is it okay to cry when firing someone, employer is requesting my son’s marriage license and a copy of the wedding invitation, and more

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

1. Is it okay to cry when firing someone?

I have to let an employee go, and I don’t want to, because I like her quite a bit. But she isn’t capable of doing the job and she’s on a PIP that isn’t going well.

The problem is that this isn’t really her fault. She does have some interpersonal issues, but the bigger problem is fit with our current needs. She was hired many years ago into a role that was much different then, and she was successful under former leadership. When our new CEO came on board in 2016, the job expectations changed, and she was unable to change with them, even with the PIP.

I am planning to let her go in the next month and will give her severance. But I’m afraid I will cry when I’m firing her. My gut says that if I feel that way, I should fight it and try really hard to stay professional and not cry. But then part of me says that my tears would show how much I genuinely don’t want to fire her. What do you think?

Try hard not to cry. This conversation is going to be much worse for her than it is for you, and you want to avoid doing anything that risks making her feel (a) like you don’t know that or (b) that she has to console you.

2. My employer is requesting a copy of my son’s marriage license and a copy of the wedding invitation

I requested three days of PTO to go to my son’s wedding this week. It was denied because it supposedly is on a block-out date, even though there will be someone to cover my shifts. The GM then agreed to give me the time off if I provide the following: a copy of the marriage license stating that I am the mother of the groom; if not stated on the license, then the birth certificate; and a copy of the wedding invite

Is this legal in the state of Florida? I find it to be quite an invasion of privacy and moreover, the assistant GM, who also acts as HR manager, discussed the details of my request and their requirements with my coworker, which I find insulting and unethical.

It’s legal, but it’s ridiculous. Your employer sucks. They’re basically telling you that they don’t trust you, and they’re treating you like a wayward child who needs to provide proof that you’re not lying. It’s hard to work with people who treat you like you have no integrity.

3. Can I tell my mistake-making employee she might need glasses?

I have an employee who is great. She is responsible, has amazing customer service skills and is knowledgeable in her field. Unfortunately she continually makes typos and transposes numbers. In a records-keeping position, that could result in losing an item indefinitely. We have had conversations about this many times, even a disciplinary action after a complaint from our CIO, and every time she promises to try to improve.

Over the past several months, she has made comments that she may need glasses, because she has noticed things have changed when she’s commuting, etc. Putting two and two together, I think it’s possible that her vision problems might be contributing to her inaccuracies. As an eyeglass wearer myself, I know I didn’t realize how badly my eyesight was affecting my schoolwork (I was a child) until after I got glasses.

I casually made mention of this to her after her most recent mess-up, and she agreed it may be time to see a doctor. She is also one of those people who drags her feet about doing things in her personal life: “I should get a new mattress,” “I need a new TV”, one year later, no new mattress, no new TV. I truly believe that being able to see more clearly will improve her work product. This being a medical decision, however, I am unsure how much urging I can do or even how I can approach the subject. I don’t want to lose her because she made a mistake on the wrong person’s assignment, when it could have been prevented.

Does she realize how serious your concerns about her mistakes are, and that if they continue, it could potentially lead to her losing her job? If you haven’t been very direct with her about that, you owe it to her to let her know — and if you do, she might take the glasses thing more seriously.

Sit down with her and say something like this: “We’ve talked before about the mistakes you’ve made in records, like typos and transposing numbers. I need to tell you that my concerns about this are serious. While you’re great at other pieces of your job like X and Y, continuing to make mistakes in this area would be serious enough that it could jeopardize your job here. I don’t want to see that happen, but I need you to take this very seriously. You’d mentioned that you might need glasses — I don’t know if that could be part of the issue here, but if you think it could be, I urge you to investigate that soon. If it’s not that, let’s talk about what else you might need to help you resolve this — but I need you to know that it’s a serious thing that we’ve got to find a fix for.”

4. Mad flusher

We’ve had recurring issues with water leaking and pouring through the light fixtures in our ladies restroom. Maintenance finally let us know that the office on the floor above us has a problem with an employee purposefully clogging the toilet and flushing it repeatedly until it overflows. Where it then ends up raining down from our ceiling…

We’ve notified the office managers above us and they admitted that it’s a problem and could be a disgruntled employee. But I’m wondering if this was a problem with one of my employees how I would address it? Monitoring who uses the restroom seems over the line.

The only way I know of to make this kind of thing stop is by having people sign out keys to access the bathrooms.

5. My employees babysit for me and it’s causing problems

I own a home-based pre-school and have always utilized my teachers to watch my own kids as part of our agreement upon hire. Sometimes I ask them to stay late while I run preschool errands and other times its just for PTO. I disclose in the job advertisement as well as their offer letter that one Saturday/month is required for this in addition to the weekly hours of the preschool or the after-school hours we schedule in advance — all at the agreed upon hourly rate. All payroll runs through a payroll service.

Between my two teachers, one has always willing to fulfill the personal babysitting hours “end of the bargain.” But that teacher resigned, leaving me with one teacher.

I asked the other teacher if she can commit to a specific Saturday (mind you, only the second one in her four months of employment) and she texted me saying, “Yes, but for your kids I will charge $20/hour and I need cash.” This rate is $7/hour more than her hourly rate. I tried to explain to her in our meeting today that I give her guaranteed hours as an employee and ask for her to just give me six hours a month with just my children alone, which we agreed upon at hire. At pre-school, we have 12 children (four kids to one person) and our structured program is a ton of work. She said that is a different job title, babysitter vs. teacher assistant.

I’ve never run into this before but I wanted some advice for this young lady who clearly used the wrong approach for negotiation via text and openly told me she is being encouraged by family/friends. From my perspective, I don’t see the difference for a job title between these two positions, especially when you’re an hourly employee. Keep in mind I pay her on the honor system for her time working offsite for any research or projects, as well as her time on site. Lastly, I gave her a 7.6% raise six weeks ago and $100 bonus. She has only been employed since late November. So our our original agreement of “babysitting” was at that lower rate of pay prior to her raise.

Maybe I am the jerk? I mean, I could just pay her more but I feel like that opens a major can of worms. I worked for over 20 years in management prior to starting this business. I have hired and managed hundreds of employees. This is certainly a first.

I … think this is actually pretty sketchy sounding. Regardless of what you negotiated upon hire, she’s entitled to want to revisit the terms of that arrangement, and she’s right that doing personal babysitting for you is a different job than the teacher assistant job at the pre-school.

Honestly, I would stop mixing your employees with your personal babysitting needs; it’s just too fraught with potential for problems and weirdness (if not for you, then for them).

{ 580 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. The Rat-Catcher

    #4 – I’m so sorry! That is disgusting and the office managers above you need to address it now. ASAP. Yesterday.

    Reply
    1. Engineer Girl

      They make little devices that shriek loudly when they get wet. My church installed some under the toilets after one of them clogged and flooded the sanctuary. The devices are battery powered. I suspect the person would have a higher chance of getting outed if the alarm went off. Maintenance could install them.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        This idea is brilliant.

        But also, how have they had an employee who is consistently clogging the toilet out of any gear but have done nothing about it?! I understand that they may think this is maintenance’s job, but frankly, it’s a massive health and sanitation issue (and I’m sure it’s causing structural damage if it’s leaking through the ceiling) that should not be responded to with a shoulder shrug by the company upstairs.

        Reply
        1. Engineer Girl

          That’s why I suggested maintenance – they actually care about the damage and clean up. The devices operate off of a 9v battery and cost around $12 US each. They’re the size of a pack of cards. I’d put one under each toilet. Good luck getting them all turned off when the room gets flooded.
          Maintenance should also be sending the bills for damage to the company to inspire them into finding the flusher.

          Reply
        2. Gadfly

          They might not have caught them yet. My mother’s old office had (has?) a serial poo painter that would have a run of a few weeks then stop for months and then start again. And it has been going on for YEARS

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            1. Liane

              Trying to find a way to put this delicately, but no luck. Someone who spreads feces all over a restroom as a way of expressing that they are unhappy, angry, etc. at work. Instead of job hunting &/or emailing Alison for how to deal with.

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              1. Koko

                This is not just horrifying but actually makes me so sad, because all they’re doing is punishing the poor put-upon janitorial staff, who are almost 100% likely not the person the poo-people are mad at. People have no decency.

                Reply
                1. Gadfly

                  It does also cause issues between all of the co-workers as they all try to guess who it is…

                  I have never seen my mother angrier than when someone suggested it was her because the person used the handicapped stall and Mom uses a wheelchair. Closest she ever came to filing a grievance for it not being handled well and I regret she didn’t.

              2. Lora

                What the…? I…I am so lost here. I can’t even express how awful this is.

                If some enterprising person wants to make $$$, figure out a way to do a validated pre-employment screening test for this nonsense. I’d much rather know about poo-painting than recreational drug use.

                I’ve known people with personality problems who somehow got hired and resulted in entire departments having 100% turnover, but damn. It was more like, they had explosive tempers and entitled attitudes, shouted a lot and finger-pointed rather than trying to problem-solve, they were bigoted, they sabotaged other people’s work to make their own failures look better, they were hiding some gross incompetence they had lied about on their resume. Things like that. This is just a whole new level.

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          1. Bea

            That’s one of the things they ask you in psych evaluations “do you ever smear your poo places” (only of course in scientific terms). So that’s a whole different ceature, it’s not normal to ever do that.

            Reply
          2. Artemesia

            This is one that calls for the key system; a real PITA but not as great a one as having to put up with a poo painter. Having worked retail in college and having to deal with people who poo in changing rooms of department stores, nothing would surprise me.

            Reply
          3. Anna

            What the actual what? I can’t even…I CANNOT EVEN.

            Please, people of the world, if you are so unhappy with your job that you will stick your hands in your own feces and spread it around the restroom, please for the love of decent humans everywhere, find another job.

            Reply
        3. Gadfly

          I wonder if the OP’s company could send some sort of bill or a letter from an attorney about the matter? I would think it would violate something. Maybe that would get them to crackdown on the upstairs tenant to get them to do something?

          Reply
          1. Blue

            This. I would bill them every time. (And maybe escalate to filing a police report? This sounds like chronic, deliberate destruction of property.)

            Reply
            1. Spoonie

              I’m sure come lease renewal time they may end up having to leave, which would also be costly. Or their rent could skyrocket. This situation is just…wow.

              Reply
        4. Dust Bunny

          Because it’s not their office getting rained on. Guarantee you if they were the ones getting wet, they’d have solved it by now.

          Reply
        5. Thumper

          I was coming here to say this could be a major health issue if left untreated. I had a very similar situation happen in college with our upstairs neighbors constantly flooding their bathroom and it leaking into ours. Our bathroom ended up getting black mold and we were all sick for weeks.

          Reply
        6. so much for eating breakfast

          A situation like this happened in my old workplace — except the management was blaming it on overflows and “feminine products,” when the actual situation was that the management had cheaped out on the third-floor plumbing, and it was the actual pipes leaking.

          Is this a possibility, or has someone (janitorial staff, etc.) verified that there actually are regular overflows?

          (This isn’t me casting doubt on the OP; it’s just that the *exact* same situation happened in a case where I was employed by the third-floor tenant, and the second-floor tenant had been stridently agitating against us long before the leakage even began.)

          Reply
      2. Blueismyfavorite

        How much wetness do those alarms have to sense to go off? Because at my office we have a squatty potty-er who always gets the floor wet. It’s disgusting! Our office is 95% professionals ranging from mid-twenties to late 60’s and the state of our women’s room would lead you to believe a bunch of toddlers worked there. Pee on the floor, pee on the seats, and other unmentionables left behind. I actually discussed this with our HR lady and she’s at loss for what to do because it’s embarrassing that a bunch of grown women can’t use the restroom properly.

        Reply
        1. Christine D

          We have those same alarms behind each of the toilets in our house (because one toilet malfunction at 3 am that floods your floor and literally makes your ceiling rain into your kitchen, destroying your stove and kitchen cabinets is ONE TOO MANY) and I’d say that if a full drop of water seeped underneath them they’d go off. I also have a 3 year old who potty-trained last year and they never went off because of her because they’re placed behind the toilet. It would take a lot of water for it to seep all the way around and to the back of the toilet to set one off. But man, once they go off…they are LOUD. Like fire alarm loud. I think it would nip the toilet-clogging in the bud. I wholeheartedly endorse this tactic.

          Reply
          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            Oh man, you’ve had that too? Ours went into the living room instead of the kitchen, but I’ll be happy with my life if I never again see water pouring out of a light fixture!

            (Happily, it was at least clean water; it was the line in that burst, not the line out!)

            Reply
            1. Elizabeth West

              I had a line-in burst out of the blue–luckily I was home at the time and was able to sprint in there and shut the water off! That is a serious mess.

              If they find out who is doing this at that office, they need to fire that person NAOW.

              Reply
              1. Big Picture Person

                I had my water line to my ice maker burst while I was 8 hours away. The tiny plastic tube pumped so much water that it flooded the whole house, until my neighbors saw it coming out around the guttering of the house (the fridge was on the second floor). Those little alarms should be on every plumbing outlet, especially on a second floor or above. Wow.

                Reply
            2. None Of This Nonsense, Please

              Our neighbor’s upstairs toilet float broke, so the tank continued to fill…from about midnight to about 5am when their toddler got into bed with them with wet feet. It was running down the stairs and through the back wall down the back of the house….Clean water, but the flooring, and the bottom two feet of wall, for most of the house had to be replaced. Just…unbelievable.

              Reply
        2. Liane

          “Grown women who can’t use the restroom properly” is a problem that has existed for decades. My dad told me about a woman friend who ran a bar & grill in the years after World War 2. She once told him, in detail, how much worse the women’s room was to clean than the men’s. Ewww, it made the restrooms at my old middle and high schools sound clean–& I mostly used the band room ones because they were the only non-gross ones since only a few students had access. We had good janitorial staff, but it was them vs. several hundred adolescents.

          Reply
          1. Nervous Accountant

            Seriously–I remember the bathrooms in school being pretty clean, never recall seeing anything disgusting.

            Working world, and public malls–really makes me hate humanity.

            Reply
            1. Liane

              Well, the schools there was more cigarette smoke than gross messes, because nothing makes a teen want to do ABC more than a Don’t Do ABC rule.

              And, yes, to the work and mall restrooms. The punishments I have fantasized for coirkers, customers, and fellow shoppers who don’t clean up after themselves (and their kids!) would horrify the Marquis de Sade. C’mon, people–do you drop gross paper waste on the floor, dribble on the floor & seat, flood the floor, etc. in your own bathroom? In your relative’s or friend’s bath?

              Reply
              1. Candi

                Worked mall housekeeping. Tortures of Dante’s Inferno on some people.

                Aside from messes, it is NOT $&#%* adorable when your brat unrolls the entire JUST-replaced toilet paper roll.

                Reply
          2. Koko

            Can corroborate this with my own experience working food service in the 2000s and 2010s. Womens room was always nastier than the mens. I have this pet theory that it’s a passive-aggressive response to being expected to do all the cleaning in their own homes, so they take it out on the cleaning staff in the one place they aren’t responsible for the mess.

            Reply
            1. Nervous Accountant

              I never thought of it this way. Fascinating.

              That doesn’t explain mens’ rooms though (which I’ve heard are worse!)?

              Reply
            2. SoGrossTho

              I would think it was this or at my previous place of employment it was because there were tons of squatters. As in they would hike up their skirt and just attempt to get most of it in the bowl. Absolutely disgusting and many a nasty sign popped up in those restrooms.

              Reply
      3. DorcasGood

        Hi OP#4 here. This is an awesome idea. I thought about these for my own basement but it didn’t occur to me in this situation. I wonder if they could be secured or put in a closet? Could the flusher just move it up on the sink counter top?

        Reply
        1. Kathleen Adams

          I was wondering that, too. I think you might have to rely on the element of surprise (that is, that the person won’t even think about it being there until it starts shrieking), but I’m interested to see what those who have experience with these things say.

          Reply
        2. Candi

          If they’re suitably blasé/adorable, they’d probably be ignored the first time. Maybe be mistaken for air fresheners. >:)

          Reply
      4. Circles

        Another idea that would work if the company already has access cards (swipe badges) is to install a swipe lock and employee has to swipe to go in. Our badge system logs every door you “swipe” through so if this company has a similar system, they could check the swipe logs against when things are flooding and see if they could narrow down the suspects. Sure, it could be a hassle but I’m sure having flooding toilet water pour through light fixtures is a hassle, too. Maybe even a health hazard. And honestly, if you so unhappy that purposely flooding the bathrooms seems reasonable to you, it’s definitely time to move on.

        Reply
      5. Turtle Candle

        We have one of those (washing machine is on the 3rd floor, so a leak there could cause all kinds of disaster). Screeches up a storm when wet (and has an adorable ladybug design). It could function as a deterrent in the LW’s situation!

        Reply
    2. Meg

      My office actually had a mad flusher, but we don’t think it is one of our employees. The restroom is on a floor with other businesses in a public area of the building so we don’t have rights to limit the access to the restroom. We did get building maintenance to install a camera outside the restroom to monitor who goes in. The behavior then magically stopped.

      Reply
    3. SophieChotek

      I really can’t even fathom why someone would deliberately clog a toilet than keep flushing until it overflows. (I mean don’t they have to run like mad to ensure they don’t get wet too?)

      That said, at the coffee shop where I worked, we did have a lady who did this…not intentionally…well, I think she was embarrassed that she’d clogged the toilet, so she kept flushing it, instead of asking us for a plunger…and totally overflowed the toilet. And it took like an hour to clean. And unfortunately ever since then, when I see the customer, the first thought that goes through my mind is…”You’re the one who backed up our toilet and had our employees practically throwing up in the restroom when they had to clean it up/mop up the floors/unstop the toilet…”

      Reply
      1. thebluecastle

        oh man..i would just never go back to that coffee shop again. the shame would be too great! also, I really wish more public and office restrooms had plungers already in them because I have no problems plunging a toilet myself but I am HORRIFIED of having to ask for one. I’d probably just leave quickly and never return like a jerk lol

        Reply
        1. SophieChotek

          I know right? (Plus whenever I see her…I’m like “do i need to use there restroom? Must go before she goes…”) I don’t think I could go again either…I’d so embarrassed. But she comes every couple days and stays for hours and hours…

          Reply
        2. Candi

          Honestly? People steal the things.

          Yes, people steal plungers. And rolls of paper towels/toilet paper, and soap dispensers, and small trash cans, and…

          Humans can be such glassbowls.

          Reply
    4. Chickaletta

      This whole story is gross. This is an adult? WT actual H?

      If it was my employee, I would fire them immediately, do not pass go, do not collect $200. They could take their resume and sewage elsewhere.

      Reply
    5. The Southern Gothic

      This is happening only in the Ladies’ room? I wont put too fine a point on this – the item clogging the toilet may not be toilet paper. Does this happen on a predictable schedule, perhaps?

      Good luck, in any case.

      Reply
    6. Gadget Hackwrench

      #4 I’m so sorry. I know that feel. At OldJob we had a few disgruntled bathroom users… yes a FEW. We had the lady’s room pisser who always peed OUTSIDE the toilet, a guy in the men’s room who smeared poo on the walls on the regular, and someone who made a daily habit of stuffing the packaging from his McDonalds lunch in the toilet, and then going on top of it… making it impossible to flush. Oldjob had, for reasons unknown, decided that when custodial couldn’t handle a building related problem it was IT’s job to interface with the landlord (apparently he counted as a ‘vendor’?) and inform him that yes… we were going to need a plumber again please. It’s a really weird feeling to know that one of the people you work with… is secretly a disgusting bathroom vandal. *Twitch.*

      Reply
  2. RG

    OP #1, will you be able to give her a reference in the future? If you can, be specific that the needs of the role changed. Or, if possible, negotiate a way for the employee to leave that makes it easier to acknowledge that. That’s probably the best way to show that you agree that this situation isn’t entirely of her

    Reply
    1. Blossom

      Agreed – I was thinking, can’t she be made redundant? It sounds like the requirements of the business have changed, and the job is no longer the one she was hired for and was competent in. Firing doesn’t seem quite right.

      Reply
      1. SineNomine

        Forgive my ignorance, is there some terminology issue here I don’t understand? I thought “made redundant” is just a euphemism for a “no-fault firing”. OP #1 clearly says she is laying her off with severance so…I don’t understand if there is an actual mechanical difference here…

        Reply
        1. Dizzy Steinway

          PS Redundancy and firing (ie for cause) are very different. Firing is about the person; redundancy is about cutting a position. Op needs someone in this role so it’s not redundant.

          Reply
        2. EvilQueenRegina

          We Brits say “made redundant” when someone is laid off and the position is no longer required, if that helps…maybe that’s the issue? I know once I was telling an American friend that “Bitch Eating Crackers was made redundant” and then had to clarify that in fact she was laid off.

          Reply
          1. One of the Sarahs

            Yeah, UK “made redundant” usually means no fault of the employee, but that there was no need for the post anymore/downsizing etc, while “fired” implies it was because something the employee did wrong. Very useful for the first class of employees as they look for other work.

            Reply
            1. MillersSpring

              FWIW, you can give someone severance when firing them. Severance and firing do not have to be mutually exclusive.

              Reply
            2. MegaMoose, Esq

              The distinction in the US is basically the same. The main ways that it matters would be if future employers ask why you left a role, and filing for unemployment benefits – if you are let go “for cause” or quit, you generally can’t collect unemployment.

              Reply
              1. TootsNYC

                But I’ve been laid off because of restructuring–The position wasn’t eliminated, it was just re-defined, and I didn’t fit the new definition.
                It was labeled as such, I got unemployment and a good reference, etc.
                I’ve seen that happen a lot!

                That’s what I’d be trying to do, were I LW #1. To cast this as a layoff due to restructuring–we now needed someone with different skills.
                Internally, I’d say, “we tried it out, to see if she could make the transition, and she couldn’t, so we’re going to let her go after all, with severance, and start with ssomeone else.

                Reply
              2. Koko

                In my state (Maryland) you can collect unemployment if you are fired for cause as long as it wasn’t negligence or misconduct. So if you go on a PIP and you really try but you just can’t get there, you would still be able to collect. It would only be if you were violating policies and rules that it’d be considered misconduct.

                There are actually three tiers in Maryland: simple misconduct (you violated the social media policy, say) means you can’t collect unemployment until you’ve been unemployed for a couple months. Gross misconduct (repeated violations or big ones like embezzlement, violence, falsifying records) means you can’t collect benefits this time around AND you have to stay at your next job a certain amount of time (I think around 6 months?) to be eligible for benefits again in the future. Then there’s “aggravated misconduct” which basically means you intentionally plotted to do whatever it was you did, for the clear purpose of causing harm or damage.

                Reply
        3. Brogrammer

          I often see conversations go in circles when this term pops up on US-based websites, but it’s just the UK term for layoffs. And, while the LW’s employee is on a PIP, calling it a layoff instead of a firing would be a kindness to her especially in light of the fact that the role changed.

          Reply
  3. Artemesia

    Oh please don’t cry when firing someone. I totally relate as I did tear up once doing this; it is hard hard hard to do. But when you are trashing someone’s life, don’t make it about you. Do some run throughs in your head so you can be cool and attend to her issues and not yours when you do the firing. Hard but a necessity for a professional.

    ‘Mad flusher’ — that this happened more than twice is astounding. How hard is it to go to the key system or failing that to have someone on this until the miscreant is identified. Yes lurking near the restroom secretly — not a great gig, but it is ridiculous for this to be allowed to continue.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      So very much agreed on the no crying rule. OP, it feels awful, but you’ve noted that this employee simply cannot meet the basic demands of her (restructured) job. That’s insanely demoralizing for her and clearly no good for your employer. But crying while you fire her would not demonstrate that you think her firing is unfair. It will seem a little odd (like, why are you crying when she’s the one losing her job?), and it would be so cruel to make her feel like she has to accommodate, forgive, or console you because of your feelings re: firing her. She’s going to be going through her own misery, and although I’m positive you don’t intend it, it’s going to seem really cruel and emotionally manipulative to refocus the conversation on your feelings and not hers.

      I think the best thing you can do is give her a generous severance deal, possibly negotiate her notice period to try to give her as much time as possible to find a new gig, and be an enthusiastic reference for her.

      Reply
      1. Wendy Darling

        My boss got a little shiny about the eyes during my exit meeting when I was laid off. But then she controlled herself. I would have been incredibly disgruntled if she’d started crying — I know she didn’t want to lay me off but *she* got to keep her awesome job, whereas mine disappeared into the ether leaving me with no immediate prospects. If I in my capacity as Person Having Their Life Slightly Wrecked can refrain from crying in that meeting, nobody else had better cry!

        Reply
        1. Rebecca in Dallas

          I could tell my boss was really upset having to tell me my job was being eliminated. Especially when *I* started crying! But she held it together, gave me really good advice and helped me calm down before I left her office. I really appreciated her professionalism, it would not have helped me at all if she started crying. (I did notice that she closed her door immediately after I left, I think she needed a moment as well.)

          I’ve had to let people go before for issues like what you are describing. Honestly, she may be really relieved, especially if she is getting severance and a good reference.

          Reply
      2. Kate

        my only tip is to stop crying once the conversation is done… but it’s to force yourself to smile (or at least grin) while trying to remember the next 7 things in your calendar in order. Distract the brain and fool the body and as long as you don’t go right back to thinking about whatever made you cry I’m good to go.

        Reply
    2. Sparrow

      Does anyone have strategies for keeping unwanted tears in check? I find it virtually impossible to talk about certain things without tearing up, and I suspect OP might have a similar concern.

      Reply
      1. Justanotherthought

        Yes – this! I am not the OP, but I am someone like this.

        One trick I use when I feel I am about to cry is to think about what time it is (“We scheduled this meeting for 2 pm… we walked in about 2:05… we’ve been talking for a few minutes so it’s probably 2:08…. etc). That usually distracts me enough to compose myself.

        I also like someone else’s suggestion somewhere in the comments to run through it over and over. Say it out loud (where no one else can here you – or maybe at home to a spouse – or ask your boss to hear you out while you say the words out loud several times). The more numb you can make yourself to saying the words, the better (for the record, just in this case so you don’t cry – I’m not saying to become an unfeeling jerk who likes firing people…)

        Reply
        1. Mabel

          I had to do this same thing to avoid crying while singing. After rehearsing a LOT of times, I was finally able to get through it without crying. But it took a lot of practice that included crying. It also helped that the person producing the performance said we absolutely could not cry during it.

          Reply
          1. Jessica

            Yes! I write songs, some of which are quite sad, and I find it hard not to cry when I sing them. Lots of repetition helps, or simply not thinking about the words…but then I also think my performance is dryer. It’s tough.

            Reply
      2. Jill_P

        So, I can’t guarantee this works, but what I have been told (during a how-to-make-a-presentation-well type of course) is that squeezing your buttcheeks together can help prevent crying in the moment. Worth a shot? At the very least it’ll probably amuse you.

        Reply
      3. Sherry

        This is weird, and won’t work for everyone, but I’m sometimes able to stop myself from crying by appealing to my own vanity. I tell myself: “You cannot be red and puffy-faced. You cannot let your mascara run. Don’t get all teary and blotchy.”

        Reply
        1. mreasy

          This has worked for me, too! I have intentionally worn a mascara I know will run when I have had a particularly difficult conflict on the schedule to hammer the point home, even. It’s really the hassle of having to reapply that gets me!

          Reply
      4. SystemsLady

        You can pinch the bridge of your nose, but unfortunately that isn’t going to look good while firing somebody, either.

        Reply
      5. SometimesALurker

        One thing that sometimes helps is having a glass of water handy, and taking a sip when you feel the tears threaten to well up. It’s not foolproof, but it helps.

        Reply
      6. Lucky

        If you clasp your hands together, you can usually dig a fingernail into the meat of your thumb. Don’t bruise yourself or break the skin, just hit that point where ‘pressure’ turns into low-level ‘pain’, and then focus on that ouch-point. In my experience it works, I guess because your brain natually pays attention to physical pain? It may not work for everyone, though.

        If you want a calmer method, you can count your breathing like you do in meditation? You know, all that ‘breathe in, hiold, breathe out’ stuff. But you’ll need to practice that one first, and it’s not a good idea for some people with some health issues.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Pressing your big toe down very hard in your shoe works the same way. I used it also to calm myself down at the start of a skating performance, when waiting for the music to begin.

          Reply
      7. OhNo

        I’ve had success with taking deep breaths through my nose, and staring at a fixed point trying to look at all the little details (counting spots on the ceiling, figuring out the weave of the carpet, whatever). Focusing on little details forces your eyes to stay relatively clear of tears, and the deep breaths keep you from doing that hiccup-y breathing thing that often goes with a crying jag. If you’re worried about your voice catching, take little sips of water before you speak.

        Reply
      8. Hermione

        Generally I bite my tongue (with my molars on the back/side, if that matters, and slowly, not chomping) . Something about focusing on a new pressure point relieves the pressure of the tears against my eyes…

        Reply
      9. Sniffly Wiffly

        I wouldn’t do this regularly but taking a strong decongestant can dry you up and make it so tears don’t come as easily.

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          Not a bad idea. I have allergies and so teary eyes are part of that especially during pollen season; this makes not crying in such situations harder since I am half way there. But is is just so important not to that having several techniques at hand is a good idea. I hadn’t thought of decongestants, but would do it if I had to do this again. I have fired a few people over the years and every one was a struggle not to tear up — but you just MUST control this.

          Reply
      10. Tangerina Warbleworth

        You can preempt a crying fit by acting it out beforehand, or just thinking about it. Sometime when you’re alone, go ahead and role-play the firing, and let yourself cry. Then do it again, and again. After a while you’ll be so cried out over it that when it actually happens, you’ll be fine! I read about people doing this months ahead of weddings, where they’d be certain they’d cry and didn’t want to. You basically just get it out of your system first.

        Reply
      11. ATXFay

        When I anticipate the potential for tears, I keep a bottle of water/cup of coffee with me. When I was a kid someone had told me that it’s hard to drink and cry at the same time..and it’s true! Everytime I feel like I’m about to well up, I take a sip of my drink. I’ve been using the water sip trick for years.. works wonders!

        Reply
    3. Chickaletta

      “But when you are trashing someone’s life, don’t make it about you.”

      100%. Good rule to follow in all kinds of situations.

      Reply
      1. Anna

        I’m adding this to my list of things to remember when doing difficult things.

        When I was laid off, my boss was able to keep it together right up until the end and then she excused herself and let the HR person do the exit stuff. On the one hand I was annoyed, on the other I was glad she didn’t steal my sadness thunder.

        Reply
    4. Chomps

      Yes to this. I was fired once. It was awful. If my boss had cried I would have been furious. It’s not affecting her life as much as it’s affecting mine.

      Reply
  4. LydiaWolf

    OP 1
    I’d say the much better thing you can do for her (instead of crying), is to give her a glowing reference so that it is much easier for her to get a new job

    Reply
    1. Jeanne

      And you can still express sympathy without crying. Tell her you’re sorry that things didn’t work out and you wish her well. The reference is good. Is there any chance of compensation? Some severance pay or a few months of healthcare.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        Oh expressing sympathy and talking about what you can do to help is very important in situations like this. The first person I fired had been insubordinate after having been warned about an issue but I didn’t want to prevent her from transferring elsewhere in the organization as what led to this had a lot of historical texture — it was complicated — but I had to let her go. I agreed to hold off on firing her or putting her on probation so she could find a position elsewhere in the organization which she did within two weeks. If someone steals or does something otherwise ‘right now’ egregious then immediate dismissal is imperative. But for someone who is simply not up to this job or in situations that are more complicated, letting them have a little time to transfer is kind if there is not a high risk of sabotage.

        Reply
  5. Cynical Lackey

    Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid all offer 3-packs of reading glasses for about 15 bucks a pack. She can go into the store and try on various strengths to see if one of them works. If it is simple nearsightedness that’s all she needs. If that doesn’t work, she probably should go see an eye doctor.

    Reply
    1. Turanga Leela

      Wait, that’s backwards. Reading glasses are usually for people who are farsighted, not nearsighted. I’m nearsighted, and in 20 years of wearing glasses, I’ve never been able to get them at the drugstore—I’ve always had to go to an eye doctor for a prescription.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        They definitely sell “reading glasses” for nearsighted people at drug stores. It’s a little misleading because, as you noted, “reading glasses” meant correction for farsightedness, but I think the term now means “any vision correction that enables reading.”

        But I do hope OP will lean on her employee to get her eyes checked. It sounds like she’s on the verge of firing, and if reading glasses could prevent that outcome, then I would have a conversation in which OP explicitly ties seeing an optometrist (or buying drugstore glasses to try out) to her employee’s continued employment. I don’t think the employee realizes how seriously at risk her job is right now.

        Reply
        1. Colette

          The problem could be a lot of things u related to vision, though. I don’t think the employer should make visiting a specific medical professional part of the PIP – in part because what the employer wants is for the problem to stop, but also because if the employee goes to an optometrist but that’s not the solution, her job is still at risk.

          Reply
      2. Rick Tq

        If OP #3’s employee can’t see close up to file or do data entry properly then she is farsighted and store-bought readers may help. Then again she may just have old-folks eyes and can’t focus close up for a while after driving and looking the distance. IIRC the lenses in your eyes start to stiffen up after 40, making it harder to change focal distance quickly.

        That said she still should see an optometrist soon. Glaucoma, cataracts, and astigmatism can all cause vision problems that OTC reading glasses can’t correct.

        Reply
        1. Chocolate Teapot

          Is it possible to have a company wide eye test? Mine did this recently via the association for health at work. (We get free flu jabs in winter from them too!)

          Basically, each employee had a 10 minute test, followed by a short chat and a prescription.

          Reply
          1. lb

            Organizing a company wide eye exam sure is an expensive and complicated way to keep avoiding a frank conversation with one employee!

            Reply
            1. Dizzy Steinway

              In the UK employers legally have to contribute to eye tests for anyone who uses display screen equipment in their job – there’s not a company-wide eye exam, you just get a voucher (ours is arranged through the EAP). Maybe something similar is possible.

              Reply
              1. ThatGirl

                For nearly any company with vision benefits, the vision plan covers an eye exam at little or no cost. The trick might be getting the employee to go to the eye doctor.

                Reply
                1. bloo

                  Well that’s why the advice to let the the employee know their job is on the line and why so the *employee* can figure it out and fix it is best. Whether that is an eye test or a dyslexia test is on them.

          2. Allison

            My old job did eye exams for health week. Not sure if they were free or not though, because I didn’t do them, they were optional. Being forced to take an eye exam, or get a flu shot, or undergo any sort of screening by my employer, would rub me the wrong way.

            Reply
            1. Surrogate Tongue Pop

              This would rub me the wrong way, too. Plus, even if she did an onsite exam and got a script for glasses, she’d still have to drag herself to go GET the glasses. That seems to be the crux of the issue here, that the employee drags her feet on some personal tasks, regardless of “need”.

              Reply
            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I understand, but I do appreciate when my employer makes this stuff voluntary and available at work.

              Reply
        2. LCL

          #3 I feel your pain. If I had the power (I don’t) I would require everyone who drives for our company to get an eye exam every two years. The results of which to be kept confidential between the employee and the provider. If you have the power to mandate your employee see an eye care provider of her choice, do it. At minimum, look online to find a brochure explaining what happens during an eye exam and give it to her.

          I have learned that people that have never worn glasses can be extremely hesitant to visit an eye doctor, because they don’t know what is involved. When they hear eye exam they picture the same type of poking and prodding that happens to other parts of the body. Eyes are one of those body parts that there is all sorts of weird non factual pseudo science about, I have heard it all.

          And Rick’s 3rd point is the most important. My eye doctor has commented that people in their mid40s who have never needed glasses so never had their eyes checked are the patients that present with serious vision problems that would have been better addressed much sooner.

          Reply
      3. Emi.

        My drugstore sells glasses labeled in different strengths, some “+” and some “-“. Wouldn’t that cover near- and far-sightedness?

        Reply
        1. Candi

          Unfortunately, no. That just relates to the strengths. The OTC glasses are all for reading distances, and don’t do squat for astigmatism.

          Reply
    2. MK

      This really isn’t a good idea. Glasses are not accessories, they are a medical-correction device. Go to the appropriate medical professional.

      Reply
      1. ZuKeeper

        OP #3, It could be possible your employee is having trouble making ends meet, because every item you mentioned that she is dragging her feet on is a fairly expensive item to replace. That new mattress or TV could be rent or a car payment. I would definitely suggest she try readers to see if they help. If they don’t, she’s out $5.

        If they do make a difference, she really should go to the eye doc for a prescription, but even with good insurance the glasses themselves can be crazy expensive, especially since in most cases they cover ONE pair per year. My eyes actually changed enough mid year that my eye doc told me to get readers until my next scheduled exam.

        Reply
        1. thebluecastle

          That’s a good point ZuKeeper. OP, it might be a good idea to casually mention inexpensive places online to purchase glasses from. You still need a doctor’s prescription (hopefully covered by insurance) but websites like EyeBuyDirect and Coastal (among others) can have really really inexpensive glasses and frames. They’re the exact same quality as what you would get from a more expensive retailer. I have an astigmatism in one eye plus I wanted slightly fancier frames and I only paid $50 at EyeBuyDirect, that’s including frames and lenses as opposed to over $200 elsewhere. Some of the frames start as cheap a $7. Sorry for getting a bit off topic but it could be a money issue so knowing she has a more affordable option may be helpful to your employee.

          Reply
          1. Gadfly

            Single vision, there are some pairs (frames and lenses) for $7 at zenni, $5 shipping for the whole order. I am hard on glasses and just get several pairs of cheap ones.

            Reply
      2. Anna

        Yes and no. For the OP’s employee, it’s probably necessary to see a medical professional and actually have any vision issues diagnosed and corrected. However, for most people in the world when you get older your up close vision loses its luster so even if you already have corrective lenses, reading glasses can be helpful. I wear contacts and if I don’t have those reading glasses, I have to take them out to do anything close to my face. People I know who have had LAZEK use readers.

        But still, OP’s employee should see a professional first and OP should not make any suggestions other than employee should see a doctor about it.

        Reply
    3. Just a guy

      Really bad idea if someone’s eyesight is changing.

      Go to an optician, get an eye test, and if they say you only need over the counter reading glasses, great.

      If someone has more than the mildest vision issues, those glasses will do nothing.

      Reply
      1. Gadfly

        Also, eyes often are mismatched strengths (or some people even have one far/one near). It can also be a sign of other, non-eye problems. Like sustained high blood sugar. More than one person has discovered diabetes that way. Pituitary tumors are infamous for announcing themselves with vision issues. She needs to see someone who can monitor the situation and watch for changes.

        After that, if it is single vision, some Zenni options even with shipping are as cheap as most drugstore readers. (Although I guess she could find some options at some dollar stores)

        Reply
        1. Liane

          “Also, eyes often are mismatched strengths (or some people even have one far/one near)”
          I have both; the one far/one near is called “monocular vision.”

          And for the love of fun-size candy bars–and your very life–
          *Do Not* tell me I need glasses or new ones–especially bifocals–or that I shouldn’t hold things so close when I read!! (I had glass-bowl customers who said this.) Bifocals/trifocals *Don’t Help* me. I have glasses for driving and other distance vision. I also have prescription reading glasses with correction that is very different from my driving pair and distorts anything more than 10 inches away. The reading pair’s correction is so crazy, even to vision professionals, that the eye doctor wrote something like, “This IS the correct Rx” on the prescription.

          Reply
          1. Gadfly

            Mine is not that crazy, but my last optometrist had a chat with me about how some headachesof mine probably come from having such different strength lenses, and being a little wrong per eye might actually be better overall vision–I’m praying I can explain it to new ones (she moved on me)

            Reply
          2. Candi

            My left eye is nicely behaved and a moderate prescription for seeing distances.

            My right eye is more severe on distance viewing, but what really fouls things up is the incredibly nuts level of astigmatism. I had an optometrist appointment not ten days ago, and it took the poor guy about ten minutes just to find a setting I could make the letters out on!

            (On the plus side, going there means going to the Korean business section of town, and they have some of the best gimpab at an eatery two doors down.

            Reply
        2. turquoisecow

          Yeah, my mom wore drugstore reading glasses for the longest time. They helped, but they weren’t ideal because one eye was a different strength than the other. I’m nearsighted (and can’t get my glasses at a drugstore) and my eyes are totally different. Also, an eye exam does help find any more serious issues, so it’s a good thing for everyone to get one every few years or so even if they see perfectly.

          Reply
      2. Halpful

        another thing to consider: it took me several days to get used to my first pair of reading glasses. they felt really *wrong* at first and my eyes hurt for the first half-hour attempt at using them. if I’d started with non-prescription glasses, I probably would have returned them and decided my eyes weren’t the problem.

        Reply
        1. Candi

          Ah, yes, the fun of the adjustment as your eyes go “Wait! Wait! New focus needed! All systems yellow! Oh wait… okay, things are stabilizing… Eergh!”

          I still remember how dizzy I felt with my very first pair all those years ago.

          Reply
    4. Rana

      I doubt she’s nearsighted – if she’s having trouble reading things all of a sudden, it’s more likely that she’s got presbyopia (e.g. old person eyes). I say this as a very nearsighted person who never had any trouble reading thigns up close until I hit my mid-forties, and then, bam, it was like I lost the ability to focus almost overnight. Those readers are useless; I’d have to clip them onto my regular glasses to see any benefit at all.

      The readers do help with vision that previously didn’t need correction, but she really should see an eye doctor to make sure nothing else is going on.

      Reply
  6. Sunshine

    OP#5 I think that maybe the problem is that your teacher is worried about the issue of child care vs education. If she wants to be a teacher, even in early education, she probably doesn’t want to be seen as a babysitter.
    I don’t know if this is an equivalent situation or not but, I work in veterinary care. If our vet occasionally brings her own pets in because her spouse couldn’t get home to let them out or whatever, and she needed me or one of the techs to walk them, we’d probably be fine with it (so equivalent to keeping an eye on your kids during what would be her normal working hours). If as part of our job we had to come in one Saturday a month specifically to go walk/feed/pet sit her animals, it might start to feel degrading? Especially for the techs…and it might have started out sounding okay but then the reality of having to do the extra work (in something that’s really tangential to your skill set) might start to grate. I can’t say that’s what’s going on here-but it could be!
    Also, even if you run a business out of your home there is still the uncomfortableness of babysitting your boss’s kids in general. For reasons you specified in your letter-her negotiating power as a babysitter is greatly reduced!

    Reply
    1. Cromely

      Aside from the other weirdness, I wonder if there’s a potential tax issue here for the OP. If the employee is being paid by the business for the work during the week and for the Saturday babysitting, is all of the employee’s pay being considered a taxable expense by the business? If the OP is paying for the personal expense of the Saturday babysitting from the business account, that seems…off.

      I’m not a tax professional or an attorney of any sort so I could be completely wrong here, but it doesn’t quite sound right.

      Reply
      1. Blue

        Oh God, the OP saying the rate of babysitting would be not at the worker’s current rate but at the rate she was hired at (because that’s where it was agreed upon) in itself gave me serious pause.

        Reply
      2. Meg Murry

        Yes, I was coming to say the same thing. It is a violation of tax code for people who are self employed or run a small business to pay for a nanny or babysitter as an employee of that business – paying a preschool assistant to watch your kids isn’t ok, even if you are off doing errands for the preschool during that time. Asking *them* to run the errands on Saturday morning would technically be ok, but asking them to provide babysitting for only your children is not. I’d say staying an hour or two late to watch your kids is a kind of gray area – if there were other kids from the preschool there, or if you asked them to do school related tasks like prep for the next day’s art project that would be better, but straight up babysitting isn’t ok.

        Just because other employees have gone along with this in the past doesn’t make it ok. Especially if you started your business sometime in the last 10 years – during the recession, especially around 2007-2010, there were a lot of people that were willing to make pretty major compromises in order to just have a job, any job. For instance, at the company I worked for when one of the cleaners left they didn’t re-hire it but rather rolled a rotating chore of vacuuming/dusting/taking out trash into a chore chart. And when we were slow and had had a couple of rounds of layoffs we were just grateful to have a job and didn’t mind. But by 2010 when the work had picked up and other companies had started to re-open their hiring and salaried employees were still expected to vacuum the floors, etc, people were really starting to balk.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I’m also wondering if we’re getting into OT here, since this is the age of kid where exemption is highly dependent on the actual duties–it sounds like the rate requested would be close to time and a half, so it could be the employee thinks so too.

          Reply
      3. CBH

        I was thinking this too. It seems like the OP is co mingling funds for personal and business expenses. A very gray area if you ask me.

        Even though OP is the owner of the daycare business it feels like she is using her position in such a way that is unethical. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another industry where an employer asking for such personal matter would be part of an employee’s contract.

        OP I can see where you are coming from; from your point of view your employee is completing the same task, however you need to keep business and personal separate. If you need a sitter for personal reasons, then you need to hire one separately not require it to be a work contribution.

        Reply
    2. Czhorat

      Babysitting one-on-one is different than a job as an assistant at a day-care. I agree with Alison; you’re using your business as a personal babysitting service which, while within your rights, feels shady. It shifts the employee’s responsibility from “employee” to “personal assistant”. I absolutely don’t think this is your intention, but she could see it as your taking advantage of your employees to get babysitting below market-rate.

      I’d also disagree that she used the wrong approach by negotiating via text; personal babysitting is much less formal than other forms of employment. If I texted someone for babysitting over a weekend and they said “$20/hour” in a return text, I’d not think twice of it.

      Reply
      1. Chickaletta

        This is a great point. And does it make sense to you financially to be paying employment tax, social security, employment insurance, etc for a personal babysitter on a Saturday? Straight up cash, even at a higher rate, might be a wash or even cheaper?

        Reply
    3. Artemesia

      This. Watching the kids at the day care — no real issue. But tagging babysitting onto the job just seems inappropriate. The employee probably values her weekends just like everyone else does and feels that overtime or a higher hourly rate is appropriate. I would.

      Reply
    4. Wheezy Weasel

      Well stated, Sunshine. There is a difference between being seen in your professional capacity and another adjacent role. Teachers are more skilled (and credentialed) than babysitters, veterinary technicians are more skilled (and credentialed) than pet carers. Since the OP referred to working in management, it’s a little different than having a manager or a lead employee occasionally having to pick up work that can be performed by another employee. Those arrangements are best supporting the business and are (usually) temporary in nature. Your situation sounds like having someone perform skills on a regular basis that aren’t part of their professional realm, and it’s benefitting you personally vs. the business. That may be hard to separate in your mind since you are the business owner, but to the employee, teaching children is her business, not caring for individual children.

      Reply
  7. Leah

    I read OP5 as there being a written employment contract in place that specified the babysitting terms (though I do know that these are generally rare in the US). If so then I think that OP is more in the right. But yeah, mixing personal life and business really isn’t a good idea.

    Reply
    1. Mabel

      And if you gave your employee a raise for the teaching work, it’s really not fair to not pay the new rate for all work she does for you. But I agree with other folks that asking your employee to work for you personally isn’t a good idea.

      Reply
      1. Newby

        I thought she was trying to say that she is paying more because of the raise and so feels taken advantage of by essentially being asked for a second raise. I think she should hire an actual babysitter though. It seems like it might even be cheaper to do so.

        Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I got the sense that it’s in the job description/posting, but not that there’s an employment contract in place.

      Regardless, OP should separate the two “jobs.” I can understand how lines might blur when one operates their business from their home, but if I were a teaching assistant, I’d be annoyed to hear my boss thinks that means she can hire me for other household jobs unrelated to the business or to my teaching assistant job. For comparison, would you require a TA to also serve as your maid one day a week as a condition of employment? Or to serve as your personal chef? Your yoga instructor? Even if you disclose an expectation that an applicant will take on non-preschool-related tasks, in many metro areas $13/hour is not adequate pay for someone to take on babysitting and teaching responsibilities. So I’m not surprised the new employee is trying to negotiate the terms for a role she’s never taken on during her 4-month tenure (even if babysitting was noted in the recruiting & hiring process)

      OP, I think this is way sketchier than you realize, and I’m surprised no one else has pushed back against this expectation. To the extent that you can, I really think you should split how you categorize these jobs so that employees would have to explicitly opt into the personal babysitting role.

      Reply
        1. Jessesgirl72

          Even when I worked blue collar jobs, I had a contract. I’m not sure where you got the impression that the US doesn’t have them.

          Reply
          1. Dizzy Steinway

            Um, I said to check your contract in a comment one day and our own Alison Green told me most US employees are at-will and don’t have one.

            Reply
          2. BRR

            It’s not that the US doesn’t have them. They’re just pretty uncommon. I imagine for this letter, it’s a scheduling requirement like office hours or how some jobs have evening and/or weekend hours.

            Reply
          3. Myrin

            Dizzy said she thought people in the US “mostly” don’t have contracts, not that they don’t exist at all, which, going from what everyone on this site has ever said about this topics sound like reality to me.

            Reply
          4. Liz in a Library

            I’ve never had a contract, and I can’t think of anyone I know who has except public school teachers. They are quite uncommon in the US, except in some specific fields.

            Reply
              1. Natalie

                A union contract and an employment contract are a bit different. In your case, the union and the company (or government) signed a contract that covers everyone in the bargaining unit without those individual employees signing their own individual contracts.

                Reply
                1. Union Rep

                  Yes, Natalie is correct. A union contact is called a Collective Bargaining Agreement and the union membership ratifies and agrees to a single contract that governs the terms and conditions of employment for all covered employees, so an individual employee does not need to actually sign a contract to be covered by the CBA.

                  There are cases where an employee covered by the CBA also has an individual employment contract, and even cases where union employees normally covered by a contract can continue to work after their CBA has expired (while negotiations are ongoing).

                  Generally speaking, though, it would be extraordinarily unusual for the employees of a tiny in-home day care business to have either individual contacts or a CBA, so I doubt that will be a factor at all in OP5’s case.

                  Regardless, OP5 should take the excellent advice of both Alison and the commentariat and find a different and more fair arrangement for Saturday childcare.

          5. Artemesia

            teaching almost always involves a contract in the US — not sure about pre-schools, but regular schools through universities always have contracts and in many places if you are not notified by X day that it won’t be renewed, it automatically is renewed. (like some time in May for the next school year usually for public school or universities)

            Reply
        2. Grits McGee

          Teaching is one of the few areas in US employment where contracts are fairly standard. Though, someone with more experience in pre-kindergarten education will have to comment as to whether contracts are common in OP’s situation (daycare, and not part of a public/private school system).

          Reply
          1. Letters

            The daycares I worked at didn’t have them — my wife, who taught high school, definitely did. At the time I think I would have been very surprised to encounter them as a condition of employment, since childcare is often (for better or worse) often really informal.

            Looking back, it wouldn’t surprise me as much if there were a daycare that used contracts, since contracts are (to my knowledge) used for the parents/children — so daycare owners/operators in general are probably familiar with and comfortable with the idea of using contracts to ensure themselves of some kind of financial stability.

            I will also note that I did a lot of babysitting on the side at this time, but it was ALL for the families whose kids attended the daycares I worked at, and it was ALWAYS for more than the daycare was paying me. Daycares in general do not pay well, even the nicer ones, and the going rate for a good sitter that you could trust was much higher, by $5-10/hr. I would have been pretty uncomfortable if the owner expected me to watch her kids, especially if she expected it of me as part of my job at the same rate I got paid in the classroom.

            Reply
            1. I Like Pie

              ^ this +1. I used to work as a Pre-K teacher at a private school in a better income neighborhood than most. My salary there ($13.25/hr) was lower than my babysitting rates ($15-20/hr depending on #of kids.) The way I see it is that you’re paying me to take care of your children outside of the school property (which allows for some liability on them, not just myself,) as well as for my educational knowledge. I don’t just sit and watch TV with your children, I’ll engage and play appropriate games, cook and clean up after ourselves (not clean your home, mind you – we’ll clean their room or I’ll help them through chores they’re assigned based on age, but I’m not scrubbing your floors, etc.) and provide you with a sense of comfort that your child will be cared for in your absence. I primarily sat for families that were in my class and the children loved it when “teacher” would come to their homes for 1-on-1 time; but it was taking my non-work time away and that comes with a cost.

              OP #5 refusing to pay a babysitting fee because it’s higher than the salary would be a red flag to me; one: that you’re not paying me correctly for my job &/or two: that you’re not valuing me as a person with a life outside work. And if I applied for a job that had a clause like this built in with no difference in rate of pay/option to choose not to take the work, I would likely continue my job search.

              Reply
        3. doreen

          They exist, it’s just that most people don’t have one. Teaching at any level seems to be one of the fields that often involves a contract, whether a collective one through a union or an individual one.

          Reply
        4. Dan

          We can debate semantics until we’re blue in the face, but your general sentiment is correct. Labor contracts in the US exist, but they aren’t common. “At will employment” is the norm in the US, which means people can be let go (or quit on their own) for any or no reason (except for membership in a protected in a protected class), without any warning whatsoever.

          Reply
        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Dizzy, you’re not wrong. I’m sorry folks have been so terse about it. Employment contracts are generally not common in the U.S., and most pre-K/daycare/First 5 programs—unlike K-12 education—do not use employment contracts.

          Reply
      1. Dust Bunny

        I thought this was TOTALLY sketchy, even before I read the comments. It does sound like the OP is trying to get extra work out of her employees, but possibly without counting it as overtime by claiming it’s a separate job, and there is no way I’d have agreed to this if I worked for her. But she needs to separate the two.

        Reply
      2. aebhel

        Well, and not even hire, but expect her to perform as if they were part of her regular job duties. Seriously sketchy.

        FWIW, my kid is in a home daycare, and my daycare provider also occasionally will babysit off-hours. We treat it as a totally separate thing; she’s not obligated to watch my daughter on a Saturday just because she watches her during the work week, and different rates apply. It’s no different than hiring anyone else as an occasional babysitter.

        OP, I know this feels like you’re an employer who is scheduling your employee to work on Saturday as part of her regular job duties, but trust me, the fact that the work involved is babysitting your kids so you can run personal errands makes it a very, very different thing.

        Reply
      3. Sparrow

        A clearer parallel given OP’s reasoning that it’s the same work: a TA being expected to tutor the professor’s kid as part of their TA duties. Grad student Sparrow wouldn’t have taken kindly to that.

        Reply
    3. Jen S. 2.0

      Agree with above that these positions would benefit from being separated, and / or having the employee opt in. These are two different jobs, and I respect the employee for negotiating them separately. I know it’s convenient for OP 5 to roll it all together, but “it is most convenient for OP to roll these jobs together” is not the same as “these jobs absolutely must be combined.”

      Also, it frankly sounds like this lady does not want this part of the job. At all. Perhaps OP’s kids are a lot after a whole week of work, or perhaps she really prefers a different age group, or the elements of teaching that she loves are not the ones that overlap with babysitting, or something, but I’ve often heard it noted that a great way to manage work that you’re not thrilled about doing is to raise your rates. That way, either the client finds a cheaper solution, or, if they agree to the new rate, at least you’re being better compensated for doing something that’s not your favorite.

      Reply
      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Or after teaching all week the last thing she wants is — oh, yay! — more babysitting. And as a bonus, the unwanted extra work is at a rate that used to be equal to the teaching rate, but now isn’t. I’d want my kids watched by someone who accepted toffee gig, not a resentful teacher who was curved into it.

        Reply
          1. Grits McGee

            Mmmm, toffee gig. Although I’d be even more mad if I was promised a job involving toffee and ended up having to babysit instead.

            Reply
        1. Meg Murry

          Yes, depending on the age of the kids, this could also start to get into a crummy situation if the kids decide to test the limits on the new babysitter. If the boss’s kids try to test your boundaries, how far are you willing to push back when your regular gig is on the line?

          Or it could simply be that she was hired to teach preschool (which is generally around the ages of 3-5) and isn’t up for watching much older kids that require a different level of entertainment/interaction, or younger kids and the diapers and bottle feeding, etc that goes along with that.

          Or she might have another Saturday morning gig, or the commuting costs make it not worth the 2-3 hours of work. I agree that negotiating over text wasn’t the best way to do this, but if OP is insistent about this she should have said when the person was hired “Here is your schedule, and you’ll be scheduled for the 3rd Saturday of the month as well.” After all, a lot of job descriptions include the words “evenings and weekends as needed” and there isn’t always an actual need for those times for every position.

          Reply
          1. OhNo

            Your first paragraph was my first thought, too. It’s bad enough babysitting kids who know enough to yell, “You’re not my mom, you can’t tell me what to do!” I can’t imagine how much of a pain in the butt it would be to have to deal with kids who can yell, “My mom pays you! Do what I want or I’ll tell her to fire you!”

            Even if you can’t see this from the employee’s perspective, think of it from the business side. Requiring your employees to babysit on weekends is a good way to lose out on the best employees. Find another babysitter who will work for the same amount, or have the preschool open on Saturdays and leave your kids there while you do your errands.

            Reply
            1. Not Babysitting the Boss' Kid

              I once worked in a private school where the owners’ child was in my class.

              One day, I threw out a old catalogue that had been on a bookshelf. He saw it in the trash and said he’d “tell on me” for throwing out books (it was a thick catalogue, but also a few years out of date) if I didn’t let him play a computer game. I told him he had to do his class work, not play a game…and then he told on me! I was called in to the office to explain why I would “waste school resources” like that. I literally had to bring it out of my trash to prove it was a useless catalogue. There is not enough money in the world for me to babysit for that kid!

              Reply
                1. Not Babysitting the Boss' Kid

                  Hahaha no. They used to override/strong-arm teachers into changing his grades too. He wasn’t allowed to get a 0 or an incomplete, even if he didn’t hand in his assignments. It was BAD. There was high turnover there.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  Someone who would call a teacher in instead of chastising their child for trying to blackmail their teacher is not going to give their kid a stern talking to. These people sound incredible (I mean that I’m a bad way).

          2. Letters

            Oh my gods, I didn’t even think of this — I was so frozen by the squirming discomfort I’d feel if someone told me to do this that I couldn’t get past that. I worked in childcare for several years before starting my current career, and I could all TOO easily picture being asked this. (And in all honesty, if it had come up as a requirement of employment, I would have said ‘no thanks’ and have gone elsewhere.

            But no joke, this? A chill ran down my spine because I encountered something similar — I was an in-home nanny for a while, with a family that we thought we knew well. However, once I started it was made plain to me that I was NOT ALLOWED to discipline the child, because “that wasn’t my place.” I was utterly baffled (how was I supposed to adequately care for them if I couldn’t tell them no?) but I was young enough at the time to simply accept it. I continued until an incident with the child resulted in me having a black eye — and when I duly reported this to the parents, they laughed cheerfully and bragged about their son’s throwing capabilities.

            I left their employment without having anything else lined up.

            Now I just have the creeping horrors for the implied power imbalance here. I can only imagine what the poor employees must be feeling.

            Reply
        2. Sam

          And is she the only other teacher now? If she’s already facing more work day-to-day, I understand why she would be resistant to doing extra work that’s actually unrelated to the business.

          Reply
          1. Candi

            If she is, the LW better be working on hiring someone else. In the US, there’s state regulations about adult/child ratios, private or not; it’s a condition of licensing.

            Reply
    4. Isben Takes Tea

      OP 5, I think the big problem is that you’re confusing yourself as the business owner and the business itself. The reason this is such an icky situation and I think the employee is in the right is because during the week she’s an employee of THE BUSINESS, and one Saturday a month she’s an employee of YOU. The fact that the paycheck is being routed through the business sends up all kinds of red flags for me.

      Don’t do this.

      Reply
      1. MW

        Ooh gosh, yeah, that really hits the nail on the head. Makes me wonder how this is declared in tax, too. A bit iffy if you’re writing off the salary of someone taking care of your kids on the weekend as a business expense, maybe?

        Definitely think it’s in everyone’s best interests here to separate the two.

        Reply
      2. Bonky

        That’s brilliant – I was trying to work out why this whole situation made me so uncomfortable, and you’ve hit the nail on the head. OP, I hope this discussion is useful for you!

        Reply
      3. Vin Packer

        Yes. It would send up red flags for me as a parent, too; I would not like it if the director of the preschool I sent my kid to was also using it as her own personal babysitting service. I would wonder if the director really took the center seriously as a school, and whether my kid was being given the equal time and attention. Plus I want people watching my kids who are happy to be there and treated well by their employer.

        Reply
      4. Willis

        This. The OP seems to be trying to justify the babysitting as business-related by calling it PTO, but a day off doesn’t mean that a business would cover childcare costs or other personal expenses so you have free time…those are still an individual responsibility. The OP’s kids may be students at the daycare during its operating hours (and then it would make sense for the assistants to watch them as they would any other kid), but when the daycare is closed, it’s time to find a sitter and negotiate rates separate from the daycare business.

        Reply
        1. OhNo

          It sounds like she is trading babysitting work for PTO, not calling it PTO. As in, work for five hours as a personal babysitter and get five hours of PTO to use later. Unless I’m reading it wrong?

          Reply
          1. JustaTech

            I have a friend who works in early childhood education and when she taught preschool her babysitting rate was *much* higher, and not just because we live in an expensive city.
            If you are teaching preschool at a licensed facility, at least in my state, you have to have all kinds of background checks, extra training, extra education. Heck, my friend has a Master’s in Early Ed. So of course she’s way more expensive than a highschool kid.

            Reply
      5. LBK

        Nailed it.

        I think the OP is eliding the two because pre-school teaching has a little more in common with babysitting than most other professions, but if she ran any other kind of business, this would be flat-out bizarre. We’ve had letters in the past about bosses using their employees as babysitters and it’s generally discouraged because of how uncomfortable situations like this can arise; this isn’t any different just because their main job for you is more similar to babysitting than a regular office job is.

        Also the fact that they’re paid for both through the company seems…weird.

        Reply
        1. MadGrad

          Heck, we had a letter asking if it was appropriate to ASK a report to watch their boss’s dog because they had an active service for that, and even that was considered potentially problematic!

          Reply
        2. Candi

          When I worked daycare, it was in-home. My boss (the owner) would not let me touch her infant daughter while I was on the clock (with the in case of emergency qualifier), even though 3 months to 2 years was my age group, because she didn’t want even the appearance of me babysitting for her on the business’ dime.

          The optics are as troubling as anything, really.

          Reply
      6. Sabine the Very Mean

        Absolutely. I had a job as a housekeeper in a B&B owned by an older lady who was….crotchety, to say the least. She tried to get me to clean her own room and couldn’t understand why I refused since my job was to clean anyway. When someone can do for themselves in their personal lives, they should. Don’t just try to get the person nearest you to do it for you if it is not what you hired them to do. I ended up having to explain that her room was gross and smelly, I was exposed to too many intimate details about her, and it would significantly alter the relationship. From then on, I found her to be unhygienic and unprofessional as a result of knowing how she lived in her room.

        Reply
    5. snuck

      I could understand the Saturdays if that day was an Admin day and there were lesson plans for the teachers to follow with the (your) kids…

      Then it’s another day at work, where you are unavailable… and the teacher is teaching.

      But if it’s not… if it’s actually babysitting/child care… then I’m with Allison – separate it.

      Reply
      1. GreatLakesGal

        I don’t fully agree with this analysis. If one Saturday a month was devoted to all the teachers developing lesson plans, or the business as a whole is open on Saturdays, then a Saturday work requirement is reasonable.

        Otherwise, OP #5, the requirement for a Saturday of personal service to the boss is problematic, unprofessional on your part, and opens the door to employee resentments and inter-office gossip, suspicion of favoritism, etc.

        In addition, if these are hourly employees, as you say they are, and if you are classifying this as a job duty, (which you shouldn’t)I can only imagine the labor issues here… do you cut back their schedules on the weeks they are required to work Saturdays to avoid paying overtime? (wow, would I be ticked off if my boss did this!)Do you pay overtime?

        So many, many problems here.

        Reply
        1. eplawyer

          Op #5 ifyou want to be a professional businessperson, do not have your employees doing your personal work. Hire a separate babysitter for your kids. Your kids are your kids, your employees are not extra help for them. Even if it is spelled out at the interview, it is still not the best way to do this.

          Put your business on a professional footing and separate your personal life from your business life.

          Reply
        2. aebhel

          Right. The other parents whose kids go to this daycare presumably are not able to send their kids in on Saturdays, which means that this is not a business expense, it’s a personal expense that OP is rolling into her business expenses. The fact that it’s generally the same kind of work doesn’t change that; if someone is employed by a company as an accountant, that doesn’t mean that doing their boss’s personal taxes should be rolled into the same job.

          Reply
    6. Jilly

      But if it is a violation of tax rules to pay for personal services out of business funds, it doesn’t matter if it is in the contact because contacts need to comply with the law.

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        It would be a violation to take it as a deduction, but we actually don’t know if the LW is doing that or if she is separating the amounts paid for personal services out.

        Reply
        1. Anna

          Would it matter if the OP were lumping it all in on the paycheck? Like a line item that says “Personal Babysitting – $X.”

          Reply
  8. CoveredInBees

    OP1, you can show understanding and kindness without the tears. Have tissues and some water at the ready as well as a good reference.

    OP5, you need to stop doing this. You are telling employees to do personal work for you as a condition of having a job and demanding it on a regular basis. This is not work to enhance the business (such as outreach or professional development), it is work to make your personal life more manageable. Getting such help is fine and recommended. Not as a condition of employment.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Very much agreed. Frankly, it made me start running through all the potential tax/corporation violations (we don’t have enough information to opine on that, but I bring it up because the setup sounds that problematic to me). These roles should not be mixed into one job because they aren’t one job—they’re two completely distinct jobs with distinct beneficiaries.

      Reply
    2. LawBee

      yep yep yep. Honestly, if I were an employee I would have seriously reconsidered that job. OP5, you need to get new babysitters who aren’t your teachers, and give your teachers a raise to cover the financial loss of you disentangling your personal and private lives.

      Reply
  9. Honest marketer

    #5: You are running personal babysitting expenses through your payroll service as a business expense under the shelter of your preschool? Unless you have documented that each hour was related to running your business, you are committing tax fraud.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I’m concerned about what OP’s doing but wanted to note that it’s not necessarily tax fraud—it depends on what entity the preschool operates under. (I’m trying to steer us away from allegations of criminal liability since that would not necessarily address OP’s question about dealing with her relatively new hire who is, in my opinion, reasonable to react as she did.)

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        Totally leaving aside what the OP may or may not be doing, what sort of entity exists that would allow you to take personal expenses as a business deduction? Even as a pass through corporation the taxpayer would have to separate out the payroll expenses that are used for personal coverage of the owner.

        Reply
        1. That Would Be a Good Band Name

          Sole proprietorship would come closest, I think. I’m not an expert by any means, but everything for that is reported on the individual tax return and you can have business offset personal and vice versa. Of course, the deduction for personal child care is different than how a business expense should be handled, so it’s still not being categorized correctly (or so it sounds from the letter).

          Reply
          1. Natalie

            Sure, that’s what I was getting as when I said they’d have to separate the expenses regardless of entity type. Child care & business expenses are handled differently – child care is a tax credit, business expenses are a deduction, for one thing. And even if they were both deductions, the IRS is a stickler for making sure you separate them all into the correct categories.

            Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I was thinking of a sole prop, as well, although I agree with everyone that you cannot deduct childcare as a business expense in the context OP describes. But you can pay for wages, etc., using the same pot of money because your assets and the company assets are effectively the same.

              Reply
          2. Chameleon

            I’m not an accountant, but I did run a sole prop for many years and…no. You can use business losses to offset other personal income, but you can in NO way use the business to offset personal expenses.

            Reply
            1. Nervous Accountant

              I AM an accountant, and this is correct. There are certain credits for childcare, but they are not business expenses and should not be treated as such.

              Reply
          3. Oryx

            I don’t think she could take it as a deduction, though. If you’re a sole proprietor, the IRS sees you and your business as one and the same so she could use her business income to pay for personal babysitting needs but I don’t think she could write that off as a business expense.

            Reply
        2. Chickaletta

          None that I can think of. I fill out a Schedule C every year for my business, and whether they’re a sole proprietorship or LLC, there is no line on the Schedule C to deduct personal expenses like that. If her baby sitter had a business with an EIN, she might be able to deduct babysitting from her 1040 as long as she’s working during the time the babysitter is being used.

          Reply
      2. Nervous Accountant

        I am actually an accountant and there’s no entity in which you can run personal expenses. If that was the case, I’d create an LLC just for all my makeup/clothing/salon services! :-)

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Yes, that’s true! I think my mistake is not clarifying what seems problematic. OP certainly cannot deduct childcare as a business expense, so to the extent that OP’s running babysitting through payroll, that is definitely not ok. That said, we don’t really know how she’s capturing the babysitting on her income taxes, and we don’t know if she’s operating as a sole prop (in which case commingled funds may not be as big of a problem, depending). I mostly just wanted to avoid everyone falling into a “you should go to jail!” spiral.

          Reply
    2. aebhel

      I mean, it’s possible that OP is paying for the babysitting services separately (which would still be inappropriate, IMO), but I agree that it does read as though she’s rolling it all into payroll, which is a definite problem.

      Reply
  10. lb

    #5, I don’t know where you’re located or how many children you have, but you’re paying a valued employee and childcare professional only $13 per hour to babysit multiple kids, and that income will be taxed equally to her regular job? That’s all outrageous. You need to stop taking advantage of your employees, find a new babysitter, and pay them a fair market rate for their labor.

    Reply
    1. Cam

      Yeah, even if that is the original agreement, it’s not really fair in any way to the employee (and it’s a pretty terrible hourly rate for babysitting multiple children, at least in my area). I don’t blame the employee for not wanting to put up with it.

      Reply
      1. lb

        I live in a relatively high cost of living area, but even when I was a teenager in the suburbs 15 years ago, the going rate was more than that for all my friends!

        Reply
    2. CreationEdge

      I’ve for years seen ads for day care facilities (not in-home ones) requiring a related associates degree (usually Early Childhood Development) and only paying just above minimum wage, such as $8-9/hour.

      I don’t understand how those jobs ever get filled, but I think low wages are more common in the industry than you may expect.

      Reply
      1. DorthVader

        YUP. I live in a fairly well-off area with a bachelors degree in early childhood ed (which qualifies me to be a lead teacher) and I ended up nannying because I couldn’t find any jobs that paid more than $10/hr. Of my friends who graduated with the same degree, the only ones who are still teaching live with a partner or have a second job. So low wages are the norm in the field.

        OP, you need to figure out a different system. If you want to attract high-quality professionals you need to take the weekend babysitting out of your ad. I wouldn’t look twice at a teaching job that asked me to give up a weekend day per month to look after the boss’ kids.

        Reply
        1. Gadfly

          A friend of mine with similar credentials gave up and teaches boating to boy scouts in St. Thomas during the summers for better money than she could get. It is disgusting how little we value the people we entrust with our kids.

          Reply
          1. Allison

            It’s because looking after young children is still seen as women’s work, and as such, it’s not valued as a “career” so much as an activity women do because it ~brings them joy~.

            Reply
            1. Vin Packer

              Yes, but it’s also a function of how much people can pay. I think the pay for day care and preschool professionals is egregiously low…but the cost to send a kid to one absolutely gouges you as a family. I want them to be paid more but I can’t imagine where the money for it could come from.

              Reply
              1. AVP

                I would love to find a good article that explains where all the money goes in a daycare. It seems so expensive for families, and yet the employees are paid so little – how does that work out? Is it all real estate and insurance?

                Reply
                1. Vin Packer

                  I think it’s a few things: you have to pay for the facility, which includes special low-to-the-ground toilets, sinks, play equipment that is up to code, etc.; there’s the food, which is also subject to rules and regulations; there’s other supplies such as first aid, diapering, cleaning (and cleaning and cleaning), etc.; and there are the restrictions imposed by licensing bodies about teacher-to-child ratios. When I did the math on all of that for the center I was using, I honestly didn’t understand how they didn’t lose money, despite the fact that the cost was killing me as an individual. Kids are just really expensive.

                2. Candi

                  At the daycare I worked at, the various city licensing fees were murderous -and several had to be paid once a year. Renewals and all that.

                  As for insurance -multiple kinds, each with their own premium unless you can find a decent package deal. Which Really Depends.

                1. Candi

                  That usually means higher taxes to cover the cost. Raising taxes is practically a dirty word. Then there’s restrictions on which facilities the government says can or can’t be used, logistics, infrastructure, paperwork, red tape, how hard it is to get complaints dealt with, how discipline, of both kids and staff is handled…

                  Some things stay the way they are because the prospective ways to change things are projected to be worse. (And may well be, without housecleaning.)

      2. tigerlily

        Low wages are the norm. I live in a big city and work at a preschool and our substitute teachers are making $13 and hour. Full time teachers making between $14.50 and $17.00.

        Reply
      3. Candi

        (Waves hand)

        In my case, I really needed a job and my friend really needed workers for her soon to open daycare. And then the government took nearly a fourth of it in taxes; I was making ~$800 month after all state and federal taxes were removed. (Which is why I was receiving welfare; it paid the rent, bought groceries, and paid for medical bills.)

        Reply
        1. fposte

          The babysitting rate is higher than day-care? That seems weird to me, but it’s not a market I know much about.

          Reply
          1. SystemsLady

            If you think about the hours you’re generally asked to work for each job it kind of makes sense, but I agree daycare is generally a more demanding job.

            Reply
          2. Chicken

            It’s sort of weird, but it’s pretty typical. For what it’s worth, day care workers often have a set schedule and sometimes get benefits (sick days, health insurance, etc – especially if they’re at a center & not an in home daycare). Daycare workers (should) get a lunch break and have the ability to go to the bathroom while someone else supervises the children.

            Babysitters often work evenings and weekends, typically don’t have a set schedule they can count on, never get benefits (if they do, they’re probably in what I’d consider a nanny situation), and don’t get any breaks.

            I think that daycare workers are way underpaid and should be paid more, but it also makes sense to me that babysitting tends to pay a little better.

            Reply
            1. Miss Nomer

              I absolutely agree that babysitting is worth more per hour. When I worked at a daycare, I usually had someone else to help me, had a professional setup ready for kids, and knew that my hours were x – y. (Also, if the kids weren’t behaving, it was pretty easy to call the parent to discuss – even as an 18 year old, I was viewed as a Fellow Professional and taken seriously when there were issues, probably because my manager would back me up).

              Babysitting, on the other hand, is less predictable and often comes with the unspoken expectation that I’ll clean the house, take care of any pets, etc. I had people regularly end up staying out 2-3 hours past the agreed upon time because they knew I wouldn’t just leave their kids. Honestly, if I never again have to deal with the horrible bathtime/bedtime ritual for a kid I’m not related to, it’ll be too soon. Add the boss-employee dynamic to all that, and I think I would have had a breakdown.

              Reply
              1. Kj

                Yep. I used to babysit (and I loved it) as a teen, but it was unpredictable and sometimes weird depending on the kids. Working childcare, which I did in college, was hard in a different way, but you are more in a professional, defined role, with other folks about, and you aren’t in client’s homes which is a huge thing. I loved both in different ways, but babysitting paid more for a reason.

                Reply
          3. Natalie

            FWIW, your standard babysitter is an independent contractor. Not that I expect most babysitters to declare their income, but if they were they’d want to charge higher rates to cover the employer half of payroll taxes.

            Reply
          4. she was a fast machine

            Babysitting is more comparable to being an independent contractor/consultant. They should be paid more because they’re often not provided with any kind of benefits, have to pay their own taxes, have relatively unpredictable work times, and no guaranteed work.

            Reply
          5. Mephyle

            The carer–child ratio would generally be higher for babysitting than daycare, too, wouldn’t it? If so, that would be another reason for babysitting to cost more.

            Reply
        2. Stitch

          Yeah, I did some babysitting/nanny work in college, and I would have charged far more than that for a babysitting gig. Thinking about it, it seems totally counter-intuitive (FWIW, I think daycare employees get paid for too little, but I think I understand that daycare is often a necessity and you can’t charge as much whereas when I was a babysitter it was more of an after hours thing so more voluntary), but that’s sort of industry standard.

          Reply
      1. Lablizard

        That seems super low for weekend babysitting of multiple kids. When I was in high school, I changed $5/kid and that was almost 15 years ago

        Reply
    3. Meg Murry

      I don’t think it’s 100% outrageous, and perhaps the previous employee that worked with OP was ok with this part of the arrangement (a chance to pick up some extra hours with kids she already knew at a place she was familiar with, as opposed to having to go out and find a different part time gig). Or perhaps not, and that’s part of the reason she left.

      That said, this arrangement isn’t working out for OP and her newest employee. And since it’s tax legality is iffy at best, OP, I would ask this: Is this person a good preschool teacher? Are you happy with her regular work? If so, find a separate babysitter who *wants* to watch your kids on Saturday mornings, or figure out how to run your Saturday morning errands with the kids, or find another time to run the errands when your partner or a family member can watch the kids. If you are *not* happy with the new employee’s work as a preschool teacher, address that separately from the babysitting issue.

      Reply
  11. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, it’s legal, but your boss is an ass. I’m also irked on your behalf that the GM wants a copy of the marriage license in advance (usually folks don’t have these more than a few days before the wedding, or not until after the actual ceremony occurs) with proof that you’re the mother, or a copy of his birth certificate. What will he want next, a DNA sample from you and your son? The GM can take a long walk on a short pier.

    If there’s any higher authority (e.g., HR), you could take this up to them, but I’m leery because if they’re even half as inane as the GM, then you risk having the PTO revoked or word getting back to the GM, which is no bueno if they don’t back you up. I’m sorry they’re trying to rain on your son’s celebration :(

    Reply
    1. eplawyer

      I understand where the company is coming from. It’s a black out period for time off. But one can’t always control when weddings are set. The OP did the right thing by making sure there is coverage. The only concern the company should have is “will work get done?” Since the answer is yes, then they should either accept it or just say no. Making her jump through hoops and prove she is the mother of the groom is just disgusting.

      Reply
      1. Xarcady

        I agree. And in the jobs I’ve had with black-out periods for PTO, the employees would only find out about those dates 5-6 months in advance. Which is plenty of time for most things, but many weddings these days are planned a year or more in advance. The higher-ups may have access to that information further in advance, but it’s difficult for the average employee to find out.

        And the OP is trying to do the right thing–informing her employer, making sure there is coverage for her shifts. At my current retail job, some of the managers are absolutely unbending about the black-out dates. And then they are surprised when people call out for those shifts, because they want to attend their child’s christening or sister’s wedding. As long as those employees have enough attendance credits to cover their lost time, there’s not much the managers can do about it. So instead of working with the employee and finding someone who can cover for them, the managers are left with understaffed departments on the busiest sales days of the year.

        Reply
        1. SignalLost

          Also, if the OP works at a division of my company, there is one black out period EVERYONE knows is coming. I found out the fun way last week that we’re unofficially in a blackout period right now due to work volume, and that we always go into a blackout if more than 7% of a shift requests that shift off. Basically, we can go into a blackout with absolutely no notice at all, and no communication about it. Though, in the latter case, the first 7% do get their request granted, and I’m not suggesting OP decided to wait a year before requesting known time off.

          Reply
      2. Spoonie

        It’s also possible that the wedding was set in advance and then the blackout dates got set. One of my friends recently set her wedding date for 2019 (lawd have mercy). Unless OP has a recurring blackout period (tax season, etc), she most likely wouldn’t know if the date would be an issue. If coverage isn’t an issue, I’d say her boss is just being a jerk…or has maybe gotten burned in the past. That hurt to type.

        Reply
      3. Kyrielle

        I think it’s wrong and ridiculous – but I also think if I were the OP, I would do it. It’s true, it can be proved, and the fastest way to prove the suspicion of a lie is ridiculous is to provide the evidence. Plus it lets you go to the wedding.

        But I wouldn’t forget what I’d learned about this person by their request, either.

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          A copy of the wedding invitation should do it though. The marriage license? That is often issued days before and there is no line for ‘mother of the bride’ or ‘groom’. And birth certificate? Ridiculous. What if it were the step child? If documentation is necessary then a wedding invitation ought to be plenty. Unless this employee has a history of deception, this is just a nasty way to treat an employee.

          Reply
          1. JustaTech

            Yeah, my marriage license was blank until *after* the ceremony. (We actually had a guest with amazing handwriting fill it out before dinner.) So, yeah, that’s not going to help anything. Unless the GM wants it after the time off to prove it was legit?

            Reply
            1. kb

              It’s also not the mom’s marriage license. Asking for non-employees’ legal documents is strange. I wouldn’t really feel super comfortable letting my mom’s boss have a copy of my birth certicate or marriage license, especially when an invitation or wedding announcement would adequately do the job.

              Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Yes! This is what I’m saying—the documentation they’re requiring is cumbersome nonsense, and they’re just doing it (imo) to burden OP so that she feels bad for taking time during blackout days.

            Reply
      4. Mike C.

        No, I certainly don’t understand.

        Either they hire people they can trust or they need to hire better people. Asking for this sort of paperwork is insulting.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Right, if you’ve reached the point where you can’t trust someone to tell the truth about going to a wedding, why are you even still employing them?

          Reply
        2. SignalLost

          This is generally my response as well, but I’ll point out I’m currently working for a company with over 200k low-level employees in North America alone, and it probably is the one you’re thinking of. There is a zero percent chance all those employees are trustworthy or responsible, and the company has evolved some pretty effective strategies for dealing with that volume of workers. (Proof of relationship for time off is not one of them; I’m just saying that I expect most shift-work jobs to have a different approach to employee/employer relationships, and OP is in a shift-work role.)

          Reply
          1. Anna

            Generally it’s bad management to make a Draconian policy based on what MIGHT happen or a one-time occurrence in the past. So even with a large employer with over 200,000+ in North America, it’s not a good look to demand that sort of crap because someone, you don’t who, might be lying to you.

            Reply
            1. Zombii

              And yet most large companies seem to thrive on appallingly bad management, to the point that any large company known for having reasonable interactions with employees is called out as being on the vanguard of some kind of subversive/innovative management strategy.

              Reply
      5. Observer

        No, the company may have a valid issue with the black out dates. But, no mater what asking for proof that she is the mother is simply not appropriate.

        Reply
    2. Stitch

      I really would have felt put off if someone asked for a copy of my marriage license. Not to mention, the actual document came in the mail weeks after the wedding – in our state the Officiant took the actual document and submitted it – can you imagine “I just need a copy of this for my employer”? It would be super weird and disruptive.

      Reply
      1. Karen K

        My employer needed to see a copy of my marriage license to switch my husband from “Domestic Partner” to “Spouse.” I don’t consider that a stretch. Now, if I had to provide it to “prove” why I needed the day off, that’s over the line.

        Reply
      2. k

        Agreed. Tracking down a marriage license can be a big hassle and it may not be available immediately. I’m also kind of creeped out on behalf of OP’s son. Maybe I’m weirdly protective of my personal information, but I don’t want my mother’s employer having a copy of my birth certificate and marriage license (or access to it, I get that they’re probably just going to look at it, not keep a copy on file). The whole thing just feels weird and invasive.

        Reply
      3. Mike C.

        Not to mention the amount of personally identifiable information on that document. I wouldn’t trust that in the hand’s of my mother-in-law’s employer.

        Reply
      4. Jessie the First (or second)

        It’s also not her marriage license. This isn’t about proving her own marital status for benefits purposes, for example. This is *someone else’s license*. The employer is asking for a legal certificate that is about someone else and is in someone else’s possession. That is bizarre. An employer wanting *my own* information? okay. An employer wanting the information of someone else? Big ol’ pile of Nope.

        Reply
        1. Liane

          If I had to provide that kind of documentation on someone else in this kind of situation, I’d be taking black Sharpie to pretty much everything but the son’s name and the wedding date. My company doesn’t need to know where my kid and in-law live, how many times each of them was married before, where they were born, what race they are, etc. (Just took a quick look at our Florida marriage certificate to see what was on there.)

          If someone is on my insurance/other benefits or is my emergency contact, my employer already has as much of their info as they need.

          Reply
        2. aebhel

          This. My mother in law is a delight, but I would in no way be willing to provide a copy of my marriage license to her employer. Good lord.

          Reply
    3. J. F.

      When one of my kids was born, my mother took FMLA leave to come take care of me, and her employer (a branch of the feds!) required a copy of his birth certificate. She blacked out everything but my maiden name and the date of birth. (It was not a black-out period and she is not ‘essential personnel.’ They were just crappy.)

      Reply
    4. 2horseygirls

      I have to say, if my mother’s employer wanted a copy of MY marriage license, it would be accompanied by the bride herself, and I might even cart in the binders/spreadsheets/samples, etc. just for additional validity.

      As a freaking adult, there is no line on MY marriage certificate for my parents’ information. Seriously?!

      And I agree with everyone else – there is NO way I am simply handing over this personal information.

      OP, is it possible to discreetly ask around and see if this is standard practice when requesting PTO during a blackout period?

      Reply
  12. Myrin

    OP #2, I can only agree with Alison – what a terrible hassle for something that should be a joyous occasion! I’m really sorry you are working with such unreasonable people and hope the wedding will be a happy event for you and your family nonetheless.

    Reply
  13. Julia

    My former boss (because I quit) would sometimes start crying in conversations with me that were about my difficult work situation caused by my colleague whom my boss couldn’t handle. While I was the one whose work was sabotaged, whose life was being made miserable by colleague etc. so I was the one with a reason to cry, I always ended up having to comfort her instead and it sucked. Especially during our last difficult conversation, where I was actually on the verge of tears and fully intending to not pretend things were fine (our grand boss only took women’s complaints seriously if they cried, as messed up as that is), I still ended up telling her it wasn’t her fault instead.
    I know you can’t help it, OP1, because God knows I cannot help crying often enough, but please try to cry yourself out before you talk to your employee. The last thing she probably wants to do is to comfort you when her life was just turned upside down. I’m sorry. :/

    Reply
    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

      Ugh, that’s so gross. Whether she meant it or not, that’s emotional manipulation. Glad you’re out of there. What a mess.

      our grand boss only took women’s complaints seriously if they cried, as messed up as that is

      This is sadly too common. Women who report violent crimes often try to force themselves to cry so the police will take them seriously. What a world.

      Good advice about crying beforehand and getting it all out! OP, definitely try this.

      Reply
      1. Julia

        That is why I actually tried to cry during that meeting and for once not hold it together, but she was faster… I really hated how being professional was basically punished there and the unreasonable jerks were rewarded, so I’m glad I’m out of there, although I’m also sad about the nice people I left behind and anxious for my future.

        Reply
        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

          Wow, that’s…I don’t know how to explain it, but it makes my heart hurt that you and others had to make yourselves cry. Sending you all the good thoughts and I hope you found a stable job in a healthy, happy environment soon.

          Reply
          1. Julia

            Thank you! I just followed my fiancé to Japan to go to grad school, and I hope that next year I’ll find a much better job in Europe again.

            Reply
    2. Bonky

      I had one of these when I was in my twenties. She was a very nice and sympathetic lady, but in absolutely no way was she set up to manage anybody. She hated the company herself, but being in her fifties had convinced herself she couldn’t leave because nobody else would hire her at her age. Every time I had a problem at work and brought it to her (it was, sadly, a place with many problems), the waterworks started. Sometimes she’d also drag the conversation away from what we were meant to be talking about and talk about her own problems at work. And cry some more.

      OP1: it used to infuriate me. These were my problems we were supposed to be discussing, not hers; and the tears were not even remotely helpful. It made it all about her. Please don’t do this to the person you’re letting go.

      Related: when I left that job, the conversation with that manager and her boss in my exit interview made me so angry that I also cried. Which made me even angrier. Which made me cry some more. Now in my forties, I am no longer an angry-cryer, but I would have LOVED to have a technique to avoid doing that back then. It made me feel like an idiot.

      Reply
    3. Lora

      Ugh, I had not one but TWO bosses who thought that if women didn’t cry when we got feedback then we weren’t really listening and understanding. It wasn’t enough to be composed and professional and say, “well, before I respond to that I need to think about it, but just to make sure, I am hearing that there’s a need for improvement on XYZ, is that correct?…OK, let me think about it and get back to you with a plan by (time).” No. If you weren’t in hysterical tears, you weren’t “taking it in”. Men, naturally, got penalized for getting righteously upset even if they expressed it as anger/frustration, because any emotion from a man is unprofessional.

      The moral of the story is, people are the worst.

      Reply
    4. Detective Amy Santiago

      At OldJob, our manager used to buy ice cream for our entire team if someone cried. We were in a high pressure environment and sometimes one of us would get frustrated and drag him in a conference room to vent.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        Oh my gosh. I would be going office-to-office with a clipboard, trying to get everyone on the crying rota to keep up the ice cream supply.

        Reply
          1. Lora

            The ending of Life Is Beautiful always gets me, and now I can’t watch it at all without sobbing in anticipation of the ending. When Roberto Benigni got the Oscar for it I even cried.

            Boy, can you imagine the elevator muzak? The Smiths, Jump Little Children, Cat Power, Damien Rice, Nick Cave, The Mountain Goats…

            Reply
  14. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

    #1 – I’d love to have a empathic and kind boss like you. As someone who also tears up quite easily, you have my sympathy. Perhaps what you can do is remember that this situation is about her, not about you. If you tear up, you may give her false hope that the situation can be salvaged.

    How about taking a minute to make a list of her strengths? That way, you can tell her that while this particular job didn’t work out, she’s really good at all these other things. If you can include these strengths in a reference, that would be even more helpful.

    #2 – What the everloving fudgecakes. Who are these people? Who raised them? Are they aware of how much they suck? (Answer: no.) I hope you can still have fun at the wedding. Maybe you can have everyone make fun of it? So when photos get taken, for example, you can make a joke about needing proof for your boss. Either way, hope you have a good time!

    #3 – I used to be a person who would say ‘I should do X’ and then either never do it, or take ages to do it. Having someone kindly point out that I really needed to take control and do what needed to be done made a big difference in my life. You will need to be very direct with her, as Alison said. If you’re comfortable sharing your story, that will help a lot. I hope it works out, it would be a shame to lose this employee. (Quick note – there can be other health issues that lead to these kinds of errors, such as low iron or B12, or a poorly-functioning thyroid, so if glasses aren’t the answer, she might want to look into those as well.)

    # 4 – As per comments for the second letter writer. This is disgusting. And that employee isn’t getting revenge on anyone. They’re just making life even more difficult for the maintenance staff, who definitely don’t get paid enough to deal with this nonsense. If the upstairs managers aren’t doing much to help, can you get the health department/OSHA involved? This is a serious health hazard. I hope it’s resolved soon.

    #5 – In addition to the other excellent comments, you may not realise that you’ve likely lost a lot of good candidates over the years. I’d absolutely back away from a job where the boss required me to come to her home and babysit her kids, no matter what the regular full-time job entailed. There’s a power imbalance you’re taking advantage of, albeit unconsciously.

    Also remember that this arrangement means employees may have trouble doing the babysitting job – they might have trouble telling your kids ‘no’ for fear of upsetting them and therefore you, which would impact their 9-5 work at the daycare centre.

    Please do end this arrangement and find a more suitable one. It will be better for you and your employees (and your kids as well).

    Reply
    1. MadGrad

      No kidding on #5. LW says they have experience outside of this job in management – would she have felt comfortable watching her boss’s kids in those roles? It may feel different to her because this is a job that deals with kids, but it’s really not in all the ways that matter to the employee. It sounds incredibly uncomfortable, and making it a condition of employment is taking advantage.

      Reply
      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

        Yes, that’s an excellent point! How would OP feel if a boss did this to her? She’d be just as uncomfortable, to say the least.

        I’m also wondering about liability issues – if something goes wrong (and I hope it doesn’t), how does that work in terms of liability? OP would be responsible, since she’s the boss, right? The kids are her own and the babysitting is happening in her own home, but she’s still the ‘babysitter’s’ boss, so…IDK it feels like the ouroboros of childminding to me.

        Reply
        1. Dizzy Steinway

          And also: safeguarding.

          I’ve been in a very, very awkward situation where I had to act on mandated reporter requirements over the child of someone who was my line manager (can’t give more details). I know better now that to put myself in that position in the first place.

          Reply
          1. Czhorat

            That’s awkward, but if there was something which needed to be reported then doing so might have made a positive change in a child’s life.

            Hurt feelings around the watercooler are the least of anyone’s concerns in that kind of situation.

            Reply
            1. Jwal

              I imagine it’s more the worry about getting fired if the boss suspects that you were the one to report on them.

              Reply
      2. Czhorat

        Or, for a better analogy, if she managed accountants would she expect one of them to go to her house on Saturday – at their regular rate of pay – to fill out her personal income tax return?

        Reply
        1. Turtle Candle

          Yeah, I was trying to translate this to my job, and even just thinking “and on Saturday you write posts for Boss’s personal blog!” gave me a huge gut reaction of NOPE.

          LW, I know these comments are likely to be hard to read because you’re getting a lot of criticism, but I think it would be smart for you to consider the response you’re getting here and think about whether this might be costing you good job candidates.

          Reply
    2. Jeanne

      Good summary. #2: Who raised these people? I assume they get their management advice straight from Dilbert or maybe there’s a Reddit on how to be a mean boss. I hope she considers looking for a new job. #4: I assume the revenge is they have to spend more money after the toilet clogging. And others have a disgusting bathroom. But I am not sure of the mechanics of the situation. Wouldn’t your shoes get wet? Check for wet shoes. Actually, install a camera in the hallway that is hidden. #5: I was thinking that about losing employees. Maybe that’s why the employee “willing” to babysit moved on.

      Reply
      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

        Seriously. It’s so bizarre. I think some people go on a power trip and don’t get out at the last stop. It’s such a bizarre way to live as well – thinking the worst of every employee, wanting people to ‘prove’ their loyalty or whatever. It sounds so draining.

        Yes, that was my first thought as well! I’m willing to bet three cups of delicious coffee that employee decided to quit because of the babysitting arrangement.

        Reply
  15. MommyMD

    What kind of an employer does not give time off for an employee’s child’s WEDDING? especially when wedding dates are known months to over a year in advance?

    Reply
  16. Gaia

    #2 is sadly common. I used to think this kind of thing was normal and fine. Sick? Bring a note from your doctor. Funeral? Bring a copy of the death certificate or obit proving your relationship. Wedding? Prove your affiliation, etc and so on.

    Then I moved to a job that treated me like an adult and I realized how ridiculous this was. They are essentially saying you are untrustworthy and need to prove your honesty. I manage people now. There have been times that I’ve had reason to doubt what they are telling me but I deal with that in a different way (as in, why do I not trust them and what is the bigger issue) and not by making everyone prove they are not liars.

    Reply
    1. Mike

      This is insane.

      Funeral and sick leave, while ridiculous, I can see some reasoning since it’s time not coming out of your PTO bank.

      But other than that, any time off is yours to do as you choose. You shouldn’t need to justify why you’re taking the time.

      Reply
    2. mreasy

      The thing that strikes me here as unnecessarily cruel is that the boss could just ask for a photo, which would be a sweet and lovely thing to provide – a photo of you looking your best with your beloved son on his happiest day, that would not be a hassl to provide – but instead, makes this about paperwork and really hammers down the mistrust angle.

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        There’s also the fact that the documentation they’re asking for has way too much personal information about non-employees than they need. Doesn’t the marriage license have the bride and groom’s SSNs on it, for example?

        Reply
        1. Allison

          OP could probably black some of that out, if it’s a copy. Then again, OP’s employer doesn’t sound reasonable enough to allow that.

          Reply
        2. Natalie

          No, I don’t think so- you don’t need a social security number to get married in the US. We may have had to put ours on the application, I don’t recall.

          Reply
        3. Agnodike

          Are birth, death, and marriage certificates not public record in the United States? They are here; anyone has access to that information. Which, to me, poses the question why the letter-writer’s employer doesn’t, you know, just look it up. Searchable databases of public-record information are a thing.

          Reply
          1. Natalie

            Yes, they are, although often they aren’t readily available unless you go to the county where they are filed.

            However, in this case, the marriage license won’t be available until after it’s filed, which is obviously going to be after the wedding.

            Reply
            1. Agnodike

              Mostly I’m responding to the “personal information” issue here – it’s hard to argue that the employers are asking for private information if the information is, in fact, a matter of public record.

              The logistics and the general sensibleness of this policy remain mind-boggling to a reasonable person.

              Reply
              1. Natalie

                Oh, agreed – I wouldn’t personally worry too much about the information both because there isn’t actually that much personal information on a marriage license, and because they’re public info.

                Reply
          2. SignalLost

            A) they are, though due to the variety of municipal competence and technology they may not be accessible immediately; B) because doing so would inconvenience the employer. I genuinely think this kind of thing is a really gross overreach. I can slightly see it in bereavement cases because that’s actually a leave, not your personal PTO, but I honestly think anyone who demands proof of what you did or will do on your day off is just a person intent on inconveniencing you, not themselves, and they really don’t care enough to prove that Susie was at John and Jen’s wedding. They just want to make you do it, because eff you, that’s why.

            Reply
            1. Liane

              It costs to get those records. Here in Arkansas it is $12 for birth and $10 for marriage, plus additional fees for expedited. Also the applications request your reasons and the relationship to the person/s on the certificate so may be statutes who can request copies or why. Companies would rather the employees get stuck with the fees, especially ones that have policies that mean there will be many requests by many employees.

              Reply
          3. knitting fiend

            The status of the record depends on the state and even the type of record. In many states, there’s a limit on who can access the records {often 100 years for birth records, 50 or 75 for marriage, and 25 or 50 for deaths} for privacy reasons.

            Some records are on-line {Social Security death index, older records, and so on}. Others aren’t on-line but are available in person in the town hall, county seat, or state health/vital records department. Some that are available that way include needing to provide proof of relationship for access. And in yet other cases, there’s a longer process to get a copy.

            For example, Hawaii is pretty tight with its records ~ to the point that the genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak {yes, that was her maiden name, and she married another Smolenyak, who turned out to be unrelated…} can’t get copies of birth/marriage/death records from Hawaii even when she’s working for the U.S. Department of Defense to track down the next of kin for remains of soldiers/sailors recovered in Korea and Vietnam.

            So while birth, marriage, and death registrations are technically public records, how accessible those records are in reality varies. In Op#2’s case, the son will have a copy of the marriage record but copying it may not be uppermost in his mind right after he gets married ;-)

            {reference librarian and genealogist in my day job…..}

            Reply
            1. Candi

              Oh, that’s why it took the governor of Hawaii to dig up Obama’s birth certificate back when. (And was that ever a dumb debate.)

              It used to be really easy for random people to get death certificates, including of babies. (We’re talking pre-1990s at least.) Then it came out that the information thereon was being to request the birth certificates of the dead to commit identity theft. Frank Abagnale even mentions in one of his books getting the certificate for a “Frank Williams” (a frequent pseudonym).

              So there’s a reason for these. And LW 2’s bosses are power-playing jerks.

              Reply
    3. Stitch

      Death certificate? That’s just horrible. Not to mention – how exactly are you going to prove you’re related to your best friend/cousin, as those roles don’t normally get listed in an obit and certainly not on a death certificate.

      Although I do remember a terrible manager asking why I needed to go home when I was audibly throwing up in the bathroom. I worked in food service at the time too.

      Reply
        1. fposte

          Was that for bereavement leave or even PTO? I think that’s a pretty common rule for bereavement leave, but if they won’t even let you take PTO that’s another matter.

          Reply
        2. Liane

          Also, probably because of the costs per column inch, often only first names are used here. And in-laws are either left off or in parentheses: “Bail is survived by his daughter Leia (Han).”

          Reply
      1. heatherskib

        When I worked at the funeral home I regularly had to write letters for attendees to vouch they were at services.

        Reply
  17. MommyMD

    Please do not cry when firing this employee. It’s not professional. Your life goes on. She’s losing her job. Crying in the workplace should be exceedingly rare.

    Reply
  18. MommyMD

    The IRS may see a difference between the two “job titles” of personal babysitter and preschool aid if you are lumping the salary in one and claiming it under your business. They are picky like that. In addition, it sounds as if you have this on paper of which your employees have a copy. Tread lightly. Just higher separate babysitters.

    Reply
  19. jordanjay29

    OP#3:

    Is the work done with paper or on a computer? There are digital tools to enlarge screens and on-screen magnifiers for accessibility. The same is true in the real world. Your employee might know they need glasses but it sounds like they’re not someone who takes care of their personal needs in a timely manner. Why not suggest providing a magnifier for her, or getting her set up on a computer with accessibility tools if eyesight is the problem?

    Getting glasses can be a big ordeal, as you probably know yourself. Go to the eye doctor, get a prescription, shop around for the frames you want, pay hundreds of dollars despite having decent insurance, wait for them to come, get them adjusted (and first-time eyeglass wearers might find them very uncomfortable for a while), and wait to get used to the new vision. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was a child as well, but I’ve put off getting a new prescription for years because of the effort it takes, though it has yet to impact my productivity to that extent. I think you’re right to feel consternation at urging someone to make a medical decision, but I don’t think it’s completely hopeless in the meantime.

    All I’m saying is, maybe there’s an intermediate step you could take to provide a few inexpensive tools for your employee to succeed.

    Reply
    1. beetrootqueen

      This. There are also free programs you can install to help. Seeing the optician and fixing her eyes will take time and that’s not even possibly factoring in wait times etc. See what you can do in the meantime for example on paper documents try those yellow overlay sheets or on her computer install something like busybee reader

      Reply
    2. Gen

      The employee mentioned noticing differences in her commute as well though so there could be something more going on than just age related vision deterioration so it probably is still worth getting checked out. Problems with your eyes can be a sign of all kinds of health issues. I wear glasses with a prescription high enough not to be able to order online any more but with most standard prescriptions it’s easy to get them online or even in drug stores if it’s low enough (once you know your prescription)

      Reply
      1. Gadfly

        Like diabetes and pituitary tumors… lots of health issues can cause vision problems, even ones that aren’t in the eyes.

        Reply
      2. LBK

        I’m not sure why you think noticing differences in her commute is a sign that something else is going on; driving was one of my main indicators that my eyesight was getting worse because it’s one of the few times I’d be trying to read something a long distance away, but it was just normal vision deterioration, not anything else.

        Reply
        1. LCL

          The person at our work who says he doesn’t need glasses, really only to read signs, is the person who was T-boned because he turned in front of an F-250. In daylight hours. Because according to him he just didn’t see it.

          Reply
      1. SignalLost

        Isn’t that crossing a line, though? I mean, if this is someone OP is friends with, that’s one thing and it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here. And while I agree with you that one should not let unsafe drivers loose in the community, her employer is not a great pick to monitor her health as it impacts her outside of work. I know it’s well meant, but my reaction is that if my employer did that, next they’d be telling me I shouldn’t eat potato chips because they’re monitoring my health for me and those are bad.

        Reply
    3. Observer

      Not really, because there are so many possible problems that it’s hard to know which type of accommodation will work. And, some of these programs are quite expensive, so you really want to know what you are dealing with before you make the investment.

      I also don’t think it’s all the reasonable to ask the employer to foot the bill for something that the employee REALLY should be doing.

      Reply
      1. LCL

        I know what you are saying about the expense. But Windows does have a lot of things that can be done that come with the package. If the employee doesn’t have the patience to figure out how to configure it from Windows extensive/s documentation, she can google it.

        My windows setup has been tweaked and chopped and channeled and highlighted, all done by me, using the built ins with no hacker knowledge required. Often, if someone looks over my shoulder they will do a double take at how my desktop is arranged and displayed.

        Reply
      2. jordanjay29

        Most operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux) come with built-in accessibility tools like on-screen magnifiers. Physical screen magnifiers can be had for around $100 on Amazon. Handheld magnifiers and desk-based tools are less than that.

        There’s no reason an employer can offer these tools verbally before making a purchase, but I don’t think it’s the employee’s job to provide the tools to do their work. If they need vision assistance just for their work but not the rest of life, the employer should be providing that (i.e. not glasses, but assistive tools).

        Reply
        1. Observer

          Sure. If all the employee needs is a screen magnifier for $100, then the employer should do that. But, if the employee really needs glasses, then it’s not the employer’s responsibility to buy the magnifier.

          Also, obviously, the employee is NOT making use of the tools that come with the OS. Either she doesn’t know how, or that won’t resolve the problem. If it’s the former, doing that will generally mean some cost to the employer without knowing whether it makes any difference or not. If it won’t resolve the issue, then it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

          Now, if the employee goes to the doctor and comes back with a suggestion that x, y or z measure be taken because that’s going to be useful, that’s a different thing. If you know that something will help, then you (the employer) should do it, especially if it’s not instead of something the employee should be doing. We’ve happily bought larger monitors for people, and I’ve implemented a lot of the tools in Windows for people. But it’s not reasonable to expect the employer to proactively engage in ways to work around a problem that the employee hasn’t even bothered to get a diagnosis for, nor has explored ways to ameliorate the situation.

          Reply
    4. Fiennes

      In case anyone had seen the Zenni Optical ads online & wasn’t sure whether or not to trust them: I’ve had a GREAT experience. They’re lower-cost frames but prescription lenses, ordered online. This may be more useful for experienced wearers, since you need to determine what sort of thing is likeliest to fit/look good on you without trying them on. But you could probably get a local shop to adjust them a bit for you for a small fee. I took my prescription from the optometrist and ordered online, thinking I’d just get one backup pair for travel — but the frames are attractive and sturdy, and the lenses are absolutely on point. Total price = about $70, and I got extras. If cost is freaking anyone out, and you have a sense of what would look right on you, I highly recommend Zenni.

      Reply
    5. INFJ

      I also want to kindly point out to OP that delaying buying a new mattress or new TV may not be evidence of a lack of initiative or follow-through in her personal life, but rather of lack of cash flow.

      Reply
      1. jordanjay29

        This was the first thing I thought of. It could be that purchases are a hardship for the employee and that makes the suggestion really suck. A magnifying glass costs about a 10th as much as the cheapest pair of glasses.

        Reply
  20. Tempest

    How do people think that befouling the restrooms at work is punishing the powers that be? We have one that does her business and leaves it there to confront the next toilet patron. Seriously, me needing to flush away your BM for you isn’t going to make boss or grand boss change anything about how the company opperates. I’ve worked with nose pick and rub it on the stall wall people as well and I just don’t get it. I can get that you’re disgruntled – I’m very clearly looking for a new job – but leaving my mess in the communal toilet (which we also share with the CUSTOMERS!!) isn’t going to fix any of the things making me dislike working here. The cleaner is below average as well so it’s not even really punishing him as he never ventures in the lady’s in the first place – never mind that that kind of mess shouldn’t be his problem either no matter how below average he is. Just find a new job. I know it’s easier said than done but at least it’s something constructive to occupy you while you’re stuck there.

    Reply
    1. RVA Cat

      This reminds me of when we had a call center on our floor and the employees…weren’t raised right, leading to lots of passive-aggressive notes about the state of the restroom.

      The day that group left, someone booby-trapped all of the stall doors by smearing excrement on the door handles. Who does that?!?! How does this even occur to grown adults to do this?!?!

      Reply
      1. Tempest

        Thankfully other than floating in the bowl unflushed I haven’t had to deal with anyone else’s devil dumplings.

        Boogers on the other hand have been fair game for smearing. Gross.

        Reply
      2. Zombii

        I’m pretty sure call centers are one of Dante’s circles of hell and/or a vast majority of call center employees were raised by wolves. My mother works at the call center where I used to work (I still feel guilty about that referral bonus) and this Sunday when we met for lunch, she told a delightful story about walking into the bathroom at work and discovering someone had shit on the floor just past where the door opens.

        The saddest part is that this call center is a locked facility and requires a badge to access, so it was 100% someone who worked there.

        Reply
    2. Candi

      I’ve noticed some people have constructive mindsets, where they try to do something about the situation and build steps of some kind, and some have destructive mindsets, where they try to tear everything else down to their level.

      It’s work to be the first, but truly empowering. There’s something positive to see for your efforts.

      The second seems so much easier and feels empowering in the moment, but in the end all they’re left with is a toxic dump.

      And some people are just lazy.

      Reply
  21. Freya UK

    LW2: You need a new job. When you have an employer that relies on what’s legal to get away with being a sh!tty human being… you just need a new employer. I’m sorry, and I hope you have an ace time at the wedding :)

    When I worked in retail I had a manager like this. Here you can self-certify sickness for a week (ie; your workplace basically has to believe you when you say you’re off ill, for up to a full week, before you need a doctor’s note); when the World Cup was on this manager decided that he was above the law, and that any absence due to illness required a doctor’s note. I happened to get sick at this time, not in such a way that needed medical attention but still I had to go and waste NHS time to get a note – the Dr was so disgusted (by the manager) that he ‘upgraded’ my illness on my sick note, and told me to take more days off xD

    Reply
    1. Gadfly

      I agree–if they are acting like this for this, I’d review how they have acted over other reasonable things. Is this REALLY a one-off violation of basic decency or have there been other, easier to overlook examples? Crazy like this in my experience rarely just comes out of nowhere. And talking about it with co-workers? HUGE red flag #2, IMO.

      Reply
    2. Discordia Angel Jones

      Ahh if only there were more NHS doctors like that!

      Happened to me once while working retail and my old doctor’s practice point blank refused to give me an appointment for a note (or a note at all). They had some triage system where you had to call and speak to a nurse and describe symptoms before they would let you have an appointment.

      Ended up progressing to a chest infection and having to go to the hospital because I kept on having to go to work (where it was winter and we had the store doors open!).

      Reply
  22. xyz

    OP#3 It’s certainly possible that she needs glasses, but are you sure she’s not just a bit slapdash? (I know you say she’s great in other ways, but being great with customer service and being attentive to detail aren’t necessarily the same skillset). I work in library/records myself (and am short-sighted) and being meticulous about this sort of thing is a core skill. I can understand that vision might prevent her from seeing mistakes at a glance, but it would have to be a pretty serious issue to stop her catching errors if she was really taking her time and double-checking. I would probably work both angles – what Alison said, but also telling her she needs to stop and check everything again with a fine-tooth comb before she submits a document.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      This. Maybe it is vision and maybe she is sloppy but whatever it is, it is the performance that is the issue not whether she needs glasses. The OP needs to make it clear that the performance needs to improve or the job is gone. She could mention vision as one of the things to explore, but it is not an excuse. Do the job or there will be no job. Put the onus on the employee to fix whatever the issue is.

      Reply
  23. Dizzy Steinway

    #1 You say crying might show that you don’t want to fire her. That’s not the message you need her to take away. Wouldn’t you be confused if someone seemed to not want to fire you, but did anyway?

    You say the role has changed and she hasn’t changed with it. Has she been given specific, measurable goals? Sometimes a PIP can say what to improve but not how. Is there any training that would help?

    Reply
    1. Colette

      I’ve worked with people who were lovely people, but who couldn’t do the job. If I were in the OP’s position, I wouldn’t want to fire them because I liked them as people. But I would need to because businesses are about business, not about hanging out with people you like.

      Reply
  24. Dizzy Steinway

    #4 What makes them think it’s purposeful? Is it possible someone is clogging the toilet due to a problem (e.g. IBS) that means they use a lot of paper and they don’t know how not to clog it? I mean, to assess purpose they kind of need to know who it is. And they don’t.

    Try instructions on the toilet doors, and make sure there’s a toilet brush in every cubicle.

    Reply
    1. Some Sort of Management Consultant

      Wondering the same!
      How would they know it’s purposeful?

      It seems so much more likely that it’s someone with stomach issues who’s feeling terribly embarrassed and tries to cover it up.

      Reply
      1. Tempest

        I can’t speak for everyone’s toilet but in order to clog it bad enough to back it up over the bowl, doesn’t that show multiple flushes one after the other? When ours backs up it will come close to the rim, but not overflow on the basis of one flush worth of water. It then receeds back down with time. If you flushed it again while the bowl was still near the rim, then it would overflow. But it would be clear that something was wrong off the back of flush one. Most people would not flush again as it would be pretty clear where the rest of the water was going to go. If you made that mistake once and water was coming at your shoes over the rim, I can see running away in embarassment that one time. But to go and do that again when you know what happened last time, that’s deliberate. Doesn’t the letter say this has happened repeatedly?

        Reply
        1. Dizzy Steinway

          Maybe the person is panicking and doesn’t know how to do it right. For example, maybe they have stomach issues caused by anxiety and are getting in a giant stress.

          I just think it’s best to stick to what is observable and not make assumptions or try to be a mind reader. You know it’s being blocked. You don’t know whether it’s deliberate.

          Reply
          1. Tempest

            That’s a lot of credit to give someone who’s backed the toilet up over the rim multiple times! Again, once I’d give the benefit of the doubt but to cause the toilet overflow onto the floor once and then go and do it again, multiple times, that goes beyond any kind of anxiety. I have anxiety. It doesn’t stop me knowing right from wrong or stop me having common sense to know people got upset after the last time the toilet overflowed onto the floor and I better not do it again. If I caused damage to the building on two floors doing this by mistake once, I would be so mortified even if I didn’t speak up and got away with it the one time I’d certainly never put myself in the position of doing it again. I’ve worked in some pretty disfuctional call centre environments but no one ever overflowed the loo repeatedly which leads me to believe most people can avoid this no matter what they get up to in the stall.

            If they were clogging it up and walking away with it just clogged then I’d say the company should provide plungers. That they’re flushing it again for the second time knowing it’s clogged and causing it to go all over the floor and down through the ceiling to the next floor?! Doing that more than one time is likely deliberate. Do you not think the people who work there and the floor below are not saying please do not flush the toilet repeatedly if it’s clogged after the first time it happened? Even stressed out or anxiety ridden people know how to obey instructions. People with stomach distress can also presumably use the courtacy flush method and not put a whole roll of paper down at once.

            Unfortunately because people know you can’t quiz them about when they went and what they did there, this is a hard method of vandalism to police. I think they’re going to have to either do the alarms mentioned up thread or what Alison suggested and put locks on the doors you need to sign out from reception.

            Reply
            1. Dizzy Steinway

              Yeah okay, you’ve talked me round.

              I’m just not a fan of trying to mind read instead of focusing on facts.

              Reply
          2. sstabeler

            The thing is, at this point the overflow itself is deliberate, regardless of if they are deliberately blocking the toilet or not. As such, this falls under “it doesn’t actually matter”- if it is a medical issue, they are shifting the burden of accommodations not only onto co-workers, but external companies. That’s not reasonable any more than deliberately blocking the toilet is.

            Reply
            1. SignalLost

              Yeah, trust me, I have a medical issue in this region (har!) and I’m super aware of it. I don’t want to come in contact with my waste products and I sure as hell don’t want some poor maintenance person to have to either. This is deliberate even if we assume the cause is medically related.

              Reply
        2. DorcasGood

          OP #4 here, yes the upstairs staff said they were repeatedly flushing until it overflowed. That makes it hard to think it wasn’t on purpose.

          Reply
          1. Artemesia

            Once could be an accident — oh I will flush again and see if it doesn’t clear — but after one disaster, repeated problems are intentional. If the toilets clog easily then there should be plungers in the stalls.

            Reply
    2. Natalie

      When this happened at my old job, it was always tons and tons of paper towels, not toilet paper. So definitely not someone clogging it through routine use.

      Newer commercial toilets are basically impossible to clog with routine use.

      Reply
      1. Susan

        Yeah, I cannot fathom why on earth people would do this, but where I work, the company started removing the paper towels from the bathrooms and replacing them with air dryers because people kept clogging the toilets with paper towels (despite the fact that there are signs in every stall saying not to put paper towels in the toilets). Who are these people who deliberately clog toilets with paper towels and what is wrong with them?

        Reply
          1. SignalLost

            They’re also cheaper – you don’t have to purchase stock, then stock the towels into the bathroom, then waste time cleaning up the towels that have made it near the bins but not into them, and it’s pretty hard to steal air. Maintenance costs are much lower with air dryers, however annoying they are.

            Reply
    3. DorcasGood

      OP #4 here, the upstairs staff tested to see how much TP it takes to clog the toilet. They’re industrial toilets with a forceful flush, not residential toilets. They ended up needed to try an flush a whole roll at once to clog it.

      Reply
    4. Anonymous For This One

      So…years ago, during a nasty case of food poisoning, I had a need to use a lot of toilet paper. I flushed, very little of it went down. Flushed again, very little went down and the level in the bowl rose. 3rd flush (hey, I was ill, feverish, and not thinking clearly) came within a thumb’s width of overflowing. Spurred on by visions of the Mess That Nearly Was (not to mention the Horrifying Plumber’s Bill That Might Have Been), I snapped out of my illness-induced fugue and set to with the plunger, narrowly averting disaster.

      Ever since then, a conservative estimate of the maximum “safe” amount of paper to deploy before flushing has been seared into my brain, and if necessary I will flush while still seated. If this had happened at work and/or it had actually overflowed, I think I would be even more cautious.

      So I could understand this happening once, but not multiple times!

      Reply
  25. The Wall of Creativity

    #4 Come on people, let’s use our imagination! Maybe the culprit is a disgruntled employee whose boss is in his notice period. In this scenario, he could clog and jog right up to his boss’s last day, then stop. That way the boss’ reputation goes down the pan.

    Unfortunately I’ve never had a horrible boss quit, otherwise I’d have been tempted to try this myself.

    Reply
    1. Colette

      That’s a pretty bizarre thing to do, and I doubt it would affect the boss’s reputation all that much (unless it also started when the boss was hired, and never happened when the boss was out of the office, and ….) IMO, if someone did this to get back at their boss, I would assume the boss was not the problem.

      Reply
    2. The Wall of Creativity

      Almost a year? That’s even too long to spend flushing away incriminating evidence when the regulator comes calling. And they can’t possibly have that many dead goldfish. I have to concede on this – there’s definitely some wrongdoing going on.

      I think you need to take revenge on the company upstairs. Invite them all down to your floor for a drinks reception one evening but only after covering the porcelain goddess with clingfilm. That’s saran wrap to those of you on the other side of the pond.

      Reply
  26. Gadfly

    OP1, So definitely don’t cry during. But I do respect a former boss still who cried after firing a co-worker she didn’t want to fire (he’d called out sick too many times in his first year and the VP who called us all Nazis blamed him for everything with that… he was great at his job, and shortly after he was fired finally found out what was wrong and when it was being treated would have been no big deal and hasn’t been for him since–he’s still a friend.) But she waited until he left the building and locked herself in her office.

    So if you need to cry, do it after.

    Reply
    1. Trillian

      When one of my work places had its mass lay-off (thirty people of 90, including four of my seven person department) — I came out of the ladies just as our head of HR was diving for cover. Couldn’t hold it against her.

      Reply
  27. Dizzy Steinway

    #4 Sign out keys? For adults to use the bathroom? What if it’s urgent?

    I have a health issue that would make this impossible. Sometimes I just have to go. Now.

    I will reiterate my suggestion of printed instructions and toilet brushes.

    Reply
    1. Gadfly

      Toilet brushes won’t stop an intentional clogger…

      I’m thinking the alarm sounds like a really good idea once you point that problem out. Even without a medical condition, sometimes it just needs to be done NOW…

      Reply
    2. Czhorat

      Bathrooms are locked almost everywhere I’ve worked (with the obvious exception of where I am now). One reason is to maintain cleanliness, another is to reduce the risk of sexual assaults – especially if the entrance ot the bathroom is publicly accessible.

      Has the OP considered the possibility that there’s a legitimate issue with the plumbing allowing frequent clogging?

      Reply
      1. Callifleur

        Locking the bathroom door to reduce the risk of sexual assaults? I’m curious where you got this idea?

        I work at a crisis center counseling victims of abuse and sexual assault, and, and one of the myths surrounding sexual assault is that rape is committed by strangers lurking in dark corners, when in reality the majority of sexual assaults perpetrators are known to the victim and the victim is specifically targeted. A locked bathroom door is in no way an effective deterrent even in the exceedingly rare circumstance that this is not the case. I really urge you to reconsider perpetuating this untrutg.

        Reply
        1. Czhorat

          I never said it was the primary source.

          The first I heard that argument was during space-planning for a government agency that works with families. They expressed concern with restrooms being in the unsecured part of the floor for this reason, and stated that there were assaults in the unsecured restroom at an earlier time. Their assumption was that – for the sake of safety – the restrooms should have key-locks.

          Reply
      2. fposte

        Yup. We have a bathroom like that. And it’s stealthy, so you can walk in, think somebody didn’t flush before you and flush to clear it, and voilà, le flood.

        Reply
      3. DorcasGood

        I’m OP4, yeah the plumbing isn’t great, there have been other issues. But the upstairs staff tested how much TP has to be used to cause this, it’s a whole roll at once. And they determined the person has to flush multiple times, repeatedly to cause that much water. It honestly sometimes rains down like a shower, way more than just drips. And it’s being going on for almost a year.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I’m impressed at the upstairs staff’s devotion to research there; it sounds like they might be on board for interventions like the moisture alarms.

          Reply
          1. Tau

            I imagined the upstairs staff standing there with lab coats and clipboards – “used 45 sheets, still not clogged” – and now I can’t stop giggling.

            Reply
      4. Dizzy Steinway

        The sexual assault thing makes no sense as you can lock from the inside, no?

        I just can’t imagine not having access to a bathroom at work without someone else having to give me a key.

        Reply
        1. Czhorat

          I’ve been in architectural planning sessions in which just this issue was brought up – and it was stated that there had been at least one rape during a period when the restrooms were not fit with locks.

          Reply
          1. TL -

            That’s really uncommon – I’ve never worked anywhere with locked-from-the-outside bathroom doors (only the ones you can lock from the inside to prevent someone else from walking in on you). I know public restrooms here are often locked but that’s to prevent non-customers from using them (and, in some parts of the city, to reduce the risk of people using the restrooms for drug use.)

            Reply
            1. Czhorat

              I’ve never seen a restroom in a public-accessible place without a lock [at my last job, the restroom was outside the cardkey locked office area].

              Reply
              1. TL -

                Really? Most grocery stores/targets/malls don’t lock their restrooms. Neither do most fast food places or bigger chain stores or convenience stores.
                In Texas, it was the exception to have locked bathroom doors, even in smaller mom&pop places. Inside Boston, it’s the exception to have unlocked doors, but as you get outside of the city, the percentage of unlocked doors goes way, way up.

                Reply
                1. TL -

                  Oh, I’ve never worked at a place with locked doors. Or been to an office building that had them, come to think of it. I’ve been to a few that had bathrooms behind employee access points but I think that’s about as extreme as I’ve seen. Interesting.

                2. Candi

                  The only retail place in our town to keep the doors locked is one chain grocery store; you have to get the code from a cashier.

                  The way I understand it (note: customers can hear you gossiping about company matters, manager and co.) is that the store locations in other cities were having high incidents of illegal drug use and other random wanton acts of law-breaking behavior, so all locations had to get the locks (and sharps boxes).

                  I have a huge dislike for one size fits all policies, of any type.

            2. LawBee

              Our office building (comprised of several discrete businesses) has a keypad for the hall bathrooms, and only those who work in the building are to have the code. It is 100% intended to keep people from coming in off the street to use the bathroom.

              Context: our street is on a very popular running/walking route, and we would frequently have people coming in and using the bathrooms. They’re not for public use.

              Reply
      5. Liane

        The main library in our city has keys & log for it’s bathrooms. Men’s and Women’s are all multi-stall and you just need one of the keys for the main bathroom door, not an individual stall. They have had problems with patrons making messes or doing other things.

        Reply
    3. LawCat

      Yeah, the keys thing is odd to me. If there is someone sabotaging the bathroom, I’m not sure the solution is to treat everyone like they’re in elementary school. Security cameras in the hallways (not in the bathroom itself of course) can show people’s comings and goings if that needs investigating. Most places I have worked have cameras in thoroughfares.

      Reply
    4. Squeeble

      I could see implementing an ID system where you have to swipe a card to get in. It’s probably quite expensive but for a problem at this magnitude, whatever works.

      Reply
    5. Observer

      Gadfly is right. And it’s really hard to believe that any adult could tun into this problem multiple times.

      Reply
    6. Artemesia

      toilet brushes have no effect on clogged toilets and to use one would create a disgusting mess as now you have a filthy toilet brush in the stall.

      Reply
    7. Tempest

      In this part of the UK and when we were abroad last year in Budapest, it was pretty common place to need a code to get into the bathroom. The code was printed on your reciept. I assume it was to stop people who weren’t actual patrons from tying up the loos for the paying customers and also to have some control over the cleanliness. It doesn’t suprise me at all for restrooms to have access control on them anymore. I think a lot of gas stations are the same. The liberary bathrooms always needed a key on a big stick where I come from as well. I suppose they think if people know who you are because you asked for the key you’re less likely to distroy the bathroom when you know you have to hand the key back. In a work situation I can see it being weird to have to ask reception for the bathroom key but again, these people have no one to blame but their floody coworker.

      Reply
  28. Dizzy Steinway

    #5 I wouldn’t be comfortable mixing business and personal matters like this. I’m not surprised your employees aren’t either. It would really be better to keep them separate.

    Reply
    1. Mazzy

      But they agreed to it when they were hired. AND it’s a home ran school anyway so they are already mixing personal with work every day a bit.

      Once the employee accepted the job they can no longer complain they aren’t comfortable with the arrangement. It also a red flag that they are not comfortable with it at 13 but they are at 20.

      This looks like a red flag to me, that this employee is problematic, is be looking to hire two new teachers not just replace the other one

      Reply
      1. Mazzy

        To clarify you can’t use the “I’m not comfortable mixing work with personal” argument if you will above a certain price. That is just price gouging a captive audience

        Reply
        1. Alice

          How is OP a captive audience? Is something preventing her from getting another babysitter to take care of her children on the weekend?

          Reply
        2. Czhorat

          They aren’t a captive audience. The OP has the option of hiring another babysitter; there’s nothing compelling them to use their employees.

          Even if it’s a family daycare run out of ones home, it is still a business. Asking them to do personal work – even if it’s the same kind of work – is problematic, especially if it’s on a day when they aren’t usually available.

          The OP also didn’t indicate that the issue was “mixing business with personal” – that’s how some of us in the comments see it. From the employee’s perspective, $20/hour is what they want to charge for personal babysitting services on a Saturday. That the employee is a day-care employee the rest of the time doesn’t make them an on-call babysitter for the same rate.

          I DO understand where OP is coming from, with reliable and cost-effective child-care being hard to find. I don’t think they’re being entirely fair, and the bit about not wanting pay negotiated via text reads to me as a bit odd and out of touch with norms for the sort of ad-hoc child-care service she’s looking for personally.

          Reply
          1. Mazzy

            But it was spelled out from the beginning. It is no different than being hired for a low level admin role and then refusing to make copies or fetch coffee ones you’re hired. It’s also no different than demanding a raise to come to work from your boss – since it was spelled out in the offer.

            Are you saying that breaking the rules and trying to force your employer to change the rules after you are hired, despite them being spelled out on paper, is acceptable?

            Reply
            1. Grits McGee

              I think it’s different in this situation though- an admin making coffee at an office is still serving a business need, whereas having that admin go to a boss’s house and make coffee would be within the purview of a personal assistant since it only benefits the boss. Similar tasks, but context= different titles and expectations. I think the fact that the business is in OP’s house and that both tasks (teacher and babysitter) are childcare-focused is muddying the waters somewhat.

              Reply
            2. Stitch

              Having worked as both an admin and a babysitter, I can tell you there is a big difference. As an admin, I was extremely annoyed when I had to clean out my boss’s car (not really a task but I had to pick up someone from the airport and the only car available was messy). Getting coffee and making copies is very, very different from watching someone’s kid.

              A babysitter is very different from a preschool worker. It’s a lot more likely you’re going to have to say, have to deal with a little boy who likes to run around naked and then pee on the living room rug as a baby sitter (was I the only one? one of my regular kids loved to do this. I had to tackle him while holding a towel). That can come up as a preschool teacher, but it’s really not the same.

              Reply
            3. Czhorat

              I don’t think the OP saw it that way, but it’s very possible to read this as a demand for below-market rate personal babysitting as a condition of employment. That is – from a certain perspective – taking personal advantage of your position as a day-care owner. If the employee hasn’t been asked yet, I can one hundred percent understand their balking at it, and also understand if their personal rate for babysitting on a Saturday is different than their normal pay rate.

              The OP – to their credit – appears at least open to the idea that they aren’t in the right here. Really the best possible way to handle this is to sever personal babysitting from the daycare business.

              Reply
            4. Detective Amy Santiago

              The important thing to note is that babysitting your boss’s kids is completely outside of the scope of responsibility for a teacher’s assistant.

              To use your earlier analogy, this would be more similar to a CEO demanding that an admin work on a Saturday and do their laundry. That’s way over the line.

              Reply
            5. Jessie the First (or second)

              “Are you saying that breaking the rules and trying to force your employer to change the rules after you are hired, despite them being spelled out on paper, is acceptable?”

              Employees are allowed to renegotiate the terms of employment at any time, actually. You can ask for a raise, you can ask for a promotion, you can discuss your workload and attempt to have tasks redistributed. Your employer can do the same – change your job duties at any time, change your rate of pay, change your job title. This is how at-will employment works.

              So yes, it is acceptable for the employee to say she wants a higher rate for babysitting the boss’s kids on a Saturday night. The boss can say no, the boss can decide to pay her more, the boss can fire her (bad call in my opinion, but she can do it). Or – and here is what I hope happens – she can realize that mixing her business needs with her personal needs is a mistake and hire a babysitter, not her business’s teacher, for her personal babysitting needs.

              Reply
              1. Jessie the First (or second)

                (And to clarify, as my wording was not great – as an employee, obviously, renegotiating isn’t guaranteed success – but it is normal and fine to try.)

                Reply
            6. fposte

              I get where you’re coming from–while there’s no law forbidding somebody from renegotiating salary after four months, we don’t generally cheer them on, either.

              But to me the situation is different here in that the task being renegotiated is a sketchy one–it’s like renegotiating being asked to work off the clock. I’m less concerned with it being personal than with it being tax and labor iffy (I’m still suspecting the employee might be nonexempt and that this might push her into OT), and I think employees have more right to question when something really isn’t right.

              Reply
            7. Artemesia

              People desperate for a job will agree to all sorts of things that are unconscionable. That is what power imbalance means. It is still inappropriate to make personal servitude part of the job unless it is the whole job i.e. a personal assistant.

              Reply
            8. Lioness

              I also think the employer is renegotiating the rules.

              If the babysitting was really an extension of her job, and just another task, then the employee shouldn’t be paid less per hour than her job as a teacher assistant. And OP stated that the rate of babysitting was going to be the rate prior to the promotion and raise, even though this would be the first time since the raise began. The employee didn’t agree to be paid less for a task that was “suppose” to be part of the job.

              Second, the OP stated that the employee would have to commit to one Saturday per month, but this is only the second time asked in 4 months, so the commitment doesn’t seem to be a full-on requirement.

              Third, the OP also stated she asks employees to look after her kids while she is taking PTO, meaning work relating to the business is not getting done. This isn’t a task given during work hours, this is being asked to come in while the business isn’t running. And it is only a coincidence that the babysitting ends up located in the same place of business, but it is no longer during business hours. If business work isn’t done during babysitting, then it shouldn’t be perceived as serving a business need, so it shouldn’t be perceived as part of working for the business.

              I think this can open it up to renegotiation on part of the employee, since they haven’t been required to work on Saturdays in the months prior, the pay wouldn’t be the same as what they get as a teacher’s assistant even though it was the same prior to the raise.

              Reply
            9. Zombii

              >But it was spelled out from the beginning.

              I don’t think it was. OP says the job posting said one Saturday per month and that was also discussed prior to the job offer, but I’m wondering whether it was actually explained that the Saturday work was babysitting OP’s kids and not working at the pre-school like normal.

              >It is no different than being hired for a low level admin role and then refusing to make copies or fetch coffee ones [sic] you’re hired.

              It’s more like if you were hired for a low level admin role and then refusing to come in on Saturday to make copies of promotional flyers for your boss’s death metal band that’s playing next week. It has nothing to do with the business, except using (some) of the administrative skills you were hired to use as part of your job.

              Reply
      2. Natalie

        Once the employee accepted the job they can no longer complain they aren’t comfortable with the arrangement. It also a red flag that they are not comfortable with it at 13 but they are at 20.

        Totally disagree. No one ever loses their right to change their mind. Perhaps the person thought they wouldn’t mind and now realizes they do. Perhaps the extra work is more of a pain in some way (farther away, more kids, etc) than they were anticipating. Perhaps they’ve since spoken with people and learns how unusual this is.

        And as far as being okay with something at $X rather than $Y – isn’t this why people negotiate salary? We all get to decide, to some extent, how much money to see our labor for. She’s decided this particular labor isn’t with the low rate.

        Reply
        1. Mazzy

          I totally disagree. I’m not seeing any difference between this and my Assistant wanting a raise from $55K to $70K just because – just because they want to buy a house – or just because they don’t want to earn the raises – or just because they don’t like the salary bracket they are in. This is a very dangerous line of thought to me.

          Reply
          1. Lablizard

            What if you asked you assistant to come to your house and do a similar, but not same, function? Would you pay them more? Should you expect your employer to pick up the cost?

            OP5 is asking for a personal service from someone who works for her business, not her as an individual. This is equivalent to asking the custodial staff at your work to also clean your house on a weekend.

            Reply
            1. Mazzy

              Well that’s not exactly the same from the getgo because I wouldn’t be asking someone to come to my house gets already be there. And yes I’d expect someone to honor the terms of the offer letter and job content discussed. I’m very much not getting how this is any different from any other employee refusing to do the job they were hired for. Notice that none of the objections are stating specific slam dunk reasons to avoid this arrangement. Terms like “acceptable” and “muddy the waters” imply a degree of subjectivity. Well what we deem as acceptable changes over time and for a variety of reasons. You can’t just start changing your job because your life circumstances or your perception of your level has changed – you’re still in the same job. If pay and work content were thes subjective Willy nilly concepts subject to change at the employees whim, companies would be having people quit get huge raises or not do work all over the place. So where do you draw the line? here? Is it really some big win for labor that someone out there gets to completely change the job they were hired for? Do you think that helps employees in general, or only makes employees more hesitant to hire?

              Reply
              1. animaniactoo

                Yes, actually, that often is a win for labor and it should be. In perspective to the value they add to the company, many many people are drastically underpaid (see wage stagnation, growing gap between average employee and exec level salaries, etc.). Employers don’t have the option to be *too* wary about hiring, because without those “average” people there to fulfill that role, their company cannot operate. SOMEBODY’s got to serve the donut or it doesn’t matter that you have the best damn donut recipe ever. In which case, you better make it worth their while to serve the donut. Employees recognizing this and acting on it is a win for labor.

                If an employee recognizes they can command a higher price elsewhere for the same work, they absolutely should. Employers all to often have the upper hand because those people on the other end? In general, they are under more pressure to accept (somewhat) unfair terms because they need to eat and pay rent. They have a lot less leverage to begin with.

                Reply
                1. Natalie

                  Right. Employers hire because they have work that they needed to be done, not because they were oh so charitably providing employment to their workers. If the idea of employees having some kind of leverage makes you hesitant to employ anyone, you are probably not a great boss.

                2. Candi

                  Yep.

                  Machines being invented in the late 1800s/early 1900s to do the work of multiple men may have been bad for the un/low skilled job market -but they were a factor in breaking the power of company towns, a situation where workers had no leverage.

                  If an employee finds leverage in dealing with an employer, then the question is when and how to (legally) use it -not whether to.

                  (Legally is important; illegal behavior reduces leverage and damages marketability, besides being just rude.)

              2. Jessie the First (or second)

                So are you of the opinion that employees cannot ask for raises? They can’t attempt to renegotiate terms of employment? Once hired, this is where you sit and what you earn and what you do until….what? Until the employer decides on her own to do something different for you? If that’s your opinion, it is a real outlier.

                Reply
                1. Mazzy

                  Wow people are mixing up a lot of things here. I don’t understand why you think I’m against raises. I am against someone starting a job under a given set of standards and a salary that is acceptable then wanting to completely change the rules after hired.

                2. animaniactoo

                  Mazzy, I think that you’re not hearing yourself and that’s where the disconnect is coming in.

                  You’re arguing this as completely changing the terms of the job. It’s not. It’s talking about *one portion* of the job, and renegotiating that upon realizing there’s an issue.

                  You’re also arguing this as having made an agreement and needing to stick to the agreement. But… that’s also not true. It’s possible to try to renegotiate that agreement, particularly on realizing that the initial agreement was unfair.

                  If what the employee was asking for is unreasonable, then of course they shouldn’t get it. But if what they are asking for IS reasonable to ask for, then it should absolutely be up for consideration. Precisely because it is reasonable, whether or not they made a previous agreement.

                  Everything you’ve argued here has been on the basis that a) there’s an agreement in place and b) looking to change significant terms of the job, and those are leading you into a series reductio ad absurdum hypotheticals rather than dealing with what this situation is.

                  People are pushing back because the way you’re presenting those things is painting you into a corner where yeah, taking you by your words and the scenarios you’re painting – you’re against employees being able to renegotiate pieces like *certain* duties or more money once they realize they’re being taken advantage of.

              3. Czhorat

                What many of us here are saying is that – whether intentionally or not – the OP took advantage of prospective employees’ need for a job at their business to procure personal babysitting service. That’s not reasonable and would not fly in any other industry; and it shouldn’t in the day care industry. The best and most concise response was that the OP is not differntiating the business and the business owner.

                You also see the power dynamic far differently than I do; it’s almost always management who has the upper-hand. I’m not at all concerned with the “threat” of employees having the ability to stand up for their rights.

                Reply
              4. aebhel

                This isn’t part of regular hours, though. Watching the OP’s kids along with the other kids at the daycare is one thing (and not really that unusual for a home daycare); coming to the OP’s home on a Saturday to perform personal babysitting services for her is an entirely different thing.

                Also, people renegotiate job duties all the time, even without the added insanity of ‘job duties’ including ‘non-negotiable personal babysitting services on the weekends’.

                Reply
              5. Natalie

                Is it really some big win for labor that someone out there gets to completely change the job they were hired for?

                No longer able to babysit for the owner once a month != “completely change the job”

                Reply
              6. Lablizard

                Babysitting is not the same duty as being a preschool teacher. She was hired as a preschool teacher providing a *business* service to the preschool as a *business*. She is allowed to renegotiate providing a *personal​* service to her boss as an *individual*. The boss can refuse to pay for the extra duties, can fire her, etc., but the attempt at renegotiating is perfectly fine. The OP blending personal and business duties maybe not so much, especially if she is using business funds to pay for babysitting so she can run errands.

                Reply
                1. Mazzy

                  But if he started at 55k thinking hat was a good salary it would not be realistic to all of a sudden expect 70k that would pretty much be accepting. A job under false pretenses

                2. ZTwo

                  @Mazzy Uh, employees are allowed to accept jobs for any number of reasons, even jobs that they may feel pay below market rate. They may accept the role and find out it involves more work than originally claimed or much different work (that is usually compensated more).

                  Obviously ideally they’d make that clear by trying to negotiate during the offer process or trying to hammer out when they could expect salary or whatever–it’s maybe unreasonable expectations or poor negotiating or poor understanding of the role or a role change or any number of things, but not false pretenses.

                  Employees can want or expect more money from a job. They can have good or bad reasons. None of that inherently makes them shady or liars about why they accepted the job. That also doesn’t mean they have to get that money, but good management works with them to set expectations (“we don’t offer raises before 6 months no matter how good the work” or “right now you need to improve X, Y, and Z before we can discuss a raise”) instead of being annoyed that someone wants to get paid more.

                3. Tinker

                  @Mazzy I was actually asking whether you understand that the employee is allowed to quit — that is to say, to unilaterally decide that while previously they were willing to work for $55k, that they now wish to not work for $0k.

                  Also, I am not sure what this “accepting a job under false pretenses” even is.

              7. Tinker

                Actually, upon rereading — I’m actually unclear on two points.

                First one being as previously mentioned: it’s weird that you say things like “If pay and work content were thes subjective Willy nilly concepts subject to change at the employees whim, companies would be having people quit…” as if people can’t in fact do just that.

                Second: Is the problem that you have with a notion that an employee could just say “I want to earn $75k now” and they therefore now have to have that job for $75k?

                Reply
                1. LawBee

                  “Second: Is the problem that you have with a notion that an employee could just say “I want to earn $75k now” and they therefore now have to have that job for $75k?”

                  Man, how I wish that were the case!

          2. Czhorat

            It’s entirely possible that the employee babysits on the side and charges $20/hour.

            To me the issue is an employer thinking that they are owed personal labor from the employee at the standard hourly rate. Let’s say that you had full-time maintenance staff; would you expect one of them to go to your house on a weekend to unclog your toilet at their hourly rate? That’s what the OP appears to be asking.

            Reply
            1. Mazzy

              But the person already accepted the terms of the arrangement by accepting he job, so it’s a moot point as to whether other people, including us, think about it at that point.

              Reply
              1. Czhorat

                They accepted it, and now see it as exploitive (which it is) and – if their personal babysitting rate is higher – costing them part of their personal income.

                If the employee needed a job at the time, it wasn’t a completely fair negotiation; they accepted almost under duress because they needed a job. Or they accepted without thinking about what it would mean to them. Or they misunderstood the terms.

                Either way, I’m fine with them re-negotiating something which I see as taking personal advantage of the business for private gain.

                Reply
              2. Natalie

                And now they’ve changed their mind and are asking for someone different. The LW will have to decide if she can accept that, or if she wants to terminate their employment.

                Reply
              3. MsCHX

                I disagree that it’s a moot point. I disagree that an employee loses bargaining power because they’ve accepted a job.

                OP is using their position to get discount babysitting. That is wrong.

                Find babysitters. Pay market rate for your babysitters. Maybe the children acts as entitled as OP and the employee wants more money to watch them!

                Reply
          3. animaniactoo

            I see this more as your Jr admin realizing that you’ve incorporated duties that make them more of a Sr admin and wanting to be paid accordingly. Because they didn’t realize when they started that even though those duties were included in the job description, that they were not normally Jr admin duties.

            At which point, you have choices – limit their duties to a Jr admin and farm out the Sr admin duties elsewhere (even if it means taking them on yourself), pay them the market rate to do the Sr admin duties, or let them go and try again to find someone who will do Sr admin duties for a Jr admin salary.

            You seem to be stuck on the idea that “there’s a contract”, but when the contract is unfair, it’s entirely possible to try to renegotiate it on realizing that what you’ve agreed to is wrong. Whether you succeed is a different story, but it’s basic standing up for yourself and you’re not locked into servitude just because you realized you accepted a raw deal. If you’re unsuccessful in renegotiating, you may need to wait out a small period of servitude while you finish out your contract/find another job/etc. depending on the penalties you’d need to deal with. But the contract is not the end all and be all here when it’s a bad instrument.

            Reply
          4. Natalie

            You’re ignoring the possibilities I raised that this extra task was different than described, or that the employee has learned since accepting the job that this is really unusual, or even that something has changed in their life circumstances that doesn’t make this as easy as it was when they accepted the job. It’s not weird or out of line for them to renegotiate if that happens. We have letters about this kind of conversation from the employee’s side all the time.

            As to your other point, what on earth? To be blunt, your assistant doesn’t owe you shit. If they decide they want a raise and ask for it, you’ll have to decide if you can afford it and they have earned it and if you can afford to lose them. But they’re not being “dangerous” by asking. Good lord.

            Reply
            1. MsCHX

              This is my thinking too. e.g., young person who accepted this and then, in speaking with family members or other people who have more experience in the workforce, has learned that this is highly unusual, and now they are pushing back.

              Reply
            2. Mazzy

              Why the holy shit? To accept someone to do roughly the job they were hired for in the salary range they accepted that is standard for the role? I’m a bad manager because of that? Should I expect someone I just hired for marketing to wake up one day and want to do finance and get a raise? Sorry I can’t budget for that. My boss would think I’m hired poorly in addition to not giving me unlimited payroll budgets

              Reply
                1. fposte

                  But I don’t think Mazzy’s way out of line here, either; if you hire them to do finance for your company *and* to do your tax return, it’s understandably jolting if in April they say “Actually, I want more for doing your tax return.” I think the employee could have handled this better, and if she’d written in, I would probably have advised her to do it differently–explain that she’s discovered it’s illegal not to pay her OT if that was the issue, ask about the tax stuff, etc.

                  But I also think that the OP’s position requirement here is likely to chase off a lot of the people with enough experience to negotiate a situation like that well, and that the employee’s awkwardness doesn’t mean the OP’s requirement is a good one.

                2. ZTwo

                  @fposte I see where you and Mazzy are coming from there, though I’d add that an extenuating circumstance here may be that, until recently, another employee was covering all these babysitting shifts. It’s not like the employee has been doing them for 4 months and is just now saying something.

                  It’s also reasonable to me that they might have made some assumptions (that it was really the other person’s duty, that the previous employee was paid more for this, that it’s OT, etc) that haven’t had a chance to be cleared up since the initial hiring and now. Even with having done it twice before, they may have (clearly incorrectly) assumed that was special circumstances or covering or that there would be a negotiation when it became their duty.

                  That ultimately doesn’t change how I feel about this, but I think it’s important context for us and the OP in why there might be confusion/this sudden change.

              1. Artemesia

                The employee is being treated like a personal servant and not even being paid overtime. It is an exploitive relationship. There are people who agree to do all sorts of inappropriate things under duress; women used to have to put out to keep their jobs in many situations. Babysitting for the boss on top of the regular job is inherently abusive use of power. Not wanting to pay the going rate for babysitting on SATURDAY is abusive.

                Reply
              2. Natalie

                Well, I didn’t say you were a bad manager, so… did you even read my comment?

                To reiterate, for the third (and last time): There are perfectly acceptable reasons to reopen a discussion about job duties, pay, working conditions, etc, after a comparatively short period of time. You are completely ignoring them in your hypothetical (?) about your assistant. Just a couple of possible reasons, that have come up here before:

                The LW did not accurately describe some aspect of this babysitting duty during the interview

                The employee has found out how unusual and unacceptable this is, and is putting her foot down

                Something has changed in the employee’s personal circumstances where this small aspect of her job is no longer easy to do.

                Reply
              3. Tinker

                I mean, it’s entirely possible to have someone who was hired for marketing to end up wanting to do finance and get a raise — suggesting that they shouldn’t is actually pretty out of line. What you and they DO about this desire is another conversation.

                Reply
          5. hbc

            “This is a very dangerous line of thought to me.” Dangerous that employees want something more than they have? Good grief.

            If a single employee can hold your company hostage by their whims, then you have a terrible business setup. Otherwise, you figure out what to do, whether cave because it’s expedient, agree because it’s reasonable, fire the person for failing to perform duties and replace her, or find some compromise position.

            Reply
          6. Sarah

            Well, but in this case it’s “just because” the salary being offered is below market rate! I made around $20/hour for babysitting multiple kids maybe a decade ago — if anything, the $20 offer might still be below market.

            Reply
          7. aebhel

            Well, if $70K would be an appropriate rate and you’re paying them $55K, then I could seem them doing that. The problem here is that you’re insisting that this is a normal unobjectionable thing that the OP is expecting when it’s really, really not.

            If someone suddenly balks at a normal, unobjectionable work task that they knew was going to be part of their job, then yes, we’re probably not going to be very sympathetic. If someone balks at something as nuts as being expected to watch their boss’s kids on a Saturday for less than their normal rate of pay, that’s entirely different even if they knew about it upfront. Putting insane job requirements in the ad upfront doesn’t magically make them less insane, it just means that you’re only going to get applicants who are desperate enough to risk it–and some of those people might eventually change their mind.

            Reply
          8. Anna

            Your assistant is entitled to ask for a raise at any time, for any reason. You and your company are entitled to say yes or no. Then, each of you is entitled to decide whether to continue the employer/employee relationship. There’s nothing “dangerous” about it. The employee here can decide she’s no longer willing to babysit boss’s kids without a raise. The employer can decide that if she’s not willing to provide personal babysitting at a reduced rate, she’ll be fired. That’s just how negotiations work.

            Reply
        2. Lablizard

          Maybe the work means that the employee has to find her own child care on the weekend and needs more money to pay for it?

          OP5, I an with the rest of the comments. You are being a bit shady here requiring a personal service from your employees as apart of the job. The employee is being reasonable in asking extra pay. That is her rate as a babysitter, which is a separate duty from a teacher. And be honest with yourself, if the employee has agreed to the wages you offered over text, you would not see a problem with text negotiations over wages. I presume you texted her with the offer. Getting a counteroffer​ over text is perfectly fine, especially if you texted her about working on Saturday.

          Reply
          1. Czhorat

            re: text, I said earlier that it’s normal to give rates for ad hoc babysitting via text message. This is much less formal than a salary negotiation for a formal business. If I texted someone “can you watch my kids this weekend?” and they texted back, “Three hour minumum, $20/hour” I’d not think twice about it.

            Reply
      3. Apollo Warbucks

        I wonder if the kids are a pain in the ass, not that there’s a lot to suggest that in the letter but the letter says the OP’s employee said: “Yes, but for your kids I will charge $20/hour and I need cash.”

        Maybe it’s not worth the aggravation for $13 but for $20 it’s more bearable?

        Reply
          1. LawBee

            Maybe this will help.

            Boss hired Assistant at $50K, to do certain specific duties M-F, 40 hours a week. Also, Assistant may be required to walk Boss’s dogs on Saturday night. ($50K for a 40 hour/wk job is $24 an hour).

            Assistant agreed to these terms, and for four months, was not required to walk the dogs. However, now the regular dog walker (who also works for Boss in the non-dog related business) is moving on. Assistant is now being asked to walk the dogs Saturday nights.

            Assistant has since learned the following:
            a. dogwalkers in the area are paid $30/hr.
            b. Walking the dogs on Saturday nights is adding 4 hours a week to her workload, at less than $25/hr
            c. Walking the dogs on Saturday nights is much more inconvenient than anticipated, due to [fill in the various completely legitimate and valid reasons why]
            d. The additional 4 hours during the week are not being paid at an overtime rate (presuming the assistant is paid hourly)

            Assistant, with this knowledge, is asking to revisit the terms of the contract, and to be paid the local dogwalking rate of $30. Why? Because the terms of the contract are no longer satisfactory – not because Assistant is trying to gouge Boss out of money, but because Boss isn’t paying OT while requiring Assistant to work overtime hours. (Actually, in this hypo, Assistant is cutting Boss a break!)

            What can Boss do? Boss can do whatever Boss wants. What should Boss do? Well, I would advise Boss to stop requiring company employees to perform personal services. If I were advising Assistant, I would absolutely agree with the recommendation to ask for more money for dogwalking.

            Now, if Assistant’s COMPANY job was being changed to include organizing the stock room during the work week, as well as her other duties, then I’d agree with you that demanding this additional money is ridiculous. But that’s not the situation here. OP is requiring her teachers work outside of normal business hours on the OP’s personal affairs – and apparently not even paying the going babysitting rate. This is a problem, and her teachers are absolutely in their rights to ask for more money for babysitting. And OP is perfectly capable of saying no and letting them go – no one forcing the OP to pay this extra money. (Even though she should, in my opinion.)

            Reply
            1. Humble Schoolmarm

              I think this is a great explanation. I would argue, though, that if hypothetical assistant took the job because it didn’t involve bending or lifting and the duties changed so that she had to bend and lift to organize the stock room, it wouldn’t be indicative of a flawed personality or desire to deceive if our assistant tried to negotiate a raise or change in benefits so she could afford an extra visit to the chiropractor or massage therapist.

              Reply
              1. LawBee

                True, that would be a significant change in the duties which would warrant a discussion.

                (I felt like I was writing a law school exam question, ha.)

                Reply
      4. Dizzy Steinway

        Woah, no. Having a home-based business isn’t the same as mixing business and personal matters. Please don’t conflate those.

        We see posts every day from people realising they’re being exploited. Better late than never, I say.

        Reply
        1. Jessie the First (or second)

          Right – a home-based business is a business. A daycare center running out of the hone will be licensed by the state,is likely incorporated. It is a separate and distinct legal entity. Doesn’t matter that the business operates in the home – it is a business. And the business entity is separate, legally and in all other ways, from the business owner’s personal life.

          Reply
      5. LawBee

        First, you can always revisit the terms of employment. Second, running a business out of one’s home isn’t the same thing as mixing personal and work. The mixing here is using her teachers as paid personal babysitters as part of their employment – that’s the problem. The fact that the school is based in her home isn’t. The only red flags I’m seeing here are on the OP’s side, honestly. The employee can always move on, but I don’t see where she’s done anything wrong.

        Reply
  29. Always Anon

    #2: is there a newspaper engagement announcement that your employer would accept as proof? My local newspaper will run engagement announcements that often include the names of the bride and groom’s parents. It’s still awful that your boss doesn’t trust his employees, but this could be a less invasive option than providing the marriage certificate and birth certificate.

    Reply
  30. Rebecca

    #2 – best wishes for you and your son. I’m sorry your employer is unreasonable. My snarky side says to not only provide what they want, in triplicate, but add photos of you standing with a copy of each day’s newspaper at the wedding site, with the headline clearly visible, so you can provide additional proof of where you were. Oh, and wedding photos. You could put together a Powerpoint presentation showing each photo that you were included in, with date and time. Maybe even take pictures of the interstate exit signs if you are driving to and from the event.

    In all seriousness, I hope you can find a new job, and hopefully give notice…during their blackout period.

    Reply
  31. Justanotherthought

    OP#2 – Overall, I agree with everyone that this is a really crappy situation, especially given that there is someone to cover your shifts. However, the thing that caught my eye is that you wrote “this week.” I understand when weddings happen last minute, for various reasons, but that could be the key to why your boss is requiring this. I still think they’re being pretty crappy, but usually time off for weddings is requested FAR in advance (as in, months in advance) – not the week of. But if providing that information is what will give you your time off, provide it and be done with it… and then keep that in mind when deciding if that’s still somewhere that is worth working. As Alison constantly reminds us (with good reason!), think about if this is a one-off situation or is an example of on-going problems that show flaws in your workplace and/or manager.

    Reply
    1. Kathleen Adams

      The OP doesn’t say that she asked this week. She said that the wedding is this week. (That is at least how I interpret her post.) We nave no idea what the timeline of the requesting process was.

      Reply
  32. Grumpy Pants

    OP #3…..transposing numbers could be dyslexia. Mine gets worse if I am tired or stressed or in a hurry. Having her eyes checked by an ophthalmologist to see if she needs glasses is a start, but not a guaranteed ‘fix’.

    Reply
    1. Xarcady

      I was thinking dyslexia, too. Glasses might help, but because the problem has been around longer than her apparent need for glasses, there might be something else going on as well. I’m dyslexic, and spell check is my lifesaver. But like Grumpy Pants, if I’m tired or stressed, my typing gets much worse.

      Maybe she could learn to proofread her work?

      Also, back when I was in high school and taking typing lessons, we were told that transposing letters or numbers was the #1 typing error, usually caused by typing too fast. So if she’s hurrying to get through the work, that could case more errors.

      Reply
      1. Kj

        If she is dyslexic proofing may or may not work- I can’t always ‘see’ my transposing errors, especially with numbers. I can ‘see’ word errors more easily, but number errors are the hardest to catch.

        Maybe this is a chance to see if the work could shift to duties that are not so-number focused? If she is great with customer service and the OP’s company is a larger company, I bet they have a customer service job that involves less #s, and more customer interaction. Sometimes learning disabilities mean that certain jobs are not the right ones for us. I intentionally have a job that involves few numbers and no need to speak a foreign language, because those are the things that are hard for me due to the learning disabilities.

        Reply
    2. Spoonie

      If I’m tired, my 6 becomes a 9 and my b becomes a p. Or a d. It varies. I usually catch it, but…again, I’m tired. It happens regardless if I’m typing or writing. I’m nearsighted, but I imagine if my reading vision were worse and I wasn’t wearing corrective lenses, trying to catch mistakes in my typing of the above letters while tired would be even more of a crapshoot than it already is.

      Reply
      1. jordanjay29

        Gosh, yes. When I did cashiering, if not for the numbers on the screen, I would have gotten totals wrong after 4 hours of tallying prices and figuring change. Numbers tended to blur or switch in my head, and I even wear glasses. It’s just possible some people get fatigued when staring at the same type of content all day every day.

        Reply
    3. aebhel

      That was my thought as well. Transposing numbers doesn’t necessarily have much to do with eyesight, but it’s a very common thing with dyslexia.

      Reply
      1. Melba_Toast

        @Anxa, that’s what I was thinking. I have dyscalculia and I immediately wondered if the OP might be working with someone who has it too. While people without this issue might be able to get away with checking over their work once, someone with dyscalculia might have to comb through the data patiently and thoroughly to find errors. Sadly, glasses won’t fix this issue :/

        Reply
    4. Isben Takes Tea

      I was thinking this too, but what can we suggest the OP do about it?

      It’s only an issue if the employee does get tested and does get diagnosed with dyscalculia and claims ADA accommodations, in which case the OP has to figure out if any accommodation can reasonably be made without undue hardship to keep the employee in the job, but it sounds like being able to keep your numbers straight is a crucial function of the role.

      If the employee doesn’t get tested in a timely manner, it’s a moot point. If the employee gets tested and diagnosed but doesn’t claim ADA accommodations, it’s a moot point. It’s not the OP’s responsibility to make sure the employee tries all avenues to “fix” the problem.

      I do agree it’s a good thing to keep in mind if the OP starts thinking of the employee as “lazy” or “stupid,” but I didn’t get any sense that this was the case at all.

      Reply
  33. blackcat

    On the eyeglasses letter: I recommend trying to be blunt about this: “I really recommend you see an optometrist. Here is the name of one covered under our plan.”

    When I started teaching right out of college, I was too busy/lazy/broke to update my prescription. I thought I was fine! Sure, road signs were a bit blurry, but I could make do. And finding a new optometrist (I had moved states) seemed like a pain in the butt.

    Two years into the job, some of my students were given a presentation. I was in the back of the room. At one point, they sorta looked at me funny and slowed down. I asked why. They said I was making a face, so they thought they had done something wrong! Nope, I was just squinting to see! Now, they had written something a bit small, and my classroom wage huge (so “the back” was >25 ft from where the students were). I explained and one said, “Dude, Ms. Blackcat, go get some new glasses.” I made an appointment later that week.

    Reply
  34. animaniactoo

    #5 – Could you hire a babysitter who *wasn’t* one of your teachers for less than ~$20/hr? If not, then you’re completely in the wrong because you’re trying to take advantage of the fact that she’s your employee in your professional business for your personal life.

    Fwiw, you guarantee her a set number of hours for your business and for that you reward her with a paycheck and she rewards you with being a responsible employee. If you don’t trust that she’s doing the “honor system” work, you should address that as a completely separate business issue. If you do, it’s a non-issue and does not belong as part of this equation, because she’s doing the work, it’s not like she’s getting away with a freebie and then refusing to pat your back in return.

    Also – babysitter is different – they’re being left entirely alone and solely responsible for the kids’ care. Even if it’s fewer kids they’re personally taking care of, there’s no backup to handle problems, there’s no one to split certain chores with, doubleteaming stuff like getting snacks ready while the other supervises art cleanup, etc. Please revisit how you’re thinking about all of this.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      I worked in a preschool, and it was very different from babysitting–there are other adults to talk to, or to hand off to if Little Joey is finding a way to pluck your nerves. You get breaks.

      Reply
      1. Student

        And if your day job boss is the person you babysit for, the dynamic is very different. It’s really, really hard to tell your boss, whom you depend on for paychecks, that her kids have been misbehaving badly all day, or struggling with something important – but that’s a pretty normal thing that has to happen occasionally in a babysitting job. It’s also different than discussing someone else’s kid with same Boss for a preschool teaching job.

        I notice that the OP also very carefully avoids saying how old her kids are, or how many she has, while indirectly implying they are preschool-aged. I’d like to believe that’s an accidental omission, but if it’s deliberate, it’s pretty telling. There’s a different level of work involved in caring for a 3-month-old, a 2-year-old, an 8-year-old, a 17-year old. If any of the OP’s children have special care requirements, which could range from a severe peanut allergy to autism to childhood diabetes or beyond, that is also a more involved level of care. What would the fair local going rate be for babysitting for your children if you hired somebody just to do that? Is it significantly different from average preschooler care, and is it significantly more than you pay your employee?

        Reply
  35. Mockingbird2081

    LW#1..I feel you on this one. Working in healthcare I had an fantastic employee make an error with the privacy of a patient’s record. Policy is strict on this and though I knew she was sorry and that it was an accident I had to let her go…no warning. I wanted to cry. But didn’t. I let her go as kindly as I could. Helped her clean out her desk. Then after she left I went into my private office closed the door and had a bit of a cry.
    As a manager sometimes it sucks to always have to keep your composure but to me it is part of the job.

    Reply
  36. amy

    Babysitting lady — yeah, don’t do that. Don’t mix an employee up with your family life, and don’t put her at beck and call like that — particularly for $13/hr.

    She’s telling you what her time off the regular job is worth. Pay it, negotiate, or look elsewhere for babysitting.

    Reply
  37. Teacher's Kid

    OP5, I wanted to give you the most charitable reading of your letter, given you ask if you are in the wrong (“being a jerk”) and your inclusion of details about the business as if you’re trying to demonstrate how it’s on the up and up and coded in your mind as business related–you even say you ask Ms. Frizzle to stay late some days while you run business errands or take PTO! But that’s what tripped my alarm.

    Your taking PTO at the end of school hours only works if the staff hours always run beyond the instruction time, but the staying until official close is only sometimes, but the employees are still paid for the whole day AND you stop asking for the aftercare when your PTO runs out. Otherwise I don’t think you can run those extra hours as business expense. It looks like you’re paying yourself for personal time. Sometimes teachers in public schools might take on aftercare work, but get extra pay on top of their normal rate.

    Secondly, check with a lawyer, because hourly workers may not be able to work extra hours for the same employer, but doing different tasks, because then they’d have to be paid overtime.

    Thirdly, check with a tax lawyer about how you’re categorizing your write offs. This all sounds way off.

    Finally, if you want a babysitter on Saturdays (that’s really what you’re asking), talk to your teacher and say you’re willing to negotiate a cash rate, if you are. But I believe you’re better off hiring outside your school for the many reasons other commenters have stated.

    Reply
    1. Czhorat

      OP5 is the owner of the business. They don’t get “PTO” or have a limited bank of it. I see all kinds of internal confusion as to the roles of the owner, employees, ad-hoc babysitting services, and business. I do understand that the OP managed people in what I presume to be a more corporate environment; that’s very different than owning and running ones own business.

      Reply
      1. Teacher's Kid

        Right, but in OP’s letter, they state they have the teacher stay late sometimes either for OP to run school errands or just take PTO, which is a really odd way of categorizing their after school free time, but is likely framed that way i. OP’s mind to legitimize the teacher staying late to essentially babysit. Which is not OK.

        Reply
        1. Czhorat

          Agreed. I was reiterating that it IS odd, and that it speaks to a strange understanding of the role and responsibility of a business owner.

          It can also create a bad perception; “I need you to work overtime so I can go to the bank and deposit the payroll check” is annoying, but at least business related. “I need you to work overtime so I can handle personal errands” creates the impression that the owner cares more about their personal time than the business or their employees’ time; they’d certainly not give the employees free time off to go to the dry-cleaner or whatnot. This is more potential bad optics/perception than anything wrong, but perception does matter.

          Reply
          1. Chickaletta

            Depending how the OP set up her business, it is possible that she set herself up as an employee. I don’t know the technicalities of this but it is possible in certain situations.

            Reply
        2. Lablizard

          I wonder if she is paying overtime for all that work. $20 is essentially time-and-a-half for someone who makes $13, and if the employee is working 40 hours a week, this would be a fair rate for OT

          Reply
  38. The Wall of Creativity

    #4 Problem solved. I just called Bob from premises about the blocked loo. He told me he’d logged it. I can’t believe I got a confession out of him that easily.

    Reply
  39. Chicken

    #1, I think it will help if you refer to it as a layoff when you are talking to her – it sounds like that is in line with how you are thinking of it rather than a firing. I’d definitely be clear that you will give her a good reference that says she was laid off due to her position being eliminated (which is true; the position she formerly did no longer exists, and she is now in a new position that she is not able to succeed at). You should also tell her that you won’t contest unemployment and be as generous as you can with severance.

    I agree with Alison that it’s very very important for you to hold it together when you tell her. You crying would likely make it a lot harder for her. It’s totally fine (and perhaps good) for her to see that you’re sad about needing to let her go, though. Have you seen the “comfort in, dump out” article from a while back? That’s usually used for personal situations, but it applies here too.

    Reply
    1. Amtelope

      +1

      I think it would be far kinder in this situation to describe this as a layoff in which her original position was eliminated. Firing someone for cause because they can’t do a job they were never hired for doesn’t seem particularly fair.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        But it isn’t a layoff, it is a firing for cause. Layoff implies a RIF; this is targeting an employee who can’t do a job, so not caused by a RIF.

        Reply
        1. Zombii

          I don’t think “for cause” means what you think it means. I look this up every time someone mentions it, and it’s much more serious than “didn’t work out in this role.” At least in the States it involves a serious breach of law and/or ethics.

          Reply
    2. N.J.

      It’s not a layoff though, and the OP may not be able to guarantee that a reference check etc. wouldn’t reveal that the employee had been fired, instead of a layoff. It won’t help the employee much if the OP says that she will say it was a layoff if others at the company would call it a firing. It might actually hurt the employee’s employment chances if she were to put down she was laid off when she wasn’t. This would be the OP lying to try to help the employee out. I don’t think that’s wise. A layoff is based on the core definition of a termination for a business reason unrelated to employee performance and on the idea that there is no fault on the employee’s part. For instance, if when the employee’s position changed management had decided that the employee wasn’t qualified to perform the new job and acknowledged that a restructure had changed the position significantly, they might have been able to just lay her off then. My sense though, is that the role evolved in a different direction when new leadership took over and wasn’t formally restructured. However, this employee stayed in their role through whatever iterations of job responsibilities and stinks at the job. She is getting fired after being on a PIP, for the quality of her performance. The termination of her employment is based on poor job performance. I admire the OP’s compassion and her realistic assessment of the employee’s abilities and her acknowledgment that this employee is great at certain things. A firing doesn’t mean the employee will never be a useful and successful employee, nor that she wasn’t in the past. But she is being terminated becaus of her failure to do her job, that isn’t and never has been a layoff, that’s a firing.

      Reply
  40. K.

    OP #1: don’t cry. Do not cry. People have listed some tips for controlling tears; use them. Do not put the person whose life you’re disrupting in the position of having to comfort you. It’s harder for her, full stop. It just is. Don’t make it about you. If you have to cry, do it afterward. I was laid off a couple of years ago (my department was eliminated) and the VP who did it talked at length about how difficult it was for him, and regaled me with stories about other times he’d laid people off. I just sat there and read my severance agreement. And later, I told a lot of people what had happened and how the VP had talked about himself for most of the time, and literally everyone I spoke to was like “What an ass. He still has a job!”

    OP #2: work somewhere else. Your boss sucks and doesn’t trust you.

    Reply
  41. Slow Gin Lizz

    OP1: I *highly* recommend practicing what you are going to say to the employee ahead of time as many times as you need to in order to be able to get through it without crying. My mom used this technique when giving the eulogy at her own mother’s funeral – we were all very impressed with her stoicism. Turns out she just practiced it many, many times so she could get the crying out of the way when she was alone. (And I feel you – I am a crier and it’s quite inconvenient, especially when I do not actually feel sad but am just crying because hormones.)

    Reply
  42. saffytaffy

    OP #5, I know it’s very normal in your industry to do things like this, but it is a poor practice and it contributes to the industry’s high turnover rate.

    Reply
  43. No, please

    OP #5: I agree with Alison. Also, I’ve been the employee in a situation very similar to yours. I felt like my personal time was being taken over by my boss’s personal needs. I think it’s best if you hire outside help for personal baby sitting. It will probably cost more than $13 per hour, but may be worth it to avoid this problem in the future.

    Reply
  44. Joie De Vivre

    OP#5 – I’ve not read all of the comments yet so this may be redundant

    * It would be a good idea for you to ask your accountant or tax advisor about charging the weekend babysitting to your business. It may cause issues if the IRS ever audits you.

    * If your employees are having problems making ends meet, requiring them to work on a weekend could preclude them from getting another job. Case in point – 20+ years ago one of the daycare workers at my son’s daycare worked 4x10s at the daycare, and 3x12s at a local manufacturing plant. She was a hard worker & my son loved her.

    * Personally it hits me wrong that you have all weekends “off” from work each month, but you expect your employees to give up one of their weekend days each month.

    Reply
  45. Delta Delta

    #5 – This seems to cross a line, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. And then I realized if I swapped “preschool teacher” for nearly any other profession, I was squicked out by the notion that a job included mandatory weekend babysitting for the owner’s children. That just isn’t normal.

    Reply
    1. MuseumChick

      Thank you. I also was trying to figure out why this made me feel as weird as it did. You put it very well.

      Reply
    2. Alton

      Or even other types of personal work for the boss. It would be strange for a nurse at a doctor’s office to also have to perform in-home care for their boss’s elderly parent who’s not a patient of the practice, for example, or for a chef to have to come over to the boss’s house a couple nights a week to cook dinner.

      There are some jobs that might reasonably involve taking care of some limited personal things for your boss, but I don’t think this is one of them. The employees of a daycare or preschool are employed by that business to perform a service for the customers. Performing a personal service for the boss isn’t a natural extension of that.

      Reply
    3. Jessie the First (or second)

      Another thing that icked me about this was the OP’s opinion that the different job titles are meaningless: “I don’t see the difference for a job title between these two positions, especially when you’re an hourly employee”

      Plenty of preschool teachers really do think of themselves as *teachers*, and rightfully so. It’s a career. Being paid hourly doesn’t change that teaching is a career and that it is different than babysitting. I think the business owner is just really inappropriately mixing her own personal needs with her business needs, and trivializing the role of the teacher she has hired for her business. It can sympathize and understand that it might be hard for OP to really keep them separate in her mind, but it’s something I really, really think she needs to get a better handle on (for business reasons, for tax reasons, for employee morale reasons).

      Reply
      1. mamabear

        This is such a good point. Being a qualified early childhood educator is very different than being a babysitter. My mom and sister are both early childhood educators. I personally chose a daycare where the teachers have degrees in early childhood ed. They have incredibly challenging jobs and I am so grateful for their skills and talents. There is so much value in what qualified teachers bring to the table, and I’m very surprised that OP #5 can’t seem to make the distinction between teaching and babysitting. That is really troublesome. If I were an employee, I’d be wary. As a parent with a child at that center, I would be flat-out worried.

        Reply
  46. S.I. Newhouse

    OP #1: While I agree with Alison and most of the commenters that you should do what you can to try not to break down in tears, I don’t think it’s the end of the world if you do. You’re human, and it could happen despite your best attempts.

    We had the same situation come up at our workplace not long ago. We had a gentleman working for us who was the absolute nicest guy in the world, and we all loved him. But the quality of his work was persistently terrible, we were involved in a project with almost unachievable goals, and emotions were running high all around. We finally called him into an emergency performance review meeting, put him on a performance improvement plan and warned him that without immediate improvement, he would be terminated — and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. We were all on the verge of bawling, the two supervisors and the employee. It was the most uncomfortable and awful meeting I’ve ever been a part of. But a funny thing happened afterward — some sort of message finally got
    through to him as a result of the meeting, and he pulled a complete 180. I acknowledge this might well be an extreme, outlier example, but OP, don’t beat yourself up if you end up crying.

    Reply
    1. CoffeeLover

      +1 I really like your response. Reading the question, it sounds like the OP is trying to justify crying in case it does happen. A lot of readers seem to be responding as if the OP INTENDS to cry. Crying is not a great idea, and some readers have given good pointers for how to avoid it. If it happens anyway though, then it happens. We’re all human.

      Reply
  47. B

    #1 – Do not, do not do not cry when firing. This is not about you, this is about the person whose world is about to be thrown upside down. And yes, while you are human and will have those emotions it would be quite selfish for your feelings to come more into play than the person being fired. This is much harder on her than it is on you and that is what you need to remember. You will still have an income, health insurance, etc

    You also need to clarify what you say and this situation – is this person being fired or laid off? Do not try to smooth feelings by saying laid off and then finding out it was actually a firing when they cannot collect unemployment.

    Reply
  48. paul

    OP5: you’re requiring *personal* services in exchange for hiring people on as employees? That is skeezy. Stop it.

    Not to mention the entire mess that comes if your business ever gets audited (and frankly I kind of hope it does). You’re charging what sure seems like purely personal expenses to your business entity? Yeah that is *probably* not OK with the IRS.

    Reply
  49. PizzaDog

    I’ve had a manager cry when letting me go before. It had come out of nowhere in the first place, but seeing her cry honestly almost set me off. I was professional throughout my impromptu exit interview, but boy did I let my poor partner have my tantrum on the way home that afternoon. I was honestly furious. Rumour has it that she followed me out the door, but that another employee cornered her and told her that coming after me to apologise would have made things even worse. No friggin kidding.

    Echoing Alison’s advise – try absolutely your hardest not to cry. The person you’re firing / letting go / what have you will not be happy about it, and you’ll probably make things worse for them.

    Reply
  50. Archivist/Researcher

    re OP#3 – It might not be glasses she needs. When I started working and taking messages I often made mistakes like switching numbers or leaving out words – got me in hot water with one salesman regularly. Finally in grad school a prof noticed (she had a daughter with these problems) and mentioned I might need testing for a learning disability – which I did at the school and found that indeed, I had real problems with numbers (in grade school I got yelled at for being lazy all the time – adding instead of multiplying, writing numbers in wrong order, as in the telephone #s with that salesman) and often left out smaller words or syllables. Once I became aware of the problem, I was better at fixing errors and being careful, which helped eliminate the problems, but not completely. Spellcheck helps, and at times hinders, oddly enough.

    Reply
  51. Ashie

    OP #2, Florida marriage licenses do not have the names of the parents on them (I know because I have one). Your boss is asking for something that is not just stupid but literally impossible.

    Reply
    1. nnn

      That’s exactly what I came to the comments thread to ask! I’ve seen a few marriage licences recently while organizing family papers, and none of them had parents’ names.

      Reply
      1. Ashie

        Why would this even be a thing? How infantilizing. I love my parents but my marriage is really none of their business.

        Reply
        1. Bellatrix

          I come from a post-Soviet country and my parents’ marriage license has not only my grandparents’s names, but their occupations as well! It’s hilarious how they used to put it on all documents in the proletariat spirit, especially to the modern ear. I was born in the nineties and my birth certificate lists my dad as a “computing technician”, because programmer sounded too foreign.

          Before the age of id numbers, putting down the names of your parents on documents (not just wedding certificates, but also the birth certificate I mentioned) served the function of distinguishing between multiple individuals with the same first and last name. Such documents are pretty useful if you’re trying to trace your family history to a predigital era. I don’t know how US marriage certificates look, but ours have national id numbers these days and have hence dropped the parent names and occupations :D

          Reply
        2. Dizzy Steinway

          I’m British and parents’ names go on marriage licenses here. I think it’s an ID thing, ie to help distinguish you from anyone else with the same name.

          Reply
    2. fposte

      The request made it clear that in that case the birth certificate would be required, though; the boss is ahead of you there.

      Reply
    3. Sarah

      Yep, not a thing in my state either. Ours didn’t even have WITNESSES (other than the minister), which I thought was super weird–we even had our witnesses all picked out because we just assumed that was a normal thing!

      Reply
  52. Bea

    I often transpose numbers and don’t notice until I look at them again “with fresh eyes”, I have glasses. It’s a touch of dyslexia and not eye sight.

    I’d encourage her to double check or have things proofed if they’re incredibly important. I wouldn’t jump to say she needs glasses if transposing is part of the issue.

    Reply
    1. Kj

      I’m 100% dyslexic and sometimes I can’t see the reversed/transposed #s. It really sucks because people think I’m stupid for that. But I intentionally have a job where I rarely work with numbers. If this employee is doing great with other job aspects, is there a way to shift duties so she doesn’t have to do the number piece, but can take a customer service load off someone else in exchange for the other person doing more of the numbers?

      Reply
      1. Bea

        My previous boss was dyslexic, his handwriting alone was difficult to read, I can’t imagine what his eyes told him went where! If anyone ever treated him like he was dumb because of it, I’d probably have physically fought them. He was absolutely brilliant as a designer and craftsman.

        I’m in accounting so it is frustrating to me but I’m grateful that its usually something that resets itself for me because I’m a math person since childhood.

        I had a moment awhile back that I swore that “gunshot” read as “shotgun”, I even went back and circled the word all “duh, it’s right here, guys.” Not until the 3rd or 4th person corrected me did it finally shake out in my eyes as gunshot. They all were laughing and calling me stupid as well. They all jerks who probably have limited worth of their own to be so overjoyed by someone’s reading issues.

        Reply
        1. Halpful

          Huh. Stuff like that started happening to me several years ago. Dyslexia does run in the family, but I thought it was something you were born with… maybe I should read up on that…

          Reply
  53. Czhorat

    For OP2, they DID say that the day was – for whatever reason – blacked out. I wonder if there have been recurring issues of someone being denied PTO and coming up with an explanation to try to have their request reconsidered. If this happens with frequency, it can explain [though not really excuse] management asking for some form of documentation.

    In any event, to be fair, it IS better than denying the request entirely and saying that the OP has to miss the wedding or have an unexcused absence.

    Reply
    1. kb

      I guess understand that maybe they want some extra proof that she has a very legit reason to be off because they’re accommodating an especially inconvenient request, but they’re requesting documents that aren’t even really hers? If I were the kid getting married I’d be weirded out that my personal documents are in the hands of my mom’s boss. I also feel like an invitation, wedding program, or photo a the wedding would be sufficient. How little trust do they have to require random legal documents??

      Reply
    2. 2horseygirls

      This is for Alison (and all the managers out there):

      Do managers have a certain amount of leeway or discretion in terms of significant life events occurring during a blackout time? I cannot imagine that this is the first instance EVER of something important coming up during a time that is unusually busy.

      OP, a thought I had after I hit Enter on earlier comments: how was this blackout period communicated to employees? If there was no formal communication, then they could just pick a random Tuesday, and call it a blackout day.

      Reply
  54. Nope

    LW5- holy crap, so sketchy. Do no do this. It will make it very hard to find and keep good employees and ruin you in an audit.
    Pointing out that you only guarantee the employee a certain number of normal hours in exchange for these extra weekend ones would smack of blackmail to me. A “Watch my kids, or I’ll cut your hours” threat that is very unfair.
    Charging the rate “originally agreed on” instead of including all raises earned since is miserly and wrong, especially when the employees should probably be getting time and half overtime if these were true business hours.
    If there are weekend tasks, have the employees actually do the business-related errands while you watch your own kids.
    Stop using your employees as babysitters.

    Reply
  55. Tableau Wizard

    I’m curious everyone’s thoughts on crying when resigning.
    I totally agree that crying when firing is a terrible idea, but if you’re generally sad to deliver the news of a resignation (best thing for you, but still tough to leave), how hard should you work to avoid crying?

    Reply
    1. LBK

      I think in general office crying is frowned upon, but would be more accepted in that situation. Crying while firing someone looks really bad because a) you want to project a strong, firm image while you handle a serious situation like that, and b) it comes off a little selfish, since you’re just losing an easily replaceable employee, while they’re losing their livelihood, probably unexpectedly. You don’t really have the right to be the one who’s upset about the situation.

      Reply
    2. Freya UK

      When I resigned from ToxicJob I was doing great at being strong & sassy about it (handing in my badass letter to ToxicBoss)… until one of my closest coworkers started crying and then I lost it – TOTAL FAIL. It was a legit ‘walkout’ resignation though, so at least I didn’t have to deal with any fallout from it afterward.

      I cry when I’m angry too, which I hate.

      Reply
  56. kb

    OP 5:
    I can understand how it doesn’t seem like too terrible of a stretch, especially after your employees have been willingly doing it for so long, but you’ve definitely edged into sketchy territory.
    If you were an owner of a restaurant, it wouldn’t be weird to eat food your chef makes during restaurant hours. It *would* be weird to say that the chef is hired at the restaurant under the condition they make you breakfast in bed every Saturday. But say you know your chef has a personal chef service on the side, it would be more acceptable to personally contract their services to make you breakfast on Saturdays. Even though it’s more acceptable, it has the potential to ruin both your relationship as a client and as a boss– most people can’t completely compartmentalize.
    So for OP, okay solution: contract your employee as a babysitter separately, from personal funds
    Best solution: hire a separate babysitter with your personal funds

    Reply
  57. WFHMama

    OP1 – please try to not cry! I know it will he hard for you, but I was once let go and my boss cried as he did it and it just infuriated me to no end. I get it is emotional to have to let someone go, but I was GETTING LET GO and to have to watch the person delivering that news to me cry make me so much angrier since it made the conversation more about him than me. All I could think was, “please don’t sit here and pretend this is harder for you than for me, I am getting canned and now have to figure out how to support myself and YOU are crying? Please!” and it left me with a really bitter feeling towards him and the company. As you can tell.

    I know it is hard for you, nobody is saying it is not, but I really hope you can hold it together for the sake of the person about to lose their job. Good luck!

    Reply
  58. OP #1

    Hi all – OP #1 here. Thank you for your comments. As some of you noted, I am certainly not intending to cry! I hope and believe I’ll be able to hold it together, but even if I do cry, I will simply dab my eyes and keep talking. I have been laid off by someone who kept talking about herself (“I hate doing this, it’s the worst part of my job,” etc.) and that was ridiculous and I don’t intend to repeat it. My question for Alison was how much it matters if I do inadvertently cry, and I’m hearing loudly and clearly that the answer is “a lot,” so I really, really hope I don’t.

    I am not sure if I’ll be able to give the employee a positive reference. Those of you who said that she wasn’t officially restructured were correct; she’s in a typical job for our industry but was doing nonstandard work until our new CEO returned the role to more of the industry standard. In addition to not being a good fit for the work and the PIP not helping, she has also had some attitude problems that contribute to her departure as well as to us not being able to find a different role she could move into.

    Reply
    1. Bea

      I feared that it was a case of her skating along before (such as the standard being bent to accommodate her like it sounds here).

      We had to let someone go years ago after 20+ years of service due to something similar. You will make it through this and can certainly cry when she’s gone, that’s what we all did *hugs*

      Reply
    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

      Thank you for the update! I’m sorry if my reply came across as harsh or as if you were planning to bawl your eyes out – that wasn’t my intent but reading it over, it could come across that way. It sounds like you’ve got a good plan for inadvertent tears – dab eyes and keep on talking.

      Good luck. You will do a great job, I am sure. It won’t be pleasant, but you will handle it with professionalism and grace.

      Reply
        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

          Oh good, thank you. Your comment made me realise I’d misinterpreted your question a little.

          Hope everything went well/will go well! :)

          Reply
  59. OP #1

    P.S. We’re in the U.S. and she is indeed being fired for cause, not laid off. I can give her some severance.

    Reply
  60. VroomVroom

    #2 – do you work in Retail (automotive specifically, but any retail?). You said black out days for this weekend, and I’m thinking since it’s month-end for sales it could be retail. I work for automotive corporate, but I understand how the retail side works since I work closely with them.

    Alison, it’s quite common, at least in Automotive Retail, for there to be a blanket NO VACATION on the last week & Weekend of a month (since month end falls on a Friday, technically month end takes place on Monday 4/3, so they have through the weekend for additional monthly sales, at least for our brand).

    My brother’s fiance recently started working in automotive retail and set their wedding date shortly afterwards. She recently found out (after notifying her employer of the date) that it’s a blackout date, and she has to get a special exception for it, and it’s not even sure that she will get it. She also has to provide specific documentation.

    It’s pretty normal, even though it’s childish to have to request all of this, because often in Automotive Retail at least, people try to skimp around the end-of-month blackout dates. It’s happened to every dealer I know so frequently, that they have to require specific proof in order to allow for any exceptions to be made – since so many exceptions are requested and they simply cannot approve all/most of them. They require proof such as this so that they CAN approve the ones that are most vital.

    Reply
  61. kb

    OP 5: I’d also like to add that whatever you end up doing, you shouldn’t refer to your employee as “young lady,” especially not to her face. It was probably just a phrase you used while venting your frustrations in the letter, but it will come across as extremely patronizing. Additionally, this employee’s request was incredibly reasonable, so using the phrase will just make you seem extremely out of touch with modern business norms.

    Reply
    1. kb

      Ahh, I just realized that this probably broke the word choice rule. It just struck a nerve today because a random old man called me “young lady” when I wouldn’t take out my headphones and chat with him on the bus yesterday. My apologies, OP, Alison, and all.

      Reply
  62. BTW

    #3 – No advice but I can relate! I had a hard time, for a long time, seeing signs on the road. I have an anxiety disorder that surfaces a lot around driving too so not being able to see signs until I’m right there was just exacerbating the situation. My husband kept getting angry at me (in a funny way, he’s not a jerk) telling me to go get my eyes checked and I refused for a long time. Not because I was in denial but just because I too, tend to procrastinate when it comes to this stuff. I finally went and the optometrist says, “Are you having a little trouble driving?” I said yes. He says, “I’m not surprised. You should not be driving without glasses.” Oops! Haha! Once I got them it was like that scene on Grey’s (GA lovers will know what I’m talking about, everyone who doesn’t just sucks haha! Jks) where Callie and Hahn had woken from their first lesbian encounter and Hahn was talking about how it was like “needing glasses” and how she could finally “see the leaves.” I was amazed at how bad my eyesight was. Now if I’m driving as a passenger and I happen to forget them it annoys me to no end.

    Reply
  63. Candi

    #3, if you’re still reading…

    Tell your employee that every day she waits, her eyes will be affected. The more strain and effort her eyes have to make without corrective lenses, the worse the deterioration will be and the stronger -and likely more expensive- her prescription will need to be. Even thought OTC reading glasses are a thing, a strong prescription will lessen or shut out that option.

    I’ve had glasses since third grade. Once I was an adult and had to cover them myself, I got more then one -kindly, well-meant- lecture about going too long between exams and new lenses.

    Incidentally, be careful and check the reviews; some places are part of chains but still awful.

    1, self care for you before and after is all I can recommend. I feel bad for both of you.

    2, your bosses are awful. It’s your time off and you have coverage m; it’s none of their business.

    4: your upstairs neighbors’ worker is a brat. That’s kid behavior. And I’m fairly sure it’s not doing the building’s construction any favors.

    5: Are you asking for the worker to work five days and give up Saturday’s? That’s a big ask; when I worked daycare, Saturdays and half of Sunday were chore and errand days. (Granted, my kids were little than and I can’t driv, so I was on the bus.) She honestly may not be able to help out without receiving compensation to pay for others’ labor because of the lack of time.

    Reply

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