Part-time work issues
January 16, 2012 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Technically they could fire me at any time, so...(long)

I have two issues here: my health and my crazy insane other life. I have a part-time job for almost a year (in addition to my full-time job) at a Large Evil Retail Empire (you will know shortly, but I am being deliberately vague on purpose as this is a small town). Recently I'd called up to get my absence count--in orientation they went through the drill: so many, a verbal reprimand; another, a written reprimand; then they send you home to think about it, then canned. I had called up HR to see how many I had because of a mixup with the schedule.

(I'd asked a the day off and was scheduled anyway...spoke with the manager who said, "I have no more hours to give you," then took me off the schedule as I'd requested. (I had said, when making the request, "I'd be happy to work x or y day for you, but I really can't change my plans on z.") I always offer to work a different day or days when I have a conflict. It's a 24 hour/day gig.

I looked at the schedule that morning of z and he'd scheduled me anyway, just different hours. I could not change my plans. They have a special number to call in and I did so as not to be a no call no show. Back to the HR phone call: there was a Long Pause, and then she told me the number of absences. I had all of them and more. So they were too busy to reprimand me and I was lax in keeping track. "Wow, that's not good." I said. "No, it's not." she said.

I'd changed departments a few months ago (due to physical limitations/ physical problems. My old manager was wonderful -- so accomodating. The new one--not so much.

I had filled out ADA paperwork, FMLA paperwork (which is curious--now I learned you can't use until you've been at a place a year. I don't know why they sent it to me.) I have doctor's notes and have since learned they don't honor them--doctor's notes don't excuse absences. Coroprate lost my ADA paperwork. I decided to just switch departments. The new position didn't aggravate my issues as much.

I don't mind going back and asking management to change my schedule AGAIN (although I was raised in a family that Forbade Asking for anything, but therapy is a beautiful thing, it's difficult but I figure asking is good practice). I feel like a pain in the neck/high maintenance doing it though.

I have many other commitments besides work. I have at least two more days (groups I run) I'm scheduled to work and cannot change. We are able to go in electronically and request days off and I have gone in and placed them until June. So, when I ask him for my days off, at least I can say, "The good news is, I have entered my requests up to June, so hopefully I won't have to bother you too much more." Except he's ignoring my requests and scheduling right over them.

It's a fun and easy job, not to mention a few extra dollars.When I am there, I am positive. I can't get out of my commitments. Any thoughts on asking skillfully in the boat I'm in?

Forgive this for being so long and rambly. I've already read the fire v. quit posts, but this seem rather complicated. other questions to tibetian.prayer.flags (at)
posted by Prairie to Work & Money (25 answers total)
What is your question?
posted by oceanjesse at 10:15 AM on January 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Help me out here - what's your question? "Should you quit or stay", is that it?
posted by shino-boy at 10:17 AM on January 16, 2012

Scheduling you against your availability is a common problem in those part-time retail jobs. And that's if you notify them on time. If you are asking for days off when the schedule is already posted-- and it sounds like you are, since they had to take you off the schedule-- it may just be more complication than they can, or care to, deal with.(In the retail jobs I've had, once you are on the schedule it is up to you to find someone to take your hours if you need time off.)

Have you sat down with the person who does the schedule and discussed this situation? If not, that seems like the obvious thing to do to get expectations clear.
posted by BibiRose at 10:28 AM on January 16, 2012

Best answer: I think this is the question: "Any thoughts on asking skillfully in the boat I'm in?"
posted by yoink at 10:34 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, sorry. It looks like you did ask for the time off before the schedule was posted. Anyway, you should have a talk with the relevant person or people.
posted by BibiRose at 10:35 AM on January 16, 2012

Eh, if they're too busy to notice your absences, I wouldn't worry about it too much. This depends greatly on the company, but from my experience they have to give you the warnings if that's what their policy is.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:40 AM on January 16, 2012

Two things:

1. What is your actual question? Is it truly as simple as "should I stay or should I go?" Because if so, I'm just not seeing the benefit you're deriving from the part-time job. It doesn't sound as though you depend on the extra income, and the scheduling issues are causing unneeded headaches and stress. So, if you're really asking if you should stay or go, my vote is go.

2. Why did you bring up ADA/FMLA? I'm not sure what any of that has to do with the question - did we miss something? If you work fewer than 1,250 hours in 12 months, you wouldn't be eligible for FMLA, anyways. Also, you make it sound as though the absences are due to your other conflicts, not a health reason.
posted by pecanpies at 10:44 AM on January 16, 2012

Best answer: I think the question is: I have these set commitments but I'm scheduled to work on those days even though I specifically told my manager that I wouldn't be able to change the set commitments. Then there are other complications, like my health. How can I tactfully get the manager to understand that I cannot work on specific days but am happy to work others?
posted by cooker girl at 10:48 AM on January 16, 2012

I could not change my plans. . . . I can't get out of my commitments.

I find that... doubtful. Here's the thing. When you're working a job that has scheduled shifts, the bosses do not actually have to listen to employee requests about when you can work and when you can't. The job isn't just completing your tasks while on the clock, it's being available for scheduling when the bosses need you. So if the boss schedules you to work a certain day, the general expectation is that because your job is a priority, you'll be there, even if that means cancelling other plans.

And most other plans can be changed or canceled. I'm coming up with very few things which can't be. Family events? Canceled. Social commitments? Canceled. Hobbies? Canceled. Got tickets to a concert? Canceled. Doctor's appointments? Could go either way, depending on the condition and the doctor, but unless you're actually having a procedure done, these can probably be canceled too. Working another job? Okay, that's an issue. But you need to make clear to the boss that comes in second that he is, in fact, coming in second, and you can't be scheduled to work for him when you're working for the other guy. Other than that, unless you're physically not in the area, you can probably cancel your plans.

In other words, your boss doesn't work around your schedule, you work around his. You can certainly ask for a day off, but asking does not actually give you a right to said day. Your scheduler would do well to try to accommodate employee requests where possible and convenient, but they're under no actual obligation to do so.

The fact that you think you've got ADA/FMLA issues (and I have no idea whether or not that's true) does not change this, in all likelihood. The ADA does require employers to make "reasonable accommodations" for disabled persons, but that does not include not being able to schedule an employee at will or granting said employee the ability to call off work without consequence. The ADA simply means that if you can do the job just as well as anyone else can if your employer would only do [x], then they have to do [x]. No more. And FMLA generally only kicks in after you've exhausted vacation time and sick leave, it has to be approved before the absence, and it's not the sort of thing you can just take whenever you feel like it.

I think the problem here is that it sounds like you aren't treating this like a job, but rather a hobby that pays you money. Your employer is under no particular onus to cater to that perspective.
posted by valkyryn at 10:50 AM on January 16, 2012 [11 favorites]

I'd say sit down with your manager and talk to him about what you need. You're helping him out by telling him when you can work, so he's not stuck covering a shift when you call in.

It's your schedule, and you're responsible for being on top of it. What you're communicating is that this isn't at all a priority for you, and that's fine if it isn't, but your manager may be wanting to accommodate the employees for whom the job *is* a priority, you know...
posted by mrs. taters at 11:01 AM on January 16, 2012

Can you switch hours with a colleague?
posted by xammerboy at 11:07 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have commitments, yes, and that's understandable.

However, the business has its needs, too. Depending on how tightly they forecast their need for staffing, your manager may be faced with a pretty tough-to-solve problem. If you're taking off, then he has to find someone to fill your place (probably with a caveat from his boss not to allow your replacement to go into overtime), but that also means he'd need to find work for you to do on the day you want to make up, so that he doesn't have people on the clock just standing around.

You've made your requests out to June...but who else has requests for days off? Have you sought them out and tried to work out some sort of schedule trade to present to your manager (if that's allowed with your company)?

Definitely sit down with him, schedule and requested days off in hand, and see if there's anything you can work out. But understand if he's not able to promise all the days off you're asking for.
posted by mittens at 11:09 AM on January 16, 2012

Nthing valkyryn. Part of this difficulty is the fact that you had an accommodating boss before, and are assuming that the new boss will do what the old one used to. Not everyone is so accommodating.

I have loads of stuff I do outside of working hours, including teaching classes, but those have to take a backseat to my day job. If I need to find someone to fill in some night when things get hairy at work, then that's what I have to do. As valkyryn says, I've made it very clear to the institution where I teach that I have a day job that takes priority, and we work around that to the extent possible.

The part that disturbs me a little is the fact that the boss seems to be listening to your scheduling requests, leaving you to think you'd had your request approved, then scheduling you in anyway. Now you find yourself with unauthorized absences on your record. That's an issue of communication between you and your manager, to ensure that you don't walk away from the conversation thinking one thing when the opposite is true.
posted by LN at 12:07 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Most companies have policies regarding deadlines for time off. Does yours? Most times, they have specific policies about availability too. Your standard availability is X, and you should never be scheduled outside of that. If you need time off inside of that, that's what time-off requests are for.
posted by gjc at 12:17 PM on January 16, 2012

I think valkyryn nailed it and you're SOL. Your job doesn't have to care that you have commitments to social groups that you don't want to change. If your ADA issues have something to do with this, please clarify (right now it does not sound like it).

It sounds like you're asking about as well as you can. Short of improving your relationship with the person who sets the schedule, or arranging for someone to cover your shifts (if that is allowed), there's not much you can do. Just keep showing up to work, or canceling when you want (or have to), as long as they continue to employ you.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:22 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you can afford (career-wise) to be fired from your part time job, keep working and do your best to stay off the schedule on conflict days. You're already on borrowed time and it sounds like you don't *need* the gig.

But if you need to keep your employment record clean, quit and find a different part time job.

It sounds like you're doing everything right, and everything you can, short of moving this part-time-job up the ladder of priority in your life, which it doesn't sound like you're interested in doing.
posted by itesser at 1:44 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

My supposition, when I saw the bit about days off through June, was that it was a school schedule (which would explain why it couldn't be rescheduled).

I'll also mention that for a part-time retail job, they will treat you as worthless as a default. I'd disagree with the phrasing that you're not treating this like a job — you're very much treating it like a part-time retail job. If they want your undivided loyalty, well, they can make you an offer and pay you well enough to give up your other commitments. Otherwise, they can hire and train someone else and take their chances on that. (As someone who currently hires for a team, good workers are worth working with about schedule etc., because finding and training new people even in this shitty economy is a pain in the ass, and it's generally not that much of a problem to accommodate a regular commitment.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:08 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, unfortunately this is life in retail and more particularly, it is definitely, but definitely, life in Large Evil Retail Empire. They may act at first as if they will be happy to accommodate your schedule instead of the other way around but that is not true. My experience has been that if you go in and get hired, saying, I can never work Thursday, ever, I have to do pro bono brain surgery on Thursdays, they will say, oh, okay, don't worry about it! And then they will schedule you on Thursdays and fire you when you call to say you can't come in. What you must realize is that you are infinitely replaceable. There are millions of you and frankly, LEREs like to get rid of people who have been around long enough to maybe, horrors, have moved up the pay scale a little and replace them with new, cheaper people. Training new people and pissing off customers while they have new people who know nothing on the floor does not bother LEREs one iota. SO. You can connect the dots from here.

If they start in with the formal warnings, which they probably will (unless, like me, you live in an at will state, where they don't usually actually bother with those despite what the training says but instead just fire you at the end of your shift) my advice would be to quit before you get fired. If you quit with two weeks notice and work it out, you will get a decent recommendation from them - so that you can get another job in a different yet oh so identical LERE - and you will also be eligible for rehire should the necessity arise. If you get fired and you want to ever work for an LERE again you will be fucked unless you totally lie about it. So if I were you I believe I would at this point be handing in my formal written notice.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:19 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: You'd have to ask my doctors if my illness is genuine or not, valkyryn.

It's your schedule, and you're responsible for being on top of it.

I was unaware they did not accept doctor's notes for absences. That's how I got overquota. I was on top of it. I called the magic number every time.

The reason I brought up ADA, pecanpies, was Dr. wrote (in essence--this is not verbatium), "may need to miss time because of condition that flares up." That's when they handed me the FMLA paperwork, which we both know cannot be used if you don't have a year in.

We aren't allowed to trade, I would be asking everyone.
posted by Prairie at 5:47 PM on January 16, 2012

You'd have to ask my doctors if my illness is genuine or not, valkyryn.

Really not the point. I don't care if your issues are "genuine" or not. The question is whether they interact with the ADA and FMLA to give you what you want, and I really don't think that the law works the way you seem to think it does. You may have a real health problem going on. That simply does not mean that you can take off whenever you feel like it. There are processes and procedures for making this happen. Gailing to comply with them can actually result in you forfeiting protections that would otherwise be yours.

>It's your schedule, and you're responsible for being on top of it.

I was unaware they did not accept doctor's notes for absences.

Yeah, except that it was your responsibility to know that before you acted. The information was out there for you to know, but you operated under an assumption before making sure that you were right. Look, we all do that from time to time. Doesn't do anything to make us less responsible. Ya done goofed. So own it, learn from it, don't let it happen again, and move on. The time to deal with this stuff is before it becomes a problem, not after.
posted by valkyryn at 6:31 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just a quick look at things from the other side of the equation: I work with a parttimer (20 hours a week) who, before she was hired, was asked by AT LEAST five people --- including me --- if there were any restrictions on the days/times she was available to work: she told each of us that she was available seven days a week, all shifts, no restrictions at all. Six months later, she's incrementally whittled that down to "I'll only work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, and catagorically refuse to work any weekends or evenings." This has meant that another fulltimer and I, whom she was hired to relieve!, have been forced to work around "her majesty's" demands. (And yes, she's about to be fired for that as well as other causes.)

You say you have other commitments ("groups I run" and such), which apparently make you unavailable a lot: were you clear about what days/hours you could work BEFORE you accepted this job? Or, like my parttimer, did you sort of accept this job under false pretenses, by telling them when you were hired that you were available more often than you are actually willing to work?
posted by easily confused at 7:03 PM on January 16, 2012

Response by poster: easily confused: The dates I was available, as well as unavailable, were documented and added into the system at the time of hire. My illness was just another layer in this cake. I took the job with the intent to do what I said. They up front told me to fill in what I needed off. Sorry about your person.

I keep thinking that going in to politely talk to them would be more adult than just calling off/ blowing them off, even if it makes me a pain and high-maintenance. A couple of you have stated they don't care and I am expendable and they will throw me away anyway.
posted by Prairie at 7:25 PM on January 16, 2012

I suspect that the time you have taken off for medical reasons is eating into the time you have requested off for personal events. Unfortunately, I doubt this is an ADA issue. My guess is that you have, say, 10 days you can request off for any reason, sickness or personal. After you've used your 10th day, they may make exceptions for taking days 11-15 off if accompanied by a doctors note AND if that is required for compliance with corporate policy and legal regulations. I can't imagine that they are obligated to give you days 11-15 off for personal reasons, even if you had taken days 1-10 off for legitimate sickness reasons.

I think you are reacting very harshly to people in this thread, when its not really them that you are mad at. It sucks that you are sick, and it sucks that your store is no longer accommodating you. However, I'd strongly recommend re-reading mygothlaundry's post, and thinking about whether or not you can afford to be fired from this job, or it would be more prudent to maintain references and re-hireability and quit now. You may (or may not, especially since you haven't been there long) have legal recourse if they fire you for taking days off strictly for medical reasons, but I suspect that if they fire you after taking one of your personal days (ie one of the days you run groups) you will not be able to do anything.

As for your question, I would absolutely talk to them, but remember that they probably can just tell you "no" - especially since the days you are asking for next are not medically related.

Additionally, you could talk to your old manager and see if they can make it possible to switch back, or see if they can act as an advocate for you with your new manager.
posted by fermezporte at 4:12 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even though I am kind of pessimistic about the outcome here (see above; also, I work in retail and spent the summer doing penance at a LERE myself) I don't think you have anything to lose by talking to them - in fact, I'd strongly recommend it. You need to talk to one of the top managers, though, not just to your direct supervisor. Before you go in, make sure you have your ducks in a row: be able to explain your scheduling conflicts and availability very clearly. Then see how it goes from there - the worst case scenario is probably that they'll nod and say yes, yes and then turn around two days later and ignore everything you said. If that happens, then it's time for a resignation letter. If not, maybe some LEREs are less evil than others and they'll be genuinely willing to work with you. I wish I was more hopeful for you but unfortunately, my experience has not been good that way.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:21 AM on January 17, 2012

Sounds like mygothlaundry has it right; they don't have to be nice to you and probably won't be, but at least if you stay polite and courteous you'll be able to feel like the grown-up at the end of it.
posted by danteGideon at 6:48 AM on January 17, 2012

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