my assistant quit because of St. Patrick’s Day pinching

This letter was originally part of a five-short-answers column, but it’s getting enough interest that I’m making it its own post. The other four letters that were originally bundled with it are now here.

A reader writes:

This past Friday, the office I work at got into the spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day. We were all asked to wear green, and items such as green hats, clovers, and other symbols of the day were encouraged. Non-alcoholic green drinks and green food were ordered for a catered lunch for everyone.

Despite being Irish (in fact the only Irish person employed here), my assistant declined to participate. She had complained that it was offensive and cultural appropriation.

The first incident happened when she was pinched while on the way to a meeting. She yelled at the person who did it. The second incident was before the meeting, she was pinched as she sat down. I was not present for either incident. For the second incident, she said she was pinched near her butt. The person who did it claimed he didn’t mean to do it there and she had started to sit down. My assistant got angry and, according to people in the meeting, she walked out and threw her ID badge down. No one has seen her since, and when I called she said she quit and hung up. People from the meetings said she didn’t understand the pinching and was angry and had yelled.

I’ve never had someone quit abruptly before. If she asks for a reference in the future, how do I decline? Should I let her next employer know she quit abruptly? Since she was my assistant, should I address it with people?

It doesn’t really matter if she “understood” the pinching or not. She shouldn’t have to get pinched at work, and the fact that people are brushing it off like it’s nothing that should have bothered her is weird. Even people who enjoy the pinching “tradition” for St. Patrick’s Day should understand if it turns out that someone else is bothered by it.

Quitting on the spot was a pretty extreme reaction — although nearly having her butt pinched is a pretty extreme thing in and of itself, and it sounds like she was already pretty upset with the way your office was handling the day. And for what it’s worth, plenty of Irish people do have problems with the way St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the U.S.; she’s not pulling that out of thin air, and it’s sort of disrespectful of your office to brush off the concerns of the one person with an actual ethnic connection to the holiday.

Given all that context, you should give her whatever reference you would have given her if she hadn’t walked off the job. If she would have gotten a good reference before this, you should give her a good reference now. It also might be wise to apologize to her for what happened.

{ 1,433 comments… read them below or add one }

    1. Renee Noel

      This is a very interesting situation. On one hand I understand the assistant’s reaction because if she already made it public that she does not wish to be pinched, than her co-workers should respect her boundries. She also has the right to be upset if one of those pinches fell under the category of sexual harassment. I believe her reaction would only be appropriate if the pinch could be considered sexual harassment. If she was exaggerating; however, the reaction was a complete over reaction. If I was her employer and she asked for a recommendation, I would just be honest about the situation. I would also look into her claim of sexual harassment, because that is –to me– a very serious claim. Then to address the other workers, if they ask, go ahead and explain what happen. If the co-workers do not ask, then their is no point in explaining the situation.

      Reply
      1. Gadfly

        She shouldn’t need to make that request–It should be assumed you don’t pinch people without having clear consent.

        Reply
      2. Gordon

        The entire thing is irrelevant… What is relevant is that she was pinched without her consent. That is assault.

        Reply
    2. Erin Maura Donley McGurn :)

      PINCHING?? I am of Irish descent and in my 50s, and never heard of such a thing. That’s beside everything, but I kind of lost my concentration when I saw that. Pinching?

      Reply
      1. ReneeB

        It’s a grade school thing. The last time I encountered “fail to wear green and you get pinched” was in probably 5th grade. Even the school administration saw fit to put an end to it then. And I’m no spring chicken.

        It’s utterly bizarre for it to be taking place today in an office of adults.

        Reply
  1. Gaia

    OP 1 I would quit in a heartbeat if I was being pinched at work. Particularly if it was because I wasn’t participating in something I felt was cultural appropriation (she isn’t wrong there, btw) of my culture in an office where I am the only one of that culture.

    Can you imagine for a moment if during Black History month all non-black employees showed up to work in what they felt were clothes or costumes depicting black culture and they physically harassed (which is what pinching is) the sole black person in the office because that person didn’t participate? Would you really be surprised if that person quit suddenly when no one seemed to think this behavior was inappropriate?

    People have a right to not be assaulted at work. My office had a lot of people dress in green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, too. No one was pinched. Because we are adults who realize that is wildly and unacceptably inappropriate in the work place. In fact, I would be tempted to say the two (TWO!) people who pinched her should face serious disciplinary action and possibly be fired. And you need to apologize to your assistant on behalf of the company for her experience. And you should let her come back if she wants to, but don’t be surprised if she doesn’t. But at minimum do not hold this against her in a reference.

    Reply
    1. Drew

      Co-signing everything here. OP1, please consider carefully how all this appeared to your assistant: your office enthusiastically celebrated a holiday that she found offensive, and when she declined to participate (which was a mild reaction under the circumstances), she ended up getting assaulted TWICE as a result. Unless done very carefully, pinching HURTS; it’s definitely not something anyone should be expected to put up with or overlook.

      Your employees were way out of bounds here and you should definitely apologize to your former assistant for not taking immediate action after the first time she was pinched and for not taking her objections to the holiday more seriously.

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        Yeh and if she’s like me, with medical issues and medications that make me bruise or leave me vulnerable to bleeding unexpectedly (blood thinners, etc.) that could be a BIG darned deal if you pinched me too hard. It’s wrong in an office no matter how you discuss it, but some people could be more than annoyed by this. It’s appropriative and it could cause medical issues. And no an office would probably NOT know for instance I’m on Plavix, because it’s not their business. But when the next day I have a hand sized bruise where they pinched me, that’d be a huge thing.

        It goes bad on at least 3 levels. One, it’s wildly appropriative; two, nobody should be touching anyone else at work unless to remove them or warn them about imminent danger (or if they’re Deaf, and that’s the way they TELL you to get their attention;) and three, it could easily be construed as sexual harassment, if you’re going to pinch someone (please DO NOT,) and you end up pinching their rear end, no matter what genders/sexualities are involved, that could raise big issues.

        I reiterate that nobody should be touching ANYONE at work, but if you insist on touching, make damned sure you’re not touching parts of people that are completely private.

        Reply
      2. Chinook

        As someone who is half Irish, I think there is more nuance to the issue than OP’s employee finding the holiday offensive. After all, if she is Irish, this is an Irish national holiday as well as a religious one. What she is finding offensive is that it is being treated as a joke (which goes back to how the Irish have been treated in N. America) and she is being physically assaulted for not participating in something she finds degrading to her own culture.

        In my mind, it would be like a Canadian office celebrating American 4th of July by pinching everyone who isn’t wearing red/white/blue while making jokes about how the Americans lost the War of 1912.

        In other words, the pinching was the last straw for the employee. The first one was speaking up about how offensive this was and told that she wasn’t being a team player and can’t take a joke.

        Reply
          1. Chinook

            Cool. So their family celebrates differently from mine? How do you decide which group has the more legitimate concern?

            Reply
            1. Anna

              I didn’t. I just pointed out that it’s not universal, so anyone saying it is should make sure they know that for sure first.

              Reply
          2. Ted Mosby

            Of course it’s a religious holiday. It has saint in the name. The fact that not everyone celebrates it as such doesn’t mean it’s not one. No one said it was universally celebrated by all people that way. That’s kind of the point of religious holidays.

            Reply
          3. Noobtastic

            I think it’s religious to the Irish Catholics, and not religious to the Irish Protestants.

            Also, I think the real biggie deal-breaker thing here was that it was mandated from on high, and not in an opt-in sort of way, and she was not allowed to opt-out.

            Morale-boosting activities are great, but they should always be opt-in. Anything not actually job-related should be opt-in.

            Reply
          4. S

            I was once in Ireland for business on St. Patricks day, staying just outside Dublin at one of my company’s sites, working with my Irish co-workers. Not a single one of them had plans that remotely resembled St. Patrick’s day celebrations in the US. They were mostly young people, but some were definitely middle aged, and I definitely got the feeling that they viewed St. Patricks day like we view Presidents day – “we love the extra day off from work, but… eh, I guess Presidents are generally worth celebrating?” Most of them had plans like “well maybe I’ll pop into my local pub for a pint, we’ll see.” I did also walk by a small church that day, and saw people coming out from mass(?) wearing boutonnairs of shamrocks, so for those people it was obviously a religious day.

            To the OP – excessive celebrations of holidays at work like you describe are just kind of silly to begin with. And also, pinching or just generally touching your coworkers in general is just inappropriate.

            Reply
          1. Chinook

            1812. We (or at least the British army protecting their colonies) left scorch marks in the White House and the then First Lady worked hard to protect a portrait of President Washington. It was a response to the Americans attacking first in hopes of convincing the Canadian colonies to throw off our British oppressors.

            We said no thank you.

            Reply
            1. Noobtastic

              History is weird.

              Isn’t that the war where we got the “Star Spangled Banner” song from?

              Personally, I think we should go for “America the Beautiful” as an anthem, instead. Most people can sing it, and most people are aware of all the verses, too. I’m saddened by the number of Americans who don’t even know that Star Spangled Banner has 1) a story behind it and 2) four verses, including a rather gory line about foul footsteps pollution and blood.

              I think an anthem that celebrates the good in our country, rather than celebrating battle, is a much better anthem.

              Reply
        1. Foodie Foodnerd

          Ignorant question (hoping to cure said ignorance…):

          Has pinching ever been part of the original or traditional celebrations in Ireland?

          Bonus igno-request: Whether in Ireland or the US, when and how did the pinching get added?

          Thanks to anyone who can offer some insight!

          Reply
          1. fposte

            One article cites the Irish Historical Museum in New Orleans as saying it dates back to the 1700s in the U.S., and it’s to remind people that leprechauns might pinch them. That’s not a rock-solid source but it seems reasonable.

            Reply
          2. Cath in Canada

            I’m English with recent Irish heritage, and lived in Glasgow (huge Irish population) with Irish flatmates for four years, and I’d never heard of such a thing before I moved to North America. It’s possible that it’s more common in Ireland itself, but it seems unlikely.

            Reply
            1. FormerLibrarian

              I lived in Ireland for 8 years and never heard of pinching until after I got back in ’84. Thankfully I’ve only ever heard about it and not been the victim of it. If someone pinched me they’d probably get decked.

              Reply
            2. Foodie Foodnerd

              Thanks for the insight! I’d love to visit there someday. (Too bad air travel has become such a misery-fest…)

              Reply
          3. Jenna

            I don’t have any idea how the pinching got added, because the last time anyone seriously threatened me with it was third grade. I actually thought that part was just a grade school holdover, like some of the other awful things that kids do to each other that we hopefully know better than to do by the time we are employed.

            Reply
            1. Noobtastic

              Yeah. Most adults don’t think that playing “Slug Bug” is a good idea, either.

              I think if you ever encounter pinching on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, it is probably a recent development, brought over by Americans. Like Trick or Treat.

              Reply
                1. Anonygoose

                  Is it like Punch-a-buggy when you punch anyone when you see a VW Bug? I haven’t done that/been a victim of that since I was about 11.

                2. Betsy

                  You see a VW bug, shout “slug bug” followed by whatever color the VW bug is, and sock whoever’s nearest in the upper arm. Important behavior on childhood road trips. God help you if you drive past a Volkswagon dealership.

                3. Gadget Hackwrench

                  I’m guessing Anonygoose is right. Sounds like Punch-Buggy. You would never play that with COWORKERS.

          4. MW

            I literally had to reread the letter before I realised that the pinching was somehow connected to St. Patrick’s day. I live in Scotland and have never heavily celebrated St. Patrick’s day (never really celebrated St. Andrew’s day either), but I’ve never encountered pinching as a component of the holiday. Wearing green is only a bit of a thing, and I think that might largely be an American influence (definitely in my office, the American staff are the ones most invested in wearing green on the day)

            Reply
          5. Rebecca Anne

            As an Irish person of 30-mumble years. No. Pinching has not been part of the original celebrations in Ireland.

            Generally the celebrations range from:
            Mass in the morning (if you’re religious)
            Wearing shamrock or some sort of Irish badge on your lapel.
            Parades (even if just on the telly because Dublin is crazy on St. Paddy’s Day)
            Dressing in green or wearing funny hats (if you want to)
            A day off from lent (again, if you’re religious or even if you’re not it was a break day)
            A day off from work
            A couple of drinks out (if you’re into that sort of thing)
            Wondering how exactly St. Patrick managed to drive snakes out of Ireland

            With a side order of:
            Looking at American cocktail names and trying not to get mad because they don’t know any better (Irish Car-Bomb, for example)
            Trying to convince foreigners that it’s not St. Patty’s Day, it’s St. Paddy’s Day (if you must shorten it that is).

            We don’t do pinching. It’s not a thing.

            Reply
        1. Foodie Foodnerd

          You’re correct that they should have a policy about unwelcome contact, but this is actually too specific to have any teeth.

          Within a year you’ll be drafting a no-squeezing policy for your fifth new employee in that position — added to the no-kneading policy you drafted for the second or third one (they all kinda run together after awhile).

          No touching without express permission or to prevent death or serious injury.

          Yes, the oxygen thieves will still try to get around it, but it at least closes down some of the worst loopholes.

          Reply
        2. Gordon

          The rule exists. Pinching someone without their consent is at worst Assault, and at best, harassment. The first is illegal… and the second is usually part of any workplace ruleset.

          Reply
      3. Lisa

        I completely agree. Pinching isn’t acceptable behavior in a professional setting. I cannot even imagine thinking I would have to tell someone this. I cannot even imagine working somewhere that people would do this. Frankly, the person who wrote in should be less worried about what sort of reference she’s going to give this woman and start worrying about the lawsuit that could be on her hands. Pretty sure a good lawyer could make an excellent argument for hostile work environment here, even if neither of the pinches was on a sexually loaded part of the body.

        Reply
    2. NoMoreMrFixit

      Is this an American thing? I’ve never heard of pinching someone on St Patrick’s day. I’m Canadian and this would not be tolerated up here. Plus pinching somebody’s rear end is technically sexual harassment. The offenders should be disciplined for this stunt.

      To the Irish this is a religious holiday rather than an opportunity to party. Many of the Irish I’ve known over the years find the North American version of this day pretty offensive.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yes—if someone isn’t wearing green, you can pinch them. But it’s a practice that usually dies out in elementary school (and nowadays, it’s forbidden in most schools) and seems to be an activity reserved for drunken college students. It’s certainly not acceptable or appropriate in the workplace.

        Reply
            1. alter_ego

              I can’t remember anyone ever actually doing it. Just saying “uh oh, you’re going to get pinched” to people not in green.

              Reply
                1. Happy Lurker

                  Haven’t been pinched since my Grandmother’s sister “the nun” – think Blues Brother full habit – got me at age 5. I was horrified at age 5…AGE 5!!!
                  So, inappropriate. Assistant deserves a full apology and her job back with a raise and those pinching buffoons need to be fired.

              1. Chinook

                My two Chinese immigrant coworkers (whoa re friends) made a comment about how I wasn’t going to get pinched because I was wearing a green shamrock pendant. They then get an earful on what the holiday really is and why green beer is evil and why Guinness and even Keith’s are much better options. We had an enjoyable walk that lunch hour, atleast.

                Reply
          1. JessaB

            I totally didn’t remember this was a thing until I saw this letter. It was a nightmare in elementary school. I thought it’d been thoroughly stopped.

            Reply
              1. SlytherinHR

                Ditto. I’m STILL mad at that one kid who pinched me in first grade because I wasn’t wearing enough green. Guess I’ll die mad about that one.

                Reply
                1. Librarian - academic librarian, manager information technology

                  Hunt them down. Make them pay. (Then make a movie out of it staring Liam Neesan.)

                  You: “I don’t know who you are, but I will find you, and I will PINCH you!”

                  Them: “Who the hell is this? WUT?”

                2. Noobtastic

                  Wait. “enough green” I always thought the tiniest speck of green was enough.

                  Heck, spinach in your teeth should count. At least, it did in my third grade class. Probably why the lunch ladies put it on the menu.

                  And why did we have no lunch men, I’d like to know? You know, as long as we’re asking questions.

                  I have Irish genealogy, and some of it is Catholic, and I still don’t give a hoot about the holiday. Because I’m not an Irish Catholic. It’s just another day, to me. Although, if I were in an office that celebrated it, I’d wear some green, too, but then I wear green all the time, because I look really good in green, and it’s a large portion of my wardrobe. I’d probably wear green accidentally.

                  And I wouldn’t give a hoot if anyone else was celebrating it, or not.

        1. Bibliovore

          “Yes—if someone isn’t wearing green, you can pinch them.” This is just nuts. I never heard of this and even if it is a “thing”, how is it ever appropriate in a work environment?

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            It’s not appropriate in a work environment. It’s not even appropriate in most schools, anymore.

            I don’t know how widespread it is as a practice. I went to (K-12) school in three different states, and it was common in all three.

            Reply
          2. Any Moose

            I have never heard of this either. I’ve lived in the northeast US my entire life and my maternal grandmother was Irish. If someone pinched me, there would be hell to pay!

            Reply
            1. My Thoughts Exactly

              I grew up in the northeast and both my paternal grandparents were Irish. I literally never heard of this either, until I went to college. And I never saw anyone who pinched or was pinched on St. Patrick’s Day. I found out from sust someone who mentioned this “tradition” in a conversation. A conversation where I was flabbergasted because, seriously, wtf?

              Reply
              1. KHB

                I grew up in Pennsylvania. I’d never heard of the pinching thing until midway through high school, when the new girl (who I think was from Florida) came in on St. Patrick’s Day and announced sadly, “I forgot to wear green, so go ahead and pinch me.” We all had no idea what she was talking about.

                Come to think of it, I think that’s the only time in my life that I encountered anyone who took the pinching thing seriously.

                Reply
                1. North Dakota Jones

                  Dittoing the not hearing of it in the Northeast. When I moved to Georgia in High School, people mentioned it, and I was flabbergasted. No one, including annoying sisters, had pinched me since I was six and learned how to aim a good kick. If I was pinched multiple times, including once on my rear, I probably would have punched some one.

                2. Kyrielle

                  I grew up in the northwest (Oregon), and yeah, pinching if you don’t wear green was totally a thing here. Which…actually is why I hate the holiday. Loathe it. (The North American version of it, but.) I also try to make sure my kids wear green, just in case. Not to celebrate the holiday – to protect them, because this holiday is about protecting yourself by wearing obvious green, in my head, and probably always will be. :(

                  It apparently still is a thing sort of; my oldest knows that if you don’t wear green you’ll get pinched. (Actually pinching would get a kid in so much trouble – but apparently it’s still said/done enough outside of school to register on the kids.)

                3. Falling Diphthong

                  This has come up several times, and should be cause for really rethinking the ‘tradition’–people wearing green to ward off physical harassment, with no sense of festiveness beyond “Oh right, mean people will seize the excuse to bruise me today if I don’t take this step.” Like if December 23rd everyone wore a secular holiday light necklace because you would be ‘humorously’ pinched and punched if you didn’t.

                4. another person

                  In Southern California it definitely was a thing. I was slightly concerned one of my coworkers/friends here would pinch me if I didn’t wear green, so I make sure to wear green on St. Patrick’s day.

                5. Biff

                  It was and still kinda is a serious thing in Washington, Idaho and California, at least in my experience in the last 5+ years.

                6. Kimberlee, Esq

                  I grew up in Idaho, and it was definitely a thing into college for me. I think I was maybe a sophomore before I got my first pinchless St. Patrick’s Day :(

                7. Natalie

                  If it’s common on the West Coast, including California where a lot of TV comes from, I wonder if that’s why so many of us from other regions have heard of it but never experienced it. I heard of it from the Simpsons, and their creator is from Oregon.

                8. Silver Cormorant

                  Here in northern California, I remember people being pinched in 2nd or 3rd grade, but past that it’s just a joke. Occasionally people will say you’ll get pinched or you’re safe from being pinched depending on whether you’re wearing green, but nobody would actually do so.

                  I don’t think I can actually remember the last time someone commented on whether I was wearing green that day. Usually because I forget and apparently so does everyone else unless a festive t-shirt or pin reminds them. Maybe if my workplace or school was planning something that day, it’d be different.

              2. Anon for this

                I grew up with four Irish born grandparents and two lived with us during my childhood. We attended the NYC parade annually as kids, did step dancing and listened to Irish music. I never heard of this until now. It is unreal that the question is about giving a reference to an employee who was touched near their butt at work. Never mind what you say about her — she has lots to say about your company.

                Reply
              3. Amy the Rev

                Yeah- all I remember growing up just outside Boston was that one time I mistakenly wore orange (didn’t know Irish history nor anything about sectarian violence) and just thought you were supposed to dress in the colors of the flag. Boyyy did I get an earful.

                Reply
                1. Chinook

                  “I mistakenly wore orange (didn’t know Irish history nor anything about sectarian violence) and just thought you were supposed to dress in the colors of the flag.”

                  As the (Catholic) granddaughter of an Orangemen (other Irish can gasp at that and appreciate the benefits of immigration), I learned very early on the significance of orange in Ireland but can honestly say that even my Protestant family proudly wore green on St. Patrick’s Day when they hosted us in for the family dinner in Killarney. I suspect they wore orange on that other holiday but wouldn’t dare admit it to the family member who married a Catholic. :)

                2. Blatantly Irish

                  I deliberately wear orange, my 100% Northern Irish family is Protestant. I personally find celebrating a Catholic holiday, especially one so bastardized and as glib as green glitter hats and green food, pretty out of step with modern culture.

                3. Noobtastic

                  I did gasp, both for Amy the Rev and for Chinook.

                  I don’t know all the Irish history, but I know enough to avoid orange on St. Patrick’s Day, especially around Irish Catholics.

                  Chinook, your family sounds awesome! Family before politics!

            2. Jesmlet

              I grew up in the northeast and went to college in Boston and this is definitely seen as a common tradition. I was actually surprised I didn’t get pinched when I showed up to work on Friday with no green (I legitimately forgot). I’m not the type to get bent out of shape for something like this unless it’s a real pinch. Where I’m from, people just do it on your forearm and it’s pretty mild.

              Reply
              1. LSP

                Grew up in the northeast and the first time i ever heard of this was from a coworker from a southern state, and she gets very into it. I very firmly told her I am not okay with being pinched, and she knew enough not to follow through. This is a childish and obnoxious “tradition,” and when you add it to the ignorance surrounding St. Patrick in America, the whole thing is just gross.

                Reply
                1. Jesmlet

                  Not disagreeing, I’m just not the type to lead the charge on banning something like this because I don’t personally care either way. If someone pinching me at work because I didn’t wear green is the worst thing to happen to me all week, then I’m having a pretty damn good week.

              2. Robin Sparkles

                I grew up in NYC and never heard of this. I would have slapped someone as a reflex. Any tradition that involves touching me is not going to go over well .

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              3. BananaPants

                I also grew up in New England, with a good number of friends of Irish heritage, and have never heard of this until now.

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              4. Rachael

                I grew up in New York/Connecticut and the rule that we had is that you get pinched if you don’t wear green EXCEPT if you were Irish. You basically got a pass if you were Irish. Only now do I know that I’m 25% Irish due to genealogy DNA….if only I knew it then….I got pinched so much…lol.

                It was all in fun, but I would NEVER think that it is appropriate at work unless I was friends with the person and knew that they were into it.

                Reply
                1. Jesmlet

                  Right, that’s the same as what we had (Fairfield County resident, Westchester County employee). This was super common where I’m from so I just figured everyone in this area does it. I do think work dynamics matter like you said because I’ve got one of those work environments where most people are your friends so it’d be passable here. Hugs are fairly common so that physical contact stuff isn’t a big deal and a pinch in an appropriate area wouldn’t be a problem.

                2. Somniloquist

                  Ha ha, I grew up with getting pinched if you didn’t wear green, but it was only within the family and it was because we were Irish American. If someone wasn’t Irish American, they definitely wouldn’t get pinched because they had no allegiance.

                  Also I never would have pinched anyone outside of my family.

                3. Rachael

                  Now that I look back and know that since my mom was, pretty much, 50% Irish I probably learned a lot of the traditions from her. (She has never talked about her family background)

                  She pinched us before we had a chance to get our green on in the morning on St Patrick’s Day so I bet that I learned the “you can’t pinch an Irish person” from school.

                4. Blatantly Irish

                  Same (Washington state) , being actually Irish gave you a free pass, I was rarely pinched. 1. I’m super intimidating and pinching would have been a dangerous proposition, 2. I’d remind them of my heritage by calling attention to my blatantly Irish name.

          3. Falling Diphthong

            If you must associate with adults who do this, it’s worth developing an uncontrollable flail response that whacks them in the nose. “Goodness, you startled me. Ow.”

            I have to note that in terms of geometry–if you’re aiming for someone’s arm, and they sit down, their rear end does not move into the arm’s location. In fact, the air where the rear of a person lowering themselves into a chair is about to be is not occupied by any body part, so that’s a load of bs.

            Reply
            1. Blizzard

              I could see it if someone were reaching behind them and had their hands on the arms of the chair, but then picked their hands up as they sat. If you were aiming for the forearm and it was removed, I could see how your new direct line could lead to a butt.

              Reply
        2. LN

          Yeah, exactly. This is something obnoxious children do (I hated it as a kid too and wouldn’t participate in it, because WHO WANTS TO BE PINCHED??) Totally unacceptable behavior for adults in a professional environment, I’d quit too. Not because the act of being pinched itself is some kind of huge deal in isolation, but because it says volumes about my co-workers, my management, and the office culture.

          Reply
          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

            Not sure I’d quit, but I’d most certainly be raising holy hell with HR and upper management.

            Reply
              1. That Young Coworker No One Ever Notices

                Right? Glad I wasn’t the only one thinking this. I hate my job enough that if I had a bad enough day, I would be tempted to quit on the spot too. In fact, I almost did a few weeks ago due to be badgered by one rude coworker so much that I got pushed into a major panic attack.

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              2. INFJ

                Yep. Quitting on the spot seemed like an extreme reaction to me; I’m betting this office is insensitive in other ways and this was the last straw.

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                1. Seal

                  I did that once years ago in response to a “last straw” incident (that fortunately didn’t not involve pinching!). This was after an extended period of escalating bullying and harassment by a gang of nasty colleagues. Something about that particular incident made something snap for me and I walked out. My boss, who was useless on a good day, had long dismissed my complaints about being bullied and was therefore stunned, STUNNED that anyone would quit a “good job” on the spot. Note to former boss – if it was a good job, I wouldn’t have quit.

                2. Noobtastic

                  Well, we do already know that it was about more than the pinching.

                  She was bullied by her co-workers when she complained about the cultural appropriation, and told she had to participate, whether she liked it or not.

                  Maybe everything was hunky-dory before that. But if it was hunky dory, why would they suddenly turn around and completely dismiss her concerns, her pain at the appropriation, and tell her to just suck it up and go along? People rarely do a complete 180, and groups of people rarely do a complete 180 at the same time, so it may be possible that this was out of the blue, but the odds are against it.

              3. Lioness

                Yea. I’ve had issues with people who celebrate cinco de mayo as just a way to drink and party make me feel uneasy about being Mexican in other times of the year. Given the fact that it the employee said she wasn’t going to participate and had also made complains about the way the company was celebrating prior to the actual celebration, this wasn’t “sudden” for me as reading those two lines makes me think there could have been other issues that have just been ignored.

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                1. Aveline

                  The way Californians celebrate Cinco de Mayo has a lot in common with the way Chicagoans celebrate St. Patrick’s day.

                2. Chaordic One

                  As someone of Irish descent, Cinco de Mayo was a real wake-up call to me. It was like, “Hey, that’s what people think about the Irish!” I can’t believe that I was so oblivious to it for years.

                3. Noobtastic

                  I live in Texas, with a lot of Hispanics, of various cultural backgrounds, but yes, mostly Mexican, in the community. The most I’ve ever done for Cinco de Mayo was put it on the departmental calendar.

                  I listed as many holidays as I could on that departmental calendar, mostly for fun, but also to alert the people in the department that some of their co-workers might be celebrating. So, we’d hear people say, “Happy (insert holiday here)!” But that was about it. Same thing with birthdays, really. “Happy birthday, Fergus! Now, about those TPS reports.”

                  Sometimes, someone would ask a person who really celebrated that holiday more about it, while they were hanging out in the break room, and we’d get some good discussions going. But that was pretty dependent on how obvious that person was in celebrating that particular holiday.

        3. Kathleen Adams

          Yes, exactly – it’s an elementary school (or maybe middle school) thing. It is not now nor has it *ever* been a grownup thing, at least not in my experience.

          I do think the employee over-reacted if she otherwise liked the job and the people, because let’s face it, there are better ways to handle it. She will now, somewhat unfairly, forever be “That woman who quit because she was so weird about St. Patrick’s Day.” And when she applies for another job, what is she going to put as her reason for quitting?

          But that said, her fellow employees were way out of line, and her supervisor clearly didn’t have her back. I can definitely understand her deciding “I am just not going to put up with this.

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          1. BananaPants

            Her reason for quitting was that she was being openly assaulted by coworkers for not wearing green/participating in a celebration that she felt was cultural appropriation.

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          2. tigerlily

            Disagree that it’s not an adult thing. When I was growing up (also in the north east as so much of this thread) it wasn’t something kids said to each other. Mostly it was something adults said to kids, and sometimes among themselves but in kid like settings. Like, my parents were always threatening each other with pinches. Where I grew up, it wasn’t that any old person could pinch you, it was that not wearing green would cause a leprechaun to pinch you (because why not make this practice more offensive?). So you’d have parents, teachers, whoever making comments like “Oooh, someone’s not wearing green so watch out or you’re going to be pinched!” Occasionally someone actually would get pinched, but it was always like a sneak attack where you wouldn’t know who did it (again, because it was supposed to be from a leprechaun) but you wouldn’t do that to people other than family or very close friends. Certainly not with co-workers!

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          3. Kathleen Adams

            Really? So you think it will be a good idea when she goes on her next job interview to say, “I quit because two coworkers pinched me on St. Patrick’s Day”? Assuming it’s the kind of pinch that is sort-of customary on St. Patrick’s Day – that is, very mild, not painful and not involving any erogenous zones (I have no idea what “near her butt” means) – then I don’t think most people would consider that “assault.” Inappropriate, yes; silly and juvenile, yes; not something I want from my coworkers, definitely. Assault, no. I realize that this might make me an outlier here on AAM, but that’s how I see it, and I am pretty sure many of her potential employers will see it that way as well. I could be wrong, of course.

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            1. Kbug

              That’s funny, I’m pretty sure any reasonable employer will say “that’s horrible” and file it away as info on that company…

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            2. Anna

              I think it would be entirely reasonable if she felt like divulging that much to say she was being harassed and her complaints were not taken seriously. It makes absolutely no difference how mild the pinch was, you just put the word pinch in a sentence about something that happened to you at work. That’s enough.

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              1. Kathleen Adams

                That would work, particularly if her supervisor is brought to see that her complaints were not out-of-line at all and agrees with this way of describing the situation.

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            3. SML

              A more accurate description is that she was assaulted by 2 people at her last workplace because of what she was wearing. There is NOTHING acceptable about that.

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            4. kittycritter

              I think that calling this an “assault” is a bit of an overreaction.
              Yes, you have a right to not be physically touched at work. I have never worked at a place where I got pinched for not wearing green, but even if I did, I wouldn’t be all ablaze with outrage about it.
              I know I’ll get piled on for saying this, but this strikes me as a gross exaggeration to call this a physical assault – as if someone just close-fisted punched this woman in the face or something like that.

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              1. Shane

                As a guy who can’t stand unwanted physical contact, I’d be livid after the second pinch, regardless of where on my body it occurred and I would consider it battery after having made it clear that the first pinch was unacceptable. If my manager replied with something akin to, “Relax, Bro, it’s just a prank. We’re just celebrating the holiday…”, I’d walk out, too.

                It’s not something that would rise to the level I’d call the cops about or seek a legal remedy, but I’d put it down as a hostile work environment when I applied for unemployment benefits or my reason for leaving the job.

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        4. Normally A Lurker

          Brothers and sisters. The only time I ever actually got pinched was from my siblings. Other than that it was always the sing song “Uh-oh – someones gonna pinch you!”

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        5. Bonky

          I am in the UK, and I’ve just asked an Irish colleague whether he knew anything about this pinching thing. He says no, it’s completely new to him, and that it sounds awful – and that he actively avoids visiting any of our US offices on St Patrick’s Day, because the whole thing’s embarrassing. (He gets particularly angry about the way it’s used as a celebration of drinking, and says he feels stereotyped. He is OK with me repeating what he said here.)

          America, I love you, but I’m giving you a very funny look from across the pond at the moment.

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          1. AKJ

            This American of Irish descent completely agrees with your colleague. And I’m giving my own country the side-eye at the moment.
            (FWIW, I’d heard of the pinching thing but have never seen it done in real life before. I thought it was something that had died out long ago, or was just a joke.)

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            1. Chinook

              This 1st generation Irish Canadian also agrees with your coworker. I go off quite loudly on anyone who tries to denigrate the Irish with the horrible stereotypes.

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            2. Liz2

              I was living in Ireland during St. Patrick’s day the year they had the big Foot & Mouth scare and all the celebrations were cut down. I was in college but it seemed like the locals just enjoyed it as an extra day to go out with friends (Thur-Sun instead of the normal Thur-Sat) and have family dinners.

              That being said- the employee was made to feel diminished and physically assaulted, TWICE. So uncool.

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            3. Markethill

              This second-gen Irish Canadian is also super squicked out by North American St Patrick’s Day. I try to stay in.

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            1. Noobtastic

              Yeah, in America, an awful lot of people drink just because “It’s Friday,” or “I’m going to a concert,” or “Whee.” Don’t get me started on the great debate about alcohol, every time someone writes into an advice columnist about planning a wedding. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people in the comments (or the letters!) saying that they love cousin George, but if he doesn’t have an open bar, they’re not coming to his wedding. And heaven help the teetotalers who try to have a dry wedding! In America, according to these commenters, it’s just not done. The only way to have a successful dry wedding is to 1) invite only other teetotalers and 2) have someone guard the punch, so nobody spikes it. Oh, and 3) have it in the afternoon or even the morning, NOT at dinnertime. And get better relatives, because DANG!

              So for Americans to stereotype Irish as being big drinkers just strikes me as ludicrous, especially because we have the very same stereotype about ourselves. At least, when I lived in Europe, I heard enough about Americans. We’re all cowboys, who love cigarettes and whiskey, and don’t appreciate a fine wine.

              As an American, I’d like to apologize for the Irish stereotypes. Well, all the stereotypes, really. Stereotypes are silly. They rarely make sense, at all, and they serve no useful purpose. They just get in the way of real communication with people and getting to know them.

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              1. Noobtastic

                Note, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with drinking, or drinking holidays, as long as you don’t drink to excess and go driving and be all dangerous.

                Also, I don’t really believe that one country’s people drink more than any other country’s people (except in those countries where alcohol is largely prohibited, such as in the Middle East).

                Which makes the stereotype even more of a jerk move, actually.

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                1. ABC123

                  Er… Of course there are differences between the average amounts of alcohol used by people in different countries. Just google “alcohol consumption per capita” (if I post a link, it will be stuck in moderation).

                  The differences between individuals are of course even more markable, but still — cultural trends in (amounts and kinds of) drinking exist.

          2. Jemerson60060

            It seems a lot of the US likes to use cultural/religious appropriation as an excuse to drink and party. It seems like the same thing as Cinco de Mayo, Mardi Gras and other “drinking holidays.”

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            1. KarenD

              That’s a very broad statement, seemingly calculated as a slur, and I’m not sure what you base it on. Certainly we are a nation of immigrants, and each wave has brought people who have their own traditions to celebrate, and invite others into their celebrations. But Mardi Gras, St. Patricks Day, Oktoberfest and Cinco de Mayo celebrations all have more than a century’s worth of celebrations in the United States behind them.

              Cinco de Mayo in particular is a Mexican-American celebration, again dating back more than a century in parts of California and Texas. I will grant that it, along with St. Patricks Day, gained broader exposure through beer-company marketing campaigns throughout communities without a substantial Latin or Irish population. But attributing a marketing campaign (in the case of Cinco de Mayo, a campaign largely conducted by companies that weren’t even American) to “A lot of the US” seems rather disingenuous.

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              1. KarenD

                That said, the pinching thing – and yeah, it was a thing here when I was a child – falls into the category of traditions that I believe and hope are dying out. It’s not permitted in most schools now — I know my nephew brought a note home a few weeks ago saying that pinching was going to be treated just the same on St. Patricks Day as on any other day, that is, subject to disciplinary referral – and I suspect it should be more or less gone in a few more generations.

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              2. Somniloquist

                In my experience (Irish American, grew up in the Southwest), Cinco de Mayo wasn’t celebrated as much, more like we were told the story and then told it’s not as important as 16 de Septiembre, which is the real independence day. I get annoyed certainly at people wearing sombreros or trying to dress like sexy mariachis while getting trashed. Kind of like Dia de los Muertos now as well. Like, where’s the pan de muerto and the marigolds? It’s not all face paint and tequila.

                And I agree about St. Paddy’s Day for the same reason. I like all the gaelic stuff and the green and the clover (and what it really means) but this year it was like weekend after weekend of people getting trashed in a bar while wearing green and it’s like all the best parts about Irish culture are totally stripped out.

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            2. Lioness

              Yea, I really dislike the US version of Cinco de Mayo, my parents celebrated it so much different back in Mexico and I don’t drink.

              If a workplace celebrated it with non-alcoholic drinks, but emphasized the “partying” or the “drinks” or some superficial, I’d be upset, but how upset I would be would definitely be affected if they “pushed” the US form on me. (In the case of the assistant, that would be the pinching). If I don’t want to participate, let me be, but don’t assault me(pinching hurts, and the person is being touched without ever giving permission).

              I also wonder if there were previous issues that this was a last straw. Those I’ve met who tend to celebrate Cinco de Mayo as another excuse to party, have also made previous comments that made me uncomfortable. (ex. I don’t view you like a Mexican, I see you as a white girl who speaks Spanish or “I wouldn’t care if the Mexican died (in a show that only had one Latinx person)). So I wonder if there were other issues that stemmed from her being the only one Irish person employed.

              I agree with Alice, if she was otherwise a good worker, base the reference on that. And take into consideration that not everyone appreciates having their culture be used as a way to party.

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            3. AC6

              I mean… a lot of Americans do act inappropriately, and even racist, on those holidays. But it’s also “tradition” to drink a lot on the 4th of July and Memorial Day, the latter of which is a whole other kind of inappropriate. So there are different levels of offense going on, but I personally think it’s a bit more nuanced than “shit on other cultural traditions by drinking too much.”

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              1. Isabel C.

                I was gonna say: pretty much every holiday here is a drinking holiday. (S4 Buffy Doomed Fratboy: “Is there any holiday that’s *not* about getting laid?” DF2: “Arbor Day.”) It’d be more respectful to stick to our own culture with that, though.

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          3. amapolita

            I’d gently suggest not painting all Americans with such a broad brush, especially when posting about how your Irish colleague feels stereotyped.

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          4. Looby

            I’m from Ireland and never heard of the pinching until I moved to North America at the age of 25, when I was pinched by my dental hygenist on St patricks day, while in the dental chair!
            We don’t wear green, drink green beer or wear Guinness hats on St Patrick’s day in Ireland.
            I really don’t enjoy the day here in NA because I get lots of comments that imply I will not be able to control my drinking and will need time off after because I am Irish and therefore have a drinking problem.
            I wouldn’t go so far as to say I find it offensive but it is extremely annoying.

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            1. Noobtastic

              I literally gaped at that. The dental hygienist, that is.

              Sadly, the comments about how you’ll be hungover did not make me gape. Just sad.

              I’d understand the stereotype (and the negative comments about it) more, if we were a country of teetotalers, but we’re not. And Prohibition just made things worse. I don’t get it, at all.

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          5. CoveredInBees

            See also: Cinco de Mayo “celebrations” involving a lot of tequila, questionable Tex-Mex food, horrid stereotypes, and generally no actual people of any sort of Mexican background. Celebrants will often tell (or drunkenly slur) that they’re celebrating Mexican independence, which is September 16th and had been a thing for over 50 years prior to the events commemorated on May 5th.

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          6. Been There, Done That

            It’s not all of America. I lived most of my life in the Midwest and never heard of this pinching until I moved to southern California well into adulthood. When I happened to be in northern California on St. Patrick’s Day, you wouldn’t believe all the intoxicated Irish tourists (along with the intoxicated everybody else) I encountered while trying to get back to where I was staying.

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          7. Foodie Foodnerd

            Bonky: UK, we love you for many things (including raising the bar on quality fish and chips :^D ), but if all you’re giving us is a funny look, you’re even more gracious and kind-hearted than your reputation shows.

            We’re the ones who should be embarrassed, not your colleague!

            Although I respectfully request a pass for Cinco de Mayo, as it’s my birthday. :^D

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        6. That Would Be a Good Band Name

          I don’t think my kids even realized pinching if you don’t wear green was a thing. They are middle school age, so I thought the whole pinching “tradition” had gone away.

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        7. Kat

          Although just to add, the pinching is most definitely a North American thing. So for an Irish person, getting pinched on a religious holiday isn’t part of the tradition, it’s yet another foolish display that seems to make a mockery of the meaning behind St Paddy’s Day. Like you said, definitely not appropriate in the workplace and I’m amazed that the adults in OP’s workplace thought to do it twice!

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        8. seejay

          yeah people in my office were dressing in green. I refused as my heritage is Irish, but no one was pinching as a result. If someone *had* pinched me, they might’ve gotten a sock in the arm from me for it. :|

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        9. Eugenie

          This was definitely a thing when I was growing up (mid-80s/early 90s) in southern California. I have a very clear memory from PRESCHOOL (so, 4 year old me was appropriately traumatized for this to stick) of our teacher having all the kids sit in a circle on the floor and go one by one to see if we were wearing any green, if we weren’t that gave the teacher and other kids permission to tickle the offender. I HATED tickling and was terrified as the teacher got closer and closer to me (my mom hadn’t thought to purposely put me in green that day). I was in some kind of multi-colored sweater and the teacher found some green in there somewhere so I was spared. The absolute fear of that process stuck with me to today! People need to let this tradition die, especially with little kids!

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          1. LaterKate

            Wtf? I can’t believe the teacher not only allowed this, but actively participated in it. When I was a kid, pinching was a thing, but it wasn’t done in front of teachers because the pincher would get in trouble.

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          2. Connie-Lynne

            When I was in Kindergarten, my mom had forgotten this tradition. I wore my favorite dress, not green, to school that day and refused to ever wear it again.

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            1. misplacedmidwesterner

              When I was in Kindergarten, my parents forgot to put me in green. My kindergarten teacher greeted us at the classroom door with a stack of green shamrocks from the die cut machine and safety pinned one on every student so there would be no excuses for pinching no matter what you were wearing. That was the last time I believe I ever heard someone seriously mention pinching as a possibility. I read this letter out loud to my husband and we were both shocked.

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                1. Noobtastic

                  Me, too. And I hate Eugenie’s teacher. Good grief! Bad enough to allow it, but to actually encourage it? And participate herself?

                  It’s sad that the teacher had to go to those lengths to protect her students from assault by others, but I’m so glad she did!

              1. Lady H

                Oh, this is sweet! It sounds like I’m far from the only one who absolutely hates St. Patrick’s Day because of memories of being pinched. I’m in my 30’s and was actually worried about whether people would pinch me if I wasn’t wearing easily identifiable green to the point where I just ended up staying in for the day and getting housework done after work.

                It wasn’t until just this moment that I realized that I have residual trauma from getting pinched as a child by classmates (I’m from the midwest, it was very much a thing even all through high school). As an abuse survivor I’m sure I’m more sensitive than most but I don’t know what my reaction would be if I was getting pinched at work, especially by people who had no interest in my real heritage.

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        10. Mochafrap512

          Yup. I didn’t wear green (uniform but still didn’t accent anything) and I didn’t get pinched. Childish behavior.

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        11. Sketchee

          I can’t say I recall this other than as a faint memory from elementary school. As an adult in American who doesn’t spend much time around kids or people with them. Many people in my workplace didn’t wear green or participate in voluntary programs. In our office, they made it a potluck where anyone could bring in a theme item from their own culture.

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      2. EE

        >To the Irish this is a religious holiday

        I am a Dubliner and have never once encountered somebody speaking of it as a religious holiday. It is our national day. Just as Americans have the Fourth of July, we have St Patrick’s Day. Sure, it’s named after a saint, but that’s not the focus.

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        1. Snowflake

          I grew up going to catholic school in the US (our parish was named after Saint Patrick) and whenever Saint Patrick’s Day landed on a Friday we got an exemption for Lent (you could eat meat/whatever you had given up for Lent). It always felt misappropriated as a religious holiday and probably misrepresented the actual number of people with Irish heritage in our parish (probably less than 50%).

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        2. saphorr

          I’ve never met an Irish person who would describe St. Patrick’s Day as a religious day, but it is totally reasonable for a genuinely Irish person to decline to participate in, and even detest, the North American version with its dollar-store leprechaun costumes and watered-down Bud Light with green-coloured food colouring. Also, no one today could reasonably claim that pinching anyone anywhere at work would be universally taken as an innocent tease. The LW is way, way out of line and the employee is owed at least an apology.

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          1. seejay

            Yeah I remember we’d have a special mass at church (in Ontario though) on St Patrick’s day. That’s about the extent of the celebration we’d have though. Americans, on the other hand, are weird. There were woops and hollars outside my window way past 3am on Friday night and I was wishing I had something to throw at them because I was trying to sleep.

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        3. Mel

          Just like how St Andrews Day is Scotland’s national day (30 November). I think the confusion about religion comes from that these come from the saint days in religious calendars.

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        4. IrishEm

          I grew up going to Mass as Gaeilge on Paddy’s Day in Dublin. It is the Saint’s Day as well as the national holiday. I would call St. Patrick’s Day a religious day alright, even though in the last decade or so it has become increasingly secular and Americanised.

          The pinching business completely baffles me, though. I just don’t understand it, or where it came from. I honestly only saw it on The Simpsons and I thought it was a joke. I don’t blame the employee in the slightest, and I would have done exactly the same in her shoes.

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        5. Breda

          Also, historically, St. Patrick’s Day was a big thing in the US before it was a big thing in Ireland. It was immigrants in a country that didn’t want them banding together to celebrate their heritage: the first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade was in New York City, and the US-traditional corned beef was picked up from Jewish neighbors rather than brought over from the old country. (I wrote my senior capstone in college on the music of the Irish diaspora; I’ve done my research on this.)

          I think a lot of the ways that the US celebrates St. Patrick’s Day are ridiculous & awful : the pinching thing, for example, as no one should be forced to celebrate a holiday not their own; as well as how it’s used as an excuse to get dangerously drunk. (I just want to listen to some trad music and have a Guinness, and that is nearly impossible in NYC.) But the US has not really *stolen* the holiday. It’s an Irish-American tradition just as much as it’s an Irish one – and after 200 years of diverging traditions, of course they’re celebrated differently!

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          1. Kate

            Admin, I hope this isn’t derailing, I re-read the commenting rules and the recent discussion, so I think it is okay, please delete if I am wrong.

            Thank you for saying this! As was mentioned last time, and NOT that this is happening here, I get a little sick of hearing that Americans celebrate this holiday “wrong”.

            Unfortunately it seems that “Country of Origin-American” is too often not seen as a real culture in and of itself, and anything that is different than “Country of Origin” culture or “American” culture is seen as wrong or a mistake, not a new tradition for your culture, the “Country of Origin-American” culture.

            I have heard about this with Mexican-Americans and their cuisine not being “authentic Mexican”, as well as others.

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            1. Kate

              ETA not that pinching is okay, I have always hated that part of the holiday and find the emphasis on drinking a little frustrating, but a lot of American holidays tend to be about drinking and/or shopping, not just this one. And not that there’s anything wrong with that necessarily.

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            2. Emi.

              I agree! It’s like when the Chinese teachers dismissed cooking by my Chinese-American family as “not authentic.”

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        6. Chinook

          In Canada and the US, St. Patrick’s Day is one of the few days where the Catholic Church gives dispensation to eat meat on Friday or fast during Lent (because leave it to the Irish to have a patron saint who’s feast day always falls during a time of abstinence and preparation – we either like suffering or creating loopholes). It is diocese by diocese and under certain circumstances, but it is definitely treated as a Feast Day by Irish Catholics (and I think Orthodox Christians who also have him as a saint).

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          1. bearing

            Also note it’s not at all unusual for a Catholic parish to have a party/picnic/special fellowship dinner, often including a worship service, on the feast day of the saint that the parish is named after. It doesn’t matter if you’re Irish or not — if you go to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 3/17 can be a religious holiday for you.

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            1. Anna

              I think the difference is: Observed As vs Originated As. My understanding from what ‘ve seen is that it may be observed as a religious holiday in some areas, but it did not originate as a religious holiday.

              Not all feast days were created equal.

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              1. Zoe

                That’s actually backwards, it originated as a religious day (it’s a holy day of obligation and a solemnity in the Irish Catholic Church) and for many people still is, even as the most visible celebrations are secular.

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        7. saf

          The Irish folks I know who see it as a religious holiday are from the Gaeltacht – specifically, Connermarra and the Aran Islands.

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        1. Talvi

          I remember this from when I was in elementary school, too (also in Canada). But that’s the thing – it’s something you might expect from schoolchildren, not grown adults.

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          1. Bringing IT

            Exactly, emphasis on elementary school. This is nuts. The OP is lucky if she doesn’t have a lawsuit on her hands.

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          2. Beckie

            And, in fact, my son’s elementary school had a reminder on the morning of March 17 that pinching was not allowed under school rules.

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      3. Djuna

        I think it is. I’m Irish, I live in Ireland, and pinching/punching for not wearing green has *never* been a thing here. When I first heard of it, I thought it had to be a joke.

        I feel for the assistant. Depending on how long she has been in the U.S. she may not have known at all that this is a “traditional” Paddy’s day thing to do…or a thing at all. So, in her head, she comes to work, and people start pinching her….

        Suddenly, (quite apart from everything else), it is so much easier to understand her reaction.

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        1. Savannah

          Just to clarify- I know the LW said she was Irish but in all likelihood she is 3-4 generation American with Irish heritage.

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          1. saphorr

            Why do you think that? Everything about her reaction is entirely consistent with her being genuinely Irish-from-Ireland Irish, and there’s no fact included that suggests she’s American.

            It’s true that 90% of people who meet in North America who casually sling around “I’m Irish” have an Irish great-grandfather or a just a name that starts with O’, but that doesn’t mean it’s true of everyone. As Bono or Colin Farrell could tell you, the Irish still occasionally make it across the Atlantic from time to time these days…

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            1. AKJ

              Yeah, but I might have a similar reaction (I don’t really like the way St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the US, so I don’t really celebrate, and if anyone pinched me I’d raise holy heck) and I’m only 1/2 Irish by descent three or four generations back. My family on my fathers side has always taken our heritage seriously and we’ve kept in touch with relatives in Ireland over the years.
              I don’t think it necessarily makes that much of a difference in this situation whether the person is a recent Irish arrival or of Irish descent, the whole thing is still incredibly offensive.
              (There are situations where it would make a difference, I just don’t think this is one of them)

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              1. Victoria

                Also Irish by decent … great great grandma came here from Ireland. Saying that my family thinks the way we celebrate St Patrick’s Day is stupid. Growing up my dad had to be at work by 6 am and we lived in a college town. He would see the college students lined up waiting at the bars BEFORE 6 am so he started calling it St Parties Day.

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              2. Emi.

                Well, it sounds to me like she’s objecting to green food as a party theme as well as to the pressure and pinching. If her issue is that the Americans throwing this party aren’t Irish-American, I don’t think it makes much difference, but if she’s upset because she doesn’t like a distinctively Irish-American tradition at all, she needs to sit down.

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                1. Gadfly

                  I think she is fine to have an objection to the Americanization of it when that mostly consists of a bunch of offensive stereotypes or ignorant misuse of culturely symbolic thing of the Irish part. Some toned down more than they used to be, but still rooted there.

            2. Just Another Techie

              My ex-boyfriend was Irish by descent, about four generations back. But his family was super into ancestry and heritage (and part of why we broke up was that his mother couldn’t bear the thought of her baby boy marrying out. He had to find a good Irish girl.)

              His ancestors, though, were strict CoE people, and his whole family would wear orange on St Patrick’s day because they all had a chip on their shoulder about it.

              Reply
              1. go orange!

                CoE?
                if I bother with colors, I wear green for my boyfriend (highly Irish catholic tradition in the family) AND orange since I’m a Protestant.
                And, I recently learned that St. Paddy’s color is actually blue…
                As for pinching? Yeah, no. I’m a advanced black belt & you’d get whacked like a snake simply as a muscle memory response.

                Reply
                1. go orange!

                  thanks Talvi! My brain is busy doing numbers today & didn’t translate that properly!

                2. FormerLibrarian

                  Yes, it is Church of England, although an Anglican in Ireland would be attending Church of Ireland services!

                  If you look up photos of the Saint Patrick’s Catherdral choir (also CoI) you’ll see that the St. Patrick’s blue is the color they use for their choir robes. Christ Church (where I sang in the choir during my last three years in Dublin) had red robes as we were a royal foundation.

            1. Misquoted

              I don’t think it’s relevant. I am an American with zero Irish heritage, and I strongly dislike St. Patrick’s Day and the way it’s celebrated here. I almost never wear green on March 17.

              Reply
          2. AnonyMouish

            Can you explain why you would think this? I know many young Irish immigrants in all parts of Canada and the Northeast United States, it’s not like they’re required to stay in Ireland…

            Would your inference that she was a 3-4th generation American have something to do with her reaction?

            Reply
            1. BF50

              Her reaction sure sounds more like she’s Irish from Ireland. And the comment that she is the only Irish person working there, also gives that impression, since a huge majority of Americans (and Canadians) have Irish ancestry.

              There are parts of the country with very few Irish immigrants, so I’m guessing Savannah is from one of those parts.

              By the way, my Irish-from-Ireland husband finds much of American St. Patrick’s day offensive. If you pinched him we would flip. He’s been her 15 years and this is the first year he has actually worn green and that is only because the whole family bought matching IFRU shirts on our last trip home. Also, he doesn’t consider it a religious holiday.

              Reply
              1. Savannah

                I’m actually from the UK- and living in Boston so lots of people who say they are Irish, but are actually American and have Irish or English heritage. I think when Irish or English people hear people in America say that they are Irish, we think like from Ireland- but 9/10 thats not what people here mean. You can even tell in the comments, everyone who is European seems to think she is from Ireland and most of the American comments seem to think she’s Irish. I honestly don’t think it matters much for this work situation, but I didn’t want someone assuming something I’ve been surprisingly wrong about so many times.

                Reply
                1. Jessie the First (or second)

                  But there is no reason to assume she is not actually Irish, as in from Ireland, either. It seems inappropriate to me to jump in and state as fact something that is simply a guess on your part. And it does not matter anyway – she doesn’t need to produce her birth certificate and prove citizenship to dislike a holiday that traffics in stereotypes, and she doesn’t need a birth certificate and proof of citizenship to object to being pinched.

            2. Courageous cat

              Not the original commenter but it was my thought too. I’ve known a lot of people who like to tout their Irish/Scottish/Norwegian/whatever far-back heritage as though they were literally from that country and it usually comes off as an attempt to seem more “cultured” and less “plain white American”. It doesn’t change whether her reaction was valid (I think it was) but if she’s not from Ireland and neither are her parents then.. whether or not she’s Irish doesn’t seem super relevant to her reaction.

              Of course she could very well be straight up Irish, who knows, but it’s a thought I had. Might also be because I have never met an Irish immigrant in my entire life (probably due to my location?)

              Reply
      4. Felicia

        I’m Canadian too and pinching happens on St Patrick’s day here too – but only in early elementary school and would never be tolerated in the workplace. People seem to realize it’s a bad thing to do by themselves around grade 6 but teachers do try to put a stop to it earlier

        Reply
        1. CanCan

          I’m Canadian, lived here for over 20 years, and this is the first time I’m hearing of pinching. Probably because I didn’t go to elementary school here.

          Reply
        2. Mephyle

          I grew up in Southern Ontario (Canada), did all my schooling there, and this letter today is literally the first time I’ve ever heard of pinching on St. Patrick’s day.

          Reply
          1. saphorr

            Ditto. I have a vague memory from elementary school of being ridiculed for not wearing something green on St. Patrick’s Day, but I was never pinched (for that anyway) and never heard of pinching being a thing.

            It is slightly funny that at the same time we were all pressured to wear green, we were learning in class about how the Fenians were huge jerks who wanted to cause the downfall of Canada right after Confederation. The Fenians were basically just hardcore Irish nationalists, the same people who were popularizing wearing green in the first place.

            Reply
      5. MMDD

        I was about to ask the same thing. I live in a part of Canada that was settled by Irish immigrants and never in my life have a heard of pinching someone for St Patrick’s day.

        Reply
        1. Humble Schoolmarm

          I’ve never heard of it in my part of Canada where Scottish culture is most predominant. Schools are almost always on March Break then, which may have something to do with it.

          Reply
      6. LQ

        I always assumed the pinching was a bar/drinking/”flirting” thing but I’ve never had anyone do it and I don’t own a lot of green so I didn’t even accidentally wear green on the day. I’m in the midwest and did hear of it but I’m not sure where, it may well have been on the Simpsons as someone mentioned.

        Reply
        1. Amber T

          Yeah, I’m trying really hard to remember when I heard about the pinching aspect, and I honestly can’t remember. I think it’s one of those things that I’ve always “known” but never experienced (as someone mentioned above, I remember hearing the “oooh you’re not wearing green, you’re gonna get pinched!” fairly young), but I can’t honestly remember experiencing it until college, where drunken “flirting” is “acceptable.”

          Some people wore green on Friday, someone brought in green bagels, but that was the extent of the “celebration” in our office, and really that’s how it should be.

          Reply
      7. B

        I was born here and I have never heard of the pinching thing until now. If I were the employee I would have also quit on the spot and possibly hire a lawyer.

        Reply
      8. I'm Not Phyllis

        I’m glad I’m not the only Canadian who has never heard of this! I didn’t wear green (I forget … every year) and would not have been happy. This is the only year I’ve given thought to the cultural appropriation aspect of St. Patrick’s Day, probably because cultural appropriate has been a larger discussion in recent history, but I can completely understand her taking offense.

        Reply
      9. Sadsack

        I am of Irish heritage and I am American. I have never heard of the pinching thing until very recently. I think most of what is done to celebrate this holiday has very little to with any actual Irish tradition.

        Reply
      10. Liane

        I’ve heard of this most of my life (lived in Florida & Arkansas), but *always* as a joke said to friends or relatives who would take it as a joke: “You forgot to wear green, today–I should pinch you” “Oooh boy, you are gonna get pinched all day long” And everyone kept their hands to themselves–where they belonged!

        Reply
      11. Lisa

        FWIW — I was born and raised in the U.S. and grew up in a city with a strong Irish element (Chicago — so lots of different ethnicities well-represented), and I actually had NOT heard of the whole pinching thing.

        Reply
    3. Mike C.

      Even if there wasn’t the issue of cultural appropriation, the fact that she wasn’t participating should have been a huge signal that she wasn’t participating so don’t pinch her.

      Reply
      1. sstabeler

        I’m not sure it counts as cultural appropriation, but regardless, her reaction in refusing to participate was appropriate- the pinching was out of line. (as a rule of thumb, it’s fine between a group of friends that AGREE to follow the custom- otherwise, knock it off.)

        Reply
        1. Fiennes

          I’m honestly curious as to whether the assistant genuinely called it “cultural appropriation,” or whether that’s how her coworkers characterized her saying, “this stuff isn’t authentic, and it’s also irritating.” Frankly, the office culture sounds more than a little sophomoric–green food? Rampant pinching? Someone, presumably with a straight face, claiming he didn’t mean to pinch her butt, just caught her sitting down? (Think about that. Totally implausible.) I wouldn’t be surprised if her objections had been inflated in their retelling to OP in an effort to make her sound unreasonable. But I’d hate that climate too — and wouldn’t be surprised if this was less an isolated incident, more a last-straw situation.

          Reply
          1. Falling Diphthong

            The “I missed” thing makes sense if you assume that the assistant enters her chair by crawling under the conference table and then slithering upward in a backbend until she’s seated in her chair.

            So not really.

            Reply
            1. A.

              You are right, that is the only way “missing” makes sense! Almost spit out my coffee laughing at that picture.

              And I agree with previous poster, my initial take was this incident was probably the last straw for the assistant rather than the sole reason for quitting the way she did. I know very few people who have walked out on jobs but the ones I do, there was a lot of build up to get to that point.

              Reply
          2. JessaB

            Yeh, wait a minute here, if you’re going to pinch at a certain level, and the person sits down in the middle of it, you’re going to pinch HIGHER on their body, not lower. I mean I just self demonstrated in a chair but logic dictates if someone is sitting down their bottom goes lower than your grip not higher. They should have ended up pinched at the waist or something. I could see someone in the process sitting and someone reaching and accidentally getting near the bosom because the body was lowering itself. But this doesn’t logically follow I think?

            Reply
          3. Kyrielle

            Yeah, if he “missed” and got her butt as it was descending, then he was aiming for her leg or thigh. What the? Or if he got “near” her butt above, then he was aiming for her actual butt.

            Pinching isn’t okay. Pinching there is even less okay.

            Reply
        2. Detective Amy Santiago

          I’ve heard a lot of Irish people say that. Same way that a lot of Mexicans feel about the way that Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the US. It’s not really for anyone who isn’t a member of that group to say if it is or isn’t cultural appropriation.

          But the larger point is that any kind of unwanted physical contact in the workplace is completely inappropriate.

          Reply
        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          It is cultural appropriation, actually — a really great example of it. People who have fundamentally no connection to Ireland suddenly declare “I’m Irish!!!!” as a way to make excuses for behavior that boils down to negative stereotypes of Irish people (getting roaringly drunk and participating in hooliganism) under the cover of “celebrating.”

          Reply
          1. Machiamellie

            This is why I always decline to participate – not a drop of Irish blood in my body and I don’t drink, so I never felt the desire to pretend to be Irish for a day. I don’t wear green on the day and people go “but everyone’s Irish on St Patrick’s Day!” No, no they’re not.

            Reply
          2. Pommette

            On the surface, it’s an absurd holiday that only exists to give people an excuse to drink to excess while behaving obnoxiously. And it definitely plays on some gross stereotypes.

            But North-American St-Patrick’s day celebrations weren’t invented by non-Irish people to mock Irish people or to appropriate Irish culture. Many of the holiday’s traditions developed from celebrations organized by people from Irish diaspora communities. Over time, what it meant to identify as Irish in America changed pretty dramatically; the holiday changed in parallel to that. It became a “mainstream” holiday in part because Irish identity stopped being marked out or stigmatized.

            So I don’t think that it counts as appropriation, exactly. It’s something else, and something way more interesting. (Not that that is an excuse for green food or pinching in the workplace, or an appropriate pretext for bad behaviour!)

            Reply
            1. fposte

              I think this is an excellent summary. I applaud the impulse to be sensitive to other cultures, but diaspora cultures count as cultures too.

              I was hoping to find a nice gossipy history of Title VII online to see if the “national origin” clause had any particular ethnic group pols behind it. I didn’t find anything about that, but apparently some accounts suggest the Congressman who included the word “sex” did so as a poison pill to kill the bill. Ha on him.

              Reply
            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

              Well, no. Being a diasporic holiday and being appropriated by individuals who are not part of that diaspora are perfectly compatible situations. I doubt you’re going to find many actual Irish-Americans wearing “kiss me I’m Irish” t-shirts and shamrock glasses drinking dyed beer.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                I think you’ll find a ton of them, actually; you’ll also find a fair amount of them selling those t-shirts and beer. It’s not as simple as “real descendants do it nicely.”

                Reply
                1. Natalie

                  How do you even decide who’s a “real descendant”? Americans of Irish descent don’t all live in Little Dublin and marry each other, and haven’t for generations and generations. I’d wager plenty of Americans have Irish ancestry they don’t know about, and plenty of Americans of Irish descent have fewer Irish ancestors than they believe.

                2. aebhel

                  True. I think the whole thing is kind of off-putting, but I know a LOT of people of Irish descent (I’m in NY; we make up like 60% of the city I live in) who celebrate it in all the obnoxious ways.

                3. Chinook

                  And then you get the Irish immigrants like my grandparents who wanted to fully integrate into Canada and made a point of staying away from Irish Canadian clubs. We, their grandchildren, knew very well where my dad and aunt were born and where half our blood and family is from, but the family’s goal was to become a part of our new home and nation.

                  (It worked, both children of an Orangeman married and raised Catholics and even took them back to visit family in places like Belfast.)

                4. OlympiasEpiriot

                  @ aebhel … We are nested so far I can’t reply directly…

                  No, the Irish in NY are *not* 60% of the city. They aren’t even 60% of the white folks. Maybe they are 60% of Woodlawn. Or some part of Breezy Point, or some precinct houses, but those of Irish ancestry in NYC are maaaaybe 6% of the population of the city. Tops. Hispanic & Latinx ancestry and African-Americans together make up more than 50% of the population here.

                  (Which reminds me Yet Again to be astounded at the incredible whiteness of my kid’s school district. My neighborhood has changed so much since I first moved in some thirty+ years ago. )

                5. aebhel

                  @OlympiasEpiriot

                  I was referring to the state of New York, actually. I don’t live in NYC. The city where I do live is very Irish. Honestly, this is one of my ongoing frustrations, here: NY is an entire state beyond the city, which is something that nobody who isn’t from upstate New York seems to grasp.

                6. OlympiasEpiriot

                  @ aebhel

                  I get your frustrations — this confusion also happens the other way, believe it or not, especially with political seats and issues — and I definitely could have read a little closer; but, writing “(I’m in NY; we make up like 60% of the city…” resulted in someone reading late a night on a phone with its squeezing of comments likely to misread this as “NY …. city”

                  Apologies.

                  And, I’m not wanting to out you, but I am super curious about which city your are in now b/c I travel around the state a lot and can’t think of which one you’d mean. Even Babylon is only about 30% Irish.

                1. fposte

                  Heh, it was absolutely Chicago I was thinking of too. I believe Notre Dame has a pretty legendary St. Patrick’s Day as well.

              2. Anna

                The problem is that’s not entirely true. The celebration started in large cities with very large Irish immigrant populations. None of these practices were created out of whole cloth; they’ve grown out of how it was celebrated in those large cities.

                I don’t disagree that it’s been appropriated, but I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that “kiss me I’m Irish” didn’t start with someone who was Irish and thought of a clever way to make a buck.

                Reply
              3. BananaPants

                You’d be wrong on that, at least based on what I see from friends of Irish heritage who live in southern New England.

                Reply
            3. Chinook

              “But North-American St-Patrick’s day celebrations weren’t invented by non-Irish people to mock Irish people or to appropriate Irish culture.”

              I agree with this portion not being cultural appropriation but, instead, cultural evolution. But, once non-Irish (descendants) start taking at as an excuse to say “today everybody’s Irish” and then “kiss me an Irish” as a follow up, or when they think it is great day to drink because, you know, the Irish are famous drinkers *wink, wink, nudge, nudge,* then you are absolutely going into both a true definition of appropriation and perpetrating cultural stereotypes.

              As for green food dye in food and beer, that is just a crime against nature and good taste.

              Reply
                1. Noobtastic

                  I wonder if Dr. Seuss got his inspiration for Green Eggs and Ham from a St. Patrick’s Day party?

                  My sister made it, once, for the family. It tasted almost normal. Almost.

          3. I'm Not Phyllis

            Yes this so much. And the fact that some people of Irish decent think it’s eye roll-worthy, rather than insulting, doesn’t make it ok.

            Reply
      2. GeoffreyB

        Agreed, but also, there really shouldn’t be a need for a signal. “Don’t pinch her” should be the default behaviour.

        Reply
      3. DeskBird

        Not to defend ANYONE – but that is the point of the pinching. It’s to torment people who aren’t participating. You only pinch people who don’t wear green – so it is basically used to harass anyone who isn’t participating. I’m only pointing this out because a lot of people here haven’t heard of the pinching thing before.

        Reply
    4. many bells down

      Seriously, this #1. There’s no reason at all someone should be getting pinched at work. Unless there’s some sort of emergency you should all be keeping your hands to yourselves.

      I was wearing a navy blue company logo shirt on St. Patrick’s. If anyone had tried to pinch me I would have been furious. If you think it’s a fun tradition, great, but don’t force physical contact on other people.

      Reply
      1. MillersSpring

        Amen. Unwanted physical touching is obnoxious and should be a fireable offense. Please, please give this woman an enthusiastically positive reference!

        Reply
        1. Bangs Not Fringe

          I was recently upset when a colleague decided they had a right to touch my skin to check if I was cold because I hadn’t removed my jacket. It was in fact freezing. The coworker had a habit of making physical contact while speaking to me, and I would literally jump back from the attempts.

          No one has a right to touch you without your permission. Especially in the work place.

          Reply
          1. MegaMoose, Esq

            One of the older women in my office gave me the cold hand to the back of the neck treatment twice a couple of weeks ago. I was pretty flabbergasted and reacted in a way I think she viewed as playful, but really, it’s hard to know how to react in that situation. I like to think I’d react calmly and forcefully if someone pinched me, but I don’t know that I would.

            Reply
          2. Noobtastic

            “No one has a right to touch you without your permission. Especially in the work place.”

            This reminded me. Just before I left my last job, we got a new employee who, for religious reasons, could not touch females. His supervisor introduced him around, and explained that he would not be shaking hands with any women, because of religious reasons, and everyone (at least to my knowledge) just accepted it, because no one should touch him without his permission, INCLUDING shaking hands.

            He wasn’t bigoted against women, from what I can tell. In fact, his supervisor was a woman, and she had no problem with hiring him. The only thing was the no-touching rule, and really, except for the odd handshake, it wasn’t an issue at work. If he had said he didn’t shake hands with anyone at all, that would have been just as valid.

            There are all kinds of touch that can be unwelcome, for all kinds of reasons. Only touch someone without their permission in an emergency, when it’s the only way to get their attention, or to move them (either out of danger or they ARE the danger that needs to be removed), or to administer life-saving first aid. And even for the first aid, you’re supposed to get their permission, if they are conscious. Yes, even for the Heimlich maneuver, you’re supposed to ask first. They teach that in the CPR/First Aid classes, at least the ones that give a Red Cross certification.

            Reply
            1. OhNoNotAgain

              Hmm, I can only imagine a white person saying they won’t shake hands with a person of color because of religious reasons. Saying it’s due to religious reasons is no less discriminatory nor is it a free pass to discriminate against an already marginalized group of people–if that’s his beliefs, then he shouldn’t shake the hands of men, either.

              Reply
              1. Starbuck

                I agree. This exact issue has been written about before on this blog, and the consensus seemed to be that the most reasonable accommodation (to respect sincerely held religious beliefs but also not allow sex-based discrimination) was to have that person not shake anyone’s hand, male or female.

                Reply
      2. Gaia

        This office needs to teach people Criss Cross Apple Sauce policy: Keep your arms and legs to yourself. Touch no one else.

        Reply
        1. Koko

          Wait, Criss Cross Apple Sauce means don’t touch anyone? When I was a kid, it was a rhyme you chanted while tracing shapes on someone’s back to induce shivers.

          Reply
              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

                Well, it’s not exactly lotus. Lotus is with the soles of the feet facing upward, not feet tucked underneath oneself.

                Reply
            1. JessaB

              I didn’t know that about criss cross, we always called it Tailor style. Cause tailors measuring hems used to sit like that to get closer to the person they were working on.

              Reply
              1. Purest Green

                Clearly we were using this stuff wrong, because we did the circle circle dot dot as a cootie treatment and the applesauce thing as a defensive ward against cooties.

                Reply
                1. Gogglemarks

                  I learned “circle dot, I do not!” as the response to “pinch poke, owe me a coke” in school. Criss Cross Apple Sauce was how we knew it was time to come sit crosslegged on the rug instead of at our desks. Pretty sure there was some element of keeping hands to oneself in there somewhere too.

            1. Falling Diphthong

              One of my kids’ kindergarten teachers kept a basket of beanie babies for children who absolutely had to fidget with something during circle time. The office might want to consider this solution.

              Reply
              1. Emi.

                We were actually given piles of plastic fidgeting toys at new employee orientation, because honestly, who can sit through two days of How To Call 911 and Diversity Bingo without fidgeting? No one, that’s who.

                Reply
                1. Noobtastic

                  Oh, brilliant!

                  Well, the toys. Not the two days of “How to Call 911” and “Diversity Bingo.”

              2. Hibiscus

                They make professional looking jewelry for people who stim as part of ASD/ADHD behaviors. Maybe someone in the company should become a catalog rep.

                Reply
                1. Clever Name

                  Ooooh. I tend to fidget with office supplies (paperclips, small twist ties). This sounds right up my alley.

                2. JessaB

                  I just saw a kickstarter for a really elegant looking pen that has fidgets on it (a rocker switch, a twirl around a disc near the top, a way to fidget the clip back and forth and a nice smooth spot to play with.) Seriously nice pen. I can’t find the link to it, but I think if you searched fidget pen, you’d find it or something like it.

                  I bought one of those cheap cubes that have textures and stuff to manipulate. The only part that bothered me was the little bump that allowed you to swirl around a circle bit, it was too small for me to actually make it move. I got a bit of Sugru in a matching colour and enlarged it. Works great.

                  But yeh a lot of places are now realising that adults have fidget needs too (a lot of people don’t grow out of ADHD even though it used to be presumed they would.) So there’s an industry now that makes nice desk things for grownups as well as things for kids.

                  People really aren’t designed to sit still a lot. I think it’s a function of evolution, in the old days, most of the work people had to do involved movement or walking around. This sitting behind a desk all day or in a classroom all day is relatively new to the species.

            2. Erin

              My daughter’s preschool says “criss cross, apple sauce, spoons in your bowl,” with the spoons representing keeping your hands in your own lap.

              Reply
      3. eplawyer

        St. Patrick’s Day, St. Swithin’s Day, Michaelmas, or whatever, you do not assault people at work. The date does not give people a pass to assault co-workers.

        How would you have handled it if she came to you and said “I was pinched” and it wasn’t St. Patrick’s Day? You then handle pinching on St. Patrick’s Day the exact same way. The fact that you are trying to reconcile the fact that it was holiday makes it okay to assault someone is rather worrisome. You need to look at this as you would any other tupe of assualt in your office. Not find a way to make it her fault for not putting up with it.

        Reply
    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      1000% agreed on all counts. OP#1, you owe your receptionist a fair reference (as Alison noted, the reference you would have given had she not quit on the spot) and a sincere apology. While your assistant’s reaction was severe, I don’t blame her at all, and based on your retelling, her reaction sounds justified.

      It sounds like you think she’s out of line, but I’d encourage you to take a big step back and view what happened from her perspective, or to at least speak to friends whose jobs have a more reserved approach to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. I’m slightly horrified that your assistant’s former coworkers silenced her and ignored her legitimate concerns re: cultural appropriation. But I’m also having a hard time understanding why your office is “celebrating” in the same way that second graders celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and forcing someone to endure physical harassment for opting out. How is it ok for adults to physically assault one another, and why did no one knock it off after the first complaint? Frankly, no one should have pinched her the first time, let alone the second time in an area close to her butt (even by accident).

      Reply
      1. Sami

        Absolutely. Why no one took a stand to say “Stop the pinching.” is beyond me. (In fact I probably would have thrown in a few swear words). What a ridiculous situation.
        The people who DID the pinching are the ones who need a stern talking to- at the least.

        Reply
        1. Newby

          I would have been tempted to quit as well. Enjoying a holiday and green food is one thing. Harassing someone who does not want to participate (especially physical harassment) is far beyond what should be acceptable. The people who pinched her should be disciplined and everyone in the office should be reminded that pinching is not acceptable in the workplace, even if it is meant to be playful. It sounds like everyone in the office has lost perspective.

          Reply
      2. Koko

        I also seriously side-eye the excuse about the butt-pinching being an accident because she had already started to sit down…so what, he was going to pinch her thigh before her butt suddenly lowered? That isn’t any better! If he was aiming for the arm he would have hit the shoulder when she sat down, not her butt.

        Reply
      3. INTP

        Agree with all of this except that I don’t think the butt pinch was an accident, at least not an attempt at an innocent non-sexual pinch. If you accidentally pinch someone on the but because they started to sit down, that means you were trying to pinch them on the thigh (probably the back or side of the thigh) and that’s a pretty clear sexual harassment zone too imo. (I mean, pinching anyone anywhere is not okay at work, but if you’re really doing it out of misguided holiday spirit I feel like you’d stick with to the forearm.) So that adds a level of “I’ve been sexually harassed in full view of everyone and no one is defending me” to the whole thing.

        Reply
        1. INFJ

          Yeah, I had an eyebrow raised at the “she started to sit down” explanation, too. I can’t picture a case in which that would physically make sense.

          Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I don’t believe it’s an accident, either, but just going by OP’s rendition of events. :)

          Reply
      4. Machiamellie

        I’m in charge of the “fun” activities and teambuilding things here at work. Everyone always seems to want to latch onto days like St Patrick’s and Cinco de Mayo to have themed food days, etc. I resist it whenever I can, just to make sure we’re not offending anyone, but I seem to be the only one that cares about that.

        Reply
        1. Chinook

          “Everyone always seems to want to latch onto days like St Patrick’s and Cinco de Mayo to have themed food days, etc. I resist it whenever I can”

          If you can have them focus on it is a themed food day, I can see it as being a great cross-cultural event. The problem is when people feel the need to dress up, etc. After all, just because it is Chinese New Year’s doesn’t mean you get to make slanty eye jokes/ching-chong jokes but I believe my Chinese colelagues would be insulted to be told that their various New Year pastries are unwelcome.

          Reply
        2. Noobtastic

          My advice: Keep the food, but lose the theme.

          If you’re providing food, provide food like you would for any other food-providing event. If you’re doing a pot-luck, people will bring whatever, anyway, and a theme will develop (or not), naturally, based on the actual members of the group. You might be surprised at the Mexicans bringing bagels and lox or the Irish bringing chop suey, or they might bring something culturally authentic to the holiday. You never know with pot lucks. The surprise is half the fun.

          Sign up sheets for “Appetizer, salad, entree, dessert, drink, dishes” are good, and nice and general, while still allowing for all the bases to be covered. I LOVE it when pot-luck organizers put spaces in the sign-up sheet for “drinks” and “dishes” or even “snacks”, because lots of people just aren’t into cooking, or don’t have money or time to run to a grocery store for something fresh, but would be happy to contribute by bringing stacks of cups or napkins or chips and dip, or 2-liter bottle of soda. And having participated in a pot-luck where no one thought about dishes, I can tell you, it is VITAL to have that covered!

          A well-organized pot-luck is usually a great morale-booster, and you won’t get in trouble for cultural appropriation, if you don’t officially assign a theme.

          Reply
      5. Newby

        I think this is a sign that the office should not have any holiday themed events. They don’t sound like they can handle it appropriately. A holiday is never license to harass others.

        Reply
    6. Engineer Girl

      The assistant quit because they were assaulted and no one would do anything about it. That’s a perfectly reasonable stance to take.
      In the US there are mass services so to some it is considered a religious holiday. Many of Irish descent to consider all the other things (especially the drinking and other antics) appropriation.
      Sorry OP #1 – you are coming across as totally tone deaf to what happened. Time for some reflection.

      Reply
      1. CDM

        The assistant didn’t give the employer any time to do anything about it.

        The first instance was on her way to a meeting, the second was sitting down for the same meeting, and she walked immediately. This appears to have been a matter of minutes.

        Quitting on the spot without giving the employer any opportunity to correct an issue is rarely a reasonable stance.

        Reply
        1. Caro in the UK

          I think, knowing that pinching was a possibility (which it seems like it was, given OP’s perspective that it’s normal at their workplace on St Patrick’s Day) the employer had time to preemptively protect her assistant when she complained that the festivities were offensive to her and that she wouldn’t be participating. OP could (and should) have spotted that pinching was not going to be well received by the assistant and told others to refrain.

          The employer had a second opportunity to do something about the pinching after the first time their employee was pinched.

          I don’t think I would have necessarily quit on the spot after the second incident, purely based on the info from the letter. However, given OP’s immediate reaction that the assistant was in the wrong, so much so as to refuse to provide a reference, it seems like the assistant may have felt that no amount of time would have elicited the employer to do anything about it.

          Reply
          1. DeskBird

            But the employer didn’t have second opportunity to do something. The OP wasn’t present for either incident – and it doesn’t seem like the OP was even told about either incident until after the employee walked off. No one in authority was really given any chance to respond. The least she could have done is go to her boss and explain what was happening.

            Reply
            1. Tim

              The employee made it clear that it wasn’t welcome the first time, and it then happened again, this time with a sexual element. How many times is it reasonable to tolerate this before enough is enough?

              She would have been perfectly entitled to walk out immediately after the first incident. We can see from the OP that their manager, far from being sympathetic, feels that she is in the wrong for not putting up with physical assault. If you know that’s how your manager will react, why on earth should you bother explaining anything to him?

              Reply
              1. Bangs Not Fringe

                Let’s wager that most people coming to work expect to not be harassed. And everyone deserves that expectation to be met. When the supervisor knows the office culture and associated customs (pinching!), they should have the foresight to see how these actions are beyond inappropriate when targeting an unwilling coworker (let alone anyone in a professional environment or really anywhere, ever).

                It’s crappy when employees have to constantly set their own boundaries in the workplace to protect themselves from things that should never be happening in the first place. There are harassment policies for a reason.

                Reply
              2. Rose

                I don’t agree with the OP but the fact the employee made that clear to one person doesn’t mean the other person knew it had bothered her. I read it as two isolated incidences the OP heard about after the fact. I also really don’t think it’s your job as a manager to ask employees not to pinch each other. If your employees are over the age of 10 I wouldn’t expect it to be a problem. I don’t think we can say for sure OP knew what was going on and ignored it.

                That beings said, from OP’s letter it doesn’t seem like he would have done much about it. Maybe the assistant predicted the outcome and decided to get the heck out. The extremity of her reaction makes me wonder if this wasn’t the first time her coworkers had done something inappropriate and her boss had essentially told her to lighten up.

                Reply
                1. Susan

                  Who cares if either of the harassers “knew that it bothered her”? What they did was assault, & the fact that others in the office may not have cared about it didn’t change that. But I agree that the Letter Writer’s reaction shows that s/he would most likely would have done nothing about it other than to either tell her she was “being too sensitive”, or, worse yet, make a big deal out of telling everyone to “leave her alone, because she was too sensitive”.

            2. animaniactoo

              Hey, her complaints – as the only person actually *OF* the background in the office were already dismissed and this went full force ahead.

              How was she supposed to have any assurance that anything would be addressed at all, rather than more dismissal – particularly as “Oh, c’mon, it’s all in good fun” or “I understand you’re upset, but it’s part of the tradition and it will be over tomorrow” or something in that vein?

              Sometimes – the first few pieces are egregious enough that they don’t get more attempts to make it better. They just don’t. She’s not required to give them more opportunities to fail her on this front. She gets to stand up for herself and say “I’m out of here”.

              Seriously – think about how bad the general atmosphere already has to be in that office that this was:

              a) an all-day event, not just a potluck in the middle of the day or something
              b) widely promoted with everybody on board and willing to ignore the person with the most right to have an issue with it
              c) an atmosphere/event where people felt free at work to physically touch somebody and cause them minor pain for not participating.

              If you recognize you’re fighting the tide, well you can fight the tide or you can turn around and swim for shore.

              Reply
              1. Amber T

                Agreed. For the employee to just up and quit, it’s likely one of two things – either the assistant is unreliable and was generally a bad employee, or the office was toxic to her and this was her breaking point. Based on the information in the letter, it definitely leans to the latter.

                For what it’s worth, I love my work place. I get along great with most of my coworkers and I like my work. But if I was continuously pinched, and my complaint was met with “meh, it’s the holiday, get over it,” I’d walk out too. My response would be “I’ll come back when I can feel safe at work,” and if my concerns were still met flippantly, I would start looking for another job. Because here is a real concern I have about the safety and comfort I have at work. It would be one thing if an idiot employee or two decided to start pinching people and management reprimanded them – then the fault lies with the idiot employees. But when management doesn’t take real concerns seriously, that shows a whole ‘nother host of problems, and that is a work place I don’t want to be associated with.

                Reply
              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                Agreed. Seriously, people pinching you, particularly near the butt, is a “do not pass go, do not collect $200”-level problem. I rarely think it’s ok to quit without notice. But this story certainly meets the bar for whether it’s ok for a person to quit on the spot.

                Reply
              3. Noobtastic

                Completely OT here, but if you’re actually caught in a rip-tide, the correct thing to do is not to swim for shore, but to swim PARALLEL to shore, until you get out of the rip tide, and then swim to shore. The reason is that you will become exhausted, if you swim against the tide, and may not make it to shore, but if you swim parallel, you won’t be fighting against the tide, and using up all your strength against it, and eventually, you will get free from the drag, and still have the strength to get to shore.

                Your safety PSA for the day.

                Reply
            3. L Dub

              The employer had the opportunity to hear the assistant’s complaints about how the day was being handled in advance and they chose not to do anything about her concerns. Why on earth would she think they would handle the pinching any differently? They’ve already demonstrated to her they won’t address her completely valid concerns.

              Reply
            4. Observer

              Wait, how long does it take to STOP PINCHING PEOPLE.

              She made it clear that she was not intending to participate.
              She got pinched once and YELLED at the person who did it. That made it PERFECTLY clear that she was NOT ok with it.
              She was pinched a SECOND TIME – this time IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE, *including* someone with at least SOME AUTHORITY. NO ONE made a move to stop it although there was someone there whose JOB it was to stop it. Instead, she was subject to excuse making – being told that pinching is ok because it’s part of HER tradition.

              At that point, why would any reasonable person stick around? How many more times does she have to be pinched before the office has been give “enough time”?

              Furthermore, the OP’s response proves that they would NOT have made it right and would not have stopped the pinching. The OP has made it clear that she did not at any point try to apologize to the the Admin, and clearly faults her for her reaction.

              Reply
              1. Not So NewReader

                I spoke up when my manager was dragging my assistant manager across the floor by one arm. The assistant manager told me to be quiet.

                Nope, that isn’t going to happen. I will not be quiet. I don’t care of the recipient of that behavior is telling me to shut up. I needed the manager to know he could absolutely not do that to me under any circumstances.

                Reply
            5. Sadsack

              And here is her boss writing in, acting like the employee is the problem and threatening to withhold a positive reference. I wonder what would have been done if the boss had a chance to talk to her. Nothing is my guess.

              Reply
              1. Just Another Techie

                Yes exactly. The boss’s reaction in their letter totally justifies the assistant’s assumption that nothing would be done about her complaints. Remember, she’s had however many years to get to know her boss and can make some pretty reasonable guesses about how OP would react to her bringing a complaint.

                Reply
            6. Natalie

              I think pinching co-workers is far enough out of the norm enough that walking out is perfectly reasonable.

              If you think about this slightly differently, divorced from a children’s holiday tradition – say it was normal in this office to lightly slap co-workers on the back of the head when they made a mistake. If that happened to you twice in short succession, it’s understandable that your first reaction isn’t “let’s go talk to the boss” but rather “I have clearly accidentally gotten a job at an office full of loons”.

              Reply
              1. Camellia

                Yeah, the Gibb-smack bothers me. When will we reach the point where we understand that even ‘light’ assault is not okay or cute or funny and should stop being depicted in TV and movies as such? Women slapping men, bosses smacking people, ‘he only hits you/pinches you/pulls your pigtails because he likes you’ – none of this is okay!

                Reply
              2. Amber T

                I used to be a huge fan of NCIS (still am of earlier seasons), but it’s definitely one of the shows that promotes the idea “Coworkers are family! Love your coworkers through anything! Work/life balance doesn’t exist!” Not a great example of what a work place *should* be like.

                Reply
                1. Emi.

                  Is it any worse than any other workplace on TV, though? Mulder hits Skinner in the face and constantly mishandles evidence; Ron Swanson subjects his reports to his political opinions; etc; etc. I think it’s just hard to write a TV show about a workplace unless all the interesting stuff happens at work.

                2. Amber T

                  @Emi nah, it’s all the same. An appropriate office setting wouldn’t make for good tv. Conflict is comedy to outsiders. I love The Office, but I would quit in a heartbeat if that was my daily life.

                3. animaniactoo

                  Totally off-topic, but they’ve managed to bring it back to life this season. Although Gibbs doesn’t head-slap anyone anymore – he hadn’t headsmacked Tony in awhile anyway, but with him gone it appears that’s definitely a dead dynamic.

            7. aebhel

              Well, if this happened to me at work, I probably wouldn’t walk off the job. That’s because I like my workplace and generally feel that my coworkers are reasonable people and issues are resolved appropriately. If the assistant didn’t have faith that the boss would resolve this issue appropriately (which seems like a reasonable attitude, given the tone of the letter, tbh) and/or if there were other ongoing issues (which, given how wildly inappropriate all of this is, also seems likely), walking off the job looks a lot more like a reasonable reaction.

              Reply
              1. Natalie

                Right, I’m not saying it’s the *only* reasonable reaction, just one of them depending on factors we can’t know.

                Reply
          2. TootsNYC

            I agree with this: ” it seems like the assistant may have felt that no amount of time would have elicited the employer to do anything about it”

            Reply
        2. animaniactoo

          I don’t know – if I was pinched *twice* in the space of minutes under circumstances that pretty much guaranteed it was going to happen *all day*? I’d probably quit on the spot too if I could afford it.

          The atmosphere of an office that thinks this kind of thing is acceptable “in all good fun” has got so much wrong with it that fixing the pinching is not going to fix the office in anything like a fast enough timeline for me to stay and put up with that crap.

          Reply
        3. GreyjoyGardens

          Pinching a coworker (seriously? *Pinching*?) is not a reasonable thing to do. The assistant – indeed, anyone – is entitled to not be physically assaulted in the workplace. Quitting on the spot was reasonable under the circumstances, IMO.

          Reply
          1. Lance

            Better yet, she yelled — yelled — after the first time she was pinched, and was clearly not happy about it. At that point, no, I don’t blame her at all for walking since nobody apparently got the very clear message.

            Reply
        4. Purest Green

          I wondered why the assistant didn’t go to her boss or anyone else of authority about this (though maybe that was omitted from the letter), but the fact that she told everyone she wasn’t celebrating and still got pinched, twice! might indicate previous problems she’s had with these coworkers.

          Reply
          1. Tuxedo Cat

            That’s what I was thinking and the OP might want to investigate that… Of course, the coworkers could have just been behaving like this on one day but part of me thinks they were mistreating her in other ways in the name of “fun” and this was the final straw.

            Reply
          2. Observer

            Well, for starters, there was someone with some authority present for the second pinch, since it was in a meeting, so there had to be a person who was running the meeting.

            Secondly, the OP, who is the Admin’s boss has made it clear that she doesn’t see anything wrong with the pinching. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that the Admin knew what her boss’ attitude is.

            Reply
        5. A.

          I don’t know the background but I get the impression colleagues that behave like this may have been unpleasant in other ways. I can see the argument for giving management a chance to correct this if the colleagues are otherwise professional and pleasant to work with and this was a one-off. But if there was a pattern of offensive behavior I could easily see this situation being the absolute last straw.

          Even if this was an isolated situation it’s still pretty awful.

          Reply
          1. AnonAnalyst

            I also wondered about this. I have never worked in an office full of grown adults who thought pinching coworkers was appropriate. The fact that it was so widely accepted in this office suggests to me that professional norms might be lacking elsewhere. If I’m in that situation and a coworker “accidentally” pinches my butt, but it’s laughed off “because I started to sit down?” Yeah, I might walk off the job too.

            Reply
            1. Newby

              It does sound like the overall office culture lead the employee to believe that complaining to her boss would do nothing. We don’t even know if this was the first time. All we know is that it was the final straw. If all my coworkers thought it was perfectly fine to pinch me, I don’t think I would care if my boss would back me up or not. It would still not be a place I would want to work.

              Reply
                1. Susan

                  I think the impossibility of reaching for an arm & “accidentally” getting someone’s buttocks kind of proves that it was. As has been outlined elsewhere in the thread, what else could you have been aiming for that would accidentally result in pinching someone’s buttocks if your only defense is the claim of “Well, she was sitting down, so I missed”?

    7. Elizabeth H.

      It’s totally different from the Black History Month example. For better or for worse St. Patrick’s Day is an American minor holiday. To my mind it is rather weird that this office celebrates it so fervently but I think the ship has sailed on the whole concept.

      I hate being pinched (I don’t know anyone who likes it???) but it just doesn’t rise to the level of assault (I know what the technical definition is, but I feel like the term is typically just used to encourage hysteria and reinforce fantasies about ill advised legal action). Discipline the employees who pinched the assistant, apologize to her, give her a reference commensurate with her performance and never celebrate St Patrick’s Day in the office again. Done.

      Reply
      1. Gaia

        Elizabeth, St Patrick’s Day is an Irish holiday that has been appropriated by America (due, primarily, to our large Irish-American communities) but many Irish Americans find the way non-Irish celebrate it wildly offensive (the leprechauns, binge drinking, etc). So it really isn’t at all different than appropriating any other culture in an offensive manner. Some will be more offended than others but that doesn’t matter. What matters is how you respond and this office responded atrociously.

        And regarding assault – any unwanted physical contact, particularly painful physical contact, is assault and has no business in the workplace. No one is suggesting legal action here but that doesn’t change what the action is: assault.

        Reply
          1. Kathleen Adams

            The only Irish person I’ve ever discussed this with in any detail (Irish as in “born and raised in Ireland”) just thinks it’s kind of silly but harmless, and while she lives in Ireland, she’s got a lot of relatives here in the US so she is familiar with the customs. But hey, YMMV.

            Reply
          1. Kathleen Adams

            That’s how my born-and-raised-in-Ireland friend sees it too. There’s St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and there’s St. Patrick’s Day in America, and in those two very different places, the same day has acquired different meanings. I mean, in the US, an awful lot of it is all about claiming your heritage as someone whose ancestors came from Ireland. Obviously they don’t have to worry about kind of thing in Ireland. :-)

            Reply
        1. Anna

          Please see Emi’s comment below. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations started in large cities with large Irish immigrant populations. They started out not resembling what people think of celebrations in Ireland because they were meant to bring communities of immigrants together to wax poetic about the Homeland and to remember The Good Old Times. It was not appropriated by anyone.

          We tend to think traditions are static and don’t change, but they do. How St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated now is probably a bit rowdier than how Irish-Americans celebrated originally, but it’s more that a bunch of people who were being nostalgic about their country of birth celebrated a little too hard. What’s changed is that became a focus of the celebration, rather than a side effect. I know people who call it Amateur Hour.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            There’s a a nice history here: http://time.com/3744055/america-invented-st-patricks-day/

            I think there’s also probably an intersection with U.S. drinking culture in general. That’s probably too complicated for me to put together on the fly, but certainly the consumption of alcohol was much greater in the nineteenth century and earlier (lack of clean water will do that to you), but it was integrated into daily consumption rather than an attempt to get drunk. It seems like we go in more for culturally sanctioned drunkenness at specific times like holidays or sports events instead, and that combines with that popular youthful impulse to go out and kick up a fuss in general.

            Reply
      2. Misc

        it just doesn’t rise to the level of assault (I know what the technical definition is, but I feel like the term is typically just used to encourage hysteria

        Regardless of the severity of the physical action, having people touch you when you don’t want them to is invasive and upsetting. Pain just magnifies the emotional impact. Assault is usually more about the intrusion on personal boundaries (i.e. your body) than the actual physical harm and acknowledging it *as* assault helps people figure out why they find it traumatic.

        (for example, remember how upsetting it used to be if you had a sibling who would keep touching you and generate the ‘STOP TOUCHING ME’ response, possibly followed by punching? Sure, the punching is ‘worse’, but if it follows ten minutes of subtle prodding, both parties are going to be pretty upset by the whole thing. As an adult a parent can’t just step in, you have to get a legal authority to do it).

        Reply
        1. sstabeler

          to slightly extend the anology, this is like a sibling keeping touching you, then, when you tell them to knock it off, YOU are punished for creating a disturbance (and are told to put up with said sibling touching you)

          Reply
          1. Misc

            Yes! I got sidetracked and forgot to get to that point. Where you get told off for punching and yelling, or BOTH of you get told off on the basis that the parent doesn’t want to figure out what actually happened because both prodding and punching are bad.

            Reply
          2. FormerLibrarian

            My entire childhood. (sis: [poke, poke, poke ad infinitum] me: stop it! sis: [poke, poke, poke etc., etc.,] me: Mom! Make her stop! Mom: you deal with it yourself. Me [Slap!!] Mom: [to me] go to your room!)

            I had a supervisor type in one job who assaulted me several times (just assault, no battery), and no one, not even HR gave a damn. She wasn’t in my chain of command, she was just the charge nurse half the time I worked, so I wasn’t supposed to be bothered by it because she couldn’t fire me. If she’d actually touched me, I’d have been out of there in a second, and my lawyer would have done all the talking for me. After over 2o years I still hate that hospital with the passion of a thousand burning suns, as well as the b**** who made my life hell for 20 months (but who was counting?).

            When the employee applies for unemployment, I strongly recommend the OP and the company NOT contest it. This would seem to be a classic case of constructive dismissal.

            Reply
        2. TootsNYC

          Actually you can step in–we can always tell people we don’t think their actions are right. You might offend people, or violate social or office norms, and your leverage may have limits. But you can step in, as a bystander.

          Reply
          1. Bangs Not Fringe

            You also do not have to be the victim of harassment to report harassment. Harassment complaints are perfectly valid coming from a witness.

            Reply
          2. Misc

            ‘Step in’ as in ‘have official authority to tell someone to modify their behaviour and enforce definite consequences’. A bystander can (and often should) interfere, but they generally can’t fire someone or fine them or hand out other actual consequences on their own. And often it’s not reasonable to expect that, depending on the situation.

            Reply
            1. Noobtastic

              They don’t have to be effective, with authority to fire the offender. Just a bystander saying “Hey, stop that!” works wonders.

              Either the offender will listen, and stop, or the offender will not listen, and not stop, but the victim will know that SOMEONE cared enough to speak up for them, and feel just a little bit safer and more valued, because of it.

              Really, when I was assaulted in public, the thing that hurt the most is that the people all around me never spoke up. I felt hurt by my assailant but downright betrayed by my “friends.” Two words, that is all it would have taken for me to feel better about the whole thing.

              Also, a bystander who says, “Stop that,” can embolden the victim to actually make a report, through proper channels, knowing that someone will stand as witness. The OP’s assistant likely felt completely alone.

              Reply
        3. INFJ

          Thanks for this perspective. I was wondering why everyone was using the word “assault”, and couldn’t find any calm, thoughtful explanations.

          Reply
          1. Misc

            You’re welcome!

            Mostly it’s a way of defining whether a specific interaction was Officially Not Okay or just specifically annoying to that individual. While their feelings matter when deciding how to handle something, it doesn’t decide whether or not that interaction was Legally Okay or invasive or whatever. Assault’s impact and severity is super context dependent.

            The legal definitions of assault give people a good baseline. Once you know it was or wasn’t assault, it’s much easier to discuss the actual magnitude, rather than arguing at cross purposes because person A thinks hair patting is totally fine and not traumatising to anyone because it doesn’t upset them personally, whereas punching in a non friendly way requires the police, and person B thinks hair petting is weird and creepy but not equivalent to punching someone, but also doesn’t want to just say ‘so it’s okay to pet people’s hair randomly’ just because it’s technically not as ‘bad’. Or finds hair petting super upsetting and doesn’t actually mind being punched.

            If you can agree both are technically assault, you don’t have to decide how ‘bad’ it is before agreeing that it was a Not Okay Thing and condemning it and move onto the (theoretically) more productive discussion of exactly how bad it was in a specific context.

            Reply
      3. Mookie

        I’m slightly gobsmacked at the suggestion that the word “assault” reinforces hysterical “fantasies” when used to accurately characterize the act of pulling tender parts of someone else’s flesh to inflict discomfort and cause embarrassment. If intentionally spitting on someone in the US is battery, nonconsensual pinching as punishment for the egregious act of not wearing green* is not on.

        *I personally cut orange-wearers a wide berth on 17 March for reasons of personal safety (but I’d never touch, yell at, or demean them)

        Reply
        1. FiveWheels

          Who wears orange on March 17th? I’m not sure if you mean Orangemen or it’s an American thing I’ve missed…

          Reply
            1. Jen Erik

              Really, really not.

              Also: protesting what? I’m very much a protestant, and we always marked St Patrick’s Day with the wild excitement that was singing ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’ in Assembly rather than our usual hymn – it doesn’t compare with the American festivities, but no-one has anything against him. He’s respected (and claimed) by both communities.

              Reply
              1. Juli G.

                It wasn’t so much wearing orange or being Protestant as it was being part of the Orange Order a couple centuries back.

                Reply
                1. No day but today

                  Absolutely! My FIL is an ass and likes to reminisce about being a teen and heading to Boston for the St. Paddy’s day parade with his friends…all of them Italian and all of them dressed in head to toe orange. He welcomed the harassment and outrage their outfits brought because, have I mentioned he’s an ass? My MIL is first generation Irish-American and even to this day he wears orange despite the fact that it upsets her.

                2. go orange!

                  No day but today –
                  wearing orange does not make you FIL an ass.
                  Green = Irish Catholic
                  Orange = Irish Protestant

                3. go orange!

                  @fposte
                  ??
                  Because I’m not wearing the forced green?
                  I’m not Catholic. When we were kids this was very important – only Catholics wore green.

                  You keep your traditions, I’ll keep mine thank you.

                4. fposte

                  @go orange–I’m not saying that wearing orange automatically makes somebody an ass; I’m disagreeing with you that No day’s FIL wasn’t being an ass, since he was doing it deliberately to stir up trouble. Which is pretty much the definition of an ass. Nothing to do with tradition for the FIL in question, so I think you were misapplying why *you* do it to why *he* did it.

                5. JTD

                  As an actual Irish person here, from a Catholic family with Protestant in-laws of varying flavours, wearing orange on 17 March is a level of goading (unless you’re a clueless Dutch visitor) that is horribly offensive to loads of Irish people, both Protestant and Catholic. The 12th of July is the Orange holiday (with bonus goading and deliberately incited violence on both sides), and for those congregations that prefer not to go with the relatively recent connotations of green, there’s always the lovely serene St Patrick’s blue, as seen on the president’s insignia.

              2. animaniactoo

                Really, yes. Maybe not in Ireland, but definitely here in the US. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and even into the 90s where it was something that was looked out for and an issue at the parades in NYC.

                Reply
                1. FiveWheels

                  How wonderful… So people in America wear Dutch colours to protest against the Irish patron saint’s day?

                2. Markethill

                  Yes, because it was a Dutch prince (William of Orange) who fought the Battle of the Boyne. This isn’t senseless, just complex.

              3. Amy the Rev

                It’s not so much about being simply religiously protestant, though the practice of Irish Protestants wearing orange on st. patricks day to protest the catholic holiday started in the 1600s. With all the religious-political turmoil in the centuries since, taking into account the Orange Riots, and other examples of sectarian violence, wearing orange on St. Paddy’s is generally considered to be toolishly provocative, especially in diaspora countries where the revelers have no real tangible connection with the Troubles.

                Reply
            2. cbackson

              Not in the United States, except perhaps in incredibly limited circumstances (which I’ve never seen or heard of in real life) and I pretty fervently object to attempts to characterize it as such. No one gets to drag me into the political conflict in Northern Ireland based on what I happened to wear on a holiday that I don’t care about.

              Reply
              1. Lili

                Yeah, I grew up (in the US) hearing that Catholics are supposed to wear green, while Protestants wear orange. Then I learned about all of the political ramifications of that…so the most I’ll do is enjoy a Guinness.

                (Also, I tend to pinch back. It baffles celebrants, but gets the point across)

                Reply
              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                I don’t think that’s accurate. I had the same understanding as others—that in the United States, wearing orange on St. Patrick’s Day is 100% a Protestant protest. My experience might be skewed because I’ve grown up mostly in cities or metro areas with large Irish-American populations, but it was certainly a thing. It may not be uniformly seen as a protest in the U.S., but that’s certainly the connotation in places where St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in a “big” way.

                Reply
            3. FiveWheels

              I am a British and Irish dual national and have spent the majority of my life in Belfast. I have never once come across the idea of wearing orange as an anti St Patrick’s Day, anti Irish, or anti Catholic protest.

              The Protestant/Unionist community does not have a problem with St Patrick’s Day. They often have a problem with how it is celebrated – as an anti British, pro Southern Irish event. But people who want to show their feelings wear red white and blue.

              Orangemen wear orange sashes with black suits and bowler hats, with bandsmen in bands uniforms.

              The very obvious reason why a Northern Irish Protestant/Unionist wouldn’t wear orange on St Patrick’s Day is that orange, plus green, matches the colours of the Republic of Ireland. Why would you protest Irishness by looking like an Irish flag?

              Reply
        2. plain_jane

          I’m particularly interested in the use of the term “hysteria” here, which is a particularly gendered term which comes from the idea that women can’t be trusted to have reasonable reactions to things. It’s not their fault of course, dear things, it’s _biology_.

          Reply
          1. AMPG

            Yes, thank you for highlighting this, especially since it’s being used to describe the reaction to unwanted touching.

            Reply
          2. Not So NewReader

            When people feel unheard, they can escalate. It’s human nature and not always hysteria. I always say that I want to be open enough so that people do not have to drop a concrete wall on me to get their points across.
            The situation gets worse when a person with power does not listen. Power brings about an even higher obligation to listen to people.

            Reply
        3. Stellaclair

          I seriously got a lecture from a vendor wearing an orange shirt who saw me wearing green, asked “Are you Roman Catholic?” in an accusatory tone, and then when I said that I was not, proceeded to beat me about the head with history that I’m not even sure was entirely correct. I’m also pretty sure he used the word “Scotch” in reference to Scottish people during that whole thing, so I’m not sure he knew anything about anything really.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            Sometimes I think the most dominant culture is people who like to tell other people how wrong they are. Most of us have some roots there :-).

            Reply
              1. FiveWheels

                I read a folk etymology once that Scotch Tape is so called because it was cheaper than other brands. If so there’s something for someone to get offended by ;-)

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  One US supermarket chain (Safeway) even had an inexpensive generic brand called “Scotch Buy,” associating it with the stereotype of Scottish tight-fistedness. Since the Scots have fared pretty well in America that gets a lot more tolerance than if you’d associated it with some other groups.

                2. FiveWheels

                  Fposte – I was thinking about this today, and while I’d be happy to call myself a tight Scotland, if someone other than a close friend made the association I would be… Not best pleased.

                3. fposte

                  @FiveWheels–I think it’s slightly more flattering than the version of it that gets leveled at the Jews–the Scots are canny, while the Jews are greedy–but yeah, I was pretty shocked to encounter “Scotch Buy” in the 1980s.

                  (It’s also a characteristic associated with people from Cardigan in Wales, but that’s a level of granularity that tends to disappear outside of the country.)

                4. Natalie

                  That wouldn’t quite make sense as it was originally a masking tape, which they invented. So it would have been the only product on the market, cheap or no.

                  But it does come from the same perjorative: 3M’s official story is that it came from the inventor grousing about his “Scotch bosses” not putting enough adhesive on.

          2. sb

            If it was in relation to immigrant populations, he might have been talking about “Scotch-Irish” (also said as “Scots-Irish”, but Scotch-Irish is more common), which is the correct phrasing by descendents of Ulster Scots who migrated to the US/Canada.

            That is not to say he was necessarily correct about anything, but that there is one circumstance where “Scotch” about people is correct, but ONLY in that compound phrase.

            Reply
            1. FiveWheels

              “Scotch Irish” to mean “Ulster Scots” is new to me. Google tells me that Ulster Scots identified themselves as such to distinguish themselves from Irish fleeing the potato famine.

              “Ulster Scots” itself has connotations beyond having both Ulster and Scottish heritage. As a British/Irish dual national with far more Scottish than Irish in me, it’s very interesting to see how the subtle distinctions cross the Atlantic.

              Reply
      4. Falling Diphthong

        Most people don’t want to work in an office where pinching, groping, and light smacking are okay because “get over it, it’s not REAL assault, it’s a bit of fun.” Though I imagine it would appeal as a norm to some people convinced they’ll be dishing it out and not taking it.

        Reply
      5. JB (not in Houston)

        I’m baffled by how you can say you know what the definition of assault is and then say that, nevertheless, this doesn’t rise to that level simply because you don’t like that people apply it to offenses you don’t think are serious enough. The commenters here aren’t encouraging ill-advised legal action. They’re just correctly pointing out that this isn’t something the employee should have to laugh off, and her being upset was justified.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth H.

          I think that people like calling things “assault” because they want to borrow some sense of external authority based in legal terminology to justify its being wrong, like if we point out that something is technically “assault,” then some disembodied hand of the law will magically appear and punish the wrongdoers. I don’t think this is that useful, we can just leave it as it being terrible behavior that should be disciplined and reacted to.

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            YES, thank you. I think that’s exactly it. I’ve been baffled by the focus on “this is assault!” whenever even mentioning touching a coworker comes up here (not because it’s not, but because often taking it to the cops would be bizarre in the contexts where it comes up here), and I think this explains both my bafflement and why it happens.

            Reply
          2. aebhel

            Eh, I mean, if I slapped a coworker that would be assault even if it did them no lasting damage. A pinch hurts just as much. Most reasonable people are not going to press charges for such a thing, but calling it assault is just accurately describing the *kind* of terrible, discipline-worthy behavior it is. Maybe that’s just me being pedantic, I don’t know.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              Since we’re being pedantic, whether it would be assault or not would depend on the jurisdiction and its terminology. I think that’s another thing that sends the lawyers here (of which I am not one) into explaining mode–that very little of this is the same everywhere in the country.

              Reply
          3. fposte

            Yes, good point. I was thinking about our tendency to treat interhuman dynamics as if they were subject to some kind of justice machine, so all we have to do is input the bad behavior and the machine will feed out justice. But the existence of a mechanism doesn’t mean it’s always going to deal with injustice presented to it; most injustice we just need to deal with ourselves or let go.

            Reply
            1. Katie the Fed

              Oh, so true!

              I remember when I was wee young fed, I was being sexually harassed by a coworker. I told my boss, and he asked “did you tell him to stop?” and I was so flummoxed because it had never even occurred to me to say something.

              Reply
          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Oh, that’s interesting. I call things assault for the reasons JB described, but you’re right that commenters often escalate that description quickly and redirect the conversation to a debate on whether someone should report it to the police or “press charges”… which drives me out of my mind because (a) this is not how this works, and (b) 9 times out of 10 it’s a profoundly useless and extreme reaction to bad office conduct that doesn’t help the OP.

            Reply
            1. Halpful

              yeah… I was reading it as “this is wrong, and that’s not just my opinion, the law agrees!” but the frequency of people reading it as “sue!!11!1!” kinda makes it not work. I’m not sure how/if you could phrase it to avoid that interpretation.

              Reply
            2. Misc

              I think that’s just the nature of discussions; if it was ruled Not Assault, the escalation would be in the direction ‘so get over it’.

              Defining something as assault is basically the defining line a lot of the time, that then forms the basis of the reaction/discussion around the actual severity.

              Reply
          5. Katie the Fed

            Yes! It’s the same with the discrimination/hostile work environment claims. Even when it might be technically true, it probably doesn’t rise to the level of being worth an EEOC claim or lawsuit.

            Reply
      6. Newby

        I completely agree with never celebrating St. Patrick’s Day again in this office. I think that they shouldn’t have ANY office holiday celebrations. Normally, I like office Christmas parties or holiday themed snacks, but their judgment seems to be so far off that they just can’t be trusted to celebrate responsibly.

        Reply
    8. Jen Erik

      I don’t think that it’s cultural appropriation – St Patrick’s Day was brought to the US by the huge numbers of Irish immigrants. It’s maybe cultural misattribution, in that it’s not, in this form, an Irish holiday, more an Irish-American one.

      But maybe that’s a lost-in-translation thing – I’ve never been to the US, but my husband (not Irish, but has lived in the North for most of his adult life) was over in Boston with an Irish cohort and was several times invited to meet “Granny, who is Irish”. Granny had invariably never set foot in the place, and sometimes her parents hadn’t either.

      That suggests that a different understanding of the word ‘Irish’ – that it’s being used in a different sense than it would be in Ireland. So maybe that’s where the tension lies – that the tradition of St Patrick’s day celebrations are ‘Irish’ in the same way that Granny is ‘Irish’ .

      I think I’m trying to say that I don’t think there’s any appropriation regarding the day itself, but – and I think I’ve invented a new thing here – perhaps there’s been a linguistic appropriation of the descriptor ‘Irish’ . (Adds insult to injury: annoying enough to be pinched, but more so to be pinched because it’s an Irish thing, when you’re Irish and it’s not.)

      Reply
      1. OES

        Europeans seem to be constantly surprised (and sometimes offended) by American claims to be “Irish” or “German” or “Italian” or whatever. I think you’ll find this is very characteristic of heterogeneous immigrant cultures, and the many-generation identification with a long-past cultural context is pretty typical. So, the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the U.S. is not an appropriation but a development of immigrant experiences, just as legitimate as the original. Which is not to say it’s not weird and tacky, because it surely is.

        Reply
      2. animaniactoo

        Cultural appropriation is quite literally what you’ve described here – taking another culture – one that you may even be very loosely related to – and claiming to be “of it” and taking pieces of it and using them in ways that are significantly different than the way those who are genuinely of it do. The misattribution is part and parcel of the appropriation.

        Reply
        1. TL -

          Except that this celebration was started by Irish people, and continued by their descendants until it turned into what it is today. It is still mostly celebrated where there is a large number of Irish-American people.
          This is what happens to holidays in immigrant countries. It’s really hard to think of it as cultural appropriation because it wasn’t taken from people who had no say in it – it was brought over by the Irish and changed by their descendants and then integrated into the culture they lived in.

          Reply
          1. animaniactoo

            Eh, I could argue some differences in that – given quite a lot of marketing from bars and “Kiss me I’m Irish!” and “Everybody’s Irish on St. Patty’s* Day!”, but I think that it’s a sideline from the real discussion here, so let’s agree to disagree.

            *Yes, St. Patrick’s or St. Paddy’s, I know.

            Reply
          2. fposte

            And plus there’s a rather significant irony in saying that importation is a problem with a holiday about what was imported to a country :-).

            Reply
          3. Natalie

            It reminds me a bit of Hannukah in American Judaism – Jewish immigrant communities and their descendants developed their own traditions around Hannukah and it became a more significant holiday (in the US, at least) than it generally was anywhere else.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              There are a couple of really cool children’s books about the different ways Hanukkah is celebrated around the world and Passover celebrated around the world.

              Reply
        2. Pommette

          But it isn’t as if people in North America had suddenly, in the 21st century, decided to appropriate what they perceived to be Irish traditions.

          Irish people who came to North America in the 19th century brought traditions with them. St-Patrick’s day became an important holiday in North America because it allowed people living in diaspora communities to affirm their ties with one another and to celebrate their history. Over time, they built on those traditions and developed new ones in their new communities. And gradually, the holiday became a general North American one, rather than one that was only celebrated in Irish-American communities.

          North-American St-Patrick’s day is an odd holiday. Some elements of some versions of it are super offensive and should get ditched. But some elements of it are lovely. It’s the product of an interesting history. It’s as “real” as as legitimate as Irish versions of St-Patrick’s day might be.

          (None of which is to say that it’s OK to force someone who is Irish and thinks that this holiday has nothing to do with her to participate in it, or that it’s an acceptable excuse to harass, let alone pinch, coworkers).

          Reply
        3. Kate

          Irish-American is every bit as much a culture as “Irish” or “American”. For example my father is only a second generation American, my great grandparents on both sides of his family came over as adults from the countries they are from.

          We still maintain the tradition of eating a special food on a certain holiday, as well as a few others. The food we eat on that holiday isn’t “Authentic Old Country”, think store-bought, jarred, pre-made whatever, but it is as close as recent immigrants without the money to get a food that wasn’t available could get.

          If someone told my family we were “culturally appropriating” their country’s holiday and insulting them by eating our jarred pre-made version in honor of my great-grandparents we would be furious.

          Reply
          1. Not So NewReader

            Nothing like being disowned by your heritage….But I do agree that the stereotyping is wrong-wrong-wrong.

            I will say different families teach different things. I am very much aware of how I am soooo of Northern European descent. A friend comes from a different background. We take turns marveling at what our families did and did not teach us.

            Reply
      3. Kathleen Adams

        There’s St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and there’s St. Patrick’s Day in America, and in those two very different places, the same day has acquired different meanings. I mean, in the US, an awful lot of it is all about claiming your heritage as someone whose ancestors came from Ireland. Obviously they don’t have to worry about kind of thing in Ireland. :-)

        So no, it’s not cultural appropriation. It’s two different but related cultures who happen to celebrate on the same day.

        Reply
        1. Anonymoose

          That’s actually the concise bit of it, I think. I agree with this 100%. (ahem, and my last name is Sullivan, but with no irish blood that im aware of. Adoption: my St Paddy’s ‘get out of jail free card’ that keeps on giving!)

          Reply
    9. Mazzy

      Appropriation? Really? Your analogy isn’t the correct one. The correct one would be banning all national holidays unless you were born in said country, or thinking its inappropriate for non-US-born citizens to celebrate July 4th. People seriously need to stop overusing this word!

      I felt like I said this just last week – please stop recommending police as a first resort. I’ve had to use the police before for a few more serious crimes and they seriously do not deal with things like this. They would do the professional version of laugh you out of the station, mainly because there is no damage to fix or harm to compensate for. The police is not a good solution.

      Reply
      1. Gaia

        Yes. Appropriation because the majority of people who celebration in this manner are not of Irish heritage. Therefore they have appropriated the Irish-American culture and turned it into something stereotypical and offensive.

        Reply
          1. Chinook

            “So should we monitor for non-Italians at the feast of San Gennaro?”

            Only those who insist on using fake Italian accents, pinching those not dressed in Italian fashion and insist that everyone should kiss them because they are Italian for the day.

            Reply
        1. AKJ

          If only people with Irish heritage celebrated the holiday, we would have had extremely small parties in my area of the Upper Midwest, which was primarily settled by Germans and Scandinavians, and is about a hundred miles from the nearest city with significant Irish heritage.
          But of course, every bar in town was packed.

          (I’m one of those Irish-Americans who considers it stereotypical and offensive. But in order to avoid hearing “Well, you’re not *really* Irish” comments, I keep my mouth shut.)

          Reply
        2. Rachael

          From what I read, Irish-Americans started these traditions in order to bring awareness to Irish Americans because they were so poorly treated. I think that they did such a good job that everyone joined in and the stigma of “being Irish” no longer applied. The Irish Americans of the past would probably be pleased with what it has become.

          Reply
      2. Brandy

        I agree 100%. Call the police. This would be so far down on their list of priority’s, they’d never make it there. There are real crimes being committed that are much more then this. I might get very upset about being pinched but to call the police, come on.

        Reply
        1. Mazzy

          People forget the DA will be calling you trying to get you to fill out paperwork and to take a day off for court, sometimes that hassle isn’t worth it

          Reply
    10. paul

      I’m going to hone in your third paragraph:

      OP, people in your office were committing an act that is probably at least a misdemeanor. Repeatedly.

      What on earth is a surprise about this? I’m a pretty relaxed dude but if people start pinching me they’d get a warning to keep their hands to themselves followed by me raising hell.

      Reply
    11. Elizabeth West

      Wow, so many comments nobody will probably see this.

      In college, this was a drinking holiday. The most I do for it now is wear my emerald earrings. If I’m in an office that does have St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans, if there’s any reference to pinching (where did that come from anyway?), if I’m going to do it, I do an air pinch. I NEVER PUT MY HANDS ON THE PERSON.

      Reply
    12. Anne (with an "e")

      +1000

      I work at a school with pre-k through 12th grade students. Many people wore green to celebrate the holiday; however, several people did not. If a pre-k student knows that it is inappropriate to pinch someone, then you would think that an adult would realize as much.

      I remember the pinching being a thing when I was six or seven years old (1970, 1971). Since then I have never heard of anyone being pinched for not wearing green. Sure people joke that they’ll “pinch” you for not wearing green; but, no one actually takes it seriously.

      I strongly believe that the people who assaulted the employ should be reprimanded or, at least, told that their behavior was grossly inappropriate. I believe that the woman who resigned deserves an immediate apology. I would not hold this against her in any shape or form. I would also hope that she does not consult a lawyer.

      Can you imagine how people would react if we were pinching folks for not participating in certain religious activities? What would people do if a non-Christian did not want to participate in a Christmas themed activity? What would happen if we all started assaulting people who did not want to participate in Secret Santa for example?

      Reply
  2. NotoriousMCG

    I haven’t encountered the pinching thing on St Patrick’s day since I was in the 5th grade. How in the world did it become so widely acceptable in this person’s office?? So weird.

    Reply
    1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

      My thoughts exactly.

      Would pinching a coworker be acceptable on a random Tuesday? No. Saying that something is in the holiday spirit does not make an unprofessional action okay.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Right — similar to how it wouldn’t be okay to randomly kiss a coworker who was standing under mistletoe at a holiday party. Having a connection to a holiday tradition doesn’t automatically make it appropriate for work.

        Reply
        1. Drew

          I’d argue that, given its associations, hanging mistletoe at an office party would be a bad idea to start with. But if someone does it anyway, yes, keep your lips to yourself.

          Reply
          1. I Want to Tell You

            When a coworker suggested hanging mistletoe one year, I gave her a hard NO for this exact reason. (And most of the unwanted kissing probably would have been directed toward me, because I’m the youngest by several years and also a woman.) She responded, “But it’s cute!”, and I told her it was inappropriate for work. She groused for a bit, but thankfully dropped the mistletoe idea.

            Reply
            1. JS

              Oh GAWD I can only imagine! While I think it would but cute at a company holiday party, in a clear designated area for couples, just to hang in the office is a BIG NO. I don’t work in HR but I imagine these kinds of potentials for sexual harassment issues would give them nightmares and be a huge red flag.

              Reply
        2. sstabeler

          Or at least, it’s not the mistletoe that makes it appropriate (if someone deliberately stands under mistletoe and even outright points out the mistletoe, then that is at least arguably enough to assume consent. However, at that point, the mistletoe has very little to do with it.)

          Reply
    2. AcademiaNut

      It’s like birthday bumps – something that was common as a kid, but I’d be shocked to be subject to it as an adult.

      Reply
      1. Wendy Darling

        Sometimes my dad still tries to play Punch Buggy.

        My dad IS really just a giant 9 year old with a credit card though.

        Reply
        1. Kathlynn

          I do more of a bump (rather than punch) buggy. It’s fun if you aren’t doing it hard enough to hurt. I still wouldn’t do it to a coworker.

          Reply
        2. Kriss

          ah, Punch Buggy. we had to rename it & we weren’t allowed to touch each other. you got 1 point for a VW bug, 2 points for a blue VW bug, 2 pts for a VW bus, & 3 pts for a blue VW bus. man, I miss those ugly old vans.

          Reply
          1. Emi.

            My family extended the rules to be as convoluted as we could keep track of, like 1/2 a point for pictures or toys (“baby buggy,” because they’re little), and added any unusual vehicles we felt like: 1 point for a Trabant, 1 point for that weird camo van on the way to school, and so on.

            Reply
        3. Liane

          My kids who are 19 and 21, still play it and enjoy it. *But* I taught them when they were little kids to just call it out, because punching, or just tapping, the driver can distract him/her at a bad time.

          Reply
        4. Amy the Rev

          ah, punch buggy! My sister and I play a version with the sagamore bridge over the cape cod canal- first one to spot it on a drive gets to punch the other and say “i see the bridge!”….I’m 27 and she’s 23…clearly we are very serious adults…

          Reply
        5. Fafaflunkie

          But that only counts with Old (pre 1990s) Beetles.

          And I call NO PUNCHBACKS!

          Still very inappropriate to do at work.

          Reply
      2. JS

        Ha! I still do that with my friends but we are drunk and its light hearted and consensual. Something that should NEVER take place in a work environment even if consensual because it sets a bad precedent for others who do not know better to get consent/have that type of relationship.

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          Yeah in a context where everyone is enthusiastically consenting to it, it’s silly and harmless. In a WORK context? Completely preposterous.

          Reply
    3. Chris

      Seriously! And, as I child I wanted to punch anyone who pinched me. Obviously, I wouldn’t do so, but I’d be completely incensed if someone pinched me at work.

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        A childhood of being bullied coupled with a lot of medical issues that cause mega pain when I’m startled, add in a hearing impairment (so I don’t know someone’s there,) and I go ballistic when people touch me and I don’t expect it. It’s seriously NOT GOOD. I’m one of the Deafies that are “get your hand in my line of sight, don’t tap my shoulder” (and we’re a very touch each other culture, but even my Deaf friends know better.) I have a friend who is probably the only non relative who can hug me because she knows not to get near my lower back uncontrollable startle reflex.

        Reply
    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I don’t think it’s even allowed in elementary schools anymore. When I was in high school, friends would certainly pinch other friends, but not totally random classmates. By the time my younger sister was in elementary school, pinching was forbidden because it fell under the school’s zero tolerance policy on violence. I’m gobsmacked that adults would think it’s ok to do.

      Reply
      1. kb

        I’m surprised coworkers felt like they could pinch a coworker they didn’t seem to be especially close with, but additionally taken aback that they felt it was normal to pinch her somewhere near her butt. Even if the coworker was aiming for her lower back, that’s a weird place to touch a colleague, even for this already odd tradition. Anytime I’ve gotten pinched for St. Paddy’s by anyone besides a SO, I was pinched on the arm, which is still weird and not really professional, but not that additional level of inappropriate.

        Reply
        1. kb

          To be clear: I think pinching anyone anywhere without consent is not okay, I just think the pinching of anywhere besides arms adds an additional level of inappropriateness.

          Reply
          1. Gadfly

            And he said he missed because she sat–to me that suggests the pinch went high because her body went lower. So, was he aiming for her thigh? In some ways that is worse than the butt.

            Reply
            1. kb

              It’s all just so out of bounds! Aiming for her thigh is extremely inappropriate too. It has actually never occurred to me to touch a coworker beyond a handshake or the awkward “light shoulder tap to get their attention because they have headphones in and they can’t hear me unless I were to shout” thing.

              Reply
            2. Fiennes

              To me that suggests the pincher was lying. Pinching requires you to touch, grab, and compress; it’s quick, but still, if you touch the wrong spot you can stop before pinching. IMO that guy (and I’ll bet a shiny nickel it was a guy) absolutely intended to pinch her butt.

              Reply
        2. JS

          If I was the coworker who accidentally pinched near the butt I would be MORTIFIED. I wouldnt be able to apologize enough, the fact that it seemed to be brushed off is insane.

          Reply
          1. AnonAnalyst

            I know! I am astounded that it seems that this incident has been written off by the coworker AND OP’s company as “oh, coworker didn’t intend to pinch her there. It was an accident because she was moving!” Just… what?

            Reply
          2. Humble Schoolmarm

            That part horrifies me too. I swing dance and it isn’t terribly uncommon for a catch to go awry and for there to be a bit of butt or chest brushing (grabbing is another story). Without exception, when this has happened, my partner has gone scarlet and apologized profusely, even though it was clearly both an accident and very casual contact (Not a pinch!). The fact that it was brushed off as no big deal by the pincher and the bystanders says a lot about the office culture and none of it is good.

            Reply
    5. JamieG

      I had people over Friday night, and some of them were doing the pinching thing. All well and good, but when they asked me where my green was I said “I’m not wearing any and none of you are allowed to touch me,” and – shockingly! – they all listened because we’re adults and I get to decide who touches me (and because they knew I’d kick them out of my house if they tried, probably).

      Like, if my drunk friends can understand to not do it at a social gathering, I’d hope that sober people would be able to figure it out at work.

      Reply
      1. jordanjay29

        I’ve always just suggested I’m wearing green in the one place that can’t be seen. I have maybe two green articles of clothing, and I’m not really inclined to make them work just to join a silly holiday tradition. I don’t look good in green (or orange or yellow) so I don’t wear it.

        Reply
    6. Not Irish, Eats Soda Bread

      OP, I think you should pay your assistance a severance as though you’d laid her off and apologize, too. And ixnay on the holiday celebrating at work, henceforth.

      In general I shrink from decoration of offices for holidays. There are so many holidays and there are so many ways for things to go wrong with the popular ones like St. Valentine’s Day and there is so much cultural hegemony there. Best not. Perhaps if people want to put something up at their cubes, but let’s not go overboard, guys.

      I grew up in Evacuation Day territory, and I had never heard of the pinching until the past few years. This year I saw several references. I wonder whether it got written up somewhere as a “tradition.” Ew, no matter what.

      The secular American St. Patrick’s traditions I’m familiar with are diddly-diddly music and worse (“Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder”) on the radio for 24 hours, cardboard cutouts of shamrocks and suchlike decorations, and everyone eats soda bread and corned beef and cabbage and carrots. (And maybe colcannon potatoes, but probably boiled with the other stuff.)

      Reply
      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        “Evacuation Day” is the official holiday name for St. Patrick’s Day in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, where it is a civic holiday. It officially celebrates the evacuation of British troops from Boston. Coincidentally on March 17.

        So we celebrate the evacuation with green beer, a parade, and corned beef and cabbage. Makes sense, right?

        Reply
  3. Remarkable

    1. You was wrong how you handle your workplace. It’s not like these are a bunch of friends at your home. They are employees that come to WORK. You should reach out to her and apologize and maybe offer her job back being she probably was still mad when you called her. Then had a meeting with everyone and say listen up. We will continue to celebrate holidays but if no one wants to participate that’s fine. I expect everyone to act accordingly to everyone that participates or not but mainly KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF. Also It wouldn’t shock me if your assistance sued your company.

    Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Agreed. She could maybe argue hostility on the basis of national origin/ethnicity, but it would be hard to prove that people harassed her because she’s Irish as opposed to harassing her because she refused to participate in an office theme day. And the pinching is too low-level for criminal or civil assault, and it’s not egregious enough to be sexual harassment.

        All that said, OP should know that the company and its employees are in the wrong, here, not the ex-assistant.

        Reply
        1. paul

          Strictly speaking I think it’d be simple assault (or battery–I forget which is the lower crime in my jurisdiction) but good luck actually getting cops to investigate such a small thing. Still baffling to me that they thought it was OK.

          Reply
        2. Just Another Techie

          I wonder if the pinching was also gendered. If the only people who get pinched are women (that has happened to me in multiple workplaces, only the young women get pinched, even if we’re decked head to toe in green), regardless of what colors the male employees are wearing, that’s grounds for sexual harassment or discrimination.

          Reply
      2. Leah

        She could sue for assault/offensive battery. Also, if more than one person is out pinching on St. Patrick’s Day I’m guessing there’s a larger pattern of inappropriate touching in that particular workplace as well.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I think speculating that there’s a larger pattern is a little out there. And of course there’s the whole “even if you could sue it wouldn’t be worth it” element re: civil battery/assault. But I think OP should focus on how to make it right (e.g., offer a severance? an apology? reprimand the pinchers?) instead of how to “discipline” the assistant for quitting without notice.

          Reply
          1. Gadfly

            Although it definitely would be an unflattering story for her to share about the company. And she has many options of how to do that.

            Reply
            1. AJHall

              “Ms X, why did you leave your last company?”
              “I’m afraid the bottom-pinching finally got to me.”

              Reply
          2. Leah

            Yeah, a lawsuit probably wouldn’t be worth her time but it’s still valid. But I do think that there’s probably a problem with personal boundaries in the office that OP should look into. And of course she should try to make things right with her assistant, with a decent reference being a bare minimum.

            Reply
          3. Misc

            It felt like we’re seeing the end of a pattern of issues, the bit where someone finally blows up and quits because X and Y won’t stop harassing her and she doesn’t feel like she’ll be believed if she goes to her boss.

            Even if this really is a one off, the entire letter sounds like the context is ripe for this kind of issue to be festering, so it’s simply more likely than not.

            Reply
            1. neverjaunty

              Exactly this.

              OP, you should probably take a good hard look at your office culture and how people have been acting toward your assistant in the past.

              Reply
            2. Jesmlet

              Yeah unless she was having a really rough day, I have a hard time believing this was the first and last straw for her. Odds are, there’s a pattern of inappropriate behavior and a pattern of inaction on someone’s part to address said behavior which is why she quit on the spot rather than bringing it up to you to help her out.

              Reply
          4. Fiennes

            I don’t know that there’s a larger pattern of inappropriate touching — but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to speculate that there’s a pattern of immature behavior & inappropriate responses by management. It’s tough to imagine this happening in an office with an appropriately professional culture.

            Reply
        2. Gadfly

          We don’t know if there is a larger pattern. But, given the extreme boundary ignoring that went on in OP’s letter, I think it might be worthwhile for the OP to step back and ask if there is a bigger problem of which this was simply the final straw. Maybe even, if in a position to do so, see if someone from the outside sees a bigger, more general problem. Because if this is the first issue, you hopefully can nip it in the bud. If there is a pattern, and you don’t dig it up by the roots, even if this time it isn’t a lawsuit it might be that the next time, or the time after, or the time after that could make the cut to be worthy of filing a suit. It is gambling to keep a bad office culture–you have to hope that even as boundaries are being ignored everyone remembers not to go too far.

          Reply
        3. GreyjoyGardens

          Even if there isn’t a larger pattern of outright unwanted touching, this smacks of a larger pattern of *some* kind of inappropriate workplace behavior. It just seems obvious to me – don’t pinch your coworkers, ever. Especially don’t pinch their butts! I wonder if boundaries are fuzzy or disregarded in general, and there is a lot of horseplay.

          Even if the pinched receptionist doesn’t have grounds for a lawsuit, that doesn’t mean that either: someone will egregiously cross the line in the future and there will be a lawsuit, or boundary-crossing behavior is rampant enough that the company will develop a bad reputation. I think this needs to be dealt with, not only for the sake of any future receptionists, but for the sake of the company’s reputation.

          Reply
      3. Benjamin

        Incorrect. Pinching somebody without permission is 100% assault. The assistant wouldn’t have trouble getting the perpetrators charged criminally and would also have a case against her employer for a hostile work environment.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          There’s no way this meets the elements for a hostile work environment claim. And I don’t really want to reopen a debate on whether it would be charged criminally, but it’s even less egregious than a prior post about a coworker kicking and punching another below the table. Most attorneys on that thread (and at least one police officer) thought that situation was unlikely to be criminally prosecuted, so unless OP works in a town with very little crime and a very bored police force and DA, it’s unlikely anyone would prosecute under the facts in this letter.

          Reply
        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          It’s really unlikely that this would result in criminal charges (find a prosecutor interested in spending limited resources bringing that case), and it’s absolutely not the case that this would qualify as hostile workplace in a legal sense. Please don’t make assertions like that without being able to point to facts to back them up; it’s unhelpful to give out bad legal information here. Thank you.

          Reply
          1. Mookie

            A Connecticut-based town council member was, quite prominently, charged with misdemeanor sexual assault this past January for pinching someone. From what I gather, the victim said her groin was pinched (the warrant for the arrest uses that phrase, while the affidavit identifies her “rear end” as the area touched). The official doesn’t deny the pinching, says it was a “jocular,” “playful gesture,” but I’m not sure if he disputes that gesture’s location.

            I agree that these incidents rarely result in thorough investigations, much less criminal charges.

            Reply
            1. lokilaufeysanon

              And the DA in Los Angeles didn’t proceed with charges against the wife of the drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers after she shook Scott Baio (I think, I am pretty sure) outside of a school. It wouldn’t have been worth their time.

              Reply
            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Yeah, but that guy was a raging jackass and an elected official, and he stated a discriminatory intent before pinching the staff person (and had a long history of bad blood between them both). None of those dynamics appear present in the facts OP has provided.

              Reply
                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  So true. And it’s so surreal that we’re discussing whether grabbing/pinching someone’s crotch is materially different from doing the same re: someone’s butt.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq

              Yes, but it would have to be a pattern connected to a protected class. Hostile work environment is a legal theory allowing recovery for discrimination claims. It doesn’t have to do with people just generally being mean.

              Reply
                1. Oryx

                  But are they pinching her *because* she is a woman or are they pinching her and she just *happens to be* a woman.

                  One instance falls under protected class, the other one doesn’t.

                2. Emi.

                  Not exactly–sex is a protected *categorization*, but neither category is more protected than the other. So they’d have to be pinching her because she’s a woman, and it doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happening.

                3. Naruto

                  There are a lot of facts we don’t have, but I find it hard to believe that a woman got pinched *on the butt* at work and it wasn’t because she’s a woman.

                4. MegaMoose, Esq

                  Even if they are pinching her because she’s a woman, which we don’t know, a single incident like this is almost certainly not enough to support a claim on its own. Since we don’t know that the pinch was related to her gender or that it’s part of a pattern of gender-based harassment, all we’ve got is wild speculation unrelated to the OP’s question.

                5. Naruto

                  Maybe I’m biased because I’m a represent plaintiffs in complex civil litigation, but when I hear this account of what happened it raises a lot of red flags. I don’t know if she would ultimately win a lawsuit, but even without any additional facts (which seem likely), she was subject to a physical sexual assault, albeit a minor one. It strikes me as off to say there’s nothing more here than “wild speculation.”

                  My knee-jerk reaction is that damages are the bigger problem here. That’s actually part of why it’s important for the OP not to give a negative reference based on the events that occurred on Friday.

                6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  It’s wild speculation because there is literally no basis for assuming gender played a role. It’s possible, and even likely, that there was a gendered dynamic, but absent any information that supports that, concluding otherwise is by definition speculation.

                  But perhaps more importantly, it’s in no way helpful to OP except to say “hey, take another look at the dynamics in your office because your ‘inappropriate-dar’ seems way off.”

                7. FormerLibrarian

                  Naruto: even if this isn’t lawsuit worthy, might it qualify as constructive dismissal for an unemployment claim?

              1. Cyril Figgis

                I know that “hostile work environment” is a legal term, but in the United States, sexual harassment is part of that. Everyone is part of many protected classes (gender, race, national origin, etc). Pinching someone’s butt can certainly qualify as sexual harassment.

                Reply
                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  But a single pinch on St. Patrick’s that landed “near” her butt and wasn’t intended to be there isn’t likely to reach the legal bar.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  You can have a hostile work environment based on any protected class identity, but as Alison noted, a single pinch usually doesn’t rise to the level of egregiousness needed to make out a hostile work environment claim (hostile work environment claims are much harder to establish, as a legal matter, than an “individual act of discrimination” sexual harassment claim). Even a claim regarding an individual act of sexual harassment has to be tied to an adverse employment action, and there has to be a relationship between the person’s identity, the harassment, and the adverse action. In this case, there’s no indication that the assistant was pinched for being a woman or being Irish—OP contends she was pinched for failing to “celebrate” by wearing green, which has no relationship to a protected class.

        3. Katie the Fed

          “Hostile work environment” is one of the most abused terms in the commentariat.

          It may be hostile, but to rise to the level of a lawsuit-worthy hostile environment it has to be specifically due to a protected category (sex, race, gender, etc) and seriously egregious behavior.

          Reply
            1. MegaMoose, Esq

              Unfortunately, the “little bit of knowledge” here is often just a layperson’s understanding of the word “hostile.”

              Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Agreed. Both that term and any legal term relating to any employment discrimination claim. Also “file a police report.” Basically 90% of the terms used to refer to legal processes tend to be misused or inapplicable, and when it’s pointed out, people respond with “here’s a story I googled that backs up my opinions about what I think these legal terms mean regardless of whether it’s relevant, accurate or common.”

            Reply
      4. Alton

        Technically, this could probably fall under battery in tort law. The assistant could probably try to sue if she really, really wanted to. It’s just unlikely that it would be worth her time and money to do so.

        Reply
      5. Electric Hedgehog

        Hostile workplace environment based off of the employee’s national origin (a protected class)? I guess it would depend on how badly the company failed to take her Saint Patrick’s uncomfortableness into account…

        Reply
        1. MegaMoose, Esq

          Hostile work environment generally can’t be based on isolated events, though, so even if the pinching only happened because she was Irish, it still wouldn’t support a claim.

          Reply
          1. Electric Hedgehog

            If it was egregious enough, it would qualify. But I agree that this doesn’t seem to hit that threshold unless there was more going on than we know about.

            Reply
      6. Noah

        If the employee sees this column, it would certainly help her case. Her manager see employee as being in the wrong to quit over an assault.

        Reply
    1. Office Plant

      I think pinching counts as assault, at least in some states. And wouldn’t it be harassment?

      Btw, this is the first time I’ve heard of St Patricks Day pinching. Are you supposed to pinch people who aren’t wearing green?

      Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Agreed (and agreed that punching, or a particularly vicious counter-pinch, was considered “appropriate retribution” for mistakenly pinching someone who was indeed wearing green).

          Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Also, pinching counts as civil battery (or assault, depending on how your state defines those torts), and it might meet the definition of criminal battery, but is unlikely to be prosecuted. Based on OP’s description, it doesn’t sound like harassment in the employment discrimination sense.

        Reply
      2. tigerStripes

        I remember the pinching stuff in grade school, a little bit, but not after that! I keep hoping that both pinchers were given a serious talking to at the least, but it sounds like the first one wasn’t. Pinching adults who don’t want to be pinched is not OK, especially at work.

        Reply
    2. Kbug

      I think she could at least file a police report for pinching her butt. Might not go anywhere, but it could, and especially since OP seems to want to punish her for you know, not accepting being assaulted, I’d consider it if I was her.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I’m having trouble imagining the police in any jurisdiction I’ve ever lived in agreeing to take a report of pinching on St. Patrick’s Day.

        People shouldn’t be pinching each other. But it’s really not a police matter.

        Reply
      2. Brett

        They might take the report, but they won’t seek charges and the prosecutor would have full latitude to dismiss misdemeanor and petty charges and would in this case. (No prosecutor wants to be the person who prosecuted someone for a pinch on St Patrick’s Day.)
        Some states let you prosecute your own misdemeanor or petty charges. But, again, you don’t want to be the person who prosecuted someone for a pinch on St Patrick’s Day.

        Reply
  4. Wendy Darling

    My significant other is Irish as in he lived in Ireland until he was an adult, and he thinks the way Americans celebrate St Patrick’s Day is *ridiculous*. He’s not offended (he can’t really be bothered to be offended) but he does think it’s deeply silly and he generally doesn’t participate.

    If someone pinched me at work I would be incandescent with rage. Yelling at people for hurting her (!) repeatedly (!!) at work (!!!) seems kiiiiiind of like a not-ideal-but-totally-understandable reaction to me. Like, if she had reflexively smacked the crap out of someone I wouldn’t be that surprised, but she managed to not descend to physical violence despite repeated minor assaults.

    Reply
    1. many bells down

      I almost smacked a total stranger in the grocery store one year, because after 10 seconds of casual conversation he said “heeeyyy you’re not wearing green!” and reached out a hand. Fortunately my “active” bitch face deterred him.

      Reply
      1. Gaia

        I am not a violent person but I would straight lose my cool on someone for pinching me in the grocery store (or anywhere, actually)

        Reply
        1. dragonzflame

          Wait, what? So in America, if you don’t wear green on St Patrick’s Day, strangers get to pinch you? To what purpose?

          Reply
          1. Kheldarson

            It’s a kid’s tradition. Lord knows how it started, but every kid knows it. By middle school, you’re typically down to only pinching your friend group/folks you know wouldn’t mind. I think the last time I pinched someone for not wearing green was… Walmart? Right after college. And it was some cashier friends of mine. Part of the joke was that we had to be more creative with our green since Walmart dress code was blue shirts and khakis at the time.

            Reply
            1. Naruto

              “Every kid knows it” is not true. I went to public school in the northeast US, I’m in my mid-thirties, and this is the first I’ve ever heard of this “tradition.”

              I’m not saying it’s not a tradition among children, or even that it’s not common, but it’s not helpful to exaggerate hyperbolically like that.

              Reply
              1. dappertea

                I think it might be more of a Midwest thing? Definitely not a universally known tradition. I knew about it when I was growing up in the Midwest (and got pinched a few times), and I was relieved to find out no one down South seemed to know about it or do it when I moved there.

                Reply
              2. bandmom

                I grew up in the south (SC), and it was a “thing” here. Still is. My husband (from CA) takes quite a bit of delight in pinching our kids if they forget to wear green on St. Patricks!

                Reply
              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                No, it’s pretty common in the Pacific NW, West coast, southwest, intermountain west, south, and midwest (and parts of the northeast). So while it may not be universal, I think it’s accurately described as a widespread practice. Kheldarson isn’t being hyperbolic.

                Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            As a practical matter, strangers don’t usually pinch you—it’s usually a common practice among elementary schoolchildren who at least know one another, even if they’re not friends. But adults certainly aren’t supposed to do it, regardless whether they’re strangers or acquaintances. I don’t think there’s a real purpose to the pinching other than to harass you for failing to “celebrate” by wearing something green.

            Reply
        2. Gadfly

          Yeah. I wear snakes instead of green on 3/17 and if people suggest pinching I explain that means I get to bite them for being snakeless.

          Reply
          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            I know you don’t mean live snakes, but I’m picturing you with live snakes draped around your neck. That would certainly deter any pinching!

            Reply
            1. Halpful

              ha, I assumed live snakes – I didn’t even realise I’d taken that too literally. I was thinking of the times I’ve seen a guy on the bus wearing a snake :) (they were always well-behaved snakes, and sometimes got nearly as much attention as a puppy would)

              Reply
      2. Wendy Darling

        Ugh, what is WITH people? I hate being touched by strangers (and my startle reflex is a mean right hook, to my sorrow).

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          I heard of someone deliberately developing that as an “uncontrollable” response to being tickled. Their older siblings finally stopped.

          Reply
          1. Wendy Darling

            My startle-punch thing is unintentional and sometimes turns out poorly for me, but I gotta say it did break people of sneaking up behind me when I was younger.

            Reply
    2. tink

      I don’t think I would’ve been able to reflexively stop myself of yelling and smacking the hand of someone that pinched me because I wasn’t wearing the right color. Pinching hurts, it leaves horrid bruising that takes forever to go away, and it’s really easy for someone to slip or “slip” and pinch someone in a really inappropriate spot. Leave that crap out of the workplace.

      Reply
    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I honestly would have punched the pinchers—it’s an automatic reaction I developed in middle school in response to St. Patrick’s Day pinching. Frankly, I’m amazed she was able to keep it limited to yelling.

      Reply
      1. Spoonie

        I would have had a hard time not reacting in some manner (cursing, smacking, slapping, punching, etc.) if I got pinched, because wtf, we’re adults in our workplace. And also, I’m heavily Scottish. I wear blue, not green.

        I didn’t see a soul in my office wear green in any way that stood out to me or mention St. Patrick’s Day — but we also had a major deadline on Friday.

        Reply
        1. VroomVroom

          I wore hunter green work slacks, that I often wear on other days so nothing out of the ordinary.
          But TBH most people didn’t see them as I was sitting at my desk most of the day.

          Reply
        2. MegaMoose, Esq

          The only mention of the holiday in my office was asking a couple of people if they were going out drinking as they were leaving, and some amusing discussion of Irish dance (apparently some kids were Riverdancing it up in the lobby). Pinching was definitely not on the menu.

          Reply
        3. Kyoki

          My office was encouraged to wear green and we did have a green-themed potluck, but there was definitely no pinching. I grew up in a large Midwest city and I have never heard of this pinching tradition before. It’s wildly inappropriate in any kind of work setting.

          Reply
    4. Allison

      Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for women to get in trouble for yelling, regardless of why they were yelling or how they were being treated up until that point.

      I remember being at an anime convention, wearing a ballerina outfit (long story, and no it wasn’t Princess Tutu), and this random guy at the hotel kept telling me to do a plie for him. I was most certainly not doing that, but he kept at it, following me to the elevators and kept insisting I “do a plie” for him, until I finally whirled around and went “GO F*** YOURSELF!” and then everyone around me went “woooaaah, that’s not good con talk . . .” He was harassing me, but I was the one being rude.

      (yes, the con had a harassment policy, they had staff who could have dealt with him, I could have reported him, it wasn’t acceptable, I know all of this, but none of that negate the fact that it happened and no one supported me in the moment)

      I’ve been reminded, many times in my adult life, that nice ladies don’t yell. Doesn’t matter why you’re angry, or upset, or frustrated, you must be graceful in dealing with tough situations. If you yell, there are consequences. Your friends may abandon you, your boyfriend may break up with you, you may get fired, or ostracized at work, or the man you’re trying to stand up to may get violent. And no one will sympathize; it was your fault, because you yelled.

      Reply
      1. go orange!

        yeppers
        Spent too much time being the one in trouble because I spoke out against being pinched/bra-strapped/touched/whatever inappropriate behaviour that was being done to me because I was “making a fuss out of nothing” and “it’s all in fun” and the ever popular “boys will be boys”. It made me into a shy wall-flower that tries to fade away & not do anything to make me a target.

        You must be carefully taught so you don’t make a fuss about “such little fun things”.

        Reply
      2. Zombii

        Solidarity.

        It’s a cruel, cruel joke that one of the first things they teach in self defense classes is to make a lot of noise, because attackers know women are conditioned to be quiet and they exploit that trait—and then look what happens when you tell a Perfectly Nice Guy Who Didn’t Do Anything To You™* that you’re not interested “too loudly.”

        ————-
        *except prioritize his version of How This Should Work over your clearly-stated boundaries

        Reply
  5. Kristine

    Sounds like OP #1’s assistant got to her Bitch Eating Crackers moment in that meeting. While rage quitting was a more extreme reaction than most people would have, I sympathize with her and understand why she did it.

    OP #1, please don’t jeopardize this poor woman’s future job prospects by declining to act as a reference. She was being harassed at work and quit because of it. Help her move on.

    Reply
    1. Wendy Darling

      The fact that they think pinching in the workplace is totally appropriate and are shocked that the assistant yelled over it makes me wonder if they’re inappropriate and unprofessional in other ways also and this was the last straw for the assistant.

      I was treated poorly in general at my last job and I would have ragequit if that scenario had happened to me. Pinching on top of everything else would just be too damned much.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Agreed. I’m kind of astounded that the takeaway was “she was unprofessional” as opposed to “people were wildly out of line to an extent that merits disciplinary action.”

        Reply
      2. LN

        Yeah, it’s hard to believe this is an isolated incident if everyone in the office, including management, found this scenario to be totally okay.

        Reply
        1. Newby

          That’s what I was thinking. This is so obviously over the line and yet everyone at the office thinks it is ok. IF they think this is ok, there have probably been other incidents as well that the LW thinks are perfectly fine.

          Reply
          1. Naruto

            Yeah, I think there has to be a pattern of inappropriate conduct and workplace norms. Otherwise people would have been on her side!

            Reply
      3. blackcat

        Yeah, my guess is she’s been treated poorly before. I would not tolerate being *pinched on the butt* and having everyone say that wasn’t a big deal, mostly because of the second part.

        And, like the person above, I really don’t think the butt pinch was accidental. On the chance that it was if it was, it was intended to he a thigh pinch, which is just as inappropriate.

        Reply
        1. AndersonDarling

          Yep, I’d guess that the assistant was becoming more and more aware that she was working with a bunch of jerks/babies/you-fill-in-the-blank/fools and it was the last straw. Since the OP couldn’t comprehend why someone would quit under these circumstances, I’m guessing this was a cultural mismatch.
          When interviewing her replacement, be sure to ask how the candidate feels about pinching and being pinched. I’m not trying to be snarky, but if you want someone to accept that in their workplace, you had better ask up front.

          Reply
          1. Kyoki

            I would love to read a letter submitted by the employee. “Dear Allison, today I quit my job in a rage because I was pinched twice for not wearing green on St. Patricks’ Day. Was I out of line or was my action justified? How do I address the quitting in future interviews?”

            Reply
          2. Zombii

            >When interviewing her replacement, be sure to ask how the candidate feels about pinching and being pinched.

            No need to go that far, but please make sure to tell candidates “we work hard and play hard,” “our office is like a family,” and/or other clearly-decipherable phrases so the right people can self-select out.

            Reply
      4. GreyjoyGardens

        That was my guess, too. Actually pinching your coworkers is so out of line that I imagine a lot of unprofessional behavior and boundary crossing goes on there, too.

        Reply
        1. Venus Supreme

          Agreed. Hopefully OP will take this employee’s abrupt quitting as an opportunity to reflect on how some of these norms are problematic and (most importantly) make changes. The last thing OP wants is to continue this pattern.

          (Also, for the record, I’m half-Irish and that side of my family is super-duper, intensely Irish and I’ve never heard of the pinching thing until this year. What gives, people?!)

          Reply
      5. NotoriousMCG

        In my brain upon hearing the way he described the celebration and the enthusiasm everyone was going forward with it (as well as his instinct that she was the one who was out of line), it sounded to me as though this office probably has a large number of people who are annoying and immature in general. If I’d been the assistant and was disliking my coworkers anyway, then proactively told people that I wouldn’t be participating in an office festivity because I found it offensive/distasteful, and THEN spent the day getting pinched (near the butt!!) I probably would’ve rage-quit too. I may have rage-ranted at the second pincher for a while longer first, but that’s just me.

        Reply
        1. Zombii

          >it sounded to me as though this office probably has a large number of people who are annoying and immature in general.

          This. Why does management so often not consider this a problem to be dealt with directly?

          I was interviewing for a sales job once and the interviewer said “What this store needs is kind of an Office Mom, to make sure the guys clean the place up and keep things organized.” (Are you cringing? I cringed a lot during that interview.) Should have run like hell. Didn’t. Lasted 8 days—quit from burnout due to 11-hour days with no foreseeable days off; they were so understaffed, they didn’t care about the overtime.

          Reply
      6. Paula, with Two Kids

        I think the fact that the OP believes the very fact that the pinchee quit without notice means she deserves no reference is quite indicative of the toxicity. Perhaps one of those workplaces where when people leave it’s seen as a sign of disloyalty.

        Reply
        1. JessaB

          Yeh, it’s not like the assistant walked out with no REASON to, as well as no notice. It does strike me as weird. On the other hand it could be the knee jerk reaction to “quit unannounced, get no notice,” without actually sitting down and thinking about WHY

          Reply
  6. Former Computer Professional

    #1 bothers me greatly. I’ve never heard of this pinching thing but it sounds rather childish.

    I appreciate that some people may be used to this “joke” but I think it is completely inappropriate in the work place, no different from any other unwarranted or unwanted contact. If my coworkers started mocking my culture and then assaulting me, I’d walk out, too.

    Reply
    1. TeacherNerd

      Fellow Irish person here. I never knew that the pinching thing was a thing, either. (There was a scene of Bart Simpson being pinched on the Simpsons in one episode where he wasn’t wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day but I had no idea that people actually did this.)

      Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      It’s a tradition among American school children. You can’t go around pinching people willy nilly—they only get pinched if they’ve failed to wear “something green” that day. But it’s ridiculous, and it certainly has no place in the office.

      Reply
    3. Thlayli

      I’m Irish, I only knew of it from the Simpsons, and if someone pinched me at work I would punch them in the face as hard as I could.

      Reply
      1. Thlayli

        Or at least, I like to think I would. Maybe in the moment I wouldn’t have the guts, but in my head I would be kicking serious ass and if I didn’t punch them I would definitely do something about it like make a sexual harassment complaint.

        Reply
      2. Thlayli

        Well i might not have the guts to do that in real life, but I like to think that’s what I’d do. At the very least I’d make a serious complaint.

        Reply
          1. Thlayli

            Hazel is well aware of my strengths and weaknesses. He knows the ability to take abuse with a smile is not one of my strengths. thats how I left the Threarah and joined Hazel in the first place after all!

            Reply
    4. blackcat

      Intriguingly, the variant I learned as a child said that redheads (who are obviously Irish, amirite?!) are exempt from the pinching rule.

      I relied on this as a child, and found that it was generally respected.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        And yet I got zero respect for having green eyes. Sigh.
        It’s a school yard thing, like punch buggy or the license plate game or any other game that kids have invented to hit each other. You can generally opt out and my school had a school admin that would loudly kiss the younger kids on the cheek or head if they weren’t wearing green; the teachers didn’t pinch but the kids did on the playground (just not hard enough to get in trouble for!)

        Reply
        1. CM

          I’d much rather get pinched than kissed!

          But I agree with other commenters who said they suspect this is not the only thing that offended the OP’s ex-employee about the workplace. Walking out is a pretty extreme reaction to two pinches and an annoying St. Patrick’s Day celebration. My guess is that what happened Friday was the last straw for the ex-employee.

          Reply
  7. IrishGirl

    Background info – I’m Irish, lived there for over 20 years and now live in Boston, a city with a lot of Irish people and Irish-Americans.

    Most of the American St Patrick’s Day celebrations I’m a bit ‘meh’ about. I enjoy the day, the parade and going out; it does feel a little caricature like but doesn’t particularly bother me. So I probably wouldn’t have joined in with the office festivities but wouldn’t have necessarily objected to their being held.

    I have never heard of St Patrick’s Day pinching. If someone had done that to me, my instinctive reaction would probably either have been a barrage of swearing or hitting whoever had pinched me. If someone had tried to tell me I didn’t understand this was a St Patrick’s Day tradition … I’d probably still be in disbelief. But echoing everyone from above, the second time it happened I’d also have quit.

    Reply
    1. Wendy Darling

      The thing that offends me most about American St Patrick’s Day celebrations is green-dyed marbled rye bread. It looks diseased. And revolting. And yet my local grocery store insists on putting it out there proudly every year.

      Green bagels are a close second. Yuck.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I find all of that kind of gross (b/c it looks moldy), but my pet peeve is dyeing rivers green.

        Reply
          1. LBK

            To my knowledge it’s only in Chicago – we don’t dye the Charles here in Boston, and I think we’re pretty much the pinnacle of Irish-American cities.

            Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Oh they do it lots of places. They sometimes dye minor rivers in Connecticut green, and they dye the Schuylkill (although they may have stopped?), and Ohio definitely dyes the Dublin River green. I think they used to dye the creeks/rivers in California until there was pushback.

            Reply
        1. JHS

          Hilariously, they did try to do that with the Liffey here in Dublin one year, but clearly hadn’t gotten enough dye, because there was one sad green patch on the water for about half an hour, and that was it…

          For me it’s the green shakes at fast food places. I’ve tried them out of curiosity, and they are vile…

          Reply
          1. Wendy Darling

            You’d have to put a lot of dye in the Liffey, that thing’s fairly greenish brownish and opaque already last I saw it…

            Reply
      2. Gadfly

        I’ve a dear friend who is Irish and Rom who had the misfortune to be born on the 17th of March. He now despises mint with a passion because he always seems to be given green mint something (cake, frosting, brownie, pie…) for his birthday. Usually bad extra fake mint. Which is pretty revolting.

        Reply
      3. Falling Diphthong

        Green food–but it CANNOT be one of the dozens of green vegetables, you have to dye something that’s normally brown to a sickly swamp color–is one of the more bizarre manifestations of American exceptionalism.

        Reply
      4. Hankie Enlightenment (formerly Sarahnova)

        So they’re not even dyeing soda bread green…? But breadstuffs that originate from nowhere near Ireland? Okay, now I’m officially confused.

        Reply
        1. Descended from Irish Immigrants

          That ties back to the Irish-American traditions. Irish immigrants in the US lived very close to Jewish communities because they both were seen as having similar not-white scummy status, so there’s a lot of Jewish influence in Irish-American food traditions. The food dye is dumb, but the bread choice is not confusing of you’re familiar with Irish-American history.

          Reply
          1. Turanga Leela

            My family is Irish on one side and Jewish on the other, and I had no idea about this cultural overlap. This makes me incredibly happy.

            Reply
      5. Venus Supreme

        Every year in primary school we got green bagels. I lived for green bagels– I loved them so much! Haha. That’s what we did for St. Paddy’s instead of pinching people growing up.

        Reply
      6. Not Irish, Eats Soda Bread

        The only American culinary tradition worth going for around St. Patrick’s Day is Shamrock Shakes.

        Reply
    2. Turanga Leela

      I’m an American of Irish descent, and I’ve never encountered the pinching thing in person either. I’ve heard of it before, but I didn’t grow up with it, and I’d be angry if someone did it to me.

      I don’t find the holiday offensive either, but my primary association with St Patrick’s Day is the drunks on the NYC subway. Avoid the subway on St Paddy’s Day, y’all. The risk of vomit is high. (Same goes for New Year’s Eve, Halloween, and SantaCon.)

      On the flip side, I like shamrocks and green bagels.

      Reply
      1. Glassheart

        Thank you for the advice, in case I am ever in NYC on St. Patrick’s. I hear all of your comments in Leela’s voice, which somehow makes the advice sound even more level-headed. (Am I the only person who does this?)

        I remember the tradition from when I was a kid but – yeah, I can’t imagine it ever being mildly appropriate in a workplace. NOPE!

        Reply
      2. Isabel C.

        Also true in Boston. I Got Into It with two young men on the commuter rail yesterday: not puking, but loudly hassling people and complaining about how this was the “boring train”. I took their picture, and am now trying to find a place to post it where it might get back to family/employers/future dates.

        People: don’t care what day it is, if you can’t have a goddamn indoor voice and keep your hands to yourself, you should not be in public without supervision.

        Reply
    3. Katy

      I think it is a not-East-Coast phenomenon, as I grew up in an Irish parish in Queens, and we never pinched. The very idea!

      Reply
      1. Jillociraptor

        I grew up in the midwest, and I definitely knew about the pinching tradition, but I don’t recall anyone ever actually doing it.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          That’s where we were–we all knew about this phenomenon, but you wouldn’t actually do it to anybody. It was sort of the St. Patrick’s Day equivalent of coal in the stocking.

          Reply
        2. SimonTheGreyWarden

          Grew up in St. Louis, went to Catholic school and we had pretty strict uniform requirements. We could maybe wear green earrings for St Patrick’s day, and boys could get away with black socks with shamrocks on them. However, I can still remember people saying “you’ll be pinched if you don’t wear green” even though I don’t actually remember it happening.

          Reply
        3. Anne (with an "e")

          I grew up in Georgia. It was definitely a thing down here, but only for six and seven year old children. My ancestors arrived in North Carolina from Ireland in the 1700’s. We were always very proud of our Irish roots and did/do wear green on March 17th. However, none in my family ever pinched anyone that I can remember or that I am aware of.

          Reply
      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Grew up in Rhode Island with a dip in Boston, and yeah, we didn’t pinch there. Out in the Midwest, and down in the mid-atlantic states, though? Ohhh yeah, it happens.

        Reply
        1. Chinook

          Hearing where the pinching does and doesn’t happen, I am wondering if the pattern is that, when there are a large number of Irish descendants, nobody does that but, when there are few people who can claim to be Irish, the tradition appears. If that holds true, it makes me wonder if there is some anti-Irish sentiment in the origins of this tradition (maybe because a lot of Irish didn’t wear green or no one told them about this tradition when they arrived, so it is easy to spot and torment them on their major day of celebration?)

          Reply
    4. Lady Blerd

      I have always wondered of Irish folks see St Patrick’s day celebrations and the way they are always portrayed as drunks in pop culture. This letter tells me answers my suspicions although I understand that is how the employee herself saw it. And I am not surprised that she is dismissed as the party pooper when she objected.

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        As a child of an Irishman, I definitely see the Irish portrayed as drunks even though a)the most I ever saw my Irish family drink was one or two glasses of sherry and b)the Ireland that most immigrants left was a poor country where most people either couldn’t afford to drink enough to get drunk regularly and, if they did so, it was to escape from their horrible poverty. Basically, I never saw the reality this stereotype was based on and see it for the hate propaganda it was probably created for that ranks right up there with “drunk, lazy Indian.”

        Reply
    5. Anon for this

      Not Irish, but I have lived in NE Ohio for 20 years, have two grown children who went through preschool and K-12 here, and I had to google “St. Patrick’s Day pinching”. Never heard of it! In a fight or flight situation, I tend to lean towards flight, so if a coworker or a stranger did this to me, I’d probably run away in some fashion. But I’d be shocked and appalled. “She didn’t understand” that a coworker physically assaulting her is an okay thing, because St. Patricks? No kidding! I wouldn’t understand it either.

      Reply
  8. Dina

    On OP #1 – if your assistant has a history of trauma, particularly due to assault (sexual or otherwise), having random coworkers pinch her could be extremely triggering. That’s in addition to what everyone else is saying.

    Reply
    1. A Signer

      +1. If this had happened to me, my reaction wouldn’t be much different from this assistant. It’s obviously okay to object to physical assault in the workplace and I’m not trying to ascribe a reason to explain the assistant’s reaction, but for me personally I’d probably flip out.

      Reply
    2. LN

      Yes, this. Being pinched is a minor annoyance for some people, but not for everyone. I have chronic pain/fibro/etc issues, and even being lightly pinched in certain really innocuous-seeming areas (like upper arms, shoulders, etc) causes me severe, throbbing pain that lasts for 10+ minutes. A friendly shoulder-poke or accidentally bumping against the car door is something I learn to deal with, but I really, REALLY don’t need any more pain injected into my life. You really have no idea what people are dealing with, so like…don’t pinch them. Pretty simple concept.

      Reply
      1. No day but today

        I would FREAK OUT if someone tried to pinch me. An accidental bump from someone’s elbow causes me pain and bruising. My husband once tapped my thigh during a conversation where we were both laughing and left a bruise there the size of his fist. He was horrified because it honestly looked like I’d been beaten and it was literally a light tap. Pinches? I’d be in agony… to the point where I would cry and have to leave for the day and be left with a bruise the size of an apple. In high school a jerk I hated used to poke and pinch me because it made me cry. He thought I was just “sensitive” and since he always poked my back or sides there was never any visible proof. He did pinch my upper arm once and I, of course, bruised. I wore short sleeves in the middle of winter for 10 days straight to show off the nasty, grapefruit sized bruise he left with his pinch and made a point to show every person (student, teacher and admin) I encountered with a “hey, see what Jared did to me?” He never poked or pinched me after that. Nobody did. :)
        One of my life Motto’s is “DON’T TOUCH OTHER PEOPLE UNLESS YOU’RE INVITED TO!”

        Reply
        1. Wendy Darling

          Oh god the time my dad was on blood thinners. You know how sometimes people will kind of thwap the person they’re talking to on the shoulder like “oh, you!”? I did that to my dad after he made a particularly bad pun, which is a totally normal interaction for us, and it looked like I’d hit him with a baseball bat. I can’t imagine if someone had pinched him.

          Reply
  9. Ophelia Bumblesmoop

    OP1: I’d likely quit as well, or at the very least have a huge meeting with HR about physical assault for this. And yes, the Americanized version of St Patrick’s day is seriously offensive. It’s right up there with Cinco de Mayo. I have a child in elementary school that I very specifically taught NOT to pinch. I encouraged him and his classmates to “tag” rather than pinch.

    Please offer your former assistant an apology. A sincere apology. You probably need to work with HR on how to fix this issue in your team.

    Reply
    1. TL -

      So I have an Irish last name and I one time decided to trace that side of the family back. I got to the 1850s, and Kentucky, before I stopped. Still have no idea when the Irish person came over. My point is, the Irish have been in the USA for a long, long time (relative to the age of the country) and the integration of St. Patty’s day is way more complicated than “we saw a thing we liked and had a tenuous connection to and took it.”
      Same for Cinco de Mayo. Mexicans have also been in this country for a long, long time – longer than some heavily Latino parts of our country have been parts of our country.

      Reply
      1. Kriss

        a friend with the last name of Clooney traced her family & discovered that the last name was actually Cluney (French not Irish). The name was changed by immigration when they entered the country.

        Reply
        1. knitting fiend

          Not to be too contrary, but there’s no documented case of immigration officials changing names ~ it’s pretty much a myth. The officials would have been working from lists generated at the port of origin and didn’t actually write names down.

          And the Clooney/Cluney spelling ~ well within standard variation for pre-20th century records….. I spend much of my work day dealing with such matters.

          Reply
          1. Rachael

            My family goes back to the 1600s on both sides and I learned that people within the same family spelled their last names differently. You could have brothers who use completely different vowels. It was only later in the family history when there was consensus on how to spell the names. It has made genealogy quite challenging sometimes, lol.

            Reply
            1. tigerStripes

              There’s a last name in my family tree that gets spelled all sorts of different ways on official documents. I’ve heard that isn’t uncommon.

              Reply
              1. Rachael

                It is very common AND just to give you a tip: some people go by a “nickname” that in the present day makes absolutely no sense. “Nancy” seems to be a common nickname when the woman’s name was “Ann” (in the 1700s) and “Polly” when the woman’s name was “Mary”. There are multiple instances in my family. So confusing!

                Reply
          2. Just Me and My $0.02

            My family’s name was indeed anglicized at Ellis Island. The Hungarian surname was apparently too difficult and their paperwork shows a distinctive change to remove accented vowels and soften harder consonants. I know what the real version is in Hungary from learning the language in college.

            Now, that’s not to say the immigration agents weren’t given an official version to change to, just refuting that names weren’t changed.

            Reply
            1. knitting fiend

              Been a busy day, so late following up…. but just in case ~ family name and immigration date? Dozens (if not hundreds) of genealogists and historians have looked for a case where an immigration official actually changed a name at Ellis Island and haven’t found one :-( so if you have, I’d love a reference ;-)

              Reply
      2. many bells down

        My family had always claimed we have ancestors from every part of the British Isles *except* Ireland. This year, my aunt did one of those DNA tests and it turns out we’re actually significantly Irish. And we also had ancestors on the Mayflower, so the Irish were here from the start, apparently!

        Reply
        1. StrikingFalcon

          Those DNA tests don’t actually mean much, by the way. You can’t really distill a person’s genetics into what percentages of their ancestors came from certain places of origin to start with, but the groupings I’ve seen those places make don’t even match known patterns of genetic diversity. Add in their refusal to provide any information about *how* they distinguish those groups, and they don’t amount to much more than a scam. I wouldn’t rewrite your family history based on anything they show (I’m also sincerely hoping you know you had ancestors on the Mayflower through other means, because that’s a particularly egregious lie if they’re telling people that based on genetic data – that’s completely unknowable genetically).

          Reply
          1. fposte

            23andme used to set it up nicely, where the more specific the findings on DNA origin they provided, the less certainty it was classified as having.

            Reply
          2. SusanIvanova

            I find those ads where people *do* rewrite their family history annoying – you “married an Italian” and that’s still true, no matter what shenanigans their great-great-grandparents got up to.

            Except the black lady trying to find out which part of Africa her family came from, since she doesn’t have any family stories to go by.

            Reply
          3. Gadfly

            There are quite a few groups of people who they don’t have enough information on to do much. For example, Native Americans. Many of the tribes have been opposed to DNA testing because of the ways it could be used. Which leads to results like people who were born on a reservation, to parents and grandparents who were born there, getting back results from 23 and me of not being at all Native American (I know 2 people that happened to.)

            Reply
          4. tigerStripes

            ancestry.com has even said that this testing is about what you specifically inherited, so a person and his/her full siblings will inherit different percentages.

            Reply
  10. Ask a Manager Post author

    I’m second-guessing myself for not making #1 its own post. I’m thinking about whether there’s a way for me to separate it now without being weird since I think it’s going to draw a disproportionate share of comments.

    Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I agree—if you move it into it’s own post right now, it can probably be salvaged.

        Reply
      1. Katie the Fed

        I think anything involving:

        Anything involving pets, babies, cultural appropriation, racism, sexism, and apparently access badges is probably going to be a comment storm :)

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Access badges were a dark horse there! But maybe they’re close enough to apparel, which is another storm seed.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            Oh, yeah. Just search for “dogs” and you’ll get some posts where the discussion is probably still going.

            Reply
        2. Turtle Candle

          And food! Even if only because everyone has their own idiosyncratic list of foods they would like to ban. And often food discussions turn into discussions of cultural differences, body shaming, disabiliy, food restrictions, diet, the fact that not everyone can eat sandwiches….

          Reply
      2. Drew

        Looks like a smart move, since these comments have ‘sploded all over the place. Glad you have the ability to do this. And thank you!

        Reply
    1. Augusta Sugarbean

      I was just thinking that I feel bad for other OPs when their letters are posted with controversial/outrage-generating letters. Can you just add a P.S. at the end of this post to say it was moved to it’s own post?

      Reply
  11. really

    The pinching “tradition” for St Patrick’s day is very elementary school. But the coworkers don’t seem to understand that being Irish exempts you from having to wear green. Says the lady who is Irish on her mother’s side and who’s husband is over half Irish.

    Reply
  12. fishy

    #1: If I were this employee, I would have been pissed too. Maybe not quit-on-the-spot pissed, but definitely pretty mad. People with no Irish heritage chiding me and even physically punishing me(!) for not celebrating a day about my own heritage “correctly” really rubs me the wrong way.

    Reply
  13. Planner Lady

    LW 1) All of my “whut?”

    Firstly, I don’t understand wanting to celebrate another nation’s national day at work. That just seems odd to me, but that might be an Australian thing – while people absolutely celebrate St Patrick’s day, its not with nearly the same amount of vigour as in the US, and is mainly celebrated by young drinkers and the actual Irish. I have never heard of the pinching tradition, and it seems completely out of place for the workplace – a nasty kind of outgroup policing.

    Secondly, your assistant wasn’t feeling safe or supported by you. She’s been physically harassed/assaulted in the workplace, and you haven’t apologised, and are considering punishing her through providing a poor reference. In this way you are participating in the same outgroup policing. I suspect that your assistant had been concerned about this kind of thing in the past, only to have it glossed over, if your reaction is anything to go by – it might be worth considering this possibility and using it as a learning experience.

    LW 4)
    I know how you feel – in my line of work the only way to get hold of the actual computer system is to use it in a corporate context – if I was to get hold of a licence for personal use I wouldn’t be able to use it as it wouldn’t have the data feeds I would need to make it work.

    That being said, don’t be discouraged! Several years ago I interviewed for a secondment to cover someone’s long service leave. I was honest about the level of experience I had with that computer system then (not very much, and a long time ago) and I was very kindly when I was given feedback on the result that because I didn’t have current experience, I wasn’t eligible for the secondment.

    However, they had been so impressed with my interview with all the other aspects, that I was recommended for another secondment, where I not only had a chance to learn the system, but was able to eventually secure ongoing employment in that area, resulting in a big pay rise for me and a great new team. Even if you don’t have the skills, talking about having some familiarity is going to be better than nothing, and a good cover letter/interview will do a world of wonders, even if you don’t dot every i in the requirements.

    Reply
    1. jordanjay29

      That’s some great luck. I don’t know why companies post job requirements that include highly specialized software. It’s almost guaranteed to restrict the pool of applicants to internal candidates only, or the rare case of someone coming from a competitor.

      Reply
    2. Mephyle

      @PlannerLady: The “celebrating another nation” thing is because what is being celebrated isn’t so much the Mother Nation itself as the diaspora – the part of it that migrated to the U.S. and became a part of that nation. That completely explains, for example, Cinco de Mayo, which is pretty much on the level of a bank holiday in almost all of Mexico, but a huge celebration in the U.S. That is, 5 de mayo in the U.S. is not a celebration of Mexico – it’s a celebration of being Mexican-American.

      Reply
    3. Lily Rowan

      For what it’s worth, Irish is the second most common heritage claimed by people in the US, after German. So it’s a lot of people to say “I’m Irish!” when they mean that one great-grandparent had two Irish immigrant grandparents….

      Reply
  14. Gadfly

    With OP1, if the second guy pinched her butt by accident because she was sitting, what was he aiming for before? Because her thigh isn’t any better.

    Was the first pincher also male? Because given the history of guys at work pinching female coworkers, it does make the optics worse if a couple of men decided to ignore her bodily autonomy in order to force her to participate in activities she found distasteful and even degrading.

    Reply
    1. kb

      I was also wondering where he was aiming that could be better?? Why was he coming at her from behind?? I don’t think any pinching is appropriate in the workplace, but even amongst friends I’ve only been pinched on the arm. An arm pinch wouldn’t have been great in this situation either, but this person trying to pinch anywhere near her butt just ups the inappropriateness.

      Reply
    2. AndersonDarling

      I was wondering that aw well. “Um, I was aiming for her arm, but then she sat down so I accidental pinched her butt.” Really? Really!!!??? But in a workplace where pinching is acceptable, it’s not surprising that someone thought that butt pinching would be acceptable.

      Reply
      1. AndersonDarling

        It’s ludicrous that I actually typed “workplace” “acceptable” “butt pinching” in the same sentence.

        Reply
  15. Sunshine

    Yeah, I have to agree with everyone else here! I’m in my early twenties and the last time anyone pinched me on St Patrick’s Day it was my best friend sometime in high school. Before that, definitely elementary school. I don’t know if I would quit on the spot but I would be very upset if this happened in my workplace. The fact that she was upset enough to quit on the spot makes me wonder if this is some sort of last straw scenario-whether it be the whole lead up to the treatment of the holiday or something more going on in the office. Definitely don’t ruin her chances of being hired elsewhere and (possibly) look into your offices culture!

    Reply
    1. Jen

      I agree. And it does say something about the overall office culture.

      I think of this with April Fool’s Day. We had a whole clique of employees (most of whom have moved on) who LOVED April Fool’s Day. I even went and talked to their boss in advance asking if he could give them ground rules. But nope! He thought it was just good fun. These are examples of their April Fool’s jokes – stole a box of prizes I needed for a contest and hid them and would not tell me where they were. Then stole and hid my cell phone. When I got very angry about this (because this is the phone where I get calls about my children at school) they acted like I was overreacting but rather than give it back to me, they wrote ransom letters and hid it in my office. It wasn’t just me that they did this too and everyone else hated it but they were allowed to run crazy because this was “fun” but it was actually miserable and we all hated it.

      Reply
      1. paul

        *that* I’d call the cops on.

        “Hey, this guy’s stolen the cell phones of 1/2 our office and is refusing to give them back to us all”

        I mean, theft is theft.

        Reply
      2. SbucksAddict

        I agree – this is like April Fool’s Day. You don’t do anything to someone who doesn’t enjoy it.

        I love love love April Fools day and I work with someone who feels the same. We aren’t malicious. Mainly we just do little pranks like wallpapering someone’s office with pictures of us or putting googly eyes on light switches and file drawers. You know what we don’t do? We don’t do it to anyone without asking them first if they like April Fool’s day and we don’t do anything that would disrupt their day too much. No stealing phones. No hiding important files. About half of the office doesn’t like to be pranked and nothing is done to those employees at all. I have no desire to make anyone miserable.

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          I have a coworker like this. She is a foodie and always makes silly little fakeout food things (one year she made cupcakes that were frosted look like little piles of mashed potato with peas and carrots she had painstakingly made from starbursts!), and will occasionally do something wilder (wrapped my desk in foil once), but it’s all silly rather than disruptive, and it’s not mean spirited at all. There’s a way to celebrate/observe/whatever these fun days in a way that doesn’t step on toes.

          Reply
      3. Halpful

        Thanks for reminding me – I think I’m going to find my Fluttershy pin and wear it on april 1st. Not that many people are likely to be aware of the “don’t prank fluttershy” rule, but, it’ll make me feel better. :)

        Reply
  16. Cynical Lackey

    Cinco de mayo is coming up in about six weeks. here’s a chance for you to run off some Mexican-American employees with your insensitive stereotypes.

    Reply
    1. Gaia

      Seriously, maybe they can kick their one Mexican American employee who thinks it is kind of offensive for everyone else to wear woven ponchos and sombreros and speak broken Spanish while chugging tequila in celebration of Mexican Independence Day*

      And you can imagine the Muslim holidays? Or Holi? Is this the Hanukkah Balls office?

      *Cinco de Mayo is not, in fact, Mexico’s Independence Day from Spain. It is a celebration of the Battle of Puebla against the French.

      Reply
      1. Gadfly

        And Holi is coming up too–randomly assault the Indian/South East Asians who may or may not celebrate it and hopefully aren’t asthmatic or allergic by pelting them with colorful powdered chalk that can stain their clothes. Just pop out of hiding and throw handfuls at them.

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          Holi just passed. I can see managers instantly realizing what the problem is with people hurling handfuls of powdered chalk around the office, though–might be a fun comeback to the “aw, we’re pinching you in good fun!” defense.

          Reply
          1. Gadfly

            Crap–you are right. I plead finals brain and the worst online textbook system I’ve ever encountered as an excuse.

            Reply
      2. paul

        ….do people regularly do that? I’m in Texas which isn’t exactly a bastion of awareness in a lot of ways but I rarely if ever see that sort of behavior. Maybe some of the tackier frats at the nearby university but that’s about it.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Yeah, typically the most I see people do around here is go out for Mexican food and/or have some margaritas. I think I’ve maybe seen a few people in sombreros, which made me cringe a little, but nothing more elaborate than that.

          Reply
          1. paul

            I mean, we’re as like as not to have Tex-Mex and margaritas for dinner but that’s the case any random day of the year too so…gimme that carne asada nom nom nom

            Reply
    2. NW Mossy

      In elementary school, I recall being taught the “Mexican Hat Dance” in PE – perhaps forcing employees to do this culturally-insensitive activity would fit right in with the theme of adults behaving like children vis a vis appropriated national holidays.

      Reply
    3. Marcela

      I am not even Mexican, but from the other end of America, and I got asked for my plans for 5 de mayo. It’s in the same angry spot where almost every latinamerican restaurant I’ve been feel the need to serve tortillas and nachos, that us in the south DO NOT eat unless we are eating Mexican food.

      Reply
      1. paul

        FWIW, the bulk of the restaurants are more Mexican or Tex Mex…the very few Honduran or Guatemalan restaurants I’ve had the fortune to eat at didn’t really do chips and salsa or tortillas. There’s just not that many of them (and in fact none in my city–I’ve only found them when traveling)

        Reply
  17. Observer

    #1 Perhaps you should look at what actually happened here – and I’m basing myself COMPLETELY on your letter – no guesswork here.

    The one Irish person in the office tells you that she finds the way the office is celebrating St Patricks Day, offensive and cultural appropriation. She gets brushed off. (Question: Why? Because all the non-Irish people in the office know more about Irish traditions that the one Irish person in the office?)

    She comes into the office and *gets pinched*.
    She makes her displeasure loudly known by yelling at the person who did it.
    She goes into a meeting and gets pinched AGAIN, near the butt.
    She again yells, and instead of getting an apology, she is brushed off and told that 1. it wasn’t supposed to be a butt pinch just a “regular” pinch – totally implying that pinching is ok, and 2. *she* is the ignorant one because she didn’t “understand” a “tradition” of her ethnicity, which made it ok for people to pinch her.
    In response to this defense of being attacked, she made an apparently dramatic exit.

    At no point did you or anyone in your chain of command do anything to apologize to her for the pinching, or for trying to enforce a tradition on her that she, at best, is uninterested in.

    Take out the words “Irish” and “st Patricks day” and replace it with any other ethnicity and holiday, and think long and hard whether this chain of events sounds reasonable to you. Perhaps replace it with YOUR ethnicity and a holiday from YOUR tradition that’s been co-opted by some group or other. Does that help you to understand what the issue is here?

    What’s really mind blowing is that not only did you allow one of your staff to be harassed in this way, you no want to PUNISH her for escaping a workplace where she sees she will be mistreated. This is not a guess – it has already happened!

    Reply
    1. Keen Oat

      For better or worse (worse) this is an American tradition, not an Irish tradition. Irish people in Ireland have zero to do with pinching (completely juvenile and unprofessional), green-dyed corned beef or wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s not appropriation if it starts and continues in the US, a nation culturally and politically separate from Ireland and was never in Ireland to begin with.

      Reply
      1. Gaia

        It is still appropriation. The celebration started with Irish Americans celebrating the way they had done so back in the old country. It took on another life form when non-Irish Americans took over the holiday and began dressing like leprechauns and binge drinking.

        Reply
        1. Keen Oat

          In my many decades on this earth, I’ve lived in three heavily Irish-American areas in New York and the Boston metro area and the people dressing up in green with plastic hats and drinking green beer and stumbling around were Irish-Americans with t-shirts that said “Kiss Me, I’m Irish.” Maybe some of their non-Irish friends were there too but they definitely were just following what the Irish-Americans were doing right in front of them.

          There are certainly some people of Irish descent who find the behavior offensive but it’s been going on a long time and started and continues with Irish-Americans.

          Reply
          1. Gaia

            Lots of terribly offensive things go on for a long time before we decide they are offensive enough to stop. The point is *this* employee was the only one in this office of Irish heritage. Her culture was being appropriated by people who did not share her culture and she voiced offense. That should have been the end of it. But it wasn’t – and it got worse as it often does.

            Reply
            1. JB (not in Houston)

              Keen Oat wasn’t saying what was done in the OP’s office was ok. They were addressing your comment that the holiday gets celebrated the way it does in the US because non-Irish-Americans took it over.

              Reply
      2. FiveWheels

        When Americans celebrate the patron Saint of Ireland’s day by dressing up in green (a colour connected to Ireland, but not to Patrick), drinking Irish drinks, inviting the Taoiseach over, proclaiming themselves to be Irish, and using symbols of Ireland ranging from leprechauns to shamrocks/four leafed covers (different things but why worry)…

        Then I don’t think a claim that the celebrations are culturally and politically separate from Ireland holds up.

        Reply
        1. Aveline

          Interestingly, sky blue was Patrick’s color.

          The green is a symbol of Ireland as separate from England.

          Reply
        2. TL -

          Well, when do immigrants and children of immigrants lose the rights to celebrate holidays they brought over as they see fit, up to and including inviting others in to celebrate, and changing the way they celebrate it due to changing cultural norms?
          Honestly, I can see Holi ending up being incorporated in the same way, because it is often celebrated (at least in American colleges) as a giant party, hosted by the Indian student group, that pretty much anyone in the community is invited to. Whereas Purim, also a big party, does not invite in non-Jewish people, and thus has remained a solely Jewish celebration.

          Reply
        3. LBK

          Is people with no Irish heritage proclaiming themselves to be Irish really a thing that happens on St. Paddy’s Day? Maybe I’ve just always lived in places where there actually were high numbers of people with Irish ancestors (myself included) but I keep seeing comments about this and I’m surprised by it.

          I do also think that associating closely with your ancestry is a uniquely American phenomenon since the vast majority of us only have a handful of generations of history here. It’s something that just doesn’t apply in many other countries where the majority have a pretty homogeneous ancestry of being from where they still live.

          Reply
          1. Emi.

            I’ve heard lots of complaints about this other places too, but I honestly don’t know how many cities there are in this country where you can a lot of white people together and not have a sizable (part-)Irish contingent. Maybe the Hamptons, or wherever WASPs go on vacation.

            Reply
          2. Natalie

            It’d be hard to say if a person has *no* Irish heritage. But heritage is funny among white Americans, because we generally don’t live in ethnic enclaves anymore. People of different countries of origin has intermarried enough that “heritage” is more traditions, names, and religions that are passed down than what percentage of your ancestors came from this part of Europe vs that part of Europe.

            Also, this Onion classic: http://www.theonion.com/article/man-whos-116th-irish-proud-of-his-irish-heritage-103

            Reply
        4. cbackson

          I don’t think most Americans (outside of strongly ethnically Irish enclaves) understand any political implication of this at all. Like, if you asked most Americans at a St. Patrick’s Day parade for their views on Irish republicanism, they would be very confused that there were Trump supporters in Ireland.

          I’m not into St. Patrick’s Day at all, mostly because I am not into drinking-themed holidays. That said, I will also admit that I’m not only 0% Irish, but am descended from English noble families that were directly involved in occupying Ireland in the 16th century and so it seems particularly inappropriate for me to get into celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Not that most people in the US know that history, but it just seems off to join in the overall US “we’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day” thing. I’m definitely not, and when my ancestors lived in Ireland, they were (justifiably) hated by actual Irish people to whom they were dreadful.

          Reply
      3. Observer

        It makes no difference if it REALLY is “appropriation” or not. It’s certainly not the place of any American to tell someone Irish what and “Irish” tradition is. Telling others what their tradition is, especially when you happen to be wrong, is probably not appropriation, but it’s similar enough that it’s easy to see why the word gets used.

        At MINIMUM, the workplace should have stayed out of trying to “educate” her on her traditions.

        Reply
      4. Chinook

        But St. Patrick’s Day is still her National Holiday if she is Irish. Sure, she may not celebrate it the same way as Irish Americans, but that doesn’t give them the right to tell her that she is wrong to be insulted about how she sees her nationality being portrayed.

        Reply
    2. MillersSpring

      Can you imagine if people in other countries pinched their coworkers if they didn’t wear red, white and blue on America’s Fourth of July?

      Reply