I got a few emails while I was off doing fun and exciting things like taxes and watching television (more about that later). Surprisingly, I didn’t win the British lottery every day, and only got 10 or 15 solicitations for great business deals involving me turning over my bank account information so that I could help out a Nigerian princess. Boy there are a lot of Nigerian princesses out there!

But, I thought I’d answer a few quick questions here. I’m publishing it today because April 1 is April fool’s day and I didn’t want anyone to think I’m joking. This is HR. We don’t joke about anything.

Are we required to keep time records of an exempt employee?  If an exempt employee calls out can I take from her PTO bank?

One of the perks of being exempt is that your hours shouldn’t be excessively tracked. If you’re five minutes later it shouldn’t make a difference as long as your job is getting done. (And that 5 minutes doesn’t matter for our job–if you’re a Kindergarten teacher you better be there when all the little darlings show up.) But, yes, as a manager, you need to be aware of where your employees are.

So, to make a long answer short, yes. When an exempt employee calls out for a whole day, or a half day, you should take it from her PTO bank. That’s the purpose of PTO. Technically you can deduct smaller amounts from the PTO bank as well, but if you do that, I’ll come through the internet and slap you upside the head.

 While the literature about workplace harassment has dealt with harassment from supervisors and colleagues, have there been any studies about HR departments as an extension of management harassing the entire workforce?

At the university where I’m employed, all faculty members are hereby prevented from achieving a promotion as a result of HR imposing theoretically impossible standards, and also for evaluations that presumably have been created so that no one can pass them.

Do you have any thoughts on this matter?

Yes, my thought is that I don’t believe it. What’s the purpose of preventing every single faculty member from being promoted? If there truly is no way for anyone to get promoted then your institution has just issued a ban on promotions.

It happens. Salary caps and all that good stuff.

HR isn’t an independent organization. They report up to the university president. If their policies make it impossible for anyone to be promoted you need to take it up with your department chair and then, if that doesn’t work, the university president.

There’s no law against banning promotions. And there’s no law against HR being jerks, as long as they are equal opportunity jerks, which it sounds like they are. But, I suspect this has more to do with finances than a runaway HR person. If it is runaway HR, the university hierarchy should be able to deal with it.

HR is NEVER the boss.

What should HR do when our problem is HR?  I report to a real bully of a manager and she is viewed as such a valued, hard-working resource by her Director and VP.  Everyone knows she has horrible interpersonal skills and should not be managing people.  She is an encyclopedia of knowledge regarding law, policy and just my company’s tribal knowledge.  But, she has tormented me for years now (6 1/2) and it’s not just her. 

The director is so full of himself and his career path, nobody dares cross him.  He has the VP, who is so far removed at this point, totally fooled.  Most of us work across the country and never see each other but once a year.  I don’t even work in an office, which is definitely a perk.  BUT, I just celebrated 10 yrs with my company and I don’t really want to leave for something else and really shouldn’t have to, in my opinion.

We are demoralized and done fighting.  Once I had a family to support, I realized I must pick my battles.  I just really wonder what recourse does HR have when HR is the problem?!?  Thank you

Your recourse is the same as the last question–HR is NEVER the boss. Your problem is not with her, but with her boss, who allows this behavior. He likes what she does. He rewards her behavior. He’s chosen her over you.

But, if you are not on site, isn’t it possible to just mainly ignore her? Is she on your case every day? I mean, when she calls, just start playing Cut the Rope (another vacation past time!) while she blathers on about how terrible you are or what have you. You’ve been there 10 years and don’t want to leave. You can’t make her boss fix her, as he is fully away of the problem. (And if he’s not aware, why haven’t you told him?)

Chances of finding another telecommuting job? Slim. Chances of her winning if you loudly protest? High. Decide if the perk of telecommuting is worth the pain of dealing with her. If it’s not, start looking for a new job.


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10 thoughts on “My vacation mailbox

  1. Pan Am did an ad in which they extolled the joy of “leaving it all behind.” At the end they added, “If you feel guilty (about leaving…) rest assured it will all be waiting for you when you return.” – Welcome back.

  2. If the last poster is directly reporting to that person I’d probably want to leave! I’m wondering exactly how this manager is so abusive.

  3. HR has been depicted as “evil” in several popular media. On the U.S. television series of The Office, HR representative Toby Flenderson is sometimes seen as a nag because he constantly reminds coworkers of company policies and government regulations.Long-running American comic strip Dilbert also frequently portrays sadistic HR policies through character Catbert, the “evil director of human resources”.
    So – though fictional, it appears that those listed are not the only ones that view HR as “evil”.

  4. Welcome back!

    I’m curious about why you are so opposed to taking PTO in increments smaller than half a day. It is common practice in our office, in part because as government contractors, we are obligated to account for our time to the hour by project we work on. Some people, namely me, work on a lot of the projects in some capacity. It isn’t uncommon for me to have 10 or more lines in my time sheet that I divide my time across. Most of the time, an hour here or there is easy to make up, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.

    Our managers and government contracting officers don’t follow us around with stop watches, but if we work only 7 hours one day and don’t make up for it in the same pay period, we take an hour of PTO–unless we have pre-existing comp time and it was aranged in advance. The inspector general’s office is very particular about that. Companies tend to get fined if their time accounting isn’t spot on.

    That leads to the other issue I’ve noticed. I believe you’ve mentioned before that an exempt employee can’t be forced to take comp time in the same pay period it was incurred. (Please correct me if I misunderstood that.) While we aren’t forced to do so, we are strongly encouraged to do so. Our managers recognize that that isn’t always possible, but they “strongly” encourage us to take it in the same month. It creates real nightmares on the invoices and project bottom line if we don’t. Comp time not taken in the same pay period has to be applied to “unbillable” accounts, which is a cardinal sin in contract-based projects. If it is not taken in the same month, it is even worse because the excess billable hours do not counter balance the unbillable hours on the invoice.

    Being unbillable is a very bad thing. It cuts into the profit margins. Employees actually track and will put on their (meaningless) end-of-year evaluations that they had no unbillable hours in the previous year if they manage it. I’ve even had managers offer me bonuses in lieu of taking the comp time to keep the unbillable hours off the books if the amount of time was unusually high. (I’m not sure of the legality of that, but I’d rather have the money anyway so I’d never complain. I was compensated for my work, so it was all good to me.) Besides, being 100% billable is good for job security. When the budgets got really tight and our company laid off some people, they were all administrative/unbillable types. Because of that, I’m normally willing to adjust my time/comp time needs to ensure that I stay that way–as long as it is honest and legal.

    1. Billable hours are a whole different ball of wax and I’m not going to address that right now.

      But, exempt employees are hired to do a JOB not to work specific hours. Therefore, your pay is the not changeable because you put in more or less hours.

      An exempt employee should be judged solely on the outcome of the job–not on the number of hours he worked. If you have a doctor’s appointment and come in an hour late, or need to take an hour off in the middle of the day, there should be no expectation of having to make it up or take PTO. If you leave a half hour early, same deal.

      It’s expected that you’ll get the job done. And that is what matters.

  5. That makes sense. Too bad I can’t really apply that in reverse. Right now, I’ve got very little to do that is job related (which explains why I’ve got time to read your blog at work). I would much rather not do anything job related at home and still get paid than I would sit in the office and not do anything job related. Somehow, I don’t think I can sell that to my boss.

    Your blog is a good place to land because I can at least make an arugment that being informed on HR issues is beneficial to my employer and me. 😉 I just try to keep the snickering to a minimum. Having fun at work is like stealing from the company.

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