New employer misrepresented vacation in job offer - now what?
July 30, 2011 10:07 AM   Subscribe

My new employer misrepresented my vacation time in my offer. What should I do?

The offer I accepted included an outdated benefits summary that specified X days per year of paid time off (PTO), to be used for vacation and sick leave. I had more vacation time plus separate sick leave at the job I left, but I found this package acceptable.

After my start date, I learned the actual vacation plan is X minus 5 days vacation per year with separate sick leave. I find this less acceptable, and I don't think I would have taken the job without differently negotiating this or other aspects of the offer.

I'm relatively healthy and I haven't had to use more than one or two days sick time each year. And I've never been comfortable with abusing sick leave. The way I see it, I've been screwed out of 3-5 days vacation per year compared to the offer I accepted, and it's even worse when compared to my old job.

I've notified my management and HR about the screw-up and let them know that I'm disappointed, but I haven't suggested any resolution yet. HR has apologized for giving me the wrong information, but claims they cannot make exceptions to the vacation policy. I'd really prefer to have X days vacation, but I would be satisfied with a modest salary bump to compensate. I'm not sure how much leverage I have, though.

My plan for now is to keep cool about it, try to keep all communication about it in writing, and see what amends, if any, they offer. I'd really like to resolve this quickly with minimum drama, and avoid an adversarial start to my new job, but I am sort of pissed. If they refuse to budge, I can suck it up and see how the job goes, but I think I can find a comparable position somewhere else without much difficulty (my skill set is in high demand).

I'm also considering consulting an employment attorney, but I'm not sure it's worth it. I have no way of knowing whether the misrepresentation of benefits in my offer was deliberate or inadvertent. The job is at-will (not contract), in the US (Texas), and I did not relocate.

Is there anything else I should be doing or considering? I'm not looking for legal advice - that's what the attorney would be for - but any suggestions for how to approach this kind of fiasco, especially at a new job.

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posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Really, they can't just let you use "sick" time towards vacation? I would try to work it out with your manager that you will use your vacation time first and then try to schedule your sick time as days off towards the end of the calendar year. You'd think it'd be in their benefit to know ahead of time which days you would require off, it behooves nobody to have the end result be that you're banging in "sick" to use your time up. If they can't even be flexible on that, alarm bells would be ringing in my head pretty hard.
posted by kpht at 10:13 AM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I honestly would have just not said anything and used your sick time for vacation, or at the very least for personal days. I once worked for a company that gave us an insane number of sick days, a small number of vacation days and a few personal days. It was pretty much understood by everyone - supervisors included, though maybe not HR - that people would just use the personal days like vacation time and extra sick days for personal time. Even with this, hardly anyone ever used up all the sick days. You really couldn't unless you fell deathly ill.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:27 AM on July 30, 2011

HR already made the exception by sending you the offer that you signed. But yeah, just treat all the days as a bucket. My impression is that any split between vacation, sick, and personal days is just a tax consideration on the company's side.
posted by rhizome at 10:33 AM on July 30, 2011

I'd go ahead and consult that attorney. Did you sign something? I'm not a lawyer, but it does not sound legal to pull a bait and switch like this.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:52 AM on July 30, 2011

If they continue screwing you, get 'sick.'

Take a vacation.

Better yet, take your vacation time, then call in 'sick' to recover. Tell them in great detail about your diarrhea and food poisoning.

I hate companies that pull this crap.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:59 AM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

HR is useless. Go to your manager, this is a common sense thing.

"Hey, the offer you gave me had X days for PTO. HR has informed me that I actually have X days off for vacation and X days off for sick days. This is contrary to my employment offer. Can you resolve this for me? I do not believe this is a minor issue, I'm effectively losing a week of vacation time."

If your manager can do nothing about this, you need to continue your job search.
posted by geoff. at 2:01 PM on July 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Do you enjoy working there? If so, chalk it up to poor communication and live with it. You can define sickness any way you want. You state that you've never felt comfortable abusing sick days. This is laudable, but putting too fine a point on it. Since you have already brought the issue up, have an informal chat with your boss and see what he/she thinks about just using sick days for added vacation days. They may think this is a simple, non-confrontational solution to the problem and thank you for your understanding.

If you are not happy over this (major?) problem and have such desirable skill sets, move on now before your discontent makes you look like someone for whom they would give a bad recommendation.
posted by Old Geezer at 9:46 PM on July 30, 2011

This sucks, sorry, but you seem to be coming at this from a semi-legal angle, which I think is the wrong way to approach it. Documenting, etc., is unlikely to help much. Think of it as if you'd showed up to work and on the first day they had announced they were changing their policy.

Talk to your manager and explain the situation. Your manager presumably just put in a lot of effort to bring you on, and shouldn't want to immediately piss you off. Make her aware that you're excited about this job, and took a cut in vacation to get it, but that the extra time was an important part of the offer for you. Ask your manager if she's ok with you using some sick leave for personal purposes, or if there's something else she can do to address this. I'm glad you're not cool with just using sick leave as vacation, but ultimately if you can do an end-run around a bureaucratic HR department you might be able to salvage the situation (this would satisfy my conscience, at least).
posted by _Silky_ at 11:20 AM on July 31, 2011

Push back with HR. *Every* policy has room for exceptions, even if it's a 'this year only, next year you need to suck it up' exception.
posted by Twicketface at 10:07 AM on August 1, 2011

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