Filling in for an absent boss could lead to a promotion, or just more headaches and complications.

QMy husband's boss did not return after taking maternity leave. While she was out, my husband was paid extra to serve as the acting director while still performing his regular duties. It is now eight weeks since the boss announced she wasn't returning, and the vice president in charge of the department has been dragging her heels on a decision on the director position. My husband has been covering both jobs for that time period without continued extra pay. Another woman in the department will be departing this summer on maternity leave, giving my husband a third job to cover. This is causing my husband to look at other options, even though he loves his current firm. Do you have any suggestions how to get the VP to make a decision, without giving her an ultimatum, and to ask for the back pay for the past eight weeks?

AKaren Usher, president of TPO Inc., a Tysons Corner human resources outsourcing firm, said that given the amount of time the fill-in boss has worked two jobs and not been handed the director's job on a full-time basis, it's doubtful that he will get the position.

But she said that he ought to talk to the vice president nonetheless to try to gauge where he stands at the company.

"He can go to the VP and say, 'I know you're still working on a decision on the director's job, but I still would like to be paid extra while I'm carrying this extra assignment,' " Usher said.

She said that it's possible that the director who left on maternity leave signed off on the extra pay for a specified period and that the vice president had no idea that it had ended. Usher said the fact that the acting boss received the extra pay during his superior's maternity leave ought to be evidence enough that he should have been receiving it in the past eight weeks as well.

At the same time, Usher said, she thinks the vice president "is probably not fully convinced he can do this job. It's clear to me the likelihood of him getting this job is low."

Still, he "ought to express his interest" and "use the response as another data point to see what his standing is."

And, Usher said, he can express his concern about the impending maternity leave this summer. But she said he ought not say that it will affect him but rather that "the company is going to be impacted by this. They had three positions for a reason, so he can put a stake in the ground and ask the vice president, 'What are you going to do?' "

-- Kenneth Bredemeier

E-mail your workplace questions to Kenneth Bredemeier at bredemeier@washpost.com. Discuss workplace issues with him at 11 a.m. Wednesday at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.