claiming reimbursements for fake expenses, rude interviewers, and more

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

1. Coworker is claiming reimbursements for fake expenses

I recently was hired by a touring theater company. It fit in with my 9-5 job (I have lots of flexibility), so I took it. The pay for being a non-professional show is FANTASTIC, and they reimburse us for gas to and from rehearsals and performances, which is pretty unusual. The cast is four of us, and two of us (including me) have cars. This means that there is quite a bit of carpooling, because the cast is responsible for getting to shows that don’t require overnight stays (for overnight stays there is bus transportation). The other cast member with a car and I split the driving in half.

I don’t really need the money that comes from this gig. It’s definitely a plus, but I accepted the job because I love performing and traveling. I also know that they are nonprofit, and are not exactly rolling in dough. I’m very surprised that they’re able to pay us as well as they are. I decided early on that I was only going to be requesting reimbursement for trips that were 50+ miles, both with their expenses in mind and my own sanity. Theres a lot of driving, and with two jobs I don’t have the time to calculate all that. I don’t know how the other driver is calculating his miles, because its not really my business.

However, one of the cast members without a car, Fergus, found out and is really upset! He doesn’t understand that reimbursement is not “extra money,” but for wear and tear, gas, and maintenance of the car. It’s not a bonus. This gig is his only income, and he is openly resenting me for taking the opportunity to get extra money from him, even though he doesn’t have a car! The company doesn’t monitor who is actually doing the driving, and I have heard, through the other cast member without a car, that Fergus is planning on trying to get reimbursement for the miles I didn’t request already! I confronted Fergus, and he said that by me not requesting reimbursement, the money was up for grabs. Not only is this super unethical, but frankly, it’s just stupid. Fergus has also been doing funny things with the daily food per diem we are given. We pay up front and turn in receipts. He’ll bring his own food, then I’ve actually seen him scrounge around for other peoples receipts in the garbage or approach strangers and up front ask for theirs! One time whenwe were performing at a casino Fergus spent all his allotted per diem on slot machines, and altered a receipt to get re-imbursed for it!

This is Fergus’ first gig of this nature after graduating college and I don’t want to ruin his reputation, because gigs like this are few and far between. Should I confront him again? How do I let the woman in charge of paychecks know about this? Am I wrong to not request reimbursement? Should I let it go and let Fergus request the money? We don’t have an on site stage manager or director who would be able to help; everyone is only available via email.

Wow. Fergus is basically stealing from your employer. As you note, mileage reimbursements are to cover the driver’s expenses (the gas and wear and tear on a car); it’s not money that’s just hanging around for anyone to grab. And getting receipts from strangers or out of the trash and turning them in as if they’re his own for reimbursement?! That’s even further over the line; it’s deliberate and outright fraud.

Because he’s young, you could do him the favor of giving him one clear warning: “Fergus, you might not realize it, but what you’re doing is fraudulent. It could get you fired. And I could get fired for knowing about it and not saying anything. So you need to stop, or I’m going to have to tell (manager) what’s going on.”

And then if you see that it’s continuing, do tell someone in authority. It doesn’t matter that they’re not on-site; email is perfectly fine for this, or you can ask if you can give them a call about something sensitive if you’re more comfortable than that. But this is theft, and you should speak up.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Telling a recruiter about a rude interviewer

I’ve been in the late stages of interviewing for two roles at a large international company that I’ll call MegaTech. Today I had my final three interviews of six. All went fine until the last interview. This very senior interviewer, who was supposed to be testing my leadership skills, instead decided to test how well I do arithmetic under pressure (quite well – I’m an experienced analyst!). He had a very strong accent so sometimes I couldn’t understand what he said, and he seemed angry when I asked him to repeat. At one stage he said, What if x goes up,” then later insisted that he’d said “What if x goes down?” He didn’t give me enough time to write everything down as he was saying it but would be upset and condescending if 5 minutes later I couldn’t remember a certain figure. I got a bit flustered at his hostility so was probably less competent than usual, but kept it together. I felt like ending the video conference but continued on.

The second question he asked me went slightly better, but the final answer was a feature that MegaTech has never announced to the world. I would have no way of knowing about it. All the while he was looking at his phone or away from the screen, and I had the distinct feeling he didn’t want to be there. It was the worst interview I’ve ever had.

Since this is someone I’d be working quite closely with in either role, I’m withdrawing from the application process. The location/salary weren’t ideal anyway but working with people who make me cry is where I draw the line. My question is whether or not I should tell the recruiter what happened – she’s very curious but I don’t have any investment in the outcome, as I’m sure they’re not going to censure one of their directors over a bad interview. And did I do the wrong thing by withdrawing? MegaTech is supposed to have a fantastic culture but one bad apple would be enough to make it hard to go to work every day.

Nope, you didn’t do anything wrong by withdrawing; part of the point of interviewing is for you to assess whether this is a job and coworkers you’d want. If this is someone you’d be working closely with, it’s reasonable to decide you’d rather not.

I don’t think you have anything to lose by telling the recruiter, as long as you do it politely and professionally, and it’ll probably be satisfying. On the other hand, you don’t have an obligation to help them improve their hiring process, and if you’d rather not, you’re perfectly entitled to say something like, “I didn’t think I’d click well with one of the people I’d be working closely with” or even nothing at all. (If it’s a recruiter you plan to work with in the future, though, giving some feedback is a good idea so that you don’t come across as uncommunicative.)

3. Employee is being very cagey with his flu shot form

This year our company is offering free flu shots to our employees, as most companies are. The vendor who will be administering the flu shots has asked that the employees fill out the consent forms in advance to the flu clinic. There is an employee who refuses to give me the consent form, indicating that “I prefer to give my completed form to the nurse as I always have done.”

This employee is the only one who is behaving this way. What do you think this is all about?

Privacy, I’d imagine. If the form is nothing but his name and signature and doesn’t contain any medical info, I’m not sure why he’s taking a stand (although it may be a reaction to the increasing privacy infringements that many companies are inflicting upon employees). But if that’s his preference, I’d just let him do it that way, assuming it doesn’t cause any real issue for you or the vendor.

4. Asking about why a job is available

I am in an interview process that is going really well. I was online and saw the name of the previous employee in the role I am interviewing for still listed on the company website. I decided to look the person up on LinkedIn to see what the responsibilities were in their words. I noticed the person was only in the job for a year and then left. How can I ask about why the role is vacant? I would hate to work somewhere where the reputation is high turnover.

You can definitely ask your interviewer, “Can you tell me why this job is open?” You can also ask, “How long have the last few people in the job stayed?”

5. Reminding a new job I’ll be out for maternity leave four weeks after starting

A long time ago, I applied for a job famous for a long process. In the meantime, I got pregnant. It wasn’t obvious in the first interview, but I did tell them when they offered me the job, and it wasn’t a problem.

However, it took another few months for the official offer. The organization is really huge, and now I am talking to someone from a completely different department. At the time of the interview, I was in my first trimester. Now I’m in the third, and the starting date they offered me is barely four weeks before my due date. I was hoping to start sooner and work longer before giving birth.

I am willing to start at the date they suggested, but I am not sure how to remind them of the fact that I’d be working less than a month before my leave. I feel great, the pregnancy is going perfectly and there is no reason to expect that to change, but it is a little close. (I get the usual leave and medical; that part is standard with them so it’s not a problem.) After the interview, all communication has been through email and my acceptance of the starting date will be an email as well.

Just be straightforward: “I’d be glad to start on (date), but I want to make sure you remember that I’m pregnant and due on (date). We talked about this at the time of the offer, but it’s been a while so I want to make sure it didn’t slip off your radar! Because that would have me only working for four weeks before I’m due, I’d love to start earlier if that possible. Any chance of making that work?”

{ 411 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty*

    The consent forms I’ve seen for flu shots (which are pretty standard) do ask about a lot of health conditions, whether you’re pregnant, that kind of thing, so I can see an employee wanting to hand it off to the nurse directly.

    1. Aussie Academic*

      I was just coming on to write the same thing. As well as asking about health conditions, our forms also ask about recent international travel, tattoos and piercings, which people may want to keep private.

        1. WorkingMom*

          Yes, there are contraindications for receiving a flu shot – so a consent form for a flu shot is going to ask specific questions about certain medications, history of various illnesses, whether or not you are pregnant (certain states have laws around pregnant women and flu shots), etc.

          I would actually encourage this employer to stop collecting consent forms in advance, and simply provide them to the participants either at the time of service, or in advance but have them bring their form with them when they plan to get their shot. This removes the employer from the equation of possibly viewing any PHI. Best for everyone for the employer to remove themselves as the middle man – there is no reason for it.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            I believe it was the vendor’s request, not the employer’s. But yeah, the employer should bring it to the vendor’s attention.

          2. BenAdminGeek*

            Yup, exactly. When you fire Joe (and rightly, since he’s terrible at his job) the day after he listed all his medical conditions and gave you the form, it’s going to look bad.

          3. AnonyMoose*

            I’m curious as to why a consent form asks: ‘Are you now or any time (fill in the blank)?’
            …instead of simply listing ‘the following conditions are contraindicated for flu shots. By singing your consent, you agree that blahblahblah’. It seems a lot less….invasive and, yes, litigious.

            1. SystemsLady*

              Probably because they are less likely to get accurate responses using the latter method. For example, accidentally giving somebody who can’t take the nasal spray that form of the vaccine because they just skimmed through the consent form and checked the nasal spray box (because they didn’t want a shot or something) is a real concern.

      1. Lisa*

        Mine is on my desk, and asks about medications which can indicate health conditions that the person doesn’t want his boss to know either.

        1. Collarbone High*

          Right. Disclosing my medications tips off my employer to the fact that I take an extremely expensive biologic drug for an autoimmune disorder. I’d be wary that if a round of layoffs came up, the employer might (even subconsciously) decide “Well, Collarbone is really expensive to insure and might get sick and need a lot of time off, so that’s a good candidate to get rid of.”

      2. Anonicorn*

        Yes. Our form asks about egg & latex allergies, Guillian Barre, and a couple other things. I can understand the hesitation.

        1. Annabelle*

          When I went to the flu shot clinic at my office, I had to be careful to keep my consent form hidden because I had checked the box saying I was pregnant. I had just found out and wasn’t planning to tell my coworkers for another two months. If I was asked to turn the form in to my boss beforehand, I definitely would have protested, because there was no way I was going to announce my pregnancy to my boss at 4 weeks pregnant.

        2. Cactus*

          Yeah, the last time I filled one out, it asked if I am ever in close proximity to people with a long list of health conditions, including a chronic illness that my husband has. This is something I share only on a case-by-case basis and not necessarily something I’d want an employer knowing.

          1. AnonyMoose*

            Wooooow, that just seems like it’s getting a little too deep. Were they asking specifically for, like TB?? I can’t understand why proximity would be harmful. What am I missing?

            1. Wehaf*

              People with some illnesses have compromised immune systems; they shouldn’t be in close contact with anyone who received a live version of the flu shot in the recent past (usually 7 days). This question is to protect people like Cactus’s husband, even though he’s not being treated.

      3. CherylG*

        The consent form asks the standard questions. Nothing about medications, history of illness, medical conditions. In this case, someone from HR is collecting the forms, not the boss.
        1. Do you have any sensitivity to any components of the influenza vaccine
        2. Do you have any sensitivity to latex
        3. Are you pregnant
        4. Are you allergic to Thimerosal
        5. Are you allergic to chicken eggs or egg products
        6. Do you have a cold, fever, or acute illness
        7. Have you been instructed by an MD not to have a flu shot
        8. Do you have a history of Buillain-Barre Syndrome
        9. Have you had an adverse reations to another vaccine

        1. Frances K R*

          I’d really consider “are you pregnant” to be a question about a medical condition, and something I very well might want to keep as private as possible.

    2. KarenT*

      Thirded. He probably disclosed something he didn’t feel the need to share with his manager (or whoever was collecting the forms).

      1. MK*

        Exactly. I don’t mind anyone knowing I take a pill for my thyroid, but I don’t see why there should be written evidence of this fact circulating in my workplace.

    3. Bend & Snap*

      This. I’ve never had to give a consent form to my boss–it goes to the nurse. Why is that even a requirement?

      1. Merry and Bright*

        Exactly. Consent forms I’ve signed in the past have contained medical information in the form of disclaimers stating that I am not pregnant, do not suffer from this blood condition or that, do not suffer from ABC and am not allergic to XYZ. Then you hand it to the nurse when you show up for the injection. The employer doesn’t see it at all.

        1. Judy*

          And when I was pregnant, I had to turn in a doctor’s note that it was OK with her to get the shot, or I wouldn’t have been able to get the shot at the clinic at work.

          1. JoAnna*

            I’ve never been able to get the flu shot at work while pregnant. They’ve always insisted I get it from my doctor (who always sends me to a pharmacy to get it).

            1. Anna*

              Probably different companies have different levels of risk they’re willing to take. But that seems a bit of a runaround.

      2. Mike C.*

        Yeah, I think a better question to ask is “why is the boss collecting this medical information”?

        1. JMegan*


          There’s no reason for the boss to have it, and it’s weird that the vendor should be requiring it. Are you sure they didn’t mean “Fill out the forms in advance and hand them to the nurse when you come in?”

          I would actually be really concerned about this, if they have indeed asked to have someone outside their organization collect the forms. And I’d be asking the following questions:

          ~What is the boss (or whoever) supposed to do with this information, other than collect the papers and hand them to the nurse?
          ~What is the employer’s responsibility to protect the sensitive health information on the forms?
          ~If the employer hands a stack of 50 forms to the nurse, and there are 50 people in the room waiting for shots, how will they make sure each person is matched with the correct form?
          ~If the employer hands a stack of 45 forms to the nurse, and there are 50 people in the room waiting for the shots, how will you deal with the loss of the other 5 forms? Does your organization have a procedure for reporting and responding to privacy breaches?

          Honestly, this is such a terrible idea, and so outside usual medical practices, that I have to think there is a miscommunication somewhere. I would check with the vendor about what they actually mean by “fill out the forms ahead of time.” And if they really do want you to collect them, I would push back on that pretty hard for now, and find a different vendor for next year if they insist.

          And in the meantime, at a minimum, please allow employees to give their forms directly to the nurse if that’s what they prefer.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            Yeah, I was really confused as to how they would be figuring out who had provided a form in advance. It seems like it would be a lot more administratively difficult to collect the forms in advance and then make sure every person coming in had previously submitted a form than it would be to just take the form directly from the person prior to giving the flu shot.

            I’m with you in thinking that a miscommunication is the most likely explanation, since I can see asking employees to fill out the forms in advance to keep the process moving efficiently once the vendor comes in, but the process the OP is describing doesn’t seem like it really makes anyone’s life easier.

      3. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, I just got my flu shot at work on Wednesday, and they did ask us to fill out the forms ahead of time – with our name/dob/address, allergy info etc and a copy of our insurance cards – but that was all handed directly to the nurse, my boss had nothing to do with it. They just wanted to save time so there wouldn’t be long waits.

    4. Cambridge Comma*

      Perhaps collecting the forms in sealed envelopes might be a compromise if the vendor insists on having them in advance?

      1. neverjaunty*

        Although OP #3 doesn’t say that the vendor insists on having them in advance – only that they be “filled out in advance”, which I assume is so they aren’t waiting around on a roomful of people filling the forms out. And the employee appears to have had no trouble just handing them directly to the nurse in the past. So it baffles me why the OP is upset about this?

        1. MashaKasha*

          We all fill them out on our own, bring them with us, and hand them directly to the nurse. It’s not rocket science. I’m with you both wondering why it’s such a big deal to OP that they be collected ahead of time.

        2. Miss Betty*

          That’s what we do at work – fill in the forms a few days in advance, then hand them to the nurse when we get our shot.

        3. Anna*

          I think this might be one of those cases of there being just a minor misunderstanding of what’s being asked by the vendor, therefore the OP thinks it will cause problems.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I don’t see that it solves anything? The employee is still having to hand off sensitive medical information to the employer, who is now accepting the responsibility of keeping it confidential (or not) for no reason whatsoever. The flu-shot people will have to match up the envelopes anyway, so it doesn’t speed up what they’re doing.

    5. Zillah*

      Yeah, that occurred to me, too – when I got my flu shot, there were some questions on it that I’d be a little uncomfortable giving my boss access to, and I’d be surprised if the OP’s consent forms didn’t require a little background information from the person getting the shot.

      And while the OP probably doesn’t have any intention of reading the forms, you never know what might happen by accident or by someone along the way, even if it’s not the OP.

      OP, just let this go.

    6. Sadsack*

      Yes, we have to turn in consent forms, too. We can fill them out ahead of time or when we arrive for our shot. In both cases, we hand our forms directly to medical personnel giving the shots. I am not sure why the employer would expect to receive them instead. That doesn’t make sense to me.

    7. youngblood*

      Date of Birth, too… When my last organization had a blood drive, there was one nosy coworker who thumbed through the stack of consent forms because she had been wondering exactly how old people were. Later she told me I look young for my age.

      1. the gold digger*

        My company’s health insurance (BC/BS) requires employees and spouses to complete an online health assessment to get a discount on the employee share of the premium. The questions are super invasive – do you smoke, how much do you eat, do you exercise, do you wear a seatbelt, are you depressed, etc, etc.

        I refused to answer any of the questions (you can complete the form merely by hitting “submit” on each page, even if you don’t answer the questions) because it is none of BC’s business. If I were required to answer the questions, there would be someone scratching his head wondering how a woman who weighs 800 lbs, is severely depressed, and smokes four packs of cigs a day makes it to work.

        My boss made the mistake of admitting that he the occasional cigar when his wife is out of town and BC started nagging him, telling him he had to go to smoking cessation classes!

        I can see why someone would not want to give personal health info to an employer (or to an insurer – group health insurance does not underwrite covered people individually).

        1. Mabel*

          My company gives $50 to each person who fills out the online form, but I didn’t know you could go through the form without giving any answers! Good to know.

        2. BananaPants*

          My employer requires us to do the same thing – a pretty long and intrusive questionnaire and a mini-physical where you have to be weighed, measured, and blood tested followed by “health coaching” over the phone if you have anything even remotely resembling a health risk. If you don’t agree to this, you lose your $250 annual credit towards health insurance premiums and aren’t eligible for rewards. If the employee covers their spouse on the health insurance plan, both have to commit to going through this process in order for anyone to receive rewards.

          The big focus is on those of us who are Fatty McFattersons, because midyear everyone has to log in and report their weight. If an overweight person has lost 5% of their initial body weight in 6 months or a normal weight person has maintained a normal weight, AND has done the prescribed number of health coaching calls, they get a $300 prepaid debit card as a reward. If you’re of normal weight and got stuck with health coaching, you do your coaching calls and collect $300 – but really, all a normal weight person has to do is lie like a rug on the questionnaire and they’re home-free, getting $300 as a reward for supposedly staying healthy (if you’re overweight they catch you in the biophysical profile when the nurse weighs you – then you have to do the same number of coaching calls but starting later in the year).

          The company they contracted with to do the wellness program enrolls as many employees and spouses as possible in the health coaching based on the questionnaire. The joke around the office is to lie like a rug on the questionnaire and say your life is perfect, your health is perfect, and you LOVE your job, or you’ll get stuck with health coaching – and to make sure your spouse does the same. The health coaching is very hit-or-miss and it has done absolutely nothing toward helping me lose weight.

          This year they kicked us out of eligibility for the rewards and charge us an extra $20/month in insurance premiums because my husband’s at-home biometric screening test kit arrived at the lab late due to the snow we had in New England last winter (he mailed it by the date required). Since we weren’t eligible to get the $300 rewards, we decided we wouldn’t bother with the stupid health coaching, and it’s been great to not have to take the stupid phone call every month.

          1. Just another techie*

            We have a similar thing, but it’s $600 off our premiums instead of a debit card, and we can get the credit by either losing weight or committing to exercise three days a week. I exercise 6-7 days a week (Crossfit on Mondays and Fridays, folk dancing Tuesdays and Saturdays, aerial acrobatics classes Wednesdays and Thursdays, and then on Sundays I sometimes go for a run, or show up to the circus school’s open studios for more aerials practice, or go hiking, or something). Hilariously, my “health coach” on my call told me I need to increase the numbers of days per week I exercise by 3-5 more days. I was like, dude, do you even know how many days are in in a week? I mean, maybe, arguably, folk dancing doesn’t count as exercise, but wow. My resting heart rate is 48 beats per minute, my blood pressure is dangerously low, and my cholesterol and sugar are solidly in the healthy range, but I *still* get hounded to lose weight by my employer’s “wellness” program and insurance company. I’m heavier than I look (people who guess based on looking at me invariably undershoot by at least fifty pounds) so the last thing I’d want is for my nosy coworkers to be able to see my actual weight on a health form.

            1. Us, Too*

              Speaking of getting hounded to lose weight…. I am pregnant – due in 6 weeks. And I keep getting emails from my health insurance provider asking me to participate in a weight loss program 0 not some special pregnancy weight loss thing, just a general weight loss program. Seriously. This is the only organization on earth that has a 100% view into all the various medical treatments I am getting and they apparently can’t figure out that I’m not an appropriate audience to target general weight loss programs to. :/

                1. Us, Too*

                  The whole thing is so absurd that I find it pretty funny, actually. I shared it in the hopes that it would help folks appreciate that these kinds of solicitations are (obviously) not personal. They’re just spam coming from an incompetent giant company looking at the overall picture (“lots of our customers are overweight and in general their losing weight will decrease our costs”) at the expense of the individual level. You and your dr. know what is best for you – ignore the rest. :)

                2. Hotstreak*

                  You’re right it’s not individualized, but I think that generally the health company’s interests are aligned with yours. Lower cost care, typically by identifying and making efforts to improve high risk factors before they turn in to horrible illness, heart attack, immobility, saves the company money and saves your LIFE! Also can reduce your lifetime cost, if you have any sort of deductible or co-pay.

                3. AnonyMoose*

                  Not to be a douche but look forward to more of this as companies all over get really deep into big data. If you even looked at benedryl one year Walgreens will probably hound you for flu shots and determine that you have pets and those pets NEED blahbalhbalbh. Data overload is killing our free time, y’all.

              1. Guera*

                Well….you could say….”my goal is to lose 20 (or whatever..I am not sure how much weight is lost once a baby is actually born) pounds in 6 weeks”. And they will be amazed how you were able to do that!

              2. Gecko*

                That happened to me too. I was pregnant when I filled out the questionnaire, which I did indicate. For the next year I got emails on weight loss tips and reminders to exercise.

              3. BananaPants*

                I first got hit with the health coaching requirement about 2 years ago. I had just gone back to work after an all-too-short maternity leave and was running ragged, the 4 month old was still waking up twice a night to eat, the 3 year old was being a typical 3 year old, and my husband was working 60+ hour weeks at an awful job and we were still in the red on each month’s budget. The absolute last thing on my mind was embarking on an aggressive weight loss plan.

                The young, male health coach told me I just needed to work out more and be less stressed and the weight would just fall off. When I said honestly that I didn’t have much time to exercise he suggested that I wean my breastfed baby to formula so that I wouldn’t need to take time to pump at work or actually nurse the baby and could get a full night’s sleep. Also, that we should hire a cleaning service so I’d have more time to exercise. I couldn’t help it, I laughed my ass off at him.

              4. Lindsay J*

                Mine made incorrect assumptions about my health based on one of the medications I was taking. I do not have diabetes, but was prescribed a drug for another condition that is often taken by patients with diabetes. So all throughout the year I was encouraged to call for diabetes coaching and sent emails about living with diabetes.

            2. A grad student*

              Not trying to pry, but if you weigh that much more than you look and exercise that frequently, is all that extra weight muscle? You’d think a “wellness” program would care about the difference. The sole focus on weight is ridiculous, especially as more studies are saying that lifestyle matters a lot more than weight when it comes to ‘overweight’ health conditions.

          2. MashaKasha*

            Oh god almighty. I left OldJob in the year after they started collecting that information, and the year before they said they’d start doing something about it. My BMI is okay, but I’ve always had cholesterol a bit higher than the norm, and no amount of exercise, abstaining from meat, dairy, and eggs (which I can’t very well do), etc can change this. It’s always a couple points above the norm. I was afraid they’d force me to lower my cholesterol by any means available, including drugs, and raise my premium if I didn’t. That is so crazy.

            Also, do you mean your employers weigh you (or rather hire a nurse to weigh you) in the office, during a workday, in your work clothes, probably with a super inaccurate scale too, and then go after you if the resulting weight is too high? of course it will be too high. It will also be way off. It’s like they’re looking for an excuse to jack up the premiums… smh

          3. Ad Astra*

            I really hate the emphasis on weight (and BMI) in corporate/insurance “health” programs. Lots of average-weight people have crappy health habits, and plenty of overweight people (again, especially if you’re going by BMI) are generally pretty healthy.

            1. MashaKasha*

              Yeah, I admit I won the genetic lottery on this one. (not on cholesterol though.) And I also admit that it’s an uphill battle for anyone who didn’t. Unlike many people I know who have a normal BMI, I don’t go around pretending that it’s all due to my general awesomeness and hard work at being healthy. It’s not. All I have to do is not eat donuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I’m all set. I know many people with high BMI who do way, way more than that, and way more than I do, to stay healthy.

              Also, why are they still going by BMI? I thought it had been proven time and again that BMI cannot be used as a measure of health, or even obesity. And here they are, applying this outdated concept that has been proven to not work, to areas where it affects people’s health insurance premiums and therefore their take-home pay. Ridiculous.

              1. BritCred*

                Its getting worse – in the UK its now getting so that they won’t treat you in hospitals unless you have normal BMI and the government are pushing for disability applicants to be pushed to lose weight no matter what their disability if they have a high BMI or get sanctioned. Its not implimented yet so I don’t know how strongly this will be brought into force though.

                1. MegEB*

                  Wait WHAT. What do you do if you have a high BMI and need surgery? Or some type of urgent care?? Are you just not allowed to get medical care?!

                2. I'm a Little Teapot*

                  So basically, if you’re fat and get hurt/sick, go home and die?!

                  This kind of policy has nothing to do with honest concern for people’s health and everything to do with cost-cutting. And hatred, apparently.

                3. BritCred*

                  You get counselled to lose weight before they will do the operation. At which point I point out the following

                  – Since puberty I have always been heavy and even when I lost weight due to starvation I plateaued at around the “max” healthy weight for my height.
                  – I have Fibro and CFS which both cause weight gain and stop easy exercise
                  – I have always found exercise difficult due to chest issues related to sinus issues (for which they tell me to lose weight).
                  – When I requested help they tried to put me on a static bike which I couldn’t manage for even 2 minutes over a session when I specifically asked for Physio to get ideas on low impact exercise from professionals since I can’t do high impact exercise.

                  Its become a thing that if you aren’t stupidly obese enough (no judgement btw – just its something like 50 BMI plus) to be offered lipo or a gastric band you are in the zone of no sense…

                  I have to have a wisdom tooth operation which can’t be done under local and they are sniffing about it because of my weight and other things caused by health issues right now.

          4. azvlr*

            Instead of viewing this as a penalty, why not take it at face value and get what benefit you can from it?!

            We have a similar program at my company. We have silly, corporate-wide, exercise challenges, and earn money in our MSA for doing various physical events throughout the year (think fund-raising walks).

            Since I started, I have never felt healthier in life, and feel supported in my personal wellness goals.True, it may be more about their bottom line than their genuine regard for my health, but their approach has allowed me to focus on my “bottom” line. I have worked at places that truly didn’t care about employee health. It makes a difference.

            Again, why all the negativity? Just saying!

            1. MashaKasha*

              I guess there might be a silver lining. Like, right now, I am dying to go on a walk around the office park, stretch my legs etc for 15-20 minutes a few times a day, but I know I will look like a horrendous slacker if I do that. Whereas at OldJob, they once had a corporate health initiative where they gave each of us a pedometer and said to log 10K steps a day for, I think, a month. There were dozens of people all the way to upper management walking around the parking lot at all times of day. There was no stigma associated with wanting to get off your butt and walk around once in a while. I miss that.

              I guess I could live with just being told to do exercise challenges in exchange for a discount on my premium. I guess it’d depend on what they would do to those people who’d comply and do the exercise challenges, and still not lose weight at the end of the year. Can they just keep exercising in order to keep their discount, or will they be required to show some actual weight loss by whatever means possible?

              1. Kyrielle*

                Yeah, this is why I love $CurrentJob’s approach – we do get a discount for filling out an intrusive form, it’s true, but the intrusive form goes to a third-party with a HIPAA policy in place that provides aggregate data to our insurance company and that’s it – neither employer nor insurance company get non-aggregate data (it’s in the user agreement for the site that does it). They also provide us with completely optional “do this to improve your health” programs we can try, but they don’t spam or badger us or require it. All the health initiatives are opt-in, and the only mildly coercive measure is the small saving on health insurance premiums for the form (the “improve your health” programs don’t even have that much tied to them, and if you try them and fail, it doesn’t matter in the least).

          5. Anx*

            I’m a ‘normal’ weight person, skewing on the low end. BCBS sent me probable 20 inserts in my premium bills for weight loss programs. But do they pay for a gym membership? No. A 10% discount on something I can’t afford anyway. Do they know how much worse I’d have to eat to afford that. Yeah, I can run in my neighborhood, but do they want me going to the ER if I’m assaulted? Probably not.

            The kicker, I had to pressure my doctor into getting me a lipid test because heart disease runs in my family pretty rampantly. I was told I was too thin to worry about that, then that it may be out of pocket since I don’t fit the profile of someone that has to worry. Funny, none of my relatives’ thinness kept them from dying from a heart attack!

            Also, as unfair as the whole thing is, at least they aren’t trying to get normal weight people to lose weight like so many other weight loss initiatives seem to do (especially those team weight loss things, ugh).

        3. Mike C.*

          My company charges more if you don’t get your blood tested and whatnot, it’s really obnoxious.

          1. Hotstreak*

            If you have a heart attack they may end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep you alive, versus spending a few hundred or a few thousand dollars today to correct course on poor health habits. It would be irresponsible for them not to check up on the needs of their clients (and new laws allow they to incentivize individuals with money in order to get their compliance, IOW pay them to show up).

            1. Anna*

              Because it’s still an invasion of privacy. There is a very slim border between them asking for your blood test results and them noting that I have Type I diabetes and requiring I provide my blood glucose levels since mm/dd/yy. They aren’t “checking up on the needs of their clients” and maybe if it were that altruistic that would make it a little better, they are watching their bottom lines.

              1. Hotstreak*

                That’s the trade off – is it worth the discount you will receive for you to have the checkup? If not, you aren’t required to participate.

        4. EmmaBlake*

          At my company, we have smoking plans and nonsmoking plans. You don’t get to choose whether or not to answer the questions. I understand why the OP wouldn’t want to give potentially private medical information to some random manager, but everyone complaining about HR or insurance getting it? If you don’t like it, you don’t have to accept the insurance. My company’s portions of insurance is like $500 an employee (and I’m on the nonsmoking plan). I think as long as they’re paying, they have the right to ask me if I’m smoking.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Health insurance is a benefit of your employment that you’re getting in lieu of additional salary, and to attract and keep employees. It’s not a favor and it’s not a gift. And employers get group rates. They should not be treating this as a policy to an individual, which SHOULD be based on your individual risk factors.

            1. the gold digger*

              Exactly. For a group policy, the insurer looks at the ages, sexes, and number of dependents of the employees. Single men in their 20s cost a lot less than married women of child-bearing age. Middle-aged men cost more than middle-aged women.

              The next factor is the group claims history. The larger the group, the more that history matters in setting the next year’s rates. Where I worked, we didn’t really consider claims history until a group had at least 250 employees.

              There was never any individual underwriting of group insurance. This whole thing – these health questionnaires and invasive treatment – is ridiculous.

              1. F.*

                You can thank the Affordable Care Act for this. Health plans are REQUIRED to ask about smoking. A small employer (fewer than 50 employees) is subject to Age Banding, which will raise premiums astronomically based on the demographics of your specific employees and any possible dependents/spouses who may be covered. Once again the “unforeseen” consequences of feel-good legislation. Just one step closer to government-run healthcare.

                1. MashaKasha*

                  Health plans asking about smoking, and charging extra for smoking, started way before the ACA. I know this because I quit smoking in 2008-early 09, specifically because of this – didn’t want to pay extra.

                2. Bailey Quarters*

                  That particular intrusive question precedes the ACA. I was asked about smoking before the Obama administration.

                3. PontoonPirate*

                  Yeah, no. Invasive questioning, including smoking habits, happened well before the ACA went into effect. I remember lying like a rug because I didn’t want to be labeled with any pre-existing health conditions down the road.

                  But thanks for trying to bring politics into it.

                4. MegEB*

                  This all started way before the ACA. A cursory Google search will show that there are tons of companies that participated in this invasive nonsense before President Obama even took office. I (briefly) worked for a company that sent out health questionnaires, which included questions about my BMI, blood pressure, and how often I went to the doctor, and this was several years ago, before ACA took effect. Sorry, but you can’t blame this one on the government.

                5. fond of jam*

                  Hooray, we’re one step closer to government-run healthcare!

                  …Oh, was that not what you meant?

                6. Creag an Tuire*

                  Completely and utterly wrong.

                  The ACA did not invent and does not mandate Age Banding or any other kind of banding. It banned gender-banding, and I suppose some insurers may have used the fact that they can’t charge you twice as much for having girly bits as an “excuse” to engage in other demographic profiling. Oh well.

                  Furthermore, employers with under 50 employees are NOT subject to the employer mandate of the ACA. If they decide, out of the goodness of their hearts, to provide insurance anyway, they now get a tax subsidy if that plan contains a wellness program. That is the small grain of truth in the great ocean of wrong that is your comment.

                7. teclatrans*

                  Pretty sure the crappy parts of ACA come from it being an insurance marketplace.

                  One step closer to government-run healthcare? We can dream…

                8. it will happen*

                  I guess some here missed the above where a UK citizen is headed toward only healthy people having access to certain care (BMI). We will get there too with ACA – just a matter of time. And there are all kinds of new invasive stuff that come with ACA – maybe smoking was a bad example but there are others.

                9. De (Germany)*

                  It will happen : the UK is not the only country with national health care. Other countries are not going into that direction.

                  My country’s national health care is the opposite of the picture F. painted. Costs are only based on income (like a tax), not on how healthy you are. I think that’s the case for most countries with national health care systems.

              2. the gold digger*

                For super small groups.

                And age banding has always been a thing. As I said, group plans are underwritten (or were) based on the ages, sexes, and dependent status of the employees. This has nothing to do with the government and everything to do with what it costs in general to provide medical care to people by age and sex. Single young men are cheap. Older men are not.

          2. Mike C.*

            “If you don’t like it, you can choose not to accept insurance”? Right, because I can chose never to get sick or injured.

            So what else do you think they have the right to ask you about? That’s a rather deep hole we’re talking about here.

              1. Anna*

                I think you’re talking about different things. Part of the compensation for the work I do is my benefits package. The insurance I receive as part of that benefits package should not be contingent on anything since the reason I work for a company may be based in part on how good their benefits are; not based on the benefits offered as long as I am this healthy and my cholesterol is at this level.

            1. Anx*

              Well, lots of people don’t get insurance at work.

              The problem as I see it as that the ACA restructured the premiums under the assumption that unless you’re at 400% of the FPL, you’ll get a subsidy or your employer will provide it. You don’t qualify for a subsidy if your employer is offering affordable coverage, which may make it prohibitively expensive.

        5. JGray*

          I HATE those forms!!!! I don’t have to do them at my current employer but at my last job you had to do the forms. Ours were paper and required you doctor to fill them out- you couldn’t fill them out yourselves. Based on what I know of the mess that is the health care law to me it seems that insurers are going to start going to more individualized health care premiums. I also hate BMI- how does how much I weigh really determine how healthy I am. According to my BMI I am obese but I don’t have anything else wrong with me. Yes, I could lose some weight but if I am not sure where on my body I am going to lose all the extra weight I am supposed to according to my BMI. The forms also forced you to go to your doctor which in turn required your insurance which in turn cost the employer more (it was a self funded plan). Well with self funded plans who do you think ultimately pays- the employee. If an employer spends more money on health insurance than there is less money for raises or the employee has to pay more. My old employer never saw the forms they were sent directly to the insurer but still I can understand not wanting anyone to see any of that information.

            1. Winter is Coming*

              Frustrating that so many people think that everything that’s wrong with health insurance (and there is a lot), is due to ACA. It was a mess before, people!

              1. MashaKasha*

                Seriously! The ACA wouldn’t have come into existence if it was NOT a mess before. It most certainly was!

        6. Heather*

          Oh man, I wish I’d read this 2 days ago when I submitted my annual enrollment! I refuse to give up all that information for the $100 discount on the premium, but we have BC/BS too and now I’m dying to know if the “submit” trick works.

      2. Elizabeth West*


        The blood bank people do ours. We book bloodmobile appointments through them online, on their website. They handle all the forms and you don’t see anyone else’s. When you fill out the nosy part (Have you paid to have sex with anyone? Have you ever had horrible tropical disease?), you’re in a tiny room alone. And the person comes to stick you and go over your form with you in the room, with the door closed. No one can look at your form. They do ask you to confirm your address and date of birth in the main room, though, so I suppose anyone in there can hear it, but I’m sure you could just look at it and say that’s correct.

        I don’t give a crap who knows how old I am. Thanks to my coworker who decorated my cube for my birthday with big cartoon number 50s all over it, everybody knows!

    8. BananaPants*

      My employer’s flu shot clinic is run by a contracted company that handles all of the forms. The consent form asks if a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding and if the person getting the shot has a whole range of health conditions. I can see an employee not wanting to hand that over to another employee of their firm, and I would refuse to do the same.
      Filling them out beforehand will save time, but the employer collecting them doesn’t save any time in the process – the nurses doing the shots still have to match up the correct consent form with the person sitting there with their sleeve rolled up. It would be more efficient to have employees fill out their forms before the clinic and hand-carry them when they go for their shot.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Agreed. They need to know that, in order to be sure you can safely be given the flu shot. The employer has *no* need to know it.

    9. Ad Astra*

      If that’s the case, I can understand why the employee would rather give the form directly to the nurse. Did the company change vendors, or did the old vendor change policies? I would guess that not having one form on file in advance wouldn’t be a major inconvenience for the vendor.

    10. MashaKasha*

      I just went and found mine from a few weeks ago. It wants you to give your DOB, age, address, phone#, list your medical conditions, and has about a dozen Yes/No questions, including “Do you have cancer, leukemia, AIDS, or any other immune system problem”, “Do you take prednisone, other steroids, or anticancer drugs”, and “For women: Are you pregnant”. So yeah. I can see an employee not wanting to wave this kind of info around.

    11. JC*

      Yep. I have a pretty vanilla medical history, but I still hate listing the birth control pills I take when I fill out these forms in front of colleagues.

      Incidentally, this year I was out of the office on flu shot day and got my shot at CVS. They didn’t ask me anything about my medical history, other than if I was allergic to eggs. I suppose they already know what medications I am on because they are my normal pharmacy, but I was still taken aback to not have to fill out a medical history form.

      1. Rana*

        Meanwhile, I’m having the reverse reaction. The last several flu shots I’ve had, the only forms I’ve had to fill out were ones that consented to the shot and acknowledged having received the information about the potential risks. The idea that they “need” all this data to safely administer a flu vaccine is boggling to me.

  2. BuildMeUp*

    #1 – I really hope if you sit Fergus down and explain the possible repercussions to what he’s doing, he’ll wise up. If he doesn’t, though, please let someone at the theatre company know about what he’s doing! I work with a small non-profit theatre, and for them, every dollar counts.

    If he continues and you end up needing to tell the theatre company, please know that you won’t be the one getting him reprimanded/fired/ruining his reputation. *He’s* the one doing that, by making stupid choices and cheating a non-profit out of money. He should really know better.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      Yeah, I am kind of inclined to chalk this up to inexperience (I mean, what he’s doing *is* pretty horrendous, but it sounds a lot more likely that he’s broke just after graduating and doesn’t understand why this is so wrong, rather than that he’s being deliberately malicious – I have known a lot of recent grads who don’t see it as ‘fraud’ so much as ‘I need money, money is there, and ok it’s a little shady but nobody’s getting hurt’) and talk to him, but I also think that this is one strike and you’re out.

      And definitely +1000 to your second paragraph! OP, if you decide to talk to him, you are giving him a chance to wise up, grow up and become more professional out of this. I’m prepared to bet a lot of people wouldn’t be that generous (and I expect you may see that in the comments) It would be perfectly fair to go straight to somebody; if you do him a (huge) favour and he doesn’t take advantage of it to change, you’re not responsible for the consequences – and you’d be being unfair on the theatre that’s treated you so well not to tell them at that stage.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        Yeah, I can definitely see a broke recent grad not thinking things through because of money issues. It doesn’t excuse what he’s doing, but I think one more chance wouldn’t hurt. After that, of course, he deserves whatever happens.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          And I’ve seen it from the other side — broke people not freshly out of college in contract jobs who are not getting paid well seeing it as a chance to “stick it to The Man.” On more than one occasion, I’ve been somewhere with people, shared a cab and everyone asked for a receipt (except me). They were all going to claim it as an expense, even though we were just going out to dinner not technically a part of the job. And we all shared the ride by chipping in a few dollars. I know they were going to do this because I asked why all the receipts? I’ve also seen people get per diem and then bring food or eat as cheaply as possible to keep the cash.

          So the real question I would ask is, is Fergus doing this out of desperation because he’s broke or is there something else at play under that? Not all people who are broke steal, but it can be a very strong motivation. Does he know that this is technically wrong/unethical and doesn’t care because he’s broke? Or does he have shady ethics? Or does he simply not know because he’s new to the world of work? I would tell him, as others have suggested and if he just blows it off because he doesn’t care… I would keep a sharp eye on my valuables whenever he’s around. Which is something else he probably needs to be told — it takes a long time to build up a reputation and it can be ruined in an instant by something foolish. Being known as “the guy who steals” will follow you for a very long time, depending on how small the circle you run in is.

          1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

            On the per diem thing, I actually think that’s okay to bring food or eat cheap because the per diem, while meant to cover the expenses, can also be a “travel bonus”. Travelling for work can be difficult or undesirable to some and they may see that per diem as additional compensation for making the trip.

            Of course, this only applies if the company chooses to give a per diem for travel as opposed to reimbursing receipts. What this guy in the letter is doing is totally unethical. You can’t just scrounge around for extra receipts to submit, but if they’re going to pay you $X on the trip regardless of how much of X you spend, it’s up to you to decide how to spend (or save) the money.

            1. Ann O'Nemity*

              Yes to this. I take the full per diem, even if I ended spending less. Other times, I spend more than the allotted amount. I figure it evens out. Also, I’m so grateful my employer doesn’t require receipts for per diem reimbursements.

            2. Anna*

              The first time I travelled for current job, they made me turn in receipts, deducted from the per diem if food was being provided at the conference, and made you pay back anything that wasn’t spent. Suddenly that changed and now they just want your taxi receipts. A per diem is a per diem, no matter how it’s spent. That’s the whole point.

            3. More Cake, Please*

              I agree on the per diem. My company’s per diem is prohibitively low ($5 breakfast, $6 lunch and $12 dinner). Since I have numerous food allergies, I try to bring as much of my own food as possible. The per diem basically covers the cost of purchasing/packaging that extra food for me.

              What really frustrates me is when a conference provides a lunch meal (and won’t tell you what it is ahead of time so you can request an accommodation) that I literally can’t eat and I lose out on the lunch per diem because a meal “was provided.”

              1. Vicki*

                Ouch. Doesn’t the ADA cover that? You have a medical issue!
                Have you talked to your manager about this?

              2. Lindsay J*

                Wow, I was going to complain about my company’s per diem being stingy, but we get a couple dollars more per day that you, and it’s not broken down by meal. We get $25 per day to spend as you need. If you claim you need more than that you need to turn in reciepts for everything.

                I like it as I usually don’t eat breakfast (even at home) so I can spend more on lunch and dinner.

                (And seriously, where are they expecting you to find lunch for $6, anyway? Even fast food is more than that, at least where I live. To get something approaching healthy you would need to spend closer to $10, and if you’re in an airport more than that.)

            4. Dynamic Beige*

              I agree with you about the eating cheaply and pocketing the difference, I do it myself (also, don’t see the point in eating by myself in a restaurant unless I have to). What I don’t understand is this concept of per diem where you still keep the receipts to turn in and have to refund whatever you don’t spend. That’s not per diem. That’s like your parents giving you $5 to buy a candy bar and then telling you to bring back the change and a receipt so you can prove you spent the money on a candy bar and not a comic book. There’s no savings on the accounting side, why not just make people expense it, especially if they’re not getting money up front. I totally get that companies don’t want their employees out there spending hundreds on a meal and that everyone should be clear on what the limits are so there are no misunderstandings. But if you’re going to hand out $X of per diem, then it shouldn’t matter what the employee spends it on, so long as there aren’t receipts at the end.

            5. catsAreCool*

              I agree with Amy Farrah Fowler. “because the per diem, while meant to cover the expenses, can also be a “travel bonus”. “

          2. bridget*

            Yeah, the per diem thing is totally legit at many companies. I used to be able to either keep all my receipts and get an actual reimbursement up to $X, or I can just claim $X-10 dollars every day and not keep the receipts. If I claim the straight per diem, it’s fine for me to spend as little as possible and pocket the rest. It’s more of a hassle (and more expensive) for the accounts payable to collect and scrutinize receipts than to just give you a chunk of money they were already budgeting for, and for a small $10 of expenses penalty I can avoid having to gather receipts. And they end up paying $10 less per day, because if I got reimbursed for actual expenses, I would probably be spendier and hit my limit every day.

          3. SG*

            Oh my gosh- I’m only 3 years out of school now, but I cannot see ANY of my friends acting like this! Not sure if I still count as a recent grad, but I really don’t see how any justifies that to themselves. I don’t think you can chalk it up to inexperience- it’s very clearly wrong!

            1. Lindsay J*

              That’s what I was thinking. I’m pretty sure teenagers would understand that this is not okay, never mind someone old enough to be in the working world.

      2. Ad Astra*

        I agree with all of this. I know what Fergus is doing is wrong, and frankly I’m too lazy to dig up other people’s receipts, but it’s definitely not too far from the realm of things I might have done when I was 22 and broke. I would guess that in his head, he sees the money as already accounted for in the budget, so why not take it?

        Also, the OP’s definition of “pays really well” for a part-time (I think?) gig that she’s doing just for fun might not feel like “pays really well” to a recent grad who’s relying on that job as his sole income.

        I know my 22-year-old self would have appreciated someone explaining to me what I’m risking with this behavior before taking it up with the manager. If Fergus is smart, he’ll let OP’s act of kindness straighten him out so he can save his job and his reputation.

        1. Leah the designer*

          While I understand giving Fergus the benefit of the doubt on not knowing, just because you didn’t know something you did was illegal does not mean you are exempt from facing the consequences. And honestly, I’m a 23-year-old grad and I know how unethical and fraudulent Fergus’s behavior is. Maybe ism just skeptical of peoples intentions, but generally people know when they are doing something wrong then they go and do it anyways.

          1. Ad Astra*

            Is it illegal to submit fraudulent receipts to your employer? I actually don’t know, and I hadn’t thought about it until now.

            For some people (maybe you’re one of them?), the line between right and wrong is crystal clear, almost intuitive. My husband is that way. For others, there’s a lot of gray area, and “wrong” is far more subjective.

            I don’t agree with what Fergus is doing, but it’s easy for me to see how Fergus would believe that his behavior is ok because it’s not really hurting anyone. And while I do hope the OP gives him a chance to straighten up, I don’t think he deserves a second chance from management if/when they find out.

            1. Serin*

              Now, see, I see gray areas in a lot of things, but I think that if Fergus thought about this for five seconds, he’d see that it is hurting someone: it’s transferring money directly from a nonprofit to his pockets. He can’t even claim, “Oh, it’s a giant faceless mega TimeWarnerFoxVerizonWalmartCorp and it’s making gazillions cheating its customers and it’ll never notice a dollar or two.”

              1. SG*

                THIS exactly. If you are involved in the arts at all, you know how tight budget can be and how much every penny counts.

              2. T3k*

                This. I tend to see a lot of things in shades instead of black and white, but even as a broke college grad I wouldn’t do what Fergus is doing, especially since it’s a nonprofit.

            2. Engineer Girl*

              I’m surprised at the “not hurting anyone” comment. That isn’t true. Fergus is stealing from the company and impacting the profits. That in turn impacts wages and funding for new projects. That indeed does harm others.

              1. Leah the designer*

                I completely agree on this. I think the “it’s not hurting anyone” is an excuse, and even if it’s a big time corporation it’s still not right. Is it right just to take from someone just because they “have more money?” No, that excuses stealing. It’s an “I’m entitled” mentality when nothing was done to earn it.

            3. Leah the designer*

              Is it illegal to submit fraudulent receipts to the government and your insurance? It sure is. I’m sure any party whom you submitted fraudulent receipts to could choose to sue you.

              1. BritCred*

                I was about to post this – since those receipts become part of the accounts it IS fraud. If you make up a “real” reciept from you to the company showing a fee for doing something and they accept it knowing that then that is different as its a real receipt. If the receipt is “agreed travel fee for Y event, X per mile” thats one thing (we will ignore that the employer will likely refuse to pay it) but submitting a reciept saying “I drove my car X miles” when you didn’t is illegal.

            4. davey1983*

              Yes, it is illegal. It is considered theft– you are taking money away from someone/an organization under false pretenses.

        2. Anx*

          I can’t picture myself doing this at 22, but at 29 I’m just as broke and a lot more jaded. I still can’t picture doing this, but I can see stretching things out.

          It’s amazing how much of our so-called leisure time is directly related to keeping ourselves prepared and maintained for employment. Same with our money. (wardrobe, laundry, commuting). Plus, you often end up having to work for free to stay competitive, so I can see people blurring the lines. For example, I work an hourly position, but to stay sharp, I have to study about 5-10 hours a week to expand my skill set and increase my value so I’m more likely to get more hours, which as a part-time employee I depend on.

    2. Snowglobe*

      And if he argues that the OP is not taking reimbursement for all travel, OP can reframe that as – “I am donating the use of my vehicle for trips less than 50 miles. This is a contribution from me to the organization; it has nothing to do with you.”

    3. Vicki*

      Talk to him, yes (and also send a heads up to the company).

      I’m a bit paranoid (and I probably watch & read too many mystery shows / novels) but I cringe whenever I see the recommendation to say “or I’m going to have to tell (manager) what’s going on.”

      1. catsAreCool*

        Yeah, I read a lot of mystery books too, and “or I’m going to have to tell (manager) what’s going on.” tends to get characters “knocked off”.

  3. Confused*

    #1 the theatre company’s production manager or managing director would probably like to know this is going on.

    The theatre community is a small one and word travels quickly. This guy is going to have to have a bad reputation and he’s just getting started…sad.

  4. Elder Dog*

    I ask your manager to call you and tell her what you’ve seen. I wouldn’t say anything more to Fergus. You already did that, and it’s likely he already knew it was wrong before you said anything. Don’t give him more reason to think you’re the one who turned him in. Think how uncomfortable carpooling with Fergus would be if they don’t let him go over this with him fuming about your betrayal (and I’m pretty sure he’d see it that way.)

  5. Ella*

    OP #1–You may want to inquire about reporting your mileage as an “in kind donation.” Not only will that derail Fergus’ “up for grabs” argument (even though it’s ridiculous anyway), but it may help the nonprofit keep track of what its true expenses are. I mean, just as an example, if you quit and they hire someone who *does* report all their miles, you don’t want any unnecessary flags raised about why milegae reports have suddenly increased by x%.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Yes, but that has the LW tracking mileage she’s not even requesting reimbursement for and she said part of the reason she’s not bothering with the reimbursement is to avoid having to do that extra work herself.

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        Nevertheless, the milage has to be documented. Ella is right. OP should declare milage on short trips as donations, or there’ll be trouble down the line. Under-reporting expenses, even out of kindness, can affect any future subsidies or grants the theater company might receive in the future, or complicate another employee-carpooler’s reimbursement.

        1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

          Mileage isn’t that hard to track–I do it for every revenue-generating activity that isn’t my Daye Jobbe. You have a notebook in the car, you write down columns for date, purpose of trip, odometer start and odometer end. I do this for my taxes. OP ought to just be able to hand the sheets (or, better yet, copies or scans thereof) to whoever is taking care of it in Payroll, on a monthly or weekly basis.

          1. OP #1*

            No, not hard for you, but for me? Yeah, too much in my head to handle that. The company knows I’m not reimbursing all my miles, I let them know!

            1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

              Well, no, obviously, you don’t keep it in your head. I couldn’t, given the different types of work I do, plus I just hate math. I totally do it on paper.

              You just log the trips in a book. The odometer readings tell you your miles on that job. You keep the notebook in your car and log the ODO every time you get in and out. I don’t know where you are, but for a freelance artist working in the US, this is valuable to have–it comes off your taxes.

              Are the people in your office requiring some extra forms or math for this apart from just the number of miles you drove? Because I can see where them asking for, like, the amount of fuel you used on a particular trip, would be hard to calculate, and I wouldn’t want to do that either.

              Honestly, I wish there were an app for it, but a friend of mine used to use Google Maps to track her business miles, and then Google stopped providing that capability (of logging the purpose of the trip). I was very glad of my notebook when I heard that. (I do use Maps to approximate mileage when I forget to log an ODO, but damn it would be nice at the end of the year to just have the app add it up for you.)

                1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

                  In my case, it’s because piddling around with a spreadsheet on my phone in the car is too much trouble. Some friends of mine actually take pictures of their ODOs, and to me that’s also too much trouble. I like a notebook.

              1. OfficePrincess*

                There actually is at least one app. My husband uses MileIQ. It logs basically any time you’re going over a certain speed (faster than walking/running, basically) and then you just have to toggle if it was for business, personal, or on public transit/not your car. The free version only gives you a limited number of trips per month, but the paid version is pretty reasonably priced.

                1. Dynamic Beige*

                  I use FYI Mileage, but you have to enter stuff in manually, there isn’t any automatic tracking via GPS. I forget how much it was. You can export an excel spreadsheet of your trips. I generally make one called “errands” when I’m doing personal stuff and call the trip an actual name when it’s for business. I have to do this because taxes.

              2. The Cosmic Avenger*

                I usually map my route using Google Maps, then add on about 0.2 miles for the parking garages (my most common offsite work requires going up/down 2-4 levels at each end, so it’s legit). Nothing to keep in my head, because it’s right there in front of me. But then, I submit an online report for each offsite trip since I don’t make them that often, and I can just enter it right when I map it.

                1. Turanga Leela*

                  I do basically the same thing. When I get home from a trip, I map the distance from our nearest office location to the travel site. (My company won’t reimburse travel between offices.) I ignore any additional travel, e.g. from the work site to a hotel. It’s easier than tracking my odometer, and our accountant doesn’t seem to mind.

              3. Zillah*

                Wow. Condescending much?

                It seems to me like the OP is saying that they have too many things to keep track of to add this to the list, not that they’re literally going to keep it in their head because they’ve never heard of a pen and paper. That’s their prerogative; you can’t really tell them that they should do it because hey, it’s totally not a hassle at all for you.

                The theatre is aware of what the OP is doing and has said that they’re fine with it, and they’ve even got access to a rough estimate of the expense based on the employee who is requesting reimbursement. Let’s move on – this isn’t helping the OP with the issue they actually wrote in about, and it comes across to me as pretty rude to boot.

                1. LBK*

                  +1 – No need to be weirdly insistent when the theatre is already aware of this and doesn’t have a problem with it. They’re the ones it actually matters to.

                2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

                  Well, all of that is true, and of course I didn’t mean to come across condescending. I have worked with and for people who would literally try to keep such things in their heads. (Shrug) I took the OP at their word. I also missed the part in the original letter where they said they’d already discussed it with the non-profit, who as you correctly point out, are the ones most affected.

                  Fergus is being a dwerp at best and a liar and a thief at worst, and he’s put the OP into an awkward position by being a dishonest dwerp so openly, and the the OP should definitely take Alison’s advice on that score.

                3. LCL*

                  I don’t think this advice is condescending at all. It is a technical approach to an ethical problem so probably won’t work, but I don’t see it as condescending. ‘Wow. Condescending much?’ is kinda nasty and unnecessarily snarky.

                4. OP #1*

                  Thank you! End of the day- I work two jobs, I don’t have to track the miles, and I definitely don’t want to. Congrats on people who are organized and energized enough for that though!

              4. fposte*

                Agreeing with the OMG it doesn’t matter where, I ain’t doing it. I do a similar thing at my workplace–I take a lower per diem rather than doing receipts, because I will willingly forfeit money not to have to piddle around with that stuff.

                1. Us, Too*

                  Agreed. I have “failed” to submit quite a few legitimate expenses for reimbursement because the process to do so is more trouble than the reimbursement is worth to me.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  Yep. If I get in a pinch and buy, like, a $1 pencil for work, it’s worth my $1 to not fill out forms about it. I consider it a donation. ;)

              5. Bostonian*

                One reason is that it can be a little annoying to decide which trips “count”, especially from a part-time job. This time you started out at home, this time you came straight from work, this other time you had a doctor’s appointment across town that afternoon or had to run an errand on the way. Or what if everyone chooses to go out for drinks after the show, either in the direction of home or opposite the direction of home? Companies have different policies about how to calculate that stuff, but I’ve definitely had to calculate the difference in miles between what I drove and what it would have been had I left from home or the office. Or I’ve gotten reimbursed for the drive from the office to a meeting but not from the meeting home afterwards, because that counts as my normal commute even though it was longer and I would have used my monthly transit pass that day if not for the meeting. I can totally understand it not being worth it to the OP to track the shorter trips.

            2. Ad Astra*

              If tracking all the mileage really is too much work, I think simply informing the right people that you’re driving more miles than they’re reimbursing is fine. If they really needed a clearer picture of how many miles you’re traveling, I would think that’s a calculation they could do themselves. They know where the performances are located, right?

            3. Zahra*

              You could also use Waze as a GPS. Your past trips are recorded and uploaded on your dashboard online. It’s very easy to know the mileage that way, and it’ll include any detours incurred due to road work, etc.

        2. hbc*

          At some point, though, isn’t it a bit ridiculous? If I choose to eat my own food, do I need to tell them what I *might* have spent that day? Do I need to do the math for them and tell them what they would be paying if all four people drove independently, or I lived farther away?

          Some expenses are variable. A heads up just so they know this is an area where their expenses might be abnormally low might be nice, though, in case they need to put an asterisk next to that column in their financials.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Honestly, this is why I found the meals part of it a little less reprehensible, even though submitting someone else’s receipts is definitely fraud. The theater company should be offering a flat per diem and not requiring receipts. It saves them money by reducing paperwork, and it doesn’t penalize people who bring their own food or eat cheaply. It should work out the same in the end anyway. If they really need to pinch every penny on M&IE, then they should be providing box lunches from a local deli that does catering (at least for the non-overnight trips), it would probably be much cheaper for them if they made a deal with a regular vendor.

            1. Zillah*

              I disagree completely.

              “Box lunches” are a pretty surefire way to make a lot of people unhappy, and as someone with dietary issues, I’d find that far more intrusive and uncomfortable than just turning in receipts – and turning receipts in doesn’t penalize people who eat cheaply any more than reimbursing for gas is penalizing people whose cars get more miles to the gallon.

              Whatever the ideal way to handle this would be, the company isn’t handling the food costs in a particularly unusual way, and Fergus agreed to those terms when he joined the theatre. What he’s doing with the food reimbursement is pretty reprehensible.

            2. the gold digger*

              Yeah – what’s the point of a per-diem if you still have to submit receipts? If I submit receipts, I want to get a decent meal, not the little that I can get from the per-diem.

              1. Sparty07*

                The OP may be using the wrong term here. My guess is they either have a maximum per meal/day and thus still require the receipts.

                1. OP #1*

                  The company calls it a per diem. I have had per diems constructed different ways though. Here we are allotted to use 75 the whole day, and then turn in receipts. We get reimbursed on our paycheck.

              2. Bailey Quarters*

                I’ve had to submit receipts for what was called a per diem. I chalked it up to yet another odd state rule.

            3. JGray*

              Per diem has lots of rules and is regulated by the IRS so it might be hard to just offer a flat rate to employees. It might just be easier to reimburse for actual expenses. But it sounds like the company might want to make a change after they find out what this employee is doing.

              1. Anna*

                My understanding is that the IRS has recommendations for per diems based on averaging costs in a city. So for example the per diem I get for going to DC is a different amount than what I get for going to Seattle. However, from what I know, they aren’t required to give that per diem. I could totally be off base about that, but I’ve known people who get much smaller per diems or a flat per diem no matter where they travelled.

            4. TootsNYC*

              it doesn’t penalize people who bring their own food or eat cheaply.

              “not getting reimbursed” =/= “being penalized”

              you’re not being penalized because you didn’t use a perk. (and it’s not even really a perk)

              And a per diem might -actually- penalize someone who is stuck eating somewhere that is generally expensive.

              1. the gold digger*

                My point about Chicago! I don’t want to eat a hamburger! I want to go to Emilio’s Tapas with coworkers and try a bunch of stuff or to Eataly and have carpaccio and a Nutella crepe! And a coffee at the Lavazza bar!

                1. Blurgle*

                  Exactly! And I want to go to the supermarket and buy something that won’t land me in the ER with anaphylactic shock like that burger would!

                  Box lunches…feh.

          1. Colette*

            Sigh. Why does it have to be documented. If they know she’s not claiming short trips, they can figure that out themselves if they need it. Presumably they know the starting place and destination.

        3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Eh, if it’s that important to them, PTB can calculate the mileage she isn’t claiming. Her house is the start point, they know the destinations, here’s Google Maps.

          The OP is paid to be a performer. They aren’t paying her to do the mileage reports. If the data is THAT important, somebody else can capture it.

          (Can you tell I’d do the same as the OP? We’re big picture people! :) )

          1. Zillah*

            Yeah, that line of thinking is particularly absurd to me considering that they have another employee who is getting reimbursed for everything – if they need a vague ballpark, they don’t even need to do any extra work!

      2. Vicki*

        I’m surprised by “the extra work”. You just jot down the mileage before you start driving and again when you get home. If you put gas in the tank for the trip, you make a note (or not, and just handle mileage).

        If you can do this for a trip of 51 miles you can do it for a trip of 21 miles. Put a notepad in the car or download one of the many free apps for your phone.

        1. ReanaZ*

          But this is so unbelievably tedious and annoying to have to do. It sounds like there are plenty of people who don’t mind, but I hate it. I would do it if I had to or if I was getting paid for it, but it’s a huge, huge hassle and I just don’t want to make time for that constantly in my life.

  6. JessaB*

    I disagree with the advice to talk to Fergus. Seriously this is theft, and if I were the employer and found out someone knew about theft from the company, I’d be really peeved that nobody spoke up sooner. Unless Fergus is going to come clean and reimburse the theft, I don’t think a conversation with him is useful in the slightest. I think the fact that it’s a non profit kind of makes it worse. Fergus is not stealing from some big pockets corporation (which is still wrong no matter how much it is for,) but he’s stealing not only from the company but from the donors who give money to them.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yes, this. And given that Fergus has flat-out told the OP that he’ll lie to the point of stealing money OUT OF HER REIMBURSEMENT, warning him ahead of time will just give him a chance to try and cover his butt.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        This reminds me of the guy who ate other peoples’ leftovers when the company paid for meals…I think when people had to work really late? The same sociopathic lack of perpective-taking or ability to empathize.

          1. fposte*

            Agreed. Young and thoughtless will get you to the same place.

            And I’m familiar with vaguely similar situations where this is a done thing–there’s a supermarket where if you don’t have a loyalty card to get points on they give your points to the person behind you, for instance. So if you come from that mindset I can see thinking about it the same way (though not getting angry about it–that just seems weird).

            1. neverjaunty*

              There’s a lot of selfish, jerk behavior that is way beyond the level of “thoughtless” without being sociopathic. I’m not following this argument that hey, he’s just a broke young dude. As a former broke young dumbass, broke young people really do understand the difference between taking advantage of something (“we get a per diem, why shouldn’t I use all of it?”) and scamming (submitting fake receipts).

              1. fposte*

                I’m not making an argument that he’s a young, broke dude and is entitled to this and shouldn’t be reported. I’m making an argument that being young and inexperienced is not the same thing as lacking empathy (not sure who Fergus should have empathy for here–I don’t think you can technically have empathy for an organization) or being a sociopath. You can be a dumb shit about something without being incurably deficient in humanity.

                1. Allison*

                  Agreed, he might be under the impression that everyone fudges information to get reimbursement money, and it’s not a big deal as long as you don’t take too much. Maybe his friends suggested it and told him it wasn’t a big deal, maybe he saw his parents do it at some point.

                2. LCL*

                  ‘You can be a dumb shit about something without being incurably deficient in humanity.’
                  Management has to sit down with Fergus and clearly explain to him about reimbursement, and what it is intended for. I have seen people lose their friggin’ minds when they first realize they can get reimbursement for certain things as described in our labor agreement. If the person isn’t familiar with how reimbursement works, they can see it as free money and try to grab all they can.
                  One of my first managerial mis-steps was not stating clearly to one employee who was minding every one else’s business in regards to a particular reimbursement, that in some cases per contract other people would be getting more reimbursement than he was. The issue became a flare up with allegations of fraud, which I should have foreseen at the start by discussing that aspect of our contract, and telling busybody to MYOB. There was no fraud, busybody was getting less per contract and didn’t like it.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  Oh, absolutely. And from the OP’s perspective, it really doesn’t matter a whit whether Fergus is going to be older, wiser and better behaved in ten years or whether he’s a sociopath. There’s enough to go on based entirely on what he’s said and his conduct.

                  What I’m not getting are the numerous comments saying oh, gosh, we were all young and broke once, so give the little scalawag a chance. OP has already tried to talk to Fergus about this being Not Okay, and his response makes it clear that he doesn’t care whether it is Okay, he cares whether it’s good for Fergus.

              2. Kyrielle*

                Yep. (I was amused when $PreviousJob went from ‘you always get the whole per diem no matter what you spend, no receipts’ to ‘this costs too much, we will pay only what you spend, submit receipts’. They were shocked to find that most employees ate things that cost almost the whole per diem, per meal. They were sure people were more frugal than that. And they were, until the rule change…. It changed back within a year or so.)

        1. Lana*

          We had a young guy who took the entire leftovers of the monthly birthday cake order for 250 people. I mean he took pounds and pounds of cake home — like it was all just for him personally to box up and take.

            1. Cactus*

              Speaking as someone who used to be in charge of baking birthday cakes/other treats for my co-workers, the only person who should have been doing that was the birthday person themself. (In my case, this happened in a smallish work environment, so I wasn’t baking pound and pounds of cake–I was generally making enough of whatever said person’s favorite treat was for everyone to have some, sometimes with a little bit of extra.) But what that young dude did is just weird.

    2. JGray*

      I agree. I also don’t’ think that you want to dismiss this about him being young. It doesn’t matter how old or young someone is-stealing is stealing. And I would cover my butt at this point since LW already tried talking to him and he obviously doesn’t care. The way to protect yourself is to let the higher ups know what is going on and that you tried to talk to Fergus already and he doesn’t seem to understand what is wrong with what he is doing. I also think that no matter where he works Fergus will probably try to get “extra” money where he can so its probably best to stop this now.

  7. JD*

    I’d say report it now and let the employer sort out how many chances they want to give him. As neverjaunty said, warning him would just give him a chance to come up with a better chance to cover his butt and worse, it could then be made to reflect on you very badly(knowing about it without saying anything if he is caught down the road or if you report it and he’s got excuses for enough of them it may look like you are just trying to cause trouble).

  8. JD*

    @#4 This can also give you a heads up about the company as well. If they had very low turnover for years and suddenly they are churning through people left, right and center, dig deeper as something bad may be on the horizon(a 1 time major shift could just be a one-time change in the company culture though). I’d say don’t be afraid to push a little for the information(be polite about it) as they may not be upfront about all of the information. I’ve seen it where they say they are simply hiring because of “X”, but then on the first day they find out that “X” was just tossed out as a misdirection because the last few hires didn’t want to stay with the company, so they just didn’t want to let the interviewees know about them beforehand.

    1. K.*

      I always, always ask why a position is vacant, and usually where the previous person went if it’s not a new position. Was she promoted? (If so, great!) Did she burn out? Was she chugging along doing well, and then jumped ship under a new boss who was hard to deal with? It’s very valuable info.

      1. Allison*

        I’d also be interested to know if the person got fired, and why. I’m not saying OP (or anyone) should assume a firing is fair or a red flag of crazy rules and expectations, but if they were let go it’s probably worth knowing why.

    2. INTP*

      Yep, I uncovered a huge red flag by asking this question. The recruiter revealed to me that they had created a second position out of growth, but two of the three people hired for the position previously did not meet the metrics goals and were fired during the probationary period. That could be coincidence, but more likely their metrics are unreasonable or their hiring practices don’t select people who can meet them (which could have been me). I was already employed and the position would have required relocation so I pulled myself out of the process, not worth the risk.

    3. Sparty07*

      I got recruited to a job interview, and after doing a little linkedin investigation found a guy I worked with had the exact same position I was supposed to be interviewing for. After going through a phone interview, most of what the former coworker told me sounded true and I declined to continue on in that process.

  9. Merry and Bright*

    #1 Like Fergus sounds, I’ve been short of cash and lived on a low income. Unlike Fergus, I’ve never stolen from an employer or practised forgery or deception. He may be young but he isn’t a little kid. He should already know that these are crimes as well as being unethical. Almost any employer I know or have known would sack you on the spot once they found out. UK employment laws wouldn’t help you much here.

    What is sadder about this is that many small groups like the OP’s often rely on trust far more than more “regular” employers who have stringent accountants, auditors, regulators etc to get past.

    I totally get how the OP feels. But she is not going to harm Fergus’s reputation. He is already doing that all by himself.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      Unfortunately, I’ve known a lot of students/recent-students who wouldn’t see this as forgery or deception at all. I have absolutely no problem seeing Fergus as just completely oblivious to how serious his actions are. A lot of these people would have seen ‘money is there’ and ‘I need money’ as justification enough for ‘bending the rules a little’, because at that stage they simply don’t see the bigger picture and that the theatre is a victim of this.

      I think the OP would be completely justified in going straight to the theatre and alerting them, but I’m also prepared to bet that Fergus genuinely doesn’t realise the seriousness of what he’s doing.

      1. Colette*

        I think there are two ways of looking at this. The first way is that you spend what you need and get reimbursed. The second way is that there’s a pool of money, and you need to play a game to get as much of it as possible. IMO, the second group is ethically wrong, and a symptom of seeing companies as rich adversaries.

        1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          I broadly agree, but I also think that there are a lot of people (particularly who haven’t been on the ‘company’ side of the divide – i.e. who aren’t aware of the impact this can have on the finances of whoever they’re claiming from) who see it differently because they don’t see it as causing any harm. By and large, I think that trying to explain to those people is more helpful long run than getting them disciplined/fired for something they saw as justifiable & causing resentment/possibly a determination to get away with it next time (or whatever)

          1. Colette*

            I agree – the first step is a conversation (although I don’t think the OP is obligated to have that conversation if she’s not comfortable doing do.)

          2. Ad Astra*

            I’m with you. Colette is right about the two different ways to look at it, but I don’t find the second way to be clearly unethical. Fergus isn’t costing the company any more money than what they’ve already budgeted for, so I can easily see how someone would justify this practice to themselves. Ultimately, yeah, Fergus is being unethical. But there’s some gray area involved.

            The OP certainly isn’t obligated to talk to Fergus before going to management, but it’s the more compassionate thing to do.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              She already did, though.

              I confronted Fergus, and he said that by me not requesting reimbursement, the money was up for grabs.

              She needs to let management know before he drags her into this.

        2. Sally Sparrow*

          I second this. I doubt OP will be able to knock sense into Fergus, especially since he seems to think the latter. The only way he will learn is through the consequences of his actions.

        3. MK*

          Getting as much of the available funds is one thing, spending the money on something other than intended another. If I am provided with X amount for accommodation, for example, I will book the best hotel I can for that price, I won’t try to find the cheapest option. But if I decide to stay with a friend, I won’t use the same money for, say, theatre tickets.

      2. neverjaunty*

        He probably doesn’t, but so what? People whose attitude is that right and wrong stops with “but it benefits me” are not merely inexperienced young folk making a common mistake. I guess I don’t understand the argument that somebody isn’t really doing something wrong unless they’re maliciously evil.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I don’t think most people are saying it’s not wrong. I think they’re saying that Fergus may not see how wrong it is, and that an educational conversation with him may help him to place it properly for better decisions in the future. Turning him in and wrecking his career over it would be a totally legitimate option – but first giving him a chance to stop what he’s doing wrong and learn would be kind, if he takes advantage of it. Similar to the ‘rehabilitation or punishment’ view for criminals.

          Mind you, he _has already_ stolen from the theater group, so I’m not actually sure how comfortable I am with the OP being the one to give him the chance to understand. It seems like the OP should perhaps turn him in and let the theater group decide how to handle it, since they are in fact out money. If the group is like most companies, though, that’s almost guaranteed to end in the ‘punishment’ mode – and tank Fergus’s career, which isn’t going to make it any easier for him to make good choices (desperation seldom does).

          Does anyone owe Fergus another chance? No, not really. But might it still be the net-best route for everyone? Possibly. I’m not sure.

          Mostly, I want to argue that this is not ‘sociopathic’ or ‘lacking empathy’ on his part. It might be. It might also be selfish, willful stupidity, which is still quite bad, but not on the same level of being arguably irredeemable.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Correct – it’s not OP’s call to decide that Fergus is just a misguided little scamp who needs a kind word or two to be set on the right path. OP has tried to talk to Fergus, and it’s pretty clear that he isn’t simply misunderstanding workplace norms; it’s money, and he’s happy to steal it. It literally is irrelevant to the OP whether his actions are driven by a bad childhood or a horrible personality and whether he can be redeemed someday.

            BTW, one of the way people learn not to do crappy things is when there are consequences to their actions. Generally, it’s a good idea to involve the people harmed by those crappy things in deciding on appropriate consequences. I don’t see that it’s OP’s job to peer into Fergus’ heart of hearts, or to err on the side of assuming that he deserves One More Chance, without letting the theater company – who he’s stealing from – have a say.

        2. Heather*

          I don’t think anybody said he wasn’t doing anything wrong – just that that’s how he might be justifying it to himself.

    2. blackcat*

      I’ve been short of cash and lived on a low income.

      When I was doing that, I’d make sure to get reimbursed for everything to which I was entitled. That $2 coffee at the airport before a business trip? Getting reimbursed for it.

      But when I was making more money, I wouldn’t fret about losing the $2 receipt.

      And I never, never thought about getting reimbursed for expenses that never happened. Fergus is digging is own hole here.

    3. the gold digger*

      Almost any employer I know or have known would sack you on the spot once they found out.

      My boss fired a co-worker for that very thing. Co-worker, who was definitely old enough to know better, forged a hotel receipt for his trip to Nicaragua, staying with friends instead. T&E found out, told the boss, guy was fired.

      Irony is that any time I have stayed with friends rather than stay in a hotel, I have asked my boss if it’s OK to take friends out to dinner on company. Boss has always said yes – it’s still cheaper for the company for me not to pay a few nights of hotel and buy a nice dinner for two other people.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I too had a coworker fired for something similar. I was an inside sales rep supporting three outside sales reps, and one of them down in Texas was having an affair, so he was expensing hotel stays claiming them as customer visits and somehow the company found out (probably through a customer that said “uh, no he wasn’t here last month” or something like that. It was like 10 yrs ago so I don’t remember all the details.

        1. BritCred*

          I misread that at first and thought he was staying at the affairs house when he was claiming to be in a hotel but was at a legitimate business meeting. One company I worked for had a specific “fee” for “staying with friends” that of about £25 a night where you were away from home but not at a receiptable hotel/B&B (although I don’t think it was ever used in an affair situation!).

          But charging personal nights at a hotel to the company? Ouch….!

    4. KH*

      Totally agree. This guy knows that what he is doing is wrong. He is just justifying it in his head that the company has more money and won’t miss such a little bit. “They’ll never miss it!”
      AAM’s suggestion is spot on. Give him a friendly heads up that what he’s doing is not cool. I’d bet you a trash can full of receipts that he won’t stop even after being told the risk, you’ll tell the manager, and he’ll get fired.

  10. Merry and Bright*

    #4 My favourite question. I give it prority if time is short and if it has already been covered then I like to expand if I can.

    1. OP#4*

      I had a follow up interview and asked the question ” Can you tell me about the history of the position and how long the person was in the position before. They gave a timeframe that was longer than what I saw on linkedin. They also mentioned that the person before was promoted to the role I was interviewing for. So perhaps the short time was just in the promotion role (although I didn’t see any previous role at the same company on the persons linkedin). They were running short on time and I figured I would save it if they followed up with me.

  11. SCR*

    #1 – Aren’t per diems usually in lieu of having to provide receipts? Like you get $50 for every day you travel and then no one has to bother with receipts and adding it all up. Depends who’s paying when I travel, client vs. agency, but sometimes I submit receipts for all expenses (including meals and other small costs, like a coffee at the airport) and sometimes I have a per diem where I get $50 for every day I’m traveling. And the per diem for me could include my meals plus the gum and magazine I buy at the airport, plus if I’d rather have a glass of wine than teetotaling then I either fit it into my per diem or I pay for it myself.

    Maybe y’all could work with the company to consider a standard per diem and then he can maybe eat out one cheap meal and pocket the rest. This would be easier on all of you then having to collect receipts from every tiny thing, and it’s good for the company because they can plan what those expenses will be. You have x about to spend and you make it work on that. The pocketing the extra has never been considered stealing where I work because it generally evens out and there are always small costs to travel other than meals that feel weird to expense.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      In my company, per diem just means limit for meals. We still have to submit receipts and because all transactions have to go on the corporate card, there’s no cash.

      Honestly this suggestion doesn’t sound ethical to me but I suppose it depends on what the per diem is intended for.

      1. SCR*

        Your company agrees to give you a per diem for every day you travel and it’s your responsibility to determine how you spend it. Long time consultants I worked with had no qualms with it. Eat poor a few weeks, get extra money in your pocket. When you’re traveling constantly, things add up. Like I once had to go get extra OTC meds on the road because my trip was extended but I had plenty of a supply at home. I would never expect a company to pay me back for that but because I had a per diem it covered it and I didn’t have a nice meal that night. It’s a perk of traveling constantly, same as mileage reimbursement which more enough that not isn’t going directly to car upkeep.

        1. SCR*

          And for example, I was managing of team of 15 consultants and myself who traveled at least a couple days a week, every week to a client out of state (driving), if I had to submit receipts for everyone’s meals every month to the client for billing? Woof. Your company or the client’s agrees to a per diem and that’s what you get every day you travel, no questions asked. If you go over though you certainly can’t expense more. It’s much easier admin wise.

          1. MK*

            In those cases the company made the executive decision that it’s preferable to maybe spend a little more money on their workers’ expenses than they absolutely have to, if they don’t have to bother with tracking them.

          2. Windchime*

            This is how per diem works for us as well; we don’t submit receipts for meals. The per diem is what you get, period. If you go out for a super fancy meal that exceeds the per diem, then you pay for the excess yourself. If you decide to have a Subway sandwich for dinner, then you come out ahead that day for expenses. My company does not want to deal with a flurry of receipts for coffee and meals every time someone travels. The exception is if you are a Big Boss and you host a meal with clients; people at that level can (and do) submit receipts for those kind of expenses.

            We do have to submit receipts for other expenses like taxi, hotel, flight, etc.

      2. Chocolate lover*

        That is also how my companies have handled it – the per diem was the limit, we submitted receipts and got reimbursed.

        1. Mabel*

          Me, too, and we have to provide a LOT of detail. I think this is because I work for a company that provides consultants to other companies, and we bill clients for the travel expenses.

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        It is ethical…a lot of government travel works this way. You get the M&IE per diem no matter what, because that’s about what it costs to feed yourself in that city. (The rate differs throughout each state, based on the cost of living.) I have never submitted meal receipts, just hotel and airfare.

        When I was young and poor I ate very frugally and used the per diem to supplement my income. But once I became more comfortable, I started seeing the per diem as a supplement, and I would spend $20, $30 over it mostly on a nice dinner, to make these business trips a nicer experience for myself. If receipts had been required, I would have bought more food when I was younger, that’s all.

        1. hermit crab*

          Yep, that’s how we handle food expenses when we travel for our federal contracts. I figure it’s a win-win, because the contracts office surely has more important things to do than go through everyone’s restaurant receipts.

    2. OP #1*

      OP here we are allowed to spend up to $75 a day for food, but they don’t give us money ahead of time. We turn in our receipts afterwards and a reimbursed later.

      1. SCR*

        Wow, $75 is really good. I never get per diem ahead of time, I get reimbursed. But it’s easier because I don’t have to turn in receipts. I get $x a day every time I travel and can budget myself or I can save one days and splurge another day or save all my days for a week or whatever. And the company can predict that every day I travel they owe me x. Maybe this is pointless comment but it could make things easier for all of you.

      2. the gold digger*

        Holy smoke! We don’t even get that much for Chicago, which has a much higher per-diem than almost anywhere else I have traveled, and I work for a profitable private sector company.

        Your org is definitely doing it right. Mine is not.

        1. Mabel*

          I haven’t traveled to Chicago for work in a while, but the last several times I went to NYC, I went over our maximum for hotel and food, and it was approved because there weren’t any cheaper options. My last trip was around the time the Pope was in NYC, and the U.N. Security Council was meeting. I couldn’t find a hotel room for ANY amount, so I used airbnb. The expenses form was tricky because you HAVE to supply the name of a hotel that’s on the list of approved hotels (and airbnb isn’t one of them). I just used “Hilton” and added an explanation in the “Receipts/Declaration of Missing Receipts” section (it’s the only place you can type any kind of text). I did the same thing when I stayed in an independent hotel on a trip to another state. It was less expensive and closer to the office than any of my “approved” options. Everything was approved, and I was reimbursed, so my company turned out to be a little more flexible than I expected.

        2. Anna*

          This is why I don’t think the IRS suggestions are a requirement. The company I work for gives us the IRS recommendations, but they aren’t required to do so. They can give us anything they think is reasonable.

      3. Ad Astra*

        Ah, like others have said, that sounds like a pretty high per diem. I can see the temptation to only spend $25 on food and then pocket the other $50. It’s just that, in this case, Fergus is committing fraud in the process.

      4. Windchime*

        In the past, we just got $50-something per day. They have now changed the way we do per diem and when I recently went to Big East Coast City, the per diem was $69 per day for that particular city. I was surprised, but now we apparently do it based on where we traveled to so that was kinda nice.

    3. just another techie*

      Every place I’ve worked for has used per diem to mean “the cap on how much we’ll reimburse you when you submit receipts.” A true up front per diem is very rare and you’re lucky to have it.

      1. SCR*

        Maybe it’s by industry then. I work at a digital agency that is also somewhat a consultancy. All our client master service agreements specify per diems for travel and our paid as reimbursement on a days per travel basis.?

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Maybe it’s by industry then.

          In my industry, per diem is kind of rare because of the crazy hours. But, it’s generally given out in cash when you show up onsite. I tend to roll my eyes at per diem because if we get it, then we need time to go and eat which often isn’t available. It’s happened more than once where we get per diem, client requests are insane and the producer has no choice but to order us a meal through room service because they simply can’t have us go away for an hour to eat. Not making that up. Or, there are times were the per diem is too small to actually work. If you’re at a resort in the middle of nowhere, there isn’t a Starbucks or Subway close by that you can nip out to. If you’ve got $50/day and a burger at the pool bar is the cheapest option, but it’s $20, that $50 isn’t going to get you through the day.

      2. the gold digger*

        A true up front per diem is very rare and you’re lucky to have it.

        Only if it’s a decent amount. If it means you have $30 for dinner in downtown Chicago, you’re not going to eat that well.

            1. Mona Lisa*

              Oh, man, I lived in Chicago for several years, and now that I’m not there, I get the most random cravings for Chicago dogs!

            2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              I am so excited…my current city is one of the cities in Portillo’s expansion plan. It may take up to 5 years, but some day I’ll have them again!

        1. Sparty07*

          I can find plenty of fantastic places to eat for under $30 in downtown Chicago. Are you eating at Girl and the Goat? No, are you eating McDonald’s? No.

          1. the gold digger*

            Under $30 total, which means no more than $22 on your food unless you don’t tip.

            Don’t know G&G prices, but I do know I am not eating at McDonald’s for a work trip. I want decent food that will not make me feel sick.

            1. Sparty07*

              Yes, less than $30 total. There are a ton of great gastro pubs, individual restaurants, etc that have entrees in the 15-20 range with a soft drink/iced tea, tax and tip would easily be under $30

              1. the gold digger*

                Perhaps I am not expressing myself well. If I am on a business trip and have to be away from home and spend most of my evening doing my email because I was at a trade show or meetings all day, I want to eat at a nice restaurant where I would otherwise not eat. I want something special to make up for having to be away.

                1. Sparty07*

                  This type of attitude is why companies are really starting to focus on travel related expenses. I was always told to have the mentality to spend the company’s money as if it was my own. You can still eat a decent meal in a locally owned place without needing a steak, 2 glasses of wine, appetizers and dessert.

                2. Rana*

                  I guess the reaction you’re getting is because different people have different senses of what “a decent meal” looks like. I live in Chicago, I eat tasty, well-prepared food when I go out to eat, but it’s incredibly rare for me to pay more than $20 a person for a meal.

                  But, then, a lot of the restaurants downtown are rip-offs in terms of cost. If you’re willing to take the El out of downtown, you can get amazing food for that $30.

        1. catsAreCool*

          There’s a big difference between:
          not using all of your per diem if this is a situation where the company gives you a set amount for each meal and
          forging receipts to pretend you’re spending more than you are.

    4. Colette*

      Well, they could, but I’m not sure it’s a good idea to adjust how you do business to accommodate someone who is committing fraud.

      1. SCR*

        Well the mileage reimbursement is fraud but the food seems a little different. He’s bringing food from home which still costs money and his home situation could be such that not eating there costs him additional money and without a fixed per diem he can’t expense it. Having been poor and having to travel and then to figure out to afford to eat… I have sympathy. He can spend up to 75 but he’s broke so he spends nothing and forgoes food on the road. It’s not so simple.

        1. Mabel*

          Wait – isn’t the fact that eating out costs more than eating at home the point of reimbursing employees for meals while on the road? It’s not so employees can increase their income by bringing food from home and then submitting other people’s receipts.

          I have several food allergies, so sometimes I need to bring food with me when I travel. I don’t always expense it, but sometimes I buy the food I need at the grocery store (on my departure date, so it doesn’t look like I’m expensing my usual groceries) and submit the receipts for reimbursement. It would be tricky if I needed to bring two wheat-free English muffins and I could only buy a package of six, but I would probably figure out the price for two and submit it as a “meal” expense with no receipt.

          1. SCR*

            Yes he could do the same as you. As a recent grad he might benefit from communal meals at home and have to pay more when he travels. Or his partner could be disabled and when he’s gone they have to eat takeout. Traveling is a burden in numerous ways and “well we pay you for the exact amount you eat while on the road” isn’t exactly helpful to many people. Fixed amounts cover this which is the point I was making.

            1. neverjaunty*

              We could spend all day making up what-if scenarios to try to make him into a good guy, but the point is that he’s stealing money. If he were taking money out of petty cash, would we be trying to guess whether maybe he was trying to make up for a disabled partner at home?

              Yes, traveling is a burden. That’s the point of the per diem – to make sure that employees aren’t paying to work. Fergus is trying to use this to turn a profit.

              1. SCR*

                A fixed per diem isn’t a profit. It’s what you get for traveling. If you don’t spend every last cent of it then are you stealing? That’s ridiculous. We give others the benefit of the doubt, why not him? He has to travel and he has a dumb policy, he’s not a horrific person. Jesus.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  He’s stealing from the small nonprofit he works for, because he is trying to claim expenses he never incurred so that the nonprofit will “reimburse” him for them. Whether it is or is not a “dumb policy” has nothing to do with this. I genuinely do not understand this impulse to identify with Fergus and find reasons to make excuses for him.

            2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              I think it’s the use of per-diem rather than reimbursable/allowed expenses that is leading everyone down the path of scenarios.

              The OP has stated that they are allowed to reimburse up to $75 in food expenses, which is meant to be for expenses incurred while traveling. Fergus is taking already purchased food and then using false receipts to claim a deduction.

              As someone who has sat and watched an auditor review my teams expense reports, the thought of that makes me so squicky inside. This could have huge consequences for the organization, not to mention that it is simply unethical.

              Conversely, when I worked for an org that had a straight per-diem ($57) and I had a young staff member ask me what to do with the $14 he had left over, I felt completely comfortable telling him it was his to keep (I also did ask if he ate breakfast while traveling).

    5. Per Diem*

      When I worked for the federal government we could do it one of two ways:

      1. take the full Per Diem / MI&E amount and not turn in receipts at all
      2. turn in receipts and get reimbursed for the amount spent

      Of course for option 2 you had different amounts for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and per diem. You had to check the GSA rates for the location where you traveled and while the entire day might be $75 – breakfast might be $15, lunch $15, dinner $30, and MI&E $15. But if your breakfast receipt was $16.59 and dinner was $25 guess what — you’re only getting reimbursed $40 because you overspent on breakfast. (Not to mention partial travel days where the amounts were reduced.)

      I almost always did it the first way, and yes, part of it was because I was poor (had just finished graduate school, living in an expensive location, and severely underpaid – thanks government job!).

      1. blackcat*

        Yes, my husband did this A LOT in grad school. He always got a flat $ amount per day for conferences, and would always make sure to book a hotel room with a minifridge and microwave. He’d go to a grocery store on day 1 and spend like 1/3 of the per-diem. In that case, I viewed it as a “hassle bonus.”

        1. Natalie*

          A friend of mine used to always try and get a hotel near a Whole Foods or similar, and then would eat out of their hot bar area and save the rest of her per diem.

        1. Per Diem*

          Because you are a good government employee and do everything by the book?

          I remember doing it that way sometimes, although I can’t remember why exactly. On my current salary, I would probably do it that way but when I could barely pay my bills – and was expected to pay my gov’t credit card bill (which had to be used if you traveled) upfront, then wait for them to reimburse you – I thought of it as a way to get back at “the Man.” It was a train of thought along the lines of “I pay taxes, which funds the gov’t, which was paying for all of this so it’s really my money anyway.”

          (I did not enjoy working at that job for many, many reasons.)

      2. fposte*

        Our per diems for my state university are ridiculously low (like, 1/3 of a theater company’s, apparently). I think the state understands that there are many of us who’d rather have less money than track the receipts and saves overall as a result.

      3. The IT Manager*

        When I worked for the federal government, the only option was #1.

        The only way these multiple options made sense is if the traveler did get more money by itemizing and keeping receipts.

      4. Lindsay J*

        Yeah, that’s the way my job works. We can take a flat per diem ($25, hotel is booked and paid for by the company and we usually use the hotel shuttle to get around). You can use that however you see fit.

        Or, we can turn in reciepts and get covered for the total amount spent (up to a certain point, I don’t know what that point is). However, you have to turn in reciepts for all covered expenses, and your packet of headache medicine at the airport or an umbrella if it is raining aren’t covered expenses.

        I do it the first way just because I don’t want to bother keeping track of reciepts. Or I might order a pizza for dinner and then have the leftovers for lunch the next day or something similar.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Also, the hotel provides breakfast. So one time I was sent to travel unexpectedly and didn’t have enough money in my bank account. So I had hotel breakfast. An apple and a banana from the basket in the hotel lobby for lunch. And a cup of ramen for dinner. I did still take the $25 for the day.

          However, if we didn’t get a flat per diem and had to submit reciepts I certainly wouldn’t have dug around in the trash for reciepts. I would have submitted my $1 for cup-a-noodle soup and $.75 for a soda and been done with it.

    6. The IT Manager*

      Aren’t per diems usually in lieu of having to provide receipts?

      Yes. That’s what the US government considers per diem. For example, you get $80 a day per diem (dinner-$35, lunch-$30, breakfast-$15) no matter what. No one has to bother with receipts. If the traveler eats more, they pay out of pocket. If the traveler eats less, they pocket extra money. I usually found I made money that way since I didn’t go to fancy places especially every single meal.

      I presume this per diem is a max reimbursement based on receipts, and it’s very unethical that this guy is falsifying his claims by using other people’s receipts and claiming it is his. I bet the form has him signing something saying that he attests that the expenses on his claim are truthful. I think you owe the non-profit theater more loyalty than this guy. Tell them what he’s doing. Let them handle it.

        1. Sandy*

          Both the rate and how well you make out on the rate vary depending on where you are.

          For example, I once had a business trip to Angola. 140 dollar per diem. Sweet, right? Except that the cost of living there was (maybe is) high that a single cauliflower will set you back 35 USD. A plate of rice and curry and a glass of the house white wine for dinner cost me 110 bucks. I lost money on that trip.

        2. The IT Manager*

          That was just an example I pulled out of the air using round numbers, and it depended on where you traveled to.

          I do think I got $100 a day one trip, but I was in a country in the middle east and the breakfast in the hotel was indeed at least $25.00. Eating every single meal in the hotel would have come out to about a $100, but that was just too much food for a person to eat every day for more than a day or two.

        3. Nerdling*

          The rates definitely vary by location (there’s a standard flat rate of, I think $61, and then locality can add to that, although the flat rate may actually be lower). You can check out the full range over on the GSA’s website (, if you’re curious. The only things we have to submit receipts for are hotels (and you have to make sure you find someplace at or under the government rate, which varies seasonally and by location, unless you can prove you can’t find them and get an exception), rental cars, flights, baggage fees, and things like taxi rides that exceed $75 (dry cleaning is only authorized for stays of longer than a certain period, and then only so much per day over that). No first class flights permitted except in *very* exceptional circumstances (at least by my agency), even if you have the miles, and rental car authorizations are controlled pretty tightly in my experience.

          It’s been rare in my travels that I have gone over my per diem, mostly because I haven’t traveled as extensively as Sandy has above. I think one exception was a travel day, since you only get 3/4ths of per diem on travel days, where my flights were cancelled multiple times and I got stuck eating at the airport a ridiculous amount.

    7. BritCred*

      Usually it is that – but it seems some use it as other things. In one prior employer you receipted all your expenditure however got a low per diem for things that just were not worth receipting (It was like £5 a day so newspapers, if you’d lost a toll ticket or didn’t get a receipt etc). We also did have a limit on how much you could spend on a hotel unless it was preauthorised for good reason – so no suites on the company!

      Although another previous employer got you to expense and receipt all meals but due to the industry (transport) wouldn’t pay for any alcohol even with a meal. So advised that the alcohol was to be deducted from the restaurant bill but you could claim a per diem for it instead which often meant someone would pay £4 for a drink with dinner and get a £7.50 per diem in exchange…

  12. Three Thousand*

    #1 Please don’t try to talk to this guy. He’s deliberately and defiantly committing fraud, feels entitled to the money he’s stealing, and is planning his fraud in advance and sharing this information with others. This isn’t a person you should try to reason with. You don’t know what else is broken about his ethics. Report him immediately, before you get accused of covering for him, and don’t give him reason to think it was you who turned him in.

    1. Mike C.*

      This doesn’t make any sense at all. Why does not understanding the entirety of one’s moral and ethical philosophy mean that you should never talk to them?

      1. neverjaunty*

        Three Thousand obviously meant ‘don’t talk to this guy to try to persuade him to stop doing it’, not that OP should give Fergus the silent treatment.

    2. Mander*

      Yeah, I think I agree with this. Confronting him might only give him an opportunity to try and make you appear complicit. I don’t really have much sympathy for the argument that he’s young and inexperienced. Lying is lying; you learn that it’s wrong at a very young age.

      1. Mike C.*

        Uh, what? How is confronting him going to make you look complicit?

        Fraud is fraud, but it’s not a contagious disease.

        1. F.*

          You will look complicit because, if you confront him without reporting the fraud to management at the same time, you are essentially covering up his fraud. The employees committing the fraud may also very well try to bring down the OP by stating that the OP knew about it and even condoned it. It is NOT the responsibility of a coworker to inform an employee that they are committing fraud.

          1. Mike C.*

            They might also state that the OP kicks puppies or makes small children cry, so what? If the employer actually looks into things, they’ll find out that the OP was perfectly responsible and ethical, and was trying their best to take care of the situation before coming to management.

            1. neverjaunty*

              The theater company – not OP – is the theft victim here. It’s not “perfectly responsible and ethical” for OP to allow the theater company to remain in the dark about that in the hopes that talking to Fergus will turn into some kind of Lifetime Movie ending. Well-intentioned, certainly, but not very responsible. It isn’t OP’s call to decide that the theft victim doesn’t need to know what’s going on.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Again, I don’t see why that gamble is something OP can, or even should, take. If Fergus didn’t understand what mileage reimbursement WAS, that would be one thing. But I don’t see how anything thinks ‘pretending I spent this money that I never actually spent’ is an error.

                2. mander*

                  Why is that the OP’s responsibility? Fergus is an adult and has already demonstrated that he knows this behavior is wrong. The OP is not his parent.

                  By failing to report this fraud the OP leaves herself vulnerable to the possibility that Fergus will invent evidence to show that she was complicit, and frankly, I think that by not reporting this, she *is*. The OP already talked to him once; his behaviour didn’t change. She’s under no obligation to try and convince him to stop.

            2. fposte*

              For me the problem is that Fergus has actually falsified reimbursement requests. It’s one thing if I’m intervening before it happens (“Hey, dumbass, that’s fraud, and you’re going to get us all in trouble–knock it off immediately”) and can prevent it; then I could see not reporting it. But that depends on my speaking up the first time I encounter it and him straightening up, and it’s too late for that in the OP’s letter. So that’s why I would likely go to management and not Fergus now. (I still don’t think there’s a big concern that the org is going to think I conspired with Fergus about lunch money, though.)

            3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              So I just had to look it up for sure, but part of the ethics section in my employee handbook says that I can be terminated for not reporting fraud (among other things on a list of non-ethical behaviors).

              1. Mike C.*

                Look, I’m the last person to argue that things like this should be hidden. I’m speaking to the stuff that hasn’t been done yet.

                1. mander*

                  He has already falsified reimbursement claims. What other threshold do you think he needs to cross?

  13. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

    #5 – Good luck with your new baby and your new job! I think that Alison’s suggestion to email is perfect, and I hope this doesn’t cause any problems.

  14. just another techie*

    Oof. I remember when I was a child my dad forging receipts for my mother to turn in after she traveled. “The money was budgeted for you so you should take it.” (Also “Why are you stupid that you ate a salad when the company would have paid for steak?” Dad is kind of not a great human being.) It took a long time for me to realize that’s wrong, and in fact involved a colleague at my first job explaining it to me. So I kind of feEl bad for Fergus. He might be a horribly unethical person, or he might have been taught badly. Since he’s young, I’d give him one last chance by explaining very clearly and starting from basics why this is wrong. And then if he digs in and refuses to change by all means report him to management

    1. SCR*

      Eating a steak instead of a salad if it’s still under your limit makes you a bad human? Seriously?

      Forging receipts is fraud, calling someone stupid habitually is potentially abusive, but using your entire amount of money per day when you travel? Really?

      When I do budgets for team travel, I always include the max limit per diem per person and that’s the budget. This is expected. If you can’t afford to have people travel with the max per day then you shouldn’t have as many people travel.

        1. Just another techie*

          exactly this. Teach me to post before I’ve had my morning coffee :) Re-reading my own comment it sounds unclear now.

      1. Boop*

        I think the “not a great human being” was because he called the mom stupid for ordering salad. Since people should be able to order what they want.

      2. just another techie*

        No. Berating someone repeatedly for choosing salas instead of steak while also pressuring her to commit fraud makes you a bad human

    2. jennifer*

      See, that’s why I like the businesses that just give you a set per diem for food etc., and how you spend it (or don’t) is up to you. When dad worked for the government, he’d get something like $40 a day to use for food/taxis etc. (Hotels were already paid for). Whatever he didn’t spend was his to keep—they didn’t even want to see any receipts, they’d just send him an extra check for $40*the number of days he was on the trip. He’d normally make extra money from these checks since he never spent the full allowance

      1. INTP*

        I think this is fair-er too. If someone saves money by packing food for themselves, researching the cheapest transportation, etc, they are investing more time in the process (which is probably a limited resource when they travel a lot for work) than someone who just books the nearest hotel at the nearest rate, calls the first taxi company listed on yelp, eats all meals out, etc. Obviously the expense reimbursement budget is not “money up for grabs” but it’s nice if people are able to pocket a little extra for their additional time.

        1. Bagworm*

          It’s also often a smarter move for the organization especially if they’re dealing with government grants. As was mentioned above, audits can be brutal. At one job, a federal agency was asking my org to repay a $150,000 grant because the program manager expensed less than $3 for a breakfast of a Diet Pepsi and bag of chips from a gas station. They would have been totally fine if he’d been paid the $49 flat per diem for that location but the $3 for the wrong food from the wrong place would not fly. Guess if that organization asks for receipts any more.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Yeah, my first job out of college did this. Given that I had a moderate amount of travel, and had student loans, this was actually convenient. (They actually did it on a per-meal amount, rather than per-day, so if your hotel served a continental breakfast, you didn’t get the money for breakfast, but even so it was a good deal.)

      3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        I often prefer to use a city’s local transportation when I can, or depending on the weather and mileage, walk. So my travel expenses often come back less than projected.

        The nice thing is my company is total cool with reimbursements outside your three meals…need an afternoon coffee? Totally okay to expense.

      4. catsAreCool*

        “I like the businesses that just give you a set per diem for food etc., and how you spend it (or don’t) is up to you.” Me too!

    3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      “Why are you stupid that you ate a salad when the company would have paid for steak?”

      I remember having a similar conversation with a colleague when we were both fairly new to consulting. I was trying to lose some of my college weight gain, so I was ordering simple, healthy things and he would chastise me for my choice, because “we were on the company dime” and he felt like that meant we should order expensive meals just because we could.

  15. John*

    #2 — Tell the recruiter. While you have withdrawn from consideration, it’s possible the hiring company will respond with, “Well, we weren’t moving ahead with the candidate anyway. One of our most senior guys was seriously underwhelmed.” You want the recruiter to hear your side of the story, unless he/she could lose faith in you as a candidate. And even if they don’t say anything bad about you, this information will help the recruiter assess and prepare other candidates, so you might well score some points.

    As Alison advised, be professional. Keep the emotion out of it. I’d say, “The last interview was quite different from anything I’d experienced and made it clear to me that the company was probably not the best cultural fit” and leave it to the recruiter to pull it out of me. And as I explained the situation I’d keep referring to it as “a bit odd” and “surprising” using a tone that an anthropologist might use in discussing his fascination with a rare species!

    1. Karowen*

      Yeah, I made the mistake of voluntarily telling an external recruiter more details about why I felt an opportunity wouldn’t be a great fit (essentially, the owner/CEO asked a number of uncomfortable questions about my family and marital status) and the [insert curse word of your choosing here] recruiter forwarded that to the hiring manager, instead of the more vague “fit” letter I had provided them to send on. So be careful what you say.

      1. Sparty07*

        I don’t think this is such a bad thing. If the CEO is doing something illegal, someone else could potentially sue the company. As a hiring manager, I would want to know that was happening so I could put a stop to it before something worse happened.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Ugh. Maybe the Op should do it over the phone, then. That way there’s no paper trail. I know she said the communication has been through email, but that doesn’t mean there’s a reason she can’t call, it just may take a day or two to hear back if they’re swamped. I guess it depends where the recruiter’s allegiance is, if they make a ton of money of this company, then I can see something like what happened to you happening.

      3. catsAreCool*

        Yeah, don’t put it in writing. If you do put it in writing be as factual and Spock-like as you can.

    2. Spiky Plant*

      Having worked with a recruiter for the first time during my current job search, I’d say OP should tell the recruiter and tell them honestly. There are two big reasons for this; first, the recruiter might not know at all, and can change which candidates they send to the company, give the company feedback, or maybe even choose to stop working with the company. The second reason is actually more important, though, I think, and that’s if the recruiter knows this senior person acts this way, they can actually prep candidates for that in advance. It doesn’t guarantee a better experience, but that kind of thing is much easier to deal with if you know about it in advance.

      With Karowen’s example above, I think you did the right thing and honestly so did the recruiter. I’m guessing the recruiter was kinda pissed that their client was chasing away good candidates by asking questions that open the company up to legal liabilities, in addition to making interviewees uncomfortable. He probably should have done something a bit more nuanced than straight forwarding, but if I were recruiting for a company that were doing stuff like that, I’d want to know so I could tell them that they need to knock it off (because it’s counterproductive to getting a good hire).

      1. OP #2*

        Thank you for the advice – I should also have mentioned that the recruiter is internal to the company, and my contact at the company tells me that they take interview feedback very seriously.

    3. OP #2*

      Thanks – I did indeed find it odd and surprising, as every other person I interviewed with was just lovely. I have a theory that part of it might be because this was intended to be an internal role, but the recruiter was so impressed with me that she put me through to the hiring manager who in turn really loved me. If this guy had a specific internal candidate in mind perhaps he didn’t want to consider anyone else?
      I’m just spitballing, obviously. The recruiter hasn’t actually called me to find out what went on (she’d said she would in her last email, so I suspect the senior guy got to her first!), so there might be nothing I can say. When I emailed her all I said was that after the last round of interviews I didn’t think the role would be the best fit.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Throwing this curve ball out there…He may be a red herring sent in to frazzle you and gauge your reaction.
        A former boss of mine, at a fairly public and sometimes hostile project, had a series of interviews which culminated in a group dinner. The other people at the dinner were instructed to act rude and confrontational to my boss. They specifically did this to see how she would react to certain situations. She told me it was the strangest interview experience of her life.

        1. OP #2*

          That thought had crossed my mind, but I don’t really want to work for folks that treat people that way anyway!

      2. catsAreCool*

        Sometimes a company is almost all nice people with 1 or 2 jerks that have somehow managed to stay employed. You did the smart thing by withdrawing so you didn’t have to deal with him.

  16. Mike C.*

    Re: #2.

    I have serious, serious problems with the way that last interview was conducted. So long as being able to answer a bunch of math questions in a rapid pace is an integral part of the job, the interviewer was likely opening his company to some serious ADA issues. If the candidate has issues with working memory (ADHD, Dyslexia, others), they’re not going to be able to perform these sorts of calculations simply because of the way they’re being presented, rather than lack of ability.

    This interviewer is a complete jackass and has an incredibly narrow view of intelligence. I would go so far as to say that this interview was about proving to you that he was your “intellectual superior”, rather than evaluating you as a candidate. Sorry you had to go through that.

    1. steve g*

      ADA, seriously? So the employer is supposed to change the actual work that is needed to accommodate someone with a learning disability even though doing so wouldn’t address their needs and the whole point of hiring someone?

      Also, it isn’t a “narrow view of intelligence.” no one said he wanted someone who is intelligent in all areas. The interviewer was using math to test if op could jump between a bunch of numbers to tell a story and find discrepancies. If that’s the skill they wanted, why should they change it?

      In my job hunt this year I had some interview sections like this. Personally I liked them. If a job has a hundred or so candidates, I definitely welcome any chance to show off my abilities in a specific, quantifiable way.

      His not being nice doesn’t mean the methods used aren’t good.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I think Mike has an omitted word–I think it’s supposed to be “not an integral part of the job.” In any case, it’s a dumb test if this isn’t the way these problems will arise on the actual job. If, for example, the real calculations are done in Excel, it’s not relevant whether you can make the calculations off the cuff while someone is shouting at you. And the OP says it was supposed to be about leadership skills, so it sounds like it might not have been a math-heavy role that she was interviewing for.

        1. OP #2*

          Math-heavy, but definitely not a job that would require mental arithmetic under pressure. Even if it did though, I don’t have an issue with that being tested, but it would be more appropriate to test it in an environment that reflects normal working conditions, rather than unwarned in a “leadership” interview.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            You’re totally right. And also about him perhaps being bitter his preferred candidate didn’t make it through. But to take a glass half full approach, some people can be total hard-ass interviewers and turn out to be not that bad once you’re working for them.

      2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        ” So the employer is supposed to change the actual work that is needed to accommodate someone with a learning disability even though doing so wouldn’t address their needs and the whole point of hiring someone?”

        Yes, if that’s reasonable.

        1. Winter is Coming*

          But how is an interviewer to know if an interviewee has a disability if they don’t disclose it?

      3. INTP*

        If the actual work will be done in a rapid-fire manner, then it’s totally fair to conduct the interview in that way. But in most positions, you aren’t doing math rapid-fire while someone yells at you. You have to be efficient with your time but can take your time, eliminate distractions, and have a little more control over your environment.

      4. Mike C.*

        The skill has to be integral to the job. Tests like these are little more than jumping through mental hoops in an effort to embarrass candidates.

        And just because you enjoy them didn’t mean that other candidates should be disqualified simply because they cannot perform tricks unrelated to the job.

      5. Coffee Ninja*

        I think Mike’s “narrow view of intelligence” refers to the theory of multiple types of intelligence, not the subject areas in which one is intelligent. For example, I can’t perform math in my head, I have to be able to see the information – so I wouldn’t have done well in this interview, but if I could write down what they were asking me I may have been great. But my ability around the subject matter hasn’t changed.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yep. I’m not a dummy by any means, but cell phone calculators really saved my bacon when it came to tipping. My brain just goes “TILT” when I try to do mental math in a noisy setting.

          1. Adonday Veeah*

            Two bucks for every $10 on the bill. If the bill is $40, that’s an $8 tip. I count on my fingers under the table, and round up. I’ve perfected the skill of doing this while smiling benignly at my dining companion and nodding eruditely at their conversation. I’m known as a good tipper and a math whiz. If only they new…

            Back to regularly scheduled programming.

        2. Mike C.*

          I’m speaking more to the idea that being able to perform analysis or mathematics isn’t well tested by this sort of interview style. Being good at these sorts of things has nothing to do with mental calculation speed.

    2. Us, Too*

      Is this type of interview question actually a legal risk from the ADA’s perspective? I wasn’t aware that it could be. I can’t imagine how I could structure interview questions that would avoid every possible disability someone might or might not have. Can I not put anything in writing because someone might have dyslexia or vision issues. I can’t ask verbally because someone might be hearing impaired. I can’t ask any type of sequential processing question because someone could have working memory problems. Etc. Surely there isn’t any actual legal requirement about this, is there? If so, exactly what is left for me to ask and how can I ask it?

      I’d have presumed that if I asked a candidate a question that they would have issues with due to a disability, they’d simply tell me that they need me to write it down (or read it to them or whatever). No?

      1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        According to the EEOC, “the ADA requires that employers give application tests in a format or manner that does not require use of your impaired skill, unless the test is designed to measure that skill.”

        (Link to follow)

        If it’s anything like equality law here, basically you can only make X skill part of the hiring process if it’s a crucial part of the job that you couldn’t make reasonable accommodations for if somebody got the job – i.e. you can’t discount someone with a disability unless that would actually prevent them from doing the job *and* you couldn’t reasonably accommodate them to make it possible once they started.

        So you could put something in writing, for example, but if you’re doing a writing test you need to give someone with dyslexia longer to complete it. If sequential processing is an integral, non-accommodatable (did I just invent a word?) part of the job then you can ask, but otherwise you can’t hold against someone that they weren’t able to do it in the hiring practice (so prudence says don’t ask, otherwise you have to prove that the reason they didn’t get the job was nothing to do with those questions, which is remarkably tricky & can cost the company lots in reputation/legal fees)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But they have to be aware there’s a disability in play. I mean, I’m not going to give a written test to a blind person, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t use them in other cases.

          1. Mike C.*

            Simply having the awareness that you may need to deal with the issue (rather than being a huge dick like the interviewer in the letter) is a large part of it. Also, you can ask, “are there any special accommodations you may need during the course of this interview?”

        2. steve g*

          Wow this is what I was saying couldn’t possibly exist. I’m surprised! It’s kind of scary in a way from an employer’s POV. I mean, if there are 200 applicants why do you have to go out of your way to make the process easier for one, if you have a pool that doesn’t need such accommodations.

          *and I’m definitely not talking about physical accommodations here!

          1. Kelly L.*

            A learning disability is no less real than any other, and it’s all physical. The brain is a part of the body.

          2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

            Might I suggest that you do some reading around the medical/social models of disabilities? You have to “go out of your way” to “make it easier” for one because a) it isn’t actually easier for them – it’s now just as easy/hard as for everybody else and b) the social model holds that society puts up barriers which disable people with particular health conditions, rather than that people are disabled; so the idea is to remove societal barriers to people participating fully in society. It’s now very widely accepted, including by the UN and other leading inter/national organisations and informs much of the disability rights movement.

            And as Kelly says, mental and physical disabilities are treated just the same – I don’t know if you realise how offensive if it is to single out physical accommodations?

          3. Mike C.*

            It’s not about “making the process easier”, it’s about not putting artificial barriers in the way of otherwise qualified candidates.

            As to why? It’s so people who have various disabilities can have a fair shot at jobs they would qualified for but otherwise excluded from for dumb, arbitrary or bigoted reasons.

          4. Mike C.*

            In my situation, during these sorts of interviews I’ll bring a pad of paper and pen, write down the questions (mainly because they’re in STAR format), and occasionally ask for a repeat if needed. At the end I leave the notes to preserve the integrity of the questions being asked.

            It’s not that big of a deal for the employer to allow this. The idea that I (or anyone else for that matter!) shouldn’t be allowed pen/paper to best show how I’m qualified just because there is a wide pool of applicants is bullshit and rather offensive.

            I’m not looking to sue someone for not following the letter of the law or gain some unearned advantage, I’m looking for a fair shot. I get you don’t think ADD or dyslexia are “real” in the same manner as “physical disabilities” are, but they are.

            I hope I didn’t “scare” too many employers out there.

      2. Mike C.*

        You don’t avoid every possible thing, you just don’t be like the interviewer in the OP, and you focus at the individual level.

        In this specific case, you don’t rapid fire questions at people, you give them a chance to write it down. It’s common sense stuff here, it’s not complicated.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      Mike, your comment just made a light bulb go off for me. I have ADHD (treated). I also have a weird mental block recalling people’s names and numbers. For example, I can settle a case for X amount of money. Come back to the office and say “woo hoo, it settled!” And when my colleagues say “how much?” I generally have to stop and look at my notepad. I can’t retain that information. There are opposing counsel I work with all the time. I can greet them by name at the start of the meeting. Mid meeting I just blank on their name and can’t recall it for 10 minutes or so. I always wondered what was wrong with me and I never attributed it to my ADHD. I bet that is what it is! I even occasionally forget my work phone number when leaving voice mails for people and have to glance at my own business card. It’s embarrassing. Other stuff I remember no problem.

      1. Not me*

        Yes, this is an ADHD thing. Notes help! :)

        It’s been a while since I researched this, but I read a suggestion that people with ADHD can have trouble filtering things worth remembering or paying attention to from things that aren’t worth it. The different filter would supposedly lead to an overload of “important” information.

      2. Ad Astra*

        I have ADHD and often find myself forgetting names that I definitely know, or other pieces of information that seemed easy to remember but are now completely absent from my brain. At the same time, I will remember unimportant details that nobody else does — the exact phrase someone used, the color of the marker on the white board, a specific date that wasn’t really that important. It’s frustrating to feel like I have no control over what my brain holds on to and what it lets go.

        1. Heather*

          I remember all the names & details characters from the Babysitters Club books but I’ll forget what someone said 10 seconds ago. Drives me batshit.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yes! I can remember what they all wore and even name their siblings and whether their folks were divorced.

      3. Heather*

        Yeah, it’s an executive function/working memory deficit. I can read something and totally understand it in my head, but if I then try to explain it to someone else or summarize what I read, it comes out something like “It said if you do this one thing, then…something happens, I don’t remember what? And then…um…thingy.” It is frustrating as all hell. It’s like there’s a short circuit between my brain and my mouth.

        My understanding is that it has to do with certain things not being encoded properly in your short-term memory. If you Google Russell Barkley, he has some good stuff explaining it.

        1. Finny*

          Oh, do I ever know that sort of issue! The worst, for me, is when someone then wants me to explain whatever it is to prove I know the information. My brain just doesn’t work that way, but I can’t exactly tell people that.

        2. Lindsay J*

          Short term memory encoding issues absolutely makes sense.

          It’s as if my brain doesn’t actually “register” certain information (like where I put my keys down at or what someone’s name is) so it’s just not there to recall later.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Same here, I’m ok with names usually, but I often can’t recall specific details I just heard moments earlier. And I do the same with my work phone number, I have a business card taped to my monitor for exactly that purpose.

        1. Lindsay J*

          I can recall exact information or quotes almost word for word. But I can never remember who said them/where I read or heard that infomation.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        Dyscalculia does something similar to me–I can’t retain processes. You can teach me how to calculate something, and I might get it and be able to perform the calculation right there, but an hour later it will begin to fade. The next day, it’s like it never happened. For me to remember how to do something (i.e. what mathematical process to figure percentages, for example) takes a sustained effort of YEARS.

        Seriously. I only learned how to do percentages a couple of years ago. Before that, I could not figure a tip because I wouldn’t know how to arrive at 20% of the bill. And we started that in primary school. It took me almost fifteen years to be able to count back change!

        I certainly wouldn’t be able to do a simple problem while someone was yelling at me in an interview. But I probably wouldn’t have applied for a math-heavy job to begin with.

      6. Tau*

        This is interesting, because I have similar problems and although I don’t have ADHD (to my knowledge) I am on the autistic spectrum and have some serious executive function issues as a result.

        …the worst bit is that my brain often doesn’t index people by name, so to speak, and as a result it is easy for me to forget someone’s name and never notice. The most extreme example probably being the time I forgot my flatmate’s name and only realised six months in. At that point, there is really NO way you can ask.

    4. OP #2*

      Thank you! If I never have to face another such interview I’ll be happy.
      This isn’t in the States, so no ADA applies. Nonetheless, I did answer the questions so I’m not actually all that worried about my actual arithmetical performance – he was just a complete glassbowl about how he asked them. I’d suspect that any comments he made on my interview performance would be more along the lines of “not a good fit” than “is a complete ninny who can’t do maths”.
      The superiority aspect struck me too, to be honest.

  17. Chloe*

    #1: My one concern about telling Fergus first (particularly the part about how you could be fired for knowing about it and not speaking up) is that if you do need to end up reporting him because it continues, he seems like the type who might try to pull the “Well, so and so knew about it, so I thought it was fine” or something similar to either shirk some of the blame or try to bring you down with him.

    But maybe I’m just paranoid in my thinking.

    1. INTP*

      Or like the type that would use the heads-up warning time to cover his tracks and make you look like a liar to the employer. Or tell you he had quit and just be more secretive about it.

  18. Hiring Mgr*

    Don’t discount the possibility that Fergus could actually be an undercover agent of the employer, conducting a “sting” operation to see who among the group is ethical and who will sweep it under the rug..

    1. Coffee Ninja*

      I think that’s a little farfetched. Most people are reasonable, and will simply have a conversation about inappropriate behavior rather than conduct an elaborate, secret scheme (thankfully there are still unreasonable people, because I really love reading AAM). That said, OP already addressed Fergus and it didn’t work, so she really doesn’t have anything to lose by taking her concerns to someone at the organization.

    2. MegEB*

      I mean… that’s certainly possible, but that’s so wildly far-fetched that I think it’s unreasonable for the OP to make decisions based on that possibility. It’s far more likely that Fergus is young, broke, and desperate, with perhaps a loose sense of ethics.

  19. Dr. Doll*

    Every.single.time. we submit for reimbursement, the travel people go over documents with an electron microscope and they send the claim back to you every time they find a mistake. Like, they find a mistake, send it back. You rectify the mistake, they go through it until they find another mistake. They send it back. You fix it, they find a third mistake and send it back…. And by “mistakes” I mean things that add up to about $1, like I attach a map quest map to document mileage; they require google map (odometer doesn’t count, have to have map documentation because goodness knows you could have gone 2 miles out of your way for a potty break in a rural area). Or, you submit a receipt from; they require “proof of stay.” You get the picture; it can take 5 or 6 tries over 2 months to fix all the mistakes, and THEN 4 weeks later you get your actual money.

    This happened because a very few jackasses managed to steal a lot of money by doing things like pretending to attend conferences. Instead of making the reason they were fired public, the system decided to make life really difficult for everyone. So annoying.

    So, OP, do SOMETHING about this, whatever you decide to do, so that everyone doesn’t suffer later because Fergus is either a dumbass or a jackass.

    1. steve g*

      This is what I was thinking. At some point very soon someone’s simply gonna ask him “do you even have a car?” or “I thought you drove with percival that time?”

  20. Turanga Leela*

    OP #5, definitely remind your new employer! Bear in mind that you might have less than four weeks (or even no time at all!) at your new job if your baby is born early.

    Good luck with your new job and your new baby. It sounds like an exciting time.

  21. Chameleon*

    Wow, I didn’t realize that so many AAM commenters were such perfect saints and had never done anything questionable in their lives. Really? Calling Fergus a sociopath? Or implying that he’ll steal your personal belongings given half a chance? Or that he deserves to be fired with no chance to change?

    I’m not saying what Fergus is doing is right, or even smart, but it is completely understandable. I have been in the position where after paying my rent and bills I literally had $35 to last me two weeks, including groceries. I would be more than pissed if my company decided it was fine paying out $75 a day (!) to buy fancy meals but would fire me if I tried to use it to buy groceries that consisted of more than rice, beans, and pasta. (Seriously, I would have killed for a pack of frozen chicken. I once broke down in tears when they raised the price of a half-gallon of milk by a quarter, because it meant that I couldn’t afford to buy the one somewhat sweet thing I could justify buying.)

    What if he bought a bunch of extra food at a restaurant and kept the leftovers for later? Do you all think he should be fired for that? What about if he bought food and then gave it to a homeless guy? If the company is willing to pay $X to make sure he is fed, what business is it of theirs exactly how he spends it?

    OP, I would talk to Fergus and make sure he knows that his job is at risk, and suggest he talk to your boss about the possibility of alternate reimbursement for the per diem. Maybe the company would be willing to reimburse grocery receipts? That would probably end up cheaper for the company and give Fergus a little more flexibility in his budget. Hopefully your boss isn’t a jerk and will have a little more empathy for someone in a tight financial situation than most of the people here.

    1. fposte*

      He’s spending his dinner money on slot machines and submitting fraudulent documents to cover that up. I don’t think this is the same thing as somebody taking home leftovers because he’s hungry.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Seriously. I am at a loss as to why people are bending over backwards to invent fantastic scenarios where a dude who blatantly announces he’s going to steal money (and then does it) to feed his funtimes is just a misunderstood young scamp who needs OP to guide him gently towards the right path, for which he will of course be grateful.

    2. steve g*

      And meanwhile I regularly throw out good food because i can’t eat it all, wish I know someone like you were….

      I understand your read of the comments. I made a similar comment about “tim” yesterday. I don’t equate being wrong in one situation with being horrible in every situation. I do however think this situation is different. “Sociopath” IS too much. But being underpaid means you push for a raise, NOT steal mileage. And I see your point about food, but if he was really that broke, he’d actually be using the vouchers for food instead of cooking and bringing presumably cheaper food.

    3. Student*

      If Fergus is having that hard of a time, it is incumbent upon FERGUS to go talk to his boss and try to make a slightly different arrangement.

      It’s not like Fergus will be stoned to death for getting caught stealing. He’ll just be fired, hopefully learn a lesson, and hopefully not steal at his next job. It isn’t his employer’s job to teach him that stealing from your employer is a Really Bad Idea. If you actually need to steal to survive, that’s very rough – but you don’t steal from your main source of actual income! You steal from someone else! That’s basic stuff! You look for the place where you are least likely to be caught and with the lowest probable impact on you if you are caught. He got caught at work, he suffers the consequences, he either learns not to steal & finds a job that covers all his expenses, finds social services to cover his expenses, or becomes a smarter thief.

      1. mander*

        This company sounds really lovely and understanding. If he comes clean he might even get a valuable lesson and keep his job. If he’s that broke maybe even some kind of extra financial help. But the way the OP describes the situation it is not that he is stealing to support himself, he is stealing because he wants something he’s not actually entitled to.

        Diagnosing him as a sociopath, saying he should be shunned from society, even demanding that he be fired immediately are all over the top statements IMHO. But that still doesn’t mean the OP has any responsibility to try and teach him the error of his ways or become complicit in fraud by not reporting it. It’s the management’s decision as to what they do with the information but I think the OP is obligated to report it.

    4. LBK*

      I think you’re positing a hypothetical that’s wildly different from what’s actually happening and projecting your own experience in a case where the details are not insignificant – there is a massive difference between using the money to scrape together groceries because you can’t afford food otherwise and stealing the money because you feel entitled to it and then using it to play slots. There are situations where using per diem for something other than its intended purpose may not be morally questionable; this isn’t one of them.

    5. Chameleon*

      I admit, I missed the slot machine thing. That’s pretty dumb.

      But people are acting like he’s selling company laptops to buy meth, here. I think this is a “have a conversation with Fergus about what is and is not a little thing, and that managers are usually more flexible than he might think” sort of situation, not a “Fergus is a completely untrustworthy little sneak thief and needs to be shunned from all society” sort of situation.

      1. Sigrid*

        Except that he has been, and presumably still is, stealing from the company. I would argue that people (and companies) have a right to know if they’ve been stolen from. That would involve telling someone at the company regardless of a further conversation with Fergus happens.

      2. Zillah*

        I don’t think anyone is saying that he should be shunned from all society – just that what he’s doing is so far outside the realms of okay that it needs to be addressed, probably by his boss rather than the OP. If he just wasn’t understanding the reimbursement for use of the OP’s car, for example, okay, maybe you give him the benefit of the doubt… but what the OP is describing goes a lot deeper than that. From the letter, it seems like Fergus’s questionable behaviors include:
        • Planning to submit a claim for car reimbursement money despite not have a car
        • Going behind the OP’s back to do so
        • Getting hostile at the OP when they tried to address it
        • Stealing receipts out of trash cans to submit for the per diem reimbursement
        • Going to people and asking for their receipts to submit for the per diem reimbursement
        • Altering a receipt to get the per diem for his using a slot machine

        One or two of those might be understandable, but all of them put together show a troubling pattern. In addition, he may actually be making the theatre company look bad – he’s engaged in this unethical behavior at least once in an establishment they were actually performing in. If I went to a show and later saw one of the performers approaching people to ask for their food receipts, it would definitely color my impression of the company.

      3. LBK*

        There are a few comments that are out of line, but I think the general sentiment about what should be done is the same as what you’re saying here: point out to him that this isn’t okay, involve a manager, move on. I think you’re taking a few of the more extreme comments and reading those over the other 98% that are more moderate and agree with you.

      4. neverjaunty*

        When you have to completely invent things people have never said (“shunned from all society”, really?) to make your point, especially after your initial point was wrongity wrong wrong, maybe take a step back and rethink whether you’re a little too invested in your argument.

        He’s stealing money from a small nonprofit to blow on gambling. I don’t understand why you’re excusing this.

    6. OP #1*

      honestly I think the company would be fine with that, buying food at a grocery store. That not what fergus is doing though. He’s just being sneaky. They’re very lax on what we use the per diem for. One time we were stranded in a remote resort/casino for an extra two days because of transportation issues, and they let me use the per diem so I could use the spa and get a massage. They let another performer buy a bathing suit on that trip, since she forgot hers at home and there was nothing else to do but hang out and swim. They’re a great company to work for, very generous with their performers.

      1. Rana*

        Sounds like all the more reason to call Fergus’s shenanigans to their attention. You all have a great thing going; don’t let this twerp ruin it for the rest.

    7. Frances K R*

      He had a chance to change.

      OP already talked to Fergus.

      Maybe dial it back from the “what if he was giving food to a homeless guy?!” and refocus on the dude described–the one who alters receipts so he can get paid back for playing the slots, and who takes it as a personal affront that OP isn’t claiming all the mileage they’re entitled to.

      This really seems less the starving dude who needs to garbage pick and more JAT’s dad who berates other people for being “stupid” enough to not grab all the money they could technically claim.

  22. Winter is Coming*

    Our broker just switched to an online questionnaire for insurance renewals, so no more paper forms. Previously, our employees would fill out a paper form with all sorts of medical questions on them, and hand them in to me when they were complete. I was always really surprised that no one ever balked at turning them in to me. (I was the only one in the company who ever saw them, and they were secured in a locked file cabinet, but still there’s an awful lot of trust involved there!)

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