by Tiffany Newton, Head Editor, INALJ Missouri
I Can Start Working on That Day But, I’ll Need a Week Off for my Wedding
(what to do when you know you’ll need time off before you ever start the job)
You know you’re going to have to take off work for several days, or several weeks, for an event such as: a wedding (yours or someone else’s), family reunion, a friend or family member’s graduation, pregnancy, a scheduled surgery, court appearance, a vacation, a mission trip, or any other reason. When do you tell your future employer? Do you mention it in the cover letter, on the application, during the interview? I’m no expert, but I’ll tell you what I did.
I moved to a new state to start graduate school in July 2011. I didn’t have a new job yet, and I was going to be getting married in October of that same year. At first, you wouldn’t think that would be a big deal, well, I was getting married in my home town, about 7 hours away (by car). I had most of the wedding plans finalized before I moved, so I wasn’t worried about wedding plans, but I did want to be there for at least a few days before the wedding to make sure everything went smoothly, so I’d need at least 5 days off, minimum. How do you negotiate days off just a few months after the start of your new job?
On job applications, they usually ask for your availability, but usually it’s just 1 week chart that you fill out, or it’s a question something like “Are you available to work mornings?, evenings?, nights?, weekends?” Do you put, “Yes, I can work nights and weekends, but I’ll need off the weekend of October 6-9?”
If the question isn’t on the application, the interviewer will bring it up during the interview. During one interview that I had, the library had a special event the 2nd weekend in October that they would need me to cover, and asked if I’d be able to work those days. That the was the exact day I was getting married.
As it turns out, I could have just said, “No, I will be out of town for those days” but I felt like I had been withholding information, and they’d find out sooner or later that I was to be married and needed about a week off. What would they think of me if I had spoken to them several times and never once mentioned this big event? They might be upset and feel that I lied to them during the interview. So, what I told them was, “Actually, I’ll need off that entire week. I’ll be going out of town and getting married.” I also added that I wouldn’t be going on a honeymoon until several months later — possible during the summer if everything worked out. I knew as soon as I mentioned the wedding, that it was a mistake. Both interviewers gave their congratulations, but I knew then that I didn’t get the job from the looks on their faces.
During another interview, I really wanted to be completely honest, but I did not tell them that I would need off, instead, I asked about the flexibility of the work schedule, and asked about vacation and sick leave. From these responses, I gained an understanding that I would be able to take off if need be, but I did not tell them I was getting married. I received a call just a few hours later saying I got the job!
So, when did I tell them I was getting married and needed off work for a week? Well, my first day on the job, they mentioned nametags. I had seen enough of the librarians to know that they had both their first and last names on the nametags, and I didn’t want to force them to make me 2 nametags within two months, so I mentioned that they should put my married name on the nametag, because I’ll be getting married in just a few months.
My supervisor was excited; she had just become engaged a few days prior to that herself! They just put my first name on my nametag, so we didn’t have to worry about last names, and I worked out a few trades so I could be off the days I needed to take off for the wedding. They even said I could take off more days, but I didn’t want to push my luck.
So, I tried several techniques.
- Telling them during the interview did not work out very well.
- Waiting until after I started the job worked out better, even though I felt I was not being completely honest with them.
If your reason for needing off is more obvious, say you’re 7 months pregnant, just wait until they ask about it during the interview (if they do ask) and reassure them that it will not hinder your ability to do the job.
Just for clarity employers are legally not allowed to ask. Tiffany just made a choice to share. But it is a great reminder to get yourself educated on this topic and look up your rights! And comment on an article if you ever have a question, that is what it is there for. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/index.cfm -Naomi House