wee answer Wednesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Company gave new employees invasive “personality test”

Recently we hired some new employees at my office. Some of these employees were placed under my supervision, and while I was talking to them, they told me that our HR manager had them take a personality test. I do work with a lot of psychiatrists and psychologists, so we all like to observe people, but I do not feel this personality quiz was okay. None of the questions that were asked pertained to our jobs. For example, “do you prefer sex with a man or a woman?” “Do you support same sex marriage?” “Are you sexually active?” “Do you support abortion?” And many, many more.

I am currently studying law, and from my understanding, these questions are not allowed in the workplace. Are these allowed? The way I see it is, if someone gets fired after this, then they can claim that based on those questions, we discriminated and therefore, that person was let go. But, again, I think a little differently then the rest.

It’s not illegal to ask questions like that in the workplace, although it would be illegal to discriminate based on any answers that related to people’s race, religion, sex, national origin, or other protected class. However, despite being legal, it’s incredibly stupid and irrelevant to the work, and I can’t imagine why your workplace — and HR, no less — thinks it was in any way appropriate. Why don’t you go talk to HR, express your strong opposition to employees being asked such invasive and irrelevant questions, and find out why the hell they’re doing it?

2. Do I have to tell my upcoming new job that my old job just laid me off?

I just accepted a new job. Before I could give my notice to my old job, I got restructured along with half of my department. So not only do I get severance, but I get a vacation before I start my new job.

Do you think I should tell my new employer? I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks off to relax before I start, so I don’t really want to move my start date up and I don’t want them to misread the layoff and use it as an excuse to back out of my hire. Is it okay to just not mention it?

Sure, it’s fine not to mention it. You were employed when you interviewed and didn’t know you were going to be laid off, so you didn’t misrepresent anything, and it’s not especially relevant to them now. Congratulations on the good timing!

3. Can I decline to serve as a reference for my coworker?

I’ve held my current job for 12 years. An acquaintance is applying to a position at my workplace and has asked if he can use me as an employee referral.

The first issue is that I have no way of knowing whether he’s in any way qualified or experienced in the position for which he’s applying, but I realize that that’s our hiring manager’s problem. The second issue is that he has a very offputting mannerism. Specifically, he holds a very intense eye contact with whoever he’s speaking to, whether he’s speaking or listening to the other person speak. It’s well beyond the social norms of ordinary conversational eye-contact timing.

Based on almost 20 years of acquaintance with him, I know it’s not a cultural difference and I’m pretty sure it’s not indicative of any kind of vision problem. And he’s not noticeably socially inept or inappropriate in any other way. He’s a little formal and reserved, but certainly completely functional in social and professional situations. However, this one mannerism has caused many people of our mutual acquaintance to visibly and obviously avoid him. The job for which he’s applying is as a college admissions recruiter, in which his primary role would be to meet with potential students and their parents and attract them to our college.

Given that I have no way to comment on his qualification for the job on a professional basis, and that the only personal recommendation I could give him could not be given in good faith if I didn’t mention this problem, am I justified in telling him politely that I’m not able to serve as an employee referral? I genuinely think he’d be disastrous in this job.

Sure. You can always decline to serve as a reference for anyone if you don’t think you can recommend them in good faith, and it’s kinder to tell them so that they can find someone else, rather than to let them offer your name and them doom them with a lukewarm or worse reference. In this case, you have an easy out — you can tell him that you don’t feel you know his work well enough to provide a useful reference.

But it would be a huge service to him if someone would give him some feedback about the eye contact thing. Maybe you could use this as impetus to speak to his manager and suggest she coach him on it if you don’t feel it’s your place to do it (which sounds likely)?

4. Sleeveless tops in the workplace

I work in a fairly casual office. I recently bought a slew of cap-sleeve and sleeveless dresses for the summer, but realized I might not be able to wear them to my office. My colleagues who are my peers (early 20-ish women) occasionally wear sleeveless tops with dress pants to the office. What are the rules for sleeveless tops and dresses for women in the workforce? I’m not asking about tank tops, but arms showing. Any tips?

It varies by office, of course, but generally speaking, avoid visible armpits in the office — which means no sleeveless tops without something over them. Some cap sleeves are fine, but I’d still invoke the no visible armpit rule — so check what happens when you raise your arms over your head while wearing those shirts; if your armpit stays covered, you’re probably fine. If it doesn’t, you are In Violation and must wear something on top of it.

5. Should my company send my sick coworker home?

If my coworker comes in sick and is contagious with what she claims is strep throat, does the HR department have an obligation to the rest of the employees to send her home until she has a doctor’s note to return? My coworker is coughing and wheezing and clearing her throat and blowing her nose and sneezing all over the place. She then tells the story of how she got sick from her niece who went to the emergency room with strep throat the day before. She has told the story more than once in the last two days and goes on to tell everyone that she just can’t miss work.

I asked my HR manager, and he said there is nothing he can do to make her go home. I was under the impression that if a person is contagious, they most certainly can be asked to go home until they are cleared by a doctor. They did that to me when they thought my cough sounded like whooping cough 2 years ago. If he can’t force her to get a doctor’s clearance, what are my rights because they did force me to stay out 3 days waiting for lab work and there was absolutely nothing wrong with me except a severe cold. I lost 3 days pay.

Your company doesn’t have a legal obligation to send contagious workers home, but smart companies will — because it’s not fair or good business to have other people infected. Still, though, most companies leave it to employees’ discretion whether they come in or not, which it sounds like yours is doing. Why not ask her yourself not to come in when she’s likely contagious? Social pressure can sometimes do a lot in these situations.

As for why they treated you differently when you had suspected whooping cough two years ago, I have no idea. Maybe it was a different HR person, maybe there was a different manager involved, or maybe you seemed significantly sicker than she did. You’re not going to get anywhere by arguing about that though; you’re better off approaching it from a standpoint of being concerned for people’s health now.

6. Asking to interview by phone for a job overseas

I recently applied for my dream job. They are getting back to us in a day or two about who will be selected for interviews, and the interview dates will be scheduled for a week from today. The problem is that the job is in the UK, and a plane ticket this close to the interview date is close to $2200. I can’t afford this right now. Do I have any options? Can I ask for a phone interview? I don’t want to let this job go.

If you’re asked to interview, you can certainly explain the situation and ask if they’d consider a phone or Skype interview for this stage, but be aware that a lot of companies choose not to deal with non-local applicants (let alone foreign applicants) in part because they don’t want to deal with this type of inconvenience. So while it’s entirely reasonable to ask, be prepared for them not to offer you many options — or to talk with you by phone now but require you to fly out if you advance further in their process.

7. Are meal breaks included in my total time worked?

I am a salaried exempt employee in New York state. I am required to work 45 hours a week. Can my employer subtract the time I take for a meal period from my total, or since I am salaried, is the meal period time included in the total? So for example, I work a 9-hour day with a half hour lunch. Is this considered a nine-hour day or an eight and a half hour day?

It’s up to your employer how they want to calculate that. As an exempt employee, you’re not required to be paid overtime, and so how your company handles your hours is based solely on their internal policies, not any law. (Caveat: I’m answering generally for most states; I haven’t looked into whether New York has some unusual law on this.)

{ 265 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    As someone who has a family member going through Chemo right now (and therefore has a compromised immune system), I really wish people who are sick and contagious (even if it is something as small as a cold) would go home. It might now be a big deal to you – the person who is sick, but it could be absolutely life-threatening to another employee or someone in their household.

    1. Jen*

      Absolutely agree with that. A co-worker once bragged about how he had come to work with pneumonia once and I pointed out that pneumonia could be fatal for anyone with a compromised immune system and considering that we had a number of employees with very tiny babies at home perhaps risking other people’s lives would not be the wisest decision when he could easily show how dedicated he is by working from home.

      1. -X-*

        But is pneumonia itself infectious?

        I was under the impression that it is a condition caused by the body’s response to other things, which may or may not be infectious themselves.

        If those other causes are not infectious, I don’t see the risk to other people.

        1. Chinook*

          I think there are two types of pneumonia – viral and bacterial. The viral one is contagious and the bacterial one isn’t.

          1. Jamie*

            That’s what I thought. I’ve had it a couple of times and each time it was bacterial and the doctor had told me it wasn’t contagious – because even though I was home I was worried about infecting my family.

        2. Lora*

          Usually, yes. Community-acquired pneumonia is quite common. It’s a real problem in ICUs and nursing homes.

          Sometimes people in later stages of heart failure can have pneumonia, which may not start out from infection, but the fluid in their lungs is quickly contaminated with bacteria that is contagious. In which case, I really do not want my colleagues to keel over dead of heart failure in the office, that would be so sad.

        3. EnnVeeEl*

          Depends on the type of pneumonia. Yes, it can be transmitted.

          Just stay home when you’re sick until you feel better.

          1. Jamie*

            I can’t imagine working through pneumonia. The first time I had it – about 6 years ago – I was in the hospital for 5 full days.

            The second time I was home, but even going the couple of feet from bed to the bathroom took all I had – and the master bath is like 8 feet at most. If forced to work I’d have lost my job since it would have been physically impossible.

            Fortunately I work for people who aren’t in the business of wanting people to collapse at their desks …the logic being if we take care of ourselves we’ll be back on our game sooner…and we don’t infect half the office.

            With one exception every single time I’ve seen sick time abused is when there have been draconian policies in place. When you treat people like adults and give them the freedom to attend to illness or personal stuff from time to time you get back a whole lot more in productivity over all than having to monitor everyone all the time to eek out a solid 40.

            It’s weird this is coming up now, because I never go to the doctor and for the most part I’ve been very lucky but lately I’ve needed a lot of doctor’s appointments. I’m having to work my schedule around them and they have just been so great about understanding.

            It makes a tremendous difference because I put a lot of pressure on myself internally…I fully believe I could never have a boss that’s harder on me than I am on myself because I’m a pretty harsh and horrible internal boss…but I just can’t find a way to resign from me.

            But anyway – it’s hard enough when I feel less than 100% and I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if I had a boss making me feel bad for doing the best I can.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I agree with you. I had a very bad flu once and it knocked me off my feet for a week. Once the major symptoms subsided, it took two weeks to even start to feel the energy I had before getting ill.

              I cannot imagine having to work during the week I was sick with the worst symptoms. Productivity during that week consisted of curbing my suicidal thoughts because I felt so bad I wanted to die, but I was too weak to kill myself. I’m kidding of course, but my point is that working would not have made sense.

              You make a good point about Draconian policies being the cause of a lot of abuse. People become bitter about such policies and they begin to devise ways to “screw the system” because they are angry about it. Not a good idea. Treat people like adults and if they abuse the system, deal with it. But starting out with harsh policies helps no one.

    2. Elizabeth*

      A few years ago, I had a colleague going through chemo & radiation, so he basically had no immune system. All of us in the office made a mutual decision that we would not come to work with colds, etc while he was undergoing treatment. He laughed and said that we were more considerate than his ex-wife, who insisted that their sick kids could go see their dad, even if it had the potential to be a serious problem for him.

    3. felipe*

      I understand this and I do have a coworker who also has a compromised immune system. I personally *never* want to come in to the office when I’m sick (and would never pride myself on dragging myself in…that’s just gross. And totally inconsiderate.). But sometimes, the problem lies with management. For me, I was informed (in so many words) that if I took more sick days, my job would be in jeopardy. I’m exempt and get a very large number of sick days/year as a benefit of my job. I was nowhere even close to the vicinity of maxing out the many sick days I have banked. But nevertheless, the message was clear.

      My co-worker with the compromised immune system actually spoke to me about it, implying that she would rather have me stay home since I was sick. I certainly felt bad, but what am I supposed to do about it? I can’t lose my job.

      1. Laura*

        I think telling your co-worker what you said here would help her not think you’re an inconsiderate ogre. Also, maybe suggest she talk to your boss about the sick policy. Would consulting HR help either way?

        1. felipe*

          I thought consulting HR might be able to help me, but after reading this blog for a while I’m realizing what little recourse I have. Since it’s perfectly legal for them to take away my sick days or put any other rules they want around them, I’m not sure what HR can actually do.

    4. OolonColuphid*

      I agree that sick people should stay home, but companies have to make it absolutely clear that taking sick time will not result in negative repercussions. Too often people who take sick time are penalized for it either directly or indirectly. Either let people take time off to recover or accept contagious people in the office.You can’t have it both ways.

    1. Jess*

      At Chocolate Teapot, what do you mean by that being your first thought? Are you referring to the question that is being asked? Or the questions that were asked?

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        As in “What is the purpose of asking these questions of the candidates?” Or just simply “Why do they need to know?”

        1. Jazzy Red*

          Not to mention, “how does this relate to my job producing chocolate teapots?”

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Me too. My second thought was “If you are serious, I don’t think this is the right fit for me. Goodbye.”

      1. Jamie*

        My first thought at being asked the kind of person I preferred sexually would have been to be completely terrified about the activities planned for the company picnic.

        No thank you.

    3. Vicki*

      Also, that is NOT a “personality” test.
      I’m not sure what to call it… a socio-political opinion assessment? A completely NOYB questionnaire?

      But it’s not only irrelevant but really ick-inducing.

  2. Kerry*

    Isn’t it illegal to discriminate by sexual orientation? Or is that something that’s different in the US (I’m in the UK)?

    1. Jess*

      @Kerry, yes, it is illegal to discriminate based on sexually orientation. I’m guessing you are referring to question 1 as well.. Please correct me if I am wrong. The concern with the question is basically the questions them self. I believe a personality test is supposed to be something that the new employee is willing to do, not made to do. If the company were to fire a employee that has taken this personality test, I would think that maybe the employee would use that as a way to get back at the company. But I could be wrong.

      1. Anon.*

        It’s only illegal in the states that have passed laws saying so, which is fewer than half of them, I believe.

        Unfortunately in all the other states it is still entirely possible to be openly fired because of your sexual orientation.

        I suppose we’re making progress, ten years ago it was possible to be *arrested* in a handful of states for your sexual orientation.

      2. Kara*

        It didn’t sound like a “personality test,” it sounded like a “moral and political stance” test. The way the OPs letter was worded made it sound like these new employees possibly had to take the test before they were hired, which COULD indicate discrimination of sexual orientation (among other things, since all of the questions weren’t listed).

        1. Chinook*

          I agree – the questions mentioned by OP #1, especially when grouped together like that, really look like a morality test. If I were fired soon after filling it out or for refusing to fill it out (I would be tempted to write N/A as an answer to all of them), I would definitely be finding myself a lawyer because this just feels wrong.

          1. JohnQPublic*

            Even if it were done after hiring, most companies have a probationary period where they will fire you for the smallest thing, even just not liking you. While I realize that (except for Montana and union jobs) you can be fired for no reason at all, this strikes me as fuel for unnecessary firings and/or discrimination.

        2. Jessa*

          This, it sounded A: political and B: a ruse to find out who was gay or a gay ally. In some states it is not illegal to FIRE someone for being gay or being an ally. There is no use I can come up with for those questions that does not lead me to believe they’re intended to be used against the people answering them. Now I have no idea in WHICH direction. It could be the company is very LGBTQ friendly and is trying to weed out those against it. Or it could be the company is very anti and wants to fire those who support it.

          Either way. It’s a problem.

      3. Penny*

        Those questions are insane to me. My company gives personality tests and they are nothing like that! We do have a specific culture and it’s openly a somewhat Christian environment, but the personality test asks nothing related to moral or religious beliefs nor should they. This company is asking for trouble. If someone sued and it could be shown they never hired anyone who all answered a certain way, that could probably prove discrimination.

    2. UK HR Bod*

      Agree, it would be potential grounds for a discrimination claim in the UK. It also doesn’t sound as though it would honestly count as a personality test? It feels more like a test to find out if your personal values are in line with the interviewer. It doesn’t feel anything like the kind of tests I’ve used (admittedly in the UK), which are more about trying to determine preferred behaviour in the workplace – not your personal value set around areas which may well not be related to the workplace.

      1. Chinook*

        If these questions were being asked at an interview stage, I would take it as a sign that the company culture has strong leanigns one way or the other and feel very uncomfortable working there, even if thoeir values matched mine. If I am not dealing with issues of sexuality and morality in the workplace, my employer has no need to anything about mine.

        Now, if I was applying to work in an LBGT or religious organization, where these issues would come into play daily, I could see them justifying these questions but I still wouldn’t be comfortable answering them in writing.

        1. Jamie*

          This is a good point – about being uncomfortable even if you agree with their leanings.

          That’s why I don’t talk about politics at work – because some people think if you vote for the same person you have the same feelings against people who voted differently, or whatever.

          Add me to the people who don’t understand how this can possibly be classified as a personality test.

          There are a lot of things I’d love to know about new co-workers: Preferred work style, email or phone, chewing – noisy or quiet, do want to eat something disgusting while meeting with me, are they good at follow-up, are they funny and sarcastic (always looking for more work friends), etc.

          Any of this personal stuff – I just don’t want to know.

    3. Legal Eagle*

      Some US cities and counties have passed laws that make it illegal to discriminate based on orientation. Always check your jurisdiction before assuming it hasn’t been covered yet.

      1. Legal Eagle*

        I’ll also add that the questionnaire seems to be attempting to discriminate based on political view points instead if just sexual orientation, which is likely legal in most jurisdictions. Check your city, county, and state to find out.

        The more immediate problem is this “quiz” would be a massive turnoff to many excellent candidates. Even if I was on the same “side” as the employer, I would never want to work at any place that demanded to know how socially liberal or conservative I was before hiring me!

    4. Josh S*

      There’s a couple different issues and questions being asked upthread of this, so I’ll try to hit them all:

      -There is no blanket prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression. So there is no Federal-level protection for LGBT people based on their LGBT status. However, as mentioned, several states have protections for employees stating that they cannot be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. (Very few, if any, have protections for those who identify with a gender different than their sex, so Transgender folks are really unprotected, though I’m sure a good lawyer could try to slide something under a sexual orientation law somehow.)

      -US laws are different than UK laws in this regard.

      -Many psychological/personality tests ask questions (sometimes a LOT of questions) about sexual preferences. This is, generally speaking, because a decent part of your psychology (ie the way you relate to and interact with the world) is intertwined with your sexuality. Many of these personality tests are hundreds, if not thousands, of questions long, so a handful of selected questions as presented above may not be representative of the whole test’s main area of examination. Even the Myers-Briggs and MMPI touch on these, and there are other personality tests that are similar.

      That said, while it might be helpful to know someone’s personality as a measure for how they fit into the culture of the office, broad-spectrum personality tests are unlikely to measure a professional demeanor or capacity for fitting into the office culture well. Which makes the use of such a broad personality test questionable at best–most likely a big waste of time for all involved.

      If the HR person wants to test personality for the sake of office harmony, there are better measures to use that don’t involve questions surrounding sexual orientation or other problematic topics, and that don’t open up the company to liability regarding discrimination torts.

      (Standard Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I am certainly not YOUR lawyer. This is not legal advice. You should assume that everything I know about the law I learned from Perfect Strangers, The Practice and Perry Mason.)

      1. Jamie*

        Many of these personality tests are hundreds, if not thousands, of questions long

        Thousands?? Are you kidding? Less than halfway through I would be so bored and resentful I’d just be picking the most antisocial responses for sport.

        1. Lora*

          Did the MMPI once. Yep, thousands, most of them the same question asked a slightly different way to check for consistency. It’s multiple choice, so you can make the dots spell things out if you want.

          My current managers are really into DISC and Myers-Briggs and had us all do that. Old boss and new boss tested the same. Except old boss was a pleasant, thoughtful, intelligent helpful mentor and new boss learned all his management skills running a McDonald’s with an iron fist.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            We did DISC here recently (apparently it’s a big thing). But they basically said this is just a general overview of different types of personalities and communications styles, and should not be strictly adhered to because and I quote, “we are all made up of lots of different traits, and this can change depending on what’s going on in our lives and even from day to day.”

            It’s not rocket surgery and it’s not 100% accurate on anyone all the time.

      2. Anonymous*

        Can you point to the items on the MBTI that are related to sexual preferences, sexuality, or sexual orientation? I am a qualified interpreter for the MBTI and have no idea which items would get to that information not has it ever been shared in any of the MBTI training sessions I have attended.

        1. Josh S*

          I’ll defer to you–it’s been ages since I took the Psychology Testing course in undergrad psych, and I get them all confused at this point.

          I’ve looked it up, and the MBTI is the E/I, S/N, T/F, J/P one based loosely on Jung’s theory of personality. Which is not the test I was thinking of at all when I wrote the post above. (Not that I can remember the one I *was* thinking of at this point either…)


      3. dejavu2*

        Interestingly, there has been at least one case where a transgender woman won an employment discrimination case on the basis of sex discrimination. I can’t remember the name of the case, but she was hired by the Library of Congress when she was still living as a man, then was fired because she transitioned before her start date.

        Also, the HHS regs determining how the Fair Housing Act is to be applied has instructed the courts to consider discrimination in housing for being transgender as illegal under the provision banning discrimination on the basis of sex.

        Just some fun facts!

  3. Anne*

    Alison, I’m not sure OP #3 could speak to his acquaintance’s manager? It sounds like the acquaintance is applying to his workplace, but they don’t work together now.

    #6 – As an American working in the UK… what size of company are you applying to? Do they know that you’re not based in the UK right now? Immigration rules are being tightened and it is very hard for companies to even get work visas for their employees right now, unless they are very large companies, or hiring someone for something incredibly specialized.

    1. UK HR Bod*

      I’d have to agree with Anne on this – in my organisation we’d probably only interview if you had the right to work here already – even with our really specialised roles we’d find it hard to justify bringing in someone without an existing right to work. As Alison says, it does add an extra layer of inconvenience, and a lot of UK employers do assessments as well as interviews, so it may depend how near the top of the list you are and what their interview process is. Bear in mind, they are unlikely to hire you on the strength of a phone interview (and if they were willing to, it might be a bit of a concern about their decision making), so if you can phone / Skype interview, and then get through, you are likely to face the same bill again a week later – I certainly wouldn’t want to wait much more than two weeks for a second interview.

    2. Kerry*

      Yeah, unfortunately thirded. I’m an American married to a Brit (I have permanent residence and the right to work) and every time I’ve got to the maybe-making-an-offer stage, HR departments have got super paranoid about my status. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost out on a job because of that (I had the right to work, but they were just antsy about it). And that was three years ago – as Anne says, the immigration rules have only tightened since then.

    3. OPof3*

      OP of question #3 here. Yes, the acquaintance I’m talking about is applying to my workplace, but doesn’t work there yet.

  4. Omne*

    #5. Actually this makes sense. Whooping Cough is much more contagious and much more serious than Strep. While very few people, if any, actually die from Strep it’s a very real possibility for young children that contract Whooping Cough.

    1. -X-*

      I was thinking the same thing.

      Not good to have someone with strep in the office (and in my office, two people had strep throat this year and both stayed home no problem as soon as they found out and didn’t come back until past being contagious).

      But whooping cough – scarier.

      1. fposte*

        Yup. I updated my vaccination because I’ve got co-workers with little kids.

        1. Natalie*

          The adult tetanus booster includes a whooping cough and diptheria booster as well. Since there’s no lifelong or herd immunity for tetanus, that’s another good reason to keep your vaccinations up to date.

          1. fposte*

            Around here they were doing the unpacked tetanus for a while, so I was up to date on it but had no pertussis inoculation since childhood. Theoretically I could have waited until my tetanus “expired,” but I figured what the heck.

          2. Anonymous*

            +1 on adults updating their whooping cough vaccination. Usually wears out by the time you are an adult, and while some people may think it is “just a bad cough”, little kids can die from it and I know an adult who broke their ribs from coughing so hard.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              “just a bad cough”

              They should watch that commercial or go online and google baby whooping cough. That is NOT a cough; that is HORRIFYING.

            2. Rana*

              Yes. My husband coughed so badly that he would throw up, and every night we were terrified that he’d end up passing out and hurting himself… and this went on for weeks.

          3. -X-*

            DTP, right? Got that last year. But my doctor claims that’s pretty new and not that common yet where we are (New York).

            1. Elizabeth*

              TDaP (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis). I got my update in January, 2012. It was a somewhat painful shot, but having known an adult who had cracked ribs from pertussis, it was worth it.

              I had an great-uncle survive tetanus (AKA lockjaw) back in the early 1950’s. His wife was a very strong woman emotionally, and she managed to nurse him through it. According to my mother, he was never the same afterwards. He had trouble eating solid food for the rest of his life because of the damage to his jaws & throat that the toxins from the bacteria caused.

              1. Natalie*

                And if you’re really pedantic, it’s actually Tdap. Apparently the lowercase d and p indicate that the diphtheria and pertussis boosts are small.

                Yes, I have spent way too much time discussing vaccines online, why do you ask?

        2. Anonymous*

          Adults only need to get TDaP once. Or if you’re not sure you’ve had the booster as an adult, and are around someone at risk, including babies and pregnant women, you are also advised to get the vaccine. However the pertussis part of the vaccine doesn’t always work (as in the immune system doesn’t produce the antibodies it should). Failure rates in adults reportedly range from 50-89%. For anyone over 65 the failure rates are reported to be at the higher end of that range. (A whole lot of vaccines don’t work well in the elderly including for flu and pneumonia.)

          1. Anonymous*

            I shouldn’t have said failure rate I should have said working. Pertussis vaccine fails to stop and adult from getting pertussis 21 to 50% of the time.

        3. Rana*

          Yep. A few years ago my husband caught whooping cough, and it was the scariest damn thing ever, and it lasted for weeks. The thought of a tiny baby struggling with it was horrible, so when my OB-GYN recommended I get a booster (she didn’t think being exposed to him was enough to keep my immunity active) I immediately said yes.

      2. AL Lo*

        My sister ended up having whooping cough on her wedding day. Not fun. By then she was on antibiotics and not throwing up every time she coughed (which she had been doing a few days previously), but someone did have a bucket hidden on the church platform, just in case. Still, she was super out of breath every time she moved, and ended up spending most of her honeymoon just trying to recuperate.

        I just got my dTap and MMR vaccines updated last week — my doctor wanted me to update my Rubella immunity before getting pregnant, and while my tetanus was up to date, pertussis wasn’t, so I got the whole meal deal.

    2. Catherine*

      #5 Lurker here. Actually Strep is and can be just as serious as Pertussis. Allergic reactions (a percentage of the population is allergic) to the toxin produced by the strep bacteria can lead to Scarlet Fever which can cause blindness and/or death, Rheumatic Fever which can damage the heart and (can’t remember) which damages the kidneys.
      I had Scarlet Fever as a child (circa 1965, shortly after the Flood), and had to stay in a dark room for 3 weeks to protect my eyes.

      1. -X-*

        So strep is as serious all the time, or can be as serious?

        I was under the impression that strep is more common but whooping cough kills more people, which suggests they are not equally dangerous. But my information is probably not good and sounds like you know more.

        1. Catherine*

          I think what happens is people call any sore throat a “strep throat” when a sore throat can be caused by any number of things. A true Strep infection can be as serious as whooping cough, if you happen to be someone with an allergy to the toxins.
          The Streptococcus bacteria is not as common as it once was, I gather; I recognized the Scarlet Fever rash (because I’d had it myself as a child) on my son before his doctor did. He did a swab and confirmed what I already knew.

          1. -X-*

            But if the allergy is not common, then the risk to society is lower.

            I’m not talking worst case – both can kill. I’m talking risk to society overall.

            PS – I was curious about the rates of these diseases so did a super quick look around:

            Whooping cough (from CDC) has 10,000-25,000 cases reported each year in the U.S.

            Strep throat (from Wikipedia) 11 million.

            That’s massively different.

            PPS – two people in my office were diagnosed by doctors with strep throat this year.

      2. Omne*

        Actually Scarlet Fever is now considered about the same as Strep Throat when it’s treated.

        From the CDC: “This is the same germ that causes strep throat. If it’s treated with antibiotics, scarlet fever is no more serious than strep throat.”

        It’s when it’s not treated it becomes dangerous. The problem with Pertussis is that children can die even if they’re hospitalized and being treated.

        I know Scarlet Fever used to be a major problem. My father caught it back in the mid 1940s while he was in the Navy and it turned into Rheumatic Fever. He had damage to one of his heart valves and eventually died of a heart attack.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That’s only because they didn’t know back then. She wrote what everybody thought it was. It’s good that someone debunked it though.

      3. EngineerGirl*

        Strep can also morph into various Choreas which can permanently damage the central nervous system

      4. Anonymous*

        Strep at least has an effective treatment (if diagnosed). Whopping cough doesn’t, just medications that can relieve some of the symptoms.

    3. Kou*

      I agree– it’s extremely contagious, extremely dangerous, and adults frequently pass it around to children while exhibiting no symptoms and having no idea where they picked it up. It’s a much bigger hazard in general.

      That said, 1) strep lady needs to go the eff home, and 2) I am just chuckling on the inside wondering what the cough sounded like that caused the OP to get sent home, because I would bet cash money that whoever decided it sounded like pertussis had no idea what they were talking about.

  5. Anonimal*

    #4-I think this is quibble territory. Of course, the culture of your workplace is going to determine what’s acceptable. But given the number of dresses on the racks that are sleeveless, I don’t think you even need to worry about it.

    In my opinion there is a difference between sleeveless and tank top. Sleeveless is literally that, the fabric stops at the edge of the shoulder. I think those are perfectly acceptable for work without a cardigan or jacket. I wear them all the time as soon as warm weather hits. I have quite a few shells that I wear with suits in the winter when I’m hot but the building isn’t.

    Tank tops style dresses and shirts would, again IMO, should more of the shoulder/collarbone area. Is this a dealbreaker? Not necessarily but I’m going lean away from it as acceptable.

    I think it’s more the style, cut and fabric that determines what’s okay for work that actually having bare arms.

      1. fposte*

        Old Navy has a great inexpensive line of short-sleeve cropped cardigans just right for this; they come in a rainbow of colors and often go on sale. When in doubt, toss one on.

        1. Anonicorn*

          I was about to suggest the same! In addition to covering the arm pits, cardigans give you that put-together, layered look.

        2. East Side Tori*

          I was going to say the exact same thing! In my experience, most offices are kept pretty cold during summer, so I need to wear a cardigan anyway. You can take it off the minute you step outside.

    1. A*

      My company actually lists ‘sleeveless tops’ as a big no no under the dress policy (although we are, in general, on the more casual end of business casual).

      I own and love several shrugs just for this.

  6. Allison*

    Yikes, I’ve never heard of the “no visible armpits” rule, thanks for the heads-up!

    1. Long Time Admin*

      Today’s dress codes are much more sensible than some that I’ve known. I do agree with no visible armpits in the office – that’s just good taste.

      I’m much older than most people who post here, and I’m so happy to be able to wear jeans and sneakers to work. So much more comfortable than what I used to wear!

      1. Jamie*

        I agree with the no visible armpits rule – although I wish it could be extended outside the office to restaurants as well.

        I know everyone has underarms and feet – but I don’t want to see either of them if I’m eating. Not everyone’s are gross, but the potential is too great to risk it.

        1. Anonymous*

          Extending it to restaurants is a little ridiculous when you consider just how many formal dresses and tops are sleeveless/strapless these days. Personally I wish more conservative dresses were more available, as I’d love to wear long dresses in the winter. You can yammer on until you’re blue in the face that ladies should just make their own dresses like in the good ‘ol days, but the fact is, most women are limited to what they can buy, and that might not be as conservative as you’d like.

          1. Jamie*

            It has nothing to do with being conservative – it has to do with not wanting to see someone’s armpits while I’m eating.

            In a tasteful dress and people not doing the wave isn’t what I’m talking about – but we’ve all been places where someone is wearing something without proper sleeveage and it makes it hard to eat.

            It’s just the old rule of if it looks gross cover it up…but everyone has a different definition of what is fit to be seen in public.

          2. Editor*

            I would love to sew my own long-sleeved dresses for winter. I even bought a serger so I could. Then I found out that I could buy all-cotton knit clothes, but I couldn’t buy all-cotton knit fabrics (especially in bottom weights) in any chain fabric store. I haven’t had much luck online, either.

            For instance, there aren’t a lot of mill ends available because the fabrics are being made overseas and now are being sewn overseas. So the heavier all-cotton knits may be easy to get in garment-production areas in China and Bangladesh, but they’re not available in the U.S.

            1. Jessa*

              I did a quick Google on “100% cotton knit fabric bottom weight,” and got a bunch of online sales sources.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Me too! No more itchy business clothes!

        I do keep a cardigan in my cube because the AC is cold, and I sit almost under a vent.

  7. Anonymous*

    4. If the women who are wearing sleeveless tops in your office are viewed as professional (i.e. I think lots of offices have that one person or a couple who is super trendy or always on the borderline of the dress code without getting in trouble) then I think you’re safe. I agree with Anominal that there’s a difference between sleeveless and tank top style, so just make sure you’re in sleeveless territory with your clothes!

    I would also add that, if you’re unsure, another good rule is you can wear it, but add a layer when meeting with others or in an area where you might be visible to visitors – as in you’re not obligated to wear a sweater over your sleeveless dress the entire time you’re alone at your desk, but if you go into a meeting, up to the reception desk, etc., add it on.

    1. Allison*

      In general, if you’re in doubt, bring something to cover up with in case someone makes a comment about it being inappropriate.

      I do wish companies would be specific about stuff like this. You can’t expect people not to show up wearing certain things if you don’t tell them not to, especially younger professionals who may still be getting the hang of things.

      1. Editor*

        The trouble with being detailed is that styles — especially for women — change a lot from year to year. Footwear wasn’t much of an issue at my office until flipflops, slides and backless shoes became ubiquitous about a decade ago. It took months to negotiate the changes in styles and write a new policy that worked for all the different departments.

        Some really prescriptive dress codes are hard to follow, too, when the clothes just aren’t on the market. There was one horrible year when my daughter was in high school where all the junior clothes departments had only short shorts, but she needed shorts that came within four inches of her knee or something. We ended up ordering something online that looked like her grandmother should have worn. Lots of girls broke the rules that year, and the school just sort of gave up.

  8. Cat*

    #5 should blame her workplace for not offering paid sick time instead of her coworker. They’re the ones forcing people to choose between infecting their coworkers and losing money that – because jobs that don’t pay sick time are usually not the type that let you build up a huge cushion – is probably sorely needed.

    Maybe op and her coworker are actually well paid contractors or something and this doesn’t apply. But otherwise, this one is on the business owners.

    1. Cat*

      Also I don’t know if this is a factor here or not (probably not since op didn’t mention it) but this is another reason mandatory write-ups for absences set up terrible incentives.

      1. KS*

        +1+ infinity! We get 7 sick days a year. But if you take one you are branded “the person who ALWAYS calls out”.

        1. annie*

          Me too. We don’t get a lot of days, but the ones we do, if you use one, it’s a Big Deal.
          99% of us are capable of working from home, but it is not allowed… so no one works from home who potentially could do some work while sick, and everyone comes in and spreads the germs.

    2. Jane Doe*

      I’m in favor of extremely generous sick time policies. I think they’d encourage people to stay home with things like contagious colds instead of coming into work because they’re saving all their sick time in case they get something more serious like the flu. You’ll always have people who abuse policies like this, but I think a lot of conscientious employees would end up taking sick days where they still do things like check email and handle a few requests because they’re well enough to do some work but are basically staying home out of courtesy for their coworkers.

      1. Chinook*

        As well as beign contagious, I also found that I made more errors when I was sick. I caught the flu this year and was out 6 days over a 3 week period (would come back to early which wear myself out). At one point, I did a batch of typing and it was noted that I must still be ill because they had never seen me make such obvious mistakes. Resource wise, it woudl have been better for me to be gone for a week straight, answering calls/emails at home when necessary than to have to have people double check everything I did when I was there.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        My company doesn’t want you anywhere near the office if you have a fever. I was sick on my first payday and before I knew they had direct deposited it (at some places the first one is paper), the receptionist was all “Yeah, pull up outside and we’ll throw it out the door at you!”

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        My husband’s company doesn’t have a specific number of sick days — if you’re sick, stay home; if you’re gone too much, your manager should talk to you. His managment is totally broken in a lot of ways, but at least that policy seems reasonable.

    3. Lynn*

      “#5 should blame her workplace for not offering paid sick time instead of her coworker. They’re the ones forcing people to choose between infecting their coworkers and losing money that – because jobs that don’t pay sick time are usually not the type that let you build up a huge cushion – is probably sorely needed.”

      Yes, so much of this.

    4. Lizzie B.*

      Agreed 100%. I lost two days of pay due to flu in March, and still haven’t recovered financially. It doesn’t make the company look very good, either.

    5. Risa*

      As an interesting note, the city of San Francisco requires employers to provide 9 paid sick days to full time employees, and then prorated based on hours for part-time. They are also very strict about companies writing employees up for using that sick time. You basically have to demonstrate pattern absenteeism in order to address sick calls. One sick call does not make for a writeup and can get the company in hot water with the city’s Labor Board.

    6. Anonymous*

      I worked at a job where they kept long term temps. I was a temp for 2 years. No health insurance, no paid time off. The policy was no more than 5 call out ” incidents” per year. Anything over 3 days at a time required a doctor’s note. Since half of us didn’t have insurance we couldn’t go to the doctor to get the doctor’s note without paying. On top of it, we wouldn’t get paid if we were out of the office. So we all show up sick.

    7. Henry*

      I totally agree. I’m temping at the moment and I’ll drag myself into work whenever possible because I cannot afford not to get paid. I’ve had chemo, been pregnant and therefore had a newborn baby, so I really do understand many of the common situations in which even the smallest illness can become serious, but I can’t be off work every time I have a cold if they won’t pay me for it or let me work from home.

  9. Jubilance*

    #4 – my company dress code requires that you have some type of sleeve and armpit covering, so for sleeveless tops/dresses I always add a blazer or cardigan. For me, it also makes the outfit more professional. I’d say, err on the side of caution & add a coordinating cardigan or blazer with your tops.

    1. Jane*

      I agree on the blazer/cardigan suggestion and that OP should consult the company dress code (I’d imagine that most companies have one – mine has one posted to the intranet).

    2. LPBB*

      I have a hard time feeling professional in sleeveless outfits, but then I’m also always freezing cold in offices during the summer, so I generally wear a cardigan or shrug anyway.

  10. Liz*

    I disagree on the advice re: sleeveless dresses and tops. I have nice Calvin Klein/Tahari type work dresses, shift dresses typically, that are sleeveless and nobody has a problem with this. I think it looks more professional than those who show up in casual dress pants and t shirts. I also work in Phoenix so perhaps it’s more acceptable here.

    If I have a client meeting I will put on a cardigan or blazer though – but I always keep one in my desk so this is easy.

    1. Anonimal*

      I work in Baltimore and have my own fair share of tahari shift dresses. Personally, I’ve never heard of this “armpit rule”. It’s more of a dressiness of the whole outfit thing for me.

      1. Liz*

        Yup, exactly like that! Obviously use common sense – and since many don’t have any I can see why this “rule” exists in some offices – but just be smart. Dresses like this look infinitely more professional to me than cheap ill fitting black pant/casual top options and I ALWAYS get compliments on them. Not for being cute but for being a great “work dress”: http://www.dillards.com/product/Calvin-Klein-Belted-Sheath-Dress_301_-1_301_503406195?df=03854167_zi_charcoal. These also are very versatile pieces to put on a cardigan, tights in the winter, blazer to make very formal, etc.

        In fact at conferences I will often wear dresses like this with a well tailored blazer. It’s a lot more comfortable than a a skirt suit and at the cocktail hours/dinners easy to take the jacket off and be comfortable when most go up to rooms to change.

      2. Jen in RO*

        My office is casual and no one cares if my armpits are visible or not. It can get up to 40C outside in summer and the AC can’t always handle it (or people turn it off) so there is no way I could wear a cardigan over my top.

    2. Parfait*

      Know Your Office. I am pretty sure the rules are more lenient in hot-weather cities like Phoenix, with good reason.

      And go read Corporette, all of you.

      1. Chinook*

        I am thinking that hot weather cities have their own version of the Long John Index (http://longjohnindex.ca/) where there is an unofficial loosening of the dress codes to reflect extreme weather. Up here in Canada, we don’t comment on “hat head” when it is below -25 and few women are expected to wear nylons at +30 (including humidity).

  11. Sarah*

    #5 I know why you were treated differently with whooping cough!!! I personally had someone at my office sent home for like 4 days with whooping cough. Its for a variety of reasons, but the main one is that if you have whooping cough, you were not properly vaccinated for it as a child. And people are more stringent about vaccinating for it because it kills children, especially very young children. At the time that my coworker had it there were 2 very new moms in the office with her. Their children were under 2 months and were too young for vaccinations or anything. If they carried it home with them and their child contracted it you would be responsible for basically killing that child from not staying home. I DO think your coworker should be forced to stay home as well. I mean, gross, coughing and spewing germs everywhere… personally, I would be passive aggressive about it and go get yourself a face mask.. she’ll get the point =)

    1. Sarah*

      Oh and I just saw what the others said about whooping cough too. The employee I had sent home was REALLY mad at me, even though we get PTO, which is silly. They made this sign and posted it on the wall which was this little saying that basically said Mind your own business. I didn’t let it bother me because if you can’t understand how important other people’s health is then you just aren’t worth my time. I would kindly suggest to the lady with the strep “wouldn’t you just love to stay home and rest up” or something of that nature and she may just be trying to “tough” it out and just needs some encouragment to stay home.

    2. Natalie*

      “if you have whooping cough, you were not properly vaccinated for it as a child. ”

      That’s not entirely true. The effectiveness of the childhood pertussis vaccine (DTaP) fades over time, down to 70% effectiveness after 5 years. The adult vaccine presumably fades as well, although they haven’t determined exactly how quickly yet. There may be a few people who get lifelong immunity, but most of us should get a Tdap booster periodically.

      1. Anonymous*

        Very true. I thought my DTap was still effective but when I went to a new doctor she checked (with bloodwork) whether I still had antibodies for those illnesses. I didn’t so I had the booster to update my vaccines.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes — I had a mild case of whopping cough a few years ago, despite being vaccinated as a child, and my doctor told me that the childhood vaccination isn’t effective after 20 years.

    3. Josh S*

      “If they carried it home with them and their child contracted it you would be responsible for basically killing that child from not staying home. ”

      Also, this is not true. While mortality rates for pertussis among small infants is much higher than mortality rates among the general population, it is not 100% deadly. From the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Pertussis/ ):

      “Disease Complications
      Pertussis is most severe for babies; about half of infants younger than 1 year of age who get the disease need treatment in the hospital. About 1 in 4 hospitalized infants with pertussis get pneumonia (lung infection), and about two thirds will have slowed or stopped breathing. Pertussis can be deadly for 1 or 2 infants per 100 who are hospitalized. Learn how pertussis can be treated.”

      So 50% of babies under 1 who get the disease will need to be hospitalized.
      12.5% of babies under 1 who get the disease will get pneumonia; 33% will have slowed/stopped breathing. 0.5-1% of babies under 1 who get the disease will die from it.

      These ARE all significant risks, and should be mitigated if possible. But it’s not the same as saying “if you don’t stay home, you’ve basically killed a baby.”

      There’s plenty of downside here; no need for exaggerating the case…

      1. Anonymous*

        True. However, with declining vaccination rates, which decreases the overall “herd immunity” (a fundamental part of vaccinations actually working), we are sorta moving into back in time with regard to the impact of these diseases on the population, especially those who are immune compromised, are too young to be vaccinated, or because of severe allergies (i.e. to egg) cannot be vaccinated.

        And while it may be comforting to parents there child may not die from it, it can be really really scary to watch your kid gasping for air.

      2. EngineerGirl*

        True. But let’s phrase it for what it really is: “I’ve decided to put my wants and needs ahead of your health and safety”

        That’s the crux. I would just look at coworker and firmly state: “I realize that it’s a financial burden for you to stay home. But you don’t have the right to endanger my health because of it. How can we work this?”

        1. Josh S*

          But let’s phrase it for what it really is: “I’ve decided to put my wants and needs ahead of your health and safety”

          I think that’s a much more fair assessment of the matter. And your phrasing is pretty dead-on IMO.

          1. fposte*

            It sounds very impressive, but I don’t think it’s a convincing moral cliff–we do the same thing any time we talk on the phone when we’re driving or buy cheap items made in factories we don’t really want to think about.

            1. Jamie*

              And for some people it’s not as simple as want vs health. For some people to stay home would be to put their livlihood at risk so then it’s a matter of weighing one employees and their families (if applicable) financial stability against the medical needs of another.

              Very few choices are made in a vacuum.

              That’s why the policies for this need to come from the organization and be fair and reasonable to all concerned.

  12. Jazzy Red*

    #5 – Your employer should definitely send this woman home.

    Here are my suggestions (decide for yourself if you want to do them)

    1. Every time the sick person comes near you, spray Lysol (into the air in the general area, not on the person)

    2. Clean every surface of your workspace with Clorox wipes, every morning. Don’t forget the handset of your phone.

    3. Every time you have to handle something the sick person handled, spray it with Lysol before picking it up.

    4. Complain to your boss and to HR every day that this sick person comes into the office.

    The first three suggestions have, over the years, definitely contributed to me avoiding colds, flu, and other diseases that people bring into the office.

    I have to agree with commenters who say that workers should have paid work days so they don’t feel they must come into work when they should be home in bed.

    1. Chinook*

      “1. Every time the sick person comes near you, spray Lysol (into the air in the general area, not on the person)”

      I laughed at the idea that you had to add the bracketed comments otherwise someone out there (not a usual AAM reader, of course) would see a sick colleague and spray the Lysol at them like they were a bad cat!

    2. AmyNYC*

      I disagree – spraying Lysol at a person is passive aggressive and likely to make many more people in the area cough.
      Be direct – mention to the sick employee (and their or your boss, too) that you are concerned about getting sick and ask them to keep their distance until the strep passes, but ultimately the decision is hers and her bosses if she stays home/is sent home.
      Also, many people have lingering symptoms/coughs well after the contagious period is over.

    3. Malissa*

      While lysol doesn’t bother you, it can trigger other people’s breathing problems. People with asthma can have an attack triggered by aerosol sprays. If the lysol is the evil lemon scented stuff I would end up going home for the day because you just triggered my allergies.

      But the rest of your suggestions are good for keeping the germs away. I also can’t say enough for having a good balanced diet and getting proper nutrition. I started eating more fruits and vegetables this winter and I stayed healthy all season.

      1. Gracie*

        God, Lysol in office environments: horrible! Someone spilled a sulfa-chemical in the labs once and the smell (think rotten eggs but twice as strong) filtered out to the office area. Okay, that was bad but then one of the assistants nearby went crazy spraying Lysol for a good 10 minutes to cover up the smell.
        I started coughing so bad that I had to go outside for an hour before I felt like I could breathe again. I would rather have been in the same room as the rotten egg smell.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          10 minutes?? That’s crazy. And not the least bit helpful.

          When I spray Lysol, I do one quick spurt. (I have allergies, too.)

    4. Flynn*

      I assume lysol is one of those awful sprays. If you sprayed that anywhere need me I would start coughing so hard I would have to leave the room or risk throwing up. I would not be impressed with either your paranoia or your rudeness.

      1. Jamie*

        I would never Lysol with someone in the office – I will once they leave.

        I do have no problem using wipes if someone coughs or sneezes in my office – and if they touch my phone I will wipe it immediately.

        I think it’s Japan where it’s no big deal to wear a mask if you have a cold – that would be so awesome. In my office I’d be seen as a lunatic for suggesting it, but there are times where it’s not bad enough to stay home but you want to keep your germs to yourself.

        I was sick last shutdown – I was the only one in the office and I was too busy to look up how long germs lived on surfaces so I lysoled everywhere I went and wiped constantly…and there wasn’t even going to be anyone here for another week.

        I do have a question since you all were talking about contagious things at work. What’s the deal with shingles? I never had chickenpox as a kid so I got it when my kids were small – we all had it together…I was 29. I saw my mom go through shingles and it scares me like nothing else – so not good with pain. If someone is recovering is that contagious?

        1. Evan the College Student*

          Says Wikipedia: “As with chickenpox and/or other forms of herpes, direct contact with an active rash can spread VZV to a person who has no immunity to the virus. This newly infected individual may then develop chickenpox, but will not immediately develop shingles. Until the rash has developed crusts, a person is extremely contagious. A person is not infectious before blisters appear, or during postherpetic neuralgia (pain after the rash is gone).”

        2. Elizabeth*

          They can be. It depends on what stage they are in.

          The Varicella virus is horrific. The pain/itching mechanism for it is that it attacks the nerve fibers. It can attack the internal nerves (like is the stomach & intestines).

          One of my godparents has recurrent outbreaks, which now come about every 2 to 3 months. He has had to be hospitalized to be sedated because of the internal outbreaks. He’s offered to pay for the shingles vaccine for any of his godchildren (there are 5 or 6 of us) whose insurance won’t pay for it. It’s about $600 if your insurance won’t, at least at the local Walgreens.

        3. fposte*

          From what I can see, it’s like this: open shingles sores do shed virus, but you’d catch chickenpox, not shingles, and if you’ve had chickenpox, your immunity should be fairly protective. Shingles is your own long-ago case of chickenpox catching up with you rather than something you get in its own right.

          I’m with you in horror of the stuff and I’m thinking about asking my doctor if there’s any disadvantage to getting the vaccine at my age.

          1. Jamie*

            I’ve been thinking about it too, that’s why I asked.

            Not afraid of needles but the last time I got a flu/pneumonia shot I couldn’t lift my arm for a week. And just Monday I had blood drawn – I have a bruise in the crook of my elbow the size of a quarter. I am starting to be wary of the needle thing…but I’m scared enough of shingles to consider it.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Ugh. I had chickenpox as a kid (a pretty bad case of it and I’m hoping like hell it doesn’t come back as shingles. My mother has shingles and she said it’s awful. I felt kind of bad; “Sorry I gave you that virus, Mom!” :(

            1. Jamie*

              My mom died of cancer and had some very painful episodes along the way. With everything she said she could handle it because it wasn’t as bad as shingles.

              This woman had an unbelievable pain threshold. Not that she had a great tolerance, she just didn’t feel stuff until it was severe. She was the only woman I’ve ever known who honestly and with no guile said that childbirth wasn’t really painful as much as it was just a sensation of pressure.

              Four kids and she didn’t figure out why childbirth was more than “uncomfortable.” Yet shingles brought her to her knees. I am a huge baby and have been whining about a black and blue mark for days. Shingles terrifies me.

        4. Mary*

          Even though most insurances won’t pay for the shingle shot unless you are 60 or over (I am not). I still paid my doctor’s office to give to me. I have seen too many people who suffer from shingles (who were under 60). It is very painful and lasts for weeks.

          As for the cost, I am an northern California and I have never seen the cost (at Safeway or my Dr.’s office) over $200.

    5. sunslant*

      I sprayed and wiped everything down when my co-worker came to the office coughing up a lung every five minutes (doctor told him he had walking pneumonia or something similar – but it took him 2 weeks of hacking before he FINALLY went to the doctor.) I STILL got sick from him and my other coworker. Our boss kept saying “when are you two going to the doctor?” The other co-worker said “I’m not going to – I will have to pay against my insurance deductible.”
      THAT made me even more mad.

    6. Wilton Businessman*

      I think the extreme sterilization of our environment is causing people to not build up resistance to disease.

      1. fposte*

        It seems like the problem is less disease resistance, which we’re still pretty good at, than autoimmune stuff, like asthma and allergies, which we’re disproportionately high on. There’s a lot of interesting work going on with the microbiome and autoimmune disorders in that area.

        1. Flynn*

          Also living conditions and overall health and diet. I have a bunch of allergies, but I used to NEVER get sick. I was a ‘goes down for a day with a sore throat once a year’ person.

          I moved out of home at last into a poorly insulated flat and voila. I get seriously ill four-six times a year now, including a major chest infection.

          Most of us are going to be exposed to the general bugs and stuff anyway. It’s when our immune system gets weaker that they surge up and hit us. That’s another reason flu seems to ‘go round’, the weather changes, everyone gets cold, and voila, four people that haven’t seen each other lately will all go down.

          1. Flynn*

            Doing my own cooking and only eating when I can be bothered probably isn’t helping :D And when you’re cooking for one, the big, well balanced meals tend not to be worth doing.

      2. Rana*

        I also think there are just more of us, working and living in closer proximity, along with greater global transmission. Lots of vectors to facilitate the free movement of viruses.

    7. Rana*

      If this co-worker is unwilling to go home, maybe they’d be willing to wear a mask?

  13. Sascha*

    Re: sleeveless tops – here in Texas, I will absolutely wear sleeveless tops in the office during the summer, but I always bring a cardigan or something. I don’t always wear the cardigan, but as others have pointed out, it’s good to have for meetings and things like that. Right now is a good time to stock up on tissue weight cardigans and cropped cardigans. Those open, drapey cardigans are good because you don’t get so hot and they are usually very light fabrics.

    But whatever you do, no sleeveless shirts in interviews. :)

    1. HR Gorilla*

      I am on the hunt for tissue-weight cardigans for summer, too! Any good recommendations on where to find them? I’m in Texas too and need the absolute lightest fabrics I can find.

      1. Jamie*

        Eyelet cardigans are usually super thin and the airflow works in the heat. I have a couple of them and they are cute – but not warm enough for me.

  14. KayDay*

    #4: I think sleeveless-ness is one of those things that varies considerably from office to office. I’ve seen plenty of women wear sleeveless items, especially in the summer, but I have also heard of plenty of places banning (or maybe just discouraging) them. My office is on the casual side of business casual, and I wear sleeveless dresses occasionally.

  15. Elizabeth*

    #5, if it’s any comfort, I don’t think your coworker has strep. Sneezing and a runny nose are not symptoms of strep, and are usually indicators that the person just has a cold. Strep is characterised by a sore throat and a fever.

    If it were strep, she should have gone to the doctor for a throat culture to confirm that, then been prescribed antibiotics. Strep does not generally clear up on it’s own, and left untreated can become scarlet fever.

    That said, I still think a) it’s not strep and b) she should stay home if she’s sick, even if it’s a bad cold and not strep.

  16. ThatGirl*

    My coworker is coughing and wheezing and clearing her throat and blowing her nose and sneezing all over the place.

    See that really doesn’t seem like strep throat to me. I’m saying this as someone with kids that contract strep at least once a year and having had an extreme case myself.

    Coughing. maybe. That does happen to some people.

    Wheezing. meh. I’ve never heard of that one being associated with strep unless you have some other underlying condition like asthma.

    Blowing her nose and sneezing. again, not so much on those either.

    Also, most people when they get strep feel kind of lethargic and run a fever so I’m not really sure how she manages to trudge into work every day and function in her job. I had strep in HS and before I was diagnosed, I fell asleep in just about every class I had (seriously, I almost failed that semester of school) and I found it incredibly difficult to focus on even the smallest things because I was just so darn tired.

    Seriously, when I had strep I didn’t even want to talk because I thought if I opened my mouth, fire would spew out. It hurt just to swallow. :-(

    FWIW, if she suspected strep she should have gone to the doctor and requested a strep test. If the test was positive for strep, the antibiotic for it eliminates contagion in 24 hours (or two doses), so I’m not sure why after 2 days she’s still going on about having strep.

    Honestly, I suspect that the co-worker has something like allergies but is going on and on about having strep for attention.

    Disclaimer: YMMV

    1. Jill*

      Second this. When I had Strep Throat, it felt like I was swallowing glass and I was too sick to move for several days. Couldn’t have gone to work under any circumstances.

  17. Hello Vino*

    #4 – I’m on the fence regarding the no visible armpit rule. There are some sleeveless business casual dresses that look very professional as is. Sometimes throwing on a light cardigan can make it look a bit sloppy.

    I usually take note of what everyone else at the office wears, especially those at my level, before deciding if something is appropriate for the office or not. If many of your peers are wearing sleeveless tops, I say it’s fine for you as well. It might be a good idea to keep a light cardigan in your purse, just in case.

    A couple years ago, I had a coworker who frequently wore sleeveless and cap sleeve tops. She really enjoyed having lunch outside and always insisted on sitting in the sunniest spot. After her soak-up-the-sun lunches during the peak summer months, she would come back into the office with horrible pit stains and smelling not so great. Ugh.

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t think any shirt type would have solved your co-worker’s issue, though. More deodorant maybe.

  18. Lisa*

    We live in a society (US) that prides itself on ‘being committed’ enough to get to work at all costs. Whether you take 5 hours to get to work by struggling against 3 feet of snow or walking through a hurricane, working from a laptop while in the ER, texting while driving to alert your boss that you will be 2 min late, or have the plague / collapsed lung and still show up to that meeting, we are taught in the this country that the person who comes INTO work but screws off all day or only works an hour of the day sue to struggled to get there in bad weather is valued more than the person working from home and pumping out emails, calls, and documents for a full 8 hours. Its our culture and it is expressed from the top down and affects raises and promotions, and until that changes, chefs will cook food while sick, workers will risk their lives and health to appease a boss, and we will make sure to get out of the 7 cities on locked down when the marathon bomber is on the loose, before the cops start stopping cars because our bosses may say ‘shelter in place’ but their ambiguous emails also state ‘do what you feel is right for you’.

  19. Anonymous*

    Where do you women work so that you feel comfortable wearing sleeveless tops in the office during the summer? In the summer, the air conditioning is usually going full tilt creating near tundra-esque conditions. I’m a male and would love to wear short sleeves but cannot for that reason. The only happy campers wearing sleeveless tops in our office during summer are the Russians for whom it appears it can never be too cold. LOL. For the rest of us, including the Americans, Caribbeans, etc, it’s Siberia hell.

    1. AmyNYC*

      I second that!
      This is TOTALLY a first world problem, but dressing in the summer is a challenge given that the street, the subway and the office all have a widely diverging range of temperatures.
      Don’t even get me started on my hair in the summer… if anyone has suggestions for work hairstyles that keep hair off your neck – other than the standard ponytail and french braid that I’m so sick of – please share!

      1. Jamie*

        Ugh – this! I am never without a sweater. My office changes throughout the day, the conference room is always freezing and walking into the plant I wilt immediately…but pretend not to because it’s rude to act like it’s a chore to be in the heat in front of people who work in it all day.

        I am always cold. My husband will be shirtless and kicking the AC up because he’s warm while I’m under 2 blankets. It’s gotten so much worse lately that I have a long cardigan I wear as a throw under my desk over my lap even when people are complaining how hot it is in here. I just figure it’s my problem and leave the thermostat alone.

        I used to joke to my kids that I longed for the day I was old and I could just sit around in a comfortable chair, wrapped in an afghan and people would bring me soup. Comfy chair, make shift afghan, soup in my drawer…but I’m still at work. Something went wrong here.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Get your thyroid checked?

          LOL the afghan/soup/chair is much better at home, yes.

          1. Jamie*

            Ha – actually that’s why I had the blood drawn (and why I am injured – stupid needle). Because of you guys in a couple of other threads, and one of the open ones, talking about the symptoms…so I finally went to the doctor.

            I just saw him like 7 years ago – I don’t want this doctor thing to become a habit.

            Who knows if this is the deal – but I absolutely 100% would not have gone to the doctor if not for you guys talking about it.

            My imaginary friends making me do stuff in real life…I hope you don’t start using your powers for evil.

            Oh – and I need another open thread because for the life of me I can’t figure out the difference between an MD and an DO. The more I read the more confused I get. If anyone knows and is on the Linkedin forum can you shoot me an email?

            And with that I’ll stop thread-jacking. I just wanted to say thanks.

        1. HAnon*

          I am rocking this today — one of my co-workers showed me how to do it yesterday :)

        2. Esra*

          I found a good video, I’m definitely going to try that!

          because right now my life is all ponytails and sad braids.

      2. Kristi*

        I’ve had a pixie cut for 5-7 years now, best decision I ever made. And I’ve used a hair dryer maybe five times. Can’t recommend it enough.

        1. Rana*

          Yup. I just got my hair hacked short again yesterday. Long hair and ponytails just make me look wan and droopy.

      3. Lora*

        Depends, how long is your hair?

        If it’s past your shoulder blades, hair forks are easy.
        1. make ponytail
        2. hold hair fork halfway down the length of ponytail
        3. in other hand, hold ends of your hair and fold them up to the ponytail band.
        4. With the hair fork hand, twist your ponytail until it coils up on itself into a bun
        5. Kinda poke the tip of the hair fork into the bun the same way you would a big bobby pin. Catch underneath the ponytail band and then aim for the bun part.

        Voila, a professional looking bun in under 2 minutes.

      4. Anonymous*

        I work in rooms that range from 60F to 85F and very humid. I wear layers and even keep a spare sweater at work when I forget in the summer. I work in research and can’t wear shorts, but I do wear tank tops in the summer, however being a large-breasted women I make sure not to bend over in front of anyone. (if the temp is over 95F I will wear shorts to work and change into pants there.)

      5. Windchime*

        I do a kind of a sloppy french twist and hold it in place with a pencil or a pen. However, be prepared for your hairdresser to comment on the ink marks on the back of your scalp. My hair is thick, mostly straight and just past my shoulders.

        1. Jamie*

          I do this. There used to be these adorable hair things that looked like chop sticks – I had some in beautiful blue with little hand painted butterflies. I was always too self conscious to wear them to work – kinda fancy for me and I didn’t know if it made me look like I was trying to look younger or whatever…but I loved them at home.

          Nothing beats the fashion statement made by an old #2 yellow pencil though. :)

          1. Jessa*

            Yes but if you use one you use it with the lead broken off, or an unsharpened one so you don’t have graphite on your hair.

            Also you can usually get a couple of decent chopsticks at the Chinese take away. Grab some nail varnish and go to town decorating them.

        2. Judy*

          OK, so I know I have slippery hair, but how do you keep anything with just one pencil or pen? I can’t even use regular hair bands without re-ponytailing several times a day, and had so much trouble until Goody came out with the ones with the “stay-put” rubber.

          1. fposte*

            Fellow slippery hair person here. Staplegunning the stuff into the back of my head is about the only way I could ever keep a bun up for a day. I got pretty good at the old-fashioned hairpins and turning them as you tuck, but even those would only last for a few hours.

            1. Chinook*

              Then you want to get an African Butterfly Hair Clip (http://www.africanbutterflyhairclips.ca/). I have thin, fine hair and could never get anything to stay put until I discovered this clip. It works sort of like the old banana clips but much easier, much classier looking and I can use it to make fancier do’s or for yoga (because it doesn’t dig into my head when I lay on it).

            2. JessA*

              Has anyone tried and had any luck with the Spin Pins? (I think Goody makes them.)

              1. A*

                Yes! I have some and adore them! I actually was surprised by how often I use them. My hair is shoulder blade length, fairly thick, wavy/straight, and slippery. I use the spin pins (mine are by Goody) along with an elastic, but if your hair holds styles better than mine you won’t need elastics.

                Because my hair is pretty thick, buns tend to migrate south as the day goes on. These not only keep the bun rock solid, but also in the same place. The pins are barely noticeable both physically and visually. Just twist them in, and you’re good to go!

              2. Cassie*

                I got some Spin Pins recently – they work well, but for my hair (which is fairly slippery), they work best when my hair is not squeaky clean or if my hair is still a little damp. I’ve tried doing a french twist but it doesn’t work; a bun is okay and a twisty infinity-shaped bun works best for me.

                I also like them because they make my hair slightly curly/wavy :)

          2. Jamie*

            Slippery hair is code for gorgeous, shiny, fabulously healthy and vibrant hair.

            I think all you can do is consider yourself super lucky and know that I’m jealous. :)

          3. Rana*

            Lots and lots and lots of bobby pins. I also find that things stick better if you make the twist really firm, and if your hair is a little messy to start (I’m a fan of sleeping on damp hair) it helps with the grip. Sympathies.

      6. Rana*

        If your hair is long enough (should be, if you can french braid it) try a chignon. It’s really easy to do, stays put fairly well (I have fine hair that likes to escape, and it works for me), and looks nice.

      7. ThursdaysGeek*

        I do two braids and then wrap them around my head. It probably requires hair down past your waist. :) Either that or twist it around my finger and quickly stuff it under the baseball cap.

    2. KayDay*

      I keep a heavy sweater and a space heater in my office (I wish I were kidding). Because I would be a stinky and sweaty mess if I attempted to commute to/from work while wearing clothing appropriate for the winter-chill in the office.

      1. Liz*

        When commuting in the hot summer though, especially public transport, it’s so nice to be wearing a professional sleeveless dress – please ladies, no cotton sundresses! But I agree, I typically wear a cardigan inside. But I’m in sales so in and out of the office a lot, nice to not be stuck in something long sleeved.

    3. Natalie*

      I agree, our office is way too cold. For some reason the acceptable office temperature in the summer is typically 68-73, which seems bizarre to me if it is in the upper 80s outside. High 70s is plenty comfortable in my opinion.

      Consequently, I own a gajillion black cardigans and blazers and I keep a black pashima at work that I use as a lap blanket in the summer. Since I take public transportation I have to dress in layers.

    4. The IT Manager*

      +1000. I live in Florida. I kept my home A/C set to 77-79 degrees and I can usually be comfortable in shorts and even tank tops. I don’t know who sets the office thermostat but I need to wear closed toed shoes and usually a sweater to be comfortable at work. It’s ridiculious when its 90+ degrees outside. I also need to wear a sweater in the winter so there’s only a brief few months in fall and spring that I can comfortably wear short sleeves in the office.

  20. mornin' joe*

    While we’re on the sleeveless top topic, I also wanted to point out to you ladies that hemming pants isn’t just for men. I see soooo many women wearing flats with their dress pants dragging the ground. There is such a double standard for the way women dress as opposed to men. Can you imagine a man coming into the office with a sleeveless button up shirt on? Of course not. So they really should be ok for women either, imo.

    1. Jamie*

      Men and women dress differently – the more formal the situation the bigger the difference.

      And unless the pants are dragging so they are walking on them, women wear different shoes on different occasions with the same pants so it’s harder to commit to one hem length.

      1. mornin' joe*

        Right. I’m aware of that, I’m a woman. And I hem my pants if I plan to wear them with flat shoes. No excuses for us not to present the same professional appearance men present. On this topic, opinions should not differ. It is simply not ok for a man or woman to wear pants that drag the ground.

        On the topic of sleeveless tops, I understand it is acceptable in some offices, but I still don’t agree with it. I was merely expressing my opinion.

            1. Kelly L.*

              No, what I’m saying is that you are taking a rude, abrasive, obnoxious tone in these comments and coming off as really arrogant. I expressed no opinions on pant length at all.

              1. mornin' joe*

                Exactly, because you can’t really answer that question without agreeing with me, so instead, you launch into a personal attack. And yeah, I’m taking a matter of fact tone. Sorry. I know people view that a rude when it comes from a woman.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  With the name Joe, I thought you were a man at first, and I thought you were rude then too–and I am also a woman.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  And furthermore, if you do think I agree with you, it might be good to think about why you’re even alienating people who supposedly agree with you.

                3. Liz in a Library*

                  Uh, what? Why did this get so adversarial so fast?

                  And, I don’t have a problem with pants skimming the ground as long as they are not so long that the hem is ruined from them being stepped on.

                4. Jamie*

                  Just illustrates how important the social lubricant is especially in online communication.

                  FWIW regarding pants length – as long as they don’t trip and hurt themselves I can’t imagine caring enough to even notice.

        1. Jamie*

          I think there are very few topics in the world in which opinions should not differ – and it’s hard to find a topic with more differing opinions than appropriate clothing.

          Maybe it’s just me, but I rarely notice what anyone is wearing unless it’s super cute or really egregious. Our dress code is stricter than most due to safety issues so no dresses, skirts, capris, no open toed shoes, or heels. With less flexibility comes fewer dilemmas.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          As a wealthy Edwardian lady once said, “I don’t care what people do as long as they don’t frighten the horses.” :)

    2. Parfait*

      Men don’t wear dresses or high heels or makeup to work, generally — does that mean it shouldn’t be ok for women either?

    3. Tinker*

      Never occurred to me to care about this — except to the degree that I don’t like to shred my jeans non-uniformly by walking on them or to look like a doofus because my cuffs are hovering over my ankles, hence the need for a properly selected inseam.

      Far as the double standard goes, it’s really different standards — it’d be risky for me to interview in a standard cut gray suit, white shirt, tie, wingtips, and #1 buzz cut. Whereas with a guy that would be a safe choice virtually anywhere — and there is no such universally safe standard for me.

      Personally, I’d go for not quibbling over the length of anyone’s pants.

      1. AL Lo*

        to look like a doofus because my cuffs are hovering over my ankles

        I must say, I’m loving the ankle-skimming slim pants this season. Having a slightly higher hem in fashion makes it easier to wear the same pants with different heights of shoes without worrying about having two pairs of the same jeans hemmed at different lengths — one for flats, one for heels.

        1. Tinker*

          I bet that would work well. I tend to not favor slim cuts, I’m moderately tall, and I dress in a fairly standardized casual way, so I tend to not like it when my pants don’t touch the top of my shoe. Narrower pants sound like they’d go well with the right overall look.

        2. Kelly L.*

          This is a really good point. I keep meaning to shop for those, but I’m having trouble getting over an ingrained belief (probably from coming of age in the nineties) that those are High-Waters and Look Dorky. The hangup is mostly in my own head, I think. And heck, I have short legs and they might make ’em look longer.

          I also wonder how many cases of draggy hems come from women switching from their Ouchy Shoes to their Non-Ouchy Shoes later in the day, and the pants were picked to go with the Ouchy Shoes. I see shoe changes all the time in my office. i wish women’s dress shoes were more often comfortable (some are; many are not).

          1. AL Lo*

            I had an interesting conversation recently about this. I was talking to a costume designer for a performance (singing) group, who was laughing at the fact that for the past number of years, she’s been discouraged from putting the women in skinny pants, because they’re a wide range of body sizes and they weren’t all comfortable in slim pants. This year, however, they costumed one of their own numbers and chose that look — slim pants with knee-high boots.

            I was just thinking recently that I’ve really made that switch in the past few years, too — I bought my first pair of skinny pants (at least, the first since stirrup pants and leggings were last in style when I was in elementary school) a couple of years ago, and it was a huge deal — it took a lot of convincing by my husband that they actually looked good, and that I didn’t look ridiculous or like I was trying to pour myself into something that really didn’t suit my body.

            This year, I’ve found that I’ve really been weeding the boot-cut pants out of my closet in favour of straight or skinny cuts — not skin-tight jeggings, but skinny cut jeans that tuck into boots nicely — and it’s not that my body has changed in the past 2 years, but my perception of that particular style has changed, and now I see it as much more flattering to a wide range of body types than pants with more of a flare.

            I think the same thing happened with the women in this ensemble — what was uncomfortable a few years ago given their body shapes and sizes is now totally okay, and their costuming reflects that (and, for the record, they all looked great).

            Ah, fashion. How fickle we all are.

    4. Forrest*

      Men on average also get paid more than women, so the least they can do is not complain about women having more clothes options.

    5. Kou*

      And if I buzzed my hair short and wore a suit with a tie and oxfords, people would look at me funny.

  21. mornin' joe*

    Oops, I meant shouldn’t. And don’t even get me started on being able to see a camisole top and bra straps through an ultra sheer top. Unacceptable.

    1. Liz*

      Completely agree that women often do not wear well tailored dress pants and shockingly unprofessional tops just because they have black pants on. Which is why I find wearing sleeveless, or other professional dresses with sleeves, is often significantly more polished looking and easier because it’s just one piece. I posted this above but I doubt there are many offices where this type of sleeveless dress is inappropriate: http://www.dillards.com/product/Calvin-Klein-Belted-Sheath-Dress_301_-1_301_503406195?df=03854167_zi_charcoal.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Get them to make women’s tops that aren’t see-through, and we’ll talk. They make everything see-through now, so everything needs a camisole and the camisole pretty much always shows (in fact, I’ve come to think of them as not-underwear because they’re so necessary). This is done to increase profits by making people buy more than one shirt to “layer.” (And I’m not talking about sensible layering for temperature, but making an otherwise ordinary shirt way too see-through so you need to wear several shirts at once.)

  22. Anonymous*

    #5 How about, would you be okay with a man wearing something similar? It’s really annoying in summer to see women in sleeveless/toeless garments while I still have to wear sleeves and shoes.

    1. Anonytoo*

      I generally don’t see men in something similar to skirts either. The dress codes for men and women are different and always have been. That may not be what you want, but that doesn’t make it inappropriate for the office, which is the question here.

      1. Anonymous*

        Women used to keep their upper arms and legs covered (stockings) at work. Now they bare any number of body parts in the workplace, while men generally still cover the same parts in the office as fifty years ago.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Please tell me what nude hose actually cover. All they do is make you hot (in the temperature sense, not the attractiveness sense)/

          1. Chinook*

            Nude hose also covers uneven skin tone a hoard of other imperfections those of us lacking skin pigment have. It also allows me to wear a skirt with comments about the neon glow my legs give off at this time of year.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Ah, see, I’m just as pale and I think the hose look silly because even the lightest ones are usually much darker than my skin tone and I always think it looks obvious. So to each her own. :) I do like hose and tights in black, though.

      2. Windchime*

        I generally don’t see men in something similar to skirts either

        Heh. Come to Seattle!

    2. Jane Doe*

      I think that’s the fault of business culture that expects men to dress the same year-round, and where only certain fabrics are seen as “dressy” enough. It makes a lot of sense for people to switch to lighter fabrics (like cotton) and lighter colors in the summer, which I think would also make it less of a pain to keep covered.

      If offices stopped going to extremes to control the temperature, there’d be more of a market for office clothes in summer fabric.

      1. Liz*

        Men get to dress so much more comfortably than women I think you’d lose this argument. I would kill you wear loose khakis and loose golf shirts on Fridays and never have to wear high heels. Instead woman are always expected to wear fitted everything, our beer bellies can’t hang over our belt, heels are often expected, loose, flowy dresses aren’t allowed, etc. I’ve never commented so much on an AAM post before! I guess the sleeveless thing got me going since it’s one of the few things I feel like I can wear and be comfortable while still looking professional. Luckily I work from home now 90% of the time but I still despise female work attire.

        1. Jamie*

          I agree – although granted I don’t work in a formal industry…more the khaki, polo, and button town type.

          When I worked in more formal offices I was so envious of how easy it seemed for men. If I were a guy I’d have a closet full of khaki/black/navy pants, button downs in pale colors and jazzy ties. Life would be so simple.

          But they don’t get the variety – pros and cons on each side.

          1. Kelly L.*

            And if we’re going to stamp out double standards between the sexes, can we get rid of the expectation that a woman must wear makeup to be “professional”? Surely if being clean and neat is enough for a man, it should be enough for us too. (And makeup is hot in the summer too!)

            1. Esra*

              It gets so hot in the city on public transit that my makeup tends to melt off in the summer. It’s tough to look professional when you’re coming in from a humid, 30 degree day.

    3. HAnon*

      I don’t think it’s entirely fair to make the comparison — women are also encourage to (or at least allowed to) wear makeup to appear professional. How would you feel if a man was wearing makeup? Not everything about appearance in the workplace translates to both genders…

      1. Anonymous*

        I work with plenty of women who dress professionally and wear absolutely ZERO make-up.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Oh, absolutely! But you will find a lot of people who believe a woman must wear makeup to be considered professional, which i disagree with.

        2. HAnon*

          Agreed, and I happen to be dressed professionally and wearing zero makeup today. But whether a woman chooses to wear makeup or not isn’t the point — it’s the it is a choice for her that is entirely socially acceptable, where as the same option does not exist for a man (and I’m not necessarily saying it should). I’m just saying there are some differences related to gender and appearance in the workplace that don’t translate from male to female and so-forth.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I wouldn’t care, as long as he didn’t look like Dame Edna or Mimi on the Drew Carey show.

        An office I worked at once used to have a cleaning service come and clean the office in the evening. There was a late 30s-early 40-ish guy named Clyde who used to work for them. One day he came in in full makeup and a blouse and told me to call him Amanda. Fine, no big. I do. Not. Care.

        Sadly, he went to prison for robbing a bank to pay for sex reassignment surgery. That’s not what the paper said, but going on his conversation, I knew that’s what he wanted the money for. :(

    4. Rana*

      When women are allowed to walk around topless in parks and on beaches without getting arrested, then we’ll talk. ;)

    5. Anonymous*

      I would, I would indeed. I would love for everyone to be able to wear everything without people freaking out about how certain clothes are only for certain people. I would love to move to that place as a society.

      But we haven’t, and you can push the envelope by trying it and rage against the machine of norms or you can quietly swear slacks and stay under the radar– but either way don’t act like women are somehow getting one over on you by wearing the clothes they want, and don’t compensate for what you see as a slight against yourself by vindictively trying to impose it on other people or judging those who aren’t slighted in that arena. That goes for everything.

  23. bitter*

    Honestly, you ladies who can wear sleeveless tops at all should feel lucky. As a Mormon, I really can’t wear anything without sleeves, or any skirts above a certain length. It really makes shopping difficult, and some of the dresses I have to reject are awesome (like that sheath dress a previous commenter linked to).
    So, any suggestions for cute, work appropriate and Mormon friendly dresses?

    1. HAnon*

      What about a cute maxi dress in a nicer fabric (floor length or with a hi-low skirt) with a cute colored cardigan belted at the waist with long sleeves? that would look trendy and should cover you up appropriately :)

    2. Anonymous*

      I’ve seen some very nice maxi skirts in stores recently–depending on how formal your office is, they might pair very nicely with a well-fitting cardigan.

    3. Jen*

      The ladies over at Shabby Apple have some cute numbers, and I think they might be Mormon and design with that in mind. I’ve had some fit issues, but I haven’t ordered a lot, being in Canada. Good luck!

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Can you wear a silky knit tee shirt under a sleeveless dress or loose sleeveless top? You could still wear it then (if the skirt is the right length).

      You can make some dresses and shirts too. I know there are some really simple patterns out there (if you’re sewing-impaired like me, ha ha) and they have lots of cute styles and a lot of them tend to be pretty conservative. The beauty of that is you can adjust sleeve lengths, etc. I do it for my skating dresses (I’m tall and have to add length to the bodice).

    5. Natalie*

      You might consider checking out business fashion geared towards professional Muslim women. They usually follow the same rules about long sleeves and long skirts, and you could just skip the coordinating head scarf. :)

  24. HAnon*

    4. We work in a very “relaxed” environment, where there are no formal work wardrobe guidelines…I’ve seen people wear anything from leggings and hoodies to suits. I personally opt for business casual, with a nice pair of dark-wash jeans or slacks/skirt and a nice top with a cute blazer. But there are several women (in their 20’s, my peer group) who routinely wear spaghetti strap dresses, see-through tops (where you can see their colored bra underneath), tops that are cut in a racerback fashion so you can see bra straps peeking out, tops with sheer lace backs so you can see the bra, etc…I know it’s “casual” around here, but I want to tell them “This isn’t the beach! Or a club! It’s a workplace!”

  25. A*

    I think a lot of this has to do with the amount of paid sick days employees get (when applicable).

    I try not to go to work when I’m contagious but the reality is that I often do . My company isn’t stingy with paid sick days, we get 5 a year. While this is enough to take care of most years, it is a small enough amount that it makes me nervous.

    I almost never take sick days in the first 6 months of the year – why? Because what if I end up getting the flu and being out for 3-4 days? I am afraid to use them, because what if I need them more later on?

    Ideally this wouldn’t be an issue because I would be able to prioritize the health of my coworkers and myself above not running out of PTO. However, I can’t afford to take an unpaid day off. Literally.

  26. Vicki*

    Re: #7 – a salaried exempt worker isn’t able to get overtime, but the company also isn’t allowed to dock pay as long as he works part of the day or week, correct?

    So, he’s on site, he’s worked. I can’t see how they could claim a meal isn’t part of the 9 hours.

    Btw, OP, what the heck? You’re _required_ to work 45 hours? You might want to check into whether you’re really “exempt”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because if he’s legitimately exempt, the company can make any rules they want regarding his hours — including or not including the meal breaks and requiring him to work certain hours or certain numbers of hours.

      1. Editor*

        At one time, New York State rules required a 30 minute paid lunch break during six or more continuous hours of work. I think the rules also allowed for 15 minute paid breaks for four hours of continuous work. This was for hourly workers.

        Unfortunately, I don’t know the current rules, nor do I know if there’s a difference in break policies between hourly and salaried workers, although the salaried workers at the library seemed to follow the same break and lunch patterns.

  27. Soon-to-be-unemployed*

    Regarding #2, the “lay off” question.

    I’ve been given 60 notice that my position is being eliminated. As I start back up my job search, I’d been planning to not mention the lay off to potential employers until I *really* had to, (as in, I’m actually laid off and no longer working). It’s a mass lay off, so it’s possible that people who are familiar with my work place may assume I’m looking for a new position because I know my job is in danger anyway. I’m also in a position where I really should attempt to move “up” anyway, (I took a job that was below what I wanted in a bleak economy and bleak situation).

    Is it unethical or is there anything wrong with me not mentioning the future lay off to potential employers,? I realize they could call my current employer for a reference and find out what the situation is… but really, until I’m out of there, do I have to say that I’ve been laid off? I’ve considered noting in interviews, (avoiding talking about any of this in the cover letter), that there is restructuring happening in my current organization.

    Thoughts? Honestly, I feel like I’m trying to avoid some kind of stigma or something.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      Unethical or something wrong with you not mentioning a future event? No. You’re not a psychic and until something happens, it’s only a possibility.

      I would not mention this. Keep your interviews positive – don’t bring any negative energy into them.

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