I think my boss is getting copies of all my email, wage theft, and more

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

1. I think my boss is getting copies of all my email

Yesterday on a Link’d meeting, my boss was showing something to us and during the call, I saw two emails pop up on his screen from two individuals that I work with — they are pretty low on the food chain, so he would not be emailing them. I looked at my email and had received two emails from the same individuals at same time, but he was not cc’d. I think he is automatically getting my emails. Is this typical? I have never received a bad review, no negative feedback, etc. Is this allowed?

It’s not typical, but it does happen, and yes, it’s allowed. In fact, it’s worth always assuming that your employer can see anything you do on your company email (and computer), although in practice, it’s pretty rare for someone to actually look. And setting email up so that your boss gets everything you gets would be really, really unusual — as well as pretty awful management, since if he has concerns about your work (the only thing I can think of that would lead to this), he should be talking to you about it directly and finding other ways to stay engaged with what you’re doing.

That said, I wouldn’t assume it’s happening here just because of what you saw. He could have been receiving different emails, or they could have bcc’d him (on request or otherwise).

2. I was denied a request to use a different computer because of a heavy smoker

I am having a vexing problem at work. I am training (on the job) for a new position in a small office room with 6 computer stations. Training involves sitting very close, inches apart, and using the same computer terminal for eight hours. One of my trainers is sick and the stand-in one day this past week is a heavy smoker. The work day started after a cigarette break, from which third hand smoke lingered. I awkwardly asked to use a different computer terminal to complete that days training, due to my asthma.

I was asked by a supervisor if I was physically incapable of sitting next to the trainer for the training, and my reply that “I don’t want to be sick from work” resulted in being sent to an office in another building to meet with our manager who I rarely see. The takeaway from this meeting is that
-no one will be asked to quit smoking (which I never requested)
-it is not possible for me to train on a different computer, as seeing the exact same screen is very important
-it is not possible to train with others, as many people are smokers
-I will never have training to advance to another position or learn more as all training is in close proximity in this small office and it is not possible to look for non-smokers on the schedule

In this short 10-minute max meeting, I tried to make it easy for my manager to say yes to another computer. I did not ask for a no-smoking policy, I asked for a “small accommodation” to be able to keep learning this new position. What should my next step be? So far I am resigned to just start looking for another job, even though I like this one enough.

Asthma is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means that your employer is likely required to make reasonable accommodations for you, and it’s hard to imagine that moving you to another computer wouldn’t qualify as reasonable. If you have an HR department, I’d take this up with them, as they’re probably more familiar with the ADA than your manager. I’d say something like this: “My understanding is that asthma is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and I’m hoping it would be a reasonable accommodation to simply use a different computer to finishing my training.” You should make sure HR knows everything your manager said to you, including the threat of never advancing you, because penalizing you for raising this is a separate violation in and of itself.

Read updates to this letter here and here

3. Should I avoid the word “some”?

I’m fairly new to the workforce (less than 5 years), and I was recently told in a review to stay away from using the word “some” in emails because it makes the context less formal. She used this example: “Let me check and find some examples and get back to you.” I suppose I can see how this changes the feeling of the sentence, but I didn’t know there were words to stay away from, and now I am self conscious about other words. Do you have any thoughts on words/phrases that make you cringe when you see them?

What?! I don’t see how “some” is problematic in that context (or really, any context). I’d chalk this up to being an odd pet peeve by your boss (which you can avoid now that you know about), but not a feeling shared by everyone else.

4. Wage theft

Is it stealing if my employee is working for someone else during the hours he’s working for me?

Stealing in the legal sense, like he could be charged with theft? No. But in the ethical sense, sure, if he should be doing something else with that time. But it’s not really the point. The point is that you’re his manager, you know this is happening, and you should put a stop to it if you’re unhappy with it. Why haven’t you?

5. Should I have to pay for a class I took for a job I ended up not accepting?

I am a RN and I interviewed with an outpatient cardiac cath lab, where I was completely honest about my limited experience. During the phone interview and in person, I repeatedly questioned the training schedule because of the potential harm to human life if I were to be asked to function independently, before being completely trained. I was told repeatedly that there was no rush, I could take my time until I felt comfortable.

I received an offer letter, which I did not sign and turn in because things were moving fast and it slipped my mind. The clinic happened to be providing an Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Class to current employees and I was invited to attend, unpaid, because this course is required within one year of hire. I took time off from my current position to attend the training. It was then that I learned one of the other RNs would be leaving on vacation a week and a half after my start date and I would be working independently. I was prepared to discuss this with the manager but I received an email from her when I got home after the training was completed and she wrote, “You should be able to access EPIC on the 19th and focus on that training/documenting, so that on the 20th and 21st you can function somewhat independently during procedures!” This was exactly what I was assured would not happen, so I sent the manager a letter explaining my concerns and told her I no longer felt this was a good fit for me. She tried to reword that statement, but ultimately, I would indeed be alone with post-op patients that I would not be trained to care for, risking human life and my license.

The manager is now insisting that I reimburse them for the class. Do you think I am responsible for the cost of the class?

Hell no. If they originally invited you to attend cost-free, you’re under no obligation to now pay for it just because you didn’t ultimately end up taking the job. (On the other hand, if the original agreement was that you would pay — which I don’t t think it was, but it’s not 100% clear here — then you should stick to that original agreement … although the gracious thing for them to do would be not to require it.)

{ 294 comments… read them below }

      1. Mimi*

        That’s the only thing I can think of that would explain it. Which makes me wonder…..do those individuals you work with not trust you? Why would they Bcc your boss?

        1. Jessa*

          Possibly because they’re being passive aggressive? Is there any reason the OP has to think that the coworkers have a problem? I mean stuff they’re asking for that they’re not getting? etc.? Could the boss be asking to be copied because they have an issue with someone on the team and want to check it out (but not the OP and didn’t bother to tell them because it’s private?)

          I can see reasons for people doing this. They also might have previously worked somewhere where the bosses wanted in on everything?

          1. KrisL*

            Orr maybe these co-workers are a problem, and the boss wants to be cc’d on their e-mails so the boss can keep track of them.

    1. TheSnarkyB*

      Or they meant to BCC someone with a similar email to your boss’s? (Even an email address you wouldn’t know like a significant other, etc)

    2. Vicki*

      I once had someone call me up, all a-dither and worried about a security breach, because she had Received Someone Else’s Email! (She was Bcc’d).

    3. TychaBrahe*

      My boss receives copies of all emails. And complains about the amount of email he gets. So my supervisor has advised me that, if I am actually including him in an email conversation, to address both his company email and hid personal Gmail address.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Ah yes. Ancient Boss wanted to be copied in on all emails, but then you had to provide a summary of what the email exchange was about. (Which always seemed daft as all Ancient Boss had to do was read the self-explanatory email exchange).

    4. Anonymous*

      My company has a policy against using Bcc on emails. I’ve never had a company do that before.

      1. Cassie*

        I dislike BCCs (my coworkers seem to love it) – if I should be included in an email loop, I should just be cc’d. Why would it need to be a bcc?

        And if I’m being passive-aggressive and copying my boss (or HR or whomever), I’m going to use cc so the recipient knows full well that I’ve copied the higher-ups. (Not that I do this, but if I was going to, this is what I’d do).

        1. hotdogs*

          If you are sending a message to a large group of people, it is oftentimes best to use bcc to avoid superfluous replies.

          When using cc, you run the risk of having some idiot hit Reply All just to say “me too!” For sufficiently large collections of idiots, this results in your inbox exploding.

          Source: many years ago, my college’s email system was shut down by this very phenomenon

    1. EmilyG*

      I was recently proofreading my cousin’s college essays (not ghostwriting them or anything of the sort!) and came upon one tortured sentence that I asked her about.

      She said her HS English teacher told her to avoid the word “something” in writing because it is vague. This seems like really dumb advice from a mediocre teacher trying to help a worse writer than my cousin. I suppose it is vague if you say “I want to eat something” instead of “I want to eat burritos.” But her sentence had a structure like “It was worthwhile to invest my time in something that’s important to me,” i.e. “something” was an apposite to the activity that was the topic of her essay.

      I told her to put “something” back and was happy I’d volunteered to proofread. Sheesh.

      1. Toto in Kansas*

        I once worked at a company that would not allow you to use the word ‘Create’. This came up when I was doing some Visio diagrams of a workflow. I was describing a program that builds a file and I used the word ‘create’. I was admonished and told that ‘Only God creates!’

        1. BausLady*

          I know I’m very late to this party, but I just had to comment on this. Toto, that is absolutely one of the most insane things I’ve ever heard.

  1. PEBCAK*

    #5) It’s also unclear if the clinic actually incurred expenses to train her. If they were the ones offering the clinic, it would hardly be fair to try to charge her the same going price that they’d charge a non-employee.

    1. Anon*

      I read that she was invited to attend unpaid – as in, she was invited but not going to be paid for her time spent in this class. To me, this implies that had she already accepted the offer and been working there, she would be paid to attend.

      Most definitely NOT them requiring her to pay for the class!

  2. abankyteller*

    2: People with a heavy smoke odor or lots of perfume make it difficult for me to breathe and function and I don’t even have asthma. Like Alison said, I bet this is an ADA issue. Beyond that, it would probably be helpful if they put a policy in place that forbid strong odors, but from your letter or sounds like management might take issue with that if they are being this unreasonable about just letting you use another computer.

    3. Instead of “some”, use “a few” and use it often. ;)

    1. KarenT*

      “A few” is less vague than “some,” but I don’t find it more formal.
      Maybe the OPs boss is going for precision? Tell her you will find her exactly seven examples.

    2. LAI*

      2. Agreed, it sounds like the management at your new job are being a bit unreasonable here and I’d be worried about what other things they are going to be unreasonable about. But assuming you don’t want to quit over this, can you ask about screen mirroring? I’m pretty sure there are free programs you can download to do this, and it would allow you to be seeing the exact same thing that your trainer is seeing.

      3. To me, “a few” is less formal than “some” and also more specific, as in “more than 2 but less than 7” (7 would be “several”). If I said “a few”, I would then feel obligated to keep searching until I found at least 3 examples. I honestly can’t even imagine what the objection is to “some” and am having trouble figuring out any other way to reword that sentence.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        I’m wondering if the boss just doesn’t like the qualifier at all. As in, boss would like OP to say “I will find examples and get back to you.” To me, that sounds a bit awkward but I guess if I’m really stretching I can see how it sounds more formal?

        1. Positivity Boy*

          Yeah, I’d say this is what they’re looking for, although I wouldn’t necessarily say that it sounds more formal but maybe more certain. “Some examples” might imply “I’ll give you whatever I can manage to find” whereas just “examples” implies “I will definitely locate proof of what we’re discussing.”

          This is definitely a stretch, but I think every manager has some word or phrase that drives them crazy. My boss hates when I say “mhmm” to someone on the phone to acknowledge that I’m listening/agreeing as opposed to “okay” or “yes”.

          1. Ollie*

            I agree that it doesn’t sound more formal but more certain. And more concise–less words to convey the same thought is always good. :]

          2. Miss Betty*

            I had a boss who didn’t allow us to you the word “that” ever. He also confused past tense with passive voice, forcing us to write some really interesting and convoluted sentences.

            1. Jamie*

              I have truly never heard of this kind of thing before.

              Can we do it the other way and require certain words me used? I’ll start requiring my entire audit team to work the word “moonpie” into each report.

              Forbidding the word “that” and any past tense…that is officially more controlling than I can ever hope to be.

              1. Judy*

                I once saw an email rant from a director who used some data mining on spreadsheets. The spreadsheets were supposed to be in a certain format, and the person had put in a “-“, but as MS products are prone to do, it was changed to the long dash symbol. sigh.

            2. Positivity Boy*

              Wow…I don’t even know what to say to that. How the hell do you completely omit “that” from your vocabulary while still speaking English like a normal human? How arbitrary.

              1. fposte*

                My guess on the source:

                I’m guessing that we’re talking about this construction
                I’m guessing we’re talking about this construction

                and he just didn’t grasp the style suggestion didn’t extend to other uses.

                1. bearing*

                  If I worked for someone who tried to propagate errors like this by mandating crazytalk grammar, I would not last three weeks.

                  The *best* case scenario is that I would be fired. Probably after having hurled copies of the Chicago Manual of Style at someone’s head. Which would have happened after having been written up for hurling copies of Strunk and White at someone’s head.

                2. Editor*

                  bearing — Garner’s book on usage is even heavier, but I’m not sure I’d want to damage my copy against a numbskull.

              2. Miss Betty*

                He had a high school English teach who told him that the word “that” is unnecessary and he really took it to heart. (And this was not an uneducated man; he was an attorney.) Actually, you can removed the first “that” from my first sentence and not affect the meaning so I guess it’s true to a degree, but “that” must be necessary sometimes, right? In any case, we never used it!

      2. letter # 2 writer*

        Its not a new job, I’ve been there 2 years and yes they’re very unreasonable about a lot of things.

        This was just icing on the cake of sadness.

      1. Lora*

        This. Is. Awesome.

        Yes, just say “two”. Always. This is an appropriate answer for so many situations, both at work and in your personal life.

        You have just made my day, thank you!

      2. Jamie*

        Mine is 17.

        “When auditing X look at a few documents to verify Y.”

        “How many?”

        “A few – several, whatever you need to see to determine, for yourself, that the procedure is being followed.”

        “But how many? How many do I look at?”

        “17. Pull 17 documents.”

        If you don’t want to determine what you need for yourself come to me, I’ll assign you overkill.

    3. Except in California*

      I do not know a single person that smokes! It seems so odd to think of that still being a problem. OP3 should move to California!

  3. Chris80*

    #3 – “Let me check and find some examples and get back to you.”
    I would personally write this sentence differently, but not because of the “some”…and I will admit that rearranging it would merely be a personal preference! It sounds like your boss is unusually picky. If that is the kind of criticism she puts in your review, she must not have been able to think of anything truly bad about your work! :-)

    1. Vicki*

      ” If that is the kind of criticism she puts in your review, she must not have been able to think of anything truly bad about your work! :-)”

      Be careful what you wish for….

  4. ZSD*

    I don’t have any problem with “some,” either. Alison’s right that it must be a pet peeve.

    Alison, I think the words “putting a” are missing from your response to #4. I think it should be, “And you should be putting a stop to it.”

    Oh, and the boss in #2 sounds awful. It sounds like they’re stopping just short of promoting smoking. Also, why on earth would it be important for the OP to be looking at the exact same computer screen? Unless the training has to do with cleaning or repairing computer screens, the point is that you look at the content being displayed on the computer, not the screen itself. (Or am I misunderstanding what the boss was saying?)

    1. Jen RO*

      No idea what the OP was being trained on, but when I trained my co-workers to use a specific software, it was much easier to be at the same computer so I could point. So, instead of saying ‘look in the Projects pod, on the right – no, not bottom right, upper side; wait your UI is arranged differently, can you go to File and make sure the pod is displayed’ and so on, I could just point at it. (My training was done remotely and it was a pain.)

      1. Fucshia*

        That’s what the mouse pointer is for. I train customers on software and we do fine through screen sharing and phone calls.

        1. Jamie*

          I’m with you – I don’t like physical pointing and certainly don’t like screen touching. Anything I can show you with my finger I can show you with a cursor.

          There are a million screen sharing applications which will accomplish the same purpose. I train remote users (love logmein personally) without even being in the same state much less the same office.

      2. IronMaiden*

        OMG, I work with a “pointer” and it is so irritating. She will reach over and touch the screen when she is pointing at something. She could just say “click the dialogue box” or whatever. Then there’s the one who is in “training” people how to use a soon to be defunct system. She sits way too close and regales the poor trainee with stories about how she decided the rationale for each action. I’m going out of my mind and I haven’t even had to put up with her one on one yet. I’m actively avoiding it.

      3. ZSD*

        Oh, I see. The boss meant you had to be looking at the same screen *as the trainer.* That at least makes more sense. I thought the boss meant you had to be looking at a particular computer screen for the training because when you use the program on a different computer, it’s going to look different. That just seemed insane.
        But I just misunderstood.

    2. Nina*

      My last job was in a small office and they were in the midst of installing new software programs when I started. There was no chance of me changing stations because that meant installing the new software on a different PC, along with my MS Office email login, etc. The IT person was only part-time, so good luck flagging him down!
      Anyway, it’s not always an option to change stations, is what I’m saying.

      1. NylaW*

        It might not be an immediate option without someone doing some work, but it is certainly reasonable and that’s what the ADA requires, assuming it applies.

        1. fposte*

          “Reasonable” is a little more complicated than that, though–it’s going to depend on the workplace, the expense, etc., because the employer can resist if it would cause “undue hardship,” which is decided on a case-by-case basis.

          1. NylaW*

            Right, and without knowing what specifically the OP is being trained on it’s hard to say what kind of hardship there might be. I can think of some technical things that could create a cost that might be enough to be a hardship, but this whole situation just seems like the manager didn’t even want to entertain the idea.

            1. fposte*

              Yep. And it seems pretty unlikely that the office is under 15 employees. I think this was just a stupid initial response and that with some thought the supervisor will realize he’s getting off pretty easily with this accommodation.

              1. Jessa*

                Yes, and most of the time anything that doesn’t cost extra (IE IT work to bring the computers identical since you already have an IT dept,) is considered reasonable.

                MOST of the time in a large company a new computer/monitor is considered reasonable too (IE if you have vision issues and all the monitors are small and you need a large screen monitor for your work because everything has to be magnified.) Even if they had to get a new computer because the old one was not able to use the software, with the cost of systems nowadays, it’s likely to be considered reasonable.

                (been there done this many times in places and times where the new equipment was HUGELY expensive and they still had to do it.) I have a lot of personal (and advising other people) experience in accommodation (former special ed teacher, and disabled person myself.)

                Also depending on your state, vocational rehab (or whatever they call it where you are,) can sometimes pay for the equipment. Also you can get tax breaks for accommodations and hiring disabled persons. So the company should talk to their accounting people, if they have to buy a system specifically for the person.

                1. letter # 2 writer*

                  4 of the 6 computers have the necessary software, they are just not next to the phone, and this is real time training in operational management.

                  I’ve been here for 2 years, but out in the front interacting with customers, not trapped in a tiny office with the smokers.

                  It’s been hard to find online resources on what constitutes “undue hardship”

                2. fposte*

                  There’s no hard and fast rule, so I don’t think you’re going to find anything that would work for you here–even if you found somebody else used logmein that wouldn’t mean your company had to, or if you found somebody else who didn’t it didn’t mean your company wouldn’t be expected to. The ADA depends extensively on individual circumstance.

                  However, employers are obliged to participate in the “interactive process”–they’re not supposed to just go “Fuggedaboutit” and ignore what you requested, they’re supposed to say “I don’t think we can do x because of y, but what about z?” Your employers aren’t doing so well there.

                  It’s frustrating, because it sounds like you’ve been a good employee there, and it’s hard to push this without being viewed as a problem when they’re the ones in the wrong.

      2. Mints*

        Couldn’t you have just moved the computer? Like swapped the computers from a different cubicle?

        1. Jessa*

          They could also if the smoker’s cubicle smelled particularly, have the training in the worker’s cubicle, where hopefully it wouldn’t be quite so bad.

  5. EngineerGirl*

    #4 – if the employee is working for another individual while charging to your charge number it is fraud. Confront the employee (it’s possible they were given a bad charge number). And if the “someone else” is higher up the food chain from you – well, watch out!

    1. fposte*

      I wondered if it wasn’t even the same company. But then my experience is colored by having to hunt down an executive for an appointment at the org I was working at and finding out he was in his office at HisOwnName Consulting, Inc.

        1. Jessa*

          I didn’t either, I mean if they meant the same company, or a different client or something, they should probably have said that because the answer is different depending on who told the worker to do that.

          If they’re working on outside business, and you’ve determined they don’t have permission from higher up, and it’s costing the company something (other than their physical time) then yeh, I’d speak up too. Especially if it’s effecting their work.

          But if someone is just doing something in the down time that doesn’t cost anything (not using paper or faxes or something,) then I don’t know whether it’s an issue or not. Obviously it’s noticeable to the OP though so that makes it an issue.

        2. Pennalynn Lott*

          I worked at a company where an hourly+commission employee drove a company vehicle (one that was “wrapped”, i.e., emblazoned with the company name, logo, phone number, etc) to the mall and parked it there while she worked a part-time job at the fragrance counter during the hours she was supposedly working for us (and very much on our clock). Our competitor saw the car there several days in a row and called us to let us know. She was fired the very second she got back to the office and stepped out of the car, even though she tried to argue her way out of it by saying it wasn’t illegal and she’d done her day’s work (all 8 hours of it) in the first hour of her day and so had time to spare.

  6. Dulcinea*

    For #4, it really depends on the specifics of the situation. Is this employee efficiently and diligently fulfilling all his/her job duties which you hired them and pay them for? If so, then the fact that they somehow are managing to also work a second job simultaneously shouldn’t be a concern to you (unless they are using your resources to do it).

    An example I can think of is when I worked in a telemarketing call center, a lot of people knitted or did similar crafts while making calls. Suppose those people also sold their knitted goods at a craft fair or some such…I wouldn’t consider that theft, so long as they they did what they were paid for (we literally had no other duties except “keep your butt in the chair, be on the phone, make as much money as possible” so it’s not like at slow times you could do some filing or something).

    1. Elysian*

      Yeah, it sounds like the letter writer in #4 has a beef that he wants a justify, without telling us what it is. We really don’t know enough about what’s going on.
      Is this something like your receptionist is managing her etsy store in between phone calls? Or is your custodian ignoring the floors so he can run off copies of the novel he’s trying to get published? There’s obviously more going on in this letter.

      1. FiveNine*

        Sorry,I disagree we need more info on this one. If it’s on OP’s time, it doesn’t matter what the extenuating circumstances are, the OP absolutely has the right to expect the worker to be working only on the job at hand and not another employer’s work. The question the OP is asking is whether it’s actually stealing from the company to be doing work for another employer on OP’s time.

        1. Elysian*

          Right, he has an absolute right to expect that if he’s made it clear to the employee that that is what he expects.

          But you can’t actually expect employees to spend all their work time on ONLY what you assign them – employees still have to go to the bathroom, or yawn or sneeze, or squint or occasionally go take a water break, and you can’t call that “wage theft” and then dock them time.

          The question is really one of reasonableness – is what the OP’s employee doing on work time reasonable? Without more information, we really can’t tell. For all we know, the employee is checking the status of an ebay auction on their phone while walking to the bathroom, or something. It would be hard to argue with a person doing that.

          1. fposte*

            “Right, he has an absolute right to expect that if he’s made it clear to the employee that that is what he expects.”

            I’d disagree–the onus isn’t on the employer to say “You can’t double-dip.” Absent approval from the supervisor or other information to the contrary, the employee needs to assume that it’s not acceptable to perform outside paid work while on the clock elsewhere.

            1. Jessa*

              I get what you’re saying but there are jobs where you have large chunks of sitting and doing nothing. Because it’s the nature of whatever. Some jobs do have things you do all the time. Now there are places like that where you are to sit and do nothing. I think it’s stupid. If you ask for more work and there isn’t any, and you’re not COSTING the company anything (so no printing stuff, using the fax etc. but the computer time is really paid for as long as you’re not jeopardising security,) I don’t see an issue, and in that case yeh the company should TELL you what to do.

              1. fposte*

                We may just disagree here. I think it makes complete sense for the company to then allow people to do non-detrimental stuff in their down time, but I do not think people should ever assume without asking that it’s okay if they make additional money from somebody else on company time. Evereverever.

                And I’m guessing Jamie didn’t see your comment about using the network :-).

                1. Jamie*

                  Ha – I haven’t weighed in on this because not working for someone else (or yourself) on company time is up there for me with not pooping in the plant.

                  I am incredulous there would be debate about it.

                  But yeah – keep it off my network (and the kids off my lawn!) You don’t use company resources for your own personal gain even if the cost to them is negligible.

                  If you came into my house uninvited and took a gherkin from the fridge I wouldn’t notice and the cost is immaterial. Doesn’t mean you have any business doing it.

        2. Meg*

          This definitely comes up fairly often in my field, and it makes me wonder if the LW is in software development/programming.

          We have instances were Jane is an employee of AwesomeTech. AwesomeTech has a contract with Chocolate Teapots, so Jane ends up working on-site with Chocolate Teapots as a web developer – she works on the online ordering form. One part of her work is billed to Enrollment and another part is billed to Shipping, sometimes she bills 6 hours to Enrollment, and 2 hours to Shipping.

          As far as the different charge codes go, if she bills Enrollment for 4 hours and Shipping for 4 hours, in most cases, it’s not a big deal (YMMV).

          But say Jane also does freelance work, and is doing work for another client while on-site for Chocolate Teapots. Jane goes to work from 9am to 5pm (lunch is absorbed by the projects). She spends 2 hours on Shipping, 4 hours on Enrollment, and 2 hours on her freelance, but bills Chocolate Teapot for 8 hours when she only did work for Chocolate Teapot for 6, and is billing the other client for hours worked.

          It can be a very big deal because the client is being billed despite no work being done, and it can extend to freelance work as well. Or any contract work, for that matter. I typically see it in contract work where it’s a Big Deal – a setting where you charge per hours worked, not according to a clock-in/clock-out or salary. Knitting things you sell on Etsy during downtime isn’t the same as doing work for Client A and billing Client B, even though nothing you did was in the billing contract for services to Client A.

      2. LittleT*

        I think what the OP is hinting at is that while it’s not “wage theft”, it’s what employers like to call “Time Theft”, i.e. anything you’re doing on company time that takes you away from doing your actual job.

        As other commenters mentioned, if the OP is doing actual “work” for another company on the employer’s time, then that should absolutely be addressed & stopped, if necessary. Many employers (at least, any of the ones I’ve worked for) have all had a special clause in the employee handbook & HR guidelines that state any employee who has “additional” employment (or is thinking of getting extra work somewhere else on evenings/weekends/etc.) needs to run it by HR first for approval. This also applied to any volunteer work employees were involved in. They had the “right” to approve/deny your extra-curricular involvement in such activities, because it might interfere with job #1.

        1. Emily K*

          My employer requires us to seek permission if we take on additional work only if it’s in the same field. I would have to get permission to begin doing the work of my day job on a freelance basis, but I wasn’t required to report and seek permission when I took on a night/weekend job as a delivery driver. (Of course, it was my responsibility to ensure that my night/weekend job didn’t interfere with me doing everything my day job expected of me, including occasionally staying late, coming in early, or working from home in the evening to get things done.)

          1. Jamie*

            I am prohibited from other work because I need to be available in case of emergencies and my schedule needs to be flexible to meet the needs to 3 shifts.

            A second job where I had leave at a fixed time every day and limited my availability to respond and come in if need be would be out of the question.

            That said, I’m sure I could get an exemption if I wanted to crochet doilies and sell them in my spare time.

            Where you have to be careful about moonlighting rules is when safety is concerned as well. We cannot having someone coming off a full shift somewhere else clocking in and driving a forklift or other heavy machinery. We have limits on how much OT someone can put in because we don’t want safety compromised.

            That said, if one of our machine operators or drivers wanted to sell crocheted doilies in their spare time I’m sure that would be fine.

            Some rules aren’t meant to be draconian – you just have to make sure that outside work won’t compromise safety or performance by people being taxed to the point they don’t have adequate rest.

    2. BCW*

      Agreed. I would need more info to understand this. I mean, if you had no problem with them being on facebook a reasonable amount of time (or some other website), if they were on their own website selling things, or some other job that didn’t prevent them from doing their duties, then to me it doesn’t really matter.

      1. Joey*

        Hmm. I’m sure people will disagree with this, but I tend to think you should really get a 2nd job okayed by your manager. Here’s why. One, I want you to be clear that using company resources for your 2nd job isn’t acceptable. Two, I want to decide for myself if your outside job conflicts with this job. For example, I don’t want you making sales pitches to my clients or pitching competing products. Three, i may have safety concerns if you’re working a ton of hours and have to do any driving/operating machinery.

        1. Anonymous*

          So if the manager says no to someone’s second job, how are they supposed to survive? Do you want your staff turning to crime?

            1. JM*

              I think it’s fair that the employer is also up front with the fact that 2nd jobs must go through them as well. Someone may accept a job at a certain rate because they know they have the time for another job or already have another job.

              1. Colette*

                Most large companies I’ve worked for make this clear in the onboarding paperwork. Whether people read that paperwork before signing is a different issue.

          1. Joey*

            Is crime the only alternative when I say you can’t have another job that conflicts with this one?

          2. Chris80*

            Hopefully, a company that has this kind of policy goes above and beyond to ensure their employees are making a comfortable salary & have good benefits. If we are talking about having a policy against second jobs for minimum wage, part time work where no one can make a living wage, then that it just stupidity on the part of the company. Besides, I seriously doubt most people who can’t pay their bills turn to a life of crime.

            1. Anonymous*

              I’m the anon who wrote the post above. My experience is mostly with blue collar, low paying work, where the idea of a company banning having a second job is just crazy (for the reason I wrote above).

              I often forget that most of the other commenters here are well paid office workers.

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, there’s a lot of field/industry convention involved in this kind of policy (and many others too, of course).

          3. fposte*

            Most people who work only one job don’t turn to crime. Heck, most unemployed people don’t turn to crime.

            I don’t know that I’d require approval in advance (hmm, I actually don’t know what my employer the state’s view is on this, now that I think about it), but Joey describes some legitimate problems.

          4. Graciosa*

            I think there’s an element of individual integrity that needs to be raised here. Every employee has a duty of loyalty to their employer. The employer has a right to assume that employees are devoting their efforts to the employer’s interests. If that’s not going to be the case, then clearing it with the employer is the right thing to do.

            Some will not care (depending upon both the employer and the individual circumstances) and some will. If the employer cares, the individual needs to respect that while working for that employer. Individuals are free to find another job if the conditions of the one they have are unacceptable – but that is an individual choice and the individual bears the related responsibility.

            Of course, not everyone will behave with this type of integrity – there are people who lie to their employers, or commit crimes. Those who get caught will be held individually responsible, and I doubt they will get very far trying to blame individual choices on an employer who expected loyalty and integrity from employees on the job.

            1. Elysian*

              I don’t think employees have a duty of absolute loyalty to their employer. They have a duty to do what they’re told by the employer and not to act to the employer’s detriment. If a second job isn’t a detriment to the first employer, there’s no lack of integrity in working two jobs.

              1. fposte*

                There is if you’re on the clock for the one while you’re working for the other, though, which is what the OP’s query sounded like.

                1. Fiona*

                  Yeah, but somehow I think we got to talking about whether the employer has the right to OK a second job completely outside the hours an employee is on the clock for the first job (i.e. working in an office 9-5 and then throwing boxes for UPS on third shift).

                2. Elysian*

                  That could be true, I thought we were talking about second jobs in the more general sense in this thread, though. My comment was meant to address second jobs more generally.

                3. fposte*

                  Oh, I definitely agree that it’s generally fine to work for more than one place. I think it’s okay for an employer to restrict that if they want, but especially in shift-type work, it’s pretty common and non-problematic.

              2. Graciosa*

                I agree that it’s pretty common in shift work and in certain industries – and I intended to be precise when I said employers can expect loyalty and integrity from employees “on the job.” Most of the time, what you do off the clock has no impact on your employer, but there are exceptions – like exhausting yourself at a second job so that you’re no longer alert and productive at the first one, working for a competitor, disparaging your employer’s products, etc. Fundamentally, there should be some integrity in the relationship – an employer being forthright about what it expects and an employee being honest about what he or she is willing to offer.

                I think this comes up in resource use as well – do I want, as an employer, to add the bandwidth costs of your catching up on your favorite shows on streaming video each night (assuming that you are only needed on site to perform a task at intervals and I’m fine with your doing something else in the meantime)? I could not care, or be okay with it within limits, or tell you to bring a book or something that doesn’t use my bandwidth – but I think this should be a conversation and not an assumption by the employee.

                Personally, I’m pretty easy going if the work is done (although I’d rather my exempt employees went home to watch videos!) but I do expect the conversation.

          5. H. Vane*

            They find a new job, preferably one that pays enough that they don’t feel the need to work a second while they’re on the clock for the first. Employers are not required to allow their employees to do whatever they want.

            1. A Cita*

              Employers are not required to allow their employees to do whatever they want.

              Employers are not parents and don’t get to be in the position of “allowing” what a person does on their own time as long as it’s not detrimental to the employer.

              1. fposte*

                Sure, but the examples Joey gave *are* detrimental to the employer. I think the chance of detriment varies wildly depending on what actual field we’re talking about, and in some of them it’s likely to be pretty low, but in others it’s pretty high.

                Our university requires prior written permission for many activities as part of its conflict of interest policies and documentation of the absence of conflict for the rest of ’em. I don’t find it onerous, especially when it’s in connection with a culture where external and internal paid work do overlap a lot.

              2. EngineerGirl*

                Most employment contracts actually contain wording that you’ll flow the employee handbook. Most handbooks contain languish that you have to get permission first. A lot of this is to ensure there is no conflict of interest.

                1. A Cita*

                  To both you and fposte:

                  Yep, totally agree about if it’s detrimental. I was arguing against the blanket statement (not the particular cases where it’s detrimental, conflict of interest).

                  Maybe also I chafe at the word permission. If my employer said something in their handbook about determining and preventing conflict of interest, I’d have no problem running it by them so they would be assured that no conflict exists. But ask permission? No, not in practice.

                  Interesting, fposte, I work for a university as well and there are statements about conflict of interest and need for notification (and possibly having the university vet it), but if your doing outside work that is not related at all to your job, they wouldn’t expect you to run it by them (and would probably be annoyed if you bothered them with this stuff). For instance, I work at a medical school, but I do outside projects that have nothing to do with my research (editing, graphic design). I could probably also take a PT job with Starbucks on the weekends if my technically 37.5 hr/week job wasn’t 24/7.

                  Now doing research for a pharma? That would be an issue–to be vetted, not necessarily denied.

                2. fposte*

                  @A Cita–I figured your university probably had something similar. To be clear, nothing I’ve done externally has had to be approved in advance either, and I doubt I ever would–that’s more for big bucks commercial and government stuff, I think. However, I thought it was worth mentioning, if only because I wasn’t thinking in terms of my own employer’s policies on this when the discussion started, and it does turn out that we’re both working for places that require advance permission for some kinds of additional work.

                3. A Cita*


                  Yep, exactly. Though in most cases with med research, they probably wouldn’t veto pharma work–they’d just reroute it so that the University gets some of the profit. :)

                4. Judy*

                  I’ve never worked where they needed to give permission, but most companies had an annual disclosure form. Usually two classes of things were noted, one about supplier relationships (owning more than X% interest of a business, working somewhere, someone in household the same) and the other about competitors.

          6. Meg*

            Well there’s non-compete disclosures in contracts too. I was retained as a “casual employee” of my federal contract, and now have a contract in the private sector. My federal contractors looked over my contract with the private sector to approve it since I was still an employee and bound by an indefinite contract (until terminated by either party; there was no contract end date).

            This means that I still have remote access to the work I do federally, but its a different industry (science/medical/technical writing for federal, financial for private sector). I couldn’t hold two simulataneous financial contracts because they would compete in the same industry.

            TL;DR My contract dictates that I cannot work for another financial institution while performing work for this one, so yeah, it does limit what my second job could be.

        2. Elysian*

          I’ve known of employers with this policy, but I think it needs to be a policy of the employer and not just a general assumption (unless your profession, like law, includes inherent conflicts checks and whatnot, and then its an assumption in that profession).

          I also don’t like these policies as a general rule, for the reason Anonymous stated below. But I understand them.

        3. A Cita*

          I understand that reasoning, but there’s no way in heck I’d ever ask permission to get a second job. People often have to work multiple jobs to survive and it’s not as simple as Alison’s response of deciding to accept the job based on the salary provided. Sometimes one doesn’t have a lot of options. Sometimes they’re already in the job, but their valid (not frivolous) expenses suddenly go up (they have a medical emergency and not enough insurance, their car needs major repair, their rent was hiked and they can’t afford to move, they suddenly have to help support ailing parents, they were robbed and need to replace everything, etc.).

          If performance suffers on the job, then management can address that as a performance issue. But asking permission first? No way. It’s just realistically, simply not going to happen.

          1. Dan*

            In my case, as a blue collar non-exempt employee, I’d get a lot of overtime. When times get lean and the overtime gets whacked, well, I needed to make up that extra income. I’ve never worked anywhere with overtime that when cut, gave any sort of notice. It was always, “Effective immediately, until further notice, no overtime will be approved.”

            So wham, out of the blue, I lost a good chunk of my paycheck. It’s also worth remembering (for those exempt employees on the board) that when overtime is part of the deal, it’s usually discussed in the interview and considered part of the overall compensation package. Because it is.

            My point is that removing or reducing overtime, either temporarily or permanently, is a bit different than places where it’s not available and “you knew what you were getting into when you took the job.”

            Although, it’s also fair to say that things do change, and if you don’t like them, you can quit.

          2. Joey*

            Obviously that’s your choice. I’m just saying absent a policy there are still legitimate reasons to inform your employer. Otherwise you may find yourself in a situation where they disapprove for the reasons I’ve stated and at best may have two choose between jobs and at worst might be out of a job.

            Another concern is injuries. If you get hurt on one job that might put you in a real tough spot with the second job.

            1. A Cita*

              That’s true though if you get injured on your own. If I have a bicycling accident or a climbing accident, that’s going to affect my job anyway.

              1. Joey*

                I wasn’t talking about that. Everywhere I’ve been its considered workers comp fraud to work another job if you’re injured and collecting wc benefits from job. So even if you’re physically able to work a 2nd job you’d be prohibited from doing so.

        4. Dan*

          Well, if that’s your position, it needs to be in the company handbook. If it’s not addressed, I’m not going to give you an additional opportunity to say no. That’s just dumb on my part.

          I used to work in a retail establishment of sorts. The boss whacked the overtime for awhile, so I got a part time job driving a delivery truck for one of our vendors.

          She “caught” me making deliveries once, and said something to me about it. I asked what conflict actually existed, and furthermore, where in our employment materials was outside work restricted.

          The interesting thing was that she told me that management was prohibited from outside work, or something like that. I ended up keeping my job.

          One of the guys I worked with also held a full time job working for the immediate competition. Because of the nature of our work, it’s highly unlikely that his employment at the competition would be “accidentally” noticed. The boss caught wind and told him to quit a couple of times, but he never did.

          1. Joey*

            Ii think you’re looking at it wrong. It’s not an additional opportunity to say no. It’s an opportunity to deal with it now instead of worrying if it will be a problem later.

            1. Dan*

              If I need the cash now, I’ll worry about the problem later. It’s highly unlikely that you will fire me without giving me the chance to quit the other job first.

        5. Lora*

          Something which I really wish employers would consider when they make these policies, though, and relevant to Anonymous’ comment below:

          I’ve worked plenty of places where even the blue-collar folks were encouraged to offer up suggestions for improving the business, put in much MUCH above and beyond effort to promote their projects/ideas…only to get a certificate of appreciation in a handsome plastic frame. If they even got that.

          As a result, they decided to start their own side businesses (which usually had nothing to do with the employer’s field): selling artwork bought from online auctions, day trading stocks (if Job 1 was second shift), running a part-time landscaping business. They made far, far more at these side jobs than they ever would have gotten in either raises or recognition at their regular job. And they did only the bare minimum they needed to do at the regular job to not get fired. They stopped giving 110% almost immediately. They didn’t do anything fire-able, and their performance wasn’t deplorable or anything, but it was noticeable.

          The point being that if you do actually have smart, innovative, hardworking people on staff…probably they are smart enough to do the math and realize that a 1.5% raise that doesn’t even cover cost of living increases is not worth the effort, compared to getting a second job. Which should be taken into account when setting salaries and making policies, rather than the simplistic benchmarking that most companies do. Because the second job thing is fairly widespread, for reasons far beyond “got a surprise medical bill.”

          1. FiveNine*

            The people you describe are all at risk of getting fired immediately. You say they’re doing the bare minimum they need to do at the “regular” job to not get fired, but I’m telling you, every one of the people you describe can be fired immediately (seriously? Day trading or running a landscape business as your main income while on another employer’s time and dime?)

            1. Lora*

              NOT on the employer’s time. As a second job. As in, work 40 hours/week for Employer A, and when Employer A has a big “let’s be innovative! everyone submit your suggestions to the Suggestion Box, tell your boss about ideas for making our workplace more innovative!” they just, “uh, move the vending machine closer to the break room” and that’s it. Then they go home, ON THEIR TIME, and put in 20 hours/week running their own business.

              Employer A asks for volunteers to run the Volunteer Potluck Bike Race For Humanity? They are busy that week, sorry, no overtime for me. Employer A has a mandate from On High to Engage Employees? Monosyllabic answers only when asked directly about their work. Big project coming up, who would like to put in some extra hours and get a gold star? Not them.

              Make more sense now?

        6. Emily K*

          As I mentioned above, my employer only requires us to seek permission if the type of work we’re doing in our second job is similar or related to the work we do for our primary job. We don’t have a “second jobs” policy. We have a conflict of interest policy that says additional work must be approved if it’s related to our primary job, and of course we have an expectation that a second job won’t interfere with our meeting our goals (no “I couldn’t get this project done because I had to work my other job” excuses permitted). When I took on a night/weekend delivering pizzas I didn’t have to report it or have my employer make the determination that pizza delivery wasn’t a conflict of interest with my job–it was left to my judgment, just like any other non-employment-related conflicts of interest I am expected to report. For instance, I don’t have to report every romantic relationship I have, but I am expected to file a conflict of interest statement if I start dating someone who works for a competitor or sits on the board of a competitor.

        7. aebhel*

          Outside of a couple of situations where health and safety could actually be affected (heavy machinery operator, what-have-you), I’m of the strong opinion that what I do when I’m not being paid by my employer is none of my employer’s business. Maybe I’m getting four hours of sleep a night because I have another job. Maybe I’m getting four hours of sleep a night because I have an incurable reality TV addiction, or I’m an insomniac, or I’m up late working on the next great American novel. How much sleep I’m getting is not my employer’s business. Whether or not I show up on time and capable of doing my job is.

          That’s not really the case with the original question, but still.

      2. Mints*

        I’m with BCW here. My first thought was that it was a butt-in-chair type job. Possibly a small shop, or help desk /reception in an office.
        In that case, you could easily do services on a computer, or Etsy type crafts.
        If the work is slow enough that the boss wouldn’t mind the employee doing personal stuff (AAM, Facebook, etc) I don’t really see the big difference. Obviously the job you’re at takes priority, and you should be ready to quit the second job any time. But if facebook or misc forums are okay, I don’t see how it would negatively affect anything

  7. Another Emily*

    #2 There are computer programs that allow you to see a screen remotely. You could conference call with the trainer, and you would both use one of these programs to share a screen. (I googled “program see screen remotely” and got a number of programs that do this.)

    This way you could do the same training in basically the same way without the third hand smoke.

    I use this method for taking training from people in a different office and the set-up works really well.

    1. Windchime*

      Yes, this. We “shadow” people at work all the time to help diagnose problems or just to share our screens when we’re working remotely. It’s not fancy technology and it seems like it would work fine for the situation that the OP is describing.

      As a fellow asthmatic, I sympathize. Most of the time I’m fine, but when I’m having a flare-up, any whiff of smoke or perfume can make me feel that I have been kicked in the chest. It feels awful.

      1. KrisL*

        Sounds like a good idea. I think that many smokers have no idea how much they smell like smoke right after they’ve finished smoking. I’m not asthmatic, but the smell really irritates me.

  8. Christine*

    For #4 – at one time my husband had a job that involved supervising running machinery that usually required no action from him for 30-40 minutes at a time. He had a side freelance graphic design gig that he often worked on during quiet periods. His boss was aware of the side gig and approved it. When the shop was reconfigured to make better use of his time, he stopped bringing freelance stuff to keep him busy.

    For #1 – your boss could be set up as a delegate on your Outlook. Delegate settings are under Tools>Options>Delegates in my version of Outlook (2007?). I am not sure how this looks from the delegate side, but I know there are settings that allow for different levels of access.

  9. Nina*

    #3 is a head-scratcher. Is she expecting you to write something like “Let me find 5 examples and send them back to you”? That’s some bemusing terminology.

    Maybe you can get away with “several.” It has the same meaning as “some”, but with a numeric value.

  10. Vicki*

    I was so happy to see that #2 was likely an ADA issue (i.e. essentially, yes, this isn’t legal).

    We so rarely get one of those.

      1. Lora*

        You can make clients pay a penalty for crazy, though. At least I do: “That request is outside the scope of our original contract; I will be happy to write a proposal for the additional work it will require, though!”

        Have one where the crazy client likes to nitpick everything for literally months on end (contract specifies 3 days for review), then demand complete revisions because it’s Tuesday, whatever. Yessir, whatever you say, I’ll just submit that PO extension. They’re about $3m over budget and a year behind schedule now, with gov’t regulators breathing down their necks for missing milestones. Well, that will require additional hours, we’ll have to bring in more people at $170/hour per person…

        Bosses do not have this immediate control mechanism.

  11. Canuck*

    OP #5:

    I think you may be underestimating your abilities. If you are an RN, you should have no issues caring for post-cath lab cardiac patients. For the most part, you would be monitoring vitals the same way you would other patients – and there is always a physician nearby, you would never actually be alone.

    Since the cath lab is non-surgical, patients aren’t generally given full anesthesia, just local anasthetic plus slight sedation. Recovery from a diagnostic cath or even PCI is fairly routine, and most patients will be in recover for a few hours, before being discharged (or moved to another sub-acute bed, depending on their other conditions).

    In fact, you mentioned the job would be an outpatient cardiac cath lab – meaning that it would be mostly outpatients who are in and out the same day. By nature, these patients are much lower risk and not likely to need CABG or other open heart surgery following the cath.

    1. A Teacher*

      except when on-boarding in healthcare in both my area (physical therapy world) and at the hospital where my sister is employed as a nurse, there is NO way you would ever see patients on your own that quickly. My sister is an ED nurse, yes she can treat pediatric patients and even neonatology patients but she can’t go work on their floors and they can’t come and work in her department. You are trained specifically for your department and it is a multi-week process

  12. PotentialFuturePatient*

    #5. I’m just a casual observer of the medical fields, but a couple statements that were made did not seem to belong together. First sentence of the first paragraph included “cardiac”. First sentence of the second paragraph included “things were moving fast and it slipped my mind”. From my non-medical perspective, the ability to work accurately without missing details when things are moving fast would be a key character trait when it comes to cardiac procedures. Outpatient procedures can still turn into emergencies.

    But no, I don’t think you should have to pay for the training either.

    1. Bryan*

      What struck me as odd was that it was like, “oh I forgot about the offer letter.” Unless you are turning down the offer, i’m not sure how you forget it about it.

    2. A Dispatcher*

      Not in the medical field, but in one where one most certainly has to “work accurately without missing details when things are moving fast” or else the lives of citizens, officers and other public safety personnel could be jeopardized. I am good at what I do. I’m calm under pressure, can make split second decisions, can remember where dozens of different officers are at any given time (and what they did hours, days and weeks ago), have a Rolodex of the names and addresses of frequent callers in my head, etc etc. I also walk into a room and forget what the heck I went in there for, constantly forget I needed to do such and such by a certain date, and would never make it to any appointments if I didn’t have them written down in three different calendars.

      I do think it’s a little odd that the OP didn’t sign the letter, but in my opinion, something like that isn’t necessarily an indicator of on-the-job performance.

      1. Fiona*

        My thought on the letter is that she accepted the offer verbally, they said, “great! We’ll send you the offer paperwork for you to review and sign,” and in the hullabaloo of wrapping things up at her current job/getting her ducks in a row to start the new job, the letter fell by the wayside as more of a formality than a key piece of the new job puzzle.

    3. Mike C.*

      You’re making a whole lot of assumptions here. An RN isn’t a heart surgeon. Even if this RN was, s/he wouldn’t ever be working alone, and would be working to a set of standardized procedures and checklists with a team supporting them to ensure the lives of their patients.

      Just because a piece of paper (paper which in this country, doesn’t have all that much power anyway) was forgotten about has nothing to do with their on the job capabilities.

    4. NylaW*

      ACLS is required for RNs who work in certain units or specialty areas, cardiac related areas are definitely one of them. No matter where you go, this is required, and this is why a lot of facilities do not pay for the certification or re-certification because it’s part of the job you have chosen to do. Many provide the training on-site and perhaps even at a discount from what you’d pay if you did it through the American Heart Association, but this is one of those cost of doing business/cost of your chosen career kind of things.

      Also, depending on state regulations, an RN may not be permitted to work in that area if he/she does not have the ACLS certification/training.

      1. Mike C.*

        There are plenty of training situations out there where “it’s part of the job you have chosen to do” that are paid for or otherwise taken care of by the employer. Simply because “you have chosen” to do a particular job does not mean that the employee should bear all costs related to doing that job.

        Otherwise you’d be charging employees rent, electricity and the costs of basic items like desks, pens and chairs.

      2. Canuck*

        I think it really depends on the unit they are working on. If the requirement is an ACLS certificate, then the manager would not be allowed to let the OP to work at all until it is obtained.

        I’m speculating, but because the OP stated it was an outpatient cath lab, that it would not necessarily need ACLS – vast majority of these patients are in recovery for 2-3 hours before being discharged home. Totally different story if it was an inpatient cath lab or CCU, ACLS would be needed there due to the much higher patient acuity and risk.

      3. A Teacher*

        Not where we live or at any place where I or my sister have applied to work. I’m only required to have BLS and am an instructor, but my employers have always absorbed this cost. My sister has ACLS and PALS and her employer paid for both and paid for the time she had to to take the course. That’s more common than not amongst the many nurses I know.

        1. Anonymous*

          I tried looking up the terms and got kind of confused. Is BLS basically the same as Standard First Aid + CPR?

    5. Ellie H.*

      I don’t think she literally meant that she forgot about it absent-mindedly but that it didn’t strike her as incredibly crucial to do ASAP for the reasons Mike C. suggested so she was procrastinating a little about it. More like “I hadn’t got around to it yet” than “I forgot all about it.”

  13. Bryan*

    I think #2 was the first “you should go to HR.” I love celebrating these milestones, like the first time something was actually illegal.

  14. Not an IT Guy*

    #1 – This happened to me for a period of three years. At first I thought it was unusual that my manager was questioning me on topics that I was emailing others about without including him in the email. Later I was being told by others in the company that they would receive his out of office (if turned on) when they sent me an email. Yet he rarely communicated with me regarding any issues…or anything in general for that matter. It always annoyed me that he was more concerned with what was going in my inbox than what was going out of my outbox (he would commonly ignore emails from me, including expense reports). So I’m sorry that the OP is going through this and I wish I could say it’s unusual and no big deal.

  15. Matt*

    I have asthma, and am sensitive to cigarette smoke… That being said, third hand smoke smells bad, but doesn’t affect my asthma. Does this person suffer asthma attacks due to his odor, or does she just not like the smell? If that’s the case, does hr still get involved? If he is smoking away from her in an approved area, is there a problem?

    Doesn’t this open the door to all kinds of odor complaints? Because the guy who eats tuna every day drives me crazy.

    1. Joey*

      Tough to say definitively but I can’t see a doctor disagreeing if you claim 3rd hand smoke is irritating your asthma . And I don’t think its very smart to argue with a doctor about health problems unless you’re a doctor and have actually diagnosed the person.

      1. Jessa*

        The issue with an asthma complaint is whether or not you have symptoms after x, whatever x is. It’s not subjective. Either you have a problem breathing or tightness in your chest or you don’t. I wouldn’t even get into the specific trigger because I may be wrong, I may be guessing. I would report that “when working in cubicle x with employee y, this happens. I have to sit and catch my breath, or use my inhaler or cough so much it makes me sick.” Period. It’s not on me to diagnose the why. The what is enough to make it an ADA issue.

        So whether it’s first hand smoke, second hand smoke or the smell in the cubicle, or for all I know something the cleaning person used or perfume, it doesn’t matter. If it gives me symptoms it’s covered.

        The only time I am specific is if I am ABSOLUTELY sure of the cause “Employee a walked in and the perfume was so strong I started coughing immediately they passed me, and I could taste the chemicals in the air and smell it very strongly.”

        1. Joey*

          My point was even if you know you don’t have problems with smoke your doctor isn’t going to agree with you if you say you do.

    2. Anonymous*

      My office has a policy against heavy perfumes or other scents. I believe the person who the policy is implemented for has a medical reason for it. But honestly? It’s so much better than smelling the 20 gallons of perfume woman, or the axe man, or even the tuna.

        1. Andrea*

          Me too. I have asthma (and one of the triggers is smelling third-hand cigarette smoke, and this has caused me to have attacks) and allergies (including, you guessed it, one to cigarette smoke, even just the smell, which makes my eyes itch and gives me a headache). Heavy perfumes also aggravate both. I wish there wasn’t a need for such policies and that people would just be considerate of others, and maybe act as if they care whether other people can breathe or not, but yeah, in the absence of that, policies against strong smells are great.

          Anyway, OP #2, I feel your pain and had to find a work at home situation because my various medications help a lot, but my asthma was not well-managed and can’t be if I am around these smells. Good luck to you. I hope you find a better work situation soon.

      1. Collarbone High*

        I actually had to leave a meeting to throw up the other day because the guy sitting next to me was wearing half a bottle of cheap cologne.

    3. Anonymous*

      People have varying degrees of asthma and sensitivity. I am very sensitive to the smell of cigarette smoke even if it’s third hand (especially if it’s strong). I can pass by a person and it won’t cause a problem but if I’m in close proximity for an extended period of time, I will start wheezing. It’s not a matter of not LIKING the smell; it can adversely affect the my health.

      1. some1*

        This. I have known people with asthma who smoke and some with asthma that can’t be around it at all.

      2. letter # 2 writer*

        yes this is exactly it. I work with a lot of smokers, and just backing away a little when they get too close and not hanging out with them too much is fine, but 8 hours will give me stomach pain, headache, and chest tightness. I shouldn’t have to do that to earn a living.

    4. samaD*

      for me, third-hand is worse than first-hand – it’s basically a ticket to bronchitis :/

      1. fposte*

        But doesn’t smoking expose you to your own third-hand smoke anyway? (I realize you may not know why smoking bothers you less than smelling smoke on other people, but it surprised me.)

    5. Melissa*

      I have asthma and third-hand smoke can indeed affect my asthma. It also gives me a migraine.

  16. Anonymous*

    The resort I work at has banned smoking on its property and the air is so fresh and lovely. I wish more companies would do that, since I have asthma too.

    1. AmyNYC*

      As someone who was stuck walking behind (downwind!) of a smoker for 5 blocks this morning, that sounds wonderful.

    2. some1*

      It doesn’t sound like the coworkers are smoking at their desks. I assumed they were going outside to smoke on public property.

        1. some1*

          But it’s not relevant to the discussion, though. The employer can’t stop people from smoking off company property.

            1. Jessa*

              They can also put a purifier in the cubicle, one of those airflow things, if it’s that bad.

                1. letter # 2 writer*

                  also: I never mentioned a cubicle. Its actually a room with shared computers arranged along the walls. Open plan, allowing for easy communication. No one has a “desk” that they don’t share with anyone else, as we are a 7 day a week organization.

          1. Sigrid*

            Hospitals in Michigan — I can’t speak to hospitals elsewhere — have implemented a “we do not hire smokers” policy. It’s not retroactive — so far it’s not policy to fire someone for being a smoker if they were hired before Jan 2013 — but since Jan 2013 you will not be hired if you are a smoker, and if you start smoking after having been hired, if you were hired after the policy change, you are subject to termination. It’s part of the conditions of employment, and employees are subjected to random drug tests for nicotine.

            So yes, employers can stop people from smoking off company property.

            1. Melissa*

              My mother’s hospital has implemented this policy as well, and I think the hospital attached to my university’s medical center has too.

    3. some1*

      I think most companies already do ban smoking on the premises. The last job I had where you could smoke inside was when I worked at a convenience in the 90’s, and that was only because the store manager smoked in his office, so he let other his employees smoke in there, too.

      1. Anonymous*

        The reason I brought up the resort thing is that if any smokers were on staff they’d have to hike a half hour out of there to smoke, so nobody can, and its great. At companies that are just an office, people smoke right outside the door, and come back in and stink up the place.

        1. some1*

          “At companies that are just an office, people smoke right outside the door, and come back in and stink up the place.”

          There’s a lot of assumptions here. Lots of places have a ban on how close to the door you can smoke, and even when there isn’t, not every smoker smokes right outside the door.

            1. some1*

              No doubt about that. But I know that I don’t smoke next to doors, throw my cigarette butts on the ground/out the window, I don’t take extended break that I’m not owed at work etc, so I feel it bears pointing out as all smokers seemed to be lumped together when these discussions come up.

              I know someone will chime in at this point to say that I’m still bothering people by smoking, which may be true, but there are smokers out there who try to minimize the effect on the people around them.

                1. some1*

                  Again, that’s an assumption. You couldn’t possibly have firsthand knowledge of “the majority of smokers”.

                  What you mean is that you have seen enough different people smoking in places in front of doors, and you leapt to the conclusion that must be what the majority of smokers do.

                  It’s not okay for anyone to smoke someplace where people are forced to walk by you, but just because it upsets you when you see it happening doesn’t mean the majority of smokers do that.

                2. fposte*

                  Right, there’s confirmation bias here. Smokers who don’t bother you don’t register on you as smokers.

                3. Jamie*

                  fposte beat me to it, but I was going to chime in with confirmation bias.

                  Most of my co-workers were really surprised when I mentioned that I had quit smoking….because they didn’t know I smoked to begin with.

                4. AmyNYC*

                  Ok, I accept that I notice smokers who bother me, ie I mostly notice rude smokers. But the OPs problem is not with a considerate smoker; as soon as it bothers someone else it’s no longer considerate.

                5. some1*

                  @Amy, whether it’s inherently rude to smell like smoke after smoking coming in from a smoke break is arguable, but that’s the only “rude” thing the coworker is guilty of, if anything. The rude person here is the manager who is telling the LW she needs to get over it, and he doesn’t smoke that the LW knows of.

                6. lachevious*

                  Thank you, some1, for pointing out that there are considerate smokers out there. Indeed, I would argue that, especially these days and in the United States, tobacco users are some of the most considerate people out there.

                  I have been reading this blog for a couple years now, and find it to mostly be a wonderful resource for job seekers, employees, and employers: however, the vitriol on smokers is unwarranted.

                  For as wonderful as most of the commentators are on ensuring that everyone else gets treated fairly and with compassion, if you smoke, you’re beyond the pale. Maybe they are right. Maybe us smokers are so unbelievably disgusting and horrible that there should be no limit to the amount of public shaming we endure, because if we smoke, it’s our own doing and we deserve the hate. Fine. Smoking is a choice I made 20 years ago and it’s a choice I stand by. It’s a choice all smokers make.

                  So, in the interest of keeping things fair here, can we keep it civil and reign in the subjective comments?

                  Make it about something more than it just being “gross”. Again, I am not talking about the people who are saying it triggers their asthma or what have you, only addressing the people who are against smoking on principle alone.

                  Tobacco is still a legal product, and the regulations and costs of the mere use of said legal product are more limited and prohibitive than they have ever been, and yet the smokers comply. I’d even say we complied quite peacefully.

                  I am not complaining about the rise in the monetary cost of smoking, because it is something that I thoroughly enjoy and have zero intention of quitting while it remains legal. I am not even really complaining about having to stand out in the rain during my lunch break, even though the only other people out at those times are the smokers (ha).

                  The reason I am writing is because any time a question is posted that even barely mentions a smoker it is only a matter of time before someone stands and declares all smokers to be disgusting, rude, lazy, inconsiderate, and smelly.

                  Now, I am not going to say that smokers should be treated as a protected class, but I would like to say that it is rather rude to lump any group of people into any disparaging category.

                  As much as I would love it, I have seen no mass uprising of smokers declaring their right to smoke and doing so wherever and whenever they want. Instead, we sheepishly go outside, rain or shine, stand as far away as we can from the buildings, lower our eyes and smoke in shame. We do this not because we should be ashamed, but because so many people feel that we should be ashamed. We comply with the bans, we comply with the taxes, we pay extra for health insurance, we lose job opportunities, and still we are sneered at by those who just plain don’t like the smell or sight of it (those with actual health issues again, excluded).

                  I would say for all the reasons above, smokers are pretty freaking considerate.

                  We sit by and let our right to use a legal product get chiseled away because we don’t want to hurt or offend anyone with our smoking but we do still want to be able to smoke. I won’t even get into the science behind “third-hand” smoke, because it’s even more controversial and completely useless to argue about. If something bothers you, it bothers you regardless of “why”. That doesn’t make you right, and it doesn’t make smokers wrong.

                  That’s all I wanted to say, thank you for your time.

  17. anon all the way*

    Tied in with smoking, my pet peeve are employees that smoke and get away with more breaks simply because they take smoke breaks. It’s somehow this unwritten rule if you work in an office where there are more smokers than non-smokers that they get more breaks than someone else. Sure, the policy may be that they are only allowed one 15 min break or 2, but they abuse it at my workplace and even if you speak up as a non-smoker nothing seems to change. It’s unfair.

    1. Chriama*

      So go for “fresh air” breaks and take a walk around the block. Life isn’t always fair, but it obviously won’t change so why not start looking for ways to take advantage of the situation?

      1. Anonymous*

        Because fresh air breaks will get you written up or fired if youère not smoking while doing it.

      2. Anonymous*

        I’ve been written up for taking a not smoking break. Someone with more financial stability may have the luxury of this fight, but not me.

        1. Chriama*

          Could you just stick an unlit one in your mouth? That was a joke (sort of).

          You say you’ve spoken up. Was it to ask for smokers to be allowed fewer breaks or for non-smokers to be allowed more breaks? You could point out the health advantages of desk-bound people taking walks during the day (Google will show you a million studies).

          Anyway, I think you have a dysfunctional workplace and the smoke break thing is just a symptom. Management is giving some people more privileges than others, which, while certainly legal, isn’t that reasonable in this situation. To my knowledge, that usually means management doesn’t care about employee morale or turnover, which means you have a crappy employer. I’m sorry.

          1. Dan*

            I work in a fairly large office complex, and we actually have marked indoor and outdoor walking paths. I think it’s kind of cool, and use them once or twice a week when I need to get away from my desk for a bit.

            We don’t make widgets (or chocolate teapots for that matter) and the people who supervise my work I rarely see. So basically, nobody’s going to yell at me for making an extra circuit or two.

    2. Anonymous*

      I had this issue when I worked in food service and it was rampant. I was often the only nonsmoker and after a big rush all the smokers would go out and I’d be left to clean and handle everything that happened. Often one of the things that happened is I would get overwhelmed with orders and have to beg a member of the wait staff to go find the rest of the kitchen staff. I rarely got any breaks at all because of that. It was either busy or I was the only one working.

      1. Elysian*

        I also had this problem. Luckily at the time I was under 18 so there were rules that I had to be given certain breaks, but without those laws I never would have gotten any breaks. I would always have been covering for the smokers.

    3. Gilby*

      I once had a supervisor that told me I could not go on break…..because I didn’t smoke.

      She associated the group with smoking only and the break itself was irrelevent, but I argued a break was a break and what one did on it was not relevent. She got mad at me and finally said OK. Probably after realizing how dumb her arguement was.

      1. letter # 2 writer*

        ha! Actually on stressful days my non-smoking work friend and I have been known to take “non smoking” breaks and walk around for a short spell. (2x in two years, not 2x a day like the smokers…)

        1. some1*

          Two breaks a day doesn’t seem excessive to me at all. I’ve worked with smokers who take breaks once an hour.

          1. VintageLydia*

            It is when no one else gets those breaks (and in my experience the non smokers get punished for taking even half the breaks the smokers do. My experience is in retail.)

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve never had that happen at anyplace I worked when I smoked and when others smoked. We smoked on our regular breaks.

      Of course, you would get all the smokers taking their breaks at the same time, especially at Nonprofit Job (so we could gossip, hehe).

      1. Anonymous*

        To me it happened very consistently at food service jobs. But the place I work now it doesn’t happen at all. I think part of it is just the environment. My sister had the same issue when she started in nursing but now that she’s a supervisor she’s very careful to make sure it doesn’t happen (she actually started smoking because it was the only way to get a break).

  18. Positivity Boy*

    #5 – While I completely agree that the OP shouldn’t be required to pay for the class unless there are employee guidelines or stipulations in the offer letter that would require it, I’m curious how this conversation should play out. I don’t know what I would say to the manager that wouldn’t just piss them off more, because honestly the manager seems vindictive and dishonest. I’d be worried of them just sending a bill to OP’s house and OP not having a good way to fight it.

    1. Fiona*

      Whoa, where are you getting “vindictive and dishonest”? It doesn’t sound like the manager was in the hiring loop when all the assurances were made about the training schedules and whatnot – it sounds like she came in after the fact with different expectations/assumptions from what the LW was promised.

      And while I also agree that LW shouldn’t have to reimburse the company for the class, I can kind of see where the manager is coming from in requesting it – it was an employee training that LW took by special invitation and then turned around and backed out of the job. It’s been discussed on AAM that training employees who turn around and leave is a cost of doing business, but obviously not everyone thinks that way or we wouldn’t have letters about it.

      Last but not least, LW, if you’re reading – why not ask if you can delay your start date until after the vacationing nurse gets back, rather than throwing the whole job out the window? It doesn’t sound like you have any beef with the job or the company, just that you’re worried about being in over your head right out of the gate.

      1. Positivity Boy*

        I’m assuming that the person who repeatedly assured OP that she wouldn’t be forced to work alone until she was comfortable with it was the same manager who ended up telling her that wasn’t the case, but maybe I’m misreading it? I don’t know why OP would ask an HR rep who did a phone screening about a training schedule but not ask the same question to the actual manager she would be working for who would have control over that kind of thing.

  19. Contessa*

    I’ve had bosses tell me not to use “that,” “currently,” and “it,” so “some” does not surprise me. “Some” is a bit wishy-washy–which is exactly why you need to use it sometimes. You may not know how many examples are available. Maybe it’s only a couple, but maybe it’s a few, and maybe even several. That’s why “some” is a good way to indicate that you’ll find more than one, but you can’t promise more than two, although you’ll try.

    But, if your boss asked you not to use it, then don’t use it. It’s not worth it. I would substitute “a few,” although that also sounds kind of casual. Maybe re-word the whole thing altogether: “I will find examples of X and have them to you shortly.”

  20. AmyNYC*

    About smoking – This has come up recently in New York City as some apartment buildings have decided to become smoke-free; non-smokers are glad they won’t have smoke wafting into their apartments and smokers are all upset that they can’t smoke at home.
    I get that it’s a smokers right to do so, but it becomes a fine line (for some, I say ban ’em all) when another person’s (OP) is suffering for someone else’s bad habit.

      1. Elysian*

        I’ve been reading that there’s actually an ongoing debate about e-cigarettes recently, it’s kind of interesting. A lot of public places are banning them and treating them in every way just like traditional cigarettes, because they still contain and exude nicotine.

        1. Just a Reader*

          I have a friend who is mad she can’t “vape” at her desk. I just…it’s not Mad Men. Smoking is smoking and should be done outside.

          1. Joey*

            Why though? Who cares if she’s vaping as long as it doesn’t pose a hazard to anyone, but her?

            1. Just a Reader*

              It does pose a hazard. e-cigs put cancerous and hazardous chemicals into the air that her coworkers would have to breathe. Less than cigarettes, but still there.

              1. Joey*

                That statement alone doesn’t mean they’re dangerous enough to prohibit. doesn’t microwave popcorn emit harmful chemicals into the air, too. I don’t see any laws banning microwave popcorn.

                1. AB*

                  There are plenty of places that do ban microwave popcorn. I have worked in several offices where it was against company policy to make it (including one federal gov office)

                1. Just a Reader*

                  You don’t have to burn something for it to be cancerous…see chewing tobacco.

                  I’ve been reading about this and there’s nothing that definitively says that it’s not harmful.

                  As for microwave popcorn…not an apples to apples comparison.

                2. Mike C.*

                  You need to stop twisting my words.

                  Smoking is dangerous because of the fact you are burning a lot of nasty additives. Chew is bad because you’re still ingesting those additives. Vaping fluids consist of propylene glycol or vegetable glycol, nicotine and flavorings. These are well known and well understood substances and to claim that “we don’t know anything” feels incredibly ignorant.

                  If you want to talk about lack of regulatory issues that’s a whole different issue, but when you claim that they put out, in your words, “cancerous and hazardous chemicals into the air “, you need to actually back that up. Which cancerous/hazardous chemicals are put into the air? What is the flow rate of a personal vaporizer? What is the PPM/PPB concentration of these chemicals with said flow rate, and what are the recommended/legal exposure limits?

                  And no, I don’t actually consume nicotine or similar substances. I just hate it when folks scream “CHEMICALS!!1!” without actually looking into the chemicals in question.

                3. Anonymous*

                  We don’t know definitively how harmful e-cigs are for second-hand smokers. Part of the problem involves the lack of regulation, which means that packaging can contain vague or even misleading information about ingredients. Further, studies HAVE shown that e-cigs do emit small levels of pollution (see research by Steven Glantz of UCSF). Second-hand vapor does contain nicotine, but in much smaller amounts than regular smoke. Still, it’s there, and may pose harm in small areas with inadequate ventilation.

                4. Jamie*

                  I’m with Mike – I would like to know what hazardous and cancerous chemicals are going into the air from an ecig.

                  My husband has used one since he quit – and has been down to 0 nicotine for months now. I’m curious to know what the hazards are, if any.

                5. Just a Reader*

                  1) It doesn’t need to be “definitively harmful” to be a bad idea in the workplace. Because it hasn’t been proven not to be harmful.

                  2) Mike, I’m not twisting your words. As for proof, look here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/when-e-smokers-breathe-out-what-do-we-breathe-in/2013/05/28/ccce833e-c79c-11e2-9245-773c0123c027_story.html

                  And here:


                  One study says e cigs are harmful, one says they cannot be proven not to be harmful.


                6. Mike C.*

                  Hey Just a Reader, you might want to actually read the papers you’re citing. From the conclusion section of your second source:

                  “For all byproducts measured, electronic cigarettes produce very small exposures relative to tobacco cigarettes. The study indicates no apparent risk to human health from e-cigarette emissions based on the compounds analyzed.

                  Come on, did you think I wasn’t going to read them?

                7. Joey*

                  One link concluded there were no apparent risks to human health from ecig emissions. The other one said since there could be they should be regulated.

                  I still don’t see evidence that they are or even that they are likely to be harmful, only that there’s a undetermined chance that they could be.

                8. Meg*

                  You get cancer from breathing nowadays. Saying something is “cancerous” isn’t enough to ban something though. Let’s ban breathing.

          2. Mike C.*

            It’s not smoking. Nicotine isn’t the dangerous compound that makes smoking such a terrible health hazard, it’s everything else in the actual smoke.

        2. Joey*

          Yeah they’re interesting. Personally it feels like they’re banning them because the jury is still out and that’s the safest and pc route to take. Although I haven’t read much about them or been that close to anyone with one so I have no idea if that holds water.

          1. Elysian*

            I used to work with a guy who was trying to quit smoking and so used ecigs at work. The smell, etc, didn’t both me, and I’m really sensitive to regular smoke. I have no idea about the health effects for bystanders – I don’t know how much drug actually comes out of the cigarette. That said, nicotine is naturally occurring in tomatos and eggplant and other things that I eat, so who knows. Like you said, the jury’s out so I (for one) am part of the play it safe crowd.

            1. Jamie*

              My husband uses one and most of the time I don’t smell it at all – even when we’re in the car with the windows up. There are two flavors I can smell – one smells faintly of a cherry lifesaver and one is a weird mint I hate so he doesn’t use that one anymore.

              The smell, at least the brand he uses, is less strong than someone chewing fresh gum.

          2. fposte*

            I think that’s a big part of it; I also think bans are because some e-cigs look a lot like cigarettes and it’s easier to ban them than to expect, say, Park District staff to inspect every cigarette-like thing people are smoking.

      2. TL*

        Oh, gods, let’s not start up that debate again. Suffice it to say that not all smokers think e-cigs are an acceptable substitute.

    1. TL*

      My university banned smoking in the dorms (and all buildings) and the university I’m working for now allows both cats and smoking in some of their dorms and it just sounds awful.

    2. A Cita*

      I wish my NYC apartment banned smoking. Alas, the super lives right below me and while she is super awesome (really–out there at 5am this winter every morning de-icing the steps, etc), she smokes in her apartment, which is right below mine. And now my bedding, clothes, floor all have that old cigarette smoke smell to them. It’s not so bad that I actually smell it in the air (I’ve had that happen in other places), but it’s gross that everything you own, even after being freshly laundered, makes you smell like an old midday bar fly.

  21. JC*

    #3: I definitely agree that using “some” is totally normal and doesn’t strike me as terribly informal. I wonder if your boss was get you away from a habit of using qualifiers/filler words that detract from your message and make you sound less serious (and failing to convey that). For example, I have a habit of saying things like “I think” and “maybe” in emails that I know make me come across as less sure of myself, and I had to make a habit of consciously editing those out of emails. “Some” isn’t the same kind of filler word, granted.

    1. Kit M.*

      I wondered that, too. Obviously the boss completely missed the mark if that’s the case, and needs a primer on the meaning of the word “informal”. But I agree — I’m big on cutting extraneous words (though it’s a constant battle for me in my own writing), and I’m especially a fan of getting rid of words that indicate unnecessary hedging.

  22. Just a Reader*

    #2–really hostile reaction by the boss. Is this typical? Is the boss a smoker? (that was my first thought–maybe feeling defensive).

    In any case, a place that bullied and threatened me after I asked for a reasonable accommodation would not be a place I stayed very long.

    I have MILD asthma and third-hand smoke wouldn’t irritate it–but I also wouldn’t want to smell, and smell like, smoke all day due to an unreasonable manager.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      That was my thought too. Because that answer sounds like a defensive position from someone who smokes, likes it, has no intention of quitting, and doesn’t care how it affects anyone else.

      1. letter # 2 writer*

        I think that is the position of my trainer. They have over a decade of seniority over me.

        The management just doesn’t want to change. Interestingly enough, I noticed that our job postings have the EOE string of abbreviations at the end. So applicable here, right?

    2. letter # 2 writer*

      I don’t think this manager smokes, but several members of the management team are smokers.

      I think that smoking is ingrained in the culture here. People take smoke breaks together. I’ve been here two years and haven’t had any problems with this until now, because I’ve always been working mobile positions in well ventilated areas.

  23. wanderlust*

    #1… I used to work for a guy who had himself copied on every single incoming e-mail to our company. As in, anything that entered my inbox, junk or otherwise, showed up in his inbox with about fifty other people’s e-mail. I have no idea why he thought he could read all of that… it was kind of a paranoia thing for him, he had to know everything that was happening at all times and make all his employees nervous. But I think if you had a boss that crazy, you’d already know. So it’s probably benign.

    1. Anonalicious*

      My old boss insisted on being copied on the emails sent out by our task/work order system so he could see everything we were working on. He was also cc’d on every message sent to our 2 general helpdesk/support email accounts. Then he complained that he got too many emails and couldn’t get anything done. I wonder why…

    2. Jamie*

      WTH? I don’t even want to read all of my own emails most of the time – I can’t imagine having all that flooding my inbox.

      What a nightmare.

  24. Elysian*

    #2 – Your supervisor sounds like he/she is a defensive smoker. Maybe you can come to some other middle ground?

    Is the smoking area at your workplace well-ventilated? I find that if people smoke in closed spaces it clings to them a lot more. Especially in winter, when its cold out and people try to stay as close to the building as possible, so they end up super stinky if they’re under an awning and between some walls, or if they do it in their car with the windows rolled up.

    I think we also had the suggestion once that maybe the smoker could wear a coat outside and then keep that coat out of the regular workspace. Maybe that’s a possibility here, it could help minimize the stinkiness of the smoker.

    Or maybe, after a few suggestions like that, using a different computer will sound like a much better idea since it only requires you to make a change.

    1. Mike C.*

      I really don’t think there’s a middle ground between “this makes me sick” and “this doesn’t make me sick”.

      1. Elysian*

        I mean, I would suggest that there is a “this makes me less sick” option, which would be a middle ground. Presuming OP wants to keep this job.

        If for whatever reason the supervisor has decided that using another computer isn’t a reasonable accommodation, are we just giving up on the OP? I was trying to suggest some other things that might help. Of course the OP will have to decide if they help enough.

          1. Elysian*

            If the OP didn’t have asthma she wouldn’t be entitled to any change at all. Because she does, she’s entitled to a reasonable accommodation that allows her to perform her job duties. She’s not entitled to anything that allows her to perform her job duties to her utmost potential.

            Maybe you shouldn’t have to accept something less than “the best” but sometimes we have to make do with what we can. Only the OP can decide which solutions are acceptable to her, so I’m proposing some that might be alternatives she didn’t think of that could potential work out.

            Or she could just quit and find a new job that’s perfect, I guess.

            1. letter # 2 writer*

              No job is perfect. There will always be 3rd hand smoke, unless I . I just want to sit away from it, not within inches for eight hours. I think me moving is the best option that doesn’t disrupt too much, now to convince management that this isn’t undue hardship.

    2. KJR*

      Unfortunately for me, I will often get a migraine from cigarette smoke. And anyone’s who had one knows they are a bear to get rid of.

      1. Zillah*

        Ditto. It’s awful. I’m not sure if it would be covered under the ADA, so I hope I’m never in the position the OP2 is in.

        1. Anon E Mouse*

          I don’t know if migraines are covered under the ADA, but they are specifically covered under FMLA, so if you’ve been somewhere long enough to qualify for FMLA, you should be able to get a “resonable accommodation” based on the argument: “If you give me the accommodation, I can work a full day. If you don’t give me the accommodation I will come in for an hour, then take the rest of the day off under FMLA because of a migraine.”

          1. Elysian*

            Your employer can require you to used accrued vacation and sick time before using FMLA leave, so ultimatum may not work our as well as you might like. Though, ultimatums generally don’t work out very well, as a rule.

  25. ChristineSW*

    #5 – If I’m reading the letter right, it doesn’t sound like the OP specifically stated that it aggravates her asthma. That might be why the employer is pushing back on her request.

    1. fposte*

      That’s a good point–if she used the phraseology she suggests, maybe in an attempt to downplay things, the situation might not have been clear to management.

    2. some1*

      I wondered that as well.

      At my job, some people’s cubicles are directly beneath the fluorescent lights. Almost everyone wants to have a bulb removed because it’s too bright, but our Facilities folks won’t do it unless it’s causing an actual medical issue for the employee.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Yeah, there are actually OSHA rules on minimum number on lumens in a desk and board area.

    3. letter # 2 writer*

      I did, I just wanted to keep my letter within a few paragraphs per Alison’s instructions.

      I stated that I have an inhaler but it was for emergencies, not for tolerating a toxic avoidable irritant. That my asthma didn’t make it impossible for me to complete this positions duties.

  26. Jess*

    #3 – I know in almost all cases, it’s best to just humor your boss but I think this is just crazy… I feel like you if you give in on this issue, she’ll start eliminating all kinds of perfectly acceptable words from your vocabulary.

    I mean, where do you do you draw the line with ridiculous requests like this?

  27. Anonsie*

    #2 I don’t know what’s giving me this vibe, but I’m suspicious that the reason the company reacted this way is because the OP brought it up in an inappropriate way. This makes a lot more sense in the context of “you can’t act like this towards your coworkers who smoke” than the one actually presented. It sounds more like a reprimand, and while it’s entirely likely that the management are crazy jerks… I wonder if they reacted like that because the OP was rude about it to the trainer’s face or otherwise acted hostile out the gate. “You smell *disgusting* oh my god, it’s going to make me sick. I can’t be around you, I’m not gonna get sick because of your dirty habits, ok? I can’t be around you right now, it’s nasty. I need a different trainer.”

    1. LadyTL*

      Actually I’ve found this kind of negative reaction is a common one towards respiratory sensitivities. I have pretty severe perfume allergies and I have lost count of the number of people who don’t believe me because I’m not turning blue or constantly cough/sneezing. Or at least they don’t believe me until the nose bleeds start.

      I think it has something to do with 1) extreme sensitivities are not particularly common so people don’t get exposure to the more subtle symptoms (like reduced breathing) and 2) people dislike having to reduce activities they enjoy like smoking or wearing perfume even when they know it can harm others. Alot of people get really nasty when you ask them to be more mindful of the scents and such around them and even more so if someone asks them to stop.

      1. Jamie*

        I think some of the skepticism is because there are people who lie about allergies to avoid something they don’t like – be it smell or food.

        Sensitivities are absolutely real, I’m not disputing that, but people crying wolf because they just find something foul sours a lot of people who have never met anyone with a real sensitivity.

        I don’t have sensitivities myself to most things, but for some reason Estee Lauder perfume was a migraine trigger for all of my siblings and me. It was my mom’s favorite and she could never wear it because we’d all get brutally ill. The smell of hot tar will do it, too. So I do understand people with multiple sensitivities because I can’t imagine having to deal with being assaulted by stuff a lot harder to avoid than mine are.

        But I totally know people whose gluten free medical requirements come and go based on how much they like what is for lunch. And there are foods I absolutely will not ever eat, nor be in the same room with them, because they are so disgusting to me that it’s almost a phobia. As a kid I tried calling my aversion to foods an allergy because technically I will vomit if I see them…but my mom put the kibosh on that immediately. If you don’t like something and you need to avoid it you need to own it – you don’t lie about medical things.

        And I don’t think people do it intentionally, but trivializing things does tend to diminish the seriousness for people who are really afflicted.

        Anyone who has ever had a migraine knows exactly what it is. The people who say they have such a migraine when they are rubbing their head over a little tension headache…they don’t mean to spread the disingenuous message that migraines aren’t a big deal. But it does a disservice to those who’ve have to call into work because their migraine has left them unable to tolerate any light, lose vision out of one eye, impair vision, vomit…because someone who doesn’t know better would chalk it up to having a headache.

        (Of course there are varying levels of migraines – some I can work through and others I can’t even drive myself home…I’m talking about the non-migraine people who truly don’t differentiate between that and a headache.)

        1. Zed*

          That’s a good point, Jaimie! There’s also optics. If I rub my head and say I’m getting a migraine, I mean that my head is starting to hurt, I feel nauseous, I can’t think as well as usual, and my whole body is tense and painful… but as far as other people can tell I am just rubbing my head.

          (Incidentally, my mom sometimes tells me I have a migraine before I’ve really realized it – apparently there is a particular way my forehead creases and my eyes glaze over that makes it obvious.)

          1. Jamie*

            My boss can see I’m getting one before I know sometimes – because one of my eyes gets really bloodshot and squinty.

            But for sure we rub our heads during migraines – sometimes the pressure points is the only thing keeping me from jumping out of a window…I just just referring to those lucky enough to never have had one and who think any bad headache fits the bill.

        2. Melissa*

          Ugh, this. I get migraines and I’m always grateful when I’m managed by someone who also gets them or knows someone who does, because they understand that it doesn’t just mean a headache – it means I need to sit in a darkened room and do nothing until I can stop throwing up and until it stops feeling like squirrels are trying to claw their way from behind my eyes. On the flip side, my boss was out with a migraine today and I felt so bad for her.

      2. letter # 2 writer*

        Yes, this.

        I didn’t want to sit there for eight hours and be sick at the end of the day. Maybe a requirement is that I do this to prove my point? Which is dumb.

        1. fposte*

          No, there’s no requirement for that. There’s also no automatic requirement for them to do as you ask (that’s not how the ADA works), but how they responded was dumb. You’re asking for something that’s pretty reasonable whether it’s an ADA accommodation or not, and they really shouldn’t be as weird about is as they’re being.

      3. Anonsie*

        Yeah, I see what you’re saying. I have asthma and I’ve had those conversations many times, people are just crazy about chronic illness in general. “You’re sick… On a regular basis? Why? How are you making yourself sick? You should stop that.”

        This doesn’t sound exactly like one of those to me. I wouldn’t argue that it’s clearly not– see: people are just crazy –but I wonder a little bit.

    2. letter # 2 writer*

      I did not say that.

      I asked to use a different terminal that I was already seated at, due to my asthma.

      I did not say anything about the person themselves. I made it about my needs not their actions.

    3. letter # 2 writer*

      I promise I wasn’t rude.

      It was more like, I was sitting apart from the trainer, and they beckoned me to come closer. “Time to start!” And I stayed where I was four feet away and asked if I could stay at this other position due to my asthma.

      That’s when the supervisor, also there, invited me outside to speak away from the trainer, and asked me if I was “physically incapable” of sitting next to my trainer. When I said I didn’t want to be sick from work, that’s when I was sent to the manager.

      1. some1*

        I’m confused — when did you bring up the cigarette smell aggravating your asthma? This could be taken as you were trying to say you weren’t physically capable of sitting there for some other reason. Your employer can’t accomadate your medical needs if they don’t know about them.

        1. letter # 2 writer*

          I brought it up in the first conversation, right after their smoke “break” before the beginning of work. I asked to sit elsewhere due to asthma. Also with the supervisor and then again with the manager. Sorry I tried to make my question short per Alison’s requests and looks like I left too much out.

      2. Anonsie*

        Aw I’m sorry. I read your letter again and I’m not really sure what to say about it all. I think (though you’ll know from their demeanor whether this is true or not) they were trying to be diplomatic in laying the cards on the table for what this actually means. If a large proportion of the staff smoke and it’s all close quarters, it appears it’s not as simple as just having you sit somewhere else this one time. What about any other times you need to interact with the smokers? Are the accommodations necessary here going to alienate you from a lot of the staff? It’s good that they communicated this with you now, at least.

        What happened after you talked to the manager? Did you do the training somehow?

        1. letter # 2 writer*

          I did not do the training. I was reassigned to my old position, in an open well ventilated area working more or less independently.

          Its just disappointing because I’m qualified for the higher position, it just requires training to check off boxes on my file. They are short on employees qualified for the higher position. This hurts the company just as much as it hurts me and my advancement.

          To make things worse, my days off were changed from Sunday Monday to two weekdays very soon after this, which just feels like a slap in the face to rub this in.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, this isn’t making them look good. The days are probably defensible, but to preclude the training of a qualified candidate because of resistance to a small accommodation? They’re being really stupid.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I agree. Honestly, I’d start looking for another job ASAP. It sounds like this company is very poorly managed and possibly running afoul of the ADA as well, though I can’t say that for sure. Either way though, it just sounds like an unpalatable environment for a number of reasons, the asthma being the (sadly) least of them. I hope you can find another position that values you enough not to yank a possible promotion over something like this.

          2. Anonsie*

            Gee I wonder why they’re short on qualified employees. I bet you they think it’s a big puzzle, too, eh.

  28. Smiles*

    #1 – It happens. Where I work all managers are CC’d on their staff members correspondence and ownership is CC’d on EVERYONE’s emails.

    I think it is micromanagement at its best.

  29. HappyLurker*

    Wow! #1 (reading employees emails) I have looked at certain employees emails when I STRONGLY SUPPECT #4 (employees working for others and/or attempting to copy and steal company information). I have been correct both times.
    Both individuals are now employed elsewhere.

  30. Ruffingit*

    #1 – I wouldn’t want to receive copies of subordinate’s email unless I had a reason for it. That just sounds like a recipe for a very, very full inbox.

  31. Ruffingit*

    #3 – I had a boss who insisted that we never use the word “fax.” We always had to use the word facsimile in the office and with clients. We couldn’t say “I’ll fax that over to you” we had to say “I’ll send you a facsimile.” It was ridiculous.

  32. Cassie*

    #4 got me to thinking – I have a friend who is helping out another dept (same type of office work as her full-time job). Her boss wants her to do the other dept’s work during off-business hours (the philosophy being that he’s paying for her regular business-hours salary, and the other dept is paying for the off-hours bonus. It’s not overtime, just an additional pay). But some of the tasks have to be done during the day – like getting signatures, sending out mailings, etc. If I were her boss, I’d be fine with her doing the other dept’s work during the day – assuming her work is getting done. As long as it’s getting done, it wouldn’t matter if she moves tasks around to fit everything in.

    But her boss wants it that way, so that’s what it has to be. I’ve been in a similar situation before, but my boss never specified if I could or couldn’t do the other work during the day so I just mixed all the work together.

  33. EvilQueenRegina*

    I had a job once coordinating a handyperson service, and we had one man who was found out to be calling in sick and then doing his own jobs on the side, telling his then-wife he’d been advised to do this by our company because work was so thin on the ground. He made the mistake of confiding in the most indiscreet person in the office and it all came out. Despite getting into trouble, he still continued to do this.

    When layoffs came around later on, everyone expected that this person was going to be the one to go. Five years on from first being found out, he’s still there. Go figure.

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