short answer Christmas: 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s short answer Christmas — six short answers to six short questions! Here we go…

1. Fired for being too attractive

I was wondering if you’d heard about this case in which a dentist fired an employee for being “too attractive.” The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the firing as legal because she wasn’t fired because she was a woman, she was fired because she was a beautiful woman. I was curious about your opinion of this case and how people can best move on when they’re fired for what they feel are petty reasons (not to do with layoffs or performance).

It seems to me that she has a pretty strong case for sexual harassment and I don’t understand the court’s ruling that it’s not sex discrimination (since he presumably wouldn’t have fired her if she was an attractive man). But if nothing else, it’s a good reminder not to work for asses.

As for how to move on, you’ve got to move on just as you would with any other job loss — by putting it behind you, not getting bitter over it, and focusing on what comes next and why someone sane would be glad to have you.

2. Conveying frustration over benefit changes

Four days before Christmas, all employees at my company were given a new employee package saying that the company will no longer be paying 100% of our benefits. We now have to pay for all our disability, accidental death, life insurance, etc. (which is mandatory). Plus we will be paying a portion of our health and dental benefits. The letter goes on to say that $125 (more for some employees) will be deducted from our pay each month as of January 1 in light of these changes.

To say we are all pissed off is an understatement. 100% benefits was a big bonus of working here. We were told a couple of weeks ago that we would be getting a new benefits plan to sign but not to worry as it’s not any different and will be for the better. They tried to frame the change as a good thing, as now if we need to access disability, we won’t be taxed on it. But really, as one of the lower wage earners here, it feels more like getting a 4-5% pay cut.

We were given until January 3 to sign and were told to read it over and come back with any questions. I’m looking for help on what to say to my manager to show that I’m unhappy about how this was communicated. I want to say that it should have been communicated to us better and not pretended it was “for our own good.” It came so suddenly and warning would have been great — I would have taken up more of my benefits these last few months because I will probably opt out in the new year. I know the company is struggling with cash flow, but that’s not publicly known and it still feels like a punch in the gut so close to Christmas!

Be pleasant but direct: “I understand the need for these changes, but I wanted to express some concern with how they were communicated. Saying that the change is for our own good felt disingenuous, especially when it amounts to a 4-5% pay cut for someone at my salary level. I also wish we’d had more advance notice of it so that we could plan accordingly, rather than having it sprung on us only days before it would take effect.”

At that point, your boss will probably say something apologetic, at which point you should say, “I understand there’s nothing that can be done now, but if you can convey this to whoever is in a position to factor it into decision-making in the future, I’d really appreciate it.”

Read an update to this letter here.

3. I didn’t get a job because of an anti-nepotism policy

I’ve been doing some temp work on and off over the six months for the same company. Initially, I was recommended for it by a member of my family who works there but have since been asked back several times because the work I did then was so highly complimented.

I applied for a permanent position there in a different department and was asked to interview. The day after my interview, the human resources rep who interviewed me asked if she could put my CV forward for a position in the department I’d been working in over the last six months. I said yes, had an interview, and settled down to wait. I did not get the first job — I didn’t have much experience in one of its duties, which I knew.

Today the HR person called me to her office about the second job and said, extremely apologetically, that as of the new year, their nepotism policy had changed and so, despite my good interview and experience with the job, I would not be allowed to work in the same department as my family member. As today is Friday, my interview was Thursday and I was asked to apply on Wednesday, I am feeling a bit like they’ve played a sick joke on me. One of the managers who interviewed me said he would make a formal complaint, but I don’t think this will achieve anything. The new policy was emailed to our HR people today, by the overall HR director in head office.

What is your feeling on this sort of extremely broad nepotism policy?

That timing sucks, but I’d consider it a case of bad timing and nothing else — certainly not a sick joke. Companies don’t spend time interviewing people for the hell of it. It sounds like the people involved in hiring for this position weren’t aware of the new policy yet.

As for nepotism policies in general, they’re often smart to have. There are lots of reasons not to want family members or significant others working closely together (see here for details). It’s frustrating when you don’t get a job because of one, but believe me, it’s nothing compared to the frustration of the coworkers of people who don’t handle personal relationships appropriately. (Not saying that you’d be one of them — but the risk is too high for many companies to want to take.)

4. Pushing to turn an unpaid internship into paid work

I’m a part-time graduate student, again… but since masters degrees are so expensive, I’m working part-time (with benefits) at full-time hours for a popular coffee shop. It was through this coffee shop I made a connection for an internship that I was hired for as a student researcher in a major medical hospital affiliated with an Ivy league university/medical school.

Unfortunately, it is an unpaid internship, for now. The talk of transitioning to a paid position came about during an informal interview with the research director, but I do not have it in writing. Right now, I’m liked by my lab director and he’s happy to have me work with him. I mentioned the thought (although it’s only been 2 weeks with him) about a paid position to be around more (even volunteered to go in to lab on Christmas Eve). I am hopeful for pursuing a career in medicine one day, but right now I want to work and make some money and save up. I have a good life, but having significant experience and higher post-grad education, working for my local coffee shop while I go to school part-time, volunteer, AND have this internship feels draining and my demeanor is taking a hit.

My girlfriend and family are very supportive, but I was wondering if you had any advice on how to play it safe in bringing up to my lab director and the research director who brought me onboard I was hired through HR, not volunteer services) about monetary compensation and benefits?

Uh oh. You should never accept an unpaid internship if you’re going to resent being unpaid, or if you’re going to be bitter if it doesn’t turn into a paid job. They didn’t trick you into it; they told you exactly what you were signing up for, and you accepted it.

You can certainly mention to your manager that you’re interested in being considered for a paid position if one becomes available, but you need to remain very aware that what you were hired for — and what you accepted — is an unpaid internship. There are no promises beyond that (and talk of it becoming something else is just talk — not promises).

If you’re becoming disgruntled at doing the work that you agreed to do, and only two weeks into it, I would think long and hard about whether this is the job for you. If you push for paid work, or if you allow yourself to become resentful, you’ll harm your reputation with the very people you’d like to impress. (And you do want to impress them even if there’s no possibility of getting paid — because they’ll be references and connections to other jobs, and because your reputation matters.)

5. Will I ever get a better job?

In September, I started working at a full-time position. It’s a low-paying job (I can’t afford to live on my own) that has nothing to do with my two degrees (Bachelor and Masters) and there are aspects of the job that I struggle with on a regular basis because they are contrary to my personality/natural abilities(I often have to be assertive/aggressive, and I have a hard time doing that). On the plus side, I have a job — a regular, full-time, 8-5 (with an hour for lunch) office job that pays insurance. Also, it’s in a nice, clean, safe location that is really close to my home. And, for the most part, I like the people I work with.

Considering the economy and my level of experience (not a lot), how good of a chance do I really have to find a better (better paying, better fitting) job in these times? I hate the fact that at the age of 27, after 2 degrees, I am still living at home, but I also want to be realistic and not get my hopes up.

The bad job market doesn’t mean that you’ll never find a better job. It just means that it’s going to take longer and be harder than in a good economy. You should continue trying to find a better fit, and put a lot of emphasis on laying the groundwork for that to happen: keeping up your skills in your field, doing volunteer work related to what you want to do, joining professional societies in your field and being active in them (it doesn’t help much if you just join and sit on the sidelines), networking your ass off, and making sure that you have an awesome resume and cover letter (and since 95% of people don’t, assume you don’t and work on making them better).

Eventually you’ll get a better job. It’s just going to take more time and work than it ideally would.

6. Connecting with your interviewer on LinkedIn

I’ve been starting to job search and have had several interviews. Almost immediately after an interview, somebody from HR will connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m wondering if it is too pushy to also connect with the hiring manager (or other panel interviewers) after being interviewed?

It’s not too pushy, but keep in mind that some hiring managers won’t connect on LinkedIn unless they know you better, so don’t be offended if that happens. There’s more on this in this very old post from 2008.

{ 104 comments… read them below }

  1. -X-*

    The issue of lack of proper notice for a change in terms of employment really grates on me.

    Can you imagine the person in #2 saying to her manager “A week from today I’ll have a document for you to sign – it’s just a formality” and the on that day the document gives OP#2 a 4% raise? And if the manager doesn’t sign it #2 walks out?

    1. Waiting Patiently*

      It grates me too! Your proposed situation: we on the bottom of the totem pole can only wish that walking out were the answer. Alas, there are bills and a not so great job market. I understand companies are facing hard times and difficult decisions but effective communication goes a long way and dont try to sell changes,which in reality aren’t a good thing, as ‘good thing’.

    2. Jamie*

      Yeah, the notice and timing sucks. I understand there are sometimes business measures that are unpopular but needed, but that makes good communication all the more important.

    3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      It would be much better if more notice were given, but it could well be that they told employees as soon as they knew. It could be that they’ve been looking at plans for a few months, and were down to the wire on enrolling and had to make a choice. More notice is always good, but I suspect OP doesn’t really need to make her objections known… of course the employer knows that a week and a half is not much time to decide on this. I feel like OP runs the risk of just looking whiny and taking a hit on their reputation if they bring it up now (especially since there’s clearly nothing to be done at this point). Not to say OP isn’t in the right, but it could be one of those things where it’s better to just let it go.

      And as a note to OP, I would *strongly* recommend not opting out of the health plan. Seriously, $125 is the cheapest health insurance you’ll ever see (other than free, of course). If you go without coverage, you might find yourself subject to waiting periods and higher premiums, not to mention if something actually did go wrong medically while you were uninsured.

      I understand that you gotta do what you gotta do, but having gone through my boyfriend being diagnosed with cancer (at 25 no less) while uninsured, you don’t want that. It’s not worth saving $125 a month unless you really don’t have an alternative!

      1. Rana*

        Agreed. If I could get that level of insurance for that little, I’d be all over it. (For comparison purposes, our last monthly COBRA payment was nearly $900 for two people.)

        (I agree that having to pony up an extra $1500 a year sucks, but these days it’s sadly the situation that “it could be worse” – a lot worse.)

    4. OP#2*

      Hi I’m OP #2 and thank you so much Alison for answering my query and very sound advice.
      And thank you everyone for your comments as well. It was definitely poorly communicated – exact words were “you’ll be receiving a new package but don’t worry, nothing has really changed and any changes are for the better” – which was pretty much an outright lie. I completely understand the business reasoning for why it was done but it was not framed nor transparent as well (for a company that prides itself on transparency)

      In comparison to other companies it’s still a good deal but not the deal we all signed up for. We are in Canada so I get other general health benefits outside of this package and will probably opt onto my partner’s extended benefits (as I completely agree with comments that you shouldn’t opt out of benefits all together).

      Anyhow, thank you for the supporting comments and I will be chatting to my direct report (the GM who rolled this out) this week with Alison’s suggestions!

      1. KarenT*

        This is just my two cents, but $125/month in Canada sounds insane! Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I nor anyone I know has ever worked anywhere where insurance was near that amount. And I don’t understand how they can make life insurance mandatory– lots of people opt out of company life insurance to get their own. It sounds like a done deal so there is not much you can do except leave but for Canada this seems really unusual (and sketchy). Is it maybe a really small company?

        1. Chinook*

          For Canada, paying for your own life insurance is to your benefit as it means it is not an employer paid benefits and, if you ever need it, it is completely tax free. Also, depending on where you are, cutting back on benefits may be the alternative to cutting staff. It sucks but atleast you have a job. In my experience, $125/month is not bad plus you may want to check if it is a tax deductible medical expense (check with CRA though in case I’m wrong)

          That being said, if your partner has full benefits that you can be covered, compare the price and coverage and definitely go that way if it works. And, if you have already been covered by his all along, check to see if you can get any of your deductibles covered for the last year.

        2. Lynne*

          I pay $133/month for extended health insurance through my employer (in Canada), for a single person. This is pretty normal in my experience, but we’re probably in different fields. Like Chinook mentioned, it’s tax deductible.

          Obviously even if you opt out of extended medical, you still get the basic provincial coverage, so it’s not like you’re completely uninsured…I think the extended coverage is pretty worthwhile though (and my employer *is* picking up a chunk of the cost for that, too).

          1. KarenT*

            Interesting. Maybe it varies by region/province. I really don’t know anyone who pays for insurance and my friends/family span a variety of fields. For me, $1500/year insurance wouldn’t be worth it. I very rarely use that much coverage ( a few prescriptions and a root canal were it for me) but I certainly understand how someone else may have different needs.

            1. Lynne*

              This is based on working in Alberta and BC; perhaps it does vary regionally. I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten more out of it at this job than I’ve paid into it, but then…I was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago (yay). I would much rather not be using the insurance!

  2. Anonymous.*

    As far as number 2 goes: the communication of this stunk. It sounds like they out-and-out lied to the employees about the changes. That being said, there’s nothing to do but communicate the way AAM suggested.

    However, the business may have faced a horrible problem if everyone had run out and used all their benefits prior to then do the year, especially if they’re self-insured. Also, OP needs to know that 100% coverage is an amazing, generous dinosaur that could never have continued. Even if the employer didn’t communicate well or at all, anyone reading the news could have understood that. The new benefits package sounds like a must-do for a struggling company and may help ensure that you have a job in the future.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      My company is struggling financially, and has laid off about 1/3 of the staff. Our various insurance premiums have gone up, but only a few dollars a month. A firm close by, in the same business, had laid off more people than we have, and the survivor’s hours keep getting cut. I’m sure that soon their benefits will go out the window, too, and really grateful that I’m still working 40 hours/week.

    2. ARS*

      I’m sorry, but I’m so tired of seeing posts about how grateful people should be to have a job or understanding about cuts because the company may be struggling. I was laid off over a year ago. Will I feel happy to get a job? Oh yes. Will I be so grateful I’ll be understanding if the company I work for pulls some crappy move like changing the benefits package? No.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think the message here is “put up with anything because you should be glad you have a job.” It’s about understanding the realities of how businesses work, and one of those realities is that yes, sometimes companies need to find places to cut — just like a family might need to find places to cut its budget. If you understand this, it’s easier to see it coming, to understand why, and to deal with it when it does happen.

  3. Not So NewReader*

    For OP#1. Well said Alison, thank you for standing up for what is right. Other writers on other sites have mentioned her firing as a preemptive strike because she could sue for harassment. (Another writer pointed out she still could sue.) Hopefully, the lady realizes a lot of people know she got a bad deal. Like you said, be glad to be shed of this situation and move on.
    I am betting this case will make people LESS hesitant to file a sexual harassment complaint. They are seeing what happens if they don’t.
    Anyway- thanks for adding the voice of reason to the whole matter, Alison!

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think she could have sued under the EEOC anyway–the dentist’s workplace is too small to be covered under the federal law. I suspect that might be why she went this route.

      It’s still an idiotic finding.

    2. jmkenrick*

      Actually, I read that she didn’t file sexual harassment because she wasn’t upset with the way her boss was treating her – she didn’t feel it was inappropriate – she just didn’t feel that she should have been fired over it.

      Apparently he was advised to fire her by his pastor, who thought the woman was a threat to his marriage. Some people are truly baffling to me.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I hope the dentist can find a space on this planet where he does not feel “tempted”. Where ever that space may be…. Meanwhile, I wonder how he plans to hire people in the future. Perhaps he should screen patients, too. For me, the “ick factor” alone would motivate me to find another doctor.

      2. Kim*

        My understanding is that she was fired because his wife wanted her fired… In which case, while still being a crappy reason, would not have been harassment or discrimination at all.

  4. Zahra*

    #4: Is cutting back (or temporarily) on volunteering a feasible option? It seems like you’re pulling 90+ hours a week between school, work, internship and volunteering. At this point, every hour counts, even cutting back to 80 hours could mean a whole lot for you. Also, you may have to tell your family that you can’t come over as often for dinner or whatever if it’s too big a drain on you. Tell them it’s temporary and that you’ll be more available as soon as the internship ends or it transforms into a paid position. My aunt and I went back to school in the past few years (not at the same time) and we both told our family that we’d be less available for a year or so until we finished. Everyone was understanding and celebrated with my aunt when she was done (I’ll be done in January, hopefully).

  5. Katie the Fed*

    Regarding #3 (Nepotism) – although it’s small consolation, please understand that it’s just as frustrating for the hiring managers when corporate policy changes prevent them from hiring their top candidates too. Or in my case, all of the bureaucratic delays to bringing someone on often mean that our top candidates find other jobs. It’s frustrating for the managers too – we WANT good people and certainly wouldn’t waste our time for the fun of it.

  6. R*

    I am the OP of #4. Alison, thank you for posting my question.
    I am NON-stop… thanks for the feedback Zahra. It’s true, I am a wreck.. and my grades this semester were mere B’s… which aren’t bad, but I’m not impressed with my performance. The nice thing about this unpaid internship is I feel it can open A LOT of doors for me if I play my cards right. I have a background in human exercise physiology, so working in the dept. I am is a step in the right direction. Both the director of the dept. and the research director mentioned paid positions, and it seems my new lab director isn’t put off by the idea. Obviously I feel this unpaid internship is a probationary period, having proven myself by holding a job in a jobless economy, standing firm in school (For another MS degree), AND having been published multiple times. I have an HR person from another major medical teaching hospital keeping in contact with me because she believes I would make a great candidate. The two jobs she set me up with, I was beat out by an internal candidate. She informed me I was one of the top 3 candidates among a small pool of potentials, within a large applicant pool.

    Alison, I definitely appreciate your advice. I just want to make it clear, I am not disgruntled, I am not upset… I know what I got myself into, but the fact that the word “paid” was dropped, I want to see if I can continue to pursue this option. The nice thing about this internship is it’s at my own hours (per diem), so it helps.

    Thanks guys & Merry Christmas!!!

    In a tough economy, I’m doing everything *I* can for myself to move forward. It’s definitely a plus to have a very supportive family, girlfriend, and friends. I’m seeing people hurting, big time… and I’m in a major metropolitan city in the Northeast.

    Blessings to you all :)

    1. Anonymous*

      It takes a lot more than 2 weeks to prove yourself.

      I had an intern who was paid a tiny stipend. Just shy of the end of the 3 month internship she set up and meeting with me and said, is there anyway I can make this permanent and make it pay. At THAT point she’d proven herself (and with a lot of work on her part we got her a part time paid spot, it wasn’t full time but it was enough and it paid better than her coffee shop type job).

      Don’t think you’ve shown everything you have to show at 2 weeks, if you have you didn’t have much to show. Give it time. And don’t be bitter about it. Because the post came off that way too.

  7. N.*

    As for # 1 likely a jackass would have treated this woman better Heaven knows a pack animal is far more useful than this dentist, whom I hope is boycotted (will have nightmares about having this dentist’s boner at eye level while stuck in the chair from pretty much this day forward). My question is how do you deal with it in an interview in the future? Yes a sane employer would be happy to have you maybe, but besides this woman and the publicity she received, how in the world do you explain something like this without making it sound like the grandaddyiest of all Whoppers? I have gotten a look of disbelief and thinly veiled contempt, when talking about something as innocuous as the number of volcanoes I have seen… how do you say you were fired because your jack wagon boss decided the fact you live and breathe was a threat to his/her marriage? The higher the position the more scrutiny; I hope this woman isn’t doomed, because something like this, even if there was no wrong-doing on her part, may bring her conduct into question. What do you do when down playing means you have something to hide, and being frank means you are confrontational? I know too many people who will smile and nod, while scrawling a big fat NO on her application…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There might be a better way to handle it than this, but if I were her, I think when asked why I left that job, I’d say, “My manager and his wife met with their pastor and decided he shouldn’t have a woman in the position.” That’s all you’d really need to say — it’s so outrageous that by simply being factual and concise about it, you’ll get the point across without going into details. (And yes, it’s not just that she was a woman — it’s that she was an attractive woman — but I wouldn’t feel like giving credence to such stupidity and would simply stop at “woman.”)

      I’d also think this will only be an issue until she gets her next job, after which it shouldn’t come up as much in the future.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I would like to think that people see the situation as it really is and some good person will offer her a job.

      In one interview I had just recently, I named a previous employer. My interviewer said “OH. I know about that place. You do not need to explain anything.” I smiled and nodded slightly. The conversation moved forward without any further discussion of Past Employer. Some people “get it.”

  8. danr*

    #5… Yes, you will get another job. However, you do have a full time job with benefits, so take advantage of what you have. I did the same thing for my first job. I lived at home and paid a small amount of rent, then banked about 90% of what was left. After one year I thought I may have made the wrong choice and after three years I knew I needed to do something else and I knew I could pay for more education. I got what I needed, had more jobs in my new role, and after a few bumps in the road never looked back.
    Give yourself some time. Set up a savings plan and start looking.

  9. moe*

    #1: I think the media has really mischaracterized this case; it’s not at all that she was a beautiful woman, to my reading. The court only answered the question of whether an employee can be fired due to the nature of a personal relationship in which gender is “a” factor (in the sense that romantic relationships do involve gender), but not “the” motivating reason for the firing.

    It’s much narrower than what the media has been reporting, and the court noted circumstances in which someone could be fired due to attraction and it would be unlawful discrimination.

    The decision is pretty interesting and not a difficult read:

  10. Liz*

    RE: #3. I would rather work for a company that has a nepotism policy than where I work now! We have the reverse policy I think, haha. Even though our jobs require skills and training, I am starting to think that the hiring is done by only hiring people the management know and like, even if they don’t have the skills, training, experience, a degree in the field, or any related experience. Being someone who has to work with one of these hires and knowing that she is untouchable makes for long stressful days.

  11. Soni*

    Allison, re: #1: She didn’t win on sexual harassment because she didn’t sue on sexual harassment. For some reason (probably to do with issues we know nothing about, although speculation seems to be at least some damning degree of reciprocation however small) she thought she had a better case for and opted to sue for gender discrimination instead, claiming that she wouldn’t have been fired if she had been equally attractive and male. The judge ruled (correctly or otherwise) that her gender was not the primary reason she was fired, so she lost. In all senses, her boss was an ass and his wife is an idiot if she thinks getting rid of a single chicken will cure her fox-in-the-henhouse problem. But legally speaking, the verdict was most likely legally correct. She was fired for attracting her bosses sexual attentions (and possibly flirting back, although as I said this is mostly speculation), but although her gender was clearly a significant factor in the attraction that did get her fired, it was not the sole or primary reason she was fired absent other issues.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Interesting. It’s hard for me to understand the court’s reasoning that her gender wasn’t a primary factor, since (based on what I’ve seen reported) if she were male but nothing else were different about the situation, she wouldn’t have been fired for the reason she was fired. To me, that seems like the essence of sex discrimination, but perhaps I’m missing details that the court had.

      1. Soni*

        I think their thinking was that whatever reason she was fired for, it wasn’t specifically “because she’s a woman.” If the boss had been gay/bi, the same situation could have developed with a man and the man would likely have been fired, too. So it wasn’t specifically about gender in an “if the boss had been gay and she had been male, this never would have happened because a male employee would not have been fired” kinda way.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But if the boss refused to hire any women because they’d be a threat to his marriage, that would clearly be illegal sex discrimination. But I see what you’re saying.

          1. Shawn*

            Right, but the guy refilled her position with another woman so I believe that’s how he got around it.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I read through Moe’s link- which was very helpful. It looks like the court would have felt differently IF the wife had a habit of complaining about female workers and the doctor had a habit of firing them. Because this was a one of a kind event- the court addressed it in this manner.
        I was surprised by the number of previous cases that were considered in this case.

        I think my dismay is because the doctor seems to have caused the problem and she is the one who is “punished”. He does not have to learn to “control” himself but she can go without a paycheck.

        We don’t know what goes on behind close doors. It could be the attorney advised the couple never to bring up such a case again.
        “You won this time. Next time may not go so well for you.”

        I wondered how the court would feel if the doctor were female and lesbian. Would the court come to the same conclusion….

        (As a wife, if I had to go to court like this to get my husband to stick to his marriage vows, I would think that my marriage is in trouble. No court ruling is going to fix the root cause of that problem. Only my husband and I could fix that one.)

        1. Anonymous*

          That has always been my feeling too–if I feel insecure about my partner being “tempted”, then there’s an issue with *our* relationship I need to address rather than just getting paranoid about everyone else.

  12. Rixter*

    Regarding #5 and connecting with interviewers on LinkedIn. Maybe a good indicator may be how many connections the person has. If an interviewers is a prolific ‘connector’ adding another might be appreciated. On the other hand somebody who doesn’t have a lot of connections might be more cautious about who they connect with.

  13. Grapefruit*

    #1.. It’s slightly ironic to me that whlie I worry about not being attractive enough for a job, someone can be fired for it. I feel awful for her–I know how difficult it can be to land a decent job, and to be fired over something you can’t really control IS harsh. I just can’t imagine what went through the mind of the wife who takes her issues out on others (because that’s basically what it is, she was jealous and insecure and instead of working on it with her husband, she was involved in someone losing their job). I know this is a work blog so my comment may be slightly off topic but what a witch….I hate when someone proves the “women are each others’ worst enemies” line true.

    I hope that this publicity doesn’t ruin her chances of finding employment in any way.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is the employer’s responsibility, not his wife’s. She may have been jealous, but healthy spouses don’t allow their spouses’ jealousy to dictate their professional decisions!

      Women aren’t each other’s worst enemies any more than men are. It’s not a gender war.

  14. ARM2008*

    I actually kind of understand why the dds fired the assistant. If I have baked goods in the house I eat them. I might resist for an hour or a day, but in the end I eat them. My only recourse is to not have baked goods in the house, which is the approach I take when I live alone.

    The dds and his wife felt that it was necessary to get the assistant out. He may be skeezy, but isn’t that his right since he owns the business? They could have been a bit more subtle and caring about it by giving her an extended notice and helping her find a different position. If she’s in an employment at-will state it would make more sense for them to not have said anything about the why – really, sometimes it just makes more sense to not explain yourself.

    I keep thinking about what if the dds had a male assistant he was attracted to and his wife wanted him fired. Gender was not necessarily the primary factor – that attraction was.

    1. Zahra*

      Yeah, but who hired this assistant? It seems it would be him or his wife, right? In that case, they brought the baked goods in the house and then said “oops, we have to fire you because you’re too tempting.” Puh-lease. It is absolutely his right to fire anyone for any (legal) reason, but, also, as others have said above, if my marriage depended on firing an attractive assistant, it would be in so much trouble that I’m not sure it would be salvageable.

        1. Forrest*

          It also implies that the assistant is seducing the man or she’s going to be violated against her will.

          Either one is not fair or apporiate towards this situation (as far as we know.)

      1. ARM2008*

        I don’t know the guy, but I suspect that he and his wife deserve each other :-) Please don’t suggest they separate and inflict these 2 onto other (mostly) innocent people.

    2. Kelly*

      I read a couple stories online about this case and it really sounds as though the wife and the pastor egged the dentist on to fire the woman. I think the woman got bad advice on suing for gender discrimination instead of sexual harassment, which contributed to her termination. I’m with the woman – it would be horrible to work in an environment where the wife of your boss has a say in personnel decisions. She’s his wife, not a member of HR or another person involved in the business.

      It would be worse if the wife was unable to trust her husband to behave in a respectful and professional manner with his female employees and colleagues. If she really thinks that he’s cheating on her with his female employees, she needs to go to therapy with her husband to discuss trust issues in their marriage. Also, she needs to quit interfering in his business if her name isn’t on any of the paperwork or records.

    3. Anon*

      I thought this comment was satire, but now realize you aren’t kidding. As a feminist, I have higher expectations of men than as some kind of knuckle-dragging cavemen who can’t control themselves around women.

    4. Lisa*

      This woman worked there for 10 years before it became an issue. For 10 years, the dentist was able to ‘prevent’ the inevitable affair. In theory wasn’t she more attractive 10 years ago than now? Or is the wife looking like crap now, which means her a-hole husband is more likely to think he can just look at his assistant and she’ll instantly start stripping for him. I really hope this town makes him suffer with ridicule for a) thinking he is so irresistible, b) whipped by his wife, c) an ass for firing someone to save his clearly failing marriage, d) for being a moron

      1. Anon*

        I’m much hotter now than I was 10 yrs ago, and I’m on the wrong side of 35. Just sayin’. On top of all the other crap we have to deal with as women, let’s not perpetuate ageism on top of it.

  15. Elizabeth West*

    Re #5
    I feel the same way. There’s no way now I can make what I was making, I have no other income in my household to carry the load (strangers living my house aren’t an option), and I just don’t want to do it anymore. Maybe another round of school will help, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because I still come home to an empty house every day so it all means NOTHING.

    Whatever. Merry Christmas everyone!

      1. Anonymous*

        Maybe, over the long run, consider moving to another part of the country? Not easy, but perhaps? Or at least keep eyes open to that.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Night time is never a good time to ponder the meaning of life or one’s purpose here on earth. Likewise, certian days of the year are not good to think about these things- such as Christmas day.
        My house suddenly became empty a few years ago. (Long story.) I have “no fly zones”, times of day and days of the year where I just do not allow myself not to ponder the big picture. Not only is it not productive but it is also the road to nowhere. It could be that on a different day answers will be more apparent. It could be that something happens tomorrow that changes things. Anyway- sometimes we just have to grant ourselves a mental break. It’s a gift to ourselves.

        1. Katie in Ed*

          Agreed. I didn’t come from a particularly holiday festive family, but ever since my mother passed, I get unexpected bouts of depression around Christmas. The first round after her death was particularly overwhelming, confusing, and painful, and I just couldn’t see my way out of it. I didn’t realize at the time that the season pitched up my feelings so much.

          I wonder sometimes, Elizabeth, if perhaps you feel similarly. I don’t know much about you aside from the comments I catch on here, but I am sorry that you are suffering. I won’t tell you to try and stay positive, because I imagine that must feel pretty impossible right now, so just know that you are not alone, that not everyone is high on sleigh bells and mistletoe this December, and it’s okay to feel hurt, confused, and disoriented when your life gets turned upside down.

    1. Rana*

      *offers Tray of Comforting Things*

      However empty your house, know that there are people here who care about you. (((hug)))

    2. EM*

      I’m really sorry you’re feeling down, Elizabeth. There are people out there who care, even if you’ve never met them.

    3. Job seeker*

      I am sorry you are having a hard time. You know, a new year is coming and you never know what wonderful things could be around this corner. I am believing this. I don’t know if you have any little pets ( I have two sweet little dogs). They make a house very welcoming. Remember, the saying tomorrow is another day. Keep holding on. Things have a way of changing for the good. This time of year can be tough for a lot of people. I hope you are OK.

    4. Long Time Admin*

      Elizabeth, I can really identify with what you’re saying. FTR, I’m single, 64, and live alone with 2 dogs to support. If I lose my job, I’ll be in deep doo-doo. I couldn’t live on unemployment, I don’t have enough money to retire, and I really don’t think anyone would hire me, considering my age. My future doesn’t look any too bright, and I also would not rent out the spare room to a stranger.

      If you want to “talk”, email me any time (

      1. Long Time Admin*

        Plus, my best and only friend is moving 800 miles away. I won’t even be able to visit her because of the expense.

        1. Job seeker*

          I don’t know you but you sound like a very nice person. I understand how hard it would be to live alone. I haven’t ever lived alone, I am married and not an empty nester. I have had to start over and pick up and move because of my husband’s career before. I have had to go to places I knew no-one and start again. Try to join a bible study for women, a book club or exercise class. Try to volunteer somewhere where someone is in need. These are excellent places to meet new people and new friends. I know it is hard.

    5. Dog Mom*

      Try to stay positive; I know it’s hard. You seem to mention having interviews frequently, and that is one step a lot of people don’t reach. You will find something! Hope it comes in the new year.

  16. Michelle*

    I agree with the court’s ruling.
    The court brief (via Moe’s link) acknowledges that the hygenist may have been treated unfairly. It distinguishes between unfair and illegal. The court was not asked to decide how this situation could have been handled better, but whether it was illegal for an employer to fire an employee whose specific relationship was a threat to his marriage.
    Myself, I think the dentist is a harasser. His pastor behaved like an ass. He and his wife behaved like childish jerks. And what’s with the hygenist saying she had no concerns about her boss texting her about how many orgasms she has?
    If it’s true that the hygenist thought of her boss as a father figure, then did she delude herself into ignoring the need to recognize and address a brewing problem when the guy started behaving inappropriately? (This hygenist is reminding me of the recent post by a woman who didn’t want her boss to expect romance from her, but she wanted to keep accepting his presents–not seeing the overall situation because of wishful thinking?)
    Wouldn’t the classy thing for everyone to have done be 1) wife and hubby seek counselling 2) if it didn’t work, express sorrow for unfortunate situation and ask employee to accept their help finding a new job? Or is that still icky?…?
    btw, do you ever get a day off Alison? Merry December 25th!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m Jewish, so aside from the traditional Jewish Christmas celebration (Chinese and a movie, which are the official activities of all Jews on December 25 as those are the only things open), there’s very little to do today!

      Anyway … Maybe if they paid her an enormous amount of severance too, in recognition that it was their extremely ridiculous behavior that caused the problem.

      1. -X-*

        Not Jewish but the Chinese food on December 25 thing has become a family tradition for us, so did that too.

      2. KarenT*

        After over 10 years of employment she was given one month’s pay as severance. The court ruling called it ungenerous.

  17. Anonymous*

    For #3, nepotism, as someone who suffers from the ongoing poor decision making of senior management due to the decision to hire the child of the group leader (who supervises the child’s supervisor) and to be told I have to bend over backwards to accommodate that child to the point that either the project is jeopardized or my job is, I find much to applaud in strong anti-nepotism policies that are strictly enforced. Don’t underestimate how disruptive nepotism can be particularly when there is a lack of professionalism in addition to having a child supervised (in actuality) by the parent.

  18. Kou*

    On the subject of bizarre hair-splitting in discrimination suits, did you hear about the case earlier this year where a judge ruled in favor of an employer on the grounds that lactation is unrelated to pregnancy? A woman who’d recently given birth was fired after requesting to pump at work, and the judge ruled against her using this logic:

    “Even if the company’s claim that she was fired for abandonment is meant to hide the real reason – she wanted to pump breast milk – lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. She gave birth on Dec. 11, 2009. After that day, she was no longer pregnant and her pregnancy-related conditions ended. Firing someone because of lactation or breast-pumping is not sex discrimination”

    1. Not So NewReader*

      She got fired for asking a question?
      What happened to just saying “No”?
      (She indicated that they might say no and she seemed prepared for that response.)
      I don’t think the court intended to infer employees cannot ask questions at work… but it seems that the court just did that very thing.

      1. fposte*

        Theoretically, they’re not allowed to say no. I’m troubled to realize that the law left a loophole allowing companies to fire people rather than obey the law, and I hope the EEOC does appeal this one.

  19. Pretty Ugly*

    Okay so about Question #1, exactly what happens in the USA if the exact opposite happens, if someone (especially a woman) gets fired for being “ugly-looking” as opposed to being “attractive”??? Can a company and/or boss flat-out tell someone that “You’re fired because you’re ugly-looking”??? Is it a company’s and/or boss’s legal right to even do that to someone??? Even if that someone doesn’t even work face-to-face with the public ???

  20. bradamante*

    I’m confused by #4. It sounds like you are maybe in a pre-med MS (I’m guessing maybe the biomedical sciences program at Tufts) where you may not be getting funding or opportunities for research. Are other people in your program doing unpaid internships in labs affiliated with other institutions? Any advice from your professors? There have got to be other people in the program who’ve had this issue.

    I think Alison’s advice is right, although it’s not the only time she has had to tell someone “you took an internship and that does not guarantee you a job.” Whether you stay there or not, that may be med-school applicant specific and not something she can advise on from outside that field.

  21. Cruciatus*

    #5 I’m in the same boat as you. I asked a question in an open thread months ago about how long it took people to get to a job that paid what they felt they deserved and gave them financial independence (the conversation got somewhat off track so I didn’t learn much about other peoples’ experiences). I’m 31, live at home, and only have about 4 full years of any work experience at all. Currently I work in a small library making just over $8.00 an hour, but it is full-time, with benefits, and I like the people I work with. Oh, but my hours are 2nd shift, including over the weekends–with no rotations). I have a Master’s degree in sociology that hasn’t helped me at all (at least that I know of). I admit I don’t know what I want to do yet, but I recently applied for an administrative position within my company and got the position. It’s normal hours, (slightly) better pay, and more responsibilities. This isn’t where I saw myself at all (I remember in high school they always said “just go to college and basically your life afterwards will be amazing.” Lies!)–but then I still don’t know what I want to do so I’m not sure what to work towards–maybe you do which will be immensely helpful. I wasn’t having any luck getting positions in outside companies–and I would have chosen to leave my current workplace if possible. But the best way for me to move up was within the company when this position became available–and at least things are slowly getting better. I’ll still have to live at home for a while (and it’s not because I’m spending all my money on gadgets or Starbucks or things like that). Hopefully I’ll start to figure out what I’m interested in, but I figure having administrative skills won’t hurt for the future. So…it is taking some time…and I’m impatient and wish I had it all together right now. But bit by bit things are getting better. Work on building up your experience and reputation, be nice and listen to everyone because you never know who has that connection at XYZ company you’re looking for (I swear half of the women here have husbands who work at GE, which is a very coveted company to work for in my area), and just try to be patient. And do everything Alison said, as applicable. It’s hard out there right now…but maybe it helps to know there are other people out there in the same boat. Not having the job you want is (probably) nothing personal against you or even about you at all. It’s just that, especially in this economic climate, there are other people with that experience snatching up the jobs we’d like. But with time, we’ll get to be those people! When the woman who will replace me was officially hired, I felt a little bit better about where I stood on the job ladder–there was someone else who’d be starting in my (let’s admit it, lowly) position while I finally had gained enough experience to move on to a better job. One day that’ll be you! And step by step we’ll get higher on the ladder.

    1. Veronica*

      Hi Cruciatus,

      I know you said that you have a masters in Sociology, but don’t really know what you want to do with it. I was in the same boat, except with a bachelors and realized that our major really doesn’t provide us with career advice. I’ve started working in public policy research (which I love!), but there really are so many options for Sociologists. I don’t know where you live, but this site ( seems to have a lot of good ideas/resources for social science jobs. I hope it helps. Good luck!

  22. Chaucer*

    I can totally relate to #5, except you’re more fortunate than me in that you at least have a full time job. I am currently working part-time retail, despite having a degree, and the holiday season has been stretching my patience to the absolute limit. Know that you are not alone in this scenario, and there are ubiquitous amounts of stories like your concerning college grads who can’t get into the professional fields that they want. I am still holding on to hope, however, that I won’t be stuck in that job forever, and that the effort I put into this job will translate into a good professional reference. For as discouraging as working retail after college is, I am trying to get as much out of it as possible.

    While it does suck to be in my mid 20s and still living at home, I am so grateful to have my family provide me with a home until I catch my big break. As dark and depressing as being underemployed is, try to look on the bright side in that you have a place you can sleep comfortably in. That’s what I am grateful for this Christmas.

  23. #5 Original poster*

    A big thank you to Alison and the commentors for replying. I guess I have a lot of thinking and planning to do in order to get that better job. And, yes, I am trying to be grateful, knowing that there are many who have it worse than me. But there are also people my age and younger who do have decent paying jobs and doing what they want to do, so I would be lying if I said that it didn’t really suck.

    1. Cruciatus*

      Oh believe me, I know! I have friends who struggled for months (not years!) to get a job and they’ve been there for 6, 7, 8 years now. They’re doing “real” stuff, have “real” money, and I’m about to become an administrative assistant (nothing wrong with that, just so far from my degree) for $10 an hour. Not all of them knew what they wanted to be either, but they just kind of fell into something and loved it (or at least tolerate it). But I try to use my envy for good (and sometimes I’m just straight up jealous). But the envy helps me think about what it is I’m envious about, would I really be happy if I had whatever they had? It means I do want more and is a form of motivation for me. And maybe there’s something that completely sucks about their job that I’m glad I don’t have to put up with (one guy has a an hour and a half commute–no thanks!) So, I hear you–it does suck. And I do have mini pity parties once in a while, but mostly they aren’t helpful. I’m not always grateful for being employed full-time, which I’m sure an unemployed person would find annoying–but I always thought getting *the* job would be so much easier (again, like they told me it was in high school)… But if you keep your eyes and ears open, you may just find your next step. Good luck to you!

    2. Michael*

      If one of my employees was feeling like this, I’d really enjoy it if she brought it up during a check-in by saying something like, “I feel as though I’m on top of my workload right now, and I really enjoy X kind of work, so do you think there might be a new project I could take on in that direction?” If there’s even one thing you like doing there, mention it. And if you really don’t like anything, is there a skill you could hone that you know would be helpful in your next job?

    3. Chaucer*

      Oh, it absolutely does suck. I feel that way too at times, and as ashamed as I am to admit this, sometimes I feel downright jealous of those who were fortunate enough to obtain gainful employment and those who post pictures from their awesome jobs while I’m slogging away at my retail gig. I think it’s normal to feel that way. But, for as many people that are on my facebook page who have those “good” jobs, there are just as many who are lamenting about being underemployed or completely unemployed even with a degree. It’s far easier to look with envy at the people who have the things we want than it is to relate with those who are also struggling alongside us.

      As I continue my search, one of the best things not related to my job search that I have done, and I highly, highly recommend for those suffering from job search frustration, was getting a membership to a boxing gym. The place is small, stuffy, hot and spartan, but I love it. When I feel my frustration boiling over recruiters who show tons of interest and then disappear, hiring managers who drop off the face of the earth after an interview, people who try to lure you with shady “opportunities” masquerading as jobs, my useless Career Center and Alumni Association, and rude and entitled customers, I change into my gym gear, wrap my hands, put the gloves on and pummel the bags for a good hour or two. You don’t want to risk venting out your frustrations by burning bridges, so this in my mind is one of the best things you can do. Plus, you’ll get a great workout, and the physical exertion will help you focus on more mental tasks.

      I admit, sometimes I feel just plain defeated when I receive no new messages on my inbox or LinkedIn profile, receive a rejection or when I simply punch in to work. But, I take solace in that fact that THIS TOO WILL PASS, and eventually if I keep grinding away, something will pop up. It too will happen to you as well, so long as you keep grinding and keep applying the proper advice that reputable people like Alison give. And remember, never, EVER forget that you’re not the only one going through this.

  24. Girasol*

    Re: #5: I also finished school at a time when no one wanted a college grad. I took minimum wage jobs to keep a roof over my head and then a horrible job with a personnel agency (sort of like a recruiter but serious hard-sell, cold-call sales.) It was kinda slimy and, as you say, so unlike me in character. After all those years of school counselors telling me how important a diploma was, I felt betrayed. But it was just as AAM says: times changed and things got better. I didn’t get the job I deserved; I got a better one. And everything I had to do to get by in those years taught me something I’ve used since. It all balanced out in the end. May it be so for you and all the others like you who are struggling through such an inopportune time.

  25. Maria*

    #4, I have to say we had an intern situation like this and it was very frustrating to us. The difference was this intern was PAID, and from the outset was told if the situation worked out and financially the company was able to we might be able to consider making a longer-term position, but my husband felt he’d been clear that from the outset it was an internship and he’d have to see how it went. The intern proceeded to ask weekly about when the position would turn into a full-time position, from week #1. However, this intern also did not impress, often changing the schedule at 10 PM or falling asleep in a meeting (!). He seemed surprised when at the end of the internship he wasn’t extended a job. This to me brought up a couple of important issues: 1. It was explained what the position was from the outset and that if everything fell into place maybe it could turn into something more, but that wasn’t guaranteed from the outset. The intern obviously thought more of that “maybe” scenario. 2. The intern failed to impress at the job. Even if financially business had allowed us to hire someone full-time, it would not have been him. He was obviously more concerned about landing the job (by asking us every week) rather than demonstrating any value to our company.
    We’ve run into a few other small businesses that have had similar intern or entry level employee situations, where it’s clear that getting the internship or job was more important than showing your worth as an employee. I would suggest you focus on really doing a great job, and of course if something opens up they’ll be more likely to consider you. I recently just had this happen. I was trying to transition into another industry, and had to take an unpaid internship to do that. After two months of doing a good job there, when a position opened in another department two of my superiors encouraged me to apply, and I got the job. I did not ask for a job every day, by virtue of it being unpaid they knew I needed a job, and I treated it like a paid job.
    I do ultimately agree with Alison here, mention it once that you’d love to work there if something opened up, and then drop it. I’m not sure I’d do it two weeks in, though. It definitely rubbed us the wrong way that our intern immediately started asking at week 1 before we even really knew him.

  26. R*

    Hey, to those who did respond (I know this attractive female employee being terminated is making headlines)…

    and to OP#5, I can sort of relate… and to a few individuals who did reply.

    I am in this position, and I only mentioned this turning into a paid position once. I have volunteered my time, so the lab director told me he feels bad if I came in on weekends or on holidays (but honestly, it’s the only free time I have). I havent’ really much spoke more of compensation other than getting a commuter pass at a reduced rate… and I was told I may be eligible for one, so I shut up :)

    I’m going in this afternoon for an hour or so, and then again tomorrow….

    I definitely see this internship as a tremendous opportunity. In a world, that I feel, is jobless. I cannot be the only one in this position. I’m in my mid 20’s, 2 degrees, working on a third, so far in debt thanks to all this education… making 9/hour… I do get some nice benefits from my employer (part time @ full time hours) and I’m considered one of the best employees/reliable/good at what I do.

    The fact I have this “job”, albeit part time… my internship… school still, makes me feel like I shouldn’t be complaining. I’ve worked hard, though… at my mid-20’s, I was hoping to be making at least 33-37k/ year already…

    I only get 2k in loans / semester because I already have 2 degrees… and it’s impossible to get private loans. My family is wealthy, they’re comfortable (and god should bless them they stay that way, or better)… I try not to ask for handouts from them. All I know is, like many of you, I have a significant education in my respective field… now I am hoping it pays off sooner rather than later.

    To the person who mentioned Tufts MBS, were you in a similar situation?

    thanks guys!!!!

    1. bradamante*

      I was not there myself, but for a different reason I did my basic sciences in a continuing-ed program that was primarily post-bac pre-meds, so I had a lot of friends in that situation. I also know someone with not-so-stellar undergrad grades that managed to build a case for med school admission on lab work.

      That being said, I have to say that I suspect you are here on the Ask A Manager site for some positive reinforcement while considering a change of direction. In the AAM scheme of things, you’re doing a great job of acting like a grownup–holding down a steady job, keeping your volunteer commitments, networking, impressing possible references, improving your skills, doing your best not to rely on parents. Sounds like you even have a steady GF willing to stick with you through all of this. Great job. I would hire you in a minute if I could.

      That’s the real world, now the pre-med world . . . I’ve always thought the entire point of pre-med was to insure that no one got into the profession who couldn’t follow directions. OK here’s the directions: Med school= GPA + MCAT + volunteering + research. So your grades are slipping, your folks have the money, and you’re working in a coffee shop? I am wondering if you are not really a clinically-oriented person and may be heading in a different direction.

  27. Anonymous*

    # 2
    It is mandatory that you pay for/enroll in disability, accidental death, life insurance, etc? Insurances are usually voluntary, so I’m sure you could question this. However, just an FYI these insurances are all pretty inexpensive depending on how much coverage you elect, so this wouldn’t make up a big portion of the bill you are being given. The majority of the cost is likely the medical and dental portion you are being asked to pay, as these benefits are incredibly expensive— especially medical insurance. And, sadly, each year these rates continue to increase which is likely forcing your employer to make this change.
    I know it sucks when big changes are brought on like this unexpectedly… this same sort of thing happened with my husband’s benefits… but consider yourself lucky. That is still a tiny amount of money they are requiring you to pay compared to most other companies… $28.85 dollars a week for all of the insurances you listed is very hard to come by elsewhere!

    1. Lynne*

      Not sure if you noticed this in the comments, but the OP is in Canada; that’s *extended* health insurance s/he is talking about, which covers things not paid for by the province (like dental care and prescription drugs). So it’s going to be cheaper than health insurance that covers things like hospitalizations. All of which is to say that while it sounds reasonable, it doesn’t sound incredibly cheap to me, as a Canadian.

      (It’s mandatory in my workplace too, I will note. Possibly you can opt out entirely if you already have coverage through your spouse; I don’t.)

Comments are closed.