coworker moonlighting as prostitute during work hours

A reader writes:

My co-worker is a very open person and tells me to cover for her every time she has to leave the office. Our boss and manager are not here half the time so when they are not, my co-worker leaves either early and/or takes a really long lunch. At the beginning, the excuse for leaving early was because of a date. But she later told me that she’s actually sleeping with people for money. She comes back all proud, telling me how much money she made in an hour.

I am no one to judge what my co-worker does and it doesn’t bother me, but it does start to annoy me when I have to pick up the slack. When our boss gives us work to do together, I end up doing most of the work.

What really got me upset was when my co-worker was having sex with a client in our public restroom. I don’t care what my co-worker does in their personal life but when this person is having sex for money during working hours, then it starts to affect me because I have to finish the work she never got around to doing because she was out of the office most of the day.

I don’t know how to tell my manager. Should I even say something? I need guidance and advice.

Wow, this is by far the most titillating letter I’ve ever received here.

I’d just be straightforward with her and tell her: “I don’t care what you do in your personal life, but while you’re off making money, you’re leaving me to pick up the slack here. You’re putting me in a bad position, because you’re asking me to cover for you and you’re leaving me with more work.”

If that doesn’t change anything, then warn her that you’re going to stop covering for her. And the next time she leaves with work undone, tell your boss that the work is undone because your coworker was out most of the day.

Personally, I wouldn’t tell the boss why — you don’t need to explain to your boss how she’s spending her time away from the office, only that she is indeed away.

But I do recommend that you take all of the steps above immediately. If your coworker gets caught, and it comes out that she told you what she was doing, you risk being seen in conspiracy with her. Good luck!

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 47 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Dear AAM-

    My co-worker sells make-up door to door during office hours. One day I found her in the coffee room with a client, trying on lipstick. My employer doesn't realize that she's taking their dollar while building her own business, and I get left doing all the work…

    Not as scandalous, but the same situation, eh?

    Great advice as usual, AAM, especially that part about when the employer finds out. Your employer will suspect you're running a business on the side too, or you would have said something by now.

    Lois Gory

  2. Anonymous*

    "Personally, I wouldn't tell the boss why — you don't need to explain to your boss how she's spending her time away from the office, only that she is indeed away."

    … even though she's engaging in illegal activities on company time AND at least once on company property?

  3. Anonymous*

    I'd ask for a cut of her earnings just to keep quiet!

    Seriously though – is this a real situation or a made up story?

  4. Evil HR Lady*

    Anon at 6:14 has a good point. I'd totally want to know if one of the employees was engaging in illegal activities on company property.

  5. Kerry*

    Holy crap.

    I'm wondering what happens if this person gets busted at the office (because she's apparently doing it at the office, in the bathroom). Where I live, that would probably make the news, and the company's name would be locally famous. People would assume that the company was somehow involved or aware.

    It's not at all like selling lipstick, because that's not illegal.

    I wonder if this woman is just messing with you…but either way, I'd probably rat her out right now, because if this comes out later, there's no way you don't get caught up in it somehow.

  6. Justin*

    This is crazy.

    Don't tell the boss what is going on?

    Go to the police. Immediately.

    And then pray she doesn't have a pimp who would come after you ;)

  7. Louise*

    I can see how it being illegal puts it into a whole different level of seriousness. Here in New Zealand it's not an illegal activity and I would deal with it as suggested above. However if it was an illegal activity, say dealing drugs, then I would be informing management immediately.

  8. Amanda Brooks*

    Arrest ruins people's lives. If she already needs the extra money, then arrest won't make her life any easier. She may lose her children (if she has any).

    Behave like you would if she were moonlighting with a legal job. Do your work, stop covering for her and let her and the boss deal with her slacking (just like the manager said!).

    Do tell her to keep her other work off company property. Tell her you don't want to hear about her work anymore. NEVER EVER accept any money from her in relation to her work or "covering" for her.


  9. Ask a Manager*

    I agree wholeheartedly with Amanda. The harm of arresting this woman will far exceed the harm of her "crime." Stop enabling it, stop covering for it, but don't go out of your way to bring the police into something that appears to be a victimless crime in this case.

  10. Anonymous*

    Illegal activity at work should have been reported to the boss immediately.

    How would you like to be the boss and learn others knew but looked the other way? If you worked for me,it wouldn't go well for either one of you as both actions put the company at risk.

    Funny, how the workload is the primary concern here – not the risk to the employee or the company. A headline like ' sex ring at *insert news station here* could cripple their reputation.

  11. Justin*

    Prostitution ON company property?

    Police. Immediately.

    MAYBE go to the boss and hope that he/she calls the police. If it were me I'd contact the police immediately.

    If she has kids and they them away, well, it's probably for the best. There is a reason why the government does that in these situations.

    I can see staying out of it if the crime is completely outside of work and no one is getting hurt or otherwise victimized. But during work and ON COMPANY PROPERTY?!?! The police need to know.

    What if she were dealing drugs out of the company bathroom? That's another (arguably) victimless crime that I think falls into the same category as prostitution and I doubt anyone here would be against calling the police about.

    1. Melissa*

      The reason the government takes away children in these situations is Victorian ideals about sexual propriety. You can be a sex worker and still be an amazing mom who is capable of taking care of your children. Hard drug use isn’t the same as sex work, although I agree that neither should be done in the bathroom of your first job.

  12. Ask a Manager*

    That's one way to look at it, but if the prohibition itself causes more harm than the "crime" it's designed to stop, it's worth considering whether we have the right laws.

  13. Rebecca*

    Disagreeing with laws does NOT automatically free ANYONE from the responsibility to obey them!

    Would everyone be OK locking her up if she was fine for money, didn't have kids, and was only doing it for some kind of thrill? Hmm.

    I was going to make an additional point, but Anon@1:34 precisely covered it.

  14. Ask a Manager*

    "Disagreeing with laws does NOT automatically free ANYONE from the responsibility to obey them! " True. But it also doesn't obligate anyone to call the cops on her.

    1. MiaRose*

      Hmm, I can’t agree with this. Wouldn’t there be serious consequences for the company if she was doing this on company property? This would, in turn, also affect the OP, by either loss of job if company closes (worse case scenario, of course). For that matter, the OP may get in trouble if something does go down, and she was not the one to report it, and the coworker decides to finger her as an accomplice by saying that she knew about it and covered for her.

      Frankly, if the coworker was doing this on the side on her own time and turf, I would be sympathetic. I understand that to make ends meet, some people have to do this, and I don’t always agree with how the law works when it comes with consensual sex work. However, the coworker brags about what she is doing, and drags the OP into her business by telling her and by putting her in an awkward position. Sounds like a really selfish person. If the OP reports her, it does somewhat protect her from being accused of being an accomplice, wouldn’t you think?

      1. MiaRose*

        I know this is an old post, but given that it was linked to recently, and I was bothered by this response, I had to say something.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That comment was in response specifically to an earlier commenter’s statement that “Disagreeing with laws does NOT automatically free ANYONE from the responsibility to obey them! “

  15. Justin*

    Hey, I am all for re-examining and/or reforming prostitution laws and drug laws. The implications of prohibition of any vice is often worse than the problems caused by the vice itself.

    But, until laws can be changed, the law is still the law. By not going to the police and having them stop this situation(or going to the boss immediately and hoping he/she does it) the poster is risking his/her job, risking being implicated as a conspirator, risking the reputation of the company, and possibly contributing to future crimes beings committed on the grounds. What if the woman or her clients thought "this place is cool, let's pull some other hustles" and started dealing drugs or selling stolen goods? What if there was an incident of sexual assault or murder in the building? Prostitutes are victims of violence from johns all the time. Can you imagine the police finding out that someone knew about the prostitution for some time and never reported it?

    We may not have the right laws, but advising someone to turn the other cheek is not the way to protest prostitution prohibition.

    And not telling the boss? If I were the boss I would fire both of them if I ever found out that this was going on and someone knew.

    Workload should be the last thing on anyone's mind in this situation.

  16. class-factotum*

    Manager, I agree that prostitution should be legal. I also think marijuana should be legal, as should heroin, speed and meth – as long as you are willing to give up your children first. You have a right to destroy your own life; you do not have a right to destroy anybody else's. I really do not care if someone wants to sit in a house and shoot dope all day long. I don't. Just don't bother me or anybody else about it.

    But as Justin put it so eloquently, when somebody is breaking a law that I may or may not agree with, if breaking that law may affect MY livelihood? Yeah. I'm calling the cops.

  17. Anonymous*

    Pleeese- what the co-worker is doing in NOT ok. The boss needs to know exactly what is going on. NOW. You can justify why she is doing it all you want but at the end of the day the saying is still true.."You cannot talk your way out of something your behaved your way into."

  18. Towneee*

    "If she has kids and they (take) them away, well, it's probably for the best."

    What? How can you make a rash assumption of her parenting skills just because she is a sex worker? If she were laundering money would you still have the same opinion?

    Stealing is also illegal, I wonder how many of you take home office supplies? Should we call the cops on you, too? Have your kids taken away?

    You have no idea what this person's situation is. Of course its not a brilliant idea to do this on company time; illegal or not, I see no reason to get police involved. But, I also don't see a reason to enable it either.

  19. Rebecca*

    "How can you make a rash assumption of her parenting skills just because she is a sex worker? … You have no idea what this person's situation is."

    Well, we have some idea. It's not like she can't get a job, because she has one. But she doesn't consider the job important enough to actually do it. She makes at least some of her income illegally. She makes money illegally while AT her legal job, bringing other people to the premises of the legal job to help her out with the illegal one. She also brags to at least one coworker about all of it, assuming they won't tell. What do YOU think the odds are that she's a good parent?

    Notice I mentioned nothing at all about her illegal pursuits having to do with sex.

  20. Towneee*

    Again, you can't base her parenting skills -or lack thereof- on the way she makes her money.

    While you may think you have a good grasp on what her life is like, you really don't, you're making guesses. Maybe she has massive debt due to medical bills and is trying to get money to keep her home and food on the table.

    My point is that people tend to judge others very harshly based on tidbits of information and feel comfortable assuming the rest.

  21. Anonymous*

    Well I wrote this email in an effort to guide me in the right direction, but really it is easier said than done. I totally agree that prostitution is illegal and she shouldn't be doing that, but in reality it is a victimless crime. I can not call the cops on her because I just don't have the heart to do that.

    She is really a very good person and is an excellent mother. Most of the people who post comments here assume that since she is selling her body she must be a bad mother. She is not giving that example to her kids. For her kids she works only in the office. Her kids are her priority. Although, I do not agree with her spending habits she provides the best she can for her kids. At least she is doing something to provide for her kids, unlike other people who live off welfare.

    I 100% understand and in some parts agree with most of the comments here but I can not go to sleep knowing that I ruined someones life. I know she is ruining her own life by doing that but that is HER choice. SHE decided to ruin her life and if I go to the cops I too will be responsible for ruining her life.

    If there was a victim here than I would not hesitate twice about going to the cops. If I knew for a fact that she didn't take care of her kids I would have gone to the cops the minute I found out. She always talks about her kids and I know for a fact she loves them.

    1. Anonymous*

      The company is the victim here. They are not paying her to conduct her own personal business at work. She is putting the whole office’s rep on the line. Her “client” might go back and report to friends about the name and location of the company. Someone gets angry and reports it to the news!

  22. Anonymous*

    You're the victim! You would not believe what a staunch supporter I am for the reformation of laws regarding victimless crimes. But you can't let someone manipulate you into doing their dirty work while they're doin the dirty (and getting PAID)!

    Police usually just make a situation worse, especially in smaller towns.

    Don't tell the cops, just stop doing the work. Pretend you don't know where she went, after all, why should you care where she went? You are not her manager.

  23. Anonymous*

    Even though this has been inactive for a while I could not let this go by without comment. Those of you who don't think this is a problem worthy of reporting to boss or authorities amaze me? What if she was stealing office supplies? (well, I know, she is a good person). How about child porn on her computer?(victimless crime?). The reason human resources is so poorly respected is that it is populated by so many bleeding heart liberals like some of the posters here who refuse to act and want to join hands and sing kumbaya to resolve any problem. Here are a couple of problems this "good mother" might be causing for you. When she is doing her thing in the bathroom or whereever, did you ever think of the possible spread of disease? If she gets a disease she will be out on leave of absence. Who will be doing her job then? How about medical insurance costs if she needs treatment? Or if she gets pregnant? Everyone's premiums go up. What if this goes on for a while and someone else finds out and it becomes a newspaper expose? Companies have gone bankrupt for lesser problems. How about an irate spouse of a customer coming to the workplace and causing disruption or violence. Wake up people, do your jobs, and face the real world.

    1. Forrest*

      Child porn is not a victimless crime because unlike adults, children can not consent to acts like this.

  24. Anonymous*

    Rebecca said "Disagreeing with laws does NOT automatically free ANYONE from the responsibility to obey them!". That's like saying the French Resistance had the responsibility to obey the occupiers.

  25. Rebecca*

    Right, because a coworker screwing for money in the work bathroom and an invading army are totally the same thing. Got any other shallow observations?

  26. Jamie*

    How did I miss this post the first time around – yikes!

    I have been annoyed by many a co-worker in my day but a situation in which I am picking up the slack for a co-worker who is getting paid to funk up the bathroom?

    That scenario would turn me into Howard Hughes – yeech.

  27. Diane*

    Wow, how did this only get 29 comments?? Although it’s easy to judge her on the nature of her little rendezvous, I’d focus on what Alison said and stick to how it’s affecting your workload. Whether she was taking time away to go shopping, socialize, whatever, is more or less irrelevant, but the result is the same for you — you’re left picking up the slack. Not cool. The legality of it is a completely different topic, though.

    1. Anonymous*

      In my opinion, by being a bystander in this situation, this one woman might get the whole company shut down and everyone loses jobs because of the rep she’s working up for the company should these activities slip out to the public.

  28. OneoftheMichelles*

    So June 1, 2013’s “weird coworker” post led me back to this one.

    Why not just leave out the issue of prostitution? Tell the co-worker that it isn’t fair that she’s getting paid for the office work that someone else is staying in the office to do, and that it won’t be done for her any more. Also tell her that if you think she’s having sex on company time/property in the future, you will tell the boss.

    –You know what? That sets Good Coworker up to be back stabbed by Bad Coworker. The Good one needs to apologize for taking some time to tell the boss what’s been going on because of the awkward nature of it, then tell the boss about the work not getting done and sex in the bathroom (prostitution still doesn’t need to be brought up, though optional).

  29. mollsbot*

    I was also led here by the 6/1/2013 post.

    Was there ever an update on this situation? I would love to hear how it worked out.

  30. Londell*

    I know this was published some time ago, but I just discovered this site today. I’m inclined to believe this person’s letter if only because I was in a similar situation and didn’t know about it until years after I left the company. In my situation my former coworkers were drug dealers, and I didn’t find out about it until after I was gone and the person went to jail for like 16 months.

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