manager asked about religion, new job was a scam, and more

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

1. Manager asked about religion when I asked to take a day off

My workplace has an unfortunately named paid time off day called “Religious Day.” It’s essentially a personal day that’s granted when someone is hired, without the need for accrual. Besides the name, the staff handbook does not specify what this day is to be used for. If you’re not religious, it seems like just another day of paid time off similar to a personal day.

I requested my religious day and my manager’s response over email was, “what are you celebrating?” I did not reply. I had to speak with them on the phone regarding something else, when they brought this up again. I told them it is my birthday, to which they replied, “I think it’s inappropriate to use a religious day for a non-religious purpose.” They said they were going to HR. I don’t know anything more about the conversation with HR, but the day was subsequently approved.

I am curious about this. Am I on solid ground here? I think I am free to use the day as I choose (subject to work coverage) and my manager shouldn’t be probing into my religion.

It sounds like your HR department agreed with you, as they should have since the way your manager wanted to handle this is coming awfully close to discriminating on the basis of religion, which is illegal. After all, if you aren’t religious and so have no “legitimate” use for the day and thus can’t take it, your company would be illegally favoring religious employees over non-religious employees. Your manager was out of line.

2. My office is gossiping about how much time a married male coworker is spending with a new female hire

I have a peer named Fergus, who has been seen around the office talking quietly with a new, young female coworker (Felicity). Fergus is a manager in our office and is married to someone we all used to work with. People are starting to notice and talk about how much time Fergus and Felicity are spending together. Felicity doesn’t do the same job as us, but it is possible he is mentoring her in some way.

I have already decided that I am not going to say anything to him about how this relationship is starting to look. I am not a super close friend. But one of my close friends is his direct manager. She has been hearing a lot of people mention how much time they spend together and is wondering if she should say something to him. And if so, how should she approach it? My friend’s main concern is he doesn’t realize how bad it looks and that people close to his wife are taking notice. I offered to post the question to you.

I’d rather see you and his manager shut this down when you hear it come up, by telling people to stop gossiping and pointing out that they could do real damage to Fergus’s and Felicity’s reputations and to Fergus’s marriage, without having any real grounds for it. Seeing them spending a lot of time together talking quietly isn’t a damning sign of an affair, and it’s the sort of thing that probably wouldn’t raise eyebrows at all if they were both men or both women.

That said, if the gossip is getting intense, then his manager might be doing him a favor by mentioning it to him. Her message shouldn’t be “you need to shut this down” or “this looks inappropriate,” but more “hey, I felt weird knowing that people are talking about this and not passing it on to you in case it becomes more of an issue.”

3. My new job was a scam

I was employed by a businessman through a website. I never met him because he was out of state. He needed an assistant to help with his patients and such. No biggie, right? He began texting me asking when I was available to start my first task and I told him. He told me that he sent a paycheck. It shocked me because I had not even done a single assignment so I was confused. It came within a day through express mailing. In the package was a check for $2,400! I began to get nervous and he told me to deposit it because I’d have to send a part of that money to a client. So I did, although I had a bad feeling about it. With such a large deposit, only $200 was made available. He then gave me instructions to go to a Money Gram nearby my neighborhood and told me to send out $180 to a client in Georgia. While the check was going through the processes of being checked by my bank, he kept bugging me about it even though I told him I would let him know when it was available. After going through all that, I quit the job through text and told him that I would send all the money back to him when it’s available. I felt really uncomfortable with the tasks he was giving me.

Soon after, I got an email that the check was declined and I told him. My bank account dropped down to a negative of $155 because the $200 I took out was now taken out of my own money. I told him that he needs to pay me back, but he did not respond. I have all the documents of the transaction that was made — a copy of the check and all the receipts. What should I do?

So … this is a really common scam — they send you a large check and ask you to deposit it and then send part of that money somewhere else. Then the check bounces and you’re out the money you sent.

You should report it to your bank and file a police report, but that money may be gone for good, I’m sorry to say.

4. Should I write my own LinkedIn recommendations for other people to post about me?

I’m in Russia, where it is 99.99% expected that you are going to write your own recommendation letters for other people to just sign.

How would it reflect on me to have LinkedIn recommendations from people I didn’t directly report to? Not just random people, I’m talking CFO, SEO, deputy COO. The problem is, I can’t ask them to write recommendations (they are very busy) and would have to do it myself on their behalf. But I also can’t write so many truthful and normal-sounding recommendations (without BS like “great team player,” ” dedicated over-achiever,” etc.) without them being short and kinda samey (“he is great and smart and helpful”).

Is this a good idea at all? Or is this a good idea but I should make recommendations more detail-specific? I’m hesitant to do that because I don’t think that’s how humans would talk when recommending someone, so it would feel weird and obvious that they didn’t write the text themselves.

I wouldn’t, for a couple of reasons. First, recommendations are much more effective when they’re specific and don’t all sound alike. Second — and probably more importantly — it’s just not worth putting a lot of energy into LinkedIn recommendations because most hiring managers don’t put much weight on them. That’s partly because they’re public (so obviously no one is going to say something critical about you there), partly because they’re so off done as write-for-me-and-I’ll-write-one-for-you trades, and partly because the value of a reference lies in being able to ask specific, targeted questions and not just reading a pre-written statement.

5. Short-term jobs on a resume

I have a couple of short-term positions on my resume, and I’m wondering how to best indicate that these were term positions and that I’m not a job hopper and wasn’t let go. They’re extremely relevant to the work I want to continue doing and one is fairly prestigious, so leaving them off isn’t a good option.

As long as you make it clear that these were intended from the start to be short-term, you won’t look like a job hopper. You can do that like this:

* Teapot Coordinator (short-term contract)
* Teapot Mender (temporary)
* Teapot Assistant (internship)

{ 450 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*


    That’s an unfortunately named day off indeed. I wonder if your company would consider calling it a personal day or floater day, especially since it looks like you’re allowed to use it whenever you need to.

    1. Juli G.*

      I personally wouldn’t push the issue since HR is “enforcing” it correctly. I’ve seen three places where there was employee pushback about getting Good Friday off that ended in just making it a working day with no floater.

      It is clunky but as long as it’s executed properly, I would let sleeping dogs lie.

      1. Juli G.*

        And to be clear, those employees were perfectly fine to express discomfort with having a strictly religious day off. I would just hate to see someone lose a floater day because it’s not called a floater day.

        1. Anna*

          Right, but by calling it “Religious Day” there may be a contingent of people not using it because they don’t realize it’s actually just a personal day with a crappy name. There’s no harm in asking HR if they would consider renaming it.

          1. LBK*

            Agreed – I wouldn’t think to use it or I’d at least feel like I was abusing it if I took it for something that wasn’t religious, even though as Alison points out, they clearly can’t offer a day off that’s only available if you need it for a religious purpose.

            1. JessaB*

              Plus what if whatever your religion is, it goes against what the boss thinks is a valid religious day (ie a Muslim taking one of the Eids, or a Jew taking Yom Kippur, or a pagan taking a solstice.) If the boss is Christian of some denomination and thinks only Christian holidays are real observances, then what?

              Call it a floating day and let people take it whenever they want. I’ve actually worked for smaller companies who give everyone their birthday without docking their leave balances, it’s a fun thing to get for most people, but I could see a Jehovah’s Witness having an issue, so for me “x number of floating take em whatever days,” not included in your leave balance is a safer option.

              I did work for a company that had one of those awful points attendance policies, but at least they gave everyone two “call whenever the heck, it’s no points off” days. They did dock leave, but still you got a couple of freebies.

        2. INTP*

          Good point, I think it’s possible that whoever in upper management decided that a Religious Day was a good idea thought of it as something like bereavement leave or jury duty pay – something that you’re not supposed to take advantage of unless you need it for that specific personal thing. If that’s the case and HR says “Hey, we can’t have a benefit specifically designated as for religious purposes” it might be taken away entirely.

          1. Anna the Accounting Student*

            My last employer, for the last few years of its existence, gave us Good Friday — but only because the building was closed. Otherwise, it was the standard ten federal holidays.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, calling it “religious day” is automatically opening up all kinds of cans of worms!
      You would think companies would know better by now to just call it Personal Day or PTO Day or something generic. And who cares what an employee does with their PTO? It crosses a line into the employee personal life.

      1. AVP*

        my mom’s company calls them “floating holidays” and they’re a remnant of different companies with different time-off policies merging together and trying to standardize. They work well though as there are people of many cultures and nationalities working here and they’ve never had any pushback or questioning on why someone wants a particular day. Plus the system allows people to work days like 4th of July and Good Friday and Rosh Hashanah if it’s a holiday they don’t care about and they’d rather take off elsewhere.

      2. Bob*

        We get two “floating holidays” to use as we please. I think this is because there are religious days like Good Friday that many people like to be off but our industry doesn’t shut down for those days. Plus, we are an international company so this gives us a little leeway because our HR may not be well-versed in the holidays of other countries.

        1. Green*

          Same. We get two holidays we can elect to use. Which is important for very observant religious people, and an equal benefit to everyone who has something secular they’d like to use it on.

    3. Mockingjay*

      My small company’s holidays include Good Friday. Interesting that they do so, since the company founders aren’t overtly religious. We can use it as a floater holiday, which seems to prevent objections or problems (one of my colleagues is Wiccan – he banks it).

      1. Ad Astra*

        Is this the only holiday you can use as a floater day? That’s interesting to me. Good Friday is a state holiday in some places, and it’s fairly common for schools and colleges to take that day off because it’s a big deal holiday for some people. Seems strange to me that Good Friday would be a floater if Christmas isn’t, but I guess I can’t think of any good reason to object.

        1. Temperance*

          There’s a good business reason for it – simply put, enough people would want to take Christmas off that it would be useless to open when no one would be around to actually work.

          1. Natalie*

            That and banks are closed, USPS isn’t running, and many other businesses are closed, so you might not have all that much to do. (Depending on the nature of the job, of course)

          2. AVP*

            Yes – at my mom’s company they typically take off a chunk of days between Christmas and New Years because so many people were taking them off that it became cheaper not to heat the buildings and turn on the electricity than to open for only a few people.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          In my part of the U.S., Good Friday isn’t a big deal at all – not a state holiday, schools aren’t closed – so Mockingjay probably lives in an area where it’s not considered a major holiday.

        3. Mockingjay*

          No, others can be used as floaters, too. I think Christmas, New Years, and 4th of July are the only fixed ones, as our client businesses are closed those days.

          1. Mockingjay*

            I should add that most DoD contractor companies follow Federal holidays. My company does except for the Good Friday holiday, which is in lieu of President’s Day in February.

        4. the gold digger*

          Good Friday being a government holiday really bugs me. Christmas at least has secular support and is celebrated by many people who do not practice Christianity. (My ardently atheist in laws, for instance.)

          But there is nothing at all secular about Good Friday. The only people who observe it are religious Christians.

          1. Green*

            I’m usually very bothered by religious anything in government, but I have a standing policy that overrides it of “the more holidays, the better!”

              1. Shell*

                Good Friday is, but Easter Monday isn’t; Easter Monday is granted at the discretion of the employer.

                The government recognizes a given number of public holidays and I believe government offices are off on those listed holidays (in this example, Easter Monday), but all other business don’t have to comply to the full list, just the ones that are statutory holidays.

                1. Shell*

                  Your jobs work closely with government and/or public offices, right? (I remember you’re a project manager of some sort and write a lot of grant applications? And you’re an academic?) That might be why. My previous job gave us a few public holidays off when they didn’t have to because all the government offices were closed anyway so our productivity was a lot lower :)

          2. Temperance*

            Sort of OT, but my mother cannot wrap her head around the idea that my (historically Jewish) law firm does not give me off for Good Friday and “Easter Monday”. I’m an atheist who refuses to celebrate Easter anyway, so it’s sort of moot.

              1. Honeybee*

                I rather enjoy the syncretic nature of Easter (and most Christian holidays, but Easter especially because it’s taken so seriously by religious Christians). I mean, it just happens to fall in the springtime, when hundreds of other world religions are also celebrating their fertility and rebirth holidays with oddly similar imagery, symbolism, and rituals!

          3. Bob from Accounting*

            I’m confused. I thought Good Friday wasn’t a federal government holiday. I know Washington’s birthday (President’s Day, I’m assuming) is though.

            Unless we’re talking about a country that isn’t the U.S.

        5. Ife*

          At one college I went to, we didn’t get Good Friday off, but we got the Monday before (or maybe it was Monday after) Easter off due to some Christian religious observance. I grew up Catholic, I thought I knew All the Jesus Holidays!, but apparently not this one. It was pretty confusing and random, especially at a public college, and I had to wonder what made that holiday special, but not others… yet at the same time, it was a free day off so I didn’t question it.

          My friend works at a Jewish museum, and they close pretty frequently in the fall to observe holidays. I think she goes through September without having a full five-day week. If only we could all adopt that model!

          1. Honeybee*

            The Monday before is Holy Monday, which would be a kind of weird day to get off. The Monday after is Easter Monday, which is a holiday in some places.

            I attended public elementary schools in New York that closed on all the Jewish holidays, so I remember we always got off on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (I had an excellent teacher who loved teaching about different cultural traditions, and she was also Jewish, so she taught us what it was and why we were getting out from school). I think in the last few years the city schools also voted to not have school on Eid al-Adha, too, which fell on the day after Yom Kippur this year. We also had Columbus Day off which is not a day most school districts have off, and Veterans Day as well, so we had a lot of days off in the fall!

            This year they’re also closed for the Lunar New Year celebration in early February, as well as Good Friday.

            It’s one of the reasons the New York school year goes through late June.

      2. Anna*

        We used to get two floating holidays a year. Suddenly the company decided to take them away and give us two fixed holidays: Good Friday and Christmas Eve.

    4. Bob*

      I think if you’re going to name it that you should clearly state (maybe in the employee handbook) that the day can be used for any purpose. Naming it that would make any non-religious person apprehensive about using that day, especially if they hear managers are going to confront them. Certainly, I would be sending out a memo to all managers after this incident reminding them how this day can be used. I would also add that is inappropriate to ask why a person is taking any day off unless there are special circumstances like it’s last minute or you can’t cover their shifts.

      I don’t personally celebrate Christmas but I celebrate the hell out of having off the last week in December. I consider that a massive perk. I look forward to Christmas as much as anyone else but to me it’s all about good food, maybe an unsolicited gift from a vendor, extra time off and recharging for the next year. But I would be pretty mad if a manager ever questioned why I was getting that week off if I won’t be doing anything Christmas-related. We either have that time off or we don’t.

    5. Vicki*

      Companies I’ve worked for that have these have called them “Floating holidays”.

      The name seems… unwise.

    6. Melissa*

      Agreed. My new workplace calls it a “personal holiday.” No restrictions on use outside of normal PTO stuff (is there enough coverage etc.)

  2. Artemesia*

    The check scam has many flavors; one is that you try to sell something on Craig’s list and they agree to buy your stuff at an inflated price and then the payment process is complicated but involves you giving someone else money and voila, there goes your money. There is a paypal variation too. I got several of those when selling furniture before a move. When I would email that ‘instead of me writing a check from your payment for transport, why don’t you go ahead and pay that directly’ or similar. Those fat offers vanished in smoke the moment I didn’t agree to send anyone a check.

    If you are only out $200 you are lucky; how horrible to get treated like this when hoping for a job as that is when people are at their most vulnerable.

    1. Anon123*

      Gosh I can’t believe people do that!! The second OP said over $2000 into *her* bank account I was smelling something fishy… But still, OP, that’s terrible :(

    2. The Bimmer Guy*

      Yes, it is. I placed a lightly-used MacBook Pro Retina on Craigslist, only to get a text message from some area code I didn’t recognize, promising to pre-pay me via PayPal for $400 over my asking price (which would have made it far more expensive than a brand-new unit from Apple), part of which was to be used to ship the computer to the person’s wife, who was studying in Paris. When I asked, “Why wouldn’t your wife just buy a new one in Paris?” the text messages oddly stopped.

      The sad thing about this kind of scam–to alter a popular saying–is that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, but you can fool *some* of the people *some* of the time…and that, unfortunately, makes it worth the effort for the people that do this.

      1. Marcela*

        Although I get the point of your question, the truth is that Macs (and other laptops from “famous” brands) are more expensive in Europe and Latinamerica, so every time I travel I am asked to take one to a relative or friends. What these companies do is to take the number in dollars and simply change the currency. So if a laptop is priced USD $XXXX, it will cost €XXXX or XXXX pesos. And in the case of the chilean pesos, for many years the exchange rate meant a mac would cost twice as much in a store in Chile than a store in the US.

        1. Tanaya*

          Ha, reminds me of an article I read about how it was apparently cheaper to fly to the U.S., buy a Mac and fly back, than buy one in the UK.

          1. blackcat*

            Yep! Lots of my friends from Latin American have bought computers for family members. It’s WAY cheaper.

        2. Artemesia*

          True but ANY TIME any deal involves ‘I pay you X and then you pay me Y out of that’ it will be a scam. It is a well known scam but unfortunately people only get to know about it when they are taken oft times.

          1. fposte*

            Basically, if it involves Western Union or overpayment back away fast. (Western Union can have a purpose for dealing with people you already know, but I would never use it for a money exchange with a stranger.)

    3. Natalie*

      Honestly, it’s lucky the bank only made a small portion of the deposit available – usually people who get hooked by advance fee fraud lose a lot more. :(

    4. Bekx*

      Thank you for posting this. My coworker was just telling me last week that someone was buying a car part from him with this method. They told him they would pay with a cashier’s check. It’s an obscure part, and heavy, so it didn’t seem too far fetched to pay for shipping. I just texted him and he didn’t go through with the sale!

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I thought a cashier’s check was the safe way to do business? Because the person has to buy them up front, and then you can cash them without having to make a deposit.

        1. Rita*

          That was my thought. I’ve only gotten cashier’s checks to use myself, never cashed one (big payments – mortgage down payment, wedding payments), but I had to have all the money there so they knew it could be cashed.

        2. Sutemi*

          These days it is fairly easy to forge a cashier’s check, they are not any safer than a personal check. Unless you meet the buyer at her bank and watch her get the cashier’s check I would not accept one for a Craigslist purchase.

          1. Artemesia*

            Stranger sales should always be conducted in cash. We sold a car for 3K this way and I did all my Craig’s List sales this way. Cashier’s checks are often forged and like anything else,if you deposit them and then they are not good, you have to pay your bank back.

            1. Natalie*

              And if you’re concerned about meeting someone with cash on hand, you can always meet at the bank and get them either the cash or a cashier’s check directly.

                1. JessaB*

                  And if you do take any kind of cheque, you do NOT take one red cent from it until it clears. Ever. If they are legit, they won’t mind, if they’re not they’ll run. The only way an advance fee scam works is if you withdraw.

              1. asteramella*

                Many local police departments allow space in their parking lots or lobbies specifically as a meeting place for stranger sales, too.

        3. Bekx*

          That’s why initially both of us were like “Huh….guess it’s not a scam….?” but then my coworker told the scammer that he wouldn’t do anything until the check cleared. The scammer suddenly stopped texting.

          1. Natalie*

            Even that can be risky – as mentioned elsewhere in the thread, banks will sometimes make funds available before the check has truly cleared (particularly if you have money elsewhere in the bank that they could seize to recoup the funds). The cash being released to your account doesn’t mean the check is genuine.

            1. JessaB*

              Actually if you wait til the funds show cleared and call the bank and ask if they’ve been verified, you can specifically ASK the bank to verify the funds, you can also do it when you make the deposit. But YES available does not mean actually really cleared as a real valid instrument. If you’re a long term good customer, they release the money before they get actual verification.

        4. michelenyc*

          Banks will still put a hold on cashiers checks. People have been making fake cashiers checks for ages. When I sold my car 5 years ago the bank did not release any of the funds of the cashiers check until the other bank verified it was from them. It was very frustrating especially since the check was from my step-dad’s father and I was getting ready to move across the country.

          1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

            Definitely this. My grandfather gave me a not insignificant sum of money one year for Christmas and chose to do so with a cashier’s check. The bank put a hold on it and I had to wait awhile to use any of it. I think if he ever does that again, I’ll take the cashier’s check back to his bank where it was made and have them give me the cash and then I can deposit the cash.

            1. Noah*

              Banks can (and will) put a hold on large cash deposits too. Although it generally clears within 24-48 hours.

              1. JessaB*

                True, but if you’ve a good relationship with your bank, you can actually ask them to verify it. I had to make a large purchase after a large deposit, I went into the bank and the banker called the reserve bank that does the transfers and verified that the money was really there and then issued the cheques I needed. I was buying two cars, so we’re taking 20k out of a 40k deposit.

                In the US you’d need to go to a desk officer and not a teller with the cheque, and they can call and verify and then deposit for you. Takes a lot of work so if you’re a problem customer they’ll probably say they can’t, but it is possible. Also if really needful you can take it to the issuing bank.

    5. AshleyH*

      Yup, my friend was offered a nanny job craigslist when we were in college (without meeting the kids or an in-person interview- hello!). The story was the dad was a visiting professor but his wife had to stay back home, so to retain my friend’s services he was sending her a deposit. The check arrived and it was for $2000 more than their agreed-upon rate- he asked her to wire the difference to xyz because it was for his “security deposit”. She was convinced it was real, I was convinced it was a scam, so I told her to tell the guy she didn’t know how to wire money but her dad is a cop so he was going to meet her at the western union location on his shift to help her so it would take an extra day. Her dad is a chef, not a cop, but that was enough to scare him away.

      1. Harriet Vane Wimsey*

        The US Federal Trade Commission and the Postal Service have info on the fake check scams and the “package forwarding scams–reshipping stolen goods.

  3. Kapikui*

    My wife and I run a photography business. We’ve gotten out of weddings and portraits for fine art, but when we were doing weddings about twice a week we’d get someone asking about booking us for a wedding. We’d get details, and they’d say, “Oh by the way, we have another vendor who can’t take credit cards” (or whatever) and they’d ask if we could take payment for the other vendor and send them a money order for the money. Very common scam. One of several reasons we stopped doing weddings (dealing with brides being another). The first time it came up we looked it up, and found out about the common scam.

  4. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 It’s good that HR allowed the OP to use the day, I don’t think employers should police what time off is used for. But I was thinking does it make a difference that the day of is for any religious celebration? I can see the problem with saying it must be used for a particular regious celebration but to say it’s for any religious celebration wouldn’t seem that bad to me. Kind of like Christmas is a big holiday across the U.S. and UK but not everyone taking time off will be Christian or even religious.

    1. Mike C.*

      The thing you’re forgetting is that if someone isn’t religious they don’t get to use the benefit at all.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I get that and I think the right thing to do is let everyone take the day of and use it as the please, but is not being religious a protected class?

          1. irritable vowel*

            My employer’s policy states that employees may take time off “without adjustment to pay” to for religious observances. This does not come out of their accrued PTO. So, that means my observant coworkers can take a day off for Good Friday or Yom Kippur or Eid, but as a non-religious person I don’t get an equivalent “freebie” day off. If I want to take a day off I have to take it from my accrued vacation or personal days. So, are you saying this is discrimination against non-religious employees?

            1. irritable vowel*

              I will say, I think the original intent/letter of the law here is that people can take a few hours to attend a religious service, but in practice nobody goes to church or temple and then comes to work afterwards–it’s a whole day off.

              1. danr*

                Not true. Religious Jews can leave work early on Friday and before some holidays so they can be home before sundown during the late fall, winter, and early spring. It’s a common practice where needed.

                1. Today's anon*

                  Yes, but where I’ve worked, all the religious Jews who took off early on Fridays make other work arrangements, like coming in early or working longer hours the days before or whatever. It’s not like they just work a shorter amount of weekly hours.

              2. Chinook*

                “I think the original intent/letter of the law here is that people can take a few hours to attend a religious service, but in practice nobody goes to church or temple and then comes to work afterwards–it’s a whole day off.”

                I would be careful of generalizations. I have taken a few hours off for a church service and gone back to work (and offered to do so when Easter Sunday, which is like the Catholic Superbowl, also was the day before a tax deadline and I worked for accountants.). Heck, I even worked from home after 1 pm last Tuesday after attending a funeral

                I have also been told, in a province with Sunday closures, to come in for a Sunday staff meeting and when I gave church as an excuse, it was okay this time but not to make a habit of it.

                What I am saying is those laws exist for a reason and, if someone is abusing it, then punish them instead of taking it away from everyone. I like the compromise of floating holidays as long as it is clear that using them for religious reasons during busy seasons doesn’t result in punishment (because, a a Catholic, I really do go to 3 long services between Thursday and Easter Sunday and some of them are only held once a day, which means zero flexibility).

            2. Temperance*

              Wow. That’s absolutely discriminatory. I think this is exactly the sort of thing that the EEOC would be interested in.

            3. Aunt Vixen*

              A religious observation that is accommodated by not requiring someone to take PTO isn’t quite the same as an extra vacation day, though. A Jewish co-worker taking a day off work for Yom Kippur isn’t having a day of leisure. Here’s another similar example: many workplaces offer bereavement leave. Family member dies, a person get some time to make arrangements and attend the funeral. That’s time off you, a non-bereft co-worker, may not get. I doubt you’d want to trade.

              1. Aunt Vixen*

                Aaand now I see that this line of reasoning came up earlier a few threads down the page, before I’d seen it. Sorry for the repeat!

          2. Turanga Leela*

            Alison, tell me if I’m wrong about this—I think a US employer could legally allow religious employees to take days off as an accommodation without offering an equal number of days off to non-religious employees. I don’t think they could come out and say it exactly like that, but for example, couldn’t they allow Jewish employees to take off for Yom Kippur without using PTO? I can see employers (especially small ones with few formal policies) allowing employees to take off whenever they need to attend holiday worship services, which would mean that in practice, non-religious employees would get less time off.

            1. Green*

              Similarly, law firms allow Jewish individuals to go “offline” Friday at sundown for Shabbat, but good luck to the secular associates who try that…

              1. Turanga Leela*

                Right, and I have a Christian associate friend who does the same thing on Sundays. In most other businesses, that would be flexible scheduling, which the EEOC definitely allows as a religious accommodation. But in a law firm, it’s not like other people can just take other evenings off; most associates are on call all the time, so getting a non-work evening every week is a big perk (which I realize was your point).

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, my understanding is that it’s fine to offer flexibility as a religious accommodation, but when you implement a policy of floating days for the religious and deny it to non-believers, that’s where you’d run into discrimination issues.

              1. Turanga Leela*

                Okay, so two situations:
                A) The benefits package includes two floating days off per year that can only be used for religious observance.
                B) There’s nothing formal in the benefits package, but company policy is to allow employees to take time off for religious observance without using PTO.

                Are you saying that Option A is illegal, but Option B is fine as a religious accommodation? Sorry if I’m getting us too far off track; I am so interested in this.

                1. Turanga Leela*

                  Thanks, Alison. Option B sounded legal to me, but as fposte says, it’s a very fine distinction.

                2. fposte*

                  @Turanga Leela–I think it’s understandable that it’s confusing, given that it can lead to the same end result of an employee getting time off for a religious holiday. It’s just one of those things where the complexity of the laws mean there are ways to do it and there are ways not not do it.

          3. Eliza Jane*

            I find this really interesting, because I feel like there’s a line to be walked between accommodating religious needs and discriminating based on lack of religion. As an example, my company has a category of time off that is to be used for some narrow purposes, including family and medical leave, education, or religious observances. Using this time off category, you can take time off without using up your vacation days, but are expected to make up the time within a certain number of weeks by putting in extra hours.

            From the perspective of our Jewish employees in particular, this is a way to get the holy days off without having to use vacation time, which levels the field when compared with Christian employees (and non-religious employees who still celebrate Christmas/Easter/etc). But could this be a discriminatory practice because it gives extra flexibility to people who need time for religious holidays versus other time off needs?

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              This is why I so prefer the setup where I am. We have a sick time bucket and a paid time off bucket – both generously filled each year. I don’t have to declare any purpose for the time I take, I just take it. No explanations, no lies, and no illness details or doctors notes needed for sick days.

              Downside – no holidays are on the table automatically. All days are subject to PTO approval since my group is mission-critical group. However, I can’t recall the last time I declined PTO for any of my people nor when my boss has denied PTO for anyone under him. I’ll take the trade off of nothing guaranteed when I know that we’re all treated like damned adults and can take the time we get without hassle.

              Do all my peers handle it like this? Probably not. I hope they do.

        1. Worker Bee (Germany)*

          As Alison said, if s/he couldn’t take the day off it gets very close to discrimination based on relgion or better the lack thereof.

      2. MashaKasha*

        +100. Which is exactly what OP’s manager was implying.

        FFRF would’ve had a field day with it, had HR not approved the day off. As they should.

    2. MK*

      It’s one thing if the office closes on Christmas Day and even non-Christians get the day off, even though they are not celebrating anything. A day off that is obviously not a regular holiday for the company and that you have to request is obviously meant for a specific religious celebration. I think the employer was discriminating based on religion, though probably unintentionally; possibly they wanted to do something nice for their employees who weren’t part of the most common religion (perhaps also for their employees who consider significant a religious occasion that isn’t one of the commonly accepted major ones) and give them the day off on an important celebration for their religion. And they didn’t consider how that would work with non-religious employees, till the OP’s request.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I see what you’re saying and the out come is the right one for the OP, and it’s probably best to keep religion out of the work place most of the time anyway. I suppose I’m just curious what the OP could have done if the company siad no to giving them the day off.

        1. OP #1*

          @Apollo – if the company said no to giving me this day off, I would have gone to HR on the basis of favoring religious people over non-religious people. Now that I’ve had more time to think about this, my manager shouldn’t be probing into my religion. That might prompt discrimination based on religion. I shouldn’t have to disclose my religion in the workplace at all. Furthermore, I said it was my birthday, but who’s to say I wouldn’t visit a house of worship on my birthday? I am wondering whether to speak to my manager about this because it is still bothering me. Although since the day is approved, I wonder if I should let it drop.

          1. Worker Bee (Germany)*

            Let it go. HR most likly talked to you mananger. Only say something if it happens again next time.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Yeah, I’m thinking that HR probably have the boss a quick education about discrimination and the potential perception thereof. I’d wait and see how he acts the next time.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            I would let it go. FWIW, I don’t think it’s automatically terrible that your manager was asking. It was a little ham-fisted, but with employees who we work with a while, sometimes it’s nice to just get to know them as people.

            I would never ask the way your manager did, but I’m curious about all kinds of things so if I sense someone is willing to talk about it, I like to hear about things. Like, I have a Muslim employee and last year he went on the Hajj and I wanted to know all about it because it’s something I’ll never do, and it sounded really interesting. It’s also good to know for things like bringing in treats. Plus he told me I could have his alcohol at the holiday party :)

            1. Ad Astra*

              “Ham-fisted” sounds about right. If it’s called a religious day, it’s not crazy to think it’s meant to be used for religious holidays and not personal days. It’s also not out of line to inquire about which holiday someone’s celebrating, just out of curiosity. The problem is really the name (and implied intent) of the holiday, iyam. It kind of sets the company up to inadvertently discriminate against nonreligious people, in addition to making it easier to intentionally discriminate. It may not be worth it for OP herself to bring this up with HR, but it would be smart if someone suggested changing it to the more neutral “floating holiday.”

              1. Natalie*

                You know, it occurs to me that non-religious people that aren’t aware of their rights in this area might also avoid using the day because they think it’s only for religious observance. All the more reason to change it to floating holiday, as you say.

            2. Observer*

              I agree that I would let it go. The problem here, though, is not that he asked, but that he considered it appropriate to base approval based on the information.

              The way he asked was ham fisted. Telling her that it’s not appropriate and that he needs to go to HR about is goes beyond that, though.

          3. Tomato Frog*

            Your boss was in the wrong, but I can see how one would think “This day is supposed to be a religious accommodation, and isn’t meant to be used for other purposes” without realizing the broader implications of approaching it like that. As others said, hopefully HR set your manager straight, but regardless, it doesn’t sound like there’s a pattern here that you need to fix.

          4. Snowglobe*

            Of course, he shouldn’t be asking, but I would put it down to a genuine misunderstanding of the company policy. Since the company calls it a “religious day” the manager probably thought that he was supposed to confirm that it was being used for religious purposes. HR has now set him straight. There is no reason to think that the manager is going to treat you badly in the future because of your lack of religion.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                The manager still should have known better, but upper management also should have known better and called them “floating holidays” or something similar.

                1. Doriana Gray*

                  Yes, floating holiday is innocuous and less likely to be misinterpreted. But I’m not sure the manager should have known better if the policy wasn’t that clear to begin with. Still, manager probably should have run it by HR first before responding to the OP.

                2. MashaKasha*

                  Agree. And I’d still bring it up to HR as a suggestion if I were OP. All it would take is a couple of staff changes inside the HR group, and all of a sudden the new HR would enforce religious day off being taken for religious purposes only. Best to nip this thing in the bud.

            1. Sunflower*

              I totally agree that this is probably what happened. On another note, why the heck doesn’t HR lobby to have them called something else. Ours are called floating holidays. They used to have to be used on a holiday but it could be any holiday- St patricks day, columbus day, you/your friends birthday. Finally someone wised up and said you can use them any day. The only diff. is our regular PTO and time off is used in hours and floating holidays must be used as a full day.

              1. Lily Rowan*

                When I worked at a place that offered a floating holiday, my direct report (in her first job post-college) gave me a whole song and dance about why she wanted to take Columbus Day (her Italian heritage). I laughed and laughed and let her know that Columbus Day was a recognized holiday and she did not need to justify it! Maybe if it had been St. Dymphna’s Day, it would have been a different story…

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  At one job, we had an employee who thought Columbus Day was an observed holiday, and she didn’t show up for work. We tried to get hold of her and couldn’t until later in the afternoon. So for about half the day, we all thought she was dead.

                2. irritable vowel*

                  @Elizabeth West — In some states it’s a state holiday. Perhaps your employee came from a state where that was the case? I always have to remember to make sure any new hires from out of state know they aren’t expected to show up on Columbus Day!

                3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  At one of my early jobs, we had a recent grad. She took off Labor Day on a huge sale, just never showed. My boss fired her on the spot the next day because of the chaos it caused.

                  Grad says, “But I’ve always had Labor Day off in school. You mean, I was supposed to come in and *work*?”

                4. The Carrie*

                  @Elizabeth west. We had that happen on MLK Jr. day. Employee did not show up and when called, though his boss was calling him to go golfing. hehe.

                5. Oryx*

                  Even after working in the professional field for 10 years, not all businesses treat holidays the same. ExJob, I had Columbus Day off. Current Job, I do not.

                6. Mean Something*

                  Private colleges and universities don’t always observe Veterans Day, and I once worked at an R1 university that didn’t and had a new professor (who was himself a veteran) not appear for class because his previous institution observed it and it didn’t occur to him that not every school did. That was awkward.

                7. Elizabeth West*

                  @irritable vowel–That’s what she said, that she thought it we were all observing it. I don’t know where she got that idea; we never had! I’ve only heard of companies choosing individually to observe it here. Most places I’ve worked don’t close on all federal holidays, only on the big ones when everybody’s closed.

                8. Chinook*

                  That’s OK – DH had a fellow sailor ask for St. Jean Baptiste Day off as it is Quebec’s national/provincial holiday (don’t ask) a she was Quebecois. Since they had to work every day, DH thought that meant he would get dibs on Canada Day a week later and he did. Of course, he then had to listen to her whine for the rest of the summer about being discriminated against for expressing her Quebecois culture because she had to work Canada Day.

                9. Artemesia*

                  I worked on Labor Day for 35 years — my organization never had it off. I know Columbus day is a holiday in some heavily Italian American states, but it has never been a holiday anywhere I lived except for federal employees.

              2. Arjay*

                Ours work the same way, except they also do not roll over at the end of the year. I take my floating holidays as part of my first vacation in the year to get them out of the way and avoid any rollover issues.

                1. The Carrie*

                  I do too! I make sure it is first. Also, you don’t get paid for it if you leave, so it is the first day I take.

            2. Bob*

              I agree. I blame the company for calling it a religious day more than the manager for trying to enforce it based on the name. “What religious day are you observing” actually seems like an obvious question when you say you’re taking the religious PTO day. I think any manager should have enough sense to know it’s none of their business why someone is taking a day off but I don’t consider it “out of line” in this case considering the name the company gave the PTO day.

          5. Apollo Warbucks*

            I completely agree with you that you shouldn’t need to disclose your religious beliefs in the workplace.
            as for what to do now, I would lean towards letting it go, whatever was said to your boss they now know they made a mistake and it shouldn’t happen again, you got the right outcome so that should be an end to it unless it become part of a pattern.

          6. Anonicorn*

            I think it’s inappropriate to use a religious day for a non-religious purpose.

            I’m in the minority here; the fact that your boss said this genuinely bothers me. This is seriously not OK. That said, I wouldn’t necessarily confront your boss about this, but I would pay attention to whether your manager treats you differently in the future.

            1. Roscoe*

              I think its a bit less problematic than you are making it. Its called a religious holiday, so the boss thought it was supposed to be used for an actual religious day. Nothing about this says he will treat the person different because of their lack of religion.

              1. MashaKasha*

                If the manager could have it his way, every non-religious person in his office would’ve lost one day PTO due to their lack of religion. How is that even remotely okay?

                1. Ad Astra*

                  Well, I would guess his thinking is that nonreligious people don’t need the extra day off for worship, sort of like non-sick people don’t get to use sick days that they don’t need. In college, Jewish students were excused from classes that fell on their holidays while Christian (and other) students still had to go, and that was fine because we didn’t need those days because we weren’t observing Yom Kippur or what have you.

                  I get that it’s different in the working world, when PTO is part of your compensation, but that doesn’t mean the manager has a problem with people who aren’t religious.

                2. Roscoe*

                  But see, thats the thing. Its NOT a PTO day. There are differences usually in how PTO vs. Floating Holidays vs. Sick Days work in the office. But again, that still doesn’t mean he was going to treat them worse. I had an office once where we had a large number of Jewish people including some upper management. They got a couple of extra days (or at least half days) for Jewish holidays. That doesn’t mean I thought my manager would treat me worse because of it.

                3. MashaKasha*

                  Are you implying that religious people are sick? heh heh see what I did here?…

                  Seriously though. We have floating holidays and personal days. They’re not PTO days, but they are days off. I do not have to take a pay cut if I take one. So for all intents and purposes, with this policy, religious people would get X paid days off per year and non-religious people would get X-1. And that is wrong on too many levels.

                4. LQ*

                  Roscoe, so you don’t get on board with the whole it is illegal to discriminate against someone for not being religious thing. Say you have a Jehova’s Witness (this is as it was described to me by a friend once so ymmv) and they don’t believe holidays should be celebrated at all because of their religion, but they do think that days and people should have things like giving gifts or having days of joy and specialness at random, so should that person be denied the ability to randomly take a day because it is a day they want to have a day of joy with the people they love because it isn’t allowed to be a holiday?

                5. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  Thank you, LQ. In this scenario, the JW could not take the Religious Day for Nisan 14, for that isn’t allowed. Any day marked as a holiday PTO day cannot be observed for that holiday. I know many JWs who work on July 4th, Thanksgiving, etc. so that others can take the day; the day has no significance to the JW.

                  If vacation days are split specifically to be religious, holiday, and other, the JW will be at a severe disadvantage. Not to sound dramatic, but it puts the JW in peril over choosing how to use a vacation day and the appropriateness of it.

                6. Roscoe*

                  LQ, I didn’t say anything about the legalities. My point was that there was nothing that indicated the manager would treat the employee any different just because they misunderstood a policy for “religious days”. I didn’t say it was right. However, I can see it happening. My Jewish example was one. I know a policy needs to be made, but in reality it seemed that this policy was trying to do the right thing, and it didn’t have the intended consequences. Doesn’t mean the manager is a jerk that would treat someone without religion different.

                7. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  Roscoe, are you in the US? As an American, seeing the Trump rhetoric, the anti-Muslim sentiment, and other fundamentalist fervor here, I have a hard time believing that a boss who believes this floating day is only for religious observance would not see an employee differently for being non-religious and taking that day for a different reason. Every piece of information we learn shapes and molds our perceptions, beliefs, and truths.

                  You suggest that this happened in a vacuum of sorts, where consequences of actions don’t apply. Of course this boss views OP differently – how could he not?

                8. MashaKasha*

                  Really the most charitable explanation of the boss’s behavior that comes to to mind is that he genuinely cannot imagine that there are non-religious people, and would be puzzled and confused if told that some of his employees are not religious. And even in that case yes he’d probably lean towards treating non-religious employees differently, just because having no religion is such a bizarre irrational thing in his mind.

                  Like I said, this is the most charitable, “honest mistake”-type version of events. I have others.

                9. Roscoe*

                  Yes I’m in the US, and I also don’t necessarily think that just because Trump is saying something stupid that all people are like that. ITs called a Religious Holiday. Argue the rhetoric of the name, but the boss may have been confused on how it could actually be used. (Also lets point out that we know nothing about this place of employment, so the manager could be an 18 year old). And this IS happening in a vacuum. There is no evidence that the boss has had any issue with religion before.

                10. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  OK, keep being willfully ignorant then, despite what many people are saying about the merits of the situation itself. I’m done with explaining why this isn’t a vacuum, even thinking the manager is 18, pretending there aren’t real issues in this country about religion and how we treat each other about it, and battling with someone who wants to be tone-deaf rather than be open to other reasonable points of view.

              2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                OP had to have HR talk to her boss about using the “Religious Day” as PTO. It’s misleading to say that “nothing” about this says boss will treat her differently:

                – he sees the day as having a religious purpose and has apparently enforced that till now.
                – Mgr got set straight by HR over his mistake – we don’t know what that means.

                Every action has an equal or opposite reaction. OP needs to keep an eye on her boss – it’s only logical to do so.

                1. Artemesia*

                  It may be physics and not people, but people can and do develop and express prejudices. I worked for decades in the US south where it was assumed by most that not being religious meant you were immoral and probably unpatriotic. Where do you go to church was common small talk that Freethinkers often learned to deflect with a non-answer answer. Many if not most bosses would have drawn negative conclusions if told the employee was ‘not religious.’

              3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                “Argue the rhetoric of the name, but the boss may have been confused on how it could actually be used. ”

                Check the OP’s update near the bottom of this page and her note of her manager’s adversarial tone. He wasn’t confused.

                You still want to claim the boss isn’t going to see OP differently here, after getting additional details? Want to offer her that comfort directly within your safe vacuum?

                1. fposte*

                  I think you’re holding Roscoe responsible for stuff that isn’t actually her fault here :-). I also think the manager’s phone call supports the theory that the boss was confused–to me “confused” is a synonym for “misunderstood” here, and I think that’s exactly what happened.

                  The consequences of that misunderstanding still aren’t clear. We don’t know whether the boss felt they were being firm with somebody attempting to break a rule or if they are a rabid Pastafarian who feels religion is being slighted; in both cases, but especially the first one, it’s quite possible for the HR clarification to have mended the situation.

                  The thing that makes me more concerned here is that the boss didn’t follow up with the OP getting set straight by HR. Nobody likes being told they’re wrong, but it’s important that when you find out you are, you confirm with the employee who’s in the right that the error was yours and you’re sorry for complicating things. If the manager had done that, I as an employee would be prepared to take it at face value while also appreciating the fact that HR would likely be receptive to reports of future problems.

                2. Roscoe*

                  Dude, chill out. So an update was posted after I wrote what I wrote, and you expected me to somehow know this? Fine. He wasn’t confused. BFD. If you want to treat everyone in America as some kind of closed minded bigot, go ahead. But the fact is you know as little about this as I do. So while you claim I’m choosing to be “willfully ignorant” I think you are choosing to be unfairly judgmental. Either way, it doesn’t matter.

            2. fposte*

              I think it’s not okay, but I think it’s the fault of the company that has two days with names that strongly suggest illegal preference more than the manager who read that policy.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I agree, and it’s possible that rather than being a discriminatory asshole, the manager is just stupid and interpreted it that way. I agree with everyone who says they probably should change it to just a floating holiday.

                1. fposte*

                  I have a literal streak myself, so I could see, if I was clueless about the law, feeling the way the manager did.

                  Mind you, I also think that if the manager got schooled, it might have been good for her to go to the OP and say “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that.” And then the company should change those days’ freaking name.

                2. LBK*

                  Agreed with fposte – I also have a literal streak, and I could see myself not even thinking twice about this. I actually didn’t at first until Alison pointed out how clearly discriminatory this is in her answer, and I’m usually quick to jump on cases where religious people get favored.

                  I think it’s because I generally feel icky about using specialized PTO for things other than their intended purpose, so that instinct would overrule my normal ability to recognize EEOC violations. For example, we have “family care” days meant to be used if you need to take care of a sick relative that I’ve never touched even though I know other people use them as normal vacation time.

                3. Anonicorn*

                  Fair point both you and fposte make. I could see it being a literal-minded mishap, and an apology would probably help put OP more at ease.

                4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  I’m also literal-minded, but I also have a hair-trigger for religion in in the public sector as a non-Christian minority. I can see where some would see this at face-value. I tend to think I would seek clarification on such a policy when it was handed to me to see what it meant and how to apply it. But who knows? Never been there.

                5. fposte*

                  @Dr. Johnny Fever–to be honest, as an atheist, I probably would have been less literal on this policy, but I could see a non-atheist me at the start of my career going “What you have said does not abide by the rule. Does not compute.”

                6. MashaKasha*

                  I am also pretty literate and a stickler for the rules. Runs in the family. But in this case, first thing that’d jump out at me would be how this rule (“religious holiday is for religious purposes only”) directly contradicts a bigger rule (“never should an employee’s benefits ever be tied to their religion”), and the bigger rule wins.

            3. LQ*

              I’m guessing that when the boss went to HR they set him very very straight. Not allowed to discriminate because of non-religion, don’t ask religious questions, etc. This is a place where HR working in the company’s behalf means they tell that supervisor to knock it off and stop opening the company up to lawsuits.

            4. Temperance*

              Nope, I’m right there with you. That’s absolutely wrong. As an atheist, I would be very, very concerned to work for this manager.

      2. The Bimmer Guy*

        I agree with you.

        I also see where the company was coming from. Christians are pretty universally-accommodated with a holiday like Christmas, because almost everyone with any kind of salaried position gets that day off. However, there is a host of holidays important to other religions that fall on normal workdays, and it would be impossible to honor them all by making them guaranteed days off. This company just thought it would accommodate those other holidays by giving everyone a day that they could use for religious reasons.

        But they went wrong in saying that it was specifically for that. For one thing, it does discriminate against people who aren’t religious. For another, it sort of has an implicit promise that if you submit your particular “Religious Day” request within a reasonable timeframe, you’re guaranteed to get that day off…when the employer might not be able to actually honor that request (your chosen Religious Day may coincide with an important function where your presence is non-negotiably needed, for example).

        A better bet would have been to just add a standard floating vacation day to everyone’s benefits, and then suggest that people who need to celebrate a religious holiday during the work-week schedule and use the extra vacation days for that purpose…but emphasize that it can be used for any purpose, and (just like any other religious day) doesn’t require disclosure as to what it will be spent on. That treats everyone fairly and doesn’t discriminate against non-religious people. It’s a lot less ceremonial than the “Religious Day” implementation and employees might not see it as gaining anything at all. Then again, standard vacation days are usually in multiples of five (10 vacation days a year, 15 vacation days a year, etc.)…and so if the employer adds a day to that multiple of five (11 vacation days a year, 16 vacation days a year, etc…), it might still be perceived by employees as an additional perk…which seems to be the intention.

        1. Amtelope*

          We have two “discretionary holidays” per year, which are essentially extra vacation days, but can’t be carried over from year to year like our normal PTO. You can use them for whatever you want, including to celebrate religious holidays that we don’t automatically get off. That seems like a better way of handling it than calling them “religious days.”

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            We have two floating holidays also, that don’t have to be earned, and that’s their purpose. Practically, you can use them for anything but theoretically, they exist for either personal religious holidays or holidays that an individual would like the business to be closed for but we’re not (example: veterans day, columbus day, etc. )

            People lump them in with their PTO in their brains but actually, no, you don’t have to take a vacation day for Rosh Hashanah, Good Friday or Winter Solstice. We’ve provided two floating holidays for you.

            A Religious Day makes sense but calling it that is weird and unnecessarily open to misinterpretation.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              I would like a day like that to use for social justice action. There have been a couple of times when I was asked to come counter-protest at Planned Parenthood, for example, but I had to work.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                can’t you just take a regular vacation day?

                Or is it a matter of the amount of notice you have to give? I’d like a bank of leave for “I can’t handle going in to work today” that’s for no-notice days off.

                1. Helka*

                  Ditto, very much so. I hate having to take attendance dings for “I have insomnia and got all of 2 hours sleep, you don’t want me working today.”

                2. LBK*

                  Eh, I think ultimately it doesn’t matter but there is a psychological element. My boyfriend’s company gives him a special PTO day that’s just for taking off a day to volunteer, which theoretically they could just turn into a vacation day and let people use it for whatever (including to volunteer if they so choose). However, there’s some aspect of feeling like it’s unfair to use a “vacation” day for something that’s not really a vacation.

              2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

                That’s the idea behind them a “whatever is important to you holiday” altho, practically, people lump it all in their PTO without distinction in their minds so I don’t know that it accomplishes any of that really.

                1. Oryx*

                  I’m with fposte. We don’t have “floating holidays” but we do have three “personal days” and I never really understood their purpose since we also have generous vacay and sick time, but now they make sense.

              3. Lore*

                We have two volunteer days (I think it’s two? Maybe it’s just one) that would seem ideal for something like that. I’m not sure of what paperwork you have to submit to confirm your volunteering–most of the stuff I do is either through work directly (we do some service days and such) or on evenings/weekends and this was a new benefit this year so I haven’t tried to use the days.

              4. Revolver Rani*

                My company actually has this! We have both, in fact – three floating “personal days” that are accounted separately from regular vacation days (what most folks call PTO), and one day a year that you can spend on a social-mission type activity.

            2. AvonLady Barksdale*

              And I miss working for a company that had those days. I used to have two floating holidays, which made the High Holidays much easier, especially when I was junior. Now I’m at a tiny company with 10 vacation days and I had to take 2.5 days of PTO for the holidays this year– which meant that once I started slipping into burnout during Q4, I had no days left for mental health. I think those floating holidays are a great idea.

              We’re not getting raises or bonuses this year, and I seriously considered asking my boss for 2 extra days, but it just never came up.

            3. Hrrecruiter*

              Yes, calling these days floating holidays makes much more sense. We have these at my company and, as a non-religious person myself, I always tell new hires that the floating holidays can be used for anything that is a holiday for them–their cat’s birthday, an actual holiday we don’t close for, whatever.

              1. Retail Lifer*

                I use my floating holidays for doctor’s appointments or when I’m burnt out and know I can’t handle five whole days in a row.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  We have a couple of odd holidays off that are federal holidays, but we don’t get to float them. Our PTO bucket is for any personal thing–vacation, sick days, or whatever. They don’t ask us to tell what we’re using it for, though I usually share it if it’s not something icky.

            4. Anon4this*

              Many people who practice “alternate religions” such as Wicca are simply not comfortable telling employers about their religion. It dredge it pictures of witches in black hats who will curse them if they say no to anything the person requests, so it’s much easier to just keep your religion and beliefs out of it entirely. While there may be laws to protect you (supposedly), proving things can be very difficult – just like harassment.

            5. hermit crab*

              Yep, we used to have two floating holidays and recently they changed into “personal days” (though nothing is actually different except the name of them and the timesheet code). I generally use mine to work at the polls on election day!

        2. Mando Diao*

          I can see the value in having one day that’s under the banner of “no really, this is super important to me and my family, and it’s only one day.” But then again, not everyone’s life fits into that rubric, and it would be too easy to use that for something like New Years Day when you know that all of your coworkers are stuck working.

      3. Natalie*

        It wouldn’t surprise me if the manager had literally never realized that people can be no-religion, or genuinely didn’t realize that no-religion is equally protected. I’ve met a surprising amount of people who fall into one of those categories.

    3. Temperance*

      I’m an atheist. I don’t celebrate *any* religion. Why shouldn’t I get the same benefits that my religious coworkers do?

    4. Artemesia*

      That is still a religious test for using a day off. As a Freethinker I don’t have any religious days to celebrate, but I should not be deprived of the same days off as my co-workers.

    5. Bwmn*

      While in general I completely agree with AAM, I do think that the idea of floating holidays being put in place for religious consideration is helpful. In my office we have 2 floating holidays, and a considerable part of that is in consideration of non-Christian holidays that we don’t have off. So if 3 people in one department want off for Yom Kippur or Diwali then management or HR would take that into account differently opposed to if 3 people from one department wanted May 11th off – whether they were using the floating holiday or a personal vacation day.

      I think had the manager asked if it was for religious observance in that regard – then personally I do think it’s fair for consideration of days off to be different.

          1. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)*

            I’m taking off St. Patrick’s Day to avoid everyone celebrating St. Patrick’s Day!

  5. Shami*

    #3 – It wasn’t a job – it was just a con. Please be careful, if something seems to good to be true.

    1. NJ Anon*

      +1000000000 This is one of the credos I live by. When the “businessman” sent you $2400 before you even did anything, that should have been a red flag.

      1. The Expendable Redshirt*

        It was a red flag that the OP noticed. But scammers are experts at their game. They prey on “What if it’s true?”, inexperience, fear of lost opportunity, and the belief that people are decent individuals. Scammers placate doubt for a living.

        1. Artemesia*

          And they prey on people who are vulnerable and people looking for a job are just that. My husband used to prosecute consumer and security fraud scams. It was heartbreaking the number of people who were disabled and poor who were desperately trying to work to support their families and who would be scammed into investing in bogus work at home schemes. They would have put their last dime into some home business that had no chance of generating income (like earthworm farming or chinchilla farming etc etc)

        2. JMegan*

          And also, they only need each person to respond once. It’s the same formula as legitimate crowdsourcing – large numbers of people each giving small amounts of money.

          OP, I’m sorry you got taken in by this one. You’re certainly not alone, but it’s a crappy way to learn a lesson, especially when you’re job searching. I hope your next job offer is a real one, and a fantastic one.

    2. fposte*

      And honestly, it wasn’t that good. We can say it was too good to be true because we know it’s a scam, but it’s not blindingly generous or anything. There are jobs where $2500 up front would be nothing. But it would be negotiated, and it would come from a known entity and not over Western Union.

      1. fposte*

        Sorry, misremembered which way the WU was. So there’s an additional layer–it wouldn’t require you to roll it through your bank account and give some of it back, let alone through Western Union.

  6. Worker Bee (Germany)*

    #1 If one could just answer the question of what you are celebrating with: Oh but that day is the big day. It’s the spaghetti monsters birthday..

    1. Gandalf the Nude*

      I would take off for Talk Like a Pirate Day, but then who would get to hear me talking like a pirate?

  7. CMT*

    #1 It is a weird policy that should be dropped, but there are Catholic feast days just about every day. You could always claim you’re celebrating the Feast of St. Amaswinthus, or whomever.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      you shouldn’t have to lie, because the boss shouldn’t be giving preferential treatment to religious people.

        1. MashaKasha*

          “I happen to be the founder of The Church of Bob, and Bob (who happens to be me) is a highly revered saint in my church. Bob’s birthday is a holiday of utmost importance for the members of the Church of Bob (of which there’s currently only one member, but who knows.) Therefore, I will be taking my birthday off to celebrate Saint Bob’s nameday. TIA for your approval.”

      1. CMT*

        Oh, I know. I was trying to jokingly point out how many of those feast days there are. (I looked them up and today actually is the Feast of St. Amaswinthus!), but I was tired and my attempt fell flat. Oops!

    2. SystemsLady*

      Where I work has a similar day but they just roll it in as a “+1” PTO day and don’t ask questions. It should be pretty simple for them to change it to something like that.

    3. Bwmn*

      A number of places where I’ve worked have the policy as a way of being more accommodating to those of different religions. That way if you’re non-Christian (particularly in the US) and have a holiday occur shortly after you start a new job, you’re covered.

      So the fact that they’re called Religious Days honestly doesn’t bother me – even though I’m not religious – I think the general idea is about being more inclusive. Typically where I’m worked they’ve been referred to as Floating Holidays and I’ve never been questioned what I was using it for. To me this is far more a case of a Manager having it wrong than a policy being flawed.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      So, I had to look up what Cthulu is, and after reading several articles from various sources including Wikipedia and Know Your Meme, I saw that there is also a Cthulu pet app. Lol

  8. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – OP, good for you for pushing back on that! What an absolutely stupid name/reason for a day off. Employees are already allowed accommodation if they need to worship – so there should have been no reason to just make this a floating day off and let the employees decide the reason. Your manager’s response was really, really stupid.

    I know this wasn’t a case of religious accommodation, but I’m always amazed at the number of managers who don’t understand it. I meet them in our own EEO training classes. It’s none of their business whether the reason or religion is “valid” or not – their only concern is whether or not your request poses an undue hardship on the business.

    In these classes you always get managers going down the slippery slope of “well, ok, but what if they say they want a whole month for a fake religion? Or to come in late every morning because they were up late sacrificing to Zeus?” And the answer is always – is it a hardship for the business? No? Then stop worrying and get back to work. Besides, most of your employees probably aren’t dirtbags looking for every single loophole to exploit.

    Anyway – good on you, OP! You handled that well. Enjoy your birthday :)

    1. Bwmn*

      I totally agree about the name and the manager’s response being stupid – but I think accommodation to be able to worship and the freedom of just having a day off is different when you observe a non-mainstream holiday in the US. Though not religious now, I was raised Jewish – and a number of holidays involve celebrations that are not strictly “worshiping” in the sense of being in a religious institution and actively praying. A holiday like Passover that extends over 8 days where the main celebration is a dinner typically hosted in someone’s home. It’s also a dinner that often involves a lot of wine and eating and can go very late.

      It’s common to first think that you’re attending the seder at grandma’s who lives fifteen minutes away and always wraps things up early – and then life happens and you’re now going to Aunt Susan’s who lives an hour a way and brings in cases of wine and now no one expects the meal to end until 2am. So being able to use that kind of a ‘religious’ holiday to ‘support’ your celebration of Passover – though not truly a religious accommodation is relevant for a business to be inclusive.

      Lots of religious needs are about praying, but others are about celebrating and those needs are somewhat different. Needing the day off before or after a holiday to help with cooking, cleaning, traveling, recovering – that’s as much how a business can accommodating different faiths.

      The manager’s response was wrong, but I don’t think the intent of the policy is wrong.

      1. fposte*

        Agreed. I think the phraseology and the communication of the policy is weak, but the notion that people are entitled to have some holiday time for days not on the employer docket is a good one.

      2. Firsttimecomment!*

        Agreed! I think what’s important to remember is that the Religious day is offered to new staff who haven’t earned any PTO yet. If a Jewish employee joins the company in September and Rosh Hashannah falls on, like, their second week of work, the Religious Day allows them to attend services even though they haven’t technically earned PTO. So I think the right response for a nonreligious employee would be to use it for an analogous situation–some pretty momentous, nonmovable event. Like if a new employee had a friend’s wedding (or a child’s college graduation, etc) that they’d known about before getting hired, then taking time off for that would be consistent with the spirit of the Religious Day; taking it like any other PTO wouldn’t really be. It’s not intended as a free “perk” day; it’s intended as an accommodation for life events that were planned way before work entered the picture.

        1. Bwmn*

          My position is that I’m totally ok for an employee using it for whatever purpose they want, especially after someone’s been somewhere for a while. Typically those kinds of floating holidays aren’t paid out, so I know plenty of people who aim to use those for their first days off of the year and then if there are holidays later to just use vacation time.

          However, my feelings are that if someone’s using it for a religious holiday or cultural celebration that management/HR do everything in their power to make sure that everyone who requests off for that purpose is allowed to take it off. Obviously some fields/positions don’t allow for that – but if it’s just a case of “company policy is that at least X coverage is present” and there’s not a pressing need – then encouraging everyone who might have a religious request to have the day off I do believe is different than someone wanting to use the day for their birthday or any other personal use.

  9. Katie the Fed*

    #3 – OP, be glad your bank had those restrictions in place, or you’d be out a lot more money!

    I’m sorry this happened to you – definitely file a police report but I also suspect you’re going to be out the money. I’m sorry! Think of it as a $155 crash course in the wisdom of listening to your gut.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Yes! I’m a banker and it scares me that so many banks make all funds from a check available the next day, even when it’s more than $5,000! My current bank places a very short hold, but my previous bank would make a $25,000 check (ALL checks) the next day and we got burned quite often. The bank before that used the full timeframe allowed by the regs and we very rarely got burned. Regulations have changed over the years in order to reflect the fact that checks clear much faster now, but the shorter availability timeframes just aren’t enough sometimes.

      I just have to say, though, it astounds me that people still fall for these check scams. I realize that these checks are often very real-looking, but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. People who run businesses don’t just send you money through the mail when you haven’t done any work. A foreign prince isn’t going to share his fortune with you if you help him get out of whatever country he’s in. And you can’t win millions in the international lottery when you didn’t even enter. Ask yourself some basic questions when you see letters like these and trust your gut.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        They probably made funds available faster because otherwise they would get complaints from customers about checks not clearing RIGHT NOW OMG WHERE’S MY MONEY MY CHECK IS LEGIT, and both the bank and most customers don’t care that it could save someone from financial disaster one day.

        tl;dr: We’re often very bad at judging or preparing for risk.

        1. Lore*

          Well but also, banks have no difficulty removing the funds from my account instantly so it seems intuitively logical that they should be able to perform the transaction on the other side that fast and verify the existence of said funds before releasing them to me.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Doesn’t always work that way when verifying funds on a check. Most banks no longer verify funds so other banks are at the mercy of the check processing deadlines, unfortunately.

        1. Merry and Bright*

          The one where you have to pay endless admin fees to get your money? The one outed on UK TV a few years back, run by a Nigerian guy from a hut in Barcelona?

      2. fposte*

        But you weren’t born knowing what made something suspicious–at some point you learned that. Scammers count on getting people in the time *before* they learned that.

      3. Murphy*

        Yeah, when I worked in a bank we would hold cheques for various periods of time depending on where it was drawn from (up to 6 weeks for out of country cheques). We could waive the hold period for long-standing customers with no history of chargebacks, but that was on a case-by-case basis.

        Also, I just wanted to point out that while one bad cheque doesn’t make you look bad to your bank, a series of them can. It’s not just whether or not you write bad cheques (far more serious and illegal), but when looking at the whole scope of your account for purposes such as waiving a hold, etc. bankers do look at how often your depositing bad cheques and too many will raise flags.

    2. The Expendable Redshirt*

      A friend of my parents almost got caught in this scam. Same basic situation. Fortunately though, the bank noticed the fishy situation and reccomended he not send anything. I’m afraid this is a $200 experience on how humans can be crappy individuals.

      1. catsAreCool*

        There should be a way to find scammers and put them in jail. Can the scammer be traced back through the means of communication or something like that?

    3. Lizzy May*

      A while back when I worked at a bank, it was one that dealt heavily with students and some international ones in particular seemed very susceptible to these sorts of scams. A combination of them working outside of their primary language and the fact that they weren’t able to work while they were in the country made the scams seem so appealing. It was heartbreaking watching my manager tell 18 year olds that they were thousands of dollars in debt when they needed that money to pay tuition and buy food. It goes without saying that these scammers are scum.

      I’m really sorry OP that you were scammed. It happens way more that anyone realizes because no one wants to admit they were taken in.

  10. Britt*

    #3…wow. I have sympathy for the OP because that totally sucks but it always amazes me that in this day and age people still fall for this stuff. It’s like when you hear someone say with seriousness they got an email they are related to a Nigerian prince.

    If it triggers your gut or seems to good to be true, it is.

    1. Allison*

      I think the Nigerian prince e-mails are a little older and more well-known than job scams like this. I would like to see more job seekers get educated on these scams, because if someone’s desperate for a job, they’re likely to take whatever’s offered. These scammers do a great job in getting people to send their own money without even realizing it until it’s too late.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        These scammers do a great job in getting people to send their own money without even realizing it until it’s too late.

        They do. And this is why I always, always, always research a company or a recruiter contacting me about a business opportunity that I’ve never heard of through email. I get that some places have an intranet presence instead of an internet footprint (the law firm I used to work at was one such place) so you probably won’t find much on them online; however, I’d rather potentially lose out on a real opportunity than get taken for any amount of money. I worked too hard for the little bit I do have for that (and to do this to people who are unemployed and don’t know where their next check is coming from is especially foul).

        I’m sorry this happened to you, OP #3. Please be careful next time and do your due diligence about investigating people who contact you out of the blue with job offers.

        1. Erin*

          When researching you could even try Googling the company name with “scam” and see what comes up.

          So sorry this happened to you OP, and so thankful it wasn’t worse than that.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            When researching you could even try Googling the company name with “scam” and see what comes up.

            This is how I avoided the Vector Marketing scam when I was newly out of college, unemployed, and desperate for a job. I’m so thankful to all the people who posted online about that one. I would have been pissed if I had gone to that interview and found out the “marketing” was selling knives door to door.

            1. LQ*

              This is part of why it is a good idea to post online about your experience with these kinds of places to alert others to the problem. Both the specifics (you can search for key phrases in the email, especially ones that sound slightly off, people sometimes post the complete email so that others can see what happened), as well as the names and how it happened. This is a good idea to help others in the future.

              I did this once out of college as well. It wasn’t technically a “scam” company, but it was close enough for me (something pretty mlm-ey). I didn’t go to the “interview” which, when I read online about it, was just a big sales pitch. It wasn’t worth the several hours of my time.

              Just searching the company name won’t always pull this up, but tacking on the word scam can make a big difference.

              1. Lizzy May*

                The thing is people often feel embarrassed when they get duped so instead of telling people about the scams, they pretend it didn’t happen. I get why people choose that, but it certainly hurts in general because the less people are aware of the different scams out there, the more likely they could be fooled.

        2. Natalie*

          I would suggest that, as part of due diligence, to also google the details of the job offer without the company name. Anyone can make up or appropriate another company’s name, so you don’t want the absence of specific information to make you think that company is legit.

          Everyone once and a while I see people online trying to out specific scammers, not realizing that the names they’re using are completely made up.

      1. rory*


        Scammers also rely HEAVILY on the shame that people get for falling for them. It then pumps people up to say “well, I’m not that stupid, I won’t fall for a scam”.

        I fell for a charity scam once and, even when walking away, thought “wait, that might not be real”. I didn’t fall for it the second or the third or the fourth time I was hit up for it. But this person keeps doing it because *it works*. People think they’re too smart for this, people blame the victims, and it really helps the scammers. “Can’t sucker an honest man” cliche has led to a whole lot of honest folks getting suckered. It’s probably even easier to sucker an honest person than a crooked one, because the honest one will give you the benefit of the doubt. And there goes your money…

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah I got scammed by a neighbor’s kid once–I paid him $25 in advance to do some yard work. He did five minutes of it and then bailed and left the rest for me to do. Taught me a lesson–only give half up front, if even that. For this kind of stuff, you don’t get paid until you finish!

          1. Liane*

            Yes. My dad, who was a painting/building contractor, taught me that THE standard contract for those fields was 1/3 up front, 1/3 (roughly midway through), and the final 1/3 when everything was completed satisfactorily. And that was the only arrangement he gave his clients, whether it was a room addition for a homeowner or painting a new apartment complex for a big developer.

      2. Britt*

        I never said the OP was dumb, I said I was surprised people still fall for this stuff. It is genuinely surprising to me simply because I did grow up getting those Nigerian prince emails so I was under the assumption that these kind of scams were as well known. I can see how someone could or would if they don’t have a lot of knowledge about it, but it’s still surprising to me. None of that implies the OP is stupid.

        1. fposte*

          I’m with Katie, though. Of course they keep falling for it, because they keep making new people that each have their own learning curve to surmount. I think we tend to feel retrospectively like we always knew stuff we know now, but we really didn’t.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            That’s so true! When I am surprised that someone doesn’t know something that I thought was common knowledge, I have to remember: did I know that when I was their age? Often the answer is no, so why should I expect them to already know it?

            In addition, we all are learning different things, so even someone as old as I am will know things I don’t know, and I’ll know things they don’t.

            As a result, I figure I can learn something from anyone: everyone has knowledge that I don’t have.

            1. fposte*

              Yes, I think the older we get, the harder it is to remember that we didn’t start out knowing these things, even if we’ve known them for 80% or whatever of our lives.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          There are a lot of things we think we’d never do, but probably would under certain circumstances. Like, whenever people leave a baby in the car by accident you see everyone screaming that no good mother would ever do such a thing. And yet it happens, because we’re human and we’re fallible. I’m actually pretty sure I’m someone who WOULD accidentally leave the baby in the car because I’m absent-minded.

          1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            OT: Contributing factors are fatigue and change in routine. I was often afraid when my daycare dropoff schedule would change that I would forget to drop the baby off, or forget to pick him up. It is incredibly sad just how easily this can happen to anyone.

          2. Doriana Gray*

            My mom left me and my brother in the car by mistake a couple of times when we were babies. She was rushing, we were knocked out so, therefore, not making any noise, and she just forgot we were there. If this happened today, she’d be in jail several times over. You’re right – things happen.

            1. Persephone Mulberry*

              There were multiple times when my older kid was little that I was in a hurry to get out the door and drove all the way to work without remembering to drop the kid at daycare. I never got as far as actually going into work with the kid still in the car, but it totally could have happened.

              1. Doriana Gray*

                The work thing happened to my mom and baby brother. One day she had to drive 45 minutes back across town to drop him off at daycare when she got into her company’s parking lot and realized he was still in his car seat.

          3. Artemesia*

            I can imagine it too. Many young mothers and fathers I know have systems in place to not let that happen. e.g. the purse or briefcase is set next to the car seat, so they can’t walk into the office without checking the back seat. Think how many times you drive somewhere on autopilot and not hwere you intended to go out of force of habit.

        3. grasshopper*

          I read somewhere that many of the Nigerian emails are purposefully misspelt, have poor grammar and are a bit outrageous because they want to weed out people who would report them or attempt to prosecute them if they went through with the scam. They rely on people’s emotions to overcome their intelligence. I had an ex who totally fell for a modeling scam. On paper he was IQ smart (doing a Phd in physics) but not at all EQ smart so he believed it when the scammer said that he was sooo handsome (and then he paid an outrageous four figure amount for head shots and never heard from them again).

          1. Natalie*

            Yep, the terrible grammar and implausible stories serve as a filter for the most gullible, so scammers don’t waste their time on people who are less likely to send money. (Link in reply)

          2. neverjaunty*

            This isn’t a matter of being too “smart” to fall for scams. Believing that it’s all about being “smart” or “not too emotional” is one sure way people get sucked in – and then are too embarrassed to report it.

        4. Lizzy May*

          These scammers are crafty. Back when I worked in a bank, it was always the same idea, but different tactics. Some clients came in with cheques that looked so real, I didn’t know it was a scam until they wanted to transfer the money out right away. I’ve seen clients targeted because they don’t speak English very well, or because they’re older and having trouble remembering details. I’ve seen scammers come up with stories about selling things on craigslist, renting out rooms and overpaying a deposit because of an exchange rate or offering up a chance to invest in a new company. No one I’ve ever seen be duped has been duped by a Nigerian Prince. Its not that anymore; its paypal, Western Union, craigslist and a whole whack of other things in new combinations.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            My god-daughter almost got taken by someone renting a house via craigslist in our area. The guy was moving overseas, wanted a good renter, so was willing to rent for a lower price. Something made her suspicious (like the cost was way too low!), and she asked me to look at it. I found the same wording in ads for houses all over the country.

            1. Artemesia*

              Holiday rental scams work like this. When we sublet in a city we were moving to I had a local friend go check out the place because I had read about so many phony sublets.

    2. asteramella*

      I used to work in an industry that saw a lot of scams. Scammers have gotten a lot more sophisticated over the years, particularly with more articulate and convincing language and more legitimate-sounding “backstory.” This can be seen in other scams too, particularly dating site scams where a scammer or group of scammers will “catfish” an unsuspecting victim who then sends lots of money to the “fiancée” for supposed emergencies, planned visits, visas, etc.

  11. Basiorana*

    The scam is interesting. They will steal company information too. For about 5 months in my job we got tons of calls from people about “weird” checks from our company – we are med device and it was for things like parrot supplies and boats, and the checks would have random numbers and be from the wrong bank. It was always this scam. One guy started crying when we told him it was false since he thought he would finally be able to pay off his cancer treatment… :(

    1. The Other Dawn*

      UGH that’s so sad!

      At my previous bank, our website was copied. Only the name and contact info was changed, but the rest of the site was 100% ours. Whoever copied it (twice!) used it for a phishing scam. We reported it and it was shut down. Luckily no one that we know of fell victim to it. It’s amazing how easy it is to copy a website.

      1. Artemesia*

        This sort of thing happens with international rentals as well; scammers steal legitimate information and then ‘rent’ the place and collect the money. I read about a doorman in NYC who routinely has foreign tourists appear for the ‘apartment’ and he has to tell them that it is a scam and that such vacation sublets are illegal in NY. Someone has just listed that address and pictures of some apartment. I have rented dozens of times abroad but am always careful to do due diligence when I rent the next one — and am aware that I might still get taken. Con men are good at what they do.

        1. LQ*

          Con men are good at what they do.

          This is incredibly important to remember. It is easy (and desirable) to assume you’ll never get taken in by a scam. But if you assume you will, and try to be very diligent you’ll be better off. Don’t assume that you’re too smart, don’t assume people who get taken in are dumb, don’t assume they are all easy to spot.
          Con artists continue to stay in business because it works. It works because we make assumptions.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Precisely. This is why I operate on the belief that everyone is a potential crook until proven otherwise.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Ha, me too. If I do something to help someone, it’s a calculated risk and it’s never more than I can afford to lose in either time or money. I feel sort of crummy looking at everyone that way, but I think it’s saved me several times.

          2. Solidus Pilcrow*

            Very true. They also work because they play on greed. I received the contest winner version of this scam a couple years ago. Basically it says we’re from Widget Co is administering a contest on behalf of Thingamabob Inc, here’s a check for $30,000, cash it and send $1500 back to us for processing fees. I smelled a scam right off, but it looked legit at first glance: the check was good quality and came from a bank (all the security features, watermarks, etc) and both Widget Co and Thingamabob Inc were real companies. It was small clues that gave it away (other than I never entered this contest and had heard of such scams before). The letterhead from the company supposedly running the contest was a cheap photocopy and not actual printed letterhead, the postmark was from Canada when the companies listed in the letter were both US based (and I am in the US), and the check was from a bank in a different state than any of the companies supposedly involved.

            Another thing scammers play on is fear and ignorance. My mom recently got a call from a scammer saying he was with the IRS and that she owed back taxes and went on to threaten suspension of her driver’s license and arrest by the end of the day if she didn’t pay nearly $5000 immediately. She called me before doing anything and I was able to talk her down and tell her the IRS is a bureaucracy that loves paper and would have sent an official letter first.

            1. LQ*

              But there are also scams that operate on the notion that you are a good person who wants to help other people. Like the I’m stuck somewhere overseas and have had access to my accounts locked and can’t get home, please help! Or charity scams. (So, so, so many charity scams.)

              So it isn’t like you can say, oh you’re greedy, or anything. They go after everyone.

              The one with your mom is a horrible one. But sometimes they will also send a letter, and put a fake phone number on it that goes to the scammer. So it isn’t like you can even just say, call the number and ask if this is real. You have to go and find the website, and then call using that number. (Or call your child if you’re lucky enough to have a great one to talk you down ;))

              1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

                There’s also one where they tell you to hang up, call your bank and verify it, but hold the line and play a dialling tone – so to all appearances, you think you’ve hung up and are now speaking to your bank, but are still on the phone to them.

                I only learnt that one the other day. It’s reinforced that if my bank wants any information off of me that badly, they won’t mind waiting while I go into a physical branch in person.

                1. lowercase holly*

                  does the line remain open if you actually end the call? i mean, you can just hang up on someone.

            2. JMegan*

              My friend fell for the IRS one as well. (We’re in Canada, so it’s the CRA here, but same deal.) The scammers called his land line, asked for him by name, and threatened him with jail if he didn’t pay $XXX in back taxes immediately. He had been out of work for a long time, and was desperate, and depressed, and not thinking clearly. It didn’t end well. :(

              I assume the scammers get people’s numbers from Monster and other job searching sites. If someone appears to have been looking for full-time work for a long time, it’s reasonable to think that they might not be able to see the scam for what it is. There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on the vulnerable like that.

            3. Windchime*

              This tax scam happened to a friend of mine who was born in another country and just recently got his US Citizenship. The scammer told him that if he didn’t pay $X000 immediately in back taxes, he would be in big trouble. The scammer took it too far when he told my friend that he was sending cops to the door at this very moment; that was what finally moved my friend out of fear mode and into suspicion mode. “Fine, go ahead and send them. I’ll be waiting.” The scammers stopped and moved on.

            4. BlackEyedPea*

              This happened to some elderly neighbors of mine. They asked me to listen to the message, and – fortunately – I was able to get them to see that it was a scam. The IRS will definitely put things in writing!

        2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          I saw a heart-breaking one over here the other day; he had offered a flat to rent as the “landlord”, then all these people turned up and were told that none of them could have it. Rental market being what it is, they’d been handing over £1-2K each (month’s rent + deposit – and this was for a studio flat, don’t get me started) and, of course, they’d given in notice on wherever they were living and were now homeless as well.

          I just don’t understand how people can knowingly do that to others. I try and think of the odd person who is in genuinely dire straits and deserves empathy as well, but for all the people who do it simply because they want money and they can take it from those who are truly vulnerable is baffling to me.

          1. the gold digger*

            I try and think of the odd person who is in genuinely dire straits and deserves empathy as well,

            Nope. Even if you are in dire straits, you don’t get to screw other people.

            1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

              There’s a difference between “I think it’s ok to do something” and “I think you should never do that, but I understand why you did it”.

              I know that not everybody will want to take the same approach, but it’s important to me to be as empathetic as I possibly can, and I can genuinely understand when some people do awful things for not-awful reasons. That doesn’t stop me feeling empathy with their victims, too, or condemning their actions whilst understanding their intent.

              1. I'm a Little Teapot*

                I tend to see things that way as well – for example, I’ve posted on previous threads about how I can’t really condemn people who lie on their resumes because I know what it’s like to be convinced you’ll never get a job legitimately, even though I’ve never done that myself.

            2. Valar M.*

              A lot of the people that pull these scams are those that are poor and destitute – Nigeria is infamous for these types of scams as most people now know. From their perspective, taking some money from “rich Americans/Westerners” is a Robin Hood-esque venture that gets them praise in their home community for fighting worldwide injustices. While I agree that wrong is wrong – I also can understand why someone in that situation might see it from that perspective.

              1. fposte*

                There was a really interesting Mother Jones piece about a couple of Nigerian scammers. Two points that I found particularly significant–they run scams on Nigerians even more than on non-Nigerians, and they think of themselves not as thieves but as clever tricksters. Which dovetails nicely with the Robin Hood point–whose side are you on when Robin Hood takes money from people?

              2. Snarky McSnark*

                Brazilians have a saying called Jei to, which in slang terms means try to take the rich Americans for everything I can. Think taking a taxi the long way home (which they tried on me a few times on the 5 minute ride from the airport to my apartment).

        3. Sara*

          A scammer (or scammers) tried to do something similar with my friends’ house – they were selling it, working with a legit realtor, and someone copied all the information onto Craigslist and tried to pass off the property as being for rent, with the scammer as the landlord/owner. I’m pretty sure I saw some similar scams this summer when I was apartment hunting as well. (Though I don’t know exactly how that would have worked, I knew well enough to not bother contacting someone purporting to be renting an entire 3 bedroom apartment for $800/month in metro Boston.)

  12. Natalie*

    #3, for future reference, money wiring is scam city. Unless the recipient is someone you know personally, and whom you’ve spoken in person or by phone with, never wire money. (The speaking in person part is crucial as scammers will crack someone’s Facebook or email and then pretend to be stranded in a foreign country in need of cash.)

    Since you’re looking for jobs, you might also come across what’s called a reshipping scam, where you will receive packages of goods and then send them on. The hitch is that the items are stolen or otherwise illegal.

    Snopes scam section and Scambusters are good resources to check any offer you receive in the future.

    1. Sophie R.*

      The reshipping scam you mention happened to a friend of mine recently. The items weren’t directly “stolen” themselves but bought from legitimate shops with stolen credit card information. So when the payments didn’t go through, all these shops and sellers contacted my friend because everything had been sent to her address. She, however, had already forwarded many of the items to costumers (of the scammer) abroad. In the end, she went to the police and they told her not to worry. She didn’t lose any money either. But still!

      She was contacted on a low key freelancing website and was totally unprepared for scammers to work their scams there. She even told me about it when she was “hired”. But the shops and the items were okay, and she got money for sending it off, so I only warned her about the scammer maybe avoiding costums by sending it through her. At least we both know better now.

        1. Sophie R.*

          Yes, definitely. It helped that all their conversations went through the freelancing website or email, so my friend could prove what happened, and that she reported the crime herself and immediately.

    2. Retail Lifer*

      In my job hunt I got lots of emails for these reshipper schemes. The job descriptions would always mention a money order and, frankly, I don’t know if those are used by any legit company nowadays.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I got offered a job with someone I sold comics to–he was going to pay me in cash, and part of the job was listing inventory on eBay. He had what appeared to be a legit business, but the whole thing smelled so hinky to me (especially with the cash payments–can you say tax evasion, boys and girls?) that I said no.

    3. Liane*

      Also not just stranded in a foreign country. For example, hospitalized after an accident (usually but not always in another country).
      And then there’s romance-type scams.
      My customer service job included doing money transfers and I will never forget this one guy. Romeo was trying to make repeated transfers to Juliet, a Nigerian woman. On the first one, he told me Juliet was his fiancee and he was sending her money so she could come to the US. On later attempts he claimed Juliet was his fiancee’s mother and/or grandmother. I ended up reporting the transactions to the money transfer company,per policy when we suspected someone might be a scammer or victim. I really felt he was in on whatever was going on, rather than a literal “lovesick fool” because his attitude was making my Spider Sense tingle.

  13. hbc*

    #1: I bet the intention is to provide cover when they ask for free time off to celebrate religious holidays. They’re usually called “floating holidays” so that they have a response for veterans who want Veteran’s Day off or what have you–“we already gave you a day to use for that.” Logistically, it just means two more days off, but it’s about spin.

    Your boss misunderstood because the label at your company is bad, but it’s understandable for him to think that Religious Day has to have a religious “excuse” just like Sick Leave should have an accompanying illness. HR set him straight, so leave it alone unless he brings it up again.

  14. SystemsLady*

    #2 – If both a) Fergus is Felicity’s manager in some way and b) they are hanging out a lot *after* work as well, then Fergus probably does need to be reminded that’s not appropriate.

    Not in the “you’re a cheater!!” way or even the “you sure look like a cheater” way, just in that it can be rather fraught to be close friends with a subordinate.

    If neither or only one is true, let that part go as Alison said. In the case of a), they may have a mentoring relationship. In the case of b), work has a tendency to create particularly close relationships, and it reflects poorly on the gossipers to automatically jump to a male/female relationship being anything other than just platonic or work-related just from seeing them together a lot.

    (I don’t get the impression they’re making out at work or something explicitly inappropriate like that, so I left that possibility off. Feel like these statements almost always get the response “well what if they’re making out and flirting?”. …then in that case it’s pretty obviously not platonic?)

    1. Foxtrot*

      I second the mentoring relationship. I was actually the subject of a nasty rumor at an internship because of this. The senior engineer who was the lead on all my projects was male and I’m female. I would stop by his desk every morning for 10-15 minutes to talk about what I did the previous day and get a new to-do list for the current day. I would also go ask questions throughout the day as they came up. (Maybe too much hand holding from a work standpoint, but that’s beside the point.)
      The other interns and a few younger hires were all saying some nasty things about the relationship behind my back. I had no idea that they were talking about me until my girlfriend asked me over coffee “Soooo…..Bob?” When I explained he was the lead on all my projects and I was really lucky that he was actually taking the time to mentor, you could see her whole face change. It kind of clicked that it was all work-related and innocent and she spilled the beans on what was being said. However, a lot of people already had an impression of me there and it wasn’t an environment I would want to go back to.

      1. OP #2*

        I appreciate the advice to really shut down the gossip. We could help the situation by not allowing gossip to continue by mentioning he is probably mentoring her. There are some long closed door visits occurring more recently. Closed doors usually happen here during one on ones with direct reports. So there might be a reason for Fergus’ manager to mention how it is looking but I think Alison and SystemsLady are right. There is no reason to believe he is doing anything wrong and no tongues would be wagging if the new hire was a male. Thanks!

        1. LucyVP*

          Absolutely keep the assumption that all is above board unless you hear otherwise and shut down gossip when you can.

          However, I do have a bit of a horror story about a similar situation that got out of hand at my previous job. Jane was new to our org. and young and cute. Pete was a bit older, worked in a different department, and had been with the org. for almost 10 years. No overlap in their job duties. Pete started hanging out around Jane’s desk more and more and occasionally would stay long after his shift ended just chatting with her. Pete was married and the gossip started. Pete’s boss told him that he should be aware of how it might be perceived and let him know about the gossip. Pete says he is just trying to make her feel welcome, and that they are friends outside work (and have been hiking on the weekends with local hiking group). Jane’s boss spoke with her about it, mostly to check in that it wasn’t affecting her productivity. Jane says they are friends and she feels comfortable telling him when she is too busy to chat. Both bosses leave it alone after that. The gossip continues even after management tries to shut it down. Fast forward 2 years, Pete has moved out of state, and Jane gets laid off. Jane is angry that she got laid off. Jane files a lawsuit against the organization for sexual harassment. Says that Pete was harassing her for years and that HR had ignored several of her complaints (which was a lie) and she ended up using the gossip as evidence that the organization KNEW about the inappropriate parts of their relationship. Org ended up settling because fighting it was proving too costly.

      2. Tasha*

        And if anything inappropriate is going on, letting him know that people are gossiping won’t stop an affair. :(

        1. Chinook*

          Can I just say that such gossip can happen easily and needs to be shut down and the targets made aware as an FYI.

          Story time – I nipped a possibly similar story going around about me and our IT programmer, Stefan (which , the same name as DH). I was talking to a new guy in my office when Stefan walked by and asked if I had booked our hotel yet. I told him I was waiting on him. He nodded and walked away. Meanwhile, new guy was picking is jaw off the floor as he looked between the two of us. I just burst out laughing because Stefan and I fly to the middle of nowhere next week to conduct some training but I could tell what new guy was thinking. I could only imagine what might have happened if I didn’t clarify or if new guy is a gossip.

    2. Victoria*

      Ugh. Reading that letter actually made me a little angry.

      A few years ago I was a new hire at a tech company. The Sysadmin kind of took me under his wing and we became very good friends. We went to lunch together about once a week or every other week, traded recipes, talked about our kids. I also went to lunch, traded recipes, and talked about my kids with my DAD once a week, but rumors only flew about Sysadmin and me. One of the company VPs actually came up to my desk and flat out asked me if I was sleeping with Sysadmin.

      I left that job after a couple years, but SysAdmin is still there. We still have lunch as often as we can, and we email and text almost daily. It’s 15 years later and he’s one of my two best friends, both of which are dudes.

      When people assume there must be something romantic or sexual going on just because the people involved are not the same gender it really drives me insane.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        Whoa. Point blank asked? That would have me posted my resume out the door tout suite, no matter what my answer was.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, and there doesn’t seem to be any other reason to assume anything. If they’re talking AT work, it’s likely they’re talking ABOUT work. Either way, it’s nobody else’s business.

  15. Allison*

    I like the idea of giving new hires a day off before they start accruing vacation; I know you shouldn’t take time off when you’re new but many of us have been in a situation where we needed one for whatever reason, mine was a cousin’s wedding. I’ll bet they called it a “religious day” at first because the employer figured that was the only reason someone would need a day off that early, and maybe to their credit that was the only reason why new hires were asking for time off . . . at first. But, fact is, there are other reasons why a new hire would want a day off, and the name should be changed.

    Floating holidays seem like a great idea, I’d never even heard of them before, or I did but didn’t know what they were.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      I agree there. New hires at my new job aren’t allowed to start ANY taking time off until a full month of working here. I was terrified I’d be getting sick in the middle of autumn but here I am two full months later and I’ve finally accrued some time for the holidays, as well as sick time if I need it.

      Good thing I got norovirus out of the way before starting…

      1. Valar M.*

        I’ve mentioned this before I think. I had one job that wouldn’t allow any time off until 3 months in, and I did get sick during that time period and was punished for it. Put on probation… because you know, I can control when I end up in the hospital.

        1. Mean Something*

          That is just awful. At least some jobs let you borrow from future sick time. I have two different colleagues who had foot injuries the first month at their new job–one was actually an injury suffered at work when the teacher fell over some construction materials (this was before classes began), one was a sports injury. What a terrible way to start a new job–not just ill, but being punished for it!

        2. Bowserkitty*

          That is absolutely horrible. I can’t understand why they’d put you on probation for that when it seems their own rules are what should be changed.

          1. Charityb*

            Sometimes people who come up with these policies forget that employees are human beings, not just household appliances. If my toaster needed repairs the first month I had it, I’d think it was a piece of junk.

      2. SJ in PA*

        I have a friend in a new-ish position who can’t take any vacation time for a YEAR. Her parents had to fly into her city last weekend to see her for the holidays because she can’t go home. Ridiculous.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’ve worked for many companies where that is the case. No insurance until your 90-day probation is up; no vacation time for the first year. Thankfully, my company isn’t like that.

        2. Chinook*

          I worked in an industry like that. You could only us your vacation time that accrued in the previous financial year. The irony is that, in Canada, that means they are in debt to their employees for that time because it is worth money. On th plus side, I had an extra 3 weeks pay when I left because I had had no vacation in a long time.

      3. Bowserkitty*

        After reading the follow-up comments to my own, I can’t believe I thought a month was excessive. My mind has definitely changed.

    2. J. Lynn*

      +1. As a new hire at a company, we did not start even accrueing any PTO until 3 months probatinary period is over, and then not very much. So it was nice to know that I did have a floater holiday (1 per calendar year) just in case an emergency would come up.

  16. Maxim from Russia*

    Thanks for answering my question! It’s interesting to learn that HRs in the US don’t care about it at all.

  17. Mando Diao*

    OP1 touches on a few different things that have been mostly covered already. From a bookkeeping standpoint, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have records of which holidays employees use the floating day for, so I understand how it might be in a different category than plain PTO. I can also see how, once someone has accrued PTO or vacation time, using a floating holiday to extend a vacation might not be okay. OP might want to talk to HR about when it would be appropriate for someone with her (non)beliefs to use the floating holiday, though it sounds like they only get one of these days per yearanyway.

    1. Srs Bsns*

      “…I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have records of which holidays employees use the floating day for…”

      You’re actually advocating keeping lists of employees and their respective religious observances (or lack thereof)? I feel like I shouldn’t have to point out why this is an extremely bad idea.

      “OP might want to talk to HR about when it would be appropriate for someone with her (non)beliefs to use the floating holiday…

      I don’t think it’s really within the scope of the HR department to decide what are and are not “appropriate” beliefs or observances.

      Good gravy.

      1. Mando Diao*

        You don’t think it’s wise for a business to have records of when batches of employees will predictably be out of the office?

        You don’t think it’s smart for an employee to be sure of whether, say, she can take off five days at once but not six? Whether the floating day can be tacked onto a vacation block?

        1. fposte*

          Not when it involves religious discrimination, no.

          It’s fine to say “Hey, we require advance notice of xx for use of floating holidays,” and the manager–not HR–may well be aware of when everybody’s going home for St. Swithin’s day to weather watch. But officially documenting *why* people are using floating holidays from a religious standpoint is legally dubious.

          Let’s put it this way. Lots of people take additional time off over Christmas. Do you think it should be noted whether they’re actually Christian or not?

          1. Doreen*

            But the list doesn’t have to be about being Christian etc. I had a government job once where if you wanted to , you could fill out a form saying that you celebrated various holidays that we weren’t closed for. Along with various Jewish holidays were the minor Christian ones ( like the Assumption) ,Lunar New Year and Black Solidarity day. Filling out this form didn’t get you a free day- it just got you an exemption from union seniority rules. And there was nothing to prevent anyone from saying they celebrated holidays of multiple religions , even if they didn’t practice any of them.

        2. Srs Bsns*

          No, that would be very unwise. Any documentation of employees’ religious affiliation (or lack thereof) is a terrible idea.

          And regarding your second point: what if the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs require them to observe a day of rest or prayer or what have you, and that day just happens to be at the tail end of their annual vacation? Are you suggesting that the employer conduct an inquiry to determine whether or not that specific religious observance is “legitimate” or not?

          Again, good gravy.

        3. LQ*

          I totally agree with fposte here.

          Lots of people take extra days off in the summer on fridays around here. But you can learn that because over the last 5 years about 25% of staff take off any given friday afternoon from May to September. During our state fair the number is about 50%.

          Does it matter why? We know the pattern. If the last two weeks of august are actually people taking off to get their kids ready for back to school and not people going to the state fair it doesn’t matter. 50% of people take those days off.

          You can also just have people request those days in advance. Floating holidays must be requested 2 weeks in advance. Planning handled.

          Writing down their religion is extra, unnecessary, and opening up for a lawsuit work. Why would you do that?

        4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          You wanna post the days on a calendar for people to see so you track overlaps, fine.

          Don’t ever, ever, post the reasons. No one needs to know.

          1. Mando Diao*

            What if the holidays occur on a different calendar? Jewish holidays vary by weeks sometimes. How can you track that without just naming the holiday?

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              It’s not that hard. Put up a 2016 Kitten of the Month calendar and write names in as days are requested.

              No one has asked for Julian dates, UNIX dates, or solar and lunar calendars. It’s not that complicated. Someone requests a day – write it down. The reason for the day off is irrelevant. As a manager, my only concerns are whether that employee will have deliverables complete before going out, and can the rest of the team move forward without the extra person? I could give a shit why that person is out, whether it’s Christmas, Festivus, Yule, or International Ice Cream Day.

              Seriously – why are so many of us overthinking this?

            2. Srs Bsns*

              You’re trying very hard to complicate things. When an employee makes a request to take a specific date off from work, I’m pretty sure common practice is to indicate the date using whatever standard calendar the employer does. And I don’t see why an employer would have to “track that”, as you say. Why can’t they just address individual requests for time off as they come in? And why should the name of the holiday matter at all?

              1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                Thank you! I have people spread in multiple timezones who cover 4 major world religions (5 for those who see Catholicism and Protestantim as separate forms of Christianity). I am generally aware of the holidays, but I don’t track them with employee PTO requests. I know patterns when I can expect a fair number of people to be out.

                We have a digital calendar – they sent requests, I approve and key them, the calendar makes visible to all. My friends will tell you that I am idiot about these kinds of logistics, so if even I can figure it out, I’m positive that others can.

            3. fposte*

              In addition to what other people are saying, if for some reason you couldn’t possibly track it without categorizing people by religion even in any of the ways suggested, then you suck it up and deal without the tracking. The priority is abiding by anti-discrimination law, not the convenience of the employer’s scheduling.

            4. Elizabeth West*

              It still doesn’t really matter. Any non-Jewish employees could take that same day off for other reasons–sickness, just want to take it, etc. All you need to do is make sure you have adequate coverage for that day.

              I only kept track of holidays on my shipping calendar at Exjob because I knew certain businesses would be closed those days (from experience shipping to them when they were closed, and contacting them later to check that they were open, and they said, “Yeah, that’s [observed holiday] and we’re Jewish so we are always closed that day.” They told ME that, and I kept track of when those holidays were so they wouldn’t miss a shipment.

              If they hadn’t volunteered the info, the procedure would have been the same—they were closed; I got a shipping notice; I checked to make sure they were open; I re-sent the package; the end.

        5. neverjaunty*

          But you’re proposing that the business keep track of which employees will be out of the office.

      2. hbc*

        I think it might be justifiable to ask HR or management what the intention is of those special days. They don’t have to say “Must be used for religions the company thinks are valid” or anything awful, but if the intent is as a sole, stand-alone day, maybe as a policy they don’t let someone with 4 days PTO tack it on to make a full week off. (Kind of like the opposite of finance where they make people take a certain number of days consecutively.) Or that you can’t take it in one hour increments and leave early every Monday for two months.

        I’m not an advocate of that level of micromanagement, but it would help to make sure everyone is on the same page. (But definitely agreed, no to tracking who takes off the solstice versus Passover versus Cyber Monday.)

    2. fposte*

      From a legal standpoint, it’s a very bad idea to document the religious beliefs of your employees.

      And from a management point of view, it’s a bad idea to police people’s motives. Are they here when they should be here, performing as you’d wish, and not taking more days off than allowed? Then whether they’re really sick, really on vacation, or really Catholic may not only run you afoul of the law, it’s a waste of your time.

      1. Mando Diao*

        If you have a cluster of Jewish employees who always take off on, say, Purim, do you make a note that you expect staff to be stretched thin on 4 Adar, which falls on a different day in March every year, or do you advise your managers to just be aware that x number of people will be out on the holiday of Purim?

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          Maybe if I managed in Israel and used a Jewish calendar, I would know that.

          Instead, since I’m in the US, I would do like I do for my current employees – ask them what holidays or festivals are coming that I need to know about to arrange coverage.

          You know, managers and employees are allowed to talk.

          1. Natalie*

            In my experience if you have enough employees with the same religious or cultural traditions that their absence is something to plan around, you just sort of know, without having to track it. My fiance’s co-workers are mostly Muslim and it comes up a lot without anyone quizzing them – pork, prayer time, the merits of being a non-drinker when you’re on call and can’t drink anyway, etc. It wouldn’t take tracking to know that one should check the dates of Eid al-Fitr before scheduling a vacation.

        2. fposte*

          Yeah, I’m with Dr. J–you’re making this unnecessarily hard.

          If you need to know people’s planned absences for floating holidays x months in advance, ask for that. You don’t need to know if it’s Tish Abov or Bertrand Russell’s birthday. If you have a big event that will require people’s attendance that you plan a year in advance, you notify people of the proposed date and confirm availability.

          If you’re in an office that has a substantial number of people taking off specific holidays outside of official company ones, it’s probably wise for a manager and HR to know, if they don’t already, when big holidays are falling that year, but that doesn’t mean that you need to know ages in advance whether it’s specifically Bob or Jane who’s taking off Sukkot.

          1. Mando Diao*

            I still think that there’s value in knowing when to predict a large number of absences of it all, but whatever.

        3. Srs Bsns*

          If an employee’s holidays shift around from year to year, then they’ll just request different days off (in advance, of course). The employer doesn’t need to know why the employee wants this date or that date. Either they get the day off, or not. Religion should have no bearing on the process. Seriously, it’s not complicated. And the reason for an employee’s time off should never be announced in the manner you’re suggesting. “Bill will be off on January 1st” is fine. “Bill will be off on January 1st to observe X Religious Holiday” is not okay.

  18. Roscoe*

    #1 Seems like a good intention as a perk that was just enforced poorly. I think your boss’ reaction may have been just a misunderstanding, not an intent to discriminate against you. I say let it go. You got your day and hopefully the manager knows how to handle this going forward.

  19. OriginalEmma*

    OP#2: Do your part to shut this nonsense down. Whenever your manager buddy brings up, tell him to stop gossiping. USE THAT WORD. People hate to be accused of “gossiping,” will protest with “I’m not gossiping, I’m just SAYING…,” but it hopefully will jar them into not repeating the gossip.

    If there IS a legitimate performance issue (Fergus and Felicity’s weekly hours-long speculations over Game of Thrones or their epic discussions about their respective D&D campaigns is making their productivity dive!), then address that. Otherwise, influence your friend to stop gossiping and ask him to ask his staff to stop it as well. Alison is so right that this speculation can have serious negative effects for both Fergus and Felicity (more so for her, because she’d get labeled a home wrecker, a suck-up, etc.).

    It doesn’t matter why Fergus and Felicity talk to each other. Are you even sure they DO talk to each other more than they talk to other opposite-sex coworkers, or other coworkers talk to each other? Or have others just noticed it more because of the pearl-clutching scandal of a man and a woman chatting?

    Seriously, it’s nonsense like this that perpetuates sexist beliefs (and behaviors) regarding male and female communication. Fergus and Felicity couldn’t possibly have business or social reasons for chatting, no, it *must* be sexual. Your coworkers are giving these two labels they haven’t given themselves (flirts, etc.) and against which they have no recourse, because now everything they do (together or alone) will be viewed through those labels. Your workplace is a jury that’s already made up its mind without seeing the evidence or determining a motivation, and is declaring the defendants guilty.

    1. MashaKasha*

      Didn’t ya know that men are from Mars, and can only talk sports and cars, women are from Venus and can only talk about cooking and shopping, and the two have zero common ground and nothing to talk about to each other? So, when they do talk, it means that there must be an illicit affair going on between them! Ugh, that’s my pet peeve. You’re right on the target with your last paragraph.

      1. OP #2*

        Actually, there is body language that suggests it is not a mutual appreciation for Star Wars. That being said, you are right that it is nobody’s business and 2 people should be able to have private conversations without it ruining their reputations. I don’t think there is anything wrong with friendly flirting. It doesn’t mean people are doing anything more than that.
        I will make the suggestion to my friend to use the gossip phrase when asking people to mind their own business. It should make people think about what it is they are doing. I was a little concerned information may get back to his wife since some people who have made comments are still close to her. But putting a stop to the gossiping should help in that area.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          Physical chemistry may be read in body language, but that doesn’t mean sex. It means they are comfortable being within personal space, like friends or siblings might be. I get that the body language might suggest something else, but that’s just more gossip fodder and has no bearing on their professional relationship.

          Flirting is in the eyes of the flirter and flirtee. Everyone else is just speculating.

        2. neverjaunty*

          There’s nothing you can do to stop those people from talking to his wife, if they want, but I doubt that’s it – they probably enjoy the gossip too much.

          “Wow, you sure are interested in Fergus’ love life” is one way to shut this down, btw.

    2. addiez*

      I was thinking a variation of this – if two people whose work product theoretically don’t overlap a ton are spending so much time together that it’s noticed by everyone, it sounds like it could be a productivity issue. As his manager, your friend should know whether Fergus is mentoring Felicia or if it’s more personal. If it’s personal time, that’s something that can be addressed – but as a productivity and question of how he’s spending his time, not about his marriage.

      1. OP #2*

        Not on Fergus’ side so it is not his manager’s problem. I do not know about Felicity. If I were her manager, I would be concerned about how much time my new hire was spending away from her desk. But for all I know, her manager is encouraging her to be mentored.

    3. Ad Astra*

      Yes, using the word “gossip” is a good way to properly shame the busybodies involved. It’s like a wake-up call that they’re being petty and unkind without having to call them petty and unkind.

      On its own, I don’t think a male and female colleague spending a lot of time together sounds suspicious.

  20. lawsuited*

    I really disagree with #1. I suspect that a “Religious Day” is a day off the accommodate those who practice minority religions who do hot have their religious holidays enshrined as statutory holidays (Easter, Christmas), which I think is wholly appropriate. That’s the thing about religious accommodation – it’s not about tit for tat, it’s about closing the unequal gap between majority and minority religions.

    1. Not me*

      Hm, are you disagreeing that OP should be able to use the day off, although their religious or non-religious practices don’t require a day off from work?

      I’d also say that a religious day planned to accommodate people who follow minority religions requires those people to tell their employers which religion they practice – might be easier for some than others. Regular PTO could accommodate people just as well.

    2. Sigrid*

      Yes, but it is equally illegal to discriminate on the basis of no religion as it is to discriminate on the basis of a specific religion, so if this was a perk that is only offered to employees who practice a religion, it would be illegal.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        I was going to say this. If this were true, then I would be denied an extra paid day off because I’m an atheist.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          Here’s the thing though. It’s not intended to be a perk and an extra paid day off. It is to allow you to observe your religion. I’m not currently religious. I was raised Catholic. When we had school off on Good Friday it wasn’t to go out and play. It was supposed to (according to my mother) be a sad and mournful day spent at home, quietly, with prayer and reflection. Hardly a “vacation.”

          I think a better example is jury duty or bereavement leave. Your coworkers that are unfortunate enough to lose a family member will get an extra paid day off than you. Do you think you should get that paid day off every year even if no one dies in your family? It is a special circumstance.

          1. Temperance*

            It *is* a perk, though, and it’s not fair to compare special treatment favoring religious people to things like jury duty or bereavement leave. It’s also a false equivalence, because, frankly, anyone who gets called to jury duty or loses a family member will qualify for those types of leave. Just because you currently aren’t on jury duty that moment does not make your coworker who is serving somehow more lucky than you.

            I don’t want places of business deciding how to appropriately celebrate religious holidays, to decide who is more deserving, and to discriminate against me, as an atheist. I would absolutely file an EEOC complaint if my workplace was giving extra PTO days to people who claimed religious need.

          2. Shell*

            Allowing one to observe their religion on company paid time still comes down to the company accommodating, and paying, for things that has nothing to do with the company and business.

            I am all for flex time accommodation. We’re all human, we need flexibility sometimes. If someone needs to have that day off but will make up the time later, sure, by all means–I don’t really care why you’re taking off (and it’s unwise to probe and “verify” and play the “this religion sounds more legit than that religion” game). But allowing someone religious to take time off–whether to celebrate or reflect or whatever–that doesn’t need to be made up, and not allowing the same to a non-religious coworker, is preferential treatment on the basis of religion. That’s a perk, period.

            If everyone’s views on the topic of religion is to be respected equally, then there should be no preferential treatment whether one’s view on the topic of religion is belief or non-belief.

          3. Srs Bsns*

            “It’s not intended to be a perk and an extra paid day off.”

            Except… it is???

            “When we had school off on Good Friday it wasn’t to go out and play. It was supposed to (according to my mother) be a sad and mournful day spent at home, quietly, with prayer and reflection.”

            And what about people who have happy, lively religious holidays? Are their observances somehow less legitimate? Are we really going to pull at that thread?

            This is a policy which, in its current form, can be used to discriminate against the religious and irreligious alike, and it should be changed.

            1. Case of the Mondays*

              I explain more below. I don’t want to clog the thread repeating myself. I agree with you 100% in theory but I personally see a legal distinction. I think until the EEOC moves away from requiring religious accommodations for sincerely held religious beliefs, allowing floating religious days will be legal. I don’t see it as disparate impact. If the employer was going to say yes to every employee that asked for a religious accommodation to have the day off then I don’t see anything wrong with streamlining the process and saying you can take a religious day off or two (legally, not ethically).

              I’ll use breastfeeding as another example. Employers are required to make accommodations. Instead of just discussing it with each employee as it comes up, most have a policy so you know ahead of time what you can and can’t do. I don’t think a non-breast feeding employee could demand pumping breaks and yell discrimination when not granted it.

              I get that being non-religious is also protected but I read that as you can’t refuse to hire or cause a hostile workplace for those that aren’t religious. Closing the business on a religious holiday or letting those that need religious accommodation leave is not discriminatory.

              1. Srs Bsns*

                I think you’re missing the point and introducing a lot of false equivalencies. This isn’t about accommodations, this is about perks – additional days off. And religious employees shouldn’t be granted a perk that is not extended to irreligious employees. Likewise, employees who are members of one religion shouldn’t be granted a perk that is not extended to employees who are members of a different religion.

                It is my personal opinion, and a controversial one, that asking for an additional day off to pray is no more “legitimate” than asking for an additional day off to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. I also don’t think that any one religion has more legitimacy than any other (JC doesn’t get special consideration over Zeus or anyone else). But asking employees to explain themselves when asking for a day off is opening that can of worms, and so I think it’s best to have non-specific “personal days”, not “religious days”.

          4. MashaKasha*

            Very late to the party with this comment, but I finally realized what I disagreed with in this comment. It appears to imply that, just because a religious person uses a day like Good Friday or Yom Kippur or whatever for prayer and fasting, that it should be an extra day off, because it’s “hardly a vacation”. As a formerly religious person who used to take PTO on Good Friday and then work my tail off in church during that day, I can see how that sounds appealing. However, I’m also a parent. Probably 50 to 70 percent of my PTO days (depending on the year) were spent hauling the kids to and from school events, doctor appointments, surgeries, college visits, college orientation… Hardly a “vacation”! So where’s my extra “parenting day”? What about people who take a week off to work on their house? Where’s their extra “homeowner day”? See how bizarre it is when we start to assume people should be entitled to extra paid days off that their teammates do not get, just because they choose to do something non-vacation-like on those days… welcome to adulthood, we all do that!

            I’m not going into the obvious issue with “religious days off”, which is giving religious employees extra benefits over the non-religious ones, since that’s been covered in great detail already.

    3. LQ*

      Even if we ignore the question of non-religious folks, why does it matter which minority religion, or which undercelebrated holiday it was?

      Is Easter actually a statutory holiday? I work for a government and don’t get anything for Easter. (I do get Christmas which is the only religious holiday I get off.) We do have a “floating holiday” which people could use for Ash Wednesday or the friday which I can’t think of the name for, or for any other religious holiday so that might be why we don’t have an Easter day off I suppose?

      I don’t think at any point the OP was saying it should be tit for tat, but that they should be able to use their day in the way they see fit since it is their day. If they want to celebrate their birthday like a Holiday why shouldn’t they? If they create a religion tomorrow that celebrates only birthdays would it be acceptable to you then?

      It is a day, people can use it for holidays, but to police someone’s religion is not only illegal in the US, but unproductive and weird.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      No. The thing about religious accommodation that matter what the religion is – the only question a manager should concern his/herself with is whether or not honoring the request is an undue hardship.

      You don’t need to have a special “religious holiday” – employees have leave and they’re allowed to take it for things like this. A couple of “floating vacation days” would be perfectly sufficient to accomplish this.

    5. Oryx*

      Religious accommodation and discrimination works both ways. The EEOC website specifically says “Title VII also prohibits disparate treatment, job segregation, or harassment based on religious belief or practice (or lack thereof), as well as retaliation for the exercise of EEO rights”

      Giving only those who follow a religious practice extra days off would be disparate treatment against those who lack religious beliefs or practice.

        1. fposte*

          But this isn’t requesting an accommodation–that’s a separate request for a non-standard treatment. This is about disparate treatment for a standard benefit of employment.

          (Additionally, it’s usually the court, not the manager, who gets to evaluate the sincerity of the religious belief when it’s relevant, for what I think are pretty obvious reasons about the pitfall of judging people’s beliefs.)

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            If the employer was going to grant every request for a religious accommodation day off, so long as it was no more than 2 per year, that would be allowed. Here, the employer is basically saying up front, no need to come and ask, I’m allowing 2 per year per employee. They are streamlining the process.

            I guess like the poster way above, I see it equivalent to college classes. Jewish students were given excused absences on Jewish holidays and major Catholic holidays for which the school wasn’t closed (Good Friday). I don’t think every other student should have been granted two “use them whenever you want” unexcused absence.

            Maybe I’m just coming at this from a different perspective because I worked in a 24/7 employment situation before. We couldn’t allow everyone to have a Saturday or Sunday off. But for those that it would be a true religious hardship, they wouldn’t be scheduled on a Saturday or Sunday. (There are some people who still believe it violates their religion to work on their Sabbath.) I believe my employer was legally required to grant this accommodation because it was not an undue hardship. Religious accommodations had legal backing but I want to see my kids on the weekend did not have legal protection.

            I think we as a society are moving away from recognizing religious accommodation and moving more towards viewing it as a choice where people should pick jobs that don’t require them to need accommodation. However, until the law catches up, religious accommodation is still a thing. I agree there is a conflict with the EEOC directive to not discriminate against lack of religion. But I think that is in response to other issues that were cropping up.

            For example, an employer like Hobby Lobby can’t require it’s employees to be Christian as being Christian isn’t a BFOQ for that job. There were places where people didn’t want to work with someone that wasn’t a “follower of Christ.” Being told you can’t discriminate people for being religious isn’t quite the same as saying you can’t allow religious people time off from work to practice their religion.

            1. fposte*

              I still think you’re conflating accommodation and disparate impact of a standard benefit that’s discriminatory; it’s a fine distinction, but a really significant one. That’s why the breastfeeding thing is a red herring–it’s perfectly fine to give different treatment to the breastfeeding and the nonbreastfeeding. It’s not fine to have a standard compensation package that gives different treatment to people based on their religion–you can’t pay them more or less based on their religion or lack of it. It *is* fine to accommodate people with religious-based specific requests when it’s not an undue hardship–if you didn’t have floating holidays, you could approve time for the person with no earned PTO to go to Good Friday services.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I think we as a society are moving away from recognizing religious accommodation and moving more towards viewing it as a choice where people should pick jobs that don’t require them to need accommodation.

              On what planet does this exist?
              In thirty years of working, this is the FIRST job where I have any real flexibility at all.

            3. doreen*

              Maybe I’m just coming at this from a different perspective because I worked in a 24/7 employment situation before. We couldn’t allow everyone to have a Saturday or Sunday off. But for those that it would be a true religious hardship, they wouldn’t be scheduled on a Saturday or Sunday.

              But that’s not usually a situation where someone is getting a paid day off. Typically, if someone is working in a 7 day a week environment can’t work Sunday for religious reasons , they aren’t getting paid for Sunday. If it’s a five day, full-time job, the accommodation is giving them Sunday as one of their regular days off- they aren’t working four days and being paid for five every week and in a 7 day operation, that could be done for nearly every religious holiday ( Your holiday is Tues/Wed? Then you work Monday and Thurs to Sunday) . That’s different than giving some religious employees a couple of paid days off more than employees of other religions or non-religious employees .

              Although I kind of wonder about the manager and the company- is this actually, officially called “Religious Day” or is that just an unofficial way people refer to it?. Because my job has “Personal Leave” ( separate from the other eleventy-billion types of leave) and the rules state that this is the leave that should be used for religious holidays (among other things). But I guarantee there is someone, somewhere, working for the state who believes it is only for religious holidays (if only because that person uses all of theirs for religious holdays.

        2. Oryx*

          But I’m not because this particular instance isn’t about accommodation. If the employer doesn’t offer floating holidays and the employee wants to take of a day because it’s a holiday within their religion and they ask for the day off, separate from using PTO, and the employer grants it, THAT would be religious accommodation. Like fposte said, accommodation is a separate request for a non-standard treatment.

          In this instance, the religious holidays are offered to all employees but only under certain parameters, which makes it disparate treatment and the EEOC clearly says that disparate treatment considers a lack of religious beliefs to be protected as well.

    6. Alter_ego*

      Right, but you can’t give more paid time off to some people than others because of their religion. That would be like paying Mormons more because you know they’re going to be tithing 10%.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        Great analogy. I think that’s why so many employers just say “Here, have a couple of floating holidays for whatever” and then call it a day.

    7. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      In general, I think that the arguments for positive discrimination have to be borne in mind – and “but I’m a member of [privileged class], why don’t I get the same treatment!!!” is often used to try and undermine that.

      In this case, the floating day is offered to everyone. If OP had said “we’re in a field which typically can’t recruit XYZ minority religions and a religious holiday day is given to try and ameliorate the effect and attract more people” the answer would be different; but in this case, the holiday isn’t for positive discrimination but for everybody – and *one of* the intended uses is religious.

    8. fposte*

      Can you give the basis for your theory that it’s about closing the gap between religions rather than minimize religious-based discrimination? The language Oryx cites would seem to support the latter theory.

    9. Xarcady*

      But even people who do celebrate Christmas and get it off have other religious days that they might like to have off, but instead have to work. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday come to mind for Catholics. And there are probably others.

      When I worked for the State of Connecticut, there was a sort of floating holiday. State employees had Good Friday off. But if you had to work (and I usually did) on Good Friday, once Good Friday had passed, you had a floating holiday to use as you pleased, subject to your manager’s approval.

  21. AndersonDarling*

    #3 Thank you for telling us your story. I had no idea that this kind of scam was preying on job seekers. I’m sure it was embarrassing to admit that it happened, but I bet you just saved some readers from going through the same thing.
    When I was unemployed, I got suckered into one of the job seeker scams where you get a response asking for a credit check before the interview. I was then signed up for years worth of expensive credit check bunk and there was no job.
    You aren’t alone. When you’re desperate for a job, it’s easy to fall back on hope instead of reason.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This is a great comment. If OP helped even one person avoid this, then it wasn’t all for naught. Though I wish I could smack the crap out of the scammer on her behalf. >:(

    2. neverjaunty*

      Thank you for saying this. So many people like to sneer about how *they* would never fall for it, forgetting that professional con artists are in the business of preying on people’s natural desire to be helpful and decent.

  22. Chelsea*

    #1) The title of that PTO day is a bit troubling as it is, however your manager needling you for specifics is legally tenuous. As a rule of thumb, my supervisor once instructed me to not request that my staff inform me of the reason they’re taking PTO (aside from unscheduled absences and extensive periods of time-off) because I once had a staff member request a religious day off and I had him indicate that in his written PTO request. The reason that can lead to discrimination is if you grant one employees request for a religious holiday, but do not do the same for another it can appear as though you’re partial to one employee’s religion versus another. Also, how do Atheists and Agnostics benefit from your company’s religious PTO day?

  23. SexistGossip*

    #2 I hope you realize that everyone gossiping in this office is doing serious harm to both parties and perpetuating sexism in the workplace.

    Forbes did an article, I will try to link below, which talked about the “passive” and systematic sexism in the office. A large part of that was that women were FAR less likely to be mentored in the workplace by senior leaders (who are typically men) for fear of the appearance of impropriety.

    Please listen to Alison and shut this sexist gossip down!

    1. OriginalEmma*

      I think I read that. Did it talk a lot about female staffers in DC whose bosses feared the appearance of impropriety, so they refused to have 1-on-1s, dinner together, etc? And how this negatively impacted their careers.

  24. Queen Anne of Cleves*

    I once worked for a company that allowed you to leave one hour early on your birthday. It was a documented policy. We had several employees, who, for religious reasons, did not acknowledge birthdays. They were still granted the hour on their birthdays of course, and those employees took the hour but I am not sure what would have happened if one of them had spoken up about it. I felt conflicted because it was a nice little perk (only one hour but still) but it put those folks in an awkward position. They should get the hour too but requesting it and acknowledging what it was for could be tricky in the context of their religious beliefs.

    1. Paige Turner*

      Interesting- I’d think that adjusting the policy to allow people to leave an hour early on either their birthday or another day of their choice would be a good way to accommodate those who don’t celebrate birthdays, as well as others whose birthdays happened to fall on a holiday, weekend, or a day when leaving early wasn’t practical.

    2. Roscoe*

      My company gives birthdays off. In your example, would that be considered discriminatory against Jehovas witnesses?

        1. Roscoe*

          Yeah, I mean ours has to be taken on your birthday or a close day if it falls on a weekend. You can’t just tack it on as a random PTO day. But, that doesn’t mean if someone came in with that religion that changes wouldn’t be made, but currently thats the setup

    3. hbc*

      I think someone choosing not to take a perk due to their religious beliefs is different, no? There’s coffee in the breakroom. It might be against your religion to drink it, and it might be nice of your employer to offer decaf, but it’s not discriminatory to offer it anymore than it is to have ham as part of the lunch spread or offer health care when you’ve got a Christian Scientist on staff.

  25. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#2….you mention that he could be mentoring her, but wouldn’t his direct manager, who is your friend, know if that were happening? Why would there be a mentoring arrangement set up, which can take a fair amount of the mentor’s time up, without his manager being looped in? That doesn’t sound right, unless there are some other details missing here. If his own manager has no knowledge of a mentorship arrangement or project collaboration crossing departments, then I’d be inclined to say that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, well then…..

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      There can be unofficial mentoring relationships or even just workplace friendships. Obviously because the wife is still friends with people if anyone had any direct proof (they’d been caught on the sofa in the photocopying room) people might be more involved than most workplaces, but at the moment “he talks to one of his coworkers – but she’s a young woman MUST BE AN AFFAIR” is, well, a stretch.

    2. OP #2*

      It is very likely the manager doesn’t know about any mentoring. Fergus often does his own thing and his manager is okay with that.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        I think my point to the whole thing is that Fergus’ behavior, with regard to friendships with female co-workers, has obviously deviated from the norms to a such a great degree that people have noticed. I suppose it’s possible that you work in a place where people manufacture gossip, but I can’t imagine that’s the case here. If he isn’t quite as “friendly” with all his other female co-workers then that supports the impression he’s giving, although it’s possible nothing is going on. However, I think that most people can tell the difference in workplace friendships of people of opposite genders and “friendships.” I think it would be to his manager’s benefit to inquire as to why he is spending so much time with the new hire and I frankly don’t understand why she wouldn’t have already, even if he does “do his own thing.” Depending on his answer, she may want to pull him aside and let him know the impression their chats give. I don’t think it would be detrimental to tell him regardless of whether or not anything is going on. If he’s a naturally flirty guy, as some have mentioned, that might not be taken so well should he decide to behave similarly in the future with a different employee. I just don’t think there’s much downside to addressing it head on, let him do what he needs to do, and then shut down the gossip. Nothing to see here….move along folks….. :)

        1. Artemesia*

          Yeah gossip should not be encouraged. But yeah, it is pretty obvious when a manager or employee has a ‘thing’ for the new hire. People who are ‘smitten’ pretty much radiate that excitement and those who observe this changed body language, frequent interactions etc are often not wrong that an affair is in the making — or at least a flirtation is well underway. I think the manager should alert Fergus that people are talking as well as caution the gossips to MYOB. In my experience it isn’t frequent interaction that gets gossips going — we routinely had lunch with male colleagues, traveled with them, managed them etc without anyone batting an eye. But when someone exhibited crush behavior it did set off gossip that was generally fairly accurate.

  26. Regina Phalange*

    Op2 – I was the subject of so much gossip in a previous job because of all the time I was spending with a male coworker. Ironically, nothing was going on with us and I was sneaking around with someone else we worked with and no one had a clue. (Obviously this was not a time in my life where I was making good decisions) However, being the subject of this gossip was terrible for me and bordered on sexual harassment until I told my manager if he didn’t shut it down I would go to HR. No one said a WORD after that conversation. It’s better to shut this stuff down sooner rather than later, regardless of what was happening.

  27. beachlover*

    #1, My company decided one year that on Good Friday, You could leave early if you were attending good Friday services. Needless to say, a lot of people “found” religion that day.

    1. bentley*

      A story I heard at a place where I used to work was that, back in the 70’s, when the firm was much smaller and at a different location (across from Fraser’s Pub), it was not uncommon for people to disappear for a couple of hours on Good Friday and say they were going to St. Fraser’s.

  28. Catherine from Canada*

    #3, please everyone out there, if you have an aged parent, warn them about this scam.
    My mom (87 at the time) answered the phone one day. A man said, “Is this Lily Cheerful? I have someone here who needs to speak to you.” A young man then came on the phone saying, “Gramma, I need help.”
    She said, “Fergus, is that you?”
    “Yes, it’s Fergus. I was in a car accident and broke my nose, that’s why my voice sounds funny, but I’m being held at the police station and I need $1,800 to get out.”
    “Oh, and your mom and dad are out of the country, is that why you are calling me?”
    “Yes, I couldn’t get in touch with them and I really need help.”
    The conversation went on, long enough for Mom to be convinced that it was my son, and he was in trouble. She didn’t have the $$ so she contacted my sister (a very successful business woman by the way who should have known better) who agreed to send the money.
    Eventually, my sister did get suspicious about some of the details, but it was close and it was only after talking to my mom for quite a while that we were able to figure out that the scammers were very good at getting identifying details from her, enough to convince her that it was Fergus.
    Apparently this is a very common scam too – I mean what grandparent wouldn’t drop everything to help their grandkid?

    1. MashaKasha*

      I hate hate hate it when these scammers prey on elderly people.

      Not quite as bad as you describe, but my dad (early 70s at the time) once got a long-distance call from a “Microsoft Windows Support team”, who told him that his computer is badly in need of repairs and he needs to get online and give them access, so they could fix it, yada yada yada. He responded with the usual “I don’t speak English very well, I’ll have my daughter call you back”, to which they happily replied “Does your daughter have a computer? Have her bring it over and have her get online too. We’ll fix hers too!” Well his daughter just so happened to work in IT support. Dad called me to arrange a time for me to visit and bring my laptop over and call those guys back, and I was able to explain to him why that whole conversation was total BS.

      Two days later, the guys call Dad back. “Is your daughter here? Is your computer online?” Dad goes, “no, but I’ve given your number to the FBI” (he did not…) They hung up and never called again.

      Did your sister actually send the $1800? If so, I’m sorry. That’s pretty awful. That’s a lot of money for an 87-year-old too, those scammers have some nerve!

      1. Catherine from Canada*

        No, my sister didn’t send the money. It was a very last minute thing tho’! something right at the last instant aroused her suspicions. I still tease her about it; a “captain of industry” falling for a phone scam!
        And Temperance, I wouldn’t be too annoyed with your husband’s grandparents.
        It’s actually very easy to ask leading questions – to get information you want without the other person noticing -and by using well placed silences and a few phrases to suggest that you have more information than you actually have. These people are pros and they practice multiple times a day. (But yeah, I’d be annoyed about the wanting re-imbursement too)

        1. Artemesia*

          My husband prosecuted fraud and yeah these outfits have very elaborate scripts and they practice them. My favorite was for some ‘farmer’ thing where one of the folksy lines was ‘so how many head you runnin there.’ (55 or whatever) ‘good, we get a lot of people trying to claim they’re farmers cuz they have a cat and a dog and an apple tree.’ Sounds so casual — so completely scripted. And they go after vulnerable people and particularly old people.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        A few years ago we were visiting my mother-in-law for the weekend, and she told us about how she’d met this nice young man recently while she was using the ATM. He’d told her that he’d just moved to town and had received his first pay cheque from his new job, but didn’t have a bank card yet and it was Friday at 5:30 pm and please could she front him some cash to get him through the weekend and he’d send it back? She gave him about $200 – $300, I think.

        My husband told her that it was a scam, she needed to be more careful, we should call the police, get the locks changed because now he had her address, etc.

        And then the guy sent her the money back the next week! Cash!

        Just a nice little counterpoint there to all the depressing scammer stories…

        1. Shell*

          …wow. I think this is the first time I’ve heard a story like that. I wonder what that poor guy was going to do if he didn’t get that money from your MIL? I–and most people, I’d wager–would have assumed scam and ran far, far away.

          Glad to hear this counterpoint! Too bad it’s so rare…

      3. Evan Þ*

        My grandma got a call from that team once. Fortunately, she’s only got a Mac, so it was pretty clear it was a scam.

    2. Temperance*

      This happened to my husband’s grandparents. We were so angry with them for falling for it; they spoke to my husband the day prior (and regularly), so they had no reason to fall for it, but they chose to. (OKAY so I’m mostly annoyed that they asked and expected us to reimburse them, because it’s somehow his fault that they thought this scammer was my husband.)

    3. ThatGirl*

      This happened to my husband’s grandma once – she got a phone call saying “this is your grandson” (she only had three, one of whom was in elementary school at the time) but she figured it out quickly because the guy on the phone called her “grandma” and they called her by a different pet name. And of course the guy didn’t know what it was.

    4. Meg Murry*

      I have a friend who’s parents also got called in this grandparent scam. For an additional twist I haven’t seen posted here – they didn’t want money wired or cashiers checks, etc – they wanted prepaid Visa cards. I think the scammer said something like “oh Grannie I need your help, but you can’t tell mom and dad, they would be so disappointed in me.” And then the story was about drunk driving and needing money for parole or she was going to have to spend the night in jail, and if she didn’t get home she couldn’t work the next day and would be fired, and how could she pay for college if she got fired, so on and so forth. I believe the scammers gave Grandma a phone number to call the “Police Station” to give the Visa card numbers to.

      The grandmother believed it really was her granddaughter (and from the way it sounds, it had just enough detail in it to be believable) and drove to the nearby grocery store to buy the prepaid Visas. Luckily, the store manager noticed that she was upset and when grandma asked for the prepaid Visas she spilled the story with little prompting, telling the manager how upset she was at her granddaughter, etc. The store manager thought it sounded fishy and kept reminding Grandma that if she gave away the card numbers there was no way to get the money back. She was able to talk grandma down, and suggested she contact granddaughter directly once before buying the cards. So grandma called grand daughter, and sure enough, she was home and fine. Grandmother wanted to let it drop because she was so embarrassed, but again, the kind store manager convinced her to call her daughter (my friend) to calm her down, and friend and store manager convinced her to call the police.

      Apparently the cops said other variations they have heard are about wrecking the car but can’t call insurance because the granddaughter was drinking and would lose her license and parents would be disappointed, etc but she found a body shop that could fix the car for only $X; or one saying grandson was on spring break in Mexico but lost his passport and needed money to get a new one so he could get back in the country. The police said the common threads were often: “I’m in trouble but you can’t tell my parents” and requesting prepaid Visas. They suspected some of it may be coming from Facebook pictures or some kind of friend of a friend info, or some kind of pre-scam “survey”, because one of the tricks is that the scammers used to seem more believable is they used the correct obscure Grandparent nickname like “Mee-maw Sue” or something that is uncommon and makes the grandparent think it really is the grandchild.

      I hope karma catches up to these horrible scammers someday.

  29. Jessen*

    Along the lines of #5, would it be appropriate to write (student job) after certain jobs? I’ve had several jobs doing a BA/MA recently that were only open to students – obviously leading to them being short-term jobs.

  30. OP #1*

    OP 1 here. I just want to address the comment that my manager’s inquiry came from being curious. It wasn’t. They asked over email and then when I didn’t reply, asked about it over the phone. When I said it was my birthday, they said they were going to HR. Their tone wasn’t friendly, but adversarial. I just felt this interaction was lacking in goodwill or understanding. Especially because this happened the day of our company party when hopefully everyone would be in a festive mood.

    1. The Expendable Redshirt*

      That’s unfortunate. I find religion to be an interesting topic and would be genuinely curious about what other people are celebrating. If I asked such a question, it would be from a learning-inquisitive position. It sounds like HR corrected your manager and solved the problem.

      1. fposte*

        If you’re a manager, even asking in genuine curiosity can be offputting, though; my tendency is to inquire further only if somebody volunteers the holiday themselves. I figure if they wanted me to know, they’ll tell me, and it’s more important that the employee is comfortable with the exchange than I learn more about the Feast of St. Amaswinthus (which is today, for you laggards who haven’t yet prepared).

      2. neverjaunty*

        By “learning-inquisitive position” you mean, nosy? ;)

        Seriously, this is different from just asking somebody “Oh, what holiday is that?” and then letting it go if they don’t answer, or put it off. This is a workplace situation where the OP’s religion is really none of the manager’s business. Insisting on an answer is very different from being ‘inquisitive’, as is going to HR.

    2. EvanMax*

      Is it possible that their tone and/or behavior came from a misunderstanding on their part as to what they are supposed to steward? Does this manager tend to push the point when it comes to exact wording of other policies and directives?

      Paying attention to that can help you recognize what is really the core of the issue here. Yes, this could potentially be an issue of anti-religious discrimination, but it could also be a case of an overly-literal individual who is trying to enforce rules-as-written rather than rules-as-intended, which is its own separate problem.

      Obviously, whichever circumstances happened, HR has your back, so I don’t think you should escalate this particular instance any further (it is resolved, you have nothing to gain by pushing it), but I do think it’s important to think about where this manager’s behavior came from, if only to help you be better prepared for the next time.

      Pushing this as a religious discrimination issue against a manager who couldn’t care less about your religion, but takes an overly literal interpretation of rules, will not only get you nowhere, but it will also put you in a negative relationship with some one who is already inclined to hold people to the letter of the policy, which will just make your work life more difficult.

    3. Observer*

      Yeah, it’s kind of hard to play “I’m going to HR” as being the product of genuine innocent curiosity.

      I’m glad HR approved it, and I hope that that takes care of the matter. Have you had any other run ins with him? I’m curious – what is your religious affiliation, and if it’s different than your manager’s, does he know this?

    4. Artemesia*

      Oh great. so he made a fool of himself, probably got set straight and so now that will be your fault.

  31. Den*

    OP3: About 3 weeks ago or so, I almost fell for the same type of scam. Been looking for a new job to move on from my current one, and one day, I applied to an office job from I looked up the place, and got an address so its legit, but about two days after I applied, I got an email from someone from that company, but the info was from someplace completely different that offered a similar job. The company mentioned is real, and couldn’t find any scam stories on the particular place or person, and the pay is only something higher than I currently get. I still asked a couple of questions if the place is affiliated with the place I applied to, and give my info, thinking they wanted a reconfirmation or something.

    Next email, my questions end up ignored, and suddenly got the job. I got confused and got worried, but still went along with it for now, so I asked the same questions again to confirm the things I wondered about. The red flag finally showed itself full stop when I was told a check got sent to me, and was already at home while I was at work, and asked me to deposit the check and send x amount to some places in the Phillipines. I ended up taking the check and threw it in the trash. I got another follow up email, but I blocked the mail.

    I got lucky that I picked up on the scam before it is too late and any real damage. I usually pick up on scams ok, but got real blindsided because they used the names of real places, and I researched from the wrong angle. I can really sympathize with those who end up being conned, and hope they are able to bounce back and move on from this crap. I wish you the best of luck OP3 and to anyone else who got scammed in some shape or form. This is all terrible…

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      It’s great you spotted the scam before you lost any money.

      As an aside the Phillipines are one of a few countries that actively refuse to adopt international standards around money laundering, proceeds of crime and other ways to prevent financial crime. If you’d semt the money the authorities their wouldn’t have lifted a finger to help you.

    2. Natalie*

      Oh, good catch! Kind of reminds me of that old New Yorker cartoon – “on the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”

  32. reader*

    For the religious day one: there’s nothing in the question to back me up on this, but it sets off my spider-sense that something’s being left out of this story. I guess there are bad managers out there who might be all up in people’s business like that. I can think of one reason why I might be that manager though: the person is a habitual leave abuser, is out of vacation days, paid sick leave, and is wanting yet another excuse to not be at work.

    Normally I don’t care what people’s story is. It’s their earned leave, they’re welcome to use it responsibly however they want. There are certain people I have to ask what the illness is, and sometimes use my allowed discretion to have them get a doctor’s note. As much as I don’t like it, if I don’t, those are the same people who get into trouble with a surprise emergency and no leave to use. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the manager to make sure the religious day was intended to be used for the stated purpose. “My birthday” is clearly not that, so the manager’s suspicion was correct.

    That HR didn’t want to die on that hill is fine, I guess. If someone’s going to get themself in trouble with leave, what’s one day more or less? I’d probably decide the same if it came down to it. I’d still hate to be the manager that didn’t get the backup on this decision, though. That feels crappy.

    1. Observer*

      the person is a habitual leave abuser, is out of vacation days, paid sick leave, and is wanting yet another excuse to not be at work.

      Assuming that this is true (and you really have no basis for it) – what difference does it make? If it’s time that’s coming to her, then it’s time that’s coming to her. It’s not your place, or that of any other person to make that decision.

      Oh, and what is a “leave abuser”? Since when is actually taking the leave that has been promised toyou considered “abuse”?

      It’s their earned leave, they’re welcome to use it responsibly however they want.

      You might want to remember that these are your EMPLOYEES, not your children. This is their leave, and it’s their right to use it however they want, whether you think it’s responsible or not – or even if it’s not responsible, objectively speaking.

      As much as I don’t like it, if I don’t, those are the same people who get into trouble with a surprise emergency and no leave to use.

      Nice excuse. But, that’s their problem, not yours. And your “solution” doesn’t help much, because just because they can’t /won’t get a doctor’s note, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need the time. Instead they wind up without leave when they need it, even before they have run out of time. Nice.

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the manager to make sure the religious day was intended to be used for the stated purpose.

      Except for one slight problem. Enforcing that purpose happens to be illegal. It’s illegal to offer benefits or withhold based specifically on religion or lack thereof.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Right, the “habitual leave abuser” rubbed me the wrong way too. If I am living paycheck to paycheck, does that make me a habitual pay abuser? Isn’t paid leave the same thing, ours to do with what we want? it was part of the package offered when we took our jobs, along with pay and other benefits, no strings attached. How can you “abuse” your earned pay and benefits?

        1. reader*

          To some extent I agree with you both, your leave is your leave and like I said, I try not to get involved in that. It’s got to rise to the level of “habitual” to raise an eyebrow. But to answer one of the questions literally, leave abuse is using leave “wrong”, whenever you feel like it. It is actually not yours to do with whatever you want (at my company, yours may be different.)

          For example, annual paid leave is for whatever *purpose* you want BUT it’s supposed to be scheduled in advance. Calling me on the day of and requesting a day of annual because you’re not feeling it today is no problem on rare occasions. Do that to me all the time, I’m going to say something. Sick leave is for when you are sick, not for going to the Seahawks game or whatever. I’m usually going to take people’s word for it, but someone who is “sick” every Friday or Monday, or every time the deadline for the big project comes is earning themself some side-eye and I might start asking for a doctor’s note, even if they have plenty of days saved.

          The religious day thing sounds sketchy just in concept, I agree, but if it’s for a thing, it should be used for the thing. 95% of everyone can be assumed to be an adult. 5% prove that to be a bad assumption and need a little help.

          “Leave abuse” isn’t a firing offense, it’s just one red flag that someone may not be working out overall, not really into this job, or just not get the concept and warrants a closer look and conversation.

          1. reader*

            ps. “I’m usually going to take people’s word for it” so at least make up a story and stick to it. If you straight-up TELL me you’re using your leave inappropriately, I have no choice but to say no or become an accomplice to that.

          2. Observer*

            The religious day thing sounds sketchy just in concept, I agree, but if it’s for a thing, it should be used for the thing.

            When that “thing” is illegal, then you need to NOT insist on it.

            1. reader*

              I’m not a lawyer. If someone has a concern that company policy is illegal, then I would encourage them to and even assist them with talking to HR and Legal departments.

              It sounds to me like this manager did exactly that. Attempted to follow the policy, a question came up, called HR and got clarification, leave was approved. Presumably that manager now has on his tickler “follow up with HR to get that clarification in the manual.” If it’s really an illegal thing, then it’s a bear trap lying there waiting for someone else to step in. Counting on every manager to know this and selectively blow off company policy (but only these policies, not THESE policies) at their own level is bad behavior. He may have actually done everyone a favor by forcing the question to get an answer.

          3. MashaKasha*

            At my company, you request your manager’s approval for vacation or personal days, and the manager gives or does not give that approval based on the team’s work schedule. At no point in time are we required to explain what we plan to use our vacation for. Either our work schedule allows it and we take it, or it doesn’t and then we don’t. Doesn’t matter if we planned to use it to go to a national swingers conference in the first case, or spend the day helping old ladies across the street, in the second. Either our work schedule allows it or it doesn’t. Frankly I don’t think our management even WANTS to know what we plan on doing with our vacation, because that’s too personal. If I just decide to call in as being on vacation with no prior warning, there will be consequences. I have to add that OP requested their vacation day in advance and asked for approval.

            I agree that 52 sick days a year, each of which happens to be Friday, is super sketchy. Which is why my current place only allows three sick days a year, my old place only allowed five sick days a year, and so forth.

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