One Minute Early or Late Clocking In Penalty!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about docking for coming early or late:

Is it legal to dock my pay 15 minutes for being 1 minute late/or early to work? My employer says he will dock anyone who clocks in 1 min. early or 1min. late 15 mins.

Signed, Docked

Dear Docked:

Our site does not give legal advice. Even if the one-minute rule is not legal, making a fuss over it would not be worth the time, money, or effort. Your question, however, is more one of bossing and being bossed. Rather than ask is it legal, you should ask why? Obviously, your employer doesn’t want to pay for more hours than is needed. But to clock in a few minutes early should not cost your employer anything and rather than being penalized, should show you are a responsible employee, and if you overlap with the outgoing shift, that should better continuity.

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What The Doctor Needs To Order!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about new bossy nurse:

I have been working for a local Doctor’s office for about 3 yrs now. At first it was great even though I heard numerous complaints about the head doctor from the other nurses. About 4 or 5 months ago I was made head nurse only to have the 2 long time employees who are part timers threaten to quit because they were not made head nurse. So after one week of being in this position it was taken away from me. I have since tried to go on about my job of course not always being happy with what had taken place but doing my best and still continuing to do 110% of my job, performing the same job duties as before which is what a head nurse does.

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Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary!


I am a part-time tutor in a local college but was a full-time interim manager of our writing center for 2 months while my manager (I’ll call her Mary) was recovering from cancer. I was told that I was a creative and highly competent interim (student traffic has doubled since the prior semester, I think because of new staff I had to hire) by the Dean of our department; having accomplished many needed projects during my short tenure. It has been a month since Mary has been back and I have resumed my part-time status.

Recently and without prior discussion about the issue, a fellow tutor and I were forwarded a very disturbing email apologizing for a conversation I had with a college administrator where I was accused of being rude and arrogant. This email had a very punitive tone and was forwarded to the Dean. It was later revealed that the complainant meant for her words to be held in confidence. I sent a response defending myself and asking Mary to please discuss any future complaints with me first before making assumptions. I rec’d two more punitive emails that were similarly emailed to the Dean. Realizing that my colleague and I are perceived as clear threats to Mary, we think this hostility will only escalate and destroy our chances of becoming faculty at the college.

We feel demoralized, disrespected and–both of us are middle-aged professionals with master’s degrees and are not accustomed to being treated this way. Please note that although Mary is supposed to be in the Writing Center (WC) where I work helping students, she is rarely there and spends most of her time attending non-WC-related meetings and hobnobbing with senior faculty and administrators. Although my fellow tutor has been at the WC 3 months, she has exchanged perhaps two words with Mary and had to introduce herself (Mary was someone I hired at the recommendation of the Dean.) Note that there has always been a consistent over-reliance on email and cell-phone communication as Mary’s management style.

Do you think my colleague and I are justified in resigning? I just got an assignment teaching a class at the college and have been assured by the Dean that this matter in no way impugns her opinion of me; it does bother that that such a poor manager who is absentee, abusive, and doesn’t defend her own staff is allowed to continue.

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Coughing and No Hand Washing!


Wow. I don’t think we work in a toxic place, but my seatmates cough incessantly. One or the other always has a cold, or an allergy. Sometimes it’s so bad I can’t hear to talk on the phone. And hand washing??? Forget it! I feel like I’ve over-dosed myself on hand sanitizer just to use a mutual keyboard. The cacophony is making me insane! Help.


Sick Environment


Dear Sick Environment:

Unfortunately our coworkers do get ill from time to time and contagious illnesses certainly present a big problem in the workplace. To correct this health related situation will require a team effort! Everyone must be aware of their surroundings and their coworker’s best interest.

Ask for a meeting with your supervisor to discuss your concerns and ask for his/her input in correcting or decreases the problem. Try to involve several workers, using a team approach. Come up with suggestions in which all workers agree to do their part. By doing so, you will create a healthier, happier workplace. Best of luck. Gerald Allen, Guest Respondent with HR experience Your concerns spring from both self-interest and WEGO mindedness.

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Dear Rumored To Be Fired:


Today I came down with a case of the flu. When I called work my GM informed me that I need a doctor’s excuse to remain employed. I was very surprised because I don’t miss much work, not nearly as much as some of my co-workers. I do not have any health insurance so it is hard for me to afford doctor visits. Is it the employer’s responsibility to pay for doctor’s visits when they require an excuse? If it is, is there a place online that I can prove it to them? I live in the state of Wisconsin if it matters. Thanks for any help.

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30-Old Co-worker Hits On H.S.-Age

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about old 30 year man soliciting dates of underage employees:

I just turned 18 this year. I am a full time high school student and have a part-time job at a retailer. I am considered the “baby” of the company because I get very excited and I love exuding enthusiasm to customers. I love people; however, my company has recently hired this one male worker who is much older, at least 30 years old, compared to the many high school and college student workers, 16-22. He’s very out of place with his formal dress compared to the typical shirt and jeans the rest of us wear. I’ve been hearing rumors of dishonesty and just a feel of desperation from this worker.

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What Topics Should A Workgroup Avoid?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about topics that provoke debate:

I have a large group of women working in a small area. They are constantly bringing up topics that create a debate. What are some major topics that I should have them avoid?

Signed, Taboo Talk

Dear Taboo Talk:

Here’s a question we have not received before. Its answer can range from none to specifics. Possibly, the answer is to suggest that vigorous and even acrimonious debate helps this work group’s day go faster. You seem to assume that to tell someone not to think or talk about something can work, as if to say, “Don’t allow the words Ape or Chicken come to your mind during the next five minutes” can prevent that. This is to suggest that possibly a proactive approach would be to suggest some topics that would so interest this group of women-that they would find some topics invigorating and fun–rather than to order them to avoid debatable topics that might provoke alienation. One of our guest respondents sent the additional advice below.

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Losing Sleep & Coming To Work Is A Chore!


Thanks so much for your website. It’s helpful to see that I am not alone in having difficulty at work. Recently, I read the posting “Loner at Work Has Us Concerned” and I really appreciated your response. I am the “loner” at my own workplace. I don’t socialize that much at work as I have a very full life outside of the day job. I have a big family (though I don’t have children myself) and other commitments which I love and so really have no room nor interest in going out for lunch with the crew or the Friday night drinking and parties, etc. I have gone out with them a couple of times, but don’t really like it much. My lunch hour is the time I like to use for errands, sitting in the sun, planning or going for a walk. I don’t need to share much about myself and so I don’t. I realize that I am not in an ideal environment, but I am willing to do the work that I was hired for.

In the last month, however, going to work has been a chore. I have been losing sleep. I have been having trouble getting to work on time and was absent for a few days, enough for people to notice. My mind goes in circles about small conversations I have at work. I have been feeling depressed and it seems to get worse everyday. I do work in a poorly lit windowless basement 7.5 hours a day so that doesn’t help. I feel I am on the verge of being fired. I know this is a lot. Any suggestions?

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Are There Best Practices For Same Work Stations?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about workspace:

Do you have any best practices on sharing workspace? The situation is in a call center were we would have one person using a cube during a day shift and one person using the same cube during a night shift. There would never be a time when both were on shift together. Any feedback?

Signed, Best???

Dear Best???:

Have you considered convening a representative committee of employees or cluster group to brainstorm the dos and don’ts that may sharing the same space from shift to shift best for each other? That would generate rules and practices that are psychologically owned by the users. It might also generate ideas for making the overall environment more effective and pleasant. Will you send us what you come up with? We can then pass it on. Working together is an on-going interdependent process that at its best I call WEGO.

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How Do I Shut Up A Loud Co-worker?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about loud coworker:

I’m looking for advice on handling a distracting coworker. I’m a consultant, not an employee, so my complaint options seem somewhat limited. I work in Information Technology, in a high-walled cubicle environment. We cannot see our coworkers, but can hear them if the volume is loud enough. There is a really loud guy here, and he becomes louder when he gets on the phone, which is frequently. He spends 1 – 3 hours a day on the phone conducting personal business, much of which is extremely personal. He also will visit the woman in the cube behind mine daily, usually for 20 – 30 minutes, again discussing topics of an intense personal nature. I’m unwillingly informed on his every health detail, his kid’s problems with the Social Services department, sexual functionality issues, the nature and times of his fiancée’s menstrual cycle – the list is endless.

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