Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Is it legal for the human resources/managing partner to ask the reason
for leaving early? Would your answer change if I were taking the time
as paid time (personal or vacation time) or without pay? I have some
very special conditions occurring in my life right now that I do not
want to discuss with my employer. Do they have the right to know if I
am dealing with anything, whether it is a serious health issue or a
divorce? I feel like this is my life and I want clear separation between
what’s personal and what’s work. Today I got a third degree about
why I was taking time off. I didn’t answer what I didn’t want to, but
now I am concerned there will be consequences.


Dear Invaded

First of all I am not an attorney, so the simple answer is, I don’t know.
The best way to get the right answer for your specific situation is to
consult your company’s personnel policies, to ask the state Bureau of
Labor and Industries, or to consult a labor attorney. But those answers
will be the legal ones and beyond the law you are dealing in the murky
midlands between what’s legal and what employers think they can get
away with. There’s always a sense of ownership of staff and a sense of
the right to ask questions by employers that you are right to have
resistance around. But that won&'t keep a boss from asking, prying,
probing, and generally intimidating.

In general, if your absence were from a situation where you can
anticipate reoccurrences, you would be wise to have the inevitable
conversation sooner rather than later. First learn what you are
obligated to share re how much time and often you’ll need to take off.
Then initiate the discussion. Say you’re going through a rough patch
and will need some intermittent personal time. These time away will
be for a few hours per occasion and you will be sure, to the best of
your ability, to schedule around company priorities. You will make sure
your work will not be impacted. You will alert them if this situation will
last more than a few weeks/months. But that because it involves very
personal issues you prefer not to have it discussed in your workplace.
Then be quiet, hope they don’t ask more, and if they do give as little
as you can. When you leave, thank them for their vote of confidence
and support. PS Don’t get behind in your actual duties or they will
have more cause to penalize you.