Stealth vacation days

by Honolulu Mother

When you take a random day off, do you put it on the calendar well in advance and make sure everyone knows you’ll be out that day? Or do you just quietly avoid scheduling anything and slip away for that day?

Nervous Employees Are Taking ‘Stealth Vacations’ Now


107 thoughts on “Stealth vacation days

  1. In the U.S. Employees only use 51% of their eligible paid vacation time and paid time off, according to another recent survey of 2,300 workers who receive paid vacation.

    Are these the same folks claiming they work 80 hours a week on surveys? Any chance they are, shall we say, misremebering?

  2. I noticed that people were sending me “must have this information” emails on Wed/Thurs but Fri when I sent them what they wanted – I got out of office replies. So, Fridays in the summer are a lot of people’s day off. Others don’t take long vacations but if they find a slow time or day they will take off without much notice. A week off definitely requires everyone to know but random days can be taken quietly.

  3. I do take afternoons or mornings off here or there without notice, especially if my boss is traveling. If i have to be home for something at lunch time and have to pick my daughter up right after school, I’ll just work from home without alerting anyone that I’m doing this.

    My husband never does this but he also ends up working a lot on vacation so it’s hard to quantify when he is actually taking a vacation day. I’m trying to convince him to take two weeks off this summer (out of the office) because I know he’ll end up working a portion of it anyway, but he says two whole weeks away from the office is majorly frowned upon.

  4. “Are these the same folks claiming they work 80 hours a week on surveys? Any chance they are, shall we say, misremebering?”

    Could be. Instead of asking employees, it would seem like HR could provide more accurate data.

    We’ve had a number of people out for kids’ high school graduations recently, and maybe a couple days before and after. That’s minor.

  5. Our custom is to notify the group and turn OOO replies on whenever we’ll miss a day or more. Sometimes I forget / intentionally don’t set the OOO on my voicemail.

    “Stealth” days aka “mental health days” the way I look at it. No notice to anyone and I call in sick around 730am to the group secretary or send her an email. Maybe 1x/year, and always during a time when taking vacation is discouraged. And for me at least I try really hard to avoid doing this on Mon & Fri or the days before/after holidays to no draw attention to the possibility it just being a bonus extension.

  6. If you let people know in advance that you’ll be out, they will go all Lumbergh on you and tell you you have to work anyway.

  7. In theory, all vacation days (regardless of duration) are to be approved in advance at my workplace. Some supervisors/managers require a week or two notice. It makes sense in some departments as you can’t have all your front line call center staff off at the same time.

    In my department, we are expected to manage our workload and deadlines and be aware of what else is going on that could impact us individually or as a department. And, of course, we must have someone there every day. That said, other than major summer/holiday vacations where everyone wants off at roughly the same time, my manager is pretty informal and for a day, we can even ask the day before.

    The past year to year and a half – all my time off has been for parental or child care or events. In the past, I always took at least two one week vacations or one two week vacation. Now as a part time employee, once I get past a couple of deadlines, I will try working 3-4 days a week to get a bit of actual down time. There really is something to be said about getting away from things to have a better perspective and productivity.

  8. I often take stealth work from home days, but that doesn’t really count, right? ;)

    Inspector came TODAY and is now checking the old code for our first permit – keep your fingers crossed that everything is OK and that the old code doesn’t require us to do any more work!!!

  9. we’ve been the in-laws for one week, we are looking at a house tonight , fingers crossed!

  10. I, too, take stealth work from home days once in a while. Most commonly, I’ll have an out of office meeting in the afternoon and go home directly after the meeting and work from home. However, my vacations are typically long enough to require plenty of advanced notice.

  11. Between comp time, sick time, personal time, and annual leave, I have ~200 hours in the bank. It’s safe to say I take very little time off. When I do, it’s a couple hours here and there, and usually cleared with my boss beforehand. Big vacations need to go through the proper channels (meaning paperwork).

    Usually, if we get a slow week, I ask my boss if I can take time on X day. This summer, very little time off is being granted because we have a massive report due. I already asked for July 11 off to take DS to the doctor, so I got that (probably because it was a doctor appointment). But I’ll only ask for 2-4 hours here and there.

    The report will be finalized in September. I’m pretty sure we’ll all take time off in October.

  12. I was like Rhode, I used to have a lot of time banked. When I retired and then went back to work, I had to start that time clock over. Then, with my parent’s deaths, I have used it all up as of the end of May. I accrue monthly, but not enough to do much with before Christmas.

  13. Hit send too soon…I also meant to add, that time off also depends on your boss. My direct boss takes time in little bits – half day here, a long weekend there – making it hard to tell how much time is really take. My my boss’ boss (executive level) takes vacation in big chunks. That executive level sets the tone for what is OK. I think if your management takes very little vacation or only a little at a time, it is harder to get bigger chunks.

  14. When I worked in the software company, they did not distinguish between vacation, sick time, and anything else – it was all PTO. The problem was, you couldn’t acrrue it year to year – you had to use it or lose it. The rollover date was July 1. There were a lot of parents at that company (contrary to popular images of software companies, this place mainly had people in their 30’s and 40’s). So everyone was scared to take vacation time until almost the end of the year, in case they needed it for sick kid duty or school breaks or what have you. The upshot was that June was a mess every year with people trying to squeeze in a vacation and use up some of their PTO

  15. It’s nice to be someplace where they treat us like grownups. You manage the vacations around the work, and you manage the work around major health and life events. And the best way for our associates to avoid being Lumberghed is to tell the Associates Committee that they will be away on vacation, because then they don’t get the 5 PM Friday calls that week. So there’s little disincentive to duck and cover for vacation per se. We see a LOT of vacation notices circulating so we can plan around our filing deadlines, etc. I also think that the bosses set the tone for that — last month, I circulated my summer vacation schedule to my team on a case, and then both associates sent me theirs, and so we were able to develop a briefing schedule that shouldn’t screw anyone over (knock on wood).

    I think the bigger issue is the daily life stuff — e.g., most moms don’t want to say “I have to go to the pediatrician” or “I need to leave every day at 5” because they don’t want people — either the partners or their clients — to mentally mommy-track them. I had one client who didn’t know I was part-time for the first year after I started working for them — because they were the kind of client who would have thought the worst from that. But, honestly, now, with email and cellphones and all, I usually don’t even mention when I’m out or in — just today I am working at home because school was a half-day and DS has a dentist appt, and the only person who knows is my assistant, who might wonder where I was otherwise.

    The worst was my former in-house job. If you even wanted to come in late or leave early for a doctor’s appt, that was required to be noted as leave time — you couldn’t even work late/early to make it up. But all the days they expected you to work late were just extra/free. I learned to go underground there *real* quick — you give me 3 weeks PTO, I’m sure as hell not spending one of those weeks on doctor’s appts.

  16. LfB said “f you even wanted to come in late or leave early for a doctor’s appt, that was required to be noted as leave time — you couldn’t even work late/early to make it up. But all the days they expected you to work late were just extra/free. ”

    That is just like the health IT place where I worked. And we often had to work from home on evenings or weekends when things blew up in production, but since company policy from on high was that no one was allowed to work from home, you didn’t get compensated in any way. I couldn’t even sneak out for doctor appts because our manager used to walk up and down the cube rows, or IM us, to make sure our butts were in the seats. He didn’t understand anything about software development so he had no other way to assess us, and he was frankly petrified of us. I am so glad I am out of that place. Worst employer ever. Every single person I was friendly at the company with has since departed as well.

  17. But all the days they expected you to work late were just extra/free.

    I once worked with a company that had a policy where if you needed to stay late you stayed late and if it was slow you could leave early. I asked about it and was told, “That’s what salary means.” It’s not all one way. I think that’s also the legal definition, if you’re hours are being tracked then you’re hourly not salaried. But, I’m not sure of the details.

  18. “you couldn’t even work late/early to make it up.”

    Oh HELL no!

    I might take a Monday off for a long weekend, for example, but then work a little extra each day and end up only logging three hours of vacation for that Monday.

    The military drove me up the wall with the way they would charge leave over a weekend. So you wouldn’t be taking five days of leave for a week at the beach; it would be more like eight.

    I retaliated a couple years later on shore duty by routing a leave request for approval, but then forgetting to turn it in to Personnel.

  19. “Most commonly, I’ll have an out of office meeting in the afternoon and go home directly after the meeting”

    I do this. If it would be the end of my workday, or pretty close, by the time I got back to the office, I’ll just end my day at the end of the meeting and go home or go pick up my kids or whatever.

  20. oh it says in the article up from the current $23,660 a year. this needed to be done

  21. We can take PTO by the hour but the reality is that unless you will be gone half a day or more most managers don’t mind things like doctors/dentist appointments. On working from home – some groups that travel a lot work from home 100% of the time. For others it is such a mix that except for your direct workgroup no bothers if you are working from home.

  22. Hijack that is tangentially related…. My DH does a lot of work from home, most of it dealing with emergencies in the middle of the night. If numbers aren’t being generated correctly when the SIngapore traders are working, he gets called even though it may be 3am. He has always had a work issued laptop, set up to run a secure VM from the work server, so he can do this stuff. The laptop recently died, and he has been informed that they are no longer providing laptops, that they are now a BYOD shop.

    This pisses me off for a number of reasons. First, this is a wealthy company. The CEO is one of the wealthiest people in the country. Making employees have to buy their own laptop for the privilege of supporting traders at 3am just seem, I don’t know, Scrooge like. Secondly, the security risks are appalling and I don’t want us to be responsible for any breaches. This is an SEC regulated, large hedge fund, and my DH’s position gives him access to a lot of sensitive data, things that most traders and a lot of managers don’t see. Thirdly, most companies that do BYOD require you to make all data on your device available to the company so they can check up on what you are doing. I don’t want my kid photos and research files being investigated by DH’s company, so I told DH that he will have to buy a dedicated machine for this. Which gets back to point 1 – this is really Scroogy. Are we able at least to write this off on taxes? Do you guys have to use your own machine to do required work from home? How does your company handle security in that case?

  23. MM – the only time I’ve ever had to buy my own computer was when I continued working for an old employer out of state and so became an independent contractor. DH has a work issued laptop that periodically gets replaced and they pay for his iPhone. That does seem super Scroogy.

  24. Secondly, the security risks are appalling

    Are you sure? Google is BYOD and they are certainly a ripe hacking target.

    Personally I have no problem with BYOD but I think it would be fair to offer a stipend. Sort of like BYOD phones but they pay you $60/month extra.

  25. “The laptop recently died, and he has been informed that they are no longer providing laptops”

    Same response. “Oh HELL no!”

  26. Google is does not fall under SEC regulation. It is a whole different world.

  27. Rhett, I know you work in healthcare – does your company take HIPAA seriously? One of the reasons we weren’t officially allowed to work from home was the HIPAA implications (of course we did it unofficially all the time, lol).

  28. It’s like that rule about how you shouldn’t make unenforceable laws.

    In my years at my last job, we had two executive directors, and they were both tinhorn dictators. They luxuriated in making stupid rules, particularly rule having to do with comp time and so on. Eventually people just stopped following the rules. One little Napoleon was big on how we could never, ever work from home, even if there was a blizzard. We had to come in. One day one of the other managers got stuck in a blizzard and practically crashed her car, and got stuck on Hwy 36 and had to stay at a motel overnight. She was scary-mad about it and simply never came in to the office again if more than an inch or two of snow was predicted. Shortly after that, everyone else stopped coming in too, despite officious pronouncements about how we simply HAD to be in the office no matter the cost to life and limb. What was the E.D. going to do, fire everyone? Bit by bit, in both cases, people simply stopped following the rules and the executive directors both wound up looking like powerless idiots.

  29. One of the reasons we weren’t officially allowed to work from home was the HIPAA implications (of course we did it unofficially all the time, lol).

    We both know that’s a bullshit excuse and certainly not the actual reason.

    If you’re accessing everything via Citrix, I’m fairly certain the risk is minimal.

  30. Rocky- I’ve heard tales that really bad weather was the excuse for women lawyers to start wearing pants (in the 80s) not skirts. Once it got started, there was no turning back.

  31. Eeew, Citrix. I hate that software – so slow and clunky.

    I think the fear is that even running Citrix, that somehow protected data will end up on the local hard drive. I think that is why companies that allow this make you sign an agreement that they can inspect your machine. One of my friends who worked for an airline had to do that.

    With my old company,of course the excuse was BS. Everything they did was BS

  32. I always let people know if I’m taking time off (both the people I supervise and the person who supervises me). I really appreciate that I have a boss who encourages taking vacation – and also taking a couple hours off from work to go to a school event. He’s a parent, and he totally understood when I said I wanted to take off a couple hours to go to my then 4th grader’s Halloween party. Since my boss is the parent of a teen, he totally understands how short the window is before your kids don’t want you showing up for school events. And in this case, I was on the fence about going because I’d have to miss a meeting – and he actively encouraged me to go. I said I had a previous boss who was also a parent but was less understanding about taking off a couple hours for a kid event – so I’m especially grateful for my current boss.

    For the people I supervise, I make the focus on whether they are getting their work done – not if they are in the office or working from home. I supervise a group of high performers so it’s never an issue. I view some flexibility as one of the perks of the job. And I encourage them to take vacations. I view part of my role as their supervisor as being their to cover for them so they can take time off.

  33. As a govt worker, we have to work 40 hours per week. Any more and you generate comp time (FSLA exempt status determines if you earn it at straight time or time and a half). Any less and you have to use some sort of leave that you alreay have banked.

    Some make you do it by the day…less than 8 hours, must have time banked. Others just look at the work week…40 total, good to go. Most give you a 15 grace period at the beginning of the day.

  34. I think the fear is that even running Citrix, that somehow protected data will end up on the local hard drive.

    The way my Citrix is configured you can only save data to the shared drive you can’t save anything to the C: or any other personal drives. I’ve also worked places where they have a VM configured with what you need and you just RDP into it via Citrix.

    I’m not certain of Citrix’s security, but I have to imagine they have a way of locking things down to address the concerns you mentioned.

    Eeew, Citrix. I hate that software – so slow and clunky.

    It beats having to be in the office.

  35. With my old company,of course the excuse was BS. Everything they did was BS

    And the worst part is they were giving BS excuse to the very people best in a position to know it was BS.

  36. @Mooshi – all the financial firms I have worked at were paranoid about security. So, work issued devices especially laptops very early on.

  37. The privacy implications of BYOD are worrisome to me.

    That is why he would have to buy a laptop dedicated to work. And then it just becomes a case of his company shoving costs onto employees. DH tells me they stopped providing work laptops about 2 years ago. Interestingly, they provide Android phones that are so locked down that they are pretty much unusable as a smartphone.

  38. Mooshi– I doubt you’ll be able to deduct your DH’s laptop. That sort of business expense has a floor, where you only get to deduct what exceeds a certain %age of your income (I think it’s AGI). If you’re not already deducting business expenses, a single laptop, unless it’s an incredibly expensive one, probably won’t put you over the floor.

    And yes, I agree, it seems very scroogy, penny wise and pound foolish, etc, etc. It’s probably a very small expense in the big picture, totally a deductible expense for his employer, and the payback in terms of employee satisfaction/dissatisfaction would seem to be quite high.

  39. It’s probably a very small expense in the big picture

    In my experience it’s usually some low level functionary who is looking to put, “I save $x thousand with my BYOD initiative.” on their performance review.

  40. My BYOD would be full of viruses after a time because I am not an IT person and just would not be able to do all the updates that are automatically pushed to my work laptop. Also, if there are any issues, the tech help desk is a phone call away and can remotely access my machine.

  41. DH’s work Android lets him make calls and access work email and files, so it more or less is a BB replacement. They had BBs until about 2 years ago.

    This company is really high tech and up to date when it comes to their onsite setup. They spend a fortune on massive servers, replication to several physical sites (whenever there is a thunderstorm, the main office in CT loses power, so they can switch over to London in minutes), and of course fancy parties, wood paneling, luxury suites at all the major sporting venues, and so on. What does a stupid little laptop cost? Yes, I know, we can afford one too, but it is the principle here.

  42. What does a stupid little laptop cost? Yes, I know, we can afford one too, but it is the principle here.

    I’m really surprised they aren’t offering a stipend.

    Also, what are people doing about it? A while ago one site tried to move all the consultants to the bed bug invested roach motel. One of the consultants, who we nicknamed Norma Ray, staged an insurrection. Shortly thereafter, word came down from on high that there was a terrible misunderstanding and we could all remain at our preferred hotels.

    We got to thinking, “What would have happened if we didn’t organize and complain?”

  43. I have to get laughs where I can

    I could really use some good news after all of the sad news lately nationally

  44. ATM, the first time I ever wore black wool pants to work was during a snowstorm. I lived in the city so I came to work via the subway in a blizzard, and I was sort of excited about it. The pants slowly creeped into banking as long as wore a suit jacket with the pants. It was a very big deal, and it wasn’t accepted every where. I am forever grateful to the dot coms because that’s what really allowed everyone to dress less formally in finance and law in NYC. It was such a crazy time because we would make offers and junior people would have multiple offers from financial firms competing with fun dot coms. Clothing was one way to make it more friendly work place. The bets part was you were allowed to have bare legs in the office with a dress, or wear a sheath without a jacket! It all seems so numb now, and it is hard to believe it was still in my working lifetime.

    I know that several large banks are BYOD. I was surprised for the same reasons that you mention at the hedge fund, but these places are cheap and they don’t want to support the laptops or phones. This is like the clothing – huge change in just a few years. It was almost impossible to get any financial firm to ever let you use an iPhone. Blackberries were the only “secure” phones. Everyone received a company issued blackberry, but now so many people that I know have to use their own iPhones. A few people I know get reimbursed for unlimited data or international calling plans, but that is it.

    DH still has a work issued laptop and phone, but he doesn’t use it much because he will log into his email on his own iPad or iPhone via Good.

  45. wow, bed bugs invested in a roach motel LOL

    Little know fact, bed bugs are generally acknowledged to be the Warren Buffets of the insect world.

  46. “My BYOD would be full of viruses after a time because I am not an IT person and just would not be able to do all the updates that are automatically pushed to my work laptop.”

    Ya know, Mooshi, your DH should pay attention to Louise here. “Gee, sorry, Mr. Working-on-Asian-Hours, but my unsupported personal machine just has all these viruses, and I’m waiting on help from IT, so I can’t help you right now.”

    The frustration is that everyone knows that the first data breach will send that stupid policy will be out the window, but it’s more important to save a penny for next quarters’ earnings.

    Me, if I had to pay for it myself, I’d treat it as MINE, not theirs. Fill it full of kid photos and medical records and everything else. And then, if they demand to inspect it, I’d explain via an email that cc’s their legal department that of course I will be happy to make my computer available for inspection, but that because it is my personal property, it also has my personal private records on it, and that I would therefore appreciate an explanation of all of the measures they have taken to comply with HIPAA and protect my personal private data and ensure that it is not misused.

    They’ll probably win, and you’ll probably have to buy the computer. But you sure don’t have to make it easy for them by just going along with it — then you’re just rewarding bad behavior. Passive aggression and selective planned failure can be extremely useful in the corporate environment.

  47. Lfb, I don’t know what DH’s specific company policy will be, but my friend at the airline said she had to sign a legal document agreeing that her company could inspect the data on her laptop and on her phone before she could connect them. I have also heard that some public universities are now requiring such documents to be signed, because of FOIA requirements

  48. Perfect advice, LfB.

    The only place that was BYOD was grad school. And even then, I had a machine purchased by a grant because my personal comp couldn’t handle the software. I just worked up an external drive.

    I really don’t understand BYOD at all. Yes, I get the finances of it, but the logistics are horrible. With BYOD, everyone can choose their own system. That can create havoc when sharing docs. At least it does when our interns use Macs (we run PCs). Templates don’t work right and it creates 1.5x the amount of work. If the company supplies the device, they can control the software.

  49. Reading these posts has given me pause regarding my plans to return to some form of paid work. Back in the day at Middlelaw, no one kept track of associates’ vacation time. The firm only cared about our billable hours. Associates were only included in meetings if their time could legitimately be billed to the client, which meant that we didn’t have to be on call for unexpected face time.

    I saw in the WSJ today that Bank of America is pushing back on the $180K baby lawyer salaries. Also that one firm tried but failed to bill a client $400 an hour for a first-year. Is it possible that the partners at big firms are going to pay these raises out of their own draw? Or just up the expected billable hours?

  50. That can create havoc when sharing docs.

    You can access the corporate license for MS Office via Citrix on a Mac or PC. Doing it that way everyone is on the same page with the documents being saved to a central (secured and backed up) shared drive vs. on the device itself.

  51. @Mooshi — of course he has to agree to allow them to inspect. But that doesn’t mean he’s waiving his HIPAA rights (or who-knows-what-other rights), unless the agreement expressly says so. HIPAA’s a bitch, and some other states (like Massachusetts) have their own law that requires protection for any personally-identifying information, like SS#s and drivers’ license #s. So IMO, if the company is going to require you to turn over a device, and the device has protected information on it, they are taking on a legal obligation to comply with those laws, and you are within your rights to ask them — nicely — how they intend to comply with them.

    I am mentioning this because this is becoming more and more of a PITA to me. I have to oversee some of our policies, including developing new ones as issues develop. I hate policies as a general principle; even the word gives me a little heebie-jeebie shiver. In the past couple of years, we have had to develop (i) massively revised information security policies, (ii) HIPAA policies for protection of health info, and (iii) a policy to comply with the Mass. law for any matters that involve Mass. residents. And that leads me to believe that, if your DH cc’s his company’s legal department, they will realize the potential legal claims they are opening themselves up to with this BYOD policy and Not Be Happy.

  52. LfB,

    You seem to think BYOD requires that info be on the PC or that his company has to be able to view the data on his PC. If he’s remoting into a VM, none of that would be true.

  53. @seattlesoccermom – I agree with your approach to vacation & flexibility. I find it is much worse to be out when people have no advance warning. When they know you are going to be out, they will work around it much better than if you spring it on them. And yes – nothing worse than getting an “urgent” request and sending it back to an OOO message.

    @Milo – is it really still called Personnel? How retro!

    @MM – That is super cheap. Ridiculous. I’ve never heard of this BYOD situation. I’m not even allowed to access my work email on my home device – I must use my work-issued and paid-for mobile device or laptop via VPN. And trust me, we don’t have state secrets or health data.

  54. Rhett, you are right, but when I looked up guidance online for implementing BYOD when covered by SEC regulations and Sarbanes-Oxley, the recommendations seem to be to do both – use a VM, and require the ability to inspect local data. There are also recommendations that the company should be able to wipe the laptop if the employee leaves the company

  55. There are also recommendations that the company should be able to wipe the laptop if the employee leaves the company

    The recommendation presumes you can save anything to the the local machine. If you configure it correctly, you shouldn’t be able to save anything to your PC. You could dropbox it or email it to yourself but then it would be in g-mail or dropbox and wiping the machine wouldn’t do anything.

  56. MM,

    Also, with Microsoft and Apple offering cloud backups, if they wiped your laptop, couldn’t you just restore it from the backup?

  57. Scarlett I saw that article in the WSJ today. We’ve been following the law firm salary increase with interest even though DH’s firm is not going to $180K (I think they’re at $165K) but they only have a small NYC office. I’ll have to look at what they bill the first year associates out at. I guess even at $300 per hour @ 2000 hours, they’re not making money on them the first few years as I’d guess a lot of their time is written off. I guess it’s an investment in future profitability. What also surprised me was the fact that Dallas was looked at in the same cost of living level as NYC/DC/San Fran/LA/Boston.

  58. Atlanta, I remember the recruiting pitches made by the Jones Day Cleveland folks reminding us how much more money we could spend there.

  59. Scarlett – I also saw someone on Above the Law say at least the firms raising salaries did so without requiring a tax payer bailout.:) Honestly, they haven’t raised in a decade and the last time they did was right before the great recession so DH and I are now thinking law firms raising salaries is a tell for the next recession.

  60. Scarlett, there has been client pushback on those salaries for ten years, without any real change.

    The billable expectations went up partly because they were writing off so much junior associate time: the partners are pointing to the massive number of hours billed and then telling the client they wrote off 15%.

    Possibly as a result, even the people I worked with who averaged 2,300-2,400/year billable as junior and mid levels still did not make partner. (I don’t know what they averaged as 7-10 year associates because by then I had left.)

  61. I know I’ve been out of the game for awhile but the BYOD is ridiculous. Good thing your DH isn’t a Barista. Don’t know how he’d get that thing back and forth!

  62. Well and the other thing is traditionally there has been a great deal of salary compression as you move up the ladder so firms are making a great deal of $ off of older associates which probably more than makes up for the younger ones. So even if you’re paying an older associate $315K + $50K bonus that’s still probably less than a third of what they bring in. And I suspect overhead other than rent has gone down a great deal. I know my DH shares a secretary with 5 other attorneys. It’s a big pyramid scheme.

  63. I’ve been signing charts from home for about 5 years, and it is certainly HIPAA compliant. Remember that HIPAA was supposed to make it easier to move information electronically, and codified the security requirements. I have always used my own device (right now, my iphone for an access code and my personal desktop computer.) I’ve also accessed the VA’s system from my personal computer. I can’t weigh in on the securities industry, but there are definitely HIPAA complaint ways to access medical data on your own device.

  64. I too work for a healthcare system. If you use your own laptop, you must attest that it has acceptable encryption and connect via VPN or Citrix. Every year, we are required to take training about securing data both electronic and paper (no matter how much a hospital is on electronic systems there is still lots of paper). If you don’t attend training, you face disciplinary action.

    The work provided devices, I have one, come loaded with the encrypted software and I only use it for work. We can use our own phones but we must register them with our IS services desk to connect to work email and policy is that if the device is lost or stolen, you must report it to work and they will remote wipe it before contacting your carrier.

    HIPPA has a big stick. Fines are assessed by the number of people affected by a breach – meaning if you compromise 1000 patients the fine is for each patient – hence into the millions. If you BYOD and it did not have encryption or didn’t report your phone stolen/loss and there is a breach, you could be responsible for those fines in addition to being fired. If you were stealing data, then you would also be charged.

  65. I thought of data breach instantly especially with regard to financial firms which have customer data. The cost would be in the millions. Target was hacked, so not an employee’s fault but that settlement was 10 million.
    I am very careful of my work laptop. I hate to leave it in the car when I am doing errands after work. I’ll either lug it with me or tuck it out of sight.

  66. Near my suburban office there is a cluster of hotels and restaurants. People are constantly having their work laptops stolen from the trunk of their rental cars. When we had a team dinner, I told the business lead on the project to bring his laptop in to the restaurant. He insisted that since he had the spot right in front of the door and under a light that it would be fine. He checked the trunk as soon as we walked out and it had been stolen.

    On a cranky note, it is deeply ingrained in me to be nice. I have a co-worker who keeps touching me and I am so annoyed. He is a little older than me, an immigrant and single, and we are generally office friends, although I quit having lunch with him because of racist comments he made. He pets my arm like I’m a cat if we stop for a brief conversation in the hall or if he comes to my cube. I have, in my opinion, communicated that I don’t like it by pulling my arm away and stepping away and looking at my arm like it’s damaged. I obviously am going to have to say Stop Doing That!!!!! It feels like kicking a bunny so I’ve tried to avoid it. I am so annoyed that I am being put in a position where I have to be so directly rude. I just want to do my little job and not be touched. Reason number 4,329 why working from home is so much better.

  67. MBT, in a similar situation, I would smile and say, “Honey, don’t do that”. It’s not a feminist manifesto but it gets the point across with a little sugar.

    Oh, what?

  68. “I know my DH shares a secretary with 5 other attorneys. It’s a big pyramid scheme.”

    20 years ago, my firm had 2-3 attorneys per secretary. The older partners used their secretaries for EVERYTHING including placing/answering phone calls; the younger associates much less so, but because all of the files were paper-based, there was still a lot more work for the secretaries to do. Formatting documents, putting together the attachments for filings, arranging for messengers — that took a lot of time. Every single local pleading or other court/agency filing was sent via messenger, date-stamped, and returned. Bike messengers were a real menace on the streets, and I can remember everyone being careful to look the “wrong” way on one-way streets before crossing lest we get flattened by a guy wearing Spandex. Does anyone use bike messengers anymore?

    I feel like Grandpa Simpson.

  69. Scarlett — I got knocked to the ground once by a bike messenger going the wrong way on a one-way street in Boston. Did he stop to help me? Of course he didn’t! Just kept riding. Good riddance if those guys are gone. They were awful.

  70. MBT, I like RMS’s idea. And your situation reminds me of my most amusing moment of today, when I overheard a person who speaks English as her first language trying to explain what a “ditz” is to a person who doesn’t speak English as his first language in a PC way.

  71. off topic- we made an offer! fingers crossed.

    kind of late to ask now, but would you be concerned about lead paint in an older home? I’ve always liked the older houses, but of course it has lead based paint…

  72. Thanks RMS – that is much more diplomatic than what was bubbling up in my mind today.

  73. WCE I had a similar situation recently listening to someone trying to explain “let’s run it up the flagpole and see who salutes” to someone who was not a native speaker. Hopefully they’ll quit using that expression now.

  74. MBT – A manager once heard a comment made to me by an older immigrant guy and my manager asked if I wanted to report the guy for sexual harassment. I didn’t but as the years passed and I thought about it I ought to have said something forceful because guys from other cultures just don’t get that there are certain behaviors that are not acceptable in the workplace. There have been high ranking guys who were fired and sent back to their home countries for inappropriate behavior towards their female coworkers.

  75. I’m also curious about the lead paint issue. We were told that it’s pretty much par for the course in older neighborhoods.

  76. Well nourished children in well maintained homes don’t normally suck on flaking windowsills and ingest chips of 75 year old lead based paint. There is less to worry about on that score than there is in paint and plastics on cheap toys. However, your local laws may require testing and abatement if a home is offered for rent, or if it is renovated and a building permit is required for the work.

  77. Winemama, I always used to read the male dog’s final enthusiastic endorsement of her party hat in a slurring drunk-sounding voice. Previous iterations of “I do not like that hat” were delivered stick-up-the-ass style.

  78. Agree with Meme. Bad windows are a big source of lead – if they chip and create dust when they are opened and closed. But few homes have original windows. It really about paint dust and chips – lead that has been painted over is not a concern.

    Would you be doing any renovations?

  79. I did give the kids Flintstones with Iron (good iron intake decreases your risks from ingesting lead) when they were tiny and we lived in a house that had a lot of lead risk. It’s harder to find iron containing vitamins that you might think.

  80. Wine- we have an older house. Child 1’s lead levels were 3 at 1 yo when we were doing a lot of construction- the dust is the issue. (Limit here for ‘safe’ was 10 at the time). We finished that project and the other 2 never had levels over 1. The risk is mostly with babies since they don’t know what not to eat but if you have windows with lead paint, opening and closing is the issue, and if you do a project, there is construction dust. We never tested for lead since that can then necessitate you do remediation, which can cost 50 or 100K.

  81. it already has new windows, I didn’t notice paint chipping, and we will be painting

    we plan to tear up the old carpet in the house and do some kitchen renovations

    besides that, it is pretty nice

  82. I guess my main concern would be if we did have another child, but that is a big IF

  83. Good luck, wine!

    We recently engaged a company to do some environmental testing. The inspector told me it’s very rare that they do any inspecting upon purchase, usually only for renovations. Occasionally a pre-sale home inspector will point out a possible indication that an inspection is advisable, but apparently that’s rare. As already mentioned, most of the toxic elements (lead or asbestos) are encased and only present a danger if disturbed.

  84. Wine – I wouldn’t let lead paint factor in. When we replaced our windows the company that did it requested I not be home (I was pregnant and also had a toddler). They took other measures to limit the release of lead particles. I had the kids tested for lead each year, but like Meme pointed out, they weren’t sucking on the windowsills. I would be more concerned about asbestos and radon. We ran into asbestos in a basement redo and that was annoying.

  85. Wine – agree w/the others. Only a concern if you are sanding old paint during a reno. In Georgia, painters actually have to have some certification that they can remove old lead paint safely when they are working on a renovation project. My dad, who owns a house painting company, just rolls his eyes.

  86. L- I don’t follow celebrity gossip closely, but did you hear about Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston?

  87. Congrats Wine!

    MBT: Sneeze on the guy’s hand/arm the next time he touches you. Apologize and mention that you have a cold. Repeat as necessary.

  88. @Wine: I happen to know this because of our renovations: there are relatively new lead paint remediation regulations that apply to contractors AND homeowners doing renovations. The only thing you need to know/worry about is to hire a lead-paint certified contractor. But it is fine if it is not disturbed and not flaking/chipping.

    Also second the above: some jurisdictions have restrictions on rentals for houses with lead paint (and any house built before 1978 may have lead paint). That’s one big reason we chose not to buy a local rental property.

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