I got chastised for taking initiative, coworker secretly plans to quit after maternity leave, and more

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

1. I got chastised for taking initiative

I work as a staff member for the executive office of a membership organization which has a council made up of members. A council member emailed me recently asking me if Task X was possible to do relatively easily and quickly. I thought it was strange that he was emailing me directly rather than going through the usual channels of the executive office, but I politely told him I would look into it. As it turns out, complying with his wish was not a big deal. It was an easy fix which took 10 minutes. So I executed Task X and sent the link of the work to three people — my boss, the relevant department head, and our technology VP — for review prior to me making the result public. I told them this was an easy fix that will solve a problem that our members have found to be troublesome.

The response of our technology VP — an email to me copying my boss — was that I breached protocol by creating and publishing the solution prior to consulting with the department head and without first looping in my boss. I immediately replied, apologizing if I overstepped my boundaries. But I said the solution is only visible to four people: me, the VP, my boss, and the department head. I haven’t made it public knowledge. I wouldn’t knowingly make things visible to the public unless I had the OK and green light from them. No response after that.

I am a bit puzzled by the VP’s response. I solved a sticky problem. And I did it with minimal cost in time, manpower and money. Yet I got admonished for it. What might be going on in the VP’s mind with this type of response?

It’s hard to say without knowing the specifics, but I can think of lots of things that I wouldn’t want an employee doing without checking with me first, even if it seemed like a good idea on the face, because I might have background or context that they didn’t know about and which would make it not in fact a good idea. I wouldn’t look at this as being chastised for taking initiative, but rather as finding out that you should loop others in before making changes in this category of stuff (and possibly other categories too — it could be a good opportunity to get aligned with your boss about what you can proceed with on your own and when you should check with someone else).

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I know my coworker secretly plans to quit after her maternity leave

A close friend coworker of mine is due with her second baby in July. We have a temp coming in to transition her work during her leave from June to October. She confided in me over lunch that 3 weeks after she comes back to work, she is resigning and moving across the country. This plan is elaborate and already in the works.

I think taking months of maternity leave pay and benefits, knowing you are going to quit shortly thereafter (within 2 months), is robbery and a truly bad thing to do. I am on very good terms with our head of HR and talent. I feel bad keeping this secret. I know the temp coming in (former employee who saw grass isn’t always greener) and strongly assume that she will want the full-time gig if presented to her after the current employee’s departure.

I assume I should keep my mouth shut, because it isn’t my secret to share and the mom may change her mind (unlikely but of course, possible). What do you think?

I agree that it’s a crappy thing to do (less so if it’s a large organization that can easily absorb the burden, and more so if it’s a small organization that will be more impacted), but the law does allow it. (Well, sort of; if an employee gives unequivocal notice that she won’t be returning to work at the end of the leave, the employer’s FMLA obligations do end.) To be clear, I don’t have a problem with people doing this if they’re not totally sure of their plans and think they might actually end up going back or want to keep that option open; my objection is only to situations like this one where it’s a certain plan and she’s misleading people.

As for whether you should tell HR: If you’re in a management role, you have more of an obligation to share what you know, but if you’re not, I’d figure that she was talking to you as a friend and you should keep her confidence accordingly.

3. Inconsistent tattoo policy

I work for a premium cosmetics brand that had a policy concerning visible tattoos when I joined the company that stated all tattoos must be covered except small tattoos on the wrist. There has never been any official change to dress code regarding tattoos, but my colleagues in other cities in the UK do not and have never been asked to cover up their tattoos, despite working for the brand longer than I have, including some who have full sleeve tattoos. I understand being tattooed is not a protected characteristic and that I chose to get them, but my question regards the inconsistency. If my colleague in London does not have to cover up, then why does someone in Glasgow or Manchester have to cover up? Is this a fairness/equality issue?

This is the kind of thing that’s up to individual managers. Sometimes it comes down to personal preference (perhaps annoying, but allowed and not uncommon) and sometimes it comes down to legitimately feeling that something that will fly in London won’t fly somewhere else (possibly wrongly, but still allowed and not uncommon).

4. Working and freelancing for the same company

I am working part-time for a company that was, until recently, paying me to write as a freelancer on the side. They processed my freelance pay through my paycheck, which was generous, I thought. They listed it separately from my hourly rate, and took out taxes and paid on my behalf and all, so I guess that means I was not really a freelancer. Still. I enjoyed the extra cash and the work.

One day I was in a meeting, and was told, because of a mysterious tax law that nobody could name, employees are no longer permitted to “freelance” because of tax liability. I was not the only person affected by this new rule, and three months later, the rule is still not being consistently enforced.

The sudden change was really hard on my finances, and I have expressed my dissatisfaction with the new rule and its arrival without warning to my immediate supervisor. Recently, they asked us to re-sign the employee manual policy, and I brought it up again with my supervisor. I asked if the no freelancing rule should go into the manual.

Is it illegal for my employer to pay me on the side for additional work that I am happy to do? And do you have any ideas about how to approach the subject with my boss–the person above my supervisor?

It would be legally shaky if they’d actually been paying you for that side work as a contractor — meaning that weren’t taking out payroll taxes for that part of your pay. But they were — they were paying you as an employee for all of the work you were doing, and there’s nothing illegal about that. They were basically saying “we’ll pay you $X to do your main job, plus $Y to do this additional work.” That’s common and legal and not shady at all. It’s not all that different than getting a bonus in your check for taking on extra work that’s not part of your regular job. In fact, it’s exactly like that.

It sounds like your manager heard — correctly — that employees shouldn’t also be contractors for the same company, but didn’t realize that that refers solely to how you’re paid. If the company is taking payroll taxes out of your check for all your work, they’re not treating you like a contractor and the government won’t care, despite what they’re calling it. Try pointing out to your boss that the laws he’s thinking of apply to people being paid as contractors, which you were not.

5. Am I obligated to stay if I accept an offer from the company acquiring my employer?

I have worked for years for a company that has recently been bought, and I have a severance document that specifies my last day. I’ve been working on my job search (and your book has completely saved my sanity), but it is not complete. Recently I’ve learned that New Big Boss is very interested in keeping me on, but I don’t feel good about the culture at the acquiring company. This is not a good fit for me and I intend to keep searching. My question is about what to do if New Big Boss does contact me about staying. Is this like getting a job offer from a whole new company, where you should not accept if you know you’re not interested in staying? Or does this qualify as staying at the job I already have until I find a new one? It seems I am on the verge of a cardinal job sin on either side if I don’t correctly understand this situation.

I’d say it depends on exactly what’s being offered. If it’s “hey, we’d like you to stay in your current job after all,” then I think you can accept without any special obligation to stay for a long time; they’d essentially just be canceling your layoff. But if it’s more “we’d like to offer you a different role,” then yeah, I think you’d want to plan on staying for a while if you accept it. If it’s the latter — or if you just don’t want to accept regardless — one option would be to just say, “I really appreciate that, but I’m in the process of talking with other companies and think I’m going to keep pursuing those.”

{ 488 comments… read them below }

  1. Caryl Chessman sniffs the air and leads the parade*

    #1: just a guess, but I’ll bet what happened was that someone on the council asked for a fix or feature, and this VP person said it couldn’t be done / couldn’t be done cheaply / couldn’t be done easily / couldn’t yadda yadda. The person on the council, smelling BS for some reason, asks OP1 about it – and surprise, it takes 10 minutes. VP now looks dumb – perhaps VP and council member have a history of not getting along well? – and so vents (unjustly) on OP1.

    1. Steve G*

      Good thought, I was mulling over the first letter but didn’t have a solution, but this makes sense and brings me back to a past job where the boss would have said “we wanted to charge them (something ridiculous) for that, nitwit!”

    2. Purple Dragon*

      My thoughts were more along the lines of it may sound like an easy/quick fix and on the surface may have been, but it could open the system up to other issues. I know that in our system there’s a bug which can drive some people nuts on occasion and fixing it would take 10 to 15 minutes (if that). Except that doing so opens the system up too much and would allow users to sneak in an now-open back door and view confidential information, which is how we found the problem to start with. The fix for this is not easy nor cheap and the decision has been made that it won’t be fixed until a major upgrade later this year/ early next year. If someone took it upon themselves to do the first fix our boss would be extremely peeved.

      It could also just be a jurisdictional hot-mess that you’ve come in the middle of.

      I think Alison’s suggestion of clarification of what the OP can or can’t work on without input from others is excellent. You never know what type of land-mine you may be stepping on otherwise.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m thinking of, where it might seem like an obvious solution to the OP but the boss (or someone else) might have important context/background/info that the OP doesn’t have.

        1. CAsey*

          Off topic: your ad to the right , the lady talking about lord knows what, is completely messing up the frame (it’s like it is having a seizure and started after your page asked for my location). I’m on Firefox. Just thought I should let you know since you’re not a fan of our your site has been slapped with marketing lately.

          1. DaBlonde*

            Piling on to say that this happens on Chrome as well, the ad starts playing and the page jumps to the very bottom and won’t let me scroll back to the top until the ad is done playing.

      2. OP #1*

        Thanks for the feedback! FWIW, the reason I executed and sent a private link was because it was easier and more efficient to build a mockup and have people react to it rather than try to explain something on paper or theoretically and explain how it works before I executed. The solution I came up with does not expose any technical vulnerabilities in our systems and involves making an important feature members want easier to find using links and resources which are already pre-existing which I am just repurposing. I will follow Alison’s advice to talk with my boss to make sure I am clear on which things I need to check with relevant people first before proceeding.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          You have to abide by whatever rules your management wants, but just so you know, creating a mockup that’s not public isn’t a reason for a reprimand anywhere I’ve worked or heard of, unless your time is so tight that those 15 minutes were needed for some other critical fix. I do this kind of thing all the time, usually on a dev or staging site, but sometimes on a production site, and it’s always a useful step, even if the change is not implemented. Now, you have to live with your bosses, so you are better off taking their needs into account regardless of whether they make sense or not, but a proof-of-concept or mockup should not be that big of a deal to throw together for someone if it only takes you 10 minutes. It sounds like Artemesia is right (below), and there’s a policy or process reason that they don’t allow council members to request updates, and if that was not communicated to you, then that’s a management failure more than a problem on your end.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            That said, I interact with lots of people on the client side all the time, and so I know that if certain people ask for a certain change, I should talk to someone internally about whether that change is consistent with the way we do things. For example, is the information presented in a way that makes sense in the larger context of our entire website? Did the head of that division approve this change? Does it fit with the larger organization’s goals? I can judge most of those for myself at this point in my career, but I also remember when those things tripped me up and I was in a situation somewhat like yours for being too eager to help. But at least even then I was told that there were internal issues that I hadn’t known about, it wasn’t put on me as having done something wrong, I was just told to bring change requests like that to Wakeen’s attention next time before answering the request at all.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I second all the above and would only add that, at the point when OP thought it was odd that the council member was asking her directly instead of going through the usual route, that would have been a good time to lightly question the boss: “Hey, boss, council member so-and-so called and asked me to do such-and-such; what’s up with that?”

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              That would keep OP from being used as part of council member’s end run (that Artemesia mentions below) if that is what is going on.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                That’s what I was thinking; if that was the council member’s purpose, asking would cover the OP’s butt. If the council member were just clueless, then asking would let OP find out if CM needed to talk to somebody else and refer them.

        2. LBK*

          I think if nothing else, your manager probably didn’t want to be blindsided by changes if these aren’t the kind of things you would normally do without his knowledge. It’s entirely possibly that your fix was the right one and that your manager wouldn’t have had a problem with it if you’d run it by him first. Sometimes all they want you say is “Hey, Bob asked for x, I was going to implement y to fix it, that sound good to you?”

          Consider it from his perspective: he receives an email about a change he had no idea about from someone who went “under his head” (not sure if there’s a better phrase for the opposite of “over his head”) for something they needed from his team. In some contexts this might be fine – I get requests directly from sales managers that I’m expected to just handle without looping in my manager – but I think it’s a question of knowing your business and knowing which things are and aren’t okay to do without running it by anyone. Now you know for the future that this is definitely something you should keep people in the loop about, even if it’s simple and they’re not likely to say no.

        3. AntherHRPro*

          Initiative does not mean doing someone else’s work without connecting with them on it first. In fact, that could be seen as inconsiderate. You don’t know why the VP hadn’t had his team address this issue yet. Or maybe they were working on it. Maybe the VP had already assigned the work to someone else. Maybe there are implications of fixing this issue that you are not aware of. It is great if you identify an issue AND a possible solution. Just check with process owners and collaborate with them on it.

          1. OP #1*

            That’s what I thought I was doing by creating a mockup and sending a private link. None of what I did was public and I was involving the Teapot Dept Head, my boss and the technology VP on the discussion prior to making anything publicly available.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              For next time I would advise being noncommittal with council members, then bring the request to your boss. If the mockup only takes a few minutes, show it internally first, before showing it to a council member. That’s probably the part that caused discontent, since as others have pointed out, the council member may have known that this solution wasn’t OK for some political/policy reason, or just that it should have gone through the proper channels. (Which is, of course, sometimes a waste of time and effort, but like many laws, it’s important to abide by them even if you think nobody’s looking if you want to avoid the consequences.)

              1. Op #1*

                Yup the council member does not know the link exists. Nothing has been said to him. The only ones who have seen the mockup are me, the tech VP, my boss and the Teapot Dept head

                1. Harper*

                  Thank you for the context, OP #1. I think maybe the VP was reacting to past experiences rather than strictly what you did. I could see the VP being upset if you had shown the council member, but since I understand that you did not before showing what you were proposing to people within your group, I don’t see the huge problem. So, that is why I’m wondering if perhaps there have been times in the past when the VP was cut out of the loop so the reaction was more to that than specifically the instance.

                2. Happy Lurker*

                  My two cents…VP didn’t thoroughly read your email and thought your link was public…I spend a lot of time dealing with people who just do not read email completely. They then reply with questions that are answered in original email. It happens multiple times per day. My personal pet peeve!

              1. Person*

                Personally I would have sent it to my boss only, not department heads and VPs. That kind of sounds like ‘look at me look what I did’ and goes over your boss. It makes your boss look like they don’t know what you’re doing. Your boss may have been able to frame it in better context to the higher-ups by putting it into the context you may not be aware of, and would not have been surprised… never surprise your boss.

        4. Kyrielle*

          Sometimes it is all in how you message it, too. If the fix WAS a problem for some reason, saying “hey, X asked for Y and here it is- good to go?” will get you in hot water. If instead you send “X asked for Y and I think it would be pretty easy to do by method Z – here is a mock-up/proof-of-concept, what do you think?”, in many places that will be acceptable.

          At my previous job, taking on work just because someone outside my org chart asked me to, no matter how quick, was a HUGE no-no…because the rest of the organization could, and would, eat up half my day that way if they realized I would do it. But a quick heads-up of “this person asked if we can do that thing and we should be able to / here’s what I’m thinking” as long as I didn’t spend much time on it, was fine. (Even if it was the same work, and even if my boss knew that my mock-up/”prototype” could be the final solution also.)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            At my Exjob, certain people would ask me to do things they didn’t want to do. I finally had to say, “Gee, you probably need to ask MySupervisor about that–she’s got me tied down doing this. If she says it’s cool, I’d be glad to help.” Otherwise, I’d end up doing all their work and get behind on my own. It didn’t help that I was the ONLY admin in the ENTIRE COMPANY.

          2. RoseTyler*

            Tone is important too. If I got an email from a lower-level employee doing work outside their lane and without my awareness, and in their email they told me “this was an easy fix that will solve a problem that our members have found to be troublesome”, I might react poorly too. A person working at the OP’s level can’t say with certainty that it’s an easy fix or that it’s globally troublesome (at least not to the point that would justify a change). That’s the VP’s job.

            1. RoseTyler*

              I should add too that there are many things at my job that would be truly easy to do on a one-off basis, but we can’t allow the hundreds of constituents with whom we deal to be making constant small changes to suit their own preferences. I work in marketing so it’s a brand standards thing, but the same philosophy applies in other industries. I have sympathy for those I work with who get irritated when I won’t change the font on this document or header on that form because yes, theoretically it would take 30 seconds. But they’re not seeing the big picture, and it’s my job to do exactly that.

        5. TootsNYC*

          Did I read the letter wrong? You didn’t actually ever reply to the council member–you in fact -did- do what the VP wanted you to: consult w/ him and the department head before taking any changes public.

          You just brought him the question -and- the solution at the same time.
          This might be a thing to stress: “I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear–I -am- consulting you first, since nothing has been published. I’m just bringing you the solution at the same time I’ve brought you the problem.”

          And a lesson for the future, perhaps: state the problem/query more strongly and more prominently first; then bring up your solution. It can help walk people through the process in the proper order.

          1. Luckier*

            That’s how I read this too, and my impression was that the VP reacted without realizing that the change wasn’t public-facing yet – which explains why OP #1 hasn’t heard anything more about it.

        6. Observer*

          Keep in mind that THIS particular fix / mockup may really not present any problems, but the procedures are probably in place because it’s not always so simple.

        7. Chickaletta*

          Having worked in IT Change Management before, even the most simple, benign fixes have to go through an appropriate channel of approvals and procedures. A five minute fix might require two or three managers to sign-off on, it might require several approval steps and testing before it can be rolled out. Even for the simplest, most common sense things. It droves IT folks mad, believe me. However, if procedures aren’t followed, it could cause an audit failure and potentially lots of fines for the company. (You can thank Enron). If your project has anything to do with computers or software, that might be one reason why they squelched it so quick.

      3. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, this. I had it happen to me just a few weeks ago. I did sort of a workaround that appeared to help someone, but it turned out it would have cost them a lot of extra money and been automatically undone a few days later anyway, as there was a reason they didn’t actually qualify for this and I didn’t know about it. I had to undo it and go through the proper channels anyway in the end.

      4. sam*

        I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve had people come up with great “solutions” for things that we (in legal) have had to stop dead in their tracks because they weren’t actually solutions, but rather workarounds that potentially opened us up to lawsuits, security issues, etc. Everything from the fact that customer contracts may simply prohibit you from doing X (even if X is a great idea) to putting everyone’s data on a non-company hosted/vetted/firewalled cloud site because it’ll be easier to access (!) without even checking with IT (!!).

        There are reasons things need to go through the proper channels. Heck, your IT team may be completely overhauling the entire system next week, and your 10-minute fix has now created another week’s worth of re-mapping/coding.

        Or it could just be someone getting their knickers in a twist over not being in the loop, but it’s still a good lesson to know that you should have looped them in.

    3. Kate*

      #1 Either that or the Technology VP didn’t read the email properly and thought OP had already made the info public.

      1. Cat*

        That’s my guess. And if so, VP should have applogIes when he got OP’s second email but may have just felt bad and slunk off.

      2. TFS*

        Also my thought. I had this happen last year – an executive was angered by something my department sent and stewed about it for weeks before our next meeting, where he pretty much just lost his mind and berated us for not consulting him first before making a completely inappropriate proposal. At which point we mentioned that we thought that’s what we WERE doing by sending it to just the two members of the executive team charged with dealing with us. It became pretty clear that he thought we had sent it to the whole team, and that he had made disparaging comments about it to the whole team as well, thinking they knew what he was talking about. Seriously, why can’t people read emails properly? WHY?!

        1. JMegan*

          I’ve had that happen too. I sent an email to my boss and my colleague saying “What do you think of X?” and got the response from my boss: “You need to consult me before doing X.”

          Um, I thought that’s what I was doing?

          1. Kelly L.*

            And its converse. “Here’s X!” Response: “You need to do X!” I think sometimes people just read a key word and make up the rest of the message in their heads.

            1. Shortie*

              Oh my goodness. My former boss used to do this, and it drove me bananas. Almost every conversation and e-mail went something like this.

              Me: I’m planning to do X, Y, Z as a solution to A. Is that okay from your end?
              Boss: You need to do X, Y, Z as a solution to A.
              Me (thinking): ??????????????????????????

              1. Kate*

                I’ve had that too from a boss. I always wondered whether his reading comprehension was genuinely that bad, or if he was just so insecure that he simply had to be the one to think of every solution, even the ones he paid me to think of.

    4. Artemesia*

      I have seen exactly this scenario. Sometimes it is because the authority figure doesn’t want it done for some policy reason and says it is ‘too hard’ as a way of deflecting. I have had relatives try to help end run something we didn’t want our kids doing, by trying to make it easy to get beyond our objection. I have seen it in the workplace when someone doesn’t want to make an exception to a policy.

      I think your observation is spot on. The VP said ‘we can’t do this’ meaning ‘we shouldn’t do this’ and the OP was used to try to end run her.

      1. City Planner*

        I agree with Artemesia that it looks like an end run by the council member and the VP is peeved about that. But even if no one is trying an end run, it could be an even simpler situation where the council members are supposed to be going through your executive office, not reaching out directly to staff, and the VP is irritated that communication isn’t flowing as it should. I work in local government, and our staff is clear that if someone is contacted by one of our elected officials, that contact is reported up the chain immediately, so that our management knows what’s up, who is concerned about what, who is asking questions about what, etc. It’s not so much about cutting off end runs (they don’t do a lot of that), but making sure that our leadership is well informed at all times about what’s going on, so they aren’t blindsided by anything.

        You said that you thought it was strange to be contacted directly – at that point, your first step probably should have been to let your boss know about the strange contact, not dive into the fix, even if you did handle the fix correctly.

        1. Artemesia*

          In our state government decades ago, workers used terminals to enter data; eventually these were replaced by PCs and a new software system to manage data The old timers didn’t want to change and so they got one of the techs to reprogram all their computers to look like and function like the old terminals so they could continue to use the system as they had in the past rather than using the new system Management was not pleased with the ‘helpful’ tech who assisted in mass insubordination.

    5. LQ*

      Or the VP doesn’t want it done for other reasons and knew darn well it would take 10 minutes, but didn’t want to start having OP do “small” one off things for people on the council because that can very quickly turn into a well you did this, now do that for me, and suddenly you have a lot of people circumventing the normal routes (which can be in place to protect the time of the OP/staff so they don’t have a workload that is unbearably large) routinely.

      Or it could be that the VP is holding onto small things like this to make a case for a larger change, or because they know that it’s going to be radically altered soon anyway.

      I think it could be a totally legitimate reason to not want the OP to do a 10 minute fix, or not.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        This is a very good point.

        I was pretty peeved a few months ago when somebody on a team started giving small art projects to one of our artists and the artist just did them. Nobody got clearance.

        ALL art projects flow through the art director to assess and assign, period. I don’t care if it is a 15 minute project, because if it’s a 15 minute project it should take you 30 seconds to explain to her and 20 seconds for her to decide whom you should give it to.

        Time. Adds. Up.

        The art director has the overview of everything that is active and she’s the one who is responsible for all time being used efficiently. Art is one of those work areas where you can die a death by a thousand little cuts and big stuff doesn’t get done because time runs out.

        1. voyager1*

          If I am reading this correctly, you got a request, showed how it could be fixed, and then sent a link of the fix before actually telling the customer to the relevant parties and one person who you don’t work for had a problem. To me you made that person look bad. Did your manager say anything to you? Sounds like to me the person complaining doesn’t like people fixing their problems or encroaching on their sandbox. Consider it a lesson learned when dealing with anything related to that person and what they are over.

        2. LQ*

          It really does. And it can be very hard to see how one 15 minute project matters in the scope of a 40 hour week, let alone a whole team of maybe 10 people’s 40 hour weeks. How is 1 person’s 15 minutes going to matter? But they really add up. The death of a thousand little cuts is very much why it can be important to not let the knife come out at all.

        3. fposte*

          Yeah, I’ve had the same request-flow issue. My staff is an agreeable group, and if you ask them to do stuff their reaction is to default to “Yes,” especially if it’s somebody they know we support. But we have to prioritize the yesses or else we’ll never get any actual mission critical work done.

          1. Sunshine*

            It’s tough to juggle and get other people to understand when they should get you involved. And trust their judgment. So that becomes “any new work for this group needs to come through me.” Even if it’s not completely necessary every time.

  2. Caryl Chessman sniffs the air and leads the parade*

    #5: perhaps it goes without saying, but if they ask you to stay on, it sounds like you’re in a good position to ask for a substantial raise. I mean, what the heck? Ask for 25%. Maybe more. The worst thing that could happen is they say no. Or they say yes and you’ll likely *want* to stay to mop up all that extra gravy.

    1. periwinkle*

      I don’t have a comment about the letter, but am just gobsmacked by your username today because I’ve had that song stuck in my head all week! One of the texts in my organization theory class cited Marshall McLuhen and I can’t stop my brain from completing the rest of the lyric…

    2. OP#5*

      You’re right and I have heard this company has higher pay habits than the old one. I’ve been so caught up in the other question that I’d forgotten about the necessary next step: if I’m willing to stay at all, I need to start working on a figure before this conversation happens. Thanks!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Remember, even if it feels like a ridiculous number, if you don’t NEED to be kept on, ask for whatever it would take to make you happy to stay. (Or at least very content, I suppose.) If you were ready to leave anyway and aren’t that interested in working for the new company, think of what an outsider would have to have offered to lure you from your old position at your old company, because that is basically the choice you’d be making.

        1. OP#5*

          Thank you this is a very helpful idea as I’m getting my head around the question. There is talk of moving locations (all local but hugely different as to convenience) as well, which your idea inspired me to include in the math. “If I have to work in location A then I need $$, but if you’ll give me a space in location B then I’ll stay for $” or something along those lines.

      2. Another Salesperson*

        # 5 – one other thing to consider. A company I worked for in the past (Company Big) acquired Company Small. Company Small employees were officially interviewed and offered jobs. The ones that didn’t take the job left. But, there were some special Company Small employees that Company Big really wanted to keep. So, they put them on a ‘transition plan’ that paid huge bonuses and they had a specific amount of time they were obligated to stay and help with transition. Those few elites raked in the cash, and had a set amount of time for job hunting for a job. It can’t hurt to see if something like that is on the table. That being said, these people really were standout employees with very specific knowledge. Make sure you are one of those before asking for too much.

        And, good luck!

    3. Graciosa*

      I would be very, very cautious about allowing $$$ to paper over other issues that may have a bigger impact on the working environment. OP, you state that you don’t feel good about the culture of the new company and this is not a good fit. That should be the end of the story – don’t stay there.

      This entire scenario seems very analogous to situations where someone accepts a counter-offer; the odds are really, really high that the individual will regret that decision. None of the factors that made this a bad fit will go away, and you end up finding that the money cannot compensate for spending all day, every week day, in the wrong environment.

      Yes, Alison is correct that if you accept what sounds like a new job offer from the incoming boss, you will need to stay there for a decent amount of time (a few years, unless there’s a different term specifically negotiated for a transition, for example). Read Alison’s posts about accepting counter-offers – or posts from others who found out too late why new jobs were willing to pay above-market wages to try to keep positions filled.

      If you’re otherwise able to take care of basic needs – meaning minimal sustenance and essential shelter – you would be making a huge mistake to bargain away a few *years* of your daily happiness and well-being at any price.

      1. OP#5*

        Thank you for this – I have been concerned that I’m giving them too much benefit of the doubt based on guilt. I don’t NEED to stay but I would struggle with guilt regarding my family (silly, irrational guilt because it’s not like we’re going to starve) if I turn it down with nothing else lined up. Thank you for the encouragement to tackle that and not make any stupid decisions based on silly, irrational guilt. Surely staying in a wrong environment would not make me a very pleasant person to live with, so there are challenges for family life either way.

  3. PEBCAK*

    #2 — It’s not crappy to resign right after maternity leave. If it’s unpaid leave, then it’s her legal right to do so, if it’s not, that’s a benefit that she has earned and is entitled to take. As long as she gives at least two weeks notice during which she is working (and it sounds like she will), it’s no different from any other resignation.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not crappy to resign right after maternity leave in some circumstances, like when you’re genuinely unsure if you’ll want to return or not. But I’m pretty comfortable saying that blatantly lying and saying that you’re planning to return — and letting your team go through the inconvenience of covering for you and holding your job open — while you’re actually planning a cross-country move is a pretty crappy thing to do.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Why is this different from any other long notice period question? The OP2 could get her friend fired if her plans are revealed. Extra cost to an employer is less than it would be to the employee if she had to have a baby on emergency medical coverage. She could be fired AND have 10k+ in medical bills.

        1. Cristina in England*

          Sorry I should have added that I made that point below in a separate post but I know how sometimes the discussion gets tied up in the first comment.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s different from other long notice questions because, especially at smaller organizations, her team is going to be accommodating the fact that she’s not there working. They’ll be doing things differently because they believe she’s coming back — holding her job open, probably having various people cover some of her work, possibly putting some projects on hold until she returns, possibly passing up someone who would be great to fill the role. (And yes, they’re hiring a temp for a few months, but I’ve rarely seen a temp who truly does everything the main person in the role does, particularly as roles become increasingly senior. )

          1. Jen*

            Since the US insists on lumping maternity in as a primarily medical issue, as far as benefits go, why is this different that someone who ends up taking extended leave for another medical issue (using any salary replacement/medical coverage) they’re entitled to?

            Would you say someone who needs a knee replacement for quality of life reasons should not take advantage of the medical benefits offered by their current company as part of their earned compensation to have that surgery if the have plans to leave soon? Or that they’re obligated to stick around for a certain amount of time after having that surgery? Or that they should turn down a new personal opportunity for the benefit of “the company” if a surgery date opens up after they’ve started a long plan to move on from that company?

            Getting pregnant overall is something someone usually chooses to do, and dealing with how one manages life with kids is certainly a lifestyle issue. But the timing thereof is generally quite up in the air, and the act of physically giving birth and recovering is a health and medical issue. Only the most fortunately fertile can decide “I’m going to have a baby 10 months from now” and actually make that happen. And sometimes (like many other medical issues) it happens to coincide with other life events that make things inconvenient.

            1. Saurs*

              Yes. Thank you. People do this all the time (all the time, comparatively, of course) with a sabbatical, or with other kinds of extended leave.

            2. LBK*

              I think you’re missing the key point that this is extensively pre-planned. I have no problem with someone leaving immediately after coming back from leave if they came back in good faith and realized that they just couldn’t do it. I have no problem with people not knowing when they’ll be out, or even waffling about whether they’ll come back. But to conclusively know your plan and act as though that isn’t your plan is straight up lying, period.

              1. Cristina in England*

                If that’s the case, then it is always lying to give a short notice when you could have given a long notice instead, or go on training or to a conference in a nice location when you’re about to leave. Sometimes circumstances dictate that this happens. You might not have a firm offer in hand, or you might be relying on a spouse finding a job in a new city. Things change.

                From a practical point of view, it is overwhelmingly in the pregnant lady’s interest to give a short notice, financially and in order to keep her medical benefits. If health insurance wasn’t tied to one’s employer, then I might feel slightly differently because she wouldn’t be faced with medical bills in the thousands (or tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands for a severely premature baby) but she must work within the system she’s in. I do not see an alternative for the pregnant lady that does not majorly penalize her own health and her family finances.

                Wasn’t there a post recently about someone who wanted to stay with her employer if her medical diagnosis turned out to be serious, even though she had been planning on leaving? That’s pre-planning in one’s self interest, but I wouldn’t call that lying. That choice will certainly cost her current employer time and money in lost productivity, potential temp coverage, and insurance costs, but honestly, there are things more important in life than the cost and convenience of one’s employer.

                1. LBK*

                  Yeah, I do think those scenarios are all lying. We’ve actually seen plenty of letters where people have asked if they should do X thing when they know they’re leaving soon and Alison usually says they shouldn’t (and I agree in those cases too). And again, this isn’t about any time there’s vagueness – this is about a specific plan you know will happen that you don’t tell your employer about. If you know you are 100% starting your new job on July 1st and you go to a conference on June 15th, yeah, that’s kinda shady to me.

                  I also think choosing to stay when you were planning to leave is different because it’s usually easier for your employer to course correct – assuming they haven’t already hired your replacement, more or less all they have to do is stop the hiring process.

                  This all hinges on how good your employer is to you, though. I tend to operate from the assumption that the employers in question are at least decent and don’t treat their employees badly (especially their good employees). Particularly lately there seems to be a vibe throughout AAM comments that you should always act as though the worst case scenario will occur, or rather that people assume the OP is going to encounter the worst case scenario and advise accordingly. It seems really detrimental who people who have good relationship with their employers.

                2. Zillah*

                  I tend to operate from the assumption that the employers in question are at least decent and don’t treat their employees badly (especially their good employees). Particularly lately there seems to be a vibe throughout AAM comments that you should always act as though the worst case scenario will occur, or rather that people assume the OP is going to encounter the worst case scenario and advise accordingly. It seems really detrimental who people who have good relationship with their employers.

                  I don’t disagree with you in theory – but it’s a cost/benefit analysis. When the consequences of the worst case scenario could be dire and have a non-negligible probability of happening – both of which are true here – operating under the assumption that your employer is going to do what’s right by you is a huge risk.

                  I find the idea that pregnant women should be grateful to employers for using a benefit they have earned to the extent that they either endanger their health coverage or derail their future plans to stay with their employers for a certain length of time after giving birth – which is essentially what you’re saying, since by your argument it’s wrong for a woman to be actively planning something else – to be absolutely absurd.

                  Just the other day, there was a letter from an OP whose employer was going to pay for her to attend a conference. She was waiting on a job offer that, IIRC, she was pretty sure she wanted to take. There was common consensus that it was just the cost of doing business for the employer, and that she shouldn’t tell them anything because she didn’t have a job offer until she had a job offer. Why is this any different?

                3. Jenna Maroney*

                  +100 to “If health insurance wasn’t tied to one’s employer, then I might feel slightly differently.” In a world where the stakes for the pregnant employee weren’t so high, I’d weigh her choices differently, but that’s the world we live in, and I can’t fault her when the options diverge so incredibly drastically.

                4. Graciosa*

                  Replying to Zillah (sorry, too deep in the thread to be able to reply properly).

                  It’s different because the person going to the conference did not have a job offer. Yes, she was hoping for one, but it wasn’t a done deal. This is.

                5. LBK*

                  Agreed with Graciosa – there’s a difference when it’s set in stone vs up in the air. As I’ve said elsewhere, I wouldn’t have an issue with it if she were unsure if she wanted to return and didn’t say anything about that, because I don’t think you’re as obligated to be honest about possibilities vs. sure things.

                  This seems more like the employee who knew had been planning to go to law school – just like you don’t accidentally get into law school, you don’t unexpectedly move across the country.

                  Not coming back after pregnancy isn’t the issue, or only coming back for a short time. It’s having a really clear plan in mind that feels icky to me.

                6. SevenSixOne*

                  “If health insurance wasn’t tied to one’s employer, then I might feel slightly differently because she wouldn’t be faced with medical bills in the thousands (or tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands for a severely premature baby) but she must work within the system she’s in. […] there are things more important in life than the cost and convenience of one’s employer.”

                  Exactly. The reality of the world we live in means the pregnant employee’s back is against the wall. Even though it’s a crappy thing to do, it sounds like she’s weighed her options and decided this is the LEAST crappy option.

                7. Zillah*

                  But I’d argue that this isn’t a done deal yet – it’s still six months away, and a lot can happen in six months. The OP says the plan is “elaborate and already in the works,” but it’s not clear to me what that means, and I have a hard time seeing this as a “done deal” when so much can change between now and then. I see someone who’s verbally heard that they’d like to make her an offer being in a far more “done deal” situation that the one being presented here.

                  Regardless, though: even if it was a done deal, I don’t think that her actions are wrong. What do the two of you think she should do? Derail her plans at a stressful time of her life and stay longer out of gratitude toward her employer for giving her a benefit that she earned/is legally entitled to? Quit now, despite there being huge consequences for doing so? Inform her workplace and potentially get pushed out?

                8. Linguist curmudgeon*

                  YES re: how it would be different if the US didn’t tie access to health care to employment. That is the crux of the issue. If we had true single-payer, it would be different.

              2. Anonicorn*

                But the outcome from the employer’s perspective is no different in that scenario. Losing employees happens, and someone would have to be pretty foolish or working for a fantastic employer to let them know about advanced plans to leave. So I don’t see how it’s any different from job searching and interviewing where you might be telling bold-faced lies about “medical appointments” to cover for those interviews.

                1. LBK*

                  How so? Letting a fantastic employer know far in advance that you intend to leave sounds normal to me. Working for a crappy employer that’s likely to try to push you out early is when I’d be hesitant about it.

                2. Zillah*

                  LBK – I agree, but there’s a lot of space between those two extremes, and it’s difficult to know where your employer will fall on unless they have a clear track record, which many employers, even generally good employers, don’t.

                  I’d totally agree with you if the OP had said, “Our employer has a proven history of appreciating employees who give long notice periods and never forces them out.” But she didn’t say that – she said that she thought her friend was “robbing” the company. That to me indicates that if anything, there might be a pattern of pushing people out.

                3. LBK*

                  True – the OP’s phraseology suggests a level of moral outrage about the possibility, although it doesn’t sound like she’s the decision maker so I’m not sure we can say for sure that’s indicative of the culture more than just the OP’s own feelings.

                4. Zillah*

                  But I think that if there was an established culture of appreciating long notice and not pushing people out, employees would be unlikely to see this as “robbery and a truly bad thing to do.” The OP isn’t expressing frustration that her friend isn’t giving notice now – it’s that her friend is doing this at all.

                5. Linguist curmudgeon*

                  My friend told her “great” boss that she was leaving in 3 months, to give him time to find and train a replacement, and he fired her on the spot.

              3. ohword*

                The way I see it is things are up in the air (even if you’ve planned them) until they’re actually happening. What if this lady’s husband broke his leg? What if they were moving for childcare purposes and the baby ends up with serious health problems in the hospital? What if there was an illness in the family and they decide to stay close?

                1. Zillah*

                  Exactly. I see this as no different than “You don’t have a job offer until you have a job offer.” You may be planning to leave, but stuff happens, particularly when you’re so far out from the event.

                2. LBK*

                  The cross country move is actually the part that sounds shadiest to me, now that I think about it. Plans can wildly change when it comes to children and working/not working – as someone else noted, some women actually leave and then end up wanting to come back because they don’t like being a SAHM, which is as much a possibility as the reverse (wanting to come back and then deciding you actually need to leave).

                  But you don’t just accidentally move across the country. That sounds to me more like the OP recently who wanted to do law school while they were working – you don’t suddenly take the LSATs and then apply for schools. I’m confident taking the OP at her word that this is a detailed plan that’s been in the works for a while.

                  It’s tiring to always feel like we’re advising about the worst case scenario. I just can’t picture conducting my life with so much pessimism lurking around, and I consider myself a pretty worrisome person.

                3. Zillah*

                  It’s tiring to always feel like we’re advising about the worst case scenario. I just can’t picture conducting my life with so much pessimism lurking around, and I consider myself a pretty worrisome person.

                  I can understand that, and there are a lot of situations where I agree.

                  But I think that there is enough of a culture of pushing people who give long notice out in general that it’s a legitimate concern, particularly when the employee we hear from sees this as such a morally corrupt thing to do and doesn’t mention notice periods at all. And, the stakes in this situation are super high. In that situation, I think you have to assume the worst case scenario, even if you normally wouldn’t.

                  And, it’s also worth pointing out that I think a lot of people are reacting to the way the letter was phrased and who it was that wrote in. If the friend had written in, I think we’d see more people at least asking about the culture of the workplace. However, in this case, it’s OP thinking about taking matters into her own hands and approaching HR with this information without the friend’s knowledge or permission – and, OP has essentially called this friend an immoral thief for her plan, which is incredibly harsh.

                4. Me*

                  I don’t understand people talking about how planning this in advance is ‘shady.’ Employers routinely know full well, in August, that they”re firing hundreds of people right before christmas. Yet, do they tell anyone? hell no! They keep it under their hat. Hell, the second round of firings at my job took place right after lunch. They sent an email saying ‘be sure to be back right on time [so we can fire half of you]’. Why should an employee owe a greater amount of consideration than would be given them? In an at-will state, employment is at will *on both sides.* What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Planning isn’t a one-way street. Etc. etc.

                  If employers don’t like employees up and quitting at random times, then they should change the ‘at will’ culture. Until then, it is what it is.

            3. BalticFog*

              Thank you! It is exactly the benefit that the employee is entitled to, just like the other health benefits. And given how draconian maternity leave is in the US, I find it appalling that the OP wants to rob her friend of it. It’s great to play by the rules but even better to have human empathy, especially where it seems there will be an easy transition once the friend quits.

              1. Jane*

                Agreed. OP doesn’t sound like a very good “friend.” To me, it’s just not really any of OP’s business.

                Honestly, I’ve known so many people who thought they wanted to leave their jobs after having a baby, and then found they weren’t suited to (or couldn’t afford) being a stay-at-home parent. The idea that a third party might want butt in and possibly get a pregnant woman fired is just as appalling to me as a pregnant woman planning to quit after her leave.

                1. SevenSixOne*

                  Nothing turns a person’s life upside down quite like the arrival of their first child! It’s not unusual to have detailed plans to leave/return to work after they have the baby, then have to change plans completely once the baby actually comes.

                2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  When I was pregnant with my first child, I naively believed that I could return to my then-job working 12-hour shifts at a factory, and rotating a month of days with a month of nights. I was completely clueless as tho what child care involved, but realized quickly after bringing home baby that the baby and that job were incompatible. I had planned to return after leave, and ended up not. None of it was a plan to defraud any one of anything.

                1. Spiky Plant*

                  Yeah, it sounds like OP’s default is to keep his/her mouth shut, knowing that the friend could lose their job. OP is mostly just doing a gut check; the thing the friend is doing is shitty, I totally agree, but it would also be shitty of the company to fire the friend while she’s out on maternity leave (given that she doesn’t, at this point, really have the option to become un-pregnant and return to work).

                  I think it’s kind of similar to using up all your accrued vacation time, and then putting in your two weeks the day you get back. It’s a shitty thing to do, and it will impact your references, but there’s not a technical policy violation.

                  I think Step One for OP is to talk to their friend and voice that they think it’s a shitty thing to do, and if they feel like it’s true, should say “I think if you told X about this, they’d work with you on a plan to make this work for everyone.” If OP doesn’t think that’s true, though – if they think the friend will be fired if the plan came to light – well, I guess it’s obvious why the friend hasn’t said anything, right?

              2. Stranger than fiction*

                Agreed. All it’s really costing the employer is a few months of their medical insurance premium, the rest is coming from State Disability. And it sounds like the temp will make a good replacement when the time comes. I’m sure this happens all the time. Sometimes we need to operate under the spirit of the law and not be so black and white as the Op seems to be.

            4. Sleepyhead*

              Agree with all of this. I was also thinking what if the employee had planned/hoped to get pregnant a few months earlier, knowing a move might be coming up in the future, but the timing just didn’t work out? Would people be okay with it if she was returning and working for 6 months before leaving? I like your last sentence very much – “…sometimes (like many other medical issues) it happens to coincide with other life events that make things inconvenient.” It’s a rather unfortunate set of circumstances for the employer, but I’d likely err on the side of caution and not share my plans too, for the fear that the benefits would be lost.

            5. Luckier*

              Exactly this. Plus, I wonder where we would draw the line in saying that pregnant employee must give notice before her leave if she intends to quit after her leave. If she only gets 8-12 weeks leave, is coming back for 3 weeks enough? Is 4 weeks? Okay, then 8 weeks? It’s a calculation that I don’t think anyone can safely make – especially not a fellow employee who should just MYOB.

            6. EmmBee*


              I’m kind of seeing red at Alison’s response here.

              Until the US (where I’m presuming the OP is located) actually mandates legitimate, paid leave, women are absolutely entitled to do whatever they’d like, even if that means quitting immediately following their leave.

              1. LBK*

                I totally disagree with that attitude. There are companies that aren’t huge assholes about this kind of stuff and to say you deserve to do whatever you want even to those that are willing to accommodate you is really shitty. If anything it’s likely to make them wonder why they should bother trying to work around the needs of a pregnant woman if she’s just going to do whatever she wants anyway.

                1. AGirlCalledFriday*

                  I think it’s wonderful that you assume employers are going to be reasonable and accommodating of employees. The thing is, I’m not sure it’s entirely realistic. In the United States, employers routinely discriminate against pregnant women – not providing decent maternity leave, not hiring pregnant women, even not hiring women of a certain age that they believe are looking to become pregnant in the near future. It’s a major, MAJOR problem in the US.

                  I’m certain the OP’s friend would LOVE to be completely honest and straightforward about leaving. I’m sure the majority of people would love to be able to tell their employer that they are leaving at X date in the future. It would certainly make things easier for both the employer and the employee. Unfortunately, there are too many risks at this time.

                  If this is a ‘shitty’ attitude, then I suggest using this as an extra incentive to fight for decent maternity/paternity leave and the end of at-will employment. The problem is not this particular pregnant woman – it’s the culture she finds herself in.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m confused about why you’re seeing red at my response. I suggested she keep it to herself unless she’s in management and it would be a conflict of interest not to.

                I do, however, think it’s crappy to blatantly lie and you say you plan on X while you are actually doing Y, if in fact that’s what the friend is doing (and I don’t know if she is or not).

              3. copperbird*

                Ditto. You owe your employer exactly what the contract (and the law) says. And vice versa.

                Lots of people change their minds about their work plans after having a baby. Employers know this fine well. The only reason they pay maternity benefits at all is because the law says so, not because they value workers or like babies. Lots of female employees DO get sacked because they’re pregnant, despite it being illegal, because employers find some way to argue that the pregnancy had nothing to do with it.

                The mistake she made was telling her co-worker of her plans.

              4. Anonna Miss*

                +1 on seeing red, but more at LBK than at Alison. I’m definitely in the camp that this is the cost of doing business in a country with at-will employment, health insurance significantly tied to employment, and maternity leave laws that are an embarrassment.

                I’d love to live in a world, err, COUNTRY, where companies and their employees could be honest with each other about their intended length of the employment relationship without hard feelings or repercussions for honesty, but the U.S. is certainly not that place. Even worse, health insurance is tied to employment in this country, which makes things far far worse, most especially for pregnant women.

                However, one of my maxims in life is not to confuse the way the world should be with the way that it actually is. In LBK’s starry-eyed view of The Good Employer(tm), her friend (that she really seems to dislike) would resign now, lose her health insurance and her paid maternity leave. All in the name of saving the company money? (F–k that, in my opinion.)

                In the real world, her coworker could give notice now, and very possibly get fired immediately. Announcing her intent to leave is a pretty good defense against a pregnancy discrimination claim. In the end, she would still lose her health insurance and maternity leave. Thanks, “friend”.

                1. aebhel*

                  Same. At-will employment is what it is–usually, it works in the employer’s favor (I don’t see anyone saying that companies shouldn’t hide the fact that they’re planning to lay someone off), but not always. If they don’t like it, they should hire their employees with a contract.

          2. Cheesecake*

            But that is cost and risk of doing business. Employees get long terms leaves – planned or unplanned. Oh yes, and sometimes they even leave. And company has to cover this or figure what to do.

            In Europe it is illegal to fire pregnant/on maternity leave women, so we have cases when employees announce “i plan to go on maternity leave then return for a month-two of transition and resign”. But the fact is, you never know what happens after, so why burn bridges? Same as you don’t announce your job hunt.

            1. Apollo Warbucks*

              It’s illegal to fire pregnant/on maternity leave women BECAUSE they are pregnant/on maternity other reasons for firing may still be legal depending on the circumstance.

              1. Cheesecake*

                Yes, it makes all sense in the world, if position is being eliminated it doesn’t matter if employee is woman or man or Bruce Jenner. And here comes the na-ah. Pregnant ladies are super covered by the law. So if you fire (lay off) for any valid reason – court can find employer guilty for creating stressful environment, harmful for the health of mother and child (no jokes – we have just got a note from the layer).

                Then again, the only ok reason is if you lay off 100 sales reps. and one is a woman on maternity leave. If you lay off 100 positions and only 1 sale rep among those turns to be that woman on maternity leave – you can have a law suit on your desk. So we tend not to do anything during pregnancy and maternity leave even if in doubt; it is very expensive

                1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  You had an interesting point, but it took me a while to get past the mocking of someone publicly transitioning as not belonging to either gender. Bruce Jenner has said that he prefers to be referred to as male while he’s this early in transition, which is extremely unusual for someone MTF, but it’s his decision how he chooses to identify.

                2. KT*

                  The Bruce Jenner comment is out of line. Transgender people aren’t some mystical “other”–they are people, and deserve to be treated as such.

                3. MegEB*

                  Excuse me? Please don’t make cracks like that against Bruce Jenner. He’s not some mysterious third gender. Yes, his situation is unusual in that he has asked to be referred to as male until he fully transitions, but it’s not unheard of, and you shouldn’t mock someone for their identity.

                4. Nashira*

                  And to back up KT, trans people deserve legal protection from discrimination, the same as pregnant people get.

                  So let’s, you know, not Other the crap out of them. It isn’t cool to punch down.

                5. Cheesecake*

                  @ all of you, great to see how compassionate you are but gosh you must have a boring friday if you were searching for any negativity in my comment. He deserves all sort of respect just like all of us, yourself and myself included. But if i want to address him or Cosmic Avenger, i have a right to do so, as i didn’t say anything bad about him.

                6. MegEB*

                  Good grief. Cheesecake, of course you have “the right” to address him however you want, in that no one is going to arrest you for calling him by another name than what he chooses. This has nothing to do with rights, it has to do with being a decent human being and respecting someone’s desire to create their own identity. So yes. You have “the right” to call him whatever name you choose, just as all of us here have a right to call you judgmental, mean-spirited, and ignorant if we so desire. And for the record, most of these comments seem to be pretty respectful in pointing out the problem with your statement; you’re the only one getting defensive.

                7. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  @Cheesecake, I assumed that you didn’t mean it this way, but wouldn’t it be demeaning to refer to him (or anyone) as “it”? That’s basically what you did by implying that he belongs to neither male nor female groupings. As @KT said, it’s a way that many people dehumanize transgender people and refer to them as an outsider or “other”.

                  I assumed that wasn’t your intention, but your strong defense of your dehumanizing reference is making me wonder.

                8. Cheesecake*

                  If you just did not agree with my opinion – so be it. The sole reason of me defending myself is you assume something i haven’t said or meant and now gang up on me based on that (i totally feel pain of OPs who we sometimes bash after reading 5 sentences of their story). To me Bruce or any transgender person are equal to anyone else. I meant: everyone can do xyz, no matter who you are. He didn’t complete his transition yet so i jokingly mentioned him separately, but in one bucket with men and women (maybe i should have mention children but they usually don’t work). Again, meaning everyone.

                  Cosmic Avenger, if i called him “it” as you describe, then Michael Jackson diminished black people by singing “but if you are thinking about my baby, it don’t matter if you’r black or white” – because he called out black people separate from white people.

                9. LBK*

                  You said it yourself right in the comment that you mentioned him “jokingly” – as in the butt of the joke. Microaggressions like that can be really harmful when there are so many out there who don’t view trans people as human.

                10. Sonya*

                  Oh, for the hate of Pete. I have absolutely nothing against Bruce Jenner or whether Bruce Jenner refers to him or herself.

                  I do, however, think it’s important to recognise that some transgender people actually get offended by the concept of binary genders and would like to be some kind of mystical other concept.

                  Well, we can’t call them “it”, and I’m pretty sure making up words like “fale” and “memale” is offensive, too, so until they tell me what to call them, I don’t think I feel safe calling them anything.

                  Might just call them Hey until they tell me what to call them. And if they expect me to guess correctly and get offended if I’m incorrect, aww, diddums, they are Hey until the end of time!

              2. Qantas*

                In many countries in Asia and Europe it is illegal to fire pregnant women or women in the first year after giving birth no matter what (aside from layoffs, etc.). Employee protection laws means they cannot even be fired for cause.

                1. jhhj*

                  Presumably because too many employers were firing for “cause”, so they just cut off the option altogether instead of litigating each separate unfair dismissal?

                2. Cheesecake*

                  Yes. There is always a little window, but the risk of litigation and fines are so high, it makes no sense.

              3. K.*

                One of my former colleagues was laid off while on maternity leave. At least in the U.S., this is legal. (I, too, was laid off -they got rid of 1/4 of the department- and I asked the employment attorney that reviewed my severance agreement if it was legal to do this, because I was curious.)

              4. Nutcase*

                Some pregnant women still get fired because they’re pregnant whether it is illegal or not. I discovered a site recently in the same sort of format as the everyday sexism project where women anonymously tell their stories about discrimination while they were pregnant or after having a baby. http://pregnantthenscrewed.com if anyone is interested. It makes quite a depressing but eye opening read.

                My 2 cents on the OP though: You wouldn’t be obligated at all to tell an employer that you’re job searching or to give them many months of notice when you decide to leave at ANY other time, even if you had planned it for months and months, even after a long period of illness or leave of absence. Why should pregnant women have to give up their right to a standard, shorter, less financially risky notice period just because they have used the leave that they were legally entitled to use before they wished to leave? Why should a pregnant woman give the company any excuses to let them go or push them out during this really vulnerable time? I have a lot of personal feelings about this so I think I’ll stop here.

                1. Chickaletta*

                  As the third woman at my previous job to lose her job for having a baby, yep, it is still legal in the good ‘ol US of A to fire a woman for having a baby. And yep, if she was planning a major surgery or other medical procedure, everyone would encourage her to keep her job and stay strong and use her medical benefits even if she hasn’t told her employer she plans to leave after her return. But since she’s having a baby she’s supposedly a liar now. Pregnant women get treated so rotten at work in this country, I swear.

                2. fposte*

                  To clarify a little, it is actually illegal under federal law to fire a woman for getting pregnant, but the law doesn’t apply to workplaces with fewer than 15 employees–and of course, plenty of places do it whether it’s legal or not.

          3. Cristina in England*

            I get that it is inconvenient for the employer but I don’t think that is the most important thing in this situation. The pregnant lady’s health (and that of her baby) is far more important.

            1. LBK*

              But again…that’s certainly understandable, but it’s still acting in bad faith to blatantly lie about your plans.

              1. De (Germany)*

                Who’s lying? She even plans to come back to work after her leave, just not for a long time. What amount of time would you consider reasonable after 4 months of maternity levae and (presumably) a few years of working at the company? Do you think she should resign before the baby is due?

                1. LBK*

                  I think if she already knows exactly when she’s going to leave, she can certainly give an extended notice period, yes.

                2. Cristina in England*

                  As I have mentioned elsewhere up or downthread, this company may penalize people for giving long notice periods. She might be able to give a 4 month notice, but if the employer usually fires people immediately for doing that, then no one in their right mind would give more than 2 weeks. It is possible that it is the employer who works in bad faith, not the employee.

              2. Blamange*

                We all lie about our plans though to some extent. I have ambitions, I’m not going to give away that I would like to leave the company at some point tbh, because I want to progress as far as I can with this company, don’t want to put myself out of promotions and opportunities on a ‘one day’.

                1. Graciosa*

                  That’s not quite the same thing as knowing you’re starting a new job on the 15th.

                  When the plans are definite is when not sharing them becomes a potential issue. I say potential because I do think the employer’s historical reaction to long term notice is a legitimate consideration in deciding how much notice to give, but otherwise the honorable thing to do is give as much as possible.

                2. Jax*

                  Exactly. Most of us are working in our current position with an eye on our next step. Making a move after a vacation or a medical leave isn’t unethical. It’s just part of life.

                  Also, maternity leave probably looks like a whopping 6-8 weeks of mashed together vacation time, sick days, and unpaid days. Only around 13% of US companies offer a truly paid maternity leave. People seem to think that maternity leave means co-workers are enjoying a life of leisure while collecting full pay (HAHAHA) when the reality is that most families are down to one income and blowing through savings. Pregnant coworkers aren’t cashing in a Golden Ticket when they go out for maternity leave–they are just guaranteeing they have a job to come back to.

                  I dislike the tone of judgment and disdain that surrounds FMLA use. It feels like society sees it on par with welfare, like the coworker who announces her pregnancy is whipping out an EBT card at the register. Suddenly everyone is judging what’s in her cart (or her benefits package). Just…ick. Stop it, America.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                OP wrote, “This plan is elaborate and already in the works.” The pregnant coworker is not telling the boss/everybody yet–she only told the OP. Maybe it’s not finalized. Or as other people have pointed out, she hasn’t given birth yet, and perhaps they are keeping it close to the vest in case any complications occur (with the birth and with the plan).

                Personally, I wouldn’t have mentioned it to my coworker at all.

                1. GeekGirl*

                  Well OP did describe themselves as “close friends”, which is why she felt comfortable confiding in this person. I wonder what “elaborate and already in the works” means? But I don’t think that the pregnant woman is doing anything wrong or “robbing the company” by using a legitimately earned/legal benefit.

            2. Anonicorn*

              Absolutely, some situations supersede your loyalty to an employer. I don’t see how anyone can compare a pregnant woman’s loss of income and healthcare to the inconvenience of accommodating and then losing an employee.

              1. Cristina in England*

                When it comes to one’s health and the risk of tens of thousands in medical bills, then I would say that nearly all situations supersede the inconvenience of one’s employer!

            3. Sunflower*

              TBH I don’t even think it matters that she’s pregnant. She’s using a benefit she’s entitled to because she worked there. Period.

              1. Dang*


                I got very generous PTO at my last job, but I knew I’d be leaving within 6 months and it got paid out, so I decided I’d rather have the money. I don’t really see how that’s different. It was a benefit that was offered to me and I took it. Mat leave is no different… and the mat leave policies in the USA are, for the most part, pathetic… so it’s no wonder to me things like this happen all of the time.

              2. Zillah*

                Yep. If someone worked in a place that didn’t pay out vacation time, would people think they were “robbing” from the company if they started using the time they’d accumulated because they were job-searching and planning to leave soon? Likely not, so I’m not sure why this is seen as so terrible.

              3. LBK*

                She is, but I don’t think she’s entitled to be exempt from the potential consequences of her actions, either.

            4. fposte*

              Though let’s not toss off “inconvenient for the employer” as if it just meant Mr. Moneybags had to wait to get his Jaguar. It’s inconvenient for all the staff who have to cover, and some of them have their own kids, pregnant spouses, ailing family members, etc.

              1. LBK*

                Thank you for saying this. There was something that really irked me about the eye rolling “the company will get over it” comments that I couldn’t put my finger on.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  Coworkers will get over it too.

                  So your job gets a little harder for three months? Them’s the breaks.

                  I was always willing to put up with that, because it meant that if or when *I* needed those benefits (medical, parental, whatever), they’d be there for me as well.

                2. fposte*

                  Sure, co-workers mostly do; I have. But it means they’re missing their own family stuff, not just a party weekend in Cabo. So while I don’t think that means it’s wrong to take leave, I think the effect on the workplace deserves more respect than it’s getting.

                3. LBK*

                  That’s not to say that you have to be completely hamstrung by all the factors, but just to make sure you’re actually considering all the factors.

              2. TootsNYC*

                I’ve never had to miss family events because of someone’s maternity leave; things get spread around. Sure, it might be harder to handle the load in a smaller company, but it’s not like they don’t have a few months to get ready for it!

                And in our OP’s situation, they are hiring a seasoned temp to cover while she’s out. So in our specific situation, the workload may be a little bit tougher, and things may be disjointed for a little while, but maternity-leave coverage is not going to be a horrible hardship for the rest of the team.

                1. fposte*

                  Yes, the OP’s case sounds like they were able to afford coverage. In my unit we can’t, and I’ve definitely missed family stuff and cancelled weeks off when co-workers were out. It’s rough in a small unit. It’s gone the other way when I was out, but it really can be a significant burden.

          4. denkyem*

            Ok, I agree this is hard on small organizations. Which is why I think governments should be handling paid maternity leave! Here in Canada that’s how it works, though the mat leave benefit is based on EI rates and is not all that high. Then good employers that care about gender equality in their work place sometimes top up the mat leave benefit to bring it closer to the actual salary. We usually take 12 months.

            As I see it, the lack of state paid mat leave in the US is basically a human rights violation. American women are being screwed by this system. Where they do have employer-paid mat leave benefits, I do not think it’s remotely reasonable to put the burden on women to worry about the wellbeing of their workplaces when they take advantage of the maternity benefits to which they are entitled. Especially when you consider that we know statistically women earn less than their male colleagues — these are already disadvantaged employees even before the pregnancy.

            SOMEBODY should worry about the challenges mat leave presents for small organizations — but that somebody is the US federal and state governments, who should be doing more to support women and employers in this area, not the pregnant employee!

            By the way, here’s the US compared to the rest of the world on this issue: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/06/good-job-america-a-map-of-maternity-leave-policies-around-the-world/373117/

          5. Vin Packer*

            In that case, I guess my question is: what would you have her do? Having a baby while unemployed, without health insurance, is staggeringly expensive *if all goes well*–if there are complications, it’s devastating.

            She knows she’s moving, but not until a certain date. It’s not like she can postpone having the baby if she’s already pregnant. So what is she supposed to do?

            You would really encourage this OP, if she was a manager, to disclose her “friend’s” privately shared information to HR and possibly get this woman fired and stick her with tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of dollars in medical bills?

          6. Faith*

            I think that if the law does not provide employment protection for pregnant women and allows the employers to fire a woman and leave her without the much needed health insurance coverage (and apparently deny her the FMLA benefits, which she has already presumably earned), it is not reasonable to expect a woman to give this type of notice to her employer.

          7. Joey*

            Well that’s sort of the case with all resignations at small companies, no?

            Small companies don’t get to expect more notice just because they’re small. That’s just the cost of being a small business.

      2. Liz in a Library*

        But if you’re at a company that provides paid maternity leave, that benefit is part of your compensation package. I don’t get why it’s not OK to use part of your compensation. After all, I wouldn’t argue that you should refuse your vacation time or a Christmas bonus if you know you are leaving soon.

        Not a parent, so I’ll never have try this first hand, but I genuinely don’t get what makes this different.

        1. LBK*

          If you hung around just long enough to get the bonus while lying about leaving, yeah, I’d consider that shady. If the timing genuinely works out that way, fine, I don’t care if you manage to qualify for the bonus on your very last day, but it’s being disingenuous about it that strikes me as clearly wrong.

          1. jhhj*

            I don’t think so. If bonuses are given out to employees still there on Jan 1, I would feel just fine giving my 2 weeks notice on Jan 2, and I don’t think many people would think it’s wrong, they think it’s a reasonable planning — after all, I would have done the same work towards the bonus had I left Dec 31.

            If you’re leaving a job and you take the last month to do every single expensive thing you need on your health insurance — which typically drives up rates — are you being unethical? This is a very common thing which people here recommend all the time.

          2. Juli G.*

            Eh, disagree. We have a set bonus schedule. You have to be an employ on X date to have it paid to you. The two months after that is when 40% of our turnover happens. We expect it and honestly, it allows us to plan better to have consistent patterns. No ill will – people still earned those bonuses!

            1. Dang*

              Yeah, it’s a bonus for the previous year while you worked there. Why shouldn’t you collect it?

          3. BalticFog*

            Do you give an advanced notice to the employer once you start looking up jobs on linked in? After all, you already plan to leave….

            1. LBK*

              Yup, actually, I did. My old manager knew when I started job searching, and before I even started doing it he knew I had other ambitions and that I probably wouldn’t last in the position for more than another 6 months. We had a great relationship where I could honest about my career path and in turn he was able to start preparing the department to take over my work when I inevitably left (which I did 3 months ago).

              1. BalticFog*

                It’s a great situation but a very marginal example.
                Most managers would find a replacement asap and let you go once said replacement is found, without waiting for you to complete the job search.

                1. LBK*

                  Yeah, but plenty do, and it’s frustrating that all the advice here seems to assume every manager is terrible and will screw their employees as soon as they get the chance.

                2. Ineloquent*

                  It is frustrating, LBK, but it is unfortunately many peoples’ experience. Growing up, my dad always made a point of reminding me that while it was important to work to the best of your ability while employed somewhere, it was equally important to remember that they owe you no loyalty whatsoever, so you needed to protect your own interests as well.

                3. A Teacher*

                  My manager (assistant principal/principal) isn’t “terrible” however, in a medical scenario, one of my co-workers is taking off the first half of next year because her mother is dying. She’s covered under FMLA and she actually has the sick days to use (153). Our union rep told her to be careful because they can “void her contract” or move her anywhere. My co-worker could have waited until the first day of the year and just started taking off days per our contract. She didn’t, she took the ethical approach. Now she is being ostracized by administration and threatened to move to a different building, even though they’ve hired a qualified sub to take her classes for the semester.

                  I don’t assume all managers are bad but I don’t think everyone on here does, but you do have to air on the side of caution in regards to your employment. It is easy for the boss to be a nice person and “not terrible” but still say “its a business decision.”

                4. Zillah*

                  @ A Teacher – Yes, exactly. And the higher the stakes, the more likely people are to err on the side of caution. Pregnancy is pretty high stakes.

                  We’d all love to have employers who would appreciate advance notice – but many of us don’t have that luxury. I’d even go so far as to say that if you doubt whether your employer will react well to advance notice, you probably have reason to be wary.

                5. Elsajeni*

                  @LBK, I don’t think this is about assuming that every manager is terrible — you had an unusually great manager who was willing to do something that benefited you even though it didn’t benefit the company. Most managers, even non-terrible managers, won’t do that; they’ll put what’s best for the company or department ahead of what’s best for one employee. Assuming they’ll do that doesn’t mean you’re assuming they’re terrible and out to screw you; it means you’re assuming that they have the fairly normal priorities of “above all keep the company running and successful, THEN make as many individual employees happy as possible.”

                6. LBK*

                  I’d argue that it actually is better for the company in the long run to build a culture that encourages transparency. Imagine if every time someone left you had 2 months to prepare the transition; that sounds hugely beneficial for the business. Assuming that it’s best to fire the old person and get a new person in ASAP is short-sighted; it might save you the most money in the short term because you’re not paying two people for the same job, but what you make up in productivity opportunity cost can be massive. You don’t run down a person for months, you don’t waste someone else’s time cross training to temporarily cover, etc.

                  None of my views here are out of altruism. I genuinely believe it’s a smarter business decision to allow people to have longer leave periods and encourage your employees to use them, and I genuinely believe it’s a smarter career decision to be open with your employer about your career plans. It’s delusional to assume everyone will stay where they are forever anyway.

                7. AGirlCalledFriday*

                  @ LBK, I think everyone would agree that your scenario is ideal, however it seems naive to not realize that the majority of people do not have employers who think as you do. Hopefully people like you can work toward changing that!

              2. Future Analyst*

                This relationship is rare in today’s job market– you were lucky. Many companies are ready to push people out as soon as they find out the employee is looking elsewhere (think of all the examples you can find on this site alone).

              3. Dang*

                I’ve had that experience once, too. I knew I was going back to school and my boss offered me a promotion. I wasn’t going for 6 months but I told her anyway, because I didn’t want to have her train me up and then just leave.

                But I think in general, most people aren’t lucky enough to have that kind of relationship with their bosses, so it’s not really fair to prescribe this approach across the board.

              4. aebhel*

                Yeah, I’ve done that too, and it’s worked out well for me. I was working as a clerk while I finished grad school, and everyone was very supportive of my job search–and very grateful that I stuck around to get started training a new person when I got my job offer.

                Of course, I also know people who’ve been fired on the spot for giving a lot of notice–more than one of them–so I don’t particularly blame people for being cagey. Two weeks notice is standard. If she gives two weeks notice, then she’s giving the employer exactly what should be expected of her. And expecting someone to risk losing medical coverage just for the sake of making things easier on her employer is…well, not particularly reasonable, IMO.

          4. Future Analyst*

            I completely disagree. If your bonus is tied to your work from the previous six months, you’ve earned it as part of your compensation. Leaving shortly after being paid the bonus is no less shady than leaving shortly after receiving any paycheck.

            1. LBK*

              Juking the timing of your leaving so you can grab the bonus is what seems off to me.

              I actually did this and I didn’t feel good about it – I had a new job and then on what was supposed to be my last day we found out our location was closing. Anyone who stayed for the next 1.5 months to help close out the store got a huge retention bonus. I ended up staying and working both jobs for that time only because I had so many people telling me I was an idiot if I didn’t, but it didn’t feel right to me.

              1. Cat*

                But that’s bog standard in a lot of industries. I don’t know anyone who has left a law firm who hasn’t done that. It’s expected and completely normal — and above board, because the bonus is for your work the previous year.

              2. jhhj*

                So your old company offered extra money to people who stayed until it closed, and you accepted it and kept working, then took the money. This sounds like exactly what the company wanted to happen, and I don’t see where anyone could fault you for this. Why did you feel weird about it?

                1. LBK*

                  Because if the announcement had been made a day later, I’d no longer have been an employee of the company and it wouldn’t have been an option. My 2 weeks notice was already in and over.

                2. jhhj*

                  Had they wanted to, they could have said that your notice period was up, so they weren’t going to keep you on. Yes, you got lucky with timing, but this wasn’t a trick — they opted in just like you did.

              3. voyager1*

                Many people leave jobs deliberately at the new year so they can get bonuses and make sure Christmas vacations can be taken. It is the way it is, and no it isn’t “juking” the employer. If you worked and earned a bonus why shouldn’t you take it?

              4. TootsNYC*

                It should have felt right to you! You gave that company what it wanted, which was continuity in staffing. You saved the managers from having to recruit someone else for a 1.5-month gig, and train her, and have her be über-unproductive.
                You did a great thing for them! They didn’t have to focus on training someone new, and could count on you to keep things humming without extra brain power from them.

                Especially in -your- case, since they weren’t offering ongoing employment!

              5. Jo*

                There’s no need to feel bad about it. It really is very normal behavior and even encouraged. I had a mentor from an old job, someone in a supervisory position, counsel me not to rush into my job search till after the holidays because of bonus timing. He said he’s seen people move to new jobs in November or December when they could have waited till the new year and thought they were nuts to put in almost a year’s work, then forfeit the bonus they’d rightfully earned.

                You clearly have a very strong moral compass, and I actually admire it, but I think you’re taking it too far in agreeing with Alison that the OP’s friend is doing something “crappy.” What’s she’s doing isn’t the strictly upstanding thing in terms of her relationship with her employer, but it seems to me like her only safe option in terms of caring for herself, her child, and her family’s future.

          5. Mike C.*

            So if I stay at a job just long enough for my stock options to vest, that’s shady too?

              1. Jax*

                Ugh, vested 401Ks. I resent my 5 year vestment for a measly 3% match. At least indentured servants got to take a trip to the New World.

            1. LBK*

              Kinda, yeah, and I think that’s part of why employer push people out and take other aggressive tactics. There’s underhandedness and ulterior motives at play on both sides – you don’t get a free pass on staying for a personal reason while also getting upset if the company pushes you out for a business reason. If we’re operating under the assumption that both parties are entitled at all times to act solely in their self-interest with no consequences, I don’t see how you can surprised or annoyed if companies cut leave periods short in response to you mapping your employment decisions around things that only benefit you.

              Frankly, I loathe both sides of this kind of thinking. I wish more companies and more employees felt comfortable acting with transparency.

              1. themmases*

                LBK, I get what you are saying in this thread and I think most people wish relationships between employers and workers could be more transparent. Many would also feel odd accepting an expensive benefit knowing they’re going to leave — that’s why the topic comes up here. But I think you’re missing two big issues that are rubbing people the wrong way.

                First, because something feels off doesn’t mean it is off. If you do even casual reading about ethics, you’ll learn that nearly everyone has some ethical ideas that are irrational or inconsistent– or maybe just complex. (e.g. the famous thought experiment about deliberately killing one person to save ten.) Personal opinions are valuable and can differ, but I don’t think we should base advice about people’s livelihoods on our gut feelings about right and wrong.

                Second, there is a big difference in power and resources between employer and employee. Being transparent is a lot riskier for one side than the other. An employer is usually a group of people, and even if you’re afraid of your boss you feel that way in the context of whether or not the organization will back them up. In contrast, unless they’re unionized or something the employee is just one individual. Even in a tiny organization, an employee’s pay and benefits represents maybe 1/3 of just one budget (granted staff is the big one). Within a typical employee’s family, their pay and benefits represent half to all of everything the family takes in. An employee might look for a new job for months or over a year in some industries, while the employer can often transfer the employee’s most urgent work to other employees tomorrow. Family income is more urgently needed than many types of work, yet employers can cross-train or contract with staffing agencies much more easily than individuals can have a backup job waiting in the wings.

                And while medical costs are rising faster than almost any other type of cost right now, they are still much larger relative to a typical family’s income than to a typical organization’s income. Even if you posit a tiny, cash-strapped non-profit, that almost always implies that the organization’s employees are also not taking home a lot in terms of pay and benefits– they need and *earn* what they get. When individuals are going through an illness or moving or planning on adding a new family member, that is when they need their pay and benefits the most and if they hadn’t earned them through prior service, then they wouldn’t be eligible to take them in the first place. Preparing for these life events (and enjoying the good ones, like children) is exactly why people work, not some con on the employer. Pay, benefits, and bonuses are incentives and it does not surprise reasonable employers when people make sure to recoup incentives they have already earned.

            2. brighidg*

              Yeah, apparently as an employee you owe your company 100% honesty and loyalty and they are not required to the do the same for you because “that’s business.”

              Some folks here must lead charmed lives, that’s the most generous explanation I can manage.

              1. LBK*

                That’s not even close to what I’m saying. I’m saying if you conduct yourself with honesty and loyalty you’re more likely to get it back, and that operating under the assumption that you’ll be screwed the second it’s possible is often a self-fulfilling prophecy.

                1. LBK*

                  Karma may or may not exist but human beings do generally react well to being treated well. You do work with and for humans – coworkers and managers are not another species.

                2. LBK*

                  (And for the record, conducting your life as if everything will always be unfair and you’ll be constantly shit on is likely to make that a reality. Most people are not Sansa Stark.)

          6. Liz in a Library*

            As long as you are providing appropriate notice length for your job and industry, why is it lying? People would give longer notices, generally, if they were protected from being let go or losing earned benefits when they provide longer notice. Some companies are great about this, but enough aren’t that it’s a big risk on the employee side.

      3. Us, Too*

        I’ve known in advance that I was going to have to lay off or fire staff members and delayed telling them even when I knew that these folks were making major changes in their lives under the assumption that their job was stable. How is that different than a staff member delaying telling me that they were going to leave after maternity leave?

        I’m sure there’s some element of this I’m not thinking through. Need more coffee, still, I guess.

          1. A Teacher*

            Its a business decision. Again doesn’t make Us, Too terrible. It kind of sucks for the person being impacted but you’re making a big assumption about “most people” in the hasty generalization. Life happens, things happen, people make choices, businesses make choices. I’ve had good managers and bad managers and sometimes the bad managers were nicer than the good managers, just not good managers.

          2. Zillah*

            I don’t think so. I think when it’s come up in the past, people have generally felt like it’s a bad situation, but not really one that’s anyone’s fault. I can certainly understand why a company might not want to tell an employee about planned layoffs or store closures or whatever two months out, let alone six months out.

          3. Us, Too*

            We aren’t always permitted to share every bit of information we have with staff members even if that information could impact them. For example, if one of my job responsibilities is to put together a plan to shut down a plant…. I can’t exactly tell someone “um, don’t go buying a new car any time soon. We’re talking about shutting your plant down.”

            1. A Teacher*

              Exactly. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad manager–its the reality of your job. I’m sure you don’t love telling people “sorry, no job in a few weeks/days/months/whatever but it is something you have to do. It sucks for the person losing the job that they are losing the job but its not that you’re a bad person–you’re just the one that has to break the bad news to them.

              1. Me*

                It does, IMO, mean the company is a ‘bad [corporate] person.’ It would very likely not really cost them much to let people know that changes are coming so they can plan their lives, but they don’t because it would be slightly inconvenient if some of those people managed to get other jobs before they were ready to let them go.

                But this is the consequence of thinking of employees as ‘resources’ as fungible as copper ore. You treat them like their lives don’t matter, and they in return treat your business like its success doesn’t matter to their lives. Because ultimately it doesn’t. Sow; reap.

                Even Henry Ford, who practically invented corporate efficiency, knew that if his employees couldn’t afford to buy the cars they made, the company wouldn’t succeed. JP Morgan, notorious for being a ‘robber baron,’ thought that 35x the lowest paid worker was plenty enough for the CEO. And he didn’t die poor.

          4. aebhel*

            I think that if you’re arguing that one is unacceptable, you have to argue that the other is unacceptable, too.

            You can’t say, well, businesses can lay off or fire people as suits their needs, but employees need to risk their benefits and jobs by giving notice the instant they start looking for another job. At will employment generally benefits the employer to a much greater degree, but as long as I can be laid off at the drop of a hat, I can leave at the drop of a hat, too.

        1. Another Job Seeker*

          The difference is the impact on the woman and her child (and possibly other family and friends) vs. the impact on the company (which does include co-workers who will likely be asked to take on the woman’s work until her replacement is hired). Worst case scenario for the employer: the woman does not give notice before the baby is born and leaves after she has her baby. The company is short-staffed until they hire her replacement. Worst case scenario for the woman: she tells her employer she is not coming back after her leave, she is let go (supposedly for reasons unrleated to her pregnancy), she has unexpected medical bills and her plans to move fall through. Now, I do believe that making the decision now not to come back after the baby is born is wrong. I believe that more ethical options are (1) tell her employer or (2) postpone the move a bit. (I would not recommend Option #1 for reasons that have already been discussed). However, we don’t know her situation and both of these choices might be detrimental to her and her child. However, I don’t think that the OP should tell the employer. How would you feel if you told them, she lost her job, and then could not afford medical care for herself and her child? Suppose the baby developed an illness that is covered by insurance – but the mom could not afford it? I think it comes down to this question: to whom is your loyalty? Your friend or your company? Maybe if we (as a society) thought more about how situations like this impact the baby as well as the mother, we would see things differently. It is inconvenient, annoying and unfair for co-workers to have to pick up extra work in situations like this. However, isn’t a little inconvenience worth the life, health, peace of mind and well-being of a mother and her child? I think so, but I don’t think everyone would agree.

      4. Thanks AAM*

        Thanks for the reply and added context, Alison and AAM readers. Absolutely going to go with my gut and keep my mouth shut. I’m a manager but not a manager to her, and since life can throw massive curveballs, so there is no guarantee her move will go through. I felt all of this but wanted some thoughtful, authoritative confirmation from an expert like Alison.

        Just a note as well: I’m a new mom and 150% understand that maternity leave is a benefit you deserve and work for, not some special bonus time, and that family and insurance needs are intense and crucial during this life stage.

        I appreciate the readers who kept a level head and added helpful context. To those who were vitriolic, I wish you peace and hope that you always assume positive intent.

        1. Zillah*

          Thanks for coming back and giving us more context, OP.

          I do want to point out, though, that many people are not going to assume positive intent when one uses terms like “robbery” and “a truly bad thing to do.” I usually try to assume the best of OPs’ intents, but it can be difficult when such strong moralizing language gets used.

        2. A Teacher*

          I don’t think they were spewing vitriol at you. When you raise a question like that and it hits close to home, sometimes you get a reaction that you don’t want. There are too many circumstances that might come up for you to go to the company–which you say, I’m glad you recognize that. When I worked in corporate for a physical therapy company, one of the PTs thought she was going to go part time. She made the mistake of telling her manager and the manager took that to the higher up. They fully hired a replacement to “sub” knowing they were going to move the PT that planned to go part time to a new clinic about 30 minutes away and double her commute “for the good of the business.” Fast forward to 3 weeks before the baby was due and she ended up needing an emergency C-section and the baby died. Co-worker was off for about 6 weeks and came back full time but they had no place to put her because her “sub” was now full time. My co-worker was stuck being a float PT for clinics up to 1.5 hours away and often didn’t know what clinic she was going to be in until the night before. Punished for being pregnant. It happens and her plans to go part time were changed because she didn’t have the baby and had major medical bills from the hospitalization and surgery. Company didn’t look to good either.

      5. SAHM*

        I agree, if the person knows 100% they’re going to quit after maternity leave, then they shouldn’t take it. Of course, the OP DOESNT know what’s going through their coworkers mind. I wanted to quit after I went on maternity leave bc I absolutely hated my workplace/boss, and I had every intention of quitting after maternity leave. When the time came for me to return to work I couldn’t afford to NOT work so I emailed my boss to figure out when I would start and her response was “Oh, we hadn’t heard from you so we thought you had quit*, and now you’re laid off.” Which was great, bc unemployment, but if my coworker who I had confided in about wanting to quit had told Boss that I was planning to quit then I wouldn’t have had maternity leave/ she could have fired me before maternity leave.
        * Why would she expect to hear from me DURING maternity leave?! I’m on leave and she had someone handling my work! There was no reason for me to contact her prior to finding out when I was coming in/maternity leave ending!

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I think it depends on the size of the company, like Alison said. My husband kept a guy on the payroll of his tiny company for months after the guy injured himself at a party, and had to have a knee replacement. He was unable to work at all for 3 or 4 months, because it’s a machine shop, and he was unable to stand for any significant amount of time. They paid him anyway because he’d been a good employee, and they knew if they cut him loose, and he lost his insurance, he’d probably end up losing his house and/or having to file bankruptcy. It was a huge outlay of cash for a company that only has 6-7 employees at any given time. The guy started working half days again, did that for a couple weeks, and then up and quit. It was pretty clear that he’d been looking for another job while still on the payroll of my husband’s company. And his new job was similar to what he’d done for my husband, so it wasn’t like he had to find a different line of work because his injury prevented him from being on his feet all day long.

      Was what he did illegal? No, but in my view it was definitely unethical. He essentially let my husband’s company foot the bill for his job search.

      This would be an eyeroll at a huge company like mine, but at a very small company, where cash flows are always extremely tight, it’s a much bigger deal.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Right, but the cash flow for the pregnant employee is even tighter. Why would she give a months-long notice period, risk getting pushed out and losing her insurance right before a major medical event? I get that there is cost to the company but from a “what should she do” POV, I just can’t see someone choosing to risk racking up tens of thousands in medical costs and lost salary.

        1. Snowglobe*

          I just want to veer off-topic here to say that you can’t assume the pregnant employee’s cash flow is tighter. Many, many small businesses go under because they are losing money. Many small business owners have negative cash flow. My husband’s small business is currently kept afloat from my salary. Most people seem to think business owners automatically make more money than their employees, but that is often not the case for small businesses.

          That said, I think it’s not unethical to use established benefits, even if you are planning on leaving. But in the situation described by Ann Furthermore, it sounds like the business offered way more support than the standard employee benefit would require. And I do think that it is unethical to accept that extra help if you know you are leaving.

          1. Cristina in England*

            I appreciate that very small businesses have tight cashflow, but my point was that one person shouldering tens of thousands in medical bills is less plausible than a business shouldering insurance and maternity leave.

            I also disagree that it is “unethical to accept that extra help” because it is not extra help, it is an earned benefit. The United States is the only developed country in the entire world that does not have statutory maternity leave. In all other developed countries it is accepted that maternity leave is a right and not a privilege.

            1. Sunshine Brite*

              In a business that small, it often is extra help. Businesses with under 49 employees have a different standard recognizing how small they are and the limited resources in some cases.

              I’m glad to read the follow-up though, that the pregnant employee had more to lose than the injured employee. Knee replacements are just as much or more than having a child and it sounds like her husband is employed so we know there’s additional income to hers that we don’t about the injured.

            2. Snowglobe*

              I am referring to Ann Furyhermore’s story of an employee that was injured and the company kept paying him throughout the recovery period, which it sounds like was way beyond the normal sick leave period-the owner didn’t have to do that, but chose to help out an employee who was going through a really tough time.

        2. Future Analyst*

          While I don’t think it’s wrong for an employee to have tentative plans to quit when she comes back from maternity leave (note “tentative”), I do think one should take into consideration your surroundings. Just because the business theoretically has a bigger cushion for dealing with the loss of an employee than the employee has a cushion for dealing with the loss of health benefits doesn’t mean that it’s true. Unless the employee has all the information (rare), she should make an effort to operate in good will. [And this covers a situation in which an employee doesn’t give a longer notice if they know for a fact that other employees who have given a longer notice have been pushed out.]

      2. Algae*

        But doesn’t everyone look for a job while they still have a job? It’s pretty common advice to not quit a job without another one in hand.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Yes, but normally you’re still working and earning your paycheck while you’re doing it. That was not the case here. The guy was at home, not working, ostensibly recuperating, but actually looking for a new job too, and drawing a paycheck the whole time.

          It wasn’t like he was using vacation time, which he’d earned, to job search. I wouldn’t have a problem with that.

      3. Anonicorn*

        But … as Algae said, that’s what almost everyone does when looking for a job. The circumstances might not be as extreme as this one, and even you agree – what was the guy supposed to do? – lose his income, insurance, and risk being homeless?

        I understand that it can be a burden for both sides, but ultimately people are going to make sure they aren’t screwing themselves over. That doesn’t make them unethical.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          But there was no risk of him losing his job (unless he’d committed a fireable offense of course). They were keeping him on the payroll so he’d be able to recuperate and return to his job and continue to contribute when he was able to work again. At another company, in the same situation, he would have lost his income, insurance, and home, because his employer would have let him go because he was unable to perform his job duties.

          Like I said, he didn’t do anything illegal, but in my view it was shady and unethical. We read here all the time that companies (well…companies in the US) are in no way obligated to treat people decently. They can change work schedules, require people to work crazy hours, fire them for no good reason, and so on. So here’s an example of a company that did behave very decently, by keeping someone on the payroll who was not able to work, to prevent a serious injury from being compounded by financial hardship, and in return, the recipient of that generosity essentially gave his employer the bird.

          1. Zillah*

            Personally, I agree with you – if it had been me, I’d have felt like I owed the employer a certain amount of time after they went out on a limb like that for me. But I think that’s a very different situation than this one in a few ways, particularly in that it sounds like your husband’s company gave him far more than any benefit he had earned through his work.

          2. Anonicorn*

            So treating employees generously is merely conditional? Your husband did the right thing for that employee because it was the right thing to do. Period. That the employee left doesn’t change that fact. The other workers, having seen how this man was treated, probably have more faith in their employer, etc. etc. There’s no amount of money you can pay to earn that kind of thing.

            And finding another job is not the equivalent of “giving his employer the bird.” That’s ludicrous.

            1. fposte*

              Why shouldn’t it be conditional? Would you argue that treating employers generously should be unconditional?

              I agree that I’m not on board with Ann’s condemnation about this event, but of course I’m going to extend a different generosity to an employee who’s earned trust and brought value than I will to one I’ve been hoping will leave.

              1. Tinker*

                I’d argue that treating people (regardless of relationship) generously is in fact better to do unconditionally than conditionally, better to do conditionally based on past performance than by creating a future debt, and better to do based on a future debt defined in advance than based on an amorphous and questionably-negotiated debt that seems to be defined retroactively. I’d go so far to say that the latter is hovering on the edge of “actually unethical”.

                (This is kind of along the lines of Maimonides’ eight levels of charity, except that gifts which create obligation don’t seem to be included there in any form.)

                In fact, you say here “an employee who’s earned trust and brought value”, and I’d agree with that — who has already done these things, and who has therefore fulfilled the conditions for the assistance before it was given. That’s not creating a debt that the person has to pay back in the future. I’d even say, if what they have done up to that point is not sufficient, that it would be fair to make a straightforward proposal to them of what their debt will be if they agree to assistance — something like a tuition repayment plan — so that they have a fair chance to understand what they are agreeing to before they do it. (I certainly would not knowingly agree to continue to work for an employer for an undefined future term.)

                (Although, it must be said that there is a squishy bit here about proposals that operate like “You will literally lack food, shelter, and medical care unless we help you… and HERE ARE OUR TERMS….” But that’s a more complicated question.)

                Helping them out and then going back and arguing that they should be grateful and that this gratitude should be reflected concretely in their career decisions — it doesn’t seem like generosity anymore at that point to me, although I don’t doubt the intent. If I was the employee and heard of this, I’d certainly be quite uncomfortable with the situation.

                1. fposte*

                  Yes, this relates elsewhere to what I was saying about the psychology of the situation–are you still on our team or not, with the OP feeling like the co-worker isn’t on the team any more but is pretending to be. But I also think that that identifies why it’s a loss for both sides when it’s conceived of as the individual worker vs. the faceless corporation–pace the Supreme Court, it’s not corporations but people who create trust with and offer generosity to one another, and it’s people who are affected positively and negatively on both sides. I’m therefore landing pretty much with Joey on “Yeah, it’s irritating for the employer, but what else could she do?”, which acknowledges both the employee’s need and the action’s effect.

                  Gratitude is a whole nother kettle of fish. I’m grateful for my colleagues above and below me being cool and helpful and funny and doing their jobs well, but I don’t think that obligates me or them. That’s what formal agreements are for.

            2. Ann Furthermore*

              No, finding another job is not the equivalent of giving your employer the bird. But finding a job when your employer is keeping you on the payroll even though you’re not working, with the understanding that you’ll return to work when you’ve recovered from your injury, is the equivalent of giving your employer the bird.

              1. fposte*

                I do think there’s a difference between a small business taking on an obligation they’re not legally required to and a business providing policy/mandatory benefits, and an agreement that’s explicitly made (I presume it was in the case you mention) and an unstated expectation.

                1. Ann Furthermore*

                  Right, this example is in no way meant to question or challenge the legality of someone’s maternity leave. A person on maternity leave who is not working is taking care of their newborn child (or a newly adopted child). That’s an entirely different situation. My point was only that there are situations when an extended leave followed up by up and quitting can reflect badly on the employee.

                  I was sort of in the OP’s situation when I was pregnant. I had a new manager, and he and I just did not hit it off. At all. I’m pretty sure the only thing that kept me from being fired was the fact that I was pregnant, and HR wouldn’t let him fire a 40 year old woman who was 6 months pregnant. But I had no doubt that as soon as I returned from maternity leave, I’d have been kicked to the curb at the first missed dotted i or crossed t. My plan was to use up my 8 weeks of maternity leave, and then use up the rest of my vacation time to find a new job. Thankfully it turned out to not be necessary because a position opened in another group, doing the kind of work I wanted to get back into doing anyway, so I moved over there and things worked out.

                  So I do get considering quitting after a maternity leave — people have their reasons for doing that. Some people want to be stay at home parents, some people are just in bad job situations, and so on. But to continue the example, if an employer voluntarily extended an employee’s maternity leave for months beyond the standard 6 or 8 weeks of short-term disability, kept paying her, kept her on the company insurance plan, and didn’t make her use her accrued vacation, and she came back and promptly quit, I’d have a big problem with that. Personally, in that situation, even if I wanted to move on, I’d commit to giving the employer at least a year. I’d feel obligated to do so, after such a huge show of good faith.

      4. Sunflower*

        I understand why your husband did what he did but at the same time, he made a choice to pay the guy. This isn’t a choice. They company is required to pay the woman because it’s part of her benefits package.

        This has nothing to do with who needs money vs who doesn’t. It’s a benefit she’s entitled to because she works there.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          You’re right. He did make a choice to do that, which he later regretted. And he vowed to never go out on a limb like that ever again. So it’s not the same situation as a maternity leave.

          What I thought was so unfortunate about that was that there are plenty of people out there who would be incredibly thankful for such generosity. I certainly would.

          1. jhhj*

            There are good actors — some are employers, like your husband, some are employees. There are also crappy actors, and here we hear a lot more about the crappy employers who take advantage, but the crappy employees who take advantage exist too.

            (That’s why our “X days off for a death in the family” policy had to be changed to “X days off within 4 weeks of the death” policy. Most people used it appropriately, but one person decided to save them for months and extend the Christmas break.)

      5. Confused*

        Is short- and long-term disability insurance (through work, similar to health and dental) not a thing in the US? From the context it sounds like the husband’s company is footing the cost of the full salary, while the employee was entirely at the company’s mercy to not get fired.

    3. August*

      I agree with PEBCAK. It is totally the pregnant woman’s choice to take maternity leave and then leave. Paid maternity leave at least in my company is an earned benefit. Some one who gives birth before one year of service at the company will not get any paid maternity leave and I am not sure if they get any maternity leave at all and just have to use their vacation days. So may be she earned it and so she has the right to use it.

      I also want to ask about a hypothetical case. Say an employee works in the company for ten years before taking maternity leave. Then she takes six months maternity leave and come back to work, gives her two weeks notice. During that ten years, many people would have taken multiple maternity/parental leaves and eventually would have left the company though not immediately after returning from their leave. Is that still considered to be crappy thing to do? I certainly don’t think so.

    4. Apollo Warbucks*

      I quite agree that it’s not crappy, in re UK the statutory minimum maternity benefits are picked up by the state so it’s no harm to the employer and its widely understood that woman may or may not come back and are just obligated to give their standard notice.

      And even if it’s a cost or hassle to employers firstly I think it’s unfair to marginalise woman and force them out of the work place and secondly the cost of having kids is something that socity including companies can reasonable be expected to contribute towards

      1. UKAnon*

        I thought that you had to return for a certain period of time or pay back some/all of the maternity pay, but I don’t know for certain – I’ve never had to use it! I’d also understood that the employer pays mat leave, but again, see previous statement.

        What I only just realised was that you can still qualify if the baby is stillborn or a similar misfortune occurs (I am trying to find a delicate way to phrase that). You also have to take a minimum period of time off, which I think would alter the moral dynamics of planning to leave soon after returning.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          The only thing I’ve ever seen about returning for a certain period of time is with bonuses that are paid for coming back and are conditional on coming back for a certain period of time. As a benefit companies can choose to top statutory payment to nearer the employees actual wage up the so as far as I know the cost is split between the government and companies so it might be that any extra pay is subject to conditions but that would be similar in nature to relocation packages, you know accepting the offer that you are bound to stay for a period of time.

          1. UKAnon*

            That would make sense – thanks for clarifying! Always a good day when you learn something new.

      2. Sleepyhead*

        I’m in Canada and I believe it’s fairly similar – maternity/paternity benefits are accessed through the government (and sometimes topped up by employers). I believe it’s fairly standard to let your employer know about 4 weeks before your return date if you will in fact return or not. The leave is also 12 months standard, so most of the time employers aren’t left in a sticky situation like the OP’s might be here – where someone is away for a few weeks/months and might have their projects on hold. A 1-year term is typically hired to cover the leave in Canada and often those job postings will state “with the possibility of extension” because often employers know there’s a chance the person on leave may decide not to return.

        It’s really shameful that the US has no standardized maternity/paternity benefits.

    5. OriginalEmma*

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

      Just like you never quit your job until you have a firm job offer in hand, she shouldn’t jeopardize her employment by announcing her intention to move cross-country. She states that she’s doing all this and knows she’ll be leaving but that’s not 100% in her control.

      What if all this extensive planning doesn’t work out? Her/her partner cannot sell the house in time, even if open houses and negotiations are going swimmingly now. What if they cannot get housing at their new location in time? Her partner’s job cross- country doesn’t materialize? etc. etc. I don’t agree that LW should out the pregnant coworker because neither of them can be 100% certain that pregnant coworker’s plans will come to fruition. And then what? She’s laid off, cut off from benefits, and forced to look for new work (or grovel to get her old job back) while dealing with a serious change in her life.

      Perhaps she would not have to be so “shady” if there weren’t a very real risk to her benefits being terminated, benefits she is entitled to, just because she will not be returning after leave.

      1. Beebs*

        This. I don’t understand why it is bad for people to maximize their benefits and opportunities. Is she moving across the country to another job? Or does she need to save every penny she can and make as much money as possible before the move because the next steps are uncertain? Seemingly done deals fall apart in the final moments all the time, why put yourself in jeopardy.

        Things happen all the time, life is unpredictable, we seem to manage the rest of the time.

    6. Mockingjay*

      #2. For some reason, people think of maternity leave as a ‘separate’ or ‘special’ benefit. It is medical leave, plain and simple. Medical leave and insurance are benefits provided to the employee covering multiple conditions, injuries, and preventive care, for the duration of their employment. The timing of using such a benefit is irrelevant.

      If the coworker had worked 10 years for the company, and taken maternity leave in year 3 of her employment, I don’t think the OP would have been bothered by it. “Coworker Jane, who used a benefit 7 years ago (maternity leave), is planning a move, so she’ll be leaving at some point.” Fine. “Coworker Jane is using a benefit (maternity leave) just before her planned departure.” Still fine. It’s her benefit to use as long as she is an employee.

      1. fposte*

        Though maternity leave isn’t just medical leave; what it is depends on a particular company’s, state’s, etc. policy, but it’s generally categorized separately, hence its availability to adoptive parents, regardless of the age of the child, as well as birth parents.

      2. Us, Too*

        Not necessarily.

        When I had my son my doctor allowed me 6 weeks to recover – i.e. the medical part of my leave. My pay during that time was based on short term disability combined with sick time. That wound up being less than 100% of my normal pay, though. So had I been “only” out for a medical condition for those 6 weeks, I wouldn’t have received 100% of my pay.

        This is where my company’s maternity leave kicked in, though. Maternity leave paid the difference to ensure that I got 100% of my pay for those 6 weeks, not just the amount that I would have received were I out for a different medical condition.

        Since then the policy has been expanded to 8 weeks at 100% of pay. Since recovery is “only” 6 weeks for most births, there is clearly more to maternity leave than just medical leave – at my company at least.

      3. Mockingjay*

        The point is that the coworker has this benefit (whether paid or unpaid) to use, and she is, the same as any other benefit.

      4. Mockingjay*

        And for what it’s worth, I was in a somewhat similar situation as the coworker.

        I was on maternity leave for my second child, and fully planned to return to work, when my husband got the news regarding a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC – for those of you who don’t remember – was the Congressionally mandated consolidation of multiple military bases and commands to reduce cost and improve efficiencies). His job moved south, mine stayed north. We had to decide whether to stay – I kept my job and he found a new one, or go – relocate and I find a new job. We decided to go. As it happened, my company had a small office in the new location, and was arranging a transfer for me.

        The week before I was due to go back to work, I realized that I just couldn’t. We were in the midst of selling our house (cleaning constantly so it was “show-ready”) while I was caring for a newborn and a toddler, with a spouse who traveled extensively for work, and when he wasn’t working, he spent weekends as a military reservist, all the while trying to find a house in the new location. Something had to give. So I went into my office and talked to my boss and the department head, and told them I wouldn’t be coming back. They completely understood. They even kept me on the books (unpaid) in a consultant-type status, so if I wanted to return to work I would be reinstated at the same position. Did I feel bad about making this decision after using maternity benefits? No. I had worked hard for the company for 7 years, had been promoted consistently, and as the department head put it, “we got our money’s worth out of you while we had you.”

        Life happens. You move on, your company moves on.

    7. Massachuset*

      If this person lying because she thinks she’s going to get let go earlier than planned due to being truthful about her upcoming move, then even though lying is a crappy thing to do, I can see how she’d rather keep her job and benefits rather than lose her job prematurely and not have any benefits when she’s about to have a baby. If this person isn’t afraid of losing her job and is lying about her move (for no reason? because she’s embarrassed?), effectively preventing her employer from making an informed decision about whether to hire a temp or start recruiting her replacement (benefiting from having a longer on-boarding period, with her perhaps coming back for a week after leave is over), then that’s crappy.

  4. Ann Furthermore*

    #5: It could be that the OP unknowingly accessed systems or information that technically should be handled by someone else. Like, I have access to go add new department numbers and/or update descriptions in our ERP system. I was copied once on a request to set up a new department. I don’t normally do that, but I was in the application anyway researching something else, and figured as long as I was there, I’d just set it up and save the person in Finance who usually handles this kind of stuff a few minutes. Did it, and didn’t think any more about it. Until my manager asked me a couple weeks later why my name showed up as the creator on the new department record. So I told her what I’d done. She said that I (an IT person) was not supposed to update any of that stuff in the production environment, since that information is owned and managed by the Finance group. It’s a SOX audit issue around segregation of duties.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Calling it a SOX issue seems like a bit of an over reaction to me but, I see your boss’s point about data ownership.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        I agree, and actually my boss does too. But you would not believe all the ridiculous crap our parent company makes us do in the name of SOX and data security. It reinforces my belief that SOX is the biggest scam since Y2K.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            The sarbanes oxley Act of 2002 it was introduced after some high profile corporate frauds such as Enron and WorldCom.

            It seeks to hold company management / board or directors and external auditors more responsible for financial reporting and record retention (that’s where IT are involved) as well as introducing the idea that management and auditors establish internal controls and robustly test the effectiveness.

          2. Natalie*

            The Sarbannes-Oxley Act, or more specifically the internal controls required because of it. (Link in reply)

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              Yes, that is what it’s meant to do. What it actually does is create huge amounts of work for companies who spend staggering amounts of time and money going through all kinds of gyrations to prove that they’re SOX compliant.

              And who decides if a company is or is not SOX compliant? The accounting firms whose negligence caused the crisis in the first place. They came out of the whole fiasco with a new source of revenue.

    2. AntherHRPro*

      You are right about SOX. Unless you own the responsibility you wouldn’t know what the SOX control requirements are. I own two processes with SOX controls and all changes need to be documented, tested, testing documented, etc…..

    3. Caryl Chessman sniffs the air and leads the parade*

      Yes, but it seems to me that the real issue here is that access permissions should be set up to prevent you from performing this kind of operation. Sure, “educating” you about it is good, too. I know I’m not seeing the full picture, but from what you wrote, if anyone needs a talkin’ to, it’s the IT people.

  5. Snoskred*

    #2 – If someone tells me something in confidence, that goes into the vault, no matter what. Even if I think what they are doing is crappy. :)

    Me personally, my vault is my vault. If a friend tells me to put something in there, it goes in there, it stays in there. I don’t feel bad about doing that because those are my friends, and their secrets are not MY secrets to tell.

    So I have to ask you, truly how good a friend is this person? It seems from what you are saying that you have friends in every camp – friends in HR, you know the temp, etc. So I wonder if what you are really saying is that you would like to organise for your temp friend to have this job permanently and the reason you feel bad is because of that?

    If you feel bad keeping your friends secrets, then my suggestion for the future is to ask your friends never to tell you any secrets. I’m not having a go at you when I say that. :) I am saying that if keeping secrets makes you uncomfortable, you do have the option of requesting not to be told any.

    With all that said, I did have one work colleague who had been saying for years she was going to take her long service leave and then retire. Everyone knew that was her plan, including the employer. She was perfectly entitled to do that if she so desired, however, when it came to it, she ended up choosing not to retire after all. Plans are just that – plans – sometimes they don’t work out as intended.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      When you’re in management, you can’t always have a vault. There are some things you’re legally obligated to report (like harassment) and there are some things you’re professionally expected to report because you’re supposed to be putting the good of the organization ahead of personal ties. That said, there’s nothing indicating that it’s the case here; I’m just responding to the vault concept at work in general.

      1. Snoskred*

        Alison – On those occasions I would hope the manager would make it very clear to the employee that – while they would usually put things told to them in confidence into the vault = on this occasion they will not be able to because X reason (eg legal obligations, mandatory reporting situations etc).

        My best ever manager always did this very clearly – when someone said to her “I want to tell you this in confidence” she would always say something that went like – Ok, I’m going to stop you right there. I need you to be aware that there are certain things I cannot keep confidential, such as X, Y and Z. I want you to think very carefully before you make the decision to tell me this. You would need to trust me, and to understand that if I need to take action based on what you tell me, I will need to take that action. I may not be able to keep this confidential. Do you want to continue, or would you like some time to consider whether or not to tell me about this?

        She was a firm believer in the vault in all other aspects of communication and because of that she always spoke up when the word confidence appeared, just in case someone was about to tell her something she would not be able to put in there. :)

        1. LBK*

          I would think, though, that part of telling things to your manager is the understanding that they’ll make business decisions based on that information. Managers aren’t vaults, they’re employees of a company with a job to do.

          1. fposte*

            Right. It’s good if the manager says, but it’s even wiser for the employee to think practically about this.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            Here’s where it gets tricky though. I know a lot of people in my organization, and sometimes they come to me for advice. A young woman told me that she was being harrassed, and asked me for advice. I told her that unfortunately I HAD to report it, but I also advised her on how to handle it in the meantime. She was really upset that I had to report it, and our relationship might be be the same, but I did the right thing (and the thing I’m required to do).

            1. LBK*

              I think a mandatory reporting situation is slightly different, because then there’s some obligation to make it clear that you will 100% be reporting whatever they’re saying. There’s no grounds for ambiguity in that case, whereas in others you might not know whether you’ll act on something someone says until they say it and you can determine if you need to take action.

        2. Lynn Whitehat*

          In hindsight, I owe my high school guidance counselor a debt of gratitude for promising me confidentiality and then reneging. (My issues did not come within a hundred miles of triggering her mandatory reporting responsibilities. She just apparently felt like screwing with my life.) That was the last time I trusted anyone to prioritize not turning my life upside down over some abstract sense of “responsibility”. Thanks, Deceitful Counselor!

          Seriously, I would really recommend to everyone, play your cards close to the vest. Don’t assume anyone will respect a confidence.

      2. Cristina in England*

        If she is in management, I agree she should have adopted an “I cannot keep your secrets” attitude, friends or not. However, I disagree if the OP is an employee weighing her loyalty to a friend vs the organization. The friend could be greatly harmed by disclosure and the OP should realize that she might lose the friend over this. If she is weighing loyalty to a friend in HR vs the pregnant friend, then the OP should realize that the HR lady is not nearly as personally invested in this as the pregnant lady, or as the OP seems to be!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think that’s fair (nor kind to the letter writer). She specifically says that she’s assuming she shouldn’t say anything because it’s not her secret to share, but she’s also struggling with whether she has an obligation to her employer now that she’s been burdened with the information.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Yeah, but she should recognize that she will most likely be burning that bridge with the pregnant friend if she chooses to tell the employer.

      2. Blamange*

        Is that obligation worth making a pregnant woman jobless? Plans change all the time. I thought by now I’d be out of this job and moving to my partner’s town, but alas I’m still here because my partner’s career obligations meant we could not forgo moving until next year now.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yeah–if someone can be sure they’re going to stay but then decide to leave, which happens, someone can just as easily be sure they’re going to leave but then stay after all.

      3. Daisy*

        She’s considering getting her pregnant friend fired because she thinks taking her rightfully earned benefits is ‘robbery’. I think ‘enemy’ is perfectly fair.

          1. Marie*

            She has suggested going to HR with the information. That could very easily result in the pregnant coworker being fired, especially if they live in a state with limited or no worker protection. What exactly does she expect the end result to be?

          2. Zillah*

            No, but she must know it’s a distinct possibility, and she clearly said that she thinks her friend’s plans amount to robbery and are highly immoral:

            I think taking months of maternity leave pay and benefits, knowing you are going to quit shortly thereafter (within 2 months), is robbery and a truly bad thing to do.

            1. fposte*

              And she’s asking her about what to do about this feeling. I don’t like it that people who ask about their moral quandaries get more condemnation than people who just go ahead and act on impulses.

              1. Zillah*

                Absolutely. I just think that it’s a little disingenuous to say that the OP’s friend getting fired is a totally out-of-left-field idea.

      4. illini02*

        I think its fair (maybe not kind). If you are looking to jeopardize my livelihood based on something I told you in confidence, I think that would make you an enemy. The fact that she is considering it makes her not really a good friend. It may make her a valuable asset to the company. Its possible that she values her standing with the company more than her friendship, which is her right. But if thats the case, I think it does make her a bad friend.

      5. Amanda2*

        And what would the employer do if they knew she was planning on going on maternity leave and then resigning 3 weeks after coming back from leave? Fire her??? So then the employer would be firing someone about to go on maternity leave because they are going on leave… and wouldn’t there be some legal issues there?

        The lady is going on maternity leave, which she has a right to do. She has no obligation to work for the company for ANY period of time after she returns, as far as I know. She can resign the day she gets back if she wants. Why should she be beholden to the company because she took a leave allowable by law? With a lot of employers, you have to take all your accrued sick and personal time prior to any unpaid FMLA time, so these are days that she already earned through employment. But, somehow she is robbing the employer?

        And why on earth would one consider it “robbery” because she is taking her legally allowed leave? What should she do… resign now and be without any type of health benefit during her delivery and post-partum time? Who would do that?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just to be clear, the law doesn’t entirely consider it an earned benefit all in cases. If she clearly told them she didn’t plan to return afterwards, the law allows the company to cease FMLA benefits. The law doesn’t say “the person has earned it so must be allowed to take it regardless.”

    2. BalticFog*

      That’s my gut feel, some friend to have. Being a working mother is hard as it is, and on top of it there are people resentful of the measly few months taken for maternity leave. Same people who wouldn’t offer their seat on the bus because well it’s not their fault one’s pregnant. Decency trumples self-righteousness in my book.

    3. MegEB*

      That’s really mean, and completely unfair to the letter writer. She explicitly stated that she feels uncomfortable and is coming to AAM asking for advice. Shaming her for that is really shitty. She’s not saying “I want to get my friend fired” or “I got my coworker fired so my friend [the temp] could get a new job”. She truly feels like she has a moral dilemma, and insulting someone because they’re asking for advice on a sticky situation is unproductive and unnecessarily harsh.

      And for what it’s worth, I do (respectfully) disagree with Alison on this, so I suspect you and I are at least somewhat in agreement.

      1. BananaPants*

        I agree. FWIW, I am a working mother and currently sole breadwinner for my family. If presented with an issue like OP#2, I would feel a similar ethical dilemma. I wouldn’t be trying to get someone fired, just trying to figure out the right thing.

        Women pulling stunts like this can make it harder on those of us who DO return to work after having a baby – I experienced it firsthand with my first baby. The employee’s coworkers are going to have to cover for the absence and then during a hiring search to replace her. If the employee going on maternity leave is still uncertain in her plans to move, then that’s one thing – but this sounds pretty firm based on what the OP wrote. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a pregnant woman to act in good faith toward her employer and colleagues by resigning if she goes on maternity leave with NO intention of returning afterwards.

  6. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, sounds like you got caught up in office politics happening over your head. Why did the person who asked you to do the thing go through non-official channels, to the point that you thought it was strange? Either because they didn’t know better, or they decided that going behind others’ backs and enlisting you directly was the way to get the result they wanted. In the former case, an ethical supervisor steps up and says “Wakeen made that change because I asked him to”, rather than keeping their mouth shut and letting you take the blame for it.

    Lesson learned: don’t go outside channels, and keep the person who asked you to violate procedure at arm’s length.

  7. Cristina in England*

    #2. You are not thinking about this from your friend’s perspective. Firstly, how does your employer deal with long notice periods? Your friend could be pushed out the door with months of lost salary and most importantly, medical benefits, leaving her maybe tens of thousands worse off in total. Should you open her up to the risk of having a baby while just having lost her insurance? You’re no friend to her if you do. Please ask yourself what you would do if she had a scheduled back operation instead. People can have a bad attitude towards others’ maternity leave. Her cross country move is bad timing but that happens all the time, businesses move on, and I do not see any other way for her.

    1. Just Visiting*

      Precisely. If your loyalties lie with an organization over a human being (and there is no indication that this is a shoestring operation that will be terribly hurt by her taking leave then quitting, the opposite if there’s a head of HR), then I really have to question your humanity. Perhaps that is not “kind,” but I think even asking this question is incredibly unkind.

    2. Daisy*

      Thanks for arguing this up and down the thread! I’m absolutely appalled that anyone would think they should save their company a bit of money by losing their friend a lot (benefits that they are perfectly entitled to).

      1. LBK*

        It’s not just about money. It’s about lying to your employer and causing them to conduct their operations in a way that doesn’t adequately allow them to prepare for the future. If you give them a longer heads up, they can start preparing the transition now – putting out feelers for a replacement, cross training, documenting your work – and minimize the impact once you actually leave.

        Most people seem to be assuming that she’d be fired on the spot as soon as she said anything. That’s certainly a possibility and one that I know occurs, but for a good employee with a good manager it’s not a guarantee – it depends on what your know about your company.

        1. Sunflower*

          you’re right- nothing is a guarantee. But the risks in this situation are just too high. I just don’t know how someone could risk losing months of benefits they earned so their company can have a little more time to find their replacement? Also- OP said the temp has worked at the company before(and they re-hired her so the company prob. likes her) and will probably want the job if it becomes permanent. So maybe the pregnant woman is assuming her job is pretty much already filled.

          Also- this could just be OP’s opinion- but considering OP thinks this is ‘robbery’ and that the head of HR will want this information, speaks volumes to how the company would react to this information.

          1. Zillah*

            Also- this could just be OP’s opinion- but considering OP thinks this is ‘robbery’ and that the head of HR will want this information, speaks volumes to how the company would react to this information.

            That’s my feeling as well. If this was a company with a proven history of taking advantage of long notice periods, I wouldn’t expect one of their employees to consider taking maternity leave and then leaving shortly after to be “robbery and a truly bad thing to do.” I’ll also note that the OP says nothing about being bothered by lack of a long notice period – she explicitly says that taking the benefit when you’re planning to leave is immoral in the first place.

          2. Hiring Mgr*

            Exactly,if the OPs friend were to be upfront with the employer one risk is that the employer, with all this extra time to find a replacement, finds one immediately and dismisses the pregnant person.

            Until an employee officially gives notice, there is no reason at all for the OP to discuss this further with anyone else. Even if the OP were a manager I would feel the same way. I’ve been in that situation and kept the confidence.

        2. Sunflower*

          Also considering the pregnant woman is going to be out for months, they should already be doing things like cross-training and documenting work for the temp.

        3. nona*

          Agreed. (If this is an employer who would immediately fire OP’s friend, of course don’t tell!)

        4. Future Analyst*

          I think your consideration of your employer is very nice to have, but completely out of the question for a lot of us. Across this site, we’ve seen many, many examples in which the employer operates their business with little to no regard for what would be best for the employee. I don’t see that operating in our own best interests is morally wrong, just like I don’t think it’s morally wrong for companies to pay people what they can afford or lay off people when they need to.
          You also mention the concept of “lying” to your employer multiple times in the comments– while it’s certainly nice to think that we can be honest about everything that we intend to do, that’s not usually the case. Most employers don’t go out of their way to keep you around if you’ve expressed interest in leaving their company, so there should be no obligation on an employee’s side to be completely up front about their plans to leave (outside of the usual two week notice). This is standard procedure in most of the US, and there’s nothing morally wrong with keeping your plans to yourself until everything is 100% lined up.

          1. LBK*

            I know there are companies and managers that will push anyone out no matter who they are and won’t take the individual employee’s actions into consideration. But I do think some of this comes from the employee’s side, too. I’ve established a reputation as someone who’s very forthright, which has the benefit of building a huge amount of trust with my manager – if I haven’t told you I’m planning to leave, that means I’m not planning to leave. The quid pro quo I expect from that is respectful treatment when I do end up telling you I want to leave – which is also easier to get when I’ve made it clear I can be trusted, ie trusted to continue working hard and to help my employer ease the transition. So far that’s worked out really well for me every time I’ve gotten a new job.

            1. Snoskred*

              LBK – but that is you. You’ve been all over the comments today talking about how *you* have done things and how it has worked out for you. It sounds to me like YOU have been very lucky. :) I’m happy for you. I’m sad for the multitude of people who do not get to experience your experiences.

              I’m here to tell you that I’ve worked for over 20 years now for numerous companies, and there is only one company who treated myself and others decently. I had one excellent manager but she was stuck in a company that was taken to court and fined for underpaying their employees and that company still owes the underpayed employees thousands upon thousands of dollars. They owe me over $10k. Another company owes me $5k in unpaid commissions. It would cost me more in legal fees to try and get that money than I would receive.

              I’ve been that person who speaks up forthrightly and it has cost me my job on more than one occasion. Over time, my willingness to be that person who speaks up has slowly but surely been damaged to the point that I would not be willing to stick my neck out again.

              I’ve been treated so badly so many times that I started my own company so that I could be the person in charge of how I am treated.

              I’m not the only person with that kind of experience. There are people here in the comments area who have been through terrible work experiences. There are people here who would never trust an employer no matter how well they were treated because they have done that before and it turned out badly for them.

              If you can be honest with your employer, let me be the first one to throw you a parade, tickertape and all. But please, do not expect everyone else to do that. It completely sucks to have to say it, but being honest might end up costing them their job. :(

              And in this particular case, it might cost this pregnant woman hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. That is one hell of a gamble to ask someone to take, especially when none of us truly knows what the situation is at that company. It is a terribly enormous gamble to ask the letter writer to take, with someone elses finances, when this is not even her secret to tell.

              1. LBK*

                My point isn’t to say that my anecdote proves everyone here is wrong. My point is to say that you can’t issue a blanket statement about how the coworker should proceed, particularly on the basis that sometimes it goes poorly. If she does work for a company that would be fine with her being upfront about leaving, she’s screwing herself by not disclosing it – so I think it’s equally dangerous to say it’s totally fine to not say anything in all situations, period.

                1. Zillah*

                  How is she “screwing herself?” The company never has to know that she knew she wouldn’t be back for more than a month.

                2. LBK*

                  They don’t have to but it’s often not that hard to find out, and I also think few people would believe she decided to do a cross country move, planned and executed it in just a month while simultaneously caring for a newborn.

                3. Jax*

                  The only way she would be screwing herself is if her company believes–like the OP–that FMLA benefits are for hard working, gold star employees. It isn’t a basic right all parents should have, it’s a privilege earned through dedication and is bestowed on the deserving by a benevolent company. We had the same beliefs about healthcare coverage not too long ago…

                  That deeply ingrained belief system is why we have one of the most deplorable maternity leave policies in the free world.

                4. Zillah*

                  @ LBK – Sure, or maybe her partner got offered a job across the country, or maybe she decided to move to be closer to family. A lot can happen. Honestly, I think that the likely consequences of this are going to be far more mild than you do – certainly not to the level of “screwing herself,” particularly if she gives two weeks notice (which she seems to be intending to).

        5. CAinUK*

          I agree with LBK here: long notice periods are often the consequence of employers creating a culture that encourages them, and ppl shouldn’t automatically assume their employer is going to fire them and lie as a gut-reaction.

          This employee didn’t feel comfortable disclosing her post-maternity plans, and that could be indicative of that office’s culture (or not!). But I think ppl here are arguing that when it comes to medical insurance, the risks are too high to disclose unless you KNOW that culture.

          I think it would be helpful for OP2 to give us that context: have others been shoved out the door after giving long notice periods?

          1. Jenna Maroney*

            I mean, yeah, I do think that when it comes to medical insurance, especially for someone planning to have a baby, the risks are too high to disclose unless you know that culture. What’s wrong with that argument?

            1. CAinUK*

              Nothing at all – I was agreeing with it! It just isn’t mutually exclusive to LBK’s point that lying to an employer sucks. I realise is can be warranted, but if the employer has been kind to others who disclosed their plans to leave, I think it is less so.

        6. Observer*

          I’d be willing to bet that one of the reasons why the co-worker is keeping it secret is because she has very solid reasons to believe that she will be fired or that her time will be made intolerable till she leaves.

          I do understand the OP’s dilemma. But, I also think it’s worth asking what the history is. If the employer has a history of reacting poorly to long notices, or to pregnancy elated issues, they have earned this problem, fair and square.

          Even if not, though, I think calling this robbery is way over the top.

    3. LBK*

      But I think most people actually do make it really clear what their plans are when it relates to other medical conditions and procedures. It’s more unique to pregnancy (and I’d guess serious mental health treatments) because there’s more stigma to taking time away from work and more risk of negative consequences.

      1. Cristina in England*

        (Replying to this and to your reply to Daisy, LBK) You’re right that we don’t know whether or not the employer does punish people for giving long notice periods. They might, they might not (I have argued upthread that they might). And you’re also right that there is a stigma attached to maternity leave, but this is exactly why the pregnant lady is right to be careful and protect herself. You said it yourself, there’s “more risk of negative consequences”.

        I understand that you have a problem with it because you see it as lying to the employer, but I am really curious as to what you think the pregnant lady should do? How far against her own interest should she act? How much should she expose herself to risk and potential harm, just so that she puts everything out on the table?

        It doesn’t make any sense to give a pre-leave notice period (or resign early even, if that’s what you’re thinking?), and in many other employer-related situations we’ve discussed here (when to resign, how much notice to give, notification of non-pregnancy medical conditions) the consensus generally comes down on the side of protecting yourself and making sure you don’t get screwed until you know for sure for sure for sure what the situation is, signed and sealed. It is possible that the cross-country planning is still just planning, not a done deal in the legal sense.

        1. LBK*

          I don’t think we can say without knowing more about how well the company handles things like this. Thinking of the company Wakeen’s Teapots Ltd. works for, she’s said in the past that they deal with a ton of maternity leave and have no problems work around it in whatever form it takes; for an employer like that, I wouldn’t feel scared about telling them so far in advance that I wasn’t planning to come back.

          I’m not in the slightest disagreeing that pregnant women often get shitty treatment, particularly when it comes to their plans for/after maternity leave. I think you have to know your employer and judge for yourself. I’m really not comfortable issuing a blanket statement that pregnant women are basically morally untouchable and allowed to conduct themselves however they want when it comes to maternity leave, which is the vibe I get from some of the comments here – that seems like a rebound effect from how terribly a lot of women have been treated to where it’s now swinging towards the opposite extreme.

          1. Beebs*

            Exactly – we do not know how this company handles things like this, and possibly neither does the pregnant employee (or OP). Unless there is clear evidence that her being upfront about her plans will be well received and accommodated, the best course of action to err on the side of caution and act in your own best interest. Also, is there any evidence that this would not be handled well?

            If the evidence is there, then sure be up front and open. Without evidence, better to be safe than sorry. Not worth the risk of finding out.

            1. LBK*

              And frankly, if you’re pretty confident your company won’t push you out it can be much better for you in the long run – you’d probably be able to get a phenomenal reference or if for some reason you ever wanted to come back, you’d probably be much more welcomed if they felt they could trust you to be open with big moves like leaving the company.

              1. Beebs*

                Right but there is no indication that this is the case here. So the best course of action for everyone in this circumstance is for OP 2 to keep this information to herself.

  8. NW Cat Lady*

    #1 – It almost sounds like the VP of Technology thought the OP had put the “fix” into production and had a knee-jerk reaction, then realized his mistake when the OP responded. Hence the lack of response to her explanation.

    This doesn’t mean she shouldn’t check with her boss etc for all the reasons Alison stated, but it puts a slightly different spin on the reaction/response.

  9. Buu*

    #3 I assume you get severance pay? if you take the redundancy that’s a couple of months where you will have the money to perform a full time job search without having to sneak about. On the other hand it’s still hard out there for many people so I don’t see a problem with taking the new job if you think it will take more than a few months to find a new job you really want.

  10. Blamange*

    #2 Don’t intervene, this is more of a moral thing. Don’t attempt deprive a pregnant lady of the maternity she is entitled too, we all have plans for our future, one’s that diverge from the current companies we work for. It’s not robbery, the most stressful time for me when I was pregnant, was when a colleague intervened and caused so much unneeded stress for me that I almost lost my baby. Don’t make the most stressful time, even worse, and add financial woes, job safety on top of it.

    This will reflect on you. It will put your relationship in doubt, her faith in you will be blown too! It will potentially deprive her of a job if she changes her mind, deprive her of good reference, deprive her of monetary cash flow that she will need. It’s quite a shitty thing to do. Do you want to make her life ten times more stressful? What are the motivations honestly? What do you get out of this? This will reflect on you. Seriously her career plans are not yours to mess with. People change plans all the time, things may not be how they are now when she gets back from maternity live. There really is no reason to ruin your relationship with her.

  11. Kiwi*

    #2 is a trouble-maker and wants permission from the internet to make some trouble happen.
    Close friend? With friends like this…

    1. Blamange*

      Yea it could put her on uncertain ground with the managers, regarding job security etc if they change their mind. I don’t see why she needs to tell anyone. I tell colleagues my plans all the time but they are just plans not set in stone.

    2. Brit Brat*

      This is unnecessarily rude. It’s neither kind nor fair to the OP, who is clearly struggling with an issue of split loyalities.

      1. brighidg*

        Why would anyone be loyal to their company? I mean, sure, don’t sell company secrets and if you’re paid to do a job, do it but beyond that? It’s business contract. Loyalty only extends as far as it is profitable and that goes for both the employer and the employee.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If you’re in management, part of your job is to ensure the company functions smoothly, which in some cases does present split loyalties.

          1. brighidg*

            Understandable. The OP doesn’t mention being in management, however. And if her friend is telling this to her and she is in management then the friend is either extremely naive or maybe trying to give notice without officially giving notice.

    3. MegEB*

      Oh my god. Can we seriously stop calling the OP an enemy, or just generally insulting her for writing in? This is a perfectly legitimate question to ask Alison for a sticky moral situation. She feels like her coworker/friend is doing something morally wrong, but clearly feels bad about ratting her out, or she wouldn’t be writing into AAM in the first place. And she obviously realizes the implications of telling HR, or she wouldn’t have this dilemma. It’s an uncomfortable situation for anyone to be in, and quite frankly I’d be uncomfortable with that secret rattling around in my head as well. Stop insulting the OP for seeking advice on this. I haven’t seen her reply anywhere in the comments, but who knows? Maybe she’ll read the comments, change her mind, and not tell management after all. Shaming her for bothering to write a letter in the first place doesn’t do anything productive.

      FWIW, since I haven’t actually expressed my opinion on this yet – I do have to disagree with Alison on this one. While I won’t condone the lying, I would urge the OP to reconsider the notion of this being “robbery”. Try thinking of maternity leave as benefits she earned during her employment there; the fact that she’s planning on leaving doesn’t negate her X years of employment, where she presumably took advantage of other benefits the company offered. In a perfect world, the pregnant woman would tell the employer that she’d like to quit after taking her leave, and her employer would be decent, understanding human beings who would allow the arrangement. But since this is not a perfect world, I understand that the pregnant woman is doing what she has to do to protect her child, and I don’t blame her for that.

    4. brighidg*

      Probably saltier than I would have put it but I agree. Seriously, that people think #2’s actions are even acceptable blows my mind. Businesses will put people out of work all the time with no notice, even deceiving them about their job security and then they write it off as a business decision/bottom line/necessary evil.

      Well, guess what? That knife cuts both ways and employees can do the same and frankly, should.

  12. Duncan - Vetter*

    #2 is the best example of a conflict of interests. It is hard to decide what is morally right: the loyalty towards the company, or the loyalty towards a friend. If the co-worker is a close friend, and she really intends to leave the company, maybe by revealing this, she somehow tried to minimize the inconveniences. Unfortunately, the situation is not as straightforward for the person who will keep on working in the company. If you are in leading position, you can slowly think about how to reorganize the department.

    1. E*

      Would it be possible to ask your friend to train the temp better due to knowing that she isn’t returning? Can you ask her to spend extra time documenting her processes? Basically, is your friend willing to put in some extra time to make sure the company doesn’t struggle unnecessarily due to her “unexpected” departure after leave?

  13. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – Robbery? A bad thing to do? These are benefits she earned – I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world that she wants to keep them. Yes, it’s ethically…questionable, but I can see why she would do it.

    1. Jen*

      People stick around jobs simply for benefits all the time. And/or max out on benefits categories at one job before moving to another, or to cover a period of unemployment. I’ve often seen that referred to as a “smart move” because they’re using something they’ve earned, and often contributed payments into. Why is this any different?

      1. Perpetuum Mobile*


        In my company we see a spike in people leaving every April. Why? Because this is when yearly bonuses have just been paid and those who are not happy with them bail out – and it’s viewed as perfectly normal. I see no difference whatsoever in this case. Someone earned the benefit, they are entitled to have, they exercise their right and then move on if this is their intent. End of story.

        1. Anon Accountant*

          Yup. My company views that as a cost of doing business. They earned it and if they choose to leave after receiving it, that’s their choice.

    2. J.B.*

      Even if she’s not fired prior to delivery (which would be huge and expensive, mandating COBRA possibly) she probably wouldn’t get any paid leave or any insurance while on leave. Tying these things to the employer sets up a situation where people aren’t going to be forthcoming.

    3. Vin Packer*

      This! I mean, yeah, it’s not ideal, but we have a deeply flawed system when it comes to this stuff in the U.S. “Robbery” is just so over the top.

  14. OP #1*

    Thanks for answering my question! I agree that the issue might be that I stepped into an invisible land mine with past context and history I am oblivious to (I have only been on the job for a year). I also agree that the Council member might have used me to bypass around the proper channels because he has gotten an unsatisfactory answer (or no answer) in the past. The problem the Council member pointed out is being talked about in social media in communities for our professional membership. So I think this makes solving the problem a bit more acute given that members in the field are disparaging our organization online.

    Next steps: I was thinking of emailing or talking to my boss and the Teapot Department Head asking how to proceed. Is the idea I proposed a good one and should be implemented? Or no? If not, who responds to the Council member and what should be said to him? What should I do/say if the Council member approaches me again?

    1. on the other hand*

      Just chiming in to say that I’d be super puzzled, too. Before approaching my superiors about a request I always do my research first so I can save any time that is eaten up by a back-and-forth discussing “well is it possible, how do we handle this?” I always thought that is part of being diligent and taking proper initiative.

      If I were you’d I’d step away from the email and go talk to you boss about your questions. To cover your tracks, consider writing a brief, facts only follow-up email of what was agreed that YOU should do next, if anything at all.

    2. CAinUK*

      OP, I am starting to understand why you ruffled feathers. At first I thought the VP of Tech was over-reacting (and I still do – you just produced a mock-up for review).

      But even here, your next steps leave the team responsible for tech out of the loop, and seek validation for your idea.

      From your comments up-thread, I also get the impression that YOU are frustrated – not just the Council member – at a lack of responsiveness or solutions from IT, and so took it upon yourself. And then, without giving your IT team a heads-up, sent your proposed solution to all your relevant managers, making it look like your VP of Tech was somehow incompetent.

      So, in answer to your question: the only conversation you have with your boss is about what to do next time, not questions about whether your idea is getting implemented.

      I DO understand your frustration, but I am worried your tone and perspective will only validate the IT team saying you are out of line.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        I agree. It’s good that you feel enough loyalty to your organization that you want to fix something that is leading people to talk badly about it. But at this point, you’ve informed the powers that be both of the problem and a potential solution. If they choose not to do anything with it, you have to stay out of it.

        1. OP #1*

          Thanks both for the sound advice. I will follow it. FWIW I am part of the tech team, although not under the Tech VP’s charge directly. Part of my job as I understand it is to come up with solutions with problems to our intranet and website — which are tools that cross all departments in our organization

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Ditto–and I want to again say how great I think it is that you were willing to be a problem-solver and look out for your org’s interests.

              It would have been helpful for the VP to explain to you why they reacted the way they did once you pointed out that this was an actual problem hurting the org’s reputation. They didn’t have to go into details, but just a “there’s a reason why haven’t done this, and that’s why you need to follow the chain of command,” because now you have no way of knowing whether there’s something you don’t know that’s the basis of their objection, or they are on the defensive because they think you made them look bad for failing to fix it already, or they are one of those people who are very hierarchical and are offended that someone below them on the chain dared to go around them. Whatever the reason, you have to stay out of it for your own sake, but knowing the reason would be very helpful to you as an employee.

              But at least now you know this: the VP won’t like it if you don’t follow the command chain, and the higher-ups won’t necessarily give you information about why the chain is so rigid or info that could help you do your job better. And that’s helpful to know, too.

              tl;dr: it’s sucks, but there you are.

          1. Observer*

            That’s all the more reason to be scrupulous about keeping the VP in the loop!

            It’s just so easy to do something without realizing that it has ramifications that you hadn’t thought of, or even did have a way to know exist. If you get into the habit of always looking him in, then you can make sure that you get any information you need before you do something. And, if something slips, at least everyone has a record of what happened, which makes things much easier to fix.

    3. LQ*

      When someone comes to me with a request that should go through our ticket system I offer to show them how to put a ticket in. If it’s a crazy one off and I can explain the issue better or it’s going to need something else I’ll put the ticket in myself. I also follow up to make sure it’s in the hands of someone who understands it, or that if it is an urgent thing I’ll talk to my boss or someone else I know to make sure it gets handled, but I’ll do that out of sight of the person who brought me the request. I’d rather have them come to me with request than do nothing, but despite the fact that I have very little confidence in our IT group, I don’t want other people to feel the same way. (Because then everyone starts going rogue doing things, which isn’t actually a better solution.)

    4. Caryl Chessman sniffs the air and leads the parade*

      First off, I don’t see a lot of fault in the way OP1 handled things. It might be argued that she should have automatically responded to the council member with “I’ll submit that as a ticket to IT support”, but a) was she instructed to do this? And b) is it really good for everyone involved that OP1 not show initiative and instead tries to brush off any problems people present?

      I’m also not seeing any intent on OP1’s part to embarrass anyone. Setting up a non-public link, and sharing that with a small set of people seems like the correct way to go when presenting a proposed solution – I mean, imagine that the council member hadn’t emailed her, and she’d simply come up with the solution on her own? I imagine shed set up exactly the same kind of private demo.

      Lastly, I don’t see anything wrong with OP1 wanting to a) see her solution implemented, and b) for OP1 to get some credit and praise for developing the solution. HOWEVER: I think OP1’s next move should be to talk to her boss (or whatever person she can find who will be straight with her) and find out what is going on that she received such an unexpectedly critical response from this VP. And perhaps that person will work with OP1 to decide upon appropriate next steps.

      Good luck with this! If possible, please report back and let us know how it went for you.

      1. OP #1*

        Thank you! I appreciate the kind comments! I will definitely send an update on how all of this turns out

  15. Jess*

    Her maternity leave is a benefit that she’s earned and she deserves to be able to use it without losing her job. It surprises me how often people wonder whether their loyalty should be to a company, one that exists to turn a profit and can and would let them go anytime it suits the bottom line, or a human being, a friend.

    When I was pregnant I worked for a place where, your first year on the job maternity leave was unpaid. Years 2-5, you got three months at 75% pay, and after five years you got four months at full pay. Before I went on leave I asked HR and my boss how we would handle it if I decided to not come back and everyone said, “It happens all the time, don’t feel bad, just do what’s right for you and let us know your plans.”

    I took every single day of the four months’ leave I’d earned, and with two weeks to go I had coffee with my boss and told her I’d decided to stay home with my baby for a while. She asked me to reconsider, laid out some options like going part time and she’d hire someone to job share with me, allowing me to come in early and leave early, or teleworking. I was flattered that she’d worked out some plans to keep me on, but ultimately decided to stay at home full time. They paid me for my last two weeks of maternity leave, and we shook hands and parted on good terms. There were things I disliked about the job, like any job, but I’ll always be grateful for how cool they were about my choice to not come back after my maternity leave, and how they understood that my leave was a benefit I’d earned from working there seven years and didn’t begrudge my using it.

    People don’t come back from leave all the time, OP. This literally happens all the time. If your friend doesn’t come back (which, don’t count on it, plans change. Maybe her move will fall through, or like me, when she gives her notice they’ll offer to change her job to a remote one and she’ll accept their offer) that’s her business. Don’t put loyalty to a company over loyalty to a friend. Neither one of you knows for sure what’s going to happen, and anyway, she worked the job and she’s entitled to the benefits.

    1. BRR*

      I completely agree that she earned this like any other benefit. It’s nice to hear that you had a pleasant experience with your company.

      I disagree with when people say companies would screw you over in a heartbeat. There are definitely lots of those types of place out there but not every place is like that. Deciding your actions based on the justification that they don’t care about you so why should you care about them always seems like a dumb principle to live by. If you don’t like how they operate why would you operate the same way? You have to sometimes uphold yourself to a higher standard instead of lowering to another level.

      1. Jess*

        That’s not quite what I meant. Obviously my company treated me very well, so I don’t believe that employers will screw anyone over. What I do believe, though, is that OP’s workplace is not her friend, but this woman is and that deserves consideration.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        BRR, I think companies would “screw you over” in exactly the same way…If there rumors of layoffs at company X say in three months, and an employee asked management whether that was true, if it were true, would managment likely say “yes” that far in advance?

        1. Natalie*

          In fact, I believe that very scenario has come up here before – a manager who knows layoffs are coming and can’t warn people who are, say, buying a house.

    2. LBK*

      You seem to be missing that she already knows that she wants to leave and she’s lying about it. That’s totally different from not being sure and realizing afterwards that you don’t want to stay. I’d be a lot more willing to make accommodations for someone who was upfront like that because I’d be appreciative of their honesty.

      1. Jess*

        No, I got that, and there’s no reason to think that OP’s friend wouldn’t be as up front with her company as I was with mine, if she felt safe from retaliation. There’s no reason for her to not discuss this with her manager ahead of time otherwise. It’s a shame that she’s in a position where she feels she needs to conceal her plans to protect herself. In some industries and companies there’s still a tremendous stigma against women who take maternity leave and retaliation is common.

        1. Zillah*

          there’s no reason to think that OP’s friend wouldn’t be as up front with her company as I was with mine, if she felt safe from retaliation.


      2. esra*

        People lie all the time about leaving. You know you’ll be leaving in two months, but you only give two weeks notice because your place of work never handles it well.

        And feelings change. I think this is unnecessarily harsh on parents-to-be.

        1. Cristina in England*

          Exactly. The US is the only developed country in the world that does not have statutory maternity leave. There is a stigma about it, and I do think that if this woman were having a back operation or a hip replacement, the consensus would be along the lines of “smart move” without that much discussion.

        2. LBK*

          But that bridge would probably be burned if the employer found out you knew that far in advance and didn’t tell them.

          I know people lie when it comes to leaving. I think they just need to consider the consequences of doing that, and I don’t think you get immunity from them for being a new parent.

          1. Cristina in England*

            I get that you have a problem with the lack of forthrightness, and I respect your moral stance. I just see this as a practical problem, not so much a moral one. The pregnant lady does not have much of a choice here, because of all of the reasons discussed. She could be jeopardizing herself greatly by letting them know about her (potentially still up in the air even if they are mentally committed to it) plans and I think that the only reasonable course of action for her is to stay quiet about it. Additionally, the HR department will have had this happen before. If it is a very very very small company, I can see how one would feel that they were letting the employer down or lying to them but it is still a business relationship, not a personal one.

            1. LBK*

              I think she does have a choice if she feels confident about what she knows about her employer.

              It almost feels like a Catch-22 – companies push pregnant women out a lot because they assume they’ll leave, which causes women to withhold information about their plans, which causes companies to assume that other pregnant women will withhold their plans, which causes them to push pregnant women out because they assume they’ll leave…etc. Not that I think it’s up to each pregnant woman to be totally honest in order to break the cycle – I think it has to come from both sides, for sure – but it is kind of frustrating.

              1. Zillah*

                But if she felt confident about what she knows about her employer, I think it’s likely that she would have given longer notice in the first place.

                I think the issue a lot of people are taking with your comments is that you’re presenting your opinion as, “OP, your friend is wrong because A, B, C, D, and E. (Unless the employer has a history of pushing people out.)” But while it’s great that that was your experience, your experience is not necessarily the norm, so many people – myself included – are approaching this as, “OP, your friend isn’t wrong because X, Y, Z, and you’re being overly harsh. (Though it is crummy if your employer has a history of accommodating long notice periods.)”

                The stakes are too high for a common scenario to be presented as a caveat at the end of a post, particularly since the OP’s attitude indicates to me that at best, this is not a company with a track record for appreciating long notice.

                1. LBK*

                  (Though it is crummy if your employer has a history of accommodating long notice periods.)

                  I don’t see this caveat in any of the comments supporting the coworker, that’s why I’m getting so frustrated. People seem to feel justified doing this to any company because other companies do it – I’ll skim through again in case I missed it but I haven’t seen this sentiment anywhere. It’s all blanket statements that it’s fine to do what you need to do because everyone does it and it’s risky not to.

                2. Zillah*

                  Hmm. I have seen that sentiment in places in this thread, so I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that point. That said, I do think that the number of places with a proven, positive track record are outnumbered in the US by the places with a bad or no track record.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                And this is the problem–not that the coworker isn’t disclosing. If the situation were ideal, there would be no need for this cycle. It upsets me that you see this situation but then persist in calling her a liar.

                1. LBK*

                  Well, whether it’s justifed by precedent or not, it’s still lying in technical terms. Stealing a loaf of bread to feed your family is still stealing; moral justification just makes the act understandable but it doesn’t change what it is.

                  I absolutely wish she didn’t have to lie, though.

                2. Zillah*

                  If we’re going to get that technical about it, how do we know she’s lying? She may have said that she’s planning to come back… Which is true.

      3. Observer*

        Actually, we don’t know that she is lying – she IS going to come back and work a few weeks.

        Also, YOU may be appreciative of the honesty. But, if the OP’s attitude is reflective of the company, this woman is in no position to be up front about the matter.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        And you seem to be missing that 1) she chose NOT to tell the company just yet but confided in someone she thinks of as a friend, which means she probably has a reason for that. Maybe it’s a poor culture of pushing people out, maybe it’s coworkers who are nasty about mat leave, whatever.

        You’re also missing that she might not want to tell the company because plans may not be completely finalized. “In the works” (the OP’s term) doesn’t necessarily mean “it’s a given.”

    3. AntherHRPro*

      This might be semantics, but I don’t think maternity leave is “earned”. You are entitled to it – unpaid in the US by law or paid if your company offers paid leave – but it isn’t something you earn just by working there. In fact, most employees will never get to take maternity leave and they work just as hard. Maternity leave or medical leave is not like vacation. It is benefit to help employees and if paid, to make the employer’s work environment more attractive to employees and candidates.

      There is a chance the employee may not leave when they think they will. If the OP is not a manager, there is no obligation to say anything to anyone. I think the friend is behaving a little shady, but I also understand why. Is it unethical? Questionable. Is it particularly nice to her co-workers and employees? Not really.

      1. Helka*

        I don’t think it’s less earned just because most employees will never end up using it. Plenty of employees don’t use tuition assistance either, but that’s still an earned benefit.

        1. TootsNYC*

          People also don’t always take vacation either. My company has a “use it or lose it” policy on vacation. And I’ve worked with people who didn’t take it.

      2. Amanda2*

        When your employer requires you to use all your accrued sick and personal days (which you earned) prior to any unpaid FMLA leave, then yes, part of it is earned.

      3. Ericka*

        Actually, most women take vacation and sick leave to cover their maternity leave, which I would consider to be “earned.” A separate maternity leave benefit is pretty rare, at least in the part of the US where I work. Short term disability is the other option, and that is not restricted to maternity leave, but any kind of medical issue that requires extended recovery.

        1. BananaPants*

          I work for a large employer in the U.S. and there is no maternity/paternity leave – when someone has a baby, if they’re FMLA eligible they can take up to 16 weeks in our state, which can run concurrently with short term disability if a female employee delivers a baby. If an employee is on FMLA for any reason and does not did not return to work after leave, they are required to reimburse the company for all premiums paid for benefits during the leave period. So if George is out for a knee replacement for 2 months and decides to quit rather than returning, he’s on the hook to reimburse the company for benefits just like if Suzy would be if she didn’t return after her maternity leave – the repayment policy is not specific to the reason the employee is on FMLA leave.

          I got 6 weeks of short term disability, followed by 2 weeks of “dependent care” days, which were taken at my discretion from my available sick leave. The remainder of my maternity leaves were unpaid FMLA to a maximum of 16 weeks total absence from work. I was not required to use vacation time or sick leave and in fact I saved my vacation time for inevitable daycare-related kid illnesses after my return to work.

          This is all really dependent on the employer’s policies. Women planning to quit after having a baby are well-advised to research what the ramifications may be of quitting at the end of the leave versus at the beginning or mid-leave. When I filled out my parental leave forms I had to sign an acknowledgment that if I didn’t return as promised after my leave period I would have to repay my employer for medical and dental and other insurance premiums.

      4. FMLA FTL*

        This is false. In order to qualify for FMLA leave, you have to have worked at your job for a certain number of hours in the preceding 12 months. So, if she met those requirements, then she definitely earned it.

  16. Erin*

    #3 – I assume the inconsistency of the tattoos rule might have something to do with the inconsistencies of tattoos themselves. They say they allow small tattoos on the wrist, but what if that one small tattoo was particularly offensive? Tattoos themselves and people’s thoughts on them differ so wildly.

    For instance, I have a friend who is a high school teacher – she has a tattoo that says “wonder” on her wrist, and a huge lotus flower on the back of her neck. I imagine tattoos are discouraged in a teaching profession, but hers are so simple and non-offensive I can see how they’re allowed.

    Of course, I don’t know what yours look like, and of course, I know it doesn’t impact your ability to do your job. But that being said, I can see how employers might struggle with enforcing tattoo rules that are applicable across the board in all locations.

    1. tattooes makeup artist*

      Thanks for your comment. The problem is that we have Makeup Artists in one area of the UK with a full sleeve ot tattoos who have never been asked to cover up and artists elsewhere being asked to cover all tattoos (most are things like flowers, birds etc so not offensive in any way)
      We have a conpany conference coming up in a hot location with all regions attending where we were originally told we did not need to cover up but nowwe have to cover up (on arms but not legs) but we are the only region being asked to do this. I understand that it can depend on what is deemed offensive/acceptable but it seems more like one managers personal preference is causing inconsistency in managing grooming guidelines. As a manager in my company my team are also questioning the inconsistency & i find it difficult as i completely agree with them.

  17. Meg Murry*

    #4 – Is it possible that this issue is that you are a part-time employee, and by adding your freelance hours to that it pushes you (or one of your co-workers in the situation) over a line where you would be considered a full-time employee? The ACA threshold for health insurance is an average of 30 hours per week, so maybe the freelancing was pushing people over that line? Or full time people were not getting paid time and a half for their “freelance” work? As a for-instance, one company I worked with would create multiple part time (under 20 hour) positions to avoid paying benefits, but then one person could be technically hired to do 2 of those positions, putting them over the line to be required to be offered health insurance.

    Or the intent was to have you freelance as 1099 employees, but someone screwed up (or the payroll software can’t handle that) and they were paying you the 1099 rate plus the taxes owed for W-2 employees, so it was costing them more than they intended.

    I could also see an issue if people were getting paid to “freelance” but were doing that extra work during their normal working hours – but that should be addressed to the individuals, not with a blanket ban that isn’t being enforced.

    1. Georgette Magillacudy*

      Thanks for that feedback.

      I am working more hours now (and while I had intended to work more hours through the summer–I teach part time during the school year–I would’ve probably preferred to stay more part time and do the “freelance” because of how I like to structure my life), when they were paying me “freelance” money, it wasn’t calculated hourly + even if it were, it wouldn’t have pushed me over the edge of hours…I was working 10-15 hours/week and maximum freelance 6 hours a week, though usually much less. Do you know if there’s a dollar amount per year that represents “full time” work to the government that could get my employer into a sticky situation? I read elsewhere while researching this problem that $455/week is the minimum allowable for exempt employees… Would that apply here?

      I love the work I do, and I am happy with my employer, I am just trying to figure out how to navigate this issue. Since I stopped “freelancing” the work, I have been doing it on the clock which represents about 65% less money, and the work is a LOT easier and faster to do at home because no interruptions, no meetings, etc. But I don’t really think the *how much* thing is an issue at all… I think my boss *wants* to pay her people well. She appreciates us.

      They offered me the option to be 1099ed or have the “freelance” money put into payroll. I opted for payroll (and to the best of my understanding, everyone who works here does that), not realizing that having it as 1099 would be illegal (I’m sure they don’t know, either), but because filing self-employment taxes is kind of nuts, and I’m not doing any other 1099 freelancing at the moment.

      Thank you!

      1. Natalie*

        The ACA (Obamacare) considers 32 hours a week to be full time. That said, I suspect the actual issue is in this sentence: “when they were paying me “freelance” money, it wasn’t calculated hourly”.

        If they were paying you for this extra work as an employee (i.e. they were paying the employers share of taxes), they were required to pay you for all hours worked, assuming you were non-exempt. They probably wouldn’t have gotten into any trouble if it turned out you were being paid for *more* hours than you were working, but they would have had to be able to prove that for everyone who was doing extra work like this and that’s a giant nightmare.

        In order to pay you per project, you would have needed to meet the general requirements to be a 1099 employee and have been paid in that manner.

    2. AntherHRPro*

      I was thinking it might be due to overtime law. I’m no expert in that space, but I think if the OP is non-exempt and paid hourly for part of their job and paid a flat rate for the other part of the job, there would be an impact to their overtime rate. Not 100% how that works, but I think you have to take into account all pay when determining at OT rate.

      1. Georgette Magillacudy*

        Would they be able to pay me a flat rate for another part of my job if I were exempt? Does that question make sense?

  18. Snowglobe*

    #2 – Regardless of the ethics of the coworkers plan to resign, what exactly would you expect HR to do if they learned this information? If the paid leave is an established company benefit (e.g., specifically outlined in an employee handbook), the company can’t withhold the benefit from this particular employee. And they can’t legally fire the employee because she plans to use the benefit (you can fire a pregnant woman if the reason has nothing to do with pregnancy, but this would seem to be firing her because she is pregnant, which would be illegal). So what could HR do with this knowledge, legally?

    1. Zillah*

      Really good point. I can’t see how firing her in this situation wouldn’t essentially be firing her because she’s pregnant and plans to use her benefits.

    2. BRR*

      In just a curiosity way, would it be firing her because she’s going on maternity leave or firing her because she doesn’t plan on returning? Even if it’s firing her because she doesn’t plan on returning, I would stay away from doing it because of the lawsuit potential and bad PR. Well I wouldn’t fire her in the first place because it’s a benefit she earned, but if I was considering it I would stay away for those reasons.

    3. Wet Friday Afternoon in England*

      Also, it sounds a bit shaky to basically fire someone for what basically amounts to a tip-off from a third party. At the moment the pregnant woman hasn’t handed in a resignation or made a declaration to her employer so what would there really be for the organisation to go on? They could contact the woman if they felt inclined but they might have to be careful – e.g. stress complaints.

    4. Juli G.*

      Exactly. Making the assumption this is the US, I assume we’re talking 6-8 weeks paid, maybe 12 in some rare cases. I can’t think of many employers that would prefer to save a little salary in exchange for the possibility of an ugly suit.

    5. Sunflower*

      Totally agree. Plus if they fire her and claim it’s for another reason 1. They would still have to pay her severance/unemployment and 2. I think she’d have a pretty good case if she chose to go against the company in court. Then you could possibly get dragged into a legal battle.

      I just see no good coming from opening your mouth at all.

      1. Joey*

        Eh, very few people are willing to persue a lawsuit even when they have a valid claim. It’s expensive, there’s no guarantee you’ll see any money, and lots of people tend to want to move on mentally.

      1. TootsNYC*

        If they’re smart, they’re semi-planning her for replacement anyway!

        I’ve never been in a situation w/ a colleague on maternity leave in which the hiring manager isn’t making plans in the back of her head for what to do if the employee decides to stay home. Or, starts back to work, realizes she doesn’t want to keep it up, and gives a proper, long notice.

        It would be the height of stupidity for an employer to NOT be prepared for this contingency.

        1. Sunflower*

          Well they hired a temp who has already worked for the company and expressed desire to come back. OP feels confident she would accept the job if offered full time to her. Sounds like they already have a plan!

          1. TootsNYC*

            Precisely! And so there’s really no benefit to the employer to let them know that the employee is planning on not coming back to work for very long.

  19. Zillah*

    OP2 –

    I’m a little concerned that you think that leaving shortly after returning from maternity leave is the same thing as literally stealing from the company.

    Look, is it an ideal situation? No, of course not. But this is a benefit that your friend presumably earned, and I’m not sure what you’d like her to do instead that’s at all feasible. She likely needs the pay, the prospect of a job to return to should her plans fall through, and the health insurance that’s tied to the company. Would you feel the same way about someone who got news that they’d need some major surgeries done immediately due to a serious medical issue and didn’t tell the company, “By the way, I’m planning to leave in four months”?

    Hopefully not, because that’s not reasonable. But it’s really not that different, though I think that our society would like to convince people that it is.

    Look, life can’t just go on hold when you have a baby, and the extent to which you’re imposing morality on this situation is a little strange to me. Your friend is not morality defunct for keeping this job, and it’s certainly not the same as taking cash out of the drawers.

    OP, best case scenario: what would you like to see happen? Why, and what would be the potential fallout to all parties involved were that to happen?

    1. Cristina in England*

      Exactly. I don’t get the moralizing either. This is a practical problem. And we haven’t talked about how it gives that regretful former employee a chance to return and get her foot back in the door!

  20. Faith*

    #2 – This is the first time when I disagree with Alison’s response 100%. There are two things working against pregnant women in the US. The first one is the absolute lack of employment protection for pregnant women. The second one is the exorbitant cost of healthcare and the messed up system where your health insurance is tied to your employer. So, if a pregnant woman knows that she will not be returning to work after her maternity leave is over and she notifies her employer, she risks losing her job and her healthcare benefits during one of the most vulnerable times in her life. How can one seriously expect her to notify her employer and deliberately jeopardize her own well-being and the well-being of her child by risking both her income and her insurance coverage? It is one of the trade-offs that the employers in this country have to make in exchange for being able to fire anyone at will. Furthermore, it is not “robbery” to use benefits that you are entitled to. If a cancer patient was going on a medical leave while undergoing chemo with the intention of resigning after his chemotherapy is complete, would we still be having this conversation?

    1. Grey*

      Losing your job does not have to mean you lose your health coverage. You can always pay the premiums yourself. Is it really fair to expect your employer to cover the costs associated with your new baby?

      Health insurance is a benefit meant for employees. If you’re not going to be an employee, then I’d argue you’re not entitled to it.

      1. Grey*

        Just to clarify, since I misread the original question… I think resigning after returning to work for 3 weeks is acceptable. After all, maternity leave is something she’s entitled to. My comment above only applies if the woman is never returning to the job.

        1. De (Germany)*

          Sorry then, didn’t refresh the page before replying, and I had it open for a while…

      2. De (Germany)*

        She’s going to be an employee while having the child, while on maternity leave and for the weeks after that that she returns to work for.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Oh yes it does, if you’re not making enough money to afford the premiums out of pocket, which can be extremely expensive. And someone correct me if I’m wrong but insurance doesn’t cover the entire bill for the birth, either. If you can’t pay the premiums, poof! No more health insurance. If she’s fairly close to the end of her pregnancy, it’s too big a risk. If they actually plan on moving later, they’ll need every cent they can manage to save.

        1. Faith*

          I have a very good health insurance policy, but I still had to pay 1,900 out of pocket for my OBGYN, 1000 for my hospital bill, and another 800 for my daughter’s hospital bill when she was born (not to mention separate charges for various sonograms, blood tests, anesthesiologist, and other random things that my insurance chose not to cover). And that was a fairly uncomplicated pregnancy and an easy vaginal birth with no NICU time. Without my insurance, my hospital bill alone would have been over 15,000. I cannot imagine having to fork over that kind of cash while simultaneously being unemployed.

  21. la Contessa*

    This is unrelated to a question, but the ad on the front page between the “Ask a Question” bar and the Recent Posts list forces my browser (IE 11 . . . it’s work, not my choice) to jump down to it. I can’t scroll away up or down, it snaps right back. It’s only some of the ads (the video ones), because it’s not doing on this particular page at this particular moment. That’s the only reason I can comment; it wasn’t letting me scroll down to the comment box to even tell you about it, or I would have said something earlier this week.

    #2, I understand how you feel. I assume your friend is being paid something while she is out on leave based on what you said (at the very least, she’s getting benefits), and it probably feels like she is going to take money for doing nothing, and then leave the company that paid her for doing nothing shortly thereafter. The reason I know how you feel is that I felt the exact same way when I went on my own 3-month maternity leave. My company had a very nice maternity leave policy: 3 full months at 100% of my salary (covered by a mix of short-term disability insurance and the company’s out-of-pocket payments). For various reasons, I spent roughly 80% of the leave frantically looking for a new job. I felt guilty about it, though, because I felt like I was stealing from the company (getting paid for doing no work) and then leaving after I got my free money. The folks above who pointed out that the paid leave is an earned benefit are right, though. The company chose to offer the benefit to its employees, so while it may feel like stealing, it’s not, because it’s a freely-offered benefit. You can’t steal something that is yours to take in the first place, you know? I completely understand your concern, but if you shift your perspective (your friend already has a right to the benefit, so she can’t be stealing it), you may feel better about it. People can leave their jobs at any time, and the company offered the benefit knowing that fact. Now, the company may have a policy that if you leave within X time after the leave you have to pay back some or all of the benefits, but that wouldn’t be in play yet, and in any event, would be between your friend and the company, not you. I think you can safely not say anything and not feel bad about it.

    1. Cristina in England*

      That’s a really interesting perspective. OP 2 should also consider that it is not her fault that health care is tied up with one’s employer. That’s just the system. If her friend wants to keep her health insurance (during pregnancy and also for the new baby’s medical stuff) she has to stay in her job. The pregnant lady doesn’t really have a choice, as far as I see it.

    2. LibrarianJ*

      I just had the same problem with a video ad on this page. For Ohio Health and then Daikin. It seems to reset and snap me back up to the top every couple of minutes.

  22. Strongly disagree*

    #2 I so rarely disagree with Alison but I definitely do in this case.

    Pregnant friend is entitled to use her benefits. She may leave afterwards, but plans change all the time. You have no idea what will actually happen – if she will come back and stay for 2 years or 2 weeks. Don’t say anything.

  23. Marie*

    #2: In addition to all the points mentioned already, do you really want to be known as the person in the office who cost a pregnant woman her job, her medical benefits, and potentially jeopardized her health and that of her child? If she has only confided in you, she will know that you are the one who tattled on her. Should the news spread to your coworkers, you’re looking at a very hostile work environment. I know I wouldn’t want to be working with you after this incident. If you’re a manager, then you could expect morale to take a sharp turn downward. Just drop it. She is taking advantage of her benefits package, which she earned, before giving her resignation. It’s no different than someone taking 3 weeks vacation, then handing in their two weeks notice when they return.

    1. Marcela*

      Yeah. For me, this is what makes the decision clear: on one side I have a person that could have her life destroyed with huge medical bills or the potential lack of medical insurance. On the other side, a company and coworkers having to work more or change procedures or similar other problems. In my mind, the damage to the person can be so huge and it’s so disproportionate to the “damage” to the company, that even if I were to think there is a conflict, I would never ever consider to tell anybody about this coworker’s plans.

  24. CAinUK*

    It’s odd how living in different healthcare systems affects my perspective on #2.

    In the US, I would agree that #2’s friend is entitled to her benefits, and isn’t obligated to give notice since the risk is not worth it (loosing insurance coverage is a huge cost!). And, as Alison points out: employers have to create a culture where employees feel comfortable giving long notice periods. If this employee doesn’t, that’s perhaps an indicator of their culture and this non-disclosure is a consequence.

    In the UK, while I still feel the employee is always entitled to the benefits available, the medical care is free and so the health insurance costs is a non-issue/risk (though your maternity pay still is). Consequently, I would feel a bit more irked if an employee did this. In fact, we have one employee who recently returned from maternity leave for less than a month only to go on maternity leave again – meaning we pay for both leave periods and not operated at full capacity (with increased costs for temp coverage). I’d be a bit miffed if she then quit after we had held that job for so long.

    1. Cristina in England*

      That’s a really interesting perspective. Yes in the UK it is less a matter of personal risk to the employee (as I have argued upthread). I can see how the boss would be annoyed because they couldn’t plan better or it cost more to get a temp, but since the cost of the health care and the basic mat leave pay is borne by the state, that doesn’t really come into it. In the situation you mention, I can definitely see how it can seem like the woman in question should just quit already if that’s what she wants, but of course, the second pregnancy may not have been planned (off for less than a month, that’s quick!) and then it’s back to the “using the benefit you’re entitled to” argument. Even here I do think there is a bit of a stigma about maternity leave, whereas I’ve had friends go off work “for stress” (depression, anxiety, etc) for months at a time and no one has said a thing about it. It’s unfair.

      1. Nutcase*

        I completely agree about the stigma thing. A long maternity leave isn’t a legal requirement in the UK because pregnant women and mothers just fancy a holiday and the government agreed. Pregnant women aren’t (necessarily) lazy or playing the system (opinions that I have heard flying about). Allowing women to take maternity leave without detrimental consequences has many benefits to society and the law of the land has recognised that. The possibility of having employees taking maternity leave is a cost of doing business in the UK, and in return society doesn’t have to face the situation that they’re facing in Japan right now for example, where the population is aging and there are fewer and fewer younger people to support them. We all benefit from successful women with careers having children.

    2. jhhj*

      What kind of pay do you have to cover when they’re on maternity leave? I thought that the employee’s salary was covered by the government?

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Nope the salary is not paid, a minimum payment is guaranteed and the government pays that (about $300 I think) but if the company offers any additional payment then they must pay that themselves.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          oh and pension contributions and vacation time still accrue whilst the mother is on leave as well

          1. jhhj*

            For us, vacation TIME accrues, but the paid part doesn’t — you’re paid 4% (or 6%) of what you earned in the last year, so if you’re off for a while, sure, you get the 2-3 weeks off, but you don’t get any money while you’re away.

        2. jhhj*

          Oh, yeah, if your company does topping up. I think really the parental leave benefits should be a higher %age of salary, but that’s a government thing. I don’t like when parental benefits are put on individual companies instead of shared across the population like they should be.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            It’s an employee benefit that firms can opt to offer if they want, the last two firms I worked provided way above the minimum and it work well for them as it kept some very talented woman in the business. Of course they had the resources do to that and not all firms can but the set up seems to work reasonably well.

            1. jhhj*

              I understand that, and I don’t think poorly of companies that choose to offer this benefit.

              I do think it’s bad that it’s a benefit that has to be offered, because I think it’s something that should be covered by the entire society, not some random set of companies.

      2. CAinUK*

        We offer a portion of salary above the minimum gov’t payment (we had to budget the on-going salary during both maternity leaves for this employee – not just pension and vacation contributions). So, for us, it was a business cost for sure (which, again, happy to do – but it would be annoying if, after investing and retaining that employee, they immediately left without any head’s up!)

        1. CAinUK*

          And to clarify: this annoyance would be across the board, for any employee we felt we invested in, and didn’t communicate their plans with us. And, admittedly, if that was happening as a pattern, we’d need to look at our culture to see why employees weren’t being upfront.

      3. Jen*

        In the UK, maternity pay (covered by the government) is:
        -90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
        -£139.58 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

        Your actual job is protected for the first 6 months, and then a similar job (at the same or better pay) is guaranteed for another 6 months.

        You are also entitled to all your benefits while on maternity leave, which may include company resources such as a phone or car, private health cover, vision, etc. And you continue to accrue holiday while you’re off.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’d probably be more than ready to go back to work at six months. I’d definitely not be ready at six weeks, which is what the US typically offers (if you get mat leave at all). But £139.58 doesn’t seem like very much. Of course, it depends on where you live, I guess. Would that even pay for nappies in London?!

          1. De (Germany)*

            Yeah, that’s really low. Germany offers 1800 Euros or 65 percent of your wages per month, which is much more realistic. That’s coming out of taxes, which we pay a lot of :-)

    3. Nutcase*

      In the UK, pregnant women (and all other people) still have many bills to pay that aren’t medical bills. We pay for our medical costs through high taxes on everything. If pregnant women didn’t have a job how would they pay for anything at all? Our welfare system would pick up the tab for a while but it doesn’t pay a living “wage”.

  25. illini02*

    #2. I often read this blog and feel like I have a very different definition of “friend” than many others. I have had friends that I work with before, at my current job I don’t. I have people I get along with and will eat lunch with, but they aren’t “friends”. You referred to her as a close friend. This person spoke to you as a friend, and now you want to go tell the boss about something that MAY happen 5 months down the line. If you are really her friend, you should show her some loyalty instead of possibly having her lose her job. (There of course are situations where I think its reasonable to report a friend, but this isn’t one of them). Plus, despite this intricate plan, things can always change. Maybe the reason for her move won’t be there anymore. Who knows. But its really not your place to tell. Even if she does do it, she will be coming back for 2 months. So she would essentially be providing 2 weeks notice anyway right? IF there was no maternity leave in the picture, but you knew she was looking for a job, would you feel that you needed to tell HR that as well?

  26. Alexandra, PHR*

    For #2, I have no idea how telling HR would help anything. If someone came to me with this information, it wouldn’t change anything – I would actually feel its more gossip than anything. There is absolutely nothing we can do – we can’t fire her if she’s on FMLA and is just rumored to be quitting 2 months after she’s back. It just adds stress and a gossip type stream. Essentially, its just “noise.”

    1. CAinUK*

      +1 to this, though I WOULD say that while the company couldn’t (and shouldn’t) take action against the employee on maternity leave, they could make plans with the knowledge that they would need a replacement, etc. They could create contingencies if they had this info.

      Now, that’s only to say there is a possible, non-gossipy benefit to telling HR, which is why OP2 is likely torn. All of that said, none of this is worth jeopardizing the pregnant employee’s insurance cover or financial security.

      1. TootsNYC*

        They should be creating those contingency plans anyway!
        Even if only in the back of their mind.

        I’ve never known a manager to NOT do that. Every time I’ve worked with someone who gets pregnant, there is immediately a backup plan forming. Even when the employee says, “Oh, I’m definitely coming back!” We’re always ready to deal with a “no-show.”

        In fact, I think managers should be making those sorts of “what if somebody quits?” plans all the time. I sure do! One of my people mentions, “I’ll be out for an appointment,” but they don’t specify what it is, I start to think, “Hmm, job hunting? Maybe. Good luck to them. What will I do if they quit?”

        I’m always ready. Because people can always quit!

        And the chances are -always- higher in a new-baby situation. Only an idiot isn’t ready.

        As for the temp, in the OP’s situation? She’ll be the top candidate for that job, when it finally opens up. Meanwhile, for 3 months she’ll be employed in a position that might actually open up, you never know. And 2 months later, she’ll be in a good spot to go after it–or, she’ll have a new job elsewhere and it won’t matter.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        They already have–the temp who used to work there. The OP said she felt the temp would accept an offer to come back, which I’m sure the company knows if they talked to Temp at all. So they’ve already made arrangements. There really isn’t any reason for the OP to say anything.

    2. T*

      Oh come on Alexandra. Lots of mad hr and managers could take away all of her important projects, give her the crappiest schedule, and essentially crap on her, not because she’s pregnant, but because she’s not returning.

  27. Julie*

    I started a job while I was pregnant and made sure I signed up for the short term disability. About two months later I told them I was pregnant and continued to work there until I had my daughter. But before I had her, I did tell my boss that I was planning on coming back but if we could work it out that I didn’t need to I wasn’t going to. She said that was fine and at the end of my 8 weeks I called her and told her I wasn’t coming back. But the thing is I never planned on coming back. We needed the money and it helped us out a great deal. I never really even thought I was doing anything wrong. Now in this case she is going to be going back to work for a bit and then telling them. I really see nothing wrong with this as well. She has the right to take the maternity leave, go back to work for a few weeks then move away. Is it nice to do to your employer no but if it is what you got to do then go for it.

    1. Joey*

      You see nothing wrong with lying??? Thing is, if you had short term disability you shouldn’t need to tell them you’re returning. It should be assumed.

  28. The IT Manager*

    And this is the problem with company provided healthcare and maternity leave. Disclaimer: I am not familiar with all the ins and outs of the law.

    I do think that it’s unethical to lie to the company by saying a woman plans to continue working after maternity leave when she isn’t. (like for example she’s planning a cross country move with her husband) But there’s also a lot of uncertainty with pregnancy that makes definitive plans very difficult. I understand why women/families feel they are between a rock and a hard place.

    As for the LW, it does depend on your role in the company, but consider that this woman confided in you as a friend with the expectation that you would not share the info with the company. Maybe she was off-base about how close you are. Maybe she did not realize how strongly you felt about lying about this for personal gain. And she does gain benefit of healthcare coverage and whatever pay she gets while on maternity leave.

    To be honest, the company (and her co-workers) would benefit by not being strung along that this woman plans to return. They could begin hiring her replacement now instead of a temp. The temp might work out, but you consider different things when hiring a temp than hiring a new employee.

    1. Joey*

      Well the thing is, the question of whether you’re returning shouldn’t even be asked at that point. Do we ask folks if they’re returning from leg surgery? Do we ask dads of they plan on returning after they take time off to bond with a newborn?

      No, we only ask how much time they will be incapacitated or need to be off. Why is the expectation for pregnancy different?

      1. Kelly L.*

        Because people hate women who have sex.

        Not consciously, maybe, but I think that’s at the root of a lot of things.

        1. LBK*

          Not to say institutional sexism isn’t a thing, but that’s frustratingly dismissive of some of the real concerns raised here.

          1. Kelly L.*

            It’s not just this thread. It’s every thread ever about maternity leave and every discussion ever (not necessarily on AAM) about some other topics that I won’t bring up here because I don’t want to threadjack. It’s not the only thing that’s going on here, but it never seems to go away. And I think it’s why some people (not all) judge people on maternity leave but not other kinds of leave.

            1. fposte*

              I think there’s a sexism angle, but I don’t think that’s it. It’s that children are considered to be a woman’s priority in a way they aren’t a man’s–or, to put it a slightly different way, women prioritize their children by being with them, while men can prioritize them by earning money to keep them.

              There’s also been a big shift in how much time US women are out of the workforce after birth; it was only about thirty years ago (I’m looking at a table at the Census website) that more women were back into the workforce after a year than weren’t, and there are still more women out of the workforce after three months than back in it. That of course doesn’t mean those later returners were pretending they were coming right back but knew they weren’t; however, if employees had similar return patterns with broken legs, I bet people would be asking the broken-legged if they planned to return.

      2. fposte*

        I think the reason it comes up more with pregnancy is because people sometimes choose to take more time out of the workforce than just leave with their kids. That there’s a move involved here is a less common reason for non-return.

        This whole question is a really interesting one for me. I think a pregnant employee is entitled to benefits, but I’m really used to long notice times; I’d be unhappy that I’d have to handle coverage for that position not just for her leave but for the subsequent few months before I could get a new person in place when I could have had somebody step into the position if she’d let me know her plans.

        But I also think a big part of this is psychology and not business. Logically it’s no different to cover for somebody who comes back than somebody who doesn’t, but it feels more like you were covering for one of the team when Lucinda comes back than if you find out she had a job offer elsewhere and stepped into that on the day after her leave ended.

      3. The IT Manager*

        Great point. When you’re out for a medical reason like a broken leg it’s assumed that you’ll return. The problem with treating maternity leave the same is that it a fact that a much greater percentage of people (women) do not return after maternity leave than people who take extended sick leave. Not a huge number like more than half but a statistically significant larger number of new mothers than people who are out for sick leave.

        1. Joey*

          I think it just feels wrong because it’s more of a choice than say someone who takes FMLA for a sick family member and needs to quit to care for them long term.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          We had a male employee at one job go on extended leave for a very serious medical condition. He assured us he would be back, but we did not know for sure if he would even live through the surgeries he had to have.

          He did come back but ended up losing his job later during a restructure, which was a blessing in disguise because he really needed to be out of there (there was enough bullshit at this job that the stress would have jeopardized his health to stay on). I’m surprised he didn’t quit, but he had worked at that company for years and I think he was afraid to look for something else. My point though, is that there are no guarantees even with sick leave when the condition is fairly serious.

  29. Fuzzy*

    I think OP #2 should also take into account that a lot can change in those months. Her friend’s plans could fall through and she would want to stick with the job. She could have some (god forbid) complications and need the insurance for longer. Plans can change, and so can people’s minds. I wouldn’t risk it.

    Maybe bring it up when the date gets closer? Ask the friend in October if her plans are the same, and suggest they tell HR so her team can start preparing for the transition? Early is better if you trust your team, but this is too early.

  30. anonima in tejas*


    Also I wanted to point out that there is no requirement that they have a policy, or that it is consistent. If there are multiple branches/offices/locations, a lot may depend on that location as well. For example: generally what is considered professional dress is the same across the board, but it could vary in significant details from Houston, to Austin, to San Francisco, to Chicago, to London to Dubai. I see this often with dress, but also tattoos and piercings and facial hair. What passes for professional in Austin does not pass for professional in Houston.

  31. Joey*

    #2. It only feels crappy as an employer, but can you blame an employee for doing it?

    In other words, if you would do the same in the same circumstance, which probably 99% of us would, then you can’t really call riding out your benefits before you leave crappy.

    Otherwise its more of a crappy system that leaves the employee little choice than the employee being unethical.

    1. Joey*

      Fwiw, many companies who have paid short term disability programs have the same thing happen whenever an employee can’t return to work permanently. Employees ride out their short term disability benefits all the time even though they know they won’t be coming back. And the whole purpose of them is to allow an employee to recover and return to work. But really, who wouldn’t do the same?

  32. Retail Lifer*

    #1 My company has all these crazy unspoken protocols and chanis of command and people who you’re not allowed to speak directly to…but you don’t find out about it until you’ve actually broken one of these unspoken rules. And then you get chastised.

    I can’t even bring up a simple issue that’s another department’s job to take care of. I have to talk to my boss, who talks to their boss, who tells them. Like any game of telephone, the request is always screwed up by the time it reaches the ears of the person who needs to know.

  33. Dr. Pepper Addict*

    I tend to disagree with the assessment on #2. If paid leave is something the employer offers, why should the employee have to come right out and tell them she plans to quit after her leave is up? Other countries, like Canada require 1 year of leave, in the US I believe it’s only 9-12 weeks that employers are required to give. It’s not that much in the grand scheme of things and a benefit for working for a company that offers it. Would you have someone be brutally honest, that they do not plan to come back only to lose their job and benefits while facing a couple days in the hospital?

    1. Zahra*

      For Canada, only part of that 1 year is mother-exclusive. The rest can be shared between both parents, to be taken consecutively or concurrently.

      Actually, as mentioned above, you see a lot of positions for “1 year only (maternity replacement)” with a possible extension if the business grows, you’ve found a superstar employee or the mother does not return.

  34. brighidg*

    #2 – Why would you make it your business whether or not this person plans to leave? It is not, in any way, your business. It’s not your business.

    And if this is an American writing in, then it is absolutely astounding that the poster considers this “robbery”. No, the fact that American workers work longer hours and are more productive than they’ve been in decades and still get less time off than anyone else in a first world country is robbery. If someone wants to take their paltry six weeks to find a new job, good for them.

  35. Student*

    #2 Blame our crazy healthcare system and laws, not this employee. She can’t go without healthcare in the late stages of a pregnancy without serious potential consequences to herself, her fetus, and her family. Births are expensive when they go perfectly. They are bankrupting if something goes badly. Similarly, going without complete medical care during a pregnancy due to concerns about costs may cause harm to this woman or her baby.

    She would not be protected at all under the law against pregnancy discrimination if she started her new job sooner. You have to be employed somewhere for several months (6? 12?) before any protections kick in at all, and they are pretty weak when they do come into force.

    She might not be able to move up the start date to get on her new employer’s health insurance promptly. She might not have the option to get health insurance through a husband. Now that Obamacare is in place, there’s at least a chance that she can buy heath insurance through that to cover a work gap, but we don’t know whether she’d be able to afford it without a job (or whether she is fully aware of how to enroll in it).

    Yeah, it is a crappy thing to do to your employer – too bad that our society hasn’t made alternatives viable that adequately protect women and their fetuses/newborns.

    1. JMegan*

      This is a great analysis. She’s going to need those benefits, and she may not be able to get them elsewhere. I would vote that her plan will create some inconvenience for the employer, but that it’s not actually unethical – or at least, not unethical to the point that it requires reporting to HR.

      It’s probably a difficult decision for the pregnant woman as well. Most people do operate with a certain amount of integrity, and I expect she’s making the best choices she can, given the current situation. There’s no perfect answer here, and I doubt she’s sitting back laughing maniacally about how she’s totally going to screw her employer out of those benefits.

  36. Workfromhome*

    I don’t disagree that one needs to understand how to navigate the politics. It doesn’t make it right but its the reality. It sucks though. We can see from the OPs response that what the result is. The OP now will be far less likely to take imitative in the future. Maybe even ignore some obvious solutions that could benefit the company simply because they felt they were reprimanded. Its a sublte difference but all could have been avoided had management simply said “Who X that is a fantastic idea and great initiative. However since you may not know all the background please check with y in the future before spending any time at all on things like this. We have polices about this but great job and please bring any more ideas like this to X right way so they can be checked and you’ll get full credit”

    The OP would know where the boundaries were but would still want to take initiative going forward.

    I can tell you that a lot of initiative like this and my company has been squashed.Many people essentially believe that “no good deed goes unpunished” If you go the extra mile no one notices but if you ever go the extra mile and things don’t work out perfectly watch out. So now no one goes the extra mile because they get no credit if they do and only hear about it if something goes wrong. Do your job no more no less and keep your head down.

  37. Sue Wilson*

    Inconveniencing someone/something is not necessarily an ethical wrong, it’s an interpersonal one. So your pregnant friends risks the company being mad at her/giving a bad reference based on these events, because her actions will affect her interpersonal relationship, but it is not an ethical wrong to use the benefits to which she is entitled.

  38. Margaret*

    “It sounds like your manager heard — correctly — that employees shouldn’t also be contractors for the same company.” Not actually true. While it’s fairly rare to meet the requirements to be in both roles for the same company, it’s absolutely not inherently illegal or disallowed. If the separate roles each meet different requirements, totally legal.

    It depends very much on the roles – the one I’ve seen is a friend who worked for Blockbuster (I think? one of the ones that went out of business maybe 5 or 6 years ago), doing some kind of administrative/computer job. Clearly a W-2 employee – set hours, management control of how job was done, etc. When her location closed, they allowed any employees who wanted to make extra money come in to help with some manual labor moving equipment out. No one was required to do it, it had no impact on remaining hours (if any) of their regular jobs, it was just “we’ll be moving stuff x to x on these days, come for any or all of them if you want for y amount per hour”. The latter was clearly (1) an independent contractor situation, and (2) entirely separate role from the W-2 positions held by these people.

    So if your main job is, say, as a nurse, and they want you to write blog posts for the clinic web site about health issues, that’s probably correct you shouldn’t do so as an independent contractor. It’s closely related to the main job, arguably “other duties as assigned” even if not strictly in the normal range of duties, they’re probably still fairly closely managing how you do the task, etc. But if they want you to revamp the clinic website because you do coding as a hobby/side gig, that’s completely separate from your skills and duties as a nurse. It’s probably common for that job to be set up as an independent contractor – they don’t care when or how you do it, just deliver x result by y date. Absolutely ok and legal to be a W-2 nurse and get paid as an independent contractor to do the website.

  39. DavidYYZ*

    #5 I recently went through something similar. My company was recently acquired and we were all given job offers from the “new boss”. I guess the difference in my situation however is that they’re an organization known to care about people and are known to do the right thing. They’ve openly said to us that they know there will be turnover as there will be changes that won’t be accepted by everyone. In addition they’ve been very transparent with layoffs and displacements by giving departments a heads up as to the number of people who may lose the irjobs and giving those who are being laid off or displaced one years notice. I think most organizations that are acquiring another company have an expectation that there will be turnover and they generally won’t view that negatively if you exit the company with proper notice.

    1. OP#5*

      Hmm that’s true… and I could always tell them I’m not sure about the cultural fit and see if they would be willing to do some kind of probation period arrangement. Thanks for the idea!

  40. Layla*

    #2 – If it is that much of a dilemma, every company should put every employee on a contact: If maternity leave is utilized, you are obligated to X number of months with ABC teapot company. If ABC pays tuition for school, you are obligated to X number of years. And so forth. But then every company has a clause to be forthcoming about layoffs and give reasonable time frames to help employees obtain new employment. Is it unrealistic? Yes.

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