what do background checkers see, sprained ankles and free employee parking, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My employer won’t give me free parking to help with my sprained ankle

I sprained my ankle last week outside of work, and while it seems to be healing quickly, it’s difficult and painful (not to mention slow) for me to walk long distances. I live about a mile from my work and normally walk or bike to work. Not having to pay for parking or a bus pass is the main reason I live where I do and definitely something I consider a perk of the job.

I asked HR if they’d be able to accommodate me by issuing a temporary free parking pass (it’s normally around $40/month to park in the company garage) and they said they can’t – I’d have to pay for it. There’s no way to pay per day if you don’t end up needing a full month of parking; it’s one lump sum deduction.

HR suggested I get a temporary disabled parking permit from the state so I can street park for free, but I don’t have a primary care doctor and the urgent care clinic I went to doesn’t provide documentation for those permits as a rule. A bus pass would also get me to work, but that costs about $25.

It’s not impossible for me to bike or walk with this injury, but it’s slow and is going to make the healing process longer. I’m a news reporter and my actual job can involve a fair bit of walking when I’m out in the field, so I don’t want to prolong the injury and further delay me being able to do my job well. I get that $40 a month for parking isn’t a ton of money, but it’s not in my budget and money is a bit tight with me supporting a partner who’s a full-time student. Am I off-base in thinking my company should accommodate my injury by temporarily providing free parking? Do you have any suggestions for other steps I could take, or do I just need to suck this up?

Yeah, I think they should give you a temporary parking pass, because smart employers (a) try to make their employees’ lives easier in situations like this, especially when there’s such a cheap, easy way to do it, and (b) don’t want to demoralize employees over 40 bucks. That said, it’s possible that they know that if they do it for you, they’ll have to field a bunch of requests from other people too, and maybe they don’t want to have to be in the position of explaining why your sprained ankle qualifies but Fergus’s gout and Lucinda’s bad back don’t. Or maybe they’ve denied some of those requests in the past, and so can’t do it for you without pissing off people they haven’t done it for in the past.

Anyway, I don’t think there’s much more you could or should do here. You’ve asked, they’ve said no, and that’s probably the answer you have to live with. Injuries do cost money sometimes, and I’d try to just look at this as one of those costs, although I know it sucks when it feels like your employer could make it a non-issue for you.

2. Client wants me to submit time sheets even though I’m a consultant

About six months ago, I started working full-time as a consultant for a tiny organization (as an independent contractor, not an employee.) I work remotely, with significant travel, and make my own hours. I get paid a yearly fee, spilt evenly over 12 months, based on 40 hours a week. For the first two months of my job, no mention was ever made about submitting time sheets.

After a couple of 80-hour weeks, the ED suggested that I keep a time sheet so that I could take time off later in the year. I said I’d keep an eye on my hours and but that it’d probably balance out in the end, as my work load fluctuates a fair bit. I never heard anything more about time sheets and I have continued to be paid on time each month (I don’t invoice, they just pay me.)

Today I received an email from the admin person asking me to submit time sheets for the last five months. I’m not sure how to respond to this. I have a rough idea of the hours I’ve put in but I haven’t been keeping detailed records and this request includes a period of time before time sheets were ever mentioned at all.

I’m frustrated by this request, so many months in, when time sheets were presented as something optional up until now. I was already feeling a bit strained about my relationship with the ED – there have been a couple of situations where he approved things that were incorrect, or followed directions and then expectations changed, and I felt blamed for the error. So I’m not thrilled about bringing this up, when I think there’s a possibility that he will say I was told to start submitting time sheets months ago.

I can start tracking my time from here on, though it’s a bit of a pain as I work when I feel productive or am needed rather than sitting down to put in clearly delineated blocks of time, plus lots of time spent thinking before I can actually produce deliverables. I might be able to make up five months of time sheets but it would be extremely time consuming and probably far from accurate. How do you suggest I approach this?

Tell them you’re concerned about running afoul of the regulations on independent contractors, since the IRS says that requiring regular time reporting by a worker can infer employee status. If the IRS were to determine that you were in factor an employee, that would be a very big deal for your client since they’d owe back taxes and penalties.

I’d say this to the admin: “I don’t want us to get in trouble with the IRS for violating their regulations on independent contractors or have them determine I’ve been misclassified and should have been treated and paid as an employee, which requiring time sheets can do. (They have a bunch of rules governing ways that contractors can’t be treated as employees.) I can include a total number of hours worked on my invoices if that would be useful, but we should avoid the kind of detailed time logging that employees might do.”

3. Will background checkers see every company I’ve worked for?

If/when a company does a background check, will they see any and all companies that I worked for? Or do they only look for companies that are listed on my resume? I recently left a company after working there only a few months and I want to know if potential employers will be able to see that (since I do not have it on my resume).

It depends. In most cases, they’re likely to only know about the jobs you tell them about. However, a thorough background check can turn up others. For example, a background checker might ask Former Job A why you left and might hear in response that you left to go work for Job B, which you happen to have left off your resume, or a reference might refer to it some other way (“I know she was working at Teapots Inc at one point but I’m not sure if she’s still there”), or it could come out in some other way.

Also, there’s a service called the Work Number, which is a online database for employment verifications, which may list every job you’ve ever held, if those employers use the service themselves (but many employers don’t, especially small employers, so it’s by no means comprehensive).

But if it’s a standard reference check (as opposed to a more thorough background check), it’s probably not going to come up. And if it does, well, there’s no requirement that you list all jobs you’ve ever had on your resume, and most people don’t — so that in and of itself isn’t a big deal.

Do keep in mind, though, that if you’re doing a background check for a government job or security clearance, you’ll be required to list every job you’ve ever held and sign attesting to its truth.

4. Applying for a job with someone who interviewed me three years ago

Approximately three years ago, I applied for a job at an up and coming company. They had just moved into a new space and called me in for an interview. I didn’t get the job. I have more experience now, and they’ve obviously grown and I have grown and they just advertised for a job that I am more suited for. I am going to apply, but the materials are sent to the same woman I interviewed with. Do I mention in the cover letter that I have gained experience since we last met and have grown as a professional? Or do I not say anything and assume she has interviewed so many people that she won’t recognize she met me before?

Assume she’ll remember you at some point — maybe not at the application stage but definitely at the interview stage if it gets that far. (I’ve interviewed a lot of people, but I think I’d recognize any of them if they showed up for another interview.)

So that means you should mention it in your cover letter. Otherwise you risk appearing like you don’t remember it, and that won’t reflect well on you. You can just say something like, “We talked in 2012 about your X position, and I was really impressed with Y and Z from our interview.”

5. Hearing the other side of the story

I was wondering if you have ever heard from someone an OP has written about. I often wonder what people are thinking that would prompt so many of the scenarios I see on your site. It would be so fantastic to hear both sides of a story from the first person perspective!

It’s happened a couple of times, actually! Twice people have written me and credibly argued that the facts in a situation were actually very different than what was presented by the letter-writer, and this post generated some really weird and confusing emails from someone who claimed to the person being talked about.

It would be awesome to be able to print both sides of a situation, but of course the nature of what most people write about means that they usually don’t want the person being discussed to know about their letter. (But if anyone ever has a situation where they’d be willing to let the other party write to me, by all means make this happen!)

Update: In the comment section, people are remembering and linking to other times this has happened. If you’re not usually a comments reader, you may enjoy it today.

{ 275 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Brett

    #3 If you worked on the books and were issued a w-2 or 1099, the job will turn up through some background check methods. If you have to authorize a credit check, it will probably show up. If you have to sign a 4056-T (not unusual for government checks) it will definitely show up. Also realize a background check (not just a reference check) will contact about three times as many people as you list for references, making it more likely for an unlisted job to pop up (even off the books jobs).

    Reply
    1. Credit counselor

      Credit reports only show inquiries in the past 12, or possibly 6 months (I know OP’s job would fall in this time frame, but I’m commenting in general in case anyone else is worried). And most of the time, the credit inquiry is shown as being performed by some type of background/credit check company, not the actual hiring company or landlord or what have you. Either way, I’d be very surprised if people looked closely at that section of the credit report and analyzed whether any were employers. (My guess/hope would be that they’d just look at the score and total balances/summary. A credit report has a lottt of info on there. Which is one of the many reasons I detest the practice of employers checking them.)

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      1. Brett

        For a background check, you can pull a form of the credit report that lists known employers (though I think it was Experian only if I remember right). If you are specifically looking for previous employers, and not just checking credit, that is one way to do it. I mentioned it because, from an applicant perspective, signing over permission for a credit report is one way you might reveal an unlisted job.
        An IRS 4056-T is still the main way, though, for a background checker to do that.

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        1. Elysian

          I’ve looked at that “Employers” list on my credit report, and according to that I have never held a job in my life – I’ve had many and have paid taxes on all of them. I don’t think its really accurate and I would highly skeptical of anyone that relied on it.

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      2. BananaPants

        Credit scores (like a FICO score) aren’t included in pre-employment credit checks, but balances, payment history, and adverse items (bankruptcy, collections accounts, judgments, leins, etc.) are included. Pre-employment credit checks are a soft pull, so they shouldn’t affect one’s ability to get a loan.

        I really dislike the practice of pre-employment credit checks, especially for jobs that do not have fiduciary responsibilities. Employers have different thresholds for what’s acceptable and what’s a showstopper in hiring and none of them make that clear to potential employees. My state has a law limiting the use of credit checks, but there are exceptions that could be applied to many employees/potential employees so it’s pretty useless. Good people can still have financial issues in their past, and it doesn’t mean they’re all going to run out and defraud their employers.

        We used credit cards to keep afloat during my husband’s unemployment/when we had a pile of medical bills. We’re paying them off, but it’s a long process. My husband’s job involves access to personally-identifiable customer information as well as high value company assets (pharmaceuticals) so his employer was allowed to check his credit as part of the pre-employment background check. At the time the balance on his sole credit card was close to the limit and had been so for around a year, with one late payment 18 months ago. Our mortgage had always been paid on time, but we didn’t know if the utilization ratio and the 30 day late could torpedo his job offer. Would they see the monthly payment amount on our mortgage and decide that his salary was too low for him to pay his bills? It was a stressful wait until we heard he was in the clear.

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      3. TheVet

        Inquiries stay for 2 years, but they tend to not matter so much after year.

        Employers (past and present) are at the top of your credit report under your name/addresses/SSN.

        Employers are added to your credit report if you update the info with the CRA or if they are reported by a creditor, as in you applied for credit, received it, and listed Teapots, Inc as your employer on the application.

        They don’t see your score-just personal info and (positive/negative) accounts/liens/judgments/bankruptcies. Some companies (and the gov) do care about your balances compared to limits, so that’s something watch if you’re applying someplace that does credit checks.

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    2. Chicken

      Background checks vary enormously – the term can mean anything from “We are just checking to see if you have a criminal record” to security clearance type checks that gather huge amounts of information and interview multiple people.

      Reply
  2. fposte

    OP#1–My work required I get the temporary placard from the state before it would do anything, and “anything” definitely did not include a break on the parking rate; they’d never be able to accommodate anybody who didn’t already have a parking permit. And in my state a temporary placard doesn’t allow you to park free at meters or anywhere else–it just lets you park in disabled spaces.

    So while I agree it would be a good thing for your business to do, I think parking is a fraught subject at a lot of workplaces and it can be hard to get wiggle room there. I hope you heal swiftly nonetheless.

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    1. Anna

      While I do understand where the letter writer is coming from, I find myself siding with the employer here. Never underestimate how petty people can be about free perks. If it did get out that you received free parking, believe me some colleagues would be upset. And I don’t want to minimize your pain, but I can easily imagine people being upset about you receiving special treatment for ‘just’ a sprained ankle. I could totally see this request being followed by many more. Pregnant ladies, someone with indigestion, bad allergies etc…

      My office changed locations once, and the new space had a bit less parking and I was shocked at the amount of drama that ensued.

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      1. Colette

        And often people self diagnose sprained or twisted ankles (although I realized the OP went to urgent care), so if they started giving out free parking, a lot of people could easily develop minor, unverifiable injuries.

        I’d be in favour of the employer approving a closer parking spot than usual if they could, but I can see why they’d want to avoid giving out free parking.

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      2. Not Today Satan

        I’m not surprised. One of the offices I work at (rarely, thankfully) isn’t accessible by public transit, and its lot is very small. It’s in an urban area, and the closest available street parking is 3+ blocks away. If I worked there full time, the parking situation alone would be enough to make me look for a new job, lol.

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      3. lawsuited

        +1 I’m willing to bet that the floodgates argument is driving the employer in this scenario. I worked for a previous employer who had limited company parking spots in the busy parking garage under our downtown office building. When I fractured my ankle, they gave me one of the parking spots (I still had to pay for it though). Within 2 or 3 days, 4 other employees (in our ~50 employee company) had come forward with various medical conditions wanting a parking spot.

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      4. workingclass

        Surely you were not inconvenienced, enjoy walking, or possibly consider yourself “above” such things.

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    2. Mallory Janis Ian

      My job offers upgraded parking accommodation to people with temporary need (last trimester of pregnancy, documented foot injury, etc.), but you have to already have purchased the minimum annual parking plan; they don’t give it away for free. Also, you have to apply for the accommodation, and whether it is honored depends upon availability of a closer spot in the employees vicinity. Some reserved lots are sold out with waiting lists dozens of people long, and they won’t displace current pass-holders to accommodate newcomers. However, a person with a disability placard can park at any available disabled-parking spot.

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      1. LVL

        I’m feeling pretty spoiled at work right now, we have all free parking with extra parking spaces close to the entrances designated for for handicapped persons, pregnant women, people who drive electric cars, and for people who carpool.

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        1. Allison

          We only have handicapped spots, and special visitor spots by the entrances (that employees abuse like crazy), but we have tons of free parking. We had free parking at our old office as well but if you got there later than, say, 8:05 you usually needed to park in the lot/garage across the street, also free but there was some walking involved. Those walks don’t bring back great memories . . . but at least parking was free!

          I can’t imagine someone charging for parking in the suburbs, where driving is the only viable mode of transportation for most people.

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          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            I’m in a small university town, where most parking is free, except on the main drag for dining/entertainment and, of course, on the campus itself, which is where I work. The campus parking restrictions are strictly enforced and there is a formalized process for getting any accommodations. So it isn’t just a matter of asking a reasonable boss; one’s boss may be reasonable, but university parking takes a more bureaucratic view of the subject.

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            1. pieces of flair

              Yup, I also work at a university. It is actually against the rules for an employee to get free parking under any circumstances.

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              1. Cass

                I work at a University as well. Haven’t had to apply for parking, but it bet it would be similar to your campuses.

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            2. Honeybee

              Yep, when I worked at a university parking was assigned based upon the location of your office and first come/first served. So when I got there the only option available was parking in the commuter lot – which was only $10 a month BUT was all the way on the other side of campus from my office and added 20-30 minutes to my commute each way because I had to hop on the (free) campus shuttle to get to work. I tried it for a few months, but particularly after it got cold I gave in and started paying for a spot in the municipal parking garage, which was across the street from my office.

              Now my new office has plentiful free parking, for which I am grateful.

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    3. danr

      #1… the rules for a temporary handicapped placard vary by state. In my state, all it takes is an application signed by a doctor. You take the application (which is a pdf that you print out) to your local police station with the processing fee in cash and they issue the placard. If you search for temporary handicapped placard your state in any good search engine, you should find it.
      In my state, you are entitled to park at any handicapped designated space and do not have to pay for more time at parking meters. You do need to pay the initial full amount if you’re going to stay awhile. In parking garages you do have pay the fee, but can park in the handicapped designated spaces.

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      1. fposte

        Illinois has seriously tightened up on the disabled stuff. The police station thing would have been wonderful–it was a 20-mile drive for me to a DMV to even get the temporary placard.

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      2. Slimy Contractor

        Have you ever been temporarily disabled? (This isn’t at you personally, danr, it’s a “universal you.”) I’ve had a few foot surgeries, and it’s so painful and takes so much effort to make an extra doctor appointment to get the placard, then go to the DMV (or wherever in your state handles that) that I think some people don’t even bother applying. I have no solutions here, because I realize they have to prevent fraud. I just feel a lot of sympathy for the people who have to go through this.

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        1. OhNo

          Heck, even some permanently disabled people think getting a permit is too much hassle (like me, for instance). You have to find a doctor who is willing to sign the paperwork, and travel to get your placard, update it regularly by repeating both of those steps before it expires… what a pain!

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  3. BRR

    This is a first but I disagree with Alison on #1. Parking isn’t a perk of this job. I feel like it’s asking them to pay for crutches or something.

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    1. INTP

      Yeah, IA. To me this falls under the category of “Sometimes bad luck costs you money.” There’s a separate issue if the employer is not paying employees fairly, but ultimately it’s your responsibility to handle emergency expenses, not your employer’s. There are various solutions here (pay for parking, take the bus, visit a doctor and get a disabled permit, continue to walk) and the employer isn’t obligated to make sure the ideal one is free of cost and inconvenience. While I get that not everyone can absorb those costs, it’s just not an employer’s responsibility to shield all employees from an unexpected $25-40 commuting cost (when many employees probably spend more per week) or an inconvenience caused by the medical system.

      Also, I do think this could lead to drama down the road if the employer isn’t prepared to offer many employees free parking. If I were a long-term disabled person, I certainly wouldn’t be happy to find that a coworker who can still walk and doesn’t even have documentation gets free lot parking while I have to pay or use street parking. And it wouldn’t exactly be unreasonable of the other coworkers who have conditions that can be aggravated by walking (back pain, running injury, severe outdoor allergies) to expect the same treatment.

      (I don’t mean to sound as harsh on the OP as I probably do. I totally get that panic over health and financial issues can sort of warp your expectations and make you fixate on certain things like “I need to get to work for free without messing up my ankle.” I’m not calling the OP unreasonable, just saying I think this particular expectation is, just like many ideas I’ve developed during similar times of panic.)

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      1. Ultraviolet

        Does it make any difference to you that the OP’s job sometimes involves “a fair bit of walking” when out reporting? It’s possible that a convenient parking space would make the difference between being a little uncomfortable and distracted while in the field vs being in a lot of pain and really off her game. Also, if the injury is causing any problems while she’s in the field, it’s in her employers’ best interest that she recover quickly, and a nearby parking space would help.

        I’m not totally sure where I stand on this. I think if the job involved little to no walking, I’d share your opinion. As it is, I’m torn.

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        1. UKAnon

          I’m torn too. On the one hand this could be a huge inconvenience and bureaucratic nightmare for the employer, but on the other that shouldn’t stop them from accommodating employees’ reasonable needs. I think in this case the difficulty is we can all sympathise with the OP, but it’s a transitory injury without huge health ramifications; if, say, the OP had broken their leg, I think that the responses would have been different.

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          1. INTP

            I guess I just don’t see the need for *free* parking as a “reasonable need.” To me that’s a personal cost, which work wouldn’t be obligated to cover any more than the cafeteria would be obligated to give you lunch for free because you didn’t feel well enough to prepare one. The OP’s medical circumstances are being accommodated perfectly well with the same options anyone with limited mobility would have – park in the lot, park on the street with a handicap permit, take the bus. It’s the financial circumstances that he seems to want accommodations for but I just don’t think that’s an employer’s obligation.

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            1. UKAnon

              I see where you’re coming from, and I think that works in theory – but in practice, the OP is unable to take advantage of the accommodation, which makes it de facto useless to them. Unfortunately, it’s just one of those times where life is messy and not ideal.

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              1. fposte

                She’s not unable to take advantage of them, though. She’s just exploring whether her employer would be willing to subsidize one of them. Which I think is a perfectly valid question to ask, but I think “No” is a perfectly valid answer.

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                1. UKAnon

                  No is a perfectly valid answer, but OP is also perfectly valid to feel miffed at the impact this is having on her life. There isn’t a perfect solution.

                2. fposte

                  Hey, I ranted for some time about the idiocy of having to make two painful trips to the parking office about getting disabled parking, only to be told it could only be in a garage several blocks from my work. (Like, if you’d told me that the first time I called, I wouldn’t have dragged myself out in the snow, people.) So I get the miffed thing.

                  But I also get the employer’s saying “Sorry, no, we don’t do that,” same as I get my employer’s saying that. Ultimately in most situations work parking is a zero-sum game.

                3. Mallory Janis Ian

                  “Ultimately in most situations work parking is a zero-sum game.”

                  That’s the truth! There is one very coveted, sold-out reserved lot, with a long waiting list, behind my old university building. Parking spaces only become available when a current pass-holder gives up her pass, and the next person on the list is offered the chance to purchase the passed based on their rank at the university, how long they’ve been employed, and how long they’ve been on the list. The new dean was incensed (and shocked — shocked) that his status as dean didn’t immediately get him a spot in that lot. When my old department head finally got his spot in that lot, after several years on the waiting list, he exclaimed, “This is better than tenure!!”

            2. Mpls

              +1 Commuting costs are typically the employees responsibilities. This employee has chosen a certain type of commute that fit her life and circumstances. This employee also incurred an injury (on her own time, right?) than now requires different commuting needs. I don’t see this as something the employer should financially compensate for.

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              1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

                I agree. I would be nice for them to do it, but I can think of all kinds of reasons why they wouldn’t want to. On the surface, OP is asking for a short-term favor because of an injury, but there are other ways to look at this if they are thinking about setting a precedent. For example, they could be worried about accepting responsibility increases in employees’ commuting costs, or accommodating injuries that are not disabilities, or providing a perk for one employee that is not offered to others, or taking employee’s personal finances into account when making decisions (always a bad idea).

                Maybe they have tons of other employees who have health problems and therefore pay for close parking. Maybe they are worried that it will start a trend where people look for any reason to ask for free parking. They might see this as accepting responsibility for paying for an increase in employees’ commuting cost.

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          2. fposte

            I don’t think the responses would be different, though. If it were that the boss was refusing to provide parking, sure, we’d object. But the employer *is* willing to provide parking (which, as I noted, puts the OP ahead of my workplace big time). It’s just not willing to eat the cost.

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          3. Not So Sunny

            I severely sprained an ankle and let me tell you, I’d have preferred a broken one. Surgery would have corrected the issue faster. A sprain can be every bit as debilitating as a break.

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            1. Elizabeth West

              When I first started skating, I was in between jobs. I fell and the back of my blade caught in the ice. My body went one way and my ankle stayed where it was. I heard a loud pop–the pain was excruciating. The ankle swelled up like a doughnut and turned BLACK.

              I was off ice for two weeks. For the first week, I couldn’t walk, only hop. No medical care either, just lots of ice, elevation, ibuprofen, and a wrap. (Only two weeks because Wolverine-like healing is my superpower.) But yeah, if I had to hike across the parking lot here, or several blocks to get to my office, that would not have worked. I would have been out for that week and if I couldn’t work at home, my vacation time (assuming I had any) would have been severely impacted.

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            2. Mallory Janis Ian

              I’m dealing with a foot issue right now from all the cute, backless platform shoes I wore this summer. My podiatrist says it isn’t quite, but almost, a stress fracture. He’s told me to avoid walking as much as I can.

              I work at a building on campus that is a geographical oddity — a twelve-minute walk from every parking spot on campus, no matter which way I look at it. The parking garage across the street from my building costs $800/year (about $70/month), and that is too expensive an option for me. I purchase the annual pass that costs only $7.95/month.

              I’ve mainly solved my problem by parking in the remote lot and riding the campus bus to within a block of my building, which is the closest that any bus comes. It’s not the most convenient of circumstances, but it is helping me to stay off my foot as much as possible.

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            3. Recent Grad

              I sprained my ankle badly and DID end up having surgery (after compounding the issue for 8 months with collegiate track). I was an intern in the downtown of a major metro at the time I had surgery. My doctor gave me a temporary handicapped permit (which in my state allows you to park at meters for free) but I still had to park four blocks away. The closest thing I got to having an accommodation was people carrying my coffee from the break room to my desk because of the crutches. I think an employer eating the cost for something like this would be very unusual.

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            4. Engineer Girl

              It depends on the break. I ended up with a break that required a full hip cast (from toes to hip). After the cast was removed it took me 6 months to bend my knee again. I was on crutches for over 4 months. It took 10 years to lose the limp. I can still tell you when it’s going to rain.
              I do know one thing – I became very good at walking with crutches, and could even half-run in them. You do adapt.
              I wouldn’t expect the OP to walk to work, but I do believe that walking with crutches is within the realm of possible.

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            5. Honeybee

              I have both sprained and broken both of my ankles (sprains multiple times…I have bone density issues and my ankles are weakened from the repeated stress. I predict I’m going to have wicked arthritis in them when I’m older). In my own experience, a sprain takes less time to heal but hurts a whole lot more. There’s something about the kinds of breaks that I’ve had that makes them almost numbed after a couple of hours – and once I’ve had them stabilized in a cast, they don’t really hurt unless banged. Sprains for me hurt continuously until they are healed, although the pain does diminish after some time. But I’ve also never had a break bad enough to necessitate surgery.

              Reply
        2. INTP

          I don’t think it’s owed or a “should” regardless. OP is still benefiting from the short commute, that perk has not been taken away – gas will be very cheap for 1 mile and a $25 bus pass is an incredibly cheap monthly commuting total (which I know doesn’t translate to universally affordable). Some inequality in how people are treated might be justified by the walking on the job if the OP is the only person or one of a very tiny portion of employees (who would all get the same privileges) who has to walk for work, but I’m assuming there are others in the field too, not to mention janitors, intra-office mail deliverers, etc. Given that I just can’t really justify why OP deserves a free spot because walking will make his ankle heal slowly, but Jane doesn’t deserve one because walking will exacerbate her back pain and Sally doesn’t deserve one during allergy season because the pollen exposure will worsen her asthma. I think it was certainly worth asking HR about and I think it would have been fine if HR gave him a pass with absolute discretion and a promise that he wouldn’t use it longer than needed, but I don’t think it was unreasonable or should create ill will that the company didn’t provide it.

          (It’s probably a non-issue because the other employees probably mostly have to drive to work, but that would just increase the resentment if it were public knowledge. “We’re all paying $40/month just to park at work and a gazillion on gas and we have to subsidize Feenix’s parking spot because he needs to use the parking lot for one single month and refuses to take a bus or get a temporary handicap pass?!”)

          Reply
          1. BRR

            I think commuting is an employee’s responsibility and I’m hesitant to call a short commute a perk. While a person might be limited practically where they can live most jobs don’t dictate where an employee resides and they can move where they want.

            Reply
        3. Rubyrose

          While she is on the job, her employer need to make some accommodation about the amount of walking she needs to do. But getting there is on her.
          I’m speaking as someone who for 25 years legitimately needed handicapped parking (and had the placard) but then had surgery. I no longer need the placard but do need to be judicious about how much walking and standing I do. Even when I had the placard I expected to pay for parking, just like everyone else, it would just be for a handicapped space.
          My experience is that even getting a temporary placard takes time; you don’t just pick them up at the doctor’s office. So there is immediate need here that needs to be addressed immediately. Go get that bus pass.
          The best example I have about employer cooperation concerning disability was when I was on crutches for a year and my job involved intense repetitive keyboard usage. Yes, I got tendinitis in both wrists. Insurance company paid for better crutches, employer paid for trackball and a wrist rest, and I recovered.

          Reply
        4. Ad Astra

          Parking is often a big part of the job for reporters, so I’m a little surprised that this news outlet doesn’t cover parking for employees in the first place. For a reporter, every second counts. It really would be in the outlet’s best interest to give this reporter a week or two of free parking to deal with this injury. To me, falling back on the “What if other people are mad that we did this for you?” argument is an attempt to avoid actually managing.

          But if they won’t budge, they won’t budge. News outlets are cheap like that. OP, is there another employee who might be willing to loan you his parking pass for a little while? Is there some kind of public parking nearby that you could afford to pay for by the hour or by the day? Can I just send you $40?

          Reply
          1. Sparty07

            If it was that important, then they would require her to drive to work and not walk. My guess is they have official vehicles that reporters can check out from a pool. One place I worked preferred employees to rent a Enterprise car (we had 2-3 always on site) rather than drive their car between locations 2-4 hours away. They did this because the liabilities associated with driving your personal car vs. a company/rental car is much easier to deal with and sometimes cheaper.

            Also, if this injury had happened on the job, I could see the argument that they should give the free parking. But, I have injured myself many times and never expected any accommodations as the injuries happened on my own time (playing hockey). Most people should be able to handle an extra $25 in their budget by moving money around. Doing a couple meatless dishes for dinner a week can easily cut $25 for a month in order to pay for the bus pass.

            Reply
            1. Ad Astra

              I’m not sure how common it is for news outlets to have a pool of vehicles for reporter use; I’ve certainly never worked at any news outlet that did. If that were an option, I doubt the OP would be this concerned about it, but who knows.

              Employees who pay $40 a month to park nearby are also probably expensing far more than $40/month in mileage in order to do their jobs. Because OP chooses to live nearby, he doesn’t cost the company that money. But the company is nickel and diming him over a one-off injury, and that sucks.

              I do agree with Alison that OP’s done all he can do and it’s time to suck it up. I just think that’s a crummy, short-sighted way to do things. But crummy and short-sighted is par for the course in the news business.

              Reply
            2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

              I thought about whether it would matter if the injury happenned on the job, and I’m not sure. What if an employee who normally chooses to pay for parking breaks his leg? Should he get free parking until it heals?

              Reply
              1. Zillah

                I’m not sure about the legal issues at play, but I feel like the company should cover any reasonable accommodations for an injury that occurs at work, which would include free parking in this situation.

                Reply
          2. Bagworm

            Or, if you live just a mile away, could someone swing by and pick you up for a while and you could just help them out with some gas money?

            Reply
          3. Lana Lang

            But we’re talking about a reporter who typically bikes or walks to work, so I’m not understanding how this “every second counts” argument about how some reporter gets scoops is even relevant to the OP’s scenario.

            Reply
        5. Iona

          Actually, no I don’t think it makes a difference that her job includes “a fair bit of walking”. I work a job that requires a good bit of physical activity and if I were to be injured, it would mean I’d have to make accommodation for that in order to continue doing my job. If I couldn’t make reasonable accommodation, then my other options are taking time off to heal or going on disability if necessary.

          Life isn’t always fair. It’s not my employers job to try to make it fair.

          Reply
          1. Zillah

            … if I were to be injured, it would mean I’d have to make accommodation for that in order to continue doing my job. If I couldn’t make reasonable accommodation, then my other options are taking time off to heal or going on disability if necessary.

            Life isn’t always fair. It’s not my employers job to try to make it fair.

            That’s not completely accurate. Employers do have a legal obligation to make reasonable accommodations for conditions covered by the ADA – it’s not all on the employee to do so. I don’t think the OP’s situation falls under that, so it’s not relevant here, but your presentation of the issue in general is overly simplistic. There are plenty of situations in which it is indeed your employer’s job to make life fair(er).

            Reply
      2. SJP

        I’m 100% with INTP here, I do think the OP just needs to absorb this cost, it’s didn’t happen at work, and I can see it being an annoying cost, but it’s the OP’s annoying cost, not the companies.
        I’m actually pretty surprised the OP even asked HR about this, and expected them to pay. It’s a minimal injury compared to what more serious ones would well be turned down for a worse injury.

        Sorry OP, I sympathise a little but this is not on your work to cover at all

        Reply
      3. Bea W

        I think giving the employee a spot they would pay for, if available, would be reasonable. Giving someone a free spot when everyone else is required to pay is all kinds of unfair and would lead to all of those things you mention. Getting sick or injured off the job and having to figure out how to handle that and still work is just a part of life. It happens everyday and to everyone.

        OP – is car pooling with someone an alternative? Since you live so close to the office, one of your co-workers may be willing to stop on his or her way to/from work for the time you need to heal from your injury. If you have paid sick time, taking a day or two to stay off your feet could be another good option. If there is a bus that can shorten the walk, using it temporarily won’t be a huge cost. Some public transit systems sell passes that cover a week or less.

        Reply
      4. Bwmn

        I’m also with INTP in the unfortunate reality that bad luck, injury, and health care costing money. And unfortunately, money that is often not planned for. Not to mention, there is always “someone” in every office who has more illness and injury then other employees suspect is warranted. Rightly or wrongly. And as a result, loads of policies come into play that what makes a one time quick thing for the OP sound like an ongoing nightmare for HR/Office Admin.

        That being said, in terms of the whole letter – I would highly suggest that of any of the time/money spent – spend it on getting a primary care doctor. If you’re a woman who’s yet to have a pap smear this year, that’s a visit you get once a year for free (I believe in the US that’s now across all states) – no copay. Yes, getting in to a doctor when you don’t have one can take some time – but urgent care is rarely the cheapest option and as you’re now finding out, not able to help out with greater quality of life concerns. In addition, building a relationship with a primary care doctor also helps with issues like this down the road in being able to have some of these conversations over the phone that don’t necessarily come with a mandatory visit/charges.

        Yes, the expenses suck. Yes the employer could be more understanding – but having a doctor is one of those things that’s just part of aging. Having to go to urgent care or the ER for every illness really isn’t a long term solution.

        Reply
      5. AnonAnalyst

        Yup, I also agree. I can sympathize because I sustained some pretty bad joint injuries in my youth that have become recurring injuries ever since then, the worst of which is one of my ankles. I also rely entirely on public transportation and walking to get around, so it totally sucks when one of these old injuries decides to act up, and sometimes costs a lot of extra money (like the time I could barely walk and had to take cabs everywhere for like a month…)

        Another thing to think about: does your employer actually own the garage or lot where employees park? Because, in my experience (again, usually in larger cities where parking is more limited, so take this for what it’s worth), the employer is either directly renting the parking from the actual owner of the garage/lot and is then renting those spaces to employees, or the company has negotiated some discounted rate that they’re able to pass on to employees; either way, there’s an actual explicit cost for each user of the space. If that’s the case, asking for free parking might actually be a request for the employer to pay for parking for you, which seems kind of unreasonable.

        Again, I get that this totally sucks because I’ve been there. But unfortunately, it’s part of life.

        Reply
        1. Bea W

          I dislocated a hip at a time when I didn’t drive, public transit nearest my house was not yet handicap accessible, so I often I had walk up and down stairs and curbs on crutches. It was also freaking winter. Grocery stores didn’t yet have those handy scooters either. Grocery shopping sucked! I don’t even remember what I did with the laundry, probably had a friend or family member with a car to take me to the laundromat or their house to do laundry. I know coming back with groceries I had to call a cab a couple times just to go 3/4 of a mile back to my house. At the time I was unemployed and receiving disability assistance. Overall it was not fun. To add insult to injury, I ended up with the most horrific UTI ever the day after I was discharged from the hospital, not what you want to deal with fresh after an injury that literally made it impossible to walk for several days. It wasn’t so horrible after a couple weeks when the pain lessened and I got more movement back in my leg, but crap damn!

          I’m pretty sure if that happened now, I’d be working from home as much as possible, and not just because I live in a 3rd floor walk-up at the top of a giant hill. I’m pretty sure I would have to take a couple days off/WFH if I sprained an ankle for that matter, even if I ate the $20/day parking fee and suffered through traffic. Old cities are not injury friendly.

          Reply
    2. Katie the Fed

      Yeah. I’m a few thousand dollars in the hole from my accident this year. Medical copays, wheelchair rental, handicapped-accessible hotel room for a couple days, scooter, crutches, socks for my walking boot. Seriously so many expenses.

      I’m not trying to be cold to OP but accidents cost you money in lots of little ways. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this though. I do think it would be beneficial to get a primary care provider who could submit the documentation for a temporary handicap pass.

      Reply
    3. BananaPants

      Yeah, my thoughts are the same. I sympathize with OP, but free parking isn’t a perk – she’s simply not paying for it because she chooses to walk or bike to work. Giving her a parking pass without the handicapped placard is just asking to have every Tom, Dick, and Wakeen in the building wanting a $40 parking pass for free for their minor and likely un-verifiable injuries or aches and pains. I can understand HR drawing a line on this one.

      Reply
    4. hbc

      Agreed. OP’s responsibility is getting to work, the company’s responsibility is to reasonably accommodate employees when they get there. It was an okay question to ask, but I can see how this would turn into a nightmare to manage–how many people can reasonably claim that they *would* be biking or walking to work if not for a chronic medical condition? If they won’t help out with all the walking done on the job, that’s a different story.

      I think the only use of company resources that would be stingy to deny would be using the company-wide email to find someone willing to drive OP for the short term. Living within a mile means someone has to be driving pretty close by.

      But otherwise, this is just bad luck, and it’s not the company’s fault that finances are so tight that the OP doesn’t want to spend $25 to deal with an issue occurring off the clock and resulting from a non-work injury.

      Reply
      1. Ad Astra

        Part of the parking issue, I think, is that a reporter is likely going to need to drive throughout the day to places he would have ordinarily walked. So the parking space is going to come up repeatedly, not just at the beginning and end of the day. The nature of the job means the parking space is an accommodation that lets a reporter do his job, not just a convenience related to the commute.

        Reply
      2. EmmaBlake

        I realize this sucks for OP, but sometimes paying for parking is just part of the job. You’d never dream of asking your employer to pay for your gas to get to work or the ‘wear and tear’ on your car so why would someone find parking acceptable to ask about? I worked downtown in a major city for well over a year and not once did my workplace ever pay for parking, nor pay the increase in cost to park when there happened to be an event downtown that jacked the rates up. BUT I did get to claim the parking expense on my taxes.

        On a personal note, I have heart issues where it’s very very hard for me to be outside in the cold to the point that if I breathe cold air too long, I can faint. I don’t even ask for closer parking. I simply wrap my scarf around my nose and mouth and walk the three blocks from the garage to my workplace. It’s called life.

        Reply
    5. The Cosmic Avenger

      Well, it really depends. If the company owns the building and uses (relatively low) parking fees to pay for maintenance/overhead, then while it’s not obligatory, it would be nice of the company to provide one, and I think that that was Alison’t point.

      But if it’s like where I work, and we lease a few floors of an office building from a real estate management/investment company, and the parking is managed by an outside contractor who answers to the management company, then no, the company really can’t do anything for the OP without basically giving them free money just because of the OP’s bad luck. (By which I mean the OP’s employer would have to pay the outside contractor for a parking pass for the OP, which would inevitably entail the drama previously mentioned.)

      Reply
      1. Marie

        That’s what I was assuming as well – that the company probably does not own the parking lot and would have to actually pay the company that owns the lot so the OP can park for free.

        Reply
      2. AnonAnalyst

        This is what I was trying to say, only said more clearly! Yes, if the company doesn’t actually own the parking facility, the OP is actually asking them to pay for parking for her.

        I get why it seems like the company is stingy if they actually own the lot because it seems like something they could provide without a lot of additional cost to the organization, but that’s not necessarily the case.

        Reply
    6. JGray

      It’s annoying the the OP got injured and now has to make changes in the commute but I agree with everyone else that they shouldn’t just give her free parking. But she did say that the company has a parking garage so I am wondering why they don’t offer some sort of payment plan for those that need to pay for parking temporarily. For instance dividing up the $40 into two payments or something. I think that everyone should have to pay for the parking but if the health issue is temporary why not make it easy for someone to pay. There is always a lot of drama surrounding parking at work- at my old job they had a fairly good size parking lot but it didn’t have enough spots for all the staff & clients and it would get worse in the winter. Once the lot was full you would have to park on the public streets and the lot was usually full by 8:30am. I remember one winter we got a couple feet of snow and I had to park 5 blocks away and then walk to the office. Doesn’t seem like that big of a deal but the neighborhood we were in didn’t have a lot of sidewalks and the area next to the road was full of snow so essentially I was walking in the road to work. It sucks but sometimes jobs don’t come with parking and I don’t really see parking ever advertised as a perk of a job.

      Reply
      1. Ultraviolet

        I really like the payment plan idea, and I think it could have been an especially good compromise if parking were a more fraught issue at OP’s workplace than their update suggests it is.

        Reply
    7. OP #1

      I commented further down – my boss has resolved this and paid for the permit out of our budget. I did want to clarify my thinking, though.

      I totally get everyone who said I needed to suck this up and pay for it, but I went to my employer first because of the nature of my job. Basically, my injury is at a point where I can do x amount of walking per day reasonably without my foot swelling up and becoming distractingly painful. I would rather use that quota to be out in the field interviewing cops or trying to track down a story than limping to and from work every morning. Without free parking, I was going to keep commuting the way I normally do and probably delay healing fully. I thought my employer might have a vested interest in me being able to be on my A-game (or closer to it) at work, so that’s why I asked.

      For everyone saying work should accommodate me on the job functions that require walking – that makes sense, but we’re reporters, and we’re pretty hell-bent on doing our jobs regardless of extenuating circumstances. I’m not going to not report on a story even if I have to limp-run out to some abandoned industrial park. I’ll deal with the consequences of that by icing my ankle later, but we’re short-staffed enough that it’s basically impractial for me to do desk work for a few weeks. So I guess I was really saying, “Since accommodating my ankle for work isn’t something either of us wants/won’t work, can we accomodate this thing instead so I can keep doing my job?”

      Reply
      1. Kadee

        OK, I can see that line of thinking. I was thinking of it in more general terms – that a typical employee shouldn’t expect parking accommodations to be changed because of an injury. However, you’re right. Your circumstances are a bit different than the average office dweller. Glad you were able to get something worked out!

        Reply
      2. Bea W

        Just be sure you temper the “hell bent” to heal up. I understand the hell bent on doing one’s job thing. I have to remind myself frequently that losing some time here and there to recover from an illness or injury is actually better for productivity than trying to suffer through it – a couple days of rest then getting back into work is often worth the productivity one loses trying to power through. I wish I had heeded that advice when I had mono. O_o

        If your employer is able, maybe they could send you out less for a bit, so you could stay in the office as well. What I’ve found with foot and leg injuries for myself is it’s not the amount of walking so much as the duration. So walking a mile all at once would be ill advised, but short walks that maybe add up to a mile would be okay.

        Reply
  4. KarenT

    #5 Didn’t something like that happen in the comments about that ex employee planning a party? I searched but I couldn’t find the letter because I don’t remember the finer points. I do remember there were t-shirts…

    Reply
      1. Apollo Warbucks

        I seem to remember a letter you removed from a short answer post once, because someone else emailed you with their side of the story and it was completely different from the OPs version of events.

        But I can’t remember when it was or what the letter was about now. (I read it before you remove it.)

        Reply
          1. Nobody Here By That Name

            I love how the URL makes it look like the question is about a boss who asked an employee to resign via the use of coupons in an office gift exchange. Worst Secret Santa EVER.

            Reply
            1. Mallory Janis Ian

              Ha, me too. Employee becomes boss’s Secret Santa and gifts her with one coupon, good for his immediate resignation.

              Reply
            2. Nashira

              It would be the reigning universal champion of passive aggression. Like if that were what the post was about, I think Alison would be ethically required to add a crown onto post and possibly nominate that boss for “worst boss of the year” every year.

              Reply
            3. ThursdaysGeek

              Which makes me wonder if Alison does that on purpose, and what are some of the more bizarre or interesting URLs.

              Reply
          2. Audrey

            What was that made-up story? I’m so curious! Did that OP write you to apologize for lying after the truth came out?

            Reply
    1. fposte

      I don’t remember it as being that one, but I do have a vague recollection that we had one where either the subject or somebody else at the workplace weighed in in the comments.

      Reply
  5. INTP

    For #2, is it possible that by “timesheet” the ED meant a log of daily hours, to keep track of total hours, not a record of time-in/time out like an hourly employee might keep? If so, would that still be considered unreasonable or illegal for a contractor? It seems like they might have been trying to do OP a favor – if, say, OP is averaging 45 hours per week, then the client company might have planned to allow those extra hours to accumulate as “vacation” without it being considered a breach of contract. I have to say that if the total number of work hours was an important part of the consultant’s contract (they were paid hourly, or for a specific agreed upon number of hours per year), and they weren’t working a consistent number of hours per day and just noting anomalies, I wouldn’t be happy to hear that they only had a “rough estimate” – I would at least expect some sort of daily log, even if it were just written on a notepad each week and not in the form of a timesheet.

    Reply
    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      I follow you, but the OP says the agreement is for a yearly fee. That’s muddied by the “based on 40 hours a week” blah blah, but if the actual agreement is $50,000 annual, 1099, yearly fee, there shouldn’t be any time tracking in that.

      IANAL, but I believe that the only time a 1099 should track hours is if they are being paid 1099 per hour and billing as such. Time sheets would drive this way too close to an employee relationship and responsibility.

      Reply
      1. INTP

        Yeah, I couldn’t tell from the letter if the spirit of the agreement was “One year of work, averaging approximately 40 hours per week depending on demand” or “2080 hours of work carried out over one year.” I don’t know any contractors that don’t bill per hour or just per job regardless of time spent, so I’m not sure which is most likely. It’s also possible that OP assumed the former and the client assumed the latter if it’s a new client.

        Reply
        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

          Yeah, and what I’m most familiar with is 1099 on commission. Although we have very few in our org left (grandfathered), I was one once upon a time and I have many friends who are 1099 multi line reps. It’s hard thing to do (from company pov) and stay legal about it. You can’t require a lot of detailed time reports or dictate much about how time is spent and stay legal.

          Each of my multi line reps will occasionally pick up a line where the (usually small) company doesn’t get that and the company will attempt to treat them as an employee. They have to go through the ” it doesn’t work like that, and if you want that level of control you have to actually HIRE somebody” education process.

          Reply
      2. JGray

        You can get a 1099 for lots of things- lottery winnings, investments, income (independent contractor or anything paid from accounts payables depending on the organization you are working for) but I think based on the information in the letter that there should be no reason for the LW to track her hours based on how the contract is written. If the employer needs to know hours to report to a client than that should be part of the contract. The IRS, Dept of Labor, among other government agencies have been keeping a close eye on independent contractors because of abuse related to these relationships. And one of the big things that they have make clear is that the business in these relationship doesn’t get to dictate the employee schedule. In this case the employer can’t have the employee track her hours in an effort to provide some sort of comp time because it doesn’t exist in this type of relationship. I think that Allison’s response is correct at this point because it will perhaps help them rethink what they are asking. On a side note, I noticed that LW called the boss an ED which I have only seen when I have worked for nonprofits. And nonprofits have all sorts of extra rules from the IRS in regards to 1099/accounts payables but as long as there is a contract in place and the LW has filled out a W-9 both parties are covered.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yes — comparing it to comp time is a really great way to look at it. They’re basically trying to set up comp time, but that’s not how contracting relationships work. That’s an employee/employer thing.

          Reply
    2. Ops Analyst

      OP said nothing to conclude this but I’m wondering if there is another reason to track the hours. At my company we hire consultants on contract and they are asked to log their hours for project management purposes. It has nothing to do with their pay. It has to do with showing our clients that the consultant we provided them is doing X amount of work based on a contract agreement and is ultimately how the company charges the client. But the consultant is paid their agreed upon contract rate regardless of what is on the project timesheet. Could it be something like that OP?

      Reply
      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

        I’ve asked freelancers to breakdown hours spent when I am trying to get a handle on how much time we are spending on teapot polishing total.

        However, I’ve been very upfront about why I’m asking and explained that I use total hours spent on projects to breakdown future department needs.

        Reply
      2. Cucumberzucchini

        Probably not the OP’s situation but I always track hours as a consultant for my own personal records and because my hours are often directly billable to the client when I’m sub-contracting.

        I highly recommend the OP sign up for Harvest Time Tracking. It’s I think for 1 person $30/month. It makes it so easy and you can pull reports. Even if she doesn’t want to turn in the hours to the client it’s really good internal info. You can see how your time breaks down and make sure your crazy periods are truly “evening out in the wash”. You might be surprised. For example I have concrete proof for many of my clients that we spend way too much time in meetings. Not that I can do really anything with that info, but it’s good to know for when clients grumble about having to pay for my time in meetings I have a ready answer, that if I didn’t charge for meetings I’d have to double my hourly rate because I spend X% of my time on this project in your mandated meetings and I have to make a certain amount on these projects.

        Reply
      3. Splishy

        I’ve worked as a W2 contractor (my salary and benefits were through a staffing company that invoiced the clients) and have had to fill out as many as 3 time sheets on various schedules. Two of them were related to pay/invoices and the third was just for internal project tracking, resource management, etc.
        1 – to staffing company (2x monthly) – hours per day divided into billable (hours worked for client) and non-billable (everything from time between clients, to PTO, to jury duty) buckets.
        2 – to client’s contractor billing system (weekly) – straight billable hours per day, reconciled to staffing company’s invoice.
        3 – to client’s project tracking software (weekly) – detailed breakdown of hours spent per project and on administrative tasks (I always counted an hour a week for just time tracking). It was used for project management and not tied to pay.

        If I was the OP, I’d ask what the purpose of the time tracking is. Do they just need to have a piece of paper to invoice against or are they looking for something more detailed? If it’s just for invoicing, I’d probably put in “straight 8’s” to make up the averaged total.

        Reply
      4. 2horseygirls

        TimeFox by FunctionFox out of Canada is HIGHLY customizable, and had the best customer service. I pay for it myself. This makes documenting my day a snap :), so my supervisor can see exactly how long a particular task takes, vs. what she thinks it should take.

        Reply
    3. LW #2

      I’m letter writer #2. I should have clarified, my client and I are in different countries, neither of which are the US. The client is a non-profit.

      So double checking my contract, I am paid a monthly fee based on “full-time salary equivalent.” The monthly fee is based on an annual total for my position, which is also mentioned in the contract and the call for proposals (sorry about the error in the initial letter – I was thinking of the RFP.)

      The only other mention of time in the contract is: “not required to perform the services during a fixed hourly or daily time.” Given the flow of the work, sticking with exactly 40 hours every week would mean that some weeks I’d have a lot of wasted time with little to do, and some weeks there just wouldn’t be enough time to complete all the work to meet our deadlines.

      The time sheet I was sent to fill out appears to be the same one used by employees, with in/out times and space to list daily tasks. I don’t mind tracking my weekly hours, but in/out times don’t work for me, and daily tasks seems excessive.

      I probably need to find out why they want time sheets. If they are something that is needed for funder reporting I need to know what level of detail funders actually need and focus on providing that.

      (I probably should be keeping track just for my own records, and I usually do as an independent contractor, but for a variety of reasons, I haven’t with this contract.)

      Reply
    4. MLHD

      I’m assuming OP means it’s a nonprofit organization, meaning it’s possible that they need her hours for granting or reporting purposes. I work at a nonprofit and even though I’m salaried I have to track my time to each project so it is accounted for in the budgets.

      Reply
  6. Tim-Tim's Teapots Inc.

    #4 – Yeah, I had that happen one time – I applied for a job, got an interview, didn’t get the job, then a couple years later I applied for a different job. Oftentimes it’s just a matter of fit – if the interviewer didn’t think you were the right fit for one job, they might still think you’re a good fit for another one. But as Alison suggests, do mention your previous interview.

    #5 – I can just imagine what it would be like to see something on AAM (or another blog or website) and either (a) realize that they’re talking about you or (b) wonder if they’re talking about you. That would make me feel very awkward.

    Reply
    1. stellanor

      I’ve seen a couple entries where I REALLY wondered if it was one of my colleagues complaining about our dearly departed to other jobs Difficult Coworker.

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      One thing to keep in mind is that most of the time when people seem to think they know the situation, the situation is a pretty common one, and statistically speaking it’s unlikely to be theirs. For example, I’ve seen people write “oh, I think I know where you work!” when the situation being described is pretty run-of-the-mill annoying coworkers or difficult boss.

      That said, there certainly are relatively unique-sounding situations that we hear about here, and when something is incredibly specific and highly unusual, then sure. (And in fact, we recently had two commenters figure out that they knew each other!) But so often when I hear people wonder if they recognize something, it’s the not-super-unusual scenarios that are triggering that.

      Reply
      1. Blue Anne

        I would think it’s actually slightly more likely than pure chance would have it because people are likely to recommend your blog to others in their area/workplace? For example I’ve recommended your blog to interns in my office, so if I read a post that was “I work at a big accounting office in a European city…” and sounded like a familiar situation, I’d wonder.

        Reply
        1. felicia

          I was recommended this blog by a former coworker and have recommended it to others so sometimes I wonder if ill ever recognize them here.

          Reply
        1. Liza

          They did! I think what tipped them off was one of them describing the kind of trash can used around the office, actually. They must be very distinctive trash cans!

          Reply
      2. Bunny Purler

        I seem to recall Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoons, saying that he would think up what he thought was an outrageous and unrealistic scenario, only to find that his readers had experienced very similar things in real life, and were convinced he was writing about their workplace…

        Reply
          1. Interviewer

            I used to love Dilbert. Read it every day in the paper as a kid. My dad, who is a mechanical engineer and rarely given to emotional outbursts of any kind, emphatically insisted one day at the breakfast table that Dilbert was NOT funny because it was true, every word. I felt really sorry for my dad at that point.

            Reply
            1. Jessica (tc)

              I felt that way about Office Space the first time I saw it. I was an employee in a nasty office situation, so it really wasn’t funny to me. The second time I watched it, I realized how funny it was because I was removed from that situation. I totally get where your dad was coming from. :(

              Reply
        1. Blue Anne

          Yes. My husband’s aunt was recently talking about the clear desk policy at her former workplace. She was told off for leaving a bottle of water on her desk overnight.

          Why? Because it was a “fire hazard”.

          A bottle of water. Was a fire hazard. Wha?

          Seems like a Dilbert strip to me…

          Reply
          1. danr

            Sure… you could forget to cap it, the bottle would be knocked over by the cleaners, the water would drip into an electrical socket, short it out and the sparks would set fire to the building… (uh huh).

            Reply
            1. Violet Rose

              Lol, I’ve never understood the “water on the [empty] electrical socket causes instant fires” trope – especially not since my housemate and I water DRIPPING OUT OF the nearest plug. And suddenly we realised that the mysterious puddles that appeared on the kitchen counters in the morning may not have been from a leaky kettle…

              I was more worried about the risk of electrocution or mould buildup (or a severe underlying plumbing problem) than the kitchen bursting into flames, but thankfully, it’s been fixed and everything is fine so far.

              Reply
      3. Mike C.

        It reminds me of the “birthday problem” where people are shocked to find two people within a moderately sized group of people share the same birthday.

        Reply
      4. LawBee

        I think a frequent contributor to a podcast I listen to commented here recently, actually. A story was told using VERY similar language and phrasing as a recent comment, but not in the “I copied this” way but in the “I am that person!” way.

        In short, if I’m right – Game Recognize Game.

        Reply
    3. INTP

      For the first six months of my job, I was paranoid that every single “My new employee just isn’t picking up on basic things” post was about me. It certainly didn’t feel great, but I was already paranoid that I was doing poorly so it wasn’t like I wouldn’t have that anxiety without reading them. I also got paranoid that my boss had seen my posts a couple of times – once when I posted about whether it would be okay to have a snack during my training and the next week my boss told me “Feel free to eat in your cube!” and another time when I wrote in about my I’m-failing-at-my-job paranoia and it was published.

      Reply
      1. Bagworm

        I think this goes back to what’s always discussed about the downside of addressing a single person’s problem in a group setting – the conscientious, hardworking, non-annoying folks always worry that it’s them and the ones causing the issue are certain it is not them.

        Reply
    4. Ani

      Ha! I’ve often wondered the opposite: Whether people with the most irritating behavior often would never recognize an unflattering description as applying to them.

      Reply
      1. Blue_eyes

        Absolutely. There’ve been studies that show that people who are incompetent are also incompetent at judging their own competence.

        Reply
        1. Alternative

          And, they are incompetent at judging the competence of others. So not only do they overestimate their own abilities, they don’t recognize a good employee when they encounter one.

          This is pretty much why I left my last job.

          Reply
  7. stellanor

    I think someone who would write a mean blog about their coworker would also be the kind of person to write weird and confusing emails. Then again, so would a completely unrelated nutter from the internet, so I guess it will always be a mystery.

    True story: When I was a freshman in college I had a blog and in one entry mentioned the existence of my roommate. I didn’t say anything about her other than saying she wanted animal print and I wanted monochrome so we compromised on a black and white leopard print rug (SHUT UP WE WERE 18). Her mother found the blog (HOW??) and demanded that I take the entire thing down because I was violating her daughter’s privacy.

    Reply
    1. Anon for this

      Just wanted to share – I like animal prints and the rug you describe sounds like something I would buy and have in my home today.

      Reply
      1. stellanor

        I’ve never been an animal print fan (I actually have an irrationally intense dislike of it), so conceding to black and white animal print was a pretty huge compromise for me!

        Reply
    2. Anie

      I’m curious! Did you take it down?

      I always wonder about situations like that. I feel like, legally, unless you describe them in such a way that strangers would recognize them, you don’t have to take down anything!

      A friend of mine is writing a book about a friend who died by suicide. She was the one who found the body. The deceased’s sister was vehement that the story couldn’t be written though. My friend was very firm that she could write whatever she pleased as long as she change the names while the family is threatening to sue…

      Reply
      1. stellanor

        I think I took the entry down because her mother was… very tenaciously crazy, and I didn’t want to deal with it. I did not take the entire website down, which was what her mother demanded.

        Reply
          1. stellanor

            This was many years ago before everyone had cell phones, so my roommate and I shared a single land line in our dorm room. Our school did not offer caller ID. So at least 5 times a week I was already dealing with roommate’s mom calling while she was out. In a normal human interaction this would have gone, “Oh, Roommate isn’t here right now, I’ll tell her you called.” “Thanks, bye!”

            In reality it went: “Oh, Roommate isn’t here right now, I’ll tell her you called.”

            “Where is she?”
            “Uh, I don’t know, I think she might be at the library?”
            “How are her classes?”
            “You’d really have to ask her that, I think they’re fine…?”
            “Is she getting enough to eat?”
            “You know, I really have to go now.”
            “Is she studying enough? Or is she just spending all her time with her friends?”
            “Okay, I’ll tell Roommate you called for her. Bye!”
            “IS SHE STAYING WARM EN–” *click*

            After the first month I bought an answering machine and screened all calls when Roommate wasn’t present.

            Anyway the point of that long story is that I was HIGHLY MOTIVATED not to antagonize my roommate’s mother because she was already a huge pain in my butt.

            Reply
    3. Snork Maiden

      That reminds me of my friends – they couldn’t agree what ice cream to buy for the house, so they bought Neapolitan, and nobody was satisfied.

      Reply
    4. MashaKasha

      This is why I stopped blogging a couple years after I started in 2005. Didn’t take long to realize that there’s absolutely freaking NOTHING in my life I could write about for other people’s entertainment. Blogging about work in 2015 is just insane! Like someone said in the comments on the linked post, haven’t that woman heard of Dooce?

      FFS, I got two emails from people I’d blogged about that I’d never met in real life. One was a review of a book by Walter Dean Myers that my 7th-grader had been assigned in school. I didn’t like that book. I went on my blog and ripped that book to shreds. Next I know, I’m getting a very sweet email from Mr. Myers, who turned out to be a very nice older guy with grandkids, that started “I’m so sorry that you didn’t like my book…” I just wanted the earth to swallow me and my blog, it was so embarrassing.

      Another time it was Jimmy Wales, of all people. Owner of freakin Wikipedia. I’d pretty much stopped blogging then, but figured a celebrity would be fair game. I saw his photo on Wikipedia on the morning of December 24th, blogged a snarky comment about the photo, went to a friends’ Christmas party, woke up the next morning to an email from Jimmy. His feelings were hurt!!! I was as mortified as it’s possible for a hungover person to be. I had to email back, apologize like crazy, and make a donation to him! My then husband got weirdly jealous over my email exchange with Jimmy! (one of the many signs that our marriage was coming to an end.) How the hell did he find me on Christmas! I had all of 20 incoming links and maybe 30 unique hits on a good day. I was a total nobody as far as the blogosphere was concerned.

      If Walter Dean Myers and Jimmy Wales found what I’d written about them, then so would’ve my coworkers, friends, and family members. Which was why I quickly wrapped the whole thing up. Didn’t take long for me to recognize personal blogging for the mine field that it is!

      That said, I’ve bookmarked golddigger’s blog, thanks for the tip. Will certainly have a read!

      Reply
      1. MashaKasha

        Oops, it was someone else’s tip upthread that we go read golddigger’s post. Hope that person scrolls down and sees my thanks!

        Reply
      2. Marcela

        Something similar happened to me. I wrote a long and detailed angry review about the usage of “americano” in the Spanish translation of a science fiction book situated in the future, where the US doesn’t exist anymore. Thing is, the translation was made by a Spanish guy, and they use “americano” as the translation of American, while in “The Americas” we use “estadounidense” (although it seems less and less common). I was super angry, for I believe I am “americana”, just not gringa (_in Spanish_; in English it’s a completely different thing).

        I said he -and I posted his name- was very ignorant, using that word without justification in the context of a future without the US. Next thing I know, the translator and the publisher are leaving comments in my blog. I accepted that I was too angry and modified my post to be fair. But then the publisher left some comments to the effect that I was saying they were evil, and blabla, thing I never said. So I finished the conversation when I asked them how was I so important that they had to go to my blog and try to convince me of something without arguments (they claimed it was historical usage, but in the Americas we don’t follow the same convention, and the book wasn’t in the present), when from my rant it was obvious I wasn’t going to be convinced just like that.

        Reply
        1. MashaKasha

          Wow. I can understand a writer, or a business owner, googling himself to see the feedback. But a translator and a publisher? And then they tried to pick a fight with you? Should’ve thanked you for helping them catch their mistake and moved on!

          Reply
      3. fposte

        Oh, Walter Dean Myers was a lovely, lovely man. But I’m a little surprised he was responding personally to reviews at that point in his career–that could keep somebody busy full time in its own right.

        Reply
        1. MashaKasha

          I went and found that email. It was sent from a “Constance Myers” account, and signed “Walter Dean Myers”. It said that his son had introduced him to blogs (which were still fairly new and fairly scarce then), and he’d found my review there. Not sure why he chose to respond; I must’ve written a really mean review! What can I say, I was younger then, less experienced, and more abrasive! The email does read like it was written by a lovely, lovely man. I’m even more mortified now than I was before!

          I was more than a little surprised to receive an email from Jimmy Wales too. Checked the location in my hit counter and it did appear to be the legitimate Jimmy. I think that was the last straw that scared me away from blogging forever. The gospel authors must’ve meant the blogs when they said that whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light! lol

          Reply
    5. Biff

      Ugh. I recently had a different online account ‘hacked’ by someone who found all five comments I’d made about my personal life and somehow turned them into personal insults against them. Those types of people are looking for offense and trouble.

      Reply
  8. Chocolate Teapot

    5. I remember a question about a small office where the newly promoted boss did not want to eat lunch with the rest of the team every day which had the team members commenting too.

    Reply
  9. Duncan M.

    #4. It is a good idea to mention this in the cover letter because it creates a contact with the company right from the start. This will be helpful for the interview, especially if you mention your evolution. It is also a good idea to point out what made you apply for a second time and what are the values of the company that appeal you most, based on the prior interview experience.

    Reply
  10. Merry and Bright

    I don’t think I’ve knowingly applied for a job where I’ve been interviewed in the past. But during a jobsearch a while ago I was interviewed by an HR person who had previously interviewed me at another company. I spent the interview trying to concentrate on my answers while wondering if she would remember me or say anything. She didn’t say anything during the small talk back to the lifts but it all felt a bit weird but that could partly be interview over-analysis of course.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth West

      I did–my current job. But the people who interviewed me for it were not the same people I spoke with previously. And I absolutely mentioned it in the cover letter. In fact, that was one of my better cover letters. I hate writing those almost as much as I hate writing query letters–because I suck at it. But I’m getting better, sloooooowwwwwllyyyyyy LOL.

      Reply
    2. MissDisplaced

      3 years is a long time. I don’t think this will be a big deal at all. Personally, I wouldn’t mention applying 3 years ago in the cover letter, but would wait until a phone call. But that’s me. I say that only because you want to see what their interest is now.
      I actually got a job that way once. I interviewed and didn’t get a job. Some 2 years or so later, I applied again, interviewed (where the owner remembered me and we talked about meeting previously) and I got the job.

      Reply
  11. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

    When difficult things happen, I find myself writing AAM letters (in my head) from my employee’s perspective, often, and I never look good in them! But my own comments (in my head) to the letter would drive you to have some compassion for my perspective. :-)

    #yesmaybeimheretoomuch

    Reply
    1. Blue Anne

      I do the same, from my perspective and from the perspective of the person I’m dealing with. “What Would Alison Do?” is definitely a helpful tool. :D

      Reply
  12. Myrin

    Alison, I (and I’m sure quite a few others) would love to hear more about the email exchange with the alleged Mean Girl/Blog Post Writer. It sounds like you’re doubting they’re actually the Blogger and was wondering why that was, but obviously if you don’t want to talk about it further, no problem!

    Reply
    1. badger_doc

      I second that! I went back to the original post hoping they would be in the comments but i was disappointed… Could we have a synopsis of the emails, Alison? :-)

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I have no idea which of them was telling the truth and which one wasn’t, so in the interest of not contributing to their drama or inadvertently giving an unkind person further ammunition, I am going to decline — hope that makes sense!

      Reply
  13. Nelly

    #5 Were the ‘weird and confusing’ emails from the blogger ever posted here? I haven’t seen a follow up, so I wonder what I’m missing/what was their side?

    Reply
  14. Rebecca

    About #5, I was really taken by surprise by yesterday’s #3 post, “My boss said my coworker’s culture is the reason she’s unhelpful.” I was told this exact thing by my manager, about another difficult manager, and everything matches, right down to the unread emails and the whole “blame it on the culture” and the exact culture referenced. The one difference is my boss is a she, and I believe the boss in the post is male. I spoke up at the time, told my boss that heritage has nothing to do with it, and flatly stated I didn’t care if she was a Martian from Mars, she still needed to do her job and not be such a pain about it. I’m going to try to read all the comments for additional ideas, so when this comes up again, and it will, I can make my point better.

    Reply
  15. LookyLou

    OP 1 strangely upsets me, it reminds me of the emerging crowdfundig trend where many don’t feel that they should be financially responsible for problems. If you are so hung up over a max $40 expense to make your life easier then you really need to re-evaluate your entire life. It certainly never hurts to see if they would be willing to give a free pass, but why shouldn’t everyone get free parking for personal problems? Where do you draw the line? I could see an employer turning a blind eye to you hobbling in late but that’d be it.

    OP4: I would only bring this up in the interview, not in your cover letter – that just feels like an awkward fact to throw in. You can use it to prove your interest in the company. Also, I think there is a slim chance they’ll remember you – you’d need to get the exact same person interviewing and even then she’d need to be one of those people with a sharp memory.

    Reply
    1. brightstar

      I think you’re being too harsh to OP 1. If you’ve never been on a very tight budget, it can be difficult to understand how certain sums of money can be catastrophic to your monthly finances. There was a time when $5 was too much for me to spare with, when I was working two jobs and juggling which bills to pay. The OP mentioned she is supporting her partner who is a full time student and money is tight because of that.

      Reply
      1. UKAnon

        Exactly. I don’t know the exact difference, but I’m betting forty dollars is close to a week’s worth of shopping for some people (the equivalent in pounds would be just about doable here). Perhaps “not being willing to give up a week’s worth of food to make your life easier” will put it into perspective.

        Reply
      2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

        ^ this.

        I remember the days when $40 would have meant shuffling all my bills, not just skipping a GNO. It’s especially hard when you’re the bread winner, so it’s not just your grocery bill you’re cutting.

        I’m inferring based on my own experience, but she may also be upset about the being out $40 for the month when you only need a few days of parking. When you have limited money, having to pay for anything extra/you don’t use is defeating.

        Reply
        1. UsedToDoSupport

          I remember those days too, but even in those days it would never had occurred to me to even ask my employer to pay for parking, never mind being upset when they declined.

          I am saddened by the emerging crowd funding for everything too. When I have a bill, I find a way to pay it, or negotiate partial payment. It’s just what adults do, isn’t it? This is like back in the 80s, when everyone was spending mass amounts of money and I thought I was missing something with my salad budget. It turned out I wasn’t missing anything, they were all racking up huge debts and defaulting. Crowdfunding is just spending but spreading out the debt to the willing public. /minirant (clearly I need coffee or something)

          Reply
          1. Brooke

            I share your disdain for crowdfunding! Especially when it’s something that falls under the “hobby” category. SAVE UP, PEOPLE.

            Reply
      3. Not So NewReader

        There have been times where a tight budget has gotten me all upset over a small expense incurred at work. I found it to be a symptom of a problem, but not the actual problem. It could have been because I was treated crappy most of the time. Or it could have been that I was already giving to much of myself for free to the company. (I am the type who will bring in a box of kleenex or other small items from time to time.) Or the root cause of my upset could have just been that I was way underpaid and I neglected to do anything about that issue. The $40 dollars OP is mentioning here, might not be the main issue, it could be an issue in a stream of many issues.

        The job sounds physically demanding of that poor sprained ankle. I sprained mine years ago. And it took well over a year to heal. Going to work everyday was psychologically challenging as I had to fight with my thoughts about pain. The job became much harder than it actually was. If this does not resonate with you, OP, then feel free to ignore my post here, but please, make sure you are doing everything you need to to help your ankle along. If you are supposed to be icing it daily or putting it up daily, make sure you are doing that.
        You may not win on the parking issue, but don’t forget to look at other things that would be of actual help to you.

        Reply
        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

          Yes – when I’ve had that kind of frustration about expenses, it’s usually, as you put it, “a symptom of the problem, but not the actual problem”. I had an employee once time go BANANAS because we stopped paying for the hot/cold water dispenser. We’re a charity, for heaven sake, and our budget was incredibly tight. That $30/month was just something that had to go. She was literally screaming. This was in no way about the water cooler. It was about her wanting us to pay her double her salary, which was totally out of the question. I fired her a couple of weeks later – and that was not about the water cooler either. (Not implying that OP is freaking out here).

          Reply
        2. Ad Astra

          I think you’re right that this is more a symptom than it is the actual problem. When I worked in news, I was paid a crappy wage and treated pretty crappily overall and nothing was ever enough, so things like paying for parking really got me going. I’m definitely feeling some of that in myself just responding to this post, so I wonder if the OP is feeling the same way.

          Reply
    2. DMR

      I’m also bothered by #1s attitude; it comes across as entitlemeny. And if he’s paid at a rate where this is a big deal, I’d bet most his coworkers are as well.

      My ob completed the paperwork for me to get a temporary handicapped permit while pregnant. My anemia was so bad I was barely able to make it to work 3 days a week (out of 5 – a full time schedule). My application was denied because my state doesn’t recognize complications of pregnancy as a reason for a permit, which really passed me off when knowing a coworker was granted a permit after rotator cuff / shoulder surgery.

      Granting free parking for a relatively minor injury with a quick recovery would open up HR to a number of requests that are likely far more justifiable.

      Reply
      1. UKAnon

        Asking isn’t entitlement, neither is looking for other suggestions. I think the OP has been perfectly reasonable about what is, for her, a life-impacting situation.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Agreed. I also think that sometimes we over-fixate on the title given to a question, and that may be happening here, but Alison writes some of those so we have no way of knowing if those are the OP’s words.

          Reply
    3. Katie the Fed

      I don’t think that’s fair. Wages are stagnant in much of the country, and many people just don’t have an emergency fund set aside. $40 is not significant to to me in my DINK situation, but it might very well be for many people, and I don’t think we should make assumptions about their finances.

      That being said, I still think it’s an expense she should pay, not her employer.

      Reply
    4. anonanonanon

      I’m on the fence about OP1, since I don’t think the employer owes OP1 free parking, but I can see where her request is coming from. I think it’s a stretch to compare it to frivolous crowdfunding, since there’s a difference between someone wanting people to pay for a vacation or raise money for them to buy a pet and someone who is asking for help with medical expenses (not that I entirely approve of those campaigns either, since they make me wary, but there still two completely different things). And while $40 might not seem like a lot to some people, it can make the world of difference to others. There was a time when $40 covered two weeks worth of food and if I had to spend that on something else, it was going to seriously hurt my finances for the month. Not everyone is lucky enough to consider $40 throwaway money.

      Reply
      1. I'm Not Phyllis

        I can see it both ways as well. On one hand, there have been times when I haven’t been able to afford my own lunch (just keepin’ it real) and $40 would have been way too much for me to spare. However, I don’t think the employer is out of line in denying the request. Although it’s unfortunate that money is tight, I think the responsibility still falls on the employee in this case. Although it would be a nice gesture from the employer, I definitely don’t think it’s an obligation on their part.

        Reply
    5. Zillah

      If you are so hung up over a max $40 expense to make your life easier then you really need to re-evaluate your entire life.

      It’s perfectly reasonable to tell the OP that you don’t think their job should cover parking, but can we please stop insulting OPs who mention budget problems? This sentence verges on both ignorance and outright cruelty, though I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way; there are indeed many people for whom $40 is a really big deal, and even if it were feasible for them to “re-evaluate their lives” so that $40 isn’t a big deal (which usually isn’t simple and often isn’t possible), it’s completely unhelpful for their current situation – which is why they wrote in in the first place.

      Reply
      1. Zillah

        Ughh. That should read:

        It’s perfectly reasonable to tell the OP that you don’t think their job should cover parking, but can we please stop insulting OPs who mention budget problems? This sentence verges on both ignorance and outright cruelty, though I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way; there are indeed many people for whom $40 is a really big deal, and even if it were feasible for them to “re-evaluate their lives” so that $40 isn’t a big deal (which usually isn’t simple and often isn’t possible), it’s completely unhelpful for their current situation – which is why they wrote in in the first place.

        Reply
    6. AW

      reminds me of the emerging crowdfundig trend where many don’t feel that they should be financially responsible for problems

      I think you’re confused about what crowdfunding is. It’s a cross between donations and investing: people give money to help someone do or finish a project and instead of a percentage of the profits they get some kind of gift, depending on how much they give. So someone trying to self-publish a book, for example, gets enough money to print copies and I might get some artwork from the book for supporting it. While there’s always the risk the project could fail the supporters are supposed to get gifts anyway.

      Many people use crowdfunding or crowdfunding-like platforms to do normal fundraising and donation collecting but they’re not the same thing.

      …why shouldn’t everyone get free parking for personal problems? Where do you draw the line?

      You draw the line at problems that don’t impact your ability to get to work. You may have to add extra caveats to keep it fair (limit how many days a temp pass could be used, maybe only for medical issues, etc.) but this wouldn’t have to be a slippery slope.

      I don’t think the company’s wrong for denying the request but the OP isn’t wildly out of line just for asking.

      Reply
      1. doreen

        Crowdfunding may technically be a cross between donation and investment where the donors get some sort of gift- but GoFundMe is different. I’ve never seen a GoFundMe campaign that was doing anything other than asking for donations towards a personal goal -and none offered gifts to donors. I suspect what LookyLou was referring to was the GoFundMe campaigns that would never have been cause for a collection ten or fifteen years ago. Fifteen years ago, friends and neighbors might have collected money for a family whose house burned down – but people didn’t ask everyone they knew to donate so their kid could go to Europe for three weeks. And I don’t think people in the OPs position fifteen years ago would have expected or even asked for free parking due to an injury no matter how tight money was. Especially since there are no doubt employees who earn the same as or less than the OP who pay for parking or the bus all the time, not just for a month. Doesn’t mean the OP is wildly out of line for asking- but there’s a difference between asking if they will and thinking they should.

        Reply
  16. Robin

    Re: The Mean Girl Blogger article linked here… That letter included enough true detail that she was positively identified, by a separate forum dedicated to talking about specific Tumblr personalities. (I also personally recognized who the letter was about while I was reading it. There was a lot of detail in that letter.) All in all, she was recognized by a lot of people and she had to take her Tumblr down, make her professional website private, delete her social accounts, etc. She had used her real picture and name on her blog a lot.

    Alison, since then I’ve wondered if you’ve ever considered editing the level of detail in a letter, or suggesting that submitters might want to change some specifics when sending questions in?

    Reply
      1. Robin

        I don’t disagree, actually! It just made me think about the level of detail in some of these letters. That one sticks out to me, like I said, because I read it and immediately knew who it was. (And since I know Alison cautions that a lot of issues are common/generic and we shouldn’t assume we can figure out who a poster is writing about – this blogger admitted the letter was about her and apologized before she deleted her Tumblr.)

        Reply
      1. I'm Not Phyllis

        +1! If I was writing about coworkers or a boss at a current job, I would do the editing before I sent the letter in. You know there’s a possibility of the letter ending up online, so protect your job if you need to!

        Reply
        1. april ludgate

          And I’m sure enough people do change details beforehand that it’d probably be hard to distinguish letters with details changed from real details, unless those details were obviously fictional.

          Reply
    1. dancer

      That was one letter where I was consumed by curiousity. I really wanted to know what the blog was because it seemed completely outrageous.

      Reply
    2. Squirrel

      I’m not sure I have much sympathy for a mean, negative person getting caught talking shit about people behind their backs. Yes, people should be able to say what they want, and people should be allowed to express their opinions freely, but it’s pretty short-sighted to imagine that you would never experience any sort of fallout from having bad/negative/rude/whatever opinions or being caught gossiping. Not to mention it is also her own fault that her blog was so recognizable from one post about it (I’m not a Tumblrina, so I never knew what the blog was and still don’t). Everything that happened was directly her own fault. She could have made her blog accessible by password-only, she could have made herself more anonymous, and if you’re talking about Alison removing details to make things less obvious, why shouldn’t the blog writer have done the same thing? You live by the sword, you die by the sword, so to speak.

      Reply
      1. Myrin

        I agree. Additionally, I don’t actually think the original letter is all that detailed, to be honest. The only details I can think of are the cleanse and the gossip about the boss and I feel like mentioning both is kind of necessary to make it clear what exactly the OP’s problem with the blog was. Sure, instead of the cleanse specifically, she could have said “coworker wrote about a medical detail I shared with her” but that could mean a cleanse just as much as something still private yet mundane like a toothache or something, so to really convey why she felt so hurt and betrayed she kind of needed to bring up what kind of intimate procedure we’re talking about here.

        I also feel like this is one of the cases where you (general you) think the details of something are very damning and easily recognisable because you recognised them. But you only recognised them because you’d already known the blog and its post before that. I, as someone who’s active on tumblr yet didn’t know that specific blog, probably wouldn’t be able to find it just by googling “coworker cleanse tumblr”, at least not without investing a lot of time and google-fu.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          Six degrees of relationship. Supposedly, we are all six degrees of relationship apart from each other at most. I think that this means there is a likelihood that someone will recognize someone else. That chance goes up over time, the longer a person writes the more likely someone is to recognize the writer. While I agree with Alison, that most times will be false alarms and the people do not know each other, it’s bound to happen that every so often people do know each other.

          The bottom line is if a person is exhibiting bad behavior, then that person cannot be surprised to be called out on that behavior, eventually. Blogger could have chosen to tell OP not to talk about her cleanse, simple solution, “problem” over. However, blogger chose to use it for material for her blog. Blogger’s concern was not OP’s cleanse, but her actual focus was having material to write about in her blog and something/anything would do.

          Reply
    3. Applesauced

      Go read “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson – it’s not a 100% fit to the Mean Girl, but it shows the other side of (for example) someone writing one off-color tweet and getting fired.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I do love that book. But here the punishment would at least seem to fit the crime–she scorched the online earth for notoriety and it has to lie fallow for a few years before she can use it again.

        Reply
    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      I generally leave it to letter-writers to decide what level of detail they want to share. Although sometimes I’ve had letters that include the employer name and if it’s a small, local employer (as opposed to, say, Target) I edit that out — doesn’t seem right to include it without confirming what’s being said about them.

      Some letter-writers will say “please edit this enough to make me anonymous” and if I’m interested in printing the letter, I ask them to send me a version they’re comfortable having printed — I don’t want to be the one deciding what’s sufficiently anonymous for them (plus that’s additional work).

      Reply
  17. Stan

    #1 — Would your partner be able to drop you off and/or pick you at work for a few days? It might take some rearranging of schedules, but since it would be for such a short time period, maybe you could make it work?

    Reply
  18. Oryx

    #1, For once I have to disagree with Alison! Free parking is not a perk of the job and the OP’s decision to usually bike to work instead of paying the $40 is a choice she’s made. Which is totally fine, but everybody else is paying the $40. Giving you a specific parking space close the building would be a reasonable accommodation, but I don’t think they should be on the hook to pay for the parking that the OP could have been paying all this time but has chosen not to.

    Had this been a work accident, then I’d argue that yes they probably should pay for parking, but that didn’t’ happen. Sometimes being an adult sucks and this is unfortunately of those instances.

    Reply
  19. Marie

    Personally I disagree with Allison for #1 – I’m assuming that your colleagues do not receive free parking, so I think that there is no reason that you should be entitled to it while they are not.

    Reply
    1. Chinook

      I don’t know how it works in the US, but in Canada, company supplied parking is considered a taxable credit even if it is a requirement for job safety (think secure parking for police officers on night shift). From that perspective, see the company allowing the OP to park in a company spot (which may or may not be in high demand) would be a good compromise.

      Reply
  20. Ad Astra

    It sounds like a lot of people are assuming that OP #1 only needs the parking space to get to work in the morning and leave at night, but that’s likely not the case. A reporter has to leave the office and go chase down news all the time. He needs the closer parking space so he can drive to places he might normally walk to (or walk home and get his car for). This is an accommodation to make it possible for him to do his job, not a break on the cost of commuting.

    Considering that reporters are extremely underpaid as a rule, $40 is probably a lot more money to the OP than it is to the company. This kind of thing is why so many talented people leave news to do PR.

    Reply
    1. Marie

      But I’m assuming that OP is not the only reporter at the office, and everyone else who drives to work is paying the $40.

      Reply
      1. Ad Astra

        But the OP is the only one with a sprained ankle. I can’t imagine someone begrudging their colleague a week or two of free parking to deal with an injury. How would they even know whether the OP paid for it or not? If the company has open parking spots, why make such a fuss over a one-time thing?

        Reply
          1. Ad Astra

            That probably depends on a lot of factors. I’ve never known a reporter with a mobility-related disability, presumably because getting around is such a huge part of the job. I’ve never even known a reporter who had a temporary disability, like a sprained ankle. I knew an editor with muscular dystrophy, but he didn’t drive so parking didn’t matter. So it’s totally possible, but my guess is that this situation hasn’t come up at OP’s company any time recently.

            I’m acting on the assumption that the company has an open spot to give and is refusing, even though it would cost them nothing. If it’s actually a leased lot and the company would have to pay the city (or whoever) that $40, the resistance makes more sense.

            Reply
              1. Ad Astra

                Absolutely true. These were small enough newsrooms that I likely would have known about the disabilities because I knew these people so well, but it’s still possible they kept it from me. All I know is that there was never a car in the disabled parking spots at my offices.

                I had a friend in college whose heart condition meant she couldn’t walk long distances, so she had a disabled parking space on our hilly, rather spread-out campus. She got used to the dirty looks, but sometimes people would be so bold as to say something to her face or leave a nasty note on her car because she didn’t look disabled. It was awful.

                Reply
    2. fposte

      But the financial accommodation sought *is* a break on the cost of commuting. This isn’t a request for a disabled parking space–it’s a request to get for free the same parking opportunities her colleagues, including her disabled colleagues, are paying for.

      I get why she wants it, but I just don’t think it’s standard for businesses to absorb the cost of their employees’ parking or temporary health needs.

      Reply
    3. Oryx

      If your other co-workers — including those who are disabled, of both the visible and invisible type — pay $40 for parking, then, yes, you requesting that company absorb your fee is indeed asking for a break on the cost of commuting.

      Reply
    4. Macedon

      On the fence on this. OP’s duties seem to incorporate some field work, but not exclusively. And I can’t think of a single editor worth their salt who’d send an injured reporter out on the field unless the whole newsroom’s neck-deep in the weeds — it’s just impractical, you’d get copy late. If OP were still to receive field assignments, they’d probably involve less ambulance chasing and more coverage of events with a pre-set start/end time.

      On the other hand, come on. Reporters’re paid peanuts. They can spare $40 for OP pro rata.

      Reply
      1. Oryx

        Nowhere in the letter does the OP indicate that they don’t have access to a car. In fact, it’s the opposite: the choice to bike is because work is only a mile away and they don’t want to pay for parking, which indicates that there IS access to a car.

        Reply
  21. Miss M

    1) I bought an ankle wrap supporter from a drug store and it helped give mine support when I was walking around after my injury.

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      We have a grocery store here that sells wraps (ankle, wrist, elbow, knee) at a substantially lower cost than the drug stores. I bought a wrist wrap for around 6 bucks, and the drug store wanted $25 for something that looked less comfortable. I checked with my chiro and he said the cheaper ones were fine and would do the job.

      Reply
  22. Erin

    #1 – Why don’t you have a primary doctor (who could issue you this permit you need for street parking)? Do you have a different doctor who could act as a primary care doctor? I have a lung condition and my lung doctor acts as mine.

    If you don’t, or don’t have health insurance, or your copay is too high, then let’s figure out the cheapest option here: copays can be up to $60 maybe at worst (obviously depending on plans), parking is $40, bus pass is $25. Or you could elongate your recovery by continuing to walk/bike, which I would advise against.

    Looks like you’re taking the bus, dear. Sorry your employer wouldn’t help you out – there’s probably reasons behind it that Alison alluded to that has nothing to do with you. You’ve got to go with your next best option.

    Reply
    1. Ad Astra

      Reporters move a lot, so if the OP has only lived in town for a year or two, it makes sense that they haven’t found a primary doctor. I’ve lived in my town for a year and have no primary care doctor to speak of. Young men, especially, are less likely to go to the doctor regularly. I am surprised, though, that the urgent care place doesn’t do paperwork for these permits.

      It sounds like getting a doctor’s note for a handicap permit will cost as much as or more than paying the $40 to park. The bus pass could be the best choice, though I wonder how useful it would be if the OP lives close enough to walk.

      Reply
    2. Oryx

      Depending on how often one goes (or doesn’t go) to the doctor, a primary care doctor may not be a necessity. I didn’t have one until I was in my thirties. I would just go to Urgent Care if anything serious came up. Even now I only go see mine once a year.

      Reply
      1. Zillah

        I think that a primary care doctor and a yearly physical are pretty much always a necessity. The fact that there are often major issues around accessibility to that necessity just says that our system in fundamentally flawed, not that people don’t need it.

        Reply
        1. Zillah

          To elaborate a little, because this is a huge Thing for me:

          When people use urgent care and the emergency room as substitutes for primary care, it creates major pressures on systems that aren’t designed to bear that burden. That often leads to overcrowding and long wait times, which can delay people who do need immediate care from receiving what they need.

          Moreover, it’s much, much more expensive – seeing a primary care doctor once a year and consistently when issues come up cuts down on healthcare costs significantly, in part because potential issues are often identified before they become a problem, and preventative care tends to be a lot cheaper than the alternative.

          I’m not blaming people who can’t see primary care physicians for issues – as I said, there are some major issues with accessibility, including cost, convenience, and even sometimes quality of care. There aren’t enough primary care physicians, particularly in rural areas, and there are plenty of PCPs who order unnecessary tests or send people to specialists they don’t need to see. However, though it’s understandable for all of those reasons and generally not the patients’ fault, it’s still a huge, huge, huge problem.

          Reply
          1. Development professional

            Yeah, also just because you don’t *have* an existing primary care doctor and went to urgent care when you sprained your ankle, doesn’t mean you can’t make an appointment with a PC now. And should, as follow up, if the sprain is as bad as described. But then, if the $25 bus pass/$40 parking is too much of a burden, that additional co-pay probably is too. This is the risk you incur when your finances are on such a knife edge that an unforseeable expense feels nearly impossible.

            Reply
    1. Ad Astra

      It’s also worth talking to the relevant editors to see if he could avoid stories that would require a lot of walking for the time being. In a pinch, a lot of reporting can be done from the newsroom.

      Reply
  23. GS

    Regarding #5, we actually had to have a conversation with an employee who commented on AAM once. (He shared a link to the article on Facebook, and based on the details of the post and his comments we knew he was sharing information about a client situation) It caused a bit of a kerfuffle with our CEO, who wasn’t aware of the situation until he read the Facebook post and AAM comments and he was pretty bent out of shape. We actually had to convince the CEO not to write some kind of rebuttal because without the Facebook post there was no way it would ever get tied back to our client (the subject matter was pretty generic and anonymous on its own). That said, after everything cooled down I told the employee I was impressed that he read AAM, and we both discussed how awesome this forum is. ;)

    Reply
  24. WLE

    #3 I have left positions off of my application and resume that aren’t at all relevant to the job I’m applying for. It’s just a pain to list every job and timeline I had while I was in college. There’s nothing I’m trying to hide from an employer. It’s just not particularly relevant to know that I spent 4 months at Barton’s Bagels and then took a job at Flora’s Flowers over the summer and then worked on campus in the bookstore, etc. etc. I’ve never had an issue during the background check phase. Either they didn’t come up, or my employer realized that these weren’t relevant for me to list.

    Alison is correct about the government and security jobs though. I had to complete a 30+ page application for a government job where filling in my ENTIRE job history was required. That was fun.

    Reply
    1. Vorthys

      I think I’ve worked around and with the government too long when my first reaction to the length of your application was “Oh, thirty pages? Good for you.”

      I still keenly feel the pain of the first time I had to sort out my whole job history. I’d changed jobs so many times that I had to get a w-2 report from the IRS and reverse engineer the approximate dates. I keep that sucker archived just in case now.

      Reply
    2. Elizabeth West

      I had to also, for an internship at the police department. Plus they wanted all my addresses for the last ten or fifteen years. That required some reaching back….I hung onto that information in case it ever came up again, because compiling it was a major PITA!

      Reply
    3. mander

      Can you enlighten me as to how you could actually get that info? I’m sure I’ve had jobs that I have forgotten, or mis-remembered dates, etc. My CV does not deliberately mislead, but would minor discrepancies (like thinking I started a job in July 1998 but it was actually August) be a problem on a federal application?

      Reply
  25. em2mb

    As a fellow reporter, I’m wondering if there could be some other dynamics at play for OP No. 1. For example, I know I’ve worked in offices before where reporters who biked/walked to work were unavailable to cover stories that were more than X miles from the office. That would make coworkers who always had to drive out to the far-flung suburbs a little resentful when Biker/Walker would says, “Oh, I can’t cover that, I biked to work today.”

    It’s true that having a car might not be a job requirement, but for example in my current newsroom, we had to let someone go last year after he totaled his car in an accident and could not afford to replace it. He became increasingly unreliable and would miss on-air shifts, newscasts, important events he’d been assigned, etc. So no, it wasn’t a job requirement, but it impacted his overall performance.

    Reply
  26. Bagworm

    I noticed the ED reference (as commented on above), too, and wondered if this is a nonprofit as well. If so and they have government (or sometimes private) funding, it’s very likely they would need some sort of hours documented to charge your services to any grants (depending on the funding agency, etc.). If that’s the case though, they shouldn’t need an accounting of the times that you worked but would likely need an accounting of the total hours worked. In some cases, this would need to be on a daily basis. I think it’s probably best to just ask why they are requesting it.

    Reply
  27. Student

    Security clearance checks don’t require you to list every job you’ve ever had – they require you to list everything within a certain time frame of X years. Even the Feds don’t care about your grade school lemonade stand or your high school McDonald’s job.

    Reply
  28. OP #1

    Thanks for all the discussion – it’s nice to hear so many perspectives because I’ve never dealt with something like this before and don’t really have anything to compare it to. This situation was actually resolved shortly after I wrote Alison – my department opted to pay for a month of parking for me to help me out. (I have really awesome bosses.)

    To answer some other questions that have come up – my company does own our parking garage outright, so we’re not paying rental costs or a per-person fee to another company. We also have plenty of available spaces, so depriving someone else of a spot isn’t an issue. (We do also have company cars for reporters to use to go out into the field, but plenty of people drive their own cars to work and use those instead.)

    I totally get everyone who said I needed to suck this up and pay for it, but I went to my employer first because of the nature of my job. Basically, my injury is at a point where I can do x amount of walking per day reasonably without my foot swelling up and becoming distractingly painful. I would rather use that quota to be out in the field interviewing cops or trying to track down a story than limping to and from work every morning. Without free parking, I was going to keep commuting the way I normally do and probably delay healing fully.

    I’m really lucky to have the bosses I do, and now I don’t have to worry that I won’t have the energy to get home if I tire myself out limp-running around the courthouse to break a story.

    Reply
    1. Ad Astra

      Hey, that’s awesome! I think your bosses probably earned themselves a lot of goodwill by helping you out here.

      Reply
      1. OP #1

        Definitely. My department is awesome and my belief in that has been solidified. And now I won’t bat an eyelash if they ask me to head out to some fire where I have to me on my feet and interviewing people for a few hours.

        Reply
  29. Dave

    I have personal knowledge that that mean blog op was pretending to be that coworker to stir up trouble, a.k.a. a troll.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      You mean the OP was the one writing the blog about herself but pretending to be her co-worker? That’s pretty elaborate.

      Reply
      1. Lily in NYC

        I read that as the person who wrote in to Alison was not really the person who Mean Blogger was writing about. Someone else trying to stir up trouble, not Mean Blogger. Now I just confused myself.

        Reply
    2. Ashley

      How can you be sure of that? The comments on that post have at least two people in different states speculating on the blog in question.

      Reply
  30. J

    With the parking thing, I wouldn’t even think to ask. I’d just shrug and grab a 40 dollar parking pass or a 25 dollar bus pass. Which, by the way, are dirt cheap for those modes of transportation. I think any working adult could swing that.

    Reply
      1. J

        This is pretty small expense and something that any adult should be able to budget for. The bus pass is less than a dollar per day and the parking pass is slight more than a dollar per day. Hell, gas and food and utility costs fluctuate by at least that much per month. Clothing rips or wears out and most garments cost at least that much. Shoes often cost twice that. Oil changes and new wiper blades are in that range. This isn’t like a 500 dollar car repair or something. Hell, if the LW wasn’t within walking distance from work he/she would already have to pay that expense. Most people have to pay to park or take transit, and usually at a much higher cost. This is a pretty minor unexpected expense.

        Reply
        1. lorie

          Idk, I wouldn’t presume to know other people’s finances. Remember the OP who wrote in last month who was consistently missing work on Thursdays and Friday’s because he didn’t have the money to re-fill his gas tank? He was missing work because he didn’t have $20 for gas.
          I have no problem believing that an extra $40 would be a struggle for some people.

          Reply
        1. CanadianDot

          There are a lot of *Working* people for whom $40 is their whole food budget for the week, or means that they can’t take their medication, or pay for electricity. You may think that $40 isn’t much money to a working adult, but that comes from a place of pretty lofty privilege.

          Reply

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