ask the readers: my employee won’t go on repair calls when only a teenager is home

Throwing this one out to readers to weigh in on. A reader writes:

I am a manager of a small HVAC service company. One of our service technicians is refusing to enter any residence where a teenager is home alone, even though we have scheduled this appointment with the parent, and although they can’t be there, their 14-year-old will let him in. This will be the second time in a week that this technician has left the residence without fixing the problem, causing me to get an irate customer on the phone. When our scheduler asks him why he left, his response is that he feels uncomfortable being alone in the house with a female teenager. This technician has three daughters, and I think he is letting his paranoia about his daughters interfere with his judgment.

Our company has protocol in place that if a customer is not home, a technician isn’t to enter a residence, without prior approval by the customer. Our service techs are licensed by the state, with background checks performed annually. In the 9 years I have managed this company, I have never run across this before.

I am having a meeting with this technician next week, and I want to make sure I say the right thing. Several times he has commented that the company cannot hold it against him if he doesn’t want to do something that makes him uncomfortable (this includes not working overtime on occasion if asked, going into any home with mold, and now the above reason.)

I know that we can certainly let him go, but we are a small company and he has been with us for three years now. I’m not willing to do this, until I have addressed these problems, and try to come up with something that will make us both “comfortable.” If this cannot be achieved, then I guess I’ll have no other choice but to let him go.

Any help you you can provide in the way of things I might say to him will be greatly appreciated.

It seems to me that if the job involves making service calls when an adult might not be home, then that’s the job and you need to be clear with him that that’s the job, period. From there, he can decide whether it’s a job he wants to do or not.

That said, you don’t want to lose him, and it’s possible that reasonable people could differ on whether he’s being ridiculous or not.

Readers, how would you handle this?

{ 444 comments… read them below }

  1. VintageLydia*

    At first I thought he might be a sex offender with restrictions on who he can be around but and trying to hide that from you, but the rest of the letter changed my mind. I’m not sure why he’d be uncomfortable with teenaged girls in particular. Does he think he’ll do something? Does he think the girl will falsify a claim that he did something? One is scary, the other pretty paranoid, so he should work on that. It’s still a part of his job and if he can’t do it , for whatever reason, he needs to find a new one pronto.

    1. The IT Manager*


      Talk to him to get to the bottom of his concerns. Does he fear false accusations or actual come ones, or is he tempted by teenage girls and so is trying to avoid the situation*? Why is this starting now?

      But, as others note below, a policy of requiring an adult to be home would prevent this problem for him and other employees.

      * This is super annoying. Every time I hear about some man who claims that he is tempted so women need to cover up, not be alone with him, etc. I get so annoyed because the man always wants the woman to be inconvenienced so that he is not tempted.

      1. EJ*

        Except in this case the man is opting to remove himself from the situation, not inconvenience anyone else.

          1. Bea W*

            If the employer had a policy in place that required an adult to be present, this issue with having only a child home wouldn’t tend to come up causing an inconvenience.

            1. VintageLydia*

              Honestly a company policy of requiring an 18+ adult at home would be reasonable for all the reasons stated below. My concern is HIS concern about the gender of the teen.

              1. Zillah*

                Depending on his culture, he may just think that it’s not proper, rather than something more sinister.

              2. Jamie*

                I do think the age issue should apply to both boys and girls, but it’s possible spoke referencing girls because he has teenage daughters.

                I.e. Thinking of how he wouldn’t let someone in his house if his daughters were home alone and that colored his verbiage.

                So it could be innocent or could have sexist subtext where a lot of people think teenage boys aren’t as vulnerable and so some people see them as less in need of protection, policy wise. I don’t agree, but it’s a common sentiment.

                We don’t know what he was thinking when he signaled out girls.

      2. Shane Watson*

        I agree with this. I could see if the employee brought up concerns about false accusations to his boss, but we see no evidence of that here. From the boss’ email, it seems like the employee has done nothing to express any concerns, just simply refused to do his job.

        Telling your boss the equivalent of “you can’t make me do it if I don’t want to” seems awfully juvenile. Does he truly have this attitude with everything he doesn’t like?

        I’d try to get the specifics of why he’s uncomfortable in that situation. As a supervisor, I’d be more willing to work with someone who gave me specifics on why it’s a problem rather than simply refusing to work.

    2. Anon*

      Something I haven’t seen mentioned here yet… It is possible that one of those teenagers who let him in behaved inappropriately while he was at the home. Seems like something he should mention to the OP, but maybe he is just not sure how to bring that up and is trying to avoid the situation altogether.

    3. Windchime*

      I haven’t read any other comments yet except yours, and my first thought was also “sex offender”.

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

        It is precisely because of your first thought that I would never want my husband in such a situation. Even I would be uncomfortable.

        And neither him nor I are sex offenders nor are we inclined to become so.

    4. Jessa*

      Honestly I do not believe any company should have a technician alone with a minor child of any gender. It’s ASKING for accusations or problems. If the repair needs more work, or ends up costing more the minor cannot agree legally to more charges. If the minor gets hurt because they do not obey the tech to stay out of the way…etc. Most major service companies have a policy opposite of this. You call a major cable company and they SAY “must have over 18 person in the house.” There are just TOO many potential issues.

      I think this tech is being prudent.

      1. Grace*

        Well said. And with a background working law, any attorney worth their salt would say same to this business owner about the potential liability. I think this employee is being smart and responsible.

      2. BellaLuna*

        I totally agree with Jessa that it would be prudent to institute an official policy. I not a paranoid person the but I have starting to take precautions. I don’t allow my husband to drive alone with a teenage babysitter. A few years back a 9 yr old accused one of the most respected teachers in our school of hitting him in front of 20 other 9 year olds. Though no other student collaborated the incident, it had to be investigated before the teacher could return to the classroom. From then on, for her protection, the classroom door remained open and the school tried to have another adult in the room. The student fabricated the whole thing because he didn’t want to be in her class.

      3. Anonymous*

        I agree that the tech is being prudent. I was an assistant coach for a high school track team. I am female, the coach is male. We made sure that no coach was ever alone with a student of the opposite gender. One false accusation can ruin a career and is easily preventable.

        1. WM*

          I have to agree – so much in fact, that I will discuss instituting an 18+ age requirement when we go into homes to perform work. It’s just not worth the risk. A coach of mine growing up was falsely accused, it destroyed his teaching career. Later the girls who made the false accusation admitted it was a slumber party dare – and this teacher was the target because they had all recently got low grades on a particular test. Vindication, yes. But the damage to his career and reputation were done. Very sad.

          1. Sweet and Petite*

            And all over a lie told by a bunch of immature kids who didn’t think about the consequences before acting. If they keep this up, nobody is going to believe anything they say, even if it is the truth. Have you ever heard about “The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf”?

      4. Pam*

        I agree. I think a policy of a person 18+ at home at the time of the service call should be a must.

        Also, kudos to the boss here for giving this issue some time before he reacts and seeking out other opinions!

      5. Another Alison*

        I agree with this completely. In the past, we’ve had many companies say they “need an adult over the age of 18 present”. Why would the OP, as a business owner, want to take on the liability of putting a technician in this position? One false accusation (or God forbid, actual problem) and the company’s reputation is toast.

        It does sound like this person in particular might be more prone to getting out of work (although, I wouldn’t want to work in a home with mold either…), but that’s a separate issue that should be dealt with.

      6. Bess*

        Yeah, I was going to comment that in my experience with big service companies, they have a policy that forbids technicians or delivery people from entering a home when only a minor (of either gender) is home. It was really frustrating when I spent a year at home during high school and my parents *still* couldn’t schedule repair visits for the middle of the day! But I completely understand why such a policy is in place, and frankly, I think it’s a good idea no matter what the size of the company.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The thing is, though, that it doesn’t matter if it’s rare. When it does happen, the impact is so devastating that it’s not crazy to want to take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen to you. As Mike C. said somewhere else in this thread, “Likelihood is not the only thing to evaluate when looking at risk – you have to look at the consequences of that risk happening, and the cost to mitigate that risk.”

  2. Just a Reader*

    I actually think the tech has a point. I wouldn’t want to be alone with a child/teenager either, and I’m female. That’s a personal liability nobody should be forced to sign up for by their employer.

    Sounds like it’s time for a change of policy to mandate that either an adult be present or the house be empty.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Right and 1 false allegation can ruin a person’s career and reputation even when it comes out later that an allegation was false, in many cases the damage is already done.

        1. Alisha*

          I agree with Kevin. The technician is protecting himself and the company from any false allegations. He shouldn’t enter the home when only a minor is present.

    2. Michele*

      I totally agree. I don’t have kids but I would absolutely not be comfortable having any repair person in my home with just a teenager present. I think you definitely need to take a look at your policy and make adjustments. I had a friend who’s Dad was falsely accused by a student and even though it came out that she lied it ruined his life.

      1. FiveNine*

        It’s not just accusations of sexual assault. The tech would be the only adult present and conceivably liable (and so would the company) for acting or failing to act in any emergency situation the minor might be in, or should any damage to or theft of property allegedly happen while he was there. It’s just unthinkable, really, that any company would agree to such liability.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          The company is absolutely not responsible for the safety of a minor while a repairman is there! And the theft and false accusations liabilities are the exact same as if there is only an adult home.

          If we were talking a 3 year old letting someone into the house, that’s different. But a 14 year old?

          1. Nusy*

            I’m with Kimberlee on it. Your technician is not responsible for the safety of the teenager, ans should not be held responsible for that.

            I know that it may be more “uncomfortable” for the tech to go out when it’s a teenage girl alone, but would he refuse service on the same basis if it was a single female who is, say, 19 or 20, and living on her own?

            I really feel that this is just part of his job description, and if your company policy OK’s it, then he has to do it, period. I can understand his concern on not working in a mold environment – although if you provide him protective equipment like safety masks, etc. that one seems pretty moot, too. The overtime issue is, again, a job description and agreement thing. If his job description or your agreement contains that occasional overtime with proper compensation may be needed, it doesn’t matter how “comfortable” it is for him. He agreed to it, he’s gotta do it.

            Quite honestly, my gut feeling is that he’s looking for a way out without having to put in his two weeks and going through the whole “break-up” procedure. You may need to let him go – but he may not be so adamant against it.

              1. Zillah*

                Depending on the state, it might not be for a 16 or 17 year old, either – there are a lot of states where the aoc is not 18.

          2. FiveNine*

            This might be correct in theory, but it’s surely not in practice. If the company truly has no risk of being held liable, then why on earth would Comcast or any other big corporation require that someone 18+ be present? All those businesses would take every single appointment even if only a minor were there and just let the tech bear the risk personally.

            1. doreen*

              I don’t think that’s actually about being liable for injuries to the child, though. Whether I’m having Sears come to clean my furniture or having my furnace repaired, there is always the potential for instructions/authorization to be given , and I can understand why they wouldn’t want to take the chance of stopped payment because they cleaned the wrong couch or a refusal to pay for the furnace part my kid authorized.

            2. Anon21*

              Comcast requires you to have an adult there so that someone can sign off on the invoice at the end of the service call. It has nothing to do with liability.

              1. Liane*

                The OP does need to consider this aspect of signing off on paperwork related to the job. A contract, such as an order to do additional work or to agree that the work is finished, is not valid when signed by a minor.

                That said, I really don’t think it is wise to have a solo employee alone on a jobsite with only a child present, regardless of the respective gender(s) involved. In my opinion, it just opens up too many liability issues for the company–not just the tech.

              2. Jessa*

                Exactly a minor cannot consent to a contract. A shady customer could say “We told you 1 hour at $60, you cannot charge us 3 hours. I don’t care if you were there 3 hours, he’s a minor, he can’t agree to further charges.” And while they can’t be liable for injuries in general, if the kid gets in the tech’s way, or trips on the tech’s equipment because they didn’t listen, yes they darned well are liable. The difference is an adult is responsible for themselves. If they get in the tech’s way, a kid is a different issue. there’s a higher standard of care involved.

                But 95% of the issue, potential false accusations, is liability and costs. The kid can’t enter into a contract. Which means the second you are beyond the exact scope of work you talked to the parents about, you’re stuck. You cannot work more than the agreed time, put in more than the agreed parts, even when you take apart the framistat and find out that OMG it’s not the bolt it’s the whatchamawidget. You’re dead stuck until you can get the parent (verified mind you,) on the phone and hope that your trade allows those kind of change orders.

          3. Bea W*

            Maybe so, but that doesn’t stop someone from either making accusations that end someone’s career and damage the company’s reputations or stop them from attempting to sue in civil court claiming Wakeen, who was elbow deep in a toilet clog and unaware of the accident, didn’t call 911 fast enough when Jane’s son fell down the stairs and cracked his head open. When the parent is home in that situation, it’s much harder and probaby less likely to result in finger pointing.

            In one instance, Jane’s son was injured and she was there to help. In the other instance, Jane was not there and starts playing the “what if” game, and rather than accepting that accidents happen, feels the need to blame someone else. So she finds a lawyer who will sue on her behalf.

            It doesn’t matter if that person ultimately wins a lawsuit or can win one, the damage is done the moment they start down that path.

            1. Anonymous*

              What about an adult making false accusations? Maybe the company should have a rule that they only send people over if there are two or more unrelated people there, which makes false accusations a little less likely? Or maybe videotape the whole service call for protection.

              Hey, you never know. Better safe than sorry.

              1. Anonymous*

                My example actually wasn’t a false accusation. Adults making deliberate false accusations is another ball of wax. I’m thinking more in terms of a child has an accident, and the absent parent is upset and as a result is looks for someone to blame. Whereas, if they had been home or another adult they trusted had been home, the mind is less likely to wander into that territory, because they believe that harm would not have been the result of their own or grandma’s negligence and just accept an accident and the outcome for what it is – an accident and they did their best. With a person they don’t really know, it’s open to too much speculation.

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

            Exactly. The service people are not responsible, so they shouldn’t have to be.

            Why do liability rules change when the worksite is a customer’s home? Why would a service person be any less liable if an unsupervised minor injured themselves on the service equipment in the home, than on company property?

            I am sorry I disagree, but I wouldn’t want any 14 year old letting any stranger, uniformed or no, into my house while I am not there.

      2. Anonymous_J*

        +1-Supporting your comment, NOT liking that that happened to your friend’s dad. I am so sorry!

        Hell, my MOM was accused of this, because the neighbor kids at the lake house used to like to come over and play on their dock and in their yard! (Burns me up to this day! I’m glad she didn’t tell me back when it actually happened. That would not have ended well.) Nothing came of it, but my mom’s feelings were deeply, deeply hurt, and they got rid of their lake house soon after. :(

    3. Erin*

      Yup. Most times when workmen have come to my house, their company has required that someone 18 or older be present. I don’t think that’s a weird request.

      1. Anonymous*

        I used to work as a cable dispatcher, and we had a policy that someone over the age of 18 be present at all times. Technicians were actually supposed to check ID’s if the person looked young. It’s a liability issue, and one that any company who sends workers into people’s homes should be inflexible on.

      2. Anna*

        Besides the possibility of weirdness factor, there’s also the fact that someone under the age of 18 can’t sign for or approve work that is above and beyond what has already been arranged. If the technician discovered the problem isn’t what was previously discussed and other work needs to be done, the minor cannot approve that, which just sets the whole process back anyway.

        1. Carrie*

          RE: Anna… THIS!!! Now, it doesn’t actually address the fact that he doesn’t want to go on calls with teenage girls at home, as this applies to either gender. However, it’s still a valid point as to a companies global policies.

        2. Ann Furthermore*

          Exactly, and then the tech/service person is put into a bad position. Does he do the extra work he’s found, because he’s there and can go ahead and get it done — and risk ticking off the customer for doing more work than what was originally planned? Or does he leave and tell the kid to have mom or dad reschedule — and risk ticking off the customer for not doing the extra work while he was there?

          1. Del*

            As someone who deals with payment disputes, this happens pretty frequently, actually, and can risk either a) payment dispute for the extra work not being performed or b) payment dispute for the extra work being performed and charged for.

            And either way, the company loses.

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              Well what it comes down to is that some people just don’t want to pay, and they’ll do anything they can think of to avoid it.

              1. Jessa*

                True, but it’s pitifully easy to do in the US. The minor child cannot agree to extra, if the tech does it, they don’t get to charge for it. They have a nearly absolute get out free card in that instance. Unless it’s for absolute necessities (a minor can for instance contract for food, clothing, medical care, and other necessary goods (necessary being up to the judge you haul the suit in front of BTW,) I mean there are some guidelines, but it really is very subjective – one judge may okay extra charges on a flooding water heater saying that’s necessary and turn DOWN air conditioning when it’s not extremely hot.)

    4. AP*

      Completely agree– it’s not paranoia to be worried about false accusations. This is a liability for the tech and for the company.

    5. Blue Dog*

      I agree. I have a teenager daughter and am frequently called on for taxi duty. The other day, I was asked to pick someone up on may way home from work and bring her over.

      I went home, picked up my daughter, drove back across town, and took them both. Real pain in the ass, but it really is the best policy.

      Frankly, the tech is looking out for the company’s best interest as well as his own. It is wrong to try to jam him for being responsible.

    6. Ally*

      Agreed. *If* I had a teenage daughter, I would not want her home alone with a repairman. And If I was a repairman, I would feel uncomfortable as well.

      1. tcookson*

        I would not want either of my children (13-year-old boy or 16-year-old girl) alone in the house with a stranger of either gender. If my husband or I make an appointment for someone to come to the house, it is our responsibility to make sure that there is an adult present. And if I were the repair person, I wouldn’t feel comfortable being alone in the house with someone else’s children, either.

        1. Anonymous*

          You realize that in about a year, your 16-year-old will be away, living with *gasp* strangers at school.

          1. tcookson*

            I’m sure she’ll handle living with *gasp* strangers at school just fine; that still doesn’t mean I’m going to put her in the position right now of having to be alone in the house with a repairman. She will eventually grow up and have to meet repairmen in her own home, but while she’s still a minor in mine, I’ll do the meeting.

            1. Jamie*

              This a million times. It’s reductio ad absurdum to imply that because one takes reasonable measures to protect our kids when possible that we keep them in bubbles and would freak out at them living normal lives.

              Most of us lock our doors. Odds are if we didn’t tonight no one would break in and we’d be safe. But we’ll still lock our doors before turning in for the night anyway.

              The other thing is the message it sends to kids …most parents try to instill a sense of caution in kids to not be alone with strangers, particularly in a private/isolated area. I don’t get why the caveat “unless they work for a vendor I hire” would make a difference. When the heater goes out I don’t run a background check on the person who shows up to fix it.

              And I’ll be totally honest here, as a grown woman I don’t like being alone in my house with people I don’t know. I do it if my husband is unavailable because I’m an adult and I understand that the odds of someone being creepy are low and I have faith in my ability to sense creepy and make sure I have a clean exit and a charged phone…but I’m not totally comfortable being alone in private environment with a stranger.

              For those letting the kids be home alone with repair people, are they that confident in their kids ability to sense if things are getting weird and to remove themselves from the home? Or are they still young enough to doubt their instincts and stay because they are “supposed to.”

              I have had hundreds of repairmen in my homes in my adult life, and out of those one was creepy. He didn’t get physical but absolutely crossed the line and scared the hell out of me – and he had a job and he was scheduled to be there.

              It just seems like such an easy risk to mitigate and since so many companies have voluntarily adopted the 18+ policy it seems perfectly reasonable to balk at a company that hasn’t.

              1. FreeThinkerTX*

                When I was 11, my best friend’s grandfather (whom I adored, because he was so much nicer than my own grand-dad) called me at home and asked if he could take me to lunch at my favorite restaurant. He said he’d like to give me some gifts, but not to tell my friend, since she and her siblings would be jealous. I asked him to hold on for a second and went and got my mom. She read him the riot act. Four years later he was busted for child molestation and sent to prison.

                So yeah, my mom could totally trust me at age 14 to tell a creep from a non-creep and to take appropriate action. (Hell, I was balancing the household checkbook, paying bills, and doing the grocery shopping by age 13, so handling a Creeper – and I, sadly, met many of them in my early teens – wasn’t an issue.)

                1. Jamie*

                  I’m glad your mom made the right call on that.

                  And you seem to have been exceptionally mature and advanced given your household responsibilities at 13.

              2. Anonymous*

                I’m WELL past my teenage years and am just adding to the chorus here to say I agree with not having workpeople in the house without someone 18+ present. I rarely have had an issue as an adult but recently had someone come in to do work who made me uncomfortable and I asked him to leave.

                When I was about 15 or so, my dad asked me to be at his house (parents were divorced) to wait for a delivery and the delivery guys were asses, they made comments that made me uncomfortable and just were generally being d*cks. I still remember that these many years later cause I was PISSED!

              3. tcookson*

                ” . . . are they that confident in their kids ability to sense if things are getting weird and to remove themselves from the home? Or are they still young enough to doubt their instincts and stay because they are “supposed to.”

                This is what I worry about. I think my kids’ instincts are pretty good; my daughter came up to my husband in a store once and said that she wanted to stay beside him because the way a certain man looked at her had made her “heart go down into [her] stomach”, and we’ve taught them to pay attention to feelings like that. But I’m not willing to test their instincts on things like this where the stakes are just too high, and where it’s unnecessary, anyway, because it’s my job (or my husband’s) to be the one who does it.

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

                  +1o. You put it better than I was trying to, thank you.

                  By the same token, I would argue it isn’t right to ask the service technician to ignore his instincts, which are telling him to avoid these situations, either.

              4. tcookson*

                The other thing is the message it sends to kids …most parents try to instill a sense of caution in kids to not be alone with strangers, particularly in a private/isolated area.

                Also, this. If I have my kids stay home with a repairman, that’s me telling them that the situation is okay. And it might not be. And maybe their instincts would be confused by the fact that I implied that the situation should be okay. Would they second-guess themselves in that situation (mom thinks this is okay, vs. I feel like something not-okay/weird may be afoot)?

              5. annie*

                Yep, I’m in my 30s and I am really careful about who I let into my house and if the repair guy seems weird or anything appears “off” to me, I just reschedule. I also often take a personal phone call if I’m alone, so should anything get weird, I have someone on the other end of the line. There was a story a few years ago about a Comcast repair guy who assaulted and killed someone he was making a repair call to. The reality is you are letting a complete stranger into your home, so you have to trust your instincts. By the way, I often think about this with taxi drivers as well!

      2. Shelley*

        I have a daughter, though she is not a teenager yet there is no way I’d want her home alone with a repairman.

    7. A Bug!*

      I do think the specificity (female minors, not just minors generally) puts a weird light on it, but I agree that I don’t actually think it’s that out-there to be uncomfortable with going into a home with an unsupervised minor.

      Yes, teenagers are generally able to survive being home alone. But when I was a kid, at least, the number one rule of being home alone was “never open the door to someone you don’t know and trust.”

      1. VintageLydia*


        His emphasis on the gender is what bothers me–not the youth–coupled with his general attitude about doing anything he doesn’t like. (I understand mold if it’s at dangerous levels, but nearly every house has a little bit of mold and if you have allergies or asthma, perhaps HVAC repair isn’t the field for you. There are few jobs that would put you in more contact with common allergens than HVAC, even in mold free and very clean homes.)

        1. Jessa*

          If you have allergies you wear a respirator. If the company is doing mould remediation they should have them. If they don’t they’re being really cheap and endangering their employees. Someone could walk in never having had a problem before and suddenly develop one if the concentration is over a certain amount. Ditto with any other material that could cause breathing issues.

      2. Mike C.*

        I don’t think the specificity is all that strange. If the true concern here is a false accusation of sexual assault, his mindset might simply be hetero normative – that is he isn’t considering the fact that men can be accused of sexual assault against other men.

    8. Bea W*

      Yup. Unfortunately this is a liability risk. Your employees may never plan to or harm any child left at home alone, but as society is now very sensitive to child predators, it puts them at risk for a misunderstanding or false accusation if they have to interact much with the child – ask the child to unlock a door, show them where something is, and the only way to remove that risk 100% is to not make repairs in those homes. In reality false accusations are rare, but there are some people who think otherwise or who are just unwilling to take any risk at all. Even where accusations go no where legally, the accusations to an employer themselves may be enough to cost someone their job and their reputation. In reality false accusations are rare, but there are some people who think otherwise or who are just unwilling to take any risk at all. It doesn’t matter if the accusation is proven false, the damage to the employee and the company is already done and is often irreparable.

      Beyond the whole child predator thing, the tech may feel uncomfortable thinking what if something should happen to the child – an injury, that he had noting to do with and maybe he acts quickly or not to help out. The parents could accuse him of negligence or maybe even accuse him of causing the accident.

      This is an issue that is probably not going away any time soon, and these days where you can do everything right and still be sued in civil court for just about anything, the OP may want to rethink company policy, if nothing else, to protect themselves against legal hairyness. If anything goes awry, it will be the company that gets sued, not the individual employee. So it is really in the company’s interest to be aware of the risks these employees are concerned about when they refuse to complete a service call.

      Requiring an adult (18 years or older) be present to let the tech in and that minor children never be left in the home alone during the work without an adult is smart policy. It protects your employees, the company, and it protects the parents and children as well.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        The concern about child predators is valid though, especially if you live in an area where something really awful has happened. I live in the Denver area, and just yesterday the sick twisted psycho who killed that little girl Jessica Ridgeway was sentenced to life in prison. I hope he gets the same treatment that other child predators get in prison.

        I live on the other end of town from where that happened, but still, parents in neighborhoods all over the city (including ours) were keeping a closer eye on their kids, and on any strangers in the area, and so on. Someone I work with was living just a few blocks from where that terrible crime occurred, and she ended up selling her house because she just couldn’t live there anymore. She’d always loved the neighborhood and felt very safe there, but then just couldn’t stay.

        When something like that is fresh in people’s minds, they’re going to be more hypersensitive about it…that’s just the way it is. Strangers are going to be viewed with suspicion, no matter what their reason for being someplace is. Who knows if a well-meaning but misguided person might call the police if they see a stranger going into their neighbor’s house when they know their kids are there alone? I could see it happening. After what happened to Jessica Ridgeway my husband told me as soon as we moved into our neighborhood he made it a point to learn what kind of cars all the people on our street drive so he would know if/when something was out of place.

    9. Meg*

      I actually think this tech is being pretty reasonable. It’s certainly the company’s prerogative to require that he enter the home anyway, but I can understand his nervousness. Whether he’s nervous about a false allegation or about being “tempted” (although I suspect it’s the former), being accused of inappropriate behavior could ruin his career. FWIW, I think the company should have a policy requiring an adult be in the house during repairs.

    10. JustMe*

      I agree. I volunteered at my church for the youth group, and the adults were told NEVER to be alone with just one teenager – so many possibilities for bad things to happen, many of which have been mentioned here (I am female, and thought it was a good policy for all concerned).
      I also remember being that teen girl letting in a service man, and it made me uncomfortable.
      And…just because he has teenage girls doesn’t mean he’s not a pedophile or has issues with lust regarding teen girls.
      Don’t put your employee in a position like that.

      1. Bea W*

        We have this policy in my church as well, where we have never in 175+ years, had an incident involving adults harming children. This new policy was part of implementing a “Safe…something having to do with keeping children safe…I can’t recall what it was called. It protects the adults who volunteer to teach or work with children and gives reassurance to parents.

        1. Anonymous*

          175+ years with no incidents and it’s changed now to be “safe.” Wow. That’s a sad statement about our society.

            1. Bea W*

              True. I thought of it after I posted. There are plenty of incidents that go unreported or covered up in some places. Every adult has to decide whether or not they can trust the people around them, and if they can’t trust them, the best thing they can do for themselves and their children is find people they can trust.

          1. Bea W*

            It is sad. Most places that serve children are reasonably safe and most adults who want to work with children are not predators, but because of some high profile cases and some institutions that failed to put a stop to abuses they knew going on for years, every place with children is now under suspicion and pressure not just to deter any wannabe sleezoids but to avoid any and every possible appearance of impropriety. So now adults working with children are afraid to have normal human interactions like hugging or a pat on the shoulder and resort to things like requiring people work in pairs both to police each other and to provide a witness in case of accusations and lawsuits.

            At what point do we start losing more than we gain?

            I sit on our church council, and we recently revamped all our procedures especially around working with children to bring us into compliance with these stricter standards around creating a “safe place” for children. We were already doing the CORI checks, but not all this extra stuff like always having 2 adults present in order to run Sunday school or children’s activities.

            The two person rule really created a hardship where we had to double the number of Sunday school teachers to continue to run classes. If one person calls in sick or can’t make it, that means the lone teacher can’t run the class. We had to plan for that and decide what to do with the children in that case to minimize the disruption.

            No one in Council believed leaving children with one teacher (a volunteer from the congregation already screened through the background check process) in a classroom was a danger, but in order to comply with this new guideline or regulation (I don’t recall if it was a legal requirement or a recommendation) we have to suck it up and do things they way we’re told do to things whether it make sense or keeps really makes people safer or not.

            It’s like taking your shoes off and putting all your teeny travel liquids in a baggy at the airport. It doesn’t really make us any safer. It’s just some action people take to make themselves feel like they have more control over threats.

            Our society really needs to find a happy middle between denying or ignoring crimes against children and being paranoid that everyone around us is a molester waiting to pounce.

            1. Rachel*

              I am on staff at a church working with youth and children. I also do training with others in our denomination to help mitigate risk for children. We work through the Sunday School issue by either having doors open or large windows in the doors. We then have a hall monitor or two who supervise the entire education area during Sunday School. Each class still only has one teacher.

              I personally think the most important risk mitigation element in our plan is having an anonymous and easy to find reporting structure. Combine that with a policy to thoroughly investigate and report all incidences, and I feel much safer with my children.

              1. Bea W*

                At my church, they decided to just combine classes on those days. Classes are small enough that we can do that with some creativity on the part of the teachers in adjusting the lesson plan for the day.

                The whole discussion was really disconcerting though. We were all on board with and accepted the new plan, but it was still a depressing conversation.

            2. Chinook*

              I asked our coordinator about having to cancel Sunday School if one adult couldn’t attend. We were told that, if there were adults in the next room and doors were open and it wasn’t something we planned for (i.e. Illness, car won’t start), we should be okay.

      2. Anonymous*

        What I find most interesting here is the way beliefs are reinforced and repeated. These concepts about “liability” seem self-reinforcing here.

      3. LondonI*

        At my church everyone who works with the youth or Sunday school must be CRB checked (CRB: Criminal Record Bureau) and there must always be two adults present with the children.

    11. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      Agreed. The mold thing and OT thing makes me wonder if he is just being overly “I don’t do that” about things but as far as being alone in a house with a minor… yeah, not for me. Man or woman, teenage boy or girl, the whole thing makes me uncomfortable. If only for liability reasons. I know our cable company specified that someone 18 years or older had to be home for our installation, and it made sense to me.

      1. Anonymous_J*

        In all fairness, he could be allergic to mold. The OT thing sounds bitchy to me, though.

        I hope that, when and if the OP talks with him, he will open up and explain himself better. Maybe he’s just not a good communicator or is not comfortable opening up when it’s not a private setting. Maybe something happened and he was accused of something, but doesn’t want that to be common knowledge. I hope the OP will hear him out.

        1. Anonymous*

          Why is it wrong not to want to work overtime? Life is hard enough getting in your 40 hours, commuting, shopping, cooking, cleaning the house, caring for the kids, checking on Mama, doing some church work–at one point in my life, overtime and travel for work were severe strains on my family life. At other times, I was happy to get as many hours as I could. The man has three daughters. At this delicate time of their lives, maybe he wants to be home more with them and be a good father!

          1. ew0054*

            I agree. Not to mention when you work out the math, after taxes you are only netting about 10% more than your net base pay. So you are pretty much not earning anything extra except killing your body and sleeping like a dog all weekend.

        1. Bea W*

          It’s not practical even when it doesn’t cost. I just discussed this above – where my church instituted a policy that required 2 adults when working with children. That did not cost us money, except for paying for more one-time CORI checks for the additional teachers, but it did create a hardship finding double the number of volunteers and then deciding what to do with classes in the event someone could not make it. The logistics were the worst part. Now we have to always have a “Plan B” ready in case any teach is short a partner.

          1. HR Comicsans*

            Good point Bea.
            Thinking even further into it it’s not just double the labor costs for that one job, but also taking another worker away from billable jobs too.

    12. Henry*

      I agree with the tech. I would never enter a stranger’s home when the only person present was a minor of any gender. Employer really ought to think about what they’re asking their staff to do, and the risk those staff are being asked to endure. A false allegation (even after it’s widely known to be false) still tarnishes someone’s name, and it’s pretty near impossible to get that back.

      1. Jessa*

        That gets you away from the accusations issue but still doesn’t address the “minors cannot sign contracts,” issue. The kid CANNOT sign that the work is or is not done.

    13. Kou*

      Wondering out loud: I moved out and rented a room in a house at 17 because I was a year ahead in school. I vaguely remember this being an issue with my landlord trying to get someone in to repair the baseboards that were broken in my room. I think I remember the guy who came uncomfortably asking my age (I may have been just past 18 by then) and my landlord having to come be there herself later, but I never put two and two together until just now. It never would have occurred to me that that wee little line in the age sand would be such a big issue.

      I did look very very young in college, though, I guess. People who came by regularly asked if my parents were home and then side-eyed me when I told them my parents did not live there.

      1. Jessa*

        I think this is a slightly different issue if you are living on you own and are the legal tenant. It’s not quite the same as a minor living with parents. But still it’s good your landlady stayed with the tech.

    14. Anonymous_J*

      I agree with this, too. I would not be comfortable entering a residence with only a child home, and it has nothing to do with any weird proclivities on my part.

    15. Beebs*

      Leaving aside the employee’s weirdnesses on the other points, I agree that I would not want to be in a house with only a minor present, either gender. I think the company is leaving itself open to all kinds of trouble by allowing this.

      Now, what the employee’s real motivations/fears are, I don’t know. But the concern on its face seems very reasonable to me. (And as parent, I wouldn’t want it on the other end, either!)

    16. Cheryl*

      I agree. It seems reasonable to be uncomfortable about this particular issue. Perhaps this is something that your scheduler can handle – is an adult going to be present? If yes, send this tech – if not, someone else.

    17. RunGirlRun*

      As a female who is a public school teacher, I don’t blame the technician one bit for refusing to make the service call with a teenage girl at home. The number of educators who’ve been caught behaving inappropriately (!!) while alone with high school students is sickening.

      If laziness (or some other motive) isn’t the issue with the technician, then the manager should keep the tech if he’s an otherwise solid employee. The company should look in to revising their service policy anyway to ensure that an adult is present during the service call. C.Y.A!

  3. Anon Accountant*

    Has he ever had a false allegation against him? Or perhaps known a fellow tech that had false allegations made against him/her?

    Our local gas company won’t permit a technician to enter a home unless an adult of at least 18 years old is present. Even if there’s multiple under 18 year olds, the tech isn’t permitted to enter the home unless an adult over 18 is present.

    1. Wanda*

      This is what I was going to say-any company I’ve called has made it clear when they made the appointment that a person over the age of 18 had to be present for the work to be done. I think the company needs to revisit the policy not the employee.

    2. Jamie*

      I can’t imagine any company not having this policy. I’m astounded any company where home access is involved would allow a tech to enter without an adult present – the mind boggles at the liability issues.

      And the parents who allow workers into their homes with their minor children alone? I have no words for how shockingly irresponsible this is to me.

      1. TL*

        I was at home alone sometimes when people stopped by to read the meter or do things. I don’t think we ever had a workman in the house except the piano tuner – my parents are pretty handy – but we definitely had people on the property and they’d knock on the door, introduce themselves, show ID, and then go about their business. It wasn’t a big deal for us.

      2. Bea W*

        Back in the day, parents didn’t think twice about doing some of the things that would meet with a total disapproving attitude now. Today’s atmosphere is very different, and really no longer allows for individual judgement calls dependent on their own situation. For instance, a parent might not want a teenager home alone with a worker they don’t know, but they might feel okay if the person is someone who regularly does work for them and there’s already an existing trust and an adult isn’t needed for answering questions or making payment or for safety reasons.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t know, I’m pretty old and so I was a kid way back in the day and neither of my parents would ever have allowed me to let a repairman if I was alone. I’d have been in huge trouble and the company would have gotten and earful and scratched from the vendor list.

          The whole stranger danger thing was hit really hard in my house, and caution rules the day. I get that MMV on this – but I don’t that it’s so much a generational thing since some people in the comments think it’s okay to do now, and back in the 80’s it would have given my dad a stroke.

          1. Bea W*

            What was your dad afraid would happen? My mother was all paranoid over the stranger danger, but I don’t think she saw a workman they’d hired as a “stranger” (predator). My dad was just the epitomy of anti-coddler. That was pretty typical of the overall neighborhood. My mom left me home alone for short periods starting at age 9 or 10, and that wasn’t anything other parents didn’t do.

            1. Anonymous*

              I know, other parents had different rules and there seems to have been more variance back in the day.

              His concern was that very bad things could happen to a young girl alone with a strange man or men, and since you can’t tell who is and isn’t dangerous with strangers you err on the side of caution and don’t invite them in without an adult present.

            2. Kelly L.*

              I remember this from “stranger danger” lessons in school when I was a kid, and I grew up in the eighties too. It wasn’t specifically that the repairman your parents hired might be a creep of some kind–it was that the guy at the door claiming to be a repairman, and claiming your parents hired him, might be lying. You were told not to let him in, just like not getting in a car with an adult after school who said “Your mom told me to pick you up.”

              1. Bea W*

                Yes – that is why my parents (my mother specifically, you was big into “stranger danger”) didn’t think twice about leaving us alone with a repairman they specifically hired to come and do work. The danger was in people who would pretend to be someone they were not in order to do unspeakable things. So as long as mom said “Wakeen is coming at 3 PM to repair the toilet. Let him in, and call me if he needs anything.” everyone though it was safe to be at home alone with Wakeen.

          2. tcookson*

            My parents wouldn’t let me have piano lessons at home back in the late 70’s/early 80’s because they had a job where they were on call and didn’t know when they might have to leave me alone in the house with him. And they didn’t overtly suspect him of anything; they were just practicing “lack of opportunity” (as in, lack of opportunity keeps people honest).

            1. tcookson*

              Jamie said what I meant about creating a lack of opportunity: ” . . . you can’t tell who is and isn’t dangerous with strangers you err on the side of caution and don’t invite them in without an adult present.”

  4. Anonymous*

    It’s not the norm for companies to let workers go into a house where there isn’t someone 18+ present. Assuming this isn’t this guys first job, I don’t blame him for thinking its weird and not wanting to do it.

    1. The IT Manager*

      This technician has been at this job for three years. It is odd that this happened twice in the last two weeks when company policy has not changed.

      Although I agree it is worth it for the company to rethink their policy, this employee’s behavior is somewhat strange. If he were really bothered by the policy, a good employee would bring it up to the company and not walk away from two service calls leaving irrate customers who were obviously perfectly fine with their teenagers being the ones to let the technician in.

      1. Anonymous*

        Maybe he’s been uncomfortable with it all along, and is just getting the courage to mention it now. Or he’s been lucky for three years and only had adults at the house.

    2. Differently Anonymous*

      But then why does he only have problems with _female_ teenagers? If it’s a liability issue then he should refuse to work in houses with just teen boys as well.

      The fact that it’s just teen girls is icky and strange to me. It tells me that he sees teen girls as somehow fundamentally different from teen boys. Either more likely to “tempt” him (ugh) or more likely to falsely accuse him. Either way, it’s gross on his part.

        1. Bea W*

          I agree. There are many reasons it *could* be. I don’t think it adds anything to the advice the OP is looking for to speculate on them.

          For all we know, he went on a job where the only person home was a female teen who stood behind him giggling at his butt crack for an hour while he worked.

      1. Anonymous*

        Like it or not, I think there is a very real difference between same-gender and opposite-gender situations, where a false (or not) accusation could be made

        1. Differently Anonymous*

          But why would an accusation be made at all? That’s the thing. It’s not like teenagers run around falsely accusing innocent men of horrible crimes. The false accusation rate for sexual crimes is no higher than any other crimes. If a teen girl might falsely accuse him of molesting her, and teen boy (or girl) is equally likely to falsely accuse him of stealing something.

          The fact that he worries about this means that he sees teen girls in a sexual light. That’s a pretty common view, but it’s also pretty gross.

          1. Differently differently anonymous*

            Yep, it’s pretty disconcerting to see how many people on here seem to think that it’s a given that teenage girls are running around accusing men of sexual assault willy-nilly. The chances of them being actually sexually assaulted are WAY higher than them falsely accusing. And, of course, even higher is the chance that it will be a complete non-issue for everyone involved.

      2. Loose Seal*

        Maybe it’s because this particular teenager was female. If OP comes back and says the technician has no problem working in houses where only teen boys are present, then we might wonder why he’s being so specific. In three years, it’s certainly possible that he’s never been to any house call where an adult wasn’t present and this is the first time he’s faced with the situation.

        I agree with others that the office should change their policy.

        1. Differently Anonymous*

          That’s possible. I got the impression from the letter that it was a more general statement from the guy, not just this particular incident, but I could be wrong.

          1. Woodward*

            I would guess most grown-ups would assume there needs to be someone 18+ home to meet the tech because that is such a common policy with companies and in only 3 years this really could be the first time he’s had only a teenager home to let him in.

            I’m with you; if he is saying “I’m fine with teen boys but not girls” then that’s weird, but that is not what I’m reading in this situation. I would strongly suggest he said “teen girls” just because there was a female teen at the house and not as a general policy.

      3. Mike C.*

        He’s being heteronormative. He most likely is specifically afraid of being accused of harming a woman and it isn’t coming to mind that he could also be accused of harming a man.

        1. IronMaiden*

          The fact that he has teen daughters himself might be colouring his thinking too, in that he would be uncomfortable leaving them with contractors in the house without adult supervision.

  5. Ashley*

    I can understand why as an employer this would be frustrating, but I can also understand the point of view of the technician. Maybe an 18 and over policy is appropriate.

    1. Sara M*

      I agree, I think changing the policy is wise. That said, he may not work out anyway. You’ll still have to have the conversation about whether he has to work occasional overtime, of course, and be clear whether that is expected. (I am assuming you are paying people properly for overtime, and if you’re not, that needs to be fixed too.)

      1. Nichole*

        Agree. I think the 18 and over policy makes sense across the board, but someone needs to nip this “you can’t make me do things that are ‘uncomfortable'” attitude in the bud. An employee should absolutely bring up things that make him or her uncomfortable, but it’s pretty much a given that if the employer disagrees, you can take it or leave it. It sounds like flat refusal rather than can-we-talk may be a pattern with him based on the letter. And working overtime occasionally? For an HVAC person? That’s to be expected in that field. He doesn’t get to say no because he’s “uncomfortable.”

    2. businesslady*

      I know that’s the policy with all of the cable companies I’ve dealt with (because of all the times I’ve had to roll my eyes & answer “yes” to “will an adult over 18 be present” after I’ve already said “my husband will be there when the tech arrives”).

  6. Kevin*

    First I like that you want to address the problems directly before letting him go. Even if you have to fire him or he decides it’s not the right fit for him at least it’s not a surprise.

    He is incorrect in that the company cannot hold it against him if it makes him uncomfortable. Unless you’re asking him do something dangerous or illegal he needs to suck it up. Jobs can have aspects that are not desirable to a person. He is not in a position to design his position’s tasks.

    I understand his apprehension at this situation though. I’m curious as what similar company’s policies are, I feel like I’m always told somebody over 18 needs to be home to answer the door and that while he seems to have a rebellious streak if it makes more sense to make your company’s policies with the industry standard.

      1. Kevin*

        Yeah I thought that one he might also have a point. I don’t know enough about this situation or profession.

        1. Mike C.*

          If 60-70% of homes have dangerous mold in them, then 60-70% of homes are unsafe for him (or anyone else) to be working in without proper safety equipment and training. Why does commonality somehow negate this?

      2. Nusy*

        Yes, it is dangerous. That is why companies are generally required to provide safety equipment, like filtration masks. With that, it is no more dangerous than any other home.

        Presuming that the company complies with OSHA and provides the safety equipment, this is really a moot point, and borders on just plain ol’ whining.

    1. majigail*

      I think that the employer is concerned that so many things make the employee uncomfortable. And yeah, not doing things just for that reason isn’t ok.
      Not doing overtime- not ok.
      Not wanting to be alone in a house with teenagers- reasonable
      Not wanting to be in a home with mold- not ok if the job is home repairs
      It sounds to me like an honest talk and a good look at the job description is in order.

      1. VintageLydia*

        Seriously. In HVAC repair I imagine mold would be part of the territory. I mean, if it’s severe mold, sure, refuse. But in home repair you WILL encounter mold and he should already be provided with the appropriate safety equipment (masks, gloves, what have you.)

        1. Woodward*

          I worked in the office at an HVAC company and we had one technician where the mold was so bad and gross that when he went back to his truck he discretely removed his pants and uniform shirt, bagged them up, then tossed them in the garbage and drove home in his underwear to take a shower. Our company had a policy that if the tech ruined their uniforms, they would have to pay to replace them. However, in this case, an exception was made because it was just SO gross!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Agreed, and it seems we don’t know enough about the policies from this letter. Do they have PPE for working around mold? Is overtime becoming ubiquitous, or is it handled poorly? Have there been problems with kids not being able to answer questions the tech may need to ask? There are more questions here than Alison can give answers for.

  7. AWill*

    Well I can understand his behavior. When I was a teen myself (I’m female) I remember not being totally comfortable being home alone with repair people who I knew next to nothing about. Not that I thought anything was going to happen, but you really never know and in today’s world you have to be careful. To me it looks like he is just trying to protect himself from a potentially bad situation or the implication of any sort of impropriety. He might be paranoid, but he also might have had a bad experience that he is looking to avoid in the future. I would say talk to him and see if this is coming from somewhere specific.

    If he was able to do his job well for 3 years previously and continues to perform well other than in this situation, I would say work to find a comprise that makes both the boss and employee comfortable.

  8. Malissa*

    At my place of business we do flooring installations. We require that somebody over 18 and who can make decision be in the residence when we come in.
    First reason is because if something needs to be changed on the fly, a minor’s agreement to a contractual obligation is very hard to uphold.
    Secondly, there are liability issues with minors when no adult is around. What happens if you can’t get the minor to stay away from the work area and they jeopardize the safety of the worker or themselves?
    So my opinion on this is that maybe you need to re-examine your policies and have a talk with your liability insurance carrier before you talk to the employee.

    1. Ethyl*

      Agreed. I’ve had lots of different types of repair people at my house and all of them have required an adult (i.e., 18+ years) to be present. I always figured there were really good, liability-related reasons for this, having worked in a field where health and safety are REALLY important, so thanks for clarifying that Malissa!

  9. Lily in NYC*

    In my parents’ town, a 15-year old girl was home alone and was raped and killed by a guy who was sent to fix the pool. It was awful. I have to assume the guy has heard some sort of horror story and is worried about covering his butt. And teenage girls can be manipulative liars -can you imagine if you were in someone’s house fixing something, left, and later found out someone accused you of doing something you didn’t do? These are very unlikely scenarios, but I can kind of see how this guy’s mind works. I have mixed feelings- part of me feels like he should get another job but I also have to wonder if he feels like the company or OP won’t have his back if something happens that isn’t his fault.

      1. Anonna Ms.*

        Teenagers not only can be exceptional manipulative liars, but they are also too young to fully comprehend the long-term consequences of some of the things that they say and do. (This is why they can’t be legally bound to something, for instance.)

        1. KellyK*

          But that doesn’t mean that the slam on teenage girls was warranted.

          Also, I think people are conflating their experience with their own teens or their students with teens interacting with random adults. There’s a HUGE difference between conning your parents into thinking you’re at Susie’s when you’re really at a party and falsely accusing a stranger of a crime.

          1. some1*

            “There’s a HUGE difference between conning your parents into thinking you’re at Susie’s when you’re really at a party and falsely accusing a stranger of a crime.”

            Totally this. I am definitely guilty of the first when I was a teen and would not have dreamed of accusing anyone of a crime. And I’m now a fully functional adult with no criminal record.

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            Yeah, but if a teenager already is a victim of a crime, I bet it is tempting to blame the repairman that you don’t know instead of your close relative. I suspect that many false accusations are only falsely directed.

            1. KellyK*

              That’s also true, but the original comment wasn’t about that—it was about how sneaky and manipulative teenagers are.

        1. badger_doc*

          I agree with you. As a former teenage girl myself, girls are a lot cattier and more manipulative than boys. Not saying boys can’t be just as good as lying, but for some reason I still think girls can be so much worse…

    1. TL*

      Also, false accusations of rape/sexual assault happen pretty much on par with false accusations of any other crime – about 2% of the time. Not very often.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Sure, but they’re so extremely damaging (to both a person’s career and personal life) when they do happen that you can understand someone wanting to take precautions to prevent them.

        1. TL*

          That’s true. But I honestly think the bigger danger here would be children or teenagers around dangerous things like tools/electrical circuits or crawling up into an attic with PPE or something and then the tech being liable if the kid hurts their self. Not the risk of a false accusation, but the risk of having someone you’re liable for doing something dumb you can’t prevent.

          1. Malissa*

            Exactly! Teenagers don’t often have the best judgement. Often when we hear about this lack of judgement turning into something dangerous the question is often asked, “Why wasn’t there a responsible adult around?”
            A technician is there to do a job, not be the responsible adult.

        2. annie*

          Agree. And on the flip side of that coin, most predators are never caught/charged/punished, and most assaults are people who you know not strangers in the street – being a service technician is totally the kind of a job a criminal would want if they were really diabolical. It’s entirely possible your charming employee is secretly a creep, so the 18+ policy does serve protect the company as well to a certain extent.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yes, but those 2% of people have families and friends, and as someone who has had a cousin-in-law falsely convicted of manslaughter and a father falsely accused and arrested for child molestation, I am VERY careful when around kids and teens. My spouse and I work with teens at our church, and make sure when we’re giving rides home that the last kid is our gender (less risk), even if it means driving a longer distance. The kids don’t notice, but many adults I know are very careful to protect themselves from any opportunities for false accusations.

        1. KellyK*

          Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a second, unrelated adult in the car than to drive out of your way to make sure to drop a kid of your gender off last?

          Even better if that were an actual policy your church enforced, since it would not only protect you from false allegations but would protect the kids if a sexual predator wanted to use volunteering with the youth group to gain access.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Sure, if you had a van like joanne below. But in a car with only 5 seats, using another adult (who also has a car and can give rides) really limits the number of kids who get rides.

            As for protecting the kids, they do background checks on us, and not just anyone is asked to help. It can’t be 100% safe, but that aspect isn’t ignored.

        2. joanne*

          My dad is a minister, and he drove the church van on Sundays to pick up the kids whose parents didn’t come. One of us kids always had to go with him, so he’d never be alone in the van with them. We would also tag along if he got calls from people in the community wanting to talk to a preacher. Can’t be too careful, I guess.

  10. COT*

    I generally agree with Alison; it sounds like this employee has a long list of conditions under which he refuses to work and isn’t very flexible about them.

    That said, I wonder if it would help to try to get to the bottom of why he has each of these concerns. The teenage girls: is he scared he’ll be accused of inappropriate conduct? Perhaps some increased documentation or other protocols (checking in with the parent by phone while he’s at the home, documenting what time he enters and leaves the house, having advance notice that it will only be a teen at home) would make him feel more protected from false accusations.

    The mold: does he have an allergy or health concern? Could that be address with masks or other safety equipment?

    It does seem like he’s refusing to work under conditions that seem to be pretty common as a residential HVAC tech. I don’t get the impression that you’re asking him to do anything way out of line with what could be reasonably expected in this line of work. It might really be that the special considerations he would need to avoid these service calls are just too much hassle for your business to accommodate, and that’s okay. If you think he would handle it well, you could offer an extended “notice” period during which he can find a new job while you hire and train his replacement. I know Alison has written before about how helpful these can be when you care about the employee but they’re just not a good fit for the job.

    1. bob*

      You jumped to a lot of conclusions with no information. There’s not a “long list” anywhere besides him not wanting to enter a house with only a female minor at the residence which is completely reasonable. I’ll bet the ranch he is afraid of a “he said, she said” accusation of a sexual assault which would absolutely ruin him and the company.

      An example of the same thinking was Wayne Gretzky. He knew as a famous athlete he was a target and would casually not get in an elevator alone with a female for exactly the same reason. He would politely say he’s waiting on someone else and wait for the next elevator with more people on it.

      1. some1*

        “There’s not a “long list” anywhere besides him not wanting to enter a house with only a female minor at the residence which is completely reasonable.”

        But why is it reasonable that he specify female minors and omit males? Teenage boys can lie, too.

        1. Mike C.*

          This is really a terrible point to get hung up on. The employee is most likely being heteronormative.

  11. fposte*

    How many techs do you have? I’d be more willing to cut him slack on this thing if 1) you could send somebody else out for the occasional underage call and 2) if he hadn’t apparently insisted that his discomfort is generally legally binding.

    What I might do, if it’s possible, is to say that if the teenager thing is his biggest problem, I can try to send other techs in those situations, but that I then will have to require him to enter homes with mold and work overtime because the requirements of the job just don’t allow for that kind of flexibility. If that’s not an arrangement he can work with, you’d understand if he felt he needed to find a new place and be willing to recommend his work–as long as he understands that these are the requirements in the meantime.

  12. Mike*

    I have to side with your technician on this one. I wouldn’t be comfortable with a minor in the house without an adult. If there is an injury or allegation of impropriety are you going to back him up or provide legal representation?

  13. OfficeWorker*

    I have to say I agree with the Technician and while I can see the employer’s point of view, I would be more comfortable with an 18 and Over policy. And I have to add that I wouldn’t be comfortable with leaving the 14 year old home alone to let the Technician in.

  14. Anonymous*

    Is there any way another person from the company could go with him? That way he would not be alone with a minor.

  15. Mike*

    I’m having a hard time finding fault with the tech over this. An adult should be on the premises or the home should be vacant. Children, teenagers and so forth being the only residents home at the time the tech works there is inserting an unnecessary variable into otherwise straightforward equation. I think his caution is commendable for it not only seeks to preserve his own reputation but also that of his employer.

    1. Windchime*

      But it’s not “children” that he doesn’t want to be alone in the house with. It’s “female children”. His problem isn’t with minors, it’s with female minors. Maybe my spidey sense is way off, but it seems to me that there is more to this story.

      1. alwaysbenicetotechsupport*

        hetero-normalization, here. he has teenage girls at his own home, and he’s making the parallel to leaving one of HIS OWN GIRLS home with some random repairman. ick.

  16. KenK*

    I don’t even want my neighbor’s little girl (who we know) in my house when I am the only male around. You never know what will be said and it is not worth my reputation. Granted in this case it is not a business situation but in today’s world you can’t be too careful. I totally understand his caution.

    1. the gold digger*

      I had a professor in grad school who insisted I leave his office door open when I talked to him. I asked him why and he said something about not wanting false accusations about seduction. I said, in complete honesty that probably could have been tempered, “But you’re my dad’s age! Why would I want to seduce you?”

      1. Anonymous*

        We had a professor required to leave his office door open because he had had inappropriate relations with students in the past, but he was tenured so no one wanted to attempt to get rid of him.

          1. Anonymous*

            Well we’re assuming it’s unwanted relations, but for all we know it could be consensual relations that are simply unethical due to the professor’s status, in which case, is it right to cost him his career?

            1. VintageLydia*

              Because of the inherent power imbalance–yes. I’m thinking of Legally Blonde where when she refused sexual advances it almost ruined her educational career due to retaliation from the professor. Yeah, it’s a bit of a silly movie, but that part is 100% plausible. I can see students going along with it because they were afraid of the repercussions if they didn’t.

              1. Anonymous_J*

                Actually, I think for all it’s pinkness and fluff, that it’s a great movie, for many, many reasons. It’s one of my favorites.

                1. VintageLydia*

                  It’s in my top 10 for sure! Possibly even my top 5. I love any movie where femininity is shown as a strength. It’s a perfect example of a strong female character who ISN’T in a traditionally male role.

            2. Bea W*

              If he willfully pursues or allows an inappropriate relationship with a student, yes. If he wants to keep his job, he can choose to refrain from sleeping with students and other behaviors that are considered unethical for the position he is in.

  17. Anonymous*

    What exactly is this paranoia? That the teenager will come onto him? Falsely accuse him of sexual assault? Or, more darkly, that he can’t control himself? It’s an odd fear to have. When I was a teenager, plenty of technicians entered my house while I was home alone. Generally, I stayed in my room or watched TV, they did their work, they left, and it was completely beyond a non-issue. In fact, I’d say it was par for the course. So to me, the fear seems irrational and strange, unless there’s something I’m missing.

    1. some1*

      I’m pretty much have the same reaction. If the parents are ok with it and the children are, too, I don’t see the problem.

      And I say this as someone who has a good number of friends who were touched inappropriately as kids and teens by people they and their trusted, i.e. teachers, family members, coaches, clergypeople and family friends. That’s way more likely to happen from what I understand then the scary repair guy.

      I also say this as someone who lives in the upper midwest and if my heat is off, I’d be pissed if I had to take the day off work to let the repair person in because my hypothetical 17-yr-old (in our judgement) can’t handle it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Which raises the question of how they’re going to know if your kid is 17 or 18. And of whether the technician is going to balk at an 18-year-old too because he doesn’t know how old she really is.

        1. some1*

          Yup. In my state they don’t issue photo permits to drive (just the paper), and not every 17 or 18-yr-old needs an ID.

          Also, I’m 33 and get carded for cigarettes still. If lost my ID, can I still get my heat fixed? I live alone. Does my 64-yr-old dad have take the day off work to come over and chaperone if I lose my wallet and need my heat fixed?

          1. Jamie*

            The practice is to card for tobacco is the person looks under 40, I quit last year in my mid 40s and I still got carded at least once a month and there is no danger of anyone thinking I’m under 18.

            Also, if you’re the one making the appointment, authorizing the work, and paying the bill unless you truly look under 18 I doubt very much it would be an issue.

            1. A Bug!*

              It’s a good practice, to be honest. At least where I live, if a business gets caught selling smokes to a minor, both the business and the selling employee get smacked with fines. “They looked old” is not a defense in the slightest, and the government operates a lot of secret shops with minors of all ages and appearances.

              With or without a “card until 40” policy, people can get kind of belligerent – “What do you mean, do I look underage to you?” – but with the policy, the clerk can say “No, sir, you don’t, but you do look under 40, so I’m required to check your ID.”

              People are generally a lot more willing to put up with stuff if they understand that it’s store policy than if they think they’re being singled out or given a hard time by a clerk too big for his or her britches.

              1. Jamie*

                Oh totally, I think it’s a great policy. I was just pointing out that being carded for cigarettes =/= looking under 18.

              2. some1*

                Right, but there is no risk of fines anywhere that I know of if a repair person goes into a home with if an adult isn’t there.

                1. A Bug!*

                  You are right about that. I guess my point was more that in some situations, it is less troublesome to institute a blanket policy that applies to everyone than it is to take it on case-by-case basis. This way everyone knows what to expect and can be appropriately prepared.

                  In the case of smokes, you’d know to have your ID on you, because you know you’re likely to be carded. In the case of service calls, you’d know to make whatever arrangements are necessary.

                  And since there’s no risk of fines, there remains the possibility of arranging an exception with the company if you have special or pressing circumstances. Customers will at least know that they should not be relying on leaving their child at home to supervise the service-person as a matter of course.

            2. some1*

              So you have no problem with a repair person refusing to fix a 19-yr-old girl’s heat if she doesn’t have her ID when he shows up?

              1. Jamie*

                No, I wouldn’t, because if a company has a policy where someone over 18 has to be there (and I think they should) then ID is required.

                And I say this as a mom of young adults. My daughter is 20 and without make up on looks 15-16…if she lived on her own and they wouldn’t come in because she didn’t have ID the question would be where is her ID, not why didn’t the company violate it’s policy based on the word of a stranger.

                1. some1*

                  ID’s get lost or stolen every single day. If my ID was missing and my heat was off, today with the wind chill being 30, I’m calling to get my heat fixed before I go to the DMV.

                2. Jamie*

                  Sorry, me again. Changed settings and keeps clearing my cache. Just didn’t want people thinking it was deliberately creating sock puppets to agree with myself…because I don’t have the energy to be more than one person even virtually.

                3. Zillah*

                  Yeah, when you’re home, I see no reason why you wouldn’t have an id available. It’s kind of like an insurance card – you need it when you see a new doctor, end of story.

                  If you’re 18 or older, especially if you live alone, you should have an id. If your wallet gets stolen, call the company and explain the situation. They’ll probably be willing to make an exception for such an unusual situation.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, really, especially when it’s really difficult to tell at that age. We met the brother of a new skater at the rink last weekend who looked in his early 20s–turns out he was still in high school. He was taller than me and had a freaking beard!

        3. Kou*

          This exact thing happened to me when I was 18, actually. I didn’t even realize why until reading this thread. I only remember him asking my age at the door, looking nervous when I said 18, and my landlord being very grumpy when she had to take off work to come meet him the next time.

      2. Anonymous*

        It’s not paranoid for techs not to trust that the unknown minor wouldn’t be a problem or make an false accusation, just as it isn’t paranoid not to trust that an unknown repairman is safe.

        Most people are safe, but some aren’t and that is a dangerous default.

        And yes, when my kids were teens and the heater went out or the hot water thing needed to be fixed my husband and I did a Rock Paper Scissors about who was staying home for the repairman. It’s our responsibility.

        1. Jamie*

          Sorry, that was me. And to Alison’s point above, they’d need to check ID, the same as the delivery people do before allowing someone to sign for a wine delivery.

          1. some1*

            Apples/oranges. The wine company and the delivery guy will face business-crippling fines if they sell to a minor. There’s no law punishable by fines that says repair people can’t be in a private residence with a teen or someone who looks like a teen.

            1. Jamie*

              It’s not apples and oranges. She asked how they would check and I mentioned a way they could check ID – and I just gave an example of another business that does so. I never said there were similar legal requirements.

              1. some1*

                My point is that a liquor store or bar doesn’t card your 20-yr-old because they don’t want her drinking or are looking out for her interests in any way — they do it so they don’t have to pay fines.

                Most people seem who seem to be ok with the young resident getting carded or no repair want it for the young person’s protection, if not for both people.

                1. anonymous*

                  It’s perfectly reasonable to want to protect both parties. If you don’t want your company’s name dragged into a scandal because of an accident, an accusation, a lawsuit, you have to show that you have measures in place to protect your people and your customers. It’s mutually beneficial. The best thing that a company can do for itself is show that if something were to happen, they did everything in their power to prevent it.

                2. some1*

                  “It’s perfectly reasonable to want to protect both parties. If you don’t want your company’s name dragged into a scandal because of an accident, an accusation, a lawsuit, you have to show that you have measures in place to protect your people and your customers. It’s mutually beneficial. The best thing that a company can do for itself is show that if something were to happen, they did everything in their power to prevent it.”

                  Right, but this is still not the reason that a liquor store won’t let a 20-yr-old sign for an alcohol delivery.

                  I was pointed out that while asking for ID is a way any business can ensure they are dealing with someone of age, alcohol vendors didn’t adopt the policy to keep beer delivery guys away from minors.

      3. Mints*

        Yeah I think is reasonable to have a policy that an adult must be present (for legal issues), but it doesn’t seem like that’s his worry if he’s specified female teenagers.
        Also, I don’t think a tech has ever checked my ID, and I can easily see 16 year old self lying and signing someone else’s name.
        I don’t get the paranoia either

    2. CEMgr*

      To argue that a female teenager is just too dangerous to be around because there is any arguable chance of a false accusation is taking paranoia just too far. This feels like a trumped-up, hokey issue with just a tinge of seeming reasonableness to it, that disappears under examination.

      I am more understanding of the feelings of a teenaged girl with a strange workman visiting…but that’s not what we’re talking about here. And it would be for the customer to decide, not the technician.

      If I managed this person, I would ask him to clarify his issue with teenaged girls present in a customer’s house and also explain why “safety” and “liability” concerns don’t apply to teenaged boys. Unless he has a great justification based on facts and reasonable inferences, I would not tolerate his insubordination. And I would definitely require him to wear protective garments when entering a house with a potential mold contamination issue…which is just about all of them.

      1. Mints*

        I understand the paranoia on the teenager and parents side, but this is how I feel about the employer

      2. TL*

        Yes. I don’t have a problem with 18+ for money reasons, decision-making, or danger issues regarding tools, structural issues, or open electrical circuits – those all make sense and seem likely things to occur. (And having a kid hurt herself on your job would probably damage your career pretty badly.)

        But I completely agree with what you say.

    1. Chris*

      You read my mind, Alison!
      Something either happened to him, or someone he knows to spook him enough to start refusing service calls when an adult isn’t present – and that’s where the conversation needs to start at.

    2. Sara M*

      It’s possible this is the first time he’s had to be home alone with a teenager under 18. Many people, even if told their teenager could let him in, wouldn’t do it. That said, yes, it’d be good to figure out whether something happened. As I said above, I think it would be smart to amend this policy.

        1. fposte*

          People around where I live, my parents, my friends’ parents, my friends, etc.

          Not that uncommon around here, not that uncommon in my youth. And surely it’s not simply somebody being a minor that makes a parent worry–would you suddenly stop worrying if your kid was eighteen and not seventeen?

        2. TL*

          Right. Heck, I used to “man” my parents’ store if they had to run out for a 5-10 min errand while I was there from the time I was 12. HVAC technicians, many of whom I didn’t know, came in when I was there alone and nobody so much as blinked an eye.

        3. Colette*

          I don’t see that as a problem, depending on circumstances (how old is the child, how capable are they, are there other trusted adults nearby, etc.).

          However, I’d be concerned as a business owner because having a minor there to open the door is different from having someone there who can authorize changes to the original plan – is the homeowner going to pay if the teenager authorizes a $500 part?

    3. doreen*

      I’m sure something happened to prompt this- but it could have been something as simple as the employee needing service at his own home from a company which requires an adult to be present.

    4. Sarah M*

      Yes, something changed. On the extreme end, how often does the OP do background checks? Only upon hire? Once a year? Something could have happened since the last check.

      It could be something more innocent as one of his teenage daughters making a comment. “You go into homes with just a teenager? That would be so weird!”

      1. Mike C.*

        Or hearing a news story or something on the radio. It could be any number of things, and to be honest no one will know until the question is asked.

        1. Jen in RO*

          I think my media has a lot to do with it. Two years ago, I would have said the technician is way overreacting… but I’ve read my share of articles about people’s lives being destroyed after they were fairly accused, so I tend to be on the technician’s side note. (Most, is not all, of these news stories dealt with girls accusing men, which might be why he singled out girls. I am pretty sure that, overall, girls are more likely to *know* that they can hurt a man with such an accusation. I was told to never walk alone at night and to not talk to unknown men, but my brother was never given this kind of advice. The social conditioning is different – as a girl I was always aware of strange men, but I don’t think it ever crossed my brother’s mind that there are also gay abusers/pedophiles.)

    5. Anon*

      The OP mentions the employee has three daughters. Another possibility could be from his kids reaching developmental milestones in that time. (e.g. Oldest daughter reaching adolescence.)

    6. AP*

      Oh come on… what if he finally read a study that told him to wear a helmet while riding a bike? He insists on it, but hasn’t for years.

  18. Chris*

    If he has been with your company for three years without this being an issue previously, I would be looking for what changed recently to make him uncomfortable.

  19. KimmieSue*

    Jumping on the technician’s band wagon. Our local cable and gas company both require someone 18 or over to be at home for service calls.

  20. Vit*

    This guy may be actually saving your company’s butt without you even knowing it. Look up the industry standard on dealing with minors at home.

    1. TCA*

      I totally agree. If you’re going to have a policy that requires someone to be at home, why wouldn’t you require that person to be an adult? I can see why your tech would feel uncomfortable, and I’m proud of him for standing his ground on the issue. Maybe he can inspire you to develop a better policy for your company.

  21. Chris*

    This is a policy issue with the company. Mold: potentially very dangerous, I have asthma and absolutely would not go anywhere near it. This also would help protect the company from being help responsible for any complicated medical issues. Overtime: again, this is a policy. Do you “ask” people to work overtime (maybe he has other obligations after hours) or do you “tell” people that occasional overtime will be required? And when it comes to a minor, I am 100% on his side. No one should be in the home without an adult present. Again, this protects your company if something unusual were to happen. Give the tech a break and revisit your company’s policies.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yes, exactly. It doesn’t matter whether something happened to him or someone he knows — it’s more or less irrelevant and it’s his own choice whether he wants to disclose that. The policy should be changed.

    2. Zillah*

      Re: the mold – I agree, so they should have safety equipment like masks. However, refusing to deal with any mold in this line of work is like a vet refusing to work with cats on the grounds that they might get scratched. Sorry, but that’s just not reasonable. If safety equipment isn’t enough, find a new line of work.

  22. Lillie Lane*

    My husband would not want to work in a home with only a teenager present. He would also take issue with the mold. That said, it’s unfair to force other techs to always take those jobs. My vote is for the company re-examining its policies for the underage teen present. In the long run, it seems like a smart decision. Some customers might be inconvenienced, but if they’re reasonable, they’ll see the rationale behind it.

  23. nuqotw*

    Is this a new problem or not? It sounds like it’s new since the tech has been there three years already. I wonder if maybe one of his daughters was assaulted when he wasn’t around. That would be something very hard for an employee to bring up, but could definitely influence his perspective.

    I think letting a teenager open the door is big convenience for OP’s clients that is not at all standard for the reasons other commenters mentioned. For phone, internet, whatever I have ever needed fixed or installed I’ve always been told someone 18 or over needs to be there.

  24. KLH*

    I agree with all the above that having techs go into houses with just minors (of either sex) present is bad policy.

    As for the mold thing, HVAC is going to come into contact with a lot of it, but mold is also everywhere in general–did he express concerns about not having adequate safety equipment or respirators?

  25. Megan*

    When I was growing up, my mom worked nights and my parents never let me have girl friends over when my mom wasn’t there (aka just me and my dad). It’s sad, but you just can’t be too careful; people are crazy. I completely understand the technician’s stance and think the company is crazy to not have an 18 and over policy. I also think the parents are nuts to let their teenage daughter be alone in a house letting in a random person.

    1. Liane*

      Yes. Almost the same for me as a girl. When I was a teenager it was just me and my father, so no sleepovers. I had girlfriends about my age over after school and most of the day Saturdays & when there was no school (when I wasn’t visiting them, that is!) and they might even stay for supper, but no sleepovers at my place.

      And I agree with you that “people are crazy” and so are parents & companies that think it’s an okay scenario.

    2. Cassie*

      My mom would not let me go to sleepovers. Well, I could go, but she’d come to pick me up around 11pm or midnight.

  26. Juni*

    Your technician is giving you a great opportunity to address some risk management concerns. It would probably be great for your business to create policies which are employee-centered, such as “We will not service a home where there is no adult present,” and “We will not service a home which has mold, structural issues, or anything that may endanger the health of our employees.” Have you considered taking his concerns seriously? He may be the only one to speak up, but there may be others who have these same concerns and are afraid to speak up.

    1. Anonymous_J*

      But structural issues and mold are risks that are likely to be encountered by HVAC workers. Safety equipment absolutely SHOULD be provided, but in situations like rehab and cleanup, an HVAC tech IS GOING TO encouner mold and structural issues.

  27. AprilA*

    I can’t believe the company doesn’t have a policy where work can only be done in the home if someone 18 and up is present. I would feel very uncomfortable either as a repair person or as a parent.
    It’s about more than just a fear of sexual accusations. What if something went wrong? What if the kid somehow injured themselves (even if it was unrelated to what you were doing)? The repair person is not there as a babysitter, and having them in a strangers home with a stranger’s child (even if the kid is 16) would be very uncomfortable, and I think would be a liability concern for the company.

  28. Lisa*

    Why isn’t this a requirement to have someone over 18 be at the house? This seems like a given that you make it part of your requirements and tell the client that. Unless business is so bad, that you have to let your customers dictate the rules, but I don’t see anything wrong with making this a requirement and telling clients up from that someone over the age of 18 must be there and if not, the tech will leave.

  29. FiveNine*

    Okay, it’s a huge no-no for techs for at least one major cable/internet/phone service provider to ever ever ever set foot in a residence when only an underage person is there. Never ever are they to do it. Call center employees are told to make sure this is crystal clear when they schedule appointments — the company flat-out will not allow their techs to perform the service without an adult present, even when the adult wants to give permission to the minor to let the tech in. So. I just have to say, in the United States there is apparently a reason for not just techs to be concerned but for their companies to back them on this.

  30. Sandrine*

    I would actually side with the technician on this one.

    There is no way in heck I am going into a house with only a minor present. Not all minors lie, or try and damage the technician’s reputation or anything bad, BUT I would NOT be willing to take the risk.

    I think this policy is dangerous and should be changed.

    1. Katieinthemountains*

      If she makes an accusation, true or not, he will most likely lose his job, and possibly his wife and family, too. Not many jobs are worth the risk. I would ask HR/corporate/your lawyer about liability for all the reasons mentioned above – needing approval for changes to scope of work, potential injury to the minor, huge PR nightmare in the event of an allegation. If you have any female techs, you could send them to this customer (though that’s not foolproof protection), or you could send a new tech with your guy and use it as training. I would find a way to get this customer’s issue fixed and then notify every customer of your new 18+ policy.

      1. Tinker*

        Personally, I’d be real uncomfortable with being the “female tech” in that scenario — “we’re going to have a policy of only adults letting us in going forward because liability, but could you go and deal with the Joneses who we already committed to because, you know, yerawoman?”

        1. Loose Seal*

          Not only that but there have been plenty of same-sex molestations. Sending someone of the same sex is no guarantee there won’t be issues.

  31. Anon*

    I have to agree with the posts to this point. I can’t remember any time when I was teen that a service call happened when I was home alone. I think they all required someone over 18 or more specifically the account holder to be present. I would encourage your business to look at that policy. First from a legal perspective. A minor can’t approve of work or sign off on anything. How could anything they say or do be binding? Secondly, I can understand from his perspective that he doesn’t want the appearance of any sort of impropriety. If he’s got 3 teens girls, I can see where he is coming from.

    I can also see his point on the mold issue. Does the company provide the appropriate gear to handle those situations? Do you back up a tech if the mold present exceeds the ability of the gear to protect them? It’s worth looking into.

    I can’t feel him on the overtime thing. If overtime was a part of the job when he was hired, then overtime can’t be turned down unless it’s a voluntary thing. My only thought is that maybe he feels that he’s the only one who ever has to work overtime and it’s always at the last minute. You might want to check your procedures on that. Make sure you are being evenhanded.

    But please try and get to the route of this before firing him. It doesn’t seem all that off the wall to me.

  32. Elysian*

    Everyone I’ve ever had come to my house requires someone 18 and older to be there. So I’m on that bandwagon, too.

    But also – Does the company have a policy about how old people are when a tech comes over, at all? Would the tech be allowed to do the work if only a 7 year old was home? 10 year old? Then the tech would basically be babysitting the kid, which would be horribly inappropriate. Is 14 (or “teenage”) a cutoff for the company? I know parents with 14/15 year olds who still arrange for child care when they’re away for more than a few hours – 14 is still pretty young in a lot of ways. I wouldn’t want to be babysitting someone’s 14 year old while I’m trying to install their central air. You can’t give your attention to both things.

    I don’t know if the tech is really addressing this problem in the way that I would address it, but I agree with the tech that it’s a problem.

    1. Sydney*

      If you are leaving your 14 year old alone to wait for the repair tech, you are not the parent who arranges for child care for that same 14 year old.

      1. VintageLydia*

        Also childcare for a 14 year old?? For overnights, sure, knock yourself out, but barring developmental issues or huge trust issues (like they have a history of taking joy rides while you’re gone or something) that’s just bizarre to me for only a few hours.

        1. Erin*

          Yeah, by the time I was 14 I had long since BECOME the childcare. I was left home alone probably from about when I was 9 or 10. By the time I was 11, I was out babysitting.

          1. some1*

            Ditto. I was baby-sitting past midnight in 6th or 7th grade. My parents always knew the families well, though.

            1. Zillah*

              Same. It was always in my neighborhood so my parents were close by, but by seventh grade I was definitely babysitting.

        2. some1*

          My friend has a 15-yr-old who is autistic and she doesn’t even frame it as “you’re having a baby-sitter tonight”, it’s “Susie’s coming over to hang out with you while your dad & I go out” to preserve his dignity.

        3. Elysian*

          I did say “more than a few hours” and not “only a few hours,” and was really thinking about day-long or way-past-bedtime kinds of absences. Besides, not all kids are the same, some can babysit at 11 and some still need supervision in their later years. I don’t have kids, so frankly don’t have a dog in that fight.

          But the point was that there has to be SOME cutoff when it’s not ok for the tech to be home alone with a child, and frankly I do think 14 is too young for that.

      2. holly*

        i think the point was, where is the age cutoff for this company? can 11 year olds be the ones letting the tech in?

  33. Londell*

    I’m posting this one day after sitting through Mandated Reporter training so I may be a little fired up. But I totally agree with the technician on this one as far as not going to home when there is not an adult present. I’ve had to do this in the past, and I refuse to go to a home unless a parent/guardian or any adult the family trust will be there, and even then I usually take a female coworker with me whenever possible. We unfortunately live in a time where bad things happen in situations like this, or actions or statements in the home could be taken the wrong way. Just an accusation alone is enough to ruin someone, no matter what the truth is.
    As for the boss. I understand it’s a small company, but it sounds like other than this he is good at his job, and you’ve never any other issues with him besides this. Is it possible to schedule another technician when an issue like this arrives? It seems like you know in advance when this is going to happen most times. Maybe some sort of an agreement in that you’ll try not to have to put him an uncomfortable situation like this unless there are no other options? If not then unfortunately I think the employee may have to leave. But it should not be held against him. He should never be in a situation where he feels uncomfortable.

  34. Katherine*

    I was even uncomfortable having my 25 year old nanny letting people in to do repairs/painting. I always was present or maybe had her let them in on the second day of multiple days of work. I never wanted her to be in an uncomfortable position.

  35. PPK*

    I think many men feel paranoid about interacting with unknown children/teens on a one-on-one basis (I base this on discussions with male friends). Like if a kid had wandered off from a parent in a store, then tripped and fell, many people would pick up the child (or at least put them on their feet) and try to help them. I think some men might hesitate unless others were around to confirm that he was helping a kid and not doing something questionable. It’s quite unfortunate for every one — not just the men feeling paranoid.

    On the mold front — is it an allergy or a general health concern?Certainly some molds are particularly bad for anyone to inhale and you can’t always ID on site. I know for some people a mold allergy causes asthma symptoms that aren’t controlled by allergy pills. I know people who need an inhaler if they spend to much time in a moldy/mildew-y place. Are there any company polices for severe allergies that people might encounter at homes. Like some people have annoying* allergy symptoms for pets (sneezy, runny nose) that could be tolerated until leaving the house and some people have asthma/breathing allergy symptoms which can be much more severe. *I realize “annoying” trivializes things a bit…but generally a person can still breathe.

    I can see the employeer’s side too — even if one restriction is understandable, when you rack up several, it affects the business overall.

    1. Lillie Lane*

      +1 on the sentiment that some men are paranoid. I attend a church that has a big outreach program to kids, but many of the parents of these children see the church as a free babysitting program. Most of the parents have never even been to the church and are shockingly uninvolved in their kids’ lives. Because of the lack of parental involvement, the church members have to supervise and do things like escort them to the bathroom, etc. My husband absolutely refuses to get involved or even touch a child. He is pretty paranoid, but I totally see his point. A lot of children (especially those with a bad home life) seem to be forced into a premature “maturity” and are very clever. Combine that with some sue-happy parents, and you can have a recipe for disaster.

      1. bearing*

        By this time, many churches have implemented policies that ensure that no adult is ever alone with any child in a church program, ever. And I have to say, I completely understand why.

        No adults are permitted to volunteer in any capacity with any children or vulnerable adults in our parish until they have undergone mandatory training. The days of trust by default are over, at least in the Catholic Church in the U. S.

    2. Mike*

      After getting leered at like a rapist after helping a little girl up when she fell off of her bike I share the paranoia.

      1. Josh S*

        I refuse to be cowed by the leers and suspicious looks–I’ll behave as a human being and help someone in need, particularly if they’re a kid. It’s the right f-ing thing to do!

        And IMO it’s only by seeing decent men helping people out in everyday life that men will be able to overcome the immediate/default suspicion of pedophilia or sexual predator that we tend to have these days.

    3. Anonymous_J*

      You know, come to think of it, when I call for any kind of service, I always let the company know that we have cats, because I know SO MANY PEOPLE who are allergic to cats. I even ask service people when they come over if they are allergic, so I know if I need to help them keep the call speedy or open windows.

  36. Anonymous*

    I can understand why he wouldn’t want to to this. While it’s isn’t exactly the same, it’s similar to a male gynecologist having a female nurse present during exams for liability reasons.

    Also, while I’m not a parent, I wouldn’t leave my hypothetical teenage daughter alone with a repair tech. Even an adult woman, I often feel uncomfortable being alone with male repair techs.

    1. Bea W*

      This makes me totally uncomfortable as a patient. It sends a message that my doctor can’t be trusted not to molest me – even though I trust him not to molest me. Then having an extra set of eyes watching someone stick things in really personally places is extra disconcerting.

  37. Anonymous*

    I’m with the tech on the under-18 and mold issues – seems like a good way for you to be sued out the wazoo if you don’t have policies in place to require an adult to be home and to provided mold protection. Not sure what his beef is with the overtime.

  38. Rich*

    This is an interesting one. I also thought the person was an “offender” and had some secret restrictions, but rest of note changed my opinion. I completely understand not wanting to enter the home. A whole lot of liability and too many stories floating out there of stuff gone wrong. I think changing company policy is a good idea. I’d think an adult would need to sign off on completion of service. Can you not set this expectation with customers?

    In terms of the employee, talk to him, further discuss concerns, and then come back with an updated or amended policy. It’ll come off as valuing the employee, what he had to say, etc., and taking action. Of course I say this as someone not running a business that requires home visits though.

  39. Betsy*

    I’m going to throw this out there as a former female teenager:

    I used to totally flirt with male workmen/technicians/wallpaperers/painters who came into my home. I was young and dumb, and trying out flirtation on someone who felt safer than boys my age. I probably unknowingly made a lot of them uncomfortable.

    Even outside of the totally reasonable comments above about liability concerns or what have you, I wonder if he has run into this before, and worries that a parent would come home while their 14-year-old was chatting him up, or just was made uncomfortable in general.

  40. Mary*

    From the other side, I can’t understand why a parent would let a teenager alone in the house with a perfect stranger. So what if there are neighbors, unless the neighbors are in the house anything can happen. When I have had workman working on my home for a long term project, if they are inside and my daughter happened to get home from school early, I would her to sit outside until one of us got home. I don’t blame the guy, there could be false accusations. Usually companies want an adult present when a tech comes. I would definitely implement that policy.

    1. A Bug!*

      And if there are neighbors, why not ask the neighbor to hang out at your house during the service window to let the dang tech in?

      Also, I don’t think it necessarily has to be a fear of false accusations, or a fear of one’s own temptation. It can be a simple recognition of the fact that such a situation gives rise to potential impropriety. I wouldn’t ask someone else to take me at my word that I won’t take advantage of their own vulnerability, even though I already know I never would; I would want to make sure the situation is one where I can’t, so they can be sure as well.

  41. The Other Dawn*

    I think the technician is right to worry about being alone in a house with a female teenager. 99.9% of the time there’s no reason to worry, but you never know if the girl might have issues. I’m not normally one to be paranoid about anything, but my sister is a foster mother and I’ve seen what can happen when dealing with certain teenagers that have issues. My brother-in-law won’t stay home alone with any teenaged female they have in the house at the time, because both he and my sister worry he might be falsely accused of something. Many of the children that come through their house come from a background of physical and/or sexual abuse. And this doesn’t apply only to teenaged females. Allegations can come from males, also.

    I think OP needs to take another look at the company’s policy on who should be at home when the tech shows up. I’m surprised they would allow someone who is under 18 to let the tech in the house.

  42. Kelly*

    All it takes for a person to have cause to be leary about being alone in a home with an underage person is to know someone who was falsely accused of something inappropriate. Witness their life being torn apart – with no chance of fixing it. It happens more often than you think – apparently this is a very real concern to this technician and if I knew the name of the company that wasn’t protecting their employees in this manner I wouldn’t hire them to do any work for me.

  43. ChristineSW*

    I can understand the employer’s concern, but I honestly side with the tech. I personally don’t think a tech should ever be alone in a house with anyone under 18. Even if the tech has a clean record, there’s the possibility that a teenager will misinterpret something (words or behavior) or even knowingly make false accusations.

    In addition to revisiting the overall policy, I recommend sitting down with this technician and discuss the situation. Definitely be firm that this is impacting the company (i.e. the customer’s frustration that the tech keeps cancelling), but don’t dismiss the concerns that he has expressed (assuming you haven’t had these discussions already).

    1. Nikki T*

      As said upthread, to me it’s more about the potential impropriety, some things just might not look right. The teen could misinterpret something, or even the nosy neighbor, who sees the worker come in and also said upthread, sees a flirty girl through the window..or out in the backyard hovering over the tech..

      Or heck, the curious teenage boy who wants to be where the action is and gets hurt..

      An adult should be present.

        1. Nikki T*

          True true, just figured the flirty teenage boy may be harder to spot from across the way…but you are correct.

        2. Jen in RO*

          I get what you’re trying to say, but statistically there are simply more straight girls than gay boys, so I don’t see a problem with Nikki’s example. We can’t go through life pointing out *every* possible case.

  44. Nonprofit Office Manager*

    My husband is a high school teacher. The largest section of a the school handbook is devoted to preventing false sexual allegation claims. The manual says, if at all possible, teachers should avoid being alone in a classroom with a student. If doing so is unavoidable, the teacher should leave the door open (not just unlocked, but open) and the sit next to a window. The handbook also suggests teachers arrange for another teacher or an administration to stop by the classroom unannounced. One time, a student’s ride fell through and he desperately needed a ride to the next town over to pick apples (he happened to be a migrant student). So I drove 20 miles to the school, and another 20 miles out of my way in order to give the student a ride myself. When a teacher is accused of sexual harassment, his career is over. Done. Dead. Kaput. Even if the claims are revealed to be false, no other school district will hire him because the damage has already been done. We might be a bit less paranoid down the road when there’s a larger age gap between my husband and his students (he’s 29), but for time time being, I feel my husband’s age (and hotness!) are a liability that needs to be mitigated. I completely understand the technician’s position.

    1. A.Y. Siu*

      I’m a former teacher, and I’m totally on board with this. I wasn’t afraid necessarily of a false accusation from the student, but the whole idea was to avoid fully even the possible appearance of anything improper happening. If I met with a student alone (of any gender), I would be sure to leave the door wide open and not sit down next to the student.

    2. TL*

      To be fair, I think being a teacher is a bit different. Both falsely accusing and sexual assault are “power” crimes and generally they tend to be committed by someone with a fairly large involvement in the victim.
      So I would be much more concerned a teenager getting revenge or building up a situation differently in their head because a beloved teacher rejects them than I would about a random technician they see for a very limited amount of time.

      1. Mike C.*

        Come on now, this is really nit-picky. Why are you assuming that the only people involved are the student and the teacher? What’s to prevent a third party from spreading gossip that gets out of hand just because they saw something once?

    3. Zillah*

      Depends – I also know of situations where teachers *did* do something but it got hushed up. What you’re talking about can absolutely happen too, though, especially since innocent people tend not to be proactive about keeping people quiet because they’re not expecting any accusations.

  45. Joey*

    I’m on the company’s side on this. None of us are qualified to assess the company’s risk and I doubt the tech is making an informed decision on company liability- my guess is its pure speculation. If the company has determined that it’s okay to go into a house with minors that’s the way it is. All the tech can do is determine whether he feels the risk to him personally is worth it. Someone telling me they “feel uncomfortable” isn’t real compelling.

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, I guess all the other folks who work in HVAC, perform in home repair work, know something about mold or work with kids have absolutely no insight into the risks the company might or might not be engaging in.

      I mean christ, I work somewhere where any employee can stop a multi-billion dollar production line if they “feel uncomfortable”. Uncomfortable can mean a whole lot of things – this isn’t safe, this isn’t producing a quality product, we’re engaging in risky behavior, we’re not properly trained or equipped for the work being done and so on.

      The idea that you won’t give the tech any benefit of the doubt in light of the fact that this particular company doesn’t follow industry norms and assume it’s nothing more than speculation is a little bit insulting, don’t you think?

      And really, “if the company has determined it’s okay to go into the house that’s the way it is?” Are you being serious here? So every situation where a company has said that safety training and equipment wasn’t needed was perfectly fine?

      You might want to rethink any philosophy that places the sole arbiter of sound policy in the hands of a single party and assumes anyone who thinks differently to be misinformed.

      That sort of attitude gets people killed in my industry.

      1. Joey*

        Then provide something more compelling than it makes me uncomfortable or that’s the way I did it at my last job. We’re not talking about building planes here Mike. Were talking about about working in a house while a teenager is probably in another room texting her BFF.

        1. Zillah*

          I think you’re right in that most of the time, that’s exactly what will happen – the tech is not a predator, the teen lets him in and goes back to reading or texting, and everything is fine.

          But I think it’s also important to recognize that there are other scenarios that could happen, especially when all your company does is do this. Forget false accusations – what if a tech is a predator and you didn’t know? It’s not inconceivable, especially since it’s a job that might appeal to predators, especially if they prey on children who are easily intimidated.

        2. Mike C.*

          You don’t have to build planes to understand that having one overarching, unquestioned arbiter of all policy is an incredibly risky way to run things. Assuming that input from experienced employees is uninformed and speculative is also an incredibly risky way of doing things.

          Yes, something more clear than “that’s uncomfortable” is in need here, but to just assume the input is useless in the face of how multiple industries deal with children just doesn’t make any sense.

          1. Joey*

            Its useless when the benefit to the business is speculative. It’s based on nothing other than his uncomfortableness and “that’s what everyone else does.” What everyone else does isn’t a good reason in and of itself.

            1. Mike C.*

              But how in the hell will you even know if your attitude is that it’s the decision of the business owner, that decision is made by the business owner alone and any sort of questioning or outside input is unacceptable?

              “My way or the highway” might be legal, but it’s a shitty long term business plan.

              1. Joey*

                Not quite. It’s my way or the highway when you’re speculating. Bring me a compelling business case and I’m all ears.

  46. HVAC owners kid*

    I am the daughter of an HVAC owner. I have asked our office staff, schedulers and managers and my dad. In the state we live in, you are not allowed to do work unless someone over the age of 18 is present. We have never put our technicians in that position and speaking of home contractors in general, my parents never allowed me to be alone with a contractor until I was 18 because in addition to me, it also made them feel uncomfortable. We agree with some of the other commenters that it comes down to having a conversation where you don’t dismiss his concerns but maybe maybe look into changing the company policy to over 18 only to avoid this type of issue in the future.

  47. Tinker*

    I’m a bit skeeved by the emphasis on gender when it’s not strictly necessary (those females and their accusations and you know teen girls you know), but I think the dude’s got a good point. Anything I can think of that calls for the presence of a person to authorize or affirm something doesn’t generally count minors as people — deliveries, most workers, etc, which more or less fits with their legal status.

    I’d go with what seems to be standard practice and institute an 18+ policy, myself — framed to the customer as “we need an adult to give us permission to enter the house”.

  48. Joey*

    Here’s the other thing I’m wondering. Are you letting him refuse to do those things? That might explain his resistance- if there have been no repercussions he will learn there are no consequences for refusing to do things he doesn’t want to do.

  49. Ann Furthermore*

    I don’t blame the guy a bit for not wanting to be in a home working with a minor when no other adult was present. Even if the issue of not wanting to open himself up to false accusations was an overreaction (which in my opinion it’s not) there are so many other factors that could come into play. What if a child injures himself/ herself? What if the kid has friends has friends come over and one of them are injured? What if the kid and/or the friends are doing drugs or drinking? What if they then decide to go get into the car and go for a drive? What’s the adult’s responsibility? Would he be expected to intervene since he was the one allegedly responsible adult present, even though he is not related to anyone there and was only in the home to provide a service?

    Just put a policy in place that states that no work will be performed in a customer’s home unless an adult is present. It protects the company and the employee.

    As for the other issues, if you’re supplying him with the appropriate equipment/clothing to protect himself from mold, then I would say he’s being difficult. If he’s expected to do this without any protective gear at all, then I would say the company is at fault.

    And overtime — everyone needs to suck that up. I’m assuming that he’s not the only person asked to worked overtime, and if that’s the case, then he can’t really justify refusing unless he’s got a truly compelling reason. And even then he would still need to pitch in and do his share.

    1. Del*

      “What if a child injures himself/ herself? What if the kid has friends has friends come over and one of them are injured? What if the kid and/or the friends are doing drugs or drinking? What if they then decide to go get into the car and go for a drive? What’s the adult’s responsibility? Would he be expected to intervene since he was the one allegedly responsible adult present, even though he is not related to anyone there and was only in the home to provide a service?”

      These are also really good concerns to bring up.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        And it’s not just from a legal perspective, it’s from a moral one too. What if something terrible happened while the guy was in the home with the minor? Any halfway decent person would always wonder if there was something they could have done to help, or prevent an accident, or whatever. Who wants or needs to live with that?

  50. Josh S*

    I am late to this game, so this will get lost in the comments, but OP has a couple different issues at hand.

    1) Tech says, “Company cannot hold it against me if I don’t do something that makes me uncomfortable,” including houses with Mold, working OT, etc. This is absolutely FALSE.

    It *can* be a requirement of continued employment that this employee follow directions and make house calls at homes with mold, be required to work OT (regularly or on occasion), or anything else you deem part of the job requirements. (OSHA may require that you give the guy tools/equipment to protect himself from breathing mold, but that’s beyond my knowledge, and so long as you provide him with those tools, he is still required to do the job.)

    THIS is your biggest issue. Make the following clear to the Repair Tech: “I understand that there are situations that you disagree with or that make you uncomfortable. We care deeply for your safety, and we’re willing to do A and B to accommodate your discomfort, but IT IS REQUIRED that you do these things if you wish to remain employed here. The company needs to be able to rely on you to do the job, and these things are a part of that. If you don’t think you can do this job under those terms, let’s talk about finding a way to transition you out.”

    2) The “I won’t go into a home with a teenager” is a similar, but different, issue. It’s not necessarily a matter of “I won’t do it because it makes me uncomfortable” but a matter of “I won’t do it because I don’t want my life to be ruined by the false accusation of a stranger or even by the bare perception of impropriety.”

    In our current culture, single men alone with minors are often viewed as sexual predators as a default. As an often-stay-at-home-dad, this seems downright ridiculous to me, but I have often felt the suspicious stares when I’m at the playground with my daughter, so I understand the danger.

    And really, an accusation is enough to ruin a life. An arrest, a branding as a child molester–these can get you absolutely shunned from a community even if you don’t get a guilty verdict. (And heaven forbid that a teenage girl gets caught pregnant from her boyfriend and claims rape from a stranger to get out of the trouble with her parents!)

    So while all the points of #1 are absolutely worth addressing, walking into a house alone with a teenager (boy or girl really doesn’t matter in the current climate) might be a very valid thing to be concerned about for this Repair Tech.

    And as with the mold, finding a way to accommodate the concern while still requiring the work is probably the way to go. Is there a way to require that a non-minor be present during the repair call? A way to have a 2nd person (even a non-tech) be present if the only person available to give access to the house is a minor? Something to keep your employee above suspicion– explore those options before laying down an ultimatum.

    But if the employee continues to be unwilling to do that part of the job after making the accommodation, then you have the exact same conversation as I described above.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      My husband doesn’t like taking our 4-year old daughter to swimming lessons because he hates using the family locker rooms at the rec center. He says all the other moms give him the stink-eye and treat him like a sex offender.

      1. some1*

        Well, thank your husband on my behalf for using it. At my gym, women bring their kids into the adult’s only locker room which makes *me* uncomfortable.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          The informal rule at the rec centers in our neighborhood is that it’s OK for Mom to bring her son into the ladies’ locker room until the age of 4. After that, they should be using the family locker room.

          1. LondonI*

            There seems to be a fashion now for mothers to bring their sons as old as about 7 into the ladies’ lavatories. I get really irritated by this. I agree that boys should be capable of using the men’s lavatories by themselves after the age of 4. Given how many people do this, though, I suppose my view is rather controversial.

            1. Jamie*

              I don’t think it’s controversial, least not to me.

              I attended a graduation last spring and was waiting in line in the ladies room and a boy about 10-11 came in looking for his mom and stood there talking to her. No one else said anything so I did (really unlike me, I prefer not even making eye contact with strangers much less confronting them).

              One lady said it wasn’t a big deal because he was a kid, I said he was a kid way too old to be in the ladies room and I got a couple of amens from others waiting. I wasn’t the only one uncomfortable.

    2. the gold digger*

      And heaven forbid that a teenage girl gets caught pregnant from her boyfriend and claims rape from a stranger to get out of the trouble with her parents!

      That was a plotline on “The Closer.”

    3. Mike C.*

      As an often-stay-at-home-dad, this seems downright ridiculous to me, but I have often felt the suspicious stares when I’m at the playground with my daughter, so I understand the danger.

      Yeah, the idea that men can’t be caretakers is one of the biggest ways patriarchy hurts men. We shouldn’t as a society be discouraging men from being nurturing caregivers to their children or telling them that it’s not ok for them to be a SAHF.

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

        My Sister – In – Law is a respite care giver, and my husband’s family were foster parents since before he was born and until he was in his late 20’s and had moved out.

        He and his family has cared for more babies than I know people.

        Once he came over to his Mom’s house while his sister was looking after an infant; she had to go upstairs to change clothes and gather the baby’s things and left the sleeping baby alone with my husband for a few minutes downstairs while he was making a phone call.

        About that time the child’s foster mother arrived to pick up the two of them and my husband answered the door. She was not pleased – was very upset in fact – and acted like she had walked in on a home invasion.

        Sister came downstairs and the woman was “who is this man?” (she hadn’t let my husband explain), and my husband overheard this woman threaten to report my SIL for leaving children in her care alone with her “boyfriends.” And what kind of woman was she for having a strange man in the house while she was working anyway?

        Even after the situation was explained, SIL was still chastised, because… what if something had happened! What if the baby had started crying! How in the world would my husband know what to do? He was just a man you know, and even if he wasn’t, she didn’t appreciate her charge being looked after by a stranger!

        Same woman came by the house another time when I was there, and before I knew what was happening, practically tossed me this baby. Didn’t I just think she was so cute! Don’t I just love babies? I promptly handed the baby back, as this made both the baby and I uncomfortable.

        Frankly I was a little insulted by the whole attitude that, I’m a woman so not only does that qualify me to hold a baby, I must want to hold every baby that crosses my path…

        I told her I don’t hold strange babies. My husband and I decided to leave shortly after this, because if looks could kill…

    4. CEMgr*

      I saw a strong parallel between the following thoughts:

      1) Any/every teenaged girl can make a false accusation of rape – and it is likely enough, that those dealing with her should respond as if she is a known false accuser

      2) Any/every adult man can commit a rape – and it is likely enough, that those dealing with him should respond as if he is a known rapist

      “Assume the worst. Maintain a maximally defensive posture vis-a-vis the world. Anyone can accuse me, anyone can attack me and these attacks are likely. Likelihood of attack can be judged by superficial characteristics that trigger my prejudices.”

      1. Mike C.*

        Likelihood is not the only thing to evaluate when looking at risk – you have to look at the consequences of that risk happening, and the cost to mitigate that risk.

        In this case sure, the risk of anything bad happening is low. But the consequence of being wrong will have incredible consequences on some combination of the company, the employee and the child. Given that just about everyone else requires an adult to be there, it’s fair to say that the cost of mitigation is much, much less than the cost of rolling the dice.

        1. Anon for this one*

          You’re right — the risk is low but the consequences are bad.

          As someone who experienced a situation where there were no consequences but Something Happened, I think requiring an adult present is essential. In my case, I was about 11 when my mom had the plumber/furnace repairman in to fix something. He brought his 16-year-old son. I bounced around asking questions and was in and out of the garage-and-basement. My mom went next door (to help her mother in the bathroom because grandpa was out) and the plumber went back to the shop to get a part he needed.

          His son stayed at the house to finish a draining some pipe or something. I came in again to see what was going on as the son finished, and ended up getting groped by him. I knew we shouldn’t do what we — well, he — were doing, so I kept it a secret. To this day, I haven”t told my mother about this, because she would feel horrified at her negligence, although I don’t think she was actually negligent.

          In retrospect, I hope this was an incident that grew out of opportunity, not a sign that this kid would be a serial molester. But just as some people here seem to believe teen girls will lie and make trouble, I have trouble trusting teen boys and refused to hire them as babysitters when my daughter was young. I think personal experience, gossip and news distort our ability to be objective about risk.

  51. Joey*

    What’s interesting to me is that so many of us are concluding that because it feels uncomfortable and there is a remote possibility of a terrible outcome that its reasonable to refuse to work. But, I can think of tons of job where that’s par for the course- it’s just an inherent part of the job. Take my toddler-teachers go into the bathroom with my 3 year old to help her go through all of the steps to go to the bathroom (ie she needs help getting her clothes down and back up. Similar with my wife- she feels a bit uncomfortable anytime she’s alone in the house with any kind of repair guy and I’m sure some of them are uncomfortable as well. Just because its uncomfortable doesn’t make it inappropriate. Now if the tech showed something more compelling I’d be more willing to reconsider.

    1. Jeff*

      The difference is you expect the toddler-teacher to take care of those responsibilities and you assume that the school/company that hired them did the necessary background checks to make sure nothing inappropriate would happen. Toddler teachers and day care workers are trained to do that. Expecting a home repair person to be versed in dealing with minors is typically not part of the job description nor is it a reasonable expectation that they know how to deal with situations where they could potentially get into trouble. Apple and oranges comparison.

      1. bearing*

        Yes, and pretty much everyone whose job description includes being alone with children in a private place is a mandated reporter…

      2. Joey*

        I disagree. Isn’t it reasonable to expect to be around children when you’re performing services inside people’s homes? Training someone how to take precautions around a teen who’s only real interaction with you is letting you in and out of the house doesn’t take a whole lot.

        1. Marmite*

          I’d say it’s reasonable to expect to be around children, but not necessarily to be alone in the house with them.

    2. Marmite*

      Most pre-schools/nurseries/daycares/whatevers have the bathrooms in a location where other people (adults and children) are nearby, and other people are likely to come in to the room at any time. It’s not really the same as being alone in a stranger’s home with their child.

  52. Rayner*

    I can see both sides of this story.

    On the one hand, maybe the guy heard some horror story and is considering covering his back, or feels like he might be blamed for something.

    But his idea about gender is creepy. Why should it matter if it is a male or a female teenager? If he’s worried about false accusations of rape or sexual assault, then I’d be curious to find out WHY he thinks these might come up? They’re rare as hell and idk about what else is plaguing him.

    But, I was a teenager home alone, with several builders while my mother had the kitchen done. I even made them tea. I didn’t sign any work orders, and I didn’t give permission for them to spontaneously take out the floor – they made the same arrangements they would have done if they had been in the house alone: calling my mother, and asking for her confirmation over the phone/waiting until she was home to sign papers.


    Part of me is like, well, no. Fourteen year olds shouldn’t be letting in strangers to the house on a regular basis, and that’s not something that will change.

    The other part of me is like, teach your children to check ID, only answer the door during the set time – “the electrician will be here between one and three, don’t answer the door unless it’s between that time,” using a chain lock…. that kind of thing. Provided the parents have signed off on it, and the work is laid out in a contract etc so the guy knows what he’s doing, what’s the issue?

    Otherwise, a parent may have to take time off from work, losing money and/or precious vacation time so they can open a door. They might have to waste a whole day, even, or miss important meetings/appointments etc.

    Why not just use the damn child? Have them call the parent/company while they check id or something – many companies advertise that they will allow this for vulnerable clients.

  53. BCW*

    I haven’t gone through all 175 comments yet, so if this is being repeated, sorry. I somewhat understand his hesitation. When I was teaching 8th grade, I didn’t like being alone in a room with only one other student, especially just one other female student. If I was alone, the door was always open so anyone walking by could see and hear anything thats happening.Its not that you will do something, its to protect yourself from even the appearance of misconduct. What if this girl claims he said or did something inappropriate? Even if she decided to take a shower while he was there and she walked out in a towel and he was in the area, and then told her parents, it could look REALLY bad. He’d probably be suspended without pay while any investigation is going on. Just that accusation and investigation is enough to ruin his reputation even if nothing is proven, because many people will think it just couldn’t be proven that he did anything bad, but he still might have.

  54. LabRatnomore*

    The more I think about the requiring someone 18+ home, the more it seems like a good idea to me. There really should be someone present to approve the work in the first place. The work was originally scheduled on the phone, but how do you know it was actually the home owner that called? The employee may not be dealing with his differing views on company policies in the best way so that may need to be addressed, but I think an 18+ policy would be a good idea.

  55. Jeff*

    Having worked with kids for a number of years, the technician has a completely legit, non-paranoid concern here. I have seen a number of people lose their jobs over false accusations, even in situations where it was very clear that the person did nothing wrong. In one situation, it was a mandatory reporting situation: my friend is a teacher and he found out that one of his students was being abused by her dad. He had to talk with her one-on-one, and because she feared retaliation from her father, she threatened to lie about him making sexual advances if he went forward reporting the incident. He reported it, she lied, and he lost his job. In another situation, one of my friends was working with a child in special education. The student had violent tendencies and was told not to be left alone with an adult. In a mix-up on the school’s part, he was left alone with the child for two minutes, the child had a violent outburst, and even though the administration told my friend that he clearly did nothing wrong and was not at fault for what happened, he was fired because of pressure from the parents.

    Keep in mind, these are people who are actually trained to work with children. So if they can get in huge trouble for false accusations or unforeseen circumstances, this technician can. And the bigger issue is: what happens if a client comes to the company with a complaint of wrong doing and it was a situation where a technician and minor were alone together? I can guarantee you that it won’t just be the tech who is going to be in trouble. There’s a larger liability issue that needs to be addressed here, because the company is going to be on the hook as well even if a false accusation is made and it could be more than the single technician that’s suddenly out of a job.

  56. Del*

    #1 – Mold. Mold can be a pretty terrible thing, and some people can be specifically sensitive to mold when they’re not generally asthmatic or similar. That said, he should be prepared for dealing with it, so I’m going to echo the question others have asked — does your company provide the appropriate safety equipment? Has something changed in his health that has made him more sensitive than he previously was? (Allergies can develop at any point in a person’s life, for instance.) This would definitely be a reason to sit down and find out what’s causing him discomfort. With proper safety equipment, he should be absolutely fine!

    #2 – Overtime. Was the need for overtime disclosed when he took the job? Has it been framed to him as a standard part of the job? At least in my company, overtime is always regarded as optional – you’re expected to be working 40/wk, and the company doesn’t have a pre-reserved claim on your time beyond that. The boss will ask, and will incentivize, but our culture is that you can always say no, and if you’ve got previous plans or just are too burnt out to work longer, that’s something the boss will respect. I don’t know if your company’s the same way, but it can definitely make a difference to your employee’s willingness to put in the extra time.

    In general, I think if you’re going to have mandatory overtime, the employee should get warning ahead of time so he can shift his schedule, and it should be made clear that the expectation going forward is that the company gets to make demands on the employee’s time above and beyond the standard, and he can decide whether he wants to keep on with that condition. But if it hasn’t been the case up until now, he deserves notice of the change.

    3- Minors. I’m going to add to the chorus of voices saying he’s quite reasonable. Specifying teenage girls is a bit shady, but given the possibility, however remote, of false accusation, I don’t entirely blame him. More to the point, I think the concerns of a) the teen’s safety, and his responsibility for it, and b) authorization for work to be done are both far more likely to come up as issues, are completely gender-neutral, and are good reasons to institute a general policy that an adult authorized to make decisions regarding the work be present.

    It sounds like you really value this guy, and while his attitude sounds like it leaves a lot to be desired, his concerns are worth probing. I hope you’ll have an update for us!

    1. Del*

      To add: one of the things I handle with my job is payment disputes, and I have seen quite a lot of repair and delivery disputes where the actual client was not at home when repairs were performed or items were dropped off, just a teenager, and as a result concerns could not be handled at the time of service/delivery. I’d highly recommend requiring the presence of an adult, preferably homeowner/tenant, in situations like these.

  57. Elizabeth West*

    I feel like we need more information here.

    The tech has been there for three years, and he’s just now insisting on these conditions, so something must have happened or he became aware of something recently. I said earlier I thought he might be getting too big for his britches–and that still might be true–but without knowing more about the company’s policies in these areas, I’ve changed my mind.

    – If the company doesn’t provide PPE for employees to use around mold, they absolutely should.

    – If the company has a nutso overtime policy, he may be pushing back against it (although I would not do it by refusing to work it; I would talk to my manager about it first).

    – The company really should have a policy that techs can only go into a home if a legal adult is present. Not because of the whole sex thing or the liability, but because there would be no one to make a decision if there has to be a change on the work order. A minor can’t give permission for a tech to alter a contract his/her parents entered into.

    Instead of talking to us, the OP needs to sit the tech down and talk to him.

  58. BCW*

    Going through these comments, one thing that stood out is the number of people who claimed it was weird that he specified not wanting to be alone with teen girls. Really? You honestly don’t see the difference there? Look at how its handled if a male teacher has sex with a female student vs. the other way around. Yes, its bad, but I don’t think the female is looked at in nearly the same light. In fact, many people would say it was more justifiable because clearly the guy was into it to. As I mentioned earlier, even appearances can be just worse if its a older guy and a teen girl. If a 30 year old guy goes in and a 14 year old boy is in basketball shorts and no shirt and a neighbor sees it, not a big deal. That same guy goes in and its a 14 year old girl in short shorts and a bikini top, he could be branded a pedophile. These things are real. Perception and a hunch is all it takes for someone to get in trouble.

    1. some1*

      You are mentioning an older guy and younger girl, or older woman with a younger guy, while completely omitting that boys can be and are molested and taken advantage of by adult men.

      And if a teen girl’s false accusation can ruin the guy’s life, a boy’s false accusation should also have the same effect. By specifying teen girls and not boys, it can very well appear that he assumes the girls would be more likely to make the false accusation, or that if he found himself being enticed by her it would be her own fault for being present.

      1. BCW*

        I understand that any child can be molested by any adult. My point is it takes a lot less for even that suspicion to be there when its an older guy and a girl. The girl doesn’t even have to make the accusation, but I think as a society we are more protective of girls, and (as shown many times on this blog) will look at a male in a different light when it comes to those interactions with young girls. Again, ask any male teacher (or for that matter guy that works with youth), they may try to prevent any perception of misconduct, but they will be especially vigilant about this when it comes to girls.

        1. LondonI*

          Hmm, I don’t know. All it takes is a few high profile cases about adult males abusing adult boys and then some people start to take a jaundiced view of men’s interactions with children in general.

          In the UK I think we’re pretty much at the stage where certain people are more suspicious about men with boys than men with girls. I’m sure this will change again in due course.

    2. bearing*

      I think the tech was incorrect to specify teenaged girls, because boys present the same risk

      — but to discount his concern because he made the error of specifying one gender is to get distracted from the fact that he is identifying a REAL problem. The problem is not any less real because this particular tech is only able to articulate or identify half of it.

      1. BCW*

        Yes and no. Yes, the same potential is there, but the perception of what is happening,did happen, or may is slanted a lot when its a girl and a grown man. I remember not too long ago hearing on the radio a single dad talking about how his daughter was at that age where they were doing sleepovers, but none of his daughters friend’s parents felt comfortable letting their kid stay over there when there was just the dad. All the mom’s who called in were saying that they would also feel uncomfortable in that situation. Are you really telling me you think those same concerns would be as prevalent if he was a single dad to a son and the son wanted to have his friends stay the night?

        1. bearing*

          Well, I think they’d be different concerns.

          But I admit that mostly I’m trying to convince the people who seem to be rejecting the tech’s concerns on the grounds that he unfairly targeted girls.

          I mean to say that, EVEN IF you were to concede that he was wrong to specifically mention girls when bringing up his concern, the underlying concern (that it is not appropriate for a service technician to be left alone in the house with an unrelated minor child) is not thereby vacated.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        No, I think boys do not present the same risk, at least not for a male technician. Most people are hetrosexual, so in the unlikely event of a false accusation, the more likely one is to be against the opposite gender. Additionally, terrible as it is, it is a bit more socially acceptable for a girl to talk about being molested, and claiming to be a victim of same-sex molestation is even harder. A false claim would usually be the most likely scenario, so an opposite-sex false claim is the bigger fear.

        That is why I, as a female, try not to be alone with a teenage boy, but don’t have the same concerns being alone with a teenage girl. And why my husband, as a male, avoids being alone with teenage girls, but is fine spending time with a teenage boy. Because the chances of a false accusation are much lower with the same gender. Sure, it can still happen, but if the chances of a false accusation are low, the chances of a same-sex false accusation are much, much lower.

        1. Zillah*

          Sexual orientation isn’t necessarily related to molestation – there are straight men who abuse boys, probably more so than gay men. It’s about access.

          That says, I agree that the public perception is such that same sex adult/kid interaction is much less suspicious. That’s not necessarily warranted, just like older women preying on younger boys/teens is not less of a big deal, but that is public perception.

    3. Jen in RO*

      You put this so much better than I could have. I’m a woman and I can’t believe so many people are seriously saying that “adult male with teen girl” would be seen the same as “adult woman with teen boy”. It’s sad, but this is the society we live in and we can’t just ignore it because we don’t like it.

      1. AGirlCalledFriday*

        This might bother people, but I think that part of the problem here is how sexualized women are in society, and how often it seems that it is acceptable for men to make sexual comments and gestures to women. I have had multiple conversations with men who say that men who are attracted to women are also attracted to older girls, the 15-18 range. 14 is not a long way off from this. Having lived in the Middle East, Japan, and traveled through Southeast Asia it is clear that a large part of the world sees young girls as totally fine for the taking. Not to mention prime targets for sex trafficking. I want to make 2 controversial points here – that a large portion of adults can be attracted to older teens and that is has been largely acceptable to marry or have sex with teens in many places in the world, and that oversexualization of women by men has culminated in this expectation that guys are always thinking of women and young women in a sexual manner and so are not to be trusted. I know this isn’t true, and as a teacher I have to say that some of the very best teachers of young children I have seen were men. But perhaps this all points to a cultural issue that we need to deal with in general.

  59. Susan*

    The guy is right to refuse. I would do the same thing. Kids can lie, or some sicko parents looking for a lawsuit can encourage it. 18+ only.

  60. Elle D*

    While I think it might be beneficial for a number of reasons for the company in question to have a policy where someone over the age of 18 needs to be home, right now it appears that this employee is arbitrarily refusing service to customers because someone who appears to be a teenage girl is home alone during the service call. Unless he is IDing these teenage girls to establish that they’re underage (which admittedly he may be), he’s making an assumption based on appearance. My sister, for example, is a young looking 21 year old who stays with our parents during vacations from college. Would this repairman be any more comfortable servicing my parents’ home if she was there alone, even though she is of age? Would he ask her for ID and stay once she proves she’s 21? Teenage boys or adults could just as easily falsely accuse if the concern is false accusation of sexual harassment/assault, so I just find this logic faulty. I’d be much more inclined to support his thought process if he said he was uncomfortable being in the home with minors in general due to safety or work authorization concerns.

  61. Katie*

    I agree with the service technician. In the culture we live in, it’s not appropriate for him to be in the house alone with a female teenager. I think that he has daughters makes him even more sensitive to this subject. For protection of the company, you should be supporting him and assuring that someone over the age of 18 is in the house for the service call. The phone company required it (and the cable company too) when I had them installed. They stated explicitly that they will not enter unless someone over 18, which can make decisions, is available during the entire service call.

  62. Beth*

    Employee’s job is to perform services calls. Today the service call is at 123 Main Street and enter premises with Customer’s permission and knowledge teen is there. Employee refused to do job. Fire employee.

    1. Anonymous*

      Employee has a concern regarding company practices, and voices it in a poorly thought out way. Instead of reviewing practices, company fires employee.


      1. Joey*

        Your fault is in trying to apply the advice universally. Kids aren’t going to be killed if an hvac repairman works in the same house as a teen. C’mon, get serious.

    2. Tinker*

      Problem: I’d rather retain this employee if possible, despite our current differences of opinion. How can I best approach our upcoming meeting on the issue?

      Solution: By taking a hard line and immediately firing the employee.

  63. HR Comicsans*

    First, a personal statement. – I never allow myself to be alone with a child. This isn’t because I don’t trust myself and I likely fully trust that child. This is so no one else has to worry something could happen.

    Second, my professional opinion.- He has no legal protection (other than potential OSHA re: the mold) for refusing this work and that needs to be made clear to him. My choice would be a documented written warning.

    However… an 18 and up policy makes good sense.

  64. Marmite*

    I haven’t read through all 200+ comments so I may be repeating others here, if so sorry!

    I work with teenagers and we are taught to be paranoid about kids making accusations against us. One of the big NOT BREAKABLE EVER rules at work is “never be alone in a room with a child/young person”. That’s more for our (and the company’s) protection that the kids. It’s sad, but that’s the reality in a lot of places now. Perhaps this guy volunteers as a little league coach or something and has had the same paranoia drilled into him.

    1. Kou*

      That’s surprising to me because I used to volunteer for a program that did mentoring for troubled middle and high school aged kids, and not once was this mentioned to us in the (really lengthy) training the mentors get. A lot of mandatory reporting and how to deal with suspected abuse and etc, but never from this angle. This was pretty recently, too.

      1. Marmite*

        I’ve been in this or similar roles for eight years, both in the UK and USA, and I’d say it became a big deal within the last five years. I predominately work with at-risk and special needs children/young people, so that may be a factor. It’s also residential programs that I mostly work in, although we do run day-programs too.

        Interestingly I noticed it start to be really stressed in our training for new hires in the UK around the time we started taking on American clients for travel programs. I wondered if there was a fear of being sued. There is definitely a bigger stress on this kind of thing (and other potentially litigious stuff) with American clients than with clients from the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

  65. LCL*

    He is a bit of a prima donna, and he uses prima donna techniques in his interpersonal reactions. Which he has probably learned from having at least 4 girls/women at home. Men are usually less inclined to try the “I’m uncomfortable with this” approach because it usually doesn’t work for them. The struggle I have with these people is to find out and respond to their legitimate concerns, instead of getting irate and yelling at them to grow the F up.

    1. See Tuesday’s New York Times on cameras in nursing homes. If it is legal in your state, buy him a little camera and have him record all his time inside customers’ premises. If it is not legal, ask him what it would to get him to feel secure enough to go on these calls.
    2. The mold. There are some legitimate concerns with this. Ask him for more information, you may have to buy him a respirator. Speaking of safety, it would be a good idea for all your techs to carry portable CO monitors if they don’t already.
    3. The schedule. Find out what his issues are, then talk to the rest of the crew about OT. You may have to adjust your OT assignments to be fairer to the group.

    1. HR Comicsans*

      1- Cameras- Would not fly in peoples homes unless had a waiver signed. Expectations of privacy would be the killer.
      2- HVAC is going to run into mold, it’s be part of the essential and expected functions of the job. OHSA training for both employer and employees would be a best practice.
      3- OT- No discussion needed. If it’s needed then it’s required.

      1. CEMgr*

        Right. “I’m not a creepy repairman, but I will be secretly (or openly) recording video inside your home. Because your teenaged daughter looks kinda sketchy to me.”

    2. Loose Seal*

      Well, you lost me when you implied that a man has to learn “prima donna techniques” from women.

        1. HR Comicsans*

          I was raised by a single mother and two older sisters.

          Damn them for not providing the proper “prima donna technique” training.

          1. Jen in RO*

            Offtopic, but I’m enjoying the new name :)
            (Or, rather, I enjoy the fact that you changed it again. Comic Sans is an abomination.)

      1. LCL*

        I never said a man has to learn those tactics from women. It has been my experience that particular tactic is more likely to be tried by women, because it is more likely to work, because it has worked in the past, because of the expectations and social conditioning of the person the tactic is being used against. If a man tries that tactic, he is more likely to be met with scorn, or sometimes confusion. People add tactics to their bag of tricks if they work. It is working for this guy, so he has kept it. It has certainly given his manager pause.

        1. FD*

          Yeah, that attitude is incredibly offensive.

          You’re basically implying that when women say “I’m uncomfortable with this” that they’re just using it as a tactic to get out of something instead of, you know, actually being uncomfortable with something.

          In reality, that kind of attitude is exactly why many women are afraid to speak up when a situation is making them uncomfortable, whether that’s harassment at work or a situation that sets off warning signs for reasons they can’t explain. They’re afraid that people will tell them they’re being ‘too emotional’ or that they’re ‘overreacting’.

          Both equating feeling uncomfortable in a situation with being a prima donna and assuming that he learned behavior you see as negative from having “at least four girls/women at home” are really, seriously offensive.

        1. LCL*

          Being uncomfortable with something is never a sufficient reason to change assignments in the workplace, by itself. It is then the manager’s job to draw the person out and find out what the issue is. It could be a personality clash, it could be questions about the other’s technical competence, it could be one person doesn’t put their tools away to the other’s standards, it could be a serious workplace safety issue, it could be one likes country music and the other techno. Or any of a million other things. You have to dig deeper to figure out the proper course of action when someone hits you with a vague generality.

    3. Becca*

      LCL I truly hope you are not a manager because your statement is full of sexist comments and it seems as though you need to get your anger under control. Second of all recording inside of people’s homes is ludicrous!

    4. ella*

      It’s generally illegal to photograph or videotape people without their consent. The only time you can get away with it is in public places where it’s clear you’re not targeting a specific person (ie, taking pictures in Times Square).

      Audio recording is safer and more likely to be legal (most of the laws I can find are related to recording phone conversations, or public meetings; it’s possible that the law has not caught up to the proliferation of tiny recording devices in the hands of private citizens), and also less likely to feel squicky after the fact to anyone who discovers they’ve been recorded. The tech would have to check his local laws because it varies from state to state.

      Of course, it’s extremely unlikely that, in the event that he needs to use a recording, that there will be negative legal repercussions for doing so (I’m imagining a cop saying, “So, Teenage Person, your accusations have been proven false by this tape recording which has been examined and verified by audio forensics experts. Do you really want to press charges for him tape recording you?”). And even if there are, the negative legal repercussions for illegal tape recording are probably much easier to handle than those of a false accusation.

  66. Woodward*

    I answered phones at an electric, plumbing, and HVAC company and to not have an adult there means the tech won’t have the opportunity to upsell additional work. It means missing out on potential extra profit. Change your policy.

    1. CEMgr*

      The best reply so far! Of course, to upsell, you don’t just want an adult….you want the decision maker.

  67. Anonymous*

    I’m a man, and no way would I allow myself to be alone with a teenager, especially a female. I used to work in schools and teenage girls especially can be ruthless. Better not to allow yourself to be in the situation than have to deal with false accusations which will taint you regardless of the truth.

    1. LondonI*

      There are concerns other than false allegations, I think. I don’t think many teenage girls would falsify accusations about some repairman just for the heck of it. The cases of false allegations tend to be vastly over-reported anyway (from statistics I have read) and I gather that people often overestimate how much it actually happens. When it does happen, I suspect that there’s usually a motivation behind it.

      Nevertheless, false allegations are a risk, albeit a small one. This together with other concerns that people have brought up leads me to the conclusion that on over-18s policy should be implemented.

  68. Anastasia*

    I think his concerns are legitimate. I know my dad never allowed me to sleepover at other people’s homes or have my friends sleep over for this reason. My cousin is also this way with his children. I can assure you neither one are sex predators but they are just choosing to not put themselves in a possible situation where they can be accused. For the company I would say that you really should want an adult home anyways. Maybe you could extend his work hours to pm shifts when parents will be home from work and he can do the repairs then. I know this seems ridiculous but I see where he is coming from.

    1. Anonymous*

      I understand where people are coming from, but it IS a shame that childhood experiences like sleepovers are coming to an end in this day and age.

  69. Anonymous*

    I’m a volunteer coach with middle school kids. We meet in private homes. Our unofficial rule of thumb is at at least two unrelated adults are present with the kids.

    I know these kids, and I know their parents. While I wouldn’t have an issue being alone with this particular group in this setting, I wouldn’t be entirely comfortable having unknown children in a home without another adult around. Just seems prudent.

    Seems like a good company policy to adopt.

  70. Not So NewReader*

    I think there are two problems here and it is really tough to tell where one problem begins and the other problem ends.

    OP, there are many HVAC jobs that do not require going to a customers home. This type of placement might be a better setting for your employee. A friend has a HVAC job in a hospital. Given all the employee’s limitations on how he is willing to work, he may need to consider a different employer.

    The other problem I see is that your company could use some modernization with some of it’s policies and procedures.

    Back in the 1950s a relative who was a dentist would not work on a patient with out someone in the room with him. I remember 20 years ago, nagging (yes, nagging) my service tech hubby to be aware of his surroundings at all times.
    His habit was to go to his vehicle and do paper work and check for more calls. One time he made the mistake of doing this in particular customer’s parking lot. The customer came out and asked him if he had a problem THEN informed him that he needed to move along. This incident weighed heavy on my husband, as he did not want to be accused of something he would never even think of doing. His solution was to go to convenience store parking lots and finish up the record keeping there.

    My point is that these concerns have been building and building over the decades. In a way it is good that we are more aware and that we discuss these things openly. But we still have tragic stories almost daily.

    Yes, you might lose this employee. It is really looking that way right now. But there are some valuable adjustments in policies and procedures that you can make that will help you retain other employees. All is not lost.

  71. Gary*

    I agree with the tech. His entire life could be destryed by a 14 yo just accussing. There should be an adult 18 or over at the house, no question.

  72. YG*

    I would definitely try to accommodate the tech as much as possible as long as it is not very hard on your business. No matter how unreasonable his grievances, you are better off with a content employee.
    With that being said, I find it totally ridiculous to require an adult being present. This decision should be up to the parents and not your company. It places extra burden on parents and makes it more difficult for both parents to have a successful career.
    While I am not a lawyer, the only difference I see is in the case of a minor is that the accused doesn’t need to prove that any sexual contact was non-consensual. And why does anyone think that an adult is less likely to make false accusations?
    Moreover, most teens do start working at 16 and are probably in the situation where they are alone with an adult. Are we going to follow Saudi Arabian example where society prevents mixing of sexes for the fear of ‘inappropriate’ contact?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      You think it’s ridiculous? How is a minor supposed to authorize any additional work that may need doing? Suppose they call Mom or Dad at work and they’re not available? The tech isn’t going to wait around, and of course then you have a pissed-off customer calling the company and complaining that they now have to schedule another visit because no one could authorize the tech to take care of an additional issue.

      1. YG*

        The parents can be available on the phone (a lot easier than being physically present) or they can agree to an authorization up to a certain amount. In any case, it is irrelevant to the discussion.
        Also, a reasonable customer would be a lot less pissed off about a second visit (in the unlikely case it is necessary) than if he/she has to take precious vacation days every time they have someone over

  73. FD*

    I agree that the company should change its policy. I just don’t think it’s a good idea for service technicians to be coming in when there’s no adult home, regardless of whether there’s a child there or not.

    However, with all the concerns about false accusation, I do think it might be appropriate to share this infographic:

    (Actually, several people have critiqued the false accusations category as being estimated at being too high–i.e. that there are fewer people who are falsely accused than the chart suggests.)

    I do agree that it’s just not a great idea to leave strangers alone with other people’s children. But, in some of the comments here, there’s an unspoken undercurrent of “women are always waiting to accuse men of sexual assault” that I think is really problematic. Please remember that one thing that many victims of sexual assault struggle with is not being believed, or being told they’re trying to get someone in trouble (or seek attention).

    1. ella*

      +1. I was also a little perturbed by all the discussion of false accusations.

      I also want to point out that the vast majority of sexual assault victims know their attackers. So maybe give the repair guys a break.

    2. KellyK*

      I think this is a really important thing to point out. It’s reasonable for the tech to be concerned about false allegations because of what it would do to his reputation and career, not because it’s at all *likely.* And I think it’s important to try to draw that distinction and not paint women, teenage girls, or teenagers in general as scheming manipulators who will lie about assault and ruin someone’s reputation for kicks.

  74. ella*

    I tried to read 350 comments, I really did, but I cannot. So apologies if this is repetitive.

    Could the employee get a little pocket-sized digital recorder, and leave it running in his breast pocket? If what he fears is false accusations, but OP needs to require him to do the work, that would be a way of insuring himself against such things, without needing another adult present.

    1. NewGirlinTown*

      Depending on the state, I believe that can be illegal if he is recording without consent of the other party.

  75. Jason*

    I think the tech has very good judgment about this, and this concern should be separated from the other (perhaps less serious) concerns about mold and the like. As a psychologist who’s worked with a lot of people on various sides of sexual abuse and assault cases, it makes perfect sense to me to require an adult to be home at ALL times (not just when the tech arrives) that a service tech, delivery person, or anyone else is in the home. This protects children, employees, and companies.

    It’s an inconvenience for parents and there’s a relatively low probability of an assault or accusation. But it’s NOT rare–the only people who think it is are those who haven’t yet been affected and had their lives permanently and brutally changed by these events. Background checks provide very little assurance. No background check provides any meaningful way of screening out sex offenders; only those few that have been arrested and convicted.

    1. Zillah*

      Very good point – most sex offenders are never caught, and some people are registered as sex offenders for really stupid reasons. A background check isn’t all that reassuring.

    2. YG*

      So by that standard, teens should not be allowed to have jobs as they may end up in the situation that they are alone with an adult who is not their relative?

  76. DeDo*

    Wow….thank you for all the good advice, opinions. I am the one who asked the question. I have already revised the Employee Handbook to include that no Service Technician is required to provide service, if an adult (preferably the homeowner), is not present. I met with the Service Tech today, and we had a long talk about the changes I was making to the Employee Handbook. I spoke with our appointment scheduler and gave her a list of questions to ask, which should hopefully alleviate the problem.

    The over-time issue is a done deal too. We came to an agreement that once the holidays are over, he will be open to working overtime, as long as we let him know a day in advance. I can live with that.

    I will say that while communication is good, action is better. My problem was solved because I asked this question, and I received great response. Thank you again, guys!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      While it’s unlikely something could/would happen, it’s better to have the adult present in case your tech finds additional issues with the system. With someone there to authorize any additional work, your customers won’t have to schedule additional days off to deal with it, and they will be happier if your tech can fix the problem right then and there.

      The best thing is that you sat the employee down and worked it out with him. Yay for you!

      1. Liane*

        Glad we helped. Updates–especially good news–are appreciated here.
        And please keep in mind Elizabeth West’s comment, “With someone there to authorize any additional work, your customers won’t have to schedule additional days off to deal with it, and they will be happier if your tech can fix the problem right then and there.” It is a great way to answer customers, likely repeat ones, who ask why you’ve changed the policy. It appeals to their needs.

    2. ChristineSW*

      Really happy to see you got things worked out! It reaffirms how an open, honest discussion with employees can make all the difference.

  77. Anonymous*

    Maybe the guy just doesn’t want to play babysitter to random people’s kids.

    I mean, the safety concerns are understandable, but I think being effectively responsible for a stranger’s kid (of any gender) is a bigger deal and more of a daily problem than a rare exception. Sure, he might not actually be legally held to any standard for the kid’s well-being. However, if he’s a mostly normal person, he probably feels uncomfortable if he’s let in by a kid who is home alone and decides to do the things kids do when unsupervised.

    What if the kid starts watching porn flagrantly? Gets really hyper? Gets really upset about something? Has a girlfriend/boyfriend over and starts having sex? Does drugs? Drinks alcohol? Gets injured? Or plain just asks a lot of annoying questions and gets underfoot constantly while he is working?

    Personally, I wouldn’t want to put up with any of that as a service tech either. I expect those things are all vastly more common problems to run into.

  78. Callie*

    My landlord’s repair persons will not come to our apartment unless it’s empty (with our permission) or an adult is present; if our daughter is here alone they leave a note on the door saying they came by and wil come again later.

    1. Anonymous*

      It would be better if they slipped a note under the door – now there’s a note telling everyone that a young child is home alone!

  79. Sophie*

    Valid point made about why he might not want to be in an empty house with teenagers.. But to be honest I understand his reasoning.

    There are so many sneaky people looking for a quick buck from using or getting attention that I don’t blame him for not wanting to be.

    As a manager I think you should respect that and get other engineers to cover these types of calls

  80. ew0054*

    It all depends on this person’s past experiences. Teenagers tend to not be the most trustworthy lot at times.

    When I was a teenager I need to have my TV set fixed, and the guy told me he will not deal with minors. I showed him the cash I was prepared to pay and he still refused.

    I could see being cautious with something like HVAC systems. Could cause a lot of damage if given wrong information.

  81. Allison*

    Remember, OP is a father, so it’s possible he’s just uncomfortable with the idea of a strange man in the house alone with his teenage daughters; therefore, he knows it would probably cause some unease with the clients if he was that strange man. Maybe he also knows it can make the teenager feel weird too; hell I’m in my 20’s and I still feel weird being in the apartment alone with the cable guy. Especially since the last one kept winking at me . . .

    Also, unless this is his first job, he’s probably had to follow a rule about needing an adult present in a previous job, and it’s become a standard in how he works for one reason or another.

  82. D*

    I’m with technician on this one. I don’t think it’s fair to jump to the “sex offender” hypothesis — as a father, maybe he just has old fashioned ideas about these things. It’s not ideal, but it means he’s looking out for the comfort level of your clients. I would never leave strangers alone with my children (both genders) even if the technicians were bonded. You could try telling him that the clients are alright with it, and see if that helps. I think that’ll go over better than an ultimatum.

    Is there any part of the work that could involve something going wrong that he’d need an adult to be involved in? Resetting breakers, turning off water, or something like that?

    In any case you just have an employee that’s a bit more high maintenance than your other ones. As a manager, I think that’s normal.

  83. Sigma6*

    Most service companies including very large corporate require an adult over the age of 18 to be home during the call.

    This is not an unreasonable statement from the employee to protect himself and the company.

  84. angie*

    I agree with Jessa. I’m sorry, but sending in an adult male with a minor child of either gender – even with a parent’s permission – is asking for trouble.

    It’s not paranoia, nor does discomfort imply he finds teenage girls alluring and irresistible. Good grief.

    He’s being prudent and by doing so, beyond protecting himself he may actually be protecting his company. I’d hardly discipline him for that.

    I’d either recommend:
    – a policy of 18+ to let in home only
    – later/weekend service times that allow a parent/guardian to be present
    – written agreement by parents for minor to allow entry, but TWO technicians in cases where a minor is allowing entry

    Short of that, I’d say loss of a service call beats a lawsuit. Sorry, but we live in strange times–this is a precaution worth taking.

  85. Sigma6*

    Right… only takes one false accusation to destroy someone’s life.

    Why risk it?

    Sounds like the owner / manager of this company is more interested in making profits than protecting the company or employees.

  86. Ruthan*

    Sending employees into houses where minors are at home by themselves sounds like a terrible idea. Your company policy should be that an adult needs to be at home if work is being done in the house.

  87. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    Wow, this is a bit tricky. If he was a great employee, but just had this one issue that made him uncomfortable, I would think that it would be perfectly reasonable to not send him out on calls where an adult would not be present. However, I think more importantly, you have other concerns about his job performance. For instance, if working overtime is part of his job and he is not willing to do it, that is an issue. Especially since you said that overtime is only on occasion. I would suggest sitting down with the employee and address each issue along with a plan to correct it. Explain that you realize that he doesn’t want to be in a house alone with children but that per the company policy, this could happen sometimes at the written request of the customer. Hear him out on his reasoning and look for any red flags (I am not saying that you assume he is a sex offender, but hear him out and go from there) The same thing with the overtime and discovering mold. Explain to him that these are parts of the job and that you will take his preferences into consideration when you are able to, but that you may not always be able to avoid these situations and under no circumstance should be simply be walking out on a customer. Perhaps with the mold issue, he may need some additional training on how to handle that type of issue safely. At that point you will have to ask him if he can agree to do these things when needed and explain that his failure to agree could mean that this may not be a good job match for him and that he won’t be able to work for the company any longer.

  88. LD*

    I understand some commenters are concerned that the tech appears to have emphasized not wanting to be in a house with a female minor or teen vs. a male, but I disagree that it is a sign that he’s creepy for the following reasons. The man has three daughters. He’s may be thinking about how he would feel if one of his daughters was home alone and having to deal with a stranger in his home and so he worries. He also has probably had some of “the talks” that many girls get from their parents about being wary of strangers. And girls tend to get more of those kinds of instructions on being wary than boys do, although predators can come in all persuasions. So he doesn’t want to worry the teens, particularly females, who might be uncomfortable with a stranger in their home. Male teens can also be uncomfortable, but this man has daughters, so that’s his frame of reference. I think he’s making an understandable call to refuse to go into a house with a minor and particularly a female. I believe it is likely based on his having daughters and his concerns about putting one of them in a similar uncomfortable situation.
    The owner/manager should consider requiring an adult, or someone of whatever age is legally considered an adult, to be at home for service calls.

  89. nicolefromqueens*

    I’m a little late to the party but I too agree that this employee is right. False accusations are rare, but one would ruin not just his job or career, but also his life even if he is later vindicated of it. It’s not impossible that some teenager realizes she could get a lot of money from someone (and his employer) by making such an accusation, even if she intends no harm to the employee.

  90. sean*

    initially i thought the employee was protecting himself from false allegations, but then why the concern with the customer’s gender? i assume a teenage boy would be just as likely as a girl to claim misconduct.

  91. ethel*

    If he’s not a sex offender with rules about his parole, he’s had accusations lobbed at him that he’s trying to avoid. However, he’s being responsible by not allowing himself in proximity to trouble, so his … “problem” shouldn’t affect his work. Don’t confront him.

    Can you send him out with an assistant? Give him a novice you’d like to train up? Or a manager you’d like to train him? As long as there’s someone with him, no teen girls can make an accusation against him and he can’t lose his job (again).

  92. bill craig*

    The manager of this small hvac company should revise this policy asap. I am also a sevice tech for a small hvac company,and would never enter a home alone with a minor regardless of the gender. All it takes is one false accusation one time to ruin someones carear,and reputation. My company policy is to never put them or yourself in that type of position. There isn’t a customer in the world who has a carear or private life that is that importent,they can’t be home at some point for hvac service. Almost all hvac companies have 24 hour emergency service. It sounds like the customer wants to avoid an after hours service fee,and by doing so, they use there child as a pawn. If I worked for the above company,and they terminated me for refusing to enter a home with only a minor present, I would file such a law suit, that I would never have to work again.

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