expectations of student workers, transit service didn’t pick me up for work, and more

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

1. Am I being unreasonable in my expectations of this student worker?

I’m a newly hired assistant manager in an office setting. We recently hired a student worker who is paid hourly. On her second day, our student worker “saved” her unpaid lunch for the end of her shift (9-5) so that she could effectively end work early (she did not leave the office, but was unavailable for work). I’m not opposed to this occasionally, but doing so on her second day (without checking in or taking the time to understand the expectations of the department) makes me question her level of motivation and enthusiasm for the position.

I asked that our student worker not make a habit of it, since the end of the day is a good time to check in and debrief. We will also need her for phone coverage up until closing once our temp’s contract ends.

On my way back from the restroom, I heard her complaining to our temp about it – and our temp seemed surprised that I had asked her not to save her lunch in order to end work early. They both stopped talking immediately when I walked past them.

Our temp is friends with the student worker, and is the one who recommended her for the position. I am worried about a negative culture developing as a result of the dynamic between our temp and student worker.

Is it an unreasonable expectation for our student worker to not save her lunch for the end of her shift? And is there anything I can do preemptively to help set the tone and prevent a negative culture from developing?

No, it’s not unreasonable for you to expect her to use her lunch break as a mid-day break rather than a way to shorten her shift. But it would be unreasonable to question her enthusiasm over it — she’s a student worker, which means that she’s just starting to learn about workplace expectations, and part of your job is to teach them to her. So explain to her what your expectations are and why.

Complaining to a coworker on her second day is a lot more alarming to me. I’d keep a close eye on both of them and if you see anything more along those lines, I’d address it head-on. For example: “I haven’t been able to avoid overhearing you complaining to Jane about X and Y. I want to help you understand the rationale for both those things, but I also want to talk to you about the impression it can create in a workplace when you take such a negative outlook on pretty standard office policies.”

2. My boyfriend and I are applying at the same company

My long-term boyfriend and I are employed in a highly specialized niche field and are looking to change employers. Our top choice is located on the other side of the country from where we are now currently working. We work in a field where romantic partnerships are very common at all levels, even up to director levels. We are both fairly prominent professionally, and many people know who we are and that we are a couple, but not every single person in the business can be assumed to know.

We are stumped about when the appropriate time is to raise the issue that we are a couple. He thinks it should be in the cover letters; I think we should submit our cover letters at the same time and bring up the fact that we are a couple in our initial interviews. I can see his argument — put it out on the table right away in the interest of full disclosure and not springing it on them later, in case that fact would make them not consider us at all — but I also think it is something that is easier to bring up in person than on paper. What do you think?

Wait until you have an offer to mention it. It would be super weird to mention in the cover letter, and I don’t even think you need to raise it at an interview. Wait until one of you has an offer, and then — if the other one is still in the running — disclose it. I’d frame it as “I know you’re also talking with Gavin Plufferton, who is my partner; I wanted to make you aware of that in case it would pose any issues if you ended up extending an offer to him as well.”

Also, don’t send your applications at the same time; if they do already know you’re a couple, that looks too strangely coordinated.

3. Disabled transit service didn’t pick me up for work

I have mild spastic cerebral palsy, and work for a call center through a disability agency that I was referred to by a local government agency. Today wasn’t the first time this has happened, but it’s the first time I chose not to go to work because the transit for disabled people didn’t schedule me a ride TO work, but they had one for me coming back home from work, which made no sense to me at all. They know my schedule, but didn’t accommodate me, and now I’m scared I’ll lose my job because of their unreliable service. They’re the only transit in my area, and it was a tough decision to not go to work because I don’t get paid to take cabs when I’m supposed to have that reliable transit for disabled people. If I had taken a cab, I would have risked my safety … at least I can trust the people who drive for the disabled service. What should I do in this situation?

I’d contact someone with some authority at the agency that runs the transit program for disabled people and explain what’s been happening and that they’re putting your job at risk. Ask what can be done to ensure that you’re able to actually rely on the service they’re supposed to be providing to you. If they don’t sound like they’re taking it seriously and/or it continues to happen, I’d reach out your local government officials and ask for their help in resolving this; they’re often eager to take on things like this and get them fixed.

Meanwhile, let your manager know what’s going on and that you’re actively working to get it addressed.

4. Should I mention to a candidate that we’re neighbors?

I am recruiting for some on-call warehouse staff, and one of my neighbours who I say “hello” to but don’t hang out with applied. Is it okay that when I call her, I reveal that I am her neighbor? I thought the connection could establish more rapport. As a recruiter, would it be odd to reveal I’m her neighbor? I wouldn’t be interviewing her in person, just phone screening.

I’m probably projecting my own weirdness on to this, but it could potentially make her feel more nervous, if she feels like now she has to worry about not messing up in front of her neighbor, who she might forever feel awkward around if she gives a terrible interview. On the other hand, yes, it’s perfectly possible that it will help establish rapport. (Although if it’s a pretty quick phone screen, that may not matter that much.)

Do you only know that it’s her because you recognize the address (not the name)? If so, I’d be tempted to just let it go and pretend you never spotted it. But again, this could be my personal weirdness.

5. Is this overtime maneuver legal?

I work in West Virginia. My employer pays every two weeks. I worked 34 hours the first week and 51 hours the second. My employer took six hours and put them on the first week so it made 40 hours, and so I only got paid for 5 hours of overtime instead of 11. Is that legal?

It depends on what work week your employer uses. If they use a standard Monday through Friday week, than no, that’s not legal. They owe you overtime pay for the full 11 hours of overtime you worked the second week.

However, employers are allowed to set their work week as any fixed and regularly occurring seven consecutive days — so, for example, they could set it as starting on Thursday and running through the following Wednesday. And if they do that, that could explain what you’re seeing.

{ 307 comments… read them below }

  1. LisaLee

    #1: I’d have a word with your temp worker first. It sounds like she has graduated and has some experience in the working world perhaps, so she needs to know that this sort of behavior isn’t appropriate. The student worker is probably modeling herself on what her friend is doing with no idea that it’s out of line.

    1. Artemesia

      I would not wait to do this. I would want to nip it in the bud. Both should be told that it is inappropriate.

    2. Alkynes of Things

      I agree, LisaLee. As professionals, we should not engage in behaviors that promote negativity with student workers (even if we know them outside of work). #1, it sounds like you may need to have a conversation with your temp worker about being a positive influence on the students that your office chooses to mentor. She should have known better.

      In my opinion, it is also important that you address your student’s complaining. I would not question her enthusiasm or motivation at this point since she probably does not understand what it means to be a professional in your field. Be a mentor to your student worker and make this a teachable moment so that the conversation doesn’t have to be negative.

    3. Jackie

      I agree that the complaining is out of line, but I disagree with the idea that taking lunch at the end of the day is inappropriate. Some people run out of steam by some point in the day regardless of taking breaks or not. I am one of those people. When I used to work a professional hourly position I would take 15 min for lunch and leave when my 8 hours were done. I even came in early (7:30) so that I could leave earlier. My brain doesn’t work past ~4pm.

      I am on the opinion that if you want to dictate when people should take their breaks (and put a minimum length on them) then you should pay them for that time. If you expect an employee to take an unpaid hour long lunch break, then it should be up to them when to take it.

      1. Kyrielle

        If you need work done, phone or desk coverage, etc., between 4-5 pm and are counting on that person, that doesn’t work. In a location that needs coverage and has multiple workers that all need their breaks, breaks have to be scheduled. And in some states, I believe there are laws about how far into a shift a break of at least X minutes (30 in Oregon, for example) must be taken…go further and the employer could have legal exposure. Yes, found the Oregon law, will include a link in a reply.

        I get why it’s useful to some people to be able to leave early, and I think as long as the needs of the job allow it should be possible. But they don’t always, and it’s a responsibility of the employee to find a job that fits their needs, not try to reshape the job to it. (In a state that will let them….)

        1. fposte

          Totally agreed. If it works for both employee and employer, that’s fine. But I suspect that jobs where it wouldn’t work are more common than those where it would, and the timing of a lunch break is always, outside of legal restrictions, at the discretion of the employer.

        2. Mickey Q

          Plus people who do this still usually eat lunch. Even if it’s at their desks it gives the illusion of getting 2 lunch breaks. Don’t get me started on people who take smoke breaks.

          1. anonanonanon

            If someone has a working lunch – eating at their desk while getting work done – does that still create the illusion of two lunch breaks?

            I tend to eat quickly, so I work while I eat and then leave work half an hour early. No one has a problem with it in the office. Most people I know who eat at their desk are doing work while they eat, so I never thought it looked like leaving a bit earlier was getting a second break.

            I have much more of an issue with people who take long lunch breaks and then take a second long break later in the day for coffee/smoking/walks.

            1. LQ

              I would say it absolutely does. Especially if there are people who are eating a lunch at their desks and working and then not leaving a half hour early.

              But if your work is exempt or doesn’t matter so much when you do it then it isn’t a problem. It is much more of an issue if it is hourly, or you’re trying to leave when you are say supposed to be covering the front desk. Basically if you’re making someone else do more work from 4:30-5 every day because you’re supposed to be there from 4:30 to 5 it’s a problem. If not, eh.

              1. anonanonanon

                Ah. Yeah, I’m exempt and most people in my company eat at their desk and take a break in the afternoon or leave early, which is why I never really gave it much thought. It was the same in my last company, too.

                I could see where it would be a problem for an hourly worker or if you have to be there at a certain time. (I mean, I don’t do it all the time, just during the slow periods during the year.) I guess it depends on the company and job.

        3. Shan

          Yeah, it really depends on the job. I skipped breaks to leave early all the time at Old Job. It worked out fine and didn’t really matter to me or my employer. I would eat a quick lunch while working at my desk and leave early and unlike what some have said below, it was never viewed as having two breaks. But at my current job, this definitely wouldn’t fly! My boss would rather me take an extra long lunch break than leave early. It’s not necessarily the need for coverage, it’s just the culture here.

          What’s worse to me is that the employee did this on her second day and didn’t really ask if it was alright. The student worker may have had a past job where this was okay, but they need to learn every job is different and you still need permission. I think that’s the most important lesson for the student worker to learn.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            I came from a department where the culture was that we had to arrive at 8am and stay until 5pm, and shortening the lunch break to leave early was not allowed.

            Now I’m in a department where the two other admins take only half-hour lunches in order to save up their time to leave early on Friday afternoons. They are usually out of here by 2:30 or 3:00 on Fridays, and the department head doesn’t mind if the office is closed on Friday afternoons, but I still feel pretty weird about doing something that was against my previous office culture at the same university.

            I like the idea of taking off early on Friday afternoons, and since it is allowed, I came to the conclusion that, if I’m going to do it, I should start at the beginning of the semester so that people are accustomed to the office closing early on Fridays. I’ve managed to make myself leave as early as 3:30 pm, and it feels pretty good, but I still have the feeling that, somehow, I’m pulling something over on someone. I think that feeling will pass the more Friday afternoons I get to enjoy, though!

        4. abby

          Maybe it’s already been addressed, but in California the unpaid meal break must start no later than 5 hours into the shift and it’s a minimum of 30 minutes. Skipping lunch and shortening an 8-hour day is not legal in California and could get an employer into trouble, even if it’s the employee’s choice. Other states may have similar laws and regulations.

      2. Graciosa

        Flexibility about when to take breaks may simply not meet the needs of the business. I can think of lots of positions where it is simply not an option. It’s great when it is, but I don’t think this kind of flexibility can be regarded as an employee entitlement.

        Kyrielle has already pointed out that some aspects of break management are matters of law. Assuming compliance with legal obligations, finding an employer who handles breaks the way an individual employee prefers should be treated as any other aspect of employment (evaluate for fit). One of the reasons this is so important is because it is not universally uniform.

        1. Outlook Power User

          business – a manager once told me “Hey thanks for working through your lunch, the company appreciates your donation. Your hours are still 8-5 and you are expected to be here during those hours.”

      3. Stranger than fiction

        In California, she would not be able to do that. The law requires workers to take a 30 min. break no more than 5 hours into an 8 hour shift, and a second 30 min. break is required for shifts of 10 hours or more.

        1. LQ

          Yeah if your employer is making you take a lunch break because they don’t want to be busted for breaking labor laws? Don’t force your employer to be busted for breaking labor laws.

          1. Not So NewReader

            Here, companies have had enough of dealing with this stuff. The prevailing attitude is either, take your break in the middle of your day, or be fired. Companies are not willing to pay the fines.

        2. Not So NewReader

          This. I believe NY has similar language in the laws here. But companies have been fined for allowing people to tack their lunch on at the end of the day. It’s a huge no-no.

          I do agree that people should be able to decide for themselves what they would like to do- but positions that need a warm body in place are not going to be as flexible on break schedules than other companies.

    4. Kate M

      I’m not sure we have enough information to say that the temp is out of line though. All the OP said was that the temp seemed surprised. Like, I’ve had people come up to me at work and complain about stuff, and I’ll be really noncommittal about it. I would say something like, “oh really? that sucks.” or “Wow, I’m surprised about that.” Just to get them off my back and keep working, trying not to get sucked in. I could easily see the temp saying something like this, just sort of agreeing with the student worker to get through the conversation, especially if her contract is ending soon and she doesn’t really care to get sucked into drama at work.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        Ugh… this is why I’ve learned to say, “I’m sorry that was your experience” or “i’m sorry for what you are experiencing.”

        We had a coworker who was earlier in her career go to HR with a litany of complaints about our boss and the department who then said “everyone else in on Teapot Polishing team agrees with me” because we were rather noncommittal. And HR was a little perturbed that we had chosen to say, “Uhmm. Yes. I understand.” rather than “well that’s not been my experience.”

      2. Shan

        And also, she said the temp was a friend of the student worker. When I worked with friends who complained or screwed up at work, I would definitely say things that are noncommittal like “Wow that’s surprising,” and move on, just to pacify my friend and stay uninvolved. Of course, there are people who will gossip and encourage the negative behavior, but like you said, we just don’t know if that’s what the temp was doing.

      3. LeahS

        I agree. My go to is “ugh, I’m sorry”, when I don’t want to engage. The conversation is over more quickly and I can get back to work.

  2. Mr Resetti

    #3, call the disability agency that you got your job through – They may have some pull with the call center people AND the transit people, since they probably have close dealings with both. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself loudly on this – It’s not your fault, and the people to blame need to know it’s theirs.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      Yes. It’s also possible they (Voc Rehab?) will pay for alternate transportation if the van service won’t work with you. I have had several interns who use this transportation, and we just all understand that it’s unreliable (they do eventually pick them up, but sometimes they are 20 or 30 minutes late). I normally try to focus on relieving the interns’ stress about it, and don’t schedule meetings for them at the start of the day.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

        I will add that one intern was consistently 20 minutes late, and this was solved by her asking the service to pick her up 20 minutes earlier. She was making an assumption about how long it should take vs. how long it actually did take. So I’ve learned to ask a lot of questions before giving up on the van service.

      2. LQ

        Absolutely agree with this.

        It is totally frustrating, but there may be some people who work with this service on a really regular basis who know how to get things done, what to do when things don’t work out. Etc. Reach out to them. (My thought was voc rehab too, they are usually good advocates and they can help if you need to use other avenues.)

    2. Coffee, Please

      I work with disabled clients who cannot take any alternate form of transportation (city bus, bike, cab, etc) other than a designated service for disabled service. We have run into the rides simply being unavailable for work and necessary medical appointments MANY times.

      In our county, there has been a 50% increase in rides requested every year for the past 5 years. The current number of rides requested is approximately 30% higher than capacity. Our county continues to provide more and more funding, but simply cannot keep up with demand. They have stopped allowing new clients. They have increased wait times. But still, rides get denied even on standing orders because they are over capacity.

      In the long term, more advocacy and political effort are needed to help fully fund mobility options for disabled people. In the short term, it is important for employers to be as flexible as they reasonably can be, including allowing working from home if a ride cannot be found.

  3. Artemesia

    My impression was not that Gavin and his partner wanted to alert the employer in case they had concerns about hiring both, but that they wanted to alert the employer so it would be inclined to recruit them both.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger

      I’m not sure – the OP writes “in the interest of full disclosure and not springing it on them later, in case that fact would make them not consider us at all,” which makes it sound like they’re worried it could be a deal-breaker that they’re a couple.

      OTOH, I know there are industries that do like to recruit couples. International schools like to hire couples who are both teachers, because they figure you’ll be better at adjusting to life in a new country if you’re doing it with a partner instead of alone. It doesn’t mean they don’t also hire single people, but being a couple can be a bonus for them.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        That was my impression — that it was more about disclosure than trying to be a package deal. (Academia sometimes does package deals, but it’s out in the open, so I don’t think this would come up as a question in that context.)

      2. Cambridge Comma

        If they are scientists, it would also not be abnormal to hire a couple as a package deal, to tackle what’s known as the ‘two-body problem’.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          What is the two body problem? Is it the one that was solved by the couple who fused themselves together into one, as described by Isabel a few threads down?

          1. Dan

            No. In academia, the two body problem is where you have a couple who are both seeking full time faculty positions. But faculty positions are hard to come by, and much of it is luck. How does an academic couple both land jobs in the same town/commuting region?

                1. Beth

                  Where I live in Canada the market requires a post-doc at a minimum and typically spouses take turns until one gets tenure or else one spouse steps back for a while (and often raises children) if they want to move together – it’s one of the reasons there are more tenured professors who are men compared to women (in heterosexual couples)

              1. Blue Anne

                My mother is an eminent criminologist in her own right, but my Dad was a superstar. They were offered this kind of thing so often. It made her so, so angry.

            1. BRR

              In academia it’s only one spouse who typically gets a job. Usually it’s when they get their offer they ask about spousal employment. This can range anywhere from guaranteeing your spouse has a couple of classes as an adjunct to a tenure-track position. If it’s a tenure-track position it’s usually partially funded by the department where the original person got the job and the second department will eventually take over the full salary but because funding is scarce they’re thrilled to get a discount so to speak. Link with further details will be posted as a reply.

              1. fposte

                Well summed. I’ll also add that they may be offered a non-teaching post rather than a teaching post. And also sometimes people end up finding the spouses more valuable than the initial hire :-).

              2. RK

                This is a huge problem my husband and I our facing in our job hunt and one thing we’ve done is looked at which unis are really up front about this. Notre Dame, for instance. They advertise that for nationwide job searches that require relocation, they’ll hook your spouse up with a career counselor/placement assistance in a special department that apparently mostly handles that kind of thing.

              3. Cassie

                I’ve seen both spouses get tenure-track jobs – although in the 2 cases in our dept, one person came first, and the spouse worked at a different university (not local – either halfway across the US or halfway around the world). The spouse was hired by our dept a couple of years later. One couple was pretty adamant about working in the same department/school – they are also in the same narrow field which made it a bit difficult to justify why we needed two specialists in that area. We’re in a large metropolitan area which has multiple top universities within commuting distance (everyone commutes), but that wasn’t sufficient for them.

                We also had a new hire whose spouse or girlfriend (can’t remember) was going to get a paid postdoc position.

            2. Bostonian

              I’ve also heard it used more informally when describing any couple where both partners are professionals whose careers typically require some geographic flexibility.

              I’m about to graduate from grad school, and my wife is looking to change jobs. We’re not academics, but we’re looking across a few cities for good opportunities. Doing a simultaneous, multi-city job search gets complicated pretty quickly.

          2. Christy

            Also Alison I thought you were joking with this comment but it appears that you’ve never discussed the two-body problem on this site. This shocks me! I’m not too far removed from academia (my girlfriend leaves her job in a college library at the end of next week) so I’ve thought about it a lot. It’s a really tricky problem with meeting your partner in graduate school.

          3. Student

            Speaking from personal experience, everyone involved knows (or thinks they know) which spouse was “really hired” and which was “trailing”. The woman is always assumed to be the trailing spouse if it’s not otherwise obvious. There is often a lot of resentment regarding the trailing spouse, because there is always the perception that she wouldn’t have made the cut if she weren’t married to someone important. I think academia indulges this crazy practice in part because it brings up their employment statistics on women. I think it’s had the effect of hampering women more generally in academia and reinforcing negative stereotypes about women in many male-dominated academic fields.

            1. Artemesia

              This. Sometimes it is wonderful for an institution when there are two very talented people, but often what happens is that the trailing spouse (usually but not always the woman — I know of 3 trailing male spouses) sucks up a line that would have gone to a more competitive person and that person might well have been a woman or minority. Accommodating trailing spouses of important scholars destroys opportunity for more deserving candidates in this very tight market. This is less a problem when the other job is administrative but is a big problem when it is a faculty line or as is sometimes the case an actual tenured position. I know of one case where the star left, divorced the trailing spouse, and there she was her mediocre self occupying a tenured position.

                1. Marcela

                  Precisely. I am a trailing wife. Therefore my options would be to pursue my career full time, which has the disadvantage of force me live in a different place from my husband, since in the last 10 years we have lived in 4 different countries and 5 cities, or do what I’ve done, which is to try to find some work with his own groups, as a software developer.

                  Academia still uses this “crazy practice” because it’s a known fact that the scientific career asks too much from us. Low salaries, crazy hours, few opportunities, and in order to really succeed, we have to pospone what most people take for granted, such as start a family or in our case, something as mundane as having pet, until you are almost 40 years old or more. Without the travels or practices like this, many of us would have to move to other fields, because life would be intolerable.

            2. Brisvegan

              I know of several women who were the “stars” eg the dean of a school at my uni. Her spouse is quite the academic star, too, so hiring both was a coup, rather than an accomodation.

              Just wanted to pop this in. Not all stars are men, though some will assume that. Not all spouses hired to lure a star are less than awesome themselves.

    2. Christy

      Yeah, I would be very very surprised if this wasn’t a couple trying to get hired together. I specifically think so because the job(s) are across the country and the romantic pairings are common. This sounds like to me like they are asking how they can ensure that the employer knows it would have to hire both of them to get either of them.

      Given that, I don’t know when I’d disclose. I like the idea of cover letters so it doesn’t seem like one of you is the trailing spouse–you’re equals–but that requires that your candidacies are equally strong. They’d have to want to hire both of you to interview either. If you wait until interviews, then you can bring up the trailing nonspouse and you’re more likely to both get the jobs.

      Wait until the interview. The biggest cost is it being a little weird that you didn’t mention upfront, whereas the biggest cost of mentioning in cover letters is that neither of you will get interviews.

      1. F.

        I do not work in academia, but we had a situation where the candidate waited until we had made an offer and then stated that if we wanted her, we had to hire her husband who worked in a related field where we had no openings. Needless to say, we withdrew our offer to her.

      2. Meg Murry

        I agree that this doesn’t make sense in a cover letter, but rather for the first personal contact (phone interview, etc).

        I think this is also an ideal case in which working your network will help you way more than anything else. Do either of you know anyone either at the desired company or at least in that area? Maybe someone one of you worked with in the past or went to school with? I think sending out an email to your contacts, or reaching out on Linked In with a message like “Gavin and I are looking to move to [super awesome area where you live], but in order to do so, we would both need to find jobs in [field]. Do you know if your company is hiring a lot of people in [field] or if anyone else in the area is? I’d love to hear any leads you have”

        That message is awkward and clunky, so obviously revise, but I think you get the gist of what I’m trying to say. If you can find a champion who will say “I know these 2 awesome people who want to work here and we should hire both of them!” that will help a lot in your search. However, unless your field is some kind of super specialty with only a handful of companies, I think you also both have to be realistic to the idea that one of you might get a job and the other will either have to follow behind and job hunt in the area, or stay behind for 6 months to a year until you find a job. However, if this is some kind of super specialty where there is only one company that does your field in this area (I’m thinking like oil fields in Alaska, or some other place where it is a “company town” and there are no other jobs there period), that makes it harder because the only way for both of you to work is to work for that one company.

    3. Dynamic Beige

      I don’t know, the desired outcome was kind of ambiguous. I assume they would both like to get jobs at the same company, but if one of them did while the other did not, would they still make the move? Are they indeed a team where they have complementary skills and “should” be hired together? Or are they both interested in pursuing new opportunities independent of the other (not in the sense of living in different cities)? In a way, this is just a more intimate version of “I told my friend/coworker about this grant/job and they applied! what do I do?”

      At this point, there’s no guarantee either one of them will even get an interview. What if they want to hire the one but not the other? I think that if they are that well known in the industry as being a couple, an interviewer might bring it up as a small talk kind of thing “so-and-so mentioned that your partner is Gavin Plufferington… would he be joining you out here?” “Yes, we’re committed to making this move together. In fact, he also applied for a job here.” But no, I wouldn’t mention it until it’s become an issue/hinted at.

      If these people were in two completely unrelated fields i.e. nurse and long-haul trucker, they wouldn’t be applying for the same jobs and no one would ask or wonder about it. There might be some discussion of needing a certain amount of time to wrap things up and move but that would be about it.

  4. KarenT

    #3 I would also explain your transit issue to your manager, so he or she knows it is not you that is being unreliable.

    1. Dan

      In a position where being on time matters, it’s going to be difficult for the op to get a pass for that. Most of the time employers don’t care why you are late, they care that you are.

      BTW, I would take a cab if I want to keep my job. I don’t necessarily believe that cabs are so unsafe that I’d skip work and risk my job.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        With a disability though, they may have a legal obligation to accommodate a late arrival caused by this, unless being on time is an essential core requirement of the position. (And legalities aside, they may simply want to if the position allows it, because it’s a kind thing to do for someone in the OP’s spot.)

      2. misspiggy

        A cab is very unsafe if the driver doesn’t know how to secure your wheelchair properly and you get thrown across the cab during travel and injured.

        1. Merry and Bright

          The OP may have found this out the hard way too. She says this wasn’t the first time the vehicle failed to show up but this was the first time she didn’t go in to work because of it. So she must have used other transport the previous time(s) and perhaps had a bad experience.

        2. JC

          Thanks for all of you for explaining why a cab could be unsafe for someone with cerebral palsy. I was wondering too and am glad that you explained it.

      3. PriorityZero

        I can’t speak for the OP but in my experience people with mobility challenges can often be uncomfortable in situations where they give up physical control to strangers (such as a cab driver). So it may not be that a cab is inherently unsafe, but that the OP feels unsafe in that situation.

        Also depending on the amount of assistance the OP needs, or equipment the OP uses, they could need to rely on the untrained and unknown cab driver to enter or exit the vehicle which can be a challenging situation for both parties.

        1. Charlotte Collins

          Also, in my town one cab company does have cabs that are set up for people with mobility issues (and I think their drivers are trained in how to secure passengers and equipment), but the other ones aren’t, so the OP might not have a choice in the type of vehicle that may come. (And in all honesty, I’ve been in cabs that I’ve felt unsafe in even as someone without any current mobility issues…)

      4. Daisy

        People with cerebral palsy often have issues with muscle tightening and involuntary movements and not being currently harnessed in can be dangerous and if there is an accident they can be more severely hurt. I understand not trusting a can with just a regular seatbelt. Or no seat belt at all.

        1. Merry and Bright

          This is an excellent point, and by definition the disability transport will be designed for its passengers.

      5. Log Lady

        These are not the sort of things you say to a person with disabilities. It’s horribly dismissive and rude. A situation that would be a big old no big deal for a person with no disabilities can turn dangerous quickly for a person with disabilities when they don’t have the proper access. Trust them when they speak.

        1. Dan

          Yes, but we’re talking about someone having to get to work at a call center. Presumably, showing up is an essential part of the job. What’s the practical advice if the OP can’t get an ADA exception and ultimately gets fired for attendance?

          1. Log Lady

            Oh, cool. Why doesn’t she just get in the cab because getting fired is way worse than seriously injured or killed.

          2. BananaPants

            I would not be shocked if the OP’s manager didn’t give a rat’s posterior about the reason she was late/didn’t show and simply says, “Take a cab next time.” Call centers are not known for being warm and caring places where employees’ attendance issues aren’t a big deal. It’s generally a low skill, low pay job and supervisors are often put in managerial roles with zero training, often being held personally responsible if their direct reports have attendance problems. It sucks, but it’s reality of the typical workplace of that kind.

            When my husband worked in a call center he had to state that he had reliable transportation during the hiring process. If you showed up late or didn’t come in for a scheduled shift, you got written up and the reason didn’t matter – he had friends written up because they were at the ER with a family member or because their car wouldn’t start on a cold winter morning and they had to wait for AAA. People were regularly fired for attendance issues including tardiness and transportation issues.

            1. Stephanie

              Yeah this sounds a bit like my workplace. We’re not as strict as a call center about attendance, especially if it’s something extenuating, but absenteeism and tardiness are a big deal since our operations are so people-heavy. (Granted, a physically disabled person dependent upon paratransit probably wouldn’t be working there since the floor jobs are mostly manual labor.) But I agree that the manager’s not really going to care about why OP is late…just that OP is late.

  5. Danielle

    Should OP #3 talk to his/her supervisor about this too? So Boss knows it wasn’t OP’s fault and OP is working with the transit company to ensure that they don’t mess up again?

      1. Meg Murry

        I am also wondering, the way OP is saying “now I’m scared I’ll lose my job” if she doesn’t know her company’s policies on missed days and tardies, etc. Or I guess it could be the other way around – she does know the policy and now is worried that she has 1 of the 3 strikes against her, etc.

        OP, please excuse me if you know all this, but if not – has your boss or any of your coworkers (HR, etc) explained the attendance policy to you? Many companies work on some kind of “points” system – for instance, at one of my last companies, the points system was: 1 point for clocking in late up to an hour or clocking out early, 3 points for clocking in or out later than 1 hour or calling off within an hour of the shift starting, and 5 points for not calling in at all and not showing up (with an exception made if the reason you couldn’t call in was because you were unconscious in the hospital, etc). At certain levels of points, various disciplinary action was taken, from a verbal warning to an official warning all the way to firing. Other places have systems that aren’t points based but are a straightforward: # number of unexcused absences = fired.

        You need to talk to your manager or HR about how the attendance system works, and whether you get any accommodations within it due to your disability (for instance, are you penalized if you scheduled a ride to be on time but the transit van is late?). Or you mentioned you got the job through a disability agency – maybe whoever you worked with there will know the policy on this kind of thing, and what you need to do. I’m guessing if you aren’t the first person the call center has hired through the disability agency they have developed some kind of policy or are familiar with the challenges you make face like the transit service.

        In addition, if you don’t get anywhere with calling the transit agency, can you call the disability agency that helped you get the job? They may have resources or know the right person to escalate this to – because it makes their job harder to help people get jobs if those people then can’t get to work due to unreliable transit – that makes it less likely that companies will agree to work with the agency.

        Good luck OP, and I hope this gets straightened out for you.

    1. Dan

      At least in DC, there was a stretch where the para transit agency was becoming very unreliable and screwing with people’s ability to get where they needed to go.

      I’m not sure how far the op will get “explaining” how they will “ensure” it will never happen again. The reality is that no commuting option is fail safe.

      I’d be more concerned that the employee wouldn’t take a cab.

      1. misspiggy

        Sorry to keep harping on this theme, but have you considered why these specialist driving services exist? Many disabled people cannot travel with a reasonable degree of physical safety in cabs due to lack of training and/or equipment in the cabs. Cabs often refuse to take wheelchair users because of the extra effort involved. If you do get injured in a cab because you weren’t set up properly by the driver, recovery is likely to take a lot longer than it would for someone without those disabilities.

        1. misspiggy

          None of which is to say the OP’S manager wouldn’t expect the OP to take a cab, but this is why Alison’s advice to contact government reps is key – the travel service is essential, not a nice perk.

        2. Dan

          My understanding is that they exist for equal access reasons in municipalities where the government provides subsidized transportation to the general public. Without these services, the government would be in hot water for discriminating against people with disabilities when they provide services to fully ambulatory people.

          1. Zillah

            But those services exist specifically because people with disabilities often have different transportation needs than people who are able-bodied.

            1. Dan

              I’m well aware that people have alternate transportation needs because they may not be able to use the subway, bus, or light rail systems, thank you.

              1. Zillah

                I know that you do. However, by saying that you’d be “concerned” that the employee wouldn’t take a cab, you’re coming across as dismissing part of why these services are so important.

            1. Transit employee

              As someone who’s worked at a transit agency, this is sadly sometimes a little too close to accurate. Paratransit services are incredibly expensive per passenger compared to regular bus, subway, or light rail services. Given the state of transit funding in the US (for those outside the US, it’s pretty bleak), agencies would love to be able to provide less paratransit or to charge more for it (it’s currently capped at I think twice the cost of a regular fixed-route transit ride). One of the reasons I’ve seen given for improving accessibility on regular service (low floor buses, better elevator maintenance, etc.) is to save money by moving paratransit users onto the regular system.

              Transit agencies know that paratransit serves an important social purpose, but the legal mandate is really important because it keeps the services running when budgets get tight. Paratransit is often contracted out to private companies – and since it’s government, it typically goes to the lowest bidder, which may explain why it’s so often unreliable.

              1. Laura

                And there’s always things that happen. I know merely from hearing from one driver that the pay from the service provider isn’t terribly competitive, so there’s that sort of factor as well.

                I live in a smallish town that is serviced by a regional transit under another umbrella that handles other things too. The major city is 20 minutes away and one county over.

                I work in said county. The transit only makes cross-county trips on MWF in a 4 hour window. And due to a driver shortage, I may not be able to use them in the future because of the shorthandedness. Those are factors out of my control.

                I’m really hoping they get more drivers, because I don’t have a license yet and definitely can’t afford a chauffeur or a cab!

              2. Koko

                Yes…the operating reality of how the bureaucrats are executing the law is often quite different from the legislative intent when enacting the law.

                1. Creag an Tuire

                  And then you have laws that work at cross-purposes — in my area, the Defenders of the Taxpayer in the state capital have mandated that the transit agency -must- collect over 50% of it’s operating budget from the farebox, but the ADA says that the transit agency -cannot- charge the paratransit users anything close to the actual cost of service (which would basically be similar to cab fare), so budgeters have to be… creative in keeping the service active in the face of these two mandates.

                  (And I’m afraid I agree with Dan in the sense that, without the ADA mandate, the transit agency would’ve said, “ah, screw ’em” years ago.)

            2. Dan

              That’s a bit strong, but Transit Employee has a much more diplomatic response than one that I’d ever come up with.

              But directly to your question, government-funded paratransit services generally aren’t found in municipalities without any other sort of public transit for ambulatory people.

        3. NCKat

          I have mild CP and use a wheelchair. I drive myself to work – there’s a wheelchair carrier on the top of my car – but I have used the local transit vans occasionally and they are not the most reliable of transports. Yes, the OP could take a cab but in my town, cabs are extremely expensive. It would cost me $20 per day to take cabs to and from work. Our mass transport is reliable, but the closest bus stop is a half an mile away. The local authority has had many many complaints about the disabled van services over the years, and I fear the OP’s case is not unusual. :(

      2. Zillah

        I think that in judging this particular employee for not taking a cab, you’d be being more than a little unreasonable. It’s not really your place or (presumably) your area of expertise to make those kinds of judgment for someone who’s disabled, and it’s callous at least and ableist at worst to impose your perceptions of what’s reasonable for someone who’s able-bodied onto someone who isn’t.

        1. Apollo Warbucks

          Not to mention the additional cost of taking a taxi that the OP shouldn’t have to incur because someone else isn’t doing their job correctly.

          1. Merry and Bright

            Good point. Call centre work often pays minimum wage or thereabouts so a cab could easily take a few hours’ wages if you are travelling a few miles – and I can picture that meter ticking over in a rush hour jam.

          2. jpnadia

            When I read “I don’t get paid to take cabs…”, I wonder if taking a cab (regularly) might be expensive enough that, if OP had known the transit was going to be unreliable and require cab rides, OP would not have taken the job for financial reasons.

            That’s on top of the safety concerns.

            1. Liane

              Is it possible PO means that the agency (or another entity) covers the cost of the transport service, but not cab fare?

              And yet another vote for commenters to please stop suggesting that a cab is acceptable transport, either primary or backup. I often went places with a very close girlfriend who had MS and used a wheelchair. Just dealing with even a folding non-motorized wheelchair can be difficult, not to mention helping someone about your same size, who sometimes had less control of her muscles than she usually did. We did errands and other trips together enough that we were a good team – and it could still be hard on us.m Even though I did this for years, I don’t think I have the knowledge or experience to judge whether OP could ride in a cab both safely and comfortably.

              1. Nashira

                Yes, this. I think a good tactic is to believe disabled people when we say something isn’t safe for us. We have the most experience with our specific impairments.

              2. Ad Astra

                That’s how I interpreted it. If the agency pays for paratransit, it’s possible that they would pay for cabs in an emergency, but the OP doesn’t have an agreement like that in place yet. I know of some disabled people who have received vouches for cab rides through agencies like Voc Rehab. The agency might even be able to point the OP to a company that is familiar with the needs of wheelchair users.

                For this and a host of other reasons, I think it’s important that the OP contact the organization coordinating her services. They’re the people best equipped to help.

                1. Elizabeth West

                  Agreed–and if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

                  About the cab vouchers: when I needed a diagnostic endoscopy, they told me I’d need someone to drive me home afterward. Well, I had no one (as usual), but when I mentioned that to the clinic, they told me that they could provide cab vouchers to patients who had no transportation. I was able to get the procedure done instead of waiting until I could coordinate with a ride (which might not have happened in a timely manner). But they didn’t mention it until I brought it up, so if I hadn’t said anything, I would not have known that was an option.

          3. Colette

            I’m not sure the issue is that someone isn’t doing their job correctly (which doesn’t mean the OP should have to pay, of course). I believe in my city, the transportation for people with disabilities has issues. You can only book 24 hours in advance, they don’t prioritize (so someone going to cancer treatment gets the same priority as someone going to bingo), and they can’t always accommodate everyone. The issue isn’t the people doing the booking or even the policies, necessarily. (Bingo sounds frivolous, but if it’s the only time you leave the house, there’s value to it). Adding more trips adds cost, which may or may not be possible.

            1. Apollo Warbucks

              I read the letter to mean that the OP was expecting a ride to work that either did not turn up was was never scheduled and would have thought the OP would have said they were having trouble booking a ride if that was the problem, but I see where you are coming from, it’s entirely possible that there are other factors involved in the OPs trouble in getting a ride.

              1. Meg Murry

                My concern upon re-reading was this:

                They know my schedule, but didn’t accommodate me

                What is the “official” method of scheduling a ride? Is it possible that OP hasn’t been going through the official by the book method for getting a ride every day (maybe the policy is to call 24 hours in advance like mentioned above, etc) because the driver knows that he picks her up daily, but when there was some kind of change or disruption to the schedule (the driver took the morning off, that van was scheduled for an oil change, etc), no one rescheduled OP since she wasn’t on the “official” schedule? Or if someone else is doing the scheduling for her, did that person just mess up? Is there a way for OP to check the schedule in advance to make sure she is on it, so she isn’t surprised in the morning when no one shows up to pick her up? Would it be a pain for her to call in regularly? Yes. Would it be better than missing a day of work because the schedule is messed up? Yes, IMO.

                I ask because this happened to us with regards to my son and the school bus. My son rides the school bus to our house 3 days a week, and a different bus to his grandmother’s house 2 other days. We thought we went through all the right channels to get him on the bus to his grandmothers, but apparently since the change was made after the school year started and wasn’t every day, the bus driver had never updated the official paper schedule – and so when the driver went on vacation and a sub was driving, the sub drove right past the house and didn’t stop to drop my son off, because it wasn’t on the paper schedule. I could see a similar situation happening with OP.

        2. Dan

          True, but AAM is in the business of providing practical advice to her writers. The OP works at a call center, which, as an industry, is known to be rather inflexible with its employees. I can’t think of any other job where management is more anal about attendance than a call center. Retail and restaurants rank up there, but they don’t exceed it.

          A call center is on solid ground by claiming that they need their employees to show up as scheduled. That means a disabled employee can’t get accommodation for tardiness/absence under the ADA. It’s one thing to show up late by a few minutes (call centers hate that too) but it’s completely different to call out at the last minute. As a manager, that would bug the hell out of me. I’d be willing to let an employee use their sick days to cover themselves, but what happens when they go over it? At some point, showing up to work is an essential part of it.

          The issue is really, really tricky. But one potential “solution” that the OP needs to be prepared for is that last-minute call outs are grounds for termination. So either the OP takes a cab or finds another job. Nobody’s passing judgement here — the business still has to run, and needs its employees to show up to do that. The ADA only requires “reasonable” accommodations to be made, although that’s a can of worms in and of itself. None of us are qualified to say that allowing the employee to miss work because of transit issues is or is not a reasonable accommodation.

          1. Ad Astra

            At this point, nobody’s making unreasonable demands on the call center. It sounds like this is the second time the OP has had an issue with the paratransit service, and two late-notice absences aren’t going to seriously impair the call center’s ability to function. I don’t think it’s fair to assume this OP will have ongoing problems getting to work any more than it’s fair to assume that for someone who takes normal public transit or has a particularly long commute by car. Things happen, and reasonable managers understand that.

            I would hope that the call center’s relationship with the disability services agency means they’re sensitive to the needs and limitations, but we just don’t know. Either way, I think you’re jumping to conclusions by assuming the transportation issue can’t be fixed and the OP will inevitably be fired.

            1. Charlotte Collins

              I agree. The company clearly is already working with services for people with disabilities. I think the OP should let them know what’s going on, because then management might be able to get involved with helping resolve the issue with para-transit or even work on other potential solutions. (I don’t know what these may be, but if more than one employee has mobility issues, there could be some sort of ride share (real ride share – not Uber) or shuttle that could be arranged.)

              People do end up calling in for call center work for reasons that they have no control over and don’t lose their jobs. But the key is to let your boss know what’s going on and try to think of workable solutions.

          2. I'm a Little Teapot

            This kind of crap is why people with disabilities have an appallingly high unemployment rate – and similarly high rates of poverty and homelessness, especially since disability payments in the US are hard and slow to get and criminally low. The call center may or may not have a legal obligation to accommodate her, but I’d certainly argue that they have a moral one. They can afford it.

            1. fposte

              I’m fine with arguing about the benefits of accommodating the OP, but I don’t think we can assume that it’s not a financial burden or that they can afford it. Call centers aren’t exactly profit bonanzas.

              1. Charlotte Collins

                That depends upon the nature of the call center. Also, if the OP is doing outgoing rather than incoming calls, there might be more leeway for missing time. But I hope it all works out for the OP.

                1. fposte

                  I definitely hope leeway can be given; I just felt that assumptions made about the financial state of the business weren’t grounded.

                2. Colette

                  Well, if the OP is calling out at the last minute more than the norm, that means they either run short of agents (and have longer wait times than normal, which could lose them customers and will increase the volume of complaints, which are probably dealt with by highly paid people) or they over staff in case the OP calls in. Neither is a great option from a business perspective. Maybe they can afford it, or maybe it’ll cause them to lose the contract and put 100 people out of work. We can’t tell from here.

          3. Zillah

            I’m all for practical advice. My problem was that you’re making assumptions based on incomplete information and presenting them as fact. Telling the OP to take a cab (which you did, by insinuating that it’s a matter of wouldn’t rather than couldn’t) isn’t practical advice, nor is saying that the call center would be on solid ground to fire the OP over it.

            The OP has said that they’re concerned for their safety if they take a cab. My reading of the letter is that their concern stems directly from their disability. That means that we need to find a different practical solution.

            I’m not trying to parse your language. My concern is that a practical solution needs to be feasible, and your proposed solution seems analogous to me to suggesting that a parent struggling to find childcare just leave the toddler alone at home for an hour until the other parents gets home.

            1. Dan

              There are times that the most practical advice that AAM offers is to find another job. When your disability impacts your ability to so much as get to work, and the job requires you to actually show up, and preferably on time, maybe the better practical advice is to look for work that can be done from home and/or has flexible hours?

              You seem to take issue with my reference to riding in a cab. I will admit that the OP FIRST notes that s/he can’t afford a cab, and then merely mentions that s/he doesn’t feel safe. If the OP cannot take a cab for health reasons, his/her original wording is overly soft. S/he would be better off with a clear, “I cannot take a cab for health reasons” and leaving the cost out of it, because referring to cost is certainly a distraction.

              BTW, I rarely discuss it here, but I have a slight disability, so I know what it’s like to not be able to do everything with the ease that others can. I spent three years of my life in school to pursue a certain career, and working with several doctors to get the medical clearance to perform this job. Ultimately, I had to accept that the most practical thing to do is find another job. The alternative was suing the federal government itself for accommodation under the ADA. My accommodations were reasonable — it’s quite probable that once I showed up to the worksite, management would never have known I even had an issue.

              But would suing them have been practical? Feasible? Lots of hair splitting there…

              1. Zillah

                Sure, and it may well be that the OP ultimately needs to find a different job. However, that to me seems to be skipping several steps ahead, and it’s strange to me to discuss that instead of how the OP might approach the transit company and their boss about the issue. It’s possible that there isn’t a way to resolve this on either end, but right now, I think that the best practical advice needs to be aimed at that.

                I take issue less with your specific reference to a cab and more with the fact that you seem to be approaching the third OP with skepticism and an assumption of the worst case scenario rather than give them the benefit of the doubt. I don’t like that, and I don’t think it’s helpful or productive.

      3. Observer

        I’d be more concerned that the employee wouldn’t take a cab.

        Not “wouldn’t” – COULDN’T. This is the type of thing that makes people worry about losing their jobs over things they can’t help. If the OP’s supervisor makes the same assumptions as you are, she’s going to have a major problem.

        1. Dan

          “If the OP’s supervisor makes the same assumptions as you are, she’s going to have a major problem.”

          That’s kind of my point… sorry I didn’t make it more clear.

      4. eplawyer

        Metro Transit is still unreliable. If the OP is in DC, your best bet is to find another option for your commute. Work with your agency to find an alternative that you feel safe with to using Metro. Of course, the agency may have a contract with Metro and you are stuck.

        On the other hand, everyone knows Metro is unreliable so if you just tell your supervisor “Hey, Metro Transit” they should get it and not be too bothered.

  6. Isabel

    Re question 2:

    Many years ago I was involved in the hiring process for research assistants at a corporate research library. The assistants worked after regular business hours, fulfilling document requests. The work required meticulous attention to detail, and took place in a corporate environment, but did not require a corporate look. We often hired grad students and artists.

    I once received a resume… from a couple. One resume. Two people. The cover letter explained that they would like to share the job. This had worked for them in the past, they wrote. They would like one schedule, which they would work out between themselves. The resume listed experience. employment, education and awards for both, without differentiating between who had done what. They were artists who created art together.

    I found this so strange. In small part because of the part about working out who would show up on any given evening. I looked up their art, out of sheer curiosity and discovered that they created digitally enhanced photographed of their nude bodies, melded together to form on entity.

    We did not hire them.

    1. Stephanie

      That is so weird! Even weirder is that they had done this at other jobs. So if they broke up…you would just have one part time worker?

      1. Mookie

        Breaking up’s no longer possible. They fused bodies, which is an irreversible process. Clearly you don’t understand art.

    2. UKAnon

      That is one of the odder hiring stories I have heard in my time. Not the art, that’s fine in and of itself (though a perfect cherry on the cake of the story) but the CV is… not standard.

    3. Isabel

      This was over a decade ago. Recently I told the story to a friend in HR in a different industry and she knew who I was talking about! The couple now works – yes, together – in a field where it is normal to work with a partner and move from job to job with them.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        We need to know what field! The only jobs I can think of where it’s normal to fill them with a pair of spouses are things like inn-keepers or boarding school dorm parents.

        1. Felicitas

          I work for the civil service in the UK and I know of several cases where people job-share. It’s not hugely common, but not uncommon, either. It’s pretty standard language in job adverts. And it tends to be at pretty senior levels, too. My own job (head of my area) was advertised as “Working pattern: Flexible Working, Full-time, Part-time, Job Share” And a few years back my organisation had a director’s post shared by two women (not sure if they were a couple; I think possibly not). It worked really well, and they had job-shared in several other departments!

          If a job-share is what you’re looking for, how else would you apply for one other than in a joint application? (the melded body thing *is* a bit weird, though!)

          1. Empress Zhark

            My (limited) understanding of jobshare, at least in the UK, is that the employer decides on 2 people who can cover the 1 full time role, and between then 3 of them they hash out a schedule. I’ve only really seen this though when new mums return after maternity leave – in one case, new mum returned on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings, and the woman who had been covering for her whilst she was out on maternity carried on working Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday.

            I have seen applications where the candidate has namechecked another candidate in their covering letter, in a “I would be open to a job share arrangement, and my friend/ex colleague has also applied, who I work well with and think may be a good fit” – but even that seems clunky to me. It’s not for the candidate to decide who they share the job with, it’s just an option for employers to have a full-time position covered by 2 (or more) part time staff.

            1. Blue Anne

              I’ve certainly seen jobsharing advertised as an option, but it had never occurred to me that you might hire a couple to jobshare. (I’m in the UK.)

              I guess it makes sense, but personally I’d be hesitant for all the usual workplace-couples reasons.

              1. Blue_eyes

                At least they probably wouldn’t be in the office at the same time. And they would be privy to all the same info since they have the same job title. I could actually see this working really well for parents – if you have exactly opposite schedules, then someone can always be home with the kids. Whereas if you were each working part time jobs at different companies, it could be hard to get your schedules to line up right.

              2. The IT Manager

                It seems clear to me that this can’t be for knowledge worker jobs.

                “I told Joe about this issue yesterday, why do I have to tell you again?”

              3. Elizabeth West

                I’m guessing that would have to be something the company had defined beforehand. You can’t just say, “Hey, can we job share this particular job?” out of the blue. For couples or any other pair of workers.

          2. MK

            I would think that, if two people are going to share a job (which is a thing I have heard of working very well), both must individually be qualified for the job and good fits.

          3. AW

            That’s kind of neat. I’m in the U.S. and didn’t know this was a thing. I think the only time I’ve heard of something similar was in the movie, “9 to 5”. I think the ladies set something like that up while they were running the office.

            1. Charlotte Collins

              I think the 9 to 5 ladies implemented programs that people still are asking for in the US workforce…

              I have heard of job share, but I’ve never known anyone who did it.

        2. MK

          I can think of a lot of examples, but usually they are freelancers/independed consultants, like co-authors, writer/photographer, author/illustrator, realtor/interior decorator, agencies that offer more than one service, like bussiness advisors/accountants. But in most of those cases, you don’t hire these people as employees, you basically contract an exisiting team to do a job (or a series of jobs) for you.

          1. Charlotte Collins

            Composers and librettists… But I think Gilbert and Sullivan would never, ever have sent in a shared resume…

        3. esra

          Sometimes in marketing you get art director/copywriter teams that will apply to agencies together. Although that’s not about being romantic partners so much as professional complements.

          1. AVP

            I work in production and occasionally we’ll get people who apply for production positions but specify that they’d want to hire a certain assistant or coordinator, and include a bit about them. In my position I like when hat happens because that’s one less person I need to hire cold for. But that person had better be excellent or it reflects badly on everyone.

            I have also seen couples try to do that (i.e.., a cinematographer will insist you hire his wife as production manager) and that rarely ends well – even if the second person turns out to be great, there’s such a whiff of cronyism that their work has to be superlative to get past it.

          2. Isabel

            Yes, advertising. Copywriter & art director teams that work together through multiple jobs are common. Didn’t mean to make that sound weird.

        4. mskyle

          Going back to the two-body problem mentioned above, the choral directors at my college were a married couple (I believe they met in grad school); in the past it had been one job but after he was hired she took over some of the choruses, and so it has continued for many years. They also both have the same first name! (Wondering if anyone here will recognize this situation, which is surely unique…).

        5. Ad Astra

          A lot of public school districts will give spouses a hand in finding jobs within the district, though it’s definitely a completely separate job and they can’t really create new positions for the spouse or anything. You see it most often with coaches and administrators, who are most likely to be recruited by districts in other parts of the state/region. My husband is a football coach on a staff of like 8 people, and almost all of their wives are teachers.

    4. Career Counselorette

      My first thought reading the letter was of the episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where Mac and Charlie apply for the mailroom position as a couple, but your story is creepy.

      1. StillLAH

        Hah! That was my first thought too. “These are real people, Charlie! And they’re all looking for their mail!”

    5. Spooky

      My mom and my aunt once shared a job at a fast food restaurant. I have never been able to wrap my mind around the concept no matter how many times she tries to explain it to me.

      1. Doreen

        With that type of job (where there are always multiple people doing the same work on different shifts, sone part-time and some full-time and work/responsibity doesn’t carry over from day to day) , I don’t think it’s job sharing as much as hiring two people to work 20 hours each instead of one to work 40. Now, if they were sharing the job of general manager, that would be different.

    6. Allison

      That’s . . . a little disturbing. I get the whole “one flesh” thing, I get that a couple is a unit to some degree; a relationship is a partnership where two people do work together, but they don’t typically “work” together in an employment sense of the word! You’re still supposed to have some sense of self and a life outside your partner, and that usually involves your own job.

      This brings to mind that episode of Scrubs where Turk and Carla become a two-headed witch in this fantasy story Dr. Cox tells his son. It’s funny, sort of. But if a couple really does start to act like a two-headed person, they’ve probably taken things way too far!

    7. Stranger than fiction

      This is even weirder than a set of identical twins that used to hostess at the restaurant I worked at – except one of them had “quit” at one point, but continued to pose as the other twin occasionally (one of them admitted to me). It was creepy, because you were never really sure which one you were dealing with.

    8. blueiphone

      Were their names Mac and Charlie and were they from Philadelphia? And very interested in whether or not the job came with health insurance?

    9. Artemesia

      I know an academic couple who shared a tenure track position. They were in the same discipline but in different subfields so the department got specialists in two areas and of course because each pursued their own research, they got big bang in terms of recognition base on their work. (this was in a Research 1 University) The only hassle they had initially is that the school didn’t want to provide health insurance because each was ‘part time’. They did finally get that done. After a few years and after their babies were in school full time, they moved into separate tenured positions and retired after excellent careers this past year.

      It is not uncommon for teachers to share jobs when they want to work part time; I know several; they generally schedule their work so that they overlap in the classroom one day a week and have two days fully off.

      I would think a married couple who wanted to share a job would be a good bet and more reliable as they would back each other up if one were sick or had an appointment or whatever.

      1. Charlotte Collins

        After accidentally overhearing phone conversations some of my co-workers have had with their spouses, I’m not sure I could handle the stress of a married couple sharing one job. (Although it’s common for small business owners, which I see as different – and I worked for a couple once who were lovely people.)

    10. Fitz

      This reminds me of the It’s Always Sunny episode where Mac and Charlie apply to the warehouse job using the same resume (and I think it was a picture of Caitlyn (then Bruce) Jenner.
      Anytime anyone does something IRL that mirrors what they show on It’s Always Sunny, that person should take serious stock.

  7. mdv

    #3 – my job is actually IN transit, so I would like to encourage you to work your way through the management chain in your transit agency before jumping to government office, etc. Often, there is some issue that needs to be resolved that managers are not fully aware of.

    In general the ADA guidelines for paratransit service are fairly reasonable — federally funded transit systems MUST provide ADA service, but systems with no federal dollars technically do not. There is usually a “pick up window” that can be up to 15 minutes before and after the scheduled time, so a person needs to be ready, and aware of the vehicle, at least 15 minutes before the time. Also, if there is an issue with your specific schedule, know that the transit agency is allowed to negotiate a time up to an hour different, assuming you can still get to where you are going in a timely fashion.

    But the bottom line, from my transit perspective, is that you should not assume anything before calling in to ask what happened. And at a bare minimum, if this happened to you in my town, the best way to handle ANY complaint or scheduling issues is via phone, immediately, while the problem is happening!!!

    /soapbox

    1. Isabel

      What a great comment! I’m not the letter writer, but I appreciate the level of detail, insider’s perspective, and indication that there are likely people who want to know about and solve the issue. Hope the letter writer sends followup.

    2. AnnieNonymous

      This is one of those comments where the “behind the scenes” details are interesting and certainly helpful to know, but I don’t see why the OP owes it to the transit company to not go over their head. She needs to get to work, and the transit company would be crazy to expect a solid from her.

      I’m sorry if this seems harsh, but if I were in the OP’s position, there’s no way I’d do the transit company the favor of not getting them in trouble with the people in charge of paying/funding them. The transit company probably isn’t going to pay out OP’s lost wages, and this is the second time they’ve failed to provide service.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        I think starting with the transit company is a good first step, if the problem isn’t taken seriously or is not improved then it can be escalated to the responsible government office.

        1. Merry and Bright

          This would be the the logical thing to do, I agree. Though I guess she must have spoken to someone to know she was on the list for the return journey though it’s not too clear at the moment.

      2. Colette

        It’s not about doing them a favour, it’s about talking to the person who can help.

        Scenario 1: you call, say “hey, I need that ride to get to work”, they bump you up in priority, all is well.

        Scenario 2: you call, they say they can’t help, you can still escalate

        Scenario 3: you don’t call, but contact your elected official. They call you back, get more info, assign it to someone who calls the transit contact. The transit contact investiagtes internally. This all takes time – possibly weeks – and in the meantime you’ve missed work six times. The transit company can’t get you there retroactively, so they come back with a response – maybe it’s an apology, maybe it includes information on what to do if you can’t get a space, maybe it gives you booking information – but it doesn’t get you to work.

        I used to work in a high level of customer service, and I can tell you that I had a lot more sympathy for people who made an attempt to solve their problem through normal channels before escalating.

        1. Koko

          I could actually see this going the other way. It sounded like she had already had some sort of conversation with the front-line people at the disabled transit agency – she noted that they didn’t schedule her for the morning, but did schedule her for the afternoon, that they didn’t accommodate her.

          Yes, she could try asking for a supervisor and “working her way through the management chain” at the transit agency as mdv suggests, but every time she just escalates one level within the transit agency is more time wasted and for all she knows–especially if this isn’t an uncommon situation–the problems are systemic and not just one person on the front lines screwing up, which means that higher levels of management within the transit agency are going to be equally powerless to help her, and meanwhile she wastes hours talking to and days waiting to hear back from all these levels of management in the agency before finally resorting to the government office.

          With something this important – her safety and livelihood – I think it’s reasonable for her to skip those steps and jump directly to the government office with a more certain power to do something about it.

          1. Observer

            Still wrong. Because, the people at the agency are going to ask her if she’s escalated. And if she hasn’t they probably will ask her to do that. So, that winds up wasting time. And even if they don’t the “investigation” process (more like a foot dragging exercise, in many cases) is going to drag. On the other hand, if she calls the oversight agency and says something like:

            This happened on x/x/15 and on x/y/15. The next day I spoke to Supervisor XYZ who said blah, blah blah. I escalated to Team Lead CVF who told me yada, yada, yada, which was totally unhelpful. She refused to put me in contact with someone who could resolve the issue.

            You save time with the oversight agency, and they are more likely to have a more focused (and therefore useful to the caller) conversation with transit company.

            Also, you would also be surprised at how often just going one or two steps up can get stupid stuff like this resolved. If it works, it will CERTAINLY save the OP time and effort.

          2. mdv

            I do not mean “front line” people … I mean the supervisors and managers within the company. Paratransit is a BIG DEAL, and absolutely no one, in the company, agency, etc, wants anything to go wrong with it if at all possible.

        2. JMegan

          This is a great way of explaining it. Basically, the OP has two different problems: how to get to work *today,* and how to ensure she can reliably get to work in the future. They have a different time scale, different level of urgency, and will require different solutions.

          So she may need to use both Scenario 1 and Scenario 3 in order to get everything sorted. S1 gets her to work today, but she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to get there next week or next month; S3 makes sure she gets there every day once the investigation is done, but doesn’t get there today.

        1. Nashira

          This can be a hard thing to learn/do as a disabled person, especially if you’ve been disabled since you were a kid. I definitely spent a lot of time having to appease my gatekeeper parent in order to access the care I needed. Bad children didn’t deserve accommodation or care, in their world. *sigh*

          Making the jump to unashamed, unabashed self-advocacy is difficult but ultimately was worth it for me. It involved a lot of thinking “but if I’m not good they won’t help” and learning that that was wrong, especially when I was paying for a service. YMMV if there’s still a gatekeeper involved, of course.

          1. mdv

            Self advocacy does not have to mean getting elected officials involved on something that might be a technical glitch.

            1. Nashira

              Uh. I just meant that learning to speak up for yourself can be more difficult than it sounds, in this situation, so I can understand why the OP may not have done it as fully as people expect. Or why they may want to have “outside authority” to back them up when confronting a vital service provider. Understanding isn’t the same as responding “yes, lawyer up and call your elected reps.”

              I was trying to reinforce the idea of being empathetic.

          2. Not So NewReader

            omg. I am so sorry you had this experience with your parent. It sounds like abuse situation to me.

        2. Observer

          But that’s not really the point. The point is what will serve her interests the best in the long term. In most cases jumping directly to the funding agency is not necessarily the best move FOR HER. This is especially true if there is not a direct contract with an outside funding agency that has specific performance guarantees written into the contract. What’s more, it’s often true even if you are dealing with the agency that does have direct oversight authority.

      3. Brett

        “[T]he people in charge of paying/funding them”
        That’s probably _not_ an elected official since we are talking about paratransit and non-emergency transport.
        Elected officials can soapbox the issue and maybe try to pass more laws restricting the transit company, but odds are the company is either private or quasi-public (they are tax funded, but by a tax they solely control) and not relying on funding from another government agency. You might actually find elected officials reluctant to do this though, because it will shine the light back on the level of funding they provide to transit instead.
        e.g. Locally, our main transit company’s $260M+ budget is $200k state funds, $2.2M federal funds, $2.2M “Other”, $4M contracts, $5M operating revenue other than fares, $16M federal maintenance reimbursement, $233.3M fares and transit taxes.
        Losing the federal maintenance reimbursement would hurt, but none of the other government funding is at all critical. The vast majority of the company’s funding comes from their own fares and taxes that they control.
        And that’s just paratransit. If it is non-emergency transport, the company is probably a purely private contract company. You might be able to threaten their contracts (if they have competitors at all), but the elected official is going to have no direct nexus of control for them.

        1. Blurgle

          I wish we knew where she lived. Our Handi-Transit is an integral part of the municipal transit service…for better and for worse.

      4. LBK

        It’s not that she owes it to them, it’s that she may get better results by trying to go through the channels provided by the transit company first. It’s about what will work better – it may be something as simple as an error in the system on her scheduled pickup time that could take 30 seconds to fix if she calls customer service. That would make it a massive waste of time to go through local government first.

        It kind of reminds me of being in retail when people would call the corporate office to lodge complaints about my store. We always got a vague version of the story because the reps never knew what questions to ask and we’d waste a ton of time just trying to figure out what the issue even was; often they were things we could’ve sorted out easily if they had come into the store.

        1. Koko

          But it sounds like she already tried the 30-second call to customer service. She says, “They would not accommodate me.” Why are people assuming she just sat at her house waiting for a car that never came and never called anyone about it?

          1. Charlotte Collins

            I think that one of the issues is that many people don’t know what to do when they call a service/company/etc. with a reasonable request and are refused. That is definitely the time to escalate, but to get the best result, you sometimes need to go through certain steps. The next step is to ask to speak to a supervisor, then the OP should take it from there. (And based on the story, it’s possible she did do that.) I’d also recommend following up with a letter or email, going up the chain of command if necessary. Paper trails can help you get something resolved faster than you’d think. (This is separate from her letting her boss know what’s going on.)

            And if the para-transit company continues to be a problem, I might be tempted to contact a local paper or news station. In my community, issues like these are often highlighted in the local press, and it can help get a situation resolved as well as helping to improve processes. (And it really helps people who aren’t dealing with a similar situation understand the issues around it. Not everyone reads AAM.)

      5. Observer

        Well, actually, she does owe them the chance to correct the problem. Equally important, is that if talking directly to the agency works, it’s generally much more effective and quick to do that. In addition, you’ll get much better response out of the staff at the oversight agency or elected official’s office if you’ve gone through the system.

        1. Charlotte Collins

          When I was a CSR, if an issue needed to be resolved at a govt. level, I actually would tell callers to contact their congressperson. But I definitely appreciated the people who called and asked nicely what could be done. I’d bend over backwards to do what I could for them.

      6. Jaydee

        I guess it depends on the severity of the problem and what attempts at resolution have already been tried unsuccessfully. If this were the first time it happened, it would seem a bit disproportionate to go straight to contacting a government office without first making a direct complaint to the scheduler/dispatcher and then talking to their boss if the situation wasn’t resolved. On the other hand, if that’s all been done and the situation keeps happening, by all means go over their heads. I think the advice is not “do us a solid and don’t tattle” but “make sure we know there’s a problem and give us a chance to fix it first.”

      7. mdv

        I don’t think that I indicated the OP “owes” the transit agency anything.

        Going to government officials before even trying to resolve the issue is like calling the CEO to complain about one of the many issues that often get a “first talk to the person bothering you yourself before going to your manager” recommendation on this site.

        And then, if they can’t or won’t resolve it, go to the next person up!

        1. Ad Astra

          But these aren’t “government officials” in the sense of bureaucrats and politicians. They’re the case workers and advocates assigned to help the OP navigate situations like this. It’s not about getting the transit company in trouble, it’s about pulling in someone with the knowledge and connections to get things done. The transit company might or might not be able to fix their end of the problem, but the government agency can look for solutions that might be out of the transit company’s scope.

          1. mdv

            In the case of a missed trip, the only real thing a government agency can do is act as a spokesperson/middle man between the OP and the transit agency, and that is not really that helpful.

            I am one of two transit agencies in my town, we both contract with a single provider, and the phone number for city-wide customer service rings on my desk: one of the worst things for us in customer service is third-hand information!

            1. Ad Astra

              I wouldn’t expect a case manager or other advocate to only function as a middelman between the OP and the transit agency. I would expect that person to be looking into alternatives, like providing a backup driver from the agency or providing cab vouchers (if that makes sense, given the safety concerns), pulling on other resources, etc. If the case manager is just going to call the transit company for the OP, then yeah, I see a lot less value in that approach. Theoretically, though, case managers are responsible for helping this person live an independent life, while the transit company is tasked only with driving.

    3. Mimmy

      There is usually a “pick up window” that can be up to 15 minutes before and after the scheduled time,

      Is that just in your state, or is that the maximum under ADA? The window with my paratransit service is 20 minutes on either side of the pickup time.

      1. mdv

        There is a maximum set forth in the federal law, but I will have to look it up [……………….] well, I can’t find the reg as quickly as I’d like, but I called someone else, and we both are fairly certain that the federal regs allow for a “30 minute window”, in whatever combo the agency prefers.

    4. Ad Astra

      I guess we don’t know for sure, but it sounds to me like the OP did contact the transit agency when they didn’t show up, and that’s how she learned that they hadn’t scheduled a ride to work for her.

  8. Ann Furthermore

    #4: I can see it being weird either way. If the OP does identify herself as the applicant’s neighbor, then there could be the weirdness or additional nervousness. But if the OP didn’t mention it, and the applicant figured it out on her own, then she might wonder why the OP didn’t say anything, if she had some sort of ulterior motive, if there was something shady going on, etc.

    Like Alison, this might just be me…I am a worrier and I have a terrible tendency to way over think things.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger

      Yeah, I think I’d lean toward identifying yourself if you’re at least good enough acquaintances to know each others’ names. It could be possible that you could look at someone’s resume and not notice their address is near yours, but if you recognize the name, I think pretending you don’t is weird.

      I am kind of bad with faces and voices, and when I see people out of their regular context I feel very awkward until they obviously recognize me, too. Until then, I second-guess myself and worry that maybe it’s not really the person I think it is. If I were the applicant and *thought* I recognized my interviewer’s voice as being my neighbor’s, I’d proceed to spend the rest of the interview wondering whether a) I’m crazy, and its not her, b) it is her, and I’ve been so forgettable in person that she doesn’t recognize me, or c) it’s her, she recognizes me, but is pretending she doesn’t for unknown reasons.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah, if they know each other’s names, then the jig is up. But if the OP just recognizes the address and realizes “oh, that’s the woman who waves at me while she’s gardening in front of the big blue house,” then there’s plausible deniability and I’d stay quiet and pretend I hadn’t noticed.

    2. Hornswoggler

      I agree with Ann Furthermore (great name!). I once had a meeting (not an interview, but a sort of get-to-know-you-maybe-work-together meeting with me and another colleague) lined up with a lady called Jane Smith (not her real name, but her real name was similarly very common). I knew she was a friend of my step-son’s, as did she, but thought we hadn’t met. It was only when I walked into the room and she gave a gasp and blurted out the name of my twin sister that I realised she was the Jane Smith that had once roomed with my twin while at University. This weirded us both out, but it was much worse for her. I’d only met her once, but of course she was really close to my twin for a whole year. We never did end up working together and I think it’s because it was a Too Weird.

      Obviously I wasn’t able to do a full disclosure in this case, due to a paucity of advance information, but it certainly made me feel that your neighbour would prefer a heads-up.

    3. SquirrelInMT

      I have had neighbors and mutual connections apply–it’s pretty common in small towns and rural areas. For me, it’s a judgment call, and I tend to follow the applicant’s lead. If they were referred by someone I know, or list a mutual connection as a reference, I think that’s fair game. I would generally find it off-putting as a candidate if an interviewer announced out of the blue that they knew my mom or that they lived just down the road from me, but it feels different when the candidate is the one given the opportunity to volunteer such personal details. It falls into a candidate privacy category for me: If the candidate is openly comfortable discussing family, lifestyle, neighborhood, etc., that’s fine, but I’m going to allow that person to decide what s/he feels comfortable sharing about his/her private life.

  9. Chocolate Teapot

    4. If there is an in-person interview, then “Oh, I think we might be neighbours” could come up during the small talk part. (i.e. when you are being collected from reception and walking to the interview room).

    1. Spiky Plant

      My rule of thumb: if you’d know them by name alone, bring it up. If it’s mostly the address, and you can narrow down who it is by that but you wouldn’t know their name without the address, don’t worry about it. Address is an easy thing to not notice, but a name is something you’d definitely see (so if they bring it up, you can say “Oh, yeah! We are totally neighbors, I didn’t even notice that!” which is harder to say about names)

      1. Chronic Snacker

        Agreed, I was helping a new hire with their paperwork once since we didn’t have a formal HR. I was checking over the documents and realized they lived like 5 apartments down from me, you can imagine the surprise! I didn’t say anything ,but the only awkwardness was when I printed something out for them and I input my apartment instead of theirs. I was in autotype mode it seems.

  10. Brightwanderer

    OP1: given the conversation you overheard, I would hazard a guess that what happened was temp said to student worker “Oh hey, you know you can save your lunch break to leave early?” and student worker said “oh, great! I’ll do that tomorrow!”.

    Then afterwards, she goes back to temp and says “apparently I’m not allowed to do that”, and temp is all “wait, what? but people do that here!” and neither of them realises that the problem isn’t the action but the context.

    1. KT

      That was my impression. For many companies, the lunch break is pretty flexible–you can take it and come in an hour late, leave early of you skip your lunch, etc. Every company is different and she should have talked to the OP first, but I don’t find this egregious or worthy of questioning her enthusiasm/dedication.

    2. Ad Astra

      That sounds dead on to me. If the OP doesn’t notice a pattern of complaining, this part of the problem may turn out to be a non-issue.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Exactly my thoughts.

      OP, go carefully here. It may have seemed like complaining but are you absolutely sure? When I was new to the work force, I would ask questions. Sometimes it came out in a tone of voice along the lines of “what the heck!??” But it was just a question. Additionally, both the person I was talking with and I would instantly shut down if the boss came around. Because the boss could totally misunderstand the conversation and it would turn into a big deal.

      Yes, my tone of voice was not appropriate, but I meant nothing by it. I was just asking a question and my frustration, from lack of understanding, was shining through. Yes, I got in trouble a couple times. I learned not to ask questions or ask for further information. Please tread carefully here.

      You do have the option of telling the other employee to help this person acclimate to the workplace by teaching/explaining. I think that is the stronger route to go. Ordering people to stop talking negatively, ironically, can create a negative workplace. People will talk, that is what people do. Better to offer examples and how to’s than to try to stifle conversation.

  11. Dangerous?

    #3 – how is taking a cab dangerous? I can understand how it is inconvenient and expensive, but not any more so than for the rest of us who may have car breakdowns or deal with public transit in all its glory and flaws to get to work.

    1. KT

      Being disabled puts an extra layer. They may have physical difficulty getting in and out, and if their disability limits their mobility, may make them more nervous dealing with strangers. Dealing with an unknown cab driver can certainly give them anxiety, as they are literally at their mercy, whereas they have familiarity with a disability agency driver who they likely see every day and who has been vetted by the agency.

    2. Claire (Scotland)

      For someone with cerebral palsy, a cab may not provide adequate seatbelts to allow for the muscular contractions they can experience safely. It may not be able to correctly fit their wheelchair, if they use one. If the cab driver is unfamiliar with the operation of the wheelchair, they may not be able to safely assist the user in accessing the vehicle. And so on.

      People with disabilities can find that there are all sorts of safety and accessibility issues with such things.

    3. Apollo Warbucks

      For people with limited mobility getting in and out of a standard vehicle can be a challenge, untrained drivers might not have the necessary skill or patience to help or assist a disabled person, compared to a specially adapted vehicle with a driver who regularly transports disabled people. I can see why someone would rather use the service that has been developed with their very particular needs in mind.

      As an aside I travel to another near by city by train for work occasionally and call a taxi to get to the station, some of the drivers are incredibly rushed and busy, if I book a ride for 07:10 they’ll turn up at 07:00 and start calling me or knocking on my door because they are paid per job and it’s there busiest time of day they don’t want to sit around waiting because time is money. It annoys me and I’m young and able bodied if I wasn’t mobile or able to rush I can imagine it being a hassle for people with disabilities.

    4. Former Diet Coke Addict

      Some people with cerebral palsy have issues with spasticity and/or muscle problems that can make riding in a regular (non-disabled-modified) vehicle far more dangerous than for the rest of us. I think we can trust that the OP has better knowledge of her own situation than the rest of us do.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I think just total unfamiliarity with these issues, so it’s good that people are asking and getting educated. (This has been educational for me too.) But yes, it would be good to ask rather than being disbelieving.

          1. Mimmy

            It’s been educational for me as well, and I’m actively involved in the disability field! I didn’t realize standard cars can be difficult with people with certain mobility disabilities.

            1. Chinook

              “It’s been educational for me as well, and I’m actively involved in the disability field! I didn’t realize standard cars can be difficult with people with certain mobility disabilities.”

              One taxi agency start-up where my grandmother lived figured this out and bought PT Cruisers to use because they were targeting seniors. My grandmother totally loved “Driving Miss Daisy” because she wasn’t very mobile (but not enough to qualify for paratranspo) and they had cars that were easy to get in and out of and they always brought her groceries to her door or made sure she got in before they left (as well as booked the return trip with the passenger they dropped off at the the time of pick up). If she had to call a regular cab service, she would make a special request for a mini-van because she couldn’t leverage herself out of a “regular” car seat.

              1. LCL

                Loved, loved, loved my PT Cruiser. Low to the ground with 4 big doors so easy for the dog or my mom to get in and out of, the back seat was split so you could have one side or the other side down, the back seats flipped out of the way towards the front leaving a large FLAT cargo box with a huge back door. I cried when I sold that car. The downside, of course, is the engines were crap and I sold mine after wearing out the engine (and telling the truth to the buyer re mileage, oil use, etc.)

          2. Almond Milk Latte

            I *do* think it’s helpful that so many commenters aren’t immediately latching on to the impossibility of cabs, because it brings to light the fact that OP’s boss is probably thinking the same thing. Knowing this, she can explain to the boss that cabbing it is out of the realm of possibility.

            1. Meg Murry

              Yes, I was coming to say the same thing. I wouldn’t have thought about how much of a problem taking a cab could be (other than the general “well, I guess a wheelchair wouldn’t fit in a standard cab”), so OP, please plan to explain it to your boss in specific detail like others have done here “If the transit doesn’t come, I can’t just call a cab because X,Y,Z could happen” and especially spell out things that have happened (you were hurt, wheelchair was damaged, whatever), so the boss gets that this is just some theoretical, but an actual risk you would take in a cab and how it isn’t worth it. Or if the issue is just that you can’t afford to take a cab because that would cost half your day’s pay, I think that is a valid point too, although I think the safety factor would be higher on my list.

              On the other hand, is there a Plan B you could come up with besides the transit service that isn’t a cab? A family member or friend that you trust that could drive you on very rare occasions? Also, how far in advance do you/did you find out you weren’t on the schedule? Just when the transit didn’t show up at its normal time?

              1. Tau

                I’m uncomfortable with the idea of saying the OP ought to share details of private medical information like that. I get that the boss may assume that cabs are okay, but surely something like “There are some complications to do with my disability that mean taking a cab isn’t safe for me” should cover it without getting into the nitty-gritty details.

          1. AW

            Cabs *are* unsafe generally in the city I used to live in. People getting harassed, robbed, and assaulted by cab drivers (and folks pretending to be cab drivers) happened regularly. My brain went straight to, “OP’s disability would make it harder for them to defend themselves if the driver turned out to be shady” before I thought of something like mobility issues.

      1. Not me

        I think we can trust that the OP has better knowledge of her own situation than the rest of us do.

        +1

        We don’t really need to know what the problem with a cab would be, let’s just go with what OP gave us.

        1. Blurgle

          It’s so common for people to assume that any health condition they don’t personally suffer from is exaggerated, fake, or neurotic.

          Fifty years ago MS was often dismissed as a neurotic issue.

          1. Yeah...

            Well, I think it’s more that we all function in the same world. Calling a cab or an uber or whatever is inconvenient for everybody who usually takes the bus or subway to work. It’s certainly not my first choice. But I’m expected to be there so I make it happen.

            1. Laura

              Well, that’s great for someone who’s able to do that. There are areas that don’t have access to Uber or cabs.

              BUT we don’t all function in the same world. Or function in the same way. This is not merely a matter of inconvenience. I have to go through several steps to ensure I can make it to work. It’s not a matter of willing to take another option, believe me, if there were, I’d take it or at the very least keep it in my toolbox. I don’t have a first choice, I have plan A and maybe if I’m lucky, I have a back up plan. Beyond that, it’s not that simple.

              1. Yeah...

                I assume any area with access to specific disabled transportation programs also has pretty good abilities to tap the private transit network as well.

                You’re missing my point, which is fine, that we do all function in the same world. I digress.

            2. aebhel

              You’re missing the huge, gaping distinction between ‘inconvenient’ and ‘impossible or at least extremely dangerous.’

              I don’t like climbing three flights of stairs to get to my office because my building doesn’t have an elevator, but my legs work, so I do it. If I were to tell someone with impaired mobility that they just need to suck it up and climb the stairs because I don’t like it either but life is full of inconveniences…can you see how completely unreasonable that is?

              Something that is an annoying inconvenience for an able-bodied person can be an impossibility for someone with a disability. That’s why we have disability transport services–because people who are physically disabled have less options for safe transport than able-bodied people. I find it really depressing that people don’t seem to grasp that.

    5. misspiggy

      Well, to take the example of my disability, a driver who doesn’t know me would be likely to drive over speedbumps and around corners quite fast. That would dislocate my hips and/or shoulders, which hurts a great deal and causes muscle spasms which leave me unable to do much once I get to work. And I’m not a even a wheelchair user, certainly not considered disabled enough to claim any support. There are so many conditions with so many consequences that it’s important to believe people with disabilities when they tell you that something is unsafe for them.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Oh, perfect, this is what I wanted to add, also. When my husband was in his final illness he had zero tolerance for being jostled around in a vehicle. I had to drive with extreme care, as bumps, dips, curves, etc, caused him to shift in his seat which drove his pain levels over the top. In his weaker state, he was not able to hold himself in position the way a healthy person would, this meant that even a little bump/dip/curve could be come a problem. There is no way in H that I would have let anyone transport him if they did not understand this.

  12. Retail Lifer

    #5 Our work week here goes from Saturday to Friday. Because of events and more customer traffic, we often get stuck here for more hours than originally intended on the weekends and it’s easier for the hourly staff to shave off hours during the week so as to avoid overtime (it’s pretty much forbidden). I have had some friends who worked for companies that insisted overtime only counted if you worked more than 80 hours in a 2-week pay period, though. There are a decent amount of smaller employers who try to get away with this, but definitely make sure you know what day your pay period starts.

    1. LeRainDrop

      Right, Allison’s response to #5 was spot-on. From the U.S. Department of Labor, “Also, an employer must establish a workweek (7 consecutive 24-hour periods) and must pay overtime when hours worked exceed 40 in the workweek. The practice of paying overtime only after 80 hours in a bi-weekly pay period is illegal since each workweek must stand alone.” Learn more at http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime_pay.htm

  13. Sunshine Brite

    OP3: Hopefully as a disability agency, your employer will be understanding. These problems happen all. the. time. with the transit company in my area too. If I’m remembering right they can come anytime in an hour range where I’m at. If the range is that big where you’re at then you might need to do an earlier pick-up time and confirm your schedule each week.

    I used to work in a group home and it was awful those days I’d help with mornings and then the ride wouldn’t come. Fine on the days that I didn’t have anything going on, horrid for those that I did. Another thing could be the driver giving too much leeway to another rider and taking too much time on an earlier pickup that may be a problematic one. Some of those transit drivers were the best and others I questioned a lot.

  14. ConstructionHR

    #5 Although the employer can establish the work week any way they want, they cannot routinely change the week to avoid paying overtime.

    We had a client who mandated a workweek change on one project. When we changed it back to our normal schedule, upon the advice of our employment attorney, we back-calculated all the affected workers’ pay to ensure we were in compliance.

  15. Laura

    Re #3:

    I have fortunately not had the same problem as OP. But being in a similar circumstance with Spastic CP and a part time retail job, I’d like to offer something I think you are missing.

    This is the only paratransit service in OP’s area. There is no alternative in the same category, expenses aside. There’s only so much that can be done. And I know that when the dispatchers don’t do their job correctly, it leads to a bit of anxiety.

    I second everyone who has said communicate with your employer. That’s key here.

    I’m dealing with my own issues right now with mine due to a possible drivers shortage. Not really much we can do, because there aren’t many options.

    1. Mimmy

      Ditto to this. I take paratransit sometimes, and the scheduling has gone way downhill in the last few years. I missed an entire meeting earlier this year because they made a stop in the OPPOSITE direction of where I was going. That’s the other thing – these are typically “shared” rides, which I’ve long accepted, even when their schedule makes zero sense. I find that complaints fall on deaf ears, so I just have to plan appropriately and hope for the best.

      Also: while many passengers do have “subscription” rides–that is, being a regular on the schedule without having to book each time–they still have to make the schedule each day. After awhile, I have seen it be somewhat consistent, but there are still times where the vehicle is late or has to make different stops.

      1. mdv

        This is a crazy problem to have — but that makes it sound like they’re planning these rides “old school” — not using the $10K software that bigger agencies can use which takes location into account when making the trip sheets. I’m so sorry this happened to you!

        1. Mimmy

          Thank you, it was h-e-double-hockey-sticks. And it was on one of the coldest days of the year in New Jersey. What should’ve been maybe 90 minutes, 2 hours tops, turned into 3.5 hours!! Everyone at the meeting felt so bad for me when I FINALLY walked in the door.

  16. scmill

    #1 – since the end of the day is a good time to check in and debrief

    Are you keeping people overtime to do this?

    1. Kelly L.

      I didn’t read that as “after the day” but during the tail end of the day–say, at 4:45-5:00, not 5:00-5:15. But I could be reading it wrong.

      1. fposte

        That’s how I read it too; that’s why checking out an hour early is a problem. I don’t see any reason to think people are being kept late.

      2. Rita

        I also got that impression. At my Old Job I met with my boss at 4:30pm (craziness and other meetings permitted) for a “end of day” 10 minute wrap up meeting.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      It sounds like she is doing this in the last half hour of the workday, and that OP had stopped working 30 minutes early since she had not taken her lunch earlier.

  17. Marissa

    #1 – I honestly wouldn’t read too much into the diversion of the break OR the complaining. When I started at my first job, I misguidedly assumed I could leave the office when I was finished everything I was given to do. My office was small and a lot of people worked different hours from the regular 9-5, which I was not aware of at the time (I thought people were leaving when they felt like it!). I got reprimanded for attempting it and was made aware of the office policies and, subsequently, didn’t leave early. BUT, at the time, I felt it was really unfair. I was coming straight out of University and was not used to sticking out an entire work day. Also, since I was new, once I had finished my work for day, there really wasn’t all that much to do. I wasn’t client-facing and didn’t answer the phones, so I was really bored and thought that if I was going to diddle around on my computer all day, it might as well have been in the comfort of my apartment.

    Sooo, I wouldn’t be too hard on this person.

    1. Stranger than fiction

      I don’t think it’s being “hard” on them to address the negative attitude surrounding the break issue, though. My first thought was that a Temp and a Student is not a recipe for commitment. This also doesn’t speak well for the stereotype about young people acting entitled. (yeah, I know I know, I said it) I’m thinking the Op, after speaking with both of them about the office policy and their negative attitude, should really look into hiring at least one, full-time, permanent employee so they get a more committed, professional worker. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but that’s just the impression I’m getting.

  18. christine j

    Interesting to see how many people have very little notion of the consistent unreliableness of paratransit in many north american municipalities. I know what OP#3 is describing here is pretty standard for Toronto’s paratransit system, and in many cases there are long histories of “asking what can be done” to ensure reliability of service, as well as advocacy to government, with very little success. This is just one of the structural barriers to employment that people with disabilities face every day.
    I would speak to your employer, explaining this as a structural barrier you face as a person with a disability, and talking about what they can do to accommodate you, knowing that this will arise in the future. You might want to involve the disability agency in this meeting (eg meet with your manager but have your agency on the phone). Let your employer know what they need to do to support you in this situation. If a cab is a safe option for you, you could ask if they would be willing to assist you with the cost of cabs when paratransit fails you. If a paratransit breakdown makes it impossible for you to go to work, make sure they understand that you may occasionally have to cancel a day of work for this reason at the last minute. They probably won’t be able to pay you for the days you miss for this reason, but maybe they could waive some procedures to accommodate you (eg if they have a policy to dismiss anyone who has more than 5 absences without adequate advance notice, they could waive that policy for you).
    The fact that they are working with the disability agency suggests that your employer is interested in having a more diverse workforce that includes people with disabilities, and they do need to understand that accommodating people with disabilities often comes with some extra expenses and responsibilities. There are studies that show that these accommodations actually make really good sense from a business perspective. For one thing, when a person with a disability finds a workplace that is willing to work with them and accommodate them as needed, they often have much more long-term loyalty to their workplace than a person without a disability. This is especially relevant at a workplace like a call centre, as those tend to have very high turnover rates. You may want to reference this as you advocate for yourself. Good luck!

    1. Dan

      While I agree with your advice in theory, in practice, the reality may very well be “showing up on time is an essential part of the job, and allowing you absences in excess of the policy is an unreasonable accommodation. Find a way to get to work on time.”

      In the US, so many employers at low wage jobs have a huge emphasis on attendance. They go so far as to ask, “do you have reliable transportation to get to work?” In some areas, that’s even slang for, “You must own your own car, because we don’t consider the bus to be reliable.”

      I’m actually sympathetic to the OP, but showing up to work is such an essential part of the job, that it deserves a conversation in its own right.

      1. BananaPants

        I agree with you here. I really hope OP3’s employer is understanding and accommodating, especially since they work with a disability services agency. This is why she needs to be proactive with her manager in explaining why she didn’t go to work; they may cut her more slack than an able-bodied person.

        On a broader scale, most US employers in the low wage/low skill workforce have a strong focus on attendance and punctuality. They can get away with it because if they have to fire people, they can always find new employees (especially since the Great Recession). It doesn’t matter to them if the employee is late or doesn’t go to work because of a blizzard, or because of a transportation issue, or because of a sick child needing to go to the doctor. It’s wrong, but it’s reality.

    2. Chinook

      I don’t know how cab licenses work in the US, but in Canada, some large towns and cities have specialty cab services for seniors (“Driving Miss Daisy” is a common name) which include having vehicles better suited for those with mobility issues. While it may not help the OP because she requires specific types of harnessing in, it might be an option for others who are looking for safe, reliable transportation (and have a budget that can cover it) because these drivers expect to be dealing with those with disabilities instead of runs to the airport or ferrying business people.

      I should add that these aren’t Uber-type services but legit taxi services with licenses from the city with the various oversights and insurance coverage in place.

  19. Katie the Fed

    My physical therapist has had several student workers and since I spend most of my free time in physical therapy I’ve seen a lot of issues like this. My PT had to spell out things for her student workers like “it’s not ok to take naps at the front desk. It’s not ok to play on your cell phone. It’s not ok to wear short shorts.” and so on…

    Do you have an employee handbook that you give student workers and temps? If not, I suggest you make one. With younger and newer employees you can’t assume they know the norms and rules of the business world. Go over this stuff in painstaking detail in their first week. Lay out the shifts and expectations. How and when to notify if they’re not going to be in. Dress code. Etc.

    1. Wolfman's Brother

      exactly this. I oversee multiple student workers and for many of them this is their first job. My first year supervising students I always assumed they knew what proper office expectations were regarding leave or dress. I quickly realized that wasn’t the case. Now during the interview and then during their first few hours on the job I give them instructions for calling in sick, dress code, workplace expectations, etc. My students are not mind readers and I realize I can’t expect them to know the rules or even the norms if I don’t teach them myself.

    2. Lia

      This is such good advice. I used to supervise student workers and I spent a lot of time with the newest ones, who often had little or no office experience, in providing information about office culture, expectations, and the like. I never made a handbook, but I should have!

      Dress code was the biggest one, along with “calling 5 minutes before your shift starts and saying you’ll come in tomorrow instead isn’t OK”.

    3. Ad Astra

      Even student workers who have some idea of professional norms may be unclear about what does and doesn’t apply to them as a student worker. Is the dress code business casual, or is it relaxed to smart casual for students who are coming directly from class? Student work schedules are supposed to be flexible, but how flexible? Is it ok to play with your cellphone when you have downtime? Is studying for a midterm a good enough reason to call out? Is it ok to do homework at your desk?

      The answers to these questions were all different for my college friends who worked in different offices on campus. The stuff that seems obvious to a seasoned professional isn’t even always standard throughout an organization.

      1. fposte

        This is very well stated. I have student staff that self-schedule and student staff that have to be in on the dot; student staff with professional clothing expectations and student staff who I basically just don’t want to be visually offended by. I can’t forestall every area of confusion, but I can’t just expect them to pick it up from looking around, because the cues are really confusing.

      2. Marissa

        I think you’re on the money about the lack of standardization. In my office, even though we are all salaried, it is encouraged you treat your work week as 40 hours. This means that if you stay late for 1 hour on Friday, it is fine (and even encouraged) if you come in 1 hour later the next Monday morning. It is totally reasonable for me to work through my lunch and leave at 4 instead of 5. This would not shock my boss, although she would appreciate a heads-up. If this practice is not acceptable for the OP’s line of work, that’s totally understandable; but, she should not be jumping to “question the student’s level of motivation and enthusiasm for the position” because that’s blowing things a little out of proportion. Explain to the student calmly how things work at that particular company and only start to question things if she does not take direction.

      3. Arielle

        Agreed. When I was in grad school, I showed up to the second day of my graduate assistantship in jeans and had to be pulled aside and told it wasn’t appropriate for the office. It just hadn’t occurred to me that the boss saw me as a staff member, rather than a student, and held me to the same dress code as his regular staff.

  20. LawBee

    Re #1 – student workers also often don’t realize that their job matters. Same with some temps (depending on the temp employee, of course. Many are wonderful.) A gentle reminder that, yes – you were hired for a reason and your job is important even though it seems small would probably help the student worker a lot.

    And I think the temp needs a quick chat as well. she’s not #1’s employee, but she still needs to be professional.

  21. Mimmy

    I just want to say how pleased I am to see such a great discussion regarding OP #3’s letter. I am actively involved in the disability field, and transportation is a HUGE issue for people with disabilities, and a real barrier to employment and other community opportunities. I take paratransit sometimes, and I’ve learned how to make it work in the nearly 20 years I’ve used it, but it can definitely be unreliable too.

    At this point, I suggest keeping an open dialogue with your employer and continue to work with the paratransit service. Are you on a set schedule, or do you have to book your ride every time? With my service, after (I believe) 30 days, I can ask to be put on “subscription” status. You tell them the time and days you need to be picked up on a regular basis. Once a slot opens up (they have to maintain a certain balance of “demand” vs. “subscription” trips), I get on the schedule. I find that it can help in getting picked up at a relatively consistent time.

    1. Katie the Fed

      Yes – this is great discussion!

      When I was returning to work after my accident, the biggest barrier was transportation because I was in a wheelchair and couldn’t figure out how to make it work for a while.

      1. Mimmy

        Good point. Now you’ve got me wondering if there are provisions for those with temporary disabilities, such as was your case. Doesn’t sound like there’s much though, which is a shame. I can imagine how frustrating it was.

        1. fposte

          When I tried to get a temporary disabled parking pass after my surgery, it was a mess–the information on the website wasn’t correct, so I had to go back and get different paperwork, and then they finally noted that I couldn’t get it in my current lot anyway–they could only get me disabled parking in a building I’d have to walk several additional blocks from. Which kind of undermined the point.

          1. Charlotte Collins

            Unfortunately, this differs wildly from state to state and municipality to municipality. When I broke my foot, my company offered for me to use disabled parking, but I turned it down, because I wasn’t using my crutches and could walk fine for short distances with the boot. On the other hand, when it snowed and I had to take the bus, I was very appreciative of the bus drivers and the places that were sensitive to mobility issues. And it annoyed the heck out of me when I had to climb over snowbanks on the sidewalks. I don’t have to shovel sidewalks, but I vowed to myself if I ever did, they’d be spotless and clear enough for crutches, wheelchairs, scooters, whatever!

            1. I'm a Little Teapot

              Last winter I helped a man with a wheelchair get unstuck from the snow on the sidewalk at a T stop – and that was just at the beginning of the snow. Once it got really bad, I can’t imagine that anyone with mobility limitations was able to get anywhere in Boston.

              1. Mimmy

                Or anyone in upstate New York when they had that one storm (lake-effect snow) that dumped 7 FEET in one day (or two?)!

  22. mel

    1. Oh man, I had coworkers who would do this daily, and it was inconvenient to pretty much everyone. They’d have ongoing work that has to be covered, where mine was a finite list of duties. What annoyed me was finishing up early, getting ready to leave and then so-&-so goes “but I neeeeeeed you to cover my break!”.
    But then he refuses to go on break. So I guess I’m supposed to stand there for 30mins to an hour doing nothing, waiting for his break? Yeah okay. No.
    The thing is, their dumb habit had gone on for so long that it turned into an entitlement. Nip that early.

  23. HRish Dude

    I don’t think #1 is as big a deal as it seems.

    Student workers generally don’t know EVERYTHING about how the work place works…such as the 1 hour you get off per day does not mean you get to come in an hour late or leave an hour early if you feel like it. Just set up some guidelines about what time of day lunch can be taken and make that that.

  24. JoJo

    LW#: Tell your student that it is not acceptable for her to alter her hours without your express permission, and get a new temp.

    1. Zillah

      This seems like a bit of an overreaction, given that the only behavior the OP is reporting is that the temp was surprised the OP told the student worker not to save her lunch for the end of the day. A quick check-in would probably be sufficient – there’s no need to get trigger happy and ask for a new temp.

  25. Denise

    By the way, there is a video ad on this site that is making it impossible to read the page. It is constantly scrolling the page back to the ad to keep it in view.
    It’s the one right above the category listing.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m so sorry about this! I’m working with my ad network to try to get them stopped; auto-play ads are supposed to be turned off entirely on this site, but unscrupulous advertisers have found ways to send them through anyway.

      Unfortunately, the only way for me to get these tracked down and stopped is if you’re able to send me the URL it links to. If you see any of them again and can do that, I’d really appreciate it!

      1. William

        I found the URL and sent it to your regular email address for questions. I hope you can do something – for a couple weeks, I was pretty much unable to read this website.

  26. AnnieNonymous

    Some late thoughts on #1:
    Was the OP ever told that she would be training this student worker? Because a lot of businesses take on these sorts of students/interns because it makes them look good to the larger community, but they sort of push the teaching burden off on someone who already has a full plate.

    OP1 isn’t wrong to approach this student as if she were a normal entry-level employee; she (and the rest of the staff) should have been told outright that the student would require special training and that she’s there expressly as a learning experience. Upper management doesn’t always realize what’s going on when they assign these types of employees to whichever department. They think they’re getting a new employee, but the school (and the student) approaches the assignment as an educational experience.

  27. Doreen

    About the paratransit- I want to emphasize that I am not disputing the OP about his/her ability to safely ride in a cab. But people who can safely ride in a cab are not excluded from paratransit. It’s not meant for people who can’t ride in cars, it’s meant for those who can’t used fixed route transit. So even if you can ride in a car, you may be eligible because you can’t walk 4 blocks to the bus stop, or stand for 20 minutes to wait for the bus , or manage the steps to enter the bus.

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