am I misrepresenting my commitment to a job, calling a coworker “daddy,” and more

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

1. My coworker is making hateful comments about a foreign country

An employee where I work has become very radical in his views concerning a foreign country which is going through a crisis. He has family in that region. His social media is littered with hateful thoughts concerning what he feels is their enemy — and how evil the enemy is, how non-human, etc. Often the comments are aimed at people of a specific religion, and he makes similar comments to coworkers.

I have mentioned to my boss that I am concerned, especially in today’s world in which people sometimes just “snap.” She shrugged it off. Should I put this in writing? If something should happen in the workplace, I think I would want evidence that a report had been made. Or is that jumping the gun (no pun intended) since there have not been threats made to his coworkers?

Your boss should at a minimum be concerned that your coworker might be creating a hostile workplace — in the legal sense — for people with roots in the region your coworker is ranting about. Just like federal law requires employers to maintain workplaces free of sexual harassment, they also require them to act on hostile statements that are grounded in ethnicity, race, national origin, religion, and other protected classes.

And aside from the law, your boss should also be concerned that your coworker is spewing this kind of vitriol into your work environment. Apparently she’s not, which is messed up, but I’d bet your HR department would be. I’m not a fan of going to HR for 85% of the things it’s suggested for, but this one is right up their alley (and they’re trained — or at least should be — to realize the legal issues this poses, which your boss apparently missed). Go pay them a visit.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Am I misrepresenting my commitment to a job?

I’m currently interviewing for jobs, and while I’m a hard worker and I strive for excellence in my work, I also prize my time out of the office. I don’t just want work-life balance, I need it. In my current job, that can mean that I will elect to leave work on time rather than staying late, or not check email at night unless it’s an emergency.

I’m currently interviewing for a new job I want very much. I plan to tell them that I will be an excellent, committed worker in their company, always striving for excellence. My concern is: is this false advertising? I want to sell myself, but if don’t want them to get the impression that I will be working late into the night, or that I’ll drop what I’m doing on a weekend to answer emails. This company is a nonprofit, so many employees stay late because of their commitment to the cause.

When I’m in the office, I have a strong and committed work ethic, but I can’t be that way 24/7. Will I be selling myself incorrectly on an interview if I don’t indicate that?

“Excellent and committed” doesn’t mean “committed 24-7 with no outside commitments” — at least not in reasonably functional workplaces. It does, however, often mean “willing to tolerate small amounts of inconvenience when the work requires it,” like staying late on occasion, working through lunch when you have a packed schedule, or checking email outside of work when something important is going on. It becomes unreasonable if it means working late into the night on a regular basis (although in some fields, like law, that is considered reasonable), but in most professional positions, you’re expected to work late on occasion if the work demands it. So you don’t want to draw a hard line — or rather, if you do want to draw a hard line, you’ll need to make sure you’re focusing on fields where that will be okay. (Nonprofit work could go either way, depending on the culture of the organization and the type of role you’re in.)

In any case, it’s in your best interest to find out what their expectations are of you. You don’t want to talk your way into a job and then find out that you’re required to work hours you’re not interested in. So you should ask your own questions too — about what hours people typically work, how often people work on weekends, and so forth.

3. Company says they don’t have to pay out my vacation days, but they do

I’m about to leave my current job, and after giving my notice, I talked to HR (which is really just one uninterested woman) about my unused vacation days. She informed me that they don’t pay out for unused vacation days, which was news to me. I checked Maryland state law and it says that the only way a company can not pay out unused vacation time is if they put it in writing and inform the employee at the time they start the position. I brought this up and she said the law doesn’t apply to them because that’s not their company policy — which isn’t written anywhere, not even in the employment agreement that I signed. Their compromise was to allow me to take off 3 of the 7 days I am owed during my last 2 weeks. Is this legal at all, or so I just have to let it go?

Maryland’s law does indeed state that if an employer doesn’t have a written policy to the contrary that was communicated to you at the time of your hiring, then they must pay out your unused vacation days upon your exit. It’s all well and good for your HR person to say that they do have such a written policy, but if she’s wrong about that, then they owe you the money. I’d go back to her and say, “I’ve looked everywhere for some record of this policy and can’t find it. The law says that the policy would need to be in writing and communicated at the time of hire. Is there something I’m overlooking? If not, we really need to follow the law on this.”

4. Coworker is calling an older coworker “daddy”

Am I wrong to think it’s creepy for a young woman in our office to be calling an older coworker “daddy”? To me, it sounds sexual and just creepy. The man on the receiving end of this is a nice guy and he just laughs. I don’t think my female coworker understands how it sounds because she is from Vietnam and not a native English speaker. I tried to explain it to her, but I only hurt her feelings, which i apologized for — but it just sounds sexual and inappropriate.

Whoa. Yes, inappropriate indeed. I’m sure it is a language issue, but someone should help her realize that she should stop. Ideally, that someone would be the guy on the receiving end of it — he should stop laughing and tell her that he’d like her to call him Percival or whatever his name is.

5. My company wants me to buy new clothes for work

I have been working for my current employer for about four months. I have fallen into the role of manager/cleaner/chef/bartender at a country pub/restaurant bed and breakfast. Yesterday they decided I have to buy black and white clothes to wear to work. I feel this is unfair as I have been buying work-specific clothes since I started work there. I also feel that as they didn’t mention this when I started, it is unreasonable for them to change their minds four months later. My job is poorly paid and I have no desire to spend what little money I have on clothes that someone else has decided I must wear. Do I have any rights? I have no contract and nothing in writing.

They can legally require this. But before resigning yourself to it, try talking to them. Explain your situation and see if anything can be done. For instance: “I want to be respectful of this change, but it’s going to create a hardship for me. I don’t have many black and white clothes so would need to buy new ones, and I’ve already been putting money into buying ___ under the old dress code. Are there any alternatives that would work?”

{ 293 comments… read them below }

  1. Dan*


    “I plan to tell them that I will be an excellent, committed worker in their company, always striving for excellence”

    Honestly, that kind of subjective thing doesn’t belong on a resume. It doesn’t belong in an interview either. AAM’s advice in a cover letter is to never *say* this stuff, but *show* it instead.

    That kind of phrasing is no different than the corporate buzzwords that we make fun of.

    Find out what kind of hours the company wants, and make your decision from there.

    1. Alice*

      I got the feeling, that since she is interviewing, she was looking for a way to present this kind of passionate worker attitude during an interview (without implying 24/7 on-call availability).
      I agree it shouldn’t be on the resumé/cover letter. At least not in an obvious ‘I’m a hard worker’ type of sentence.

    2. Chloe*

      I didn’t read that as saying the OP planned to put it in their resume, it sounded more like something they would communicate in an interview.

      Its not that easy to find out the hours a company requires, unless you know someone who works there. In my experience, in interviews they will understate the overtime required, and exaggerate how family friendly they are. Its normal to present your best view of yourself, no matter how unrealistic that is, and employers are no different in this way.

      1. OP*

        Hi! OP here. No, I would not put those words on a resume nor say them in an interview. I meant to convey that this is a message I try to communicate about myself in interviews.

        Thanks for your responses!

      2. Stephanie*

        I’ve had a couple of interviews where they were very upfront about the hours required. I was appreciative the interviewer was upfront that it wasn’t 9 to 5. Another interview was at a semiconductor fab, and the interviewer was upfront that I might need to be available in case of a plant emergency.

        So it does happen. In the first case, the interviewer said that people quit when the interviewers weren’t upfront, so they just told all candidates ahead of time.

    3. AmyNYC*

      “I’m committed to many things – during the work day all my attention is there, but outside of the office I’m heavily involved in X, Y, Z”

    4. AmyNYC*

      Whoops – another thought: as someone who would be a peer what the hours are like, not the big boss.

        1. Judy*

          I’ve certainly in the past used my linked in network to find someone who works at a company in a similar role to talk about the overall culture of the company.

          The last company I interviewed with, a current co-worker’s son works there. I spent 20 minutes talking to him before the interview about things like working hours, social expectations, etc.

    5. Vicki*

      > Find out what kind of hours the company wants, and make your decision from there.

      There’s a big different between the hours the company claims to want, the hours the manager actually wants, the hours your co-workers put in, etc.

      When I’ve had people ask “How do you feel about putting in extra time” my answer is always “I get my work done”.

  2. A Teacher*

    Question 2, last paragraph, I think you mean work, not “wok” like you have right now…

  3. Adam*

    #1 Those kinds of comments are what usually lead me to blocking people on Facebook. I will shout from the rooftops to defend your right to free speech, but if what you say starts to make me uncomfortable I have to check out. I can’t imagine how awkward it must be having to deal with this kind of thing at work, regardless of how you feel about the issue the coworkers so invested in. Definitely one for HR.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I think the very first thing the LW should do is unfriend the to co-worker on facebook. Now LW doesn’t have to “hear” that stuff on his own time. If the co-worker is truely spewing hateful vitriol at work then it’s time for the boss or HR to step in. (bad boss for not acting!)

      However are you or any of your co-workers “the enemy”? You don’t mention that this hate speech is directed toward any co-workers. Why do you think that this person would “snap” and shoot up work?

      I know there are facts missing from all the letters, but being worried about being killed by this co-worker seems to be a leap, but that doesn;t seem to be your main worry. I find it odd that your goal, as stated in the letter, is to have evidence that you reported the problem in case of a workplace shooting (to implicate your boss for not reacting to your report?) rather than how to be as safe as possible.

    2. Traveler*

      For me its when I start having an uncontrollable urge to reply back listing all the reasons their assumptions/statements are wrong. That’s when I know its time to block them so I don’t slip up and give in.

      1. Heather*

        Haha, yes! Especially after all the recent research showing that giving someone opposing facts can make them hold on to the wrong belief even harder.

  4. Prickly Pear*

    4- I’ve worked with an older lady that wanted everyone to call her Mom. I have two parents, and if you’re not one of them you’re not getting that title, no matter how much you ask. It’s a nope both personally and professionally.

      1. tt*

        Ha, that was my thought when now husband and I told his parents we were engaged, and they said I should call them mom and dad. They dropped it quickly when they saw my face.

        1. Sabrina*

          Yeah my MIL would like me to call her mom, but I lost mine at 18, and I just can’t. A co-worker wouldn’t even get the benefit of an explanation.

          1. anon*

            My BIL started dating his now wife not long after she lost her mom. She asked my MIL about a year in to their relationship if she could call her mom, which makes me misty eyed just to think about.

            1. Sabrina*

              I could see that if we had met around the same time as my mom died, but it was 10 years later. There’s just no way I could do it. A therapist once told me I had “unresolved grief issues” so that’s probably a big reason why.

              1. Rose*

                I’m so sorry about your mom. You will always miss her and love her! It’s natural not to want to apply that special word to anyone else. Don’t let anyone convince you that you have “issues” if you don’t feel that way.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                All of us who have lost parents have unresolved grief issues — how could we not? I don’t blame you for not being able to call someone else “mom”! I would have horrible guilt and weirdness if I called someone else “dad” — it would feel like wiping out my dad’s memory. (Although I also understand that some people, like anon’s SIL, find comfort in it.)

                1. Jamie*

                  Thank you. If someone finds a way to actually resolve those particular issues let me know.

                  Not everything is resolvable – this sure isn’t.

                  And I am with everyone finding whatever comforts them – if that’s calling another person mom or dad, awesome. I couldn’t.

                  He’s only dad when I talk about him to other people (because I’m several hundred years old)…but he’ll always be my daddy.

                  Over 20 years and not a day has gone by where I don’t viscerally miss both of them. What happened to the time healing all wounds deal? When exactly does that kick in?

                2. Turanga Leela*

                  I don’t think the wounds ever heal. I think the passage of time helps make the grief less acute–you become more able to function–but I don’t think you ever miss the person less.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  It just makes sense to me that if we can never stop loving them then we will never stop grieving them.

                  Grief manifests in different ways as we go along but it is still grief.

                  What seems like a good idea to one person, the next person may chose the exact opposite. But it’s all still under the heading of grieving.

                4. James M*

                  Grief is not an issue to be resolved; it’s a reminder to cherish the relationships you currently have.

                5. Realistic*

                  I went with “Ma” and “Pop” for my in-laws instead of “Mom and Dad.” It worked well for us, because the sentiment was the same, but the words were different.

        2. Melissa*

          Yeah, I call my mother-in-law Mom, but that’s because she’s Southern and it’s clear that anything other than Mom or Miss Jane would be unacceptable. I think it’s super-weird to call your in-laws Miss anything – they are close relatives, and we’re all adults here. But this isn’t the hill I want to die on, so Mom it is.

          My own mother still calls her mother-in-law Sister Smith (I grew up in a religion in which any older adults you couldn’t call by first names, or acquaintances, were Sister/Brother Lastname), because she refuses to call her Mom.

    1. LBK*

      Yikes…you’d think that being viewed as the “office mom” is the exact opposite of what most older women would want, especially if they’re in an office of mostly younger coworkers.

  5. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    “he should stop laughing and tell her that he’d like her to call him Percival or whatever his name is.”

    Personally, I vote for saying he’d like her to call him Percival no matter what his name actually is…

  6. Belinda Gomez-Maldonado*

    How are someone’s FB comments a matter for HR? if the person has family in that country, then he’s just as much a member of that “protected class” as anyone who reads his page and takes offense. Don’t like his POV? Unfriend him. His social media posts are not the same as him ranting at work. Are your co-workers concerned about his remarks?
    Tattling to some authority figure because you think he might commit some act of violence sounds like an action that makes the OP feel self-righteous, but has no actual real world value. If the OP is that worried, go to the police and forget HR.
    This question sounds more like Tumblr SJW than an professional at work.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Yeah, but similar isn’t the same. I am totally making this up, but if he has a small Israeli flag on his desk, that is “similar” to ranting about Hamas on FB — but it’s not the same level at all. I got the same vibe that Belinda did, that this feels a lot more like self-righteous nattering rather than a legitimate concern. (Especially since the fear is he could “snap” into “violence” rather than, you know, just say something that would offend a real person, which would be a lot more likely.)

        I guess what I’m saying is that it sounds like she is simply offended that he has a different political stance and expressed it publicly.

        1. Sadsack*

          Don’t we have to take the writer at his word that the coworker is making racist comments at work? Having a flag at your desk is in no way the same as making hateful speech.

          1. Bea W*

            Agree. I took it at face value, and that the OP cited the FB ranting as an example of the kind of comments being made at work. “Similar” may mean the OP makes even more awful comments on FB and tones it down at work, but the comments are still racist and hateful.

            The Israeli flag analogy isn’t accurate. There is a huge difference between displaying national and cultural symbols and hate speech. Similar is posting racist articles and memes on FB and making racist comments or telling racist jokes at work. Those things are similar.

        2. Melissa*

          “if he has a small Israeli flag on his desk, that is “similar” to ranting about Hamas on FB”

          Um…no, no it’s not.

    1. chrl268*

      “he makes similar comments to coworkers.”

      He’s brought his feelings to the workplace, if it were only on facebook it is ignorable, but its now the office’s problem.

      1. Robin*

        Hi, OP here–No flag on desk, but other symbols are present. Comments have been made in front of co-workers who have been offended.

        1. The IT Manager*

          So this guy may well be making work a hostile work enviroment. The boss and HR need to step in.

        2. fposte*

          Symbols of his faith/identity? Or symbols that demean other people’s faith or identity?

          1. Anna*

            I think it’s a symbol of faith or whatever. Let’s say a Israeli flag. But that’s not the problem. The problem is the comments the guy is making.

            1. fposte*

              Right, but the symbols have been brought up, and we’ve already had indication that some people conflate a symbol of someone’s own national identity as a denigration of other people. So I felt it was worth querying the difference.

          2. le*

            Yeah, I think this is important. Since we are talking about Palestine/Israel…I certainly know people who would take a symbol of Palestinian identity (such as a keffiyeh or a Palestinian flag) as hateful. I think it’s important to distinguish between symbols of identity–which may make someone else uncomfortable–and actual symbols of hate or demeaning nature.

    2. Purple Dragon*

      I wasn’t sure if the comment “Often the comments are aimed at people of a specific religion, and he makes similar comments to coworkers.” was via social media or at work. If it’s on social media then I’m not sure what the company can do – if it’s at work – then I’d be talking to HR.

      The OP seems to be more concerned with the co-worker snapping and perhaps bringing a gun to work and people being hurt.
      If this is really a concern then even if the rants are just on social media then maybe the OP can speak to HR from the perspective of “I’m concerned about safety around co-worker as he’s so angry” or something similar. Maybe HR could direct the co-worker to EAP if your company has one.

    3. De (Germany)*

      “if the person has family in that country, then he’s just as much a member of that “protected class” as anyone who reads his page and takes offense.”

      While that’s not your main point, this conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow from having family members that live in a certain country.

    4. Brittany*

      But if your posts on FB are “public”, meaning not locked up with privacy settings, wouldn’t this technically apply in the workplace? I understand the fine line and ongoing debate about what’s personal in your personal life in regards to social media and work (I got burned by this in college by saying something on FB that my dean found out about because someone tattled to her and I presented the same argument about it being my personal account – it didn’t matter.), but ultimately, depending on the type of comments being made, I would think it would be applicable. If your personal accounts are public, they represent you as a person. Depending on the type of comments being made by this employee (if they were say, racist in nature), then your employer would probably be very interested that this was going on. You have a right to say what you want on your social media accounts but if it violates a company policy, then they have the right to take interest in what you are saying and possibly take action because of it.

      1. Chinook*

        I agree – if you make personal comments publicly, then you shouldn’t be surprised if your workplace tells you that you crossed a line and made colleagues uncomfortable.

        For example, I lived in a town with a base known for training Brits. One night, at the local bar, a bunch of them came in wearing unofficial tour shirts that alluded to hurting Catholics in N. Ireland (they were witty but it in a bad way). Now, my dad is from Ireland and I am Catholic (but from my mom’s side) and it was the first time I ever felt uncomfortable in public because they would have no issue with my family Prot. family name but they would with my religion.

        Thing is, these guys never said a word to me or others about their opinions but their t-shirts made me feel unsafe. If I had worked with any of them, I would have brought it up with my manager or HR. As it was a bar, I just left and didn’t go back until their training roto was done (in a small army town, you can tell when the groups change).

      2. Robin*

        OP here– Another member of our industry has pointed out that since this person is known as our employee, in lower management, his online behavior could be a threat to the company’s reputation.

        1. Candy Floss*

          I think you are making this issue a lot more complex and dramatic than it needs to be. If a co-worker says something to you or within your hearing that you find offensive or threatening, and you ask them to stop and they don’t, then go to HR or your manager.

          All these comments in this discussion about who has family in what war zone are just drama drama drama (IMO of course). The only relevant question is whether or not this person’s behavior at work meets the standard of conduct that the company expects.

          1. Rose*

            I completely disagree. This is a serious issue that has great bearing on the workplace environment.

            People are often fired for inappropriate actions (adultery, gambling, drugs, prostitution) that have absolutely nothing to do with work. Someone who is writing publicly on their Facebook “the Arabs are like monkeys flinging shit at each other” or “Hitler should have finished the job and done the world a favor” (two comments that I’ve actually seen on my news feed lately, both sickening) are representing their company in a terrible light. I remember seeing both and thinking I would never give that company my business, because I don’t want to deal with that kind of person.

            Plus, then what? Those muslims/jews are just supposed to see it online and pretend it doesn’t exist the next day? Pretend it’s not going to affect workplace relationships? Pretend they’d be ok if that person was promoted to a position of power over them? How are you supposed to feel comfortable knowing a coworker thinks you’d be better off dead?

            1. Candy Floss*

              I didn’t say it wasn’t serious. I said she was over-dramatizing it and over-complicating it. I said if someone is saying things at work that she finds offensive or threatening, and won’t stop when asked, she should take it to HR and her manager.

              1. R0se*

                Right, and I disagree with that. Over dramatizing implies that she’s making too big a deal out of something. She’s asking if it’s worth recording her complaints over a coworker’s inappropriate behavior. I don’t think that’s dramatic or complicated at all.

      3. Davey1983*

        Your employer can take action against you for statements made on Facebook, it doesn’t matter if your account is public or has privacy settings.

        Many people seem to have this misconception that what is done on their own time is none of their employers business and that their employer can’t do anything to them for their actions/statements made on their own time. That belief is incorrect.

        The problem I’m seeing is that people will know he works for company X. While Company X may not care what the guys opinions are, they will care if those opinions create a hostile work place (which is sounds like it is) or he offends potential clients (or this employee makes it look like Company X is supporting/against faction Y).

    5. alma*

      Actually, they stated the coworker has family in that region, not necessarily the same country. You could have a case where an Arab is making anti-Iranian remarks, or a Russian is making anti-Ukrainian remarks, or vice versa.

      Additionally, even if the coworker is from the same country, in-group harassment is still considered creating a hostile workplace environment. I don’t recall the exact details off the top of my head, but I believe there was a recent case in the US where a black supervisor was found to be creating a hostile work environment for a black employee by making derogatory remarks about the employee’s skin tone and hair.

      I think anticipating a workplace shooting is a little bit of a stretch, but it’s not being a “tumblr SJW” to want people to keep their ethnic hatred out of the frigging workplace. For all you know, OP is a minority or has family members who are, and doesn’t appreciate being in a workplace where bald-faced ethnic prejudice is tolerated, even if it is not their particular group who is the target this time.

      1. EE*

        Indeed. I have family-by-marriage who are Jordanian and identify as Palestinian. Without a shadow of a doubt that’s the region that the OP is referring to. The family members may not be Israeli citizens but still from the affected area.

    6. Red Librarian*

      Even if it is on FB, if the co-worker making the comments has his place of employment listed on his profile, I don’t see this as being that different from professional athletes saying things on social media and getting in trouble. When your work place is attached to your name on a public profile, you have to be careful what you say since you are, in a way, representing that company.

      1. Loose Seal*

        I saw today on the news that an unnamed recruit for PennState football was just un-recruited for the Fall semester because of some of the things he said on his social media account.

        I keep wondering how long it will be before people start to realize that their rantings on social media will take a toll on their lives.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          We had an incoming freshman student who was selected to receive a scholarship until the employees in the advising center saw some of the things he said on his social media account. He was un-selected and his scholarship passed to the next qualified student in line.

    7. Brett*

      This is actually timely considering the Natalie Munroe case was just thrown out.
      Munroe was fired for posting on her anonymous private blog about her students (in general) being whiny, lazy, dim, and loathsome. It wasn’t facebook, but it was an anonymous private blog, and even had first amendment protections that private employees do not get.

      She still lost her court case on the basis that there was a legitimate employer concern about her posts even if the posts had nothing to do with her activity in the workplace.

  7. Lillie Lane*

    #5: This is a long shot, but could you ask management to consider buying branded (embroidered with the business name) shirts? Then you would just have to buy the bottoms. Or is the management just being picky and stingy?

    Otherwise, you might be able to find a few work clothing items at a thrift store, especially if you are cleaning/cooking and they will get messy anyway. I realize it’s not easy for everyone to find good stuff at thrift shops, but it’s worth a look.

    1. Sian*

      #5 I have been wearing tidy jeans and blouses to work, I work front and back of house, now that I’m cooking I wear whatever will keep me cool in the hot kitchen. I buy my clothes second hand already but so far second hand ‘work shirts’ don’t look as smart as the clothes I already wear. I’ll talk to my employers again, let them know I’m happy to replace my blouses with something they provide, but remind them that I get sprayed with beer in the cellar and splattered with line cleaner, bleach and food. I still feel it’s unfair though to keep changing what they want from me. Thanks for posting my question, and the replies.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Are you the only one in this boat, or are there others who are also being asked to change their uniforms? If there are others, I’d suggest feeling out if some of them are also stressed by the idea of changing what they have to wear. If your position is kind of unique, I think you could use that as an argument with management. It might also help if you asked for time to make the transition – like if you got black and white clothing when you needed more work clothes, but kept wearing non-black-and-white things as necessary until you’d built up a collection over the next 6 months or year.

        1. AmyNYC*

          +1 I was coming here to suggest the “transition” idea, and Elizabeth the Ginger beat me to it!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Please do try again with your employer. I have worked for some not-so-hot employers and even those people understood budget constraints. Be sure to express a willingness to dress appropriately then add “but I do not have it in my budget to be able to keep changing what I wear to work.”
        Nothing wrong with pointing out the high frequency that your clothes get ruined. A spray of bleach means that garment is done/over. This means that expensive clothes are not doable for you.

      3. Koko*

        Just a quick tip if you do have to go the black-and-white route. You can wash the white shirts in straight bleach and it gets out virtually any stain, it’s one of the unexpected advantages of wearing whites for messy jobs.

        For the blank pants, the black dye will hide most stains that don’t wash out in normal laundry. For the bleach spots that you get from mopping up and getting splattered, keep a black Sharpie on hand to color in the spots.

          1. hayling*

            Yep, you want to use an enzyme cleaner (like Oxiclean) on protein stains (basically anything that comes out of the body).

            (Thanks Jolie Kerr!)

            1. bridget*

              Hearing this from Jolie Kerr was lifechanging for me. No more buying new white sheets every 6 months! The yellowed sheets I had been washing in (diluted) bleach were good as new after a soak with Oxyclean for a few hours.

          2. Risa*

            Make a paste with Oxy-clean, rub on the yellow stains and let sit for several minutes. Wash as normal. Yellow stains go away.

        1. bridget*

          Also, I am assuming that by saying “straight bleach” you don’t literally mean that. Straight bleach will cause your clothing to completely disintegrate. Bleach should always (always!) be diluted with a lot of water.

          1. fposte*

            If we’re talking yer basic Clorox, it’s already extensively diluted with water–it’s only 6% sodium hypochlorite.

            1. Koko*

              Haha, yeah, I suppose I more properly meant “straight Clorox.”

              That’s a good tip about the Oxyclean for white shirts. I do that with my bedsheets, but for my long white hippie skirt, I’ve never needed it when getting out coffee stains :)

          2. Sian*

            The owner likes us to use neat bleach on red wine marks on the tables, I use Milton sterilising fluid on my cellar equipment and the line cleaner is just horrible bleach too, so yes my clothes get ruined. I will talk to my employers about my clothes again, I’ve also been wearing knee length wrap around dresses as it’s summer now, these are definitely acceptable in my opinion but I’ll talk to them again. Thanks for your input people.

    2. majigail*

      One plus, if you’re required to wear a certain uniform (and I would think white shirt/black pants qualifies), you can claim that as a deduction on your taxes. Doesn’t help now, might help in April…

      1. B*

        This is actually incorrect. If it’s possible for you to also wear the same clothing outside of the work place, even if it is not your normal style of dress, then you cannot deduct that. Many people get audited with this type of claim and are told they cannot deduct.

        1. Mmmm*

          Funny story, the reason Abba’s costumes were so extravagant is because, this way, they could deduct them from their taxes. Unwearable outside of “work”.

      2. Loose Seal*

        Not a tax person but I thought that the work clothes deduction only worked if it was something you couldn’t wear outside of work, like a traditional nurse’s uniform. Black pants and a white shirt could be worn lots of places.

      3. Koko*

        Most people don’t itemize deductions unless they have a mortgage. Without a mortgage it’s likely that the standard deduction will be higher than the itemized one.

        1. Natalie*

          This drove me crazy when I got rid of my car – so many people suggested I donate it for the tax deduction. Hello, I’m single, have no kids, and rent. I don’t itemize.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, charity’s out if you’re not itemizing. But–PSA time–you’re still eligible for above-the-line deductions, like student-loan interest deductions (presuming you’re otherwise eligible), so make sure you don’t just assume all deductions aren’t worth it for you.

            1. Turanga Leela*

              Yes! I don’t itemize, and but I’ve taken the deductions for student loan interest and for moving to be near a new job.

            2. Natalie*

              Yep, those are actually the only things I get besides the standard. My taxes are super boring, and thankfully easy. :)

      4. Davey1983*

        I happen to work as a tax accountant/auditor. This is incorrect. If the clothes can be worn outside the workplace (whether you do does not actually matter) then they can not be deducted. If they had the company logo stitched onto the clothes, you may be able to deduct them (talk to a CPA who does taxes first, however).

        Plus, it only matters if she itemizes. Unless she has a mortgage, significant medical expenses, or donates a lot of money to charity/religious organizations, it wouldn’t matter.

    3. Loose Seal*

      I think this is a good idea overall but it might backfire on the OP if the higher-ups make the employees buy the shirts.

      Back when I was a bank teller, we had to wear the embroidered company logo shirts with khakis. Except that we had to purchase the shirts from the company. They were around $35 each which was way more than I could afford or spent if I was just told to wear regular polos. The employee of the month would get a free shirt as a reward but, as we had 40 employees at our branch, it could be years before you ever got one.

      1. Koko*

        Yep, I’ve never worked any place where the uniform was provided for free. It was ordered for you on advance credit and then the cost was deducted from your first paycheck, so that by the time you’d been working there about 3 weeks, you got a first paycheck of $8.

          1. Natalie*

            You are supposed to pro-rate the cost if it would drop the employee below minimum wage. And in CA (shocking, I know) I don’t believe you can require employees to purchase uniforms. You have to provide something free for them to wear.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I worked at a medical supplies store where we had to wear scrubs, and the owners let everyone get two scrubs outfits for free, and every scrubs purchase after that was 50% off the marked retail price. I chose two pants and two tops to start out, and then added a couple more pants and a white lab jacket after a few paydays. I wish I could still could wear scrubs and a lab jacket as my uniform — it was so comfortable!

  8. Mike C.*

    I was about to post the same thing about an EAP. It doesn’t justify the actions of this coworker, but living in fear of ones family dying in a war is not something I can even begin to fathom dealing with on a day up day basis. I can’t imagine the things I would say to a coworker who was supporting the side who was threatening my family, or just in general frustration.

    A good therapist should be able to give your coworker the tools to help deal with these weighty issues.

    1. Jen RO*

      Exactly… I think the OP and many commenters just can’t put themselves into the coworker’s position, but really, how would *you* react if your home country was at war? A former coworker of mine is from Ukraine and lives in the US. Her mother had been visiting when the war started and now she has to go back home; I can’t even imagine how they both must be feeling now.

      I would only reach out to HR if the coworker was grossly generalizing – i.e. all Russians want to invade Ukraine, and so on. If it’s just generics (the country is doing X and Y), I don’t see a problem. (And snapping, really? That is jumping to conclusions.)

      1. Sophia*

        But if it’s something like the Palestinian / Israeli conflict – which was my impression for whatever reason – there’s people dying on both sides and it is a very controversial topic

        1. Mike C.*

          That wouldn’t make the threat of my family’s life easier to deal with, and given the wall to wall coverage on the international news would make it much worse.

          Could you imagine watching your family die in a bombing on YouTube?

          1. Cat*

            I dont want to get into inappropriate discussion for this space and I think your idea is a good one regardless because perceptions of risk don’t always match reality but the risks are not necessarily proportionate there and I’ve met enough blowhards who are willing to use distant relatives as a way to perpetuate racism here, that I’d be wary.

            1. fposte*

              And this isn’t a new phenomenon. Plenty of workplaces, for instance, had people on various sides in the Balkan conflict who could see their families in harm’s way TV. It’s horrible, and it may be too horrible for people to separate from workplace professionalism; I’d understand that. But if you’re going to stay in the workplace, you can’t demonize a race or nation of people there.

          2. Traveler*

            This was my first thought reading this, so I’m glad someone said it. I know people who have lived through conflicts like this, and even years later have tons of pent up emotions – particularly if certain triggers are present. They’re not bad people, and yes certainly they should censor their language/feelings at work because it’s not an appropriate setting -but when death and violence become such a pervasive part of your life it can be hard to remember when to be on and off. Still agree with Alison’s recommendations, but I feel for the coworker too.

      2. alma*

        I would only reach out to HR if the coworker was grossly generalizing – i.e. all Russians want to invade Ukraine, and so on.

        It sounded to me like that is what the coworker’s doing? OP describes them talking about “how evil the enemy is, how non-human, etc. Often the comments are aimed at people of a specific religion…”

        If he is generalizing “subhuman” remarks to an entire religion, then I think that is something HR absolutely needs to deal with. I think you can be sympathetic and humane about the emotional toll of having family in a conflict-torn region, while setting a boundary that making those kind of remarks at work is off-limits.

        1. Jen RO*

          I agree. But in my opinion it still depends on the phrasing – taking my example further, I would understand “the enemy” as being “the Russian government”, not the regular people who don’t have anything to do with those decisions.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      That would probably be a specialized type of therapist. It might not be easy to find this type of professional. Maybe some one here knows how to search for that specialty.

      1. Mike C.*

        Not really. Lots of folks have had to deal with all sorts of family death issues ranging from preparing for the results of terminal illness to sudden death from violent crimes to yes, even death in war. These situations are a lot more common than polite society would suggest.

        1. LBK*

          And ultimately the impacts of trauma and death on a person’s psyche are usually pretty similar regardless of how – fear of loss, difficulty expressing and coping with feelings, etc.

        2. Monodon monoceros*

          I would think that since the Iraq & Afghanistan wars, there are more therapists that have dealt with the impacts of war, too. No idea if that’s actually true, but it would be interesting to find out (if I felt like spending the rest of my evening googling…)

    3. Observer*

      I CAN imagine – BTDT. I try to keep my facebook posts on the relevant conflict at a reasonable level. And, I just don NOT bring this stuff up at work. I’ve even avoided responding when others have brought it (or related stuff) up.

  9. Puffle*

    #4 I would find it excruciatingly awkward if a co-worker called me “daddy” (if I was a man). Laughing it off may seem like a nice response, but it’s not particularly helpful, and will just leave her thinking that there’s nothing strange about the situation.

    I do agree that it would be better if the male co-worker is the one to talk to her about it. It might briefly hurt her feelings, but it’ll spare her from potential future humiliation and/ or misunderstandings (especially if she later moves to another English-speaking workplace where co-workers could be far less kind or understanding).

    I’m sure someone else can come up with something better, but personally I’d say something like:
    “[Co-worker], in [workplace country] we call our co-workers by their first names. If you call [male coworker] “daddy” people might misunderstand. I know that you don’t mean anything by it, but it would be a good idea if you called him [actual name] instead.”

    As someone who currently lives and works in a foreign country where the workplace language is not my native language, this hit home. I really appreciate it when my co-workers tell me if I’m doing inappropriate or weird. One of my colleagues is fantastic at presenting things as “here is some advice from one professional to another about workplace norms” which leaves me feeling educated rather than embarrassed (unlike another former co-worker, who has mastered the “why are you so strange, you stupid foreigner” tone).

    1. Mephyle*

      It might even be necessary to be more explicit about the ‘people might misunderstand’. If you don’t spell it out, her first reaction is likely to be that you mean people would mistake their relationship for a father–daughter one.

  10. Chocolate Teapot*

    The only time I have ever called a colleague Daddy was just after he became a father for the first time( “Good Morning New Daddy”). Also, he was somebody who would get the joke.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      I had a boss once that we all called Daddy, but it was meant in a completely derogatory way (long backstory). And never to his face or outside our team. It was one of our coping mechanisms to deal with his crap.

      Outside of an example like yours, it is hard to imagine when calling a coworker “Daddy” wouldn’t be inappropriate.

      1. Kristina*

        Well when I am working at my dad’s business and I call him for a question (there are no other employees in the office) I do call him Daddy… But I’ve been doing that since I could speak so…

      2. Steve*

        We did this too. But he was never our own daddy, he was always the other person’s daddy. As in, YOU: “your Daddy wants that project taken care of by noon.” ME: “Oh yeah? Well your daddy can just go eff himself if he thinks I can get that done by then.”

        He was singularly the worst human being I’ve ever known, and was the type to manage by fear and degradation. He was very much the epitome of an abusive parent – which is why he earned the tittle “daddy” (I wish I could type that in the font that looks like it’s dripping blood.)

        1. smilingswan*

          Someone really needs to get to work creating this font, if it doesn’t already exist!

      3. Monodon monoceros*

        I once worked with my female boss, and a higher level male- the two of them were frequently arguing. My coworkers and I used to joke around that “mommy and daddy are fighting again”

        1. Prickly Pear*

          I got caught once in a yelling match between my direct boss and the general manager. It was scary when it was happening, but I joked to my coworkers later that I had new insight into being a divorced kid. The comparison got worse when the GM made me talk to him in his office apologizing that I had to see that. Weird all the way around.

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            Awkward. I used to have my boss and the other guy come to me to “lobby” me to be on their side. Similar to divorced parents trying to get the kids on their side. Workplace dynamics are weird enough- I don’t need it to start resembling my childhood…

          2. MaggietheCat*

            Please tell me he said that it wasn’t your fault and they both loved you very much!

  11. Susan*

    About #5

    I can totally understand because my former roommate and I were interns at a company that encouraged nicer dress than either of us could afford. We had different bosses, and hers actually told her she needed to step up her game. I think she ended up buying some neutral-colored things that, while not flashy, looked professional. I think black and white can be an advantage is what I’m saying. I think it’s a situation, especially if you’re in back of house, where you can where the same two outfits every day of the week (as long as you’re coming to work with clean/kept clothing). I’d think of it in a a way as a uniform. A lot of fast food restaurants give their employees two shirts, and you just make sure they’re clean for each shift. So maybe don’t approach it as needing a whole new wardrobe in that color scheme, but just a couple of staples that you can use for work, black slacks and a white button-down or whatever.

  12. Jack*

    “…especially in today’s world in which people sometimes just “snap.””

    I’m not sure I follow the implication here, that people perhaps we’re less likely to “snap” in times gone by?

    1. Sarahnova*

      If anything, stats show that people are less likely to “snap” these days, although sadly if someone angry has access to high-calibre weaponry the rare “snapping” can have a terrible impact.

      It does sound that the OP is basing her fear the co-worker will “snap” on rather flimsy evidence, but it’s possible there’s more she hasn’t mentioned, or her instincts are just tingling. OP#1, if you haven’t already bought and read deBecker’s “The Gift of Fear”, I recommend you do so – it outlines some of the warning signs for violence and also encourages trusting of instincts.

          1. fposte*

            I believe Sarahnova is referring to the OP, who doesn’t seem to have family involved.

            And there’s only so much that fact of having family at war can be allowed to earn, since in a global workplace you sometimes even have to work with people who are related to those at war with your relatives and who may feel the exact same way about your group of people. And even if you currently don’t, at least in my workplace, in-office racial/national fulminations couldn’t be permitted with the excuse that we currently have nobody from Eastasia in that office.

            If the OP’s co-worker is making these comments in the office, they need to stop.

            1. Mike C.*

              I’ve previously said that the situation doesn’t excuse the comments. All I’m trying to point out is that if the OP’s coworker has family in a war zone, then that stress might just be clouding their judgement. As it would cloud the judgement of many of us.

              1. Ellie H*

                I think it’s obvious that stress is clouding the coworker’s judgment – that’s what the problem is. It doesn’t really have anything to do with his behavior in the office. People I work with have family there and somehow manage to act professionally anyway.

              2. Heather*

                I don’t think having family in a war zone excuses anyone from labeling others as “sub-human” and spewing hate about an entire religion. Using the example of Israel/Palestine – talking about the Likud party or Hamas being evil would be understandable, while labeling all Israelis/Jews or Palestinians/Muslims as subhuman would not. The latter is the kind of attitude that got the region into this situation in the first place.

                I don’t know whether counseling would be able to enlighten this guy, but at the very least he should be warned that his comments are inappropriate for the workplace. Having family in a war zone doesn’t get you a pass on bigotry.

                1. Traveler*

                  ” the Likud party or Hamas being evil would be understandable”

                  Even this can get dangerous though. There are people recruited and brainwashed into those groups at a very young age, and people that are given no other choice but to join. I think the best way of treating this would be to talk about their actions rather than the people themselves if you have to talk in generalities.

                2. CoffeeLover*

                  I’m a refugee. I got out while I was young but my parents grew up in a time of hate. I think its pretty damn hard (if not impossible) to face decades of hate from a group because of your ethnicity and not feel hate for that group. Especially when people you know and love are killed. I don’t have bigoted views about the persecuting group, but I understand why my parents do. Taking the high ground is easy when you haven’t seen the worst of humanity.

                3. CA Anon*

                  @CoffeeLover You’re right about it being difficult, but that doesn’t except people from the law. If they can’t keep it to themselves at work, then they’re still subject to hostile workplace or discrimination laws because they’re targeting another group based on ethnicity, religion, or national origin.

                  Those kind of terrible experiences don’t legally excuse discriminatory behavior. The OP and their coworkers have the right to freedom from that kind of speech in the workplace.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I totally agree with this point, I think we are not much different than we have ever been, EXCEPT for the fact that we now read about it in the media for weeks on end.

      In slower times, people did stupid things but it took quite a while for word to travel. Now we can watch the chase scene unfold as it happens and so on.

      I think that all this does is make people more nervous. But censorship is not the answer, either. It is too bad the media can’t spend more time giving people tips on how to stay safe and how to recognize a true danger.

  13. EngineerGirl*

    “Daddy” could also be ageist. Think about it. Most men become fathers after the age of 20. The co-worker is over the age of 20. So 20+20 = 40 which is EEOC protected age. I’m thinking Google loosing the lawsuit over “old man”. While “daddy” isn’t nearly as bad, it does have a mature stigma about it. Better that your co-worker has hurt feelings than enduring the embarrassment of an EEOC charge.

    1. Jen RO*

      Would such a charge really stick? Over “daddy”? I know nothing on US law, but it seems extremely far fetched.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        No, it wouldn’t stick. But it would be enough for an investigation. And then the co-worker would really be upset. Coworker might have hurt feelings about the conversation but it is batter that than the shame of being investigated.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          Beyond just the investigation, people tend to underestimate the cost of the court of public opinion. Let’s pretend this was everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Walmart. The second they go under investigation, someone like HuffPo will write a scathing editorial that will go viral. There is an actual cost associated with PR nightmares like this. Smart companies know what their brand is worth and how their brand will suffer when accusations of discrimination are made public. This is why these lawsuits get settled before it can even trigger an investigation.

          And before anyone thinks I’m defending Walmart in anyway, I’m not. But they are a perfect example of how perception is way more damaging than any lawsuit.

      2. Juli G.*

        I think it would only work if you had other evidence. There are 11 year olds that are fathers sadly. You would have more luck with pursuing sexual harassment for Daddy (also a stretch).

    2. Raine*

      Honestly, what seems more likely to me is someone complaining (informally) of a sexualized office atmosphere and possible things stemming from that.

    3. Isabelle*

      It’s just a cultural and linguistic misunderstanding. The Vietnamese lady is probably trying to call this older man ‘uncle’ and got mixed up between uncle and daddy. It’s commonplace in a number of countries to refer to people older than you and/or older than middle age as ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’.
      Someone just needs to take the time to explain to her than it doesn’t work that way in the US/wherever the OP is located.

  14. anon*

    @ #1: I think it’s important to distinguish between truly hateful comments, and comments one disagrees with. It’s sometimes hard to do with tensions running high. I know that for me, having a connection to one of these “foreign countries in crisis,” I have to constantly check myself when I feel offended or hurt by something I disagree with. Someone can disagree with me, can even express anger about the situation, without it crossing a line. I don’t know what country you are talking about, and what country you live in, and I respect that you want to remain anonymous (as do I). I think you also need to consider both those contexts–is the conflict in question a “controversial issue,” do you live in a country where your co-worker’s opinions are marginalized and demonized? Or, conversely, do people who share your opinions generally end up being attacked in society/the media?

    Just some thoughts..

    1. Helka*

      Calling the people in a particular religious or cultural group ‘inhuman’ and ‘evil’ as per the OP’s summary is pretty easy to recognize as hateful as opposed to simply disagreeable.

      1. Robin*

        OP here– exactly. Especially when all the sympathy is geared toward one side. In reality many different people are getting hurt.

      2. Chinook*

        “Calling the people in a particular religious or cultural group ‘inhuman’ and ‘evil’ as per the OP’s summary is pretty easy to recognize as hateful as opposed to simply disagreeable.”

        This so very much, especially when those people and/or their family have chosen to live elsewhere. Just because you belong to a certain group doesn’t mean you agree with the actions of a subset of that group elsewhere. And, if no longer live there, maybe it is because you want to distance yourself from them.

        Look, there is a case in BC where a black South African is being charged with discrimination because he refused to use a white South African real estate afent (both in Canada) because he believed all white South Africans are racist. The white SA’s reason for the charge of discrimination is that he left SA because he couldn’t stand the racist culture and he shouldn’t be judged based on where he happenned to be born but on his actions.

  15. Elkay*

    #2 I think what you’re doing is probably fine, what’s trickier is finding their expectations without it coming across like you’re trying to avoid work.

  16. Sarahnova*

    OP#2, if anything, your approach is more likely to mean you’re performing at your peak while you’re in the office – tiredness and dehydration are the two things which sap people’s mental acuity most. (I’m what you in the States would call an I/O psychologist, and my company works on resilience and performance, among other things.) That said, some companies will value willingness to work long hours, even needlessly, over anything else, so those companies are probably not a fit for you. I’d definitely endorse Alison’s advice for that reason.

    Personally I value work/life balance enough that I would explicitly say so in an interview, and am grateful to currently be in a role where work can’t exactly be kept 9-5, but flexibility is a given and senior leaders genuinely work to set an example around rest, recuperation and balance.

    1. OP*

      Thanks Sarahnova. If I make it further in the interview process, or if I am offered the job, I think I will explicitly say so.

  17. Curious*

    In regards to # 3– Alison is there like a compiled list of these laws by state?

    Something similar happened to me, my contract stated that I was to receive a payout of my unused vacation days, but when I resigned, HR claimed I didn’t meet the company’s length of time in tenure. Even according to the document I received from the woman handling, this rule came into effect a week after I had already resigned.

    My actual contract stipulated no tenure requirement whatsoever to receive this payout, and even if it had, I only fell short by 4 days (which included a weekend) of the six months counted by calendar day.

    Although it is probably too late to do anything about it now, I am interested in knowing where you got your information, since I had no idea where to look at the time.

    Should I be so lucky it was all in one place the whole time?

    1. BRR*

      I would google “your state” vacation payout law. There might not be a central database but this should give you what you need.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I had good luck finding info for my state by internet searching for [state name] company pay vacation.

      I’m in a state that supposedly requires all companies to pay out accrued vacation time and PTO as earned compensation. But there’s no enforcement and you’ll need to hire a lawyer if the company refuses to pay. And if you do that, you’re totally burning the bridge….

    3. OP*

      OP here. Sorry I had no idea my question had been posted. I double checked and there’s nothing written anywhere saying they don’t payout for unused vacation days. I approached HR again as Alison suggested and they are holding firm. The HR woman said she’s not willing to go against the owner of the company on this policy, legal or not. Honestly she’s HR Director because she’s been there the longest, starting as a secretary and for no other reason. I guess my next step is to approach the owner which is ridiculous to me. So glad I’m leaving this place. This situation is very indicative of how they handle most things– mainly a by bullying.

  18. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    I love the HR person’s reasoning in #3: “she said the law doesn’t apply to them because that’s not their company policy.” Nice loophole they found! “Yeah, we don’t have fire exits to the building, because it’s not our company policy.” “Oh, we only pay $4/hour. Minimum wage isn’t our company policy.” “We don’t have a budget for office supplies, so we need you to run out to Staples and shoplift more highlighters. That’s just our company policy.”

    1. tt*

      I had the same thought, until I reread the post, which indicates that the days had to be paid out @unless@ the company had a written policy that had been provided on hiring.

      1. Jamie*

        The flip side of this is even if your state doesn’t require it, check the company handbook because many do.

        I’ve never worked at a company where it wasn’t spelled out in the handbook how they pay out vacay, pto, whatever at separation and all have policies to pay out even though our state doesn’t require it.

        Laws are just the minimum required but no company sticks to the minimum in everything or they’d go out of business.

      2. Vicki*

        And… the OP states that said “company policy” is not written anywhere she can find AND was definitely not presented in writing at hiring time. I think Elizabeth the Ginger has the right response. Laugh (and tell them it’s not a loophole).

        I’ll stay in CA where the law simply says “Remaining vacation time is paid out when you leave”.

    2. LBK*

      I’m wondering if she didn’t realize this is something specified by the law – given that almost nothing is illegal when it comes to employment (as I’m sure anyone who reads this blog knows), it’s not unreasonable for someone to be unaware that this actually is one of the few things specified by law.

      Ideally an HR rep would be the expert on this subject, but I get the impression this one isn’t too committed to being good at her job.

    3. Episkey*

      A friend of mine had this happen to her when she had a baby.

      Her HR dept told her that it wasn’t company policy to follow FMLA, ie allow her to have 12 weeks off. I was furious on her behalf.

      I encouraged her to push back on them; it’s a federal law, they don’t have the option of not following it. (I verified with her that her company did indeed have more than 50 employees.)

      Unfortunately, she was too scared she would lose her job and she went back after 8 weeks, I think. They still took her position away and put her in a different role when she returned.

      1. Judy*

        FMLA doesn’t say they can’t put them in a different position. It just has to be equivalent.

        1. Episkey*

          Oh, I know that, I just think it was a shitty thing to do. They kept her pay rate the same, but new role is not something she wanted to do and I believe it is more junior than the one she had when she went out on leave.

    4. VintageLydia USA*

      I’m laughing at your last example because I have a friend who is a pretty frequent commenter here, actually, and her boss really does tell her to steal “free” pens from banks and stuff because she won’t buy basic office supplies.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s because MD says that company policy CAN be different, but they have to have a written policy saying it’s different. And that policy has to have been communicated at the time of hire. The HR person is saying they met that standard, but the OP is saying it doesn’t seem to be the case.

  19. Proud Socialist*

    #4. I don’t see how this is any of the OP’s business. If the guy doesn’t like being called Daddy, then he can tell her to stop. Maybe they are work pals and this is a nickname.
    Does she call other older men Daddy, or is it just him? If it’s just him, then it sounds like this is a nickname that the guy doesn’t have a problem with.

    1. Chloe*

      He could well have a problem with it, but not have the ability to speak up and say something. Particularly if he is reticent, excessively shy, or just not used to dealing with things he sees as confrontational.

      I wouldn’t assume just because he hasn’t asked her to stop, that he likes it.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      It could be that OP has fallen into the roll of an informal mentor. If that is the case, I would try once or twice then let it go. OP did her best and now it is up to the boss or “daddy” to speak up.

    3. Gia*

      I don’t see how this is any of the OP’s business.

      This comment is in no way to bash your views on this situation. To call an older man Daddy at your job is so ridiculously inappropriate that I had to chime in.
      I’m not sure if you know this but when a younger woman calls an older man ‘Daddy’, it has the stink of sexual coercion or oppression all over it.
      Honestly, the only time I’ve ever heard this term is in documentaries about women in being forced into prostitution or the porn industry. ‘Daddy’ is the term that prostitutes have to call their pimp, it is not a term of endearment between two consenting adults.
      It implies a power dynamic in which the woman is a little girl and the man has the ability to discipline her and make choices for her because she doesn’t know any better. So calling someone ‘Daddy’ in the work place should be every one’s business.

      1. Nichole*

        Whoa-in Korean culture, ‘opa’ is a common term of affection for a woman toward an older man. A friend familiar with such things told me it’s roughly equivalent to ‘daddy’ in the Party Down South type usage – a more gendered ‘dude’ or ‘bro’. Korea and Vietnam could easily have similar linguistic conventions. While I’m all for deterring oppressive language patterns, I think a ssimple ‘you may not realize this, but calling Guy ‘daddy’ at work comes across as unprofessional’ is sufficient. This woman may not have the context to know this isn’t a term of endearment to some people because that view is not universal. Appearances matter, so it’s worth saying something to be helpful, but it’s not necessarily logical to assume that’s such a big faux pas to her. I knew my knowledge of Gangnam Style lyrics and bad television would be useful sociological information someday.

        1. Jamie*

          I think that’s the very reason it’s kind to explain to her what it means in this culture and why it’s inappropriate.

          It’s not at all saying she was doing it on purpose – but explaining to her how it’s interpreted here would be a huge favor.

          If I were in another culture and inadvertently using a word that was being interpreted as sexual, or even coquettish, in that culture I’d totally appreciate a heads up about how it was read there as opposed to a generic “unprofessional” because then maybe I’d use it out side of work thinking it was one of those formality things I don’t understand.

          1. Mints*

            Agreed. I think the OP should explicitly tell her it can sound sexual, so she doesn’t get the impression calling a cashier daddy would be okay (or whoever in a casual situation). Because there’s still a difference between work formal, causal, and intimate, and daddy is intimate

        2. Gia*

          I should have qualified my statements with, ‘Historically, in the US…’ instead of a blanket ‘everyone in the world should know this’. However, I think the OP tried to explain it to her co-worker but wasn’t effectively able to do so.
          My comment was in response to Proud Socialist saying that this is not anyone’s business because someone should really pull her aside and explain why this is inappropriate to do in the U.S.

        3. Gia*

          Also, I may be mistaken because it’s been a long long time but I thought in Korea, the term ‘ogishe’ or ‘odishe’ (can’t remember the exact spelling) was the term used to an older male. That roughly translate to ‘uncle’ and not daddy.
          For some reason, I thought ‘opa’ was kind of a sugar daddy. It does roughly translate to some kind of big brother but one who gifts you things-which in the U.S. is a sugar daddy. :-)

        4. anon wife of Korean*

          Woah, my husband would be rightfully pissed if I were going around calling male coworkers oppa. Much like “daddy”, the connotation is at best not professional and at worst highly suggestive. So even if Vietnamese has an equivalent word, it’s definitely also inappropriate at work.

      2. EE*

        Actually, ‘Daddy’ can be, and frequently is, a term of endearmen between two consenting adults. I find it icky myself but it doesn’t negate consent.

        The problem, in my view, is that it’s overtly sexual. I would feel uncomfortable if coworkers called each other ‘babe’ or ‘gorgeous’ too, even though they’re totally mainstream terms.

      3. Cassie*

        For whatever reason, I have a similar “ick” feeling when I hear grown-ups using the term Daddy. If it’s a parent talking to his/her young son or daughter, fine. When it’s my boss asking me if my Daddy drinks wine, it makes me shudder a little (he was trying to re-gift some wine a visitor gave him).

        Is it typical for grown-ups to call their mom Mommy? I think the term Daddy should phase out around the time Mommy phases out…

    4. Jamie*

      Even if he was okay with her calling him that it’s still inappropriate and needs to stop in the workplace.

      You can’t show up and a budget meeting and call me Sexy Kitten even if I loved it. Because it’s creepy and gross and no one else should ever be subjected to hearing that.

      Daddy to someone who is not your father has a really creepy sexual stink to it for many Americans and it’s just going to squick everyone out. I have never understood how this got started because in my world thinking about parents in the antidote to all sexual feelings – but that doesn’t mean it’s not a thing.

  20. Katie the Fed*

    OP 1 – you might want to check your OWN biases, because that is one enormous leap between “having strong opinions about current crisis” vs “will snap show up at work with a gun.” If you presented it to your manager that way, I can see why she didn’t take you seriously.

    So I’m 99.99 sure this is the current Gaza situation (since most people don’t seem to be terribly up in arms about Shia/Sunni in Iraq or what have you) but I also recognize Alison probably REALLY doesn’t want us to go down that particular rabbit hole.

    I get it – I’m really sick of reading vitriol on both sides about it too. And I do think your manager/HR should say something to him that he needs to keep it out of work, and address the religious comments.

    But you can ALSO say something, like “you know, I understand people have very strong opinions about this, but I just don’t think it’s appropriate for the workplace.” Most people will stop bringing up a topic when they realize nobody wants to engage with them.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      As a folllow-up, I just noticed the word “radical” in regards to this man’s views, which are shared by quite a lot of people if we’re talking the crisis I think it is.

      I urge you to make sure that your own take on this situation isn’t colored by your own biases. Because from your post I’m pretty sure the coworker in question is Muslim. Using words like “radical” and being concerned he’s going to snap because he’s expressing strong opinions about a current crisis that a lot of people have very strong opinions on – it seems to me that you might be bringing your own biases to the table in your assessment of this.

      1. TheOriginalVagabond*

        Looks like you brought your own biases into your assessment of OP #1’s biases too… lol. Radical must mean Muslim? Just sayin… Let’s keep it as the OP and Alison intended – “anonymous”…

        1. Katie the Fed*

          No, it’s based on the entire post, actually – if you had read my first post that was clear.

          That word jumped out at me because it can be used as a “code word” to talk about a group of people. “Extremist” might be another one. My point is that if the OP is going to the boss to complain about a “radical” coworker who she is worried will turn violent based on no actual threats – I think the OP might need to examine her own biases in this situation.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I actually wasn’t sure whether she thought the biased co-worker would snap, or whether one of the people he was insulting would snap after hearing the insults.

          2. fposte*

            I don’t know, Katie–around here that description wouldn’t have to indicate either particular side. “Radical” has been more popularly associated with Islam in the press, but it’s by no means limited to that, and I’ve certainly heard it for Zionism as well.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              This is true, and the person in question could definitely be of any religious background. I just try to point out code words when I see them – words matter a LOT and say a lot about the person using them. That’s not a word I would use lightly.

            2. Cat*

              Yeah, it’s interesting – my first thought was that his relatives were Israeli rather than Palestinian. Though I see Katie’s points now that they’ve been pointed out. Trending the other way, most of the Muslims I know in the U.S. are so used to facing prejudice and discrimination that they are very, very, very restrained about what they say in the workplace.

        2. Bea W*

          I’m seeing “radical” on both sides of this one, and from people who I otherwise know to be educated and reasonable. So personally I am not sure which side this co-worker falls on and I don’t feel comfortable speculating.

          I do get why Katie would interpret it the way she did because “radical” in our media and public discourse is term applied more often to Muslims and not typically used to describe Jews. It might not be her personal bias, but a reflection of the common language used around conflict in the Middle East.

      2. Elkay*

        Funny, because from the letter I thought the co-worker was Israeli. Regardless of race/religion the co-worker needs a quiet word if his opinions are spilling into work. The only caveat I have is if he’s sharing these opinions during a discussion about the situation in which all parties are willing participants. For example, I don’t think HR should get involved if the co-workers he’s making these comments to are making the effort to discuss this with him and asking his opinion.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s the conflict in question, and I think the co-worker could be from either side. And I think the line in the sand is the same no matter which side he’s on–it’s one thing to express worry about his family members over there, but you can’t have somebody ranting about “all Jews” or “all Muslims” (or “all Christians” or “all Buddhists” or anything else like that) at work.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          You could absolutely be right, and I probably jumped the gun in that comment.

          I definitely agree that this isn’t ok in the workplace and he needs to be talked to about that.

          But I just really can’t get over the leap from “strong opinions” to workplace violence. That’s a big accusation to lob at someone and I think you need to make sure your ducks are really in a row (which is why I’m harping on language and code words) before you raise something like that.

          1. Heather*

            Definitely with you on the last paragraph. There might be some other warning signs that the OP didn’t include in the letter, but based on the description we have, I don’t think assuming that this guy is likely to turn violent at work and framing it that way could backfire.

          1. Kiwi*

            I think most of us will read into the origins of the co-worker based on our own feelings around the-war-of-which-we-will-not-speak.

            Probably along the lines of the co-worker representing the side we consider to be “behaving inappropriately” (I’m trying to keep my comments neutral and non-specific).

            1. Episkey*

              In my case, I think it’s because I have a Jewish friend who is now often posting things that could be termed “radical” about this subject and they are constantly showing up in my FB feed. That’s probably why I read it that way. But I certainly agree it could be the other way too. Such a difficult situation.

    2. Melissa*

      But the OP didn’t say “strong opinions,” they said “His social media is littered with hateful thoughts concerning what he feels is their enemy — and how evil the enemy is, how non-human, etc.” Having strong political opinions that many disagree with is completely different from calling people inhuman and ranting hateful thoughts.

      1. Liz T*

        I really wish we hadn’t gotten into the presumed nature of the conflict. The OP took pains not to do that.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I don’t know – that level of rhetoric and hyperbole isn’t that uncommon (depending on what issue we’re talking about). It’s why I take great pains to avoid discussions about it at all costs.

    3. Fabulously Anonymous*

      that is one enormous leap between “having strong opinions about current crisis” vs “will snap show up at work with a gun.”

      I agree. I had a FB friend that wrote truly hateful things about what is happening in Ukraine, and when someone pointed out that her husband was originally from one of the regions, it erupted into a horrible FB fight and the end of a 20 year friendship. What makes it truly scary is that this woman works, in person, with international clients. But she never took it out on her clients. Instead, she took it out on someone she knew, and even then, it was only a war of words.

    4. Mints*

      I agree with Katie. When you feel personally involved in a war/conflict, you can feel a lot more strongly than neutral outsiders. And while I believe the OP that he’s saying hateful things, that’s a far far cry from mentally ill enough to snap at work. Workplace violence (or school shootings) are just very different from religious or territorial conflicts.

      And I agree that if she expressed concerns like “I’m concerned about workplace safety because he’s pro-Hamas/Zionist/whatever” it wouldn’t seem convincing, but concerns about a legal hostile work environment are completely valid

  21. Stayc*

    #3 I believe MD only requires payout if they’re earned vacation days. So if you earn vacation x hours per pay period, they have to pay that (assuming no policy to the contrary before hire). But if you get 2 weeks of vacation a year that doesn’t accrue over time, they don’t have to pay that out.

  22. Ali*

    #2 is interesting to me because I’m looking to leave my job partly because I don’t have enough work/life balance. However, I work in a field and position where we can’t exactly work 9-5…we’re shifts so people have to be on at virtually all hours save a few overnight when we “close.” (We’re media, so we technically don’t close, hence the quotes.) While seeking balance is OK, I think it’s a little too extreme to never work late or never volunteer for anything. I have coworkers that do this (always get the plum shifts, consistently refuse late switches and coverage time) and it gets old to those of us who are stepping up when needed. It’s OK to rule out a job that’s not for you hours-wise; I do this when I look at ads in my search because I am now ready for something that has saner hours. However, just don’t become that coworker who gets known for never chipping in, always being out the door the second their shift ends and so forth and you’ll be fine.

  23. MPL*

    #5, if talking to your boss doesn’t work, can you go to a resale shop? Sometimes good, cheap, mildly used clothes can be found at Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc.

  24. Sarahnova*

    A random comment, but Alison, I assume you’ve been setting posts to auto-publish overnight recently? As one of your readers located in GMT, I do enjoy the opportunity to get in on the commenting game before the US wakes up and comments explode :)

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      When I wake up (7.30 am) there is almost always (excepting “lighter days” e.g over the Christmas period) a short answer post to wake up to. It has been like this for a while :)

      1. TK*

        The short answer posts go up at midnight US East Coast time (so 5 or 6 am in the UK). This has been the case for quite a while, I think.

        I live in the US central time zone, so an hour ahead of the East Coast, and I usually go to bed between 11 and 12 at night… I’ll confess to occasionally reading the new short answer post before I go to bed!

        1. The IT Manager*

          I live in ET and if I am still up at midnight, I will usually read the new AAM post before going to bed.

          * My goal is actually to be asleep by then, but it doesn;t always happen.

        2. Windchime*

          I live in the Pacific Time Zone so when I think to look, I see them around 9 PM the day before everyone else. I’ll often read the questions and Alison’s responses before bed, and save the comments for when I’m drinking my tea (like now!) in the morning before work.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s actually been that way for a while! They typically auto-publish at midnight, 11 a.m., and then either 1 or 2 p.m. EST.

      Today the last post published a bit early because the site will go down at 4 p.m. EST for an hour or two for maintenance. (And when it’s back up, you’ll have expandable/collapsible comments!)

  25. Lily in NYC*

    Wow, the last time someone called me “mommy” at work, I was in HS babysitting for a confused 2-year old.

  26. TotesMaGoats*

    I think the thing that’s bothering me most about #1 is that the coworker “snapping” is a classic example of worst-first thinking. Before I get flamed, should businesses have plans in place in the event that something like that could occur? Yes. Should bosses/HR take seriously any threats? Yes. But someone being upset and even saying angry/hateful/vitriolic things doesn’t automatically jump to workplace violence. That’s a stretch. Someone needs to talk to this guy about appropriate conversations in the workplace. And he should probably be reminded to lock up his facebook page. But assuming because of what he’s saying about a conflict outside the US means he’s more likely to be violent in the workplace just doesn’t jive.

    1. Poohbear McGriddles*

      It’s a lot easier to hate people when you characterize them as less than human. It sounds like this guy is really passionate about this conflict, but it does seem quite a stretch to assume that he is going to get violent at work because of it.
      So far he hasn’t made any threats, but he has created a hostile work environment. Unfortunately, OP#1’s boss doesn’t seem interested in doing much about that.
      I used to work with a guy who was pretty loud about his political opinions, and also had a fondness for guns. I reminded my coworkers that after any mass shooting, people always said he (the shooter) never seemed like the type to do it. So I reasoned that since this guy did seem the type, he never would.
      And he never did.

      1. Tinker*

        As a side note, this sort of thing is one reason why I generally try to avoid violent metaphors and such-like things. I shoot and have a number of other martial hobbies (and half my LARP equipment looks like militia gear), and my taste in clothing can run to the “tactical-inspired”, partly for practical reasons (bike commute -> tech clothes; do not want to look like a neon banana -> tactical division thereof). Sometimes folks read into that sort of thing, to a degree that sometimes surprises me, and I’d rather not have any statements coming out of my mouth that might be misheard or taken out of context.

        (Also, I graduated high school in 1999 and was at that time a (genial) social outsider. So there’s that.)

        Because of this, it kind of amazes me sometimes the sort of things that other people are willing to say off the cuff when they’re frustrated or annoyed — it seems like it comes from an assumption that everyone understands “of course they won’t”. Which may even be true, but then again sometimes it isn’t.

        I think it’s a good idea for that (and other more esoteric reasons also) for folks to attend perhaps a bit more to what they say regarding things that they feel heated about.

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          My husband is the same. He has guns and conceal carries on a regular basis, but he takes very extreme measures to be sure he doesn’t look like (generally called “undercover carry” I believe.) He has a neutral looking gun/tactical belt which just looks like a regular nylon belt and he bought it mostly for the stainless steel buckle, which is what he tells people when he’s asked (the nickle in regular belts give him a rash.) Otherwise he’s really really careful to just wear regular street clothes. It’s the same sort of outfits whether he’s carrying or not, and often I can’t even tell. He’s a big guy and can be intimidating based on that alone, so he makes sure he comes off as open and friendly. It also helps that he’s pretty socially liberal as well. He doesn’t want to be a target, either for criminals or for accusations. He’s not violent and doesn’t use violent language. Common sense stuff, you know?
          Meanwhile we have other friends who “play the part” so to speak, with camo and paracord accessories. I just don’t think they understand the vibes they’re giving off can be threatening to some people. Some of the friendliest people I know but they look scary, sometimes.

  27. Not the mama*

    I socialize with a woman who refers to all women as “mama.” I’m fairly certain it a cultural thing. Many of us call her “mama” back and she’ll refer to herself as “little mama” in emails.

    I think it may be meant to be a term of respect especially in the case of older people, but it is inappropriate for the office and “daddy” has an extra creepy (porny) connotation. My friend “Lil Mama” refers ot her husband as “Daddy,” but not other men so she even gets it – sort of.

    Uggg! I see you tried to tell her already, and she didn’t respond well. Congrats; you took the obvious first step on your own. Not too much else you can do. Maybe suggest to her boss that boss tell her to stop or the guy that she does it to.

    1. monologue*

      Yeah in some cultures it’s normal and respectful to refer to all people of a certain age difference from you as mother or father (basically people the same age as your parents) instead of using their names.

      Regardless of that though, someone should explain to her that in English we don’t do that and it sounds strange to us for the following reasons, so please just refer to that person by his name. I’m sure she’ll understand and make the change if someone explains to her why it sounds so strange to her coworkers. It’s really not any different than explaining to someone that we don’t use a certain expression they learned in school cause it’s really outdated or that they’re using the work moreover a bit weirdly or something.

      1. Mary*

        I’m from Vietnam. We do not call people “daddy” so I don’t think this is a cultural misunderstanding. She’s just weird.

        There are a ton of different forms of address to indicate degrees of familiarity, but cultural norms dictate that a woman addressing an unfamiliar (as in, not in her family, not her husband, not a close friend) in a business setting would use the most formal and distant form of address available. The correct form of address in Vietnamese for this man would be “ong”, which simply means “Mister” plus whatever his last name is. She just sounds like a weirdo.

    2. Sarahnova*

      Yeah, it’s not uncommon in certain cultures to customarily refer to older adults with familial titles as a mark of respect – “uncle”, “aunt”, “father”. I believe this is true in Cambodia, so very possibly also in Vietnam. That said, “daddy” is a bit different and has inescapable sexual overtones, and I would definitely advise someone as such if possible.

      OP, maybe you can try one more time to tell her this is not a good thing to say in this culture – if she doesn’t listen, then either someone else will need to tell her – her boss, or the guy in question – or else she simply won’t be told. Since it doesn’t affect you directly, I think that’s the limit of your involvement here.

  28. Poohbear McGriddles*

    Re: #4, my first thought was that she was looking for a term like “wise older man”, and Google Translate spat out “Daddy”. Or he may remind her of her father.
    Either way, it’s probably best that she drop that and stick to “Perceval” – regardless of what his driver’s license says :-)

    1. AnotherAlison*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. . .

      Kind of like translating something to, “Hey lady,” instead of, “Excuse me ma’am.”

    2. Mints*

      I thought that too. She wanted to call him a word in Vietnamese that didn’t translate exactly, and a website suggested “Daddy,” without realizing the (very very weird) connotations.
      I think the coworker should specify it sounds sexual and maybe mention the prostitution usage mentioned above.

  29. Candy Floss*

    His social media is littered with hateful thoughts concerning what he feels is their enemy — and how evil the enemy is, how non-human, etc. Often the comments are aimed at people of a specific religion, and he makes similar comments to coworkers.

    What he says on social media isn’t your business. If you overhear him making offensive or unhinged remarks at work, or he makes them to you directly, that’s another story.

    Your feelings about what he posts on social media should not be part of a conversation related to his behavior at work.

      1. Candy Floss*

        And I quoted that part in my post and said that making those remarks at work was “another story” (meaning that it was something OP should address) but that the social media activity was not OP’s concern.

        1. fposte*

          I see what you’re saying, in that I do think the OP should just stop looking at his Facebook page. But if it’s being posted publicly, his workplace has legitimate reasons to tell him to lock it down.

  30. Bea W*

    she said the law doesn’t apply to them because that’s not their company policy

    I think I would have looked right at her and said with the utmost seriousness, “I don’t understand. Are you saying it’s not company policy to follow the law?”

    How do I get in on this deal? I could save a lot of money if i could just make it not my policy to pay taxes.

    1. TK*

      To be fair, I think (as in most cases) the HR person is just confused about what the law actually is here. Because according to AAM’s reply, it actually is the case that companies can “opt out” of this law if they want… but they have to do so by having a specific written policy that is communicated to employees at hiring, which was not the case here.

  31. Jules*

    I don’t get it. They are passionate about something related to non-work related issue and they ‘snap’ and what exectly? You need to take a step back here. Gun violence at workplace is typically work/persons at work related issues. This is something that happens elsewhere. Saying he might ‘snap’ is a giant stretch.

    1. esra*

      There’s a difference between being passionate about something and hateful about something.

        1. Windchime*

          There is, for sure. But I’m actually a little surprised at all the posters here who are minimizing the OP’s concern about this guy who is spouting hateful, dehumanizing rhetoric at work (as well as on his Facebook). This sounds to me exactly like the kind of person who could snap and come to work with a gun one day.

          I’d be more than a little afraid of someone like this. When a person such as this views an entire group of people as “subhuman”, then it follows that they would not be opposed to committing violence against them. After all, they’re not really people (in his mind). I would definitely be telling my boss that I was afraid of this guy, were he in my office.

          1. fposte*

            I’m with Katie the Fed, though; that level of rhetoric and hyperbole is pretty common, where the kind of violence you’re talking about is, statistically, pretty rare.

          2. Tea*

            I have to say that I completely agree. If I had a coworker that was, for example, known for making denigrating and hateful statements about women (black people, gay people) on his fb, and then also making the same or similar comments about how subhuman and awful and evil women (black people, gay people) were in the workplace (!!!), I’d be frightened and extremely concerned about my own safety as well, especially knowing the history of violence in society done toward all these minority groups.

            OP doesn’t say if there are any members of [coworker’s hated group] in her workplace, but just because you aren’t the “type” of person targeted by bigots doesn’t mean you can’t be scared as hell by their bigotry.

            1. fposte*

              Hmm. I was thinking of this more as equivalent to somebody whose husband, wife, or child had been killed in wartime and would fulminate about the nationality responsible. I don’t think that belongs in the workplace, but I don’t feel afraid of it as a probable source of violence either.

              1. Tea*

                Honestly, that would make me all the more concerned. Not to say that people whose families are victims in times of war shouldn’t be able to express their pain, grief, and anger, but grief-fueled prejudice and hatred is frightening and a potential threat nonetheless (maybe even more of a potential threat than prejudice fueled only by bigotry.)

              2. Laura*

                What Tea said. If the person was muttering about how horrible the situation was, or the people who did it, or anything – but to say *all* X are subhuman?

                That is a person who has crossed a fairly fundamental line – for understandable reasons, but still crossed it.

                And someone who was saying that about an X category to which I belonged, and appeared to earnestly mean it, would scare me half to death for myself. I would begin avoiding them – except that in an office *you can’t*. You can’t escape them without escaping the job.

                If I wasn’t in the X category, it would still worry me a great deal, especially if I knew anyone else in the vicinity/office was, or was related to/married to someone who was, but also because mistakes and misunderstandings happen. (And “X are evil/subhuman” can easily extend to “people who sympathize with X are evil/subhuman” for some folks.)

                We had a sad story near here in the last year or two where a young man was killed because the killers thought his *name* sounded like it belonged to a particular group. (He was not a member of that group. He is, however, just as dead regardless.) This wasn’t a workplace case at all, it was a random thing, but I’m just saying.

                1. fposte*

                  I’m not saying that it’s impossible for people to kill out of grief or bigotry; I am, however, saying that such actions are actually quite rare, while imprecations aren’t. I mean, if people are afraid, they’re afraid, I’m not denying that, but that’s not the same thing as an assessment of the actual likelihood of violence.

                2. Tea*

                  Whoops, looks like we’re out of nested comments. Anyhow, this is a response to fposte.

                  The sad truth is that people being assaulted or killed out of bigotry isn’t all that rare. For example, after 9/11, plenty of people of Middle Eastern descent or perceived Middle Eastern descent were assaulted, harassed, even killed, their temples set on fire, etc. in the US. (Google “Sikh”, 9/11, “us” and “hate crimes” for a tally just for one such group, a whole bunch of whom were killed because, I guess, wearing a turban equates to being like Osama bin Laden.) When people are afraid, and hurt, and bigoted, violence frequently follows.

                  Barring telepathic powers, there’s really no way to assess the risk of prejudice-fueled violence– you never know who’s all bluster and no action or who’s willing to act on their hatred until someone is actually attacked. The chances that OP#1’s coworker will continue venting his work inappropriate rage and carry on his merry way without hurting anyone are pretty good!– but knowing how often (very often) hate crimes take place, I’d consider it pretty reasonable to be wary and concerned about violence.

          3. Pleasefilloutthisfield*

            See, I have several friends who unleash vitriol on their FB pages regarding abortion and homosexuals. I know full well they are not afraid to say those things in public. However, I also know that it would never translate into violent behavior. However, I am sure those who didn’t know them would be unnerved. Fear? I’m not sure. Not appropriate for the workplace, but I wouldn’t approach it on a fear level.

            1. Tea*

              I think in some cases, personal experience and privilege (which so many people shy from) comes into play. Just like how many men are surprised by the sheer percentage of women have experienced sexual assault (because they don’t see it, don’t experience it, and aren’t trained to keep an eye out for it), how most straight people wouldn’t have experienced the fear or persecution or outright violence many gay people experience as a result of their sexuality, so they can’t identify with it, and minimize their fears.

              For many people, fear is the only appropriate response, because the worst case scenario is harassment, violence or worse.

              1. fposte*

                That’s a really big leap there. Fear is never the “only appropriate response,” and it doesn’t become the only one based on a worst-case scenario–otherwise it would be appropriate to be afraid every minute of the day, because the worst-case scenario of everything we do is fatal.

                Again, if you’re genuinely afraid you’re afraid, and that’s not something I would tell somebody they’re not allowed to be. But it’s perfectly appropriate for a woman not to be afraid, and for her to assess the likelihood of her risk based on reason rather than her fear.

                1. Tea*

                  How is it a big leap? For a lot of people, fear IS the best, and most appropriate response to bigotry and hatred, based on experience and reason. Lots of people ARE afraid every day– the woman who was assaulted in the same parking lot she has to walk through every night to get home, the transperson who braces themselves for harassment every time they stop to decide which bathroom they walk into, the black man whose shoulders shrink in a little every time a policecar drives by. Many people are lucky enough to never experience that day to day fear. Many are not. But to say that fear is not an appropriate response really ignores the experiences of those people.

                  In regards to your last paragraph, I’m not sure what you’re referring to– I never referred to any specific woman being afraid, and one can assess the likelihood of risk based on both fear and reason (and sometimes fear based on reason), it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

                2. fposte*

                  For one thing, you didn’t say “most appropriate,” you said “only appropriate.” But I also think there’s a huge difference between recognizing the asymmetry of privilege and prioritizing fear as a response to it. Fear is very, very different from an understanding of risk, which is why women who are afraid in a dark parking lot are then not afraid when they drive away, or when they light up a cigarette, despite the fact that those actions are considerably riskier.

                  Unless you include intimate partner violence in hate crimes, such crimes are indeed statistically quite rare in the US (and I’m talking even “crimes” generally–actual killing, which is what I originally stated, is considerably rarer); you’re talking about frequency of anecdotes, which isn’t a measure of something’s actual occurrence. That’s kind of what I mean about assessment of risk–the fact that we all know stories about something doesn’t mean it’s common.

                  I don’t disagree with you that people often *are* afraid, and as I said, we feel the way we feel. But there’s a discourse where fear is being treated as more meaningful and indeed virtuous than logic really can support and where it’s viewed as something that should control policy, and I have real concerns about that and anything that prioritizes feeling safe over being safe. I also dislike the way such a prioritization of fear reinscribes victimization and straitens more effective responses. Change happens not out of fear but out of determination, and persistence, and even anger; fear can be in the mix, but if that’s the “only appropriate” response, that’s solidifying a victim role that leaves us no room to be anything else. I reject that.

          4. Jules*

            His social media is littered with hateful thoughts concerning what he feels is their enemy — and how evil the enemy is, how non-human, etc. Often the comments are aimed at people of a specific religion, and he makes similar comments to coworkers.

            Not dehumanizing, how inhumane is what I am going with when reading the ‘non human’. If it really is about Gaza, what happens there right now is rather inhumane. But if you read it as making people sub-human, then I don’t get the context.

        2. esra*

          Agreed, but I think it’s dismissive to go too far in the other direction and write it off as “passionate.”

          1. Jules*

            His social media is littered with hateful thoughts concerning what he feels is their enemy — and how evil the enemy is, how non-human, etc. Often the comments are aimed at people of a specific religion, and he makes similar comments to coworkers.

            I think you are missing this. Their enemy. We are not talking about specific people at his work. Them and their. We are also talking about workplace violence. Not just random shooting. People have killed people for many reasons for thousands of years. But this letter specifically talk about work environment and snapping.

            I probably sound dismissive because after reading it, I though, you are kidding me. I just think she needs to take a step back and really look if this is a serious potential workplace violence issue or if it’s her bias talking. It feels more gossipy snap than OMG he is losing his mind snap.

            If this was a man talking about the recent ruling about same sex marriage and how much he was against it etc (with about the same content because some people think minorities are sub human) would she have felt the same?

  32. grasshopper*

    #3 I believe that someone spoke about accrued days. This is the total vacation days divided by months worked If you have 12 accrued days per year and you are leaving in month 6, you are only entitled to 6 days.

    If these are days that you can take and not be paid out, why not just adjust your official end date to add on those days. So, your last day in the office might be August 1, after which point you will be on vacation and your last official day of employment with the company is August 7. Assuming of course that you aren’t signing another employment contract on August 1 which prohibits you being employed by another company.

    1. Jamie*

      That is absolutely correct for companies on an accrual system – which is why a lot of them are.

      For companies that dump all vacay into the bucket on anniversary date or first of the year that’s what needs to be paid out – because they are accrued in a lump.

      But when you spread out the accrual of X days per pay period – even if you let people take them before they’ve accrued thus going negative – you only have to pay out what’s already been accrued.

      The yearly dump people have to pay out the whole thing (if they pay out) if someone leaves the next day.

  33. monologue*

    #5, I work in the industry and this is annoying but totally normal where I live. If it was me, I would talk with my manager and ask for a phase in period while I budget for the new clothes (maybe buy 1 new shirt and wear your old stuff the rest of the week for a month or something while you save) or ask for an advance to buy them.

    Where I live you’ll just get fired if you refuse to change to the new dress code too strongly unless you’re a really really top employee they can’t live without.

  34. ella*

    #1–I’d recommend unfriending him (and all the rest of your coworkers, unless they’re truly friends out of work) from all social media. I’m not friends with any of my current coworkers on social media, though I’ll sometimes friend a person after I leave a job. If anyone sends me a friend request, I decline it and politely explain why on the next work day. Nobody’s ever not been totally cheerful about it. The primary reason for this is so that I can bitch about work without having to worry about who’s reading it, but being subjected to political opinions that a) you don’t agree with and b) you don’t want to engage in a discussion over are also fantastic reasons.

    That aside, I want to point out that most people who “snap” don’t give advance warning of the obvious, verbal sort. It is, as the cliche goes, the quiet ones you have to worry about, who let [whatever] build up and don’t know how to let it out until it explodes in a big way. Your coworker is letting off verbal steam, which makes it less likely to mean that pressure is building, which (in my mind) makes him less likely to “snap.” That doesn’t mean that he isn’t a calculating sociopath, but unless he’s said specific things that indicate some sort of plan or desire, I would spend some serious time checking what he’s said with your own internal checklist of why you think he might do something, or if you’re reacting to the fear that the newsmedia is so good at instilling in us all.

    If you knew him really well (I work in a small office, so everyone I work with I’d be comfortable going up to, and talking with myself), I’d say have a conversation with him yourself, but it sounds like you don’t know him really well (I assume if you did, you’d have a better read on whether or not he’s likely to kill people), definitely go to HR.

  35. Tom*

    #4 This could definitely be a cultural issue. In some South American countries, the direct equivalents of “mommy” and “daddy” (“mami” and “papi”) are terms of endearment, so it is ordinary to here parents refer to their son as “daddy” or their daughter as “mommy”. Coming from the U.S., it was extremely weird the first few times I heard this.

    The best you can do is explain that you know that it wasn’t meant poorly, it’s just a language/cultural difference, but other people will misinterpret it. It might help to mention that other cultures follow the norm that she’s used to, so it’s not like there’s anything “wrong” with it in general, it’s just not how English is used in the States.

    1. AB Normal*

      Hmm… I am from South America, and have friends from other countries in the same region, and I have never heard of anyone calling coworkers “mami” and “papi”. It would be considered super creepy.

    2. RJ*

      Everyone I have ever worked with (and I have worked with a lot of foreign nationals) has understood that familiar terms like cousin, mommy, and daddy are verboten in the workplace. I have worked with Filipinos who will privately call each other terms of endearment in Tagalog, but that is only for people who are close friends outside of the workplace.

  36. Schnauz*

    #5 – Is there anyway you can wear a tshirt or casual garment while cooking/cleaning, but keep a button-down or dressier shirt to wear over it for when you have to be in front of guests? Something you can hang up and just throw on as needed? This way, it’s less likely to get dirty/stained/smelly and you only need to buy a couple of new shirts to satisfy the new dress code. For your pants, they should provide you for some kind of apron to protect those too.

    Also, another vote to be direct with your managers about the financial difficulty of buying more new clothes to see if they can work with you on it.

  37. Muriel Heslop*

    It’s so interesting to read everyone’s response to number one. I work in education and we don’t have the luxury of overlooking anything from anyone. We are consistently in a “darned-if-we-do, darned-if-we-don’t” state of decision-making on anything questionable.

  38. Angora998*

    #1 – Does the HR in your location is the support person for that location? Is there a corporate HR office? If there is so, I would recommend contacting them via e-mail, explaining what your HR has told you and you wish to confirm this. Explain that since said documentation was not presented to you upon your hiring date it’s not applicable. Be sure to copy the local HR person & your non-working e-mail address. It’s possible that the local HR was supposed to have had you sign documentation before your hire date and failed to do so. Actually this is an item that should be presented to a prospective employee before bringing them aboard. To me, it would a total turn off from accepting a job offer if I would lose vacation days if I resigned. Than follow-up with your state labor board.

    #5 For years I have had 2nd jobs as waitresses and bartenders. They all required the black pants and white top except for one that required a hawaii themed blouse. It’s a standard uniform for employees in the hospitality industry. I recommend that you get a fabric that has is wash & wear, not 100% cotton so that you do not find yourself ironing all the time.

  39. JC*

    #2: If you truly only want to work somewhere where a huge commitment outside of normal working hours isn’t necessary, I don’t see the harm in asking about the work/life balance point blank in the interview, and stating what you said here—that you are totally committed to working hard during the work day, but don’t want to be somewhere that expects commitments on nights and weekends. I work in exactly the kind of workplace you’re looking for, and I know that some of my colleagues have asked that kind of question point blank to our boss in their interview.

    The best place to find these things out if you can is through current employees, but if you can’t do that *and* expectations of after hours work is a deal-breaker for you, there is no harm in asking in an interview. If it is the kind of environment you’re looking for they likely will be happy to use that as a selling point to you, vs. branding you as a slacker.

    One thing that is a red flag to me, though, is that you already know that many of their employees stay late. If that’s the culture, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not the kind of environment you seek.

    1. Jamie*

      I agree with all of this. I work in the kind of place the OP is trying to screen against (for some positions – many do have normal hours), and absolutely I’d be honest about expectations.

    2. Laura2*

      I agree. In interviews I always ask something like “what kinds of hours do people usually work here?”

  40. Aisling*

    #3: I really hope your HR person does not really think that their company policy trumps state law (it NEVER does). If she does, contact your state labor board, fast!

    1. NoPantsFridays*

      This. I’m horrified to think there are HR people who believe that. There are areas the law doesn’t touch that can be laid out in company policy and/or a contract, but if the law has spoken on the matter, a company policy in contradiction with the law does not trump the law. Perhaps she has confused those two ideas. Either way, it’s alarming!

  41. Sharm*

    Re: #2 – There have been good comments here already. I just wanted to state I wished employers would be more forthcoming about this. My first job was at a place that claimed to be 9-5, but no one ever worked those hours. Some worked a little more (me, because I too absolutely require work/life balance), and some worked many, many hours more.

    I also lost out on a job because I asked about the hours during a second or third-round interview. They told me I was out of the running because they questioned my commitment to the job when I asked that question. I made the mistake of asking before the offer stage, which I won’t ever do again, but I still think that was kind of bs. While I didn’t want to work a 70 hour week or whatever, I was truly trying to get a sense of the typical work day and what the expectations were.

    It seems like, even at the offer stage, many employers assume if you ask that question, you’re a slacker. Like the OP, I am not at all (and have the promotions and career advancement to prove it), but I also want to know ahead of time what is expected of me. I’m not as on board with direct/blunt communication like most of you are, but seriously, being open about this saves everybody in the long run.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Wow. So you asked the question at the wrong time? You are supposed to mind read the answer or mind read the timing for that question?

      I guess if you ask about dress code then that must mean you are a slob? Incredible.

      To me that sounds like a bogus reason for dropping you out of the running. They might have decided to hire someone’s sister-in-law, instead.

      It’s stories like this where I wish we could name companies so we all would know who to avoid.

  42. Former Professional Computer Geek*

    I’m pretty sure that if you’re low paid they cannot force you to bear the brunt of buying specific new clothing. Your employer cannot make you buy things that are required for work if buying those things makes your wages drop below minimum wage. If it’s a tight squeeze and/or you can find things cheaply you probably have to do it. However, if you can show that the purchases will drop your salary you may have a case with the Department of Labor. I’d give them a buzz. [I Am Not A Lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.] Note that this is why places like fast food restaurants and other places that start employees at minimum wage typically buy uniforms for their employees.

  43. RJ*

    In response to LW4 – I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that something untoward is going on. I worked with an EFL speaker (English was a foreign language to her). I politely mentioned to her that it sounded inappropriate in English for her to address anyone at work other than by their first name. EFL speakers aren’t necessarily dumb, and they can probably figure out meaning and usage pretty quickly.

    I expected her to immediately stop using the term, but instead she acted offended, which was really part of a larger problem where she didn’t belong in an office environment and couldn’t take any type of direction. She kept doing it too. As it turned out, the man that she was calling “Daddy” was an older executive. Surprise, surprise — they were having an affair.

  44. Cassie*

    #1: I think it’s an issue that HR should deal with (since the supervisor doesn’t seem interested). I work at a university and we have a lot of international students. When students from a certain country asks about my ancestry, I purposefully give a very neutral answer because their home country and my country of birth may technically still be at war with one another. I can’t remember – no active fighting, so it’s more like a lukewarm war (not USA-USSR Cold War level but there are missiles positioned on the border). It’s not that I’m not proud of my heritage but I just don’t want to get into a whole discussion about it at work.

    I have a coworker who was making a lot of personal calls all day long (it was pretty obvious because she wasn’t speaking in English) and when her friends suggested that she lower her voice, she said that she has relatives over in one of the current hotspots and that’s why she was making personal calls. I can understand the concern for loved ones in danger zones, but I don’t see why that matters. If she needs to deal with personal issues, she can take time off – otherwise, if you are at work, you should be doing work. (The sticking point was that she was talking very loudly, where everyone could hear her, although no one could understand what she was saying – if she wasn’t disturbing anyone else, it would be somewhat less of an issue).

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