Can you get in any trouble for turning down shift not scheduled?
November 18, 2017 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to get in trouble for not answering your phone on a scheduled vacation period even though boss admits they did it by mistake?

I work at a grocery store and it's the week of Thanksgiving. I asked off about a month ago for this upcoming week because, quite frankly the place is a clusterfuck on the best of days and they don't pay me enough to deal with that shit. Anyway my normal boss was on vacation the week the schedule was made and the computer generated it and it was granted. 5 minutes before i walk out the door today my boss says she really could have used me and "she still may" I don't know if that was a joke or not but, I set up my android phone to go straight to voicemail and blocked any voicemail notifications. I also blocked their number on my house number. For all they know I could have disconnected it. Anyway it's a union job so i doubt they could do shit if they wanted too. It's not like it's my fault that people keep quitting. Anyway they can't do anything right? It's not like I didn't put it in the book and someone approved it
posted by mamamia88 to Human Relations (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's possible, but if you're union, don't ask strangers on the internet! Ask your union rep!
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:28 AM on November 18, 2017 [25 favorites]

Agree with asking your union rep to be absolutely sure, but common sense says that if you've booked time off, it's because you are busy and might not be reachable. Unless there is some kind of standby clause in your employment agreement, your boss is lucky to get ahold of you if you're not working.
posted by rpfields at 11:35 AM on November 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'd change my outgoing message to say, "I will be out of phone and e-mail contact for the week of Thanksgiving. I will call you back after x date." So if they call and try to leave a message, it is clear you are not even checking messages.
posted by Toddles at 12:24 PM on November 18, 2017 [9 favorites]

What if you'd been out of the country or somewhere with bad signal coverage? You weren't working, you're under no obligation to pick up. I can't think of what kind of grocery store crisis exists that requires you to be on constant call standby and if there is one and there's actually a life saving requirement only you can do in the role I'm not aware of, you imagine they would have told you.

This is your boss on a power trip wanting you to know they can ruin your holiday whenever they feel like it by dragging you in at a moment's notice. Next time, tell them you're going out of town/overseas etc and not contactable (even if it's for the weekend) so they get the idea that no matter how much they need you, you ain't there and their poor scheduling isn't your problem.
posted by Jubey at 12:29 PM on November 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is really based on how much your union can protect you, which we can’t know. Years ago, I got fired for refusing to come in on a given day because the manager never posted the schedule and assigned me at the last minute. He said the real reason he fired me was because I said the schedule wasn’t posted in front of the other employees, so I made him look bad. I was 16 and had no union protection, so this isn’t the same situation, but they can certainly try to fire you for all kinds of things - then you could appeal to your union. So ultimately, even if you keep your job, which we can’t be certain about, there’s a lot of potential for hassle. I don’t know if you’d still have a paycheck while it gets sorted out. Whether that’s worth it is up to you.

I’m don’t mean to sound unsympathetic, but there can be a big difference between what’s reasonable and what happens.
posted by FencingGal at 12:46 PM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Definitely check with your union. If they're worth their weight in salt then this situation (i.e., call outs when not scheduled) should be covered in your CBA. There will probably be an entire section on schedule rules. Quickest way is probably to call your union rep, but beware that not all union reps are good at knowing your contract and representing your interests.

Also, since it sounds like they're using some sort of workforce management software to create the schedules, are you able to go into it and enter in unavailable time for the week? Depending on how they do call outs after a schedule is published, this may remove you from the call out list.
posted by noneuclidean at 1:44 PM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

No there is no software I can go in. I went in a book and wrote my name down. According to the contract the schedule can be changed for emergencies but, being too stupid to hire enough people is hardly an emergency in my book. They'll survive.
posted by mamamia88 at 3:18 PM on November 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

As a retail worker you are extremely lucky to have a union contract and some protection against the very unfriendly dynamic scheduling that non-union retailers use now.

But still, turn your phone back on.

Your facts are NOT the facts that will lead your case to be the hill your shop steward dies on. There will be no one who sympathizes with either leg of your strategy -- going around your boss's back to schedule vacation on the busiest week of the year without her input, and turning off your phone even AFTER she told you she might need you. You are a heck of lot better off in a disciplinary grievance if your position is "I booked the time fair and square and when management asked me to come in, I declined as the CBA permits." (NB you had better be correct on your reading.)
posted by MattD at 3:48 PM on November 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

Oh wait, did you deliberately put in for the time off when your boss wasn't there because you knew she would say no? And the only exchange you had with her about it was her making a joke/not a joke about wanting you to come in regardless? If so, I think you need to communicate more clearly with her and you also owe her some kind of favor soonish, because getting the week of Thanksgiving off is almost unheard of in retail. Retail is all about doing each other favors, and if you don't do some, you won't get any after a while and yes, they will be more likely to fire you if push comes to shove. So do something to lighten her load before the holiday season is over.

With that being said, you don't owe anyone a response when they call you outside of work hours. They can call you and you might be available and you might not. Retail managers can usually be trained to accept this.
posted by BibiRose at 5:05 PM on November 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh, I missed the bit where you snuck your holiday in without her knowing. Yep, that changes a lot of things! Ignore what I said before. If all she did was make a crack about it, wow, you got off really lightly.
posted by Jubey at 6:06 PM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Uh, well I’ll speak up for labor. Just because you hire someone doesn’t mean that you own all of their time, guilt tripping someone about not volunteering to work on Thanksgiving is silly. Taking a vacation day an entire month in advance for hard working retail workers is a god given right. “We may still need you” is not getting off easy - my guess is just a weak or friendly protest but you were there. Anyhow employers as well as well as retail workers must follow the rules. Have no anxiety about whether what you did was wrong. If your union has specific rules around being fired you should talk to them but it would take a truly bad person to fault you or fire you. Even if your boss let out a few gripes she’ll get over it in my opinion, just keep your head down. If this is really part of a struggle you could lose your job over I’d talk to the union though. What you did wasn’t wrong but legally you should always know your rights, have that conversation please.
posted by karmachameleon at 10:58 PM on November 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

even though boss admits they did it by mistake?

I'm unclear on this - what mistake did your boss admit to; to calling you while you were scheduled off (seems like this is not the case, you are still talking about this week in future tense) or to scheduling you off in the first place ( which she didn't do, she wasn't there to make the schedule).

Also, what kind of trouble are you asking about? Getting fired, or just pissing people off?

I've worked in a couple of union shops, including grocery (although a million years ago). If you could get fired depends on what the current contract says about mandatory hours during peak holiday seasons.

Absolutely you have pissed off your manager (her comment about calling you in was a shot across the bow), but you have also now pissed off all of your co-workers who still have to deal with an extra busy week but now with shorter staff, and probably somebody else doesn't get to take off a day that they actually really needed in order to take care of their other obligations during this busy holiday season. It was really a jerk move to leave your co-workers holding the bag.

I think you can count on getting scheduled for the worst shifts for the foreseeable future, and pretty much not getting any of your requested days off for the next year or so, or at least not until the manager has made sure that no one else wants that day off in the future. You can almost definitely count on this boss blocking any promotion request, or requests for the training you would need in order to get promoted.

Your only option of rectifying the situation on a personal (as opposed to legal) front is a) come up with a damn good story "we had to travel out of the country to see my dying grandma" and b) work your ass off during the Christmas season and even happily take extra shifts and crappy shifts so that your co-workers are free to take the time off that they actually need.

Or you could save everybody the trouble and quit now. Doesn't sound like you care too much about the place anyway.
posted by vignettist at 8:15 AM on November 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Hey man I just got done doing physical therapy for shit caused by this job. If I can avoid being there on the worst week of the year I will. I didn't go behind anyone's back I put a date in a book knowing it was a coinflip whether I would get it. I actually requested off this week last year and changed my mind because I had something come up and boss said she would have granted it. So that's how I got the idea. To be honest I've been halfway out the door for awhile now and I need this week off both mentally and physically. I would have quit awhile ago if I didn't need the insurance to pay for my medical bills which this place is causing me to need more and more often
posted by mamamia88 at 6:16 PM on November 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

No listen you’re cool, some of these responses are psychotic. Although I guess some bosses are psychotic so it never hurts to cover your ass. Just giving you a reality check. Yes some retail places torture their workers by not letting them know until the last minute if they will be free. I’m surprised people on a site like Metafilter, which is generally left leaning, really condone this.
posted by karmachameleon at 1:42 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

karmachameleon has a point, for sure. There is always another job in retail. Even if you have one that's a good fit-- and your boss wants you there, so it is a good fit on some level-- something can always go sideways that's nothing to do with you, and then any self-sacrifice you may have made will be shown to be useless. I learned that when I worked my ass off for a bookstore that ultimately closed. Asking for what you want/need is a good policy.
posted by BibiRose at 10:32 AM on November 21, 2017

Answering the question like a boss would isn't psychotic, it's realistic. Come on. None of us are shills for Big Grocery but most of us have worked retail, even recently. It sounds like time off was sneakily requested and granted, and the boss isn't happy, and OP is rightly worried. I would think yes you can get in trouble but probably it's best to just look for a different job with a better boss if that's an option.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 6:40 PM on November 27, 2017

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