letting a manager know employee is job-searching, texting recruiters, and more

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

1. Should HR let a manager know an employee is probably job-searching?

I am the HR department at my company. I post jobs, verify employment, etc. Recently two things happened: When I was posting a job on an internet job site, one of my current employees came up as a possible candidate, and I received an employment verification call on this employee. I am assuming they are looking for another job. Should I share this with their supervisor? I am not sure what to do. We may be raising the salary for this position in a couple of months. I do believe that pay is one issue for the job search.

Do you trust this manager to handle the information appropriately — i.e., not to push the person out earlier or otherwise penalize them (which would demonstrate to other employees that they should never be up-front if they’re thinking of leaving)? If you do, then sure — after all, part of your job is to work with managers to help them get the best outcomes possible. But if don’t, then I’d proceed with real caution (and would also do some remedial training for your managers about how to handle this kind of information, totally aside from this incident).

2. How can I use telecommuting as an asset in my cover letter or resume?

I have been in my position for 15 years, with over nine of those years being a telecommuter. My telecommuting set-up is definitely an exception to the rule at my company (and in my line of work).

Quick background: I moved back to my hometown, about four hours away from the office. Instead of quitting, I asked for a temporary telecommuting arrangement, which was agreed to. Nine plus years later, I have survived a major restructuring of the company, during which my boss and biggest advocate was laid off. Since then, I have been given more responsibility and now manage a team who work in the office.

Now I am searching for a new job, not necessarily telecommuting. I feel that my telecommuting situation is an asset to be discussed in either the cover letter and/or resume. It shows a) my company thinks I am valuable b) I am a self-starter and I get the job done without a lot of guidance c) I have been very valuable during times when the office has closed for days for snow, hurricanes, etc. d) when applying for a telecommuting position, I have extensive expertise in this area. How can I best present this without coming across as a weirdo or someone who will demand a telecommuting policy?

Eh, I wouldn’t put a huge amount of emphasis on it. I don’t think employers are likely to read (a) or (b) into it, and your availability during extreme weather isn’t a huge selling point — definitely not something important enough to put in a cover letter. And there’s a downside to putting too much emphasis on the telecommuting: some people think that full-time telecommuters don’t work as hard or aren’t as accountable, and there’s no reason to raise that specter at this point. Focus on the things you’d focus on if telecommuting were off the table: why you’d excel at the job you’re applying for.

The one exception to this is if you’re applying for another telecommuting job. There, it’s useful to note that you have a track record of doing it successfully for nine years. But that’s like one line in your cover letter — from there, move on to the rest of your qualifications, which are going to matter much more.

3. Working for a fandom organization

I noticed you had a question last week about including fanfiction on a resume, and while I agree with you there, I was wondering if you had advice regarding working in fandom in a professional context.

I’ve been working at a nonprofit for over a year whose explicit, stated mission is the protection and preservation of fanworks and fan cultures. I do media outreach, posting, and drafting of press releases and other articles. I’ve been interviewed twice, once for a podcast and once for an academic paper. I’ve also written and published articles on a related website. However, we really don’t make any money, so our entire staff is unpaid. Which means I need I need paid work. Which turned out to be in a super conservative field.

I try to keep the two separate, but it’s sort of impossible at this point, and getting harder. Furthermore, I’m only about two years out of college, so it’s not like I have a bunch of professional work – everything I have done needs to be used just to show I’ve done something. Do you have any advice?

That’s really quite different! That’s not about putting fanfiction itself on your resume, but about doing work to support an organization, and work that highlights skills and accomplishments that are much more transferable to other employers. Plus, although you’re not being paid for it, you’re presumably accountable for the work in ways that you wouldn’t be just as an author. It’s like how you wouldn’t put, say, your weekend rice sculpting hobby on your resume, but it would be perfectly appropriate to include your job doing PR for the Rice Sculptors Union.

4. Recruiters who text

I was communicating via email and phone calls with a recruiter for two months and went through the interview process. After the last interview, I emailed her a thank-you, my thoughts, etc. and she responded back via email that she would “be in touch shortly.” Fast forward to about a week later, and she sends me a text message asking to schedule a phone call with me. Now, texting a recruiter or anyone in a hiring process seems strange to me, but at this point, I’m just excited because I think I may have landed the job or at least gotten to the next round. So we text back and forth and agree to chat Friday, but then I never get a response for a particular time on Friday. Friday comes, I still have no time scheduled, so I send her a follow-up text to which she doesn’t respond to until 8 p.m. that night. I text her back right away and she doesn’t respond again until the next day, which is Saturday at 9 p.m.

At that point, we agree via text to speak on Monday at some point in the afternoon and she said she will “text me a time later.” I wait to hear back and never do. I start to realize she probably has no intention calling me because I didn’t get the job. I finally found out by checking their job portal on my own that they did go with someone else and still never heard back from her via text or email or phone. Is there a reason why she was texting me and then just never followed through when she could have just as easily sent me a quick email saying they went with someone else? Do you think it’s unprofessional for a recruiter to use texting as a form of communication with a potential candidate?

I have no idea why she chose to do things that way rather than send an email explaining they’d hired someone else. It’s possible that she actually did have something else she wanted to talk with you about — another role, or maybe they hadn’t hired the other person at that point but did on Monday, or who knows.

As for texting from a recruiter in general, I’m Not A Fan. I’m not really a fan of texting in any business context, although I know that some people are — but particularly with something like hiring, it’s an incredibly informal medium (and limiting too, given the impracticality of sending anything more than short messages), and I just can’t see why someone would choose that over email, unless there’s a really urgent message to deliver like “I know your interview is in 30 minutes, but our parking lot is on fire so please park in the back.”

5. I was pressured into round-the-clock child care that I didn’t want to do

I work for a family that has four children, one with special needs. The mom is very demanding and expects me to do just about everything. But my job is to care for the special needs child. Just recently, she told me she was taking a vacation wth her husband, who was away for a numerous amount of months (deployment), and she needed me to stay with the kids a few days. She didn’t give me an option, just told me to clear my schedule and that she really need this time alone. She even told her husband that I would do this and they quickly made reservations. I was not happy.

Now the time has come for this trip, and she rattled off a list of things that needed to be done while they are away. I am stressed and overwhelmed. How do I tell her that I don’t appreciate her backing me into a situation I wanted no part of?

It sounds like it’s too late this time, but if it happens again, you need to give a clear “no” when she first suggests it. Even if you feel like she’s telling you to do it, not asking you, you still get to speak up and say, “I won’t be able to do that.”

If you feel like you need to head it off now before she brings it up again, you could say something like, “I was able to help out this time, but it’s not something I’ll be able to do again, so I want to make sure you know and can line up other help if you have a trip come up again.”

But the big thing is to speak up — not to let yourself feel like you’re being pushed into doing something you don’t want to do.

{ 179 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    OP1: Please take this in the spirit it’s intended, but are you positive that this employee is looking for a job elsewhere?

    A lot of sites out there don’t care how old an account is – I certainly receive calls from terrible recruiters using information that’s years out of date. Even if there was a recently updated resume, some folks are meticulous about keeping their resume up to date even if they’re happy with their current job.

    Also, employment verification calls are made for a wide variety of reasons that have nothing to do with job hunting, and if this employee was job hunting they could easily provide a W-2 or pay stub and you wouldn’t be aware at all.

    I just worry that unless there are other signs, you might inadvertently put a perfectly happy employee’s job at risk.

    1. Dot Warner*

      That’s a good point – maybe the employee is looking for a new apartment and the verification call was from a landlord.

      1. Random Lurker*

        New apartment, mortgage, some insurance policies, and even adopting a child come to mind as reasons employment verification is required.

        I understand OP1’s feeling of getting involved, but this can really venture into “not your business” territory very quickly. If I wasn’t looking for a job, I may reconsider if HR jumped to some conclusions based on a call. I don’t like feeling spied on, and I’ve had the misfortune of working for bosses who would not be mature if they thought someone was leaving. So OP needs to make sure she doesn’t turn this hunch into a self fulfilling prophecy.

        1. Mike C.*

          I was chatting with my wife about this, and she pointed out that it could also be part of a background check – perhaps volunteering with kids or something like that.

    2. Professional Merchandiser*

      What Mike C. said. I update my resume occasionally to remove old jobs and add newer ones. Everytime I do that I get calls from recruiters wanting to know if I’m looking for more work. (Merchandising is that kind of field). However, unless I mis-read the letter, this is a position at the same company, so wouldn’t this be sort of like seeking a promotion or lateral transfer? A lot of companies publicize their openings internally and invite current employees to apply, so I don’t really see the problem or need to notify their manager. The request for employment status could just be them applying for a car loan or new mortgage.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I think the “came up as a possible candidate” line means on a site like Indeed or some other site where resumes are matched by keywords as a possible candidate, not where the person actually applied for the job. Separate from the verification phone call.

    3. Jackson*

      Agree with this…one question though as I’m not familiar with HR or verification policies…When someone calls for verification, don’t they identify themselves or why they are calling?

      1. Pwyll*

        Many third-party HR verification companies only say “We’re calling for an employment verification.” The good ones offer to fax over a letter signed by the employee giving authorization for the information to be released that sometimes states what it is for, but many times they just start asking questions (When did they work there, what was their title, etc.)

        Though, any time I’ve gotten one for financial reasons (banks, loan checks, etc.) they’ve been very clear to say that the applicant is not, to their knowledge, job-seeking.

    4. Lauren*

      Has OP told the employee that their salary might be boosted? Why not give a heads up so that if its not Indeed’s algorithm claiming the employee is looking, they will stop looking. (ie, they can see IPs and if they never logout adn go to any Indeed page whether it be a career article or a job posting, it prompts them to say they are looking.

      I’m looking for a job now, because I don’t make market rate. Well I’d stop looking if I was told that my employer was correcting the matter, but it would take a few months. Why should the next person get the benefit of pay increase? I find it ridiculous that people will leave for more money, because the employer won’t raise to market rate, then are forced to when no candidate will even interview because of the salary is so much lower. They end up paying even more than it would take to keep the original employee and deal with transition costs.

      Make the new salary known to both the manager AND the employee. Give a real time frame and keep to it. Be honest, and say this is a real ‘market rate’ evaluation, we are not BS-ing you. This will happen, its a question of when in the next 3 months. If its more than 3 months, then tell them that. Let them decide if they want to wait it ouy.

    5. Recruit-o-Rama*

      I agree with most of what you said except that it doesn’t make a Recruiter “terrible” if she calls you based on a resume that is not super recent. First of all the “candidate who may meet your needs” emails that are sent to people who post open positions are often not dated so the recruiter may not even know that it’s old. Secondly, I call passive candidates for some of my harder to fill roles if I come across information about a professional who has the experience I am looking for. sourcing for passive candidates is not all referrals and LinkedIn; sometimes it’s pure luck when I come across a candidate’s older information in the course of my searches in various places online. If you are not interested in making a move, you can just say, “I’m happy where I am and am not looking to make a move” but it doesn’t make the Recruiter “terrible”.

      1. Mike C.*

        These are the same recruiters that see I worked in a food safety lab qualifying and certifying precision scientific equipment and presume I want to be a line cook at Chili’s. You might be a perfectly fine recruiter, but they are not.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I assumed that the person doing the verification was clear that it was for employment, but you’re right that if they weren’t, the HR should be more cautious. It’s still okay for her to follow the advice in the post though (including saying nothing if the manager isn’t one to handle this properly); she’d just need to caveat it if she said something (“It’s totally possible this is unrelated; it could be for a mortgage or volunteering, but if you’ve been thinking about addressing her salary to retain her, I’d move quickly”).

      1. Terra*

        Shouldn’t ANY information about a person’s employment status be kept confidential—unless the employee authorized its release? It’s very irresponsible, in my view, for that company’s HR to give information to total strangers over the phone. It’s one thing if an employee gives a heads up that the company may be contacted by a landlord, a bank, a volunteer organization, etc. But it could put them in danger if an unscrupulous person (an abusive ex, someone engaging in identity theft, a stalker, etc.) learned about where they work and what they do.

        1. Anna*

          It’s not required at all. And if the employee signed a paper saying that whomever could call for verification, then that information is free to be released anyway.

          1. LizB*

            Yeah, whenever I’ve done something that requires an employment verification (renting apartments, applying for food stamps, background checks for volunteering), I’ve signed a form saying the person/organization is authorized to contact my employer to get the info. I don’t know if the checker then actually sends that form to my employer or just mentions it over the phone, but they do have proof that they have my permission.

          2. bridget*

            And, they are “free” to release it regardless of a signed paper from the employee, at least in the jurisdictions I’m familiar with. There’s no legal requirement to keep employment information confidential (unlike medical information, or student information). I’m sure many companies have (sensible) policies not to release that info to just anybody who calls, but no signed release is technically needed. And, it would be impractical or counterproductive in many fields. (At my last job, my name, photo, a bio, and information about how long I’d bee at the firm was on the public-facing website for all to see, as were all attorneys who worked there. Staff info, on the other hand, wasn’t public, because there wasn’t a business need to put them on the website).

    7. Purr purr purr*

      I have to second this! My employer recently had such a call. Luckily I’d warned HR beforehand. For me, it was my UK student loans company calling them to verify my employment info so that we could arrange overseas repayment.

  2. Josh S*

    #5 – You cannot expect your employer to read your mind. You are your own advocate — so go and advocate for yourself. Tell them “NO” and be firm (but kind) about it.

    “I am not able to do that.”
    “I understand that you have reservations/non-refundable plane tickets/whatever, but I am unable to help overnight/be there on those days/for that length of time. You will need to find someone else.”
    “I agreed to watch your special needs child while you were away. This list of chores/other kids’ care-giving goes well beyond that. Who did you arrange with to do all this while you are away? Oh–you didn’t? I’m not able to do these things and provide the level of care you expect for Wakeen. You will need to find another person in addition to me to be here on those days.”
    But most importantly, “I am not able to do that.”

    You don’t need to explain beyond that. Be firm. You’ll do just great.

    1. Purple Dragon*

      OP #5 – I certainly hope they are going to be paying you for the additional hours too. Just because you’re asleep doesn’t mean that you are not on the clock. If that hasn’t been discussed then please bring it up before they go (if possible).

      If your current employer has a pattern of ignoring reasonable boundaries and expecting you to re-arrange your life with no discussion (like this example) then you might consider starting to look for another job.

      1. INTP*

        Not to mention that there is a world of difference between staying with a special needs person for a few hours and for full days, depending on the level of supervision they require. If she were staying with my brother she would absolutely need any downtime when he’s sleeping or fully engaged in something to take a shower, use the bathroom, clean up after herself (let alone other children), etc. And he won’t go to bed if he’s anxious about the situation at home, which he definitely would be if he were with someone who has never kept him overnight before – she’d be in for some sleep deprivation as well. None of this is unusual for kids with cognitive/emotional special needs. It requires not only 24 hour pay but EXTRA pay imo.

        Someone recently told me that studies show when people fall into difficult caregiver roles, they often begin feeling sorry for themselves and that can manifest as treating their own difficulties like everyone else’s problems too. I have no idea if they were quoting real studies, but I’ve seen it in my life a few times, and could be going on with the mom in this scenario (though that’s no excuse). I’m sure her life is difficult but you have to be assertive with people in this pattern or your life will become just as difficult.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. Finding a good person to care for someone with special needs is not easy. If you are abused in this position find another. You says you ‘have to do everything’ which I assume you are already doing chores and child care not related to the special needs child. A small amount of that adjacent to the child may be reasonable e.g. you are with him but also keeping tabs or supervising the play of the others, but it should not be an occasion to pile unrelated chores or expect overtime or things like driving kids to lessons and such unless you are fairly compensated.

        You agreed to this overnight duty this time, but you should have said ‘no’ if you mean ‘no’ and you should still indicate that you are not able to do the long list of extras. Make clear what the boundaries of your job are and stick to them. Some people will simply abuse your good will and push you into any work they can wring from you. Nurses learned this centuries ago and developed professional standards to protect themselves from it. Caregivers should act the same — because you do a maintenance task for your charge doesn’t mean you are suddenly in charge of those tasks for the household.

        When these people get back, sit them town to clarify your role and that you will not again be available for this type duty. They may offer pay that makes it worth your while or agree not to ask it of you. If they don’t then find another position.

    2. Jessica*

      Also, if #5 is a PCA and the family is getting reimbursed by federal/state funding, then this is a major violation of the job description. A PCA is supposed to be used for a person whose illness/special needs means that they cannot be without adult supervision. They are *not* supposed to be serving as babysitters for other children in the family. Obviously it’s very tempting to use a PCA as a babysitter, because barring a major medical emergency it usually is *possible* to watch a special needs kid and some other kids at the same time, but its technically against the rules. When I worked as a PCA, we were hired and trained by an agency (and hiring an agency PCA was a requirement for the families who wanted to access the funding). The OP should turn down these kinds of requests, and if the situation persists, use the agency as a mediator. I think it would be hard to try to sue the family for breach of contract or something, but the agency could probably place the OP with another family, and have a heart-to-heart with the current family about the job requirements of a PCA before placing another.

      1. Jessica*

        Sorry, read further down and saw various replies saying similar things but with variations in terminology. PCA = personal care assistant: someone who is not a trained nurse but is able to provide supervision and some basic medical care.

      2. Jade*

        This is a good point. Where I work now we are funded by government contracts. There are specific things we are and are not allowed to do with clients in our treatment roles. Anything we do that is not specifically related to the treatment goals (and we will need to explain how what we did relates to treatment in our documentation), we get in trouble. If this sounds like your situation, you need to make sure the care you’re being asked to give falls within whatever guidelines are in the government’s contract.

        If you work for some kind of childcare agency, do this woman’s requests fall outside the guidelines of the agency? If so, you need to get eh agency involved ASAP, as they may intervene and tell the family that such requests are not a part of their contract and will not be granted.

        If you are in independent caregiver, then I guess the lesson you learn from this is to give your clients a very clear, written, explanation of what specific services you will and will not provide.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Well, I don’t think it’d be great for the Op to back out of this one now, but I’d definitely seek clarification and maybe even a written contract of her job. It sounds like the mom is taking advantage on a regular basis and this trip was just the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Op.

      1. Jimbo*

        This was my thought. It’s not cool what this woman is doing but it’s also not cool to drop a bomb the day before their vacation. I would tell her when they return that you were trying to keep an open mind to see how things worked out but managing her household 24/7 for multiple days is too much to handle so she needs to make other arrangements in the future.

        “Job creep” (more work for no more pay) happens to many of us but I always thought jobs like a nanny or private nurse are more susceptible. Because you’re dealing with their children and maybe even become sort of an extended part of the family, it can be awkward to bring the conversation back to money. A live-in nanny or nurse would probably be the worst. It would be hard to say no when you will physically be in the house and it’s tough to stand your ground when you would instantly lose your home with the job.

  3. Josh S*

    OP #4 –
    And if the parking lot is on fire, you should really tell the guys doing the resurfacing that they shouldn’t smoke while spreading the tar…

  4. Dan*


    I don’t think you can use tc as an asset. I’ve worked with a bunch over the years, and:

    A) while there is some truth here, the reality is that the company deemed you more valuable than taking a chance on a new hire. Alternatively, while you may have been very valuable to your current company, it doesn’t mean the value translates to another company.

    B) what does tc have to do with being a self starter? I work in an office, and my boss doesn’t stand over my shoulder. In fact, I could go a week with out seeing her.

    C) weather availability would make absolutely no difference in my field.

    D) jobs that are specifically written for telecommuters are highly likely to be associated with companies that don’t have offices for their worker bees. Aka, everybody is a telecommuter. In that case , they are looking for technical skill first, and previous tc experience is just a non factor.

    You suggested in A) that your company finds you valuable. Focus on that – that’s what people are going to care about.

    1. Dan*

      I should mention that sometimes reqs might read “office is in … But tc may be arranged for the right person”. In this case, unless the subject comes up earlier, don’t mention tc at all until the offer stage. With a proven track record, you have an advantage, but you really want to sell the company on your desire to work for them and fulfill the job duties.

    2. MK*

      I think being able to say you telecommuted successfuly for 9 years is very much a factor when applying for a specifically telecommuting job; it certainly would give you an edge over candidates who had never done it before.

      I agree that being valuable to your present employer and not requiring constant supervision are not necessarily relevant to telecommuting and being able to work when the office is closed maybe irrelevant also depending on your field; even at best, it is a nice extra, not a huge point in your favor.

      But mainly, I think the OP is overlooking that most employers, unless looking for telecommuters, won’t be thrilled by the fact that the OP hasn’t worked in an office setting for almost a decade.

    3. fposte*

      It’s kind of similar, I think, to having worked well while having a really *long* commute. It may have taken discipline to never be late or miss a day due to weather in that situation, but it doesn’t belong in a cover letter unless there’s a concern over the commute with the new job.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah. I interviewed for a part-time job at the library adjacent to my uni last year (I was later offered the job but had to decline). It hadn’t ever occurred to me to mention my commute of two hours (to and fro, not one way) but it actually came up in the interview and it was pretty clear that the interviewers feared that over time, the commute might become too long for my tastes, but they were reassured by seeing that I’ve already taken it for the last five years which meant I’m probably not someone who is generally bothered by such a commute. But yeah, it came up organically during the interview and I’d never have thought of bringing this up myself in any way.

    4. OP#2*

      Thanks everyone. I had been thinking it would be necessary to explain the discrepancy between where I live and where I work. If I live in LA, but my job has been in SF, I thought it would raise questions. Or if you were only reading the cover letter, you might assume I live in SF, and may discount me as not a local candidate.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Nah, you’ll have your LA job on your resume, and if they’re wondering about it, they’ll ask. (In general, you don’t even need to put employer city/state on your resume anyway.)

        1. Snazzy Hat*

          Maybe I’m paranoid about being accused of making stuff up, but I have this nagging thought: Would it be wise or unnecessary to specify “Chocolate Teapot Supply Co, Vancouver, WA” when current residence is Miami, FL, and there are no Chocolate Teapot Supply Co locations in the state? I expect the hiring manager to read the resume and say, “I’ve never heard of that company.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            You really don’t need to. It’s fine to if you want to, but a ton of people don’t put employers’ locations on their resumes, and it’s fine.

            Most people haven’t heard of most companies; that’s normal.

    5. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      One way that this matters is if the OP is accomplished under the telecommuting setup . It shows that she can work independently without a lot of guidance, she’s seasoned enough to tackle tough issues and resolve them, she produces quality work consistently, and is comfortable with ambiguity and autonomy.

      Someone who can produce and hit the mark without a ton of a attention can be a plus for the team dynamic. This is probably better handled in the interview, but is possible to state with facts and results without mentioning the telecommuting itself.

      Focus on the results and benefits to your skills, not your physical location.

      1. baseballfan*

        This was mentioned upthread, but all these attributes (working independently, producing quality work, etc). have nothing to do with telecommuting. Plenty of office-dwellers accomplish all that and more.

        Generally speaking, telecommuting is not something I would present to a company as an asset, unless of course the job I was applying for was a telecommuting situation, in which case the experience would be beneficial. Most people telecommute because it’s what they want and is a better situation for them – not necessarily because it’s better for the company. In most cases it’s neutral (at best) for the company.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          I know that was mentioned. I disagree.

          Those things are important in the office, I don’t dispute that. But someone who has those accomplishments via telecommuting can also show it strongly. More strongly, I’d argue, since that person is literally, physically alone. Office workers talk a lot more often than they realize.

          I didn’t say to present telecommuting itself as an asset, but the skills and accomplishments most certainly apply.

          As a hiring manager, I would give more weight to telecommuter than an office worker. Telecommuting is harder than it appears and it speaks to commitment and work ethic to keep up great work despite the ease of getting distracted by non-work items. Perhaps that doesn’t seem fair across the board, but it would be a factor in my consideration.

  5. Willis*

    OP #2, I was in a similar situation a couple years ago – looking for a new job after 9 years of working from home. I didn’t mention it in my cover letter or resume, but it did tend to come up in interviews, usually followed by a question or two about how well I’d be able to transition back to an office setting. It didn’t seem like interviewers got too hung up on it, but I agree with Alison that it may be seen as a potential problem rather than an asset. At least if it comes up in an interview, you can discuss it more fully, without sacrificing valuable space in a cover letter or resume.

  6. Steph*

    OP1- This happened to me when I was in the process of trying to leave ToxicJob- my Indeed resume was found by the internal HR person, who then notified my terrible boss. It made the remainder of my time there even worse. With every other job I have had (and I am lucky the rest of them have been good), my manager was well aware that I was job searching when I started, because I had an honest conversation about it with them.

    1. NJ Anon*

      This happened although more casually at last job. In just a general conversation an employee mentioned she and her boyfriend were thinking about moving out of state. HR lady was present. Next thing you know she was pushed out. No one at that job ever trusted that HR person.

    2. thegucun*

      Yep, I once worked at an incredibly toxic startup with an incredibly vindictive CEO. Anyway, to avoid problems, I changed the name of my current company to something like “Company Name Confidential”.

      1. Artemesia*

        I am familiar with several of those including two that cheated employees out of their pay where they were paying paid stock in lieu of salary — and then got fired a day before it would vest. Apparently being a glassbowl is required to run a startup or at least a common characteristic.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      That happened to my SO, too. He was in ToxicJobFromHell, and not even actively looking but had recently updated his resume. Next thing he knew, HR and Boss called him in to talk. They had somehow obtained his resume (to this day we still don’t know how) and after that, the job became even more intolerable than it had been before. EvilBoss became so blatantly retaliatory, SO eventually had to resign on the spot one day about a month later. So, just in case the manager in Op’s case might take it personal, I’d make damn sure the employee is really looking, and even then maybe not say anything and see if they can do anything to expedite his or her raise without drawing attention to it.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I had to have a Conversation with my then-boss several years ago because I had updated my LinkedIn, written recommendations for people and gotten recommendations from them, and freaked out the VP of my division (who was connected to me on LinkedIn), who reached out to my boss.

        I was *not* looking at that time, I was just embarrassed by how out of date my LI was and some of our company’s clients were connecting to me. Luckily for my sanity and job, my boss believed me when I explained.

  7. Alma*


    If you are provided CAP services or are working for an agency or service provider specifically to take care of the special needs child, there are probably a listing of what the caregiver can help with, and what exceeds what the agency or provider will pay for.

    In these situations there is usually respite care available – but it may not include care for the other children. Check with your employer, if this is the case.

    The Case Manager will have gone over all the details of what someone providing services can do. The parent may need to meet with the Case Manager to see what other services they qualify for.

  8. Worker Bee*

    #5 I am amazed at people today. Not much advise just sympathy. I couldn’t handled this kind of responsibility. I think I wouldn’t wait to speak up tho bc right now I am envisioning all kind of things that could go wrong. What if you got sick while they are away. Who is covering for you? What if something happens to the child that is out of your hands and the parents are not around to make decisions.

    1. Student*

      LIABILITY. You should know what, exactly, you are liable for in case something goes wrong. If a kid breaks a bone, or some other normal kid-mishap, are your parent-employers going to sue you into destitution? They don’t need to win a legal case to hurt you very badly, they just need the case to be plausible.

    2. Alienor*

      Yeah, I would be super worried about something happening. Even 100 percent typical kids get hurt or sick all the time, and when you add in a child who might be medically fragile or prone to accidents because of diminished coordination/impulse control issues/fill in the problem here–yikes. It’s one thing if the parents are just going to spend a few days at a local hotel or something, but what if they’re a plane ride away and a kid (either the special needs kid or a sibling) has to go to the ER? Does the OP have medical power of attorney? There just seem like so many ways that could go wrong.

      1. Ashley*

        Yea the child has seizures and his balance is off, I do not have a car at the moment (in the shop) and parents told me if something were to happen to call the in-laws. They (parents) were 2 hours away, and I was left alone with child and siblings, and they like to rub, climb things and are very clumsy. I see it all the time in the home. So there would’ve been no other way to get them to the hospital if an accident occurred other than calling the in-laws and then gathering all children and medical records and rushing to the ER if something was to have happen. The family did not care how I felt about it. I work 40 or more hours a wk, no other employers there, and my only time to rest is the weekends. Which I use to catch up on laundry, errands, etc.

        1. EE*

          Still not sure why you couldn’t just have told them “no, that does not work for my schedule, sorry.” That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to say, and if they make you feel like you’re insane even to suggest that, please know that they’re the crazy ones. :-)

          As for medical emergencies, 911 and an ambulance ride would have been an option, no? Then send the in-laws to the hospital and you stay with the remaining children. Not ideal, but also totally not your fault if that’s what the situation were to have called for.

  9. Nicole J.*

    Regarding texting (#4), my business uses a lot of young casual staff for events; we’ve found the best way to contact regular people quickly about available work (and get a fast reply) is by text.

    Of course they are already on the list of staff by this point, actual recruitment is more by email/quick interview.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, I don’t think the medium of communication was the issue here. The recruiter just seems flakey. She’d probably learned they filled it and moved on to the next opening she’s trying to fill.

    2. Vicki*

      I don;t understand why texting is “bad” if email is good. I do think people should use the contact method the other person prefers.

      I prefer email. I don;t like phone calls because they aren’t self-documenting and information gets lost. I don’t want texts because my house has a landline, the number on my resume is a Skype number, and my cell phone is never turned on.

      OP, why did you not reply to that text with an email?

  10. Little Teapot*

    OP5: check out ‘the nanny care tribe’ on facebook. Those ladies are fabulous in situations like this.

    But I agree with other commenters & Alison: you have the power to say no.

  11. Annyong*

    #4: After I had gotten through with a phone interview with a higher-up I got a text from a manager to set up a time for an in-person interview. I ended my part of the text conversation with a polite “I look forward to meeting with you.” The manager’s text response: “I’m super excited see u then!”

  12. newreader*

    Alison’s response to #1 is interesting. I’ve always considered job hunting to be something that an employee could attempt to keep confidential if they choose to. But I’d never considered the HR perspective of helping managers achieve the best outcomes. In most cases I’ve always let my manager know when I’m job hunting, but have also had a few situations where I wanted to keep it quiet until/unless the search progressed to an interview or offer stage for various reasons. I would have hated for HR to notify my manager before I did.

    1. Jen*

      Right, but HR works for the company, not for you. I was recently laid off and it was a crazy situation (the president was a total loon making all kinds of horrible decision, including this). HR VP that did it was a colleague and work friend of mine and I think she felt worse than I did. She did everything she could go say-without-saying that she had absolutely nothing to do with this ridiculous decision. At the end of the day though, she has to do what her boss tells her.

    2. Jackson*

      I’ve never authorized a job interviewer to contact my current employer becuase I haven’t let them know i’m job searching…I don’t agree with AAM’s advice here–what good can come out of saying anything to the mgr?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It could prompt the manager to take steps to retain the person (the raise the OP mentioned).

        It could prevent the manager from being really annoyed with HR if it comes out later that she knew and didn’t say anything, since ultimately it’s HR’s job to work with managers, not to withhold info that they might find relevant.

        1. Jackson*

          But as you realize since you mentioned it, the possiblity of the mgr mishandling it or using it against the employee isn’t small…And we don’t even know that the person applied for any job..

          Also, yes, the mgr might be annoyed if they find out later..But the employee might be annoyed also. I disagree that there’s some automatic “manager takes precedence over employee” scenario.

            1. Jackson*

              I disagree and I’m in managemnet myself. It would be interesting to do a separate thread on this topic…

              1. voyager1*

                Honestly I think for the LW should tell the manager because it will be best for them. However I would assume the worst of the situation for the employee who the call was regarding. At best you will just be helping the person to leave. In my experience companies don’t invest at all once they know you are leaving.

  13. V*

    Texting with coworkers is great for quick questions that need an immediate answer, especially when someone isn’t on the corporate network. For example:

    Are you dialing in to the 9am meeting?

    Can you jump on a conference call for project X, code is 1234567?

    Any objections to a reboot of the development server in 15 minutes ?

    1. hermit crab*

      Exactly — there is a time and place for that type of communication, but the hiring process is probably not it!

  14. likeOMG*

    OP #3- You’re a volunteer/contributor for the OTW, aren’t you? The organization that runs ao3? That’s- wow that is an interesting question.

    Because I see where associating yourself with fanfiction could be problematic, especially in a conservative field, particularly if someone decided to pop over and just take a quick glance at what OTW and ao3 are, where they’re sure to run into something, ah, *interesting*.

    But on the other hand, you *are* doing a job, even if it is unpaid- you’re contributing to and running an organization, and I’m sure you’ve built many useful and transferable skills over the years you’ve spent working with transformative works.

    [Also; this is unrelated, but I just want to say thank you for the work you do (unpaid!) wherever it is and whatever it is, in fandom. I don’t write or draw or anything, I just make rec lists and hurl complements at authors on tumblr, but fandom is a big part of my life that I can never support monetarily so I try to support it the only way I can, by giving thanks, so, well, thank you.]

    1. Liane*

      Fandom does not always mean fanfic. I have a fandom-related job that involves writing and editing, not fanfics, but articles on games.
      Not that I have never edited fanfics, but that is something I do for a friend, because I have the skills and enjoy it.

        1. likeOMG*

          True. I was just thinking OP#3 was involved with OTW because she mentions a nonprofit with ‘a mission of preserving and protecting fanwork and fancultures’ and was alarmed by a question that was specifically about fanfiction on resumes. So I figure OP3 is involved with a nonprofit that is associated with fanfiction so closely that talking about her work with the organization and NOT mentioning fanfiction in some capacity on her resume would be strange.

          I mean, I could be wrong and I don’t mind if I am— but OTW’s mission statement is pretty much what OP3 wrote nearly word for word and it’s run mostly by unpaid volunteers. Again I could be wrong, but I’m about 90% sure she’s talking about OTW.

          1. Nelly*

            I thought OTW as well, until she said they are all volunteers, whereas OTW does pay some of its employees (one of the reasons they are always asking for money).

      1. Anna*

        Yep. I volunteer with a fandom org that is a 501(c)3. The work I do for them has led directly to my current career and none of it had to do with fanfic. The various groups around the country (some non-profit, some just for fun) that are related to this fandom have run a successful fundraising event for the last 10 years, raising over a million dollars for charity. There is quite a lot of serious work that goes in to running fandom stuff.

    2. The Strand*

      Yeah, I have to agree. When I was active in fandom, during the Pleistocene era… I had an incident dealing with an instructor who assumed fandom = sex stories, and my stock went way down in this person’s eyes. On the other hand, someone who I later discovered was very into fandom recruited me for a leadership role in a non-fan non-profit because of fan experience. It all depends on what kind of job and interests you’re looking for. If you do special effects work, there’s nothing unusual about working on fan productions, for example – it’s definitely a bonus.

      If I were to share it, I would manage the perception as much as you can, for instance, if it was OTW I’d worked with, I would describe Fanlore.org on my resume rather than A03.

      1. likeOMG*

        Yes, that’s precisely what I was thinking but couldn’t think of a way to concisely say.

        OP3, if you are involved with OTW, I’d try to avoid talking about ao3 entirely, if possible. It’s far too easy on that site to trip and fall into oh say… a TW A/B/O fic, and then you have someone confirmation biasing themselves into thinking they ‘know’ fanfiction is nothing by Rule 34, and not that you are a very creative, generous, passionate person who knows how to write clever analytical articles/debug the server/whatever other skills you’ve gained because of your work with the nonprofit.

        I think you should make a list of everything you do for the nonprofit, everything you’ve added to it, every goal you’ve met or exceeded, the skills you use to do the things you do for it- those are the sort of acomplisments and skills you can put on a resume- that way you can poke at and sound out each particular interviewer’s opinion about fanfiction before you mention (or don’t mention) that you were/are involved with it, and to what degree you’re involved with it.

    3. Regular going anon*

      I volunteered for the AO3 for about a year and a half. I did really enjoy it for the most part. Our team was much more forgiving of slacking/real life than I think even the lightest of real-life volunteering (you can take hiatuses at any time, “real life was busy so I didn’t manage to do X”, etc.) I’m not condemning that, I did plenty of it myself, but it does mean that sometimes these things aren’t held to quite the standard as other types of volunteering. Maybe some other teams are different (I can imagine Support would have turnaround time requirements for new tickets), but my team was easygoing.

      Volunteers aren’t typically held accountable like regular employees, so maybe this wouldn’t come up and you can just keep the discussion to the skills you’ve built. But aside from the stigma of fandom itself, volunteering for fandom may be taken less seriously as a whole because of their more relaxed culture, unless you can strongly quantify your results (you were part of the Legal team and you succeeded in doing ABC, you were part of the coders and contributed to XYZ code pushes, etc.)

      1. Anon for this*

        I’d be careful about putting the OTW down at the moment ESPECIALLY with the recent elections kerfuffle. The entire board resigned in December after engaging in dubious election activity, and is being rebuilt by the two legitimately elected candidates. Not to mention the other controversies from the election cycle. They don’t even have to find A/B/O for it to look bad.

  15. TL17*

    #5 – be careful. The first thing that popped to my mind when I read this is that this has the potential to be a Medicaid fraud situation if the personal care hours for the disabled child are paid by Medicaid. Personal care attendants aren’t babysitters and shouldn’t be treated that way. If this is a Medicaid waiver program, there are likely pretty strict rules about the number of children you can attend at once, hours that can be worked, etc. If this is the type of program and employment you have, get in touch with the case manager and get out. This is not ok and could get you into trouble, potentially.

    1. CADMonkey007*

      I hope #5 comments with additional details about the arrangement with her employer. The Medicare is a great question, also what about OT?

      1. Ashley*

        Arrangments were made by the parents, as soon as I walked into the door they went over everything for about 20 minutes, home schooling exhumed for the 3 younger, getting up at 5:30 and getting the other kid off to public school, etc. I do not have a car so they asked their family member if anything were to happen could they take whomever to the dr’s office, and they left instructions of medicines they take, dr info etc. I was also put on a schedule and asked to clean, cook and whatever else. I was paid OT but not enough in my opinion. I was told that the case worker said it would be OK to do so. But I feel like I wasn’t told everything.

        1. INTP*

          My guess is that they asked the case worker if it would be okay for you to stay with the special needs child while they went on vacation, and they just piled all the other tasks on you without asking. Do you have the case worker’s contact information to ask her specifics about what you’re allowed to do?

          1. Ashley*

            No I don’t have her contact info, I only know that she comes over every 4 months to check on things, and talk to mom. Mom purposely talks to her the whole meeting so that she doesn’t get to talk to me, and she always make sure I’m busy with the kid. I tried writing her a note and slipping it in her bag, but mom almost caught me and I wasn’t able to do so. Smh

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Oh gosh, that’s horrifying. “tried to write a note to stick in her bag because I couldn’t speak freely but had to stop because I almost got caught” sounds like something someone would do if they’d been kidnapped. It sounds more and more like the answer is simply that you need to get out of this situation and work for someone else. Someone who won’t even let you talk to the case worker who is managing the case is never going to be someone you can reasonably work with (as witnessed by the fact that you’re resorting to tactics straight out of a horror movie). Get out, get out, get out if you possibly can.

            2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              Do you have a supervisor you can reach out to? Hopefully, they would be able to get in touch with your caseworker.

            3. Aisling*

              This absolutely sounds like the mom knows that what she’s doing is wrong, and is exploiting you. Call the agency and ask to speak to the case worker for the child. If they won’t pass you to the case worker, INSIST. I’m betting mom will have tried to pre-empt that by saying you just like to complain, or something like that, so they won’t take you seriously.

              Anyone who won’t allow you to verify your own information is almost always giving you wrong information. They won’t let you verify because they know you won’t be able to.

            4. Alma*

              IME the rules for what a contract caregiver can provide are **incredibly** specific, and the family or primary caregiver would have had to sign off on a document that says what limitations are.

              You should call whatever agency you work for and don’t give up until you get someone on the phone who will speak with you about your assignment.

              I would think that you could say (and are not only brave enough to do this, but need to protect your employment agreement with your employer – and possibly your income) to the Case Manager, “I’m going to walk you out to your car…” and do it.

              Regs are so specific that a worker may tidy the bathroom and mop the floor if needed after bathing the client – but not if Mom says, “let me bathe the other kids first before you clean the bathroom. ”

              You sound like a compassionate caregiver, one who really cares. Not setting boundaries will have you hate a job you are so good at.

              If you are not a CNA, get certified. There may be online learning – I remember it being self-study until one went to test for a higher ranking (CNA I, CNA II). If you don’t read well or have a learning challenge, you can get your needs met. (like an Oral test instead of a written one)

              Talented, caring people who do the work you do are what makes the difference between good care, and exceptional care. You are the most valuable person on the care team, IMO. Take care of yourself.

        2. Not me*

          Exhumed? I think something happened with autocorrect, but are you being expected to keep up with the other kids’ homeschool work? Wow.

          Anyway, “caseworker said it’s OK” does not sound right. +1 to INTP’s comment.

        3. Artemesia*

          Home schooling 3 kids as well as all the housework to maintain a family for several days –hell no. You need to be on the phone with the case worker and not only tell her what is going on but ask her how you need to handle this in future when they try to dump other duties on you.

          I’d be looking for a new job now. This is an obvious abuse of your good will.

        4. Honeybee*

          I wouldn’t trust the mom’s word on this one. You’re supposed to take care of a special needs kid and home school three young children? Nope. I’d try to call the case worker on your own and get independent verification as well as communicating to her the mother’s expectations for you. It sounds fishy at best.

  16. Xarcady*

    #5. This whole situation just sounds wrong to me.

    My brother has a child with special needs–when he was younger, he was on a ventilator, needed his trach suctioned constantly, was physically unable to do anything for himself. He had 18 hours of home nurse care daily. Someone had to sit up with him all night, every night to make sure he didn’t stop breathing.

    In order to allow my brother and sister-in-law to get 24 hours of “vacation” to celebrate their wedding anniversary each year, they had to line up 3-4 home nurses to cover the entire 24 hours, plus 2-3 family members to come and stay at the house to care for the other two children. It cost them money for the nurses. But this was the only respite that they got all year.

    The people who come to care for my nephew are supposed to do nothing but care for my nephew. They have been know to help out by watching one of the other children from time to time–if they are in the same room with Nephew. But they offer to do this–they are not expected to do this. But if both kids are watching the same video, or playing the same game, they might offer.

    This family is taking advantage of you. And as TL17 points out, they might be committing fraud, depending on the circumstances. If you work with an agency, start there. If you don’t, do a bit of research.

    But the main thing is that you can tell these people “no.” No, you can’t stay overnight. No, you can’t look after several children at a time. No, you have to stick to the rules about what you can and can’t do.

    You are a professional care giver. Not a family servant. I realize it might be difficult to draw boundaries in such a job, but you really need to do that. Your job is to care for one child and keep that child safe and healthy. It’s a tough job on its own.

    1. Ashley*

      Thank you. I will definetly look into that, mom told me the case manager said it would be ok if I stayed over and that they would have to pay me for the additional services. Her son also has seizures mostly in his sleep and if I’m in another room and asleep, how would I know. His brother shares a room with him, but he has become a deep sleeper as he’s gotten older. I don’t have a car so if anything were to happen, I would have to had A. Call a family member or B. call an ambulance, and still take all kids with me. It is absolutely too much. I’m very much depended on a lot here, like now, it’s snowing and she wants me to come in. Idk how the roads are I just said I would not be coming in, and she hasn’t responded to my text. She always gets upset when I say no, and then takes it out on me later.

      1. Myrin*

        Wow, that doesn’t sound like a very good working environment; your boss/client shouldn’t hold grudges against you, especially when in reaction to stating reasonable boundaries! I’m so sorry this is happening. :(

        1. stazatup*

          Agreed! Maybe you can chat with the case worker to get advice on dealing with this issue. You are coming into this lady’s home to take care of her child. You deserve to be treated with respect which means spoken to respectfully, treated respectfully, and respect for your time. Also, unless you heard this whole “it’s OK for you to move into our home for a few days & care for all of our children” directly from the case worker, I’d be suspicious.

          Anyway, if you’re thinking about pushing back if you’re not being treated with respect, it sounds like it may represent a change in the working relationship and this lady may complain, so I would definitely have a discussion with the case worker to make sure you’re both on the same page.

      2. Xarcady*

        Can you contact the case worker directly? It is possible that the parents are either flat out lying about what the case worker says, or they are misinterpreting it completely.

        Frankly, what you describe just doesn’t sound right–one person, several kids, no relief for days.

        And if this family gets upset with you when you say no to things that are not in your job description, I would would start looking for a new family to work for.

        I know that when my nephew’s home nurses can’t come in, because of weather or because they are sick, my brother and sister-in-law aren’t thrilled, because it means reworking the schedule for the entire day–Nephew can’t go to school without a nurse or a parent to take care of him, so one of the parents has to stay home from work. When the night nurse can’t come, they split the night duty, so that each of them can get a few hours of sleep.

        But they don’t get upset at the nurses. They understand that these things happen and they deal with it. They would never run the risk of losing a good, competent carer for their son over the fact that the carer can’t make it to work in 2 feet of snow or has a bad cold.

        1. Ashley*

          I’m sure I can contact them directly, but I’m not sure how that would turn out, because mom can hold a grudge, and I’m sure she would threaten to fire me. She had other workers in the past that did not work well with her, and they left immediately and she is still pissed, a year later.

          1. Hlyssande*

            This makes it all the more crucial that you do talk to the caseworker/manager. There’s a reason she can’t keep people.

          2. jhhj*

            I don’t know a lot about this field, but is it that hard to find another job? It seems like it would be harder for her to keep finding new workers than for you to find a better job.

          3. Artemesia*

            You call and ask your caseworker to place you elsewhere. You should not be working with someone who holds a grudge and abuses you. I would make it clear to the caseworker that she asking you to care for 4 kids and all the housework not just care for the disabled child for the several days and nights. Let her know that she frequently oversteps her bounds and yells and that you would like to find a new placement where you are respected. If you have to find this placement yourself then start the process so you can give notice when you find something. No way you should be doing this hard and valuable work with someone who neither appreciates nor respects you. Never take her word for it that this is ‘okay’. I have trouble imagining that the case worker said ‘oh sure, you can have her stay for 5 days and care for all 4 of the kids, home school three of them, and do all the housework. No problem.’

            1. Ashley*

              No it doesn’t sound like something she would say. I believe mom made the whole thing up, especially seeing when I told her I didn’t feel comfortable with staying there for the week, and she claimed it was a much needed vacation, then told her husband I agreed and they automatically made reservations without considering my feelings. It was a tough week, getting up early, making sure all kids were feed, ready for school (home and public), clean, cook dinner, etc. By the end of the week I was drained and the 3 days off were not enough to recover. I think mom just made everything up just to get away from home for a few days and felt like she should’ve thrown everything in my lap.

            2. TootsNYC*

              Definitely get that caseworker working for you as well as them.

              That’s the great benefit of working with an outside authority.

              Don’t ever, ever take this woman’s word for what the caseworker says is OK. Always confirm it.

              and yeah, start whatever it takes to see if there’s a way to switch clients.

              1. Ms Anne Thrope*

                Also, contact your state’s dept of labor about your pay. Was what you were paid at least equal to minimum wage? Being live-in and on-call for 24 hrs/day for 5 days would require being paid for 24 hrs x 5 days, I bet.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            I think you would be better off if they did fire you. If you agreed to this situation and something happened, it sounds like this mum would throw you to the wolves anyway.

            Please talk to your caseworker.

      3. INTP*

        Yikes. Sounds like she’s trapped in the caretaker martyr/self-pity/learned helplessness pattern, and while I’m sure her life is difficult and stressful, she needs to be resourceful and help herself. She should find someone local that she trusts to take care of the other kids on snow days, find a babysitter that the other kids like, hire a maid (or a babysitter who knows the arrangement ahead of time) to take care of the cleaning and meal prep, etc. She’s unfairly dumping all of this on your shoulders when it should be multiple people’s jobs.

        1. Ashley*

          I agree. As my job as a PCA, I also get included as the maid, baby sitter, etc. when she need to run errands. She leaves the kids with me because she “doesn’t wanna deal with them.” or always running out to church or helping others with whatever. When I’m at her home dealing with children who are unruly, while trying to take care of her child whom I’m paid to care for. The child requires a lot of work, potty training, exercise, 2 hour therapy sessions, bathing, etc. And she somehow expects me to vacuum, mop, train her other kids to be responsible, etc. I feel as if I’m the SAHM and not her.

          1. Snazzy Hat*

            So you’re saying the mother doesn’t understand that you’re the *one child’s* PCA, and instead believes you’re *her* PCA. Lovely.

            1. Ashley*

              Pretty much. She feels like I should be the one taking care of the dirty floors, and help training her kids to be responsible, and God forbid I get sick. She would contact me the next day and say “I was wondering if you were feeling better, today is floor day”(mopping the floors). It’s very frustrating because she always claims she doesn’t have time to do these things, and she is up every morning before the sun!

              1. Artemesia*

                No way mopping floors is a reasonable part of your job as caregiver. Time to get all this clear with the caseworker and find new work. The only floor you should mop is one made dirty by your charge. How about setting this kind of boundary? ‘I’m sorry but I cannot do the floor mopping as this it is not part of my re sponsibilities with Wakeen.’ You really need support from your agency or the caseworker and to ask for reassignment and find a new position.

                I realize you may need this income so proceed to do this in a way that preserves this job until you have a new one lined up.

              2. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

                Wow, that is so far beyond what’s acceptable. Wishing you luck in extricating yourself from this situation.

          2. Artemesia*

            Get a new job. But at minimum talk with the case worker about this and push back. ‘I’m sorry but I am not permitted to do this as I am the PCA for Wakeen.’ You will need to find someone else to babysit the other kids. Ridiculous.

            1. Meg Murry*

              Or even if the agency rules allow you to babysit the other kids, if you aren’t comfortable with it you can say no.

              I am willing to bet this is some kind of rule twisting – as in, the mother asked if you as a PCA could either also work extra hours as overnight care or as a babysitter as well. The agency said yes, meaning Ashley could work as a babysitter when she was NOT doing her PCA duties, and the mother is interpreting it to mean Ashley can be babysitter for all 4 kids while doing PCA duties.

              Call your caseworker OP. And then start scouting for a new job or new placement. I know it’s not the same

      4. Xarcady*

        Coming back to comment specifically on this, “mom told me the case manager said it would be ok if I stayed over and that they would have to pay me for the additional services.’

        All that means is that the mom asked the case worker if you *could* work extra. It does not mean that you *have* to work extra. It just means that it is possible, if you want to, to take on extra hours.

        If you want the extra money and have the time, no problem. But if you need a break from caring for the child, as well you may, or you just want to live your own live after working your standard shift, it is also perfectly fine to say no.

        In my experience, people take the easiest route to solve a problem. The problem of a care-giver for a special needs child while the parents are away for several days? The easiest answer is to ask the current care-giver for more hours. They know and trust the care-giver, so it is very easy for them. And if they are rude and unpleasant to the care-giver when the care-giver says no, they are training the care-giver to always say yes.

        But if the care-giver says no, they have alternatives. Asking the case manager to recommend other care-givers. Asking family and friends for help caring for the other children. Going through a private agency. Not going away for so long or at all.

        You do not have to solve their problems. You can tell them clearly that you are there to care for one of their children and they will need to make arrangements for the care of the other children. That you are not a maid service. That you are not a cook. That your job is to keep one of their children safe and healthy and that’s it.

        1. fposte*

          “All that means is that the mom asked the case worker if you *could* work extra.”

          Nothing personal against Mom, but it may not even mean anything at all. You don’t know what the caseworker said until you hear it from the caseworker.

          But I don’t know how much power or agency Ashley has here, either. Ashley, if the mom does fire you, do you just get reassigned, or does this hurt you with the agency and maybe leave you without a job for a while? If you just get reassigned, I’d say it’s worth taking a stand over, but I know sometimes positions like this don’t give you a lot of options.

        2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Yes, I was thinking this too. EVEN IF the caseworker said it was all right for you to additionally do other work for the family, that does not mean you are REQUIRED to do other work for the family. There might have been a conversation like this:

          Mom: “Can I hire Ashley to do some housework when she’s not caring for James?”

          Caseworker: “Yes, there’s no problem with you hiring her for other things on the side.” Thinking Mom meant that you would be hired (if you wanted the work!) to do other tasks separately – like if I hired my babysitter to mow the lawn on some other day, not understanding that Mom meant piling lots of other tasks on you while you were caring for James.

          But my money’s on that conversation never having happened at all.

      5. The Strand*

        You are being taken advantage of. I’m sure you are a really caring person, and it sounds like you are very concerned not only of the children’s welfare but of her taking out her anger on you.

        Her expectations being unreasonable are not your problem – it’s her problem. Talk to the case worker, and get it in writing if you have to what you can and can’t do. People in this field, and others, do lie sometimes and claim authority they don’t have.

        Remember that you are in a field that is growing – lots of people need home health care help and assistance. You can start looking for another job now, but in the meantime you don’t have to take this crap.

    2. CADMonkey007*

      “You are a professional care giver. Not a family servant. I realize it might be difficult to draw boundaries in such a job, but you really need to do that. Your job is to care for one child and keep that child safe and healthy. It’s a tough job on its own.”

      WORTH REPEATING! By all means, do an awesome job at what you were hired to do! But know and establish the boundaries of your obligations. Sounds like your employer will take full advantage of you if you let her. Good luck to you.

  17. hbc*

    OP1: Do you have any standing to say something directly to the employee? If you’ve got any kind of rapport at all, you could tell them what you noticed, that you won’t block their way or tell their manager or otherwise hamper their search, but you’re also open to discussing what might make them want to stay.

    Though it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you want to keep this employee, than giving them the info about the potential raise or letting them air grievances might do it. If you just want to decrease the pain of a departure, it makes sense to do the prep work on the job posting you’d need and have a generic talk about contingency planning and cross-training with their manager. It’s a good idea even if it’s just an old resume and a mortgage refinance background check.

    1. AnotherTeacher*

      This is good advice. It sounds like OP1 may be interested in letting the employee know about the potential raise and/or want to know if a raise would keep the employee there.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I don’t know if it would be kosher at all, but I think if I were an HR person, that’s wht I’d do.

      “Come talk w/ me confidentially.Your name came up when I was looking to recruit for a different position. I wondered if there’s anything about your job that is making you wish for a different one. And I wanted to share with you that we are in line to bump your salary up, and it’s definite [if it is] and this is the timeframe.”

      And I wouldn’t say anything to the manager, particularly.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Oh, and maybe I’m weird, but I frankly would never get upset about someone leaving their job. Maybe it’s because in my field, there is always someone good to take their place.
        But I also like the “leavening” that having people move around does. I think people get complacent, and it’s nice when new idea, new energy, etc., come into the organization.

        I’m totally OK w/ people leaving. (If my staffers told me they were looking, I’d probably help them find penings, and be a reference, etc. I mean, I don’t *want* them to leave, but it’s OK w/ me if they do. They’re replaceable.)

  18. Patty*

    Lw5… If you’re being paid by a state agency, either directly or via reimbursement to the parent, what she’s asking of you is probably beyond the scope of your work.

    Being hired to care for the special needs child does not include caring for all the kids.

    1. Ashley*

      I agree, but she seems to think that I can do that, and always says she will pay me, but I never see the money. I’ve been dealing with the nonsense for too long, and I can’t deal anymore

      1. LD*

        The other comments I’ve seen here reinforce the issue…it’s not what the mom “seems to think”…it’s what you will allow her to guilt you into doing for her. This mom is grasping for help and it’s normal to sympathize and want to help her; she has a difficult situation with a special needs child that deserves sympathy, but that also does not mean that you have to do whatever she requests. It’s important for you to contact whatever organization you have contracted with, your case manager, whomever you need, to clarify with them what you are allowed to do vs. what is required of you. And just because something is allowed doesn’t mean you should. It’s a hard situation, and the mom needs support, but you don’t have to be the one to provide all of it.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Given what you’ve said about her letting other people go, I think you need to start looking for a new position.

        Is there any way you could request some kind of mediation between you, the parents and the caseworker? So you can make it clear that you are willing to stay on to continue doing what you were hired to do, which is care for the special needs child, but that you are not willing to stay on a PCA plus babysitter for the other kids plus housekeeper/maid?

        I know you say she keeps saying she will pay you more but the pay doesn’t materialize – I think instead you need to just say “no, I need to focus on caring for Kid X, you need to find another babysitter/housecleaner/etc”. That or you need to start presenting her a bill for these extra services that she is promising pay for but not doing – but I would lean toward just saying no.

      3. fposte*

        She’s not even delivering on pay? Oof.

        Ashley, I don’t think it’s going to change until you talk to the caseworker or the agency–whoever issues you with your assignments. I understand that you’re worried she might let you go you if you do that, and it sounds like you have reason to believe that–but your choice is to go on as you are, which you really can’t. The mother has no reason to change if she can get you to run her whole household unpaid.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes, this. Ashley, did you get this assignment directly from the agency? If so, I think it is perfectly valid for you to call the agency and ask if you can get a different assignment.

          1. Adam V*

            Not only that, but I’d inform the agency of exactly what’s going on here, and ensure that any future placement comes with an explicit understanding of what the family is and is not allowed to ask for, because it seems like either this agency is just chalking it up to “differences of opinion” and sending a new person along without telling them what they’re getting into, or this woman is having to go from agency to agency because she’s wearing out her welcome.

            1. Adam V*

              Clarification – by “any future placement”, I meant “whoever the agency places with this family in the future”, not your own personal future placement, Ashley.

              (Although if you wanted to have similar rules for your next placement, I’d think you should be able to do so, and you could just say “sorry for being so explicit – the last family I was with felt like I was responsible for their other children, as well as household chores, and I just need to clarify exactly what my role is”.)

            2. Ragnelle*

              OP5, Definitely be sure to do what Adam V is suggesting here, if it applies to your situation. I used to work for a senior care agency while I was in college, and we had a client like this. Turned out the family had gone through just about every agency and many caregivers within those agencies because they had incredibly unrealistic expectations about what they were paying for. After one awful shift with them (being yelled at by a family member because I read a book while my charge was sleeping and I had nothing else to do), I wrote a letter documenting what happened for my agency, and they ended up “firing” the client. I don’t know if they ever found someone to keep providing care.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Oh no, and on top of all this she’s not paying you?? This is terrible, please speak up and let the agency know asap. If they knew the full story, I don’t see how they could hold it against you (the agency, not the mom)

      5. Engineer Girl*

        She’s committing wage theft. Tell her you can’t work further until you get paid. And definitely tell your case worker. This stinks of fraud.

      6. Shelby*

        My mom is a pediatric RN and works in home care for severely disabled children. It is explicit that she is there to care for her patient, period. She will do laundry and clean but she only does the child’s laundry and only cleans his room for his health (and I don’t even think she’s required to do that, she does it because she gets bored). Other children are not allowed to be left in the home unless they are old enough to care for themselves. If you work for an agency, you need to discuss this with your supervisor immediately because I don’t think they would appreciate the liability should something happen to one of the other children while left in your care.

      7. Ms Anne Thrope*

        ‘never see the money’ is wage theft, and it’s illegal. Even for a noncorporate employer.

        Is she paying your SS taxes? because she must, and if she isn’t, you can get her in real trouble with the IRS. Which you should do, because otherwise you may be on the hook for those taxes yourself.

      8. Student*

        If she’s not giving you money for your work, then why are you doing it? Let someone else be her free babysitter.

        1. Ashley*

          Oh no. I get paid $12/hr. But it’s not enough compared to the work the parents expect me to do. At one point I was doing dishes, cleaning 2 of the 3 bathrooms, etc. Then I told them enough was enough and I only do what is required for the child. Mom got pissed, and told me she felt like I was peddling backwards. Everytime she complimented me on something, I stopped doing it, and I had to tell her it was because it was not my job. I only helped out when she was in a jam and she got used to it and expected it everyday. Just last week I was asked to do some dusting and I immediately told her no. She was mad about it. But if the family expects me to do extra, I need more cash. Because my job is their child, not run a maid service.

      9. jhhj*

        “Hi [Name], I’m afraid I can’t work anymore until you pay me the amount you owe me for the extra work I have done caring for your other kids/cleaning the house/etc. Here’s an invoice, please let me know when you will be able to pay me.”

    2. Xarcady*

      Do contact your employer directly about this. I don’t know if that’s the case manager, or the agency that placed you in this home or some other organization. But look at your pay check and contact the organization that issued the check.

      Also, is this a military family? I ask because you mentioned a deployment. Granted, being a temporary single parent to a couple of kids, one with special needs, must be tough. But all the military branches have a variety of programs in place for service members with dependents who have special needs. There may be child care available for the well children, respite care for the parents, and a variety of other services, depending on the branch, where the service member is stationed and if they are living on or near a base. I’d be mentioning to the case manager that perhaps there is help available from the military and have them look into it. (The key thing these programs do is make sure that the service member is not stationed somewhere with inadequate services for the disabled family member. But there are other benefits as well.)

      And if these parents are in any sort of Medicaid violation, most commanding officers would not be very pleased about that.

      1. Ashley*

        Yes they are a military family. There was once a certain kind of service for this type of situation, but I think it was taken away, or something of that nature. The father doesn’t have much say in anything because he stays out of it. Mom handles everything. Dad lives on base, the rest of the family does not because mom dislikes living there.

        1. Snazzy Hat*

          “Dad lives on base, the rest of the family does not because mom dislikes living there.”

          All I can say is O_o Now I feel even sorrier for him.

        2. Xarcady*

          So Mom has chosen to live off base. Which means her husband is not there for support/additional child minding. That she has limited access to any programs the base might offer that would help. That she isn’t around the spouses of the other members of her husband’s unit, who might be able to help, or any support programs the unit offers. She doesn’t have military neighbors, who would probably offer to help. (Having grown up on military bases, I’ve seen this in action, and have carried many a casserole/babysat younger kids for my parents’ neighbors–because it’s what you do when you are hundreds of miles from family and friends who can help out in an emergency.)

          Mom has chosen to home school, which means she gets no break from the other kids all day long.

          None of these things is bad, or wrong, in and of themselves. But add all these choices, and they are *choices*, together and you create a situation where Mom probably needs lots of help, but has cut herself off from the major sources of that help.

          And you, OP, are not required to provide all the help she needs.

  19. Erin*

    #1 – Is there any possibility that you’re wrong, or this was taken out of context, or there’s some other explanation?

    For example, I’m a freelance writer in addition to my regular day jobs, and I have my resume searchable on job sites in hopes of getting more freelance work (but not necessarily to leave my day jobs).

    I mean, you’re probably not wrong. But if there’s any chance you are, there’s no reason to throw this employee under the bus.

    #2 – Sounds like an excellent thing to bring up at an interview, but not necessarily a resume or cover letter.

    Just make sure if you’re applying for a non-telecommuting job that you make it clear you’re okay with that, and are not trying to push for a special exception in this case (obviously putting the emphasis on how much your company trusted you to telecommute and manage via telecommuting, with less emphasis on what a great perk that was).

  20. KR*

    #5 You need to sit down with this woman and the case manager (or maybe just the case manager) and nail out a list of what is your job to do and what isn’t.

  21. Employment Lawyer*

    1. Should HR let a manager know an employee is probably job-searching?
    Yes, absolutely, without question.

    Your ethical and legal loyalty is to the company, not the employee. An employee who is thinking of leaving (to the point of applying elsewhere) can be a big deal; you must tell them.

    You should, in fact, tell them whether or not you think they’ll be fired. Your job is to do what the company wants: the company may have different priorities (for example) about ’employee trust’ and ‘long term over short term benefits’ than you do. But they write the checks; you work for them. If you don’t like their policies, you can argue against them, you can talk to the higher-ups, or you can do anything else. Still, you must disclose: if you want to retain professional ethics you should represent only your employers’ interests here.

    1. finman*

      I agree with the posters up at the top that just because someone popped up as a recommendation doesn’t mean they are actively looking. Also the fact that employment verification can be used for way more reasons than just in the hiring process.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Well, not without first verifying that the employee in question is in fact looking. You’re making it sound like all obligation is toward the company and none/nothing owed to the employee.

      1. Employment Lawyer*


        Your obligations to the boss are contractual. Both ethically and legally, they stem from the employee/employer relationship.

        Your obligations to fellow employees are minimal (to the degree they exist at all,) outside certain legal areas. More to the point, almost ALL of those obligations stem from the ‘secondary benefit’ analysis: if you’re protecting employees, for example, that is happening only because your employer wants you to do so.

        Sure, you can “analyze the situation and decide how best to meet obligations and uphold ethical standards.” But if your result is that you protect the employee because you feel bad for them, then your ethical standards are wrong. You learned it on work time; you disclose.

        Only if you can accurately conclude that “the employer, if it had full knowledge of what has happened, would direct me never to talk about that” would you be ethically correct in failing to disclose it.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          I’m a little confused by “Your obligations to the boss are contractual,” given that (at least where I am) employment contracts are vanishingly rare. Do you mean that there’s an implied contract that requires passing all information you discover while on the job on to your employer? Or are you using ‘contractual’ in some other sense? I’d love to hear more about this, if you have examples.

        2. Yggdrasil*

          Where on Earth are you getting any of this from? At almost every company I’ve ever worked, my employment agreement states I have an obligation to report illegal or unethical behavior. That’s it. Someone looking for a new job falls way outside that standard.

          Does this mean that I’m ethically and legally bound to tell my employer if I’m looking for a new job? Because the “At Will” agreement I signed tells me otherwise.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Wow, I wholeheartedly disagree. The HR professional’s obligation is to the company, yes. But she is not a robot who simply receives information and shares it back out. She should analyze the situation and decide how best to meet her obligations and uphold her ethical standards. The result may be that she feels compelled to share the information she has with the manager, but it may not.

    4. hbc*

      That’s ridiculous.

      1) It is not in the company’s interest to get an employee fired who might have been happy to continue on at the company and simply had an old resume floating out there. Replacing people is hard and expensive, and if giving the employee a heads up about a pay increase saves on a new recruitment search, it’s absolutely best for the company to keep the info from the manager.

      2) There’s no indication that HR reports to that manager. If you believe in contractual obligations to the company blah blah blah, that includes *not* informing a hothead manager who’ll fire someone for disloyalty and leave the company struggling with an empty position for at least two weeks longer than necessary.

      3) If you think there’s actually a legal liability involving disclosure in this case, I’d love to know what you think is precedent. A resume suggestion and a background check, both of uncertain origins? You might as well insist that OP reveal that the Employee’s fortune cookie said they were going to make a major life change.

  22. Anon M House*

    OP#5: I’ve gone through “do this because I’m going to act like it’s your responsibility” so many times as a landlord. The worst part is, I would reluctantly comply when most desperate for income. In other words, I had better “fix” that purely superficial “problem” or else they won’t move in or, I don’t know, shut up about it. Sorry if the relation seems like a stretch; when I read your letter I just had flashbacks of the ruder out-of-the-blue requests I’ve received, like the woman who expected me to uproot my small backyard and turn it into a parking area (which may or may not have been able to accompany two vehicles).

    Anyway, you’ve received better advice from more knowledgeable people already. Best wishes for a speedy resolution and a more rational client.

  23. Turanga Leela*

    I had to Google “rice sculpting,” but apparently it’s a real thing. I’m delighted by this.

          1. Elizabeth*

            Usually used as a base for cake sculptures that’s sturdier than cake itself. Think molding it around a wire frame to make a tree/person/monster/cave.

            I watch way to many baking competition shows on TV.

  24. Iamrequiredtouseanamethatisnotanonoranonymous*

    OP#5- I know this was covered by previous posters but you absolutely need to be looking for a new placement and in my experience, if you are competent it should not be hard to find one.

    Growing up, I had two sibs with special needs. The state/Medicaid paid for PCAs for them. Unless that particular worker was being paid, double, because he/she was watching both kids, my mom or one of the older sibs was in charge of the other special needs kid. They NEVER watched or were in a position to have to watch anyone but the person they were being paid to care for. They also did not do chores around the house, run errands, etc.

    This is how it is supposed to work and you can find families to respect that.

  25. Underemployed Erin*

    #5 You are being taken advantage of and placed in a bad situation. If you have any option of calling in sick, go ahead and do that and do not stay alone with the four kids. Talk to whoever put you with this family and then call in sick if you are worried about getting fired.

    Everyone who has domestic duties and is not the mom has a scope of work. That means they have things that they will and will not do. Most people will tell you this when they start. Other people may tell you later.

    Here are reasonable expectations: Nannies are there to take care of the kids and not to clean your house. They may do limited cleaning that involves disposing of diapers or cleaning up after lunch or putting away toys. House cleaners are there to clean your house and not to watch your kids. They may have other conditions like “We don’t do windows.”

    You are a personal care assistant. You are there to help the ONE kid. You are not an early childhood educator, and you are not there to homeschool her kids. Think about what your job is really supposed to be and say no to things like watch the other kids. You have to make it a hard no because this lady has run over you so much. Not now. Not ever. Not even for a minute while she goes to the store. And if she starts saying “Could you do this?” Let her know your billable rate for those things and the conditions. Make the rate really high if you definitely don’t want to do it. I will clean your house for $50/hr, and it can’t be during my time as a PCA and can’t watch your kids while I am doing it. Or, “I will be glad to do that as soon as you pay me for the last time I did X for you.”

    1. Underemployed Erin*

      I am sorry that my sentences above are so badly formed. I am a mom of one child, and I am so angry at the situation that this lady is putting you and her own kids in.

    2. Willis*

      And if you don’t want to do the extra stuff, don’t even bother with a high hourly rate for additional work. Just say no! It hardly sounds like she’s a client to sign on for extra work with. If she needs a housekeeper, babysitter, or teacher, let her find one. There are plenty of other options beyond assigning these tasks to you!

      1. Adam V*

        Eh, for most things, as long as I know how to do it, I’d be willing to do it – for an *exorbitant* amount of money. Vacuum? $400/room. Clean a window? $200. Mow your lawn? $1000.

        And all of this is cash-in-hand before I lift a finger.

        Yes, it’s crazy expensive. Yes, you can find someone much, much cheaper to do it for you, if you don’t need it done immediately. Yes, that’s the value of my time.

        And if she’s really in a pickle, and can’t take “no” for an answer… you might end up with that XBox you’ve been saving up for.

  26. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – yes, as an HR person, you are supposed to protect the company FIRST. But – given that this doesn’t protect the company – if you call the employee’s manager – you are being, what is generally called, in street and business terms, a RAT.

    I guess you could rat out the employee to his/her boss, but you’d better be sure as to why you received a call on him/her. Is it necessary to squeal?

    As a rule, if I find information in the workplace that is not intended for ME … it stops with me. I realize HR has more complexities facing it. Does your corporate culture require you to call the employee’s manager? Or can you keep it under your hat – confidential – without breaking any rules (written or un-written)?

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