can we forbid employees from bringing their wives with them when they travel?

A reader writes:

Our company is located in California, and sometimes our employees have to spend the night at a job site and the company pays for their hotel room and meals. Can we forbid an employee from having his wife/girlfriend come out and spend the night with them? I would like to make a policy that forbids employees from having visitors (girlfriends/wives/etc.) come out to a site when they are working and specifically spend the night.

I wrote back and asked, “What is your rationale for wanting to ban it?”

The letter-writer: Several concerns: 1) I don’t watch to encourage an atmosphere for sexual harassment 2) Specifically if the guys go have some beers after work.

Me: “I’m not sure I’m understanding the concern. If someone brings a girlfriend or spouse, how would that encourage sexual harassment?”

The letter-writer:  These guys are in their 20’s and tend to have fun and get a little rowdy in the evenings…we would prefer that they don’t have any distractions. I would think that the company could make this stipulation as long as we’re consistent with all employees.

Me: “Sorry to press this point, but what’s the sexual harassment concern? That’s not making any sense to me. If they’re with people who they’re in consensual relationships with, what’s your interest in preventing that?”

The letter-writer: The one guy has his girlfriend up there, but there are 4 other guys also on the job. I have no problems/issues with the one guy and his girlfriend, that’s definitely consensual…but add in alcohol with 4 other guys and I’d rather just restrict it and make it 100% work.

I’m still not getting it. Are you concerned Employee A is going to harass Employee B’s girlfriend? Or harass his own girlfriend, or what?

Regardless of your rationale, these are adults. Why are you interested in micromanaging what they do in their off time? And why do you have employees who you trust so little?

In any case, if you’re not paying them for their time after work, then I don’t see what possible justification you can have for controlling whether and how they socialize when they’re off the clock.

If you want to make rules about who they hang out with, I strongly suggest you pay them for that time, so that you have some sort of claim to it. Otherwise, it’s not yours.

{ 323 comments… read them below }

  1. Woodward*

    I understand the company not wanting to pay for the meals and possible extra room costs for the significant others, but I don’t understand the other concerns.

    1. Liz in a library*

      Same here…I can understand covering only the employee’s costs for the trip, but I really don’t get the other problem. I feel like I’m not even understanding why they think harassment might happen.

      1. Rana*

        I don’t get it either. Honestly, it seems to me that there’s more potential for after-hours hijinks if spouses don’t come. (But, really, who cares?)

        Also, it seems weird to me that this is so focused on “girlfriends/wives” – does the OP never envision any women being hired in this role? Or what if some of the current employees are gay?

        1. Jessa*

          Exactly. Not to mention, I’m sorry but if you have employees you cannot trust after hours to drink, then if they’re on the company dime, you tell em no drinking on this job, even if you’re only working x hours you’re representing the company on our dime so you need to be mature. I’d be scared to work for someone that trusts their people that little.

    2. Travels for Work*

      I have spent over 100 days on the road this year. Hotels do not typically charge you for a second person in your room? Are they all bunking in the same room?

      1. Natalie*

        I’m not sure if this is different depending on the quality level of the hotel, but in my experience those chain roadside hotels (Best Western, Motel 6, etc) charge one rate for a single adult and a slightly higher rate for a 2nd adult, even if the room only has 1 bed.

        1. Travels for Work*

          Possible, we typically do Choice, Holiday Inn, Hampton. I do know that Best Western difference is only $2 for a second person. If the company is that dang cheap then they must not pay for any drinks with dinner; the employee can drink the free water!

      2. tcookson*

        When our professors’ spouses accompany them on a trip, we only pay for the employee’s expenses. The hotel rooms typically do not charge more for a second person in the room, so that is never a concern. And even though these are mature professionals, sometimes they, too, engage in after-hours hijinks involving booze, but who cares???

    3. Elizabeth West*

      If the spouse/SO pays for themselves or the employee pays any extra costs, that could solve that problem. There could be a rule saying they can’t come to the job site with you, in which case they would have to amuse themselves while the employees were working. If that isn’t possible (hotel not near anything) and they don’t want to be stuck in the room all day, they might not come in the first place.

      There could also be a waiver they have to sign so if they fall down the stairs at the hotel or whatever, the company isn’t liable.

    4. Jessa*

      Exactly, if they pay for the meals, transport and any fees above one person in the room, what’s the issue.

      Now if you park your employees more than one to a room (2 to a room or a bunch in a suite) then I can see the justification for saying NO non employees, because that’s inappropriate to have the s.o. sharing that. Because the 2nd employee might feel uncomfortable getting dressed/undressed, etc. with an extra person. Or feel upset that their s.o. could not come with them.

      1. Bea W*

        That would be the only case where I could see it making sense, if employees were required to share hotel rooms. In that case having SOs in those shared rooms would just be all kinds of awkward.

        1. Oi*

          Personally, I think having employees required to share rooms is more likely to result in awkwardness and lawsuit-type behavior than employees bunking with spouses they have chosen.

  2. Del*

    I’m a little concerned that this person seems to think their employees are all mere inches away from harassment or assault. Do they hire off the offenders list?

    1. TheSnarkyB*

      I agree. I hate to be this crass (consider this a trigger warning), but given that the writer has wasted so much of your/our time with innuendo, I think being frank is warranted. It sounds like the writer is concerned about women being sexually harassed, assaulted, or raped by the rest of the men who are employees – either including or excluding the person she is visiting. (I don’t know which.)

      Again, I’m sorry for the harsh wording, but this is the predominant impression that I get here, especially given news stories about group-crimes like this that have come out in recent years (especially with sports teams).
      I too am horrified that this employer thinks such a thing is on the brink of occurring and I think that this is the time to look at corporate culture, as well as hiring practices, if my guess is anywhere near correct.

      1. Jamie*

        That’s what it sounded like to me also – and if it’s not then the OP really needs to work on less alarming ways to communicate.

        If my safety or dignity was in jeopardy by being in close proximity with my husbands co-workers then he needs another job.

        This is quite creepy.

        1. Lora*

          Just my experience from working in the energy industry, where men are pretty much the only ones out in the field/in the refinery/on the rig:

          Think the worst fraternity you have ever heard of on the news, complete with “no means yes and yes means _____” chanting, on steroids, X 10. That is the work environment, and they are pretty much ALL like that across the entire energy industry. They probably go home and are sweet as pie to their wives/girlfriends/kids, but when they are doing 9 months in Tioga, ND drilling for shale gas and the nearest city is Grand Forks 300 miles away with a population of 53,000…not so much. Think “sailors on shore leave”.

          1. fposte*

            I do think we may be generally underselling the pervasiveness of that kind of culture in some industries in the responses here. Alaskan fish processing seems to be another one–anything with isolation, physical labor, and a ton of money seems to be a particularly intractable combination.

            But that’s the problem that needs to be foregrounded, if so, not girlfriend visits.

            1. Elizabeth*

              “That’s the problem that needs to be foregrounded, if so, not girlfriend visits.”

              Yes. It is 2013. If your employees create a hostile environment for women, you don’t solve the problem by just keeping them away from women. You lay down the law that this is unacceptable, and if that doesn’t solve the problem then you get new employees.

              1. Anonymous*

                This was a disturbing letter – it really does seem as though the letter writer is concerned a female in the company of the employees is automatically at risk of being harassed or worse…and that LW thinks the solution to that problem is to try and limit their contact with females is also disturbing.

                1. Jessa*

                  If you really have a group of men that you do not trust with a woman who is already seeing one of them/married to one of them, why are ANY of them still employed by your company.

          2. Chinook*

            There is a similair attitude known to exist on the rigs up north here as well. That being said, it doesn’t limit the employer from hiring women (not just the manual work but in the kitchens as well as in the office). Those of us in the industry are very aware of the stereotypes and the real dangers of being in the middle of nowhere with 30 men. But, this behaviour is severly frowned upon by better management and would be a cause for instant dismissal by those involved.

            When I contemplated such a job, it was the schedule of 2 weeks on, 4 days off that turned me off, not fears for my safety.

      2. Collarbone High*

        It sounds like this group of employees is already harassing women on the regular. Unless the LW is making unfair generalizations based on gender, there’s no reason to just assume men will sexually harass/assault women — so I’m suspecting LW has witnessed these guys behaving badly toward female waitstaff or customers when they’re out “getting rowdy.” I realize I’m making an assumption here, but if I’m right, it’s upsetting that LW’s company is only concerned with protecting wives and girlfriends, and not the women the employees are encountering during these trips.

        Also upsetting: the idea that the way to “protect” women from sexual harassment is to restrict their movements, rather than discouraging the men from harassing them.

    2. Elizabeth*

      Yeah, this struck me as really incredibly sexist. It seemed to boil down to, “I don’t feel comfortable with women being around my workers, because that will probably lead to my workers harassing them.”

        1. burqa*

          I get that you’re being sarcastic here but, I totally think that “Because it is always the fault of women for tempting men into behaving badly – that’s why we women should wear burkas” is a bit offensive. I’m a woman and I support women who chose to wear burqas (by their own choice). I have NUMEROUS friends who prefer to wear the burqa for whatever reason and have no male influence…

          Like I said, I get that you’re being sarcastic but at the same time, it doesn’t make it OK to make such a comment….especially when it’s not the case 100% of the time.

          1. Aiesha*

            I’m not sure why you are so offended by this. As a woman who wears a burqa by her own choice and I think gold digger was just making a sarcastic comment about women who are forced to wear a burqa because or their male dominated society.

            1. Bea W*

              I took it as a metaphor for “that’s why women should completely cover themselves”. “Burqa” easily communicates that image of a woman totally covered head to toe.

          2. Angie*

            Please tell me you mean hijab, not burqa. Hardly anyone wears a burqa by choice. Maybe I could see an abaya, but not so much in this country. Hijabs, yes, I see that all the time.

            1. FarBreton*

              FWIW, I live in a major U.S. city, and women wearing a burqa is pretty common. (Though from Wikipedia, maybe it’s more an abaya + niqab? The exact distinctions are pretty unclear to me.) Women wearing just the abaya are even more are common. I assume most of them choose to wear it.

              1. Meredith*

                IMO, it’s very, very rare to see a woman in a full burqa in the US. The burqua completely covers the body, and includes gloves, as well as a mesh covering over the eyes.

          3. Meredith*

            This is a common comment in these kinds of situations. Surely you know there are men who DO think women should be responsible for not tempting them by either not existing or not looking like a sexual object, and not that men should be responsible for their own actions? I believe Rivers Cuomo even wrote a non-ironic essay on that subject at Harvard.

      1. NoWivesInChina*

        I believe it’s that the company WANTS their employees (old boys club) to have the freedom to bond at a strip joint (or in China savor the fruits of inexpensive sex with a 20yo fawning over the “rich in their eyes” Westerner). No wives in China was the company rule as it was relayed to me for why I couldn’t go also. Keep in mind the phrase was not “Employees only” or “No spouses”. It was no wives in China. Apparently wife would cramp your style at that 5 star resort that makes any Las Vegas strip mega-hotel look like a comfort inn. But it’s not a vacation, it’s work. Well Eff you!
        Your meal is brought to you (& you got to choose from a menu selection of choices, the dishes magically were taken away, the towels are always clean, the bed made, your driver at your beck & call, and OH YEAH – there’s water slide parks, jet skis, happy ending massages, nightclub with 1000 ladies available to be your hostess & even — get this — a shooting range, yep, if you wanted to go fire a few rounds at this “hotel” you could……not a vacation is barely a true statement & difficult for the wife who is told you only sit in your room……. No wives in China is a recipe for divorce!)

  3. Mary Wright*

    As an employment lawyer, I’d be much more concerned with the “rowdy boys” and their behavior than the guy who wants to bring a significant other. If the rowdies are at your client site drinking and carousing, you have significant risk that they could have inappropriate interaction with a client rep — so…that’s the basket I’d put my worry in. And, you’d be doing your “20-ish” employees a favor to devote time to professional image development as opposed to micro-momming them about drinking.

    1. Clever Name*

      This. I work in the environmental industry, so the off-hours atmosphere when workers are on-site for extended periods of time can be pretty rowdy. Unfortunately, sometimes you really can’t expect non-professional workers to comport themselves with dignity at all times without a clear message from management that “carousing” will not be tolerated. I don’t think wives/girlfriends are really an issue. I imagine it’s more “hooking-up” that is of concern. I know Alison may disagree, but for the crowd that I imagine you’re talking about, I think it would be acceptable to have a policy of “no overnight guests in company-paid hotel rooms”. I think this is something we’ve discussed here before: whether or not growing up with white-collar/professional parents is an advantage. There really is a cultural difference that many of us who were raised to treat everyone as equals may have not been exposed to.

          1. LCL*

            “Unfortunately, sometimes you really can’t expect non-professional workers to comport themselves with dignity at all times without a clear message from management that “carousing” will not be tolerated. ”

            I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, but this comes across as a slap to the skilled tradespeople I work with. There are oafs in all social strata: eg Dominique Strauss-Kahn, to name just one of many.

            1. clobbered*

              Not only that but if they are really concerned about rowdy behaviour of their employees in their off-hours (eg. because it aggravates the local community) , it is worth noting that mixed sex crowds are shown to be less aggressive than all-male crowds. This is why the UK tried to increase the presence of women at soccer matches as a response to hooligan violence.

            2. Clever Name*

              Yeah, I didn’t mean it that way. I’m a white-collar professional whose parents are both white-collar professionals, and I’ve certainly noticed different behaviors between drillers and factory workers and office workers I’ve worked with over the years.

            3. tcookson*

              It’s not just non-professional workers who “carouse”, either. I work with a bunch of professors at a university, and let me tell you, there has been major carousing at conferences, on trips to Rome and Mexico, sometimes even locally when we have a guest lecturer or critic in town who they want to entertain. They all go to dinner and have a few drinks, then usually the women and a few of the men professors go home, and a couple of the guys will take the guest out and “tie one on”.

              My own boss stayed out til 4am just a few months ago, and his wife was NOT pleased. He’s the department head.

              My husband is a line mechanic at a factory, and he has NEVER* caroused as much as these professors do.

              *since our marriage

        1. Mary Wright*

          Hell, I really don’t care, personally, who’s sleeping with whom but as a lawyer, I tend to look at what is the company’s exposure to liability. If its a client or subordinate, where liability for coworker misconduct could arise, perhaps a policy or training is in order.

          In any event, if you are concerned about infringement on privacy or privilege, ask yourself — would you sue if you were offended by a coworker’s conduct even if it was off duty and/or off site? In California, they do sue, and that drives employer policy.

          1. KellyK*

            I’m not sure how the presence of women is going to make a coworker more likely to sue for another coworker being offensive, though.

            If people are behaving in ways that you’re worried would create liability, then you talk to them about those specific actions, rather than making quasi-related rules about how they spend their off-hours.

        2. Juni*

          I once worked with a company (not for, but as a consultant on an unrelated matter), that had a “no overnight guests in the hotel room we paid for” rule that had something to do with liability. They made travelers (about 50% of the workforce traveled ~40%) sign something agreeing to this policy upfront. In talking to some of the regular travelers, I came to understand that if someone wanted overnight company “under the table,” it was at his or her own risk, and should something happen to that person, the company would not be liable. Not sure how that worked, but that was my understanding.

          1. Lillie Lane*

            Wasn’t there a case where a woman in Australia sued her company for some type of compensation/medical bills when she was injured by a falling light fixture when she was having sex in a hotel room? It was an overnight business trip and I think she called up an old flame for a booty call or something.

            1. Sophie*

              As an aussie lawyer, I feel like piping up here and explaining the situation. We have a regime in Australia that if you get injured while at work, or at a place that work requires you to be, you get your medical bills compensated. For example, if I am on a beach for work to do an inspection, and get struck by lightning, I am compensated. You don’t need to prove your employer was negligent, fault doesn’t come into it at all – if you were at work, and got injured, you’re paid. The exceptions are criminal activity and some other narrow categories.

              In this case, the woman got compensation because she was only in that hotel room for business, which her employer selected, (she wasn’t on leave) and having sex is a normal activity outside of work. There wasn’t any issue of fault or negligence of the employer. From what I understand of US law, you guys require fault, so I don’t think it is directly applicable.

              1. Ellie H.*

                That makes sense to me. It’s the same as if she had tripped on a rug in the hotel lobby. If she hadn’t been sent to the location for work, she wouldn’t have been in a building with light fixtures that can come off the wall like that. (I’m somewhat surprised the sex came into it; I’d think that a light fixture that can come detached from the wall during sex might have come off at any time, even if vigorous physical activity below it hastened its fall!)

          2. Jennifer*

            I can understand the employer having a problem with hookups that are occurring on their hotel bill. Especially when all hotels charge for extra people even if there is only one bed.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The employee should pay any charge for extra people, of course, but the company could simply make that clear. What happens in that room is none of the company’s business, as long as no laws are broken and the employee arrives rested and ready to work the next day.

              Why on earth would they be entitled to care about hook-ups?

              1. Joey*

                I think you’ve touched on what I think the real reason is. Its that when employees stay overnight on the company dime their personal lives are much more visible. And companies, or more accurately more conservative bosses, feel uneasiness about behavior of which they don’t approve. There are quite a few bosses who feel uneasy seeing what their subordinates do on a business trip after hours. Whether it’s getting drunk, flirting, or bringing unknown people to their rooms. This one just spoke up. Of course its not right, but I can see someone easily making that bad call. Add in people who feel like a business trip is an excuse to party and its not so out there.

            2. Julie*

              All hotels don’t charge more for two people instead of one person. I travel for work a few times per year, and I’ve brought friends with me and never been charged extra.

              1. Andrea*

                Yeah, I’ve never heard of this practice, either, and I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels in a variety of areas throughout the years. Maybe this is a common practice outside of the US?

                1. Natalie*

                  It might depend on the state, but I’ve noticed it in almost every cheap chain motel I’ve stayed in. In my experience it’s a very small charge (around $5-10) so you may not notice it.

        3. Hooptie*

          I think if you’ve never worked in/with this type of industry it is hard to understand.

          All it would take is one ‘date rape’ accusation or someone getting involved in a hooker sting op and the company is at risk for some bad press at the minimum. Or how about having the locals egging company trucks and trying to get the crews kicked out of town? I’ve seen it happen.

          Way back in the day I spent a stint bartending and dealt with these type of guys daily. While you do have the family men that have dinner and go back to their room, there was always a group (of all ages) that stayed until closing time. Great tippers, great customers overall until they got a little too rowdy.

          Then, they were fighting with the locals over the girls, getting arrested, and yes, hooking up with basically anyone who would go back to the motel with them. One of the girls who did this called a friend who was 17 at the time. Major crisis the next day once her parents found out where she was. No, she didn’t cry rape but she also wouldn’t say yes or no when asked if she had slept with any of them. If her parents would have forced a physical exam I think there would have been a statuatory rape charge if nothing else.

          For once, I am against the majority and agree completely with the OP on this one. Your significant other (or any other relationship status) doesn’t belong in accommodations your employer pays for unless they are invited by the employer.

          1. Wren*

            But what does any of that have to do with bringing your girlfriend along? Wouldn’t that actually reduce the number of guys picking up local girls?

              1. Natalie*

                But how does the presence or absence of a girlfriend affect what the other men want? I can’t imagine an adult man who is fine sleeping alone until he sees his friend with friend’s girlfriend – these aren’t toddlers, after all.

              1. Cimorene*

                So then the concern is that coworker A might, what, rape coworker B’s girlfriend if said girlfriend is on the trip? Which might make cowker B punch cowker A in the nose?

                It seems like the concern ought to be less about the presence or absence of cowker B’s girlfriend, and more about the fact that they have a legitimate and pressing concern that coworker A is a rapist.

            1. KellyK*

              Nothing. And if people are being rowdy and disorderly to the extent that locals are *egging their vehicles,* there’s a problem before they ever reach the hotel.

          2. Liz T*

            ” No, she didn’t cry rape”

            Probably because “crying rape,” if you mean falsely accusing people of rape, is as rare as “crying wallet theft.”

        4. glennisw*

          If they are behaving inappropriately in company-paid hotels, the concern would be that they would incur damages that the company would be responsible for. But it seems to me that if this is a concern with these employees, then they would do so whether their girlfriends/spouses are there or not. Sounds like the employer has a whole different problem to solve.

  4. some1*

    My best guess at what the LW is getting at is the company doesn’t want the single guys bringing random women back to their rooms from the bars. They think if they prohibit this, the single guys will cry Foul because the taken guys are allowed to have their GFs or wives there.

    Still not their business, imo, as long as the company isn’t incurring more costs and the employees are getting their work done.

    1. Lora*

      That’s what I was thinking the OP meant, too–Halliburton has a rule that employees are not allowed to bring anyone back to their hotel rooms on account of one hotel full of guys who were working out in the boonies basically had a prostitute in every room every night, and the hotel they had contracted with was frustrated with the constant police busts.

      I found this out as I was working for a different company, staying at a hotel about a mile down the road, and the check-in procedure was awfully strange–they had this list of rules attached to the check-in paperwork, and there was this long awkward pause where the desk clerk said, in the middle of reviewing the papers with me, “ummmm uhhh I guess this really doesn’t apply to you,” and removed the list. I asked why it didn’t apply, and the answer was, “errrr umm that’s only for Halliburton.” And then I got this really weird look like, “I guess YOUR boss doesn’t care if you pick up gigolos, YOU HUSSY.”

      1. TL*

        I would have been sooo tempted to lean in, smile, and say, “All day, every day. You know how it is.” then just walk off.

        1. Lora*

          I wish I would have thought to do something like that at the time! It was 2am, I had been up since 4am on and off planes and driving through deserts with no cell signals; clever comebacks were not on the menu, sadly.

          ROFL @ Yup! Can you imagine the PowerPoint slides? You just know that there is a PowerPoint slide deck. I bet it starts out with an AWESOME problem statement!

      2. Yup*

        I understand intellectually that these scenarios occur, but the corporate response never fails to amaze.

        Live human people actually *had a meeting* to discuss this. Like, took the trouble to send a calendar invitation with maybe an agenda. And then assigned some poor plebe to draft the rules, who actually had to type those words. And email them to Legal for review and comment with a subject line “For your review: Room Occupancy Guidelines for the Hopelessly Daft, revision 5.”

      3. Clever Name*

        Ha ha!

        I was on some field work in the boonies, and one of the guys on the crew (he was like 22) was trying to pick up one of the waitresses at the restaurant we were all eating at. She gave us this incredulous look when he told her where we were staying and said, “You’re staying THERE?!?” It was a gross hotel. This was the same guy who asked his room-mate if could use the back bedroom in case he had a “guest.” The room-mate said, “Hell no!” Yeah. I think this is the type of thing the OP is talking about, and really, these guys were pretty tame.

  5. MJ of the West*

    I suppose the employer could exercise this control by making policy about use of the hotel room, if they are paying for it. Still, I’m with Alison in that this seems ill-advised.

    In trying to make a little sense of this, is there any chance the employer is putting more than one employee per room and that’s the “harassment” concern? (Though, as an aside, employers asking adults to share hotel rooms is a totally absurd practice that needs to end.)

    1. Meg*

      I agree with the first part of your comment, but I’m curious about the second; what’s so absurd about asking adults to share hotel rooms? Granted, I’ve only worked in non-profits, so it may not be universal, but this seems like a reasonable cost-cutting measure to me. In places where I’ve worked, insisting on separate hotel rooms for every employee would be seen as spending a lot of unnecessary money.

        1. Meg*

          What do you think of it? The other commenters seem to be vehemently against it, and I’m honestly having a hard time understanding the outrage against the practice, although I can understand why people don’t prefer it. Clearly I’m in the minority though, and I’m wondering if this is a serious problem on my part.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s a fact of life in some nonprofits, just like having crappier offices and not a ton of money for X, Y, and Z. It’s part of the deal with working on a cause you care about, in some cases, if resources are limited and direct program support is a higher priority.

            But I do think that at more senior levels, you’ll have trouble attracting the best employees if you expect them to do it more than once a year or so.

            And of course, if the nonprofit is well-funded and spends lavishly in any other non-program areas, I’d be less tolerant of it.

            1. Jen*

              I worked for a company where the president and ceo were twin brothers, so they always shared rooms on trips. And they figured if they could share, so could everyone else.

          2. Daria*

            I hate, hate, hate sharing a hotel room on business trips. I’m an introvert, and I need some alone time to recharge. When I have to share a hotel room, I have no “recharge” time.

          3. Chinook*

            I think part of the reason people are so opposed to shared hotel rooms is cultural. My husband was shocked that I used to share a bedroom with my brother until I was 10 and I would share a bed with friends when we had sleepovers. A lot of it had to do with space – you had more people than bedrooms, so of course you share. But, if you never had to share when you were younger or were wealthy enough to be allowed that much personal space, I coud see the “ick” factor (or if you had too much sharing when you were younger and are willing to sacrifice other parts of your life to never do it again).

            1. Jamie*

              It isn’t for me. I don’t think there is anything odd about sharing a room at home – it’s that getting ready for bed, sleeping, changing, showering…these are all intimate activities and it’s very boundary crossing, at least for me, to live out the intimate parts of your life (however briefly) with co-workers.

              Little stuff like how I talk in my sleep, or that I take medication when I get up, or what I look like slathered in face cream. It’s not sexual nor is there anything wrong with what anyone does…it’s just feels like a violation of privacy to have to let a stranger into a part of your life they wouldn’t normally be privvy to.

              And the lack of relaxation. I’d feel like I was “on” the whole time. Not taking a long bath because it’s rude to hog the bathroom, keeping my conversation with my husband on the phone fit for public listening, having to share the TV, wearing nice (as opposed to comfier) jammies, sleeping in a bra…wearing a robe when you get out of the shower.

              It’s like company manners all the time. That’s exhausting.

                1. Jamie*

                  I went to boarding school and we shared rooms and bathrooms – maybe it’s just me but I couldn’t do it as an adult.

                  Although this thread is making me want to go away for the weekend in a hotel because all of a sudden I have a craving for room service and for those super fluffy pillows I love.

                  Nothing makes a crappy burger taste better than a room service cart and those little mini salt/pepper shakers.

              1. NBB*

                This. Exactly this. I would be horrified to have a co-worker witness to my bed time and morning routines. Not that I do anything crazy or abnormal. But I don’t someone who’s practically a stranger there when I get up to use the bathroom, wash my face, style my hair, and get dressed, etc. And, having someone in a small room with you all night sounds like torture.

              2. Andrea*

                Yes, this. Maybe it’s just because I never had to share a room or a bathroom with anyone—until I got married (well, we don’t share a bathroom now). Well, except for Girl Scout camp. And I realize that this makes me very lucky indeed. But I have a fairly elaborate skin care routine, and I like things to be just so, and I snore and blow my nose a lot because I have allergies, and I can only on rare occasions use public restrooms, and my super-sensitive senses of hearing and smell contribute to me being a very light sleeper, and basically, I’m just a persnickety pain in the butt who is very particular about things and not used to sharing personal space. And I would not be okay with sharing space with a coworkers or being in my robe and fresh from the shower in a room with someone I work with. That practice just seems unreasonable, and it would indeed be a dealbreaker for me if my company tried to enforce such a policy.

            2. Lora*

              My family divided us up boys and girls, and there were a LOT more girls than boys, so I slept basically in a pile of female cousins. I NEVER EVER had enough blankets. To this day I hate sleeping alone, there’s nobody to tell you to shut up and go back to sleep when you have a nightmare.

              Jamie, I went to boarding school too, but there was one older dorm that was supposed to be haunted, to the point that people would happily take a roommate rather than be stuck in the Yellow Dorm. Whenever I wanted a long, private shower with ALL the hot water, I went to the Yellow Dorm.

          4. Y*

            Well, I just went on a business trip where we stayed at a really, really nice hotel. I didn’t mind sharing the bed. But I did mind that the bathroom had glass walls. Milk glass for the toilet, but still… I didn’t even know my coworker I shared with before the trip…

              1. Jamie*


                No way. Absolutely no freaking way.

                And room designers everywhere should take note that bathrooms need walls. Nothing that happens in there is artistic or needs to be seen through opaque glass. Walls and doors. And ceiling fans.

                1. fposte*

                  This is a current design thing in urban hotels, and I find it absolutely horrifying. Fortunately, the only time I personally have run into it I had the room to myself.

                2. Rana*

                  Yeah, I think I might have mentioned here before the horrors of this one NYC hotel I stayed in with my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law for a wedding of my husband’s cousin. We all had our own rooms (thankfully) but man, it was awkward if we were meeting in one room to plan things while someone else was getting ready, because the shower was enclosed with glass walls that abutted onto the living room. The band of frosted glass in the middle to provide “privacy” was not sufficiently reassuring. We all got very good at holding conversations while staring at the opposite wall.

                3. Kelly O*

                  We went on a road trip with the girls in the summer of 2012. Imagine our surprise to find our hotel room with a milky glass wall between beds and bathroom.

                  That worked well – you know the 15 year old and the 2 year old just loved it… plus, you know, convincing them NOT to dig into the basket of goodies on the windowsill with a list of prices attached. (Road trip and fun hotel or no, I am not paying $2 for a granola bar I know I could get a whole box of for that price.)

              2. Y*

                I actually assumed that was what everyone else was talking about here, too. Sharing a king sized bed.

                There is a cultural component to this – I am not in the USA and this was a “fun” trip. I don’t think anyone minded the bed thing (most people shared rooms with people they considered friends), but the bathrooms were problematic.

                1. TL*

                  Yeah, in the US hotels generally have a set up of two twin or full beds for double occupancy. Also, I don’t share beds, ever, so that would be really icky.

                2. Woodward*

                  The only person I share a bed with is my spouse and I automatically cuddle in my sleep…I wouldn’t get any sleep sharing a bed with a coworker – I would be TERRIFIED I would roll over and snuggle up!

                3. Jamie*

                  The only person I share a bed with is my spouse and I automatically cuddle in my sleep

                  Yes, this! I thought I was the only one thinking it.

                  How can I face someone over a conference room table once we both know I tried to spoon them…or I smacked them after they accidentally rolled over on my hair pulling it?

                  And I talk in my sleep. A lot. Not quietly. And usually, but not always, PG rated.

                  Yeah, I start narrating an erotic dream it would be kind of hard to maintain professional authority after that.

                  (Not always erotic, but usually bizarre. I woke my husband the other day from a sound sleep by demanding, loudly, that he bring up my skis from the basement because I needed them right now! We don’t have a basement. I don’t have skis. I went skiing once 32 years ago as a child and that was my first ride in an ambulance…no thank you. God knows what I would be ordering people with whom I work to do.)

                4. Bea W*

                  In the US, hotels will have rooms with 2 separate beds. I would be find sharing a large bed with a good female friend or my sister, but not with a co-worker or someone I didn’t know that well and not with any man.

              3. a bed?!*

                Wait, OP can you come back and clarify – you shared A BED with a coworker you didn’t even know?! Please tell us how mgmt justified this!!

                1. Windchime*

                  I went on a business trip years ago and was surprised to find out that three of us (a coworker, my boss, and me) were all sharing a room. With two beds. I claimed one as my own and the other two women doubled up in the other bed.

                  The whole thing was all kinds of awkward. I did not need to see my boss running around in her bra and slip. Just……no.

              4. ThursdaysGeek*

                I’ve only had to share beds when chaparoning teenagers (4 to a room, 2 beds, and they’ll often sleep on the floor before sharing with an old person), but I’ve often had to share rooms, even working for for-profit companies.

                But if I bring along a spouse on the work trip, then I don’t have to share. Which might mean the company has to pay more because they can’t double up.

      1. Jamie*

        I only heard about this practice here, but I don’t work in non-profits.

        I personally find it absurd and kind of horrifying to require co-workers to share a room – but I’ve come to understand that it’s something that is done in some organizations. I personally don’t want to know that much about anyone’s toilet, sleeping, or hygiene routines.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          Mr. Sam (Walton) insisted on his employees sharing rooms when they traveled. I think that policy died when he did.

      2. Ros*

        In a casual environment (which I haven’t worked in for years, so I’m not up to speed on that), maybe.

        In a corporate environment, where people usually have very strong boundaries about what’s “work-appropriate” and what isn’t, having a colleague see you in PJs, snoring, without make-up, talking on the phone with your spouse, reading a novel at night, or basically demonstrating that you don’t actually pop out of bed in heels and make-up and a suit ready to think about work all the time is just… no. Levels of no.

        And, personally, I have relatively good relationships with the people I work with, but I’m vaguely horrified at the idea of seeing anyone in their PJs. We do NOT have that type of relationship.

        1. Chinook*

          “And, personally, I have relatively good relationships with the people I work with, but I’m vaguely horrified at the idea of seeing anyone in their PJs.”

          For me, the issue is finding “work appropriate pj’s,” especially because there are so many factors involved – do you want to look office professional in satin or flannel? What if the other person sleeps with the heat cranked up or the window open? Should I bring along my Eeyore pj’s (with suitable coverage for wearing around younger relatives) or will that make me too immature?

          But, as an introvert who once had to live in a forest fire camp in the middle of nowhere with 20 men and women and shared bathrooms (shower had a sign that you flipped to show if in use by man or woman), I found that this is survivable and does create a different bond. You get to see your colleagues as more human and you do learn the art of compromise. I also learned to truly love my CD player with headphones and for 20 minutes a day I would hide on my bunk and recharge my batteries away from the world.

      3. Travels for Work*

        As someone who works out on the road a LOT, here is what is wrong with it, especially on crew situations like this feels like. You have spent all day with these guys, the last thing you want is to have to spend the night with them too. I work in just this situation, but we spend the whole week on the road. When I get to the hotel, the last thing I want to see is their faces, and I get along great with them.

        1. Eric*

          I think the big difference here is in the frequency of travel. If you are someone who goes to a conference for 3 days twice a year, having to share a room isn’t that horrible.
          If you are someone who is on the road 4 nights a week 40 week a year, it becomes a lot different.

          1. Travels for Work*

            And I see this team that LW is writing about being a lot closer to the latter than the former. Once in a blue moon is one thing, but if you are regularly having to put the team up at the hotel, plan for it and pay for individual rooms. You should be charging your client enough for something better than the local no tell.

          2. Colette*

            I’m an introvert, and I would find a three day conference where I essentially spent all day talking to people I don’t know well incredibly draining. My company would get more out of me the next day if I had a hotel room to myself.

            Does that make it incredibly unreasonable to ask people to share? Not necessarily, but there is a cost.

            1. Bea W*

              I just came back from a 3 day conference and it was twice as draining as I expected. All I did was talk to people, sit in workshops, and wander around the exibition, and I haven’t been so exhausted in a long time. I came home and slept until noon the next day.

          3. Vicki*

            Nope.For some of us, even that 3 days is 3 days when I do NOT ewant to share a room with a co-worker.

            If the company cannot afford two rooms, the company needs to rethink the hotels they use.

            1. Jamie*

              Agree. I’ve never been paid enough to make it worth my while to let my co-workers see me in jammies and night cream.

              You want that you gotta pay extra. Thems da rules.

              1. Anonymous*

                I had to do this once, a travel nightmare forced a co-wroker and me to share a room (rather than one of us sleeping on the streets). Given the circumstances, we were both just happy to have a place to lay our heads (IN SEPARATE BEDS!) but I can’t imagine working anywhere that it was the norm. The idea of co-wrokers sharing BEDS when traveling is…I just can’t even form words on that one.

            2. Emily K*

              You can’t always choose the hotel, though. At my former job, we did a lot of vendor booths at conferences. As a nonprofit we usually convinced the conference to give us our booth at a free or reduced rate, but we were still stuck paying the going rate for the conference hotel. (Any hotel significantly cheaper would be miles from the area where the conference was held, and you have a 7am start down on the conference floor, plus 100 lbs of materials to cart down with you–and that’s assuming your per-night room savings aren’t canceled out by taxi fare back and forth every day.) If our staff weren’t willing to share rooms, we’d have had to send just one person instead of two, and that one person wouldn’t get any breaks all day long as a result. It just really depends on the context.

          4. Anonymous*

            I was sexually assaulted by a female colleague in a hotel room. Same sex sharing is not nutter proof. I will never never never again be placed in a situation of being forced to room share. I will pay the difference or be sacked or leave. Life is too short for a company that puts its staff in this situation.

      4. Brett*

        Here the policy is always “Share or don’t go.” Or sometimes “Find someone to stay with for free/pay your own way or don’t go.”

          1. Brett*

            That’s not allowed, I think because we are tax free and government rate. You can pay out everything out of your own pocket, but not a partial share.

            1. fposte*

              Oh, interesting–that’s okay by most places I know. It’s kind of like paying out of pocket for a dinner that’s out of the reimbursement band.

      5. Victoria Nonprofit*

        I work in the nonprofit sector, too, so I’m very familiar with this practice (at my current organization, everyone shares rooms, including the ED).

        … but I really think it’s bad practice. When you’re asking people to be away from home I think it’s incumbent upon organizations to help those people be comfortable and well-rested.

        1. Travels for Work*

          “When you’re asking people to be away from home I think it’s incumbent upon organizations to help those people be comfortable and well-rested”


        2. Anonymous*

          Thank heavens my employer agrees with you. I’m an introvert, and I need my alone time to recharge my batteries. I can’t imagine having to interact with someone (a co-worker) all evening. I want to read, or lay in bed in my jammies and watch trashy TV.

        1. TK*

          My mother works for a public university with an outreach program that has offices all over her state– she lives nearly 200 miles from the campus. Obviously, her position involves a fair amount of travel, and penny-pinching is vital in her organization. Until I read this site I had no idea that sharing hotel rooms with co-workers while traveling for work was anything but the norm. In fact, on some trips, they even book 4 (same-gender) people to a room and share beds. I figured that part wasn’t normal in the for-profit world, but didn’t realize people even got their own rooms. That still seems like needless expense to me. I should note, though, that a significant part of this program’s work is conducting multi-day conferences for teenagers which are usually held in hotels, so that probably influences the unique culture around other travel as well.

          I’m in my first professional job, which is in government. I’ve been here a little over a year and have not yet had to travel overnight for work. My understanding, though, is that people are expected to share rooms here as well when we do.

          1. fposte*

            It’s hugely common in library circles–even high-ranking officers often have roommates at ALA. I am content to remain an outlier.

            1. Liz in a library*

              Yep…I’ve never gotten my own room at a conference that I didn’t pay for out of pocket. Thankfully, I’ve always either been able to room with a friend or find a really cheap room, because I am not ok sharing with strangers.

              1. Zed*

                At ALA I generally room with a specific coworker (we know we get along well) or a friend from library school. It works out fine.

      6. Mike C.*

        Because I need time away from my coworkers at the end of the day. I need downtime. I need privacy. I’m an adult. My coworkers don’t follow me home at the end of a normal day, why should they anywhere else?

        Pick your favorite.

          1. Tax Nerd*

            I’ve worked for highly profitable accounting firms that expected staff to share rooms when they went to conferences for training, but that was about once a year. I’ve never been a road warrior, but I believe/hope most client engagements allow staff to get their own rooms. Longer-term projects may get a corporate apartment, but I think most people get their own bedroom, even if they must share the kitchen/living room.

          2. Windchime*

            I like my co-workers just fine, but that doesn’t mean I want to see them in their PJ’s or share a bathroom and shower with them.

      7. Chinook*

        Dependign on where these folks are working, there is also a possiblity of there not being enough hotel rooms in town for each of them to have their own. If that is the case, then sharing with someone and their spouse could defintiely cause some awkwardness.

      8. MC*

        I worked at a well-known non-profit that sent junior employees to a conference overnight, and expected us to not only share rooms, but also beds. Four people to a room! Most people were livid at the very suggestion, and half the group either found an excuse to not go, or chose to carpool at 4am (for a 9am starting time) rather than stay overnight. That freed up enough space to give those who did stay overnight their own beds (2 per room) but managers never even addressed the issue with employees. Cue exodus to the private sector.

        1. The IT Manager*

          I was in the military. I have zero issue sharing a hotel room because I’ve shared much worse accomidations, but I would draw a huge line at sharing beds. Sharing a bed with someone should be absolutely, totally voluntary.

      9. V*

        Sharing a hotel room with a co-worker would be WAY out of the ordinary at my company / in my job. I think it happened once to someone when there were no vacancies in town because of a conference, but there is no way I would want to share a hotel room with a coworker. I don’t have a single current coworker who I would be comfortable sharing a room with (doesn’t help that 90% of them are male and I’m female). But I would regard it as horribly imposing and inappropriate for my company to require it.

        Those hours in the hotel room are my only chance to relax, surf the internet, call my boyfriend, and recharge before another day of work. Sharing a hotel room with a coworker and negotiating sleep schedules, TV choices, and other aspects of daily life would not be relaxing. I need 9 hours of sleep in a pitch black room with no noise to really be productive the next day, and having someone else moving around the room when I’m trying to sleep makes me incredibly twitchy.

        Yes, I’ve shared rooms (and even beds) with friends or family in various circumstances; it’s normal for my friends to end up 4 to a room when we’ve all travelled to a concert in a different city. But for me, there is a *huge* difference between spending time with my friends, and dealing with coworkers where I need to be professional and “on” at all times. Travel for my company is usually 5-10 days straight in a different city, and working in a conference room all day. Trying to be professional for all that time, and never having a chance to relax, would drive me crazy.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      The one non-profit I worked for did this at conventions. They just put girls with girls and boys with boys. I ended up staying with my coworker who was also a childhood friend, so it was kind of like high school when we used to sleep over and stuff our faces and gossip.

      1. dejavu2*

        I guess I’m lucky that the non-profit I worked for (well, the only one I ever traveled for) had a high percentage of LGBT employees, so everyone got their own room since that kind of blows the “girls with girls” thing out of the water.

        Frankly, I think forcing employees to share rooms (let alone beds) when travelling arguably can create an uncomfortable, if not hostile, work environment for LGBT employees. Especially trans employees who may not be out at work. Of course, Title VII doesn’t cover sexual orientation, but trans employees are arguably covered under sexual stereotyping protections…. Just spit balling here, but I could envision five or ten years down the road room shares being out of the question for this exact reason.

        1. Leslie Yep*

          Good point. We do ask our staff to share rooms if possible, but work hard to honor preferences for who you room with, and always give the opportunity to say that they would prefer a single–and do not require a reason. Generally folks opt to share rooms anyway but it is important that we make it clear that it is none of our business why you might prefer a single room.

          1. dejavu2*

            To me, this is the perfect policy. People could have a wide variety of legitimate personal reasons for requiring a single room. Policies that treat employees like responsible adults are, to my mind, always preferable.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          LGBT girls rooming with other LGBT girls doesn’t automatically mean hanky-panky; just wanted to point that out.

          The non-outed trans thing is a legitimate concern. I can’t imagine being in that position and having to explain to your manager that you really need a private room without telling him/her why.

          I don’t travel for my work, but my company is really good about not making people share. Even without all the stuff we’re discussing here, if one person likes to go to bed early and the other is a night owl, that could be problematic.

    3. Amanda*

      Does anyone else find this conversation weird? Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in places where having your own BED was a luxury most people couldn’t afford, much less your own room. But I’m finding the fact that some people would be so appalled by having a share a room for a few days to be odd. I’m an introvert too, and I don’t exactly love sharing my space with other people. But separate rooms for everyone seems like such a waste of resources. I mean, I sucked it up and shared a room for four years in college (as do most people I think), I can do it for a few days for work.

  6. Kerry*

    Does this company not employ any women, or just not send them on any important business trips? What an incredibly sexist question.

    1. Chinook*

      Depending on the industry, it is possible that there are just not many women taking the jobs that require that type of living arrangement. The women self-select out (like I did) for any number of reasons. It isn’t sexism if there are few, if any, women to select from.

      Since the OP doesn’t seem to have experience of having a co-ed team in this situation, it does beg the question about whether or not a woman would feel safe up there without a companion. If that is the case, then the company needs to tackle this issue now before they get slapped with a lawsuit.

      1. fposte*

        I know of one woman who was interested in work in a similar industry; they required her to sign a waiver holding the organization harmless in the event of her rape. She decided she’d skip the job.

        (I suspect they were on serious legal thin ice there, though.)

        1. Jamie*

          If you can’t legally waive your right to OT I can’t believe any court would allow one to waive their right to be free from sexual violence.

          I’ve drafted waivers…I want to know how that conversation went. Where Bob asked Dan to write up a little somethin’ somethin’ ….releasing their liability from rape.

          The fact that there are people who consider that a normal business document truly frighten me.

          1. some1*

            You can’t waive your right to consent to a sexual act. What fposte is probably referring to is that the employee can’t sue the employer if she gets raped.

          2. dejavu2*

            Well, what they have you do is sign a contract agreeing that any sexual assault will be dealt with outside the court system, through mandatory arbitration.

            1. fposte*

              I can vaguely perceive that it might be legal to have somebody agree to binding arbitration. I can’t perceive that handing that to prospective female employees is functionally nondiscriminatory.

              1. dejavu2*

                My guess is that, mostly for that reason, male employees have to agree to the same terms.

                It really is outrageous, in my opinion.

              2. Jessica (the celt)*

                I don’t know, though. Sexual assault is a criminal matter, not a civil one. I don’t now how arbitration would remotely work for criminal matters that involve prosecution and not two sides trying to work something out. Can you imagine mandatory arbitration for manslaughter or hit-and-run? When it comes to criminal bodily harm or intent…I just don’t see how it would even be legal.

  7. KellyK*

    I’m getting the impression that they want to prevent sexual harassment by keeping this a male-only environment. Never mind that 1) sexual harassment doesn’t at all require that the harasser be of a different gender than the harass-ee and 2) after work socialization on their own time isn’t really part of “work.”

      1. KellyK*

        Oh, absolutely. I think it’s ridiculously sexist. I’m just trying to wrap my head around what they think they’re preventing.

        1. AJ-in-Memphis*

          I don’t think they know (or understand). And I guess instead of only hiring “20-something year-old guys” with a propensity to be rowdy maybe they could consider hiring people of all ages and genders who will represent the company well on out-of-town trips and limit their perceived litigation liability. << Just my opinion.

          1. Chinook*

            “maybe they could consider hiring people of all ages and genders ”

            This assumes that there are people of different ages and genders applying for the jobs. You can only hire those who apply. Those who are younger are probably going to apply for this type of job because they are less likely to have commitments that would make it harder to live away for short periods of time. As for gender, is this a job that is more physical? It is not that women can’t do the jobs on the rigs, but most prefer not to given the choices out there (if it is a type of IT or office work or something more inside orientated, all bets are off).

            It should be noted, too, that this type of work environment does require a tougher shell because of the type of work being done. I have known many women who work/live in this environment and the successsful ones are the ones who can tell the difference between sexual harrasment and a “work hard/play hard” mentality. Not everyone is cut out for it and even the people who are do not do it until retirement (instead they move on up the ladder to let the “young folks” do it).

            1. KellyK*

              Okay, what are you seeing as the distinction between “work hard/play hard” and “sexual harassment”?

              Honestly (and I hope this doesn’t sound overly snarky), I get the impression that it has less to do with knowing the distinction and more to do with accepting that you work in an environment where sexual harassment is tolerated and putting up with a lot of BS.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve worked in a manufacturing environment where people used rough language (e.g. lots of cursing, etc.) and this was just the culture. I didn’t see that as harassment; it wasn’t directed at me, and everybody did it. Now some people might think a coworker saying in frustration, “I can’t get this c*** of a machine to f***ing work” is unacceptable. I knew that on a factory floor they probably weren’t going to say, “This darn thing is malfunctioning.” It was loud, it was dirty, and it was earthy.

                What WOULD have been harassment is if a coworker made remarks about my ass looking good when I was standing at my machine, or made jokes that were offensive in some way, or spoke in an offensive or nasty way, even after being asked to stop. (Did not happen; this is only an example.)

                The only illegal or objectionable thing I could point to was in one particular place, they didn’t want me to drive the forklift because I was a girl. They couldn’t stop me from getting the license, but they never assigned me to it. Shortly after that, I left the job because people on third shift rarely ever got off it and it sucked, so whatever.

                1. Chinook*

                  Elizabeth and Lora described it well. I can’t exactly describe when work hard/play hard turns to harrassment, but it is not a given that it will (just like it is not a given that you won’t be harrassed in “polite” society), but I know it when I see it. Rough edges and boisterousness =/= a harmful environment but it does require a thick skin and the ability to recognize that they are not teasing you to be mean but to include you in the team (it is a fine line but it does exist)

              2. Lora*

                -There’s LOTS of cussing. Very creative cussing, sometimes.

                -The dudes tease each other mercilessly. I think I have heard every Your Mom joke conceivable. It’s not personal.

                -I was one of the bosses. Other male bosses at or below my level challenged me constantly, dismissed anything I had to say, but I still had to enforce it and make sure it got done even with a lot of undermining from other managers and a couple of techs.

                -It’s very hard to get the dudes to listen to you and do what you say, they just “hey, little lady” you and do what they want. Leadership stuff they teach in the military helps, because if a sergeant can’t boss the privates he can get fragged, and it’s a similar situation. It helps to find your inner drill sergeant, and be prepared to spend a LOT of time just establishing authority.

                -They’ll set you up to do something wrongly, play practical jokes that are downright dangerous. Like hazing, except it never ends unless you lay The Smackdown.

                -The Smackdown had better be good. A quiet, private, confidential word in a conference room with something thoughtful said about how you want to see him succeed here, is not going to cut it. You need to make an example of the offender as a warning to others not to mess with you.

                -At the same time, you have to be super-sensitive to moods and unspoken feelings. Nobody is going to tell you they are unhappy or angry or frustrated or whatever. They probably won’t even go over your head. If a certain aggregate of guys are disgruntled, they will make your life very, very hard indeed, in all the bullying ways you can think of and some you haven’t. If you’re sensitive to moods and sudden silences and coldness, you’ll pick up on when you have to treat everyone to breakfast tacos and when you have to be a drill sergeant. If you’re not…

                It’s just very, very different from white collar work where people are polite to each other.

  8. Anonymous*

    Are they having 2 employees per room to save money? Bringing a SO, makes it impossible for the company to do that without thinking that the wife could be sexually harassed while sharing the room with the co-worker. It becomes a work issue, because the company is supplying the room and having the SO / wife suddenly be sharing the room makes it an issue if the co-worker feels awkward if the wife is a nudist or walks around in a towel, or if the wife feels like the coworker is staring. Its messy all around. If they want to go, then insist that they get their own room and that you will only pay for 1/2 since you expected that the employee would share a room.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If it’s a room-sharing issue, it would be reasonable to say that in shared rooms, employees cannot have guests stay over (for the comfort of the other person sharing the room).

      1. Shannon!*

        I’m slightly concerned that this manager’s communications skills are so poor that he couldn’t state that.

          1. Natalie*

            Agreed. The tone of the OP’s emails strikes me more as someone who is being deliberate obtuse for some reason.

    2. KellyK*

      You may be right. That’s about the only situation I can picture where it would be an issue. And, yeah, if you’re sharing rooms with coworkers, of course it’s reasonable to prohibit guests, and require anyone who wants a room to themselves to eat the additional cost.

      I have trouble picturing anyone *wanting* to bring their significant other if they have to share a room. I mean, sharing space with your coworkers is bad enough all by itself–not many people are going to be thoughtless enough to add their spouse into the mix. And while there’s work travel I’d happily tag along on with my husband (e.g., if he gets to go to Europe or somewhere tropical), there’s no way I’d go for it if he were sharing a room.

  9. Noah*

    Like others, my first thought was that the guys are sharing rooms. In that case it makes sense to restrict extra people.

    However, if every employee has their own hotel room I don’t see the issue. If it starts to impact work you address it with individual employees. I hate it when throwing down a policy is the first line of defense instead of counseling an employee. Why impact an entire group when an individual makes a poor decision.

    If you are worried about drinking, it does seem reasonable to say “employees must abstain from alcohol __ hours before starting work”. I know my company says 10 hours, but we are also an aerospace company with government regulated drug and alcohol testing.

    1. KellyK*

      I hate it when throwing down a policy is the first line of defense instead of counseling an employee. Why impact an entire group when an individual makes a poor decision.

      This needs to be posted in offices across the country.

      1. Anonymous*

        All this does, is make good employees feel micro-mommed (thanks for coining the term Mary !)

        It makes good employees resentful, and adding one more thing to the ‘why do i put up with this’ list. Talented employees have options where this sort of micro-momming doesn’t happen.

  10. BCW*

    This truly makes no sense to me at all. Are you going to try and ban any visitors as well? I’ve had times when I traveled and I had a friend in that town who came to hang out. Once or twice they ended up crashing in my room since they lived a bit farther away. Aside from that, its just hard to enforce, and I really don’t get the sexual harassment concerns either. But I think a good rule of thumb here is that if you can’t even clearly express why you want to make a blanket rule, then you probably shouldn’t make a blanket rule.

  11. A Teacher*

    This question makes me feel like watching 1984 and the idea that Big Brother (the company) is watching you…glad I don’t work here.

  12. Bryan*

    If the OP is truly concerned about employees’ off the clock behavior while traveling why don’t they just cart them around like Hannibal Lecter in the straight jacked and mask, only releasing them to do their work duties. Sounds about as rational.

  13. Tiff*

    Is it wrong that I’m still laughing? The whole idea sounds a lot like summer camp, not a professional working environment.

    You can’t replace good management with rules.

    1. Jamie*

      Well in that case it makes sense – I remember sleep away camp and we were definitely not allowed to have conjugal visits.

      1. Meg*

        A little off-topic, but I remember when I went to a (very religious) summer camp, we could only hug people of the opposite gender from the shoulders up. Our bodies were not allowed to touch anywhere else. Of course, being 12-14 year olds, we immediately realized that this was to protect our virtue and promptly stopping having any sort of sexual or romantic feelings whatsoever. Right.

        1. anon*

          This is the “church hug.” Though I typically think of it as the way to hug the sorta dirty old man because you don’t want to press yourself against him….

          1. Jamie*

            I saw this on 20K and counting or whatever that Duggar show is…they call it a side hug and that’s the only way they can hug anyone. Even parents or siblings.

            I’m not much of a hugger outside of family, but it made me sad. I’d hate for my son’s to go sideways because they felt it was creepy getting a real hug from mom.

            My second Duggar reference in the last couple of weeks – I really need to expand my pop culture knowledge.

            1. anon*

              Wow, it never occurred to me that even family got church hugs (side hugs). My radar only goes off with dirty old men or just people I don’t want to hug.

              Family usually gets hugged with reckless abandon.

            2. Kelly O*

              Always side-hug, and leave room for Jesus at school dances. I didn’t go to many school dances, but I heard “leave room for Jesus” plenty of times.

              (Read Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff for a hilarious and all-too-accurate take on the Side Hug.)

      2. Tiff*

        We did some overnight trips when I was in an elite high school chorus – Austria and NY mainly. All of our rooms were same gender. But let’s just say there was still PLENTY of conjugal visitation, and most of it was happening between the bass and tenor sections.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          LOL our college choir trips would also get a bit rowdy. Usually it was a big party, but I recall many people sneaking off here and there.

          One trip, we went to D.C. and before we got off the bus at the hotel in Arlington, our director said, “I don’t give a crap what you do tonight as long as you can sing two concerts tomorrow.” Then he strolled off and we didn’t see him for the rest of the night.

  14. The IT Manager*

    I *think* I get what the manager is asking.

    Yes, you can say non-employees can’t visit the job site. And if your employees are sleeping at the job site, this can prevent guests. But the letter mentions hotel rooms so I assume that off the clock the guys are in a hotel or a bars (apparently). In that case I don’t think you can restrict who your employees spend their time with be it co-workers, locals, or guests that come with them.

    And, yes, it sounds like you think your young, twenty-something males get drunk, rowdy, and out of control often enough to be concerned about the safety of any guests. Frankly your solution doesn’t seem to to focus on the real problem because if there’s that much of a risk, the risk applies to anyone they might pick up or run across at the hotel – not just guests. Just something to think about in your company culture.

    I’m betting this is some kind of contruction firm – mostly male and young, job-sites out in the middle of nowhere, etc.

    1. Clever Name*

      Bingo. Or oil workers, or drillers. It’s really a different world from white-collar professional jobs.

      1. Chinook*

        Absolutely – if it is a job-site in the middle of nowhere, then the company really does have a reason to have a say on what you are doing in the off hours because they are paying for your accomdations and you are representing them to the community.

        Honestly, though, the root of this issue could be fixed if those who crossed the line with inappropriate harrassment were disciplined and/or fired. Firing one jerk for bad behaviour, regardless of how good he is at the job, would be enough to cut down the behaviour and maybe even have “good” employees want to apply there (because the guys in these situations know the reputations of the companies when it comes to this type of thing).

        1. Fee*

          Actually I don’t think it is. Re-reading the post OP says:

          “sometimes our employees have to spend *the night* at a job site and the company pays for their hotel room and meals”

          This reads to me like the overnight stays are one-offs – maybe late finishes/early starts on the job or the site is some distance from usual work location. Which doesn’t make it any less puzzling.

          I’ve been an OH in both situations – my partner (white-collar, male-dominated industry) has had to work abroad long-term in distant (though not remote) locations, and on overnights in the city we live in due to a very early start on a deployment; funnily enough he was on one last night. In the first situation I would find it bizarre if I wasn’t “allowed” to visit and stay with a long-term partner when he is away for weeks or months at a time. In the second I would find it odd if I wanted to stay with him when he is a local hotel for only one night (unless he was being put up in the Ritz or something). So yeah, no less puzzling.

        2. Fee*

          Actually I don’t think it is. Re-reading the post OP says:

          “sometimes our employees have to spend *the night* at a job site and the company pays for their hotel room and meals”

          This reads to me like the overnight stays are one-offs – maybe late finishes/early starts on the job or the site is some distance from usual work location. Which doesn’t make it any less puzzling.

          I’ve been an OH in both situations – my partner (white-collar, male-dominated industry) has had to work abroad long-term in distant (though not remote) locations, and on overnights in the city we live in due to a very early start on a deployment; funnily enough he was on one last night. In the first situation I would find it bizarre if I wasn’t “allowed” to visit and stay with a long-term partner when he is away for weeks or months at a time. In the second I would find it odd if I wanted to stay with him when he is at a hotel for only one night (unless he was being put up in the Ritz or something). So yeah, no less puzzling.

  15. Meg*

    OP, I really think you should trust adults to be adults, unless something happened to indicate otherwise. If an employee got drunk on a business trip and acted out of line, then you need to have a discussion with that particular employee. If this is just general discomfort over the idea of employees drinking and (gasp!) having sex during their off-hours, it’s not really your place to micromanage that.

    (Something about this question makes me distinctly uncomfortable, and I’m trying to figure out how to word my discomfort without being too snarky or rude.)

    1. Natalie*

      Is it possibly the fact that the OP seems to be placing the onus of preventing sexual harassment on women (by not being present) rather than on men (by not harassing)? Cuz that’s what I’m noticing.

      1. Mishsmom*

        +1 on what Natalie said. like if women are not there, nothing will happen, but if they are then the men might go crazy. if you have men who might go crazy, that’s the problem. not visitors.

  16. Anon*

    To play devil’s advocate on this, I work in an industry (oil and gas)where on-site employees are almost entirely young males – that is just generally the demographic attracted to the work. So the companies do have a diverse employee base, but these fairly remote locations do not.

    The on-site employees often work long shifts for several weeks, and then have a week to 10 days off. Generally speaking, this means all their time on-site is considered work time, even though they do get time to sleep and relax.

    There is certainly a culture in some of these locations where harassment is more common – that can be sexual, racial, etc. The companies work very hard to correct this and take decisive action when needed. The main problem is that the on-site culture and remoteness means that much harassment never gets reported.

    I present this information only as background though, not to justify the OP’s desire to forbid innocent behavior in case something might happen that is not-so-innocent.

    If the OP is concerned that the employees may sexually harass visitors, s/he should take steps to prevent that – education, communication about consequences, etc. If s/he is worried about the impact of a distraction on work performance, then hold the employees accountable for the performance!

    TL;DR: Give your employees the respect they deserve and treat them like adults.

    1. Chinook*

      “The main problem is that the on-site culture and remoteness means that much harassment never gets reported.”

      This – even if a company has confidential phone lines to report this behaviour, it can’t be stopped if it isn’t reported. Often, the victims just move on to another work site (and if you are good at what you do and reliable, others will gladly have you) rather than have to confront the bullies.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        If the bullies have no consequences (i.e. the company does nothing even when it is reported), then yeah, victims will move on and it will never ever stop. So it has to go beyond reporting.

  17. Ros*

    So, assuming that they all have their own rules, and that they’re doing a good job and showing up for work sober and not hungover the next day… why, EXACTLY, do you care who your employees are sleeping with?

    To put it bluntly: what if, instead, they go out and pick up women at the local bar? Or men, for that matter? They’re off the clock, it’s not interfering with their job, and it’s none of their manager’s or the company’s business. How EXACTLY are you planning to legislate in whose beds adults spend their time away from work??

    1. Jamie*

      What a nightmare. I don’t even want to know why people are late – if I ever had to care about this I’d retire tomorrow.

      1. Leslie Yep*

        Yes. The first thing I tell my direct reports is that I hate getting bogged down in this stuff. I don’t care if you listen to music or take regular walk breaks or check facebook as long as you are responsive and your work is on time and high quality. Do NOT make me have to care about the dumb stuff.

  18. Tyron L.*

    Three requests for clarification and the OP continues to beat around the bush. S/he should go into politics.

  19. Jamie*

    Does anyone else have the feeling that Tiger Mike would be totally behind this policy? I am so sad he never wrote a memo about this.

  20. Allison*

    How would they even enforce that kind of rule? How closely are they monitoring people’s behavior while on work trips? Are chaperones putting tape on the door?

    I wonder if the OP just doesn’t feel comfortable with paying for a room that *might* be used for sexytimes.

    Or maybe the OP’s been watching too much Mad Men . . .

    1. Riki*

      Right? If harassment and/or general bad behavior is the issue, how would not allowing SOs to accompany employees on business trips prevent this? An employee who wants to act up on trip is probably going to do it no matter who is around.

  21. Rich*

    There more to this than the OP shared. Maybe he’s worried about paternity leave during the busy season nine months from

  22. Julia*

    I used to work for a nationally known retailer and we were required to share a room when on travel…conferences, training, ( which I detested). Now I work for the federal government and everyone gets his/ her own room…thank goodness. However, I still wouldn’t want to bring my spouse. There is a lot of bonding that goes on during and after dinner, and even though we aren’t on the clock, it is still like work.

    1. TL*

      My older brother works offshore and when he gets sent off internationally, it’s 80 hr weeks on a boat with his coworkers and then 10 or so days off in the international location every few weeks. Trust me, he doesn’t need any more bonding time with his coworkers. So, it depends on what kind of travel they’re doing.

      (And if I had the money, I would be flying down to Brazil next month to visit him!)

    2. Nichole*

      We always get our own rooms when we travel (in higher ed, no less), and I still balked at my husband’s suggestion that he could come on a trip with me. I consider myself at work when I’m on a business trip, all day every day. I would see it the same way as if he hung out around my office all day. Even if he wasn’t bothering anyone, his presence is a distraction. I don’t really care what my coworkers do, but I do consider overnight guests on a business trip unprofessional and would view it similarly to coworkers that have too much to drink after hours at a conference.

  23. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    In my office, we have had some company events where it is employees only. Sometimes if it is a convention or training function where we would want employees focusing solely on work, we have said no to bringing significant others. Usually this is also because co-workers are sharing rooms and it could get awkward if your roomie’s significant other was present. Now generally speaking, if someone is traveling on company business and their spouse wants to come along, as long as we are not incurring additional expenses, we really are not concerned. It sounds to me like the OP is more worried about these employees being inappropriate (I could be wrong, but this is my interpretation of the situation), partying too much, and not focusing too much on work. So my suggestion would be to focus on that aspect and not the issue with the significant others being present. If an employee is going to be irresponsible and act unprofessionally while on company travel, then that is going to happen whether there are significant others present or not. I would suggest speaking to the offenders in private, specifically about what you consider to be professional behavior while representing the company. For instance, if someone is partying too much and is too hung over to make it to a client meeting in time the next day, then address that problem and explain the expectations that you have while they are on the company’s time. As for trying to mitigate any potential sexual harassment situation; make sure that all employees have signed, and understand the company’s harassment policy, and make it perfectly clear that you have no tolerance for harassment of any kind.

    1. Jamie*

      I think that’s the million dollar question.

      And as an aside – if co-workers can’t be trusted not to harass each others wives/gfs are we to believe they act like perfect gentlemen around the female employees of the hotel and local stores and restaurants. They deserve to be free of harassment as well.

    2. Allison*

      I do have to wonder why the OP keeps hiring from a group he doesn’t seem to trust. If you hire adults, treat them like adults. If you want to treat your employees like children, hire interns.

    3. HR Competent*

      Oil/Gas remote operations= 99.8% Males. Similar to commercial seafood industry I’m part of. How many women crewman have you seen on “Deadliest Catch”?

      That said, it’s best not to enact a policy you can’t enforce.

    4. Chinook*

      While I understand your question, Micke C., I am giving the OP the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is in a field which is male heavy and with no office work. Things like construction and oil & gas in remote areas draw mainly young men for a myriad of reasons which I describe above. If I had been offered a similar job to one I had earlier this year 2 or 3 years ago, I would have been working in the middle of this even though I am female and in my late 30’s, but I decided that pulling mup roots for a few extra dollars just wasn’t worth it. It really is a young person’s lifestyle.

      1. Mike C.*

        There’s no reason that things have to be this way. A woman can swing a hammer or bait a crab trap or whatever just as well as a man can.

        Also, why does a lack of office work mean that there will be a shortage of women?

  24. Arbynka*

    I have to admit I am little confused. OP said that employees have to spend a night at the job site. But then he said they are staying at the hotel. So by site, he means place, like town, not an actual job site such as construction site, right ?

    1. bearcat*

      Several people above are trying to guess what industry this guy works in. You kinda hinted at my guess: I think it’s a long-term road construction project where they hire people (typically young men in their 20s) to stay in crappy roadside motels for month on end. My ex-bf had a job like that and the OP sounds almost exactly like his boss, right down to trying to micro-manage who they were allowed to hang out with in off-hours.

      Just my bias, though.

    1. Travels for Work*

      That or the girlfriend/ wife would lay down the law that boyfriend/ husband was not to spend time with those other guys because they are creeps and pressure him to quit…

      I am with those people that say the problem is not the SO being there; the problem is that LW has workers who do not need to be there.

    2. Chinook*

      “I would think having a spouse or girlfriend or two around would keep everyone’s behavior in line.”

      That is my thought to. I have heard that the oil & gas camps that have strong women as the cooks have the best behaved dining halls because they expect good behaviour. Heck, one of them would even insist my brother-in-law have vegetables when she was serving the food!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s a job I’ve been tempted to run away to on occasion. I don’t know why; maybe I just like the idea of bossing around a bunch of roughnecks. “EAT YOUR DAMN CARROTS AND PICK UP YOUR PLATE! THANK YOU!”

  25. Jubilance*

    My first thought was that this is a company that are overwhelmingly male dominated in a remote area – the oil industry came to mind. The NYTimes did an article earlier this year about how this work areas have very few women (think 10-20 men for every woman) and how that is driving offensive behavior by the men towards the few women who are in the area. I could see a company being concerned that a worker invited his gf/wife up for the weekend after months away, and being concerned with her safety in that type of environment. Granted, this shouldn’t be an issue, but sadly it is. I wonder about the way in which the company is trying to cover themselves.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I see that too, but the real problem is not having women there; it’s the tolerance of that unsafe and excuse my vernacular, asshole behavior. These are grown men we are talking about, and if they can’t behave, they should be chucked out, same as if they were in an office and patted female workers on the behind. Or harassed coworkers of a different race, or who were gay, or just bullied people for no reason. Those pipeline jobs used to be extremely desirable moneywise (I don’t know if they still are), but if they can’t control themselves, kick ’em out.

  26. Kathryn T.*

    If you’re going to pass a policy to deal with this situation, it should be that sexual harassment by company employees in a work situation (regardless of whether it’s off hours or not) will incur strong disciplinary measures, up to and including termination of employment.

  27. Kelly*

    I’m reading this question from a totally different angle. The OP stated nothing to back up the claims of feared sexual harassment. My first thought was the OP was, for some reason, jealous of one of the guys in the groups bringing any female to stay with him over night – like maybe it’s someone she used to date – or wants to date?

    1. Mike C.*

      On the next episode of “Ask A Manager”:

      Question: Can I dictate who my employees are allowed to date? I sign their paychecks after all!

      1. Rayner*

        Technically, they can prohibit dating co-workers/up-down the ladder (subordinate to manager or vice versa) so, yes, they can dictate to an extent who employees can date XD

        1. fposte*

          There’s no technically about it–as long as it doesn’t cross any of the discrimination rules, they’re free to fire you if they don’t like who you date, whether they’re in the office or not.

  28. SB*

    On the one hand, I get where the OP *might* be coming from. I worked for a construction company where job sites could be anywhere across the state. Not trying to play into the general stereotype, but some of the workers were less… invested in their job than others. While not all of them were that way, I would certainly put several of them in the untrustworthy category. After a hard day of toiling, they would sometimes go out and get rowdy at the local bars near whatever job site. There were times when one or more of the workers would end up in jail for intoxication or fighting. Obviously those workers would be fired, but there was a strong chance their replacements wouldn’t be too different. (FYI, the company worked with a prisoner program so a lot of the unskilled labor were parolees). They had a no-guests policy for company-paid hotel rooms because there had been a legal issue in the past where a worker picked up a “lady of the night” , and since the hotel was in the company name and paid for by the company, they were drug into the mess.

  29. Carlos*

    One possible concern regarding harassment from past experience, unfortunately.

    Employee A had his girlfriend meet him at the job site, Employee B harassed Employee A regarding the overnight guest… to the extent that HR had to get involved, and Employee B was eventually fired.

    Thanks to Employee B being too immature to know what was appropriate and what was not AND the fact he was the on-site supervisor, we ended up settling out of court on a harassment lawsuit.

    Our company now has several things in place to ensure we are NOT in the same tough spot again, including a “No guests in company paid for hotel rooms” policy which does little to actually protect the company, but makes the lawyers feel warm and comfy. We completely acknowledge this could happen whether company paid overnight travel was involved or not… knowing someone has a S/O could have resulted in the same harassment occurring… it just so happened it surrounded a company trip this time around.

    One thing that Allyson pointed out that may be different here: Our crews receive compensation for the time they are away. It is % of what their base pay is, so it is a lessor amount, but we do pay for each and every hour they are on a job site, even if they are sleeping. Our company felt that since it IS company time, and part of their contracted pay rate, we have some say as to what they do during those hours. We also do not allow them to drink alcohol while traveling on our dime, but it’s a small price to pay to make $$ for sleeping as far as most of our crews are concerned!

    1. Kou*

      I get this feeling as well. The deliberately vague followups to all the questions makes me think something happened and the OP doesn’t want to say what.

    2. Travels for Work*

      If you do not mind my asking, what country is this? Seems to me, and I may be wrong, that if your workers are not white collar you would not get away with a % of base for those hours, at least not in America. Hourly employees would have to be paid time and a half over 40 hours I would think and that would add up over a weeks time.

      1. Jamie*

        They can’t be paid less than minimum wage, but if a % of their base is still more than that than to my knowledge it’s not a problem.

        I wonder how that works out though – they’d have to still take home the same for the hours worked or people would refuse to do it – wouldn’t they?

      2. Chinook*

        In Canada, for that type of arrangement, it is perfectly legal to be paid your regular and OT wages for time in transit and actually working, a meal allowance and then a LOA (living away?) allowance on top of paying for or suuplying your room. If you are single and have no peramanent home base, your living expenses are essentially paid for. The LOA probably works out to less than min. Wage but you are being paid to sleep, so no one really complains since it is on top of your earned wages and is more of a compensation for your inconvenience.

      3. Carlos*

        Our crews are paid well over min wage even with the reduced % for on-call , and the on-call rate is factored into their hours worked according to the requirements. And yes, we pay lots of overtime to meet US laws.

        We work 4 day weeks, and if the job site is over 100 miles from the office, we pay for the 3 nights they stay over. It’s cheaper than the helicopter fuel to get them back and forth in a reasonable amount of time each day.

    3. anonymous*

      So you made a whole new policy to deal with a situation that was caused by one individual.

      That’s… generally not good management, as gets repeated often on this site.

      1. Carlos*

        While the lawsuit was a single incident, it brought to light a HUGE issue.

        If we had proper HR policies and Harassment Training in place prior to this event, it would not have cost the company an out of court settlement. We had been lucky before. It was not a new policy to deal with one individual. It was a paradigm shift that included multiple levels of changes within the company to protect both the company and it’s employees. This policy was simply one of the changes.

        Like I said, since we pay for their time, we have several rules regarding what they are allowed to do while being paid.

      2. Elle-em-en-oh-pee*

        I am with Carlos. Once the lawyers are involved, it doesn’t matter what is or is not good management. If the lawyers say that is how it has to be, that is how it is… even if it means a creating a whole new policy to deal with a situation caused by one individual.

        Companies do it all the time, it is their perrogative, bad management or no; it really makes no difference if Carlos agrees or disagrees… he will institute and enforce it, if he wants to keep his job.

  30. EG*

    Sounds like a case of making a policy to deal with one problem employee. I can understand wanting to keep the potential for employee drama to a minimum, but creating specific policies when you can simply address the one-time issue is unnecessary and has a greater chance of causing more headaches.

  31. Interviewer*

    I know everyone’s talking construction and oil rigs, but I keep picturing pro athletes traveling to away games.

    What I am envisioning is the OP is worried about liability to the company from these guests in the hotel rooms – whether they are there consensually, as part of a long-term relationship or marriage, or a casual encounter earlier that evening in a bar that gets out of hand. Either way, if the girl decides to complain, she looks around and finds the deep pockets, and suddenly the company is fielding complaints and threats from lawyers.

    If the girl is receiving unwanted attention, she should leave the room, or call the police. It is not up to you to act as the police or create a rule about the guests in someone’s room.

    However, if you are concerned about the image that this presents of your company, I agree with other commenters above that indicate you should make sure your company has strict policies in place about professional behavior, especially while traveling on the company dime. This may take more work and supervision up front, better hiring/recruiting practices, tighter background checks, etc. – but with a fair amount of work, you can get a handle on it, even if there has been a history of such incidents.

    Good luck!

    1. Natalie*

      “What I am envisioning is the OP is worried about liability to the company from these guests in the hotel rooms – whether they are there consensually, as part of a long-term relationship or marriage, or a casual encounter earlier that evening in a bar that gets out of hand. Either way, if the girl decides to complain, she looks around and finds the deep pockets, and suddenly the company is fielding complaints and threats from lawyers.”

      If the OP was worried about their employees picking up possibly-too-drunk-too-consent women (ahem) from bars, why would they focus their entire rules on wives and girlfriends tagging along?

    2. MC*

      “If the girl is receiving unwanted attention, she should leave the room, or call the police.”

      Wow. Way to inject victim-blaming into a discussion about professionalism. The OP isn’t asking about what some hypothetical woman (not a ‘girl,’ unless the bar is serving underage people) in a hotel bar should or shouldn’t do; s/he is asking about what their company policy on guests should be.

        1. KellyK*

          Which is a totally valid point….I do think that point was made in a victim-blaming and kind of sexist way. (Admittedly the “girl” part probably led me to read the rest of it less charitably than I otherwise might.)

    3. Cassie*

      This letter made me think of the rookie transition program that the NBA holds for their rookies/new players. It’s a four-day long event (seminars and such) and players are not allowed to have guests inside their hotel rooms, unless they get authorization by the program admins.

      Players who violate the policy (this year, it was a player on the Minnesota T’wolves) get sent home, and have to attend the following year. Although if you think about it, getting booted from the camp isn’t that much of a punishment for violating policy. Especially since the camp is designed to help rookies learn about behaving professionally now they are in the pro league.

  32. Ruffingit*

    This letter is disturbing. It sounds like the OP is saying that employees in their 20s who get a little too much to drink become rapists or harassers. Yes, there are industries where frat-like behavior is prevalent, but in general you should be able to trust your employees around their co-workers’ spouses and girlfriends. I think I’d be a bit insulted if my employer was intimating that a bit too much drinking would turn me into a harasser and/or rapist.

    1. Editor*

      The impression I received is that the employees were somewhere where there wasn’t much to do except drink, and that the location didn’t have enough females, so unattached males tried to compete for women who were “taken.”

      I feel the OP is just wringing their hands about boys-will-be-boys behavior instead of doing something about specific behaviors. I understand that doing rough, dangerous work in an isolated location is tough and that the applicants are mostly men. Those jobs often pay pretty well, however, and in my opinion the employer should be giving some firm training and follow-up to enforce non-harassing behavior. Maybe the employer should be even more blunt — this job pays you a higher rate because the work is rough and dangerous, but also because the social life sucks, and the lack of social life is no excuse for inappropriate behavior. Maybe the training should even show various crude tweets and simulated situations, and then explicitly say those behaviors are not acceptable. The training I’ve seen about harassment has often been rather sanitized. The problem with candid training is that people remember things they’ve been told repeatedly, whether or not those things are true or correct.

      Maybe what things like the oil-gas industry, the U.S. military, college and pro athletic teams, construction, commercial fishing and other industries that have a lot of young male workers need are tested, effective training related to harassment and bullying. It seems like such highly effective programs don’t exist, since no one here is saying, “here, instead of creating a policy about spouses and girlfriends, use this book/video/presentation/technique.”

      Alison — Would it be legal for an employer to give a preliminary offer contingent on passing a test on harassment policies and withdrawing offers for those employees who don’t get it?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It sure would be. But I’d rather see them do it pre-offer rather than withdrawing offers — or to put people through a harassment course when they start, before they test them (because plenty of people can learn how to behave but might need instruction in harassment policies first, since not all of them are intuitive for everyone).

        1. Chinook*

          “to put people through a harassment course when they start, before they test them ”

          In the oil & gas industry, atleast, this would be so very easy to do as well as these types of jobs should always have on-site safety training whenever you step foot on-site. Plus, these guys have to have things like H2S and confined space training, so it would be nothing to expect them to have their “no workplace harrasment” ticket that they would have to renew every few years with everything else.

  33. AnonHR*

    This (slightly off topic-ly) reminds me of when I told a conservative family member that my roommate was male. I expected the concern on their end to be that it “looked bad” to live with a man I’m not married to or he would take advantage of me somehow. But, she surprised me by being mostly concerned that while I trusted this particular person, and she trusted my judgement, she was worried he’d have other men in the house that I don’t know/trust and I’d end up the victim of some horrible fate at the hands of that person/people.

    Much like her concern for saving my soul from eternal damnation, I am touched that she cares, but saddened by the strongly held beliefs about the world that cause that kind of worry. It sounds like the same logic that got OP to his concern.

    I’m not saying something like that can’t happen (either in my home or at a work site), but if you think the people you hire are likely to do something violent or criminal without your intervention, not to mention to a co-worker’s spouse, the solution is probably in the hiring process, not requiring that employees be sequestered from their significant others on non-work time.

    1. Jamie*

      but saddened by the strongly held beliefs about the world that cause that kind of worry.

      I feel the same way. I’m a worrier by nature and my default is caution…but my heart aches for all the good and decent men who are needlessly feared because of this.

      I have sons, a husband, a brother, I had a dad, and grandpas…all decent, honorable men who’d no sooner hurt a woman than cut off their heads. But there are scary people out there and even though the percentage of the dangerous is statistically small the stakes are just too high to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

    2. Ruffingit*

      And honestly, you could just as easily be accosted by a man that a female roommate brought home (or was related to who was visiting) so your relative’s concern doesn’t make really make that much sense.

  34. Travelling_IT_Lady*

    My cynical side is piping up and thinking that perhaps “sexual harrassment” is an excuse made up that sounds like a legitimate one that will allow the employees to not use company money to “have fun” ie take a spouse, despite the room already being an expense for someone working anyway.

    I used to work for an employer like that and it would get ridiculous. Rather than console the one technician who would step over the line and claim two meals in an 8 hour site visit, a rule would then ban all claims of breakfast. Not limit to 1 meal per shift, but just breakfast banned.

    Big group events (eg once a year conventions) my current employer does and anything “social” rather than pure work the hotel rooms will tend to be shared. They will try to match people that will suit eg people are invited to request someone to share with.
    For normal work, eg if two people visit a client, hotel rooms will be separate.

  35. Hooptie*

    We had an employee invite her husband to stay in a hotel room with her during a week-long meeting without asking first or telling anyone. When he walked in with her at dinner the first night there were some that were very uncomfortable as they had assumed it was a work dinner and had to quickly change the game plan.

    In this situation, what if one of the other guys detests the girlfriend or vice-versa? It could create another uncomfortable or worse situation that IS work related.

    For me, it is better to keep it separate and only provide lodgings for employees.

    1. Ruffingit*

      If the issue is that other employees might be uncomfortable or that work-related things were going to be discussed that non-employees shouldn’t be privy too, then I could buy the banning of non-employees form the site. Problem is though that none of that is the case here. The OP wants to ban significant others purely for reasons of fearing sexual harassment, which really doesn’t make any sense and it if does, the OP should be concerned about who she is hiring, not the fact that people are bringing SOs to work sites.

    2. Julie*

      I have brought SOs on work travel several times in the past, and it would never occur to me that it would be appropriate for the SO to come to a work-related dinner. If several colleagues were getting together after work for dinner that was not work-related and I felt it was appropriate, I might ask if they minded whether I brought SO along (especially since I probably would have already brought up in conversation that SO was along with me on the trip). But there have been many times when this wasn’t appropriate, and SO understood that dinner alone was part of the deal when coming on the trip.

  36. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I am not clear on what your question is here.
    As it stands this is actually a man-bashing question. As in men are all dogs and we have to keep women away from them. I am also confused as to why women are insulted here- basically the underlying concern is that men cannot control themselves. The question is presuming because they are male therefore they are out of control. This is a leap in logic the size of the Grand Canyon.

    Why the single issue, OP? Why aren’t you also worried about drug usage or something like that?

    What is the goal that you are trying to achieve?
    I have heard of companies telling people “When you travel you are an ambassador for this company. So even if you are off the clock, people are judging this company by your behavior- your choices. You must chose wisely. Furthermore, if you find yourself in trouble with the law, the company may chose NOT to bail you out. Pending investigation, you pay will be docked according to the time you were not available to go to work.”

    I think if you Google you will find such policies written out online. It’s pretty standard stuff.

    OP, I think that you have a specific recurring problem that you are trying to find an answer to. Perhaps if you tell us it will be too specific and people may recognize themselves.
    It could be that you honestly have never encountered travel situations before and really do not know what is up. I suggest hopping on the net and finding out how other companies are setting guidelines for their traveling employees.

    My husband traveled a lot for his work. In his experience there was always a core group of guys that would tell the wise guys “ok, that is enough”. And the wise guys would dial it back. Nothing major ever happened. Matter of fact, he came home with some touching stories of acts of kindness in the group.

    OP, I hope you read all the way down through here- there is lots of good advice and food for thought. I hope somehow you find an answer for your question.
    My husband’s company allowed wives/gfs to travel with the employee. The couple had to pay for the wife/gf’s room (the extra cost) and food. No one complained. Additionally, the employee was allowed a couple free, short phone calls home. It was a nice little gesture, acknowledging that the employee had a life outside of work. I think it was all these small things that added up to good behavior on the part of the traveling employee.

  37. EE*

    This is one of the weirdest concerns I’ve ever seen.

    I truly cannot read this concern as anything other than: “I think Employee A will harass Employee B’s wife when he gets drunk”. And I’d love to read something less insane into it.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed. As I said above, the OP is basically saying that her employees are all rapists and harassers, just add alcohol and an available woman. It’s incredibly insulting to the employees frankly and just a bizarre concern in general.

      1. Tinker*

        Yeah, and I’m kind of suspicious about the wink-wink-nudge-nudge aspect of it. It seemed like the OP was trying to appeal to some sort of “self-evident truth” that they don’t want to state explicitly, along the lines of that obviously women shouldn’t be around their employees (with certain ominous implications there re: hiring practices?) because you-know. You know. Because.

        When I’ve seen that sort of behavior in the past, it’s usually indicated that the person who is not saying the thing knows that it’s not an acceptable thing to say, but they still feel compelled to convey or act according to it anyway. It’s not something I care much for.

  38. Kimberly*

    If the letter writer is has a valid reason to think his employees are going to rape the girlfriend of another employee – he needs to fire the employees and rethink his hiring practices. He can’t eliminate all the females in the area that might be at risk from his employees. I think this assumption says more about the letter writer than the employees though.

    It is like those schools that say girls can’t play football because it might give the boys impure thoughts.

  39. Bea W*

    I don’t see the issue as long as the company isn’t paying for the SO to come along. If anything, having your SO with you seems like it would be LESS risk for something untoward to go on if it is customary for the guys to go out and party drunk after work. If they have a wife or a gf to go back to, there will probably be less of that if anything. I think it is reasonable to say the SO can’t be on the job site, but if they stay off the jobsite, don’t interfere with their husband’s/BF’s work, and do their own thing, I don’t see the issue.

    The whole sexual harassment thing doesn’t make any sense to me. Is he saying that the other workers will get piss drunk and put the moves on someone’s SO after hours? If that’s what happens, the issue isn’t with having a wife along, it’s with the employee(s) who can’t behave after they get off work. Rather than ban SOs, the employer could have a policy regarding expectations of behavior while traveling on business. That would make more sense.

  40. Teacher Recruiter*

    I don’t think I’m reading the OP’s email the same way as everyone else. I’m reading that potentially the concern is that if girlfriends or wives are allowed to stay the night, then the other single guys will think that gives them permission (or even encourages them) to find a lady friend for the evening, which is maybe where the sexual harassment concerns come in.

    I still think it’s a horrible route to take and would never advise it, but I’m wondering if the concern is not with the established consensual relationships.

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