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Can your boss text you when you're on vacation?

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

I work well over 60 hours and am a salaried exempt employee.

However when I take paid time off, my boss texts me to call or email my team to get them to produce and work. Basically to light a fire under their butts to make them work harder. She will also sometimes ask me to go in to email her a report on my day off.

When I took a week long vacation in the Caribbean she still kept texting me about work related matters. What I want to know is, is it legal? Are there any laws against this?

Also I work insane amount of hours and don't take lunch breaks. But some weeks I have to take my kids or my elderly parents to those doctor appointments. This takes about 2 hours. I always inform her about it.

She gives me a hard time about it and tells me to find a doctor who is open late or on weekends. Is this acceptable? I am one of her good managers in production and work like a dog.

Simple answer: Yes. It's legal. No laws require vacation time, and as long as she's not docking your pay for taking your kids to the doctor, she can bug you about it, and even require that you not do it.

Long answer: Your boss has issues. Big issues. Whether they are rational ones or not, I'm not sure. Does your team slack off when you're out of the office? Then it's rational for her to want you to do something about it. (They shouldn't be slacking in your absence.) If they are busting their buns while you're gone, her behavior is irrational.

Additionally, lots of people keep in contact while on vacation. I know I've mentioned this before, but I've been known to voluntarily be on a conference call while in line at Disney World. And, just the other day, I wrote about a company that makes it against company policy to send non-emergency emails over the weekend and I thought it was the best idea ever. And then I had to remind myself that I am self employed, so I could do that if I wanted to, but clearly I don't.

My point is, to many of us, this is normal and expected. But to you, it's an annoyance and a bother and it keeps you from relaxing. I'm sure every time you get a text you cringe. And it does seem patently unfair that you're busting your buns at 60 hours a week, with no lunch, and she's bothering you on your days off and giving you grief about taking a kid to the doctor. (I'm making the assumption here, that you are legitimately an exempt employee, and not that you've been mis-classified.)

So, have you ever sat down with your boss and talked to her? Asked her directly why she does this? Pointed out how you always work hard and have great results (assuming you do have great results)? If so, what has she said?

Because if you're like a lot of people, you're just silently fuming. And, in her eyes, she may not be being critical when she tells you to get doctors with weekend hours. She may think she's being funny, or chummy. (I'm so not kidding here. Some people think they are joking, but no one else gets the joke. And likewise, some people don't understand dry humor.)

If she's not amenable to a discussion, you can try setting boundaries. Things like, "Jane, I'm going to be on vacation next week. I will not have access to my email or cell phone during the day, but I will check it every night before going to bed. I've told Steve that he's in charge in my absence. If you notice a problem, you can try to run it by him, as I won't be easily reachable." And then, even if your phone is in your pocket all day, don't respond to her until the time you said you'd be available.

Hopefully, this will train her to let you go. If things don't fall completely apart when you're gone, she'll learn that it's not the end of the world.

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