my coworker told a customer I didn’t want to do part of my job, I haven’t received my legally mandated backpay, and more

It’s five short answers to five short questions. Here we go…

1. Applying for a job with a company that shares office space with my current employer

I currently work for a company where we share an office/floor with another company that is one of our clients. I was recently asked by the other company’s CEO’s executive assistant to submit my resume for a position opening that is the same as my current position. Is it wrong to apply for this position since I would still see all my old coworkers/boss everyday? The thing is that although in title it is a lateral move, in all other ways, it’s moving up. The salary would be a 50% increase plus health benefits and 401k (which we don’t have). It would be a no brainer if it weren’t for the fact that I’m literally working in the same office.

You should go ahead and apply. If you end up in the other job, it shouldn’t be terribly awkward, as long as your boss isn’t someone who takes resignations personally. People make this kind of move all the time — maybe not within the same office, but certainly jumping to, for instance, a client of their previous company, which keeps them in regular contact with their old coworkers. People are generally going to be happy for you, unless you have a particularly dysfunctional manager.

2. My coworker told a customer I didn’t want to do part of my job

A different take on the question earlier in the week about driving a large vehicle for work:

I recently stepped down from being what my company calls a shuttle driver, which was a major part of my job. It was stressing me out and making my anxiety levels so high that after the new year, I became physically ill and missed 3 days of work in a row (this was last week). So, the reason I stepped down was because it was negatively affecting my health and was making me dread my job every morning. And to be completely honest, the coworker I talk about below was causing huge issues.

Today, a coworker (Jake) said something about me that I thought was unprofessional to a customer. We weren’t even open yet (it was 7:15 and we open at 7:30) and I was in the same room vacuuming when a customer walked in. I immediately stopped and greeted him, but I don’t think he heard me. The customer started talking to the service people, and I moved onto my other cleaning duties since there was a customer, and was in the in-office bathroom when I heard Jake and the customer talking. The customer asked if I was going to be giving him a ride, like usual, and Jake replied with “No, she’s not giving rides anymore, because she doesn’t want to.” First of all, the customer didn’t even ask why, just if. Secondly, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business of why I stepped down, and I’m certainly not okay with this rumor, especially not being spread to customers. Jake has been a problem before, but, whenever I complain to my boss about him being an unprofessional jerk, I’m told “That’s just the way Jake is,” and to “deal with it.”

Am I being too sensitive, or is this just unprofessional? I haven’t told my boss about this yet, because I wanted to see what you had to say about it. I also didn’t really know how to approach the subject without sounding like a crybaby.

It’s absolutely unprofessional, and it will make customers uncomfortable. I’d ask your manager to give people guidance on what to say to customers who ask why you’re no longer driving and/or to correct Jake himself if he’s the only one who needs to hear it. People should probably say something like, “Bob is driving the shuttle now” and if pressed for more information, “We reshuffled some roles, and Jane is no longer driving, but Bob is.”

3. My employer was ordered to pay overtime backpay, but I haven’t received it yet

I work at a small private university. For years, employees were working overtime and not getting paid. Someone eventually caught wind of this and the apparently the Labor Division in my state (NC) was contacted. We were emailed in early November to formally document all overtime in the past 3 years and the next week, sent to the CFO to sign off on the checks we were to receive. We saw the projected amounts of the check from the hours we had worked and everything. We were told we would get our checks “soon.” Some individuals had already received their additional checks for the overtime pay.

It’s now January, and there are no signs of this money and the university is struggling financially to the point they just told us they will furlough staff/faculty for spring break. Thankfully, I’m not in a position that I direly need the money and I’m wise enough not to count money before I have it, but it’s super shady! Especially being that some people have received their money and my department hasn’t. Should I just leave it alone?

If the state labor agency was on this, they should continue to be involved until you’re paid the money you’re owed, so I doubt that the university is just going to ignore this halfway through the process. That said, you could reach out to the state agency to ask about the timeline (and let them know that you haven’t received the backpay yet). Or you could ask whatever department at your university is most likely to know; it’s not an adversarial question when they’ve already made it clear that the money is coming. I’d just say something like, “In November, I was told to expect a check for $X in backpay. So I can plan, can you let me know when I should expect to receive it?”

4. How do I explain that I want to leave my job because they’re illegally firing people?

After 5 months at my new (and great!) job, I’m on the market again, but I don’t know how to phrase my reasons for leaving.

The situation in short: I work in Europe, in a company that is a subsidiary of a US company. A few days ago, we were told that 15 people (~20% of the local people) were being let go, effective immediately. The problem: there is a whole procedure that applies in cases like this (mandated by law) and the management in the US is completely ignoring it and trying to treat us as “at will” employees (there is no such concept in the local law). The second problem: the people being fired are all high performers and come from all layers of the company (so it’s not a matter of firing the highest earners, to save money), so the names seem to have been chosen at random. I have not been let go, but I no longer trust the company, given they are trying to do something illegal and they are firing people with no apparent reason, without considering how this will impact day to day operations. All the remaining employees are updating their resumes and the morale is at an all time low. How do I convey this in an interview without looking like I’m badmouthing the company?

“My company has started having significant layoffs, and I’m looking for a company with more stability.” There’s no reason to get into the legality issues since the layoffs alone are a reasonable explanation.

5. Job-searching when you’re pregnant and on bed rest

I’m currently pregnant with twins and on strict bed rest. I’ve been teleworking but was recently told they were cutting my position. I’ll have no job to go back to after my maternity leave. We had already budgeted for me to take three months of unpaid leave when the babies are born (my employer offers neither short-term disability nor paid leave), and it will be a hardship for us if I’m unemployed for very long after that.

My question is what kinds of job searching activities are useful for me to do now if I won’t be able to start at a new job until June at the earliest, and won’t be able to go to an in-person interview until May? Also, what, if anything, can I say to employers who are worried about how committed an employee with new twins at home might be? (The answer is I have no choice but to be very committed. I currently earn more than half our income.) I’ve already been reaching out to my network and have a few leads. Some jobs (mostly in the federal government) will be so slow moving in the hiring process that I feel fine applying now. Others, mostly in the private sector, may have long or short timelines. I don’t want someone to be frustrated that they wanted to interview me and I say “oh, hey, by the way, I can’t leave my house for another 5-6 months.” But I’d also like to start getting my name out there so I’m not starting from scratch in June (also, I have time on my hands now).

Since I’m no Marissa and therefore no one’s banging down my door to ask me to be CEO of a major tech company, any tips for the unemployed pregnant lady?

I’d start applying for jobs now. If you have to withdraw from some hiring processes because they need someone to start sooner than you can, that’s better than realizing in June that you started searching too late. And many will be on a slow-ish timeline that fits what you need.

If you’re invited for an in-person interview before you’re off bed rest but your sense is that your start date timeline isn’t out of sync with theirs, I’d say something like, “I’m currently on bed rest until X, although I’ll be absolutely fine after that. Would interviewing by phone or Skype be possible at this stage, with a plan for me to come to you in-person in May if there’s mutual interest?”

{ 106 comments… read them below }

  1. Honest Company

    We hired a very pregnant woman for a position that we needed to fill immediately (cheers to her for applying!). She rocked the interviews and was clearly the best candidate for the job. We gave her a generous start date 5 months in the future and hired an awesome temp in the meantime. Everybody’s happy.

    1. JC

      As someone who is simultaneously trying to get pregnant and look for a new job, that makes me very happy to hear. I have this fear that most companies will run away screaming if they find out you’re pregnant, so stories to the contrary are heartening.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        We hired a pregnant woman 5 months ago who didn’t disclose she was a few months along.

        I admit that I was irritated when she announced her pregnancy on her second week of work, but I got over it pretty quickly. Planning for maternity leave is so routine around here, it wasn’t a big deal to dovetail training plans with maternity leave plans. And, her shower is two weeks from now. (I was a little worried she wouldn’t make friends fast enough to have people take up for a shower for her but that worked out also.)

        If I were her friend, and I had to advise her in this process via a time machine, I’d tell her to do things exactly the way she did.

        1. Joey

          I’m interested in why you were initially irritated. You really can’t blame her for wanting to hide it.

          1. Chriama

            You also can’t control your initial reaction. Whether or not you sympathize with her, it’s frustrating to realize this new employee that you spent so many resources to hire is going to be gone pretty soon.

            It would be inappropriate if Wakeen took his frustration out on her, but I don’t begrudge anyone a little initial irritation.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            I’m interested in why you were initially irritated.

            Why?

            I’m irritated at snow when it snows.

            What a person feels doesn’t matter. What the do matters.

            1. Joey

              Agreed, and Im not trying to call you out for your feelings, I’m just interested in the rationale, that’s all. I’m just wondering if you feel that all candidates should say something if they plan on taking extended time off or felt offended that she didn’t trust that you wouldn’t hold it against her.

              But if you don’t want to discuss that’s okay too.

              1. sunny-dee

                I would be irritated if someone knew they were going to take significant leave very soon after starting and didn’t tell me. I would be just as irritated if someone said, “Oh, I had a 3-month tour scheduled with the Peace Corps. Can’t wait to get started!” It’s deceptive.

                1. class factotum

                  Absolutely! I had a year’s notice I was going into the Peace Corps. I didn’t even bother looking for a permanent job – I did temp work. I couldn’t imagine someone wanting to hire someone who would be there less than a year (this was post B-school, so I was looking for higher-level work) and I didn’t want to lie about it.

                  And it is a hardship to have people out for three months. At my Peace Corps assignment, where I worked with a co-op of indigenous women, there were only five of us in the office. Two of those women were on maternity leave at the same time, with full pay. So we were down 40% on personnel and couldn’t even hire temps because we had no money.

                2. Goofy posture

                  Except hiding a pregnancy is smart when a significant number of employers will (illegally?) eliminate you as a candidate, and (incorrectly) assume you won’t be coming back after maternity leave. It’s a major hindrance in women’s career progressions.

              2. Camellia

                It seems like Wakeen’s already replied in the first response of “If I were her friend, and I had to advise her in this process via a time machine, I’d tell her to do things exactly the way she did.”

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

                  Yeah. When there is a choice to disclose or not disclose, I’d advise not disclosing. I should have said that more plainly.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Yeah, we are set up well to work with new mothers. It’s become a specialty because we can attract/retain good people who need a bit of flexibility that we can accommodate. + we do 40 hour weeks, not 60, don’t have travel, and don’t expect employees to respond to emails at night or on the weekend.

      AND, we’ve done triplets so twins? No sweat (for us, not so much the parents).

      We probably wouldn’t extend the formal offer until after the birth, so Honest Company is ahead of Wakeen’s that way, but point is although OP’s situation seems unique, there are plenty of us who wouldn’t bat an eye.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          Ha, we’re not heaven. We’re not good for people who like fancy offices, and fast track careers with title progressions.

          We fill a spot.

          1. Ruffingit

            Sounds good to me, I’m in. Send the URL for your hiring site, but please don’t include my application for public view. Thanks ;)

    3. Joey

      I’ve done that before and every single time I internally got nervous wondering whether she will back out. But I have the same nervousness anytime I agree to a start date that’s far off in the future. Its just in that amount of time so so many things can change.

  2. OP #4

    Thanks for the answer, Alison! In the meantime they decided to lay off less people (8 instead of 14) and do it legally, but the writing is on the wall. My boss came by yesterday and told me he was hoping I’m applying to other jobs! I never thought I’d have this conversation…

    Luckily it looks like HR in my field is coming back from vacation and a couple of new jobs were posted in the last few days. Fingers crossed!

    1. hamster

      Even in Europe , at least where i’m from, they are not required to let you work the 1 month notice. They are just required to pay you for that time

      1. OP #4

        You’re right, it’s the same here. In this particular case, since they wanted to fire 15 people, it fell under a different law (for collective firing), which required a longer process and more severance. In the end they only fired 8 people (so if would fall under individual firings) and offered severance, even though it wasn’t mandatory.

        Everyone is applying for jobs now, and we are lucky to have very supportive local management that encouraged us to schedule interviews even during working hours. Since we’re in software development and there’s a major shortage of developers/testers around here, most people already have interviews scheduled.

        (By the way, I’m the regular poster with the pink Kenny gravatar, but I’m trying to stay somewhat anonymous since I haven’t found a new job yet!)

        1. Lacey

          I’ve seen this happen too, even between countries that you’d think have similar laws they can be quite different and a head office can get quite a long way along the track before suddenly realising they’re about to break a host of laws and cost themselves a huge amount of money and inconvenience. I’m glad they realised before it was too late, although it sounds like its just delaying the inevitable. Good luck with the hunt.

          1. OP #4

            Oh they knew it was illegal, they had discussed with local management, who told them what the law is.

            1. hamster

              I’ve been at a local company that had a round of layoffs and they gave severance. I did not know it was required by law. I lost a bit of faith in the company too then. Especially since they told me i might be in the lot of people let go. I wasn’t but i left on my own accord in 2 months. I wasn’t going to stay around and see if they still have money to pay me. On the plus side that manager gave me the most glowing references ever ( for the next two jobs) . If i remember correctly , i’m sure you’ll have lots of busy times interviewing in the next months . Fingers crossed !

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

              Heh, but

              OH MY GOD Kenny is Working in a Financially Unstable Work Environment!

              didn’t flow well enough

        2. CAA

          I’m so sorry to hear this. From your posts, it sounded like you were enjoying the job and things were going well for you. I hope you quickly find a new opportunity where you can use your skills and talents.

          1. OP #4

            Yeah, it sucks, especially because I’ve realized that I have awesome coworkers and bosses (locally). The sense of camaraderie since the big announcement has been great and I hope I get to work with these people again, in other companies! I’m not worried for myself, even if I get fired I’ll get 2 months of pay, I have some money saved up, boyfriend has a good salary and he can feed me… but I’m sure I’ll find something soon. Thanks for the wishes!

        3. OP #4

          And, after reading Alison’s explanation below and thinking about it a bit, I was using the wrong terms: these are layoffs (the positions are probably being eliminated), not firings. Firing someone for cause is a long, long process of PIPs, warnings and such, and it can take a year.

  3. looking forward

    OP 5 – if you are in the U S, contact social security about disability. It is not just for the permanently disabled. Also, apply for unemployment.

    1. Andrea

      Sorry, this is inaccurate information, re: disability benefits. The pregnant OP would absolutely not be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, because eligibility also depends on the disability lasting for at least one year. I worked for SSA, in investigations, but I started out taking disability claims. Medical eligibility for either disability program—-the needs-based SSDI or the Title 2 Social Security benefits which you pay into—-is the same, and it takes several months before benefits start anyway, at which point the OP would presumably (hopefully) be just fine. Check the SSA site for more info.

      1. Andrea

        However, there may be some other state or federal assistance that she would be eligible for, depending on her situation.

        1. fposte

          Though I think unemployment may also be a non-starter, because it usually requires that you be willing and able to work, and the OP currently is unable to work.

          1. Anonymous

            Exactly. As we’ve seen from some posts in the past, qualifying for unemployment sometimes hinges on you applying for a certain amount of jobs in a timeframe, which isn’t realistic for this OP.

    2. RG

      No to Social Security Disability. It’s not for the permanently disabled, yes, but you’d have a hard time convincing a doctor that the bed rest would be expected to last for more than a year.

      Maybe yes to disability insurance (totally different thing). But that usually requires that you purchase the insurance prior to being pregnant, and then usually has a waiting period before you can claim benefits. And, depending on the state, difficult to buy outside of an employer.

  4. Marie

    Oh my goodness re: LW5. I am so grateful to live in a country where it is illegal to dismiss someone for being pregnant. No company would even TRY to dismiss a pregnant woman in case they were taken to the Labor Court.

    1. TL

      It’s illegal in the US, too-or near enough that most companies won’t. I think the writing must’ve been on the wall for that one.

    2. Colette

      It doesn’t sound like she was dismissed for being pregnant, just that her position is ending while she is pregnant. Having once worked for a company that did a lot of layoffs, I can tell you that that does happen sometimes.

      1. Zahra

        I’ve heard too many stories of positions ending while the person is pregnant, only to be reopened a few weeks/months later that it always feels fishy to me.

        1. Colette

          It could be related – but it could also be that they let go of 50% of their workforce, and she was part of the 50%.

          If it’s related to her pregnancy, she should think about whether she wants to get a lawyer, but the OP has more information about what she thinks is behind it than we do.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      But that’s illegal in the U.S. too. In this case, though, there’s nothing in the letter that says she was let go because she’s pregnant. (You can let go for other reasons while you happen to be pregnant; the pregnancy itself can’t be the reason.)

      1. Anonymous

        I worked with a woman who was let go when she was pregnant, and it had nothing to do with her pregnancy. She just wasn’t doing her job well.

      2. Mike B. (@epenthesis)

        Firing a pregnant woman is sufficiently suspicious that cautious employers often avoid it. I worked for some years with a poor performer who seemed always to be pregnant or nursing (something like three children in five years); they were always just slightly too nervous to terminate her even as others with similar issues were let go. (She finally left to be a full-time mom, which was probably a happy ending for everyone concerned.)

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Just so that we don’t perpetuate that fear here: Managers, you absolutely can safely fire a poor performing employee who happens to be pregnant. You need to give clear feedback and warnings and document those conversations, and you can’t hold her to a different standard than you hold other employees to. But a pregnant belly should not be thought of as a “can’t fire me” sign.

          1. Mike B. (@epenthesis)

            I definitely don’t advocate waiting as long as my company did; this employee’s deficiencies were substantial and well documented (to the best of my knowledge; I wasn’t her manager). But it’s not always possible to convince the more senior management that the risk of having to fight a lawsuit, even a frivolous one, is outweighed by the potential for damage done by a problematic employee in a particular position.

    4. Meg

      It’s illegal in the U.S as well. It doesn’t seem from the OP’s post that she’s being laid off due to her pregnancy, though.

  5. Josh S

    OP #5 — If you are at a company that is subject to FMLA (at least 50 people in your state, etc) and you qualify yourself (worked at the company for 1 year, etc), the company may not be able to legally fire you. They may be required to hold your position or an equivalent one open for you.

    To say for sure would require a bit more information, but between FMLA and non-discrimination laws, the company might not be allowed to end your employment because of this.

    1. Judy

      Well, that would be only if she only needs 13 weeks off work. It sounds like she’s on bed rest for 5 months before the babies are born, not to mention any recovery time.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit

      They can fire her for cause or lay her off for reasons unrelated to her pregnancy, though.

      1. AmyNYC

        Question – If the bed rest is a result of your pregnancy, and the job can’t be done remotely…. where does that leave you? Would that be considered being laid off because you’re pregnant?

        1. Us, too

          I believe you’d be let go not because you were pregnant but because you couldn’t return to work after 12 weeks (the max allowed under FMLA). So, basically, you’d get 12 weeks to get well again and then you either return to your job or you lose it.

          Alison will have to confirm, though.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            It would depend on how they’ve treated other similarly situated employees, I believe, and whether they’ve let other people take a similar amount of time in non-pregnancy situations. But this isn’t my area of expertise so hopefully someone more expert than I am will weigh in.

            1. Joey

              That’s correct. You’d need to look at how other men and women (and specifically pregnant women) on fmla were treated.

              1. Joey

                Just to clarify looking at similarly situated people would be looking at it through the lens of possible sex discrimination, not running afoul of fmla.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      They can absolutely fire her for reasons unrelated to her pregnancy or leave. Being pregnant isn’t a magic bullet against losing your job; you just can’t be let go for a reason that’s connected to the pregnancy.

      1. AB Normal

        Interesting — in Brazil, there actually *is* a magic bullet.

        Employees are protected from firing during the pregnancy and for 5 months after the baby is born. The only exceptions are firing for cause, and if the employee is still in the probationary period. Layoffs, position no longer necessary, etc., are not valid reasons to fire a pregnant woman or mother with a newborn.

          1. AB Normal

            Ah, now I get it. I see lots of people talking about “firing” for reasons such as “we don’t think you are a good cultural fit so we are firing you” — which wouldn’t work in my country because that’s not cause for firing (as quantified performance issues would be).

  6. Ella

    #1.
    I would apply, no doubt. The same happens all the time when one works in a large company and changes position internally, he/she keeps on having close ties with old manager and colleagues.

    1. Chinook

      #1 I agree that you should apply, especially since the EA asked you to do it. This means they are aware of the potential awkwardness and may even have unofficially talked to your boss about you applying. BTW, congrats on being asked to apply by someone in the know – that is a huge sign of confidence in your abilities.

  7. The Other Dawn

    RE: #3

    My husband’s company went through exactly the same thing. It definitely took awhile to get the money and employees received the checks at different times. There’s a lot of administrative stuff they have to go through, both the company and the labor agency. You want to ask HR first. If they know nothing (like in the case of my husband’s company), contact the labor agency working on this case.

  8. John

    #1 is right to be wary. I had a situation like this. Of course, I was working for an employer who could no longer meet her payroll, so it was a no-brainer, right?

    Long story short, I was offered a job by another company on our floor (shared office space) who knew our company was going down. When I resigned, the head of our company marched over to the hiring manager and planted some convoluted tale of betrayal and the next think you know the two of them confronted me in my office to accuse me of double-dealing!

    I was immediately fired and the job offer I’d accepted was pulled.

    It was total lunacy, and I’d hope it was an unusual phenomenom.

    1. Sunflower

      Sounds like both of those company’s had a few screws loose. I don’t believe in ‘betrayal’ at work unless you’re stealing or breaking the law.

    2. Chriama

      That sounds like it majorly sucked, and I’m sorry you went through that. On the other hand, I think the OP has less to worry about if only because its one of her company’s clients who is trying to recruit her. Not only do they likely already know the people who’d be giving her a reference (and therefore how to assess whatever they say, good or bad), but if they’ve ever poached employees before they’re likely to be familiar with the possibility of retaliation and better able to spot it.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        Plus, the company OP is leaving isn’t going to want to piss off their client.

        OP — go for it, but I’d recommend asking the hiring manager whether the interviews can be conducted off-site (I’ve done them over lunch at a restaurant, or in an empty office on another floor of the building), at least unless you’re already over there at the client’s offices so often that no one would bat an eyelash to see you walking in and out of there in interview clothes. The last thing you want is for your current boss to know about your candidacy before you resign (unless you have a really good relationship with your boss).

      1. John

        I went after the company for the back pay they owed me — I drew up a termination agreement and got the company president (the loon who fired me) to sign it on my way out.

        A jury of my peers found in her favor! That’s right…there was no dispute that I worked that time and was not paid…not that I ever had a prayer of collecting.

  9. Another Working Mama

    OP #5, I feel for you. I lost my job while pregnant in 2012 and the combination of pregnancy and unemployment was, to put it mildly, incredibly unpleasant.

    Now is the time to work whatever network of friends and colleagues you have. My showing up to interviews with a giant baby belly ~magically~ made me a less-qualified candidate seemingly everywhere, but a good friend at a small organization talked me up to her bosses and I managed to get a good position with them. It paid less than I wanted and I was overqualified for it, but it gave me something to keep on my resume and any income is better than no income.

    (And since it’s always easier to get a job when you have a job, I was later able to move on to something better and higher-paying.)

    Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy, with delivery, and with your babies!

    1. Another Working Mama

      (Also, I meant to say in there that you can work your network perfectly well from bedrest as long as you’ve got a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. All deities bless the internet and mobile devices! My phone is what kept me sane through the days after the C-section when I couldn’t move.)

    2. J.B.

      OP #5 – also consider your timeline. I interviewed 2.5 weeks postpartum (not with twins of course!) and it wasn’t too bad. If you need a job you need a job and it might be worth truncating the time you take off postpartum somewhat. If your husband is eligible for FMLA, he could also take time.

      I hope you work something out soon, and then just put one foot in front of the other.

  10. fposte

    #2–while I totally agree that Jake needs to knock it off, I can at least assure you that as a customer I would think he’s the unprofessional one, not you.

    1. Jamie

      ITA. Once I had a cashier at the grocery store complain to me about the bagger. Apparently he wasn’t enthusiastic enough when asked to do carts or something.

      I’m usually only half listening in public, but I stopped digging for my card and asked her, “why are you telling me this?”

      And then I stopped talking and looked at her while she fumbled for an answer.

      At least it made her more annoyed with me than the kid bagging – at least for a little while.

    2. Steve

      I also don’t think it would be wrong – if you have the right kind of relationship with the customers and you’re around when Jake’s flapping his gums – to say “Oh, Mr. Smith, you know Jake’s just kidding with you. I always enjoyed your company when I drove you, but I’m not driving the shuttle any longer, Bob is.”

  11. OP 5

    Just to respond to the legal side of things, my husband and I are both lawyers (although neither of us does employment law) and we’ve talked through the legal issues here. It’s very clear to people close to the situation that it really is about my pregnancy, but we agree that it’s not sufficiently cut and dried to be worth legal action. Also, we both spent the beginning of our careers as litigators and know what’s involved. There is no way we have the time, energy, or emotional bandwidth for any of that right now. As for just a strongly worded letter, that works if the recipient is unaware of the law or is feigning ignorance. The decision-makers here are well aware of it and have simply interpreted the law in their favor (as I said, while it’s clear to those involved, it’s not so clear I have the evidence I’d need). Also, nothing wrecks a relationship like litigation and I’ve decided it’s more valuable to me to maintain good references and also avoid the reputational hit that bringing an EEOC suit can cause (rightly or wrongly).

    1. Graciosa

      I’m so glad you made this comment! With all the “Is it legal?” questions that Alison deals with I get the impression that most people not only fail to understand what is and is not a legal requirement, but also fail to understand what is involved in enforcing legal rights if you’re lucky enough to have them.

      Lawsuits can extend for years and consume your life for most of that time – especially in these days of electronic discovery and depositions about “What was your intent when you sent this email on March 3, 1997 at 2:06 p.m.?” You need a very clear cut case AND a corporate HQ who didn’t know someone had stepped out of line AND is willing to address it immediately in order to get the kind of reaction most people expect when they start asking about legalities. The stars align like this once every seventh blue moon.

      And you’re dead right about the damage to your reputation – which applies even if you win.

      I’m not trying to argue that no one should ever pursue a claim, but anyone doing so needs open eyes and a titanium spine.

      1. Sunflower

        +1 for all of this. In your case, I feel that even if it takes longer to get hired than you expected it will be much less stressful than taking on a court case.

    2. Joey

      I just wish more people understood that what actually happened doesn’t matter a whole lot to the EEOC or in court. Its what you can prove happened.

      1. Sunflower

        I’ve never really looked into it but I’m so curious how many people who sue their employers for wrongful termination actually end up winning.

        1. Chriama

          I don’t think the majority of people actually do win. We only hear about the spectacular cases, but probably the majority of them die a quiet death or get settled before they ever make it to trial.

        2. Joey

          You don’t really hear about the EEOC cases that go nowhere. I would suspect the actual percentage of founded cases is pretty minuscule.

        3. Grace

          @Sunflower,
          First, the majority of cases never seen a courtroom. About 95% of cases, according to the legal statistics, settle out-of-court. Courts also have mandated Alternative Dispute Resolution programs that precede litigation, to try to arrive at settlement.

          Since many employment law cases have a retaliation component now, those are easier to prove than other underlying legal issues (like discrimination). Judges and juries hate retaliation, the majority of employees do win those cases (57% of employees win these cases according to the law firm Jackson Lewis http://www.jacksonlewis.com/legalupdates/article.cfm?aid=148.

          Most defense attorneys tell employers to settle.
          Settlements are usually given after the employee’s deposition, when they finally get their chance to tell their side of the story (which usually drove them to litigation in the first place).

          A good blog (from an Ohio attorney)
          http://www.ohioemployerlawblog.com/2008/01/golden-rule-of-employment-relations.html

    3. annie

      I was wondering if that might be the case, and I am sorry this is happening to you. A friend of mine who works in healthcare has been mysteriously laid off towards the end of both of her last pregnancies, only to be welcomed back both places with open arms once her babies were born. She suspects her employers were projecting their own feelings about her ability to do some of the physical tasks, tiredness, etc in the last stages onto her, whereas she’s always been one of those very energetic and robust pregnant women and felt she was fine to keep going. The last time, they actually flat out told her, come back after you have the baby, which was laughably illegal. So I think this is unfortunately more common than we realize, but that most people, like you, know that it is not worth the fight to try to make a complaint. I hope you find something new soon!

  12. Sunflower

    #1- Definitely at least apply for the position. When any company is interviewing a potential candidate, the process is kept as confidential as possible and I wouldn’t expect this company to treat this any differently- unless they are a bad company all around which you would probably have an indication of already.

    Even if you have a boss who takes things personally, it’s gonna be hard for your boss to say anything with weight when you consider the benefits of the other job. Even if you think your boss may take it badly, the increased benefits could be worth a few awkward run-ins in the hallway.

  13. Erin

    OP #1 – I recently made a similar transition and made a move to a company in the same building as my employer. I was nervous about seeing other people in the building, but it really hasn’t been that awkward. My former boss did take my resignation personally, but everyone else was very happy for me and still encourages me to visit with them on a regular basis. I honestly don’t see most of my former coworkers unless I make the effort to go to their offices. I am overall very satisfied with my decision and feel like I was really working myself up over something that hasn’t been that big of an issue. I say go for it!

  14. Dan

    Quite surprised to see that the question (and answer) to #1 revolve around the shared office space, not the fact that the client-company is trying to hire away from the vendor-company.

    This is generally prohibited by non-compete clauses in vendor-client agreements, and specifically in the employment agreements that you sign with a company that serves as a vendor. Maybe that is all cleared up and not a problem in this case, but if I had clients that were gunning for my top talent, they wouldn’t be my clients for much longer.

    1. Jamie

      This is one of those areas where you will absolutely burn bridges, but depending on the circumstances it could be worth it.

      It all depends on the money. If it’s a critical vendor and not easily replaced, you don’t want to ruin the relationship. If you have others on tap who provide the same and the talent is worth it…it’s not a loss.

      Same with clients. If they’re a small part of your revenue – maybe taking the stand is worth not having to deal with them. If they are a big client and it’s one person? If are a big enough part of the revenue base I wouldn’t cut them lose if they “stole” my husband, much less poached an employee.

      I’m not saying it’s always pleasant, but it’s business. Employees sometimes leave for other jobs – it’s not worth cutting your client base over hurt feelings.

      And the offers happen all the time, although to save face they are usually kind of oblique initially.

      “I’m sure you’re totally happy, but we have X position open and we’d love to find someone exactly like you. Do you know anyone just like you who might be interested, or can we just clone you…heh heh.” Seriously – those conversations about how awesome you are and how quick they’d snatch you up if you were on the market are always bait. Always.

      And the only time I’ve ever been approached out of the blue (irl – not linkedin) about another offer it’s been from a client or vendor who knows me through my work. Rarely do hiring managers from unrelated companies see me on the street and want to talk to me about their IT needs. :)

    2. AdAgencyChick

      I think it depends very much on how much revenue a client brings in. I’ve never actually seen our vendor-client agreements, but given that a single account might mean literally twenty jobs at the agency (and a corresponding amount of profit), I highly doubt agency upper brass would enforce such a clause even if it were in the contract. When they’re big spenders, whatever Lola wants, Lola gets, I think.

      But, say it’s something more like wedding planning, where if one client walks it’s not a Big Mess for the business, I can totally see a clause like that showing up in contracts and being enforced.

      1. OP #1

        Thanks for the answer! We actually do not have a non-compete clause with any of our clients and they also happen to be one of our biggest clients. My boss would definitely not risk burning that bridge and losing them as a client. we’re actually restructuring our office right now so it may end up sooner rather than later.

    3. MaryMary

      I feel like it depends on the industry. I work in employee benefits it’s not unusual for people to move between client and vendor (consultant/broker/carrier/TPA)

      1. Judy

        I would also think that it’s the other way around that’s more of a problem. Moving from client to vendor could raise the issue of did the vendor get the contract because of a promise to the employee of future employment.

  15. MaryMary

    OP1, I left a job last year and ended up applying for a position with a different company in the same building six months later. It was a little different than your situation because the two companies don’t have a business relationship with each other, but I was concerned about running into former coworkers in the elevator while dressed in my interview suit. I didn’t run into anyone while I was interviewing, but I did after I was hired. Some were delighted to see me again, some less so, but it was only slightly awkward.

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