someone stole my phone charger, chronically late unpaid intern, and more

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

1. Dealing with an unpaid intern who’s chronically late

I have a couple years of work experience, and I am currently managing an intern on my team. Interns at my organization are unpaid, which I do not agree with, for the record, but this does not seem to be changing any time soon. She has very poor timekeeping and is constantly late, often by a significant amount of time. The fact that the position is unpaid is influencing the way I am dealing with this, as I feel a bit uncomfortable about being too stern as she is not being paid. What are your views on this and how can I broach the subject? Should I make it clear that I understand she is not being paid but that constant lateness is unprofessional and would not be acceptable in future roles she may have?

Even unpaid internships have requirements that you can and should hold people to. You presumably chose her over other candidates; are investing time in training her, giving her feedback, and helping her get work experience; and will potentially be a reference for her in the future. All of that means that it’s reasonable to be clear with her about your expectations and to hold her to them.

In this case, I’d say to first figure out whether the work she’s doing requires being there on time. If it does, you should be direct with her about that: “Jane, I’m counting on you to be here no later than 10 a.m. on the days you’re scheduling because of XYZ. When you’re late, it causes problems A and B. Can you commit to being on time going forward?”

If the work doesn’t actually require her to be on time, you could instead say this: “Jane, I’ve noticed you’re often late to work. This particular role actually does have some flexibility to it, but I need you to give me a heads-up when you’re running late so that we’re not counting on you being here before you will be. Since you’re at the start of your career, I also want to make sure you understand that regular lateness would be a problem in most roles, especially early-career roles. I don’t want to our flexibility to give you the wrong idea about what might be okay in future jobs.”

2. Someone stole my phone charger off my desk

I work at the front desk. I was previously in the habit of leaving my phone charger plugged in at my desk all the time, whether my phone was charging or not, whether I was at my desk or not. Two days ago, I noticed it was gone and since I use it daily it probably disappeared around that time. I have no idea who would have taken it. My feelings are hurt and I’m worried now about all my other personal property I bring to work. It’s possible it wasn’t a coworker but instead was a visitor or an employee of one of the other companies that rents out space in our building. Regardless, I’m not sure what action can be taken, if any. I’m pretty upset, maybe disproportionately, but it’s made me feel unsafe, like I can’t trust my coworkers. I haven’t told my bosses or HR yet and I’m not sure if I should. What do I do?

One of the hazards of working at the front desk is that people are weirdly prone to thinking that anything on your desk is available for borrowing. So it’s very possible that that’s what happened here: someone spotted it there and just intended to borrow it, not thinking through that it was someone’s personal property. That doesn’t make it okay, of course, but might be helpful context.

If your office is small, you could send an email around asking whoever borrowed it to return it. If your office isn’t small, you might be out of luck, unfortunately; there probably isn’t much that your boss or HR can do about it. Your better bet might be to clearly label anything that you don’t want walking off (for example, if you bring in a new charger, label it “Jane’s personal charger; please do not remove”).

3. I’ve been asked to set retroactive goals for the past year

I work at a small organization that has not had a formal evaluation process in place for several years. I’ve been here 2-1/2 years and have never had a performance review myself (although I do get regular feedback from my manager). Management has finally rolled out an evaluation system and is now starting to do reviews.

To prepare for my review, I’ve been asked to check over my job description and make sure it’s accurate (which makes sense) and come up with four goals for myself…. for the PAST year. I’m guessing that this is because whatever performance system has been chosen hinges on completion of annual goals. But how am I supposed to set retroactive goals for myself, and is there anything useful about doing that? Do I just pick four things I achieved and call them completed goals? To me, it seems like the only reason I need to do this is because of the review format requiring goals, and it feels like a waste of my time.

It’s not a waste of time; it’s a way of assessing what you were expected to achieve this year with what you actually did achieve. Pick the four biggest things that you worked on this year.

And yes, ideally goals are forward-looking — but in a case like this it’s not unreasonable to lay them out retroactively as a way of talking about how your performance compared to the expectations for your role this year. Ideally, from here on out, their new system will have you set up goals at the start of the year for the next 12 months.

4. Employer wants me to repay notary certification cost

About six months ago, my employer sent me to get my notary certification. This is something that she wanted me to do; I did not ask for this training. We had no contract saying that I would need to pay this back. I have given notice at her office and she is demanding that I repay her. She threatened to take it out of my pay check. Can she legally do this? I’m in California.

No. If you didn’t have an agreement that you’d pay her back if you left within a certain period of time, she has no standing to require you to repay her. I’d say this: “I obtained a notary certification at your direction, as part of my work for you. I would not have done it otherwise. It was part of my job duties, and there was no agreement to repay the cost. For that reason, I do not give you permission to take it out of my paycheck, and please be aware that state law would prohibit you doing that.”

5. Factory has banned wedding rings

I work in a cabinet factory and do not use the machines, such as saws, nailers, etc. Two weeks ago, our compay started a policy that we are no longer allowed to wear rings, watches, etc., including our wedding rings.

The ladies in the office get to wear their rings and do not take them off when they come out to the plant. I could understand this policy if I was working with machinery where my hand, ring, etc. could get caught, but I do not.

This issue has a lot of employees upset and we have even been threatened with write-ups, termination, and even cutting the ring off our finger.

Well, it’s presumably for safety reasons, so that you don’t lose a finger or a hand, right? And I’m assuming that the threat about cutting the ring off your finger is a statement of what might need to happen if you were to get caught in a machine … not a threat of what they’d do to you as punishment.

But if you don’t ever work near the machines, I’d point that out and ask if you can be treated the same as the office workers who occasionally come to the plant without removing their rings. Otherwise, though, this is probably a pretty reasonable safety policy. And of course, reasonable or unreasonable, your company has the right to make this a policy if they want to, so ultimately if you push back and don’t succeed, all you can really do is go along with it.

{ 375 comments… read them below }

    1. Artemesia*

      Regardless of paid or unpaid (and I am opposed to unpaid) the standards of professionalism should apply. An intern who with guidance cannot meet professional standards of behavior should be fired. It does no service to the intern to let them behave in ways that will get them in trouble in the workforce. Of course, with newbies part of the deal is professional socialization, so this is only a problem if when addressed does not result in behavioral change.

      1. LBK*

        Agreed – I think this is like a volunteer. Yeah, you give them a little leeway because they aren’t directly costing you money, but ultimately they need to do the work they were brought in to do. If they can’t, you can still fire them even though you aren’t paying them.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Also, a lot of internships are for college credit, and students are expected to come to class on time…

          1. Chinook*

            “Also, a lot of internships are for college credit, and students are expected to come to class on time…”

            I want to emphasize this. I did student teaching where I was under the supervision of a certified teacher and I could only imagine the chaos that would have happened if I repeatedly showed up late for work.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Totally. An internship is the place to learn professional norms, not just see what it’s like to work in licorice teapot manufacturing. No matter where you ultimately end up, you’re still going to have to know these things.

    2. Ad Astra*

      It sounds like OP feels a little weird about holding this intern to professional standards when they’re not getting paid, but it’s perfectly fine to expect an unpaid intern to show up on time. If this internship is on the up-and-up, it’s likely the intern is getting college credit out of this. College courses have certain expectations and requirements in order to get a good grade; so should internships.

      It’s nice when unpaid internships allow some flexibility, like moving shifts around to accommodate school commitments or even take a backseat to occasional scheduling conflicts with an intern’s paying job — because it’s tough to prioritize a job where you’re actually paying money (in the form of tuition) for the privilege of working. But if an unpaid intern says they’ll be there at 9, they need to be there at 9.

      1. Intern Anon*

        Not to get into a discussion that we were asked to not get to, but I feel I need to clarify a few things. I wouldn’t assume that OP’s intern is getting college credits. These days, it’s not uncommon for a college graduate to be an unpaid intern. An ex’s kid worked as an unpaid intern for about eight months at her first job out of college. And then she worked retail on weekends, so she could, you know, eat. All she was getting out of that job was experience, networking, and a promise to maybe get switched to a paid job in the future. OP didn’t specify which kind of internship this was.

        1. Ad Astra*

          You know, I thought I had heard about some court ruling that outlawed unpaid internships that didn’t offer course credit. I’m not 100 percent sure if that’s nationwide or if it was a specific jurisdiction, though.

          1. SL #2*

            Most likely a specific jurisdiction… I didn’t even get college credit for one of my internships. The process of getting credit for internships that were outside of my department’s partner programs was so onerous (2 approval signatures from department professors, 20-page paper on “what you learned?” I’d rather do actual classwork.) that most people just didn’t even bother. It wasn’t worth it for a process where you may or may not get approved depending on the whims of the department.

            1. Ad Astra*

              I thought I posted a link, but it must have gotten lost in the approval process. Basically, the U.S. has some specific requirements for unpaid internships, most notably that the internship must be for the benefit of the intern, the business can’t gain an immediate advantage from the intern’s work, and the intern can’t displace paid employees. So, in my layman’s interpretation, that means any internship where you just get coffee and serve as a lackey is out. So are internships like, say, reporting for the local newspaper, where the work is actually printed each day and is identical in scope (if not quality) to the work the newspaper is paying other reporters to do.

              In practice, though, courts have been interpreting these rules pretty inconsistently. Conde Nast opted to do away with its unpaid internship program rather than parse the law (or pay their interns), for instance.

              1. SL #2*

                Ah, yes, the Conde Nast incident. I believe some production interns from Fox or one of the other major studios are also suing.

        2. Green*

          The problem is that there’s a pretty clear standard on what is considered a legal internship, but most employers focus on only one or two factors that weigh in their favor and go with the “unpaid” internship because it’s not likely to get you in trouble. (This also includes AAM, unfortunately.)

          I’d treat them as a non-profit organization would treat a volunteer if you’re not paying them. Lots of flexibility with learning, but ultimately you’re not paying them and if you want to discipline them, you certainly can, but you need to be prepared for them to quit. There is some additional liability here if your unpaid internship doesn’t match up with the legal guidelines. The best way to protect yourself — as well as to demand professionalism from your interns — is to pay them. Twentysomethings are getting savvy about what should and shouldn’t be paid.

          (And I know you said not to go there, but it’s absolutely related to what you can reasonably expect from an unpaid employee.)

          1. Terra*

            I agree and for these reasons I’d say that if the OP is going to push about having the employee arrive by a certain time that they may want to run it by HR/Legal first just to verify that it isn’t going to violate any rules.

            However, pulling the intern aside and having a “this may be okay in an internship but would not be appropriate at a job” conversation or possibly even a “I want you to be aware that if we get a reference check we may have to tell them about your tardiness” conversation would probably not step over that line.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        I can totally understand the OP’s hesitation to hold the intern to the same standards when the position is unpaid. I’m not a fan of unpaid internships myself. That said, I think one of the important things here is that being chronically late may be giving the intern a bad reputation, thereby negating one of the benefits of having an unpaid internship. How does this look to co-workers and other managers? Are those people going to be less likely to give a good reference, refer the intern to a job, etc? If that’s the case, going easy on the intern isn’t doing them any favors. The other thing is that this may be making the OP look bad for not managing their intern very well.

        1. Daisy*

          Yes, doing an unpaid internship badly seems like the most pointless thing in the world. If you’re hacking off your supervisor to the point where they’re writing to problem pages about you, why bother? It would be a service to the intern as much as anything to give them a chance to correct the behavior and salvage a good reference.

        2. the_scientist*

          I really like Alison’s wording and I think that this is a good point to add when the OP addresses the intern- in many jobs, being on time IS really important and people clearly have strong opinions about timeliness (look at some past AAM posts on this issue!), so the intern may be damaging her professional reputation by being chronically late, even if she doesn’t *need* to be in her chair at 9 a.m. or whatever.

          Also, with the caveat that I’m not a fan of unpaid internships either, I’d encourage the OP to think of this internship as basically any other volunteer gig. I do a lot of volunteering, and even though I’m not paid, I’m expected to uphold a basic level of professionalism as a representative of an organization. That means being on time for things, calling when I’m going to be late, making an effort to find someone to cover a shift if I’m sick or my schedule has changed, wearing the uniform or appropriate clothing, attending meetings and training sessions and handing in documentation before the deadline. These are not unreasonable expectations for a volunteer so OP shouldn’t feel guilty for having them!

          However, if the intern is chronically late because she’s been working nights at a bar, say, to eat/pay rent……I have a lot more sympathy for the intern, and I do in that case think some flexibility is warranted on OP’s behalf, which it sounds like OP is willing to do. But even then, the onus is *still* on the intern to figure it out- approaching the OP and asking for help/flexibility, not taking shifts on nights when she has to go to her internship the next day, etc.

        3. TootsNYC*

          being chronically late may be giving the intern a bad reputation, thereby negating one of the benefits of having an unpaid internship.

          This is one thing I think the OP should stress, and lay out very, very explicitly, for her intern.

          We are your future references. In your field (if it’s really an internship).
          You want to look really good to us; don’t blow this!

          1. LoremIpsum*

            Being at work on time is an obligatory expectation. One of the many benefits of an internship is learning workplace protocol and professional standards. However, this is probably THE most basic of expectations of any occupation. Being chronically late also sends a message that they aren’t taking it seriously enough to be there.

            Speak with them, maybe over a coffee rather than a closed door meeting. As a young person in their first professional setting, that might freak them out. Discuss what an internship is for and what both the employer/internship site and the intern gain from their contribution there. This should really be done at the beginning.

            It was mentioned not to get into a debate about paid vs. unpaid internships, but for all employers that are reading this: you get what you pay for.

            More colleges are asking for detailed documentation on the internship experience, particularly if the student is getting credit(and in some cases, paying for an internship course for credit).

            Work should be paid.

          2. OhNo*

            Exactly! I had a professor in college who had pretty much this exact conversation with me (very kindly, especially given that it really wasn’t his job and he really didn’t have to). This was the language he used:

            “I’m happy to give you a reference based on the things you did well, but you need to know that I will mention your tardiness, which is likely to reflect very poorly on you. If you want to change that part of my reference for the future, you need to make a commitment to being on time, and I would need to see a definite change in your behavior.”

            That phrasing worked great on me, and he was very clear later in the year that I had made a marked improvement on that point, and my reference was going to reflect not only my ability to be on time, but also the excellent way I handled the negative feedback. So this conversation may doubly benefit the intern, by not only instructing them into expected office norms but also giving them some points to discuss in their next interview.

    3. NewManager*

      OP here – thank you everyone for your insightful advice. For interest, this is an unpaid internship for new graduates at a non-profit (so not for college credit). In her interview, she was clear that she wanted to go into this field (and possibly get a job at this organization if something opened up) so I think the point about gaining a bad reputation in the minds of others in the office (a number of whom have already mentioned it to me) is a very relevant one.

  1. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #5: Even if you don’t use the machines, do you work in the same general area where they are?

    I ask this because your employer might have set the policy to ‘No jewelry beyond this door’. Which is reasonable, imo.

    The consequences of getting a ring caught in machinery can be catastrophic. As in potentially losing in arm catastrophic.

    There are many health and safety regulations that sound ridiculous at first glance but are actually quite important after all.

    And termination for violation of H&S regs is standard.

    I’m an emergency first responder in my office. Meaning I’m the one to admit first aid and coordinate things until the ambulance is there. I get a refresher course every year. I meet many other first responders there. Some have been doing it for decades.

    The common thread among all their stories of work place accidents is that people have been ignoring H&S rules.

    1. neverjaunty*

      The safety rule makes sense, but reading between the lines, it sounds like there’s something else going on beyond health and safety rules, at least in OP #5’s view; the ‘ladies in the office’ don’t have to remove their rings, even though they (like the OP) don’t work on machines; there is a lot of pushback from employees, not just OP; management is threatening to cut people’s rings off (from the context, it does sound like management is threatening this as a consequence, not a likely consequence).

      That is, it sounds like the rule hasn’t been explained well and there is at a minimum a perception that it is not applied consistently. People are sensitive about wedding rings in a way they aren’t about other jewelry.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        Totally agree. There is a communication break down somewhere.

        IMO, the rule should be ‘no jewelry on the factory floor’ along with ‘proper safety gear on the factory floor’.

        The rules need to be enforced consistently. My experience is that compliance is better when enforcement is perceived to be ‘fair’.

      2. UKAnon*

        Yes, I got a sense that this was more about the unequal treatment too. OP, I think that you need to obey this rule, because there are important H&S reasons for it (or at least management have reason to think there is) but I also think you can ask management why some people are getting different treatment. There might be all kinds of reasons, or there might be none and you can push back against the rule from a firmer ground.

      3. LBK*

        I’m curious if the rule isn’t “women don’t have to remove their rings” but rather “office staff don’t have to remove their rings” and the office staff all happen to be women while the factory staff are all men.

        1. JessaB*

          Yeh I think this is more likely. Anyone who is on the floor should not (and I was office staff, I had to take mine off on the floor too.) Normally the directive is on the floor vs off the floor. Even when the machines were OFF (this particular factory made small water pumps, and was not 24 hours,) nobody was allowed on the floor with jewelry. It was kind of like a “treat every gun as loaded every second of every day” policy. Long haired people had to tie it back too. Most of em wore a hat to shove it under or tucked it down into their shirts to keep it from getting caught in anything. It’s a really huge big possibly deadly deal to get caught in a machine, and just because you don’t use one doesn’t mean you can’t fall near one.

        2. Ad Astra*

          I suspect that’s what’s going on here, and the OP is a little concerned about the rule itself and a lot concerned about what she perceives as uneven enforcement of the rule. I’d also venture a guess that the ladies in the office haven’t been specifically told that they can wear their rings, but they neglect to remove them when they go into the plant and management hasn’t said anything to them about it.

          OP is probably hoping we’ll say she should totally be allowed to wear her wedding ring, but I think the better answer is that absolutely no one should be allowed to wear a ring in the plant.

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. That said, could the employer mitigate this somewhat by providing a place (small set of lockers, etc.) for visitors to secure their property.

            FYI, the whole hassle about rings eventually led a friend of mine who works in a clean room to get a wedding band tattooed on his finger.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              When I lived in my former small town a lot of guys who “worked at the plant” had ring tattoos for that exact reason!

              1. MashaKasha*

                I had that idea (not original by a long shot, as I can see) as I was reading this thread.
                Then I remembered what happened to my own marriage and was like, nope, tattoo removal is expensive and painful! heh heh

            2. Marzipan*

              My dad didn’t even have a wedding ring, because he figured he’d just have to take it off all the time for work anyway.

              1. Cath in Canada*

                My husband has a ring but rarely wears it. I was never much of a ring wearer before we got married either (I used to work in a lab and found rings + latex gloves to be too much of a hassle), and it took me several weeks to get used to the feel of having a ring on all the time. He can’t wear a ring at work (carpenter), so he never got that uninterrupted time that you need to get used to a ring, and has never managed to get used to the feel. He wears it for anniversary dinners, other people’s weddings, and occasionally for big family Christmas and Easter dinners, but that’s it.

          2. Connie-Lynne*

            Yeah, I agree this is probably what’s happening. The OP is probably on the shop floor more often than the office staff, and the office staff probably just ignores the rule and haven’t been told that they can’t ignore it.

            I’ve been in similar situations — infrequent machine room visitors forgot a lot and generally weren’t reprimanded, but those of us who worked daily on the floor, male or female, were expected to remember and remove jewelry, put on a hard hat, and pull our hair back. If there was a big tour, then the person conducting the tour would remind the group about health/safety regs.

          3. TootsNYC*

            I’m thinking that there’s a blanket rule for insurance reasons, and that the insurance company says, “If you work inside this building, no rings, or we won’t provide liability insurance. And we don’t want to get into whether you really touch the saw or not.”

            And probably the ladies who walk in and out for just a little bit are violating that, but not likely to be caught in an inspection, etc.

        3. SystemsLady*

          Yup, I’m wondering if OP and the group he’s talking about are all, say, plant engineers, where the “ladies” are office staff.

          Plant engineers would rarely work on such equipment (depends on the engineer I guess, but from what I know), but they would also likely be out in the plant so much that they’d be included in any rule regarding safety around that equipment (where office people would probably get a pass).

          1. GlorifiedPlumber*

            Part of me thinks if there is a strong “plant engineers”, “office ladies”, and “factory workers” culture at OP’s place as well, then it is likely the plant engineers are viewed as leadership.

            It is even more vitally important that the plant engineers observe and encourage adherence to all safety rules. They’re leadership (or I assume them to be perceived as that way in this factory).

            Factories are funny places… I miss working in a manufacturing environment. :(

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Exjob had a safety glasses rule–you did NOT go out into the plant without them. No exceptions, including me. I didn’t work on any machines, I didn’t go near them (as a rule) when retrieving samples, but I still had to wear the glasses. I was exempt from the steel-toed shoes rule, though that might have been a good idea given how many pieces of wood I dropped on my feet! But bottom line–no pass. If I went out without them–even near the door to snitch a cardboard box–and the plant manager saw me, he’d yell at me and send me back.

            1. MissDisplaced*

              Same at my place. You did not enter the labs without full splash goggles and lab coat and shoes (no sandals) no matter what job you did. Fortunately, the labs were designed with a cubbyhole office just inside the door, and you could enter that part without safety gear. Otherwise, it would’ve been something of a pain just to drop off papers or have a conversation.

            2. MashaKasha*

              Oh we had the steel-toed boots rule, too. And for a good reason! I worked in IT, we weren’t even in the same building as the plant, but each of us still had a pair of steel-toed shoes in our drawer, prepared to wear them at any moment if we’d get a call telling us we needed to go to a plant. Good times.

              As a side note, this also resulted in a very relaxed dress code. Technically we were business casual, but who would enforce nice skirts and dress pants for employees who might need to be out on the floor at any moment?

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Exjob did. We lobbied for nice jeans and polo shirts, since nobody ever saw us and we had ample warning of impending customer or corporate visits, but no dice. It seemed like every time I had to go into the plant, that was the day I was wearing black pants. :P

      4. Graciosa*

        It’s possible that the intent was to distinguish between people who worked in a dangerous environment routinely and those who were there only occasionally for short time periods.

        I’m actually used to factories that have different rules for regular workers and visitors. For example, everyone must wear safety shoes and glasses, however the visitor can wear a lighter weight pant or even a skirt that would get a factory worker sent home (heavier material that fully covers the leg required). Visitors are also required to stay within marked lanes in the factory, presumably where the risk of injury is smaller than it would be in closer proximity to the machines.

        All of this is speculation, however – fundamentally, the OP can ask for more information or a dispensation, but that’s about it. I’m also reminded that changing the rule to impose the requirement on the occasional visitor from the office would not actually change the result for the OP, who would still have to remove her ring.

        This could generate the next AAM letter – “The ladies who work in the factory full time in the same room as dangerous machinery complained about having to remove their rings as part of our safety requirements. I don’t work in the factory, but I come through occasionally to drop off a report. I used to be able to wear my rings as I walked through, but this made them jealous, so now management is making everyone take them off, even if you’re only there for five minutes. I could understand this policy if I was around the machinery more often, but I don’t get near it!

        “This issue has a lot of us upset, and we’ve been threatened with termination for failing to follow the ‘safety directives’ if we don’t remove our rings, but this wasn’t considered a safety issue until the factory ladies complained. What can I do to fix this ridiculous change in policy?”

        1. SystemsLady*

          Yup. I work sometimes at a site where cell phones and cameras are blanket banned, but because I do not ever have a need to go in areas where they are a danger (actually a small portion of the plant), I was given permission to carry my phone around. The engineers there who are acutely aware of the dangerous areas also have implicit permission.

        2. Mike C.*

          It’s not about “jealousy”, it’s about ease of enforcement. If everyone has to do X, then the folks who are not doing X stick out like a sore thumb. Employees are taught to call *anyone* out who isn’t following X so you get self policing and higher compliance.

      5. Lena*

        I assumed the ‘threatening to cut people’s rings off’ was in response to probable claims of, “Well, I’ve had it on for so many years that I can’t get it off.”

    2. Mechwood*

      I work at a manufacturing facility in a management type position. As a company, we have a “no rings or other jewelry inside the plant” policy. This extends to all management/staff employees as well as equipment operators. We also require any visitors to abide by this rule as well. The purpose is 100% safety related as others have commented.

      In my opinion, it is easiest to implement (and enforce) such a policy by applying it to ALL employees. In the OP’s case, the ladies from the office should be required to abide by the rules, as should the OP. One likely reason for many of the upset employees is that the rules are not clearly defined. They see the women from the office with their rings on and that creates frustrations. As such, I feel the best approach world be for ALL employees to be held to the same standard.

      1. Mike C.*

        This really is the way to go. When it comes to safety, you don’t want to get into a nitpicking fight over who should and should be wearing what.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          It’s true, it should apply to all. But perhaps then there could be a “buffer zone” if employees need to interact within the plant without actually having to ENTER the plant floor fully. As long as they remain within, no need to remove the jewelry, don hard hats, etc.

          1. xarcady*

            My company does this. There’s one area of one building where you need to wear steel-toed shoes in order to enter the space. But there’s an area about 5 feet by 5 feet just inside the doors that’s marked off in yellow tape on the floor. I can enter and stand in that space without the proper foot gear. That allows me to ask if Dan or Tom is there and get the information I need (they can’t carry cell phones in that area and there is sometimes so much noise they can’t hear the phone.)

            But to venture any further inside, I need the right shoes. It’s a safety factor.

          2. mander*

            I’m an archaeologist and I’m currently working on a site that happens to be on the grounds of a soft drink bottling plant. I will never go near the place where the actual drinks are made but I still have to follow their rules and sign a health declaration every day. It’s just easier for everyone to follow the same rules even if some of them make no sense or area totally irrelevant for me.

    3. MashaKasha*

      OldJob was a manufacturing company and my responsibilities required me to be on the shop floor rather frequently. They had a very strict policy that no jewelry should be worn on the floor, hair should be cut short or tied back, safety glasses and earplugs must be worn at all times. We all complied, because it was actually for our own good! Even though I never worked a machine, my job required me to come near them to work on the PCs attached to them, and, well, things can happen. Last thing I want is for my hair or body part to be caught in a moving machine. I knew a guy who’d gotten his arm caught in a slitter and the scar he showed us was pretty terrifying.

      I cannot for the life of me understand why “the ladies” at OP’s place are exempt from this policy. I’d remove my jewelry on the floor anyway. Lady or not, I want to make it home to my family in one piece!

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I agree! My dad was a printer. Take a look at a former printer’s hand sometime – especially their fingertips… There’s a chance they might not all be there.

        1. Windchime*

          My dad used to work in a factory that made apple juice and he nearly lost two fingers because his wedding ring got caught in some equipment and then his hand was crushed. He broke many bones and his pinky was basically severed (but was saved). That was he end of wearing a wedding ring for him, even at subsequent jobs. It just wasn’t worth it. (The accident happened in the very early 70’s so there probably weren’t as many safety rules then).

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            Unfortunately, in printing, there’s no way to remove your actual fingers before working with some very sharp blades. (Let’s just say, sometimes the equipment takes care of that issue for you…)

            Then again, one of my great uncles was called “Lefty.” I believe it was the result of a farm accident…

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Hair is a common safety hazard. I used to work in a factory that made wire racks and one of my coworkers wore her long hair pinned up in a bun every day. She worked on a machine that had very fast rotating parts and she told me she heard a story about a girl who got her long hair caught in a lathe, and it ripped her scalp completely OFF. She said she had no intention of that ever happening to her!

        1. Michelle*

          ” it ripped her scalp completely OFF”

          That gave me cold shivers. I can’t imagine how painful that was.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I would imagine she went into shock instantly, so it probably didn’t hurt much until later. And I felt the same way–I still shudder to think of it! o_O

    4. Beezus*

      I really don’t see the big deal about this one. It makes sense to me to apply one set of safety rules to people called upon to operate machinery, and another set of rules to people who won’t be touching the machines.

      Sometimes people who make rules apply them very precisely (only people working on the saws have to leave their rings at home), or very broadly (no one can wear rings), and sometimes they try to meet in the middle (people who work on the shop floor can’t wear rings, but people in the office, who are presumably utterly untrained in the operation of machinery and are unlikely to be called upon to fill in on the saw, can). I don’t see the inherent wrong in that – it seems like they’re trying to make it as safe as possible without impacting people needlessly.

      1. Just another techie*

        Someone who doesn’t operate machinery can still trip and fall next to a machine. Or can lean against or set their clipboard down on a machine that they believe is powered down. Or can see a machine operator in distress and rush to try to give assistance without thinking about their hair or jewelry. IMO the best, safest way to go is to have jewelry and hair policies applied to everyone on the factory floor.

      2. Mike C.*

        Look at my comment above regarding compliance. If you make excepts for people in the same area, it becomes harder to police because who knows if you fall under the category of needing specific safety equipment or not? Thus people who aren’t complying never get called out and you have lower overall compliance. This isn’t good.

    5. Hestia*

      At a former job, a coworker got his ring caught on something when he was nailing together two boards to build a shed.

      He lost his finger. So, if this is a safety issue, I think the reasoning is sound.

    6. Stranger than fiction*

      This was my thought too. If she’s in the same general area, there’s still a chance someone working a machine calls out for help, and she needs to go running over there, so anyone in the area has the risk of getting jewelry caught in a machine. It sounds like it’s all jewelry worn on the hand or wrist, so why not just wear your ring on a chain around your neck, under your clothing, while at work?

    7. Gene*

      In my job I visit many types of companies where I inspect them. And the safety policies vary, but one thing that seems to be (mostly) consistent is the no rings policy. In some cases, it’s the machinery issue, in others it’s sanitation, in some, it’s both. When I was racing,anything metal came off the body before the fire suit went on.

      It’s a ring. It’s an object. Are you suddenly not married when you take the ring off?

      Want to see what can happen, look at Jimmy Fallon; he tripped in his kitchen and has been healing since late June. If you’re squeamish, don’t Google “ring avulsion”.

      1. LawBee*

        Yeah, I don’t get the problem with taking off a wedding ring. It’s just a ring – it’s a SYMBOL of a marriage, it’s not the marriage itself. Wear it at home and on the weekends, and be thankful that you have a job that cares about you keeping your fingers intact.

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        My husband and I used a little Hello Kitty jewelry box as our cake topper for our wedding. We kept it, and whenever we had to remove our rings, for work, or doing the dishes, or whatever, we would put our rings in there.

        It kept things special even when we couldn’t wear the outward symbol of our marriage.

      3. AnonAnalyst*

        I made the mistake of Googling it, and now I never want to wear rings again. Yikes.

        I have to admit that I really was having a hard time understanding the complaint here. I mean, I like wearing my rings too (well…until reading those articles), but if I can’t for some reason it’s not the end of the world. I guess I understand how this might be frustrating so I can sympathize with that part of it, but the safety concerns, and possible resulting injuries/death, would trump that for me.

        1. Sara*

          I too should have heeded the warning! If I needed another reason to feel unenthused about engagement/wedding rings, there it is!

    8. beachlover*

      So what do you do if someone cannot remove their ring. When I was married, I never took off my wedding ring ( and I mean never ever) I gained weight over the years, and got to a point where I could not get my ring off. Seriously, tried everything short of cutting off. I finally got it off after we separated, because I lost approx 30 lbs ( 210 lbs if you count Him! LOL). Can you wear gloves?

      1. TootsNYC*

        If you’re working on the factory floor, they will cut it off. That’s why the phrase is in the directions from the OP’s employer.

        Sucks that it’s your wedding ring, but, well, it needs to come off so you are safe and your employer (and your employer’s insurance company) is protected from liability and financial loss.

        No, you can’t wear gloves; they’re a danger all on their own.

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        In every situation I’ve ever been in, if you could not remove jewelry that was required to be removed for health and safety reasons, you either (a) could not participate or (b) had to take extreme measures to remove the jewelry, up to and including cutting it off.

        Which is how I ended up standing in front of several hundred people at a rollerderby game with my husband sticking two pairs of pliers inside my mouth trying to get my tongue ring out, wondering how dangerous it would be to dremel it apart if this didn’t work.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      My husband used to talk about a guy who got an electrical shock. The skin tissue under his ring was especially nasty. Just because there are no machines does not mean there is no danger.

      In a tamer story, a coworker was moving material by hand for bailing up. He lost his ring in the material. I don’t want to say how many person-hours were spent looking for that ring. Rings come off at the worst possible times. Decades ago, I lost my engagement ring in a 30 gallon garbage can filled with potato peels. You better believe I went through it one peel at a time. Took me quite a while, but I found it.

  2. LSP*

    #5 – would they let you wear QALO rings or something similar? They are silicone and come in lots of colors. Pretty neat actually.

    I agree, this is all presumably for safety reasons despite the fact that the equipment you use may not warrant a ring/jewelry ban. I’d totally ask for clarification, “why this policy now? And why is not applicable to those visiting the factory?” All this in a nice way of course. Then I’d drop it and get a teal silicone ring ;)

    Side note – DO NOT Google ring finger injuries. You will have nightmares.

    1. Seal*

      Didn’t Jimmy Fallon almost lose his finger by catching his wedding ring on something when he tripped on a rug earlier this year? I seem to remember people saying not to Google ring finger injuries then, too.

      1. Mrs Cake*

        He sure did, and my husband and I have both been avoiding wearing our wedding rings ever since! Somewhat irrational, since I daresay we take much higher risks in many other everyday activities we undertake… But there you go.

        1. KSM*

          Fallon’s injury made me seriously second-guess whether I want an engagement ring (and my partner is supportive). However, I also “completely destroyed” a joint in my left-hand ring finger earlier this year (slipped on wet floor and fell poorly), making that finger forever ringless because of the resulting deformity. So my options are “risk also destroying your right-hand ring finger” or “don’t wear a ring.”

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              A trip to Paris if there’s any money left after buying the diamond emblazoned trash can :)

          1. Sparty07*

            I’m sure your partner is supportive, he doesn’t want to spend a couple grand (or more) if he doesn’t have to. ;)

            Why not look into a tattooed ring if you want something to signify the occasion on your ring finger?

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Well, my sister got one of those tattoo rings from her Ex and he ended up being abusive…so now, her new fiance is paying big bucks to have it laser-removed.

              1. LawBee*

                My friend and her husband got the infinity symbol tattooed on the side of their ring fingers. Neither of them wanted a wedding ring, but they did want the outward symbol of their commitment.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        That’s the story Fallon’s camp would like you to believe. But it’s not what really happened. I don’t want to derail the thread, but it’s easy to find on google.

      3. Karyn*

        Yep. My grandfather had part of his ring finger torn off by catching the ring on a car door while it was slamming. It scared me as a kid!

    2. K.*

      I knew a man (he has since passed away) who lost his ring finger in an accident in which he caught his wedding band on something. Lost it quite dramatically, too. [cringes]

      1. Lurker*

        I come from a long line of farmers (on both sides) who never wear their wedding rings. Too dangerous – they could get caught in any number of farm machines and cause serious injury.

      2. Susan*

        My dad lost the top of his left ring finger in high school – accident with a class ring and a fence.

        1. K.*

          That’s what happened to the man I knew! He and his wife got locked in an outdoor space. He climbed the fence and you can likely guess what happened. He basically pulled his finger completely out of his hand.

    3. The IT Manager*

      @LSP: Come on, the LW is not upset about not wearing A ring on their finger. They’re upset about not being able to wear THEIR wedding ring on their finger. Replacing it with a silicone ring when entering the factory everyday is not a solution.

      I don’t feel the same and would not have an issue with it, but there’s a lot of people who feel that there’s an important symbol in never removing their wedding ring.

      1. sunny-dee*

        For safety reasons, I completely agree with the company. (My dad has similar work policies. Interesting side note — he also can’t wear a full beard because he has to be able to wear a particulate mask, and it won’t seal over facial hair.)

        But re: the emotional attachment people feel for their wedding rings — there was a lady at my church whose husband decided to reset her wedding ring for their 30th anniversary. She went to the jewelry store, picked out what she wanted … and started weeping when she actually took off her ring. She had never taken it off, in 30 years.

      2. Sparty07*

        My wife is a CCU nurse and cannot wear any rings that have any raised surfaces (basically no diamonds) as they can carry bacteria and can cut into patients fragile skin. She got a cheap ring to wear while working that she kept in her locker that looked nice and allowed her to still have that feeling of wearing rings on her fingers. While it may not be her exact wedding ring, she picked out something that she liked. A few of her other co-workers have done a similar thing, while others just go ring free during their shifts. I would argue that it can be a good solution/placeholder.

        1. Snork Maiden*

          Agreed, I got a nice hammered silver band to wear at work and during physical pursuits so I don’t scratch up my rhodium plated engagement ring. I’m terrible at losing stuff, so I feel much better about slipping a $45 ring into my gym bag pocket or onto my sport watch band than the one that cost half a month’s salary. My partner helped pick it out too, so it’s not without sentiment.

      3. Kylynara*

        Not sure if it would make a difference in your answer or in the OP’s mind, but Qalo rings are specifically intended as wedding bands (and styled somewhat as such) for those who can’t wear traditional wedding rings for safety reasons, so it’s not like the poster was suggesting just grabbing a ring from a crackerjack box.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      As Mike C. pointed out upthread, it’s really better to have the policy cover everything. And I don’t think a soft ring would prevent that injury totally–it could still get caught on something.

      1. Anna*

        At a former employer, we had factories and out-of-state administrative offices. The people who worked in the factories were subject to random drug tests, so guess what. So were the admin staff. Everyone up the chain was required to be in the pool and we all took them without complaint because we knew it was for the safety of the people on the factory floor.

  3. Mike C.*

    #5. I’m rather concerned about the selective enforcement of the rules. If the “ladies in the office” are on the factory floor, they should be required to follow the same rules as everyone else. I’m one who sits in an office most of the time, but the instant my feet touch the factory floor, I have proper shoes/clothing on, as well a safety glasses and sometimes hearing protecting if the rivet guns are really going.

    And yes, that means even if they aren’t directly using the machines. You enforce the same rules for everyone in the area so that if you see someone who isn’t following the rules you tell them to knock it off rather than wondering, “do they need to follow the rules or not”. The cost of me putting on those glasses or you taking off a ring is next to nothing compared to the risk of someone else in the area who needs that equipment forgetting about it, not being told otherwise and then getting maimed.

    Look, don’t screw around with these rules. The sorts of injuries we’re talking about here involve getting your finger torn off or worse if your ring is made from something crazy like titanium rather than a gold alloy. You should walk out of work in essentially the same shape you walked in.

    1. Mabel*

      Yeah, I have to take all of the lab safety online courses every year even though I never go into the labs (I think I’m prohibited actually because that’s not the kind of work I do, and I’m not trained for it). There might also be federal regulations about the safety training because some of the work we do is regulated by a federal agency.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Yes, me too! I work at a facility with labs but don’t go in them like ever. But I still have to take all the training and if I do go into the lab wear full goggles and lab coat, etc.

    2. Victoria*

      Thank you for your comments. I do understand about the safety policy and I guess my biggest complaint is that they threatened to cut off my ring. Honestly, that statement really pissed me off. The safety video that the company chose to show us to enforce this policy concerned a lady that had an accident (her fault for playing with the equipment) where she did lose her finger due to her wedding ring and this incident happened 19 years ago. No mention of any current mishaps. The other example they shared concerned a lady wearing gloves that were too big. I just don’t understand why enforcement of this particular policy became such an issue when for the last 20 plus years it never was.

      1. misspiggy*

        It could just be that a new person is in charge of workplace safety. It sounds like the communication and consistency around the policy hasn’t been great, but that the policy itself is a good one. You could feed back that if communication and consistency were to improve there would be a greater chance of people obeying the policy, and thus greater safety – if that kind of feedback would go down well where you work.

        1. JessaB*

          Or it could be that they had a federal or state safety walkthrough (an OSHA complaint comes to mind,) or someone complained that x person was doing this and should not be. One accident 19 years ago is one too many. This is a completely preventable accident cause.

          1. Just another techie*

            Or people were following the rules, and thus were kept safe from serious accidents, until recently, when some wise guy went “We haven’t had an accident in seventeen years! Obviously we don’t need rules!” instead of the correct response “We haven’t had an accident in seventeen years! Obviously the rules are working!”

            1. T3k*

              This. My college major involved printing presses and while safety regulations have come a long way, we were told in almost every class about OSHA and constantly reminded to tie back hair, put away jewelry, no rings, etc. I remember overhearing 2 professors saying that “there used to be a time where if you weren’t missing a finger or some other body part, you hadn’t been in the industry long enough.” I’ll save your lunch and not tell you about the really horrible story one professor told us that involved a large wood shredder in the factory (let’s just say the employee died). To ensure accidents don’t happen, rules do have to be in place and followed, even if it’s a slight inconvenience to some.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Anything can happen at any time–and one of the times it happens the most is when people let their guard down for just a minute or two. Most humans aren’t hypervigilant all the time, even very safety-conscious ones, so the rules help mitigate the damage during those moments of inattention. There was an incident here several years ago involving a giant hydraulic press. No, the person did not survive the completely accidental activation of said machine. :(

        2. Ama*

          A good friend of mine is in charge of safety procedures for a chemical plant — when she got there ten years ago she discovered her predecessor had been more concerned about being buddies with the floor employees than enforcing procedures, and let them just ignore any rules they thought were “stupid,” despite the fact that many of them were OSHA regulations and the company would have incurred huge fines if it was discovered they weren’t following them.

          She encountered a lot of resistance –because it is hard to be told that a rule you never had to follow before is now being enforced– but after several years of work (and a couple of instances where she had the back of the floor employees when an unecessary rule was floated by management) now the old guard at the company knows if she supports a safety rule there is a good reason for it.

      2. nofelix*

        It’s a commonplace and sensible policy. Why would it matter if enforcement was bad in the past?

        The important thing is that a risk to your health has been identified and a way to reduce that risk has been mandated by your employer. Unless you dislike your current number of fingers why object? Your workplace is not going to get any safer if management back down from this policy.

      3. Trillian*

        Yes, the threat to cut the ring off may have been a joke, but jokes about assault aren’t funny — particularly when they prevent people taking in a necessary message.

        1. LQ*

          I don’t think the thing about the rings was a joke or an assault threat. I think it was, hey if you have trouble getting your ring off we can help you by cutting it off. Some people have been wearing their rings for decades and can’t get them off on their own, this can lead to serious frustration, and can be expensive to get cut off, so saying we know this is a problem we are offering help is a good thing.

          You can’t have a ring on, even if it’s on your finger so good it can’t come off without being cut off.

          1. Anna*

            Saying they’ll cut it off your finger sounds more threatening than an offer of what the company can do to help. It’s incredibly specific and the only outcome is a damaged ring that can’t be worn again, so it is a bit more than just being helpful.

            1. Natalie*

              I’m not sure it’s helpful to quibble about which version is more threatening when we don’t actually know what was said. The LW isn’t quoting directly.

              1. Anna*

                That isn’t really the sort of thing you can use hyperbole on. Either they said it and she’s reporting what they said or they never said it and she’s lying. I’m going to go with they probably said it.

          2. Charityb*

            Maybe that was their intent, but it’s one of those things that can be easily perceived as either a threat or, more likely, a nasty comment. I think the company is 100% in the right to have this kind of policy but they desperately need to work on their messaging. Sometimes rules can get muddied in business environments and people forget or never really understand why the rules are in place. While of course management has the power to set whatever rules it wants for the most part without explaining them clearly (or at all), they shouldn’t take that approach with safety regs.

      4. Katie the Fed*

        I’m guessing the bit about cutting off rings was for people who had worn their rings non-stop for years and could no longer get them off their fingers.

        As for why it’s an issue now – my guess is insurance.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes, I wonder if it was more of a “and if you tell us your ring can’t come off because you physically can’t get it off, we’re offering to cut it off for you” and/or “if there was an emergency, the EMTs/hospital may have to cut off the ring”. I don’t think it was a direct threat (hey, if we see you out on the plant floor again we’re going to cut off your ring!) more of a “you need to remove your rings and stop wearing them, by whatever means are necessary”

          And yes, it’s not fair that the office employees aren’t following the rules, but give it time – it sounds like they are cracking down on the plant employees first, but the office employees will probably be cracked down on next. I also wonder if the difference is that the office employees always stay on the clearly marked walkways only, whereas plant employees may wind up having to go into the production areas, even if not using the actual equipment. This was the dividing policy at other plants I worked at – supervised guests were allowed on the walkways with only the bare minimum PPE (safety glasses and closed toed shoes, not necessarily steel toes), and an office employee that was only stepping out on the floor for a few minutes could do the same, but if an office employee was planning to step one toe off the walkway and/or spend more than 20 minutes in the plant they had to comply with the full plant safety standards of safety glasses, steel toed shoes, full length pants, hair tied back, no loose clothing and no jewelry other than stud earrings.

          Does the no wedding rings rule suck for OP, who has never had to comply before? Yup. Is this the cost of working this job now? Yes, and OP needs to either deal with it or move out of manufacturing.

          1. Bagworm*

            That’s what I was thinking, too. My job takes me on a lot of supervised tours where I would need more extensive PPE to get off my little pathway but have a minimum as long as I’m on it. I would imagine the office staff just don’t have to get off the same pathways or spend any substantial amount of time there.

      5. Gandalf the Nude*

        Speaking just to the “why now” aspect of this, a lot of customers require manufacturers to register to meet with certain compliance standards. It could be that this is a new requirement of an important customer. I know we’ve rolled out a lot of new safety policies this year for that reason alone (mostly to be able to honestly check a yes box in Vendormate).

        No excuse for the threat to cut off rings, though. That’s just bizarre and rude and absolutely not a way to make folks want to comply with policy. Not to mention, cutting rings off sounds pretty unsafe as well!

        1. Meg Murry*

          Or a way to make the insurance company happy – even if there haven’t been any jewelry related incidents at the OP’s site, sometimes beefing up safety policies overall can help with the insurance policy and/or get OSHA off their back. Or to lower their workman’s comp insurance policy – after all, workman’s comp pays out pretty big to an employee who loses a finger, so it is in the company’s best interest to reduce the possibility of all injuries, both with safety features and with rules regarding jewelry.

      6. LBK*

        Okay, but do you WANT to be in a situation where you might lose your finger? This is for your benefit. There’s already been several stories posted here about rings getting caught in machinery, so it’s not like the incident your company referenced was a weird freak accident that never happens. This is a common safety rule that I’d think you would want to follow – if anything I’d be pissed my company didn’t bring this up sooner rather than being pissed they didn’t care for 20 years.

      7. Mike C.*

        The threats are really the wrong way to go, and that’s a terrible way to ensure compliance. They should have explained to you why there was a rules change. I’m guessing it’s an industry standard your company wasn’t aware of, or perhaps a representative of the folks who make your machines recommended a policy change.

        1. Allison*

          I agree with this, the company should be more honest and up-front about why they’re either cracking down on a rule that’s always been there, or why they’re implementing a new rule when nothing at the site had prompted it. It was most likely a regulation issue from an outside party, like OSHA or the insurance company, but I see no reason why that kind of reason would need to be kept secret. “OSHA has noticed an uptick in these incidents across the country, so they want everyone to crack down on this to prevent future problems.” Easy.

          Or they brought in someone new and that person, having seen some things and some stuff, insisted on some new safety rules.

      8. Splishy*

        I work a “front office” job at a manufacturing facility, mostly in a cubicle on a computer. However, I am part of the EH&S team and even though I don’t operate the machines, it’s just as important that I and other members of my team model correct safety when out on the manufacturing floor. So long necklaces and dangley earrings get left at the desk, open-toed shoes get changed out for closed, safety glasses get put on, hair gets pulled back, and rings would be taken off. And if I see anyone violating those rules, I am responsible for saying something.

        As for why it’s an issue for your company now, I’m guessing someone is cracking down either proactively or in response to some sort of audit or report. Any injury sustained by myself and other front office staff is just as OSHA-reportable as a machine operator’s injuries.

        I think your company should be enforcing the rules consistently and communicating them better, as well as the rationale behind them.

      9. AndersonDarling*

        “I just don’t understand why enforcement of this particular policy became such an issue when for the last 20 plus years it never was.”
        Insurance. My bet is that the Workman’s Comp insurance is requiring this so the premiums don’t go up. If there is an inspection and they see that people are wearing rings, then the insurance co. can drop your employer or raise the rates.
        In the end, this is about safety. It’s not about favorites.

      10. MAB*

        Threatening to cut the ring off is not cool, however I personally see nothing wrong with having to remove all jewelry, wear ear plugs, hairnets, tie hair back and the like when working in any form of manufacturing.

        The change could have been due to someone new being hired in and realizing that the company you work for has a MAJOR potential safety lawsuit on their hands that could be solved by implementing this one rule. I just did the same at my company last week (though its with hairnets and beard nets, and suddenly we have a lot more saved faces around here) but I made sure it was well communicated to all employees both in the office and on the processing floor. Everyone who walks into a processing area is expected to follow it or be written up.

        I know it wasn’t a problem for 20+ years that you have worked there but industries change over time. In the food industry 5 years ago when I started the PPE was different than it is today. The safety and food safety regs are different and have different consequences depending on the sector that you work it. I would point out that the office personal should be held to the same standard for safety reasons (and yes phrase it that way) and let it go.

      11. TootsNYC*

        Did they really directly, personally, threaten to cut YOUR ring off?

        If so, why–it is because you can’t remove it? In which case, do something about that pronto.

        Or are you just responding to having that option be included in the generic, “applies to the entire situation” list? In which case, you are grossly overreacting. Just take your ring off.

        I just don’t understand why enforcement of this particular policy became such an issue when for the last 20 plus years it never was.

        It’s about damned time, that’s why!!!
        Or, their insurance company came along and said, “blanket rule, or no coverage. We’re not getting into splitting hairs, it’s too complicated and too risky.”

      12. Not So NewReader*

        One reason could be the insurance company is demanding it as part of the insurance agreement. One place I worked for the insurance company demanded everyone’s driving record. Whether they drove for the organization or not was not relevant. I will confess, if I had not seen this first hand I would not have believe the insurance company excuse. But, yeah, insurance companies come up with “stuff” and places have to comply.

    3. LQ*

      The only way I could see the office folks getting to wear them (at the office) would be if the office is a different building. But they should still be taking them off when they come into the plant building. The rule should really be about the building or the floor, not the people. You walk into that building your rings/necklaces/whatever comes off 100% of the time for 100% of the people.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Yes, that’s exactly how ours worked. When you were about to enter the floor, there was a sign on the door that said to remove all of your jewelry and put on your safety equipment before you walk through that door, no matter who you are.

      2. SystemsLady*

        Or if the plant has multiple well-defined areas, separated by doors, and the office people do not/are not allowed to go in the area where the jewelry ban applies. (I see that a lot at food plants)

    4. Swarley*

      A thousand times, this right here: “You enforce the same rules for everyone in the area so that if you see someone who isn’t following the rules you tell them to knock it off rather than wondering, ‘do they need to follow the rules or not.'”

      You may not remember much about the annual safety video/quiz that your employer requires you to complete, but there’s never any doubt that the rules don’t apply to you as well. Well said, Mike C.

    5. Jules*

      I work in the office and as soon as I tread on the factory floor, all jewelry and watches are off. Not even fitbit and we all know you can score some walking points when walking the factory floor. I even accidentally left my ring in a remote location and had to have it shipped to me. Can’t get upset when everyone is held by the same rules.

    6. SystemsLady*

      Yes, if this seems like a safety violation on the office workers’ part, regardless of if OP thinks they are being told something different for whatever reason, OP definitely needs to bring that up.

    7. Tinker*

      The thing that worries me about this in particular is — I worked in a place one time that had a lot of odd implicit assumptions about gender. I was the only perceived-as-female person in my particular type of job, and I was often running into assumptions that of course I couldn’t do this or that or et cetera, when the other guys in roughly my same area of work encountered no such assumption.

      It wouldn’t entirely surprise me, in the case where it was considered okay for workers not using the machinery to wear jewelry on the shop floor AND where there was an implicit assumption (as there was to an extent with my former employer) that of course a perceived-as-female person is not using the machinery, that someone’s going to look at a person who absolutely IS going to use the machinery and conclude “oh, that’s an office lady” and not warn them of some issue that presents an immediate risk of harm.

  4. Josh S*

    Silicone Wedding Bands may also be an option–I have several friends with varying construction/industrial jobs where wedding bans are generally forbidden, who can wear these:

    1. Meg Murry*

      FYI, these types of rings would NOT be allowed in an automotive paint shop, and may cause issues if OP works with cabinets before they are painted or in the paint area. Silicone is incompatible with paint, and can cause surface defects, so paint shops band all silicone bracelets and jewelry. I once witnessed an entire paint shop go down and an entire day’s worth of production have to be sanded and re-painted, the day there was a blood drive and the giveaway was silicone bracelets (like the Livestrong bracelets).

      I like the idea of these rings, especially for EMTs, firefighters, etc – but I wonder if OP’s office is just going to crack down on “no jewelry period” rather than have to individually say “this person’s ring is ok, that person’s bracelet is ok, this person’s ring is not ok, etc”

      1. LBK*

        I have zero experience in this area so now I’m curious – how does silicone mess with paint? Some sort of electrostatic charge that makes it not stick right?

        1. Meg Murry*

          it changes the surface tension of the material, so the paint flows around the spec of silicone rather than over it, leaving either bare surface with no paint, or a thinner paint spot. It’s a major problem in automotive paint. Probably less so in cabinets painting, but the possibility does exist. The other issue with silicones (but not necessarily jewelry, more in lubricants and RTV silicone) is that it will spread around forever but not really wipe completely off a surface without some heavy duty cleaner. However, if a silicone piece of jewelry were to fall into the paint container, I’m pretty sure that would be bad too.

          Google image search for silicone fisheye shows extreme examples of the defect – that is what it looks like if a surface is completely contaminated – like silicone lubricant got on the surface and was not 100% cleaned off. A defect from silicone jewelry would probably just be a few random spots here and there (often called craters) – but that is enough to require a surface be touched up, adding extra work.

    2. fposte*

      Aside from the problem Meg Murry mentions, it seems to me that silicone is still tough enough to pose a risk in many situations (admittedly a ring isn’t as dangly as bracelets, but I’ve seen people get those caught on stuff without breaking them), so I’m intrigued to hear that some companies allow the rings.

      1. LBK*

        I’d think a silicone ring would be easier to cut off, particularly with tools that would probably be available in a factory (like pliers that may not be strong enough to safely cut off a gold ring).

        1. Meg Murry*

          I think this also depends on the risks. If the risk is the finger getting smashed, then yes, a ring that EMS can cut off would be good. If the risk is a finger getting caught in a moving machine, I don’t think the silicone ring would fall before the finger (or whole hand) is seriously damaged – that’s why I would say no rings period around moving equipment.

          1. fposte*

            That’s what I was thinking. It’s great that the EMTs can easily cut it off, but if it’s what gets me in the situation in the first place, I’m better off without it.

  5. Ann Furthermore*

    #5: My husband works in a machine shop and doesn’t wear a wedding band, partly for safety reasons. If he were to stick his hand into a machine with a ring on he could easily lose a finger. He doesn’t allow anyone to wear rings, bracelets, or necklaces either when they’re on the shop floor. And anyone with long hair is required to secure it in a ponytail.

    This is more than a reasonable requirement; it shows that your employer takes safety seriously. I’d rather take my ring off each day than to risk getting an injury that would make me unable to wear a ring at all.

    1. Krystle*

      Securing long hair in a ponytail can actually be more hazardous than not (think scalping vs. losing a clump of hair). Safest policy is to tuck hair into the collar of your shirt. Just something to consider :)

  6. Eve Chan*

    I have heard a few incidents of people accidentally getting their finger cut off! Also, safety hazards of rings don’t only apply to just cutting machines, but even instances where your finger might get swollen too. I’ve heard of accidents where a hand becomes too swollen and they had to cut the ring off!

    Thanks for the suggestion of silicone rings. I have never heard of these alternatives before.

    Has anyone heard of any comfortable and safe alternatives to foam peanut ear plugs? Those things don’t fit very well.

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      I don’t know if these would be allowed in your workplace, but I used to wear earplugs that you could mold to your ear. I think they were made by Mack’s. They were a whitish color, and all you had to do was roll them around in your hand to warm them up a bit, and then the material was pliable enough to mold each plug into something that would fit comfortably in my ear.

    2. Knitting Cat Lady*

      If you are required to wear ear protection at work does your employer supply it?

      The alternative I know of:

      1. Head phone style ear defenders. Often called mickey mice…
      2. Ear plugs molded to your ear specifically. They come in a variety of materials and have may options regarding filter level. I have a pair mad of silicone with very low level filter for my music playing hobby. You can get those at any hearing aid studio. They are rather pricey but last forever.

    3. Lizabeth*

      The foam ear plugs didn’t work for me: the vacuum pump was incredibly noisy and I asked for and got the head phones. They made a big difference.

    4. Meg Murry*

      The foam plugs don’t fit me either. Links will get caught in spam, but do a search for “re-useable earplugs” and you can find some of the plastic ones that are on a string. From the images, it looks like the ones I use are called Moldex Rockets. They aren’t great – still a little too long for my ear, but at least they stay in most of the time, and the string around my neck keeps them from getting lost.

    5. Ama*

      I’ve found that child’s size foam earplugs that were far more comfortable for me than the standard size — apparently my ear canal is just super narrow.

    6. SystemsLady*

      Ear muffs (they look like headphones) are great, but check your employer’s policy on them. Some might want them tested or don’t want you to use them except as secondary protection (above those foam ear plugs).

    7. SaraHC*

      I keep a pair of earplugs on my desk. They’re called Faders, from V-Moda. They come with multiple tips so you can customize the size. A little pricey, but way more comfortable than your standard foamy ones!

    8. Hillary*

      I second Meg on Moldex ear plugs. They fit my small ears reasonably well, and they work a lot better than the foam ones for me.

      I rarely need them these days, so I just bought a couple pocket packs on Amazon. One for my purse, one for my garage.

  7. Kas*

    I’d just like to note my amusement that one of the related articles on this post is
    ” someone keeps rearranging my desk, did my manager give me the finger, and more” :)

    1. Al Lo*

      Now I’m picturing one of those Halloween gag severed fingers in a box, a la the nipple in a box given to Peggy on Mad Men.

      (Is that what happens when you wear a nipple ring on the shop floor?)

    2. Jean*

      Yikes! (shudders)
      Suggestion for us squeamish folk: open up comments, search* for “fingers,” avoid all highlighted text.
      (shudders again)

      * alternate search terms: severed, gore, gory, blood…

  8. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    Given the mention of poor timekeeping, I wonder if #1’s intern is late not just in getting to work, but late to meetings, etc. If that’s the case, then I think that’s significantly more serious than starting independent work late, and the OP should talk with the intern ASAP about the impact it has on people’s views of her.

    1. NewManager*

      I’m OP#1 and this is a really good point. She hasn’t been late to meetings specifically as we normally leave our desks as a team at the same time but she is generally disorganized and gets confused about days she has to be in etc, which as you say, does affect people’s views of her.

      1. Artemesia*

        She needs to be better instructed in the expectations for the position. My first RA years ago was amazing and so it took me awhile to understand that not everyone has a built in thermostat for excellence and responsibility. College students often assume life will always allow sleeping in and taking spring break and find adjusting to the workplace difficult; one of the things you have to do with interns is make the expectations very clear, stress that this is part of the professionalism they are learning on the job and if necessary fire interns who refuse to respond with training.

      2. Not The Droid You are Looking For*

        I do think having a conversation and setting some guidelines would be a kindness.

        If she is disorganized, can you coach her/help her find a system?

  9. Blurgle*

    #2: I would take AAM’s advice, but I’d also keep an ear open for any other complaints about items going missing in case there’s a pattern of disappearances. It’s not unheard of for thieves to target offices, and although management might not be able to do anything about the loss of a staff member’s phone charger they will likely want to know if items are regularly disappearing.

    Given the price and portability of phone chargers, I’d suggest from now on keeping the charger in your desk or your purse when you aren’t using it. Those things aren’t cheap!

    1. Al Lo*

      Man, it’s all about the severed body parts today. Now that my mind has gone there, I read “an ear missing” from “an ear open for any other complaints about items going missing”. On my phone, they’re right beside each other, just separated by a line.

      George Weasley, is that you?

    2. Jean*

      Yup, I read “keep an ear open” and my inner comedian immediately wisecracked, “Wait, you mean we have to be Van Gogh?”

    3. JessaB*

      Honestly, I really do believe that the person who took/borrowed it thought it belonged to the company not the OP. An email asking for it back (as it’s mine not company property thank you,) but not calling people thieves will hopefully get it returned. I second, third and steen millionth the “label everything that is personally yours” is the best way to go in the future. Also if you have an under-the-desk outlet, you might wanna put your charger cord there, simply because people do not want to crawl under your desk to borrow stuff.

    4. Lily in NYC*

      I sit in an open area and am an executive assistant, so people feel entitled to take whatever they want off my desk and it drives me nuts. Whoever stole my Game of Thrones letter opener shaped like Ned Stark’s sword is dead to me (maybe I should start a list like Arya’s…).
      I’ve learned to hide the things I really don’t want stolen, like my favorite stapler and a pen that I’m oddly attached to. I never leave personal items out, like chargers or my phone. It’s frustrating, but I’ve learned to let it go. But I have mixed feelings about emailing – it’s so hard to do it without sounding passive aggressive.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        When in reception at Exjob, I had a special stapler and people would borrow it and then put it somewhere mysterious. I put a sticker on it that had a picture of Milton from Office Space and the caption, “MINE!”

      2. HRish Dude*

        Is there a possibility that the Ned Stark sword was melted down into two other letter openers?

    5. Mrs. Psmith*

      I’d take it a step further and if the charger doesn’t turn back up after emailing coworkers, then mention it to your manager. Not in a “OMG, someone stole my stuff, rage-rage-rage” but so they can be aware that an item of value has gone missing and make sure it doesn’t become a pattern. I left my iPad charger on a plane over the summer was irritated at how much it cost to replace the older 30-pin chargers, so I would absolutely be angry if my charger disappeared at work.

  10. Jozie*

    #2: I assume no one else uses your desk, right? When our front desk person goes to lunch, someone covers for her at the front desk. If I’m up there, I know I’ve accidentally grabbed/used her stuff without realizing it. I actually didn’t read this as a malicious act, possibly some entitled person seeing it and taking it, but my first thought was more that they thought it was communal property they could just use or that they took it by accident.

    I know I’m always needing a phone charger and have one close by and they’re handy as all heck, but are phone chargers really such hot items to steal?

    1. Merry and Bright*

      You’d think the expensive smartphone would be hotter property if it was deliberate theft.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I don’t think she leaves the phone behind when she steps out of the office, just the charger.

      2. Splishy*

        At a previous place I worked, laptop powercords and network cables were constantly in danger from the “cubicle vultures”, but the laptops themselves rarely seemed to be touched. I guess it was a product of the mobile culture of the workplace. The company had several campuses and buildings around town and it was quite common for people to be moving between different buildings. They took their laptops with them, but a lot of people didn’t pack powercords and network cables.

    2. Betty (the other Betty)*

      People have gone into my unlocked car and stolen: phone charger (3 times), box of breath mints, spare change, and old beat up windshield sun shade.

      The phone chargers were the most expensive to replace, but the mints really annoyed me.

      Anyway, the point is that yes, phone chargers are expensive and useful enough to steal.

      1. Jules*

        I got burgled once (they kicked in the door to my apartment) and all they took was my iPod charger and my ethernet cable.

        They left the laptop, digital camera, and assorted jewelry. Go figure….

        1. RG*

          Well your laptop, digital camera, and jewelry may have serial numbers or other identifying information. A phone charger usually does not.

            1. Splishy*

              I wonder if there’s a “it’s so cheap, they won’t mind if I take it” mentality going on that they use to justify taking the small things as not stealing. But a bigger ticket item like a phone or computer can’t be rationalized away.

      2. Karyn*

        I have nothing of value in my car except some spare quarters and a book of old CDs. I leave my car unlocked because I’d rather have someone rifle through it and find nothing of value than break my window trying to get in. Someone actually did go through the car one night, and left my book of CDs there. I was insulted.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I lock mine, but when I had my old car, one night I left it unlocked absentmindedly, and someone tried to take my stereo. They got the faceplate off but couldn’t get the CD player out (heh heh, thank you Circuit City installers). They did take the CD wallet off my visor. Hope they enjoyed the Lord of the Rings soundtracks and the really old Rod Stewart album!

        2. Transformer*

          When I got my car back after it was stolen in college, the thief had taken everything except a book titled: How to Love a Nice Guy. They even took the trash and hair accessories.

    3. Sunflower*

      I think phone chargers are actually a big theft item because

      1. They all look exactly the same and if you don’t label it with your initials, there’s no way to prove who it belongs to
      2. It’s one of those items that you feel are incredibly overpriced so you really don’t want to buy more than 1 even though you’ like to have more.
      3. It’s something that you can never have enough of. Ideally I’d have one in my house, in my car, in my office and maybe one I just carry in my bag. And it’s really hard to remember to bring it wherever you go.
      4. If it’s an iPhone, those cords are terrible. My cord that came with my phone broke after a few months. At $20/cord, that adds up

      I also think it’s one of those items that are really really easy to borrow and forget to give back. Often times I’ll borrow one or someone will borrow from me and when the other asks for it back, I’ll forget if I still have it, or if I gave it back. And god forbid anyone be without a charger!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I lost my good one and I’m livid with myself–now I have to use an old one and the cord is too short. >:( It IS really hard to remember to bring it, so I try to keep it in my work tote or my purse. I save all old chargers (all my phones are Samsung, so they all fit) to make sure I always have one, just in case. Even my UK charger–I can use it in a pinch, with an adapter.

      2. einahpets*

        My household must be unique in that we are totally swimming in usb/micro-usb chargers, so the theft of them is totally weird to me. Maybe it is just because of the number of devices we’ve bought that use them? Although my husband was just looking at a new phone using the new micro-usb port and I just realized how annoying that is going to be for him…

        1. Sunflower*

          I ran into problems when Apple changed the charging ports. I have a ton of the older chargers since I had an iPhone 4, plus 2 ipods and my siblings had multiples of these as well. I’ve only had 1 new phone(no other new apple products) so I’ve had to purchase any additional cords.

      1. SystemsLady*

        And if you end up having stolen a turbo charger, hello $$$.

        (I seriously hope I never lose the one I got with my most recent phone)

        1. Michelle*

          It turns out that the charger to my tablet also fits my phone, so I keep one at home and one at work.I would be ticked off if it got stolen. That’s why I not only label mine, I also try to keep it in the drawer when I’m not using it. If people don’t see it laying on my desk, they usually don’t know I have one.

    4. Nervous Accountant*

      I’ll never understand how anyone can steal tehse things, esp personal things. I sit in an open plan, and I would NEVER dream of just taking something from anyone’s desk… they office manager, intern, support staff, whatever. And I think everyone here follows the same…I leave a shitton of stuff on my desk, there were times i left cash and jewelry (costume so not $$$ but still) and makeup items on my desk and no one took em. It’s just mind boggling

    5. Marcela*

      Considering our chargers are for tablets and smartphones instead of just phones (2Amp vs 0.5Amp), yes, they are very coveted. When once Somebody started taking any charger he found in anybody’s desk (so for several days the first activity of the day would be somebody looking for her/him charger, finding it in Somebody’s desk), he quickly discovered some chargers were better than others. But you can’t charge a tablet with a .5A charger, so we threatened him with the pains of Hell if they disappear. He stopped.

  11. TheLazyB (UK)*

    I’ve never worked in an office where it was officially OK to charge a personal phone. (Regs state work phones only.) is there a risk, OP#2, that you’ll get into trouble if you mention this?

    Sorry, though. Cash was stolen from a desk in my old office, one that only staff had access to. Not much, but knowing someone in the building did that? It was horrible :(

    1. Cube Ninja*

      In US offices (all the ones I’ve worked in, at any rate), it’s extremely common for employees to charge phones at their desks. Usage is another story entirely, of course.

      US employers do, however, tend to get cranky about things like mini-fridges and space heaters. :)

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Woah, really? Why?

      I’ve never hear of not being able to charge a phone at work. Why?

      1. UKAnon*

        I would hazard a guess at safety; all electrical appliances in the workplace have to be regularly safety tested to be prevent electrical fires and so on.

        1. the gold digger*

          I am probably breaking all kinds of regulations with the space heater at my desk, but I wouldn’t need it if my employer didn’t keep the temp set at “meat locker.”

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Yep. One of my coworkers tried to bring in a crockpot and you would have thought she was trying to bring in an anti-tank missile.

          1. Hillary*

            My last company had a map of designated crock pot outlets. Sometimes it’s amusing to live in the Midwest.

        3. Nashira*

          Do they care if you use an auxiliary battery, like an Anchor? I bought one for an augmented reality game called Ingress, but primarily use it to charge my ipod and phone at work now.

          1. Parfait*

            Hello fellow Ingresser! I love my Anker. Can’t play for more than a couple of hours without one.

      2. Guy Incognito*

        The only reason I can think of the use of any personal electrical equipment might be completely prohibited. UK law states that all portable electrical equipment must be tested periodically (lap top charges, TVs, kettles, toasters, microwaves, scanners, printers, photocopiers and so on) so in theory it would be illegal for someone to use an untested phone charger.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Ah, so it sounds like it really might be quite different from one country to the next. My company doesn’t allow us to plug any kind of USB into our computers, for security reasons, but I can still plug (presumably) anything I want into the outlet.

          I’m really not a fan of space heaters at the office, but that’s another issue.

        2. Jules*

          Actually that’s an urban legend: it’s not a legal requirement to have PAT testing done, but it is a frequent qualification clause in your office’s fire insurance policy or employer’s liability policy. (Yep, H&S nerd over here….)

          1. Guy Incognito*

            Ah my bad, I assumed that it was a legal requirement but I just looked at the HSE website and it says

            “The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition. However, the Regulations do not specify what needs to be done, by whom or how frequently (ie they don’t make inspection or testing of electrical appliances a legal requirement, nor do they make it a legal requirement to undertake this annually).”

    3. TheLazyB (UK)*

      I did mean to state it might be a culture thing. I’ve always worked in UK public sector. I’m not saying people don’t do it but it’s officially against the rules. I’ve never heard anyone reprimanded for it.

      I feel less bad about it now I work from home two days a week as I charge my work laptop and phone.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        If that were the case here, I’d probably just charge mine at night. I do charge mine at work all the time, but we have no rules against it that I’m aware of. Though Exjob tried to make one, everybody pushed back.

    4. K.*

      I’ve never worked anywhere that didn’t allow it. At my old job the majority of us would listen to music with headphones on our phones, and some people would just leave the phone plugged in all day. (I read somewhere that this is actually bad for the battery, so I didn’t/don’t do it.)

    5. Merry and Bright*

      I haven’t charged my phone in my current (UK) workplace (I carry a couple of spare batteries just in case these days). In a government office I worked at last year they said charging personal phones etc was a health & safety issue and also a misuse of electricity at the tax payer’s expense!

      My last private sector job was fine with it although if your phone and charger were around when the PAT testing was being done you would get an inspection sticker on your items!

      1. TheLazyB (UK)*

        Yep in my workplaces it’s mainly a case of YOU ARE STEALING FROM THE TAXPAYER!!!!!!!

  12. Merry and Bright*

    #2 Probably someone needed a charger, went looking for one or knew the OP had one, “borrowed” it and forgot to return it. In a lot of places, if stuff isn’t nailed to the desk it grows tiny feet and walks. Pens and staplers seem extra good at this. Just something that happens.

    1. Jean*

      >If stuff isn’t nailed to the desk it grows tiny feet and walks. Pens and staplers seem extra good at this.
      Yes! Examples: Staplers with “Stolen from the desk of …” labels; pens wrapped in green floral tape in order to secure an artificial flower at the non-writing end of the pen (horribly un-ecological, because empty pen & tape & flower eventually get trashed)–the effect is that of a colorful but slightly ratty-looking bouquet.

        1. Kylynara*

          Most people don’t steal pens intentionally. You just forget you are holding it and walk away, or put it in a purse or pocket absentmindedly. The pens with flowers are different enough & bulky enough, and just have a different enough feel that people almost never walk off with them. And if you absentmindedly stick it in a purse or pocket the flower prevents it from slipping in like you expect and you notice what you are doing and put the pen back. Personally, I find it very effective and more convenient than chaining the pen down.

      1. Mickey Q*

        Nothing has disappeared from my desk because everyone knows it’s penalty of death if it happens. Even the cleaning lady is afraid to clean in there.

        1. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

          +1. All my friends and family know if they use my pens (I like really nice pens) then they return them ASAP.

          1. Marcela*

            My people doesn’t dare to ask for my pens. Either they are so cherished that I will bite them if I have to go to ask them to return them, or I only use fountain pens.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Ha, I purposely leave papers and crap all over my desk so the cleaning people do not clean/dust off my desk! We get a notice every friday saying “if you want them to dust your desk, please remove all paperwork” and I go Nope. (it’s not just about theft, though, I don’t know where their cleaning/dust rags have been either)

          1. Anonymosity*

            I’d rather clean my own cube, except for the floor, but I don’t know how I’d keep the cleaning people out of it. Someone said they were here at night and saw them going around here with a trash can but they were pulling the trash cans out of the cubes and NOT emptying them. While pushing the big trash can. And then going back and emptying them. Like they were making rounds and casing people’s cubes, maybe….she said stuff had gone missing out of people’s cubes, including hers (food she had in her cabinet).

            I found the keys to my cabinets and started locking them at night. Hey, I may only have cocoa and ramen in there, but it’s MY cocoa and ramen. When you steal people’s things, you are stealing money from them–they paid for that stuff!

            1. Windchime*

              At OldJob, a cleaning person used to steal diet Coke from the case under my desk. I noticed so I put a sign on the case that said, “This is not yours. Please stop taking it.” The stealing stopped.

    2. Musereader*

      +1 There is a saying – Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. They probably just needed one, saw it and took without thinking and will return if you ask, just need to let people know you want it back

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Or, it gives them an “out” if they did take it, feel guilty when they get her email, then can say “omg, I totally spaced on returning this to you”.

    3. Charityb*

      That’s true. I think cell phone chargers are probably worse though; usually if I can’t find my pen or a stapler I can get another one from the supply closet for the rest of the day. If someone takes my charger I have to buy another one basically. Depending on the type of phone the actual charger type might be hard to come by and it might not one that’s easy to borrow. (For example, if you have an iPhone 4 the charger is so different from the other models that you pretty much need to find someone else who has that version if you want to borrow it). I can understand being more irritated by this than by a stolen pen just because of the expense/hassle that someone is putting you through.

    4. F.*

      I worked front desk for many years and always locked up my personal belongings in either a file cabinet or desk drawer. Sometimes the temptation to “borrow” is just too hard to resist for some people.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        I did too. The worst part was that many people just seem to think the front desk was the place to go for supplies. My pet peeve was that my personal snacks were always swiped (from my bottom drawer, not left out).

    5. Anon for this*

      Yup. This problem is not limited to front desks. Anything that isn’t very obviously personal property (say, a hot-pink stapler when the company buys only black ones) is assumed to belong to the company, and therefore someone will help herself, especially if you’re in a high-traffic area. (Heaven help you if you sit by a conference room.)

      OP should send the email, hope for the best, and if she gets the charger back, label the hell out of it. Or else label the next one she gets.

      1. Not The Droid You are Looking For*

        Ugh…yes. I finally started putting my stapler, three hole punch, and other supplies in a drawer because I got sick of retrieving them from the conference room.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I second your ugh yes. People would dig through my desk drawers to replenish their paper clips and such. I finally started keeping the backup office supplies in another room and going there really showily when someone mentioned needing something. I mean, yeah, “my” paper clips belonged to the company too, but if I had ten and the actual supply cabinet had boxes and boxes…

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I had to just tell people, “The supply closet is over there,” and point. They’d get pissy, but I reminded them that I was in charge of stocking it, there were plenty of highlighters in it, and if you needed something, come and ask me. Because the highlighter in my pen cup wasn’t there so you could borrow it — it was there so I could highlight things!

      2. Anonyby*

        Ooooh yes. The weekday receptionist and I started keeping to sets of pens–a really cheapy set in the holder on the desk and somewhat nicer ones in our drawer because agents would borrow them from the desk to use in meetings with clients, and forget to return them, leaving us with nothing to write with. Thankfully phone chargers haven’t been stolen…. (Another thing… Agents will copy or print in the copy room and then walk up to the front desk to use our stapler…even though there’s TWO staplers in the copy room. WTH)

    6. Sunflower*

      Speaking of being nailed to the desk, my friend found a charger on Amazon that actually screws into the outlet so no one can steal it. So there’s always that option. I also purchased an Amazon charging cord(which is Apple certified). It’s black and says Amazon all over it so harder to steal.

      1. OfficePrincess*

        I bought a pink one on Amazon. I’m not all that into pink, but it’s a great reminder to everyone else that it’s not theirs, with the added bonus that it stands out and is easy to find in the mess of cords on my desk.

    7. Cath in Canada*

      My last boss stole so many pens from me (accidentally – I’d ask him to sign a form, hand him a pen, and he’d just wander off with it, then promptly lose it somewhere else) that I ended up buying one of those bank-style pens on a cord and securing it to my desk. It was his signing pen for a few years. He was very amused when it first appeared!

  13. Cube Ninja*

    #4 is especially egregious considering that the required classes and application fees appear to be at most about $150 in California ($50-100 for classes, $20 or so for fees, from a cursory search). If the employer felt they needed a notary on staff, one presumes they’ve probably saved at least the cost of OP becoming a notary by virtue of not having to pay someone else (or possibly lean on other notaries public in their employ)

    I’ll never understand why some folks feel that their employees should be on the hook for bonafide business expenses, except in very narrow circumstances.

    1. Mookie*

      Yep. Chain and franchise printing / packing / posting places want a notary available on all shifts, and they unwisely or no* take a good chunk out of the no-travel NP fees (which, in most states, have a cap), rather than treat the fees as commission. In the US, notaries are “glorified witnesses” for specific documents, lay officers with no legal training and a very specific, very narrow purview. It doesn’t take much to be certified (though the costs of the exam and licensing can be prohibitive for many people), but those costs should definitely be borne by the business, who’ll be reaping most of the benefits.

      *in light of the 2010 FedEx / Kinko’s suit in Illinois, in which the employer was held liable for damages stemming from an employee knowingly notarizing forged signatures, I believe

    2. NJ anon*

      I have been a notary twice in my life. I have never had to take a class. The certification costs about $35 at least in NJ.

      1. Persehone Mulberry*

        I’m a notary also ($120 for a 5-year license in MN, no class required). I think it’s funny how often I get asked “aren’t you going to read it [this very important document]?” and I have to explain that all I do is is certify that the person signing is the person named on the document – I’m not verifying anything regarding the *contents* of said document.

        1. Anon Lawyer*

          Which is exactly why California added a proviso on the notary certification that says roughly that — “A notary public or other officer completing this certificate verifies only the identity of the individual who signed the document to which this certificate is attached, and not the truthfulness, accuracy, or validity of that document.”

      2. Winter is Coming*

        No class here either, but I was very surprised at how detailed the test (oral & written) was! Thank goodness I had practically memorized the little booklet they gave me.

  14. Anonannah*

    My boyfriend works in the sailing industry and no one he works with will wear wedding rings. One of his colleagues was newly married and forgot to take his off. His ring got caught and it tore off a large part of the skin and muscle of his finger. They call it gloving because it comes off like the finger of a glove. I know it seems like a hassle to not be able to wear it but people actually do get really hurt. The women probably should be taking theirs off too.

      1. LBK*

        Dammit, and I’d just managed to get that book out of my head from the last time someone mentioned it here.

  15. Legalchef*

    Re #1, I don’t fully agree with the advice given. I supervise a *lot* of unpaid interns (I work at a non-profit), and it doesn’t matter whether they *need* to be there on time or not – if the hours are 9-5 or whatever, I expect them to be there from 9-5, unless they tell me otherwise. Obviously there is some flexibility for running late occasionally, but the advice given makes it sound like it would be okay for the intern to just call every day and say she’s going to be late, which it isn’t. Of course you don’t want to sit down the intern and yell at her, but you also don’t want to be so wishy-washy about it that it obfuscates the fact that at the end of the day, the job has hours and she is expected to be there during them.

    1. MK*

      The advice is not specific to interns, in the sense that interns, because they are interns, don’t need to keep office hours as strictly as paid employees. I think it’s pretty standard AAM to managers that they should be flexible about office hours, unless the worker absolutely has to be there on time.

      1. legalchef*

        I’d actually argue that it might be more important for an intern to be there when expected. Paid employees (usually) have a handle on their own workload and don’t need people to always give them assignments, whereas interns need assignments and supervision. I would be pretty annoyed if I am taking time from my work to put together assignments and make myself available for supervision, but the intern is just showing up when she feels like it.

        I’m also coming from an office where we have expected work hours (with some flexibility – hours are 9-5 but if you come in any time up to 10 you can flex until 6), so that is probably coloring it a bit.

        1. legalchef*

          Also, it depends on the type of internship. We have interns who have to meet a certain number of hours to a grant or for school credit, and we arrange the schedule with them ahead of time. We need to sign off on their hours at the end of it, so, ideally, we need to be able to trust that if they are supposed to be in at 9, they are in at 9 – otherwise we have to check every day so that we can monitor the number of hours.

    2. LBK*

      But most office jobs actually don’t (or shouldn’t) have expected hours. I suppose you could argue that you should prepare an intern to work arbitrary hours since many offices still set them, but if there’s no reason she has to be there at 9, it’s pointless to police it.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Oh, but I have worked for multiple bosses who took a walk around at 8:59 to see who was there. Not shift work, not customer service, expectation to stay past 5, but god forbid if you walked in the door at 9:05.

      2. legalchef*

        But here it sounds like the intern does have expected hours, and is always coming in late. Whether or not there should be expected hours is a different discussion, I suppose, and could depend a lot on the type of office (for instance, someone who doesn’t need to communicate with other people at other offices/organizations during normal business hours should be able to work more of a flexible schedule, but someone who does needs to be working during those normal business hours).

        1. LBK*

          Right, and that’s why I think Alison’s point about addressing it differently if this is an office with generally set hours vs flexible hours is prudent – if the intern is the only one who’s being expected at a certain time, I can certainly see confusion if everyone else in the office comes in as they please. And I think it could still be fine to hold the intern to a different standard than the rest of the office as part of preparing them for a job where they will need to be punctual, but that needs to be explained to the intern rather than assuming they’ll just get it.

  16. SJP*

    OP 5 – Regarding wedding rings, My dad worked in a factory type setting and used to wear a wedding ring, until he slipped 2 steps on a ladder and his wedding ring got caught, nearly ripping his finger off/dislocating it/ generally being super painful…
    It’s not machinery but things like this happen and your company would be liable if you lost a finger/were off work injured etc. It’s a very reasonable request for your own safety. Take it off before work and put it back on when you finish work… simple!!

    1. Macedon*

      I think the primary objection OP has concerns the gender discrimination — if this is such an Issue, why are women still allowed to wear their rings, while men in the same roles are discouraged from it?

      1. Xarcady*

        But it’s not gender discrimination. The rules are set by where people are working. Office workers can wear their rings. Factory floor workers can’t.

        Now, there might be some gender discrimination in the company’s hiring practices if all the office workers are women and all the factory workers are men, but that’s a different issue.

        It seems reasonable to me to have different sets of safety rules for those in the company who work in the factory and those in the company who work in offices. Where I work, the people in shipping/receiving have to wear steel-toed boots/shoes and tie their hair back. I work in an office and don’t have to do those things. This also means I can’t enter certain areas of the building where the boots are required.

        So in the interests of everyone’s safety, I’d make the safety rules applicable to everyone who enters the factory area, office workers, visitors, delivery people, you name it.

        1. Macedon*

          Ah, I think I misread — for some reason, I thought OP was a male in a very similar kind of role to the female office workers who were allowed to wear their rings.

        2. Me*

          In my area, P&G is a big employer. I even worked as a contractor there for a little while years ago. Even the office workers have to wear steel-toes. They make steel-toed women’s dress shoes. No heels, but they’re like ballet flats/loafers. With steel toes. Kind of awesome, actually.

          But yeah. It’s idiotic for the company to be *threatening* to cut off people’s rings if they wear them, but reasonable to require them to be removed. They shoudl’nt allow necklaces either, or bracelets. Long hair not just in a ponytail, but clipped up securely. You don’t want to have to scalp yourself to avoid being crushed by a machine. No loose clothing–scarfs, wide sleeves.

          1. Jules*

            I even have a pair with heels – ok, so they’re chunky heels, but they make me the absolute envy of every woman on every construction site I’ve ever visited. (Made by Ariat, available in both steel-toed and composite-toed, EH compliant options, and **they come in half-sizes**, in case anyone wants a pair…)

      2. Kelly L.*

        I think the OP is also a woman. I think it’s more about uneven enforcement. Some women normally work in the office, and they aren’t made to take them off when they visit the factory area. But anyone who normally works in the factory area gets the rule.

        1. Macedon*

          Right — sorry, the emphasis on ladies in the office made me assume OP was a man who was a little ??? over the disparity in rule enforcement.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I initially thought so too, but the LW is commenting under a traditionally feminine name, so that’s my assumption.

          2. SystemsLady*

            I assumed that as well, but just realized the office workers where I work often get called “the ladies” by even the women in my department. Never really thought about the fact that it happens until nlw, actually.

    2. SJP*

      Thing is though, it’s not about gender. There is a difference between people who work in the office and say visit the factory floor for a moment to drop off paperwork/have something signed off/a small amount of time for some task as i’d say it’s not necessary to take off a ring or necklace if they’re literally just walking to someone to drop something off, compared to someone who is in the factory all day everyday and who would likely have an accident due to the amount of time they spend in a more hazardous situation.
      That’s my view on it though, shoes then I differ but taking off a ring to walk onto the factory floor for about 2 minutes is a little OTT imo

  17. Oswin*

    With wedding bands, something else to think about would be what material the ring is made out of. Gold or silver, can easily be cut off in the case of an accident, but more modern materials such as titanium and tungsten cobalt are a lot more difficult to cut off with the materials that most EMTS would have readily available.

    When I used to sell jewelry, I would always caution people who were looking at those rings (especially as I live in a large rural/manufacturing area) as to the potential risk of a ring made of those materials. We couldn’t even resize those rings because of their hardness. This means that in an accident, the choice could be wasting time trying to cut off the ring, or amputate the finger.

    It’s not just old wives tales that people tell to scare workers into following the rules, but something that actually has happened and is for your safety to not wear jewelry on the factory floor. However, that means that everyone, including the office employees, should be following those same rules for safety’s sake.

      1. Just another techie*

        Eh. Maybe EMTs dont’ have diamond saws in their busses, but most emergency rooms are prepared to remove tungsten or titanium rings, because they are so common. Also tungsten is extraordinarily brittle, and can be shattered by squeezing it in a pair of vice-grip pliers.

      2. Just another techie*

        Oh, also, my husband was curious about that, so he bought two wedding bands, and shattered one at home just to see if he could. It really does just take a pair of sturdy pliers!

        1. SystemsLady*

          Yeah, I’d also heard they are designed to break where a gold/silver ring will warp (potentially cutting off circulation).

  18. Macedon*

    #1. Your intern agreed to taking on a particular set of (I assume, given your complaint) time-sensitive responsibilities. You’re entitled to reminding her of this aspect of her commitment, though — as always — I’d hasten to factor in the possibility of flexible work arrangements, if you can offer them. If we’re talking a five-minute trickle of tardiness that doesn’t really affect client exposure or anyone else’s work, I wouldn’t exactly push it. Not because she’s an intern or unpaid, but because the coat-on-chair fixation grates me.

    #4. No (verbal or written) contract, no cash.

    #5. My father nearly lost his finger thanks to his wedding ring. He was a visiting engineer assigned with examining the work premises, and his ring got caught in a nearby machine during a very rare inspection. Completely unlikely, absurd accident, not a factory worker — still happened, and he was extremely fortunate to walk away with all parts attached. So, it may be that your company’s simply paranoid of these kind of instances of terrible luck. I’m not sure about the safety hazards involved, but would it be an option to keep your ring on a chain around your neck while you are at work? Or would that also pose safety risks, because the piece would be dangling to some extent?

    If women in your exact role are allowed to keep your ring, that’s a problem — however, if it’s only your speculation that you have the same degree of factory contact as these women and aren’t allowed to wear your ring, it might be worth looking into the exact differences between your roles. It may well be that, by company standard, your role has more likelihood of factory visits than theirs does, even if both positions end up being uninvolved with factory machines in practice.

    1. the gold digger*

      I have always looked at those people who have a chain linking the piercings on their faces and wondered, “Aren’t they worried about someone walking past them and hooking his finger into the chain and yanking?”

      1. Artemesia*

        I have the same twinge — I even think it putting on hoop earrings although mine if hooked will just unlatch. I can’t wear those neck wallets flogged for travel for that reasons — I envision someone grabbing me by the neck cord while trying to steal my stuff.

        1. fposte*

          Rita Rudner on pricey necklaces: “I don’t want to wear anything around my neck that’s worth more than my head.”

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I wear one because I lose stuff out of the outside pockets of my backpack. A thief would have to go to the emergency room if they grab me like that. Because I will not hesitate to hurt them.

      2. Vorthys*

        You know, back in my hilariously pierced youth, it never occurred to me. I was, however, incredibly wary of knitted scarves. Those were far more likely to maim me in my view.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      If the intern is consistently a few minutes late, I’d still have a chat with her. Not because it matters that much to her performance, but because she’s an intern and I’d want her to know that that’s not something she’ll be able to get away with at some future jobs. Maybe she knows this already, but there’s a good chance she doesn’t if this is her first position.

      1. Macedon*

        I’m a little torn on that – would she be unable to maintain minor schedule flexibility in her other positions? ( I hesitate to call this ‘getting away with it’ , purely because we never say companies ‘get away with it’ when employees have to stay several hours after work.) We don’t know. And individual workplaces are so varied in these practices that I wouldn’t make a golden rule out of one workplace’s preference. I think it’s best to just tell her how things stand at this particular workplace and call it a day.

        1. John*

          Starting out a career with habitual tardiness is usually really bad. Most roles involve being available to pick up tasks as needed. You need to be physically present, and you likely aren’t yet bringing a distinctive level of expertise that makes your bad habits worth putting up with.

          I’ll never forget a temp we had who was desperate for us to offer her a permanent role. And yet she was frequently 15-20 minutes late. I’m sorry, but if you take liberties like that the first couple weeks, what are we in store for a year from now? Flexibility is earned over time.

          1. Macedon*

            I really think that depends on the workplace, though. Yes, 15-20 minutes is irksome, but there’re places where you can stroll in an hour late and not experience backlash, provided your work is independent from other teams, non-client-facing and still done by your assigned deadline. We could debate whether those places represent a minority or a majority of employers ( for me, employers who don’t mind if you’re up to 10 min late are pretty standard, but that’s maybe just my industry?), but I kind of feel that, where there’s uncertainty over general/local practices, it’s best to just refer an intern/employee to the guideline for your particular environment.

            1. Allison*

              Right, but I think that when someone’s new, they should try to be consistent with when they come in, and punctual when asked to be in at a certain time. Then, after a few months when they’ve gotten a feel for office culture and whether their particular role requires presence in the office at specific times, maybe they’ve worked from home at some point due to illness or unusual traffic made them late and they saw firsthand whether tardiness is a big deal, they can either start pushing the limits and see what happens, or have a conversation with their manager about whether it’s okay to occasionally come in 20-30 minutes later than usual for whatever reason.

            2. Ad Astra*

              Punctuality is always a sticking point in the comments section. We can all agree that 45 minutes late is a problem, but when it comes to 10 or even 15 minutes late, we’re a sharply divided group.

              1. fposte*

                Yup, and I think that extends beyond here. It seems to be a pretty religious topic.

                If I were advising a new intern, though, I’d say be there and at your desk by the agreed time (and if there is no time agreed, ask); it’s an easy way to get a good rep from those of us who are very literal on time, and it won’t hurt you with people who aren’t.

                1. Charityb*

                  Exactly. It’s kind of like dressing nicely to an interview. Yes, there are probably some interviewers who will think it’s OK for you to come to an interview in a T-shirt and jeans, but why assume that before finding out for sure? It doesn’t hurt to be cautious when entering a new role; you can relax if it turns out that the office norms and expectations are different. But making your first impression a potentially bad one doesn’t make a lot of sense when you’re new to the working world and don’t know a lot about the industry.

                2. Ad Astra*

                  Exactly. My advice for managers is typically to lighten up if it’s not essential to have employees physically present at a specific time, but my advice to interns and new grads will always be to get there 5 minutes early.

          2. LBK*

            But the thing is, in some offices there’s no such thing as “tardy” except maybe in extreme cases like showing up at noon, if only then because you’re limiting your overlap in hours with your coworkers which could make communication harder. In my office people show up between 7 and 9:30 and no one is “late”. I’ve heard of plenty of offices that do core hours where everyone has to be in like 10-3 just so meeting availability is easier to manage, but wherever you want to tack on your additional 4 hours around that is your business.

            Yes, if there’s certain time-sensitive tasks that require being there at a certain hour, you need to be in for those and on time. Otherwise there’s no sense in setting an arbitrary cutoff or even having people set their own cutoff and getting mad when they aren’t there at that time. Let people work the hours that make sense for them.

            1. Anx*

              I love the concept of core hours for jobs where 24-hour flexibility isn’t really possible. I’m sure there are logistic issues with extended the facility hours, but as a hard core night owl, I am a whole new employee after noon. I’d love to come in at around 4pm and work til midnight, but that’s not really practical.

            2. Allison*

              This is true, but I think even in offices where people float in and out whenever, interns are probably still held to some kind of schedule and may be spoken to about always wandering in at 9:15-9:20 instead of 9, or sneaking out at 4:45 when their day ends at 5. There’s usually an understanding that employees can manage their time independently, but interns may need extra management so they can establish good working habits.

              1. LBK*

                Agreed – and as someone who’s usually extremely against unnecessary set schedules, I’d be fine with setting one for an intern as part of learning good time management habits. I just think it needs to be made explicit to the intern that they’re being held to a different standard. Even in offices where the general start time is 9 for everyone but no one’s a stickler for it, the intern may be (rightfully, as I would expect from most employees) taking their cues from others and expecting leeway.

                1. Tara*

                  At my (paid) internship over the summer, my start time was 9:00 and the bus dropped me off at 9:02. I talked to my boss, she said no problem… and promptly turned up at some point between 9:20 and 9:40 every day, leaving me sitting outside a locked building, shivering. The other interns gave up and never showed up before 9:15, but I was there. 9:02. Every day. If you’re going to set a fixed schedule for your interns and not anyone else, there are logistical considerations! (Also it feels somewhat patronizing. I know good time management skills– which is different than punctuality, which I also have no issues with. That’s how I made it through 13 years of school. Now let me do the work you hired me to do!)

  19. TL17*

    Jumping on the wedding rings train – my dad was a shop teacher. He was always doing something with some tool or machine or something. When I was very little I noticed some guys wore wedding rings but my dad didn’t. My mom explained that he could get hurt, and since we love dad and don’t want him to get hurt, that not wearing a ring is ok. That explanation apparently did the trick, because I’ve always just assumed that machines and rings don’t mix.

    Now I’m married to a lawyer who defends workers comp cases and some of the industrial injuries he tells me about are horrifying. Just awful.

    1. littlemoose*

      My dad worked with machines when he and my mom got married, and he didn’t even get a ring for that reason. He never had one in their 46-year marriage, and they were an incredibly loving and devoted couple. I understand the symbolism for people, but a no-rings-in-the-factory policy won’t change your marriage.

  20. Xarcady*

    #5. The reaction to what is to me a basic safety rule–no jewelry around machines–is so strong–people being threatened with write-ups, termination, etc., that I wonder if something else is going on. Is there a new employee creating these rules, or enforcing old rules that have been let slide? And that new employee is unpopular for other reasons as well?

    Or are there other issues at this workplace, and this “rebellion” against the ring rule is a symptom of a larger problem in the workplace as a whole?

    I can understand people being upset by the rule. Wedding rings are very important to many people. What is puzzling me is the depth of the reaction to the rule, which, after all, is designed for the employee’s well-being. (And perhaps also to keep the company’s liability down.)

    1. GlorifiedPlumber*

      I am with you… my brain WANTS my wedding ring off, loose clothing pared back, no danglies at all when around machinery. I cannot fathom how anyone would want to run this risk.

      This business extremely poorly implemented these wedding ring and other jewelry changes.

      – No rings, dangly jewelry, watches, loose dangly clothing, long hair, etc. on the shop floor PERIOD.
      – Give employees a secure location to store said items.
      – Allow them to wear them off the factory floor in the office space.
      – Encourage a culture that keeps people honest with each other on the rule without blame out of respect for their fellow coworkers, “Hey Chuck, you’ll want to drop your ring in the secure locker over there.” “Julie, that scarf looks dangly and we’re going to be around some dangerous equipment, you should put it in the secure locker.”
      – The culture keeps people honest, nobody who walks on and forgets is punished. Only people who refuse to play ball and throw down are punished.

      There is pushback because this policy appears to be implemented by scrubs all willy nilly… a safety culture doesn’t have to be onerous.

  21. KT*

    For #5–this is pretty typical for anyone working in warehouses, near machinery, manufacturing plants, etc. It is a safety concern with the metal, but also if any magnets are involved int he processes, the presence of additional metal in the area can throw off readings, wrecking some processes. When I worked in an office adjacent to the plant, they had us take off all jewelry–if you’re wedding ring wouldn’t budge, you couldn’t enter the plant.

  22. cncx*

    Re #1: My first boss in my first unpaid internship set me straight. I was like ten minutes late the first day, and she was like “look, we picked a lot of people over you, but a lot of people want this internship so you need to treat it like a job or I can give it to one of the many other people who still want it. I expect you to be here on time, because I need you here. Your future bosses are going to expect you to be on time, so sorry if you think I am harsh but the reality is you need to learn this lesson now rather than later.” I don’t think OP #1 has much to lose from going gloves off a little bit. I took that lesson to heart, and it was over twenty years ago.

  23. JeJe*

    #5 I’ve seen this rule a lot regarding rings, bracelets and watches (I have to visit different factory sites for my job). Everyone else seems to have covered the safety aspect to this. One thing I can suggest is that if necklaces and neck chains are allowed, wear your ring around a chain.

    I’ve also seen the unequal enforcement of rules between office workers who occasionally come into the plant and plant workers without taking into account risks for a specific person based on job. I think part of the issue is that management doesn’t want to determine on an individual level who needs to follow a safety guideline and who does not. Nor can they leave it up to employees to determine for themselves. People who work around dangerous machines all day get desensitized to the risk and accidents that should have been minor or non-existent become serious. So, in a lot of cases, management just draws a line somewhere about who should follow this rule and doesn’t budge on it.

  24. Allison*

    Out of curiosity, how clear were you on start times when the intern started? I worked two part-time internships, and at the first one we agreed that I’d be in the office at a specific time each day that I was working, and I tried my best to be there at that time. But in the other, we did agree that I’d be there at noon while I was in school, but when I graduated and I started working full days there we never settled on a specific time I needed to be there, just that I’d be there morning to evening, so I was usually in at 9:30ish and assumed it was fine since no one ever said I needed to be there earlier.

    If you said “your day starts at 9 and I expect you to be here at that time,” then you can absolutely be irritated with the intern for always getting in later than that. If you weren’t super clear then, you can still set new expectations, just acknowledge that you understand this may not be an easy adjustment.

    In general, just because someone is unpaid doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held to professional standards, just make sure you’re clear on what your expectations are and speak up when they aren’t being met.

  25. FiveWheels*

    Op2 -at Old Job I had something trivial stolen, a can of soft drink I think, and I responded by sending a business -wide email describing the crime and advising everyone I would be taking replacement money from petty cash.

    Subsequently everyone else had lunch stolen, for some people on multiple occasions, but mine remained unharmed.

    Note I do not advocate that response, but that job was completely insane. Insane to the extent of someone asked a taller coworker to get a file from a high shelf and by the end of the day mutual formal complaints of bullying and been filled.

  26. Anon the Great and Powerful*

    Lost fingers are the least of your worries with wedding rings! My father worked with a guy whose wedding ring got caught on a moving piece of machinery. Guy got pulled right into the machine and ripped to shreds in front of his coworkers…

      1. Artemesia*

        My roommate in college’s father was killed in a particularly horrific machinery accident in a pulp mill – it is alas not that rare in factory situations. And my DIL knows someone who was killed working alone in a sculpture machine shop who got pulled into a machine and bled to death from an injury that would not have been fatal if she had not been alone. Anything that can prevent that — no jewelry, hair contained etc is critical — I wouldn’t want pony tails around machinery either.

  27. Allison*

    #5, it does hit a nerve that the policy is being enforced based on gender, I wonder if they figure that a woman in the factory definitely won’t be using the machines, but a man in the factory might. NOT that I think that’s an okay assumption to make, I’m merely wondering if that IS the assumption being made (please, please, please note the difference). Either everyone in the factory needs to remove their jewelry, or they have visitors who won’t be touching the machines wear clearly visible badges so they can keep their rings on. IMO, the former makes more sense.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think it’s being enforced based on gender, though; otherwise the OP wouldn’t have to take her ring off. I think what’s confusing is that the office workers are apparently all female–but they get to keep their rings on because they’re in the front office, not because of their gender. (It may be that this is changing a policy that *used* to be gender-slanted, in fact.)

      1. Allison*

        Yes, sorry, I assumed the OP was male and complaining about a double standard where the *ladies* from the office could keep their rings on, but all the men who visited the factory had to take theirs off. Reading the question again I realize that OP works at the factory, and everyone who works there has to abide by the rules even if they don’t work with machines.

  28. Nashira*

    I know I’m strange, in that my husband and I don’t wear wedding rings because they feel weird, but the level of upset here baffles me some. Degloving injuries are serious and horrific. If the factory wasn’t making people remove jewelry before, the factory was in the wrong and begging for some truly awful injuries.

    It does sound like the people doing the safety educating need some training on how to do it, but I don’t think the base idea is wrong at all. Individuals who can’t remove their jewelry need to find a solution to that if they’re going to be working in the factory/warehouse/etc, for their own safety. Your ring is less important than your hand.

    1. JeJe*

      If you’ve ever been to safety training, they do much of the same thing. It’s usually a “scared straight” approach. The safety training I received following an Arc Blast in one of our factories made me want to cry.

    2. JeJe*

      I think I misread your comment. My initial interpretation was that you were suggesting people should share horrifying stories.

  29. Sharkey*

    I wonder if the wedding band difference between office staff and OP is that the OP has the skills to work with the machinery and/or has done so in the past and that, while OP is in a different role now, the potential could be there to use the machines in a way that the front office people never would. If you’re on the floor and something comes up, you might jump into help out which is different than an office employee passing through the area.

  30. Anon Accountant*

    It’d be a great service to the intern to address the tardiness. My internship was unpaid but they gave regular feedback and it was helpful at my first full time post college job.

    Actually I feel the employer has an almost duty to address the tardiness. It’s really a kind thing to do while the intern is still learning the ropes of working in an office environment and preparing for a post college full time job.

  31. Dasha*

    #4 No, you should not have to pay that back! Also, I may be mistaken but isn’t it fairly inexpensive to obtain a notary?

    #5 IMHO everyone should follow the safety rules, even the office staff. I’ve worked at a plant before and office staff were required to put on steel toe shoes and safety glasses any time they went outside to the plant. Not only is this fair, but it is extra cautious and requires people to be form a habit of following the safety rules.

  32. Jubilance*

    I’ve worked in a manufacturing environment, and once you hit the floor/outside of the pedestrian walkway, you had to follow all the safety rules – safety goggles, earplugs, etc. Regardless of where you worked or how infrequently you were on the floor. Management needs to make it clear that everyone is required to abide by this, including office staff.

  33. Michelle*

    #2- Label everything. I have worked at the front desk and I am now in the admin offices and some people think anything on a desk is “community property”. My best advice is don’t leave anything you would be distraught about losing on a desk. I use a paint pen/marker, but sometimes people will still grab things. If you label items, you have a 50/50 chance of getting them back.

    #3- I feel for you. Be glad that you only have to come up with retroactive goals. Our yearly review is 9 pages long and they want you to come with with 3 professional and 3 personal goals every year. I disagree that you should have to list personal goals and told my supervisor that, as well as pointing out that sometimes goals take more than a calendar year and are ongoing. Upper management did not like that.

    #4- I have been a notary for years. Our state (GA) gives you a book (rules/regulations, etc.) and there is a section in it that covers your situation. It clearly states that if your employer requires and pays for your license and stamp, you own it and it goes with you when you leave, and they cannot seek reimbursement. I’m at work and don’t have my book, but I will see if I can find that section and post a shot of it.

    #5- My husband drive a truck for a big carpet company and even though he is not in the building 90% of the time and rarely goes beyond the shipping office, he is not allowed to wear his wedding ring. I think if they make a policy, it should be a policy for everyone. There is a possibility that one of the office ladies could touch something as she walks through and get her ring caught. If she loses a finger she probably would not get compensation because they have a policy and she violated it. At my husband’s company, she would get fired. They look unkindly toward people who get injured.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      If she loses a finger she probably would not get compensation because they have a policy and she violated it.

      This is a very good point. The cost to the employee for medical care could be tremendous. And of course the company could be heavily fined if such an incident were seen as violating safety standards.

  34. hbc*

    #5: Fair and equal aren’t always the same thing. There are lots of reasons why the office staff might not have this enforced on the production floor, whether it’s that the person enforcing the rule isn’t in charge of them and doesn’t feel empowered to enforce it with them, that they don’t stray anywhere near the machines, or the total amount of time makes the risk minuscule. (Kind of like how I don’t make my kids buckle in if we’re just driving from the garage to the driveway, even though I technically could have an accident.) Drawing the line between people who operate any equipment and those who don’t makes some sense, even if we can argue in favor of drawing the line in a different place.

    But it makes no sense to waste complaint capital on this issue. It’s a reasonable, non-onerous requirement that could very well be imposed on them by their insurance company, OSHA, or other outside agency. This isn’t the hill you want to die on.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Someone said upthread that making them do it every time would enforce safety HABITS. If you do it every time, it becomes a habit, and you don’t have to stop and think about it, lessening the chance that you’ll forget to do it that one, fateful time. The day somebody absentmindedly leans on a machine with their be-ringed hand may be their last. Or the last for that finger/hand, anyway.

      To use your analogy, my mum did not let us unbuckle until the car stopped, and she would not move the car until we buckled up. It wasn’t that we might have an accident in the driveway–it was to train us to buckle up automatically the second we got in the car. This served us well when we started driving, because it was already assimilated into our safe habits. I still do this–if you’re riding with me, you wear your seat belt and if you refuse, then call a damn cab because I’m not taking you anywhere. If I have a kid, I will teach them the same way.

      1. TootsNYC*

        To use your analogy, my mum did not let us unbuckle until the car stopped, and she would not move the car until we buckled up. It wasn’t that we might have an accident in the driveway–it was to train us to buckle up automatically the second we got in the car. This served us well when we started driving, because it was already assimilated into our safe habits. I still do this–if you’re riding with me, you wear your seat belt and if you refuse, then call a damn cab because I’m not taking you anywhere. If I have a kid, I will teach them the same way.

        Us too–no unbuckling, no opening car doors until the ignition was OFF.

        My DH will put the car in park and start fiddling, unbuckle his seatbelt, etc., and I want to get out, but I can’t because of that training. He makes me crazy! I’ve started “yelling” at him to turn the car OFF already!

        It’s pretty powerful, that habit thing!

      2. hbc*

        Your seatbelt approach is fine, but you can ingrain habits in different ways. I see people doing much more harm to themselves by having black or white rules without understanding the thought process behind them. Maybe not wreck-the-car bad, but being stressed out that someone has unbuckled their seatbelt in an idling car can’t be good for your health, and there’s absolutely zero risk at the time.

        Basically, I want the default to be that we buckle our seatbelt or put on safety glasses, but that we can consciously make an exception (moving the car down the driveway, going the five feet from the office door to the bulletin board while the shop is shut down) without freaking out.

  35. Silly Goose*

    When I was a teenager, I had a boyfriend who gave me a “promise ring” and I wore it everywhere, even when I really wasn’t supposed to, like on stage in the school play! I wanted to wear my ring, to me it was both symbolic and, since we were long distance, it was sentimental and comforting to have it on, it was a way to keep him with me.

    I was a teenager.

    Still, I can understand wanting to keep your wedding ring on your finger in all possible circumstances, even when it’s technically against the rules and even when it may be impractical, like when you’re washing dishes. And from a woman’s perspective, I can also see wearing it as clear indicator that you’re happily married. But in this case, I’m going to advise you to accept the rule as well meaning, and take off your ring at work. Right now, by refusing to take yours off, you’re showing a blatant disregard for rules in place to keep you safe, and a bad attitude that could get you fired if you’re not careful.

  36. Christian Troy*

    #1 – I’m going to assume this is an unpaid, part time internship (correct me if I’m wrong) from the other comment that she’s generally confused about other things.

    I used to do a lot of unpaid work to build my resume and over time, I found it easier and easier to mentally check out or do half assed work because it wasn’t being compensated. I knew deep down inside I really needed a paying job and was mentally burned out from endless volunteer internships, so I just stopped doing my best or putting much effort into coming in on time. Rationally, I knew my reputation was suffering and I was not behaving in a way that was consistent with my integrity, but emotionally I was scared if I stopped volunteering it would look worse.

    I guess my advice, I think you need to have a candid conversation about her about what’s going on. I would be strict about the times you want her to show up and your expectations for the work required to provide structure, but I think I would also try to ask realistically if the internship fits in with her life right now. Maybe she is looking for an out to resign or maybe even being asked might force her to reflect on whether or not she really wants to even be there.

  37. Charlotte Collins*

    Re #5: I do not currently work in a manufacturing environment. However, I take all my rings and my watch off when I do housework or really anything where my jewelry can get caught on something. (This includes cooking.) It’s to protect both my hands and my jewelry.

  38. Rae*

    #5–and to many commenters who claim its all about insurance.

    Everything now adays is an industry. Every machinist, every automotive body shop every mill worker, CNC operator and factory employee has something they can compare it to. Just because something happened 19 years ago in your factory, doesn’t mean that something hasn’t happened recently in a similar one, prompting management to make a change…or even ownership or the board to make an across-factory initiative without insurance prodding.

    I worked in a niche industry that had specialized events a couple times a year. These events were not only run by our stores but often their were pop-ups in the surrounding area cashing in. In a far away state, at one of those non store locations people found a way to rob, and found it quite easy. Ensuring word did not “get around” we suddenly developed a whole new policy that was time-consuming and seemed very obtrusive. It was more like an employee lockdown (while customers only encountered slight delays). However, it did keep us safe.

    Also, when complying with safety standards, remember that there is always the chance you could step into a situation where you act as a first responder. You see Joe Coworker trip and get knocked out cold and he has a drill bit coming towards his head. Human instincts are to save Joe…but with a ring you could become even more of a liability.

  39. Erin*

    #5 – I was going to suggest putting the ring on a chain and wearing it under your clothes as a necklace, so it’s still on your person, but they probably banned all jewelry, right?

    I’m sure this is a case of, if we make the rule for one person we have to do it across the board, thing. Except for the office ladies. Unless you’re actually one of the office ladies, I’d imagine the rule is probably reasonable. After reading the horror stories here, I personally wouldn’t want to take the chance.

    Well, we all have to pick our battles, and maybe you don’t want to pick this one.

  40. Student*

    #2 – Pink is the antidote to office theft.

    If you bring personal items to work that you really don’t want stolen, personalize them so that it is obvious they are yours and not company property. I work in labs. Tools go missing all the time; even big tools like ladders that you’d think no one would ever walk off with. Usually, the tools don’t actually leave the building, they just migrate to other labs, office drawers, etc.

    If I paint a tool with some pink nail polish, it almost never goes missing. If it does go missing, I can usually find it and recover it easily, because it sticks out like a sore thumb. Other bright, “feminine” colors also work, partly because I’m in a male dominated field, partly because in an office with gender parity, the men are statistically more likely to be the office item thieves (crime stats, guys, it’s not personal). If you’re in a heavily female-dominated office or have your eye on a woman you suspect is the culprit, I’d flip this around and go for “manly” colors like camo, or truck stickers. People are amazingly petty and self-conscious about taking things coded with the opposite gender. Labeling stuff in bold, obvious marker helps but doesn’t have quite so high a success rate at deterring theft.

    The best part is, when you have a marking like this you use on your stuff consistently, if something goes missing, then no one will give you crap about reclaiming it later if you find it. And if you catch the person responsible, you can openly shame them, because obviously the purple be-dazzled screwdriver is YOURS and why are they such pathetic children that they can’t return something when they’re done with it?

    1. xarcady*

      My “trick” for keeping my supplies at my desk is being left-handed. Left-handed scissors, left-hand ruler.

      Imagine the scene when a colleague who has stolen your ruler comes up to you and berates you for owning said ruler–because he can’t use it, because it is left-handed. Uhm, why are you holding my ruler and why isn’t it on my desk?

      My stuff is labeled, but mostly people borrow something once, and then leave my entire desk alone. They have no idea what is and isn’t booby-trapped by being left-handed.

      1. Windchime*

        Left handed ruler? Why would a ruler be left- or right-handed? (It occurs to me maybe it’s a tape measure, after I started writing this.)

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      My mother-in-law painted all of her tools pink. Consequently, all of her sons have no problem using pink tools. But they would also return them after use.

    3. OfficePrincess*

      I commented above that I took the same route with my phone charger. It’s a very very male-dominated workplace, so the guys would either have to claim they owned a pink charger or leave it alone.

  41. HRish Dude*

    Re: #2

    I’ve not only had a phone charger stolen, but one day I left my Kindle on my desk while I went to the restroom and when I returned the person covering for me had downloaded a pick-up artist book on it (which it charged me for).

  42. WLE*

    #1 I would add something to your intern’s calendar or tell her that you’d like to go to lunch to discuss how things are going. Start off by telling her what she’s doing well, and then explain what she needs to improve on (timeliness being one of them). When I was an intern, I really appreciated this type of feedback from my managers. I came to see them as mentors, and 4 years later, we are still in contact.

  43. Kat M*

    #5, is there a reason why removing a wedding ring is a particularly big deal? When I worked as a massage therapist, I obviously never wore my wedding ring for hygiene reasons. I put it back on after work. My coworkers who wore rings, bracelets, or watches did the same. If you’re worried about losing it, you could always wear it on a chain around your neck, or just leave it at home where it won’t be misplaced.

    1. Artemesia*

      I didn’t have a wedding ring until we had been married for 33 years (we were from the 60s, we needed no rings to bind our hands yadda yadda) We bought gorgeous rings in Florence. I never wear it at home, just slip it on when we go out — I don’t want to damage it cooking and such. So for me, not wearing it would be no big deal — but for some people it is highly symbolic — they NEVER take it off etc. But since this is a safety issue they need to get over it. The other risk is losing it if taking it off. So either have one secure spot to keep it or leave it home.

  44. boop*


    There are enough scary stories out there for this rule to make complete sense. I don’t even work with machinery, just with food, but I still pin my rings somewhere safe while I’m working for food safety purposes. It’s completely voluntary (I don’t know if there’s an actual rule), and yeah, some coworkers wear accessories. Those workers end up with raw chicken embedded in their watchbands and I’m sure when someone inevitably complains that they found metal pieces in their food, I’ll be able to shrug and say “well it certainly wasn’t ME :)”. Not them.

    You’ll have an advantage over the “office ladies” in that you won’t be the one with mangled hands. Isn’t that enough? It’s so common for people to say “that person is stealing with impunity, why am I in trouble for it?” Because sense and order has to start somewhere, why not with you?

  45. Lisa*

    My dad was in the Airforce and worked on planes. He was not allowed to wear a wedding ring but one guy on his team said his wife would not let him go without his ring so he wore it anyway. Soon after he was without a finger…

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