The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 6, 2013

Watercooler: Bunking with the boss; paycheck privacy

Q: I have a job and a boss that I really like. Unfortunately, our company wants to save a buck by having my boss and me, 40-something females, share a hotel room on business trips. While there is nothing inappropriate about the arrangement, I still feel that at this stage of my career, I have earned the right to some privacy, and sharing a room with my boss — even though we are friendly — is stressful. I believe she would be offended if I resisted the arrangement. How do I handle this delicate situation?

A: I don't suppose you're prone to seismic snoring or nude sleepwalking? Either would solve the problem — or get you passed over for future trips.

The legal perspective, from Sharon Snyder and her colleagues at the Ober Kaler national law firm, is that although there is nothing "strictly illegal" about your company's practice, it creates an "unreasonable risk"; imagine if, for example, an employee were "harassed [or] assaulted or . . . had his or her privacy violated because the roommate discovered confidential health information." The legal fallout could outweigh any cost savings.

But raising the specter of legal liability could sound like a veiled threat. And as your boss doesn't mind having a roommate, asserting seniority won't fly.

You could make a bid for pity by telling your boss that you have anxiety about sleeping in a room where someone else (besides your significant other, if applicable) is present, and asking for a change in policy so you can be better rested while on company business. If the answer is no, you may have to risk your boss' ire by pushing harder, risk advancement by declining future trips, or find a way to overcome the stress. (Does your per diem cover the minibar?)

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