3 more reader updates

Here are three more updates from readers whose questions were answered here last year.

1. My boss is breaking laws and promises but I feel guilty about leaving (#1 at the link)

I asked you a question about my unethical employer back in November, and though it’s taken me almost three months to quit, I finally had enough and walked out yesterday. I was browsing a sex offender listing during my lunch break, not expecting to find anything of interest, until my boss’s name showed up with the exact crime he was charged with (child molestation in the 1st degree). My state also lists the “danger level” of each offender, and his listing indicated that he is highly dangerous and likely to re-offend. I understand that individuals can be falsely accused of sex crimes (and my situation reminds me of this post), but I could not knowingly work for him anymore, especially since I have a part-time job working with children on the weekends.

While I did gain some work experience (and I have no idea if I should list this job on a resume), I’m glad I left. The advice for my previous question was sound, and I appreciate the feedback from the readers.

2. My coworkers won’t stop asking why I’m walking with a cane

I’m the OP of the question back in July regarding cane use. Sadly, the cane has stayed with me and seems that it will be for the foreseeable future. My coworkers’ questions have mostly died down as the cane has become a normal part of my routine, and based on a few answers from people with chronic use of ability aids, I’ve made a point of always keeping the cane with me, rather than having it be something that comes and goes and might occasion more comment in the future. It’s easier for it to just be a permanent fixture. And helpful, because I can never be totally sure when a good foot day will stop being good. On the up side, I have gotten much less self-conscious about needing the cane.

Anyway, my new question is whether a particular situation would fall under reasonable accommodation, and how I should handle it.

A few people in my department have printers at their desks, while the rest of us have to walk across our section of the building to access a communal printer, probably about 15-20 yards away. A coworker I’m friendly with will be leaving our department soon, and she and I both presented a request to the boss that her printer be transferred to me so that I won’t have to make the walk. While I’m physically able to do so, it’s uncomfortable and would be easier on me to avoid the need to make the walk multiple times a day, stand and wait if someone else’s documents are printing, etc. However, our boss stated that he hadn’t made a firm decision, and would most likely hold a raffle or drawing to see who in our department would receive the printer.

My understanding of the ADA is that I don’t need to have documentation from a doctor if my disability is easily visible, and making sure I’m the one to get a printer that will otherwise be dispersed to someone in the department at random certainly shouldn’t be an unreasonable accommodation. Is this an angle I should press with my boss?

Really, a raffle? When there’s someone with a disability who could benefit from it? Wow.

Have you explicitly told your boss that the reason you want the printer is because walking is difficult for you? If you haven’t, that should be your next step — as in, “I appreciate that a lot of people would like to have a printer closer to them. In my case, I’m asking because it would be significantly easier on me physically. Is that an accommodation we could make?”

If he doesn’t agree, you might have better luck having a pleasant chat with your HR department, who are going to be familiar with the ADA even if your boss isn’t.

3. How soon is too soon to travel for work when you’re new on the job?

I am the OP from last November who wasn’t sure when travel ought to start for a new employee. At your call for updates in early December, I said things were going well!

Unfortunately the situation at my tiny office has declined. My boss chose to give us the run-around with regards to the holidays and did not give us our stat holiday pay unless we worked the days before and after Christmas and Boxing Day, claiming that the vacation time we had asked for was “not approved” and therefore the days off were unscheduled absences.

This week he asked our lone technician on Monday to go on a two-day business trip Wednesday and Thursday, involving a significant drive and overnight stay. Our technician said he could not do an unexpected overnight on short notice, as he didn’t have anyone to look after his kids. Our boss then proceeded to yell at him (actual raised-voices, profanity-laden yelling) saying “Your kids have a mother, you can’t keep using them as an excuse not to travel!” when our technician does not–in fact, in the past two months he has spent significant time in Calgary, Fort MacMurray, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and several places in Ontario. Furthermore, his ex-wife has been in hospital with the flu, and was truly unable to look after the kids at that time. After their argument, our technician phoned the Ministry of Labour with the stat pay issue, and the Ministry looked into it and determined we are due our pay, and if we don’t have it by Friday, they will conduct a full investigation of the business.

Since then our boss has been conspicuously leaving printouts of the “Ontario Guide to Termination” on his desk and on our lunch table. Morale has taken a nosedive and we are all afraid for our jobs. The prospect of a visit from the Ministry may mean we receive a little pay, and encourage our boss to stop forcing us to stay at work when there is no running water due to frozen pipes, etc., but our boss seems to have gone severely off the rails in the past month or so and it’s quite worrying.

Needless to say, we are all updating our resumes and beginning a tentative work search. It’s depressing that I only started this job in October and the workplace has already become such a cluster. If I do end up needing a new job in a few months, I will be using your guides to cover letters and interviews, and hopefully I won’t be in such a place again!

{ 81 comments… read them below }

  1. OP #2*

    I should add, the reason some people in the department have personal printers and some don’t is pretty trivial – several years ago, a side function of our department called for printers close at hand, and everyone in the department at the time got one. That function has since been moved out of our department, and new people coming in didn’t get printers. People who stayed kept the ones they’d been given.

    With how we do things now, it makes zero difference other than having to make the walk/wait for the printer. It’s a bit boggling.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      If I were your coworker, I’d suggest it go to you too. Even after I won it in a raffle. I need to get up and walk around sometimes, and it makes more sense to go to you anyway.

    2. BadPlanning*

      If the boss is stuck on the absurd raffle idea, maybe the leaving coworker can pass the word around that she wanted to give it to you because of the walking difficulties. Everyone could then decline to be in the raffle — or just give it to you.

      Unless there’s a bunch of people gunning for a printer.

      1. Anna (and lay off the bananas!)*

        Sometimes a discreet word is the best way to do an end run around unnecessary “fairness.”

    3. T*

      I don’t understand certain people get individual printers while everybody else shares one. Wouldn’t it make more sense to assign people to printer groups where fewer people share each printer rather than to have most of the workers share one? Maybe you can suggest allowing a few people sitting near you to use the printer if it is stationed at your desk.

      1. OP #2*

        As far as I know, the communal printer is networked; the individual printers are hardwired to the respective computers, with no network connection.

        I would not say my company always does things the most logical way.

          1. Anonymous*

            Yes but people aren’t always careful about what they share, and if you open it up, next thing you know Sally in HR has a shared spreadsheet of everyone’s pay.

            1. fposte*

              Sure, but that doesn’t seem to be the issue here, since privacy isn’t what drove individual people having dedicated printers in the first place.

            2. Brett*

              Printers work differently. An IT person can configure the printer to be shared without any risk of the person sharing a folder.

              The exception here is that other people will be able to see that there are documents in the queue. If the titles of documents, in particular, are sensitive, then shared printers will not work.

    4. anon*

      The boss seems dense and thickheaded. This raffle business is ridiculous, since OP #1 has a genuine need for the printer. How does he not get that? But I’ve known my share of bosses who are clueless like this. I just don’t get how people like that end up in management.

  2. MW*

    re: #3 – “a tentative work search?” I’d say this is a case for a full-blown no-holds-barred work search.

    1. OP #3*

      I’ve been procrastinating on it solely because of hoopla in my personal life (military husband overseas on tasking), but I really, really need to get jumping on it!

      Notably, one of my coworkers just announced her pregnancy and had a day last week in and out of the washroom with “morning” sickness, as pregnant women occasionally do. My boss called her on the carpet and lectured her about appropriate use of work time and asked how much of a problem this was going to be “going forward.” I’m still amazed she did not vomit on his desk.

      1. Ash #1*

        The next time she needs to vomit, she should go ask for permission first and “accidentally” throw up on his stuff. ;)

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t often advocate for the use of vomit to solve workplace issues, but I’m with you.

          Too bad I’m not her co-worker, I cannot be in the same room with someone vomiting without doing so myself…so I’d be an awesome addition to that little meeting.

      2. Sadsack*

        “It is inappropriate for you to vomit when you feel nauseated.” Yes, that is a logical argument.

      3. Chinook*

        OP#3, depending on where you are, the MFRC may be able to help you find work in a place that is “military friendly” (though I know each office varies in its effectiveness).

        Also, unless you are in Ottawa, odds are that the town you are in is small enough for others to know your boss is a butt hat and that the work conditions are not good. Bad bosses like that are legendary in small towns.

  3. Del*

    #1 – Yikes! I don’t blame you one little bit for walking out, given all that — yes, it’s usually a bad idea to quit without a replacement job lined up, but sometimes, you just gotta get out of there!

    #3 – Double yikes! It sounds like your boss is really going off the deep end. I’d be making that job hunt a fair bit less tentative — “We’re not getting paid legally” is a great reason to give for why you’re looking for another job. No (sane) interviewer’s gonna argue with that one!

  4. Jamie*

    would most likely hold a raffle or drawing to see who in our department would receive the printer.

    Stupid me, I’ve always issued equipment based on need.


    1. DeMinimis*

      In my case, I have a printer I don’t really want or need, and often walk up the hall to print something. No idea how I got it or who ordered it, although I think everyone in the department got a printer at the same time.

      1. Adam V*

        In that case, you could let your IT person know, and they could add your name to a list. The next time someone needs a printer, they come grab yours instead of ordering one or pulling one out of the closet.

    1. Jamie*

      No kidding. Some of the stories I read on here make me want to stage a rescue.

      Oh, and appropos of nothing I was configuring an app with a preloaded password earlier…the password.


      Are any of you working on wireless adapters? Because if so I got one. :)

      1. Ruffingit*

        We should totally form an AAM posse and go around rescuing people from bad work situations. I’m all about that, when’s our first meeting? :)

      2. Poe*

        My old apartment building had someone with a wireless network “ChocolateTeapotsInc”. I never found out who it was and the network was only there for 2 months. Loved it.

  5. NylaW*

    All of these updates make me sad and angry. I hope all the OPs find better jobs, better managers, or saner workplaces.

  6. tesyaa*

    I “won” a printer in a raffle once, but I’d have given it to a disabled person in a heartbeat.

    1. A Bug!*

      I’d be ecstatic to find someone who wanted to have my desktop printers on their desk instead. It would be a total win-win: the other person gets their printer, and I get more space on my desk.

  7. jennie*

    “I was browsing a sex offender listing during my lunch break, not expecting to find anything of interest…”

    Is this really the way people spend their time? Isn’t that kind of a depressing lunchtime activity?

      1. JM*

        I know if you live or work in a certain area, they send out a mass communication. Maybe the OP got one of these and just started browsing the rest of the site.

      2. A Bug!*

        What kind of confuses me is the connection OP1 makes between her weekend work and her working with this guy.

        I genuinely do not understand what that has to do with anything; if I work with a sex offender M-F, how does that endanger children I work with on the weekend?

        Is it just “because I work with kids, obviously I care more about children’s welfare than other people and thus find this guy extra-gross”?

        1. fposte*

          That’s how I read it–the contrast between working with the guy and working with the kind of people he hurt is too much.

          But I also think that this is a case where she already loathed the guy and this was just the last straw.

          1. A Bug!*

            Oh, yeah, for sure. Based on the previous letter alone I probably would have bailed.

            Just seemed like, not so much a non-sequitur as it was that it sort of implied that people who don’t work with kids don’t really understand the gravity of child sex offenses, which didn’t sit right with me.

            But a minor quibble all told. Glad she’s gotten up the nerve to leave that workplace, and I hope that he has a harder time finding someone willing to put up with his garbage.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I get your thinking here, but I read it more as everyone would find the boss to be a creep, but working with kids on the weekends just brings it even more to the forefront. It’s like “here I am on the weekend working with kids and yet, during the week I spend 40+ hours with someone who has done horrible things to them.” I can see how the weekend work would put even more of a spotlight on it for the OP.

    1. Adam V*

      Wasn’t there a recent story about finding a coworker on one of those sites? Maybe the OP saw that and said to themselves “I wonder if anyone I know is on there…”

    2. James M*

      I’m going to make a wild guess that OP#1 had a reason to check the sex offender registry but chose to omit it from the update.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Could be due to the OP’s work with kids. My next door neighbor is a teacher and she follows the sex offender registry updates. She seems to be hyper-aware of it, which may be a personal quirk or related to her work.

      2. L McD*

        I’ve looked at it out of pure curiosity before. Found my apartment building’s maintenance guy. That was an eye-opener.

    3. The Barb*

      I’ve checked the sex offender database since college and found someone I knew… Creeped me the heck out.

    4. Sadsack*

      I have done those searches before, too. Hey, it’s important to know who’s in the neighborhood!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I found out a neighbor’s relative was on it once, and the rental house next to them had kids living in it. I called the supervisory office and inquired on the status. They said the offense was years ago and that he had been extremely good about following all his rules, and that they were aware of everything.

        They moved after the ice storm, and he was severely disabled (emphysema) and has since died. He could barely walk anyway and never came out of the house, so I left it alone.

      2. Grace*

        I’ve checked the sex offender registry every now and again. I saw a face that looked vaguely familiar and I couldn’t place him. Then I noticed on Sunday that he had started attending my church (and I reported it to those in charge).

        Next, I saw a guy be way too friendly with a 4-year old who is with her grandmother on the commute bus I was taking home. Normal guys could not care less about little kids. This guy, whom I wanted to throttle, was trying too hard to make her laugh (and it worked), telling jokes, etc. I paid attention to where he got off, went home, turned on Megan’s List, and voila – there he was a registered sex offender. I turned him in and the sex offender law enforcement task force landed on his house. (The bus has cameras and is taped on the inside and the outside.)

        1. Tinker*

          “Normal guys could not care less about little kids.”

          In context it’s certainly reasonable to notice an unusual pattern of interest, particularly when the issue is someone being oddly insistent on interacting with a stranger, but statements like this are harmful to the normal guys out there who do in fact care about little kids — who love their own children and want to participate in their lives, for instance.

            1. Grace*

              Thanks for your post. I know lots of really great fathers who are there for their children in every way.
              The cunning and manipulations of this sex offender
              were pretty well honed and scary. Everybody was laughing on the commute bus, but me, as he honed in on this little 4-year old girl and her super naïve grandmother. I thought I was watching a Hitchcock movie, “NOOOOOOOO!! Danger, Danger!!”

          1. Elizabeth*

            This stereotype – “only men who are pedophiles would interact with children” – is harmful to kids, too. It makes men afraid to interact with kids in appropriate ways for fear of being labeled a creep or worse. An extreme example is an English toddler, Abigail Rae, who wandered away from her nursery school and drowned in 2002. Shortly before she fell into a pond, a man drove past her as she toddled along by herself. He thought about stopping but didn’t, partly because he worried people would think he was abducting her.

            1. Poe*

              THIS. I used to work with kids and I had a wonderful male coworker who was terrified to do things like take a kid to the bathroom on their own, because (before my time) another male coworker had been accused of “singling out” a child for attention, and everything from bathroom breaks to time-out got twisted. (FYI, the mom turned out to be a complete wingnut and eventually lost custody of her kids due to mental instability when she was arrested for assaulting a bus driver who waved at her kid. You can’t make this stuff up.)

        2. Iain Clarke*

          You’ve already been jumped on for this, so I’ll try and be polite. And in this case, you were right – but attitudes like yours depress me. Not because you’re an outlier, but because you’re *not*.

          A couple of incidents:

          The first was in an underground parking garage, when I was returning to my car. There was a lady a few cars along struggling to change her wheel, in an elegant outfit and heels. I nearly didn’t offer to help, because I had thoughts of being peppersprayed as I was obvious evil and only after one thing…

          The next was in a supermarket’s frozen food section. A ~8 year old girl was struggling to reach something from an upper cupboard. Again, I had to think twice before I offered to help.

          The above incidents both happened a while ago, but just last week I was in a large buffer restaurant. There was a two year old in a push chair, bored and unhappy looking while Mum fetched some salad (from all of 2 metres away). As I was in a queue, I smiled at the child, and played peekaboo from behind the person in front. As I’m now a father of a two year old, this was just habit. Now I’m wondering if I should have worried about people assuming that I was grooming this child? After all, why else would you want to make a child smile, or laugh?

          I’m not sure I’d claim to be Normal (that’s just dull), but I like to think I’m on the Normal Spectrum.

          As I said at the start, I wish I could be angry specifically at you, but this expectation that Men are Evil, driven solely by their wobbly bit is far from unique. Have you ever seen a male kindergarten teacher? Partly that’s due to part time friendly working, and other systemic issues, but I’m sure it’s also due to them being treated with default suspicion.

          I’d better stop while I’m pre-rant!

          1. hilde*

            I’ll stick this in here at the bottom of the conversation, but this thread reminds me of this story here, which is quite heartwearming: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shanell-mouland/dear-daddy-in-seat-16c_b_4585865.html

            I think the old “trust, but verify” way of thinking is helpful in this day and age. I do NOT want to mistrust every person’s motives that interact with my child. But I am always going to keep one ear and my heart tuned to my intuition and the situation. But overall, I totally agree with Tinker above. And I think that Grace being in that situation obviously had a read on the situation that the rest of us can’t understand just reading it in black and white.

    5. Sarah*

      Every so often they get linked as sort of a “Be safe and know who’s in your neighborhood.” Back in college I had followed one of those links and was scrolling through it out of curiosity. My then-boyfriend was looking over my shoulder and all of a sudden says “Stop. Wait. Go back.” It was his boss. So I guess it’s not as uncommon as you might imagine.

  8. literateliz*

    “Your kids have a mother, you can’t keep using them as an excuse not to travel!”

    Because what else are women/mothers for, amirite? I know the rest of that letter was even more awful, but that jumped out at me. Ick.

    1. Laura*

      Yep. And because the mother cannot be sick (oops, she was), traveling for work herself at that time, unavailable/has other plans, etc.

      Also because even if she was available and willing, given she’s an ex-wife and there may be custody arrangements, just sending the kids to her so he could travel might well create custodial issues depending on the terms of whatever arrangement they presently have. Unless boss has been confided in repeatedly to the TMI level about such things, boss should not assume that all is perfectly easy in that regard.

      1. OP #3*

        From what I understand this is part of the problem–our tech does travel quite a lot and their custody schedule arranges for this. However, it’s quite difficult to arrange things (obviously) on two days of notice, and throwing a serious illness into the mix was definitely not making anything easier.

        However, my boss does not have a particularly good grasp on things like this, and he believes that “willing to travel” means “willing to pick up and go on an hour’s notice,” which is not at all the same thing.

        This is the same boss who procrastinated for months on firing a guy who smoked weed in the bathroom, repeatedly, so we have no idea why he’s suddenly developed a hair-trigger against his normal employees.

    2. Anonymous*

      And there are no such things as single fathers with the mother out of the picture, living out of state, etc.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Or who could have other circumstances that make it difficult to leave. I have a friend who had two exceptionally high-risk and troubled pregnancies who was on bedrest for 5 months, both times. There is literally no way she could physically care for her toddler during her second pregnancy.

  9. Annie The Mouse*

    Reading # 3, I think I want to work in Ontario. Not for that company, but in a place where the government takes worker’s rights seriously.

    1. Esra*

      It’s still a bit hinky for small workplaces, but from what I’ve seen on this site, a lot more employee protections than the states.

    2. Anonymous*

      The laws are there on paper but a lot of the time its still ‘suck it up or find another job’ because nobody enforces anything.

    3. Chinook*

      Actually, all of Canada takes worker’s rights seriously (even if the details do vary). In fact, reporting an employer for anything against the Labour act will cause a world of hurt because they will audit them for the previous 7 years.

  10. A Dispatcher*

    “Since then our boss has been conspicuously leaving printouts of the “Ontario Guide to Termination” on his desk and on our lunch table.”

    I can’t even…

    Good luck getting out OP#3!

      1. Esra*

        I’d honestly be tempted to leave some employee rights documents on the lunch table right next to his crappy printout. Or highlight the relevant passages in the termination document.

        1. fposte*

          Or the Ontario Tax Code with a card from an auditor…yes, much passive-aggressive amusement could be had with a return volley.

  11. Jean*

    Better yet, call in the job applicant who poops in potted plants. Or the worker who places curses on her colleagues.

    In other words, what a horrible boss!

  12. Jen in RO*

    #3, listen to everyone and drop the “tentative”. Start job searching like there’s no tomorrow, because this boss is one of the worst AAM has had!

  13. OP #3*

    Thanks to all for the responses! It helps a lot to hear outside opinions and verification that things are insane here. I have a hundred weird stories about my boss and the way he runs his business and treats his employees, but it’s nice to know that they’re not just “quirky stories” but “danger signs.” Three of the five employees here (including me) are going to be actively job-searching starting, oh, NOW.

    This is the same guy who made a huge deal about wanting long-term commitments when we all came on board, because of connections and familiarity and all that. But you can’t expect long-term commitments when you treat employees like crap, so….job-searching it is!

    1. The Clerk*

      I had a feeling things were going to go south here, having worked in a similar-sounding sales job. :( The fact that he was trying to use flattery to push you into something that wouldn’t have been good for the clients was a big red flag. All the comments that criticized you for not “rising to the occasion” or whatever sanctimonious junk didn’t take into account that the company is just a hot mess. I hope you find something better very soon.

    2. Ruffingit*

      Good for you, know your own worth and realize that a toxic environment doesn’t generally change so you have to in that you leave the job. Toxic environments can often make you question yourself as in “Is it me? Is this normal and I just don’t know it? Am I too sensitive…?” No, no and no. Your boss is mentally ill, a psychopath, or just a garden variety jerk, but whatever the case, it’s not something you can or should handle. Get out ASAP and let us know how it’s going. I always like to hear from OPs who make the break. GOOD LUCK!!

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