Lately my boss and I worked on a software that has been developed by one of my colleagues, that I will call Bob, and I. We found a problem, and my boss told me to call Bob who is on vacation to ask him about it.

Now, since the problem is not critical we can proceed with the development without fixing it. This is what I told my boss who still wants me to call Bob and get the needed information to fix it.

I would like to not call him, but I am unsure what to do. Is there any legal problem with calling a colleague who is on vacation?

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    Then you have to ask an Attorney. "But I have asked on Stack-Exchange!" is a bad defense when accused of a crime! – Daniel Mar 27 '18 at 8:55
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    Why does your boss not call Bob. Bob definitely doesn't want to be called, and he's off the clock, so it'd be purely voluntary if he helps at all. Your boss knows this and wants to put the burden of pestering a colleague who's off on their holibobs to you. I'd suggest you ask your boss to do it. – AJFaraday Mar 27 '18 at 10:42
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    @AJFaraday: That´s the whole Point of being a boss. Mine always puts the burden of writing programs on me. Suggesting he should do it himself would probably be answered by: OK, I ll do it myself. Don´t bother coming to work again - we have no use for you (And he would be right!) – Daniel Mar 27 '18 at 11:47
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    @Daniel are you saying that it’s perfectly acceptable to expect work from a colleague who is on vacation? Is it also acceptable to task someone who isn’t a manager with making that additional request? – AJFaraday Mar 27 '18 at 12:09
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    Many companies and bosses have a strong enough relationship to make this call a non-issue. Most places I've worked are very accommodating when it comes to vacation requests and don't enforce any type of time clock, so why not take a phone call when on vacation? However, I would expect the call to be due to a true emergency or next time, I may not answer. – user8365 Mar 27 '18 at 13:24

This problem is really between your boss and your colleague. If he does not want to be called during his holidays he has to stand up for himself or find other measures to avoid that.

You on the other hand should follow your bosses orders unless you feel you are morally unable to or they are straight illegal. Denying to follow (reasonable) orders can have you fired, even if you do not agree with them. We can not decide that one for you.

If you feel bad about Bob, you can apologize and tell him your boss made you call him. Also remember he does not have to Pick up the phone - in the times of caller-ID he´d know that it is work. A softer approach would be to text him and tell him to call you when it is convenient to him.

Edit: To make that absolutely clear to everyone! I neither endorse nor dissuade the contacting of employees during their holidays! Instead I try to give the OP advice specific to his situation. He is not the one on vacation and he is not the one who has made the decision that Bob should be called. Arguing with him, or me if that is ok is futile!

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    If he does not want to be called during his holidays he has to stand up for himself or find other measures to avoid that. It is not up to the employee to actively avoid being called by his employer during their holiday. This creates multiple issues, among which (1) bringing the employee's work ethic into question by coming across as intentionally evasive and (2) preventing the company from contacting the employee for actual emergencies. Instead, it should be up to the company to only contact its absent employees when it is reasonable to do so. – Flater Mar 27 '18 at 10:43
  • @Flater: This has nothing to do with the question in this topic. How to set boundaries on getting called during vacation is already discussed in another topic. – Daniel Mar 27 '18 at 10:59
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    If it has nothing to do with the question in this topic, why are you bringing it up? You're the one who opened the door here. Either it's relevant and therefore also open to scrutiny; or it is not relevant and should be removed from your answer. – Flater Mar 27 '18 at 11:05
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    @Flater: I bring this up to acknowledge there may be a problem, but it is not OP´s place to solve it. While you are certainly right in stating that it should not be that way that Bob has to set his own bundaries and I agree that it would be optimal if OP´s company did not try to contact its employees over trivial matters, OP already knows this, hence his question! His Boss, who has decided he should be contacted, unfortunately, won´t read this thread! So it ultimately will be Bob´s decision if he tolerates this or sets boundaries. – Daniel Mar 27 '18 at 11:42
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    I would feel morally unable to pester a colleague during his time off. What then? This answer is stupid, in no way is this "reasonable", as you put it. – Matsemann Mar 27 '18 at 14:24

IANAL but this does seem pretty straightforward in broad terms.

the problem is not critical we can proceed with the development without fixing it.

First note that this is your opinion but it is your boss who has the right to make the decision. Your boss can over-rule you and I'd suggest getting used to that. Your opinion, in this case, would almost certainly not be a good enough reason to refuse a direct order to contact "Bob". Also remember that your boss may regard it as critical for reasons you are not privvy to, and may be thinking of a larger business context than you are.

Can you be forced to do it ? No.

Can you be fired for refusing an order to do it ? Possibly.

Can you be disciplined without being fired if you refuse the order ? Almost certainly.

Is it legal to ring "Bob" on vacation. Yes. Unless "Bob" has a court order preventing someone specific or a specific organization from ringing him, he's fair game for anything short of abusive and/or harassing calls.

Could it violate "Bob"'s contract of employment ? Maybe, but that's a matter of a contract dispute between "Bob"'s employer and him. It's not an issue for you in any way if you are acting under a reasonable order (which it would be).

So ring "Bob", say "Sorry, I was ordered to ask you this." and get on with it.


Your boss asked you to call someone to get information on a problem, so call them.

I see nothing wrong with that, most employees would not mind assisting with info only they have while on vacation. If they did they might find a cold reception when they return.

Make sure you make it clear that you are calling on your bosses orders, be polite and as brief as possible.

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    Remind me to call you a few times about work issues, next time you're on vacation. – AJFaraday Mar 27 '18 at 10:42
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    @AJFaraday that's fine, I'm always available to assist my work if need be, it's called commitment. I might grouch a bit, but if they need me,they need me – Kilisi Mar 27 '18 at 10:55
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    @AJFaraday: If Bob's boss tells Bob to call me, and keeps doing so after I explicitly asked them not to; I'll be upset with Bob's boss, not Bob. There is a reasonable and ethical limit to "just following orders", but that limit isn't reached in the current scenario by any stretch of the imagination. – Flater Mar 27 '18 at 11:07
  • It's not really reasonable to treat an employee coldly if they don't wish to work while on their holiday. After all, that is their time that has (presumably) been booked off and agreed upon ahead of time. Unless it's explicitly written in the contract somewhere, they have no obligation to work during their time off. – Roy Mar 27 '18 at 12:13

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