do you need a local area code when job searching, candidates keep stalking my voicemail, and more

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

1. How important is a local area code when job-searching?

I recently graduated and moved to the Seattle area to be closer to family. In this time of mobility, how important is it to have a local area code? My number is from the Las Vegas area with the associated low taxes. If I transfer my number to a local one, my taxes for cell service will increase by an order of magnitude. And that’s a real budget hit. How vital is it to have a local number, even though I have a local address?

I’m in D.C., where everyone is transient and so tons of people have non-local area codes and it’s completely normal. My sense is that it’s a non-issue for other parts of the country too, but I don’t actually know that for sure — as I am here and not there — so I’d welcome people confirming/refuting that in the comments.

2. Candidates keep calling and hanging up on my voicemail, over and over

I have a new question regarding your post “Don’t stalk my voicemail” from 2010. I read through the comments but didn’t see any advice pertaining to this particular situation.

Lately I’ve had a number of candidates miss my call for their scheduled phone interview and then call me back repeatedly (the last one called back 44 times in less than two hours). Every voicemail I leave clearly states that my schedule for the week is pretty full (it is, unless we have a rare slow week) but that I will call them back at the first available time I have. Those call-backs are usually done during no shows, so I don’t have a specific time to give.

This is happening with probably 5-6 candidates a week, so it is holding up my other work. When I leave a voicemail for candidates, I’d like to specify that they should only call back once/leave one message. How would you phrase this request?

I wouldn’t ask them to call back at all — I’d tell them to email you about rescheduling. It’s more efficient and it allows you to respond to them when it’s convenient.

And actually, since these are scheduled phone interviews, I wouldn’t reschedule at all unless when they reach out to you, they proactively offer a compelling excuse for missing the call, because missing a scheduled interview isn’t something you should take lightly. To convey that it’s not an automatic reschedule, I’d say something in your message like, “I’m calling you at 2 p.m. for our scheduled phone call. If you get this in the next few minutes, please call me back at ___. Otherwise, if you’re still interested in the position, please email me at ____.” Then, when they email you, you can factor in whether they sound mortified or cavalier about missing the appointment.

3. Employer harassed me about pumping at work

I was an exempt employee, mid-level manager who was lactating for about one year when I was told I was no longer allowed to pump in my office because it made others uncomfortable. I was forced to use a lactation room, and even if it was occupied I would have to wait.

I developed mastitis because of the issue, and even though I had to start weaning the baby because of the harassment and hardship, I attempted to relieve myself behind a bathroom stall, when my employer followed me in and waited behind the door, insisting that I was not allowed to pump/relieve my engorged breasts in the bathroom.

Two months later, I was fired after I brought it to HR’s attention. My main question is, what do you make of the bathroom policing?

I make of it that your employer subjected you to a hostile work environment, possibly illegally so.

Because the federal law that requires breaks and appropriate pumping space for breastfeeding mothers is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, it only applies to employees who are non-exempt (as that literally means “not exempt from the FLSA”). In other words, there’s no federal law that gives exempt employees those same protections. However, some state laws do, so you might check if your state is among them. (Also, the Supporting Working Moms Act of 2015 would extend those protections to exempt employees. It’s currently in a congressional committee, and if you support it, you should ask your members of Congress to support it too.)

However, it’s very possible that a court would consider the bathroom behavior to be sex-based discrimination or a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. An employment lawyer could talk to you about all the details and advise you on that.

And speaking of being exempt…

4. Asking to reevaluate whether I’m exempt

Is there a tactful way to ask my manager if we can reevaluate whether I’m exempt? Last spring, my office suddenly reclassified everyone as non-exempt. I was told not to work more than 40 hours a week without prior approval, and my then-manager and I discussed workload and accepted the new classification. I was a bit surprised at my reclassification but did have quite a bit of discretion on initiating new processes, so I thought maybe they were just trying to fall on the safe side.

The owner heard I was reclassified as non-exempt and had me switched back to exempt because my work “is very important” and I often have to stay late. Not the best logic, but there you go.

Recently, my work has become less and less independent. I’m told to research a number, get a letter prepared, create a list of leads, etc. and I do it. I also consistently work 45+ hours a week, though my timesheet isn’t allowed to show more than 40. I’m starting to really doubt that I’m exempt, and want to raise it with my new manager.

Yeah, they can’t make you exempt just because your work is important and you stay late. In fact, it’s really not up to them whether your role is exempt or non-exempt; they need to comply with the definitions laid out by the federal government.

If you’ve looked at the qualifications for each and are pretty sure you should be non-exempt, I’d say this: “I’m concerned that my role doesn’t actually meet the federal regulations for being exempt because of X and Y. I think we could get into trouble if we miscategorize me, so I wanted to ask that someone take another look at it.”

5. Should I apply for jobs where I don’t meet all the qualifications?

When I attended the Illinois Paralegal Association (IPA) career seminar last October, they told us if the job ad states they want someone experienced or someone with a specific amount of experience (2-5 years, 3 years, 5 years, 5-7 years, etc.), then we shouldn’t apply because that’s what they want and there’s no sense or point in applying for something where you’re not qualified.

However, several paralegals in a couple of online posting communities I’m a part of have told me that the IPA gave me terrible advice and see no harm in applying for jobs you’re not qualified for, as you may be able to eventually convince the employer of hiring someone with little to no experience in an effort to save them money should you be able to secure an interview as a result of applying.

I see it as a waste of time to apply for a job in which they require someone really experienced, as I’ve seen plenty of job ads that tell applicants if they don’t meet the requirements then not even bother because no one will even look at their résumé. What’s your take on this?

Employers frequently end up hiring someone with less experience than what they put in the ad. Of course, there are limits to this; if they’re asking for 10 years of experience, there’s no point in applying if you only have two. But if you’re close to what they want but not exactly there (for example, you have two years of experience and they’re asking for three to five), you should apply, especially if you’re a pretty close match on the rest of the qualifications.

In some cases, the requirements in job ads truly are rigid. But much more frequently, there’s some flexibility in there. If you can make a compelling case for your ability to excel at the job, go ahead and apply (and make that case).

{ 621 comments… read them below }

  1. LisaLee*

    Re #1: I come from a small, Midwestern town and this would be a non-issue there as well. I think people in general are pretty loathe to change their phone numbers (it’s so much work to notify everyone of the change, after all) that having a non-local zip code is not unusual.

    1. ginger ale for all*

      There was a story on BBC radio last night about a lawyer who moved to Seattle and was applying for jobs there and went to get a local number. When he had the new number, he got a lot of musicians sending him messages about wanting to work together and pictures from young women. It turns out that he got Sir Mixalot’s old phone number. He kept the number and says he loves it.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        I wonder how many people have Jenny’s number (Tommy Tutone) nowadays and whether anyone still prank calls them.

        1. Dan*

          I… Uh… Used to prank those numbers at the completion of an evening out. Back in the day some people would have fun with it, others would get pissed, and some didn’t get it.

          The last time I tried it, there were a lot more out of service messages, and the guys that answered didn’t get it.

        2. Roly Poly Little Bat Faced Girl*

          I use Jenny’s number for the “customer loyalty” programs at stores where I haven’t joined the program. Always seems to work to give me the discounts!

    2. Bob*

      I’m not going to say I would blindly ignore an non-local number but it wouldn’t sway me either. I might mention it to confirm you do in fact currently live in the area. I’m not a fan of hiring out of town candidates because I’ve gotten screwed a few times.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        But you need to take into consideration in this day of mobile numbers and where less and less people have landlines, it’s pretty common for people to move and have numbers from out of the area.

    3. plain_jane*

      If you have an out of town phone number, I think it’s important to show otherwise that you are local if you are. Either mention it in the cover letter, or have your local physical address on the resume. The last time I posted a job on LinkedIn, local was one of the first screens.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, we’re in CA and my BF moved here years ago from PA and kept his PA number. He’s been through a couple job searches and it hasn’t hindered anything at all. Occasionally a recruiter will ask to confirm he’s actually in CA but that’s about it, it hasn’t been a big deal.

      1. De Minimis*

        I relocated from OK to CA, still have my OK phone number. Never had an issue with the phone number, they mainly would ask about my address, especially when my most recent job was out of state.

        My guess is that it might be an issue in smaller towns, but I would doubt anyone would think twice about a non-local area code in most places.

    5. Green*

      I relocated west coast to east coast and then back to the east coast. I use a GoogleVoice number now (which is west coast) and have no issues.

      1. Corporate Cynic*

        Me too – when I relocated from the east to west coast, I set up a Google Voice # with a San Francisco area code. Best of both worlds – it signaled my location to prospective employers while allowing me to keep my original cell phone number.

    6. Windchime*

      I live in the Seattle area and nobody blinks an eye at my area code from the other side of the state. My son also has a non-Seattle area zip code and has gotten interviews, so I don’t think it matters in a big city like Seattle. Especially if you have a local address.

      1. KTB*

        +1 to what Windchime said. I live in Seattle, and have a Portland area code on my cell phone. Now that cell phones are the norm and you keep your number wherever you go, it’s way less important to have a local area code. When I’m reviewing resumes, I pay attention to the address, but don’t care about the area code.

        1. JessaB*

          I now live in Ohio, I have had the exact same Florida number for well over 15 years, it’s the only cell number I have ever had, and I doubt I will ever change it as everyone who has ever known me knows it, including a lot of older people who would never remember a new one.

      2. BAS*

        I also lived in Seattle with a Northern California number and never had an issue. When I’ve helped with hiring, we look at the address generally to assess if the candidate is too remote. I never look at area codes.

      3. Melissa B*

        Same here. I’ve been in on the West coast for 7 years (Seattle for 4 of them) and still have my old Chicago number. It’s never been an issue. Seattle is increasingly becoming a transplant city so the area code has actually been a great conversation starter.

      4. Melissa*

        I just recently got a job in Olympia (about an hour south of Seattle for those not familiar–state capital). No one cares that my area code is from a state in the Midwest. My resume (and profiles in endless talent acquisition portals) made it clear that I was no longer living 2000+ miles away.

      5. MinB*

        I’m Seattle-adjacent and have been on a number of hiring committees. As long as the resume and cover letter are good, I don’t care about the area code. If the resume and cover letter aren’t good… I don’t really care about the area code either!

        I wouldn’t worry about it, especially since you’ve already moved to the area. If you said in a cover letter that you were looking to relocate, that might be different, but you’re already here so the logistics are much simpler.

    7. Soupspoon McGee*

      I finally got a google voice number with a local area code because one doctor’s office just could NOT dial my old area code correctly. The bonus is that now I get emails with my messages transcribed.

  2. TowerofJoy*

    #1 – I think its pretty normal to retain whatever your original cell number was – regardless of the area code. In 2016 when we’re more and more transient in general, and few people have landlines but want to keep the same number…I think it would be strange to even look at something like that as an indicator. I never have when hiring.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      For the first time in the past 12 years, my area code matches my location. I got the number when I lived here previously, kept it through a move halfway across the country, came back to the area (but in a different area code), and just recently moved over the river and am back in the 651. Nobody cares.

      1. MN*

        And so many times you have to use all 10 digits to call someone, even locally, that the extra digits aren’t even noticable.

        Like when 612 got too big and they had to add 651, then 763 and 952. The more rural parts of the state still have the luxury of only needing 7 digits, but not the metro.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I can’t even remember the last time I picked up a phone and dialed only 7 digits. Everyone in my cell phone has ten, and at work I’m either dialing a local extension (5 digits) or calling out with ten.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I hardly ever dial anymore–just once, and then it either goes in my contact or my log.


            IN THE SNOW
            BOTH WAYS

            1. ThatGirl*

              Hah, my grandparents had a rotary phone, I didn’t use it much but I do remember it!

              But it’s true, mostly I don’t “dial” so much as “find recent contacts and tap the button”.

              1. hermit crab*

                We had a rotary phone when I was growing up — and I’m only 29! My younger brother found it in a closet a while back and it blew his mind. I was like, hey now, I’m not THAT much older than you!

              2. Sunshine Brite*

                my parents still have 2 plus tons of others installed they barely use anymore. My dad used to work for the phone company. The kids get a kick out of trying it.

            2. Jean*

              Wonderful. So glad to find your humor at the end of a long, hard day. (Or should I spell that out SO GLAD…) I, too, remember the rotary dial.

          2. YawningDodo*

            I was in the same boat until I moved to Montana. The entire state has a single area code (crazy, I know), so even when you’re dialing the other side of the state and it’s technically long distance, you’re still dialing that same “local” area code (it’s actually kind of a pain to not have the area code as a cue; I don’t know how many times I’ve typed seven numbers at work and had to redo it because surprise, *this* 406 number was long distance). I’ve had to get in the habit of prefacing my cell number with “area code ___” because otherwise locals will assume it’s a 406. Lived here for several years now and most people don’t bat an eye, though. It’s too much work to change it and people are pretty used to cell numbers never getting updated after a move.

      2. Int*

        My parents live in a place where the area code is one digit off from where they used to live such as 902 vs 903. Every few months I get a call from one of my brothers’ teachers who couldn’t reach my parents because they put in the wrong area code. Oddly enough, my area code is the same as my parents’, but they get it right when they call me.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yeah, I don’t think it’d be anything more than a conversation sparker. “Oh, you have a Syracuse number! My in-laws live there!” …or the like.

    3. Naomi*

      Yes,this situation is only going to get more common. Especially among millennials, who may have had cell phones since middle or high school and then retained the number when they moved to another city as adults. Also, Seattle is a big tech hub, so there must be lots of people moving there for career reasons; you’re unlikely to have the only out-of-town area code in the application pool.

    4. potato battery*

      On area codes:

      Most people in my circle that are my age (early 30s) or younger have area codes that reflect where they grew up, which are almost always not where they live now. It’s very, very common.

    5. potato battery*

      On area codes:

      Most people in my circle who are my age (early 30s) have area codes that reflect where they grew up, which are almost never where they live now. It’s very, very common.

    6. Ghost Town*

      Pretty much just echoing the chorus here, but a non-local area code (especially when paired with a local address) isn’t going to make anyone bat an eye. The idea of calling long distance doesn’t seem to be a thing anymore. More and more, the area code doesn’t match the person’s actual location. So TowerofJoy is right; people aren’t looking at that to tell them where you are.

      1. Bwmn*

        In addition to echoing everyone else about long distance not being a big deal – is calling Canada from the US now also no longer seen as an international call? It’s the same country code as the US (1), and recently when I needed to call for work I was unable to make the call using our long distance code but was able when dialing as I would any other US area code.

        Long story short, the nature of cell phones have made this no longer a thing. I also suspect that as more and more people have phone numbers stored in their cell phones, people also aren’t as aware of “I have X local contacts with abc area code and Y local contacts with xyz area code – but you are an odd case because of efg area code.

        1. S.I. Newhouse*

          Canada is still an international call — at least the last time I tried (2014)?
          In NYC, nobody bats an eyelash at an area code that’s not 212, 347, 718 etc.

        2. midhart90*

          Phone company guy here. Cell phones are a big factor as to why your area code often doesn’t reflect your actual location, but the other big thing is number portability–the ability to move to a new city or change carriers but keep your old number. Many (most?) of our customers are bringing numbers in from somewhere else.

          At our company, we don’t differentiate between local and domestic long distance or even offer any by-the-minute service plans anymore. Even our cheapest plan includes unlimited calling to anyone in the US. The next time you see a phone in a lobby (the kind you use to call to be let in) there’s a good chance that you can call someone on the other side of the country and it would go through–and it wouldn’t cost a penny extra.

          As for Canada and other places that use the 1 country code (the technical name for this is NANP–North American Numbering Plan, and it also includes a handful of Caribbean countries), that does vary from carrier to carrier and from plan to plan. Sometimes it’s included at no extra charge, sometimes it carries a (potentially significant) extra charge per minute, and still other carriers don’t offer it at all. Check with customer service to avoid any billing surprises.

          1. Liana*

            Good to know! I feel like most cell phone plans don’t differentiate between local and long distance calls anymore – I can’t remember ever paying for a plan that did, and I’m in my mid-20s.

            1. Melissa*

              I’m in my early thirties and the last time I remember thinking about cell phones and long distance was probably around the end of high school. I feel like it went out pretty much the same time we all stopped caring about night and weekend minutes.

              1. Stephanie*

                Oh man, the night and weekend minute struggle was so real.

                “Hey, can you call me back at 9 pm tonight?”

                1. Jean*

                  OMG I am totally having Telephone Nostalgia Night. (See my comment above to Elizabeth West re rotary dials.) I’m also old enough to remember many long-distance friendships (and one romantic relationship) with intensity measured in telephone bills.

    7. Kurt Cobain Stole My Sweater*

      Seattle says: no big whoop. Pretty common in this neck of the woods as well. Go Hawks!

    8. Spooky*

      That’s been my experience too – no one really pays attention to area codes.

      That said, I have seen people assume you’re still in the most recent city listed on your resume (ex. if your top entry is an internship from a Las Vegas college, they assume you’re still in Vegas,) so I’d definitely be sure to call out that you have already relocated in your cover letter.

      1. TootsNYC*

        and in case people toss cover letters, or staple them on the back (I do this), consider tweaking your resume to include a local address (local to the place you’re applying, if possible).

        That might also be the exception that would make me put an “Objective:” at the top of the resume: “Objective: to find employment in my new city, Seattle” or something less clunky.

    9. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Yes, I know in Dallas (and other major metros in Texas), this is totally normal. Most people I know only have cell phones.

    10. overeducated and underemployed*

      Agreed, this has never been an issue for me in terms of getting job interviews and I think it is increasingly normal. I’ve had people ask about commute distance based on the address on my cover letter or resume but never the phone number, even though the phone number is from two states away.

    11. Cautionary tail*

      My whole family has an out of state area code on our mobile phones. Nobody cares. I also have a Google Voice number but it is in the same area code as our phones. Nobody cares.

      We have a local friend here on the east coast who has a Hawaii phone number and has never changed it. This person has never mentioned having any problems due to the 808 area code.

    12. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      Yeah, this seems to hold true. Every time I’ve upgraded my phone (admittedly not very often) they’ve just transferred the number without even asking, so I have the area code that corresponds with the very first phone I ever got at 16. Especially now that different carriers are letting you keep the same number. Thinking about it, I don’t think I know anyone who has changed phone numbers in the past five years. People will sometimes ask where it’s from, but I think at this point people are becoming used to area codes not matching addresses.

  3. Cat*

    #1 – You can always get a local Google voice number to cover your bases. (I have one I use for job searching simply because I don’t want my personal number making the data-broker rounds.)

    When I see area codes I don’t recognize it’s more of a curiosity, “Hmm, I wonder where that is?” rather than a disqualification. I also live in a large metropolitan area that’s had its area code regions subdivided so many times I don’t think I even *know* all the local area codes.

    1. Marcela*

      Yes, we got Google Voice numbers with our new area codes, after a couple of experiences with people in Craigslist thinking we were scammers because we were calling from numbers from the other coast. It has worked perfectly all those times I just don’t want to give my real number for when I leave again or I’m not interested in the service anymore.

      1. ByeByeBirdie*

        I had heard about Google Voice but I didn’t know it gave you a new number! Hello, IcognitoBirdie.

        Thanks for the heads up. :)

    2. Random Lurker*

      I had only a single instance where an employer used the area code as a disqualification after a fairly silly back and forth game of “I wonder where that is”. They made a big deal that the job is local and telecommuting was not going to be allowed. Great, I am local. In fact, the home address on my resume shows I live in the same zip code as the office. But we won’t pay your relocation! That’s not a problem, since none is required. But your number isn’t recognizable, so we need to reemphasize that we will only proceed interviewing local candidates. Then I got a rejection letter stating they were only considering local candidates.

      I think I really dodged a bullet on that one. Thanks, out of state area code!

      1. Sunshine*

        Well that’s just painful.

        I had a candidate who listed their phone number, but no address on the resume. I assumed he was local, even with the out of state number… you know, since he applied for the job. After a lengthy email exchange and phone interview, it comes out that he does live out of state and isn’t planning to relocate.

        All that to say… no, the area code is no big deal at all, but be sure to include your address as well!

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Good lord! I’d want to follow up by sending them a cartoon illustration of how I got my phone number:

        Panel 1: This is me. This is me in front of my house at [local address].

        Panel 2: This is my phone. My phone lives with me at [local address].

        Panel 3: But my phone and I have not always lived at [local address] . . .

        And so on and so forth.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, but what about the fact that you might have to sell your house and move so as to be local?! /headdesk

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          That’s what I was thinking, send some photos of yourself standing in front of local landmarks…but yeah, they sound like idiots.

      3. Ama*

        That’s so weird. I wonder if they’d had a bad experience with a candidate claiming a local address who was in fact not local, or if the company was just out of touch with how area codes work in the era of porting your cell phone number.

        I don’t know if it is still true, but ten years ago I read an article about one of the area codes in the NYC metro area being assigned to a set of U.S. government cell phones in Iraq and it was apparently causing some confusion for people on the receiving end of calls from Iraq who recognized the area code as New York.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I was going to suggest this. I was asked to choose my area code when I signed up for mine.

      But it doesn’t work for outgoing calls; if I call someone else, the number that shows on their screen is my true cell phone number. And then I have to explain why I have two–“Oh, that’s my Google Voice number. You can call me on either one.”

      But I also wouldn’t really pay that much attention.

      1. Cat*

        FYI – If you dial out using the Google Voice app it’s the GV number that appears on the receiver’s phone.

        1. ByeByeBirdie*

          Actually I just signed up. It depends on if you choose ‘display my Google Voice number’ in the call preferences. Really easy to change, Toots!

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        It does work for outgoing calls—you just have to use the Google Voice app to dial out if you’re using an iPhone. On Android it’ll integrate automatically.

  4. MillersSpring*

    Number portability has been a thing for a long time, as well as nationwide calling plans without long-distance charges. People can keep mobile numbers they’ve had since middle school. It might prompt a small-talk kind of question, such as “Are you from Las Vegas originally?” But it’s not a red flag by any stretch.

    I’m in a large city that attracts people of all ages, so I’m used to meeting people who grew up (or went to college, or began their career) elsewhere. Maybe *possibly* it might raise eyebrows if you’re job searching in an insular small town. Just speculation. (I grew up in a small town.)

    1. Stayin' Alive*

      I doubt a non-local area code would be an issue in the Seattle area, but I spent the last two years in an insular small town a few hours south of Seattle on the coast, and my non-local number bugged the hell out of some people.

      My area code was also just one digit different from the local area code, and I learned to emphasize that when giving people my number, and yet some folks would *still* write down the local area code.

      Small towns …

      1. CarrieUK*

        I think it will probably be fine most of the time, but there is a subset of people in Seattle who SERIOUSLY resent the influx of people from all the tech giants located there.

        So, if you are in tech, you are probably fine. If you are not in tech, you might hit one of the ones with Opinions.

        (We were temporarily relocated to Seattle for a while and this was the number one thing people complained about. Followed by traffic. Caused by those from outside the Seattle area.)

    2. Anon the Great and Powerful*

      Definitely an issue in small towns. I moved from Toronto to a little town up north and the harassment I got about my “uppity” Toronto number was intense. I had to change my number.

    3. Kimberlee, Esq*

      Yeah, I want to echo that in smaller towns, it does seem to be a bigger deal. I’m always surprised when I go back to my home town in Idaho and people give you a 7 digit phone number, instead of a 10 digit. It just looks wrong to me now! (I’m also in DC, and my Idaho number raises no eyebrows).

      1. mskyle*

        I agree that it does seem to be a bigger deal in smaller towns. I think if you’re in a place where seven-digit dialing is still in use, you are more likely to run into trouble. But again, in Boston I don’t think twice about anyone’s area code… it’s like that xkcd comic about your phone number being 7 random digits with an area code denoting where you lived in 2005 :)

      2. Rater Z*

        I live in Indianapolis and spent eight years doing taxes returns for HughTeapot taxes. We had a young lady coming in to make an appointment to have her taxes done. Of course, we asked for her phone number and it started with the 208 area code. I automatically asked Boise? and she said no, Twin Falls, then stared at me. I don’t know if she was surprised that that I spotted the out of town area code or that I instinctly knew it was Idaho, perhaps 1500 miles away.

        Personally, I always hated when they gave me out-of-area-codes because that flipped it into long-distance calls when I had to call them. It’s possible that HughTeapot had arrangements with the phone companies that charged lower phone rates or flipped them to outgoing 800 numbers. They never said anything to me about it. I didn’t have a cell-phone at the time, and, even now, it’s only a Tracfone.

    1. nicolefromqueens*

      How did she (I’M ASSUMING) know what you were doing in the bathroom stall?

      And are the HR people related to the HR at “baby mama’s” company?

      The hell

        1. Sarahnova*

          There aren’t a lot of plug sockets in bathroom stalls though, so she was probably using either a manual, or hand expressing.

          1. BananaPants*

            The cheap ones provided for free by insurance companies thanks to the ACA are usually on the louder side.

          2. TootsNYC*

            they’re not noisy as hell, but they DO make a distinctive noise. Even the good ones are not silent. I know; I used one of the best.

            1. Observer*

              That’s a very different thing, though. Good ones, even not the “best” ones, generally are quiet enough that people around you shouldn’t have to wear headphones. I’ve been able to have phone conversations in my office with someone else pumping there, and person on the other end of the line would hear nothing. I know that because I was able to ask some of the people about it.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I KNOW! I can’t even imagine what employer in their right mind would think they have any business knowing what goes on in the bathroom stall. This is waaaaay too much attention to be paying to an employee’s breasts.

      1. Myrin*

        Right? So creepy and inappropriate. I’m completely baffled. (By the original situation already, to be honest. The pumping made others “uncomfortable”? Well, maybe look away then if you can’t deal with a basic biological requirement. You’re an adult, get a grip, geez.)

        1. Merry and Bright*

          I agree. As you say, if you don’t like it, don’t watch (though why would the office even want to?).

          1. mull*

            Pumping is loud if it involves a machine. It’s not just seeing it that could be an issue, so if the office is open, the sound could be the issue. Plus, other bodily “requirements” are most certainly regulated at work.

            Was there a schedule for using the lactation room? That would seem to solve the issue of access.

            I can’t really imagine following someone into a bathroom, though an office bathroom stall isn’t really a completely private space either where someone can expect 100% privacy and license to do anything one wants. I suspect there’s more to the story here about why the lactation room wasn’t being used (wasn’t there a letter a while back about a case where someone wanted to pump at her desk instead of going to the lactation room–what was the AAM verdict then?)

            1. Myrin*

              I really don’t think the sound was the issue here. The letter specifically said it made others “uncomfortable”, which is not language you use when you mean people were annoyed and distracted by the sound.

                1. Apollo Warbucks*

                  There are some missing details but very simply the OP should be able to pump at work and the fact that she was followed in to the bathroom and told to pump there is appalling (even more so because she was trying to relieve the pain she was feeling). As a manager If I knew mothers were pumping in the bathroom I would be trying to see what other options there were so she could pump in a clean sanitary and comfortable environment not telling her that she should stop.

                  You say that the “bathroom isn’t really a completely private space either where someone can expect 100% privacy” yes but the nature of bathrooms is that they are used for certain bodily functions I wouldn’t stand outside the door and make comments about bowel movements I could hear so why would it be necessary to tell someone to stop pumping I bet the nosy from the pump is a lot less gross than other noises that might be heard?

                  It’s really not much to ask for some discretion from adult grown up employees

                2. Mreasy*

                  Though OP did say she was doing it in her office – and I think she’d have specified if it was open plan?

                3. Kelly L.*

                  @Apollo, exactly. Doesn’t everyone know about the Bathroom Stall Cone of Silence? I feel like there’s a social convention that we all pretend not to notice anything we hear or smell in the bathroom, within reason.

                4. Liana*

                  @Apollo, I could be reading the letter wrong, but it sounds like she wasn’t even supposed to pump in the bathroom, only in the lactation room. Which is absolute, utter nonsense. I completely agree with you that nursing mothers shouldn’t have to pump in a bathroom, but the fact that she was given shit for doing it because she was literally out of other options makes it even more awful.

              1. INTP*

                I don’t know that we can assume a lot from specific words given that this is a third-hand account (coworkers to manager, manager to OP, OP to us) and we don’t really know the original wording. That said, it’s appalling that some solution could not be reached to allow women to pump in a timely manner without pain or infections.

              2. TootsNYC*

                it’s not about being annoyed or distracted by the *sound*.

                It’s about hearing the distinctive, rhythmic sound, realizing what it is, and being squicked out.

                If the lactating mom goes to the lactation room, everyone else in the office gets to be completely unaware that it is happening; it doesn’t come into their awareness. If you close the door to your office, then people say, “why is her door closed. Oh, she’s pumping. Ick!!” Or, again, they hear the noise and have the same reaction.

                Of course, as a manager or HR, my reaction would be, “grow up.”

              3. Ad Astra*

                Plus it sounds like OP has a private office, so I doubt the sound is the issue and I’d be surprised if other employees could even see her pumping. It sounds like her colleagues (or maybe just her boss) were squicked out just at the thought of her pumping, which is absurd.

                I can’t think of any good reason to forbid an employee from pumping in her private office, and I can’t think of really any bodily function that ought to be forbidden in a bathroom stall. That’s really outrageous and indefensible.

            2. Zillah*

              though an office bathroom stall isn’t really a completely private space either where someone can expect 100% privacy and license to do anything one wants.

              Sure, if we’re talking about duck club activities or snorting cocaine off the toilet seat. But we’re talking about basic biological activities here – which one’s employer really ought to stay out of. (As should everyone, really.) I personally wouldn’t take kindly to someone telling me that I wasn’t allowed to change my tampon, for example.

              1. Zillah*

                Also: I’m very confused about why you’re insisting on an interpretation that seems to me to have little basis in what the OP said, unless you’re calling her a liar. She says point blank that her employer followed her into the bathroom, told her she couldn’t pump inside the stall, and then fired her shortly after she brought it HR’s attention. An interpretation as charitable as the one you’re giving her employer requires a lot of mental gymnastics, and I can’t see how it can be seen as a likely scenario.

                1. mull*

                  I think I’m asking some reasonable questions about why all of this became an issue in the first place. There are missing details about why this came to a head.

                  I’m hardly siding with an employer, but there are a couple of arguments being tossed around about bodily functions at work and the sanctuary status of bathroom stalls; I don’t think either really holds up.

                  I’m not really sure what interpretation you’re talking about since I’ve not offered one. (By not being able to imagine following someone into a stall, I meant that it’s weird behavior that I couldn’t imagine doing myself, in case that was unclear.)

                2. Zillah*

                  There are always missing details in letters – they’re meant to give a synopsis of the problem, not an exhaustive account. I don’t find most of your questions reasonable, and I think it’s a little disingenuous to characterize them as being neutral in nature. You may mean them to be, but that’s not how they come across, at least not to me.

                  To me, your questions came across as belittling the OP and trying to poke holes in her story. You suggested that “uncomfortable” meant distracted by noise, that the real issue with the lactation room was no schedule, and that employers have the right to restrict what one can do in the bathroom. You also said that you suspected that there was more to the OP not using the room than she said in her letter.

                  Her coworkers may have just been distracted by the noise. The lactation room may well have not had a schedule, but failing to make the room accessible to the point that it affected the OP’s health is still on the company. I agree that “bathroom” doesn’t give someone the right to do literally anything on someone else’s property, but it’s irrelevant because I don’t see how this is problematic behavior that would necessitate a conversation about it – which still shouldn’t happen in the bathroom. There may be more to why the OP didn’t want to use the room, but presumably, she didn’t end up with mastitis and still go to a bathroom stall because she just couldn’t be bothered with logistics. And I don’t see how any of that is really relevant given that her company fired her for complaining about this.

                3. Myrin*

                  Yeah. I’m surprised (and a little shocked, tbh) by the insistence to somehow (at least partly) put the blame on OP here when nothing, absolutely nothing in the letter suggests that the company has behaved reasonably regarding even only one of the numerous issues mentioned.

                4. Mike C.*

                  Why it became an issue in the first place? I dunno, maybe because women are traditionally treated like absolute garbage when it comes to pregnancy/post-partum care by employers such that special laws are required so that they’re treated like normal human beings, and even then only begrudgingly so?

                  The OP did NOTHING WRONG. Absolutely nothing.

            3. another IT manager*

              It’s not that loud, though. My officemate was pumping when I came in this morning, and I could hear it, but I could also have a quiet/normal volume conversation, and hear my music with no issues. I have servers that run louder.

              1. TootsNYC*

                but you knew what it was. you knew that this distinctive noise means your office mater was pumping. So your brain had to face the fact that someone near you was expressing breast milk.

                And that’s what’s making our OP’s coworkers “uncomfortable.” They’re squicked out by it. Or, more likely, one or two vocal and influential people are squicked out by it.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  A lot of people are squicked out by needles. I don’t think it’s reasonable for them to say “Make Wakeen do his blood sugar test in the bathroom. Every time he closes his door and I hear the beep of that thing my brain has to face the fact that somebody is sticking a sharp thing into his own skin.”

                  I mean, setting aside the fact that NOTHING ABOUT NOISE WAS MENTIONED IN THE OP’S LETTER.

            4. Liana*

              @mull – first of all, Zillah is right. You don’t need every single exhaustive detail in order to get a good sense of what’s going on and who’s at fault. This community has a tendency to say “but we don’t know all the details!” a lot, which is sometimes warranted, but oftentimes comes off as nitpicky.

              Also, your argument that someone can’t expect 100% private space in a bathroom stall doesn’t hold water either. Not expecting 100% space does not equal “my actions are subject to my employer’s whim at all times”. There’s a middle ground, and a mother pumping milk TO FEED HER CHILD absolutely falls under a reasonable expectation or privacy (or at least it should – this country’s lack of respect for working mothers is pretty shameful). The fact that the OP was fired after bringing it up to HR suggests that her former company is staffed by misogynistic loons, not that she was making unreasonable demands or putting people in an uncomfortable situation.

        2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          Yeah. Anything to do with breastfeeding making you “uncomfortable” really isn’t an excuse in 2016… (/15? Guessing it happened over a few weeks.)

          And whatever made people uncomfortable about it, presumably moving it to the bathroom solved the discomfort, so unless you literally just left a client meeting abruptly or something equally egregious to do it, that really shouldn’t have been an issue.

          OP #3, your ex-employers are insensitive arses, not just about the bathroom policies but about the whole situation. Being fired sucks, but I sincerely hope it proves to be an opportunity to find much nicer employers who don’t follow people into bathrooms to berate them.

          1. Mreasy*

            beyond insensitive – I think the OP has a case for sexual harassment. Regulating one’s behind-stall doors (legal, biological) bathroom activity??!

            1. RVA Cat*

              INAL but the courts have found that it can be sexual harassment even when it’s done by a straight person of the same sex – I think it was a case involving some crazypants dudebro hazing on an oil rig?

              1. Winter is Coming*

                You are correct. The exact case was Oncale vs. Sundowner Offshore Services. Had to memorize a bunch of court cases for my HR certification, and this was one of the ones we discussed.

        3. Chalupa Batman*

          So baffling! I can’t see a situation where the OP should be able to predict that expressing milk in an office or closed bathroom stall would be more likely to make people “uncomfortable” than the large, unpleasant smelling milk stains she’s likely to get if she doesn’t deal with her overflow. Not trying to be gross, it’s just a reality, even if you wear those special breastfeeding pads (which some people have allergy and contact rash issues with as well). And mastitis is worse than leaking. Even if they don’t understand the *medical issue* that lack of timely access to the lactation room gave her, they shouldn’t have given her a hard time for hygienically managing her bodily functions-I thought that was an expectation of adults? I’m sorry this happened to you, OP.

          1. BananaPants*

            Mastitis is awful. I had it twice with our first baby – once at 3 weeks postpartum due to open wounds not healing (I won’t go into more detail) and then again at 12 months when I pump weaned a little too fast. I basically couldn’t do anything but lay in bed and have the baby nurse – bless the on-call OBGYN for calling in a stat prescription for antibiotics each time.

            1. MashaKasha*

              I had it too! I couldn’t do anything INCLUDING have the baby nurse, because my breast was clogged up. I also had a 103 degree fever. Ended up checking into the hospital, getting two IV’s within the first 24 hours, and two weeks of 2/day shots that I had to come back in for.

              I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but I hope OP3’s former employer gets sued into extinction.

        4. The Sugar Plum Fairy*

          I’m a woman, and breastfeeding makes me really uncomfortable. However, if someone is feeding in the privacy of their own office or a specific lactation room, I would be totally fine with that.

          1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

            But why?

            Not asking to be snarky, just genuinely curious. Breasts are for lactating and so they lactate. I simply don’t understand how that’s any more uncomfortable to know then “I’m popping to the loo” as you stand up to go.

            1. 13*

              I think what the fairy is saying is that breastfeeding in plain view makes her uncomfortable. I am a woman, and I am also made uncomfortable by other women breast feeding it public. So it’s not the same as ‘popping to the loo’, it’s more popping a squat right there in front of me. That being said, I get that it needs to happen, and have no problem with someone shutting a door to do it in their office or in the bathroom.

            2. Ife*

              I’m also a woman, and also uncomfortable around breastfeeding. It’s not something where I can really explain why, I just feel that way (oftentimes feelings are irrational). I am also uncomfortable at the thought of breastfeeding my own kids, should I ever have biological kids.

              However….. that feeling of discomfort is 100% my feeling to deal with, not the nursing mom’s.

            3. matcha123*

              It makes me uncomfortable, too. I do not want to think of my chest as being in the same category as a cow and I never, ever, ever want to hear “your chest/uterus/body was made to give milk/birth babies/whatever”.
              My mom breastfed, I am quite familiar with it, and nothing about it makes me want to think about it or be around it. Especially if it’s right in front of me, you might as well be looking me straight in the eye while you pee.

              1. Observer*

                You don’t want to nurse, that’s your privilege. But, just because you don’t want to hear something does no make it less true (nor does it make it more true.) So “I don’t want to hear” it hardly makes a good argument for anything.

                Also, the comparison is utterly inapt and inaccurate.

                Your discomfort with nursing is your problem, not the problem of women who nurse their children.

          1. JMegan*

            Thirded. Good grief.

            OP, I’m sorry you were fired over this. But I hope the silver lining turns out to be that you got a much better job, with managers that are actual human beings and who treat you with respect.

            1. HR Jeanne*

              I truly cannot believe you were fired for this. This is appalling and the HR department definitely dropped the ball.

              1. Stranger than fiction*

                I’m dying to know what the actual reason they gave her for termination. I mean, did they actually say “we’re firing you for breastfeeding in a non-designated area”?? Or did they give some other lame performance excuse.

    3. Ghost Town*

      And why is this employer so fixated on LW#3’s breasts and breastfeeding?

      This employer’s bad behavior caused her to develop mastitis. This employer directly caused a medical problem. That is upsetting. (and that is an understatement)

    4. John*

      Male here with no kids and I’m appalled by this. Forget whether it is legal; what human being things it is humane?

      I cannot believe a company behaved this way. Despicable.

      Sorry for you to have to endure that, OP.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      I know! That was my reaction as well. WHAT is WITH some of these managers that they feel a need to police what goes on in the toilet? I remember a similar posting about flossing in a bathroom stall. I mean, what’s next are they going to monitor your bowel movements too? There are just some areas in this world where people deserve a little privacy with their bodily functions.

      Seriously? This is harassment.

      1. RVA Cat*

        I am really, really hoping that the OP takes legal action and it somehow gets out in the press, with the employer’s bathroom-monitoring insanity out there in the open. They need to be shamed – and boycotted.

    6. ArtsAdmin4Life*

      OP – Please seriously consider consulting a lawyer. Not only do you owe it to yourself to seek restitution, but you owe it to your child. You wanted to provide him/her with critical nutrition you created, but you were unable to do so because it made others “uncomfortable” or you were not provided with a consistent, clean place to do it. Breastfeeding and pumping is hard enough without having to deal with this bull – which may very well be illegal. Your former employer also needs to learn that their behavior is NOT OK in this day in age.

      I just finished a year of breastfeeding/pumping. I have no idea if my coworkers were “uncomfortable” with the noise coming from my pump because if they were, they DEALT WITH IT like adults. They also got over the awkwardness every time I asked to be provided with a place to pump at off-site meetings and events.

      I want you, and every other new mom, to have the advantages I had. If you can stomach it, please take up this fight.

      1. fposte*

        Well, I would not go so far as to say she owes it to either herself or her child. It’s a possibility for her to consider, not something she’s obliged to do for any reason whatsoever. Litigation is a massive drain on your life, and litigants are really unlikely to get sufficient money to compensate for that fact. It also ties you, often for years and years, to the very people you wanted out of your life. It’s fine for us to want to see her employer punished, but we’re not the ones who have to deal with the process.

        However, OP, be aware that the window of opportunity is small here–180 days in many states–so file fast if you think you’re interested.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Um, yeh, seriously. I am a plaintiffs ‘ attorney and a big fan of suing bad guys, but nobody has an obligation to put themselves through the meat grinder of litigation for a Greater Principle. And it’s particularly unpleasant to insist somebody else do that.

          Additionally, major frowns points for the attempt to guilt trip the LW with her baby’s well-being.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      Which means a-hole boss was a female and not a male (hopefully!), which is surprising. One would think this type of discrimination would have come from a male, but hey I learn all sorts of things on this site. And, what happened that she was allowed to for a whole year and then it was suddenly such an issue? This one makes me very angry, I would definitely consult a lawyer, some will give an initial consult for free.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        The HR manager at my last company was a woman and was absolutely terrible to pregnant woman and those returning from maternity leave and there was a virtual epidemic of pregnancies in the office over 12 – 18 months, enough to spot the trend.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Yeah, I would actually expect an a-hole man to avoid the issue or complain indirectly because it makes him feel weird, while a woman with the same a-hole status might feel more entitled to police someone’s parts because she has the same ones. There are just so many varieties of garbage people.

      3. Zillah*

        Women can be just as brutal and misogynistic as men, unfortunately – sometimes, they’re the worst offenders.

      4. Michaela T*

        Actually, most of the people that I’ve known as being jerks about workplace breast pumping are women.

      5. Back in the saddle*

        I think they may have decided that ‘it’s been a *year* it’s not a baby anymore give it up already’. Lots of folks that are OK with breastfeeding infants get squicked about toddlers….not that it’s *any* of their business.

  5. Chris*

    Personally, when I am screening resumes, I do check if the area code is out of town, mainly because our company does not generally provide relocation assistance for new hires. If the area code is not local but they have a local address on the resume, then I don’t think twice, but if it’s someone applying from another geography, that will generally lower them in the priority stack.

    1. MsChandandlerBong*

      Would you be okay with it if an applicant put something in the close of his/her cover letter along the lines of “Although my contact number has a [###] area code, I am local to XYZ Company and do not expect any relocation assistance or commuting benefits”?

      1. CMT*

        I think that would be really weird. Like everyone else is commenting, it’s so common to have an area code that doesn’t match where you live. If you are local, why would you call it out? Surely your address and/or current position on your resume would show that.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Not necessarily … I live in Texas, I have an Oklahoma area code, and my corporate head quarters is in North Carolina. :)

          But that can really indicate that phone number and even work address aren’t necessarily good indicators of where someone is physically located. It may be just as effective to say “no relocation assistance” in the job description and leave it at that. If someone wants to / has to move for the job, let them move on their own.

          1. Not Today Satan*

            Why do you put the corporate address? I’ve only ever put the actual location that I worked in.

            1. Almond Milk Latte*

              I don’t put addresses at all because I work for a virtual office. Our HQ is on the west coast, but my office is My Living Room, Anytown USA.

      2. Chris*

        Yes, I would absolutely reach out to qualified candidates if the cover letter clarified the situation, or even just said “I am relocating to the Vancouver area in the near future and believe I would be a great fit.”

        I have reached out to clarify by email with particularly strong candidates, too, so it’s not a deal-breaker — just a small flag.

          1. Al Lo*

            Stupid Canadian cell phones. I actually kept my New York number for a while when I moved back to Calgary about 10 years ago. It was cheaper for me to have a Verizon plan with the Canadian minute ad on then it was for me to have a Canadian cell phone plan. Everyone just got used to calling me and then hanging up, or texting me first, and then I would call back, becauseIt wasn’t long distance for me, but it was for them. Thankfully, nationwide calling is much more of a thing here now, but we are perpetually eight years behind on cell phones. Non-local numbers are thankfully becoming much more common, however.

            1. Cath in Canada*

              Our roaming charges are outrageous. A few years ago I was on a train from LA to Seattle that hit a rock in Oregon, causing a very lengthy delay that meant I had to cancel my Seattle hotel reservation (new ETA in Seattle was 4 am and my train to Vancouver left at 7am, so it made more sense to find a 24-hour cafe than go to a hotel). There was no on-board wifi, and using cellular data roaming to find the hotel’s phone number and then call roaming to call them would have cost me a small fortune. When I explained my predicament to my seat neighbours and asked if anyone had a phone I could borrow, I had about 10 phones thrust in my general direction within seconds, with people telling me to make as many calls as I needed. So nice!

            2. Blurgle*

              And there’s that “there’s no thing as long distance any more!” trope that Americans bring up all the time. O RLY.

    2. Mike C.*

      You do understand that people generally carry their cell phone numbers with them for years, regardless of where they live, right? Why would you throw away otherwise great candidates over an assigned number that has absolutely no bearing on where they currently live?

      1. Chris*

        That’s why I said that the area code prompts me to check the address. If they are local, there is no issue!

        It may be just us, but we are in a regional centre and do our own hiring; sometimes we get applications here from candidates assuming they are applying to the head office with which they are familiar. It’s a pre-screening heuristic, not a disqualifier.

      2. CheeryO*

        Chris said that they look at it in conjunction with the address, and if the address is local, it’s no big deal.

        We do something similar here. I work in state government, and we tend to target local candidates because we want people who will most likely stick around for a long time. The reasoning is that (1) it takes ages to learn enough to be useful, and (2) it can be hard to get approval to re-fill a position when someone leaves.

        I know there’s no guarantee of anything – a “lifer” could get sick of living here and move tomorrow, but a local address and area code indicates that you have roots in the area. A local address and non-local area code indicates that the roots might not be as deep. It’s probably not the greatest way to make hiring decisions (and just to be clear, I don’t do any hiring), but it’s one way to thin the herd prior to interviews. Unfortunately, we don’t do resumes or cover letters, just generic applications, so there’s no way to know if someone is secretly dying to move to our small, rust-belt city with terrible weather and even worse sports teams.

    3. Allison*

      I’m in the same boat in that I work on a recruiting team for a company that doesn’t provide relo, and not all jobs can be remote. That said, I wouldn’t assume someone wasn’t local just because of their area code. Nowadays a lot of people list mobile numbers they may have gotten in one state and then moved here.

      Unless they list an address that isn’t local, I generally assume they are, and if they’re actually not local, it’ll be revealed in the phone screen.

  6. nicolefromqueens*

    OP1, can you get a Google Voice account? I got a NYC area code when I didn’t live in the City.

    1. teclatrans*

      I agree that out-of-town area codes are common, but there is a subset of people who don’t get this, and Google Voice is really easy (sign up just like you would for a Gmail account, pick a number, have it forwarded to your mobile number).

      I mostly use my Google Voice when dealing with the public sector, because I worry, e.g., my child’s school will be physically unable to call me because their system doesn’t make long distance calls. Maybe this is outdated thinking (I worked for a state university a decade ago and this was an issue, but maybe phone plans are different these days).

      It seems to me that getting Google Voice is a no-brainee, since is so simple (and free) and there is some small possibility of losing out on an interview,

    2. TootsNYC*

      I have a Google Voice number, and was asked to pick the area code, so I got NYC’s new area code, 646.

      However: when I call people from my cell phone, my true cell number pops up on their phone. And I sometimes have to explain why they’re getting a different number. I called my son’s cell phone once, and he answered very suspiciously: Who is this?
      Because I was in his address book w/ my Voice number, and my true cell phone number wasn’t listed.

      (In my case, I got it because I wanted to be able to check voicemail by using email, since I thought I might be freelancing and unable to use my phone at work.

      1. Owl*

        I think you can change that! You should try Googling for advice. But I’m pretty sure there’s a way to fix it so that your Google Voice number pops up as the number from which you are calling.

        1. Karyn*

          Yes, you can. I helped my coworker do it when she got a Google Voice number to give to her controlling, abusive ex who, unfortunately, has to have a number to reach her for child custody related things. He used to call her office and cell phones at least five times a day just during the workday so she wanted a number she could easily change if she had to. It’s great because she can set it to silent during the workday and just send all his calls to voicemail. XD

        2. ByeByeBirdie*

          You just have to go to the call preferences and choose ‘display Google number when calling’. Very simple.

      2. Marcela*

        If you call from the Google Voice app, as opposed from the normal and standard Phone app (at least in Android) people will see your GVoice number. And the Google Voice app has access to your address book, so it’s not like you have to remember numbers or copy them or do anything.

  7. Sara*

    #2 Not that my comment will address a solution, but if I am returning a voicemail message and I get a voicemail, I hang up and try again. I will try to reach them a few times (not 44 times) maybe two more as I’m hoping to avoid having them play phone tag. I do it out of respect for their time, and try to minimise the chance of them having to call me back. If on the second or third time, they don’t pick up, I leave a voicemail and explain that I tried to reach them a few times to avoid phone tag. I hope it hasn’t irked anyone!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I urge you not to! Maybe once at absolute most, but definitely don’t do it more than that; you’ve got to leave a message on that second call. I’ve been sitting in meetings in my office or just focusing on something I’m writing or whatever, and I glance at the caller ID when the phone rings but don’t pick up. Sometimes I’ll see the same job candidate calling back over and over, and it doesn’t look good. Even just three times would make me wonder why the person didn’t just leave a message, would potentially look a little desperate, etc.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I suspect there’s something generational here. I don’t know anyone who really uses voicemail anymore. It’s really weird to me. And if someone leaves me a message, chances are I won’t listen it to it anyway – I’ll just call them back if I know the number.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ha, I had almost edited my comment to say “better yet, just send an email” as I hate voicemail too. But some recruiters and hiring managers do say “call me back” and generally it makes sense to go with that request.

          1. NJ Anon*

            We have the best of both worlds. If someone leaves a voice mail, I get an email I can click on and listen through my computer’s speakers.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              That’s what I love my Google voice number for. I have it text me a transcript of any voice message I get. I can usually understand the message even if the transcription isn’t always perfect; if not, there is always the option to play the message from a link in the text.

              1. Kairi*

                I work at the front desk 90% of the day, and being able to listen to my desk voice mails from an e-mail is amazing! If I didn’t have that feature, I wouldn’t be able to help the people I support as quickly.

            2. Noah*

              Our system sends you both the audio file and a transcription of the message. Sometimes the transcription is awfully wrong but generally it is good enough to figure out the message and call the person back without having to deal with listening to the voicemail.

              1. hermit crab*

                We have the same setup. I love it! The auto-transcription is pretty bad for everything except numbers, which is often the only thing you really need (for example, if someone calls you from their office but asks you to call back on their cell, and here’s the number).

                Also, sometimes I forward the transcription to the person who left me a message, and they get a a lot of amusement out of it. :)

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, mine does that too! Weirdly, I don’t mind too much listening to the message via the email from my computer speakers, but I despise listening from the actual phone. No idea why.

              1. A Non*

                I’ve never met a voicemail system that wasn’t obnoxious to deal with. Clicking ‘play’ and then ‘delete’ on a computer is worlds easier.

        2. Al Lo*

          I finally just turned on my voicemail vacation responder permanently (on my cell). My outgoing message says to text or email, and it’s the typical, chipper, “Sorry I missed your call. Please connect with me by…” and then instead of the beep, it just hangs up. I love it.

          On my office phone, I have a similar, but more professional message. “I’ll respond faster if you email me,” but I do check my voicemails occasionally.

        3. Zillah*

          I hate voicemail, too, though I find it equally annoying when people call back a million times. I had a friend who was super guilty of that – he’d call three or four times in half an hour if I didn’t pick up, and it drove me crazy. Just shoot me a text or an email, people!

          1. irritable vowel*

            The worst is when someone leaves a long rambling voice mail and then after you’ve listened to the whole thing, they say, “Well, I’m also putting all this in an e-mail!” Just send the e-mail, dude!

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              I think the worse is when you painfully listen to the whole “your voicemail has a message from (slow robotic voice reads off number)…would you like to hear it? and then after all that, it’s a hang up.

          2. Koko*

            I have a coworker who does this. It feels so demanding to me. If she would just email me with a brief description of what she needed and ask if I could stop by her office when I’m free, I’d be better able to gauge how long this is going to take, whether I’m already prepared or need to do research first, etc. Sometimes I’ll ignore her first call because I’m in the middle of another project, but I guess she assumes I’m just in the bathroom or something because she tries again 5 minutes later. Like the expectation is that if I’m physically at my desk I should be willing to drop whatever I’m doing mid-sentences and tend to her needs.

        4. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Me, when someone leaves me a voicemail:

          [face like I’ve opened old Tupperware in the fridge]

          “They left me a VOICE MAIL?”

          I opted out of voicemail long before all ya’ll, more than 10 years ago I stopped listening to it. True fact: eventually the number of voicemails you have on your work phone stops counting upwards.

          Alison’s right though, you can’t call back more than a couple times before you’re the weird stalker number. I do look through all of my missed calls to possibly return phone calls (although anybody I want to talk to knows to email me).

          1. Apostrophina*

            I don’t mind voicemail, but I also think there are some weird conventions about it. If I missed a call because I was in the bathroom or something, I am not going to listen to your message: I am going to call you back immediately. Why? Because *you wanted to talk to me two minutes ago*, that’s why!

            I’ve had people get annoyed with me about that.

            1. the gold digger*

              No. I never want to talk to people. I want either to give or to get information. I promise my voicemails are short and very to the point. I get really annoyed when people call me to ask why I called. I told you why I called! I left you a voicemail!

              (For what it’s worth, I never use the phone at work – everything is done via email and IM and lync. But with my friends – do not call me until you have listened to the message.)

              1. Apostrophina*

                Oh, at work—especially my work, where all these AAM discussions about workplace texting seem downright futuristic— absolutely. But the biggest complainer I’ve had about this was a social acquaintance. Dude, if you just want me to have information, text me. Outside of work, if you don’t want to talk to me, don’t call me.

                1. the gold digger*

                  Texting means I have to type very slowly with one finger. :)

                  Had to explain this to my mom, to whom my brother in law gave an iPhone and then put her on his plan. She discovered the voice function for texting and was sending me paragraphs.

              2. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

                I am with Gold Digger. I left you a voice-mail, listen to it. Maybe it is a generational thing, I am 48. I don’t mind voicemail.

                1. Ife*

                  It think it skews generational, but in my experience it’s a more of a preference thing. My fiance is 34, but he hates computers and texting, so he almost always leaves a voicemail when he calls me. I hate talking on the phone, and never leave voicemails unless I’m calling a business. If it’s a friend I’ll send a text message in lieu of voicemail. My mom (61) has also stopped leaving voicemails because she knows I will call her back.

                  On a side note, I find leaving voicemails to be stressful! It’s something about talking to a machine that makes me forget what I was going to say. When I can, I write down a voicemail script for my phone call, JUST IN CASE.

          2. NJ Anon*

            Lol! We are a nonprofit that is heavily grant funded. In a meeting once, the former head of a state office said he never returned phone calls, ever. It was true too. You had to call someone else in their office to get what you needed.

          3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I’ve got an added service (not particularly expensive, I want to say it’s an extra $1 or $2/month) that transcribes my voicemails to readable text. Occasionally off the mark, but it’s good enough to let me get the gist, and I don’t have to deal with the PITA that is actually dealing with voicemail.

            1. Rebecca in Dallas*

              I had a trial of that program with my new phone and it is awesome! I didn’t renew it after the trial but I’m reconsidering.

          4. plain_jane*

            My first real job, I had a coworker who would look at the work phone and say “a message, that _can’t_ be good”.

            That’s my reaction too. I am an email person. Phone is when something has gone wrong. (I am trying to break myself of that habit and occasionally call clients when things aren’t going wrong so it isn’t their automatic thought.)

          5. Rex*

            My cell has a service to transcribe the voicemails. It’s not perfect but I can almost always get a decent idea. I definitely “check” my voice mails a lot more as a result!

          6. Stranger than fiction*

            Ha, I have that same face when I get one. I’ve trained everyone here not to leave me one except for two people. And the two people that do, I’ll never understand why they didn’t just email me. Or, sometimes they did email and the message is just to say they emailed me (ugh).

          1. FD*

            Nope. Drives me crazy when people don’t leave a message.

            The icing on the annoying cake though comes from people who text “Can you call me,” you call them…and then have to leave a message. OK, fine, bad time…but then they call you and say some variant on “I didn’t listen to your message.” ARGH!

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              I just assume that if someone doesn’t leave a message, it’s not that important, so I’ll call them back at my convenience. And I do the same, I just hang up if I don’t reach the person unless I have something to say, at which point I’ll leave a voice mail (and I don’t mind it either, though I’m a few years beyond Millennial!) This usually works, except when my mom calls me back frantic– “Why did you call me??? I’m in a meeting, I have 5 minutes, what’s wrong?????” “Uh, nothing, Mom, I figured I’d call you back later or you’d call me when you could, no big deal.” This has been going on for years. And no, don’t suggest I leave a voice mail, because… she won’t listen to it.

              1. Hlyssande*

                If someone doesn’t leave a voicemail, it clearly wasn’t that important. I don’t bother calling back.

                At work, it usually means that they found their answer somewhere else or they’ll have emailed me.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  Yep, same here. Usually it means they called somebody else in my department and found out the same thing I was going to tell them.

                  I dislike voice mail (soooo many menus, and the automated lady on mine sounds so smug and annoying), but I do listen to my messages. I consider it a necessary evil. ;)

                2. Velociraptor Attack*

                  I’m the same way. On my personal phone if I don’t recognize a number I let it go to voicemail. If they don’t leave a voicemail, it wasn’t important, I’m not calling back.

          2. blackcat*

            I’m with you.

            If you call and don’t leave a voice message, I’m assuming you were just calling to chat, and I won’t make an effort to call back in a timely manner. If a number I don’t know calls and doesn’t leave a voice message, I assume it’s spam.

            But if you call and leave a voice message, I will 100% call you back if the message indicates it’s needed. I don’t have a work phone these days, but voice messages absolutely reach me.

            I did LOVE having voice mail that routed to email at my old job (it would try to transcribe, but there was also a button on my email that would let me listen). Now I have no work phone, so everything goes to email. But I do use the voice mail on my personal cell.

            1. SystemsLady*

              Even you would call back if somebody emailed you after calling you though, right?

              That’s my preferred way to deal with it – sometimes I am calling about something that could be hashed out either over email or phone, and if the person is stuck in an email-only situation (think an area with wifi but poor phone reception), it gives them the option to respond that way.

              1. blackcat*

                Oh, yeah. But just calling (even repeatedly) will not get me to call back right away. I figure if it’s important, you leave a message (of some sort!).

          3. Ghost Town*

            I’m also a Millennial (early end of it, but I’m learning to embrace the label) and am also fine with voicemail.

            But, tell me what you’re calling about. Please. And tell me your number, without rushing through it.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Please say your number twice, even. So if you cut out, I have a second chance at the missing digit.

              1. E. Doolittle*

                Even better, give any important numbers at the start of the message, so when I listen to it again, I don’t have to go through the whole thing to try and catch those magic digits. I got in the habit of bookending my messages with my callback number, and I often wished others would do the same.

                1. Broke Law Student*

                  Yup, I always say, “Hi, this is Broke Law Student. My number is ——-. [Message]. Again, this is Broke Law Student and my number is —–. Thanks and have a great day.” When I was working at a job that required me to call people back, I was always kind of annoyed at having to listen to a message multiple times to decipher a rushed number that was given only once.

              2. Rater Z*

                I agree. Leave the number at least twice and perhaps even a third time…first at the beginning and twice at the end.

                And…don’t forget the area code…every time. Don’t assume I know the phone number being used because I don’t have caller ID and I am not ready to pay for it.

          4. Sunflower*

            For voicemails, I put personal and work in two totally different categories. If you’re my friend and you leave my a voicemail, 50/50 chance I’ll check it. If it’s important i’ll assume you’ll text me.

            At work, it drives me bonkers when people call and don’t leave voicemails. Sometimes I will call and not leave a voicemail because I follow up immediately with an email. If I don’t follow up with an email then it wasn’t important. When and if it becomes important, I’ll leave one. But don’t call me and expect a call back unless you leave a VM.

            I also personally think not checking your voicemails in the workplace is very unprofessional. I don’t care if you just hateeeeee voicemail. I hate doing a lot of things I have to do at work but it’s part of work. It’s one thing if that’s the culture inside your org but when you’re dealing with people on the outside it’s really unprofessional

          5. BRR*

            I am too :). A voicemail is how I know what you need. I might want to look at something or complete something that you have a question about.

          6. Noah*

            I’m the same way. I will not call anyone back unless they leave a voicemail or send a text or email saying call me. A missed call means nothing to me and I assume the call wasn’t that important unless you leave a message, text, or email.

          7. Mookie*

            Another pro-voicemail Millennial. If I’m returning a call, I want to know what our conversation’s going to be about so I can prep answers / solutions / data. I’m extremely socially anxious about phone calls (manifesting in loud, hearty, chatty boisterousness), waiting for or anticipating one will literally keep me up at night, and I dread going into them blindly. Voicemails or a text after a missed call is a lifesaver in this respect, and good for the caller, as well, because nobody wants or deserves to listen to some loud, weird, manic, long-winded person on the phone. I can resist all those urges if I know what I’m getting into and the conversation is more productive when I do.

        5. Sunshine*

          I’m fine with either voice mail or email, but not both, and only once. And if you missed a scheduled call, one of those better happen in the next 5-10 minutes. And don’t start calling other numbers or extensions around the building so that other people have to “track me down.” Ugh.

        6. neverjaunty*

          Eh, it may depend on your industry. I’m in a field where it’s very important to document communications, and while I prefer email to voice mail, there are times when I may need to show that I attempted to reach someone to speak to them in person – email can go astray.

        7. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Ugh – people, set up your voicemails & check them. I’m trying to reach references for a job applicant and I was provided phone numbers. I’ve been trying to reach these people all week, but one of them hasn’t set up their voicemail & the others aren’t checking them/returning calls. We’re in different time zones so that’s complicating things, but that’s why we have voicemail.

          1. the_scientist*

            And, as a millenial who finds voicemail irritating, I would argue that we have email for this now! Is there any reason that you can’t reach out to these references by email and say “I’d like to set up a time to speak to you by phone about Percival’s application”? If you’re not collecting emails for references, I’d say it’s time to start doing that. I’m not disagreeing that people should set up their voicemail and should check it when they see they have a message, but email is soooooo much more convenient.

            1. ExceptionToTheRule*

              I was provided phone numbers not emails by this person. That was their call, not mine. I would argue that if you want me to email your reference then you should give me their emails, not their phone numbers.

              1. PizzaSquared*

                It is your call what methods of contact you ask for in the future. Almost all of the companies I’ve interviewed with over the past few years have very specifically asked for both email addresses and phone numbers for my references. I don’t see any reason you can’t do that; if you wish people would give you email addresses, you have to ask!

                1. ExceptionToTheRule*

                  Really? I shouldn’t allow that perhaps the applicant knows their reference’s preferred method of contact better than I would?

                  If your references won’t return phone calls or emails, that’s on them and you. Not me.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  @ ExceptionToTheRule, for what it’s worth, most people give phone numbers as a default for references; it’s less about knowing the people’s contact preferences and more about just the default. It’s totally reasonable for you to ask for email addresses too if that will make things easier on you.

          2. Koko*

            Or at the very least, do what someone upthread said they did and provide your email address in your outgoing message and instruct callers to reach you by email.

        8. Bob*

          I haven’t even configured voicemail on my phone so you can’t leave me a message. I initially did this because I work in IT and some mid-level managers (i.e. not VIPs but think they are) got my mobile number and started to call me directly for support. I can say “put in a ticket” all I want but the reality is I now know about the problem so I must work on it. It only took one comment of “I called Bob last night and told him how serious this was but he just said put in a ticket”. Our help desk is truly awful so I don’t blame them but that doesn’t mean I should have to work 24/7 either. They’re gaming the system by calling me directly.

          Anyway, not getting voicemail has been awesome and I highly recommend it. Obviously you couldn’t get away with this if you had a different kind of position where people routinely call you for your job. My company pays for my phone so I did get my manager’s blessing to not configure my voicemail.

        9. ThatGirl*

          I’m 34 – so right in that weird millennial/GenX gap – and I have mixed feelings about voicemail. I understand that many younger people don’t use it, but if someone has left me one, I feel like I should listen to it. And if *I* leave one, I would like for you to listen to it. Because I hate, for instance, when someone calls me back to ask a question that I *just* answered in that voicemail. There’s usually a reason it’s being left.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Ha, yes, I have one friend (not millennial, he’s older than I am) who never ever ever listens to the damn message. I hate telling his voicemail the whole thing I called to say/ask, then he calls back, and I have to say the whole thing again.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Eh, I did. I told the story in the present tense for some reason, but I’ve actually given up at this point! :D

        10. Liana*

          I don’t know exactly when my generation stopped using voicemail, but it honestly drives me a bit crazy. I really dislike answering phone numbers I don’t recognize, especially if I don’t know the area code, and if I see multiple calls from the same strange number with no voicemail, I’m going to assume it’s either a robocall or a particularly dedicated ex-boyfriend.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yes, on my personal cell phone, if I get a call from a number I don’t recognize, I let it go to voicemail. And if they don’t leave one, sorry, you’re not getting a call back. (Occasionally I google the number and it’s usually a robocall anyway.)

            And, iPhones have a lovely feature where I can hit play to hear the VM – so I don’t even have to dial in like I did on my old Droid.

            1. Koko*

              I’ve had Google Voice since shortly after I got my first Droid back in ’09 and I’m firmly of the belief that an Android phone needs a Google Voice number to be fully functional. The GV app and features are so much more robust than the ones that are provided by the manufacturer/carrier, including the Play-button-voicemail, as well as providing voicemail transcripts that I can just glance down and read without having to play any sound in the middle of a meeting, and a browser-based interface so I can text without having to use an infernal touch screen.

            2. hermit crab*

              Me too. I recently got a string of calls from a private number over the course of a few days. Eventually the caller left a voicemail; turned out that it was someone who was trying to reach an old friend and didn’t realize he had the wrong area code! In that case, I’m happy to help, but I’m definitely not going to call back an unknown number on my personal cell phone.

            3. Owl*

              My Samsung does this now too (don’t have to call in). Not sure if it’s a Droid thing or a Samsung thing, but it’s not just iPhones.

        11. phyllisB*

          1+ to no one listening to voice mails anymore. My children are the worst. I will call one of them and leave a message like, “No need to call me back. Just wanted to ask you to pick up some milk on your way home.” Four hours later, (after I have gone and gotten the darn milk myself because I never heard back) I get a call. Child: “Did you call me?” Me: “Yes. Did you listen to my message?” Child: “Nope.” Me: “Well, if you had listened to the message you wouldn’t have needed to call me back!” The good thing is, at least they do RETURN my calls, but I just learned to text them when I need a quick answer.

          1. Winter is Coming*

            Same deal here. Neither of mine even have voice mail SET UP on their phones. Texting is the only way to leave any sort of message if they don’t answer the phone.

          2. Ad Astra*

            Ok, but… why not just text them and ask them to pick up some milk? Why make me listen to your message when I could just read it?

            1. Zillah*

              This! And reading it is so much easier.

              1) It’s faster. Listening to a voicemail requires me to unlock my phone

              1. Zillah*

                Why did this post?

                1) It’s faster. Listening to a voicemail requires me to unlock my phone, go to the phone part, and listen to the voicemail to find out what someone wanted, every time. That takes much more time than just glancing at my phone and reading a text, which I can do in about two seconds. If it requires a response, I can respond, but if it doesn’t, I never have to do anything but glance at it.

                2) It requires a lot less coordination on my part. I don’t need to make sure that I’m in a quiet enough place to hear what the voicemail says, nor do I need to grab a pen/paper or my laptop/ipad (which aren’t always on hand) if I need to write something down. The information is all there as soon as I look at my phone.

                3) It’s a lot less disruptive. Checking a voicemail requires me to disengage from a conversation or activity I’m in the middle of; checking a text just requires a very quick glance at my phone before I can return to whatever I was doing. No break in concentration, no ducking outside, etc. Just one second to glance at me phone and then I can move on.

                Texts are the best.

        12. Koko*

          30 year old here. Never leave voicemail for friends/family – but that’s because we all text. Still expect voicemail in a business context – whether it’s my doctor calling my cell phone about an upcoming appointment, a potential employer calling me cell phone about an interview, or a vendor calling my office line about a work matter.

          It seriously grates on me when someone repeatedly calls without leaving a message. Perhaps because especially as a 30-year-old, I’m from the generation where half of us seldom to never answer an unknown number and use voicemail to screen whether the person is a telemarketer or someone we actually want to talk to. Calling repeatedly without leaving a voicemail makes me think they’re someone trying to circumvent my call screening process because they know I wouldn’t want to talk to them if they identified themselves.

        13. TowerofJoy*

          I really hate voicemail. Its hard to make out what people are saying at times, and I’ve had to play it back 2-3 times just to figure out a number or a name. I really wish we could move over to email. Especially with hiring where there is already some implied awkwardness.

        14. TootsNYC*

          People use voice mail at work. Leave a message.
          And even if people don’t use voice mail at work, you don’t want them checking their “missed calls” listing and seeing your number over and over again, right in a row!
          You look nuts and unprofessional. It would be a HUGE ding against you.

          If they’re not going to listen to the voice mail, then ONE “missed call” listing is enough; they’ll call you back. More than that, and you just look strange and stalker-y.

        15. Ad Astra*

          If I know I’m calling someone’s cellphone, I’ll only call once because I know their phone will show a missed call from me. If it’s a professional contact, I’ll leave a message; if it’s a friend or family member, I won’t.

          If I know I’m calling someone’s work number, I might call twice. But then I’d also probably leave a message because of the work/professional thing.

          Friends and family should refrain from leaving me voicemails because I absolutely hate listening to them. But they should also refrain from calling me outside of scheduled conversations and emergencies, because I also hate talking on the phone.

        16. AW*

          I’m the exact opposite. If you call me and don’t leave a message (or follow-up by text/email/etc), then it wasn’t important and I’m not calling you back. I don’t see any point in calling back someone I know just to have them confirm that they butt-dialed on accident.

      2. Colette*

        Yeah, I was once on a hotline call when a colleague called me repeatedly every couple of minutes. What I was doing took priority, and it was really, really irritating. It was definitely less respectful of my time than leaving a message.

      3. Chocolate lover*

        I’m with Alison. That would drive me crazy to no end. I spend much of my day meeting with students, and I consider it disrespectful to answer the phone when I’m meeting with them, unless I’m expecting some kind unavoidable, urgent need, like a doctor’s office. So chances are, repeated office calls are disrupting my ability to do my job, and now I resent the caller.

      4. neverjaunty*

        Yes – and it can be disruptive when the reason the person doesn’t pick up is they are on the phone with somebody else. Having to repeatedly hit the send to voicemail command is very irritating.

      5. Graciosa*

        I don’t call back at all if you didn’t leave a message, so the idea that the number on my caller id would mean “Please call me back” is just not going to work if you’re trying to reach me.

        Repeated calls without a message would really irritate me – you’re going to keep hitting redial but can’t be bothered to speak into the recorder so I can understand what you want when I’m available? This makes no sense. Someone doing this for *two hours* without leaving a message might well trigger a decision never to hire this person. I expect my employees to have the ability to leave a basic voice mail message and the judgment to do so rather than wasting that amount of time redialing.

        Leaving a good message is also important. “Good” in this case means that the caller identified themselves clearly, explained what they wanted, and left contact information (bonus points for repeating phone numbers or email addresses to ensure at least one clear transmission of the critical information). You can get all that into a message in literally just seconds, so they don’t even have to be long!

        I am surprised not just at the number of people who expect me to call without having left a message, but also at the number of people who think, “Hey, call me back” is a complete message. If you haven’t known me since the age of six don’t assume I’m going to be able to guess.

        And before anyone jumps up and says “Caller ID” I’d like to point out that first, we are talking about business which should be handled professionally and second, some of us have odd systems that will show external callers coming through an internal exchange number that tells us nothing.

        Please, just leave me a complete message the first time you call.

        1. Chocolate lover*

          At work, I don’t call back anyone who doesn’t leave a message (internal or external.) Like other people have said, if you don’t leave me a message, I assume it’s not important or you went elsewhere to find your answer.

          As for personal calls – I call people back when and if I feel like it, message or not. “Hey, call me back” is as useless as no message, and doesn’t make me any more likely to call you back. A friend called me repeatedly one day with no message, and when she finally got hold of me, got all annoyed that I hadn’t called her back. I said, you didn’t leave a message. She said, I don’t have time to! Well, you had time to call me repeatedly, didn’t you? And given that I’m at WORK and spend all day meeting with people, you can’t really expect me to drop everything I’m doing, can you?

    2. anonbom*

      I had the reverse situation . I had a phone interview scheduled early in the day, 8am. Ten minutes came and gone; keep in mind this was a phone interview so I didn’t take time off, just sneaked away to my car.

      So I kept calling the hiring manager no answer. Then I called the internal recruiter that set up the interview and kept calling and calling. Well she didn’t come in until 8:30 and she found out that he was out sick and didn’t notify me.

      Unless I’m talking to someone , I always answer my phone, always.

      1. fposte*

        I wouldn’t keep “calling and calling,” though. Call, leave a message about the situation, and let it go. I know it feels emergent in a situation where something was supposed to happen at x time, but it’s not going to improve things to leave a dozen voice mails instead of one, and it does risk annoying the recipient.

        1. fposte*

          Sorry, I shouldn’t have said voice mails–I know you didn’t mean voice mails. I meant either way, don’t keep calling.

        2. OP #2*

          THANK YOU! I cannot think of any situation where it is appropriate for a candidate to call and call and call. While missing an interview is very rude, it is not a life or death situation.

        3. Oryx*


          At my old job I’d have people call in about a particular tasks I oversaw where they’d have to set up an appointment. When I was overseeing such a task I couldn’t answer the phone but there would be times where I’d see someone calling 10 times in a row and not leave a message. They’d just keep calling and calling and because of our system I knew it was the same number/person. It was so frustrating because I wasn’t going to call back because I had no idea who they were or why they were calling as it could have been from a long list of options. With a voicemail I’d have the info I needed to call them back.

          Call, leave a message, and let it go.

      2. Graciosa*

        I totally understand this when you scheduled an appointment to talk, but I don’t have the same perspective about normal phone calls at all. There are lots of things that I do at work which don’t involve talking to other people but do involve a certain amount of concentration and focus. I make judgments about whether or not I’m available to talk.

        And yes, I am more likely to pick up for my boss’ boss – partly because she is that and partly because it’s fair to assume her time is more valuable than mine. An unknown caller is not going to get the benefit of an assumption that whatever they want must be more important than what I am working on.

    3. KH*

      Please don’t do this.

      If I don’t answer my office phone it’s likely because I’m on the line with someone else. Having the same person hang up and call back 3 times, with the beeping and the flashing (or having my cell phone ring over and over while I’m on my office line or vice versa) is incredibly annoying and pretty much guarantees that I’ll put that person’s call back very last on my schedule.

    4. Chalupa Batman*

      Agree that this line of thought may be generational. It’s been really hard for me to adapt to this way of thinking. I work in a field where it’s pretty common for someone to hang up and call back repeatedly instead of leaving a voicemail. The thing is, if I’m not picking up the phone, it’s likely that I’m either trying to concentrate or actively working with someone else (who has to listen to the ringing phone while I’m talking to them). I hate voicemail, but if you leave a message, I WILL call back, whereas I won’t if there’s no message, no matter how many times you call. When I see the same number pop up over and over in a short period, I’m hesitant to pick up, even if I’m now available, because I don’t want to teach you “if I keep calling, she’ll pick up.” I still think it’s super annoying and wish people would stop doing it, but your explanation of avoiding phone tag helps explain the logical reason why anyone would do that (I couldn’t come up with one, but yours makes sense). My suggestion-one call, voicemail optional, and a follow up e-mail.

      1. Lyric*

        **When I see the same number pop up over and over in a short period, I’m hesitant to pick up, even if I’m now available, because I don’t want to teach you “if I keep calling, she’ll pick up.” **

        +1000000 to this. Also I am a contrary creature who secretly cannot help wanting to behave badly when I feel like someone is trying to manipulate me. :P

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I only do that to my mum–if I call and get her VM, I hang up and she sees on the caller ID that it’s me and calls me back when she has time.

      In your situation, if I called and got VM, I would leave a message saying something like, “Hi, it’s Elizabeth and I’m returning your call about X. You can reach me on my cell between 1 and 4 pm at 212-555-1212.” That way they not only have my number but they know when to call me back so they can reach me.

    6. OP #2*

      Hi Sara, it’s OP #2. When this happens to me it gives me the impression that the candidate is demanding or feels entitled to my time. I know this is not always the case but keep in mind, I do not know you on an individual level and how you interact me during the interview process is the only thing I know of your personality/character. When people do things like this during the interview process (when they are supposed to be on their best behavior) what are they going to do once hired? If a customer doesn’t call them back immediately are they going to call and call until they do pick up?

      1. Velociraptor Attack*

        I’m with you on this. In the interview phase, phone etiquette is super important to me. I’m a millennial, 26, and I’ll will admit that I have a love/hate relationship with voicemail. That said, if someone applies for a job or an internship with my organization and they have a voicemail box that is full, it’s pretty much an automatic no for me.

      2. Sara*

        Hey OP (and all the above commenters) thank you for the feedback. I should clarify, I wasn’t referring to the interviewing process. I was commenting in general about voicemail and giving a perspective why someone might try to reach you a few times (not 44 and not over and over and over again) without leaving a message. For returning a hiring manager’s voicemail, I’d call once and leave a message, and if necessary, let them know times that I am available to take a call.

        In other situations though, I try to avoid phone tag and the high probability I will miss a returned call. I think it’s more efficient and considerate to avoid phone tag…. but, I do take on the many points raised, and will think twice about this in the future. For what it’s worth, I always acknowledge when I’ve done this, and explain the phone tag part. I’ve never noticed someone’s irritability about it, but I can see how this can come across differently than intended (read: annoying). I’m 37, and find in general, voicemails to be overused and inefficient (I do value talking over text and email, just find messages and the phone tag inconvenient). The interviewing process is quite different of course and messages are a necessity.

        1. Sara*

          Also, where I live, mobile numbers and land lines are easily identifiable and I wouldn’t do this to someone’s mobile! I had no idea I had such a process for phone calls and voicemails, ha.

    7. Margaret*

      Even as a millenial who hates voicemail, I know I have to have different expectations for personal versus work. I try, as best as I reasonably can, to shift communications to email when I can, but I also have to be responsive to client expectations, and if they want to use the phone, then I’ll deal with them via phone and that includes listening to their voicemail. And if they call, miss me, and want a call back, I DO want a voicemail, so I can prepare myself for whatever they wanted to talk about! And depending on who it is, missed calls might have just moved on to calling someone else on my team, so just a missed call doesn’t necessarily me *I* need to call them back, the matter might already be taken care.

      For personal, though, I’ve trained people (mainly my mom), that unless there’s some specific info I need to get before I might be able to get back in touch with her, I’ll call her back as soon as it’s convenient just if I see a missed call. I HATE taking the time to listen to a voicemail, just here “Hi, just wanted to talk, call me back tonight or tomorrow if you can!” With personal calls, it’s unlikely something they could resolve via another venue – if they called me, they probably were actually needing or wanting to talk directly to me, so I presume a missed call (of a number I know) should be called back.

      Voicemail is slightly less annoying on my current phone, because it has a screen menu that lists the messages and I can click directly on it to play, I don’t have to call in and go through a whole phone tree to get to the message. But I can still read faster than I can listen to you talk, so I’d rather just view the missed call or read a text message.

    8. Tinker*

      So, here’s the thing. People’s phones are now with them all or most of the time. When their phones are called, it is standard for the calling number to be displayed and for missed calls (with number) to be logged. Even leaving aside the matter of voicemails. It’s not like it used to be when a phone was likely to be ringing in an empty house, and where it was likely that there’s no sign later that someone called. Now, when you call people over and over again, you’re either calling them while they know you’re calling but don’t want to answer, or they’re away from their phone and they’re most likely going to come back to a batch of missed calls.

      The way what you’re describing that you do looks like in practice on the receiving end is, for instance: I’ve just started my car. I get a call. I don’t talk on the phone while driving (among other things: stick) and I don’t want to sit in my driveway for fifteen minutes. I decline call, considering that I will deal with the call when I am next available. I drive to where I’m going. I’m filling my shopping basket with retort-packed tuna when I get call #2. I’m still not available. I decline call. Now I finish shopping and go home. I am not calling the person back because I am not yet ready to call them back. As I am putting the tuna in the pantry, I get call #3. At this point, I start to feel that the person who is calling me repeatedly is not respecting my not being available — because if I was available, I most likely would have called them back.

      Moving on from there: You say that you don’t call people “44 times” — and I’m assuming probably not ten or fifteen either, but the thing about what ends up being 44 calls or ten with no signs of stopping or fifteen and branching out to dragging all your friends out of bed is that you have to go through three to get to 44. So — YOU may know that you absolutely positively will never call more than three times, but I don’t. And as someone who has had… certain experiences… once I see that people are entering the zone of repeated calling I start getting anxious about just how far they are going to escalate. This is not a mindset that is conducive to a positive professional relationship.

      Please stop doing this. Please.

    9. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      Please don’t do this. If I don’t answer, I am busy or not at my desk. don’t call back repeatedly; you’ll just be bothering my coworkers. Leave a VM or send a text or email.

      A peer left his cell at his desk one afternoon. His last meeting of the day ran long, well past the time he normally left. His wife began calling. She called every 1-2 minutes until he returned. Eventually, we buried his phone in an empty trashcan beneath his jacket and backpack to muffle the noise.

      1. Sara*

        ha, I’ve done that too to a colleague’s phone that rang non-stop in a row.

        I see how calling a few times can give this appearance, and lesson learned!

      2. Rater Z*

        If I knew it was his wife, I probably would have answered it, not only to shut the phone up but to let her know what was happening . I would hope someone would that for me if necessary.

  8. Katie the Fed*

    #3 – WHAT?!

    How is it any of your employer’s business what you do behind the privacy of a bathroom stall? That’s so, so, creepy and weird. This employer seems to have taken quite of bit of interest in what you do with your breasts – I wonder what that’s all about?

    You need to see a lawyer! this is so bad – the original discrimination and then the retaliation.

    1. LQ*

      The only possible way I could see this being reasonable on the employers behalf is if pumping is now super secret code for snorting cocaine. Though it seems odd that they’d have a room specifically for that. Outside of pumping and lactation room being code there is zero reasoning for it.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I’m guessing that this is the kind of employer that times employees during bathroom breaks, and so they are convinced that the OP is trying to steal from them when she’s pumping while on the clock.

        I hope they check their state and local laws, as there’s a decent chance that this is protected. And if it isn’t, it should be!

        1. LQ*

          When I read it I thought for a moment that this was a troll. But I don’t think it is, and there are –unfortunately–places like this out there. Which makes my brain burst.

          Why can’t we get people to be more productive?! We hover over them and monitor their activities down to the second! We have one person monitoring for each person working!

      2. A Non*

        I’m wondering what’s going on that the lactation room is too full for the OP to be able to use it. Do they have a bunch of lactating employees that they’re putting through this particular hell? Shame on them. (And more lawsuits ahoy.)

        1. PK*

          I was going to suggest that, if the OP feels comfortable enough, that she could reach out to other former co-workers if they experienced the same.

          And that the employer, if the lactation room was always busy, did not try to find space for a second room, is awful, because it would have solved all the problems. OP seemed fine with using the lactation room IF there had been one available. It’s the employers fault there was no “acceptable” place for her to go- it sounds like OP would have been compliant if there had been.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        I was thinking in a similar vein except that maybe the “lactation” room is being used for something else, along the lines of duck club, and someone is trying to cover their behind by saying “what, no, nobody was in that room at 9:15. she had no reason to use the bathroom”. Still doesn’t make any sense to punish her though. I give up.

    2. Carmen Sandiego JD*

      Posts like these scare me about what it’ll be like in 3-5 yrs if/when I contemplate having kids while in the workforce.

      Also, did these employers originate from cyborgs? I mean, did they not have mothers who fed them milk from birth/1st several months lest they, y’know, not live? That is horrible, horrible, horrible. Evil boss people. I literally can’t even.

      1. fposte*

        Well, it’s not “lest they not live”–plenty of us survived just fine without being fed breastmilk. And plenty of people fed breastmilk didn’t get it from people who pumped at work. However, I also think that these managers are unlikely to remember their infancy either way, so whether they did or not it doesn’t get you much.

        1. Sarahnova*

          Well, we’d have to go back a little further than the generation currently working, but formula as an adequate substitute for breastmilk hasn’t been around that long historically speaking, and before that babies who weren’t breastfed generally died.

          I think the general point stands though: breastmilk is essential to humanity and mothers should be 100% supported in feeding their babies it.

          1. Kelly L.*

            True. But I think some bosses might fall into the perfect-storm window where the mothers they remember were either excluded from the workplace or fed formula or both. (Though this one’s still a megaloon.)

          2. TowerofJoy*

            OT: It wasn’t so much that they dying because they weren’t being breastfed by their mothers as people did not understand germs, sterilization and the like. Other animal’s milk was around and used long before formula but it spoils quickly in the age before refrigeration methods. And I’m also wondering about studies that track the success of refrigeration/formula and the entry of women into the workforce. All right… end of the OT spiral.

            To your second point – exactly. All of the rest of this is just a non-issue really. Women have breasts to feed children. I don’t know why this is even an issue of “allowing” us at our work. People this adherent to out of touch cultural beliefs this far astray from biological facts in our society worry me.

          3. Blurgle*

            Ooh! Allow me to trot out my history degree!

            Before the advent of formula, babies whose mothers died in childbirth were fed in three ways:

            1) Wet nurses, for children of the upper and middle classes;
            2) Asses’ milk, for townspeople;
            3) Fostering (often with an aunt or cousin) for the poor.

            Motherless children were more prone to early death than the average, but the average was pretty low already. In late Tudor England between 60% and 80% of children died in the first three years of life; we can’t be absolutely certain because children who didn’t live long enough to be baptized weren’t counted in the statistics, nor were stillbirths. (In other words, Henry VIII’s inability to father living sons was not so abnormal as to need any explanation.)

      2. Kyrielle*

        If it helps, there are also places that are awesome about this. I admit my employer when I had my kids was legally bound to be at least nice about it, but they were flat awesome and worked with me well.

        As an aside, you may want to research state laws and support that federal law Alison mentioned. Extending the protections to exempt workers across the board would help. (Oregon State has some nice laws…says the person living there and benefiting from them…. I’m sure there are other states too, in fact I’d fall over in shock if California did not have good laws in this regard. From the worker’s POV.)

      3. Katie the Fed*

        If it makes you feel better, not everywhere is like this. My employer has a large lactation room that is THE place to be – its turned out to be really good for women’s networking!

      4. CJB*

        I work with a mid-sized family owned company. Ran by mostly men and older people and they were amazing with my pumping. I did it for 13 months at work. They let me put a mini-fridge in my office and my direct boss told me to block off pump times on my calendar so he didn’t schedule anything over them. They were open about it and talked to me like it was perfectly normal. It was never a big deal. I’m going to have #2 this year and am excited about them being just as awesome about it the second time around.

        1. CJB*

          And they added a lock to my door so I would feel more comfortable about pumping in private.

          And my position is not one that was covered by the law for them to provide this, yet they did it anyway and acted like it was all perfectly normal.

      5. Stranger than fiction*

        Oh god, don’t even get me started on how my mom not only didn’t breast feed us, but thinks formula is far superior and breast feeding is gross.

    3. RKB*

      I work at two government run facilities (a hospital and a rec centre.)

      At both, women are allowed to breast feed ANYWHERE THEY LIKE. They must cover up, and they must be safe about it (so not doing it in the middle of the track, Lane swim, or in the ER) but otherwise, no restrictions.

      And I work on the L&D ward… I’m thinking about a new mom who didn’t want to go back to work, who was scared anyway, and has now developed mastitis from her employer’s actions, which affects her and the baby’s health.

      I’d be lawyering up right now.

      1. RKB*

        Even if the LW doesn’t feel like she wants to engage any longer with these a-holes, she could be preventing another mom from sharing that fate.

        1. Zillah*

          Ehhhh. The OP needs to do what’s right for her – it’s not her responsibility to sink money, time, and frustration into potentially saving other mothers from dealing with this.

      2. Chameleon*

        Eh…not to start a flame war, but requiring breastfeeding women to cover up is kind of terrible. My kid won’t be covered up–she just years the blanket right off. If my kid is hungry, I’m going to feed her, and in my state at least, you aren’t legally allowed to stop me.

  9. West of the Mississippi*

    Five months ago, I moved to Seattle after a decade in Chicago, and no one blinked at my Chicago cell phone number. Most people moving to Seattle these days are not from here, and Las Vegas makes you more local than us Midwesterners and East Coasters! The local address matters most of all, since you’re not expecting relocation and are already here. Depending on your cover letter, it might even be fine to include a quick sentence about being excited to be close to family after graduation, implying that you’re not just test-driving the PNW.

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      And the Chicago area codes are out of control!

      If you live anywhere with a university, I wouldn’t think an employer would think twice about an out-of-town cell phone area code. I know people who got their cell phones locally, have never lived anywhere else, and don’t have the “local” area code…

  10. pennycase*

    Re: #1, one interesting/weird quirk to consider: the area code in my current city is just one off from the area code in my hometown, and I’ve ended up missing a few calls because the person writing down my number spaced out and wrote down the local area code, or just assumed or something. It’s not a big deal at all, and often actually tells me a little about an interviewer or potential partner organization, but that’s another potential quirk. (FWIW, in general, the people who made a big issue of my weird area code issues have also ended up being problematic in other ways, but I do think I’d have a solid day of my life back if I could have back all the time I spent saying “it’s 9, not 5” and reciting my phone number several times.)

    1. Talvi*

      I think I’ve run into that a couple of times – I never received a couple of calls I was expecting, and I suspect it is because my non-local area code is quite similar to a local area code. It’s easy enough to misread, if you’re not paying attention.

      Tangentally, my next-door neightbours growing up had a VERY similar phone number to us – the numbers were identical except our last four digits were 1232 and theirs were 3212 (not the actual numbers, of course). We regularly got calls meant for them and vice-versa.

    2. AmyNYC*

      Same here! My phone is from the Boston area (781) and I now live in Brooklyn (718). Sigh…. so many lost takeout orders.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      My landline number used to be one digit off from the local child support enforcement office, and I wondered sometimes if I didn’t miss out on interviews because they might have called them instead of me. Judging by the number of times people trying to call them misdialed and got me, I think it’s entirely possible.

      When I ditched the landline, I told the AT&T rep about it and he said they would retire my number instead of recycling it so nobody else had to deal with that.

      1. hermit crab*

        When we were in elementary school, my best friend’s (landline) phone number was one digit off from a 24/7 emergency towing place. My friend’s mom actually got the number changed because she was fed up with all the calls. Of course, because I memorized the original number when I was in the third grade, I will probably remember it until I die anyway…

      2. Rater Z*

        Back in the early 2000’s, I was getting a fair number of phone calls asking for a specific woman that I had no idea about. It was very annoying because I worked a night shift from 5pm to at least 5am five nights a week and they were waking me up and I automatically rolled over in bed to answer the phone. I think I usually just hung up on them but I remember one day I was so mad about being woke up I told the caller the woman had died, hoping that would turn off the phone calls.

        Eventually, after a year or so, someone told me the number they were trying to call and I realized it was one digit off from my number. A couple of years after that call, I was doing tax returns, had a client with a W-2 from that company and I found out it was a temp company. I was getting calls from people checking on a job. My guess is they were responding to a sloppy voice mail message and I didn’t help any.

    4. KR*

      My boyfriend’s area code where he lives is 360, mine is 603. So glad I’m not moving to his area – I can’t imagine the hassle.

  11. Adam*

    #1 I live in Seattle, and I think having a local address is much bigger boon than a local phone number. Since people with cell phones are in the majority now (I’m pretty sure) and family plans can be pretty extensive and cost saving retaining a number is probably much more common these days.

    Here’s my anecdotal evidence: one of my friends lived much of her life in both Las Vegas and Chicago and she was hired here (in Seattle) with a Chicago cell number, which is her primary non-work number to this day. And the last time I was on a hiring panel we interviewed four people and one was done over Skype since the candidate lived in another state.

    Also since Seattle is a hotbed for tech jobs that recruit from basically everywhere modern communication can reach I imagine non-local numbers are normal.

  12. Adam*

    #5 The last hiring panel I was on we narrowed it down to two candidates. One was 100% perfect on paper…and then some. She was finishing up grad school and probably mastered the basic skills of this job in her undergrad years. She even sent all of us individual thank you notes; CARD STOCK thank you notes.

    The other had a solid work history, but most of it was in theater doing stage management type work. This was very different from what we were hiring for as a simple office job that day-to-day would mostly be working in PDFs organizing dry material.

    We went with the second person. While the first person was very smart and a delightful interview, we could tell she was already at a level where this job would have bored her out of her mind inside of a year. The theater manager may not have had every qualification and skill we asked for, but we were confident she could learn it and probably stay in the job for a couple years.

    Long story short: if you can make a reasonable case why you can do the job you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying. Since you can’t tell when the right job will come along it’s hard to waste your time job hunting as every new application at the very least is an opportunity to practice applying.

    1. Darcy*

      We’ve always used the years of experience as an estimate of how long it takes the typical person to be able to perform the position at the required level. If you’re someone who has been able to master the necessary skills in less time, you should apply. The only caveat is if the job is asking for more than 10 years of experience, it’s probably fairly advanced so you still need to be sensible about the requirements.

    2. Graciosa*

      I think this highlights the importance of viewing the applicant more holistically (and not in the way some more rigid – usually government – hiring systems do).

      I could easily envision hiring someone with four years of experience if the posting asked for five to seven, even over a candidate who on paper had eight. I have looked at candidates who technically had more years in a role, but those were accumulated in short stints at multiple jobs. In my function, someone who had two years of experience four times is not going to be as qualified as someone who had four years of experience at one employer. Yes, I do notice this, and yes, that is the reason I’m not hiring you for the higher level job you think you deserve.

      On the other hand, if I asked for five to seven years, someone with one is just not at that level. I am amazed at the number of people who seem to apply for *anything* without regard to the stated job requirements. The OP probably wants to avoid slipping into that category, without letting a less-than-perfect match to the requirements inhibit him or her from applying for something that’s pretty close.

      I think the “80%” rule of thumb is a good rough measure if one is needed. If an applicant is not matching at least 80% of the requirements (not the “additional” skills or nice-to-haves, but the requirements) then an application is probably a waste of time on both sides.

      Someone is going to chime in to say “But what about when there’s a *really good reason* that the applicant would be a great hire even without meeting the majority of the job requirements!” Theoretically, I suppose it’s possible, but I’ve never seen it in practice.

      I will say that the “really good reason” had better not be “lots of potential” or “really eager to learn” or “very hard worker who just needs a chance.” I’m not saying this to be cruel, but because the requirements are there for a reason. I need employees who have specific skills as identified in the job requirements. I can and do hire people who are just starting out in our function and I’m happy to teach them the basics, but if I say I need five to seven years it reflects the real requirements of that position.

      Applicants would do better focusing their limited time and attention each week investing in creating fantastic resumes and cover letters tailored for the few positions that are the best fit for their existing skills and experience.

    3. matcha123*

      This makes me sad to read.
      I get that you don’t want someone to leave after three months because they are “bored,” but my parent ran into people like you who would toss the application for being “too good.” In a cover letter, you aren’t supposed to talk about personal issues, so how would someone, who is raising kids alone and needs some job…any job make an appeal for themselves that someone like you would accept?
      Not all of us can afford to jump from job to job. Sometimes circumstances require us to do work that is “easy” and we will do it diligently.

      1. NutellaNutterson*

        Once you’re in the interview, you can (and should!) mention why a supposed step down, etc. won’t be a problem. I flat-out told my interviewers that a significant cut in salary was not a problem. I know Alison has run questions on how to best frame the “no really, I want an easier job below my apparent pay grade” conundrum.

      2. Adam*

        I’ll try to not take the “people like you” too personally as I actually had very little influence over who they eventually chose. I was consulted for my opinion since my work was related to the position in question. I ultimately said I’d be confident in hiring either one.

        In the end, hiring managers go precisely by how good a fit the candidates are for the open position. This was a very much a junior level position and on of the candidate demonstrated she was clearly more experienced than that. And many hiring managers, including Alison, will say that they will grow concerned about how happy a candidate will be in a position long term when they are clearly beyond what the job demands. It’s fair to consider and if a low experience job is ok with them the candidate will need to make that clear.

        I’ve taken lousy jobs in the name of working too, so I know how aggravating it can be. I’m sorry it’s tough for your parent. I hope they find something soon.

  13. Former Computer Professional*

    I kinda disagree with the experience part of the last one. Except for my first job with computers, I was technically underqualified for every other job I had. The advertised description for my second job was “10 years experience, at least a B.S, Master’s degree preferred, with experience in [laundry list of things].” I had 2 years of experience, no degree, and knew about 1/4 of the stuff in the list. But I could learn — and did.

    1. Ad Astra*

      From what I hear, tech jobs are more likely to be less strict about specific experience, so it may not work this way for paralegals. But in college someone told me “2 years experience” was just code for “recent grad with some internship or student-newspaper experience” and that guideline served me quite well.

  14. Merry and Bright*

    #2 – 44 voicemails? In less than two hours? That’s actually pretty scary when you think about it. If that is typical behaviour for this person then imagine what hiring them could be like. (Though you can picture the future letters to AAM they might generate!).

    1. Joanna*

      I’d assume it was just 44 callbacks, not voicemail messages, but you are right: steer way clear of that person. I mean, a dozen calls, fine, but 44???

      1. OP #2*

        Personally, a dozen calls in my book is still way overkill. Based on answers I’ve seen, three calls over the course of three weeks (once a week) is when you should stop calling. A good hiring manager will follow up with you back after the first one. If they don’t (in the absence of extenuating circumstances) do you really want to work there?

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Can I have a raise? [pause] Can I have a raise? [pause] Can I have a raise? [pause] Can I have a raise, now?

      I know that guy!

      1. Katniss*

        Makes me think of the Simpsons:

        Can we have a pool, dad? Can we have a pool, dad? Can we have a pool, dad?

    3. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Ugh, I had a guy do this to me once, not a professional relationship. Easy way to not get a date and easy way to get your application put in the “reject” pile!

      1. Murphy*

        I did too! 24 calls or texts in 48 hours. Then he had the nerve to get pissed with me when I told him he was coming on too strong and that I didn’t want to see him again. Poor “nice guy”.

      2. MashaKasha*

        I think we’ve all had that guy try to date us.

        He messages, we send something back, go to sleep or otherwise wanted away from our phone or computer… come back to find out he’s already sent a few dozen messages, got upset at being ignored, and stormed off. Sorry I’m not at your beck and call 24×7, dude.

    4. OP #2*

      He only left five messages but still, that’s four too many. I made sure to let him know my schedule was booked for the rest of the week too so no answer should not have been surprising.

  15. Merry and Bright*

    #1 Just as an aside, in the UK you can’t tell someone’s location from their mobile phone number because the codes aren’t geographical (only landline codes are and these have a different numbering system anyway). It would tell you which provider originally issued the number (you can transfer old numbers to new companies) if you wanted to know for some reason and googled it.

    1. Talvi*

      It’s the same way in France. If it starts with 06, it’s a cellphone number. If it’s something else (where I was living, it was 02, but apparently this varies regionally), it’s a landline.

  16. Juli G.*

    OP4, I noticed you mentioned being restricted to only 40 hours in your brief non-exempt period. Keep in mind that they can do that if you go to non-exempt permanently. Not that it should stop you from making sure your job is properly classified, just making sure you know that a reclassification doesn’t automatically mean 5 hours of OT.

    1. OP #4*

      Thanks, I know that we’d revisit my workload and I wouldn’t work over 40 hours (unless something came up at the end of the week). It’s just bugging me that a) I’m not sure if I’m misclassified, and b) I’m not being allowed to use the timesheet to accurately track my hours (writing 40 when I actually worked 40+). So I can’t easily figure out what retroactive pay would be due, or provide numbers showing what the change would be if I only worked 40 hours.

      It’s fine if the timesheet only goes up to 40 if I’m exempt – because I’m just using it as a stand-in for what percentage of my time was spent on any given activity. It’s not okay if I’m misclassified and should be getting paid for overtime.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Talk to a lawyer! Not because you want to sue, but to get a sense of what your state’s employment laws do and don’t require on top of federal rules.

      2. Observer*

        Keep your own time sheets for yourself. It will be VERY useful if it turns out that you were mis-classified. Just keep that copy at home or on your home computer / google docs (which you can even do at work on your phone, if you have a smart phone.)

      3. Chameleon*

        Honestly, not being *allowed* to list your true hours on your timesheet seems like a HUGE red flag that something shady, if not illegal, is going on.

  17. AcidMeFlux*

    Oh, no. “Supporting Working MOMS Act”? Referring back to my and others’ comments from the “mommy brain” post, can we stop using ” mommy” as the default word to refer to motherhood?

    1. Al Lo*

      I tend to think of “mom” and “mother” as far more synonymous than “mom” and “mommy”. It seems from your response that you think the opposite? That “working moms” seems infantilizing or unprofessional? Interesting; I’d never considered it that way. “Working moms” and “working mothers” seem pretty equal in tone to me.

    2. BananaPants*

      I’m a working mom and really don’t have an objection to the name of this proposed legislation or people referring to me as a mom. “Mother” and “mom” grate far less than “mommy” or “mama”. The latter two are infantilizing or patronizing when said by an adult, the former don’t feel that way.

      1. Worker Bee (Germany)*

        No advice but a fun fact. ‘Mama’ is the german equivalent for mom, if anyone is interested. :)

        1. Alice 2*

          My German boyfriend uses “Mom” and “dad” when referring to his own parents. It threw me a little at first because I was expecting “mama” or less likely “Mutter/i” as I had learned in my German classes.

          1. De (Germany)*

            I only use Mama and Papa when referring to them when they are there – I’d never use that to refer to them when talking to other people.

            (And “Mutti” is very South German :))

            1. Myrin*

              I’m from the very deep south and don’t know a single person who refers to their mother as “Mutti” – other than my own mum, sometimes, and she’s not from here. I feel like it’s a generational thing much more than a regional one.

              And I think it’s kinda the norm somewhat to only refer to ones parents as Mama and Papa when talking directly to them and using more formal language when talking to others about them. I personally do use Mama when talking about her to others but generally only when it’s with close friends or family or people who know her.

    3. just laura*

      Mom does not equal mommy to me. A litmus test: I could see mentioning my mom to my boss, but not my mommy.

      1. Koko*

        I tend to think of mother as this very stiff, formal, factual parentage thing, like, “That woman is my biological mother.” Your mom is the woman who raised you. Mommy and mama are what children call their mom.

    4. Liana*

      Interesting – I don’t really see the two words being equivalent, and generally consider “mommy” and “daddy” to be much more infantilizing. But I also don’t love using the word “mom” in a legislative document, so now I’m a bit torn.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        Agree. “Mother” seems more formal and more appropriate for the name of a law to me.

        Personally, though, “Mother” is the term my sister and I used (use?) when we’re upset (“Motherrrrrrrr, stop nagging me!”) — “Mom” when things are good.

    5. Mookie*

      Full title of the bill is “a bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 regarding reasonable break time for nursing mothers.”

      Question for anyone who opposes the bill: can you explain why? Not being snarky, but I’d like to hear from the opposition.

  18. Stephanie*

    #4: Yeah, I was super confused about this recently. Still am, sort of. I have an hourly rate, but I’m guaranteed a certain number of hours, even if I work less than that amount. But then I am explicitly not told to go over my hours and have to put in paid breaks and unpaid lunches. And I do get overtime for working past a certain amount. But then all of my duties sound like exempt ones…

    1. newreader*

      The US labor laws for determining classification between exempt and non-exempt not only includes responsibilities but also salary rate. A position’s responsibilities could seem to all be exempt in nature, but if your salary is under a particular threshold (I’m not sure the current amount), then the job has to be classified as non-exempt.

      1. NJ Anon*

        It is incredibly low, like $455 per week. Obama is trying to raise it to something like $50,000 per year.

        1. Natalie*

          Yep, because it was never pegged to inflation. Dammit, lawmakers, inflation isn’t an optional concept! You have to take it into account when setting dollar amounts into law.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      An employer with the visibility and size yours has, I’m sure, is very cautious about exempt/non-exempt. Erring on the non-exempt side has no penalties. Make a mistake the other way and it’s headlines and class action lawsuits.

      1. Stephanie*

        Actually…there have been many lawsuits. I think because of those, they did just err on the side of non-exempt.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          And, there you go.

          That kind of massive HR machinery boggles my mind. How do you ensure quality decision making all the way down? [shudder] We have a hard time with 200 employees!

    3. OP #4*

      Thanks for commenting! I kind of wish my employer had erred on the side of caution and just kept me regular non-exempt. I’m proud of being exempt, it makes me feel professional, but I just feel like it was the wrong choice given my actual responsibilities.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          I think what OP #4 means (correct me if I’m wrong OP) is that pretty much all higher level jobs are exempt, so moving to exempt status can feel like a step up in terms of your career.

        2. PontoonPirate*

          Ease up. It may make her feel professional because there is a common perception that exempt jobs are more “professional”–that you’ve passed some invisible threshold. That may be a cultural issue, but no reason to make the OP feel bad for admitting she shares the worldview. I freely admit I shared it when I had my first exempt job.

            1. PontoonPirate*

              I can’t speak for the OP, but the way you framed the question puts me in the position of having to defend “free” work (which isn’t really the point of the statement in question) and it would make me feel like you think I’m silly or naive.

              I think your frustration about this issue is being misdirected to someone who didn’t ask to be put in the position of defending it.

        3. Liana*

          I think Blue eyes is right. There are probably some cultural issues at play here, and in general I disagree with US’ tendency to see exempt jobs as being inherently more professional than non-exempt jobs, but there’s no need to talk down to the OP. I felt the same way when I graduated college (and still do, sometimes).

          1. Mike C.*

            Christ, I’m not talking down to anyone. I see much abuse of the exempt status that it feels more like a curse than anything else.

            1. Liana*

              You did come off that way a bit, though. I really, really admire your passion for worker’s rights and I think you contribute a lot to the comments section here, but yeah, your comment came off as a bit dismissive. It sounds like the OP is young and a recent college grad, and presumably has a lot of cultural baggage to unpack surrounding our country’s idea of a “professional career”. There are more tactful ways to point that out rather than making a passive-aggressive statement that the OP simply likes working for free. For what it’s worth, I think we’re pretty much on the same page regarding our feelings re: exempt vs. non-exempt status, but in this case the OP isn’t the one who deserves frustration and snark.

        4. LQ*

          Not the OP but when it is your first exempt job and you have only have hourly jobs before and your family has only had hourly jobs and the public perception of Important Professional People is that they are exempt and you are now feeling in demand and like one of those people and you are exempt it can feel like this is the line to cross to be Professional.

          You can be upset, but the upset to be here is at the people who devalue the work of hourly folks, the people who overwork exempt folks.

          When I first went from exempt to non-exempt it felt a lot like I was a less valued and less professional. I’ve since come to love (LOVE LOVE) it. But it took quite a while and a good examination of why. Especially since I wanted to work more to Do Good Things for people. I like Doing Good Things and I felt like I was being limited.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Being non-exempt is good because I don’t have to work 75 hours a week for no extra pay. However, it does have its problems–if I’m not on the clock, I don’t get paid. Plus, trying to deal with appointments during the work week can be difficult–I clock out for an hour appointment, but it takes me twenty minutes to get there (and another twenty to come back), which means I’m out for almost two hours and then have to make up that time. I hate using up PTO for stuff like that.

            With the new labor regulations, I have no hope of ever being exempt unless I move to a position where I WOULD be working many many hours a week and I don’t really want that.

            1. Ad Astra*

              My company offers up to 2 hours a week of “personal time” for employees to use when they need to take their dog to the vet or go to the doctor or pick their kid up from school or whatever. We’re not expected to use it every week, but when we do, it mimics the sort of flexibility that exempt employees usually have. It’s awesome, and I’d love to see more companies offer it to non-exempt employees.

          2. Arjay*

            And exempt status often comes with other perks regarding timekeeping, attendance, and flexibility in arrival times, personal appointments, etc. As the only non-exempt person who gets invited out to lunch, I’m very aware that a 75 or 90 minute lunch from the time I leave my desk until I get back to my desk tacks extra time onto the end of my day, unlike the exempt folks who consider that normal.

        5. fposte*

          You’re not working for free as an exempt employee; that’s a mischaracterization. Unless you’re arguing that Tim Cook is suffering from having to work for free outside some invisible hourly boundary?

          There are levels where it’s not advantageous, I’ll agree. But that’s not true across the board, and a lot of people feel really infantilized by having to track hours and clock in and out, and they appreciate the flexibility exempt positions can provide.

          1. Mike C.*

            Maybe not Tim Cook, but a whole lot of folks under him are certainly suffering. Apple (and SV in general now that I think of it) really isn’t a great example here, they’re pretty notorious for insane hours.

            1. fposte*

              But they’re not doing it for free–they’re getting paid for it. And having them get paid hourly isn’t likely to change their hours.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yep. Hourly isn’t the only acceptable way to calculate someone’s pay. And with jobs like the ones we’re talking about, the hours are part of the consideration when the salary is set or negotiated.

              2. Mike C.*

                Having them get paid hourly means that employers have to actually think about staffing and workflow management rather than just throwing too few bodies at a problem for 70 hours weeks until the problem is solved. It means you aren’t bringing people in during the weekends for “facetime” or having them respond at all hours to random emails without having to pay for it.

                Sure, we could be talking about positions where a little extra here and there is needed but the whole point of exempt status isn’t to work someone more than 40 hours for the price of 40 hours, it’s for someone who works a specific and professional job. There’s supposed to be give and take between the slow and fast times when the reality is that there is no more slow time anymore and the “job” has been redefined in such a way that the give and take no longer exists for the vast majority of people out there.

                And yes, if you’re making six figures then whatever. But the minimum salary for an exempt employee is $23,600.

    4. Comp Professional*

      Your status is salaried, non-exempt. Salaried v. Non-Salaried is very different than Exempt v. Non-Exempt. Salaried means your paycheck will at least be x amount. Salaried Exempt means your pay check will ALWAYS be x amount. Salaried Non-Exempt means your paycheck will be x + any overtime worked.

    5. Sunflower*

      I thought it also had to do with how your duties and job relate to your organization? I was exempt in my last job and I was the only meeting planner there. My company was small and kind of scummy so I’m not sure if I was supposed to be exempt but my job required travel and long hours so I know it was cheaper for my company for me to be exempt. Although our shipping manager was non-exempt so something seems off about that.

      I am now non-exempt in a larger organization but I do a lot of the same work. I work 7 hours a day and get a 1 hour unpaid lunch. My offer was presented to me as XX,XXX per year which breaks down to XX per hour based on a 35 hours work week. I don’t clock in or out and I am ‘guaranteed’ a full work week but that doesn’t mean I always get paid that. If I take a half day, I either have to take PTO or don’t get paid for it. But my boss won’t cut my hours if there’s nothing to do(there is very rarely nothing to do). I work at a law firm so I think they err more on the side of caution here. I believe almost all of non-managerial administrative staff is non-exempt and the schedules/hours work the same way. I work overtime a lot and its not a big deal but I must get approval before doing it. My job is very different from a lot of the other coordinators at my company and I travel and work much more overtime. I do a lot of the same stuff as my boss and travel much more so it seems like I should be exempt but I’m not. It’s different but I’ll take it!

  19. Anon for this*

    Regarding OP #3 and the bathroom breastfeeding policing, I had a completely different read on the letter. I feel like there’s something missing from the background of the letter. What was making the coworkers uncomfortable? A closed, private office shouldn’t be a problem. I have a feeling she wasn’t making it a reasonably private affair, and the perception that she was refusing to use the laxtation room didn’t help matters. Not saying she WAS refusing, but she was asked to use the set aside room and didn’t. I just feel like there had to be some compelling complaints for there to be such an insane level of policing.

    I’ve never had to pump before so I don’t have experience of the day to day reality. But if I had intimate enough knowledge of a coworkers’ pumping schedule to complain about it, that would be on par to me knowing about their other bodily function schedules as well. But maybe I’m missing something? Since there is a dedicated laxtation room, it seems like company culture is to provide privacy for a non-business related though completely natural act.

    I’m really interested to see this unfold and learn others experiences and opinions.

    1. Anon for this*

      I wanted to make doubly sure I conveyed that my own personal perception is connecting knowing a pumping schedule to other bodily function schedules. I don’t want to imply I think that’s the norm or anything. Just my own personal opinion. I would love to hear others.

      1. Neruda*

        I agree, something in this letter seemed a bit confusing. I know upthread someone noted that letters are often missing details to stay comcise, but I sensed something might be amiss here too.

    2. StarHopper*

      Pumping (and breastfeeding) are really not analogous to other bodily functions. Your breasts fill with milk on a regular schedule, and if you do not express that milk on that schedule they become engorged and hard as a rock. It’s very uncomfortable, and it also raises the risk of developing infections like mastitis that are very painful, especially when you STILL have to feed your baby. Then there are the issues of supply and demand. Eventually, the body gets the signal that not as much milk is needed, since the schedule has changed, and you start producing less and less. If you were feeding your baby all breast milk, you now have to go buy expensive formula. You also may cut a breastfeeding relationship shorter than you wanted to.

      Source: I breastfed and pumped at work for 18 months. (Even pumping in an airplane bathroom!)

      I say all this because I suspect a lot of people on here don’t know what pumping is like. It’s not fun, but you do it because you think it’s the best thing for your baby. How a mother chooses to feed her baby is a very personal decision, and for an employer to get in the way of that is wrong. Full stop.

      1. Ghost Town*

        Yes. To everything you said.

        (My almost-18-month-old still nurses at night and first thing in the morning.)

      2. moss*


        That letter made me feel so bad. Pumping is so hard and lonely and you know you’re doing the best thing for your baby but it’s just awful. Nobody WANTS to pump in front of other people. If they are not provided a private place to do it, it can be very anguishing. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to get mastitis!! After having been shamed for months!! I feel terrible for the OP.

    3. BananaPants*

      If she had a closed, private office the only issue I can possibly see coworkers having is possibly hearing the pump through walls/the door. And if coworkers are so immature that *knowing* that their colleague is pumping is distressing or distracting, then that’s pretty sad. Surely if the office’s bathrooms have stalls, they hear (and possibly smell) more unpleasant bodily functions several times a day.

      Pumping women usually pump on a schedule and their coworkers usually know their pumping schedules pretty quickly even if they don’t come out and say what they’re doing. I targeted my pumping sessions for 9, noon, and 3. I had a 15 minute “private appointment” blocked on my Outlook calendar at those times every single work day for the better part of a year. My coworkers all had this “intimate” knowledge of my pumping schedule because they tried to schedule meetings around it, but knew I could shift a half hour in either direction to accommodate. If any of them were bothered at simply *knowing* I was off to be a human cow for 15 minutes while they chatted about the office football pool, none of them ever let on!

      Breastfeeding/pumping is not like excretory bodily functions (and be aware that people who are against breastfeeding in public use the same sort of argument). There are health implications to a nursing mother not regularly emptying her breasts; if she does not, she can develop painful engorgement and even mastitis, which is an infection with symptoms like the flu. Not pumping regularly will also lead to a drop in milk supply, requiring the mother to buy formula and possibly causing weaning before mom and baby are ready to stop. Pumping isn’t exactly fun, but I did it to provide nutrition to my baby while we were apart and to maintain my milk supply so we could breastfeed when we were together. I ended up nursing each of our kids for a lot longer than I pumped, and I was able to be a donor to a milk bank with our second baby (my extra milk from pumping at work was pooled with that of other donors and pasteurized to be given to premature and medically-fragile babies; for some infants, donor milk is literally lifesaving).

      Facilitating employees’ choice to pump or breastfeed in the workplace is actually a good business decision. Doing so increases employee retention and lowers medical costs for employees and covered dependents. Public health authorities are trying to encourage breastfeeding and raise breastfeeding rates because of the population-level benefits, and since women in the US as a whole don’t have decent maternity leave benefits it makes sense to encourage women to breastfeed and pump if they do return to work. The federal government has a Business Case for Breastfeeding that might be helpful for you to understand why it benefits everyone when women are able to pump at work if they so choose.

      1. F.*

        It absolutely amazes me that in this day and age breastfeeding is still regarded as something obscene or salacious! I breastfed both of my children back in the late 80s-early 90s and had less negative feedback about it than women seem to receive now. I was not employed at the time, but I lived an active life and was not always at home at mealtimes. I have breastfed at the mall (went to a quiet place in a side wing of the mall), at family-style restaurants and even at Mass! I figured if breastfeeding was good enough for Mary to feed Jesus than there sh0uldn’t be a problem at church. The key was to cover me and the child with a light-weight receiving blanket and keep my breast as covered as possible. People around me would know I was breastfeeding only because they could see the blanket over my shoulder and could hear my child happily sucking away.

        1. matcha123*

          If what I read online is anything to go on, more women these days are about full exposure, breastfeeding in stores while sitting at the front entrance, etc. My mom breastfed my sister and I in the ’80s, and I remember her going to quiet and private areas with my sister.

          1. Zahra*

            Not so much about full exposure as about equality, including the fact that breastfeeding doesn’t obligate you to cover yourself or hide away lest someone see you feeding your child. Going to private and quiet areas may still be necessary, if your child is at a developmental stage where she is easily distracted and popping off every other minute.

    4. CADMonkey007*

      Hopefully OP will come and offer additional comment. It reads as a private office to me, but perhaps people kept interrupting and it became awkward? It sounds like the issue with the “lactation room” was that it would be occupied when she needed it, and would have to wait. Which makes me wonder, who else was using the lactation room? That would make this letter more bizarre that OP wasn’t the only breastfeeding employee! Also, why couldn’t she reserve the room? You usually pump the same times every day. Questions.

      1. Jozie*

        I know OP specifically said “lactation room”, but maybe it’s really an all-purpose private room? My office has a couple small private rooms that are first-come, first-serve for anyone to go in and make a private personal call (what I use them for) or for whatever else, including lactation. These can’t be reserved, though there is usually one open. Or, maybe they really are specifically for lactation but people are using them for other reasons?

        As an aside, ours are supposed to be relatively soundproof and they seem to be…from the outside. If you’re in the adjacent private room, you get to hear what’s going on in the next one. I went into one once and I couldn’t hear this from right outside the door, but when I got inside the room and locked the door, I was like, yep, definitely hearing my coworker’s breast pump. I’m certainly not bothered by it, but it was definitely a reminder that the rooms are not as private as expected!

        1. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)*

          Federal law states that a lactation room is to be provided and to be used only for pumping.

          1. Observer*

            That is not correct – I checked this out when we were doing office renovations. The room can be used for almost anything else you want, as long as the person pumping can keep people out while she is pumping.

      2. neverjaunty*

        If people kept interrupting then a sensible boss would say “put a sign on your door so people don’t bother you”, or would tell the other employees that they should probably knock and wait. A lot of places don’t have a designated lactation room, just a private room that people also use for calling home or checking their blood sugar or whatever.

        I’m not sure any questions have much bearing on the issue though, since this is a boss who thinks it’s appropriate to follow the LW into the bathroom and harangue her from outside the stall. At that post I think we can safely say any benefit of the doubt goes out the window.

      3. MissDisplaced*

        Considering that many work locations do not even have a set aside “lactation room” I did wonder about why it was not available and why she couldn’t use it or schedule to use it, unless employer was specifically blocking her efforts to use it (possible given the level of harassment here).

    5. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I don’t need to know a lot beyond (essentially): followed her into the bathroom, talked to her through the door, insisted she stop pumping, while she was pumping.

      There’s no way to cut that other than bat shit insane and possibly lawsuit worthy.

      Were they right or wrong to tell her she could no longer pump in her office, after she’d been doing it for a year? Dunno. There’s a lactation room. Maybe saying “use the lactation room” was reasonable, as long as there was enough availability for her.

      Nobody is going to choose to use the bathroom to pump vs a lactation room unless she had an emergency. She had an emergency! Walk into the bathroom and demand she stop pumping? That’s beyond nuts.

      1. BananaPants*

        I think that if the federal law applied to this employee, offering the use of a lactation room would meet the requirement to provide a private, non-bathroom space for pumping. The law doesn’t say it has to be a room, just that the employee must be shielded from view – in theory a curtain would work. I think it’s absurd of them to say she couldn’t pump in her office after she’d been doing it for so long, but this management team doesn’t exactly sound rational…

        If it had been me in that bathroom stall I would have kept on pumping and said, “Then come in here and make me stop” while Googling the phone number of an employment lawyer on my phone. My pump has a rechargeable battery so I wasn’t tethered to a wall outlet – there would literally be nothing they could do to make me stop. Sure, they could have fired me when I left, but I think an attorney could have had a field day with that.

    6. Sarahnova*

      I express in a private (locked) space at work, but I have to pass through the office holding my pump (and, on the way back, my expressed milk). If anyone was paying attention, they could certainly know my pumping schedule – but so what?

      1. Mreasy*

        Yeah, I am really well hydrated, and the receptionist knows what I’m doing every hour or two when I pass her desk and return in a couple of minutes. But nobody would claim she has a right to be uncomfortable knowing my urinary schedule, right?

      2. KR*

        Exactly – my manager doesn’t use her office a lot because there’s no computer in there (don’t ask, lol) so our one pumping employee in the store just takes her breaks in there, sticks a sticky note on the door so we know not to open it, and no one cares because it’s her boobs and her business.

    7. neverjaunty*

      I don’t understand this. There seems to be a strong need to believe that if an employer acts unreasonably, we must dig for reasons the OP is wrong because ‘there are two sides to every story’. Sometimes one of those sides is that the boss is a jerk.

      1. fposte*

        I mean, sometimes an OP’s story does seem to be missing pieces. But most of them stand on their own from people who are competently relating a situation, and saying “It’s because the pump was making noise” seems as unnecessarily creative as deciding there was a racial component the OP forgot to mention.

        It’s basically the “But sandwiches!” response but to the original story rather than to a suggested solution. “But if the OP forgot to mention that there were sandwiches the boss couldn’t eat, then the boss is justified.” But at that point why count on the OP’s narrative at all?

      2. TowerofJoy*

        At times I just think, really? seriously? Someone is that crazy? Are we missing something? And then I think about all the letters here and remind myself, yep. They are sometimes really that crazy.

    8. blackcat*

      I have close knowledge of a coworker’s pumping schedule. I do not find it weird at all–it effects when we plan meetings. It’s helpful to know because there’s some flexibility in scheduling (she can push things a half hour earlier or later), but she has to have at least a 20 minute chunk 2x per day, around the same time each day.

      I don’t think this is a weird bodily function to know about. I don’t think that it’s any more strange than my coworkers knowledge of any medical condition that requires simple accommodations (eg, the lighting from a few days ago; back problems that require sometime to stand and walk X times per day, etc). Saying “I can get mastitis if I don’t pump” should be no different from saying “Florescent lighting can give me migraines.”

      And you know what, this coworker of mine has made a conscious decision to be super up front about saying “Nope, can’t do that, pumping then.” It’s her own way of trying to normalize breast feeding as an activity that’s not “gross” and should be treated like any other medical conditions.

      1. BananaPants*

        Thank you for being an understanding coworker. It means a lot to a pumping mom to know that her colleagues are willing to accommodate her needs.

    9. J.B.*

      I knew a lawyer who wanted to pump in her own private office but was told to use the lactation room instead, she wound up giving up rather than walk back and forth and take the career hit. I am pretty sure that was their motivation.

      1. the_scientist*

        Yeah, employers can and do go out of their way to push working mothers out entirely, or to “mommy track” employees who have children, or to discourage pumping in the office as a way to push women out, and I’m always surprised when commenters here don’t want to acknowledge that.

        There are a lot of subtle ways to discriminate against working moms and especially moms who are pumping- making the lactation room in an inconvenient location and then forbidding women from pumping in private offices would be an easy way. Another easy way to do it would be to only have one room for many nursing mothers so that the room is always full/not available when needed, and refusing to accommodate a pumping schedule by moving meetings around would be a third. All of these can be easily cloaked in plausible deniability- “oh, the sound of the pump (in your private office) bothers your neighbours!”; “we don’t have the space for a second lactation room/ a room anywhere other than the basement/the building on the opposite side of campus/ sorry, this room has to double as a meeting room because we’re short on space so it’s first come first serve”; “sorry, our schedules are so packed that it’s not possible to shift that meeting by 15 minutes”.

        I have no trouble at all believing that this OP’s employer simply wasn’t willing to accommodate breastfeeding, none at all.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Ok, I don’t have kids, but regarding the lactation room, I always thought they were something like a multi stall bathroom and shared? Would it not be possible for more than one person to use at a time?

          I think I’ve only seen one, and it had a couple of chairs and a sink in it, so granted I’m not overly familiar with what is typically provided.

          1. Natalie*

            It probably depends on the employer – an employer who’s retrofitting an office to have a lactation room probably just put a lock and a sign on the door, while an employer who’s actually re-doing their space might make it nicer and more able to accommodate multiple women.

          2. Sarahnova*

            Generally you want a plug socket so a bathroom setup is not ideal. In my experience which is admittedly limited it’s more a private space with a lock, a chair and a fridge. They are not usually multi user.

          3. Rebecca in Dallas*

            No, I think it has to be private and have a locking door.

            They converted an old single-person bathroom on my floor to a nursing room. Despite emails and signs on the lactation room door, people still used it as a bathroom. I don’t have children, but if I was a nursing mother I would be livid if I had to wait for someone to finish a BM and then be expected to pump in there. Do you want your food prepared in a bathroom? They finally had to put a lock on it. The worst part is that there are 3 other bathrooms on our floor! Take a few extra steps, people.

            1. the_scientist*

              I also don’t have kids and I live in Canada so I’m not familiar with the specifics of US law about this (or Canadian law, for that matter) but my understanding is that it’s pretty not cool to say “hey, nursing moms, you can all just hang out there pumping together, right?” I get the sense that the room has to provide privacy, and that would include privacy from other nursing mothers- so you put a sign up on the door saying it’s occupied, or create a sign-up schedule for the room, or whatever, but limit it to one or maybe two women in the room at a time, depending on the size of the room and the “amenities” provided. I’m pretty sure I’ve also heard of women having to pump in old supply closets because there’s either no other space or their employer won’t give them other space. But in general, pumping in a bathroom is not ideal, nor is interruption while you’re pumping, hence the need for a lock or signage on the door and a certain degree of privacy.

              1. Dr. Doll*

                Whew, I do feel pretty guilty that the only place I could offer a pumping staff member was a storage room (office supplies, nothing scary). But we cleaned it rigorously, put a nice chair and table in there, made sure that the electric outlet was easy to reach, of course she could go there whenever she wanted, and we had a DND sign.

          4. A Non E. Mouse*

            Pumping is really not a shared event – I basically had to disrobe up top entirely to do so without making an unholy mess. At the least, you need a locking door, a flat surface at a reasonable height, a workably-comfortable chair, and a power outlet.

            I pumped at two different employers – one very large, multi-national publicly traded corporation and one medium sized private business. Both were accommodating in different ways – the large corp had lactation rooms that we booked in advance, in the basement of a very large building. They were small, but completely workable and there were enough to serve the need.

            The medium-sized employer I was the first (ever) to request a lactation room because it’s a male-dominated company, in a male-dominated industry and *bonus points*, I was in a male-dominated department.

            It was a breeze – they located a room that we could add an internal lock to so that I would feel comfortable I wouldn’t be interrupted, a system for me to notify others that I was using the room so that they wouldn’t try the door (it had to double as a storage room), I was allowed to bring in a small fridge to store the expressed milk, and I was able to set up a second computer, phone, etc. so that I could work once I was all hooked up like Bessie the Cow. I would come in in the morning, put my pump in the room, then when I needed to go, I just went.

            Absolutely no one, in any department, top to bottom of the company gave me any grief. I once, just after I returned to work, realized I was going to need to pump a full hour before my usual time and had to leave an important meeting to do so. No one, including the executive and partial owner of the company in that meeting, batted an eye.

            With just a little common sense and human decency, and very little money (the cost of a lock), a company can easily accommodate a lactating mother.

          5. BananaPants*

            Ours is an interior office (no windows) with a lock on the door and a mini fridge inside. There’s a chair and a desk, like an office. The nameplate outside the door says “RESERVED”, apparently because one of the admin assistants thought “Lactation Room” would be upsetting to male employees. We tried to have it changed to “Mother’s Room” like it is at other corporate sites with an occupied/not occupied sign, but it hasn’t happened yet (and probably never will).

            I work in a male-dominated organization and at most we’ve had two people using the lactation room at the same time. She and I were on slightly different pumping schedules anyways so conflicts were rare. If one of us needed to move our usual pumping time we just let the other know and it was no big deal. We each had a key and left the room unlocked when not occupied, in case a visitor to the building needed to pump.

            I have friends whose lactation rooms had small privacy dividers/cubicles inside a larger room, or were in a building with several small rooms that had to be reserved in advance because there were so many pumping moms. Other friends used server rooms or large closets as pumping areas. It really depends on the office space and what options are available to the employer.

            1. MissDisplaced*

              Interesting. Thanks. I admit I never thought much about it before reading this as I don’t have kids. I believe the one I walked into by mistake [it was a room next to the ladies restroom and not locked] had multiple chairs and dividers (and I think there were doors that could be closed like stalls) so I thought it looked like a multiple use situation for a least 1-2 women. That particular one seemed nice, but I guess it really varies by workplace.

        2. Umvue*

          Oh wow. I was missing the employer motivation here and this could well be it. Gross.

          I pumped for a year and never got any pushback about doing it in my office – I definitely had the sense that people were uncomfortable, but they dealt with it without involving me. It’s a very good thing I was allowed to do it in my office, because for me it always took much longer than the advertised 15-20 minutes (different people are different; whether because of factors intrinsic to me or my kid, nursing always took us around 45 minutes, and that was true for pumping too) and it would have been crippling not to be able to work during that time. Some other women find they actually require the break, that let down won’t happen if they’re working. Because of these variations, one size fits all policies for nursing mothers strike me as inherently unfriendly.

    10. J.B.*

      BTW I got mastitis once and it was AWFUL. Fever, chills, whole body aches. It is amazing what a systemic response you can have to a local bacterial infection.

      1. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)*

        My sister got mastitis with her second kid, and I came over for 3 days straight to help her out. She was in such pain she almost let me drive her car. She never lets anyone else drive her or her kids.

    11. Mike C.*

      Come on, don’t write a comment like this and then label it “Anon for this”. If you have something to say and you’re a regular, then attach your name to it.

      And to respond directly to your comment, I think the thing you’re missing is that some people haven’t grown up and think that women’s bodies are gross and ugh pregnant women aren’t working as hard as everyone else and so on and so forth.

      1. Navy Vet*

        Mike, I’m not surprised at all. There is a very strange phenomena of “prove it” applied to women when it comes to many forms of harassment and discrimination. The word “mansplaining” covers it all. I was attacked in the comment section in an article under the women’s section of a well known liberal news site for simply stating that it’s never appropriate to ask a woman during an interview if she plans on running off in a few years to have a baby. (Which Alison has covered in the past) It was insane how much employers and strangers meddle and have opinions about another person’s reproductive choices. Breast feeding falls under that IMO.

        That being said, the second you follow and employee into the bathroom to berate them for ANY reason, you have lost any credibility you may have had.

        It’s not as if she was going in there to shoot heroin for crying out loud.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Or that breasts are too “sexual” to be seen. Which is bullsh!t.

        1. Men hang their nipples out all the time and nobody says anything. They don’t look that much different, either.
        2. Boobs are primarily for feeding babies. If they were only sex characteristics, the milk would come from someplace else.

    12. overeducated and underemployed*

      I’m not sure all bodily functions are things it’s inappropriate for coworkers to know about though, right? You don’t get grossed out if one of your coworkers says “I’m going downstairs to grab a sandwich,” or walks by to use the restroom? Closing the door to an office to pump is pretty equivalent to one of those. If you can somehow hear the quiet sound of suction from behind the door, it might be annoying, but it’s really no worse than hearing someone chew on a sandwich in the next cubicle over. These are normal annoyances that come from working with humans. It would be as weird for you to dwell on the visual of pumping as it would be to obsess about how someone’s tongue moves while they eat, and I think treating them differently is a sign of discomfort with women’s bodies in particular, not bodily functions in general.

    13. Dangerfield5*

      We often know details of our colleagues’ bodily function schedules when they relate to food. They tend to be much less private than excretory functions: breastfeeding seems to me to be more analogous to food than to elimination!

      1. TootsNYC*

        Actually, some people put it on the level of ejaculation–they consider breastmilk vaguely sexual in nature, because breasts have indeed been given a sexual role in our culture. And that’s the source of their discomfort.

        We’d all be really upset about knowing our coworker was wanking off; we just don’t want to know, we don’t want to hear, we don’t want to have the concept of “sex towel” enter our consciousness at work. Or anywhere other than in our -own- bedroom.

        1. neverjaunty*

          “Some people” really need to rethink their analogies, then, because expressing milk to feed a baby is not a sexual act, and it’s not analogous to masturbation. FFS.

        2. Broke Law Student*

          But breast milk isn’t sexual in nature. Women breast feed to feed their children, not for any sexual reason. Comparing it to masturbation is disgusting and completely inaccurate. I don’t see why they should be indulged in any way.

    14. Koko*

      You know, this is an attitude I see a lot when women report misogyny. There are a bunch of people who are not misogynist themselves but end up enabling misogyny because their reaction is to doubt the woman’s account of the treatment she received. They assume that because THEY aren’t a sexist bastard, surely no one else is anymore either and therefore it must be something you’ve done that justifies their behavior. People are much more willing to believe that a woman is imagining or bringing harassment on herself than they are to believe that some people still harass women purely for things like being a breastfeeding mom in the workplace, and that willingness believe the harasser over the victim makes things especially frustrating for the victim.

    15. TootsNYC*

      Here’s how it’s working;

      She closes her office door, and people notice (bcs usually it isn’t closed).
      The closed door makes them realize, “hey, she’s inside there, pumping milk out of her breasts. That’s why she closed her door.”
      Then they think, “Ew, ick, that’s gross! I’m uncomfortable thinking about her being inside there, pumping mmilk out of her breasts.”

      And she may even have to walk through the office w/ her tote bag (to store stuff in the freezer, or to wash the apparatus), and they see it, and realize, “That’s the stuff she uses when she pumps milk out of her breasts. There’s probably milk inside there that came out of her breasts.”

      Yes, juvenile. But that’s what’s hapepning.

      1. neverjaunty*

        We don’t tolerate this kind of “my irrational squick trumps your medical needs” when it comes to other issues.

        If Bob shuts his office door so he can give himself an insulin shot in peace, anyone who said ‘ewww, I am squicked about needles, it bothers me because I’m imagining him giving himself a shot’.

        If Jane needs to eat a small snack at certain times of the day to manage her diabetes, it would be considered insane for management to insist that she do so only in a designated area that just so happens not to be available.

        If Wakeen has to change the dressing on his surgical incisions, no sane person would think it appropriate to say ‘oh man, I can see him walking across the office with a little bag that looks like a first aid kit, now I know what he’s going to be doing in the bathroom, ew.’

        It’s just women pumping milk. Huh.

    16. Liana*

      Honestly, when it comes to women and their bodies, there is quite often an “insane level of policing” without any sort of compelling complaint at all, because our society just loves, absolutely loves, to tell women what to do with their body. It also sounds like she wasn’t “refusing” to use the lactation room, it was occupied when she had to use it, and the resulting delays caused health issues for her. The fact that she went into the bathroom to pump instead shows that the OP is trying to make it as private as possible, and the fact that her manager followed her into the bathroom just to prevent her shows that they don’t want to make this easier for her.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Yeah, I don’t think choosing to pump in the bathroom would be anyone’s ideal but I’ve sometimes seen it done. My guess is you do that as last resort. But company did have a pumping room, so I’m really not sure how/why she wasn’t able to use it (how could it always be occupied all day?) and/or was somehow prevented from using it on purpose. Given the level of harassment here, it seems like the boss may have been putting up barriers to the use of the appropriate room AND THEN busted OP for using restroom. Just saying.

        1. Natalie*

          I don’t think it would necessarily need to be occupied all day – if I understand correctly, you have to pump on a schedule. There’s a little wiggle room, but not hours, so if it was occupied for an hour before and after her normal time she would need an alternative room.

    17. Observer*

      I cannot imagine ANY reason so compelling as to make it appropriate to complain about her pumping in the BATHROOM. The minute a boss goes so over the top, it says to me that the problem is definitely NOT the OP.

      As for knowing about a coworker’s pumping schedule, so what? Even setting aside the fact that the comparison to other bodily functions is no accurate, still so what? If someone’s bathroom schedule is so regular that people know that “Jane always goes to the bathroom an hour after lunch”, does that mean that Jane now has to stop going to the bathroom when she needs to?

  20. Treena*

    For #1, I have to agree with the majority of folks who are saying the local area code doesn’t matter. But there is one exception I’ve come across. If you’re looking for jobs in human services, social services, or any position that wants someone who knows the area, it’s important to do anything you can to show your ties to the area. Especially since you’re from the area and are keeping the NV number for money reasons, I would go with a google voice number and keep it simple. You can set it to aut0-forward, and it gives you the benefit of alerting you every time you’re getting a job search related call.

    As an side question, is it the actual number/area code that changes the taxes, or your billing address?

  21. Anon scientist*

    I never gave having a non-local number a second thought because I’d lived in a series of major metropolitan areas and grew up with nearby different area codes. Then I moved to a state with just one area code. Nobody was bothered by my non-local number, but it made everything a huge pain because everyone deals in 7 digits and nobody expects you to list out an area code. I eventually gave up and got a local number when I changed phone services. It also erased my obviously outsider status.

  22. BananaPants*

    Re: #3
    I pumped at work for each of our kids until they were a year old. The federal law (the FLSA amendment) does not apply to me because I’m exempt but there’s a state law requiring essentially the same provisions. To make a very long story short, with my first baby my HR manager ignored state law and forced me to pump in a bathroom. We got a mother’s room when the baby was around 10 months old, but it was still a long and very unhappy 8 months of producing my baby’s food next to a toilet and knowing exactly how little my employer valued my contributions since they weren’t willing to follow state law by putting a damned lock on the door of an unused office.

    I wonder if OP3 had her own office or if the office is shared. I don’t see how anyone could object to a woman closing the door of her own office to pump milk 2-3 times a day for around 15-20 minutes each time. If she was pumping in a cube farm/open office I could see a lot of employees having a problem with it. She might be using the shields that came with the pump, in which case she needs to partially disrobe in order to pump. While there is a milk collection option (Freemies) that can be used while the woman is fully clothed, they don’t work well for every nursing mom and the pump will still make some noise regardless. I hear about a growing number of women using Freemies to pump while working and while that can make a ton of sense for women in fields where breaks would be sporadic and not on any set schedule, if there’s a lactation room I personally would choose to pump there rather than in the middle of the cube farm where I work. It would make too many coworkers very uncomfortable – not to mention me! I nurse in public with no qualms (and have had coworkers see me nursing by coincidence at the mall or in a restaurant) but having them see and hear me pump would be different.

    I do wonder if it was the noise of the pump that was the problem with the OP pumping in her office. With my second baby, a coworker was also pumping for her baby so the lactation room was in use 5-6 times a day. A male employee in an adjacent office asked HR if they would move the lactation room because the faint sound of our pumps coming through the walls upset him. It didn’t interrupt his work, he just didn’t like knowing what we were doing with our breasts. HR told him he was SOL.

    1. Jessica (tc)*

      Why does he care what’s going on in the room next to him if it isn’t interrupting his work? No one is forcing him to imagine what is going on in the room next to him just because he faintly hears a noise, and his discomfort at breasts doing what they are biologically for (producing milk) is inane. I’m glad HR didn’t move the room!

      1. BananaPants*

        The guy whose office is on the other side of the room never complained.

        Right after I came back from work I found the complainer in the lactation room with a measuring tape, measuring the desk in the room. He decided he wanted it instead of the one that was in his office (a different style) so he got a work order to have them swapped. At the time he thought the lactation room was just an empty office but once the AA told him what the room was used for, that’s when dude got uncomfortable and claimed that it squicked him out to know what we were doing in there.

        Between my two babies, our HR manager went from being not supportive (see: me pumping in a bathroom for 8 months) to being very supportive, so she basically told him to suck it up or she’d be happy to move HIS office.

        1. Jessica (tc)*

          Heh, it makes me happy to know that the desk probably held pumps or bottles or other lactation equipment. I hope he realized that at some point, because his entire issue was immature and ridiculous!

      2. Ad Astra*

        This seems a lot less gross than sitting near a bathroom and being able to hear people pee, which is definitely a thing that happens in some offices — usually without a demand to be moved. Some people are too uptight for words.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      “he just didn’t like knowing what we were doing with our breasts”

      OMG! That takes the cake. I mean, yeah I don’t care for the sounds of toilets flushing either, cause then I know what people were doing with their asses. Just OMG!

    3. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I am wondering if OP is exempt and in a state where there aren’t additional protections to the FLSA.

      From what OP says, it sure sounds like “contact an employment lawyer” is the next step. But although OP appears to be attempting to be concise in her description here, she needs to lay it ALLLLL on the line with her lawyer – because something sounds fishy with the “2 months later I was fired” part. Was OP explicitly told that the bathroom incident was the reason she was fired? Or was there something else going on (was someone unhappy with her work product, etc)? Does OP suspect the bathroom incident was the REAL reason for the firing but HR gave her some other reason?

      Basically – OP, your company sucks, you don’t want to work there. Hopefully you can find somewhere else that treats people better, and can at least get unemployment from this old company. A lawyer will tell you whether you have a case for wrongful termination, but based on what I’ve seen from other people, that can be a long, painful road even if you are in the right.

    4. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Wow, just wow. It would be one thing if he asked if he could move offices (I could imagine doing that if I sat near the restroom and could hear toilets all day) but he wanted the lactation room moved!

      1. overeducated and underemployed*

        Or even asked if they could put on some white noise or soft music or something. So many other possible workarounds….

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Right? I wonder if he has kids and if so, asked his wife to not breastfeed around him.

          Glad HR told him what was what!

          1. neverjaunty*

            He sounds like the type of guy to pout about breastfeeding because he doesn’t like the idea that they’re used for anything but his own amusement.

  23. Janice in Accounting*

    I agree that what #3’s employer did was out of line. That being said, I’m confused about the phrase “forced to use a lactation room.” Was it dirty, or otherwise unacceptable? It’s very common for employers to provide private pumping rooms for employees. As written, the letter sounds like OP had one and refused to use it.

    1. BettyD*

      From the fact that she used the term “my office,” my feeling is that she had a private space that she could use for pumping. A lactation room is a great thing to offer, especially for folks who wouldn’t otherwise have a private space to pump, but I don’t think people should be forced to pick up and move several times a day if they really don’t need to. With her first two kids, my sister would use her office to pump and she would frequently catch up on paperwork during that time. She would sometimes call me and I could hear the machinery going in the background, but it’s not particularly loud or intrusive, IMHO.

      Just anecdotally, she shared that space with four other people, including two other working/pumping moms, and they managed to deal with it civilly and without any horrifying bathroom intrusions. OP’s experience sounds awful.

      1. Jinx*

        I don’t know anything about breast pumping, so I was wondering if you could work or read while doing it. If I had a private office where I could do paperwork / check emails / read AAM while pumping, I’d imagine that I’d prefer that to hauling my computer to a private lactation room (if that was even feasible).

        At my office, no one has a private office, so the lactation rooms are your primary option for privacy. It’s pretty ridiculous that OP couldn’t pump in her office if she has one. Some people make annoying sounds when they eat, but you never see anyone flipping out about that.

        1. BananaPants*

          Most women do something else. Usually a mom gets a better let-down (more milk) when she’s distracted by something and not focusing on how much milk she’s getting. I had a hands-free setup so that I didn’t need to hold everything in place and could be productive during my breaks.

          When I was made to pump in the bathroom, I specifically would not do work during my pumping breaks as my own internal protest – I’d play games or check email on my phone, but if my employer wasn’t following state law I wasn’t doing to do work during that time. There was no Wifi down there anyways and I already had to set up in there as far from the toilet as possible, so I wasn’t bringing my laptop too.

          Once we got the lactation room I’d usually bring my laptop and work right through, but sometimes I’d read or knit instead. The other pumping mom and I kept a couple of magazines in there for ourselves and for the rare occasion that a visitor to the building needed to use the room.

        2. AnonInSC*

          I pumped in my office specifically so I could continue work while pumping. It’s easy to do. I even had phone calls occasionally – though those were more limited to with other female coworkers or colleagues who just didn’t care about the slight noise (and what it was). I had a phone call once with a peer who was also pumping at the same time. Multi-tasking!

    2. neverjaunty*

      OP was forced to use the lactation room instead of her office. And the lactation room was not always available when needed.

    3. blackcat*

      It could be that it was far from the OPs office. Then what could be a 15 minute break suddenly turns into 30+ minutes.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I admit that stuck out to me as well. “Forced” instead of “directed” or “asked to”? I can understand not wanting to use a lactation room if it’s always occupied or it’s very far away. I don’t know, I get a very combative vibe from the letter.

      1. neverjaunty*

        I’d be pretty dang combative too if an employer followed me into the bathroom to tell me not to pump.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I’m not talking about that part– I agree that following someone into a bathroom is egregious. I’m simply saying that the description of the entire situation feels a little “off” to me. And yes, there’s always more to the story and we should take the OP at his or her word– in taking her at her word, something feels like it’s missing to me.

          1. Mike C.*

            If she had a private office to pump but was told no for unknown or arbitrary reasons, why shouldn’t she be upset?

          2. neverjaunty*

            Again, I suspect what you’re picking up is that OP is angry about the whole situation. Absent the egregious behavior, this might be a story where maybe a calm approach would solve things. But that isn’t that story. You can’t segregate out the boss’s claiming other workers were ‘uncomfortable’ and the not-always-available lactation room from a boss who behaves this way.

              1. fposte*

                And the OP can be a raging bitch, or a constant misuser of post-it notes, or somebody who misses deadlines, and it’s not a justification for discriminating against her. This isn’t a movie, where she has to be a likeable protagonist to be entitled to triumph. In real life you don’t get to discriminate against anybody, whether they’re noisy or unlikeable or angry or not.

          3. Mreasy*

            “Forced” to interrupt work inside her office to walk who knows how far across the building with her pumping equipment because the fact of her pumping suddenly started making others “uncomfortable”? Yeah, I’d be combative at that point, too – even before the egregious violation of my human rights (by the bathroom-invading manager) and worker’s rights (by retaliatory HR). Even if we assume OP overreacted to the lactation room request (which is tough to swallow given that she tried to use it as requested but due to lack of availability she developed a serious infection), there is no universe in which her manager’s action and her later firing after complaining about it to HR is appropriate. I wish she would sue.

          4. Observer*

            She explained that the pumping room was not always available – to the point that she was forced to start weaning early and got mastitis.

      2. Ragnelle*

        What I’m wondering is if whoever told her she wasn’t allowed to use the restroom had an incomplete understanding of the FLSA guidelines, which do specifically state that a workplace cannot require women to use the restroom to pump. Perhaps they thought that women weren’t allowed to pump in the bathroom at all? But that shouldn’t bar her from using the restroom to pump if she chose to. But if this was the case, HR should have corrected that misunderstanding of the law. And the following her into the bathroom thing is unacceptable no matter the case.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I’m sure that there could be other situations where a boss said “Hey, you can’t pump in the bathroom” meaning “Hey, we really want you to use the nice private lactation room that is always available for your use”. But given the boss’ kicking the LW from pumping in her office because other co-workers* were uncomfortable, the not-actually-available lactation room, and following OP into the dang bathroom to berate her, I don’t think it is likely that somebody in this situation acted out of good intentions.

          *And by ‘other people are uncomfortable’ I suspect that this glassbowl boss meant SHE was uncomfortable.

          1. Ragnelle*

            You are probably right. If you have a private office, that’s the most reasonable place to pump, and to tell here she couldn’t do that is very strange. People do things that might make others “uncomfortable” all the time in their offices, but some busybodies start clutching those pearls very tightly when it’s anything to do with breastfeeding.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I agree–I think the “ew, ick, breastmilk! breastfeeding!” reaction was on the part of the boss, not coworkers.

    5. Kelly L.*

      My guess is that it served other purposes besides being the “lactation room”–like it was also the supply closet or also the conference room, and so other people were always in there at random times.

      1. Ad Astra*

        That’s my guess, too. It was a designated lactation room, but not a truly dedicated lactation room.

  24. misspiggy*

    Just – argh. The thought of someone getting so little maternity leave that they have to pump at work in the first place does my head in from a UK perspective. And then to be harassed like that – I really hope the OP manages to get legal redress.

    1. Sarahnova*

      I (in the UK) took 8 months off, have been back at work for 6 and have been pumping during those 6. My toddler still drinks milk during the day and I also donated for a while.

      I agree that it is horrifying that so many people have to go back to work when they’d rather not at 4, 8 or 12 weeks after the birth, but there are lots of reasons someone might have a decent length of maternity leave and still pump. And the harassment is certainly awful (although God knows it happens here too).

    2. lulu*

      Per the letter she was pumping for at least 14 months when she was fired. I don’t know many places where you would get maternity leave for that long. I agree that the US policy in that respect is abysmal, but I don’t think it’s the issue here.

    3. moss*

      I know this comes up a lot but it really blows my mind that there are countries that care about the bond between the parent and new child. My professional experience has been “suck it up buttercup” and that’s WITH a sympathetic boss, flexible schedule, and private office. Had 3 months of leave and I felt like I was getting away with something. A whole year would be just amazing.

      1. Jinx*

        I work at a company with employees in several different countries, and it makes me sooooo sad to compare the HR policies. There are people who work at my company (in another country) who get months of maternity leave, while we basically get FMLA.

      2. Mookie*

        Yes. We’ve become, as a country, so accustomed to exploiting and degrading people and pretending that it’s their fault and they chose their choice, blah blah bootstraps meritocracy reverse discrimination, etc., that it verges on masochism and we’re not sure how to react when even a minor concession or accommodation is available.

    4. the gold digger*

      If they gave maternity leave for as long as mothers nurse at the place I worked when I was a Peace Corps volunteer, the leave would last four years. :)

      The women I worked with got around the issue by bringing their infants/small children to work with them.

    5. BananaPants*

      With a baby needing breastmilk or formula for the first year of life, even a 3-6 month maternity leave means that moms who return to work full time are probably going to have to pump anyways. I think Canada and some European countries are the primary places where moms get SO much maternity leave that pumping at work would be rare.

      My friend had her baby in the UK and went back to work when the baby was around 6-7 months old, and she pumped for several months at work.

    6. Ad Astra*

      It’s true that many American companies don’t offer sufficient maternity leave, but I don’t think I’d want to take a year or more of maternity leave. But then, I’ve never had a child, so who knows.

  25. acmx*

    #2. Sounds like OP is hiring for entry level or low skill labor since she has 5-6 phone interviews a week that are no shows (so even more that are taking the calls).

    Are they immediately calling back? Maybe they can’t get away from their current job easily to take your call or in an environment where they can’t hear the phone easily (although they should be expecting the call)?

    IDK 5-6 missed calls a week seems like a lot.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      My house is in a dead zone, so my calls will frequently go straight to voicemail. So I can understand the applicants missing the call and trying to immediately call back. It’s not clear from the letter if the applicants are immediately calling back and the OP has already moved on, or if they are calling back hours later.
      Oh, and when my carrier switched all phones to wifi calling, all my calls went straight to voicemail until I could figure out what was happening.

      1. OP #2*

        Pretty much every time it’s at least 30-45 later for the call back. By then someone else has called or a coworker has dropped into my office.

    2. Ad Astra*

      That does sound like a lot. I’m not sure from the letter if the applicants are missing the call and then calling her back immediately or if these call-backs occur an hour or two (or more?) later.

      1. OP #2*

        It’s rarely an immediate call back. My schedule is very tight during the week so if they call back even 30 minutes later I’m usually on my next task.

    3. OP #2*

      Hi acmx, OP #2 here. I hire for everything from entry level to executive level so I’m dealing with a wide range of candidates. Because a lot of the applicants we see are currently working I am extremely flexible with scheduling. I interview very early in the morning, late at night, and on weekends if need be. In the first email I let candidates know my work schedule and to pick some days and times that work for them. I’m not sure why someone would pick a time they know they can’t make if I’ve clearly stated that if you need me to interview you at 9PM on a Saturday I will make it work.

      1. acmx*

        If they are taking that long to call back, it’s on them. I guess you can look at it as them self selecting out.
        That’s really great that you’re so flexible with your scheduling.

  26. Booster*

    #1 – Maybe i’ve been blissfully unaware, but would the tax difference really be high enough to consider as a factor? Personally, i’ve moved from NY -> Northern Virginia -> Elsewhere in VA over the last several years, had 3 different cell numbers with 3 different companies, and haven’t noticed things changing on my bill that much. Just looked at my most current bill (Sprint), and “Government Taxes & Fees” comes to $8 combined for my wife & I.

    That all said, i’ve never heard of a non-local number being an issue anywhere. Maybe if it was an international number, then you’d run into trouble…but these days most everyone either has unlimited long distance on their cells at a minimum, I think.

    #2 – Man, this makes me cringe thinking about when I was looking for my first “real” job out of school. We’d just moved to NoVA and I was feeling pretty desperate, and I must have called one place back 20-30 times over the course of a week trying to get a decision back after an interview….needless to say I didn’t get hired there :)

  27. Legalchef*

    Re 5, I agree that applying for a job where you don’t necessarily meet all the qualifications doesn’t hurt, but it can also depend on the situation. I’m hiring for a position where Spanish fluency is required (it says that in the posting) and the number of applicants I have reviewed who don’t speak Spanish is astounding.

    1. Jennifer*

      In my industry you can’t get an interview unless you have 95% of the qualifications and you don’t get hired unless you have 100%, period. So that may be a “depends on industry” sort of thing, but I don’t even waste my time applying unless I have almost everything (and obviously I still don’t get hired).

    2. Suburban Gal*

      The need for Spanish speaking professionals in the legal field is HUGE. Unfortunately, not a whole lot of Hispanic/Latino people go on to college following high school and for the small percentage that do, law simply isn’t on their radar in terms of what to study and major in.

      When I took PLS 110 (Introduction to Paralegal Studies) last summer at my local community college, only 4 or 5 people in my class, a class of 20+ students, were Hispanic/Latino. Two were black/African American, one was Asian and the rest were overwhelmingly white. Most of the graduates are white. In fact, there were 12 PLS graduates in the spring of 2015 and they were all white.

      Therefore, filling a position that requires Spanish fluency is going to be very difficult. Most, if not all, of those non-Spanish speaking applicants are probably looking at it from the perspective that since it’ll be rather difficult to fill the position, the fact they don’t speak Spanish could be overlooked in favor of having a body to do the job especially at a time when finding a job is next to impossible due to a bad economy. People need to work and are desperate to find a job no matter what.

      Personally, I feel I shouldn’t have to know Spanish just to get a job in my own country and am sure there are a lot of people who agree with me. Frankly, it pisses me off when I see a job posting in which I meet all of the criteria EXCEPT being able to speak Spanish.

      1. VintageLydia*

        If the clientele are mostly or entirely Spanish speaking, I don’t see why requiring being able to speak that language would be unusual or outlandish. Law is, ultimately, a service industry and needs to cater to the needs of the customers.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        17% of the U.S. population is Latino, so having 4-5 Latino students in a class of ~20 would mean they were slightly over-represented there, not under-represented!

        And please don’t be pissed off when a job posting requires Spanish skills. That simply means that they serve a number of Spanish-speaking clients, and when that’s the case, of course it’s a necessary skill.

      3. matcha123*

        The US doesn’t have an official language. It has English along with some Native American languages and others as national languages.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          And with states named things like “Arizona” and “Florida”, and major cities called “Los Angeles” and “San Franscisco” etc etc, it’s pretty obvious that Spanish-speakers did as much to colonise and develop the USA as English-speakers, surely?

  28. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    I would say it’s pretty normal these days to see people with cell numbers in different area codes. It wouldn’t matter to me as a hiring manager. In fact, two of the four people who report to me, as well as several of my friends, have out of state area codes.

  29. OriginalEmma*

    The only time I had any curiosity was when living in Alaska, where there is 1 area code for the whole state and where in the villages, people often only refer to the last four digits of a person’s telephone number because the first 3 digits (after the area code) are the same for everyone.

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      Fun fact: the first three digits of a phone number (excluding the area code) is called the exchange.

  30. Swarley*

    44 times in less than two hours? I’d be tempted to call them out and let them know how deeply unsettling it is to see this on your call log. Good grief.

  31. Lurker*

    OP #1’s premise is incorrect. Taxes are not based on your area code; they’re based on your address. So if you change where you live and you get your bills mailed there, your tax rate will change. It doesn’t matter whether you change your number or not.

    1. neverjaunty*

      OP said her “taxes for cell service”, so perhaps she was thinking that the taxation is based on where the company thinks your phone service originates?

      1. overeducated and underemployed*

        She could also be part of a family plan with the billing address is in the state matching the area code.

    2. Chriama*

      I’m pretty sure they’re talking about the taxes that come up on their phone bill. When I moved provinces from one that had a local sales tax to one that didn’t I was still charged the old tax on my phone bill even though I wasn’t living there any more. And when I wanted to unlock my phone they charged tax on that too.

    3. PizzaSquared*

      I’m with AT&T in the US, and my taxes on my bill have changed every time I’ve moved even though my number is still the original number I had almost 15 years ago, five states ago.

      I’ll also note that I’ve been told (though, to be fair, I haven’t personally experienced) that if too high of a percentage of your calls are outside of your “home” billing area, the carrier will become upset (the exact consequences of this are unclear). So I’m not sure how practical it is to avoid changing your address just to evade the taxes.

  32. Blue_eyes*

    Re: #1 – I agree with Alison and other commenters that having a non-local area code shouldn’t matter, especially if you have a local address. I have the same phone number I’ve had since I was 16 and I haven’t lived in my home city since I was 19. It’s never been a problem when job searching.

    I did have a job once in human services where I was concerned that my clients weren’t answering my calls because of the non-local number (a lot of my clients were undocumented and so were understandably wary of taking calls from numbers they didn’t know). So I got a landline for work purposes so I would have a local number to call from and give out to clients.

    1. Velociraptor Attack*

      When I did political campaigns we were specifically issued phones with local numbers as many of the staffers would be from different parts of the state or different states entirely.

      Nothing turns a voter off more than a non-local number trying to talk about elections.

  33. Schnapps*

    So, I’m Canadian (and public sector), so my experience is a bit different.

    Could someone explain to me why “exempt” employees in the US don’t have the same rights as “non-exempt”? I’m using quotes, because in my world, “exempt” means you’re not part of the collective bargaining unit/union. I get that exempt employees aren’t able to collect overtime, etc. My salaried managers can’t collect overtime (they can take time in lieu but it’s 1:1, not 1:1.5 or 1:2). I don’t get that they’d be exempt from other provisions in the FLSA that relate to workplace environment.

    Does the entire FLSA only apply to non-exempt? It seems not quite right that exempt employees don’t have those other workplace environment rights that non-exempt employees do. I did a quick bit of googling and everything that comes up says that “Some employees are exempt from the overtime pay provisions, some from both the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions and some from the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).” (from the Dept of Labor website) It doesn’t say anything else that they’re exempt from like workplace standards.

    (and who in their right mind would think that an exempt pumping mother would have different needs than a non-exempt pumping mother? blows my mind)

    1. fposte*

      The laws that cover the US workplace are a patchwork. For one thing, the states have their own individual laws for huge portions of it, so those vary across the 50 states and probably the territories, for all I know. For another, laws against racial discrimination come from one agency that doesn’t limit it to the workplace, laws against discrimination against the disabled come from another that, again, doesn’t limit it to the workplace, and laws about workplace physical safety come from yet another.

      But there are no basic national workplace standards in the U.S.–that’s why you’re not seeing anybody enforce them. The U.S. legislative approach on workplaces has been largely reliant on the private sector to sort things out for itself; regulation comes in only when pushed and only for the most vulnerable. FLSA was basically about protecting wage laborers, especially urban wage laborers (note how many of the exceptions are agricultural), not about protecting workers across the board. It’s not about how it would be sensible to have the law, it’s about how you can write the law and get it passed.

      1. Natalie*

        “FLSA was basically about protecting wage laborers, especially urban wage laborers (note how many of the exceptions are agricultural)”

        Specifically *white* laborers. The carve outs for agricultural and domestic workers were explicitly meant to exempt most black workers. It’s, sadly, the only way enough Southern lawmakers would vote for it.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, fair point, though I think there’s even more to it than that–there wasn’t much industrialization in the South, so it wasn’t like it included masses of white Southern workers that they were voting to defend, either.

    2. Ragnelle*

      I’m pretty familiar with the FLSA laws regarding pumping, partly because I pumped for several months in the office and partly because of work I’ve been doing on our employee handbook. I was taken aback, however, by the fact that exempt workers are not covered by this legislation. I wonder if the thinking is that non-exempt workers need legal protections for these breaks since their pay is tied to hours worked while exempt workers should (ideally) be able to do whatever they want with their time (including pumping) as long as they get their work done. In any case, the Department of Labor “encourages employers to provide breaks to all nursing mothers regardless of their status under the FLSA.”

      But in any case, these protections only extend to the first year after the birth. Technically, a workplace could stop supporting pumping after the child’s first birthday. I’m sure it was some kind of compromise to assure business lobbyists that they wouldn’t have to support pumping mothers indefinitely, but it has the unfortunate side effect of dictating a “reasonable” duration of breastfeeding for pumping mothers (1 year was reasonable for me, but it isn’t for other mothers). If you don’t pump at work, your supply will eventually dry up, even if you still nurse at home. I’ll be interested to see if this new proposed legislation makes any changes there.

      I certainly support the suggestion of consulting an employment lawyer. Just because OP#3’s employer didn’t technically break the FLSA requirements doesn’t mean they didn’t act inappropriately. OP#3, I’m sorry this happened. I fully believe that every mother should breastfeed for as long as she wants (0 days to 4+ years old), and to have to stop earlier than you wanted because of your employer’s actions and then lose your job as a result is a terrible reflection of the sorry state of protections for mothers and families in the US. Our laws are not sufficient, not equally applied, and not enforced. It’s not like the pump police are coming by every office to make sure employers are in compliance with this stuff. Someone has to complain, which requires a significant cost to that individual’s finances, time, and possibly reputation. I hope you get this situation resolved and are able to move on to an employer who is more supportive.

      1. Ragnelle*

        As a side note, when working through the part of the handbook that dealt with pumping mothers, I remember that one man complained that, technically, someone could pump every hour if they claimed it was “medically necessary” and spend most of the day pumping instead of working. While I didn’t say anything at the time, I remember thinking that 1) protections are in place because it is far more likely for the employer to take advantage of the employee, not the other way around, 2) pumping is NOT fun, and not many people would choose to do it more than absolutely necessary, and 3) he’s lucky he’s never had mastitis.

        1. CM*

          You should have told him to try using a breast pump! Or even watch a video of a man using one (I’ve seen one online). I think he’d change his tune pretty quickly. Also, re your #3, I think most people who have not nursed are not aware of the health consequences of failing to express milk when you need to, or even how painful it can be.

        2. Meg Murry*

          While the law requires you provide *time* to pump, it does not have to be paid time. So yes, someone *could* pump more than work – but the employer doesn’t have to pay for it. Although I have seen people argue with their HR departments (and win) that they would keep their pumping breaks to the same standards as other employees smoking breaks – when the smokers started clocking out to take a break, she would do so as well.

    3. BananaPants*

      When the FLSA was established, I believe it was to protect hourly workers from abuses. Exempt workers, who are supposed to be either managers or in the “learned professions” like doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. are supposedly more able to negotiate the terms of their employment than laborers or less-skilled workers.

      It was important that the ACA amended the FLSA because it was the easiest way to get accommodations for the working moms who needed them most – women working in factories or restaurants for low wages (which are nonetheless needed by their families), often returning to work only a few weeks after giving birth, with unsupportive managers and without a private place to pump and reasonable break time in which to do it. Now that more and more workplaces are complying, it’s time to create legislation that applies to exempt workers as well.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Other people have covered other aspects of this, but:

      Does the entire FLSA only apply to non-exempt?

      Yes. “Exempt” literally means “exempt from the FLSA.”

  34. Not Gloria A.A., B.S.*

    #1 – When I moved to a new city 7.5 years ago I kept my old number but got a Google Voice number that was local. I don’t know that it made a difference. Now I don’t care, I just give my old number. I could never remember my Google Voice number either and I’m rather proud to NOT be from the god forsaken backwater.

  35. Schnapps*

    Also, with regard to #2, every phone interview I’ve had has required me to phone in rather than the employer phoning me. Wouldn’t that work better? It requires a positive action on the part of the applicant (picking up the phone and dialing) rather than receiving a call. You could tell them, “If I don’t hear from you within 10 minutes of our scheduled time, I’ll take that to mean you’re no longer interested”. (or whatever timeframe you feel is appropriate)

    1. Pwyll*

      Yeah, I always have candidates call me. But all our calls go through a receptionist, and it makes it easier to ensure I won’t get trapped in a meeting that leaves the candidate hanging (at least in my case, the receptionist can either keep them on hold, or let them know I need to reschedule and I can apologize profusely once my CEO releases me from my “emergency” meeting that wasn’t important.)

      Unless I worked in a very high turnover environment, I wouldn’t include the 10 minutes wording, though. That seems a bit aggressive towards candidates who likely will follow instructions, and as a candidate that would be jarring and make me think twice about whether I’d fit with such a rigid culture.

      1. Sadsack*

        Agreed, what if there was some emergency or other really good reason that the candidate could not make the call in time? I would assume that the employer is unreasonably rigid and think twice about wanting to work there.

        1. Sadsack*

          Thinking more about it, I could understand telling candidates that if they don’t call within 10 minutes of the scheduled time, the interview may need to be rescheduled. Telling them you are writing them off for it seems unreasonable.

          1. Pwyll*

            I’d agree, except I think in that case we’d almost be giving them permission not to call at that time (“It’ll be okay, he said we can just reschedule if I don’t call!”). Frankly, if you can’t call at the time we agree to, I expect some kind of notification of why and an apology. (Same as if I get trapped and have to reschedule, I also apologize profusely given how much of an inconvenience it can be if they’re already in a job and snuck away for the interview.) I’m just not sure I see the upside of telling people they only have a 10 minute window to call unless I were often hiring entry-level folks where I KNEW the bulk of candidates would not understand normal professional standards for telephone meetings.

            1. Sadsack*

              Yeah, your explanation makes sense, too. The wording just seems so abrupt I guess that what I gave trouble with.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I prefer to call candidates, in part because I am insanely punctual and that way I know the call will start on time, and in part because if I need an extra minute to review their resume or something, I want to have that before the call starts. I know those two contradict each other, but I almost never actually need the latter; I just feel more comfortable having it.

    3. OP #2*

      Really? To me that seems really backwards. I always call the candidate first (at a day/time of their choice). They get a much better interview if I have time to review their resume and all the info in their candidate file. I see probably 10k-12k resumes a year so 99 times out of 100 I am not going to recall someone by name.

    4. OP #2*

      Whoops, sorry.. I didn’t see the part where you said within 10 minutes of scheduled time. I prefer to call them because we don’t have anyone screening our calls. I would most likely get a call at the same time as the interview and end up missing it. A hiring manager missing an interview sends a bad message so I avoid that at all costs.

  36. Kristine*

    I have been a Massachusetts resident for 7 years and still have a Nevada area code (lived there for 18 years and never changed the number). It’s never been an issue for me before.

  37. Kat*

    I feel like this breast pump letter is the first one I’ve seen in quite some time where the question “Is it legal” is actually really relevant. This sounds like some grounds for a pretty solid lawsuit.

  38. madge*

    Whoa. Re OP #3 (breast pump): I think we’ve already found AAM’s “Worst Boss of 2016”. Please consult a lawyer now and gather every bit of written communication you have on the matter. Assuming there were no issues with your work, and your door was closed during pumping, this seems pretty clear-cut.

    OP #5: Former paralegal here. Absolutely apply, with a thoughtful cover letter, if you’re close and/or meet the rest of the qualifications. If you’ve done research or writing at a more experienced level, be sure to highlight that in your application materials.

  39. March*

    44 times in less than two hours? Crikey o’reilly. Just looking at the math, even if it was 44 in a full two hours, that’s about one call every two and a half minutes. That’s unbelievable.

      1. Jinx*

        I picture the Seinfeld episode where George leaves increasingly angry messages on a woman’s machine because she doesn’t call him back for several days.

  40. Pwyll*

    #1 – Surprisingly, in my last interview the second or third question they asked me was: “I see you have a cell phone number from [6 states away]. Are you planning on staying here or going back there at some point? Why haven’t you changed your number?”

    I was flabbergasted, but truthfully said that I just didn’t want to go through the hassle of changing my number and intended to stay in Big City. I got the job, but I was really nervous for about 2 weeks that all recruiters were secretly thinking that I wasn’t planning to stay in the city, which is why I wasn’t getting interviews. I think, in reality, it was just a generational thing with the owners of the firm (who are 5 or less years from retirement), but it certainly threw me for a loop.

  41. Allison*

    #2, there have been times in my life where I’d call someone, and then try again a few more times if I didn’t reach them, before leaving a voicemail or sending a text or e-mail letting them know why I called. I figure 2-3 missed calls and a text isn’t that bad. But I’d never call someone more than that because if someone checks their phone to see even 5 missed calls from me they’re gonna be a little freaked out. I learned this the hard way in college. Don’t be Crazy College Allison.

    1. Blue_eyes*

      Honestly, I’d be freaked out by even 2-3 missed calls. If the same person calls me multiple times in a row, I’m going to assume that what they needed from me was urgent bordering on an emergency. Just before Christmas I had two missed calls from my best friend and I freaked out a bit until I could get in touch with her. Turns out she was just out shopping and wanted my opinion on a gift she was buying for my parents (so it was sort of time sensitive in that she wanted to talk to me before she finished shopping, but it wasn’t an emergency).

    2. OP #2*

      Even 2-3 calls back to back leaves a bad impression IMO. I look at it this way: I’m a professional and part of my job does entail checking voicemail. I return every call that should be returned. Someone who misses an interview definitely gets a call back (unless they call 44 times ;D)

  42. Erin*

    #3 – She *followed you in the bathroom and stood by the door*? I literally could not keep reading the rest of this post. Can’t get past that. I don’t think I’ve ever sworn on here before, but holy s***.

    Okay, I lied, I kept reading and saw you were fired.

    Obviously, you have a baby and a lot going on. Money is probably not great. But I’d consider spending it on an employment lawyer – you could probably at minimum get a consultation for about $100. You’d obviously have to decide at that point how far you want to take it, but what happened to you is horrifying and I hope you at least consider doing what you have to do to make them pay for that.

    Good luck to you. Happy Mommying!

    1. neverjaunty*

      In the US, employment lawyers almost always work on contingency (if there is a recovery, they get a percentage) precisely because the kind of people who need their help are rarely able to afford lawyers. And you’re entirely right – they generally offer consultations for free or extremely low cost. I would be surprised if they charged $50, if at all.

    2. Biff*

      I have to ask, but does that line give you flashbacks to those teachers who were weirdly obsessed with student’s toilet habits?

      As I’ve gotten older and my friends have kids, we tend to talk a bit on how school works, and more and more, I’m entirely uncomfortable with the weird ‘toilet control’ so many teachers seemed to obsess over. I remember in Jr. High we were allowed to have 6 hall passes for the entire year. HS was a bit better with 9, but I still recall a story of one kid having food poisoning that started at school. I can’t recall if he just left the classroom, or what. I know one person definitely had an accident due to the policy. More than one student chose to throw up in the wastebasket to make a point. I do remember you had to tell some of the the teachers WHY you were going — hello humiliation?!

      I later talked to a teacher that adhered to these weird policies…. she was CONVINCED that her students weren’t actually going to the bathroom. They were smoking! Or selling drugs! Or having sex! In fact, there was no limit to the naughty behavior that would crush society where it stood, if she let her students use the bathroom.

      This boss is definitely giving me flashbacks to that.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Wow, and I thought MY middle school was tyrannical…

        (My middle school required detention for anyone late to class for any reason – a frequent occurrence considering how overcrowded the halls were – but declined to expel a kid who brought bombs to school. Yes, BOMBS. Because priorities!!)

      2. Natalie*

        Aw, that middle school thing bums me out. So many of my girlfriends had period related accidents when they were in middle school since it’s such a new thing for them, and it would be awful to not be able to use the bathroom.

      3. AGirlCalledFriday*

        Ah – I can answer this as a teacher.

        So as much as you think that you are going to the bathroom and your friend is going to the bathroom and there are no issues, you have to realize that there are a ton of kids who ARE smoking/destroying property/fighting/doing drugs/bullying students/and basically any stupid thing you can think of. Students also tend to stay a long time as well, and when you are trying to relay information/teach/give a test/ etc it becomes very hard to deal with constant bathroom interruptions. Also, when one person needs to go, 3 others ask to go. Finally, the teacher is responsible for these students whether they are in her class or not. If a student goes to the bathroom and beats up a kid, the TEACHER gets into trouble as well because they should have somehow known.

        No one wants to police the bathroom. Trust me – no teacher wants to waste her time with that. But unfortunately kids don’t behave so it becomes an infuriating and extremely annoying necessity.

    3. S.I. Newhouse*

      I’ve read many, many posts on AAM over the past few months and I’ve never been as horrified to read something here as I was with OP #3. What a horrible thing to have happened and I wish you all the best of luck.

  43. Liana*

    @OP#3 – PLEASE talk to a lawyer. This is so, so wildly unacceptable, and sexist, and just generally awful. If I were you I would be all about a lawsuit right now, although I admittedly have a pretty strong vindictive streak. When it comes to breastfeeding, other people’s discomfort is not your problem. It is the 21st century and we are supposed to be a modern, civilized nation that doesn’t allow this to happen. Feeding your child and maintaining your general health and wellbeing (because mastitis isn’t exactly fun to deal with) should absolutely take priority over your coworkers feeling icky about breasts. I really wish I could post a gif of Madeleine Kahn’s “Flames on the Side of my Face” scene, because that’s just how I feel right now.

    And to everyone else – read up on the Supporting Working Moms Act! Personally, I don’t think it goes far enough, but it’s still a step forward for equality in the workforce.

    1. CM*

      Agreed, I think lawyering up is often not worth the effort, expense, and distress it can cause (and I’m a lawyer), but this case is so egregious. The lactation room thing is not worthy of a lawsuit by itself (although it’s not good; I remember having to use a conference room which was frequently booked when I needed it) but following you into the bathroom, and then firing you?? Go get ’em, OP.

  44. Bowserkitty*

    I live and work in a college town. I too have an out-of-state number but have a local address. I believe address factors in more, but my area code sometimes offered up a good icebreaker when I was interviewing several months ago. People don’t really bat an eye at it here.

    On the other hand, when I was applying for jobs from my Current State address with my Their State area code, I didn’t hear back from anybody. :/

  45. techfool*

    I’ve worked in law firms for 15 years. They’re not very flexible, and if they want x, they want x. Especially the BigLaw firms. Anyone in the top half of the AmLaw 100 list or even the whole list doesn’t need to be flexible. However, I guess there’s no harm in applying and seeing how it goes. A recruiter can help; if they have a good relationship with the firm and you really are exceptional they will push for an interview.

  46. KR*

    I’ll echo others in saying that #3 is easily a contender for the worst boss of 2016. I’ve been a supervisor to an employee who is pumping in a job where coverage is important and breaks have to be taken at very specific times, which I would think would be a lot more difficult than a salaried employee who has more control over her time. No one in our team of supervisors (both male and female) had any trouble accommodating her because they understood it was a body function, it was important for the health of her baby, and that she had little control over it. It takes so little effort to be kind to people and accommodating to their needs, and when you respect your employees they will work so much better. I really don’t understand why people choose to be nasty to each other.

  47. em2mb*

    The only time I would say you need a local number is if you move to an area code very similar to the one you have. I have an 916* area code and moved for awhile to the 912 area code. I had so many issues with people just assuming it was a local number (apparently they stopped reading after the first two digits?) and then not following up when they couldn’t get me on the line … think doctor’s offices, local businesses, etc. My friend had an 917 area code, and we both resorted to making a big point when we’d hand back forms that we had out-of-area numbers.

    Oddly, we both ended up moving back to where I’m from. My friend now is a 917 living in the 916 area code, but she reports far fewer problems than we both lived in the 912. I think it’s because we live on a state line here and people are used to checking the area code before dialing. So it may also depend on how common it is to have an out-of-area number.

    *I’ve changed all these by one digit, btw.

    1. overeducated and underemployed*

      It’s generally fine to just spell it out then, though. The area code for my small, out of state hometown is one digit away from the area code for the big metro area where I live now. I just make sure to say “ZERO” for that number very clearly so the other person doesn’t hear “oh” as “one.”

  48. Ad Astra*

    I live in a city that is (I think) less mobile/transient than other parts of the country, and I have a non-local area code. It hasn’t caused any problems, except the occasional confusion because my area code happens to be the same as one of the local prefixes (as in the first three numbers after the area code). People also tend to rattle off local phone numbers without area codes, which I think is an annoying and outdated habit, but whatever.

  49. animaniactoo*

    Re #3: I wonder how far you’d get with a civil personal injury suit over this. Because when they forced you to follow their policy despite a viable alternative being available and you developed an easily avoidable bodily infection, they injured you. When you were forced to wean earlier than intended, they financially injured you (assuming that you then had to buy formula/milk to cover what you were no longer providing for free).

  50. Dean Jackson*

    Hi. I live in Seattle. Seattle’s grown by more than 20% population in the last decade, and the majority of people moving here move here for work, not for retirement. Lots and lots and lots of us have non-local numbers.

    If you’re in a niche industry known for only hiring multi-generational Seattleites, yeah, get a new number. (Tour guide? City Council member? Not sure what else this could be.) But otherwise, keep the Vegas number, and welcome to the Northwest. :-)

  51. Rachael*

    #1 I am in a small town/rural state and I don’t think twice about out of state area codes. It is when people are located far from the position I list or out of state that I start to wonder. I receive a significant amount of resumes from out of state with no mention of relocation…and often no cover letters. I have contacted a few of these applicants and they will disclose that they are actually living in the area (despite what their resume suggests) or moving to the area soon. This is unfortunate, because some great candidates can be missing out!

  52. Sunshine Brite*

    OP2: That would be about my worst nightmare. I hate the phone. Luckily now, I don’t have to have my phone on all the time and can just check messages and return calls. No message, no return call. I work with the public so we get waves of telemarketing calls occasionally. I also work with people with mental health problems and occasionally I get frequent callers who stress me to no end. I had something close once where a phone at a treatment center got caught in some weird sort of loop with my previous cell so I had 30 calls and 17 voicemails from one number within a pretty short amount of time, like an hour or something. I didn’t even want to hit play at first until I was all steeled up since I was pretty certain it was someone who was about to scream at me repeatedly for 17 voicemails worth of calls. That was a big woosah when i figured out what was going on and it was an appropriate 1 call and 1 message from the person.

    OP3: Another worst nightmare scenario. I can barely use a multistall bathroom as a bathroom, it weirds me out for some reason. My offices have pretty decent looking lactation rooms with like a chair and a sink, lock, and they pre-preemptively emailed out to staff to only use it for lactation because with the open floor plan/non-private offices people at other offices felt the pull to pop in there for phone calls. In the meditation rooms too. I can’t imagine anyone where I work except for cleaning staff and other people who need the room for the intended purpose talking to me through a bathroom door. Or trying to access the lactation room for that matter. I know some people have been nitpicky about details and what not but I know my mind finds this so egregious that I was grasping at straws myself (was the bathroom not multi-stall and HR had to balance a disability like Chron’s or something for another staff) and I’m like, even so, why could they just note that it happened and approach you later or email quick and give a reason for only using the lactation room. I need people out of my business. Discomfort of others is not acceptable as a legit reason, particularly since this caused such a painful condition for you!

  53. Meg*

    Re #1: I’m in the Twin Cities and agree with all of the above: a local address is far, far more important than a local phone number, and not having a local phone number is generally not remarked upon at all these days. As my husband says, the only thing your phone number indicates is where you lived in 2005. That said, he did change his cell to a local number when he moved here in 2007 from D.C. (where he was using a number from South Dakota without issue). He’s an attorney and needs to be available 24/7, and decided that in that circumstance, it would be useful to have a local number for clients to use. Some people do screen unfamiliar numbers based on area code, but if you’re never making or receiving professional calls from a personal number (which I suspect is most people) it’s a non-issue.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Yes, the biggest concern for long-distance candidates is “Are you really going to move here? And why should we prefer you over a local candidate?” It isn’t “Do you have a local area code?”

      In fact, I know a lot of people in the San Francisco Bay Area who have lived here for years but don’t have a 415, 650, 408, or 510 number.

  54. HR Recruiter*

    #1 I probably call 50 applicants a day and only a handful have a local area code. Its the new norm with cell phones. If your address is on your resume you want to make sure you update that to a local address if you have one. If you are moving soon but don’t have your new address yet you can set up a po box or explain in your cover letter when you will be moving. Sometimes recent grads will put their parents address instead of local address. The employer may not want to pay to fly the applicant in for an interview not realizing they really are local. So just make it clear that you are or are already planning on moving there.

  55. Biff*

    #3 is so crazy, I feel like, if this isn’t just a complete wackjob of a boss, there must be something else going on that either the employee isn’t privy to, or doesn’t realize is relevant. The only things I can think ofare: that there is only one or two toilets for the whole office, and having someone tie up the potty with a pumping session is a problem for other employees. OR, the woman used the breast pump around an employee who she thought would be comfortable with it, but was not.

    Either of these could have been handled with a lot more grace.

    Personally, my money is on a whackjob boss who feels that it is inappropriate to breast feed after the nine month mark.

  56. OP 1*

    Thanks for all the replies. This question was based on advice from the career office at the university. And the tax thing isn’t just me complaining, cell phone tax in Nevada is <2%, in Washington it's almost 20%.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      A bunch of people have mentioned Google Voice. GV is free and just forwards to your existing cell, so you don’t have to port your number.

  57. Kapikui*

    #1 Ten years ago, a non-local area code might be a problem. Now the area code generally means “The place I lived the last time I changed cell phone providers before congress forced them to allow us to transfer phone numbers.” At this point, changing a cell number means having to get word out to potentially hundreds of people, many of whom are not regular contacts, but occasional friendly or even professional contacts to tell them that you’ve changed your cell number. It is inconvenient in the extreme.

    The only downside I can see anymore is for those still locked into traditional land line service which still charges long distance for such calls (at least it did the last I checked, I haven’t had a land line for about 8 years). That might cause some smaller businesses with more ‘traditionally’ thinking managers some pause as it costs them to call you.

  58. kkcf*

    The one thing worth considering with area codes is how similar your area code is to the local area code. I came from the (920) area code and moved to the (970) area code. Even worse, the next three digits of my number are a common cell phone exchange in this area. Because the digit difference is in the middle it’s really easy to miss. People read the first and last digits of something.

    I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard from employers that “your phone was disconnected.” “Well what number do you have?” “97..” “NOPE.” I have to include it on my cover letter and bold it on my resume for jobs in the 970 area code as it’s a 50/50 shot. And I feel like a jerk explaining that “It’s a 2 not a 7. Out of state number.”

    My phone company used to not play nice with Google Voice but now it looks like they do, so I’ll be getting a GV number, but now my resume and contact information is all out there with the old area code.

    Go me.

  59. Eric*

    I just want to correct OP #1: cell phone taxes are based on state of use (billing address) not the area code. So you’re still going to be paying Washington state cell phone taxes.

    1. Gene*

      I’ve been considering changing my phone number from a Washington one (425) to a Nevada one (702) for the reason of taxes. A PO box for billing in Vegas would give me a reasonable return, even more if I use a friend’s address. Sign up for paperless billing and you can keep the Nevada number and tax rate, no matter where you actually live.

    2. Honeybee*

      True, but you don’t have to change the billing address if you get paperless billing and don’t want to. I never changed my billing address when I moved from NY to PA because I didn’t intend to be there long-term. And even then, a phone plan allows you to specify a different area of use from your billing address. I have a family plan with people in three different states – NY, GA, WA – and our states of use are all different even though I have the billing address listed as my home in WA.

  60. Honeybee*

    OP #1, I’m in the Seattle area too and having an out-of-town area code won’t make anyone bat their eyes. Seattle’s exploded in the last 5 or so years and there are lots of out-of-town transplants living in the area. Pretty much everyone assumes the number you give out is a mobile number and that you started the phone number wherever you came from. My area code is still from Atlanta even though I haven’t lived there in about 8 years.

  61. Snickerdoodle*

    This is really late to the game; I’m behind in reading this blog. But, I wanted to mention that there is at least one area in the US that I know of where having a local area code can make or break your job search – Hawaii. If you don’t have an 808 number, even if you have a local address, employers (rightly or wrongly) assume you’re just looking for a way to fund a 6 month or year vacation and they would rather be giving jobs to locals.

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