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Bad Decisions?

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After my not so nice request to my employer to please stop contacting me while on maternity leave, I experienced a wonderful time of peace and quiet.

That didn’t last long.

On Wednesday, the calls, e-mails, and texting started again.

Maternity leave is great, but keeping my job is important – especially since I use my paycheck to pay my mortgage and pay down debt.

Sure, I understand that they can’t legally fire me for turning off my phone while on disability, but I’m a bit concerned about what will happen AFTER I return to work. You can bet my employer will remember I ignored calls.

All day Wednesday, as the calls came one after the other and I pressed the ‘ignore’ button on my phone, I told myself I deserved just one more day of quiet. I’d get to them on Thursday.

Thursday morning, I woke up to more voicemails and decided…

I’m not going to return any more calls while out on leave.

Bad decision financially? Maybe.

But I only get to spend a few precious moments with my newborn son – and I’m going to enjoy every single one.


27 Comments

  • Reply Joan |

    You should bypass your boss and co-workers and go straight to the HR department. I had a friend who had this problem and the HR department laid down the law with her boss and co-workers. Plus, it helps you document the problem.

  • Reply Starr |

    I also recommend you call HR immediately about this problem. They are breaking the law contacting you. Protect yourself and teach them a lesson at the same time.

  • Reply Nichole@40daysof |

    What they say above makes sense, but I’ve never felt that HR has been very helpful with problems. They always seem to add to it instead of fix it. I would be leary of calling HR unless you have had good experiences with them in the past.

  • Reply Andrea |

    I don’t blame you a bit, and congrats for being strong enough to ignore the calls! Yesterday was my last day at my job and I have received 4 calls and several text messages today, all of which I answered. Sigh. Hopefully it gets easier with time.

  • Reply Samaki |

    It sounds to me that the training you provided wasn’t adequate. Maybe you should offer one more training session over the phone, at a time and length of your choosing.

  • Reply Vicki |

    The law is the law. If it is against the law for them to contact you, then for them to get retribution. HR is there to protect YOUR rights.

  • Reply PonyRyd |

    I am more passive agressive. I would keep a list and make sure to make a reason to call each and every one of them on their next vacation or sick leave. But thats just me! 🙂

  • Reply M Denise C |

    I think you made the best decision. I find it odd that they would even try to contact you about work when you are on leave. I might give them the benefit of the doubt for an email or two, but lots of phone calls and emails about work is just strange.

  • Reply Personal Finance for Teachers |

    I understand that your job is important, but there is a limit. I used to have the same problem with a boss. I could not have a day off (vacation, sick or personal). Unfortunately, that was before I could afford CallerID :–).

    I finally had to just tell him to stop calling me or I would talk to HR and explain the situation and request an extra day off for each time he called. For some reason, the calls stopped!

    Congratulations for standing up!

  • Reply Andy V |

    “Sure, I understand that they can’t legally fire me for turning off my phone while on disability”

    Is it strange that I can’t get past the fact that you are techinically on “disability”? I find having a child is a good thing, not a disability, and will never understand why this country classifes it as such. But I guess that is a whole other issue….

  • Reply Grace |

    I debated about leaving a comment. Maybe it’s an age thing or the fact that I have always worked for non-profits, but I’m not really getting your point. If I were your boss, I’d be more than a little irritated that your job and your clients (I’m obviously assuming you have clients) mean so little to you that you can’t be bothered to answer the questions of the folks covering for you while you’re gone. I fully agree that you need to have boundaries regarding contact, but this snippy attitude of “How dare they bother me when I’m a new mother” wouldn’t bode well if you were working for me. I have to say, I’m a bit surprised at all the supportive posts you’re getting.

  • Reply Stefanie |

    Andy V, have a kid and then get back to us on that disability argument.;)

    Grace: Interesting. I work for a nonprofit, and my employer was capable of following both the spirit and the letter of the law by not contacting me (well, with anything except congratulations) during my disability and maternity leave when I had my two children. Frankly, if you have someone at work who’s irreplacable, that’s a bottleneck and a problem with the system, not the employee. If she had been hit by a bus instead of given birth, would you expect her to take phone calls from work?

  • Reply Money Beagle |

    I think you can explain it by saying “I only have time to check my e-mail/voicemail/etc.” once in a great while.

    On one had it’s pretty nice to know that you’re that vital to the operations that they can’t live without you. That has to be somewhat of an ego boost. On the other had it doesn’t speak very well of the department/company that they didn’t adequately prepare for your absence.

    I guess I would try to talk to your manager and find out what their expectation is. Would you consider spending some time on these work activities if they limited the time to an hour or two a day, but then gave you another week or two off or paid you a ‘consulting’ fee. If they’re continously contacting you, it sounds like they’re pretty desperate and I think you might have some leverage to get something out of it so that you end up coming out ahead.

  • Reply Grace |

    Stefanie–two years ago, I had emergency heart by-pass surgery. Both I and my employer had three days’ notice of what turned out to be a month-long leave. I was only ‘bothered’ by the questions those covering my cases couldn’t figure out from my files (What? My notes were less than clear??) but I did feel a responsibility to respond to those inquiries. Only one person seemed to overstep, and I just let my supervisor know that that person seemed to need additional help. Again, I stand by my position.

  • Reply Mar |

    Are they calling with the same issue over and over again until they get an answer or are these all different issues? Is the boss so controlling that s/he won’t let your substitutes decide anything on their own? Did some training get left out because Cash was born early? I can’t figure out why they need to call you so much.

    It is illegal for them to contact you, but if you want to avoid a major mess with what they did when you get back, you might want to answer questions, but on YOUR terms. They could send you one e-mail with all the questions and you could answer them by a given time, hopefully within an hour (yeah, I don’t know where you find that hour, though). No more than one e-mail from them a week, though, and make sure the reply goes back to them at 2 or 3 a.m., even if you write it at 4 p.m. This is just an idea.

    I have one child and suffice to say my birth story is vastly different from yours. Andy, my maternity was truly disability with an emergency C-section, infection, etc. My daughter was hospitalized for a week with an infection when she was 2.5 years old. While both leaves were unexpected (from the standpoint that she was born about 3.5 weeks early), I was never contacted by work with any work questions. People muddled through and I did have good notes that they could follow and e-mail trails. I did have a boss who thought that being on disability for carpal tunnel surgery was ridiculous since he broke both wrists on a Friday and was back at work on Monday, using his computer. He was giving me so much grief about my anticipated leave that I talked to my surgeon who said to tell him that nerves and bones were different and he should have learned that since he apparently went to medical school and knew my better than my surgeon. I told my boss this, but framed it much more nicely!

  • Reply Mar |

    Grace, do you have children? I can understand that you were recuperating from heart surgery but still talked to the office and answered questions. That’s great that you were willing and able to do that and I hope your boss appreciated it.

    However, Rebekah has the added responsibility of caring for a newborn and I think that makes your situations different. Until I had my daugher, I never, ever would have believed that something so little could be so much work and responsibility and take so much time! I laughed when other parents told me this because I knew I would be different. Uh, yeah, not really… There’s a reason for the cliche in newborn cards about not sleeping and feeling a bit frazzled.

  • Reply Jeff |

    I would suggest saving the voicemails and the call logs. That way when or if they try to do something like make your life hell at work you can prove to someone that you were not given the time off you needed and would have something to go back on. We had something like this happen at work and they tried to fire that person for something stupid when they came back to work. Needless to say she saved all the calls and voicemails and took it to a lawyer and the the courts saw in her favor and awarded her pay for the time she was off since she was “working” during that time too.

  • Reply Alexandria |

    Though I believe in being a little more co-operative with my employer, and think that it’s probably not 100% practical to never be called by an employer on vacation or disability or whatever…

    That said – The first 2 weeks or so after a very easy delivery (& with a spouse at home helping me) I can’t even imagine having a coherent thought. In your shoes, I absolutely would have just turned off the phone and ignored the entire situation. What else can you do?

    Maybe you need to give it another week or so, but once I could formulate a coherent thought, I’d probably send written correspondence to my employer and ask my Doctor for a note to support me.

    Though I wouldn’t mind co-operating further on in my recover (maybe free to answer e-mails one day a week – something like that), I think it would be hard for me to co-operate with an employer who had so little respect for me. My health comes first. Period. I will bend over backwards for my own employer, because I know my own employer respects that. For reference, I took about 6 months off my second pregnancy and I never received one work correspondence. My understanding was this was pretty rare. But my work situation is where anyone in the office can cover for me. Beyond that, it was just respect. (There is a woman in my office who doesn’t understand why any women would need more than a week off to give birth – oy vey. I couldn’t work for someone like that – that is for sure!)

  • Reply Andy V |

    I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. My personal beliefs are women (and men) should be given maternity/paternity leave with pay, and no contact from the office, or very very, very limited. My employer gives you one week paid, then you have to take all your paid time off (we don’t have seperate vacation/sick time, it’s all one), then you can take disability for the remainder of the time, but I think it only pays you a percentage of your income.

    I think it’s disgraceful to have to use all your vacation time then go on disability. Both parents should be given a reasonable amount of time with full pay.

    And no, I guess I won’t be getting back any you after I have a kid. We aren’t having any because we can’t. Even though I will never experience it myself (unfortunately), I am still on your side regarding how ridulous the whole system is and am not quite sure why so much sracasm is being directed my way.

  • Reply cindy |

    i was thankful at my office that they actually disconnect us from even being able to access our system. i did provide my personal email and cell phone in case people needed it while i was out. i got a few calls and mostly congratulation emails, but for the most part people were respectful. i did talk to the guy covering me while i was out weekly and sometimes i’d have to go when he wanted to chat “oh the baby is crying” etc worked pretty well. if your employer must contact you during the week maybe it would help if you ask them to retain all their questions for a week can make one call to you on say mondays at 9AM or something.

  • Reply Starr |

    I’m a little confused by posters who forget that if she is on FMLA, the employer isn’t just being inconsiderate. S/he is breaking the law. And if she’s on disability, the same thing goes. She’s too disabled to work. Not even ONE MINUTE of work is acceptable. In essence, if she works during her leave, she, too, is breaking the law or at least breaching the agreement on disability payments. Working from home is still working…

    At my last company, my boss told me that she would have her butt handed to her by HR if she even considered calling me during my 12 weeks away.

  • Reply Mar |

    Andy, sorry, I personally misinterpreted your note and thought you were leaning the other way – women drop baby in the fields and keep on working, what’s the big deal about having a baby and why would they need disability or time off at all. I’m truly sorry and didn’t mean to pick on you. Again, my apologies.

  • Reply Shannon |

    I just gave birth 2 months ago and I also work for non profit. Let me tell you, they could call all they want and even if I wanted to (which I did not!) I couldn’t have put a sane logical thought or email together those first 3 weeks. You are sooo sooo tired… No matter how much I like my job, it’s ridiculous to expect a new mom to work at all for awhile! Jeeze louise. No wonder women are killing themselves every where trying to get everything done and be superwoman! SUch pressure to keep going, keep working for the man and acting like you didn’t just create life!

    I would definitely put one call into your boss and into HR and say, enough. You DESERVE some time to yourself to recover and enjoy with your little one. You don’t give birth every day after all!

  • Reply Andy V |

    Mar – no need to apologize, I was just frustrated because my point was not very well articulated. I am at that age where many of my friends are having babies and so many of them are either in the same situation as Rebecca, or have to go back to work after 6 weeks (ugh!). I can only imagine how conflicted parents must feel.

    I really think that maternity leave/disability, whatever you want to call it, deserves more respect than we give it, that’s all. My parents are both from European countries and in their respective countries 6 months PER PARENT is the norm. Hence, my skewed perception of the issue.

    I apolgoize if I came off upset or angry, I really, really didn’t mean it that way.

  • Reply margot |

    I would forever lose respect for a co-worker or subordinate who couldn’t sacrifice 10-15 minutes a day to help out, even while on leave. They really aren’t asking that much it seems. There’s something to be said for being a team player, especially when you still get leave time.

  • Reply Jen |

    I would probably lose respect for an employer or co-worker who felt it was ok to pester me while I was on maternity leave. While on vacation? A quick call or e-mail is fine. But right after I’ve given birth and am breastfeeding? No.

    I am fine with being a team player, but I am NOT fine with sacrificing myself just for a job. I insist on having a balance between work and my personal life.

So, what do you think ?