I am a new hire and recently had my first 3-month review. I got an overall satisfactory rating, but was criticized for being away from my desk too much. According to my manager, my lunchtime (rarely over 30 minutes) does not count towards the 8 hours of work expected each day. He told me this was informed at the orientation, but I did not remember this to be so.
I checked the handbook later and found the policy mentioned there:
Employees are expected to work between the core hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. or as defined by their specific client contracts. Flexible scheduling, or flextime, is available in some cases to allow employees to vary their starting and ending times each day within established limits. Flextime may be possible if a mutually workable schedule can be negotiated with the supervisor involved. However, issues such as staffing needs, the employee’s performance and the nature of the job will be considered before approval of flextime.
A one-hour lunch is provided to you each day, schedule permitting. Lunch breaks should be taken between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in order for employees to be available at optimum times for our customers, both internal and external. Employees who elect not to take lunch on a given day may be allowed to leave early upon supervisory approval prior to ending the work day. Employees are relieved of all active responsibilities and restrictions during meal periods and will not be compensated for the time.
I found the policy ambiguous so I emailed Mary from HR, who had done my orientation:
I was just reading the handbook and I wanted to clarify the lunchtime policy--in order to get in my minimum eight hours, if I were to come in at 9 and take an hour lunch away from my desk, I would need to stay until 6, correct?
She forwarded it to another HR rep because she was not familiar with the handbook enough to answer the question. The HR rep responded that my manager was indeed correct, and cc'ed my manager on her response. Apparently, HR conversations are not as confidential as I had been led to believe.
My manager wrote me an angry email:
I am very surprised to see that you are casually asking about this again after we discussed this topic in detail during your 90 day review. I have reached out to Mary as well and we are certain that she didn't discuss a 40 hour work week including lunches and breaks, during the orientation. Mary has been conducting these employee orientation sessions for years and this is the first time an employee walks away from the session thinking that the 40 hour work week includes lunches and breaks.
In addition, though I reinforced the expectations again during your review about 40 billable/productive hours. As a salaried employee, the expectation is for every member of our team to put forth a full 8 hour day, and if needed, additional hours to ensure we meet project and client expectations. Let me know if we need to discuss this in more details.
This took me by surprise because I didn't think I had done anything wrong. Moreover, even before the HR's confirmation, I had immediately acted upon his feedback, and there have been no complaints otherwise.
How, if at all, should I respond?