45-hour work week would be a vacation for many exempt level jobs!

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Evil HR Lady November 24, 2011 at 5:22 am

Yeah, methinks someone is coming in late and leaving early and complaining about overwork.

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Katie November 26, 2011 at 12:42 am

Maybe I misread this. I took the OP not to whine but to say that they weren’t scraping by at just barely 40 hours a week, that they behaved in a trustworthy way by giving discretionary time. That could have been my post: project manager, exempt, not shift-working, putting in time over and above, and along with similarly trustworthy coworkers, having to account for every minute. It’s annoying and demotivating to be reminded again and again about attendance rules when you’re nowhere near to breaking them. It’s demeaning to have to claim PTO for taking a team member or vendor to lunch to discuss project concerns and running a few minutes over, even though you were in the office an hour early, will work an hour late, and worked through lunch every other day this week. That’s not to say that many employees don’t have to do those hours and far more as a matter of course, but one hopes they’re treated like adults when they do it, not like school children caught out without a hall pass.

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Evil HR Lady November 27, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I just think it’s funny when people complain about having to work 45-50 hours a week. Maybe it was the industries I cut my teeth in (grocery stores and pharma), but that’s not a level to complain about. I’ve worked part time for a long time, but my husband works 70 or so hours a week and travels 50% of the time. His schedule is normal for people at his level.

That said, I 100% agree with what you’ve said about treating people like adults. I hate hours tracking for exempt employees.

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J.B. November 29, 2011 at 1:51 am

I am seriously disturbed by the mindset that just because you happen to be exempt you should suck up 45-50 hours per week every week. Exempt doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a manager. What happened to doing a job and going home? Exempt to me means you stay late if you need to get a project out but otherwise employees have a right to a life! And while you’re at it treat them like adults.

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Emily July 10, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I didn’t read the letter writer as “complaining” about working 45-50 a week, but rather making it clear that not only is she getting her work done, she’s not skating by abusing her salaried position by putting in 37 hours a week. Just because some people work 60+ hours a week (yes, that’s quite often me!) doesn’t mean that a person putting in 45-50 who resents having their manager clock-watch them is “complaining about being overworked.” What she is really speaking to is a desire for flexibility and autonomy and I’m surprised to see her being mocked/dismissed as though she has to be at least a standard deviation above the average exempt worker’s hours or else she can’t take issue with her boss’s practices.

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fposte November 27, 2011 at 4:51 pm

The point is that 50 hours isn’t “over and above,” because there’s no 40-hour baseline. 50 hours is just doing your regular job. While I don’t think the managers are taking an effective approach here, I’m struck by the mention of the longer commute. I wonder if people haven’t faced the reality of having less time at home as a result of having the longer commute and are trying to keep to their old habits in a new situation. Which you can’t actually pull off, unfortunately.

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Evil HR Lady November 27, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Yeah, I think there’s probably some of the “I used to leave the house at 7:45 and get there at 8:00, so I refuse to leave any later than 7:45, even though now I don’t get there until 8:30. It’s not my fault the company moved.”

Which makes sense, because maybe you would have never taken the job if it was in the new location, but in that case, you start looking for a new job.

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Termination Letters November 28, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Exempted employers are also being watched is not justified.

Termination letters

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Michelle November 29, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I think you are right that something else is driving the manager’s behavior. Maybe their boss has noticed that the department doesn’t seem “busy”. Could be the manager is trying to protect the department. If senior management thinks this department is overstaffed they might try to reduce headcount. Just a thought…

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AJW April 7, 2013 at 3:36 pm

I am in a similar situation. When my latest supervisor came on board, she required our exempt group of IT professionals to sign an agreement to work a fixed schedule with no flexibility to deviate from that schedule to extend or modify the work day to accommodate an occasional longer lunch or doctor appointment. I am 60 years old, 34 years in the business, 12 years at this employer, managing a large project, always worked the hours needed to complete a project, always met deadlines, worked off schedule hours when my employer required it and even when it did not. Yet, now I am am required to put in a PTO request in a time and attendance system and get approval to leave a half hour early for a doctor appointment. Yes, I could quit and look for another job, but who will hire me at my age? To me, this is not good management, even if it is legal. In my opinion, it is power-tripping and demeaning, and not an ethical or moral way to treat employees who are adults and who have demonstrated dedication, reliability, and a good work ethic. But I need my job and have been told numerous times that I am lucky to have it. So I just do the best I can to tolerate it and hopefully last until I can retire.

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