employee wants halal lunch options, answering “would you rather…” interview questions, and more

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

1. Employee wants halal lunch options

I work as part of a small HR team in a medium-sized start-up company — around 50 employees. We offer employees a range of free stuff, including lunch. The way lunch works is that a small amount is deducted from the salary and we provide lunch. This is cheaper than bringing in your own lunch. The options are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free – but not halal. Currently 100% of our employees participate.

We have employees of various backgrounds. One of them is Jane. Jane’s department has flexible working hours, so she can also practice her religion – going to pray during work hours and coming back to work afterwards. She recently wrote to me about a problem: The place we order our lunch from does not offer a halal option. She is not happy about the vegetarian option, since she is not a vegetarian.

What should we do? On the one hand, we have invested a lot of time and energy in finding a healthy and tasty lunch option, and people are very satisfied with it. I could suggest her to talk with finance and take her off the office lunch list, and she could bring her own lunch. This would however make her stand out of the crowd and not be inclusive. On the other hand, I also want to be part of a company that welcome diversity and where there is space for everyone. But is it too much to make a special agreements for one employee? Do you have a good suggestion of what course of action to take?

You should try to find halal options.

If you really want your workplace to be diverse, that means that you shouldn’t run a workplace-wide program that excludes some people because of their religious practices, especially when there’s a pretty straightforward fix.

Making special arrangements for one employee isn’t inherently a bad thing. You’d presumably make special arrangements for someone in a wheelchair, or with a life-threatening allergy, or a Jewish employee who needed to leave before sundown on Fridays, and so forth. It’s not about “is it really worth doing for just one person?”; it’s about “we recognize that we have a bunch of different people here, we value that, and we want to show them they’re welcome and make it easy and appealing for them to stay.”

There may be limits to that, of course, depending on how people’s needs intersect with your business needs. But offering halal food is pretty straightforward and doesn’t seem like it should be running up against any kind of reasonableness limit.

2. How to answer a “would you rather…” interview question

How would you have answered this interview question I was asked: “Would you rather be the #1 performer in your office but got along with none of your coworkers, or be the #15 performer in your office and get along with everyone?”

I’d answer: “If either of those was the case, I’d consider it a problem that I’d want to figure out how to fix. I don’t think you can sustain top performance without strong relationships, and even if you can, it’s going to be hugely disruptive to an office. And while I realize not everyone can be #1, I do hold myself to a high bar and would take 15th place as a sign that I needed to figure out what I could be doing better.”

A good interviewer will accept that and be happy with it. Bad interviewers may try to insist you make a choice. There’s little that can be done about them, but I suppose that if pressed, you could say that you’d take option #2 with the caveat that you’d be working hard to raise your performance, because that one has room to let you improve, while the damaged relationships in #1 may not be surmountable.

3. I can’t get an answer from my company about what my role is

Working at a company for five years, I moved up the ranks quite quickly through hard work and dedication. I love my job and I got promoted to supervisor because of that. After that promotion and the success of the company, new responsibilities started to become my own, especially supporting how the department was managed.

My manager went on a leave, initially for a couple of months, and I was asked if I would take the wheel during his absence. I took the challenge as I was already doing most of the job already. What started as a couple of months ended up extending to a year and a half, and I’ve started to ask what my role is.

Several promotions have been announced, I’ve engaged upper management on my situation and I always get a similar reply to “we’ll discuss this next week at the latest,” but next week comes and… silence. I’ve gone on holiday, come back, it’s been two months, and nothing changed (except the workload!).

I’ve been working hard and my dedication is intact, but I am an ambitious person. I even mentioned that if they want to hire a manager, I’d be okay with that, but again, I need to know what my role is. I was hinted by a “the bigger question is do you want that role” (to which I already said yes, if you think I’m the guy you want), but that the role was being defined, as it will be a new role. Again it’s been two months. I find it an awful lot of time to define a role and present a proposal.

I don’t want to give them an ultimatum, but I’m getting tired of chasing the company to either give me the position or let me know I’m not getting it. How can this be done in the most “politically correct” way?

You may not be able to. They know that you want an answer, and for some reason they’re choosing not to give you one right now. All you can do is to respond to what you do know, which is that they’ve left you hanging for months and ignored your multiple direct requests to figure this out.

You could try saying something like, “I’ve been very patient while this was worked out, but the timelines we’ve discussed have come and gone. I need to be able to make good decisions for myself, so can you give me a realistic sense of when you’re likely to have a more definite answer for me, or whether that’s unlikely to happen any time soon?” Any sensible manager will hear that the subtext there is “or I’m going to start thinking about other options.”

But if you want to move up, you may need to look outside your company to do that.

4. I sent out the wrong version of my resume

I’ve recently decided that the job I’ve been working for the past three years is not part of the career path I want to take, and have been accordingly applying to positions in a tangentially related field that I believe better suits my skills and work style. Over the past couple of weeks I have applied to a number of good prospects, and I was feeling quite good about my chances.

Until last night.

I was going back over my applications and realized I had somehow sent an outdated version of my resume with all of my applications. The work history, etc. is all correct, but the objective states that I want to be working in an entirely different career!

Is there anything I can do to salvage my relationship with these potential employers? Should I send an updated version of my resume? And if so, should I acknowledge my mistake in my cover letter, or just let it lie? Or do I need to just move on and take better care in the future?

Ooooh, that sucks. You have nothing to lose by sending a corrected version of your resume with a short note explaining you already applied but sent an outdated version of your resume … but yeah, this isn’t great. Mainly I’d focus on making sure it’s correct going forward.

5. Can my company dock my vacation days if I answered emails while I was away?

I took a 10-day vacation but still answered work emails during this time (there were only three days I did not log on). I heard in Texas, my company cannot dock my vacation days because I was working. Is this correct?

No. If you were taking those days unpaid, they’d have to pay you for the time you worked … but assuming that this was paid vacation, no law requires them to count those as work days rather than vacation days. (Otherwise, everyone would just check email while they vacationed and never have to use any vacation days.)

{ 643 comments… read them below }

  1. katamia*

    OP1: Bear in mind that non-Muslims can eat halal food, too. It’s not “This is only for Jane,” it’s “This is something that Jane can eat but that everyone else (in theory, at least) can eat too.” It also might help if you asked her for suggestions, but give her some time to think about it–don’t make her do it on the spot. Maybe over email so you’ll have a good copy of the list for future reference. Do your own research, too, but if there’s a place nearby that’s good that is maybe hard to Google for, make sure you’re not missing out.

    Also, some Muslims believe that eating food that is kosher is acceptable under certain circumstances. I have no idea if Jane does, but if she says it’s acceptable to her, then you could expand your search to places that have kosher options as well.

    1. neverjaunty*

      There’s a lot of overlap between the two, and some food places are certified for both, but generally people who choose one or the other are looking for a certification.

      1. katamia*

        Yeah, going for kosher is definitely not something all Muslims would be comfortable with. I just wanted to bring it up as a possibility because while kosher restrictions is fairly well known (or at least it is in most of the places I’ve lived), fewer people (in the US, at least) seem to be familiar with halal restrictions.

        1. Just another techie*

          IME, it really depends on region. For example, when my family lived in rural Mississippi, my dad was okay with kosher food, because it was better than nothing, but now that he’s in a large metropolitan area, with several halal butchers, he won’t accept kosher-but-not-halal. And now in some places there are a tiny number of providers who go to the effort of getting certified as both halal and kosher.

          Also depending on how observant the employee is, she might want an actual certification and proper butchering technique (and there are several certification boards that use different interpretations of what is permissible, especially around types of seafood), or she might just want a guarantee that there’s no pork or shellfish products or by-products in the food. There’s a huge range of what people feel comfortable with, both with respect to their personal observance and the denomination they belong to, so definitely check with her about where her requirements fall on that spectrum.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          I just had a frozen lunch the other day that had “certified halal” on the box and that was a first for me. It was Pad Thai noodles, pretty good.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          My boss’s wife is the same; she will accept kosher in place of halal because that is all that is available in our area, but if halal is available, kosher is not acceptable.

    2. Marzipan*

      The only thing I’d caution is that I have known people who are not Muslim decline to eat halal meat; either because they objected to the method of slaughter, or because they felt the prayer at the time of slaughter conflicted with their own religious beliefs (or non-belief).

      1. Op1*

        Thank you for your comments, interesting read!
        You mention, that going to Jane would be one of the first logical steps. I did actually do this: She does only eat halal, not kosher.
        However, we will find a solution, I discussed this with the management team and we agreed: Jane will eat together with us soon!
        The first step is to call the lunch delivery to see, if there isn’t an option somehow. They said no to it the first round, but I found out they promised they could deliver halal when we chose them!

        We will find a solution with halal.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          I was hoping you might be able to work it out with your lunch providers! If you’re ordering food for 50ish people every weekday, that seems like it could be enough business to make them willing to adapt a bit to keep you as customers.

          1. OP1*

            Hello Elizabeth,

            I agree with you. It turns out they deliver halal chicken, which is one step up. Now we need to figure out for the non-chicken days. Jane nevertheless is more positive about it. The lunch provider should be able to do a bit more though, we’ll have to discuss the matter further.

            1. Ad Astra*

              I’m so glad to hear there’s a solution in the works! Out of curiosity, would you mind telling us if you live in a large city or a community with a large Muslim population? I have never seen halal options advertised by a restaurant or caterer, so I’m wondering if companies in the smaller, less diverse communities I’ve lived in would have trouble accommodating this request. Which then makes me wonder if Muslims in my smaller, less diverse communities have trouble eating at restaurants or even finding halal meat to cook at home.

              Are there many Muslims who choose not to follow halal restrictions, the way many Jews choose not to keep kosher?

              1. LabTech*

                My family pretty much doesn’t eat Halal. The lack of availability and higher cost make it unfeasible compared to just picking up cold cuts at the grocery store. My immediate family isn’t especially religious, but my more religious extended family does this too.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              This is a very good response! And if both your company and your area have a really diverse and inclusive culture, you may end up with more than one employee who has this dietary requirement anyway. :)

        2. BRR*

          I just want to say you’re awesome for not fighting her on this and for pursuing the lunch place to get her a halal option.

          1. INFJ*

            I agree 100% and have a perfect example of how NOT to handle special food preferences. As a vegan, I never expect there to be special options for me when the company buys “just because” meals or celebratory pizza. I usually just don’t partake and make sure to always bring my own lunch. However, once, Bad Boss at Last Job asked what I would like as an alternative to pizza (since cheese is not an option). I told him X would work, and at first he agreed, but then shortly thereafter told me that he didn’t want to get me X because I would be the only one to have that and some people might view that as “special treatment.” Gee, thanks for the offer…

        3. neverjaunty*

          OP #1, this is very heartening! A lot of places would just be passive-aggressive about Jane disrupting their image of themselves as Very Inclusive. Whereas you guys actually are, and want Jane to be treated like everyone else. Kudos to you and your managers.

          1. OP1*

            Hello Neverjaunty,
            Thank you for your comment. That’s nice to hear.
            We are not there yet, but we’ll get there.

        4. Temperance*

          I was about to ask – can you ask Jane for some restaurant suggestions, since she is halah and is presumably familiar with these services?

          We order kosher fairly often, and I ask which restaurants our kosher employees prefer before ordering.

          1. Nother Name*

            I second this, and it’s a good idea for anyone on a special diet. I’m a vegetarian, and I know that not all veg food is created equal.

            Also, I think it’s great that you’re trying to accommodate all dietary needs. It’s so much better than just having anyone “different” just eat a green salad (which is generally OK for all – unless it has onions, which can be problematic for some beliefs). (My experience is that places that do kosher or halal often also do pretty good vegetarian options, too!)

            1. Minion*

              Onions are against some religions? I’ve seriously got to look into that religion – I hate onions!!!

              On a more serious note – I really learn a lot of things reading the comments on this blog that I had no clue about before. I enjoy that greatly!

              1. Nother Name*

                Some Hindus and Jains don’t eat garlic or onions, because creatures could be disturbed or killed by the root being dug up. Asafoetida can be used to substitute the flavor.

            2. Ellie H.*

              I don’t eat onions due to following a FODMAPs diet, so I really like it that there is some awareness of this.

        5. SRB*

          I may be an unaffected third party, but it makes me happy to hear when employers are willing to work with different food needs and preferences. OP, it may be a bit of a pain, but you’re definitely doing the right thing for Jane and for the company!

          My company has a large number of people who eat vegetarian or kosher, but didn’t offer gluten-free lunch options (when provided) for a long time until one of us mentioned it. As soon as they added an option, though, five or six other people came out of the wood-works who had Celiac or a wheat allergy who just had been silently left out and didn’t want to complain, but who were very grateful for the new accommodation! Unsurprisingly, I love this job, in part because it’s clear they value their employees enough to accommodate our different food needs for either medical or religious reasons. I think it does the company well to inspire that sort of confidence in their employees. :)

      2. Johnny*

        I agree. Hindus and Sikhs are not allowed to eat Kutha Meat (ie any meat not killed instantly so Halal and Kosher both fail that). There is one aside though, most Sikhs and Hindus are vegetarian, so in a lot of cases it won’t matter. But it does stress the importance of not blindly having all the meat Halal, especially if you have any Hindus or Sikhs in the workplace.

        1. Monique*

          Yup, definitely count me in as someone who wouldn’t knowingly eat halal meat, for ethical reasons, if not religious ones.

          1. mermaid*

            Why ethical reasons? The halal slaughtering process is very ethical and humane – it’s also the same process that many countries enforce by law. The only difference is the prayer…

            1. LBK*

              I can’t speak for Monique, but I suspect some people don’t think the slaughtering process is humane and would prefer a less violent method or one where the animal isn’t fully conscious at the time.

              1. the gold digger*

                My first week at work in Chile, two men came over with a sheep. They killed it in the back yard of the office, drained the blood (which was saved to be mixed with lemon juice and cilantro for eating like jello), removed the skin and wool, butchered it, and hung the meat over the banister in the office, where it remained for two days until my co-workers cooked it.

                It was not my favorite thing and I am a carnivore.

              2. TeaGirl*

                I can confirm that this is the case for me and for several people I know. We don’t believe the halal slaughtering process is humane when compared to other modern options.

              3. Becky*

                And likewise, I have seen a small but growing number of Jewish people speaking out that the kosher slaughtering process (which is similar to the halal process) is not humane.

            2. Monique*

              I responded to this earlier but I think my link may have put my comment into the moderation queue.

              My main problem with the method is that a portion of halal butchers work on the principle that it’s against their religion to stun the animals first. 12% of halal meat in the UK is from non-stunned animals. Their throats are cut while they are fully with it, and cattle take between 20 seconds and 2 minutes on average, but also sometimes much longer, to lose consciousness while they bleed out. It seems exceptionally cruel to do that to an animal if there’s nothing in it for me as a non-Muslim.

              To be clear – while I’m not a fan of the method, I understand that this is part of their religion for some people. It isn’t for me, however, and so I will opt out of eating halal meat where I can. Other meat in the UK is from stunned animals or through methods that provide instant death/unconsciousness.

        1. Just another techie*

          I have met people who earnestly believe that all halal meat comes directly from ISIS. *eyerollz forever*

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            Sounds like something my husband’s stepmom would think. I’m not going to repeat the exact conversation here (because it’s awful), but she once proclaimed–during Christmas dinner, no less–that members of a certain race have to bathe three times per day because they smell bad otherwise.

          2. Cactus*

            There was a small Middle Eastern grocer near where I grew up. I only ever went in a couple of times (I can’t remember if they sold meat), but I remember when I mentioned going there once, one of my neighbors suggested that the shop was a front for a terrorist organization. People get really paranoid and racist.

    3. SanguineAspect*

      This is a great point. There’s a place near my old workplace that is Halal and they offered basically EVERYTHING: breakfast sandwiches, salad bar, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, yogurt bar, etc. etc. There were some weird substitutions (beef “bacon” instead of pork, turkey sausage instead of pork), but it wasn’t really noticeable in most of their dishes. I don’t require Halal food, but it was my go-to place (and is a popular place for people in downtown Boston). They also cater! Depending on what’s available near the OP’s workplace, it’s entirely possible to have variety and choices for most everyone while also keeping it Halal!

      1. AW*

        Beef bacon: less fat than pork but more fat than turkey. Still upset all the grocery stores here stopped carrying it.

          1. oldfashionedlovesong*

            Beef bacon is AMAZING. There’s this burger place in Berkeley called Bongo Burger that uses beef bacon for their breakfasts and bacon cheeseburgers and it is absolutely heavenly. I’ve never been able to find it in ordinary grocery stores.

      2. AVP*

        I love turkey ham (turkey breast prepared in the method that they prepare pork ham) and I’m always sad when non-halal delis don’t carry it.

          1. Liza*

            Ooh. Thanks! I’m not over there very often anymore, but now I know where I’ll go the next time I am!

    4. Artemesia*

      If the food provider doesn’t do halal and you are very satisfied with them otherwise then I would find a delivery place that does halal and identify a couple of options from that place and offer to order for her from them each day.

      This is the kind of ‘small’ thing that makes such a difference.

    5. AnonymousaurusRex*

      I’m vegetarian, and I often find that even when there are veg options provided, the vegetarian options run out first, and I might not actually have enough to eat. (We ordered 5 pepperoni pizzas and one veggie pizza–but turns out at least half of the people would prefer the veggie pizza to the pepperoni…)

      I just want to chime in and say to OP#1 that when ordering the halal food, make sure to order more than just enough for the Muslim employee, because inevitably there will be others who will prefer this option to whatever the non-halal options are that day.

        1. Nother Name*

          As a vegetarian, I definitely second this option. A lot of people don’t want the veggie option until they see it, and the same could probably go for anything different from the run-of-the-mill choices.

          Now I want Indian food, based on some of the earlier posts. (A lot of the Indian restaurants in my area are halal.)

      1. AnonEMoose*

        In that situation, I’d be reaching for the vegetarian pizza, too. I’m not vegetarian, but I can’t eat pepperoni. Well, technically, I can eat it…but I suffer for it afterwards.

        1. Helka*


          I also like getting some vegetables in with my meal, even if it’s pizza. Maybe especially when it’s pizza.

      2. Zillah*

        Really good point.

        I think I’ve seen it called the pizza problem before – maybe on Captain Awkward? Basically, it’s the idea that when a group orders a pizza, they remember that there are three vegetarians along with eight meat eaters, so they order a cheese pizza, a pepperoni pizza, and a ham pizza. (Is ham a thing you put on pizza? I’m a vegetarian and I don’t actually know. Whatever, you all get my point.) The omnivores can eat all three, and when the pizzas arrive, a lot of omnivores will grab a slice of cheese pizza as well as a slice of pepperoni or ham pizza. The ‘just one slice’ from all the omnivores adds up until there are only three pieces of cheese pizza left for the vegetarians, who can’t eat either of the other pizzas.

        The omnivores aren’t wrong for doing that, but it’s a big problem when that isn’t taken into account when you’re ordering your pizzas in the first place.

      3. Koko*

        As someone who can’t do wheat or barley, I experience this constantly at gatherings with alcohol provided. The cider and wine always run out before the beer does, because a lot of people prefer cider or wine but will still switch to beer when it’s gone. While others of us are out of luck when it’s gone. I learned years ago to never assume there will be enough for me and always BYOB. It’s a little weird sometimes…it feels a bit standoffish or stingy to have your own personal alcohol that you won’t share, especially at an event where a lot of people brought drinks and put them in a communal fridge…but it’s really the only way to ensure there’s enough for you.

      4. MsChanandlerBong*

        Exactly. I’m a non-vegetarian, but I have to follow a low-sodium diet for health reasons. Pizza is certainly not low-sodium, but the pepperoni takes it from “I can eat two slices of this and then eat practically no salt for the rest of the day” to “If I eat a slice of this, I can’t have salt for the rest of the week.” I’d pick the veggie option over pepperoni every time.

    6. Jillyan*

      I eat halal, but often find myself eating vegetarian or kosher options if that’s all that’s there. That being said, I’m really not sure why employers have such a hard time granting accommodations for people that follow religious observations. I don’t wear a headscarf but do pray. Since prayers are based on certain times of the day, and those times change based on the season, I often find myself having to pray three of the five prayers at work. Each prayer lasts five minutes but in order for my employer to not make a big deal about it, I have to forgo my break AND lunch hour.
      If you’re being kind enough to observe her prayer schedule, going this extra step to find her halal food won’t be too bad. If you had another food allergy or religious diet, wouldn’t you rightly try to accommodate them as well?

      1. Jillyan*

        One thing I want to add (went on a tangent because I got so excited to see this question about keeping it halal) op1 is pretty cool for even submitted this question and asking for advice rather than just saying no to the employee and for committing to finding an option for them! Great job! Personally, without knowing anyone involved, this means a lot to me

      2. Helka*

        I’m sorry they make you do that. It’s pretty ridiculous — a total of what, fifteen minutes out of the day? I know people at my job who spend longer than that playing games on their phones in the bathroom!

        1. Collarbone High*

          Yeah, I’m annoyed on Jillyan’s behalf. That doesn’t take any more time than getting two cups of coffee and heating up a microwave dinner — I doubt the boss is making those people forgo breaks and lunch hours.

    7. pope suburban*

      Came here to say this. IME, a lot of halal-certified restaurants serve traditional cuisine from Middle Eastern countries, and I love that. I will take it over a sandwich or salad pretty much any day. I don’t think I am alone in this. I think there might well be a lot of other employees who would appreciate the variety, and there’s really no reason not to do it.

  2. Eric*

    It sounds like #1 is providing Halal options: In the form of the vegan and vegetarian choices. Please correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that any vegetarian food would be considered halal. Jane just doesn’t want to eat either of the options that are both halal and are provided. To me, this is like having a vegan option and a meat option, and having a vegetarian complain that there is no option with dairy but no meat.

    1. Mando Diao*

      Maybe Jane wants a meat option, of which there are many. Also, Halal applies to overall cooking practices and slaughter techniques. Vegetarian food isn’t Halal unless it’s from a Halal kitchen.

      1. Observer*

        By the way, similar issues apply to Kosher. If the vegetarian / vegan foods are cooked in the same utensils as the non-kosher meat, for instance, that’s an issue right there.

        1. Nother Name*

          For some vegetarians, this could be an issue, too. A lot of people just don’t like to make a fuss, though.

    2. katamia*

      Islam also prohibits the consumption of alcohol, which shows up in vegetarian products (e.g., vanilla extract). I think there might also be a problem with things that are fried in animal fat (which some restaurants do use for vegetarian dishes even though they shouldn’t).

        1. Jillyan*

          I hate when they do that. Most people don’t realize the religion can be flexible on things and there’s a lot of differences of opinions that’s still okay. Most Muslims have vanilla extract because the amount of alcohol is so small in the finished product that there’s no way you will get drunk.

          1. nofelix*

            If you ask islamic scholars, the consensus seems to be that anything that intoxicates in large amounts is still haram in smaller amounts. But as you say, most people aren’t bothered by it..

    3. Cas*

      I don’t know if that would necessarily be true. For example, alcohol is not halal but is vegetarian. I don’t know whether that may include alcohol-based baking ingredients, for example..

      I know that people who keep strict kosher would not accept cooked vegetarian or vegan food…

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Cooked vegetarian or vegan food could certainly be kosher, but it would need to be have been cooked in a kosher kitchen, which is likely to be an issue unless it’s from a kosher restaurant/caterer.

          1. Mando Diao*

            Kosher also imposes time limits between eating meat and dairy. Foods aren’t always inherently Kosher in a vacuum. You might order a Kosher lunch for someone, but depending on what they had for breakfast or a mid-morning snack, they might not be able to eat the meal.

            1. Just another techie*

              Well, you could just always order parve meals and that wouldn’t pose a problem either way.

            2. Observer*

              Sure, but that’s much easier for someone to deal with if they know what the schedule is. If I know that today is chicken, then I’m either eating breakfast early and lunch late, or I’m gong to avoid hard cheese. If it’s cheese for lunch, I’m going to avoid meat for breakfast.

              If the food isn’t Kosher, it makes no difference.

          2. Just another techie*

            The big difference is that halal doesn’t require the separation of meat and dairy the way kosher does. And there is a great deal of conflict between different denominations about which sea creatures are halal and which are haram.

        1. Cas*

          Yes, that’s what I meant- it’s not enough that it’s vegetarian or vegan. There are other issues to keeping strict religious requirements

      2. Nashira*

        Alcohol is not necessarily vegetarian. Some beers and wines use isinglass to clarify them, which is made from fish bladders.

        1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

          The amount of products that seem like the should be vegetarian or vegan but aren’t astounds me.

          The worst was finding out marshmallows aren’t vegetarian.

            1. YaH*

              Also, Oreos are the only prepackaged cookie I’ve ever found that is not cross-contaminated with tree nuts or peanuts, with the exception of the peanut butter Oreos of course.

          1. Sparky*

            Cochineal or carmine is a red dye made from beetles, and both Ocean Spray and Starbucks have used this in their products in the past. A quick search didn’t tell me if they are still using it, but as a vegetarian I avoid their products. Many other products also use this type of red dye.

            1. Snarky McSnark*

              I understand some vegetarians have issues with the way animals are slaughtered/kept, I would assume there aren’t as many of those types of issues with bugs. I’d be curious to understand a vegetarian’s decision to avoid bug products.

              1. Ad Astra*

                Some vegetarians don’t want to eat food that involved killing any living animal, which would include bugs. On the other hand, my vegetarian roommate had no problem with me using chicken broth in the stuffing at Thanksgiving — because her reasons for giving up meat were more about health than ethics.

                1. Snarky McSnark*

                  I appreciate your comment, but your last sentence is why I get so confused by vegetarians. I also would still be interested in hearing from Sparky themselves.

                2. Zillah*

                  @ Snarky – I think it’s generally best to assume that vegetarians want 100% vegetarian food unless you’re told otherwise, but yeah, there’s a pretty wide range. I’m not Sparky, but for me, it’s actually not about how the animals are kept and slaughtered – that bothers me a lot, but on a base level, no matter how humanely the animal was kept or slaughtered, I can’t see myself ever being comfortable eating it, because at the end of the day, I’m still eating an animal.

                3. AvonLady Barksdale*

                  I can’t reply to Zillah here for some reason, so… here ’tis. :) My boyfriend doesn’t eat meat or fish, but he does eat dairy, honey, and eggs. People are always asking if he eats fish or dairy. It’s because SO many people say, “I’m a vegetarian but I eat fish.” No, you’re not. You’re a pescatarian. But I try not to quibble so much and appreciate that people are asking if they’re not completely sure.

                  Anyway, he recently attended two conferences that included meals. When asked for their meal preferences/restrictions, the attendees were told that all vegetarians would get the vegan option. That avoided the “wide range” problems, and from the menu I saw, the vegan option was extremely well thought out and not simply a pile of vegetables.

                4. DuckDuckMøøse*

                  My best friend is sort-of vegetarian – she doesn’t eat meat because she doesn’t like the texture. But she will have sauces or soups that are made from beef or chicken broth.

                5. Jen S. 2.0*

                  Yeah, I think, to me, that isn’t a vegetarian. That’s a person who doesn’t like meat.

                  A vegetarian to me is a person who for health, digestive, or ethical reasons doesn’t want to or can’t eat meat, including “hidden” meat — chicken/beef broth, foods fried in animal fat, pie crust made with lard, gelatin, et cetera. It sounds like your friend wouldn’t mind those things. Someone who doesn’t like meat may well end up eating a vegetarian diet, but not because they are a vegetarian.

                  Note: I fall in this category with pork. I say that I don’t eat pork just because it’s the easiest explanation…but really, the primary issue is that I don’t like bacon. (Or ham, pepperoni, salami, pork chops, and a few other common porky preparations. And I avoid gelatin just because I find its texture gross.)

                6. Zillah*

                  @ Jen – I see where you’re coming from, but to me, it’s not really productive to challenge people on how they identify because they don’t keep to the most rigid adherence of vegetarianism, similar to how I wouldn’t challenge someone’s faith just because they chose not to keep kosher or halal. If you eat vegetarian food but choose to cheat occasionally, particularly with “hidden” meat, I don’t think it’s fair to exclude people because they’re not as rigid as possible about it.

                7. Jen S. 2.0*

                  Agreed. I doubt I’d feel the need to announce **to the eater** that I disagree with their self-classification. That whole conversation would happen in my head.

          2. Zillah*

            This, along with GF stuff. Why, soy sauce. Why.

            I feel like I look ridiculous when I scrutinize the labels of junk food, bc of course it’s bad for you, but animal products and gluten wind up in so much that there’s no way around it.

            1. manybellsdown*

              Oh man, if I had a nickel for every time my poor celiac husband came back from the store with a product that shouldn’t contain any gluten (diced potatoes! Flavored tortilla chips!) but has a flour-based “seasoning”….

              There was this soup mix we bought all the time, and then they suddenly changed their recipe to use flour. And we hadn’t looked because it was gluten-free before!

            2. AvonLady Barksdale*

              I STILL bring this up– my mother, who is a physician, had a newly diagnosed celiac friend over for dinner a few years ago. This guy is also vegan. I asked her what she served him, and she told me she made an Asian dish of some sort. “Did it have soy sauce in it?” “Yes.” “Mom. First ingredient in soy sauce is WHEAT.”

              I felt so bad for her poor friend. I just hope my mother never did that to him again.

              1. Observer*

                Not all soy sauces have wheat in them. I know because I’m wheat (but not gluten) free. I found a brand of soy sauce that’s kosher and has no wheat. I don’t know if it’s gluten free, though.

            3. Renee*

              Tamari soy sauce is made from fermented soy and is available gluten-free. I actually prefer the taste to regular soy sauce and it’s been very easy to find in mainstream grocery stores.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Yes, and you can order wheat-free tamari sauce (and soy-free miso!) from South River Miso (note: not all varieties are free of soy). Also, coconut aminos, though not the same as soy sauce, provide some umami flavor and are so, so good.

          3. Nother Name*

            There are vegetarian marshmallows! You should be able to find them anywhere with a decent natural foods section. (The same company also makes kosher marshmallows, so you do need to read the ingredients carefully.)

            I’ve only seen the large size though – no minis!

    4. Op1*

      Hello Eric, to be honest that was my first thought – why can’t she just…!

      But on second thought: If she really doesn’t like it, then it’s not fair of me to judge. If I don’t like cheese, and there is cheese anywhere. Or if I’m a vegan and there are dairy products, and all I can eat is a sloppy leaf of Iceberg Salad.

      When I thought about it, it made sense. She isn’t saying this to annoy me, she is just…hungry.

      1. nofelix*

        People generally seem to make a distinctions between different types of dietary preference. It’s all rather arbitrary.

        The main consideration is why your company is offering this scheme. Does including halal food fit within those aims? If so, do it. If not, don’t. You already have an option she can eat in the vegetarian/vegan food, but if that won’t make her happy then maybe it’s worth accommodating.

        You should also familiarise yourself with halal slaughter methods. There is some debate over whether they are as humane as non-halal methods. Animals must be alive and are killed by having their necks cut.

        1. Zillah*

          While it’s worth being aware of humane treatment of animals in general, the workplace lunch order isn’t the appropriate venue for that discussion any more than it is for vegetarian or vegan managers to try to convince people that eating animal products is inhumane. Singling out halal products also comes across to me as a bit of a cherrypicking witch hunt, since there are many, many inhumane things about the meat industry as a whole that extend far beyond halal meat.

          1. nofelix*

            That’s why I just said to familiarise herself. Including relatively humane meat in your meals is possible if sourced from the right places. Maybe that’s something her company would like to do.

            1. Zillah*

              I don’t disagree with you at all in principle, but why is the tipping point for this halal meat when there are plenty of inhumane practices in the meat industry to go around?

            2. Occassional Lurker*

              ‘Humane meat’ is a ridiculous concept. There might be better ways of killing animals, but there is never anything humane about killing a healthy, sentient creature. Let’s be honest with ourselves, here.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Well, if we’re in the zombie apocalypse or another disaster and all I can find is a cat, I’m eating it. I’ll make it as quick as I can, but it’s going in my belly.

                1. Zillah*

                  If we’re in a zombie apocalypse, I’m only eating canned food. Who knows what diseases the cat has? MAYBE IT’S A ZOMBIE CAT.

          2. LabTech*

            Yea, despite modern factory farming as cruel and prevalent it is, I always see Halal products getting singled out.

      2. Hellanon*

        OP, good for you & your company! And stick to your principles- the rest of your employees are watching to see how you handle this would be my guess, and by making lunch truly inclusive (not condemning her to eat only sad iceberg leaves) you are making a significant statement about your values in a concrete way.

    5. Kelly L.*

      I think, largely, it might be that a non-vegetarian would be willing to eat vegetarian from time to time, but might not want to do it daily.

    6. Katie the Fed*

      Or she wants the basic respect of having her religious needs recognized. If the company can honor non-religious requests like vegetarian food and gluten-free, they can handle this.

      1. NotThisAgain*

        I see there being a difference between religious and non-religious food preferences. They are already accommodating her religion with flex time. I think of the food as an added benefit, but if you can’t partake, oh well. I have this issue a lot as somebody who is sensitive to gluten, MSG, and peanut oil, which are health restrictions, not religious food preferences. And I just suck it up, or as a poster above said, eat the sad iceberg salad.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Yes, but this is a company wide perk intended to be inclusive, and it’s EVERY DAY, and they don’t want her to have to bring her own lunch.

          I’d be miserable in this environment, I don’t doubt, because it would either force me to disclose a medical condition (or the related diet, but Google would make it easy to figure out), or leave me bringing my own food and excluded. So yes, my view is also “bring your own or suck it up” in most environments, but here it would stick out like a sore thumb or leave her eating a sub-par lunch (or possibly no lunch) every day. When your goal is an inclusive team atmosphere, then it becomes more important to make sure no one is excluded.

          1. Ad Astra*

            Exactly. The company’s goal in providing lunch was to make employees happy. If a meat eater is stuck with the vegetarian option day after day because the company won’t accommodate her dietary restrictions, she’s not going to be happy. Asking her to suck it up might be reasonable in a one-off situation, but it’s not a good way to look at an ongoing program aimed at keeping employees satisfied. If you’re not going to give employees food they actually can/want to eat, why bother?

            This is doubly important for a company that is actively trying to recruit a diverse workforce. Food is a huge element of culture, which means it’s going to come up a lot in a culturally diverse organization. Companies that sincerely want to attract employees from different backgrounds will approach these challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles.

            1. Nother Name*

              Also, this is a company benefit that means she doesn’t have to make/buy her own lunch. This means that all the other employees are getting a financial/time benefit that she isn’t. (Last time I checked, food costs money and takes time to procure.) What if you provided health benefits but only had male doctors on your plan, which she might also have religious objections to? She’d be unable to use a work benefit that everyone else had.

              Accommodating this employee shows that you are committed to diversity, it will be known that you don’t pick and choose who will and won’t get their benefits, and it creates a situation where local food vendors might see a benefit in providing more halal options for the Muslim community. In this case, a rising tide lifts all boats.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            I’m actually quite surprised that this company has 100% participation in this lunch perk. Not saying it’s not a nice concept, but I do wonder, what if they want to get out of the office for lunch? Then that day is still deducted from their pay or what? It seems to create a culture where everyone is expected to eat on campus and together.

            1. Bwmn*

              I’d have to imagine that part of this perk is based around where the office is located/nature of the work. I used to work on a large university hospital, and it would have taken at least 20 minutes for me to get anywhere off campus to eat. If our hospital cafeteria offered something similar (x reasonable salary deduction for free lunch every day), I imagine a huge percentage of the thousands of employees that worked there would have taken advantage of it. It’s not that the cafeteria was truly amazing, but it was solid and had a mix of hot options from Healthy Choice (literally the brand), burger and fries type options, some different things, and a salad bar.

              I’ve worked in a few places where there really weren’t reasonable options in easy access for anything else, and comparing the tedium of bringing your own lunch every day to having it provided – I’m not surprised.

              1. brownblack*

                I don’t get this – it’s not free lunch. It’s a good deal on a lunch that you don’t get to pick out yourself. If there is a deduction from anybody’s salary, it’s not free.

            2. Nother Name*

              My mother’s company used to have this. The lunches were very nice (they still are, but now the employees have to pay part of the cost – still partially subsidized by the company), and visitors to the offices were able to partake.

          3. Chalupa Batman*

            Yes-I think it matters that this perk isn’t really about food. The OP’s statements suggest that not accommodating this would make Jane noticeably different, which seems to be the opposite of what all of this is about. Catered lunch daily is a pretty big deal, even if you’re taking a deduction for it, so my guess it that it’s really about company culture, not food, and allowing Jane to be singled out when she can be accommodated would fly in the face of that. If my boss brings donuts a few times a month and I don’t like donuts, it’s no big deal-and if I like donuts, it’s awesome. If everyone in my office is offered a full breakfast daily and I can’t eat any of it, I’m going to feel like an outsider pretty fast.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          But that’s not how reasonable accommodation works. You don’t get bonus points for one accommodation and get to skip the others. The flex time is nice, but it’s not like they’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re REQUIRED to. They’re deducting money from her pay for this – they should be able to accommodate it.

          1. AW*

            You don’t get bonus points for one accommodation and get to skip the others.

            Quoted because this bears repeating.

        3. RobM*

          I’m not actually adverse to the “suck it up” attitude except:
          1. The company want to be inclusive… so they kinda need to be inclusive. An organisation that makes all kinds of claims as to its respect for minorities, say, but doesn’t follow through with them, is far worse in my mind than one that made no such promises. (and to be fair, the OP has responded to say they’re trying their best to find a solution and kudos to them).

          2. The company are deducing money from the employee’s salary to pay for these lunches. I’m prepared to “suck it up” in broad terms but if my employer is taking money out of my wages to buy lunch for me whether I want to or not, then they damn well better provide something I -want- to eat.

          3. Religion is _incredibly_ important to some people.

    7. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      I look at like this, I’m deathly allergic to seafood (even fish…it’s the Mercury). So if my only options are a salmon plate or a vegetarian option, I chose the vegetarian option. Now imagine making that same choice for a month or two.

      Yes, I have an option, but it’s not really inclusive.

    8. Autumn*

      Most halal-keeping Muslims I know are fine eating the vegetarian option on occasion, but when we are talking about lunch every day, a lunch that Jane is already paying for (since it comes out of her paycheck), I think it is important to offer her more variety than just the vegetarian option. I think this is an issue with providing lunch in general – people are going to feel like they have to eat it, even if they don’t like the options, because they’ve already paid for it.

    9. BananaPants*

      This won’t be a popular opinion but the employer in #1 is providing a generous perk to all employees by having meals brought in for lunch, and are already accommodating Jane’s religious observance with flexible scheduling. Now she expects even more out of a perk that’s already very generous? I’m starting to think that the world of tech startups is VERY different from the one in which most of us work.

      Kosher or halal meat costs more money and the employer deducts a small amount from participating employees’ salaries for lunches – will Jane’s dietary preference end up costing all employees more money? What will you do when Bob decides that he needs a paleo autoimmune protocol lunch or Matilda wants to eat only macrobiotic Kosher lunches? All of these are dietary preferences, which you already accommodate with vegetarian and vegan choices – at some point a line may need to be drawn on this perk.

      Some employees may have concerns about whether halal and kosher slaughtering methods are humane – several European countries have outlawed these practices for this reason. Be prepared that other employees could object on this basis if, for example, everyone getting the chicken parmesan is getting halal chicken (and this becomes known).

      1. Nother Name*

        Nickel and diming doesn’t work in this situation. Yes, kosher and halal meat is more expensive, but what about all those vegetarians not eating any meat? And the vegans without their cheese? You can find some pricey vegetarian food, but a lot of it is much cheaper than any meat-based option.

        And I think the humane slaughtering thing is a red herring. Unless all the non-kosher/halal meat being brought in is certified as humanely raised and slaughtered, it’s not really much of an argument.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        “are already accommodating Jane’s religious observance with flexible scheduling. ”

        But again – this is what the law requires. So it’s not just nice that they’re doing it – it’s REQUIRED.

        Similarly – the lunch issue could also potentially be a reasonable accommodation issue. This isn’t just a preference – this is her religion. Money is being taken out of her paycheck for this and she can’t participate fully because it doesn’t acknowledge. The question of “where we do we draw the line” isn’t at play with religious accommodation.

      3. Anna*

        I would argue that many of the European countries that have outlawed kosher and halal slaughter are more motivated by some very racist attitudes in Europe toward Muslim and Jewish people than concerns about humane treatment. See France’s law that prohibits Muslim women from wearing head coverings in the name of freedom from religion.

    10. Emily K*

      I don’t think it’s ideal to expect everyone with a dietary restriction to eat the lowest common denominator food at every meal. It’s one thing if it’s a one-off special event. It’s another when it’s an every day camaraderie-building activity and you’re telling the employee to either compromise her religious beliefs or eliminate a major food group from her lunches if she wants to join the group. That’s so far from ideal I would only do it as a last resort.

      I have a wheat allergy and I’ve been stuck having to eat the “vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, kosher lunch” because they figured they could just cover all their bases with one meal option. It always ranges from disgusting to unexciting and no one with any of the restrictions is happy. Vegans tend to really like their bread and people with allergies tend to really want our meat.

      I actually went to a conference earlier this year where on the first day that’s what they’d done for lunch. The main course was raw Asian vegetables rolled up in a rice noodle, served cold – sort of a vegan/gluten-free spring roll I guess? With potato chips and garden salad. There was no real protein or healthy starch to speak of and everyone in line around me clearly hated it. The other attendees reportedly had gotten sandwiches and potato chips and brownies. The second day suddenly there was no special line for special meals, and the lunch everyone was served was warmer dishes full of prepared vegetable dishes, meats, some breads, and a salad bar with topping options. Everyone could find enough to cobble a good meal together and everyone was happy. But I can only imagine how very bad the feedback had to have been for them to not just make a note to do something different next year but to clearly abort their original catering plan mid-conference and order new catering for over a thousand people on less than a day’s notice. People must have been rioting.

  3. Mando Diao*

    I don’t quite get the issue with #1. Is it that Jane’s deduction might be different than everyone else’s? I don’t see a problem with working out an arrangement to have Jane’s lunch delivered from a different eatery, even if you have to work out an individualized payment plan. I can see how the employer would worry that this might snowball into everyone wanting to order from different places every day, but perhaps the business could work out deals with a few different caterers and allow employees to rotate through them. I eat the standard American diet, and I’d be open to ordering from different specialized places once in a while. There’s a breed of boss who only has one “good boss tool” in his kit, and it can rankle when you’re expected to bend to accept an offer of kindness when it isn’t actually something you’d choose for yourself. If you offer food, you should make sure it’s food that people want to eat.

    This would be good practice for any other dietary restrictions; even the vegetarian option wouldn’t be okay for someone who kept Kosher, unless of course the caterer keeps Kosher practices all-around.

    How is a salary deduction cheaper than bringing your own lunch though?

    1. Little Teapot*

      Maybe only everyone contributes a small amount and bulk-buying powers the workplace has makes it cheap? But yeah, I mean I can get two minute noodles for like .50c if I’m very poor one week… I’d be interested how much the work place is charging, and what they get for it. (Ie a main meal and snack and a drink?)

      1. Mando Diao*

        I had a similar thought about the bulk buying. I think it would be better if each person could be reimbursed for a certain amount of lunch expenses each week from any place around town, if this sort of program is something the company wants to keep doing. While it’s great that there is 100% participation and I’m sure the program is widely appreciated, I’d urge OP to move away from the “everyone totally LOVES it!!!” mode of thinking, as it’s creating a lot of resistance to the very thought that some people might want or need to eat something else.

        Among 50 employees, I guarantee that there are quite a few who would love the opportunity to order from a new place. And reading the letter again, it seems that the ONLY options are vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free. If my boss offered that, I might very well sign up and I would probably like the food a baseline amount, but it wouldn’t be my first choice, and it wouldn’t take me long to grow sick of having food that accommodates other people’s diets but not mine. Wow, I sound like Jane!

        1. katamia*

          Yeah, I would be getting really sick of having the same thing every day. Lacking dietary requirements myself, I could mix it up (vegetarian option one day, gluten-free the next), but, wow, I’d get bored quickly.

          1. Mando Diao*

            I wonder if Jane is okay with bringing her own food. She shouldn’t have to if she doesn’t want to, but there’s a weird tone to the letter, like the company benefits somehow from this deal and needs everyone to participate. If money were tight, I might opt out of this plan and just eat my own stuff from home every day.

            1. Chocolate Teapot*

              I get a number of luncheon vouchers each month, which can be used in most restaurants, cafes and supermarkets here. What happens is that a small sum is deducted from my gross salary and then my employer covers the difference.

          2. Anon for this*

            Where are you getting that it’s the same every day? I have a program at work where I can order lunch like the OP describes and it doesn’t repeat until three or four weeks in. And I can pick from six meals every day. I’m not seeing anything in the letter that makes me think people have their meals picked for them or have to stay within one of those “options” for all of their meals.

            That would just lead to much more problems (one day, the meat option has Brussels sprouts and who wants to eat that? ;-))

            1. katamia*

              I’m not super familiar with these types of programs, having never worked at a place that had them. It’s good to know that they do have variety. However, I’d still find it restrictive unless it really varied the cuisine–could I get Indian? Chinese? Middle Eastern? etc. (Good, authentic versions, not modified-to-American-tastes, which I often don’t like.) I’d still get bored eating a sandwich and salad or a slab-o-meat with a starch every day, even if they were different types of sandwiches, salads, and meat slabs.

              I do love Brussels sprouts, though, so in that case I’d definitely get the meat option, lol.

              1. Sparky*

                Yeah, just vegetarian wouldn’t be enough for me either. I also need a variety of ethnic food, also well done, not American versions.

                This could be a nice perk if well done, though.

                1. Zillah*

                  I don’t want to parse your language, but given the topic, I do just want to quickly point out that there are actually issues with the term “ethnic food” the way many people use it, in case you’re not aware of it. :)

            2. Ad Astra*

              I got the impression that the company had lunch catered from the same place every day, but assumed it was the type of caterer that could provide a very wide range of cuisines — as opposed to catering from, say, Panera or Chipotle. Is that how your company’s program works, Anon for this?

        2. INTP*

          I read it as the “special diet” options include vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free, but not halal – not necessarily that those are the only options at all, since there could be a “regular” plan that doesn’t guarantee any sort of ingredients will be left out.

        3. Lynn Whitehat*

          I like to go to the gym or jiu jitsu at lunch. I really, really need some down time away from work in the middle of the day. I would be very sad, to the point of considering quitting, if my employer tried to institute a practice of “everybody eat catered lunch together every day! Team bonding! 100% participation!”

          Not everyone is a cultural match for every workplace, and that’s OK. But I’m just putting the idea out there that not everyone would love the catered lunch every day.

          1. NJ Anon*

            There are some work places that require the employees not leave for lunch. My father worked on the NYSE for 45 years. Lunch was brought in every day. I used to work at a homeless shelter for teens. Staff were with the kids 24/7, they could not leave for lunch.

          2. Callie*

            I’ve taught at various elementary schools in my life and while the teachers brought their own lunches or bought from the cafeteria, they were required to eat in the lunchroom with the kids. We never had any going out to lunch.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          I’d like the variety as well. And since I have very few dietary restrictions (can’t eat broccoli because it kills my stomach), I could probably eat any of the options. Just because my diet is pretty standard doesn’t mean I’m not flexible. :)

          In fact, if the employees are sharing diverse food options, they’re also sharing cultures. I’d love to eat the extra halal meal with Jane and learn more about it.

      2. nofelix*

        If they have 100% up-take (presumably not including Jane) then it must be a pretty good deal. Maybe there aren’t good alternatives either.

      3. K.*

        I had the same thought when the OP said it was cheaper than brown-bagging it. I brown-bag it every day unless there’s a working lunch scheduled, and I would be curious to crunch the numbers to see if it was indeed cheaper to use this lunch program. My lunches are often leftovers from dinner the night before; I’m single and it’s easy to make two servings of something.

    2. neverjaunty*

      There’s a breed of boss who only has one “good boss tool” in his kit, and it can rankle when you’re expected to bend to accept an offer of kindness when it isn’t actually something you’d choose for yourself.

      EXACTLY this.

      What I don’t understand, OP #1, is why you’re willing to bend to the moral and dietary restrictions of vegans, but Muslims are a bridge too far?

      1. Op1*

        Hello there! I live in Europe, lower diversity.
        It is actully not common with kosher or halal here. While vegan and vegetarian are understood, religious food practices are not that we’ll known!

        1. Merry and Bright*

          It probably varies by country. Some European countries, and cities in particular, are very diverse with many food requirements understood and accepted.

        2. Sarahnova*

          There are a hell of a lot more Muslims in the world than vegans though (and I say this lovingly, as an ex-vegan). I’m curious as to where in Europe you are that halal food is not common. Every decent-sized town or city in the UK has a thriving Muslim population these days. I don’t think I’ve been in a supermarket that didn’t have a large halal section for years.

          1. Sarahnova*

            (I don’t intend to imply that you are incorrect or lying. I’m genuinely curious. My understanding was that most Western European countries at least also had large Muslim populations.)

          2. De (Germany)*

            Speaking for Germany, yes, you can probably find halal food in most decent sizes towns. But catering services that offer it? The one that my work has, which is one of the larger ones, doesn’t offer it.

          3. IrishGirl*

            Coming from an Irish city that’s not Dublin, we don’t generally have a halal section in a regular supermarket but there are one or two stores that would have it.

          4. Marzipan*

            I’m in a small British city (in a not especially diverse area, to be fair) and I don’t think any of the supermarkets have a halal section. There are definitely a number of smaller local shops where you can buy halal meat, and I can think of several cafes and restaurants where halal meals would be available, so halal options are not terribly difficult to obtain, but they’re still somewhat specialist in this area.

            1. OP1*

              Hello Sarahnova,

              Thank you for your question. I think your question might have been answered by the above comments.
              It’s actually quite interesting to see how different countries react to the issue.

            2. One of the Sarahs*

              Asda sells halal pretty much everywhere in the UK – it’s like gluten free, or kosher, or whatever – if you’re not looking for it, you might not see it

      2. YOLO*

        Heh – Washington DC. We’ve had to really work to educate our events staff about what diets mean in terms of ordering appropriate food. Gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, Kosher, Halal, etc. And we’re a multinational organization. :(

        And yes, we served fatback in a dish to a team that included Jews and Muslims. And they ate it, because not being from the southern US, they didn’t realize fatback is pork. And our events staff didn’t know that ‘just a little pork that you can pick out of a dish’ wasn’t okay. All in 2014, in the US capital. And did I mention we’re a multinational organization? :(

        I’ve put my foot down since coming on the team, and worked hard to educate both myself *and* events staff on the available appropriate options (it should have happened before, but no-one spoke up and took the time to communicate with events staff), but I can also feel a certain sympathy for the OP – if you haven’t had to deal with this, you can not know easily where to start. It’s not malicious, it’s just a new situation.

    3. INTP*

      My interpretation was that they are ordering from the same place (“The place we order our lunch from…”), and it has taken some searching to find a place where everyone (except Jane) is fairly happy. Hopefully it’s possible to find someplace else for Jane to order her food from without disrupting the routine for everyone else, or there’s a similar vendor with Halal items, or maybe if the vendor sells halal-friendly vegetarian entrees (things cooked without wine, extract, etc, and meeting any other requirements), Jane or the company could supplement them with meats from a grocer or deli.

      If it’s necessary for everyone to order from the same place for logistical or budgetary reasons, and there are no places with halal options that would be satisfactory to the other employees, and the vegetarian items are not halal-friendly, I’m not sure what the solution is. I don’t know that I agree with switching the entire company’s lunch provider to one that is inferior to the current one in other ways just to get a halal option. Hopefully it doesn’t come down to that, though.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Could someone please explain the no cooking with alcohol thing? Alcohol cooks off, so I just don’t get that. Is it because they’re not even allowed to taste it?

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          Alcohol doesn’t cook all the way off, especially if the cooking time is relatively short. There are always trace amounts left. If the prohibition is against all alcohol, then they need to avoid anything cooked with alcohol, even things like vanilla extract, in order to ensure that they don’t have any alcohol at all.

    4. Merry and Bright*

      I can see how the lunch arrangement might save the employees money but I’m a bit wary of employers who deduct the cost from your wages and then describe it as “free”.

        1. Nother Name*

          I see it as how US employers state that they provide health insurance, but employees have to pay their share, plus any out-of-pocket expenses. I’m sure it’s still way cheaper than buying or bringing your own lunch every day.

      1. penny*

        I was waiting for someone to comment on this. It’s not free if you’re deducting money from people’s checks to pay for it. It may be discounted or convenient, but that is not free. And I wouldn’t say that’s cheapest than bringing your own lunch either.

  4. Pete*

    If there was a pretty straightforward fix to #1 then the question would not have been asked.

    I believe for “inclusiveness” to work everyone has to compromise a little. The employees give up the option to eat exactly what they want every day in order for everyone to have a good meal. Anyone demanding to have exactly what they want, every day, in the exact same manner as everyone else is upsetting the apple cart.

    1. Mike C.*

      Asking for a Halal option is not, in any way, shape or form something that this employee should have to compromise on lest she “upset the apple cart”.

      Why do so many folks act as if halal food is some exotic request that no one else would ever choose to eat otherwise?

      1. Mando Diao*

        People care way too much about what other people eat (and who they bone, but that’s a different workplace question).

      2. katamia*

        This. It really doesn’t taste or look any different. The only way you can tell is that halal restaurants have signage saying they’re halal. Yes, some cuisines are probably more likely to be halal than others (like Indian and Chinese), but there is no major difference in the eating experience.

        1. nofelix*

          Ethically it’s different. Halal slaughtering generally doesn’t include stunning the animals, and the expert view of veterinary organizations seems to be that this allows them to feel more pain and is thus less humane.

          If it was up to me, I would offer a halal option that didn’t include halal slaughtered meat.

          1. Zillah*

            That’s fine to choose as a meat eater, and it’s something to be aware of because it may be a problem for other people on your team. However, the idea that halal meat is somehow so much more problematic than any other meat is a little absurd, since the issues with the meat industry run far deeper than how an animal was killed, and frankly, unless you’re checking out what veterinarian organizations have to say about other aspects of the meat industry as well, fixating on whether it’s ethical to kill animals in a way that adheres to Muslim religious beliefs feels a tad disingenuous. Your personal ethical issues are not an issue that should be imposed into your employees’ lunch program – unless, of course, you’d like vegetarians and vegans one-upping you.

            Then again, I’m a vegetarian who is super grossed out by people eating meat in general, which I think is often borderline unethical – which is an opinion I generally keep to myself, including when I’m taking someone out to eat, because it’s not my place to impose that kind of judgment on what other people eat.

            1. nofelix*

              Maybe I’m wrong here, but halal slaughter doesn’t seem to be more ethical in some areas and less ethical in others. All the problems in the meat industry are also present in halal slaughter, plus the prescribed inhumane killing.

              1. Zillah*

                I don’t really want to get into a debate about the ethics of eating meat, because it’s so far off the point and because I don’t thinking that policing people’s food choices is really my place. My point is that imposing where you draw your personal line on food ethics on other people in a workplace environment, particularly for something that’s supposed to be a perk for them, isn’t cool.

                1. Zillah*

                  Just to be clear, where I’m reading you imposing that on others is here:

                  If it was up to me, I would offer a halal option that didn’t include halal slaughtered meat.

                2. Cat*

                  Yes, and I think it should be said: I don’t think anyone here is doing that, but as to the wider cultural narrative – there’s a reason this particular animal husbandry practice, which is practiced by a marginalized group, is getting bad press and a gazillion others are just ignored.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  Yes, this. AAM has asked us not to get into a debate about this, and I’m not going to suggest that any one person’s ethical line is “wrong” if they are uncomfortable with eating halal meat – but I also agree that, broadly speaking, there is an awful lot of selective concern about food practices of minority faiths.

                4. LabTech*

                  there’s a reason this particular animal husbandry practice, which is practiced by a marginalized group, is getting bad press and a gazillion others are just ignored.

                  This! This is what’s been bothering me about the whole ethics of Halal discussion.

          2. Observer*

            The problem with your statement is that it’s actually not true. Stunning as the only “ethical” way to slaughter animals simply does not hold up to scientific evidence. And,

            Now, if you choose to accept the views of some groups and not others, that’s your choice. But, really, no one has any business to impose that on others.

          3. RG*

            A halal option that didn’t include halal slaughtered meat? Isn’t that one of the main points of a halal meal option, that if it includes meat it’s slaughtered a particular way? That sounds like offering a vegetarian option and still using chicken and beef stock and broth.

        2. Monique*

          I’m with nofelix – I don’t eat halal meat for ethical reasons. It’s part of Muslim scripture because at the time, that was in fact the most humane way to kill an animal. Compared to today’s methods it’s positively cruel, in my opinion.

          It’s one thing if, as part of your religion, you need to eat meat that was slaughtered this way. I’d really rather prefer it if the rest of us with no such religious constraints didn’t, however. The fewer animals killed that way the better.

          If all meat offerings were changed to halal I would have to find a different way to get lunch.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            But unless you’re ordering from a specialty meat company, a large majority of the meat available commercially was treated cruelly during its lifetime. And the industry contributes a lot to global warming. And a lot of fruit and veg come from places where the works are treated terribly. If we want to eat only ethically-raised/grown food, you’re going to have a hard time eating food from most restaurants and catering companies.

            It’s not that we shouldn’t try–we should! But there’s no reason to single out halal as the place to draw the line.

            1. Monique*

              Personally I find slitting an awake and conscious animal’s throat when I have no religious worries about eating more humanely slaughtered animals a great place to draw the line.

              That doesn’t mean that aren’t other practices in farm reared animal husbandry that are also appalling, but slitting an animal’s throat while it is fully aware and I have no religious background that restricts me to this method has to be way, way, way up at the top.

              1. mookitty*

                Except that bleeding out drops you into unconsciousness with more accuracy that someone with a stun gun that may not work properly or be used properly.

                1. Observer*

                  @monique No, it means that they are equally awful. The fact is that the captive bolt that is the most commonly used method of stunning animals just doesn’t really work all that well.

            2. Monique*

              Just to add – in contrast to the other cruelties listed, I can avoid halal meat so easily. For me, it’s an easy choice.

      3. Blurgle*

        Because many people think any response to food other than “eat it all, shove it in your mouth” is either neurotic pickiness or attention-hogging. It’s why people with allergies don’t eat in restaurants; your feelings don’t trump my health. I’m not spending another week in a coma to test the hypothesis that my allergy is all in my dim little crazy head.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I hear you on that! I had to bring my own food even to family holidays for years because the family wasn’t willing to make even -one- dish that could accommodate my allergies. They weren’t required to, of course. But it sucks when even your family doesn’t care if you feel included.

          Some of my coworkers don’t understand why I can’t just cheat sometimes, and I have to explain every single time, because I don’t want to have to stab myself in the leg with my epi pen and then get taken to the hospital just because you want me to eat at this particular restaurant. Not worth it.

          1. Artemesia*

            Wow. I so don’t get that. I have a close friend whose grandson has celiac disease. At Thanksgiving the entire table is gluten free — it takes some effort but they want him to have a joyous holiday without fear that something will make him sick. I don’t think families HAVE to go that far, but they certainly have to go far enough to make sure a member with a serious dietary issue can get a protein, a veggie and a starch that won’t make him or her sick.

            My son used to seem to always date vegetarians and vegans (I am pleased that he married an omnivore) and I would always take his girlfriend aside and point out the various dishes on the table that met her needs discreetly beforehand, so she could just help herself without having to make a fuss and would have plenty to choose from even as the rest of us had the roast or ham or turkey or whatever. I have a sensitivity to a food that is pretty commonly in almost any complex dish — I am grateful to friends who either omit it or who pull a portion out for me before this ingredient goes into the dish.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Could I come to your Thanksgiving instead? My family is normally kind, but they are weird about food. They didn’t want to change how they’ve always done things, didn’t want to give up any or change any of their favorite dishes, etc. For years, I would hear about coworkers with celiac and how their family would modify at least some of the dishes to accommodate them, and I’d be so jealous. Like you said, I didn’t expect my family to complete redo the menu, but it would have been nice if I didn’t have to make ALL of my own dishes for Thanksgiving.

            2. RMRIC0*

              “At Thanksgiving the entire table is gluten free…”

              Sure, the furniture might be gluten free, but what about the food? A child can’t live on armoires alone!

          2. Ann Ohnemus*

            I’m extremely gluten intolerant, and I have extended family who are the same way–I know to either eat before going to their houses, or bring my own food. One aunt is an RN who’s been involved in my healthcare since I first got sick 20+ years ago, even, but still apparently can’t remember to keep the crackers off the veggie tray and maybe don’t put “cream of” soups and wheat-filled seasoning mixes in absolutely everything. I’m more indifferent to being excluded like that these days, but it really hurt during my first few years of adjusting to being gluten free.

        2. Pete*

          Anyone with dietary restrictions must take personal responsibility for their meals. Athletes subject to drug tests cannot put anything in their body unless they know exactly what it is. Those with allergies cannot partake of any random food unless they know exactly what it is. People who follow dietary restrictions due to religious or medical reasons also must know exactly what the food is and perhaps how it was prepared.

          I’m also cold and mean enough to think they don’t have the right to complain if a greater group fails to meet their needs. If you’ve got a nut allergy bring your own food. If you keep to religious tenets bring your own food. If you’re diabetic bring your own food. If you’re 1 of 50 you can ask, but you cannot reasonably expect for your dietary needs to be met.

          1. nofelix*

            The counterpoint to this is that sometimes it’s in a group’s interests to cater to a broader range, and to do it fairly. There aren’t many groups that *have* to provide food at all. Maybe food banks? So it’s generally being done for goodwill or for profit (which depends indirectly on customer goodwill).

          2. Kyrielle*

            I’d argue that you can ask, and you can also complain if they’re not met *and* the deduction from your paycheck keeps happening. That’s not a benefit at that point, it’s a tax to feed others. In any case, as far as I can tell, Jane just asked and the OP was trying to figure out how to navigate that.

            I have lots of dietary restrictions. (Health related, not religious.) The first time I went to a company meeting with food served at my new company, I asked in advance whether they could provide food I could eat. I was connected directly with the catering service and we came up with a solution that was easy for them and that I could eat. And I ate. Otherwise, I would have sat through a lunch meeting with no food (because I would have eaten before rather than carry my own to the meeting room in another building), and that would’ve worked, but this was more comfortable.

            Did they owe me it? Nope! (They weren’t deducting from my paycheck for it.) Am I really glad I asked? Yes. It meant I could eat. (And I now know a couple dishes that can appear in a meeting that I _can_ eat as-is, so it’s not every meeting I have to ask.)

            I will say that at my previous job, it was incredibly demoralizing (not just neutral) to have celebration and meeting meals that I couldn’t eat *consistently*. I asked about it a couple times and eventually they changed it and alternated, so that maybe 1/3-1/2 of those I could eat at, and that felt so much better. (I can’t have pizza – but the rest of the team actually liked not getting pizza *every* time, only some of the time, and we found out another team member hadn’t been saying anything but that no one had noticed that person wasn’t eating it either. So we also got salads on pizza days once they realized that.)

            1. Hillary*

              Second the demoralizing point. I’m vegetarian, and spent a while at a company that had zero awareness of accommodating different diets. It was incredibly demoralizing to watch my team eating free food and then leave the building to get myself something I could eat. Would it have killed them to order one veggie pizza? Or get the chicken on the side instead of in the alfredo sauce? Or order the salad without bacon?

              To be fair, my immediate team always included something vegetarian after the first time. But it took three years of pushing for our larger group to make a change.

              1. Anx*

                I don’t want to jump to conclusions, especially such a negative one, but not ordering a plain pizza?

                That seems so egregiously unaccommodating (not just to vegetarians). I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere where a plain pizza wasn’t included for a group affair.

                1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

                  Seriously! We actually started upping the number of plain cheese pizzas because they were the first to go!

                2. Hillary*

                  Slightly rural location plus old school company and a highly tenured team meant I was the first vegetarian 90% of my immediate coworkers spent any time with.

                  There are many reasons I’m not with the company anymore, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Although the cafeteria learned to cook vegetarian food after a senior exec went vegan for health reasons.

              2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

                At my last job I had a vegan employee and an employee with celiacs, I often had to reach out to the team responsible for providing company meals and make the request.

                I hated the idea that they could be left out of company-wide events.

          3. Observer*

            Well, then don’t claim to be inclusive. And CERTAINLY do NOT make that person PAY for the food that they can’t eat.

          4. Artemesia*

            I agree if this is someone’s wedding reception, less so if it is a small dinner party although volunteering to bring one’s own dish is a good way to deal, but I totally don’t agree when it is the job providing lunch EVERY dang day to EVERYONE that they don’t have to accommodate special needs of their employees. Food purveyors know how to do this. We recently gave a very expensive rehearsal dinner for 40 people — we had no trouble accommodating the vegan and the restaurant staff actually went to each table before rolling out the food to check for allergies and special needs and were willing to accommodate them. People who sell food know how to do this.

            1. RMRIC0*

              I wouldn’t even say that the job is “providing” the lunch, since the employees are apparently paying for it.

          5. Anonymous Ninja*

            “If you’ve got a nut allergy bring your own food. If you keep to religious tenets bring your own food. If you’re diabetic bring your own food. If you’re 1 of 50 you can ask, but you cannot reasonably expect for your dietary needs to be met.”

            Except this isn’t a gift or a social event where someone else is paying. The employee is paying. So she has a say in what she wants.

          6. Koko*

            I don’t think OP #1 is looking for reasons to get out of providing a meal that meets Jane’s need. He’s looking for solutions that will help him meet Jane’s need.

            No employer is under any obligation to feed their employees, but it seems important to OP#1 that Jane’s dietary restrictions don’t exclude her from a perk the entire company gets.

        3. I'm a Little Teapot*

          I’ve always hated the idea that it’s rude to decline food. Other people do not get to dictate what you put in your body. I’d rather be “rude” than be sick because I ate that thing full of tomato sauce.

      4. INTP*

        OP said above that it is not super common or well-known in her country. So while I don’t think halal is some crazy exotic thing, and as far as I know the meats do not taste any different from regular meat, it could be something that requires significant compromise to find a vendor that provides it, affecting the healthiness, tastiness, or price of the food provided to all employees. (I think some compromise would be appropriate there, but not unconditional compromise. It’s hard to say without knowing the OP’s options, but I’m assuming that if there were a perfect equivalent with halal options she would not have written in.)

      5. AnotherFed*

        Because for a lot of small towns, halal is an exotic request no one serves. Other than when I lived in London, I have never seen even specialty grocery stores offer halal sections, let alone a restaurant with a halal kitchen!

        1. Jubilance*

          OMG so not true! I’ve lived in small towns, like 50K ppl and they still had halal markets. Yes, if you live in a town of 500 you’ll have to drive to a slightly larger place to find a halal market, but it’s not unheard of.

          1. AnotherFed*

            Lol, 50K is a city! I don’t think there are 50K people in this county and the next one over combined!

            1. simonthegrey*

              This. The smaller farming towns that surround the small city I live in are predominately white and protestant; I have not looked, but I would be honestly shocked if more than one of them offered halal/kosher. Even in my small city, I can think of one butcher shop and one Greek and Middle-eastern food mart that could be halal or kosher, and I am honestly not sure either one is certified.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Yes, it depends on the demographic of the area, and whether you’re close to a source of whatever food items you need/want. Our city is 100K roughly, and it STILL functions like a small town. :P

            We are getting more options here in BFE–I’m glad to see it not only because of increasing diversity, but because that means I can obtain items I thought I could only get abroad. :) (I’m still stymied by Polish salad, but I did find a Russian option that is close, heh heh.)

          3. BananaPants*

            It really depends on the location. FWIW, we’re in a fairly densely-populated area of the Northeast. I live in a town with 60K people and while several supermarkets have a small kosher foods section that expands during Passover, for kosher chicken or meat one must go to a nearby town with a large Jewish population where Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and a kosher supermarket all carry kosher chicken/beef/lamb/etc. There is no source for halal foods aside from a small (bodega-sized) market two towns over.

          4. Minion*

            It actually is true. Just because something is not your experience doesn’t mean it’s not true. Where I live and work, there are exactly zero shops that offer halal food. Nothing in the grocery store, no specialty shops…nothing.
            And, in fact, I had never even heard of halal before reading this post and I had to come down here to the comments to find out what it even meant. I think we actually have some Muslim people in our community now, but that’s actually a very recent development.
            Maybe just flat out saying “OMG so not true!” kinda comes across as “Geez you’re such a liar!”
            AnotherFed seems to have taken it well, but I wouldn’t like to have my comment called out as “…so not true!”

    2. Mando Diao*

      That line of thinking prevents people from advocating for themselves. Like, I’m so sorry that any given employer (not OP) is breaking a law or not being accommodating; it’s my fault for bringing it up!

    3. Blurgle*

      But halal isn’t a choice but a requirement. It might not have the same consequences as, say, providing soy-free food for someone like me with a severe allergy,* but you cannot expect a practicing Muslim to eat haram food even once as a compromise, ever.

      *Although I do admit that I would never trust any restaurant, no matter what they claimed, to provide me with a soy-free meal. I would simply opt out, and if I were told that eating prepared food (or even stepping into a restaurant for any reason) were a condition of my job I would resign.

      1. nofelix*

        I know lots of muslims that sometimes eat haram food tbh. Like any non-health-related dietary preference, it’s a choice and people are changeable sometimes.

        The whole ‘we should accommodate dietary preferences as a human right’ idea seems really at odds with how we actually treat dietary preferences that don’t have well known names like vegetarianism. Like, accommodating this stuff is supposedly really really important and people get very passionate about it, to the extent they want to put ‘their’ dietary preference in a special box that makes it different from everyone else’s (because we know that accommodating every dietary preference is infeasible).

        1. Kelly L.*

          Well, not everyone follows their religion strictly, but that doesn’t mean this employee doesn’t.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          This employee eats halal. I would assume that she eats halal all the time. Fundamentally, yes, it is a choice– but it’s a choice she holds to because of her beliefs. I am Jewish and don’t keep kosher, but that doesn’t mean I have the right to suggest that my kosher-keeping friends should bend a little for the sake of a group. Or that my vegetarian boyfriend– also a choice– should eat something with chicken broth just because.

          What is so wrong with putting a separate meal in a box? I’m baffled by this line of reasoning.

          1. nofelix*

            The point I’m making is that everyone wants special treatment. When enough people want the same special treatment they like to give it a name and demand that it’s unconscionable to deny them. The vegetarians at this workplace have already done this, and got their way, but it’s not a sustainable model because pretty soon another group that wants special treatment arrives and we have the whole discussion again. Eventually someone is going to come along that is excluded because their needs cannot be met without significant cost, and I think everyone should have seen this coming from the beginning and not gone down this silly road. Vouchers are a great idea that works for many offices without having to be involved in who eats what.

            1. Ad Astra*

              Halal had a name long before the advent of catering and “special treatment.” If you believe that your God commanded you to eat a certain way, it’s non-negotiable. With something like 1.57 billion Muslims in the world, I’d hardly equate this with some kind of special snowflake syndrome. It’s not like she asked for a Paleo option.

              Although, yeah, if my company was taking money from my paycheck to provide lunch every day, I’d want a Paleo or low-carb option. Sure, a Paleo or low-carb (not diabetic) person can step out of line occasionally while someone who eats halal or is allergic to peanuts really can’t. But when we’re talking about every day for the 2+ years someone might be with the company, these “special” requests matter.

            2. AvonLady Barksdale*

              The vegetarians “got their way”? Again, I am so baffled. Many people are vegetarians for either ethical or health reasons, and it’s not that difficult to accommodate them. Why resent them for being able to eat? My aforementioned boyfriend hasn’t eaten meat in over 15 years, and doing so now will actually make him sick– it’s not that hard to simply provide a hummus-and-tomato sandwich or something. Halal is a bit more difficult to accommodate, but it is a pretty serious business. This has nothing to do with getting one’s way and everything to do with understanding certain cultural and religious practices with an eye to making everyone feel included.

              Now, I say this as something who doesn’t like fussiness, especially when it comes to food. Kosher, halal, vegetarian, and vegan are actual requirements. And gluten-free to people with celiac disease.

              Despite the fact that I don’t keep kosher, I balk at the idea that asking for a kosher meal means an observant Jew is looking for special treatment. Way to make me feel included and not marginalized!

              1. Not Myself*

                My brother’s girlfriend is a vegetarian because her body literally cannot process more than a certain small amount of protein every day. I once knew a girl who was actually allergic to meats. There are very very real health consequences for some vegetarians if they don’t follow their diets. It’s silly to assume that they are just doing it to make a fuss, or be morally superior, or make your life harder or something.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  I am one of those people! I can’t eat most kinds of meat (and none of the kind that are most commonly served in the US) unless someone wants to then drive me to the hospital and pay my hospital bill, assuming I make it to the hospital. Also can’t have cheese or eggs. I really would love to eat what everyone else is eating, but I can’t.

                2. simonthegrey*

                  A friend of mine is allergic to meat. And to about 5,000 other things including nuts, nightshade-family veggies, soy, some dairy (cheese was ok, I think, but not milk). Heck, my grandmother was allergic to all shellfish, and even knowing that my uncle one time served her calamari because he didn’t realize it was a shellfish. People can get really, really sick from food.

                3. Zillah*

                  Yep – and if you’ve been vegetarian for awhile, you can’t always just flip a switch and say “OKAY I’M EATING MEAT AGAIN.” I didn’t like meat as a child so I very rarely ate it, and by the time I was a teenager, my body couldn’t tolerate it. These days, even just contamination can make me sick.

              2. nofelix*

                Vegetarians are advantaged here and other preferences like halal aren’t. And this will always be the way when preparing food. There will always be one more preference you haven’t taken into account, and the people affected will reasonably expect the same accommodation as you have made for others. Ad infinitum.

                My fiancée has a list of food allergies as long as my arm so believe me I’m in no way advocating for marginalising or making life difficult for people with dietary requirements.

                1. Zillah*

                  Regardless of your fiancée’s dietary needs, though, you are advocating that – maybe not in general, but certainly in this thread.

            3. Becky*

              “When enough people want the same special treatment they like to give it a name and demand that it’s unconscionable to deny them. ”

              The problem is that you are defining “special treatment” as “outside of a culturally-defined default”. Providing lunch for your workforce means that you’re providing lunch for EVERYONE, including the vegetarians and the celiacs and the Muslims and the Jews and the Sikhs, not just the meat-and-potatoes omnivores.

          2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

            Thank you for saying what I’ve been thinking reading these comments.

            I’m so surprised that someone people are so opposed to the request for halal, especially when the woman in question is having the cost of lunch deducted from her salary and the business provides a multitude of options.

            1. Just another techie*

              Why are you so surprised?

              In the US we have a major presidential candidate who says Muslims are “a problem” and wants to shut down mosques just for being mosques. The accusation that the current president is a Muslim is actually a potent political weapon. In Germany you can see violent and obscene graffiti telling Muslims to leave in every major city center, the UKIP has been winning a terrifying number of seats, Denmark just changed its immigration laws specifically to make it harder for Muslim war refugees to enter the country, and let’s not even get into the violence and terror that French women who wear head coverings have to endure.

              Fun story, when I was in middle school, the school held a montly pizza party for anyone who maintained an A average that month. When Ramadan rolled around, I went to the party but declined to eat anything, very politely. I was verbally harassed by teachers, called racial slurs, punched by two other students while teachers looked on and did nothing, and then ultimately given detention for “causing a disturbance” for the crime of not eating a slice of pizza that was meant to be a reward.

              A couple years ago, I worked for a defense corporation that needed technician coverage 24-7, and volunteered to cover Christmas, since it’s not really a thing for me. I thought it would be kind to volunteer to take a shift very few people wanted, so that someone who celebrated Christmas would be free to visit family or whatever. Instead I got accused of being greedy and trying to scam time-and-a-half for working on a holiday-that’s-not-a-holiday-to-me, my boss transferred me to a less desirable team as retaliation, and one of my Christian colleagues had to cancel his plans to visit family because he got assigned to cover the Christmas shift.

              Westerners, especially white westerners, especially Christian westerners or westerners from nominally Christian families or cultural backgrounds, will stop at nothing to shit on Muslims, even when doing so requires active effort and loss on their part.

              1. LeighTX*

                I have to respond to this: please don’t lump all white western Christians into one hateful group. I am so sorry for the treatment you’ve received; the stories you wrote are inexcusable. And I will not deny that there are many in the US who have terrible attitudes toward Muslims. But we’re not all like that, and in fact many of us are actively working toward inclusion, outreach, and community education so that stories like yours don’t happen.

                1. CA Admin*


                  If the shoe doesn’t fit don’t wear it. The whole “not all of us are like that” train of thought is a common derailing tactic. See also: #alllivesmatter and #notallmen.

              2. Observer*

                You really are not in a very good place to cast those kinds of broad slurs. I could say the exact same thing reversing Muslims and Christians, and I would probably find MORE instances to support it than your statement.

                Here is the reality. There are plenty of Christians who are hateful and intolerant. But, that’s no different than the Muslim population.

                1. CA Admin*

                  Excuse me? Slurs? I didn’t see a single slur in that post. She just described her personal experiences in this country.

              3. Katie the Fed*

                Wow – I’m sorry you experienced all of this. I also get that you probably don’t want to complain or raise a stink (because who likes to do that?) but those are all REALLY terrible, grievable offenses. The Christmas thing works out well on my team for the same reason you mentioned – my Jews and Muslim are fine with covering it and volunteer to do it. But giving them grief for it? Why?

                I’m sorry you’ve dealt with nasty people. I’m sure (well, I HOPE) you know that not everyone is like that.

              4. A grad student*

                That’s insane! Particularly your last story. I’m only vaguely culturally Christan and I still can’t imagine wanting to cover Christmas just for a little extra money rather than going to see family. I can’t imagine what your team was thinking.

                As a white westerner from a Christian cultural background, I just want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for these stories. It blows my mind that people can still be so hateful to Muslims in the US.

        3. Observer*

          A lot of people don’t follow their religion as they should. That doesn’t mean that no one lives up to their religion strictly. So, the fact that your friends “cheat” does not mean that everyone does, nor does it make it a reasonable thing to ask.

          I know lots of people with allergies who “cheat”sometimes, because the negative effects are not bad enough to outweigh the benefits FOR THEM. Does that mean it’s reasonable to assume that everyone with an allergy should do the same?

        4. Artemesia*

          I know Jews who eat ham and bacon because they do not keep kosher or follow strict dietary laws; this doesn’t make Jews who keep strict kosher somehow ‘difficult’. Forcing someone to go hungry or violate the rules of their faith seems pretty nasty.

        5. Minion*

          I think a lot of people tend to look at religion like a hobby. Something we do on weekends, but it needs to be left completely out of our lives otherwise. I wouldn’t drag around a baseball card collection to work, for example.
          However, what some fail to fully understand is that a person’s religion isn’t something they practice, it’s who they are. As a Christian, I am a Christian 24/7. My beliefs, my convictions and ideals guide every action in my life whether that’s at work or in my personal life. Some people who claim Christianity follow it loosely or differently than I do and that’s okay for them, but for me it’s my life – it’s who I am. Fortunately for me, I have no dietary restrictions associated with my faith, but if I did, I would expect any employer that is taking money from my paycheck with the intention of providing lunch for me to abide by my dietary restrictions. “Jane” is no different. She shouldn’t have to be excluded and she should never, ever be asked to just suck it up and eat something restricted.
          You used the word “preference” and I think you should rethink the use of that word. It’s not a preference, it’s a requirement with consequences should she not follow those requirements. Just because someone else doesn’t believe in those consequences has zero relevance.
          I agree that accommodating every restriction is not feasible, but this company has chosen to offer this perk and they need to accommodate everyone as best they can or simply stop taking pay deductions and providing the perk.

          1. nofelix*

            I’m using ‘preference’ because broadly including all these things together makes it easier to make sensible policy on them, in my opinion. If you see your religion as a requirement that’s fine, but I don’t think it’s right to make policy on the basis of policing what is and isn’t required of people by their beliefs, health, principles, family or whatever. If everyone’s preferences are respected equally then it doesn’t matter how much of a requirement they are.

            What I dislike, and I think using ‘requirements’ implies this, is that some people’s preferences are more important than others and so we should investigate which ones deserve greater accommodation. That’s just really invasive and forces people to suffer discrimination unless they can convince others of the validity of their requirements.

      2. Pete*

        Following a religion’s tenets is not a requirement; it is a choice. One chooses whether to believe a particular religion’s story, and then one chooses which of its tenets to follow.

            1. Ad Astra*

              Until you pass out. Then you’ll start breathing again involuntarily, as many mothers with fit-throwing children have learned.

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          Religious people don’t follow their faith because they think it’s a good idea, they follow it because they think it’s true. For me, not following the tenants of my religion has very real and serious consequences. Additionally, I don’t know about other faiths but my own, Catholicism, makes an explicit difference between accidentally breaking the rules or not being able to help it versus choosing to do so in full knowledge (guess which one is a slap on the wrist and which one renders your soul hell-worthy ’til confession). It’s a big deal for people with religion, not just a simple choice of “I don’t feel like it today”.

        2. Merry and Bright*

          I’m not sure that someone who sincerely believes their faith would see it as a “story” they have “chosen” to believe. To them, it just simply is.

          There are many shades and degrees of practice within most faiths, but even then it’s not like choosing to buy a pair of black shoes instead of brown. The ways people choose to practise their faith are personal and can be complicated or simple.

          Likewise, an atheist doesn’t choose exactly to be one. It is what has most sense and meaning for them.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            If I say “amen”, should I say there’s no pun intended? :)

            I am a practicing Jew, more observant than many but certainly not Orthodox. I choose not to keep kosher. It is not because I think those laws are bad or stupid or anything, they just don’t work for me. They do work for many, many others. When I meet someone who keeps kosher, I assume they choose to do so because that is what works for them. Their choice is not invalid simply because I made another one.

          2. nofelix*

            “Likewise, an atheist doesn’t choose exactly to be one. It is what has most sense and meaning for them.”

            Well… this is why atheists get really pedantic about saying it’s not a belief system, it’s the absence of one. They don’t necessarily have any reasons for being atheist; more importantly they don’t have convincing reasons for believing in something else.

    4. JC Denton*

      The problem with including everyone’s preference(s) in the name of “inclusiveness” — especially with the labyrinth of modern dietary requirements and requests — is that it eventually becomes burdensome for the company to offer the benefit or perk. Inevitably, the company decides it’s not worth the trouble and eliminates the service to save themselves the hassle. This naturally aggrieves the other employees and the initial requesters often find themselves becoming the scapegoats for management’s decision.

      I’ve seen this happen at other jobs I’ve been at. Instead of pleasing everyone, the companies opted to please no one and simply removed things. I don’t understand why people can’t simply compromise. Why not eat the vegetarian meal, opt out of the deduction and buy their own, or arrange for an alternative delivery option with the added expense covered by the employee … ?

      1. neverjaunty*

        Your comment illustrates the problem not with inclusiveness – no scare quotes – but with unimaginative companies, and those that really don’t want to offer benefits in the first place. “Well if we can’t please everyone we won’t please anyone” is nothing more than passive-aggressive behavior, with possibly a big scoop of wanting to punish employees whose requests don’t match the bosses’ preferences.

        It really is not that hard for a company to take employees’ religious beliefs into account. Eating halal food is not like “meh, can’t they serve watermelon this week?” And there is plenty of overlap between various dietary restrictions.

        1. JC Denton*

          Did you ever consider that halal food may be difficult or expensive to source where OP #1 is based? What about the staff that might find the halal method of slaughter inhumane? Unfortunately, as the number of options increase so does the price. Sometimes you might make one decision that will please one and offend another. Maybe the company is small and simply can’t afford it. Food programs can be very, very expensive. Making everyone happy is often impossible. Even if you accomplish 99%, you can wind up exhausted and annoyed very quickly. I think it sours a lot of people from pursuing small business ownership.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Did you ever consider that vegan or gluten-free options, which OP’s work offers and which nobody seems to be blinking at, can be difficult and expensive to source and provide? Or that other employees might find slaughter practices in the non-halal meat production industry inhumane? Why, I wonder, is halal a bridge too far?

            I find it very difficult to believe that people are genuinely rejecting small-business ownership because it’s too hard to provide catered lunches to all their employees easily.

        2. INTP*

          It sounds like they get all of these meals from one vendor, though – they aren’t cooking it all in-house. So they’re pretty much limited by what the available vendors offer. It’s not a matter of the company being unimaginative (unless you argue that they should start handling all the food in-house, which I don’t think is realistic). Food preferences come in all kinds of permutations and I just wouldn’t expect one source to be able to keep everyone happy. (And I say this as one of the people typically left out – gluten free and pescetarian/predominantly vegetarian. Even at places that cater to vegetarians and gluten free people, there is often little overlap between the two menus except for a side salad with no protein in it.)

          I do think that halal and kosher options should be standard options for these large commercial “please everyone” food vendors, but if they aren’t where the OP lives, then it might be impossible to accommodate them without, say, leaving out the vegans, or changing to a vendor with less healthy food and gross vegetarian options or spending a lot more. If there is an equivalent option with halal choices then the company should switch to them, I’m just not taking for granted that there is.

          1. Observer*

            Actually, the fact that they are outsourcing makes it easier – using multiple vendors can be a pain, but it can also have its own set of benefits. Also, larger vendors often have some flexibility. I’ve seen cases where the vendor doesn’t do the cooking themselves, but will subcontract for the smaller pieces. It pays for them to keep a good customer.

        3. Jeanne*

          I agree it’s unimaginative but we’ve all seen it happen. People complain about how a perk is provided and soon the perk disappears for everyone. Maybe they are kinder wherever OP lives.

        4. AnotherFed*

          In a perfect world, sure. But the more options offered, the more difficult to coordinate and the less likely one vendor can accommodate the request. Depending on demand in the area, vendors might not offer options like halal or kosher if there aren’t enough people ordering that type of food to make it profitable.

          I think it is reasonable to tell anyone requesting a specific diet that it has been checked into, and a vendor either could or could not be found who could provide that option, whether it’s for someone with an allergy or a religious reason. If no vendor could be found then obviously stop having them pay into the lunch program, try to at least order and stock some shelf-stable snacks that meet the requirement, and offer to reevaluate if new options come up (a new place opens, vendor expands selection, etc.).

          1. Kyrielle*

            And see, this seems totally reasonable to me. (As one of the people who probably could not be accommodated by the vendor.) It’s *completely reasonable* for the employee to ask. And if the request can reasonably be accommodated, then it should. If it can’t, then explain that, apologize, and ask if they want to go with an alternate choice the vendor does have (perhaps they want to eat vegan rather than opt out, if that would meet the requirements for them!) or opt out of the lunch program and get the little bit of extra money.

            1. neverjaunty*

              But this is a lunch program that the OP’s company is offering with options in order to seem inclusive. I’m sure Jane is used to bringing her own lunches; that’s really not the point. Providing and sharing food is a very primal social ritual. Leaving somebody out of it because “we can accommodate other people’s needs but not yours, so we won’t be sharing our food with you” on a regular basis sends a very emphatic message.

              1. Kelly L.*

                True. But I agree with Kyrielle that it’s reasonable for the employee to ask, that the OP should accommodate if possible, and that the employee shouldn’t pay if it’s not feasible for whatever reason.

              2. AnotherFed*

                I don’t think you’re leaving people out of the sharing food part. Personally, I have a very unusual food allergy, so I’d expect that in certain cuisines, I’m going to bring my own food or just plain skip. I’d much rather do that so that I’m not sick than risk something where the ingredient wasn’t included in my dish but the kitchen still had it – maybe even on the same cooktop, cutting board, etc. This is how my Jewish friends have described eating kosher – it’s just as much about the kitchen being kosher as what specific ingredients are in the food. From some of the comments up above, it sounds like halal is similar.

                In this company, the food is delivered, so there’s no reason they can’t eat together, regardless of what each person is eating.

              3. Kyrielle*

                And that’s why I say they should accommodate if they can. But if it’s literally impossible, or wildly infeasible, then I think it’s reasonable to say they’re really sorry but they can’t find an option to accommodate. But in that case a) they should be apologetic (because, as you say, it was meant to be inclusive), and b) they should not be taking money out of this employee’s paycheck, unless the employee decides they’d rather have the vegetarian option than deal with getting their own lunch.

                I agree, failing to provide the food will undermine the message, but *if* it weren’t possible, then at the very least they ought not be taking money if the employee is not getting to eat.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  I should add, since we were speaking of possible future requests, that I’m thinking partly of my own diet. Google “low FODMAP diet” and then bear in mind that I can’t have tree nuts either, and I’m so wildly lactose-intolerant that I can’t have any dairy (even hard cheeses or yogurt).

                  …just the low-FODMAP part would probably take out any standard catering option over the long run, and the rest makes it just that much harder. In *my* case, a response of “we can’t reasonably accomodate this, I’m so sorry” would be completely reasonable*. (The only reason my current company can is because we have a very accommodating catering service, and because I can handle a plain grilled or broiled chicken breast with rice or quinoa, which is fairly easy for them. If I had to eat it every day, however, it would not take long for me to be very tired of it.)

                  Eventually, OP’s company will probably have an employee whose diet, for one reason or another, forces them to the “I’m sorry, we wish we could accommodate that, but we just can’t.” stage.

                  * Onions and garlic are big problems because they’re used so often. But even worse is no wheat, coupled with no tree nuts (there goes almond flour!), coupled with no dairy. I could eat vegan, except for all the fruits/vegetables on the “be cautious here” list, but alas….

                  I’m still daring to hope this diet is temporary while we figure out other things that might help. Because argh.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  If my diet were restrictive to the point where I couldn’t eat from the vendor’s menu and had to bring my own, I’d be okay with that–it wouldn’t make me feel left out IF, as you say, the company DID try and were apologetic about it. I’d still be having lunch with my coworkers, and ideally, they wouldn’t care. But yeah, I expect that a good company would absolutely try to accommodate and then not charge me for it if they couldn’t.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  Sure, but there’s a difference between “we have been unable to make this work, let’s look at other options” and “ugh, not ANOTHER special request, just bring your lunch” (which I understand the OP is not doing, but a lot of people have suggested). And maybe think about whether this is the best option for an employee perk; I suspect a lot of people would rather keep the cash rather than have catered lunches.

                4. Looby*

                  Just wanted to reach out as a fellow FODMAP person! It is nigh impossible to be catered for at group catered events- after 2 years I’m able to tolerate small amounts of Higher FODMAP items but I’ve definitely understood that my requirements are not always manageable.
                  I once lived off bananas and oatcakes for 4 days at a conference!

                5. Kyrielle*

                  Oh yes, the oat bars. I have a supply of one brand I like in several flavors that I take everywhere just in case. Luckily I only have to go to a catered lunch on campus perhaps once a quarter, and they’re happy to give me a grilled chicken breast and rice/quinoa with it. (And the salad and sandwich bar, if they happen together, means I don’t need anything special – there’s proteins I can have and veggies I can have, and I can put them together. The baked potato bar is potentially usable too, but not as ideal.)

                  Restaurants are such a joy. Every time I get something that has theoretically been cooked how I ask, I hope the sheen is from olive oil or something of the sort, and not from the butter I asked them not to use….

                  It didn’t used to be this bad and we’re looking for what changed. If I could get back to where it was mostly the tree nuts and the dairy, that would be fairly awesome. :)

        5. xarcady*

          I think this is a bit rough on the companies that stop giving the perk.

          What really happens is not so much “unimaginative,” but more, “We aren’t in business to provide food, and the number of special requests we are getting is taking up too many hours to source, and those hours really should be spent doing business.” There just comes a point where providing too many special requests takes too much time and/or too much money or resources, and the company makes a business decision to end the perk.

          It would be nice if the company then provided an alternative perk, I’ll admit, so that employees don’t think they’ve been cheated out of something they used to get.

          Heck, I’ve stopped giving dinner parties. The last one I cooked for, I had to accommodate gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, no nuts, no peppers, no soy and paleo. It is possible to find a menu that will accommodate all of these, but it wasn’t easy, and I had to cook more food then I had planned, to have enough alternatives for everyone to have a complete meal. It became work, and stress, instead of fun. So I’ve stopped. I reached a tipping point. And I suspect that the companies that stopped certain perks reached a tipping point as well.

            1. Nother Name*

              I can’t stand bell peppers, so it is a thing for me – but they are something I can usually just not eat, even though their smell has ruined all the other food. On the other hand, I love chili peppers. (These are probably the ones that xarcady is referring to, as some people can’t handle the heat.)

              1. xarcady*

                A friend of mine is allergic to peppers. As in rush to the emergency room allergic if she touches one.

                She doesn’t eat at restaurants, ever. When I invite her over for a meal, I wash everything I use to prep the food before I start–even though everything is clean to begin with. I won’t even have a pepper in the house if she’s coming over.

                It’s not a common allergy, but it can be as dangerous as any other allergy.

            2. Rat in the Sugar*

              It can part of a low-acid diet. I myself am on a no-pepper restriction; it doesn’t make sense for me to take acid blockers in the morning and then eat a bunch of spicy, irritating foods when my reflux is so bad.

            3. I'm a Little Teapot*

              Some people have allergies to nightshade-family vegetables. (I have no problem with peppers, potatoes, or eggplant, but tomatoes upset my stomach enough that I won’t eat anything containing them; I’ve often had people assume I have a nightshade allergy because of this.)

              1. Colette*

                And I can eat tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant, but peppers literally make me sick and it takes me a couple of days to fully recover from eating a small amount.

          1. BananaPants*

            Agreed. I think that the employer should check with their vendor to see if it’s an option to provide a non-vegetarian halal lunch upon request, just like for any other dietary preference. If it’s reasonable to do, then do it.

            But if enough people expect having a special meal that fits with their dietary requirements or preferences, eventually the vendor won’t be able to accommodate it for a price that the company can afford and the “perk” will disappear.

          2. neverjaunty*

            This isn’t a dinner party. This is an employer contracting with a company that is in the business of providing different food orders to people, for money. I mean, if you or I were throwing a dinner party, and ten guests each showed up expecting a different type of sandwich, we’d (correctly) think they were pretty rude – but for even a tiny lunch cafe, filling ten completely different orders is SOP.

            And I do think “I think onions are yucky” is very different than “I have a sincere moral or religious obligation”.

            1. RMRIC0*

              Though it might matter if the dietary restriction requires some kind of certification (because the restriction extends beyond just ingredients used). Getting and maintaining those certifications, especially if it’s only for a small segment of your business, may not be worth it.

              But in that case a different company could probably be tracked down.

          3. Bostonian*

            This is why for most large groups I do a burrito/taco/fajita buffet of some sort. I have yet to have a friend or family member who can’t make at least some sort of meal out of flour and corn tortillas, rice, beans, chicken, veggies, cheese, salsas, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and guacamole when they’re all served separately.

      2. Nancy*

        These are not modern dietary needs. People have had food allergies since food has existed and both halal and kosher practices have been around since before the birth of Jesus. The only thing modern about this is that if you decide you’re going to provide a benefit, you need to actually provide it to everyone in a way that they CAN use it, not in just that way that you would personally use it.

        Being expected or forced to spend my measly meal time with co-workers, eating food that I can’t choose but that I pay for through a payroll deduction sounds like my idea of hell.

        Special diets are hard enough without people who insist they’re made up requirements or that they’re just being too picky. Many people with food allergies would love to not have to worry about how their food was prepared.

        If it’s too hard to include everyone who works there, it’s obviously not that important a perk.

        1. Wehaf*

          Halal is partially derived from other Abrahamic practices, it is true, but it is not correct to say that it has been around since before the birth of Jesus – Islamic dietary laws came about with the advent of Islam, which took place over 600 years after the birth of Jesus.

          1. Observer*

            Ok. So it doesn’t predate Christianity. But that doesn’t make it a “modern” practice even stretching that word to the breaking point.

      3. Ad Astra*

        It sounds like OP’s company entered into this meal situation with a decent understanding of the potential challenges posed by dietary restrictions, which is awesome. Many other companies might look into it and decide it’s not the right choice for them, and that’s fine too. Inclusiveness only becomes a burden if it’s something you didn’t anticipate, or something you don’t value.

      4. Anonymous Ninja*

        “Why not eat the vegetarian meal, opt out of the deduction and buy their own, or arrange for an alternative delivery option with the added expense covered by the employee … ?”

        Because the employer WANTS to accommodate.

    5. Observer*

      In other words, for inclusiveness to work, we need to not expect inclusiveness. In this context that means that in the name of inclusiveness, Jane needs to either eat a substandard lunch every day (because if you are not vegan then vegan food on an ongoing basis just doesn’t cut it for most people) while taking the chance that it still abrogates her principles, or abrogate an important principle each day.

      Orwell would be proud, I think.

  5. The IT Manager*

    I just wonder if Halal is a reasonable option. In the last 8 years, I have lived in two different large cities in the south, I haven’t ever noticed Halal advertised as an option. I wasn’t looking, but is it an option at all at the company’s current lunch costs? I don’t know; maybe if the LW is in NYC or another area with a large Muslims population but maybe not.

    Availability is an issue, but I also think as a thought experiment imagine what you’d do if one of your employees had an allergy and wanted something that was guaranteed without nuts. Would you accommodate that request? If you would, you should do the same for this person.

    1. ginger ale for all*

      I was in D.C. on a business trip and my vegan co-workers found an app that gave us a great list of vegan choices for restaurants. I would think that surely there is a similar app for halal.

    2. neverjaunty*

      They’re already happily making room for people who refuse to eat animal products. I don’t get why halal is suddenly out of the realm of reasonableness.

      1. INTP*

        My impression was that the vendor they use offers various special diet options including gluten free and vegan, but they don’t offer halal. So to accommodate OP, it’s a matter of special ordering one meal from a separate restaurant every day (while there’s probably some low-maintenance ongoing order situation with the main vendor) or changing the food vendor that everyone loves to a different one for one employee. In other words, it’s not the OP’s opinion of whether vegetarianism or halal eating is more reasonable, it’s just what’s available from the vendor that they chose before knowing anyone would need the halal food.

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          The OP stated in a follow-up posting that their vendor did list halal as an option when they signed their contract. So, they can probably hold them to the contract and get halal meals. But the vendor could turn around and claim that the vegan option is also meets the halal requirement, thus meeting the contractual obligations.

          1. INTP*

            Yeah, if the vegan or vegetarian options are indeed consistently halal, then I don’t know that that’s terribly unfair. To me that’s a preference issue, not a restriction issue. It’s common for vegetarians to be served vegan food, which is annoying when it isn’t prepared well (most chefs can make a few vegetarian dishes reasonably tasty, but it takes more skill to cook vegan well and it’s often devoid of flavor or protein in plated meal situations), but that’s how it goes. It’s easier to make an argument that Jane is entitled to food that she *can* eat than the exact food that she wants to eat. (If halal omni food is a reasonably convenient option I do think it would be ideal to offer it, just not worth switching the entire company’s vendor or something like that.)

            1. Nother Name*

              “most chefs can make a few vegetarian dishes reasonably tasty, but it takes more skill to cook vegan well and it’s often devoid of flavor or protein in plated meal situations”

              I agree. People understand how to leave out meat but not how to leave out dairy… And poorly cooked tofu is a bane to the world. (I didn’t even try to cook it myself until I had been a vegetarian for several years. Like fish, which I haven’t eaten in years, it’s very easy to ruin very quickly.)

          1. Non*

            Not the OP’s post at all, that sounded like they were making a reasonable attempt to make accommodations. I was replying directly to your “I don’t get why halal is suddenly out of the realm of reasonableness.” comment. The objections to the OP making this attempt, the idea that accommodating halal is unreasonable because they already provide options for vegetarians… that’s what I’m getting the read from

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Racism is everywhere in our society. If that sounds like a ridiculous statement to you, I’d strongly encourage you to do some reading on unconscious bias and privilege.

      2. Nervous Accountant*

        Because = halal = Muslims, and plenty of people hate Muslims so will associate anything hateful or distasteful or unpleasant with Islam/Muslims.

        1. LabTech*

          I’m seeing a lot of this. I find it downright offensive to see people saying Halal practices are unethical and inhumane. Islam is a code of ethics – like any religion! It would be like me criticizing Christians (and by extension Christianity) as being unethical for slaughtering pigs.

          I’m normally not the type to criticize other people’s dietary choices, but do those who refuse all Halal products and not other meats scrutinize the rest of their meat products to that extent? Because I actually do care about the treatment of animals, and am baffled as to how so-called “modern” agricultural practices are being referred to as humane, even in relative terms (not to mention loaded nature of the word “modern” when discussing non-Western cultures).

    3. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      I imagine it’s more common than some people think. I live in a small town in rural Eastern Ontario, and there is halal meat and halal food available in the grocery store. But I wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t been poking around looking really closely, though. It’s definitely not restricted to major cities.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      The things people need to have are almost always available somewhere! I went to China with a couple who kept strict kosher– they got three meals a day from a local Chabad center. There are more mosques, even in the south, than you’d ever realize, and a quick call to them might help find some halal options. I live in the south and don’t see halal advertised outright, but there are several Asian markets and Pakistani restaurants around here, so I’m confident I’d be able to find a way to accommodate this co-worker. Just gotta get creative.

      1. themmases*

        Yes. While I’m sure there are some places small and non-diverse enough to truly have no options, there is more out there than many people think.

        When a food is culturally or religiously specific and you don’t belong to that group, there is a good chance you’re just not seeing it because it isn’t served where you go or eaten by people you socialize with. Doesn’t mean it’s not there. Unless they really live in the middle of nowhere, who can honestly say that they know every single restaurant and market in their area?

        People are really good at making or getting what they need– it’s how we got all the great urban neighborhoods identified with a particular nationality, and why even small towns can often sustain a really good Lebanese restaurant or something. If the OP’s coworker lives and works in the area while keeping halal, clearly she and her family are getting their food from somewhere.

        1. LaurenR*

          Ooooooh. There’s two really good options. Ask Jane where she tends to go out to eat. Maybe they have halal options and other options as well. It might bring some variety into the lunch offerings. If Jane says that she tends to not go out to eat, call up one of the local mosques and see if they have any suggestions for places that serve halal food en masse. I would bet that they have gatherings there that are catered occasionally (weddings, etc.)

    5. Rita*

      I live in suburban New England, closer to the rural areas than the urban ones. I think there are some halal options at grocery stores here, but I don’t think there is a single restaurant in this area that has halal meat offerings.

      1. BananaPants*

        Seconded. Kosher poultry and meat has limited availability in supermarkets and there is one small halal market a few towns away. I’ve never seen halal meat in Stop & Shop or Price Chopper. Looking at the directory for the local kashrut commission, the only kosher restaurants are several university dining halls and a frozen yogurt shop. There are two kosher caterers and several supermarkets which carry kosher foods. A directory of halal establishments indicates that a gas station in our town serves halal fried chicken, a pizza place in the next town over serves halal poultry products on request, that there’s a halal restaurant maybe 25 minutes away, and that there’s a halal market a few towns over. So there are options, but it’s not exactly widespread.

    6. Not me*

      It probably depends on where you live in the south, but there are halal options around here (RTP area). There’s actually a website that lists where you can find halal food in most cities.

    7. Ad Astra*

      I wondered myself about the feasibility of this option in some communities, but it sounds like the OP’s current caterer can provide halal options in a higher-tiered catering plan.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        The other thing that just occurred to me (hello, Captain Obvious) is that Jane LIVES there– presumably she’s close enough to commute, right? And she eats halal meat, so it’s safe to assume to she cooks it at home… and she gets her meat from somewhere. So the suggestion that the OP works in a community without any options at all simply doesn’t hold water. (And, of course, the OP told us the caterer has a chicken option.)

    8. RMRIC0*

      I think if it’s something that you’re unaware of (or if you don’t have to go looking for it) then this sort of thing is easy to miss. Like one of the packaging symbols for Kosher certification is just a (U), it’s barely noticeable if you’re not lokoign for it (or if you’re not really bored when staring at a cereal box).

  6. jmkenrick*

    For #2, I suppose you could argue (hypothetically) that you would be #15 in an office full of fantastic, high-achievers, who maybe had more experience than you.

    But it’s kind of a random question. I wonder what the interviewer is looking for.

    1. Zscore*

      Narcissism… “I” before “we” no matter what the cost. Narcissists, who tend to interview very well, make for very expensive employees.

    2. neverjaunty*

      It’s a trick question. If you pick #1, then you’re committed to excellence OR you’re not a team player. If you pick #15, you value cooperation and being a team player OR you’re content to be mediocre as long as you can please others. It’s a signal that your interviewer is a jerk and/or has no idea what they’re doing.

      1. Zscore*

        If you pick #1, you are committed to excellence AND not a team player. If you pick #2, you value teamwork even at a personal cost (willingly being not the best). It also says that you will get along with people who are better than you, which is how we grow and learn. Nothing about choice #2 says you are bad at your job, only that 14 others are better.

        This is a leadership question. Leaders must be prepared to eat last for the good of the team. If you are not getting along with anyone on the team, you are by default not excellent, so #1 is actually kind of a bogus choice. If you can get along with people who are achieving more than you, this speaks well of you. You do not allow your competitiveness to interfere with work relationships.

        I am actually kind of liking this question the more I think about it.

        1. Awkward Highachiever*

          This whole thread makes me want to cry. I am the top performer on my team and I do not get along with my immediate teammates who share my role. It’s not because I’m a narcissist or not a team player, it’s because our personalities are fundamentally incompatible and neither I nor my manager realized this until I was on the team. In fact I get along with the other teams I support/work closely with very well, it’s just my immediate team members who share my role that I don’t get along with.

          I think it’s a stretch to assume that a top performer who isn’t getting along with their team is automatically at fault. Maybe they are working with people who lack confidence and aren’t comfortable being outshone by a woman/muslim/minority/young person. Who knows? Maybe the top performer is autistic and socially awkward but tries their best to forge good working relationships. Or maybe they are a brilliant jerk. This question certainly won’t tell you unless the person answering gives more details like Alison did.

          In my case, I’m a top performer, but I’m also a liberal atheist working with a bunch of much older conservative Catholics. I’ve come to the rescue of LGBT and other minorities in the office a couple of times, and it hasn’t made me popular. Does that make me a bad team mate? I really don’t think so.

          1. Zscore*

            Oh dear! This is clearly not about you! The question presumed that the subject got along with NONE of his or her coworkers, and that is not true of you. An employee who doesn’t get along with ANY of his or her coworkers is a serious problem for an organization.

            1. Awkward Highachiever*

              That depends on your definition of coworkers though. I know people who consider the people I support to be my “internal customers” and when they say coworkers they mean my immediate team/peers excluding management. So in that case you could say I do not get along with any of my coworkers, and that is also how I interpreted the question. It’s just another example of why this is a bad question.

            1. Awkward Highachiever*

              Yeah my BF is a liberal Catholic who would have the same issues I am. I was just grossly generalizing some of the various issues that arise with my coworkers. It is not a statement on religion or lack thereof.

              1. Nother Name*

                I live in an area different from where I was raised. I’m pretty sure the Catholics around here didn’t have the same catechism I did… They seem to have missed the Solidarity movement…

          2. Boop*

            But that doesn’t mean your current dynamic was your choice. It is asking if you could choose to have a team that you did get along with, but you would no longer be #1, would you choose that or keep your current dynamic.

        2. never jaunty*

          But the whole point is that the question can be interpreted either way. To you, #2 is the “right” answer because it shows leadership. To somebody else, #1 is the “right” answer and shows leadership because you aren’t willing to be mediocre or fall behind just to be liked, and being a leader means leading – not being buddies.

          In other words, it’s a trick question. You only get it “right” if you guess how the interviewer analyzes it.

            1. Awkward Highachiever*

              I don’t know. This question reminds me A LOT of my previous team. One of their sticking points was the answer to “We all go to starbucks to get coffee. What do you order?”

              In their mind they were weeding out high maintenance people by dinging those who answered anything complex. However they also went on for days about the guy who answered “I don’t like coffee so I guess I would order a tea.” They would not shut up about how stuffy and uptight he must be. Based on not liking coffee!

              What I get from this whole thing is I would not want to work for someone who asks these sorts of questions. So I suppose it is useful for self-selecting out.

      2. Dr J*

        Well, but you’re not just filling in A or B on a scantron (I would hope). A good interviewer isn’t just reading the tea leaves of which answer you choose, she’s listening to the way you talk about it, the factors you weigh up in making a choice, etc. I mean, yes, a bad interviewer probably would focus on her predetermined interpretation of the answers and judge you accordingly, but if I were answering the question I would hope the person on the other side of the table would be getting some insight into how I view performance and teamwork and all that.

    3. Ad Astra*

      That’s kind of what I was thinking. I would be fine with being #15 in a department full of stars — like at Amazon, where they’re constantly laying off the lowest-rated employees, to the point that even high performers are losing their jobs. Of course, a highly competitive company like Amazon isn’t going to want someone who’s comfortable being #15, not matter how elite the talent is.

      I think Alison’s answers are the best way to go at your typical company, where #15 is likely not a high performer.

    4. MashaKasha*

      If it were a real-life choice, I’d choose #2 for the exact same reasons.

      In a job interview setting though, I’d be wracking my brain looking for the “expected” answer. Both options sound like something an interviewer can pick on and use against you, if they wanted to. Eh, what the hell, I’d probably still say “#2” and explain my reasoning.

    5. Snarky McSnark*

      The background of the company is important here as well. If the team is 100 people, I have no issues being only 15th best. But if the team is 15-30, that would be a bigger issue.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      Honestly, if I got this question in an interview, I would say it’d never happen. I’d never not get along with my colleagues, and I’d never be the #15 performer. If they wouldn’t accept that answer, I’d say it was a pleasure, but I don’t think this’d be a good fit, and I’d leave the interview.

      I would never want to work at a place that would ask that question and, more importantly, insist there are only two answers. If the answer to that question is so important, that means the workplace itself is dysfunctional—with only high-performing narcissists and under-performing team players.

      1. Snarky McSnark*

        Why do you think you’d never be the #15 performer? That is a fairly cocky statement that would be hard to back up. Are you saying you’d rather work with an underperforming team that doesn’t match/beat your skills vs. having the opportunity to work with those better than you and giving yourself a challenge/learning opportunities? In hockey, while it’s nice to sometimes not play against the better players in the league, I would prefer to always play against those who are better than me as that is the best way for me to learn and improve myself. If I played against those in a skill level below me I have a feeling that I would stop feeling challenged and lose my edge.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          It’s not cocky. It’s just a matter of wanting to be able to contribute. If I’m not one of the best, I’m in the wrong field.

          Are you saying you’d rather work with an underperforming team that doesn’t match/beat your skills vs. having the opportunity to work with those better than you and giving yourself a challenge/learning opportunities?

          No, I’m saying that I’d rather work with peers who have different strengths and weaknesses but all work at a high level and push and sharpen each other.

          1. Snarky McSnark*

            In my opinion, by taking that attitude, you are never willing to challenge yourself. If you move from working in department Y in a company to department X, I would assume that you would start out in the bottom of that department until you learn about the nuances about the new job. I would never expect to be #1 immediately after joining another department/company, if so there would be nothing for me to learn and grow from.

            To your second point, if you work in a very high performance company with 45 people in your field in that company, they may have hired the best performers from schools/other companies who work at a high level and push/sharpen each other and thus push you to be the 15th best performer. Are you saying that would be a job you would quit because you weren’t the best?

            Also, you can never guarantee that you will get along with everyone, you don’t control the actions/feelings of another person. A better way to answer that would be that you try your best to have a good working relationship with everyone.

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              I doubt you would find a single co-worker of mine (past or present) who would describe me as “cocky.”

      2. Awkward Highachiever*

        I really like your last point. In the U.S. I’ve felt that there is a strong growth in anti-intellectualism in the work place. From the fact that people see 4.0s as a bad thing (it means they never challenged themselves!) to this growing idea that smart and accomplished = brilliant jerk, and the savvy charismatic failure = saint.

          1. Awkward Highachiever*

            I couldn’t agree more.

            However assuming someone with a 4.0 (or near 4.0) never challenged themselves and thus isn’t worthy of an interview absolutely is a form of anti-intellectualism. It systematically excludes people with a high IQ who also worked hard enough in college to earn A’s from the applicant pool.

      3. Zscore*

        It’s one of probably 20 questions you are going to get in the interview, and it is designed to give the interviewer insight into how you think. They are not saying that this is how they operate – this isn’t an actual choice they are asking you to make if you work for them. They are giving you a hypothetical to see how well you can sort out conflicting concepts. Besides the points already discussed in this thread, an either-or question like this allows an interviewer to see how you deal with a situation where there is not an ideal answer. This is something people face all the time at work.

        So if you are faced with two choices and you don’t like either of them, how do you react? Would you really walk out, or would you reason your way through to find a way to live with one of the two choices? How you explain your reasoning is more important here than the choice you make.

  7. Looby*

    Just to throw a spanner in the works- if you do find halal suppliers please inform the staff the meat options are now halal as some people are opposed to halal slaughter practices and actively avoid halal meat.
    Also based on my dietary requirements this group lunch buying is my idea of a nightmare not everyone will be happily categorized into vegetarian/ gluten free or omnivore categories, Jane is not an outlier.

    1. Jeanne*

      I have to wonder if this will bring others out in the open. Mary has been settling for the vegan lunch for lack of options but has other needs. Mike says he’s a marathoner and needs a different diet.

      1. jmkenrick*

        Accommodating for people’s religious practices is different than accommodating for someone’s athletic diet.

        1. Jeanne*

          Also, we have no indication that they offer gluten-free as a religious accomodation. Or even that the vegetarians are religious.

    2. nofelix*

      Yeah I’ve seen a horrible situation before where an employer has happily announced “All our meals are now halal, look how inclusive we are!” to the shock of numerous employees who were happily eating non-halal meat and don’t want to be part of the practice.

    3. neverjaunty*

      I think every vegetarian I know has been through the situation where the vegetarian option is so delicious, all the meat-eaters snarf it up and then the actual vegetarians have nothing to eat!

      I admit, though, I’m a little baffled at the idea of being opposed to eating halal meat unless one is also opposed to eating meat that is not certified as humanely raised and slaughtered: I’m bothered if the chicken had its throat cut in halal slaughter, but if it was raised in a factory farm where it was kept jammed in a cramped cage its in entire life, debeaked and then decapitated, awesome, pass the wings?

      1. Looby*

        Why do you think someone opposed to halal wouldn’t be opposed to inhumane rearing practices?
        Where I live it is possible to source meat (at supermarkets, not only independent butchers) that has been certified humanely raised and slaughtered, I can also often identify what restaurants/ caterers use this meat, at other places I opt for vegetarian choices.

        1. Observer*

          Sure. And if someone is only going to eat that kind of meat, then I respect that. But, you can bet that the standard stuff being served by most caterers is most definitely NOT certified as such. Thus, the ONLY thing these folks have a problem with is the fact of Halal slaughter.

          I think that teapot is on the money.

        2. neverjaunty*

          I assume the vegetarians and vegans would be; but OP didn’t suggest that the meat option lunches were carefully sourced using only meat from farms certified to use best human practices in rearing and slaughtering the animals (as you know if you make a point of purchasing humanely-raised meat, it’s freaking expensive).

  8. Mando Diao*

    I don’t want to clog up the comments section here, but re: OP1, you mention that the company is a start-up. I don’t doubt that the caterer provides nutritious food, but do they also provide nutrition information? Calorie, fat, carb, and sodium content? I’m going by the demographics of a typical start-up (catering to young-ish men), and it would be wise to assume that, if your company intends to expand, you should start anticipating the dietary needs of women and people of all ages. I personally would not want to make a daily habit of eating a lunch prepared by someone else who hadn’t provided me with nutrition info. Assuring me that it’s healthy isn’t sufficient.

    I’ve only ever worked at companies with far less than 50 people, and there have always been a few people doing Weight Watchers or Isogenix. At the risk of seeming to make assumptions, I’m going to put it out there that men need to listen when women state that (for various physical and socialized reasons too lengthy and complicated to delve into) they don’t want to eat from platters that were ordered with the male appetite in mind. The fact that there are no dieters or calorie-counters in the office makes me think that there aren’t many women working there. I don’t love diet talk in the office, but it strikes me as really weird that absolutely no one in this office is on a different eating plan. Anecdotally, you can’t get ten women in an office together before one of them starts talking about cutting carbs after the holidays. Even without Jane, OP1 would have to start offering more options eventually anyway, or at least make it easier to opt out of the program. In addition to all of the things I’ve mentioned here, I also wouldn’t like having my employer deduct from my paycheck for food expenses. I just wouldn’t be comfortable with it.

    I’m also confused by how you “invested a lot of time and energy” into picking out a lunch caterer. That’s guilt-trip language, and I’m sorry, but I doubt that googling restaurants and making a few calls was really such an intense project. It’s a really lousy defense for dragging your heels when someone asks to not have a deduction taken out of her paycheck for food that she isn’t allowed to eat.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think the OP is balking at letting the employee opt out of the lunch program; she suggests that as an option, in fact, but she’s wondering if they instead should offer to make the lunch options more inclusive.

      Re: diets, I don’t think we can assume that there aren’t many women there. Most of the offices I’ve worked in haven’t been heavy on diet talk or dieting, and I’ve worked in plenty of women-heavy offices; I think we should be careful about generalizing there.

      I don’t think the employer needs to offer nutrition information if it’s not easily available from the restaurant that’s catering (which it often won’t be), unless people are asking for it and as far as we know, they’re not. I don’t think the OP needs to add yet another burden to a program that as far as we know is working fine, aside from needing to figure out halal options.

      1. Mando Diao*

        I don’t think I’m being out of line in suggesting that the issues that frequently plague start-ups (regarding gender, age, and race) may be a factor in HR’s assumption that everyone would always eat the same thing. Nor do I think it’s unreasonable to suggest that a woman, and a minority at that, maybe shouldn’t be treated like an oddity for her food choices, especially in an office that has a good chance of skewing male.

        1. Mookie*

          To echo Elizabeth the Ginger below, approaching this letter as though women are inordinately finicky about their diets (everyone has a diet–everyone) is not helpful, not accurate, and mired in unimaginative and out-dated fantasy about female homosociality (this business about Ladies Who Do Not Lunch On Carbs), which is particularly amusing because in your comments above you’re urging men to be more mindful of women’s actual experiences versus assumptions unsupported by reality.

          Also, not all start-ups are Tech-y Bro Disruptors or skew white. Again, neither helpful nor useful.

      2. Ad Astra*

        I agree with all this, though the point about ordering food with male appetites (and calorie needs) in mind is interesting. I think I’d probably want some nutrition information if my company were providing my lunch every day, but I’d also be ok going with My Fitness Pal’s estimates or even bringing in a kitchen scale if it’s that important.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I’m kind of put off by your assumption that women diet and men don’t. High-fat and high-sodium foods aren’t healthy for most people if either gender. Also, some of the most body-talk-y people I’ve known have been men, and I’ve known loads of women who do not count calories. It seems like you are making several big leaps based on little information and gender stereotypes.

      1. katamia*

        +1. Alternatively, based on the fact that the vast majority of the people I know who are vegans, vegetarians, or gluten-free are women, I could have assumed that OP’s office is made up of mostly women. There’s no real way to tell from the letter.

        1. Nother Name*

          Funny, while women tend to outnumber men in the vegetarian community, men seem more likely to go vegan. (Not sure why this is.)

      2. I'm a Little Teapot*

        +lots. I used to have a male coworker who talked at great length about his gluten-free, corn-free, lots-of-other-stuff diet every day. And I’m a woman who has never been “on a diet”, ever (though I have a couple of restrictions) and is annoyed by diet talk.

      3. Kelly L.*

        Ugh, I used to work with a guy who went on a carb crusade. He’d walk by people’s desks and tell them their lunches had too many carbs. Leave me alone, mister, I’m not on your diet.

        1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

          I used to work with a guy who was *really* into cross fit and was waaaaaay into Paleo.

          I’m a marathoner…he would come by and tell me all the things wrong with my delicious, delicious carbs.

      4. MashaKasha*

        + a lot. I’ve also never been on a diet of any kind. I’ve done the calorie-counting once, and it was something a guy showed me how to do. It is absolutely not a woman thing. I also cannot relate to the saying that “you can’t get ten women in an office together before one of them starts talking about cutting carbs after the holidays.” Never observed it, never been a part of it. Hope I never will, heh heh.

        I agree that, at least in my experience, your average “office-provided lunch” is either something heavy or deep-fried, or a pizza, or sandwiches with lots of white bread, or, at the very least, salads with lots of oily croutons, cheese, and heavy toppings. That’s not “a man’s palate” though – most men I know eat healthier than that – that’s just your traditional office fare. If my workplace suddenly started providing “free lunches” of that nature at a low cost to me, I’d opt out, as probably would a lot of my male colleagues.

        However, based on the info that OP1 has already given regarding their lunch options, it sounds to me that they are making an effort to provide healthy food. So I wouldn’t assume that OP1’s place does not cater to those who want to eat healthy and/or watch their food intake. Looks to me like they already do.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Want to add, I’m cracking up at the idea that women don’t want to eat male food. As a woman who’s lived in an all-male household since, let’s see, 1991, I find the idea that there’s boy food and girl food, and little, if any, overlap between the two, hilarious and kind of cute.

    3. Ruth (UK)*

      “Anecdotally, you can’t get ten women in an office together before one of them starts talking about cutting carbs after the holidays.”

      Incicentally, I work in an office with 9 women (and I am a woman) and one man. The man is dieting, and a woman from another department is too and occasionally discusses dieting with him. Another woman I work with has cut caffeine but that’s an instruction from her doctor. Meanwhile, my drawer has enough chocolate and snacks in it that it gets called ‘the tuck shop’. I’ve never “cut carbs” (but I have carb-loaded before some competitions).

      Anyway, in general reply to OP1, I don’t think Halal would be too difficult to provide and that being so, you should do so if you can. Even the small city I live in has many halal shops and cafes, and even a completely Halal subway.

      Also, it may seem at the moment like you are providing this for just one employee but actually, you’re probably not. Islam is a pretty huge religion and it’s highly likely that at some point you’ll end up with another / more employees who want or require Halal food for lunch. (It’s also possible that one of your current ‘vegetarians’ may be Halal but not forward enough to have brought it to your attention.)

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        ps. On re-reading my post, I would like to clarify why I put “vegetarians” in quote marks.

        It is not any comment on vegetarianism but rather a comment that one/some may not actually be a vegetarian, but be picking the vegetarian option due to other dietary requirements not met by the meat option. I realised after posting it might imply something I don’t intend if I don’t clarify.

        1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

          I’m one of those non-vegetarians who often picks the vegetarian option!

          I’m allergic to everything that lives in the sea and I don’t like processed meats (so no pepperoni on my pizza).

    4. Chocolate lover*

      “Anecdotally” all my offices have been more than ten women, with very few men, and we do not discuss cutting carbs. Gluten and other allergies and general nutrition, yes. But even those are infrequent.

      The only person to discuss cutting carbs was my male boss before he got married this summer.

      1. Observer*

        I’ve had a similar experience. Almost all female office. I remember ONE discussion of cutting carbs a number of years ago, in the context of someone’s health problems and another person mentioning that she had read something about being addicted to carbs. It’s so many years ago, I don’t remember the details.

    5. Kyrielle*

      While I would have issues with this situation because of my dietary restrictions, a diet isn’t one of those. I can happily eat from anything ordered for whoever (I don’t consider gender in meals), and I know lots of guys who are very thoughtful about their calories and all. Honestly, if it’s a buffet spread I can manage, and if it’s a meal provided I am thrilled to save some for another meal if it’s too much.

      Nutrition info would still be awesome for those using calorie trackers, though. (IMX men at least as often as women….)

  9. OP#4*

    OP#4 here. Thanks so much for answering my question. The good news is that the day after I emailed you, I actually heard back from two of the places I applied to – one of them I’m having trouble connecting with (we’re playing some kind of weird phone tag complicated by the hours I’m working right now at my current job, and I think the fact that our lunch schedules synch up) but the other set up an interview! For later this week. Although I also heard back from a third place with a definite ‘no thanks’, with no way of knowing if it was because of the resume snafu.

    I have been focusing on moving forward. Part of the problem is that I did most of my applying through Monster, which, it turns out, won’t let you re-apply or make any changes to an application you’ve submitted. I’m planning to go back over the applications I’ve submitted and if there’s a contact email provided, forward the correct version of my resume and cover letter there with a note. Otherwise I’m focusing on not messing up on future opportunities, and on the interview coming up. No use crying over spilled milk.

    1. Sherm*

      Good luck! I also sent out the wrong version of my resume…and I got the job. I wouldn’t bring up the snafu at your interview. There’s a good chance they didn’t even notice.

    2. Daisy*

      I think having applied through Monster might be a point in your favour- on those job sites It seems more common to have one generic CV, and lots of people have old ones up. It’s not ideal obviously , but maybe less odd than other circumstances. Good luck! I know these kind of mistakes feel sucky.

    3. Jeanne*

      I would consider removing the objective. I think it’s become sort of passe and you really have one objective: to get a job. Let the resume stand and tailor your cover letter.

      1. Question Mark*

        Agree on removing the objective from your resume going forward. It’s outdated. Use the space to focus on your accomplishments.

        1. OP#4*

          I mentioned this further down, but thank you all too. I didn’t know the objective line wasn’t a standard part of the resume any more.

    4. Chalupa Batman*

      Glad to hear this! If it helps, I once arrived at an interview and saw my woefully inadequate old resume in the interviewer’s hand. It wasn’t for a completely different field like you described, but I definitely considered it to be amateurish and weak compared to the one I thought I’d sent. I got the job, so obviously it was good enough that time!

    5. Elizabeth West*

      OP don’t feel bad; I did that once, and then sent the corrected version, and realized after the posting closed that I had resent the incorrect version. And it was a job I really wanted, where they explicitly stated that if your resume didn’t have the information I left off, they would pitch it.


  10. AcademiaNut*

    I can see the logistical difficulties for #1.

    The first thing to check is if Jane can eat the vegetarian or vegan option – I have Muslim and Jewish friends who eat vegetarian when they’re not at a halal/kosher restaurant. If she can eat it, then that’s fine, the same way someone who is not vegetarian but has a milk allergy would eat the vegan option.

    If she doesn’t, then the meal will need to be special ordered from a halal restaurant that provides delivery. If this isn’t available, then it’s reasonable to ask Jane to bring her own meal. This would be a similar situation to someone with a deadly allergy who simply won’t eat catered food, no matter where from, for safety. She should then be reimbursed her food charges.

    If this is possible, then I’d go for it. But – the employer will now have to honour similar requests from other people, if they can’t eat the food that is currently being ordered. This would include things like soy allergies, Jain or Buddhist vegetarian (which are incompatible with regular veganism), nut allergies, etc.

    If it gets to the point where the current system becomes unworkable, due to too many incompatible special requests, then they ditch the current lunch arrangement, either completely or for something different (like vouchers).

  11. MK*

    #1, OP, have you consulted your caterer about this? For a client that orders lunch for 50 on a daily basis, they may well be prepared to provide you with a halal option, even if they have to set up a subcontractor arrangement.

    1. Op1*

      Hello MR, I did, but we will contact them again. It seems like they promised the halal option at the start and said no when I called them. We will see, we have another call with them today.

      1. Observer*

        You know the fact that they promised and are now saying no really bothers me. I could understand if they couldn’t accommodate – Kosher might also be a problem for them, and I get that, too. But, I don;t care WHAT the option is. do NOT promise me something to get the contract, and then say that you can’t do it. It’s the kind of thing that would get me thinking about finding another vendor.

        Unless they have a VERY good reason for reneging, you need to push them.

        1. catsAreCool*

          “I don;t care WHAT the option is. do NOT promise me something to get the contract, and then say that you can’t do it.” This!!!

  12. Some sort of management consultant*

    If OP1 can provide a vegan option, they can provide a halal option. One is not more complicated than the other.

    And people who oppose halal slaughter (but not any other slaughter) are hypocrites, plain and simple.

    1. INTP*

      I don’t think that they’re cooking the food in-house, so the complicatedness of the cooking is not really relevant to what they can offer – it’s what the vendors offer. I do think that commercial caterers should include halal and kosher as standard options, but it seems that this one doesn’t. If others in the OP’s area don’t tend to offer halal either, then it could very well be more complicated for them to obtain halal lunch than vegan lunch.

  13. Merry and Bright*

    #4 I have had 2-3 companies with more than one version of my CV! Held onto OldCV from application some years ago. Or CV tailored for more than one job – which has led to their HR asking me which one is the “right” one. I guess it’s just part of the crazy world if the jobsearch…

    1. JL*

      I went to a job interview once, having printed a copy of my CV to remind myself of what I’d told them about myself… and then forgot I had changed it between the moment I’d sent it and the interview. They asked me to go through my CV and highlight a few experiences during the talk, and only halfway through did I realise we were talking about documents different enough that maybe I made little sense… (I’d switched around some sections, shrunk some paragraph and then expanded on others…)

      I got the job though, so in the end, it clearly didn’t matter!

      1. Scott*

        Its one of the reasons when I’m job searching I create a folder for each application with the specific resume I used, the cover letter, and any other relevant documents I may or may not have uploaded. Especially if you’re claiming EI, its useful for proving that you’ve been actively looking for work (not sure if that’s a thing outside of Canada). Then when the interview comes around, you can re-print the exact CV you used without worrying.

    2. Merry and Bright*

      Want to clarify I’m talking about companies where I’ve applied more than once and they have stored several versions of my CV. It certainly gets complicated.

  14. Sarahnova*

    I’m really pleased that Alison came back with “find a way to supply halal” as the answer to #1. (No slight on you intended, Alison; I’m sure we’ve all experienced environments where “Jane” would come under pressure to “just eat XXXX and don’t make a fuss”.) Islam isn’t exactly an obscure religion; I’m sure OP’s office will need to supply halal food to other staff and perhaps clients in the future. And even as a former vegan who very much appreciates vegan food being available, I’m aware that vegans constitute approximately 0.1% of the population; you don’t really have a leg to stand on if you accommodate one but not the other.

    OP#1, hope you’ll be able to get some halal options in the lunch roster soon.

  15. Anon1234*

    Halal is really not all that difficult. She has been offered several halal choices; she is only saying no because she wants meat. If this were anything other than a religious preference, we’d be telling her to deal with it for one meal. Meat is not a right.

    1. Sarahnova*

      Others have pointed out above (I’m not at all knowledgeable on the specifics myself) that the fact that an option is vegetarian does not necessarily make it halal.

      It also IS in fact a religious preference/practice, which is specifically protected by law in most Western countries. I’m not sure what good it does to speculate on what would be true if it were not.

      1. nofelix*

        The vast majority of vegetarian food is halal. Outside of meat, the only haram foods are those with intoxicating effects. Arguably this includes things like a white wine sauce or white wine vinegar. Whether it’s haram depends on the interpretation. It’d probably be simple to to exclude alcohol from the vegetarian option and then it would be 100% halal. I’d imagine caterers aren’t regularly using alcohol anyway since it’s relatively expensive.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Anon1234, are you a vegetarian? If not, would you want to eat vegetarian every single lunch, indefinitely, as long as you remained at your current job? It’s not one meal, it’s every day.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. We recently visited some vegan relatives in England. I am happy to have vegan food for a couple of days (well not happy, but I am a grownup and can act happy) but it would kill me to have to eat this stuff every day for lunch forever and ever amen. I have a digestive system not all that pleased with vegetarian food to excess and no way I am eating it day in and day out.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      As an often outspoken atheist, I just want to assure the other commenters that we’re not all like Anon1234. While I have little patience for those who would dictate my behavior based on their religious beliefs, I also would not belittle the strength of a person’s religious preferences any more than I’d belittle someone’s sexual preference as “just a preference”. As long as Jane doesn’t try to dictate what others eat, I don’t understand why anyone would belittle her choices.

      And no, meat is not a right, neither is a subsidized lunch provided by your employer. But if an employer wants to provide a benefit or service to their employees, I fail to see why it would offend anyone if the employer finds options that satisfy everyone instead of only some.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This. The OP is open to providing the meal and has commented several times that she’s looking into it. Why do so many people want to react more harshly to this than the person actually involved? Hmm…

        1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

          Exactly. The OP is trying to actively find a solution, which is amazing.

          I’m shocked the vitriol to which are responding to an employer trying to be accommodating of someone’s religious beliefs.

      2. themmases*

        Thank you, I’m also an atheist and have been reading through and thinking the same thing. Some people here seem more offended by this than the OP is, and they’re the one who has to do the work!

        Inclusivity in the workplace is a very important principle for our individual behavior and society as a whole. People who have a problem with this seem to be arguing that saving money or convenience is more important, but that’s just not right. And it doesn’t even apply to the letter: the money being spent is Jane’s money, and the whole point of the perk is that the company is taking on an inconvenience for the employees.

    4. JennG*

      It’s not just a matter of eating the vegetarian or vegan option…it’s the stress of having to figure out every day whether a half-solution is actually working or not, especially in an environment where the company expectation seems to be that you eat the meal provided. It’s like providing vegans meals that are vegan except maybe sometimes there will be an egg in it somewhere and then you’ll have to visibly skip that day (if you even know…you might just worry about it all the time), and have a meal in your desk just in case etc. etc.

      Also I completely agree that inclusion means working hard on well, inclusion, not picking and choosing which groups to accommodate or not.

    5. LBK*

      This is generally a pretty non-religious group and there’s certainly been vehement consensus when it comes to things like keeping strong religious imagery or language out of the workplace. Your assumption that people are only saying she should be accommodated because religion is involved strikes me as misplaced for this site.

      Here’s my take: diversity means being diverse in every way, including races, religions, ages, sexual orientations, medical status, etc. It doesn’t mean hiring a few black people, which seems to be how most “diverse” companies interpret that term. Diversity also doesn’t just mean hiring people from different demographics and then forcing them to conform to the needs of the majority – it means appreciating and accommodating the differences in who people are and what they need. It’s not about making hiring decisions in a way that enables you to put a pretty pie chart on your website, it’s about adapting your business to organically attract people who usually feel like burdens to apply.

      All this to say: if the business has any interest in being a diverse workplace, this shouldn’t even be a question. You can’t just get people in the door and then call it a day, because that’s still treating them like objects to be collected instead of people, and that’s the exact attitude that makes workplaces homogeneous in the first place.

    6. HRish Dude*

      “If this were anything other than a religious preference, we’d be telling her to deal with it for one meal. Meat is not a right.”

      Did you miss the part where these meals come out of their paychecks? If you pay for a meal, you damn well better get what you want.

  16. LSCO*

    I won’t go into this too much, but if you can cater for halal, then please try to make it work. I (obviously) don’t know the ins & outs of your lunch programme, but I’m sure that a vendor catering a 50 people lunch daily are likely to try and meet the halal request rather than lose the business.

    This is weird. I like Alison’s suggestion, although I know I wouldn’t have been able to think of that on the spot. My gut feeling is this question is designed to tease out whether you’re a “team player” or a “cut-throat go-getter” – and the “right” answer depends on the job & the manager.

    Could you maybe outline the scope of your role as you’re currently performing, give it an appropriate title which sits within your organisation and the level of work you’re doing, and ask your boss to sign off on it? Maybe going to them with a potential solution will at least kickstart their thought processes, even if they ultimately don’t sign off on your initial suggestion.

    That sucks. I wouldn’t spend too much time re-contacting hiring managers with the correct resume version – I don’t think it’ll be that fruitful. If it’s just the 2 or 3 line objective* then it sounds like a small enough difference that it would go unnoticed (or marked down for lack of attention to detail) if you re-send the correct resume. If it’s a large difference such as leaving off a 5-year chunk of relevant work history as well as the objective, then even if you do resend the resume it’s not likely to reflect well on you.

    Focus on future applications and triple-checking you’ve uploaded the correct resume for upcoming applications.

    (* is it just me who’s surprised Alison didn’t pick up on the career objective being redundant on a resume?)

    If only it was that easy to get out of using any annual leave days!

    This did kind of happen to me once. I’d booked a week off work, but had to pop in to the office early in the morning of the Monday to pick up something I’d left in my desk. I show up and chaos is reigning – in a department of 4 people, I was on annual leave, one person called in sick, one person’s car had broken down on the way in and was unlikely to make it to work before lunch, leaving just one person to pick up the slack for 4 people.

    I quickly called our boss (who was already aware of the situation), explained I’d just popped in but was happy to stay & help out for most of the day, although I left at 3:30 due to a standing appointment. I thought nothing more of it, but on my return to work the following week my boss had emailed to say I’d been credited a day of annual back because I’d worked on the day I was meant to be off. It was a very nice gesture, especially in a work environment which (for various reasons) couldn’t provide bonuses or pay rises or many other ways of showing appreciation for top performing staff.

    1. Florida*

      I, too, was surprised that Alison didn’t mention the objective. I immediately started looking through the comments to see if anyone else mentioned it (lest I be as redundant as the objective statement).
      OP 4, get rid of the objective statement. It’s old-fashioned, serves no purpose, and draws attention to you resume in a bad way.
      Good luck with the job.

      1. OP#4*

        I had no idea the objective line was no longer in vogue?! Thank you all! I actually wanted to just remove it entirely but I thought that wasn’t an option, haha.

        1. BRR*

          If you look through the resume tag on the right, you can see posts about them (or buy Alison’s job hunting book which has personally helped me get two jobs). Either you don’t have to put anything or put a brief profile instead.

          1. OP#4*

            Thank you so much! I will be spending tonight reading up on the topic. I’ve been taking a lot of job hunting advice from my father, who used to be a recruiter…over a decade ago. It’s definitely time for me to diversify my sources.

            1. Florida*

              I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to take job-hunting advice from a parent. ;) Seriously, unless they’ve look for a job in the last few years, their advice is so outdated. (“Just walk right into the business and tell them you are willing to work hard. That’s how I got my first job.”)

              I would definitely recommend you do some searching around this site. It’s an awesome resource. Also, as BRR mentioned, I’d recommend Alison’s e-book.

      2. NJ Anon*

        I was just going to comment on this. Do not put an objective on your resume. Problem solved. I was hiring for a bookkeeping position once and got a resume with the objective to work in customer service. Oops, in the circular file!

    2. BRR*

      Count me among those surprised she didn’t mention objectives. Comments today seem to be about halal (it seems overall like a new/different topic) and skipped the objective topic.

  17. Rebecca*

    #1 – I too think you should offer the halal option, and as a meat eater and wheat eater, I’d like something else other than vegan, vegetarian, or gluten free as well.

    1. Zillah*

      My impression was that the options include vegan, vegetarian, and GF food, not that they consist exclusively of them. The OP can correct me if I’m wrong, though!

      1. Rebecca*

        I totally misunderstood this! I thought there were three options for lunch. Too early and not enough coffee, I guess :)

  18. AnotherFed*

    #5 Just quockly checking email wouldn’t likely count, but if you end up spending a few hours working one morning or having to do more than email, it might be worth checking to see if you can call that chunk of time teleworking rather than vacation. It totally depends on whether that’s normal for your company, how your manager feels about things like that, and a little on how good an employee you are.

    1. Beezus*

      Yep, I was popping in to say this. I read and reply to emails here and there and take the odd phone call while I am out, and think nothing of it, but if I wind up dealing with a huge problem that eats half my vacation day, that’s different and it’s reasonable to expect to be credited back some time.

      A few years ago, I traveled over Christmas/New Year to spend time with my family, and the person covering an important year-end process for me was hospitalized. I was able to remote in and handle the process, but I got half a day of vacation time back for doing that.

    2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      I used to do this when I would travel to my parent’s house for the holidays. Because it was so much cheaper to fly out early, I would often work remotely for a 1-2 days and then be on vacation.

      When work would spill over into my vacation I would use the barometer of “did I do as much during X hours as I would have if I was in the office?”

    3. Judy*

      I worked for a manager who wouldn’t allow me to change my vacation hours for sick hours when I got the flu during a scheduled vacation. We chose to cancel our (driving) travel because I was ill, and my husband even canceled his vacation and went to work, but my manager wouldn’t allow me to cancel mine and make it sick time instead.

    1. NJ Anon*

      This is not always possible. As I mentioned up thread, some workplaces require employees not leave for lunch.

  19. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – of course you order halal food! If the the airlines can figure this out, so can you. And other employees can eat it too – I eat halal kabobs pretty much all the time and haven’t had any adverse effects (well, except my tighter pants).

    Or just kill the lunch program. To be honest it strikes me as kind of paternalistic and I wouldn’t dig it. I like to be able to bring my own lunches, but if money was being deducted from my paycheck for it I’d feel compelled to eat the work lunches. The free food I don’t mind, but taking money from their paychecks for it is weird.

    1. Sarahnova*

      Yeah, I do have issues/questions with the “free” food for which people pay from their salaries. I suppose it could feasily be a perk if it’s somehow deducted from their pre-tax salaries, like my childcare vouchers are.

      I used to work at an organisation that gave us free lunch – they had accounts with three local lunch places and we could order in or pick up lunch from the cafe next door and simply sign for it. That was genuinely free though – the company picked up 100% of the bill. That was a good perk, and I could design my own salads for lunch.

      1. cardiganed librarian*

        On the flip side, you could argue that the OP’s option is more transparent about the costs and allows those who do not wish to participate (as per her words – the readers assuming this is not truly optional might be correct for all we know) to opt out without paying for it. Because even if the company is picking up the tab, that’s money that they’re not paying to their employees.

        1. Observer*

          It’s pretty obvious that this not really optional, even though it technically is. For one thing, even with a significant discount, it’s pretty noteworthy that there is 100% participation. How often do you have that in a group this size, even with the options available? Secondly, the OP notes that not taking part would make her stand out very much. Last, but not least, there is no process for opting out of the payments. Yes, she can speak to finance, but this is clearly an outlier intended to “accommodate” an odd situation, not a standard request. It very much feels like she needs to justify her lack of participation in this.

          In the US, it’s quite possible that in the scenario the OP would be legally obligated to accommodate her. Of course, I’m not saying this definitively, but given the “strong encouragement” that seems to be in play here, I think that’s something I would definitely bring to my lawyer before making a decision, if I were on the OP’s side of the table.

    2. F.*

      I am curious as to why the lunch program exists in the first place. Mind you, I’m not saying to keep it or kill it. I just wonder what is in it for the employer. We used to have an executive who would purchase all sorts of food for our workplace with the company’s money with the idea that we would work through lunch instead of going offsite to pick something up, eat out or just take a walk and get some fresh air. Most of us still preferred to bring our own food (his choices were not very healthful, in my opinion) and take a walk.

      1. BRR*

        It very well could fall under Google’s “We’ll give you services so you stay in the building.” But the LW said it’s cheaper than if they brought their lunch. Depending on the price and type of food, I wouldn’t mind paying less than the cost to make my lunch to have food ready for me. I leave early in the morning and have a long commute. Eating out is expensive and if I’m running behind I don’t have time to make my lunch.

        1. Helka*

          Yeah, I agree with this. It would make my mornings a lot easier (not to mention easier to stick to a diet, if the lunch I got conformed to what I needed to eat/not eat).

        2. Sunflower*

          Once OP said it was a start-up, I was thinking exactly ‘here’s lunch so you stay in the building/don’t take a lunch’. I totally agree with you though- This isn’t a bad thing and if I could have lunch delivered to my office everyday at a low cost, I would do it. Most people don’t take lunch breaks anyway so it probably ends up being a win-win.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I would too, and considering I tweaked my hours so I could work through lunch and avoid the worst of a nasty rush-hour commute, I would love not to have to pack something every damn day.

          1. MashaKasha*

            I would too! I’m pretty good at cooking large quantities ahead and packing my lunches, but anytime my schedule changes in any way – say I wasn’t home all weekend and come to work on Monday from my SO’s place rather than mine – I don’t have my lunch packed and I feel miserable, because now there’s an added pressure to go out and get food, that is btw not terribly cheap… I agree that “lunch provided” implies “we don’t want you to leave the office for lunch”, but I don’t want to leave the office for lunch myself – I’d rather go home earlier.

      2. Allison*

        Convenience, probably. If lunch is provided at the office at a low cost, then people don’t have to worry about making their lunches or going out to eat, which can be both time consuming and expensive. Personally, I don’t mind making my lunches, but I also don’t have kids to take care of and make lunches for. I’m a picky eater, so it’s possible that if my workplace provided pre-made lunch I’d still bring my own, because when my office does do catered lunches nearly all the sandwiches have mustard on them, or dressing, or weird mushy stuff that’s supposed to be fancy.

      3. neverjaunty*

        Sharing food and eating together is a pretty basic way of strengthening social ties between people, i.e. “team-building”. And yes, it’s also a way of keeping employees at the job longer.

        1. F.*

          It also can be very stressful for introverts who would like some time away from people during the day to re-energize and be prepared for the afternoon. I bring my lunch (packed the night before, with certain elements pre-packaged for the week on Sunday) and take a walk or read. Forced togetherness at lunchtime would be a definite deal breaker for me.

          1. Oryx*

            I’m with you as a fellow introvert. Lunch is my time to take a walk or catch up on AAM (like I’m doing now). Being forced to eat with all of my coworkers would not be okay with me.

          2. MashaKasha*

            Yeah, that’s the one thing I might not like about employer-provided lunches – the implied forced socialization. Like someone mentioned on this thread, they can turn into lunch meetings. And even if they don’t, I just want to eat my lunch in peace and quiet, rather than spend that time socializing with everyone else in the office.

        2. Nervous Accountant*

          Forced togetherness? really? (not that I don’t understand it’s stressful–it totally sounds like it!) but I can’t believe that companies do that. My current place does order food (lunch or breakfast) but we’re still allowed to clock out and take a break, and no one is “forced” to sit with each other. I’ve worked in other places where snacks were easily available in the office, again no forced togetherness… this sounds so unusual to me.

      4. Sammie*

        I worked for an employer that provided free lunch daily. It was done so that we would not leave the building. The CEO and SVP would attend and “encourage” work talk. It was miserable.

    3. AnonAcademic*

      I am with you on not liking the idea of the lunch program because it’s yet another manifestation of the “live to work” mentality of startups – who are they hiring that packing a sandwich or microwave meal in the morning is too much effort for most/all employees? I bike and take the train to work and still manage to bring in my own lunch most days. It also seems unsustainable, e.g. if it’s getting this tricky with 50 employees what happens if the business grows to 75, 100, 150 people? A greater % of whom are likely to have complex food allergies/preferences/religious restrictions? We had this issue catering our 125 person wedding and the solution was an excellent but expensive caterer who specialized in dietary restrictions. That isn’t a sustainable solution for an everyday lunch program that’s supposed to be cheaper than bringing it in yourself.

      I worked at a hospital where the cafeteria had healthy options that were subsidized so you could get a decent meal for around $4-5. I liked that because it was opt-in.

    4. MashaKasha*

      I wonder what happens to your “lunch money” when you’re sick/on vacation. Do you get the money back?

      This takes me all the way back to when my oldest son attended daycare in “the old country” – first thing you did when your kid got sick or otherwise had to miss daycare was, you had to call them right away and tell them to take your kid off the food list for the next X days – daycare would then prorate your pay, so you wouldn’t have to pay for the food on the days your kid was absent.

  20. Allison*

    #1, I’m really surprised at all the ignorant, close-minded comments on this. Inclusivity doesn’t inherently mean taking away from the majority, it means adding to the options to include more people in minority groups. That said, I understand there may be obstacles to making the program more inclusive for people who adhere to religious dietary restrictions. I get that halal might be tricky for that area, but I think OP1 should at least look into it and *try* to make it work before writing it off as impossible or “too hard.” If they give it an honest-to-god attempt and find it’s really not possible right now, that’s still better than saying “nah, I don’t think we’ll be able to do that, sorry!” right off the bat.

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      Curious, where do you see ignorant, close-minded comments? While this is the very first time I’m hearing about halal not being “ethical” (which I roll my eyes at because..Islamaphobia), I’m still a little pleasantly surprised at the number of comments advocating for inclusiveness. Unfortunately, I see way too many horrible comments on FB and other article comment websites. sigh.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Discussions on religious accommodations usually bug me because people tend to jump to slippery slope arguments like “well, where does it stop? What if a member of the church of the flying spaghetti monster refuses to eat pasta?” And the answer is the same – you accommodate as long as it doesn’t cause undo hardship (and you need to think BIG on that), and don’t concern yourself with however legitimate you think the request is. Easy. Done. Now people feel included and diversity is celebrated and people get to eat their lunches.

  21. Cynical Lackey*

    The number of options depends on the city OP#1 is based in. I live in Southern California and there are plenty of kosher and halal choices; but I remember a business trip to Spokane with an observant Jewish co-worker where the only options for him were select packaged supermarket food, and one evening where he was invited to the home of a local Jewish family.

  22. Becky B*

    #2 LOVE the answer to this one.

    I would be tempted (probably to my cost) to answer with a third option because there’s always at least a third option, however much they want it hidden from you.

  23. MassChick*

    #1: I’m trying to put my finger on why I disagree that the company should accommodate halal. And the best I can come up with is I don’t have an issue with halal itself (very common practice in the multi-cultural part of the world I currently live in) but because I think any/every religious practice should be private. No good has ever come of bringing religion into the public and/or work place :-/

    My part of the world is dealing with so many issues stemming from religious differences and intolerance. That may explain my perspective. To paraphrase something that’s been floating around “Religion is like a P. It’s fine to have one and be proud of it. But keep it private and consensual.”

    -DS (long time reader, corporate slave-turned-school-teacher-slash-content-writer, first time commenting here)

    1. Kelly L.*

      What would you recommend that this employee do? The employer made the lunches public by providing them on-site to everyone. If she refuses hers, that’s in public, and people will wonder why (people love to pry about food!). Instead, she has privately asked OP for an option she can eat. She’s not blaring her religion from a loudspeaker; she wrote OP a letter or email. If OP can find an option for her, then she will be eating a different meal, and again that will be public–but if lunches are public for everybody, there’s really no way around that. It’s not the Muslim employee who made the lunches public.

      I also think that the idea of keeping all religious practices private is a really problematic slope to go down. Should everyone with a religious diet eat in private, lest someone see them doing it? What about if she wears hijab, or if Wakeen in the next cubicle wears a crucifix? Some aspects of religious life are necessarily going to be in public just because…that’s life.

      The saying about religion and a p**** was originally that you shouldn’t wave it in people’s faces, by which it meant proselytizing, and/or legislating based on it. The metaphor kind of breaks down when it comes to quiet, ordinary religious behavior in public.

      1. MassChick*

        I would recommend *all* employees be responsible for their own lifestyle and religious choices.

        I didn’t say she was blaring her religion. In case it wasn’t clear, I have no problem with the employee asking – I was ruminating aloud about the employer’s responsibilities when it comes to perks. (Note: NOT basic ethical rules of non-discrimination). And I really don’t understand what the issue is about refusing the lunch and bringing in her own, or supplementing it with her own halal meat. In my experience, people get over any initial reactions pretty fast. Why would anyone with a religious diet have to eat in private?!

        My view is that the problematic slope is *accommodating all religions* in public. Because it’s only fair that it’s all or nothing. Which doesn’t translate to forcing every religious person going underground and scrubbing external expressions of faith. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but trying to accommodate all religious practices is bound to lead to conflict either among the religions or with local laws. As may be evident, I’m not religious so I really don’t understand rigid and unquestioning adherence to religious rules without the freedom to be flexible and adapt to the local context. But that’s just me.

        I do know the original saying; that’s why I said paraphrase (maybe I should have said rephrase to be completely clear).

        1. Kelly L.*

          The issue with refusing the lunch is that she’s still paying for it.

          I got the “religious diet–eating in private” thing from your comment. If you believe that “any/every religious practice should be private,” that’s what follows.

          1. MassChick*

            I completely agree she shouldn’t have to pay for something she’s not using.

            I meant any accommodations or arrangements should be your own (i.e. private)! I really am not as anti-religion as you may think I am :) I live in a country with a lot more religious diversity than most Western countries, and enjoy the mix for the most part. But I’m also seeing the problems that come about when there’s rigidity and fanaticism about religion and people prioritise religion over humanity. As I mentioned before, this is the context for my perspective.

            1. Kelly L.*

              In that case, I think this employee is adhering to your wishes. She privately asked OP for an accommodation. That’s what you want, correct?

              I don’t see asking for a lunch as prioritizing religion over humanity.

                1. F.*

                  As an aside, MassChick, you mentioned that this is your first time commenting here. Please don’t let this sour you on commenting in the future. I was also misunderstood when I first began commenting here, and I still am misunderstood here frequently. You are entitled to express your opinions and thoughts on this and any other subjects even though there are others who will vehemently disagree with them. (no slight intended on anyone who responded to MassChick) For what it’s worth, I DO understand what you were saying above. I imagine many other people do, too, even though they may not choose to comment.

                2. MassChick*

                  F – thanks for your kind comment :) For some reason, I don’t see a “Reply” link below your comment – so I hope you see this! I should have probably picked a less loaded topic to start off with!

                3. MegEB*

                  No, it’s not that you’re “not getting through”; Kelly L. isn’t being thick. You’re just not making a ton of sense here, and I’m confused as well. What exactly do you think the Muslim-observing employee should do? Asking that her religious preferences be observed in the workplace is not fanaticism by any stretch, and furthermore, I’m not sure what you’re getting at by saying her accommodation (i.e. eating halal lunch) should be private. She needs to eat, so … are you saying she needs to go sit by herself in a private room and eat lunch alone?

                4. MassChick*

                  Teapot you brand it as huffing without giving me the benefit of of doubt. I made a call that Kelly and I were taking on different wavelengths and it’s better to give up on the discussion when I’ve failed at making my point.

                5. MassChick*

                  MegEB, of course employee needs to eat. I’m not thick either. She can get her own lunch (after opting out of the payment) or supplement the vegetarian option with halal meat AND join her colleagues at lunch. Why is is everyone leaping to the conclusion that I want her to hide in her cube and eat alone?

                6. LBK*

                  I think people were interpreting you saying that she should practice her religion in private to mean that she should have to eat in private (because eating halal would be a form of practicing her religion).

                  If you’re just saying you don’t think the company should have to provide a religious accommodation for her, that’s been addressed at length elsewhere. People just latched on to your comments because you said you didn’t think any displays of religion were appropriate for the office but then said you didn’t have a problem with Christian imagery, so people are confused on your reasoning. No one is attacking you, we just aren’t getting an answer to the question so we have to keep asking it.

            2. LBK*

              Can you elaborate on how you’re thinking the employee should handle this situation? I understand your principle (that religion should be practiced at home) but I’m not clear on how to apply that pragmatically here.

              1. MassChick*

                LBK – for both your comments, and a last attempt to see if I can explain myself better.

                I didn’t say anything about “displays of religion” — it’s about the practice. I’m confused about why people are clubbing practice of religion (or a lifestyle) and its outcome.

                – Person A practices religion X and and makes make her own arrangements for any dietary or clothing rules. As I result she sports a certain piece of clothing or symbol. No problem. If person X then asks that others (the company in this case) to make arrangements for her food (which is her choice), that’s where my discomfort starts.

                – Person Y practices a certain sport and makes her own arrangements for diet and clothes. As a result, she is sometime seen in the office wearing tiny running shorts, or has a row of running shoes lined up in her cube. No problem (and the company can handle any issues about tiny running shorts). However, if Y asks for certain foods that runners should eat, that’s where my discomfort starts.

                In hindsight maybe that quote was misplaced, it seems to have muddied my intent. I understand that most people in the world are religious. I even identify with some spiritual aspects of religion. However, I believe that religion has caused more problems and pits people against people and there’s almost always an eventual clash. Yes, that is a much broader issue, one with no real answers, but was where I was coming from. And to confuse things further, I have no problem if companies provide a space that can be used for prayer or for employees to take a quiet break. And no, I don’t have a problem with vegetarian food being served. Or non vegetarian. Because it’s food. Not religious choices. I would eat what I can, or opt out and make my own arrangements.

                FWIW, I thought OP1 is handling the issue very graciously and it sounds like the company is making halal arrangements. If I was working for that company, I certainly wouldn’t kick up a fuss. I hope you see the difference between discussing an issue in a general manner (and maybe even thinking out aloud with thoughts that may not come out crystal clear) vs. a personal issue with *this* employee asking for her religion to be accommodated?

                I did address how I thought the employee could handle it — make her own food arrangements and not have her pay deducted.

                1. Observer*

                  @Elizabeth West. Exactly.Which is why, unless In other words, you have a problem accommodating specifically religious choices or ones relating to lifestyle issues that don’t resonate with you? How else do you square you comfort with accommodating vegetarians with your discomfort with accommodating religious and health and and SOME lifestyle related dietary requests?

                  By the way, your claim that religion is the source of most problems and intolerance is simply factually incorrect. It’s not that easy to see if you go back a couple of centuries, because religion was more closely tied to the rest of people’s lives. But if you look at the 19th and 20th centuries, it becomes much easier to see the reality, which is that while religion sometimes offers an excuse, the causes are much more fundamental.

                2. Observer*

                  OY, I did it again. I had started a reply, the decided to abandon it. But, it comes up when you go to do another reply. I need to be more carefult.


                3. LBK*

                  Ah, okay, I see what you’re getting at now. I really appreciate you taking the time to clarify. I only have one remaining point where I disagree:

                  If person X then asks that others (the company in this case) to make arrangements for her food (which is her choice), that’s where my discomfort starts.

                  The company decided that it wanted to provide food for everyone in the first place, so to me, it’s their responsibility to deal with any complications that arise as a result of that decision, whether due to religion, dietary choices, medical reasons, etc. You can’t really advertise that one of the perks of working for your company is food provided for employees if that comes with the caveat that not all people may be able to partake.

                  Removing the religious aspect of it entirely, what it comes down to is that it’s poor management to be dismissive of your employees being excluded from perks you’re trying to offer. If you decide to take your employees out to a 21+ bar as a reward and you have an employee who’s only 20, you don’t just say “Sucks to be you, Joe! Seeya!” You find another place to hold the event that will let Joe in so you don’t demotivate him (and effectively reduce his overall compensation relative to his coworkers).

            3. Observer*

              Even if she does not have to pay, it still presents a problem. The major issue is that her choice not to eat is STILL religious, and still highly public, as she is the ONLY one who is being “excused” from this. (When there is 100% participation, and no routine way of opting out, then it’s not truly optional.) As long as that’s the case, then I think that, yes, all religions should be accommodated. Otherwise, it’s not a matter of religion being kept in private, but religious observance being penalized.

              On a separate note, I disagree that accommodating religion and religious diversity in public leads to intolerance and religious friction.

      2. Ad Astra*

        If I’m not mistaken, aren’t there other parts of the world (like France) where the approach to religious freedom is a bit more of a “keep it to yourself” vibe rather than America’s “let’s practice ALL religions in public” approach? I remember being surprised to learn that Americans are far more likely to discuss religion or wear religious items (eg, a cross necklace) in public compared with other westerners.

        I agree that keeping all religious practices private does more harm than good, but I’m thinking there are some fundamentally different points of view on this.

    2. Allison*

      Wanting an employer to accommodate religious practices like dietary restrictions, or the need to pray at certain times, or the need to take certain days off, it not the same as wanting to push one’s religion down other people’s throats. If my workplace offered halal lunches, or kosher lunches, I wouldn’t feel like people were waving their religion in my face, I’d be like “oh good, the Muslim and Jewish employees are being included.”

      OP1 is already providing vegan and vegetarian options, does that mean they’re trying to push that lifestyle on other people? No.

      1. Nother Name*

        When I was in high school, I sat with some other kids at lunch. One member of our group was Moslem and one was an Orthodox Jew. I was a Catholic who was working my way to vegetarianism and couldn’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. The other girls didn’t have any dietary restrictions. We would regularly pool our money and order pizza that met all our requirements. (Cheese pizza is always a winner with kids!)

        If a bunch of teenagers in the 80s could figure out how to handle this, then a start-up in 2015 should also be able to.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        And seriously on the scheduling – it’s NOT that big of a deal. I have a very devout Muslim on my team and he prays periodically throughout the day, and it’s not a problem at all. During Ramadan – no issues. If we have a team potluck, I quietly ask him ahead of time if there’s enough there that he can enjoy, or I’ll pick up something from a local lebanese place.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Do you also frown at employees who talk about what they’re doing over Christmas, or display wedding pictures on their desks when the background is a church?

        1. LBK*

          Don’t you see the contradiction in that, though? That’s displaying a religious belief in the office just as much as following a certain diet.

          1. MassChick*

            Where’s the contradiction? You (generic you) are free to live your life per your choices (religious and otherwise*) and make your own arrangements for them. Displaying a religious affiliation (or a soul patch**) or talking about Christmas doesn’t contradict that.

            *As long your religion practice doesn’t involve harm to others. Thought that went without saying but I’m finding I have to say it. Sometimes over and over.

            ** Please don’t jump down my throat about equating religion with a soul patch. I’m trying to provide an example of choices that I personally wouldn’t follow or care for, but have no problem with others doing it.

            1. Oryx*

              The contradiction is that you’re okay with someone communicating their Christmas or holiday plans, but communicating a need for a religiously specific meal choice is a problem?

              1. MassChick*

                Wow. Did you even read my explanations above? I have no problem with the employee asking. You seem to be trying to paint me as a bigot (OK with Christmas, but not with halal) which I find exceedingly amusing given that you don’t know my background. At all. I’ve specifically kept that out so as to keep the discussion non-personal.

                Done explaining.

                1. Oryx*

                  I think you are reading way too much into my response. Nowhere did I indicate that I think you’re a bigot, I’m not sure where you got that.

                  Let’s frame it another way: you’re okay with a company allowing employees to talk about Christmas, talk about Kwanzaa, talk about Hanukkah (because note, I did say “holiday plans”). You’re also okay with wedding photos that are taken in a church so presumably that means they could also decorate their cube, it’s a personal cube, right? So a Catholic/Christian employee could put up a mini nativity scene. A Jewish employee could have a miniature menorah. The Pagen could have something related to Yule. Not secular decorations, but full on all out religious decorations related to the winter holiday of their faith.

                  But you’re not okay with a company accommodating meal choices that come with those religions. Would you feel the same way if the employee kept Kosher?

                2. LBK*

                  I think people are confused because these lines seem to make it clear you don’t think the company should get her a halal meal because it would be an inappropriate display of religion:

                  I’m trying to put my finger on why I disagree that the company should accommodate halal.

                  My view is that the problematic slope is *accommodating all religions* in public. Because it’s only fair that it’s all or nothing.

                  But then you say you don’t have a problem with them allowing Christian imagery (ie photos of churches or discussions of Christmas). Are you saying that they should just accommodate some religions or some forms of religious belief (like imagery) but not others (like food restrictions)?

            2. Allison*

              Tell me, MassChick, do you get time off around the holidays? Do your Jewish colleagues get to take time off for religious observance? That’s religious accommodation. Allowing Muslim employees t wear headscarves and grow beard, even when such things are normally against the dress code, is religious accommodation. No one’s asking OP1 to build a church for their employee, or allow an employee to go around with religious text trying to convert everyone, or run around the office screaming “PRAISE ALLAH!” they’re just being asked to *try* to make the provided lunch more inclusive so everyone can participate.

              If you belong to a mainstream sect of Christianity or Judaism then it’s very easy for you to go about your day not thinking about adherence to your faith. You don’t have to wear religious symbols and there’s generally no pressure to eat a certain way. You may feel like you need to avoid certain “sinful” temptations and substances, but aside from maybe caffeine those are usually easy to avoid at work. Same, obviously, goes for atheists, agnostics, Pagans, etc., so it can be tough for people of “normal,” Western religious backgrounds to expect everyone else to keep their religions behind closed doors.

              But there are some religions that can’t be “kept at home.” Muslims and Jewish people need to adhere to certain diets everywhere they go. Muslims are expected to pray, facing Mecca, at certain times of the day regardless of where they are. People of certain faiths are expected to have their hair cut and styled a different way, and this includes facial hair. Muslim women, as well as women in certain Christian and Jewish faiths, have to keep certain body parts covered everywhere they go, to the point where pools in some areas have women-only hours so these women can swim without men seeing them. There’s nothing wrong with these people asking to be accommodated and in general I do think people, when asked, should try to accommodate people of these faiths and others to the best of their abilities.

              1. MassChick*

                You know what they say about assumptions. I do not belong to a mainstream sect or religion – at least not the way you describe it. And also, mainstream where? You’re assuming USA. IIRC, the OP said she was in Europe. Are all countries there primarily Judeo Christian?

                Thanks for the explanation, but believe me, I’m very familiar with Islamic practices.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Then I guess I’m not understanding your previous comment.

          You’ve said that you feel “any/every religious practice should be private”, rather like keeping one’s genitals in one’s pants instead of waving them around. But, you’re okay with public displays of religious affiliation, like talking about observing a religious holiday (Christmas), or displaying a photograph showing themselves participating in a religious ritual. And at the same time, you believe an employee asking her manager if company-provided meals – which already accommodate secular* ethical practices like veganism – also include her religious beliefs, that’s an improper public display of her religious beliefs.

          Perhaps what you originally meant to say is “don’t shove your beliefs down others’ throats”, which is fine, but it still doesn’t quite explain why you think Jane is out of line, unless you think Jane is insisting that everybody’s meals be halal. Can you clarify?

          1. MassChick*

            Clarified above to the best of my abilities. If you don’t understand or disagree, that’s mine.

  24. Jubilance*

    I’m so disappointed in a lot of the comments today. This is blowing my mind, that in 2015, people are arguing AGAINST having an inclusive and diverse workplace. Through all of these comments, it’s basically boiling down to “stop being so different, just go with the flow and do what everyone else is doing”. Are we really still advocating that everyone be the same and not be their authentic self in the office? That’s…troubling.

    1. AnotherFed*

      I don’t think most of the people here are arguing against being inclusive. I think people are mentioning that accomodating unusual dietary requests of any kind can be difficult, and that if the lunch program does that for every unique dietary request, it may become so ineffective or expensive that it is not possible or just not worthwhile to the employer anymore.

      As the person managing the program, the OP has to figure out how much $ and logistics time can go into the lunch program, and use that as part of the logic for deciding what to offer. That’s not about inclusiveness, that’s just business. If the current vendor can do halal, that’s great – easy! If the current vendor cannot, should the company change vendors and possibly trade off one of the other options? Pay more, and if so, how much more? Go to a multiple vendor solution and have to double the amount of overhead for ordering, billing, and other admin? If it still fits in the budget, the answer might be to just add halal, or it might be to let the employees vote on which vendor/combinations of options they would prefer, or it might be to cancel the lunch program because they cannot include everyone and offer some other perk instead.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I definitely get the concept of “dietary restrictions are mounting up–this is getting to be a giant pain”–what I’m questioning is, as someone said above, why is halal the final straw for many commenters? Would they say the same if this letter was about an allergic person wanting nut-free or a Jewish person wanting kosher? If they would, then fine, but I think there are some commenters having a subconscious reaction to the specific religion, and that’s something that needs to be examined IMO.

        1. cardiganed librarian*

          I am giving the OP the benefit of the doubt and assuming that the issue is that either the dietary restrictions present in the office when they chose the vendor were vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, or that the vendor they chose offered meals that fit those requirements up-front, even if no one took advantage of them. They chose a vendor that has so far been acceptable in terms of cost and quality of food, but halal food presents a new requirement that’s outside the terms of the original agreement. It is quite possible that the vendor will say they can’t handle it.

          I am not saying the request is unreasonable or that it shouldn’t be honoured, I just see no reason to believe that the other restrictions were handled in the same way, i.e. one employee requested it and new negotiations with the vendor had to be made.

        2. NotThisAgain*

          Personal opinion – I think we are so worried about being PC that it’s becoming a massive pain. To me, halal isn’t the line, though it’s probably more challenging to find than kosher. I think it is fair for a company to offer a few reasonable options but if you are sensitive to something in particular (like me) or just a special snowflake, just take care of yourself and meet your needs like an adult. You’re there to do a job. I do agree they should not deduct money from her paycheck.

          FWIW, I live and work in DC.

            1. neverjaunty*

              No, it’s great. It’s a flag that the person talking thinks that it’s weak and morally offensive to consider the needs of others.

              I mean, seriously, eating halal is being a “special snowflake”?

              1. LBK*

                Yes, it’s an easy way to identify privileged people who don’t like thinking about the fact that everyone might not be exactly like them.

              2. Artemesia*

                Spot on. PC is a flag that someone longs for the good old days when you could call someone an ‘N’ and they knew their place and make demeaning comments to women and it was all in good fun. It is a badge of total lack of empathy; if it works for me, hey who cares how it affects anyone else.

                Yes people can take anything too far — but deal with those in particular not as generic ‘PC’ as if being considerate of the feelings of others was inherently the wrong thing to do.

            2. Allison*

              Seems to be everyone’s favorite thing to talk about this time of year. “Ugh, she said ‘happy holidays’ to me, I’m sick of this PC nonsense! just say ‘Merry Christmas!'” Don’t get me started on the still-very-Christmassy Starbucks cups . . . I like to remind people it’s not about being any sort of “correct,” it’s about being inclusive and trying to make this time of year happy and bright for everyone.

              1. LBK*

                It’s funny to me because driving force being the reactions of “Why can’t anything be customized to me anymore? Everyone is so PC nowadays!” is the exact emotion that minorities have been experiencing for centuries and are finally fighting back against: a feeling of being erased, unrecognized, homogenized, whitewashed, etc.

                1. Formerly Born-Again/now Atheist Anon*

                  Well, in case of War on Christian-anything (latest example being the Starbucks cups) there are multiple passages in the Gospels along the lines of “blessed are those who are being persecuted for following Me, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven, you will get a rich reward” and so on and so forth. So in this case, I have a sneaky suspicion that people who cry “persecution” when there really is none, honestly believe that they will benefit from being persecuted. So they go through impressive feats of mental gymnastics trying to convince others, and, primarily, themselves, that this is what’s happening. Must be nice to get a rich award in heaven just for drinking coffee out of a red cup, or for being told “Happy Holidays” by a stranger!

                  As for minorities, they’re not thinking about them when they complain. Minorities never enter the equation. They didn’t exist to these people before, they don’t exist to them now.

          1. F.*

            Thank you for your courage in expressing what is a rather unpopular opinion in this forum (re: PC becoming a massive pain). I have also been attacked in here for expressing opinions that do not hold with the majority. So much for TRUE diversity, including diversity of thought and opinion.

            1. LBK*

              You’re welcome to have differing opinions, but I hope you understand that fighting against “PC culture” is basically saying “Anyone outside of the majority isn’t worth paying attention to.” It’s an unbelievably privileged position.

              1. Ad Astra*

                I appreciate diversity of thought and opinion, but “PC culture” is more often than not a dog whistle term that means “I shouldn’t have to consider the wants or needs of people who are different from me.”

                Far too often, people (not necessarily you, F.) think others should tolerate their racist, sexist, generally judgmental and privileged opinions in the name of “diversity of opinion.” As it turns out, though, people who hold these views aren’t a minority at all — they’re just a majority that’s not worth listening to.

                1. F.*

                  All I am saying is that whether or not anyone else judges another’s opinion “worth listening to” or not, the person is just as entitled to hold and express that opinion as is the person who’s opinion is more popular in the chosen forum. Not directed at anyone in particular, but I have found far more intolerance for differing opinions among those who claim to be the most tolerant. In society today, there seems to be an alarming trend to try to FORCE people to agree with the currently popular opinion as though other opinions have no right to exist. That is not tolerance. To a certain extent that is what I think of when I hear “PC culture”.

                2. LBK*

                  You’re right, I don’t have tolerance for people who don’t think minorities deserve respect or visibility, and I think that’s a much more ethically defensible position than championing the status quo in the name of comforting the majority.

                  You’re certainly entitled to hold that position and you’re entitled to ignore anyone who tries to explain why that’s a privileged position of erasure and oppression, but I would at least urge you to step back and make sure you understand what you’re defending.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  That cuts both ways, F. If I am entitled to have an express an opinion, then you are entitled to have and express an opinion that my opinion is not worth a hill of beans.

                  Turning around and complaining that you are being “intolerant” or “attacking” or that you are trying to “force” me to agree with you is more than a little hypocritical, no?

                4. NotThisAgain*

                  I am as sick of hearing the word “privilege” as you are of hearing “PC”, so I guess we’re even now.

          2. Observer*

            Special snowflake? Do you realize that there are 1.57 BILLION Muslims in the world? If even only 10% of them strictly adhere to Halal, that’s a LOT of people. About 6.5% of Europe is Muslim. That’s a significant minority.

        3. AnotherFed*

          I think a lot of it is going to be regional – it all depends on what’s common in your area, because the key theme for making a bulk food thing work is that enough people have to want in for the bulk part to take effect.

          Where I live, kosher is just as SOL as halal. I’ve had to escort Israeli visitors and attempt to explain the closets options we could get to kosher, but that there just wasn’t a kosher kitchen anywhere around. Amusingly, half of them were like “Perfect! Let’s go get pulled pork and cheeseburgers because we can’t keep kosher anyway!”

          1. neverjaunty*

            Did they do the thing where they save the last bite, dramatically exclaim “Oh no, this isn’t kosher!” and then throw it away, having ‘just discovered’ what they were eating?

            1. AnotherFed*

              Nope, not at all. They took it as an excuse for a vacation from kosher. They were from somewhere in Israel where most places were kosher, including the cafeteria at work, so they were excited to try foreign, non-kosher food.

              1. neverjaunty*

                That’s hilarious. They must have been amazed that it’s the EXCEPTION to find kosher food here!

            2. Observer*

              That sounds quite strange to me. None of the people I know enact that kind of charade. Either they are careful about Kosher, or they aren’t.

              Where did you see this “thing”?

        4. LBK*

          I agree, I thought the exact same thing – I wondered if this would even be a question if it were a kosher meal being requested. There would certainly be the mitigating factor that kosher tends to be easier to find than halal, but I do suspect that unconscious biases against Muslim people are playing a role in some of the reactions here.

          If nothing else, I think fewer people grew up around it, so it’s not just taken for granted the way kosher food or not having meat on Fridays during lent might be – it feels like a special request because people have just gotten used to the other types of “special” requests, to the point that they’ve been accepted as different shades of the norm instead of a whole separate color.

        5. BananaPants*

          It really has nothing to do with the religious nature of the request. At some point accommodating every single employee’s dietary needs and preferences may not be compatible with the type of program that OP1’s company is offering. They should certainly see if it’s possible to accommodate this employee and to do so if it’s reasonably possible. However, in the end if it’s too burdensome or costly for their catering vendor to provide a halal meal (or a kosher meal, a nut-free meal, a dairy-free non-vegetarian meal, a paleo meal, etc.), then the employer needs to allow affected employees to gracefully opt out of participation and payroll deductions.

          1. LBK*

            The problem is that this has a disparate impact against minorities because it’s less likely one of them will have been part of the group and therefore will have been around to make their request for accommodation before the unofficial “too burdensome” limit is reached. By the time a Muslim person gets hired, statistically speaking it’s likely there will already have already been Christians, Jews, vegetarians, etc. working in the office for whom accommodations have been made, so they start out already being “yet another special request” with an eyeroll from the food coordinator, whereas the first person who asked to have a meat alternative on Fridays in Lent probably got a better reception since they were first.

      2. AW*

        I think people are mentioning that accomodating unusual dietary requests of any kind can be difficult

        But many people are using that as an excuse for the OP to not even try to be inclusive and there have been several comments arguing that anyone with any dietary restrictions ought to have to handle that themselves.

    2. xarcady*

      There’s a balance point here. The company in the OP isn’t unwilling to be inclusive–the OP has stated that they are trying to be inclusive.

      But there’s also reality. I live in a small city in New England, on the coast, in a built-up area, so not the rural part of the state. The two closest stores that sell halal meat are 1 hour and 1.5 hours away. There is *one* place in a 50 mile radius that has halal meals–chicken only. And it’s located in a gas station. You can get take-out, but they don’t deliver. I’ve eaten there and the food is good, but the menu is limited. It happens to be in my city.

      Those are the options. In rural areas, there would be even fewer options.

      So accommodating a halal request for lunch for a client visiting for a few days? Not a problem. But if we were having lunch delivered daily for all employees, then someone would have to make a daily trip for the halal meal. Or we’d maybe buy 5 meals on Monday and reheat them? Or possibly the person who needs the halal meal could eat vegetarian a few days a week and halal a few days a week, to make the logistics easier?

      But suddenly you’ve taken something that took maybe 20 minutes a week to arrange, and now it is consuming more time and resources. And at some point, I think it is fair for the company to say, This is taking more time, resources and money than we planned on. We need that time, money and resources for other things. I don’t think that point should come without a good faith effort on the part of the company to accommodate the special request, whatever it is. But I also don’t think a company is required to expend excessive resources accommodating special requests for a perk.

      1. LabTech*

        But that hypothetical isn’t the situation here. According to OP 1, the catering company already has (limited) Halal options, so it’s not unheard of, nor unavailable to the OP as in your scenario. She does have to do extra work to accommodate the employee, but not to the extent of driving 50 miles daily for a single lunch.

        If you’re wondering about the extent to which these accommodations should be met, the answer would be different if there were absolutely zero Halal food options available. Realistically, a Muslim living in a rural area with almost no local Halal foods available – as in your hypothetical – would likely have a very different set of expectations as to what lunch options could be made available and may not even ask in the first place. But those parameters don’t apply to this case, where Halal foods are evidently commonplace enough to be offered as an option, albeit limited, by the catering company they’re currently employing.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, I don’t get the arguments of some people who seem to be saying that because they don’t think halal could be accommodated in their area, the OP shouldn’t even bother looking and the employee is unreasonable for requesting it.

    3. themmases*

      I agree. I get that dietary restrictions are a touchy/fun to argue about subject for many people, but the discussion here today is mostly ignorant and disappointing.

      Even the discussion on what if it’s *really* hard to get… Come on. Obviously the employee lives in the community and is eating somehow. Most of the people bringing this up apparently do not keep halal. When you don’t follow a certain practice and aren’t looking out for it (and evidently don’t know anyone who does, to read many of these comments), you are really unlikely to notice it.

      1. Allison*


        It’s also really easy for someone who doesn’t adhere to a strict religion to think that religious accommodations are some kind of outrageous “special treatment.”

    4. Kat M2*

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! What next, pregnant women shouldn’t bother working if they’re going to take more time off?

  25. CADMonkey007*

    #1 I agree the default answer here is to attempt to accommodate halal, but Jane saying she isn’t happy with vegetarian options because “she isn’t vegetarian” sticks out to me. (All the Muslim employees in our office were asked how they could be accommodate at office lunches, and they all requested a vegetarian option.)

    Accommodating dietary restrictions is not just “here is something you technically can eat,” there needs to be a level of equal comparison. Perhaps the vegetarian options stink in comparison to the main entree and she really hates getting relegated to a plate of lettuce while her co-workers are eating roasted chicken. So if halal is really THAT difficult to accommodate, I’d work with Jane to look at other meal options that she would be ok with and feel accommodated.

  26. voyager1*

    On #1, I have a question, do the other options meet the accommodating legal
    obligation of Jane’s religious practices?

    1. Kelly L.*

      Is the goal to meet the minimum letter of the law, or to be inclusive and welcoming? I guess it depends on that.

      1. voyager1*

        The scope of the question I asked was to determine if they were actually meeting the letter of the law, I personally don’t know, do you?

  27. Lanya (AKA Camp Director Kim)*

    OP #1: I fast from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year for religious reasons. We also have longer fasting periods four times a year. I would do just fine at your company, since vegetarian options are offered. However – if that were not the case, I would never expect or ask the company to accommodate my fasting. I would bring my own food in on those days, just like I have done since I was in elementary school. While it would be nice if you could offer halal options, I also think it would be fine for that employee to accommodate her own religious needs.

      1. Lanya (AKA Camp Director Kim)*

        Yep, I agree with that. They should have an arrangement so that she’s not being charged for food she can’t eat.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Also: I’ve worked places where they did make sure to offer a fish option during the relevant times.

      1. Lanya (AKA Camp Director Kim)*

        It’s really nice when they do that, especially on Fridays throughout the year, since that is also a big day for the Catholics to be fasting from meat. (Personally I am Eastern Orthodox and not all of us fast regularly, but for those who do, it’s great to have a protein option that doesn’t involve lentils.)

        1. BananaPants*

          A colleague of mine is Orthodox and he eats vegetarian or vegan almost all of the time. If there happens to be a particularly tasty meat-containing dish during a time he isn’t supposed to be fasting from meat he’ll eat it, but otherwise it’s vegetarian.

      2. Faith*

        I was going to comment on that! I’m a devout Catholic and skip meat EVERY Friday. The rules are that this is still in force, but one can substitute another penance if one eats meat. I would not be likely to be happy with the vegetarian choice since I’m a bit picky when it comes to vegetables. Yes, I would happily eat plain pasta or cheese pizza.

        But would it be right/fair for me to ask for fish for every Friday?

        Personally, I’m not sure it would be ok. The only difference between me and Jane is the frequency of the request.

        1. Kelly L.*

          The place I’m thinking of most strongly–I’m pretty sure there was a fish option every Friday, and a fish option every day during Lent (it was a cafeteria situation). However, it’s been several years and I’m not Catholic, so my memory may be faulty and/or I’m sure I wasn’t paying perfect attention. But I believe they did have this.

    2. Anonymous Ninja*

      “I would never expect or ask the company to accommodate my fasting”

      Even if you were paying for it?

      1. Lanya (AKA Camp Director Kim)*

        See my comment above.
        “They should have an arrangement so that she’s not being charged for food she can’t eat.”

          1. Lanya (AKA Camp Director Kim)*

            Of course they can be inclusive if they want to be. That would be awesome.

            But many places just don’t care (or pay attention to) religious food needs. So if the company decides not to be inclusive, then Jane should be OK with having to bring her own food, and the company should not be charging her for food she is not eating.

  28. Food Allowance/Stipend/Voucher for you*

    Look up the IRS rules, or whatever applies in your location/country
    …..on giving a stipend “in lieu of” ….. blah blah blah

    Basically, your company gives so-and-and so cash to go find her own meal.
    It should be tax-deductible or excluded from taxable wages or such.

    Please verify the particulars with your payroll person

    1. xarcady*

      But that’s not really the same thing.

      All the other employees are getting their meals delivered, saving them time and effort. They don’t have to plan for, shop for or make their lunches. A meal voucher covers the cost of the halal meal, but removes the convenience of getting the food delivered and forces the employee to an greater effort than everyone else.

      And for me, the chief benefit to the OP’s company meal plan is that I wouldn’t have to think about making and bringing my lunch, or the time saved by not having to go out to buy lunch. So a meal voucher would be no benefit to me at all.

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      Giving money to employees to buy lunch, when at their own office, is taxable. Providing lunch at work for the convenience of the employer is a business expense and one that is currently being examined closely by the IRS.
      But this situation the employee is actually paying for a perk that is facilitated by the company. Why should 1 employee out of many be excluded from that perk, unless they willingly opt out.

  29. Master Bean Counter*

    #2. The second choice is the right one. You can’t really be the top performer if you don’t get along with anybody. But if you are number 15 and get along with everybody you can use your connections to do your job better and soon you will be number one.
    But mostly it’s easier to improve hard skills and really tough to improve people skills.

  30. Avery*

    I vote for leaning on the food vendor to provide better options, and don’t take no for an answer. The OP shouldn’t have to call around town when there’s already a contract that states halal food can be provided (I believe the OP mentioned in the comments that this was the case). A daily lunch contract for 50+ people isn’t chump change–a lot of caterers would bend over backwards for that. Sure they can say that the vegetarian meal contractually fulfills the halal requirement, but the OP can point out that 1) that’s misleading, and 2) if they want to be considered for future catering contracts they need to uphold their agreements, even if it means outsourcing certain meals to keep the company’s business.

  31. Rebecca*

    #1 – second comment on this statement “We offer employees a range of free stuff, including lunch. The way lunch works is that a small amount is deducted from the salary and we provide lunch. This is cheaper than bringing in your own lunch.”

    There is no such thing as a free lunch. Free lunch means no cost to the employee. Deducting a small amount from one’s salary to pay for lunch is not a free offering. It might be a reduced cost offering, but it’s not free. And speaking strictly for myself, I doubt someone can cater food for me that is cheaper than me bringing leftovers from home.

  32. Abby*

    If Halal is available you are really obligated to offer it. I think that is not just non-inclusive but discriminatory because halal is a religious preference. And, it doesn’t matter if it is one or 30 employees making the request, it is reasonable.

    I agree with other comments. It isn’t really a free lunch but if employees appreciate it and want to participate then it is a nice option/benefit. But you can’t exclude someone from it for this reason. Just like you shouldn’t force everyone to do it.

  33. jam*

    Some people here really need to take a few deep breaths and calm down. Is AAM where you come to vent your frustrations with the world?

  34. Minion*

    For those who may be interested, I stumbled across this in my search for what religion might forbid onions. It’s an interesting site on dietary restrictions based on religious beliefs.

    I’ll comment the link.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I’m glad they included the Yazidi ones! I’ve studied them a lot and almost mentioned the butter bean and lettuce restriction earlier :)

  35. Janay*

    I am a salary based manager and did get paid vacation. My concern was that all my vacation days counted as taken even though I worked. I am not worried about he pay just the days that are missing.

  36. Wilton Businessman*

    #2: I’d say “Is that a serious question?” and wait for them to answer. If they pushed, I’d explain that I am a top performer and this interview is giving me as much information in a short period as they are getting. Then I would ask to move on to real questions…or walk out.

  37. Jazzy Red*

    I’m not going to read the 600+ comments here; I’m just going to post my opinion.

    I would stop having any and all lunches, brunches, buffets, appetizers, pre-game or post-game spreads at work. It’s absolutely insane to provide every single different type of food. Give everyone money instead and let them get their own meals. They can eat together or not, as they choose.

    My grandmother had a saying for situations like that: eat it or go hungry.

Comments are closed.