Can My Boss Tell People If I’m Working or Not?

Question: Is it legal for my manager to disclose if I am on or off the clock to the general public?

Answer: We always remind people that we are not attorneys or HR specialists. In your situation, the law would have to be a state law, since it does not come under a federal mandate of which I am aware, speaking as a layperson. You should consult the website of your Department of Labor.

However, as a matter of practicality, yes under many circumstances it would be an employer’s right to tell someone if you are “off the clock”, meaning not working.  For example, a customer calls and asks, “Is Mark in today?” “When will Mark be back to work?” “What day would be the best to talk to Mark about my (Whatever). In those cases, an employer is providing information that is necessary to do business.

The employer can’t very well say yes, you are in, if someone then will ask to talk to you or see you. They can’t say you will be back tomorrow, if you won’t be back until next week.

The fact that all of some of those people are not really customers, but instead are bill collectors, spurned lovers or a parent trying to track you down, is not the employer’s responsibility. However, since most employers don’t want employees having personal conversations at work, it’s common for the person answering the phone to tell the caller that if they need to know something about a product, anyone can help them.

Sometimes store staff are instructed to say, “May I ask what this is in reference to? Perhaps I can help you.”

The only exception I can think of, and that is not a legal one, but could result in a civil lawsuit, is if someone has told the boss that a specific person is trying to locate them for the purpose of harming them, and the boss knowingly tells that person the employee’s status, with no regard for the employee’s safety.

As you can see, there are many variables to this question and they each require some research for your specific situation. Best wishes to you with this matter.

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.