my new coworker is a registered sex offender, we’re becoming weak from lack of food at work, and more

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

1. I don’t want to work with my new coworker, who’s a registered sex offender

I currently work for a union-based company in the warehouse department. They transferred a guy who is on the sex offender registry for his crime. Because I was molested as a young girl, I am not comfortable working with him. I need to know if you know what my rights are. Today my boss had me working with him side by side and I refused. I asked to be moved to another part of the warehouse and took it upon myself to ask someone to switch with me, which they did. One of the other supervisors told my boss they if I refuse again, they were going to suspend me for three days. I am not okay with getting suspended nor losing my job, but I can’t work with the guy. Any suggestions?

Well, you can certainly talk with your manager about your concerns and ask if it’s possible to avoid working directly with the guy. But all you can really do is ask; your manager can say no (and might have good reason to say no — either because there’s no easy way to avoid having you work together, or because he doesn’t want to create a situation where people can refuse to work with others). If he does say no, then at that point you’d need to decide if you still want the job, knowing that this will be part of it.

For what it’s worth, if you haven’t already, you might try to get more information before making up your mind. Some people on the sex offender registry are truly alarming people, but others are there because they had consensual sex as a teenager (for example, a 16-year-old who had sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend), sexted as a minor, or even (in 13 states) peed in public. I realize you may already know the crime, but if you don’t, it could be worth finding out more before deciding how you feel.

2. We’re becoming weak from lack of food at work

I am a non-exempt employee who works for a high-end, privately-owned restaurant in a state where having breaks is not required (Missouri). We are often understaffed, and it can be very difficult to get food or drink on the run. We are not given breaks. Worse, the owner has forbidden any food or drink that is not the restaurant’s. Even with the employee discount, we are paid slightly over minimum wage and cannot afford the food. Just the cost of one beverage can keep us in bologna sandwiches for a week (lunch and dinner!).

I have already seen many employees (including myself) become dehydrated or weak from lack of food. I broke the rules in getting an employee a sport drink and a protein bar from the nearest convenience store when the employee almost collapsed. Fortunately, I wasn’t caught by the owner.

The employees are becoming frequently sick as a result, which is not good when you’re dealing with food. Can the restaurant owner legally employ such stringent restrictions?

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any law it would violate, although employers do need to supply drinking water. I think your best bet is to talk to the owner or manager — ideally as a group — and explain the problems the policy is causing, point out that most other restaurants give employees a free meal during their shift (although it may be restricted to certain items), and ask for a change. If your manager refuses to alter the policy after hearing that, you’re working for a jerk (and he’s pretty much begging for unionization … just saying).

Read an update to this letter here.

3. I’m embarrassed to work in the same building as the company that fired me a few years ago

A couple of years ago, I was let go from a company under some embarrassing circumstances. The most embarrasing charge was that I went to YouTube a lot to listen to news talk shows during work hours, which I did because there wasn’t much to do.

I found another job that became unattractive for other reasons a month ago. I started looking and have been given an opportunity to interview with a new company that’s in the same building as the company that let me go a couple of years ago. It’s a good opportunity, but I’m unable to overcome the fear of facing my old colleagues like in elevators and other places in the building. Any advice on overcoming this fear?

Well, one way to look at it is that you’d be replacing your former coworkers’ memory of you as “the guy who was fired for listening to too many news shows” with “our old coworker who is now gainfully employed at a different company in our building.” Also, lots of your old coworkers have probably moved on in the last few years, and those who are still there (a) probably have vague memories, (b) don’t find it terribly scandalous that you listened to news shows at work (lots of people do that kind of thing), and/or (c) genuinely wish you well. It’s not like you got fired for running naked through the office Christmas party and cussed them all out on your way out the door.

4. How soon can I try to transfer to a different job in my company?

I’m fairly new to working in a large organization that has job openings pretty regularly. I’ve been here six months, and it’s also my first time working somewhere that has an HR department. I’m wondering if you have advice on how soon is too soon to apply for another job at the same company. I’ve excelled at my job in the first several months that I’ve been here, but another job opened that would be an even better fit for my interests and would offer a better work/life balance than my current position. I’m hesitant to apply because I don’t want to make things awkward with my current supervisor and coworkers, but I wondered about just posing the question to HR. Would they think I’m crazy if I asked about this other position? Does HR typically keep questions like that confidential?

I know if I applied for the position it would need to be made public, as the two departments are very close. I’m just wondering if you have any advice to help me navigate working at a large organization for the first time.

Don’t do it. There’s a decent chance that HR will mention it to your manager (who might even need to approve any transfer), and your manager is likely to be really annoyed that you’re already considering moving on after only six months — which is usually the amount of time it takes for the time and training that she invested in you to finally be paying off. Wait at least a year, and possible more (in many roles, two would be the minimum before you could respectably try to transfer).

5. Negotiating when moving from a non-exempt job to an exempt one

Is it normal (or a terrible idea) to factor an exemption status change in to a raise negotiation? For example, if I’m currently non-exempt and making overtime and get a promotion/raise that changes me to exempt, can I use the lost wages as part of a negotiation to ask for more money? Namely I’d want to highlight that my actual pay was higher (from consistent overtime) so the percentage bump is actually lower. I’m building a case based on other factors too, but I’m concerned that I my exemption status will in fact change, even though I’m not sure that that is correct.

It’s entirely reasonable to say something like, “In my current role, I’ve been earning an average of $X a year, including overtime, so I’d be looking for something in the range of $Y when taking on these new responsibilities.” People will understand that you don’t want to end up earning less money for something that’s supposed to be a promotion.

But do verify first that the new role is exempt. It’s reasonable to ask that during the hiring process, or definitely at the offer stage if it hasn’t come up yet.

{ 541 comments… read them below }

  1. Brett*

    OP #2 Is this in a metro St Louis or metro KC county? There may be applicable local health ordinances if so (I know the perfect person to check with).

      1. Tara*

        I’m always so flabbergasted when I read something like this post. I feel for you so much. I live in Canada, where apparently we have much better labour laws. I can’t believe how much stuff is legal in the US concerning workers.

        I’m also a diabetic, and literally wouldn’t be able to survive 8 hours without a break for food…. It seems ridiculous to me that this is allowed.

        1. Anon the Great and Powerful*

          We may have better laws but they’re poorly enforced. Plenty of Canadians still end up going without breaks.

        2. Karina Jameson*

          I just posted as much a moment ago…it is awful the lack of rights that workers have in the US.

      2. edj3*

        And now I really want to know which restaurant. We eat out once a week and I would hate to be inadvertently patronizing one that treats staff this way.

        1. Andrea*

          I live in KC, and I’d like to know, too. We like to eat out at fancy places, and I want to make sure that we aren’t eating at this place.

        2. Winter is Coming*

          I would hope you would make your reasons known to the owner vs. just not going there anymore. If everyone did that, the owner would be none the wiser, and the employees would most likely lose their jobs.

          1. edj3*

            I would. We eat at one high end restaurant weekly, enough that we are very much considered valuable regulars. If our spot were doing this, I absolutely would speak up.

      3. Brett*

        According to my local health contact, this would fall under OSHA as a workplace safety issue rather than local health regulation (which addresses the consumer side of issues).
        This is the relevant page with the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations
        You have an OSHA office in Kansas City who you can reach at 816-483-9531.

    1. Brett*

      Will have to wait until Tuesday because of the holiday, but I will get the inquiry in to find out if there are applicable state or possibly local laws/ordinances for the OP.

  2. neverjaunty*

    OP #2, if people are actually becoming ill on the job, that sounds like something you might want to privately check with 1) an employment lawyer and 2) Missouri OSHA. You’re not required to be given breaks, but it may not be legal for the employer to require you to buy food from the restaurant – essentially forcing you to give up your wages and being paid in meals. And definitely look for a better job!

    1. Kathlynn*

      Yeah, I was going to ask about this. Is there any rules about unsafe working conditions/enviroment. Not allowing your employees ‘outside food’ (or what ever term you’d prefer) plus not providing them with food seems unsafe for me, when you are talking about min-wage. Especially for food servers.
      Also, make sure your hours are getting paid properly. From what I’ve heard, if your boss is paying the serving wage, instead of min. wage, they are expected to make up any shortage you may experience (from insufficient tips), to bring your pay up to minimum wage.

    2. blackcat*

      And I’m betting it’s not legal to prevent employees from drinking water (which should be free) unless they pay up. That does sound like an OSHA thing.

    3. Busy*

      The “no outside food” thing might be more of a liability thing than a greedy “you have to eat here” thing. I worked at a couple of restaurants when I was younger, and I know most didn’t allow us to bring outside food into the building, but we could eat it in our car, the reason being that we could accidentally cross contaminate the restaurant’s food from our food (or something like that? It’s been awhile). When I worked at a Wendys, we also weren’t allowed to throw out fast food trash from other places for folks coming through the drive thru for that reason, too. Flimsy, and potentially silly, but it’s at least something to consider if the OP decides to confront the boss/owner — they may have put the rule into place for a reason like that, not realizing how it affects their workers. Good luck!

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I could see having a “don’t bring fast food in here, don’t eat anywhere it could contaminate a workstation (eat PB&J near a salad station and now you’ve got potential allergen nightmare) and don’t eat outside/ convenience food anywhere customers could see you eating it” rule – but telling people they can’t bring outside food at all is crazy – at a bare minimum I would be scarfing down a granola bar back by the bathroom or out back by the smokers break area.

        Are employees really complying with this rule? Because that seems to me that telling minimum wage employees that they can’t bring their own food and can only buy the restaurant food is asking for employees to steal food or make “mistakes” that have to be disposed of.

        Is the boss really enforcing this rule? Or is this a series of hand-me-down verbal rules where the original was “don’t let customers see you eating and don’t bring outside food into the prep areas” that has been retold into “no outside food”? Have you seen anyone actually fired/reprimanded for this?

        My BIL has worked in a series of restaurants where the employees were only allow fountain drinks, could only eat in a designated area and there was a subset of the menu employees could order 1 meal per 5+ hour full shift, or pay a small amount (less than $5) to get one of the employee meals at the end of their shift if it was less than 5 hours. It was nothing fancy, but it was all food made from items already stocked or already on the menu (grilled cheese, or a bowl of the soup of the day, etc).

        1. Meg Murry*

          As a side note to the “are employees really complying with this rule” – is there anyone there who’s been at the restaurant for a while (preferably years, but at least a few months) that OP could ask or just watch? I’d be willing to bet there is some kind of way around the rule that OP just hasn’t realized yet – like people hide their lunch in the back of the walk in freezer and eat it in there (I’ve heard stories of a lot more illicit activity than eating sandwiches in the walk ins at our local restaurants) or someone makes a run to the convenience store and they all chug Powerade and beef jerky out back by the dumpster during smoke breaks.

          So yes, OP should continue to “fight the man” because this is a ridiculous and potentially dangerous policy, but I’d also watch to see if people are actually following it or if it is actually one of those “don’t get caught doing X” rather than “don’t do X” or “don’t do X when the owner is around” rules.

            1. Allison*

              Because people are addicted to nicotene, but you can’t become addicted to food . . . wait . . .

            2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              I began working in fast food at 16. This is precisely how I picked up smoking for years – just to get a break from the drive thru.

              8 years quit this May!

            3. Oryx*

              I had a job once where us non-smokers fought hard to be allowed breaks because the smokers would take frequent and loooong breaks and leave us to pick up their slack.

              1. Billy Mumphrey*

                But Meg Murry is saying they are sneaking food during smoke breaks by the dumpster. What!!!!?????

        2. Hungry*

          To be fair, there is no break area.

          It came straight from the top. No outside food. You’re also correct in saying we are not to be seen eating and drinking… even the restaurant’s food. And yes, there have been reprimands.

          1. neverjaunty*

            But that’s not ‘fair’ – that’s an affirmative decision by management not to set aside an area for employees to eat and drink, much less to take a break.

          2. Ad Astra*

            Are you willing (and able) to find a new job? Because that’s my first suggestion, if you can swing it. Restaurant work is no picnic, but the way your boss is treating his employees is far from standard.

      2. neverjaunty*

        “Liability” in this context is nonsense; you don’t cross-contaminate the food at a restaurant by eating a homemade PB&J in the break area. And customers in a high end restaurant don’t see wrappers from other establishments in the back of the house. This is about the owner forcing employees to give back their salaries if they want to eat.

        1. Dweali*

          Few restaurants have a break area most of the time if a worker gets a break they sit in a closed section of the restaurant or leave..I’ve only worked in one that did and elven when i transfered to another place in the same company that restaurant didn’t …outside food is considered a contamination risk mostly because of food born illnesses and the health department will take off points at their inspection for seeing outside food

          1. neverjaunty*

            Then the restaurant either needs to provide a separate area for the employees to eat their own food, or it needs to provide them with food in-house. Forcing them to buy food from the restaurant is just taking back their wages.

            1. Koko*

              I agree with you in principle but I can affirm what others are saying that it’s extremely unusual for a restaurant to have a break area. There’s the kitchen and the front of the house, and probably a small GM office made from what used to be a closet. That’s all. So OP’s employer isn’t especially egregious for not providing one, at least relative to other restaurants.

            2. Callie*

              I used to work at a high end restaurant in college. The place opened at 5; we had to be there at 3:30, prep everything, then the whole staff sat down to dinner, provided for free by the restaurant, generally similar to what they normally serve but simpler and served family-style, pretty much all you could eat. Then we cleaned up and opened the doors. We didn’t get breaks afterward unless you could dash to the bathroom to pee between tables, but being well-fed before the shift started really went a long way.

        2. INTP*

          It sounds like they wouldn’t be eating in the break area, though, and have to eat quickly on the move because they don’t get breaks. Which is ridiculous in itself of course, they should get 10 minutes to eat a sandwich and wash their hands even if free food was also provided.

    4. NotMe*

      Definitely don’t want to let the employer off the hook, but there could be some dietary changes/hacks the employees could make that could ease the situation. Fuel up on high quality proteins and fats, adjust your diet long term to cut carbs to become “fat adapted”. Burning fat instead of sugar for fuel would allow you to go longer in between meals without getting that shaky, light-headed, cranky feeling. My gut feeling is that most restaurant employees are grabbing foods like fast foods or snack foods before heading into work. You should get a lunch break, but as long as that’s not happening, you need to do something.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I’m sorry, but this suggestion sounds like it’s coming from a place of privilege that most minimum wage employees don’t have the luxury to undertake. While I agree that it probably makes sense to eat something that will stick with you longer (PB&J over bag of Doritos, for instance), many people don’t have the time or resources to hunt down “high quality proteins and fats” and avoid carbs.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          Not to mention they may not be able to do it for health reasons. I have stage 3 kidney disease, so I am on protein and potassium restriction. I am supposed to get no more than 15% of my calories from protein. My doctor-planned diet is 55% carbs.

          1. NotMe*

            Sure, I’m betting that a high percent of the restaurant employees all have an unusual disease that prevent them from going a long time without food. You pick your one-off situation and totally disregard my advice. I’m trying to be helpful, not harmful. If you pass out because you eat shit food before your shift (let’s say Doritos and donuts), you’re going to do a lot better eating better food. I personally ate like a 10-year old left to his own devices most of my life, and certainly when I was at the average age of most food service industry workers. I didn’t read performance, training, and health information back then and assumed a calorie was a calorie. If they really can’t eat for 8 hrs, doesn’t it make sense to figure out how they can manage that reality as best possible?

            1. MsChandandlerBong*

              All I’m saying is that your blanket advice is not in tune with reality. Whether an employee has a disease requiring dietary restrictions or just doesn’t have the money to buy a steady supply of meat and nuts, saying “Just eat more protein” isn’t really helpful. I would venture to guess most people couldn’t make it through eight hours with no food on a daily basis. Once or twice a week? Sure. Occasionally during a busy period? Sure. But not four or five days a week, 50 weeks per year.

              And eating protein isn’t going to help with the dehydration the OP mentioned, either.

              1. CMart*

                ” I would venture to guess most people couldn’t make it through eight hours with no food on a daily basis”

                While I 100% agree with your assessment that “eat more fats and proteins” is an out-of-touch suggestion, I do want to say that I think your guess about eight hours with no food is probably incorrect. I work in a restaurant and I’d say the majority of us work our 6-10 hour shifts with no “food” beyond beverages nearly every day, and a lot of people who post here who have office jobs talk about routinely working through lunch.

                Of course, for me at my job, it’s my and my coworkers’ personal choices to just gogogo and not stop for food either because we don’t want to have to stop taking tables, or because we don’t want to spend money on restaurant food (or have found that eating our free allotment of restaurant-provided pretzel rolls day after day to be a horrible health choice), and those of us who do that know our bodies and know what we can and can’t handle. I couldn’t imagine being forced into that choice.

            2. Observer*

              Yes, it does. But comments like “high quality protein” indicate that you don’t understand the limitations inherent to the situation.

              Minimum wage restaurant workers may or may not have rare diseases, but they almost certainly do have significant financial and scheduling issues that make “read[ing] performance, training and health information” a moot point. And there are plenty of common medical issues that further complicate matters.

            3. I'm a Little Teapot*

              Dude, you are just digging yourself deeper into your smug paleo-bro hole. Expensive fad diets are not likely to be an option for minimum wage workers for very common economic reasons (i.e. lack of money), all medical possibilities aside.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I have a feeling I’m going to need to be saying this all over this post today, but please be polite to each other when commenting here, even when disagreeing. Thank you.

        2. NotMe*

          Well, how helpful is everyone else with suggestions? Your food intake is something you can control, rather than waiting for management, OSHA, or the health department to make a change.

          1. Meg Murry*

            True. Although as to what the employee can personally do, I would advise keeping snacks in their bag or pockets and eating on the sly – which is also kind of a privileged stance since I”m not the who would have to go without work if I was fired.

            1. NotMe*

              Yeah, I’d probably try to load up on food pre-shift, and then stash a protein bar that I can eat in the bathroom or something (gross, yes – necessary, maybe).

              1. CMart*

                I work in a restaurant and routinely eat to the point of discomfort before a shift because I know I won’t be eating for 8-10 hours (or eating again at all that day, if I’m going in for a dinner shift at 3pm that ends at 11pm). I also have coworkers who keep bags of nuts, or candy, or pretzels in their aprons to discretely snack on throughout the shift.

          2. neverjaunty*

            I would guess that the OP can get the attention of an employment lawyer – or find a different job – a lot quicker than she can train her body to run for ten hours comfortably without food via loading up on protein (if that would even work for her).

        3. Retail HR Guy*

          I would argue that the attitude that employees should never put up with crappy (even illegal) behavior from their employer is what is truly “coming from a place of privilege”.

          Poorer workers often have to make the best of a bad situation. Choices are limited. Compromises have to be made. They don’t always have the luxury of just picking up and walking away from a bad job (often true of middle-class white collar workers, too, but especially true for poor workers). Poor workers are also often the least respected; management is much less likely to take anything they say seriously.

          NotMe wasn’t defending the restaurant (“Definitely don’t want to let the employer off the hook…”, “You should get a lunch break, but as long as that’s not happening…”). He/she was offering a possible coping strategy for a bad situation. No need to go on the offensive and start attacking NotMe’s “privilege”.

          Plus, cheaper options for quality proteins and fats do exist. And if OP has the time and resources to be on the internet asking for advice, it isn’t much of a stretch to think that OP might also have the time and resources to follow up on NotMe’s dietary suggestions if that’s what OP wants to do.

          1. Hungry*

            Correct. Beans provide most of my protein, as they can be purchased inexpensively and be cooked.

            As for internet, free Wifi at a location and a cell phone helps.

          2. Ad Astra*

            Right. Anyone with the ability to speak up about poor treatment at work is coming from a place of privilege, but it sounds like OP is asking for help because he/she is willing to do something about the situation, if it’s possible.

            And not everyone who works in a high-end restaurant is poor, either. Some people do very well in food service, and a place like metro Kansas City might have some good alternatives for an experienced server.

            But yeah, if you’re not already filling up on protein and fiber right before you come in, I’d start doing that in whatever way makes sense for your budget.

            1. Tara R.*

              No, but the OP is pretty specific that these are low-wage earners (barely above minimum wage) and that finances are a problem (can’t afford to eat the discounted restaurant food).

          3. Kathlynn*

            I disagree. I’m a poor/min wage worker. And I don’t think it’s a place of privilege to tell someone they shouldn’t put up with crappy working conditions.
            I think the power balance is horrible (even in Canada/BC).

            The only thing that needs to change is the laws, and how they are enforced… Like, why the heck do I have to talk to my boss about they breaking the law (and giving them a direct target to retaliate against) if they are doing something illegal to all other employees. one of three things is going to happen. I’ll get fired, for some unrelated reason (esp. if I haven’t passed my probation period). Or it will get fixed for me, but no one else. Or, I’ll be threatened with job loss if I don’t shut up.

            If the gov. would investigate things like this, then the complainant could remain anonymous. And not face illegal retaliation.

      2. neverjaunty*

        This comment is a shining example of the truism that if you say “I don’t want to say X, but….” you can ignore everything after the ‘but’ because it’s going to be one long brick of saying X.

      3. Dweali*

        It doesn’t really matter the quality of food if your working 10+ hours with no break…you’re still going to get sick…it’s pretty common to work those shifts…although my places weren’t as restrictive we could still have fountain drinks as long as we used cone cups

        1. Retail HR Guy*

          Some people don’t have the same kind of choices the rest of us have, and have to make the most of a bad situation. Those people might welcome coping strategies (especially after finding out that what their employer is doing is likely perfectly legal).

        2. Dweali*

          Yes when I still worked in restaurants I worked shifts like that quite often because I had to pay my bills…is that the way it should be? Of course not but that’s what it was if I wanted to give rent on time…luckily I’ve since been able to leave restaurant work into an environment where I’m only working 8 hour shifts and provided with a 30 minute lunch break. ..would I do it now if I was still working in a restaurant, yeah I’d probably have to depending on where I was

  3. Mike C.*

    OP2: You need to find a way to name and shame your employer. Who are the major food writers in your area? Think major newspapers, blogs, that sort of thing. Does the restaurant sponsor major events or activities? I’m sure those folks would love to know.

    Finally, start writing some glass door reviews, and get friends to leave Yelp reviews explicitly talking about how the owners terrible treatment, “negatively affects the dining ambience”. Be creative.

    I’ve seen places here in Seattle change their ways (without killing the place off!) once word got around that staff were being treated poorly. The last thing you want to do is be silent and hide the name of your employer.

    1. Mike C.*

      Note: I’m dead serious about the Yelp reviews. I’m going to have a very difficult time enjoying dinner if I know the person serving me isn’t able to eat or is at risk of passing out. It would be no different than if the owner was shouting at employees in the dining room.

      1. Anonnn*

        Honestly, I’m the exact opposite. I’d have a hard time taking a Yelp review from disgruntled — righteously so or not — employees very seriously. Maybe I’m friends with too many service industry workers, but i filter those into a part of my brain that just doesn’t carry much weight. The Internet is rife with complaints — legit and not — that one more is just adding to the noise. OP, you don’t want to do that, as it risks any actual solution you may find and will probably get you fired.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          I think Yelp is a scam. I’ve read some reviews that say unless you, the business owner, purchase their “optional” advertising, they’ll purposely suppress the good reviews of your business and make them harder to find, but leave the negative ones right there for all the world to see. I’ve gotten confirmation of this shady practice from my best friend. She and her husband run a small business, and they refuse to purchase Yelp’s advertising because it’s ridiculously expensive. Their happy clients write reviews and post them to Yelp, but somehow, those never show up on the first/front page. They’re still there, but you have to dig for them.

          1. Manders*

            I had a different experience with Yelp–I work in the marketing department for a small business, and even though 99% of our reviews were great, Yelp kept filtering them out even when we were paying for the pricey ads. The problem is that most of the business’s clients aren’t the kind of people who would otherwise use Yelp. They were signing up, posting one review, and abandoning their accounts–which Yelp takes as a sign that the review is spam.

            If OP’s friends decided to post bad reviews en mass, it’s likely those reviews would be filtered out, unless they’re willing to devote months to building a profile with lots of activity.

              1. The Strand*

                Tripadvisor and Yelp have distinctly different audiences, particularly based on age. I would take Tripadvisor more seriously about an upscale restaurant, than Yelp (where I’d be more likely to follow their advice on ethnic food and hole in the walls).

          2. Not Today Satan*

            Hmm, I don’t know about that. I frequently look at the filtered/hidden reviews on Yelp, and the vast vast majority of the time, the reviewer has less than 5 reviews, no picture, and no Yelp friends, which jives with Yelp’s stated reason for filtering certain reviews.

            1. Bleu*

              I wish Amazon would do this. If all 5 book reviews are by the author’s friends, it’s no help at all.

              1. kateydidnt*

                (Yes I know this was posted months ago, but the update for this situation was posted today and I hadn’t read the original.)
                Amazon does have a policy against this, but as far as I can tell it is not very well policed.

                From Amazon (emphasis added):

                Promotional Reviews – In order to preserve the integrity of Customer Reviews, we do not permit artists, authors, developers, manufacturers, publishers, sellers or vendors to write Customer Reviews for their own products or services, to post negative reviews on competing products or services, or to vote on the helpfulness of reviews. For the same reason, family members or close friends of the person, group, or company selling on Amazon may not write Customer Reviews for those particular items.

            2. Creag an Tuire*

              Wait, I need to post a picture and have “Yelp friends”? What the hell are Yelp friends? What if I just want to say something nice about the meal I just ate without setting up what sounds like an extra Facebook account?

              1. Windchime*

                I once wrote a bad review of a restaurant on Yelp and they filtered it out. Now I know it’s because I have no “yelp friends”. Everything I wrote was true, but apparently that didn’t matter.

                1. Creag an Tuire*

                  Y’know, I actually have a friend who did so much Yelping that she got invited to Yelp parties (which are evidently a thing), and presumably had Yelp friends. Nice lady, but if Yelp is only keeping reviews by people who take Yelp that seriously, than I just stopped treating it as an objective measure of anything.

                2. Cath in Canada*

                  Same – I don’t usually write reviews, but felt that the place that served me a raw (not “a bit undercooked” – literally raw) chicken breast in my burger deserved a bad review. It showed up for all of 2 minutes before it was pulled. Didn’t exactly inspire me to stick around and write any more reviews from my shiny new account…

            3. Temperance*

              There is a local business that was formerly in my town (yay!) that was known for unscrupulous practices. They are a pet store that sold sick or elderly pets as healthy young animals, and many of their littles were from mills etc. People who were screwed over by the store made sure to leave reviews, and all of the negative ones were filtered out, whereas the positive ones, written by the owner and his cronies, remained on the front page.

              I’m fairly active, or was, on YELP, and mine was hidden. I no longer trust YELP.

          3. A Cita*

            I always sort Yelp reviews by date, so I’m reading the most recent first, anyway. I mean, what’s the point of reading a review, good or bad, from 2013? I’m really only interested in reviews 6 months old to present, or at most a year old (if there are fewer reviews). Food and service industries change so much, there’s no point in reading older reviews.

            I always did wonder about their standard sorting procedure–why would they put older reviews on the front page, even if they are given by yelpers with high rankings.

            1. Anna*

              Sorting by date doesn’t make the reviews that Yelp has hidden come to the top, even if they’re the most recent. To read those reviews, you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and click on a purposefully hard-to-find link.

          4. Lady H*

            I used to help with marketing when I worked as a merchandiser for a small business. Yelp approached us and promised just this, that paying for their advertising would ensure only the best reviews showed up on our page. This was also the experience of my boss who owned a specialty retail store that I worked for after college—he stopped paying Yelp for advertising and was told they would no longer be able to ensure the “best” reviews showed up at the top. (The reviews for the store were overwhelmingly positive so it didn’t really matter.)

            Of course, these are just anecdotes (and might be the result of a few bad Yelp apples) and there have been many allegations accusing Yelp of this, yet they have thus far managed to avoid any court cases proving that they’re engaging in this shady practice. Worse, Yelp was sued for manipulating ratings in exchange for advertising in California and the court ruled that they’re legally allowed to do whatever they want with the ratings and reviews, so even if the prosecution didn’t convince the court that they WERE doing that in this case, it wouldn’t have mattered because it’s legal.

        2. FiveWheels*

          I’d have a hard time taking it seriously too. Without some corroborating evidence I’d think it was exaggeration and as I can happily do a ten hour day with no food, or play a physically demanding spey for five hours without food (though in both cases I would need water and a sugary drink) I wouldn’t have much sympathy.

          That said if the op wants to fix this, the first step should be calmly making a case to the manager and the second step reporting to the relevant regulatory bodies.

          Either way the manager sounds like a jerk so even if this is fixed, a job hunt might be wise.

          1. Mike C.*

            I’m sorry, because you can work a ten hour day without eating, you would have no sympathy for those who couldn’t? Am I understanding you correctly?

            1. A Cita*

              Right, I can do the same. Very easily. I never get the shakes, or lightheaded, or angry (hangry). But I also know that I’m weird and don’t expect anyone else to be able to do so. Not only do I have sympathy for those who can’t do it, I have sympathy for myself being around those who can’t do it. I typically carry some sort of bar (protein, granola, nut) to give to friends who start to become hangry at me. :)

            2. FiveWheels*

              Pretty much, yes. I’m not saying it’s a pleasant or empathetic view, and I wouldn’t roll my eyes at a tired food service employee, but so long as the employer was complying with the appropriate regs I wouldn’t be at all upset that the employees found conditions intolerable.

              This is coming from a place of privilege, but my immediate reaction to an employee posting an anti-employer review on Yelp etc would be that they should get s different job. In no way would it encourage me to stop going to the restaurant.

              I fully support the OP trying to improve working conditions, and I think it’s outrageous that workers in the USA seem to have do few rights, but that’s not the same thing as being influenced by a review as suggested above.

              1. Katniss*

                Wait, if you knew an establishment was treating its employees so badly they were almost passing out you’d still eat there?

                1. fposte*

                  But don’t you still buy groceries, and tech, and clothes, knowing that those industries engage in worse abuses than that?

                  Of course consumers do change patterns or refuse to patronize businesses, but I think it’s not as often as we think we would, and that’s why we’re all talking about what we would do and not what we *have* done, despite the breadth of such abuses. I also think such efforts tend to let competitors with similar policies off scot-free just because people don’t know about abuses there, so it’s not really a blow against such abuse as it is a blow against employers who can’t control their PR.

                2. Katniss*

                  Certainly, because I have to buy groceries and clothing and can only do so much to make my buying choices ethical.

                  I doubt someone HAS to eat at a particular restaurant though, and it sounds incredibly cold to me to say that you’d ignore serious issues like that kind of employee mistreatment if you knew they were true.

                3. fposte*

                  @Katniss–But you do have choices in those as well, as do I. It just think it’s not really kosher to blame other people for not making completely hypothetical choices that favor our own priorities if we’re not doing it ourselves with our real choices.

                4. Katniss*

                  I think there’s a big difference between admitting that we all give money to businesses that aren’t completely ethical and straight up saying that you’d just be utterly indifferent if you found out a restaurant was not allowing it’s employees to eat or drink to the point of almost passing out.

                  And to be pedantic, lots of people don’t have significant choice when it comes to things like where to buy their groceries or clothes. Almost no one HAS to go to a restaurant so much so that they can’t boycott it for mistreating employees.

                5. fposte*

                  @Katniss–most people do have some choice, though, so let’s not rule it out.

                  And what I’m really saying is that unless you yourself choose to exercise that choice and have done so, it’s not fair for you to condemn somebody else for not doing so and especially for *hypothetically* not doing so. Our saying we totally *would* boycott a place means nothing; it’s as meaningful as swearing you’d give all your money to the poor if you won the lottery. There’s no win in a hypothetical moral battle, because none of us are actually doing anything at all.

                6. FiveWheels*

                  Yes. And I don’t think boycotting them would have any effect whatsoever on conditions of the employees.

                  It’s a really unpleasant job. I think it is disgraceful that working conditions like that are legal. But I also think it’s disgraceful that USA workers generally don’t have contracts and paid maternity leave, something taken for granted by minimum wage workers here.

                  Treating workers badly isn’t s hot button issue for me (I have some that would be deal breakers just not this).

                  I also don’t think that my not eating there would improve the staff conditions at all. So like I said, I’d eat there as happily as I’d buy gas from a garage where the staff have no paid sick time.

          2. Observer*

            Seriously? You can manage 10 hours with water and sugary drinks, so you would have no sympathy for people who can’t – or even for people who don’t even get that?!


          3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            I can happily do a ten hour day with no food, or play a physically demanding spey for five hours without food (though in both cases I would need water and a sugary drink) I wouldn’t have much sympathy.

            It’s interesting how individual people take things. For me hearing one person/review would absolutely be enough for me not to patronize this business. The last time I went 10+ hours without eating was when I near rock bottom with my anorexia. I also know what going without food for prolonged periods of time did to my body and metabolism.

            And the idea that someone is having to choose employment or going 10 hours without food horrifies me. The difference is that you may choose to go ten hours without eating, but during that time you know that you can get up or as you mentioned in your paranthetical statement grab a sugary drink, which the OP doesn’t have the option of doing.

          4. Hungry*


            To clarify, it’s not the manager but a micromanaging owner who has demonstrated repeatedly unreasonability.

            Therefore, I will check this out with the appropriate regulatory bodies, and I am seeking work elsewhere.

            1. TempestuousTeapot*

              Too bad you and your coworkers can’t put together a video requesting help for your hopefully ‘otherwise wonderful, great food, fantastic coworkers/management, and awesome customers’ with an owner who is ‘just trying too hard and accidentally harming their own business’ kind of thing. A good and well-cared for staff are critical to keeping a service business successful.

              I am truly sorry you are all going through this and I do hope it gets better.

          5. Sue Wilson*

            though in both cases I would need water and a sugary drink

            …So you would need food then, since a sugary drink is food.

        3. Mike C.*

          So you’d hear reports of employees not being able to eat and think to yourself, “oh that’s just people whining on the internet”? Why do you take the OP’s letter seriously then?

          By the way, even if you don’t take those reviews seriously, the owners will. And the intent was to have a second party write them, not the employees.

          1. Juli G.*

            Because it’s Yelp. It has a reputation of being ridiculous. AAM has an excellent reputation and while I’m sure Allison gets snowed from time to time (it is the internet), she does a great job of screening, probing, etc.

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              Yes, exactly. I never thought about it one way or another until I was out of town over a weekend last year and was looking for a day spa. I found one place that had quite a few reviews, but they were all either absolutely outstanding, or completely horrible. There was nothing in between. It was either people gushing about how wonderful the place was, or people ranting about how awful it was and made it sound like the place should be shut down by the health department. Then I started doing some research on Yelp itself, and found out about their questionable business practices regarding their advertising.

            2. Ad Astra*

              I feel the same way. Reading these complaints on AAM, I believe the OP 100% because he/she has nothing to gain in lying about this situation; the business isn’t even mentioned by name. A disgruntled employee has plenty of motivation to lie or exaggerate on Yelp, though. It’s not that I’d necessarily assume a negative Yelp review was a lie, but I would consider it reliable information, either.

              Certainly, if a place was so bad that it gained a reputation around town for treating its employees like dirt, I’d stop going there. But a Yelp post or two isn’t enough to gain that reputation, even if it’s well deserved.

              1. Hungry*

                I have neither the desire to hurt the business, nor to hurt my fellow employees. It’s not a crusade or a projection of some inner psychodrama. My question was merely “Is this legal?” Is it legal for them to allow free water but put in so many obstacles to get it? Is it legal to force employees to eat food they cannot afford, instead of allowing alternatives? From the responses, I guess it is.

        4. Ted Mosby*

          His suggestion was to have friends write them, so more along the lines of “I used to eat here all the time then found out X” which, unlike a disgruntled employee, I would take seriously.

      2. Colette*

        First of all, I don’t think most people check Yelp reviews. I know I never have. But even if they do and they’re willing to boycott the restaurant based on what the OP posts (which I doubt) – how will that help the OP? She’ll lose her job and be worse off than she is now.

        1. Colette*

          Some more thoughts:
          If the OP goes this route, she risks making herself look bad to her current and future employers (by taking a dispute to the Internet with the intent of hurting the business instead of talking to her employer) and will likely get fired. She’s also going to hurt her relationships with her coworkers, who didn’t sign up to lose their jobs but may be the victims if she succeeds in hurting business.

          1. Mike C.*

            How does someone who says, “we’re not allowed to eat and my coworkers are fainting” make themselves look bad to future employers?

            It helps the OP because it puts pressure on the employer to quit treating the workers like absolute garbage. Once they treated better, word gets out and people come back.

            Frankly, I’m rather disappointment with the posters here. I would have thought that being able to do things like, I dunno, eat would trump petty fears over “never say anything negative about your employer ever because that makes you look like a bad employee”.

            1. Karina Jameson*

              I agree with you, Mike C. And I also would not want to give my business to such an employer.

              1. fposte*

                Might be true individually, but collectively we give business to such employers all the time–when we buy clothes, when we buy groceries, when we buy rugs.

            2. Juli G.*

              I think people are being logical. We don’t know OP’s circumstances but if we generalize, it’s likely not an extremely high income. People can be vindictive, the restaurant industry can have a lot of employees that move in the same circles. The OP faces real risks to their own livelihood by outing their employer and I can’t call that “petty”. It’s not fair but it’s real and the OP should know. Not everyone can afford or is willing to pay the price to be a social justice crusader.

              1. JMegan*

                Not everyone can afford or is willing to pay the price to be a social justice crusader.

                Yes. It might be great if the OP could do all these things, but she might also decide that the costs are too high for her personally to take on the big picture. We can all do the best we can to help, but I’d be wary of “the OP should” type statements since don’t – and can’t – know the full context.

                1. Hungry*

                  I’m considering the options. I haven’t decided yet. But you folk are wonderful in supplying me with a lot of useful information, for which I am grateful.

            3. fposte*

              I think it’s “say something negative if you think the benefits will outweigh the downside.” “Restaurant treats employees legally” doesn’t strike me as a headline that’s going to get the public up in arms, given that employers and industries who treat people *illegally* don’t suffer much PR backlash for it.

              I think organizing is probably the best response, but it’s also worth asking why Missouri’s voters are okay with this as their state law. Organizing would help this restaurant’s employees, but changing the law would help *all* the employees.

                1. fposte*

                  Right. Hence my point that people who support such a law aren’t likely to find much shame in an employer complying with it.

                  But also I think it’s a waste of coordinated indignation if all you do is get 100 people a chance to eat a Clif bar. You want real change, change the law.

                2. Mike C.*

                  I think the opposite – they’re going to learn that it isn’t actually against the law and become appalled. After all, we see those sorts of “wait, this is legal!?” type questions all the time.

                3. fposte*

                  @Mike C.–did you mean “*should* be illegal,” then? Because that makes more sense in light of your followup.

                  I certainly think it’s worth a try, if you’re going to advocate. I think your best chance of success is linking into something that’s got broader movement, the way the minimum wage debate did does.

                  In general, though, I think the public hasn’t changed much from the days of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and we’re still likelier to foment activism when it’s our food getting hurt and not our laborers.

              1. Kassy*

                Missouri voter here: Before I started reading AAM, I had no idea the kind of crap that employers could get away with, like this. This is absolutely NOT okay with me. However, I also live in rural Missouri, where often candidates run unopposed for open seats – not in part because they receive laughable wages (in the neighborhood of 35k per year – it’s more than I make, but to live in the capital four months out of the year, and without a living allowance or anything, it’s peanuts). Voters in the KC area do have more options, though.
                I may still write one of them, though. I’m sure there probably aren’t any workers’ rights bills up this year yet, but there’s still time.

            4. Kyrielle*

              It does for me…but I have privilege. If OP needs that income too much to walk, then the risk of starting a kerfluffle that might cost OP their job is probably also too high. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck and barely able to afford food as it is, anything that risks your current job or future prospects is arguably life-threatening, or very close to it.

            5. INTP*

              The restaurant industry is rife with practices that aren’t exactly employee friendly, so chances are many other potential employers wouldn’t want a name and shamer on their staff. Even places that are better than this restaurant likely have some practices that would seem unfair to the outside world when posted on Yelp. And we don’t know that the OP is in a position to say “good riddance” and become hirable at only the most employee-friendly of restaurants.

            6. Jennifer*

              You’d think, but these days everyone is crazy and I think it’s an entirely realistic fear that you may doom your ability to get work in that industry forever for any complaint, even “the manager punched me in the face in front of everyone and police were called” sort.

            7. Colette*

              It’s not what the OP would be saying, it’s the fact that they’d be saying it to the internet instead of to their employer.

              If I read a review in the words the- OP has shared here, here’s what I’d think:
              – how long are the shifts? She doesn’t say. It seems unlikely that a restaurant would be too busy for people to take breaks for 8 hours.
              – most healthy people who have eaten before they get to work won’t get dizzy in 4, 5, or even 8 hours. (I know one day a week I eat lunch, go to boxing, and then buy groceries before I eat. That’s easily 8 hours, including intense physical activity.)
              – have they asked the owner to do things differently?

              Is it possible that the owner is unreasonable? Sure. Is it possible that such a review was written by an employee who was fired for stealing or who fell asleep on the job? Absolutely.

              1. Observer*

                – most healthy people who have eaten before they get to work won’t get dizzy in 4, 5, or even 8 hours. (I know one day a week I eat lunch, go to boxing, and then buy groceries before I eat. That’s easily 8 hours, including intense physical activity.)

                Really? You are finishing lunch at 12:00 and getting home at 8:00 with NOTHING to eat or drink? If that doesn’t make you feel crummy, then you are lucky, because most normal healthy people CANNOT do that. As for you intense physical activity – that’s a short portion of the day. You are not running back and forth, standing on your feet for all that time with nothing to eat or drink.

                1. Colette*

                  I didn’t say it wouldn’t make them feel crummy, I said it wouldn’t make them feel dizzy. They’re legally entitled to water and I don’t see anything that says they’re not getting it.

              2. Hungry*

                Shifts over eight hours.

                Being busy… there is an actual, detailed list of tasks that must be performed before certain times, and the list is long. In addition, they have decided to keep us understaffed. So a shift that was usually run with four people is down to two. We face criticism if we must stay late to complete the tasks properly.

                I, personally, with all the rapid movement and heavy lifting (and a high metabolism) cannot go 8 hours without food. The majority of us are slender females.

                The manager has tried to discuss things with the owner, but to no avail.

              3. Hungry*

                Re: water. To clarify, the kitchen is open. The customer can see everything. They allow us water, yes, but we are not to be seen drinking. There is only open kitchen, dining area, and a bathroom. We cannot go to the 1′ x 2′ blind spot in the kitchen to drink if customers are present.

            1. Creag an Tuire*

              Yeah, it’s not that people would read it and say “I have no problem with starving employees”, it’s that a lone post would come across as “eh, probably just a crazy person”, because trolls have subconsciously trained us to ignore a single uncorroborated complaint on the internet.

              Plus, she doesn’t have any Yelp Friends, so clearly her opinion is -meaningless-. :P

        2. Bleu*

          Yeah it’s never really good advice to go on an online/social network spree against your employer. It just isn’t.

          1. Mike C.*

            Sometimes that’s what it takes to get any real changes made. Even Alison made a joke about unionizing, what do you think a strike is?

            1. Suz*

              I don’t think the union comment was meant as a joke. This is exactly the type of situation where organizing would help.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That wasn’t a joke! I think that’s likely to be helpful, but I don’t think a Yelp campaign would be, for all the reasons others have said above.

              1. Temporarily Anonymous*

                I’ve been trying to ID possible unions OP could discreetly contact — I’ll admit to a heavy pro-union bias but I also think a professional organizer can tell OP how to get the word of this out and change the practice while protecting her own neck as much as possible.

                Stand UP KC isn’t a union per se but it is a union-backed campaign that may be able to connect her with resources:

                UNITE HERE has a lot of experience organizing fine dining — their St. Louis chapter covers Kansas City as well, though it doesn’t look like they’ve organized any shops there — yet.

                Solidarity, OP. Good luck.

              2. Hungry*

                I agree, although his suggestion is coming from the right place. I don’t consider Yelp reliable, so I doubt a disgruntled post from me would be taken seriously.

            3. Temporarily Anonymous*

              Speaking as someone who’s worked on a few union organizing campaigns, there’s a right way and a wrong way to out the employer, and starting a one-person Yelp campaign is usually the wrong way. Your heart’s in the right place, Mike C., but OP needs to reach out to an organizer and/or a real reporter before going public, and should privately work to get the other employees on board first (it’ll be harder to marginalize all or most of the staff than it will be to shuffle off one “troublemaker”).

              1. Mike C.*

                Realize the comment about Yelp was only one part of list of ideas. Obviously if you’re going the full union campaign or have the ear of a reporter then those are better options.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Tell me something. A union rep once told me that in any un-unionized company the people who try to start a union end up unemployed, 100% of the time. I have seen people lose their jobs over unionizing, so I am wondering if the 100% rule of thumb is accurate at all.

    2. Manders*

      Most people aren’t likely to check Glassdoor reviews before going out to eat, and Yelp has a filter that may kick in if a business is suddenly flooded with negative reviews. I think going to the media would be an absolute last-ditch option–there’s a very strong possibility that people could lose their jobs for that, since the owner doesn’t sound like a reasonable guy to begin with.

        1. Dweali*

          People who work in restaurants rarely check glassdoor…usually if anything it’s word of mouth but even then your looking more at “will the checks clear” and “how tip out works”

        2. INTP*

          I don’t think what’s happening here is egregious enough in the world of restaurant work to make headlines. Don’t get me wrong, it’s horrible and unfair. But the OP is definitely not the first restaurant worker I have heard of who gets light headed and dehydrated on the job because work conditions don’t allow him or her to eat or drink sufficiently during a shift. I don’t think it’s something unusual enough that people will read a review and tell everyone they know and create business problems for the restaurant, but I do think it’s something that a fellow local restaurant biz person might remember the OP’s name being connected to and choose not to hire them.

          1. Mike C.*

            It would be in Seattle. Maybe my views are skewed, but we’ve already passed mandatory sick leave for food workers and $15/hour minimum wages. If this got out, there would be hell to pay.

            1. Manders*

              Seattle also has strict laws about how long employees can go without breaks. This owner would be breaking the law if the restaurant was in Washington, but it appears that this isn’t illegal in Missouri. Seattle’s job market is also pretty good, especially for restaurants–an owner like this might have a harder time keeping staff because better options are almost always available.

              Seattle also has quite a few independent local publications with regular restaurant reviews, and shady labor practices make headlines here. That isn’t necessarily the case elsewhere (I currently live in Seattle but I used to live in the south–there are loads of independent publications online and in print here, but there was only one not-really-independent local paper in the large southern city I grew up in).

              I wish it weren’t the case, but there are a lot of areas in the US where shady but legal labor practices aren’t considered newsworthy.

  4. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: OP, I think Alison is right that the first thing you should do is try to find out why this co-worker is on the sex-offender registry, if you haven’t already. If it’s for one of the reasons detailed in the response (or something similar), perhaps that would put your mind at ease. And if it’s for something legitimate, then that is relevant information for you to have when thinking about what to do next.

    I’m in no way saying that someone being on the sex-offender registry isn’t that big a deal. But I have read a number of articles in the last couple of years about people’s lives literally being destroyed because one stupid thing they did (like peeing in public) ends up getting them classified as a sex-offender forever. The registry is important, but its effectiveness is getting diluted because of things like this.

    Best of luck to you.

    1. Allison Mary*

      I second this. Here’s why.

      I listen to Dan Savage’s podcast regularly, and a while back he told a story about a 19 year old guy who was a computer science student in college, and who by all accounts was totally respectable. This kid used a hook-up type dating app to meet up and have consensual sex with a girl who told him she was 17 (above the legal age of consent in their state), but it turned out she had lied and was only 14. He was arrested for statutory rape. The girl’s mother was furious with the girl and asked the judge to be super lenient with the 19 year old kid. Well, the judge had some sort of a personal vendetta against this “culture of hook-up apps” (he actually talked about it in his official opinion, which Dan read out loud), and decided to put the 19 year old kid on a sex offender registry. The 19 year old kid’s life is basically ruined, from here on out.

      tl;dr – people can be put on sex offender lists for really stupid reasons, and they don’t necessarily mean that a “sex offender” is a violent sexual predator.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I remember reading about that one. If I remember correctly, the kid was also required to move out of his parents’ home (because he has a minor brother), and drop out of school (because he was banned from using computers).

        1. Sparkly Librarian*

          How on earth would the judge think it’s reasonable to ban someone from using computers? The career impact alone (and that’s a huge part, of course) is terribly detrimental. Ugh.

          1. Evie*

            I think it’s not uncommon for Internet based sex offenders – especially those who interact with minors – to be banned from using computers just as they would be banned from working in or living near schools. The idea is it keeps them away from their targets, and in cases of actual pedophilia where internet grooming has been happening it sounds appropriate. In this case though it sounds waaaay over the top – someone’s personal vendetta getting in the way of sense.

            1. Zillah*

              I totally get that, but in the modern day and age, though, that just doesn’t seem feasible to me. Restrictions, sure, but literally no computer?

              1. Zillah*

                For the record, I’m definitely not dismissing the seriousness of these crimes! I just… I mean, these days, it’s pretty much impossible to get a phone without internet access, more and more businesses are based at least in part online, and job-hunting pretty much requires an email address at the very least, at least IME. Am I just super techy?

                1. Adam*

                  I forgot about the email address part but you’re right! Is there some sort of job placement program for convicted offenders of this nature? About the only jobs I can think of where walking-in is still a thing are things like food service and maybe hotels?

                  I don’t want to bemoan a system that’s hard on really awful people, but if the system has deemed it acceptable to release them into society but made it this hard to find employment that seems like asking for trouble.

                2. Sparkly Librarian*

                  That was exactly what I was thinking, Zillah. Even if computer/internet use isn’t part of the job, or if the job is in retail or food service or similar front-line, hands-on work, it’s very common to only be able to apply online. I help people find job applications every day, and they need email addresses to complete those forms online, and the ability to log back into an employment account to check for /respond to updates. Honestly, I think it would be easier to exist in the modern world with a restriction on using the telephone than one on using computers.

                3. Creag an Tuire*

                  Crap like this is why I am bluntly opposed to sex offender registries — if someone is truly too dangerous to be allowed to participate in society, then just give them a life sentence, don’t create a legal gray zone where somebody’s “served their time” but is a second-class citizen forever.

                4. Anna*

                  Even food service or retail these days may run afoul of a ban on computers, if your restaurant or store has an Internet-based POS system, which many of them do these days. Any fast food restaurant where you can pay with a phone app, for example, requires employees to use an internet-connected computer.

              2. Adam*

                Yeah, I’m not sure how to approach this. I totally get the intent and I don’t want to seem sympathetic to legit sex offenders, but I think this does limit the kind of jobs they can have by a wide margin. Once again, “Too bad; so sad” isn’t really an unreasonable response in cases like these, but can’t most organizations monitor their computer’s usage or place sever restrictions on them? I admit I’m not super knowledgable in this area so maybe it’s more trouble than it’s worth, but I’m just thinking out loud.

              3. INTP*

                We had an applicant who had pled guilty to a child pornography charge. He sent us a very long email about the computer setup and monitoring he would require to be able to work. (BTW, this was all disclosed in a response to a random “We have a tech writer position available in your city, would you be interested in reviewing the job description?” LinkedIn cold message. Not the response you expect!) Obviously, we weren’t interested in him as a candidate, but at least sometimes apparently accommodations are made for people to use computers.

                Of course, unless you’re a freelancer, you have to explain to a potential employer why you require a special monitored-by-the-FBI computer setup, and you are not going to be hired if it was a recent child pornography conviction. A 19 year old kid with a well-publicized case might garner more sympathy.

        2. Bleu*

          Wow. On its face that sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. (Also, are any lawyers bringing suits challenging judge’s orders that put minors — anyone under 18 — on these registries?)

          1. sstabeler*

            if it isn’t, it probably should be. Most basically, this would probably be a very good case for appealing a sentence, since a) it was more-or-less a textbook case of being ONLY statutory rape ( that is, where nobody is contesting that if the victim was of legal age, it would be legal, and where the older party made good-faith efforts to check. ( it may or may not actually be a defense in the UK that you made a good-faith effort to verify they were of age.)) where leniency was arguably called for. Instead, the judge imposed a sentence that more-or-less calls the accused a sexual predator, even over-and-above the fact that it seems designed more-or-less specifically to completely ruin the convict’s life.

            1. since there was no evidence of him being any fomr fo pedophile, let alone a sexual predator, there was no reason to ban him from living in his parents’ home except to engineer him not having the backup of being able to live at home if he could not get a job.
            2. sex offenders registry- it depends. if the judge had discretion, the kid should have been kept off of it. Otherwise, the judge may ahve had little choice.
            3. banned from using computers- again unreasonable. He used a smartphone app for a dating service to find his victim- at MOST, ban him from using a smartphone, and/or internet dating sites.

      2. Sue Wilson*

        I think there should be a more measured response to statutory rape that is and the sex offender registry, but goodness “they told me they were x yrs not the completely disparate y age” is a perspective on how minors “look” that I wish society in general would encourage less.

        Can you give me a link to this story or how to find it?

        1. Anna*

          It’s not about how the minor looked. It’s asking a question of, if being defrauded isn’t a defense, how are people supposed to avoid committing this crime? I mean, imagine you’re a college-aged person who goes out to bars to meet potential romantic partners, or uses online dating apps (as this young man did), or really any other method where the people you’re dating are strangers to you before you start dating them. If the fact that a person tells you that they’re of age, isn’t enough, are you supposed to demand social security numbers and run background checks on all of your dates to prove that they’re telling the truth about their age? Have you or someone you cared about ever had a one-night stand or a short-term relationship with someone you didn’t know especially well? Do you think it should be illegal for people to have such short-term relationships?

          There are good reasons to have laws that say that some people are too young to be able to consent to sex. However, those laws have to be enforced in a way that allows people who are behaving in ways that are utterly normal and reasonable within our society, such as casually dating, to avoid finding themselves unknowingly committing crimes that will follow them for the rest of their lives. It’s not about whether she looked 18. It’s about whether or not we’re setting up a legal framework where it is impossible for people to know whether they’re committing a serious crime.

          1. Mike C.*

            Wasn’t there a case with a famous actor who picked up a woman in a bar presuming she was 21 (because that’s the law) when she was really 17? I don’t want to excuse all sorts of creepy and disgusting behavior that goes on but if I have the story correct then I think it’s a great example of what you’re talking about.

            1. Sue Wilson*

              There was James Franco, but the girl proved from (I believe) Twitter DMs that Franco did in fact know she was 17 and was smearing her for “tricking” him in the press.

          2. Sue Wilson*

            It’s not about how the minor looked.
            It’s not? Because in the article you gave me, predictably “she looked 17” came up as a reason why this should be mitigated.

            If this weren’t a society in which people of legal age weren’t encouraged to see minors as adults both in appearance and in behavior and ignore any discrepancies, I might agree with you. But in even in the legal system, “they looked older and behaved maturely” is commonly brought up as a reason why offenders should have less time. That this went the opposite way is because the judge doesn’t like hook-up culture, not because he believes that that reasoning is not an excuse. And as for reasonable behavior, at some point it is unreasonable to believe what someone says.

            Like my point is that your “reasonable” behavior is overlaid with the pervasive and permissive culture of sexualization of minors by adults. That’s going to affect how and why this 19 yr old saw this 14yr old as 17. That’s going to affect why and how this 14yr old said she was 17. I wish society wouldn’t encourage this sort of thing, because I do think you’d have less of these “they told me they was x and I believed her” cases. And frankly, the law as always does a cost-benefit analysis. It is unwilling to make vulnerable minors (especially since minors saying they are older is part of that vulnerability), so it puts the onus on offenders; this isn’t the only law which has to balance competing goals and balances them against an offender.

    2. neverjaunty*

      The flip side of this is, the way you find out is not by taking the person’s word that they were totally railroaded or that they got on the registry for absolutely nothing. Check the registry, which should list the person and exactly what they did that got them included, and news reports if you can find them.

      As long as we’re throwing anecdotes around: a friend of mine was set up on a date with a guy who seemed really nice, and told her right away “to be completely honest with you, you should know something about me”, and proceeded to tell her that he was on the sex offender list for having had a girlfriend just under the age of consent when he was only a few years older. Kind of a miscarriage of justice, right? Not like this is a guy who needs to be punished forever for a dumb mistake?

      Well, when she double-checked, it turned out that this guy was a high school teacher and coach and slept with his students, and they reported he didn’t exactly give them a lot of choice to say no. He entered a plea, and the registry information made him indistinguishable from Younger Girlfriend Dude, but the news reports made it pretty clear what happened.

      There was not a second date. The too-trusting person who set her up on the date got an earful.

      1. Zillah*

        Oh, god. I had a friend who was in a similar situation – the guy (who’d just gotten out of prison after being incarcerated for seven years) told him he’d been in prison because he committed statutory rape when he was 18 and his boyfriend was 16. My friend totally believed him, though.

        When I heard about it, I told him he needed to google that shit asap, because I know our state laws and what the guy was talking about probably wouldn’t have been a crime in our state at all, and if it was, jail time would have been minimal or nonexistent. When my friend googled it, he found that it was a lot more sinister than that and involved multiple victims.

        … my friend was not sensible like your friend, though, and did not break up with this dude. I actually cut off the friendship as a result – “Well, it’s not like I’m planning to have kids with him” is 110% not an excuse for dating a child molester. Ugh.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I wish I could say I was surprised at how many people do that. Sad that your friend turned out to be a wretched human being, though. (And before anyone fusses, there’s a huuuuuuge difference between believing people can change, and “okay, he lied and minimized his crimes, but it’s not like he’s going to rape MY children so w-evs”.)

          1. Zillah*

            Yeah, it was really disappointing – I’d expected better of him. And yes to the huge difference – I’m still floored by his response. I mean, what???

      2. the gold digger*

        Some people tried to set up my friend S. S is lovely – smart, nice, accomplished, very pretty. They told her about a guy in their church. “He’s studying to be a pastor,” they said.

        Sounds good, S thought. S had thought of becoming a missionary herself.

        “There’s only one thing —.” They hesitated.

        “What?” S asked.

        “He’s a child molester.”

        S. Speechless. Jaw dropped.

        “Um. No. Thanks,” she said.

        “But he prays really hard about it!” the couple protested.

        1. neverjaunty*

          My first reaction would be ‘fine, set him up with YOUR kid’, but you know, these are exactly the kind of people who would, and would then blame his victims for not helping him resist temptation.

        2. Chinook*

          “They told her about a guy in their church. “He’s studying to be a pastor,” they said.
          Sounds good, S thought. S had thought of becoming a missionary herself.
          “There’s only one thing —.” They hesitated.
          “What?” S asked.
          “He’s a child molester.””

          Wait – what? What church would even contemplate allowing a convicted child molester to become a pastor? Have they learned nothing from the scandals of the past?

          1. INTP*

            Maybe he wasn’t convicted, his proclivities were just known due to complaints that he managed to escape prosecution for. Of course, there is absolutely no excuse for having so little regard for victims that you don’t report it ASAP regardless of what your religion says, but it’s not exactly unheard of for sex crimes to be covered up to protect the reputation of an organization at the expense of past and future victims.

      3. Fox Mulder*

        The sex offender registry doesn’t necessarily offer a good picture of what your actual crime was, because it doesn’t really have detailed information–just the charge, iirc, which could have many different contexts.

        For more anecdotes: Everyone here seems to agree that “peeing in public” is a frivolous charge, but…I mean, how many times have you guys been arrested for peeing in public, really? I can maybe understand if someone is drunk, but other than that I don’t know anyone who can’t find a bathroom and decides to use a public street instead. But I do know lots of guys who have exposed themselves to people (mostly women, often young girls) or decided to masturbate in public, and then claimed to just be peeing, that lady is crazy, etc. I’ve seen guys who were on the registry for multiple counts of “peeing in public” which just doesn’t seem believable or sympathetic at all.

        I am sure there are exceptions, but IME it’s not that easy to be put on the offender registry, as it requires someone actually wanting to press charges which is a long and frustrating process. I think OP has every reason to be wary and second the suggestion to look up not just the charge but also any media around it if that exists. Maybe she’ll find something that eases her mind, but maybe she’ll find (or has already found) something that makes her more uncomfortable. I wish there was a little more discussion around what she should do in that case. I don’t have any good insight to add there (hypocritical, I know!) but would be interested in hearing appropriate responses if he is on the registry for valid, worrying reasons. How do you bring that up to your boss? Are you expected to disclose your personal history to underline how uncomfortable you are, or should you keep that quiet and risk him not taking it as seriously as it may warrant (since child sexual abuse often leaves you with crummy gifts like PTSD that can be triggered working with, say, a child abuser)? Is OP just out of luck if her boss doesn’t care, or could she try appealing to other authorities, like her union? (I’ve never been in a union and don’t know what that dynamic is like but maybe it’s an option?) What does OP tell future employers if she’s pushed out of this job, that she left because of “workplace differences” or something?

        1. aebhel*

          Well, the ‘peeing in public’ thing is used in some areas as a weapon against homeless people, who often don’t have reliable access to bathroom facilities.

        2. Observer*

          There is a huge amount of documentation that lots of people are on registries for fairly minor crimes – so much so that many police departments tend to ignore them because there is so much “noise”. There are so many people who are not a real threat to anyone that they simply can’t use the list in a any meaningful fashion.

          The simple fact is that if someone CAN be put on the registry for a certain offense, then someone WILL be put on the registry for a certain offense. I’m not talking bout someone being railroaded where they did one thing and they were convicted of another.

          And, yes, there are people who pee in public and some of them actually DO get arrested and convicted for that. That some of these folks are drunk at the time is not really relevant.

        3. Zero*

          I’ve known plenty of guys, some even with PhDs that most people would consider class acts otherwise, who have peed in public and been arrested for it or gotten into trouble with the cops. I even know women who have peed in public. I had hold coats to shield a friend who had to pee in the bushes outside a train station. She wasn’t drunk there just wasn’t anywhere to go. Have you ever tried to find a bathroom at 2:15 in the morning when you’re taking public transit home? There are plenty of places where public bathrooms are not available, or bushes are preferable to the dirty squalor that is a badly maintained one.

      4. lemonack*

        This happened with a former friend of mine. He claimed it was “just” statutory that got him registered because “the girl’s parents held a grudge”; I checked the registry and it looked like his story checked out. I didn’t find out till he confided in me drunkenly YEARS later that he’d groomed her on the Internet for a couple years before even meeting her. He was arrested shortly after for planting hidden cameras in his younger female roommate’s room and shower.

        You cannot always trust the registry. Do as much research as you can!

    3. Vladimir*

      I am not sure whether sex offender registry is a good think – it can very well stop former criminals from starting a new lidé and even lead to them commiting crime again. But if it is to be it should only include serious crimes. As it is set up now it is very important to know what the person did before shunnig them. I read about a case where an adult couple had consentual oral sex in their home, which was ilegální in that state (and this was not long ago, I wonder what crazy state was it) someone saw them and reported them – very nice person really – and they ended on the registry. Really crazy, people having lifes destroyed for thinks like this.

      1. Bartlett for President*

        I know a number of legal scholars (both attorneys and academics) who question whether the sex offenders registry is even constitutional. I won’t rehash the arguments on the issue, as I am not a constitutional scholar, but it is an issue that likely won’t be addressed because no Congressman would EVER get re-elected if they sponsored a bill abolishing a sex offenders registry. [I’m not arguing for abolishing said registries, but I’m very much conflicted about their existence.]

        It is also worth noting that in many cases, having records expunged (I’m talking generally here – not about sex offenders) by court order isn’t always possible anymore. There are a number of people who have obtained court orders to have their records destroyed, paid the fees and gone through the process – only to find out 10 years later those records still exist. There is a fundamental breakdown in the way criminal records are maintained, and therefore a breakdown in how they are destroyed.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The problem with court records is that there is a paper version, then a digital version, then a (remote) back up of the digital version and in some cases a (local) back up of a back up. This means the record can be in as many as FOUR places.
          I haven’t even started to talk about our national databases. Our court records is a whole topic unto itself. However, for my own purposes, I would never assume a record has been totally destroyed. I would however get a document from the court stating that the record has been destroyed. I would keep that document for the rest of my life.

        2. the gold digger*

          I also struggle with the idea that you are going to be punished forever for your crime. Isn’t the deal that if you go to prison and do your time, you get a fresh start?

          (This has come up recently around here – a guy murdered and dismembered his girlfriend when he was 20. Went to prison – got out way early for good behavior and got a degree while in prison. He was hired as a contractor and then as a civil employee of the sheriff’s dept working with the radios more than ten years ago. They knew he was an ex con, but sheriff didn’t know all the details. They just came out – big brouhaha but the guy has been a model employee for over a decade – maybe more. Do we give people second chances or don’t we?)

          But then – I wouldn’t want a rapist living next door to me. I also don’t want people who leave their trash cans out living next door to me. Or people with dogs that bark.

          1. the gold digger*

            Not that I am equating rapists with people who leave out their trash cans. It’s just I am very uneasy with the idea of punishing someone forever. If we are going to do that, let’s just keep them in prison.

            1. TychaBrahe*

              There are rapists and then there are rapists. There are rapists who didn’t understand the concept of consent 20 years ago and haven’t raped since being released. And there is Christopher Hubbart, who has raped dozens of women over a period of 40 years despite years of incarceration and hospitalization, some only days after being released.

              1. Allison*

                Exactly. And there are people who got in serious trouble on a technicality – having sex with someone a year younger than they were and the parents freaked out – and there are people who’ve engaged in predatory behavior for years and have a trail of victims*. The latter should face long-term consequences, including jail time and possibly work restrictions, but the former shouldn’t have to live with what they did forever.

              2. Anon01*

                glad to know my rapist wasn’t a REAL rapist, because he (a doctor) didn’t UNDERSTAND what I meant when I said “no” and “stop,” words most 2 year olds understand. And because it was just one big ole’ misunderstanding, I’m sure it could only have happened once. It wasn’t really his fault! Society! I can stop having nightmares now! Hurrah!

                1. Amy*

                  Um… you’re taking this a little personally. I am sure that commenter was not referring to your type of situation when she said that. Hence the contrast in her post. Calm down.

            2. Windchime*

              I think that a “forever” punishment is fine for someone who murdered and dismembered another human being.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Sometimes it does. A lot of states still have the death penalty.

                  That aside, the ‘does he have to be punished FOREVER?!’ makes me wince. Yes, sometimes the outcome of doing horrible things means that people who don’t know you well may judge you for having done those things, even when you would rather everybody just forgot about it. That’s why re-integrating people after a criminal conviction is so difficult. On the one hand, we want them to be functioning members of society again, and some people are indeed rehabilitated. On the other hand, pretending the past didn’t exist is a good way to have it smack you in the face in the future. It’s a complicated problem. I don’t think platitudes about ‘they served their time’ or ‘they deserve to suffer’ help in an direction.

                2. Zillah*

                  It’s a complicated problem. I don’t think platitudes about ‘they served their time’ or ‘they deserve to suffer’ help in an direction.

                  I agree, and IMO, that’s particularly true in a justice system as broken and screwed up as ours is.

                3. Anon01*

                  In a lot of cases, it does, and some of the punishments we’re talking about such as remaining on a registry it always does.

              1. Ted Mosby*

                She will now be dead, forever. Her friends will miss her, forever. Her family will have nightmares, forever. No amount of time served can change that.

                Everyone wants to talk about forgiveness, but no one wants their own kid knocking on that door to sell Girl Scout cookies.

          2. caryatid*

            this is something a have thought a lot about. certainly, there are times for second chances.

            but where is the line between punishing someone forever, and them being a victim of their own choices?

            i’m having a hard time understanding someone murdering and dismembering their girlfriend as being a poor choice made while young and stupid. there’s something in that guy’s psychological makeup that makes him capable of doing that!! does that ever change? (asking honestly as i am not a psychologist)

              1. neverjaunty*

                I was thinking of that article too, but the guy didn’t “suddenly snap” – the writer talks about how they thought he was OK when he really wasn’t, and he was calm enough during the crime to have a pleasant phone chat with his (totally unaware) wife in the middle of the crime.

            1. A grad student*

              I mean, I can only speculate, but if he killed her by accident then panicked and dismembered her to try to get rid of any evidence, that’s one way I could see total rehabilitation. Unfortunately from where we stand that’s indistinguishable from a charming sociopath who might do the same thing again. It’s a really hard question.

              1. neverjaunty*

                When you take “murdered” and change it to “accidentally killed her” then you’re going beyond speculating and trying to find reasons to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. I don’t understand this.

                There is a wide, wide range of choices in between ‘total rehabilitation’ and ‘forever untrustworthy sociopath’.

              2. Amy UK*

                What? Seriously? I think someone who accidentally kills someone and has the response of “I’d better hide the evidence in the most brutal and gruesome way” is certainly not someone I’d want to be around.

                I literally can’t think of a situation where dismembering another human being isn’t the mark of a psychopath who cannot be rehabilitated ever. Covering up an accidental killing is despicable but possibly understandable. Choosing dismemberment as the method of covering it up is not a choice that a normal person would make, no matter how panicked they were.

                I’d actually be less repulsed by someone who deliberately committed murder, than anyone who could dismember a human body regardless of how they came to be in the scenario.

            2. Florida*

              There was a woman in Florida who killed her husband. Their kids were very young at the time. She told the cops that she found him dead when she got home but actually she had dragged his body (with the kids help) out to the garage. The kids corroborated her story (I think the kids were younger than 6).
              Just recently, some 20 or so years later. The kids came forward with what they remember to be the real story. Woman admitted the truth. They decided not to prosecute.
              The woman has been a decent person (as far as we know) since this one murder. This is a case study of one incident, so I don’t know how reliable it is. But it was a interesting story.

              1. Turanga Leela*

                This kind of thing happens. I know someone with a homicide conviction (not sure if he pleaded to murder or manslaughter, not sure if he was the shooter or not, haven’t asked)—he was involved in a gang-related shooting as a teenager, served his time, and now is a model citizen who works with at-risk youth.

            3. Florida*

              Another problem with second chances is the system itself. Prison is not the reform institution we like to think it is. In some cases, it teaches you to become a better criminal. Also, if you leave prison and are stigmatized everywhere you turn from the sex offender list to checking the box on applications, you end up back in prison. We like to preach the story of second chances, but as a society (in America), we are not really interested in giving people second chances. It’s really sad.
              I just read The New Jim Crow which discusses this (among other things). I think that book was recommended here. I highly recommend it.

              1. Kelly*

                That’s one reason I find the discussion around Netflix’s Making a Murder to be interesting. I’m in Wisconsin where the events occurred and there’s been some good coverage about the problematic aspects of the Avery case. I don’t think he should be pardoned because I don’t feel that would be the right process to correct what went wrong with his case. I do think that there is sufficient evidence and reasoning to re-examine the evidence and have a new trial with a different, more ethical prosecution team.

          3. Allison*

            Nope. There are things I can forgive people for. You tell me you got in trouble for rape because you invited a woman to your form, gave her tequila and then had sex with her when she was tipsy, then reported you to the school’s disciplinary board a couple months later, I’d say you were a person who made a bad choice and have probably been punished enough – although I may not wanna be alone with you right away. You tell me you killed and dismembered your girlfriend? BYE! That’s not being young and stupid, that shows that you have serious problems that you’re good at masking when you’re in a good state of mind, but what happens when you get angry? Or stop getting treatment because you feel you don’t need it anymore? Sorry bro, not gonna risk it.

        3. Murphy*

          I think the compromise here may be what Canada has done. They have a list. It’s available to police and others in the justice system. It is not available to the general public. Keeps the voyeurism down but still let’s police do their job and keep an eye out on serious predators.

      2. JessaB*

        My issue with the registry is actually the same as my issue with the terrorist watch list, there is no damned specific, absolute way to petition to be taken OFF it depending on circumstances or after x years (IE the 18 year old with the 15 year old dating friend after 5 years for instance if it was illegal in the venue they lived in.)

        Once you’re on you’re on for life even if your “crime” has been decided later to not be a crime (the laws change and the 18/15 is no longer considered a crime worthy of registration, homeless persons peeing in public or drunks only doing it once, are no longer considered worthy of registration, etc. gay sex which used to have different age requirements.) There is absolutely no specific codified method to petition to get off the damned list where if you tick boxes a b and c, you are automatically removed from the list.

        I don’t mind some kind of registry, but any time you have a registry you have to encode in the same law that creates it a way to get OFF it that your average registered person can access with relative ease. Said method should be some sort of easy to file petition form which shows A: what you were convicted of, how old you were, when and where and if that law has been changed since (which should pretty much be an automatic there, as well as an expungement, because if we’ve decided as a society that it’s really NOT a crime for an 18 year old to date a 15 year old then it shouldn’t have been a crime 15 years ago.) etc.

        1. JessaB*

          Also honestly there needs to be levels of registry – there is a qualitative difference between rape and peeing in public, I’m not sure how you do that but I’d presume you can classify crimes as misdemeanors and felonies and the registries should be DIFFERENT for them and the registries for misdemeanors should automatically purge after x years with no new crimes. Also juvenile vs adult crimes, children are going on registries and normally we separate juvenile crime from adult crime for a reason. Many children end up on registries for things they do not understand are actually crimes (sexting anyone?)

    4. Adam*

      Absolutely. Sexual violence is a violation of the highest order and should be treated as such, but I fear that the pendulum has swung so far in the direction of zero consideration/black and white law it leaves literally no room for error. I don’t want to argue against a system that keeps legit scumbags in line, but I’d say it really is best to know exactly what landed this new co-worker on the registry before making any more decisions.

      1. LisaLee*

        Yeah. I struggle with the idea of a registry when it seems like a lot of actual rapists have their behavior excused (like all the recent cases involving high school athletes) yet a lot of lesser crimes are punished harshly. In high school a friend of mine became pregnant by her boyfriend when she was 15 and she was 16. Her parents were extremely conservative Christians and pressed charges. Luckily for her boyfriend, the judge told him he could choose to enlist in a military training academy and the charges would be dropped. But still–he had to abandon his whole life and future plans for 6 years. It just wasn’t right.

        1. Zillah*

          This is the crux of my issue with a registry, too. The vast majority of rapists will never be put on the registry, because they’ll never be convicted of the crime, and worse, people who do know about their crimes often handwave them away. It’s a really messed double standard, and I feel like it’s part of how our society pretends that rape culture isn’t a problem.

        2. Adam*

          Agreed. I’m a Christian whose views on sex could probably be considered somewhat Puritanical, but if I for one second believe that the majority of teenagers aren’t going to willingly experiment sexually then I have just dropped the ball. They are going to naturally seek it out, and while it often won’t have been the best of choices personally I feel it’s a huge disservice to them to label it as something criminal that puts you on the same list as those who actively victimize people. That’s a horrible stigma to carry.

          1. Another Job Seeker*

            I’m a Christian, and I agree with you completely. My views on sex are based on what is in Scripture. Children (and young adults) who may have made poor choices should not be treated as though they are predators who are dangerous to the public. It’s unfair to them and bad for our society as a whole.

    5. Bartlett for President*

      I’d be curious to know how OP#1 found out that her coworker was on the registry in the first place.

      It has never crossed my mind to look up people I work with, or really anyone else in my life – and, I’m the daughter of a retired attorney who used to defend murders and all sorts of other very “lovely” people. I’m obviously not comparing my situation to OP#1s, but since I worked for my father through many of those case, I know the truly ugly side of people – people who look totally “normal” and harmless.

      1. Adam*

        I’m curious on the logistics of this. Obviously HR would know about his record before hiring him. Is it common practice to let your current staff know about these things when such a person becomes a staff member? Since their name and photo is easily accessed on the internet if you go looking it doesn’t seem like private information.

        1. Bartlett for President*

          I looked up a few states, and based on my (non-attorney) read of the rules, employers aren’t obligated to make any kind of announcement. The employer has to be informed, and the parole officers have to approve any jobs the sex offender takes. However, there is nothing I saw that required employers make any sort of announcement to their employees, and I would be shocked if an employer wanted to do that in the first place. It may not be private information, but I could imagine there is a lawsuit waiting to happen if they made an announcement for sexual offenders, but not those charged the, say, felony assault.

          I believe sex offenders have to notify a neighborhood when they move into it, in some areas. But, I imagine the OP would have noted that she found out because he moved in down the street.

          This is why I’m curious how the OP found out about it. Did someone else know and tell her? Does she look everyone up? If that latter, that must be a very difficult way to go through life – and I say that without being flip or sarcastic, I truly would think that must be hard to be so haunted by something that it compelled a person to look up information on everyone they have any real interaction with.

          1. .*

            Where I live the police website is good at keeping the RSOL updated. They even have an iPhone apt where you can be alerted if one is employed/moves to your area/school district. It’s easy to see their addresses/mug shots/ vehicle description/tattoo description /ect. This also is a lot of times shared on facebook.

            1. Florida*

              I don’t understand why someone would want this app. I mean this sincerely. If you knew that a sex offender moved into your school district (that’s a very large area), you saw their mug shot, address, etc., what would you do with this information? Even if you saw the man in the grocery store, does that make you safer that you know he committed a sex crime 20 years ago?
              BTW, when I was in college, I received one of those postcards that said a sex offender moved within a mile of my home. There is nothing you can do with that information. Even the people in my neighborhood who had kids thought it was a waste of tax money to mail the postcard.

              1. .*

                I think there’s a lot you could do with that information. Countless times after someone has been accused of a sex crime other people come forward and say “well seen so and so doing x but didn’t know at the time if that was suspicious”. A lot of the early warning signs that someone is up to no good are easy to make excuses for but having the RSOL changes the game. It puts people on higher alert around those individuals and makes coming forward with concerns a lot easier.
                For example, if you seen a 60yo male passing out candy to children on the way home from school or letting them pet his dog, what would you think? Would it be alarming or would you think the guy is “just being friendly” “harmless old man”, would the reaction change if he were on the RSOL? That’s an easy example.
                What if you noticed a man walking threw your yard a couple days in a row? Not overly alarming, right? But what if next week, out the corner of your eye, you swear you seen him peep in the window? Lots of people would tell themselves they were being paranoid. But when he’s been on the RSOL a lot easier to voice your concerns to the police.
                When everyone knows who the local child molester is its a lot easier for the community to stand together and watch the guy vs one or two cops who are privileged enough to have the information.
                The school also can show the flyer to the kids (they even send them home with them) alerting the kids to report if the see these upstanding citizens taking to other children or doing suscpious information. Not all children have watchful alert parents.

              2. Ted Mosby*

                A child molester lived across the street from my jr high school. He was convicted of raping multiple 11 and 12 year olds. We lived in a small town where people were pretty trusting, and knowing he was a sex offender we stayed away from him and didn’t take his friendly comments the way we would other adults.

                There are a million things I would do differently. Not run by those houses at night, or not run alone at night. Not let my kids trick or treat there or offer to shovel that driveway for $20. Not knock on the door to see if everything was ok if it was left open and the mail had been dropped in the hall. Not stop to help him if I saw him with a heavy load.

          2. Ann*

            There are definitely people who regularly check the list. I used to work with a woman who told me that she checked the list almost every day for updates.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          All it takes is one person finding it on the registry. That one person can trigger the spread of the word like wildfire. I have seen one person inform a company of over several hundred people. Bad news travels and lots of people are willing to help carry it.

          However, in the case of a sex offender, I would personally feel the need to tell my female coworkers. I would want them to tell me.

          1. FiveWheels*

            Why just female co workers? Who is most at risk depends on who the sex offender’s likely targets were.

            1. Ted Mosby*

              And sex crimes are far, far more likely to be committed against women. The registry lists the charge, not the gender of the victims.

        3. Busy*

          Not every HR requires conviction information on an application or runs a background check, so it’s totally possible HR didn’t know. We didn’t require it here until a few years ago, after we had a bit of an incident with someone who (in any other company) would have been screened out for based on his conviction record. I actually read this and though, oh crap, this is totally the kind of thing that could happen here and then I’d be the one trying to figure out the solution… :)

      2. aebhel*

        Well, a lot of people check sex offender registries regularly, or get alerts when someone on the list moves into their area. OP may not have specifically looked up their coworker.

    6. Why are we not giving the OP the benefit of the doubt?*

      I agree with all the comments stating situations where some things have been over prosecuted (peeing in public, 16yo hooking up with 15yo). I even value the importance of getting felons (including some violent) back into the workforce and society. I don’t understand why tho we are answering the question as if the most likely possibility is that OP dosent know the charge or that the charge falls into what most of us would agree is over prosecution. When I read the letter I assumed OP knows what the charge is and, like most, would act accordingly. I find it less likely that OP wrote this letter and went out of her way to avoid a person convicted of peeing in public. Maybe I’m uneasy with this because as much as I would like to see more ex-cons have the ability to get and maintain jobs, situations like this is something Ive never been able to think up a good solution to. I concide that this probably stems from my own thought process that sex crimes are the worst of the worst. In a situation like this I can’t help but feel like the OP isn’t wrong in not wanting to work with someone convicted of an offensive sexual crime if it makes them uncomfortable. It seems to me that if the company hired this person knowing that they were a registered sex offender the company should have been prepared to handle situations like this. The company knew that a quick google search would reveal what this person has been convicted of doing. Op I feel for you! If they cant reasonably employ this person in a manner where he isn’t causing others distress they should not have hired him in the first place. I feel like if the crime was anything else OP probably would not be asked to suck it up. OP if your employer can’t accomodate something as reasonable as you not wanting to work 1:1 with someone convicted of a sexual crime it’s time to start looking for another job. We wouldn’t expect someone to work with HR staff convicted of identity theft, someone who tweeted a racist comment, ect and we should be equally outraged that a company expects someone, uncomfortable for whatever reason, to work next to a known sexual offender. If others can work with him without feeling uneasy then the company should encourage that but not force those uncomfortable to do so. The company and the registered sex offender are the ones that need to suck it up not OP.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        It’s not a question of not giving the OP the benefit of the doubt. Where, in any of these comments, is anyone casting doubt on her? All anyone is advising her to do is to have all the facts before she decides what to do next. The system is very flawed, and in too many cases it’s been used as a way to make a political statement, destroying people’s lives in the process.

        1. .*

          But why are you assuming she dosent already have all the facts? To me that’s casting doubt. Why is it reasonable to think she wouldn’t have obtained that information when it’s so easy to get.
          It’s also comes off as casting doubt when the first few comments share stories of people who were put on the list for things that really shouldn’t count (peeing in public, ect). How are these stories a benefit to the op? Does it really matter why he’s on the list if she feels uncomfortable around him. It’s dismissing her. It’s casting doubt that the op has a legitamit reason for concern/ feelings of being uncomfortable. In a bigger context it is important not to judge everyone on the list the same way but that’s not what op was asking about. She asked what to do dealing with a situation where she was forced to work with a know sexual predator.

          1. Colette*

            There are plenty of people who don’t know how the registry works. There’s nothing wrong with pointing out things the OP may not know.

            But if she decides whatever he did is an issue, her choices are to talk with her manager and find a way not to work with him, figure out how to she can work with him, or quit and find a new job.

          2. INFJ*

            It’s being assumed because it’s not in the letter. People are going off of the actual information they have. I don’t interpret the stories about people on the registries who didn’t commit serious crimes as dismissing the OP. I interpret these stories as people genuinely hoping that this is the case for her so that there is an easy solution to her problem. Nobody wants her to have to work with someone that committed a truly serious sex crime.

          3. Florida*

            OP is not being forced to work with a sexual predator. OP said it was a sex offender, not a sex predator. Those two words are not synonyms.
            Sex offenders are frequently people who pee in public, exposure, etc. If OP said the person was a sex offender, we have every reason to believe the person was not involved in a violent act.
            Propagandists use offender and predator interchangeably to make the homeless peeing man seem like a child rapist, but really the terms are different. If OP called the person an offender, let’s believe he was an offender, not a predator.

            1. aebhel*

              Sex offender is a blanket term that can apply both to someone who urinates in public and someone who rapes a child. They both go in the same registry, so this looks a lot like a semantics game to me, tbh.

              1. Florida*

                They are both in the same registry but they are labeled differently. Much like you can find people charged with misdemeanors and felonies in the same arrest record database, but they are clearly labeled as one or the other. It’s not fair for someone to assume that just because you were arrested, you were arrested for a felony.
                This is an analogy. I’m not saying that offenders are misdemeanors and predators are felonies. I’m just saying that even though they are in the same database, the individual record clearly delineates, and OP said its an offender. It’s not fair for us to say she is now “forced to work with a known sexual predator.” Unless, of course, we are trying to make OP out to be the victim.

                1. aebhel*

                  Well, okay, but the options are currently: OP knows that their coworker is in the offender registry but doesn’t know what for, assumes the worst, wants nothing to do with them; OP knows what the crime is and it’s something minor like public urination, OP is being a bit unreasonable; OP knows what the crime is and it’s something serious and she quite understandably wants nothing to do with the guy.

                  We don’t know which one it is. The people who are saying this guy MUST be a sexual predator are assuming too much, but you’re doing the same thing by assuming that his crime MUST be insignificant because otherwise she would have specifically said ‘predator’.

                2. Zillah*

                  In fairness, though, things like public urination can be more sinister than they sound on the face of it – there are plenty of situations where men expose themselves to intimidate people, particularly girls or women. I had a friend who had that happen on a quiet train late in the evening when we were fifteen or so, and she was very shaken from the experience.

          4. my two cents*

            we’re doubting that OP knows the actual offense otherwise they may have listed some detail. i.e. “…registered sex offender (lewd display to minor)”

            If OP knows where the ‘offender’ coworker is from originally, or at least when/where it was committed, they could also check their state’s court access. in wisconsin, it’s affectionately referred to as “ccap” – wisconsin circuit court access portal.

      2. Not Today Satan*

        I totally agree. I’ve found all the comments about totally-non-threatening-reasons-someone-can-get-on-the-registry to be really condescending. I’ve looked at the registry before, and it’s SUPER simple to read. I really doubt OP would take the step of writing into an advice columnist before checking out this guy on the registry herself.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I don’t know the OP and can’t speak to it, but I absolutely know people who were shocked to learn the sex offender’s registry included these trivial, stupid cases – I was one of them years ago when someone enlightened me. Someone who *hasn’t* learned that yet could be told “Hey, did you hear? So and so is a registered sex offender!” and, assuming they trusted that person’s word, assume that also meant the guy was dangerous in some way. I absolutely could have thought that way, *without* searching the registry (which I didn’t know how to do – I still don’t actually, because I don’t really care – I’m sure I could figure it out if I had to) to double-check. It would never have occurred to me as a necessary step, in my ignorance.

          If OP *already knows this* then OP can shake her head, roll her eyes at those of us suggesting it, and move on knowing the actual offense. If OP is ignorant as I once was, now OP has the information…and maybe, maybe, she’ll be lucky enough to find out her new coworker is only an idiot who pees in public.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            Yes. For a long time, I thought if someone was on the sex offender registry that meant they were a violent predator, period. And that’s the way it should be. Now I’ve learned more about it, and it turns out that in many cases it’s not as simple as that.

            The fact that this has raised so much discussion reiterates my original point that the effectiveness of the registry is being diminished by cases like the ones mentioned here.

            1. Adam*

              Agreed. I’m in my early 30’s and I didn’t learn just how wide the range of convictions that could land you the list could be until last year. Before that I thought if you were a “sex offender” you were a straight up vile predator. I had no idea that the list ranged from the worst of the worst all the way to teenagers who got caught having consensual sex. I was actually pretty shocked when I learned this.

        2. Dweali*

          I would read the registry when i lived in AR and unless I had first hand knowledge of law it was all Class A, Class Y, and the like…MAYBE with public indecency test thrown in but never anything more specific

      3. Bleu*

        The rant seems unnecessary when Alison herself suggested the OP might try to get more information if she hasn’t already.

      4. Florida*

        Let’s say that the employee was guilty of the worst sex crime you can imagine. Even if that’s the case, I think Alison’s advice is still sound. If OP is uncomfortable, it’s OP’s problem. I know that sounds harsh, but no one else responsible for our comfort. Neither the employee nor the employer are doing anything illegal, so OP’s options are to ask to not work with him (which may or may not work), figure out how to work with him, or find a new job. That’s probably not what OP wanted to hear. It’s not what I would want to hear if an employee gave me the heebeejeebees. But that’s how advice works – sometimes (usually) you don’t get the advice you want, you get the advice you need.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          It’s harsh, but it’s true. A person guilty of a horrible crime still has rights, and in the eyes of the law those rights are equal to the OP’s, particularly if that person has paid their debt to society. The employer can’t treat this person like a pariah, even if he completely deserves it. Doing so could open the door for him to sue the employer for harassment, allowing a hostile work environment, and so on. It would be galling, and infuriating, if that happened, but he would be within his rights to take legal action.

      5. finman*

        Could this be covered under ADA? Some sort of PTSD type of disability provoked by those who have committed a sexual crime? If she can work in the same building, but not in his near vicinity (25 feet) and avoid direct contact, it would seem like that could be a reasonable accommodation.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For the ADA to be in play, she’d have to have a condition that substantially interfered with a major life activity (like walking, breathing, eating, etc.).

        2. Anna*

          At this time I don’t think PTSD is covered under the ADA, but there are people working to have it included because it can have such a significant impact on a person.

          1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            PTSD is included. I mentioned down below – per EEOC, it is almost always approved with the right docs.

          2. Retail HR Guy*

            The ADA does not list which conditions are or aren’t covered. An individual analysis is supposed to be done to determine whether something is covered (by looking at whether any activities of daily living are impaired, how severely impaired they are, what the duration is, etc.).

            So PTSD can certainly be covered (and has been many times by courts) so long as it is severe enough. Milder forms of it may not be covered, though, despite being the same diagnosis.

          3. Florida*

            With PTSD, as with any disability, it would depend on the severity. For one person, PTSD might be covered, but another person might not have as severe a case, so it wouldn’t be covered.

        3. FiveWheels*

          I don’t think it would be a reasonable accommodation to have two employees with a buffer zone between them. How would that be policed? Would it actually reduce anxiety to know someone triggering was on the premises and potentially exactly 26 feet away?

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Agreed. At Helljob, someone I worked with was on it for statutory rape–he had dated someone who was underage. (I was told about this by both someone else AND him, and I checked, and the disclosure was accurate.) Granted, he was a stupid little nit and I didn’t like him anyway, but that had nothing to do with his offender status.

      I totally understand where the OP is coming from–if the guy is on it for more ominous reasons and/or the reason is similar to what she experienced, I can see why she wouldn’t want to work with him. But it may not be avoidable other than leaving the job (which totally sucks).

    8. Sadsack*

      I agree. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I think the online sex registry database provides codes describing the type of violation. However, if the coworker’s violation was very serious and the OP is still uncomfortable, I am not sure what advise to give. Sorry you are in this situation.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Yeah, although even there, the codes are sometimes misleading. I had an acquaintance who pleaded guilty in Pennsylvania to possession of child pornography, but the registry says he committed “sexual abuse of a minor.” That sounds very different than what he actually did (and worse, at least in my reading).

        Note: not defending child pornography, not saying that it’s illogical to call possession of it “sex abuse.” It just leads to situations where the registry makes people sound more violent/predatory than they are.

        1. Temperance*

          That’s really … odd. PA does a really accurate job, usually. I wonder if he plead guilty to sexual abuse because he had a huge quantity of porn.

          A family friend of my husband’s did time for child porn and sexual abuse of a child under 16 … and he pleaded guilty to both.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            That’s just what the offense is (or was) called in Pennsylvania. The laws against child pornography there define possession etc. as “sexual abuse.” So the registry is accurate, but unless you looked up Pennsylvania’s criminal code, you would think my acquaintance had personally sexually abused children (which he didn’t, as far as anyone knows).

            1. Zillah*

              Ehhhhh. Given that a child presumably was abused to make the porn he was consuming, I don’t have much sympathy for him.

              1. Laura*

                Well, indeed! “Oh, he just paid to watch children being abused, he didn’t do it himself” looks pretty awful when you read the justification you just made for your acquaintance, doesn’t it?

  5. preaction*

    #1: This stigma of former criminals, and the sex-offender registry in general, is appalling. By shunning people, by not trying to help them, embrace them, and support them, they’re far more likely to re-offend. One generally doesn’t commit crimes because everything’s going swimmingly (economically, socially, mentally, or otherwise), so ostracizing them on top of dealing with that isn’t going to help matters… This is of course assuming they’re guilty of an actual crime and not public urination or something that would be covered by “Romeo and Juliet” laws.

    For your own personal situation, approach it like you would any other person (assuming you were lacking this information.) If they do something to make you uncomfortable, report it to your boss.

    1. caryatid*

      glad that you feel the comfort of a sexual predator is more important than that of a sexual abuse survivor.

        1. caryatid*

          i apologize for being short! i should have expressed this better. but i do think that it’s worth examining this statement more, as it seems to terribly minimize what Preaction is even calling “actual crimes” and how they affect survivors of abuse.

        2. neverjaunty*

          I don’t disagree, AAM, but I wish you had similarly responded to preaction, who essentially scolded the OP for not wanting to “embrace” and act with compassion toward a sex offender.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think preaction expressed her opinion in a way that was rude or unkind to others, which is the issue I was addressing. I welcome a bunch of disagreeing opinions here, as long as people are civil about it.

      1. Allison Mary*

        I don’t think that’s what preaction is saying at all. I think preaction is saying that a compassionate approach towards all offenders is more likely to get the results that we, as a society, would probably desire, than would an approach rooted in fear. (And I completely agree, even though it’s very hard sometimes to get past that fear, especially when you’ve suffered hurt yourself.)

        In the immortal words of Yoda: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, and hatred leads to the dark side. ^.^

        1. Zillah*

          I don’t think that those interpretations are mutually exclusive, though. Calls for a more compassionate approach toward offenders – either convicted or not – can and often does lead to their victims getting shoved to the side, which isn’t okay. That’s particularly true when you’re addressing someone who was molested as a child – while I agree that caryatid could have been more respectful, preaction’s comment rubbed me the wrong way, too. It’s not the OP’s responsibility to smooth the way for this coworker, and it feels incredibly inappropriate to emphasize the coworker’s feelings over the OP’s.

          Compassion is good, and I think that providing a path for people who have been convicted of a crime to reenter society after incarceration is really important. However, it’s a myth that sexual predators commit crimes because things aren’t going “swimmingly” for them – by and large, sexual predators commit crimes because they’re sexual predators and they want to. This isn’t like theft or drug use, where external problems absolutely can contribute to those crimes. There aren’t really any external problems that make raping someone more understandable, which is part of why many people have such a strong reaction to sexual predators.

          “Ostracizing them” isn’t just about preventing crimes – it’s about providing a safe space for victims and making a statement about what kind of behavior you find acceptable. Sexual predators are able to hide behind people who minimize their crimes or preach compassion at the expense of the victims far, far too often. It’s not anyone’s place to tell the OP that her disliking sexual predators is harmful or wrong, or that she should be trying to get to a point where she’s okay with them.

          1. Bartlett for President*

            I don’t think preaction was advocating for the OP to smooth the way for this person, but rather advocating they be treated like any other coworker. I think “embrace” was a poor choice of words by preaction, but I truly doubt she meant that OP#1 do anything to make the coworker’s life easier, beyond treating them the say way she would any other coworker.

            1. I'm a Little Teapot*

              I’m not sure why someone who committed such a crime should be treated “like any other coworker,” though. As Zillah pointed out, there’s no understandable reason to molest someone. And it’s not as if being a sex offender is something he couldn’t have helped – he’s a sex offender because he made a choice to commit whatever crime he committed. (I know it’s possible to be on the registry for trivial things, as Alison noted, and that infuriates me – but I’m assuming OP has checked and found this isn’t the case.)

            2. Zillah*

              But telling the OP that she should be repressing her own (very reasonable) discomfort for the sake of her coworker’s ability to reintegrate into society is smoothing the way by turning her into the problem. That’s not okay with me. Advocating for better programs and laws to help people reintegrate into society after being released from prison is awesome, but putting that burden on individuals is not.

              1. Sarahnova*

                Thank God for your existence in this debate, Zillah, because I can’t even. I think it’s appropriate for us to discuss the possibility that this guy ended up on the registry for what most people would consider a “minor” offence, but I feel there is a very real minimisation of the OP’s experience in many of these comments, and there is also the possibility that he is, in fact, a predator.

                1. Apollo Warbucks*

                  It’s a possibility that there was some stupid reason for him ending up on the registry, but the way I see it is, these things are a matter of public record (and almost certainly reported in the news) I would think the OP is well aware of the nature of the offense, and would take that into account.

                  In addition to that she is not dealing with a theoretical concept she’s been put in close quarters with someone who has committed an offense that she has suffered from in the past, I’ve not been sexually assaulted but I wouldn’t want to work with someone who had committed that sort of crime, and I really think if the company is going to employ people with those particular crimes on their records they should be able to accommodate requests from other employees who don’t want to work with them.

                2. Zillah*

                  Aww, thanks.

                  I agree with you – I feel like the vast majority of the comments are centered around the possibility that it’s something relatively minor, which isn’t really helpful to the OP or someone in a similar position who’s reading this in the future if that isn’t the case. It’s absolutely worth acknowledging that there’s a grey area, but we shouldn’t get sidetracked from the question that the OP actually asked.

                  And, it’s also worth pointing out that the line between “minor” and “serious” isn’t a clear, definitive one. Even things like urinating in public, which we’re all dismissing as minor, can indicate something more sinister – as I said above, I had a friend who had a man expose himself to her on a quiet train late in the evening when we were about fifteen, and she was quite shaken and avoided riding the train alone for quite awhile after that. Someone who behaves in that way would make me very uncomfortable.

              2. Navy Vet*

                I understand why you would want to differentiate between a violent offender/pedophile/predator and someone who w drunk in college and urinated within x number of feet of a school. But…..

                I wonder the employer knew. It is common practice for most employers to do a background check of some sort before hiring. Some may not.

                I a on the LW side though. This is a very tricky situation for her. She may very well not want to tell her employer about her own history. My current employer doesn’t know of mine. Because I do not wish it to color my employers view of me. (And it does, whether intentional or not) Any one who has reported sexual assault knows more often or not there is a LOT of victim blaming. And sometimes if you tell people about your history they will question what you did to attract that sort of attention. And they will look for things in your current behavior that attracts. It is a real thing that happens. It’s infuriating, terrifying and stressful in a way you can never imagine if you’ve never been through it yourself.

                It makes you dread waking up in the morning for work, it makes you have panic attacks in your kitchen thinking about the day ahead, it makes you go out to your car during lunch to hyperventilate.

                OP, I understand why you do not feel safe at work. I sympathyse and empathyse completely. You may need to have a difficult discussion with your supervisor. But, I would suggest you have HR with you during this discussion as most managers do not have the training to handle this properly. And at least HR will keep them on the legal response path.

                I had a manager dismiss a sexual harassment incident as “men are gross, so you should expect it”. If I had HR in the room I have no doubt she would have stomped that out. Not because she was compassionate or nice, but because saying things like that can cause the company much discomfort at a minimum.

                I’m sorry you are going through this. First and foremost take care of yourself. And be prepared to start looking for a new position. Either the employer is ok with hiring this person with their history (and putting their comfort ahead of your safety), or they didn’t do a proper background check.

                1. Zillah*

                  Overall, I agree with you. Roping in HR is an excellent suggestion, though if the OP hasn’t broached the specific issue with her supervisors, I’d suggest she do that first. Not all HR departments are good, so it’s possible that they’ll be dismissive, but she’s got nothing to lose.

                  As Alison has pointed out elsewhere in the comments, though, some states have laws against discriminating/harassing against people for arrests or convictions. The employer doesn’t necessarily have a choice in the matter, and even if they did, I’m not comfortable with the idea that people who have served time for sex offenses don’t have the right to work or that anyone who hires them is treating the safety of all their other employees cavalierly. They do have to go somewhere.

                  So does the OP, though, and not wanting to work with this person is very understandable to me. I certainly wouldn’t want to work or associate with someone I knew was a rapist or child molester; I find those crimes too unsettling and disturbing.

                2. Temperance*

                  Thank you for saying this. My initial thought was that her manager is a man and doesn’t understand what it’s like for a woman to live in rape culture, much less a woman with an abuse history. I had a shitty job at a family restaurant back in college, and a man convicted of raping his teenage stepdaughter was hired off the books to do odd jobs. I often worked with just the cook and myself and this man, and was often alone with the cook smoked. It was awful, and reporting it just got me in trouble (because my idiot manager thought that the rape didn’t matter, even though corporate would have disagreed).

                1. Zillah*

                  I don’t have a solution. However, I don’t think that having a solution or working toward reform is a requirement to have and act on feelings about this issue.

                2. Temperance*

                  Here’s the thing: even if you did your time, you will always be a rapist. Victims don’t get the luxury of going away for a little while and then coming out with a clean slate, why should the people doing the harm?

                3. Biff*

                  I don’t mean to sound harsh here, but there is no next step. Committing a very serious crime is like winning a Darwin award without dying. There are certain things that cannot be undone and your life will never be the same. The reality is that you can’t ever finish paying the debt to society when you’ve committed certain crimes, because your victim will always have it live with them.

            3. .*

              The thing is being convicted of a sexual crimes puts the new employee into a category where in some situations it’s a given they won’t be “treated like every other employee”. The company and the new hire both should know this. Once it’s been determined that you have done certain things so far out of social norms it’s unreasonable to think all the existing employees will “treat you like every other employee”.

          2. .*

            Thank you for making this comment. I commented above but your much better with words then me. You have expressed what I wanted to say in a very graceful way.

          3. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

            I’m not quire sure where best to reply (it’s a sort of general reply to this thread in general) so I’ll put it here.

            I think it’s possible to say both that the company (not OP) should (morally) do what they can to help new employee reintegrate and saying that the burden isn’t on OP in this situation. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that the OP can do in this situation other than talk to their employer. Wherever you fall on this issue, ultimately, OP’s employer is going to make a business decision.

            They may decide if OP asks that they are quite ok with OP not working with new employee, especially as other employees are happy to; they may decide that OP is a superstar and, as OP’s job unavoidably works alongside this one they’re going to move the new employee/let them go; they may decide that the new employee looks like being a superstar and they want to keep the new employee, so they tell OP that OP has to work with new employee or they will be fired (or a myriad of other things, but I think those are the three most likely outcomes).

            All OP can do is talk to them, and be prepared for any of these outcomes. If it isn’t the outcome that OP wants, they will need to be prepared for that and know what they want to do (whether they want to start looking for a new job etc) The employer is very unlikely to be thinking about societal benefits of re-integration or supporting the victim; they are going to be making a business decision. You can think that’s morally right or wrong, and you can think that their ultimate decision is morally right or wrong, but that’s the bottom line.

            If the employer is reasonable, I would have thought that making sure OP doesn’t have to work alongside new employee is the most likely outcome; it sounds like it is possible, and it will be the best solution for all parties. If that’s the case, or if they decide that OP needs to work with new employee when told and OP can’t leave the job immediately, the best *workplace* advice for OP at that point is to try and remain professional whenever they come into contact with new employee in the workplace, however frequently or infrequently (which may not quite mean “treating them like any other employee” but is going to mean remaining polite and unemotional) in order to preserve their job and reputation (again, whatever the moral rights and wrongs)

          4. Higher Ed(na)*

            “However, it’s a myth that sexual predators commit crimes because things aren’t going “swimmingly” for them – by and large, sexual predators commit crimes because they’re sexual predators and they want to. This isn’t like theft or drug use, where external problems absolutely can contribute to those crimes. There aren’t really any external problems that make raping someone more understandable, which is part of why many people have such a strong reaction to sexual predators.”

            Actually, research supports that many offenders were victims of sexual and physical abuse as children. (See for example: Babchishin, K. M., Karl Hanson, R., & Hermann, C. A. (2011). The Characteristics of Online Sex Offenders: A Meta-Analysis. Sexual Abuse: A Journal Of Research & Treatment , 23(1), 92-123.)

            Note that I’m NOT saying all victims will become abusers. I simply think it’s important to remember that people who commit violent acts often started out as victims themselves.

            1. Observer*

              Not only is it true that many, probably most, abuse survivors don’t turn into abusers, plenty of abusers also were NOT abuse victims. Yes, being a victim of abuse makes it more likely, but that’s it.

              To the extent that external factors contribute to sexual abuse, though, it’s a very limited set of external circumstances that come into play. In other words, being the victim of abuse increases the likelihood of becoming an abuser. But, other external factors simply don’t seem to have much of an effect.

            2. .*

              Why is it important to remember that lots of people who become sexual abusers were victims of the same crime? It’s not a good argument. If my Dad went to prison for gunning down the neighbor would it change how anyone felt about my brother doing it 15 years later? No one would suggest that we should take a light stance on the issue because “hey, his Dad’s a killer too. Poor thing didn’t know any better.” At some point these people need to be held accountable.

        2. aebhel*

          Sure, and that’s great in theory….but when you’re talking to someone who is a survivor of sexual abuse, it has some really messed up implications. Sexual abuse survivors have some pretty good reasons to not want to be around people who have been convicted of sexual abuse, and they should not be pressured to be a-ok with it.

          I agree that society as a whole should be more compassionate to people who have committed crimes, but I don’t think that the onus of that should fall on the shoulders of their victims.

        3. neverjaunty*

          Why do you think that expecting people’s actions to have consequences is “an approach rooted in fear”?

        4. neverjaunty*

          Using people’s past behavior as a predictor of future behavior is not an “approach rooted in fear”.

          If you had a job candidate who was fired from their last job for not doing their work and taking unapproved time off, would it be “an approach rooted in fear” to take that into account when deciding to hire them? If you learned that your friend Bob had a habit of borrowing money and not paying it back, apologizing, and then doing it again, is it an “approach rooted in fear” to refuse to lend him money?

          Sometimes I really think that a lot of very solid concerns about restorative justice and re-integrating offenders gets swamped with Geek Social Fallacies about ostracism being bad, and a desire to squelch uncomfortable conflict by pretending it doesn’t exist (and shutting down anyone who says otherwise).

          1. LabMonkey*

            I’ve never seen these things linked before, but yes! Geek Social Fallacies definitely play into this conversion.

      2. Bartlett for President*

        I didn’t read preaction’s comment as putting anyone’s rights above anyone else’s rights.

        However, I think it is important to remember that once people serve their time then our justice system considers them no longer to be a criminal (in a simplified manner). One reason our recidivism rate is so high in this country is because many parts of society consider criminals of many stripes to be sub-human, and less worthy of fair treatment. The result is an entire segment of the population forced to exist outside of society, and without any support mechanism. Do I think that we should welcome child molesters into preschools? Obviously not, and steps should be taken to ensure sexual offenders are prevented from coming into contact with potential victims. But, immediately shunning them and treating them as subhuman results in them turning inward, and often towards groups of people who “understand” them, and likely will facilitate additional crimes – and then the circle starts anew.

        We as a society would be well served to consider that these people have paid for their crimes according to the justice system, and therefore deserve fair treatment now.

        [none of this is a response directly to OP#1, but rather caryatid]

        1. Kathlynn*

          Here is my issue with both your and the first comment in this tree. You are treating the Letter Sender as though she doesn’t have a reason to feel uncomfortable around this person. She’s not some one without a traumatic history trying to shun this guy. She’s someone with a traumatic history, and this guy makes her uncomfortable. By expecting her to suppress her emotions, you *are* placing the guy above her.

          I, personally would be unable to work with a sex-offender for the same reason. Even if it cost me my job, I just wouldn’t be able to do it. It would/could be too triggering. I don’t know if the Letter Sender’s level of reaction, especially since we (abuse victims) are often taught to minimize or ignore the abuse. She doesn’t give much description of her actual feelings. But it’s possible if not probable that her reaction is beyond just minor “uncomfortable”.
          I feel like the best case would be for the bosses to respect her request, and try to minimize her contact with the new employee.

          1. preaction*

            As a victim of abuse myself, I feel that I can no more ask for unreasonable levels of accommodation than anyone else. You and others in this thread seem to think that it’s either-or, that one person wins and the other must lose. I don’t believe that is the case at all. I can’t blame the entire world for the fear and anxiety I feel when I leave my house. I can’t ask the entire world to protect me at all times from all the things I fear. My problems are my own personal issues, and I have to meet the world at least half-way.

            I’m not saying that either person’s feelings are more valid. “Victim” and “Criminal” are powerful labels (which indeed is the entire reason the sex offender registry exists, to use that power). But neither side negates the other. We need to do better at both. We’ve got real problems in the US dealing with both sides of this. Criminals can be made to pay for their crime forever, and victims can be equally shunned (or worse, completely disbelieved) by those who don’t understand.

            I understand how hard it is. I’m extremely bad at it myself. But making other people’s lives more miserable isn’t going to give me the strength to work through my problems and try to lead something approaching a normal life. It’s just going to keep me apart from people (which, like criminal recidivism, is how I became trapped in a pattern of victimhood).

            But, if I self-apply the victim label, if I let it define me, if I wear it as a badge, if I let it limit how I interact with the world, if I … succumb… my abusers win.

            1. neverjaunty*

              When people decide to act in ways that have a risk of bad consequences if they get caught, it is not “making their lives more miserable” by refusing to give them a free pass out of those consequences. That is depriving them of their agency and overestimating our own responsibility.

              You are absolutely the best and only judge of what approach is right for you. But you are projecting that onto the LW and insisting that your approach is not only what you need to do to life your life; you are presenting is as the correct moral choice that is best for society. Please don’t do that.

            2. Kathlynn*

              One of these persons was the unwilling victim of an assult, as a child. The other, willingly commited a crime. They are not the same thing.
              The LS’s issues are, imop, more important because she is dealing with mental trauma. And all she wants is not to work directly with the guy. That’s not a big request at all. Heck, my manager did this when there was a personality clash between me and a couple other workers. (clash being, they were lazy and did nothing, and she refused to do anything about it. One didn’t like me for non-work reasons. The other because she was a know-it-all and I didn’t stand for it). And we only have 7-9 workers for 3 shifts.
              And you are labeling the coworker’s feelings/etc as more important when you are saying “treat this person as if they were anyone else”. Because that is telling the LS that they must ignore their reasonable reaction to the person.

        2. .*

          You say that reasonable precautions should be taken to avoid sexual predators being in situations that put them with potential victims. Anyone could be a victim tho. That’s what makes finding a place for them soooo much harder then say an ex bank robber or someone that sold drugs. Not wanting to work with them because of something they chose to do, knowing the consequences, is far from treating them “sub human”. If the crime was money laundering do you think the company would hire them for payroll? Nope but at the end of the day the $ could be replaced a lot easier then something a rapist/child molester/who knows what takes from their victim. The OP shouldn’t have the burden.

          1. Roscoe*

            I think the problem is that its very hard to say a sex offender can never work with women (assuming the crime was against a woman). Yes, you can say a money launderer can’t work with money and things like that. But if we are assuming OP wasn’t broadcasting the fact that she was molested as a kid, its not like the company is intentionally putting her in a bad position. They put him a job where they thought he can succeed. Now it turns out its triggering a reaction in someone else just by his existence. I’m not minimizing the OPs issues, but I don’t know that the company needs to go to extreme lenghts to appease her either.

            1. neverjaunty*

              As I said elsewhere, I don’t understand this “oh but of course that’s different than people who committed this other crime”. If we believe in rehabilitation and second chances and compassion, then why couldn’t a money launderer work with money – either we’re giving second chances or we’re not. If we assume a money launderer can’t possibly be trusted around money, then we’re admitting we don’t REALLY trust that they’re fully rehabilitated.

              1. preaction*

                I would argue that it’s more about avoiding the triggers that cause one to commit crimes. If I were a drug-addict, it’d be a bad idea to put me in a pharmacy. I could do it, but there’s a risk there, so I should at least be eased back into that part of life so I can try to learn how to cope, constructively, with whatever caused me to commit my crime.

                If the mental health facilities in the US weren’t non-existant, I’d say regular, state-sponsored therapy sessions, but mental health isn’t something we like to talk about.

                And I fully believe we do not have a rehabilitation system in the US, we have a punishment system. But that’s part of why I feel how I do about how we treat criminals trying to re-integrate.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Then we need to look at whether the person is in fact ‘triggered’ by the situation they’d be put in, and at the assumption that certain entire classes of crimes (like sexual abuse of children) have unavoidable ‘triggers’ where as others (like sexual abuse of adult women) never do. Otherwise, all we’re doing is saying that rehabilitation and forgiveness are OK except for things that really bother us.

            2. .*

              True. I guess for me it comes down to risk. I personally would never under any circumstances belive that a child molester was “rehabilitated”. The prison system dosent have the resources for that and more then likely it didn’t happen. If anything they went to prison, learned to cover their crimes better, and now know more “like minded folks”. I couldn’t justify letting this person around children because “they did there time” or let’s “forgive and forget, second chances are important”. Just not happening. If they strike again the consequences are so much worse then if someone takes a couple grand the company.

          2. Bob*

            I think it completely depends on the crime. A friend of mine was a psychologist who worked exclusively with sex offenders for decades. I asked him once how concerned we should be about the people who committed serious offences and he said if they moved into his neighborhood, he would literally move. When he retired, he actually moved to the opposite coast because he was so uncomfortable seeing his ex-patients in his day-to-day life – bagging his groceries, walking a dog past his house, etc. Keep in mind though that he only dealt with the true scumbags, not somebody that was arrested for streaking as a prank or urinating in public.

          3. Desdemona*

            This, exactly. It baffles me that so many people take property crimes so seriously they’d never consider hiring a former embezzler, but think holding rapists accountable is somehow unfairly damaging their lives. I used to work with a woman who at a previous job had carried a rape whistle to work with her because they had an employee known to be raping women in the parking lot, whom the company nevertheless refused to let go.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          This is micro vs macro.

          It is not up to OP to the be the one to cure society’s problems with the criminal justice system.
          If we talk about OP, we can arrive at an answer of xyz.
          If we talk about society as a whole it is entirely possible to arrive at a very different answer.
          To use OP’s situation as a means to reform the country is wildly unfair to OP. That is not her up to her.

          I think OP knows our justice system is lacking on many levels. She, herself, is a crime victim. I am sure she is painfully aware of many, many things that are wrong.

          I think it is more to the point to find tools that OP can use in her setting. One thing I can see is that her employer deliberately hired this person knowing his background. In my mind the employer volunteered to take on something that the employees do NOT support and had NO say in taking on. I have seen employers hire minors and employees supported that endeavor. I have seen employers hire people with disabilities and employees supported that endeavor. I think that asking people to work with a sex offender is asking too much (in certain settings) and the employer should not be surprised if there is backlash. This is an employer that is not thinking about what the business is truly requiring of the employees. In OP’s case, the employer is requiring mental anguish as part of her work day.

          Drilling down through all this, OP, my thought is that does this employer have enough insurance in case something goes wrong here. Not a question you can ask directly, but something to keep in the back of your mind, it might be handy later on: What would the employer’s insurance company say if they knew the background of this employee? Sometimes the incidental things such as insurance, turn out to be the key point that changes situations. I am not trying to detract from your own personal experiences- no,no- I am trying to find ideas that would be something of immediate concern to your employer and resonate enough with them to cause your employer to change what they are doing.
          Hopefully, other people will have ideas as to how to show your employer that they are vulnerable here. When your employer realizes it’s a bad plan, then maybe your situation will change.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            I like your idea about the insurance it turns it into a business issue / argument rather than a personal one.

            1. Meg Murry*

              Except sometimes the employer choosing to hire the person is actually a business decision.

              I worked for a company that participated in a program designed to put felons back to work. The employer actually got some kind of local or state tax break for participating in the program.

              However, this was a company that generally treated their general labor employees pretty mediocre-ly at best – so the general policy was – don’t feel comfortable working with ex-cons at the next workstation? You are free to get a new job. Basically, everyone was replaceable there, and there was only the barest minimum nod to making sure employees were safe. And that was overall – while I never felt comfortable in the area where general laborers (including those on the felon program) worked, a large part of it was also because it was poorly lit, poorly ventilated and I feared getting runover by a forklift since it didn’t have clear separation between foot traffic and forklift traffic.

              Actually, I think the worst part about the program was probably that anytime a new employee got hired that looked even the tiniest bit “rough” – like a the stereotype of who would be cast as a long-term prisoner, everyone would avoid that person, assuming they were part of the program.

            2. Mike C.*

              I’m not really seeing the distinction. You want the person fired, but you’re afraid of coming right out and saying it, so you’re finding reasons to accomplish the same thing without having to be so blunt.

              1. Zillah*

                Without getting into the morality of it, there’s a significant difference in terms of presentation. We frequently suggest that OPs make business arguments rather than personal ones; it’s about what’s most likely to get the outcome you want.

                That said, it’s quite possible that the employer can’t legally fire this person for their background, which makes the point moot without even entering into a morality question.

          2. Mando Diao*

            I agree 100%. This debate is stirring up some issues I’ve seen a lot regarding intersectionality – you try to have sympathy for every oppressed party, and ideally it helps you see how different “categories” of discrimination line up, but in reality, it almost always throws women under the bus. Look at the recent Cologne attacks. Women are being silenced because no one wants to say anything racially insensitive.

            In this instance, people are bending over backwards to give a man the benefit of the doubt, and the result is that a female victim is being told to suck it up, or that she’s wrong, or that she couldn’t possibly know how to use google. Eff all of that. How dare we accuse her of that?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t think anyone is bending over backwards to give this particular man the benefit of the doubt; rather, the discussion has broadened to issues with the sex offender registry in general. I think everyone here gets that this particular man may very well have committed a horrible crime.

              I also don’t think anyone is telling the OP to suck it up or that she doesn’t know how to Google.

              1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                I dunno, Alison. I feel that precaution is advocating that OP not talk, but consider what drove the coworker to commit his crime to put him on the list and feel empathy for his situation over her experience and likely trauma.

                I do consider that to be giving give offender the benefit of the doubt, beyond this situation, and telling the OP to such it up in this situation.

              2. Ad Astra*

                I think a lot of people have skewed toward the broader implications of sex-offender registries and sex-crimes legislation and such because it feels like OP just really doesn’t have a ton of options here. My hope is that OP researches the coworker a little more and discovers his crime was public urination and decides she feels fine working with this guy. If it turns out this guy really is a monster, then, well… I don’t even know.

            2. Kiwi*

              I agree 100%. Women invariably wind up being told to make accommodations and that their concerns make them the “not-nice-person” in the room. The more things change the more they stay the same.

              1. Mando Diao*

                It’s a huge problem in feminism that we’re expected to account for every intersectionality but no other oppressed class cares about us. How many gay and non-white men have spoken up in support of Planned Parenthood? But OP can’t speak out about her own real life and experiences without being pulled into debates about semantics and moral relativism and how she needs to consider her coworker’s feelings.

                1. Zillah*

                  It’s also a huge problem in feminism that white feminists often ignore intersextionality when it comes to women of color and LGBTQA+ women of any race. This cuts two ways.

                  It’s also worth pointing out that what you’ve presented is a massive oversimplification. “No other oppressed class cares about us” is a very broad statement, and it’s both untrue and unfair.

        4. neverjaunty*

          Entirely serious questions: Why don’t you think we should allow paroled child molesters into preschools? Don’t you feel those people have paid for their crimes? Aren’t they worthy of fair treatment, just like any other criminal?

          1. Mike C.*

            For the same reason an alcoholic shouldn’t work in a bar? Come on now, we can be reasonable without asking leading questions. If you have a point, then make it.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Mike C., I know that this goes against every belligerent fiber of your being, but sometimes it really is possible to ask people a question because one jumps to the conclusion that they said something for reason X, and it turns out that in fact they said it for reason Y, and since X is so unreasonable, it might be fair to ask them a question to find out if one has misunderstood them.

              If what’s being advocated here is a lot of restorative-justice attitudes about how people should be given second chances after they pay their debts to society, then there doesn’t seem to be a reason to carve child molesters as a class out of that approach – especially given the long discussion above about how being close to one side of the age of consent can get someone convicted of abusing a minor.

              And if you’re going to jump in to compare them to alcoholics – then you’re implicitly making the assumption that every other group of criminals (and sex offenders in particular) has no compulsion or likelihood of reoffense. In essence, that we can trust rapists as long as they stuck to victims over a certain age.

              Honestly, I don’t think that’s what is at the root of the problem here. I think it’s that people (quite rightly) see child molestation as a terrible crime, and therefore are unwilling to apply their own give-em-a-second-chance, embrace-the-change arguments to anyone so loathsome. Which of course has some ugly implications about how they view other crimes. And that’s why I asked the questions, rather than leap to unpleasant assumptions.

              1. preaction*

                Pedophiles are a special breed of criminal, but not because they’re any different from any other criminal. In the US, we’ve built them up into the bogeyman of our society. This response is the worst possible for getting mentally-ill individuals the help they need before they become subject to the criminal justice system. But, as I said elsewhere in the thread, we in the US also have a terrible attitude towards the mentally ill that almost certainly turns them into victims and criminals both.

                1. Observer*

                  Pedophiles are not mentally ill in the conventional sense, most of the time. True pedophiles (ie the ones who are attracted to pre-pubescent children) Do have a problem, but typical mental health resources are unlikely to be useful to them. Those who molest young teens, etc. are no more mentally ill than any other sexual predator.

                2. Zillah*

                  I agree with Observer. We’re getting massively off-topic here and should probably bring it back to the OP’s specific situation, but it’s incredibly inappropriate to characterize pedophilia as being similar to other mental illnesses on a number of levels. There’s certainly an argument to be made about making it easier for pedophiles to access services to help before they offend, but there are enormous differences between pedophilia and illnesses like depression or schizophrenia on pretty much every front.

                3. Treena*

                  In response to Observer and Zillah, pedophillia is what I would *definitely* consider a mental illness, albeit one that we as a society do not fully understand and have not even attempted treatment.

                  There is no biological/evolutionary reason for this type of sexual preference, and often these desires stem from a very early age, and last for years and years before someone offends for the first time. Primarily because they know their urges are wrong, and intellectually, they don’t want to, but then eventually give in to their compulsions.

                  Germany is one of the leaders in realizing this and trying to help pedophiles (people who are sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children) before they become offenders. (Link below) British men are literally abandoning their lives and moving to Germany to participate because that’s how badly they need help.

                  I fully expect in 100-200 years we will have made leaps and bounds in this arena, and that when someone has these urges, they won’t be alone, shamed, and end up turning to the only resources available to them (other pedophiles on the internet–YIKES). But until then, they are definitely mentally ill people. Recall what we did to mentally ill people with diagnoses that didn’t exist yet…

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Please be polite to other commenters here (I’m referring to the “every belligerent fiber of your being” part of the comment). There is a way to talk about contentious issues without actually being contentious to each other.

              3. Eliza Jane*

                I think the distinction for me is that a person can live a full and productive life without going into a preschool. There is a constant balance between risk and reward that we walk societally. For me, it’s actually a lot like the ADA protections for employees. Employers have to make reasonable accommodations for someone with a bad back, but only as long as it doesn’t interfere with their ability to perform the basic functions of their job.

                Saying, “This person isn’t allowed within 100 feet of a school” or “This person cannot work in the medical field,” or whatever other restrictions are designed to prevent opportunity and recidivism is different from saying, “Wherever you move and whatever you do to try to put your life together, we’re going to publicly inform everyone of who you are and what you did, and you will probably be denied work over it, and will be unable to get a job and support yourself.”

                1. neverjaunty*

                  I agree completely with you about restrictions being reasonable, and related directly to the offense in question. What I’m not understanding is the argument that we should treat people as having paid their dues and give them a second chance and a clean slate, except child molesters, when suddenly those principles of forgiveness and rehabilitation are quietly round-filed.

              4. Mike C.*

                The things is that you shouldn’t set people up to fail.

                If kids/money/drugs/personal information/animals/alcohol/cars/etc are key aspects of their crimes, then keeping them away can aid greatly in ensuring that recidivism isn’t an issue.

                Also, simply because someone is outside of jail doesn’t mean that their punishment is over.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  And shouldn’t that apply when the “etc” in your “key aspects” is adult women, rather than children or drugs?

                  If the real issue is not setting people up to fail and avoiding recidivism, then it makes no sense to look at entire categories of crimes as worthy/unworthy of a second chance, or to hastily exclude criminals on the grounds that we think they are very bad. It’s going to depend very much on the person, what they did, why they did it, their attitude now, and their track record in the interim. Not on platitudes about ‘forever punishment’ or ’embracing’ ex-cons.

                2. Creag an Tuire*

                  “And shouldn’t that apply when the “etc” in your “key aspects” is adult women, rather than children or drugs?”

                  No, because that’s an impossible condition to meet without returning to gender-segregated workplaces.

              5. Creag an Tuire*

                I assumed Mike’s comparison to alcoholics was based on the presumption that sexual attraction to children and alcoholism are both known mental illnesses with prescribed treatments and no permanent cure. So in that sense, yes, you can say that someone with an underlying mental illness should be handled differently than than other criminals without “ugly implications about how [you] view other crimes”.

          2. Roscoe*

            Honestly, because its children vs. adults, and the choices they have. Parents wouldn’t ever choose to have their child around someone convicted of molesting children. Its much easier to tell an adult what their options are vs. subjecting your child to something. Furthermore, while you can have an opinion of society, its pretty normal to have a different opinion when its your child’s life. Take schools in general. Its very easy to say that overall we think that ALL children should have equal access to education, and that taking the smartest kids out of a neighborhood school is not the best thing to do in general. However most parents would gladly move their kid to a better school for a better chance of success.

            So similarly, you can think that child molesters deserve a second chance while not wanting to risk your own child’s safety in doing so.

            1. neverjaunty*

              If that’s the argument, then the stuff about embracing ex-cons and offering rehabilitation and second chances is so much smoke; what we’re really talking about is acceptable levels of risk that the person will re-offend. If that’s the case, then let’s have that discussion, please, instead of all this noble talk about whether someone’s paid their debt to society.

              1. Mando Diao*

                No one’s saying that ex-cons shouldn’t have the right to work among other adults. They’re saying that a sex offender shouldn’t be allowed in a preschool. If a sex offender is going to lobby for the right to enter a preschool for no good reason, that’s all the more proof I need that he shouldn’t be there.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  I understand what they’re saying. I’m not following why that squares with “they deserve a second chance” and “we should embrace them and help them become better people”. What if the ‘good reason’ is that it’s a paying job, or that’s where the sex offender had credentials before their conviction? Why are we being selective?

              2. Creag an Tuire*

                Well, it’s sort of both, in an inverse of the ADA “reasonable accommodation” argument. It’s reasonable to release somebody but say they cannot have unrestricted access to children (or jobs that involve money, or whatever), because functioning in society is still reasonable under those terms. You can’t release somebody but tell them “you can’t ever be near women again” (or “near people again”, because not everyone commits sexual assault against women) because that’s unreasonable.

                (And again, if somebody really -is- too odious to be trusted in society again, what happened to the good-old life sentence? Aside from the legendary stinginess of the American taxpayer evidently extending to the criminal justice system.)

                1. Zillah*

                  I think neverjaunty’s point, though – and please correct me if I’m wrong! – is that most of the time, “that’s not a reasonable restriction” isn’t the argument being made. It’s typically more “they’ve already paid their debt to society” or “it isn’t fair to vilify them.” Those are two very different arguments, and thought process here does matter. Among other things, it’s far more validating of the OP’s situation than the “he’s paid his debt to society” bit.

            2. JessaB*

              Also an adult has more agency actually. The OP can advocate for not being near this employee. A child does not have the agency to determine their physical location. They cannot NOT be in school without being subject to truancy checks, they cannot NOT do what the adults in charge of them say without being in trouble. The reason we protect children at a higher rate than adults (sex offenders who predate on children cannot be near schools,) is because children do not have a choice whether to be present in schools and they usually depending on where they live do not have a choice of WHICH school to be present IN.

              The OP may suffer hardship (she may decide she has to quit this job and not have a salary because her employers are not willing or able to support her,) but she is NOT required pretty much by law and custom to be present at that one specific job at that one specific shift or time or else.

              Children get more protection under law because they have less rights under law.

        5. Master Bean Counter*

          The problem with that approach is that sexual offenders are almost never rehabilitated by serving time. Jail does not address their under lying urges and desires. The offenders often have impulse control issues and what I think are other issues. Because a person who does such things to another person can not be right in the head in my opinion. But as a whole this country really doesn’t treat mental health issues well.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      Buuuuuuttttt….you fail to consider that sex offenders are not armed robbers or murderers. Assuming he is a legit sex offender (rapist, chomo, etc), and not one of the BS ones that Alison mentions, there is an EXTREMELY STRONG compulsion to reoffend on a regular basis, hence the lifelong supervision for many. There has been a ton of research surrounding the issue. It’s basically a mental defect that cannot be fixed with compassion, support and embracing them. I do believe some when they genuinely say that they didn’t want to commit their crimes but they couldn’t help themselves. Dealing with sex offender behavior is a lifelong commitment involving counseling, supervision, and sometimes medication.

      That said, OP’s actions really depend on the person’s offense. If the guy is a violent rapist, it is not unreasonable to conclude that he may become enamored with a female co-worker with whom he has regular contact and may be enticed to reoffend, not to say that he would, but he may be tempted. It’s a difficult spot for OP for sure. Best of luck!

      1. fposte*

        That seems to be a myth, though; sex offenders tend to reoffend at lower rates than many other criminals, though it depends what exact crime we’re talking about. Drug offenses and larceny are actually the highest recidivism rates.

        1. Observer*

          Here is what seems to be happening with these numbers. There seems to be two groups – those that offend once and never again, and those that are repeat offenders. The repeat offenders have VERY high rates of repeat offenses (If they have done whatever more than once, they often wind up repeating dozens of times, quite literally.) SO, that winds up giving a skewed view of recidivism.

          1. fposte*

            Though that’s true of some other crimes as well, isn’t it? I guess then you’d have to know how much that percentage varies from crime to crime (and then you get into the lack of translatable parity when it comes to terms for crime names, which muddies the statistics too) to know its significance for any particular crime.

            1. Observer*

              You are right about the issue of translating from one crime to another. But, it does seem that this bifurcation – either once or a lot – is fairly unique to this class of crime.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I read the same thing that sex offenders have a very low recidivism rate.

          I have also read that certain forms of brain cancer can trigger behaviors that result in sex offenses. That’s troubling.

      2. neverjaunty*

        No, it’s not a mental defect. Can we please get away from the idea that all rapists are simply damaged monsters who are not like normal people, because that is *exactly* the kind of mistake that benefits them and allows them to fly under the radar.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          I’m not saying don’t hold them accountable at all. If there could be stiffer penalties that what already exists for truly violent sex offenders and pedophiles, I would completely support that. I’m saying it isn’t always a decision to commit a crime in the same manner as someone who commits armed robbery because that it easier than working or they’re in dire economic straights. There is a mental component/strong compulsion to it that isn’t easily rehabilitated in many cases. Just because they don’t reoffend, doesn’t mean they’re rehabilitated. It is a long process of “recovery” for many and the temptation remains in almost all cases, much like long-term drug users. The difference in sex offenders and the drug and larceny crimes mentioned is the obvious damage to the victims life, versus damage to property or a drug addict’s own health. And if rapists are just like normal people, I do hope you have at least a couple of former rapist friends and you all do tons of “normal stuff together all the time.” People don’t just randomly decide to rape someone and then say “you know, I got it out of my system…I think I’m good. No more raping for me.” Come on!

        2. Desdemona*

          Thank you. Rape isn’t a mental defect so much as a character defect. At least with drug addiction, it starts as “this feels good and isn’t hurting anybody…”

    3. Ad Astra*

      I have a big problem with continued stigmatization of people who were convicted of things like burglary, drug offenses, DUI, and the like — because, yeah, people are less likely to commit crimes like these when they’re in a good situation economically and socially, which usually means working a steady job where they’re not treated like pariahs.

      But sexual predators are different. Their motives are different. Their crimes are different. The potential impact on a victim is different. I don’t find it necessary to stigmatize these predators, per se, but I’m not quite comfortable with the idea of pretending it never happened after they’ve paid their debt to society. I’m not sure what my solution to that is, other than the existing sex-offender registry.

      1. preaction*

        There are proposals to make the offender registry more transparent. In some places (not sure if it’s in all places), you really don’t know if it’s a serial rapist or a drunken micturater.

        I’m no expert in psychology or criminal justice, but I do know that the US national mental health system is practically non-existent, which makes many of those who would be served by it into prison fodder. I agree there needs to be a reintegration period, a probationary period. I understand that, especially for those whose crimes require the appearance of normal and well-adjusted, it can be hard to know whether they will re-offend.

        But we need to be better about helping former criminals and not letting fear and paranoia rule our lives. I used to work for one of those companies that collects public records data and then runs ads like “Someone you know may be a SEX OFFENDER / VIOLENT CRAZYPERSON / CHICAGO BEARS FAN! Find out who!” You type in your zip code, and they show you the records (and then you pay them money). They build up this fear and then profit from it. And it’s even worse when life gives you a real reason to fear those people (Bears fans… I mean really…)

        I mean, I like believing the best of people, but I will admit I mostly don’t let people know where I live no matter how long I’ve known them, for my own protection. I imagine people would call that paranoid until I explained why, at which point I’d become A Victim, to be treated gingerly and, since I’m difficult to relate with, shunned (I’m amazed at the kind of casual conversations I must avoid, or lie about, to avoid this).

        So OP#1 can do the research and come up with a mostly-informed opinion (assuming the co-worker can’t politely be asked about it, not that asking would likely lead to a good outcome anyway, though the taboo about asking which could lead to understanding is a problem of itself), or they can come up with the story they want to believe and behave accordingly (one of those options likely leading to finding a new job…)

        1. Zillah*

          This is besides the point, but while the mental health system in the United States has deep deficiencies and there are many barriers for many people to accessing it, it is not my experience that it is “nearly nonexistent.”

      2. Former Retail Manager*

        YES! This is what I meant. And I entirely agree about continued stigmatization of people convicted of other types of offenses, but as you say, sex offenders are in a different category for all of the reasons you mention.

    4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      I don’t agree. I’m a fellow survivor, and you essentially ask me to put my abuser’s pain above the trauma he caused me and my decades long recovery from his actions.

      OP does not owe any compassion to this stranger. She does need to talk to her manager. But honestly, his remorse or suffering are not her problem, and are not factors into her decision to talk. She has a right to her discomfort;I feel as though you propose that sex abuse survivors should abdicate those feelings by feeling empathy for the abuser; this skirts the line of balding the victim for not forgiving and moving on with a “normal” life.

      1. Roscoe*

        I don’t think anyone is asking you to do that. I do think though that assuming a business will bear the burden is not good. If this business has made the decision that they want to give people this second chance, then thats their choice. If a worker doesn’t like that idea, they can leave.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          Or, the business can listen to that worker and transfer her.

          The decision is not always a binary one. And if the alternative truly is for OP to leave, then yes, the co-worker’s needs are placed before a survivor’s needs. I would argue the business does bear the burden; lack or action can contribute to lowered morale, increased gossip, and lowered productivity.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s not necessarily so black and white though. It’s possible that the OP is in a role that would make it impossible for her to avoid the coworker and still be able to do her job (or vice versa). It’s possible that there’s no transfer that would make sense. It’s also possible that neither of those things are true and that a good employer would be able to transfer her; we just don’t know.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Or, alternately, it says “We’re a big group of people who all have to work together. We’re not going to open the door to people refusing to work with other employees. We’ve hired you each to do a job and that job will require working with other employees.”

            I totally get not wanting to work with someone you find reprehensible. But I also don’t think the company is obligated to accommodate that if they stand by their decision to employ someone.

            I’m not usually a fan of “but where do you draw the line?” arguments, but I do think there’s one here. If you let people refuse to work with other employees, you are opening the door to a lot of really tricky situations where people might not want to work with others for all sorts of other (perfectly legitimate) reasons too. I suppose you could say “our line is criminal convictions,” but I could understand a business deciding to simply say “If your role requires you to work with someone and we can’t easily transfer you, that’s what the job requires.”

            (To be clear, I am very much in favor of businesses doing whatever they can to make people comfortable, including transferring them if possible, but I understand why it could be hard/impossible.)

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              This where we get into “rest of the class” line of reasoning,

              There’s no black and white answer, so the solution can’t be black and white.

              In this case, we have someone who is triggered by the presence of someone due to previous trauma. That’s a rare case and requires special HR handling.

              If OP got migraines from new coworkers Cologne, that could be an ADA complaint.

              If OP has BO , that’s not a legitimate reason for a transfer.

              Wouldn’t this be a function of HR to review these types of scenarios and determine action on case-by-case basis? My company has an entire Ombudsman group and HR group dedicated to these types of requests.

              1. Zillah*

                There are a couple issues in play here, though, and the argument a few of you are making about privileging the attacker over the victim in this subthread are comparing apples and oranges.

                The company absolutely should accommodate the OP if they can, and my heart goes out to her. I wouldn’t want to work with her coworker, either. However, as far as we know, the coworker didn’t actually do anything in this situation. She isn’t his victim – she’s a victim, and he’s an offender. That’s a very different dynamic, and while the business should do everything it can to accommodate the OP, I don’t think that characterizing this as choosing the offender over the victim is fair.

              2. Florida*

                Another thing that makes this even more interesting … is OP triggered because of her own actions (i.e. looking up people on the list)? I’m not saying she was, I’m asking if that matters. Was she fine working with Employee until she took it upon herself to look him up on the list? If that’s the case (which we don’t know all the facts here), would that make it different than say the cologne issue?
                I’m not favoring OP or Employee here. I’m asking if it makes any difference that she looked it up herself. (For the sake of this discussion, I’m assuming she did.)

          2. fposte*

            I also think that that’s more relevant math when you’re talking about the specific person who was this specific offender’s victim, rather than considering offenders and victims as classes; those are two very different things, and I think we’re muddying them. I think “privilege” isn’t really an effective word for the classes discussion, because there’s no practical or, I would argue, moral way to prioritize victims’ desire to avoid *all* offenders. I don’t think that’s privileging offenders over victims; I think that’s prioritizing basic daily life for citizens in the world over requests to curtail that daily life.

            If you’re talking an individual seeking not to work with an offender whom she was the victim of, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t entertain the OP’s request sympathetically and perhaps grant it, depending on the situation, but not because there’s a right to avoid certain people in the workplace.

            1. JessaB*

              There is also levels of Trigger. There is “this guy was an offender and he gives me the willies,” and there is “this guy was an offender, and I am getting full blown panic attacks just thinking of coming into work and have to medicate just to get in my car.” The first is something you discuss. The second is an ADA issue. I should know, I have panic disorder that rises to a diagnosed condition that when I am actually experiencing an attack I cannot function, IE I couldn’t actually “medicate and then get in my car,” I might be able to medicate and curl up into a ball in a shaking fit, but not work, take a shower, drive, or even speak (I get aphasic, I literally cannot get words out.)

              and those extremes have various data points between them that require various levels of discussion between “what can we do to minimise issues such as having someone else around when you need to meet one-on-one, to let’s have an actual interactive process meeting.”

              1. fposte*

                I agree that the ADA is worth exploring, but there’s no automatic coverage; people tend to mistakenly believe that because an ADA request was honored for their disorder that this disorder is *always* covered (it’s not simply “diagnosed condition”). And there’s also the possibility that reasonable accommodation may not be possible even under the ADA; sometimes that’s the upshot.

                As you say, the conversation is really important to have.

    5. BananaPants*

      I’m perfectly happy to ostracize the guy down the block who’s a registered offender, given that he was convicted of multiple assaults on several female victims under the age of 8 over a period of several years (our state’s registry gives details about victims and the nature of the offense for certain felony convictions). He paid his debt to society in prison and is free to live his life without harassment – but that doesn’t mean I care to work with him, have him attend our church or participate in community events involving children, or have our young daughters EVER spend time anywhere near him.

      A lot of people say that many sex offenders are on the list for relatively minor crimes or statutory offenses. That’s true, but there ARE people on these lists who deserve to be on them. There are five offenders living within a half mile of our house and four were convicted of serious felonies, either assaults on children or rape of an adult. Again, I have no problem with these people living without harassment since their debt to society has been paid, but the flip side of that is that I have no desire to “embrace” them in any way.

    6. Temperance*

      #1: I respectfully disagree. While you aren’t wrong about crimes in general, sexual crimes are different. No one is raping to feed their family. While it’s arguable that pedophilia is a mental illness, you never, ever have to act on those impulses. That’s a choice.

      The “public urination” aspect to the registry is amazingly overblown – the vast majority of the people (men) on there will say it’s about pissing in public, but that’s a lie. (There’s a ton of interesting reading on the subject, but I’m afraid to link so I don’t get moderated.) A friend of my husband’s family raped two young girls and was caught with child porn; he lied about his offenses to the family, claiming that it was something like fencing stolen goods. He claimed it was part of his plea bargain not to talk. Well, long story short, I did a tiny bit of research, at someone’s request, and found what he had done.)

  6. Gary*

    #1: “I currently work for a union-based company in the warehouse department.” Does this mean you’re in a union? If you are, maybe they can help you.

    1. MT*

      Probably not. The union is there to protect all employees. If an allowance is made for one employee to refuse to work with a different employee, it could set precedent in which all employees could refuse to work with any employee of their choice. There are probably work rules set in the contract that dictate how employees are move/transfer.

    2. louise*

      That was my first thought!

      1) Check into reason he’s on the list if you haven’t yet.
      2) If it is indeed an alarming reason/something that makes you uncomfortable, ask manager for accommodation.
      3) If that doesn’t work, go to union rep.

      Of course, the union now also represents the new hire and may be obligated to bring him into any discussions when there is a complaint involving him, but still worth trying.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not precisely, although we did have these, which should all make the OP feel better about her own situation:

  7. Mookie*

    LW3, I’ve experienced something very similar — department at Old Job from 2 Years Ago moving into New Job’s building — and because I hadn’t burned any bridges (but I hadn’t kept in touch with anyone, either) I didn’t think it’d end up disastrous, but I was pretty wary of the prospect of forced, unexpected reunions, particularly because I hadn’t got to announce my resignation (asked to leave the afternoon I’d submitted a month’s notice letter) or help with a transition while finishing up my workload and I’ve no idea how my absence was handled or explained. It preyed on my mind, which is already brimming over with self-doubt and social anxiety at the best of times, so I decided not to rehearse anything, not to orchestrate a meeting for when I was ready, but just let the vibe dictate the conversation / cool acknowledgement / freezeout.

    It went pretty well! Most of the meetings were spontaneous, for the most part everyone was very warm with me and I with them, and just in case they were feeling awkward but hiding it well, I kept it short and my body language casual: handshake if I knew them to be handshakers; a polite, generalized question or two; a passing offer to show them around the infrastructural nightmare cum dust heap we were working in if we happened to take a break at the same time; and ended by saying it was nice to see them and I wished them luck. No expectations, no trying to stage-manage the conversation away from my resignation (if they asked, they asked, and I was glad to give them a neutral answer), no forced or pointed heartiness or throat-clearing about how great it was in my new job. And I made sure to let them approach me the next time.

    One or two people didn’t remember me or didn’t want to, and one was very invested, for a few weeks, in button-holing me just outside my office doors for loud, arm-waving interrogations about my Shocking! Horroring! Sudden Disappearance! a few years prior. I just chuckled airily and said it was flattering how much he’d missed me and I’d be sure to let my new colleagues know what a gem they’d found.

    1. Mookie*

      Also, keep in mind: with very few exceptions, people leave jobs, are laid off, are fired. There’s nothing novel or shameful about it. Would you treat a former coworker like a pariah just because she’d been fired years before? Would you even remember, initially? Or ever? Unless you committed some terrible sins against them, no one is going to be resentful or scornful of you, years later. You’re just another former co-worker. Hopefully remembering that — resisting the urge to transfer the embarrassment you may feel into other people’s minds and motives — will make the inevitable run-in that much easier. You’ve an opportunity there (but only if you want it), to make another, fresher, and wholly positive impression on them, but you’re not obligated to be friends. And even when strangers remain mostly strangers, acquaintance mostly acquaintances, it’s nice knowing you’re occupying a building not with enemies but with friendly people you no longer have to dread meeting.

      Good luck to you!

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        Yes, TOTALLY! Everything that you and Alison said. If anyone even did remember, I think it would be far too awkward to bring it up. I think most people would be happy to see that you’ve moved on and are in a position you enjoy. Don’t hesitate to take the job if you really want it!

      2. JessaB*

        Yeh unless someone has been escorted out by the cops for major crimes, I probably wouldn’t even remember they’d been fired.

  8. Racheon*

    I can’t get my head around not letting your employees take breaks, that just seems insane to me. In the UK the law is a 20 minute break every five hours, I think. And at a previous job I had nothing to do with my long lunch break, so once I’d eaten my sandwiches I went back to my desk. Where I was told I was Not Allowed to do any work, because it was my lunch hour and it was the law. Annoying in that instance, but no breaks at all…?!

    1. Mookie*

      From the people who brought you the dishonestly-named Right-to-Work laws. It would be trampling on the fair and tender feet of the Free Market if we didn’t “allow” people the “choice” to overwork themselves at the expense of their health (and sometimes of the health of others) and to the advantage of benevolent Job Creators. Bootstraps don’t need no breaks, are hyper-vigilant, these colors don’t run, why don’t you just go live in the USSR if it’s so great, etc.

      1. Racheon*

        It just seems like it would be terrible for morale, if nothing else. Specially when (I’m assuming) minimum wage jobs probably don’t have much health insurance? So if you collapse from lack of food and have to get ambulanced out, that costs you a fortune, right?

        1. Mookie*

          Strangely, low morale, ennui, and submission are something many large US employers, particularly of skilled non-union and unskilled trades, court and instill and delight in. The prospect of losing a job in a bad market makes asserting one’s rights and criticizing unsafe workplaces very dangerous, so compliance achieved through fear and humiliation is highly desirable and profitable. Passing legislation to tighten up our labor laws is viewed, cynically but credibly, as Bad for the Economy because doing so will only make domestic companies emigrate or phase out employees altogether in favor of snake oil “sharing economy” schemes (selling not a service or a good but the idea of someone else’s service or good) and unregulated, unprotected independent contractors.

          And yes, being poor here is expensive and unhealthy. I know many people who’ve refused professional medical aid out of fear of a hospital, EMT, or clinic bill that will cost them their rent or mortgage or heat or water or children.

    2. Little Teapot*

      I agree. I’m in Australia, we get half hour every 5-6 hours and 10-15 minute break every 3-4 hours so ie a standard full day is two times 10-15 minute breaks & one half hour break for lunch.

      The thing that gets me most about these crazy American break/holiday laws/norms is that people who actually take holidays & breaks are more productive and come back feeling refreshed.

      Do all American employers want frazzled over-worked employees? Guess so…

      1. Rebecca*

        I totally agree. I live in the USA, and in Pennsylvania, here’s what our law says about breaks: “Pennsylvania employers are required to provide break periods of at least 30 minutes for minors ages 14 through 17 who work five or more consecutive hours. Employers are not required to give breaks for employees 18 and over.”

        It goes on to say you have to be paid if your employer gives you a break, and it lasts less than 20 minutes. So here in PA, employers can make us work all day with no breaks if they wish. Mine doesn’t, but just the fact that all of a sudden they could change their minds and there’s nothing we can do is unsettling.

      2. neverjaunty*

        It depends on where in the US you live. There’s a reason AAM always adds “unless you live in California”, not that our wage and hour laws are fabulous by international standards either.

      3. Windchime*

        Washington State’s laws are similar to yours, Little Teapot. Workers must be given a 15 minute break after 3 hours, and must be given at least a 30 minute meal break after 5 hours. I’m salaried exempt, so I don’t know if those laws necessarily apply to me, but I remember when I was hourly and non-exempt, we were required to stick to those rules. I’ve never worked in food service, but I would hope the laws would apply to those workers as well in Washington.

    3. Merry and Bright*

      Yep, and that’s the EU minimum. Many UK employers still allow the original 30 mins minimum from the Health & Safety at Work Act – or specify a whole hour by contract.

    4. Tara*

      Yea, Canada here. 15 min break if you are working anything over 3 hours, and once you are working over 5 hours you get a second 15 min break. This is if the breaks are paid.

      1. Kathlynn*

        This varies depending on where you live. In BC it’s only 30 min if you work more then 5 hours. (or, rather, your employer cannot require you to work for more then 5 hours straight without a 30 min break.)
        I still had managers try to deny me my break, for 8 hour shifts though. (one tried to call my cash out a break. I refused, because I was required to work during it… And it was at the end of my 8 hour shift. Both are no allowed.

    5. CADMonkey007*

      I don’t understand this “no breaks” concept. How long are these shifts? Are employees allowed to use the toilet? And even if they did purchase employer food, certainly, you can’t eat while preparing food? Are employees not allowed to even bring some sustenance from home (PBJ or granola bar or something)?

      1. Anon the Great and Powerful*

        No breaks is exactly what it sounds like. No eating, no pee breaks (unless you manage to sneak to the bathroom when the boss isn’t looking).

      2. Ad Astra*

        That’s no legally required breaks, presumably so that the business doesn’t have to spend time regulating these breaks, particularly in customer-facing roles where a mandated break at the wrong time could interfere with business. The law (or lack thereof) isn’t meant to prevent businesses from giving their employees breaks; it’s mean to be hands-off. A good business will still find a way to get breaks for its employees to eat, drink, use the restroom, and actually rest. OP does not work for a good business.

        You can certainly argue that this lack of legislation allows for abusive practices, but it’s not like nobody in Missouri ever gets a break.

        1. Tara R.*

          This is completely off topic, but in my opinion you can either a) have a sufficient safety net that no one is ever at risk of losing their home or not being able to feed themselves/their children as a result of unemployment or b) have protections for workers in low wage jobs that keep them from being abused like this. You have to pick one or the other, or else you’re just saying, “We don’t care about the safety and wellbeing of poor people. #freemarket4ever”.

  9. INFJ*

    For #4, I wanted to point out there could be an exception to the rule in Alison’s response. At my last job, it was well known and accepted that most people in a specific department (entry level work) were looking to move to the next step up as soon as possible (which required changing departments). Some of them did after the 6 month minimum (myself included) and it wasn’t considered unusual.

    So if you work in a department/role like that, it may not be so bad. However, Alison is right that your manager will find out if you ask about another open position, so if you’re looking to avoid that (and it sounds like you are), you best bet may be to wait. Use the time to make contacts in the other department if you can, or work on any skills or accomplishments that may make you a more attractive candidate when you do apply.

    1. OP #4*

      Thanks, that’s really good advice! Having not worked in a large environment like this before, I’m also new to this kind of internal networking, but it is something I’m working on.

    2. Copper Boom*

      +1 I would second this as I’ve worked somewhere similar – have had 4 jobs in 4 years and the first move was 10 months in. 6 months should be long enough for you to have a feel for what type of org yours is.

      Also, if you have a mid-year evaluation coming up, you may be able to get a feel for your manager’s expectations of how long they want you to stay in the position. Many evaluations include a job progression section, especially bigger orgs with templates, so it’s more of a natural discussion than out of the blue.

        1. fairyfreak*

          Even if it’s too soon to move now, if you like the position, you can mention it to your boss in your review as something you would eventually like to do. A good manager will keep that in mind and be on the lookout when it’s time for you to move on. Heck, if there is one specific thing about the new role you like, she may be able to get you some experience with it before you move on. I had one supervisor do that for me.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Big companies usually have rules about how long you must stay in one department before you can apply for another job in the company.

      But I also think you can go to HR/recruiting and say, “I know I’m not eligible to transfer, and I am still actually enjoying my job. But this opening is really interesting to me, and I’d love to get a head’s-up if one like it comes open later.”

    4. Jade*

      I agree with this. There are certain environments where that is common, like when I worked in retail. Many, many people I worked with at my store switched departments once or twice a year. Some did it to broaden their skills so they’d be considered for management positions quicker. Others just wanted a change from the work or environment of their previous departments.

  10. Roscoe*

    For #1 its really hard for me to have an opinion either way without knowing anything. What was the crime? How long ago was it? What punishment did he receive? Does he give off weird vibes?

    However, as I see it, the company decided that they wanted to give this guy a chance. I’m sure it wasn’t a decision they made lightly. But they made it. Now its up to the OP to decide if its worth finding a new job over. I can’t say for her. But really my guess is that unless she is a superstar employee, she will have to work with the guy or leave.

    1. Tara*

      I definitely think OP#1’s first actions should be to research more about this guy’s actual crimes. Sometimes its not suuuper clear what the crime actually is, but should be obvious if its more along the lines of sexual assault rather than, say, public indecency which could be a number of things and likely less harmful (this is the category public urination or streaking at a football game or something would fall into)

      1. catsAreCool*

        However, if it’s not something minor, well in the LW’s shoes, I’d be looking for a new job. How many of the non-minor sex offenders never do it again?

  11. The Expendable Redshirt*

    4) Transfering to another job after six months might be a good plan. Does your current job have the following traits? 1) It’s entry level, simple, and with a lot of turnover? 2) Are people in your role expected to apply for other positions? 3) Is it a supportive workplace? Yes, six months is pretty soon to try to move on to another job. But there are some industries where it’s accepted. I was at Basic Entry Job for six months before starting to apply for more complicated roles in the company. I was bored out of my wits! After eight months of Basic Entry Job, I was hired for my current role. It’s much more difficult, and took six months to gain a measure of competency. I think your current job level influences whether or not it’s a good idea to apply for other positions.

    1. sunny-dee*

      I would strongly recommend reaching out to HR before applying. My company has a clearly defined internal transfer policy — e.g., you can’t request a transfer until you’ve been in your current role for 9 months (although your manager can give an exception in extreme cases), you have to notify your manager before you begin the interview process, and your transition is negotiated between OldManager and NewManager.

      If you have an HR department, then they probably have a defined set of rules you must follow. Or, they may be able to tip you off to company norms. Either way, going to HR before applying keeps you from alienating your boss or getting your application kicked back.

  12. OP #4*

    Sunny-dee, this is really helpful. Based on what you are saying, I might wait awhile longer (until there’s not an imminent position) and talk to HR generally about their internal transfer policy and company norms – make it more about information gathering and less about trying to get a specific position. I might also think about who else in the company had made an internal move like this and see if I can learn anything from their process.

    Expendable Redshirt, my current job is kind of entry/mid-level. Based on what I hear from Alison and commenters it’s probably too soon, and I’m not intensely bored yet or anything. Thanks for the advice!

    1. sunny-dee*

      Glad to help! I have been navigating the internal transfer process myself, so I’ve become BFFs with my company handbook. :)

      At least at my company, HR is used to fielding a lot of questions that aren’t necessarily related to immediate requests — FLMA leave, how to roll over PTO, maternity leave, sabbaticals, tuition reimbursement, whatever. If you just say, “hey, I saw a posting and I’m not looking now, but I’m wondering about the process” — they won’t think twice about the request. It won’t raise any flags because it’s the kind of thing people need to know, even just for curiosity.

    2. Graciosa*

      I think waiting is definitely the right thing to do. Our formal policies allow a transfer with managerial permission after a year, or applications without permission (but with notice) after eighteen months.

      Candidly, however, first roles in the company are a little different, especially at the entry level. We’re usually expecting two or three years in the initial role (three is better) before any movement. It probably takes a good year to learn the role well and start making significant contributions (this means more than just getting work done). Real mastery will take another year for top performers, and longer on average.

      What I would like to add to the advice you’ve already received is the suggestion that you at least try talking to your manager about this. As a manager, developing talent is a key part of my job. Our formal review system requires development plans, but the culture that focuses on it throughout the year is more important. I am supposed to be not only evaluating performance in a current role, but preparing my employees for future ones – if they want it, of course. Having those conversations is totally normal.

      The reason I said “at least try talking” is that I do know that not everyone operates in the same culture, and not every manager has the same focus or comfort level with managing employee development. Some managers are just trying to keep the seat filled. Even those of us who are very development focused can be turned off by someone who is overly focused on promotion or change (this is *not* the same as development) after such a short time period.

      “So, I’ve been here six months now and want to talk about other job opportunities” is going to trigger that concern. It can come off as entitled and arrogant (after six whole months, there is nothing left to learn here?) or raise the possibility that the person asking is going to turn into a job hopper. Several short stints at a bunch of different companies will be a bad thing later in your career, and these are the people I don’t hire (and often don’t even interview) for more senior positions on my team.

      “I know I’ve just started here, but I want to make sure I’m making the most of this opportunity. Are there areas that I can focus on, or things I should be doing differently to improve my skills and performance?” comes off totally differently.

      It can also, as the conversation develops, be followed by expressions of interest in learning about other parts of the company (“When I reach the point where I can contribute effectively, I’d like to be considered for a cross-functional project team”), or segue into discussions of what you are thinking about for your career. Some people want to move higher within the function, while others want to explore a variety of functions first to get a broader understanding of the business. A good manager can help you develop yourself into an attractive candidate for those roles, and even advise you on the benefits or risks of each path.

      Your manager can be a powerful advocate for your career. I would urge you to at least explore that possibility.

  13. Karina Jameson*

    This is a general comment…it is amazing (in a bad way) just how often the problem is “My employer is doing this awful thing” and the response is “yes, they certainly are doing an awful thing, but unfortunately they are not breaking a law so talk to them or find another job since you’re working for jerks.” I mean, seriously? This is the state of employment in the United States?! It’s horrifying!

    1. MT*

      I think its a shared offence, with the line item falling on the side of the employer, but there are also times its the fault of the employee. There has been sooo much hype around, do what you love, and that you should love your job that some employees feel its the employers job to make the job perfect in every way.

      1. Karina Jameson*

        I have been in management long enough to agree with you that there are certainly bad employees out there, but I am seeing more and more that the opposite is even more true. Employers who chip away at every perk, every benefit that they can get away with, while meanwhile piling on more and more work. It’s a tangible change I’ve noticed in the past 20 years, and following Ask a Manager has blown my mind with just how much ridiculousness people have to put up with from various companies, with very little rights. You hear the good old “if you don’t like it, find a new job” which is HIGHLY problematic, as the root problems with bad companies are still there.

      2. aebhel*

        I think refusing to give breaks or allow employees to eat food unless they purchase restaurant food they can’t afford falls outside the ‘my employer’s responsibility is to make me emotionally fulfilled’ thing, though. That’s just straight up shitty behavior.

      3. neverjaunty*

        Good grief. Not every problem is “a plague on both your houses”. Yes, there are entitled and terrible employees (as we see from people’s posts here about their co-workers); that’s not what’s driving minimalist employment laws in the US.

        1. Heather*

          Not to mention that entitled and terrible employees tend not to have powerful lobbying groups behind them.

    2. Ineloquent*

      Maybe we could get Alison to act as a lobbyist for us – you know, fair and reasonable work conditions for all such as breaks ever 4 hours (they can be unpaid if necessary), mandatory paid parental leave for both genders, paid sick time if you have x number of employees…

      What else do we want? How much would this cost us? The elections are coming up, so we should get on this!!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m actually pretty free-market on most of those issues (I think businesses should do all those things and far more, but I tend to favor very limited government mandates), so you don’t want me as your lobbyist. But I totally support you organizing on those issues, and at a minimum if you feel strongly about them, you should write to your members of Congress and your state representatives:

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          With respect, I’d like to know why you think businesses “should” do these things but the government shouldn’t mandate them. That just seems to ensure that workers with the least leverage and bargaining power get abused.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think people and businesses should conduct themselves in lots of ways that I don’t think the government should mandate (and you probably do too; we’re just drawing the line in different places).

            In general, I tend to favor very low government intervention, including things like deciding who can and can’t married and whether you can use mind-altering drugs. But it’s a longer political discussion than this is the forum for!

  14. Allison*

    I get that not all employers *have* to give breaks, but it seems ridiculous that someone would expect people to work for more than 4 hours straight with no chance to rest or eat, and somehow expect them to perform to the best of their abilities. Did this restaurant owner forget that their employees are human beings? Humans have to eat every few hours! I can’t imagine going a whole workday without being allowed to eat. Even when I was working min. wage jobs in college, going hours without being allowed to eat was really tough. I ended up eating big meals before work in an attempt to tide myself over until my break, but man, those were some unhealthy spikes in my blood sugar.

    OP #2, if you talk to your boss about this (and you should), emphasize that it’s a productivity issue. If people were allowed to take 15 minutes to eat approximately 3-5 hours into their shifts, they could perform better at their jobs and they wouldn’t get sick nearly as often.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      “…it seems ridiculous that someone would expect people to work for more than 4 hours straight with no chance to rest or eat, and somehow expect them to perform to the best of their abilities. Did this restaurant owner forget that their employees are human beings?”

      But as I understand the system, these employees need tips to earn a survival wage and only people performing to the best of their abilities ever get tips ever and those who do always, always get tipped no matter what. It sounds to me like a real case of “people are still coming and paying for the food. I don’t care how much the employees are earning or if they’re healthy or not. I’m making profit so it’s all fine.”

      (Which doesn’t mean OP shouldn’t talk to their boss. But I have an Eeyore feeling about this workplace, unfortunately.)

      1. Allison*

        Ah yes but if the place gets a reputation for having bad service, and there are Yelp reviews about wait staff being slow and always looking like they’re about to faint, people may opt to go elsewhere, depending on where the place is located and what other options people have.

        1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          The trouble with that (as I think was noted above) is that it punishes the employees with the employer, because now they’re also out of a job.

    2. Florida*

      It’s so interesting that many employers view breaks a 15-30 minutes of lost productivity. You are spot on when you say it is actually 3-5 hours of increased productivity.

    3. INFJ*

      To add insult to injury, it’s a RESTAURANT that doesn’t provide its employees free food OR let them bring in food from the outside AND they’re expensive to boot.

      Even Dunkin Donuts wasn’t that bad. Sure, the one I worked for only let us have a donut for free, but at least we got a 15 minute break and could bring food from home.

      OP, I am appalled for you.

      1. Allison*

        Right? Even with a discount, expensive would would be expensive for the wait staff. I could see them worrying about losing money if everyone wanted the aged porterhouse at every shift, but you could say that any entree under $X is free and anything above that price is discounted; you gotta give them something!

        It could also be that they’re just greedy and want to squeeze money out of their staff by forcing them to buy food every time they come in, but I hate to assume the worst in people I don’t even know.

      2. Noah*

        My brother has worked in food service since he was 16. He is now a chef with his own restaurant.

        Anyways, I just called and asked him. He said every place he has every worked, fast food on up to very nice resturant, has provided free food for the staff. He did say some places limited it, like the nice restaurant it was soup, salad, and pasta dishes.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          The cafe where I worked let us eat the food, but it wasn’t free–however, we did get a 50% discount. They liked that the employees ate the food and could tell customers what was good. I ate a LOT of food from that place because it was convenient to do so. And because it was in California, we had breaks, etc. We also were paid by the hour, though it wasn’t much–minimum wage at the time was only $5.15.

          The OP’s restaurant sucks. I wouldn’t eat there if I knew the management treated workers this way.

        2. BananaPants*

          Yeah, my dad was a restaurant manager and the places where he worked always offered employees one free meal during a shift over 6 hours (or something like that) – it was not the most expensive thing on the menu, but it was pretty decent food.

        3. Oryx*

          I worked at McDonalds one summer and there were two franchisees in the area with different owners. One — the one I worked for — was by far the favorite because it was known that we got one free meal (up to I think $5 or $6, which is a lot of food in McDonalds terms). The other restaurant owner didn’t give free food.

        4. Velociraptor Attack*

          When I was in food service I never worked at a place that always provided a shift meal (though one fine dining place I worked at allowed a shift drink once you were off the clock, even if the bar was otherwise closed). There would certainly be days where there was family meal or we had lineup and got to try new food items. Other than that, we got a 50% discount on all food at the restaurant, even at the expensive places. However, we were always allowed any beverage we wanted free of charge.

          We also got no breaks and were definitely not supposed to sit down and eat on the clock. I think this is the kind of thing that varies state to state and restaurant owner to restaurant owner. That said, no breaks absolutely never meant no restroom breaks ever.

    4. Xarcady*

      My state requires a half hour unpaid meal break if you work 5 hours or more. So the store where I work schedules me for a lot of 4.75 hour shifts, usually over meal times, like 10 am to 2:45 pm.

      On longer shifts, they schedule the meal breaks oddly. I’ve worked 11 am to 9 or 10 pm, and for a shift that long, you get an hour unpaid meal break. Which you are scheduled to take at noon. Leaving you with 8-9 hours of work, on your feet, with only a 20 minute paid break between coming back on shift at 1 pm and leaving at 9 or 10 that night. For a shift which any reasonable person can see covers two meal times in the normal course of the day.

      Mostly the managers are understanding and will shuffle the meal break schedule around so that you get your longer break later in the day, but there’s one stickler who refuses.

      Schedules like this make planning when to eat a challenge some days. Do you eat breakfast at a regular time and lunch at your noon break and take something for dinner that you hope you can wolf down on your 20 minute break–if you are able to take the 20 minute break? (The 20 minute break, being paid, is not something the mangers remind you to take, or even want you to take, in many instances. If the store is busy, there is subtle or not-so-subtle pressure to keep working. The meal break–they’ll get in trouble with the state, and the employee will be written up for not taking it on time, so they are laser-focused on making sure that gets taken on time.) Or do you eat “brunch” just before leaving for work, and hope you can shift your meal break to 4 or 5 pm?

      1. Allison*

        “My state requires a half hour unpaid meal break if you work 5 hours or more. So the store where I work schedules me for a lot of 4.75 hour shifts, usually over meal times, like 10 am to 2:45 pm.”

        That happened a lot when I worked at Cold Stone. My state only requires a 15 minute break for 6 hour shifts, and a half hour for 8 hours or more, (and multiple breaks for really long shifts but I forget what the exact laws are). We were only entitled to a break and some free product “IF AND ONLY IF” we worked a minimum of 6 hours. I got mostly 4-5 hour shifts. Even that felt like too long to go with no food. Even when I worked a 6 hour shift I wasn’t offered a break, and I was new so I didn’t feel like I could just ask “hey my shift is 6 hours, can I take a break at some point.”

        That job was hell. All the other jobs I had let you take a quick break even if you were only working a short shift.

  15. NDQ*

    #1, If the poster has PTSD or other mental health condition that can be verified by health providers, and being around a convicted sex offender is making the condition worse, could a reasonable ADA accommodation be required if the company employs 15 or more people?

    Others here likely know more than I do about the ADA requirements.


    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For the ADA to be in play, she’d have to have a condition that substantially interfered with a major life activity (like walking, breathing, eating, etc.).

      1. Navy Vet*

        Question on this – Many PTSD sufferers can have panic attacks, which if ever enough can interfere with major life activities, such as breathing, walking, driving etc. A really “good” panic attack can even feel like a heart attack.

        If this was the case would it qualify?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You’d need a lawyer to look at the particular case to say for sure (the ADA is very much not black and white), but I’d think it certainly could.

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        PTSD, when accompanied by an assessment and required documentation, is almost always approved per EEOC.

        The trick is getting the certified assessment from the right licensed provider (typically LCSW or higher). A GP assessment typical doesn’t count.

  16. MsChandandlerBong*

    OP #1

    If you are going to look up this coworker’s record, I recommend checking your state’s criminal court records. One of my relatives married a man who was convicted of rape some years ago. I asked her sister what happened, and she said that he and his victim had consensual intercourse, but they were both drunk (rendering her legally incapable of consent). Something didn’t sit right with me; maybe it was the fact that he spent 9 years in prison, which is extremely rare for someone convicted of rape. I checked the court docket and found that he had originally been charged with eight counts of rape and eight counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. It turns out he pleaded guilty to one count of rape.

    1. Ad Astra*

      I’m leery of sex crime convictions because of stories like this. Most sexual assaults don’t even lead to indictments, and because the process of testifying is traumatic (and defenses often rely on victim-blaming and slut-shaming), a huge number of perpetrators end up pleading to a lesser charge. I guess it is technically possible to be convicted of rape due to being on the wrong end of a he-said-she-said situation, but it seems highly unlikely and I certainly would take such a story with a massive grain of salt coming from the perp.

      1. LisaLee*

        I think the cases where the opposite is common is when you’re talking minors having consensual sex and someone’s parents get upset. I saw that happen a couple times growing up in a state where the age of consent was 16.

        And then you’ve got cases like the above, which are TERRIFYING, and clearly the registry is not doing its job by hiding the circumstances of the crime.

    2. F.*

      A conviction could also be through the military courts. In the USA, the military is also required to provide convicted sex offenders’ information to the national database.

      1. Navy Vet*

        Unfortunately, most sex offences do not make it to military court. They are handled by NJP (Non Judicial Punishment) at the command level. These offenders are very rarely placed on the registry. That is assuming the command in question does not sweep it under the rug.

        They are pushing for changes in congress, but it slow going. (If it ever goes at all.) There are still way too many people that say if you don’t want to be sexually harassed don’t join the military.

    3. BananaPants*

      We had a colleague who was arrested and charged with multiple counts of molesting a minor (he was in his 40s at the time). Based on the newspaper story surrounding his arrest it was non-consensual contact over a period of several months. His very expensive defense attorney was able to negotiate a plea bargain where he pled to one count of misdemeanor risk of injury to a minor – he spent 10 years on probation/with a suspended sentence and didn’t have to register as a sex offender.

      So all of us knew what he’d been accused of and we all knew he took a plea bargain to avoid prison time, but our employer saw fit to keep him employed. While I found his actions gross, I had no choice but to work with him; fortunately our interaction was not a daily thing.

  17. CADMonkey007*

    I’d like to offer my sympathy to OP#1 – in terms of rights it doesn’t seem like you have many, but I acknowledge that your discomfort is not necessarily your choosing. Trauma is a real thing and sometimes “just sucking it up” is not an option. I will assume you have already verified the registry, but if you haven’t that is a good first step. Also, given your past trauma, if you are seeing a therapist or something perhaps you can pair a doctor’s note (that doesn’t disclose your full history, although they will probably figure it out the nature of it) along with the coworkers documented history to help make a case with your employer that your discomfort is not unwarranted. It might also be helpful to narrow down specifically what is ok and what is not, for example, could you work with this guy, but just not in a manner that requires you to be alone with him?

    1. Chriama*

      I like this idea as well. OP, what solutions are ok for you? I’m also wondering if OP has something like PTSD, would she be protected by the ADA? It might be worth talking to an employment lawyer just to see what sort of steps you could take to encourage your employer to work with you on this issue.

  18. SunnyLibrarian*

    #3 as long as you hold your head up and realize that you have changed, there is no reason to be embarrassed. It seems like those are pretty innocuous things to be fired over. Was there something else involved? Were you coached on this behavior, or just fired?

    If it’s the latter, I think that company is the one that should be embarrassed as any decent company would give you a chance to correct your mistakes.

  19. Noah*

    #2 – If it has reached the point where employees are weak, dehydrated, and almost collapsing on the job it is likely a violation of OSHA’s general duty clause. Now, OSHA would not require the employer to provide breaks but they would say the employer has to fix the issue.

  20. Erin*

    #2 – That is really, really serious, and I agree with Alison that you should band together to discuss this with the higher ups. As much as possible, try not to be too adversarial about it – stick to the facts, offer potential solutions, and have examples of how other similar, high end restaurants handle things like this.

    At a retail job I was at for awhile, we were only allowed to have bottled water on the floor with a doctor’s note (which I had). One of my managers scolded me for drinking from it in front of customers, saying “We’re not REALLY supposed to have water out here.” And it was mentioned more than once. Even though I had a doctor’s note. And it’s freaking water. I’m like, I can’t work for someone who won’t let me have access to water when I medically need to. (Or, you know. Will severely frown on it and look down on me for it.)

    Your situation is clearly much more dire. Good luck to you.

  21. want to point something out about age of consent*

    I just wanted to clear up a misconception about age of consent (one that Alison mentioned as ‘not as concerning’ in her response to OP1). Federally, and most states, have an age gap if one is under the age of consent. In most cases it is 4 years. For example, if someone is 15, then it’s illegal for a 19+ y-o. So the 16 and 15 y-o case mentioned is usually legal. Maybe some states are stricter and have no age limit, but it seems unlikely to be prosecuted in cases like that.

    Point is, if someone tells you they’re on the list because they had sex with their 15 year old girlfriend when he was 16, then be highly suspicious.

      1. want to point something out about age of consent*

        Wow! Thanks Alison I knew there were a few but didn’t know there were that many!
        I hope that common sense prevails in a lot of those instances (very curious what would happen if an angry parent insists on pressing charges even if the age difference was like one day).

        1. neverjaunty*

          Well, first, the decision to press charges isn’t up to the parent; it’s up to the prosecutor.

          Also, the ‘one day’ is kind of a red herring – we have to have a cutoff at some point and it’s going to be an arbitrary line, as we do with many kinds of crimes. (For example, if you steal $X it might be a misdemeanor but if you stole $X plus one dollar, that’d be a felony.) And those definitions are there to protect people as well, too; I don’t think many people would be happy if a prosecutor said “Yes, she was over the age of consent, but only by one day, so we think that’s arbitrary and doesn’t count; we’re going to treat it as statutory rape.”

          1. Florida*

            Actually, it is up to the parent. The phrase they use in law enforcement is no victim, no crime. So if the victim (or the victim’s legal guardian) does not want to prosecute, there is no crime. This is a huge problem in domestic violence situations.

            1. Nursey Nurse*

              That’s not true, actually. While not having victim cooperation can and does make it harder to prosecute certain cases, prosecutors can choose to press charges against offenders without the victim’s agreement. It happens all the time, often in domestic violence cases.

              1. Velociraptor Attack*

                They can but as you pointed out, cases fall apart when your victim refuses to testify or testifies that everything was fine. You’ve got a huge burden of proof to overcome in that case so I would say it doesn’t happen “all the time”.

                1. Florida*

                  Also, some prosecutors refuse to prosecute if the victim refuses to cooperate. That’s not a law. That would just be an unwritten policy that some prosecutors might have. It varies depending on where you live. The state attorney is typically an elected position, so politics are always involved.

                2. Nursey Nurse*

                  It could vary by area as Florida notes below. In my state, it is extremely common for prosecutors (who are not elected here, which might make a difference) to take DV cases to trial without victim cooperation. We have expert witnesses whose sole job it is to explain to juries why victims recant and otherwise try to inhibit prosecution of their attackers.

    1. Ad Astra*

      Also, the age of consent in many (most?) states is 16 or 17, so it’s not terribly common to be arrested for sleeping with someone one or two years younger.

      The weird thing I keep hearing about is kids being arrested for possessing or distributing child porn for sharing nude photos of themselves.

      1. Observer*

        The weirdest thing about that is that the prosecutors in these cases actually often say with straight faces that they are doing this to protect these self-same young people. Really?!

          1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

            Mandatory minimums are for federal offenses. Nearly 100% of sex crimes are prosecuted by the states.

            1. Nursey Nurse*

              My state has presumptive sentencing for felonies, which operates a lot like mandatory minimums.

  22. Master Bean Counter*

    You have more power than you know. You already know this guy’s history. That gives you information. Information you don’t have on the rest of the public. Often it is the ones who people don’t know about that are more of a problem. I know my molester was and still isn’t on a list anywhere.
    I don’t worry about the people that are on the list. They are a known risk. I can ensure that I’m never alone with them. I can be aware and more in control of the situation. I try to do that with the ones I don’t know, but then I don’t know them.
    It completely sucks having to go through life not knowing who you can trust and who you can’t. But you can do things to help yourself. First off would be to go to therapy to help you deal with the garbage fairies that sit on your shoulder after such an experience. More importantly you need to figure out coping mechanism so that you can work and be productive. Nobody is asking you to like this guy, they are just asking you to work with him. And that is a skill you are going to need, for the rest of your life or until you win the lottery.
    Also know that you aren’t alone in this world.

  23. FiveWheels*

    Some thoughts on OP1’s situation came to me. I live in a part of the world in which a particular kind of criminality used to be endemic – imagine countrywide gang warfare in which everyone knew who was guilty of what but there was almost no accountability through courts.

    This was reduced a number of years ago, to an extent, with a deal that pretty much involved everyone pretending the bad guys weren’t that bad after all and one of the results is it’s considered normal and reasonable for otherwise sane people to openly support the bad guys.

    As a result, I could end up working alongside one of the people who tried to murder my father. Or one of the people who murdered my mother’s friends. Or the many many people who did worse, or supported it.

    It sucks. I would love the key to be thrown away, and I hate that there are certain people I need to be civil to. And I don’t have PTSD so what works for me could be impossible for the OP.

    I think though that no matter how much I want to, I don’t have the right to ask an employer to keep one of these people away from me.

    1. Looby*

      I don’t know if you are from the same country as me, but as a Northern Irish expat; I know many people who feel your pain.

      1. FiveWheels*

        I am indeed from the same shores as you! Our wee country is crazy at times, and I don’t have an answer for what justice should look like here. So much of the current situation smacks of giving the bullies wha they want so they’ll stop bullying, which is wrong… But is it more or less wrong than refusing to appease them and instead let them keep pub killing?

        This is far too philosophical for a Monday.

        1. Looby*

          I have no idea of the answer but I don’t love the current solution either.
          It is a beautiful (the most beautiful?) part of the world and I miss it dearly but each time I return I am angered by the situation.
          Thank you for your kind thoughts Not So New Reader

  24. Jean*

    OP #2:

    Additional encouragement as you seek justice for yourself and your coworkers:

    1. Self-care
    Change takes time, whether you decide to make it happen via unionizing or changing your local laws or regulations (or strengthening their enforcement). Take care of yourself while you work for change, even if this means changing jobs.

    2. Organizing ideas & resources
    Do you have access to a local law school? Sometimes law school clinics—guided by one or more professors and staffed with students who provide no- or low-cost legal advice—are interested in promoting positive social change. Other legal assistance may be available from the Legal Aid Society or the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).

    Does your area have any local politicians or community organizers or organizations who already have a reputation for caring about, and successfully achieving positive changes for, working people? If yes, go talk to them! If the politicians don’t represent the district where your restaurant is located, ask them for referrals to individuals or groups in your jurisdiction. If the unions don’t specialize in restaurant workers, ask them to steer you to unions who do.

    3. Press coverage
    This was mentioned by another commenter upthread. Media relations are beyond my expertise. You might do well to contact community media outlets (radio or TV stations with local news coverage; local print publications; local blogs…some of these may overlap). People who have previously worked for social change should have useful ideas for working with the press.

    4. Voting
    Even if there’s nobody good to vote for, vote anyway. Sometimes we have to vote against unhelpful people as much as, or even more than, we have to vote in favor ofa candidate who wants to help make life better for working people.

    Your employer is not doing right by you and your coworkers. I wish you well in making this change. Here are some networking ideas—and take care of yourself during the struggle.

  25. Tara R.*

    Wait, so the sex offender registry in the US is a public database? In Canada it’s only for use by the RCMP, and (if I recall correctly) you only get on it for sexual assault, child molestation, or posession of child pornography. (And there are no teenagers ending up convicted of child molestation for having sex with each other, because of very lenient R&J laws. Too lenient, imo, but you have to draw a line somewhere, and in our case they opted on the “some rapists sneak through” line rather than the “some innocent people get convicted” line.)

    1. Ad Astra*

      Yes, it’s a public database in the U.S. and some of those sites also throw in violent (non-sexual) and certain kinds of drug offenders, which can be misleading, imo. I think each state has its own database, but someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

      They usually describe the conviction and sometimes the age and sex of the victim, but I’ve found they’re typically vague enough that it’s not clear from the charge what the situation was. Sometimes the rest can be filled in with news reports, but a lot of times you’d have to go look up the police complaint, which is a matter of public record but may not be easy to get your hands on. The legal definition of different crimes can also vary by state, so if a guy in my zip code is convicted of “sexual assault in the fourth degree” (a misdemeanor) in Hawaii, I know whatever he did was bad, but I have no idea what the crime entailed.

      1. Tara R.*

        Hm. How strange and inefficient. We get notified by the RCMP if someone who’s high risk skips out on their probation– there’s an alert out right now in my hometown to keep an eye on girls 8-11 which is causing some panic– but I can’t imagine this kind of a database would be considered constitutional in Canada. Isn’t there worry about people getting it into their heads to commit acts of vigilante justice?

        1. Ad Astra*

          Well, the databases usually have a disclaimer like “The information provided on this site is intended for community safety purposes and should not be used to harass, intimidate, or threaten.” But yes, people can and have misused this information.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        You should be able to find the laws for your state online.
        You can then locate SA 4th in the law books. Here in NY, it’s not always obvious what the penalty is. If Hawaii is similar, then you may have to hunt for the penalty section.

        How to say this… after you read the law you have a pretty fair idea of what he did.

  26. Cath in Canada*

    #3: I work in the same building as a previous employer, after being away for almost five years. I left on good terms with most people, but I did think it might be weird, because some of the senior management were really, really into loyalty, and I knew other people who’d been given the cold shoulder after leaving.

    Turns out: it’s not weird! A lot of people I used to know had moved on, and I really don’t see the others anywhere near as often as you might think. Unless you have to share kitchens or washrooms with the other company, or the building has a coffee shop or some other feature in a common area that attracts a lot of people, you’re probably not going to see them very often at all.

    When I do run into people in the elevator or parkade, there’s rarely time for more than a quick “how’s it going” “good, you?” “good” “nice to see you”. Anyway, people are super busy with their own lives and very few people had remembered when/why I’d left or where I went afterwards.

    Good luck!

  27. Another Job Seeker*

    OP, I’m so sorry that this is happening to you. I also wanted to share with everyone my thoughts that some good information has been provided on this thread. The co-worker might have been placed on the registry because he committed an evil, violent crime…or he may have been a young adult involved in a consensual relationship with someone close to his age (but who had not yet reached the age of consent). Either way, I hope that all of us can learn something from the advice and information that have been shared. OP, I’m hoping that you can find some peace. Sending encouragement your way.

  28. Not So NewReader*

    OP #1 First let me say, I am NOT you, nor would I even pretend to know anything about what it is like to be you. I worked in a large room with 6 convicted sex offenders for years. Two re-offended and went back to jail. Quite honestly, I did not think that one of them would, however he did. Shows how much I know.
    NONE of us liked this situation. And NONE of us wanted to work with these 6 people. We did a lot of the common sense stuff- stayed in the common area, let each other know when we were going to the bathroom or other places, etc. There was never a problem. That did not stop us from worrying. And maybe there was never a problem because we had this system and used our system. Who knows.

    Ask the boss about safety. Frame it as everyone’s safety, not just your own. You don’t need the added pressure of having this be all about you. Spread it out. Ask what is being done to ensure everyone stays safe and remains focused on their own work.
    Ask if this is normal. Does the company make it a practice to hire ex-cons in general or if the company has any experience with hiring registered sex offenders.
    Ask what people should do if they have a concrete concern about something this person says or does.

    After seeing the reaction of my coworkers, I know for a fact that you cannot possibly be the only one who is worried. Do you have a good friend at work, someone who has your back? If yes, can you agree to check on each other periodically through out the day?

    Another thought I had is quietly listen as your coworkers talk about their feelings regarding this situation. Sometimes just knowing we are not alone in our concerns can lighten the load a tiny bit.

    I am not sure the exact statistic. but something like 25% of sex crimes are reported. This means that 75% of the offenders are still probably out there. Not saying this to be scary, OP. I am saying it in the context of eyes wide open. I am AMAZED at the numbers of times a person will whisper to me, “That’s my bff’s father/brother/uncle. He molested her.” Was it ever reported? no. Sometimes I know too much about the people around me. That is beside the point. My point is that you might find a self-defense class could be a good investment for you. At least learn a few things to protect yourself. Not that you will have to use it but rather you will have the comfort of knowing that you CAN if need be.

    Sometimes crap happens in our lives, OP, and we have take extraordinary measures that we would not have done if this crap had not happened. Take a look around and try to figure out what would make sense given your setting. How can you fortify yourself?

  29. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #3 – In my line of work – these two situations happen occasionally

    – you worked for the Acme Company. You got fired or were encouraged to leave. You leave. You end up at Beta Company. One year later, Acme acquires Beta and you once again are an employee of the company that got rid of you. In the interim, your new boss at Beta gave you a glowing six-month or one-year review.


    – you worked for the Acme Company. Same situation – skids greased for you to go. You end up at Beta. BUT a year later, Beta acquires Acme!

    Either situation, there’s some anxiety – in the first you’re going to have to co-exist with people who had no use for you – but hopefully, all parties have grown enough to get beyond past problems. Admittedly, you have a lot to be concerned about.

    The second situation – you are at a distinct advantage – in fact, some of the people who were out to get you at Acme may now be running scared. In such a situation – AVOID HOSTILITY. I always follow the motto = “Love your enemies. It drives them nuts.”

    So working in the same building — well — not quite so bad.

  30. Rubyrose*

    OP#1 – when the time is right, I know that I would like an update. I’ll bet others would too.

  31. newlyhr*

    I am frankly shocked by some of the comments on this thread. While I understand that the OP may not have a lot of legal options in the workplace for this issue, it seems we still have a ways to go when it comes to understanding sexual crimes and giving victims of sexual abuse and crimes the respect they deserve. If this co-worker had a criminal record of another kind–like assault with a deadly weapon, or stalking—would this thread be full of the kind of “it’s probably not that bad” kind of comments?

    So many posters have focused on the ways that “decent” guys get messed up by being included on the sex offenders registry. First of all, to be included on that registry you have to have been convicted of a sex offense. That means that the victim has had to press charges and be subjected to the same type of second guessing by law enforcement, juries, and prosecutors that has been going on in this thread. It’s not usually some 16 year old girl who regrets a decision she made about going too far with a guy that brings this kind of charge.

    The sex offenders registry isn’t for people accused of a sex offense, it’s for people CONVICTED of a sex offense. Big difference. These stories about “good guys” having their lives ruined by being on this registry may be true, but they are few and far between. In most instances, people on this registry are there for good reason. They pose a threat to others. Read more here. .

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      As we said – SOME people may be “registered sex offenders”, yet their “crime” may not even be a felony!

      In many states, “lewdness” is an offense – and a misdemeanor – and some may plead “no contest” or even pay a nuisance ticket, then years later find out they’re on a “list”. Peeing in public, a woman dropping her top on the beach, “streaking”, etc.

      So you don’t have to be “convicted” – you can end up on the list by paying a civil citation.

  32. Kassy*

    #2 – I am sympathetic to your situation. I think there should be a line between “What can you possibly physically endure without dying or becoming seriously ill?” and “What should you be expected to tolerate as a normal part of the workplace?”.
    Personally, I would not patronize such a restaurant and have chosen not to do so in the past for lesser offenses than this one. If you’re so busy for eight hours that you can’t stop and eat/drink, they need more staff in the place. Period.
    I sincerely hope there are more labor-friendly bills in this session of Missouri Congress than there have been in the past.

  33. jaxon*

    For #1 I don’t think it’s a great idea to go down the rabbit hole of researching what this guy’s crime was – I doubt the LW will find comfort that his previous conduct was with a partner as opposed to a stranger, or that he prefers children, or whatever.

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