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.

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Spreading Rumors

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about disclosing personal information: She got off the phone with my husband and told two of my co-workers that I had a drinking problem. First of all, I was drinking ice tea, not alcohol and; secondly, if it were alcohol, she had no business to discuss this with my co-workers.

My husband called my boss, who is in senior management, from the hospital where I was being treated for very high blood sugar. He mentioned to my boss that he knew something was wrong with me because I had been drinking so much lately. She got off the phone with my husband and told two of my co-workers that I had a drinking problem. First of all, I was drinking ice tea, not alcohol and; secondly, if it were alcohol, she had no business to discuss this with my co-workers.

She does not like me and has been trying to get rid of me for over a year now. I never told HR about this incident because they continually turn a blind eye on her behavior. I want to contact an attorney as I feel her behavior was slanderous. I actually confronted the two co-workers and had to explain to them that I did not have an alcohol problem. Any advice? I know there are not laws against bad bosses, but does this cross the line?

Signed, Crossed The Line

Dear Crossed The Line:

You have a right to be displeased with your boss. She should not have disclosed your personal health information with your co-workers. Should you contact an attorney? That’s one option. Consulting an attorney will tell you if you have a case. Probably the attorney will ask you what evidence you have of harm; to your reputation, loss of money, etc.

I doubt that you have a case, and even if you could prove slander, it probably would not be worth the time, a small sum that you might win, and the risk it would be to your job. Does this mean that you should do nothing? No. You have reason to privately register you anger both face to face with your boss and in writing.

First you will need to get in writing to the best of their recall the exact words your boss used in disclosing you had a drinking problem. Note what was said, how the co-workers responded, when and where.Your boss probably will not respond with an apology, but you might ask for one, and if you want you could ask for it in writing. I would not threaten her with a lawsuit, but rather would confront her with something like this, “I have been told that you stated to my co-workers that I had a drinking problem (use alcohol if that was the word she used). I want you to know that I do not have an alcohol problem My husband was speaking of drinking tea as associated with my check up for high blood sugar. No matter what my health problem disclosing personal information is not proper. (You might check your policy book and should use the exact words in the policy regarding privacy.)”

Get her response. Follow up by saying, that you want her to admit that she should not have spread such a rumor and ask that she correct the misinformation she spread. Also ask for a written apology. You will have to decide if you want to place a complaint with Human Resources. If you do,

HR is responsible to investigate and respond. Perhaps more importantly, depending on your boss’ willingness to admit and correct her error, you might use this time to say that you have felt that she has not been supportive of you and that you would like that to be changed. Say that you want to work in a supportive, rather than in a hostile, environment. Pledge you will not hold a grudge if she will supportive of you, and that you will in turn be supportive of her. Does this make sense? Think it over then act. Don’t allow this hurt to be a topic of gossip at least one that you instigate. Be professionally firm about what you want from her.

Working is hard enough without coming to work in a hostile environment. So ask yourself, what are you doing to make that environment respectful and friendly. Ask yourself if you will allow this incident to add to smothering dislike for your boss. Ask if doing so will make your working relations there more sour. Ask if you might give being a cheerleader an honest try. Ask if these thoughts make sense. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden read more