coworker didn’t warn us about bed bugs, was I blacklisted, and more

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

1. Coworker didn’t warn us about bed bugs when we traveled to satellite office

I work at a place with two offices. There is a group of professionals in our office who meet up every month to discuss trends in our field of work. We normally meet at the main office, but one of the employees in the group asked that we rotate back, at least once, to the satellite office. Well, the whole group (75% of whom works at the main office) agreed that they would rotate and have the meeting at the satellite office. When we got there for the meeting, one of the employees who works out of the satellite office made a remark in passing during the meeting that the room next door is being treated for a bed bug infestation. She actually had the nerve to say this jokingly!

I am really annoyed that an entire group of professionals at that satellite office did not warn us about the bed bug situation–if they had, we obviously would not have gone there and it doesn’t matter that the bedbugs were found in the room next door. I saw one of the satellite employees and asked her why they didn’t warn the rest of the group about the bed bugs and she said, “I guess we didn’t even think about it.” I feel like their behavior was so extremely unprofessional, inconsiderate, immature and discourteous that I don’t even think we should accommodate them anymore by rotating! Now, I am paranoid about any bite I get because bed bugs can make you lose a lot of money and belongings since you need to throw these things out!

I was thinking of just keeping the upcoming meetings at the main office and if the satellite folks want to come, so be it–why bring it up when the end result will be us not meeting there anyway? Another factor here is that even when we do rotate and have these meetings at the satellite office, the satellite employees are always strolling in 10-20 minutes late to a meeting that we’re holding at their office to accommodate them! They are just generally inconsiderate, but other than the group meetings, I don’t have to work with them because they’re in a different department (and obviously, a different office). How should I approach this situation?

It’s perfectly reasonable to say, “We aren’t going to hold meetings there until the bed bug situation is 100% resolved. We don’t want to risk bringing them back with us.” (It’s weird that they themselves aren’t concerned about bringing them home, which makes me wonder if there’s something else going on there.)

It might also be reasonable — although it’s a little less clear cut — to say “because most of us are in the main office, we’d like to keep holding the meetings here, since that’s the most convenient for the majority of attendees.” (There’s an argument that that isn’t really fair and you should rotate at least once in a while, if not every single meeting … but it also sounds like you might not be terribly upset if it meant that they didn’t attend as frequently.)

And if you are holding any meetings at their office, it’s definitely reasonable to say, “We need to start these on time. Can you commit to being ready to go by 6 p.m. so we’re not starting late?”

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Should I mention my disability in an interview when an employer says they encourage disabled people to apply?

I have juvenile/type 1 diabetes, which I’m pretty sure qualifies as a disability under the ADA. I see employers with language in their posting such as: “We are strongly committed to achieving excellence through intellectual diversity and strongly encourage applications from persons of color, women, persons with disabilities, the LGBT community, veterans, and members of other groups that are under-represented on university faculties.” How do people make it known that they are members of one of these groups, such as a person with a disability, during the application submission/hiring process? I have never addressed my disability with employers during the interview or hiring process, preferring to keep it quiet until I have started working. For context, I am in the legal profession and thinking about entering the teaching market (scary!).

That sort of language isn’t there to prompt you to disclose disabilities, but rather just to signal to you that they’re a particularly welcoming environment (for example, that they’re not likely to consider medical accommodations a hassle — at least in theory).

There are a few exceptions to this; some programs do give veterans and disabled people preference in hiring, but in those cases it’s likely to be asked as a formal question in their application process and still wouldn’t be something you’d need to casually mention in an interview.

3. Would a new job let me work remotely two months a year?

I’m a graduate student in a relatively specialized field. For the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to have a job that I love where I can grow and develop my skills, and with great and supportive coworkers. The problem is that this job is seasonal. I would like to start applying to part-time jobs related to my field of study so that I have steady work throughout the year. I’m wondering whether I could reasonably try to have my cake and eat it too—that is, how strange and/or unreasonable would it be for me to try to negotiate with a new job to let me take two months to work remotely while I return to this seasonal job? Is there some other way I can keep working at my seasonal job?

It’s not impossible, but it would be pretty unusual. It would depend on the work you were doing and the nature of the role, but most employers would be concerned at the prospect of you splitting your focus like that for two months. You’d also be asking them to tolerate what could be pretty significant inconvenience (to your coworkers as well) for something that won’t benefit them, and which risks signaling “I’m not committed enough to this job to let the other one go.”

I think you’re most likely to need to give up the seasonal job when you get a new job.

4. Employer is accidentally continuing a benefit after I left

I left a former employer a few months ago for a new job. The HR manager at the former employer is, to be mild, incompetent. I’ve spent many days making sure my paychecks were accurate, benefits were right, etc., and now I’m wondering what my responsibility (and possible liability) is if said HR manager fails to discontinue a benefit after I left employment.

I was receiving a transportation subsidy that goes directly to my travel card – this was the employer’s money, not mine. Although I left employment months ago, the subsidy continues to be placed on my card every month. Short of cancelling the account and opening a new one, I have no way of not using these benefits when they’re placed there (the deductions are automatic when I use the subway). I have let the HR manager know about this but never received a reply and the benefits still appear every month.

Am I liable for this somehow, given that it’s their error? I have no desire to take money from them, but it’s incredibly complicated for me to go around their error. I also don’t want to end up having to pay this money back. Any idea on how to deal with this?

It’s a good question. If they were continuing to pay you, they could indeed hold you to returning the money once they noticed it (although I’d love to know if there are time limits on that — there must be, but we need a lawyer to tell us for sure). But with benefits? I don’t know. I suspect that they wouldn’t bother, but I can see why you don’t want the possibility hanging out there.

I would alert your old manager to what’s happening, if you haven’t already. And then I would send one final note to the HR manager (ideally with her manager cc’d) saying that you’ve alerted her that this is happening and haven’t received a reply, can’t continue to chase her down to get it fixed, and so are making one final attempt to get it corrected but if they don’t take care of it, you’re not going to be responsible for getting the money back to them at some future date.

5. Did this company blacklist me?

I am a contractor and am in the market every six months or so. I was once at a company where I couldn’t get along with the manager, to the point that we wouldn’t say hello to each other. She didn’t extend my contract and I was out. After that, whenever I applied for an opening in that company, I never got called for an interview. Is it possible that she blacklisted me in th HR database or something?

Yes. It’s pretty normal, in fact, to mark people as ineligible for rehire if there are issues with them — and having a poor enough relationship with a manager that you refused to even say hello could definitely qualify as that (even if she was just as much to blame as you).

{ 327 comments… read them below }

  1. Lillie Lane*

    #1: The OP is right to be annoyed by and concerned about the bed bugs. However, I don’t know if I’d go so far to say it was “unprofessional, inconsiderate, immature and discourteous”. Maybe “unthinking” or “thoughtless” is a better descriptor. I can see where the colleagues didn’t think to mention it — perhaps they are so used to the notion of having an infestation that they didn’t remember to say something. Or one of them figured the colleagues knew about it or someone had notified them already. (Though Alison is right, it’s weird that the people at the satellite office are apparently unconcerned themselves.) I can imagine a similar office situation where there is distracting construction noise, or a strong paint smell, etc. that could affect the comfort or health of visitors but no one thought to mention it ahead of time.

    Personally, I would be more annoyed with the lack of punctuality/casual attitude by the staff at the satellite office, for that is unprofessional. But the OP is right, the cost/disruption/health concern over treatments associated with bed bugs hitching a ride is definitely a concern.

    1. FiveByFive*

      Me three about it being weird that people are unconcerned about the bed bugs. I don’t get how some people are like that. I hardly think of myself as a germophobe, but yeah, I sure don’t need bed bugs, anymore than I need you sneezing in my face with your flu. But some people are completely meh about that stuff. It’s like the Seinfeld episode where Kramer mentions that he had fleas once. Jerry asked him what he did about about it, and he replied “what do you mean?”

      1. Lillie Lane*

        Yeah, I’m not fazed by insects (I’m an entomologist) and it would still bug me.
        I’ll show myself out…but only after noting that this would be a nightmare for someone suffering from delusory parasitosis.

        1. Bio-Pharma*

          Lillie, as an entomologist, does it bug you (haha) that the general population doesn’t realize that bugs are only a subset of insects, and use them interchangeably? (I took one entomology class in college)

          1. Lillie Lane*

            Haha, you know your stuff! It doesn’t bother me, honestly. Not in the way that “dirt” will irk most soil scientists.
            The guy that wrote a paper that claimed slugs are insects (in a class I was TAing) blew my mind, though.

            1. Joline*

              Ha. This made me think of once when I had to call the PST (provincial sales tax) hotline to ask about whether or not I was supposed to charge PST on dirt or not. Which then led to a discussion of the type of dirt. If it was more than 50% organic matter than it was PST exempt but if it was more than 50% dirt dirt we had to charge PST. The look on the project manager’s face when I asked him to describe his dirt to me was quite entertaining.

              1. Lillie Lane*

                Thank you for reminding me of that cartoon! Most favorite C&H EVER (says a lot) and it has me in stitches every time :)

      2. Student*

        It’s purely ignorance about the consequences/costs. Bed bugs were nearly exterminated in this country (assuming the author is in the US) until the major outbreak just a few years ago.

        My husband wanted us to rent a room in his friend’s house for a while at college. Right before we were scheduled to move in, the friend had bed bugs. My husband didn’t understand why I called the move-in plans to a screeching halt until the bed bugs had been eliminated to my satisfaction. He was thinking of them like, say, an ant infestation or like lice. He wasn’t really listening to me when I explained how easily they spread and how unpleasant they are when they bite. He figured that we could throw things out if they got infected, that it couldn’t be that big of a deal, that his buddy would have to pay for all the major extermination costs.

        So, I told my husband that bed bugs will likely spread to his car (relatively new car at the time) if we move in before they’re eliminated, and got some quotes on how much it costs and how long it takes to fumigate a car. Once he was looking at how much he’d have to pay to preserve his car, and how long he’d be out of a car to fully eliminate bed bugs, he finally saw reason.

        1. Chani*

          Yep, ignorance is far more likely than malice. :) I didn’t even know bedbugs were real until my mid 20’s, and didn’t know how expensive they could be until my late 20’s. I’ve been very lucky to never have a first-hand experience, given how many places seem to be infested in my city…

    2. Nina*

      Honestly, I’d probably react the same way, having dealt with bedbugs twice. It is a truly hellish experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Even if there was no choice but to meet in that office, I would still want to know in advance. But in all fairness, they may have neglected to mention it because they’re actively taking care of the infestation, which is a good thing.

      IMO, the lateness is a bigger problem since it’s ongoing, while the bedbug situation will eventually be solved. I would follow Allison’s script for that, because it sounds like the OP is reaching bitch-eating-crackers stage with the satellite employees.

      1. Ankh-Morpork*

        I don’t know – even if someone I really liked invited me somewhere, and then once I was there told me there were bedbugs nearby I would have a meltdown. Do not pass Go – Do not collect $200 – proceeded immediately to bitch eating crackers relationship. But that’s probably because I have a massive fear/paranoia about bedbugs. Honestly I probably would have had a panic attack and left. Or caused a scene and left – hard to tell. And held it against those people forever. Add that to the fact that LW was probably a little annoyed at having to go out there anyway and I can totally understand this escalating to fury.

        Also – Did anyone ever apologize? Like, sincerely apologize? I feel like I would be owed that. Bedbugs are no joking matter.

        1. June*

          A friend of mine grabbed a recliner off of the street during the height of the bed bug scare–and she was upset that I refused to go to her apartment until she has suffocated it!

          1. Ankh-Morpork*

            Every time I see furniture sitting on the side of the road all I think is “Welp – That’s filled with bedbugs!”

      2. Ad Astra*

        I’m a bit paranoid about bed bugs myself, but I’d have to guess that either the employer or the exterminator had assured the employees that they weren’t at risk of bringing home bed bugs, and that’s why it didn’t seem like such a big deal to them. If there was a real risk, you’d think the company wouldn’t allow its employees to work at that location until it was safe, but I guess not every company handles things the best way.

        The lateness seems like a much bigger issue, and one that could be pretty easy to curb. You tell them you need them to be on time, and then you start the meeting on time whether they’re present or not.

        1. TootsNYC*

          That may not be true–
 has this:
          Question: How far will bed bugs travel?
          Answer: Usually not far—between 10 feet and 100 feet but often not farther than 20 feet.

          and Scientific American has an article about myths:
          Myth 7: Bedbugs travel on our bodies
          Bedbugs do not like heat, Kells says. They therefore do not stick in hair or on skin, like lice or ticks, and prefer not to remain in our clothes close to our bodily heat. Bedbugs are more likely to travel on backpacks, luggage, shoes and other items farther removed from our bodies.

          So they may have been told by their experts in charge of the extermination that they didn’t need to worry about the insects in other areas of the building.

    3. MK*

      To be frank, the OP sounds as if she is grasping at the first reason she could think of to spare herself the inconvenience of going to the other office, something she is unwilling to do anyway for people she apparently doesn’t respect. Not mentioning the infestation was thoughtless, but the OP’s reaction of “I shall never set foot in that office” sounds over the top to me.

      1. UKAnon*

        I did kind of get that vibe too, to be honest. The lateness is rude, although there could well be explanations for it – if, for example, they’re customer facing and having to take phone calls, or are expected to stay on the phone and be polite when clients call etc. If not then it should be dealt with (as long as when they come to the main office people aren’t arriving late) But it sounds like OP just doesn’t like the other team, and while that could be because of a long pattern of being difficult to work with, it isn’t clear from the letter – it isn’t even clear if this is the first meeting at the satellite office (which the first two paras make it sound like it is, in which case the lateness may just be that they were caught off guard by the meeting unexpectedly being there)

        1. INTP*

          Or the lateness could just be an accepted part of their own office culture, which would be fine. In some offices meetings just don’t start on time. They should adapt when they’re in the other office, but if no one tells them that the lateness is a problem, then maybe they don’t know.

      2. Mike C.*

        I’m not working in a vermin infested area, and I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone else to do the same. Especially when that vermin can easily come home with you after work.

        1. BananaPants*

          We don’t know what line of work these people are in or if they have the ability to say to their manager, “I’m not coming into work until an exterminator has dealt with the bedbugs” without losing their jobs. Just because you and all of us are reasonable doesn’t mean that the boss of the satellite office people is reasonable.

          1. INTP*

            And we also don’t know that the situation hasn’t been dealt with appropriately. The bedbugs could have been discovered and exterminated months ago, and the affected room is sitting unused as a precaution. I feel like if the employees are being so cavalier about it, it probably isn’t a situation where people are getting bitten and bringing the infestation into their homes. If they have reason to believe the situation is safe, then I can’t blame them for not wanting to all personally travel to the other office and endure nights away from home just so the other employees don’t have to feel anxious about it.

            1. INFJ*

              Bingo. If it’s a room nobody uses and it’s being treated, the risk is minimal. While I agree that bedbugs are serious and known to be quite troublesome due to their resiliency, it seems as though the satellite office situation isn’t that dire and OP is jumping on any reason to justify not wanting to go over there.

              1. Kyrielle*

                If OP from an office in an area that doesn’t get, or rarely gets, bedbugs? Because all I know about bedbugs is from the media, and I would not have realized what you just said. I would have assumed they could get out of the adjacent room, move through the carpet, get into other areas, and my skin would be *crawling* at that instant.

                So maybe the OP (and perhaps others from their office) are less-familiar with bedbugs, the others in the office with that room know it’s safe and don’t realize that their coworkers didn’t have the information to realize that?

              2. catsAreCool*

                I would be pretty upset if I found that I had been invited to come to a place where I might catch bedbugs and bring them to my home and have to throw out belongings. It’s hard to tell from the letter whether the bedbug situation is really dealt with or not.

      3. De (Germany)*

        I think it’s the exclamation points that make it appear really aggressive, at least for me. I just read the letter again, taking out the “She actually had the nerve to say this jokingly!” and replacing the exclamation marks with periods and then it sounds much less so.

      4. BananaPants*

        Honestly I also got that vibe. As others have said, if you take out some of the verbiage and remove the exclamation points it gives less of a BEC feeling. I think OP1 wrote in the heat of anger and frustration and maybe wouldn’t have come off the same way if she waited to calm down before asking the question. It’s certainly a legitimate thing to be upset about, but the satellite office workers aren’t monsters.

        1. UKAnon*

          I think this is fair, and I can certainly understand the OP’s frustrations, but I hope that comments here will also help them to make sure that they don’t convey these feelings to their coworkers in unprofessional ways.

        2. fposte*

          Yeah, I think this was written in full bedbug freakout, and it was the last straw from people she didn’t like anyway.

          1. Kira*

            I actually thought that it was the opposite — OP doesn’t like the other office’s people, doesn’t like going there, and on top of that she’s got the final stress of bed bugs. I feel like she’s building a list of things against the satellite office and this was just the newest addition.

      5. Ad Astra*

        I got the same feeling. The problems she mentions are legitimate, but the tone tells me this is a BEC situation and the OP doesn’t like accommodating these people at all.

    4. Mike C.*

      I would actually go much farther, bed bugs are trivially easy to spread if you aren’t looking for them. What happens when I attend the meeting and inadvertently bring them to the home office, or my own home

      What in the hell were they thinking???

      1. MK*

        That the infestation was being treated, perhaps? Everyone is commenting as if the people in this office just ignored the whole thing and kept bringing people to an infested workspace, but it’s perfectly possible that the office was cleared for use by the exterminator.

        1. Cat*

          Also, what does “room next door” mean? Is it part of their offices or part of a semi-separate office complex or what?

          1. Meg Murry*

            Yes, I wondered this. If it was another business’s space next door, that makes it less likely, although not impossible, for the bedbugs to infest the satellite office.

            I wonder if it wasn’t mentioned because the whole building had been inspected and it was determined there were only bedbugs in the office next door, and now that was being treated. I could see the satellite office employee feeling like it wasn’t something to mention because they’d already been horrified by it, then realized that it hadn’t spread, hadn’t seen any sign of them in their office, and mentally moved on to “well, glad it’s being taken care of”. Although I personally still feel a little paranoid itching every time I think about it, I could see how it could move on to “something we don’t really actively think about anymore”.

            But I agree with others that this appears to have reached b*tch eating crackers stage to the OP. OP, is it possible that the same kinds of things happen when you are at the main office (people strolling in late, etc) but you aren’t noticing it as much?

            I do think it is only fair to occasionally rotate to the satellite office, providing they have the conference room space for it – but I also agree with others that it might be worth looking into doing it sometimes as a conference or video call as well.

        2. Em*

          As someone who has dealt with bedbugs, I completely understand the OP’s frustration. It’s really difficult exterminating bedbugs and because they’re so small, they could hide basically anywhere. We found a bedbug in a different room after a second extermination in our home. Also, not to get too detailed, but they can live for over a year without feeding, so you really have no certainty for a long time whether they’re truly gone. It’s a huge cost and I think it’s necessary to let others know.

          1. Harper*

            I agree here. My sister dealt with them twice and it’s just insane how hard they are to get rid of. Now, when we travel together, she checks under the sheets for signs of them and honestly, it’s made her not even want to go to hotels. They can spread throughout a building, from one apartment to another, so I think from one office space to another could happen. Bedbugs aren’t even just like having a flea infestation from your pets. It’s a pack up everything you own, get the place and the stuff treated at a huge cost, and then pray they re gone deal. And hope your neighbors did the same.

            1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              In my state’s standard rental application and leasing agreement here is a whole section on bedbugs for this reason. They can spread from one apartment to the entire building.

              On my lease agreement I had to check a box that said I had never had an infection and then initial next to the section where it said I could lose my apartment if they found out I had lied.

              I think this is definitely a situation where folks should be informed of what they are walking in to.

              1. Allison*

                So wait, would they not let you live there if you’ve had an issue with bedbugs before? Even if you’d treated it thoroughly? That sounds . . . a little problematic. Where are people who’ve battled bedbugs supposed to live if no one else will rent to them? Is buying a house your only option at that point?

                1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                  I googled it and there is a second check box option, “the resident has previously been exposed to bed bugs, but all of his or her personal property has been treated by a licensed pest control professional and is free from further infestation.”

                  It also states, “Residents may also be held responsible for lost rental income and other expenses incurred by the rental owner to move or relocate residents in adjacent dwellings in order to perform pest control treatments in other dwellings.

                  If the resident fails to pay for any of these costs, he or she would be in default, and the rental owner would have the right to terminate the resident’s right of occupancy and to exercise all rights and remedies under the lease contract. “

                2. Nina*

                  The neighbors who brought them into our building were evicted. I don’t know if it was because they brought them in at all, or because the infestation was so severe by the time the exterminator showed up.

                  They tenants had tried to get rid of the bugs themselves with a cheap over the counter spray, but it didn’t work. The infestation was so bad that it ran them out of their bedroom and they were sleeping on their couch. When the exterminator was finally notified a few weeks later, the bedbugs had already traveled to several other residences in the building, including mine. Even though the exterminator took care of the infestation at my place and I sterilized/trashed most of my stuff, the bbs were still making the rounds in the building. A few months later, they reappeared in my apartment, this time in my living room. It was much worse the second time around and we had to buy new furniture.

                  It’s an awful, costly experience for all involved.

                3. Allison*

                  Yikes! Where I live landlord are usually responsible for pest control. I can see a landlord not wanting to pay huge amounts of money for a tenant’s lack of responsibility, and I do think it’s a huge problem when people knowingly let a bedbug situation get out of control because proper treatment is difficult and expensive, but a part of me sympathizes with tenants who try to deal with the issue on their own for fear of being on the hook for huge sums of money and/or being evicted. I think people are much more likely to report the issue quickly and have it nipped in the bud if the landlord has to take care of it, and they know they won’t be punished.

                  After all, while some bedbug infestations are caused by stupid decisions like bringing in a couch off the street (ew ew ew ew why do people do this ewww), it really can happen to anyone.

                  I guess this is a damn good reason to get renter’s insurance, too.

          2. K.*

            A friend of a friend dealt with bedbugs. He worked out of town for a few months and sublet his apartment, and he thinks the subletter brought them in. He had to move and lost almost everything he owned. Clothes, wood furniture, all gone. Bed bugs are no joke – the fact that they’re in the building next door to this office doesn’t matter, as they spread very easily. I wouldn’t go there either.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              You are scaring me.
              I’d almost rather go through a tornado that this. At least some of my things might be salvageable. If I lost all my books, I would die. I cannot replace them.

              1. mel*

                We have a ton of wood furniture and we didn’t have to throw anything out. But then again, we didn’t try to do any “home-remedies”… bed bugs call for the professionals with the big guns.

                1. Natalie*

                  Yes, this! We had no problem dealing with our bed bugs, because I wouldn’t let my then-partner try to home remedy them. Pest control came three times, we never saw another living bug after the first visit.

              2. Just another techie*

                It’s not that dire. Items you own can be treated. It’s a giant pain in the ass, and totally not worth it for, say, the collection of Tom Clancy novels purchased for a buck each at the used bookstore, or the junky Ikea furniture, but stuff that is valuable or has sentimental meaning can totally be salvaged. It really depends on how fast you get the professionals in to deal with it–bed bugs are very much not a problem I’d ever recommend you try to DYI.

              3. TootsNYC*

                I would think you could sequester them inside a double layer of plastic bags; it would take more than a year, but you could do it.

        3. Not So Sunny*

          But they are saying the BBs are in the “office next door” — and not theirs…? Isn’t it very possible that they have already traveled to the office they’re meeting in?

        4. INTP*

          Yeah, I know that infestations can spread extremely easily and the bugs can be dormant for awhile, but if the area was treated, the affected room was closed off, and no one has seen a bedbug or used the affected room for six months, I don’t think it’s such a huge deal that employees should have taken it upon themselves to personally warn the other office. If the infestation was discovered two weeks ago, then it’s a much bigger deal and should have been disclosed. The fact is that if the satellite employees have managed to not infest the rest of their office or bring bugs home or get bitten or otherwise see evidence of bugs for months, the visiting employees will most likely have the same experience.

      2. Artemesia*

        And all it takes is ONE bedbug hitchhiking home with you to cost you thousands and make your life miserable. Treatments for bedbugs are notoriously ineffective. Who doesn’t know someone who has had to treat repeatedly without success?

    5. N.J.*

      I know a lot of the commenters don’t necessarily see the bed bug situation as a huge deal and think that the OP may be overreacting. However, bed bugs are extremely costly to treat for and get rid of. I have dealt with bed bugs twice iny life as well, once when my spouse picked them up from a hotel on a work trip and once as a precautionary treatment when a relative had them. The first time, it took the better part of six months and a couple grand to treat and get rid of them, not counting the cost of washing all the laundry and soft cloth items in the house and thd emotional and psychological toll of dealing with the situation. The second incident took several weeks and over $600 to deal with. The fact that the coworkers in the satellite office were so cavalier about the whole situation does make them extremely unprofessional as they are exposing the OP and his or her coworkers to the high potn tail dining oak and emotional cost of dealing with bed bugs. I would be furious if a coworker exposed me to this situation and would even go so far to speak with the manager of this satellite location about how they would plan to cover the cost for employees of they do end up getting bedbugs and having to treat their homes. This is an extremely serious situation, more so because of the cavalier attitude exhibited by the OP’s coworkers.

    6. INTP*

      Yeah, it sounds like this satellite office has an overall more relaxed culture than the OP’s office and some of these complaints go along with that. And I don’t think that’s unreasonable, as long as upper management that oversees the satellite office doesn’t take issue with it. In some offices meetings start strictly on the clock, in others they start a little late. The satellite employees presumably adjust at the home office and it won’t kill OP and their coworkers to do the same.

      If the bedbug infestation has been a nightmare and they’ve been bringing bugs home and getting bitten and such, then I do think it was pretty outrageous that no one told the other employees. But if they’ve been able to contain it, and no one is getting bitten and no one has had an infestation in their home and they’ve otherwise been able to avoid ill effects, then I can see how no one would think to tell the other office. Especially if they’re all like the OP and thinking of excuses for not traveling to the satellite office.

    7. Scott M*

      Has it occurred to anyone that they simply may not know what kind of serious problem bedbugs can be? Perhaps they thought it was just like any other insect problem (ants, spiders, etc). Perhaps they didn’t know how hard bedbugs are to eliminate or that they can travel in clothing and luggage back to your own house and start an infestation there?
      Not everyone knows about bedbugs.

  2. The IT Manager*

    LW#1, it doesn’t sound like you’re a manager or decision-maker. It sounds like these people are your co-workers. However there’s an unprofessional tone of superiority in your letter where you paint all the employees of the satellite office with the same paint brush. It seems like you don’t care for the people in the satellite office and don’t want to do anything to accommodate them or even deal with them.

    Your co-workers have been going into the satellite office everyday even though there’s a bedbug infestation. While your concern is very understandable, these people have continued to work through the infestation which might explain why it didn’t occur to anyone to warn you because it has not prevented them from working in the office. (Either their choice or they were told to.) It’s a bit odd/superior of you to be all “OMG, bed bugs, I can’t go their office for a meeting, but my co-workers can spend 8 hours a day there because that’s their office. Sucks to work out of the satellite office.”

    It also seems childish of you to punish their failure to warn you about something they are working through by never holding a meeting there again.

    That said, I agree that if 75% of the attendees are in a single office then it makes sense to hold the meeting there. It’s nice to spread the inconvenience of the travel, but if 8 of 12 people have to drive an hour to and from a meeting that’s 16 man hours lost as opposed to 8 hours lost if only 4 of the 12 attendees had to travel. It makes business sense for the people in the satellite office to do most of the travelling.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This seems like a pretty harsh assessment of an understandably frustrated letter. I’d be pissed as hell if I were potentially exposed to bedbugs and the people who could have warned me didn’t bother to.

      Which leads me to…

      I want to ask that we (everyone, not you in particular) make a point of being kinder to letter-writers, who are the whole reason there’s even a site here to read. That doesn’t mean you must shower all letter-writers with praise or never disagree, but I’d like people to dial it back a bit, as I’d like to continue having letters to answer.

      I am admittedly on edge about this because I thought that a lot of the comments on Thursday’s posts were inexplicably and unwarrantedly aggressive toward the OP, and I don’t want to see that repeated. Thank you!

      (And I’m not singling you out, IT Manager, and I hope it doesn’t seem that way. I just don’t want this to be the start of it happening again on this new post.)

      1. Weekday Warrior*

        Thanks Alison. I’ve noticed how tricky it can be just as a commenter to make points here and on other blogs without inadvertently being unclear or seemingly obtuse or otherwise inviting criticism. So I’ve had great admiration for the letter writers who are writing about difficult situations, no doubt often with complicated emotions – and are then met with criticisms of their own actions. I can see that sometimes that might be warranted but many times – not!

      2. Nina*

        Thank you for posting this, Allison. Some of the snark is really getting out of hand. Most of the time, there’s usually some context missing from the letter which causes all the confusion, but imo, LWs are less likely to respond to the comments if they feel like they’re walking into a minefield.

        1. Daisy*

          I think commentors are unreasonable sometimes about the amount of context they expect. I noticed that particularly in those two letters about job applicants lying- people kept picking out tangential things that seemed pretty clear as stated/ not that important to the advice, and using them to make the LW out as unreasonable (‘why would anyone write a blog post for work? what a weak reason for calling’, etc.). Really puts me off reading the comments.

          1. Myrin*

            I noticed that as well, especially with the letter you mention. It actually became quite frustrating to me to read people speculate about things that were clearly stated in the letter (“Maybe he meant this was his last job, not his current one!” – “Erm, no, OP says he talked about this being his current job and even about having to give two weeks notice. How is there any room for your assumption here?”) and pointed that out in the comments and the OP actually replied to me and thanked me profusely for picking up on that!

            Which is why I love Alison’s advice since it’s usually spot-on and doesn’t derail in frankly bizarre ways.

          2. some1*

            Not commenting on the snark aspect, but I have noticed a lot of commenters here making assumptions that about things clearly spelled out in the letter. I remember the letter several weeks or so back where the LW’s new employee kept asking of she was going to get fired. The letter clearly stated that said employee had been fired from her last job, and dozens of people replied, “Well maybe she keeps asking because she has been fired before.”

            I think it’s such an active comment section that maybe people skim the letters an jump to the comments section because they enjoy participating so much.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes to what you and Myrin both said. One thing that could help is if commenters who see that respond with a clear, calm reminder of what’s in the letter. (For example: “I think you may have overlooked that the letter says, ‘He told me that this was his current job and that he was required to give two weeks notice.'”)

              Just one of those — we don’t need a pile-on about it — but I don’t see everything right away and that could help keep that kind of thing from derailing the conversations.

              1. catsAreCool*

                I wonder how much of this is the “dirty lens” effect. Sometimes I’ll read something that reminds me of some situation I’ve been or someone I’ve had to deal with before, and I have to work on not jumping to conclusions.

                In this case, I was puzzled by the people who assumed that the bedbug situation was under control and that there was no possibility or very little possibility of spreading them.

          3. OriginalYup*

            It’s a bit like work (and life), right? In an ideal world, you’d have all the information you need to assess a situation thoroughly and make a reasoned, rational decision. What you actually get is 50% of the facts, some speculation and editorializing, and guess work, and you do your best to be helpful/decisive/productive with what you’ve got at hand. Which is really Alison’s genius in this site — being able to give clear, helpful advice on the information presented. I personally think most letter writers do a pretty good job of presenting the salient details and staying on topic, but you can never cover everything proactively.

      3. Liane*

        I agree with you on the tone of comments lately, Alison, & I do pick up on that very easily, since I volunteer as Lead Mod on a very active hobby forum, where my job is to nip this kind of thing in the bud. Thankfully, the gamers in that large community are usually very polite or it would be a full time gig just sending PMs to rude posters.
        And doing that kind of thing, I appreciate the work you put into keeping AAM posts civil.

      4. Ad Astra*

        I think in general it would help if we all remembered that these letter writers are often frustrated and stressed when they write these letters, and it makes sense that they’re being negative about their coworker/boss/whoever in this context because they have to explain the problem. It’s not a good idea to extrapolate that into an indication of the OP’s normal behavior at work.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes. I think sometimes people hold letter-writers to standards that the vast majority of people could never meet — and jump on them in ways that they would never jump on a friend or family member who was saying the exact same thing. It’s easier to clinically scrutinize strangers, of course, but I think it would help to remember that.

    2. Buggy Anon*

      I think this is a bit harsh, but also not totally inaccurate – speaking from experience, there’s a great deal of embarrassment that comes with having bed bugs because people can be extremely judgmental about it, and sometimes a natural reaction to feeling that shame is either to just not bring it up or to act like it’s not a big deal.

      I can understand why the OP is upset, for sure – bed bugs are a pain in the ass to deal with. But maybe dial it back a little on raking your coworkers over the coals. I’m sure they’re not too happy about the situation either; bed bugs are a pretty commonly known thing so I can’t imagine an entire office of adults just doesn’t realize this is a serious problem and that’s why they didn’t tell you. I agree with others who’ve said that if they’re being this casual, it’s possible the exterminators have told them the problem is contained and they don’t need to worry about it.

      1. Ankh-Morpork*

        Maybe it’s just that I am extra sensitive about bedbugs – but I don’t think there’s any level of ‘you don’t need to worry about it’ or ‘it’s confirmed it’s contained’ with bedbugs. Having bedbugs is like having a gypsy curse. It’s not going away without partially destroying your life/all your positions and you are probably going to spread it to someone else along the way no matter how much you promised yourself you wouldn’t. The satellite office was flat out selfish asking for the meeting to be more convenient to them while placing all those people in the vicinity of bedbugs.

        1. fposte*

          But if the theory is “once a place has had bedbugs, it’s always suspect,” doesn’t that mean that meeting at hotels is also a problem?

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              There are a few hotels I won’t ever stay in again because they had bed bug issues.

              1. fposte*

                But in cities like Chicago and New York, most hotels will have had a bed bug issue. What does that leave you with?

                1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                  I’m fortunate enough to have friends in both those cities and have elected to stay with them when traveling for work rather than risk a hotel. I know that this is not something everyone can do.

                  After the horror stories of people who have to have professional exterminators out multiple times, it’s really hard not to consider any space with an infestation suspect.

                2. MK*

                  Unless you make extensive inquiries before staying anywhere, you have no way of knowing whether there might have been a problem in the past. As I see it, it’s mostly psychological.

          1. Shan*

            That’s a great point. I used to work at an apartment complex and people asked me all the time if we’d ever had issues with bedbugs. In the few years I was there, we didn’t have a single case of bedbugs, and I’d tell them so. But some prospects wanted to know if we’d *ever* had bedbugs in the 20+ years since the apartment complex had been built. We don’t have records going back that far, but is one case of bedbugs that was properly treated 10 years ago going to make a difference if we haven’t had an issue (and replaced the carpet several times) since then? Should a property disclose every instance of bedbugs, ever? To be fair, bedbugs are definitely a serious problem, but properties aren’t doomed forever. I also worked in the hotel industry and I think they had more issues than apartments with this stuff.

            If the issues with bedbugs at the satellite office is ongoing, then yeah, it was selfish of the employees to not disclose that. But if none of the employees were affected, and treatment was completed long ago and they’re just not using the room out of caution, then I think the employees weren’t being malicious, they just weren’t thinking it through. They should have meetings elsewhere just to be safe – and OP should address the tardiness of her colleagues as a separate issue.

            1. Ankh-Morpork*

              They said “room next door is being treated for a bed bug infestation” emphasis on “IS” – as in currently at this point in time undergoing treatment. Which also means not all the bed bugs are dead – in the room next door. Not a place I would be happy to be. It is so, so easy for these things to spread and hitch rides.

              As for hotels, apartments or other places that have previously been invested my personal threshold is one year. They can survive a year without feeding – so if over a year has gone by with no sign of a resurgence I would be willing to go to that place. Less than a year? No thank you sir.

              1. Natalie*

                “Which also means not all the bed bugs are dead – in the room next door. ”

                That isn’t necessarily true. It’s SOP to do multiple treatments even if you have no reason to believe the bugs are still alive. Because of how you prepare for at treatment (moving furniture away from the walls, etc) they might opt to just keep the area closed off until the full cycle is done.

            2. Honeybee*

              I think it’s because the Internet (possibly spearheaded by the extermination industry) has perpetuated the myth that bedbugs are impossible to get rid of. They are difficult to get rid of, but they are not IMPOSSIBLE to eliminate. And I’m willing to bet the majority of apartment buildings in New York have had at least one case of bedbugs since they’ve been built – particularly any pre-war buildings, and especially any buildings built during the period of time when humans didn’t really understand hygiene and germ theory that well.

              1. Catherine*

                I usually lurk but I had to respond to this issue. When I moved into my current apartment 4 years ago, I was told the day before I was to move in that the apartment had bed bugs – they had only been discovered when the previous tenants moved out. The property manager assured me they could get rid of them – and they did. I moved into the apartment about 2 weeks after I was originally going to (they put me up in a another apartment) and I have never had a problem. And believe me, I looked pretty hard. So, it can definitely be done.

  3. The IT Manager*

    #4, I hope you follow-up with us when you get a conclusion ie the subsidies stop getting put in your account and you hear nothing or the company demands you pay them back or a year from now it’s still happening.

    Having heard horror stories military or government employees having to pay back over-payments immediately as warnings to never spend that extra “bonus”, I lean towards erring on the safe side and setting aside the cash. But on the other hand I have a hard time imaging a commercial entity being able to force you to pay them back – the government has the power, a company not so much. What you’re getting in subsidy may not be worth their time to chase after it; that’s not the case for the government which must justify every cent and can’t wave off mistakes.

    1. Cassie-O*

      If #4 is talking about SmartTrip cards in DC, it’s not exactly complicated to just by a new card. You can associate multiple cards with the same account. I wouldn’t bother closing the account – that’s unnecessary, and the company will get the unused subsidy money back at the end of the month anyway. I would just use my alternate card until the payments stopped so that ethically I wasn’t taking their subsidy. Maybe the OP is not in DC, or not using the same type of transportation.

      That being said, it’s not your fault they keep paying the subsidy after you’ve alerted them. I don’t think it’s a huge deal to continue using it as long as you are sure your manager and HR are aware, but just procrastinating on it.

      1. LBK*

        She clarified below that she already set up the subsidy from her new employer to go to the same card before realizing the one from the old employer was still kicking in, so it’s a little more complicated than just not using the card.

        (Side note, what area/field is this where so many people give out transit subsidies!? Jealous.)

        1. Chinook*

          “(Side note, what area/field is this where so many people give out transit subsidies!? Jealous.)”

          The accounting firm I worked for in Calgary gave free monthly passes to everyone who wasn’t eligible for a parking space (and taxi chits if you were working later than the regular bus runs or at a time when the bus passengers were more intoxicated). For them, it was a way to guarantee asking people to work past dark without putting them at risk.

        2. MegEB*

          In my experience, many, if not most companies give out transit subsidies to their employees in order to lure them away from driving in. Traffic in my city is notoriously hellish so the less cars on the road, the better. I work in a huge hospital, where all employees get a 50% transportation subsidy, and my sister works for a startup that provides an 80% subsidy to its employees.

        3. Noelle*

          I’m in DC and it’s pretty standard for employers to pay for metro, especially government employers. It’s so common that the metro system is constantly raising prices since so most people are insulated from the cost.

        4. HR/San Francisco Bay Area*

          In the San Francisco Bay area, we have a new law (went into effect late 2014) that requires most employers provide some kind of transit cost support for employees using mass transit (primarily commuter trains, public system buses, BART, registered van pools). Choices include a commuter-benefit FSA, an employer-paid subsidy or an employer-sponsored reimbursement program. Also included is an option that allows employers to devise their own plan, as long as it meets specified criteria. Car pools (casual or otherwise) are not included, although there is talk of supporting that as well.

        5. blueiphone*

          I worked for a university in a major city that offered a public transit benefit. You signed up for payroll deductions for the amount of your monthly pass (at a discount too–maybe 10 percent) and each month, the university would have the cards ready for pick-up on campus (they may have eventually switched to mailing them to employees though because the pick-up hours were very slim). My dad worked further downtown, for a cancer non-profit, and they had a similar system. Only I think they gave him special checks up to a certain amount that he used to buy his train passes directly from the public transit conglomerate. Parking and driving are hell in this city and at least with my employer, they were big on “green” processes and sustainability and such. So they didn’t have to saturate their campus with parking garages and also tout how green they were. I’m guessing my dad’s company had similar motives.

    2. Chinook*

      “Having heard horror stories military or government employees having to pay back over-payments immediately as warnings to never spend that extra “bonus”, I lean towards erring on the safe side and setting aside the cash”

      I lived this horror story even though we triple checked that those were the benefits DH was suppose to get and we didn’t use all we were told we were eligible for (and the money we did use didn’t flow through us but went directly to the moving company). Someone did an audit 2 years later and it turned out that the benefits person interpreted the regulations wrong and we had to come up with $4,000 by the end of the month. Now, if I even suspect something seems to good to be true, I stash any extra cash I may have into a savings account that I won’t touch until presented with a bill> If the bill never comes, I consider it money available for my retirement.

  4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    OP #3 sounds like they’re asking not to take two months off a year, but to somehow work the new job remotely and the seasonal job in person. I think that’s at least as unlikely to be granted as just straight up time off, though. If I were a manager fielding that request, I’d be skeptical about an employee’s productivity when they’re not only in another location, but also putting significant energy into a different job.

    1. Charby*

      In addition to that, how confident is she that the old employer would be OK with her doing work for another employer on site? If she’s doing it during regular hours they may complain or ask her to pare back her time on the new job to focus more on the old job’s work, and if she’s doing it after hours or on weekends how productive can someone really be working that much? I’m not saying it’s impossible but these are questions that she wants to have convincing answers to before reaching out to either job.

    2. lawsuited*

      I don’t think OP #3’s employer is going to buy that she can do 2 full-time jobs at the same time for 2 months, and will assume (correctly) that the in-person seasonal job will get better performance than the “remote” year-round job. Why would an employer agree to pay you for 2 months of sub-par work while you’re away working another job for 2 months? Presumably in this job market the year-round employer could find another employer who is, you know, willing to work year-round?

      1. lawsuited*

        I meant to say could find another employee* who is willing to work year-round.

        I think at best, OP #3 could ask for the 2 months as unpaid leave, or perhaps ask to work part-time with adjusted pay for 2 months (part-time hours like 8-10 hours per week that reflect that she is already working the full-time seasonal job) as both these options would be fairer to the year-round employer. However, unless OP #3 is absolutely exceptional, I think year-round employer will elect to hire someone willing to work year-round.

    3. Bend & Snap*

      This is a big deal even in telework friendly companies. I did 3 days at home to accommodate a family need for about 9 months and it had a huge impact on my work and team–there’s no substitute for face time. And I think it’s very different than a full-time remote position.

      Asking for that right off the bat would be a flag for me. I didn’t hire someone I really liked a couple of years ago, because she wanted to take off early (like 1pm) every day during baseball season to work a t-shirt store at Fenway Park. It can come across as not being committed to the job.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      There are a couple of avenues I’d recommend for OP#3.

      First of all, there aren’t many, but there are a few companies that encourage working remotely or work remotely almost exclusively. Automattic (maker of WordPress) is one. Automattic’s entire staff works remotely from all over the world and then just gets together once or twice a year in person.

      Another thing to explore is working in schools. If you get a teaching gig, you get summers off (you work like hell during the other months, though) and can use those two months for your seasonal job. I even knew someone who was an admission director at a private high school, and she managed to negotiate going to Bread Loaf during the summer to finish up her master’s degree in English.

  5. Koko*

    #1 – I strongly urge you to consider v-con if you have the budget for a big screen TV at each office. There are some great free providers out there like Bluejeans. Just project your laptop onto a big screen at one end of the conference table and have the satellite office do the same. The technology has come a long way, lags are negligible, and they’re nearly as good as really being there in person. In fact, I’d say when you don’t care to have socializing/pleasantries, it’s equally as good. You can see people’s reactions and facial expressions very well especially when there are only two rooms/two screens joining. Then nobody has to complain about or lose valuable work time traveling back and forth for these meetings, you don’t have to worry about bed bugs at their office, you don’t have to host your colleagues at your office.

    1. Beezus*

      This. It’s also easier to take a hard line with tardiness with a video conference than it is when many of the attendees have traveled for the meeting.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Also, what are the travel costs? Depending on how far the travel is / how costs are handled, it’s possible that if you don’t have the budget for a big screen TV at each location, you could justify it vs. the travel budget over X months…with the benefit that the big screen TV, unlike the travel, is reusable for other purposes when these meetings aren’t going on.

      1. Koko*

        A great point! The TVs would pay for themselves likely within a year or less if it avoids monthly travel expenses!

  6. Teapot Dome*

    #5: To be brutally honest, since their experience with you wasn’t the best, and since they have a lot of candidate per opening, it kind of makes sense for them to rule you out and let others have a shot… or at least put you at the bottom of the pile.

    Some commenters may passionately disagree.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I think that’s a pretty reasonable thing to conclude, there is no reason to hire someone who had such a poor relationship with their manager regardless of who’s fault it was there are other candidates without the same baggage.

    2. RVA Cat*

      Yes, it is reasonable for that company to rule OP #5 out, internally.
      What would be unreasonable is if they were contacting outside organizations and trying to blackball this person out of the area or industry.

    3. Graciosa*

      There are actually two ways that the OP could be effectively blacklisted at my company. We do have an easy process to mark a departing employee (or temp) as ineligible for rehire. This goes in the system and would be effective basically forever (certainly after the manager had left the company).

      The second way is informally. It would be totally normal for me to reach out to a former manager when considering a candidate and get his or her opinion. A negative review would knock the candidate out of consideration, however this type of situation could change after the manager left.

      There’s no real way to tell the difference as a candidate (other than trying again in another decade or two, I suppose), so the OP may as well just write this company off as a potential employer and move on.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        Seconded. One of the reasons I took on interviewing for awhile was that I had been around and knew a lot of people – as former contractors’ resumes came past my desk, I could recognize by project who that candidate had worked with and I’d pay those project folks a visit. Usually when someone finds a good contractor, that contractor stays put. One who has circulated among many 3-9 month jobs would raise flags in my world.

        I do know of people who were informally blackballed just as described above, and I confess that I’ve been one of those to issue the ball on occasion.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      But we don’t even know if that’s the reason. We need more details, but just because this one manager didn’t like the Op for whatever reason, doesn’t mean Op didn’t get along with the rest of the team at this company. If she has any rapport with HR from being on a contract with the company before, why can’t she just ask? True, though, that there’s probably other applicants and they may just be taking the easy road, if it is because of that manager.

      1. MMM*

        I think when your relationship with a manager at a company deteriorates to the point of not even saying hello, then you have probably burned that bridge. As a contractor who relies on repeat business, you have to work really hard at maintaining relationships like this.

          1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            Contracting is a murky world and part of it is very confusing. I know nothing about independent contractors; all the ones I work with come from approved vendors.

            The OP’s relationship with this manager sounds icy, regardless of the catalyst. Depending on OP’s role or visibility in this last assignment, that could be enough to put an entire vendor account at risk, esp. if the OP came highly regarded. Since OP says he applies, that tells me that if he has a vendor, his vendors are still allowing OP to try for jobs, so I doubt there’s any official deal between the company and the vendor (If vendor involved).

            It depends on how much clout the other manager has, as well. The OP, as a contractor, might not know the inner politics and may not realize who holds informal authority, versus who holds authority via job title. Disrespecting the wrong person, regardless of formal title or hierarchy level, could definitely result in an internal “blackball” where the application is recycled.

      2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        I think for a lot of companies, unless the manager is notorious for not getting along with people, the one manager’s opinion is going to hold a lot of weight.

  7. Polka dot bird*

    #1 – for late meetings, I would just start the meeting on time. It sends a clear message and stops that cycle where everyone starts to arrive late because it always starts late, which then means it always starts late because etc.

    1. Ankh-Morpork*

      This isn’t going to stop all people from being late. I attend plenty of meetings where people mosey in 10-15 minutes after we have started and just sit down and they are not at all bothered that the meeting started without them. It could be a culture thing at my work – but it could also be a culture thing there.

      1. Ad Astra*

        The project manager in my office is very good about starting meetings on time, even though we typically have a few stragglers. It doesn’t change the behavior of the chronically late (though usually they’re late because their previous meeting ran over), but it helps the more conscientious people see that 2 p.m. means 2 p.m., not 2:05 p.m.

      2. Kate M*

        It might not stop all people from being late, but it can help the people who are there on time. If the people coming in late miss things, so be it. (And if they try to go over things that have already been discussed, you say “I’m sorry, we discussed this at the beginning of the meeting, we’re on x topic now.”). It can help those who want to start on time get out on time, too.

        1. Sammie*

          In my old office we would “fine” people a dollar for every lateness. We practiced Agile–so there were quite a few “stand-ups”. At the end of the month we would donate the $ to a local charity.

      3. fposte*

        Agreeing with Ad Astra and Kate M–it’s not about stopping the latecomers, it’s about keeping the meeting on time and productive for the punctual rather than letting latecomers shove the start time back.

      4. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        I worked for a boss who was so frustrated that a senior manager would mosey in 10 minutes late that he started locking the meeting door and would not let her in to the weekly meeting if she arrived late.

        It was not the most professional way of handling things, but after being locked out twice, she was never late again.

      5. sylph*

        People in my office do this as well. Even worse is when whoever is running the meeting stops to fill them in, thus wasting 5-10 MORE minutes for the rest of us to hear a recap of what we’d already covered. Sigh.

      6. Chinook*

        “This isn’t going to stop all people from being late. I attend plenty of meetings where people mosey in 10-15 minutes after we have started and just sit down and they are not at all bothered that the meeting started without them”

        We are trying this at our church and even have ushers that block the entrance to the worship space until the priest sits down at the front. Then there is that awkward m0ment where 25% of the congregation filter in while the rest of the church is praying. We have discussed changing the start time but are convinced that is either a) rewarding late comers and b) would just result in the same people thinking that means they can arrive that much later. And we did a demographic count one Sunday – the latecomers came from various cultural backgrounds, ages and family makeups (i.e. it wasn’t just those with infants who may get stuck with ill-times exploding diapers).

    2. Not me*

      When I was in college, I had professors who would lock the door five minutes into class. It works!

      Obviously it can’t be done at meetings, but I can dream, right?

  8. TheLazyB (UK)*

    #2 – just for info, in the UK, many companies will guarantee you an interview if you’re classed as disabled and meet all essential criteria. But those companies usually have an application form and details of the actual disability are usually kept in hr and don’t go to the hiring manager. I think.

    1. Tau*

      IIRC the keyword to look out for here is the double tick scheme. Companies will usually mention somewhere if they’re participating.

      …although you’d still want to think about whether it’s worth it, because it might well lead to you getting interviews for a position where no one is actually really considering you and therefore wasting your time. I have no personal experience with the scheme myself – I decided not to invoke it when applying – but I went to a talk about employment at my university’s disability service before graduating which was done by an organisation that specifically works on getting disabled people into employment, and the guy was quite negative about the scheme.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not if it’s confined to the one company. If they’re blacklisting them in the sense of trying to prevent them from getting work elsewhere, that can be illegal. But you’re totally allowed to blacklist people just at your company. (That’s why employers can have “do not hire” lists.)

  9. Coax or trick or drive or drag the demons from you*

    #3: so you’re a graduate student? Is there any way you can pitch these two months as education towards your degree? Some employers are good about encouraging / helping their employees get advanced degrees.

    Beyond that: is the nature of this seasonal work something that adds value to your company and its reputation? Was your blog detailing your work teaching elementary ceramics to the uplifted grizzly bears along the East Coast nominated for a Pulitzer?

    Laugh if you want to, but I’m in the tech biz, and every so often we’ll hire someone who literally wrote “the book” on the latest hot technology (for example), and these people get special treatment.

  10. MK*

    OP1, you talk of keeping the upcoming meetings at the main office and if the satellite folks want to come, so be it. Are you sure your company would be ok with 25% of the people who are supposed to be in thew meeting not attnding these meetings or attending infrequently?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I might be interpreting this incorrectly, but it sounds to me like it’s not an official work meeting, but rather a voluntary thing they put together (“There is a group of professionals in our office who meet up every month to discuss trends in our field of work”).

      1. MK*

        Even so, since they are using company time and office space, the company may well expect all of their employees to benefit from this.

        I say this because I have known things like that get canceled altogether, when the participants weren’t able to resolve problems between themselves. In this case, suppose the OP refuses to rotate the location and the people in the other office complain about it to a higher-up; then the OP will have to bring up the bug infestation issue and the tardiness, the other office will respond, etc. It’s possible that a manager will decide the whole thing is more trouble (and drama) than it’s worth.

        1. Weekday Warrior*

          MK this is a really interesting observation. We have a similar peer-led meeting in our workplace which we have encouraged as managers. Despite being very valuable at first, it has devolved into some weirdness, eg some people being excluded, the original focus drifting, some participants derailing the intent. It’s too bad but also an example of why good management/ leadership is needed even in informal situations.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            We had a similar situation where senior management had to step in and make the group set some more formal rules on who could attend, review the agenda/prepared topics, and eventually create a rotating schedule of who would “lead” each session because of exactly what Weekday Warrior mentions.

    2. Dani X*

      I know nothing about bedbugs… but could the satellite folks bring them to the main office? Is that a possibility? If so then a video conference would be great because there is no risk of contamination from anyone.

      1. Kyrielle*

        …given the comments up-thread, yes they could, and that hadn’t occurred to me until now. But if the infestation makes it into the satellite office, in-person meetings (or for that matter work-related trips from other people who work in that office) would be likely to spread it, wouldn’t they? Yikes.

        I really, really dislike bedbugs now and never want to deal with them. *shudders*

  11. Tau*

    #2 – I wouldn’t. The thing about language like that is that it *might* be there because they are sincerely committed to diversity, but it*might* be because they’re ticking a box and looking good and if you come to them as an actual, real-life disabled person they might (if subconsciously) think “oh no, that sounds super-tough to accommodate, I don’t think they’d be a good employee.” Or whatnot. Or maybe the company wants to be committed but the actual hiring manager doing your interview reacts badly. It’s very risky, and probably much safer to just let your accomplishments stand for what they are and hope the language used means that if you are hired, you won’t be treated badly for your disability.

    Of course, I may be unreasonably paranoid about this kind of thing – I didn’t disclose one of my disabilities to my company at all, even after being hired, because I felt it wasn’t worth the risk.

    1. UKAnon*

      I think this is one of those occasions where it depends heavily on both the job and the health condition. Whilst I am a passionate advocate of the employer should be expected to accommodate health conditions as far as they can and it shouldn’t make any difference to the application, if you know you are going to need accommodations which will affect the job (and particularly if you have the ability to not take the first job offered) I also think it can be good to reveal it at interview stage so that you are self-selecting out of jobs that won’t accommodate it. To be clear, the employers really, really shouldn’t rule people out on the basis that they need an accommodation, but unfortunately some won’t accommodate you, and so it’s probably better to just avoid those jobs to start with if you can.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In the U.S., they’d be legally required to accommodate you as long as doing so doesn’t pose undue hardship to the employer (as long as they have 15+ employees and thus are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act), so here it’s smart to wait to raise it until you have a job offer (since they can’t pull it at that point without obviously violating the law).

        1. UKAnon*

          Of course – we have something similar in the UK (Equality Act 2010, for reference) – and absolutely employers should stick by that. But I know from my partner needing accommodations that some employers will do everything they can to find a legal reason not to offer anything (it isn’t reasonable, for example) or will have a bad attitude/subtly punish you for needing it (you’ll never be the one promoted etc)

          Other employers, however, were quite happy at interview to discuss their current policies, how they would meet the accommodation and so on, and clearly weren’t phased at all by having to make adjustments. While in an ideal world this shouldn’t be an issue, I know that often it is, and so I also think that to deal with the ‘real world’ and not the ideal, it can be beneficial for people in a position to do so to disclose at interview; those who toss out your application on that basis probably weren’t going to be good people to work for anyway.

          It isn’t perfect, it isn’t fair and I know not everybody is in a position to self-select that way, but I also think it can be useful for some applicants.

        2. Florida*

          +1000 for this. If they aren’t interested in dealing with accommodations, and you disclose it in the interview process, they can easily say, “We found someone who was a better fit,” or some other nebulous reason. But once they have offered you the position, that’s a little harder.

          I have had to request accommodations before and I always wait until the first day of work. On the first day, you can say, “I have diabetes, so I may need to give myself insulin shots during the day. When I have to do it, I have to do it now. It’s not the type of thing that can wait until a break. Is there a private office somewhere I can use to do that?” (Or whatever the specific accommodation is that you need.) If they do not have a specific form they use to request accommodations, send a CYA email to the HR person after the conversation.

          I may be overly paranoid about this, but I once worked at a nonprofit that served people with disabilities. This place would exclude certain people from meetings because they didn’t want to hire a sign language interpreter (of course, that wasn’t the official reason). They fired a blind woman because she made a stink about our copy machine being inaccessible (blind people can’t use touch screens, but they can use the smaller, personal copy machines that have buttons). Meanwhile, this organization was teaching its clients to advocate for themselves. Sorry about that brief rant, but that experience made me very paranoid about how employers treat people who ask for accommodations.

          1. Anna*

            That is the about the shittiest thing ever. I used to work with a man who is deaf and our manger would often try to get around hiring an interpreter. Some of this guy’s coworkers took ASL classes so they could more easily communicate for work reasons, but when things were complicated, instead of bringing in an interpreter the manager would rely on people who could sign conversational ASL, which is like asking someone who took basic Spanish to talk about complicated benefits so you don’t have to bring in an interpreter.

    2. OhNo*

      As a disabled person, I strongly agree. Even though I’ve applied to several places that have that kind of language somewhere in their hiring process, I never disclose until I absolutely have to (which for me, since I’m visibly disabled, is usually in an interview). You may think that disclosing a disability to this company will give you a better chance of getting interviewed or getting an offer, but that’s not necessarily the case.

      Case in point: I just applied for a part-time job at a major retail store in my area that has that language in several places during the application process. I had one set of interviews with 3 people who seemed 100% okay with my disability, all of whom were very encouraging (even, to quote them, “almost certain”) of the likelihood of my getting hired. I came back a second day and interviewed with 1 person who was clearly uncomfortable with my disability (kept making comments like “I don’t know if you can do that…”, “Are you sure you can do that?”, “That won’t work for you…” even when I repeatedly assured them there would be no issue). Lo and behold, I got a call yesterday saying that there was no job for me, even though they are still hiring for the exact position I applied for.

      Even if the company as a whole supports you, all it takes is one person to gum up the works. Better to wait until the offer stage, if you can. This will limit the number of people who might, for one reason or another, try to interfere with your chances of getting hired.

      1. Tau*

        Ugh, that sucks and I’m sorry it happened to you!

        I lucked out in my own recent interview process – one of my disabilities is pretty obvious when you talk to me, so I disclosed that one at the phone interview stage, and it was never a problem. However, I really don’t expect that luck to hold forever. As you say, all it takes is one person.

  12. Mike C.*

    Doesn’t it skeeve anyone else out that this remote office is infested with bedbugs and folks are still working there? A vermin infestation that you can take home with feels really high on my list of “completely unreasonable working conditions”.

    Am I crazy here?

    1. UKAnon*

      Nope, it’s definitely a bit grim! (Although having done my time cleaning loos open to the public, there are worse working conditions, I promise)

    2. betty lou spence*

      Nope, doesn’t bother me at all. Bed bugs are a fact of life. They should be avoided of course, but the mere fact they exist – and are being exterminated – in a room next to the office doesn’t bother me.

      1. betty lou spence*

        I should add that I used to work for a veterinarian. Fleas were constantly an issue, so maybe that’s why it doesn’t bother me.

            1. Rayner*

              Fleas can be treated and they’re survivable. Bed bugs are like the ruddy plague – they won’t go away, it takes thousands of dollars to exterminate them, they’re a public health hazard (in many places you must report if you have bedbugs to prevent further outbreaks), and in order to get rid of them, you must choose between how much money you have and how much you want to save all your stuff. Soft and hard furnishings.

              They live in cardboard boxes, they live in corners, in walls, in tiniest of tiny cracks and gaps. You can flea treat and flea treat and eventually you’ll get all the fleas. Bed bugs are nightmare creatures.

          1. catsAreCool*

            I had a cat with fleas (when I adopted her, she brought them with her), and it wasn’t too hard to treat. I put some vet-prescribed stuff on the back of her neck as prescribed and did that to my other kitty too, and after a while it went away.

            From what I’ve heard about bedbugs, fleas are a walk in the park in comparison.

      2. Natalie*

        I’m with you. I’ve had bed bugs, and they weren’t a walk in the park but I didn’t feel like the world was ending. Frankly, people’s overblown reactions were more annoying than dealing with the exterminator.

          1. Natalie*

            I wasn’t thinking of you, specifically. Sorry if it came across that way.

            I had people literally run across the room when I mentioned we were being treated for bedbugs. And there’s a lot of extreme reactions in this thread about bedbugs that I don’t think are realistic or helpful. People only hear horror stories, I guess.

            1. stellanor*

              I would probably be one of those people running across the room.

              A friend of mine had to replace all her upholstered furniture after she moved into (and subsequently out of, when after 2 months they couldn’t get rid of them) an infested apartment. I developed a legit phobia when, while trying to escape a traumatic situation, I was booked into a hotel room with bedbugs. I’m also very sensitive to most bugbites and tend to develop huge, itchy welts for a week or more when bitten.

              Bedbugs are one of my worst nightmares.

      3. EmmBee*

        I take it you’ve never dealt with an infestation.

        I literally would not wish bedbugs on my worst enemy. Dealing with them is incredibly traumatic, and I don’t use that word lightly.

        1. Natalie*

          Not sure about betty lou, but I have had an infestation and I think this is a little extreme. We had absolutely no problem treating them and never saw a single living bug after the first treatment. (The guy came 3 times.) Taking our bed apart was a bit of a PITA but really not the end of the world. And yes, I’m quite sure they’re eradicated considering that was 5 years go and I haven’t seen a single one since.

          I’m sorry your experience was traumatic, but I think it’s unhelpful to foment this kind of attitude.

          1. Mike C.*

            It doesn’t have to be “the end of the world” for it to be inconsiderate not to tell folks there is a risk. The simple fact that you had to do a bunch of work and call an exterminator is well past the line for me.

    3. NJ anon*

      Not crazy. I used to work at a youth shelter and we had this happen a few times. We called in exterminators immediately! Yes, we were sleeved out! I was particularly annoyed at the hr person who found out first and didn’t bother to tell anyone else. We found out a day or two later. But she was definitely looking out for herself. I still shudder at the thought!

    4. BananaPants*

      Do we know that the satellite office DOES have bedbugs, or just another office in the same building? I know that bedbugs are insidious little creatures but I don’t know that the satellite office employees would be so casual about it if their office was actually infested.
      OP1, please consider that if your employer has not taken the right steps to get rid of the bedbugs and your colleagues are forced to work in the midst of an infestation like this, they may have adopted some degree of gallows humor about it. They should have told you, but your employer should have hired an exterminator. Maybe direct a little of your anger away from your colleagues (who may have no real choice in the matter) and towards your employer on this one? I get that you don’t want to be exposed to a pest like this, but imagine how much it sucks for them to be exposed every single day if it’s a situation of “come to work or lose your job”.

    5. the_scientist*

      Um, yes. I believe there was even a letter to Alison a few years ago about a call centre that was infested with bedbugs and the company refused to do anything? If I recall correctly, the OP had brought the bed bugs home with her and was at that point dealing with an infested apartment as well?

      I am paranoid and I think if I had bedbugs in my apartment my immediate reaction would be “burn it. burn it down.” so I think it’s completely reasonable to keep meetings to the other office (or at an offsite location) until there is proof from the company that the bedbugs have been dealt with correctly (spraying them won’t work, you need heat treatment to kill the eggs). Even then, consider that the satellite office coworkers *could* bring bedbugs to the main office or an offsite location.

      That being said, OP1’s letter left me thinking ‘have these people never heard of teleconferences?’, so. I understand that face-to-face meetings are important, but you have a multitude of electronic meeting options available to you……if travelling between sites is such a pain, why not make use of those??

    6. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I’m right there with you!

      As people have mentioned throughout the comments, they are extremely hard to eradicate and often require multiple exterminations. It’s one of my biggest fears when traveling!

      On a more personal note, I live in a state where our standard rental application includes questions about bedbugs and our lease agreements require you to sign-off that you haven’t had an infestation.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          So, I googled it. There is a second check box option that allows you to check off that you have had a bedbug infestation, but you certify that everything you have has been professional treated and declared bedbug free.

          There are also a lot of scary, scary clauses about responsibility for all extermination costs. I likely only remember the first box because when I signed my original lease the leasing agent made a big deal about being careful what I was checking off and asked if I had stopped at an hotels during my travels from old state to new state.

        2. Anon369*

          Not all landlords will have this policy. I own several rentals and plan to add this language when my existing leases are up – treatments can be $1-2,000 each and several can be required. If I rent the place “clean”, the tenant should be responsible.

          1. Artemesia*

            The problem is that as a tenant in flat B, I can be infested by tenants in flats A and C which is the landlord’s responsibility I would think.

            The place we sublet when first coming to town here was in a high rise that twice a year took a bed bug dog through the building and into each apartment to thoroughly sniff out the bugs. I thought it was a great idea as the building had a fair amount of turnover. WE had to lock the cat in the bathroom while the dog was in the place sniffing the bed and all the furniture.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              I posted the clause above, but basically it says that the Tenant in flat B would be responsible for clean-up costs in A & C, plus any lost income or relocation costs from A or C.

              I think the general idea behind it is to get people to notify their landlord immediately, rather than let it spread.

          2. Natalie*

            You should check your state and local laws. In my state, you can only hold the tenants responsible if you can prove gross negligence. And no, the simple fact that the place was “clean” when you rented it wouldn’t count.

    7. Charby*

      Some people are just inherently tranquil. A nest of scorpions in the breakroom, an outbreak of Bubonic plague in the company cafeteria, a UFO invasion in the parking lot… as long as they have their earbuds in they can usually tune out or ignore anything.

      On top of that, most people can acclimate to an environment after a while. It’s why people who live with a lot of animals don’t notice certain odors any more even though house guests do.

      1. Scott M*

        It’s possible that many people don’t know the problem that bedbugs can pose. It’s more common in some areas than others.

        1. Charby*

          That’s actually true. Up until a few years ago I actually, honestly didn’t know that bedbugs were real. I just thought they were an expression or a folk saying rather than a reference to a real insect. Kind of like “pet peeve” or “bete noire” — which aren’t references to an actual creature called a ‘peeve’ that some people keep as pets or an actual black creature.

          1. Nina*

            Same. I thought they were just part of the nursery rhyme. If they were real, I figured they died out in the middle ages or something, lol.

            1. Natalie*

              You’re not that far off. The exact cause(s) is still being determined, but they had virtually died off in the US until 10-20 years ago.

    8. Traveler*

      No. I’m with you. I don’t understand people who are casual about this sort of thing. I had an issue once where someone I worked with had a highly contagious disease that often requires hospitalization. I wasn’t there the day someone announced it, and no one bothered to pass the message along for days afterward and then only accidentally because it came up in conversation. Its not okay.

      1. Anna*

        It’s also not okay to share someone’s medical information unless there’s a huge likelihood you might contract the problem. I think your example is a little different.

    9. Jubilance*

      You’re not crazy. And bed bug infestations can be really devastating. A visitor brought bedbugs to my mother’s home – she wound up having to get rid of furniture/bedding, having all her clothing/bedding/rugs professionally cleaned, and it was a lengthy ordeal. Plus the “ick” factor.

    10. Ann*

      I might be if it was actually the OP’s satellite office that was infested, but the letter says its’ the office next door. For all we know, they may have already called in an exterminator to determine if they were infested and been given the all clear.

    11. Episkey*

      No. If I knew bedbugs were in my office I would have a breakdown. I don’t think I could go in and I’d probably get myself fired over it, but I am extremely, extremely paranoid/phobic of bedbugs.

    12. Nina*

      No, you’re not crazy. Working at a place with a bedbug infestation would very difficult; I don’t know if I would be able to focus.

    13. Letter Writer#1*


      I’m the letter writer. So…here’s what I realized after speaking with my coworkers at the satellite office…..SOME people at the satellite office are freaked out while others are totally cavalier about it to the point of where they’re like, “oh please, they’re just bugs. Calm down.” Unfortunately, a lot of the cavalier people happened to be in our group. They did have one extermination but that was only one day before our meeting and it was in the room next to the room we met in. Yes, I know I came off really paranoid, harsh and someone even said “Lady Hacknell” (or something like that) but not everyone has the money, time or even emotional tolerance to deal with bed bugs when it could have been prevented. Our employer does not pay for home extermination and we don’t get time off to deal with this. And even if you say that the coworkers totally overlooked telling us ( was just a human error)….the reality is even that was really inconsiderate–are these coworkers going to pay for our clothes and bed we might have to throw out should we get bed bugs? No. I was really angry because I got the feeling that “oh well we have to deal with the hell of bed bugs so…why shouldn’t you?” THAT’S the tone of my letter.

  13. BRR*

    #2 I feel like that language is included in all job ads just as a formality. As a type 1 diabetic, I don’t think it’s a disability that requires many accommodations for most. I don’t think I’ve ever needed an accommodation (but I work in an office job so if I need to eat something or test it’s not an issue).

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Yes. They may have some source of funding that requires or encourages this language. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the hiring manager is enthused, or even particularly aware, of the language.

    2. Ad Astra*

      Type 1 diabetes might qualify for ADA accommodations, but it’s not a disease that people tend to have a prejudice about, so I don’t think mentioning it in an interview would cause a problem. But I agree that it isn’t going to help the OP’s case, except maybe in the unlikely event that her interviewer is wearing an insulin pump and they strike up a conversation about it.

      1. Arielle*

        I do find it’s an disease people tend to have a prejudice about – either they have it confused with Type 2 and believe you brought it on yourself with poor lifestyle choices (which is not true for Type 2 either!), or they’ve heard that Type 1 is the “bad kind” of diabetes and that people who have it are very ill and sickly.

        That being said, it would never occur to me to claim it as a disability, but I’ve also always had office jobs where it’s never been a problem. My lactose intolerance requires more accommodation at work than my Type 1 diabetes does.

        1. Anna*

          Exactly what I was thinking. I’m trying to figure out what accommodation I would need for it. I’m actually usually more concerned about accommodating people around me. (Like testing my blood in case people are freaked out about blood, or having to give myself an injection of insulin in addition to my insulin pump in case someone doesn’t like needles or thinks I’m shooting up drugs.) The only concession I’ve made is to let my coworkers know that if I appear loopy or weird, it’s possible I’m crashing and might need someone to hand me some juice.

    3. Student*

      This language is included because the place of employment tracks the number of disabled employees, and gets some sort of pat on the back from their funding agency for the number of disabled people they employ (this is common in government-funded positions).

      That means that people in HR and, possibly, high level managers want to encourage hiring disabled people. It doesn’t mean that direct managers are on-board with it or aware of it, as Ashley mentioned.

    4. Chinook*

      “As a type 1 diabetic, I don’t think it’s a disability that requires many accommodations for most. ”

      I have been in jobs where an accommodation would have to have been made for regular meals and insulin checks. As a receptionist, I wasn’t allowed food at my desk (and rinks must be hidden) and could only leave the front if there was someone to cover for me (which meant having to ask someone to cover for impromptu bathroom breaks). Also, how often do provided food allow for something that is diabetic friendly?

      1. Anna*

        I don’t expect people to provide “diabetic friendly” food because I’m not entirely sure what that would be. Pretty much anything causes a reaction in blood glucose so it would be really difficult to ask for an accommodation that way. However, I can see the need to let someone know I’m going to keep something to eat nearby because I might need it, I’ve just never really run in to it.

      2. BRR*

        thats exactly why my statement isn’t all inclusive. It doesn’t say nobody needs an accommodation. Also not quite sure what you mean about diabetic friendly food.

  14. hbc*

    #2, you have a disability, but, to be blunt, you don’t have the kind of disability they’re really looking for. People with diabetes can generally get by in a white collar workplace with no accommodations–you usually have access to at least semi-private area to do monitoring or injections, you’re not on a rigid schedule that can’t be disrupted for a five minute level check, etc.. Most people with diabetes don’t have trouble getting a job because of their condition or keeping it once they’ve gotten it. (I’m sure there are weirdo cases where jerk managers considered insulin a banned drug or something, but it’s relatively rare.)

    What they’re looking for is people who have a hard time making it and bring a different perspective. Confined to a wheelchair, blind, cerebral palsy–something noticeable when you first meet a person and would have a lot of workplaces worried. It’s still a good place to apply since you won’t have to fight for accommodations you need, but I think bringing it up as an advantage in an interview will likely make them think that you don’t understand what they’re trying to achieve.

    1. BRR*

      As a diabetic I agree, what I wanted to throw in mine but forgot was they want a more “sexy” disability if you will.

      1. Kira*

        I was actually thinking that they don’t “want” the people they listed, at least not in the actively seeking way OP might be interpreting the post to imply. I thought most jobs posted this kind of language and they’re just including it because they think they’re supposed to or because HR/Legal/a random funder told them job posts should include it.

    2. BananaPants*

      I know of at least 3-4 colleagues with diabetes including two with Type 1 diabetes who are on insulin pumps. This is a white collar environment, although one of the diabetic colleagues is in a more blue collar technician role, but in general it is not a problem for folks with diabetes to manage their conditions without any special accommodations needed. Those around them know about their conditions but in the event of an emergency 911 is getting called regardless, you know?

      Perhaps in a factory or call center environment you might need to discuss breaks to check blood sugar or inject insulin, but even that should be pretty workable unless it’s a total sweatshop.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Agreed. I am very, very rarely asked for ADA accommodations because there is a lot of flexibility in our workplace that is available to everyone for any reason or no reason. For example, we are flexible with schedules and nobody cares if you are leaving early for a doctor’s appointment, to pick up your kids, or because it’s a nice day and you want to ride your bike before the sun goes down. We also do not manage or monitor breaks, only whether the work is getting done.

    3. Question Mark*

      Diabetes runs in my family and I was quite surprised OP categorizes this a disease as a disability. While I understand the modifications one must make in daily life, I personally would be put off if I felt someone was trying to leverage this condition to gain some sort of advantage in the hiring process.

      1. the_scientist*

        I don’t have diabetes myself so I’m relying on the personal experiences of a few close friends that have type I diabetes (plus my emergency response experience) but from what I understand, juvenile diabetes CAN be quite disabling in the childhood/teen years, especially when it’s newly diagnosed. There are special camps here for kids with diabetes (complete with nursing specialist staff), much like there are special camps for kids who have cancer. A minor stomach flu in a kid with diabetes can lead to dehydration and dangerously low/high blood sugar, resulting in hospitalization. Getting used to injecting yourself (or wearing an insulin pump) takes time. Getting used to taking your blood sugar regularly, eating at regular intervals and recognizing the signs of hypoglycemia is hard for a kid, and takes time to adjust to.

        My younger sister had a friend who couldn’t sleep all the way through the night when she was first diagnosed (at around 10, I think?)- her parents had to wake her up twice a night to check her blood sugar! As she got older things stabilized a bit, but the first few years her quality of life was significantly impacted.

        That being said, if this is a white collar job that the OP has applied to, there is literally no reason to disclose this during an interview or in the application. Hopefully OP has their diabetes well under control at this stage in their life, and anyway most white collar jobs (if this job is white-collar) would have no issue with an employee eating small amounts of food at regular intervals and testing their blood sugar in the privacy of their cube or whatever.

        1. Anna*

          This is all true, but at no time did me having Type I actually interfere with my activities or day-to-day life. Except that one time I was five, and I blame the teacher more than my disease. Just as an example of how I approach it and how some people do try to use it as a path to…I don’t know, sympathy? Last year in my state the conservative gubernatorial candidate had supporters who ran ads saying he had “overcome diabetes in high school” and it drove me crazy. How did he overcome it? Was it preventing him from doing things? Is he cured? The answer is, he didn’t overcome it. He just was very careful and managed it closely, but at no point did it prevent him from playing basketball or starting a family. At no point was he ever discriminated against for having it and at no point was he forced to face any of the things that people with more serious disabilities have to face.

      2. BRR*

        I know it can be exhausting and aggravating to have a disease that requires tons of focus, is expensive to treat, and increases your chances for every other disease. And that there’s not much to offset this in anyway (my employer offers now a program where I can get some stuff free but I have to continuously participate in a wellness program). I know I have become frustrated because it’s so impactful but seems like it’s invisible at times to everybody else (unless they want to tell you what to eat, then people seem to care enough to but in).

    4. Not Today Satan*

      Diabetes counts as a disability in terms of reporting numbers of disabled employees to the government (if this is applicable to the company). Maybe I’m cynical, but I think that that’s all they really care about. Whenever I’ve applied/been hired to a company and they give me to option to (somewhat confidentially, I guess) disclose a disability, they specifically give a list of many qualifying disabilities (including diabetes).

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Yeah, I am an adjunct at a university and after I was hired, I checked the box for “disabled” because I know they are tracking statistics (and also checked that I do not need accommodation). I do have a disability, but it’s very likely that I can accommodate myself in a while collar environment (I need to sit down periodically, sometimes need the elevator vs. the stairs, need access to water at all times, etc.).

      2. the gold digger*

        I am totally cynical about that. I worked with a woman who had grown up on a farm in Illinois. She was probably of German or Norwegian heritage.

        She married a Mexican and changed her last name to “Martinez.”

        The company claimed her as Latina on their minority stats.

      3. Anonymosity*

        Yeah, that’s the main reason for disclosure. It’s the reason that was given to me by my work, which has federal contractor status.

    5. Florida*

      “you have a disability, but, to be blunt, you don’t have the kind of disability they’re really looking for.”

      I would disagree with this. Most employers are looking for the type of disability that will allow the to say, “X% of our work force has a disability. We should be congratulated for our diversity.” For those types of numbers, diabetes counts that same as a paraplegic.

      In any case, I wouldn’t mention it until your first day of work, if you need accommodations. If you don’t need accommodations, you don’t need to mention it at all.

    6. Graciosa*

      Actually, I rather wish there was a little more attention paid to diabetes as a disability. I once had to respond at work because a diabetic stayed in a long meeting without food and got himself in a bit of trouble – he didn’t want to be seen as the guy who couldn’t manage to endure.

      We did actually counsel his boss (who was running the meeting) about this – please build breaks into the meeting so that the diabetic employee can attend to his medical condition without drawing attention to it. I’m not excusing the individual entirely from failing to handle it better (yes, your decision making deteriorates when you start having problems – but you *know* that and need to avoid getting there) but building breaks into meetings is not an unreasonable request.

      This is partly why I wish we paid a bit more attention to this as a disability – it is so common that surely there are enough diabetics in the work place to encourage more meetings to be scheduled with regular breaks. Even those of us who aren’t diabetic would appreciate five minutes to run to the restroom!

    7. hbc*

      I don’t think this is just about funding because they were specifically looking for people underrepresented in faculty. They really do want some visible diversity and, especially if it’s in a liberal arts department, they want the different perspective that a lesbian or Samoan or lesbian Samoan would bring. This is the kind of arena where having disabled percentages may check a box somewhere, but it’s still a problem if you’ve got class after class taught by straight, (apparently) able-bodied white men, regardless of whether they’ve got diabetes or Crohn’s disease or William’s syndrome.

    8. OhNo*

      A disability is a disability. I agree with Florida and several others that have chimed in throughout the comments here – this kind of thing is usually more about demographic numbers than any genuine desire to be more inclusive. Which is totally fine, because it still reduces the likelihood that they’re going to actively go against hiring disabled people.

      Also: “confined to a wheelchair” is a really gross and ableist phrase. If you are a wheelchair user and choose to use the phrase to describe yourself, that’s fine, but please stop using it to refer to other wheelchair users.

      I, and other wheelchair users like me, are not “confined” to our mobility devices. Quite the opposite; many of us see our mobility devices as very freeing.

      1. hbc*

        I apologize, I didn’t know the correct term. Is it “wheelchair user”, as you said? I have a friend who uses numerous terms but I’ve never had need to label her myself, so she’s never had the opportunity to correct me.

  15. Apollo Warbucks*

    #4 You say you can’t help but use the money credited to your transport card, I don’t understand that, you can either credit your card with your own money so the balance is increased and use that to travel or you can set aside your own money so you have the equivalent cash value, you know it’s not your money and the right thing to do is try to get them to stop paying you and return the overpayment (assuming they make it easy for you to).

    You asked about your liability for your old company’s error, and whilst I am no lawyer I have the following thoughts:

    If you old company comes back to you later to make a claim for the over payment you want to be able to show that you made a reasonable good faith effort* to alert them to the error, so you should make a record of all the contact you have had with them asking for the payments to stop and set aside the extra money for at least 6 months after the last payment without spending it (This is so you can show you intended to repay the money and didn’t just treat it as extra income straight away)

    In the UK there is a limit on filing a claim / debt collecting of 6 years (although there are some situations that this can be increased) try Googling “statute-barred debt” and your state to see what limits apply in your jurisdiction.

    I like Allison’s advice, follow up with your old boss one last time to ask that the payments stop, if they don’t stop then I would state in one final email to your old boss and HR that you no longer want the money, there is no obligation that means the company has to pay you and you will treat any further unsolicited payment as a gift. There is no legal action the company can take to recover a gift, especially after you have made a good faith effort to alert them to the situation.

    I’d say after six months or so all bets are off and the company has no reasonable claim against you for the money.

    * The standard is judged against what an ordinary reasonable person would do it doesn’t require you to go far out of your way to return their money or correct their error, but you should be able to show the steps you have taken and briefly explain why you thought that was sufficient.

    1. JC*

      I don’t know how the OP’s transit benefits work, but mine operate so that the money my employer puts in my transit card’s account is automatically used first when I swipe my card to enter the transit system, before the money I add, and any money from the employer “purse” that I don’t use at the end of the month disappears. So it’s not quite as easy as just using my own money and ignoring the employer’s, unless I get a new transit card.

      Plus, transit benefit money isn’t something you can save and give back to the employer if necessary, like you could with a cash overpayment. The money has already been paid to the transit company, and they ain’t giving it back, even if you don’t use it. So even if the OP got a new transit card and doesn’t use the benefits, she still cannot give them back.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Thanks for explaining the details of how the transport card might work, I’d not realised that was how they were set up, the tube in London lets you cash out any unused credit for a small fee.

        I still think the OP should put aside the equivalent cash aside so they are paying for their own transport and they will then have the cash on hand to return to the company, but only enough to cover what they personally would have sent they shouldn’t be responsible for any lost credit that is removed.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Hmm, I still have money on my Oyster card. However, I tend to hang onto it in hopes that I can use it again. *pines for the bustling streets of the city* I think if you leave it too long, TfL puts it into some account they use for stuff.

          If this were me, I’d go to my new company and tell them I need to get a new card and then I’d get one. I’d rather suffer the inconvenience than have the old company come back to me for the money.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            I’d have to check the terms and conditions to see how long they allow the money to be stored on a card with out being used, but the reason they clear it off their system is so they stop having the accounting liability on their books

            But yes come back to London as Oscar wild said if you’re bored of London ylure bored or living!

      2. LBK*

        She can’t give them back, but she can show that she wasn’t continuing to use them. I would side eye someone that said “well it was going to disappear anyway so I figured I would just use it!” when they knew it wasn’t a benefit owed to them.

    2. LBK*

      What I’m confused about is why the OP can’t just stop using the card that’s getting auto-refilled altogether and use a separate transit card.

      1. OP*

        As I mentioned below, I can switch to another card, but it involves putting my new employer through a lot of legwork to change my benefit here. I also have to go in person to cancel the old account, create a new one, and it’s all very time consuming. I can do it, but it’s mostly just frustrating on principle because of someone else’s incompetence I have to waste my time and my new employer’s to go around the former employer’s inability to do their job.

    3. OP*

      The way our transit system works, as someone mentioned in a comment below, the money that’s put in as a subsidy is automatically used first. The only way to get around it would be to stop using the card entirely and get another one. Which I could do, but my new benefits at the new job are going to that card as well now, so I’d have to have my current employer stop the benefit, change my card number, etc. It’s doable but a real pain to be jumping through all these hoops because someone else can’t do their job properly.

      That said, I did alert my former manager to this and she told me she too followed up with the HR person and alerted the VP who supervises the HR person. This was a month ago and lo and behold, the benefits appeared again on September 1. I reached out again to all 3 and if this happens again for October, I’ll follow Alison’s advice and maybe even discontinue my card. It’s frustrating on principle more than anything.

      1. the gold digger*

        I would keep using it. You have told them twice. They know. This is now their problem. You should not have to go through a big hassle just because they cannot get their act together.

        1. Cassie-O*

          If the benefits from the new employer are going on the card, too, how can you tell which pot of money is being used first?

      2. Meg Murry*

        Ok, so maybe this is a “duh, of course”, but when you told your former employer the money was still being deposited, did you provide them with the card #/account number? I could see that if the HR person was incompetent they may not have a way to easily look up/track which card was yours, and they haven’t changed it because they don’t want to accidentally cut the wrong person off.

        I agree that is not your problem to have to go change your card, etc, because the other company can’t get their act together. It’s not like you are blatantly trying to hide this from them, or getting a second card and selling your first one to someone else so they can use the transit money or otherwise trying to defraud your former company or the transit authority.

        Maybe your previous employer signed up for something where even though the money is deposited to you monthly, they only pay or otherwise deal with it annually or quarterly? So they have already paid for this benefit to you, and that is why it is continuing? I dealt with a situation similar to what someone else mentioned upthread about leaving a job but the insurance not canceling immediately – it was because the company prepaid for it annually, so they didn’t take people who left in good standing off right away.

        1. Kasia*

          To your first comment, the HR person could just as easily reach out and ask for that information. It sound smore like they arent even addressing the issue at all.

          Also- if I was getting free money from an employer and already reached out to multiple people and they STILL hadn’t fixed the issue I’d keep using it because hey, free money

      3. patricia*

        this happened to me, my monthly T pass was renewed monthly for 6 months after I left a job. I let my employer know, they confirmed that they weren’t renewing my pass and weren’t paying $$ for my renewal. In the end it turned out the super competent MBTA wasn’t turning off renewals when employers requested them (for everyone, not just me – that’s a lot of $$$!) so maybe the issue isn’t with your former employer.

        1. notfunny.*

          I also had this happen with my MBTA pass in the past…. one wonders how much of the current defect is because of these kinds of issues.

        2. Meg Murry*

          Now that you mention it, this is a distinct possibility. Our transit system in my city has the stupidest payment systems and the most un-intuitive payment kiosks I’ve ever seen, so I could totally see this being on the transit system, not totally on HR.

          I could also see it not being a priority to the employer if the deal is for a block of passes – for instance, they pay X for 25-50 passes, Y for 50-75, Z for 75-100.

          Whatever the case, I think OP has done her due diligence, and just needs to watch her account to make sure there isn’t some kind of weird chargeback later at some point. Is your credit card or bank account connected to the transit card OP? If so, I would be more likely to go through the hoops of changing it, just to make sure there isn’t some kind of negative charge to the employer and the difference pulled out of your bank account. But otherwise you can’t help your previous employers incompetence.

          On a separate, but semi-related note, I also left a job with an incompetent HR department (or maybe they were just completely understaffed for the number of employees they had to deal with – but either way, nothing got done. I am still waiting on them to send me a “proof of prior coverage” insurance letter that I have asked for 3 times – apparently the insurer can’t send it to me, because the company was self insured, and none of the people I have tried to reach will return my phone calls or emails. So if you have anything still lingering with this company (a 401k account or HSA, forwarding addresses for your W-2s, etc) I’d make sure to get it dealt with and changed over now, because you see how well they deal with this kind of thing, and don’t trust them not to screw it up.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Ooh, good point. I didn’t think of that. They may have sent in a cancellation and it didn’t happen. Though I can’t for the life of me think why they wouldn’t notice the money was still going to that card. What is the accounting department doing!?

      4. Ad Astra*

        I think once you’ve reached out about this two or three times, you should stop worrying about it. It’s not your responsibility to jump through extra hoops to correct their dumb mistake. I can see how you’d be concerned about one day receiving a huge bill for all the erroneous transit subsidies… is there a way you can run this by a lawyer to give yourself peace of mind?

      5. Alston*

        So one of my friends has had a magical T pass that she gets a free pass on each months YEARS after she left that job. Told them once, never fixed it, she decided to keep using it. Even if she got a new card and bought her own pass this one would keep refilling

        also someone asked what field gives this? Travel agencies, universities, some startups.

    4. Florida*

      I like Alison’s advice of sending one final letter. I would suggest sending it by certified mail, so they have to sign they received it. If they ever did come after you for the money, that would help you in court more than an email. They can claim they didn’t receive the email, and you can’t really prove they received it (unless they respond).

  16. JHS*

    For #4, lawyer here and I deal with this issue all the time. Yes, you can be held responsible for paying it back even after the fact and even after informing the incompetent HR person. You know the person in HR is incompetent, so why do you keep informing that person? Allison is absolutely right that you need to inform that person’s supervisor and potentially other people higher up in the chain (division head?). To protect yourself, I would send an email and/or formal letter to the incompetent HR person’s supervisor, cc’ing someone at the top and cc’ing the incompetent HR person and saying that you left employment on “x date” and you continued to receive the benefit, then once you became aware you told incompetent HR person on “y date” to stop giving you the benefit but it’s continued anyway. Then I would follow Allison’s excellent advice to say that you expect the benefit to be discontinued. If the employer is smart, they will just cut their losses on the benefit card, thank you for being honest, and let it go. That being said, they may ask you to repay what was provided to you on the card after you separated from employment, and yes, you would owe it back. So unfortunately be prepared to potentially have to pay back what you owe. However, this is exactly why you have to nip it in the bud asap! If the employer is smart though, they will thank you for bringing the issue(s) to their attention.

    1. Brandy*

      I left my employer in September, and went directly to a new job with new benefits. Despite getting all the typical COBRA papers at my exit interview (and declining), and despite a few emails once I noticed, HR never “deactivated” my health benefits with the plan. I had a new plan, but a few times I went in and since I had dual coverage I got the best of both- ended up getting a fancy laser eye exam covered by my old plan, several doc visits “free” since I had met my deductible (this was before the ACA) and a much better rate on dental work since old dental plan was better.

      I don’t know who payed the “employee contribution” those 4 months but it wasn’t me.

      Eventually in the new plan year I fell off the books….

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        This is actually very on-point, Brandy, as the transit benefit, just like a premium, is not paid to the employee, and so it might not be the employee’s responsibility to pay it back. As JC said above, some transit benefits disappear after a certain amount of time whether you use them or not, so the case for the company being paid back for more than the current month (once they finally acknowledge the error) seems pretty weak.

        1. JHS*

          If the benefits are used and charged to the employer, they will need to be paid back unless the employer kindly lets it go because it’s not worth the hassle of trying to recover or they kindly realize it’s their own fault. Sounds like Brandy was lucky because I’ve seen employers successfully get back their cost for paying THEIR share of the premium from employees in her exact situation (ie. when she used the plan).

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I’ really careful about that. It is easy – very easy – to retroactively cancel health benefits. This happens to us all the time: we send in the paperwork to cancel, but the company doesn’t process it for ages. The person continues to appear on our bill and then later we get a credit for the extra months we paid and the end date is corrected. The employer wouldn’t ask for the premium back because of the credit, but the providers could certainly bill you later if the insurance company took the payments back, which they could certainly do, even quite some time after you received the service.

        1. KJR*

          I wonder though, in this case since she declined COBRA, would she still be responsible if they decided to come back? Seems like she said no, they dropped the ball, therefor responsibility is on them. That’s just my common sense view of it, who knows what would actually happen.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            Anytime you receive medical care, you are responsible for paying the provider. If your insurance doesn’t pay, you can’t say “well, I’m not paying either because they should have paid”. The provider can still bill you and send the account to collections. It doesn’t matter if it’s the employer’s fault, the insurance company’s fault, etc. – when you receive services you are entering into an agreement to pay for them (either yourself or via your insurance).

            The only way I could see getting around is to sue the employer for what you paid the provider since they didn’t cancel your coverage and you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten the service. I have a hard time believing you’d win that case, though. In any case, the provider gave you a service, you consumed it, and you need to pay them for it – it’s not the provider’s fault.

            If her employer informed her, either specifically or via their policies, of when the coverage would end (which if sure sounds like they did), and she continued to use the policy, that’s on her. In general, if your coverage ends on one day, it’s very likely that if you go to the doctor soon after your card will indeed show as valid because the cancellation hasn’t been processed yet. That doesn’t mean you are still entitled to the coverage, and down the line, the claim may be denied – or approved, and then later reviewed and denied.

            1. fposte*

              Right–the official view is that the medical provider bills insurance as a courtesy, not out of obligation, and that if they don’t pay that’s between the patient and their insurance.

          2. Mpls*

            What? No. She declined COBRA and then continued to use the old insurance, even though she had declined to be covered by it further. It’s not like she thought she was still paying premiums and therefore still had coverage. Since she got the benefits of having the insurance (actually incurring expenses), then there would totally be an argument for the Employer being able to collect the premiums – might be seen as a constructive acceptance of continuing coverage under COBRA, despite a failure to formalize it with paperwork. Gaming the system like that is bad faith.

            If she hadn’t used the old insurance, but the Employer didn’t cancel and got stuck paying the premiums for that reasons, then that is totally on the Employer.

    2. OP*

      I am prepared to pay it back if need be and I have brought it further up the chain when I saw the benefits reappear again this month. Unfortunately the entire HR team (all 2 of them) are just that inefficient and it’s aggravating to be jumping through hoops because of their inability to do their job properly.

    3. Not Today Satan*

      Maybe I don’t understand this kind of transit card, but isn’t the idea of a transit spending account that pre-tax money is taken out for it? It doesn’t seem fair to use your (taxed) income to pay back a pre-tax spending account…. But I might be misunderstanding it.

      1. Natalie*

        It sounds like this is a different thing – a subsidy paid by the employer rather than a tax free account.

          1. LBK*

            We don’t pay taxes on work commutes in the US – if you pay for it yourself, you can have the money taken out of your paycheck pre-tax by your employer or deduct it on your taxes at the end of the year. If the employer pays part or all of that cost for your, it’s exempt from your taxable salary (there are perks/benefits that you would have to pay taxes on the value of but commuting is exempt, among other things).

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                Thanks that’s interesting commuting costs are not deductable In the UK even the benefit of a season ticket loan has to be declared and taxed.

    4. Ad Astra*

      It sounds like the subsidy goes on the transit card every month whether she uses it or not. If the OP hadn’t been using the transit card at all and the money was just sitting there, would they still be able to bill her? Or would they just go through the transit company?

  17. Leslie*

    OP 1 – I wonder if the Satellite office personnel are upset that they work in such poor conditions, and wanted you to catch a glimpse of them first hand. I mean, think about how upset you are right now, and this is what they have to work with every single day..

    1. Ankh-Morpork*

      That would be horrible! So much more than just forgetting to tell you. That’s “Ugh – this tastes so gross! Here – taste it!” times 1000. That’s like inviting someone over for dinner when you have a skunk running around your house – and then when they get there and ask why the heck you invited them over with a skunk running around your house to say “Well – I wanted you to know how bad it was” Now you’ll both get sprayed! This is coming into the office when you have the plague so everyone can see how sick you are!

      If you are upset that your office is infested – you TELL PEOPLE YOUR OFFICE IS INFESTED – not invite them over so they can bring the infestation back to their own office. I really hope this is not the reason here because that would be pretty much the worst reaction to the situation possible.

  18. S*

    OP#3 When I was a graduate student working an intern/assistantship I was given the opportunity to work a seasonal job for 2 months. I was lucky that my manager was fine with it but it might not work in a non-internship setting. Maybe see if you can get a paid internship in your field where they might be more flexible for your situation.

  19. I'm not called Pollyanna*

    I agree OP1 sounds angry but can commenters truly say they would just shrug their shoulders and say “Oh well, never mind. At least the sun is shining outside”? Bed bugs are vermin and horrible and I would want to give them a wide berth. The final straw for me would also be the coworker being so casual and flippant about it.

    I’m not saying the OP’s response is perfect. But it is human and honest and I bet it wouldn’t be so very different for a lot people. It is easy to be philosophical about a situation you aren’t in.

    1. Charby*

      No, but I think after a certain point you have to move on. That doesn’t mean putting up with the bedbugs, but it does mean changing the situation by not having the meeting at that location and letting the people at that office know why. Getting super angry about it — which is what this letter comes across as, even if the OP isn’t actually that way — seems way over the top for something that can be easily fixed. Staying at the main office wouldn’t be a huge switch; it sounds like the OP would honestly prefer that anyway even if there weren’t bedbugs since it’s more convenient.

      I do think that there are other underlying issues here that do need to be addressed. The lateness and perceived inconsiderate behavior of the satellite office team sounds like it would be an irritant even if there had never been a bed bug issue. My concern is that the OP is focused too much on that one side issue and not the main issue.

      1. Kyrielle*

        After a certain point, yes. I suspect the (horrified) OP wrote this letter before that point, though.

        OP did not say this to colleagues – OP wrote in to Alison to get perspective and guidance, presumably because OP knows their emotional reaction to this situation is strong and wanted outside perspective to help pick the reasonable and unreasonable parts of the reaction apart. I think that’s a very good way to approach it, and I can totally understand an emotional letter being written in the moment. Remembering that OP is not addressing anyone involved and hasn’t taken those actions but is considering them – and asking for perspective on them.

        1. Charby*

          Oh I definitely don’t think that the OP has done anything wrong as far as talking to the employees at the satellite office. I just think that there are larger underlying issues here than just the bed bugs. When she does approach them I think that she should make sure to focus on those issues and don’t let the bedbug thing take up all the oxygen in the room. The truth, based on her last words, is that she feels that the employees at this office are inconsiderate and thoughtless. The bedbug thing is a symptom of that. This bulk of the text is about the bedbugs but that’s likely because it’s the most vivid example rather than because it’s the biggest problem. Her reaction isn’t unreasonable but I think it’d be a mistake to focus too much on this one area.

          The bedbug thing can be resolved by not going to that office — which is an easy change for them to make since they normally don’t go to that office anyway and most of the team members aren’t based there, but the lateness and the friction will still exist.

    2. SH*

      This. Before I came to New York there was a big bedbug outbreak in the city and everyone has PTSD from it. You can’t even joke about bedbugs. If the OP has experience with it he/she probably feels the same way and that’s why the letter sounds so upset.

  20. Sunshine Brite*

    I work in places where bedbugs are common and people often don’t mention them until later out of fear of lack of service. I do like to know going in so I can have a change of clothes handy to change before going home. You tie them up in a bag and then high heat them when you get home. It lessens the risk to your home significantly. Once the treatment happens, if nothing new is brought in that has bedbugs, often it works. It’s hard for offices because you want to spray the infested place and not the surrounding areas if you can avoid it because it becomes highly cost prohibitive.

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        Before I work in a facility for people with mental illness and since people only get $92, (now $93 with a COL) a month to meet all personal needs they have to get free stuff from sketchy sources for clothing, home items, etc. Now I do assessments in people’s homes and there’s always a chance.

          1. Sunshine Brite*

            For one of my internships at a permanent supportive apartment building, I went to a 6 hr bedbug training with the case managers and property management. I went home and dried everything just because. It completely grossed me out at the time but I was able to normalize it more which was good because one of my toughest clients had a horrid infestation shortly after. That person would’ve really reacted with shame, etc if I’d made it shameful with a big reaction.

    1. shorty*

      @sunshine brite – i have a question about changing clothes to avoid the risk of bringing them home – this may be silly but, do you need to change underclothes too? i do this sometimes after i come back from communal spaces like the movie theater if i felt itchy there, i’ll go home and directly put my clothes in the dryer on high heat. i always did it with my underclothes too but i gues si don’t really know if i need to. what was the guidance you were given?

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        I always do but I doubt it’s necessary. They never actually went over that now that I think about it.

  21. anonanonanon*

    #4: Did you have any money taken out of your weekly check for the transit benefit? My last company offered unlimited monthly subway cards, and we could have the fee for it deducted monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or annually. So, you could have $8 deducted every month or $96 each year for the transit card. When employees left, the company’s default was just to keep loading the unlimited transit money onto the card until the period the employee paid for ran out. I guess they considered this easier than refunding people?

    If this isn’t the case, you’ll probably have to pay if they ask it, but if you had an employee handbook or something, I would check up on the benefit first before going back to the employer.

  22. Allison*

    #1, I would’ve been horrified had I not been warned. And not just because bedbugs are bugs, but because I’m highly allergic *and* they’re very hard to get rid of. I dealt with them in college, some of the security stations I worked in had bedbugs and since I worked at night when those little suckers come out to feed, I had to put plastic bags over the chair if it was upholstered, and I developed a strong preference for the stations that had plastic chairs. But every now and then a bug would come home with me and live in my bed for a few weeks. It was itchy and miserable and bad. I had a friend come over to keep an eye on me after I found out the hard way that yes, there is such a thing as too much Benadryl cream.

    If an office is being treated for bedbugs, you might as well say the office is full of spiders. Nope.

  23. Allison*

    #5, yes, you were probably marked ineligible for rehire. At the very least, there’s a note in their system about why you were let go, and at the very least, they’re not going to hire you as long as that manager is still working there, even if you wouldn’t be working with her directly.

  24. Rebecca*

    Re #1 – Bedbug issue. I would be extremely upset if I went to a satellite office, was infested with bedbugs, and then took them back to not only my office mates, but my home. I would demand that my company pay for my home extermination costs, as the company should have taken steps to eradicate the bedbugs, and not just ignored the problem! I do not give them a pass on this at all, for any reason.

    1. fposte*

      But that isn’t what happened. This would be you going to a satellite office, finding out somebody near them had been treated for bedbugs, and you not picking them up and taking them back to your home.

      I get that the possibility of what you’re describing freaks people out, but that’s not the same thing as the actual situation. If the infestation was officially under control, I wouldn’t even blame them for not mentioning it–though I think they should have if it wasn’t under control because of the freakout component even more than the risk.

      Bedbugs suuuck. But if you ever stay in hotels or have people staying in hotels come into the office, you’ve likely been in situations not much different than this.

      1. HR Caligula*

        I believe you the equivalent of “Rock Star” status, but after consideration I think “Folk Star” is a better fit.

    2. Anon the Great and Powerful*

      How would you prove that you got bed bugs from the office? You can pick up bed bugs at the mall, at the movie theatre, at your friend’s house, the list goes on.

  25. Dr. Pepper Addict*

    #1 “which makes me wonder if there’s something else going on there.”

    Do I sense another possibility of a “quack quack” situation?

    1. some1*

      Since (imo) that letter was fake, probably not. I can’t speak for Alison, but I thought she was implying that maybe people are skipping a lot of work at that location.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I wasn’t implying anything specific but it does seem really odd to me, so I wondered if there was some other piece to the situation that would explain it (I don’t have any speculation on what that would be though).

  26. some1*

    #5: Yes, you are probably ineligible for re-hire, but I can’t imagine this would be a good place to work anyway, even if you are in a different dept or wouldn’t report to your old manager. Jobs rarely exist in a vacuum, people talk, and having someone in management who doesn’t like you (even if you aren’t under them in the org chart) has a very real possibility of making your life harder than it has to be.

  27. Bend & Snap*

    #5, yes, I think it’s likely. I had a preferred vendor become verbally abusive over a billing issue. Guess who is no longer eligible to work with my company? He can’t be hired by any of our 60K+ employees ever again.

    I guess it’s the beauty and the risk of that type of work arrangement–the OP sounds like there are lots of other options, which is great. This company may just not be one of them.

  28. Cass*

    I’ve been pondering a question related to #2. I’ve also been applying to university positions that have a similar verbiage. Except, in the application process requires you to answer if you have any disabilities for example….(many different kinds including anxiety and depression.)

    My question is, I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety but like most people, my goal is to do my best to not let it affect my professional life. Since it’s not something I would disclose to a supervisor in the position, should I not check “yes”? I guess I’m wondering what the true goal of the question is – to hire more people with these conditions or for census reasons?

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      I’ve had spells with depression and don’t tick the box, mainly for the same reasons you’re thinking of. I don’t know if this is the right thing or not.

    2. fposte*

      Is it possible that it requests rather than requires? As a university person myself, I could definitely see requesting self-identification as part of a funding initiative or diversity measure.

      However, I would be really put off if I were genuinely required to answer, and in the US it would be illegal to require it. I’d feel free to ignore that section as a result.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah–on my application for my current job, for example, there was a separate “page” (Taleo page) at the end of the application about disability status. It didn’t even go to the same office as the rest of my materials once I’d submitted it. I don’t remember if there was a “decline not to answer” box; there might have been. But whatever I put, it didn’t go to the same people who made the hiring decision. It’s statistical.

      2. Cass*

        I don’t believe it’s a requirement, but I’m wondering whether to include it? Not that I think it will give me some sort of leg up, but if I do genuinely have it, they seem to want to know for whatever reason? I think my hesitation was the question was meant to ask if you would need any special accommodations.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think it’s a question about accommodation–I think it’s about diversity/ADA employment stats. If it were about accommodation, 1) it should say that in no uncertain terms, which it doesn’t, and 2) wouldn’t be the only chance to talk about accommodation anyway.

          I think it may well not be seen by the actual hiring manager, but I wouldn’t fill it out unless I wanted to. It doesn’t sound like you want to.

  29. FD*

    #5- As Alison and others have pointed out–this bridge is burned.

    That said, you might be able to turn it into an experience that serves you in the future.

    What was it that caused so much friction between you and that manager? This isn’t about establishing ‘It was 75% his/her fault and 25% my fault’–this is about figuring out something about yourself.

    For example, maybe this manager micromanaged you and you simply can’t STAND that. When interviewing or contracting in the future, you can ask something like “When you work with your team/contractors, do you prefer a hands on, or hands off approach? What’s something that might cause you to take a different approach than usual?”

    Everybody has different tolerance levels for different behaviors–even definitely BAD behaviors like yelling. This may be a good chance to understand where your hot buttons are.

  30. TL17*

    OP1 – maybe someone else has mentioned this, but it struck me as odd that a business wouldn’t know about a physical plant issue at a satellite/branch location. Maybe not every little thing, but it seems like whoever is in charge at the satellite office would have gotten in touch with someone in charge at the main branch and said something like, “hey, FYI, we have problem X going on here but the property management company is doing Y to fix it.”

    It just seems odd they learned about something as serious as bedbugs in such a breezy way.

  31. Sharkey*

    #1 – It seemed to be a bit tone deaf to me to complain about having to meet where there are bed bugs next door when the people in the satellite office have to go into that building every day. I actually don’t have a problem with the meetings being at the place convenient to most, but it may be that these two things are sort of linked. The satellite office may feel marginalized because they have to suffer through working conditions others wouldn’t find acceptable for a single day. This may be why they’re emphasizing a desire to not always be the ones having to extend themselves with a long drive by rotating meeting locations.

    I get OP’s frustration with the situation and even if this is spot on, it’s not like this is solely OP’s doing. It seems like there may be a larger issue within the company regarding the satellite office, how others view them, and how they themselves feel about their role. Feelings about bed bugs and meeting locations seem more like symptoms to me.

    1. hbc*

      You summed up my feelings. Wherever you fall on the bed bug fear spectrum, it’s either an unacceptable working environment for everyone or safe enough for everyone. If I’m horrified that I’m spending a couple of hours near some bed bugs, I would be raising heck with management that they’re keeping that office open, for my sake but especially for the people working there daily.

      It’s pretty hard to blame the distant employees for not warning the visitors about the risks of spending a couple of hours in an environment that management has decided is safe enough for them 40+ hours a day.

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