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Working Vacation

I joined a company of about 100,000 employees as a programmer about 15 months ago. When I went to take my vacation, this time, I was told I had to take a cell phone with me and be available 24x7. They also "strongly" suggested I take a portable computer with me so I could work if necessary.  Based on recent history I expect I will get three to five calls during my week off.

I don't want to lie and say I will be available and leave the phone at home, but if I have to be available 24x365, what is a vacation? They created this problem by always _planning_ to get me a backup but never finding any budget to do it.

It would appear this is also legal.  I guess this is yet another reason to form better political representation.  We get screwed and its legal.

AmI Nuts
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Why not lie to them?

They fsck you - you fsck them!

What they do is NOT ok. So, why should you only do ok things?

mush
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

You have a right to be paid for time during which you are "on call". If you are "on call" 24 hours a day, then your "on call" pay is for the full 24 hours. Ask a pilot how it all works. THe rate is lower than your working time, but you shuld be compensated. If not, and given that the company is so large, I STRONGLY recommend you contact a union, explain the situation and ask for their assistance in helping you unionize the place of work. As a bonus, someone who tries to organize a workplace is heavily courted by both sides AND is absolutely impossible to fire without paying a serious price. Do it. You'll love it.

Dennis Atkins
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

A mobile phone is just a long leash. :-(

Useless
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Just sya no.  I've been in the same position and I just left the phone at home and refused to provide any contact info while I was on vacation.

I got called on the carpet, sure - but that's it.  A lot of bluster and no real punishment.

A vacation is a vacation.  Are you required to be available 24x7 now?  If not, why must you be available 24x7 on your vacation?

Norrick
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

If you cave in  now, you desrve what you get, and get you will

the artist formerly known as prince
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Obviously, it depends on how many waves you want to make. If you're a troublemaker, then go on vacation, take the cell phone, field calls, and when your next pay stub shows "[x] days vacation" go to HR and point out that you were not on vacation, you were working on-site at a remote location. If you want to keep pushing it, the next step would be suggesting you might have to talk to an attorney or the state labor department. (of course, this is the part where you're hurriedly looking for a safety net job)

On the other hand, you could confront them before you go and say "if I take my cell phone and field a single call for work while I'm gone, you cannot charge me for vacation time" or a simple "no, I won't be on call"

On the other end of the spectrum is "sure, I'll take my cell phone" but leave it off, and when you get back say you forgot to take the charger. And the final, wimpiest thing would be to bow, touch your forehead to the floor, say "yes sir" and take your cell phone.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I can think of an interesting response:

"Okay, I will take my cell phone and be on call 24x7.  But I'm going to be on vacation.  So don't be surprised if when I answer the phone I'm intoxicated, in bed with my (wife|gf|whoever), or sleeping off a night of debauchery."

Bottom line though, is no one will stand up for what you need except you.  If you roll over, it's your own fault for not asserting yourself.  Sure, 'they' (whoever it is) may be an unreasonable jerk -- but they can only win if you let them.

-Thomas

Thomas
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Nobody can take advantage of you without your permission.

Alienware
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

You could take the phone with you to CYA, but don't answer it.  There are lots of places that cell phones just plain don't work or aren't socially appropriate (the theater, for example).  Let it ring and then check the voice mail afterwards.  If it's a real emergency, a major disaster, they'll leave a frantic, panicky, "we're all going to get our asses fired if you don't call back right now" type message with detailed specifics of the problem and you can call them back.  If it's the more typical "it was easier to call and bug you about trivial bullshit on your vacation than to actually do our jobs and figure it out" call, you ignore it.

However, this is a slippery slope.  I remember well how we were promised that we'd be compensated for being on call and how that promise evaporated as soon as the cell phones were handed out.  End result:  first thing I do when I get home is turn the cell phone off and set it on the coffee table.  I don't work for free.

anon
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

If they don't think they can run the place without you for three weeks you're probably valuable to fire, so don't be afraid of asking that any day you answer a call  be not counted as a leave day.

Andrew Reid
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The way to handle this is as follows:

They're pretending they're being reasonable and not infringing on your rights, when they well know they are.

So you also pretend it's just a normal thing that you should be paid a call-out fee of $200 per call, and have the day deducted from your leave.

Discuss this with them then get it in writing. You won't get any calls.

.
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Philo... And what about places where you get a 'paid vacation' and you're salaried and not paid for the number of hours worked. In these cases you are paid for this time.

The fact of the matter is, you can be "downsized" at any time and for any reason. If you need the job more than they need you...

I know someone who was told to stay nearby for his vacation - he was planning a trip to Italy and cancelled it, and ended his vacation a week early because they asked him back.

This is like salary negotiation, one could argue it is a form of salary negotiation. At what point are you willing to walk away from this situation entirely?

Of course, doing everything they ask you is no gaurantee of employment either.

Mark T A W .com
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Generally, in labor law, "paid vacation" means "not working". If it's in the contract, the vacation is an entitlement - meaning if you work 52 weeks in a year and have two weeks paid vacation, they owe you two weeks of not working or two weeks of pay. In essence, for every 2000 hours worked, the company must pay you for 2080 hours. If you work 2080 hours, then 80 hours of that was "overtime."
As for "salaried" I've said before that needs to be tightened up - most "salaried" employees are "salaried" as far as overtime is concerned, but "hourly employees" as far as time off is concerned. The "salary test" should be the company's reaction to "I won't be in Friday - call me if you need me." If you're charged vacation (or worse, told you have to request the day off in advance and get permission), then you are NOT salaried - you are an hourly employee and should be entitled to overtime. (It doesn't work this way, I'm just saying it should)

Of course, the technicalities depend on the state labor law and the contract.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Interesting. Philo, remind me to call you next time something like this comes up.

Mark T A W .com
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Be careful during this economy!  Direct confrontation about this can make them start looking around a bit.  It depends on your exact situation, of course.

If you want a real vacation, then go somewhere without cell service.  If you can't do that, turn off the ringer and check your voicemail at a given time every day (say after you've been at the beach all afternoon).  If they keep asking why you're never answering the phone, turn on a hair dryer and put the phone near it, complaining about the cell coverage in the area.

H. Lally Singh
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I shall add this to my mounting pile of examples of the US as a barbarous society....

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

It sounds like you're working for someone who's a bit misguided about how vacation works. Hopefully this problem isn't a company-wide issue.

I'd suggest talking to someone in the HR department. They should be able to intervene with your manager and explain that vacation and on-call are different, or they might be able to work out an agreement where you get some vacation time back just for being on-call and for the time you spend talking to the office while you're away.

Beth
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

"I shall add this to my mounting pile of examples of the US as a barbarous society.... "

Hear hear. I'm astonished when I read things like this. I work very hard while I'm at work, and I don't blink at working late here and there in the slightest.

But I work to live, I don't live to work.

Robert Moir
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

[The fact of the matter is, you can be "downsized" at any time and for any reason. If you need the job more than they need you...]

If they didn't need you all that much they wouldn't be asking you to be available 24x7 would they?

I was asked, back in 1999, to carry a cell phone on New Years in case the bad old millenium problem arose. I literally said "Yes, repeat no" and went on vacation san cell phone. Never heard a word about it.

In my experience, there are very few emergencies so dire that it requires contacting someone on vacation. In those few cases, not having a backup in place is not just careless, it's stupid.

anon
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Just say that there is no connectivity of any kind where you are going.  Lots of places on the planet fit that bill.

And hope to hell they don't get you a sat phone. :-)

The other line I really used once (in better times) after winding up a 1.5 year project and then being asked to start another one immediately was "I have a non-refundable ticket."  Which was true.  I suppose the employer could have offered to buy me out but they didn't push it.

David Jones
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Tell them you'll be checking your email every day or two at the local internet cafe.

Then if they send you a message you can choose to reply to it, or work out your story about why you never got round to checking the mail.

If it was a month vacation, I would take the cellphone, not because I think it is reasonable to but because I wouldn't want them to find out I wasn't irreplaceable after all :)

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Tell them you go to a place with a different phone system (Europe or any other place except America) and your cell phone won't work, but emphasize you will do your utmost to check your email every 3 days in case something arises.

19th floor
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Just go on holiday, there is no moral or contractual hold on you to behave like a slave.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I don't see any indication in the original post about what country the original poster is working in.

AmI Nuts, if you're still reading this thread, can you tell us what country you're in?

Bill Tomlinson
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

> If they didn't need you all that much they wouldn't be asking you to be available 24x7 would they? <

Over the course of a few months you might be easy to replace, especially when whatever crisis that requires you to be available 24x7 passes.

But for the next couple of weeks you could be very difficult to replace.

Alternatively, they don't actually need you for that time, they just want to test your loyalty, perhaps on a neurotic subconcious level, the way boyfriend and girlfriend sometimes do.

Mark T A W .com
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The word "no" works wonders.

Norrick
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

> I would take the cellphone, not because I think it is reasonable to but because I wouldn't want them to find out I wasn't irreplaceable after all

Interesting point but I think the opposite would work better. If you're on call to answer your replacement's questions, they won't even notice you're gone, whereas if they can't get you, they will just have to leave things till you get back.

That emphasises your importance to them and means they won't think of sacking you at any time.

.
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

** Follow-up **

Still no decision on what to do.  I did like the hairdryer idea ;)

I am in the US, and I have found that as an exempt employee I have no legal recourse.  It seems in the US, we are stuck with employers can ask you to work naked, because "you can always quit".   

I am wondering whether it can be written off by the company as a benefit if I don't  really get to take one.

Can you believe all this over 1 week vacation in over a year?

AmI Nuts
Thursday, October 02, 2003

For the sake of the sanity of everybody in the world you should not put up with this. However despite the inherent loveliness of some of the ideas mentioned here, your best bet is to be up front with your company. If you don't want to be available, tell them so. Saying you will be available and not being is only going to get you up everybody's nose.

However you are definitely entitled to vacation, so don't let them push you around. Some questions you might think about asking:

1) Is this a permenant condition, i.e. are you always going to be required to be on call, or is it just that this particular time is inconvenient. Possibly you could offer to switch vacation times, provided your company compensates you for the change of plan.

2) Most caompanies have an approval procedure, where you tell your boss that you will be away on such and such a day, and they say 'that's OK'. If it wasn't OK, why did your boss approve it?

Implicitly or explicitly you have a legal contract with your employer, and that contract says you are allowed vacation. If they don't let you take it I would have a good go at suing them. (IANAL of course).

David Clayworth
Thursday, October 02, 2003

I seem to recall my Dad was asked this one: They asked him to take a beeper with him on holiday. He said, somewhat gruffly, "It'll fall in the sea."

And they did not ask him again...

Katie Lucas
Friday, October 03, 2003

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