The Best Time to Ask for a Raise

Dear Anita,

How do I tactfully go about asking for a raise? I have been with the company I work for a year and a half now and no one has brought up the issue of yearly raises or performance reviews (small company, less than 15 full time staff between two offices, one of which I am the office manager). My responsibilities have greatly increased in the last year and a half. Also, we have some part-time janitorial staff who just got raises to equal my wage.

Dear “All in Good Time,”

Alas, some small companies without a specific person in charge of human resource issues can often be remiss in employee relations. Since you’ve never been informed about the company’s policy or customs for pay increases, you’ll have to ask now. Not for a raise just yet, but for the criteria with which the company and your manager determines pay increases. (Incidentally, the review at the end of your probationary period is a good time to bring up this subject in future positions.)

Sometimes you have to be assertive more than subtle. Bring up the topic with your manager. “You know, in a year and a half, we’ve never talked about the company’s procedure for pay increases. Could we set up an appointment so I can learn how and when I may be eligible for a raise?”

Some businesses dole out raises only at employees’ annual reviews, though that does not seem to be the case for you. At those companies, it’s a good idea to have a conversation several months in advance of your annual review to ascertain conditions for a possible raise. If your manager indicates you may be lacking in one area, there is time to improve before your anniversary date.

For companies without annual performance review policies, use common sense when planning the timing of your raise request. Make sure your business – and your industry at large – isn’t struggling. While you may not have access to the company profit & loss statement, your instincts, observations and, yes, even office gossip can give you a picture of the soundness of the enterprise. If your company has just landed a big client or received a large order, indicating an upwards arrow on financial charts, this could be a great time to ask for an increase in wages.

Manager Giving a lot of workLiz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, recommends these five best times to ask for a raise:

  1. Ninety days before your annual review
  2. At the start of a big project
  3. When you take on a huge new responsibility
  4. When you’re given another person’s workload
  5. When your boss acknowledges your contribution

Prepare your argument with tips from my post, Achieving the Annual Raise. Point out that you’ve picked up new skills and have been killing it (or in office parlance, “performing at a high level”) even with all the increased job functions you have been given. For other readers, if you have a shiny new new degree or certification, it may qualify you for a bump in pay.

In my blog post, The Best Time to Interview for a Job, research helped pinpoint the optimum day and time for an  interview – Tuesday.  The same theory about avoiding Mondays and Fridays applies to asking for a pay increase. Perhaps the “morning morality effect” found by Harvard & University of Utah researchers can further assist in setting your raise request meeting. Take advantage of your boss’s higher instincts and ask to increase your wage on a midweek morning.

Readers: How (and when) have you tactfully asked your employer for a pay raise?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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The Best Time to Interview for a Job

Anita,

I recently had an interview just before a 3-day weekend. I could tell the interviewer was not really paying attention. It’s been weeks and I haven’t heard back. Should I give up? In the future, I don’t think I’ll make any appointments before a federal holiday! Are there any rules for the best time to schedule an interview?

Appointment entries for job interviews

Dear “Put Time on Your Side,”

As the saying goes, timing is everything. Even if your interview was scheduled for the Tuesday after the three-day weekend, it probably would not have gone any better. On non-holiday weeks, avoiding Mondays and Fridays is advisable.

SmartRecruiters, a web-based recruiting platform used by 70,000 companies, did some research on timing trends in the hiring process. Tuesdays are the trifecta for job hunting and hiring activity.

  • More companies post jobs on Tuesday (20%) than any other day of the week.
  • Not surprisingly, based on the previous factoid, more people (18.5%) apply to jobs on Tuesdays, too.
  • Tuesday also happens to be the most common day people get hired (21.5%), narrowly edging out Thursdays at 20%.

The time of day may even have an effect on the outcome of your interview. Wharton research shows that candidates who interview later in the day end up lower in the rankings because of a phenomenon called narrow bracketing. If interviewers give earlier candidates high marks, they are subconsciously hesitant to give another high mark, even if the last interviewee merits it.

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Woman sitting in waiting room and text messagingEarly morning interviews can also backfire, depending on the circadian rhythms of the interviewer. Don’t take a chance that the you’ll be interviewing with a morning person. At least try to schedule an appointment after they’ve had time for coffee and emptying their email inbox.

If you’re sneaking out from your current job on your lunch hour for job interviews, be aware pre- or post-lunch appointments have their drawbacks, too. A pre-lunch interview may end up getting cut short (a growling stomach may be a dead giveaway). A 1:00 p.m. interview time can be sabotaged by an inattentive waitress who causes your interviewer to return late from lunch.

Keith Harris, CTO of WhenIsGood.net online scheduler, found early afternoon on Tuesday is the optimal meeting time.

Another interesting stat – email reply rates are highest in the morning (about 45% according to Yesware). Try using the delay delivery option when emailing your résumé or follow-up letter, timing it for the hiring manager’s inbox right before starting hour.

Who knows, one week later, you may add to the numbers in the Tuesday hiring statistic. To celebrate… well, it’s Taco Tuesday!

Readers: Tell us about a time you felt “bad timing” sabotaged your interview.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Using (or Abusing) an Unpaid Intern

Dear Anita,

I run a small business on a shoestring. We are starting to get really busy but I still can’t afford to hire someone else. How can I go about getting an unpaid intern?

Interncarrying stacks of takeout coffeesDear “Budget Boss,”

College interns seem to be a dime a dozen in summer. In 2015, 63% of college grads with a bachelor’s degree had participated in internships, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Of those, about 61% were paid, and 39% unpaid. How can employers get away with not paying minimum wage? Many unpaid internships may be walking the line of legality. Basically, if an intern does any work that is useful to the employer, the internship may not meet the exception in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

It’s easier for non-profits to utilize unpaid internships; they can simply classify the intern as a volunteer. But in the for-profit private sector, you must meet the employment exclusion or it is assumed the intern is, according to the FLSA, “suffered or permitted to work” for compensation.

Here are the six criteria from the Department of Labor to exempt an unpaid internship from being an employment agreement:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Unless you work closely with your local college or university to make sure the internship meets the educational requirement, chances are, you’ll have to pay your intern minimum wage. If you have fluctuating needs for additional help, consider hiring flexible personnel from a staffing company for the months, weeks, or even days that you need help.

Readers: How have you benefitted from an internship – paid or unpaid?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Does the New Overtime Rule Affect Me?

I’m getting questions from both employers and employees after the recent announcement confirming the final Department of Labor overtime rule.

Anita, I have a small business with only 15 employees. Does this new overtime rule I’ve been hearing about affect me?

Hey Anita, How do I know if my company will start paying me overtime when the new law goes into effect?

Putting in overtimeDear “Fork it Over,”

In May, the Labor Department finalized an update to the overtime rule in the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FSLA applies to any private, non-profit, or governmental agency doing $500,000 in business annually. Note that this update only affects “exempt” salaried employees, not hourly non-exempt workers who are already entitled to time-and-a-half overtime pay when working over 40 hours in a work week.

So who are these “exempt” employees? According to the FLSA, salaried workers who are employed as executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, or computer employees who meet the “duties test” are considered exempt from Sections 13(a)(1) and (17). And just throwing “Manager” into your title is not enough; it’s your actual job duties that count.

Starting December 1, 2016, the new FLSA overtime ruling more than doubles the overtime eligibility threshold for salaried employees from $455 salary per week ($23,660 yearly) to $913 weekly ($47,476 annually). This threshold will be updated every three years to help keep up with the cost of living.

As many as 4 million more workers will be eligible for overtime pay. But will that really mean a bigger paycheck for you come December? If you fall between the $455-$913 weekly gross amount, your employer may reclassify you as non-exempt. If that’s the case, you’d see an increase in your check if and when you put in more than 40 hours in a work week.

Employers may start monitoring hours more closely and not let exempt employees go over an 8-hour day to keep their budgets in check. In that case, you may won’t see an increase in your paycheck, but you may get bonus family time!

Working late in officeIf you are just under the new $47,476 annual salary cap, your employer may decide to raise your base pay just enough to get you over the threshold and avoid having to pay you overtime. You may get a slightly larger paycheck, but depending on your actual overtime hours, a small raise may be less costly to your employer than overtime pay over the course of a year.

Some employers focusing solely on the bottom line may even lower base pay! While not illegal (if the hourly rate is still at least the federal and state minimum wage), it certainly won’t bode well for worker morale.

Employers have months to figure out their strategy for compliance with the new overtime standards. Economists and financial analysts disagree whether this will be good of bad for the American economy. Since the last salary threshold was set in 1975 – when gas was 57 cents a gallon! – I think the new overtime rule is long overdue.

“Exempt” Readers: Do you have any indication from your employer how the new FLSA overtime rule will affect you?
Business Owners: How do you plan to comply with the new overtime rule?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Succeeding With “No Special Talent”

Hey Anita,

I’m graduating from high school and don’t know what to do with my life. I’m not very good at book learning, so college isn’t for me. I’d rather go on a hike than sit inside and study! How can I find a job where I don’t have to sit at a desk all day? But I don’t really have any special talents. Is it possible to be successful without a college degree??

Hiker walks on Mountain TrailDear “Mountains to Climb,”

Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Everyone has an aptitude for and interest in something! If you haven’t already, make an appointment with your school guidance counselor. He or she can conduct some career tests and based on the results, point you toward appropriate vocational schools or community college certificate programs. Check out this Main Street article for ideas on outdoor careers that may suit your personality. Another great resource for adventurous grads is CoolWorks.com, a site that lists seasonal jobs in and near national and state parks and resort areas.

Zero_TalentI spotted an inspirational graphic, “10 Things That Require Zero Talent” on LinkedIn recently; it’s a good reminder of those “soft skills” that contribute to success that don’t relate to occupational expertise or educational degrees. I’ve written about many of them:

  1. Being on time. Check out my post, Snoozer or Loser, for tips on punctuality.
  2. Work ethic. If your parents didn’t instill a strong sense of job performance values, do it yourself with these pointers.
  3. Effort. Remember what it was like on Day One of Your New Job. Expend that kind of enthusiastic effort each and every day.
  4. Body language. There’s no need to discard your Body Language Consciousness after the interview. It’s a skill that can improve your everyday work life.
  5. Energy. Remain Alert All Day and don’t let Energy Vampires drain you.
  6. Attitude. Here are the Top 10 Attitudes Employers Look For.
  7. Passion. Targeting a Job that aligns with your passion makes it easy to get up each morning.
  8. Being coachable. Being open to advice, ideas, and instruction from a mentor, whether seasoned or youthful, is key not only for those just entering the job market, but employees at every stage of their careers.
  9. Doing extra. Going above and beyond is bound to earn some Compliments at Work.
  10. Being prepared. From Interviews to Exit Strategies, advance planning pays off.

Readers: Can you give an example of how one of these “zero talent” qualities helped you advance on the job?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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The Best Grad Gift: Career Contacts

Anita,

I’m graduating soon, and I’m nervous about finding a full-time job in my chosen field before all the gift money runs out! Can you help?

Dear “3.57 (that’s contacts, not GPA),”

Graduate introductionYou may have heard the networking theory “six degrees of separation” – you can be connected to anyone in the world through a chain of six acquaintances. Facebook crunched the numbers and determined the new normal in our social media age is only 3.57 connections.

It’s time career contacts rise above cash as the prized graduation gift. Parents, aunts, uncles, family friends, listen up! The best start you can give a grad is to introduce them to someone who can help their career. Don’t limit contacts to someone you know has an job opening. A seasoned professional in the same industry may be happy to meet with a recent graduate for 30 minutes to answer neophyte questions. A useful contact may not be able to offer actual employment, but could be the second link of the 3.57 connections needed to land a position.

Here are two ways to introduce your LinkedIn contacts to one another. A personal telephone call on behalf of a high-achieving young person you feel comfortable vouching for may be more effective than an e-introduction.

Back to you, graduates. It’s important you do your part. First, make sure you have a great résumé. Check out my blog post, Creating a Résumé from Scratch. Print on quality paper stock from a professional printer (pay for them if you must with some of those graduation gift checks) and always have copies ready for networking opportunities. Provide an electronic PDF version for any “angels” who may wish to forward it to their contacts via email.

Create a LinkedIn profile with a business-appropriate photo – no duckface! Check out Social Media Today’s blog, How to Use LinkedIn for New Graduates, to build a killer profile. Savvy networkers use the Alumni Tool on LinkedIn to widen their contacts further.

Whether communicating on LinkedIn, by email, or via telephone, explain why you’ve reached out to the connection (“My uncle, NAME, suggested you would be a good contact in the ____ industry. I’m interested in getting into the field and was wondering if you would have time to offer some advice?”). Most workforce veterans will be flattered and willing to help.

After any conversation – virtual or in-person – always thank the person for their time, even if the meet-and-greet didn’t didn’t result in a job offer or even what you may consider useful advice. You never know who your benefactor may know!

Readers: When you were fresh out of school, how did a contact or introduction from friends or family further your career? 

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Time Sheet Deceit

Anita,

I had someone tell me that her immediate boss did not feel like the HR director was paying her the wage he felt she deserved due to years of experience, so he told her to claim extra time on her time cards and was not required to work it. I and one other person were told this by the person claiming the extra time. Is this fraud?

200151700-001Dear “Raised Eyebrows,”

Smells like fraud to me. This supervisor overstating and approving hours as a plot to grant a de facto raise is a sort of vigilante justice that is unhealthy for the company, both for ethical reasons as well as bottom line considerations.

According to SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, one of the most common lawsuits is the wage and hour suit in which employees claim employers did not pay them for all the hours worked and/or overtime. It’s less common for hourly employees and their supervisors to be prosecuted by employers for falsification of time sheets, unless the swindled amount is significant. Several years ago, eight employees of a government contractor pleaded guilty to felony time card fraud. Many times, however, dismissal of the offending employees without a good reference is as far as companies will go, especially smaller businesses who don’t have the resources for costly litigation.

What you and your coworker do with this inside information is up to you. Since the HR manager is one of the alleged offenders, that typical avenue of recourse is not an option. You’d have to go over the HR director’s head to report your suspicion of time card fraud, including as much detailed substantiation as possible. If this is an offense against a private sector employer rather than a government agency, the Whistleblower Protection Act won’t shield you from any backlash from the suspect HR manager. If your company has an anonymous tip line, this would be a time to use it.

One of the ways for a company to monitor timecard falsification is to require manager approval. If a manager is complicit, as in this situation, implementing a time clock, card scanner, or computerized log-in system or installing surveillance cameras may be a necessary investment to prevent future loss from unearned wage scams.

Readers: Have you ever been in a situation in which you become aware that a coworker was falsifying his or her time? How did you handle it?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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A New Spin on Commuting

In lieu of answering a question today, here’s a Public Service Announcement.

Bike_to_Work_000061401812National Bike to Work Week is May 16-20, 2016, with May 20 designated as Bike to Work Day. The reasons for bicycle commuting are wide-ranging:

  • Lessen your environmental impact – Bike commuting reduces air, water, and noise pollution.
  • Physical fitness and well-being – In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, the release of endorphins can energize you, enabling you to mentally tackle your day. You may even lose weight; here’s a cycling calorie calculator.
  • Reduce health care needs and expenses – A bike ride a day may keep the doctor away, saving health care costs for both employers and employees. Momentum Mag estimates that individuals could save $544 a year.
  • Save (more) money – It costs approximately $350 year to operate a bike vs. $8,700 annually for the average car.
  • Save time – Americans spend about 6.9 billion hours a year stuck in traffic, according to the recent Urban Mobility Scorecard. Whizzing by cars in commuter gridlock feels oh so good.

Bicycle commuting is not without its challenges. You’ll need access to secure bike storage so your two-wheeled vehicle is where you left it for the commute home. For safety’s sake, be sure to obey all traffic rules, use designated bicycle lanes, and wear a helmet. (Combat “helmet head” with some dry shampoo you keep at the office.)

On the subject of appearance, you don’t want to arrive at work looking like a hot mess. For a relatively easy commute, you could wear your work clothes (don’t forget to protect your pants from the bike chain). If you’re not lucky enough to be employed in a workplace with locker room and shower facilities, check nearby health clubs that may offer shower-only memberships.  Alternatively, you can use wet wipes in the bathroom to freshen up so as not to offend your coworkers’ olfactory sensibilities. A bike pannier is useful for lugging your laptop or a change of clothes to and fro (and you avoid that sweat stain under a backpack.)

This video from Go Redmond (in Washington’s “bicycle capital of the northwest”) offers some helpful bike commuting suggestions.

Many public buses have bike racks, so you can get to work fresh as a daisy, and then bicycle home and reward yourself with a hot shower. You’ll still reduce your carbon footprint by half. You may want to make alternate arrangements to get to work in inclement weather (or you could use these tips on biking in the rain).

More and more companies are making it easier for employees to bike to work. As part of its Cool Commute Incentives, Clif Bar offers employees $500 toward the purchase of a bicycle – if they use it to commute at least twice a month. Most of the 70 employees at backpack company Osprey Packs pedal to work and can earn around $500 a year with non-motorized commuting incentives. (The Bicycle Commuter Act allows employers to provide a tax-free reimbursement of up to $20 monthly to its bike commuters.)

Many tech companies, such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, even go so far as to maintain bicycle fleets on their campuses.  Learn more about how your company can be certified as a Bicycle Friendly Business.

Readers, how often – if ever – have you biked to work?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Writing Matters

Anita,

I have been aplying to to alot of admin assistant jobs, and I can’t even get an interview. While I don’t have any experience, per say, I have great orgazational skills and am great at meeting dead lines why won’t someone give me a chance???  plz help me.

Red pen correcting proofread english text

Dear “Miss Spell,”

Even if you are not applying for a position as a journalist, your writing skills will be evaluated by those reading your résumé, cover letter, and correspondence. Despite the fact that many intelligent people were terrible spellers – George Washington and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name a couple – spelling mistakes, punctuation errors, and grammatical gaffes can make you appear, well, slightly stoopid. Take a look at these Cover Letters from Hell or résumé bloopers from Monster. (My favorite is “I am seeking a salary commiserate with my training and experience.” My sympathies for bungling your job chances because of that typo.)

Common Misspellings, Mistakes, and Muddles to Avoid

  • Your meeting is tomorrow, not tommorrow or tommorow
  • Accommodate has two Cs and two Ms.
  • Yours truly, not yours truley.
  • I’m sending my résumé under separate cover, not seperate. Remember, there’s a rat in separate.
  • There is definately no A, however, in definitely.
  • Did you receive my résumé? (The exception, “I before E except after C,” applies here.)
  • I believe I’m the best person for the job. (No exception here, the I goes before the E.)
  • I have the experience (not experiance) required.
  • Don’t be greatful for the opportunity to interview; be grateful.
  • You’re not in costumer service (unless you really do work in theater); you serve customers.
  • You have a Class A Commercial license, not a licence with double Cs.
  • It will be noticeable if you leave the E out of noticable.
  • Contact your Personnel Supervisor, not a Personal Supervisor.
  • Et cetera is abbreviated etc., not ect.
  • It’s a mistake to use the contraction for “it is” in its place. (Most possessives have an apostrophe – like Joe’s job – but “its” does not.)
  • Last, but not least, let’s address the homonyms there, their, and they’re.

Their = possessive pronoun
There = location/place
They’re = contraction of they + are

Used properly in one sentence: “They’re going over there in their car.”

Turn on Spelling & Grammar check automatically in your Word documents. Of course, technology can’t be relied upon to pick up every nuance. “I am fully aware of the king of attention to detail this position requires” [emphasis added] did not trigger any alerts, but wouldn’t escape a sharp recruiter’s notice.

Résumés are written in a kind of shorthand that breaks the conventional rules of English grammar. Incomplete sentences, often bulleted, are more conducive to quick scans by busy hiring managers who don’t have time to read a novel to discover if you are qualified for their open position. Check out Careerealism’s Special Grammar Rules for Résumés.

After creating any sort of business correspondence, check, double-check, and triple-check before hitting the “send” button. Better yet, find a second set of eyes – a friend or a colleague – to proof your work.

Readers: Have you ever noticed – after the fact – a mistake on your cover letter or résumé? Share your blunder below.
Recruiters: Do you have any humdingers from your Blooper Hall of Fame?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Sick of Sick Leave? Consider PTO

Anita,

I’m in HR for a medium-sized company. I’m really tired of monitoring sick leave abuse. Our policy allows sick leave to be used for an employee’s own illness or medical appointments, as well as the employee’s immediate family. But it seems everyone has doctor’s appointments on Fridays, headaches on Mondays, and comes down with the flu during March Madness! It’s not fair to those of us who never take a sick day.

Dear “Policy Police,”

HR_HeadacheAttendance reporting, corrective counseling, verifying doctor’s notes, and meting out disciplinary action can take a copious amount of management time. My advice: Get out of the baby-sitting business by instituting PTO – one bank of Paid Time Off that combines vacation, sick days, and personal days.

Less supervisory oversight is just one of the advantages of PTO. Before making the switch, however, consider both the pros and the cons.

Pros & Cons of a PTO Policy

PRO: While private sector businesses are not required by law to provide paid sick or vacation time, most companies realize that offering PTO attracts and keeps employees, even more so than traditional sick/vacation/personal day policies.

CON: PTO tends to be viewed as one big vacation time bucket, so employees may take more time off than with a separate paid sick day/vacation day system. This could mean more staff coverage must be arranged.

PRO: Many companies find employees take fewer unscheduled sick days when they have the opportunity to plan and use PTO. Supervisors will likely get more notice of absences and find it easier to find coverage in advance than when someone calls in sick at the last minute.

PRO: No need to fake it! Employees like to be treated like adults rather than required to bring doctors’ notes. (And really, in this day and age, it’s incredibly easier to forge excuses than it was back in junior high when trying to ditch gym class).

Sick at WorkCON: People may come to work sick – spreading their germs – to save their PTO for a 2-3 week vacation. In the long run, this propensity could cause even more absences office-wide.

PRO: PTO can be used equally by all employees, including who get sick less frequently or don’t have to take time off for dependent appointments (whether child or parent).

CON: Like the unwise green protagonist in The Ant and the Grasshopper fable, some employees may use up all of their PTO for vacation time, creating a hardship when they or a family member becomes ill. (But adults need to accept the consequences of their actions.)

PRO: PTO is easier to administer, which can mean cost savings.

CON: In some states, the law treats PTO like vacation time when it comes to calculating final wages at termination. While companies generally are not required to “cash out” for sick time, businesses could end up paying out more for PTO.

One last California CON: If your company is in California, PTO may not meet the minimum level of benefits mandated by the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act (HWHFA), especially for part-time workers.

Readers: What do you think are the pros and cons of a traditional vacation/sick day policy versus PTO?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Previous Older Entries

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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