Should I Report This?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss who works her assistant off the clock: Should that be reported?

I have a boss who does her schoolwork on work time and asks others to assist with her schoolwork also on work time. This involves many hours per week. She has her administrative assistant working 50-60 hrs. per week and gets paid for 37.5 hours. Meanwhile the boss is out the door.

Signed, I’m Not The Boss

DearĀ I’m Not The Boss:

You are not the boss but you don’t say if you are the administrative assistant who the boss asks to assist with her schoolwork. I gather you mean the assistant works 50-60 hours and only gets paid for 37.5 and the boss doesn’t work that long. If you are the administrative assistant who is being asked to work off the clock, you should be very angry.

We are not Human Resource experts or attorneys, but I think if not nationally, in most states, depending on the size of the company, working off the clock is illegal and overtime must be paid at least time and a half. Because we have long ago freed the slaves, it may illegal be for any workplace to require overtime without being paid time and a half. Even if you are paid to work overtime, you have real reason to confront your boss or report her if you are the assistant who is pressured to do the boss’s school work! But whatever your position, you obviously don’t think this is right.

It might be alright if the boss were also the owner of your business and/or if it was part of her contract that she could farm out some of her school work. That, however, is probably not the case. Therefore, you are faced with three choices:

1. Bite your tongue,

2. Confront your boss to say this is not fair, or

3. bypass your boss to report her actions to a superior or possibly Human Resources if your company is large enough to have such a department.

You likely sent this question because you are worried that anything you do will cause you trouble, other than to bite your tongue. And it might. From the little you say, it strikes me that your boss is cheating your employer if she is pressuring an assistant to do school work during her time at work.

If you decide to not bite your tongue, wouldn’t it be wise first, unobtrusively as is possible, to collect data as to her time spent on school work while at work? (Possibly she can do her bossing job and additionally do school work and she has permission to do that.) Next you need to note the language and frequency of her requests to assist with schoolwork, hours the assistant spends on doing her school work, and finally the time the boss puts in on the job.

Now, a decision to right what you judge is wrong hinges on what you decide is the least risky approach and how you would like to be treated if someone were to act who thought you were doing wrong. So let’s face it, likely there is no way you can get this corrected and remain anonymous. Even if you send an anonymous note to your boss’s boss or to Human Resources, you will be suspect. I’ve seen enough such situations to know that reporting something and being promised it will remain confidential is broken. Almost always bypassing someone to report a wrong gets back. Even if it isn’t quickly traced back to you, you will interpret future interaction by that individual as based on you thinking she knows I reported her. Therefore, you will have to decide if you think it is better to confront your boss to question if she has authority to load an assistant with her school and cause that individual to work well beyond her work day or to bypass her in reporting it to higher level.

To confront your boss will take courage, but you may decide it is better that bypassing her. It can be done is a frank and non-accusatory way, such as, “Sarah, I know you are an ambitious and conscientious individual and that you are busy with managing this place while also working on your degree. Are you allowed to do schoolwork during while on the job? If so, I would like to do that too. And do you realize that your administrative assistant, whom you asked to help with your school work, stays on 50-60 hours and only get paid for 37.50?” This should result in a change in her behavior. You can add that “If you continue to do this, I feel I must report it.”

You may decide that the safest way to report this is to request an investigation of this practice by your boss. You can do this orally to Human Resources and not share data you’ve logged unless asked. I hope that that you might resolve this matter, particularly if you are the assistant who is pressured to work overtime. Work is hard enough without feeling your boss is cheating. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and sometimes that means confronting what seem wrong.

William Gorden